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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 13 Nov 1946

Vol. 33 No. 1

Telephone Capital Bill, 1946 (Certified Money Bill)—Second and Subsequent Stages.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Senators will be aware generally from the discussion in the Dáil and from Press reports of the purpose for which this Bill is introduced. No doubt, however, they will be desirous of some detailed information on the main aspects of the Bill, and, in furnishing this, I wish to take the opportunity to correct certain misapprehensions which the debate in the Dáil showed to exist.

First, I should like to say something about the present state of the telephone service, which is frequently now the object of severe criticism. I know that the standard of service generally is not as high as we would wish. Trunk calls suffer heavy delay; calls in the Dublin automatic area are often difficult to obtain and when obtained sometimes break down; there is at times delay in answering subscribers dialling "O" or "31." This deterioration is due to the fact that for more than six years it has been almost impossible to obtain supplies of equipment in the quantities needed and during that same period traffic has grown at a phenomenal rate. Between 1938 and 1945 trunk calls increased from 3,300,000 to 7,118,000 and local calls in the same period increased from 30,000,000 to 48,000,000. Extra traffic on such a scale could not be carried satisfactorily without an enormous expansion of our telephone system all over the country. We entered the war period with what then represented three years' reserve supply of equipment, but the huge demands for military and Gárda circuits, coupled with the growth of traffic, soon swallowed up this reserve. From then on every extra call meant an extra load on the existing system and as calls continued to mount at an unprecedented rate the standard of service was bound to suffer. The surprising thing is not that the standard deteriorated under these conditions but that it was possible to avoid a breakdown. I say with confidence that there is not a single other commodity or service depending almost entirely on imported raw material which has been supplied to the public in quantities equivalent to double the pre-war supply, even with a reduction in quality. That it has been possible for the telephone service to do this is due to the foresight shown in ordering reserve supplies before the war; due to the ingenuity of our engineering staff in prolonging the life of items of equipment long since due for replacement and devising new methods to make it carry a heavier load; and due to the whole-hearted co-operation of the operating staff.

This staff has been working under difficult conditions with outworn and inadequate equipment striving all the time to give the public the very best service possible. I would say to the staff to respond to criticism and unfair abuse as Cuchulainn did when abused in battle by his charioteer and to maintain their efforts to cope with a very difficult situation.

While on this subject I would like, if I may, to correct a common misapprehension regarding delay which subscribers sometimes experience when they dial "O". Many subscribers are under the impression that because they do not get the engaged tone there is no lack of equipment and that the delay is due therefore either to neglect by the staff, or to lack of staff. This is not so. When a caller dials "O" a lamp lights on a number of switchboards in the Trunk Exchange and an operator at any one of these switchboards can answer the call. But our trouble is that frequently so many lamps are lighting together that all cannot be answered quickly. Clearly, the number of operators that can be employed answering calls is limited by the number of switchboards; and until we can get more switchboards for the Trunk Exchange delay in answering cannot be avoided at busy periods. Contrary to the view sometimes held by people with inadequate knowledge, there is no effort whatever to stint staff. Staff is provided on the most generous scale, the only limiting factor being the capacity, with limited equipment, to train them.

The trouble being experienced by users of the Dublin automatic system is due purely and simply to the facts that a load is being imposed on the automatic exchanges which they were never intended to bear and that many parts of the equipment in the exchanges need renewal.

The position at other exchanges is similar; equipment is in need of extension or replacement at almost every exchange of any size throughout the country.

I have dealt at some length with the present state of the telephone service so that the volume of work to be carried out before universal improvement can be effected may be appreciated. To any reasonable person the causes of the present unsatisfactory conditions are self-evident and sufficient, and it is equally clear that the deficiency of five years or more cannot be made good in a day or month. What can be expected is that nothing will be left undone to speed the work of renewal and extension and to bring the service to a high pitch of efficiency in the least possible time. This is our object and it is for this purpose, as well as to provide for a huge increase in the number of subscribers, that a sum of £6,000,000 is now being sought which we expect to spend in the next four to five years. The total cost of the scheme which has been planned will be not less than £10,000,000 but, in accordance with practice, only the amount estimated to be spent in the next four to five years is asked for in this Bill. As a measure of the volume of expansion which it is intended to carry out, I may remark that the total outlay hitherto on the telephone service since it was taken over from the National Telephone Company in 1912 has been £3,500,000.

The annual charges on the capital expenditure proposed will, of course, impose a heavy burden on telephone revenue for many years ahead but I am confident that revenue will rapidly increase, and although a loss may be incurred for a few years it will quickly be overtaken as more plant becomes revenue-earning.

The development scheme planned provides for trebling the number of subscribers, but plant and equipment will be so laid out that a much bigger number can readily be catered for if the demand exceeds our expectations. While this will be done we shall, like all telephone administrations throughout the world, guard against providing plant too far in advance of its being required. Obviously, there is no advantage to the users of the service in having extensive equipment lying idle for many years with heavy charges for interest and depreciation throwing an unnecessary burden on telephone revenue and perhaps preventing tariff concessions which might otherwise be possible from being given to subscribers.

I fully recognise that the best advertisement for the service will be to give satisfaction to existing users and this we intend to do. We shall give "demand" service on trunk calls; that is, almost every trunk call from any point to any other point will be connected without the caller having to leave the telephone. Kiosks and call offices will be provided extensively on a most generous scale; continuous service will be given at all but the very smallest exchanges and for this purpose automatic exchanges will be installed instead of the present manual ones.

The size of the programme of work which must be carried out in order to effect these improvements and to cater for new subscribers in the numbers expected can be gathered from the figures of cost which I have given, and from the following details:—

New underground cable containing subscribers' circuits will have to be laid in every city and town; and more than 600 new automatic and semi-automatic exchanges as well as about 50 special manual exchanges to deal with trunk calls, inquiries, etc., must be installed. To house the large automatic exchanges, about 130 new buildings will be needed, and accommodation for the manual exchanges will involve either the extensive alteration of existing premises, the acquisition of additional premises or the erection of new buildings. The trunk network must be increased six to eight-fold and this will involve laying underground trunk cables extensively. To give a satisfactory service on cross-Channel calls a new submarine cable will be laid.

The main headings under which the £6,000,000 asked for in this Bill will be spent and the amount under each heading are as follows:—New exchanges and buildings, £2,072,000; trunk circuits, £2,400,000; subscribers' circuits, £1,360,000; kiosks and call offices, £275,000; other works, £245,000, giving a total of £6,352,000, which has been rounded down to £6,000,000.

The works programme for buildings alone is a huge one and in order to secure the utmost speed in executing it the Commissioners of Public Works, who are, of course, responsible for buildings, have set up a special section comprising experienced technical staff to deal with Post Office buildings alone.

As regards plant and equipment, I must explain that major improvements will take a considerable time to effect. Apart from the building problem, manufacture and installation of a major automatic exchange takes, under the most favourable conditions, about 18 months; a trunk cable from Dublin to Cork will take two to three years to manufacture and lay. I should say, too, that, contrary to the view of many people, the supply position is as yet far from satisfactory. Lead required for cables, and steel pipe to house the cables, are scarce and difficult to obtain in the quantities we need. No effort is being spared to secure the maximum supply available, and representatives of our engineering branch and stores department have paid frequent visits to England with a view to securing the earliest possible delivery of materials required.

Accordingly, while the various phases of our works programme will so far as possible be advanced concurrently, some few years must elapse before the service can be made universally satisfactory.

Considerable progress has already been made with the Department's plans. Extensions of all the Dublin automatic exchanges are at present being carried out and will, we hope, be completed by next summer. Contracts have been placed for new exchanges in Cork and Waterford. Automatic exchanges are on order for another 20 towns. Arrangements are being made for laying underground trunk cables, which will permanently eliminate delay to trunk calls on the routes concerned. Sites are being obtained for new exchanges in various towns. Arrangements have been settled in conjunction with the British Post Office for laying a new cross-Channel cable next year which will enable a "no delay" service to be given on cross-Channel calls.

In proceeding with long term plans which cannot fully mature for many years, the Department is not overlooking the need for giving earlier temporary relief where possible. Pending the installation of the 600 automatic exchanges proposed, which will take many years to effect, a better service must be given to existing subscribers and new subscribers must be catered for. To meet this situation the existing manual exchanges are being replaced or enlarged to the utmost extent possible. Already 18 large manual exchanges and numerous smaller exchanges have been dealt with. To improve the trunk service in advance of laying cables, 30 three-channel carrier systems have been obtained recently and 30 more are on order. When the necessary overhead wires are erected and these systems installed, a substantial reduction of the delay to trunk calls in many areas will be effected.

In Dublin, the work of erecting the new trunk exchange buildings in St. Andrew Street will begin next year but it will be some years before the building is completed and the elaborate equipment required is installed. In order, therefore, to take time by the forelock we have placed an order for a large part of the equipment intended for St. Andrew Street exchange and this will be installed temporarily at other premises in Exchequer Street which during the war housed the censorship staff.

I should like to say something about the possibility of giving telephones to the thousands of people whose applications we hold. During the emergency we had to impose restrictions on the connection of new subscribers although we did succeed in meeting all really essential demands for service by public authorities, doctors, etc., as well as a substantial proportion of applications for business lines. I may mention that most if not all other telephone administrations had to apply similar restrictions; and it is of interest to note that in the United States of America, which is one of the largest manufacturers of telephone equipment, there were about 2,000,000 people awaiting telephone service shortly after the end of the war.

