HC Deb 05 May 1924 vol 173 cc146-7

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [8th April], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Question again proposed.


I was in possession of the House for a few moments when this Bill was being debated some time ago. I wish to ask now for an explanation of Sub-section (3) of Clause 1. That Sub-section provides— The Board, in the event of its undertaking work in connection with telegraphic communication in the West Indies, shall have power to provide and supply to the West Indies a news service similar to the news service supplied by telegraph companies at the commencement of this Act. I think that that requires a certain amount of explanation. Here is a board which hitherto has been operating between Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and is going to undertake the provision of a news service to the West Indian Islands. There have been complaints in the West Indian Islands with regard to the news service. I only hope that the word "similar" in the Sub-section does not mean that it is going to be always the same as it has been in the past. The Pacific Cable Board is going to become now for the first time a news distributor, and I hope that it will do the work well. It is not a very easy thing to do to conduct an adequate news service of the kind required. You must always have regard to the requirements of the particular place which is served.

What the West Indies are particularly interested in is the price of sugar and a few articles of that kind, but they like also to know the principal political and sporting events that take place, and learn something of the more important of the world's news. They have been rather starved in that respect hitherto, and I only hope that when this board takes over these duties it will give an efficient service; but if it is to do so, I hope the Pacific Cable Board will employ a special personnel. It is not clear whether these new duties which we are placing upon the Pacific Cable Board are going to involve any reconstruction of its personnel or any addition to its personnel, and I am sure that in the event of its carrying out an entirely new kind of duty, namely, the provision of a news service, it will want certainly additions to its staff and possibly additional directors. Do I understand that the terms of the Bill have been definitely agreed to by the various Dominion Governments concerned in the constitution of this board? Various questions have from time to time been raised by Dominions regarding this board. One would like to feel sure that they have had an opportunity of seeing the draft Bill, or of knowing its contents, and that they are satisfied that the Bill in every way meets their wishes.


I will, if I can, meet the two points raised by the hon. Gentleman. As regards the second, the position is that the Government of Canada has agreed, and my information is that the Governments of Australia and New Zealand offer no objections. As to the other point, as the hon. Member knows, the existing company is under an obligation to provide daily news bulletins to the West Indies, and to that bulletin the West Indies attach very great importance. It includes some market quotations from New York, certain political and other information, and is obviously a thing which is in the public interest. I am not quite sure whether work of that kind could have been covered by the existing powers of the Pacific Cable Board, but, in any case, power is being taken under this Bill to enable them to continue the provision of that daily bulletin. Whether some change in personnel will be made I cannot say at the moment, but I can say that it is their desire that the service should be most efficiently provided, and I have no doubt they will take appropriate steps to that end.