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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 17 May 1961

Vol. 189 No. 4

Committee on Finance. - Vote 46—Posts and Telegraphs.

I move:

That a sum not exceeding £6,996,500 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1962, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and of certain other Services administered by that Office, and for payment of Grants-in-Aid.

At the outset I should mention that the format of the Estimate has been revised since last year, with the approval of the Committee of Public Accounts. The most obvious change is the grouping of all similar types of expenditure under the one sub-head, thus showing clearly the main categories of the Department's expenditure within a much smaller number of sub-heads.

Before the debate continues, I gather the Minister is going to read a memorandum? It is the general practice to circulate it to other people.

It is being circulated.

We have not got it yet. I do not mind the Minister making a speech and a person being asked to reply to it. But if the Minister reads a brief, we should have the brief.

Secondly, moneys made available as telephone capital and payments from other Departments are treated as Appropriations-in-Aid instead of being deducted from the total of the appropriate debit subhead as was formerly the practice.

It is not possible to hear the Minister over here. I would not mind if I had the document.

In addition the appendices have been simplified and a new one added to show the surpluses or deficits on the different services for the five most recent years.

To facilitate comparisons within the current Estimate the detailed provisions for last year—including the Broadcasting expenditure provided by Supplementary Estimate — have throughout been brought into line with the new format. On page 265 of the Estimate volume there is a key to the various changes involved.

I hope that Deputies will find the new look of the Estimate generally satisfactory. To me, at any rate, it seems to give a better over-all view of things.

The net Estimate amounts to £11,011,500 being a gross total of £14,348,518 less Appropriations-in-Aid of £3,337,018. The net provision represents an increase of £410,500 on the comparative total for 1960/61.

After these general observations I may now comment briefly on the various sub-heads which show a variation of £10,000 or more:—

Salaries, Wages and Allowances:

The chief factor in the increase of £196,800 is a rise of 258 in the number of staff; they are mainly needed to cope with the increased work in the telephone service.

Travelling and Incidental Expenses:

The major part of the increase of £10,000 is due to the extra provision for travelling and subsistence resulting from the increase in engineering staff.

Accommodation and Building Charges:

Of the increase of £25,845 just over £10,000 is included for the rental of extra cross-channel telephone circuits and a similar amount is needed for increased user and increased cost of electricity.

Conveyance of Mails:

The increase of £32,000 is due to higher payments for rail conveyance of letter and parcel mail partially offset by a decrease in payments for second class air mails.

Postal and General Stores:

The increase of £11,500 is due to greater purchases of uniform materials for other Government Departments.

Engineering Stores and Equipment:

The increase of £298,550 is explained principally by the growth of the telephone system which necessitates greater expenditure on direct purchases of stores and equipment and on works performed by contractors. In addition there is an increase in the provision for civil aviation equipment.

Telephone Capital Repayments:

This subhead provides for the annuities which repay to the Central Fund the capital advanced for the development of the telephone system. The increase from year to year—the present figure is £112,626 more than in 1960-61—is a natural consequence of the continuing growth of the system.


As the abnormally high incidence of known Savings Bank etc. losses which applied last year does not obtain this year the provision has been reduced by £11,200.

Superannuation and other Non-Effective Payments:

Increases under practically all heads but principally in new pensions and in additional allowances made up the increase of £35,300.

Grant equivalent to Net Receipts from Broadcasting Licence Fees (Grant-in-Aid):

As the Broadcasting Authority was set up on 1st June, 1960, last year's provision was for 10 months only and this explains the increase of £58,000.

Additional grant under Section 22 (1) (b) of the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960 (Grant-in-Aid):

This subhead provides for the non-repayable grant and is £11,600 less than last year.

I should mention that, at this stage, no provision is being made for payments in respect of television licence fees nor for any change in the current sound licence fee. As I stated last year extra revenue from licence fees can be made available to the Authority only by Vote of this House. If the television service opens towards the end of the year a Supplementary Estimate will be needed to pay over the proceeds of a television licence fee.

Salaries, Wages and Allowances:

This covers the pay of civil servants who have not yet been definitively transferred to the service of the Broadcasting Authority. In order to preserve their civil service status and their superannuation benefits they must continue to be paid out of voted moneys. Many of the staff have already been transferred and arrangements for the transfer of the remainder should be concluded in the next five months. Accordingly it is necessary to provide only for the remuneration of the untransferred officers for half the year; this explains why the provision is £160,000 less than last year. The total of the amounts paid, with a superannuation contribution, are recovered from the Authority and brought to credit as Appropriations-in-Aid.


The main items making up the increase of £187,221 are increases of £324,800 in the recovery from Telephone Capital Funds, of £13,000 in the receipts from the Social Insurance Fund, £17,900 for Stores purchased for other Government Departments and £13,000 from the sale of Engineering Stores—partially offset by reductions of £164,500 in the amount recovered for staff on loan to Radio Éireann and £35,000 in the receipts from the Savings Bank Fund.

Postal traffic continues to be buoyant. In comparison with the previous year, both letter and parcel postings rose, the combined increase being approximately 6 million or 2%. Christmas traffic matched that for 1959 which had set a record.

Last year saw the completion of the national scheme for the provision of a 6-day frequency of delivery on all mainland posts and a better all-round standard of service to the rural community. Under the scheme, which had started 12 years earlier, some four hundred sub-post offices have been connected to motor mail routes and more than one hundred thousand households which previously got postal deliveries only on 3, 4 or 5 days a week have been given the benefit of a 6-day delivery. The revised distribution network for mails in Co. Donegal, which I foreshadowed this time last year, is now in operation and has substantially improved the service in the greater part of the county.

The new postal address numbering scheme for Dublin city and suburbs which was introduced in January last has met with a gratifyingly favourable response considering the short time the scheme has been in operation. The cooperation shown by the business community and the general public encourages the belief that the appropriate postal number will quickly come to be accepted as a normal feature of the address of correspondence for the Dublin postal area. Use of the district number makes for quicker and more accurate sorting and reduces the risk of mail being delayed through inadvertent miscirculation to a wrong delivery office.

On the foreign postal side the most noteworthy happenings during the past year were an increase of 18 per cent. in the number of parcels despatched abroad, an acceleration of air mail over the longer routes as a result of the development of jet services, and the introduction of concessionary rates for mail to members of the Irish Contingent in the Congo. In the early stages there was considerable delay in forwarding mail on from Leopoldville to our soldiers, all the more exasperating because the transit to there from Dublin only took two days at most. These difficulties, which of course were entirely outside our control, were due to the chaotic conditions and the inadequate transport in the Congo. However they were remedied subsequently and I am glad to say that the service is continuing to work satisfactorily.

Two special postage stamps were issued last year, one on the theme of the World Refugee Year and the other to mark the founding of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations. As already announced, special stamps are being issued this year in honour of the Patrician Year and to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the founding of Aer Lingus.

The decline in public telegraph traffic continued during 1960-61. The total number of telegrams handled was approximately 1,790,000, that is, about 1 per cent. below the level of the previous year. The decrease was due to a fall of over 9 per cent. in the volume of internal telegrams, offset by an increase in external traffic.

The telex service is, however, still growing. There are now more than 140 subscribers, as compared with 116 when I spoke on the Estimate last year. In view of the rapid development of the service—it is now handling over a quarter of a million messages from subscribers a year—it is proposed to place a contract this year for converting the service to full automatic working. This will mean that telex subscribers here will be able to dial directly to any other telex subscriber in these islands and to subscribers in many countries on the Continent. As a matter of interest I should mention that international subscriber dialling of telex calls is already common on the Continent; inter-Continental dialling of telex calls by operators is also a reality; and plans for inter-Continental subscriber dialling are now under study by the International Telecommunication Union.

The loss on the telegraph service as a whole has been steadily reduced in recent years but we now appear to have reached the hard core of the loss. While we shall not relax our efforts the scope for further reduction in the loss is limited.

In 1960 approximately 132 million local telephone calls and 13 million trunk calls were made over the telephone system. The corresponding figures for 1959 were 117 million local and 15 million trunk calls. The apparent reduction in trunk traffic is accounted for by the extension of local call fee areas in August, 1959, when many calls previously charged as trunk calls became local calls. The more appropriate comparison is, therefore, between the totals of trunk and local calls for both years which shows an increase for 1960 of 13 million calls, or 10% approximately, over the figure for the previous year.

During 1960, over 11,800 miles of trunk circuits were added to the system, 8 new automatic exchanges were opened, the equipment at 171 exchanges was extended and continuous service was provided at 29 exchanges. Eighty-three extra telephone kiosks were erected bringing the total in service to 848.

The number of subscribers exchange lines installed during the year, namely, 15,300, was a record, being over 30% greater than the number provided in the previous year and 45% over the corresponding figure for 1958. The big increase in installations was the result of a special effort to clear the waiting list which would in fact have been virtually eliminated if demand for telephones had not also increased by 28% over the 1959 level. The result was that the waiting list at the end of the year at 5,330 was about 700 greater than at the beginning.

In Dublin, most applications for telephones are being met without undue delay but there are a number of difficult areas including the Walkinstown-Terenure area, where a new exchange is due to be opened later in the year, and the Finglas area where there are both exchange and cabling difficulties.

In provincial areas, there has been a marked increase in applications for residence telephones and the principal difficulty in giving service quickly arises from heavy demands for long rural lines requiring abnormal construction work in each case. There are a large number of such cases which cannot be attended to for some time.

Last year I referred to proposals for the extension of subscriber trunk dialling facilities. Deliveries of the necessary equipment are due to be completed shortly and it is expected that the facility will be made available within the next year at Drogheda, Dublin, Dundalk, Galway, Limerick, Mullingar, Naas, Sligo and Waterford automatic exchanges.

I also referred last year to proposals for the extension of the automatic system to a number of exchange groups. Equipment for this purpose is expected in the Autumn and conversion of the groups to automatic working will be spread over about 18 months. The groups concerned comprise exchanges in the Balbriggan, Ballyshannon, Croom, Curragh Camp, Kildare, Kinsale, Midleton, New Ross, Roscommon and Tuam areas adding up to some 60 exchanges in all. Planning for the introduction of automatic service elsewhere is proceeding and a number of areas have been selected for attention to follow those I have mentioned.

An extensive programme for the expansion of the trunk network is in hand. Special attention is being given to the heavily-used main routes and to shorter routes which are in urgent need of relief. Ducts are being laid to take underground cable. Carrier systems and aerial cable are being used to provide additional circuits on other routes.

Our first microwave radio trunk route—that between Galway and Athlone—was brought into service recently, and another connecting Sligo, Bundoran and Donegal should be in service in some months' time. Contracts have been placed for similar microwave installations to link Dublin, Wicklow and Arklow and also Waterford, Wexford and Enniscorthy; they are due to be completed within the next year. A similar link between Limerick and Tralee is planned as part of a major trunk scheme to service County Kerry and West Limerick. Special microwave circuits will be provided by the Department for the Broadcasting Authority to carry television programmes from the studios in Dublin to the various television transmitters.

The capacity of the existing submarine cables across the Irish Sea has now been exhausted and pending the provision of additional direct circuits —either by another submarine cable or a high capacity microwave link— we have arranged to secure temporarily a substantial number of additional Cross Channel circuits through Belfast. It is hoped to have these circuits in service later this year.

Last year the House passed a Telephone Capital Act authorising expenditure of £10 million for telephone development. It was hoped that this sum plus a balance already in hand would meet the bulk of anticipated requirements for approximately five years but demand for new telephones on the one hand and traffic requirements, particularly during peak periods, on the other, have been so heavy that I have persuaded the Minister for Finance to let me have £2½ million instead of a pro rata £2 million for telephone development in 1961/62. Even that increased provision will not be nearly sufficient to meet our requirements in full but the amount of capital available is not, of course, unlimited and we would need a very great increase indeed in our allocation to cater fully for the demand we have been experiencing recently. During the first three months of this year applications for telephones have been coming in at a rate which is as much at 68% above the level for the corresponding period two years ago. Moreover, the high connection rate in recent years makes it urgently necessary to devote a higher proportion of available capital to trunk and exchange development without which the addition of substantial numbers of new subscribers to the system would eventually result in congestion and delays to the detriment of subscribers generally. For this reason and also because there are heavy arrears of long rural lines to be cleared we do not expect to reach in the current year the record of installations provided last year so that some further increase in the waiting list can hardly be avoided.

Before leaving the subject of the telephones I should correct an error which occurs in Appendix C on page 264 of the Estimates. In the second column the figure of £3,100,000 shown for Telephone Services Construction should read £2,500,000, making the total £3,731,430 and the grand total £4,007,400.

Post Office Savings Bank deposits for 1960 amounted, in round figures, to £18.16 millions, an increase of £1.42 millions on 1959; withdrawals at £16.03 millions showed an increase of £1.15 millions. Of the withdrawals it is estimated that £1.30 millions were re-invested in Exchequer Stock, Savings Certificates and Prize Bonds. Estimating interest for the year at £2.06 millions the total balance due to depositors at 31st December, 1960, was over eighty-six and a half million pounds as compared with eighty-two and a half million at 31st December, 1959.

Deposits by Trustee Savings Banks during the year amounted to £1.37 millions a decrease of £.11 million and withdrawals to £.68 million, an increase of £.04 million. At the end of the year the balance to credit of the Banks, including interest, was £14.87 millions being £1.12 millions over the figure at the end of 1959.

