Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 12 Apr 1934

Vol. 51 No. 13

In Committee on Finance. - Vote 63—Posts and Telegraphs.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £1,311,217 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1935, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Oifig an Aire Puist agus Telegrafa (45 agus 46 Vict. c. 74; 8 Edw, 7, c. 48; 1 agus 2 Geo. 5, c. 76; Na hAchtanna Telegrafa, 1863 go 1928; etc.); agus Seirbhíí áirithe eile atá fé riaradh na hOifige sin.

That a sum not exceeding £1,311,217 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1935, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (45 and 46 Vict. c. 74; 8 Edw. 7 c. 48; 1 and 2 Geo. 5, c. 76; The Telegraph Acts, 1863 to 1928; etc.); and of certain other Services administered by that Office.

The total amount estimated for expenditure in the current financial year is £2,001,217 being a decrease on last year's Estimate of £27,952. The reduction is due to the application of a lower cost-of-living figure and to minor economies. The true financial position of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs can only be ascertained by reference to the commercial accounts which the Department prepares annually and which are available usually in November. The latest commercial accounts are for the year 1932-1933, and I will refer to them. These accounts, which are subject to audit, deal separately with the three main services covered in the Vote, viz: postal, telegraph and telephone. In the postal services the total income was £1,519,122 against an expenditure of £1,424,524 leaving a surplus of £94,598; telegraph services —income, £182,260, expenditure, £301,114, deficit, £118,854; telephone services, total income, £427,239; expenditure, £385,626; surplus, £41,613.

The postal and telephone services, therefore, show a gross surplus of £136,211 against a deficit in the telegraphs of £118,854, leaving a profit on the combined services of £17,357 as compared with £66,947 in the previous year.

In the year under review there was a shrinkage of postal revenue and a further decline in telegraph traffic, but telephone revenue still showed an upward trend. The amount of the surplus was adversely affected to the extent of £28,000 owing to extra expenditure and loss to revenue consequent on damage to telegraph and telephone lines during the severe snowstorm in February of last year.

In regard to mail services the Department has constantly under review the question of extending or improving postal facilities. The gradual replacement of horse vehicles by motors for mail services by road continued during the year. About 75 per cent. of such services are now being performed by the speedier mode of transport. Cobh and Galway continue to be utilized in the greatest possible measure for the exchange of mails between this country and America. Nearly 22,000 sacks of mails were despatched and over 25,000 received through these ports last year. The further trial given to the provision of posting boxes affixed to omnibuses coming to Dublin from the provinces has shown disappointing results notwithstanding the clear benefit of the facility and the publicity given to it. Correspondence posted for conveyance by the various International air services during the year 1933 was more than double that posted in the preceding year. Over 30 per cent. of the traffic was conveyed by the London-India service and 15 per cent. by the London-Capetown route.

Telegrams are still losing to the telephone, which is an expanding branch of business and which is finding increasing favour with the public. But as compared with other countries we do not occupy a high place as telephone users. Special measures are being taken in the Department to develop the telephone side to the fullest extent and to induce new business. During the year automatic exchange lines in Dublin were increased by 143. Several new rural exchanges and call offices were opened. Many extensions of the telephone trunk system were provided and further extensions are in process of construction. It is proposed to erect about 50 telephone kiosks in Dublin and the provinces during the year. The number of miles of working wire for telephones is now over 120,000 and represents an increase of 47 per cent. over the mileage of five years ago.

A comprehensive building programme will be undertaken in the course of the year. The principal work will be that of the erection of the new central sorting office in Dublin. This work has suffered delay through unforeseen causes but a commencement has now been made and the work will be pushed forward as rapidly as possible. It is expected that the new building to provide a telephone exchange and district postmen's office at Rathmines will be completed about October next. A new letter and parcel sorting office will be provided in Cork and it is hoped to commence the work within the next few months. It is proposed to erect a new post office in Athlone and to improve the existing accommodation at several other centres.

It has been decided to issue a special postage stamp to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the Gaelic Athletic Association. The stamp will be of the 2d. denomination and will, it is expected, be on sale in June next. The commercial accounts of the Department for the year just completed will not of course be available for some months, but so far as I am able to judge from the information now available the final returns will show that the Department will at least maintain a self-supporting position.

I wish to raise a few points on this Estimate. After all, the Department for Posts and Telegraphs ought to be looked upon as a big business concern and ought, as far as possible, be run in the interests of the State and the community generally. At the same time, I am afraid that the tendency of all Government Departments is to become impatient of criticism and not really, in some cases, to cater for the best interests of the people they are serving. Two years ago, on this Estimate I raised a few points and I should like to raise them again in the hope that these points will, at any rate, get some consideration from the Minister. The first matter I wish to raise has reference to the long-distance cross-Channel telephone. I do not care whether you look upon the cross-Channel telephone through London as a means of communication with the Continent, whether you look upon London as an international market or look upon the cross-Channel service merely as a channel for doing business in England but certainly, even at the present time, there is a very large volume of international business that has to be transacted through the cross-Channel telephone. Yet the delays are very considerable, not due to any lack of efficiency in working the telephone but simply to the inadequacy of the trunk lines. At some periods of the day you could not get on under an hour at least and possibly, considerably longer. It is no uncommon experience for a wire to be received making a telephone appointment and I submit to the Minister that at the present time, when we are considering the spending of considerable sums of money in the relief of unemployment, money expended on the improvement of these services would give profitable employment and would at the same time relieve the difficulties of doing business on this side of the water.

I think that the Minister ought seriously to consider increasing the cross-Channel telephone lines. Possibly the Minister for Industry and Commerce would bear me out in the statement that everybody in this country is more or less in competition with somebody somewhere else and the greater the facilities afforded people here and the greater the ease with which they can do their business, the better service they will give to their customers. I should like to approve of the matter mentioned by the Minister in regard to overhead wires. I take it, it is the policy of the telephone service to do away with overhead wires and substitute underground lines as far as possible. There is no doubt that these overhead wires are very liable to damage by storm. I should like also to say that in the main the telephone branch is conducted with the idea of giving the most efficient service. Of course, there are complaints from time to time. I suppose human nature being what it is, the human factor will from time to time make itself felt.

I should also like to make a few remarks in regard to the Post Office Savings Bank. The Minister did not quote exact figures for the Savings Bank but I take it there is a loss on that service. I should like to ask the Minister what is the idea of the principle on which the Savings Bank is run? Is it that it is a bank in which people can put their money in competition with the existing banking institutions of the country, or in what direction are the authorities working? If they wish to give efficient service I think that they ought to give the same services as an ordinary bank. If they cannot do that, they ought to consider whether they could not make economies in keeping the present Savings Bank open. We hear from time to time criticisms of the existing banks, but what criticism would we hear if an individual had to give three days' notice before he could get a cheque for 25/- cashed? I should like the Minister seriously to consider that. I suppose that if I said the Government was not good for 25/- I would be accused of trying to depreciate my own country, but surely times have changed since the present system was instituted under which the withdrawal of any sum over £I requires three days' notice or the spending of 4/- on a prepaid wire to the Postmaster-General, before one can get one's own money out. Surely if the Minister reviews the banking facilities that are available at present in other directions he will come to the conclusion that he should either modernise the Post Office Savings Bank system or make some economies in connection with it.

Now the next item that I wish to mention in connection with this Vote is the erection of a post office which, I understand, is being undertaken on the site at the corner of Trinity Street and St. Andrew Street in this city. As Deputies know, that is a very congested area and it is no uncommon thing to see a very considerable block of traffic there. Some people in the neighbourhood were a bit nervous that if owing to the present traffic difficulties post office vans were left outside the site in that congested area, it would mean practically closing up a very important sub-traffic artery. I notice that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, speaking in the Seanad yesterday on the Town Planning Bill, stated: "That whatever could be done to encourage and induce local authorities to use the powers of the Bill to the full for town planning and for improving their localties would be done." In another part of his speech on the same occasion, the Minister said that "the traffic problem in their larger cities was due to the uncontrolled growth of these areas in the past. The need for proper planning was apparent on all sides, and local authorities would be well advised to have a plan prepared in their areas." Now I heartily agree with every word the Minister said, and I would like some Government departments to practice what the Vice-President preaches. Now, apparently, Government buildings are exempt from control by the Corporation. The City Manager was written to in the following terms:

"My Committee have had under consideration the post office which, it is understood, is about to be erected in St. Andrew Street, and are of opinion that if two or three post office vans are to be always in front of the building it will completely block the thoroughfare. My Committee would be glad to see the ground plan of the building to ascertain if adequate provision has been made on the roadway for the accommodation of vehicles."

The reply to that was:

"Your letter of the 29th has been forwarded by me to the City Manager. In reply, I have to state that an extensive site in St. Andrew Street has been leased from the Corporation by the Agricultural Credit Corporation, but no plans for the new building have yet been lodged. It is rumoured that the Post Office proposes taking portion of this site from the Agricultural Credit Corporation, but there is no civic control over what the Post Office may do."

Now I suppose the reason for that is that the Post Office on town planning would be like Caesar's wife, above suspicion, and I suppose the Jost Office realise that putting up a very fine building in narrow, mean streets detracts from the building. The Post Office authorities were written to in the following terms:—

"My Committee have had under consideration the proposed erection of a post office in St. Andrew Street, and would be glad to know if provision has been made to load and unload all vehicles inside the building, and if it will be possible for the ordinary public to stop a vehicle outside without completely blocking the thoroughfare. It is only the extreme urgency of the traffic problem in this portion of the city that prompts my Committee to write to you in order that the post office may not exacerbate the existing congestion. Could my Committee examine the plans?"

Now, what did the Post Office say in reply to that?

"Adverting to your letter of the 29th ult., I am directed by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to inform you that the reconstruction of Nos. 19 and 24 St. Andrew Street, to which, no doubt, your Committee refers, is being carried out by the Agricultural Credit Corporation and not by this Department."

