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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 21 Jun 1923

Vol. 3 No. 31


I move: "That a sum not exceeding One Million Eight Hundred and One Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty-six Pounds be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the charges which come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923, for the salaries and expenses of the Post Office, including telegraphs and telephones.

The sum of One Million and Thirty Thousand Pounds has already been voted on account.

I would like, at this stage, to ask if we are to have a statement from the Minister responsible for this Department, dealing generally with its work during the year. I think it is highly desirable that, in coming before the Dáil and asking for an estimate, the Minister in charge of a particular Department should outline briefly the scope of the work for which the money is asked. I would like to know if we are to have such a statement from the Postmaster-General?

As a matter of fact this particular procedure has not been adopted generally, though introduced by me last year, and I do not think that my Department ought to act exceptionally in this case. If it becomes general, I will be very pleased to fall in with it, but not otherwise.

I will take the risk of moving that the discussion on this Vote be adjourned to allow the Minister responsible an opportunity of making a statement respecting the future policy of his Department, and as to what he intends to do with the money asked for. I think this is, perhaps, as good an opportunity as one could get to establish a right precedent. If it has not been the practice, and unfortunately it has not, it should be, on such a Vote as this, where there are opportunities for reform, change and improvements, and I suggest that in future the Minister's policy for the ensuing year should be outlined to the Dáil when asking for money. With that object in view, I move that the discussion on this Vote be adjourned until, say, tomorrow, so that the Minister may have an opportunity of giving us an outline of what the Post Office policy for the ensuing year is to be.

I beg to second that motion. I desire to say that the Minister is unlike many of the other Ministers in this respect, that he is one of the few Ministers directly responsible to the Dáil, and as he need not necessarily follow in the footsteps of any of the other members of the Executive Council, he might have taken this desirable step. There are many changes regarding the administration of the Post Office indicated, from time to time, through the Daily Press, and I think it is desirable. before any change of policy involving a large number of employees is taken, that the Minister in charge of that Department, who is directly responsible to the Dáil, should indicate what its future policy is to be regarding such matters.

I support the amendment of Deputy Johnson, because this is eminently one of the Estimates upon which we ought to have a general statement from the Minister, and I suggest we ought to have that statement circulated amongst Deputies before the Estimate comes to be discussed. This is all the more necessary in the case of a big Vote like this, in view of the fact that there has been no Committee on Estimates, as there ought to have been, to go into these items. In these circumstances, obviously, the Dáil will be voting this money very much in the dark when there has been neither a Committee on Estimates, nor any intimation from the Postmaster-General, as to the intended working of this very important Department, or as to the policy he proposes to adopt in connection with the very large sum of money to be voted.

If the proposal, which I confess I consider reasonable, had been the accepted policy, I certainly would have circulated a full statement to Deputies in sufficient time to enable them to adjust themselves to the discussion on this Vote. I realise that a big mass of figures, such as that involved in the Post Office Vote, is rather difficult to follow on the part of Deputies. I confess that, on previous occasions in the old Dáil, I found myself confronted with somewhat the same difficulty, and for that reason I feel, I must confess, that the demand is to some extent justified. I think, also, as regards my Department in the future, no matter who is responsible, you can count on a preliminary statement covering the main facts of policy. There is another reason why, perhaps, it is as well an explanation has been demanded prior to the general discussion. You will remember, of course, that this Department was very fully involved during the past twelve months in the fight against irregular activities, and, as a consequence, it had little or no opportunity to adjust the services handed over by England to the needs of this country. In my last statment I foreshadowed a departure from that policy, and a very close review of the whole position of the Post Office. In the meantime, I have availed of the easier situation, caused by the collapse of Irregular activities, to set the house in order. The first step taken was the setting up of a very capable Retrenchment Committee.

The function of this Retrenchment Committee was not alone retrenchment, which, of course, is a vital thing, in so big a Vote, in a Vote costing the nation so heavily, but also to review possible modifications of the English system in its application to this country.

Is the Postmaster-General going to make a statement now?

We cannot have that on the motion which is before us to adjourn the discussion.

If the Postmaster-General is prepared to make a statement then there is no necessity to have the motion pressed. The object of the motion was to ensure that the Postmaster-General would be in a position to make a statement. If he is ready and willing then there is no need to put the motion.

I understood the Postmaster-General was speaking in support of the amendment.

Is the Postmaster-General going to make a statement?

I am prepared to make a statement.

Very good. The motion is withdrawn.

The critics of the Free State Government, some inside and some outside the country, are inclined to point to the Post Office as one of many failures, but things are not working out as these critics hoped. It might appear to the ordinary observer that the Post Office was a paying concern until it was handed over to the Free State. It might also appear that this is the only country running the Post Office at a loss, and the inference might be drawn that because of the failure of the Free State Government to run the Post Office on business and economic lines similar to those followed elsewhere we, as a nation, are unfit to do our own business. As a matter of fact, the Irish Post Office has been run at a loss since the English Jubilee of 1897. It is well to remember that fact. At that time very far-reaching concessions were granted to the public at the expense of the English purse. These concessions were extended to Ireland. They may have been needed in England, but I think it will be agreed that something less would have suited this country. Since that particular year, 25 years ago, the Post Office in this country has been a losing concern, and the loss for the years preceding the European war was something in the neighbourhood of £250,000.

Per year?

£250,000 per year, on the average. In one particular year it went up to £300,000. During that period the industrial district of the North-East was included. An industrial district such as the North-East naturally provides a very substantial backing to the revenue of the Post Office. That loss continued to increase during the course of the war, and in the year 1920 it reached the sum of £1,000,000. The first year of our administration—an administration which by the way the people of this country have not had responsibility for because the machine was handed over and we had no opportunity for making changes—resulted in a loss of £1,412,000. That sum is the loss that the Free State Treasury suffered from the working of the Post Officce during the first year of its administration. It might, perhaps, be right to say that that sum included a figure of £180,000 cash necessary for the replacement of Postmaster's balances. Nevertheless, the Treasury suffered last year the loss of the sum stated. In the estimates submitted to the Dáil which were printed early this year and, as a matter of fact, framed as far back, I think, as November or December, we had calculated on a loss of £1,265,607. That is the loss the Dáil would have had to discuss if the discussion had taken place then. That is the loss which had been contemplated in the working of the Post Office for the current year. In the meantime the particular Committee to which I refer has got to work and a very substantial modification has taken place in our financial outlook. In the meantime, too, the political position has improved, and with that improvement you have a corresponding improvement in the economic position. The Retrenchment Committee tackled not only the wastage of force in the service but it also tackled what are called by economists luxury services. In addition to this it tightened up certain contracts for carrying purposes that were made by our predecessors and took steps which were very pressing for the general improvement of the discipline of the service and the corresponding improvement in output. Because of those steps and of the work that has been done in the interval—work foreshadowed in my previous statement—I am now in a position to tell the Dáil that the loss on the service for the year under review will not exceed £750,000, or a saving on last year's working of something in the region of £650,000.

This is the loss which the Irish people have to face in the Post Office service for this year. As a matter of fact, a still further improvement would have been shown, were it not for an item in the Estimates in consequence of the retirements under Article 10 of the Treaty—a gratuity item amounting to £123,000— and a balance, running up to £150,000, making up for pensions. Had we not been called upon to deal with that £150,000, under Article 10 of the Treaty, the statement now being made would have shown an improvement corresponding to that amount or something very near it. Therefore, instead of having to deal with a considerably reduced sum of £750,000 as a loss, that loss would have been brought down to the region of £600,000 in the first year of our working. You will possibly require to know how these figures are made up. It is not possible to go too closely into details for the reason that a certain amount of elasticity is needed. We may, for instance, bring about a certain retrenchment to-day and after experiment modify it tomorrow. For that reason I can only give approximately how the figures will work out. We expect a reduction of about £250,000 through retrenchment. Retrenchment covers many heads but mainly deals with the abolition of superfluous services, and I may mention incidentally that this £250,000 includes £40,000 now, not for the first time, but for the first time within a dozen years, for delivering telegrams beyond a certain radius. Over £100,000 will be saved in the curtailment and modification of contracts. About £200,000 is included in the category of improved receipts. A further sum is being added to our total deductions by extracting our pound of flesh for doing duty for other services, a recommendation submitted by the Post Office Commission, and one that should always have operated.

