Is mian liom ar dtús mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis na Teachtaí go léir ón bhFreasúra agus ó thaobh an Rialtais as ucht na páirte a ghlac siad sa díospóireacht seo. Nochtaigh siad a smaointe go forleathan i rith na díospóireachta. D'éist mise leis na pointí a nochtaigh siad leis an dunghaois a bhí acu, agus is mian liom anois deireadh a chur——
Private Members' Business. - Postal and Telecommunications Services Bill, 1982: Second Stage (Resumed).
Tá an tAire ag iarraidh a chuid smaointe a nochtadh, agus ní feidir leis é sin a dhéanamh má tá daoine ag cur isteach ar. Iarraim ciúineas don Aire.
Mar a dúirt mé tá mé buíoch do na Teachtaí agus is mian liom deireadh a chur leis an díospóireacht ar an Dara Léamh den Bhille fíor thábhachtach seo.
I had an opportunity of speaking for a short time to wind up the Second Stage of the Bill. I did at the time — and I repeat now — thank the Deputies who contributed to the debate for the other side of the House and from this side. I listened very carefully to the views expressed and in the time available I shall try to cover most of the points made.
Before the debate of the Postal and Telecommunications Services Bill was adjourned on Wednesday, 23 June, I had expressed my surprise at some of the points made, by the Labour Party particularly, about the Bill. Deputies Bermingham, Kavanagh, Moynihan, Ryan and Spring indicated that they intended to oppose the Bill because they disagreed with the proposed reorganisation. They claimed that by handing over responsibility for day-to-day management of the postal and telecommunications services to the proposed State-sponsored bodies, Parliament would be reneging on its responsibilities for these two services which have been run by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs since before the State was founded.
They considered that, if adequate finances were provided, the Department of Posts and Telegraphs could manage the services just as well as the State-sponsored bodies, they feared that the reorganisation would result in a deterioration in services, particularly in rural areas, and that more lucrative areas of business would be creamed off by private contractors, and that a statutory corporation rather than a statutory company would be a more suitable structure if the reorganisation must take place. Deputy Desmond said that he would have no objection to the postal and telecommunications services being transferred to a single public corporation.
I want to explain to the House that when I was constructing my reply to the debate I did so on a thematic basis rather than on the order in which Deputies contributed. Deputies Bermingham, Spring and Taylor opposed the proposals to set up two separate State-sponsored companies.
Concern for the staff of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs seemed to be the most important factor which influenced the opposition put forward by the Labour Party to the reorganisation. Virtually every Deputy who spoke in the House on the Bill expressed concern in this area and stressed the importance of full consultation with the staff and of allaying their fears. The Government and I, as the responsible Minister, are just as concerned about the future of the staff of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs as Opposition Deputies. I have personally committed myself to ensuring that the legitimate interests of the staff will be protected. I reiterate this commitment here. The reorganisation will not be implemented until I have satisfied myself that this has been done.
It was suggested that there have been inadequate consultations with staff about the reorganisation. I must vehemently assert that from the very outset there have been detailed consultations with recognised unions and associations, and individual staff members have been kept advised of developments as they occurred. Going back to 1979, staff organisations were consulted when the Government decisions on Dr. Dargan's report were announced. The appointment of members of the staff organisations to each of the two interim boards is evidence of the concern at that early stage that staff should be fully involved in the planning for the reorganisation.
The Green Paper of May 1980 and the submissions made in response to it by virtually all the staff organisations representing staff employed in the Department provided the basis for comprehensive consultations. Each member of the staff and each postmaster was given a copy of the Green Paper and an explanatory message from the Minister. Each staff organisation's comments on the Green Paper were discussed directly with that organisation, and following this process a comprehensive memorandum was issued in May 1981 to provide a basis for detailed consultation through the appropriate agreed channels. The White Paper was published about the same time and a copy, again with an explanatory message from the Minister, was given to each member of the staff and to each postmaster.
Each member of the staff and every postmaster received a personal message from the Minister on the occasion of publication of the Bill giving extracts from the Bill. Copies of the Bill and of the Explanatory Memorandum have also been made widely available for reference by members of the staff.
A special joint working party of management and staff organisations were established to pursue comprehensive and detailed consultations following publication of Government decisions in the White Paper of May 1981. That working party have held a number of meetings.