Now, one has to assume from that that the Agricultural Credit Corporation are putting up a building, and that the Post Office are merely going to blow into it when it is finished, and without any regard to whether it suits their requirements or not. I should like to appeal to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to put his own house in order and to consider the provisions of the Town Planning Bill. He is rebuilding, or becoming a tenant of a building in St. Andrew Street, in which he must have some considerable say, and there ought to be some provision made for the exigencies of the traffic that it will be required to bear. Now, on the other side of the street is St. Andrew's Church. I hope that when we appeal to the Minister and point out to him that there is not any room between the church and the post office, he will not tell the citizens that they had better take down the church. I have brought this matter forward and dealt with it at some length, because I think that if Government departments are not going to set a headline in their regard for town planning and for the existing congestion in the centre of the city, we really have only wasted our time in passing this Town Planning Bill.

Passing from that, I should like to refer to another matter. On the 13th March I addressed a question to the Minister about charges on German parcels posted to the Free State. I will quote from the official records:—

Mr. Dockrell asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (1) whether he is aware that parcels posted in Germany addressed to Irish Free State firms are subjected to London customs clearance charges made by a British firm acting as agents for the German parcel post; and (2) if he can make arrangements with the German Post Office authorities that only German and Irish transport and customs clearance charges shall be payable on parcels consigned to the Irish Free State.

Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Boland): Parcels posted in Germany can be forwarded either by the official Post Office service or by a semi-official service run conjointly by the German Post Office and certain private transport agencies in London. Parcels forwarded by the official service are examined and charged at the Dublin customs centre only, but when the semi-official service is utilised the parcels are subject to customs examination and clearance charges both in London and Dublin.

The service used is decided by the senders and is not a matter in which this Administration can interfere.

Mr. Dockrell: Arising out of the answer, am I to understand that parcels forwarded by the official German Post Office are not subject to any forwarding charge in London?

Mr. Boland: That is so, if sent through the Post Office and not through a private agency; they are not subject to any charge in London. It is a matter for the senders themselves which route they use.

I believe the Minister and I trotted back to my informant who had made the complaint to me, and I said to him: "You are entirely wrong; the people you are getting your goods from are sending them by some semi-official agency." The Minister courteously sent me a list of the charges made by both official and semi-official agencies. That was all right until, a few days ago, the party came in to me again and said: "One story is very good till you hear another. Here are all the documents that you require; here is a charge from the London, Midland and Scottish Company, and there is no doubt about that." The next is a letter to a German firm:—

"Dear Sirs,

"With reference to your invoice of 27th February, the parcel has now been delivered. Would you kindly let us know by what route you forwarded it. We are charged 11 marks 40 for postage. Was it sent by the official German parcel post? If so, ought it to be delivered free, or should we have to pay anything on delivery?"

Here is the letter from the German firm:—

"I have just received your letter of the 14th, contents of which I have duly noted. The parcel, as per my invoice of February 27th, has been forwarded by the official German parcel post and ought to be delivered free. I should be astonished if you had to pay anything on delivery, and, if so, you should request recompensation from your post office."

Now, I request recompensation. I would ask the Minister to look into that matter, because he was most emphatic the last time in stating that that could not occur. Will somebody have to go to London and watch the parcels post to see who is surreptitiously removing them from the official wagons? I hope the Minister will deal with those few points when he is replying.

In the course of his statement, the Minister surveyed to some extent the business or commercial ramifications of the Post Office, and I want to say a word on behalf of the human material who make this service possible, and who render such comprehensive services to the community as a whole. The Minister dealt with very few staff matters: in fact, I do not think he dealt with any real staff matter during the course of his statement, and I would suggest to him that, in future, when these statements are being compiled by the Minister, he ought to try to get into them for dissemination in this House some expression of opinion as to the conditions under which his staff work. He might usefully tell the House some of the things he proposes to do for the human material who make this service possible rather than to content himself with these mere mechanical things which some people think are the beginning and end of the whole Post Office service.

I thought, for instance, that we would have heard the Minister say something on the question of this scandal of part-time labour in the Post Office. I raised this matter last year on this Estimate, and told the Minister of the fact that his Department employs 2,500 people who work on an average not more than 30 hours per week, and I told the Minister that his Department employs another 1,100 persons who work in the Post Office for not more than 18 hours per week, and I suggested to the Minister then that it ought not to be beyond human ingenuity to devise a scheme by which it would be possible to organise the Post Office service on the basis of full time employment for all employees, instead of condemning 3,600 people to work at rates of wages which I am sure the Minister will be compelled to admit are absolutely scandalously low. That problem still remains. The Minister last year expressed sympathy with the object which I sought to achieve by raising the matter on the Estimate, but, in the meantime, very little has been done by the Minister's Department to grapple with that serious problem, and to end what the Minister must admit is a very serious blot on the whole Post Office administration.

Here, in Dublin, the position is absolutely deplorable in that respect. The Department in Dublin takes on people for three hours per day. They are recruited through the labour exchanges and for these three hours' work per day, the Department pays these people the magnificent sum of 14/8 per week. What is the 14/8 intended to cover for that person? The Minister knows perfectly well that it is hard for a person who is available to give service at all hours of the day and night to obtain employment, and much more difficult for a person employed part-time to obtain any other outside employment to supplement his earnings. As proof of the fact that he cannot obtain that outside employment, I think the Minister will find, if he questions the people who are employed by his Department on the basis of three hours per day, that none of them has any outside employment whatever, the result being that the Post Office Department, a State Department, pays these people the magnificent sum of 14/8 per week, and many of them have got to keep themselves, their wives and children, and pay fancy rents in the City of Dublin on that miserably low wage. That rate of wages cannot be justified, and it strikes me as something amazing that in a Department whose financial ramifications can be indicated by the fact that this Estimate is for £2,100,217, cannot organise these services in such a way as to extend the hours of employment of these people in Dublin and throughout the country so as to give them full employment at decent rates of wages, instead of compelling them to work for the miserable rate of wages they are receiving to-day.

The policy of the Minister's Department is shown in rather a curious light when it is remembered that if these people were in receipt of unemployment assistance, under the new Unemployment Assistance Act, they would be able to obtain in Dublin a maximum of £1 per week. The Minister, however, employs them, and pays them 14/8 per week and thus, as can be seen, while the Department of Industry and Commerce would cause them to be paid £1 per week if they were unemployed, when they are employed for 18 hours per week the Minister's Department gives them only 14/8 per week, and prevents them from getting the £1 they would ordinarily get if they were not employed at these miserable rates by the Minister's Department. I am sure the Minister is personally sympathetic in this matter. But it ought to be dealt with speedily, because the whole thing is a scandal. It would be bad enough if a private employer were exploiting people on this basis; but it is a million times worse when the State employs men and pays them 14/8 a week and expects them to lead a Christian existence in a civilised country on such a miserably low rate of wages. The Minister indicated that the work on the new sorting office in Dublin had commenced. I wonder what commenced means.

There was an employee in the Minister's Department who was frequently late, and when he was asked for an explanation he said his wife was ill and the alarm clock in the bedroom kept her from sleeping and consequently he had to put it down at the bottom of the stairs. He was asked what steps he proposed to take to prevent a recurrence of his late attendances and he explained that he proposed to move the clock up one step. I wonder is this the way the sorting office is going to be built? Are the Department really determined to erect a central sorting office in the shortest possible space of time? The disused distillery that they are using in Pearse Street is absolutely unsuitable and is an insanitary building. It has done service for the last 12 years. I think the Minister has been in the building and I am sure he will have no hesitation in admitting that the worst workhouse in the country is a palace when compared with the place that is now used as a central sorting office. The roof leaks; it is impossible to clean the walls because of the manner in which the place was constructed, and the whole building is a receptacle for dust and dirt. Consequently, it is very unhealthy for the staff who have to work there.

The Minister may say the Post Office Department does not build and that this is purely a matter for the Board of Works. Of course, that is true, but I think the Minister has a perfectly good case for urging the Board of Works to erect this office in the shortest possible time. If he will only do that I am certain he will feel satisfied that he is providing a better place as a central sorting office, that he is making it possible for the staff to perform their work more efficiently and more expeditiously and that at the same time he is contributing some solution to the unemployment problem in the city. There is another matter which concerns the staff of the Waterford Post Office. For the past quarter of a century the Waterford Post Office staff have suffered the gravest injustice by reason of the grading of the office. The Minister is probably familiar with the fact that the outdoor staff in Waterford is graded the same as, for instance, the staff in Belmullet or in Binghamstown, outside Belmullet. A postman in the Waterford district is, so to speak, in the same grade as a postman in the Aran Islands. The Waterford Post Office is graded in the lowest postal classification and I think the Minister will agree that that is an evil which ought to be immediately removed. For the bulk of the time the British administration were responsible. They pleaded the war as an excuse and gave that as the reason why the adjustment of the claim made by the Waterford staff should be further delayed. Then the last Government put the matter on the long finger. Prominent members of the Minister's Party were, at that time, crying out loudly against the injustice of the absurdly low classification given to the Waterford Post Office.

This Government has been in office for two years and nobody can be accused of fussiness if the Minister is now asked to do for the Waterford Post Office what prominent members of his own Party urged should be done by the last Government. I think the Minister is already familiar with the matter and I can hardly imagine he is unsympathetic with the claim of the staff down there. The Waterford staff, having waited two years under this Government and 23 years under other Governments, cannot now be accused of any impetuosity if they ask to be properly graded and have their post office, raised to a level comparable with the importance of the City of Waterford in the domestic and national life of the South of Ireland.

