HC Deb 01 July 1913 vol 54 cc1661-3

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will give particulars of the wireless station to be erected in the Orkney Islands; who is erecting the buildings and supplying the plant; and what will be the power and nature of the wireless equipment?

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Churchill)

I have been asked to reply to this question. Neither the Admiralty nor the Post Office are erecting a wireless station in the Orkneys. The misconception probably arises from the fact that the Admiralty are erecting a new visual signal station in these islands.

69. Sir H. NORMAN

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will explain why all progress in the Imperial chain of wireless stations has been prevented by the non-ratification of the agreement between the Post Office and Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company; whether he is aware that Commissions have selected the sites and secured options upon the land, in accordance with the recommendations of the Select Committee; whether he has any official reports showing that this country has been deprived of advantages in wave-length and priority; and, if so, will he say what country has secured the advantages we are alleged to have lost; will he explain why no step which will be now taken can nut us back into the position which has been lost; and what was the nature of the advantageous position which this country cannot recover?


My hon. Friend is, I presume, criticising the reference I made, when introducing the Navy Estimates, to the grave loss suffered by Admiralty interests owing to the delay in ratifying the Marconi Agreement. It is, I believe, true that the Post Office and the Indian and South African Governments have taken whatever steps are necessary to secure the sites provisionally, so as to be ready for work to commence as soon as the scheme is definitely approved, but it would be idle to argue that no time has been lost. The advantage of being first in the field in a scheme of world-wide communication is, I think, sufficiently obvious, even apart from the special consideration that an already existing organisation of wireless wavelengths would be recognised as having a right to be free from interference by subsequent organisation. It is a matter of common knowledge that several foreign countries are projecting extensive schemes. I do not think it would be in the public interest to discuss the precise stage which each has reached and the exact nature of the effect each might have on the British scheme. I must emphatically repeat that the Admiralty, on naval grounds, and with no sort of regard for private interests of any kind, is earnestly desirous that some efficient system of world-wide wireless communication under British control should be established as soon as possible; and, with all deference to the interest shown by the House in other aspects of the question, I am afraid that this national aspect has been somewhat overlooked.


Am I to infer from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that advantages may be lost in the future rather than that they have been lost up to the present?


I have said that I do not think it would be in the public interest to discuss the precise stage which the schemes of foreign countries have reached and the exact nature of the effect each might have on the British system. Therefore, I cannot deal profitably at the present time with the question raised by my hon. Friend as to the possible irrevocable character of the injury. But injury has certainly been done; the question is in what way it can best be repaired.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the agreement itself it is laid down that these installations are not to be installed until twelve months after the date upon which the Postmaster-General shall notify the company that the buildings have been erected? Can the right hon. Gentleman say why the buildings have not been erected?


The hon. and gallant Gentleman is under a complete misapprehension. The twelve months is not the minimum but the maximum time.


Is it not laid down in paragraph 4 of the agreement?


That the stations shall be completed within twelve months.


After the date.

Other hon. Members rose——


This seems to be more suitable for the Committee.