HC Deb 06 May 1897 vol 48 cc1606-8
MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether he is aware that some want of agreement between the Post Office and the Commissioners of Sewers in London is causing great inconvenience and expense to private persons and firms, who are unable to get telegraph wires introduced or transferred to their premises by reason of the refusal of the Commissioners to allow the ground to be opened; and whether, in addition to the postal and telegraphic reforms promised in the Budget, the Postmaster General will take steps to overcome the results arising from the disagreement referred to?


The Postmaster General is aware that inconvenience is being caused to private persons and firms by the refusal of the Commissioners of Sewers to give consent to open the ground for the provision or transference of wires to their premises. Powers have been conferred by Parliament on the Postmaster General to carry out works of this kind subject to the consent of the authorities controlling the streets, and he has a right of appeal to a legal tribunal, and in the final result to the Railway Commissioners against the refusal of consent. The Postmaster General is now considering what steps he should take in the public interest; but he trusts he will not be compelled to resort to appeal. The Commissioners of Sewers have in the past done what they could to facilitate the operations of the Post Office, and have shown the Department every courtesy.

MR. ALBAN GIBBS (City of London)

asked whether the Treasury would grant the Inquiry into the matters in dispute that the Commissioners of Sewers had asked for?


said that he did not think an Inquiry was necessary. It really was a legal question. It was clear that the Post Office had a right of appeal, and, if the consent of the Commissioners was refused, they could carry on the appeal.


asked whether it was not a fact that the disagreement arose from the Post Office having obtained permission to break the streets for their own purposes, and having used it for the purpose of the National Telephone Company, and having refused to undertake that they would not again do so?


said he had made special inquiries about this. The position was this. By an agreement made when the trunk wires were taken over from the National Telephone Company by the Government, it was stipulated under that agreement that the Post Office should lay the main wires between the exchanges of the National Telephone Company at their own cost. That agreement was sanctioned by Parliament. If any wires in connection with the Company were so laid by the Post Office, the arrangement was strictly limited to those main wires.


said that the difficulty of the Commission of Sewers was not absolutely confined to telephone wires, and that his question was confined to telegraph wires.


But the difficulty is that, if two sets of wires have to be laid, it is an advantage to the local authorities that they should be laid at the same time.