§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ SIR J. JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
The discussion of this Bill has been continued during its various stages under very great difficulties, because the 916 Bill at every stage was a different Bill to what it had been previously. The Bill we are now discussing is altogether different to that which was brought before us on the Second Reading, and although on the Report stage important clauses were moved, the discussion was carried on under much difficulty, because we had not the facilities of the Committee stage, when we might have spoken more than once upon the subject. Her Majesty's Government have completely changed their front with regard to this measure. When a Government introduces a Bill into this House, it ought to know what policy it intends to pursue in regard to it; but in this particular case, either the Government had no opinion, or they have changed the opinion which they had altogether. As the Bill made progress after the Second Reading, it was sent to a Grand Committee, where its various provisions were discussed and decided upon, and at that time we all thought that the Government were strongly opposed to the National Telephone Company. But after the Grand Committee had done its work, and the Bill came to this House on the Report stage, the Government changed 917 their views with regard to the National Telephone Company, and came to an arrangement with the company which was never contemplated either at the time of the Second Reading of the Bill or during the Committee stage. I have strong objection to this Bill on various grounds, not the least of which is that the Government propose to treat London altogether differently to any other part of the country. It is proposed to devote a portion of the two millions of money provided by this Bill to the development of the telephone services in the country, but unless there is every intention to give an active competition to the National Telephone Company in London this Bill in my opinion is the merest trifling. Of all parts of the Kingdom London requires the least assistance from the Post Office with regard to this matter. I think the Government ought to have taken over the whole system and nationalised the telephone, but if they do not do that they should at least have had an effective competition. But they have given up the idea of any competition under this Bill, because I see it is intended to prevent the National Telephone Company from establishing a service in any area in which they have not at present a service already working. This means that those areas will be either worked by the Post Office or by a licensee in the shape of a municipality, or they will be left out entirely. The Government not only gives that advantage to the company, but they also propose to extend the licence of the company beyond 1911. I have protested against that action again and again, and I think it is my duty to make a last protest now, although I cannot expect any protest of mine to be very effective with a Government with so large a majority behind them. But I challenge them to leave this an open question, even at the eleventh hour, and let their supporters vote on this Bill exactly as they choose, and I feel sure that if they are left free to use their own minds the Bill will not be passed. I have no animus against the National Telephone Company. I have had some experience in telephone work in this country. I quite admit that under the circumstances the company has done its work well, and that if it had not been hampered as it has been it would have done much better. It has selected certain 918 districts where it has established a service in order to make as much profit as possible, and I do not blame it for doing that, because the first object of a company of this kind is not to create a public benefit, but to make a profit for its shareholders. But I blame the Government in this matter, because they are the culprits in this and not the company. The Post Office has the power of establishing telephones all over the country, and instead of doing so in order that they might encourage competition, they discourage competition, and have entered into negotiations with the Telephone Company, because, no doubt, they look forward to the time when the Post Office may take over the whole system, and they preferred to deal with one company in place of many. I have heard of no real objection on the part of the Government to the policy of the nationalisation of the telephone. The one solitary objection that has been made so far as I have been able to see is that it would necessitate the employment of a very large number of persons, and the Government do not see their way to increase the number of their employees. I think the Government should have the strength to resist the pressure brought against them by these people. I do not. see why the Government should refrain, from giving a telephone service because they think a few votes might be lost to them. If the municipalities take on the, telephones themselves the voters who may be against it may be infinitely larger than they would be in the case of Government employees, and there is far greater danger in increasing the number of municipal employees than there would be if the Government took over the telephones and employed a larger number of persons themselves. There is one great objection I have to this Bill, and that is, I do not want to see municipalities become suppliers of the telephone service. They have got quite enough to do at present to attend to their proper duties. There is a very great tendency on the part of municipalities to speculate, and we have municipal gas and municipal trams and municipal water; but they have never taken over any of those companies until they have satisfied themselves that the companies are substantially and physically sound. But there are men of a more speculative