It may be well to point out that this is not the only small country losing on its postal service. We have taken steps to ascertain, and find that Norway, Holland, Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden are also losing. They are all small countries with small concerns trying to follow the pace set by larger countries like England, America and other places which make the pace, fix the postal rates, and the incomings and outgoings. The losses in these small countries ranged during 1920 and 1921, between £268,000 in the case of Sweden, and £1,131,000 in the case of Switzerland. Therefore, you will see that even though we are losing in this thinly populated country, and losing fairly heavily we do not stand alone. Even if we are losing now the loss has not been incurred through any policy of ours, but through a policy handed down to us, over which we had no control, and had nothing whatever to say in the making of. It is well that everyone outside should understand these facts. They have omitted them for convenient reasons. Further, it will be seen that there have been very substantial reductions in the Estimates this year on the assumption that the present policy is pursued, a policy which is based on giving no lesser satisfaction to the commercial community. If anything I can safely say that improved facilities will be given for the commercial development of the country. That is on the assumption that there is no undue interference with the service from any quarter. There will, of course, always be some interference, criticisms and all that, but provided the Department can weather the different storms which it will be called upon to face, I can safely promise the Dáil that, within a period of four years my own officials say—I am not so optimistic myself, and I say within a period of five years—the Irish Post Office will pay its way. Not only will it pay its way in that time, but it will also give rates quite in keeping with those given in neighbouring countries. Bearing on that point I think it would be well that we should try to make up our minds to make some reductions in postage next year.

A great deal of pressure has been brought to bear upon us from time to time to do that. It was resisted last year and this year, and rightly so, in view of the heavy losses. On the assumption that this loss is being cut, that the economies continue, and that within a reasonable time it is foreshadowed the Post Office is likely to pay its way, it would not be unreasonable that some consideration ought to be given to a modification of the charges. The amount involved, on the assumption that we lower our charges to a level of those prevailing in England, will be something in the neighbourhood of £300,000. I do not say we can quite keep with the English charges, and there is no reason why we should. We are not bound to follow the lead of England in a matter of this kind, but, in fairness to commercial people, I think next year we ought to give certain modifications in regard to certain charges. I hope the Minister for Finance will not look unfavourably on that proposal. We anticipated a pretty serious outcry from the public when we embarked on this policy of "axeing." We knew very well that we were not going to get off scot- free. Everybody in this world likes to see economies effected, but not at his or her own expense. It does not matter if the economies are effected at somebody else's expense. The public would be very pleased to see the wages of the Post Office employees cut down, but when it comes to cutting down their own superfluous services, they squeak. We were firm on the one hand, and we are going to be firm on the other. Whilst we have no intention of doing the least bit of injury to the necessary economic life of the nation, we will certainly not stand on ceremony on the question of removing superffuous services. As long as the Post Office suffered a loss of something in the neighbourhood of one and a half million pounds, there was no possibility whatever of embarking on new and necessary services. Take the case of telephones, as an example. The telephone in this country has been practically undeveloped. The whole country contains something like nineteen thousand users. On the American average that number should have been one hundred and fifty thousand. There is room enough for development without going too far. In addition to that, practically every town in the country has communicated with us to instal an exchange. There is scarcely a Deputy here whose Constituents have not represented to him that the time has come for a more general utilisation of the telephone. There is nothing very strange in that. Our country is competing with up-to-date countries such as Sweden and Norway and England, and if the people are placed in the position of dray-horses as against race-horses, so to speak, they are going to get left. We are anxious as a result of some of those economies to sacrifice something in the extension of the telephone. I will anticipate many of the criticisms that are going to be made here regarding that. The old charge for the installation of a telephone in, say, Navan, would have amounted to £15 per annum basic fee and possibly £10 for calls, a sum of £25 in all. The people of Navan want an exchange and they sent various petitions and deputations. We say "We will give you an exchange but our rules provide that you must pay a certain sum." The sum of £25 is put up and we get one subscriber in the whole town. Nobody else can afford it. There is obviously a case for the modification of the charges and I am sure it will be as satisfactory to Deputies to know that the Minister for Finance will be prepared to consider favourably the rapid extension of the telephone throughout the country. In view of of that the people may look forward to the position they should have occupied for many years past, and they will be better equipped in the race of life. That is one thing they are going to get as a result of these economies. We are cutting down deliveries in various towns; there is a lot in the Press about that. As a matter of fact, to take a medium town in the country, it had three deliveries. As far as the non-commercial people are concerned, we are satisfied one delivery per day is quite adequate. Though we do not intend to go so far in all cases, yet, in order to secure that commercial people will not suffer the loss of any former facilities, we have decided to introduce a system of private boxes and bags which are being worked in Australia and in the States. This is a system whereby merchants or private individuals can, for three guineas, a very small sum considering the services rendered, secure their correspondence at the office at any time of the day. This will mean a modification of the present charges, and we have some reason to believe that the Minister for Finance will look favourably on our proposals. Instead of disimproving the facilities for the commercial community, we are actually improving them. There is some soreness at the fact that postal deliveries are not as frequent now as they were in normal times; in other words that the Post Office services are not normal. I wonder is there anything in this country normal? At any rate I have not met any business man who could tell me that his affairs were normal.

Not even the Government.

We are dependent very largely on trains. The trains are our main carriers. We have found the Railway Companies at all times very reasonable and always prepared to meet us as far as they possibly could. This also is their attitude at the present time. We put up programmes to them for the more expeditious and frequent running of trains. These programmes are being considered and I believe they will be favourably considered. There is one thing we cannot promise the public at present and that is the running of night trains. That is the big crux. Many of our lines are not sufficiently safe to run night-mail trains. It would be unsafe until certain bridges are secured. We are not going to bring further pressure to bear on them but I think on the whole the public are getting a reasonable number of trains considering the times we are living in.

Possibly some Deputies will require to know whether we are likely to dispense with a great lot of labour, because of these economies to which I refer. The maximum number of people whom we believe will be dispensed with is 400. These are temporary or auxiliary postmen, with short service, and engaged in postal deliveries which cannot by any stretch of imagination be regarded as paying their way, or as justified by results. If we had followed the advice of certain Deputies in this Dáil, the farmers' representatives to boot, we should knock another half-million off this deficit by wiping out the rural deliveries, and incidentally wiping out the earning possibilities of 5,000 men. Well, I must say that I have no sympathy with that. I think it would be very hard on so many men, though I believe we would be justified in doing it because of the small volume of work and the small revenue which these men produce, and the heavy loss suffered thereby. On the other hand, it would be very unfair to see so many families "on the rocks," so to speak, and we are not prepared to do it. If other people desire later on to do so, let them. But we are not prepared to dispense with the services of these men, and certainly with not more than 400. Our policy rather the supplementing of their work. That is our policy. That will take a little time. We are carefully examining schemes, and if we get the approval of the Ministry of Finance we will lose no time in applying these schemes, whereby instead of dispensing with these men we will make their work a paying concern.

Deputy Davin may have remembered mentioning here six months ago a fact which did not appear obvious to a great many Deputies that a good part of the loss in the Post Office was due to the transmission of Press messages, newspaper work, and newspaper business. Newspaper work had, for many a day, been transmitted at a loss, I might say at a substantial loss. We have in the meantime largely eliminated that. I think you will admit that we have lost no time about it. We have now placed wires direct from the Press Association and from Reuter's Headquarters in London into the newspaper offices of the country whereby three-fourths, perhaps four-fifths of their English and foreign work will be handled direct, and not through the medium of the Post Office. Whatever grievances there were in the past regarding alleged subsidy by the State to the business of the Press world that has almost disappeared, and in the very near future it will practically entirely disappear. Moreover, the Press in this country at the present time, is in a position to receive its foreign news simultaneously with the Press of Fleet Street.

You may want to know what we suffered from the Irregular activities. I will just give you a couple of headings only. They are illuminating. The Post Office suffered more severely than was indicated in the Press. There were 780 Post Offices either temporarily or wholly put out of action. This was the number in that position when hostilities terminated a month or six weeks ago. In the interval I may say that we have restored 550 of these, and within a fortnight the services will be entirely supplied. This is to some extent due to the Minister for Defence. Rather, we have to thank the Minister for Defence for his goodness in placing certain experienced men at our disposal— men who were trained in that work of sustaining communications during the last twelve months. At any rate, notwithstanding the destruction within a fortnight we will be in a position to resume normal business; at any rate no part of the country will be disconnected. During 8 or 10 months activities by the Irregulars 3,500 miles of wire were wiped out and destroyed, and a great part of it stolen, copper wire particularly. Something like 5,500 poles were cut down and these have had to be replaced. The average raids on Post Office property for the entire period was 156 per month. A number of Post Office officials were killed in the discharge of their duty. When one considers this pretty formidable list of destruction it is not easy to claim that on the following morning we could be in complete working order. But we have lost no time about it. One thing I would like the Dáil to bear in mind is the tribute that has been paid by some of the Deputies to the members of our staff. Whoever else works hard or otherwise in this country we know that after all the Post Office people give a fair return for their money.

