Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £1,395,885 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, 1938, 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. 26; na hAchtanna Telegrafa, 1863 go 1928, etc.); agus Seirbhísí áirithe eile atá fé riaradh na hOifige sin.
That a sum not exceeding £1,395,885 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, 1938, 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. 26; the Telegraph Acts, 1863 to 1928, etc.); and of certain other Services administered by that Office.
The total Post Office expenditure estimated for the year 1937-38 is £2,165,335, being a net increase, including bonus, of £118,697 on the Estimate for last year. The higher figure is due to increased allowances by way of cost-of-living bonus, to incremental additions and staff changes, civil aviation and meteorological wireless services, etc., amounting in all to about £133,000 but the increases are off-set to the extent of £15,000 by certain items under other sub-heads of the Vote. The financial position of the Department is ascertained from the commercial accounts which are prepared annually and the latest such accounts available (which are subject to audit) are those for 1935-36. They show as follows:—
Postal services.—Income, £1,655,664; expenditure, £1,347,771; surplus, £307,893.
Telegraph services. — Income, £180,136; expenditure, £275,919; deficit, £95,783.
Telephone services.— Income, £491,682; expenditure, £385,980; surplus, £105,702. It will be seen that on the postal and telephone services there was a surplus of £413,595 against a deficit of £95,783 in the telegraph services leaving a profit of £317,612 on the combined services as compared with £206,860 in the previous year.
The gradual replacement of horsed vehicles by motor transport for mail services by road continued during the year. There are now 160 motor and 37 horsed services. Of the motor services 37 are staffed and equipped by the Department. The ports of Cobh, Galway and Dublin are utilised to the greatest practicable extent for the exchange of mails between the Saorstát and America. Some 17,200 bags were despatched through these ports, and 29,000 bags were received during the past year. The frequency of utilisation and the volume of mails despatched depend naturally on the incidence of the sailings. Correspondence forwarded for conveyance by the international air services approximated in numbers to that despatched last year, that is, 82,000 packets. Of this traffic 42½ per cent. was carried by the London-India-Australia service, and over 33 per cent. by the London-Capetown service.
Consideration is being given to the question of using the Cross-Channel air service for the exchange of correspondence where such a course would lead to acceleration. The ordinary mail matter handled by the Department continues its upward trend and the number of items dealt with in the year show an increase of 20,000,000.
Inland sample post within An Saorstát which was introduced on 12th November, 1934, is being availed of to a still greater extent by Dublin manufacturers, etc. According to a recent return the number of sample packets posted in Dublin is approximately 3,500 a week—an increase of 1,000 a week as compared with a year ago. So far the posting of sample packets in the provinces is light.
The inland cash-on-delivery service showed a slight decrease in volume during 1936. The number of parcels posted was 15,537 on which trade charges amounting to £16,240 were collected. For the previous year the corresponding figures were 16,883 and trade charges amounting to £17,635. Express delivery services are being well patronised particularly the telephonic express service. Prior to 1st July, 1936, the fees for express delivery in An Saorstát were 6d. a mile or part of a mile from the office of delivery to the address and they were then reduced to 6d. for the first mile and 3d. for every mile or part thereof beyond the first mile.
The Post Office factory is mainly engaged in repair work and it is not the policy of the management to undertake the manufacture of articles that can be produced by the home manufacturer at a reasonable cost. This necessarily confines the manufacturing operations of the factory mainly to the production of special articles for the Post Office service and to a lesser extent for other Government Departments. The factory is responsible for the maintenance and repair of Post Office mechanical transport and the fleet consists of 91 vans and trucks and 75 motor cycles and combinations. The van and cycle combination bodies built by Saorstát manufacturers are proving satisfactory in service.
The engineering branch which is responsible for the construction and maintenance of the telephone and telegraph plant was subjected to special strain during the past year on account of the extensive damage done to the lines by successive storms. The blizzard of the 11th of March this year which caused extensive damage in the Dublin, Naas and Mullingar areas was followed by the most inclement weather but despite this, service was practically normal by the 16th of March.
Telegraphs are still losing to the telephone and the past year has seen considerable developments in the telephone service both in the way of reductions of charges and extension of facilities. The reductions of rentals have resulted in an appreciable increase in the number of subscribers, particularly in rural areas. The total number of subscribers at the end of 1936 was 22,844 and the total number of telephone instruments connected to the public exchange service was 37,712. These figures show increases of 1,214 subscribers and 1,892 telephone stations over the previous year. There are now 779 exchanges, 1,357 public call offices and 99 telephone kiosks. The reductions in call charges have resulted in a considerable increase of traffic. Local calls have increased by nearly 1,250,000 and trunk calls by nearly 280,000. The "personal" trunk call facility continues to be appreciated and the number of such calls in 1936 was over 44,000 Last year's works programme provided for a large number of new trunk circuits; for the installation of an automatic exchange in Crown Alley, Dublin, to which subscribers are at present being transferred; for extensions and improvements in various exchanges throughout the country; as well as for heavy expenditure on subscribers' circuits particularly in rural areas.
