HC Deb 15 May 1959 vol 605 cc1616-31

1.33 p.m.

Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)

I wish to raise the question of capital investment in the telephone service. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General for being present to reply to what I have to say. If I have to hurl a few brickbats at his head, he will have the period of the Whitsun holiday in which to recover and, moreover, my real intention is that they should ricochet off him on to the head of the real "villain," who appears to me to be my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

When dealing with this subject, we have to recollect that the war ended fourteen or fifteen years ago and one might imagine a discussion of this kind to be entirely unnecessary at the present time. We have to remember, also, that as a nation we are not very highly developed from the point of view of a telephone service. If we consider the general standard of living in this country in relation to the standard of living elsewhere, and the density of our population, and other factors, and then consider the number of telephones per head compared with the number in other countries, it will be seen that we have a long way to go in the development of a telephone service.

I wish to emphasise that we are not the leaders in the matter of providing a telephone service according to the rate per 1,000 of the population, and in a broad sense we have a good deal of making up to do. I know that there are members of the community who look upon the telephone as the most baneful of innovations—except perhaps that of the Income Tax. Nevertheless, there are very many people who wish to have a telephone, and it is a curious and ironical fact that for a great number of people a telephone is probably the only thing which money cannot buy.

It is an extraordinary state of affairs. If I wished to be unkind, I might say that my right hon. Friend is engaged in the dubious task of organising scarcity. I beg him to desist, because there are right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who can do that much better than he can. I urge my right hon. Friend to follow the precept of the party on this side of the House and to pursue abundance.

Let me say a word about those unfortunate people who are waiting for telephones. I know that my right hon. Friend will tell us—he would be quite justified in doing so—of the Herculean efforts of the service in the last few years to reduce; he waiting list, and I am aware that the number has come down from 500,000 to 150,000. That, of course, is a very creditable achievement. But the fact remains that there are 150,000 people who have put in their orders but have not a telephone and, therefore, the problem has not yet been solved. A person cannot yet place an order for a telephone and expect to have it installed within a relatively short time.

It would not be too bad were there any real hope of this backlog being cleared up, but that is not the case. I understand that the position will not improve unless this afternoon we are successful in persuading the Postmaster-General and, in turn persuading the Treasury, to give an increase in the capital allocation. I understand, also, that there is a serious prospect that the waiting list will not diminish in the coming years, but will increase.

To me, it seems an incredible state of affairs that fifteen years after the war, in a period in which we have relative freedom for capital expenditure and when we are facing what we hope will be an increase in the standard of living and an increased demand for telephones, the Post Office can only look forward to disappointing its customers to an even greater extent than happens today. That is an intolerable situation. I wish to say why I think the situation is so bad for everyone concerned.

The capital expenditure of the Post Office this year and next year will be less than in the years 1956 and 1957. How can we justify a reduction in capital expenditure for an expanding service like the telephone service? Next year we shall spend even less than we propose to spend this near, against a waiting list which is calculated to grow during that period. This seems to me to be absolute nonsense.

If one looks at the level of capital expenditure in the public sector, one sees a very considerable growth. Another nationalised industry has, during the same period, 1956–57–60, increased its capital expenditure by 50 per cent. and the National Coal Board's expenditure has increased enormously. Various other sectors of public enterprise have also been increased in this respect. On the other hand, the Post Office has had its allocation reduced.

This is absolute economic nonsense. The Coal Board is to have a lot more money to produce coal which very few people apparently require. The railways are to have an enormous amount of money to invest in railways which a lot of people do not want to use, and the Central Electricity Authority is to have an enormous increase in capital expenditure. Yet the one public service for which there is a steady and increasing demand is to have its capital expenditure reduced.

By what process of distorted reasoning do my right hon. Friend and the Treasury justify this absurd state of affairs? It may be that it is Government policy to give money to industries which are run at a loss although being well supplied with capital. The Post Office meets an increasing demand and is, in fact, making a profit, yet it has to be denied even the same amount of capital expenditure that it had in 1956–57. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to answer these questions. It is ridiculous that this situation should prevail.