In 1960 sales of Savings Certificates at £3.31 millions were up by .27 million on the previous year figure and the repayments, including interest, totalled £2.41 millions, being up by £.16 million.

In recording the thanks which the community owes to the Savings Committee for their continuing drive to promote the savings habit I would mention particularly their success in promoting the development of Savings groups in places of employment.

The total number of Money Orders and Postal Orders issued in 1960 was 10.48 millions as compared with 10.82 millions in 1959. On the other hand the total value increased to £22.10 millions as compared with £21.69 millions. This is, at least partly, a consequence of the changes made in March of last year when the limit for Money Orders issued and payable within the State was raised from £50 to £100 and Postal Orders in £3, £4 and £5 values were introduced. In practice the average value of a Money Order rose from £11 12s. to £12 11s. and the average value of a Postal Order rose from 8s. 7d. to 10s. 4d. While the changes are not in any way sensational they indicate a satisfactory trend towards greater use of the remittance services by the public combined with a slight reduction in the Department's handling costs.

Social Assistance payments showed little change in number—they run at the rate of about 16 millions a year— but were up about 14 per cent. in total value.

During 1960 new Post Offices were completed and brought into service at Droichead Nua and Galway and the public offices at Bray and at Ballsbridge in Dublin, were improved. A new District Sorting Office was provided at Churchtown, Dublin, three new automatic telephone exchange buildings were completed and work was under way on eight other automatic exchange buildings.

During the current year it is expected that work will start on new Post Office buildings at Ballinasloe, Wicklow and Youghal, on a District Sorting Office in Finglas, Dublin, and on major improvement schemes at Carrick-on-Shannon, Ennis, Killarney, Limerick and Sligo. It is expected too that work will commence on the erection of about six automatic exchange buildings. Improvements which are being made to Mallow Post Office should be completed this year. As regards the proposed new Central Sorting Office for Dublin I am glad to say that very good progress has been made on the contract drawings. It is expected that tenders for the erection of the steel framework will be invited within the next few months.

The number of staff provided for in the Estimate—excluding those who are treated as on loan to Broadcasting Authority—is 16,579. This is an increase of 258 over last year and is to meet the needs of the Telephone Service, mainly in respect of Engineering personnel and operating staff and to a smaller extent in Stores Branch staff.

The scheme under which officers— such as Auxiliary Postmen—who do not qualify for a pension under the Superannuation Acts because they are part-time, are paid gratuities on retirement has been amended with benefit to the staff. As a result of an agreed recommendation of the General Conciliation Council, the scheme has been extended, on certain conditions, to all part-time civil servants who are directly and personally employed; the means test and the over-riding maximum of £75 have been abolished and the qualifying period of service has been reduced from 15 years to seven years. The net result is that, for instance, any part-time postman retiring on or after 5th May, 1960, who has given at least seven years' service is eligible for a gratuity calculated on the basis of threequarters of his weekly pay for each year of service.

The staff of my Department executes a variety of essential services for the people. Indeed just recently many Deputies may have seen postmen filling an unaccustomed role as official enumerators in the Census, a task which they carried out with zeal and efficiency. As Minister I am glad to express in the House my appreciation of the work of all grades during the past year.

In considering the financial position, Deputies will find useful the new Appendix E on page 264 of the Volume of Estimates which shows the financial results, on a Commercial Account basis, for the five years 1955-56 to 1959-60. I should say that the figures for 1959-60 are not finally audited figures but any correction which may be necessary will be purely marginal.

On such information as is available we estimate that the result for 1960-61 will be a profit of more or less the same amount as for 1959-60. If with all due reserve, I hazard a forecast for the current year it is that there should be little change one way or the other provided traffic continues to show the same trend and that we do not run into any unforeseen increases in our costs. We are, therefore, adhering to the accepted policy that, taking one year with another, the Post Office must pay its way.

Recently some references were made here to the increases made a year ago in postal charges. They were estimated to bring us in an extra £185,000 a year and experience of the year's working gives no grounds for modifying that forecast. But they must be considered in conjunction with the fact that telephone charges were reduced some seven months before at a cost of £125,000 a year. The net increase in charges over the whole range of our services was £60,000 a year which is small in relation to our total revenue of about £10 millions. I do not like increasing charges, any more than anyone else. But the Post Office services are not insulated from the effects of higher staff costs or of increases in the prices of material and equipment and I must stand for the principle that our rates should, wherever possible, be fixed at an economic level.

The House will not, I am sure, expect me to report in any detail on the activities of Radio Éireann since its establishment. My functions and therefore my responsibility for the services provided by the Authority are now limited to certain matters specified in the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960.

On the sound broadcasting side, I authorised an extension in the regular hours of broadcasting on weekday mornings from 9.15 a.m. to 10.5 a.m. The Authority plans to fill in the gap between the morning and lunchtime broadcasts as soon as it can conveniently do so.

As regards the poor reception of Athlone programmes in certain parts of the country, I indicated last year that I proposed to urge the new Authority to give special attention to this problem. I have done so and there have been discussions between technical officers of the Authority and of my Department on possible ways of improving the position. No solution has, however, yet been reached. It may be that the erection of the proposed television transmitter stations, which incidentally will be located on or near sites originally selected for V.H.F. sound broadcasting stations, will help. In any event I hope it will be possible to find some means of improving reception in the areas in question.

Coming now to television, it is hardly necessary for me to do more at this stage than outline the progress made by the Authority towards establishing a service. The transmitting station at Kippure and the studios at Montrose will it is hoped be ready in the autumn. The Authority plans to commence regular broadcasts of about 5 hours a day towards the end of the year. Arrangements for making available in good time the necessary sites, services and buildings for the four main transmitters outside Dublin are already well in hand and tenders have recently been invited for the necessary equipment. The nucleus of the television operating staff—technical and programme—have been or are being recruited. I am sure the House will agree that the task entrusted to the new Authority of providing a nationwide television service and of building up a new organisation for the purpose is an onerous and difficult one and that they have acquitted themselves very well to date.

The standard of line-definition for our television system is a problem of no little difficulty. I should like to emphasise that the only decision which has so far been taken is that the Dublin transmitter station will start transmissions on the 405-line system. That decision was necessary no matter what general decisions might be taken. The question whether we should adopt the 405-line system, or a mixed 405 line/ 625 line and eventually a 625-line system only, has been the subject of special technical examination by my Department and Radio Éireann in recent months.

While of course we favour the best technical solution in principle, there are considerable difficulties technical and practical in the way of our adopting a 625-line standard at this stage. Moreover, it is now not at all certain, even if the difficulties mentioned did not exist, that the present Western European 625-line 7 Megacycle system would be the best system to adopt. The question of a new 625-line standard for use in Europe in the still unused Bands IV and V, which, if agreed, might eventually become a common standard for all the television bands, is due to be considered at an international conference at Stockholm on High Frequency planning in May-June. The present position is, in brief, that there are very serious difficulties in the short term in adopting any standard other than 405. It is unlikely, however, that any final decision will be taken until after the Stockholm Conference to which I have referred.

I will conclude my remarks on broadcasting by reference to a matter which is of common concern to both listeners and viewers, that is, electrical interference. I am inviting certain persons to become members of the Interference Advisory Committee provided for in the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960, and with their advice and assistance, I hope it will be possible to issue this year regulations covering the most common sources of interference.

The Minister, in the earlier part of the statement, referred to the new look being put upon the affairs of his Department. I have not had sufficient time to consider the matters referred to but I can say that a better appearance will undoubtedly lead in the end to a better understanding of the activities of the Department and I therefore welcome what is being done.

In the earlier part of his speech also, the Minister gave some fairly satisfactory information. The fact that the postal traffic is still buoyant, that there is still a great demand for new telephones and that the Minister thinks there will be no under delays in the provision of new telephones are matters to be welcomed, particularly since the Minister points out that the telephone service must pay for itself, ominous as this may sound to people reading his speech in the morning. The Minister said that the fact the telephone service had, for a long time, not paid its way was a minus sign in the Department.

He spoke about a favourable response to the postal address numbering system. It is a fact that some of the Departments have not themselves given a favourable response to it but I feel sure that is a matter that will be caught up on in time. He has told us that extra telephone staff have had to be recruited because of the extra demand for new phones but no one can complain in this regard since, as the Minister says, the service must pay for itself. I take it that this making the service pay for itself will mean that the rates must be brought to economic levels and that that, in turn, will mean an increase in the charges of some of the services under the Minister's control.

I was rather disappointed to read on page 14 of the Minister's statement the item dealing with savings. I have not been able to do more than make a hasty calculation on this matter but it looks from the figures given for Post Office Savings deposits, Trustee Saving deposits and Savings Certificates as if the increase over the year does not come to anything like £500,000. My calculation is about .33 of one million pounds. I should like the Minister to set out that in relation to the increase under the three heads of savings over the last five or six years and to give us some standards by which we can compare the figures.

I would have thought that, with all the talk there is of great prosperity in the country, the three types of savings would have shown a bigger increase than .33 of a million—I hope my calculations are correct. In the time that was available to me it was the best I can do. Interest on these deposits is lying very far behind what can be got elsewhere and I have never been able to understand why people will put money into these savings when by crossing the road they can get a better return from some other financial institution. There is always, of course, the reason that people who invest in deposits are inclined to think more in terms of secrecy than the interest repayment level. The interest rate on saving certificates has I know been raised once or twice but it would seem, if my calculations are right, that a change should be made in the rate. The rate was very small at a very early stage. It was increased about 1948 or 1949. I think it is due for another increase.

The Minister told us of an increase in staff of 258 but that is to meet the demands of the telephone service. Nobody can quarrel with it. If the returns from the telephone service carry these people, well and good. If it means that 258 people have got employment it is something on which we should congratulate the Minister. I did come across the enumerators with regard to the census and was struck with the intelligence and experience shown by the person who visited my house. If they are all as competent as that person the census forms ought to be got in speedily and ought to be a very reliable indication of the country's progress or deterioration in population.

In referring to the financial provision, the Minister speaks of the increase in postal charges made a year ago and says that that has to be set against the reduced charges in connection with the telephones. The nett increase was only £16,000,000 which, as he says, is very insignificant in the total revenue. An ominous phrase the Minister used was, "I do not like increasing charges." That is the ordinary preamble to going on to say: "But I am going to do it." I take that to be the mood the Minister is in when he starts by saying he does not like increasing charges.

The Minister devotes two pages and a bit at the end of his brief to sound broadcasting and television, the matter in which I think most people are interested. The information given is meagre. However the Minister says he has authorised the extension of broadcasting hours and we are told that the Authority plans to fill in the gap between the morning and the lunch time broadcast as soon as convenient. I want more information than that. How far have the plans gone? What is the gap? How is it proposed to fill it in and when is it likely to take place? The Minister takes refuge in the phrase: "As soon as may be." I want to get some more realism about this. There ought to be something more given out as to what people may expect from the sound broadcasting side.

The Minister says that Athlone is a problem, that there is not any great improvement and that he proposes to urge the new Authority to give it special attention. And apparently special attention has been given but the final phrase of the Minister is that no solution has been reached. I do not regard it as anything out of the way for the Minister to say that no solution has yet been reached but the question arises: has the reason for the poor reception been investigated? There are sound views expressed on that and if so it is only a matter of getting the proper way of dealing with whatever makes the bad reception from Athlone.

After he said that no solution was reached, the Minister said it may be that the erection of the television transmitter will help. That is not much use to those who are complaining of poor reception from Athlone. He says: "I hope it will be possible to find some means." Surely the Minister could give some more satisfaction than that to the people who are complaining? On page 20, the Minister turns to television, He says it is hardly necessary to do more than outline the progress made. What I found on the next page and a half after that does not outline any progress. The Director, Mr. Roth, speaking at a conference on the 8th April said he saw no reason to doubt the previous forecast that the television service would be with us by November of this year. Now the Minister tells us simply that the transmitter at Kippure and the studios at Montrose will be ready in the autumn. Mr. Roth goes a little bit further. Then we are told the Authority plan to commence regular broadcasts of about five hours a day towards the end of the year. I understood when discussing the Broadcasting Bill of 1960 that it was clear that we would start with five hours, whenever we did start. As the starting point is now November 1 do not see why the matter of five hours a day should be referred to by the Minister as "at the end of the year."

He said the four main transmitters, outside Dublin, are well in hand and tenders have been invited for the necessary equipment. He did say he was speaking of Dublin only when he spoke of November and he did not give any hint, except to say there were difficulties, about transmitters elsewhere in the country. The Minister ought to be able to add something to that. We are speaking now more than a year after the legislation went through here and more than a month after Mr. Roth spoke at the Press conference.

At page 20 the Minister says the nucleus of the television operating staff are being recruited. I may not be abreast of the news but, as far as my information goes, I have heard of only two appointments, the chairman, and Mr. Roth as director. In Mr. Roth's statement to the Press on 8th April he said the most important official was the Programme Officer and he thought an announcement would be made in about a month. If the Minister has any names of appointees who have been appointed to this staff, both technical and programme, surely it is time they were announced to Dáil Éireann? The Minister goes on to say that he is "sure the House will agree that the task entrusted to the new Authority of providing a nationwide television service and of building up a new organisation for the purpose is an onerous and difficult one." If one stops there, then everyone will agree, but he adds "and that they have acquitted themselves very well to date". Why? We have appointed two people. It has been announced that a Programme Officer will probably be named in a month. The Minister says that, while this is an onerous and difficult task, they have acquitted themselves very well to date. They may have, but I have no information to enable me to assent to that proposition. Perhaps they have done a whole lot of work. It is time the Minister let us know what they have done.

