HC Deb 19 April 1926 vol 194 cc844-6

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will state the annual loss on the telegraphic system; and whether any schemes are to be undertaken to make the system self-supporting?


During the financial year, 1924–1925, there was a loss on the telegraph service of £1,645,525, including interest and depreciation charges and a non-recurrent payment of over £300,000 in respect of arrears of bonus. Details are given in the published Post Office Commercial Accounts. Figures for the year 1925–1926 are not yet available. Every effort is made to reduce the loss by economies in staff, lines and apparatus, but the service cannot be rendered self-supporting at the existing tariff in face, of the continuously extending use of the telephone.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir FREDERICK HALL

May I ask the Noble Lord whether, considering the enormous loss on the telegraphic system, his Department is taking any steps to make the system self-supporting by an increase in case of need on the message rate should it not pay its way?

Viscount WOLMER

No doubt that thought has been present to the mind of the Postmaster-General, but a question of that nature involves a very big decision, and I think the Government would have to be satisfied that there was acquiescence on the part of the public in regard to the raising of the telegraph rates before the step could be taken again. The hon. Baronet will remember that the fees were raised two or three years ago.


Is it not a fact that a good deal of this loss has occurred in consequence of the special rates allowed to the Press and to newspapers?

Commander BELLAIRS

Is my Noble Friend aware that the Press rating and betting intelligence is carried on at a loss, and will he remove that subsidy?

Viscount WOLMER

Yes, Sir, it is the case that the Press rates are not remunerative.


Considering that it is unfair to the general taxpayer to have to make up this loss, will he take steps to set this matter right?

Viscount WOLMER

I will convey the view expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend to the Postmaster-General.


Is the Assistant Postmaster-General not aware that the present very high charges are preventing the public from using the telegraphic service, and will he also consider whether lower charges would not have the effect of bringing in very much more business and so decreasing the loss?


Will the Government, at the same time that they are going to stop the miners' subsidy, stop this subsidy to the most dangerous section of the community?