§ SECOND READING.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
My Lords, the object of this Bill is to obtain Parliamentary authority, so far as may be necessary, for the purpose of giving effect to the policy explained in a Treasury Minute which was presented to both Houses of Parliament on the 23rd May in the present year. The main feature of the policy is the division of the system of telephones, now existing throughout the country, between the Postmaster General and private companies licensed by him. The lines upon which that division proceeds are these: The main or trunk lines of telephonic communication between town and town will remain the property of the Post Office; but the different companies will have the privilege of interchanging the business between town and town, and they are to be endowed with all proper facilities for effecting that purpose. They will also remain in possession of the communication between points in the same town. My Lords, there is only one clause of the Bill to which I think it necessary to call attention. In some districts of the country the inhabitants are deprived of the advantage of telephonic communication on account of the impossibility of getting the landlords to fix wires upon any part of their property, or to insert poles into the ground for the purpose of putting wires upon them; and the clause to which I refer proposes that in extreme cases, where the Postmaster General considers that the inhabitants of the district are being unduly debarred from a public convenience in the way of telephones, he may apply to the Railway Commissioners to authorise the fixing of wires to buildings, and, if the Railway Commission consent and the owner of the property is still dissatisfied, the Order is to be laid before Parliament, and will then be dealt with in the same way as all Provisional Orders are dealt 1679 with; so that ample opportunity will be given to those who think that they are being seriously damnified to appeal in the usual way. At the same time I think your Lordships will agree that the time has come when, if I may use the expression in an inoffensive sense, the obstruction of one or two people should not be allowed to deprive others of the advantages of telephonic communication. Some of the clauses of the Bill refer to money matters, which I do not think it necessary to deal with in your Lordships' House; but when we get into Committee, if there are any questions to be asked, I shall be glad to answer them to the best of my ability. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time, and I propose to take the Bill on Thursday next.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Balfour.)
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.