Thursday, 4 April 1963
Dáil Eireann Debate
That a sum not exceeding £8,582,600 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, 1964, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, and of certain other Services administered by that Office, and for payment of Grants in Aid.
The net Estimate of £13,503,600 for my Department is shown in the Estimates volume as approximately £582,000 greater than last year's. When, however, the recent Supplementary Estimate of £133,000 is taken into account, the actual increase is approximately £449,000, and of that amount £62,000 is in respect of licence fee revenue payable to Radio Éireann. Accordingly, the net increase for the services directly provided by my Department is £387,000, and that is attributable mainly to the continuing expansion of the telephone service.
The subheads with substantial variations are:—subhead A—salaries, wages and allowances—where the increase over 1962/63, including £132,700 in the Supplementary Estimate, is £162,000. It is mainly for additional staff and overtime for telephone construction and maintenance work, and for additional telephonists. On the postal side extra provision is necessary also partly because of the shorter working week for postmen, and partly because of the growth of delivery work in Dublin.
The increase over 1962/63 for subhead C—Accommodation and Building Charges—including £16,700 in the Supplementary Estimate, is £155,500, and it is due principally to the building works forming part of the expanded telephone development  programme. Provision is also made for heavier consumption of electricity. Incidentally, some charges, amounting to approximately £10,000, connected with the radio services at airports, which were formerly borne on this subhead, have been transferred to the Vote for Transport and Power.
The increase over 1962-63 for subhead F — Engineering Stores and Equipment, including £116,600 in the Supplementary Estimate, is £628,000. The major portion of the increase is to meet the requirements of the expanded telephone development programme, both for the direct purchase of stores and for payments to contractors. In regard to subhead G — Telephone Capital Repayments — continuing heavy investment in the development of the telephone service is responsible for the increase of £251,000 in the annuities for the repayment of the capital advanced.
Subhead K1—Grant Equivalent to Net Receipts from Broadcasting Licence Fees (Grant-in-Aid)—showing an increase of £140,000, transfers to Radio Éireann the net revenue from television and sound licences.
The amount of £71,600 for subhead K2—Additional Grant Under Section 22 (1) of the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960 (Grant-in-Aid)— is the full amount remaining out of the subsidy of £500,000 permissible under the Act. Under subhead T— Appropriations in Aid—the increase over 1962-63, allowing for the additional £196,000 provided in the Supplementary Estimate, is approximately £868,000. Recovery from Telephone Capital funds in respect of the enlarged telephone development programme is mainly responsible.
The volume of letter traffic in 1962 was about the same as in the previous year but there was a reduction of approximately 3½ per cent in parcel traffic. Within this general picture, there were some considerable increases under particular headings mostly on the foreign side; for example, outgoing letter mail to Europe increased by 12 per cent, second class air mail (that is, printed papers, newspapers, etc.) to overseas destinations by 50 per cent and outgoing air mail parcels by 23  per cent. It will be noted that these increases were all in airborne traffic.
During the year a direct night air mail service from Dublin to London was brought into operation to supplement the Dublin-Manchester service. In addition, eleven extra direct despatches of air mail to European cities—nine from Shannon Airport and two from Dublin—were introduced. The public response to the “Post Early” campaign before Christmas was good and although traffic again reached a record level it was disposed of satisfactorily. I am glad to report a continuing increase in the use of postal address numbers on items delivered in the Dublin area. Over 57 per cent of such items now bear postal numbers.
A special “Europa” postage stamp was issued in September, 1962, simultaneously with other members of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations. Another special stamp has been put on sale during the past month to further the “Freedom from Hunger Campaign” organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. In September next there will be a further “Europa” stamp issue.
There was a further decrease in the number of telegrams dealt with during the year. In all, the estimated number of telegrams handled was 1,682,000— a decline of over 5 per cent on the number for 1962/63 as compared with last year's decline of one per cent. It occurred mostly in traffic with Great Britain and to a lesser extent in internal traffic. With the development of other forms of communication it is only to be expected that this decline will continue.
The telex service continues to expand and the receipts from telex subscribers now constitutes one-fifth of the total telegraph revenue. There are now 189 subscribers' installations as compared with 157 last year. During the year internal telex calls amounted to 143,000 —an increase of 12 per cent while calls to Great Britain also increased by the same percentage.
I referred last year to the conversion of the telex system to automatic working. Owing to delays in the delivery of the necessary equipment it now looks as if it may not be possible to make the change until about the end of the year. When the change is made the service will be particularly attractive, as subscribers will be able to dial calls not only to other Irish subscribers but also to subscribers in Great Britain and other countries which have an automatic network. It is intended that, as in the case of telephone trunk calls dialled direct by subscribers, such calls will not be subject to the three minute minimum charge which at present applies to calls obtained through a Post Office operator.
