HC Deb 25 March 1913 vol 50 cc1476-9

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the American Marconi Company are described in the Marconi balance-sheet as an associated company and that three directors are on both boards; whether he is aware that large blocks of shares in the American company were held by the English company, and that on 31st December, 1911, 34,174 fully paid shares of the American company were held by the English company and were entered in the balance-sheet at par value, namely, £170,870; and whether, in the event of the Imperial wireless scheme having been approved, all messages passing over the Imperial wireless scheme and directed to America would have been sent to the American company's station?

The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Herbert Samuel)

I have no official information with respect to the facts stated in the first parts of the question, though I do not question their accuracy. The American Marconi Company has, I understand, no interest at all in the British Marconi Company, and does not participate directly or indirectly in its profits. Any messages destined to America which might be received at any of the Imperial wireless stations would be transmitted across the Atlantic, as is now the case, in accordance with the direction of the sender. The method of transmitting undirected messages, if any, has not been decided, and may be left to be determined when the traffic is about to be dealt with and in the light of the conditions which may exist at that time. The Imperial station in England was not intended to communicate with any station in Canada or the United States, and has not been designed so as to fulfil that purpose. Certainly no undertaking of any kind has been given that such messages would be transmitted by way of the American Marconi Company's stations.


Would not all messages sent across the Atlantic from England to America, and from America to England, viâ Marconi, go partly by the American company's system and partly by the British company's system, and therefore they would share the profits?


I do not know what the arrangements are between the American company and the British as regards the allocation of profits on their own traffic.


Is it not a fact that the English company have a very large interest in the Marconi Company?


Oh, certainly! That is well known.


You said the contrary?


No. I said the American company has no interest in the English company.


The English company has a large interest in the American company?


But the American company has no interest in the English or the profits they would make under a contract with the English Government.


asked whether, in view of the statements made in Court, in the "Matin" libel action, that shares in the American Marconi Company had been purchased by the Attorney-General and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in view of the fact that the American Marconi Company was an associated company of the British Marconi Company and so described in their balance-sheets, he will now reconsider the case of Mr. J. E. Taylor, staff engineer in the Post Office, who bought thirty £1 shares in the Marconi Company, and who was reduced to the rank of assistant superintendent engineer on account of this action?


Mr. J. E. Taylor was one of the expert advisers of my Department on the subject of wireless telegraphy. His official position brought him into touch with the negotiations that were proceeding between the Department and the British Marconi Company, and he bought an interest in the company which was about to contract with the Government at a time prior to the public announcement of the acceptance of its tender. The other purchases referred to in the question were made in the shares of a company which was neither itself contracting with the Government nor had any interest whatever in any contract with the Government, and they were made some time after the acceptance of the British company's tender was universally known. There is no similarity, therefore, in the circumstances, and no ground for the reconsideration which is suggested.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he cannot really further reconsider this case in view of the fact that Mr. Taylor did not have the advice of the managing director of the Marconi Company as to the best—


That is a matter of argument.


I gave the Prime Minister notice that I would to-day repeat the question which I asked him on Thursday, but as it has been arranged that the Ministers should give evidence before the Marconi Committee, I think it would not be desirable that we should have a dis- cussion until afterwards. Therefore, with the right hon. Gentleman's permission, I will postpone my question.