HC Deb 29 April 1991 vol 190 c15
37. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, representing the House of Commons Commission, what was the House of Commons telephone bill for the last 12 months.

Mr. Beith

The estimated cost of telecommunications services for the House in the last financial year is £2,169,982.

Mr. Banks

I am sure that we get great benefit from that expenditure, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, there are a considerable number of complaints about the telephone services that we receive. This is not a criticism of the staff, but those outside—our constituents and others who try to contact us—are always complaining about the time that it takes for the telephones to be answered. That is British Telecom's responsibility because BT sends in the people to staff the switchboard. Clearly, it is not doing the job properly. I am not in favour of Mercury and I was certainly not in favour of the privatisation of BT. However, now that BT has been privatised, cannot we consider the alternatives? For example, Mercury says that it can produce a saving of £50,000 a year and provide a better service. The hon. Gentleman should get off his behind and do something, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) suggested.

Mr. Beith

The running of telecommunications services is a matter for the Services Committee. I understand that, some time ago, the Committee considered a request to allow Mercury to provide a share of the outgoing lines, but recommended no change. However, the matter is still under consideration. The hon. Gentleman will know that there are Mercury call-boxes within the precincts of the House.

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