Would it not get away from the difficulty which seems to be in the minds of some of the Deputies if the Government could see its way to insert between "of" and `goods' the word "dutiable," because the clause to "prohibit the importation and exportation of all goods or any classes of goods" might be construed to prohibit the importation of goods which are not now contrary to law? I rather gather what the Government are seeking is to prohibit dutiable goods being smuggled across the frontier between North East Ulster and the Free State, or to prohibit the importation of dutiable goods brought in at some port which are not now exciseable, and the Clause was not intended to extend the present powers beyond such goods as are now dutiable by law or may be made dutiable by Act of this Parliament tomorrow or any future date and to my mind it would improve this Clause if the words "dutiable" or "exciseable" were inserted in the Clause so that it would read "Prohibit the importation and exportation of all dutiable goods or any classes of dutiable goods except by such routes, etc."
ADAPTATION OF BRITISH ENACTMENTS BILL. - ADAPTATION OF CUSTOMS ACTS TO A LAND FRONTIER.
That was not precisely the point which I had in mind when I raised this question of fiscal law, because I quite recognise as regards the Clause in its present unamended form that it has a very definite purpose and a useful purpose, but let me add that unless either the Minister for Trade and Commerce or the Minister for Finance is authorised to decide through what particular points traffic of a certain kind shall pass, it would be necessary to have the very extensive and practically unworkable arrangement of a series of Custom Houses all along the line of the Northern Boundary, because if only dutiable goods were within the scope of this Clause it would then be open to traffickers to bring in non-dutiable goods by certain routes and the opening for smuggling be at once provided. It would be altogether unworkable if we were to put in "dutiable" at this stage of the Clause. Now, it seems to me, perhaps wrongly, that there is an introduction of fiscal law when it is assumed tacitly or taken for granted that there are to be duties. Sub-section “B” prescribes the cases and the form and the manner in which entry of goods imported or exported shall be made and duty on goods imported shall be paid. If the restrictive words, “if any,” were added after “goods” it would leave the question of fiscal policy an open question altogether, and I suggest also the omission of what I describe as the Penalty Clause.
That is Clause 2, and it has not been moved.
I think Deputy Magennis is quite right that Deputy FitzGibbon's amendment would destroy all the value of the Clause.
That raises the question of the very extended powers that were to go to the Minister for Finance. There are 240 miles of frontier and innumerable by-roads and main roads as well as railway lines, and we are asked to give the Minister for Finance power to say whether all or any of these roads or by-roads or paths over fields shall be held up by a Customs officer, a sentry or a soldier. Goods may be grass-seed or cattle, may be whiskey or tobacco, or linen, or any other article of merchandise. This proposal is to give the Minister for Finance power to say whether any of these roads or paths shall be blocked by a soldier or Customs officer. I submit that is too much power to give to the Minister for Finance. It is not an adaptation of an existing Act and the Minister for Finance has not power to-day to prohibit or direct which port or creek in Ireland non-dutiable goods shall enter into the Saorstát, and we are asked to extend the powers of the Minister for Finance to prohibit in so far as there is a land frontier importation or exportation of goods where he has not that power in regard to the seafront. Consequently I would press the proposal I suggested at the earlier stage that, in so far as the first part of this Clause 1 is concerned, up to the word "necessary" we should pass it, but the extension of those powers should not be granted to the Minister without a very considerable discussion on the principles and details of a separate Bill. In so far as may be necessary to adapt existing Acts to the new conditions that power would be granted by passing this first Clause without any reference to any particular "so and so" which is increasing the power of the Ministry for Finance over and above that which he has under existing Acts, and I would move the deletion of all after the word "necessary."
I do not think the point that Deputy Magennis made against my suggestion is really valuable, nor do I quite follow the Minister for Local Government. If so you would have to have a Customs officer at every point along the frontier to keep out dutiable goods. If you are going to put a duty on a cartload of cabbages and potatoes going across the frontier of course you can do so, but if anybody want to send it across, across it will go unless there is an officer there to stop it. If you are going to keep out goods you must have your barrier, whether a policeman, a preventative officer, or a soldier, to do so.
Deputy FitzGibbon therefore presses the amendment?