Arrangements for a further meeting were put in train immediately the Bill was ready and a detailed memorandum, dealing with outstanding points which were waiting on the Government decisions embodied in the Bill, was issued to the staff organisations. Further detailed consultations are necessary. For my part I will see that everything possible will be done to achieve arrangements which will be acceptable to all concerned and I recently met representatives of some of the major unions representing staff affected by the reorganisation to hear their views at first hand. Indeed, I went into the points in the Bill at a long meeting with the major union concerned and we discussed points of particular concern to that union.
It was also suggested that the Bill should not be enacted until agreement has been reached with staff unions and associations about all aspects of the reorganisation likely to affect them. I cannot overstress that this is essentially an enabling piece of legislation. It is designed, among other things, to provide certain essential safeguards for the staff of my Department. It does not purport to cover all the aspects of the reorganisation about which the staff are concerned, nor indeed would it be appropriate for it to do so. Most of these are not matters for legislative provisions. They have not been dealt with in any legislation in this country dealing with the civil service, with earlier transfers of civil servants to the State-sponsored sector or with protection of employees generally. I refer, for example, to guarantees sought regarding security of tenure, promotion outlets, and so on. The fact that these matters are not covered in the Bill does not take from their importance. I am fully aware of staff concerns. They have already been identified very clearly in the ongoing consultations in the working party to which I referred earlier and to me personally at meetings I had with some of the major unions involved. They will continue to be dealt with in that forum.
However, there is one area on which I would like to comment and which I know is of major importance, that is, the question of security of tenure of staff in the proposed State-sponsored companies. It must be recognised that civil servants do not enjoy statutory security of tenure and it cannot reasonably be expected that the staff of the new bodies should be given such a statutory guarantee. But the fact is that this aspect of the reorganisation is of major concern to the staff. In recognition of this I have arranged to have the matter reconsidered in depth. It will be discussed further at the working party.
As regards possible job losses by telephone operators, I am glad of this opportunity to allay staff fears which may have been caused by comments in this House, particularly refernces to figures of 1,000 or 1,500 operators as the number of operators that would be required. These were genuine fears, and representations were made to me even in my constituency.
The first point I would like to make on this question is that the change in the traditional work done by telephone operators has no connection whatsoever with the proposed reorganisation of postal and telecommunications services. The trend is an inevitable consequence of modernisation of the telecommunications system. The Development Programme, 1980 to 1984, has resulted in an acceleration in the trend primarily because of the large number of manual telephone exchanges which have been and are being converted to automatic working. This situation would exist irrespective of the reorganisation, that is, if the Department of Posts and Telegraphs had remained unchanged.
The second point is that the figures mentioned in this House about the reduction in the number of operators likely to be required when the system is fully converted to automatic working are grossly exaggerated. It is true that there will be a continuing reduction in the number of telephone operators required, but the reductions will not be anything like the figures quoted.
There have been discussions with the unions concerned about this question. Up to now all permanent operators who became surplus when the telephone exchange at which they were employed was converted to automatic working were offered the same type of employment at other telephone exchanges. The expectation is that it will be possible to make the same or similar arrangements in the case of the vast majority if not all permanent operators who become surplus over the next few years as a result of the automatisation programme. Further discussions are necessary with the unions on this matter and these will be arranged shortly.
I fully agree with every Deputy who spoke about the need to allay staff fears. Change of any kind tends to arouse fear. I fully understand and appreciate that a major change of the kind involved in this reorganisation is bound to cause fear and uncertainty among the staff. I and the Government will do everything practicable to allay these fears. I only hope that my task will not have been made more difficult by some of the statements made in this House suggesting that the boards of the new companies will behave less than responsibly and considerately in their dealings with staff or that they will ignore the social obligations associated with the functions and powers to be assigned to them under the Bill.
From the conversations I have had with the chairmen and chief executives of An Bord Poist and An Bord Telecom I know that they are fully conscious of the need to allay staff fears, to use the best personnel practices in the new bodies, and to create viable companies providing efficient services to which the staff will be proud and happy to belong. I have every confidence that they will achieve these aims.