It is not only a question of telephone users, although they are important, but of the telephone staff and its morale. It is horrible to be in a race driving a car which has some of the brakes on. That is precisely the feeling that any man in the telephone department must have. All those telephone managers and other people must be sick and tired of answering queries from would-be subscribers who want to know why they cannot have a telephone. They have to do this at a time when capital is abundantly available for various other purposes and when there is a need rapidly to stimulate the economy.

The effect of this on the morale of the service is bad. The Post Office is extremely well served by its engineering staff. On the whole, we could not have a more able and devoted body of men than the engineers who operate our telephone service. The engineers naturally feel that they are operating a system with the brakes on. The Government are setting a very bad example as an employer. My right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General is perhaps the major employer of skilled men in any Government Department. A short time ago we had a debate in which it was lamented on both sides that the number of men being trained as apprentices was getting less instead of more. The Post Office telephone service ought to be taking a number of these apprentice workers and training skilled men, but instead of expanding its force to meet the public demand it will, of necessity, have to put the brakes on. That is bad for the country and for the Post Office.

My last point concerns the general atmosphere of the service. In any business it is thoroughly bad to go on year after year with more demands than the business can meet. Not only is it frustrating to the go-ahead people in the organisation, but it provides a bad atmosphere. We ought to be out now, selling the telephone service to people. We ought not to be telling people, "No, you cannot have a telephone." We ought to be saying to people "You want a telephone. You want two telephones." We ought to be telling the people with shared lines, "If you want one you can have a line to yourself." If we are to change from this excess of demand over supply, the whole attitude of the telephone service has to be changed to a spirit of enterprise.

I urge my right hon. Friend to be really firm with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In this case, the Treasury has made a mistake. It is true that, industrially, the pace in this country is not as fast as we should like to see. On that point my right hon. Friend would be justified in going to the Treasury and saying, "However right you think this was in the past, at present we have not enough money to overtake the backlog. Indeed, it will worsen the position in a few years' time." He is entitled to put that point of view, and if he did I think that he would get an extra allocation from the Treasury. I urge that in the interests of the telephone users, the telephone staffs and common sense.

1.46 p.m.

Mr. John Edwards (Brighouse and Spenborough)

We are grateful to the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. W. Shepherd) for raising this matter. The Postmaster-General is probably grateful too. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman himself is here to answer this brief debate.

I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman, with his known business acumen, can be satisfied with the period of looking ahead for which he is allowed to plan, or with the resources put at his disposal. The hon. Gentleman has covered the ground and I can do little more than add here and there to the points that he has made. Let me take first of all the level of investment.

Perhaps the most interesting figure here is that which is given in Appendix B of the Economic Survey for 1959 which, in Table 32, gives the gross fixed investment in the public sector programmes. The total for all programmes, from the National Coal Board to the Central Government and local government sectors, is. for 1956–57, £1,305 million; for 1957–58, £1,418 million; for 1958–59, an estimated sum of £1,449 million and for 1959–60, an estimated sum of £1,607 million. The corresponding figures for the Post Office are £101 million for 1956–57; £101 million for 1957–58; £98 million for 1958–59 and £94 million for 1959–60.

Let me put those figures into percentage terms which will bring them out more clearly. Over the period where the total gross fixed investment is to grow by 23 per cent., the corresponding figure for the Post Office is a decline of 7 per cent. This is quite extraordinary. It is almost unbelievable that a revenue-producing service, a profitable service—although these figures are for the Post Office as a whole, we know that about 90 per cent. of them concern the telephone service—is being deprived of capital. Not only that, but capital expenditure by the Post Office is limited by the amount which it is allowed to invest in any one year. I am quoting from the Postmaster-General's own White Paper, Cmnd. 690, paragraph 2. It goes on: This, along with other public sector investment, is determined by Government decisions as to what can he afforded in the public sector as a whole, and in each of its constituent parts, in the prevailing condition of the national economy. What private business conducting an enterprise of the importance and on the scale of the Post Office would be content to budget year by year? This is unsatisfactory. The Post Office itself is on the record as having said that nothing less than a three-year plan is any good for its purpose. I know that the Post Office endeavours to plan, but its planning is liable to be upset by the fact that the figures for capital expenditure are determined by Government decisions year by year.