The trunk network was extended substantially, a further 13,000 miles of circuits being added. The additional circuits were provided mostly in underground and aerial cables and in the form of microwave radio circuits.
The subscriber trunk dialling facility was extended to a further 25 exchanges, and it is now available to about 70 per cent of all subscribers in the country. It is intended to introduce subscriber trunk dialling at most of the remaining automatic exchanges within the next year or two.
The continued increase in call traffic made it necessary to devote a high proportion of our resources to the expansion of the trunk system. During the year additional circuits were provided  on the Sligo-Donegal and Galway-Athlone radio link systems and new circuits will be brought into service shortly on the Dublin-Arklow and Waterford-Wexford systems. A radio link between Tralee and Limerick is expected to provide circuits by next summer and a radio link connecting Limerick and Athlone is in course of installation.
The capacity of the main coaxial cables is being substantially increased and many main underground cabling schemes are in progress or have been approved for execution. At the same time aerial cable and carrier systems are being employed more extensively to provide additional circuits. Almost a thousand miles of open-wire circuits were provided on various minor routes.
I had hoped that it would be possible to record substantial progress during the year in the conversion of telephone exchanges to automatic working. Equipment for a large number of exchanges is on hand and the work of installation is well advanced, but the programme has been seriously retarded by unexpected difficulties and “teething troubles”. Only a few of these exchanges have actually been converted and a satisfactory standard of working has not yet been attained at them. No effort is being spared to eliminate the difficulties that have been met, but until full success has been achieved it is not possible to give a reliable forecast about the introduction of automatic working at other exchanges.
A direct transatlantic telephone link between Dublin and New York was opened during the year and effected a welcome improvement in the speed of the service. We are hopeful of being able to obtain additional direct circuits during the year to cater for the increasing demand on this route.
Twelve additional circuits to Great Britain have been arranged for and will be in service shortly. A further 36 will be in operation late this year or early next year, and a further 48 will it is hoped, be provided in 1964.
Despite the necessary concentration on trunk and exchange development, a small increase was achieved over the previous year in the installation of new  telephones. The number of connections made, however, fell short of demand which has grown spectacularly in recent years. There is a fairly long waiting list and, although arrangements have been made to instal a record number of telephones this year, it is clear that a back log of waiting applications will be a feature of the situation for some time to come.
This aspect of the position should not, however, be permitted to obscure the general picture which is one of progressive achievement. The number of exchange lines has been doubled in the past ten years and quadrupled since the end of the war, the mileage of trunk circuits has been greatly increased and the automatic system has been extended to 75 per cent of all subscribers in the country. During practically all of this period of development, expenditure has been kept within revenue and the charges for the service have been among the lowest in Europe.
The picture that I have given of a growing service is, of course, reflected in a considerable increase in the capital requirements of the telephone service. Large scale expenditure on big trunk and exchange development schemes will involve greater capital investment. In fact the capital provision for 1963/64 amounts to £4½ million which is almost three times the amount expended four years ago.
Business in the Post Office Savings Bank continues to increase. Deposits during 1962 amounted to £21.2 million, and withdrawals to £17.8 million. At 31st December, the total balance, including interest, due to depositors was approximately £97.2 million as compared with £91.5 million at the end of the previous year. It should pass the £100 million mark this year.
Deposits and withdrawals by the Trustee Savings Banks during the year amounted to approximately £1.4 million and £0.5 million respectively, and the total amount, including interest, to  the credit of the Trustee Banks at the end of the year was £17.4 million, an increase of £1.4 million over the previous year.
Sales of Savings Certificates during 1962 amounted to £3.7 million, and repayments, including interest, to £2.9 million. At 31st December, 1962, the value of principal remaining invested was £28.1 million, an increase of £1.4 million during the year.
As Deputies know, Post Offices throughout the country continued to co-operate in the issue of Prize Bonds and approximately £9 million of the £30 million of Prize Bonds issued up to this year were collected through Post Offices. About £1 million was withdrawn from the Savings Bank or from Savings Certificates for re-investment in other Government securities.
The Department's services for the transfer of funds continue to be widely used. The total value of Money Orders and Postal Orders issued during 1962 amounted to £23.8 million, an increase of £1.2 million over the preceding year. The increasing use by the public of higher value money orders and postal orders is indicated by the fact that the number of orders issued dropped by 300,000 to 10 million.