As an earnest of my intention to do everything possible to protect the legitimate interests of the staff and to meet them to the maximum extent practicable, I have decided to introduce a number of amendments on the Committee Stage of the Bill in the case of some sections which have caused unease to staff organisations. The sections concerned are Nos. 16, 42, 43, 64, 73 and 105. In the case of section 16, I will propose that the negotiation machinery which the companies will be required to set up will have to be agreed by the appropriate unions. The section as it stands provides for consultation only.
The amendments to sections 42 and 43 will make it clear beyond all shadow of doubt that any variation of pay and conditions including pensions introduced by either company in the future may not be such that they would worsen the pay and conditions enjoyed by the staff on transfer to the new companies.
While the other sections to which I referred do not directly affect the staff, nevertheless I have decided to meet points made by some of their unions in order to demonstrate in a practical way my willingness to go as far as possible to meet them.
The amendment to section 64 will provide that the Minister for Finance will be required to consult the postal company if he proposes to make an order or to revoke an order made under the section enabling the company to provide banking services. Similarly, under the amendment to section 73 the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs will be required to consult the company if he proposes to revoke an order made under the section delegating to the company functions in regard to collection of television licence fees.
Finally, I will propose an amendment to section 105 to provide that if the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs proposes to issue a licence to a third party to provide services covered by the exclusive privilege of either company he will be required to announce his intention to do so by order.
I will circulate details of these amendments in due course together with a few technical amendments about which I will not trouble the House at this stage. I need hardly say that any amendments proposed by Deputies in this area or indeed regarding any other aspect of the Bill will be carefully considered.
There is one final point before I leave the staff relations aspect. Deputy Keating said that the intention was to supply staff personnel files to the new companies. I do not know how he formed this impression. Deputy Cosgrave also referred to staff worries about the transfer of such files. No such decision has been made.
Before the debate on the Postal and Telecommunications Services Bill was adjourned on Wednesday, 23 June, I had explained in some detail the provisions proposed about superannuation. Because of the number of Deputies who commented on this aspect during the course of the debate — Deputies Cooney, Fitzpatrick, Bermingham, Gallagher and Harte — I just had ten minutes at the time and I thought it was important to get it on the record of the House. I want to put it on the record of the House a second time because I regard it as being of some importance. I want to reaffirm what I said then. The companies are being required to make provision only to cover pension liability for service arising after the vesting day. The Exchequer will accept liability for all service prior to that day including the cost of existing pensions. The arrangement that the Exchequer contingent liability is not expected to be called on for about 30 years does not involve any extra costs on the companies.
There is one final point on the superannuation question. Deputy Cooney asked what the provision needed for post-vesting day would cost the companies over and above the amount included in the Post Office commercial accounts at present. In the case of the telecommunications service it would represent an extra £9 million in 1982 as compared with a turnover of £300 million and £6 million in the case of the postal service, as compared with a turnover of £105 million.
The next point that Deputy Cooney raised was the financing of postal development. He asked for an assurance that the £50 million to be provided under the Bill will be made available by way of equity. Deputies O'Sullivan, Birmingham and Treacy claimed that the amount of £50 million was inadequate.
The Government have recognised that An Post will not be in a strong financial position initially. This is self-evident from my introductory speech and from the provisions of the Bill. However, the Government are not prepared to make a commitment about the method of financing postal development until they have had an opportunity of studying the five year development plan to be produced by the company, despite the commitments in the Bill in terms of hard money. Having said that, I am confident that this Government will take sympathetic and realistic decisions about financing future postal development. I do not have to remind Deputy Cooney, after his experience of framing this year's Estimate, that the State has not a bottomless purse and that blank cheques cannot be written for postal development or for anything else.
As regards the figure of £50 million, this is the amount estimated to be needed for an initial programme. If the Members of the House check the expenditure over the last few years they will see that £50 million would have covered a great number of years before this Bill was introduced at all. Admittedly I said on Second Stage that there was inadequate expenditure and we are trying to make amends for that.
Deputies Cooney, O'Sullivan and Harte questioned the adequacy of the grants for current expenditure. Deputy Cooney asked for specific information about losses projected for the postal service which he apparently considers to be inevitable. The out-turn for the service will depend primarily on the volume of postal traffic handled. I know that the chief executive of the interim Postal Board, who will also be chief executive of An Post, is determined that the volume of postal traffic will be increased and he intends to use all his expertise to do that. The forecast for the present year is that the service will break even but that is subject to how traffic performs in the next six months.