I see the difficulty the Government are placed in by this amendment, but it seems to me that Deputy Johnson's amendment covers my point, because my point comes into a Sub-section in which he desires to leave out all the words after "necessary." My amendment would therefore only arise if his fails. My amendment is to a portion of the Section that would not be there at all if Deputy Johnson succeeds.
As to Deputy Johnson's amendment before us, would he explain what he means by omitting these words:—"The Minister for Finance may make regulations to apply to the importation and exportation of any goods into and from the Irish Free State by land, and of the provisions of the Customs Act subject to such modifications as may be necessary?" It is left to the discretion of the Minister and the clauses which Deputy Johnson's amendment proposes to eliminate were really only clarifying words to make it clear as to what any particular power was directed towards. I do not think that the purpose which he has in view is served by the amendment. For, as I understood his speech, his contention was that this amendment conferred a new and extraordinary power upon the Minister. What he moves confers a new and extraordinary power upon the Minister. Consequently, the position is not consistent. Further, I would suggest in reply to my question he should consider that the conditions which these are meant to meet are new and extraordinary. Ireland never had a land frontier before. Consequently, the Customs Acts, whatever application they had, to importation and exportation by sea-ports, will have to be adapted to the new situation of the land frontier. Consequently, I held from the beginning, and I think on reflection I was right in saying that all of these come under the category of adaptation and implication. I shall have more to say in regard to implication when Clause 3 comes up.
May I ask if the amendment is in order?
The existing Customs Act only contemplates a sea frontier. The first part of the amendment says that the Minister for Finance may make regulations to apply to the importation and exportation of any goods into the Irish Free State by land. Therefore, I do not see how it possibly can be in order.
Subject to such modifications as are necessary.
There can be no modifications, as there are none in existence. You have modifications with regard to the sea frontier. This refers to Acts which have been passed, and which refer to a sea frontier. I submit the amendment is out of order.
The fact that modifications of the existing Acts are suggested to make them applicable to a land frontier shows that modifications can be made. How they can be made is a matter of detail.
I submit they cannot because there is none; they have only reference to goods by sea, and this deals with goods by land, and I submit it is not in order. Now, we are proceeding to make regulations in regard to regulations on goods brought into the Irish Free State by land. There is none such, therefore, we cannot modify them.
"The Minister of Finance may make regulations to apply."
Yes, but the Act does not deal with any importation or exportation by land, that is why I am at a loss to know how it is to be done.
Is it not described here in detail how it can be done?
Precisely, but that is the very thing that is moved to be left out. If I understand Deputy Johnson's amendment correctly the very passing of it would make the first Clause of it ridiculous.
Could the President tell us whether the Customs Act applied to any except dutiable goods? I do not know that the Customs Act prohibited the importation of turnips, potatoes or timber. I understand it is going to be brought in only by some Finance or Taxing Act later, which says they shall not be brought in. Then they come under the Customs Act. I am not aware of any provision in the Customs Act by which the importation of any non-dutiable goods was prohibited, and therefore an extension of the Customs Act would not appeal to me, without a new enactment being passed to prevent a person bringing non-dutiable goods into the country by any route he please.
We are trying to bring an old Act to conform with the new conditions. The old Act or any Act never intended to tax potatoes, turnips, or timber, but it is not proposed to do it now. You must get some new regulations to give the Government so that they can collect customs and have authority to do so.
That is a different matter altogether.
If that was left out, we might as well drop the whole Act. It would be perfectly ridiculous. The Act is there and let us adopt it.
This position we are in now for the first time creates a land frontier. The Customs Act, I understand, prescribes certain ports into which dutiable goods could be imported or exported out of. I seek now to prescribe regulations concerning routes or roads by which goods can be exported or imported on a land frontier, and we are told that that gives too much power to the Minister of Finance. Very well, give him only a little power, but give him some power if he is going to deal with it. What is the power proposed? The only power, if this amendment was passed, would be to adopt Acts which deal only with the sea frontier, and unless a channel is to be cut to separate that portion of Ireland that has cut itself off from the Saorstát I do not know how it can be done. As regards the goods, there are two objections. There are people a long time at this business—the British Government—and this is, I understand, practically the same regulation as they have made, or the same statute or law. With regard to the other side of the frontier, if it satisfies them I think it ought to satisfy us. The other point is, if you have goods on which there are no duties you make them come by the right, and goods on which there are duties make them come by the left, you will have the hard-headed business men sending goods that should go by the left, by the right. Therefore I do not see the necessity for prescribing the goods which should go by particular routes as dutiable goods. As regards the other points, if you want to make the thing useless you can pass this amendment. I think it is necessary to pass this clause as it is. To talk about regulations that give too much power is a thing that can be said on a platform, but it is not of much use here. Someone must do it, and if the Minister for Finance is not a fit person, appoint some other person who will see that goods will not come through channels on which there will be no collection of duties.
The proposal is, in fact, to abolish the Dáil, and having set up a Ministry, leave them to do the regulation instead of having the trouble and expense of running a Parliament and wasting Ministers' time. That is the proposition in plain terms. The Minister has told us that inasmuch as the Customs Acts were drafted in relation to a sea frontier only they cannot be adapted to a land frontier. That is exactly the case we are making. You have introduced this new measure into an Adaptations Bill.
However, we passed from that, and allowed the matter to go into Committee and we have broken every reasonable rule that should guide a legislature. I understand the case now from the Minister's last statement, which has only been drawn out after all this discussion, and which, if he had any sense of his position and responsibility to this Dáil he would have explained when introducing the measure, so that we would have had some enlightenment and assistance in passing legislation. That is the duty of the Minister who introduces a Bill—to explain to the Dáil what is intended, what is implied in the Bill—but, instead of that, it is thrown at us and we are supposed to take it on his word, and only after this discussion are we able to extract any explanation. Now, I understand the meaning of it to be that the Minister for Finance is to have power to decide that cattle, sheep, beer, pigs, porter, or any other commodity must pass through one or other roadway, railway line or field, and that any merchandise going across the border by any other route means punishment for somebody, if that somebody can be found. It is asking us to give power to the Minister to make regulations which it is quite impossible to enforce and it will be just as impossible for the Northern Minister as it is for himself. If he contends that it is only possible to carry on the business by these regulations, that he must prohibit the carriage of a sack of potatoes from Clogher to Ballybay by a particular route, because it may contain tobacco, well, I am prepared to allow him to do it. It is as well, however, that we should have some explanation of the merits of the proposal that is brought before the Dáil for sanction, and that is the object of this protest.
The last Deputy has made a statement for which he has given no proof. He stated that it would be impossible to maintain a barrier if it was set up; and there he finished with that assertion. That remains to be seen, but I certainly am very, very glad indeed to see the Minister demanding these powers. I believe, if we are going to deal effectively with the situation in the North, these powers are essential to the Government of the Irish Free State. The Government, I think, should have power to prohibit the importation or exportation, not only of dutiable goods, but of all commodities to and from the Free State. There is more in that than reaches the eye at the first glance, and the value of that power, I think, only time will disclose. But, if we are to be in a position as a Government—a State— to maintain our rights, and to create an atmosphere that may be conducive to the eventual unity of the whole country, I believe that power in the hands of the Government is an absolute essential, and I strongly support the Government in their demands.
I should have said, after the President's statement, that I am prepared to withdraw the amendment, and I will submit this suggestion for the consideration of the Minister and Deputy Milroy; that one way to help to test the value of this frontier is to reduce the tax upon some easily movable commodity, such as tobacco, by just enough to encourage the Northern people to invite tobacco to be smuggled over the border, and we will test the value of that frontier.
I suppose I ought to be glad that the amendment is withdrawn. In regard to these amendments, if information was asked for we would give any information we have got. But what I do object to is being attacked on a wrong front. Now, as regards the second suggestion—to reduce taxation on certain items—I do not think that would be wise; I mean it would appear like a political move rather than the move of a State. I am perfectly satisfied that these ultimate cordial relations will exist between the people of this country only on sound business lines. I do not think that would be sound and I do not think it would appeal to them. They are very good business people up there and they would see through a thing like that, and I prefer to let them see that if they will not join us, at least we are not prepared to declare war upon them because they will not.
Deputy Johnson's amendment is withdrawn. Is there any other amendment?
There is one. I do not know whether it is marked in the other copies or not. It is this:
"The Minister of Finance may make regulations to apply to the importation and exportation of any goods into and from the Irish Free State by land, and of the provisions of the Customs Act subject to such modifications as may be necessary, and in particular may—
(a) Prohibit the importation and exportation of all goods or any classes of goods except by such routes within the Irish Free State and during such hours as may be prescribed.
(b) Prescribe the places where and the form and manner in which entry of goods imported or exported shall be made and duty on goods imported shall be paid.”
Perhaps the Minister will accept a slight amendment. I suggest to put in the words "if any" after "duty" and before "on goods imported." It is merely to prevent objection being raised that, by implication, we are declaring a certain fiscal policy, and I suggest we insert the words, in brackets, "if any."
That is, before the list of the goods.
I do not approve of that. It is not in the other one, and I do not think we ought to put anything in that is not in the other.
Do I understand from the President that this amendment that he is proposing here is intended by him to be an exact counterpart of the English Act, the Irish Free State Consequential Provision Act?
I have not seen that Act, but I have been told they are practically the same.
Is that the reason why you do not want it?
That is one of the reasons.
Might I say, in reply, that in the case of Great Britain there is an existing fiscal policy. We have not yet discussed the matter and decided upon any policy, and so far the only articles dutiable are those upon which duties have already been imposed by the legislation which we are taking over. There is no great point in my amendment, I admit. It was proposed to obviate objections.
It is withdrawn.
Referring to the next Sub-section, I object to this on the ground——
It is not moved. You will have to get this passed first.
Before that is passed there is a matter in which I notice that there is a discrepancy, and I did not at first see that the discrepancy was a matter of importance. I think it is, and I urge now that it should be considered, because the wording in the other Act—the Act of our co-equal neighbours across the water—says, "and any particular regulations made which would assume that whatever Act was undertaken by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise in England," or the Northern Parliament would have to issue first in published regulations, and that is not quite so clearly implied in ours. Would he be willing, in order to simplify matters, to have particular regulations made instead of its being conveyed merely by letter of instruction?
Yes. I will agree to that.
Is that amendment agreed: that is before (a), “subject to such modifications as may be necessary?”
Is it understood that that is made by Order? Will that be an Order that would be laid on the table?
The Minister for Finance may make regulations.
That was by the assumption that regulations of that kind are generally laid on the table of any legislative assembly for them to know exactly what was happening.
That is in accordance with Article 17. "Every order made by the Executive Council."
It would be easy then to adapt 17, and we could have it to read "every order made by the Executive Council or any Minister thereof."
That amendment can be moved later on.
Where does that come in?
It should come in before the present 13. A Clause was struck out yesterday which alters the enumeration.
It comes after the present 12.
The next is "23 (2)":—"If any person contravenes or fails to comply with any such regulations, he shall be guilty of an offence under the Customs Acts and shall for every such offence, in addition to any other penalty to which he may be liable, incur a fine not exceeding £100, and the goods in respect of which the offence is committed shall be forfeited." I move that.
It struck me that this is a penal law and should not properly appear in an adaptation of an Act. I submit that with all respect to the Minister, even though it may be contained in a corresponding document, it is not rightfully included in ours. It is a question as to the propriety of the inclusion of it in this instrument. It is not at all a statement of view regarding the propriety of exacting a penalty there. There are two quite different questions.
I expect it is known that there are pretty elaborate penalties for infringement of this by the sea frontiers. As I said before we had no land frontier here until now, and it will be necessary to affix some penalties to stop any smuggling that may go on, and if the other side put on a penalty of £100, and if it is known that we put on a smaller penalty it would be against us.
May I with all respect point out that there have been adaptations earlier here in respect of Statutes, and consequent upon these adaptations, it will be necessary to make a number of other adaptations in the code. We do not proceed to discuss or to make these. The point I made is that the provision of a penalty and the amount thereof should more properly come in later when Excise Duties and the rest are being discussed. As it is not accepted I do not press it.