§ MR. HARRY FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)
I beg to ask the Postmaster General whether he is correctly reported in Hansard of 31st August, 1893, to have promised, in reply to the hon. Member for Canterbury, that the proposed Agreement between the Post Office and the National Telephone Company should be submitted to Parliament for their sanction; whether he is aware that the Chairman of the National Telephone Company, in his address to the shareholders, is reported in The Times of the 26th instant to have stated that all difficulties in the matter had now been practically overcome, and the agreement would shortly be submitted for confirmation to the House of Commons; and whether the House will be given an opportunity of considering the Agreement, having regard to the pledges given by him and the very important public interests involved, before the Agreement becomes a definite and binding contract?
§ MR. A. MORLEY
I did not, on the 31st August, 1893, say that the Agreement would be submitted to Parliament for their sanction. If the hon. Member will refer to the report he will see that I merely said that it would be submitted to Parliament, and, as at that time it was not intended to lay the Agreement on the Table before it was finally signed, it is clear that I could not have intended to ask Parliament for their sanction. On the 8th of September several questions were addressed to me, including one by my right hon. Friend the late Postmaster General, and I then stated that in view of what appeared to be the intention of some Members of the Select Committee of 1892, I had decided to lay the Agreement on the Table before it was signed. To that decision I adhere; and I hope to be in a position to do so before the House goes into Committee on the Telegraph Estimates. I observe that in the speech to which the hon. Member refers, the Chairman of the National Telephone Company is reported to have said—We are, of course, advised that the Agreement is already in existence, having been signed two years ago on behalf of the Government and this Company.and, he added,I apprehend no serious objection being raised to it by the House of Commons.