Committee on Finance. - Vote 43—Posts and Telegraphs (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That the Vote be referred back for reconsideration.—(Deputy Crotty.)

(South Tipperary): When progress was reported, I was dealing with the telephone service and the general distress evinced by most speakers in the House in relation to delays in installing telephones up and down the country. On every occasion on which this matter is raised here, the defence offered by the Minister is invariably the same—difficulty in securing equipment. He states that all telephone equipment has to be imported. I raised this matter at Question Time but I did not get very much further with the Minister. He reaffirmed that no telephone equipment is produced here and that there is the greatest difficulty in securing supplies from abroad.

I quite appreciate that certain telephone apparatus is of a highly technical character and, in the field of telecommunication in particular, considerable technological advances have been made, and I recognise, too, that there may be some restrictive commercial practices. However, looking at the position from the point of view of one relatively unversed in these matters, all I see coming into my house is a wire with a telephone receiver at the end of it. When people come to me, looking for a telephone, that is all I see going into their houses. I fail to understand, therefore, what extreme difficulty there is in producing in this country equipment of the nature required.

I do not know whether the Minister has ever consulted with his colleague in the Department of Industry and Commerce in these matters and, if he has not done so, I would recommend him to do so without delay. For the life of me, I cannot understand why some part of the equipment essential for the extension of our telephone service could not be produced by ourselves. There is a considerable market. The Minister intimated that there will be a considerable extension in the system over the next few years. Anyone who looks at the programme outlined in the Budget in relation to the telephone system must appreciate that there will be a considerable expenditure of money. It seems to me the Minister would be well advised to have another look at the position to see if anything can be done, not alone from the point of view of our own commercial interests but also from the point of view of expediting the service.

The Minister also mentioned, in his opening statement, that this Estimate contains no provision for the 12 per cent increase in pay. He understands that the Minister for Finance will introduce a global Vote to cover this at a later stage. I did not gather from him whether it is included in the £215 million revenue produced by the Minister for Finance here a couple of weeks ago.

Looking over the Minister's address, I find he stated that 1,150 new trunk circuits were established. He mentioned, in particular, Waterford, Clonmel, Carrick-on-Suir, Carlow, Portlaoise, Limerick, and so on. He went on to deal with the 22 new automatic exchanges. In my constituency, not only in regard to exchanges, but in regard to the telephone services generally, there has been a considerable degree of well-nigh neglect, particularly of Tipperary town and one small area in my locality, the village of Dundrum. I have been in communication with the Minister several times about the latter village. I have been considerably annoyed about it, and I conveyed that annoyance and trouble to the Minister, and got the usual stereotyped reply. I want to know when he intends to do something to resolve the problem in Tipperary town and in the village of Dundrum.

The Minister said it was found possible to connect some 14,350 subscribers. When he said that, he was speaking of the provision of trunk circuits. I take it that is 14,350 new subscribers. The Minister does not make that clear, but that is the interpretation which I am putting on it. If that number of new subscribers have been provided for in the past 12 months, my constituency must have been rather left out of consideration. The Minister also mentioned that people to the number of 13,000 odd are awaiting connection.

When we open the Book of Estimates, we see that the first page deals with the new system of accountancy which is being provided for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. The accounting system is to be streamlined and put on a commercial basis. A simple man reading that in the Book of Estimates would feel that now we are really going to get something, and that this is a first-class business concern. Of course, in fact, we find that this business concern has 13,000 people clamouring for telephones, and that this wonderful business concern is making a very inadequate effort to meet the public demand. In order to silence that demand and, at the same time, get in a few handy pounds, the Minister is now introducing a new penal charge of £10 per telephone. That seems to be the reverse of what I would regard as a normal commercial course of action. I would, therefore, appeal to the Minister to consider the question of telephone demands, particularly in the rural areas.

I shall give him a concrete example, and I have sent him a letter about this. In the town of Clonmel a man applied for a telephone. He is a cattle buyer, and he acts as agent for a cattle dealer in England. Since last autumn, he has exported 1,800 cattle. Nine months ago, he looked for a telephone in one of the main streets in Clonmel. A telephone was removed from the house opposite to him in which there lived a hackney driver who needed a telephone for his business. Anyone will appreciate that a telephone is a vital necessity for a cattle buyer who is acting as agent for a cross-Channel dealer.

