HC Deb 08 March 1897 vol 47 cc188-91
MR. A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether he has received an answer from the Town Council Tunbridge Wells respecting the letter from the National Telephone Company on the alleged insufficiency of the local telephone service, stating that, not withstanding the changes Made, there is still a lack of secresy so that subscribers' conversations can be overheard; that the Corporation declares the service inadequate; that there are only four call offices in the borough—three of these not properly equipped; that the rentals are unduly high; and that altogether there are less than 80 subscribers, being fewer than there were in 1895; whether he is aware that, in the event of a licence being given under the Treasury Minute of 23rd May 1892, a local company could be formed which would be prepared to establish and work an exchange at a much lower rate, and that 140 residents have already promised to join as subscribers; and whether, in the interests of the town, he will grant such a licence?


Yes, Sir. An answer has been received, and I am aware of the representations which have been made; but the Government are not prepared to entertain the application for a licence to a local company at Tunbridge Wells. As far as can be seen at present, the National Company are using their best endeavours to render their service efficient, and should they fail to render it efficient, the Postmaster General will carefully consider what steps it may be desirable for him to take.


Arising out of that, may I ask whether the Postmaster General will institute an Inquiry into the alleged inefficiency of the service at Tunbridge Wells?


I gather that the Postmaster General will be willing to make inquiries whether the service is efficient or not.

MR. ALEXANDER CROSS (Glasgow, Camlachie)

Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire into the charges made by the telephone company, as well as the inefficiency of service?


Yes; I consider that part of the general Question.


I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether he is now in a position to state the general policy of the Government on the question of telephones, and their management and administration in this country?

MR. A. D. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)

Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, I wish to ask him a Question, of which I have given him private notice, namely: As notice of his intention to make a statement regarding the Government policy on the Telephone question was recently made, will he consent to postpone doing so until Thursday next, to allow representations to be placed before him on this subject by the Telephone Committee of the Glasgow Municipal Corporation, which meets to-morrow for the purpose of preparing them, and which are necessary on account of statements recently made in Glasgow to the Statute (Labour) Committee of the Corporation by the hon. Member for North-East Manchester, formerly Postmaster General?


I do not think the Corporation of Glasgow will be in any way prejudiced by my answer. In reply to the hon. Member, I have no change of policy to announce. Her Majesty's Government do not propose to take any steps to acquire, either by compulsion or agreement, the business of the National Telephone Company, which, as the hon. Member is aware, is conducted under a temporary licence front the Government. But the Postmaster General will carefully inquire into any complaints which he may receive from any locality of the inefficiency or inadequacy of the service which the company is supplying, and should he consider that such complaints are well founded, and that the inefficiency or inadequacy of the service is due to the fault or neglect of the company, he will carefully consider, on the merits of each case, what steps it may be desirable to take to remedy the defect.


Do I understand that in 1911 the Government policy is, in taking over the whole telephone service of this country, that they will not recognise any claim for "going value" or "unearned increment" made or to be made by the National Telephone Company?


My hon. Friend will understand by the answer I gave the other day that the Government stand by the answer given in Mr. Arnold Morley's letter, supposing this purchase is not made before the licence expires. The Government can give no guarantee what will happen or what the successors of the present Government may do. At all events, we are not prepared to purchase.

MR. JAMES McKILLOP (Stirlingshire)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether his attention has been called to the frequent and strong complaints made from the industrial districts of East Stirlingshire and the Coatbridge Districts of Lanarkshire with reference to the inefficient service of the National Telephone Company; and what steps are being taken to remedy a state of things so detrimental to the trade and requirements of these districts?


The Postmaster General has not had his attention called to any inefficiency in the service of the National Telephone Company in the districts referred to by the hon Member.