I would like to say that we continue to suffer under grave difficulties as long as we are without proper Headquarters buildings. Anybody walking through O'Connell Street at the present moment and asking what are all these buildings destroyed here for several hundred yards, could safely be told that it was the Post Office, a string of Post Offices. That is to say the old Post Office in the centre of O'Connell Street and the Post Office further up on the right which occupied all these buildings over the Hamman Hotel and other hotels, and further up at the Rink. The whole street is strewn with destroyed Post Offices. We have had nothing to take their places. We have had to divide our Headquarters Staff into any little offices that we could take up here and there. Our Engineering Staff is cut up into 8 parts in Dublin alone; our Secretariat is divided into two parts, and similarly with all the other Departments. If the Engineer-in-Chief gets a hurried order from anyone in the city he has to go from one end of Dublin to another to give instructions. If the Secretary wants to see the Engineer-in-Chief he has to cross the town for that purpose. We cannot run a big business on those lines. It is well to understand that. The head of every Department in the Post Office has protested because we have failed to locate the administration in one building. They have repeatedly said they cannot do their business effectively under those conditions. I do put it to you that no big firm would run its business on these lines and you may take the Post Office as being a very big trading firm. No big trading firm could do business on these lines. You may be inclined to look upon my plea for the housing of the Headquarters as being a fad of mine; as being a desire to see another building put up in town. It is nothing of the kind. There should be one Headquarters for the housing of the officials working on the Headquarters' staff, and the Postmaster-General himself should be there in constant touch with his staff. Until you do that your service will suffer and you will pay for it. I believe if we had closer contact that we would save very much more money than we have done, and we have done a fair amount. Regarding the Savings Bank and the Stores, we have at least introduced two industries into this country. Something like 92 people are employed in the Savings Bank at the moment, and this number is sure to increase with the increase of work, Likewise, our Stores Department is giving employment to over 100 people, and these are two new industries set up this year amounting, within the first four or five months, to close on 200 employees, and likely to increase appreciably. That, at any rate, is one of the results of self-Government, apart from the fact that we found it necessary to increase our Headquarters' staffs very appreciably, because of the setting up of the new terminus here. I could point to a great many other advantages, but these are some. I do not think that there are any other points for me to deal with, but I suppose I will meet with some in the course of the discussion, and I would be glad to hear any suggestions for improvement, or anything in the nature of criticism that is likely to help the service.

I have listened very attentively to the Postmaster-General's report, and I must say that to my mind, from an administrative point of view, it appears to be very satisfactory, and it ought to be still more satisfactory to the people of the big cities and towns. I do not believe it will appear nearly so satisfactory to the people of the smaller towns and rural districts. He spoke about a Retrenchment Committee. I wonder was there anyone from the rural districts or the provincial towns on that Retrenchment Committee, and if so, what were their views on this matter. I think retrenchment, in the way he suggests it, would set up an inverse ratio that would defeat its own object. We have better transit and better locomotion now than we had when rural deliveries were set up, and certainly, I view with very evil forebodings, the remarks the Postmaster-General has made with regard to these retrenchments, and the directions that they are going to take. He speaks about the farmers suggesting retrenchment in rural areas. I do not think any of these farmers suggested retrenchments for their own districts at all, but for other districts. I must say, on the whole, that I am pleased with the report that the Postmaster-General has given, but certainly I have very evil forebodings, and I think it will meet with big opposition if he carries out the retrenchments on the lines that he has suggested.

I think the Postmaster-General is to be congratulated on the statement that he has made, and I think he has shown wisdom in fully and clearly stating the position of the Post Office, in so far as he has gone in his statement. I am glad, too, that he has drawn attention to the fact that the running of a Post Office at a loss, or rather, shall I say, running of a Post Office at partially a State charge, is not peculiar to this country, and in that respect it is not so different from any other of the public services that are valuable and necessary and cannot be made to pay. It may be said, and quite fairly, that the great portion of the work of the Post Office is essentially a communal service that must be provided for the proper running of a country in these days, whether the individual beneficiary contributes directly or not, and some of those services may well be considered as normally a common charge upon the common funds to be paid out of taxation. Other portions of the services—a great proportion of the services no doubt—ought to be paid for and the charges made to cover the actual expenses. But I think it is rather Utopian to expect that a postal service can be run on anything like modern lines and be paid for out of the actual charges made upon the direct users of the service, and particularly is that so in the case of a sparsely populated country. If we are to expect the service to be self-supporting, we shall have to be contented with a very much less efficient postal service or shall I say, perhaps, not less efficient, but less valuable—fewer services.

But there is another aspect of this question that I want to impress upon the Postmaster-General, and also upon the Treasury, that even for the fewer services you require a certain minimum staff. That minimum staff could give better value if it were even more fully employed, and where you have the machinery of an organisation such as the Post Office it is true economy from the National point of view, and ultimately even from the financial point of view, to utilise that machinery in new directions, and take the fullest advantage of the machinery that is provided by the Postal services. It seems to me with a staff of say 10,000 men and women mainly engaged in letter deliveries, telephones and telegraphs, that outside the big cities there may be possibilities of considerable extension of services, which may be carried through with the present staffs, with a very small increase in expenses but a very great increase in convenience, and also an increase in income. I think that if the Postmaster-General would allow his ingenuity to play upon lines of development, and having well thought out his scheme the Minister for Finance would encourage him to put these schemes into operation, we should have an even more efficient postal service. It would be a service to the community in more ways than at present, and would within a very short time probably lead to still further diminish the losses. I was hopeful that we might hear from the Minister for Posts some prophecy of an early development of the services in connection with the Savings Bank in connection with cash-on-delivery and with insurance, and perhaps a still closer collaboration and a wider utilisation of the relations between the Post Office and the railways. I would like that the Minister would, before we pass on from this Vote, give us some details regarding the Savings Bank, what the position is in comparison, we will say, with six months ago, how it is developing and what its hopes and expectations are with regard to further developments. I would think that the postal system could be very largely availed of for the popularisation of the Savings Banks and the payments through the Post Office of small accounts, contributions to societies and institutions, and so on. There are many ways in which the Post Office could be made very much more use of with advantage to the Post Office, and very little interference with the ordinary work of the community. I think on the last occasion when this Vote was under discussion the Minister foreshadowed an extension of the cash-on-delivery system—perhaps I am wrong in saying that it was on the last occasion when this matter was discussed in the Dáil, perhaps it was on one of the occasions when it was discussed in the newspapers, but, in any case, it was discussed and we would like to know how far we are on the way to the establishment of a cash-on-delivery system. It is quite true that the inception of that system in Ireland would add considerably to the development of trade within the country, and perhaps even of manufacture. I think the Minister will be able to tell us that a very rapidly-increasing trade is being done by post from England. The big advertisements that we see in newspapers circulating in Ireland of London houses offering to send parcels by post are not without effect, and such advertisements do not appear continuously unless they are giving some return to the advertisers. I do not suppose it is possible for the Minister to say what the increase in that overseas parcel traffic may have been within the last year or two, but I think I am right in saying that it has been very considerable. Much of that traffic could be assured to the Irish Postal revenue by a cash-on-delivery system, and, better still, the trade which the Postal Traffic represents could be directed to Irish rather than to British concerns. Apart from that aspect of this proposal, it would be a great convenience to the public, and that after all is the object of this service. There is another development of the Postal system which, I suggest, would be worth the Minister's while thinking over and adopting to needs—and that is insurance, small insurances and the collection of small insurances. It seems to me that here is a line of development which is quite capable of being utilised by the Postal Service taking advantage of the machinery that exists, and requiring no more new expenditure, or very little more, adapting a source of revenue, and greatly conveniencing the public. I hope that we shall before long have some word from the Minister that these projects have been considered, and that the decision has been made that they shall be made applicable to this country. Another side of this Postal Service which the Dáil and public would be glad to have some information about is the development of wireless. We read a good deal about wireless telegraphy, about broadcasting and the like. There have been some experiments or demonstrations, and no doubt the Minister is taking care to see that these demonstrations and experiments are being carefully watched, and full advantage taken of any development in the system. I think the Dáil is entitled to have some information on this matter.