It should not create tremendous difficulty to give him a telephone. When the telephone across the street was removed, one would have thought that surely it could be transferred to his house. Yet he has been nine months looking for a telephone and so far the Department have been unable to provide him with one. That is not only bad commerce; it amounts to virtual neglect. There are many other cases, but that is an outstanding one. I have drawn the Minister's attention to it just recently, and I am sure he will give it full consideration. While I write to him about many other cases, this is one which I feel could be remedied quite easily, and should be attended to.

The Minister dealt with our savings services and, amongst other things, told us that for the first time in our history we had reached a landmark as regards the Savings Bank and that we now have £100 million in the Post Office Savings Bank.

The amount deposited last year was slightly up; the amount in the Trustee Banks was slightly down; and the amount of Savings Certificates was slightly up. The savings service, and particularly the Post Office Savings Bank, as everyone knows, is the poor-man's bank. I find it difficult to reconcile the practically static figure he has given with all this talk we have about our expanding economy. I think that is a good index of the position of what we might call the poorer sections of our community and the less affluent members of our society. The fact that those deposits have remained practically static suggests that that section of our society are certainly not enjoying the expanding affluence which Government speakers and some economists would like to persuade us they are enjoying.

In his Budget speech, the Minister for Finance mentioned that he was going to arrange for improved Post Office Savings Bank and Savings Certificates facilities. I fail to see any mention in the Minister's statement of any projected improvements in these two concerns. In his reply, he might find time to advert to that aspect of things and tell us what plans he has put in train to meet the wishes of the Minister for Finance for improvement of these facilities in the interests of public saving.

He mentions the co-operation of the post offices throughout the country in the issue of Prize Bonds and states that post offices have been responsible for collecting over £10 million of the total of £35 million worth of the Prize Bonds this year. That is very praiseworthy and the Minister mentions it with a certain amount of relish. But the Minister is a modest man and I am sure he often blushes for some of the past performances of his political associates. I am sure he is not unmindful of the amount of condemnation directed at the inter-Party Government, the Fine Gael Party and the Minister for Finance in those days, who introduced these Prize Bonds several years ago. He was also too modest to advert to the fact that, as I understand, since the introduction of Prize Bonds, the Government have made a profit of £25 million.

I welcome the Minister's statement to the effect that the intake of technician trainees is being doubled this year. I welcome it in the context of the difficulty of expanding our telephone services to meet public demand. I feel that perhaps had the Minister taken that step a year or two ago, he might have been better placed to meet the increased demand for telephone services which exists at present.

Criticism has been made by some speakers in relation to the treating of the Post Office as a concern which should be made pay its own way. Up to a couple of years ago, it was making a small profit, as revealed in the Book of Estimates, but the Minister anticipates in the coming year a loss of, I think, £300,000.

That is right.

(South Tipperary): I suppose whether you pay for Post Office losses by taxation or whether you ask the people to pay it through stamps, by and large, it is the public who pay it eventually. We have a very big capital investment in the Post Office. Last year there was a capital expenditure of £4.61 million and there is an estimated capital expenditure of £6 million for 1964-65. According to the returns, the 1961 Telephone Capital Act provided £10 million spread over a five year period, giving a total of £50 million. The 1963 Telephone Capital Act provided for a further £6 million spread over five years, giving £30 million, a total of £80 million. Considering we have the smallest number of telephones per thousand of the population of any country in Europe, it is obvious that considerable capital expenditure of that magnitude will be necessary if we are to bring our telephone services into a comparable condition with those of any modern European community.

It is difficult to reconcile that very heavy capital programme with the kind of pedestrian, ineffectual commercial approach of which the Minister and his Department are quite obviously guilty. I do not totally blame the Minister. He is merely trying to handle the heritage of other Ministers, but when we consider that we have a total authorised capital expenditure of £62.75 million, at the same time as we have 13,000 people clamouring for a telephone and not provided with this amenity, one naturally asks oneself what would be the position if a private commercial venture had that amount of capital invested. Would they be in the position of having 13,000 people running to local TDs to write letters to the Minister begging him to put in telephones? I would rather think they would have travellers on the road going from house to house, that they would be advertising on Telefis Éireann and on every newspaper pointing out the advantage of having a telephone, how you could double your business and improve your social life——

That is questionable.

