HC Deb 30 June 1913 vol 54 cc1482-5
56. Sir J. D. REES

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the complaints of inefficiency of the telephone service in Nottingham since the Government took over the management; that it is of very common occurrence that no answer at all can be received over the wires; that charges of inattention at the central exchange are not uncommon; that it cannot be presumed from the fact that he has received no complaints from anyone other than the Member for East Nottingham that considerable dissatisfaction does not exist; that the normal time for receiving an answer has largely increased under Government management; that cases are not unknown in which it has taken an hour to get through to Leicester, which never happened in the company's time; that no rebate is allowed by the Government for periods in which subscribers are without service; and whether he will state what is the result of the inquiries he made on the Motion of the Member for East Nottingham?

The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Herbert Samuel):

Few complaints of inefficiency of the telephone service at Nottingham have reached me, and the special inquiry which I have made on the spot does not confirm the allegations in the question. Local calls are answered in less than five seconds on the average, and the returns show that it is not the case that the normal time of answering has increased under Government management. Calls to Leicester are usually effected within from fifteen to seventeen minutes. Three additional lines between Nottingham and Leicester are now being constructed, but, owing to great pressure of work in the Leicester engineering section, they will not be completed before the end of the year. Rebate of rental is being allowed to those subscribers whose service was interrupted for a considerable period after the severe snowstorm in January. The failure of the telephone call for the fire brigade on the occasion of the fire at Messrs. Jacoby's factory appears, I am sorry to say, to have been due to inattention on the part of a night operator, who has been suitably punished. Special measures have been taken to guard against a similar occurrence.

57. Colonel LOCKWOOD

asked the Postmaster-General if the same operators are employed under the Government service as were employed under the National Telephone Company and under the same conditions; if he is aware that the present service in the House of Commons is not as efficient as it used to be, the delay in answering customers being infinitely longer; and if he can hold out any hope that within a reasonable time some improvement in the present public telephone service will be effected?


The whole operating staff of the National Telephone Company has been transferred to the service of the Post Office, but under improved conditions as regards pay, annual leave, and medical attendance. The telephonists, both male and female, in charge of the Private Branch Exchange in the House of Commons have been for some years on this duty, except that the night operating staff has lately been increased. Notwithstanding that the volume of traffic has increased lately, both the average time of answering and the percentage of effective calls have improved during the last twelve months.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the fact that, beyond extremely civil answers, which we always get from his Department, I personally have received no assistance except the alteration of my numbers? We receive very civil answers, but we get no further attention.


I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that my officers and myself are continually engaged in devising improvements in the telephone service, and very considerable improvements have been effected during the last twelve months. We are making a very large expenditure indeed this year—some millions of pounds—in providing further facilities, including new exchanges.


asked the Postmaster-General whether he will give a list of the offices throughout the country in which inquiries are now being made by the telephone administrators with a view to having the telephone work done by male sorting clerks and telegraphists performed by women; whether he is aware that the proposals are the result of an order issued by two of the headquarter staff; whether, in consequence, the hours of attendance of the male sorting clerks and telegraphists at many small offices will be aversely affected; and whether he will give a definite instruction that no worsening of the duties now in existence is to be made consequent upon the substitution of females for males?


As I stated in reply to an analogous question asked by the hon. Member on the 19th instant, I am not aware of any inquiries tending in the direction stated, and in this case, also, I would suggest that he should send me a copy of the instruction which he has in mind.


asked the Postmaster-General if it is his intention to reduce at some future date the fee for telephoning between Manchester and Stockport; if he is unable to reduce the fee at the present time because by doing so he would create such an increase in traffic as to cause the present service, which is admittedly not so rapid as it should be, to become still more unsatisfactory; and whether he can state how long it will take his Department to make the service sufficient to carry the traffic at the present threepenny rate, and what further time it will require to make it sufficient to carry the increase anticipated at the twopenny rate?


I hope to be able to reduce the charge for calls between Manchester and Stockport when the construction of a new underground cable between those places as well as of a new telephone exchange at Stockport is completed. This work will occupy, I fear, fully a year. In the meanwhile, however, other circuits have recently been completed and more are being constructed, which should materially improve the service at the existing rate.


Has not this connection between Manchester and Stockport been in the hands of the Post Office for a considerable number of years?




Cannot the right hon. Gentleman get it done in less than a year?


It is being pressed forward, but the mass of work in the engineering department of the Post Office is so great that I could not give any pledge.

59. Mr. BLAIR

asked the Postmaster-General if he can give any reason for the delay in telephone communication between Edgware, Stanmore, Bushey Heath, Watford, and London; is he satisfied with the existing telephone facilities between these places and London; and can he account for the usual delay of forty minutes on a Saturday to cover a distance of fourteen miles?


The delay, which I much regret, is due to extreme pressure of telephonic business on the London-Watford route. A new underground cable which will enable additional circuits to be provided between London and the exchanges mentioned is now being laid, but unfortunately the work has been retarded by a wayleave difficulty. I hope, however, that the cable will be completed in about a month or six weeks.