The time which must elapse before all applications can be dealt with varies from place to place according to the plant position in different areas. Already waiting applicants have been dealt with in those areas served by small exchanges which can be fairly readily enlarged. In Dublin, all applications for business lines in the Dún Laoghaire, Rathmines and Terenure areas will be dealt with shortly and when the extension of the automatic exchanges is completed next summer, we shall make rapid inroads on the arrears of applications. Other areas will be dealt with as rapidly as new exchanges can be installed or the present exchanges enlarged.

In conclusion, I may say that the plans are ready to provide a first class service for all subscribers and to encourage and cater for an extension of the telephone system on the widest possible scale. The money asked for in this Bill is required to carry out these plans. In the five year period we propose to have installed (a) a telephone call office in every Post Office. This scheme includes 900 new call offices and (b) we propose also to have installed within that period all equipment required to deal with any public demand that is likely to arise.

Before entering upon this Bill, as I happen to be the first Senator to speak to-day perhaps I might remark upon the really beautiful work of restoration that has been done in this Chamber during the recess. A word of congratulation is due to the Cathaoirleach and the officers of the House for the way in which that work has been carried out. I feel sure the House, as a House, would be glad to give a word of praise to the Office of Public Works, for what has been done here. It is a great thing to observe that there survives still among Dublin workmen the tradition of fine work for which the city was once famous. We are proud to see such splendid work done here. I know that the Clerk devoted a great deal of his time during the vacation to it. One of the dearest wishes of his life was to see the ceiling restored as we now have it.

With regard to this Bill, quite plainly it must be passed. The Minister's speech sounded rather like a number of aspirations. He hopes in the future to do every single thing that everybody asked him or any other Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to do. I hope he will be successful and that he will get every assistance from everybody concerned. I trust that the shortage of materials which now hampers him will disappear.

We have to recognise that the telephone is really as much a part of modern house equipment as a water supply or lighting. It is the aim of the Minister to make the telephone almost as widespread as a water supply or lighting. The Minister spoke of the staff. As a rather substantial user of the telephone, I have always found the staff willing, courteous and helpful. They have, of course, been hampered by bad equipment and in many cases, I think, by insufficiency of space. The Minister said they reacted like Cuchulainn, the ancient hero, who had a charioteer who was hired to abuse him and spur him on to greater efforts. But there is a great difference between Cuchulainn and the unfortunate Post Office telephonists. Cuchulainn was a god and was not subject to the frailties of human nature. The Post Office official is a person who needs to eat and even to drink and who needs good treatment.

I suggest that neither praise nor blame will be effective in making the telephone service better without a better provision of payment and better treatment for the staff. The Post Office has the disadvantage of being the Cinderella of the services. It is the only one of the services which runs on a business basis and it is one of the services in which the members are worst paid. I feel that the Minister's tributes and the tributes of everybody else will be looked at rather askance by the hard-pressed staff unless they are accompanied by something of more substance than either praise or blame.

Apparently, we are becoming more and more closely connected with England. I think it was the Minister's friend, Tom Kettle, who once said that Ireland was separated from England by the Irish Sea, the Tory Party and the Act of Union. Now that the Tory Party and the Act of Union have gone, we seem to be coming closer to England every day. The improvement in the telephone service will come gradually and when the Minister realises his ideal—as I hope he or some other Minister will—of providing three times as many telephones, it strikes me that the telephone service will be even more self-supporting than it is at present. Anyone who has business or even non-business calls to make will find that the telephone service is much more satisfactory and in the end much cheaper than the telegraphic or telegram service.

Perhaps the Minister would be able to extend it further if one at least of the charges could be reduced. The one which deters people from getting in a telephone is the initial charge of £5 a year, which is equivalent to 2d. a call at a public call box for 300 calls every three months. People who have a considerable number of calls to make do not regard the £5 as very much, but those who have a comparatively small number think the £5 is a substantial expenditure. That initial charge may hamper the development of the telephone service when materials are available. When this development the Minister has indicated has taken place, perhaps he could look into the question of reducing that particular charge.

He told us that staff was provided on the most generous terms. Speaking as a person with some experience of the Department of Finance, I have the greatest difficulty in believing that. I want to cast no aspersions whatever on the Minister's veracity, but if the Department of Finance is providing staff on generous terms to any Department there must be something remarkable about it. Perhaps the Minister would let us into the secret or tell his colleagues how it is done, as the Department is departing from its usual practice. Surely no profit should be made on a service such as the telephone service. It is very embarrassing in the country in certain areas to find that the service exists only up to 7 or 8 o'clock in the evening. There is the possibility of ringing up from the Gárda barracks, but that puts a certain burden on the Gárdaí, although they generally are very courteous about it. I hope the plans the Minister has in mind will be capable of achievement and that, in achieving them, he will consider that a service which makes a profit should give more generous treatment to those who are engaged in operating it.

Obviously, comment on a Bill of this kind could be directed from many angles and Senator Hayes has directed it from angles which I do not propose to follow. I would like to join with him, first of all, in his meed of praise to those responsible for the lovely work we see around us in this Chamber. I think we all join in expressing sympathy with the Minister before us to-day on the very difficult time his Department has gone through in the past few years. Whilst congratulating him for the excellent work his staff have done, I do not think he will be offended if I remind him that much of the inconvenience the public has put up with in the past few years has been tolerated simply in the hope that, as and when the war conditions ended, the things which gave legitimate cause for growling would speedily be removed.

Frankly, I am alarmed that this Bill is going to mean an extension. If the telephone service has three times the existing number of subscribers, I hope that does not mean that the bulk of the money for this development will go towards providing those extra subscribers in such a way that they will have just as much cause for complaint as the present subscribers.

I feel the Minister might give us a little bit more emphasis on what he intends to do in regard to those subscribers, business and others, who have had a service over the past few years that did not give them value for the money they paid. The existing subscribers should be given the best possible service before there is any extension at all. I do not mean by that that there should be no extension to new subscribers in the cities and other centres, but before any large-scale extension is made in the creation of new telephone areas, everything should be done to perfect the service to those who have endured an imperfect service over the past few years. They have been paying for something they did not get and I will not elaborate on that as anything I say can only emphasise my point that there is legitimate cause for complaint.

We all have had the unfortunate experience of waiting hours for trunk calls. What that has meant in loss of money to business concerns no man in this House can compute. Many big contracts have been lost and many big business deals have failed to mature because men could not contact their opposite numbers in time. That has been put up with, not merely reasonably but with a great degree of cheerfulness, because of the existing difficulties. The business community and the general community would express the wish that a perfect service should be provided for existing subscribers. Then, by all means, let us have the widest possible extension of this wonderful service right through the State.

I have no complaint to make against the Post Office or the Minister, but would ask the Minister to consider favourably the request which has been sent to him from the national executive of the cattle trade, to get a priority service on the fair day from the different fairs to the shipping companies. We feel that there could be half an hour or an hour given to calls from the cattle exporters on the fair day. There is no fair held in any town more often than once a month and the half hour or hour would not cause great inconvenience. The majority of the traders in the towns concerned would be glad to give the facilities which the cattle traders are looking for.

Trains and buses are run at scheduled times and sometimes these people, when coming to a fair, put on a call at about 9.30 in the morning and it does not mature for a couple of hours. They are anxious to have the call early so as to carry on their work. They must get into communication with the shipping companies to find out what space they can have for the export of their cattle that day or the next day. It is only in regard to calls to the shipping companies that I am asking the Minister to consider this proposal and I am not asking him to make any definite statement now, but to consider carefully the request which has been sent to him.

I am rather anxious regarding what has been said by my predecessors and not at all too happy about the remarks of Senator Summerfield. The citizens of Ireland who have borne without any telephone for a long number of years should be the first to be considered in any improvement. Of course, I know we do not belong to the selfish class but, unfortunately, there are times when any worm will turn. Human and humane considerations arise in scattered and remote dispensary districts where people are not able to contact a medical officer without going seven or eight miles and they should be the first consideration. The Minister will receive motions from the county council, of which I am a representative, asking for a telephone connection with every dispensary doctor and priest, to every chapel area in the county. It is over eight or ten years since we first sent it up. I would like to take this opportunity to remind him now that those of us who are blessed with the telephone know the grievances which business people must have, but a connection to dispensary doctors and urgent cases would save five or six miles, the sending of a car for the doctor and possibly its return for a second time. We have fought for a long time for a service for the rural parts and it is almost inhuman that houses where there is neither electric light nor sewerage have also no opportunity to ring up the doctor. Unless a neighbour has a telephone, one has to travel six or seven miles.

I was delighted to hear the Minister talk about rural extensions, but was uneasy when I heard him detailing what is to be done for Dún Laoghaire and Dublin. Dún Laoghaire is not far from Dublin and could do almost without any telephone. Why he spoke of the details in regard to Rathfarnham and so on is a mystery to me. It is almost like the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who gave them petrol ad lib. in the past, to the detriment of the rural population. I have had personal experience of the Minister in the past in relation to some claims I had on him, and I hope he will not forget us and that he will not kow-tow to those in Dún Laoghaire and Dublin.