During 1962, four new automatic telephone exchanges were erected. Major building schemes at Carrick-on-Shannon and Sligo Post Offices were completed, improved Public Offices were provided at Killarney, Longford and Wexford, and adaptations were carried out at Waterford Post Office. Work was under way on the building of twelve other automatic exchanges, on the provision of new Post Offices at Ballinasloe, Wicklow and Youghal, on the erection of a new district sorting office at Finglas, and on major improvements to Ennis and Limerick Post Offices.
 This year the building of a new trunk exchange for Dublin has already commenced and during the remainder of the year a start is expected to be made on four new automatic exchanges, on a new district sorting office at Raheny and on improvements to Arklow and Mullingar Post Offices.
As regards the new central sorting office for Dublin, the foundation and steel erection works were somewhat delayed by unexpected water-level difficulties and by the bad weather. The work is, however, now progressing satisfactorily.
The Estimate provides for a total staff of 17,446, an increase of 380 on last year's figure. The addition is made up mainly of engineering workmen required to implement the larger telephone development programme and operating staff required to cater for the growing volume of telephone calls. The increase in the Department's salary and wages bill is attributable to the cost of the extra staff, to increases in remuneration granted during the past year and to additional costs arising out of the shorter working week for postmen.
The Department as one of the largest employers of labour in the country is keenly conscious of the vital need of keeping abreast of developments in modern management techniques, and various members of the staff attended courses during the past year in management, work study and similar techniques conducted by the Irish Management Institute and other bodies working in these fields.
A conference between headquarters officials and postmasters will be held in May. These conferences which are held every few years, cover the whole range of post office services and are a means of maintaining and strengthening the essential link between headquarters and the local managers in the field.
In thanking the staff for the work of the past year, I must make special reference to the prolonged spell of severe weather we had after Christmas: the postal and telephone services were kept going through all that time in almost every area and where a service was interrupted it was quickly  restored. For that achievement I should like to thank publicly all those who by their zeal and initiative overcame all the difficulties of snow and ice. And I should like to include in these words of thanks the local staffs of CIE and the drivers of our mail contract services who worked side by side with Post Office staffs. I am sure all Deputies join with me in this appreciation of work well done.
I mentioned last year that pay increases together with reduction in weekly hours of work conceded to various grades, had added over £1 million to the Department's wages bill. As the recent Supplementary Estimate indicated, further increases since then have added something of the order of £100,000 a year. Labour costs are, of course, the dominating factor in the Department's expenditure. Approximately 60 per cent. of expenditure is for salaries, wages and such related matters as travelling expenses and superannuation. In addition, labour costs affect significantly the charges to us for the conveyance of mails, for the supply of electricity, for large-scale construction works by outside contractors, such as buildings, the installation of automatic telephone exchanges, or the laying of underground cables.
In Appendix E, Deputies will see a summary of the trading results in recent years of the Department's business on a commercial accounting basis. That is to say, all income and expenditure, whether in cash or notional, as in the case of services rendered to or by other Government Departments, have been taken into account and provision made for such matters as superannuation liability and depreciation on plant. In 1961-62 the Department just broke even. At the moment I cannot say with certainty what the results for 1962-63 will be, but the indications are that, in spite of the increased postal and telephone charges, the surplus, over the services as a whole, will be the relatively very small one of approximately £100,000. That will be substantially less than in the years immediately prior to 1961-62, and the surpluses in these years were in themselves inadequate to provide  for contingencies and to offset losses in bad years.
However, it is a bit soon to make up one's mind about our financial position; experience of the working of the services up to the end of the calendar year will provide a more reliable indication of the way we are going. There is general acceptance of the Department's position as a trading organisation engaged in giving a nation-wide service to the public and expected to pay its way, overall, in doing so. In agreement with the Minister for Finance, I have decided recently on certain administrative measures which will place the Post Office commercial accounts on a more realistic basis and will recognise the special position of the Department to which I have referred.
Hitherto, as Deputies know, the practice has been that while other Government Departments paid in cash for telegraph and telephone services no money passed in respect of postal services or in respect of a wide variety of agency services which, as shown in Appendix B on page 249 of the Volume of Estimates, have an estimated value of £909,000 in 1963-64. Similarly, other Government Departments render services to the Post Office to an estimated value of £445,000. Although credit is taken and given in the Department's commercial accounts for these various services which are not paid for, there has been an air of unreality about the figures, which must persist so long as no real transfer of funds takes place. The changeover to a cash basis for all services— which cannot be made effective until 1964-65 as Departments will have to make appropriate provision in their Estimates—will give greater reality to the transactions, will place the accounts on a surer footing, and will encourage both my Department and other Departments to examine the services concerned to see if they can be used more economically and more efficiently.
