HC Deb 07 February 1973 vol 850 cc447-9
22. Mr. William Price

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications how many people are at present waiting for the installation of a telephone.

Sir J. Eden

202,000 at the end of December.

Mr. Price

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the Post Office that nothing irritates people more than advertisements urging them to use the telephone when, in fact, they cannot get one? Will he explain, further, that there is a simple answer, namely to localise its efforts to areas where capacity is available?

Sir J. Eden

The Post Office is aware of the irritation caused to people when they are on the waiting list for any length of time. This is why the Post Office is concentrating as much as possible on a substantial investment programme for the provision of new exchange facilities.

Mr. Gorst

Is my right hon. Friend aware that for the last 10 or more years the consumers have been offered "jam tomorrow", but that we have not got that "jam tomorrow" today; we have got nothing but congestion and jam, and it would be a great encouragement to consumers if they had something more tangible to which they could look forward in the near future, in terms of an improved telephone service?

Sir J. Eden

The encouragement which my hon. Friend seeks should come from the fact that the numbers on the waiting list show a welcome downward trend, and although it is far too early to read anything much into these figures, I can assure my hon. Friend that in the industry, the Post Office and Government Departments there is a concerted drive.

Mr. James Hamilton

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the reason for this shortage is the fact that the equipment is not coming forward quickly enough? Will he raise this point with the Department of Trade and Industry and ask it to take cognisance of the point of which many of us on this side of the House are aware, namely, that many empty factories in our constituencies could easily produce this equipment?

Sir J. Eden

I wish the hon. Gentleman would look back to the many previous Questions and Answers that have been exchanged on this whole subject and take note of the fact that a very deliberate effort is being made by the three parties concerned in the building of the exchanges, the provision of the equipment and the planning of the system to ensure that the backlog is overcome and the increased demand is met as efficiently as possible.

26. Mr. Lawson

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications how many months it takes normally to provide an applicant with a telephone number in those cases where the telephone is already installed and believed to be operative.

Sir J. Eden

The Post Office tells me that this depends on the available capacity at the exchange concerned.

Mr. Lawson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is an example of someone waiting for nearly a year to get a telephone number? Is this not an astonishing deficiency on the part of the Post Office? Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that in my constituency applicants have been waiting for nearly four years for the installation of a telephone? Are he and the Government without any kind of influence whatsoever on the Post Office?

Sir J. Eden

The hon. Gentleman knows that in 1969 the previous Government passed an Act which created a separate corporation out of the Post Office, which was then a Department of Government. Having done that in that Act, certain responsibilities were placed squarely in the hands of the Chairman and Board of the Post Office Corporation and certain statutory duties were left with the Minister who became the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. The hon. Gentleman should direct his question to the Chairman of the Post Office Corporation.

Mr. Tom King

To put the matter into perspective, would I be right in believing that the number of telephones installed in the past year by the Post Office is an all-time record in this country? Is not the fact that waiting lists are so long indicative of the rising standard of living and the greater demand for telephones?

Sir J. Eden

It is certainly indicative of the substantially increased demand for telephones and the fact that arising out of decisions taken many years ago we have exchange equipment which is incapable of coping with that demand. Therefore, the prospect for improvement in the future rests very much with the decission, which is shortly to be taken, on new exchange equipment.