The Minister then deals with technical matters, matters with which I do not feel competent to deal. The Minister repeats what he said in the debate, that the Dublin transmitter will start on the 405-line system. When he said that towards the end of March, 1960, I took it that he was implying that we had still a year in which a change might be made. But that is not so. He is still in the cautious mood of saying that we will start on the 405-line system. There are technical discussions going on and we shall have to wait the outcome of the Stockholm Conference.

He deals with the important matter of electrical interference. Again, there is not much satisfaction for those who have cause for complaint. The Minister is inviting—perhaps it might be more correct to say "is going to invite," because there is some degree of futurity implied—"certain persons to become members of the interference advisory committee provided for in the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960, and with their advice and assistance, I hope it will be possible to issue this year regulations covering the most common source of interference." That means that all of us who suffer interference must continue to suffer until the end of the year. It may then be possible, according to the Minister, to issue regulations; it is hoped then that these regulations will enable this interference to be combated.

I want to refer again to the Press conference given by Mr. Roth. I read the report with some interest and also with some astonishment:

As regards radio ratings, he said, a survey was made two months ago which was still in the process of being evaluated. The survey showed that from 5 p.m. to 11.30 p.m. over 90% of the available sets were tuned into Radio Éireann.

I did not take that to mean that 90% at some time between 5 p.m. and 11.30 p.m. tuned into Radio Éireann. I thought it meant some sort of continuous listening to Radio Éireann, and it struck me as being completely wrong.

Later the report goes on to say:

A large listenership showed their preferences for news bulletins, traditional Irish music programmes the "Rambing House" programme and the Maureen Potter Show.

The common experience is for people to turn on Radio Éireann for the news; if they are listening in someone else's house, that someone else is told to turn the thing off as soon as the news is over and to get something else.

The next statement is:

Mr. Roth said that a substantial proportion of the 90% was tuned to Radio Éireann all the time.

That corroborates my view that 90% could not be tuned into Radio Éireann the whole time. Surely he could have told us what the substantial proportion is? What number of sets are really tuned in all the time to Radio Éireann? I cannot believe that a substantial proportion of the 90% are tuned in to Radio Éireann all the time.

Mr. Roth went on to say:

Irish programmes were the lowest in the ratings. "I regret to say they were very low."

I am reading from the Irish Independent of 8th April, 1961, and in brackets following what I have read there is certain matter in italics. It reads as follows:

Some figures of the ratings were released after the conference. The maximum rating was 61 for news bulletins. The average rating for all programmes was 17. A result of minus 33 was received for news in Irish and minus 38 for talks in Irish. The rating for Irish tradition music was 52 and for sports 33.

Would the Minister explain what all that means? I do not understand it. What is the meaning of a rating of minus 33 as applicable to news in Irish and a rating of minus 36 applicable to talks in Irish? The Minister may be able to give us some reasoned explanation of Mr. Roth's comments at that Press conference. If these Press conferences do not result in any better transmission of news to the public I am afraid that the new direction of the sound broadcasting authority will not be very high.

In another version of this conference of 8th April Mr. Roth is stated to have asserted that an advertising rate agreed would be published next week. That would have been the second week in April. "A code of advertising policy had been worked out and would be announced soon." That brings us back to a matter we all discussed here when the Bill was going through the House, a matter arising on the report of the Television Commission.

No doubt the Minister has these figures in his head, but I want to remind him that a good deal of the argument that took place here between those of us who were concerned to know whether this television would pay its way was whether there would be some bill which the taxpayer would have to meet. A good deal of the debate turned on two figures. One was what was the proper estimate per hour. The Television Commission found it to be a figure of £220. The minority report said that was absurdly low and gave comparisons which showed that the figure for the B.B.C. was very much in excess of £426 per hour. That was one pivotal figure. Calculating live programmes at £220 per hour, and we were to have 30 hours' television per week, then certain further expenditure would have to be met.

One of the ways of meeting part of the cost of those programmes, in addition to what would be received from the holders of a television set, would be the advertisement revenue. It was worked out that the revenue required would be £50 a minute. In his reply to the debate on the Second Reading of the Bill, the Minister said that £50 a minute was a small sum and that it would be readily accepted by advertisers. In connection with that one would have to consider the number of viewers of these programmes. The three things are all in relation to each other—the number of viewers, the cost per hour of the programme and the advertisement rate per minute. The Minister said that he was being very cautious about this matter and I was glad to hear that because it is a matter about which he would have to be very cautious. He did say that £220 an hour for the production of a programme was a realistic figure and he also said that £50 a minute would be paid by sufficient advertisers to meet the revenue necessary to make the institution pay its way. In this regard one has to think of the number of people who will look at Irish television as it is because of the number of viewers people will pay for advertisements.

We are here now a year after the Minister said that he was satisfied about the adequacy of these two figures but he does not tell us anything about that tonight at all. He should have told us something about it. Mr. Roth has now been installed for a considerable period and I do not think that any idea of what the programmes will be like has been published. It was also said that a code of advertising policy would be worked out and announced shortly but, so far, that has not been done. This is the time to tell us what the programme is and whether it is expected that, say, in its third year of operation, the institution will be able to pay its way.

When we are talking about this matter during the debate on the Bill, one of the points which caused anxiety was whether it would be possible to get live programmes or whether we would have to rely on imported or canned programmes. It was expected that the live programmes would be more costly although the Minister said that they would not be as costly as live programmes under the B.B.C. or Independent Television operation. Live programmes are going to be more costly than imported matter and the acceptance of that fact causes disquiet. All our hopes that the Irish Television service would help to impose the Irish point of view on viewers would be greatly prejudiced if only one hour out of five were devoted to live material in which things purely Irish could be put across. The Minister did not tell us anything about that. I understood from Mr. Roth's statement that the radio programme, when published, would have told us how far they had got with that matter and the number of hours of live viewing we would have per day or per week but we have not seen that programme yet.

These are matters on which I thought the Minister might enlighten us. I think that people are interested in television and that people are anxious to know what is being done about it. Mr. Roth apparently made a favourable impression on those who attended his Press conference but I cannot say that the report of the Press conference impressed me in any such way. It may have been badly reported but to my mind a lot of things were left still to be explained and I am asking the Minister to explain some of them now.

One of the matters mentioned at the conference was that Mr. Roth had arranged for a television opera. In the report the name of the writer is given and he is described as a person who is a playwright and a poet. Why should a justice be described as a playwright and a poet and the fact that he is a person holding an official position ignored? The question has been raised as to whether certain people who occupy official positions in this country should hold down another office or position of emolument. A ruling was given on that matter—it was not in my time—that as long as there was an infringement here and there it would not count but it was stated that if it became a habit for people in certain positions to occupy positions of emolument under the broadcasting or television authority it might have a prejudicial effect. That ruling may have been narrow but it was the ruling that was given. I would be loath to see people who have a talent for plays or operas being completely proscribed from giving their views on Irish drama and other such matters because they occupy an official position. The point is a delicate one and I do not think it was of benefit to the person concerned that it should have been so widely publicised. I am raising this matter and asking the Minister to reply to it because it is a matter that ought to be raised.

I am disappointed with the Minister's speech tonight. He gave only two pages to a service attached to his Department in which the public are deeply interested and in his statement there is nothing added to what was said at the Press conference. As I have said, I was not impressed by what came out of that Press conference but the reporting of it may have been incomplete. I think the Minister should face up to the matter and give us something more than an outline of what has been taking place. The Television Bill went through this House more than a year ago and the Minister ought to give more information to the Dáil in this matter which is the most interesting in his Department. The rest is pedestrian.

I have read with interest the manuscript of the Minister's speech which was circulated this evening. I was also interested in some of the statistics which were brought to light by the Minister. On page 9 the Minister has indicated that telegraph traffic during 1960-61 has fallen by about one per cent. below the level of the previous year and that decrease was brought about by a fall of over nine per cent. in the volume of internal telegrams counterbalanced by an increase in external traffic. This fall in telegraph traffic has been a common feature of the activities of the Post Office for many years past; indeed it is a common feature of Post Office activities in many other countries throughout the world where the growth of the telephone service, on the one hand, and the introduction of air mail letters, on the other hand, has served to squeeze out the more costly competitor, the telegraph service. Would the Minister tell us whether the Post Office have now reconciled themselves to a belief that telegraph traffic is not likely to rise again, whether they anticipate that there will be further decreases in the volume of telegraph traffic, inland at all events, and what the prospects are for any extension of the telegraph service in respect of external traffic.

The Minister noted in the course of his statement that there had been an increase in the telex service and that there were now 140 subscribers as compared with 116 about this time last year. The telex service will continue to grow because of the facilities it provides. I would like to ask the Minister whether the Post Office have made any assessment as to the extent to which they can extend the telex service even though, as they know, that will make its own heavy impact on the retardation of the telegraph service.

Associated with the fall in telegraph traffic has been the question of redundancy of staff which three years ago was acute and which last year and the year before, while less acute than three years ago, was quite serious. However, there can scarcely be any redundancy now on the telegraph side and if there is it can be no more than a paper redundancy. Could the Minister inform us as to whether there is still any redundancy in the Post Office Clerk Grade A and Grade B classes in Dublin, whether the redundancy is confined to Dublin or whether there is any similar redundancy on the telegraph side at Cork, Limerick or any other provincial office?

Looking back on the whole situation arising out of the acute redundancy of three years ago, while it had its headaches and is still leaving headaches in its wake, I believe it has not, in the outturn, proved to be as difficult and as hardship-bearing as was originally thought. That is due to collaboration between the staff, on the one hand and the Department, on the other hand, and I hope that until such time as the redundancy has been completely cleared the Department will bear its share of the inconveniences which may be brought about by the very severe fall in telegraph traffic and the reorganisation of the entire telegraph section of the Department.

The Minister, the Department and all those associated with the operation of the telephone service are to be congratulated on the year's achievements. The fact that so many new subscriber exchange lines were installed is a great credit to all concerned and the fact that the number installed during the year was 30 per cent. greater than in previous years and 45 per cent. greater than in 1958 is an indication of the popularity of the telephone service and the public recognition of the value of that service not only for trade and commercial purposes but for its social advantages as well. The fact that 15,300 new telephones were installed during the year is an excellent record. I would like to add my appreciation to the many expressions of appreciation which will, I think, be conveyed to the Post Office on this splendid achievement.

The Minister indicated that there was a certain increase in telephone staff during the year, amounting to 258, which he attributed mainly to the increased work on the telephone service. Could the Minister give us a breakdown of that figure and indicate what part of the increase was due to the recruitment of additional staff on the engineering side, that is, in the installation and maintenance of the additional telephone lines, and what part of it was due to an increase in the operating staff?

Again on the question of telephones, could the Minister supply me with details of what is the Post Office policy in respect of the automatic system? The Minister in the course of his speech said that the equipment for the purpose of an extension of the automatic system is expected in the autumn and the conversion of a group of telephone exchanges to automatic working would be spread over about 18 months. The group concerned comprised exchanges in the Balbriggan, Ballyshannon, Croom, Curragh Camp, Kildare, Kinsale, Midleton, New Ross, Roscommon and Tuam areas, adding up to some 60 exchanges in all.

Could the Minister tell us how many exchanges are already automatic, whether we are to understand from this that the additional exchanges quoted here by name will bring the total to 60 and what is the ultimate figure at which the Post Office is aiming in the matter of the extension of the existing telephone exchanges to automatic working? The Minister makes reference this year again to the introduction of subscriber trunk dialling and states that delivery of the necessary equipment is likely to be made in the fairly near future.

He expected the facility of subscriber trunk dialling to be introduced in a number of offices within the next year. The places mentioned are Drogheda, Dublin, Dundalk, Galway, Limerick, Mullingar, Naas, Sligo and Waterford. Could the Minister go on from that and say what is the future programme? Is subscriber trunk dialling to follow the automatic exchange pattern? Is subscriber trunk dialling to be introduced in the places where the automatic exchange has already been introduced? Could the Minister give us some indication when it is hoped to complete the conversion of the existing manual exchanges to automatic working and when it is hoped to complete the scheme for the installation of subscriber trunk dialling facilities?

During the past couple of years this House has put through an Act known as the Office Premises Act. The general purpose of that Act was to regulate the conditions under which clerical staffs worked in offices. The description "office" was a fairly wide term as used in the Act in question. I should like to ask the Minister what the Post Office have done in the matter of ensuring that the offices for which the Minister is responsible comply with the provisions of the Office Premises Act. For example, have the Post Office issued any general instructions to postmasters giving them particulars of the requirements of the Act, especially in respect of heating, lighting and sanitary arrangements. Has the obligation been placed upon them to report the extent to which an office may be deficient in its compliance with the requirements of the Act so that these office premises, which in the case of the Post Office are frequently used for the entire 24 hours of the day, are brought into a condition in which they comply with the Act? It is one thing to work in an office for eight hours and to have the office shut for the remaining sixteen. But many offices in Post Office buildings are occupied during the entire 24 hours. The necessity therefore for complying with a high standard in respect of lighting, heating, sanitation and hygiene generally, is much more obvious than in the case of an infrequently used office.

