In Committee on Finance. - Vote 62—Posts and Telegraphs.

Friday, 21 February 1930

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 33 No. 6

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[759]Minister for Finance (Mr. Blythe): Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  I move:—

Go ndeontar suim bhreise ná raghaidh thar £25,000 chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1930, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Oifig an Aire Puist agus Telegrafa agus Seirbhísí áirithe eile atá fériara na hOifige sin, maraon le Telefóna.

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £25,000 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1930, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, and of certain other Services administered by that Office, including Telephones.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Heffernan): Information on Michael Richard Heffernan  Zoom on Michael Richard Heffernan  Deputies in dealing with this Supplementary Estimate should see that they have the correct supplementary estimate before them. The Supplementary Estimate previously issued has been withdrawn and the present one circulated. The amount of the present Supplementary Estimate is £52,150. From that has to be subtracted savings on other Sub-heads, amounting to £27,150, leaving a net sum of £25,000. The details of the Supplementary Estimate as given on the white paper issued are: A— Salaries and Allowances. The amount required for A 2—Metropolitan Offices, is £10,750, and under A 3, Provincial Offices, the sum required is £39,400. These two sums give a total of £50,150. The footnote to the Sub-heads states that these amounts represent, in the main, provision for the restoration of rural services not included in the original Estimate. Deputies will remember that in the Estimate circulated last year provision was made to effect certain restrictions in the rural postal services but it was afterwards [760] found inadvisable to carry out the proposals therein outlined. Consequently this additional Estimate is now necessary. Deputies will re-remember that if the restrictions in the rural postal services outlined at that time were put into effect, it was estimated that there would be a saving of approximately £40,000. Deputies may want to know why the amount now asked for under that heading is £50,000. The reason, I think, will be obvious, under Sub-head A 2—Metropolitan Offices. There could have been a great deal of saving on account of restrictions effected in connection with rural postal services. As a matter of fact, there is something over £1,000 in that particular item. In regard to savings on the rural postal services, the actual amount is £1,750. The balance is made up of sums required to meet certain payments of salary to postal officials who, it is expected, will be leaving the service under Article 10 of the Treaty.

With regard to Sub-head A 3— Provincial Offices, the amount indicated in the sub-head is approximately the amount of the savings which would be effected in the event of the restrictions relating to rural postal services being carried out. With regard to Sub-head D—Purchase of Sites, etc., as is indicated in the footnote, provision is now made for the purchase of a site for the Rathmines post office. The amount asked for is £2,000. I think Deputies will agree that a site for the Rathmines post office and for a telephone exchange for that area is very urgently needed. With regard to Sub-head N, the amount asked for is £3,500. N 5 of the sub-head deals with agency payments in respect of compensation allowances. As the footnote explains, that is to make provision for the payment of expenses incurred by this Government in regard to certain work carried out under Article 10 of the Treaty. As Deputies will see on the other side of the White Paper, the amount dealt with here is offset in full by an appropriation-in-aid of £3,500. That accounts for the various items in the Vote.

[761]Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  There is a remarkable difference in the amounts in the Supplementary Estimates which have been presented. I know, of course, the Parliamentary Secretary has explained how some of the difference has arisen. It seems strange that in an estimate circulated only a few days ago, and then withdrawn, the Parliamentary Secretary should ask for a sum of only £10, and that within a few days he would so alter his opinion of the requirements of the service during the remaining few months of the financial year that he would come again to the House and ask for a supplementary sum of £25,000. Second thoughts of that description are rather astonishing. One would have thought that the Parliamentary Secretary would be so au fait with the affairs of his Department that he would have known pretty closely at the end of December, as well as at the end of January what the financial position was, and that within a few weeks or days he would not have to revise his estimates again to the extent of £25,000. I must say I do not think that it indicates that constant supervision which a service like this, which has been a burden on the Exchequer, requires. I note also in regard to N 5, which is the one sub-head which is common to the two estimates, the one withdrawn and the one now before the House, that originally the Parliamentary Secretary asked for a sum of £8,500, whereas under the present estimate he is going to be content with the more modest sum of £3,500 for agency payments made in respect of compensation allowances.