Next, I should like to follow the hon. Member for Cheadle on the question of the waiting list. People may have different views about how the figures are to be interpreted and I will not make a detailed analysis of the figures. I content myself with one quotation from Cmnd. 690, Post Office Capital Expenditure, 1959–60, paragraph 15, which reads: The Post Office plans to bring service to 370,000 applicants in 1959–60. That sounds very good, but it continues: At expected levels of new demands the number awaiting service at the end of the year will probably be around 137,000 as compared with 140,000 at the beginning of the year. If I understand the position correctly, over about twelve months it is expected that the number awaiting service will be reduced by only 3,000, taking the new demand into account. I have not done the arithmetic, but it is clear that at that rate it will take many Postmaster-Generals, even under a normal period of office, before we see the end of the waiting list. This cannot be satisfactory.

The hon. Member for Cheadle referred to the effect on staff. I can claim to speak on this point, since for so long I was involved in the work of the Post Office Engineering Union, and I hardly need stress to the Postmaster-General—I am sure that he is fully aware of it—that there is a connection between the level of capital investment and the morale of the staff. If a man feels that he belongs to an expanding dynamic service which is taking in and training new people, he is much more likely to be on his toes than if he has a feeling that the organisation is being held back, not being allowed to do what it ought to do and not taking in youngsters.

I stress this point because I believe it to be of the greatest importance. What has bothered me most has been what I regard as the mistaken policy of cutting down—which is a mild way of putting it —the recruitment of youths in training. This is bad for the Post Office and also bad for the Government, because I recollect, as does the Postmaster-General, that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, speaking last year in Oxford, made the following appeal: I appeal to all firms which are not training apprentices at present quickly to make plans to do so. The whole burden of his case was that we ought not to let up on this point. Yet here we have one of the important Departments of State at present cutting down in the recruitment of youths in training. This cannot be made up later. If we miss several years we cannot make them up later, because the age composition of the labour force will be badly out of balance.

I return to the point which I made at the beginning. Looking at the Post Office solely as a business enterprise, it is foolish, especially in present circumstances, not to have a bigger capital programme. This is a profitable enterprise. It is not advertised. It is an enterprise which could obtain a greater demand if it went out for it, but it is being deprived of capital. It is not giving to the national revenue the contribution which it could give or, alternatively, it is not working at the economical level which would be possible if it were larger.

If this were a private business the directors of the company would have no more doubt than I imagine the Postmaster-General has that this enterprise needs more capital. Anything that any of us can do to support the right hon. Gentleman in his efforts to get more capital for the development of the telephone service we shall gladly do.

We must not overlook the fact that at present it is the Government's considered policy that the economy needs stimulation, that more purchasing power must be put into the economy in various ways and that investment must be stepped up. Here is a case in which investment could be stepped up with good secondary results in the manufacturing industries which provide all the equipment needed for the telephone service. I look forward with interest to hearing what the right hon. Gentleman says. More power to him in his efforts to get more capital for the telephone service.

1.57 p.m.

The Postmaster-General (Mr. Ernest Marples)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) for raising this subject today and for the moderate and lucid way in which he has developed his argument. I am also grateful to him for the help which he has given to the Post Office since I have been Postmaster-General, with his constructive criticisms in debate and his attention to the affairs of the Post Office.

My hon. Friend has made a number of suggestions. I recollect one suggestion about postmen's uniforms, which I have taken up very late in the day. I hope that we can do something both about the design of the uniform and about the quality of the material. I am also grateful to the right hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. J. Edwards), who is always moderate and lucid in his argument.