This year's programme provides for a new direct cross-Channel cable which it is expected will be in service some time in the autumn. It also provides for conversion of the Clontarf Exchange to automatic working, and for the closing of the Drumcondra Manual Exchange, and the connection of the subscribers to Crown Alley Automatic Exchange. Provision is also made for the commencement of work on a big scheme for the conversion of the whole of the Dún Laoghaire area to automatic working. A new automatic exchange is also proposed for Cork. This exchange will be located in the head post office. It will not be ready until well into the next financial year. Development of the telephone system will involve increasing costs, but with the greater facilities afforded to the public and the reasonable charges operative, it is expected that revenue will continue to rise and that the favourable financial position of the service will be maintained in the future.
Arrangements were made by the Department for the exchange in each direction during the Christmas and New Year season 1935-36 of greetings telegrams at reduced rates between the Saorstát and extra-European countries. During that season 939 greetings telegrams were forwarded from the Saorstát, while 1,336 were received. Last season the service was extended to provide for the exchange of greetings telegrams with all foreign countries, 1,467 telegrams being sent from the Saorstát and 2,293 received.
The Department's building programme comprises: Dublin—The construction of the new post office in St. Andrew Street; completion of the new central motor garage at Sandwith Street in connection with the proposed central sorting offices scheme; provision of new warehouses at St. John's Road factory consequent on the transfer of portion of the Aldboro' House property to the Dublin Corporation. Cork—Completion of structural works in connection with the provision of new sorting and customs office. Thurles—Structural alterations and extension to provide increased space and improved facilities. Mallow—Alterations to provide additional accommodation. In addition to the normal works of renovation and maintenance, minor structural alterations and improvements, including electric light installations, will be undertaken at a number of provincial offices.
The progress of the Post Office Savings Bank was well maintained during the year 1936. The net deposits continue to show a progressive increase, the amount for 1936 being £121,405 more than the figure for 1935, which exceeded the amount of the previous year by £107,779. The total amount to credit of all depositors at the close of the year 1936 exceeded the corresponding figure for the previous year by more than £1,000,000, the average amount to credit per account being £24 12s. 4d. as compared with £22 19s. 11d. at the close of the year 1935. The number of accounts remaining open at the end of 1936 represents an increase of approximately 23,000 over the previous year. For the current year to date, the number of accounts opened and the net deposits received indicate that the upward tendency of previous years is being maintained.
Arrangements are now being made for the completion of the series of postage stamps of Irish design by the issue of new stamps for the higher values (2/6, 5/-, 10/-). The design chosen for these stamps is the work of an Irish artist, and the stamps will be printed on Irish-made paper in the Stamping Department of the Revenue Commissioners. It is expected that the new stamps will be on issue in the course of a couple of months.
As you have heard in the Budget statement, the Minister for Finance has accepted proposals which I made to him, involving a cost of £43,000 per annum. Although the telegraph service is, and has been, unremunerative, and, taken by itself, is not likely to become self-supporting, I think a case can be made out for taking it in conjunction with the telephone service, which is attracting most of the quick communication business, and which now shows a substantial profit. Last year, telephone subscribers obtained the advantage of reduced rates; and in a recent examination of the telegraph charges, I came to the conclusion that the public who have to avail of the telegraph service might be enabled to do so at cheaper rates. The existing rates for ordinary telegrams are: ? for the first 12 words or less, with 1d. for each additional word beyond 12. As on and from the 1st June next, I propose to reduce the rates to 1/- for the first nine words or less, with 1d. per word for each additional word beyond nine. The reduced rates will apply to internal telegrams only; the existing rates will continue in the case of messages for Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The loss involved by this concession in a full year will be about £12,800.
The "printed paper" service is used mainly for the transmission by post of greeting cards, books and other publications, and by the commercial community for invoices, advice notes, advertising circulars, etc. The present rates of postage are: Not exceeding 1oz., ½d.; not exceeding 2oz., 1d.; and for every additional 2oz. up to 2lb., ½d. I propose to make a reduction in these rates to ½d. for the first 2oz., with ½d. for each additional 2oz., thus reducing the postage on all packets in excess of 1oz. by ½d. It is estimated that this concession will involve a loss to revenue of £8,000 per annum, but it is hoped that the change will stimulate traffic and thereby provide some offset.
I have had numerous requests from time to time for an increase in the number of days of delivery on rural posts operating on less than six days a week, and I am glad to say I am now in a position to authorise arrangements which will have the effect of increasing the frequency of delivery to six days in a large number of these cases. The total number of rural posts is approximately 4,970, comprising at present: 3,500 six-day posts, 73 four and five-day posts, 1,200 three-day posts, and a small number (less than 3 per cent.) with a frequency of less than three days a week—principally services to islands and extremely remote areas. A more favourable basis for the calculation of revenue against cost has been secured and as a result I anticipate that one-half, or about 600, of the present three-day posts will be increased to six-day frequency. Some minor improvements on other posts will be effected, and in all the cost of the proposed delivery extensions will be about £22,200 per annum. These changes will be carried out as soon as possible, when over 95 per cent. of the population will have at least one postal delivery on each weekday.
I hope the House is satisfied with the progress which the Department is making and I think I am justified in claiming that the services generally are satisfactorily performed. I can assure the Deputies that the various departmental activities are under constant examination with a view to making further improvements where these are found to be warranted.