HC Deb 24 July 1874 vol 221 cc622-3

asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether his attention has been called to the fact that the capital sum expended in the purchase and formation of the Post Office Telegraphs, amounting at the 31st of December 1873, to £9,465,197, has yielded a net revenue of only £95,956 (Parl. Paper, No. 266), or about one per cent on the outlay; whether the Treasury have taken any steps to prevent the expenditure of additional capital for unremunerative works, or any steps for reducing the expenses of management, with the view of obtaining a better return for the capital invested; whether he can state the amount of additional capital expended since 31st December last; and, whether he can give an estimate of the probable amount which will still have to be paid to Companies for Telegraphs and rights which had been acquired by the Post Office, and had been worked during the last year, so as to contribute to the small net revenue received, although not yet paid for to the Companies from whom they had been acquired?


, in reply, said, that his attention had for a considerable time been directed to the general position of the Telegraph Service, a subject of very great importance, involving an expenditure of great magnitude, and requiring very careful control and supervision. All expenditure upon new works or extensions out of capital had been stopped since October last, and no new works or extensions could now be undertaken except out of sums voted by Parliament. The Treasury exercised the same care and supervision in respect of the Votes which might be proposed to Parliament for works in this service, as in regard to any other expenditure for Government purposes. During the present year there had been very considerable strictness in revising the Estimates, with a view to asking for as small a sum as possible. He was in constant communication with his noble Friend the Postmaster General, for the double purpose of keeping as low as possible the expenditure upon new works, and reducing the expenses of management, and, at the same time, of providing as efficient a system of control as possible over any expenditure connected with this service. In reference to another point referred to in the Question of the hon. Member, he had to say that since the 31st of December last, the Treasury had created stock to the amount of £325,000, and that of that sum about £70,000 was still in hand. The amount expended had been applied to the purchase of works which had been taken over, but not paid for. No part had been expended on extensions or new works. The hon. Gentleman had asked, in conclusion, whether an estimate could be given of the probable amount which would still have to be paid to companies for telegraphs and rights acquired by the Post Office. There were claims which were still under consideration and arbitration, and therefore, in the interest of the public service, it would not be desirable to give an estimate of the kind suggested.