On the basis of optimistic but reasonable forecasts of traffic growth and costs, deficits over a five year period could be considerably less than £20 million. They could be less than £10 million. If pessimistic projections of traffic growth and/or costs were used the deficits could be in excess of £20 million. I have confidence myself that the new company will, by stimulating growth, by introducing new services, and by, and through, increased productivity of the staff, justify the more optimistic forecasts.
As regards telecommunications, Deptuty Cooney claimed that the burden of loan capital proposed would involve an undue drain on the current income of the company leaving little money available to finance development. He also disagreed with the proposal to require the company to pay dividends to meet the loan charges on the £355 million being transferred to the company in exchange for shares.
Deputy Bermingham asked where the money to finance development was going to come from. Deputies Desmond, Gallagher, Harte and O'Sullivan questioned the adequacy of the arrangements.
The capital structure proposed for the telecommunications service will provide a debt equity ratio of 1: 1.35 which in my view is very favourable and is much more favourable than that of many State-sponsored companies. As a matter of fact, I can tell the House that I was very pleased when I succeeded in achieving the arrangements we came to for the halving of the amount to be paid in 1983 by An Bord Telecom Éireann to the Government from £96 million to £48 million through halving the amount, of repayable Exchequer loans by converting £355 million to equity, because as the House will know if they listened to my Second Stage speech, £710 million was the amount that had been advanced and on which interest of £96 million was supposed to have been paid back to the Government in 1983.
This represents a much improved financial structure to that hitherto applicable to the Department. That is why I was pleased to achieve this and very surprised when it came under criticism from speakers during this debate. The decision to convert £355 million of Exchequer loans to equity will, as I explained, result in a reduction of £48 million in current expenditure in 1983. The burden on Bord Telecom would have been £96 million had I not succeeded in halving it. The Minister for Finance will have to make up the £48 million and he generously allowed that halving to take place. If such a financial structure had been available to the Department in the past, the commercial accounts for the telecommunications service would have shown surpluses in 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1981 with a small deficit in 1979. In 1982, there would be a substantial surplus. It is reasonable to expect the new commercially oriented State-sponsored company to do better, particularly as they are inheriting a service which is poised to become as good as the best in the EEC and as the heavy capital investment of recent years will become increasingly revenue-earning from now on. Deputy Cooney made that point during his contribution.
The requirement that Bord Telecom Éireann will have to pay dividends which over a period of at most 10 years will offset the loan charges on the £355 million advances which will be met in the meantime by the general taxpayer was questioned, very surprisingly, by Deputy Cooney on the ground that this would be inconsistent with the financial duties of the company and their commercial freedom. He considered that it should be left to the company to decide what dividend payments would be made on the State shares.
It seems to me that the Deputy's views in this regard are inconsistent with his comment to which I have already referred, that profits from a public monopoly should accrue to the Exchequer, or his later one that shareholders in a company are entitled to look for an adequate return on their investment. The position is that the company will be State-owned with State assets valued at over £1,400 million. It is reasonable in these circumstances that the State should have a say in the dividends to be paid, particularly in relation to debts which will have to be financed by the general taxpayer initially — and altogether in the absence of adequate dividend receipts from the company. I think that we can assume that no Government will require dividend payments at a level that will cripple the company, and there is provision for consultation with Bord Telecom Éireann about dividend payments in section 104 of the Bill.
As regards where the money for development will come from, Bord Telecom Éireann will be required under the Bill to finance a reasonable proportion of their capital needs from internal sources, including depreciation provisions which will be quite substantial. The balance will be financed by borrowing from commercial sources. This does not establish a new principle. Most of the money needed for telecommunications development this year is being raised by Irish Telecommunications Investments Limited from commercial sources such as the banks.
One final point on the financial aspects of the reorganisation. Deputy Cooney asked what the position would be about VAT and the implications for the financing of the companies. There will be no change in the present position. Both postal and telecommunications services will be exempt from VAT, as they have been in the past. Accordingly there are no new implications involved for the financing of either company.
Or for new services?
I will now deal with the opposition expressed by the Labour Deputies to the fundamental concept of the reorganisation. I might add that Deputy Harte also seemed to have an ambiguous approach to the Bill. While expressing support for the Bill, the tenor of many of his remarks seemed to indicate that he would prefer alternative structures to those proposed in the Bill.
