Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 18 Feb 1937

Vol. 65 No. 4

Post Office (Evasion of Postage) Bill, 1937—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The object of the measure is to prevent posting outside the Saorstát, by Saorstát residents, of correspondence for delivery within the Saorstát, with the object of securing the benefit of lower postage rates. In order that the necessity for the Bill may be appreciated, I should explain that the rates of postage on packets sent by printed paper post and by letter post are lower in Great Britain and Northern Ireland than in the Saorstát. For example, a packet for Saorstát Eireann exceeding 1 oz. but not exceeding 2 ozs. in weight can be posted by printed paper post in Great Britain or Northern Ireland for ½d. while the charge for a similar packet in Saorstát Eireann is 1d. A letter for Saorstát Eireann not exceeding 2 ozs. may be posted in Great Britain or Northern Ireland for 1½d., whereas the Saorstát postage on a similar letter is 2d.

In consequence certain firms in Saorstát Eireann from time to time arrange for the posting, in Great Britain mainly, of circulars and letters, for addresses in Saorstát Eireann. The practice, I am glad to say, is not resorted to on any very serious scale, but, whatever the scale, it is wrong in principle, unfair to this administration, and it is desired to put a stop to it. In this connection, I should explain that all fully prepaid correspondence received from outside the State must under the International Convention be delivered free as a reciprocal arrangement, so that, in respect of correspondence improperly posted outside, this administration receives no revenue. The abuse is one with which most postal administrations are faced, and the International Postal Convention to meet it provides that postal administrations which so desire may, in the case of packets posted outside their territories with the object of securing the benefit of lower rates of postage, either return them undelivered to the country of origin or before delivery charge them in full with the appropriate postage at internal rates. There is no authority under the existing powers of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs to enable this provision to be enforced, and it is necessary, therefore, to introduce legislation for the purpose. The operation of the measure will not involve additional cost.

I move as an amendment:—

To delete all words after the word "that" and substitute therefor the words "the Dáil being of opinion that the prevailing high rate of postage within Saorstát Eireann is largely responsible for the evasions of postage to which the Post Office (Evasion of Postage) Bill, 1937, refers, declines to give a Second Reading to this Bill until the Minister has made inquiry and reported to the Dáil (1) the immediate effect on the revenue of the Post Office of (a) reducing the postage rates on (i) letters, (ii) printed matter, and (iii) parcels, to those obtaining in Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and (b) of providing a daily delivery in all parts of the country, and (2) the probability or otherwise of such changes bringing about an increase of business to the Post Office in the future."

I notice a very remarkable thing— that the Minister himself stresses that the reason for introducing this Bill is the difference in the rates of postage as between the Saorstát and Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I thought that perhaps he might make the case that the printing of the matter posted was being done outside the country, that circulars which normally would have been printed in this country were being printed in Great Britain and Northern Ireland and that as a result there was a loss to the printing trade in this country. The Minister, however, has made no such case. We can, therefore, discuss this Bill entirely on the question of the difference in the postal rates. The Minister says, almost explicitly, that a certain amount of espionage is now to be set up and that when particular classes of letters come into this country, if a suspicion is entertained that these letters have been posted with the object of evading the payment of the higher charges here, these letters will be opened and the matter investigated. There is, therefore, a principle contained in some of the remarks of the Minister and apparently enshrined in this Bill, that I think should be looked into more closely. I hope an opportunity for closer discussion will arise on the Committee Stage.

What I want to direct attention to at the moment is the fact that the commercial community in this country are labouring under very great disabilities both as regards the cost of their postage and as regards the unsatisfactory machinery for delivery that exists throughout the country. Netly, the ordinary letter in this country costs ½d. more to deliver here than in Great Britain, and a letter above 1 oz. sent by printed paper post costs ½d. more to deliver than the same letter in Great Britain or Northern Ireland. Then the commercial community have also thrown upon them a fairly substantial increase in the cost of postage of parcels. The postage for parcels under 3 lbs. is, I understand, the same here as in Great Britain. but when you reach 3 lbs. the cost of postage on a parcel is 3d. more here than in Great Britain, the cost of 4 lbs. is 2d. more, and the cost of 5 lbs. is 1d. more. When you reach 6 lbs. the cost is again the same, but when you go over 6 lbs. the cost here is 3d., over 7 lbs. 2d. and over 8 lbs. a 1d. more than in Great Britain. For every group of 3 lbs. the cost is therefore 3d. more than in Great Britain. Then a telegram in Great Britain containing nine words can be sent for 6d. while a similar telegram in this country costs 1/6. That is the position in which the commercial community finds itself. In the early days of the Free State, as far as my recollection goes, there was a responsibility put on the Post Office to see that it would gradually reduce the rates and, from time to time, it had been the practice to look at the situation to see whether the rates of postage could not be reduced or whether greater facilities in deliveries throughout the country could not be given. That was at a time when we had even a substantially smaller revenue than we have to-day. Now, the revenue has swollen enormously; Government expenditure has swollen enormously.

There are certain things in the situation that require to get a certain amount of consideration. Customs duties, in the first instance, and then quotas, in the second instance, have slowed down the tempo of commercial life in the country to a very great extent. The inadequate delivery in certain parts of the country was responsible for a certain amount of that in the past, but it was nothing compared with the slowing down of the tempo in commercial transactions that the enormous number of tariffs, and particularly the quotas, have brought to the commercial community.

What is the Deputy's authority for that statement?

If the Deputy ever talks to a Dublin business person, ever goes down to the Customs, ever goes across to Industry and Commerce or asks anybody engaged in commercial life what it costs in time and money to try to reduce the delays on their commercial transactions—those of them that have to touch the ports, at any rate—he will learn something about the commercial situation here in Dublin that, apparently, he does not know anything about now.

At the meeting of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce last week there was no mention of anything like that.

It was raised many a time.

I would like to hear Deputy Moore dealing with the matter. I will say this, that commercial life in the City of Dublin, and I am quite certain throughout the rest of the country, has been slowed down enormously in its tempo, first by tariffs and then by quotas. Something is required to improve internal communications in the country, at any rate, and I suggest it would do something to improve the situation if the commercial community in the cities could be given a better postal contact with the country. Any businessman to-day sitting down to make preparations for the evening post knows that, as regards a certain percentage among the group of letters before him, he might as well put them into a bottle and drop them into the outgoing tide on the Liffey, it is going to take him so long to get a reply. He is entitled to feel that way when you consider how many parts of the country have only two deliveries in the week.

As well as getting a cheaper post, he is entitled particularly to a better service throughout the country. What is the position throughout the country? There are substantial parts of the country where you have a three-day or two-day delivery and there is a great hanging-up of commercial communications as a result of that. On the other hand, certain conditions have been created as a result of things flowing, I admit, from the Government's policy. There is more marching from one end of the country to the other to-day as a result of unemployment and as a result of registering at the labour exchanges than there is over the battlefields of Spain. How many men in our various counties are marching from one end of their district to another to register as being unemployed or to receive unemployment assistance benefit and what amount of money is being spent on them? Take agricultural employment. We complained last year that the figures in that connection showed a substantial decrease as against 1921. In June, 1936, in Leinster, male agricultural employment was down by 3,908 as compared with 1935. In Munster the figure was 4,839.

The Deputy might relate those figures to the amendment, if possible.

I am referring to that period of the amendment which suggests that there should be a daily delivery in all parts of the country. I suggest that, in the first place, there should be a lessening of the amount charged to the commercial community for carrying on their postal services; that, in the second place, there should be an improvement in the service; that moneys are being spent throughout the country in very substantial sums— something like £1,500,000 was spent last year in unemployment assistance benefit—that a transfer of some of that money to provide a daily delivery in the country would improve the position of the commercial community with regard to their services, and, I also suggest, would improve the income of the Post Office later on.

Between 1935 and 1936, male agricultural labour throughout the country fell by a total of 13,160. I want to refer to what that means in one or two areas. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has divided the country into a certain number of unemployment areas. For instance, North Connacht contains Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim. One man in every ten out of the males in these counties is registered as looking for employment, and every one man out of 13 was drawing State assistance on the 25th January of this year. In South Munster, which includes Kerry and Cork, every one male out of 15 was registered as looking for employment, and every one out of 20 was in receipt of public assistance.

