Dáil Éireann

30/Apr/1953

Prelude

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Imports from Dollar Area.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Renting of Sound Films.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Donegal Turf Generating Plant.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Kerry Drainage Scheme Wages.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Béal-an-Éilín (County Donegal) Beacon.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Jetty for Arranmore Island.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Croom County Hospital Appointment.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Ophthalmic Opticians.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - British Army Conscription.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Land Commission Lettings.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - County Galway Estates.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Irish Speakers.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Goleen Water Supply Scheme.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - County Galway Local Authorities.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Postal and Telephone Facilities.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Scarcity of Milk.

Order of Business.

Estimates for Public Services.

Committee on Finance. - Vote 54—Posts and Telegraphs.

Committee on Finance. - Great Northern Railway Bill, 1953—Money Resolution.

Committee on Finance. - Great Northern Railway Bill, 1953—Committee.

Committee on Finance. - Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1953—Committee.

Committee on Finance. - Estimates for Public Services.

Committee on Finance. - Vote 54—Posts and Telegraphs (Resumed).

Written Answer. - Number of Registered Motor Cars.

[935] Do chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 3 p.m.

Mr. Hession:  asked the Taoiseach if he will state the quantity and value of the principal imports from countries in the dollar area during the 12 months ended 31st December, 1952.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach (Donnchadh Ó Briain) (for the Taoiseach):  I propose, with the permissión of the Ceann Comhairle, to circulate in the Official Report a statement giving the required information.

Following is the statement:—

PRINCIPAL COMMODITIES IMPORTED FROM COUNTRIES IN THE DOLLAR AREA IN 1952.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Commodity Unit of Quantity Quantity Value
£
Wheat cwt. 414,183 718,659
Maize 1,379,946 2,174,724
Sorgbums 1,482,881 2,318,134
Raisins and sultanas 96,839 382,331
Glucose 91,058 252,428
Tobacco lb. 15,698,104 3,939,232
Coal ton 225,603 1,649,177
Iron and steel and manufactures value 721,939
Machinery and electrical goods 1,015,523
Vehicles and parts 844,648
Wood and timber and manufactures 216,908
Cotton raw and cotton linters cwt. 20,591 374,494
Aviation motor spirit gall. 11,694,048 1,002,246
Tallow cwt. 119,983 448,778
Cottonseed oil 39,803 288,284
Lubricating oil gall. 1,076,432 188,962
[936]Medical and pharmaceutical products value 170,175
Parcel post 372,458
Other 1,462,553
TOTAL 18,541,653

CANADA

Wheat cwt. 4,330,089 6,645,148
Aluminium bars, rods, etc. 13,681 133,953
Lumber sawn, planed or dressed standard 28,668 2,488,872
Newsprint cwt. 283,338 780,729
Paper Board 37,752 129,122
Other value 594,850
TOTAL 10,772,669

COSTA RICA

Coffee lb. 107,771 24,806
TOTAL 24,806

CUBA

Sugar ton 53,359 2,481,669
Tobacco lb. 2,844 11,527
TOTAL 2,493,196

MEXICO

Cotton raw and linters cwt. 1,287 22,569
Seeds, linseed 19,845 73,269
Oils and fats 1,590 15,719
Other value 3,466
TOTAL 115,023

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Sugar ton 7,006 250,199
Other value 260
TOTAL 250,459

SALVADOR.

[937]Commodity Unit of Quantity Quantity Value
£
Cottonseed, inedible cwt. 1,930 11,942
Other value 79
TOTAL 12,021

VENEZUELA.

Lamp oil gall. 396,306 21,989
Gas oil, diesel and other fuel oils 1,036,397 49,034
Other value 83
TOTAL 71,10

PHILIPPINES.

Hemp, hemp ton and waste cwt. 2,506 25,366
Seeds, copra 127,526 440,410
Lumber, sawn, etc., hard cub. ft. 11,579 8,745
Other value 104
TOTAL 474,625

OTHER DOLLAR COUNTRIES.*

TOTAL value 1,893

* Haiti, Honduras, Columbia, Ecuador.

Mr. Hession:  asked the Taoiseach if he will indicate the amount paid to other countries by firms renting sound films for showing in this country in 1952.

Donnchadh Ó Briain:  The information asked for by the Deputy is not yet available since it is an element of the Balance of International Payments Statement for 1952, the preparation of which, as I indicated yesterday in reply to a question by Deputy Larkin, has not been completed.

Mr. O'Donnell:  asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if a definite decision has been reached as to the exact location of the proposed turf generating plant which the E.S.B. stated would be erected near Dungloe, County Donegal.

[938]Parliamentary Secretary to the Government (Mr. Lynch) (for the Minister for Industry and Commerce):  I have as yet nothing to add to the reply which I gave to a similar question on the 25th February last.

Mr. McEllistrim:  asked the Minister for Finance whether he is aware that men employed on Office of Public Works drainage schemes in Kerry are at present working at an inadequate wage as compared with county council and other workers; and, if so, if he will take steps to increase their wages to a proper level.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance (Mr. Beegan):  Increased rates of wages for workers on the Feale drainage scheme have recently been authorised.

Mr. O'Donnell:  asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the recent disaster at Arranmore island, he will take immediate steps to raise and make more conspicuous the beacon at Béal-an-Éilín, south south-east of Arranmore island, County Donegal, as it is almost completely covered at full tide and in heavy seas.

Mr. Beegan:  As I informed the Deputy, in reply to a previous question on the same subject, which he addressed to me on the 27th May, 1952, two beacons were erected by the Commissioners of Public Works south-east of Arranmore island in 1937 to mark the approach channel to the landing places at Aphort and Chapel Strand. They are approximately seven feet above high water of ordinary spring tides; and as they are in the custody of the Donegal County Council any question in regard to them should be taken up with that body.

Mr. O'Donnell:  asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the difficulty in boarding the lifeboat on the, occasion of the recent Arranmore disaster, he will expedite the erection [939] of a jetty at Stara a Mor, north of Leehgarrow pier, Arranmore island.

Mr. Beegan:  I have no information regarding the difficulty referred to and I have no functions in so far as the lifeboat is concerned.

As I stated in my reply to a question by the Deputy on the 25th March, 1953, it is hoped to arrange during the coming season for the inspection of certain proposals for minor marine works on Arranmore island. Among these proposals is one for the improvement of a natural rock landing place at a point known as Stacamore, north of the main landing place at Leab-garrow.

Mr. Madden:  asked the Minister for Health if he will state the cause of the delay in sanctioning the unanimous proposal of the county council and the recommendation of the county manager to appoint a temporary assistant surgeon to the county hospital at Croom, County Limerick.

Minister for Health (Dr. Ryan):  The principle involved in the appointment of assistant surgeons is an important one. Up to the present, the assistance which has been made available to county surgeons has been by way of appointment of a more junior, but highly qualified, practitioner of the resident surgical officer grade, and only in a few localities has there been difficulty in recruiting suitable persons.

I have been considering the entire question of the means by which surgical services could best be made available in our county hospitals. I have had preliminary discussions with one of the interested bodies, and will resume these discussions on a broader basis at an early date. Pending the outcome of such discussions, I am not prepared to make an exception from the present arrangements in regard to a particular hospital.

Mr. Madden:  For some years past it seems to be the policy of the Department to advertise through the county manager for a doctor called a “resident [940] surgical officer”, who may have had no experience in operating. I should like to know what is the function of such an officer, in the absence of surgical experience?

Dr. Ryan:  It is a condition of the person's appointment that he must have experience in operating. The appointment is for the purpose of giving the county surgeon some help in his work. However, I can assure the Deputy that the whole thing is being reconsidered.

Mr. Madden:  Does the Minister suggest that a person with no surgical training should be given the responsibility of performing serious operations?

Dr. Ryan:  No. I have suggested the opposite.

Mr. Doyle:  asked the Minister for Health if he is aware that persons are entering this country from abroad and setting themselves up as ophthalmic opticians to the detriment of Irish practitioners; and, if so, what steps he proposes taking to protect the industry and to ensure that the highest standards of efficiency and competency are maintained.

Dr. Ryan:  I am not aware that any number of persons sufficient to have any significant effect on the interests of Irish practitioners has entered the country in recent years to set up here as ophthalmic opticians.

The public should by now be well aware that their best safeguard in regard to the supply and fitting of spectacles is to deal only with opticians who are known to them or are known in their localities, and that the more reputable opticians do not advertise individually. In these circumstances, I do not feel that any action on my part is called for.

Mr. O'Donnell:  asked the Minister for External Affairs if, in view of the recent decision of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice in Britain concerning the liability of [941] Irish Republican citizens for national service, he will make the necessary representations to the British authorities to ensure that Irish migrants, who are compelled by economic circumstances to migrate, will not be required to enlist in foreign armed forces.

Mr. Hession:  asked the Minister for External Affairs if he is aware of the successful appeal of the British Ministry of Labour and National Service from a dismissal by the Bristol city magistrates of a summons against an Irish national for having failed to submit himself for medical examination under the National Service Act, 1948, which was allowed by the Queen's Bench Divisional Court in London, and if he proposes to make a statement in the matter.

Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Aiken):  With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose taking Questions Nos. 9 and 10 together.

Mr. Brosnan's case received the most careful consideration and attention in my Department since I became aware of the intention of the British authorities to appeal against his acquittal on the prosecution taken by the British National Service authorities on 9th December last, and every assistance that could properly be given to Mr. Brosnan to enable him to defend the appeal was given to him. Among other things, I arranged to secure the opinion of a distinguished leader at the Inner Bar in London as to the legal issues involved, and a copy of that opinion was made available to Mr. Brosnan's legal advisers.

The position under British law of Irish male citizens in Britain is that between the ages of 18 and 26 years they are liable to be called up for service in the British armed forces if resident there for two years unless the residence is for the purpose of attending a course of education or can be shown to be for some other temporary purpose. This obligation attaches to Irish citizens not by virtue of the terms of the National Service Act, 1948 (which applies only to British subjects) but by reason of a provision in the British Nationality Act, 1948, which made [942] existing British law applicable to Irish citizens as it applies to British subjects. The Ireland Act, 1949, expressly continued that position.

It was not until the enactment of the 26th Amendment of the Constitution of the Irish Free State and the passing of our Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1935, that we established an Irish citizenship for international as well as for domestic purposes. But notwithstanding that change, British law continued to regard Irish citizens as British subjects.

Just before the outbreak of the second World War it was ascertained that the British Government proposed upon that basis to impose conscription on Irish citizens in the Six Counties.

The Government protested to the British Government and the Deputy will be aware that subsequently the Six Counties were exempted from the operation of that legislation. Later during the war it was found that Irish citizens resident in Britain for more than two years were being conscripted upon the basis that in British law they were British subjects. The Government again protested to the British Government, as a result of which Irish citizens resident in Britain who were called up for enrolment in the British forces were given the option of returning to their homes in Ireland.

The anomalous position of Irish citizens being regarded in British law as British subjects was altered belatedly by the British Nationality Act, 1948; but that Act continued on our citizens resident in Britain obligations under the National Service Act, 1948. In 1947, when we were made aware of the draft terms of the British Nationality Act (1948), we made a formal protest against its provisions and since then our attitude is one of continuing protest, particularly in view of the fact that British armed forces still occupy portion of our national territory.

Migratory labourers, such as Deputy O'Donnell has in mind, who go to Britain for seasonal work and who return to this country when the work is completed, are not liable to be called up for service in the British armed [943] forces. The recent decision of the British High Court does not affect this situation. I should add that where an Irish citizen is called upon to present himself for medical examination with a view to being conscripted into the British armed forces, he has the option of returning to Ireland within six weeks following the call-up.

Mr. Norton:  Bearing in mind the deep and widespread interest which has been taken in this matter by Irish citizens who are resident in Britain, and as the whole situation has radically changed since 1948, when the British Government made Irish citizens in Britain liable to conscription there, would the Minister, fortified by the unanimous wish of all Parties in this House, arrange to make further formal representations to the British Government asking them to desist from making Irish citizens liable for conscription in Great Britain?

Mr. Aiken:  As the Deputy is aware, since 1948 there have been many questions in the Dáil about this matter. I could refer the Deputy to at least a dozen questions in 1948, 1949, 1950 and 1951, in regard to this particular subject. Undoubtedly, as the Deputy says, the fact that there are people over there being held liable for service in the British armed forces is resented here particularly in view of the fact that these armed forces are in occupation of portion of our territory.

Mr. Norton:  There is no difference between the Government's outlook and attitude and the outlook and attitude of all Parties in the House. We are all opposed to the British making our people liable to conscription, seeing that it is Britain's job to fill up the gaps in her own army, but the British may well regard this as something which we dislike but still tolerate with equanimity unless we continue to protest to them on every possible occasion against the continuance of the imposition of this liability. I have no desire to ask awkward questions but the British Government should be told that all Parties take the view that Irishmen ought not to be brought into [944] the British army. There is no moral justification for it and the legal justification that Britain now offers has long since been effaced by the changed circumstances and the effluxion of time.

Mr. Aiken:  I know the Deputy has no desire to ask me awkward questions; neither have I any desire to give him awkward answers, but I would not like it to be taken that because of the absence of formal protests in the years 1948 to 1951, we accepted the position against which we protested in 1947.

Mr. Donnellan:  It is very little use to our citizens in England who are being conscripted to be told what the Government in 1948 or 1949 did or what the present Government did. Does the Minister agree that the British Government are entitled to conscript Irish citizens or not?

Mr. Hession:  asked the Minister for Lands if he will state the amounts received by the Land Commission during the 12 months ended 31st December, 1952, in respect of lands in their hands and let for (a) grazing and (b) tillage purposes.

Minister for Lands (Mr. Derrig):  The gross amounts are:—(a) £45,121; (b) £7,271.

Mr. Hession:  asked the Minister for Lands if he will state when the Land Commission propose to divide among suitable allottees lands at Polla-corragune and Kilbannon, Tuam, County Galway, which have recently come into their possession.

Mr. Derrig:  It is not possible at present to state when the lands in question will be allotted, but there will be no avoidable delay.

Mr. Hession:  asked the Minister for Education if his attention has been directed to a statement contained in Volume VIII of the 1946 Census of [945] Population which revealed that in the intercensal period 1936 to 1946 the total number of Irish speakers declined by 11.7 per cent.; and, if so, if he will make a statement in the matter.

Minister for Education (Mr. Moylan):  I have noted the figures to which the Deputy adverts. I would refer the Deputy to the explanatory notes which appear in the volume from which the figures are quoted. In the circumstances, I do not consider that any useful purpose would be served by my commenting further on the matter.

Mr. M.P. Murphy:  asked the Minister for Local Government whether the Cork County Council have submitted to his Department for approval plans and specifications for the provision of a water supply scheme at Goleen; and, if so, if he will indicate what action he proposes to take in the matter.

Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Childers) (for Minister for Local Government):  Approval of the documents referred to issued on the 16th June last.

Mr. Hession:  asked the Minister for Local Government if he will state (a) the gross debt of the several local authorities in County Galway—excluding harbour authorities, vocational education and county committees of agriculture—at the 31st March, 1952, and (b) the amounts paid in interest for the year ending 31st March, 1952, by such local authorities.

Mr. Childers:  The gross capital debt of the several local authorities in County Galway, excluding harbour authorities, vocational education committees and the county committee of agriculture, at the 31st March, 1925, was approximately £1,916,000. The amount paid in interest (including interest on temporary overdrafts) by such local authorities in the year ended 31st March, 1952, was approximately £59,000.

Mr. T. Byrne:  asked the Minister for [946] Posts and Telegraphs if he has received an application or applications from the Shandon Householders' Protection Association, Phibsboro', for the provision of a telephone kiosk and letter box, and if, in view of the increase in population consequent on the extension and development of this area, he hopes at an early date to accede to their request.

Mr. Childers:  The answer to the first part of the question is yes. The provision of an additional kiosk or letter box in the area would not be warranted at present.

Mr. Desmond:  asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs whether he is prepared to establish a sub-post office at Cloghroe, Blarney, County Cork.

Mr. Childers:  In view of the proximity of the post office at Inniscarra the establishment of a sub-post office at Cloghroe would not be warranted.

Mr. Desmond:  Has the Minister taken into consideration the fact that, owing to the commencement of work on the Lee hydro-electric scheme there are many extra people living in that particular area?

Mr. Childers:  All the circumstances have been taken into account. Should the position materially change, the matter can be re-examined.

Mr. Desmond:  asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs whether he is prepared to extend the facilities provided at Kilmurry sub-post office, Lissarda, County Cork, so as to permit the transaction of business in connection with the Post Office Savings Bank, money orders and telegraphic communications.

Mr. Childers:  In view of the small amount of business likely to be transacted, the provision of telegraph, money order and savings bank facilities at Kilmurry sub-office would not be warranted.

Mr. Desmond:  asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs whether provision is being made for the establishment of a public telephone service, during the coming financial year, at Newcastle, Blarney, County Cork.

[947]Mr. Childers:  I regret the answer is in the negative. There is no post office at Newcastle and the provision of a public telephone there would not be warranted.

Mr. O'Donnell:  asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if he is aware of the urgent necessity for a public telephone kiosk at Aphort, Arranmore island; and, if so, if he will cause same to be erected forthwith.

Mr. Childers:  The erection of a public telephone kiosk at Aphort would not be warranted.

Mr. Hession:  asked the Minister for Agriculture if his attention has been directed to a statement issued by the committee of the Irish Shorthorn Breeders' Association that part of the reason for the scarcity of milk in creamery areas during the scarce winter period could be attributed to farmers selling off their high yielding cows to dairy men who milk these cows for the time of their lactation and then sell them off as canners; and, if so, if he will make a statement in the matter.

Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Walsh):  I have read in the newspapers the statement to which the Deputy refers, but I am not aware of any evidence on which the contention could be based that winter dairying in creamery areas is being affected to any appreciable extent by the sale of high yielding cows to dairy men.

Dr. Ryan:  It is proposed to take [948] business in the following order: Nos. 7 (Vote 54 only), 6, 11, 15, 8, 5 and 9. It is proposed to interrupt business between 6 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. to take Nos. 6, 11 and 15 and to resume the order at 7.30 p.m., or earlier if Nos. 6, 11 and 15 are disposed of.

Mr. McQuillan:  I should like to ask a question with your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, in connection with the subject matter of a question that was on the Order Paper yesterday. If you will recollect I had a question on the Order Paper dealing with the export of Irish whiskey. In that question I pointed out to the Government that the export of Scotch whiskey was value for £32,000,000 in the year 1952 whereas the value of Irish whiskey exported for the same year was less than £500,000. I asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce what steps he proposed to take to expand the production of Irish whiskey. The reply which I received, drafted by a civil servant. I presume, was that this was a matter for the distillers themselves. I felt that this was an extraordinary reply, and that, under the circumstances, I should raise the matter on the Adjournment. You, however, Sir, decided that it was not a matter that could be brought up on the Adjournment. I have no criticism of your action to express because I believe you had no other alternative under the rules of procedure in operation in this House. I would, however, suggest that this matter should be referred to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges with a view to seeing that some power should be made available to this House whereby a private Deputy would be enabled to raise a matter of urgent public importance and to bring to the attention of the Government matters such as the expansion of the production of Irish whiskey, of the development of Bord na Móna or any such matter of national importance. I think it is a tragic position to have to say that in my constituency contracts for the growing of barley for malt——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy now is endeavouring to make the case that he wanted to cover on the Adjournment.

[949]Mr. McQuillan:  I shall not go any further except to say that unless immediate steps are taken to solve this problem there will be less whiskey for export in seven years' time.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is now dealing with the matter which he was not allowed to raise on the Adjournment last night. Matters raised on the Adjournment are really discussed in that way in order to give an opportunity for an extended reply more than could normally be given at Question Time. They should deal with grievances or matters of administration relating to public affairs for which a member of the Government is responsible. It is not permissible to advocate new legislation or the amendment of existing legislation on a motion on the Adjournment. In respect to the matter referred to by the Deputy, the Minister to whom the question was addressed has no statutory responsibility and therefore it could not be raised with him. So far as the other matter to which the Deputy has referred is concerned, every facility that can be given by my office will be afforded to the Deputy to frame a substantive motion on which he can raise the matter in a detailed way, which will leave it open for discussion in the House consistent with the provisions of Standing Orders.

Mr. McQuillan:  May I point out that such a motion would take 12 months before it comes before the House?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Chair has no responsibility for that. That is a matter that could be discussed between the Deputy and the Minister. If the Deputy wants to raise the matter with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, there is no reason why that could not be arranged.

Mr. McQuillan:  You suggested that the Minister has no function in this matter of the export of whiskey. May I inquire whose responsibility is it?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The manufacturers possibly.

Mr. McQuillan:  Is it not a matter that can be raised here? It is too bad [950] that it has to be left in the hands of those who take no active steps to increase exports.

Mr. Norton:  On a point of procedure. The Minister for Social Welfare informed the House some time ago that he hoped to be able to circulate the Workmen's Compensation Bill in a fortnight. So far it has not made its appearance. Will the Minister now say when he hopes to circulate the Bill?

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Ryan):  I do not think the fortnight is up yet.

Mr. Norton:  I think the Minister is suffering from amnesia. I think it is. I take it the Bill has met with an accident?

Dr. Ryan:  It has not met with an accident.

Mr. Norton:  Will the Minister give another guess as to when it will be circulated?

Dr. Ryan:  I had better not. As soon as possible.

The Dáil, according to order, went into Committee on Finance and resumed the consideration of the Estimates for Public Services for the year ending 31st March, 1954.

Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Childers):  I move—

That a sum not exceeding £4,529,300 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1954, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (45 and 46 Vict., c.74; 8 Edw. 7, c.48; 1 and 2 Geo. 5, c.26; the Telegraph Acts, 1863 to 1928; No. 45 of 1926; No. 14 of 1940 (secs. 30 and 31); No. 14 of 1942 (sec. 23); No. 17 of 1951, etc.), and of certain other Services administered by that Office.

[951] The net Estimate for 1953-54 amounts to £7,005,300, being a gross total of £7,405,985 less Appropriations-in-Aid of £400,685. The net provision represents a decrease of £354,700 on the net provision for 1952-53.

The more substantial variations on the sub-heads—those of £10,000 or more —occur on the following:—

Sub-heads A (1), A (2), A (3) and A (4): Salaries, Wages and Allowances.—The increase of £24,300 is mainly attributable to normal increments of salary, etc. offset by savings on reductions in temporary force and casual employees.

Sub-head D: Purchase of Sites.— The decrease of £35,000 is due to the cost of anticipated acquisition of sites being less than in the year 1952-53.

Sub-head E (1): Conveyance of Mails by Rail.—The increase of £39,810 is required to meet higher charges by railway companies for the carriage of letter mails and to cover increased payment to the Railway Clearing House for the conveyance of parcel post.

Sub-head E (5): Conveyance of Mails by Air.—The decrease of £13,500 is attributable to a reduction in the rates to be charged by air companies for the carriage of mails.

Sub-head G (1): Stores (other than Engineering).—The decrease of £56,080 is mainly attributable to there being no provision for the purchase of emergency reserve stocks in the year 1953-54 and to portion of those stocks being used for current requirements, offset by increased cost of departmental transport, petrol, oil, spare parts and accessories and by the introduction of road taxation for State owned vehicles.

Sub-heads G (2): Uniform Clothing; G (3), Manufacture of Stamps; K, Engineering Materials.—The decrease on each of these sub-heads, viz., £55,610, £73,620 and £251,450 respectively, is mainly attributable to no provision being made for purchase of emergency reserve stocks in the year 1953-54 and to the use of portion of those stocks for current requirements.

[952] Sub-head I (1): Salaries, Wages and Allowances (Engineering). — Increase £51,050, due to normal increments, new posts and increased provision for additional staff arising from the development of the telephone service.

Sub-head L (3): Contract Work.— The decrease of £39,750 arises from anticipated reduction in work undertaken by contractors.

Sub-head M: Telephone Capital Repayments.—Increase £152,560. I should explain that funds for the development of the telephone system are provided under the authority of the Telephone Capital Acts (1924-51) which authorises the Minister for Finance to issue sums out of the Central Fund for this purpose. Repayment of these funds is made by means of terminable annuities extending over a period not exceeding 20 years. In consultation with the Minister for Finance provision is made each year under this sub-head for the repayment of the instalments of principal and interest on the annuities created. The increased provision in the sub-head is an indication of the continuing expansion of the telephone system.

Sub-head Q (2): Provision and Installation of Equipment, etc.—The decrease of £11,770 arises from reduced contract payments for the renewal of equipment at airport radio stations.

In sub-head T—Appropriations-in-Aid —there is an increase of £92,845. Increased receipts are anticipated from the social insurance fund and the savings bank funds for the administration expenses, from the E.S.B. for work undertaken on its behalf, from the sale of obsolete stores and from the British Government for sums paid on its behalf.

Postal Service—During the past year the mail services worked satisfactorily. Letter and parcel mail traffic, which had shown a slight decline towards the end of 1951, fully recovered. Air mail traffic inward and outward continued to show an upward tendency, the most notable increase being in the traffic from the U.S.A. A very heavy volume of mail, somewhat greater than in previous years, was handled last Christmas [953] and the public response to the appeals for early posting ensured timely delivery of correspondence and parcels. In September last a comprehensive scheme for the improvement of the night mail services to and from Counties Louth, Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal and the Six Counties was introduced. Correspondence to and from the counties affected has now been greatly expedited and their postal connections are now on the same general basis as those in the rest of the country.

The general reorganisation of services in rural areas was continued throughout the year and a daily frequency of delivery and a better standard of service has been introduced in the head office districts of Donegal, Lifford, Letterkenny, Boyle, Athlone, part of Dundalk and Tuam. Daily frequency was provided in respect of 96 posts. Revised services for six further areas are in course of preparation.

During the year six new sub-offices were opened; money order and savings bank facilities were extended to 93 sub-offices and 94 new letter-boxes were provided. In December last a new post office was opened at St. Andrew Street to replace the office at College Green which had served the needs of the locality for 80 years. The ground floor contains two main offices, bright and pleasing in appearance, one for the receipt of parcels and the second for the transaction of other public business. The survey of requirements of modern sorting equipment was continued during the year and a further 12 provincial offices were equipped with electrically operated stamp cancelling machines.

Due to unforeseen delay in the printing of essential documents, the introduction of the business reply service, to which I referred last year, had to be delayed. The necessary documents are now available and the service is about to be introduced. It is expected also that the necessary formalities in connection with the extension of the special “Literature for the Blind” postage rate to other articles intended for the use of the blind will shortly be completed and that the extended facilities will be available at an early date.

[954] The commemorative stamp in honour of Thomas Moore to which I referred last year was issued in November last. Owing to the intervention of the printing strike, it was not possible to put the stamp on sale at an earlier date. The Moore stamp was the first stamp ever printed in the recess process in Ireland and it was, in the opinion of many experts, one of the best stamps in the series of Irish stamp issues, if not the best. A special stamp to commemorate the Tóstal was issued early in February. The stamp was printed in the letterpress process in the stamping branch of the Revenue Commissioners. In order to have the stamp on sale about two months before the commencement of the celebrations, it was necessary to have it printed as a matter of urgency for which my thanks are due to all concerned.

The 150th anniversary of the death of the Irish patriot, Robert Emmet, will occur this year and arrangements are being made to issue a special postage stamp in his honour. The stamp will be in two denominations— which have not yet been decided— and it is hoped to have it available for sale early in August.

There is clear evidence of a growing philatelic interest in Irish postage stamps. For example, approximately, 29,000 “First Day of Issue” covers were dealt with on the day of issue of the Thomas Moore stamp. The philatelic demand for the Tóstal stamp has also been satisfactory. The Department is endeavouring to meet the wishes of philatelists by the gradual introduction of light “hair line” engravings in stamp cancellation marks and the provision of case-hardened steel dies.

Telegraph Service.—In the past year the decline in the volume of telegraph traffic continued. It is hoped to have teleprinter working introduced at all major centres south of a line drawn roughly from Ennis to Dublin before the end of 1953. During the past year telegraph service was extended to 32 sub-post offices. Again, during the past year there were representations about the communication facilities with islands off the coast. As I told the [955] House last year supplies of the very latest type of radio telephone equipment to replace the existing radio telegraph equipment serving the larger islands have been ordered. Delivery which has been delayed was expected next month but we have just been advised by the manufacturers that there will be further delay because of necessary alteration in design. The new equipment is designed for connection with the public telephone network and it will enable telephone calls to be made to or from the islands at all times.

