HC Deb 22 February 1900 vol 79 cc808-10
* SIR J. LENG () Dundee

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, if he can state the length of time during which telegraphic and telephonic communication between London and the north of England and Scotland was interrupted in consequence of the recent storm; the number and mileage of the wires blown down; the number of messages delayed; whether' there is any prospect of similar extensive and prolonged interruptions being prevented by the substitution of underground for overhead wires; and whether as, during the recent storm Scotland received its earliest messages and news of the war by undersea cables from Ireland via Dublin and Belfast, he will consider the expediency of establishing an under-sea telegraph cable, in sufficiently deep water to keep clear of anchorages, by the east coast from London to Edinburgh, Dundee, and Aberdeen.

MR. CALDWELL () Lanarkshire, Mid

I beg at the same time to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether, considering the loss and annoyance caused through the absence of telegraphic and telephonic communication between Scotland and England during the recent storm, and which occurs at times throughout the year owing to the wires being carried overhead to-day just as they were twenty or thirty years ago, he will consider the advisability of providing an emergency underground circuit, similar to that in Germany, connecting London with the principal cities in the provinces, which, being impervious to all meteorological convulsions, could be safely employed under extraordinary circumstances.


The period of interruption has varied considerably in the case of different towns, and it is impossible at present to give details in regard to the number and mileage of the wires blown down or the number of messages delayed. The storms have been of almost unexampled extent and severity. Until the recent storm there had not been a general interruption of telegraphic communication with Scotland since 1886. The want of any form of insulated wire which could be provided at a reasonable cost, and would give even moderately satisfactory results from a telegraphic point of view, prevented the Postmaster General for many years from laving down long underground lines; but he took steps to minimise as much as possible the risk of total interruption of the overground lines by erecting them along distinct and separate routes, and by providing reserve wires. On the introduction of a new form of insulated wire at a moderate price, which gave promise of satisfactory results in telegraphy, he had it tried, and then proceeded to lay down a line of no less than seventy-six wires from London to Birmingham. This line, which has taken about three years to construct, is now on the point of completion. It passes underground through that part of the country which is subject to the most destructive gales, and it will give an increased measure of stability to the whole telegraph system. Notwithstanding the advantages which the new form of insulated wire possesses over the old, it is not free from defects; and some unforeseen electric difficulties have presented themselves. The Postmaster General is not prepared to entertain the suggestion that a submarine cable should be laid in the North Sea to maintain telegraphic communication between London and Scotland.