Press Telegrams (Delay)

Oral Answers to Questions — Post Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th January 1951.

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Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford 12:00 am, 24th January 1951

asked the Postmaster-General (1) if he is aware that Press cables dispatched at urgent rates from Melbourne on 22nd December took up to four hours to reach London; and what steps he is taking to improve the service;

(2) what complaints he has received from the Council of the Empire Press Union on delays of news transmissions by telegram; and what action is being taken to meet such complaints.

Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly

I am aware that bad wireless operating conditions towards the end of last year caused delays to many overseas telegrams, including Press telegrams, to and from Australia and New Zealand. These difficulties were increased by cable interruptions. The Empire Press Union made representations on 2nd November last about heavy delays in sending messages, especially to Australia and New Zealand. Urgent cable repairs have been made and I am considering means of improving circuit capacity to and from this country.

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

Is the Postmaster-General aware how very seriously this is regarded in Australia; that for 27 days in December the service was seriously disrupted; that consideration is now being given to transferring the service to America, and that if that is done London will lose its place as the news centre?

Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly

This is due entirely to the wireless circuit. There were bad radio conditions and the stuff could not get through. We are using the Atlantic cable to try to get the stuff through to Australia and New Zealand, because we regard these delays as the cause of a great sense of grievance in the Dominions.

Photo of Mr Robert Grimston Mr Robert Grimston , Westbury

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the delays in the service cannot be put down entirely to technical faults; that they are due partly to the new set-up, for which he is not entirely responsible, and will he take the initiative in promoting a conference to see what can be done? Further, was the matter raised at all, either formally or informally, with the Dominion Premiers when they were here?

Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly

I cannot answer the last part of that question. With regard to the first part, I have already taken the initiative and called a conference.

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

In view of the importance of this matter, I beg to give notice that I shall raise it on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

Photo of Mr Ronald Russell Mr Ronald Russell , Wembley South

asked the Postmaster-General what steps he proposes to take to speed up the transmission of news between Great Britain and Empire countries.

Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly

I would refer the hon. Member to my replies to earlier Questions on this subject, copies of which I am sending to him.

Photo of Mr Christopher Hollis Mr Christopher Hollis , Devizes

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the greatly increased delay in the transmission of Press cables from this country to the Dominions since Electra House was put under the Post Office; what is the reason for this delay; and how he proposes to remedy it.

Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly

Delays occurred towards the end of last year to many telegrams, including Press telegrams, sent from this country to Australia and New Zealand. These delays were mainly due to bad wireless operating 'conditions and were increased by cable interruptions. A marked increase in the number of telegrams passing over the Commonwealth telecommunication network recently has reduced the margin of reserve against interruptions, and means of improving this margin are under consideration with other administrations concerned.

Photo of Mr Christopher Hollis Mr Christopher Hollis , Devizes

In view of the fact that the domestic Press cannot get any paper, and the Dominion Press cannot get any news, how is it that His Majesty's Government claim adequate publicity for their beneficent activities? The right hon. Gentleman says that consideration is being given to this matter. Why was not that fact mentioned at the Commonwealth Conference?

Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly

One of the reasons why we are having this trouble, is that the Commonwealth is getting more news.

Photo of Brigadier Ralph Rayner Brigadier Ralph Rayner , Totnes

asked the Postmaster-General what were the average and maximum delays on Press telegrams between Great Britain and Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, respectively, during November and December. 1950.

Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly

Under the operating conditions which existed up to the middle of October last, it was usual for ordinary Press messages from Great Britain to be cleared within two or three hours of the time of handing in. Under the difficult conditions of last November and December, delays on ordinary Press messages occasionally amounted to 12 hours to Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, and to 30 hours in the case of Australia.

Photo of Brigadier Ralph Rayner Brigadier Ralph Rayner , Totnes

Is not the right hon. Gentleman's answer, and his previous answers on this matter, another example of how inefficiency always follows closely on the heels of nationalisation?

Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly

No, Sir. This service is not nationalised.