Telephone Regulations, 1959 (S.I. No. 118 of 1959).
An Roinn Poist agus Telegrafa.
I am directed by the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments to refer to regulation No. 13 of the Telephone Regulations, 1959 [S.I. No. 118 of 1959] which reads as follows:—
“The Minister may provide under a contract a call at a fixed time at a rate differing from the charge fixed by or under these Regulations, or a series of such calls.”
The Select Committee note that the parent statutory authority viz. section 2 of the Telegraph Act, 1885 empowers the Minister to make regulations “for fixing the sums to be from time to time paid … on account of the use of any telegraphs by any persons”. This provision suggests to the Committee that the actual rates proposed to be charged for any particular type of telephone call should be set out in the statutory instrument. The regulation quoted might therefore, be regarded as a sub-delegation not contemplated by the parent statute and the Committee would be glad to be furnished with an explanatory memorandum in the matter.
M. G. KILROY,
Cléireach an Rogha-Choiste.
4 Nollaig, 1959.
An Roinn Poist agus Telegrafa,
Baile Átha Cliath.
Cléireach an Rogha-Choiste um Ionstraimí Reachtúla,
With reference to your minute of 4/12/1959 regarding regulation No. 13 of the Telephone Regulations 1959, I am desired by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to explain that whereas fixed-time calls, as provided for in regulation 10 and for which charges are prescribed, are ordinarily available to subscribers as a normal service, fixed-time calls under contract may be obtained only by prior agreement with the Department. The grant of the facility is dependent on telephone lines being available on the route on which the facility is required and on telephone traffic conditions generally. It is essential that the Department should retain freedom to agree on charges by contract and to be able to change the charges frequently in accordance with demand and it would be cumbersome if these charges had to be changed by statutory regulations.
As regards the legal position the Minister is advised that the provisions of section 2 of the Telegraph Act, 1885 are of an enabling nature and are not mandatory; consequently they do not oust the Minister’s ordinary powers at common law to operate a public service based on charges agreed on by contract. It follows that it is not necessary to set out in the regulations all the actual rates proposed to be charged for all types of telephone calls. In point of fact the telephone service taken over from the British Administration was operated entirely on a contractual basis between subscribers and the State and this system was continued by the Irish Administration until a few years ago, when it was decided to fix most of the telephone charges by statutory regulations in future, so as to obviate having to terminate all subscribers contracts when it became necessary to increase telephone charges, other than by way of percentage increases. Furthermore, it is desirable to mention the provision in relation to fixed time calls in the Telephone Regulations so that if charges in this connection are questioned the legal authority for them can be quoted in a comprehensive document without having to draw a distinction between the Minister’s common law rights and his statutory rights in correspondence which is sometimes puzzling to citizens.
J. P. SEOIGHE,
26 Feabhra, 1960.