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Telephone Service

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 14 March 1951

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Government Departments (Expenditure)


asked the Postmaster-General what amount of money was expended in telephone calls by Government Departments in the years 1947, 1948 and 1949, respectively.

The recorded values of inland telephone calls made by Government Departments were as follows: 1947–48, £5,470,000; 1948–49, £4,880,000; 1949–50, £4,810,000.

In view of the extent of these calls, will the hon. Gentleman say what steps have been taken to secure economy within the Departments, and would he agree that this extensive use of the service is a reason why ordinary people cannot get a telephone?

Is the Minister telling the House, and is it correct, that every telephone call made by a Government Department is noted and priced?

Weather Forecasts


asked the Postmaster-General what progress is being made on the development of facilities for telephone subscribers to dial WEA in order to receive weather forecasts; what will be the cost to his Department; and by what date will they be provided.

In view of the heavy demands on the limited national resources, my right hon. Friend is consulting with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air on the question whether this new service can be provided in present circumstances.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this matter has been under development for a large number of years and that considerable progress has been made on the equipment? Would it not be a good asset to this country to continue as we have gone so far, in view of the fact that foreign countries have had this facility for more than 14 years?

There are very few foreign countries that have this service, but I agree with the premise of the question. and we will do what we can.

While awaiting this service, will the Minister re-introduce the Airmet service, which was of such value to many organisations and people?

No, Sir, for reasons which were indicated in an Adjournment debate two months ago.



asked the Postmaster-General the date on which the new telephone exchange will operate in Cardiff.


asked the Post master-General whether he is aware of the growing waiting list for telephones in the Cardiff area; and how this list compares with those of other cities of comparable size to Cardiff.

The proportion of waiting applicants at Cardiff is at present somewhat higher than at other towns of similar size. This is due to the diversion of engineering staff to work on the new automatic exchange. There should be substantial improvement when the new exchange is opened.



asked the Postmaster-General how many telephones were supplied to bookmakers during 1950.

This information is not readily available, as our records do not distinguish between different types of business-rate subscribers.

Has the attention of my hon. Friend been drawn to a Press advertisement by a West End bookmaker, who says that he has 200 telephones, manned by an efficient staff, and to that of a City bookmaker, who claims that he has 100 lines? In view of those facts, will he please decrease the supply of telephones to bookmakers and increase the supply to my constituents?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in my constituency—and I have written to his right hon. Friend about this— ministers of religion are still waiting for telephones? Should they not have them rather than bookmakers?

Many are called, but few are chosen.

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will let me have details of that position, I shall be only too happy to look into the matter.

Is it the policy of my hon. Friend's Department to supply telephones to bookmakers rather than to other commercial or private interests?

Officer, Southampton (Motor Car)


asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that a lady, representing the Post Office, Southampton, is touring the countryside in a chauffeur-driven car for the sole purpose of asking telephone subscribers whether they have any complaints; and whether he will stop this waste of public money.

The officer was testing the automatic service from subscribers' premises in a very scattered rural area. Use of an official car was authorised exceptionally in this case, because of lack of public transport and of the wide area to be covered.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this lady was touring the St. Mary Bourne district, which is between 30 and 40 miles from Southampton, and that she stated specifically to my constituents that she was only inquiring whether they had any complaints to make? Would it not be more sensible and cheaper to let subscribers make their own complaints?

No, I do not think it would. The reason why the official car was used was because of the lack of transport facilities in this scattered rural area.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he is quite misinformed, that the lady in question fully explained the reason for her visit and that she made the specific statement that she was only visiting to ascertain whether subscribers had any complaints to make?

Is it not a fact that the services rendered by this lady fully justified the expenditure incurred?

There is no doubt about that. It is part of the arrangement to make the telephone service in that area more efficient?

Would it not have been cheaper and simpler if the lady had just rung up the subscribers and asked them if there were any complaints?

I am surprised at the right hon. and gallant Gentleman asking that question in view of the fact that he was once Postmaster-General.



asked the Postmaster-General whether the telephone facilities in the Blackburn area will be increased sufficiently in 1951 to bring the supply of telephones expressed as a percentage of the demand for them in that area into line with the corresponding percentage in other areas in the North-Western Region.

Widely varying conditions make it impracticable to regulate development of the telephone service in different areas on any general percentage basis such as that suggested. Subject, however, to the needs of the defence programme, my right hon. Friend expects that the relative rate of supply in the Blackburn area will be increased this year.

Relative to the needs of the surrounding districts and towns in Lancashire.

Why not relative to the disparity between the Blackburn area and other areas?

That is another question. So far as Blackburn is concerned the immediate needs have been attended to; there has been expansion there and actually a diversion of manpower.

Speaking Clock, Newport


asked the Postmaster-General whether he will arrange to install a speaking clock for the convenience of telephone subscribers when the new post office and telephone exchange is completed at Newport.

My right hon. Friend hopes to provide this service when the new exchange is opened.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether a speaking clock will be installed in the new Cardiff exchange?

We shall provide the service, but whether the speaking clock will be stationed in the Cardiff exchange I could not say without notice.