I did not expect to have to defend the basic concept of the reorganisation to members of the Labour Party and Fine Gael. In their “Programme for Government 1981-1986”, published in 1981, both parties committed themselves to giving statutory authority to An Bord Poist and An Bord Telecom and to facilitate in every way their restructuring of these vital national services. During their period in office, the Coalition Government played a large part in putting this Bill together. Indeed, as I mentioned earlier the Long and Short Titles of the Bill were put on the Order Paper before Christmas 1981.
Deputy Cooney was totally dedicated to the advancement of this Bill but he did not get the support from his Minister for Finance which I received from my Minister for Finance, enabling me to bring this Bill before the House.
However, I will deal briefly with the points on which opposition to the concept of the reorganisation was based. I do not accept that by transferring responsibility for day-to-day management of postal and telecommunications services to two separate State-sponsored bodies, Parliament would be reneging on its responsibilities. Parliament is not involved in matters of day-to-day management of any of the other main infrastructural services available in the community for example, electricity, water supplies, transport, roads, etc. It has been involved in this aspect of postal and telecommunications services because the services were being run by a Government Department when the State was set up. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and the Government of the day will still be responsible, when the new State-sponsored bodies are set up, for policy aspects of development of postal and telecommunications services. A close reading of the Bill will indicate that. The Bill provides enabling power for the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to direct the company to comply with Government policies in this regard. The annual Estimates for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs will have to be approved by the Oireachtas in the normal way and Deputies will have an opportunity of dealing with policy matters in relation to posts and telecommunications.
I have no doubt that if it was so decided by Parliament, the Department of Posts and Telegraphs could continue to manage postal and telecommunications services as they have done in the past. The point at issue is whether the services could be developed more quickly and more efficiently by two State-sponsored bodies. As I mentioned in my introductory speech, the Posts and Telegraphs Review Group examined the question of the most suitable environment for development of the new services at considerable length in their report. They concluded that a Government Department which by its very nature is subject to constraints necessary for the purposes of central Government, does not create a suitable environment for management of large businesses such as post and telecommunications. The present Government and the two previous Governments accepted the recommendation of the review group that management of the two services should be transferred to State-sponsored companies because they would provide a better environment for more rapid development of efficient services. The fears expressed that the reorganisation would result in serious deterioration in services available in rural areas are quite without foundation. An Post and Bord Telecom Éireann would be statutorily required to meet the industrial, commercial and social needs of the State for efficient postal and telecommunications services and, so far as is reasonably practicable, to satisfy all reasonable demands, for such services throughout the State. If either company fail to do so, they would be in breach of their statutory duties.
As regards the suggestions that more lucrative portions of the services would be hived off to private contractors and that the reorganisation involves handling over the postal and telecommunications services to private interests, the position is as follows. It would be illegal for anybody to provide services covered by the exclusive privilege to be assigned to the companies under the Bill except under licence issued by the company or by the Minister. The companies would have power to issue licences only with the consent of the Minister. It is inconceivable that they would wish to hive off lucrative portions of their business to private interests and should they be tempted to do so, the Minister would not countenance such an arrangement. The only circumstances in which issue of licences by either company is envisaged at present is in cases where they are unable or unwilling to provide special types of services themselves. This does not establish a new principle. In the case of telecommunications, commercial interests have been permitted to provide, for example, private automatic branch exchanges for connection to the public network for many years past. The enabling power for issue of licences by the Minister is a fall-back provision. The present Bill should provide a framework for development of postal and telecommunications services for the rest of the century. Circumstances might arise in the future in which the issue of such a licence might be considered desirable in the public interest where, for example, despite its exclusive privilege, either company was not meeting the industrial, commercial and social needs of the State for efficient postal or telecommunications services.
In case there should be any doubt in the matter, I would like to stress that the two new companies will be wholly State-owned. The directors will be appointed by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs with the exception of three who will be elected by the workers. If there was any question in the future of allowing public participation in the equity of either company, amending legislation would be necessary to increase the authorised share capital of the company in question. We are not talking, therefore, about handing over management of postal and telecommunications services to private interests. What is involved is transferring management of the services from the civil service of the public service.