We are in a little danger of confusing the terms "capital expenditure" and "capital investment", which are two different things. In our White Paper, "Post Office Capital Expenditure, 1959–60", Cmnd. 690, hon. Members will read in paragraph 2 this description of capital expenditure: This means gross additions to fixed assets less the residual value of assets displaced. It includes not only what is spent on the extension of the system but also what is necessary to renew worn-out plant. The total differs slightly from that commonly quoted as the permitted capital investment for the year because the latter includes some items which are not treated as capital expenditure in the accounts (e.g. re-arrangement of plant) and excludes capital expenditure on the purchase of sites and existing buildings. I make that more as a contribution to the record than to debate, because I want to make it clear that there is a difference between capital expenditure, as shown in the White Paper, and capital investment. I am not in the least frightened of publishing the figures, because "Post Office Capital Expenditure" will be published annually and the House will be kept informed of what is happening.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle said that there is now relative freedom in capital expenditure. As Professor Joad would have said, it depends what you mean by "relative freedom". In the private sector, Imperial Chemical Industries, Unilever, Associated Electrical Industries and the other big corporations can do what they like. Provided that they have the cash, they can spend it. In the public sector, rightly or wrongly, the principle is that we cannot do what we like. The Government decide, first, the level of investment which the country can afford, and in doing this the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to bear in mind the resources of industry, the savings of the people, the Budget surplus and how to make certain that we have a secure £. That amount having been decided —and this was started by the late Sir Stafford Cripps, in his wisdom—the Treasury has to decide how to apportion it between the various competing needs. Many of the Departments have competing needs for such things as hospitals and roads.

If the total is right, how should it be divided? There are hospitals, roads, railways, housing, education, the Post Office, electricity, gas, coal, and all the rest. If the Post Office is to have more, and I, as Postmaster-General, would like it to have very much more, who shall have less? Neither in the contribution from the right hon. Gentleman nor in the contribution from my hon. Friend, both of which, as I said, were moderate, was anything said about who was to have less.

There is a good case to be made for increasing the allocation to all the Departments I have mentioned. I could make out a magnificent case for hospitals. I could make out a perfect case for roads. One has only to try to drive to the House of Commons to see what a good case could be made there. I can make out a wonderful case for education, because education is necessary so that we may keep pace with technological developments. I could make a magnificent case for electricity. I can make a good case for the Post Office. Whether all the arguments can be reconciled is another matter.

I admit to the House straight away that I myself am not happy on two counts. The first count is the definition of capital investment. I have gone into this very closely in the Post Office and I have found that some very curious things have been included in capital expenditure. In my own home, I have a telephone and a main line running from the Post Office. During some alterations recently, workmen cut through one of the wires. It took a long time to find it. When it was found, the Post Office, with characteristic generosity, charged me £10 for putting the wire right. I paid the £10. In the definition of capital investment, that is included as increasing the assets of the Post Office and comes in as capital investment although, in fact, it is only repaid.

As I say, I am not happy about the definition. I have been discussing the matter with the Treasury for six months, and we have virtually reached agreement so that a large section of those items which formerly were capital investment can now be lifted out and will be free from any restrictions. The right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend will agree that that is a step forward.

The second count on which I am bound to say I am not happy any more than, I suppose, the Minister of Health is happy about hospitals, the Minister of Transport is happy about roads, or the Minister of Education is happy about education, is the total sum allocated to Post Office capital investment. It is a downward trend.

Mr. Shepherd

My right hon. Friend is speaking about hospital and roads. I think that we ought to relate the argument to revenue-producing industries operated by the State. Clearly, the amount spent on roads or hospitals is almost unlimited, but we are here concerned with what is required in terms of capital investment to meet the demand for a Government-operated service for industry. We ought to stick to that comparison.

Mr. Marples

I quite agree, but the point is that the Government system does not stick to that comparison. I should like it to do so. I should like to divide the capital investment allocations between revenue-producing industries and trading industries, on the one hand, and straight expenditure from taxation, on the other, as my hon. Friend says. If I could persuade the Government to do so, I should be glad. I shall do my best. I agree that there is a difference between a revenue-producing concern and one which takes its money purely from taxation.

There is a downward trend in the allocation for Post Office capital investment. I should like to have the downward trend put accurately. In 1956–57, the figure was £101.1 million. In 1957–58, it was £101 million. Those figures are actual out-turn. In 1958–59, the forecast is £98 million. For 1959–60, it is £94.5 million, and for 1960–61 it is £91.5 million. These are September, 1958, prices, constant prices. It is a downward cut. I wish I had the same freedom in the Post Office as I have in my own business. Nothing would give me greater pleasure. But the Government being restricted as they are in this respect, I do not have it.