At present only those islands which have a population of 100 or more are provided with communication facilities with the mainland. The decision to provide such facilities and to limit it on a population basis was taken by the Government in 1939 following consideration by a special committee which had been set up to examine the question. Representations have been made to me to extend the scheme to island with less than 100 population. It will be appreciated from what I have said that this is not strictly a matter for my Department at all. However, I am having all necessary data collected and analysed, and the matter will soon be referred to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government for such action as he may consider necessary.

Telephone Service.—Expansion and improvement of the telephone service continued during 1952. The number of trunk and local calls increased by approximately 2,500,000 in 1952. New telephone lines installed during 1952 numbered 7,234, which was a record. By the end of the present month the number of telephones in service will, it is estimated, reach 100,000, compared with 61,000 in 1948 and 77,000 in 1950. As a result of the measures taken to speed up work on the rural call office scheme, I am glad to report that a total of 246 sub-post offices were provided with public telephones last year, as compared with 171 in 1951 and 73 in 1950. A further 65 sub-post offices have been connected up to 31st March last. In order to speed the work, [956] arrangements have been made in certain areas to have some of it, mainly the erection of poles, undertaken locally by contract. Some such contracts have already been placed. At the rate of progress realised to date every rural post office in the State will have a public telephone by next year. This will, I am sure, be welcomed by Deputies of all Parties.

The number of waiting applications on 31st March last was 4,810, made up of 2,826 in Dublin and 1,984 in the provinces. Of the total applications, all but a few were made since the beginning of 1951 and the bulk of the remainder was received since the beginning of last year. The corresponding total figures for 1951 and 1952 were 6,400 and 6,100 respectively. It will be noted that the waiting list is being steadily reduced, but the reduction would have been very much greater but that during the past year much more engineering effort than formerly was devoted to improvement of the trunk and maintenance services and to speedier completion of the rural call office scheme. I should mention that until the call office scheme is completed or nearly completed it will be necessary to continue the restrictions on the provision of long rural lines involving abnormal construction work. Thirty-eight telephone kiosks were erected during 1952 and over 22 to date this year. These figures compare with 23 kiosks erected in 1951 and 31 in 1950.

In Dublin, the new trunk exchange at St. Andrew Street was brought into operation during the past year and automatic exchanges were brought into service at Mount Merrion, Dundrum and Foxrock. An automatic exchange at Clondalkin to serve the existing Clondalkin and Tallaght manual exchange areas will be opened very shortly. An automatic exchange is in course of erection at Sutton to serve the Sutton and Howth areas.

In the provinces, a new automanual exchange was opened in Waterford in October last, and small automatic exchanges were provided at Carrickmacross, Trim and Tullow. Within the past month or so, two additional small automatic exchanges were brought into service at Dunboyne and Muine Bheag. [957] A further similar exchange will be brought into operation shortly at Nenagh and an automanual exchange will be opened at Athlone during the summer. Other exchanges due for conversion to automatic working this year are Cobh, Tramore, Ardee, Maynooth and Cahir. Switchboard equipment was extended during 1952 at 116 manual exchanges. Within recent months, the switchboard equipment at both Galway and Sligo has been completely modernised.

The past year has been marked by the extension of no-delay trunk service to practically all the main trunk routes and to a considerable number of other routes. Altogether a total of 14,000 miles of additional trunk circuits were brought into service in 1952 which was the largest circuit mileage ever added to the system in any one year. I indicated last year that it was proposed to eliminate the long delay on calls exchanged over the main routes from Dublin to the west, north-west and south-west by means of 12-channel carrier systems. As a result of special efforts delivery of equipment was obtained and the installation work was effected between September and March last. I am glad to say that the scheme has now been largely completed— resulting in virtual doubling or trebling of circuits on the Dublin-Galway, Dublin-Sligo, Sligo-Letterkenny, Dublin-Claremorris and Killarney-Cork routes and affording substantial improvement on the long distance services to and from the west generally.

Special attention was given during the year to improvement of the trunk service in the areas with relatively high subscriber density in the neighbourhood of Dublin and Cork. Additional circuits were provided on many other routes where the need for relief was most pressing. During the coming year the work of further improving the trunk service will be pushed ahead as rapidly as possible. The programme proposed includes the installation of a 12-channel carrier system on the route between Dublin and Wexford to give additional circuits and a better service generally to the south-east; the provision of additional circuits on an extensive scale on various other important [958] routes by the fitting of three-channel carrier systems and the erection of additional trunk lines on a considerable number of shorter routes throughout the country where extra lines are most badly needed.

Meanwhile the planning of a further trunk cable from Dublin to Sligo via Mullingar with a branch to Athlone is proceeding. In view of the magnitude of the work involved it will be some considerable time before the scheme is completed.

During 1952 operator dialling was introduced between Dublin and Belfast thus enabling Dublin telephonists to dial Belfast numbers without the assistance of Belfast telephonists and vice versa. It is hoped to have operator dialling in operation within the next few months between Dublin, Liverpool and London. I should also mention that automatic trunk switching equipment which enables operators to dial through an intermediate exchange to a distant exchange, for example, from Sligo through Dublin to Waterford, is now in use in some of our principal automatic exchanges and is helping to dispose of calls more expeditiously with greater economy of staff and circuit time.

Much of the work in connection with the provision of some 60 additional cross-Channel circuits to give a no-delay service to Great Britain has been done and it is hoped to have the additional circuits for the heavy summer traffic. Owing to delay in getting delivery of terminal equipment it will unfortunately be some considerable time yet before additional circuits between Dublin and Belfast in the new coaxial cable can be made available.

During 1952 continuous service was provided at 12 exchanges where the hours of service were previously restricted.

Training refresher courses for exchange operating and supervising staffs were continued during the year. Refresher courses were also organised for the first time for private branch exchange operators employed in Dublin by private firms. Judging by the number of firms who were anxious that their operators should participate, [959] the courses appear to have filled a definite want on the part of the larger telephone subscribers.

Buildings.—Progress in the Department's building activities was marked by the opening of the new post office and telephone exchange at St. Andrew Street and a major new telephone exchange and engineering headquarters at Waterford. New garages and engineering workmen's headquarters were provided at Distillery Road, Dublin, and the main building work for a mechanical transport repair shop and garages at St. John's Road, Dublin, has been completed. Post Office improvement schemes involving structural alterations were completed or undertaken at Cork, Galway, Sligo, Birr, Clifden, Ballyhaunis, Enniscorthy and Clonmel. Building work was completed in connection with a new automatic telephone exchange at Athlone, and work on a new exchange for Sutton, County Dublin, was brought to an advanced stage.

In the current year the erection of combined Post Office and telephone exchange buildings at Drogheda, Cootehill, Kilrush, Naas and Rathluirc is scheduled for commencement, as well as separate buildings to house telephone exchanges at Limerick, Galway, Sligo, Killarney, Whitehall and Foxrock (Dublin), Greystones and Mullingar. A major extension of Clontarf Telephone Exchange will also be commenced as well as garages and engineering workmen's headquarters at Sligo. Adaptation and extension of existing premises for Post Office purposes will be carried out at Bray, Ballina, Cahir, Carrick-on-Suir, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Kilkenny, Mallow, Monaghan, Youghal and Tralee.

The formalities for the acquisition of the building site at Lower Sheriff Street, Dublin, have now been completed. A combined letter and parcel sorting office with ample garage accommodation for the entire Dublin fleet of postal motor vehicles will be constructed close to Amiens Street Station. There has been an acute and growing need for such a building for many years past. I am satisfied that [960] the centralisation of letter and parcel sorting in one building will lead to a distinct improvement in efficiency, to better staff conditions and to a substantial reduction in working costs.

As I intimated last year, efforts have been made to give a more attractive appearance to our provincial post offices by raising the standards of interior and exterior decoration. The possibility of introducing some of the better quality materials which have appeared in recent years is being examined. What we can achieve in this direction is, of course, limited by financial considerations, but I am confident that an appreciably higher standard generally will be achieved gradually.

Savings Banks.—The position of the Post Office Savings Bank may be regarded as reasonably satisfactory. Deposits rose from £12,655,000 in 1951 to £13,330,000 in 1952, and withdrawals from £8,647,000 to £10,967,000, a net surplus of £2,363,000 as compared with £4,008,000 for the previous year. Interest earned during the year is estimated at £1,348,000 and the total amount standing to the credit of depositors on the 31/12/1952 is approximately £57,070,000.

Deposits during the year by the Trustee Savings Banks amounted to £920,000 and withdrawals to £700,000, a decrease of £70,000 on deposits and an increase of £432,000 on withdrawals. The balance to credit of the Trustee Savings Banks at the end of the year, including £246,000 for interest, is approximately £8,513,000.

The abnormal increase in the amount of withdrawals by ordinary depositors and by the Trustee Savings Banks may be attributed largely to reinvestment in 5 per cent. National Loan, the amount being estimated at over £1,000,000.

The combined balances, Post Office and Trustee Savings Banks, on the 31/12/1952 amounted to £65,584,000 as compared with £61,406,000 on the same date in 1951.

Savings Certificates.—Business for the year showed a large increase as compared with the previous year. [961] Receipts from sales amounted to £3,370,000, repayment of principal to £1,576,000 and interest to £638,000. Corresponding figures for 1951 were £1,479,000, £1,015,000 and £417,000. The increase in sales was mainly due to the launching of the fifth issue, with more attractive terms than its predecessor and the increase in repayments was due partly to the same cause, but mainly to the flotation of the 5 per cent. National Loan.

The amount for principal due to investors at the end of the year stood at £15,272,000 as compared with £13,477,000 at the end of 1951.

Savings.—There is running at present a publicity campaign for the encouragement of saving through the Post Office Savings Bank and Savings Certificates. It is too early yet to look for results from the campaign, which was launched only in March last, but it is hoped that, by means of it and other methods of publicity which will be used from time to time, the habit of thrift will be stimulated, especially among small savers, for whose particular convenience and benefit the Post Office savings facilities exist.

The publicity arrangements are in the hands of the director of savings, who was appointed on the 1st January last and occupies a post created mainly with the improvement of publicity in view. The present campaign embraces posters, window bills in buses and railway carriages, press advertisements, animated advertisements on cinema screens and a sponsored weekly radio programme. In addition, arrangements are in hand for the production of a documentary film which will be shown in the commercial cinemas throughout the country, as well as in colleges, clubs and local halls.

Review of financial position.—Last year, when speaking on this Estimate, I indicated that the financial position of the Post Office was unsatisfactory and I warned Deputies and the public at the time of the likelihood of an increase in Post Office charges.

I had, for the sake of accuracy, better repeat what I said during last year's estimate. I quote from columns [962] 177 and 178 of Volume 133, No. 2 of the Dáil Debates:—

“The Post Office services are one indivisible whole, and in determining our charges, it is the overall cost we have to recover and it is right that Post Office users as a whole should pay for Post Office services—there is no case for saddling the taxpayer with it. In spreading the burden over Post Office users we will only be following what is done in the larger sphere of State finances, where, in effect, taxes redistribute income through social services. So far as the Post Office is concerned, the proportion of larger users is no different to that of the better off section of the community as a whole.

So I feel I must warn Deputies and the public of the likelihood that only an increase in charges will solve the problem of Post Office finances.”

On a commercial account basis the Post Office had a deficit of £317,766 in the year 1950-51, a deficit of £840,662 in the year 1951-52, the increase being largely due to the wage award of 1951, and a deficit estimated at £749,800 in the year just closed. For the coming year, 1953-54, it is estimated that the deficit will exceed £700,000. This estimate would be higher were it not that it had been decided to utilise for current requirements certain of the emergency reserve stocks already accumulated.

The losses sustained are the climax of a continuously deteriorating position beginning in 1946-47 in which a surplus of £85,000 followed one of £214,000, and was succeeded by continuously mounting deficits.

In regard to the division of losses the following are the figures:—Postal Service: Anticipated deficit for 1953-54, £244,000; Telegraph Service, £440,800; Telephone Service, £22,800.

As I have already indicated, the Department's loss in 1950-51 was £317,766 as compared with a loss of over £700,000 likely to be sustained in the current financial year. In considering the position it is instructive to examine the expenditure and income of the Department for these two years. Looking at the balance [963] sheets I find that, while it is estimated that revenue in 1953-54 will show an increase of £1,223,000, approximately, as compared with 1950-51, the increase in expenditure in the same period is likely to exceed £1,612,000; in other words, the deficit standing at the end of 1950-51 will have increased by almost £390,000. The reasons for this tremendous increase in expenditure are not difficult to find. Wages alone increased by £592,000 per annum as a result of the 1951 wages award and this virtually nullified the effects of the increased charges imposed in that year. Mail conveyance costs have risen since 1950-51 by £141,000. The cost of maintaining the telegraph and telephone systems has increased by £247,000; rent, rates, maintenance and repair of buildings have increased by £126,000, pension liability has increased by £44,000 and depreciation of the more extensive plant now in use by £168,000. The increased expenditure on the development of the telephone system is resulting in increased interest charges of £156,000 compared with the year 1950-51. The Post Office, no more than any other concern, cannot avoid the impact of rising cost and it is, I think, a tribute to the Department that its charges have, by careful management, been kept as low as they are.

Now that I have given incontrovertible explanations for the deficit, I should describe in some detail the general features attending these grave losses.

First of all, our loss is not the result of charging excessive rates. The following figures show that rates have been held down to a point not to be found, I would say, in any other public utility or other service, even in a service where the turnover has increased and in so doing enabled overhead costs per unit of traffic or service to be kept low. Compared with that in force in 1923, the minimum letter post rate is up by 25 per cent, The minimum parcel post rate is up by only 11 per cent. Telephone rentals, business line, are up by only 8 per cent., while residential lines are 16 per cent. lower. Local calls now cost 16 per cent. less. Telegrams [964] were, in 1923, 1/- for 12 words whereas now 1/- pays for 9 words.

There are, I am afraid, very few commodities which can be obtained to-day at only a 25 per cent. increase on even pre-war charges. Considering that it now takes 45/- to purchase what 20/- bought in 1939, the present charges for Post Office services generally are now less than 1939 in terms of purchasing power.

As the services of my Department have largely managed to escape acrimonious political discussion, I can say here and now that up and down movements in the volume of traffic cannot be connected with any of the economic changes which form the subject of debate at Budget time. Nor can I blame my predecessor for the present deficit.

The postal traffic, taken as a whole, shows no marked variation in respect of letters or parcels between 1948 and 1952, the years of post-war resettlement, the Korean boom and the subsequent recession. The telephone traffic has risen steadily but slowly from 1948. The telegraph traffic, following a war spurt, has since been decreasing.

All the added expenses, the £592,000 salary award, cost of materials, conveyance of mails, capital charges depreciation had brought about their principal effect before the controversial period from July, 1952, onwards. A large proportion relate to the prices of foreign materials, or of home materials, the cost of which rose in consequence of foreign prices rising. Indeed, the whole picture of the finances serves as a classic example of inflation where no political controversy arises as to whether the causes were induced or stimulated by Government policy.

When I took charge of the Department, I decided that before I could close the gap between revenue and expenditure I would acquaint myself with working methods in all branches and, making use of some fairly extensive experience of large-scale organisation, would have every branch of the Department subjected to close examination. This naturally took some time and I would like at this juncture to say [965] that the Department has for many years shown the greatest zeal in making proposals for cost reduction, all of which are constantly examined and frequently implemented. In addition, the officers specially trained in business technique continuously make proposals all leading to greater efficiency.

Taking the three services, postal, telegraph and telephone together, I am satisfied that there is no over-staffing and that every effort has been made to keep costs down. A standard of work volume is used in every phase of activity to ensure an economy in staffing which is closely adjusted to the requirements of the service and is no more than is necessary to carry them out at the level at which they are at present provided. In this connection, I would like to emphasise that, while postal traffic in 1952 was 50 per cent. above that for 1939, telegraph traffic 79 per cent. above 1939, telephone trunk traffic 191 per cent. above 1939 and local traffic 135 per cent. above 1939, the total staff increased by only 28 per cent. in the same period. These figures dispose effectively of the suggestion that there is any redundancy.

I must now examine for the benefit of the House the financial position of the three branches separately and if further particulars are required I will give these in the course of my reply.

The loss on the postal services of the Department has been growing steadily over a number of years. In 1950-51 the loss was £154,239; in 1951-52 —£367,842; in. 1952-53—£371,400. In 1953-54 the loss at current rates of charge is estimated at £244,000, but this figure is affected by reductions in expenditure which have been found possible this year but which will not be recurring. The heavy loss is due to the causes already mentioned and it is clear that it cannot be overtaken while charges remain at the present level.

The only way of achieving any substantial measure of economy in postal expenditure would be to impose serious reductions in the services afforded to the public. The largest measure of economy which could be secured would be by a reduction in the frequency of the rural postal deliveries. Our services [966] are relatively more costly in rural areas than elsewhere, but to secure a saving of £150,000 by restriction of rural deliveries would involve dispensing with the equivalent of about 1,000 auxiliary postmen and reducing the present frequency of delivery on roughly 1,500 routes. I would consider such a curtailment of deliveries a most retrograde step, and I would be strongly opposed to it. Deputies of all Parties would, I am sure, be up in arms if I were to propose such a measure, as the pressure on my Department down the years has been more for increased frequency of rural delivery than for reduction.

To illustrate the care taken in keeping costs low, may I say that in many of the areas where a daily delivery has been restored the improvement has been achieved without any increase in cost?

Next, the telegraph service loses heavily here as elsewhere, the average cost to the Department per telegram handled being more than double the average charge to the sender. In the far denser urban conditions of Britain the loss of £3,378,000 yearly on the telegraph service compares with ours of over £400,000. Losses, steadily increasing in the last decade, are experienced in many countries abroad.

A detailed investigation of the telegraph service with a view to improving its financial position and efficiency is proceeding. As I said earlier in my speech, conversion to teleprinter working is continuing, and it is hoped to have this system introduced at all major centres south of a line drawn roughly from Ennis to Dublin before the end of 1953.

This will enable some small economies, measured in thousands of pounds only, to be effected. Telegraph charges are now little different from those in 1923, and are insufficient to meet higher costs. Low porterage charges result in a large number of telegrams being handled at a cost that does not leave 6d. for their transmission to the office of delivery. This cannot continue —no one can reasonably expect the Post Office to provide a service indefinitely [967] at rates representing only a fraction of the cost of operation. In 1952, £11,000 was collected in respect of porterage which cost the Department some £40,000. It is likewise clear that if the telegraph service, 50 per cent. of which is related to business communications and which contains a social service element, is to be run at a loss, a surplus from the telephone service must be available to meet the loss.

I now come to the telephone service. I decided that, as a first step, I would ensure a very great improvement in the speed and availability of service. The details of the progress last year I have given, but let me emphasise one fact. For an increase in engineering staff of some 12 per cent. since 1950, the increased volume of output has been:—Telephones, 11 per cent.; kiosks, 23 per cent.; call offices, 236 per cent.; exchanges increased in capacity 22 per cent. In addition, taking long-term work into consideration, additional trunk circuit mileage provided in 1952 was over 400 per cent. greater than in 1950.

I am glad to say there is continuing progress in output during the first quarter of this year. The tremendous extension of the telephone network taking place was due to plans made in 1946 and put into operation during subsequent years, but further speed in output has been ensured by changes in working methods devised as a result of regular conferences between myself and the officers of the staff.

The whole of the trunk telephone operating service in Dublin and in the provinces has been substantially improved, conditions of work improved wherever possible, training modernised and the standard of courtesy and efficiency on the part of the whole staff permanently and fundamentally raised to the level expected of a country with our tradition of hospitality and graciousness. Complaints of poor service have constantly diminished.

In regard to telephone finances, it must be borne in mind that the profit on the service, which had been decreasing [968] continuously for some years, disappeared in 1951-52. The reasons for this are not far to seek. First, wage rates generally are more than 90 per cent. greater than pre-war rates—in many cases they have more than doubled. Secondly, the cost of materials has, on average, trebled since 1939. Thirdly, we have undertaken enormous capital outlay to improve and develop the service. For example, the addition last year of over 14,000 miles of circuits provides a very great improvement in standards of service, but at the same time raises annual interest depreciation and maintenance charges. Taking these three factors together—wages roughly doubled, costs of materials trebled, capital investment in the service since the end of the war nearly treble the total amount previously invested by the Irish and British Governments—one may wonder that it was possible to postpone increases in rates until 1951, when they were brought to a level only 25 per cent. over pre-war.

May I at this juncture point out facts little known to the public? First, the total capital invested in the telephone system rose from £57 per telephone in 1938-39 to £100 per telephone in 1951-52. Secondly, sample costings show that the charges for interest on capital, depreciation and maintenance on the average telephone exchange line provided at current costs in Dublin have risen to about £14 a year. The annual rental, which in the case of residence telephones is £6 5s., scarcely covers the interest on the capital alone.

Thirdly, an examination of accounts during a recent period showed that the average number of local calls per day made by some 15,000 out of 37,000 subscribers in the Dublin and Cork areas was less than two. A still larger number of subscribers in these areas are negligible trunk users. These figures indicate that, making every allowance for the fact that each additional subscriber tends to stimulate more traffic from existing subscribers, a considerable number of exchange lines are being provided and maintained at a loss.

[969] Moreover, as the telephone habit grows, although total traffic increases, the new subscribers tend more and more to be those who will not be heavy users and the number of calls originated per subscriber tends to fall.

It may be suggested that, by reducing charges, traffic would be sufficiently stimulated to meet expenditure. That has not been the Department's experience. When charges were reduced in 1936, the surplus fell by some 40 per cent. and was not recovered until the war years when emergency conditions had stimulated traffic and a 5 per cent. surcharge had been imposed.

Lastly, Deputies may be interested to know that in the United States of America a privately run telephone administration which is generally regarded as a model of efficiency and enterprise, has raised its charges by from 25 per cent. to 28 per cent. since 1946, although it increased its total telephones from 22,500,000 to 40,000,000 since the end of 1945. In New York, despite enormous growth, certain charges have doubled since 1939. These figures show clearly that increased telephone business does not necessarily enable charges to be maintained, still less reduced. Telephone charges here are low in comparison with those in other countries in general.

Summarising, these deficits on the three services are most disturbing, amounting as they do to 12.4 per cent. of our total revenue, including credits in respect of work done for other Departments of State. An improvement could result from increased traffic as the present organisation could dispose of a good deal more traffic without commensurate extra expense, but I am afraid there is no possibility whatever of an increase in traffic of such an order as to lead to a worthwhile percentage improvement on the present position. While it has been possible to secure many small economies here and there, and these are still being sought, I am satisfied that the effect of them would be relatively insignificant in relation to our heavy deficit.

There is no case for asking the general taxpayer to continue to make [970] up a large deficit on Post Office working. The users of the Post Office services should pay for the services which they obtain. If we could elect to provide Post Office services only in places where they would be completely self-supporting, the problem would not be as difficult as it is. As, however, the Post Office is a public service, its facilities must be made available everywhere throughout the country and not merely in the cities and towns. Charges for service, therefore, have to be such as to recover the cost of providing the Post Office services on a country-wide basis.

Having given the matter earnest consideration, the Government has decided that there is no alternative but to increase postal, telegraph and telephone charges in order that the Post Office should be self-supporting. Should additional costs arise which would materially alter the position which the proposed increases are designed to secure, it will then be necessary to look at the whole position afresh, as it is the Government's intention that the Post Office services should continue to be self-supporting and should not have to have recourse for financing to general taxation.

The Irish Post Office is not alone in having to take this sort of step. Many other countries have had to increase their charges in recent times, amongst them being Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. In Britain, for example, where the density of population is five times that of this country, and where the cost of postal deliveries and telephone communication per unit of population must be substantially less, a surplus of £20,000,000 has fallen to £5,000,000 in five years, notwithstanding substantial increases in charges. In Denmark, a recent deficit of £840,000 was heavily reduced by increased charges. The increases which it is proposed to make are the minimum that can be made consistent with prudent financing, and, in view of what I have said, I am sure that all Deputies will appreciate that no other course can be taken. The increases will still leave the general public paying for the three services at rates considerably below those which [971] would be represented by the fall in the value of the pound to 8/11. At the same time, the improvement of postal services throughout the country will continue and telephone subscribers will be given a more and more rapid service, no delay service already having been introduced, as I have said, into whole regions.

The new postal and telephone charges will be implemented by the issue of statutory Orders. Before the telegraph charges can be introduced, however, a new Telegraph Act will be required, and in order that they may be brought into force on 1st August, it is essential that the new Act should be passed before that date. A short Bill for the purpose will be introduced at an early date and it is hoped to have it passed expeditiously.

In conclusion, I would like to express my appreciation of the loyal and efficient service given by the staff of all grades during the past year.

Brendán Mac Fheórais:  Could not the Minister indicate at this stage what these increases will be?

Mr. Childers:  The charges will be published in the usual way by means of an Order some time in the course of the next few days. If Deputies wish to discuss any part of the charges it will be possible for them to do so and for me to reply in the Budget debate or on some other occasion.

Mr. Sweetman:  Surely it is unreasonable to ask us to debate the Estimate for the Minister's Department with the information withheld from us as to what the increase in charges will be?

Mr. Childers:  It is not usual in the course of an Estimate to announce increases in charge. They have been invariably announced in the past by means of the issue of statutory Orders.

Mr. Sweetman:  I do not think that is correct.

Brendán Mac Fheórais:  It is all the more reason that we should be told now when mention is made that it is proposed to make the increases.

Mr. Sweetman:  It is part of the [972] general tactics of Fianna Fáil not to give the House proper information.

Mr. Rooney:  I move that the Estimate be referred back. I should like to begin by thanking the Minister for making available to the Deputies on this side of the House a copy of his speech. It enabled us to follow closely his statement. It is regrettable that, although the Minister took great trouble to give reasons why he and his Department had decided to increase charges in respect of stamps, telephones and telegrams, he did not indicate the extra burdens which would be imposed. He should be in a position to do so because he was able to produce figures, make a case and present an argument which he considers would justify the imposition of these extra charges. He must know the gap he desires to bridge and, from the figures available to him in the various sections of the postal and telegraph service, he must be able at this stage to give precise figures of the proposed increased burden.

It is regrettable that the Minister announced his proposal to increase charges in respect of these services and left the House at a disadvantage by not giving the amount. I feel that the Minister is in a position to give that information. He should give it at this stage in order that the Estimate may be debated in a proper manner. We are left in the position that we have no opportunity of criticising the proposed increased burdens. The only thing we can do is to present arguments against the proposal to put any extra burden on certain services.

We have noticed that there has been in the Minister's Department a certain degree of retrenchment. We have seen that there will be a reduction of something like £300,000 compared with last year. When the Minister first decided to increase telephone charges we realised the very great burden it would impose, particularly on the business community. Everybody knows that in many cases the telephone service is more important to the business community than written correspondence. Many business firms [973] use the telephone to a greater extent than they use written correspondence.

It is proposed to increased telegraph charges. I agree with the Minister that in rural areas the cost of sending a telegram must be very great but a very great proportion of our population reside in cities and towns, and it is my view that the Minister should be able to balance the position better than his figures would indicate.

I was hoping that at this stage the Minister would be in a position to say that the revenue from telephone subscribers had increased to such an extent as to enable some relief to be given. A couple of years ago, when the Department announced the increase in telephone charges, there was very great objection to it. I would ask the Minister to state precisely the extra revenue he secured as a result of the increased telephone charges.

It was obvious from the statement made by the Minister that the activity introduced into the Department by his predecessor, Deputy Everett, is being pursued vigorously by the present Minister. That is reassuring. There was a very big backlog, owing to the emergency, when materials were not available. I regret to note that there is still a waiting list of 4,800 applicants for telephones. With the increase in the supply of materials available, it should have been possible to reduce the number on the waiting list. The Minister indicated that the figure was something like 7,000 when the interParty Government took office, and, of course, many thousands of people have applied for telephones since that time. I suppose the best part of 15,000 extra telephones were provided, and, when he came into office, there were something like 6,000 people on the waiting list. I presume that telephones have been provided in these cases. I regret to see that there are still 4,800 awaiting telephones. It should have been possible in the meantime to overtake the work of providing telephones for these people more rapidly. It would appear from the Minister's statement that there are cases where people have been awaiting a telephone since 1951. I am personally aware of that fact. [974] That is a very long waiting time. If the work is not overtaken more rapidly it means that a person applying to-day may expect to wait perhaps 12 or 18 months for a telephone. I hope that in this year the Minister will take steps to clear off the waiting list as quickly as possible. He has indicated that the average number of telephone calls by private individuals is very low, but the provision of all these extra telephones will ensure increased revenue, and that is required in order to pay the capital cost of providing even the existing services.