The Dáil ought to be sure that the evils that have grown up in England and which are being fought over here, owing to the monopoly that is being granted to one group of companies, will not be allowed to have effect in Ireland. There, I understand, certain monopoly rights are being given to a group of companies, and all the apparatus, before being licensed, must have gone through the hands of, or be manufactured by, one or other of that group. I am told also that similar or better apparatus could be made in France or Germany; in France, I think, more excellently, but it is not allowed, because it is desirable in the mind of the British Government authorities to encourage the development of this manufacture in England. I hope that that monopoly will not be allowed to have full fling in Ireland, that, as a matter of fact, it will not be a monopoly within the Free State, and that whatever may be the line of development of the wireless system here, we shall take advantage of every improvement in any country, and so far as possible we shall manufacture the apparatus here. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us that the Department of which he has control is actually experimenting in the manufacture of wireless apparatus, and that it is making provision for the general manufacture for commercial purposes of such apparatus. I think that it is an industry which, while being new, is quite in keeping with the business capacity of the Post Office, and there is plenty of room for the establishment of a thriving industry under the authority and control of the Postmaster-General for the manufacture and control of all kinds of apparatus connected with telegraphy, telephony, and similar operations. I trust that in these matters the Minister will be able to supplement his statement and give the Dáil even more satisfaction than he has already done in the opening statement he has made. In regard to the proposal for retrenchment and cutting down of superfluous services, there is just one remark I would like to make, and that is to urge the Minister to get into friendly contact with the Union of Post Office Servants, and invite suggestions and collaboration in the work that is under discussion. I am certain that many valuable suggestions and proposals and very valuable assistance can be obtained by a frank and free association between the head of a Department and those acting immediately under him and the general staff acting through their organisation. Again I wish to say that the Minister's statement is one which I am glad to have heard, and I am glad also that it was made at the beginning of the discussion, and thereby saved much time, I am sure, and many queries that will now have proved to have been unnecessary.

There are one or two suggestions that I would like to make in regard to the statement of the Postmaster-General. The first is in regard to an item of £83,500 for the road transport of mails. I suggest that a new system be adopted in connection with these contracts that exist for the carrying of mails on the roads. These are contracts for the carrying of mails alone. I think that the Postmaster-General should endeavour to have both services combined, so that whatever vehicle was employed for the carriage of mails and parcels could also carry passengers, and let the Post Office take the responsibility for carrying them. I think that as much money could be raised from the passengers as would be sufficient to carry the mails, and thus save the Post Office a sum of £83,000. As the contracts stand it would, of course, be impossible to add any new conditions, but on their termination it would be possible to make a change. There have been representations made to me for some little time back about the serious loss that is taking place in postal revenue by the practice that is at present being followed on the boundary where people come with large parcels of letters without stamps, and these letters are posted inside the barrier. A letter coming there should be regarded as being in the same position as anything else that is a violation of the Customs rules, and there should be some system by which such loss should be avoided. These are matters which I wish to bring before the notice of the Postmaster-General, so that he would be in a position to deal with them. Since the Postmaster-General is an officer of this Dáil and responsible to it, I would very much wish that he would get as free a hand as possible, because evidently his objectives are right, and his intelligence cannot be questioned when he keeps himself advised by those who understand the situation in the various Departments, and when he shows anxiety to get into contact with the facts as they are. He will, no doubt, accomplish the two objects he has in view. He should be given a free hand and allowed an opportunity of redeeming the promise he has made, and, as he is responsible to this Dáil, it can find fault with him if he transgresses any of the tenets which he has laid down. I am certain that if he gets the facilities he requires he will accomplish the two objects which he has in view.

It is always very pleasant to congratulate, and on this occasion it is all the more pleasant when we consider how difficult it was under all the adverse conditions of the past year's administration for the head of the Post Office service particularly, to be in a position to win our congratulations. To have a loss of over a million and a half reduced, and to be in prospect of it being soon only a small amount above half a million, may certainly, in Biblical language, be described as "tidings of great joy to all the people." But it is not alone for his gospel that I congratulate the Postmaster-General, but for the views that he has laid down, more particularly with regard to the telephone service. I notice that among the twenty-three members whom I have the honour to address only very few representatives of the Farmers' Party are present. They are fading away. I quite submit it is a survival of the fittest.

There is five-sevenths of the Farmers' Party here.

There is one member of the Farmers' Party who is so predominant, let us say, as to fill one's imagination and create the delusion that the Farmers' Party is very much larger than it is. Not merely does the Land Purchase Act affect the future of the agricultural interests, but the development of the telephone service as well affects their interests. In Norway, one of the little nations to which the Postmaster-General has referred, I remember noticing that every farmer's house, without exception, had a telephone. Sweden, a neighbouring nation, as we know, is the great centre of manufacture of telephonic instruments for all the world, and Switzerland is only a little way behind. The fact that these countries and Denmark, a little agricultural progressive nation, have a deficit as regards their postal services on the whole, is an indication to us of a fact that ought not to be missed. We are accustomed to reiterate that the postal service is one of the few Government enterprises that come under the head of commercial enterprises. Now, that with regard to the telephone department is, or ought to be, a complete mistake. The telephone service as an aid to commercial and industrial extension and development upon business lines ought to be regarded as a national service to-day, pretty much on the same lines as the Judiciary is, and the cost of it should not be a prime consideration in regard to the total turnover of postal business in a year. In Denmark and in Norway the farmers are very materially assisted by the fact of having telephonic communication with a number of towns. They are aware of the ruling prices in the market without leaving home. They are in live contact all the time with all the circumstances of their own great industry. No matter what we may say as to the advocacy of industrial development other than agriculture, we have to admit—and I do not say "have to" in the sense of its being an unpleasant admission to make—that agriculture is the great staple industry of the country, and that the revenues can be drawn upon in no wise more profitably than in the interests of agricultural development and the welfare of the agriculturalists. In France, for example, the Fisheries Department always acquaint the fishermen as to where the shoals of fish are at a particular moment, so that when going out fishing the fishermen know where the fish are to be had. In Ireland farmers come to fairs and bring in their goods, not knowing that prices may have changed and conditions may have altered since the last fair. When violent fluctuations occur you have a considerable shock produced from which the community does not readily recover. The whole nation suffers from those shocks, which come here, there, and everywhere over a considerable area. The telephone service could put that out of possibility. I think we might address to the farming population an exhortation something like that which used to be addressed in the English papers before the war to the English manufacturers: "Wake up, John Bull.""Wake up, Denis Gorey," shall we say, and put in your demand for telephonic installation? The more demand there is from the country towns the cheaper and the more remunerative can the service be made, and the more labour also will of necessity be employed, and another source for the removal of unemployment be provided. I took a note of what the Minister proposed; I am learning that great art. He says he wishes to have a rapid extension. I wonder has his experiment in the provision of automatic telephonic exchanges proved successful, because these are operative in large sections of Western America, and are also a success in parts of Norway. As regards the Post Office proper—I mean the postal service, the carrying of letters and parcels, as distinct from the telephone—he spoke of cutting down. I think that the only cutting down that in general the people will applaud will be the cutting down of the postal rates, and the promises held out to us that we may expect a reduction in postal rates next year. We are losing very heavily through the difference in postage across the Border and in England and in other countries, because, as I pointed out recently, circulars are not only being posted in Belfast in large numbers, but they are also being printed there, so that the leakage is of a double character. Now, in rural areas I think it would be a mistake to reduce the service to one delivery per day, especially as an active young postman, provided with a motor bicycle, could really manage to deliver all the letters morning and evening. As regards the cities, we might divide the people into two classes —that is, the business people and the non-business people—and for the non-business people I would respectfully suggest that there are already too many deliveries, and a good deal of the work could be profitably cut down.

To one a week.

Say to twice a week. For my own part, I speak feelingly, I get quite too many letters, and I should be very glad, especially when they come in the form of income tax demands, to receive them once every half-year or not at all. Now, as regards the business and other citizens, the private box arrangement is undoubtedly a very great boon. The system has worked for ever so many years with success in America. The citizen is provided with a key; he has paid his annual rental; the Postmaster suggests a very moderate sum of a few guineas; and it would undoubtedly help those who do not want to receive unpleasant letters, because they need not go to the box, and the evil hour for the reception of unpleasant letters might be postponed at will. I realise that a great deal of the criticism to which the postal service is at the moment subjected is due to a confusion by which delays are attributed to incompetency on the part of the postal officials which are really forced upon them by the imperfection of the carrying system. It is outside the control of those officials altogether. We cannot expect fast mails, particularly night mails, while the lines are as they are. I suppose, now that the nightmares have disappeared, the night mails may reappear. The other aspect of the postal service—the parcels post—was referred to by Deputy Johnson. That is a system which the French have reduced to a fine art—the contre remboursement— the system of cash on delivery; but I wonder would it produce in every case the results that Deputy Johnson desires. I was so struck with admiration at its working when I saw it administered by the great French shops that for a while I was greatly enamoured of it, but I realised how easily Irish small industries could be knocked out, to use the language of the prize ring, if postal facilities were on the C.O.D. system. If it was confined to the trading inside the limits of the Free State, as I think Deputy Johnson intended, then well and good. It would be a tremendous incentive to enterprise on the part of Irish producers, and would take away a good many of the obstacles in the way of industrial development—to wit, the unwillingness of the shopkeeper to stock Irish products or to give them the advantages of a display in their windows. It would be quite easy for those who wanted Irish manufacture to write to the centres of distribution from which it could be had, and instead of being put to any considerable expense, to pay the postman at the hall door when the goods were delivered.

