(by Private Notice) asked the Postmaster-General whether the financial position of the telephone service continues to be satisfactory, and whether he is in a position to make any further reductions of charges?
I am glad to say that the successive reductions in telephone charges made since last October continue to give satisfactory results. Some 200,000 telephones have been added, and the use of the telephone both for short and long distance communications is increasing rapidly. I had hoped to be in a position to make further reductions in the long distance rates at the end of this year, but the large response that the previous rate reductions have produced and the need for making adequate provision for further growth have necessitated a large programme of new main trunk lines in many parts of the country. This programme is well in hand, and as soon as these new lines are available I look forward to the possibility of further modifications of trunk rates being introduced, which will enable calls of three minutes to be made to any part of the mainland of this country for a maximum charge of 2s. 6d. in the daytime and 1s. in the evening. In the meantime I propose to make some reductions in the rental charges for extension telephones and some other minor facilities which will be of benefit to both business and residential users. The rental for ordinary extension telephones in a residence will be reduced from 16s. to 14s. a year, and a new and lower scale of charges will be introduced for private branch exchange extensions, and for certain minor facilities. These new rates will come into force on 1st January next and I hope they will enable telephone users to take full advantage of the convenience of extension facilities and so increase the utility of their telephone service.
Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman inform the House whether anyone in this Department has worked out by arithmetical computation how much the figures denoting the mileage of telephones and the subscribers will represent in votes at the next election?
This Department has consistently made improvements throughout the whole year, and I see no reason for withholding information from the House in the fact that we are to have an Election.
Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman make a report upon the progress that has been made in providing call boxes in the rural areas, as he promised in an earlier statement?
No, Sir. The concession which I announced to the House last July only came into force on 1st October but, encouraged by the increased revenue, we are proceeding with the extension of the benefits of the telephone to the rural areas.