HC Deb 17 June 1907 vol 176 cc129-30

To ask the Postmaster-General whether he has noticed that, in the recently issued Return relating to Post Office Telegraphs and Telephones, a considerable part of the revenue attributed to the Post Office telegraph and telephone service is due to royalties paid by the National Telephone Company and other licencees; whether such royalties, being in effect a tax upon private persons, ought rather to be treated as part of the tax revenue of the Exchequer than as part of the earned income of the Post Office; whether he is aware that with this adjustment of accounts the deficiency on the working of the State telegraphs and telephones in 1905–6 amounted to £7580,000; whether he has further noticed that in this figure no allowance is made for interest upon the items of capital expenditure shown in columns 9, 10, and 13, on page 5, or for interest on the annual deficiencies made up of the items shown in the last column on page 6, and of those shown in column 3 on page 4; whether he can state what would be the total deficiency on the year's working in 1905–6 if these items were all taken into account at 3 per cent. compound interest; and what would be the aggregate deficiency up to the end of that year for all the years since the telegraphs were taken over by the State.

(Answered by Mr. Sydney Buxton.) The amount of royalties is clearly shown in the Return to which the hon. Member refers. They are part of the earnings of licencees on business that is within the Postmaster-General's monopoly, and which he otherwise would be carrying on himself. They are, therefore, properly brought to account as Post Office revenue. I would remind him that the present form of the Return was settled in consultation with him, and that it clearly shows the deficiency in the working of the service in two different forms. I do not see what useful purpose would be served by the further calculations which he suggests.