Can the Deputy relate that to the Bill or the amendment, to the reduction of postal rates, for instance?

I am relating it to the suggestion that there should be a daily delivery throughout the country.

The Chair fails to see the relationship.

If my amendment to this motion is in order—the second part of it, that, certain things having been done, the Minister would report on the probability or otherwise of such changes bringing about an increase of business to the Post Office in future— if that is in order, and I submit it is——

——then, surely, I am in order in pointing out that we are spending a very substantial amount of money, getting no return, on the one hand, but sending people marching from one end of their district to the other, and I submit that it is worth looking at, whether, in view of the straits in which the commercial community are at the present time, some even temporary link should not be made between the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Post Office to secure that, where that marching must be done and these moneys paid out——

You did not link it up yet with the amendment. I submit the Deputy is not linking that up with the amendment.

The Deputy should at least be allowed to finish his sentence.

I am prepared to deal with you, Sir, on the subject of order. I think if I am out of order it would help the Dáil, and help the subject under discussion, if the subject of order were left between yourself and myself. I do suggest that when the Minister comes before the House and says that evasion is taking place, and that in order to stop it he must subject to a kind of detective scrutiny correspondence coming into this country, and open it in order to be fair to the administration, he ought to realise that it is the high rates here which are bringing about that state of affairs; that the subject of high rates has been considered from time to time as a matter that was a burden on the community, and that that ought to be changed if possible. When he comes before the House and asks us to accept a Bill like this, all I ask is that before invading the secrecy of the post— because that is what it amounts to— he should tell us what it would cost to bring the rates down to the Northern Ireland level, what it would cost normally to give a daily delivery throughout the country; and, looking aside from that, that he should see whether, in view of the expense of the marching round the country, there could not be some link with the Department of Industry and Commerce, even as a temporary measure, to improve the position for the commercial community; and that he should give us his opinion as to whether, in the long run, benefits would not flow to the Post Office itself as a result of adopting some measure like that to deal with the present situation.

In rising to support Deputy Mulcahy's amendment, I should like to say that, while we can all agree to a certain extent that all the money for postal facilities should be spent in this country, at the same time I should like to be sure that the Minister is not going the wrong way to achieve the object which he has in view. First of all, I suggest to him that if there is going to be any considerable scrutiny of the post in order to see who is evading the provisions of this Bill, it will entail still further delays in the post, and I am afraid there will be another excuse added to the already long list of excuses which the Post Office give for delays, namely, that a package was held up on the suspicion that it was evading the terms of this Bill.

The Minister says that the evasions are wrong in principle. I am afraid that a very large number of citizens of this country do not regard the Post Office as any more sacred than any other institution, and that they look upon the Post Office as a means of getting services rendered in the easiest, quickest and cheapest manner. If the Minister looks at it from a purely business point of view he will find he is somewhat like a man in business who has two rival business bodies, one on each side of him, and, without wishing to throw any bouquets at his competitors, they are keen and alert people. We are all familiar from time to time with ways that I suppose the Minister would describe as ways of evading the postal provisions, but I am sure that if he pressed such persons they would say that they found that by adopting certain methods they could get the business they wished carried out done for half the money that the Irish Post Office takes from them for postage. There seems to be in the Post Office a certain vicious circle, and I would very much like if the Minister could see his way to break away from that tradition. When a person complains, for instance, that some of the methods of the Post Office are old-fashioned, he is told: "That really cannot be brought up to date; the cost would be too considerable."

Deputy Mulcahy has enlarged on the other side of that, namely, that the unemployed could be very usefully put to carrying out some of the services that are at present not being efficiently carried out, with benefit to the community and to the revenue. I do not propose to go into that any further than to say that, as far as the business community are concerned, the high postage rates that they pay are linked up with the service. If you have a high postage rate and very high efficiency you have some compensation, but when you have a high postage rate and inefficiency people are prepared to pay anything to get over the difficulties they encounter. It has come under my notice that people receiving very important letters from the other side find they cannot be sure of the delivery. For instance, when it comes near the end of a sweepstake there is a very considerable delay. One wonders why extra hands could not be employed to keep the delivery up to normal. People are prepared to pay 6d. to have a letter delivered to another address so that they may get it somewhat earlier than by the ordinary delivery. That 6d. goes to the other side, to the big business competitor of the Minister's Department. Of course, the trouble about that is that people do not know what letters are important. Certain letters may arrive from people regularly for a few days with practically nothing in them, and the next time that a letter arrives it may be late; yet the person would have paid anything to have that letter delivered in time.

Another matter that has not been touched upon is the question of the growing air mail and the very high charges for delivery to places abroad. At the present time it is quite a common practice for people here to send letters to friends in England who post them by air mail from there. The Minister gets 2d. for that service, but the other country gets 1/6 or 2/-. I should like to put that aspect to the Minister. I have spoken about the vicious circle that the Post Office are in—that they do not seem able to consider either looking for efficiency or looking for economy and following that up resolutely. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment.

In supporting this amendment, I consider that the cause of evasion is due to the fact that postal rates are higher here than in neighbouring countries. I did not hear what the Minister estimated is being lost by evasion, and I do not suppose it is a very large sum, but I wonder if it is worth while causing delay in the delivery of letters that may arise by passing this Bill. Another aspect of the matter is, that this will give an excuse for the opening of letters where perhaps it should not be necessary to open them at all. People who live in different parts of the country know that there are complaints that letters are tampered with and, in many cases, opened. This Bill can be made an excuse for examining letters to see if they were posted in proper quarters. That is a very serious matter, and the confidence that the public have in the Post Office will be very much undermined if such a practice is encouraged. I would not expect that the Minister would give encouragement to such a practice. Is it really worth while advertising another disadvantage that exists in this State compared with conditions prevailing in Great Britain and Northern Ireland? The Bill will cause resentment because it points out that disadvantage. Will it be an inducement to bring about a reconciliation with the Six Counties in order that they would come into the Free State? The President says that it is his policy to make conditions so attractive here that the Six Counties will be induced to come in for their own benefit. Will they be inclined to come in to share the disadvantage of higher postal rates? Seeing that we have higher postal rates is it worth while drawing attention to them? I think the Government is making a mistake in this matter. By adopting the amendment the position will be met and, as Deputy Mulcahy pointed out, unemployment that is costing the Treasury so much and that gives no return, will be relieved. Under the amendment the delivery of letters will be as regular as in the past.

I agree heartily with what Deputy Mulcahy said that this is a business matter and should be met in a businesslike way, and not in the absurd way of legislating in this manner. There are things that this type of legislation cannot remedy. This Bill invades the rights of private citizens. What right has the Department to invade the privacy of the ordinary citizen, the decent common taxpayer? We are worried and plagued enough in that respect. I think the Department should look into itself, and study its own house to see if it cannot improve things there. I will give an experience I had. I had occasion to send a gift to a foreign country at Christmas, thereby increasing our export trade, as I was sending something that was made in the Free State. The tax on the gift in the foreign country was 12½ per cent., but the postal authorities here would not take it unless I paid 50 per cent. ad valorem tax. I did so and I have not got it back since. If the Minister likes I can give him the details. Another way in which the Post Office irritates and stops a certain amount of trade is in connection with the accursed statistical tax for which the Post Office or the Minister for Industry and Commerce are responsible. Any person who gets foreign books, as I do, from the other side, continuously, has to pay sixpence on each parcel. The incidence of that tax is most dishonest because it adds to the cost of the parcel post. The main reason I support the amendment is because I object to the privacy of the individual citizen being invaded, and to an excuse being given for such invasion by this Bill.

