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Telephone Service

Volume 498: debated on Wednesday 2 April 1952

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Shared Service


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what recent changes have been made in the conditions under which subscribers must accept a shared service.

There has been no change. I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Slater) on 26th March.

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that those who were on the telephone service before 1st January, 1948, will not have pressure brought to bear upon them to take a shared service?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no intention whatever of departing from the arrangements regarding the shared service that were made by my predecessor two years ago.

If the hon. Gentleman wants me to read out the answer, I will read it all over again. It was:

"In this matter I act in Northern Ireland in pursuance of an express warrant in writing under the hand of the Governor who acts on the advice of the Government of Northern Ireland. The warrant is issued under the prerogative power at common law"

On a point of order. Is it not out of order to indulge in idle repetition, which this seems to be?

Would it not be in order for my hon. Friend to refer the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Healy) to the answer given to his previous Question?

Then I will refer the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Healy) to the answer I have already given.

On a point of order. I have not been able to put a supplementary question on this point.

I allowed the hon. Gentleman to put a supplementary question on the previous Question, and this is an exactly identical answer. The hon. Gentleman asked a very long supplementary question.

Kiosks, Hexham


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General at which villages or hamlets in the Hexham division the rural district council's association have recommended to him the erection of telephone kiosks during the next 12 months; and when he hopes to be able to provide a kiosk at Settlingstones, near Hexham.

My inquiries suggest that there may have been some misunderstanding regarding the list of recommended kiosks in this area. The position is under discussion with the county branch of the Rural District Councils' Association. As soon as my inquiries are complete I will write to my hon. Friend.

Can my hon. Friend say when Settlingstones will get a kiosk? Does he realise that this place is three miles from the nearest kiosk, that there is no public transport service, and that the nearest doctor and nurse are more than eight miles away? Does he, in general, appreciate that telephone kiosks are very much more necessary in rural districts than in urban areas? Will he give rural districts priority over urban areas?

The location of rural kiosks is made after discussion with the Rural District Councils' Association. I cannot say offhand whether the specific place to which my hon. Friend refers is in next year's list, but I would remind the House that a very large number of rural kiosks has been provided in the past three or four years.

Exchanges And Distribution Network


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will give representative figures for the cost of a post-war telephone exchange and, separately, the cost of the distribution network, together with an indication of the capital investment required for each subscriber connected.

I can give my hon. Friend the cost of any particular post-war exchange he may name, but I cannot produce any "representative figure" since the cost of an exchange varies with its size and type. It also depends on whether the exchange serves a complete area or is one of a group serving a highly developed area and on whether or not it is a trunk operating centre. Distribution networks are added to, not replaced, on the opening of a new exchange; and here again the cost varies widely according to the number and location of spares available in the existing cables.

Personal Case


asked the Assistant Postmaster - General why cheques, value £32 13s. 4d., in settlement of a telephone account by Mr. W. E. K. Webb, Hopton Court, Alfrick, Worcestershire, such cheques being posted in a letter from Anglesey on 8th November, 1951, were not received at the Birmingham telephone manager's office until 10th January, 1952; why the telephone manager cut off Mr. Webb's telephone in the interim; why the original cheques were discovered in the General Post Office system immediately Mr. Webb issued further cheques; whether he is aware of the defamation of the subscriber's character, resulting from the disconnection of the telephone service; and what steps he will take to prevent, in the future, injury to the reputation of a subscriber arising from such mistakes in his Department.

My noble Friend very much regrets the mistakes, and feels that a full public apology is due to Mr. Webb, which he has asked me to make. This unfortunate occurrence was due to the original letter from Mr. Webb going astray in the post.

It was because payment of Mr. Webb's account had not been received by the telephone manager that outgoing service was suspended on 19th November, in accordance with standard procedure. Service was restored on 20th November as soon as Mr. Webb explained that he had sent cheques by post on 8th November. Although I am glad to say that this unfortunate incident is practically the only one of its kind which has come to the notice of Post Office headquarters for many years, I am making investigations to see what further action can be taken by the Post Office to prevent such an occurrence. The letter containing the original cheques was not received by the telephone manager until 10th January, but after full inquiry it has not been possible to establish how the letter was mis-sorted and delayed.