Finally, there is the question of whether a statutory corporation would be preferable to a statutory company and whether the provision in the Bill for providing two separate companies is preferable to having the two services managed by a single body. Here again, the Posts and Telegraphs Review Group in their report considered both of these issues. I also dealt with them in my introductory speech on this Stage. Briefly the statutory company seems to offer scope for greater flexibility than the statutory corporation. From the staff point of view there is no essential difference between a statutory corporation and a statutory company
Two separate companies are being proposed, basically because this Government and the two previous Governments accepted the validity of the reasons quoted by the review group in their report when they recommended two companies rather than one. I quoted fully from the report of the review group on this aspect in my introductory speech. Nothing I have heard during the course of the debate here has convinced me that the eminent review group came to the wrong conclusion. Before leaving this particular subject, I should refer to one other point mentioned by quite a number of Deputies, that is a fear that the reorganisation will result in huge increases in administrative costs. The State-sponsored companies will take over the existing staff who are running these services at present. I do not see any need for, nor do I think that the two new companies would propose any significant increases in administrative staff. They will have available to them, as Deputy Fitzpatrick pointed out, a very experienced staff who have been managing the services for many years. If either company were tempted to build up a large empire, the provision in the Bill which will require them to publish particulars of the cost-effectiveness of their operations should prevent them from succumbing to such a temptation. The residual Department of Posts and Telegraphs will, it is estimated, have a staff of somewhere between 100 and 200. This staff will be engaged in functions which are not being transferred to either company. Consequently the question of duplication of costs will not arise in this area, either.
I will deal briefly with the social aspects of the services. Deputies Kavanagh, O'Sullivan, Ryan and Taylor claimed that the social aspects of the two services where not adequately covered in the Bill. I would like to reassure Deputies in this regard. The Bill provides for reserved powers for the Minister and the Government which would enable them to take appropriate action in the unlikely event of failure by either company to have regard to the social obligations which inevitably follow from the fact that they will be public companies operating monopolies in provision of essential infrastructural services. For example, the companies may charge only the minimum necessary to meet financial targets which will be set by the Minister. The Minister will also have power to direct the companies to provide loss-making services and to comply with Government policy in relation to development of the two services. These two provisions provide clear recognition of the social aspects of postal and telecommunications services.
Deputies E. Collins, Cosgrave, Desmond, Faulkner, Fennell, Gallagher, Harte, Kavanagh, Keating, Kelly, Mitchell, Moynihan, O'Sullivan, Ryan, Shatter, Spring and Treacy commented on individual sections of the Bill, or on other matters that they considered should be dealt with in the Bill. Time prevents me from replying in detail on this occasion. Deputies might, perhaps, raise them again on Committee Stage and I shall deal with them.
There are a number of other points that I would like to make, but time is running out on me. Deputy Kelly claims that the only reason we were doing this was that we were imitating Britain in this and in other things as well. The direct opposite is the case. Britain started off with a single company—
With the agreement of the House, the Minister could be allowed to speak beyond a quarter past nine.
Limerick West): No, Deputy. This business concludes at 9.15, by agreement of the House.
Not even by agreement?
I am afraid that we have a very stern Chairman.
That was agreed with the last Chairman.
I thank the Deputy for his consideration.
Britain started off with a single company and after we had made the decision to have two companies dealing with the services, they decided to split their single company into two, one to deal with postal services and the other to deal with telecommunications. I would like to commend Deputy Flanagan on a long, detailed, enthusiastic and encouraging speech. He encouraged me very much to get ahead with the Bill. He referred to the developments in communications technology and its possible application to the postal services. I am glad to say that a new service using the most up-to-date technology will be introduced in the coming months. The FAXPOST service will involve transmission and receipt of document facsimiles between offices in Dublin, Cork, Britain, the USA and Canada and these transmissions will be done in a matter of minutes.
I must ask the Minister now to conclude.
I only wish to say again that I have had conversations with the representative unions and also with the executives of the new boards. I am convinced that their dedication, their mastery of the problems involved and of new techniques, expertise and new developments will assure a development which will be worthy of this country both in the postal service which needs it very badly and in the telecommunications area which is also in need of updating. We are on target with our programme which was launched some years ago.
