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Post Office

Volume 345: debated on Monday 20 March 1939

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Telephones And Telegraphs (Outer Hebrides And Isles)


asked the Postmaster-General whether he will consider granting financial assistance for the provision of automatic exchanges in the villages of the Outer Hebrides for the convenience of the local people, medical services and holiday visitors?

An extensive programme for providing telephonic communication between the various villages in the Hebrides and between the islands and the mainland is already in hand. The scheme has been designed to give the best arrangements for serving the localities from the point of view referred to by the hon. Member, and comprises either standard or small rural type automatic equipment served from three manual switching centres. The scheme will result in considerable financial loss, and I regret that I am not prepared to enlarge its basis.


asked the Postmaster-General whether he will make a statement on the recent improvements in telephone and telegraph communications in the Outer Isles of Scotland; and on the proposed improvements for this year?

There has been a marked improvement in the telephone service between the islands of Lewis and Harris and the mainland since the radio telephone channels were brought into use on the 1st of this month. As regards telegraph communication, arrangements are in hand to provide, by means of the radio telephone channels, an emergency link which can be utilised in the event of a breakdown in the submarine cable between the island of Lewis and the mainland. It is anticipated that the islands of Barra and South Uist will be connected to the mainland by radio telephone by July this year and that service will be extended to the islands of Benbecula and North Uist early in 1940. The hon. Member will, I am sure, be pleased to hear that the special cable charges on telephone calls to the Western Islands will be abolished as from 1st April next.

Automatic Telephone Exchanges, London


asked the Postmaster-General when the Victoria telephone exchange, London, will become automatic; and when the conversion of the whole Metropolitan area will be completed?

The Victoria telephone exchange will, it is hoped, be converted to automatic working next May. The conversion of the London telephone system, within a radius of 10 miles from Oxford Circus, will, in accordance with the present programme, be completed by about 1944.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with this rate of progress, which is a great deal slower than in other countries?

On the contrary, the telephone developments in this country have been better than in any other country recently.

National Service (Cancellation Postmark)


asked the Postmaster-General whether he will consider providing a cancellation post-mark which will call attention to the need for more recruits for the National Service campaign?

There are difficulties in the way of adopting the hon. Member's suggestion, but I will certainly give it careful consideration.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say on what occasion a similar cancellation has taken place?

We do it in certain cases, but these stamps go all over the world, and the hon. Member's question suggests that our National Service plan is not going well which is neither accurate nor a good thing to advertise.

West African Air Mails


asked the Postmaster-General whether the air mail from Gambia is still carried in German aeroplanes; and what arrangements he is making for all air mails from British West Africa to be carried in British aeroplanes?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part, air mail correspondence between this country and Nigeria and the Gold Coast, which represents about 90 per cent. of the total air mail correspondence to and from the West African Colonies, is already carried in British aircraft on the main Empire route between the United Kingdom and Khartoum, and by a British air service between Khartoum, Lagos and Accra. Air mail correspondence to and from Sierra Leone is carried by a British air service between Freetown and Bathurst, where is connects with the German service to and from Europe. When a direct British air service is available between the United Kingdom and West Africa it is the intention to use it for the carriage of first class mail on an "all-up" basis. As regards this proposed service I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given on 8th February by my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air to a question by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter).

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend agree that all British mails for the British Colonies ought to be carried in British aeroplanes?

The difficulty is that we have to use a foreign service where there is not a British service available. I hope soon it will be done by British services.