HC Deb 17 November 1964 vol 702 cc181-2
19. Mr. Brewis

asked the Postmaster-General, what proportion of telegraph poles is of home-grown timber; and whether he will revise the specification to enable a larger proportion of homegrown poles to qualify.

Mr. Joseph Slater

About one-eighth of the poles purchased in the last five years were of home-grown timber. We gladly take all the home-grown poles we can get, and our standards for them are already much less exacting than those for imported poles. I am advised that to lower the standards further would involve undue risks of danger to staff and public and shortening of the physical life of the poles.

Mr. Brewis

I thank the hon. Member for that reply, but is not there scope here both for saving imports and encouraging our own forestry industry? Will he look at the specification in force in other European countries? My impression is that it is a great deal lower than in this country.

Mr. Slater

We seek competitive tenders for all our poles, and if the prices quoted for imported poles are lower than those for home-grown poles we normally offer the home growers contracts for the maximum number they can supply at prices equivalent to those quoted for imported poles. In practice, the prices that we pay for home-grown and imported poles are substantially the same.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Will the Minister try to take other steps to improve this proportion, particularly in view of the fact that the amount of maturing home-grown timber is increasing, especially from the woodlands of the Forestry Commission itself?

Mr. Slater

It might be for the benefit of the House and for hon. Members who are interested in this question if I circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT figures concerning the number of imported poles and United Kingdom poles. This might give some of the information that the hon. Member requires.