I am glad to note from the Minister's statement that progress has been made regarding the provision of a radio telephone service. No doubt, the development of radio telegraphy makes it imperative in this country to try to modernise in that respect. There are people living on islands around our coast, some of them a couple of miles from the coast and others a much greater distance. At times these people are left without communication with the mainland. Many of them, of course, have no communication at all, because, as the Minister indicated, the population of the island concerned is too low. In these days, with modern equipment, it ought to be possible to provide apparatus which would enable the people on these islands to establish contact with the mainland.

There is, I think, a radio telephone system operating in a general way between police stations. Some people wish to know if they were permitted under licence to provide their own transmitting and receiving apparatus, whether facilities would be granted to them to communicate either with the nearest police station on the mainland or with a central receiving and transmitting station at the post office. Either of these services would meet the need that exists in some cases where residents on these islands want communication with the mainland. It is impossible for them to have communication with the mainland except by a system of this kind. Many of them are marooned for long periods without any communication with the mainland, and a radio-telephone system would provide contact for them. I regret to [975] learn from the Minister, however, that, although he had expected the work of providing radio-telephones for some of the larger islands would begin next month, it is possible that there will be a further delay.

It is obvious from the Minister's statement that during the last 12 or 18 months, we have been providing these telephone services, as well as other services, from materials purchased in 1951 by the inter-Party Government. The inter-Party Government were criticised because they had taken the precaution of purchasing materials of this nature which would facilitate the carrying out of the capital development programme. If we did not get in the material at that time we could not look into the future and plan for the provision of many services which have been provided even since the change of Government. That has continued because the inter-Party Government took the precaution of getting in these materials at that time and the Department of Posts and Telegraphs is a typical example of the good work of the inter-Party Government in taking those precautions at a time when another world war seemed to be on the horizon. There is a better international political position existing now and the procuring of materials is not so difficult as it was at that time. I feel that the Minister should take advantage of the position even now and ensure that the materials required are procured in order that the programme can be proceeded with.

There is a certain amount of confusion still in the rural areas concerning the postal deliveries. In some places in the country postmen on two different routes pass each other en route. Something should be done to reorganise these routes in order to cut out the need for postmen to pass each other on the road in providing services for different areas.

I also notice from the Minister's statement that a public telephone has been provided in a large number of call offices and that it is expected this year that every call office will be connected with the telephone. That is a [976] development in the right direction because communication by telephone has become almost essential in these days. It is a service which is badly needed. The provision of telephone boxes in many villages and small towns is also needed. There are many very large villages at present still without telephone boxes. I will only mention the village of Swords. In that village, if a person desires to communicate with a doctor or the police or on any urgent matter, there is no access to a public telephone box. Such a person has to go to a publican's premises and ask permission to use the telephone. Places as big as Swords anyway should be provided with a public telephone box instead of having the position as it is at present.

Reference was also made by the Minister to the activities of the Savings Bank. I should like to know whether he contemplates the provision of a proper banking service in connection with the Post Office. Such a service is provided in Belgium and probably in some other countries. The public in general who operate on a day-to-day basis there find the operation of a banking service by the Post Office quite satisfactory. I was speaking to a person who described to me the banking service available through the Post Office in Belgium and it appeared to be very efficient. It is worth while considering whether such a service should be provided here for the public in general.

The efforts of the Minister and his Department during the last year to attract investments in the Post Office Savings Bank have been successful to a certain extent, but at what price? As we know, the 5 per cent. National Loan had the effect of causing hardship and imposing extra costs in many spheres of activity, particularly in the building trade. Here we have an example on the effect on the Post Office Savings Bank which was never noted for giving a very great return for the money invested.

It came to the stage where it would have to go out of existence if it could not compete with the 5 per cent. interest offered on the National Loan last autumn. The public investing its [977] savings in this Savings Bank is not getting something for nothing. These people are paying through the nose for the National Loan through the medium of taxation. It is they who will have to pay both the principal and the interest, and if they get something back through the Savings Bank in the form of better terms and a higher rate of interest that is only due to them.

I was sorry to hear that the Minister intends to increase the postal charges for both parcels and letters. Business firms have a very heavy postage bill to meet, and in the long run they must pass on that charge to the public at large, and it is the consuming public who will ultimately be required to meet these extra charges. In the meantime, the business firms obliged to pay these extra charges will themselves be upset to some extent in their particular economy.

The Minister gave some figures to justify his proposal to increase charges. He mentioned that probably charges would be increased in relation to letters, telegrams and telephones. I think the Minister should have given us the figures so that we could debate this proposal in a more concrete way. The Minister did not mention whether he was giving any consideration to the claim for an adjustment in wages in so far as Post Office staffs are concerned. The staffs in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs are, together with those in other Departments, obliged to bear the increased cost of living. People in outside trades have been able to get an adjustment upwards in order to meet the increased cost of living.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is not a matter for the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. It is a matter for the Minister for Finance.

Mr. Rooney:  I took it some provision would be made in the Minister's Estimate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Civil Service arbitration award does not arise on this Vote. It is a matter for the Minister for Finance.

[978]Mr. Rooney:  Very probably this proposal to increase certain charges in the Post Office will be taken to include a provision for the adjustment upwards of the salaries of the staffs of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. When making the case for these increased charges, the Minister should have adverted to the need for this adjustment. The House is at a disadvantage in debating these proposals since it does not know exactly what the proposals are.

The Minister referred to the provision of traffic circuits between Dublin and Belfast and between Dublin and the South. It is a happy augury that this system of communication should be improved to such an extent. The installation of these circuits began two or three years ago when the inter-Party Government was in office. We in the Opposition now are glad to hear they have been completed and are actually in operation. The Minister has carried on the work of his Department very actively, work which was commenced when the Minister's predecessor was in control, and I was sorry to notice that the Minister did not give credit to Deputy Everett for the work done by him in connection with the opening of the new post office in St. Andrew Street. The arrangements for that post office were well under way when the Minister took office. Reading his speech at the opening of that building, I was sorry that he did not give any credit whatsoever to his predecessor but appeared to try to snatch all the credit for himself and for his Government.

I hope that the Minister, during the course of the debate, will make a statement for the benefit of the House in relation to the scale of charges he proposes to apply and the items to which these charges will apply. I think it is rather a lame excuse for the Minister to come in and say that a Bill will be introduced containing all this information. He said he would bring in a short Bill at an early date and he hoped it would be passed expeditiously. I do not think a short Bill is necessary for the purpose of announcing the new charges. It might be necessary to implement them.

[979]Mr. Childers:  May I make an explanation in order to facilitate Deputies? There is an established tradition in these matters. In July, 1948, and again in March, 1951, two changes in charges took place during the period in office of the last Government. That Government followed a precedent established by the previous Fianna Fáil administration. The tradition is that these charges are increased by the issue of warrants or Orders. Neither in July, 1948, nor in March, 1951, did those increased charges form part of the debate on the Estimate. In July, 1951, I started the precedent by asking permission of the House to mention the fact that there would be increases of a purely minor character in relation to printed papers and parcels. That had previously been agreed to by the inter-Party Government. On that occasion I asked permission to mention the fact that these increases would take place in connection with a small amending Bill bringing Post Office legislation up-to-date. The general practice, established by precedent, is to issue a warrant and statutory Order. The warrant in the case of Post Office charges does not even have to lie on the Table of the House for 21 days before being implemented, the reason being that the Post Office is, to a considerable degree, a commercial service and is expected to pay its way. There are quite a number of precedents for that procedure, not only here but in other democratic countries. These charges are increased without any opportunity being given save in a voluntary way or because of some special occasion for their discussion by Parliament. I have simplified the position on this occasion by saying that these increases will be announced very shortly. If members have some special objection to particular charges I will be glad to deal with them later. Quite obviously, apart from relieving the taxpayer of a considerable amount of money by changing the charges, it is thought wise that these charges should be issued in the usual way according to the usual tradition, but there will be an opportunity for discussion. I do not think I can say anything more about it than that. I am not sinning [980] against tradition in any respect in the way I have made these announcements. The Bill applies to telegraph charges. These charges cannot be increased beyond a certain point without legislation; otherwise, they could be increased through an Order.

Mr. Rooney:  When the Minister was announcing that proposal to increase the charges, in July, 1951, did he state what the increase would be before, in fact, the implementing Bill was introduced?

Mr. Childers:  He did not make a statement in the Dáil or at the time of the Estimate. There were either questions in the Dáil or Press announcements. I am not blaming Deputy Everett. He followed the precedent of earlier years.

Mr. H.P. Dockrell:  The Minister created a precedent here, surely, by announcing an increase without giving details of it.

Mr. Norton:  The Minister has covered a good deal of ground and has dealt with a number of matters to which I should like to advert. He spent a good deal of time telling us about the telephonic service. From the memorandum which he circulated, we read that the number of trunk and local calls increased by approximately 2,500,000 in 1952. The Minister went on to say that new telephone lines installed in 1952 numbered 7,234, which was a record. He added that, at the end of the present month, the number of telephones in service will, it is estimated, reach 100,000, compared with 61,000 in 1948 and 77,000 in 1950. Everybody will be glad of these enormous strides in the development of our telephone services.

While we continue to install additional telephones—and the record is imposing—and while additional trunk and local calls pass through the telephone exchanges, all requiring staff and equipment, there has been no corresponding provision in the telephone exchanges throughout the country to cope with that additional traffic. From my knowledge, I should say that most of the telephone exchanges throughout [981] the county are overcrowded, and that many of them are disgracefully overcrowded. I do not know whether the Minister has had an opportunity of visiting the various telephone exchanges throughout the country, but I can assure him that there are many examples of what I say. That can be confirmed by the Minister if he will visit these various exchanges. For instance, if he goes to Carlow and asks any member of the telephone staff there about the conditions in the telephone exchange in Carlow, he will hear a pretty lurid story of the conditions under which the staff there are required to deal with telephone traffic. The same may be said of other centres as well.

I suggest that the Minister should take particular interest in the telephone exchanges throughout the country. They have made no progress from the point of view of extended accommodation for the staff and the equipment comparable with the progress which has been made in the increased user of the telephone and in the increased equipment which it is necessary to install in these exchanges.

I called the attention of the Post Office to the condition of the Mallow exchange—a building which is in no sense a monument to Post Office genius, engineering or architectural skill. I think plans are on foot to remedy the condition of affairs there. With every additional phone which the Minister installs he is imposing extra hardship on the staff in these overcrowded exchanges who are expected to operate in them. I suggest that the Minister should visit these exchanges at the peak traffic hours rather than in the valley hours. If he does so, he will see the conditions under which the girls there have to work. I realise that this is not a problem that can be solved overnight or in a press-button fashion. If the Minister would devote some attention to the matter I think he might help to accelerate a solution of the burning problem of additional accommodation, particularly at those overcrowded exchanges where the problem is most acute and ought to be dealt with seriously. I hardly [982] imagine that this problem is new to the Minister. I should like to know what he proposes to do to achieve an overall remedy in that respect.

Related to the problem of inadequate accommodation at telephone exchanges is the matter of the general building programme of post offices. The Minister listed a number of offices where it is proposed to carry out alterations or reconstruction work during the present year. That is praiseworthy, but I fear that another generation or two will pass before the problem is dealt with if we continue to deal with it on the present basis. The Post Office has hopelessly outgrown its original clothing—if I might describe a building as “clothing.” The volume of traffic at the post offices has increased enormously since they were first erected. Every new service—social services and every other kind of service from every Department of State—is now filtering through the Post Office. The result is that buildings which were built 50, 70 or 80 years ago are still, with some adaptations here and there, used to serve a unit substantially greater than that for which they were originally planned. I give the Post Office credit for being anxious to get on with the work. I believe that they do not defend the existing accommodation in many of these places. Why, however, is there so much delay in getting these essential alterations and reconstruction works carried out? I know that you have to go to the Board of Works and that only a brave man with granite-like physique can stand up to the type of treatment you receive at the Board of Works if you try to get anything done in a hurry. There, the tempo is the same as it was in the old days of Babylon. If you ask them to do something urgently, they will look at you as if you were never in the world before and never heard of the Board of Works. The first thing they do is to get a file, and from then onwards the whole problem is the file and seeing that the file is right until eventually the original purpose of the file is lost sight of. So long as the file is right, a summary can be given to people from time to time as to progress being made. I think the [983] Board of Works is the old man of the sea around the neck of the Post Office so far as efforts to provide improved accommodation for transacting Post Office business is concerned.

What does the Minister propose to do to accelerate this reconstruction programme—this programme of trying to extend the accommodation at offices for the transaction of business and for the accommodation of the staff—and when are we likely to see a substantial improvement in the existing office accommodation? When can we expect that the urgent problems which are in need of solution, so far as the provision of new and reconstructed buildings are concerned, will adequately be dealt with?

The Minister told us that the legal formalities in connection with the site for the new sorting and letter office had been completed. I would like to ask the Minister can he now give us any idea as to whether plans for the construction of the new office have been or are being prepared, and, if so, when these plans will go to tender; when it is likely that work will commence on the construction of the new office on the site provided near Amiens Street station. For the past 30 years Dublin has had no real central sorting and letter office that could be so described. The previous office was in a skating rink in Parnell Square and when that was burned down during the civil war it was moved to a disused and disreputable distillery building in Pearse Street, and there it has been accommodated for the past 30 years. This is the showpiece of the Post Office so far as the letter and sorting office in the capital city of this State is concerned. I would like to ask the Minister how long more it is going to take before Dublin and the Post Office service nationally gets an up-to-date letter and sorting office and when work is likely to commence on the construction of that new office.

The Minister in the course of his speech spoke about the reorganisation of services in rural areas. I would like to focus his attention on one or two [984] matters in that regard. I think there is need of a more understanding and broadminded approach to the staff problems than I see operating at the moment. The Post Office have got a fetish that you must bring a postman on duty at six or seven in the morning. If you ask the Post Office why the man must go on duty at that hour you get some excuse that has no relation to life at all in these small towns and villages. Everybody knows perfectly well you do not get people out of bed early in the rural towns. If the Minister was in Longford at seven in the morning he would find plenty of room in the main street. If he tried to knock up a shopkeeper at 7 or 8 a.m., he would find the shopkeeper putting his head out of the window and saying: “Will you come back some time in the evening”.

It seems that the postman must be on duty at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. with his delivery of registered letters for which he has to get a signature and with parcels which he cannot put in letter boxes. What is the purpose of sending postmen out when people are still in bed and there is nobody up to sign for the registered letter or to take the parcel. He is then obliged to hawk the parcel for the rest of his delivery and perhaps bring the registered letter back in the afternoon.

I cannot understand why it is necessary for the postman to be on duty at 7 in the morning delivering letters to firms that do not open until 9, 9.30 and sometimes 10 o'clock. There is scope for some modification of the present Post Office fetish of turning people out on the streets at that hour of the morning to deliver letters to a community, the bulk of whom in the rural areas are still in bed. It may well be that some reformer thinks we ought to get the Irish people out of bed early in the morning but surely sending postmen out at 7 in the morning with letters and parcels is not going to effect this reformation in the somnolent habits of the Irish people. If the reformation is to come it must come some other way but I see no sense whatever in bringing postmen out so early in the morning for the purpose of trying to effect deliveries [985] to the rural population who are still in bed.

Least of all can I understand why a postman is brought on at these early hours in the winter time when, due to summer-time adjustments, it is darker in the mornings. Why is the postman brought on in the morning in the dark with the whole office illuminated so that he can see where he is going and what he is doing? Then he is dispatched with the morning post while it is still dark. It is pretty difficult to get some Irish people up when the sun is shining but to get them out of bed on a dark winter morning perhaps to take a six-day notice from the Land Commission is a bit thick. I am afraid it is the urban and the metropolitan mind of the Post Office administrators which has produced this complete misconception as to the pattern of life in the rural areas. The area which the Minister represents is mainly a rural constituency. Very often if you spend a long time in a city your conception of life does change. You are inclined to forget what the habit of life is in the rural areas. I see no reason whatever why the Post Office should embark upon a policy of having postmen dispatched in the morning, hours before the people are up to receive the goods which the postman is delivering. I would like to hear from the Minister what he had to say in justification of that particular policy.

That brings me to another aspect of deliveries of letters in rural areas. Many of these postmen who go out early in the morning are required to wait two, three, four and five hours, without pay, at the end of the terminal point of their outward delivery; then they make a collection and come back in the evening. Many of those waiting periods at these posts are unduly long and it is a great hardship to postmen who have to spend anything from two to five hours waiting, sometimes in a shelter hut, a very uninviting institution provided by the Post Office, or in a local post office or in a local village street until it is time to make the return journey.

I do not think that serious public [986] inconvenience would be occasioned by shortening the waiting period of all these rural posts so that a postman would not be at the entire loss of the two to five hours which he is required to spend, without any advantage to himself or without any pay from the Post Office, waiting until it is time to make his return journey. Without any inconvenience to the public or any additional expenditure by the Post Office Department a good deal could be done to improve the conditions of postmen who are employed on these rural deliveries and employed under conditions which make heavy inroads on the limited time which they have available for social intercourse.

Last year, when replying on the Estimate, the Minister made reference to the policy of the Post Office Department and said that it was the Department's policy to expand part-time posts to full-time and to provide for an increase in the number of established postmen by decreasing the number of part-time officers. However, in reply to a parliamentary question which I submitted to him about a week ago, the Minister informed me that 12 part-time posts had been expanded from part-time to full-time during the year. I think that is, number one, not only a very slow rate of expansion but it must be the lowest rate of expansion for many years. In other years a substantially higher number of part-time posts were expanded from part-time to full-time and I would like to know how it is that the number is so low this year.

The Minister last year gave an assurance that I thought was relatively satisfactory, inasmuch as he said it was the aim of the Post Office Department, through rural revisions and in other ways, to increase the number of full-time posts and the number of fully established postmen. If that policy is not being trimmed now to suit financial exigencies, how is it that out of 56 large head offices throughout the country and a large number of salaried sub-offices and scale payment offices, it was possible to effect an expansion from part-time to full-time posts in [987] only 14 cases? Frankly, I had got a suspicion that the Post Office is soft-pedalling on the whole matter and that devious methods are being used to prevent the conversion of part-time to full-time posts. We have had assurances for many years—we had an assurance from the Minister last year— that it was the policy to convert part-time posts into full-time posts. I should like to know how, in the face of these assurances, such little progress was made in that field in the past year.

I am glad to see that the Minister reserved portion of his speech for Deputy Kennedy, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare, who has taken on himself recently the rôle of organisation and methods officer. Deputy Kennedy made a rather triumphant entry to Mullingar about a fortnight ago, and there told an overwrought audience that he had discovered that there was a 20 per cent. redundancy in the Civil Service. The same redoubtable Deputy would have no difficulty in card-indexing every civil servant, if he got his way, and all that problem would be tidied up in a short time. This alleged 20 per cent. redundancy in the Civil Service, left in the capable hands of Deputy Kennedy, would no doubt be dealt with with all the efficiency which the Deputy radiates. I take portion of the Minister's speech on page 20 as indicating that the Deputy's speech can be dismissed as completely inaccurate, and I want to congratulate the Minister on having the courage to tell his misguided and mistaken colleague that, so far as the Post Office is concerned, the Deputy was talking so much ballyhoo. The Minister stated:—

“I would like at this juncture to say that the Department has for many years shown the greatest zeal in making proposals for cost reduction, all of which are constantly examined and frequently implemented.”

I can testify to that effect from painful recollection. The Minister goes on :—

“In addition, the officers specially [988] trained in business techniques continuously make proposals, all leading to greater efficiency. Taking the three services—postal, telegraph and telephone—together, I am satisfied that there is no over-staffing, that every effort has been made to keep costs down. A standard of work volume is used in every phase of activity to ensure an economy in staffing which is closely adjusted to the requirements of the service and is no more than is necessary to carry them out at the level at which they are at present provided. In this connection, I would like to emphasise that, while postal traffic in 1952 was 50 per cent. above that for 1939, telegraph traffic 79 per cent. above 1939, telephone trunk traffic 191 per cent. above 1939 and local traffic 135 per cent. above 1939, the total staff increased by only 28 per cent. in the same period. These figures dispose effectively of the suggestion that there is any redundancy.”

I think that a most comprehensive reply to Deputy Kennedy. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will study that passage in the Minister's speech if he has time during the next few days because quite clearly the Parliamentary Secretary was talking nonsense when he made that speech against the background of the Post Office staffing. The Parliamentary Secretary was talking about something about which he knew nothing whatever.

In relation to what I have just said, I want to refer to conditions from the staff point of view in the Dublin sorting office and the Dublin registered letter office so that these may be related to the Minister's observations and the Parliamentary Secretary's statements. I do not know whether the Minister has paid a visit to the sorting office or the registered letter office in Pearse Street.

Mr. Childers:  I have.

Mr. Norton:  I do not know the time the Minister was there, by whom he was chaperoned or whose views he got when he was there, but I think that here is a matter worthy of the attention [989] of the Parliamentary Secretary against the background of the 20 per cent. redundancy he has discovered in the Civil Service. I am quite satisfied from all the information I have in this matter that the registered letter section of the Dublin sorting office is grossly under-staffed. The Post Office authorities have been asked to apply a remedy but so far they have not provided staff adequate to deal with the situation. I repeat that so far as the registered letter section in the sorting office is concerned it is not adequately staffed. I say that officers, and especially young officers, are being compelled to take chances with registered letters in regard to which the Post Office exacts a special fee for safeguards. Not only are they taking chances with registered letters but they are taking chances with their own reputations because of the way in which they are compelled to do their work in that particular section. The staff have been pared down to a minimum with the result, as the attendance books will show, that officers are required to go in before their time and are kept on after their time in order to get through the work. Too great a volume of work has to be dealt with by the number of officers engaged there in the time available.

For the life of me, I do not understand why the Post Office should resort to these huckstering methods in the registered letter section. I do not see why there should be such cheeseparing in providing a staff for the handling of registered letters. In many cases these registered letters are being balanced not on the number received by individual officers; they are being balanced on the disposal after the night's or day's work is over. That is an unhealthy situation, a situation in which there is no safety. If evidence is wanted evidence can be produced for the information of the Department.

I do not know why the Post Office should want to run the registered letter section of the sorting office on that basis or why they want to run the central sorting office on that basis. I think the public are entitled to safeguards for registered letters. The officers of the Department, who are [990] liable to very severe interrogation which they get from time to time if registered letters or parcels are missing, are entitled to protection against being required to work under these conditions. It is unfair to the Post Office itself to ask them to work under these conditions. It is unfair to ask them to take chances. They should be facilitated to deal with these items in a satisfactory way, in a way that does not compel them to take chances with the safety of the correspondence and with their own reputation. If the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Kennedy, can find any of these redundant people about whom he spoke it is about time that some of them were sent to the sorting office, and particularly to the registered letter section, where they are urgently needed. I see no reason why this Department should be run on fire brigade lines. The Department should take steps to remedy the situation there, which is dangerous. Testimony as to the existence of that danger can be given by every single person whose job it is to work in that section. Nobody feels happy in it. Everybody feels he is taking a chance and if there is a credit balance on the registered letter everybody thanks God, but frequently no credit balance is effected.

Last year we got from the Minister an intimation, in reply to the representations which were made to him during the course of the debate on this Estimate, that he was having the question of providing mail bag cleaning apparatus examined by the Post Office department. So far the mail bag cleaning machinery has not made its appearance, with the result that the mail bags continue to be cleaned in prison. I do not think that is the best place to send mail bags for cleaning. Quite clearly prisoners are not in permanent employment and do not have to bother about pleasing the customer. They do not mind whether the customer comes back again or not.

I know of no more unsatisfactory method of cleaning mail bags than by dumping them in prison and expecting prisoners, having regard to the state of their mind, to devote their [991] energies and talents to cleaning mail bags to the satisfaction of the Post Office. Every post office administration in the world has a mail bag cleaning apparatus. In many countries these apparatus are at various centres. I suppose this is the only post office administration in Europe which has no bag cleaning apparatus. Instead, we are content to allow prisoners to do the bag cleaning while the Post Office declines or at all events has succeeded in refusing, whether on its own or under compulsion by the Department of Finance, to buy a mail bag cleaning apparatus.

Last night, we were discussing the undesirability of allowing everybody to put anything he liked into mattresses and the undesirability of allowing dirty mattresses and dirty materials to be put in circulation because of their effect on health. The Post Office uses a large number of bags every year which are dragged across spit laden streets and dirty offices. These bags are used for any and every purpose and in all kinds of ways up and down the country. These bags which are inadequately cleansed are used in offices where there are large numbers of staff employed. In 1953 there is no reason why the Post Office should not march with the times. While it may not like the 20th Century, I still think it has got to put up with the fact that it has arrived and that it imposes on the Post Office an obligation to resort to bag cleaning methods which are recognised to be necessary in other administrations. What is happening in respect of the provision of this apparatus? I think it is time it should be installed. When is the Post Office going to get away from a method of cleaning bags which is the same to-day as it was 50 years ago?

The question of the recruitment of auxiliary postmen is a matter to which I should like to advert. I understand the present position to be that, when there is a vacancy for an auxiliary postman, the employment exchange is asked to select a person or persons who are then sent along to the local postmaster. The local postmaster [992] selects the person to fill the vacancy. The person is then employed in the vacancy, but he is only employed for a couple of months when a new process is set in operation. Applications are then invited for the filling of the post, and it may turn out in many of these cases that the person who was first employed, who has been employed as a substitute for years and years, and who was first when the vacancy occurred, will be dispossessed of the post in which he has been employed so long. The vacancy is given to some other person.

That seems a rather peculiar method of filling a vacancy for auxiliary postmen. Clearly, I think that, in all equity, priority should be given to persons who have been acting regularly as substitutes on vacant posts or who have been acting as substitutes during holidays or sick leave on the part of another member of the staff, but, at all events, when a person is employed to fill the vacancy in the first instance, surely he ought to be allowed to remain in the post if he is certified to be fit? What is the purpose of having a second selection? I am satisfied that the second selection does not serve for fair play or equity.

There was an appointment made in an office recently which, I think, must smell in the nostrils of anybody who is concerned with clean administration. I refer to an appointment of an auxiliary postman in a place called Redhill in the County Cavan. Nobody can justify that appointment by any reference to any canon of fair play or equity. That is one of the things that happens once the political wanglers and hooflers get their claws in or try to place their pals in particular jobs. I do not imagine that the Minister can get much consolation out of perpetrating an outrage such as was perpetrated in Redhill recently. I imagine that in all the circumstances the Minister is a victim of his environment, a victim of the particular circumstances in that case. I cannot imagine that he can look back with pride on the appointment made there or expect any glory to vindicate clean methods of administration there. That is the kind of thing [993] which happens once political hoofling is an element in the making of appointments in the public service. I would still rather see this whole business put on the basis that the employment exchange would select the person and submit his name to the Post Office. If the auxiliary postman does his job properly he should be allowed to remain in it. Why put him in for three months and then take him out? There is always the danger, as in the Redhill case, that a couple of political pals will collide with each other. The supporters of the man in question were not as high in the political firmament as those of the person who got the appointment.

I do not think that is clean administration or that it reflects any credit on the Post Office nor do I think it is a thing we should perpetuate. Some steps should be taken to adopt methods of filling appointments which will at least render the Post Office immune from that kind of hoofling in the matter of making some appointments. My own personal preference would be for getting the best and keenest in the first instance, preferably somebody who has no political axe to grind or no personal interest in the appointment. Once the person is selected he should be allowed to remain in the job unless it is shown he is unsatisfactory or not sufficiently experienced. I do not for the life of me know why a person is put in an appointment in the first instance, then taken out and dispossessed of the appointment even though no complaint has been made against him during the period he performed his duty. I hope to hear something from the Minister that the present method will not be continued. It is unsatisfactory and open to considerable abuse. From the point of view of the Minister or of the Department there is no reason why they should perpetuate a system of making appointments which is open to such obvious and, indeed, inevitable abuse.