character, who would be likely to spend public money in these matters, and I do not think that it is the 919 work of the municipality. We have heard lately of municipalities borrowing money on the cheap. I have heard of municipalities trying to borrow money at 3½per cent., and it was a complete failure, and I am not surprised, but my chief objection to the Bill is that it will defer the nationalisation of the telephone system of this country for many years, if, indeed, it does not put it off altogether. The Committee who considered this question was of opinion that 1911 was quite long enough for any licence to extend to for the supply of telephones, and the Committee which sat in 1892 was of the same opinion, and yet, in the face of these facts, the Government has resolved to extend the licence of the National Telephone Company beyond 1911. We do complain most bitterly that the Government did not allow us to go into this question specially before the Select Committee last year, because I think we could have produced such evidence as would certainly have prevented the Government from taking up the present position. I was under the impression that the Government had made up their minds not to extend the licence of the National Telephone Company beyond 1911, and we consequently believed that in 1911 the telephone service would be transferred from the National Telephone Company to the Post Office. I think the Government behaved most unfairly in coming to an arrangement to extend the licence beyond 1911. I am satisfied in my own mind that there will never be a more favourable opportunity of getting a national system than there is at the present moment. If you give a number of municipalities power to make telephones in their own areas, you will find that where these telephones pay you will create a vested interest which will be far more powerful than the National Telephone Company, and I feel sure that with the influence which will be used by the Members representing the different localities in this House, no Government would venture to terminate these licences in 1825. There was, indeed, a special recommendation made by the Select Committee to provide for justice being done if the licences terminated in 1911. The recommendation was that the Government should be authorised to purchase all the plant of the various licensees at the end of 1911, and one of the reasons why Members who held views like myself 920 signed the Report was because we thought by this means we should get over the difficulty of being unjust to the National Telephone Company. But there is another reason why I want a national system. I think as time goes on, and other licences are created, you will find that there will be considerable friction between the owners of the local lines and the Post Office, who hold the trunk lines. Already there is great grumbling in my part of the world because whenever persons want to speak over the trunk line they find the trunk line occupied, and communication cannot consequently be obtained with another town. I venture to say that the friction will become so great between the municipalities and the Post Office that the public will compel the Post Office to take over the municipalities, even if they have to pay a large sum to do it. I feel very strongly in my own mind that we have reached a crisis in regard to the question of the telephone service, and if we do not now bring the question before the Government in the strongest possible way the opportunity will be lost, and the country will, at some future time, have to pay a very large sum to place itself in the position in which I desire to see it at the present moment. I cannot help saying that Her Majesty's Government have not acted fairly by the Committee. They have not brought in a Bill in accordance with the conclusions come to by that Committee. We recommended in Committee that there should be competition. I maintain that this Bill will not secure competition. If there had been competition, competition should have been by the Post Office, but the Post Office does not intend to compete. I maintain that the Bill will put the National Telephone Company and many other licensees in such a strong position that when we have to deal with them again in 1925 the Government will have to pay an enormous sum in order to get possession of the system. I feel sure that if the whole of the facts were put before the country, the Government would not have the support of the commercial classes nor of the country districts. The commercial classes are, as a whole, opposed to the policy of the Government, and I am certain that this is also the case in the rural districts. On the grounds that I have given, I beg to move that the Third Reading be postponed for three months.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three months.' "—(Sir James Joicey.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ * MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)
No one, I think, will deny that this is a Bill of far-reaching importance. Indeed, I shall not be using the language of exaggeration if I say that it is the most important Bill which has been introduced this session. It does not concern merely a private interest or one particular part of the country; it affects the whole commerce of Great Britain. Yet this measure, notwithstanding its importance, has been introduced at what one might call the fag-end of the session, and it has been pressed forward from the day of its introduction until now with exceptional urgency. I confess that from this point of view it compares very unfavourably with the London Government Bill. That, no doubt, was a measure of very considerable importance, but as compared with the Bill now in question it might not unfairly be described as purely parochial, yet days, if not weeks, were devoted to the discussion in Committee of the details of the former, whereas the latter is being practically rushed