HC Deb 01 May 1884 vol 287 cc1027-8

asked the Postmaster General, Whether the licence granted by the Post Office to the Northern Telephone Company for a Telephone Exchange at Newcastle-on-Tyne contained a condition requiring the Company to sell to the Postmaster General, on terms to be fixed by arbitration in default of agreement, as many telephonic instruments as he might demand for use by him in any place and for any purpose he may think fit; whether such a condition exists in former similar licences; whether, at the time such licence was executed, the Department was in possession of and had official cognisance of the terms of the licences granted by the United Tele-phone Company, of which the Northern Telephone Company is a subsidiary Company to all its subsidiary Companies, one of the conditions of which is that the United Company shall not sell for use, or permit to be used, the telephonic instruments of which it controls the patents in the districts of the subsidiary Companies save through the said Companies; whether, at the time such licence was granted and accepted, the Department was in possession of a copy of the licence of the United Company to the Northern Company containing the above stipulations applicable, amongst other places, to Newcastle-on-Tyne; whether the Department was at that time officially aware that the Northern Company did not own, and had no right to sell, any of the telephonic instruments known as the "Blake Transmitters" and "Edison Receivers," having only the usor of them for its district from the United Company; whether, under the circumstances, in the event of the Northern Company using the "Blake Transmitter" or "Edison Receiver" at Newcastle, he intends to seek to enforce the clause in the Post Office licence requiring the Company to sell to him instruments which it does not own and cannot sell; and, whether, in the event of the Department by any means obtaining possession of or control over "Blake Transmitters" or "Edison Receivers," it will attempt to use them in any of the districts of any of the subsidiary Companies to which the United Company has already sold the right of exclusive use of those patent instruments under agreements, of which the Post Office had official knowledge when it granted its licences to the said Companies?


I think it would not be possible, without describing in detail the policy of the Post Office with regard to telephone licences, to give a full answer to all the Questions which have been addressed to me by the hon. Member; and it is less necessary that I should do so in view of the Notice he has given of raising a debate on the entire subject when the Telegraph Estimates are considered. I may say, however, that the licence which was granted to the Northern District Telephone Company was in every respect the same as that which it was decided to grant, after the conclusion was come to nearly two years ago to allow any responsible persons, on conditions which were considered necessary in the interests of the public, to obtain a telephone licence. I was aware of the general nature of the relations existing between the United Telephone Company and the Northern District Telephone Company at the time the licence was granted to the latter Company for Newcastle; and it was, in my opinion, for the Northern District Company, who were in intimate relations with the United Telephone Company, to consider how they could carry out the stipulation which they agreed to accept. There has been no occasion hitherto for the Department to call upon the Company to fulfil the condition of supplying telephones which they are using; but I do not think it would be expedient for me to give any assurance which might fetter the action which, in future, it might be in the interests of the public desirable for the Department to take with regard to obtaining a supply of telephones and the manner in which they should be used.