HC Deb 28 February 1910 vol 14 cc564-6

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that direct telegraphic communication between Limerick and London has been completely interrupted for three days ending the 23rd instant, thus causing inconvenience and loss to public and commercial interests; and whether he will cause an immediate inquiry to be made into the matter, with the view of some steps being taken to prevent a recurrence of such frequent and prolongd stoppages in future on those important lines, entailing a delay of many hours duration?

The following questions were also on the Notice Paper:—


To ask the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been called to the loss and inconvenience occasioned in Ireland by the frequent interruption of telegraphic communication with Great Britain by storms, and whether he will hasten the work of putting underground the wires between London and the North-West Coast of England?


To ask the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been called to the delay and inconvenience caused to the newspaper Press in Belfast by the breakdown of the telegraphic service between Belfast and London on Monday last; whether he is aware that messages handed in at London at noon had not arrived in Belfast at six o'clock; that not a line of the report of the proceedings in Parliament had arrived up to eight o'clock, although the House assembled early in the afternoon; and that, although the House adjourned at eight o'clock on Monday night, the reports of the Debate on the Address on that day had not been received in Belfast up to three o'clock on Tuesday morning; whether these delays in the transmission of Press telegrams have occurred four or five times since the General Election began; whether any steps have been taken to prevent such delay in the event of storms in future; whether he is aware of the feeling amongst newspaper proprietors in Belfast that the local telegraphic staff is not sufficient to cope with an exceptional rush of work; and whether he will have inquiries made into these matters, with a view to making the service more efficient and reliable?


Perhaps I may be allowed to answer these questions together. On account of the recent severe storms there was, I regret to say, a breakdown of telegraphic communication on Monday last with many parts of the United Kingdom. This breakdown coincided with the despatch of an amount of Parliamentary news which has only once been exceeded—on the occasion of the introduction of the Home Rule Bill of 1886. There had been other breakdowns of less importance earlier in the year. I am aware of the inconvenience that resulted in Ireland and elsewhere from interruptions of communication and I greatly regret it. A sum of £1,500,000 has been spent by my predecessors in laying about 1,000 miles of underground cables along the main lines of communication. I propose to continue this policy, and a considerable sum will be included for the purpose in this year's Estimates. The extension of the underground cable system to the large towns of South Wales and from there to the landing places of some of the Irish cables is under consideration. It should be remembered, however, that a large proportion of lines must remain aerial, and that if these are broken down by storms, underground cables would be liable to become congested with traffic, and delay, though lessened, would not be entirely obviated. Telegraphic communication between London and Limerick was subject to some delay on the dates mentioned by the hon. Member for Limerick; but it was certainly not stopped for three days as the hon. Member's question appears to suggest. I will make inquiry as to the adequacy of the telegraph staff at Belfast as desired by the hon. Member for West Belfast.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say where the £1,500,000 has been spent for underground communications? We have no knowledge of any part of it having been spent in Ireland.


About 1,000 miles of underground cables have been laid to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, and elsewhere, and gradually the system is being extended. As I have stated, I hope that in future it will be possible to extend it to the landing places of the Irish cables in South Wales.


I think that of the £1,500,000 expenditure the Irish service did not get a pennyworth of advantage.


I do not think that is quite so. I am not sure that part of the route to Ireland, at any rate, is not protected from interruption from storms by underground cables. It should be remembered that not only the places to which the cables actually go have their communications protected, but messages to places beyond are less liable to suffer interruption from storms.