Two years ago on the Post Office Estimate I raised the question of the continuance by the Post Office of the mediaeval practice of delivering postcards on Christmas Day, bringing the staff on duty at an early hour and keeping them until late at night delivering Christmas postcards which, if the Post Office so desired, could be delivered long before Christmas. Senator Connolly, when he was Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, expressed himself as sympathetic with the claim then put forward, and I think he indicated that he would do his best to restrict, if not completely abolish, postal services on Christmas Day, so as to enable the staff to spend that day with their families. That was two years ago, but nothing has since been done. Possibly the Minister will tell us that the Post Office authorities are keen on maintaining the old-time sentiment of delivering Christmas cards on Christmas Day. I wonder what kind of thrill the Minister would get if he were to leave a post office at 7 o'clock on a snowy Christmas morning, take out a bicycle long past its period of service, and cycle 28 miles. I imagine if he did that there would be very little sentiment left in him after his 28 miles spin, particularly if he had to cycle over hilly, mountainous country, or along the western seaboard, as many of these men have to do, delivering postcards on Christmas Day.

As I have stated, this work could be done earlier and, indeed, it would not matter much if those cards were not delivered until afterwards. There are some persons in the secretary's office who, no doubt, are opposed to delaying the Christmas Day deliveries, but if they had to do the work themselves I venture to say there would be less enthusiasm over this sentimental idea of delivering on Christmas Day.

In a Christian State.

Deputy Dillon might tell us if conditions are going to be any better in the Corporative State.

He expects they will be.

Mr. Kelly

There will be no Christmas boxes when that State is set up.

I want to know from the Minister what he intends to do. I suppose the hoary old argument advanced for the last 50 or 100 years will be trotted out on this occasion also. The Minister will probably tell us that the Post Office cannot induce the public to post early and to post in time so as to avoid the necessity of delivering letters on Christmas Day. That excuse has done service for a long time, but I do not believe that excuse. I believe if the public are told to post letters in time that the public will quickly adjust themselves to the changed service. At one time the Post Office used to say that it was absolutely necessary to have letters delivered on Sunday. The public wanted Sunday deliveries, and how dare anybody curtail the right of the public to have letters delivered to them on Sunday? But, during the war, the British found it highly desirable, in the interests of prosecuting the war, to abolish deliveries on Sunday. The abolition of Sunday deliveries took place and there has been no chaos so far as the Post Office is concerned.

There has been no national disorder because of the abolition of deliveries on Sunday, and there has not been the slightest difference so far as the Post Office is concerned except giving the staff the benefit of being off duty on that day. At one time the Post Office had seven deliveries a day in Dublin; now there are three deliveries a day, and I do not notice that the citizens of Dublin are any worse off now than they were then. They adjusted themselves to the change once the Department made up its mind to make the change. At one time the Post Office used to send out people delivering letters at 10 o'clock at night in Dublin, now the latest delivery is 3.30 o'clock. At that time if you suggested to the Post Office that there was no need for deliveries after 6 o'clock or after 10 o'clock at night they would tell you that you were becoming very revolutionary in your ideas. There is a lot of nonsense talked by the Post Office administration in urging that the public would not adjust themselves to the change once the changes were made.

You had no telephones in those days.

What bearing has that on the matter?

Because the people use the telephone now instead of writing.

I venture to say if Deputy Good looks up the Telephone Directory he will find that there were almost as many telephone subscribers in those days as now.

There were not seven deliveries a day in Connemara.

No one said there was.

Deputy Good pointed out that the reason there were not so many deliveries now in Dublin was because people were using the telephone now more generally than at that time.

I do not know where the Deputy gets his numbers or figures. I am sure the Minister will tell him that the decision to restrict deliveries of letters from seven daily in Dublin to three daily had nothing whatever to do with the use of the telephones.

No, but the absence of a public protest against that reduction in deliveries has been greatly influenced by the existence of the telephone.

Does the Deputy suggest that places like Gloucester Street, Corporation Street and Railway Street use the telephone?

If the Deputy consults the public he will find that the deliveries have nothing to do with the question of the telephone service. The defence of the Minister is that he cannot induce the public to post early. What real effort has been made to induce the public to post early? He says to the public: "In order to ensure delivery in time for Christmas Day you must post at such and such a time," and while he blazoned that forth in notices on the pillar boxes at the same time his Department indicates by its actions that it does not matter whether the public posts early or not, that the Post Office will make sure that these letters will be delivered whether posted early or late. Supposing the Great Southern Railway put up a notice to-morrow and announced that the 9.30 train would leave at 8.30 o'clock and that at the same time they whispered to all potential passengers "do not bother about that train leaving at 8.30; it will not leave until 9.30", is it not obvious that the bulk of the passengers would be there at 9.25 because there would be no penalty for turning up at 9.25 and they knew that it was quite all right to get there at that time? If the Minister can only make up his mind to urge the public to post early and at the same time to indicate that this is being done so as to enable the Post Office staff to spend Christmas Day with their families—and they are entitled to spend Christmas Day with their families—then I venture to say that the public will accommodate themselves to the necessity of making that beneficial change on Christmas Day.

The Christian State again.

I asked the Minister recently for some information as to the number of unestablished skilled workmen employed in the engineering section of his Department and received some information which discloses that there were close on 200 acting as unestablished skilled workmen in the engineering section of the Post Office. A very large number of these people should long since have been promoted to established posts. The Minister is keeping them in their present position, paying them low rates of wages and depriving them of the privileges and rights to which they would be entitled if they were established officers, Nothing has been done except perhaps in a very small way by the Minister's Department to promote these people to the established status. Many of them were entitled to be promoted years ago. I would like to hear from the Minister what he proposes to do in the way of conferring established status upon these 200 officers and thus enable them to enjoy the rights which are overdue to them—rights to which they are entitled if the normal method of promoting these people still continues. Various efforts have been made to secure an adjustment of that matter. I hope the Minister, when he is replying, will indicate that he will take a personal interest in these cases with a view to making sure that the matter is put right at the earliest opportunity. That part of the staff has suffered very long and endured much hardship because of the failure to adjust this matter. I hope the Minister will see justice done without further delay.

There is another matter which I want to raise on behalf of the staff employed in the Stores Department of Posts and Telegraphs. In that Department there are large numbers of manipulative employees who work longer hours than the staff in the rest of the Post Office service. A claim for a reduction in their hours of service was made to the Minister over 12 months ago. So far it has not been possible to get a favourable decision from the Minister. I would like if the Minister for Industry and Commerce would just whisper a few words into the ears of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs on that subject. I say that because I observed recently that the Minister for Industry and Commerce went to Trinity College—

——and spoke to the Wolfe Tone Cumann of the Fianna Fáil Party there. He quite rightly, and in a most enlightened way, told the members of the Cumann that we would probably have to reduce working hours in this country in order to grapple with those problems which other administrations had found could only be grappled with effectively by a reduction in working hours. I am just an humble follower of the Minister in that respect. I suggest to the Minister that that is one remedy that should be employed in dealing with the staff in the Stores Department of the Post Office. All I am asking the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to do is to take the advice on that matter of the Minister for Industry and Commerce and to reduce the hours of the staff in the Stores Department to the normal level which obtains in other sections of the Post Office. At present the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs employs a number of girls in the Stores Department, and they work from eight in the morning until a quarter to six in the evening. Many of these girls leave home at seven o'clock in the morning in order to get there, and they cannot have a meal until one o'clock in the day. Many of them fast from seven in the morning until one o'clock. I suggest to the Minister that that is a state of affairs that should not be allowed to continue, and that some effort ought to be made to have that matter decided, and decided favourably, at the earliest possible opportunity. These are some of the matters which I desired to raise on behalf of the staff, and I hope the Minister, when replying, will indicate that he is going to give favourable consideration to them.

That was a nice, mild speech from Deputy Norton. Since he wrapped the green flag round him recently and started on the turus to the Republic, I suppose he has to be very respectful when speaking to members of the Republican Government, or they might pull the green flag off him. As usual, it was a long discussion of the conditions under which the employees of the Post Office were working, and, of course, there is no one more competent to discuss that matter than the Deputy. There seemed to be very few suggestions, however, for any improvement in the service. I am particularly concerned with the postal service from the point of view of the rural dweller. I understand that it is the policy of the Post Office to promote the use of telephones in all areas. The present situation is that the charges for trunk calls in rural areas are anachronistic and, in many cases, excessive. I want to urge on the Minister the desirability of establishing some uniform system of rates in the country and of materially reducing them. I know that, at first, that would result in a shrinkage of revenue, but I have not the slightest doubt that in time it would result in a permanent and very substantial increase of revenue. My suggestion is this, that some system should be evolved whereby a rural subscriber could make a call within the county where he was resident for, say, 3d., and that he could make a call within the province where he was resident for, say, 6d., and a trunk call to any part of the country for 1/-. It is true that there would be some discontent immediately where that meant an increase in the existing rates for a few subscribers. No matter what you do by way of reform, it will be impossible to please everybody, but I have not the slightest doubt that it would enormously stimulate the use of telephones if people knew that they could ring up, say, anybody in the County Roscommon for 3d., and that they had not to inquire as to whether it cost 5d. or 6d. or 7¼d. to call up Strokestown or Elphin, or wherever the place might be. In addition to that, people would use the telephone for trunk calls more generally if they knew that the maximum charge was 1/-.

It is not the expense of connecting up the individual call that justifies the charges that are made. It is the maintenance of the system to accommodate such calls when they come along that justifies the heavy charge, or that has been used to justify it, over a long distance. It would be much more advantageous to the Post Office if they could get a dozen calls linked up from Donegal town to Cork, at 1/- apiece, in a day than it would be to have one call at 3/9. I recognise that if the demand for this accommodation was sufficiently stimulated it might become necessary to provide additional lines, and that would involve additional capital expenditure, but there is a long way to go before the existing accommodation is taxed, and it is not being taxed because the charges are too high.

