HC Deb 15 July 1985 vol 83 cc16-7
36. Mr. Peter Bruinvels

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the reasons for the decision to purchase a new telephone exchange system for the Palace of Westminster and the criteria which were used to determine that all hon. and right hon. Members and their secretaries should be provided with new telephones.

Mr. Biffen

I refer my hon. Friend to the first report of the Services Committee in Session 1980–81, in which the reasons for a new exchange being required are set out at length. New telephones are required because, among other things, the existing ones will not work with the new exchange.

Mr. Bruinvels

I read the report before tabling this question. To provide the House with these so-called wonder phones with alarms, digital clocks and calculators, not just for hon. Members, but for secretaries as well, seems to be a gross expense, bearing in mind that it will cost £2,037,000 to provide those facilities. Is my right hon. Friend able to say what will happen to the old phones?

Mr. Biffen

The old phones, which were rented, will be returned to British Telecommunications and subsequent use will be made of them. I appreciate my hon. Friend's anxiety that we should not spend more on this than is strictly necessary, but I question whether a secretary should somehow or other have a lesser telephone facility than an hon. Member.

Mr. Dubs

Is the Leader of the House aware that many of us are thankful that we are at long last to have a decent telephone system to replace the decrepit one from which we now suffer, one that has constant malfunctions and gets wrong numbers? It is a welcome step that this House is at last being dragged into the 20th century in at least one area of modern technology.

Mr. Biffen

I am sure that that was intended to be helpful. We are to have a new telephone system because the demand is such that a new exchange must be obtained. It is not true to say that the present telephone facilities are archaic and impede us in doing our job properly.

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