Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Social Insurance Contributions.

31.

asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if he is aware of the apprehension among postmasters and postmistresses of the effect upon their livelihood as a result of the proposed new scheme for collection of social insurance contributions.

Yes. The matter is the subject of a claim by the Irish Postmasters' Union which is being considered at present by the conciliation council under the scheme of conciliation and arbitration for postmasters.

Is the Minister aware of the serious effect that this can have on the income and on the livelihood of several postmasters and postmistresses? Does he envisage any means whereby these people can recoup the losses they sustain in the event of this method going into operation?

The Government are indeed aware of the consequences of the changes for the postmasters and postmistresses. For that reason discussions are taking place at the moment and it would be inappropriate to comment on the subject in any detail.

Have the Government any proposals at the moment?

I have indicated in the reply that it is being considered by a conciliation council under the scheme of conciliation and arbitration and it is not the usual practice, therefore, to go into any detail.

Arising from the Minister's reply and his reply to the earlier question, are the Government and the Department aware that if this change does take place as has been indicated that it would mean, on the basis of the unit system of payment which the sub-postmasters are paid under at the mo-ment, that there would not be any possibility that any of the local officers throughout the country being able to continue in the future? I would also ask whether in view of that the Government have taken a decision one way or the other as to the maintenance of the local offices in the country as they are now located throughout the country?

As I have indicated in my earlier reply it is not the Government's intention to close down any of the sub-post offices. It is their intention to maintain an adequate service.

Could I ask the Minister to put that more positively? Perhaps it was inadvertence on his part. Is it the Government's policy to maintain these offices?

It is the policy of the Government to maintain an adequate network of offices.