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.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for a very helpful reply.