Oral Answers to Questions — Telephone Service, Plymouth and Exeter.

– in the House of Commons on 23rd July 1924.

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Photo of Sir Arthur Benn Sir Arthur Benn , Plymouth Drake

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asked the Postmaster-General (1) in connection with the proposed amalgamation of the Plymouth and Exeter telephone districts, whether, in view of the advantages from a progressive business out-look, he will consider making Plymouth the headquarters;

(2) how many lines are connected with the Plymouth Telephone Exchange and how many with the Exeter Exchange; and whether the growth and importance from a commercial aspect is greater at Plymouth or Exeter;

(3) how many of the telephone staff at Plymouth will be removed to Exeter if the headquarters should be made in Exeter; and whether, since Plymouth is the geographical centre of the proposed fusion, the question has been considered whether it would be more economical that the manager, the surveyor, and the super-intending engineer should reside at Plymouth?

Photo of Mr Vernon Hartshorn Mr Vernon Hartshorn , Ogmore

I have come to the conclusion that the balance of advantage lies in the administration of the combined area from headquarters at Exeter, which is a more convenient centre for the district as a whole. The numbers of lines connected with the exchanges are

Plymouth2,215
Exeter1,253
but the numbers of exchanges are: in the Plymouth telephone district, 65; in the Exeter district, 103; and the numbers of telephones: in the Plymouth district, 9,816; and in the Exeter district, 11,644.

It is not expected that more than 25 of the telephone office staff in Plymouth will be transferred to Exeter; and the operating staff, numbering 32, will not be affected.

The transfer to Plymouth of the office of the Post Office surveyor for the Western district, together with the telephone district manager, would involve many more removals and would not be attended by any increase of efficiency.

Photo of Sir Arthur Benn Sir Arthur Benn , Plymouth Drake

Has the right hon. Gentleman borne in mind the fact that Plymouth is between three and four times larger than Exeter, that it is a progressive town and the only seaport of any importance in Devon, and that it is the great south-western head of our naval and dockyard system? Surely, in these circumstances, it is hardly good business to put it under Exeter for its telephone service?

Photo of Mr Vernon Hartshorn Mr Vernon Hartshorn , Ogmore

I am sure my hon. Friend will realise that, in fixing the administrative areas for the telephone service in this country, something other than a town has to be taken. The Plymouth district is, as the figures show, very much smaller than the Exeter district, and I am assured by my advisers that this projected change will certainly add considerably to the efficiency of the administration and improve the service.

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

Has the right hon. Gentleman borne in mind what an important naval and military centre Plymouth and Devonport are, and does he not consider that that is the chief factor? Are not the Army and Navy far more important than the fact that Exeter has a few more exchanges?

Photo of Mr John Simpson Mr John Simpson , Taunton

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that Exeter is a cathedral town, and is also the capital of Devon?

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

Will he also consider that, were it not for what Plymouth did in past years, this country would probably now be under the Spanish flag?

Photo of Sir Arthur Benn Sir Arthur Benn , Plymouth Drake

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, as one who has been interested in the telephone service in the past, why, if Plymouth has more lines entering it, should Exeter, with half the number of lines entering it, be considered more important, seeing that it is for the lines that enter that the telephone service is wanted?

Photo of Mr Vernon Hartshorn Mr Vernon Hartshorn , Ogmore

I think I can only add to the statement I have already made that all relevant considerations have been taken into account.