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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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?