HC Deb 06 April 1900 vol 81 cc1403-4
*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer will he explain on what grounds the offer to lay an all-British cable from England to Cape Town by Gibraltar and Sierra Leone for a subsidy of £20,000 a year, to connect with the Cape Town-Australia cable, to be laid without subsidy, has been refused by the Government, with the result of the cable now being taken by a route passing through two Portuguese stations; whether the company which made the offer was requested by the Government to lay, maintain, and work a strategic spur cable between Ascension and Sierra Leone at an estimated cost of £150,000, in consideration only of the Treasury finding it unnecessary to oppose the grant of landing rights in Cornwall at a spot where other cables of the same company are already landed with Board of Trade permission; and what precedent there is for refusing landing rights in the United Kingdom to British cable companies.


I cannot give a full answer to the first paragraph (which does not, I think, state the position quite accurately) without going into the history of negotiations, extending over several years and involving other questions besides this, between the Governments of the United Kingdom, the Cape, and Australia and the cable company. But I may say that one reason for refusing the subsidy of £20,000 a year was that another company had applied for landing rights for a cable to be laid by the all-British route without a subsidy. I think there is now ground for supposing that an all-British communication with the Cape will be obtained in another way. The statement in the second paragraph is correct. So far as I know, no steps have hitherto been taken by Government in this country to obtain any return from telegraph companies seeking landing rights; but the Cape Government have recently obtained substantial concessions as the price of landing rights for this new cable, and it seemed to me that the grant of new landing rights in this country was a valuable concession, for which it was my duty, in the public interest, to try and obtain in this and other instances some return in such a form as the circumstances might indicate to be most desirable.