HC Deb 21 November 1968 vol 773 c1518
6. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Postmaster-General if he has completed his consideration of the possibility of reducing the rental for telephones in respect of elderly people living alone.

Mr. Joseph Slater

As my right hon. Friend told the hon. Gentleman on 11th April, we have much sympathy with elderly people living alone, but concessionary charges by the Post Office are not an appropriate way of dealing with this problem. There has been no change in policy since then and we are not considering reducing the rental for any section of the community. The Research Fellowship at Essex University, which the hon. Gentleman may have in mind, is investigating the communication needs of the elderly.—[Vol. 762, c. 292.]

Mr. Taylor

Does the Minister recall telling me in April that about 55,000 people would be forced to give up their telephones because of the increased rental charges? As many of these will be old people living alone, for whom the telephone is the only contact with friends, relatives and the emergency services, is there anything he can do? Is his mind entirely closed?

Mr. Slater

Concessions to individuals or groups are inappropriate, first, because other Post Office customers would have to bear the cost and, secondly, because the Post Office has no means of discriminating between the many claims which would be made, or even of checking their validity.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

Does not my hon. Friend agree that there is a sense of justice in this demand? Although many of us appreciate that this question is more appropriate for the Minister of Social Security, will not he take up the whole aspect of this problem with that Minister?

Mr. Slater

That is another question. I am given to understand, however, that the Supplementary Benefits Commission of the Department of Health and Social Security gives financial assistance towards the cost of a telephone in instances where it considers it appropriate.