HC Deb 18 June 1901 vol 95 cc717-8

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether he can state how much of the £2,000,000 voted by Parliament in 1899 for the improvement of telephonic communication throughout the country by the Post Office has been expended; whether any portion thereof has been expended elsewhere than in the London area, and, if so, where; what will be the cost of the London exchange, and what is intended to be done with any balance unexpended; and when the new postal telephone system for London, which it was stated last session would be opened by the end of 1900, will be available for the public, and what is the cause of the delay, and what the charges to subscribers will be.


The expenditure already authorised by the Treasury under the Provision of the Telegraph Act, 1899, for works in progress, or about to be undertaken, amounts to £813,040. Of this amount £677,945 is for the London exchange system, and £135,095 for the development of the other parts of the Post Office telephone system in various places, but especially in the north-east of England and in South Wales. The actual payments for new works brought to account up to the 31st March last amount to £269,941. It is not possible at this stage to state definitely what the final cost of the London exchange system will be, but the whole sum of £2,000,000 authorised by Parliament will be expended in such extensions of the Post Office telephone system as seem most urgently necessary, whether in London or elsewhere. The delay in opening the more important exchanges of the London system has been due to the scarcity of skilled labour, the difficulty of getting materials for contractors, the necessary restrictions on the opening of streets to avoid excessive interference with traffic, and the difficulty of constructing exchanges in buildings in use for other Post Office work. Full particulars of the rates and conditions of the service will be brought before the public at an early date, and it is hoped that it will be available in some parts of London in the autumn.