HC Deb 07 November 1961 vol 648 cc767-8
1. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that his new system of timed telephone calls is causing inconvenience in business and academic circles; and if he will so arrange it as to be more selective.

The Assistant Postmaster-General (Miss Mervyn Pike)

My right hon. Friend's information is that the overwhelming majority of telephone subscribers who have had experience of the new system —and especially business subscribers —prefer it to the old system. As regards local calls, which the hon. Member may have particularly in mind, my right hon. Friend has done what he can to meet criticisms by extending the time allowed for 2d. from six to twelve minutes after 6 p.m. every evening and all day Sunday.

It is not technically possible to apply timing selectively to any particular class of subscriber.

Mr. Hughes

While I appreciate the laudable desire of the Postmaster-General to restrict unduly long and, possibly, expensive calls, is it beyond his wit to discover means of doing so without interfering with legitimate, constructive and, perhaps, affectionate conversation?

Miss Pike

I should have thought that the new discipline imposed would have encouraged those very virtues which the hon. and learned Gentleman's constituents would particularly appreciate, namely, brevity and lucidity. They might, perhaps, get a new motto, "Save your breath and save your bawbees."

Mr. W. R. Williams

Although it may be true that up to the present the reaction of some elements of the community and of subscribers has been favourable, is the hon. Lady aware that I am still getting many complaints from many sections of the community, and some from business people too, in regard to the difficulties which are occasioned? They feel that some further concessions might be made especially in cases where they have to have exchanges in order to deal with their calls. Will the hon. Lady have another look at that?

Miss Pike

We have actually received very few complaints from business men.

I think it is true to say that only about 2 per cent. of the complaints come from people who actually have experience of subscriber trunk dialling, but we shall always keep the whole position under review.