through the House. It may have been, of course, that the Government in the case of the London Government Bill were influenced by the reflection that there were seventy London Members to be considered. But as far as the relative importance of the two measures is concerned, it would have been very much better if the Government had introduced this Bill instead of the London Government Bill, at the date when the latter was brought forward. That, I think, is a ground for desiring that more time should be afforded for the consideration of so weighty a matter. But there is another reason for delay which I think the right hon. Gentleman himself will admit should have some weight attached to it. It is this—the right hon. Gentleman has been subjected to pressure. In the course of previous discussions upon this very Bill, it has been repeatedly asserted that the Bill is not as he would have drawn it if he had been left to himself, but that private influence has been brought to bear 922 upon him which he has been unable to resist. If that be the case—and I have not heard the right hon. Gentleman deny that it is so—we may feel some commiseration for the right hon. Gentleman, but we can scarcely be expected to pardon him for yielding to private pressure where he ought to have stood firm in the public interest. That, I think, is another and a good ground for delay. But while he cannot recommend this Bill to the House as his ideal, yet the right hon. Gentleman does recommend it to the House and to the country—to use his own words—"because he believes it will be cheap, efficient, and popular." The right hon. Gentleman, I fear, cherishes a delusion. As far as popularity is concerned, what have been the facts? Why, chamber of commerce after chamber of commerce, including some of the most important bodies in the three kingdoms, have steadily denounced the Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman has been the recipient of many strong communications similar in character from other quarters. On his own side of the House, moreover, men of high standing in commercial centres in England have protested against the Bill. It has also been assailed by men of great weight and standing in commerce on this side. I cannot help thinking that if the right hon. Gentleman buoys himself up with the idea that this Bill will prove to be popular, he has already had ample proof to demonstrate to him how false are the hopes upon which he relies. The question of efficiency, of course, is one which must remain to some extent speculative. I cannot help thinking, however, that the efficiency which is to come from rival companies which are to be set in operation all over the country, and which, it is presupposed, will work in harmony, is an efficiency which is not likely to prove satisfactory either to the community at large or to the municipalities where these rival companies are to be created. The question of cheapness also is entirely speculative. It may be that if you have genuine competition the cost of the telephone service will be reduced to the subscribers, but to the country, if it should ever hereafter be desired to nationalise the whole service, it must inevitably prove to be the dearest system that the right hon. Gentleman could possibly suggest. That brings me to the main reason why I support the rejection of this measure. 923 The right hon. Gentleman has thrown away, or at all events has failed to seize, a great opportunity by declining to purchase. I find it difficult to understand precisely upon what ground he has absolutely shut his ears to the suggestion. I have heard it said tonight that his reason for doing so is that he is afraid of the increase of the staff which would necessarily follow. I cannot understand that that is a sufficient reason for declining to take this step, if, apart from such an objection, it were in the interest of the people that the system should be nationalised. Again, it has been said that the price asked was too great. But the right hon. Gentleman really had the National Telephone Company at his mercy. He could—I do not say that he ought—but he could have compelled the National Telephone Company to sell at any price he chose; he certainly should have compelled the National Telephone Company to sell at a fair price. I understand the right hon. Gentleman also objects, or did at one time object, to purchase because the Government, if they did purchase, would be purchasing a lot of old plant, and also because in 1911, when the present licence expires, the Government would be in a position to obtain the whole of the plant for practically nothing, and without paying anything for goodwill. But when the right hon. Gentleman refuses to consider the question of purchase, he seems to forget altogether the enormous profits which the National Telephone Company have been earning. I may be wrong, but I understand that the National Telephone Company have been earning something like half a million a year. If they have been earning that on a capital of seven millions, surely there was ample margin for the Government, with its great borrowing powers, having purchased at a fair price, by means of a sinking fund, to have presented the country with the whole of the goodwill and plant by 1911 without, practically, the cost of a penny. Well, that opportunity has been entirely thrown away, and now we understand that the Government are going to start an enormous system in which the National Telephone Company and municipalities are to compete in harmonious rivalry for the public benefit. But what does this great system mean? It means a duplication of plant in every municipality where the system is taken advantage of, and not 924 only a duplication of plant, but an enormous consequential waste of capital. There are other serious objections. Necessarily in every municipality which takes advantage of the scheme which the right hon. Gentleman has prepared a great disturbance of the