Now, as regards the nature of the headquarters to which the Postmaster-General referred, I do hope that the Ministry will not be precipitate in the selection of a site. The Greater Dublin reconstruction movement has done nothing so well as to fire the imagination of the citizens by showing how a centre might be selected for great public offices. I, for my own part, do not subscribe to every portion of the Greater Dublin reconstruction proposal, but there is one item in that great imaginative scheme which does appeal to me very strongly. I fear it does not appeal to the Postmaster so strongly. In this great whispering gallery of Dublin it is whispered that he wishes to put the G.P.O. back where it was. Now, in this plan to which I have just referred there are great improvements in the docking facilities of steamboats coming up to where the Custom House used to be. There is schemed a great central railway station coming in by an extension at Amiens Street to one portion of the site of what was the Custom House, and then quite alongside of that is the Central Post Office, so that in the taking in of mails from abroad, the reception of mails from country districts, and in the distribution of these again, there is no time lost and handling is reduced to a minimum. I would commend that very strongly to the notice of the Dáil and of Deputies. No matter what might be said about other items of the Greater Dublin scheme, this part of the project, at any rate, seems to be inspired—I mean inspired, not in the cynical sense, but inspired in the best sense.

I do not think I ought to detain you further, except just to dwell upon one thing which is more or less, perhaps, of a personal fad. For very many years I have advocated as a reform in the educational system that we should replace the wretched little country schoolhouses by better buildings, and both for economy and efficiency do something towards centralisation in the area of the schools, and to make that feasible and at the same time also to save the health of the school children, who would thereby be forced to go greater distances from home to the school, I suggest that portion of the education service might be the provision of covered motor vans. Now, there is no reason why Deputy McGoldrick's suggestion should not be incorporated with this. The same motor mail cars that would distribute and collect the mails in the morning could, after its hours were determined, be made the carrier for the school children, and similarly in the afternoon. Undoubtedly we have cast our eyes around for means of economy, but there is economy and economy, to repeat a well-worn truism, and money saved is not always money gained is another truism, and when these things have become truisms we cease to remember them altogether, so that it becomes necessary to repeat them, and I repeat them now without apology. There are certain things in the public service upon which it is not wise to attempt economising, and everything that makes unmistakably and directly for the public betterment is worth whatever public money is spent upon it, of course always within wise limits. If the circulation of books is a useful matter, for instance, in country districts in aid of education, and if that were promoted by these mail vans, that also would be a very good thing. I have no hesitation in saying, although it is a most unpopular thing to say, the one thing the country stands most in need of is education. It seems far fetched on a postal Vote to talk about education, but here is a thing which I think is not far fetched, and that is the possibility of helping the educational development of the country through the provision, not of stationary libraries—and I spell it with an A—but circulating libraries in the true sense of the word. Now, I was going to speak about Savings Bank development, for which the Postmaster-General deserves our highest congratulation, but, as I have spoken so long, I think I had better now bring my remarks to a close.

I suppose it is necessary also for me to congratulate the Postmaster-General. That appears to be usual at our proceedings here now; but after you have finished your congratulations, you then get in your spoke. I just want to draw attention to the economies which the Postmaster-General has foreshadowed, and to point out that I think he has overstated the case. I find here a sum of £250,000 on retrenchment services. There is a sum of £100,000 on contracts, £200,000 on improved receipts, and £100,000 for the services which the Post Office renders to the Government. That seems to indicate that a sum of £250,000 is to be saved on retrenchment and £100,000 on contracts. Deputy Magennis has stated that the Postmaster-General's estimated deficit of one and a half millions is going to be reduced to a deficit of only £500,000 in a year. I would like to know within what limits Deputy Magennis has grounds for such an expression of opinion. With regard to retrenchment on these services, we in the country are satisfied to take any service that the country can pay for. We realise the necessity for economy, and I personally, as a farmers' representative, do not object to have the Post Office made a paying concern. At the same time, I wish to point out that there seems to be a certain kind of differentiation in this retrenchment. I will take first the system for the delivery of telegrams, which has been changed as from the 1st June last. Anyone living in close proximity to the Post Office receives free delivery of a telegram, but if the Post Office messenger happens to have to go more than an English mile— mind you, an English mile, with an Irish Postmaster-General—from the Post Office with a telegram, the person receiving it has to pay 6d. I am not objecting to that, but I should like to have some explanation as to why a man living 1,759 yards from the Post Office should get free delivery of a telegram, while a man living 1,761 yards from the Post Office is made to pay 6d. I am not grumbling about the charge, but the matter is one that I think ought to be explained.

That comes under the Land Act.

If it is good policy to give a free delivery of telegrams to people in the towns, there ought to be some explanation as to why the same system should not hold good for the country. It is not fair, I think, that for the sake of a few yards one man should have to pay for the delivery of a telegram, while another man can have delivery free. The Postmaster-General stated that he has created a new industry in the Savings Bank Department by providing additional employment for ninety-two persons. Yet in the list of services I observe a decrease in the Savings Bank Department of £10,500. I would like to have an explanation on that point. I agree that we should induce everybody to be thrifty and to put their money in the Post Office Savings Bank. It is the proper policy to inculcate amongst the people, and it is the only policy that will enable this country to carry on. Notwithstanding what Deputy Magennis said in connection with the telephones, I believe if we had a system of telephonic communication on our farms which would not be too costly, it would he very much to promote the interests of the industry. As long, however, as it costs about £15 a year to have the telephone system installed in one's house, I am afraid the system will not be generally used in the country. No one has told us what it costs the farmer in America or in Sweden to have the telephone in his house, and I think if we had information on that point it would be very useful. If telephonic communication could be provided for farmers and other people in the country at a reasonable cost, I believe it would be generally availed of.

On the question of the preferential treatment in the purchase of stores used in Ireland, I am not going to labour that point, but I think the Postmaster-General ought to let us know how much the State has lost by reason of the fact that preferential treatment was given to manufacturers in this country. The fact that the finances of this country are at present in such a disordered way that peace services cannot be provided for except by over-taxation, that necessitates that the most rigid investigation should be made before anything in the nature of a bonus for what I call Irish inefficiency is paid to any body of manufacturers in this country. I would like to know how many thousand pounds per annum this State is losing by reason of such inefficiency. On the whole, I must say that the ideas of the Postmaster-General for retrenchment are in keeping with demands which we have been making here. He sees, I think, the necessity for retrenchment.

What do you mean by that?

I mean that the Postmaster-General realises that it is necessary to have retrenchment, and I think he is doing his best towards accomplishing that purpose. It would not do for him to come back here next year and say, "I promised you that we would only have a deficit of £750,000," and then for the Estimates to show a deficit of one million. If he is able to reduce the deficit next year to £750,000, and to keep on doing that for a couple of years, I have no doubt that he will be giving us what we require—a peace establishment in this country, to be carried out on the money that our taxes can afford.

I welcome the statement made by the Postmaster-General, because I feel that it will be received with certain acclamation and an easiness by the traders of this country and everybody who wishes to use the Post Office as a means of communication, and more particularly by the 4,000 or 5,000 employees whose fate was hanging in the balance until the statement that has just been made. Deputy McGoldrick has pleaded for a free hand for the Postmaster-General. I would go with him to this extent, that any alteration in policy the Postmaster-General might think it desirable to indicate should be first of all made to the Dáil, to which he is primarily responsible, and through them to the people, instead of announcing it first through the Publicity Department of the Post Office to the Press. Deputy Johnson pleaded for a more friendly relationship or co-operation between those who do the practical work in the Post Office and those who are in control of the administration of the Department. I am in through agreement with that. I think that the position in that respect this year is much better than it was on the last occasion we were discussing Post Office administration. I think there is a good deal to be gained by friendly co-operation and by inviting suggestions from the men who do the practical work, through some council or body representing both sides. On that point I invite the Postmaster-General to study very carefully the councils that are in operation in the railway service, localised to an extent, but with a very wide range of activities, so far as central representation is concerned, in dealing with many things that are of interest both to the working staff and to those who are in charge of administration. I think some such councils, with modification if necessary, should be in operation in this big business concern of the Post Office. If such councils are of use, and they have been admitted to be useful by both sides so far as the working of the railways is concerned, the same might equally apply to administration of the Post Office. It was very interesting to learn from the Postmaster-General's statement that considerable pressure was being brought to bear upon him by the Farmers' Party for the abolition of rural deliveries. I am sure the 5,000 men affected will be very pleased to learn, through the Postmaster-General, that the necessary pressure was not effective in that direction.

On a point of explanation, I desire to state that no pressure has been brought on the Postmaster-General by members of the Farmers' Party. Last year, when this Estimate was under discussion, a suggestion was made in that direction. No pressure whatever was brought on the Postmaster-General by any member of the Farmers' Party.

