HC Deb 16 July 1913 vol 55 cc1239-46
44. Mr. TOUCHE

asked the Postmaster-General whether the Universal Radio Syndicate, Limited, proposed to demonstrate to the Advisory Committee appointed by him the capacity of the Poulsen system for communication over the distances required by the Imperial chain; whether such proposal was abandoned because the Advisory Committee suggested a demonstration between the Eiffel Tower, Paris, and Arlington, Virginia, and undertook to obtain the use of the French and American Government stations for the purpose of such demonstration; and whether the Universal Radio Syndicate accepted the suggestion, but the Advisory Committee failed to obtain the use of such stations and took no steps either to witness the demonstration as proposed by the Universal Radio Syndicate, Limited, or to inspect the working of the Poulsen commercial service between San Francisco and Honolulu, a distance of 2,396 miles?


I understand that the syndicate wrote to the secretary of the Advisory Committee, on the 7th March, saying that they hoped to obtain the use of Eiffel Tower for the purpose of a demonstration of their system to Arlington. On the 15th March they wrote again saying that unexpected difficulties had arisen as to the use of the Eiffel Tower, and suggesting that if any member of the Committee proposed to visit the United States, he might travel in a vessel sailing on the 1st April for New York, on which it was expected that signals from Lyngby would be received up to a, distance of 2,000 miles. It was impracticable to adopt the latter suggestion as no member of the Committee was going to America, but the Committee, in order to assist the syndicate as much as possible, requested the Foreign Office to approach the French Government on the subject of the use of the Eiffel Tower, with the result that the permission of that Government was notified to the Committee on the 29th March. The syndicate were immediately informed of this, but practical difficulties subsequently arose—i.e., want of space in the underground power chamber at the Eiffel Tower, refusal by the municipal council to allow temporary buildings, etc.—which prevented the demonstration being given. Early in April the Committee witnessed a trial of the Poulsen system between Denmark and this country, and, it is understood, tested some of the apparatus which was to have been used at the Eiffel Tower. No one tendered to the Committee any evidence as to the working of the Poulsen system between San Francisco and Honolulu. Indeed, as indicated in Paragraph 19 of the Report of the Committee, the syndicate appeared to have no knowledge of such working, and do not appear to have suggested that the Committee should make any investigation of the American Poulsen stations.


May I ask if the right hon. Gentleman is aware that a service between San Francisco and Honolulu, a distance of 2,400 geographical miles, is now working both day and night?


I received the day before yesterday a telegram from the British Consul-General at San Francisco which informs me the company are not yet able to conduct any daylight service at all.


May I ask is it not the fact that the president of the American Poulsen Company stated that the patents which enabled them to work between Honolulu and San Francisco had never been under the control, and would not come under the control, of the Universal Radio Syndicate, Limited?


I understand that the Poulsen Syndicate in this country are not in possession of the patents which are used in the American Poulsen service.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there is an arrangement for the mutual working of any improvements in either of the companies' systems of patents?


No, Sir, I was not aware of that.

53. Mr. F. HALL

asked the Postmaster-General the grounds on which his expert advisers have come to the conclusion that no firm that would enter into competition with the Marconi Company could be relied on to erect stations of a satisfactory character in connection with the Imperial wireless chain; and whether he will give the longest recorded distances over which wireless messages have been sent between stations erected specially for that purpose, mentioning the name of the system which has carried out such transmission?


With respect to the first part of the question I would refer the hon. Member to my replies to questions by the hon. Member for West Hampshire and the hon. Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne on Thursday last. As regards the second part of the question, all scientific opinion is definite in the view that no importance can be attached to the occasional transmission of messages over great distances, and that no test is of value other than the regular and intelligible transmission of messages. I would remind the hon. Member that it took six years of continuous work after Mr. Marconi had transmitted wireless signals across the Atlantic before he was successful in establishing a continuous and reliable service.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the promoters of the Goldsehmidt system have for many months past been endeavouring to perfect their apparatus? Under these circumstances will he carefully consider the desirability of having a demonstration before he gives the contract to the Marconi Company?


I believe that the Goldschmidt system is a very promising system, but it is purely in the experimental stage at, present.


Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why Tariff Reformers are so anxious to give a contract to a foreign company?


asked the Postmaster-General whether each Marconi station requires the erection of twelve masts at a cost of £33,000 for masts alone per station; and whether the Goldschmidt system involves the erection of one mast only per station, and a saving on masts alone of over £12,000 per station?


