§ SIR E. REED (Cardiff)
I beg to ask the Postmaster General whether, in view of the pressure upon Post Office Funds, alluded to in the Budget Speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he can state the annual cost to the country of Press telegrams in excess of the receipts for the same; and as a particular case, if he can state the total expenditure incurred, and the receipts obtained, on the occasion of Lord Salisbury's recent visit to Ulster?
§ MR. A. MORLEY
The number of Press telegrams in the year ended the 31st of March last was 5,590,160, and the receipts from them amounted to £120,299; but, as they were dealt with in the same offices, under the same supervision, and to a large extent on the same wires as ordinary telegrams, I regret that it is impossible to state their cost separately, although I am convinced that it resulted in a very large net loss. The telegrams having been destroyed, I cannot even state what would have been received for them if they had been paid for at the same rate as ordinary messages; but I am considering whether, in regard to the future, it would be possible to obtain this information without undue expense. Meanwhile, I may point out that, whilst the average receipt for an ordinary inland telegram is about 7¾d., that for a Press telegram is only a little more than 5d., although the latter is may times as long as the former, and, therefore, more expensive to deal with. The receipts for Press telegrams sent in connection with Lord Salisbury's recent visit to Ulster were £243, and the special expense incurred at Belfast and Londonderrry was £126; but, for the reasons I have given, it is impossible to state what was the cost of dealing with the telegrams at the various towns throughout the Kingdom therefore, say what was the loss sustained by the Department.
§ * SIR E. REED
Will the Postmaster General be kind enough to state if the figures just given include the cost of 1317 the special officers on the occasion of Lord Salisbury's visit to Ulster, and the extra cost incurred in the London Department?
§ SIR J. LENG (Dundee)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the charges made to the Press were not very carefully considered before the arrangement was made transferring the telegraph system to the Post Office; and was not the tariff thus agreed upon, practically, a contract between the Government and the newspaper Press as a condition precedent to the arrangement for the transfer?
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say, in regard to the second paragraph of the question on the Paper, what would have been the absolute receipts for these telegrams if the charges had been on the ordinary scale?
§ MR. A. MORLEY
I have answered that the telegrams have been destroyed, and it is, therefore, impossible to say what the receipts would have been. I am, however, going to take steps to see if in the future some such information may be obtained. As to the question of the hon. Member for Dundee, I do not know that there was any such contract between the Post Office and the Press; I can only say I am quite certain that the Postal Authorities had no idea that the result of the arrangement would have been so heavy a loss.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
Is it not the case that since the telegraphs were taken over the number of Press messages has enormously increased, so that the small loss at that time incurred has been many times multiplied?
§ MR. W. SAUNDERS (Newington, Walworth)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Switzerland, whore the charge is ¼d. per word, a profit is made, whereas with a charge of ½d. a word in this country there is a loss?
§ Mr. A. MORLEY
That is so, but ten the charges in this country for Press Messages are much less than ¼d. per word.