HC Deb 05 March 1958 vol 583 cc1143-4
11. Mr. J. Rodgers

asked the Postmaster-General since, during the financial year 1956–57, the standard 4 per cent. dividend collected by the Treasury from Cable and Wireless has not been covered by earnings, and there is a demand for substantial tariff increases, if he will consider setting up a special commission to consider what advantages have accrued to Cable and Wireless since nationalisation, and whether or not it would be advantageous to return this industry to private enterprise.

The Assistant Postmaster-General (Mr. Kenneth Thompson)

I see no justification for a special commission, either in the financial record of Cable and Wireless Ltd. or on other grounds. It is believed that the tariffs which have been in operation since last October will result in a satisfactory out-turn to the company. These tariffs are on average only 80 per cent. above those of 1939, and few services can point to such a good record.

Mr. Rodgers

Is my hon. Friend aware that, despite the sharply increased charges, the profits before tax have never exceeded two-thirds, and often have fallen below a half, of the figures in the last year before nationalisation? Further, is he aware that there are complaints of delays and distortion of commercial messages? Does he realise that the company is about to be thrown out of various countries in Europe, and is not it time that a most searching investigation was made into the operation of the company?

Mr. Thompson

I can, I think, short-circuit a lot of questioning by referring my hon. Friend to the letter from the chairman of the company published in the Journal of the Institute of Directors.

Mr. Ness Edwards

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the reply of the chairman of the directors, Sir Godfrey Ince, on this matter is a complete rebuttal of the charges made by the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers), and shows conclusively that the financial results of Cable and Wireless, since nationalisation, are superior to what they were before?

Mr. W. R. Williams

Is the Assistant Postmaster-General aware that his assessment of the situation is very much more accurate than that of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers), who asked the Question, who, obviously, has been in touch with certain dissatisfied people and, possibly, has based his Question on their information? Further, will the hon. Gentleman do everything possible, on the lines he has taken already for the development of internal telecommunications, to make this service the best in the world? It is so already, but I am sure that it is desired to maintain its improvement.

Mr. Thompson

I should be lacking in my duty if I did not say at once that we are constantly searching for ways of making sure that the efficiency of the company is maintained and that its services are improved wherever improvement can be introduced.

Mr. Dudley Williams

Will my hon. Friend, if he will not set up a special commission, at least tell us what advantages have accrued from Cable and Wireless since nationalisation?

Mr. Speaker

That is beyond the Question.