I would like to join with other Senators in paying tribute to the work done in the House and congratulate those responsible for the overseeing of this work. I would particularly compliment the Office of Public Works for encouraging work of this kind to be done. It is an example of what can be done by the workers of this country and it should be given every encouragement. I hope that the expressions of approval we have made in the House will be conveyed to those responsible.

If I were to take seriously the remarks made by Senator McGee, I would say it is a pity he was not made Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, as then we would have a telephone at every cross-road and perhaps in every field. It is amazing that we are all more or less ready to criticise, and as a pretty heavy user of the telephone and one inclined to be very critical, I feel inclined to apologise not only for anything I may have said in the past but for the things I thought in the past, in my ignorance of the difficulties confronting the Minister and his staff. I am quite prepared to admit that the service is far from perfect, that it never was perfect and that, even in peacetime, there was plenty of room for improvement, but having heard the Minister's statement I think that, instead of an attack on the Department, we should congratulate him and his staff on the marvellous results they got, despite the difficulties of the past six or seven years. It was a very creditable effort, when you take into consideration that they had practically no resources to fall back on in proportion to the task ahead of them. They must have had considerable foresight and have laid in a considerable amount of raw material, but they were unable to get any extra supplies over that period. While the results may not have come up to the expectations of many people, there was a really creditable effort by the Minister and his staff.

We may find fault here, but a lot of the criticism could have been avoided if the simple explanation given by the Minister had been given five, four, three, two or even one year ago. I think it is necessary to explain these things to the people. I have often dialled "0", without getting the desired results and, finding the telephone buzzing all right, I thought it meant that the operator was not bothering to pay attention to the call. I understand now from the Minister's statement that it is physically impossible to improve it, that is cannot be done since there is not sufficient accommodation on the switch boards for a sufficient number of people to deal with calls. I believe many of those who have been critcial in the past would accept the explanation. It should get the fullest publicity and, if possible, it should be circularised to every telephone subscriber. In that way, much of the unpleasantness would be avoided.

Senator Summerfield said that a lot of people have suffered considerably. We all agree with that, but he goes on more or less to accuse the Minister of obtaining money under false pretences

He has got the money anyhow.

Yes, and some of mine, too, unfortunately; but the point is that, while we may all be grousing and grumbling at the service, if we had the figures giving the number of people who in their fury threw out the telephone, I think it would be a very small number. We are all grateful to God for small mercies and, in view of the facts put before us, we should be more grateful that we have had even a middling service during such a long period of general difficulty. Senator Hayes said that the Minister's speech was a series of aspirations. He hoped the Minister would be successful. We all hope for that and it is a creditable thing to find he has such an extensive programme in front of him. If the supplies are available, and I understand there is every reason to believe they will be, the Minister's hopes will be realised and, as a result, we shall have the telephone available, as it is in many other countries, not alone to professional people but to manufacturing concerns and to farmers. In connection with priorities, I think that a fairly reasonable arrangement has been made. Priority has been given to certain sections, including doctors, hospitals and establishments where large numbers are employed. I ask the Minister to go one step farther and increase the number of priorities.

I realise that that will cause difficulties at the other end but I think that there is every reason why veterinary surgeons should be included in that list. The veterinary surgeon has to attend calls very suddenly. We are largely dependent on our export trade in live stock. As most people are aware, we have been producing horses worth thousands and thousands of pounds. During the last 100 years, the produce of the Irish bloodstock industry has made a name for this country in every country in the world. If employment is to be taken into consideration, regard must be given to the employment given in the live-stock industry. The services rendered by a vet. to valuable live stock deserves the serious consideration of the Minister and I suggest that he include the veterinary surgeon in the priority list. In case Senator Counihan accuses me of siding with the Irish Bloodstock and Horse Breeders' Association, of which I am a member, I may say that I am also a member of the Cattle Traders' Association, and I believe that a good argument could be put up for the suggestion made by Senator Counihan. It is very important that the shipping companies should know the number of cattle to be shipped on a certain day; otherwise cattle dispatched from country fairs will arrive at the port to find that there is no accommodation available.

I do not know the ins and outs of the machinery attached to the telephone service but, if it were possible to give priority to the town where a fair was being held, it would serve a very useful purpose from the point of view of the live-stock industry. At present, cattle dealers at a fair have to go into the post office and wait for hours to get a call through. That means that special trains and boats are held up and it is a general impediment to the farm industry. I am concerned with the convenience it would be to the cattle traders but I am also seriously concerned with the smooth running of the industry as a whole. If there is to be any such thing as satisfactory progress, so far as fairs are concerned, anything that can be done to facilitate cattle traders in the dispatch of cattle to the fairs would be very helpful.

Senator Hayes referred to the staff and said that he found them on all occasions very courteous. I must say the same. There was a suggestion that they were underpaid. I do not know anything with regard to the payment of the staff, but I do think that, in country post offices, the situation would merit consideration with a view to increasing the wages. A considerable amount of responsibility is placed on the shoulders of the person who happens to be postmaster or postmistress in a village. I myself have come in contact with cases where the salary attached to the post was, certainly, not in keeping with the responsibility. With regard to the remuneration of the staff, I do not know anything about it. While you may sometimes find yourself getting hot under the collar and getting rid of a certain amount of abuse, which is quite unjustified, on the telephone, I have never had anything in reply but courtesy and civility. Rather than criticise the Post Office Department for what they have not done, we should congratulate them on what they have done under very serious difficulties.

It is rather difficult to be critical of a Minister who comes before the House and so frankly admits and explains the shortcomings and failings of his service. As Senator Hayes and Senator Quirke mentioned, it has been the experience of nearly all of us that, whatever may have been the technical shortcomings of the service during the war period, we received nothing but courtesy from the staff. I should go further than that and say that we have received more than courtesy. In difficult circumstances, we have received much helpfulness. I have experience of operators who went to a great deal of trouble to make inquiries and to effect connections. However, the Minister is inclined to place all the blame for the shortcomings of the telephone service on the six years of war, during which it was impossible to obtain telephonic supplies. It must be pointed out, however, that the demand for the telephone was increasing year by year over a certain number of years. During seven years in which this Government was in charge of the telephone prior to the war, it was quite obvious that public demand for the telephone service was growing. There was one very vital year before the war when it was practically certain that nothing short of a miracle could save us from a world war and during which the Minister for Industry and Commerce warned individuals in business and in trade to obtain as large supplies as possible. I should have thought that the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs would have taken that warning to heart.

As regards this Bill, everybody will approve of the Minister's scheme for improving and extending the telephone service so far as possible. Unlike Senator Summerfield. I am not in the least perturbed by the fact that the Minister intends to extend the service, particularly, to the rural areas. I see no reason why that programme should not be carried out concurrently with the improvement of the service to existing subscribers. What does give me a certain amount of uneasiness is that subsequent to the debate on this Bill in the Dáil, where the Minister was subjected to much rougher criticism than he has been in this House, there appeared in the Government organ what was, obviously, a departmental hand-out to the effect that the Department were engaged on experiments in the Dublin mountains with wireless telephony with a view to adopting a wireless telephonic system. I have no objection to progressing from the ordinary land wire telephone to the wireless telephone but I think it gives cause for alarm that a Department which admits that its existing system is far from perfect and which sees very little prospect of improving that system with any degree of rapidity should be engaged in experimenting with wireless telephony before it is able to bring its ordinary land telephones up to proper standards.

There is one question which I should like to put to the Minister. Perhaps he would enlighten me on the matter when replying. It would be a source of gratification to many subscribers if this matter were explained—why it is impossible to book a fixed-time cross-Channel telephone call. We know that during business hours certain business firms are given and, quite rightly so, fixed-time cross-Channel calls. That being so, many subscribers are worried and fail to understand why it is that in the case of private subscribers the Department refuses to accept fixed-time cross-Channel calls during non-business hours, even when a telephone call is requested for as long ahead as 24 hours. I think it would relieve a lot of criticism if the Minister could explain why that is so. There may be a good reason for it.

My first reaction, like that of other Senators, is to congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this very comprehensive Bill, the object of which is to improve the telephone system. Some years ago I myself was rather critical of the service, but then emergency conditions quietened us all on these matters. So far as my own area is concerned, we have no complaint to make as regards local calls, either as regards the efficiency of the service or the punctuality with which the calls are received. As regards trunk calls, however, my part of the country is very poorly served. It is a county where we have big changes in population. In the summer time there is a very big influx of people to Kilkee, Lisdoonvarna and Lahinch. During that period the service for trunk calls is poor indeed. The delay works out something like this. In the case of calls from Kilkee and Lisdoonvarna to Dublin during the summer season the delays are as much as five and six hours. These delays cause serious disappointment to people. Even in the case of calls from Limerick to Ennis—only 20 miles distant—there are delays of two and three hours. At present the delay in getting a call to Dublin is from 1½ to 2 hours. The trouble, I understand, is due to want of outlets from Dublin to Limerick and Galway. To meet that situation there would be required four more trunk lines to Limerick and two more lines to Dublin. At present there is only one line to Dublin for the whole of County Clare, and four to Limerick. Unless something is done before the next summer season there will, I am afraid, be cause for serious complaints from Kilkee, Lisdoonvarna and Lahinch. At present there is only one line from Kilkee and Kilrush to Ennis during the summer season. Both offices would require two independent lines. There has been some talk of an extension to some of those smaller places.

