§ Mr. Butcher
On 16 November 1981 my hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Information Technology announced the timetable for the liberalisation of the supply of telecommunications subscriber's apparatus. He then said that independent approval of private automatic branch exchanges was expected to begin in July 1983 but indicated that discussions were taking place which might make it possible to liberalise some small switching systems before that date.
The Department has consulted manufacturers of the apparatus in question and British Telecom; a definition of small call routing apparatus has been agreed to distinguish such apparatus from PABXs and a provisional specification has been drafted.
When the specification has been agreed I intend to invite private suppliers of small call routing apparatus to submit applications to my Department for their apparatus to be selected for testing to establish their conformity with the specification. Since available test resources are unlikely to meet all the expected demand, I shall select the order of priority in which the items are to be tested on the basis of criteria which will be set out in my invitation. Where apparatus has been selected for testing and is found to conform with the specification to an acceptable degree, the Secretary of State intends to approve it for connection to the public switched telephone network, and the supplier of the apparatus will then be free to sell it direct to the public, provided he meets the conditions for connection laid down by BT.
I hope to make my announcement and to give details of when and how to apply as soon as possible.