I accepted the statement of the Postmaster-General when I said that. It is interesting, at all events, to see that one member of the Farmers' Party repudiates the suggestion of another.

Made by himself.

That is far more interesting still. I am one of those who always felt, and I have expressed the view here previously, that the Post Office, to be of use to the nation, should not necessarily in its infancy be looked upon or treated as a going or a paying concern. I think it can render very useful service, and at the same time fall back on the State for whatever necessary financial assistance it reasonably requires to make it a going concern. I am not going to deal with the figures that have been given by the Postmaster-General as to what he hopes to save by the activities of the Retrenchment Committee, but in the interests of the future staff I would like to bring one point to his notice. I understand that what is termed the average pay of temporary auxiliaries for something like four hours per day is £1 2s. 6d. per week. I have been speaking to one of these temporary auxiliaries and he informs me that if he stood at the street corner it would pay him just as well as working for four hours a day in the Post Office. I think the Postmaster-General should always aim at a figure in payment for services rendered that would have some relationship to a living wage. I contend that £1 2s. 6d. a week is not a living wage. I am also aware that many contracts, such as those for mail cars, have been terminated recently. I do not know if it is the intention of the Postmaster-General that at the termination of these contracts others should come into operation, or whether it is for the purpose of modifying contracts that have been in operation up to the present time. I hope, whatever he does in regard to that matter, that he will be guided by the fact that it is better to pay such people for what they are doing at present, useful work, instead of throwing them on the unemployment list, which is already overloaded.

The question of train services has been referred to by the Postmaster-General. I understand that representations have been made to him by Deputies and by people outside to provide a later train service to different parts of the country. In the case of the Great Southern and Western Railway Company, the last train leaves for the South of Ireland at 4.45 in the evening. The restoration of the normal conditions under which we are now living, I think, would justify the Postmaster-General in extending that service to a later hour without incurring any unnecessary expenditure either to the Post Office authorities or to the railway companies. People who come up to the city from the country to do business want sufficient time to enable them to do it, and I think both the Post Office and the railway companies could save and at the same time accommodate the general travelling public by extending the time for the departure from Dublin to the Southern areas to a later hour than the present one. There is also the question of Sunday service. I understand that the mails from the Northern area within the jurisdiction of the Northern Parliament arrive on Sunday morning, and for their special requirements a train is provided to carry these mails into the Six-County area from Dublin. I see no reason why similar facilities could not be provided for people in the Southern area, and I commend that matter to the consideration of the Postmaster-General in his dealings with the ralway companies in regard to better train services.

The Minister indicated that the suggestions of the Retrenchment Committee would result in about 400 temporary auxiliary men being dispensed with. Perhaps he will consider some scheme for the employment of some or all of these men in some other remunerative way in the Post Office. I happen to know that in the case of the parcel post coming from the Midlands and the South, at any rate, the sorting instead of being done in this country and giving employment to Irishmen is carried out at Crewe, thus giving additional employment to Englishmen. Anything that would enable the sorting of these mails to be done on this side and which would give employment here would go some way to deal with the situation which has been created by the unemployment of these 400 men. I suggest to the Postmaster-General the consideration of such an arrangement, provided that it will not interfere with the expeditious delivery of the mails. I notice that there is a considerable reduction in the expenditure on provincial offices and other departments, while there is an increase in the figures for the Headquarter offices. I would like the Postmaster-General to explain the circumstances under which such an increase is justified. The figure of £123,000 covering superannuation allowances and other non-effective charges, exclusive of allowances granted under the Treaty of 6th December, 1921, and other allowances by reason of the retirement of men under Clause 10 of the Treaty, seems to be very heavy. I do not know whether there is any reason for this figure being so high in the Post Office as compared with other Government Departments. I notice also that there is a reduction from £50,820 for 1922-23, to £30,000 for the current year for uniforms and clothing. I would like the Postmaster-General to explain whether that is as a result of a cheaper kind of uniform being provided or of the uniforms being denied to people who used to receive them oftener under the old administration. I would also like to suggest to the Postmaster-General that any re-organisation affecting the staff as a result of the activities of the Retrenchment Committee should be introduced gradually instead of being brought suddenly into operation. There is another matter which Deputy Wilson referred to, the charge made since the 1st June for the delivery of telegrams outside certain areas. Telegrams are very often prepaid in the first instance, and they are usually sent for the convenience of the sender. The Post Office should have some geographic knowledge of the area to which they are being sent, and I would suggest that this charge when it is made should be put on the sender of the telegram. In some cases it would be unfair to ask the person to whom the telegram was addressed, and who may not be at all anxious to receive it, to pay the extra charge.

I have noticed that the Postmaster-General has been growing perceptibly bigger since the debate started, with the shower of congratulations that he has received. Lest that process shall go too far I shall not dwell on that aspect of the matter beyond saying that I think the congratulations are not undeserved. My object in rising is to call attention to one or two matters as to which I should like to hear what the Postmaster-General proposes to do. The first of these is motor transport, which has already been referred to by Deputy McGoldrick. It is quite obvious that motor transport has a very big future in a country where the railways are not what they ought to be, and where geographic conditions are such that they will favour this means of developing the country. I think the Postmaster-General ought, in his Department, to set a head-line to the commercial community generally in the matter of bringing country districts into contact with railway centres. He may have done so already, or he may have begun to do so, but I ask him to tell the Dáil what he is doing in that direction. It may not be out of place to remind him that in such countries as France, Italy and Switzerland, a great deal is done by the State in that direction and, incidentally, that the proposal put forward by Deputy McGoldrick of carrying persons as well as materials is in vogue.

Then there are two or three other matters to which I should like to draw attention, particularly in the matter of international contracts. Will the Postmaster-General tell us how we stand on the question of the contract with the London and North-Western Railway Company for mails? Is that a contract which we took over? Is it a contract which he is advised we were obliged under the Treaty to take over? Has he any means of insisting that the Railway Company that has that contract shall treat this country fairly by giving a due proportion of its employment to Irish people and not concentrating, as it is too much inclined to do, on Welshmen and Englishmen? The question of foreign contracts also raises that of submarine cables and wireless. I should like the Postmaster-General to tell us whether anything has been done pursuant to the annex of the Treaty to make a Convention between the British and Free State Governments dealing with cables and wireless and what is the position in the matter? I should also like him to tell us whether any Convention has been made as to air services and, more particularly, whether the inquiries that he has made as to the possibility of developing the air service have proved that the schemes which he outlined not so long ago are impracticable or whether, on the other hand, he can tell us that air development for mails is a feasible possibility and a matter which he intends to give attention to. These are matters on which we have no information so far. Another small point which I would ask him to note is the question of our Continental mails and, incidentally, if he can tell us whether we belong to the Universal Postal Union. The Postmaster-General has told us from time to time with a considerable show of pride that we have special bags of our very own to take out letters all the way to such and such a country on the Continent.

Of course that is quite right; that is as it should be; but in truth and in fact the Postmaster-General was misled when he made this statement, because I think it is true to say of all the correspondence from the Continent—it is certainly true of correspondence from France and Germany—that every registered letter goes to London in the Engglish bag, and whatever arrangements may have been made for non-registered mail, registered mail bears on the face of it the London postmark. The Postmaster-General's laudable efforts to have us directly linked up with the Continent, at least in respect to countries with which we have a good deal of correspondence, for some reason or other seem to have been foiled in the matter of registered mail. I should like him to throw a little light on that. Finally, there is a little grumble of my own. I notice in Dublin we get three deliveries. I notice that letters which come over by the same morning boat are liable to be delivered at 8.30 a.m., 10.30 a.m., or 4 in the afternoon. When I inquired about this before I was told the burning of the Rink made sorting very difficult, and I accepted that as an excellent answer. But the Rink was destroyed a long time ago, and I put it to the Postmaster-General that it is reasonable to ask that mails arriving by the morning boat should be distributed in the first two deliveries and not left to the afternoon, as it frequently is, particularly in the case of the Continental mail. I do not know whether in the Post Office there is a kind of feeling that they would make their services more valuable by tantalising the receiver of a letter who, if he does not get it by the first post, will be looking eagerly forward to the second and more keenly still to the third delivery. I think if that is the impression of the Postmaster-General he is mistaken. I would urge upon him that the mail coming from England and abroad should be distributed in the first two deliveries.