I agree with Senator Summerfield that, in view of the conditions I have mentioned, it would be a very good thing if the existing services were improved. I think that some of the other services mentioned might wait. Otherwise, the effect will be to clutter up the post office at Ennis which is one of the most congested post offices in Ireland. I appeal to the Minister to do something to improve the position with regard to calls from Lahinch, Kilkee and Ennis to Dublin.

As I have said, there is only one trunk line from the County Clare to Dublin. At present if you try to call Dublin you find that the office you want to get in Dublin is closed by the time you get the call. In the old days, of course, the service was, I suppose, all right when the numbers of telephone calls were comparatively few. The position at present is that almost every modern house has a telephone. I think it was Senator McGee who suggested that telephone calls to doctors should come first. I think that in the whole of the County Clare there is only one doctor's residence that is not connected with the telephone service. I think that as regards all essential services—doctors and others—they are reasonably well served. I do want to say that if there is not some improvement in the trunk line system before next summer season there will be a strong feeling against the telephone service in my part of the country.

Unlike Senator Summerfield and Senator Counihan, to whom delays on the telephone may mean big money, I speak on this subject as a private user. I use the telephone mainly for private purposes. I feel quite satisfied with the automatic service. What I complain of is the exasperation, amounting almost to infuriation, as regards the length of time that I sometimes have to hold on before the call comes through. On occasion, I have timed myself. I have often had to hold on for a quarter of an hour. That, in my opinion, is the cause of complaint so far as most people are concerned. It makes one almost demented to be kept hanging on in that way. It may be some time before we get relief in that direction. There is a suggestion which I have to make to the Minister, and it is this: could he not get his technicians to examine whether it would not be possible to answer these calls and say: "We cannot connect you now; if you give your number we will call you in due course." If that were done it would relieve a large body of people from the personal annoyance which they suffer at present. I think that complaints would almost vanish if people could be relieved of the frustration that is caused by having to hang on. I have not any technical knowledge, but it strikes me that that should not be a difficult matter to arrange—that is to say, that the operators should pick up calls when they are made, take down the number and say that there will be a delay of half-an-hour. People would not mind the delay. What they do mind is having to hang on for half-an-hour. I should be glad if the Minister would have that aspect of the question examined.

Taithníonn an Bille seo liom agus taithníonn óráid an Aire liom ar dhá chuntar go háirithe. Ar an gcéad dul síos, is maith liom an scéim atá beartaithe ag an Aire le seirbhísí agus buntáistí an telefóna a leathnú go mór tríd an tír. Is scéim mhaith iomlán í agus nuair a chuimhníos duine ar achar na tíre, shílfeá gur scéim í ar féidir í a thabhairt chun críche taobh istigh de achar réasúnta ama.

Ag an am chéanna, is follas nach é an tAire an máistir sa scéal. Brathann a lán ar cé acu a mbeidh an goireas agus na fearaistí riachtanacha le fáil gan mórán moille. Ní mórán is féidir leis a dhéanamh ina thaobh sin, go háirithe ós ar thíortha coigríche atamuid ag brath maidir le goireas is fearaistí.

Ach abair go mbeadh fáil ag an Aire ar na riachtanaisí úd atá i gceist agam, níl fhios agam a bhfuil dóthain ceardaithe ar fáil againn leis an obair a dhéanamh taobh istigh d'achar réasúnta. Muna bhfuil, ní mé a bhfuil aon réiteach sásúil déanta leis na hoibrithe riachtanacha a chur a dtréineáil. 'Se an dara rud a thaithníos liom maidir leis an mBille agus le óráid an Aire go bhfeictear go mbeifear i ndon an scéim mhór seo a thabhairt chun críche ar sé mhilliún punt. Má déantar obair chomh mór tábhacht leis seo ar chostas chomh saor sin gheobhaidh an tír margadh maith agus ba chóir go mbeithfí buíoch as ucht sin.

Dúradh cheana go mba chóir freastal níos fearr a dhéanamh ar an tuaith maidir leis na seirbhísí seo. Aontuím go láidir leis an tuairim sin. Tá eolas cuid mhaith agam ar chúrsaí na tuaithe chomh maith le cúrsaí an bhaile mhóir. On eolas atá agam, impím ar an Aire féachaint chuige go bhfuighe an tuaith tosach an oiread agus is féidir. Seans go bhfuil sé iontuigthe go gcaithfidh na daoine a bhfuil iarratas istigh le fada acu ar telefón an tseirbhís a fháil i dtosach. 'Na dhiaidh sin, bíodh go gcuirfí as ar feadh tamaill do dhaoine sna bailte móra, measaim go mba chóir abair caoga faoin gcéad nó níos mó den ghoireas agus seirbhís nua a thabhairt do mhuintir na tuaithe.

Is maith liom go bhfuil sé socair ag an Aire a bheith an-chúramach maidir le caitheamh an airgid seo. D'fhéadfadh sé, b'fhéidir, mar mholadh dhó, a lán fearaistí agus gléasanna a cheannach le chéile. Tá an locht seo ar sin: go mbeadh sé "ag reoidh a chuid rachmais" mar deirtear i mBéarla. Agus thairis sin, ní fios cé na feabhais a thiocfas gan mórán moille ar ealaíon an telefóna agus ba chóir dúinn a bheith réidh le feidhm a bhaint as na buntáistí nua sin.

Támaid ar fad sásta gur moladh lucht freastail na dtelefón an oiread agus a moladh iad. Cheap mé féin gur i nGaillimh amháin a bhí seirbhísigh thar cionn. Bíodh sin mar atá, ba mhaith liom a admháil chomh sásúil agus atá na seirbhísigh úd i nGaillimh. Ba deacair iad a shárú maidir le béasa agus éifeacht. Agus ba mhaith liom a admháil freisin chomh sásúil a déantar obair an telefóna i nGaeilge. Déarfainn nach bhfuil seirbhís níos fearr, agus gach deacracht a chur san áireamh, in aon áit sa tír ná tá le fáil againn.

Maidir leis na casaoideacha i dtaobh na seirbhísí, ba mhaith a liom a mholadh don Aire go gceapfadh sé duine éigin mar oifigeach caidrimh Poiblí le deacrachta na seirbhísí a mhíniú don phobal, le scéimeanna nua a mhíniú agus le casaoideacha i gcoitinne a fhreagairt. Tá a leithéid d'oifigeach ag Córas Iompair Éireann agus obair an-shásúil á déanamh aige. Is nós nua é, b'fhéidir, ag Comhluchta móra agus Seirbhísí poiblí, a leithéid seo d'oifigigh a bheith acu. Ach ar mhaithe leis an bpobal agus ar leas na seirbhíse ar fad, b'fhiú a leithéid de cheapachán a dhéanamh. Sílim gurb é an Seanadóir Ó Cuirc adúirt go ndéanfadh sé a lán maitheasa dá mbeadh an t-eolas a nochtuigh an tAire inniu ar fáil ag an bpobal i bhfad ó shoin. Aontuím leis agus dá réir sin iarraim ar an Aire machtnamh a dhéanamh ar mo mholadh-sa.

Is maith liom gur thagair an Seanadóir Ó hAodha don chíos chúig phunt a baintear gach bliain de na Síntúsóirí telefóna. Is rud é nár thuigeas ariamh —céan fáth a mbaintear an táille sin amach bliain i ndiaidh bliana. Thuigfinn go n-iarrfadh an tAire suim éigin mar urrús ar an ngléas telefóna a chuireann sé ar fáil agus thuigfinn go n-iarrfadh sé íocaíocht éigin as ucht deasú sreanganna agus mar sin dhe. Ach tá an táille átá á ghearradh cheana ro-throm agus, thairis sin, mar dúirt an Seanadóir Ó hAodha, stopann sé a lán daoine ar telefón a chur isteach.

Thairis sin, níl le rá agam ach go bhfuil súil agam go n-éireoidh leis an Aire an scéim atá beartaithe aige a thabhairt chun críche gan aon romhoill agus go mbeidh ar a chumas é a dhéanamh chomh saor agus a mheasann sé.

Possibly I am the first member of the House to speak in this debate who cannot boast of having the facilities of a telephone in his home, but then, when you live in the fastnesses of the country, obviously the amenities available to city residents, of whom Senator McGee spoke and perhaps described very well, are not available there and one has to put up with conditions that might be very unacceptable to city people.

One note struck in this debate to which I take the strongest exception, was that struck by Senator Summerfield. I do not know whether he is very clear now about what he said, or whether he said it with the deliberation which a statement like this merited before it was given the publicity of the House, but I must say that if it were the policy of the Minister with regard to the extension of the telephone service, I would take very violent exception to it. Senator Summerfield's point of view apparently is that those who have this amenity—and if we so describe it, it is much more to Senator Summerfield—feel that the service has to be improved before it can be enjoyed by any new subscriber.

I pointed out that the service could be improved for existing subscribers.

Let us put it that the service is so bad that before anybody else gets a share of that bad service, it ought to be improved.

I did not say that.

