HC Deb 30 October 1884 vol 293 cc530-1

asked the Postmaster General, If it is a fact that a proposition has been made to Government to buy up the telephone interests of the United Telephone Company and its affiliated Companies at the sum of £2,000,000; is it true that, as stated in The Electrician of 25th October 1884 (p. 525), the Postmaster General has recently given a large order for Gower Bell telephones to the United Telephone Company, and is it true that the price to be paid by Government for these instruments is more than ten times the actual cost; is it true that a Law Officer of the Crown has given an opinion (advertised in The Times and other morning papers of 28th October) that there is a telephone which does not infringe the patents of the United Telephone Company; and, if so, whether, in the face of this opinion, the Postmaster General approves of paying such exorbitant prices to the United Telephone Company for the instruments he requires for the public service?


In reply to the hon. Member, I beg to say that no such proposition as that suggested for the purchase of the telephone interest of the United Telephone Company and its affiliated Companies has been made to me. An order for 250 Gower Bell telephones was given to the United Telephone Company on the 25th of May last; but the price to be paid is not 10 times, nor anything like 10 times, the actual cost. I should have been very glad if I could have got them cheaper than the price paid. The opinion of the Solicitor General, published in the papers, was not given in his official capacity as Law Adviser to the Government, and until I read it yesterday in the advertisements referred to I was not aware of it. This being so, I am unable at present to say what course it will be desirable to adopt with regard to the future purchase of telephones for the use of the Department.