22. Mr. F. HALL (Dulwich)
asked what companies, in addition to the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, were invited to submit draft agreements for the supply of wireless installations for merchant ships?
§ Mr. BURNS
The hon. Member's question is, I think, based on a misapprehension of the origin, scope and purpose of the recent proposal for an agreement. The Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee, in a Report presented to the Board of Trade in 1912, expressed an apprehension that in the event of legislation making wireless telegraphy compulsory on British ships any effective competition with the Marconi Company for the supply of the necessary services might be found impracticable. In consequence of this Report the Board of Trade, when proposing legislation on the subject of wireless telegraphy, considered it their duty to endeavour to safeguard shipowners from the danger of monopoly prices which they then appeared to anticipate. The draft proposal for an agreement for this purpose was recently circulated by me to the Standing Committee by which the Merchant Shipping Convention Bill was considered. As, however, it appeared in the course of that discussion that shipowners now consider that they are able to protect their own interests without any such agreement, there seems no need to proceed further in the matter. The above explanation will make it clear that there never was any ground for attempting to protect shipowners against an apprehended monopoly by means of an agreement with any other company, and, in fact, the Board understood from the shipowners' representatives that they had no wish for such a course to be taken.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
Do we understand that a model agreement will be presented by the Government to assist in the negotiations between the manufacturers and the shipowners?
Sir G. PARKER
Am I to understand that the model agreement which was dropped in Committee will yet be used?
§ Mr. BURNS
No. The shipowners being apprehensive about monopoly terms requested the Board of Trade to be the medium of communication with the Marconi Company in the interests of the shipowners, and they are now satisfied that they do not require the protection which this agreement was supposed to give.
Mr. F. HALL
If the suggestions of the Board of Trade had been carried out would it not have created a monopoly for the Marconi Company?
Sir G. PARKER
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the agreement which was dropped in Committee is to be used still for the purpose of negotiations between the manufacturers and shipowners?