The Minister in some portion of his speech talked about certain reorganisation of the services making it possible to bring about an improvement in relation to the working of staffs. If that is the attitude of the Post Office [994] towards their staffs there is one place where great improvement could be effected and that is in Dublin in connection with the sorting staff there. The carrying out of this improvement would not impose any burden on the Post Office or involve any expense. Saturday evening in Dublin is an evening when all the commercial houses are closed. Sunday is a day on which no mails are dispatched. On Saturday evening you have a situation which is entirely different from that which prevails on the other five days and nights of the week with the traffic running all the time at high pressure.

But, notwithstanding the fact that virtually all business houses in the city close down on a Saturday afternoon and that no mails are dispatched the following day, duties are still scheduled up to 11 o'clock on Saturday night for officers employed in the sorting and letter office. I think that, without causing any inconvenience to the Post Office or involving any expenditure to the Post Office, these duties could be reorganised in such a way as to close the office after the night mail dispatch had been effected. In that way, the Post Office could show that it appreciated the services rendered by the staff by allowing them off duty on a Saturday night, which, by custom, is the night that people like to have a few hours free to themselves.

When Deputies bear in mind that this staff has no weekly half-holiday on a Monday, Wednesday, Saturday or any other day, a concession of that kind would be appreciated, and I do not think there would be any insuperable difficulty in providing it. I hope that the Minister will carry his interest in staff matters to the extent that he will have that matter investigated with a view to seeing whether the necessary adjustment of duties could not be made so as to permit the staff to be off duty on that evening when, as the Minister knows, Dublin folk, at all events, like to be able to have a few hours to themselves.

These are some of the remarks which I wanted to raise on the Estimate. I hope that the Minister, when replying, will be able to give us some indication [995] that he proposes to take these matters to a stage nearer a satisfactory solution than they are in just at the moment.

Mr. Finan:  I desire to refer briefly to the dissatisfaction that exists in rural areas with regard to deliveries. It is an extraordinary thing that in the present year there are many rural areas that have no daily deliveries. I feel from my examination of the problem—I admit that my knowledge on the matter is rather limited—that, without involving any extra cost or the employment of any additional staff but rather by reorganisation, daily deliveries could be provided in almost all the rural areas. As an instance of what I mean, I will take what occurs in the Castlerea postal area where you have deliveries for three townlands, namely, Frenchlawn, Shancough and Ballyfinnegan, from the Castlerea Post Office, while actually those three townlands are adjacent to Ballintubber Post Office, and could be served without any difficulty whatever by the postman operating in the Ballintubber postal area. What Deputy Rooney said is quite true, that in parts of the country you find postmen passing each other on their daily rounds. When that happens, it must strike one that there is some lack of organisation in that regard. I suggest that something requires to be done in that district, and I hope that the officers of the Minister will give early attention to it.

With the exception of that particular point, I do not think there is any great complaint at all against the running of the Post Office so far as my area is concerned. There is, however, dissatisfaction with regard to the delay that has taken place in providing certain post offices with telephones. I am relieved, however, to learn that this matter is getting attention and will be remedied within the next 12 months.

Recently, I made representations to the Minister with regard to the provision of a telephone at Ballymacurley Post Office, County Roscommon. The nearest telephone to that office is five miles distant, and so a great hardship is imposed on the people who reside in the area. That can be readily [996] appreciated when I say that if the people there require the services of a doctor, a nurse or a vet, they have to cycle a distance of five miles to telephone and get into communication with them. In fact, the Government's failure to provide the simple facility I speak of might mean the loss of a human life. I was disheartened, as the local people were disheartened, by a communication which I received from the Minister in regard to that matter a couple of weeks ago. He did not hold out any great hope of being able to relieve that situation in the near future. However, judging from his introductory speech to-day, the position would appear to be better than we had reason to anticipate.

If I am rightly informed, representations were made by the officers in the Engineering Branch of the Post Office to the Department of Finance to the effect that they required extra trainees in the engineering section, particularly in the age group 18 to 21. These representations were made about 12 months ago, and still nothing has been done. As a matter of fact, several young boys were interviewed. They were put to considerable personal inconvenience by being brought long distances for the interview, and then it was discovered that the necessary sanction was not forthcoming from the Department of Finance. I would urge the Minister to take the matter up again with the Department of Finance, and to point out to it that it is absolutely essential to have a number of trainees always available. I think myself that this particular section of the Department is one that is bound to grow, and that considerations of economy in the Department of Finance should not be allowed to militate against its effective organisation.

I would like to conclude by associating myself with what has been said by Deputy Norton about the appointment of auxiliary postmen. There is the feeling, rightly or wrongly, in the various postal areas that, unless you happen to be a supporter of a certain political Party, there is no use looking for that job. That feeling may be ill-founded. I do not know, but at any [997] rate the feeling exists. If some method of appointment could be devised that would relieve potential applicants of that feeling, I think it would be very desirable. Certain experiences in the past have given good reason to believe that there is some foundation for it. I think that if some independent body, or some person entirely removed from politics who could be relied upon, were given responsibility for the making of these appointments, it would be far more satisfactory. Undoubtedly, it has happened in the past that applicants who were well fitted for appointment and whose domestic circumstances entitled them to prior consideration, were relegated to the background, while people who could not be regarded as competent at all, and whose domestic circumstances were reasonably satisfactory, got the appointment. I am not blaming the Minister for that because I know it happened before the Minister became Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. The point, however, is that the feeling continues to exist. I would, therefore, urge on the Minister to adopt Deputy Norton's suggestion and try some other means of making these appointments.

Mr. Palmer:  It was gratifying to learn from the Minister's statement that it is hoped to have telephones installed in all sub-post offices during the next 12 months. It would be well, too, if there could be a daily delivery of letters to all rural areas. That really is very necessary. While, during the past two or three years, good provision in that respect was made for the urban areas, the fact is that the rural areas were forgotten. It is absolutely essential in the rural areas that we should have not only daily letter deliveries, if possible, but also proper telephonic communication.

In connection with daily deliveries, I would imagine that where there are only three deliveries at present, in order to carry out a daily delivery there would be no necessity to appoint extra postmen but rather to expand the work of the postmen already employed. In fact, I often thought that the position of these auxiliary postmen is not a very proper one. I [998] think the time has come when they should be fully established and therefore when they would reach the retiring age the position would be pensionable. It is hardly fair to postmen that after long, faithful and efficient service, when they reach 70 years of age, they will have to retire and apply for the old age pension.

While I am speaking about the auxiliary postmen, I would like to refer also to what Deputy Norton said about these appointments. In the past year I had reason to complain here to the Minister about an appointment made at Knocknagoshel, in North Kerry. Any fair-minded person would think that whoever was responsible for that appointment acted very wrongfully. You had there a man with the necessary qualifications; he was recommended by the labour exchange in the first place; he had done temporary duty for six months; he was a married man with four or five young children; he had military service and all the necessary qualifications. Yet a man who failed to have these qualifications was appointed. If, in the first place, a person was appointed temporarily, to act during holiday periods or illness of postmen, and if such a person has done his work during that period efficiently, there is no reason why there should be a second survey and a second application required. The Minister's reply on that occasion was most unsatisfactory. He made the statement as he was leaving the House in a temper. He said the statement made on behalf of the postmen who was rejected was disgusting. I said that the appointment made was disgusting.

There are various remote areas, pockets in mountainous areas, for instance, where it would be well, by degrees, to erect telephone kiosks. These areas are far removed from towns and villages; they are remote from the residences of doctors and clergymen. If a person is sick or there is any urgent call, someone must ride along country roads, perhaps in the middle of the night, to obtain medical aid or an ambulance. If such kiosk provision were made, it may be expensive at first, but, after all, when we erect kiosks in towns and villages, [999] we should endeavour by degrees to erect them also in remote country districts. Then, instead of having to go long distances in all kinds of weather and on all kinds of roads on urgent calls, a person could go to a central telephone kiosk in an area and contact the person whose services were urgently required.

I do not see any reference to Radio Eireann.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is a separate Vote.

Mr. Palmer:  Very well. I have nothing to say against it, but would give it a word of praise for the news service. The Minister's statement on the work of the Post Office will be considered by Deputies on all sides as satisfactory. He also referred to salaries, wages and allowances, and it would be no harm, although it may not be in order now, for me to say that it is about time that the findings of the arbitration board on Civil Service salaries were implemented. That would bring about an increase of salary, so well deserved by postmen of all grades, and also by sub-postmasters and postmasters who are really very badly treated.

There are complaints at various times about the delivery of telegrams in rural areas. In fact, one is always very loath to send a telegram at all to anyone in a remote district, as the cost of delivery is high, and very often if the telegram sent is not of any great urgency payment is refused.

Brendán Mac Fheórais:  It is very costly delivery, is it not?

Mr. Palmer:  It is.

Mr. A. Byrne:  I heard the Minister making his statement in a very calm atmosphere and then when he came to the point about increased charges he glossed over it. I was a little alarmed, as this is a new way of increasing the cost of living on business people. The Minister is going to increase the charges for telephones, stamps and telegrams. Will there be [1000] anything left for anyone to increase in another month or so? The cost of stamps in many business concerns is a very important item, especially to those who do a large circulation, seeking orders for their business. I am wondering, in view of these increased charges on businessmen, whether the Minister for Finance is going to make a recommendation that the arbitrator's award be put in operation without delay. Is that what the charges are for, or does it mean that the arbitrator's award will not come into effect and yet the increased charges will still be made?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Minister is not responsible for the arbitration award.

Mr. A. Byrne:  We all got—including yourself—circulars from the staff complaining of the inadequacy of the pay and allowances, the bad conditions and the failure to give effect to the award.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  It cannot be raised on every Vote and it is not in order on this Vote.

Mr. A. Byrne:  I hold that, in passing, on every Estimate where there is money included for wages and we consider them inadequate, we can talk about the promise to make better payments in order to meet the increased cost of living, without using the words “arbitrator's award”.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is a matter for the Minister for Finance and not for the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.

Mr. A. Byrne:  Well, he could make a recommendation to pay the staff better than at present, as it is the Cinderella of the whole Civil Service. There are workers in the Post Office, married men with large families, and after years of service they have only £5 or £5 10s. per week. Anyone will agree that that is not a reasonable wage for a Post Office worker in the Civil Service of this State. I never knew an Estimate for the Post Office to go through without at least a dozen Deputies drawing attention to the conditions of the Post Office workers. Deputy Norton has made very many [1001] eloquent appeals for improved conditions for them and I want to support his appeal.

Only quite recently, telephone charges were increased. In the case of the heavy increase in the rate of duty on whiskey in the Budget of the Minister for Finance last year, the Minister did not think he was going to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs, but he lost a considerable sum of money because of that increase and we believe that he will have to reduce it this year in order to give the distillers an opportunity of getting rid of their stocks. Possibly that is what will happen in relation to the telephone service—these new increases may prevent us from using the telephone in the course of our business. Those of us who are feeling the effects of last year's Budget in the increased cost of living will have to cut down expenses somewhere and what we will try to do is to reduce our telephone bills and the Minister is going to encourage us to do so, if he imposes any new increases.

When speaking of wages in the Post Office, one must not forget the pensions payable to retired postal officials. These are not a credit to the Minister or the State and I hope he will see to it that these pensioned officials are taken out of the position they are in, a position in which they are known as the Cinderellas of the Civil Service.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Minister is not responsible for the amount of pensions paid to employees.

Mr. A. Byrne:  I am merely mentioning points given to me by postal workers and by those who represent them. They complain also about slow promotion and say that, when a man goes into the Post Office, he has little or no chance of promotion for very many years. It is up to the Minister to take some personal interest in this matter of giving better treatment to the postal service.

In my area, there is the parcel post office in Amiens Street. I understand that the work is very well done there, but the conditions in which the officials have to work are appalling. They have to work in a very old shabby wooden [1002] hut attached to the main office and I wonder how the town planning officials of the Dublin Corporation allow it to stand and why they do not call for its removal as being an eyesore. The Minister ought to take some steps to extend the parcels office and to make conditions for the workers a little better than they are. I want to see a good building there as well as improved conditions for the workers.

My only direct association with the Post Office was on the occasion of a rushed election and I should like to compliment the officials—in some cases, temporary staff—on the splendid way in which they handled an enormous number of letters and election literature. I have nothing but praise for the way the work was done there on that occasion. I handed in letters tied in the usual bundles and they were delivered in the city in less than 12 hours, and from that point of view there was efficiency and courtesy to me and all the others who were involved. One very rarely gets an opportunity of paying a compliment to the work done by these officials. I put it to the Minister that the postal service as a whole is worthy of the special personal attention of the Minister in charge, with a view to improving conditions generally for the workers and those who use the Post Office.

I should like to pay a tribute to the person responsible for the improvements in the G.P.O. in Dublin, both inside and outside. The building is now a great credit to the Government and they are to be congratulated on the improvements recently brought about there. There are two buildings which are a credit to the city, the G.P.O. and the airport. Every year on the Post Office Estimate, we have to draw attention to the conditions of the workers as being the lowest paid set of workers employed by a Government and I ask the Minister to see to it that the improvement for which Deputy. Norton has appealed will be brought about, and very soon.

Brendán Mac Fheórais:  The Minister is to be congratulated on the very fine statement he has given in connection with his Department. It was well documented [1003] and gave details of, I should imagine, every branch of the Department and those of us who heard it can say, as a result, that we are nearly as conversant as he is with all these different sections. I have no general criticism to make of the Minister's Department. I have always regarded the officers of that Department, from the top rank down to the humblest auxiliary postman, as being very efficient indeed. The only bad aspect of his speech was his announcement that we are to have increased charges for stamps, telegrams and telephones, and I rather think, especially in respect of the proposed increase in telephone fees, that, as Deputy Byrne has said, the Minister may be killing the goose that lays the golden egg. We had in recent years—I think, in 1946—an increase of 5 per cent. on the total telephone bill, an increase which last year shot up to 25 per cent. Last year the increase of 25 per cent. was regarded by telephone users as very abnormal indeed. Telephone users have been very careful in the last 12 months about the number of calls they would make. Many business firms and, in particular, many private individuals who use the telephone purely for social reasons, have cut down telephone calls and have thought twice before making a call. If there is a substantial increase in telephone fees in the near future the Minister will find in respect of a big proportion of telephone users that the revenue will go below what it is at present. If the Minister persists and if a majority of the House decide that telephone fees should be increased, I would humbly suggest that the increase should not be expressed as a percentage of the total bill but in terms of the different charges for local calls, trunk calls and telegrams.

There are only a few matters about which I want to speak. They are local matters. I have not any particular remarks to make on the general aspects of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.

The local authority of Wexford town have been asking for a long time for the erection of extra telephone kiosks in the town. The population is about [1004] 12,000, and there are three telephone kiosks. Up to recently there were two. A third was erected lately. It was erected in a part of the town where there are very few houses. The local authority pressed for the erection of telephone kiosks in the new housing areas where there are hundreds of houses, the tenants of which cannot afford to install telephones, and who require telephone facilities to call a doctor or to make emergency calls. The Department of Posts and Telegraphs have refused, on economic grounds, to erect telephone kiosks in these particular areas. I do not know the basis of their argument in view of the fact that there has not been a trial, and there could not have been a trial. I do not know how the Minister comes to that decision.

I do not expect the Minister to refer in his reply to local matters of this kind, but I would be obliged if the officials of the Department would take note that the last telephone kiosk that was erected in Wexford town is situated near the railway station, near shops and offices that have telephones, where, if an emergency call had to be made, the person wishing to make the call could go to the railway station or to any of the shops or business houses. The situation is entirely different in the new housing areas. There are hundreds of houses on the outskirts of the town where there are no telephone facilities provided by the Department or private subscribers.

I had occasion to complain last year about the abnormal work that has been foisted on the officials in post offices throughout the country. I submit that the Post Office should be mainly concerned with the sale of stamps and postal orders and arranging for the dispatch of telegrams and for telephone calls—matters that have always been regarded as proper to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. It is unfair to the Minister and the Department and it is especially unfair to the officials that they should be engaged on work that should be the work of the Department of Social Welfare, to such an extent that the ordinary business of the Post Office is hindered on many days of the month by the [1005] payment of children's allowances and other payments from the Department of Social Welfare. Following the recent change in the payment of children's allowances, it is impossible in many post offices to buy a stamp between 9 a.m. and 6 or 7 p.m. There are hundreds of people congregated there on the first Tuesday of the month to collect children's allowances, and the officials are at their wits' end trying to cope with the various matters they have to contend with under this system whereby they are doing a substantial amount of work that ordinarily should be a matter for the Department of Social Welfare.

I would suggest that the Minister should impress upon his colleagues in the Cabinet the necessity for the establishment of an office, which could be adjacent to the post office, which would deal only with payment of old age pensions, widows' and orphans' pensions, children's allowances and, possibly, dog licences and radio licences. That should apply particularly in the case of larger towns.

I have a terrific amount of sympathy with the officials of the post office who have to jump from children's allowances to deal with stamps and telegrams, postal orders, widows' pensions, old age pensions, and then have to dive to the account books in connection with radio licences and dog licences. I submit that they are not getting a fair crack of the whip. If there were one particular man in the post office assigned to the sale of stamps, another assigned to the payment of children's allowances, another to the payment of old age pensions and another who would be solely in charge of the dispatch of telegrams, that would not be too bad. At the moment, when Mr. X. comes in wanting a number of stamps, he has to be served and an entry has to be made in respect of the sale of the stamps. Mr. Y. comes in for a postal order; that entails another type of work and another book. Mrs. Z. comes in for a widow's pension which entails another type of work and another entry.

I imagine there must be a number of mistakes made in the work ordinarily done in the Post Office, especially in [1006] the larger towns. I do not say that this objection is as great in the smaller places, in villages, where there would not be so many applicants or customers. I would ask the Minister to urge on his colleagues in the Cabinet the necessity for establishing subsidiary offices in the big towns that would deal with these matters that in the ordinary sense are matters for the Department of Social Welfare.

The Minister adverted to the possibility of decorating or toning up the outward appearances of the post offices. That is laudable in itself. I agree with the Minister if he infers that the appearance of the post offices leaves much to be desired. If money is to be expended it ought to be expended in many cases on the layout. In the case of the few offices that I know, in my constituency, especially the post office in Wexford town, money could be spent on interior improvement, on lay-out, the position of counters and the provision of more space. In certain post offices it would be better to spend the money on renovation or reconstruction or interior improvement.

There is another matter that I mentioned last year that I would like to mention again. It may not be peculiar to Wexford town alone, but it is something that the Minister or his officials ought to attend to, that there are only two dispatches of post from Wexford town daily.

I move to report progress.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. Lemass):  I move:—

That for the purpose of any Act of the present session to give effect to arrangements for the future operation of the undertaking of the G.N.R. Company (Ireland) and to provide for matters connected therewith, it is expedient to authorise:—

(a) the payment to the G.N.R. Company (Ireland) out of the [1007] Central Fund or the growing produce thereof of the sum of £2,250,000 as compensation in respect of the transfer of the undertaking of the company under such Act;

(b) the charge on and payment out of the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof of the principal and interest on any securities issued by the Minister for Finance for the purpose of borrowing under such Act and of the expenses incurred in connection with the issue of such securities;

(c) the payment out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas of such other expenses as may arise in carrying such Act into execution.

Mr. Morrissey:  On this Money Resolution, I want to ask the Minister if he will make the position clear. Representations have been made, in the first place, I think, by the directors of the G.N.R., and by quite a number of shareholders and others interested that they are entitled in equity to interest on the agreed purchase price from the time of the agreement as the payment of the purchase price has been held up, not due to any fault of theirs, but to the length of time which it has taken the two Governments to get their legislation in trim. I am not making a case for this, but it would be desirable if the Minister would state his point of view on it, so that we can see what the position is.

Mr. Lemass:  I am aware that a letter has been circulated to Deputies from the Shareholders' Protection Association dealing with that point. I think the reasonable view is that Government intervention in the affairs of the company has not worsened the position of the shareholders in any way. As the Deputy knows, the company has not been in a financial position to pay dividends for a long time. It is true that the preparation of the legislation took somewhat longer than was originally hoped, but I do not think that is a ground on which a claim can be advanced for the payment of interest on the purchase price.

[1008] As the House is aware, the Governments here and in Belfast, were prepared to proceed with legislation for the compulsory acquisition of the undertaking for £3.9 million. It was solely for the purpose of avoiding the necessity for compulsory acquisition and in the hope that agreement would be reached that further discussions took place with the representatives of the company leading to the offer to sell for £4.5 million which the Governments accepted. It cannot therefore be argued that the shareholders of the company have lost by reason of that situation. On the contrary, it seems to me that, in so far as delay was occasioned by the desire to reach agreement, they gained by it. In any event, it is not possible to provide at this stage for the payment of interest on the purchase price. Interest, of course, is payable to the debenture holders and will be paid to them for a period of two months after the acquisition.

Resolution put and agreed to.

Resolution reported and agreed to.

Sections 1 to 37, inclusive, put and agreed to.

SECTION 38.

Mr. Larkin:  I move amendment No. 1:—

In sub-section (1), page 17, line 27, to delete “wholly” and substitute “or reduces”.

Attention was already called to the provisions of this section in the course of the Second Reading debate and we have been asked to submit the series of amendments in our name by the representatives of the trade unions for the employees. I want to say at the outset that, so far as the Minister's statement in reply to Deputy Norton's remarks on the Second Reading is concerned there is a complete feeling of assurance on the part of the employees so far as the Minister is personally concerned. We have, however, to have regard to the possible legal consequences of the final drafting of this section and the implied question arising, bearing in mind some of the [1009] experiences met with in respect of the C.I.E. The amendments which have been tabled have been devised to meet the particular point of view expressed by Deputy Norton on the Second Reading, namely, to deal with the wider implications in respect of the termination or the reduction of services, as and when the board takes over.

The first amendment is to try to meet the situation which appears to be probable, that on the present reading of the sub-section it does appear to imply that, in so far as the board terminates services on a particular railway line, there will be some doubt as to the possible claims for compensation on the part of any employees affected by that change; whether or not it would be possible to sustain a claim if a reduction of services took the form even of leaving only one train a day or one train a week running on that particular line. It is to clarify the position and to afford as much protection as possible within the section, as I am sure is the Minister's intention, that the series of amendments has been put down.

In the course of the Second Reading debate the Minister did make a request that, so far as possible, we would not put forward amendments which might give rise to a situation regarding the joint responsibility for the Bill, but he did indicate that, in so far as we are dealing with matters purely within the purview of our own State they were matters that could be considered. I would ask the Minister to regard the several amendments to this particular section as being wholly in line with an effort to clarify to the utmost the possible variation that may take place in regard to the change in service and the direct consequential effect of that upon the employment of any employee of the board who may or may not be directly employed on that particular line. Amendment No. 1 is the first of a series to try to deal with the position by widening the possible reduction of service so as to include not merely the termination wholly of the service but also the reduction partially or almost wholly of the service.

[1010]An Ceann Comhairle:  Are amendments Nos. 2 to 5 consequential?

Mr. Larkin:  They are practically all consequential and, if the Minister wishes, we can take them together.

Mr. Lemass:  Amendment No. 6 deals with a separate issue.

Mr. Larkin:  Yes. Amendment No. 2 is to insert before the word “thereof”, in line 29, the words “or in anticipation”. The board may decide at a particular date that they will terminate or reduce a particular service. In preparation for that reduction they may start to take certain measures, both in respect of the actual line covered by their decision and in respect of consequential services in other parts of the country. Again, it is felt that it is necessary to clarify the position so as to make it clear that a claim for compensation would lie on the part of an employee whose services were affected by steps taken in anticipation of the possible closing down of a line.

It might happen, for example, that a line might be closed down somewhere between Dundalk and Derry, and that, in turn, might affect through the chain of command or service employees in Dundalk or in the head office of the company. Quite clearly, if there is to be a major reduction in service, that will have consequential effects in other parts of the company's line.

In amendment No. 3, the present phrasing of the section is that the section will refer to the “retention of an officer or servant of the Board (being a person who is resident in the State and was theretofore directly employed on that service)”. The phrasing there is very limited and in so far as the section is referring to the termination of a transport service on a railway line, it can quite readily be construed to imply that only a person directly employed on that particular line will be entitled to the protection of this section of the Bill. It is suggested, therefore, that the words “and was theretofore directly employed on that service” be deleted.

In the next amendment, No. 4, the position is met to some extent by the Minister, and presumably we can discuss [1011] that matter as part of the general discussion on the section.

Finally, in amendment No. 5 it is proposed to insert “or reduction” before the word “becomes” in line 32 thereby widening the present phrasing of the section so that it will apply not merely to termination but also to a reduction of services. Quite clearly a reduction can, if carried to a certain point, be just as effective in either terminating the employment of an employee or requiring his transfer to a position which represents a worsening of his conditions.

From the point of view of the Minister seeking to give ample and full protection to the officers and servants of the company, it seems to me that the amendments we propose are in line with his objective and would safeguard a position which quite clearly could arise in respect of future services on the railway.

Amendment No. 1, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 not moved.

Mr. Lemass:  I move amendment No. 4:—

In sub-section (1), page 17, line 31, immediately after “service” to insert “or wholly in connection therewith”.

I should perhaps begin by making it clear that the provisions of this Bill relating to the compensation of employees in certain circumstances are not entirely a matter of concern for us alone. The Bill provides that compensation will be payable on the basis of residence and not on the basis of the area in which the employee worked. If an employee resident here loses his position by reason of the termination of a service in the Six Counties his right to compensation and the rate at which he would be compensated will be based upon our law here. It was necessary therefore to have all these provisions relating to compensation agreed and made uniform in both measures. The House may be aware that in the Six Counties it has not been the practice to provide for compensation on the termination or the reduction of train services. It was a matter [1012] of negotiation to arrange for the provision in our Bill here and in the cor responding Bill in the North for this departure from the normal practice in Six-County legislation. The inclusion in legislation of a provision for compensation was a concession to our point of view on the part of the Six-County authorities. In those circumstances I am anxious not to raise that issue again if it can be avoided. The viewpoint of the Six-County Parliament in this regard appears to be fairly definite and it may be a matter of some concern there if the case for giving road transport services back to private enterprise should be pressed.

The provisions in this Bill, however, in relation to the position of employees on dismissal due to the termination of railway services are precisely similar to those which were embodied in the 1950 Act in relation to C.I.E. The question of redundant staff, should it arise, will, of course, be a matter within the competence of the board subject to the provisions of the Bill. I am sure that whenever a question of redundancy arises, whether by reason of the closing of branch lines or otherwise, the board's first concern, even in the case of employees who may be eligible for compensation under this legislation, will be to see whether alternative employment can be found for them in other sections of the undertaking.

In the 1933 Act we tried to make provision for compensation in the case of employees who were dismissed in anticipation of an Order for the closing of a branch line, but experience showed that it was an impossible provision to operate, and it was not repeated in the 1950 Transport Act. Deputies who are concerned to ensure protection for employees must, I think, rely generally upon the goodwill of the board and its desire to avoid any situation in which the services of an employee would be dispensed with if it could be avoided.

When Deputy Norton questioned the wording of Section 38 during his speech on the Second Reading, I stated that it was the intention to provide that where an employee lost his employment [1013] by reason of the closing of a branch line, he would be entitled to compensation whether or not he was directly employed on the operation of the branch line. A reconsideration of the section by the draftsman indicates that the intention, in fact, was not implemented by the section as it stood. That is the reason why I have introduced this amendment, which, I think, goes as far as it is possible to go to meet the point made by Deputy Norton. It provides for compensation where the employee was engaged in the operation of the line or wholly in connection therewith. Because of the circumstances to which I have referred, it was necessary to seek the agreement of the Belfast authorities to that amendment, which has been received. I understand that a similar amendment may be introduced by them.

In view of the fact that the inclusion of any provision for compensation in the agreed Bills was a concession by the people of the North and that these provisions are, in any event, precisely similar to those that operate for C.I.E., I prefer to leave the Bill as it stands, subject to amendment No. 4.

Mr. Larkin:  The Minister has aroused certain fears in my mind, though I think it is only proper that we should pay a tribute to him in so far as he has been mainly responsible for including in our code forms of compensation for employees affected by our legislation which are superior at least to the viewpoint of our neighbours up North.