I had hoped that the Postmaster-General in his comprehensive statement at the opening of this discussion would have told us what has become of the Douglas Report which was presented to the Government so long ago as last December. Those who remember the incidents in connection with the recent postal strike will possibly recollect that one of the considerations which induced postal servants to go back to work was an undertaking given by the Chairman of the Commission that it would sit immediately to consider some of the grievances which were complained of. The Commission made unanimous recommendations with regard to reorganisation in the Post Office. In some respects these recommendations were pretty sweeping, and, no doubt, workers in the Post Office were looking forward anxiously to know what was done and how they would fare under the reorganisation scheme. Since the report was presented to the Government, although inquiries have been made on various occasions, once or twice in the Dáil, and several times by members of the staff and their organisations, we have not heard of the report and we are in the dark as to what became of it. I would like the Postmaster-General to tell us exactly how the matter stands, whether his Department is responsible for the delay, whether he has considered it, whether the recommendations are to be adopted, and who is responsible for the delay.

Some member of the Executive Council a few days ago said they give great consideration to such reports as this and usually adopt them. I hope that will be the case with regard to this report. The delay with regard to it is, to say the least of it, incomprehensible. Arising out of the reference by Deputy Gavan Duffy to wireless, I would like if the Postmaster-General could tell us what is the position with regard to the Clifden Wireless Station, or has he any connection with that Station at present. Is there any hope that it will be re-opened?

I must say I am very well satisfied with the Estimates as presented by the Postmaster-General, with one exception. In the course of his introductory remarks he referred to the fact that nothing was normal in the country at the present time. There was an interruption from a Deputy, "especially the Government." I would like the Posmaster-General to withdraw that remark, that nothing was normal at the present time in the country. I would also like to point out that the Deputy responsible for the interjection was very abnormal himself because he absented himself until he thought it was safe to come here under the normality of the Government.

I desire to join in the general congratulations to the Postmaster-General. I would like briefly to refer to a matter that he touched on. I refer to what I might call monstrous charges for the installation of telephones in small towns. There should be some radical change made in those charges. Some time ago there came under my notice in a town in my constituency—a fairly important town with a County Home and a good deal of trade—an effort to get a telephone exchange. It was impossible to get the required number of subscribers when it was discovered that each subscriber would have to pay £15 a year as well as £10 or £12 for calls. Something should be done to remedy that state of affairs. I agree there should be no waste in the Post Office, yet it is the duty of the State to help trade and commerce, and if, as the Postmaster-General pointed out, we are to compete with other countries, it would be necessary to have at a reasonable charge telephones in operation all over the country. That cannot be possible while the present charges remain. If the charges were more moderate more people would instal the telephone and it would then become a paying concern. With regard to the reference to the charge for delivering telegrams, I have to pay 1s. for the delivery of telegrams, and personally I would have no objection to be relieved of such a charge.

There are a great many parts of the country not opened up by rail, and not likely to be opened up by rail. It would be too expensive. We feel that through the Post Office we have a medium for developing those remote parts and we are, therefore, devising ways and means of introducing alternative methods to the old horse and car.

I expect that within the next year or two we will find all these districts opened up by the motor service, and there is no reason why that motor service should not be used as a medium for the conveyance of passengers, when there is a possible way of helping the country. There is no reason why we should not go slightly outside the strict boundary of precedent. Therefore these motor car conveyances so far as we are concerned in the future will be extended for the assistance of the travelling community as far as possible. We are in advance of the neighbouring countries in the introduction of motor cars, for postal delivery. The English papers have congratuláted us on that. At any rate they have given us credit for being one step in advance of themselves. We have already embarked on motors as a means of transport, satisfied that it is a big improvement on the old method. You find it used here in Dublin for the conveyance of telegrams. You find motor cars and motor cycles used in the country districts for the more expeditious transfer of mails. It is the beginning of a big change and it will speed up the general work of the country. That is what we are out for, and I suppose that is what you desire, provided we can do so without any loss to the Treasury. I think as a matter of fact it will be the other way round.

The cash-on-delivery system is still a subject of consideration, and I venture to say that it would be already in vogue here were it not for the depleted state of the Headquarters' staffs which have been handed over to us. We have had so many problems to tackle that we have not had time to go into this. Cash-on-delivery is going to be introduced here, and I want to introduce it on a basis that will not cause loss to the Post Office, and at the same time allow the merchants to compete with the imported articles. The number of parcels imported into this country in a normal year is in the neighbourhood of three millions. You can pretty well calculate for yourself what three million parcels would amount to in hard cash—I suppose it would be £1 a parcel, at any rate. That will be three million pounds. The Swiss people calculate at £2 per parcel. Well, if we can get three millions collected for the Irish shopkeepers and for the Irish people through the Irish Post Office we will be doing some good. We will also help through this medium the industries of the country. There is no intention of extending the cash-on-delivery system outside the Saorstát. We are going to confine it to the Saorstát. You will also observe that the English people have been taking a leaf out of our book, and they have wakened up to the fact that they, too, could make use of the cash-on-delivery system. Insurance is being done by the Post Office in a limited way, in a very halting way and unprogressive way. So far we have made no advance on the English method, but we are considering what use we can make of insurance. We referred this matter to a Special Committee, and it would be premature to express an opinion on it. If we can extend Insurance business through the medium of the State we are going to do it. I do not know how that matter is viewed here, but, personally, if I am connected with the Post Office at the time and if I am satisfied that the service is not going to lose by the extention of insurance I am prepared to say here and now, that there is room for the introduction of State Insurance in the country. Up to the present insurance business is not quite as satisfactory to everybody or to anybody as we should desire.

The Savings Bank has acted up to our expectations. The receipts up to date would amount to about £2,000,000, a certain part of which has been handed over already to the State Treasury for the working of the State, at the low rate of interest of 2½ per cent as against a possible 5 or 6 per cent. elsewhere. At any rate, this is a big advantage, and it is going to go on increasing, and the accumulation of the thrift of the people will be handed over or invested in State services for the improvement of the State. We realise on our part what a considerable part the Savings Bank can play in the ultimate economic life of the country. I think you will agree with me that we are not losing any opportunity in the way of bringing that fact home to possible investors. We have done our best in the matter, and we are prepared to continue doing our best. If this country can continue to rake in two, three or four millions a year at 2½ per cent. through the medium of its own organisation it will be doing very well, and it will very quickly get rid of the heavy charges which it should necessarily incur were there no Savings Bank. The reason that the Savings Bank is costing less this year than last is because last year a certain sum was earmarked for the work of that particular branch by the British. It was only taken over by us at the beginning of this year, and we were able to work it more cheaply. We are most anxious at all times to get suggestions for the better working of these services. We know very well that we do not contain within ourselves all the good ideas. Deputies in this Dáil will recollect that they have given us some good hints, and we have availed of them. We turned down nothing in the way of assistance, because we realise that it is by taking the advice tendered to us, and sifting it, that progress can be made. Not only are we prepared to examine any proposals put to us by the Dáil, but we are prepared to examine every proposal put by the public and the staff. It does not necessarily mean that we are going to accept them. But we will certainly take the trouble of examining them all, and we have done so up to now.

The point that Deputy McGoldrick introduced regarding something in the nature of cheating our revenue, by taking correspondence over the Border has had our attention. That is going on to some extent over the Border and through Holyhead. It is due to the fact that we have higher postage rates. To what extent it is going on I cannot say. But I believe it is possible to put an end to it by a short Act. That matter will be examined. Of course, you all realise that it is an easy thing to do, and a hard thing to detect. Deputy Professor Magennis referred to automatic telephone exchanges. Yes, we are introducing automatic telephone exchanges. One will be introduced in Dublin very soon. We have engineers working out that scheme just now, and I should not be surprised to find its introduction also in Cork, Limerick and other places. We realise that it is an advance on the ordinary telephone. We also want to keep abreast of the times, and we are getting right into this automatic telephone business.

I do not agree with the same Deputy about what he said regarding the Post Office, nor will the merchants of the central area. The Custom House site mentioned is admirable from the standpoint to which he referred, that of a central office for sorting and despatch of mails, but not at all suitable for a headquarters building which thousands of people must necessarily visit daily. You will see that for yourselves. To take all these people from, say, O'Connell Street down to the Custom House, and to do that for all time, is rather a matter that we should think over very carefully. In every city in the world you will find the Post Office in the most central place, and I cannot see how we could depart from that principle here without doing something that we were not justified in doing. It is all very fine to help, perhaps, the local council or somebody else, but the trade and commerce of the country should be the primary consideration and when we suggest this central place as being the only place for the Post Office, we are speaking again of the trade and commerce of Dublin and the people who have the right to say where this great centre of activity must be located. Outside that fact we have no other concern. In connection with the delivery of telegrams outside the one mile limit. Deputy Wilson is quite right in expressing surprise that the English mile is used instead of the Irish, but we have to take things as we find them. Legally the English mile is a statute mile here and it regulates the operations of our service. We cannot change that in twenty-four hours. My own opinion is that it should be changed for all purposes, not for one, and the sooner it is changed the better I will like it. When it is changed we will acclimatise ourselves to the change. The reason we put a charge on the delivery of telegrams is simply because a charge was involved in their delivery and there is no reason whatever why the State should come to the rescue of any citizen in the form of subsidising his business. It cost the State £40,000 to deliver telegrams outside the one mile radius last year. There is some money in that for a small item. We have determined that we are going to turn that into a Post Office balance this year and we are simply asking that if we spend 1/6 in the payment of a messenger for the taking of a telegram to any point, the person for whom the telegram is taken will pay that. If the man employs an ordinary youth from the street to take a message over the same area the youth will not do so for nothing.

