§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE EARL OF LIVERPOOL
My Lords, this Bill provides for the laying by the Pacific Cable Board of a direct cable between Sydney and New Zealand. At present communication between Australia and New Zealand has to go either by the Eastern Telegraph Company's line or via the Pacific Cable line which goes from Brisbane to Norfolk Island and south to Doubtless Bay in the north of New Zealand. If your Lordships give a Second Reading to this Bill the proposed line would protect the Pacific Cable Company's revenue from the inroads due to the competition of the Eastern Telegraph Company, and would complete the triangle of Norfolk Island, Australia, and New Zealand. It would also have the effect of saving the company about £6,000 a year in staff, in addition to any gain in revenue. The question of possible competition by wireless has been considered, but the risk is not regarded as serious. I should add that, though there was no obligation upon them to do so by the Act of 1901, the company, like all great 100 commercial companies, have made provision for a reserve fund and have put by annually a sum of £30,000. At present their reserve fund stands at between £250,000 and £300,000, and the sum of £155,000 would suffice to cover the cost of the new cable. All the Governments concerned in this undertaking—namely, the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, and New Zealand—are most anxious that this scheme should be undertaken as soon as possible, and the question was raised at the Imperial Conference this year. The Government of this country are responsible for five-eighteenths of any sum which may be required for the repayment of the cost and other expenses of the original cable which was laid as the result of the Act of 1901, and a Vote is taken annually which comes to approximately £54,000 for these purposes, of which we receive back from the other Governments I have mentioned about £39,000, leaving us to pay about £15,000 per annum. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Liverpool.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday, the 20th instant.