I think the Minister has reasonably met the position in regard to the consequential effect of the closure of a branch line so far as the amendment is concerned, but he has not dealt with the other aspect of the matter which we have raised, namely, the partial suspension of services. Sub-section (1) of Section 38 begins: “Where the board terminates wholly a transport service ...” The Minister has made the point that the provision in the Bill is exactly the same as that contained in the 1950 Act, but if you compare them you will find an essential difference. Section 39 of the 1950 Act starts [1014] as follows: “Wherever the board under Section 55 ceases to provide a service of trains ...” That is open to very wide application compared with having in mind only the complete termination of a service on a particular line.

If, for argument's sake, there is a service of ten trains a day on a particular line, and if that is reduced to a service on three days a week, it will affect employment. While I think that both the employees of the company in this part of the country and myself would be quite willing to depend on any assurance that the Minister might give, there is the difficulty that there is a marked difference in the approach of the two parties to this legislation. It is from that point of view that, frankly, I find myself in a difficulty. I can appreciate that the Minister had a problem in securing agreement on the actual drafting of the Bill and on subsequent changes. Whether or not we are raising questions which are beyond his competency or power to settle, I do not know.

I think, however, it would be helpful if he would express a viewpoint on the interpretation I have placed on these sections and the comparison I have made with the 1950 Act. Could the Minister indicate, even now, that it might be possible to take into account the interpretation I have placed upon it? I am prepared to go a good deal of the way with him if he feels that it would be impossible to secure a redrafting of the section on the line of the amendments. However, even if we had an expression of the Minister's own viewpoint as to the desirability of applying the sub-section so that it would be to a complete termination of the line, it would be helpful.

We are anxious to co-operate with the Minister in this matter but we have certain responsibilities to our own people whose interests we must safeguard. We do not ask the impossible in the present situation. At the same time, an expression by the Minister of his view on the significance of a sub-section and a comparison of the sub-section with the drafting of the reledraftin [1015] vant section in the 1950 Act might be of very considerable help in the future.

Mr. Lemass:  The Deputy will appreciate that there is a difference between this Bill and the 1950 Act in this regard. Under the 1950 Act, C.I.E. was given power to reduce or terminate services subject, in certain cases, to the approval of the Transport Board without the Minister having any powers in the matter at all.

Under Section 24, so far as local services are concerned, the board cannot terminate a service without ministerial authority. The Minister comes into the picture and is, therefore, liable to be questioned in the Dáil as to his decision.

As regards the common services, it is clear that the approval of both Ministers is required. The wording of sub-section (1) of Section 38 begins as follows: “Where the board terminates wholly a transport service ...” That is not the same thing as saying: “Where the board closes a line ...” The termination of a transport service might, for example, take the form of the withdrawal of passenger services from a branch line though the line might be kept open for goods traffic— in which case the provisions of the section would operate to the benefit of any employee affected.

Under the 1933 Act there was provision for compensation to employees who lost their employment by reason of reduction of services but under that Act also there could be no reduction of services except with the authority of ministerial Order. I think it would be very difficult to relate the possible disemployment of an individual employee to a reduction of services—that is, a mere lessening of the frequency of trains, but if it takes the form of termination of passenger or goods services on the line, then compensation would be paid.

I should like to put on record my view that it should be the concern of the board, if at all possible, to deal with redundancy, if it should arise, without the disemployment of staff. I think they should make that effort even in the case of employees who [1016] would be entitled to compensation under the Bill. I am sure that any reasonable board will, in fact, approach the problem from that viewpoint.

Mr. Larkin:  In view of the position I do not think we can press the amendment beyond the present point. I think the Minister's personal assurance will be of help. I still feel that there are many gaps in the sub-section as it stands. It is a pity that it has not been possible to follow in the present Bill the headline which has been set in our legislation. Possibly at a later date, when we may have a wider area of the country under our control than we have now, we can do so but until such time we have got to rely on the Minister's expression of viewpoint in this House and on the sense of responsibility of the members of the board.

Amendment put and agreed to.

Amendment No. 5 not moved.

Section 38 put and agreed to.

SECTION 39.

Question proposed: “That Section 39 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Larkin:  I move amendment No. 6:—

In page 18, before sub-section (2) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—

(2) Where a superannuation scheme is submitted to the Minister under this section—

(a) the board shall publish in such manner as the Minister may direct a notice intimating that the scheme has been so submitted to the Minister and that any person may during a specific period (not less than twenty-eight days from such publication) make to the Minister objections and representations in relation to the scheme;

(b) the board shall during such period keep at its head office a copy of the scheme open for inspection by any interested person at all reasonable hours;

[1017] (c) the Minister shall before confirming the scheme consider any objections or representations in relation to it which have been made to him before the expiration of the said period.

The purpose of the amendment is very plain, that is, to ensure that the preparation of a superannuation scheme should not take place, as it could under the section as it stands, without the employees or their representatives being properly aware in due course of the preparation of the scheme, and being afforded reasonable opportunity of making representations. The main argument in favour of the amendment is that it is taken, word for word, from the 1950 Act which was passed in this House. However, I find myself in this difficulty as far as the Minister is concerned. He would find it hard to argue against the amendment but I am not quite clear as to what particular position he is in in respect of the agreed draft of the Bill, whether that will create trouble.

Mr. Lemass:  I would have preferred even in this respect also if we could have kept this Bill in accordance with the provisions of the 1950 Act, but I found that the Six-County authorities were unable to agree that superannuation schemes for new entrants could be introduced immediately. The position is that no schemes have been introduced for new employees of the Ulster Transport Authority and there was a natural reluctance to afford more favourable conditions to the Great Northern Railway employees than those at present applicable to the Ulster Transport Authority employees. In the course of negotiations it was found that agreement could be reached only on the basis of putting into our Bill a simple enabling provision, and that is what Section 39 does.

It will be appreciated that consultation between the authorities in both areas will be necessary if regulations are made in the North or if new schemes are being made here. Both parties would have to consider whether a common scheme could be introduced. In view of that position, the procedure [1018] provided in the amendment would not be suitable in the special circumstances. However, I think I can meet the Deputy to this extent by saying that consultation with the unions will take place here prior to the confirmation of any scheme by the Minister and that undertaking given here and put on the records is as binding as a clause in the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 40 to 51 put and agreed to.

First Schedule put and agreed to.

SECOND SCHEDULE.

Question proposed: “That the Second Schedule be the Second Schedule to the Bill.”

Mr. McMenamin:  On the Second Schedule, I would like to know if the present directors of the board are to be nominated on the new board. I am assuming that the new board being asked to balance its accounts implies that owing to the failure of the old board to run the company efficiently and economically and the fact that it lost over £1,000,000 last year, none of them will be competent to sit on the new board.

Secondly, I wish to ask what are to be the qualifications of the new directors nominated by the Minister? Thirdly, they are to act on the board for six years. Is it prudent to have the entire five members nominated by the Minister retiring at the end of that period and another five men coming in then? Would it not be better to have an in-between period when a portion of the board would retire instead of all going out together?

While I do not wish to censure severely the old board, I must say I have used that railway very extensively over the last 50 years and I feel that the losses that were incurred in that concern need not necessarily have been lost. Any person having some business training and experience could not overlook the fact that economies could have been secured without any effect on the efficiency of the railway. [1019] It is about time we called a halt in this matter. I do not want to refer here to the economies I would suggest, but I want to know what the Minister is going to do about this. The implication that the new board is to balance its accounts is a severe vote of censure on the existing board, having lost over £1,000,000 in what is a very small organisation. The railway system from here to Derry and to Belfast is quite a small affair and to lose £1,000,000 seems to me to be drawing the bow a little too far.

It would be very wrong of us to take over this railway, much as the case is made for maintaining it, and call on the taxpayers to make up any loss that might be incurred due to the inefficiency in the management of the board. I for one wish to say I am not prepared to do that and that the Minister will have to take some steps to ensure that the taxpayers are not to be mulcted when they need not necessarily be. I want to emphasise that I cannot see how over £1,000,000 was lost on a small concern of this kind. I do not wish to go into details now as to how it was lost or why it should not have been lost or why the major portion of it should not have been lost but I would like to hear the Minister on that because it is rather a serious matter.

Mr. Lemass:  There is, of course, no obligation whatever to appoint any of the present directors on the new board. The existing company will go out of existence and the undertaking will be handed over to this joint board. In choosing members for the joint board concern will have to be given not merely to securing the services of people who are competent to direct an undertaking of this kind but who will have the realisation that they will be acting on a joint board and will have, over and above the general management of the undertaking, the special duty of looking after the interests of this area and the portion of the undertaking in this area. So far as the future of the undertaking is concerned, I would like to say we have put in the Bill as a statutory obligation on them [1020] the duty of so conducting it as to avoid losses arising.

I said speaking to the Bill on Second Reading that I recognised that that happy situation would not be produced merely by putting a section in the Bill but I should like to make it clear that it is not put in merely as a gesture either. It is intended to be there as a direction to the board so to operate the undertaking that the possibility of losses will be at least minimised and if possible avoided altogether.

Mr. McMenamin:  Will the Minister insist on that?

Mr. Lemass:  I was interested to note that Mr. McCleery speaking on the corresponding Bill in Belfast to-day also gave expression to his intention of exercising his powers to get the same results, so that there is one matter at least on which there is complete agreement. Whether our intentions can be made effective is another question. If, however, losses do arise, the matter will come before the Dáil because, of course, no money can be provided to meet such losses without a vote of the Dáil. Deputies will have ample opportunity of expressing their views on the situation then and of putting forward any suggestions that they may think will help to improve the position.

Question put and agreed to.

Third and Fourth Schedules agreed to.

Question proposed: “That the Fifth Schedule be the Fifth Schedule to the Bill”.

Mr. McMenamin:  Before the Second Schedule was agreed to I should have mentioned the anomaly of having two head offices, one in Dublin and one in Belfast. By agreeing to that proposal is the Minister not committed to the continuance of waste in an institution that is already losing money? These offices will have to be staffed. When you do come to an agreement in matters of this kind, why not go the manly way about it as any businessman would? This is a petty compromise, a sort of play-acting, to try [1021] to placate partisans in the North and in the South. Surely, it is not a business transaction.

Mr. Lemass:  I do not think the Deputy should read into that section any intention of duplicating staffs. It is a legal provision necessary in the special circumstances.

Mr. McMenamin:  I think that the Minister will agree that, certainly on paper, it looks a pretty “punk affair”. This is an undertaking that is losing more than £1,000,000 but yet they want two head offices. That is mere play-acting, not an attempt to run the undertaking in a businesslike manner.

Question put and agreed to.

Sixth Schedule and the Title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendment.

Fourth Stage ordered for Thursday, 14th May.

Section 1 agreed to.

SECTION 2.

Mr. McMenamin:  I move amendment No. 1:—

In sub-section (1) to delete paragraph (b), lines 21 and 22.

On the Second Stage of the Bill I was opposed to this section altogether because I thought it was a complete reversal of the policy of the two Governments of this State for the last 25 years. The whole object of that policy was to eliminate net fishing in the fresh waters of the State. It is startling to me to see a section of this kind now introduced and, even after hearing the case that was made for it, it does not satisfy me. What I particularly object to in the section is that the consent of the riparian owners must be obtained. My objection is based on the fact that any given applicant, a man who desires to get fishing on the lake, has only to have somebody in the neighbourhood who dislikes him —he need not necessarily dislike him [1022] at all; he need only be a person who wishes to throw the heavy end of the fishing into the hands of one or two men—to render that application nugatory.

If this House is going to confer a right, it should be an absolute right, subject only to any authority or limitation vested in the Minister. I profoundly object to giving an opportunity to anybody to carry on the practice of blackmailing or blackballing some man who would otherwise be entitled to certain rights under the Bill. If this House is conferring rights they should be absolute rights. I think the Minister would be very unwise to include in the Bill the restriction which I have indicated.

Mr. Morrissey:  I am afraid it is rather difficult to understand my colleague's point of view. Like him, I was very concerned about the section and the adverse affect which it might possibly have if this draft netting were to be allowed on a number of lakes as it could conceivably under the section. It seems to me, however, that the two particular lines which Deputy McMenamin's amendment proposes to delete are the real safeguard there. I think it would be difficult, if not impossible, in the case of a lake or lakes of the size which have been dealt with under this Bill for any applicant, first to discover all the owners of a fishery around a lake of that size and secondly to satisfy the Minister that they were owners who held a proper title to the fishery rights. It seems to me that if anything would nullify that section, it would be the retention in it of these two lines. Even if permission were sought, of course discretion would still be in the Minister's hands to grant or not grant it. That is one of the reasons that personally I would say that the two lines which the Deputy proposes to have deleted should be left there. I want to make it as difficult as possible for anybody to use nets in this country for the killing of either trout or salmon.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Bartley):  I think that Deputy Morrissey has expressed my point of view on the [1023] matter. We wish, as both Deputy McMenamin and Deputy Morrissey said, to restrict this form of fishing as much as possible. I indicated on Second Reading that we wanted to repair a specific injustice that was done to islanders living in Lough Ree. Deputy Morrissey indicated that we might have done that in a different way by mentioning the lake itself. There are other lakes of that name in the country besides this particular one. I suppose we could take steps to identify it. However, this particular method of general reference was thought to be the better way of doing it.

It would be, I think, trifling with the House to bring in a proposal of this sort if I had not taken the precaution to consult the particular several owner in question, namely, the E.S.B. I have been assured by the E.S.B. that they will give the permission to use these nets in Lough Ree if that particular method of fishing is legalised by this Bill. The E.S.B., as the owner of the fishery, can grant the permission or refuse it as they, in their absolute discretion, think fit. This Bill does not compel the E.S.B. to give the permission. It is a measure permitting a kind of fishing that was abolished and sub-section (2) makes it quite clear that the E.S.B. will have the power to grant the permission to net for trout on Lough Ree when this measure becomes effective.

Mr. Morrissey:  The real trouble is that they can give that permission in respect of lakes other than Lough Ree and this enables them to do that.

Mr. Bartley:  That is so. The only other lake that they would have jurisdiction over would be Lough Derg. The only lakes, that is, lakes with a minimum area of 30 square miles, to which this section would apply would be Loughs Ree and Derg in the Shannon system.

Mr. Morrissey:  What about Lough Corrib? Would the Corrib come in under this section from the point of view of size?

[1024]Mr. Bartley:  The E.S.B. has nothing to do with that.

Mr. Morrissey:  They may in the future and that is what I am afraid of.

Mr. Bartley:  As a matter of fact, in respect of any place that the E.S.B. takes over and to which this section could apply the question of their granting permission would arise. It would be one for decision by the E.S.B. itself and not by the Fisheries Branch.

Mr. Morrissey:  The danger I see is that, without intending to do so, we may be conferring on the E.S.B. powers to be used in the future that we would not desire to see used. I suppose that at some time in the future, and in the not too distant future either, if the E.S.B. had vested in them for some reason or another Lough Corrib, under this section they would have the right, once it is vested in them, to permit the use of draft nets on Lough Corrib or Lough Mask. I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary would desire to see that happening. I am suggesting that we are making that possible. Certainly that was one of the doubts I had in mind from the beginning. It is not what the E.S.B. have vested in them at the moment. As time went on and as the E.S.B. spread its network, more and more fishery waters of this country have become vested in them.

Mr. Bartley:  That is so. I take it that Deputy Morrissey will agree with me that a responsible semi-State body like the E.S.B. would apply this provision with the utmost caution.

Mr. Morrissey:  The Parliamentary Secretary should remember that as far as fishing is concerned it is a purely secondary consideration with them. That is as it should be from their point of view.

Mr. McMenamin:  Of course, it is.

Mr. Bartley:  Application has to be made in any event and a by-law has to be made. The fishing authority will have to make the by-law. Therefore, it does not rest entirely for decision by the E.S.B. The decision the E.S.B. would have to give would be [1025] the granting of permission to use nets if, in fact, a by-law was made by the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary administering the fishery laws. There are two or three fences to be jumped before you can apply this section at all.

Mr. Morrissey:  I want to make this point clear again. I have no objection in the world to the Minister trying to do in this Bill what he wants to do in connection with Lough Ree but I am concerned that we do nothing particular under this section that will enable the E.S.B. or any other body, either alone or in conjunction with another body, to avail of this section to net other lakes in this country.

I am not satisfied either that the section, as it stands, gives us the right to limit the number of draft nets that may be used and the periods at which they may be used in the lakes. Let us get this into our mind. This Bill is not confined to Lough Ree. Any lake in this country of a certain area—I will not put it any stronger than that—may come under this section. I am only concerned that the Parliamentary Secretary would look at the matter as closely as he can and see if he cannot plug whatever holes there are and make it, as far as he can, impossible for this to be used other than to provide what he wishes to provide in relation to Lough Ree.

Mr. McMenamin:  The Parliamentary Secretary does not specify Lough Ree or any lake. So far as the section is concerned there is no limit at all.

Mr. Morrissey:  There is a limit. The lake must have an area of 30 square miles.

Mr. McMenamin:  I know that is a limit but it merely refers to the area of the lake. I do not know whether the Minister is satisfied, but if he is well and good. I certainly have very strong objections to it. I think it would be wiser for the Parliamentary Secretary to protect himself and the Department because, if they are led into a local squabble about the provisions of this clause, then the fun will begin and the lakes of Ireland will become [1026] the subject for another Post Office affair.

Mr. Bartley:  The only several owner known to the Department is the E.S.B. whose ownership applies to two bodies of water which come within the lake dimensions laid down here. The two lakes are Lough Derg and Lough Ree. There are no other lakes that we know of in respect of which the element of several ownership can be established in relation to a claim to apply this permission to the use of draft nets. I would direct the attention of Deputies to the wording of sub-section (1) which says:—

“Where the Minister, if he thinks fit, may make by-laws permitting the use of draft nets for such capture, subject to such conditions as he thinks proper.”

I think that form of words should allay the fears of any Deputy concerning the possible abuse of this particular provision.

Mr. McMenamin:  We want to save the Parliamentary Secretary from being put in a net of that kind under pressure.

Mr. Bartley:  All that this section does is that it legalises a particular instrument for the taking of trout, but that legislation, so to speak, cannot be availed of unless the owner of the fishery permits it to be applied. There are, therefore, two stiff fences to be surmounted, and, consequently, I do not think that the fears which have been expressed can possibly materialise because of the difficulty of surmounting these two fences.

Mr. Morrissey:  The Parliamentary Secretary will understand that what I am concerned with is, what could happen. I am not saying that it will happen. What could happen immediately this Bill becomes law is that Lough Derg could be put in the same position in relation to the use of draft nets as Lough Ree will be in when the Bill becomes law. I say that could be done. That is what we have to concern ourselves with here when we are [1027] passing Bills, and not with what we ourselves desire to be done—not what we think will be done, but rather what we are making it possible for people to do in the future. The Parliamentary Secretary says, and I accept it, that the only several fishery owner that could possibly be covered by this Bill, and that is known to his Department, is the E.S.B.

I am accepting that, although I must confess it rather surprises me. I accept that without question. The position, as he says, at the moment is that the only two lakes, having regard to the area of water, which up to the present are vested in the E.S.B. and which could be affected under this Bill, are Lough Derg and Lough Ree. I want, again, however, to put this point to him, that neither he nor I nor anybody else has any guarantee that in the future the E.S.B. might not have vested in them the Corrib or the Mask or any other lake that we have in the country which might come within the area defined in the section. What worries me about this section is that we can do what the Parliamentary Secretary says he wants to do, and what I think the House is prepared to do, without leaving the position open to the dangers which I have mentioned. We can give the Parliamentary Secretary all the authority he requires to restore to the Lough Ree fishermen whatever rights they have had in relation to the use of draft nets in Lough Ree without, however, leaving the door wide open.

I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary appreciates that in our discussion on this Bill we are not trying to score points. We are really trying to do what he wants to do without making it possible for somebody in the future to take advantage of the powers given by this Bill and do something which none of us desires to see done. I would ask him to have another look at this before the Report Stage, or before the Bill goes to the Seanad.

Mr. Bartley:  I am afraid there has not been sufficient advertence to the fact that the Minister must first make a by-law. By-laws, as Deputies know, are subject to review in the High [1028] Court if anybody challenges them. I think that that safeguard, in itself, is a protective one. If one succeeds in jumping that fence, there is a further fence to be jumped in so far as that the owner of the fishery has to grant permission. Suppose we make a by-law covering Lough Ree. The E.S.B. have informed me that they will grant permission to those people who have exercised a right there in the past. They will grant this permission to them to begin to exercise their rights again in Lough Ree. But suppose, for example, you make a by-law legalising the netting of trout in both Lough Ree and Lough Derg, I am quite satisfied that while the E.S.B. would give permission to the fishermen in Lough Ree, they would not give permission to any fisherman to fish in Lough Derg.

It would have been fatuous on my part to bring in a Bill of this kind if I had not previously consulted the only known owners of the several fishery as to what their reactions to it would be. I have consulted them. I explained to them the injustice that was being inflicted on a number of fishermen in Lough Ree. I indicated to the board that I was very anxious to have this injustice removed. I did consult the board. The board, having deliberated on the matter, intimated to me that they would be prepared to co-operate with me in restoring these rights to the islanders in Lough Ree in respect of fishing in Lough Ree. That was the utmost extent to which they indicated a willingness to go. I cannot see the E.S.B. going any further than to restore these rights in Lough Ree. I do not think that there is anything more that I can say. I have given to the House every bit of information that is available to us in the Fisheries Branch on this matter. I think I have answered the two points made.

Mr. Morrissey:  I do not for a moment question the bona fides or good intentions of the Parliamentary Secretary, but I would like to remind him that boards and Ministers change from time to time. Neither I, nor anybody else, can confine himself to what is the position at the moment when dealing [1029] with this Bill. We do not know what the position may be in six to 12 months' time. We are not legislating for a period of six or 12 months. It is quite conceivable—I do not want to put it any stronger—that for some reason that might not be apparent to any of us at the moment, the Minister of the day and the E.S.B. in the future might come to the conclusion that it was desirable to have draft net fishing in Lough Derg just as you are going to authorise it in Lough Ree now.

That is the situation that I want to make provision against. If the Parliamentary Secretary is seeking in this Bill to deal only with Lough Ree, and with the restoration to the fishermen in Lough Ree of the rights which they had there, that, I suggest, could be met in a simple way without leaving the door open to the dangers which I think are inherent in this section. Frankly, I can see no reason why the Parliamentary Secretary cannot confine the effects of this part of the Bill, dealing with draft net fishing, to Lough Ree. The fact that he is not doing so makes me wonder.

Mr. Bartley:  As a matter of fact, I have no strong views at all on that particular point. It seemed to us that the more desirable of the two choices was the one we adopted, providing the solution by this general reference.

If I thought that Deputy Morrissey really was as apprehensive as his words seem to suggest he is, I would concede the point that he is making. I, too, want to secure that the position he has outlined will be, in fact, the position created by this measure. I feel that I have achieved that in this section, but to get agreement on it, if Deputy Morrissey, speaking for the Opposition, thinks that we have not achieved that and if his suggestion now—one that we have considered already—is one that would bring unanimity, I would be prepared to concede it and amend the section accordingly. However, I would like to suggest to him that, if he can find the time to give a little more attention and consideration to this measure, he will find that the point I am making [1030] really is accurate and the section does achieve what both he and I wish to achieve.

Mr. Morrissey:  I do not dispute that. Frankly, I am apprehensive of what may happen or could happen in the future. My fears may be entirely groundless, but I feel we are opening the door to an unnecessary width, as we are going far beyond what the Minister wants to achieve. The main reason for introducing this Bill—as a matter of fact, the only reason so far as draft netting on lakes is concerned —was to settle the position of Lough Ree. If we do that, we have discharged the obligation and we have secured that if at any time anyone wants to do any netting of any description on any other lake in the country, they will have to come here and get specific permission to do that, whether it is the E.S.B. or any number of citizens.

I am obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary for agreeing to look at it again to see if he can bring in something that will put this in a form on which we can have unanimity. I would be most anxious to have that.

Mr. Carter:  I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary should adopt the course that Deputy Morrissey suggests. I think there is ample protection against the risks that Deputy Morrissey envisages. First of all, the E.S.B. are the only owners of such lakes as Lough Ree and Lough Derg, they are the only people who exercise control over large expanses of water. Not alone that, the people concerned must have the permission of the E.S.B. to fish with draft nets. They have to make application to the Minister and the Minister has to be satisfied. There is also provision in the section where there can be a public inquiry if the E.S.B. are not satisfied. That should satisfy Deputy Morrissey. I think he is putting a rather hypothetical argument as to what may happen in the future—we may be all dead in a week's time. I do not think there is any danger in the section and I would encourage the Parliamentary Secretary to resist the suggestion.

[1031]Mr. Morrissey:  Of course, that only helps to make me what I have been trying to reject from my mind, a wee bit suspicious. Does Deputy Carter want anything in this part of the Bill other than what will restore to the people of Lough Ree the rights they had before? If he wants only that, what I am suggesting and what the Parliamentary Secretary has agreed to consider gives him all he wants. I am prepared to support the Parliamentary Secretary and Deputy Carter in so far as the Bill will be directed towards giving to the people of Lough Ree the rights which were taken from them, but I am not prepared to agree, under the cloak of doing that, to make it possible in the future for anybody to put draft nets upon any other freshwater lake in this country.

Mr. Carter:  They cannot do it.

Mr. Morrissey:  Of course they can.

Mr. McMenamin:  I would direct the Parliamentary Secretary's attention to the Title of the Bill. Why was the word “lakes” put into it, the plural instead of the singular, if only Lough Ree was intended?

Mr. Bartley:  The minimum dimensions being 30 square miles, I take it that the qualifying lakes would be in the plural anyway, as there would be at least four of them.

Mr. Morrissey:  Yes. Some of the best lakes in the country can be covered and caught in this section. I do not say that is the intention, but it could happen. However, if the Parliamentary Secretary is prepared to look at it again to see if he can tighten it, I am prepared to let it go now.

Mr. Bartley:  I am anxious to get unanimity, as there was an appeal from all sides of the House to have these rights restored. There was no one so vocal as Deputy MacEoin of the Opposition, the Independents also made a strong appeal and members of this side also. Therefore, there cannot be any question of there being a general and unanimous desire to have this fishing right restored to these particular people. None of us on any side [1032] of the House wants to go any further than that. I take it that the best way to achieve that restoration is to do it by a unanimous decision of the House and, if we cannot get it on this measure, I am prepared to consider the alternative. Do I take it now from Deputy Morrissey, speaking on behalf of the Opposition, that he does not accept this particular form in sub-section (1)?

Mr. Morrissey:  I do not, as I do not think it is necessary in this form, to give the Minister what he wants in regard to Lough Ree. I want to restate that I have no objection to the restoration of rights on Lough Ree, but I want the Bill confined to them.

Mr. Bartley:  Very well, then. I will agree to have it considered.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 2 agreed to.

SECTION 3.

Question proposed: “That Section 3 stand part of the Bill”.

Mr. Morrissey:  There was something the Minister said on the Second Stage regarding these free gaps. Maybe I misunderstood him, but it seemed to convey to me that what he was thinking of by free gap and what I was thinking of by free gap were completely different things. Does he mean a gap in the weir or a gap in time in the week?

Mr. Bartley:  I was referring to the statutory gap, the gap that must be there in a fishing weir. It is provided in the Fisheries Acts, for the passage of fish. It is the passage. One must comply with certain requirements laid down in the Acts as to its dimensions and its location. I do not know of any other sort of gap in this particular connection.

Mr. Morrissey:  Unless I am misinformed, there is a weir or a trap in operation in this country on a river which is operated by the E.S.B. or is likely to be operated by them within the near future.

[1033]Mr. Bartley:  Of course, a gap is quite the reverse of a trap. A gap gives freedom to the fish to get away.

Mr. Morrissey:  I know, but there is no freedom at all in the matter about which I am talking. However, I can make the point at another and more appropriate time. Sub-section (1) says:—

“The Minister may by Order authorise the operation of a specified fishing weir belonging to the Minister or the E.S.B. ...”

Do I gather from that that any fishery in the country which is in the hands or under the control of the Department of Fisheries can be caught under that sub-section? The Parliamentary Secretary, when talking about this, talked mainly about the position which arose regarding the harnessing of the Erne and the new fish pass there, but I am rather concerned as to whether this section is not of much wider application than the Parliamentary Secretary intended, or could not have such a wider application.