I understand that it is also the Department's policy to supplant the telegraph system with the telephone. They are rather anxious to see the telegraph system dwindle away and die. There can be little doubt that they are right about that, but the sooner it dwindles out the better. At present it represents a very considerable annual liability. It would help to do away with the telegraph if the use of the telephone were promoted along the lines I suggest. There is one danger to be avoided, however, and that is, reducing the telephone rates by 5 or 6 per cent., because that will only lose you revenue and will not increase custom in the very least degree. Unless there are uniform rates to attract customers, unless there are cheap rates to make the telephone an economic competitor with letters and with the telegraph, and unless there is a brisk advertising campaign to draw the attention of the public to the new advantages that are being offered by the telephone system, the objects I have in mind will not be achieved. So that the situation with regard to the telephone, I submit to the Minister, is one for drastic action or laissez faire. There is no use taking halfpence and pence off rates, because that will attract nobody.

There is another detail to which I want to refer in the event of the Minister lacking the courage to adopt the telephone policy I have suggested to him, and that is the very onerous charges imposed on people living in rural areas to whom telegrams are addressed. In the vast majority of cases, telegrams are addressed to residents in rural areas only in cases of emergency, and it is not uncommon to have a 1/- telegram surcharged 1/6, and frequently even more, for delivery to the addressee.

That is a very great hardship. In districts where the post office would be five or six miles from the address the delivery charge might rise to as high as 2/6. If it is the intention of the Minister to adopt a bold policy in the matter of telephones, I do not think the point about delivery charges for telegrams is one of great importance. If it is not the intention of the Minister to adopt a bold line with regard to telephones, then the matter of delivery charges for telegrams is of great importance and should be looked to without delay.

There is another detail of rural postal facilities to which the Minister's attention may not have been drawn. I do not know if he is aware at the present time a great deal of newspaper distribution in this country is done by the rural postmen, and I believe it is an irregular activity. Postmen in consideration of an annual tip—which, by the way, Deputy Norton should remember they frequently get on Christmas Day when they are making this slavish delivery to which he referred—carry newspapers out along their run and drop them at the gates or doors of the people who ask them to oblige them in that way. There is a great deal of talk in this country, and indeed in every country, about making the country more attractive for people and dissuading rural dwellers from coming to live in the cities. One of the best ways to do that is to provide them with as many urban amenities as you can. Now, the daily paper is an urban amenity to which country people attach very great importance.

Can the Post Office not devise a scheme to regularise this system of newspaper distribution? It is not reasonable to ask country people to pay one penny on every copy of a newspaper they get. Would it not be possible to make some arrangements whereby the rural postmen might be allowed for a consideration to distribute newspapers along their own lines of communication? Deputy Norton often protests against the very low scales of wages paid to rural postmen. I sympathise with him in that. I think the scale of wages paid to rural post office employees, in almost every branch of the service, are frightfully low. Could not the temporary postmen be allowed to supplement their earnings by delivering newspapers, either as the servants of the Post Office or as independent contractors? The Minister will perhaps tell us whether the Post Office authorities would have any objection to a postman taking a consideration for acting as a distributor of newspapers while distribution letters on his rounds. If any such objection exists, I think it ought to be removed and the practice ought to be regularised and recognised by the Post Office. I can see no objection to it, and I think it might provide a very slight additional source of revenue for temporary postmen.

There is another matter in connection with temporary postmen that I want to raise. I think the present system of appointing temporary postmen is very bad, and probably, if the truth were told, the Minister also thinks it is. The existing system is that the Minister has to appoint every temporary postman in this country himself. At first, I have no doubt, it looked a very attractive proposition.

Mr. Boland

It never did, I can assure you.

At first it seemed that every loyal son of Fianna Fáil would come into his own, but it became extremely embarrassing when, for every vacancy, 12 loyal sons of Fianna Fáil proceeded to come into their own. I have no doubt that the Minister experienced considerable difficulty. This deplorable consequence has flown from the system also, that where you had 12 clamorous Fianna Fáil postulants the unfortunate United Ireland Party candidate had no chance at all.

On merit.

If the Minister for Industry and Commerce will refer to his colleague he will find that merit is the very last thing that is considered in these matters. The lame, the halt, and the blind are eligible, provided they come suitably attired with the green flag wrapped round them, with a large Fianna Fáil badge on the flag.

Mr. Boland

It should be the United Ireland Party.

No, I should like to see either no flags at all or a nice assortment—six of one and half-a-dozen of the other. However, I suppose that is to hope for perfection, and that we will not get. It is the Minister's day out and he is distributing the jobs.

We will wait for the Deputy's Party to inaugurate the system.

I do not blame you. I suppose your followers would not stand for it.

Neither did yours.

We cannot expect the leaders to be any better than their followers. They would not last long if they were. I will not press the question further now. I do think, however, that as between the clamorous Fianna Fáil horde who come shouting for every temporary postmanship that becomes vacant there ought to be a preference shown to married men. I think it is wrong, where you have eligible candidates, who have family responsibilities, and to whom the salary of a temporary postman would be of material assistance, to give the job to a young man, who has no responsibilities of a family character, simply because he is an active supporter of the Party. I am sufficiently solicitous for the married dupes of the Fianna Fáil Party to suggest to the Minister that the consequences of their folly should be tempered by his benevolence, and that where he has to choose between an unmarried and a married dupe he should choose the married dupe whenever possible.

There is a sub-head in these Estimates which is engaging the attention of all patriotic Gaels in Ireland, the vindication of the justice of the appellation "Perfidious Albion." England has actually defaulted on something that she owes the Minister and, to the horror and dismay of the Minister, the Irish taxpayer is going to be called upon to put his hand in his pocket and foot the bill. Under sub-head P. the Minister is going to extort £49,583 from the Irish taxpayer to finance the consequences of the British Government's default. Why can we not start another economic war about it? Is there no front upon which the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs can strike a blow? Why not announce that in future we will send no letters through Great Britain at all and conduct all our future correspondence with the world at large through America or Estoril or Calais? I really think that this offers a very special occasion, and it offers a very commodious platform on which Deputy Norton would be only too glad to lend a hand. He came out last week and said that at last he was going to declare his position and that the Irish Labour Party were marching with their heads erect straight towards a Republic. Deputy Murphy, I have no doubt, would be glad to clamber on the band wagon and Deputy Davin will not be behindhand in wrapping himself in the Republican insignia.

What about wrapping yourself up in it?

Instead of the Union Jack.

I suggest to Deputy Norton that here is very constructive work which he can do. Let us all put our shoulders to the wheel, the Republican Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, the Republican Leader of the Labour Party, and bid defiance to the British lion. Let us tell him that if he is going to withhold £49,000 from us we will show him what is what, and that in future we will have nothing whatever to do with the British Post Office until it comes to a realisation of its duties in regard to us. Let us tell them that we are going to declare an Independent Republic at no far distant date.

A very unhappy phrase.

It has very unhappy memories.

That we are going to declare it at no far distant date.

Mr. Murphy

Forget the phrase.

Perhaps Deputy Norton will give us the date when we are going to declare the Republic.

The people got Home Rule on that instalment system.

Perhaps he can tell us when we are going to declare the Republic. I suggest that he should now unsheathe the sword and tell the base, bloody and brutal Saxon that he is going to lend his hand and the aid of the Labour Party to the Republican Government of Ireland to declare a Republic, and that in the meantime we are going to inure the people to the procedure that will have to be followed when a Republic is declared— that we will boycott Great Britain and refuse to have anything to do with her postal service and that we will vindicate our right to collect the moneys that are due from Great Britain to this country. Surely the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs will not fall behind his colleagues in courage and determination and resolution in facing this common enemy. He has got Deputy Norton behind him, roaring like a lion ready for the fray. Let him take heart of courage.

Mr. Boland

That is better than bellowing like an ass, is it not?

I described it politely; I do not necessarily say truthfully. Whatever the two gentlemen may be truthfully said to represent, they are at least on the rampage. Whether the Minister cares to describe Deputy Norton as an ass or as a lion, at least I suggest to both of them that they should do justice to the occasion. They are two fellow Republicans now, and have an opportunity of going on record as daring, nay, reckless defenders of their faith. Sub-head (P) of the Postal Estimate provides an opportunity. Ireland is watching. It remains for the Minister and Deputy Norton to dare and to do. I trust the Minister will be able to deal exhaustively with the question of telephones, as I believe that that is a matter really deserving of attention.

Mr. Boland

If the Deputy had confined himself to something like that it would have been more useful.

I urge the Minister to address himself to that question, and if he chooses to conclude his remarks with a patriotic gesture on Sub-head (P) it will provide a very suitable peroration to his observations.

I should like to commend the Minister on the short speech he made in introducing this Estimate, but I am afraid that he carried his desire for brevity a little too far. I should have liked a little more information. For years we have been clamouring for reduction in the telephone trunk rates. Like Deputy Dillon, I feel that if we could get the relative rates within a more reasonable figure we would have the trunk lines more largely used than they are at the present time. The Minister has spoken about the extension of the telephone—his predecessors in office referred to the same matter in previous years—but he has not told us the number of additional exchanges that were opened during the last 12 months or, say, during the last two years, particularly in some of the rural areas, where the telephones are scanty at the moment. We suffer in my constituency not alone from the paucity of the exchanges, but also from the narrow limit of those exchanges. It will be remembered that in Rathmines and Terenure there were a large number of applicants for telephones a couple of years ago, and five, six, or even nine months elapsed in many cases before those applicants could get the advantage of the telephone. I should like to know how many of those are still unsatisfied in those particular areas. There is a further question I should like to ask, and that is whether the trunk lines have been extended in any case. We were told in the past that those extensions would be made. Deputy Dockrell has referred to the delays that occurred in connections on the trunk lines. I know some of them on which there have been delays of four or five hours. What has been done towards extending those trunk lines or multiplying them? Those are questions on which we should like some information. If we turn to another part of the service, and deal with the postal aspect, we should be glad to know whether the profit on that portion of the service has been increased during the last twelve months, or whether the profit has fallen off.