This is a Bill that I feel I cannot support, in the first place, because I think it is unworthy of the State that such a Bill should be brought into the House. As far as I am aware it is a revolutionary proposal as far as legislation is concerned. I do not know if the Minister gave any figures or advanced any reasons for the Bill. I understand he did not. It tackles a new phase of life, one that hitherto has not been so much invaded by the Post Office. The very fact of bringing in such a Bill will have a disquieting effect not only on our citizens but on citizens of other countries who correspond with us. The second reason why I cannot support the Bill was touched upon by the last speaker. We always felt that the Post Office was an institution that did its business without broadcasting and that a letter with an ordinary stamp on it had about it an element of secrecy and of confidence which one feels it should have in a Department of State and could not be interfered with. We have always been told that even if an official talked about what was written on a postcard that would be an offence against the regulations. Now we have a Bill giving full powers to open all correspondence of which there may be any suspicion. I think that will shake the foundations of confidence in the Department.

If our packets and our letters are to be liable to this scrutiny, it means that there may be a week's delay or more before an ordinary business letter or packet can be delivered. That is surely intolerable in these days when we like to ensure that in our State, at any rate, a letter posted to-day will be delivered to-morrow. The founda tions of the business life of to-day are built on expedition, on the fact that there will be no delays in the doing of the business of the State. This is an invitation to delay which I think is unwarrantable. The fourth reason which I would suggest is that like some other Bills which were brought into this House it cannot achieve what it sets out to do. I have not studied the implications of it in very great detail, but, on such scrutiny as I have given it, it seems to me that if we attempt to get after the citizens of this country who set out to post packets in some other country, it will only mean that they will have to be more careful and have an address in the other country. We cannot make it an offence if they are in another country from our own. We cannot make it an offence for them to correspond with their friends or to correspond with citizens of this country, and it would only mean that there can be evasions of anything the Minister may set out to do. In conclusion, I would repeat what I said at the beginning—that the Bill is unworthy of this State, unworthy of the business life of this community, and one which in my opinion, will be ineffective to secure the object we set out to perform.

All the speeches from the Opposition on this Bill have been surprising speeches, most of them surprising in their vagueness, but the last speech was the biggest surprise of all. Because of his attitude to the Sweepstakes Act and other things I think the general opinion of Deputy Haslett has been that he is a Puritan, yet when it comes to a question like this, involving evasion, when proposals are made for dealing with citizens who attempt to use the services of this State but are too mean to pay for them, Deputy Haslett says: "Let them go ahead and more power to them. You are really doing a shockingly bad thing in attempting to interfere with such a practice." That is certainly a surprising attitude on the part of Deputy Haslett.

I am not ashamed of that attitude.

I have nothing to do with that, but there are people who never were suspected of being Puritans who would be ashamed of that attitude. I infer from Deputy Dockrell that one of his grievances is that letters are already considerably delayed in the Post Office, or if not considerably delayed that there are frequent delays. I have never had that experience, I confess. It is a matter one does not hear much about. I was under the impression that under the Post Office system if a letter is delayed, if there is even a suspicion of delay, the postal authorities are prepared to inquire into each individual case. Deputy Dockrell did not tell us whether he had ever brought such a case to the notice of the Post Office authorities, and if so, what was the result. He fears there may be further delay now because of the working of this Act. That would be a matter for the Post Office authorities, but if delays are not more serious than at present I do not think they would be a cause for refusing the Second Reading of this Bill.

Deputy Mulcahy is very much concerned about the commercial community. Instead of this Bill he wants better facilities for the commercial community in reaching their clients in the country. I do not know that Deputy Mulcahy has any ground whatever for believing that the commercial community are not well able to get into communication with their clients under the existing facilities. It is quite true that there are many parts of the country where there are not good services, but the last people to suffer from those defects are the commercial community. The five-acre farmer or the ten-acre farmer, in so far as he is concerned with correspondence, has the grievance that he does not get frequent deliveries, but the last people who suffer from those deficiencies in the postal system are those who would be in touch with the commercial community, either in Dublin or in any other city. Everybody knows that since motor transport became so general there is no part of the country that is not in daily contact—and several times a day contact—with the chief centres of the postal service.

Do I understand from the Deputy that the practice has arisen of sending letters by the drivers of motor cars throughout the country, and do I understand that the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs knows of and does not interfere with that practice?

I do not suggest that any such practice has ever arisen, but I do suggest that there is nobody involved in the commercial life of this country who is not, through motor transport—through his own motor transport chiefly—in direct contact with the chief postal centres. I think the last grievance that the commercial community has is the infrequency of deliveries, or delays in the post. I am sure the Deputy would not find in six months one instance of any trouble or loss arising through anything like that. But, as I said, there are certain people who are affected by it. They would like to hear from their friends more often; they often have to complain that letters which were of importance to them were not delivered for several days. Those are the humble people of the country, who have not got the means of sending to the post office when they are expecting letters. It is to be desired, I am sure, that such parts of the country should have more frequent deliveries, but I do not think that can be used as an argument against the passing of this Bill, and I doubt very much that Deputy Mulcahy, when he put down his amendment; intended to use it as a serious argument against the Bill. In fact, I do not know that he really intended any part of his amendment to be taken seriously by the House.

What did I intend? Would the Deputy say what he thinks I intended?

I think there is hardly any doubt that he sees a big election looming near, and that hence he would like to make propaganda on every possible occasion. He likes to avail of an opportunity to talk about things that are no doubt of much bigger interest to the people than this Bill.

Or the new Constitution.

He likes to emphasise such features of the existing situation as he thinks may be of advantage to him in connection with that big event that is coming soon. There is just one other matter that was strange in the speeches of the Opposition—Deputy Alton's denunciation of the statistical tax. Surely Deputy Alton is one of those responsible for that tax.

I protested against it at the time.

At all events, as far as the present Administration is concerned——

They are innocent?

——they are not the parties who are mainly guilty of that innovation. In my opinion this Bill is called for, and a lot of people will be glad to see the end of the practice which has grown up, and which I think is becoming even more common than it was a few years ago, of certain people—not by any means the worst—off people in the country, but people who can well afford to pay for the services of this country—attempting to make use of the services of this country without paying the ordinary fees required. I think that such a Bill should be welcomed and will be welcomed by those who know that this practice exists.

From the opening remarks of Deputy Moore, I thought we were going to hear something of importance with regard to this Bill, or even with regard to the amendment. The Deputy commented on the vagueness of the speeches delivered from this side, and naturally one expected that Deputy Moore was going to give us something tangible. So far as I could see, he avoided the Bill and he avoided the amendment. He told us nothing at all. He endeavoured to draw our attention to the duty of citizens to the State. I hope that Deputy Moore and the Government realise by this time that the State has duties to the citizen. If we are suffering from the disability of high postage rates, I do not think we are doing very much good by drawing attention to it in this way. I do not think it is creditable, and, from Deputy Moore's reference to the amendment, I think he must not have read it. I think it very sensible and I think the Government are not entitled to bring in a Bill of this sort without having resort, either in their own official way or in some other way, to the methods suggested in the amendment. I think it is a very business-like amendment and if the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs comes in here with a Bill of this type without having done what the amendment suggests, and without telling us what the result of that has been, he is doing something he ought not to do.

I am sorry Deputy Moore has left the House because, coming to the Bill itself, there is a feature in it to which I should like to refer in his presence. He is recognised as being very closely connected with the Irish industry side and, to my mind, at least, there is a sub-section in Section 2 which ought to make some of the Irish industrialists sit up. We have heard a lot lately of alien penetration into Irish industry. I remember reading in the paper recently of some big functions, dinners and so on, being given here in Dublin by industrialists and the one fear with which they were apparently beset was alien penetration. I wonder how they will welcome this Bill which Deputy Moore says is going to be welcomed by the country when they realise that, under sub-section (2) of Section 2, those people who are at the moment earning fat dividends in this country, through the establishment of certain businesses here, and who have businesses outside the country also, can take advantage of the cheap postage rate while the purely Irish firm cannot?

