HC Deb 20 February 1919 vol 112 cc1204-5W
Major-General Sir NEWTON MOORE

asked the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been directed to the delays to commercial cablegrams dispatched to the East and to Australasia; is he aware that commercial firms dealing with Australia have been recently cut off from cable communication with that country owing to delays of as many as ten days in the delivery of full-rate messages; will he say what action has been taken by his Department to provide against a repetition of this state of affairs; is any action contemplated by the Government in the direction of providing alternative communication by wireless; and, in view of the importance of Imperial communication, will he take steps to secure immediate investigation by a qualified Commission in the interests of all parts of the Empire?


I understand that the present delay on full-rate messages to and from Australasia is from twenty-four to thirty-six hours. Some time ago it was unfortunately much greater—nearly ten days. It was due, like the delay to other places on the Eastern and Associated Companies' System, partly to the large amount of traffic, which last year was two and a-half times as much as before the War; and partly to the interruption of some of the Companies' most important cables, as well as of the auxiliary routes through Russia and Germany, which carried a large proportion of the pre-war traffic. Certain of the cables were interrupted before the cessation of hostilities, and the delay in repairing them has been caused first by the submarines and later by bad weather. I am assured that the Companies are taking every possible step to effect repairs. During the last few months the delay has been aggravated by a large increase in the amount of Government traffic, which I have asked the various Departments to curtail to the utmost possible extent. I am arranging with the Admiralty for a certain amount of traffic to be sent by wireless, but I fear very little immediate relief can be looked for in this direction. The Government fully realises the importance of the telegraph communications of the Empire. An Interdepartmental Committee has long been in existence to deal with these questions, and this Committee is now being reconstituted on a wider basis. The steps being taken and the return of more normal conditions of communication will, I trust, result in the removal of all cause for complaint.