§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
I beg to ask the Postmaster-General whether, having regard to the shortness of time now available, he can state whether he has come to any decision as to buying out the National Telephone Company under the clause which permits of doing so this year by compulsory arbitration after six months notice.
After careful consideration, I have arrived at the conclusion that it would not be in the public interest to exercise the compulsory powers of purchase reserved to the Postmaster-General by Clause 17 of the National Telephone Company's licence. I shall, therefore, not give notice to the company under that clause; and I am unable to say at present whether the negotiations now in progress with a view to a voluntary sale will lead to a satisfactory result.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
Is it intended, or not, to undertake meantime the competition between the Post Office and the National Telephone Company, for the purposes of which this House voted £2,000,000 sterling, or is it intended to go on with the present arrangement of working with the Company in agreement?
I do not quite follow the hon. Member. There is plenty 277 of work to be done by the Telephone Department without actually entering into direct competition with the National Telephone Company. If these negotiations fall through—and I cannot now say I whether they will or not—the circumstances will be entirely changed, and then I shall have to consider what action we I should take as regards competition.