In this connection, I should like to mention one matter to which I hope the Minister will give some consideration. In the Office Premises Act, as far as I remember, there is provision for the introduction of drying facilities so that large staffs, when they come to work or return from their lunch hour in wet clothes, will get facilities for drying their clothes. They are thus helped to preserve good health by the avoidance of the disabilities which the wearing of wet clothes inevitably brings about.

As far as I know, the Post Office have no drying facilities whatever even in the very large offices. Perhaps there might be facilities in the Telephone Exchange in Dublin. But as far as the large offices staffed by men are concerned, such as the sorting offices in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford, I do not think there are any drying facilities whatever, notwithstanding the fact that postmen have to be out in all kinds of weather; and even indoor members of the staff would appreciate that facility, especially if they have to come and go in the unpleasant weather which is so characteristic of the winter months here. I should be glad if the Minister could give us some information in that regard.

The Minister in the course of his statement made reference to the building programme of the Post Office. I approve generally of every effort made by the Post Office to provide new buildings and to get rid of outmoded buildings. There are too many outmoded buildings still in use. Most of them were built more than 50 years ago and many of them were built nearly 100 years ago. They represented an effort to provide accommodation for a Post Office which was very attenuated in its activities as compared with the activities of the Post Office today. These premises do not provide adequate facilities either for the staff or the public. The Post Office have recognised that fact in many instances and have provided new premises. I want to pay tribute to the excellent character of the new premises provided. It is a great pity that the architectural predecessors of those who are responsible for the present offices were not permitted to see the light earlier. Thus we might have avoided many of the architectural atrocities which masquerade as Post Office buildings today.

Where they have put up new buildings the Post Office have put up excellent buildings. The trouble is they have not done nearly enough of it. While I applaud every effort made, I do not think the Post Office have yet faced up seriously to the necessity for getting rid of all these old offices and buildings. New offices, judging from those that have been erected, would be a credit to the Post Office and would induce people to go in and transact business there. There must still be a considerable backing of essential work as far as Post Office buildings are concerned. I should like to ask the Minister what is the Post Office programme in respect of future buildings. How many more offices need to be rebuilt or reconstructed or need to be substantially altered to provide proper facilities? When is it hoped the programme could be undertaken in such a way as to enable the Minister to say: "We have completed our building programme beyond the necessity for current repairs and renovations to our offices"? Forty years after the establishment of this State we still seem to be some distance away from that objective. I should like to know how far away we are? Perhaps the Minister could supply the information?

Referring this year to the proposed central sorting office in Dublin the Minister said he was glad to say very good progress had been made on the contract drawings. He added "It is expected that tenders for the erection of the steel framework will be invited within the next few months." Having regard to the fact that this matter has been under consideration for 39 years, even news of that kind is heartening.

Last year the Minister speaking on the same subject said:

I am hopeful that the piled foundation for the structure, now in the design stage, will have been laid before the end of next year and that the main building contract will be placed not too long afterwards.

I should like the Minister to tell us whether the piled foundations for the structure will in fact be laid before the end of this year. If the Post Office have reached the stage that tenders for the erection of the steel framework will be invited within the next few months, it may well be that the Minister is in a position to give us some dates in regard to when he hopes the work will be completed.

The question of providing a new central sorting office in Dublin has been the subject of discussion and argument for the past 39 years, since the old Post Office in the Rotunda Gardens was destroyed, and it would be welcome news to all and would create a feeling almost of renaissance if somebody could, at this stage, say when it is likely that a new building will rise that will be a credit to the city and to the Post Office as a central sorting and delivery office.

Could the Minister say what is the present position about the improvements at Killarney post office? I thought these would have been undertaken earlier. I gather they are in the list for this year. What is the present position about Wicklow post office and the associated telephone exchange there? I should also like the Minister to say definitely when it is hoped to complete the contemplated improvements at the Mallow post office?

The Minister on page 17 of his speech spoke of the modified requirements in respect of the payment of gratuity to part-time and other personnel who may retire from the service after the 5th May 1960. This agreement was arrived at about the middle of last year as a result of discussions in the Civil Service General Council and the qualifying service for the purpose of gratuity was reduced from 15 years to seven years. May I ask the Minister whether any gratuities have yet been paid in his Department on the basis of seven years or whether the requirement of 15 years is still insisted on because the necessary correcting legislation has, apparently, not yet been introduced? In other departments, I understand, in connection with these gratuities, that it involves amending the Superannuation Act of 1887. Does amendment of the regulation, so far as the Post Office is concerned, necessitate amendment of the Superannuation Act of 1887 or has the Minister sufficient executive powers to alter the regulation with Finance approval without such amendment of the Superannuation Act? Perhaps the Minister could give us some information when replying.

I want to make a brief reference to the Minister's remarks in regard to electrical interference which, I take it, applies mainly to television broadcasts. The Minister is not the Broadcasting Authority and there is, of course, no authority broadcasting television programmes in this State at the moment. Televiewers draw their programmes from outside the country and the Minister may say that as he is not supplying the television service he is not responsible for the electrical interference which exists today. At the same time, probably the Minister is the only person in the country who can do anything towards remedying the difficulties caused by electrical interference with television. In his speech he says that he is inviting certain people to serve on a committee dealing with electrical interference. Could he say at this stage whether there are any steps he could take, either by a definite Order or by public appeal, to bring about the elimination of electrical interference which can play havoc with television reception?

It may be that this is not the Minister's function but the function of the Broadcasting Authority, but I think the public generally would be glad to know that the Minister had an interest in the matter and if he cannot do anything himself perhaps he would ask the Broadcasting Authority to use their powers to see what can be done to reduce interference which often causes great frustration and disappointment for those who may describe themselves as earnest televiewers.

The Minister and his staff are to be complimented on the manner in which they have submitted this Estimate to the House. Speaking on this Estimate last year I urged, as best I could, that pensions be provided for postmen in general and so far nothing has been done about it. The Minister may say that some of them are old and that they have not passed any examination. That may be so, but as time goes on and they resign they get a certain gratuity on retirement and young men come in to take up the posts and fall into exactly the same position. I think, in general, they should be pensioned at the end of their days. Postmen have a hard life, out in fine and wet weather, day after day, delivering the mail.

I do not know if it is true, but it has come to my notice that heretofore and up to a short time back postmen in certain circumstances were allowed to use motor cycles or scooters and I understand that facility has been withdrawn. If that is so, it should be restored because in some country districts where the terrain is mountainy while it is impossible for a postman to push a bicycle, a scooter or a motor cycle would be very handy. I certainly must congratulate the Department of Posts and Telegraphs on their progress in the installation of telephones in the country in general. It is difficult accurately to estimate the number of potential subscribers and to provide for all applicants in one year. In the last twelve months telephones have been installed in a very high percentage of cases.

I understand that telephonists in general are not very satisfied with their hours of work and rate of pay and I hope the Minister will see his way to improve matter in both of these respects, especially in the G.P.O. in Galway.

Pending the installation of automatic exchanges in country districts, there are certain difficulties in connection with the telephone service, particularly in the summer months in tourist areas, when a large number of people may be trying to get calls through at the same time. There is need for increasing the number of lines. On occasions, for instance, during blasting operations, a line may be cut and it may be two or three hours before it is repaired. That causes overloading of the line later.

I notice that the telephone service in my area has been stepped up but the number of lines has not been increased to the desired extent. There is quite a large number of local subscribers. If I want to make a call to the city of Galway, the call must be routed 25 miles north-west, on a line which is already overloaded. The direct line would be Kilkerrin-Rosmuc, by the south coast to Galway, or alternatively direct to Rosmuc and through Maam Cross. The area embracing Roundstone, Cashel, Clifden, Renvyle and Ballyconneely is a large enough area to be served by that line. A direct line from my area would lighten the burden on the Clifden line and would provide a better service.

Postmasters, postmistresses and telephonists cannot be blamed for any delay in getting calls through. They go out of their way to oblige people at any time and get calls through as quickly as possible. It is difficult during holiday periods to get calls through. The sooner we get the automatic exchange system the better. It will lighten the burden on postmasters and postmistresses.

There is one problem that must be faced—the establishment of telephonic communication with every island around the coast. Let the taxpayer pay for it. I do not think it would cost very much. There are islands without any telephonic communication. There may be times when people cannot cross by boat to the mainland to summon a doctor or priest for a sick person. A central kiosk on the island connected with the local post office or Garda barracks would satisfy the needs.

I asked a question some time ago in connection with the television service and was informed that a few booster stations were to be erected. I understand that the higher the booster station, the better the reception. I understand that it is intended to erect a booster station in Clare and in Galway and that in the case of the Galway station it is to be placed in the Ballinasloe district. If height is an important consideration, one of the mountains west of Maam Cross would be a suitable site and I daresay a station placed there would serve all of Mayo and the surrounding area.

I hope that the Minister will set about establishing a pension scheme for rural postmen, which is long overdue.

The Minister and his staff deserve a good deal of praise for the volume of work they have undertaken each year and the courtesy and efficiency with which they have carried it out. We must face up to the fact that the volume of work in the three main branches of the Department— postal service, telephones and telegraphs—is increasing. The Minister has told us that the number of staff has increased. That is a perfectly reasonable result of the increase in the volume of work. The Post Office staff are noted for courtesy and the speed with which they handle the business of the public.

I would ask the Minister to consider establishing telephone kiosks in remote rural areas. I put down a question two weeks ago asking for the erection of a kiosk in Mayo in a district that is four miles from a town. The Minister's only reason for not doing so was that the estimated volume of business would not pay for the service. I do not think he ought to measure a case by that standard. In the first place, nobody knows whether the kiosk will pay or not until it is tried. It is not good enough to leave such a place without a telephone kiosk. I am speaking of a parish centre outside Swinford, in which there is a Parish Church and a national school. It is a local centre. I do not know why a post office has not been established there with a telephone kiosk. I would ask the Minister to see to it that the people living in that area would get the benefit of the facilities enjoyed by people who sometimes pay less taxation than they do. Even if the establishment of such facilities did not pay initially it would be well worth while in the long run.

Would the Minister tell us if the old rule forbidding auxiliary postmen from using motor cycles or cars still obtains? In the old British days an auxiliary postman was prohibited from using even a push bicycle. Why I do not know. There were not many accidents. If a rural postman wants to use an autocycle or a car I can see no reason why the Department should forbid him from doing so. The pedal bicycle is an antiquated vehicle and if an auxiliary postman has an autocycle or a car it would make for more speedy delivery of the mail, particularly in the winter months.

I would also point out that these people are not pensionable. I know the Minister will say that they are only part-time employees of the Department, that most of them have other occupations, many of them having small holdings of land. In cases of that kind I would suggest that even a small pension would be made available to them after they have given a number of years' service. I can cite the case of my local postman who had been in the service of the Post Office, without a stain on his character, since he was 16 years of age. He retired recently at the age of 75. I do not think it is fair to throw aside an official of that man's years of good and faithful service without giving him some monetary recognition. Perhaps he did get a gratuity of some kind but after his years of faithful and arduous service he deserved something better. I suppose we are living in a materialistic world where the same regard and respect is not given to the old.

I should like once more to draw attention to the case of the subpostmaster or subpostmistress. I suggest that any claim made by them should be open to independent arbitration. I raised this matter with the Minister last November and again in February and his reply was that there was a consultative council to deal with their cases. There is such a body, but most Deputies may not be aware that the Minister has the final say in any case brought before that council. The subpostmasters may put up their case but if the Minister does not like it nothing more can be done. There seems to be a belief in the Minister's Department that these people are living in the lap of luxury, forgetting that they must maintain a 12 hour service of a telephone exchange. They must provide a house, heating, lighting, pens and pencils. I submit that they are not properly remunerated for this.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

As I was saying, postmasters and postmistresses in suboffices must make their houses available and in all cases give a 12 hour service. I know of cases where they must provide a 14 hour service each day. On February 9th last I asked the Minister a question and suggested that independent arbitration should be set up for them. The Minister, in reply, said: "Disagreement has not been recorded so far on any union claim discussed by the Subpostmasters' Consultative Council." That is true but it is utterly misleading because disagreement can not come about under the present system since the Minister's Department is judge and jury in these cases. There is no appeal tribunal of any kind. The Minister can adopt the attitude of "take my terms or leave them."

I do not think that is a fair or decent way of treating those people who give such a wonderful service. Last November the Minister, in reply to another Parliamentary Question, told the House that subpostmasters were contractors who were paid on the basis of the volume of work done in their offices and that they were not required to give personal service. Who, then, attends to the constant stream of people who come from Sunday to Sunday to post letters, parcels, and to procure wireless licences, dog licences, old age pensions, widows' pensions, blind pensions, unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance? Yet the Minister tells us they do not give a personal service.

Without dwelling further on the matter I would again ask the Minister to consider this matter. It could do nothing but good to establish an independent arbitration board which could hear both sides of the claim and give justice to the deserving side. Independent arbitration is a two-edged sword and while the Minister seems to be very much afraid of it— or his Department seems to be afraid of it—it can also give decisions in the Minister's favour. The fact that the Minister does not grant independent arbitration to them appears to suggest that he realises that these people are suffering from an injustice. I assure the Minister that the country will not collapse or become bankrupt if he gives these people independent arbitration. I submit to the House that subpostmasters are not getting a fair deal and it does not look well that independent arbitration is being denied them.

