HC Deb 30 November 1920 vol 135 cc1118-20
73 and 74. Earl WINTERTON

asked the Postmaster-General (1) whether it is the duty of any official of his Department to check the final proofs of the Telephone Directory before it goes to press; if not, in view of the errors in the current issue of the Directory, he will, in future, impose this duty on an official of his Department;

(2) who are the printers of the Telephone Directory; and whether, in the contract of his Department with them, any penalty is exacted for mistakes in printing the Telephone Directory?


asked the Postmaster-General whether he can inform the House of the name of the firm which printed the current Telephone Directory; whether there are in the Department officials responsible for passing printers' proofs before publication; if so, how in the current Telephone Guide the admitted error, which is causing inconvenience to thousands of subscribers, was passed; and what provision has been made to see that no repetition of the kind is possible?


I will answer these questions together. The current Telephone Directory was printed by the Stationery Office Press at Harrow. The final proofs are checked by the Post Office staff in galley slip form, but alterations and additions are necessarily made after the final proofs have been dispatched to press. For the present issue the type had to be set up afresh, and the risk of error was increased. The next issue will be printed to a large extent from standing type. The mistake as to the position of the index letters arose from an instruction to place the page numbers on the outside corner being interpreted as an instruction to transpose the page numbers and the index letters. The attention of the printers has been drawn to the error.


Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the last part of my question—whether any penalty is exacted for mistakes in printing the Directory?


The printing is done by the Stationery Office. I cannot attempt to say it was anything but a very unfortunate error that when the proof was sent to the Post Office, and the instruction was given that the page number should be placed on the outside corner of the page, it was interpreted as an instruction to transpose the page number and the index letters. Both Departments, as the Noble Lord is aware, are Departments of the State.


Were any proofs submitted?


Is there any official of the Post Office responsible for seeing the books in their final form before they are issued to the public?


I have endeavoured to answer that question. I have stated that the final proof was sent to the Post Office, and when they received it they examined it and gave the direction I have stated. The covers had been put on the books when the instruction was sent. The Stationery Office made the mistake I have mentioned in my answer.


When this contract was taken from the former printers and turned over to the office at Harrow, was the standing type also taken over from the printers, or was this voluminous work set up ab initio and the cost there from added?


I cannot answer that question without notice. I will try and send the information privately to the hon. Member.

77. Sir W. DAVISON

asked the Postmaster-General whether the buff book recently forwarded to all subscribers to the London Telephone Exchange system was issued with his authority; and will he explain the statement on the title-page of the book that it is a list of subscribers to the London Post Office telephone system classified under their trades and professions, having regard to the fact that several trades and professions are represented by a single name and many others by only two or three names?


The right of issuing a "Trades Directory" for the London telephone area, for which there appears to be a demand, was granted to the present publishers, after competitive tenders, in return for a substantial royalty. The publishers in a preface explain the incompleteness of the book on the ground that time did not permit them to bring the book to the notice of all subscribers concerned.


Is it not the fact that on the front page of the book it is stated to be a "List of Subscribers to the London Post Office Telephone System classified in their trades and professions"? Is not the ordinary meaning of that that if you take the book you will find a list of all the persons in certain trades and professions whose names are in the Telephone Directory? Is it not the fact, however, that when you turn to the list only one, two, or three of the names there appear? Is not that most misleading?


I quite agree that it is most misleading. My right hon. Friend has written to the hon. Gentleman on the matter to-day.