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Local Calls (Timing)

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1961

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12.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he has reviewed the practice of timing local calls under the subscriber trunk dialling system; and if he has yet reached a decision on the possibility of extending the time allowed for 2d. in the cheap rate period.

Yes, Sir. I am satisfied that the timing of local calls, as well as trunk calls, is right in principle and should be maintained. I am, however, anxious to help those who rely on the telephone for social contacts, particularly elderly and housebound people and perhaps the lovelorn. I have, therefore, arranged that, as from 1st August, the time allowed for 2d. on local calls from subscribers' telephones after 6 p.m. every evening and all day on Sunday, shall be extended from 6 minutes to 12 minutes.

For calls made from the new coin boxes with S.T.D. the present charges will remain unchanged.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that extension which will, I am sure, be welcome particularly to the old and the lonely as well as to the lovelorn, may I ask him whether it may be possible to allow rather more than three minutes for 2d. at other times? Is he aware that there is some anxiety in Nottingham about the effect that the new arrangements may have on telephone bills?

There has been some anxiety in many parts of the country about the effect of S.T.D. on telephone bills, but I think that most of it has been misplaced. After all, the charges for all trunk calls under the new system will be lower than they are at present. The charge for about three-quarters of local calls will be lower than it has ever been in the history of the G.P.O.

I think that people will find that, on the whole, their telephone bills are not higher under the new system than under the old. Although I am willing to look at all these proposals from time to time, I am bound to say that at the moment the cost of making this concession during the daytime as well as during the evening would be prohibitive. It would cost about £12 million to £15 million a year, which I think is rather too much.