The Department of Posts and Telegraphs is one Department that usually gets its Estimate through this House with great speed. I should like to raise one point in connection with telephones. I feel that the Department could extend its activities and develop this service to a far greater extent. The experience we have had in which rural electrification has been brought into practically every home in rural Ireland that requires it makes me wonder whether the Department of Posts and Telegraphs would consider a scheme for the provision of a telephone in every house, and, particularly, in every farm in Ireland. The telephone has come to stay and from the volume of applications received from farmers its value is obviously realised by them. It must be borne in mind that the farmer has now reached the stage of wishing to increase his efficiency on the land and, if he can pick up the telephone to order his requirements it saves him valuable time which would otherwise have to be spent in travelling into town or sending one of his workers there.

I strongly recommend that the Minister should consider an extensive, expensive and elaborate scheme whereby, with special terms similar to those under which electric light is being brought to the farming community, the telephone could be brought to every house in rural Ireland where it is required. We have now reached a stage at which most business can be carried out on the telephone and I hope the Minister will give serious consideration to my suggestion.

During the year there have been a number of serious complaints that subscribers have been charged for telephone calls which they did not make. I do not propose to deal with one case which has already been discussed very fully in the House but since that case was dealt with a number of other cases have come to light. I feel that many people do not go to the trouble of examining their bills. Each subscriber should in my opinion be furnished with an official log book free of charge in which he can record his own telephone calls as an insurance against the Department overcharging him. There are very few people who can undertake the difficult task of keeping a record of all their telephone calls, especially business people, and for that reason I think that subscribers should be facilitated with a log book in which they could record their calls in duplicate if they wanted to supply one copy to the Department and retain one.

I feel that if there were some system such as that it would safeguard subscribers against being cheated. It has been proved that subscribers have been charged for calls for which they never made. The Minister might say that the amount involved is too great——

I would like to know their names.

I will say that assuming there was even one call so charged, it means that money is being extracted from certain people which the Department has not earned and which it has no right to collect. Very recently in the Blackrock area of Dublin a further case has come to light of telephone charges being assessed on the basis of calls which were never made. Whatever mechanism is responsible for checking on those calls should be overhauled and brought into conformity with honesty.

Was the Deputy ever undercharged?

I have never heard of anyone being undercharged.

There have been cases.

Further dealing with telephones, may I pay a tribute to the engineering section of the Department for the speed and efficiency with which the telephone services can be put into operation following breakdowns caused by electrical storms or very high winds? Last winter a number of breakdowns throughout the country were reported and with the greatest possible speed the engineering section of the Department had the services working again. It is only right that when we hear the bad side of things that we should also hear the good side. I have known the officials of the engineering section to be not alone prompt but most efficient in keeping the telephone service going in the midlands. These men are highly skilled and highly qualified and they deserve the highest commendation from all and particularly from those whose business would be seriously disrupted if lines were not restored and services kept going.

I appeal to the Minister to provide additional kiosks in the rural areas. Farmers and others cannot get in touch quickly with the doctor, the clergy, or the veterinary surgeon. People do not like trespassing on those who may be lucky enough to have private lines. The Minister should have a survey made so that more kiosks might be erected. In the most isolated areas in the Six Counties there is always a telephone available. The Minister should give serious consideration to following the pattern set there.

There have been complaints from seaside resorts of people being unable to avail of telephone services. In one resort in the Minister's own constituency, during the months of June, July and August, there are invariably from ten to 15 people waiting to make telephone calls. That is most unsatisfactory. I hope an effort will be made to provide extra facilities for tourists and holiday makers. Admittedly in these areas the telephone service will not be very busy during the winter or spring. Nevertheless facilities should be provided for tourists and holiday makers. Very often people are anxious while on holiday to keep in touch with their business. At the moment they are unable to do so because of the lack of facilities.

Reference has been made to postmen. The postman is one of the most important officials in the public service. On the whole our postmen have served the country well. They are honest and hardworking. The Minister should take steps to improve the standard of pay and working conditions. They should be provided with proper boots, raincoats and bicycles. At the moment if there is a valve missing from a bicycle or a new tyre is required a form must be filled in and several days must elapse before an order can be given for a replacement or a repair. These men should have the best bicycles procurable.

I endorse the plea made for proper pensions for postmen. Postmen are entitled to a reward for their services. I am not one hundred per cent. satisfied that postmen are reasonably treated on retirement. The Minister does not seem to be as generous with his Special Fund as his predecessors were. Steps should be taken to increase that fund and the Minister should be generous in making allowances to retiring postmen who have very little prospects except the old age pension.

There has been a general reorganisation of postal services. In some cases this has led to shorter working hours for postmen. In some cases it had led to the services of temporary postmen being dispensed with. In some areas it has led to the post being delivered earlier and with more efficiency. In other areas it has made the position worse than it was 50 years ago. In Stradbally the last post leaves at 4.30 p.m. It is wellnigh impossible to reply by return of post. In Portlaoise one can post up to midnight practically and mail will be delivered on the following day. I cannot understand why there should not be a second collection at 8.30 p.m., 9 p.m., or 10 p.m. I ask the Minister to review the position. There are genuine grievances.

Local authorities and others complain bitterly of the linking up of a number of towns in addresses. For example, the address of a person living in Abbeyleix—Deputy Maher will bear me out in this—the address is "Abbeyleix, Portlaoise". In Mountrath it is "Mountrath, Portlaoise", though Mountrath is some 12 miles distant from Portlaoise. The same situation applies in the case of Croghan, Tullamore, even though Croghan is 14 to 20 miles from Tullamore. A number of small towns feel they are losing their individuality and their identity because of the Post Office pushing addresses on to them which they are unwilling to accept and which they do not require. I know that there is no obligation on those people to use those addresses but the Post Office authorities tell us that if we want to make sure of our deliveries they should be used. If greater care is taken in the sorting or if additional sorting staff is employed it would be better than to change the original addresses.

I want to make a plea to the Minister to do something about payment for the Christmas rush in the post office. The Post Office Estimate usually comes up in May or June when people have either forgotten about Christmas or are not thinking about it. The Post Office deals with a huge volume of mail at Christmas time and I think that, in return for the work done by subpostmasters and subpostmistresses during that period, there should be a special Christmas gratuity for them. They and their assistants frequently have to work from 6 a.m. until midnight and, while they get very little for it, their assistants are paid extra. I feel that a sum of money should be set aside in the Minister's Department which would compensate these officials for the work they do at Christmas. I must say that the Department carries out its work most efficiently during the Christmas period and we are not at all envious of what they have to go through. As recognition of the valuable services they give to the State, a generous additional Christmas bonus should be made available for them. I would ask the Minister to have that matter considered in his Department.

I would also like to make reference to the working of the General Post Office in Dublin. If a person walks in there any night during the week, he will find that there are usually one or two slides open for the sale of stamps. I have often seen at night time a queue of 20, 30 or maybe 40 people lined up to get stamps. I feel that at least three additional people should be available at night time to cope with the volume of traffic there. It is possible, of course, that the whole cause of the hold-up might be that some old lady might come in with a £10 note to pay for a twopenny stamp but, whatever it is, there is a definite hold-up in the business of the general public. The General Post Office is not staffed at night as it should be.

A great deal has been said about the pay and conditions of subpostmasters and subpostmistresses. I want to express my genuine disgust at the manner in which subpostmasters throughout the country have been treated. They certainly have not been treated in a genuine fashion. They are an important part of the public service but they have not been well treated.

At any time.

The Department of Posts and Telegraphs set up a consultative council in February, 1956, when the late Deputy Keyes was Minister. That council came into operation on 8th February, 1956, and its purpose was to discuss matters affecting the salaries and conditions of service of subpostmasters. The constitution of that council was set up under ten headings which might more or less be regarded as its term of reference. One of these headings laid down that meetings of the council would be held not less frequently than one in each quarter unless it was confirmed that in any quarter a meeting was not required.

That is a very important rule and I have seen that in some cases there has been a lapse of five months between the meetings. There certainly has been a lapse of over four months. The subpostmasters' union have been unable to compel the Department's nominees to adhere to that heading. I feel the House is entitled to an explanation as to why the Minister's representatives have not complied with that clause in this regard. It was the intention of the then Minister that there should be at least four meetings in the year and an attempt has been made by the Minister's Department to prevent the meetings being held so that the grievances of subpostmasters and subpostmistresses cannot be rectified.

Instead of four meetings in the year, very often only three are held. A meeting was held on the 16th May, 1960, and the next one was on the 10th October. That is a period of five months. When there is a lapse of five months between the meetings of the consultative council the union which represents the subpostmasters can do nothing to persuade the representatives of the Department to meet them because the representatives of the Department do not want to co-operate in rectifying their genuine grievances. From 10th October, 1960, up to the middle of March of this year there was no meeting held and I cannot say if a meeting was held recently.

I feel that the withholding of these meetings is responsible for serious delays in dealing with the important matters which the subpostmasters' executive are anxious to have attended to. I think that is most unreasonable. I think that the Minister should take steps to see the intentions of the late Deputy Keyes are carried out. The constitution of the council says that it shall deal with matters which are important. The first matter is the salaries and conditions of service of subpostmasters and subpostmistresses, and the second deals with the conditions under which subpostmasters hold their appointments. Other matters which were to be dealt with are:

3. Regulations governing the discharge of post office business at sub-offices.

4. Suggestions for improving the efficiency of post office services to the public.

Those are the terms of reference of this council and, that being so, an opportunity should be given to the council to perform its functions without hindrance. The grievances of subpostmasters are not the fault of the subpostmasters themselves but the fault of the Department of Post and Telegraphs who have obstructed this council and made it impossible for it to work efficiently.

The Department is responsible for only one delay in having a meeting.

The Minister admits responsibility for that?

For one delay but there was a reason for it.

All right. Then there must be a reason for the other delays.

There has to be agreement between the various interests concerned as to when meetings will take place.

It is laid down in the terms of reference that meetings will be held quarterly.

A meeting was postponed on one occasion at the request of the union.

It is time that the difference which has arisen between the union representatives and the Minister's Department was resolved. Whatever the cause of the delay in calling these meetings, let us hope there will be an end to that, and that frequent meetings of this council will lead to an improvement in remuneration and an improvement in the services to the public which is also part of this council's terms of reference.

I wish to refer to one matter which was to be dealt with by that council. An agreement on a salary claim was lodged on the 10th April, 1956, and was not reached until the 13th January, 1959. I would like to hear from the Minister what was the cause of that. After the long delay a six per cent. increase was granted to all offices plus five shillings per week to offices under £400. In accepting this 6 per cent., plus five shillings a week for all sub-offices under £400, the Minister's own nominees agreed further to consider the plight of the small sub-offices earning up to £400 approximately. Since the 12th January, 1959, the Minister's nominees have flatly refused to increase the salary for this type of slave labour.

Was that not made retrospective?

No, it was not. Can the Minister give us a reason, in the course of his reply as to why, since the 12th January, 1959, his nominees on this council have flatly refused to do what was agreed? Sub-post office personnel in Northern Ireland are much better paid than they are in the Republic. Prior to 1922 they were all at the same standard. The lowest paid sub-postmaster in Northern Ireland could be in receipt of £190 4s. while in the Republic it is between £95 and £100; yet the same if not a greater volume of work has to be carried out.

All sections of the public service, the Army, national teachers, established civil servants, local authority employees and others have received substantial increases and it is only right that similar increases should be given to subpostmasters in recognition of the duties they perform. Does the Minister not agree that some of these sub-post offices must remain open at least 60 hours per week? We hear a great deal of talk about a 40-hour week and a 48-hour week but most subpostmasters and subpostmistresses have to work a 60-hour week. I have known cases in which it was almost impossible for subpostmasters to discharge their religious obligations on Sunday because it was necessary to answer the telephone. I have known cases where subpostmasters could not get help in the post office because girls were not available, the subpostmasters not being able to pay them the rates expected. Subpostmasters cannot be expected to pay assistants when they are not paid themselves.

If there is any cause for complaint about lack of efficiency in any of our sub-offices it is attributable to the fact that subpostmasters are not in a position to pay what people in other walks of life can pay their employees. We can be thankful for the stand the trade unions in this and other countries have taken in seeking for people the last penny piece for their labour. Very few girls are prepared to enter the post office service in country areas because those who would be responsible for paying and supervising their activities are not in a position to remunerate them adequately.

There is a big rush for the vacancies when they occur.

These people provide a first-class service for the public but the Minister will agree with me that the post office offers a cock-shot to anyone who wants to make them a target.

Is it not taking place at the moment?

I cannot say it is taking place at the moment. It is my job to ventilate in this House the grievances of my constituents. The subpostmasters in my constituency are not paid adequately and this is the place for me to put forward their grievances.

Mr. Brown

There were 20 candidates for the last vacancy we had.

