HC Deb 07 July 1885 vol 298 cc1825-6

asked the Postmaster General, If he can inform the House how much of the £500,000 estimated as required to prepare for the proposed introduction of sixpenny telegrams on the 1st of August has yet been expended, and what number of extra "learners" and clerks have been added to the telegraph staff in anticipation of the extra work; and, whether be proposes to proceed with the Postal Telegraphs Bill with or without provision for free addresses, as proposed in the Amendment to the Bill of which he recently gave notice?


With reference to the first part of the Question, I have to say that the whole sum of £500,000 will be spent in making the necessary arrangements, and that the number of learners and clerks added to the staff is 1,202. With respect to the second part of the Question, I would remind the hon. Member that the Chancellor of the Exchequer laid down last night the lines which the Government would wish to follow with reference to legislation. My right hon. Friend said that it was the desire of the Government not to proceed further with legislation of a contentious character. Now, the object of the Bill to which the latter part of the Question refers is to abolish free addresses on telegrams, and that is a question which has been very much contested in the House and outside it. I think, therefore, that the Government will not be disposed to proceed further with this Bill during the present Session. A fact bearing upon the finance of this question has recently been brought to my notice. It has been calculated by the officers of the Department that if the estimate of the contemplated increase of business mentioned by my Predecessor in Office were realized, there would be an additional outlay required in the course of about four years amounting probably to not less than £1,000,000. This outlay would be necessitated by the provision of additional plant, office accommodation, and the laying of underground wires from London to the principal towns in the Kingdom. I may also say that the scheme proposed by this Bill could not under any circumstances be brought into operation before October. Therefore, weighing all these considerations together, the Government are of opinion that it would be inexpedient to proceed further with this measure this Session, and that it would be wise to remit the whole question to the next Parliament, which would have to find the very large sum of money for the outlay which the Bill would necessitate.


asked whether it was the intention of the Government to withdraw the Order of the Day on going into Committee on the Bill that evening, or whether the noble Lord would name an early day for doing so? He thought there would be very great dissatisfaction in the country at the intention of the Government to drop the Bill; and he wished, moreover, to have an opportunity of commenting on the proposal and controverting the statements of the noble Lord.


wished to know whether the estimate of £1,000,000, to which the Postmaster General had alluded, was a new one, or whether be found it in the Office?


It is not a new estimate, but is a calculation which was given me when I entered the Office, and of which I had no previous knowledge.


I should like to say that I have no knowledge of it. [Ministerial cries of "Order!" and counter cheers.] The noble Lord says that that is an estimate which he found in the Office. I can only say that I have no knowledge of any such estimate.


I do not in the least dispute the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. I have given the facts as they have been, given to me in the Office.