HC Deb 27 November 1928 vol 223 cc236-7
69. Mr. JOHN

asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that Miss Goldfinch, 176, Bute Street, Treherbert, Rhondda, in reponse to an advertisement in a London newspaper, applied for employment as a telephonist on the London telephone service; that on 19th September she received a reply stating that experience shows that girls from Wales are frequently not suitable for the position of telephonist in London, recommending her not to incur the expense of travelling to London solely for that purpose; and that Miss Goldfinch has for four years received instruction from expert teachers in the various branches of a secondary school curriculum; whether he sanctioned the terms of this reply; whether it is the intention of his Department to discourage applicants from Wales applying for employment on the London telephone service; and will he take the necessary steps to prevent a repetition of such letters?


I am aware of the facts of this case. Experience has shown that candidates from parts of Wales are sometimes unsuitable for employment as telephonists in London on account of a marked accent; and it is the practice, when replying to their applications, to warn them in their own interests, of the possibility of rejection on this account, in order to save them from incurring the unnecessary expense of a journey to London. I see no ground for complaint in this practice. There is no desire to discourage suitable applicants from Wales, and in fact many very satisfactory members of the telephone staff are Welsh women.


Are applicants from Scotland similarly warned?


Yes, and from Ireland.


Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the course adopted by his Department will result in shutting out the possibility of Welsh boys and girls having an opportunity of applying for positions under the London telephone department? Does the same rule apply to applicants from Scotland and from other English counties who are not conversant with the London accent, and is it the intention of the Minister to apply the same rule to Wales, that applicants from Wales should have a preference with regard to positions under the telephone department in Wales?


There is no desire or intention, nor in fact is it the practice, to make any such distinction as the hon. Member suggests. It is purely a matter of practical convenience, and practical convenience has taught us that a marked local dialect is unsuitable for transmission in general use in London. Under these circumstances, applicants are warned in order that they may be saved a fruitless journey.


Seeing that the Postmaster-General is so considerate of the English people that he does not permit them to tolerate the Welsh accent on the telephone—


Will the hon. Member please put it in the form of a question and not of a speech?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Welsh is a phonetic language and that the Welsh people articulate the English language much more clearly than even the English people themselves?