That is what I gathered from the Senator—that that is what he meant. I hope his attitude in this matter is not truly representative of his general attitude towards the people who are making their contribution to this service without getting the enjoyment out of it that people in the more densely populated areas receive. Naturally, the attitude of the country member of this House with regard to a proposition like this is: "When will the more remote rural parts of the country have the facilities available to them that they are entitled to receive and that are enjoyed by a great many other citizens?"

How long will it take until the people in the country can have telephones installed? My view is that people in the cities and built-up areas are so close to each other that they do not require the telephone so much as the widely scattered populations. I suggest that telephone facilities should be made available first to the people in the country districts. If you want to keep the people in the country where they are, this is one of the ways in which life might be made more tolerable for them. In Dublin City, people have merely to step across the tram-line to talk to their neighbours on business or otherwise, but in the country areas we have to travel miles to carry out what may be very urgent business. What Senator McGee says is quite true—the doctor, the priest and the vet in the rural districts may have to cycle six or seven miles in the dead of night or in the early hours of the morning. That inconvenience could be avoided by an improvement, an extension, in our telephone system.

There is a need of improvement in the service. I can speak only from my experience of the use of the telephone in the city, mainly in the city, not very much in my native district. I cannot say I have actually experienced incivility, but I have had certain evidence in the city. I think there is considerable evidence of an appearance of lack of courtesy. Whether the Minister's lack of attention is lack of courtesy, whether the Minister's explanation to-day is a full explanation or not, is something I am not able to say, but I have, with my watch in my hand in a private hotel, waited for 20 minutes to get a call to a place not very far away. There are people in such places all over the city who are complaining very bitterly about lack of attention to calls, especially up to midnight. It ought to be possible to overcome that unpleasant experience on the part of telephone users.

I agree absolutely with Senator Hayes, and the Minister might as well face up to this aspect of his task. As regards his service as a whole, I do not think the people employed in it are anything like adequately paid. I think the telephonists and others are not getting enough to enable them to live decently. If they are getting what is barely able to maintain them at the subsistence level, people placed in that position will not be concerned very much about the kind of service they give, and they cannot be blamed for that.

If you want courtesy and civility in your telephone service you have to recruit a very good type of person and you must pay that person decently. There is competition in that type of service and there will be more competition and if the Minister wants a satisfactory service he will have to pay those employed in it more than he is paying them.

Senator Hayes made another good point, and that is with regard to a reduction in the cost of installation. A rural post office may serve a district miles in extent and in districts that are remote from towns there ought to be every encouragement given to individuals to install telephones in their homes. For people who may not be engaged in commercial business or in farming on a very big scale, it is debatable whether they should install a telephone or not, but it would be a considerable convenience for the district. It might be possible to make certain houses serve a district where there is a scattered population, but that will only be possible by the Minister giving these people facilities that have not been available so far.

The Minister indicated that an extension of the service is to be operated over a number of years. Possibly we will have to wait for a period long after he has gone out of office, long after his Government have given way to another administration, before this scheme can be completed.

Mr. Hawkins

Oh, no.

That is just what I was coming to. The Senator said "Oh, no." I am afraid there is an attitude of mind in a service like the Post Office to ration out the work, to do so much this year and so much next year and the year after, employing a certain number of technicians, a certain number of labourers, and spending just so much money. They calculate just how much they will spend year after year for ten years, the period necessary to carry this scheme into effect. There was a shortage of supplies during the war period, but I presume that it would not have been so grave but for the disastrous fire and the loss of stocks.

That is not so.

Anyhow, there will be a shortage for some time but it will not extend for five or ten years. I suggest that in 12 or 18 months we will have reached the stage when there will be ample supplies. There is evidence already, in regard to rubber and other supplies, that the shortage is not so great. Soon there will be a free flow and our technicians and labourers will not be able to use all the materials available. It should be possible to make a calculation as to how far away that day is and, for goodness' sake, let the Post Office, then, instead of letting the labourers go to England, give them jobs with picks and shovels to lay the cables and build the exchanges needed to house this expanding service. Apparently, according to the plan, that is not going to be done. This is not the policy of the Post Office alone. I am afraid it is the generally accepted policy that, if you employ too many men this year, you will have them unemployed the next year, so in order to prevent that you must cut down the amount of constructive work in any year. That is all wrong and I hope that it will not be the policy of the Minister. I do not know what hidden hand or what slap-dash economic theory produced that doctrine, but in some invisible way you can see the influence of it in our life. Sometimes you can see that the Electricity Supply Board have that policy, too. Before his term as Minister comes to an end at the end of the five-year period of office of the Government, the Minister will have much more than ample supplies of raw materials for the development of the service. He is getting the money here. There ought to be enough men in the country to get on with the job and it should not take anything like ten years to complete, and when that is done there will be much more work to be added.

There are various aspects of the whole telephone service of which we could be critical, but the Minister makes an excuse for the short-comings and disabilities his staff have had to labour under. It is right that we should be fair in our examination of the position, but it would be the greatest possible mistake for us to assume that the shortages of materials and the defects on the engineering side of the service to-day are responsible for many of the complaints we hear about. The Minister and his executives should not make excuses for the defects, but should search them out and, when they discover them, they should try to eradicate them.

Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil an tarna tuairim, ná gur gá é an fóirleathnú seo atá beartaithe ag an Aire. Bhí a lán cainte faoi na mion-rudaí a bhaineann leis an seirbhís agus na lochtaí atá ann, nach féidir leis an Aire ná an Roinn iad a leigheas fá láthair. Do réir na ndaoine a dhéanann machtnamh ar an scéal, is iontach an rud é go bhfuil seirbhís chomh maith sin ann le cúig nó sé bliana.

Ceann de na neithe gur mhaith liomsa eolas d'fháil ina thaobh—an t-airgead. Tá caint ar mhion-rudaí— fiú amháin ar an "dial O", ach ní raibh mórán á rá faoi an £6,000,000 atá beartaithe a chaitheamh ar an seirbhís seo. Caithfidh an t-airgead san teacht as áit éigin, ar an seirbhis do dhíol aisti féin nó as creidiúint an phobail. An gcaithfidh an sean-chapall bán an rud seo a iompar, i dteannta na rudaí eile? Níor mhiste scrúdú a dhéanamh ar an bpointe sin, agus béidir go n-inneosadh an tAire dúinn, maidir le caitheamh an £6,000,000 cé air go mbeidh ar deire an tsuim mór sin a sholáthar. Fágaimse faoin Aire féin é sin a insint dúinn.

Bhíos chun caint a dhéanamh ar an gcostas atá ar gach duine a bhfuil telefón aige, an costas chun an telefón a chur isteach in a theach. Tá telefón im thigh-se le breis agus 20 blian agus tá breis agus £100 díolta agam. Ní dóigh liom gur liomsa fiú amháin an cluasán a chuirim le mó chluais. Is rómhór an t-ualach é an £5 a dhíol gach bliain agus gan aon rud nua curtha isteach don té a dhíolann é. Mholfainn go ndéanfadh an tAire machtnamh agus stuidéar ar an bpointe sin— laghdú ar an gcostas chun telefón a chur isteach agus gléasanna nua a chur ar fáil ó am go ham i dtreo is go bhfuighidh gach duine luach a chuid airgid.

Tá rud eile gur mhaith liomsa eolas a fháil air. Tá sé beartaithe £6,000,000 a chaiteamh ar an scéim seo. Is cinnte go gcaithfear cuid de sin ar obair a sholáthar, ar shaothar lucht oibre, ach is cinnte go mbeidh méid áirithe dá caitheamh ar na gléasa a bhaineann leis. Cá bhfuighfear na neithe sin? An thar lear a thiocfaid agus an t-airgead a bheith cailite d'Éirinn ar fad? Nó nach féidir monarchana a chur an bun anseo in Éirinn chun iad a dhéanamh agus iad a sholáthar le n-ár ndicheall féin? Ba chóir go mbeadh cuid de na rudai á ndéanamh anseo agus gan gach aon ní a bhaineann leis an telefón a cheannach thar lear. Dá mbéadh na monarchana againn, bheadh obair ann do na daoine agus bheimís ag coimeád ár muintir i bhfus.

Is baolach go bhfuil an rud céanna ar siúl ag cumainn gnótha eile ar nós an E.S.B. agus C.I.É., agus ní léir cén fáth nach féidir monarchana a chur ar bun chun cuid de na gléasanna a chur ar fáil dar ndéantus féin.

Ag tagairt den tseirbhís a leathnú fén dtuaith, táim ar aon intinn leis na daoine a labhair. Is minic a chloisimíd faoi n-a olcas agus atá an saol fén dtuaith, chomh huaigneach is atá sé, gan cothrom le fáil acu agus gan caoi ag na daoine chun taithneamh an tsaoil a mhéadú. Ceann de na rudaí is mó a dhéanfadh oriúnt do na daoine fén dtuaith is ea an telefon, chomh maith le solus aibhléise agus uisce a bheith le fáil sna tithe. Ceann de na neithe is mó a dhéanann áis na ndaoine san Ioruaidh agus sa tSualainn go bhfuil telefón i ngach tigh, go bhfuil solus aibhléise acu agus go bhfuil na neithe sin chomh fóirleathta ansin go bhfuil an gnáthshaol faoin dtuaith níos taithneamhaí dóibh.