I am getting a thousand pounds a year for doing this. If I am getting a thousand pounds a year for voicing the grievances of my constituents, this is the place for me to do it. The Fianna Fáil Deputies behind the Minister know quite well, if they have any communication with the subpostmasters and subpostmistresses throughout the country that they are not paid adequately for the work they must perform. They must work a 56 to 60-hour week and on Sunday must be available for the telephone. Not alone do they provide this first-class service for the public but they must also provide accommodation, light, heating and assistance when required. They are also responsible for cash and in this regard let me say that the inspection branch of the Post Office has been too rigid in the inspection that has taken place in many areas. I suppose there is a black sheep in every flock but the majority of our subpostmasters and subpostmistresses are honest and have given good service.

The amount of post office inspection, with the inspector sticking his nose into the till, is unwarranted and has added to some of the unpleasantness attached to the difficult duties of subpostmasters and subpostmistresses. They are responsible for the stocks of postage stamps and insurance stamps, the receipt and despatch of mails and the recording of registered letters. They are also responsible for the payment of old age pensions, widows' and orphans' pensions and children's allowances. Very often they have to fill application forms for old age pensioners. They have to be at the beck and call of the public when any kind of query has to be answered. In recognition of all this work the least subpostmasters and subpostmistresses should be entitled to is a reasonable reward. There is no comparison between conditions here and those in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The time has come when there will have to be a review of the conditions under which these people are performing a public service. Their greatest possible handicap is lack of pay and lack of reason on the part of the Department. I shall leave it at that and hope the Minister will review the position in the light of the serious complaint I have made about the non-functioning of the Consultative Council.

I want to refer to the provision of new post offices. These are urgently required in many areas. I remember the present Minister for Transport and Power making one of his usual speeches in Galway in which he stated that the new Post Office in Ballinasloe would be going up in a couple of weeks. That was at the time of a bye-election. A couple of weeks ago Ballinasloe Post Office was resurrected again. I suppose they said to themselves: "We will whip this old horse again. It worked fairly well in a couple of bye-elections down there and it will probably do the trick at the general election." They cannot keep fooling the people all the time. The Minister deliberately said that work would start, but a brick has not been put on it since. Steps should be taken to see that the building of this and other post offices should be commenced without delay.

I want to refer to the appointment of Mr. Roth to the Broadcasting Authority during the year. We know from his qualifications and experience that he is one of the most capable and competent men that could be found to perform the important duties assigned to him. He has been the subject of very serious criticism because of his refusal to sign a letter in Irish to the Gaelic League. I want to say I admire Mr. Roth for not signing what he did not understand. It is only right that any man who signs his name to a document should understand what it says. When he had not a knowledge of the Irish language and did not understand the contents of the document, it was unreasonable to expect him to put his name to it. The criticism hurled at him is unreasonable. He did what any individual with common sense should do. He should not be severely criticised for not signing on the dotted line. We know that signing on the dotted line can be a very dangerous procedure. I trust that the vigilance and care he showed in this regard will be exercised by him during the years he will hold the responsible position to which he has been appointed.

Under what circumstances can the Department of Posts and Telegraphs pay for work performed in the Minister's Department or any contributions made to it, either through the Broadcasting Service or otherwise? I want to make special reference to the duties of a district justice who usually contributes to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. A district justice is a person in receipt of a salary, and in accordance with his appointment he should not hold another appointment.

I do not think the Minister is responsible.

No, I am not responsible.

Who is responsible?

The Broadcasting Authority.

I feel the Minister ought to take the matter up with the Department of Justice. If there is a district justice carrying on a second job, steps ought to be taken to deal with it.

The Minister is not responsible and we cannot go any further with the matter.

I want to make reference to the "Topical Talks" on Radio Éireann.

I do not know if the Minister is responsible for that either.

Under the Act, I am not.

May I make any reference to the items of news broadcast on Radio Éireann?

The Minister is not responsible for the day-to-day administration and conduct of Radio Éireann.

Surely a Deputy is entitled to discuss the programmes of Radio Éireann on the one and only occasion time is made available?

The Minister is not responsible——

The public are paying for the privilege or otherwise of listening to Radio Éireann. Surely Deputies have a right to discuss it? If that is not so, there is no use in our being in this House.

I am keeping the Deputy to the point in the House.

I am speaking on behalf of others besides myself.

I pointed out to the Deputy the Minister is not responsible for the programmes and working of Radio Éireann.

May I refer you, Sir, to every debate that has taken place in this House for 20 years on this Estimate and in which Deputies were entitled to discuss the programmes of Radio Éireann? You yourself did not intervene on any occasion to prevent discussion of it. This is a new procedure.

It is not a new procedure.

Of course, it is a new procedure. I have been allowed to discuss the programmes on Radio Éireann on the Estimate for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.

Legislation in this House passed the control of programmes to the Director of Radio Éireann.

Can we deal with political broadcasts over Radio Éireann? Some of the "Topical Talks" are designed on political lines.

Programmes are not prepared under the control of the Minister.

May I raise it on the Broadcasting Vote?

There is no Broadcasting Vote.

Before you rule, Sir, I would respectfully say I spoke on this last year. I have my notes here.

We all know that the control of the programmes on Radio Éireann has, by legislation of this House, passed from the control of the Minister.

Do you not think we should be allowed to give a direction here?

It does not matter what I think.

This is too serious a matter to be laughed at by the cacklers over there. This is a very serious matter.

I would respectfully point out that I spoke about Radio Éireann last year. I kept a file on it. I want to draw the Minister's attention to some matters regarding Radio Éireann about which he should know.

We pay a large sum of money for Radio Éireann and we should be allowed to speak about it.

The Minister is not responsible for preparing programmes for broadcast over Radio Éireann.

If we refused to vote any money for it, what would happen then?

That is not my business.

If we are voting money for it we should be allowed to speak about it.

May I ask under what Vote do we provide money for Radio Éireann?

Under this Vote.

Then we should be able to talk about it.

The Minister is not responsible for the preparation or broadcasting of programmes.

Surely we are not to be confined to discussing the height of the Mast at Kippure or the height of aerials on people's houses? Surely we are entitled to discuss programmes for which the public are expected to pay licence fees under this Authority. The members of this House, on behalf of the people they represent should be able to criticise or make suggestions in regard to how voted moneys may be spent. This right has been available to every Deputy since the foundation of the State.

Am I not entitled, on this Vote to criticise the Minister in this House when money is voted for Radio Éireann here and handed over to this district justice by the Minister?

The Minister is not responsible for the administration of Radio Éireann.

Surely the Minister is responsible for the moneys voted to him under this Vote? We are now voting the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs a certain sum of money and I put it to him that some of this money should not go to a district justice.

I respectfully point out that I have here a survey that was made by the Department——

The Chair is allowing the Deputy to speak. The Deputy is entitled to make a point of order.

Are we to come down to the level where Parliament will be mocked by this clique that have to be whipped into the House?


I have here the survey that was made on radio broadcasting. That survey should be brought before the House. I made several attempts to obtain that survey and I have obtained it. It should be brought before the House because we are going to vote money——

There is little use in discussing a matter over which the Minister has no control and the Minister has no control over the preparation or broadcasting of programmes by Radio Éireann.

In order that the Ceann Comhairle may not have occasion to interrupt speakers on this Vote perhaps he would give us an indication as to what matters may be discussed?

That is not the duty of the Chair.

I am trying to help the Chair because he may have to interrupt very many times.

Suppose this Authority put on Lady Chatterley's Lover and next year we are asked to vote money for the Authority, could we not refuse to vote money for Lady Chatterley's Lover?


There is little use in raising individual points, if the Minister has no control over the preparation and broadcasting of programmes over Radio Éireann.

He has, and he has said so himself, that he can interfere on some occasions.

Is it not a fact that the Minister for Defence went along to the office of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and changed a programme?

That is not true: he did not come near my office.

To whom did he go?

Then he went to the office of the Director of Radio Éireann.

If the Minister says that he has control over the programmes broadcast from Radio Éireann I shall allow the Deputies to proceed.

The same question arose in regard to the Minister for Transport and Power. He said the same thing but he allows us to ask questions, nevertheless.

May I ask a question? This raises an important matter of principle. Assuming for a moment that Radio Éireann broadcast an appeal to voters to support Fianna Fáil——

I cannot allow propaganda of that kind. I cannot allow this point of order to be used as a propaganda matter.

I shall refer, if I may, to the item of news broadcast on the 19th February in connection with a statement from the Department of Agriculture on wheat prices. A news item was given in to Radio Eireann and the new price of wheat was deliberately withheld except in one of the news bulletins. There was no mention of it although attention was directed to it by the National Farmers' Association. The full details of the prices of wheat were not given because the statement said the price of wheat was the same as last year. They did not give details which would show that there was a reduction of 11/6d. a barrel for wheat bushelling under 54 1bs. I respectfully suggest that somebody in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs altered that statement in order to suit the listening public and in order to safeguard the Department from any embarrassment——

That is not true.

What is the truth?

Ask Radio Éireann; they will tell you.

No, they will not tell you.

If they deem it advisable.

Very well. The Minister says: "Ask Radio Éireann."

Can the Minister give th information by way of reply to a Parliamentary Question?


The Department of Agriculture had nothing to do with this matter. It was a supplied statement dealing with the price of wheat which was not given to the listening public by Radio Éireann. I feel this is the only opportunity that I have of airing my grievance in that regard because the fact that wheat was being reduced in price was deliberately prevented from being broadcast to the general public. I respectfully suggest that there was interference either by the Broadcasting Authority or somebody. If the Minister has no responsibility, the Broadcasting Authority have and they are not going to be allowed to use for political purposes money voted in this House. Somebody must talk about it and make known what is happening. If we are going to hand over this money to the Broadcasting Authority we must see to it, by some means, that it will not be used in a one-sided manner.

A number of topical talks have been arranged by Radio Éireann. One of these was broadcast on the day the contributory old age pensions scheme came into force, and I respectfully suggest that that topical talk was designed purely for political purposes and the money voted by this House to Radio Éireann or the Broadcasting Authority was used for the purpose of furthering the interests of the Government. I listened to that programme and it contained the following phrases: "As I now speak to you there are hundreds of people"—mark you, "hundreds of people"—"leaving their work at this very moment and going to draw £2 a week old age pensions." That is an extract from the topical talk.

Distortion, the Deputy means.

I suggest that topical talk was deliberately designed to discredit certain political opponents of the Government and to bring grist to the mill of Fianna Fáil. I suggest Radio Éireann was being deliberately used as a medium for hoodwinking the listening public. I feel I am within my rights in making this protest.

I hope and trust that Mr. Roth, who probably is unaware of the political situation in this country, will make himself aware of the various types of political items which Radio Éireann has been bulldozed into in the past. If Mr. Roth reads the reports of the debates here dealing with the Department of Posts and Telegraphs he should take the necessary steps to see that politics will be removed from Radio Éireann and that the position in regard to topical talks and various news items, which are being deliberately drafted to suit a particular shade of opinion in this country, will be remedied. I do not propose to deal with the matter further beyond saying that Radio Éireann or the Broadcasting Authority, whoever they may be, will have to change their pattern in relation to certain items of news being broadcast and the trend of topical talks designed to sponsor Government schemes and to further Fianna Fáil propaganda at the expense of moneys voted by this House which comes out of the pockets of the taxpayers.

Having listened for a fortnight to the woeful complaints about the burden being imposed on the taxpayers by the money voted for Estimates, one would expect an end to it. It is very easy to see from the atmosphere created here today, first, that we are not expecting another Estimate for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs before the general election and, secondly, judging by Deputy Flanagan's statement, that there is no hope of any change in the positions after the general election and that, therefore, Deputy Flanagan feels free to advocate another increase in this Estimate amounting to close on £1,000,000. That is the way in which I look on it. Deputy Flanagan is being above-board in this matter. I was rather surprised to hear of the small increases that were being suggested for the postman up to the sub-postmaster. I expected Deputy Flanagan to go a bit further and to suggest that the postman should have a chauffeur and a Rolls Royce to take him around so that he would have no trouble in delivering the mail.

Deputy Flanagan complained about the five months delay in consultations. Is there to be an increase in salaries every three months and will they have to meet every three months for consultations? How would you manage an Estimate on that basis? I have a recollection of younger and happier days when we had pulled down the old Crumlin Road Jail and were in solitary confinement and the doctor every morning would knock and open the door and say, "Any complaints"? Deputy Flanagan's statement about a meeting every three months for the purpose of airing complaints reminded me of that.

With the general increase in the number of telephones a number of abuses has arisen. Is there any means of identifying telephone callers? Some very grave abuses have arisen. Two dispensary doctors in South Cork had to have the phone disconnected because of mischievous calls to which they were subjected. No medical officer likes to be called at 10.30 p.m. to attend an alleged maternity case and travel five miles to discover a maiden lady of over 70.

Are we discussing Posts and Telegraphs, health services or maternity services?

Mr. Flanagan

The Mother and Child Scheme.

I am wondering if there is any means by which callers could be identified. That is a matter which could be dealt with.

I am concerned about premises that have been built for a fairly considerable time by the G.P.O. out of moneys voted by this House and which have not been used. I have here a letter that I received this morning from the Midleton Urban Council:—

I am directed by the members of the Midleton Urban Council to ask you if you will be good enough to request the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to expedite the installation of the automatic telephone exchange in Midleton. It would appear that the building to house the exchange has been completed since 1958. The machinery has not yet been installed. The Midleton exchange is so busy that the telephone operators are completely unable to cope with all the calls. The automatic exchange is urgently required and the members of the council would be grateful if you could use your good offices to get the Minisster to give top priority to this matter.

