64 and 93. Mr. G, DOYLE
asked the Prime Minister (1) whether, in view of the inefficiency, public discontent, and financial loss to the nation under State ownership and management of the telephone system, and before any further burden is placed upon the taxpayers by reason of proposed additional expenditure, the Government will consider the alternative of inviting tenders for private ownership and control: and (2) whether there is any immediate prospect of greater efficiency in the telephone service whether it is proposed to have any further capital outlay in this branch of the service; and, if so, what is the proposed amount and from what source it will he derived?
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Illingworth)
The defects in the telephone service are principally due to the suspension of construction work and to the diversion of trained operators to other occupations during the War. A con- 270 siderable number of new exchanges and of underground cables are necessary to meet the requirements of the public in areas where the existing spare plant is exhausted. I hope to be able to spend about £3,000,000 on the development of the see vice during the current year if the various contractors arc able to deliver the plant. The money required will be provided from the sum authorised by the Telegraph Money Act, 1913. The financial loss on the service is due to the increased cost of labour and material, which is felt by all undertakings, and can only be met by an increase in the rates charged to the public. If the telephone service were in private ownership similar difficulties would be experienced, and I see no reason for reversing the policy which has been followed by previous Governments and re-transferring the undertaking to a private company.