asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what is now the national average waiting time for applicants for telephones; what is the average time that applicants in the West Drayton area have been waiting; and when he expects to satisfy the applicants who have been waiting for over three years.
An average time for all applicants cannot be given and, even if it could, it would be meaningless. So much depends on whether exchange and line equipment are available, and these factors vary from place to place. Even in West Drayton an average would not mean very much. There are over 300 applicants waiting, 114 of whom have been waiting for three years. Some of these will be connected in the near future, but the bulk must, I fear, await the completion of new cable schemes which are planned.
Apart from his answer about Wales, the Assistant Postmaster-General has said that under the present Administration the waiting time has been considerably shortened. Is he aware that important industrial firms in the West Drayton area have been waiting up to five years for a line? When will the additional equipment be available?
Very often a place gets to the stage when not much more can be done without embarking on a major scheme. That is the kind of major scheme to which I have referred, and that has been planned and arranged for.
I support the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) in this. I have often to telephone that area, where there are many firms. The line is extremely bad and is often out of order. Any new scheme would be a godsend for these growing firms.
I hope we can do something for West Drayton in the near future, but I cannot give an exact date. If my hon. and gallant Friend finds that lines are out of order and will let us know, we will see what can be done to correct them.
Is it not by now clear to the Minister that he cannot expect to rectify the position regarding telephone installations until he gets the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make him a bigger allocation of money? Will he not press his right hon. Friend to do this?
Allocations to the Post Office for any purpose must be viewed in the general picture of the amount of money that we can afford to spend on everything else, including roads, for example.
Has the Minister thought of diverting the funds that will go into the commercial television service?