(South Tipperary): The reverse is the position. We have 13,000 people pestering Deputies and every Deputy pestering the Minister about telephones. So humorous has it become that the Minister now has a colossal stock of printed forms that he sends out to each Deputy. I have often felt that I should like to call on the Minister and ask him to give me a few dozen of these forms so that I could send them out directly to the people who write to me. That is very largely what happens and I do not say that to deride the unfortunate Minister who is the victim of a very indifferent performance down through the years.

The Minister wants £2 million extra and he proceeds to raise the cost of the postage stamp, the telephone and telegram. He explains this is necessary largely because of the ninth round of wage increases, as the expense of the postal and telegraph service is so largely a matter of salaries and wages. The service involves a large number of personnel and salaries and wages amount to something over £9 million. The Minister is now being hoist on his own petard or rather on the petard of the performance of his own Minister for Finance and Government who, by ill-advised taxes over a year ago, eventually provoked and made necessary the ninth round increases.

I deplore the increases which are made necessary because I feel, first, that they will not ultimately benefit the recipients and that they will be back in terms of real purchasing power just where they were before. I also deplore the increased charges now being introduced for telephones and postal services. These will not only mean a considerable burden on the poor sections of the community but will undoubtedly add to production costs and make our position less competitive internationally and add to the cost of commodities at home. The added expenses, plus the other subventions which in the past year were placed on the community, will make our position in a world of free trade less competitive and that is the most serious aspect of this or the other increases the Government have placed on us.

I also deplore the fact that despite the increased charges for telephones, telegrams and postage we now find, according to the Estimate, that instead of making a small profit, miserable though it was in view of the capital invested, the Minister dissipates in the coming year a loss of £300,000. I think the Minister must admit that if there were no two-and-a-half per cent turnover tax and no ninth round, in all probability he would be able to come to the House today and produce an Estimate which did not demand increases in the cost of stamps, telephones and telegrams. The ordinary letter, which a few years ago cost 2d., will cost 5d. now while in the case of our nearest neighbour across the Border it still costs only 3d.

My purpose in intervening in the debate is to draw the Minister's attention, if needs be, to the serious problems involved in and the repercussions arising from the interminable delay in the installation of telephones. To many laymen, the delay of so many months which is involved seems unjustified and unnecessary. We know of no good reason why applicants for telephones in some of the main streets of our towns should be held up for six or eight months before the telephone is installed. The many representations we have made on the subject to the Minister by way of personal interview, pointing out the hardship, inconvenience and loss of income caused by the lack of such a modern amenity have been of little or no avail. We have been told that the laying of trunk cables and such things must get priority.

In my own town of Clonmel, there are a number of people who have been waiting nearly 12 months for telephones. All of them are important citizens actively engaged in business and the lack of a telephone has caused them great hardship. There was an application by a firm of electrical contractors in one of our main streets, people who invested a lot of money in the town. Despite repeated representations by Deputies of all political Parties, we have been unable to secure a telephone for these people, even though there are telephones adjacent to these particular premises. From an engineering point of view, it would seem to us as laymen to be a simple matter to instal the necessary equipment for this much-needed telephone.

I know for a fact that this firm has lost a lot of business because of its inability to obtain a telephone. Two young men, electricians, who started the business, invested a lot of money in premises and equipment, have been asked by potential customers if they were on the telephone and they were obliged to say that they were unable to get a telephone and they have been bluntly told by these potential customers: "You are no good to us; we shall have to go elsewhere for our electrical appliances and services". We have conveyed these sentiments to the Minister's Department but seemingly it is of no avail.

Again many garage proprietors in our more important streets cannot get telephones installed. There is a grocery business which was raided by burglars and which is owned by a man who does not live on the premises and who wanted a telephone installed but he has not been able to get this essential service. We have farmers who live outside the town but have businesses within the town and they cannot get telephones. We also have the case of a garage proprietor in Clonmel who wanted an internal telephone for his premises and he has been applying for many months but has not been supplied with this internal communication yet.