Possibly, the Parliamentary Secretary might explain the reasons which have caused him to modify his view as to the number of persons who are, apparently, going to be permitted to retire under Article 10 of the Treaty. We have noticed in the Press that we have unfortunately in our Civil Service a number of people who, fundamentally, are not loyal to the State and whom, nevertheless, the State is going to be asked to compensate when those gentlemen retire. [762] I agree that if a person is loyal, and has served the State loyally and well, he has a good claim to compensation if, through changed conditions, he is asked to retire, but if a person is at heart not loyal to the State that gentleman has no complaint if the State determines to dispense with his services. I have also noticed that apparently the Post Office is a hotbed of disloyalty, and that the greater bulk of retirements are coming from the Post Office. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to assure the House that, in fact, the Post Office is as loyal a service as any other Department, or if not, that he will take steps to remove the disloyal servants from the pay roll of the State without giving them compensation and making them a burden on the community at large.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to go over again the explanation he gave as to why the services, the curtailment of which was expected to realise a saving of £40,000, is costing £50,000 to restore. As the Parliamentary Secretary explained, the proposal put forward on the Estimates last year, the curtailment of rural services, was estimated to realise a saving of £40,000. As a result of pressure exercised on the Government by members of the Independent group that proposal was withdrawn and the original services were allowed to remain, but we find from this estimate that it costs £50,000 to allow them to remain, although it was expected to save only £40,000 by the curtailment of them. The Parliamentary Secretary did not give a clear explanation as to why the difference of £10,000 should appear.

Mr. Heffernan: Information on Michael Richard Heffernan  Zoom on Michael Richard Heffernan  With regard to Deputy Lemass's question, I indicated that the total amount required, £50,150 under sub-head A, is not altogether required for the making up of the estimated amount from the savings which would have accrued as a result of being able to enforce the curtailment of these services. The estimated amount was approximately £40,000. I have indicated that under sub-head A there is [763] a sum of £10,750 required. It is obvious that sum is not necessary because of curtailments which were not made in the rural services. The effect of the savings in the rural services in the metropolitan offices would be comparatively small, and the actual savings which would result from the cut in services under Sub-head A 2—Metropolitan Offices would be approximately £1,750. The difference between that and the £10,750 arises in connection with the expected retirement of a certain number of Post Office officials who are going before the Committee which is inquiring into their applications. It is expected that a certain number of the officials will not be let out from the service before the end of the financial year. The amount of £8,150 is set aside to meet expected payments of salaries of those officers.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Do I understand the Parliamentary Secretary to say that the sum of £8,150 is set aside out of the sum of £10,750 in respect of metropolitan offices?

Mr. Heffernan: Information on Michael Richard Heffernan  Zoom on Michael Richard Heffernan  Yes.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Will the Parliamentary Secretary explain why the misleading note appears in the subhead—“These amounts represent, in the main, provision for the restoration of rural services not included in the original estimate”?

Mr. Heffernan: Information on Michael Richard Heffernan  Zoom on Michael Richard Heffernan  It is the amount in the main. The word should be “amount,” not “amounts.”

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Surely the Parliamentary Secretary does not contend that of the £10,750 over £8,000 is in respect of allowance to be paid to retiring officers? He does not contend that the amount in the main is due to the provision for the restoration of rural services not included in the original estimate?

Mr. Heffernan: Information on Michael Richard Heffernan  Zoom on Michael Richard Heffernan  I am not concerned with the exact phraseology of the footnote.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I think the Parliamentary Secretary is bound to be [764] quite candid and not to mislead the Dáil when he asks for public money.

Mr. Heffernan: Information on Michael Richard Heffernan  Zoom on Michael Richard Heffernan  I am absolutely candid—I am possibly too candid, and I am giving more detailed information than the sub-head calls for. The Deputy knows well that I am candid. I have explained that the sum is mainly made up of the amount required to meet the deficiency—“mainly” is the word used. With regard to the other question mentioned by Deputy MacEntee, I think it is not necessary to enter into that. The question of retirements under Article 10 is not one for me. It refers to the Civil Service generally and is rather a matter for the Executive Council or the Minister for Finance. The motives which instigated officials to retire under Article 10 are matters for which I am not responsible. With regard to the numbers seeking to retire from the Post Office, it is quite clear that as the number of civil servants in the Post Office form a very large proportion of the total number of civil servants employed, the proportion seeking to retire under Article 10 must naturally be large. In all probability the bulk of these cases are coming up for examination before the Committee in the early stages, and very likely civil servants from other Departments will come up for examination at a later stage.

Question put and agreed to.

Progress ordered to be reported.

The Dáil went out of Committee.

Progress reported. Committee to sit again on Wednesday, 26th February.


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