ratepayers must take, place during construction, and most probably a serious addition to the already oppressive burthen of the rates in municipalities. And not only will there be such a disturbance, but there will probably be a delay of years, in some cases at all events, before a decision is actually arrived at, and certainly before the construction of lines is completed. Assuming for the moment the success of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme, up to a certain point, assuming that innumerable municipalities all over the country rush in to compete with the National Telephone Company, and assuming also, as the right hon. Gentleman has hinted, that at some time or other the Government will step in and purchase the telephones for the country, at what price will the right hon. Gentleman then be able to buy? His difficulties will be incalculably increased. He will then have to deal not with one company only, as at the present time, but with innumerable companies, with every conceivable variety of system, and with a volume of business which will probably have so vastly increased that a. price will be demanded which will be practically prohibitive. Suppose, on the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman were to purchase now and to create a. sinking fund from the profits, he might grant leases to those municipalities which are said to be anxious to acquire control of the telephone within their jurisdiction. He might even advance money where it was required for improvements, securing the Treasury against loss by an additional rent charge. The advantages would be immense. The municipalities would be placed in immediate possession with a staff ready made to their hands. The ratepayers would be undisturbed either in their minds or in their premises. The country would become the owners of a valuable property, the actual possession of which they would obtain at any date the Treasury chose to fix, and the responsibility and work entailed upon one department of the State by the acquisition would be gradually assumed. I venture to think that if the right hon. 925 Gentleman had had the courage to buy out the National Telephone Company, he might by means such as have been suggested have secured in 1911 a national telephone system at practically no cost at all. It is because I think the Government are throwing away a great opportunity, and because, if this Bill be now rejected, the Government may have the courage to introduce next session a scheme such as I have foreshadowed, that I support the rejection of this Bill.
§ * SIR HARRY BULLARD (Norwich)
I have consistently, I hope, followed the details of this Bill, and have supported Her Majesty's Government. I believe that by adjourning this question to another session we should be wasting time. Having sat on the Select Committee and waded through all the evidence that we did for many days, and having also followed the progress of the Bill when it was brought down to this House and read a second time, I certainly think we ought to proceed to alter the state of things as it exists in the country at the present time. Loud and deep complaints from my own constituency have reached me as to the existing state of the telephone system, and I therefore deem it my duty to support the proposal to effect an improvement at the earliest possible date. I also wish to allude to the circumstance that we have had the opinion of many Chambers of Commerce on the subject. I notice that in the Select Committee many statements were brought forward on behalf of the telephone company by their most able manager, Mr. Gain; and I also notice that in a long discussion in the council of the city that I have the honour to represent, the same arguments were used; they were cast, so to speak, in the same mould and were of the same metal. The adherents of the present arrangement are a very active and able body of people, but I do not think they appreciate what is necessary for the advancement and utility of the telephone. I believe that the municipalities and companies can work mutually together and be conducive of good, but if we still keep waiting, it will be detrimental to the utility of this very useful invention, the telephone.
§ MR. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
I can only look upon this question as a very fitting finale to a session which has been marked by measures which have placed private and sectional interests before the public benefit and the general good of the nation as a whole. As far as regards the telephone question, I desire to enter my strongest protest against what came out in the Debate on the Report stage of this Bill. General charges were made throughout the Debate that Members had been influenced and certain localities more or less "got at" or "squared." I think that when it comes to influencing a Member or squaring any special locality, such things are equally disastrous both for the reputation of this House and for the general welfare and prosperity of the country. It is the duty of this nation, in view of the tremendous rivalry in commerce to which we are exposed from Continental rivals—a rivalry which is becoming more and more keen every year, and which is diminishing the lead we formerly possessed—to make every possible effort to maintain, if not increase, our commercial supremacy. In nothing could we find a greater help in that direction than in the development of the telephone. We are far behind other countries in this matter. I need only give one striking instance. Stockholm, with a population of a quarter of a million, has no less than 700 telephone call offices; whereas, in the London area, with 6,000,000 of people, there are only a little over 200 call offices. This Bill is more likely to perpetuate our present inferiority than to remove it. The tendency of the Bill will be to make the telephone specially available for the rich, instead of making it equally accessible for