Ba mhaith liom go mbeadh sé mar bhun-pholasaí ag an Aire seirbhís an telefóna a leathnú ar fad fén dtuaith, go mbeadh i ngach paróiste dhá áit nó trí in ar bhféidir le daoine, de ló is d'oíche—is cuma gnó práinneach dochtúra nó leighis, sagairt, nó gnáth-ghnó saoil an duine é—úsáid a bhaint as an telefón laistigh de leath-mhíle nó míle dá áit chomhnaithe, munar féidir é bheith in a thigh féin. Ba mhaith liom go mbeadh sé sin mar pholasaí ag an Aire agus faoi chúram na Roinne, nuair a bheidh an leathnú á dhéanamh ar fuaid na tíre.

Is maith an rud é go bhfuil an tAire agus an Rialtas sásta an £6,000,000 a chur isteach i rud mar seo, mar is deimhniú é go bhfuil fonn orthu dul chun cinn le seirbhís a sholáthar don phobal agus an saol a fheabhasú trí sheirbhísí den tsaghas sin a leathnú.

Mr. Hawkins

I would like to join with the other speakers in congratulating the Minister on having brought this Bill forward, to provide £6,000,000 to develop further what has become almost an essential service. We have heard—and we have seen in the papers from time to time—complaints in regard to these services in the past. The mere passing of this Bill will not remove all the causes for complaint, but when we consider this Bill we should try to do what we can to ensure that, in the future development, there will be no cause for complaint.

Many Senators who have spoken already have attributed most of the causes to the war conditions. That might be the case but my view is that the complaints are due to the rapid expansion of the use of the telephone. In the original plans for housing and equipment, that expansion was not provided for. Therefore, the demand on the staff and on the housing capacity of the Department led to the complaints of which we have heard. I should like to suggest to the Minister that, in the drawing up of future plans, his direction to his staff should be to be generous. When providing a service for a particular area, they should not confine themselves to planning to meet the immediate demands. Much of our expenditure on this service and other services—particularly the public health services—is due to the fact that, in preparing our schemes—sewerage schemes, water schemes, road schemes and so forth—we planned for the immediate present and did not look forward sufficiently. As a result, these plans have to be reviewed and extensions made, with greater cost. The Minister's direction to those drawing up the plans, particularly for the rural areas, should be to be generous and to look forward to further developments rather than to the immediate demand. The phone has become almost an essential service and some speakers have urged that the rural areas should get first consideration. It is a very important service in a rural area—more important than it is in a town or city. Every post office in the country should be provided with a public phone. The Minister has outlined his plans and provision is made for that but, in the putting into operation of these plans and in the spending of this money, a great deal will depend on the foresight and pre-vision displayed in connection with the ultimate expansion of the system.

I support this Bill. With Senator Hayes, I agree that we shall all be delighted if the Minister's hopes of being able to implement the promises made by his predecessors and by himself are realised under this scheme. There is no denial that the provision of £6,000,000 for development of the telephonic system is rather ambitious. We hope that the Minister's belief that he will be able to spend the money usefully within five or six years will be borne out, but we cannot forget that, as far back as 1938, there was provision made of £1,000,000 for the development of the telephone and that that sum, according to what we have heard, has not yet been expended. If, since 1938, it was not possible to expend a sum of £1,000,000, we cannot be considered hypercritical if we are sceptical as to the possibility of usefully expending £6,000,000 within five or six years. There is no doubt that the telephone service, generally, during the emergency period was far from satisfactory. Considering the obsolete equipment, or the lack of equipment in many areas, we cannot hold the Minister solely responsible for that save in so far as his lack of foresight in the years prior to the war, as Senator Crosbie pointed out, resulted in a failure to procure equipment at that time which could not be procured during the emergency period.

If I have any fault to find with this Bill and the Minister's introductory speech it is that attention seems to be mostly confined to Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford and the larger areas. I agree with Senator Baxter and Senator Hawkins that the Bill would be far more attractive to Senators from rural areas if it had a greater rural bias. I see no reason why there should not be a telephone in every post office in rural areas and in every sub-post office. Within the past eight or ten years, people in the rural areas have become telephone-minded. They frequently have to go into a town, four or five miles away, to summon the services of a veterinary surgeon who may live four or five miles distant from that town. I know of cases where such people had to wait for a call between two towns, distant about seven statute miles, for one and a half or two hours.

Senator Honan said that there were no complaints in his county as regards local calls, that the complaints were as regards trunk calls. In my county, it is easier at times to get a trunk call than to make contact with a town from seven to 15 miles distant. For that reason, it is necessary that the service be improved in the rural areas. That improvement should include the provision of public kiosks so that when the post office closes down at 7 o'clock or the telephone service goes off for private subscribers at 10.30 p.m. people who want to use the phone may not have to go to the Gárda barracks and ask permission to use the phone there. In country areas, doctors have frequently to be summoned hurriedly. If, in the sub-post office, there was telephone connection with the nearest town, matters could be expedited. In case of serious illness, people have sometimes to go into town to try to obtain the services of a doctor. The doctor may be out on another call. They may then have to get on the telephone to a doctor in an adjoining town and from three to five hours may be lost in that way. That could be avoided with the extension of the telephone system in rural areas through this scheme. I hope that the question of cost, or return, will not be a deterrent to the Minister's Department in making the necessary extensions.

I know that the Minister is anxious to make the telephone service attractive. Apart from the extensions of which I have spoken, I know of no better way of making the service attractive than by cutting down the rather exorbitant charges that at present obtain for installations and for calls. Senator Hayes referred to a charge of £5 for installation. I know of a case in a rural area in which a county councillor was anxious to install in his home a telephone which would be mostly used in the interest of his constituents. The cost of installation, a year's rent and overhead charges ran into £11. If those high charges obtain, I have every doubt that the service will be as generally availed of as it otherwise would be. When all is said and done, the Post Office should not be out to make profits in this matter and, if any profits are made, they should go to the benefit of the subscribers and those availing of the service.

I trust the Minister's hopes will be realised in providing the service the country needs and that we shall be put in line with other countries. I am afraid that, at present, we are very much out of step with them so far as the telephone service is concerned. The Minister is entitled to, and will receive, the co-operation of everybody in working out his scheme, provided he does not stint himself as regards the areas referred to by Senator Baxter and Senator Hawkins and the areas for which I now plead. The isolated districts are entitled to consideration in this matter and, even though at the outset they may not be productive of profit, the eventual results will, certainly, justify any expenditure undertaken in making the necessary extensions.

I think that those who have complimented the Minister, just as those who have criticised his Bill, suffer under the delusion that the purpose of the measure is to provide £6,000,000 for telephone development. That is not the purpose of the Bill. Its purpose is to provide a sum "not exceeding £6,000,000." There is no guarantee that the Minister will spend £60. He has been spending at the rate of £100,000 during the past ten years and unless an atomic bomb is placed somewhere in the Department there is no hope he will expand the service further during the lifetime of the present Government. It seems to me that we are discussing this matter as if we were living in the middle of the last century. Who believes that the telephone system 20 years from now will be the kind of system we have to-day? I do not believe for a moment that, amongst all the other scientific developments in the world, the telephone system will remain unaltered. I believe that there will be considerable alterations in the whole conception of the telephone and in methods of communication during the next 20 years. Before we agree to the expenditure of any sum, we ought to urge the Minister to find out from the scientists what their view is as to the lines along which the telephone system is likely to develop. I am informed— I speak subject to correction by the Minister—that there is nobody with scientific knowledge in the employment of the Post Office and that some of the most technical posts in relation to telephones are held by civil servants without any training whatever in technical matters. If you want technicians, you have got to pay them and that is one of the things the Post Office dislikes doing.

Many years ago, I was a member of a commission which inquired into the administration of the Post Office. The evidence given in the course of that inquiry was that the telephonists were allowed to sit at their desks for hours at end until they fainted in their seats, when they were carried to a rest room. That evidence was given at a commission, of which I was a member, appointed by the previous Government. I cannot see that an organisation which takes that view of its responsibilities towards the persons who serve it is likely to proceed along an intelligent, progressive line when they get the handling of so vast a sum of money. It seems to me, therefore, that we ought to urge, on the rare occasions on which we can say anything at all about the administration of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, that they should consult technicians and scientists in relation to the use of the telephone and the system of telephonic communication which we have in this country.

Then there is the question of overhead or underground lines. Whenever there is a storm the overhead lines fall. The time we need doctors and vets. most urgently is the time we have no telephones at all; the whole system is in a state of collapse. I disagree with Senator Baxter and others as to the purpose of a telephone system. I do not think that the cure for the disease, referred to by Senator Baxter, is to install a telephone exchange in every sub-post office. The cure, obviously, is to have a doctor, a vet. and a nurse in every village. The cure for this disease is a properly organised social service, not a telephone exchange. The greatest demand for the telephone, so far as I know, comes from bookmakers and those who want to back the favourite on some English race. That is the biggest demand on the telephone in many parts of the country. I have no anxiety to vote public moneys for that purpose.

I want to see public money which is voted expended in the best possible manner. With all respect, I would say this that, before we commence to spend larger sums of money on private telephones for bookmakers, we ought to make sure that we are giving the ordinary citizen the best service that the State can provide. We are not doing that. If I write a letter to-day to some parts of the country, even to important towns in remote parts of the country, I have no guarantee that it will be delivered before next week. A man told me that he wrote a letter in Dublin to an important town in the country on a Friday. It reached the town on Monday, but it was not delivered and was not due for delivery. If we are going to vote these large sums of money, it seems to me that we ought to start with first things first. The first thing to provide is an adequate daily service of letter deliveries.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That has nothing to do with the Telephone Bill, Senator.

