asked the Postmaster-General why the classified, trades and professions, telephone directory for Bristol. Exeter, Taunton and Plymouth areas was recently distributed to business telephone subscribers when in error it included very few telephone numbers in Cornwall other than those of co-operative societies.
This was due to a misunderstanding which I regret. The previous issue of the classified directory, made before the war, did not include Cornwall. It had been intended that the new issue should include Cornwall, but it was not appreciated until after distribution had begun that the particulars made available to the compilers of the directory were incomplete. Of some 1,000 entries relating to Cornwall. 42 were in respect of co-operative societies.
Should not the Postmaster-General's Department have discovered this mistake had been made before their officials delivered the directories to subscribers?
This is done by contract outside the Post Office. I agree that we have some responsibility for it, and anything which I can do to put the matter right I will do.
Is the Minister aware that a number of co-operative societies were omitted as well as private traders?
asked the Postmaster-General what is the nature of the more urgent work which prevents 41,000 applicants for telephones being served by equipment available.
Provision of service in priority cases has first claim on the limited capital resources available for connecting up new subscribers, and the heavy pressure of work on such cases is holding up completion of other applications.
Will the Postmaster-General bear in mind that there are now still about 18,000 unemployed on Merseyside, and cannot lie do something locally to benefit these unemployed and also to help the subscribers who are waiting for the equipment which is now available?
In many parts of the country I am extremely short of skilled engineers, and I am afraid that I cannot find them on Merseyside.
asked the Postmaster-General whether, in view of the fact that a large number of potential subscribers are waiting for telephones in the Selby area, his Department is taking any steps to extend the telephone exchange and add to the number of underground cables.
A new exchange and additional cables should be ready for service in the urban area by next summer, and additional cables are being planned for the rural area.
Will this be considered as a matter of great urgency, because a number of residents in the rural and urban districts of Selby have been waiting for telephones for a matter of years?
Yes, Sir. We are putting in not the usual standard automatic exchange but a rather sub-standard one to meet the need as quickly as we can.
asked the Postmaster-General how many applications for telephones are still outstanding in Cardiff; and whether any steps have been taken in recent months for all schools in Cardiff to be equipped with telephones.
There are 3,879 for the four exchanges serving Cardiff. So far as I am aware, there are no outstanding applications for school telephones in this area.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider consulting with the Minister of Education, with a view to seeing that schools, not only in Cardiff, are equipped with telephones, before some child loses its life as a result of difficulty in contacting hospitals and other services?
No. Sir. The obligation is on the local authority to make this application. When it does, it will certainly have preferential consideration.
Cannot the right hon. Gentleman take some initiative in this matter in view of the difficulties?
Deaf Persons (Amplifiers)
asked the Postmaster-General what is the profit to the Post Office from providing deaf telephone subscribers with telephone amplifiers at 46s. a year; and if he will put the provision of telephone amplifiers out to public tender.
The charge for these amplifiers, which are purchased under competitive tender, is below the current costs of provision and maintenance. I am satisfied that the present arrangements for the provision of this service best serve the public interest.
Would it not be a good thing to try to get this service as cheaply as possible for these unfortunate people? By putting it out to public tender that would make it cheaper.
It is put out to public tender, and I regret to inform the House that I am losing a substantial sum of money on this already.
Would the Postmaster-General tell us whether he is arranging for an amplifier to amplify your voice, Mr. Speaker, so that it can be heard both down here and in the public gallery? There is a great feeling at the moment that the one person not successfully heard in this new House is Mr. Speaker.
That is not a matter for me; it is for Mr. Speaker.