Mr. Boland

I told the Deputy that, I think.

I did not catch the figure.

Mr. Boland

I will give it to the Deputy now if he wants it. Last year there was a profit of £17,000, and for the year before the figure was £66,947. There was a big decrease in profit.

Last year there was a profit of £17,000?

Mr. Boland

In the present year there was a gain of £17,357. That is the combined amount. I will give you the figure later.

For years we have been clamouring for a reduction in the cost of the postal services, and I think it has been pointed out to the Minister on several occasions that a large portion of the service ought to stand on its own legs. The profits from the postal service should not be taken to bolster up the telegraphic service, nor, on the other hand, should the profits from the telephone service be taken to meet the deficit on the telegraphic service. If the profits on the telephone service have increased, we shall be glad to hear it. What is the figure?

Mr. Boland

I have not got it yet. I will give it to the Deputy when I am replying.

If it has not increased during the past year——

Mr. Boland

It has not.

There was a reduction in the past year?

Mr. Boland

Yes. The profit has reduced.

Then we cannot urge the argument with the same force. There is an important detail, although a small one, to which I should like to refer. The installation charges for telephones seem to be standardised. Even if there is only a transfer made in the instrument it seems to be a standard thing to charge something like £3 for the installation. That is a matter, I think, that might have the attention of the Minister, and if he has to charge £3 it should be represented by some work. Another matter to which I should like to draw the attention of the Minister is the telephone charges as a whole. If he could see his way to effect a reduction in those charges I think it would mean a large increase in the number of telephone subscribers. I have urged that view for two or three years past, but on account of the difficulty with exchanges and other matters of that kind the Minister was unable to see his way to adopt it. I should like him to consider now whether he can see his way to do something in that direction in the future. Those are matters which I should like the Minister to attend to in his reply.

There are just a few matters which I should like to mention. Like Deputy Dillon, I want to draw the attention of the Minister to the rural dwellers, and to the services they are having from the Post Office. Personally, I regard the Post Office in all its services as something which ought to give uniform service to all citizens, and I do not agree with Deputy Good's point of view that if there is a loss upon one service it ought not to be borne by the other. I do not see why it should not, as far as letters, telegrams and telephones are concerned. I called attention previously to the delivery of telegrams in rural districts. It is manifestly unfair that people in these districts should be charged for the delivery of telegrams. I have no doubt, as far as the delivery of letters is concerned, that if that service was taken by itself it would be found there was a loss in these districts. Yet, letters are delivered free, just as in the towns. When it comes to the delivery of telegrams we are charged at the rate of 6d. per mile beyond a certain distance. People living four miles from the office have to pay 2/-. That is unfair, seeing that telegrams are sent to them by other people, perhaps on urgent business. Every time I receive a telegram it costs me 1/6, and I get quite a number of them. We should have equality of service in that respect. There is no reason why the loss sustained on the telegraphic service generally should be shifted on to those in the rural districts, any more than the loss sustained, in some form, by the delivery of letters in these districts should be placed on them. I thought when the Minister, who is a colleague of mine in my constituency, was appointed we would have some change in the arrangement.

On looking through the Estimates I find that the rural districts are going to be hit. While expenditure at headquarters and in metropolitan offices is increased by £2,296, there is a decrease of £11,150 in the amount for provincial offices. I have not gone through the Estimates fully, but I think there is a big reduction in the amount provided for the conveyance of mails by road. Apparently the Minister hopes that the contractors in rural districts will be paid less for that work in future. There is also a big reduction for uniforms as it applies to inspectors, postmen, cleaners and messengers. In provincial districts there are 5,079 of these officials, as against 1,128 in metropolitan offices. In that way it appears the Minister is going to inflict a certain amount of hardship on those in the provinces. If there is any justification for that I would like to hear the Minister say in what way he expects to make these savings. The Minister told us that there was a profit of a certain amount on the Post Office generally, but that it was something less than last year. I am interested to know if the Minister has in contemplation a development of the telephone services, to which Deputy Dillon referred, or if the telegraph service, particularly in rural districts, is to be maintained, or to be supplanted by something else. I do not see how the telephone service can be extended with any satisfaction in the rural districts. If it cannot be done there should be, at any rate, some levelling up of the charges. I do not regard this Estimate as satisfactory, seeing that whatever cuts are to be made are to apply largely in provincial areas, while there is to be increased expenditure in the metropolitan area. I ask the Minister to consider the position of rural dwellers, especially in regard to telegrams and telephones. I am sure the Minister, seeing that he represents a rural constituency, is interested in the people of these districts, and that whatever difficulties there are in his way will be found not to be insurmountable.

I understand the difficulty the Minister and the Government are placed in in the matter of the post, telegraph and telephone services. The question worrying governments in every country, since they took over responsibility for these services, is whether they should or should not be dealt with as social services, as necessary to the citizens as education and other services. While avoiding expressing an opinion on the matter, I would like to join issue with Deputy Brennan in the matter of having equal services for everybody. Are these services to be social services, given more or less freely, or are they to be paid for? Deputy Brennan on his way home travels a certain distance from the central telegraph office, and I am sure he has to pay a certain rate per mile for a motor car. That is one way of facing this problem. On the other side, where you have towns or cities, my contention is that they make most of the payments for all the services provided. I do not want to discuss now whether each service should stand on its own legs or whether the State should take full responsibility for the services generally. I would like to impress on the Minister the necessity for pressing forward with an extension of the telephone services in the metropolitan area, especially in the suburbs. Deputy Good and myself raise a hardy annual on this Vote dealing with Rathmines post office and telephone exchange, to ascertain when it will be available for the public. We have nearly always got the same answer, that the work is on hands.

Mr. Boland

The Deputy was told that before my time.

I agree that we were told that by the Party of which I am a member, when it formed the Government. I am very glad that we have now definite information as to when the extended service will be available. Another matter to which I wish to refer is of some importance and it abuts somewhat on Deputy Norton's speech. It is not a question of the delivery of letters on Christmas Day but it is a question as to service by the Post Office. I think that the Minister should consider the desirability of having available for country towns a later telephone service than 7 o'clock or 8 o'clock in the evening, and that he should also consider the desirability of extending the facilities for telephonic communication with these towns on Sundays. I am sure that even Deputy Norton would not object to a telephone operator having to work a few extra hours on Sunday if that operator were sufficiently remunerated for his services. Communication by telephone and even by telegraph with the country on week evenings and on Sundays could be very much improved. I do not suggest that the Minister should incur the enormous expenditure which must have been incurred in the days when these services were a twenty-four-hour-day and seven-day-a-week services, but the Department would be well advised to extend, even for two hours, the time during which one can communicate with the country towns in the evening and on Sundays. The question referred to by Deputy Norton as to whether letters should or should not be delivered on Christmas Day is merely one of colouring. The joke about the 9.30 train leaving at 8.30 is only a little attempt at colouring which Deputy Norton wants to put over his new republican flag.

The Minister is to be congratulated on his statement concerning the working of the great Department of which he is the head. I think that he has sufficiently vindicated his character as a good administrator. The only criticism I have heard this evening worthy of answer was that by Deputy Norton regarding the smallness of the wage earned by temporary postmen. The matter to which I propose to refer is not one for which the Minister is responsible, nor do I believe that any of his predecessors were responsible for it. It is a question as to the erection on the streets of Dublin of telephone boxes. It might be said that that is not a matter on which the time of the House should be wasted. I would not take up the time of the House if I could have got satisfaction elsewhere. It would be natural to assume that those in charge of the streets of Dublin would be the Municipal Corporation. But that is not so. I raised a question there as to who was responsible for these constructions. The City Manager told me that long ago, when the Commissioners were in charge, a great confab took place with certain officers of the postal department as to the erection of these boxes. That was during the Commissioner's reign. The location of these boxes was settled and the City Manager was not responsible, nor could he give me any information as to who was responsible.

The first of these structures I saw raising itself was at the end of O'Connell Street, quite close to the Rotunda. On its first appearance, I could not understand what it was for. Eventually it developed into the structure we all know now and some of us even admire. At first I thought that it was a receptacle for the tools of workmen when going home from work. Eventually, it developed into a telephone box. I was told that great care was taken that the material used in these structures should be of Irish manufacture but I find that they are made of concrete. I presume that cement was not specially made in this country for them, because there has been no cement made here for the last ten years. If that is the best that Ireland can do in the way of telephone boxes, then Ireland ought to give it up. So far as I can judge, these are now to be permanent structures. The Minister has stated that he has arranged for 50 more of them to be placed in Dublin and elsewhere. The paths in the City of Dublin belong to the citizens and the comfort and convenience of pedestrians should be consulted. If structures are to be placed on the street, they ought not to be eyesores. These telephone boxes are part of a commercial enterprise. I tried to get some information as to their usefulness in connection with fire calls or calls for the ambulance service. No record could be traced in the fire brigade station of any calls received from these boxes. Therefore, we must assume that they are intended for public utility and commercial purposes. I have looked into them frequently to see if anybody was inside. When I found any of them occupied it was generally by a young lady who was probably arranging a "date." I am told that, during the racing season, at about five minutes to three o'clock, they are much in evidence for men who want to get on what is known as "S.P." They can arrange for "S.P." at three or four minutes to three o'clock and the race is at three o'clock. They are paid the starting price at three minutes after three, so that it is a very quick result. When I was approached by citizens some time ago, I suggested that probably the usefulness of these boxes might be extended. So very few men are now found on the streets of Dublin in an inebriated state late at night that, instead of the policeman taking them home to their wives and having the trouble of finding where they live, he should have them locked up in these boxes.