No, but the Minister is asking for a large sum of money, not exceeding £6,000,000.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

For telephones.

But I do not want to give it to him. I want to give him the money for other purposes, and I think I am entitled to point out to the House that we ought to urge on the Minister that there are other claims on the Post Office, claims that are more pressing, more important and more vital in the public interest than the expansion of the telephone system in the manner that he is proposing, particularly having regard to what I said at the beginning, that I believe the present telephone system will be out-moded 20 years from now.

So much has been said on this Bill during the last two hours that there is very little left for me to say. I do not think any Senator, with any sense of responsibility, could oppose the granting of the sum of money asked for for the extension of an important and essential service. Nobody with a national or even an international outlook could do that. Only recently a Minister said that this question of insularity had now passed. I support previous speakers in impressing on the Minister the importance of creating an atmosphere of sympathy so far as the rural areas are concerned. With regard to local post office services, I do not know what people would do were it not for the co-operation they get in the local Gárda stations. That applies particularly in the rural areas. After 7 o'clock in the evening people who require to make calls must do so at the Gárda station. It may be a call to know if there is a bed available for an urgent case in the Limerick County Infirmary, or it may be an urgent call about some other matter.

I strongly support the plea that was made by Senator Hayes for better pay for those employed in this service. Quite a number are very badly paid. If you want good service, courtesy and co-operation you must have a contented and a reasonably well-paid staff. I know two girls who are employed in a post office in a certain large town. I do not know exactly what their status is, or whether the Minister has any responsibility for them. In fact, I do not know by whom they are employed, but they have to work a very long day on six days of the week and do so many hours' duty on Sunday. They are employed at the slave unchristian wage of 10/- a week. Now, if conditions such as these obtain in other towns and villages—young girls of 18 or 19 years of age working eight hours a day for the slave wage of 10/- a week— is it any wonder that you should have discourtesy, want of co-operation or sympathy? I would imagine that these poor little girls suffer from weakness and exhaustion. If there was a bus service running in their town they would not have enough money to pay their fare from the post office to their homes. I know a girl who was employed for three years in that way. Her health became impaired and she had to give up the work. Was it any wonder in view of the fact that she had to try to exist on a wage of 10/- a week? I hope that, when we vote the money asked for in this Bill, the manner in which it is to be expended will be inquired into by the Minister. Some part of it, I think, ought to be employed towards improving the conditions of girls such as I speak of. It is too bad that very well educated girls should have to try to eke out an existence on such wages.

On Saturday last I had some business to do at the county council offices in Limerick. I asked the girl there please to ring up the Gresham Hotel, Dublin, as I wanted to make arrangements for my visit to Dublin to attend this meeting of the Seanad. There was a wait of ten minutes. I asked her please to ring again and see what was the cause of the delay. She did so, and got the reply that I would have to wait one and a half hours. I said that I was not going to sit there for one and a half hours in order to contact the Gresham Hotel. That does not always happen, I must say.

I do a lot of work on the telephone, and on the whole I find it reasonably good. We cannot expect absolute perfection in every service. Human nature itself has its limitations. We all make mistakes. I would say that, on the whole, the service is good. The officials are tactful and there is a spirit of co-operation amongst them. I do want to say again that I have absolute proof that girls are being employed in this service at the slave unchristian wage I have mentioned. It is horrible to contemplate that lovely young girls, with a secondary education, should be treated in that manner. The Minister may not know of this but I can give him the name and address of the post office. I am sure that he knows nothing about it. If that sort of thing is going on over the country, then I suggest it ought to be rectified. If you have a well paid staff you will have efficiency and courtesy, and the whole scheme will work harmoniously.

There is a great deal of talk about the flight from the land. 250,000 of our people have gone to work in England. Senators are obliged to call to the Department of External Affairs on behalf of people who are seeking permits to leave the country. If some of the services which are being provided for Dublin and Dun Laoghaire could be extended to the country areas, then our people might be encouraged to remain at home. The aim should be to get the people back to the land, and so preserve the race of the MacCarthys and the O'Donnells who are disappearing from the land as if from a pestilence. I hope that these few points will be considered by the Minister.

I should like to join with other Senators in congratulating the Minister on the introduction of this Bill. There certainly has been a need, for some time past, for a considerable improvement in the service. The Minister's explanation of the difficulties is, no doubt, reasonable. There are some minor remedies which I think were always possible, and which, I think, are now possible. I should like to call the Minister's attention to one of these. I had the experience of having to wait a quarter of an hour outside a kiosk while two or three girls were sending a message to people living a comparatively short distance away. The operator probably did not know the nature of their conversation, but it was simply an ordinary conversation between boys and girls. I have had that experience again and again. That leads me to suggest that there is a good deal in what Senator Sir John Keane mentioned, namely, that there ought to be some way of intimating to the operator that there is a trunk call waiting. I wonder if there could be some rearrangement of the design of the kiosks, one part being allocated for ordinary local calls and another part reserved for trunk calls? If that could be done then the type of delay that I refer to could be avoided.

One Senator referred to experiments which, he said, were being carried out by the Post Office Department in the Dublin mountains. It struck me, listening to the Senator, that the Department may have a very good idea in the carrying out of these experiments. For example, in the case of the extension of electricity to individual farms, very considerable expense is involved, whereas if the houses on these farms could be connected within a small space, there would be considerable economy in the wiring effected. I am just wondering whether it would be possible to send messages by wireless to remote areas instead of by the ordinary telephonic method, and then relaying them from those areas to substations which could be comparatively near. That might be a possible way of extending the service to rural areas without incurring too much trouble. There is a difference of opinion as to whether the present system with all its defects, if you like, should be extended, or whether there should be concentration on the improvement of the existing system. If I might mention a parallel case, that is the case of the E.S.B., I think the problem is somewhat similar. In that particular case people are rationed and severely rationed. That whole service is unsatisfactory at present owing to the failure of the E.S.B. to provide current for increased power. I suggest that if we extend too rapidly, before the necessary equipment is available, we may have a somewhat similar difficulty arising in connection with this service.

I would like to mention in connection with the facilities that are available at Civic Guard stations, that the policy regarding calls made at them late at night seems to differ according to the temperament of the particular sergeant in charge. One man may be of the good humoured type. He will say "Yes," and let the call be made. Another man will insist on having all the regulations complied with. If it were frankly recognised that, in a case of urgent calls, people would be entitled to make them at the barracks, that might help to smooth away the differences that exist at present. Perhaps something could be done in that direction so that people would not feel that they were under a compliment when asking for permission to use the telephone in a Civic Guard barracks.

I had the experience at Tramore last year and in previous years of waiting as long as four hours to get a message to a place 30 miles away. I think I could have walked to that place in the same time. That occurs every year. The reasons are similar to those mentioned by Senator Honan. There is a tremendous influx of people at certain periods and I think it should follow that during these periods there ought to be additional staff.

Talking about staff, not long ago in Dublin I called into an office not very far from here and I noticed that a telegram could be dispatched from that office. I handed in a telegram and I was told it could not be delivered under two hours. The girl in charge was almost demented with the amount of work she had to do. There were a dozen people in the office and she was asked to do all sorts of things. One lady complained that she had walked two miles in connection with a savings certificate and she was told that nothing could be done there about it. I do not say that is a typical case, but it is a case where definitely there was need of more staff.

Reference has been made to charges. I have a telephone in my house and it is used purely for private purposes. It costs £12 a year, sometimes up to £14. People engaged in business would, perhaps, resent the suggestion, but I think it is a fairly reasonable one, that the Minister should consider increasing slightly the rentals to people engaged in business. A slight increase would hardly be felt and it gives relief to private people. I believe many more people would be inclined to take the telephone in such circumstances.

I think it is necessary to issue instructions that young people—possibly there may be other people as well— should not be allowed to hold the kiosks, particularly on cold winter nights. Something should be done about it. It might be possible to enable others to get in touch with the telephone operator, so as to let him or her know that the telephone facilities in the kiosk are being abused.

I must say I have received the greatest courtesy from all the officials concerned. I cannot recall any particular instance to the contrary. Perhaps the cases to which I have referred are cases where the operator had a soft heart. He might have been unaware of the fact that there were people inclined to lose their souls through using bad language, having regard to the coldness of the weather and the delay experienced through those young people abusing the telephone facilities.

Perhaps I, also, will be permitted to compliment the Cathaoirleach and his staff on the beautiful way in which the Seanad Chamber has been decorated. I note with pleasure that the historic Georgian type of decoration has been preserved. One almost feels that Senators should come into this Chamber dressed in wigs and ruffles.

Senator Hayes referred to wages. Our wages, on the whole, are not bad, and I have here a list which may be of interest. Girls of 16 years get £2 6s. 8d. That increases until at 17 they get £2 10s. 10d.; at 18, £2 19s. 3d.; at 19, £3 3s. 5d.; at 20, £3 6s. 7d.; at 21, £3 9s. 8d., and then it goes gradually to a maximum of £4 6s. 6d. We are constantly recruiting people for the service. I suppose it is like other services where you have girls, a great many of them get married and you have to keep getting other girls. We have a free hand in the matter of recruitment and the only thing that limits us is the number of switchboards—apparatus. If we had additional apparatus we could improve the position. That is one of our greatest difficulties.

