HC Deb 14 June 1881 vol 262 cc466-7

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, If he will be good enough to state to the House whether the Postmaster General is responsible for the safety of the public as regards the dangers of the fracture of the telegraph wires suspended over the Metropolis and maintained by his Department; and, to what Department of the Government the public may look for interference in the case of proved and palpable risk incurred in consequence of wires not maintained by the Post Office Department, but suspended by other parties over the thoroughfares of the Metropolis?


Sir, I understand with regard to the wires maintained by the Post Office that the Postmaster General is not legally responsible, but that he is responsible in the general sense in which all public servants are responsible. But I believe the true and substantial answer to the Question to be, that the local authorities are really the persons responsible in this matter. It is their duty to look after arrangements of this kind, bearing upon the safety of the inhabitants and the traffic of the streets; and to them it is, I think, that there should be any communication if difficulty is supposed to be likely to arise.


asked the Postmaster General, If he will be so good as to inform the House how many wires stretched over the thoroughfares of the Metropolis have been taken over and put up or are maintained by his department; whether it is proposed from time to time materially to increase the numbers of those wires; what precautions are taken to obviate risk from the fracture of those wires, and to prevent the recurrence of accidents such as have already occurred; and, whether it would not be possible to introduce a general system of placing the wires, properly insulated, underground, or in positions in which the present dangers would be obviated, especially in such a city as London, the atmosphere of which, is liable to cause corrosion to the wires, and in which so very large a population is thus exposed to continually increasing dangers?


Sir, in reply to the hon. Member, I have to state that in 1877, within a radius of four miles from St. Martin's-le-Grand, there were 1,720 miles of overhouse wire, and 3,350 of underground. The House will at once see how anxious the Department is to substitute, as far as practicable, underground for overhouse wires when I mention that by March last the mileage of overhouse wires had been reduced from 1,720 to 500, and the mileage of underground had increased from 3,350 to 4,388. The wires of no important trunk lines are now carried by the Department over houses, and it is from these trunk lines, where a great number of wires have to be maintained, that the chief danger arises. Every care is taken by the frequent inspection of the poles and overhouse wires to prevent any accident.