One final point, I mentioned earlier that is an enabling Bill and I wish to stress that. Section 9 requires me to arrange for the setting up of the two new companies and to appoint a vesting day for them. It does not contain any time limit in this regard. I mentioned earlier that I wanted to have the Bill enacted in the current session and to have the two companies set up in the autumn.
A number of Deputies thought that I was rushing the Bill unduly. I do not accept this. This reorganisation was announced three years ago and the White Paper on which the legislation is based was published over 12 months ago. There was nothing new in the Bill from the point of view of aspects affecting the staff that had not already been dealt with in the White Paper. As I said earlier, the only new thing was my success in getting from the Government adequate finance to launch this Bill. Even if the Bill had been enacted during the current session it would not necessarily have meant that the vesting day would have been in the autumn. Progress in discussions with the staff would obviously be taken into account and I would, of course, have consulted the boards in the matter also. However, this is largely academic now as Committee Stage will not be taken until the Dáil resumes later this year.
May I again thank all the Deputies who contributed to the debate? I hope that I have commented on the main points raised. No doubt many of these will come up again for discussion on Committee Stage, together with comments on individual sections made by some Deputies. Questions of detail on the existing services raised by Deputies will be replied to separately. I welcome the support expressed by many Deputies for the Bill, which is designed to provide an environment more favourable than that available in a Government Department, for the more rapid development and provision of more efficient postal and telecommunications services. It should be a source of encouragement to the two boards that they have the goodwill of many in this House in the task they are facing. The many congratulatory remarks made about the staff of my Department and the obvious concern on all sides of the House that they should find satisfaction, security and scope for development in their new employment will I hope, help to reassure the staff that their future will be bright in An Post and in An Bord Telecom Éireann.
Is mian liom búochas a ghlacadh arís leis na Teachtaí.
- Ahern, Bertie.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Andrews, David.
- Andrews, Niall.
- Aylward, Liam.
- Barrett, Michael.
- Barrett, Sylvester.
- Bellew, Tom.
- Brady, Gerard.
- (Dublin South-East).
- Brady, Gerry. (Kildare).
- Brady, Vincent.
- Brennan, Matty.
- Brennan, Ned.
- Brennan, Seamus.
- Browne, Seán.
- Burke, Raphael P.
- Byrne, Hugh.
- Byrne, Seán.
- Calleary, Seán.
- Colley, George.
- Collins, Gerard.
- Conaghan, Hugh.
- Connolly, Ger.
- Cowen, Bernard.
- Daly, Brendan.
- De Rossa, Proinsias.
- Ellis, John.
- Fahey, Francis.
- Fahey, Jackie.
- Faulkner, Pádraig.
- Filgate, Eddie.
- Fitzpatrick, Tom.
- (Dublin South-Central).
- Fitzsimons, Jim.
- Flynn, Pádraig.
- Foley, Denis.
- French, Seán.
- Gallagher, Denis.
- Gallagher, Paddy.
- Gallagher, Pat Cope.
- Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
- Gibbons, Jim.
- Harney, Mary.
- Haughey, Charles.
- Hilliard, Colm.
- Keegan, Seán.
- Kitt, Michael P.
- Lawlor, Liam.
- Lenihan, Brian.
- Leonard, Jimmy.
- Loughnane, Bill.
- Lynch, Michael.
- Lyons, Denis.
- McCarthy, Seán.
- McEllistrim, Tom.
- MacSharry, Ray.
- Meaney, Tom.
- Molloy, Robert.
- Morley, P.J.
- Murphy, Ciarán P.
- Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
- O'Dea, William G.
- O'Donoghue, Martin.
- O'Hanlon, Rory.
- O'Kennedy, Michael.
- O'Leary, John.
- O'Malley, Desmond.
- Power, Paddy.
- Reynolds, Albert.
- Tunney, Jim.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Walsh, Seán.
- Wilson, John P.
- Woods, Michael.
- Wyse, Pearse.
- Bermingham, Joe.
- Desmond, Barry.
- Desmond, Eileen.
- Gregory-Independent, Tony.
- Higgins, Michael.
- Kavanagh, Liam.
- Kemmy, Jim.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- O'Sullivan, Toddy.
- Pattison, Séamus.
- Quinn, Ruairi.
- Ryan, John.
- Spring, Dick.
- Taylor, Mervyn.
- Treacy, Seán.
When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?
On the first sitting day after the recess.