The Minister for Finance has agreed that, in future, profits on the Department's services will notionally be carried to a special reserve account and that in considering annually the Department's proposals for expenditure—particularly  capital expenditure —he will bear in mind the amounts to credit of this account as well as the total of depreciation provisions made in the Department's accounts. The Minister for Finance has agreed also to widen the powers delegated to the Post Office in a number of administrative matters, with the general object of enabling the Post Office to act more freely and to cultivate a more commercial approach in the conduct of its services. When experience of these changes has been gained the general position will be re-examined with a view to seeing whether any more radical changes in the Department's status would be warranted.
Under the Broadcasting Authority Act, the Authority has been given the maximum freedom in regard to broadcasting and television programmes and ordinary day-to-day administration. In the circumstances, I do not propose to report in detail on the Authority's activities during the past year. Instead I shall comment only on the main developments and on matters in which I have a specific function under the Broadcasting Authority Act and the Wireless Telegraphy Act.
Out of each £4 licence, £1 is intended for the sound broadcasting service. After deducting the costs of collection, a total of about £514,600 is being provided for sound broadcasting under both Subheads K1 and K2. This amount plus sound advertising income will not be sufficient to meet the expenditure on that service in 1963-64 and the question of increasing the licence fee will have to be considered during the year. The television element of the grant in respect of the net receipts from combined licences amounts to about £572,000.
The Government decided when the television service was being established that it should be operated without ultimate cost to the Exchequer. When the Broadcasting Authority Bill was being considered, it was felt that the television service would probably not begin to pay its way until the third year of operation. I am happy to say, however, that the Authority expects that in 1962-63—the first full year of operation—Telefís  Éireann will break about even. Of course 1962-63 is not a representative year as none of the provincial transmitters was in operation for the first eight months. Nevertheless, the results are definitely encouraging.
Now that it has been shown that a television service can be provided without an annual subsidy from the Exchequer, the Authority will no doubt be under pressure to improve that service in various ways. In particular there will be a demand for more and better home-originated programmes. The more ambitious types of home programmes are, however, very expensive. Moreover, the Authority's expenditure in the coming year will be greater than in 1962/63 because, apart from the operating costs of the provincial transmitters for a full year, it will have to meet higher charges by way of interest and depreciation as its capital construction programme nears completion. It is problematical, therefore, whether any worthwhile improvements in programmes can be afforded during 1963-64 out of Telefís Éireann's income from advertisements and the television element of the £4 combined licence fee.
During the past year, the Authority's main concern was to extend the television service to the whole country as quickly as possible. It had hoped that the provincial transmitters at Truskmore, Mount Leinster, Mullaghanish and Maghera would all be in full operation before the end of 1962. Unforeseen delays and difficulties prevented this and the recent appalling weather has caused further delay. At the present time the only provincial mast which has been completed is that at Truskmore. Nevertheless television transmissions have been made since 23rd December, 1962 from Mount Leinster, Mullaghanish and Truskmore and since 10th February from Maghera. None of these stations is yet operating on full power and temporary masts are being utilised at Mount Leinster, Mullaghanish and Maghera.
It is not surprising in the circumstances that reception over the country generally is patchy. The Authority is pushing ahead with all possible speed  and it is expected that by the summer the four provincial stations will be operating on full power from permanent masts. This should lead to a considerable improvement in some areas and the Authority will then consider what further steps are necessary in areas where reception is still poor.
As Deputies are aware, the national television service will be on 625 lines but Kippure and Truskmore will broadcast also on 405 lines for many years. The Kippure station has been transmitting on both systems since 1st July, 1962. The present transmissions from Truskmore are on 405 lines only but 625 line transmissions from there will commence later this year. I should perhaps again impress on prospective purchasers of sets outside the normal service areas of Kippure and Truskmore that they should satisfy themselves regarding the quality of reception before purchasing 405 line receivers.
As I have already said, the Authority's main objective during the past year was to extend the television service to all parts of the country as quickly as possible. The capital costs of providing the national television service were higher than anticipated when the Broadcasting Authority Bill was under consideration and advances to Radio Éireann are approaching the limit of two million pounds set by Section 23 of the Act. Accordingly consideration will have to be given to the introduction of legislation to increase this limit during the forthcoming year.