Mr. Bartley:  In an ordinary fishing weir, it is possible to have a gap which will permit of fish going up beyond the obstruction and ascending to the upper reaches of the river. That is not possible in the type of work carried out by the E.S.B. for the generation of electricity. They so effectively dammed the river that some other device had to be thought out. I do not know if Deputy Morrissey has inspected the fish pass at Ballyshannon. I am sure Deputy McMenamin has seen it.

Mr. Morrissey:  I saw it also.

Mr. Bartley:  There is a very effective fish pass running up by the side of the hydro-electric works. The law provides that you may not take fish from a fish pass and that particular provision has to be modified, if the E.S.B. is to be allowed to exploit this fishery to recoup some of its capital outlay in the acquisition of the fishery. The fishery authority is concerned to see that fishing will not be carried on in such a way as to preclude the ascent [1034] of a sufficient quantity of spawning stock. The E.S.B. has installed a device whereby the number of ascending fish can be precisely counted and an agreement will be made between the board and the fishing authority as to the number of fish they may take and the number they must let up for spawning.

This is a more satisfactory arrangement, in fact, than the old method of the gap, which was haphazard. Nobody could estimate accurately what quantity of fish ever ascended the rivers through these gaps. Now the position will be that the E.S.B. will have an accurate recording apparatus and will be able to report down to the last fish how many have gone up. We feel that it is a very big improvement on the old system and we think that the arrangement now come to, quite apart from the impossibility of arranging matters in the old way, and the device erected by the E.S.B. is an excellent one from every point of view.

Mr. Morrissey:  I quite agree with the Parliamentary Secretary in what he is trying to do, in so far as it will be confined—this is the point about which I am worried and on which I should like some guidance—to rivers or weirs in the control of or operated by the E.S.B. for the purpose of generating electric current, but the sub-section says:—

“The Minister may by Order authorise the operation of a specified fishing weir belonging to the Minister or the E.S.B. without a free gap, subject to such conditions as to the release upstream of a sufficient number of the fish entering the weir as he thinks proper...”

That sub-section, it appears to me, does not confine the power the Minister is seeking to the E.S.B. It could—I may be entirely wrong in this and I shall be glad to be put right, if I am —operate on any weir or fish pass under the control of the Minister, as distinct from the E.S.B.

Mr. Bartley:  That is so. It is in anticipation of the application of Part V of the Fisheries Acts, 1939, under which the transferable fisheries [1035] will be acquired and operated by the fisheries authority. This type of device will then probably be installed by the fishery authority for the better scientific observation of the fisheries.

Mr. Morrissey:  We have a completely different situation now. Apparently I was not entirely wrong.

Mr. Bartley:  That is something in the future. We are dealing now with something which exists.

Mr. Morrissey:  That is one of the reasons why I do not want to give it to the Minister in the present. I should prefer to wait until he is doing something about Part V.

Mr. Bartley:  The Erne device is already in existence.

Mr. Morrissey:  So long as this is confined to the Erne device, or to any river or weir or fish pass operated by the E.S.B. I do not object, but what I object to is the fact that the Minister in sub-section (1) is taking power to apply it in the same way to any other river which may be under the control of his Department. I can see the desirability of doing it where the E.S.B. have, so to speak, done away with the river, as in the case of the Erne, and I think that what they are doing there, speaking without very much experience, is very wise, but the Minister here is seeking far more power than he needs at the moment. When he is in a position to put Part V of the Fishery Act into operation—and we all hope it will be soon—he will find that he will get every co-operation.

Mr. McMenamin:  Why should the Minister take power to do it?

Mr. Bartley:  In sub-section (5) of Section 3 there is the safeguard that this House can annul any Order bringing any such device into operation.

Mr. McMenamin:  The House will never know anything about it.

Mr. Bartley:  If we have Deputies like Deputy McMenamin and Deputy Morrissey in the House taking as keen an interest when this is being proposed as they are now taking in the Bill, I [1036] have no doubt that nothing will possibly slip through.

Mr. Morrissey:  We have been too long in the House to be satisfied with that. I am concerned about sub-section (1). Speaking from years of experience of Orders laid on the Table over a long period, I do not think that that is any definite safeguard. The Minister is very definitely taking more power under the section to do something completely new than he needs to give whatever authority is necessary to the E.S.B.

Mr. Bartley:  If Deputy Morrissey accepts the statement that the arrangement now in operation on the Erne at Ballyshannon is much better than anything we have had heretofore, on what ground does he object to the extension of that plan of fish passes in the future?

Mr. Morrissey:  Because what is suitable and very desirable in the complete change brought about on the Erne from the fishery point of view might not necessarily be at all suitable or desirable on some of the other weirs or rivers under the control of the Department. It does not follow that, because it is suitable and desirable in the very special conditions of the Erne, it will be suitable in every case. I do not think it will.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

The Dáil, according to order, went into Committee on Finance and resumed consideration of the Estimates for Public Services for the year ending 31st March, 1954.

Brendán Mac Fheórais:  Before the adjournment of the debate I had mentioned a local objection with regard to the dispatch of post from Wexford town. At present there are two dispatches, one at about 3.30 a.m. [1037] and the other at 8.30 p.m. I am particularly concerned about commercial travellers who do a considerable amount of correspondence when their day's work is done, writing letters up to 11 or 12 at night. They are concerned to have their orders mailed to their head office or distribution department for execution as quickly as possible. Letters written to-night in Wexford town do not leave the town until 3.30 or 4 p.m. the following day. They are lying in the post office or pillar boxes for 15 or 16 hours. A letter written on the night of the 19th is not delivered in, say, Dublin, until the 21st. There is a reasonably good train service out of the town. A train leaves the town at 7 a.m. and at 10, which could be utilised for the dispatch of letters and parcels. I mentioned that matter last year and I suppose I will be mentioning it for another five years before there is any improvement in that respect. I do not know what extra cost would be involved in improving the present position which causes a good deal of inconvenience, and I would ask the officials of the Department, through the Minister, to look into it as soon as possible.

The Minister has had some difficulties with regard to the appointment of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses, even over the last 12 months. I do not want to labour the arguments or to stress any of the cases that have been quoted in this House over the last 12 months. It seems to me that there still remains a great deal of tightening up to be done with regard to the appointment of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses.

There was, in my opinion and in the opinion of two or three other Deputies in my constituency, a most extraordinary appointment made in Fethard-on-Sea. I cannot say or prove that the appointment was irregular, but there was a very, very bad odour from the appointment, the manner in which it was made and the general circumstances under which the person appointed established the post office. Contrary to the usual practice, the replies given by the Minister to questions [1038] on the matter were, to say the least, unsatisfactory. My information and the information of Deputies representing the constituency is that the post office was allowed to be established or situated in a licensed premises. That was not denied by the Minister in clear, succinct words. Very skilfully, he evaded that particular question. I say “very skilfully” to his credit. Those of us who raised the question did not get entire satisfaction from the Minister. As far as we know, the fact is that the Department or the Minister allowed this post office to be established in licensed premises. It may be true that the premises were not used as licensed premises or that the portion of the premises in which the post office was established was not used for the sale of liquor, but the fact remains that it was a licensed premises. We in this House have been led to believe for quite a considerable time that it is contrary to the policy or regulations laid down by the Department that a sub-post office should be established in premises such as I have mentioned.

The Minister gave us a fair idea of his views with regard to the appointment of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses last year, but I would again suggest that a tighter system and a more just system than is being practised at the present time should be established. I shall not go into the merits or demerits of the applicants for the Fethard-on-Sea post office, but I would suggest that the Minister should try to devise some more equitable method for the appointment of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses.

In regard to the stamps issued to commemorate public men the Minister referred to the difficulties in obtaining dies and proper paper and so on. He rather inferred that the cost of issuing these stamps could be fairly big. Would the Minister take a suggestion from me? I would humbly suggest that the stamps should be of the size that ordinarily has been used by the Department over a long number of years. It is difficult to know how to describe the plasters that we have got for the Tóstal and other special issues. [1039] It has occurred to me, having regard to the size of the stamps issued in the past few years, that it would be infinitely cheaper to paper a room with such stamps than with wall-paper. I do not know if there is any particular reason for the abnormal size of these stamps. I would suggest that any special issue of stamps in future should conform with the size that has been ordinarily in use here.

Mr. Belton:  There are just a few points I want to bring to the notice of the Minister on this Estimate. I agree with Deputy Norton when he suggested that it was quite unnecessary to bring postmen in rural areas into work at 6 or 6.30 in the mornings to deliver post to a community that does not start work until a good deal later in the day. I suggest that there is still a great delay in the installation of telephones, especially in certain areas around the City of Dublin. Several of my constituents have made representations to me in regard to their difficulty in getting telephones installed. From my travels around the country I must say that a lot of the Post Office buildings would not get a certificate from the Department of Health if they were carrying on any other business than Post Office work.

I should also like to bring to the notice of the Minister the fact that sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses throughout the country are grossly underpaid. They are obliged to keep a first class set of books and these books are subject to examination at any time by an inspector from the Post Office and not one halfpenny must go astray. In other words, it requires a skilled bookkeeper to keep the accounts of any local post office. In many cases, the payment given to the postmasters or postmistresses in these post offices would shame any Deputy. In some cases it does not amount to as much as 25/- a week and in others it is much less. The postmasters or postmistresses in rural areas have to provide decent accommodation. They have to provide a certain counter space and a certain amount of privacy. If they get anything in the neighbourhood of £50 per year they are very [1040] lacky; a lot of them are getting less than £30.

In the City of Dublin, where the postmasters or postmistresses find it necessary to employ a qualified girl in a lot of cases they do not receive sufficient money to pay a decent wage to the girl. It is argued by the Post Office authorities that if there is a post office in a tobacconist or newsagent's shop it tends to bring business. I suggest to the Minister that in the year 1953, with everything so dear, people just buy what they require in each shop. The fact that somebody who sells cigarettes or other goods has a post office does not bring customers into that shop or help to increase the turnover. In view of the increase which the Minister has suggested in postal and other charges, I suggest that this Estimate should be referred back for reconsideration.

Mr. J. Brennan:  I should like to support the appeal made by other Deputies on behalf of certain Post Office workers as I believe they are one section of the Civil Service that are underpaid. They are not paid anything commensurate with the importance of the work they do. I refer particularly to the outdoor staffs whose jobs are onerous. They carry a very serious responsibility as they are handling very important property belonging to the citizens. The fact that there is such a low percentage of complaints shows the very excellent type of persons employed in that service.

The Minister should give serious consideration to his promise made last year, which I know is his intention, that is to create more full-time posts in the outdoor service and have as few as possible part-time auxiliary postmen. I said before, and I believe it more strongly than ever, that there is no such thing as a part-time postman really. Such a postman has to work at both ends of the day. After doing his rounds in the morning, he has to return in the afternoon or evening to bring the postbags to the train. It is not possible for him to engage in any other employment except to spend an hour or two in his plot or garden, if he has one attached to his cottage. It is difficult to see how these people [1041] can be regarded as part-time workers and paid on the basis of the number of hours they work as they are in the service of the Post Office practically the whole day. The sooner something is done to ameliorate the position of these men the better. I think everyone in this House and outside it will be agreeable to something being done to make their position more commensurate with the work entrusted to them.

I notice when the claim of civil servants for increased remuneration focused a certain amount of public attention recently on the rates being paid to the different sections that the post office section was the worst paid in the Civil Service. Why that should be I do not know, but I believe it is the case and that they have a special claim in that respect.

The question of telephones probably interests every Deputy as Deputies are asked frequently by constituents to make representations to expedite the installation of telephones for them. I appreciate the difficulties of the Post Office staff in that respect, but an effort should be made to tackle the problem in a more expeditious manner. The recruitment of extra staff I think would be the only way, even if it were only on a temporary basis, to deal with the large number of applications for telephones. Side by side with that is the problem of adequate lines to cope with the additional subscribers who are being connected day after day. In some cases we are reaching a stage where it is doubtful whether it is a boon to have a telephone because, owing to the number of additional subscribers, delays are more numerous and the lines are not adequate to carry the extra traffic.

Mr. Dillon:  They may be now when the cost of telephones is about to go up.

Mr. Brennan:  The telephone is an expensive luxury but the fact remains that despite the recent increase applications are pouring in and I think we will, in time, reach the stage where the telephone will be used as extensively as it is in the U.S.A., for instance, where there is a telephone in [1042] four out of every five houses.

I must register a protest in relation to one matter. I would like to have the Minister's view on it. I refer to the system under which the telephone section of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs asks one to increase the deposit when the number of calls increases over a certain figure. That betrays a certain suspicion in the minds of the people in the Post Office. In the last quarter I was asked to deposit £7 extra as security against an increasing number of calls. I think that betrays a quite unwarrantable suspicion on the part of the Post Office particularly in relation to Deputies since the increase in the number of their calls is brought about to some extent through their being members of this House.

Deputy Mac Fheórais said that the Thomas Moore commemoration stamp takes a lot of licking. The larger stamps are not too popular despite the fact that they are more decorative and are much sought after by philatelists. If one has to stamp anything from 20 to 100 letters, as Deputies often have to do, one does not care for the larger stamp. In future stamps, whether commemorative or not, should be smaller in size. Smaller stamps would save a good deal of time and time is in somewhat short supply at the moment.

I support the claim made by the staffs, particularly the outdoor staffs, for increased remuneration. I will support any steps taken or any efforts made to improve the lot of rural postmen. Despite some slight increases having been given over the last few years, the rural postman is not yet in receipt of a wage commensurate with the work he is doing. The attitude of the higher officials towards these people is not always commendable. When a change is made in the situation of a post office and it moves a few hundred yards nearer to a railway station a reduction is made in the wages paid to the rural postman because the few minutes saved per day is deducted from the time he spends at his work. Since they are so particular in deducting a few minutes off these people I think the higher officials should examine their own [1043] position and ask themselves whether or not such action is justified. Rural postmen cannot find other work in order to supplement their incomes because they are not available at a time when workmen are ordinarily required.

Dr. Esmonde:  I agree with the previous speaker in relation to the conditions and terms of employment of auxiliary postmen. An auxiliary postman is a very important State employee. He has a difficult function to perform. He gives most of his time and his service to the State and very often after years of loyal service he is left in difficult financial circumstances. His employment does not seem to be very definite in character and in some cases temporary postmen who have worked for years for the State have found themselves out of employment without any compensation. I have had several instances in my constituency where auxiliary postmen, because of force of circumstances, ill-health or something else, have been unable to continue in their employment. They get nothing from the State. I understand there is a fund which provides them with a gratuity, but I think that fund is very limited and quite inadequate to cover the position of these unfortunate men. The Minister should give some consideration to these auxiliary postmen. It should be possible to absorb them into permanent employment.

Permanent postmen in so far as their economic standard is concerned, rate very much the same as forestry workers or agricultural labourers. Possibly they have a few shillings per week more. They have not yet received the increase they hoped to receive though the agricultural labourer and the forestry worker have had their wages adjusted upwards to meet the rising cost of living. Surely the Department of Posts and Telegraphs is in a position to give these men their due. They have a very serious grievance. The same argument applies to the lower-paid officials, many of whom find it exceedingly difficult to live.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is not a matter for the Minister for Posts [1044] and Telegraphs. It is a matter for the Minister for Finance.

Dr. Esmonde:  Surely the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs would have some influence in the Government and in directing the policy of the Government to remunerate these people properly.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  If the Deputy is referring to the Civil Service arbitration award, surely that cannot be discussed on every Estimate. It is a matter for the Minister for Finance.

Mr. Dillon:  On a point of order. Are not the salaries and wages of all employees of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs charged on the present Minister's Vote, and are not matters arising therefrom properly relevant for discussion?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Deputy Esmonde is referring to the Civil Service Arbitration Board award.

Mr. Dillon:  He is referring to the wages paid to temporary postmen.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The arbitration award is a matter for the Minister for Finance and not for the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.

Dr. Esmonde:  I was merely referring to temporary postmen and to the lower-paid officials of the Minister's Department but, in deference to the Chair, I will not pursue that argument any further. Would the Minister tell us how appointments are made to the post of sub-postmaster or sub-postmistress? I understand some type of selection board is responsible for considering the applications sent forward. When a vacancy occurs it is quite common to receive anything from half a dozen to a dozen applications. What specific facts are taken into consideration in the making of these appointments?

Mr. Dillon:  Membership of the local Fianna Fáil cumann or close relationship thereto.

Dr. Esmonde:  I would not like to go so far as to say that, but I would like the Minister to clarify the position. It is unfortunately a fact that these [1045] appointments tend to be political. We have had one or two in my constituency recently. It is rather difficult to know what factors exactly are taken into consideration when these people are appointed. Does the Minister accept the recommendations of this selection board or not? If he does not accept their recommendations, I assume that they recommend them in the order one, two and three. If the Minister does not accept the higher-up recommendations that are put before him I think it would be better, in fairness to this board, to dissolve them and to let the Minister make the appointment himself and come to this House and say that he has made the appointment. I fully appreciate that, in all appointments, the Minister probably has the final say. Why have a selection board if you do not accept the findings of that selection board? I have no actual proof that the Minister has not accepted the findings but I should like him to clarify the position and give some indication of the factors that determine these appointments.

Mr. Dillon:  Surely that is like asking the burglar to ring the burglar alarm.

Dr. Esmonde:  Telephones. I am glad to see in the Minister's statement that he is having an appropriate extension of telephones in the south-east of Ireland. We are a pretty extensive tourist area down there and, heretofore, we have had considerable difficulty with regard to our trunk calls. The position is improving. I am glad to see that the Minister intends to improve it still further in the forthcoming season.

In my constituency—and I think it is universal throughout the country— there has been a considerable extension of telephone services. I am sure every Deputy will welcome that extension We are rapidly approaching the stage in which every post office will have a telephone. That should be the case and indeed it should have been the case a considerable while back. Heretofore, in districts where there has been no telephone, everybody concerned suffered a great hardship. I [1046] am not satisfied that the hours of service in regard to these rural telephones are in the best interests of the telephone subscribers or of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. I know that in my constituency, where there are limited trunk facilities, there are people who would apply for a telephone and who would be glad to get a telephone if they knew that they would get a round-the-clock service. A telephone service that closes down at 8 o'clock or 10 o'clock at night is a very limited facility. Most business people know that a lot of conversations with regard to the ordering of stores, and so forth, and that a lot of long-distance calls take place at night by reason of the fact that is is easier to get through, that there is less obstruction on the line and that there is better reception. I hope the Minister will take a bolder step and endeavour to extend round-the-clock telephone facilities. I believe that, if he does so, he will reap a good return.

I am not sure of the figures but I understand that the present position is that if there are ten subscribers in an area, the extension is to 10 o'clock. I think that when there are 16 or 17 subscribers the service is extended to 12 o'clock and that when there are 20 subscribers the service is a round-the-clock service. I suggest that the Minister should extend round-the-clock telephone facilities everywhere. In the majority of rural post offices, the postmistress or the postmaster or their assistants live on the premises. To revert for a moment to the matter of the appointment of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses, I think it would be very desirable that, in any appointments made in the future, one of the governing factors should be that the appointee will live on the premises.

I note that the Minister is increasing the telephone charges. He justifies the increase in charges with a statement that he wishes the telephone service to pay its way. I wonder if that is a fact? I wonder if this continual imposition of increased charges on the people is a satisfactory method of collecting revenue in order to maintain the telephone service? I think we have seen that other impositions [1047] and increased taxes which were imposed on the people did not achieve the desired result. We have already had a recent increase in telephone charges. Does the Minister not feel that, by further increasing these charges, he may defeat his own ends and frighten people off from becoming subscribers and seeking telephone facilities? It is not very good business or very useful for anybody in rural Ireland to have a telephone unless there is a round-the-clock service. The new increase which the Minister has announced will, I think, result in fewer applications for telephone services.

It is only natural that, so far, the telephone service has not been paying its way. I consider that the Minister has done good work with regard to the extension of telephone facilities. I think he has been very efficient in that respect and has gone ahead with the scheme, in so far as it was possible for him to do so with the staff at his disposal. When you are extending telephone facilities and particularly to areas where these facilities have not heretofore been available, it is only natural that, in the beginning, the people in these areas are not telephone-minded. Give them a little time to become accustomed to using the telephone. As a Deputy and as a medical man I have had quite a lot of experience in that regard. People have often travelled quite a long distance—passing a telephone box on the way—sometimes in very bad weather, to ask me to call to their homes. Often they have suffered quite a lot of hardship in coming a long distance to ask me personally to call when they might have used the telephone. That is because they are not telephone-minded. Whatever loss the Minister may incur at the moment, I suggest that he should leave the charges for telephone services at their present level. The people will become more and more telephone-minded. He will get more subscribers and eventually we shall have more subscribers and a very efficient service, so that in the long run the Minister will get a better revenue.

[1048] As a rural Deputy, I am pleased with the postal vans. They are doing good work. It is possible now in the locality in which I live to write your letters during the day—and I live three miles from a town—and still be able to post your letters at 5 or 6 o'clock in the afternoon. That was not possible some years ago. There is one point which I should like to make in regard to these postal vans. Some of them on express work are passing letter-boxes quite unnecessarily, in my opinion. About a year ago I asked a question in this House with regard to a post-box which had recently been erected in Scarawelsh in my constituency. I asked why the postal van, on its way to Enniscorthy or back again, did not collect the letters from that particular box. I was told that they could not do so because they were on express service. That does not make sense to me. If you have a letter box there and if a van goes by on its way to another town surely it would not take very much time to pull up and collect the letters from that box. There may be other similar cases.

Mr. Allen:  There are 20 other boxes on the same road.

Dr. Esmonde:  If the van is passing, does the Deputy consider that it would be out of place for it to stop and collect the letters from the box? Has he anything against the people in Scarawelsh?

Mr. Allen:  Why not collect the letters from all of the boxes?

Dr. Esmonde:  Certainly, I am wholeheartedly with the Deputy there. The van could start a little earlier and the letters could be collected from all the boxes.

Mr. Allen:  The van would not get to Dublin until morning.

Dr. Esmonde:  Savings. The Minister has mentioned a new drive for savings.

Mr. Dillon:  Saving what?

Mr. Allen:  Gas.

Dr. Esmonde:  I think that the principle is sound but, for people to save, they must have a little extra money in their pockets.

[1049]Mr. Dillon:  Hear, hear!

Dr. Esmonde:  The position in the country at the moment is that nobody has any extra money to jingle. Practically every citizen of this State is wondering how to balance his or her particular budget. With one hand the Government, of which the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs is a member, is emptying the pockets of its citizens by way of taxation; on the other hand he is suggesting they should save. I suggest that the principle is sound but as long as the general policy to which the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs subscribes as a member of the Government, is pursued, I do not think there will be any money in the pockets of the citizens to save.

Mr. Childers:  They are saving, Deputy.

Dr. Esmonde:  Naturally there is some saving. We have not reached the stage, thank goodness, when there is no saving at all. However, I do not think there is any great increase in savings as I read the Minister's statement here. Deputy Corish has mentioned the congestion in post offices on busy days. I think that is a very good point indeed. It is my experience that on busy days, pension day, which is Friday, and children's allowances day, which occurs, I think, on the first Tuesday of the month, you have considerable congestion in post offices. I have seen people in there standing in a queue—and in fact, I have done so myself—to try to get a stamp. It is not a thing that happens every day and I would not suggest that the Minister should deal with it by employing extra permanent staff. It has long been the custom of the banks on busy days, such as fair days, to bring an extra hand from a bigger centre to deal with the rush of business that occurs on such a day. I suggest to the Minister that on these particularly rushed days I mentioned he should bring into the particular office concerned an extra hand. It would be a simple thing to do and it would be economical. It would facilitate the public and greatly increase the efficiency of the local offices.

In conclusion, I know I have criticised [1050] a good deal but I have said this last year and I say it again: I have always found that the Minister is efficient, courteous and helpful. Anything in reason I have asked him to do he tried to do for me. I think he has done his best and that he has done good work with regard to the extension of the telephone services, and so forth.

Captain Giles:  This is a Department which has so many problems that one would not know where to commence or end. It is a Department that hardly ever makes money and that is an important matter which concerns us all. It is a Department that seems to be always losing money and it is time that we had a complete review to see what is the cause of that. We are told that as it is losing money we must increase telephone and telegram charges and the price of stamps. That, to my mind, is the wrong approach to the problem of obtaining revenue. I hope the Minister will review the position before he starts putting on further increases on the public. If the telephone charges go much higher the people will not use the telephone. He ought to take his headline from the last Budget. When the prices of cigarettes, tobacco and beer were increased the people gave up smoking and drinking, so that the Minister's last position was worse than the first.

I am glad to see that telephones are being installed in most post offices, in my area anyway. The people welcome these improvements, but I am not satisfied that we should rest at that. We should not allow a telephone to remain hanging on the side of a wall in some old thatched house where there is no privacy for those who wish to use it. The facilities in the remoter areas are not as good as those in central post offices such as are in Trim, Navan or Kells. Very often people have private and confidential matters to discuss on the telephone and they do not want three or four people with their ears cocked listening to their conversation. If people in towns are entitled to kiosks people in the country areas are also entitled to them to ensure privacy. I would like to see more privacy in this regard. I do not like [1051] to see telephones hanging up beside a fireplace where there are three or four people listening to a private or personal conversation. As time goes on something should be done to afford the same privacy to people in the country as is afforded to them in the towns.

The delivery of mails is certainly something that is a cause of grievance in many areas. As far as my own area, which is over 25 miles from Dublin, is concerned, the arrangements are all right. We receive our mail about 10.30 a.m., which is not too bad, but in the Summerhill area I see the postman going around at 3 or 4 p.m. in the afternoon delivering letters. I would ask the Minister why a postman is delivering letters in a place about 25 miles from Dublin at such a late hour in the day. I feel that there is a certain amount of slackness and inefficiency there. Apparently, the mail comes from Dublin down to Enfield before it is brought back to Summerhill. It should be possible to bring it direct because the bus passes the post office in the morning and evening, and there is no reason why there should not be facilities so that an important little village could get an earlier post.

Sub-post offices are becoming more important as the telephone and other services are being installed. In the past, many of these offices were very much out of date and some of the people who ran them did not know very much about them. However, people in charge now must be a more educated type and there should be a general desire for advancement. Some post offices are very obsolete. Some of the people having telephones installed know very little about them, but what we pay these sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses is a ridiculously low sum, something like £1 or 30/- a week. We are told that they have other means of livelihood. They may have a little sweet shop but the turnover would be very small and in many cases what they are getting is only equivalent to home assistance. If we want our post offices run on better lines we must increase the pay of those in charge of them. They should be paid [1052] according to the services they are giving, and undoubtedly they are giving good service. The post offices are not as they were 20 or 30 years ago. Considering all the extra work that is being passed on to them in recent years, postmasters and postmistresses should be in receipt of better remuneration and should be paid in accordance with justice. They are receiving £1 or 30/- a week for honest, efficient and hard work. Most of those people are at very high tension, and having had a telephone brought in they find it necessary to ring to different cities and towns all over the country, which is quite a strain on their nerves. They should be paid a minimum of £2 or £3 a week for the services they give.

By right, in most country post offices a trained assistant should be there to help with the work. Of course, with the remuneration the sub-postmaster and sub-postmistresses receive it just cannot be done. Every effort should be made to see that these post offices are brought up to date by affording these people the assistance to run the post office in accordance with modern ideas.

The appointment of temporary postmen is another crux. I know some postmen who have given 15, 20 and 25 years' service and when an appointment in the area comes to be made these people are not given that appointment. They cannot get an appointment unless they agree to go to some other area. Therefore, we find that a postman is appointed in a permanent capacity and he may be sent 30 or 40 miles away from his own area. He may be a married man but he cannot bring his family with him because he has no place to take them and has to lodge somewhere at great inconvenience to himself. It is my opinion that if a temporary postman has given good service over a period of 15 or 20 years he should be appointed permanently in his own area. All over the country we have men of a fine calibre working as temporary postmen. They are honest and decent people working in summer and winter, but when an appointment of a permanent nature comes to be made these men cannot get it unless they are prepared [1053] to move 30 or 40 miles away. These men have their roots in their own area. We should not uproot them and take them out of the district. My belief is that we should appoint them in a permanent capacity in their own areas wherever it is possible to do so. The Minister should review the position of temporary postmen and where a vacancy occurs and a suitable temporary postman is available, he should be appointed, whether he is a local man or otherwise. These men are generally married and if not, they are maintaining either a father or mother and so far from trying to uproot them out of their homesteads, we should try to help them.