rich and poor alike. The promoters of the measure cannot have had any clear conception of the object to be aimed at. That object should be nationalisation. We ought to aim at having a universal telephone, just as we have a universal telegraph; the Government ought to occupy the whole field. The same characteristic appears in this Bill as in the Adulteration of Foods Bill which was recently passed. In the present Bill the companies are directly encouraged to give a bad service in order to induce competition, because the very fact of the existence of competition means an extension of their licence for something like fourteen years. The same trait was in the Adulteration of Foods Bill, only in 927 the reverse way. In that measure there was a direct check on competition. In this case the hands of the public are tied, because by trying to free themselves from this Telephone Company, they fasten the burden on their shoulders for fourteen years more. Two points came out in the course of the Committee Debate. One was the general admission that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury was not himself responsible for the Bill; that he was a good man struggling against adversity; that he had the public welfare at heart, but was not able to free himself from the incubus of his colleagues. I say that if the right hon. Gentleman had the public welfare really at heart, he would find more real supporters on this side of the House. The other point was the constantly reiterated and never refuted charge that there had been persistent Lobbying, and that Members had been influenced and got at. For the credit of this House, notice and refutation of such a charge ought to be made. Above all, what this House sets an inestimable value on is the possession of a conscience; and by this Bill, either through Party feeling or through personal interest, the edge of that conscience has been allowed to be somewhat blunted, and I hope this will be the last measure of such a sort that we shall see for a long time. The end of the session is approaching, and when the nation as a whole becomes acquainted with the personal interests and the local interests which, to my mind, have been the moving action in regard to this Bill, they will emphatically recognise that their interests have not been looked after as they ought to have been. The only people to be congratulated on the passing of the Bill are the National Telephone Company themselves; they have been wise in their generation; they have buttressed themselves up with influential men in both political Parties, and they alone are to be congratulated, while the nation as a whole deserves to be commiserated. For these reasons I strongly oppose the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ SIR CHARLES CAMERON (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Not one of the hon. Gentleman who have objected to the Bill have done so on the same grounds. The hon. Member opposite objected, because it introduced a double telephonic system, and 928 that that would give rise to all sorts of inconveniences and discrepancies The hon. Member for Wick Burghs wished the Government to assume control of the telephones, and thought that that could be done without any expense, by borrowing the money to buy up the system, and recouping ourselves by a sinking fund. Why, he said, license the municipalities? for if the Government are going to take over the telephones in 1911, there will be no necessity for licensing the municipalities, or anyone else. My hon. friend the Member for North Aberdeen objected to the Bill on account of the element of Tammany which had been introduced into it. I do not see where the Tammany element comes in. He divided hon. Members into three classes—first those who voted for the Bill on account of private interest. These I suppose are Members interested in the National Telephone Company. The second class are Members who support the Bill in the selfish interests of the localities they represent, which I presume is the class to which I belong. I must, say on that point that I have supported, this Bill in the interest of all the localities of Scotland, and especially in the interest of Aberdeen, which sent up a deputation to give evidence before the Select Committee of 1894. Aberdeen was the strongest of all the Scottish municipalities in demanding licences from the local authorities, and its representatives even went the length of saying that they would be willing, if they got the power, not only to accept a licence, but to buy up the existing telephone system. A further class were those, to which I suppose my hon. friend himself belongs, who have regard only to the wide interests of the nation as a whole. But my hon. friend must give others credit for having a regard to the interests of the nation as a whole as well as himself. I think my hon. friend would have much better preserved the interests of the nation as a whole by supporting, rather than opposing, this Bill? What were the objections urged against the Bill in the course of the Debate? The hon. Member for Chester says the Government would be forced into buying up the telephone systems, and paying an exorbitant price for them. Now, the whole danger and risk of an extravagant bargain with the National Telephone Company arose from the fact that there was no competition with them, and that 929 their business was a gigantic monopoly. If that business had gone on unchecked until 1911, the Government would have been confronted with a state of matters by which they would have been compelled to buy up the company's business at any price the company chose to fix, or to have the whole telephone business of the nation thrown into absolute disorder. What we have got to look at is, how the matter will work out. My right hon. friend has been twitted with having said that he had not altogether a free hand in this matter. Of course he had not a free hand. The National Telephone