It should interest Deputies to know that the Authority joined Eurovision on a provisional basis in the middle of last year and has signified its wish to continue participation during the present year. The position will be reviewed in the light of the experience gained. In the absence of a direct link the Eurovision programmes in which the Authority participated were brought to the transmitter via the BBC. In all six were transmitted from Kippure, namely, the Easter Message of His Holiness, the opening of the Ecumenical Council on 11th October and four broadcasts from the European Championships Games in Belgrade.  In addition there were of course the Telstar broadcasts which were inter-continental exchanges of television programmes, whereas Eurovision is concerned with programme exchanges between European Countries.
I have had many complaints regarding the interference caused to the reception of programmes by various types of electrical equipment. As the House is aware, all powers appropriate for the investigation and detection of interference with wireless telegraphy receiving apparatus have been conferred upon Radio Éireann. Draft regulations to control undue interference caused by electric motors were published and made available to the public up to June 9th last. My Advisory Committee has since considered amendments to the draft which had been suggested. It is my intention within the next few months to make regulations which I trust will result in reducing this major source of interference. I also propose to publish about the same time a draft of regulations to control interference caused by ignition equipment.
It is satisfactory to know that the publication of the draft regulations regarding electric motors has prompted inquiries from members of the trade and is an indication that they are taking steps to conform with requirements.
So far as reception from the BBC and UTV is concerned, the relative weakness of the signals makes satisfactory reception difficult. It would be altogether unreasonable to expect that electrical apparatus would be suppressed to such a degree that no interference would be caused to reception from distant television or radio stations because the cost would be prohibitive. Accordingly, the observance of the interference limits which will be prescribed by regulation will not ensure satisfactory reception of foreign programmes. This is a factor which the viewer may be slow to accept.
I have heard many complaints regarding undue interference caused to radio reception by television receivers and I am having this question studied. It is possible that the solution may lie more in the establishing of a code of  practice for television set manufacturers rather than in the introduction of statutory regulations.
No permanent change was made during the year in the hours authorised for television and sound broadcasting or in the limits fixed for the broadcasting of advertisements. These matters are subject to review from time to time.
During the year, with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, I approved the terms of the Radio Éireann Superannuation Scheme which was submitted to me by the Authority under Section 15 of the Act. The scheme which is a contributory one applies to practically all of the Authority's staff, including former civil servants who transferred to the service of the Authority. The benefits available under the scheme are similar to the superannuation privileges of established civil servants. Copies of the scheme have been laid before each House of the Oireachtas.
I was happy to give my consent to the appointment by the Authority of Mr. Kevin C. McCourt as DirectorGeneral as from 1st January, 1963, in place of Mr. Edward J. Roth who resigned to take up a television post in London. I know that Mr. McCourt brings to the Authority qualities of the highest order and that he can be relied upon to develop and consolidate the good work already done. I feel sure that Deputies will join with me in wishing him every success in the difficult task he has undertaken.
I should like to join with the Minister in congratulating the Post Office staff in general on keeping the service going during the very severe weather we had since Christmas. No doubt, it was very hard to make postal deliveries during that period but I have heard no complaints of people not getting a reasonable service. The members of the Post Office staffs, especially in the country areas, deserve our congratulations for the very good service  they gave in that difficult period. It just shows the personal interest they take in the work they have been assigned to.
I am very glad, as I feel sure everybody else is, that the Minister has not announced any increased charges for the Post Office services this year. Last year, the price of the postage stamp was increased from 3d. to 4d. and we must remember that that increase is being carried into this and future years —at least we have not been told there is any hope of a reduction. The same applies to telephone charges, which were increased last year by £1 10s. per annum.
What the Minister and the Department should aim at is to expand business in order to obviate the necessity for future increases in charges. This is a quasi-commercial undertaking and in every business the general policy at the moment is to expand services and sales. I would advise the Minister to make that one of the principal objects of his Department during the coming year.
The Minister has dealt with the telephone service and it is in relation to that service that I have moved the Estimate be referred back. People all over the country are complaining, and Deputies from all sides of the House, myself included, have been plaguing the Minister during the year. His is one of the Departments I have to write to every week or fortnight on behalf of people complaining that though they made application for telephones months ago, there are no prospects of getting the service installed.
If we look through the accounts of the Post Office, we see that in respect of the telephone service, there was a surplus last year of exactly £1,880,000. Surely such a state of affairs should be an encouragement to expand still further, to keep abreast of modern developments which make the use of the telephone almost a necessity. Many years ago in my father's business a telephone was installed but it was found that as there were practically no other subscribers in the area, its installation was a mistake. It was removed. As I have said, that was a long number of years ago and things  have moved forward considerably since and nowadays the service is essential. In agriculture, particularly, with the introduction of mechanisation on farms and the general development of the industry, the need for quick communication is very evident. If machinery breaks down during the harvest, the telephone is a great help which people appreciate.