Why not charge the sender?

The sender goes to the counter and he says "I want to send a telegram to Ballymuck, near Ballydehob." He is asked "How far is Ballymuck from Ballydehob"? and he says, "Oh, it is just outside the town" but it may be five miles. He leaves no deposit and he dumps it on to the receiver. Now, it is doubtful, of course, whether the sender or the recipient is the greater gainer, or loser, by the telegram. That is a matter that we cannot determine, but at any rate one thing we can determine is this, that before we hand over that telegram we will get paid for it. We are certain of the recipient; we are not certain of the other, and we make for the certainty. We have no intention of making a charge within the one mile radius, for the simple reason that though there is some justification in the claim we are dealing with, a certain surplus staff, postmen who often work for six and a half hours out of eight hours, and people of that kind may be utilised without any extra expense to the State for the delivery of telegrams within a certain radius, but if we go outside that we have to pay them.

The State has lost nothing by the purchase of Irish stores. Its position is already explained in regard to the preferential treatment of Irish goods. I think it is a general policy and I do not see any reason why we should depart from it. We have nothing to regret for what we have done, as far as I know. Temporary auxiliaries, in some cases, are paid only £1 2s. 6d. for three or four hours work, but these auxiliaries must have some other means of livelihood. That is one of the conditions of employment, and this is simply a side issue to their employment. We may restore outgoing mail services. We will run no special mail trains on Sundays, but we may restore outgoing mails on passenger trains, which will involve us in no special expense. To go back to the full Sunday service, which cost £55,000, for the sake of conveniencing very few people would not be justified. There are things that we have to resist, and that is one of them. We will avail for the carriage of mails of any trains that are run on Sundays, but not otherwise, and that will be an improvement, without a doubt, when these trains are introduced. The reason why the headquarters staffs were increased was because, as I explained at the outset, we had to create termini for each section of the service, which were formerly in London. It has meant an increase of work here, and in any case, we had no alternative. As a matter of fact, headquarters staffs are, if anything, still below requirements. Deputy Gavan Duffy wants to know what is our arrangement with the London and North Western Railway. I already explained that in a previous discussion. We were compelled to continue the London and North Western Railway for a considerable number of years to come, and even if we desired otherwise I do not think that it is practicable. We certainly can submit the cost of the contract to arbitration and thereby reduce it. That is a point we are following up, and also, of course, to reduce the various railway contracts within the country. I may say incidentally that we intend to make very heavy claims against the railway companies for failure or inability, whichever it happen to be, to carry out our contracts during the last twelve months. With regard to cables, all cables are owned generally between neighbouring countries where the cables are run. These countries take joint responsibility for the maintenance and the joint cost of these cables. The same thing applies as between this country and England, no more and no less, divided responsibility and divided cost. Wireless is in a different position. Wireless is somewhat covered by the Treaty. There are three stations here, one in Kerry, one in Donegal, and the Clifden station. Some months ago we took over Clifden and Donegal, manned them, and very considerably increased their capacity for work. In the Kerry station, for instance, we were forced to double the staff within a month for the reason that we picked up the great bulk of the work of the Atlantic traffic for England and the Continent. We increased our capacity down there and consequently traffic came our way. Then the Irregulars came along and wiped the place out. Donegal is not much better. Clifden was annihilated also, and where we had three active wireless stations engaged collecting from the full radius of the Atlantic almost to Nantucket, and where we had direct working with Canada and the States from this country nine months ago, we work nowhere now. Our three stations are derelict, and whether we can reconstruct them, or whether the Government would spend the money in reconstructing them, I cannot say. But it is important that this country should have wireless communications. If, in the event of war, cables are cut you are then isolated, and I expect we shall have to take some steps to get a central wireless station. It may be better to scrap the three stations and get along with one in the neighbourhood of Dublin.

This particular matter is being considered. We cannot give any definite decision regarding Clifden by reason of the fact that the Marconi Company require too high a price for the derelict station, and thinks because it holds certain monopolies and patents we will have to pay any price it demands. We are not prepared to do that; there is no hurry except that Ireland must have wireless communication with the outside world. On the point of broadcasting, you will have a Report here within the next fortnight of three weeks, and we will watch carefully the points brought forward by Deputy Johnson. More than that, I scarcely think it would be right to say. The Commission Report is being considered at the moment. It will be issued, I think, within a week. On the general question, regardless of criticism in the Press or elsewhere, I assume that we are not going to give a worse service to the commercial community, and we are determined to persevere and retrench. If we can make this service pay its way, I will not go so far as to say make a profit, and to give as good a service, or a better service, than the English, and they never succeeded in making it pay its way, then we shall have done well.

Will the Deputy forgive me if I return for a moment to the subject of telephones for farmers? I understood him, in the opening statement, to give a figure of £25 for a country town like Navan. That, I gather, would be what the charge would amount to to any subscriber in the town who sought for the telephone installation. At the present moment I can well understand that to instal a telephone for the use of farmers everywhere in the Free State would amount to a considerable outlay. We have the very implicit declaration by Deputy Wilson that if the figure for each farmer amounted to £15 as a permanent charge, and so much per call afterwards, that the farmers would not take advantage of these facilities. I should like to know if the Postmaster-General has considered the question, so as to be able to answer on the spot, immediately, would it be possible to provide these installations in country places on such terms as to distribute the charge over a number of years instead of seeking to make the thing pay for itself from the moment of inauguration, because undoubtedly the development of agricultural interest requires all the provision of these facilities that is possible. We must admit that farming is not the profitable thing it was during certain years of the war, and that being so, on the principle "If virtue feebly called, Heaven itself would stoop to her," will the postal service stoop to the impoverished farmer?

With reference to the charge of 6d. per mile for the delivery of telegrams, I think that is a very unfair charge to make. If the telegraph service is losing £40,000 on the delivery of these telegrams, why not put on a flat rate and make everybody pay. You might as well say a man coming three miles to a Post Office should pay 6d. for a stamp instead of 1½d.

I wish to say in connection with my reference to the Report of the Postal Commission, I was not so much concerned with the publication or issue of the actual Report as to know what action the Government has taken, or has it taken any action on it. It is not so much the publication of the Report itself that concerns the staff, what they want to know is whether the Government has adopted the Report, or is about to adopt it.

There is another question I would like to ask the Postmaster-General. Which of the Farmers' Party made representations to him for retrenchment? He spoke as if the Farmers' Party has been advocating these retrenchments, and we would like to hear who has advocated it.


It may be a very opportune time for the Postmaster-General or any other member of the Government to make these charges against the farmers. I say that the Postmaster-General should withdraw that charge he has made. I do not think he has any foundation whatever for it, but, as I say, of course the time is opportune to make such a statement, and to criticise the farmers as much as possible at the moment for their sectional attitude.

It is only fair to say that I had no ulterior motive whatever in making these remarks.


Let us hope so.

I can assure you it is so. I took it to be that the Farmers' Party stood for very radical retrenchment, and that it was necessary not only in the Post Office but elsewhere. I thought and still think that is the position. If we should differ on our attitude, if we should, for instance, conclude that a less sweeping line would be preferable in the case of rural posts, well, that is just a matter of difference of view.

Then it was an assumption on your part?

Well, it was not quite an assumption. I had something to go on with in view of the emphasis placed on the necessity for a reduction by one of the Farmers' Party on a previous occasion. That is a matter for themselves. With reference to the Commission Report I do not think there is anything new to add. The Report at the moment is being considered by the Executive Council, and the result will be made known within a week or so.

Do I understand the Minister means the result of the action of the Government with regard to the matter?

The decision of the Executive Council.

What about my question? I notice that Ministers invariably forget to answer any question that I put.

I am sorry. As a matter of fact I had intended answering you were it not for the fact I had been switched off elsewhere. We get capital for the exploitation of telephones on certain conditions. Up to the present the repayment of that capital extended over 15 years. If the Minister for Finance sees his way to extend it further it would, of course, lower the charges, but I am not satisfied that he will. On the other point, installation of a telephone in a provincial town does cost too much. Likewise in the case of rural or farm installations. I said at the outset of my statement this evening that the Minister for Finance is prepared to consider a modification of these charges. I think that that should pretty well meet the situation. Those charges were impossible and I think the new charges ought to be possible.

Question put and agreed to.