That is all very fine but this is the capital city of Ireland, and no order, or anything else, can interfere with that. I submit that any construction placed on the streets here ought to be one that would not prove to be an eyesore. Of course this question would not be brought up here at all if the members of the Municipal Council had any power in their own city; but they have not. It is strange that although we have had the Corporation restored in the last few years, and that men take the trouble of getting elected to that body by the citizens, from time to time, we have no power. The fact that these buildings can be set up by the Government or the Electricity Supply Board, or by other people, without any reference to the Municipal Council, or any authority from them, is a grievance that ought to be ventilated here because the Government should be at least concerned with the dignity and the prestige of this city. It is not too much to ask that the Municipality ought to have power to deal with these matters. They ought to have a voice in connection with such things erected in the streets of Dublin. Some of these erections were painted blue, but that colour seems to have faded off them. Others are painted green; the green holds a little better. One of these erections at the corner of York Street is painted yellow. How far that will stand I do not know. Compare with these things the very beautiful interior of the Post Office in O'Connell Street; it is a magnificent interior and does credit to the brain and the ability of whoever, in the postal service, planned it. When we take the other specimens of workmanship and design, how can one conceive the same minds concerned with the erection of such things in our streets?

O'Connell Street is justly regarded by Irishmen as the principal street in this country. I was in O'Connell Street on St. Patrick's Day. It was not a very pleasant day. There were cold, heavy showers, and the atmosphere was gloomy. The tramway poles were not painted, I suppose, for the last twelve months, and then we had these new erections in the street, some painted and some not, and they did not enhance its appearance. There was a football match on, and crowds came up from Cork. Some of them were wearing green and white ribbons and tall hats, and they were singing as they moved along the street "Marching through Georgia." I wonder how many of these visitors went back, and how many remained and are now installed in jobs? It is well known to every Deputy here that some years ago there was a Deputy representing Cork in this Assembly who proved to be another Moses to his people, because he led them up here to the promised land, and here they remained. Few have returned to Cork since. The provincial mind operates very greatly in this city, and even a Dublin man has not much chance in this Assembly. I do not think there is more than half-a-dozen of us here so far as I know.

I know the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs is a Dublin man, but he represents a country constituency, and I do not think he can serve two masters well in that respect. The question is, which is his real love—Roscommon or Dublin? If Dublin is his real love, he will remove these boxes that I am complaining about; if it is Roscommon he will let them remain. They have one merit, and it is this. As they are going to remain they might be made unique in this way: The tops are flat, and we might try the experiment of having busts made in plaster—they need not be in marble—of some well-known people placed on them. Possibly you might try my effigy on one of them. You would get it made for £1 or 25/-, and it could be put on top of one of these erections in O'Connell Street. If it remained there and received civil treatment and no observations were written under it after it was there for a long time, you might extend that operation. Then there might be some justification for these boxes. It would be an unique exhibition in that it would show representations of living men, instead of waiting until a man was dead to exhibit his bust. Then, you would be able to point out to tourists busts of living men that were erected out of the bounty of the citizens. I recommend that to the Minister, though I do not think he will adopt it. I was struck by Deputy Dockrell's remarks concerning St. Andrew Street and Trinity Street and the new post office. He talked about having the post office vans there, but at present it is used as a public parking station.

Is not that your fault?

Mr. Kelly

It is not; I have no motor car, and never had. I am sure the same space would only be occupied by these post office vans which are so tormenting to the Deputy. There is no necessity to insist upon that point. The street will be wide enough. The Corporation made efforts, from time to time, to try to bring about some arrangement of street planning that we hear so much about. They made an effort to widen the corner of St. Andrew Street and Trinity Street, but they failed, because the men who owned the property there wanted too much money. How that difficulty will ever be got over in connection with street planning I do not know. For two years negotiations were carried on in order to have that corner widened. And if that street is now in the position that traffic gets more or less congested, there is another reason for that. Trinity Street is a small street with an incline in it. It used to be paved with ordinary sets, and these were very useful, because of the constant and continued horse traffic there. Now horse traffic has not ceased in Dublin, nor is there much sign of its ceasing. On the contrary, it is increasing, so far as I can judge. Horses, especially on a frosty day or a day when the roads are slippery, if the lorries or drays are heavily loaded, have a hard job to get up that incline, and they frequently fall. If the Commissioners had left the sets there instead of plastering the road over with concrete, the difficulties of congestion would not have arisen. I have nothing further to say. Probably I have said too much, but, having delivered myself of the grievance I feel as a Dublinman, I hope that the Minister will take cognisance of what I have said. If his future fifty erections are going to be like what he has already erected, I beg him not to put them there.

I am only interested on this Vote in the manner in which the appointments of rural postmen are made. I have a certain amount of sympathy with the Minister, seeing the number of applicants there are for these vacancies. The Minister for Industry and Commerce stated here some time ago that it was on merit these men were appointed, but I do not agree at all with that. Perhaps I would put it in another way by saying that I would like to know what the Minister for Industry and Commerce means by merit. Is the man to be appointed a man who has made the greatest number of attempts at breaking up Fine Gael meetings? Is that one of the qualifications, or is that the merit of which the Minister speaks?

A Deputy

That is one of them.

Mr. Brodrick

I believe myself that it is one of them. The Minister has, however, rid himself of a great deal of that. I have seen down the country an instance which suggests that probably in order to avoid the big number of applicants amongst loyal Fianna Fáil supporters, or in order to please all or please none, the appointee must be a man who is a relation or a cousin of a Fianna Fáil Deputy. I raised here on 22nd March the question of the appointment of a postman in County Galway. I did not intend to raise the matter again, were it not for the fact that I was not satisfied at all with the answer given to me. I raised the question of the appointment of a postman in the Kilsallagh postal district, County Galway. There were eight applicants for the position. One of these applicants was a part-time official who had 15 years' service, and was 32 years of age. He had been a part-time official for 15 years at a very small salary, as the Labour Deputies know. He was the sole support of a widowed mother, and until four years ago the valuation of his holding was 1/-. His valuation now is £3 14s. He was a fluent Irish speaker.

The Minister, in answer to one of my supplementary questions, said that Irish was not necessary for this particular position, and that he was not aware that Kilsallagh was in the Gaeltacht. There is one thing, however, of which I am sure, and that is that for housing purposes, Kilsallagh is in the Gaeltacht area. I am also aware that there is a great number of fluent Irish speakers in that particular district. There was another applicant who was, I believe, a great supporter of the Fianna Fáil Party, and who had eight or ten years' service. His father resigned from the position previously. That man was also ruled out as not being fit to take up this particular position. The man who got the position was a man with 24 or 25 acres of land, having a valuation of £14, and he never carried a postbag in his life. I ask the Minister if that state of affairs is going to continue, what will the service come to? What are the temporary postmen, who are paid from 8/- to 10/- a week, to look forward to? These men are certainly looking forward to promotion some day or another. Will you have a good service while you have men like these turned down—one with 15 years' service and a valuation of £3 14s., the sole support of his mother, and another who had given ten years' service, while his father had given his life to it? Will you get good service if men like these who have splendid characters in the postal service, not a black mark against them during their service, are turned down? I am speaking on behalf of the two of them. If that state of affairs is going to continue, can you expect good service? I say it is not fair. You cannot expect good service where, after turning down such applicants you appoint a man with a large holding of land and a valuation of £14. That man came in and got the position, although he never carried a postbag in his life.

The only reason that has been given for that man's appointment is that he is the cousin of a Fianna Fáil Deputy in Galway. I would ask the Minister to look the matter up, and if the facts are as I have stated, I think that something should be done to remedy that state of affairs, and that at least, when the next vacancies arise, those men who have given long and faithful service should be considered. I would also suggest, no matter in what part of County Galway a vacancy arises, that the question of Irish as a qualification should be considered. I have made inquiries in that particular area since I asked the question, and I find that Irish is spoken there by a great number of people. The Fianna Fáil Party always say that they are out to preserve the Irish language and to push it ahead. I heard them speak in that way even here in the Dáil yesterday, but it is men who hold little positions of this kind in the country who can help the language most, in the ordinary course of their duty going through the country. They would certainly be as effective in some cases as the teachers in the schools, because they are continually moving amongst the people of the country. I firmly believe that a man who is able to speak the language should get a preference. If no preference is given in that way to Irish speakers, no matter what you may do, or no matter what amount of money you may expend on the promotion of the Irish language, it is going to be a failure.

I say that in any part of County Galway where a vacancy of this kind arises, if an applicant is fit to fill the position, and if he has a knowledge of Irish, he should get credit for it. I would also urge that men who have service should be given credit for it. One of these men had 15 years' service. He entered the service at an early age, and at the present time his age is 32. Another man with ten years' service is aged 34. The man with 25 acres of land who got the position is 40 years of age. I would like to know whether there is any age limit for applicants for such an appointment. I would certainly urge very strongly that men who have already given a great portion of their lives to the service at a very small wage of 6/- or 7/- a week, and who have tried to rear their families on that wage should get consideration in these appointments.

I should like to ask the Minister one question. A year ago on this Estimate he told us that he was instituting, or that he had in fact already begun, a publicity campaign for popularising the telephone.

He has done that.

The publicity campaign has been conducted in a very unobtrusive fashion. I hear he has done it, but I have personally seen no evidence of it at all and I trust that he will take this opportunity to tell us in what that publicity campaign consisted and the results, if any, which it has yielded. I would, as well, press on him, as I did last year, that we should not be behindhand in this country in the development of the telephone and that really a little should be attempted in the way of high-pressure salesmanship, to bring home to people the value of the telephone, its multifarious uses, and to popularise it. If that were done it would be of very great advantage to the country as a whole and a step forward in civilisation.

