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Telephone Service

Volume 480: debated on Wednesday 15 November 1950

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London Area


asked the Postmaster-General when he expects the automatic telephone service in the London area to be restored to its pre-war standard of operation.

A comprehensive overhaul of the automatic telephone exchanges in London has recently been completed, and regular sampling of the service shows that the average standard of service is now rather better than pre-war. If the hon. Member has any particular cases of difficulty in mind, I shall be glad to make inquiry.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on the Abbey Exchange one frequently dials at least three times without anything happening at all, particularly when one is trying to get Temple Bar? Does he really think that that happened in pre-war days?

My information is that the average standard now is better than it was in pre-war days, but I will take notice of the hon. Member's complaint and write to him about it.

Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously contend that it is now easier to get either "Trunks" or "toll" than it was in pre-war days?


asked the Postmaster-General how many applicants are now waiting for telephones in the London area.

What is the position with regard to essential equipment needed to increase this service? Is this equipment still being exported? Is any more being made available for the home service?

It is not a matter of equipment; it is a matter of capital allocation. I would like to point out that last year, ending 30th September, we installed 109,785 telephones in this area.

Can my right hon. Friend explain the enormous demand for telephones from every part of the country, in view of the fact that this wicked Government are stifling private enterprise and have brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy?

In view of this very long waiting list, will the right hon. Gentleman explain why his officers are touring my constituency looking for new subscribers?

It is still necessary to ascertain the potential demand in any area.

Capital Expenditure


asked the Postmaster-General on what basis he allocates capital expenditure in respect of telephone services in the various postal areas.

In allocating the limited capital resources of the Post Office, provision must be made on a national basis for the installation and accommodation of additional plant to cater for the growth of traffic in the trunk and overseas services. For local services, which absorb the bulk of the capital expenditure, allocations are made to the Post Office regions, and through them to the telephone areas, on the basis of the best practical distribution of resources, having regard to the relative present and prospective needs.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these areas believe that the allocations finally made to them are on the basis of previous requirements and that that is not satisfactory, in view of changing populations and changing emphasis?

I had some reason to think that myself, but I have made certain alterations and I think that, in future, allocations will be found more in accord with potential demand.

Would the Postmaster-General not now consider approaching the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a re-allocation of capital resources for the telephone service, as it is one of the most effective instruments in an efficient production and export drive?

That is always in my mind, but I am afraid I should not have the approval of the House in asking for the release of building materials and building labour to construct exchanges.

Installation Priorities


asked the Postmaster-General if he will state the order of priorities on which decisions are taken for the installation of telephones; and how far preferential consideration is given to schools before people urgently requiring telephones for their business.

First priority for telephone service is given to the essential requirements of public utilities, health and life saving services, Government departments, and businesses engaged on production and distribution for export or for saving imports. In the lower categories, educational institutions and certain classes of business take precedence over other applicants.



asked the Postmaster-General how many applicants were waiting for telephones in Birmingham at the latest available date; and how long it will be before the existing shortage is overcome.

There were 15,180 on 30th September, 1950. These will be partially met by the provision of additional equipment and cables this year and next, but in view of our limited resources I regret that I cannot say when it will be possible to meet all outstanding applications.

Is the Minister satisfied that adequate progress is being made, especially in regard to the residential applicants, many of whom have been waiting for a very long time? Is he aware that there is a very long list?

We installed 8,600 telephones in this exchange area in the last year, which is certainly making an impact upon the problem. I regret to say that residential applicants will have to wait until we have met the needs of the more essential applicants.

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there is likely to be considerably increased production activity in the Birmingham area as a result of the rearmament drive, and also that, as a result of the grave anxieties about raw materials, there is likely to be a considerable increase in the number of urgent calls?

In the allocation to the regions that is one of the considerations I am bearing in mind.

In recognising the necessity for restricting exports of telephone equipment, would my right hon. Friend bear in mind also the need to keep open foreign markets?

Heywood Exchange


asked the Postmaster-General what progress is being made with the work at the Heywood telephone exchange; and if he will state when new subscribers will be connected.

The extension of the exchange was completed on 14th October and service is being given to new subscribers, in cases where wires in the local cables are available, as quickly as our labour resources allow.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long it will be before all those who have been on the waiting list for such a long time will be able to be connected?

Would the right hon. Gentleman not have been able to do the job more quickly if he had not put up a new exchange at Torquay with 500 lines for all the delegates at the conference there?