Sub-section (1) of that section sets out that the provisions of the Bill are to apply to every postal packet which (a) is posted outside Saorstát Eireann and (b) is addressed to the addressee at an address in Saorstát Eireann and (c) purports to come from or to be sent by or on behalf of a person residing or carrying on business in Saorstát Eireann. These are subject to all the penalties laid down in the Bill; but, then, we get a way out for the aliens, the people who have two businesses, one here and one in another country. Sub-section (2) says:—

Notwithstanding anything contained in the foregoing sub-section of this section, this Act shall not apply to a postal packet which purports to come from or to be sent by or on behalf of a person who carries on business both in and outside Saorstát Eireann unless such postal packet purports to come or be sent only from an address, or all the addresses, of such person in Saorstát Eireann.

A boot factory which has a branch here—and we have a lot of that—and which has its main house in Notting ham, can send out what stuff it likes at the cheap rate in reference to its Irish business from Nottingham. That is what this Bill provides. If the Minister thinks that it is not enough to advertise that in this country we are mulcting our citizens in postage and package rates, but that, in addition, we are going to give cheap rates to the aliens to advertise their goods, he can do it, and I suppose he will do it because he has his majority. That is the position we find ourselves in. Apart from the important point which has been made that one of the strongest factors in favour of the Post Office at all times was its privacy and that that, too, is going now, from every angle, I think the Bill is ill-considered and I think the Minister is not entitled to bring it in until he has first done what Deputy Mulcahy suggests in the amendment, that is, to have an examination of all the factors and find out whether if the postage rate were reduced to what it is in England and across the Border, the people would suffer and, in general, to try to level ourselves up to the advantages which other people have.

I wish to support the amendment. I think the Bill is one of the gravest votes of censure that could possibly be introduced in this House on the administration of the Post Office. For the last three or four years, on the Votes for the Post Office, I have referred to the tortoise policy of the Post Office in its administration and its absolute refusal to take a broad view of its future and to develop in such a way that not only will it fulfill the duties which it should fulfill to the citizens of this country, but to put itself in a competitive position with post office machinery in adjoining countries. I could enumerate specific cases of the antiquity of the management of this branch of the State. I do not wish to speak to the Minister in any extra critical way. He is a new Minister and it is quite possible that he has no contact at all with the management of a Department of this kind, but I want seriously to put to him that he should apply himself with all his energy, both mental and physical, to looking at what is being done elsewhere, getting a grip of it and applying it to the machinery of his own Department.

I go down the country occasionally and I have from time to time gone into what appeared to be an exchange controlling two or three counties. I have asked to send a telephone message or a telegram, and the girl goes over to a machine which is sending out messages to two or three counties and starts to twist a handle. One would think she would have twisted the county with which you wanted to get into contact out of existence altogether before you got through and you feel inclined to put your hands in your pockets and to walk out. What is the proposal in this Bill? It is one of the most ridiculous things that one could imagine and it is, as I say, one of the gravest votes of censure that could be passed on the Department. Since Great Britain had the vision to reduce the postal charges—and I suppose there were a lot of old fogies there who were so cob-webbed that they thought the Post Office was going to lose and the general tax payer was going to be saddled with a huge but den as a result of the reduced charges —I have pleaded for a reduction of postal charges. What has been the result? The result is what anybody with any business vision could have foreseen—a stupendous success in the way of increased revenue together with a reduction in the cost of the service. In fact the service simply amazed everybody.

But while the whole world has been moving towards rapidity in transport the Post Office here has been sitting on the fence suffering from fear and terror at the suggestion of reducing the twopenny postage to a three halfpenny postage. I quite admit that the Minister is very new in his office but I can tell him that if he spends twenty years there and continues this tortoise policy as it is at present, the result will be that, as the years go by, while he pursues that policy the Post Office will go on increasing in inefficiency, until not only will the twopence postage remain on but that twopence will be increased to threepence. This is an age of revolution and the tendency should be forward and not backward. Instead of showing the House and the country something in the way of progress, we have to-day before us this tattered miserable Bill. In so far as the Bill relates to England I would not mind saying much, but the damaging thing about it is that the Bill applies to a portion of our own country, the portion that is partitioned from us.

What is happening at the moment in this country? I know, so far as my constituency is concerned, that small packages of letters are taken across the Border daily and posted there. We have Deputy Moore here wrapped in wool telling us that it is unpatriotic to post letters across the Border. I tell the Deputy that this is a purely business matter. The man who does not run his business efficiently is bound to go down. Is the Post Office going to adopt inefficiency as its policy? I do not want to be unduly severe on the Minister who has newly taken up charge of this Department. But I wish to put this case to him as cogently as I can. Why is it that people get their letters posted in the Six Counties? Simply because the letter will go on a 1½d. stamp in the Six Counties while the Government here persists in charging 2d. Surely to goodness the charges already imposed upon commercial people in this country are quite heavy enough without having this additional imposition in the way of postage. Why should there be this smuggling of letters across the Border? Why are people making these desperate attempts and risking embroiling themselves in serious consequences? The difference in the cost of the postage is what is involved here. I submit there should be no difference in cost of postage between our Government and the Government of the Six Counties.

In the last two years when this Vote was before the House, I appealed to the Minister to reduce postage and telegraphic costs. Those responsible for the Post Office financing shake their heads and say: "Oh, not at all; we would be ruined by this enormous loss in the revenue to the Post Office." But we have tried that policy long enough already and we have the fruits of it to-day in this Bill. Why not try the other thing now? I am prepared to stake my reputation that the reduction of postage charges would result in more prosperity to the Post Office. We know very well that the heavy charge of 1/6, which is the minimum charge for a telegram, is killing the telegraphic service in this State. People look a considerable time at 1/6 before they are prepared to part with it in the sending of a telegram, whereas if the charge had been the same as in England considerably more use would be made of the telegraph service. More particularly is this the case at the other side of the Border, where they can send a telegram for 6d.

This Bill is not going to get us anywhere. It is only going to fortify the Post Office more in its ineffciency. One of the direct results of the present Post Office policy is a restricted revenue and more inefficiency. The Department simply say when they see the revenue going down: "We will get the Minister to pass a Bill to protect us." The only policy that will really succeed is efficiency, the making of the Post Office as efficient as it is in the Six Counties.

Deputy Dillon referred already to the statistical tax. I think there is nothing more jarring to the feelings than this statistical tax. The fact is that on these parcels the postage rate has already been paid, and then the recipient is asked for 6d. additional. I am not now going to say anything about the institution of that tax. Nobody knows anything about the results of any experiment until the experiment has been tried. This tax was an experiment, but I say now that from the point of view of efficiency it was a failure, and its retention is a sign of incompetency. Its effects are the holding up of business and preventing people from ordering the things that they would otherwise order. There are certain things people have got to order, and I do not think that a Department of State should be entitled to come in and extract their pound of flesh because of the fact that people have to order these things by post.

I ask the Minister to accept this amendment. The very first thing we should be told on the Second Reading of this Bill is what the probable cost of reducing the postage rates and bringing them into line with Northern Ireland and Great Britain would be. That is really the issue involved. Instead of that, the Minister comes in here and simply tells us that Free State citizens post their letters outside this State. That is because there is a difference between the postal rates of the Six Counties Government and Great Britain and our postal rates, and some people are taking an advantage of the lower rates outside our State. But that is no reason and no justification at all. The obvious answer of business people and the public generally is, "Make the charge the same as in the Six Counties and in Great Britain." That is the obvious answer of the people to this Bill, and there is no use in trying to give them any other explanation.

As to the service given by our Post Office, one is presented with something that is very pathetic. When one goes down to rural Ireland and spends some time knocking around there, one sees, as Deputy Mulcahy has already described, in portion of the country marching and counter-marching. In parts of my constituency you have got the entire community on the road twice a week. A large proportion of these people are getting as unemployment assistance 12/6 a week. The weekly wage paid to the rural postmen in that area is 16/- a week. There are large numbers of men getting 12/6 for doing nothing. The poor postman is on the road every day in the week, for, though there is a reduced service in the country, the postman has different districts different days in the week. He has a different route each day. He has to walk miles across a wild moor in the wintry weather, and he is paid 16/-, while the man who does nothing draws 12/6 a week.

I presume the Deputy is referring to postmen?