The amounts for 1959–60 and 1960–61 are not fixed firmly. We are still negotiating. I am still deploying arguments and I shall deploy more arguments. I am reinforced by the contributions in this debate. I shall go into battle with the Treasury, like all the other Ministers. reinforced by the lucid arguments that have been put today. I am quite certain that, as the right hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough said, one cannot run a business like the Post Office or any big business on a year-to-year basis. It is physically impossible to so do. There must be a steady programme, and one cannot turn that programme on and off as though it were a tap. The business will not be efficient if one does.

One of the inconsistencies, as my hon. Friend will, I am sure, agree —this is one of the arguments I shall deploy —is that, if the capital investment on roads is increased and roads are built, the telephone cables which should be laid when the roads are being made must be thought of at the same time. Automatically, investment on the telephones service should be increased if investment on roads is increased. If it is not, if one does not put down the cables when a road is in an unmade condition, one has to come back afterwards, tear up the road and put down the cables. Therefore, one of the arguments I put is that, technically, cables and roads are married and cannot be divorced financially. Otherwise, one has inefficiency. To that extent, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman.

Another important point about the amount of money we receive is that it is not only the cash one receives that matters. What use one makes of it arid whether one receives value for money is important also. I hope shortly to show the House and the country that we have gone to great lengths to produce value for money. We have been working for eighteen months to two years on how we shall construct our buildings such as telephone exchanges, and I think I shall be able to show a quite startling change in value for money.

Another worrying thing is that any cuts which are made in capital investment fall with great severity on the contractors who provide the Post Office with cables, telephones and the like. Post Office engineers are civil servants. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend that they have done splendid work. Without their skill being great and their morale being high, that work would not have been done as it has. We cannot "fire" them at a second's notice, and it is right that we should not. We cannot "hire and fire" as a more normal private company can. They are civil servants. This gives them security and, I think, peace in their hearts and helps them to give efficient service. It is right that this should be so. Those are the advantages.

There is, however, a price to be paid. One has in the Post Office a fairly rigid labour force, relatively rigid, anyhow, compared with other enterprises. Wages amount to almost the same steady charge out of capital investment and, therefore, if there is any cut, it cannot fall an the workmen—in my view, rightly so—but it must fall on the contractors. Therefore, we give our contractors a rather rough time by imposing savage cuts or making increases according to alterations in capital investment. I sympathise with the contractors, but, at the same time, I feel that the Post Office, as a good employer, ought to make sure that its employees, the Post Office engineers, are well looked after.

If we recruit too many people, we are recruiting to a permanent labour force, and this makes our difficulties greater. Officials in the Post Office have a very delicate task in trying to weigh the amount of recruitment necessary against the capital investment which we think we shall have. Great skill is needed. If too many are recruited, we can easily find ourselves in great difficulty unless we resort to this savage dictum of "hire and fire," which I should not like to see the Post Office do. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not agree that we should take on Post Office engineers on a "hire and fire" basis.

Something was said about the order list. The order list comprises two things. First, there is the waiting list. Secondly, there are those who are in course of being connected with the telephone. The waiting list was about 250,000 three years ago, and it is now 60,000. Whatever argument may be deployed today—I have great sympathy with much that is said—the waiting list has been reduced. My hon. Friend referred to organising scarcity. We have reduced that from 250,000 to 60,000, which does not mean organising scarcity. That is a very harsh phrase which I would not have expected to hear from my hon. Friend. Of the 60,000 now left, although it is a hard core, it changes every year. The number of people who have been waiting for three years or over is no more than 9,000. Therefore, the figure of 60,000 is constantly changing and we should get the matter in perspective.

It is no good saying that people cannot get a telephone. In some areas they can get one tomorrow: in others it is more difficult. In some rural parts of Wales it may be difficult, but in Bournemonth, for instance, one can get a telephone tomorrow. It depends on where one lives largely because of the cable which has been laid. To wire up a telephone in one's own home costs £9, but it costs £85 to lay two pairs of wires to a home and £16 worth of exchange equipment is needed.

