§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, if he has observed that Parliamentary Papers, No. 5 and No. 16, of last Session, purporting to be accounts of the Telegraph Service, contain no hint that revenue to the amount of £1,241,774 has been actually invested in sites and buildings; that, on the other hand, the said sum so invested is treated as unremunerative expenditure, and employed to swell the so-called deficiency of Telegraph revenue; and that no allowance is made in the receipts, or revenue, side of the said accounts for the rent which would be payable by the Department but for the purchase of such sites and the erection of such buildings; if he can state who is responsible for the correctness and completeness of the accounts referred to; whether he can state the total amount expended on the sites and buildings appropriated at St. Martin's-le-Grand to the Telegraph Service, and the estimated value thereof at the present day; and whether the value of the sites and buildings acquired in the great towns throughout the United Kingdom for telegraph purposes increases largely from year to year, and now exceeds two million sterling?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. R. W. HANBURY,) Preston
So far from Parliamentary Papers No. 5 and No. 16 of last Session conveying 1543 no hint that a large sum has been expended on sites and buildings, Paper No. 5 distinctly shows that £1,096,844 was expended in respect of the Telegraph Service by the Office of Works in England and £84,527 by the Board of Public Works in Ireland, a large portion of this expenditure being of course on buildings. The sum of £1,241,774, named in the Question is taken from the Parliamentary Return No. 37 of 1895, and from an answer which I gave myself in this House on the 4th July 1896. It exceeds the two sums I have named partly because the latter sum contains the amounts expended on sites, which are not paid for by the Office of Works but are included in the column showing the expenditure by the Post Office. With respect to the hon. Member's allegations that the sum so invested is treated as unremunerative expenditure and employed to swell the so-called deficiency of Telegraph revenue, and that no allowance is made in the receipts, or revenue, side of the said accounts for the rent which would be payable by the Department but fur the purchase of such sites and the erection of such buildings, I desire to add that the Returns referred to are prepared in accordance with Section 4 of the 29th Vic. C. 5, and (that) they are not detailed statements of assets and liabilities, and therefore the value of sites, buildings, plant, etc., is not shown in them. Account No. 16 is prepared by the Treasury and the Post Office jointly, and the responsible officers have signed it. No portion of the original cost of the G.P.O. East or G.P.O. west was charged to Telegraph account. The G.P.O. North cost about £526,000 and of this one-third was charged to Telegraph account. Without a special valuation no useful estimate could be given of the present value of these buildings. The value of the sites and buildings acquired in the great towns of the United Kingdom for Post Office purposes probably increases from year to year, but without a special valuation, there is no means of knowing their present value.