HC Deb 02 March 1960 vol 618 cc1209-10
32. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Postmaster-General if he will exempt the local telephone calls of general practitioners to hospitals from the revision of rates, which proposes that such calls will be on a timed basis for charging purposes.

Mr. Bevins

The hon. Member no doubt has in mind the subscriber trunk dialling tariff under which all calls will be charged for in units of 2d., the amount of time so bought depending on the distance. With this system, many local calls will be charged 2d. instead of 3d. I am afraid it is technically impossible to exempt, from timing, local calls from or to particular installations.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the right hon. Gentleman have another look at the technical difficulties involved, in view of the fact that already we have established a precedent in that other emergency calls, under 999, are exempt from payment altogether? Does he realise the terrific burden this will place on general practitioners in trying to place people urgently in local hospitals? It is impossible for a general practitioner to ask a hospital to ring back, and he often needs to ring three or four hospitals. Until he has his first answer it is impossible to carry the inquiry further. Will the right hon. Gentleman please see if he can overcome the technical difficulties, which I am quite sure can be adjusted on the accounting system even if these calls are originally timed?

Mr. Bevins

I appreciate the peculiar position of doctors under this new system, but I am advised that the technical difficulties of making this differentiation are insuperable. I am, however, willing to have a look at this again, if the hon. Member will leave it with me.

Mr. G. Brown

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that doctors are not the only people who use their telephones for purposes of social services calls? If he is to look at this matter again, will he also consider it from the point of view of other people, such as M.P.s, trade union officials and others who have to use the telephone for social services?

Mr. Bevins

The case of doctors is a very special one in so far as they often have to wait for connections with wards in hospitals.