I would like to take this opportunity of saying how heartily I congratulate Deputy Wilson on the speech he made before the adjournment. I think it was one of the best speeches, worked out on strict business lines, that this Dáil has heard, and I feel that it would be a very great thing, if I might venture to say so without offence to the parties concerned, for the education of this country, if that speech could be reportedverbatim. I welcome it all the more because I think the Minister has not done himself justice in the lines on which he has approached his arguments towards this Finance Bill. He has rather defended it to-day on the lines, that he has found it necessary to remit certain forms of taxation, and, inasmuch as the country could not afford remission at this time, it was necessary to put the money so remitted on to other articles, and so make up the total he requires. I look at it rather from the point of view that in this Budget we are setting out for the first time to find the form of taxation suitable to the economic and fiscal needs of the country. I have said before, and I repeat it now, we have taken over a system that was devised for the needs of another country, of another people, whose conditions are fundamentally different from those that prevail in this country; and, having taken that over, it was necessary that we should continue it for a short time, as there were too many things to do, especially during the early years of the establishment of this State, to think of any fundamental changes in a fiscal direction. Now that we are beginning to think for ourselves—I congratulate the Minister on this Bill for this reason if for no other —and as we are thinking out our own needs for our own circumstances, we should do so, as far as possible, as if we had a clean sheet to write our own individual record on in the beginning. The Finance Bill bears all those characteristics. Take the duties levied on clothing. I asked the Minister in Committee on the Finance Resolution, if he would set out exactly the articles to be charged in a Schedule and put that Schedule in the Bill. I repeat it now, knowing that it is probably too late to have it done this year, but these duties imposed on this occasion will be continued in, at least, one subsequent Finance Bill, and, I suggest, as soon as possible, we should give the various articles on which a duty is to be levied and let them be stated in the Schedule so that we may know where we are. I suggest also, and I ask the Minister to consider it carefully, that even though the figures of the revenue to be got from these new taxes are provisional and subject to many rectifications, let us still have these provisional figures when he comes to review the situation at the end of the financial year. He will have before him certain figures which will be provisional.
Let us share that knowledge with him, also sharing the knowledge that these figures are provisional. I ask this because I know that some Deputies have found themselves handicapped in these matters because the Minister has necessarily a much fuller knowledge than Deputies could hope to have in the depositories of his Department, but, at least, the summarised results ought to be in the possession of Deputies. In regard to the boot tax, the clothing tax, and the furniture tax, I urge that a Schedule should be made of the various articles to be included under the heading of each particular tax and, then, as against each particular heading, to put in "subject to rectifications," that time will make when the cost of collection can be put in on the other side of the scale, and also to put in the revenues that these particular items earn. In that way, while we are experimenting—the Minister for Finance has said that at this stage we are doing little more than experimenting—in order to discover for ourselves that scale of taxes, that category of articles, we ought to tax without unnecessarily holding ourselves bound to the system which we have inherited. It is obvious that we are doing that now for the first time in the Finance Bill in any substantial measure; let us do that in such a way, month by month, so that the information will be in the hands of Deputies. When the next Budget comes to be considered Deputies will then have the knowledge before them in the summarised results on which the Minister will base his Budget. Then, I think, it will be possible to go into the question which Deputy Wilson has touched on, and which is a matter of great importance. I have characterised this Finance Bill as an attempt made by this State, through its Minister for Finance, to find out those articles upon which revenue should be got. I urged before that some of the duties should have been charged upon imports of commodities which are manufactured in this country by what is admitted to be, and what is unquestionably, our premier industry—agriculture. Deputy Wilson came here to-day and gave full facts and details, and threshed the thing out in a thoroughly business-like way, to show what that would mean, and he found himself faced by the greatest problem in regard to all taxes on food, and, that is, whether they would or would not increase the cost of living. I think he established that the result would not be an increase in the cost of living, at least, in the items which he chose. In case that argument should arise, he gave an instance which I have been interested in, and which has been practised by the French nation within the last two or three years. They have imposed a duty on imported wheat, and they have so arranged it that if the cost of wheat goes higher than a certain figure, which is under constant revision by the Finance Department, the benefit is automatically remitted. Consequently, the farming community, and those who handle the products of that community, have always that figure within which to work. That has proved practicable, and has given good results. There has been criticism that in particular cases and in particular months it has not given such results, but, broadly, it is admitted that the result has not been an increase in the cost of living. We need not, however, go there. We can stay at home. We have a magnificent example of scientific taxation on farming commodities in what was known in Grattan's Parliament as the Foster Corn Law.
I commend the Minister for Finance, and he will find it will abundantly repay him, to make a careful examination of the administrative methods of working what is known as Foster's Corn Law, where the duty on one hand, and the inward bounty on the other hand, are so balanced that in respect of any particular commodity the imported article must always remain at the same price as the home-manufactured article.
It might be thought that would not be a very great benefit to confer, that is to give the result, as I have stated it, of keeping the imported farming commodity always at the same price as the home-manufactured farming commodity. We have been reading what the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs has stated in the country as to the need for greater tillage. The result of Foster's Corn Law was that tillage increased rapidly every year, and remained constantly increasing during the whole period of Grattan's Parliament. Economic history reveals clearly that result was due directly to the incidence of this tax levied and administered in that form. There was more than that fact. Not only did land go into tillage, that had not been in tillage for many years, and not only did Ireland turn from being a pasture to being a tillage country more and more every year, but the pasture itself increased. Lands that had been left wild were brought into pasture. That was achieved as a result of the scale of taxes so levied that the incoming agricultural commodity was taxed, and the home-manufactured commodity protected, and yet at no period did the cost of living in respect of the food of the people increase. If these results can be achieved, if you can still keep the cost of living for articles of food which the farmer provides at a constant level, or keep it on the down grade, or stop it at least from going on the up-grade—if we can do that, while at the same time earning some small revenue by a protective tax of that kind, and give that benefit to the manufactured article of our premier industry, then that result is well worth attaining. Here, for the first time in a great measure, we have started to devise a fiscal system for our own needs. If the venture is a sound one, and I believe it is, it should be brought to the benefit of our chief industry, which is agriculture.
There is only one other matter I desire to touch on, and that is in regard to the administration of these new taxes you have levied. The Minister for Finance, when we were in Committee on the financial resolutions, gave an assurance to this House that the administration would be of such a kind that it would not cause an unnecessary amount of irritation. I know that that is his intention in the matter, but methods are still being adopted that lead to very considerable irritation, and I know the cause. It is a very honourable and proper cause— that the officers who are administering these new duties, especially in regard to clothing for incoming travellers, regard themselves, and rightly so, as in a responsible position, and they feel that it is better to be too severe than to be too lax. I urge the Minister to see that instructions are given that irritation will not be caused. I do not know how other Deputies find it, but within the last fortnight I had quite a number of complaints brought to me, and I have been asked to set down questions in respect of particular cases where passengers resident in this country, or visitors coming to this country, have been put to a very great deal of inconvenience in a way that I do not think is the intention of the duty to cause. In fact, I know that it is not the intention of the duty, for I have cases, and I can give the Minister a definite record of them, where articles that have been brought out of this country and brought back again in three or four days, nevertheless have these duties levied on them. I know that in the way of administration experience will bring a kindlier method of handling these duties. That is the tendency in other countries, and it will be the same here. I think, in view of the fact that there are a large number of visitors expected, whether rightly or wrongly, whether hopefully or unhopefully, this year, that the Minister might take steps to do what experience would bring in its natural course in a year or two, and what might be brought as a result of a definite instruction from him, within a week or two.