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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 25 Oct 1979

Vol. 316 No. 5

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Report of P & T Review Group.


asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when it is intended to announce plans to implement the report of a Posts and Telegraphs review group.

I announced on 3 July 1979 that the Government had decided in principle, following an initial study of the report of the review group, to create two State-sponsored bodies to run the telecommunications and postal services and that, as a first step towards implementing this decision, the Government had also decided to set up two interim boards at the earliest possible date—one for the telecommunications service, as recommended by the Review Group, and one for the postal service.

I expect to make a further announcement on the matter in the very near future.

Will these bodies be set up in the near future?

The interim boards, yes.

When is the Minister talking about?

Very shortly.

Is the Minister having consultations with the people concerned?

I have always had consultations with everybody concerned.

Except the P & T people when they were on strike.

I have had always consultations and the very best of relations with the unions in my Department.

Why were they on strike for 18 weeks? They said the Minister would not meet them. He left them on the breadline for 18 long weeks.

The Deputy should have a chat with them.

They must have changed recently. The Minister would not meet them.

The Deputy knows how the Fine Gael statements and questions were interpreted by the workers in the Post Office. They were interpreted as a reflection on the work the people in the Post Office are doing.

That is not so.

Most certainly it is.

If the Minister had good relations with them, they would not have been on strike for 18 weeks.

When I pointed out that the postal services were almost back to normal—and when they are normal they are the best in the world—the Deputy was critical and reiterated his statement that the postal services were taking up to 20 days and 30 days which the workers in the Post Office took as a reflection on their work. The people in the Post Office, and particularly in the Central Sorting Office, worked extremely hard to clear an enormous mountain of mail.

Is the Minister saying we caused it?

They should be thanked rather than criticised, as Deputies opposite are doing, for the work they did in clearing that mail.

Is the Minister saying that the telephone service is back to normal?

The postal service is.

Have we not got the worst telephone service in the world, worse than the service in any banana republic?

It is on the verge of being back to normal.

On the verge.

Order. This is totally irrelevant.

The Chair allowed the Minister to go on for about two-and-a-half minutes.

If the Deputy had not raised an irrelevant supplementary, I would not have replied to it.

If it was irrelevant the Minister should not have replied to it.

That is a matter for the Chair.

If the Minister is feeling flaithiúlach in replying to questions—which is a welcome change—can he tell the House when legislation will be introduced to give effect to the recommendations in the report of the Posts and Telegraphs review group?

Is the Deputy referring to the statutory bodies?

That will take quite some time. We have to issue a Green Paper, and it will take a few months to issue it, for discussion purposes. Then we will issue a White Paper and go ahead with the legislation. If we look at the experience they had in Britain during the changeover it will take quite some time to get the legislation through.

Would the Minister consider shortening the consultative process and enlarging the legislative process by appointing a Select Committee of the House to go into the Committee Stage of the legislation?

We are concerned with a tremendous undertaking. I have to consult with all the people involved and I propose to do that.

So it will not be done in the lifetime of this Government.

We are making a very good start.