Those are the reasons why I say there is a great need for expansion here. I had thought the Minister would announce a much larger number of extra subscribers than the figure of 14,800 he gave. Two years ago, he set his target at 15,000 and I thought that figure would have been passed twice over since. In the first month of 1960, the number of new phones installed was 1,200. I wonder why the Minister does not take a page from the book of the ESB in this matter. They never have 10,000 or 12,000 people on their books waiting for connections because they plan five years ahead. The result is they are always anxious and waiting for new business.
I would remind the Minister that when the ESB sought a loan last year, it was very quickly over-subscribed because people knew the service the ESB were giving and were prepared to put money into an expanding business. In this matter of expanding the telephone service, would the Minister not look for money elsewhere than from the Government? He says he is putting £4,500,000 into the telephone service this year. Surely if he is getting a reasonable return for the money, there is no reason why this should not be done. Not only would he be facilitating people who have long been awaiting the telephone but he would be giving more employment.
The Minister told us the staff of the Section had increased during the year by 380. We can remember seven years ago when the then Minister for Finance advised a reduction rather than an increase in the Civil Service, though that should not involve any loss of remuneration for existing civil servants. Even considering that, I warmly welcome this increase in the Minister's staff since it indicates an  expansion of a very necessary service. Further expansion would bring still further employment, particularly in country districts where it is so badly needed. Apart from paying its way, the Post Office has a social obligation to the people of the country.
Application was made to the Minister for a kiosk in a small village in my county. It was refused on the basis that it would not pay. I had supported that application and asked the Minister to provide the kiosk because I felt that in that area there were very few telephones and the people were entitled to these services. The attitude of the county councils has changed in such matters and they now provide lights in all the small villages. It would be a good thing if the Minister and the Government would provide telephone services. I heard the Minister say in reply to Deputy Sweetman that he would think of providing an express letter service from Cork, even though it would involve a loss. If the Minister is prepared to lose on that service, why is he not prepared to suffer a small loss in providing telephones in small villages? It is on the basis of the telephone service that I refer this Vote back for reconsideration.
While postmen generally are all right, I should like to bring the position of auxiliary postmen to the Minister's attention. Two years ago, the Minister announced that an agreement had been reached with the auxiliary postmen that threequarters of a week's pay would be given to them for each year of service. That was very good because up to that time even if a man served 30 or 40 years, he got nothing. I had hoped that the Minister, as time went on, would increase the amount from threequarters of a week's pay for each year to one week's pay for each year of service. It would provide a useful lump sum when men are retiring and might encourage some men who are very hard-pressed to give up their services.
Recently we had questions here about the appointment of auxiliary postmen and several Deputies pointed out this was done on a political basis and that the Minister made these appointments direct. As the Taoiseach  said recently in reference to elections, the people have grown up and become mature. It is high time the Post Office became mature. These postmen work 20 to 40 hours per week and the Minister should leave their appointment to somebody else. One might as well say that if the Minister for Local Government sanctions a relief scheme which will employ 20 men, each county should submit 20 or 30 or 40 names from the employment exchanges to the Minister for his sanctioning the employment of 20. I have no doubt the Deputies did not complain without good reason. It is a terrible thing to see a married man who has been doing temporary duty while an auxiliary postman was absent and doing the job for years, and eventually when the auxiliary man retires, instead of taking on the married man who had been doing temporary work, a single man— very often—or some other man is taken on instead.
I had a case in my county not so far outside the town where a man was appointed as auxiliary postman. Apparently he was the only one in the exchange recommended by a Fianna Fáil Deputy. I did not recommend him but apparently it was discovered after his appointment that his father or somebody in his family was a Fine Gael supporter. The result was that although this man had been measured for a uniform, he was told he should re-apply for the position.
Mr. Crotty: I do not suggest the Minister should. I am only stating the  fact that I did write. The result was that this married man who had been appointed and had carried on the job for two or three months was told to re-apply. He did so, but inevitably, some single boy in the area was appointed and the married man told he was no longer required. We should grow up. I have respect for the Minister and for any Minister of State but is this procedure raising the status of Ministers in the eyes of the people? I suggest that the proper course would be to leave these appointments to the postmasters. If there is any fault in the service, the postmasters will be accountable.
If the Minister adopted that suggestion, he would be doing a good day's work and creating more respect for the office of Minister. How can the ordinary person have respect for Ministers, whatever Government are in office, when he hears of these things happening? It lowers the status of Ministers to have that sort of thing going on. I do not believe it will affect the next election one way or another whether the Minister appoints more auxiliary postmen or not.