It is not good enough to say that we must have priorities to this extent. The Minister should have regard to individual applicants in order of the importance of the business or profession and allot telephones in a fair way rather than throw down the gauntlet saying: "Thus far shall we go with the installation of telephones and no further, until X, Y and Z works are completed." That is an offhand manner in which to do business and shows a complete disregard for the hardship and loss of income caused to these people. I would ask the Minister to have another look at the list of applications in my constituency, with particular reference to Clonmel.

One of the first questions I tabled on entering this House in October in 1961 was to ask the Minister when it was hoped to have an automatic telephone exchange installed in the post office in Clonmel. The Minister gave me one of the shortest replies ever heard in the House. The answer was "Four years". I repeated that question nearly 12 months ago and the answer was again four years. Seemingly nothing had been done in the intervening period to reduce the period. I do not know when it is hoped to instal this telephone exchange but I hope the period will be reduced by at least 2½ years.

Recently I expressed concern about the erection of so many telephone and ESB poles throughout the countryside. I was somewhat heartened by the Minister's reply that he was conscious of the fact that these poles took from the scenic beauty of our countryside and was doing what he could to ensure that cables would be laid underground in the future. I would appeal to him to accelerate that kind of work, to ensure that, where possible, cables will be put underground and thus eliminate many of these unsightly poles.

We have a town and regional plan with which to conform and that plan seeks to bring about orderliness and preserve the beauty of our countryside and eliminate eyesores. In that regard, I want to refer to the vast number of television aerials to be seen in most of our towns and cities today. I need hardly say that this forest of aerials in our housing schemes destroys the beauty of many otherwise very lovely areas.

There is an alternative and I am surprised that the Department have not availed of it. Apart from the ugly appearance of these aerials, they constitute a danger and almost all local authorities insist that they must be insured. They do constitute a hazard, as many chimneys were not built to support such weighty objects. I suggest to the Minister that he should consider the desirability of bringing into vogue these communal aerials which will eliminate the unsightliness of these forests of TV aerials and give the required reception for TV.

One of the primary reasons I rise to speak in this debate is to bring to the notice of the House and the country the disgraceful state of affairs in our telephone exchanges. I am referring specifically to night telephone attendants whose conditions and wages are nothing less than a scandal. I make a fervent appeal to the Minister to end slavery in these night telephone exchanges. The House may not be aware that these night telephone attendants are obliged to work for two weeks to secure a normal week's wages, that they must work 70 or 80 hours per week for an ordinary week's pay, that they work seven days of the week, Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays and, to my knowledge, there is no such thing as overtime, bank holiday payment or anything else.

These men perform a most important function. They forfeit their time, their leisure and their rest and sit up all night in telephone exchanges doing a great social good. They have great responsibilities in the event of a hazard such as fire. They have to deal with ambulance calls, police calls, urgent calls to doctors, nurses and hospitals and with calls in cases of burglary and murder. These men are the key to all these problems. They bring worthwhile relief in emergencies at night. This is their recompense, that they work for approximately 2/6d. an hour for 80 hours per week in order to garner in some £9 or £10 which is an average week's pay in these times. I am demanding that these people be granted a better deal and that this scandal in our telephone exchanges be ended for all time.

The House must realise that the only places where there are designated night telephonists are Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Sligo and Dundalk. Seven of the major cities and towns of this country have designated night telephonists. All the other towns have not and they are staffed in the way I have mentioned, by men bereft of conditions and who are offered slave wages and expected to be responsible for the life and property of our citizens while at rest.

I am suggesting that where there are more than 1,000 telephone subscribers in any town or district, he should designate a night telephonist immediately in the post office there. It is true to say that the appointed night telephonists have decent wages and conditions, but why there should be such a disparity between the conditions and wages of the officially appointed men and the temporary men I do not know. The comparison is clearly odious, despite the fact that they all perform the same duties. It is not good enough for the Minister's top ranking officials to suggest that there is not enough work at night for these men to justify their getting a better wage. The facts are that they must put in seven or eight hours at night, give up their time, their leisure and their sleep and be on duty for any important calls that may be made. They should be paid on that basis and on that basis alone.

