HC Deb 27 February 1900 vol 79 cc1218-9
SIR J. LENG () Dundee

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether his attention has been called to an alleged Report of a Departmental Committee to inquire into the work of telegraphists and their supervisors, dated 4th May, 1894, recently published; whether the practice had been, as there set forth, to complete the transcription of press messages within ten minutes of their receipt at the instrument, any time in excess of ten minutes having been regarded as undue delay; whether the Committee *See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxii., page 278. reported that in the public interest the demand for so expeditious a transcription of press messages should be resisted, and that the superintending officers should be given to understand that, if on the continuous transmission of a considerable amount of news as much as half an hour is occupied in its transcription, they will not be held to blame; and whether the advice given in that Report is still being acted upon.


The Report referred to was confidential. Some years ago, when the speed of transmission by the Wheatstone telegraph instrument was 100 words a minute, it took forty minutes to transmit 4,000 words of news; and, if the transcription began with the arrival of the first word of the message, the transcribers were expected to finish their work in fifty minutes, that is, ten minutes after the last word was received. At the present time it is possible to work the Wheatstone instrument at the rate of 400 words a minute, and thus to transmit a message of the same length in ten minutes; but it is obviously impossible for the transcribers to keep pace with this high speed, and if they take thirty minutes to complete the transcription after the receipt of the last word they still do the work ten minutes quicker than before, the comparison being between a total period of forty minutes and a total period of fifty.