§ 8. Mr. Peter Emery
asked the Postmaster-General what further action 1241 he has taken to meet the increasing demand for telephones in the Reading area.
§ The Postmaster-General (Mr. Reginald Bevins)
I have increased the money available for the provision of local lines and subscriber circuits in the Reading area by 16 per cent. this year. I should have liked to do still more but competition for labour is so keen in the area that larger sums could not be absorbed. I am doing all I can to recruit more engineering staff, and I hope that next year I shall be able to spend substantially increased amounts on the provision of service in the area.
§ Mr. Emery
I thank my right hon. Friend for that very helpful reply. May I ask whether he would translate the percentage of 16 per cent. into money terms? Can he assure me that the plans for these extensions are already approved and that work is starting or is immediately about to start? Can he assure me that there should be some extra telephone receivers in the hands of subscribers during these next six months due to this work?
§ Mr. Bevins
At the moment I cannot give my hon. Friend the assurance he asked for towards the end of his supplementary question, but the capital expenditure on local lines and subscribers' circuits will be over £1 million in the current financial year and that represents an increase of 16 per cent. The key to the difficulty in the Reading area is the shortage of trained manpower. I should like to make it clear to my hon. Friend that I have asked my Department to consider as a matter of urgency measures for recruiting more.