§ MR. BELLOC (Salford, S.)
I beg to ask the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been called to the recent offer of the National Telephone Company for the purchase of the municipal telephones of Hull; and whether, seeing that the offer was higher than the offer made by the Post Office for the same property, and that the assets of the National Telephone Company are purchasable in full by the State a few years hence, he will, in the public interest, take steps to secure that this company shall not offer, in competition against the State, sums which the State itself is pledged to reimburse.
§ THE POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON,) Tower Hamlets, Poplar
I have not made any definite offer to the Corporation of Hull for the purchase of their telephone system. On two occasions representatives of the Corporation Telephone Committee and of the Corporation have discussed the question of purchase; first, with my predecessor, and again with myself. We were given to understand on both occasions that the Corporation were not prepared to entertain an offer of less than the repayment of the full capital expended. This is a price which makes no allowance for depreciation, and is con- 1068 siderably higher than the valuation made by my engineers. In the interests of the taxpayer, I do not feel justified in offering it. The Corporation have not further approached me on the subject. I understand that the National Telephone Company have made an offer to purchase the Corporation telephone system; but the price to be paid by the Telephone Company (supposing their offer be accepted) will not in any way affect the price to be paid by the State in 1911 for the plant which the Postmaster-General is under agreement to purchase at that date. That price will, under the agreement, be the then value of the plant, etc., which is purchased, having regard to its suitability for the purpose of the Postmaster-General's telephonic service.
§ MR. BELLOC
asked whether he was to understand that these great efforts on the part of the National Telephone Company to buy up plant were being made out of philanthropy, or had they reference to the obligation of the Government to reimburse them in 1911.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said he imagined the company expected to make a profit between now and 1911. The Government would pay only the then value of the plant, having regard to its suitability for the purposes of the Postmaster-General.