Dáil Éireann - Volume 23 - 31 May, 1928
TELEGRAPH BILL, 1928—THIRD STAGE.
Amendment by Deputy Cole:—
In sub-section (1), lines 20, 21, 22 and 24, to delete the word “twelve” and substitute therefor in each line the word “eighteen.”
Professor ALTON Professor ALTON
Professor ALTON: This amendment is not moved.
Mr. LEMASS Mr. LEMASS
Mr. LEMASS: Would it be in order for someone else to move the amendment?
AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE Patrick (Clare) Hogan
AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE: I think not without Deputy Cole's permission. The question is that Section 1 stand part of the Bill.
Mr. LEMASS Mr. LEMASS
Mr. LEMASS: On Section 1 I desire to ask the Minister for Finance to consider whether he would include in the Bill that the name and address of the addressee on a telegram would not be charged for. I think that some provision of that nature might be included. Even if the number of words which could be sent for 1/6 be retained at twelve, no charge should be made for  the name and address of the addressee. That is the system that obtains, I understand, in America. I would be glad if the Minister considers the possibility of doing that. In many cases in this country the name and address would consist of five or six words, and this reduces considerably the number of words which can be sent in a message. If this were done, it would give something in exchange for increasing the charge to 1/6.
Mr. BLYTHE Mr. BLYTHE
Mr. BLYTHE: The difficulty is that I have not examined that particular suggestion, but I believe that it would have much the same effect as Deputy Cole's amendment. Now, Deputy Cole's amendment would cause a loss running up to about £24,000 per annum. At present, in a substantial number of cases, there are words in excess of twelve in a telegram, and it may be assumed that the words in excess of twelve are only included in a message because the message cannot be compressed into a smaller number. Consequently, when the minimum cost of sending a telegram is 18d., there must still be words in excess of twelve, and we will get more than 18d. as an average receipt for the sending of a telegram. If we were to give eighteen words as a minimum it would mean that in most cases no excess would be got, so that the actual average increase per telegram would be much less than sixpence. It would have this effect too, that people who can manage at present to bring their message within twelve words would have those other words to play with if this amendment or suggestion were adopted and if the telegram could run to eighteen words. The result would be that additional labour would be involved in the transmission of the same number of messages.
Deputy Lemass's suggestion, if worked out, would make the standard length of a telegram 16 words instead of 12, and it would tend to have the same effect—that is, it would cause a substantial reduction in the revenue without a corresponding advantage to the senders of the telegrams. For that reason I do not think it could be adopted. The standard length of telegrams since the telegraph service was  introduced has been 12 words, and that has been recognised as a convenient length that would admit of most messages being sent at a minimum charge. I do not think that we should make a change at the moment. Certainly, the convenience of making the change would not be worth the loss of revenue involved, especially as in most cases the loss would be entirely useless, due to the staff being engaged in sending words that they would not have to send at all if the present standard had been retained.
Mr. MacENTEE Mr. MacENTEE
Mr. MacENTEE: It appears to me that a considerable part of the telegraphic charge is in respect of the staff who are idle for a considerable portion of the day—that is to say, idle waiting for messages to be handed to them. With the exception of the big central telegraph offices, I think many telegraphists through the country have a good deal of idle time, which, of course, has to be paid for. At the same time, it also appears to me that the 12 words which the Minister suggests as the minimum are not sufficiently long. One of the difficulties that people who send telegrams have to complain of is that you cannot send an unambiguous business message under 12 words as a general rule. You can say, “Meet me at such-and-such a train,” but if you want to place an order, or accept a quotation, or if you want to use a telegram for any other business purpose you will find that it is very difficult to do anything very definitely or unambiguously in 12 words. Such a message would not lend itself in most cases to being compressed inside of 12 words.
I feel that there is a good deal to be said for Deputy Cole's amendment. I feel that if you accept the principle that the minimum charge for a message will be 18d., and if, at the same time, you permit the sender to send up to 18 words for that price, the effect of a consequent reduction in your income will be very much less than if you increase the cost of the message exactly by 50 per cent.; that is, if you say 12 words henceforward are going to cost 18d. I do not think a person can send an effective business message in  12 words, and in order to make the message effective, the sender would have to send so many other words in addition to the 18 that he would prefer in a great many cases at any rate to use the telephone. There are disadvantages in using the trunk telephone, so much so that many business men like to use the telegraphic service.
There is a permanent record when a telegram is sent, but there is not in the other case when you use the telephone. On the one hand you have an inducement to use the telegraph service, and, on the other hand, you have the disadvantage, or handicap, or want of inducement in that you are going to make telegraphing more expensive. If you charge 18d. for one telegram you will be making the telegraph service expensive.
If you accept the suggestion put forward by Deputy Cole and say, “We will make a minimum charge of 18d., but we will permit any person who uses the telegraphic service under these circumstances to send what will be an effective telegraphic message,” I do not believe that the diminution in your revenue will be at all as large under those circumstances as if you adhere to the original proposal. Therefore, I think from the point of view of revenue the proposal of the Deputy ought to be very seriously considered or, if not the proposal of Deputy Cole, the alternative suggestion made by Deputy Lemass.
Mr. BLYTHE Mr. BLYTHE
Mr. BLYTHE: I did give a good deal of consideration to this matter and I had it examined, and on the best information that is available the cost would be the sum I spoke about, £24,000. Now, even supposing there are business messages that cannot be sent in 18 words, really broadly speaking the business man who has been sending telegrams has been subsidised by the general taxpayers, many of whom do not use the telegraph to any great extent. As I have already said, I recognise that the telegraph service must be subsidised and that the people who are using that service are only paying half the cost. I think they are being subsidised at the expense of the ordinary taxpayer to a very great extent. This amendment, if adopted,  would diminish the effect of the new proposals by something like £24,000 out of the £70,000 it is expected the proposal will bring. That would be far too much and, in addition, some of the loss would be wasteful loss.
Mr. MacENTEE Mr. MacENTEE
Mr. MacENTEE: May I suggest to the Minister that I do not think there has been any very great subsidising of the business man in respect of the telegraph service? I think the principal loss will be found in the small outlying telegraph offices, which are very largely used by people who use the telegraph service only for family or social purposes. I submit that those are the people who are being subsidised. I submit that the telegraph traffic between Dublin and Cork, Dublin and Belfast, Dublin and Waterford, Limerick and Dublin, is very possibly a very remunerative and profitable service. As I said before, we have no information on this side of the House as to the number of messages that are sent, but I think so far from the business man having been subsidised in respect of the telegraph service, they really have been overcharged in respect of that service for the advantage of people who use it only for social purposes and purposes of amusement.
Section 2 and the Title put and agreed to.
Ordered: That the Bill be reported without amendment.
The Dáil went out of Committee.
Bill reported. Report Stage ordered for Thursday, June 7th, 1928.
Dáil Éireann 23 TELEGRAPH BILL, 1928—THIRD STAGE.