When the Department are obliged, as they often are, to get other members of the staff to do this work, they pay them not merely their appropriate rate but an overtime rate on top of that. That is why I wish to expose this scandal and to ask the Minister to take steps to ensure that decent conditions and decent salary scales, appropriate overtime rates and holiday payments, are made applicable to these unfortunate men. I would ask him also to see to it that these men are not so grossly overworked, as is now the case, that they must work upwards of 80 hours per week. The evidence is that, by reason of the kind of privation imposed on these men, some of them have been found dead on the job. That has occurred in my constituency and in other towns in recent times.

I have expressed concern, too, about reception from Radio Éireann in particular. The advent of TV is very laudable and I wish to pay a deserved tribute to Telefís Éireann for the wonderful effort they have put into televising great entertainment and programmes of cultural and educational value. I think our people in the main appreciate the efforts of this young Authority. However, it would seem the brains of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs are being siphoned off towards TV and that Radio Éireann is being left somewhat in the lurch in recent times. Programmes have clearly deteriorated. The reception from this station is becoming progressively worse. Many people who like to listen to the radio and would much prefer the radio to television, have been obliged to give up the radio in recent times, certainly in my constituency, as being worthless to them and have had to resort to transistor sets or television.

The Minister would be wise if he had a look at the situation obtaining in Radio Éireann and saw to it that the station was not allowed to die. Many people feel that the station is being allowed to die a slow death. The Minister should ensure that programmes are improved and in particular that reception is improved.

I expressed a view to the Minister that our emigrants in Great Britain look forward with hope and enthusiasm to news from Ireland, especially on festive occasions. It is quite common to see a host of Irishmen in their rooms or in the local listening to All-Ireland football and hurling finals on the radio or to a rugger match or a soccer match at Lansdowne Road or Dalymount Park, as the case may be, trying to glean what is happening in their own land. I understand that it is extremely difficult to get reception from Radio Éireann in Great Britain. I can well understand that. It is logical that if I complain about reception in Tipperary, it must be so much worse in Bristol, London, Coventry or Manchester. We must have regard to the millions of our race in these islands and I would urge the Minister to see what he can do by way of improving reception to ensure that our emigrants can keep in touch with the old land.

It has been alleged that a foreign station is cutting in on the Radio Éireann wavelength and that this has been happening for some time. The Minister ought to tell the House and the country what he is doing in the international field to eliminate piracy of this kind which is rendering reception from Radio Éireann virtually valueless from the point of view of the subscriber.

The Minister will appreciate that post offices are being availed of by the general public to an increasing extent every year. Apart from the purchase of stamps and postal orders and the sending of telegrams, people are obliged to go to the post offices for many other purposes. Application forms for old age pensions, blind pensions, contributory pensions, and so on are provided at post offices. Pensions, such as old age pensions, blind pensions, contributory pensions and children's allowances are, in the main, paid through the post offices. It is my experience that there is not sufficient privacy in post offices. Greater privacy is required in places where people are expected to give an account of their domestic affairs or where questions are asked by officials in regard to private and domestic affairs. I suggest that there is an obligation on the Department to provide privacy in such circumstances.

Cubicles are available in post offices for the writing of telegrams. The equipment in post offices comprises mainly some rather musty ink and a steel nib pen, which is probably rusty and unusable. The time has come when more helpfulness, more understanding and a greater appreciation of the needs of the public should be shown. I ask for privacy in respect of claims for pensions. It is patently wrong that any official should have the audacity to ask questions of a private nature pertaining to the applicant's circumstances and the circumstances of his family in a public or semi-public place within the hearing of other persons. Such conduct on the part of any official cannot be condoned.

I must say, however, that the officials in the post offices are highly trained, courteous and most considerate and it has been a source of pride to me to see the manner in which they assist the aged, the infirm and the blind in completing application forms or in respect of other business that they may wish to do. That is how we should like them to be— courteous, considerate and kind to such persons.

I am concerned about the condition of many sub-post offices. I put a question to the Minister some time ago with respect to sub-post offices. I was rather concerned to find that a building is designated to be a sub-post office and a person is appointed as sub-postmaster and we do not seem to be at all concerned as to the kind of premises in which the business is to be carried out. It would seem that we are not at all concerned as to the facilities afforded in that post office to the public. The premises may be old and dilapidated, lacking sanitary facilities, not having proper accommodation. They may even constitute a danger to the users of the premises. Apparently the Minister has no responsibility in the matter but I would hope that that is not so. I would impress upon the Minister the desirability of ensuring that sub-post offices which are utilised by so many of the public are rendered safe and are provided with the equipment necessary to meet the needs of the users.

