§ Mr. Hanley
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made in the arrangements for the interim approval of key telephone systems and small automatic call distribution apparatus announced on 23 November, Official Report, c. 423.
§ Mr. Butcher
I have been concerned about delays in testing some small call routeing apparatus submitted under the arrangements for the approval of key telephone systems and small automatic call distribution apparatus and have reviewed the situation both with the suppliers and with British Telecommunications.
Resources devoted to testing and evaluation are now being increased. The current position on the 12 systems under evaluation is as follows: two have completed the laboratory stage of testing and have been released for trial site evaluation of their operational performance; five other systems are potentially likely to go into the trial site stage of testing at an early date; five systems have required fairly extensive modifications to meet United Kingdom requirements and are still some way off the completion of laboratory testing.
BT has agreed to complete the work of laboratory testing and trial site evaluation of all systems by October, providing the suppliers concerned have their equipment ready in time and make good the defects which testing has revealed. Several systems are likely to complete all stages of their evaluation well before this.
I have told BT that my objective is that by 15 September all systems should be released for trial site connection, and I am making arrangements for some additional testing facilities to be used in non-BT test houses. During the first week in September my officials will discuss with BT any systems which are unlikely to hav passed the laboratory tests by 15 September with a view to allowing laboratory testing to continue in parallel with trial site evaluation, providing the systems have met the safety requirements.
I have also agreed with BT that systems going on the trial site stage of their evaluation should be allowed to include certain enhanced facilities in advance of full laboratory testing provided there is no risk to safety or of harm to BT's network. This will be subject to suppliers making it clear to customers that these facilities have not been fully tested and might not work satisfactorily. Specifications are being written for these enhanced facilities and are expected to be available shortly. The facilities, including those on BT's own comparable systems, will have to comply with these specifications and any necessary modifications will need to be made before full approval is given. However, if laboratory testing of enhanced facilities is not completed by the time trial site evaluation is successfully concluded, provisional approval will be given. During trial site evaluation, and afterwards where provisional approval is given, BT will have the right to insist on the disconnection of any apparatus possessing such facilities if it is demonstrated that these facilities cause unacceptable interference with the network.