Yes. Why not give some of those men who are drawing 12/6 a week unemployment money an additional 3/6 a week and restore the daily service of letters to the public? Is the suggestion that the cost would be too much? Surely, a man would be better employed at a few shillings a week extra in making the postal service more efficient than in drawing 12/6 a week and giving no return. If the State can afford to pay 12/6 to a man for doing nothing, it should be able to give more than 16/- to the man who is working every day. This Bill should not be passed by Deputies, irrespective of the side of the House they are on, until the request of Deputy Mulcahy is acceded to. The Minister should postpone the Second Reading until he can put before the House an estimate of what it would cost to bring the postal rates of the Saorstát into line with those of adjoining countries. I ask the Minister, in the interest of the prosperity of his own Department, and of its future development, to accept the amendment. That Department will finally be driven to do as requested. It will sink into greater inefficiency until, ultimately, somebody will come along, clear up the mess, and bring the postal business into line with similar business in other countries, as should have been done a couple of years ago.

I welcome the Bill introduced by the Minister. For many reasons I think that its introduction was too long delayed. The object of the Bill is to curb the activities of business people resident in the Saorstát who are quite content to be citizens of Saorstát Eireann and to live here, who are quite content to make profits out of other citizens of Saorstát Eireann but who want to transfer their postal custom to Great Britain. The aim of this Bill is to deal with that. But for those business people who prefer to post their packets in Great Britain because they can get the benefit of a cheaper postal rate, there would be no necessity for this Bill. If you allow people to travel to where the cost of the commodity or service they require is cheapest, it will be but a short step from that to saying that they are entitled to go anywhere they like and to get any kind of service or any kind of labour they like just because it is cheaper than here. The philosophy of the persons with whom this Bill is intended to deal is the philosophy of people who want to get goods cheaply and who are not concerned with either the morality or propriety of their own action in getting them. I am glad that the Minister is taking steps to secure that people who are resident in Saorstát Eireann, who make their profits in Saorstát Eireann, who get the protection of the State in Saorstát Eireann will be compelled to do their postal business in Saorstát Eireann.

My complaint is that this Bill does not go sufficiently far to protect the Post Office monopoly in regard to the transport of letters. There is a firm in Dublin known as Messenger Services, and I understand that it is possible for a firm to contract with that private company to have letters delivered to addresses in the city. That, in my opinion, is an invasion of the Post Office monopoly. On technical grounds, they may be able to escape the legal consequences which would follow an infringement of the Post Office letter monopoly, but there is no doubt whatever that the carrying on of that particular service is a very definite infringement of the Post Office monopoly—the right of the Post Office to have exclusive power to control the collection and delivery of letters. I wonder whether Deputy McMenamin stands for the continuance of that kind of service because, as everybody who is familiar with its activities knows, it is operated by a number of small, uniformed boys whom we see in residential districts in Dublin delivering letters which, in the ordinary way, ought to be handled by the Post Office. These boys are aged from 14 to 16 years and their rates of wages compare most unfavourably with the rates of wages paid for similar work carried on by the Post Office.

Even by auxiliary postmen?

Even by auxiliary postmen. I venture to say that some of these boys cannot be paid more than a couple of pence an hour. It is possible for a firm of that kind, just as it would be possible for the Post Office, to provide cheap delivery rates for particular kinds of zone traffic. In the case of the company to which I refer, it simply collects the remunerative section of advertising traffic. It will deliver letters in Dublin over particular routes because there will be a considerable number of letters for a particular route, but if you offer that firm the delivery of letters in a rural area to isolated addresses, you will find that they will not take that kind of business at Post Office rates. The kind of business they will take at rates equal to or less than Post Office rates is the remunerative kind of traffic. The unremunerative traffic is left for the Post Office. A private firm, acting purely in the interests of its own profits, is being allowed to invade a State monopoly and to get behind the right of the Post Office to have absolute control of the collection and delivery of letters. The Post Office should, in my opinion, insist on its right to handle that kind of traffic. The State should conserve for the Post Office—a State institution—the right to deal with traffic of that kind.

Deputy Mulcahy's amendment is interesting in more ways than one. Deputy Moore put his finger on the origin of the amendment when he said that the Deputy wants to deal with matters out of which he can make a good deal of political capital in anticipation of the forthcoming general election. There seems to be no limit to Deputy Mulcahy's artfulness and, similarly, no limit to his inconsistency. To-morrow certain organs of the Press, who charge 100 per cent. more to-day for their newspapers than they did before the war, will applaud Deputy Mulcahy's efforts to get them cheaper postal rates. That will be so while they continue to collect 100 per cent. more on their newspapers than they did before the war and while their advertising rates have also gone up considerably as compared with the prewar rates. Deputy Mulcahy imagines that certain unthinking sections of the community will take him to their bosom as one of the pioneers in advocating a reduction of postal rates. If Deputy Mulcahy were here now, I should like to put him a few questions. If Deputy Mulcahy were urging this reform as an ordinary Deputy who had never acted as Minister, one could understand his action. If Deputy Good were to table this amendment in favour of cheaper postal rates, one could understand his action. There would be no inconsistency in Deputy Good demanding cheaper postal rates now, because he has always done so. But he has never had an opportunity as Minister of advocating that course within the Cabinet. On the other hand, Deputy Mulcahy was a Minister for the best part of ten years. The Government of which he was a member was in office for that period, and it maintained postage rates at the present rate for letters and the present rates for paper matter over that period of ten years. So that when he had an opportunity of reducing postage rates, an opportunity extending over a period of ten years, Deputy Mulcahy, as a member of the Government in office in that period, stood for the higher postage rates which obtained from 1922 to 1932.

I would remind Deputies that we are told nowadays that the years from 1922 to 1932 were the years when the State was most prosperous, when the Exchequer was in a good healthy condition, when the Budgets were balanced each year, and when there was none of this kind of governmental extravagance going on that is now alleged by the Fine Gael Party. Yet, with all the State prosperity which is supposed to have abounded between 1922 and 1932, the Government of which Deputy Mulcahy was a member was not able to do in respect of postal charges what the Deputy now wants done.

Deputy McMenamin may not be as inconsistent as Deputy Mulcahy, but I think he is more thoughtless. He is supporting the amendment moved by Deputy Mulcahy, and in the course of his speech talked of the horrible crime of increasing the charge for telegrams from a minimum of 1/- to a minimum of 1/6, while sitting under him, when saying that, was Deputy Mulcahy, the mover of the amendment that we are discussing, whose Government was responsible for increasing telegraph charges from 1/- to 1/6 per message. The increase in telegraph charges was imposed by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government. I think it was a shortsighted and a foolish step, a step which ought not to have been taken at that time. I think that the problem in respect of the telegraph services at that time could probably have been dealt with much more effectively by a widespread publicity campaign designed to popularise the telegraph services than by increasing the minimum charge from 1/- to 1/6. I think that an experiment in that direction is something which ought not be ruled out of consideration at the present time. The fact remains that it was the Government of which Deputy Mulcahy was a member that increased telegraph charges from 1/- to 1/6.

Was it a success?

