asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what priority is given to applications for telephones put in by branch offices of nationalised industries, and if he will give an assurance that the available lines are shared fairly as between these applications and those of private businesses.
No priority is given to a nationalised industry simply because it is nationalised. The criterion for granting priority is that the industry concerned whether nationalised or not, is providing essential services to the community or engaged in re-armament or the export trade. Even so, only the essential needs of these industries are given priority.
Is my hon. Friend aware that it is widely believed in provincial towns that these lines are not being distributed fairly? Whereas many businesses which are carrying on important work have to wait a long time, a branch office of one of the nationalised industries has only to be opened in a town for a telephone to be put into every room forthwith. Will my hon. Friend look into this again and see what is the position?
I shall be pleased to look into any specific complaints, but I hope the answer I have given will give sufficient publicity to the fact that the nationalised industries are getting no priority.
May we take it that the term "nationalised industries" covers the Armed Services, too?
May I ask my hon. Friend whether, in his answer, he left out agriculture deliberately? Agriculture used to have priority and it seems from his answer that that is no longer so.
I do not think the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend comes within the ambit of the original Question. I was asked whether nationalised industries had any priority or not, and the answer is, "No."