HC Deb 29 April 1895 vol 33 cc18-9

I beg to ask the Postmaster General whether, on the 22nd January he replied to the representations of a deputation of telegraph clerks that the Postal Telegraph Departments throughout the United Kingdom must be placed upon a commercial basis; and whether, in view of the fact that the Postal Telegraph Department loses annually over £300,000 by reason of the low-Press rate charged and other causes, Her Majesty's Government will consent to the appointment of a Select Committee with the object of considering how these losses can be made good and what concessions, if any, compatible with the interests of the public service can be made to the telegraph clerks.

*MR. W. P. BYLES (Yorkshire, W.R., Shipley)

I beg to ask whether the alleged loss on Press messages has ever been substantiated by the production of a statement, giving particulars of the proportion of the Departmental charges placed to the account of the newspapers; and whether, when similar allegations as to a supposed loss upon Press messages were made in 1876 by the Postmaster General, the Select Committee, appointed in that year to inquire into the circumstances, reported that the alleged loss had not been proved?


I am aware that a Select Committee sat in 1876, and that an estimate was made by them, but the figures on which that estimate was made have not been made public. With regard to the question on the Paper, I have to say that, in reply to a question in this House, on the 4th ultimo, I stated that I was willing to arrange for an investigation into the loss from Press telegrams if satisfactory assurance were given that the Press would abide by the result, and would undertake not to oppose the necessary legislation for a revision of the charges if it should be shown that they were insufficient. As to the telegraphists, I am not aware that I stated that the Telegraph Department "must be placed upon a commercial basis." What I did say was—that "a great commercial department like the Post Office cannot afford to disregard commercial principles;" and I added that I was supported in this view by the Report of the Select Committee on the Revenue Departments in 1888, in which attention was called "to the fact that the Department of the Postmaster General, in all its branches, is a vast Government business, which is most likely to continue to be conducted satisfactorily if it should continue to be conducted with a view to a profit, as one of the revenue-yielding Departments of the State."


The right hon. Gentleman did not say whether he would consent to the appointment of a Select Committee.


I have said that I am prepared to have a thorough investigation of the question.