It was a success in this way that it helped to stifle postal traffic and to reduce the deficit on the telegraph side. It also reduced telegraph traffic. That was due to the high charges. Another contributory factor which has retarded the development of the telegraph service has been the widespread development of the telephone service. Deputy Mulcahy wants an inquiry with a view to reducing postage rates on letters, on printed matter and on parcels. He also wants a daily delivery of letters provided. I think that a daily delivery ought to be provided in every area. I think that every member of the community is entitled to get from the State the same kind of State facilities. If a man happens to be living in an area which is not thickly populated, that is no reason why he ought to have lesser postal services than the person living in a more thickly populated area. I think the Minister ought to look into the matter of providing a daily service, but that is not a reason for holding up a Bill of this kind. Here, again, I think Deputy Mulcahy betrays an amazing inconsistency. Up to 1923 there was no such thing in this country as a delivery of letters of less than daily frequency, but in 1923 the Cumann na nGaedheal Minister for Posts and Telegraphs dismissed 500 part-time postmen. They were dismissed by reason of the fact that the Cumann na nGaedheal Minister for Posts and Telegraphs introduced a three day a week delivery service for the six day a week delivery service previously provided. Deputy Morrissey could have told Deputy Mulcahy of the intentions of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party in 1929 when Mr. Heffernan was the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. Though Deputy Mulcahy now wants a daily service, at that time the Cumann na nGaedheal Party proposed to still further curtail the services in the rural areas, and proposed to dismiss 700 auxiliary postmen by reducing the frequency of the service. In 1937 Deputy Mulcahy, whose Government was the author of that proposal, wants a daily delivery provided. If anything is more inconsistent than that, then I do not know what inconsistency really is. The whole question of a reduction of postal charges, and the consequent effect of such a reduction, is something that requires very careful consideration. Deputy McMenamin, like Young Lochinvar, jumps in and wants the Minister to take a bold step. The Deputy is prepared to stake his reputation on the fact that if postal charges are reduced in existing circumstances the revenue of the Post Office will benefit.

I am prepared to back that course against increasing the charges.

The Deputy can have that bet if he likes, but I want to warn him against making extravagant bets in this connection.

I am not betting.

The Deputy said that if postal charges were reduced Post Office traffic would increase, that the financial position would improve considerably, and the Minister would not have to contemplate the doleful kind of financial development which the Deputy forecasts for him in connection with the present Bill. In other countries, where a reduction in postal charges has taken place, there has undoubtedly been an increase in traffic, some of it a normal increase, some of it due to a reduction of postal rates, but the outstanding fact is that in all those instances there has been a loss to the Post Office by reason of the reduction that has taken place in postal charges. Take the case of Britain. Britain is a bigger country than ours. Taking it on a unit basis, the letter-writing community there is much greater than ours. Notwithstanding all that, the British example typifies what has happened in other countries, and particularly in every English-speaking country. In 1935 the British Government reduced its charges on parcels. As a result of that reduction the parcel traffic increased by 11 per cent., but the parcel revenue decreased by 5 per cent. The increase of 11 per cent. in parcel traffic is not compensated for by reason of the reduction of 5 per cent. in parcel revenue. The percentage increase in parcel traffic would have to be much higher in order to compensate for a reduction of 5 per cent. in parcel revenue. The British Postmaster-General admitted that the entire increase of 11 per cent. in parcel traffic was in no sense due to the fact that parcel charges had been reduced. He indicated, in fact, in the British House of Commons that a substantial portion of the increase in parcel traffic was part of the normal growth in parcel traffic which had been taking place before the reduction was made, and which continued after the reduction, so that the net increase in parcel traffic in Great Britain, as a result of the reduction in parcel rates, did not compensate for the loss to the Post Office occasioned by the reduction in charges. There, you have got to remember that you have a much more concentrated parcel post delivery than you can possibly have in the circumstances existing in this country.

In 1922, the British Government reduced the charges for letters from 2d. to 1½d., and for postcards, from 1½d. to 1d.—just the kind of thing that Deputy McMenamin and Deputy Mulcahy want to do now in a relative sense. Deputy McMenamin has staked his whole reputation on the fact that a step of that kind will bring a greater surplus to the Post Office and that it will result in a deficit—although there is no deficit now—being turned into a substantial surplus. If that is likely to happen here, I suggest to Deputy McMenamin that something comparable was also likely to happen in Britain when the same step was taken there. Here, however, are the facts, as they developed in Britain, following that reduction. Postal revenue—that is, purely postal revenue —of the British Post Office, from the 1st June, 1921, to the 31st March, 1922, amounted to £32,700,000. From the 1st June, 1922, to the 31st March, 1923—the same period, but in the fol lowing year—the British postal revenue was £27,700,000. So that the reduction of postal charges by the British Administration in 1922 showed itself in revenue figures by a loss of £5,000,000 on the postal side alone. Deputy McMenamin may still be willing to have a bet, with his reputation at stake, but I suggest that he ought to be less heroic in having bets, in view of the facts—the incontrovertible facts—as revealed by the British experiments; and these experiments in Britain typify what happened in other countries.

What about the state of freight in those years?

I do not see how that affects the case.

The Deputy must relate one to the other.

But Deputy McMenamin himself did not do that. If he had, I could have followed him. Perhaps Deputy McMenamin may like to have another kind of bet, namely, that a great increase in traffic would result from a reduction in charges. Let us see what the British found in that respect—and we can examine the British experiment without any political animus at all, because this is purely a business and mathematical transaction. Speaking in the British House of Commons on the 4th March, 1929, Sir William Mitchell-Thomson, the British Postmaster-General, said:

"It was expected then that the increase in traffic——"

That is, following the 1922 reduction.

"——would be 10 per cent. in the case of letters and 20 per cent. in the case of postcards. The actual realised increase in the case of letters was 5½ per cent. instead of 10 per cent., and the increase in postcards was 4½ per cent. instead of 20 per cent. It must further be realised that from this increase we have to deduct the normal yearly growth which one would expect to take place, in any case, in postal traffic, and that would be something like 2 per cent. Therefore, the net growth induced by the reduction made in 1922 was about 3½ per cent. in the case of letters and 2½ per cent. in the case of postcards."

So that any prophecy that a reduction in postal charges is going to result in a very substantial increase in postings is not justified by the results of experiments which have already been carried out in that respect.

Why has the Deputy to go back 15 years?

There has been no reduction in postal charges since 1922 in Britain, in the case of letters. I cannot quote any later example.

From 1922 to 1936?

Is the Deputy having a bet on it that there was?

What about the returns?

But they can only be made following the result of that experiment. There has been no reduction since 1922,

That is 16 years ago. Will the Deputy give us the result of the reductions in rates, and how the community have reacted to it? That is what I want to know.

Yes, I shall, now that the Deputy has asked for it. I can tell him that it is estimated by the British Post Office to-day that, even allowing for an increase in traffic—for a normal increase in letter traffic—and even allowing for an artificial increase by reason of a reduction of one halfpenny in the letter rate, as the British Postmaster-General said, in the British House of Commons twelve months ago, the immediate loss to revenue on existing inland letters under present conditions, based on a reduction of the letter postage by one halfpenny, would be £7,100,000. That is the estimate of the loss to revenue as a result of the introduction of cheaper postage rates in Britain. It may be, of course, that Deputy McMenamin's statistics are much more reliable than those produced by the British Administration. It may be, of course, that the Deputy's gallantry, if put into operation, would produce results very much better than those produced in Great Britain; but the fact remains that here are cold statistics produced after the British experiments had been tried, and these cold statistics utterly controvert the prophecies of Deputy McMenamin here to-day.

Not in the least. Would the Deputy give the figures of the returns to the Post Office for 1935 and for the first year of the reduction in 1922.

Deputy McMenamin, of course, is trying to compare things that are not comparable.

Not comparable to the Deputy.

Well, to any sensible person. I will let the Deputy nominate anybody, and outside the House he can discuss with him the points he is raising. I say that I defy the Deputy to produce any evidence to the contrary—if he does produce it, I will apologise to him in the House—that the British surplus would be very much higher than it is, on the Post Office and on the postal side of the Post Office, if the postage rates had been allowed to remain at their former level; every British Postmaster-General, to whom Deputy McMenamin cares to write, will prove that statement to him and confirm that statement to him. I think, therefore, Sir, that if Deputy Mulcahy's amendment is one designed to increase traffic, while a reduction in postal charges may result in an increase in traffic, it is also going to result in a considerable deficit on the working of the Post Office, and that means that the existing surplus of around about £200,000 is going to be given away to the users of the Post Office in the form of a reduction of postal charges. If the Minister has that sum of money to spare, I suggest to him that there is a section of the community in need of it—much more so than some of the users of the Post Office. Many of the firms that would benefit by a reduction in postal charges are paying dividends to-day of from five to eight and even ten per cent. Some of the new industries that have been established are paying dividends of 15 per cent. Are these the people who are to get the reduction of postal charges? Are these the people who are to be objects of our sympathy, and are these the people to whom the surplus in the Post Office is to be distributed? If the Minister has any surplus to distribute in the Post Office, I suggest that he ought to distribute it amongst the people who have made that surplus possible and that he ought definitely to remove from the Post Office the stigma that it employs thousands of people at rates of wages which are utterly unable to maintain them in anything like a civilised or Christian standard of existence. If there is any surplus available then the claims of those people who make the surplus possible should be considered by the Minister. So long as these people are compelled to work at low rates of wages, so long as over 3,000 of them are at present condemned to part-time employment and so long as hundreds of them can only secure employment on three or four days a week, I think the Minister should utilise any surplus he may have in providing for the needs of these people rather than distributing it amongst people in industry who, according to the latest commercial returns, can make profits which indicate that they should not be objects of commiseration in this House.