Company had a licence, and he was obliged to have regard to that licence. Under that licence, too, the Post Office had no control, and he was obliged also to have regard to that fact. But the right hon. Gentleman has been able to secure a great number of advantages in the course of the negotiations for this Bill. At a very early stage it was made manifest to the supporters of the National Company, and the supporters of the nationalisation of the telephones, that the House was not inclined to support them, and that was what made the National Company willing to enter into these negotiations. I cannot be accused of being a friend to the National Company. I have been engaged in a most active contest with them ever since 1894. In the Committee of 1894 I venture to say that my position of antagonism to the company was as marked as that of any member of the Committee, and the manner in which I cross-examined the witnesses in every possible way was such that there was no great love lost between us. It is because I am desirous of bringing about an improved state of the telephonic communications of this country that I support this Bill in its present shape. It is, in its present shape, a vast improvement on the measure as it was when first introduced. Certainly, the right hon. Gentleman has got concessions quite as big as those he has granted. In the first place, the Post Office will establish a competing telephone system in London, and the company will at once lose their monopoly in the most valuable area under their control, and where there are five-sixths of the entire number of their subscribers. Moreover, it will be impossible for the company in 1911 to receive any extension of their licence, and the Post Office will be in control. When that licence falls in, as to a moral certainty 930 it will, in 1911, no matter what may be the ideas of the Government of that day in regard to nationalisation, London will be nationalised. Further, the moment this Bill passes, the National Company lose the privileges which their licence gives them over a large area of the country. Wherever they have not already established an effective exchange, their rights cease and determine at once, and the first step which the Post Office will take will be to occupy the ground too long neglected, and establish a system of rural telephones throughout the country. Then, in a large number of boroughs the company's licence will certainly not be extended, for there will be no competition, as the municipalities will not care to enter into the business. In other places where there is competition, like Aberdeen, all that Aberdeen has to do when it applies for its licence, is to ask for the licence only to 1911, and there will then be no extension of the National Company's licence beyond that date. In 1911 the Government will be firmly seated in the business, as far as London is concerned, and it will have established a considerable system of rural telephones. In certain places the licences will fall in, but in a manageable manner, and the Post Office will not have to deal with the whole country at once; and as for the other towns, it will be in a still better position to deal with them when the extended licences fall in. Now, on the other hand, it is quite possible that in 1911 the Government may not care to assume national control altogether, and in that case assuredly, if this Bill does not pass, the National Company will require to get an extension of their licence. The right hon. Gentleman in the course of these negotiations has made changes in the Bill, which will enable the competition to be real and widespread, and which will induce municipalities and new companies to apply for licences, and bring about that improvement in the telephonic system in the country which, I am sure, will result from fair competition alone. My hon. friend referred to the case of Stockholm as being the best in the world. Why, they have there three competing companies, and hence the remarkable success of the scheme so repeatedly referred to in the course of these Debates. I wish, as one who has worked for many years for the improve- 931 ment of our system of telephony, which at present I consider to be a disgrace to a country in the position of Great Britain, and as one who represents the city which was in the very fore-front of the agitation for a municipal licence, to say that I most heartily support this Bill in the assurance that it will be a greater success in its present shape than when it was introduced. If my hon. friends are so ill-advised as to go to a Division, I shall go into the lobby with the Government.
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
I will not detain the House any length of time at this period of the session and this time of the evening. But inasmuch as the people of Liverpool feel so strongly that this Bill has been a mistake, it is only right that I should enter my humble protest against its passing. The Liverpool Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce, the Dock Board, and the Navigation Board all oppose this measure; and it is very evident from the terms of the Bill that it is only one step in the direction of the nationalisation of the telephones in this country. In the first place the City of London is going to enjoy a system of nationalisation without delay, and at the expense of the general taxpayers, and what London will receive to-day the provinces will receive to-morrow. The country districts will not rest content till the facilities which are given to London are extended to them. In the interests of the State and the taxpayers it would be well if the Treasury were to buy up the existing telephone system while it is still in its infancy, instead of postponing the time for twenty years, when they will have to pay 100 per cent, more than the present value. As, however, the Bill gives to London what it denies to Liverpool I do not see my way to support it.
