HC Deb 07 March 1968 vol 760 cc636-7
14. Mr. William Price

asked the Postmaster-General what percentage of orders for telephone equipment is running behind the delivery schedule.

Mr. Edward Short

About 80 per cent.

Mr. Price

Is not that a distressing Answer? Would not my right hon. Friend agree that hon. Members opposite could serve a more useful purpose by directing their energies away from abusing the Post Office and towards private enterprise, which is letting the country down?

Mr. Short

This is the major cause of our trouble in providing telephones and of the congestion in the system. In the 1950s, the demand for telephones in the 1960s was under-estimated. However, the industry has in the last few years made very great efforts, especially in the development areas. The crisis now is not so much one of capacity. The capacity is coming up to the point where it is adequate. The problem now is one of control of production and stores and I think that the industry will shortly get this in balance. I certainly hope so.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Does that mean that the right hon. Gentleman is no longer continuing his threat to import equipment because of the supposed slowness of things being supplied at home?

Mr. Short

If the choice at the end of the line was between utter chaos and importing equipment, I would not hesitate to import it. I hope, however, that the industry will not drive me to do that.

Mr. Bryan

To what extent can foreign suppliers supply this type of equipment?

Mr. Short

We are now using a certain amount of cross-bar equipment and I think that there would be a possibility of foreign suppliers supplying it. I repeat, however, that this would be done only in the last resort and that I hope that we will never be driven to do it.