HC Deb 24 November 1980 vol 994 cc197-8
12. Mr. Lennox-Boyd

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he intends to allow British Telecom to continue its monopoly control over the maintenance of private branch exchange equipment, notwithstanding the legislation promised in the Gracious Speech.

Mr. Adam Butler

Yes. Under the British Telecommunications Bill, published on Friday, my right hon. Friend will have power to license activities which will compete in the area of British Telecommunications' present monopoly, but we intend to leave responsibility for the telephone network with British Telecommunications, and with it the maintenance of private branch exchanges.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Does my hon. Friend agree that the public will be very surprised at the suggestion that private branch exchange equipment is an integral part of the telephone network, and will be most reluctant to buy or hire from the private sector equipment that is to be maintained by engineers in the public sector?

Mr. Butler

My hon. Friend must be aware that the larger private exchanges are supplied by the private sector direct to customers at the moment, and those are maintained by BT. It is correct to say that we considered this problem very carefully and decided that it would be to the general advantage if maintenance were left with BT, in view of the responsibility that we have left with it for the network as a whole.

Mr. Golding

Is the Minister aware that this decision will be welcomed by those who work in British Telecommunications? Is he further aware that the customers will be pleased about the decision, as it would make no sense to call a maintenance man to examine a fault when that fault could have arisen in Post Office switching, in a Post Office line, or in private equipment on the subscriber's premises arid that it is far better for one concern to have complete responsibility for the maintenance, to avoid the duplication of calls?

Mr. Butler

British Telecommunications will have to demonstrate very clearly that it is worthy of this continuing responsibility.

Sir Bernard Braine

Is my hon. Friend aware that since 1 April evidence has been accumulating of damage to certain highly efficient and competitive British firms making telephone equipment, owing to the flooding in of foreign equipment that is not only not Post Office approved but is incompatible with the British telephone system? Does not the public interest demand some action from his Department?

Mr. Butler

It will be part of the new regime that all equipment will have to be certified by an independent body and marked accordingly before it can be used.

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