HC Deb 14 July 1975 vol 895 cc1045-6
15. Mr. Ovenden

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will issue a general direction to the Post Office instructing it to abolish the charge at present made to customers taking over existing apparatus and lines.

Mr. Gregor Mackenzie

No, Sir. Such service charges are a matter of commercial judgment for the Post Office.

Mr. Ovenden

Although I understand my hon. Friend's reluctance to interfere in matters of this sort, may I ask whether he accepts that this charge probably causes more resentment than any other and that in levying such a charge the Post Office is out of step with other nationalised industries? Will he ask the Post Office to examine whether it might be in the interests of good public relations, and might also encourage potential subscribers, if this charge were dropped?

Mr. Mackenzie

I am sure that my hon. Friend's comments will be taken note of by the people concerned in the Post Office. I have raised this question with them. The transfer of a line from one customer to another entails clerical costs and other factors which make the charge inevitable.

Mr. Costain

Will the Minister explain what extra costs the Post Office incurs in transferring a line above those incurred by the gas, electricity and other public services?

Mr. Mackenzie

I understand from the Post Office that costs involved in the figure are the amendment of the directory, accounts, exchange records, the issue of advice notes and so on.

Mr. Greville Janner

Will my hon. Friend consider the existing arrangements which cause resentment? Does he agree that subscribers and customers should not be put to expense because lines are defective? If so, does he agree that the present arrangement is scandalous? I refer to the practice whereby a caller must pay double for a call from a call box when a second call must be put through the operator after the first dialled call is unsuccessful as the line is out of order.

Mr. Mackenzie

That does not arise out of this Question.