Dáil Éireann - Volume 149 - 29 March, 1955
Committee on Finance. - Vote 54—Post and Telegraphs.
Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Keyes) Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Keyes)
Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Keyes): I move:—
 That a supplementary sum not exceeding £228,000 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, 1955, for Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.
The Estimate for Posts and Telegraphs already approved by An Dáil for the financial year ending 31st March, 1955, amounts to £7,340,000. Owing to causes which could not be foreseen this provision will be insufficient and an additional sum of £228,000 will be required to meet expenditure up to the end of the financial year.
The gross extra expenditure on the sub-heads, for which the original provision is insufficient, is estimated at £308,000. Against this, however, savings on other sub-heads amounting to £80,000 will be available, leaving a net sum of £228,000.
The causes of the increased expenditure are briefly as follows:—sub-head A (2)—increase £25,000—due mainly to increases in staff in Dublin, the cost in Dublin of the general election and a pay award to postmen (Dublin) which operated from the 21st December, 1954. Sub-head A (3)—increase £25,000. The increased sum is required to meet a pay award to postmen (provincial) which operated from the 21st December, 1954. Sub-head A (4)— increase £14,000; sub-head I (1)— increase £110,000; sub-head I (2)— increase £12,000; sub-head K—increase £87,000.
The amounts provided under these sub-heads in the original Estimate are net figures which are arrived at by deducting from the cost of staff, travelling and stores that portion of it which is attributable to telephone capital works and which is proper to be paid from telephone capital funds. The relief to each of the sub-heads by this process is less than originally estimated.
The increased sums do not represent increased expenditure. They represent merely a transfer of costs from telephone capital funds to Vote. In  sub-head E (5) the increase is £30,000. The additional sum is required to meet the cost of conveyance of increased air mail traffic by transatlantic and British Commonwealth air services, increased charges by the United States Post Office for air conveyance in the United State and payment in this financial year of accounts due to be paid, but not received, last year. In sub-head L (1) the increase of £5,000 is due to the cost of repairs to the cross-Channel cables being higher than was anticipated.
Allowing for the amount to be transferred from telephone capital funds to Vote, viz., £223,000 the net additional sum required is £5,000.
Mr. Traynor Mr. Traynor
Mr. Traynor: In the absence of Deputy Childers, who is suffering from a slight indisposition, I propose to make a few brief remarks on this Estimate. I should like in the first instance to thank the Minister for providing me with a copy of the statement which he has just given to the House. I note that the increases are in the main to provide for wages and I do not think anybody in the House or in the country will have any objection to increases in wages. Accordingly there can be little said in that regard.
The only thing I should like to say —and for that purpose I think I can avail of sub-head I (1) and sub-head K on the engineering establishment— would be again to refer, as many Deputies have referred in this House from time to time, to the crying need that exists for additional telephones. I know the Minister is inundated with demands for telephones, especially here in the city, and I know equally well that in certain circumstances it is not possible to provide them as quickly as the people are demanding them.
What I do think is that the weakness is not now in regard to a shortage of materials but rather I think—I am assuming this and I may be wrong— that it may be due to a shortage of highly skilled staff, and I rather feel that it is difficult for State Departments to get that highly skilled technical staff because—and it is an unfortunate state of affairs to have to say  this—the State does not pay the salaries to professional men that will attract the best type into its services. It may be that the difficulty lies rather in the shortage of highly skilled technical experts than, say, the materials that go to provide telephonic communications for the public. It has been brought to my attention, however, that in certain areas it is reasonably easy to secure the installation of a telephone and that in other areas it is very difficult.
It has been pointed out to me by constituents of my own and by people who are living in other constituencies that they have applied for a telephone almost two years ago and that they have failed to have one installed, and I have again been told that in other areas telephones have been installed in a little over a month or a couple of months.
The Minister may, perhaps, be able to explain why that occurs. I have had a complaint, for instance, from a man who made an application for a telephone. He lived in the same row of houses as another individual who also applied for a telephone. The man who made his application first is still without his telephone while the individual who applied at a later date, and who is still living in the same row or terrace of houses as the other, has had his telephone installed.
I know there are certain answers to these queries and when we get them we may be able to do something to relieve the minds of the individuals who have grievances, but it is very difficult when you come across circumstances such as these. In one particular area you have a delay of two years, while in another area a telephone can be installed in a short period. That may be due to planning in relation to the circumstances of a particular area; it may be that there are better installations in one particular area than in another. But my own feeling is that a lot of the difficulty that exists at the present time is due, as I said earlier, to the lack of highly-trained staff.
If that is so—of course, it may not be—I would urge the Minister if  necessary to press his colleagues in the Government to raise the salaries of those professional men who are at the moment inclined to give their services to private corporations rather than to the State. I think the State should do its utmost to encourage these professional men, especially the young professional men leaving the universities, to stay at home and give their services to the State. It must be realised, however, that the State must give them some definite encouragement.
Mr. Keyes Mr. Keyes
Mr. Keyes: Sub-head I (1) and the other sub-heads A (4), I (2) and K are all in the same category. A certain amount is estimated for the work of the Department each year and is spent on telephones and other maintenance work. If in the course of the year the allocations do not work out as estimated, then something falls by the wayside and the expenditure which should have been charged on telephone capital has to come on to Vote. For instance, this particular year it was not possible to estimate in advance accurately how the charge would be borne. Storm damage cost £85,000 this year which normally only costs £20,000 to £25,000 at the outside. However, this transfer from capital to Vote is no more than a book-keeping transaction in respect of these four sub-heads. If lines and poles are blown down they are reconstructed and the cost must go on to Vote.
With regard to the provision of telephones, which was referred to by Deputy Traynor, we are very anxious in the Department to install every telephone possible but one of the big delays in satisfying the demands for telephones has been the problem of the supply of spare wires in the underground cables. In certain areas we have been able to give telephones on demand and it would be my desire to have that position all over the country. Particularly in Dublin City the lack of wires in the cables has been the cause of the delay and we are not able to get the work in progress until we get the underground cables into order again. I think half the engineering staff has been working  very strenuously night and day to get the position up to date particularly in the centre of the city and then on out to Dún Laoghaire and Dalkey.
In order to get the position up to date I was successful in transferring a considerable number of men from maintenance to construction. Men who were skilled in their own way on maintenance have been transferred, by agreement with their union, to do this construction work and bring it up to date. If and when we get the construction work up to date and there is any question of transfer they will get the first transfer back to maintenance. However, we must have construction as well as maintenance.
If the Deputy knows of any particular case where an applicant has been waiting for telephone service for an undue time I would like to know as it would help me in regard to the whole position. I have had a very comprehensive report in the last week and if the Deputy would make me aware of any particular point I would be very glad.
Mr. Traynor Mr. Traynor
Mr. Traynor: It will give me great pleasure to make representations in one case.
Mr. Keyes Mr. Keyes
Mr. Keyes: I will supply the Deputy with information immediately I get it.
Vote put and agreed to.
Dáil Éireann 149 Committee on Finance. Vote 54—Post and Telegraphs.