It seems to me that Deputy Norton's sole objection to this amendment is that it has been moved by Deputy Mulcahy.

I would vote against it even if it were moved by the Deputy.

Then the Deputy would be in some difficulty in voting against it, because the tenor of his whole speech against the amendment was that it had been moved by Deputy Mulcahy and that it should not have been moved by Deputy Mulcahy, because Deputy Mulcahy was a member of the Government that did so and so. The Deputy talked about 1923 and made certain comparisons. Will the Deputy suggest that the conditions of 1923 are comparable to the conditions now? The Deputy ignores some very obvious facts.

Does the Deputy stand by what was done then?

I do not, but I am not going to run away from certain things that happened. The Deputy is not going to get over them by trying to ignore them. I want to say quite frankly that in the sentiments expressed in the concluding part of Deputy Norton's speech I only differ from him very slightly. He said that the surplus should be utilised to pay a decent wage to people employed in the postal services. I want to put it to the Deputy that the employees of that or any other service ought to be paid a decent wage whether the service has a surplus or not. The wage should not depend on whether the Post Office is being run at a profit. This amendment simply asks that the Department of Posts and Telegraphs should inquire into the whole matter and report to this House as to whether the matters set out here would result in increases or reductions. It goes on to suggest also that they should inquire about restoring the daily delivery service in this country. Is there anything wrong in asking that they should do that? We ought to look at this matter from our own standpoint. We cannot blindly follow the lead of Great Britain because, as Deputy Norton pointed out whenever it suited his own particular arguments, conditions there are not comparable. We ought to try to satisfy ourselves, through an examination by our own experts, whether a reduction in postal rates would lead to a reduction in revenue and would again get us into the position when the Post Office would be run at a serious loss.

I notice that the Deputy in the course of his speech did not advert to the point raised by Deputy Brennan that, I think in Section 2 of the Bill, firms which had their headquarters in Great Britain, with certain branch establishments recently established in this country were being put in a privileged position as against purely Irish firms.

That is a Committee Stage point.

The Deputy made a great many Committee points himself, if I may say so. The Deputy did not deal with the principle of the Bill at all. It seems to me that an attempt has been made to envelop this amendment in a smoke screen. I do not want to get into any of my colleague's mixed metaphors about wool and barnacles, but Deputy Norton has tried to get the House to believe that there is a great deal more in the amendment than appears on the surface. I suggest to the Deputy that he would have enlightened the House a great deal more if he had first read the amendment with proper emphasis. I suggest that there is no person in this House who should be more in favour of the amendment than Deputy Norton himself or who should be so ready to vote for it.

I do not want to say very much on this Bill, except that I am more or less opposed to legislation of a piecemeal nature. It is a well-known fact that this practice of introducing amending Bills is rather confusing for the general public. A person who wants to know where he stands in connection with a particular Act has to go back for years to look over various other Acts in order to get an idea of what is contained in these Acts. I think it has been advocated, not alone in this country but in other countries, that Governments should, if at all possible, bring legislation of this kind up to date. I think that, instead of introducing this Bill, the Government should bring in a comprehensive measure dealing with the work of the Post Office in general. That is all I desire to say on that point. I could say a good deal about the way in which the Post Office is carried on, especially with regard to the workers. I pricked my ears more or less when I heard Deputy Norton objecting to this amendment. Like Deputy Morrissey, I was of opinion that the leader of the Labour Party would welcome this amendment, and, also like Deputy Morrissey, I came to the conclusion before Deputy Norton was very long speaking that it was a question of sour grapes. He is opposed to the amendment because it is introduced by Deputy Mulcahy. To use the Deputy's own words, he thinks that, with the near approach of the general election, Deputy Mulcahy might get some kudos out of the amendment. In other words, he thinks that there is nobody entitled to speak on behalf of the workingman except Deputy Norton and the six members of his Party.

I think I have stated here previously that I have been a trade unionist and a workingman, and that, as such, I am as much entitled to speak on behalf of the workingman as Deputy Norton. I would advise Deputy Norton, in dealing with an amendment of this nature, to get rid of that narrow-minded spirit that seems to prevail in his Party, to view things in a straightforward way for what they are worth, to get away from the spirit of jealousy, and not to allow his conscience to be warped because an amendment like this happens to be introduced by a particular member of any Party. I have not the means at my disposal to go into the facts and figures connected with the financial position of the Post Office. Neither have I burned any midnight oil in preparing my case, nor have I, what is better still, any paid officials to supply it to me. I generally use my commonsense in these matters. I was surprised to hear Deputy Norton state that the mere fact of the postal rates being reduced in Great Britain reduced the revenue. In other words, Deputy Norton judges the work of the Post Office in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. He has made no allowance for the benefits conferred on the general public as a result of the reduction of the postal rates in Great Britain. What about the workingman, of whom we hear so much from the leader of the Labour Party, the man who has not the 2d. to send a letter to his friend, but who, possibly, has a penny? Is the reduction of the postal rate in England not a benefit to the thousands of poor working men there? Would the reduction from 2d. to 1d. not be an advantage to thousands of poor people in this country, including the agricultural labourers with their miserable wages? Would it not be an advantage to such a man to send a letter to his friend in England or America at the reduced rate?

I have heard Deputy Norton say here that State institutions should not be run for profit, but in the interests of the general public. Yet, the tone of his speech is that he deplores the fact that the postal rates were lowered in England, and, as a result, the revenue was lowered pro rata. If Deputy Norton's speech conveys anything, it conveys the impression that the postal rates should not be lowered under any consideration.

Perhaps the Minister could give the House some idea of the loss involved through the policy pursued by certain firms in this country who have branches in England, of addressing their letters from Great Britain, thereby taking advantage of the cheaper postal rate. I should like to know what the loss really is. I would remind Deputy Norton, and members of the Fianna Fáil Party also, that they are out day and night inviting people from Great Britain and other countries to start industries here. Those Deputies cannot have it both ways. Deputy Norton was glad to invite certain people to Kildare in order to start up industries there. He did not care whether they came from Hong Kong or any other part of China. I am tired of all this talk about national industry, patriotism and nationality. It is all a question of £ s. d.—the whole thing. Deputy Norton would not object to any of these firms coming to Kildare to start industries, and he would not object if they sent every letter from Great Britain.

That is untrue.

I am saying it here in public.

And it is still untrue.

I want to do away with all this hypocrisy that we observe in this House from time to time on the part of men such as Deputy Norton who come here pretending to speak on behalf of the workingman and yet, when there is an amendment introduced, drawing the Government's attention to a matter which affects the interests of the people, the workers more than anybody else, Deputy Norton throws cold water on it.

My chief objection is to this question of piecemeal legislation. I think this subject is sufficiently important to engage the attention of the Government and to encourage them to go into the whole question and bring in one big, comprehensive measure dealing with the business of the Post Office and particularly the position of the workers. You cannot measure this service in terms of pounds, shillings and pence.

There is no use in quoting figures issued by the British Postmaster-General. I thought that when we would have our own Government we would hear no more about how the business is being conducted in a foreign parliament. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and the leader of the Labour Party should welcome this amendment and take it for what it is worth. It was put down in a genuine manner, not, as Deputy Norton suggests, to get votes at the coming general election. If there are any Parties against whom that taunt can be flung they are the Fianna Fáil and Labour Parties. I think the members of the Fianna Fáil Party will admit that they are adopts at securing votes and putting up arguments and reasons why people should vote for them.

