HC Deb 01 December 1953 vol 521 cc959-60
The Assistant Postmaster-General (Mr. David Gammans)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I should like to make a statement about our transatlantic telephone communications. The House will be glad to know that my noble Friend has just signed an agreement with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, the Canadian Overseas Telecommunication Corporation and the Eastern Telephone and Telegraph Company of Canada for the provision of the first transatlantic telephone cable. The agreement will be laid before Parliament and will be subject to approval in this House.

The new cable will transform telecommunications between this country and the North American Continent. In place of the existing 12 radio telephone circuits to the U.S. and two to Canada, dependent as they are on the vagaries of atmospheric conditions, we shall have high grade and reliable circuits, about 29 to the U.S. and six to Canada, as well as a number of telegraph circuits to Canada. Further technical development may well increase the number of circuits. Of very great importance also, the new cable will help us to give much better telephone and telegraph services to Australia and New Zealand via Vancouver. This will mean far less interference than with our present radio connections.

The cost will be about £12½ million, and the job will take about three years to complete. The submarine cable will be laid by H.M.T.S. "Monarch," the largest cable ship in the world, which is being specially adapted for this purpose.

I am sure the House will wish me to pay a very special tribute to the engineers on both sides of the Atlantic. Thanks to their persistence and skill something which has been a vision for a quarter of a century has become a reality, and has made possible this tremendous advance in the history of telecommunications.

Mr. Hobson

While congratulating the hon. Gentleman and all those associated with this scheme which was signed but a few minutes ago, may I ask him to inform us whether the submarine cable is to be fitted with submarine repeaters, and, if so, who is to manufacture them? Can he also give an assurance to the House that there will be no delay in bringing forward the affirmative Resolution?

Mr. Gammans

There will be submarine repeaters, about 110 in all, between this country and Newfoundland. We shall use the American system, because they have more experience than we have of deep-sea repeaters. But between Newfoundland and Canada we are to use the British system. There will be no delay in bringing forward the affirmative Resolution, but I cannot tell the hon. Member exactly when it will be laid before the House for discussion.