With regard to Deputy MacDermot's point about publicity there has been no Press publicity but canvassing has been going on. It was going on at the time that I spoke last year. This year we are sending out a folder to people who might be expected to become users of the telephone. There is a reason why we cannot broadcast advertisements, and it is that in certain areas in the country saturation point has been reached. From the telephone point of view there are certain areas which may be described as congested at the moment, and the reason why we cannot invite new subscribers is because it will take some time before the new cables can be laid down in them. As Deputy MacDermot ought to know, there is another reason. We cannot compare this country, with its scattered population, with countries like England and France. Here we have very few large centres of population.

What I am asking is that the Minister should compare it with other agricultural countries, such as Norway and Denmark, and then let us see what the comparison will show.

Mr. Boland

From the point of view of telephone facilities I cannot say at the moment how it compares with the countries Deputy MacDermot has just spoken of. The Deputy may know a lot about those countries as he travels a lot. Development of that kind resolves itself into a question of cost. The capital cost of putting down poles and wires and maintaining them has to be considered. As Deputy Brennan said, I, like him, represent an agritural constituency, and naturally I would be most anxious, if it were at all possible, to extend telephone facilities into every part of the country. But, unfortunately, the question of cost arises. It has to be got over. If my Department were free to spend as much money as it wished, then of course we could provide all those facilities. Deputy O'Sullivan asked whether the Post Office was altogether a social service or whether the idea was to run it on commercial lines. Well, of course, that is a question which has worried more Governments than this. I think I may say that it is partly both. We must have some regard to the needs of the community and at the same time to the cost of the service—what the country can afford to spend on it. We claim that so far as it is possible for the Post Office, within the means at its disposal, to meet the requirements of the rural areas, we have done that. Where circumstances warrant an improvement in the service, it will be found, I think, that the Post Office has always been willing and anxious to give that improvement. But, as I have already indicated, we are bound by financial considerations which we cannot get over. Deputy Brodrick made a very severe charge against me. He said that I appointed a man to a position because he was a Deputy's brother.

Mr. Brodrick

I did not say he was a Deputy's brother.

Mr. Boland

Well, that he was a relation of a Fianna Fáil Deputy. I can assure the Deputy that I had no knowledge whatever of that. The information that I had about the man who was appointed does not agree with the statement the Deputy made. Deputy Brodrick said that this man's valuation was £14, and that he had 25 acres of land. My information was that he was a joint occupier, with an invalid brother, of a farm, and that he had a wife and four children. I am giving the Deputy the information that I had when the appointment was made: that this man, with a wife and four children, was part owner of a farm with an invalid brother. I also had the information that this man was very badly situated financially; that from the point of view of dependency his position was as bad as that of any of the other candidates. I again assure the Deputy that at the time the appointment was made I had no information about his relations.

Mr. Brodrick

What about the man with the ten years' service—a supporter of Fianna Fáil?

Mr. Boland

I do not know what he was a supporter of.

Mr. Brodrick

Both, I believe, gave service to each Party.

We can shake hands on that.

Mr. Boland

This man who was appointed had some temporary service so that it was not true for the Deputy to say that he had no experience of postal work. I admit that the Deputy scored a point about the man happening to have certain relations, but I was not aware of that, and, anyway, I do not think it should be a disqualification.

Mr. Brodrick


Mr. Boland

With regard to the question that was raised by Deputy Kelly about the kiosks, I am afraid the Deputy will have to refer that to the Corporation. I am not sure whether the new Corporation or the Commissioners were in office at the time it was decided to erect these kiosks, but the fact, at any rate, is that both their design and their location were agreed upon by my Department and the Corporation.

Mr. Kelly

The Commissioners were in office. They had no taste.

Mr. Boland

They were acting for the Corporation at the time, and they were the only people my Department could consult. The Department did consult with the Commissioners, and I suppose with the City Architect.

Mr. Kelly

The City Architect was not consulted.

Mr. Boland

My information is that the officers of the Corporation concerned were in consultation with my Department on the matter, and that an agreement, both as to the sites and the design, was arrived at. Therefore, I think I must refer Deputy Kelly to the Corporation on that matter. So far as the erection of kiosks in the future is concerned, I will see that my Department will consult with the Corporation and come to an agreement as to design, provided, of course, that it is not sought to insist on fantastic designs. We will try to meet the Corporation within reason.

Mr. Kelly

That is so much gained.

Mr. Boland

Deputy O'Sullivan referred to the new post office at Rathmines. On the last occasion I spoke on this I said that we expected to have the new office working in October. The new office there will, we hope, be finished this year, but the new telephone service at Rathmines will not be available for a considerable time longer. Its installation is a lengthy process. First of all, the building has to be dried out before the new apparatus is put in. I can assure the Deputy that we are doing our best to get ahead with it as quickly as possible. The Deputy also urged an extension of the telephone service in country districts after 7 o'clock in the evening and on Sundays. This has been tried in a few areas, and experience has shown that there has been very little demand for it. I can promise the Deputy that if any special case is made for such an extension it will be sympathetically considered, but experience has shown that an extension in country areas after 7 o'clock in the evening and on Sundays has not been very largely availed of. In fact, there has been scarcely any demand for it. Deputy Brennan made the usual complaint that people in the rural areas, as compared with those in the metropolitan areas, were not being treated fairly. I do not see what we can do. The question of cost comes in there again. The Deputy said he believed there was a loss in connection with postal deliveries in some of the metropolitan areas and that the Post Office was bearing that loss. He urged that it should do the same with regard to the delivery of telegrams in the rural areas. The loss on the telegraph service has been an increasing one, while the postal service has been showing a profit. I do not think it would be possible for us to add to the loss we are already meeting on the telegraph service, much as I should like to facilitate the country districts. It is simply a question of finance. Deputy Good asked for figures as to the present position of the postal side of the service. The estimated profit on the postal side this year is £80,000. On the telegraph service the estimated loss is £126,800, and on the telephone service an estimated profit of £45,000. In 1931-32 we had a profit of £116,735 on the postal side, and in 1932-33 a profit of £94,599. We estimate a profit this year of £80,000, so that the profit is decreasing slightly each year.

With regard to the standard charge, that matter is being constantly watched and the Department is always open to receive any suggestions that people may have to make with regard to it. I understand, however, that all that it is possible to do, in the way of lessening the charges of installation, is being done and the whole question is constantly under review by the engineering section.

Is there not a uniform charge for installation?

Mr. Boland

In the metropolitan area there is, but the position is that it may cost far more than that in one case and far less in another.

But in some cases, one has only to switch over from one to another. Why charge £3 in that case?

Mr. Boland

There are cases in which the cost might be £10. There is a sort of average.

Yes, but it should not be uniform.

Mr. Boland

Deputy Dillon made the case that we should have uniform charges. We find in this case that, on the balance, that is the fairer way. Different areas cost more than other areas, and the Post Office has found the standard charge a much more satisfactory arrangement in certain cases. On the one hand, the individual may be benefited in certain cases but on the other hand, others are benefited in other cases in which the cost would be far more than the standard charge. That is always the case when there is a uniform rate—some people benefit and others do not. The Deputy commented on the brevity of my opening speech but I do not think it advisable —at least, I never approved of it—to do what was done formerly, the reading out of a very long statement very fast which nobody could hear. I think it is much better to sit here and to let people ask questions and then try to get the information they require. If I adopted the other course, I might be reading out something in which Deputies might not be at all interested.

I commended the Minister for his brevity.

Mr. Boland

I think the Deputy said it was a little too brief. I think that it is better to give plenty of opportunity for questions and the proper information can then be made available. In the other way, I do not think the proper information would be made available.

And I hope that the other Ministers will follow suit.

And some of your friends over there ought to follow two or three suits.

Mr. Boland

Deputy Good also referred to Rathmines telephone exchange but I have already answered that in reply to Deputy O'Sullivan.

Can the Minister tell me how many applicants for telephones are at present unsatisfied in that area?

Mr. Boland

I think there is none.

On the waiting list?

Mr. Boland

There is none on the waiting list. Deputy Good also asked for the number of rural exchanges and call offices that had been opened. In the last 12 months, we have opened five rural exchanges and eight rural call offices. That means that practically the whole country is served by telephones now, with the exception of parts of Donegal and Mayo, where economic considerations prevent extension.

Could the Minister tell us, over a period of, say, the last three years, what have been the figures? How many telephones are there to-day in the Free State and how many were there a year ago and the year before? Is the number steadily increasing or not?

Mr. Boland

It is steadily increasing. I have not got the actual figures but I will supply them to the Deputy. We have a profit every year and there is an increasing number of telephones.

Deputy Dillon started off with his usual remarks about wrapping the green flag round us. I expect that he intended to give us one of his "Wont-stand-up-for-the-Soldiers' Song" sort of speeches but seeing that he had Deputy O'Sullivan on his benches, who does not approve of that style of thing, he changed his tune and went on the green flag business and tried to have a cheap sneer at the Republican movement. I think he would be doing far more good to himself, to the House and to the country generally, if, on a debate like this, he would confine himself to matters connected with the Post Office and not to speak of matters about which he ought to hold his tongue.

"At no far distant date."

Like Deputy Norton's republic.

Mr. Boland

I am sure that Deputy O'Sullivan's conscience was not too easy when he heard that speech being delivered from the benches on which he sat.

The Minister can be sure that I carry my own conscience.

Mr. Boland

I know he does but I am sure that he sometimes feels uneasy. Deputy Dillon made a concrete suggestion and if it were possible, I should like to see it carried out. As a matter of fact, I am surprised that Deputy Dillon should have made a concrete suggestion. He suggested that we should have something like a flat rate of 3d for any call within a county, 6d for a call within a province and 1/- maximum for any trunk call to any part of the country. He believes that that, although there might be a loss immediately, would eventually mean a gain. I will have that point examined and see what can be done. I hope he is right and I hope it will be possible to do it but I am afraid it is going to be too big a strain on the resources of the State. I would like to know that people could telephone from any part of the country to another for a maximum rate of 1/-, but I am afraid it will not be possible to get the Finance Department to accept it. I will, however, have it examined and see what can be done.

