HC Deb 15 April 1929 vol 227 cc52-3

Last, but not least, it is proposed to afford to the public, especially in rural districts, certain improved telephone facilities. At present there is an extra charge of £1 a year for each furlong for telephone lines laid more than one-and-a-half miles from the terminal. By increasing the radius to two miles there will be comparatively few points in the more populous regions of this island which will be beyond the reach of the telephone service at ordinary rates. The immediate cost of this concession is £90,000 a year.

Secondly, and in addition, there are about 6,000 post offices—by far the greater part of them in villages—and 1,600 rural railway stations which have at the present time neither telegraph nor telephone facilities. It seems to the Government most desirable that this closer and wider linking up of our country districts with the centres from which they purchase and with one another should be fostered even though in many cases it cannot be justified on a strictly profit-making basis. Accordingly it has been arranged that at least five-sixths of these 6,000 post offices and 1,600 railway stations shall be equipped, for the most part during the next six months, with call boxes at ordinary rates. The remaining one-sixth which constitutes the most unprofitable investment must be left over for the present time. The cost of this will amount to £1,750,000 in the shape of capital expenditure under the borrowing powers of the Post Office. These concessions are no doubt small items—I almost blush to name them—but they fit harmoniously into the general scheme of the Government for fostering basic production.

Precise details of all these matters will be found in the White Paper. The various adjustments which I have mentioned make their inroad upon the surplus. The Betting Duty relief costs £850,000, the Publicans' Licence Duty relief costs £950,000 and the various minor concessions cost the revenue £110,000. On the other hand the increase in the manufacturers licence duties on beer, spirits, and tobacco will be £480,000, leaving a net diminution of the prospective surplus of £1,430,000. Subtracting this from £11,976,000 leaves us still in possession of a surplus of £10,546,000.