HC Deb 23 February 1966 vol 725 cc384-5
9. Mr. Farr

asked the Postmaster-General what is the total number of telephone subscribers at present sharing a party line; and how this number compares with the total number at the same time two years ago.

Mr. Benn

About 1,252,000 subscribers were sharing telephones at the end of 1965. The number two years earlier was 1,102,000. Over the two years the proportion of subscribers sharing lines has decreased slightly.

Mr. Farr

Is that not a most unsatisfactory Answer? Although I am not a mathematician, it appears likely that it will take nearly 20 years before the list is entirely removed. Will the Postmaster-General tell the House how this ties up with his party's election manifesto, which promised a major expansion programme in all the nationalised industries?

Mr. Benn

My hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General has dealt with this. It takes five years to build a telephone exchange and the service is suffering from capital neglect by the previous Administration, but the proportion of those sharing lines has dropped. This system has been in operation since 1948. It involves a certain economy in rental for those who share and is a most sensible way of proceeding.

Mr. Lubbock

Although the proportion sharing may have dropped in the country as a whole, at certain exchanges it is rising rapidly, as, for example, at the Orpington exchange, and is it not extremely aggravating for a person who has had a separate service for a number of months suddenly out of the blue to be asked to share it?

Mr. Benn

I agree that this varies in different parts of the country. As one approaches a point where a new exchange is to be equipped, one finds a long waiting list and a number of shared lines. When the exchange is equipped this problem tends to disappear, but obviously there are regional differences.

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