HC Deb 31 January 1951 vol 483 cc874-6
7. Mr. Dodds

asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware of the dissatisfaction at the length of time it takes for communications to and from various parts of the Commonwealth; that the average time for the transmission of news messages on the first Test Match from Brisbane was over three hours and the second from Melbourne from four to six hours; and what efforts are being made to improve the services.

Mr. Ness Edwards

I would refer the hon. Member to my replies to the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) and the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) on 24th January. The delays in news messages about Test matches were mainly due to the bad operating conditions with which the Australian authorities, in common with ourselves, were faced.

Mr. Dodds

Can my right hon. Friend say whether understaffing and wage dissatisfaction is affecting the efficiency of a service that is vital in war and in peace?

Mr. Ness Edwards

The delay in this case was due entirely to atmospheric conditions in the Southern Hemisphere.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that this news was not delayed because its dangerous character was likely to lower the national morale?

Mr. Ness Edwards

So far as the Post Office is concerned, we delivered the news as soon as we received it.

Mr. Deedes

Apart from the cricket scores, which are very important, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is also a rising number of complaints from commercial undertakings which are suffering most serious losses from these delays? All the evidence points to serious internal chaos in his Department as well as sun spots. Will the right hon. Gentleman find out what is wrong?

Mr. Ness Edwards

The Commonwealth Telecommunications Board is meeting today for the purpose of considering this question. It is really a matter for them, but when broadcast transmission is impossible for as much as 12 hours at a stretch it is bound to cause delays in reception at this end.

10. Mr. Fisher

asked the Postmaster-General in view of the delays in the transmission of news to and from Commonwealth countries, what steps he is taking to improve this service.

Mr. Ness Edwards

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) on 24th January.

Mr. Fisher

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that, contrary to his earlier answer on this point, this service has now been taken over by his Department, and is, in fact, less efficient than when it was run by Cable and Wireless? What does he propose to do about it? Will he give Press messages some degree of priority?

Mr. Ness Edwards

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. If he had been in the House when the Cable and Wireless Bill was discussed, he would know of certain international considerations, which decided what terms should be applied to describe this company. It has been split up in many ways. Various Colonies and Dominions have taken their share and I am responsible only for the part at this end. In view of the enormous increase in traffic which there has been I am unable to trace any decrease in efficiency.

Brigadier Rayner

Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that the "part at this end" to which he referred has been nationalised?

Mr. Ness Edwards

I must appeal to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite on this point. This matter was referred to before the debate on the Bill. Because of difficult negotiations in other parts of the world, it was decided that this should be an independent firm nominally under the Post Office, but that it should not be described in the way in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has described it.

Mr. R. V. Grimston

Can the right hon. Gentleman possibly deny that this service is nationalised, in the same way as other public corporations which are described as nationalised?

Mr. Ness Edwards

Various parts of this service have, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, been transferred to the Colonies and Dominions, but the part that is here is under our control and comes under the Post Office.

Captain Crookshank

As the right hon. Gentleman does me the courtesy to ask me what I think, I can assure him that we consider this service to be a nationalised service, under his general control, and also recognise that it has been a complete failure.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that nationalisation comes into this Question.