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Oral Answers to Questions — Telephone Service – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st July 1957.

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Photo of Mr Eric Johnson Mr Eric Johnson , Manchester, Blackley 12:00 am, 31st July 1957

asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware of the difficulties which will be caused to old people with small fixed incomes who are living alone by the proposed increases in telephone charges; and if he will consider the possibility of allowing them to pay reduced rates for telephones in their houses.

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

asked the Postmaster-General whether he has considered the problem arising from increased telephone rentals for the aged and invalids of small means who have had the telephone installed on medical advice as a lifeline rather than a convenience; if he is aware of the anxiety which many of these are now expressing; and what steps he proposes to take to assist them.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel John Cordeaux Lieut-Colonel John Cordeaux , Nottingham Central

asked the Postmaster-General if, when the increased telephone charges come into force, he will permit elderly people with small fixed incomes who are living alone to continue paying for the telephone service in their houses at the existing rates.

Photo of Mr Ernest Marples Mr Ernest Marples , Wallasey

I have every sympathy with people in such circumstances but, much as I would have liked to avoid tariff increases, it would, I think, be impossible to single out groups for special concessions. Reduced charges to particular groups would need to be made good by higher charges to other telephone subscribers, and this could not be justified.

Photo of Mr Eric Johnson Mr Eric Johnson , Manchester, Blackley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these telephones are not a luxury? They are possibly the only means of summoning aid in case of sickness, and this increase is a very real hardship to these old people. Is he further aware that an ounce of help is worth a pound of sympathy?

Photo of Mr Ernest Marples Mr Ernest Marples , Wallasey

I quite agree with my hon. Friend in his last remark but, in practice, it is awfully difficult to know where to draw the line. There are the disabled, the blind and then there are the charitable and social services—and if we have a large category of people and say that we will give them cheaper telephones we will have to look into the bona fides of every applicant and have them continuously under review, which would be rather repugnant to us.

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

Would my right hon. Friend consider those who use a telephone as a lifeline and, if it were found that a small number required them, upon a doctor's certificate, would he be prepared to consider anything in that line?

Photo of Mr Ernest Marples Mr Ernest Marples , Wallasey

I do not think that I would.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel John Cordeaux Lieut-Colonel John Cordeaux , Nottingham Central

May I ask my right hon. Friend not to brush aside these requests quite so brusquely? Does he realise that there are many thousands of people in this country to whom the telephone has given a real feeling of security against illness, accidents and housebreaking, and also a relief against loneliness? These new charges will really be crippling to those people. Does not he feel that this concession would provide concrete evidence that the Government are sincere in their many protestations that they have the interests of this class of people really at heart?

Photo of Mr Ernest Marples Mr Ernest Marples , Wallasey

Quite honestly, it that class of person has to be helped, I think it would be better if they were given direct assistance rather than subsidies by the Post Office.

Photo of Mr William Williams Mr William Williams , Manchester Openshaw

Will the Minister try to convince his hon. Friends behind him that tomorrow there will be an opportunity for them to assist the old-age pensioners in a much more practical way than the ways they are suggesting this afternoon?