asked the Postmaster-General whether he will minimise the hardship certain to be caused by his decision to impose restrictions of time upon cheap night telephone calls by arranging that calls placed not later than 9 p.m. shall get the advantage of the reduced rate even though they are not completed before the end of the period within which cheap calls may be made?
Adoption of my hon. Friend's proposal would result in a heavy concentration of "last-minute" calls, which would be very difficult to handle promptly, and would result in the treatment of the calls being extended, as now, late into the night. I am sorry therefore that I cannot accept his suggestion which would in large measure defeat the object in view.
As the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is not able to accept my suggestion, what does he propose to do to ensure reasonable facilities for cheap telephone calls? Is he aware of the fact that sometimes there is such delay with these calls as to cover the whole of the three hours in which subscribers are to be allowed the opportunity of making these calls?
I should think it would be very unusual if there were such delay as that. What is going to be done is to reduce the existing hours to the hours which I gave in my reply last week, and that is being done partly in order to facilitate the staff getting home and partly as a contribution to the man-power problem, of which I gave figures last week.
But does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman recognise that the long delays on these calls must be accepted as some part of his responsibility, and that it is futile to advertise a cheap period if advantage cannot be taken of it?
If the hon. Member would have a word with me about the subject, it might clear up some of his difficulties.
May I ask whether the call must be effected within the period which is now prescribed? Can a call be put in an hour before the period expires and, if it does not come through until after the period has expired, can it be charged at the lower rate?
If the call is not completed by the time set, half-past nine, it is cancelled, or it can be completed at the full rates.