Telecommunications Equipment (Manufacture)

Oral Answers to Questions — Post Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 1967.

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Mr. Bob Brown:

asked the Postmaster-General (1) what percentage of telecommunications equipment used by the Post Office in 1966, 1965, and 1963 was actually manufactured in Post Office establishments;

(2) what percentage of the output of the British telecommunications industry the Post Office purchased in 1966, 1965 and 1963; and what was the cost.

Photo of Mr Peter Doig Mr Peter Doig , Dundee West

asked the Postmaster-General if he will seek to set up a factory in Dundee for the manufacture of telecommunications equipment, in view of he delay in supplies of such equipment to the Post Office by existing suppliers.

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

The manufacture of telecommunications equipment in Post Office establishments, excluding the cost of component parts purchased from industry, has averaged less than one per cent. of the total equipment purchases over the last few years. Precise figures for the output of the British telecommunications industry are not available, but, as regards the manufacturers who comprise the bulk of the industry, the percentage of their total output purchased by the Post Office for the three years in question has been 55, 52 and 50 respectively, at costs of £73 million, £55 million and £44 million.

I have at present no plans to open new factories for the manufacture of telecommunications equipment by the Post Office.

Mr. Brown:

Would not my right hon. Friend accept that, in view of the deplorable figures he has quoted, the time is long overdue when the Post Office should itself be manufacturing much more of the equipment it requires? Does he not now see the opportunity for opening State-owned factories in the development areas?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

As my hon. Friend knows—I told him in reply to a previous Question, and we stated it in the White Paper—in the Corporation Bill, which will come before the House in the next Session of Parliament, we will ask Parliament for power to manufacture anything required by the Post Office.

Photo of Mr Peter Doig Mr Peter Doig , Dundee West

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the General Secretary of the Post Office Engineering Union has said that the extension of the telephone system is being held up solely because of the failure of private manufacturers to provide sufficient telephone exchange equip- ment to his Department? As a result, will my right hon. Friend again seriously consider using the powers he will have under the new Act to start a factory in Dundee or some other area?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

I know Mr. Smith's view very well, and, of course, he is absolutely right. The lack of capacity in the industry is holding up the growth of the system but, to be fair to those in the industry, they lack capacity now because the forecasting of telecommunications needs when the party opposite was in power was inadequate.

Photo of Mr Paul Bryan Mr Paul Bryan , Howden

Does the Postmaster-General intend, as a matter of broad policy, to use the powers proposed in the White Paper to increase really substantially manufacture by the Post Office?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

That will not be a matter for me: it will be a matter for the Board, when it is set up.