I would ask the Minister to see that there is a complete review of the situation before he starts increasing charges for any service because there is a danger of going too far. Wireless licences have already been increased from 12/6 to 17/6 and perhaps before the next Budget is disposed of they may be increased to £1. We shall, therefore, be paying an additional fee of 5/- or 7/6 simply for the opportunity of listening to the B.B.C. and nothing more. We are told that we need not look for any additional expenditure by the Department, as it is always losing money, but I am satisfied that a review is needed in the case of the smaller post offices to ascertain if we can do something to provide better remuneration for sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses. At present they are giving excellent service for hopelessly small pay, and were it not for the fact that they are generally able to supplement their salaries by conducting a little shop or providing some other service for the people, they would not be able to carry on at all. I am certainly satisfied that the Minister is making every effort to improve matters so far as the resources at his disposal permit. He is courteous and efficient and he is doing his best to bring things into shape but there is a lot of shaping to be done in this Department. We know he cannot do it all, since we are faced with the question of where the money is to come from.

Now that telephones are being installed all over the country, we want [1054] to see the same facilities given to country districts as are provided in towns and that adequate privacy is afforded to callers. People who are making calls should not be subjected to the inconvenience of having old gossipers sitting around listening to what they have to say. They do not want to avail of telephone facilities under these conditions whereas if adequate privacy is provided they will certainly use the telephone much more extensively and in that way the service will earn more money. I would again ask the Minister to ensure that country areas get the same facilities as the bigger areas.

Mr. Gallagher:  I did not intend to speak in this debate at all but I was rather amused to hear so much talk about the wretched conditions and pay of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses, remembering the terrible rumpus that is created and the number of applications that come pouring in for these jobs when one becomes vacant. We all remember Ballinalee and Baltinglass, the rumpus that was created in these districts and the number of applications for the vacant positions. It amuses me, as a Dublin Deputy, if things were so bad as they were described by other speakers, why there should be so many applications. I may say, however, that I am satisfied from what I know of sub-postmasters in rural areas—I do know one in Deputy Giles' constituency—that they should be better paid. At the same time the question arises, why there are so many applications for these positions if things are so bad? I think that is a sensible question.

I will say that sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses do handle a great deal of money, considerably more nowadays than formerly, as a result of having to make payments in respect of children's allowances and the other social benefits introduced in recent years. Where you have people who are not well paid handling a good deal of money, there is always temptation, and an effort should be made to remove that temptation by paying them adequate salaries. There is an old saying that there is a danger in the [1055] case of people who are not well paid of mixing their own threepenny bits with the Post Office threepenny bits, and that is a danger we should guard against. When I was connected with a certain staff, from a trade union point of view, I made that case on behalf of clerks handling money. They were handling big sums, and as a representative of the union, I made a claim that, as they were handling a good deal of money, temptation should not be put in their way. I am glad that this particular staff did get the increase they wanted. So far as the Minister is concerned, if he tells us that it will be necessary to increase charges in order to provide money for this particular purpose, I think there would be very little opposition from any side of the House if it were made clear that the money was intended to provide better pay.

That brings me to the question of appointments. Deputy Dillon made some reference to the effect that these appointments depended on the colour of the card in an applicant's pocket. I think, however, he would agree that the Minister's predecessor set up a selection committee and that the present Minister is greatly influenced by that selection committee. The committee, as I said, was set up by his predecessor, and I take it that he certainly listens to what the selection committee has to say, and is influenced by their advice. I think he is one Minister who will listen to any reasonable case no matter what Deputy Esmonde said.

Mr. Dillon:  If the Deputy could only see the far-away look in Deputy Allen's eye.

Mr. Gallagher:  I do not know anything about Deputy Allen's eye. I am not an optician and I have no qualifications for examining eyesight.

Mr. Dillon:  If you knew as much about Fethard-on-Sea as Deputy Allen did.

Mr. Gallagher:  Deputy Corish had one or two points to make when he mentioned Wexford, particularly in regard to post offices in licensed premises. I think it is wrong, not because I am a Pioneer, to have a post [1056] office in licensed premises, even if the licensed premises is in another part of the same building. A licensed premises should be for the sale of beer and spirits and beer and spirits only. We do not want to see people drawing their few shillings allowances and then moving down to the next counter to spend it on beer. I take the same line in regard to this matter as I took in regard to slot machines when I advocated their removal from shops in the city. A certain temptation exists when you have people drawing a pension at one counter if they can move a few steps to another counter to spend it on drink.

Mr. Dillon:  Ask Deputy Allen's views.

Mr. Gallagher:  I am quite well able to make my own case and I am making it in the best manner I can. I agree with Deputy Corish that a post office should not be conducted in a licensed premises. I do not know what the Minister has to say in that regard. Wexford is a long way from my constituency but I have a great regard for Deputy Corish and I think that he is sincere in urging that a post office should not be carried on in a licensed premises. I also agree with the Deputy that the stamps recently issued were certainly too large.

I should like to congratulate the Minister in his effort to step up the delivery of letters. I have a number of friends and relations in Donegal and they tell me that there has been a great improvement in the case of letters posted in Donegal. Most of them get to Dublin four to five hours quicker than heretofore. I think the Minister is making an honest effort to improve services throughout his Department and I do not think he is open to much criticism on that score. Like Deputy Esmonde, I have made very few representations outside the usual representations to enable people to get telephones. I must say that the position in Dublin has improved a little and more instruments are being supplied. The Minister is making a good effort and deserves all our thanks.

Mr. Kyne:  I think I can safely say that most sections of the community will be shocked to hear that it is proposed [1057] to increase the postage, the rate of telegrams and the cost of telephones. Coming so shortly after we had hoped that a final adjustment had been made, the effect of this on the ordinary member of the community will be to take a little more from the very little he has in order to balance his budget. I should say that it will not be any great help to the Save your Money campaign that the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs has announced and by means of which he hopes to induce people to invest in the Post Office. There are people who were hard put, especially people with small businesses who use the Post Office, the mail, the telegram or the telephone year by year to contact their clients. They will be very hard put now to make ends meet not to speak of putting a little bit away in the Post Office. Certainly the big business people will not be so seriously affected. They will certainly put it down to cost of production and pass it on to the ordinary consumer as an increase that was unavoidable.

I should have expected that the increase in the number of persons using the mail and the telephone would have at least justified a standstill, if not a reduction, in overheads. We all know that wages have to be increased but apparently the Minister is now proposing to recover some of those wage increases by putting up the cost of mails, telegrams and telephones. Might I suggest that he may find he is killing the goose that laid the golden egg and that he will have to finance these increases in some other way?

The last speaker congratulated the Minister on the earlier delivery of mails in Donegal. I would suggest that the Minister would direct his attention to the County Waterford. In my town mails are now being delivered more than an hour and a half later than they were 30 years ago. That is very poor progress and redounds neither to the credit of the present Minister nor that of previous Ministers for Posts and Telegraphs.

While I am speaking on that matter, I might mention that our urban council decided to draw the attention of the Minister's postmasters in the area to that position but they got back what [1058] I would suggest is a sharp critical letter, implying that there was no justification at all for their protest and that rather should they mind their own business. I should not think the Minister would tolerate any of his officers replying to fair criticism of his Department in that manner. We all find it the common experience that if you submit to the postmaster of a town for transmission to his superior officer any comment in the shape of criticism or suggestion you will invariably get a reply denying all responsibility, alleging there was no delay and if there was a delay that it was your fault and not theirs at all. Perhaps, that may be accountable for the fact that the people responsible for what has been complained about are the people who investigate the complaints.

In regard to complaints, I would suggest to the Minister that some independent officer of his who would not take part in any of the blame that might be apportioned should be detailed to investigate the complaint. I would seriously suggest to the Minister that complaints in respect of his Departments, his officials, or of the service they give should be treated in the way a good businessman treats complaints. They should be welcomed as pointing out defects or indicating where better services could be given.

My experience of the Post Office for a number of years, especially since I became a Dáil Deputy, has been that, when you lodge a complaint, you are looked upon as being a person who was offending. Surely the lodging of a complaint is not of itself an offence but something that should be welcomed by the Post Office staff and something that should be investigated and cleared up to the satisfaction, if possible, of the people complaining? Complaints should not be, as I have seen very often, the occasion for offensive replies.

I would agree with many of the speakers who suggested that sub-post-mistresses and sub-postmasters should get an increased allowance. They have to perform responsible work and unfortunately too often we read in the daily newspapers of cases where those unfortunate officials were driven into [1059] errors that led to the police court. I am suggesting that a good part of this is due to the fact that the money they get is not in proportion to the responsibility of the work they do.

In connection with rural postmen, all I can suggest is that the auxiliary postman as we know him to-day should be dispensed with. He is the man who gets a sum, varying from 30/- to £2, for approximately two or three hours per day for a number of days of the week. He obviously cannot be classified as a full-time employee. Neither can he be classified as an unemployed man. He is neither fish nor flesh and is certainly not good red herring in any shape or form. He is a badly paid worker who has not sufficient work to occupy him fully. I would suggest that an amalgamation of districts should be arranged so that we would have at least a whole-time postman who would do possibly the work of two part-time auxiliary postmen.

Deputy Gallagher referred to the appointment of auxiliary postmen and congratulated the Minister for acting on the advice of his selection committee. I would like to ask the Minister if he invariably makes it a point of accepting the person nominated as the most suitable by that same selection committee or whether it is correct to say that he only acts and hides behind that selection committee when it agrees with his own particular views or the views that he thinks will find the favour of his Party? I have heard it stated by the Minister, in answer to questions in connection with the appointment of auxiliary postmen, that that was the nomination of the selection committee. On other occasions I noticed that there was no mention of the selection committee but that such and such a man was appointed because he had service with the F.C.A. or some other branch of the emergency services. On other occasions he was appointed because of health reasons. On still other times he was appointed without any reason at all being given. I am led to suspect that the selection committee serves only as a cover when the particular individual selected is the nominee of [1060] that selection committee. I would like to see all appointments made without political favour or flavour. The test should be made by an independent selection committee and the best man, in its opinion, appointed.

I have noticed during the past year or so, in a number of our towns, that the Post Office men have been engaged in laying underground telephone wires. The Minister's Department is to be congratulated on that because it will mean that people using the telephones will not have to suffer the inconvenience of interruptions, due to a break-down of the system during stormy weather. A further extension of that work should be undertaken. The capital outlay involved would be quickly recovered since the cost of maintenance would be likely to be a great deal less than where the overhead wires are in use.

I should also like to see a further extension of the hours for the telephone service in rural post offices. In the past, so far as our small towns and villages are concerned, the local post offices closed at an early hour. During the last year or so the closing hour was extended to 10 o'clock. Since then something exceptional has happened. Up to a year ago, when one could not make a telephone call at the post office in a rural town, one was able to do so at the local Garda barracks. The facilities there were always courteously afforded to callers especially in cases of urgency. Within the past year, however, the strength of many of these Garda stations has been reduced, and the barracks are closed at 7.30 in the evening. In order to meet that situation I think a further extension of the telephone service in rural post offices should be made to meet the requirements of the people. It would be greatly appreciated by them.

I would ask the Minister to take note of another point in connection with the telephone service in the rural areas, many of which are connected with the central exchange by a single line. If a private subscriber is using the line and another person in the post office requires to make a call, he has very often to wait for a considerable time. I think there is need for an improvement [1061] there. We know, of course, that such an improvement is going to cost money, but I suggest that service should be the aim of the Post Office. One remedy would be a double line service to the central exchange.

A number of Deputies have referred to the telephone kiosks. I suggest that, in all fairness to the people who use them, the position should not be such that their private business can become public property within two minutes of their leaving the kiosk. The fact that that happens is due to the faulty material used in the construction of those kiosks. There is one on a public square in a central position in the town in which I live. The person using it can be heard speaking by people two or three yards away from the box. That is something which the Department cannot be proud of. The number of kiosks should be increased in all our towns, so that all our citizens will have telephone facilities available to them without being obliged to make their calls either at a Garda station or at the house of a private subscriber. The Department in providing such facilities should not set as its standard what the cash reward will be.

I have from time to time addressed questions to the Minister with regard to the provision of more kiosks in working-class built-up areas in Waterford City, and in places like Tramore, and other towns and villages in my constituency. The Minister's reply has been that a check has been made by his Department which indicates that the number of people likely to avail of the service would not be sufficient to justify the cost involved. It should be the responsibility of a State Department to provide the service apart altogether from the monetary reward likely to be achieved.

Mr. Cunningham:  Or increase the price of telephone calls?

Mr. Dillon:  The Minister has announced his intention of doing that.

Mr. Cunningham:  The Deputy wants telephone kiosks that will not pay.

Brendán Mac Fheórais:  How are [1062] they to know that until they have been put up?

Mr. Childers:  Yes, we do know.

Mr. Cunningham:  Deputy Kyne said that whether they pay or not they should be provided.

Mr. Kyne:  I should like to say to Deputy Cunningham that I do not very much mind whether they pay or not, or whether the Minister puts up telephone charges or not, but I want to warn him that, if he puts the charge up beyond a certain figure, his last state will be worse than his first, as the Minister for Finance found when he increased the tax on whiskey. In conclusion, I would like to say that, in general, the Post Office is giving a pretty good service, apart from the small points I have mentioned. In my constituency I find the Post Office staffs obliging and courteous, and that the Post Office service is one which the country can be proud of. If I have appeared to be critical on small points, I would like the Minister to accept that criticism in the way in which I suggested his Department should accept similar constructive criticism from the ordinary people outside.

Mr. Dillon:  What is the use of the Taoiseach galloping in here to tell us that we have reached the limit of the taxable capacity of the people to pay, if he dispatches the Minister for Posts, and Telegraphs in the following week to say that, that fact notwithstanding, he proposes to increase all the taxes which it is within his power to increase? He is going to increase postal rates, telegraph rates and telephone rates. Who is right—the Taoiseach or the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs?

Somebody said here to-day that the Post Office was always losing money. Are they? I understood that the telephone was a revenue producer. Am I wrong? We all know that the telegraph has for years been losing money, because it is a dying service. Every Minister for the past 15 years would have gladly closed down the telegraph service, but it has been maintained as a public convenience. The paucity of the demand upon it has robbed it of its profit-earning capacity. I think the [1063] Minister is right to carry that burden and let the service die gradually, rather than create the public inconvenience that would be created by its peremptory termination. I do not think that telephones are losing money.

Mr. Childers:  Yes.

Mr. Dillon:  To what extent?

Mr. Childers:  The loss this year will be £22,800, and they lost in 1951-52 also.

Mr. Dillon:  Wait a moment. There is a little wangle in this. You can make the telephones lose as much as you like by charging up to them the capital cost of telephone installation and extension on certain terms.

Mr. Childers:  The terms have not materially changed, not in the sense the Deputy means.

Mr. Dillon:  The increase in capital equipment of the Post Office telephone section under the administration of my colleague, Deputy Everett, changed very materially. We believed in developing this country; we believed it was a good thing to equip this country with telephones; we did not accept the view that this was an amenity to which our people should not aspire. I remember that when Deputy Everett was Minister for Posts and Telegraphs he put in a new cable to Cork and another to Limerick, and that he put in hand the provision of an additional cable to Great Britain. It all goes to the cost of capital, which now is in the process of being repaid. There are two ways in which you can deal with the capital cost. You can abbreviate the period over which the capital is to be redeemed and you can go to the money market and borrow money at 5 per cent. and then watch the National Loan go to 104 and 105 on the stock exchange; you can charge that to the interest on the telephone service and drop in here to tell us that it is losing money and then increase the rates.

Mr. Childers:  The telephone service lost money before the rate was increased. I hope the Deputy will act [1064] in the same way as other Deputies and will not try to drag budgetary policy into this debate. If he had been here he would have heard that I admitted that neither Deputy Everett nor myself was responsible for the deficits arising in the ordinary course. They were affected by the budgetary policy. The Deputy is the first one to try to bring budgetary policy into the general discussion.

Mr. Dillon:  I am a simple man. “Taxes is taxes.” I do not care whether they are taxes under the Budget or under the Post Office or any other kind of taxes.

Mr. Childers:  The Deputy is entitled to do this and he will get his answer, if he chooses to be the first Deputy to bring budgetary policy into this. It has never been done in the history of the Post Office.

Mr. Dillon:  Am I not displaying heroic patience? He will be telling me afterwards I have a very rough tongue and I think my attitude to him is positively angelic. I accept the simple philosopy that “taxes is taxes.” If the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs is promoted to the assignment of putting his hand in my pocket to take out my substance, I find it no more agreeable to surrender that substance to him than I do to surrender it to the Minister for Finance.

I have heard a series of Deputies speak with emotion of the courtesy and gentility of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs—many aeons of time have passed since anyone said that about the Minister for Finance—but it does not make taxation any easier to bear when it is imposed by Order, politely and with gentility. The tax still has to be paid.

Talking of politeness and gentility, I think I may properly say, in passing, that my experience has not been the same as Deputy Kyne's in regard to any complaint I have had to make to the Department about defective service. In all the correspondence I have had with that Department, both in business and in the course of political duty, I have never found any reluctance on the part of the Department [1065] carefully to investigate any failure of service and freely to admit the fault, if fault there was, and effectively to amend it. It is right, if that be the experience of some of us, that we should record it.

I want to ask the House this simple question. If the true purpose of the Minister was to redress a deficiency of £22,000 in the revenue of the telephone service, how should he go about it? Is it by increasing the capacity of the telephone system or is it by deterring the subscribers from availing of it, by making the service more expensive? Was there ever anything dafter than to increase the telephone charges, at a time when there is a fight that 40 could join in to get a trunk call? Do Deputies realise the primitive standards of trunk service that obtain in this country? Do Deputies realise that if they picked up the telephone in New York City and desired to speak to a person in Los Angeles, the operator would not ask them to lay down the instrument? Do Deputies realise that if they picked up the instrument in Chicago and asked for a man by name and told the operator they understood he was in Florida, they would go down the Florida coast asking in all the Florida resort hotels was Mr. So-and-So there, until they found him—with the additional service that if the caller was a lady they would ask the gentleman in Florida if his wife knew where he was, before they connected them?

Mr. Childers:  They increased their charges by 28 per cent. in a few years, having done all that.

Mr. Dillon:  I do not know what their charges began at. If the Minister would agree to convert dollars into sterling, notionally, at least, that intervention by him would have some significance. If you begin by charging a penny in New York and increase it to 1¼d. and begin by charging 3d. in Dublin and increase it to 4d. it is quite true that the percentage increase may be larger in New York but the burden is heavier to carry in Dublin.

What I am trying to point out is that we have a very low standard of service here. I am not blaming anybody [1066] for that, but I am saying that, before you seek to make revenue balance charges, you ought to raise the standard of your service to a point which would make anybody who contemplated using it desirous of using it. I would sooner get a tooth filled in this country than make a trunk call.

It takes an unconscionable time to get connected and almost invariably at the crucial moment somebody either asks you a wholly irrelevant question and you discover that he has been connected to your telephone by mistake or stygian silence falls. Both of you then frantically try to make a connection, whereupon both operators say that both telephones are engaged and they cannot make it out. One subscriber then resumes a philosophical calm, puts his instrument back and waits for the other to come raging through, only to go through exactly the same performance all over again. Then, I must say, usually the courteous and friendly voice of the trunk operator is to be heard exhorting you to get off the line, on the ground that there is a queue of people all frantically trying to use the same line as you are using. Is it any wonder they lose £22,000 a year? If any shopkeeper in this city put goods in his shop, and, when his customers came in to buy them, lined them up in a queue and told them to wait and like it, would he expect to make a profit?

Mr. Childers:  A wholly libellous statement about the vast part of the telephone service. I am surprised that the Deputy should make it.

Mr. Dillon:  What is a libellous statement?

Mr. Childers:  The Deputy's last statement. It is a wholly libellous statement.

Mr. Dillon:  My description of a trunk call?

Mr. Childers:  It is a wholly libellous statement but I am not really surprised at the Deputy making it.

Mr. Dillon:  It is mild.

Mr. Childers:  It is wholly libellous.

[1067]Mr. Dillon:  It is extremely charitable.

Mr. Childers:  The Deputy should ask his Cork colleagues, for example, whether it is true of Cork calls.

Mr. Dillon:  The whole population of this country does not live in Cork or yet in Dublin.

Mr. Gallagher:  There are a lot of them here.

Mr. Dillon:  The Minister thinks apparently that the only two centres of population between which trunk telephone service should be used are the urban centres of Cork and Dublin.

Mr. Childers:  It is untrue of Lifford and Galway, if the Deputy wants to move from one area to another.

Mr. Blowick:  Would the Minister come to Mayo and tell us about it?

An Ceann Comhairle:  We ought to give Deputy Dillon an opportunity.

Mr. Childers:  Let him continue his libels, Sir.

Mr. Dillon:  I shall be interested to hear other rural Deputies reciting their experiences of the trunk telephone to the Minister.

Mr. Childers:  They all said it was enormously improved. The Deputy was not here.

Mr. Sweetman:  The Minister would have kittens if anybody else interrupted him as he is interrupting Deputy Dillon.

Mr. Dillon:  To do the Minister justice, I am perhaps inviting him to battle. The more deeply he commits himself in this matter, the more furious will become the indignation of the thousands of citizens who have suffered the miseries that most of us suffer when our business requires us to make and to complete a trunk call. I am not blaming anybody, as I have said before. I merely wish that the Minister would awaken to the fact that it is urgently necessary that he should continue to prosecute the policy [1068] initiated by his predecessor, Deputy Everett, and do for the rest of the country what Deputy Everett did for the Cork-Dublin circuit. If that were done for the whole country, I believe that a very much more remunerative revenue would come to the Minister from reducing charges instead of increasing them.

I want to suggest to the House nothing could be more retrograde or more obscurantist than the policy of raising charges, on the grounds that the present traffic is not yielding a profit. The wise course is to increase facilities in the certainty that growing traffic will carry the charges. Who amongst us who lives outside an urban centre but knows the story referred to by, I think, Deputy Kyne to-night of the single line going into an exchange?

How many small towns in Ireland are connected to exchanges of the standing of Sligo, Athlone or Ballinasloe by a single line, with consequent intolerable delay in sending or receiving a trunk call? Nothing is more disastrous for a Minister of State than when he suffers himself to be persuaded that what he wants to believe is true. I am astonished to discover that the Minister is unaware of the character of the trunk service in rural Ireland, and his colleagues in his own Party would do him a service, if they do not care to speak of it in public, if they drew him aside and told him of it in private, because it is by remedying that defect that adequate revenue in this matter will be raised.

I want to say most emphatically that I think it is a gross abuse to raise these charges at the present time, and I suggest that it is an act of effrontery for the Head of the Government to declare that, in the considered judgment of the Government over which he presides, the limit of the people's taxable capacity has been reached, and then to send in a Minister of that Government to announce taxes designed to raise a very considerable sum of money at the expense of the whole community, but in a form which constitutes a charge, and a very substantial charge, on trade and business, which will ultimately find its way back, as all other such charges do, as a burden on [1069] the only industry that earns for our people, the only industry in this country, practically, that is not a social service dragging out of the people— agriculture. We hear the Minister for Agriculture telling people down the country that unless we reduce costs of production and increase efficiency we will be squeezed out of one market after the other and that there is no other remedy but to reduce the cost of production. Every charge in these proposals will impinge in greater or lesser degree on every case of eggs that is shipped from a rural egg store to Eggsports for a destination in Great Britain.

Now, of course, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs does not know and does not care that that charge will be borne by the exporter of eggs. No later than to-day I said to a solicitor whom I was trying to rouse, outside Dáil Éireann: “You will be glad to hear that you are going to get a chance to contribute further to the revenue through your postage stamp, your telegram and your telephone,” and he looked at me blankly and said: “My heart bleeds for my clients.” He had no illusions who was going to pay the extra charge. Do not imagine that the egg shipper is going to pay it. Do not imagine that the person who has to use these facilities for the marketing of agricultural produce is going to pay it. It will be passed on to the only person who has no one to whom he can pass it on, that is, the man who keeps the fowl to produce the eggs. He would pass it on to the fowl if he could, but the fowl have a very effective method of protesting against that procedure: they would go on strike; no victuals, no eggs. If the farmer tries to go on strike we know what happens to him—Mountjoy yawns for him. So he pays. I say it is an outrage.

Do you think that the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs desired to levy that charge? Do you think there has not been a struggle going on for months between the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and the Minister for Finance? Does no one but myself hear the voice of Esau and see the hand as well?

The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs [1070] appears before us, not as a temporary postman, but as a temporary tax collector, and when he has that job done he will be allowed to return to his mailbags. But, he should not do that job. He should stand on what the Head of his Government said, that we had reached the limit of our people's taxable capacity, and he should have told the Minister for Finance that if he did not agree with that proposition he should take a running jump at himself until such time as his Fianna Fáil colleagues preferred him to Deputy Lemass and Deputy Dr. Ryan for the succession when Deputy de Valera choose to lay down the office of Taoiseach.

Now I want to raise another point, Sir, and I think it is an important one. Deputy Kyne, with an engaging ingenuousness, said that he wanted the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to tell him and to tell him truly when appointments fell to be made of temporary officers in his Department did he suffer his mind to be coerced by the recommendation of the appointments committee established by Deputy Everett or did he on occasion exercise a separate discretion. Deputy Gallagher from Dublin came in. He is a frank and open man but he had the misfortune to intervene in the debate very shortly after he came into the House and he told us honestly and truly his views about the location of sub-post offices in public houses. He told of the evils that ensue therefrom and how he would not wish to see a widow's pension or an old age pension or any of the other distributions that habitually take place at the post office under the various social services dispursed at the sub-postmaster's bar. Deputy Allen was sitting below him and in Deputy Allen's constituency there is a place called Fethard-on-Sea and recently, to the amazement of all beholders, the post office was changed in Fethard-on-Sea and, low and behold, where did the new post office blossom forth but in the only public house in Fethard-on-Sea. Urgent measures were taken. Plywood was purchased. Partitions were erected and I am told that they have divided the public house in Fethard-on-Sea and now, if you want to proceed from the proprietor's post [1071] office counter to the bar, you must wear goloshes and carry your umbrella because you have to go round the partition. Heretofore, you could keep under cover as you made the journey.

Mr. Gallagher:  You must have had a jar there yourself, had you? You would have made a good descriptive journalist. I take it you were there?

Mr. Dillon:  You will hear all about it from Deputy Allen.

Mr. Cunningham:  The Deputy is not fond of partitions.

Mr. Gallagher:  Deputy Dillon is not fond of partitions, is he?

Mr. Dillon:  I am sure every Deputy will feel convinced by me that in this case the well-known legal aphorism, res ipsa loquiter, applies. These circumstances must make it manifest to all that this choice was made by an objective disinterested Civil Service Commission. Perish the thought that anything else entered in, even when we come to know that this new sub-postmaster of Fethard-on-Sea is closely connected in no insignificant degree with that centre of Irish nationalism, the Fethard-on-Sea Fianna Fáil Cumann.

Mr. Gallagher:  The Old I.R.A. It makes all the difference.

Mr. Dillon:  That is the qualification. I want to tell Deputy Gallagher what the facts are. The appointments commission in the Post Office is the alibi. I know what obtained in the old days and I think it is well to refresh the House's memory because I want to make this case to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, that two courses can be defended in connection with temporary appointments in his Department. You can make the case for the patronage system over and above board or you can make the case for establishing the equivalent of the local appointments commission and stripping the Minister of all discretion in the matter altogether. Neither of these systems will, in my judgment, seriously affect public morality in this [1072] country. But what corrupts and rots public morality is the fraudulent alibi, the pretence that these appointments are made by a disinterested and objective body independent of the Minister and the established fact well known that the appointments are being made on a patronage basis and that the machinery of objective choice is being converted to the purpose of serving political patronage.

I know whereof I speak. When I became Minister for Agriculture and was quite wet behind the ears, an officer of my Department came to me and asked me whom did I want to appoint, I think to the position of charwoman in Athenry, and I said: “In the name of Providence, what do I know about the charwoman in Athenry?” He said: “The appointment is to be made by you.” I said: “How am I to proceed to that duty? Is there anybody in this building who can do that?” He said: “There are plenty who can do it, but it is a prerogative of the Minister and there are many such in connection with minor temporary unestablished appointments of this kind.” I said that I understood there was a system long established whereunder appointments of that character were filled through the labour exchange. “Yes,” he said, “there are.” Then I said: “How do I come into it?”“Well,” he said, “the procedure was this. Appointments of this character were notified to the Minister. We notified them to a Deputy of the Fianna Fáil Party who was called a patronage secretary. The following week we got back the name of the person to be appointed to that job.”

