HC Deb 30 September 1909 vol 11 cc1408-10
Sir WILLIAM HOLLAND (for Mr. Beauchamp)

asked the Postmaster-General if he could make any statement in regard to his negotiations with the Marconi Company and with Lloyd's in reference to the acquisition by the Post Office of the radio-telegraphic shore stations?

The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Sydney Buxton)

I am glad to say that arrangements have been completed with the Marconi Company for the transfer to the Post Office of all their coast stations for communication with ships, including all plant, machinery, buildings, land and leases, etc., and for the surrender of the rights which they enjoy under their agreement with the Post Office of August, 1904, for licences or facilities in respect of coast stations intended for such communication. In addition the Post Office secures the right of using, free of royalty, the existing Marconi patents, and any future patents or improvements, for a term of fourteen years, for the following purposes; communication for all purpose? between stations in the United Kingdom and ships, and between stations on the mainland of Great Britain and Ireland, on the one hand, and outlying islands, on the other hand, or between any two outlying islands; and (except for the transmission of public telegrams) between any two stations on the mainland; and on board Post Office cable ships. The inclusive consideration to be paid to the company is £15,000. The arrangement is in no sense an exclusive one. All the stations will, under the International Radio-telegraphic Convention, be open for communication equally to all ships, whatever system of wireless telegraphy they may carry; and the Post Office will be free to use or to experiment with any system of wireless telegraphy at its discretion. All inland communication of messages by wireless telegraphy will be entirely under the control of the Post Office. The company will retain the licence for their long-distance stations at Poldhu and Clifden, which are primarily intended for shore to shore communication with America. Arrangements have also been made with Lloyd's for the transfer to the Post Office of their wireless stations for communication with ships, and for the surrender of all claims to licences for such communication. In return Lloyd's will receive the plant value of their stations, and will have transmitted to them (with due regard to the secrecy of private telegrams) information received at the Post Office stations in regard to the position and movements of ships, and other maritime intelligence. Lloyd's and the Marconi Company have mutually arranged to cancel an agreement between themselves which was made in 1901, and which has proved a source of dispute, and, therefore, an obstacle to the development of wireless telegraphy. I am satisfied that it is to the public interest, both from a commercial and a strategical point of view, that the coast stations used for communication with ships should be in the hands of the Government, and should be worked as part and parcel of the general telegraphic system of the country. I think it important also that no private monopoly in wireless telegraphy should be allowed to glow up. I trust that the new arrangements will result in an even more rapid extension of the use of this important invention than has taken place in the past. I may add that the negotiations and arrangements have been conducted with the knowledge of, and in consultation with the Admiralty, who consider it important that the coast wireless stations should be in the hands of the Post Office.


May I ask, in view of the great importance of the answer which the right hon. Gentleman has just given, that he will have it printed in the Papers?


Yes, Sir; I will do that. At the same time, in view of the importance of the matter, I am sending a statement to the Press, and it will doubtless appear in to-morrow morning's papers. But I will have it circulated.


May I ask the Postmaster-General whether, if under these new arrangements, the Government staff has to be increased, the claims of those men who have been discharged for want of work by both Lloyd's and Marconi's will be taken up by the Government with a view to giving these men employment in work at which they are experts?


Most certainly. That is a matter that has not escaped my attention. We will be able to take into employment every one of these men employed by Marconi or Lloyd's, subject, of course, to good character.


In the event of the outbreak of war will the Government have any power to take possession of the long-distance stations which are not included in the present agreement?


I think that is so. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give me notice of that question.