HC Deb 10 April 1918 vol 104 cc1470-1

asked the Postmaster-General on what grounds he is justified in accepting the advantages conferred on the National Telephone Company by an agreement entered into between the company and the London County Council whereby the company agreed to pay £50 a year to the council for the right to construct and use a special side entrance for a large number of electric cables into the council's subway in Shaftesbury Avenue opposite Macclesfield Street, and, while accepting such advantages, repudiates the liability to pay the annual sum of £50 paid under the said agreement by the company up to the time that the Postmaster-General acquired the undertaking of the company; whether he is aware that the payment of £50 a year was not only rental, but also compensation in respect of the restricted use of the subway which is necessarily caused by the construction of the entrance in question and the number of cables thereby introduced into this subway at this particular place; and whether he will explain why the offer was made to the council to pay only £10 a year instead of the £50 a year, as provided by the agreement, having regard to the interests of the ratepayers of London who have provided and are maintaining this subway?


I am legally advised that the Postmaster-General possesses a statutory power to maintain telegraphs under Macclesfield Street and Shaftesbury Avenue without any obligation to pay rent to the London County Council or any other body or person. It is not clear, therefore, that any question arises of claiming the benefit of the agreement of 1st March, 1895, which, as I am advised, cannot bind the Postmaster-General. The Post Office engineers are of opinion that if the owners of other pipes should desire to use the subway they would not be prevented from doing so by the presence of the Post Office cables at the point in question, as the difficulty, if any, arising from congestion could be readily overcome. A payment of £50 a year was not, therefore, justified, but to effect a settlement an offer was made without prejudice to pay the Council £10 a year in recognition of the special circumstances. As I am at present advised, it is questionable whether any payment should be made. I think it right to add that the details of this case have been under discussion by the legal representatives of the parties.