HC Deb 20 July 1871 vol 208 cc12-3

asked the Postmaster General, Whether it is true that the Post Office Department undertakes or is prepared to undertake the construction of Lines of Telegraph for any person requiring such Lines, either distinct from or in connection with the Post Office; and, if so, whether he claims any exclusive right to do this or only a right to compete with private manufacturers, and if the latter only within what limits, and to what extent such right is claimed; and, whether, in purchasing the undertakings of the several Telegraph Companies, he is of opinion that the Department purchased not only the right to transmit messages, but also the right to continue any business which any of those Companies did or had the right to carry on; as for example the fitting up hotels with electric bells; and if this be his opinion, whether the Telegraph Acts authorize the Department to carry on any such business; and whether he will give some public notice setting forth those branches of business in which the Department is to engage, either to the exclusion of, or in competition with other parties?


Sir, all the telegraph companies whose business and privileges have been purchased by the Post Office claim to have, and are believed to have had, the right to erect private telegraph wires, either for the conveyance of messages between the office and factory, &c, of a private individual, or for the conveyance of messages between the office of an individual and the station of the general telegraphic system from which that message would have to be transmitted to some other part of the country. The Post Office inherited a large number of such wires from the companies whose undertakings it purchased, and I am advised that we have the right to carry on all the business which was carried on by the said companies. The exclusive privilege of the Post Office, however, extends only to public messages. It has no monopoly of private wire business; but it would, no doubt, be a dangerous competitor to any manufacturers who wished to compete with it for such business. I am not aware, however, that any manufacturers are desirous of competing with us for such business, or that any could offer to the public such advantages as it is in the power of the Post Office to offer. I am advised that we have the right to undertake the business of fitting up hotels with electric bells; but we have not undertaken any such business, and do not desire to do so. It is, moreover, a business with regard to which private manufacturers could compete with us on equal terms. In Mr. Scudamore's Report, which has been presented to and printed by order of Parliament, there is a full statement of the terms on which the Postmaster General carries on private wire business. A notice in accordance with that statement has for a long time been printed and put in circulation for the information of the public.