HC Deb 09 September 1886 vol 308 cc1720-1
SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

asked the Postmaster General, If he can explain why telegrams to the Continent of Europe cost so much more than the total of telegraph charges in the Countries through which they pass, e.g., why it is that while in the British Islands, Prance, and Switzerland, telegrams cost about one halfpenny per per word in each Country, a telegram from England to Switzerland is charged 3½d. per word; whether private Companies are paid for cabling messages across the Channel, and at what rates, or whether the Government possesses any cable across the Channel to Europe; if not, whether, considering the short distance and small cost of such cables, he will establish one so that (as in the case of Ireland) the public may not pay an exorbitant toll to Cable Companies; and, whether he will try to arrange to put International telegrams on a footing more nearly in proportion to International letters, or at least on a scale not higher than the aggregate domestic charge of the Countries through which they pass?


In reply to the hon. Member, I have to state that the charges for foreign telegrams are settled at the International Conferences which take place every five years; and some countries are not will- ing to transmit such telegrams at rates so low as those which they charge for inland telegrams. The charges for inland telegrams in different countries vary in principle as well as in amount; but, to meet the convenience of the public, the charges for foreign telegrams are everywhere based on the same principle, which is that of a word-rate pure and simple. The Post Office has not lost any opportunity of endeavouring to bring about reductions in the charges; and, both at the Conference in Berlin last year and at the previous Conference in London, considerable reductions were made. The charge to Switzerland, I ought to say, is 3½d., not 4d. The Government possesses three cables to the Continent—two to Holland and one to Germany. The cables to France and Belgium are the property of the Submarine Telegraph Company, who possess exclusive rights as regards those countries until the end of the year 1888. The cables of the Government are worked by the Submarine Company under an agreement sanctioned by Parliament which has not yet expired.