Mr. Crotty: Conciliation, at least. We shall not fight over it. I see that social welfare payments have gone to £31 million. That is part of the job  these people handle and it is a big amount, involving big responsibility. They handle big sums of money and they should get reasonable remuneration for doing so and also to encourage them to resist temptation. I know the postmasters are not very satisfied with the way things have gone.
The Minister mentioned that there was an increase in deposits in the Post Office Savings Bank from £91 million to £97 million during the past year. That is a pretty good sign. It is a sign that people are accumulating saving and putting a bit by for the rainy day. If the Government increased the interest on Post Office Savings Bank deposits, it would encourage still more savings in that direction. At present, the rate of interest in respect of the Prize Bond Fund is four per cent. The Minister should increase the rate of interest on Post Office Savings Bank deposits to four per cent.
The Minister states he has very little to do with broadcasting and television. When the Supplementary Estimate came before this House, I appealed to him to use his good offices to end the impasse between the journalists and the television authority. One of the principal programmes people look out for on both radio and television is the news. They have been denied that now for quite a while.
During the past week, the Minister for Industry and Commerce used his good offices to defer the bus strike. I trust that, apart from deferring it, the matter in dispute will satisfactorily be settled. Would it be too much for the Minister for Industry and Commerce to come into the television dispute and to use his good offices there? I think I should prefer to ask the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to use his good offices there: it would all be the same.
People, especially in backward places, regard the news as a very important programme. It is one of the services people look out for on the radio and even more so on television; apparently it is much better on television. Therefore, I would ask the Minister to use his good offices to try to put an end to the impasse. The dispute  will have to be brought to an end some day and it might as well be done immediately as having it drag on.
The Minister mentions interference by electrical equipment with radio and television. The only complaint I get in Kilkenny is about interference from television sets when they are switched on. That complaint has been very common in Kilkenny and I can speak for my own city. I brought the matter to the attention of the Minister. He said he would see that other people would not interfere with radio broadcasting but I do not think he has done much to put his own house in order. I do not suppose it is an easy matter to settle. Nevertheless, the normal person who has not a television set resents it when some neighbour throws his radio out of order by switching on his television set. That is only natural. I would ask the Minister to concentrate on getting that interference eliminated.
I wrote to the Minister a year or so ago about inquiries over the broadcasting system. A constituent of mine rang Radio Éireann and asked them to broadcast for a foster mother for a thoroughbred foal that had lost its mother but they did not broadcast the message. That was not so bad but, a fortnight afterwards, somebody else got that same service. I should like to know if that service is reserved for certain establishments or for certain people in this country.
Farmers do breed these thoroughbred and halfbred animals. They feel they are equally entitled to that service as any breeding establishment in the country. The Minister wrote to me at that time and supported Radio Éireann in their stand. I resent that.
A normal man in the country would expect the same service from Radio Éireann as foreigners or anybody else get from them. This man in question was refused that service; yet, a fortnight afterwards, he heard an identical request broadcast on behalf of somebody else. The Minister should take a line that all these broadcasts should be accepted——
Mr. Crotty: I should like to congratulate the Minister on the appointment of Mr. Kevin McCourt. I am sure his services will be welcomed and that his appointment will bring about improvement, if improvement can be made, in television broadcasting.
Mr. Tully: My contribution will be fairly brief. I should like to refer to a discussion which took place last year, during which contributions were made by a number of Deputies, including myself, on the subject of auxiliary postmen and pensions. It is too bad that in the year 1963, we still find people who, after up to anything like 40 years' service with the Post Office —a Government service—retire without any pension but the old age pension, if they qualify for it. We feel that  the time has come when the Minister should decide to initiate a scheme of pensions for what were known throughout the country as subpostmen.
Next, I wish to refer to the rate of pay. Some time ago, in answer to a question I put down, the Minister said I was trying to cover up a failure on my own part because I considered that somebody was not getting enough pay as a postman. I have no responsibility whatever, except what responsibility I have to my constituents here in this House, for the pay of auxiliary postmen. Possibly the Minister might have made the comment without thinking.
Mr. Tully: The Minister must be well aware that my trade union does not cater for auxiliary postmen and, therefore, I have no responsibility for it. It was an unfortunate intervention by the Minister. I take it he made the comment without thinking.
Mr. Tully: The Minister cannot have it both ways. Either it is the responsibility of a certain union to fix the postmen's wages with the Post Office or it is the responsibility of every other trade union in the country.
Mr. Tully: Yes, but the Minister's comment was that I had fallen down on my job. I should like to make it clear that I had no responsibility whatever except the general responsibility which everybody has to see to it that employees of the State receive decent wages.
