HC Deb 29 November 1972 vol 847 cc397-9
5. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he will give a general direction to the Post Office not to connect or reconnect telephones to properties occupied by illegal squatters.

Sir J. Eden

No, Sir. A matter of this kind must be left to the Post Office.

Mr. Mitchell

When the Post Office is asked to connect or reconnect a telephone, what precautions does it take to ensure that the person making the request is the legal owner-occupier or tenant of the premises?

Sir J. Eden

The Post Office does not normally inquire into the circumstances of a person applying for a telephone: I do not think it would be right that it should do so. But if it were made clear to it that the person occupying the property was occupying it illegally, it would make a point of consulting the legal owner about the provision of a telephone.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Surely the Post Office inquires into the creditworthiness of some potential subscribers, even if it does not inquire into the legality of their occupation of the premises. Will my right hon. Friend comment on that?

Sir J. Eden

The Post Office places considerable emphasis on the need to protect its revenues.

12. Mr. Loveridge

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications what changes in the waiting times for new telephone installations there have been over the past three years.

10. Mr. Jessel

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications what is the latest figure for the average waiting time for the installation of telephones.

Sir J. Eden

The Post Office tells me that the 20 per cent. of applicants who are placed on the waiting list for telephones have to wait, on average, just over five months. This time has not changed significantly over the last three years.

Mr. Loveridge

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Is he aware that the report of the Post Office National Users' Council said that supply and demand were clearly out of step over the matter of telephones? As this is at a time when the telecommunications services are due to get £4,000 million of extra capital over the next five years, may I ask how long it will take to cut the average waiting time by half?

Sir J. Eden

The reason for delay is not so much that there is a shortage of telephones as that there have been delays in the provision of exchange equipment and of buildings to house it. This is being energetically tackled by the Post Office, by industry, and by my Department. I hope that we shall be seeing increasing improvements in the coming months.

Dr. Miller

Will the Minister confirm or deny that in some areas there is a reprehensible practice in respect of payment for the installation of a telephone, in that some people are asked to make the payment in advance—sometimes as much as three or several months in advance—and others have the telephone installed before a bill is sent to them? This practice bears most heavily on working people, who may need a telephone just as much as middle-class people.

Sir J. Eden

That is a matter for the corporation.

Rev. Ian Paisley

What are the figures in regard to the installation of telephones in Northern Ireland? What priority is the Post Office giving to Northern Ireland for the many telephone subscribers who have been cut off because of terrorist activity? Is the priority to get them back on to the telephone system or to install new telephones?

Sir J. Eden

I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman's question without notice, but I will certain inquire into the position as he has brought it to my attention.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Is not a waiting period of even five months far too long? Something needs to be done quickly to reduce that period? Is the Minister aware that in the Dearne Valley constituency there is a long waiting list, especially in the Mexborough district, where at present no hope is held out that applicants can have telephones in two or three months?

Sir J. Eden

Yes; I am aware that some areas are worse than others. Special steps are being taken by the Post Office, in direct consultation with industry—and by myself and my Department, in consultation with industry and the Post Office—to identify the black areas and speed up the delivery of equipment.