An Ceann Comhairle:  I do not see what the appointment of a charwoman in Athenry has to do with the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.

Mr. Dillon:  I submit that that is the procedure by which these appointments are at present being made.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy has told that story on several occasions. I do not see what relation it has to the Estimate of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.

[1073]Mr. Dillon:  I submit it is the procedure at present in operation.

An Ceann Comhairle:  If you think so, there is no need for the reference to patronage in respect of another Ministry and another person.

Mr. Dillon:  Surely I may expose to the House how the machinery works. It is very ingenious.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I object to people's names being used who are not members of this House.

Mr. Dillon:  Whose names?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The person whose name was used in connection with this incident before.

Mr. Dillon:  I am describing certain machinery. The name came back and there was another officer in Dublin Castle whose duty it was to notify the local labour exchange of the chosen person, with instructions that, whoever else he sent up as a candidate for the vacant job, he was to take good care to send up that person and, if he had not him on his book, he was to lose no time in putting him on his book. In due course that person came first of two or three persons sent by the labour exchange and the other persons went home and bewailed their bad luck. Does anybody here doubt that at present where a vacancy exists for a sub-postmaster or a temporary postman the Fianna Fáil Deputy for that area presses the claim of some particular constituent of his? Is it seriously believed by anybody in this House that somebody else is appointed? Of course not.

All I am characterising as evil is the sanctimonious pretence that patronage is no more. I think you can make a case for patronage in these kind of jobs and be honest about it. Then it becomes a question of arguing as to which is the right course to pursue. It is honest to make a case for the old system, but there is no escaping the fact that it rots public morality in this country to pretend that you are adhering strictly to a system characterised by objective self-denial when in fact you are using the well known procedure of patronage, call it what you will.

[1074] I ask the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, if he has made up his mind at the pressure of his colleagues in regard to these appointments to make the operation of the selection board no longer politically possible for him, to have the moral courage to get up and say so. I think he will find that the honest approach will command the respect of most people in this country, no matter how profoundly they differ from him in politics and in regard to the expediency of this particular procedure. It would be honest and it would set a headline for speaking the truth in matters of this character, which would be a useful discipline for everybody.

Mr. Childers:  The statement was made 12 months ago.

Mr. Dillon:  What statement?

Mr. Childers:  The statement which the Deputy suggests should be made now.

Mr. Dillon:  That the patronage procedure is re-established?

Mr. Childers:  The statement was made.

Mr. Dillon:  I remember the Minister saying something. I heard clearly what the Minister said. I understood what he meant and I gave him the charity of believing that he was trying to speak frankly. But the fact was that he found it difficult to be as frank as he wished. He actually said: “The procedure which my predecessor in office established is maintained, subject to the overriding discretion of the Minister in such cases as he may think proper suitably to adjust the procedure.” The honest thing would have been to say: “I will not carry on that system.” Now does Deputy Kyne know the answer?

Mr. Kyne:  I do.

Mr. Dillon:  I will respect the Minister if he will get up and say: “When we came back into office Fianna Fáil wanted the jobs and they have got them.” Good, rough, tough Tammany tactics! I like the good, rough, tough [1075] Tammany boss with his brass spittoon in his dusty smoke-filled office, marshalling his ward leaders with the patronage he has to distribute; but he is not a pretty picture when he assumes the mantle of an archangel and tries to play the part of an archangel down from Heaven who has momentarily lost his way. Let Fianna Fáil keep on their check waistcoat, their hard hat and their chewed cigar and carry their brass spittoons down into their constituencies and boast of what they are. We will respect them for it, honest jobbers to the end, and to blazes with all this fraud of picking them by selection board. Deputy Gallagher has gone. I wonder would he now repeat what he had to say about the circumstances in Fethard-on-Sea?

Mr. Childers:  About drowning the British in eggs.

Mr. Dillon:  The parallel is not quite clear to me between exporting eggs and weighing down your own political supporters with such patronage as you dispose of.

Mr. Childers:  Plus the wild exaggeration.

Mr. Dillon:  Did I exaggerate? Did the Minister not tell us that it was back to the old, old system of the jobs for the boys? Did he not tell us that? Did he deny that? Look at the boys. They are all blushing. It is quite embarrassing. They have all been going around protesting down the country that with virtue unsullied they have insisted that these posts will be filled with no interests served except the public good. But there was also the subsequent whisper to “come around and see me afterwards.” Come up and see me some time. Are you not proud of them? Do they not look proud? See the flashing glory of the Minister as he bites his finger nail. I think he has committed an indiscretion which his colleagues will not like. I will say this to him: I will deal in no trickery with him. Let him wind up his blooming selection board if he wants to, dole out the jobs and I will [1076] defend him. My only complaint is that he keeps the blooming fraud and hides behind it. Get rid of the pretence. The public life will be the purer for the end and the termination of the fraud.

I understand the Minister proposes to take the other Estimates for which he is responsible on some other occasion. I want to say that in my experience of dealing with the Department of Posts and Telegraphs I have always been met with uniform courtesy and it is my desire to help in any way I can. I want to say in all seriousness to the Minister that he is living in a fool's paradise if he believes the trunk telephone service from Dublin to Cork approximates anywhere near to what it should be. I ask him to improve it. I remember year after year complaining here of the intolerable annoyance of dialling “O” and “30”. Gloria in Excelsis Deo, that fault at last has been effectively remedied, but it took a long time. Whether credit for that is due to the present Minister or to his predecessor I am not in a position to say. To whomsoever it is due let credit be given. I think we have done a public service this evening in Deputy Kyne asking the question he did ask and in my persuading the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to allow me to answer it for him.

Mr. Cunningham:  Deputy Dillon seems to fill two functions in this House. His first purpose is to ridicule anything that is Irish and any efforts made by the Irish nation. He has done that effectively to-night by his disparaging remarks on the telephone service. We know that the telephone facilities are not 100 per cent. perfect. On the other hand, we know that the situation is not anything as bad as Deputy Dillon has painted it.

Deputy Dillon's second function is to throw mud in abundance. He revels in doing that. He seems to think that patronage is all right provided no alibi is put forward such as that put forward in defence of the selection board set up to recommend persons suitable for appointment to sub-post offices. I remember Deputy Dillon casting mud when there was no [1077] selection board. Now that there is a selection board he says patronage is all right, provided one does not try to hide behind the board. I do not know whether Deputy Dillon relishes the rôle he played to-night or whether it was a distasteful task allocated to him by his new bosses. We will probably hear the other Fine Gael exhaust pipe to-night, Deputy O. Flanagan.

Mr. Gallagher:  Is he an exhaust pipe?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy should not refer to any member of this House as an exhaust pipe.

Mr. O. Flanagan:  That is a compliment coming from Deputy Gallagher.

Mr. Cunningham:  To come to the Estimate——

Mr. Dillon:  Would it be proper for me to mention from where else should we expect a grunt?

Mr. Cunningham:  From Deputy Dillon. It is quite a usual procedure that he grunts.

Mr. Dillon:  I understood, Sir, censure from you required the withdrawal of the term involved.

Mr. O. Flanagan:  I think the Deputy is familiar with exhaust pipes.

Mr. Cunningham:  There is a number of things on which I wish to congratulate the Minister. The first thing is the speed with which the new telephones have been installed during the year 1952. The figures indicate that 7,234 new telephones have been installed. That is certainly very fine progress indeed and at that rate of going it should not be long until all those demanding telephone facilities will be accommodated. The present figure of outstanding applications is somewhere in the region of 5,000. Should the number of new applications in the coming year be small, it is quite possible at the present rate of going that most of the applicants will be catered for in a very reasonable length of time.

In connection with telephones one [1078] very important development was the fact that sub-post offices all over the country which up to the present had no telephone facilities now have telephones. I forget the number which is still outstanding but I know it is very small. That is something very important in rural areas where private telephones are not numerous, that local sub-post offices, no matter how small they be, should have a telephone. In that connection I would like to add my voice to what Deputy Kyne has said in regard to the facilities heretofore offered by the Garda Síochána barracks, where after the close-down of the post office in the evening the Garda barracks facilitated in the case of urgent calls. As Deputy Kyne has pointed out, due to a number of things the barracks telephone is not available after 9 p.m. in many rural areas. In view of that fact I wonder would the Minister make some arrangement, where that situation exists in the barracks, for these sub-post offices to take urgent late calls.

The third matter on which I wish to congratulate the Minister is the very fine job he has made of postal deliveries to County Donegal. In many cases the delivery has been speeded up by 12 hours. To most parts of my constituency letters posted in Dublin arrive the following morning. As well as that improvement in the postman's delivery times has been made, with the result that the postal delivery service is very satisfactory. There may be some areas that have not got the full advantage of it up to now but generally it is a very fine advance in delivery both from Donegal to Dublin and the other way around.

Before I get away from telephones I would say that there is an area in my county where telephone service is very bad indeed, that is, the Inishowen peninsula. It is necessary that some minimum steps should be taken to cater for subscribers there. Actually I know several cases where persons desiring to make urgent calls have to cross into the Six Counties and avail of the nearest telephone kiosk there. That applies to the Inishowen area. It is not general, but I am sure a speedy improvement will take place.

Listening to the Minister I was glad [1079] to hear that an increase had taken place in the number of Savings Certificates sold during the year. I was glad to hear also that publicity was being given to the spread of the habit of having Savings Certificates. The Minister should make available to national schools publicity which would encourage in the pupils there the habit of saving and that particular method of saving. It is very important that at school-going age children should be taught the advantages of saving and methods by which saving can be effected.

I agree with another Deputy who said that auxiliary postmen were of necessity badly paid because the number of hours they work is small, and something should be done to remedy that. As a matter of fact, I do not believe we should have any auxiliary postmen at all, because not alone are the wages bad but their security of tenure is bad. As regards a man who has given, say, 14 or 15 years' service as an auxiliary postman and who is a married man with a family—in some cases possibly able to augment his salary by work on a farm—it is sad to see that man being thrown out of his job having given that service. It has happened very often. I know a number of cases where a temporary or auxiliary postman who had quite a long number of years service as postman had his services dispensed with after that period. That is hard luck, because in some cases he had reached an age where it was not possible to find alternative employment.

I think some of the other speakers mentioned the size of the two recent issues of Post Office stamps. I am not worrying too much about the size though I admit that they take a lot of licking. I have one complaint in regard to the Moore stamp and that is that it does not tear easily along the perforated edges and is inclined to tear across the middle instead.

It is generally agreed that wages are low in the lower grades of the postal service. I feel that a special effort should be made to adjust wages in these lower grades. Representations have been made to me by members of [1080] the Post Office Workers' Union and I have been given figures of the numbers of persons in receipt of under £4 per week, under £6 per week and so forth. I must say that the figures are fairly hefty. I received a letter and a memorandum from the secretary of the Post Office Workers' Union. He mentioned everything in that letter and memoradum except increases for Post Office workers. He was worried about the implementation in full of the Civil Service Arbitration Award but he did not point out the specific salaries of Post Office workers in the lower grades. That is by the way, but there is a case too, for increases for sorters, clerks and so forth in the Post Office service.

The increases mooted for postage, 'phone calls and telegrams is something that we——

Mr. O. Flanagan:  Welcome?

Mr. Cunningham:  ——do not like. However, I do not want to adopt the attitude which other Deputies adopted of maintaining that we should provide more 'phones, more telephone kiosks and so forth and yet that we should not be allowed to raise the money with which to make these facilities available. I should like to put this point to Deputies. Up to now, those who were most in need of telephones were the people who applied earlier. For instance, the applicants in 1950, say, had a greater need for telephones than those who applied in 1952. That means that the 1950 applicants required to use the 'phone to a greater extent than persons who applied, say, in 1952 or 1953. The result now is that the cream has more or less been taken off and that telephones installed, say, in the present year will not yield the revenue which was derived from a similiar number of subscribers who applied in, say, 1948 or 1950. That is one point which I should like to make against the argument put forward by Deputy Dillon that we should get the money otherwise and pay it off by the subscriptions of the subscribers.

From the short experience I have had as a Dáil Deputy, I can say, in regard to sub-post offices, that the [1081] Minister makes appointments on merit. I know of at least three cases where that principle was followed.

Mr. O. Flanagan:  You know of only three appointments on merit. Is that it?

Mr. Cunningham:  In the past two years. You know, we do not bump off sub-postmasters very often in Donegal. I think, therefore, that Deputy Dillon's criticism was unjust and unfounded.

The Minister in charge of this Department is very energetic. He has improved the postal service and improved many aspects of work in his Department. For these reasons, he must be congratulated.

Mr. Blowick:  I have been a member of this House for approximately ten years, and in all that time I have never known a Minister to come to this House and ask for a Vote for his Department—which, in this particular instance, comes to £7,000,000 odd—and indicate that he intends to increase certain charges—some of which he can do by Statute and some by Statutory Orders—and yet not give the House at least an idea of what the increased charges will be.

At the end of his opening speech the Minister told us that telephone charges, telegraph charges and postal rates would be increased. Surely the Minister must know by this time—particularly if he intends to introduce a Bill in respect of an increase in telegraph charges within the next few days—what these increases will be. He comes to this House and asks for £7,000,000 odd to enable him to run his Department during the coming year. I think that it is an extraordinary departure from the custom which has obtained here since 1921 that the Minister should indicate that he intends to increase certain charges and that he does not divulge what these increases will be. I may say that the Minister is the first to take the step in that direction. It is an extraordinary departure from custom. The Minister shakes his head. Can the Minister give the House one instance of this type of thing happening before? If he can, I will be grateful to him for [1082] telling us and I will withdraw what I have said about him.

Mr. Childers:  Twice during the time of the Coalition Government.

Mr. Blowick:  I completely disagree with the Minister. It was always the custom of the inter-Party Government to make an open statement and to let the House know exactly what a particular Minister was asking for. I suggest that the present Minister should have done that too. Does he intend to give the information to the House piecemeal next week or the week after? I presume that the postal rate will go up a half-penny. The charge for a letter is 2½d. and I presume that that will be increased to 3d. I do not know what the Minister proposes in relation to telephone and telegraph charges. The use of the telegraph is dwindling because the use of the telephone is increasing. The telephone is more convenient and it is handier. I do not want to comment on increased telegraph charges but, in relation to increasing telephone charges, I would ask if the Minister is wise to do so and whether he thinks that he will get more revenue. I think that the very same thing will happen in relation to increased telephone charges as happened in relation to the revenue from spirits and wines last year as a result of the Minister for Finance's Budget.

I believe that there will be a decreased revenue from telephone charges if the rates are increased. The telephone rates at present are high enough. I think the charges are prohibitive and, if the Minister had the courage to do so, he would perhaps get better results from cutting the present rates. The number of calls would be increased and the revenue would be increased.

Mr. Childers:  It did not work when it was done before.

Mr. Blowick:  When was it done before?

Mr. Childers:  In 1936.

Mr. Blowick:  There is a considerable gap between 1936 and 1953. The number [1083] of telephones in existence in this country in 1936 was only a small percentage of the number of telephones all over the country to-day, and the disparity will become even more apparent in the next five or six months or the next 12 months, when every rural post office will have a telephone. Every person, no matter how backward the area in which he lives, can now use the telephone and appreciate the use of a telephone. If the Minister could give us the number of calls in 1936 and the number of calls to-day, he would see that there is absolutely no comparison. The number must have been multiplied several times over. I think now that the telephone system has been extended into almost every area, the number of private phones has increased out of all bounds as compared with what it was in 1936 or even 1940. If the Minister were to cut the present charges, I think it would be an experiment well worth trying even for a short period.

I cannot see the use of extending the telephone service at a pretty stiff cost to the State if we are going to put a tax on the use of that service which will be prohibitive. It will not be much comfort to a person, who wants to call a doctor, to see a line of poles and telephone wires laid along the road if he has to use his bicycle or some other mode of conveyance to do his business simply because he is precluded from using a telephone by reason of excessive charges. I think the Minister is approaching the whole question from the wrong end.

I think also that the present postage rate is high enough. The Minister can very glibly tell us that there is a loss in the working of the Department and that the only way to make good the deficiency is to make the Department pay its way. I think the Minister is hamstringing the Department by these increases in rates and is making a wrong approach to the problem of trying to make it pay its way. As Deputy Dillon has already pointed out, the Taoiseach has warned us that the limit has been reached in taxation. It is not so long since we had some very high officials from the Department of [1084] Finance coming before the Civil Service Arbitration Board and making the statement that there had been over-taxation in some cases and full taxation in all. Yet the Minister comes along and absolutely stultifies the statements of all these people by imposing more taxes. Apparently, the taxable capacity of the people has not been fully exploited in all directions to the satisfaction of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and he now follows the example of the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Industry and Commerce in ferreting out some other sections who must be blistered by fresh imposts.

I want to say a word about one of the useful officials we have in the State —the rural postman. In the first place I think that his salary, if it can be called a salary, is not at all commensurate with the amount of slavery peculiar to his work. It is very trying work. In hail, rain or sunshine, he has to be on the job in the morning. We are told that he is only a part-time worker. Perhaps that is so. Nevertheless we should take into account the peculiar nature of his work and the peculiar slavery it involves. The second point I want to make is that while they are allowed to use their own bicycles, I have been informed— I cannot vouch for the truth of this information—that they are forbidden by either a departmental or ministerial regulation to use an auto-bicycle or a motor-bicyle. I should like if the Minister would inform us if that is so and, if it is so, what is the reason for it. For the life of me I cannot see why it should matter whether a rural postman delivering letters from door to door travels by auto-bicycle, motorbicycle or an ordinary bicycle or even, if he were so minded, why he should not travel on a horse bareback.

Mr. O. Flanagan:  On Tulyar.

Mr. Blowick:  Or even on Tulyar. I cannot see why there should be such a regulation in existence. I am not clear on the point. and I should like some clarification from the Minister when he is replying. I go further and say that if there is such a regulation, [1085] the Minister should draw his pen through it. It is a stupid one. These rural postmen have to travel over all sorts of roads—main roads, secondary roads, third-class roads, boreens and perhaps across fields. Goodness knows if the postman wishes to use an autocycle or a motor-cycle, even if he has to provide it himself, there is no reason that I can see why he should be prohibited from doing so. Ordinarily, these postmen will not be carrying eggs or such fragile goods as are likely to be smashed by the vibration of the machines. If there is such a regulation in existence, I repeat that the Minister should draw his pen through it. I think that the Minister might even see his way to give them some little allowance to enable them to use these machines if they so desire. Many rural postmen have to cover distances of ten miles over every possible kind of terrain. The allowance, which I suggest should be given, would be some small assistance to them and might help to lighten the monotony of their job.

Sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses in the country are miserably paid. While it can be said that they also are only part-time officials, now that telephones are being installed in practically every rural post office, somebody belonging to the household is tied to the post office all day because the telephone hardly ever ceases ringing, even at meal-times. It might be said that they cannot enjoy a meal without danger of interruptions in the way of a telephone call. I suggest that their conditions of service call for a complete overhaul and a complete investigation by the Minister.

A section of the staff about whom I want to say a special word are the telephonists in the exchanges. I have seen them at work on a few occasions and I can say that they are the hardest worked portion of the whole staff. It is all very fine for Deputies to grumble about delays on trunk calls and local calls. Goodness knows, there are delays, and most exasperating delays in some cases, but they are not due to the telephonists at the switch but to faulty equipment. How some of those [1086] telephone girls stick their job is certainly a puzzle to me. They must have the patience of Job, because they are bewildered by people asking them to get calls through. It is just like trying to drive camels through a keyhole on account of the equipment with which they are working at the present time.

When Deputy Dillon spoke about telephone services for the West, I presume he was talking about his own telephone service from Ballaghadereen. In that connection I can say the same as he said in regard to my own area. The Minister may say that they have installed one of these multi-trunk cables on the line from Cork to Dublin. That may be all right for the people in that area but we have no such thing in the West. Several times I have had to wait one and a half and two hours for a trunk call from my own home to Dublin, despite the fact that up to a short time ago I was paying almost £50 a year for the use of the telephone. I do not lay the blame for that at the door of the staffs. I say it is the fault of the equipment. There are not sufficient lines available to cope with the traffic.

The Minister in his statement said that the lines from Claremorris to Dublin, Galway to Dublin and Sligo to Dublin are well served now, but there is one line which is not—the Castlebar and Westport line. The Ballina line is certainly not well served. I do not see why the Minister should single out Mayo to have a bad service. If the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs provided a little extra accommodation in the matter of lines to take the traffic, increased revenue would result therefrom. Having regard to what we are paying for the use of telephones, the least we might demand is that we would not be one and a half or two hours waiting for a trunk call to Dublin. The telephonists in the various offices do their very best to get the calls through but there are not sufficient lines to carry the heavy traffic. The Minister is losing money by not providing that extra accommodation and very often calls have to be cancelled.

Whilst on the subject of the telephones, [1087] I might suggest to the Minister—I have already made this suggestion before—that in rural areas situated long distances from towns a kiosk should be erected somewhere near the post office or at some suitable point along the route which would be available during the night to enable people to ring up the doctor, the priest or the ambulance or to obtain veterinary services. The post office closes down round about 7 o'clock or 8 o'clock and the phone is not available after that time. Very often the owners of private phones come to the rescue. They fulfil a very useful function in their own particular area but it should not be left to them nor should it be left to the Civic Guards. I think that a kiosk should be made available near each rural post office for night use. The erection of such a kiosk would not entail any great cost, engineering difficulties or the provision of a second line. The local postmaster or postmistress could switch over to the kiosk so that people who come along after hours could have the use of the telephone. An ordinary coin box could be installed in the kiosk.

We have now reached the stage where every rural area is provided with a telephone, but it is only half-doing the job if people are deprived of the use of the telephone from 8 p.m. at night until 8 a.m. in the morning. This is the period when neither cars nor messengers are available. That suggestion was made by several Deputies in the past. It was also a suggestion that I put forward and I now repeat it. It is worth a trial in a few areas to see how it works, and if it is a success I do not see why it should not be established. I am not asking the Minister to provide every rural area with such facilities. I merely ask that it be given a trial in a few areas and if it is successful to extend it to as many areas as possible.

I want to refer to the recent issue of the Tóstal stamp. It was a disgrace both from the point of view of size and design. Some Deputies referred to it as being a plaster. That is what it was and that is what it looked like on the envelope. It must have been a source of amusement to people outside the [1088] country who received envelopes bearing this stamp. It was too big and the design could have been very easily improved upon, having regard to the occasion it was intended to commemorate. It is very hard to beat the ordinary-sized stamp, which is about one inch or three-quarters of an inch. The Tóstal stamp was a nuisance. It was not nice and it looked like a big dab of paint on the corner of the envelope. In my opinion, it reflected no credit on the national festival which has just come to a close.

Mr. O. Flanagan:  The bowl of light would have been a better design for the stamps.

Mr. Blowick:  At all events, it would not have been a bit more awkward in the corner of the envelope. Might I repeat what I said in my opening remarks in regard to the system of charges? I think the Minister is going the wrong way about increasing the revenue of his Department. If he tried the experiment of reducing the charges particularly in regard to the telephone services he would achieve his end better. I want to see the telephone services and the postal services self-supporting if possible, but the Minister is going the wrong way about doing the job when he proposes to increase the charges. By increasing the charges, he will diminish the use of the telephone. If we are going to establish telephones all over the country and at the same time increase the charges we will prohibit people from using the telephones. If the Minister were to reduce the charges by 33? per cent. the returns would be increased. There is such a thing as overdoing this business of charging. In reply the Minister may tell me that nobody uses the phone for fun; that nobody uses the telephone unless he has to, and that if he wants to use the phone he does not mind paying an extra shilling for a call. I say there will be less use of the telephone. People will get the notion that the telephone is something too dear to use. The Minister would be much wiser to cut the charges and accustom the people to using the telephone more often. In that way he would get the desired increase in [1089] revenue but he is endeavouring to do that now by what I hold to be the wrong means.

Mr. Lehane:  I should like if the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs could arrange for three pips after every three minutes for Deputies in this House, because I hope to say what I have got to say within three minutes.

I think the Minister is ill-advised in proposing to increase the charges in respect of stamps, telegrams and telephones. I cannot see, however, any great consistency in Deputies on the other side of the House in looking for increased remuneration for those who are administering these services and, at the same time, in opposing these increased charges.

I have a very serious objection to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, the Minister for Agriculture or any other Minister in coming in here with proposals which have the effect of putting concealed taxation on the public, thereby reducing the burden which should in the ordinary normal way come before us when the Budget proper is introduced. I do not like hidden taxation in any form. These proposals of the Minister are, in my opinion, a form of hidden taxation, calculated to relieve the burden of taxation which is normally imposed under the Budget. On the other hand, as I have said, I cannot agree with the attitude of those on this side of the House who, while advocating increased remuneration and better conditions of employment for those employed in the Post Office, oppose increased charges.

I want to say to the Minister that there are certain areas in the County Cork—the same of course applies to other parts of the country—where, despite these increased charges, there is only a delivery of mail thrice a week. I think that in the year 1953 we should be able to do better than that and have daily deliveries, particularly in view of the fact that modern transport and other facilities which we had not in the past are now available to the Minister's Department. In the Bandon, Timoleague and other areas in my county there is a delivery of mail on only three days a week. I think that [1090] is wrong, and that it should be possible to give a daily delivery.

I would suggest to the Minister that it should be possible to have a faster distribution of telegrams than we have at the moment. The position is that in certain areas when a telegram is received at the local post office, there is no person available to deliver it. That might be a very important telegram concerning an announcement of a death or the illness of some person who required to be removed to hospital. Very often these telegrams are left lying in the post offices for a long time. In some of those rural offices they had, or have, the system of waiting to see a child come out from school and of asking the child to take the telegram to the house for which it is intended. I think that is a bad system and that the Department should be able to organise a better one.

I would like to congratulate the Minister on the many useful things that he has done as far as the postal services are concerned. The Minister, or his Department, has certainly improved the G.P.O. in Cork, as well as a number of other post offices in my area. In conclusion, I would ask him to ensure that a daily delivery of letters is given throughout the country generally. I think that is the least the people are entitled to, especially when it is proposed to ask them to pay more for these services.

Mr. O. Flanagan:  I want to protest in the strongest possible manner against the Minister's announcement made to-day that there is to be further taxation so far as postal services are concerned. The Minister and every Deputy sitting in the House know that the peak of taxation has already been reached. Every section of the community is suffering from it. The people are overburdened with taxation. Now we have this further announcement that the charges for postage, telegrams and telephones are to be increased. I want to protest very strongly against the manner and procedure adopted in making this announcement.

I want the Minister to tell me, before [1091] he concludes, what increased charges he proposes to put into effect between now and August. Fine Gael will strongly and determinedly oppose any attempt to increase these charges. The Minister has not told us what the increased charges will be. He is waiting to do so until the two pending by-elections have been held. Everyone knows quite well that is his reason for not telling us what the increased charges will be. He knows well that the telephone subscribers in Bray and Arklow and those citizens who are at present paying 2½d. for a stamp would make their protest against these increased charges in the ballot-box. Therefore the Minister, probably on the advice of the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste, is keeping from the House details of the increases because of the two pending by-elections. That is the reason for the Minister's refusal to give the information.

I want to assure the Minister that the announcement which he has made will cause great uneasiness to the taxpayers [1092] in view of the fact that the Taoiseach, when speaking here on 10th February, told us that the people were staggering practically under the present burden of taxation. I am sure that his Ministers, when listening to him say that, they were under the impression that he was speaking as Head of the Government, and felt that we were finished with increase, whether in respect to telegrams, telephones or other matters. Within three days, however, we knew the value of that statement when we were told that the Government had decided to increase wireless licences from 12/6 to 17/6. Now there is another threat to the unfortunate people of the country. They are told that if they want to use the postal services they will have to dip again into their pockets because more money is to be extracted from them. I move to report progress.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, May 1st, 1953.

Mr. Desmond:  asked the Minister for Local Government whether he will indicate the total number of motor cars registered at local taxation offices during the first quarter of 1953 whose horse power was (a) increased and (b) decreased as a result of the Motor Taxation Order, 1952.

Minister for Local Government (Mr. Smith):  This information is not available, and it is not considered that the expense of assembling it would be warranted.