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Volume 463: debated on Wednesday 30 March 1949

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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.