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Telephone Service

Volume 463: debated on Wednesday 30 March 1949

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Glasgow

29, 30 and 31.

asked the Postmaster-General (1) the number of telephone exchange lines operating in Glasgow on the latest available date, and ten years before, respectively;

(2) the number of telephone calls made in Glasgow in the latest available month, and in the corresponding month ten years before, respectively;

(3) the number of telephone installations in Glasgow in 1938 and 1948, respectively.

The number of telephone exchange lines operating in the Glasgow telephone area was 90,111 at the end of 1948, compared with 62,795 at the end of 1938. Thirteen million, eight hundred thousand telephone calls were originated in the area in January, 1949, as against 8,600,000 in January, 1939. Seven thousand six hundred and twelve exchange lines and 11,585 telephones were installed in the area in 1948, compared with 4,500 exchange lines and 6,500 telephones in 1938.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, notwithstanding the impressive figures which he has given, a large number of applicants have been on the waiting list for the last 18 months or two years, and are getting rather discontented?

I am aware that there is a large number of people waiting for telephones.

Would the Minister indicate, in regard to the census given by him of the number of instruments, how many of them are working properly?

Eccles

33.

asked the Postmaster-General why he cannot provide an automatic exchange in Eccles, Lancashire, before 1954; and if he is aware of the many delays there owing to the subscriber not being able to obtain his own number, and often being given wrong numbers instead.

Conversion of exchanges to automatic working is dependent on the availability of labour and materials for new exchange buildings; it is also conditioned by the restriction of equipment manufactured for home use in order to meet the heavy demands for export. Provision of an automatic exchange at Eccles involves the erection of a new building and the installation of new equipment, and this extensive work cannot be completed before 1954. The quality of service at the existing exchange compares favourably with that at similar exchanges throughout the country.

Does the Minister appreciate that this automatic system was promised before the war and that all the adjacent exchanges, with the exception of the Eccles Exchange, are automatic; and that, although subscribers do not complain if they get wrong numbers when they dial them themselves, it causes a great amount of dissatisfaction when they have to rely on other people getting the numbers for them?

I appreciate the fact that an automatic exchange was promised and expected before the war, but I have given some reasons in my answer why it cannot be put in just yet.

Application, Bridlington

34.

asked the Postmaster-General if he will reconsider his adverse decision and now give priority for the installation of a telephone at the office of the secretary of the Bridlington Hotel and Boarding House Association, so that a telephone may be available before the Birdlington season commences.

As explained in my letter of 21st March to the hon. Member I regret that I would not be justified in giving this case priority over other waiting applications with greater claims to telephone service.

Is the Postmaster-General aware that in refusing a telephone to the Secretary of the Bridlington Hotel and Boarding House Association he is likely to cause a great deal of dislocation during this season? After all, this is the only special request I have made in this matter, and would it not help in the co-operation between Ministers and Members if, on certain occasions, such a request were granted?

There are other people waiting for telephones in this neighbourhood with higher priorities than this case.

Kiosks, Rural Areas

35.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is yet able to announce when a new scheme for the provision of telephone kiosks in rural areas will become operative.

I am glad to say that a quota system, the details of which are being developed in collaboration with the representatives of rural local authorities, will commence on 1st April. The new arrangements will supersede the present arrangements, both in regard to existing and new rural kiosks, as from that date.

I am sure the House will welcome the statement by the Postmaster-General, but will he say what will happen to the guarantees and commitments already entered into by parish councils, and what method will be used in the future for dealing with priority applications?

We intend to make use of the rural councils for determining priority as to where the kiosks shall be put.

Will the Minister publish through the parish and district councils full details of the scheme? Many people have been disappointed for more than three years now.

When the right hon. Gentleman said that the new plan would supersede the existing kiosks, did he mean that he intended to close some of them?

No, Sir. There was an arrangement in the past that so much money should be guaranteed for kiosks. That arrangement will be superseded.

Will the Minister say what will happen to the present commitments of parish councils with regard to those guarantees?

40.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will provide a telephone kiosk at Kinsham near Bredon, as this rural area has no public telephone, so that residents can summon a doctor in case of emergency, and also communicate with the resident midwife.

The provision of a telephone kiosk at Kinsham will be considered under the quota scheme to which I referred in my reply this afternoon to my hon. Friend, the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins).

Is the Postmaster-General aware that this is a No. 1 priority and that there are no means of communicating with doctors and district nurses? It is a matter in which, in view of the difficulties, I should be glad if we could have priority.

If it has such a high priority, I have no doubt that the rural council responsible will see to it.

Enfield Exchange

36.

asked the Postmaster-General when it is proposed to proceed with the conversion of the Enfield telephone exchange from manual to automatic operation.

Extension of the existing exchange building and of the switching equipment will be completed in late 1950. This extension should meet development for some years, and it is too early to say when the exchange is likely to be converted to automatic working.

Can my right hon. Friend assure me that this work is being proceeded with as expeditiously as possible, in view of the fact that it was promised to be commenced last year and has not yet got under way?

Royal Air Force (Kerosene)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for Air what steps he is taking to ensure a sufficient supply of kerosene for jet propelled aircraft of the Royal Air Force.

Supplies of kerosene are obtained by the Air Ministry under contractual arrangements with the oil industry, and there has been no difficulty in obtaining the requirements of the R.A.F. The technical and supply questions arising from the increased consumption which is to be expected in the future are under active consideration.

Can the Minister say whether, in view of the expansion contemplated in jet propelled aircraft, the plans of the oil refining companies are going to keep pace with the demands for kerosene in the future?

That question had better be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power.

Is the Minister aware that agricultural tractors consume a great deal of paraffin when they could burn petrol, and so ease the load on the refineries?

Usa Bomber Group (Visit)

44.

asked the Secretary of State for Air why permission has been given for the United States 509th Long-range Bomber Group to be stationed in the United Kingdom.

The 509th Bomber Group is visiting this country under the arrangements referred to in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) and the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills) on 28th July, 1948.

As that was some time ago, perhaps the Minister would be kind enough to repeat the reason he gave on that occasion, particularly in view of the fact that No. 509 Long-Range Bomber Group of the United States Air Force is a bomber group specially trained in atomic bomb technique?—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I trust that the House and the country will note that "hear, hear."—And will the Minister also explain why this bomber group trained in that technique, is to remain in this country?

With regard to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary, the reason I gave on 28th July for the visit of these various squadrons to this country was for training and good-will purposes. As regards the second part of the question, it may well he that the operational function of this particular group during the war was the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan, but there is no difference in essence between this particular group and any ether B29 group of the United States Air Force, and in those circumstances, I can see no reason why we should not welcome this group to this country.

In view of the nature of the reply given by the Minister, and of the fact that the country will be very concerned about this matter, irrespective of what the Opposition say, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.