Three years is a pretty long period and there is something wrong when the machinery has not been installed in premises that have been built for three years. I would suggest that the Minister should have this matter rectified. I have received complaints during the past 12 months of delay of close on an hour in getting a call through. There is something wrong when that kind of thing is allowed to happen.

I do not intend to deal with broadcasting. Complaints have been made here that an item was not allowed. There was another complaints that good news was given as news, namely that the contributory old age pensioners were to get £2 per week. I am sure that was news that it was necessary to broadcast and news that was appreciated by the people in general.

It was not news; it was a topical talk.

They did not all get it.

I remember a period when the topical talks were all the other way and the people did not get the bad news that if they applied for a grant there was no money to pay for it for a year and a half.

Grant administration does not arise on this Estimate.

If that news had been given in topical talks it would have made a bit of a change. I see no reason why ordinary news, such as the kind mentioned by Deputy Flanagan, and good news, should not be given to the public. It annoys me to see Deputy Oliver Flanagan coming here and suggesting changes which would mean an increase of over £1,000,000 in this Estimate.

Not at all.

I am sure the mathematical expert of the Fine Gael Party over there will have no difficulty in making up the cost of Deputy Oliver Flanagan's suggestion—the cost of buying motor bicycles for auxiliary postmen and the giving of £100 a year more to subpostmasters. Neither have I any doubt that this time twelvemonths, when the Minister for Finance is presenting his new Budget, Deputy Oliver Flanagan will again try to bamboozle him by suggesting various increases for this, that and the other. After all it is a very handy peg to hang himself on—to look for something for nothing. I honestly suggest that Deputies on the opposite side should come down on one side or the other of the fence.

Easily known a general election is on the way.

I have often heard Deputy Corry make suggestions which would not cost just £1,000,000 but £20,000,000, and most ridiculous suggestions at that. I think that any Deputy who comes in here and makes concrete proposals, with some of which the Minister agrees, should not be mocked in this fashion. My main concern on this Estimate is with Radio Éireann, with the manner in which they present their news. They did not broadcast the news of the reduction in wheat prices to farmers. I notice Deputy Corry is leaving the House at this stage. That was sent down to be broadcast but it never got on the air. The Minister told us that if we wanted information we must ask Radio Éireann for it.

I should now like to tell the Minister about a question I put to Radio Éireann and of the answer I got to it. I listen a great deal to Radio Éireann —perhaps more so than the so-called experts who are blowing their tops off about the radio. On 8th November last I had reason to write to the Radio Éireann Director of Broadcasting as follows:

Dear Sir, I am interested in the portion of the news in English relating to Irish events broadcast yesterday, Monday, November 7, 1960, at 1.30 p.m. 6.30 p.m. and 10.15 p.m. I would be grateful if you would send to me to Leinster House a copy of each broadcast of the news relating to Irish events on that date. Yours faithfully, T. Lynch.

I got back the following reply:

With reference to your letter requesting details of broadcasts on Monday, November 7, 1960, I much regret that it is not practicable to supply scripts of broadcasts to anybody outside the Broadcasting Services. Yours faithfully, M. O'Doherty, Assistant Director of Broadcasting.

That letter came on the Thursday. I wrote my letter having just got back from Dunmore East where I had witnessed a wonderful catch of herrings. That night Radio Éireann broadcast a bulletin about a wonderful catch of herrings at Killybegs—so many boxes or crans. Then we were taken to the very ends of the world, to the United Nations and God knows where, and at the end of the bulletin came a few words about a big catch at Dunmore East. The same thing happened in a later bulletin and later still the same evening Dunmore East was cut out altogether. Listening to that broadcast, I got the impression that when anything worthwhile happened in my constituency it was ignored by Radio Éireann.

All this happened on November 8th last. On the Thursday following, a man arrived from Radio Éireann at Dunmore East and interviewed two or three people for a broadcast arranged for the following Sunday. The talk was about all sorts of things—about the foreign languages heard in the town and about all the hangers-on in the business, the buyers and the commission men. I resent that. We want buyers and commission men there and a great deal of our products would sell far better if we had more of them instead of people who could not sell a sovereign for a pound.

Last night there were two items of news of exceptional interest to the Irish people. One was the statement of the Taoiseach in the House yesterday afternoon on the Common Market. The other was the statement of the Minister for Justice when he announced to the House that the Estimate he was presenting would be his last because he did not intend to contest the next election. But Radio Éireann told us all about what was going on in Siam and what was going to happen to Mr. Khrushchey. At the end, broadcast in the most stupid fashion was the Taoiseach's statement on the Common Market and immediately afterwards the announcement of the intention of the Minister for Justice not to contest the next election. From the broadcast it looked as if the Minister for Justice was resigning because the Taoiseach had made the statement about the Common Market. I think it is only right that we should state these things in the House.

I want Radio Éireann to be in the front line but the trouble about Radio Éireann is that it started to broadcast programmes that the people did not want and they are continuing to broadcast programmes that the people will not listen to. After great trouble I got the Radio Éireann Listener Research Inquiry, 1955-56 which is the best I can do because even the Director of Broadcasting Mr. Roth said recently that they had not finished the more recent Listener Research Inquiry that was made. I would like to draw the attention of the Minister and the House to some items that are in it— the Likes and Dislikes of People. They are very interesting.

In an analysis contained in Table A4, page 21 of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland of the number of likes and dislikes expressed per thousand listeners interviewed, the "likes" are given: programmes in Irish: Listen and Learn— eight; Nuacht: two; and plays in Irish: eight. The "dislikes" are: seven, Listen and Learn; ten, the Nuacht and 15, plays in Irish. There are 167 other likes and dislikes in this group.

I mentioned this before in the House and I am going to keep on saying it; a great number of people in Fianna Fáil have taken it on themselves that they are the only people who love Ireland.

The matter would not arise on this Estimate.

They take that on themselves and this is how it arises on this Estimate, Sir. I love this country and I love its music but I detest the manner in which Radio Éireann puts over the traditional music. I detest the contributions of a lot of the traditional singers who come on—not because they can sing in Irish or not because they can sing—and make sounds to which nobody could listen. In recent months I would say there was practically no public in Ireland listening to the programme "To-day in the Dáil." The reason for that is that the biggest public they have in Radio Éireann is listening to the news in English at 10.15. What happens now is that when the news in English is finished at 10.30, the traditional singers come on and in any place you may be, the very minute this noise starts someone says "Turn that off," and the radio is turned over to Luxembourg, the B.B.C. or some other station.

The Deputy is wrong; they say "Turn that thing off."

The Deputy is right. The very moment it comes on people say: "Turn that thing off." I think we should take notice and should not keep broadcasting these programmes. I enjoy programmes about Ireland and I enjoy programmes of Irish music if they are sung competently. Recently there was a programme broadcast from the Third Programme of the B.B.C.: "The Wild Geese." It lasted an hour and a half and I listened to it all through. I was enthralled by it. Some of the best Irish Abbey actors were brought over and some of the best singers. We should be able to do the same thing. The Minister should say to the people down at Radio Éireann: "If you are going to put on these programmes put them on with competent musicians and competent singers."

Something else that is bothering me is this. The Radio Eireann licence and the television licence look like being two separate things. What will happen? I would ask the Minister to say something about that. I asked the Minister a question some time ago and he gave me the courtesy of a fair answer in regard to the lines for television—to know were we keeping on the same lines as are there at present. There is a great deal of upset with people in the trade. It is not just a case that they have sold television sets; many have sold television sets and have given the people an undertaking that there would be no change. It would be good if the Minister mentioned that.

I want to mention something that seems extraordinary and I am sure it is something in which the Minister will intervene. It is a matter about Tramore and the telephones there. A great number of people complimented the Minister on the increase in the numbers of telephones all over the country and on the great efficiency of the telephone service. I can join with them up to a point. In the bigger centres the service is excellent; I have no fault to find with it. I would not agree with the statement of my colleague, Deputy Flanagan, in regard to some mistakes being made in sending out telephone bills. I would say that is due to growing pains, something that will be got over. But I think this other matter is a serious state of affairs.

I was approached by a friend in Tramore last week and he wanted a telephone. I know there are delays in the installation of telephones but what makes this a serious matter is this that he was informed that he would not be able to get a telephone for a very long time in Tramore, that whatever intake there is in Tramore the switch board is full and that he cannot have another telephone until a new switch board is installed and it will take a very long time to install it. I would point out to the Minister that Tramore is a tourist resort and that the tourist season is about to start. I know the Minister is a fairminded man. I put it to him that he should take this matter up. It should not take months and months to install a bigger switchboard in Tramore. If there are technical difficulties then I suggest that for the moment they should revert to the old manual switchboard until such time as it is possible to install a new automatic switchboard.

My colleague, Deputy Flanagan, mentioned political broadcasts. There have been broadcasts with a political tinge. There have been broadcasts weighed in favour of the Taoiseach and the members of his Cabinet. I will give the House an instance. We discussed a motion here on C.I.E. The Taoiseach, in his intervention in that debate, accused us on this side of the House of tabling the motion purely for political expediency, but in stronger words than that. The Taoiseach was very adequately answered. Yet in the broadcast from Radio Eireann at 6.30 p.m., when the biggest listening public is tuned in, only the Taoiseach's statement was given and everybody listening would have been under the impression that the Taoiseach had successfully put his heel on everyone on this side of the House Later on we were fairly reported in "Today in the Dáil." Before that broadcast we had the traditional singers. That ensured that nobody was listening to the more than adequate answer that the Taoiseach got. I am sure 70 to 80 per cent. of the listening public heard the Taoiseach's masterly slamming of the Opposition but only 2 per cent heard the adequate reply he got.

I told the House that I had written to Radio Eireann and asked Radio Eireann to supply me with the scripts and bulletins of news broadcasts on 7th November. The reply I got was that they regretted it was not practicable to supply scripts to anybody outside the broadcasting service. Might I point out to the Minister that I have had occasion to write to our fellow countrymen in Belfast and they have sent me scripts? Why cannot we have the same service here? We should have it. We come in here and vote the people's money for this service. We have no stenographers to take down these broadcasts for us. I think Radio Eireann should have the courtesy to send me a copy of the news bulletins of 7th November. To the gentleman who broadcasts the news from Radio Eireann I should like to say, with respect, that I can never see how it can be leading news that 1,200 boxes of fish were landed at Killybegs. That item was given at the beginning of the news. The 7,000 crans landed at Dunmore East were not mentioned until the end of the news.

In regard to the telephone directory, the print has improved but I still have to carry my magnifying glass. It should be possible surely to give us a little larger print. It must be very difficult for people who use public telephone boxes to fish out the numbers they want. I should like to mention one small item. About 45 years ago it was customary in Waterford for a firm of printers —Harvey's—to publish a list of Waterford telephone subscribers on a large card. Those cards are still in use. Various adjustments have been made; the figures 40 have been inserted in front of some numbers and the figure 4 in front of others. Now I know it is illegal to print such a card and it is not done now. However, I suggest to the Minister that he should consult his officials to find out if it would be possible to allow reputable printing firms to print these cards by way of advertisement; they could be sent out as souvenirs or calendars. It might be a difficult matter in areas like Dublin and Cork, though Cork could be covered by printing a couple of cards. Perhaps the Minister will examine the suggestion.

A good deal has been said about subpostmasters. I do not propose to cover the ground again. There is a strong case to be made for temporary postmen and I will throw all my weight in behind them. Some of these have been temporary for over 45 years. At the end of their period they are thrown on the scrap heap. That is not fair. A temporary postman after a certain number of years' service should be made permanent and pensionable. There is no intention ever of discharging him.

I appeal to the Minister to investigate the matter I raised with regard to Radio Eireann. I would say to Mr. Roth that he should go ahead with his television project, use the techniques to which he is accustomed and not allow himself to be led or said by any pressure group in this country. When he has seen the results of this survey he will know the parts of the country from which his listening public will be drawn. He will know the tastes of the people and he should cater for those tastes.

We are all very chary about mentioning the G.A.A. or the Gaelic League here. The Gaelic League sent a letter to Mr. Roth and he said that he would not sign his name to a letter in Irish when he did not understand it. I do not care what coals of fire the Gaelic League may heap upon me but I say that they should be ashamed of themselves. They have brought the language into disrepute through that stupid and intolerant action. If there is any reason the language movement is not a success, it is this stupidity and this intolerance.

I would ask the Minister to say, when replying, if he will be able to have me supplied with the scripts of the Radio Éireann news bulletins.

That is a matter entirely for Radio Éireann.

Deputy Flanagan said that subscribers should be supplied with log books in which telephone calls could be entered. He says that we are being deprived of some money by the Department through being charged for calls that we do not make. That idea of a log book would not be a success for the reason that anyone who has a family will find that his youngsters, particularly if they are teenagers, will make calls on the sly and they will not tip their parents off. I mention that matter only because my children make calls on the telephone and do not tell me. How can I then challenge the Department on the bill?

The new directory is a big improvement. There are no pages loose in it now as there were last year. For four months of the year I was not certain if I could find a number. I wish the Minister could do something about the size of the print. If I mislay my glasses I am practically blind and there must be many persons like me who forget their glasses and who would be lost if an emergency arose. There should be some sort of magnification embodied in the glass of the telephone kiosks so that a person could hold the directory to it and read the print.