I was concerned as to the entrance to a sub-post office where accidents had, in fact, occurred by reason of the number of steps leading to the entrance, where there was no handrail provided, and where the aged, the infirm and the blind were obliged to go every Friday for their pensions or for some other purpose. There were accidents. I brought the matter to the notice of the Minister and I was told, "Sorry, there is nothing I can do about it. That is a sub-post office." It is a post office, whether you call it a sub-post office or not, and the Minister who accepts the responsibility of designating that building as a post office should take care that the building is properly equipped, safe to enter from the point of view of the general public.

It is disturbing in the extreme to learn that it has now seemingly become recognised practice that we have not just one Budget each year but two. That is a dangerous precedent.

It is not a precedent.

The public have become used to a Budget, through which they expect the prices of certain commodities may be increased. Last year we had the turnover tax. This year extra money is being pulled in through increases in the prices of the pint, of spirits, of petrol, of smokes, even though we were told these had reached saturation point and that there was little hope of extra revenue being garnered from them in the future. That was the major Budget. Now we have the minor one from the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, imposing increases on stamps, telephones, postal orders, telegrams. For the running of such essential public services as those included in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, any extra expenditure should come from the Exchequer. We regard it as dangerous in the extreme to permit any Department other than the Department of Finance to present us with little budgets.

In my contribution to last year's Estimate, I appealed for better conditions for auxiliary postmen. I said the obnoxious word "auxiliary" should be removed altogether from the vocabulary of the Department, that it was unjust and unfair to expect a man to carry out the full duties of a postman during perhaps 40 years of his life and continue to be designated an auxiliary official without recognition or status of any kind. It would be far better to have such men established at a certain stage of their service rather than have them deprived forever of pension and other rights such as those enjoyed by their established colleagues. Were it not for the Rowland Hill Trust, many of these men, having given more than 40 years' service to the Department, would be forced to live in abject poverty at the end of their days and their widows and descendants forced to resort to home assistance. I wish to pay a well deserved tribute to the originators of that charity. Clearly it would take a very long yardstick to measure the good it has conferred on many widows and children of postmen who found themselves in straitened circumstances.

The fact that such a trust had to be established to cater for workers within a State enterprise, a State service, is a serious reflection on the inhumanity of officials of that time and down through the years since. That a charitable body of this kind had to be invoked is a clear indictment of the disregard previous Ministers for Posts and Telegraphs must have had for the welfare of postmen and their dependants. Consequently, I would ask the Minister to provide for auxiliary postmen, their wives and families not just charity but justice.

I conclude by asking the Minister to see what he can do to extend Telfís Scoile, a service which must be applauded by all associated with education throughout the country. I do not know whether this is within the ambit of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs or whether the responsibility rests with the Minister for Education who has been sitting in for the Minister during the afternoon. I know the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs is interested in education, too, and perhaps he would use his good offices to provide an extension of Telefís Scoile to technical and primary schools.

In these days, increased production is something that will make much greater demands on communications than those to which we have been accustomed in the past. As well as that, increased production will swell very much indeed the volume of those communications. The expansion of our industrial production and of our foreign trade will be closely connected and completely interwoven with our communications.

It is, therefore, frankly a matter for regret that at a time when it is essential we should have better communications to facilitate and even stimulate production, we should have one member of the Government, the Minister for Transport and Power, engaged in the extermination of the railways and another, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, engaged in making the services provided by his Department so outrageously expensive as to be a clog on that production.

The Department of Posts and Telegraphs cannot be allowed to jog along in the same old way. If the Department are allowed to put a brake on our economic growth, that brake can very well seize up the whole works. I want to put this roughly, but quite crudely, to the Minister. I am certain that if he and I went up to the cattle market, he would be able to show me I knew nothing about the job going on there. I am certain that in relation to the buying, selling or judging of cattle, he would be able to show me points out of number and to teach me a great deal, more perhaps than I would ever have the capacity to learn.