§ * MR. CAWLEY (Lancashire, Prestwich)
As a Liberal Member I support the Bill, because I believe it carries out the recommendation of the Select Committee that general, immediate and effective competition is desirable and should be set up, and I believe this Bill is the only way in which it can be set up. Various hon. Gentlemen oppose this Bill for different reasons. The hon. Member for the University of London does not wish to see municipalities trading, and the logical inference to be drawn from his remarks is that he wishes the company to go on as before. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street wishes the Government to buy out the company; but if the Government did that, having regard to the million and a half of watered stock of the company, the country would not get any benefit by it. This Bill is an honest attempt to give the country a cheap and effective system. And the fact that the National Company has granted intercommunication will foster competition, and I believe great benefit will be derived from it. In my constituency, which is partly urban and partly suburban, this will be of inestimable advantage to the small shopkeepers and others, who by it will obtain a cheap service. There is one other point to which I would desire to draw attention, and that is the industry of making telephone plant in this country. If a man makes telephone plant now he only has one customer—the National Telephone Company—and no one would set up large works for one customer without a guarantee, the result of which is that all the telephone plant is now brought from abroad. I think we ought to keep the industry in this country.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 132; Noes, 29. (Division List, No. 320.)933
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Bethell, Commander||Carson, Rt. Hon. Edward|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Bigwood, James||Cawley, Frederick|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W (Leeds||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Cayzer, Sir Charles William|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Boscawen, Arthur Griffith.||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)|
|Barnes, Frederick Gorell||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc.|
|Barry, Rt. Hn. A. Smith-(Hunts||Brookfield, A. Montagu||Charrington, Spencer|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Bullard, Sir Harry||Clare, Octavius Leigh|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benj.||Butcher, John George||Clough, Walter Owen|
|Beach,Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol||Caldwell, James||Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.|
|Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe||Cameron, Sir C. (Glasgow)||Coghill, Douglas Harry|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Cox, Irwin Edw. Bainbridge||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H.||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Curzon, Viscount||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Lecky, Rt. Hon. William E. H.||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Round, James|
|Donkin, Richard Sim||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)||Runciman, Walter|
|Doxford, William Theodore||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverpool||Russell, Gen. F. S. (Cheltenh'm)|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Lowe, Francis William||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Lowles, John||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Lowther, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Cumb.||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Sidebottom, William (Derbys.)|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||Lucas-Shadwell, William||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Flower, Ernest||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)|
|Fry, Lewis||Macdona, John Cumming||Steadman, William Charles|
|Gilliat, John Saunders||Maclure, Sir John William||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||M'Killop, James||Strauss, Arthur|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Maddison, Fred.||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Gorst, Rt Hon. Sir John Eldon||Manners, Lord Edward Wm. J.||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Goschen, Rt Hn G J (St. George's||Middlemore, John Throgmort'n||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Monk, Charles James||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||More, R. Jasper (Shropshire)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Morrell, George Herbert||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-under-L.|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Williams, John Carvell (Notts.|
|Gull, Sir Cameron||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Williams, Joseph Powell-(Birm|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert W.||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Henderson, Alexander||Newdigate, Francis Alexander||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
|Hermon-Hodge, Robert Trotter||Nicholson, William Graham||Wylie, Alexander|
|Hill, Arthur (Down, West)||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Wyndham, George|
|Hoare, Samuel (Norwich)||Oldroyd, Mark||Young, Commander (Berks, E.)|
|Hornby, Sir William Henry||Percy, Earl||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Howard, Joseph||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh|
|Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Purvis, Robert|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Horniman, Frederick John||Sinclair, Capt. John (Forfarsh.|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Lewis, John Herbert||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Dewar, Arthur||Macaleese, Daniel||Wallace, Robert|
|Dilke, Rt. Hn. Sir Charles||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Dillon, John||M'Crae, George||Wilson, H. J. (Yorks, W. R.)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Doogan, P. C.||Moss, Samuel|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir James Joicey and Mr. Pirie.|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Hedderwick, Thomas Charles H||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
Second to Seventh Resolutions agreed to.