HC Deb 23 January 1969 vol 776 cc629-31
1. Mr. Loveys

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will publish a list of telephones which are sold in this country but which Post Office engineers are instructed not to connect.

7. Mr. Kenneth Baker

asked the Postmaster-General what discussions he has had, and with whom, with regard to private suppliers or users of subscriber apparatus being authorised, to connect their equipment to the telephone system; what consultations he had had and with whom, with regard to the protection of the system in such circumstances; and whether he will make a statement.

The Postmaster-General (Mr. John Stonehouse)

Post Office engineers may only connect: to the public system telephones supplied through the Post Office. I do not keep lists of other telephones on sale in this country. Discussions on the connection of privately-owned equipment to the Post Office system have been held with the Telecommunications Engineering and Manufacturing Association, the Institute of Office Management, the Post Office Users' Council, the Confederation of British Industry and representatives of individual manufacturing and user companies, and have included the subject of protection of the Post Office system. I am considering carefully the advice that has been offered from these quarters.

Mr. Loveys

May I press the Minister to look again at the regulations bearing on this, since many such telephones have been connected, are working perfectly satisfactorily and are quite up to the specifications and standards of the G.P.O. telephones? Is there any justifiable reason why one cannot have a telephone of one's own choice in one's own home, as is the case in most free countries of the world?

Mr. Stonehouse

I have noticed in the Press that the hon. Gentleman was concerned about an antique telephone that had been given to him as a birthday present. I believe that antique telephones are on sale, but it would not be appropriate for these to be connected with the Post Office system because they are substandard in some respects, and it is important that the Post Office should have controls on the equipment that is connected to the system in order to ensure that the system works efficiently.

Mr. Loveys

On a point of order. The Minister is quite misinformed about the type of telephone—

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Baker

Does the Postmaster-General recall what was said by the Assistant Postmaster-General on the Second Reading of the Post Office Bill, namely, that no monopoly exists for the supply of subscriber apparatus? Does he intend to make this Government policy and allow subscribers virtually to order their own apparatus direct from suppliers?

Mr. Stonehouse

As I said in my reply, we are considering the position, and I hope to make a statement in due course.

Mr. Dobson

Does my right hon. Friend recollect the letter on this subject which he wrote to me stating that an internal examination was taking place, and will he not accept that, although he has made outside approaches, he has not approached the trade union particularly concerned, the Post Office Engineering Union? Will he undertake to do so before reaching any conclusions?

Mr. Stonehouse

I will do that, certainly.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what progress has been made in altering the Post Office specification to bring it more into line with overseas specifications so as to help our manufacturers in the export market?

Mr. Stonehouse

I have been in close discussion with the suppliers to the Post Office with a view to improving our procurement procedure to assist in the export drive.

Mr. Loveys

I beg leave to give notice that, owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment.