CEISTEANNA—QUESTIONS. - CUSTOMS AND EXCISE COLLECTION.

To ask the President of the Ministry:—

(a) If it is the case that the collection of Customs and Excise lies at present in the hands of the British Government, and that that Government causes a commission to be payable on such collection;

(b) If so, what the rate of this commission is per centum;

(c) If it is not the case that the Post Office, with an annual loss of over a million sterling, was instantly transferred to the Provisional Government;

(d) Whether it would not be possible to make arrangements to write off the loss on the Post Office, as taken over from the British Government, against the collection of Customs and Excise;

(e) And whether the Ministry will now suggest such a course to the British Government, or, in the alternative, carry this suggestion forward to the final financial settlement between the two countries under the provisions of the Treaty.

As this question appears to have been asked under a misapprehension, I will take the opportunity to explain the position in regard to the collection of Customs and Excise taxes. The collection of taxes, including Customs and Excise taxes, was transferred from the British Government to the Provisional Government on 1st April last under the terms of the Treaty, and the Provisional Government became solely responsible for the collection of Customs and Excise in the twenty-six counties from that date. For various reasons it was found convenient, as a temporary arrangement, to appoint the Board of Customs and Excise to administer the Customs and Excise services as agents of the Provisional Government, but the general control and responsibility for collection remained with the Government. Under this arrangement the local Customs and Excise officials continued to be British officials paid by the British Government, and the Provisional Government repaid to the Board of Customs and Excise the cost of the services. This cost was based on the actual expenditure involved in the running of the services, and did not bear any relation to the revenue collected. Since the passing of the Constitution the position has altered. The local Customs and Excise officials have become officers of the Irish Free State, and are now functioning as Irish officials payable directly out of Irish funds. The agency arrangement with the Board of Customs and Excise has terminated, but, pending the completion of a Free State headquarters' staff, the Board of Customs and Excise are rendering certain assistance to the Ministry of Finance in connection with headquarters work. For this assistance the Ministry of Finance will pay to the Board of Customs and Excise a sum to be agreed upon between the two Departments. The amount of this payment will be quite small, and will cease as soon as the new headquarters' staff has been completed. There is not, and there never has been, any question of paying a commission to the British Government on the collection of Customs and Excise taxes in the Free State.