This amendment is quite reasonable and it should commend itself to the Government. It is submitted in a reasonable manner and not with any ulterior motive. I am going to treat the thing on its merits, and I think the Government would do well to accept the amendment, then go into the whole question and introduce a comprehensive measure which will meet with the approval of the House.

I am not accepting this amendment. While I believe it comes within the rules of procedure of the House, I doubt very much if it is really relevant to the Bill we are discussing. I think its subject-matter would more properly come up for debate, and will, I have no doubt, on the Estimates.

Would it be in order?

Quite in order.

I am not going to go into the motives which induced Deputy Mulcahy to put down this amendment, but I am inclined to subscribe to the idea that he wanted to say something that might bring him a little kudos. I suppose I cannot deny him that, if he desires to do it.

Any more than I can prevent the Minister talking like that instead of dealing with the case.

I want to assure Deputy Mulcahy that there is a regular review of the situation in respect to these rural postal deliveries. Hardly a day goes by, certainly never a week, when the question of the restoration of some of the rural postal deliveries is not carefully examined with a view, wherever it is humanly possible, to restore those particular deliveries. It should be remembered that the Post Office is a business concern and, that being so, one must deal with it from the point of view of pounds, shillings and pence.

There were certain statements made by Deputy Dockrell and, I think Deputy Alton, in respect to a fear which they had as to the possibility of the secrecy of the post being invaded. There is no question of the secrecy of the post being invaded any more than it was ever invaded. I want to make it clear to the members of this House that the Post Office has no power whatsoever to open letters. If the necessity ever arose for opening a letter, the Post Office would have to go to the Minister for Justice and secure a warrant before they could interfere with any closed packet. Of course the printed matter to which this Bill mostly refers, being in open envelopes, can be inspected to see if there is an evasion of this particular Bill. That, I take it, will be operated, but in no case will there be a question of anything being done that has not been done since this State was established.

Deputy McMenamin talked about the necessity for a revolution in the Post Office in order to secure efficiency. I think Deputy McMenamin was talking without knowledge of certain facts. If we were to produce a huge deficit on the Post Office I know the Deputy would be one of the first to endeavour to start a revolution in this House in view of the fact that we were responsible for the deficit. Because of the Deputy's statement as to the inefficiency of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs I want to give a few figures which will show that the Department is an efficient business concern run by efficient officers. In the year 1922-23 there was a deficit in the Post Office of £1,108,260; in 1923-24 that was reduced to £773,749; in 1924-25 it was still further reduced to £471,974; in 1925-26 it was brought down to £413,967; in 1926-27 to £379,756; in 1927-28 to £262,774; in 1928-29 to £191,357; in 1929-30 to £162,678; in 1930-31 to £45,107. Then for the first year a profit was shown. In 1931-32 there was a profit of £66,947; in 1932-33 a profit of £17,357; in 1933-34 a profit of £35,707; in 1934-35 a profit of £206,860; in 1935-36 a profit of £317,812. That does not point to the necessity for a revolution, as the Deputy suggested. It shows a continual improvement. If I so desired, I could make a much more useful propaganda speech on these figures than Deputy Mulcahy made on his amendment, but there is a proper place for carrying on that type of propaganda, and I suggest it is not this House. When the occasion arises for making use of these figures, I hope to do it with some effect on the hustings.

In regard to Deputy Norton's reference to the messenger service, all I can say is that I will have the matter examined to see what is the actual position. Most of the other queries which were mentioned I do not think require any very definite answer, but in order to make the matter clear I will just say this: as has already been explained, the Bill has been introduced to enable this Administration, in common with other countries, to give effect to the procedure prescribed at the International Postal Convention. Even if the letter and printed paper post rates here were reduced to the British level, the powers which the Bill secures for the Department would still be necessary to prevent evasion arising from posting in countries other than Great Britain or Northern Ireland. Furthermore, assuming that the Saorstát rates were now brought to the British level if, later on, the British Administration reduced its rates, is it contended that the Saorstát Post Office should again similarly reduce its rates or be faced with the abuse with which the Bill is intended to deal?

I may mention that reduction of the letter post rate to the British level would involve an immediate loss in revenue of £267,000, approximately, per annum, while a reduction of the printed paper rate would lead to a further loss of over £7,000 per annum. The internal Saorstát parcel post rates were reduced last year and are now practically the same as the British rates. The suggested reduction of the letter and printed paper rates would actually involve a total loss of revenue which would exceed the anticipated profit of the Department for the current year, viz., £200,000, and would put the Department back on a nonpaying basis.

As regards the question of a probable increase of business arising from the application of lower postage rates, the experience of the Department is that any such reduction leads only to a negligible increase in traffic. The Saorstát postcard rate was reduced in 1925, but there was no pronounced increase in traffic in consequence. Following upon the reduction last year of the Saorstát internal parcel post rates there is, so far, no noticeable traffic increase.

While I do not see any connection between the subject of the Bill and the question of the frequency of delivery, I should point out that, commencing in 1923 for purposes of economy, frequency of delivery on some 1,300 rural posts was reduced, and the services of 491 part-time employees were dispensed with. The restoration of these deliveries would, it is estimated, cost £36,000 per annum, while to afford delivery each weekday on all rural posts throughout the country would cost at least £50,000. I may add that the Department frequently reviews rural posts to see if an increase of frequency would be justified.

The Minister introduced the Bill because of an alleged evasion of postage, thereby hitting the Administration. I should like to ask him what is the estimate of the loss that has been occasioned in the past.

As I said in my opening statement, the question of the amount involved is not the principal reason why we had to introduce the measure. The principal reason is the fact that there are concerns evading the postage rates here while decent firms are paying the rates due to this country. It is in order to stop that and to bring these people down to the same level as the decent houses that we are introducing this. I cannot say what the actual loss is, but, as I say, it is the question of principle that is involved and not the question of loss.

Are we to understand that the efficient Department that has done all this very great business——

Do you deny that they have?

I do not deny for a moment that the Post Office, with the resources at its disposal, is a very efficient body, and I know a good lot about it, because I ought to.

I think so.

You should have heard Deputy McMenamin. You would be ashamed to have worked there.

I often worked there under conditions of which I was a bit ashamed, but I will not say anything about that now. The remarks of the Minister dealing with the finances of the Post Office show that there is very considerable and very efficient machinery for dealing with financial matters. Do I understand that no part of that machinery has been addressed to the question of estimating the loss arising out of evasion, or what it is likely to be?

I take it that it would be pretty difficult to find that out. It is possible that within the Department there is some estimated figure, but at this stage I cannot give it. Probably I would be able to give it if the Deputy repeats the question when the Bill is next before the House. It would be difficult to give an accurate estimate, because of the fact that these things have been going through, and as there was no machinery to stop them no cognisance of the amount going through was taken.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 57; Níl, 42.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Bourke, Daniel.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Cooney, Eamonn.
  • Corbett, Edmond.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Corkery, Daniel.
  • Corry, Martin John.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Doherty, Hugh.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Jordan, Stephen.
  • Keely, Séamus P.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Neilan, Martin.
  • Norton, William.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Dowd, Patrick.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick Joseph.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Francis C.


  • Alton, Ernest Henry.
  • Anthony, Richard.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Bourke, Séamus.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Broderick, William Joseph.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • Davis, Michael.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • McGuire, James Ivan.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Minch, Sydney B.
  • Morrisroe, James.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, James Edward.
  • Dolan, James Nicholas.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Finlay, John.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Good, John.
  • Holohan, Richard.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • MacDermot, Frank.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Mahony, The.
  • O'Sullivan, Gearóid.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Reidy, James.
  • Rice, Vincent.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Rogers, Patrick James.
  • Rowlette, Robert James.
  • Wall, Nicholas.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Little and Smith; Níl: Deputies Doyle and Bennett
Question declared carried.
Main Question—"That the Bill be now read a Second Time—" put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 24th February.