HC Deb 23 January 1962 vol 652 cc8-9
12. Mrs. Butler

asked the Postmaster-General what action he proposes to take to assist old people living alone with the cost of their telephones where this involves financial hardship.

Mr. Bevins

I have considered this idea sympathetically on several occasions and I should very much like to respond to the hon. Lady's suggestion, but the practical difficulties are very real—I will write to the hon. Member about them—and I am afraid I cannot at present agree to differential charges.

Mrs. Butler

Is the Postmaster-General aware that being able to get in touch quickly by telephone with family and friends—or, in an emergency, with the doctor or the police—plays a very large part in enabling elderly people to live happily and safely alone; and that many are now being forced to give up the telephone because of the increased cost? The right hon. Gentleman says that he has looked at the question several times, but would he please look at it again? If he did, I am quite certain that he would find a way round the problem, and help these people who most need it.

Mr. Bevins

As the hon. Lady knows, the difficulty here is to know where to draw the line. If this concession were to be made to elderly people who are housebound and living alone I am quite sure that we should get demands for similar concessions from the disabled, the blind, charitable organisations, and so forth. But I am perfectly ready at any time to discuss this quite freely with the hon. Lady.

Mr. W. R. Williams

May I press on the Postmaster-General that despite the difficulties, of which I am quite aware, there is a real case for re-examination here? I myself have received quite a number of letters which lead me to believe that many of these old people are denying themselves the basic essentials of life in order to retain this, the only contact they have with relatives and friends. Would he be prepared to discuss with some of us the possibility of starting this, on a limited scale first of all, and, if that is possible, to see how it could be enlarged?

Mr. Bevins

I have already referred to some of the practical difficulties, but I also implied that my mind is certainly riot closed on this very human problem.

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