With regard to Deputy Norton's remarks, I missed one item from his speech which formed a part of his remarks on this Estimate over the last few years—the question of the redundant Post Office officials. He did not even say that he was glad to see that that little grievance had been removed. I have to remind him that there is something missing from the song this year.

That was secured during the year.

Mr. Boland

But the Deputy forgot to tell us about that.

I have not got the bouquets made up yet.

Mr. Boland

I thought I might as well remind the Deputy of it. I, too, am very much upset by this part-time postman question. I think it very hard that people have to do part-time work for 14/8 per week, when people can get unemployment assistance at the rate of £1 a week. The whole part-time system seems to be associated with the Post Office since it was instituted, and I must say that I do not like it. So far as Dublin is concerned, we are making every effort, as Deputy Norton knows, to make full-time posts of the part-time posts, and I hope that, in a short time, we shall have that fixed up, or, at least, that we will be able considerably to increase the number of hours of work.

The Minister knows that representations in the matter have been made to him by the Post Office Workers' Union. Will he undertake that these will receive early consideration, and that there will be a speedy decision?

Mr. Boland

These representations have been made and they are being considered. I hope a speedy and satisfactory decision will be reached. There will be at least a considerable increase in the number of hours of work. There may be some rearrangement of the postal services in the city, but in the country areas it will be, I think, practically impossible. There are some areas where we can amalgamate posts, but we cannot be expected to worsen services to any extent. I know that where it is possible it has been done— it has happened in a few cases already. This year, in several instances, when vacancies occurred, we always endeavoured to see if it was possible to amalgamate the vacant posts, one with the other. It must be recognised, however, that we must have regard to the needs of the people of the district.

As regards the sorting office, a start has been made with the building of a central sorting office in Pearse Street. Last year I mentioned that it was hoped we would be able to start in September; but there were legal difficulties about the acquisition of sites, and there were measurements, and so on, and it was impossible to have those things completed until very recently. Work has begun on the taking down of some old sheds. I can promise Deputy Norton that every effort will be made to expedite the work. I was in the sorting office, and I admit that it is not a proper place for people to work in at all. It is a converted distillery, and it did not impress me. Anything I can do to have the erection of the new building speeded up, will be done.

With regard to Waterford Post Office, that matter is still under consideration. Investigations have been going on with reference to the units of work and the hours for different offices in the country. Certain figures have to be compiled and comparisons made, and the examination is not quite finished yet. I will try to speed that matter up. I do not know what the result will be. I know the subject is being investigated, but I am not in a position to say when we will be able to report on it.

With reference to the Christmas Day deliveries, Deputy Norton rather anticipated what I was going to say— that the people will not post early, even if they are asked. I believe that they will not do it; they will keep their cards and letters until the very last day. The Post Office authorities feel that they are obliged to deliver letters and cards. They are not to be expected to know whether or not there is an authentic message to be delivered. All they know is that they get a letter to deliver and they deliver it. As Deputies are aware, at Christmas time there is a big rush of cards and letters. The Department have gone into the matter very carefully and they have advised me that there would be a great congestion if deliveries were not made on Christmas Day. It would throw them out of gear if they did what the Deputy has suggested, so I am afraid the matter does not look very hopeful from the Deputy's point of view. However, I will get this thing further examined, and if it is possible to meet Deputy Norton in the matter, we will meet him. I am not, however, promising that his suggestion will be carried out. So far as the matter has been examined it is not likely that we will be able to avoid Christmas deliveries.

If the Minister were prepared to give the suggestion a trial for one year, I believe a good many of the fears that have been expressed will be found to have no foundation.

No deliveries on Christmas Day.

Why not have them delivered before Christmas Day—say on Christmas Eve?

No deliveries on Christmas Day—that is what the Deputy suggests. I wonder if his constituents agree with him?

Mr. Boland

The Department have gone carefully into this matter and they think it is impracticable. Anyway, we will submit it to further examination. The Deputy raised a question in reference to the unestablished workmen in the engineering section. The position is that the Engineer-in-Chief is not quite certain as to what established staff he will require. The Deputy knows that there was an extra staff employed in connection with telephonic development, and the position is that the Engineer-in-Chief is not sure what permanent staff of skilled workmen will be required. There will be an examination held very shortly for 30 of these people so as to put them on a permanent basis and within a year, if it is found necessary, that number may be added to from amongst the successful candidates at the examination. At least a beginning is being made to deal with this question in connection with the engineering section.

I am not in a position to say what will be done as regards working hours in the Stores. That matter is under examination. I will try to have a decision hurried up. I do not know whether Deputy Dockrell is satisfied with Deputy Kelly's settlement of the question of a post office in St. Andrew Street—the congested part of it. The position is that there is nothing definitely settled yet; the matter is still under inquiry. I am told that even if the Post Office do take the basement or the ground floor of that building there will not be any undue delay. The Post Office officials will simply go there and be away in a very short time; they will delay no longer than is necessary for cars to pull up and take deliveries. They will be there at certain hours and they will be loaded very quickly. It has not yet been decided whether they will take that particular building or not.

Will you consult the town planning authority?

Mr. Boland

I am quite sure if the Corporation have anything to say in the matter their representations will be carefully considered.

They say they have not. They are not allowed to say anything. It is a Government building.

Mr. Boland

That is not quite correct. If they point out that the Post Office propose to obstruct some street, or do something out of harmony with the style of architecture of any area, they will be listened to just as in the case of telephone kiosks. There was consultation in that respect and there will be in this case also.

Are the Corporation right when they say there is no civic control over what the Post Office may do?

Mr. Boland

They are right, but it does not follow that we are going to refuse to consult with them.

You are going to leave your vans in the street and that is going to finish Trinity Street.

Mr. Boland

We have not decided that we are going to build in Trinity Street. I am a Dublin man, too, and I know the city as well as Deputy Dockrell. I am aware that that street is practically a parking-place and the Post Office has as much right to stop for ten minutes on the public service, surely to goodness, as anybody else has to park a car there the whole day. The Post Office cars will not be the whole day there; they will be there for ten minutes and then they will get away.

There are no cars parked in Trinity Street and it is not surfaced with concrete.

Mr. Boland

I do not know whether it is concrete or not. It used to be paved with wooden blocks. There will not be any undue congestion owing to Post Office vans being there.

If you are going to leave four or five vans outside the door——

Mr. Boland

At certain times in the day.

——in a narrow street where there is barely room for two vehicles to pass and on a main traffic artery, there is bound to be congestion.

Mr. Boland

Would Deputy Dockrell object to a car stopping outside a business house in Trinity Street for ten or twelve minutes?

Mr. Kelly

It is not Trinity Street; it is in St. Andrew Street they will be stopping.

Who is Postmaster-General here?

Mr. Boland

As I have indicated, we have not quite definitely decided whether it will be there. With regard to Customs clearance charges on parcels from Germany, the answer I gave the Deputy on that occasion was correct. If something has arisen in the meantime and if he would like to raise the matter, I will give him an explanation.

With whom am I to raise it?

Mr. Boland

If the Deputy writes to me, I will see that he will get every information that can be got.

What information?

Mr. Boland

If there has been an overcharge I will have the whole thing explained. I do not think it is reasonable to expect me to deal with the matter like that without notice and I am sure Deputy Dockrell as a business man will admit that he should not throw that thing at me without notice.

Very well; I will give the particulars to the Minister.

Mr. Boland

I think I have answered all the points raised by Deputies. Deputy MacDermot asked me about the increase in the number of subscribers in recent years. In the year 1930-31 the number was 20,641; in 1931-32 the number was 21,470 and then in 1933-34 the number was 21,723.

The publicity campaign then brought about 300 subscribers?

Mr. Boland

Less than 300, but this is a small country. When this Government is done there will be far more telephones and far more business internally in the country anyway.

Would the Minister tell us how much expense has been put upon the taxpayers of this country during the financial year concluded through malicious injuries to telegraph and telephone wires caused by supporters of the Fianna Fáil Government?

Mr. Boland

There is a suggestion in that. There is as much foundation for it as that the railway was pulled up at Ferbane the other day by Fianna Fáil supporters.

I made no such statement.

Mr. Boland

Your leader did—is not General O'Duffy your leader?

The Minister did not reply to two questions, which I first raised two years ago. One is with reference to the long-distance telephones and the other is with respect to the Post Office Savings Bank.

Mr. Boland

I am sorry. The point that Deputy Dockrell raised about the Savings Bank is in connection with the delay in withdrawing money. I think that was the principal point. As regards the Savings Bank, it is necessary to verify the signature of the drawer so as to ensure that payment is being made to the proper person and that funds to the amount are available in the deposit account. The record as to the amount of funds on deposit is available only in the head office. That is the reason for the delay. When people go into a post office for the withdrawal of their money the position is not like it is in the case of a bank. The records are kept in the head office. That has always been the system and that explains the delay.

I suggest that the Minister should adopt the same system as the banks do.

Mr. Boland

I cannot decide that matter quite now. I will inquire into it, but that is the reason for the delay —that we have to verify the signature and see that funds are there to meet the amount that the person is applying for. At present that can only be done by reference to headquarters.

Will the Minister look into it?

Mr. Boland

Yes. On the matter of long-distance telephones, I understand that there is not so much foundation for the complaint as Deputy Dockrell suggests. There may be some delays on occasion but, generally speaking, I think there are no grounds for any great complaint. There have been additional lines got through Belfast. The Post Office has not very many complaints about people having to wait a long time to put their calls through as the Deputy suggests they have. I am not denying that there may be instances where there may be some delay, but as a general rule we find that there are no complaints of delays. Any complaints that may arise will be immediately investigated.

Question put and agreed to.