In regard to television, I should like to know if there is any censorship body to control the new Authority. If there is not, there ought to be. If the new Authority were tempted to put on plays such as were put on U.T.V. last year, there would be an upheaval. While many people object to certain types of plays and hold up their hands in horror, it is an extraordinary thing that those plays have a good audience. That is why commercial people may be tempted to put on plays that would be objectionable. The film industry is now trying to make up for the falling-off in attendances due to television by featuring women who are half nude, particularly in foreign films. I believe that the News of the World has the greatest circulation of any newspaper. For those reasons commercial people may be tempted to put on plays that are somewhat objectionable. When half a million pounds worth of shares were put on the market recently, £7,000,000 was offered for them because the Penguin books made £62,000 in two months on Lady Chatterley's Lover. That is the reason that there should be some sort of censorship authority.

Mention has been made here of the licence fee. I think we should be told what that fee is going to be. I understand that it is about three guineas in England. The British people may be able to pay that fee but I am not sure that the Irish people will be able to pay it. We are told that everybody is working in England but that is not so here. I should like the Minister to indicate what the fee will be and also if it is to be inclusive of the radio licence fee. It would be unfair to ask a person to pay a couple of guineas for his television fee and to pay 17/6d. for his radio licence when both cannot be used at the same time.

The Minister is well aware of the difficulty in collecting the radio licence fee. For that reason I would suggest that he should have the television fee collected in two moieties. If people can get rid of the tell-tale aerials, the Minister will have a job finding out where they are. This is an important point and the people are most anxious to know what the licence fee will be. I believe that there has been a falling off in the sale of television sets. One of the reasons is that the people do not know what they will be charged. The Minister should give us that information if he wants to keep the television business going. At the moment there is no demand for sets.

Television sets will be a great boon to old and infirm people. They do not leave their homes very much, if at all, and they ought to be able to have a television set. At 15s. a week they could not afford it. Competition may bring sets down to 5s. a week but these people will not be able to afford a couple of guineas for a licence. The Minister ought to consider some reduction in the licence fee for people handicapped financially like old age pensioners who have no means other than their pensions. Having inspected various homes under the Health Authority, I can say the old people love the sets. I hope the Minister will accept my suggestion and bring a little joy into the homes of these people who are often very lonely, never being visited either by family or by friends.

The Minister should also remember that our people in England would like to know what is going on here. I know from letters I have received that while in parts of England they can hear Radio Éireann, in other parts they cannot. That may also apply to Irish television. Something should be done to boost our station so that our people both in Belfast and in England will be able to take an interest in our affairs. Very often they are more Irish than the Irish at home because, being in strange company in foreign parts, they like to get together and have memories brought back to them.

I was reminded this afternoon that postmen do not receive a half holiday. Almost everyone nowadays is demanding a five-day week and if it is a fact that postmen do not get a half holiday, surely it is time it was granted to them.

A constituent of mine informed me that she sent her electricity bill by postal order but the E.S.B. never received it. In the meantime, because the bill was not paid, the E.S.B. cut off the current. When she asked the Department what they intended to do about it, they told her they could not accept responsibility because there were certain conditions she had not observed. She had the receipt of the postal order and on the receipt it stated: "No responsibility will be taken if this receipt is not produced." When she produced the postal order receipt the Department said: "But there are other conditions you did not fulfil." If there were other conditions, those conditions should also have been inscribed on the receipt. What was printed on the receipt implied that the Department was responsible, because that is all it said.

I do not know whether the next suggestion I wish to make is within the Minister's power to implement but it certainly would need his approval. The G.P.O. is situated in the very centre of the city and any evening one passes the Post Office one will see a crowd of old men lying against the wall having a chat. I was asked why a few seats could not be provided for these people. Whether the Minister is responsible for providing the seats, he would certainly be responsible for giving permission for them. The nearest place to the G.P.O. where seats are provided is around the O'Connell Monument. I would ask the Minister to make this facility available to these old people because they might as well be sitting as standing.

My only complaint in regard to telephones is that the rental fee is too high. It is not too high for business people who use it frequently and make money out of it. However, it is too much to ask a private person to pay £1 17s. 6d. when that person may make only 5/- worth of calls in a quarter.

The question was raised tonight as to whether we have the right to question the activities of the new Authority. Although the Ceann Comhairle and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle have allowed discussion in regard to it, the matter ought to be straightened out. Having the right to put down a question is one thing but the fact that we vote money is supposed to give us the right to say why we should or should not vote the money. If we are ever denied that right there will be no peace in this House. It would be an extraordinary situation if we were denied that right and decided to give them no money and they "packed up." It would be a joke if we were asked to vote money and could not state why we should not vote it.

I have not many complaints about the general policy of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in the adminstration of his Department. Therefore, I propose to confine my remarks to a few items on which the Minister may be able to help me. Before doing so, I should like to speak in a general way about Radio Eireann and the Television Authority. I appreciate that the legislation in connection with the Television Authority provides that we should not raise in this House matters of the day-to-day administration and details of the working of Radio Éireann and the Television Authority. But I do not think anybody would deny, least of all the Minister, the right to comment generally on Radio Éireann and the Television Authority. If we do that it does not necessarily mean we hold the Minister responsible for news items, topical talks, music, drama or anything else on television or radio.

It is very important that Deputies should be allowed to express their views about the administration of these two branches of the Department and criticise where we think criticism should be made. If we do not do that through the Chair, and incidentally through the Minister, it means that effective public opinion is not brought to bear on the Director of Radio Éireann and the Television Authority. He may be going along in blissful ignorance, unaware of the opinion the people in general have of Radio Éireann and the Television Authority. I do not intend to talk about special programmes or whether news items are biased or unbiased. But we represent the general public, the people who pay the licence fees. By our agreement we have, as has been pointed out by many Deputies, given moneys to both Radio Éireann and the Television Authority, and it looks as if we are going to be asked to give more. I think we have the right, as Deputy Sherwin said, to criticise. We hope such criticism will be passed on by the Minister to the Director and Council of Radio Éireann. If not, however, we hope these gentlemen will have the good sense to read the Debates of Dáil Éireann and take notice of the Questions put down and the replies by the Minister.

In regard to the E.S.B. and C.I.E., many Questions are asked and transmitted to the organisations concerned. In many cases the Minister for Transport and Power gives information which he in turn has got from C.I.E., the E.S.B. or some other State-sponsored company. It it important that the new Director of the Television Authority should be put on the right track, especially so far as the staffing of Radio Éireann and the Television Authority are concerned.

I feel that would be one point the Deputy should not discuss.

I only wanted to make some general remarks about the treatment of the staff.

May I point out to the Deputy that this House has given certain powers to the Broadcasting Authority, powers in regard to which the Minister has no function?

This discussion has gone on for the last few hours. I have heard references to news items, quotations from news items, a discussion on the type of music and drama on Radio Éireann. Surely I am entitled to make a general comment on certain staff matters without specifying any branch of Radio Éireann?

The Chair is concerned only with the responsibility the Minister has for the points raised by any Deputy. If the Deputy criticises the staffing of the Broadcasting Authority, then the Minister has no responsibility. This House handed over the responsibility.

I do not intend to criticise——

On a point of order, I should like to point out that in subhead K.1. a substantial sum is sought as a grant equivalent to net receipts from broadcasting licence fees, and subhead K.2. is an additional grant under Section 22 (1) (b) of the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960, where a sum of £133,000 is being voted under the Act for the Broadcasting Authority. I submit that on that heading alone every aspect of the Radio Éireann service, in this particular year at any rate, is open for discussion.

I understand the Chair has already dealt earlier in the evening with Ministerial responsibility in broadcasting matters.

I understand the Chair was faced with that situation. I would draw your particular attention to the moneys provided under K.2., and to some extent the moneys provided under K.1.

I do not want to intervene in this but you will have to take into consideration, in my view, the terms of the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960, when you come to consider the subheads.

Then the Minister accepts responsibility?

I should imagine that my responsibility so far as Radio Éireann and the Broadcasting Authority are concerned, is covered by the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960.

The introduction of that Act is part of the Minister's administration this year.

Deputy Corish would be entitled to discuss the staffing of the Broadcasting Authority?

I am not saying that.

All I am concerned about is the welfare of the staff of Radio Éireann and the Television Authority. I do not intend to make any criticism of any particular person. I want to make the complaint that the general conditions of some of the workers in Radio Éireann have been worsened in recent months. It may be coincidence that a new Director has been appointed in recent months, but it seems to me that the security of their jobs has been drastically reduced. It seems to me that there may appear to be a minor reign of terror in certain sections of Radio Éireann.

I can give one example without mentioning any names. There was a certain member of the staff who was asked to obtain a parcel in a certain part of the city. He was told to be back at a certain time and that if he was not back at that time he would be dismissed. This person found it absolutely impossible to obtain the parcel in the time allotted to him. I do not know whether or not he was actually dismissed, but he was threatened with dismissal. If that sort of behaviour is going to be introduced into Radio Éireann or any of our State-sponsored bodies I think it is not good enough.

From Press announcements regarding appointments of staff there seems to be no formal method of appointment. What is the method used? The staffs in Radio Éireann were promised some time ago that they would be notified of any vacancy but we know that many new jobs are being created in the television service and many members of the existing staff would like an opportunity of applying for them. But it seems appointments are made just by personal interview and in some cases workers there are asked what is the lowest salary for which they will do the job. That is not good enough. There should be a standard and there should not be an auction of the services of Irish technicians for the television authorities.

I do not want to talk about the standard of entertainment to be televised by our Television Authority but I trust that many of the fourth-rate western films will not be imported from the U.S. and other places to be shown here. That also may be done for a purpose and the Minister should try to ensure that not alone will the staffs be adequately protected but that we will not get canned entertainment from the United States through a particular agency about which the Minister was warned when the Broadcasting Authority Bill was going through the House.

The Minister should indicate to the new Director that he should not attempt to try strong-arm methods with Irish workers whether civil servants, technicians, professional entertainers, or whatever they may be. It seems from newspaper statements that he is not inclined to recognise or show the usual courtesy to Irish Equity. Irish Equity is a registered trade union affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Employers generally have shown respect and courtesy to Equity and have received workers in connection with questions of rates of pay and conditions, appointments, and so on, and I think the Director of the Television Authority should show the same courtesy.

So far as Posts and Telegraphs are concerned, I do not think I could criticise the general policy of the Minister. The Minister, in his public pronouncements inside and outside the House and in his replies to Parliamentary Questions, has been most helpful, has given the fullest information and has been generally very courteous. There are just a few points I want to raise in that connection. One is the damage that is done to roads and footpaths by the engineering section of his Department. I know that when cables are laid and a footpath or road is disturbed, while it may be put back in a certain condition, if it is not in proper condition the local authority may repair the road or footpath themselves and charge it to Post and Telegraphs. Some local authorities are not very diligent in that matter and I wonder would the Minister try to ensure that his Department's engineering section would do the best job possible where roads or footpaths are so broken up and in cases where they do the job themselves, not just put a slight skin of concrete over the broken part, a skin which quickly cracks up in a million pieces.

I appreciate the difficulties in that respect. I applaud the work being done in telephone installations and cable-laying. I think the Minister should try to ensure that where roads are broken up they will be put back in proper condition by the engineering section of his Department and that this work will not be left to the local authorities.

May I criticise one point? Quite an amount of casual work now arises in the engineering section of the Department and I suggest that the Minister should concern himself about the manner in which these casual labourers are recruited. I know about the business of special nomination through the Department of Social Welfare but it is being abused to such an extent that men registering at employment exchanges know that they are not getting a fair crack of the whip and that their names are not being submitted to the engineering section or, that if they are, it is just so much eyewash because persons who have applied in other quarters are taken on automatically.

I do not know if the Minister is aware of this, In certain areas it is known that members of the Minister's own Party go around canvassing, telling people that if they want to get on a certain job with the Department of Posts and Telegraphs next week: "I can get you on." I do not think that is good enough. We know the method by which they can get on. They get a special nomination from the Department of Social Welfare at the behest of somebody in the locality. There may be a case for such nominations for men in particular circumstances, with special qualifications or men with big families willing and able to work but not having the chance. I know of cases where the local Fianna Fáil men—I have no hesitation in saying that—have gone round quite openly asking: "Do you want a job on that road with the Department of Posts and Telegraphs?" And they get the jobs for the men. I should like the Minister to look into that.

I hear of abuse from another angle.

I suppose the Minister does. I suppose more than half the voters in the country are Fianna Fáil so that he would get many more complaints than I get in that regard but whether the men are Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, or Clann na Poblachta, I think they should be taken on in accordance with the strict regulations laid down rather than by special nomination by a Party man through the Department of Social Welfare.

Generally speaking they are taken on in the appropriate way.

I am afraid in many cases they are not. Finally, I want to bring to the notice of the Minister the unsatisfactory telephone service in the Bunclody area. I appreciate there are difficulties but business people in the Bunclody and Tullow areas are greatly inconvenienced by the bad telephone service there and I ask the Minister to try to improve the service there for the business community and the public generally.

This Estimate is one probably most closely associated with the lives of the people in the country areas. For that reason this is a very important Department as far as its work is concerned and I must say that its service and its administration have been favourably commented upon generally.

Progress reported: Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday 18th May, 1961.