Mr. Tully: I believe we should not have postmen employed on what appears to be a fairly high hourly rate but which, because of the fact that they are employed for a very small number of hours each day, means they receive a miserable week's wages. I quite agree they will have an increase granted according to their service. However, the Minister would be the first to agree with me that it would be unreasonable to say that if people are employed from 8 o'clock in the morning until 12.30 o'clock in the day, a period of four-and-a-half hours, they should not expect to get a week's wages. With the type of underemployment we have, there do not appear to be jobs waiting for these postmen when they finish so that they can start to earn the other half of their week's wages with another employer. The Minister should face up to that position and if people are full-time employees of the Post Office, he should see to it that they get a decent week's wages.
Postmen have a responsible job. They are carrying the mails and are responsible for a considerable amount of valuable property which passes through the post. It is most unreasonable that they should be asked to work for as low a wage as £4 a week. Of course I may be told they are supplied with a uniform; I shall come to that in a few minutes. These people are receiving this miserly sum for the hard work they are doing, work which they must do in all weathers. One of the things commented on during the recent bad weather was that the postman kept going, no matter how bad it was. He got the same amount of wages as if the weather had been fine. He delivered the mail and was paid for the four-and-half hours which was supposed to be the time it would take him to deliver the letters in a particular area.
I had a question down to the Minister and in that connection I should like to say that following the question, the Minister sent me what might be termed a semi-impudent letter to which I did not reply because I did not think it merited a reply. The position  was that I had got a certain complaint and brought it to the Minister's notice. It was to the effect that on more than one occasion inspectors from the local post office had travelled the route, and if it was not with the object of reducing the amount of time taken to deliver the letters, I should like to know what was the object of the inspectors travelling around with the postman.
Mr. Tully: If the Minister says he did not get the representations, I shall have to accept his statement but the Minister ought to check up on it because somebody is writing letters in his name and on his notepaper. The letter was sent to me signed by the Minister referring to representations made, which representations were perfectly fair. The Minister now says he does not know anything about this matter at all.
Mr. Tully: Naturally. I would expect the Minister to appoint him but  it is quibbling with words when the Minister says he did not know. The representations were made about the whole set up there and on the basis that the postman could not make them himself because you know what can happen to an employee of the Post Office who makes representations. The representations were replied to by the Minister.
I do not want to make an issue of this. I was not trying to be a smart aleck when I asked the Minister the question. When the matter was brought to my notice, I referred it back three times before I took any action because I did not think it was my job to do it. However, eventually I was prevailed on to put down a question to the Minister and whether it was in regard to hours or pay, representations were made. There was a reply from the Minister which was not considered satisfactory and I was asked to raise the matter here. I ought to make it very clear that I had no wish to embarrass the Minister when I raised it. I accept that the day the Minister answered the last question he did not know the inspection was taking place. However, somebody went around with the postman. Do you know the day he picked? It was a day when there was fog and when weather conditions had prevented mail coming from England for two or three days. He could not know the fog was coming but surely it was his responsibility to know that there was no English mail coming into the country on that day.
Mr. Tully: Was it the will of God that eventually caused five minutes extra to be added to the time taken to do the round when it should have been an hour, were it not for the way it has been handled?
In regard to uniforms, is it not time the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, like the Department of Defence, did something about the postman's uniform? This is 1963, not 1900. The uniform is a shocking baggy affair. I do not know who made it. Obviously they were all made from the one pattern and the fellow from whom they picked the pattern must not be too well  made himself. It is certainly not a tunic. I do not know what it is supposed to be. I know the Minister is not directly responsible for this but I am bringing it to his notice because I believe that being a sensible man, he can do something about changing the type of cut of the uniform. He would have the thanks of the numerous postmen who are constrained to wear it. We are hoping to have a hot summer and it will be a most uncomfortable summer for postmen who have to wear this uniform and the peculiar type of cap which has been done away with in most countries but which is still worn here. There is a strict instruction that they may not take it off and unlike the guards, they may not take their coats off.
Again let me refer to the question of hours. There should be a standard minimum rate of pay for postmen. I do not know how the Minister will go about it. I would not like to try to direct him as to how he should approach the matter but I suggest he should try to have a set of hours laid down for postmen. If the postman has to do more than the area he is doing over the period of earning the week's wages, let that be so, but, for goodness sake, pay him a decent week's wages and do not let us continue the situation in which he has only half a week's wages on the basis that he is employed for only a half day each week.
I want to refer to the question of telephones. The Minister has said here on numerous occasions that because of the fact the trunk services were overloaded, there was no point in adding individual connections because it would only make the overloading worse.
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