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Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2016: Second Stage (Continued)

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 935 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh] Part of the universal social charge obligation is the provision of a minimum service. It would be interesting if some community took a case in this regard because I presume part of the service is a post office. If the post office is not in existence, is An Post in breach of its universal service obligation? I remember Mr. Pat Cox saying way back how great the universal service obligation was in regard to telecommunications services because some rural area in Ireland took Telecom Eireann to task in Europe because the company had got rid of the telephone boxes, long before the mobile phones took over. The company was forced into not getting rid of them because their provision was part of the universal service obligation.

There is obviously a service obligation on An Post to deliver a minimum service. It is not just about the delivery of letters to one's door every single day. Years ago, there were two deliveries in this city every day, in addition to a delivery on a Saturday and a Sunday. People need to think about this. If An Post is going down the route of minimising and reducing the level of service, perhaps people could determine whether its doing so is contrary to the universal service obligation that the Government has signed it up to and enforced upon it. This obligation was a good idea, but at this stage An Post needs to live up to its commitment to the people.

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Seán Kyne): Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne I thank all the Deputies who contributed to the debate. A considerable number have contributed to the debate on this very important Bill and stayed throughout. The comments made are reflective of the high regard people have for An Post, the work it does, its workforce and its role in rural communities throughout the country and also urban communities, as pointed out by a number of Deputies.

A number of Deputies have expressed the view that they cannot support the Bill for a variety of reasons. Clearly, none is doing so with a wish to see An Post collapse or run out of money or to see workers not being paid or services withdrawn, but the consequence of not supporting what is effectively emergency legislation to ensure An Post can continue to pay its workers and perform its duties has to be acknowledged. As pointed out in my contribution and many others, the mails business is undergoing a profound structural change, both here and abroad. Electronic substitution has had a significant impact on the letters business. We have seen the downward trend which is expected to continue, particularly for large volume postal customers such as banks and utility providers. Clearly, there are opportunities in the parcel business, as pointed out by a number of Deputies.

I wish to comment on the role of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment regarding An Post. The Department is responsible for the postal sector, including the governance of An Post, to ensure the company is fully compliant with the code of practice for the governance of State bodies and governance functions included in the statutory framework underpinning An Post. Following a Government decision earlier this year, responsibility for the post office network and the Kerr report and associated matters transferred to my colleagues in the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Debate adjourned.

  The Dáil adjourned at 10.15 p.m. until 12 noon on Thursday, 19 January 2017.

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