HC Deb 01 September 1893 vol 16 cc1711-3
MR. HARRY FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)

I beg to ask the Postmaster General whether, in the agreement he is now arranging with the National Telephone Company, he is giving that Company any exclusive powers that would confer upon them such a complete monopoly as would enable them to charge such rates as to pay interest on £4,000,000 of capital for which they have no corresponding property, and to repay at least £3,000,000 in the next 18 years for which the public can receive no consideration whatever? At the same time I will further ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has any information that would lead him to believe that the statement made by Mr. J. C. Lamb, of the Telegraph Department of the Post Office, before the Select Committee on the Telegraphs Bill of last year, to the effect that the then existing capital of the National Telephone Company was about £4,000,000, while their then existing plant was estimated not to exceed £1,000,000 in 19 years when the property came to be acquired by the Post Office, is correct; and whether the Post Office made a valuation at that time of such plant; and, if so, at what value was it estimated?


The reply to the first question is in the negative. As to the second, I have no official information which would enable mo to state the facts of the case. No valuation was made by the Post Office.


I beg to ask the Postmaster General whether, seeing that he is now negotiating an agreement with the National Telephone Company, and is likely to have further negotiations, he can inform the House whether, of about £2,500,000 of shares in the capital of that Company in June, 1892, when the Select Committee on the Telegraphs Bill made its Report, about £2,000,000 had been created without any property being in existence to represent it; whether his attention has been drawn to the recent Report of the Joint Committee of the Lords and this House, in which they recommend, in Clause 6, that it is desirable in every way to facilitate the use of complete metallic circuits for telephones, and for that end to recommend statutory powers to be granted enabling a private company to enter the streets of a Corporation and lay trenches and wires; and if, instead, he will consider the desirability of placing in the hands of Municipal Authorities the carrying on of any undertaking such as this, which necessitates the opening of streets and interference with the soil and gas and waterpipes?


I have no official information as to the accuracy of the statements made in the first paragraph of the question. In answer to paragraphs 2 and 3, I am aware of the recommendation of the Committee, and both that recommendation and the question of licensing Municipal Authorities to carry on Telegraph Exchanges business will receive the most careful consideration of Her Majesty's Government.