As distinct from the waiting list, at the time of the preparation of the White Paper to which reference has been made we envisaged a drop in the order list by March, 1960, of about 3,000 and a rise of about 25,000 by March, 1961, but demand is rising again. The net demand for the last four quarters has been as follows: June, 1958, 72,600; September, 1958, 80,300; December, 1958, 84,700; and March, 1959, 92,000. It is true, therefore, that if the investment level in the Post Office, which is tentative and not fixed, remains as it is now the order list will undoutedly rise. Whether right or wrong, that is a fact.

We have not done too badly from the point of view of additional funds. We received an extra £3 million in 1958–59 and an extra £4 million in 1959–60 for reflationary purposes without which the situation would have been most serious. We are still negotiating the ceilings for 1959–60 and 1960–61 with the Treasury and we will do our utmost to get the figure raised. With the help of the contributions which have been made today, I hope to be able to deploy my arguments more convincingly than I could have done without that assistance.

Another point raised by my hon. Friend concerned the circular issued by the Post Office Engineering Union and others to all Members of Parliament. I should like to say a word about this matter. The Secretary of the Post Office Engineering Union is a former Member of the House. My hon. Friend will remember him in the Parliament of 1945–50 as the Labour Member for Colchester. This is a free country where free speech is the order of the day. He can say what he likes, when he likes and how he likes. I make no objection to that. But just as he has free speech, so have I.

Many of the officials with whom I deal at the Post Office have taken a poor view of the method chosen to draw attention to the Post Office share in public investment. I think that the action of the Union is more likely to harm the case of the Post Office and the Union than to help it, because they are not competitive; they are complementary. Free speech can often do a great deal of harm, as many eminent field marshals have found out.

I remember one man who once burst into speech saying to me, "I told the truth, and that is what you politicians cannot always do". I had my wife with me, and I said, "There are a lot of truths which I can tell my wife, but I do not think that that will promote harmony". It may well be that this outburst of the Post Office Engineering Union has had the same effect. I cannot tell, but I am sorry that the Union saw fit to do what it did.

In the circular which the Union issued there are many exaggerations and omissions. The Union said that the level of investment has been restricted in an arbitrary fashion. That is quite untrue. The investment level was settled after the Government had carefully weighed the needs of the Post Office against those of other public bodies. The circular says nothing about the competing needs, such as hospitals, roads and electricity.

My hon. Friend referred to people on a shared service. The Union says that there are too many people on a shared service. All I can say is that the proportion of subscribers on a shared service in the United Kingdom is less than that of the United States, which has infinitely greater resources than we have. We have had very few complaints. Indeed, I have had some very irate letters from people who have been given an exclusive service because they wanted a shared service either because of its cheaper rental or for the enjoyment, perhaps, of listening to someone else's conversation, especially if the Postmaster-General is speaking. In some parts of the country it is possible to get a telephone on demand. Elsewhere, customers have to wait.

The Union said that the Post Office has not advertised. In fact, we have spent more money on advertising, in the last two years than in the previous three years. Sometimes we advertise without spending money. When I was in the United States I was a guest of the A.T. and T. and the Bell Telephone System. They had a television programme which cost 400,000 dollars per hour. In that programme they got a plug of two and a half to three minutes. When Her Majesty the Queen graciously came to Bristol we got far more than that, free of charge. Advertising does not necessarily involve expenditure. I will not go into other parts of the Post Office Engineering Union's circular.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this matter in a measured and reasonable manner. I see his point of view. Indeed. I share it in some respects. If my hon. Friend can lobby the Chancellor and persuade him in this matter, I should be more grateful than he can imagine. I should like to have just as free a hand in the Post Office as I have normally in private enterprise. If I had a free hand. I would be a very happy man.

I am also grateful to the Opposition for the stand which they have taken in a reasonable way. The Post Office is a great service. Morale is high. Our job is to expand the system if we can and, at the same time, make sure that it is more efficient than the system of any other country in the world. I think that we shall be able to achieve that end, because our system of charging for telephone calls is so simple now that the machine has been set free. Thirty per cent. of the calling revenue in America goes to the cost of recording the call. In Bristol, where we have had this great experiment, less than per cent. is spent in that way. In Bristol, 97 per cent. of the calls that could have been dialled have been dialled. In the United States the comparative figure is 57 per cent.

We are now set to surge forward to a great telephone service. I shall be greatly disappointed if we do not achieve our object.