He would be able to show me that in that business I could not possibly hope to be efficient. In these modern days, any organisation is only as good as the man at the top is in the running of it. A person with the qualities of the Minister is not the person to run an organisation so vital to our economic growth and industrial production. I am afraid it is undoubted that what the Department of Posts and Telegraphs wants is to be completely shaken out of the lethargy of the last century. That can only be done by a person at the top who is capable of injecting new ideas right down along the way.

Only the other day, on the introduction of this Estimate, we got an example of how the Minister was prepared meekly to accept anything dished up to him when he admitted across the House, in reply to a query by me, that it had taken him 15 minutes to understand one particular sentence of the paragraph dished up to him. After it had taken him 15 minutes to assimilate, he went on and produced it parrotwise here, instead of having the enterprise to alter the phraseology to something that could be easily understood by everybody. Those are not the methods by which the Department can be changed to what is required in these commercial days.

We have seen it again in another example. Deputy Boylan is listening to me. He knows, as I know, that telephone communications in Kildare are chaotic. It is utterly impossible to dial a call from Celbridge to Naas or from Naas to Celbridge without having at least four shots before you get the right one. Yet everybody is perfectly happy about it. I would not mind if we had a frank acknowledgment that these things were there, that they were appalling and had to be surmounted. But everybody goes along perfectly happy, and anybody who is so extraordinary as to complain is written off as a crank.

I am not going to say that I do not get the most extraordinary personal courtesy from the officials of the Department, but that is not the point. The point is that the service is utterly inefficient. Everybody will tell you that on the trunk line from Dublin to Naas, you never get—that is no exaggeration —what you want on the first occasion. Recently, I was laid up at home. When I am laid up at home, I am afraid I am a menace to myself when it comes to my telephone account, and I am a menace to my friends and business associates because I have nothing to do at home except to telephone. I deliberately kept an account of three days' dialling from Naas to Dublin. Out of every five calls, four calls went wrong, either because there was no tone when you dialled or an engaged tone before you got at the number— so that it was not the number itself— or you got a wrong number.

That is not only my experience; it is the experience of everybody else. Only yesterday I was talking to somebody in the Celbridge area. They told me I was lucky to be able to get my STD once out of five. Very often they had to exceed that proportion. As I say, if I complain, everybody rushes around and does his utmost to facilitate me. I appreciate that and pay tribute to it, but it is not good enough that the system should be totally inefficient.

It is not only in respect to the STD system that we have difficulty. Last year it was put in for the first time and the position was utterly chaotic. I think we gave the Minister a fairly easy time in respect of it. We gave him the opportunity of finding out what was wrong. And, long though it took, eventually things did become better. But in the last month or two they have particularly deteriorated—because of the coaxial cable, I suppose, I am not clear on the mechanics of it—on the line from Dublin to Naas, Newbridge and Kildare and the connecting line from those exchanges to what used to be the Maynooth, Dunboyne and Celbridge exchange and is now the Celbridge exchange. It is bad enough to have to put up with this at the old charge, but to have to put up with it at the new charge is more than the people can bear. They are not going to put up with it. If the Minister is not capable of ensuring that the system runs properly, he should make way for someone else who is able to organise a business and make it run efficiently and properly.

You cannot expect to have modern industrial production without the telephone. Somebody said here earlier that the effect of installing a telephone was to make one's social life more pleasant. I disagree entirely with that aspect of it. My idea of a pleasant social life is to get away from the place where one could be reached on the telephone. It is not in respect of the social activity side of telephones I speak, but in respect of the industrial and commercial side. Commercial life just cannot manage without proper communication services.

The telegram has gone out of date. I sympathise with the Minister in his difficulties in respect of the telegraph service. The more telegrams are sent, the more the Minister loses. I can understand his difficulty in that respect, because he has to keep up the telegram service until such time as the telephone system becomes even more widely dispersed. Then, perhaps, he might not have the same difficulty, particularly with the growth of Telex. A proper telephone system, which does not fray one's temper but puts calls through in a reasonable time without the present absurd waste of time, is something desirable for the commercial community and for the economic growth about which we hear a good deal and which both sides of the House are anxious to foster.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.