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Telephone Service

Volume 656: debated on Tuesday 27 March 1962

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Automatic Dialling System, West Sussex

8.

asked the Postmaster-General what steps he is taking to simplify the complicated automatic dialling system which has recently been installed in West Sussex.

I think my hon. Friend is referring to the recent introduction of six-digit codes for dialling calls to some exchanges in West Sussex. I am afraid that this is unavoidable with the present equipment. As subscriber trunk dialling is introduced, however, the codes will gradually be replaced by codes consisting of three letters and three figures, and these will be easier to use.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that reply will give a good deal of satisfaction to people in West Sussex? This six-figure code really does not work, and it is almost a stone-cold certainty that after dialling three of the figures one gets a horrible noise in one's ear. Is my right hon. Friend aware that for four weeks running I have reported the matter to the Horsham exchange, but that the people there do not seem to be able to put it right?

I agree that the present system is by no means perfect, but I think that for the present most subscribers would rather have the facility of direct dialling than have to go through the operator.

Morpeth

9.

asked the Postmaster-General how many telephone subscribers there were in Morpeth at the latest convenient date; and how many applicants were still waiting.

I am glad to say that whereas a year ago there were forty-four applicants on the waiting list, there is now only one. There are now 1,111 subscribers compared with 981 a year ago.

Applications

14.

asked the Postmaster-General how many applications for telephones are now outstanding; and what the corresponding figure was last year.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at this rate it will take a very long time before people on the waiting list are dealt with? Since about 1 million people are already sharing lines, cannot the. Postmaster-General do something to expedite the provision of telephones, especially now that he is making more money out of the subscriber trunk dialling system?

I do not think we are doing too badly. Last year we installed a record number of telephones—about 460,000. The number on the waiting list at present represents less than 1 per cent. of the 5 million people who have telephones.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, if I am fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye tomorrow, I hope to try to prove that he should have been able to do a bit better than he has done with regard to the waiting list?

We are doing twice as well as the hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards).

Telephone Apparatus And Exchange Equipment (Tenders)

16.

asked the Postmaster-General what further tenders have been invited for telephone apparatus and exchange equipment since his announcement that orders to the value of £450,000 for telephone apparatus had been placed with firms outside the bulk supply agreement; and with what results.

Since the Answer I gave to the hon. Member on 21st November, 1961, tenders have been issued to a value of £456,500 for exchange equipment, and £700,000 for telephone apparatus. Of those on which adjudication has been completed, tenders to a value of £134,500 for exchange equipment and £83,000 for telephone apparatus have been declined on grounds of price. Contracts to a value of £8,500 have been placed for telephone apparatus. The remainder of the tenders to a value of nearly £1 million are under consideration.

This is a favourable trend. May I take it that the Postmaster-General is making an earnest attempt to broaden the field of supply and that, in accordance with the Third Report of the Public Accounts Committee, he may eventually terminate the ring system?

The Post Office is now, I think for the first time, taking serious advantage of the 10 per cent. reservation clauses. I hope that by so doing we shall infuse an element of competition into our arrangements which will be to the economic advantage of the Post Office and of the taxpayers.

Telephone Installations (Charges)

17.

asked the Postmaster-General how many maximum charges of £10 for installing new telephones and how many lower charges have been made in the years 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961.

Can my hon. Friend tell me how many charges under £5 are imposed for installing telephones? Or are money matters of no account to the Post Office?

One and three-quarter million lines have been connected since 1st January, 1958. The difficulty is that it would take an enormous amount of money and labour to analyse these figures in the way that my hon. Friend would like. We have to have an estimation of the work which is done because we feel that in that way we can ensure the most economical working of all our manpower.

New Kiosks

26.

asked the Postmaster-General how many new telephone kiosks will be provided during 1962 in England, Scotland and Wales, respectively.

The current two-year programme for rural kiosks allows for 270 to be provided in England, 33 in Scotland and 40 in Wales. No similar programme is compiled in advance for kiosks in urban areas, but during 1962 I expect about 900 to be erected in England. 100 in Scotland and 50 in Wales.

27.

asked the Postmaster-General if he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list giving particulars of the new telephone kiosks to be erected in each of the Welsh counties during 1962.

I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the numbers of kiosks to be erected in Welsh counties under the current two-year programme drawn up in collaboration with the Rural District Councils' Association for kiosks in rural areas. In addition, I expect about ninety kiosks to be erected in urban districts in Wales and the Border counties in 1962.

Will the programme for these two years represent a marked change from that of the previous two years?

I cannot answer that question with precision without notice, but I think that it represents a slight improvement.

In view of the isolation of the people in rural Wales now that the railways are to be closed down and the bus services are closing down, does the Minister realise the added importance of telephone kiosks, in enabling the people to keep in touch with their doctors, and so on?

The Post Office is always very much alive to its responsibilities in rural and scattered areas.

Following is the list:

Anglesey3
Brecknockshire4
Caernarvonshire3
Cardiganshire3
Carmarthenshire5
Denbighshire4
Flintshire3
Glamorganshire3
Merionethshire4
Montgomeryshire3
Pembrokeshire3
Radnorshire2