HC Deb 06 March 1912 vol 35 cc376-7

asked the Postmaster-General, whether it, is proposed to withdraw the telegraphic communication from the Islands of Eigg and Canna; and whether he is aware of the injury this-would inflict on the population and the general interests of these islands?

The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Herbert Samuel)

The maintenance of telegraph communication on the islands of Eigg and Canna entails a cost very much in excess of the revenue. In these circumstances, I should not be justified in continuing the facilities entirely at the public expense and without at least a contribution from the persons directly benefited; and I am now in communication with the respective owners of the islands with a view to their furnishing, a guarantee for one-third of the annual loss entailed.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware that this telegraphic communication is of great use to vessels in distress on the West Coast of Scotland—the Northern Lights Commissioners say they cannot well carry on their work without it—and whether the Post Office considers it is in the interests of true economy to scrap these cables for the sake of the cost of a few pounds per annum?


I am most anxious to maintain this telegraphic station, but I do not think it would be fair to charge the taxpayers of the country with the whole of the loss. If the local authorities, or the landowners, will contribute only one-third, I am willing to bear two-thirds of the loss.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the whole population of these islands is extremely poor, and that if he lays down the rule that no telegraphic communication is to be maintained with outward parts of the United Kingdom unless it pays, he will expose districts of that kind to inconvenience?


I do not lay down that condition. I am willing to bear two-thirds of the loss of an unremunerative service. I still hope that satisfactory arrangements will be arrived at and that it will not be necessary to discontinue the service.


Will the right hon. Gentleman keep in view the fact that this telegraph office renders a great public service?


Yes, I will bear that in mind.