HC Deb 20 June 1939 vol 348 cc2194-6

Order for Second Reading read.

12.15 a.m.

The Postmaster-General (Major Tryon)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

The object of the Bill is to enable the Post Office to borrow the capital it re- quires for the development of its telephone, postal and telegraph system. The Postal Services will require only £3,400,000. Telephones account for £36,200,000 and telegraphs £400,000, making a total of something like £40,000,000. The present indications are that the amount we have in hand will last till August. It was authorised by a similar Bill in 1937. The amount which we are now asking for will last till about March, 1941. The capital is required primarily, but not solely, for the ordinary expansion of the telephone service, the rate of which is three times greater than it was five years ago. It is explained also by the needs of defence and of air-raid precautions. The additional capital expenditure on telephones will not be immediately revenue-earning, and, indeed, the revenue has to carry a considerable burden in respect of requirements for future growth.

Telegraph extension has been affected by the introduction of the sixpenny telegram in 1934, and by the introduction of the greetings telegram soon after. That has been a very great help to the telegraph service which has expanded in a most remarkable way. All this growth naturally involves capital expenditure. Whereas in 1934-35 the capital expenditure of the Post Office for the year was £7,500,000, in the present year it will be £24,000,000. I hope that the House will agree to authorise this expenditure for this developing service, which is of great value to the State and helps to promote trade and employment. As I told the House the other day, we have taken on a very large additional staff, and this sum will help considerably to determine the amount of employment we give.

Mr. G. Hall

The Government cannot say that there is any obstruction from this side of the House, in view of the rapidity of the passing of all these Orders. Again we offer no objection.

12.19 a.m.

Mr. Davidson

I desire to place before the right hon. and gallant Gentleman one or two points. We do not want to limit the progress of this social service—I emphasise the expression "social service." In recent Debates the right hon. and gallant Gentleman quoted the Leader of our party as saying that the Post Office was not in any way a Socialist service. He should have added that it cannot be a Socialist service while it is run by the present Government; run by a properly established Government of Socialists it would be a proper Socialist service. In Glasgow, the dial disc has been established by many businesses for some time, without being used. I should like to know whether part of this sum is to be used to deal with this question immediately.

12.21 a.m.

Mr. Poole

Can the Minister tell us whether any of this £36,000,000 is to be used for the development of the telephone system in the rural areas, where it is an uneconomic proposition? Is there any hope that those areas will have facilities comparable, at any rate, with those existing in more highly developed areas? As I mentioned last Friday, there are still many areas in this country which are completely cut off.

12.22 a.m.

Major Tryon

If I may have the leave of the House, I would say that certainly some of the money will be devoted to the rural areas. Since I have held my office I have been responsible for great benefits to the rural areas. I did not misquote the Leader of the Opposition. I read the words exactly as they were given in the "Daily Herald."

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for To-morrow. —[Captain Margesson.]