The cost of the masts proposed by the Marconi Company for stations of the Imperial chain would be approximately as stated in the question. I am not aware what the cost of a mast on the Goldschmidt system would be. But I understand that the Goldschmidt mast would be much higher—a disadvantage to which the Advisory Committee referred in paragraph 29 of their Report. According to descriptions in the Press in addition to one very high mast there are about thirty-six standards or low masts and three brick towers of considerable height. A further disadvantage is that the Goldschmidt aerial does not appear to be directional.


asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the Marconi system requires a tuning variation of 20 per cent. as compared with a tuning variation of.05 per cent. in the Goldschmidt system; and, seeing that this advantage in the Goldschmidt system permits an increased number of independent coincident messages, a correspondingly increased difficulty in the tuning-up of receivers for the tapping of messages, and the virtual secrecy therefore of the messages sent, whether he will consider the advisability of the adoption of the Goldschmidt system?


My technical advisers do not endorse the statements in the question. I have already informed the English representatives of the Goldschmidt system that I shall be very glad to consider the employment of that system for the later stations of the Imperial chain if proof is forthcoming within the next few months that it is more efficient or more economical than the Marconi system.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Goldschmidt system is in a position to transmit messages very much more rapidly than by the spark system, and therefore a great deal of efficiency would be sacrificed if you had two sorts of stations—one working at high speed, and the other at low speed?


No. My information is not to that effect.


asked the Postmaster-General whether the erection of stations under the Goldschmidt system means a considerable saving in cost on the Marconi system in generators, condensers, and transformers; and whether the company working the Goldschmidt system has declared its ability to give a satisfactory demonstration over nearly 4,000 miles, and to make a complete tender for the working of the Imperial chain (including creation of stations)?


I have no information to the effect stated in the first part of the question. With respect to the second part I would refer the hon. Member to my previous answers on this subject.


In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the right hon. Gentleman's reply and of the impossibility of ratifying any alternative tender, unless steps are taken at once to allow such tenders to be sent in, I beg to give notice that at the end of the Questions I shall ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House.


asked the Postmaster-General what advantages, if any, other than the possibility of the privilege of first selection of wave-length, will accrue to the nation which first completes the building of its national wireless stations?


The first corner, in addition to having the choice of wave-lengths, will be free to select sites without considering questions of interference with contiguous stations, will be at an advantage in attracting commercial traffic, and, above all, will be equipped against the risk of war when other nations are not.


Does the right hon. Gentleman think these considerations are sufficient to rush into a contract, after what has transpired, without waiting a few weeks further in order to inquire into other systems?


The last reason alone is sufficient in the interests of the Empire for not consenting to any unnecessary postponement. I would point out that it is now two years since the Committee of Imperial Defence urged this matter.

59. Mr. R. GWYNNE

asked the Postmaster-General whether, in view of the fact that the undamped waves used in certain systems of wireless telegraphy will greatly lessen the risk of interference and confusion in the transmission and reception of messages, he will take steps to ensure that the Imperial service is given every opportunity of securing the right of availing itself in any contract which may be made of such systems?


The point is fully provided for in the proposed contract for the stations of the Imperial chain.

60. Mr. R. GWYNNE

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will consider the advisability, in making a contract for the Imperial wireless service, of securing an alternative tender enabling the Government to purchase outright the use of the patents and equipment, thus obviating the payment of royalties and encouraging future development and invention?


The point was considered, but it was evident that a payment outright for the use of patents would be less advantageous than an annual royalty, which may be discontinued at any time if the use of the patents be dispensed with.


Is it not a fact that when the Marconi system was installed in the Navy a definite price was paid for the use of the patents?


The hon. Member is misinformed. The Admiralty are still making payments of some thousands a year to the Marconi Company for the use of their apparatus.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the offer of the Poulsen Syndicate still remains open to supply Members of this House with questions to put to Ministers?


asked the Postmaster-General whether he will invite tenders from other companies besides the Marconi Company for the Imperial wireless chain, subject to the condition that the contractors for any system which may be provisionally accepted must before 10th August by practical demonstration satisfy the Post Office of their ability to carry out the requirements of the service as specified by the Post Office when inviting tenders, in order that the most advantageous tender which has duly fulfilled this condition may be approved by the House of Commons during the present Session?


If I were to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member it would be impossible to lay the completed contract on the Table of the House in time to admit of its ratification during the present Session. Such ratification of the completed contract being necessary under the Standing Orders, the course suggested by the hon. Member would involve the delay of the whole matter until next year, and I am not prepared to adopt it.


Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why it is impossible to accept a tender provisionally immediately, subject to satisfactory tests being carried out when he sends his expert over to report?


I really cannot postpone the matter until the 10th August, when the House is to rise a few days after that date, on the chance of this experiment with the Goldschmidt system being successful. In any case, an experiment of one day would not be sufficient. It is necessary that it should be continued for a reasonable time to see if the wireless communication can be effected through the atmospheric disturbances, which are the chief drawback to any system.


Is there any reason why the House should not meet in the autumn?


Would not the right hon. Gentleman refer all these complicated matters to the Special Commissioner of the "Outlook"?


Will there be an opportunity of discussing the matter before the ratification of the contract?


I hope that Papers will be laid in a few days. The actual date on which the Debate shall take place is a matter upon which the hon. Member should address my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.