§ 33. Mr. STEWART
asked the Postmaster-General whether the telegram department of the General Post Office is being run at a loss of over £1,000,000 a year, and the telephone department at a loss of over £400,000 a year; and, whether, if these valuable Government monopolies cannot be run at a profit, they can be placed upon a basis to clear expenses and to provide for interest on capital and for depreciation, so that those who avail themselves of these departments pay for their own messages and the general body of taxpayers be relieved of the annual cost making good the deficits incurred?
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Illingworth)
The Commercial Accounts for the year 1917–18 showed a deficiency of £556,330 in respect of the Telegraph Service, and a surplus of £355,468 for the Telephone Service. In both cases the balance was arrived at after providing for interest on the capital value of the plant and buildings and for pension liability and depreciation of plant. The Accounts for 1918–19 will be much less favourable owing to the largely increased war bonus paid to the staff, amounting to £1,250,000 for the Telegraph Service and to nearly £1,500,000 for the Telephone Service, and the lose on the two Services will be about the sums 22 mentioned by the hon. Member. The deficiency will be substantially larger for 1919–20. The war bonus is estimated at over £2,000,000 for the Telegraph Service and about £2,500,000 for the Telephone Service. In addition the cost of materials has increased and the charges for pension liability and depreciation will be higher. I am considering the question of increasing the rates charged to the public.
§ Mr. STEWART
Could the right hon. Gentleman say what, approximately, is the amount of national capital locked up in these two non-paying Services. Is it not the case that when these two Services were run by private enterprise they showed a profit?
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
In view of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that he is thinking of charging the public more, will he consider the advisability of giving greater conveniences to the public in regard to the use of the telephone?
§ Mr. ILLINGWORTH
Certainly, Sir! I hope in the course of a few days to be able to make a full statement on the subject.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
Do the figures include any interest on the capital sum for the purchase of these undertakings?
Sir H. DALZIEL
Will my right hon. Friend consider the advisability of asking Government Departments to send their communications by post instead of by telegram?