HC Deb 27 February 1893 vol 9 cc414-5
MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)

I beg to ask the Postmaster General whether his attention has been called to the sentence in the Report of the Revenue Estimates Committee of 1888 respecting the cost to the public from the "enormous increase of services gratuitously performed for the Railway Companies," by reason of their increased use of the privilege of sending certain telegrams free granted them in 1870; what was the number of these messages in the years 1871 and 1892; and also of the public messages in those years; what is the present state of the negotiations on the subject referred to by the late Postmaster General, in reply to a question in this House on the 22nd February, 1892; and whether, pending any settlement of the question, care will be taken that the privilege shall not be increased, or extended to new undertakings by any Private Bills?


This matter has been engaging my close attention. Statistics of the number of telegrams sent free of charge for the Railway Companies in 1871 can only be given as regards the Companies of England and Wales. In the case of these Companies the number sent in 1871 was 87,201; in 1892 it had risen to 1,329,531, an increase of more than fifteen-fold. During the same period telegrams of all other descriptions rose from 9,573,548 to 57,871,429, an increase of about six-fold. The negotiations to which the hon. Member refers have resulted in the commutation of the privilege into a right to send a fixed number of messages and words per annum in the case of the Midland and Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Companies. Negotiations with other Companies are in progress, and it is hoped that all the Companies will recognise that it is desirable, in their own as well as in the public interest, to accept the principle of commutation. As regards Private Bill Legislation, Her Majesty's Government will, of course, watch closely any Bills introduced into Parliament tending to the extension of the privilege referred to.