It was stated that we employ girls at 10s. a week. Those girls are not our employees; they are employed by subpostmasters, and wherever we can use our influence on these people we do so. We are always glad to know of cases where girls are underpaid and we always take as strong a line as possible to try to make people pay proper wages. Of course, those girls who receive such small wages get their food as well—it is an indoor service.

Senator Hayes referred to deposits. The deposit used to be 30s., but we found at the beginning of the war that there were certain bad debts and we were not anxious to expand the service. The sum was raised to £5. For business firms we make the distinction that Senator O'Reilly mentioned, and business firms are charged £6 10s.

I referred to the annual rental.

When we expand the service we intend to examine that situation very closely. The Senator will realise the difficulty of hitting on the right price to charge. If we come to a certain point there might be a loss, which would be continuous. We want to try to keep the price as low as possible, while at the same time making a profit. That is a matter for further consideration later on.

It is being examined?

It is, and I am very anxious to carry it out, too. A complaint has been made as to the limited hours. When we get the automatic system working, it will be continuous, night and day. We shall try to make it an all round the clock service wherever it is possible. I think those who were inclined to pit the country against the towns did not realise that the two services run very closely together. If you improve the services at the centre, if the central exchanges are improved, the improvement works right through the trunk system all over the country. The fact that we are putting telephones into 900 post offices that did not have them before indicates that our policy is very definitely one of decentralisation as far as we can do it.

We are aiming at avoiding delay and trying to give service on demand so that we will not have to resort to other expedients, such as were suggested by Senator Sir John Keane, of asking people to come back at a certain hour. That is a very difficult arrangement, because calls would keep heaping up and you would be accumulating your appointments two hours ahead. You would really be postponing your problems and absorbing the switchboards and have the employees doing something which in the end would only make more trouble. It is difficult to see how that suggestion could be carried out.

Senator Counihan would like to have priority for the cattle trade on fair days. I would like to do that. I have a family weakness for the cattle trade and I would like to see every facility given to that trade. I do not, however, see how it could be done generally unless special arrangements could be made with individuals. Fair days constantly occur and it would be difficult to fix definite hours. I understand our people are quite willing to examine this matter and if anything can be done for the cattle trade I will urge that it should be done.

Senator McGee mentioned the position of doctors and he said they should get special treatment. So they do. I do not remember refusing a doctor anywhere when he asked for a telephone. At the beginning of the war, when we first had to put restrictions on, I insisted on putting doctors and hospitals at the top of the priority list. After that we put on people who had the largest content of employment. Wherever we can we deal with veterinary surgeons and give them every facility. That is a rather scattered occupation and I think we can give more attention to it now. We ought to be able to fit them in. It is an important occupation because our live-stock trade depends on them for attention and I agree that they should receive every consideration.

I am grateful to those Senators who showed so much appreciation of the work of the staff. It is the Minister's job to take all the knocks that come. The Minister does not mind it very much but when you feel that abuse is being passed on to the staff you get annoyed, especially when you know that the staff are doing everything possible to carry out the work efficiently.

Senator Crosbie referred to the experiments that are being carried on in the matter of wireless telephony. The Post Office really has nothing to do with that and the Government are not responsible for what appeared in one of the papers and what was contradicted on the next day. It is true we take a sympathetic interest in the matter and we would not place any obstacle in the way of these experiments that are being carried out. We are watching the matter very carefully. Possibly it may give us a solution of some of our most difficult problems if the firm interested in the experiments are successful and are able to bring the results that are achieved into the region of what would be a commercial proposition.

It is not true to say that we have not got scientific experts in the telephone department. You could not run the telephone system unless you had. That system is becoming more and more complicated every day. Our senior man, Mr. Monaghan, is one of those who has been actively engaged on research work as well as carrying out the work of the Department. Apart from him we have quite a staff of expert engineers who are constantly watching for every improvement. It is true, as Senator Duffy said, that changes are coming along very rapidly. I had one example. Early in the emergency we had special concrete ducts made to carry underground cables. While we can still use these ducts, substitutes have been found in steel-covered cables. We can use up the concrete ducts that remain, but the steel-covered cables are a great advance and they make it much easier to carry out the underground cable work.

Senator Honan referred to certain difficulties in County Clare, particularly in Ennis. That position is pretty difficult all right, but we have it under active consideration. At present the delay in calls from Ennis to Limerick goes to 1½ hours in the busy periods and from Ennis to Dublin 2¾ hours. On the Ennis-Rineanna line there is now no delay; at the very maximum there might be a delay of 15 minutes. The delay on calls from Ennis is due to the unavoidable cause of delay operating generally, namely, shortage of trunk circuits. Proposals for additional circuits between Ennis-Dublin and Ennis-Limerick have been included in our telephone capital programme for some time, but so far it has not been possible to provide them. The question of installing carrier equipment on this route is now being examined.

I can assure Senator Ó Buachalla that at least 50 per cent. of the improvements will go to the country and when we improve the centres it will be reflected in the whole service. I am very glad to hear that the service given in Gaelic in Galway is so good. The Senator suggests that a public relations officer be appointed. I think that it will be time enough, when we have dealt with the arrears and the normal flow, to launch on a publicity campaign which would justify a public relations officer. We hope to deal with all the arrears in about 18 months and after that it would take about five years to get all the equipment into place, so as to be ready to deal with any demands which might be made upon us.

Senator Baxter seemed to think that the shortage of supplies was due to the fire. It was not. The material destroyed by the fire was not very large and, as a matter of fact, the shortage was due to the six years' war. We had three years' supply actually in store and, by a stroke of luck, at the very last minute we were able to get extra cable, so that we were able to carry on for six years with the three years' supply. It would not have been reasonable to ask for anything more. It is all very well after the event to criticise people, but when an officer is responsible to the accounting officer for the amount of money going to be spent for stores, I think a supply for three years was a pretty fair estimate to make and it might easily be regarded as extravagant to lay in any more.

Senator Ó Siochfhradha asked where the money is coming from. It is really a loan from the Department of Finance and must be accounted for in the Budget, when raising money by taxation. It is a loan to the Department, which pays it back by terminable annuities, which appear from year to year in the Estimates. The Senator also suggested that we could make the equipment at home. All possible equipment that can be made in our factory is made, but there is very elaborate machinery required which is not made in this country. That would be a question for an electrical industry being established outside the Post Office and, if that did happen, we would probably become their best customers, as in the Government service we naturally like to purchase all the home-produced objects we can.

A very considerable amount of the money will be spent on labour, when you consider that we will be increasing our workers by one thousand and that our staff also will have to be increased by one thousand, so the money will not be spent entirely on the importation of foreign material.

Senator Hawkins suggested that our plans should be laid in such a way that, when they have been carried out, we would not be limited in any way in taking on calls. That is our aim and, in five years' time, no matter how big the demand, we will be fully able to cope with it. Senator Ruane did not realise that it was impossible to spend money during the war, as we had not the supplies and could not put in extra equipment. The £1,000,000 which we got before the war was spent, all but an inconsiderable sum, so one cannot accuse the Department of parsimony in not spending all we should have spent. That is by no means an indication of our rapid growth in the future.

Regarding the use of the Gárda barracks, it is not really permissible, except for the most urgent calls. Abuses have crept in, in the holiday centres, where people used the barracks for sending calls which were not urgent, and restriction or warning has to be given to the public that the service in the barracks may be used only for accident, sickness, deaths or matters of extreme urgency.

Senator Duffy was pessimistic about the rate at which we spend the money, seeing it was a sum of not more than £6,000,000. The scheme really covers £10,000,000 and as soon as we have exhausted £6,000,000 we will just go and get the rest and I think there will be no difficulty about it. I have already mentioned the Senator's point about the payment of girls. The usual hours with us are about seven hours, and if they are kept for overtime they are paid extra. I think his example of the conditions being such that girls fainted is quite absurd. It is certainly out-of-date and has not occurred within the last ten years.

Senator O'Reilly raised the question of using the wireless. Wireless telephony is at the experimental stage and, from inquiries I have made in other countries, I find that for long distances it is pretty expensive at present. Wireless telegraphy, however, is actually used for very out-of-the-way places in the islands. It is difficult to know what to do in the case of summer resorts, where for most of the year the equipment is fully equal to the service and only for very short periods is the equipment not sufficient and the delay considerable—as in the case mentioned of the delay in Tramore for four hours. I shall have the matter examined, but it must be remembered always that we cannot be extravagant in giving a service which can be used only for a very short time and then will lie idle for the rest of the year.

The question of idle conversations on the telephone was mentioned. That is something that has come up from time to time. We have found a remedy in the kiosks in Dublin, where there is now an automatic cut-off after five minutes, so as to give the next person a chance.

It would not be any harm to have it on the private phones also.

That might cause a revolution. In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to the Senators for the trouble they have taken in going into this matter and for the appreciation they have shown of the staff.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take the remaining stages now.
Bill passed through Committee and reported without recommendation.
Bill received for final consideration and ordered to be returned to the Dáil.