Section 1 does not call for any observation. It simply imposes income tax and super tax, and provides for the continuance of statutory provisions hitherto in force.
DÁIL IN COMMITTEE. - FINANCE BILL, 1925—THIRD STAGE.
This is to implement a reciprocal arrangement whereby our charities are exempted from British income tax, in return for our exempting British charities. As a matter of fact, we lose very little income tax by this; the British lose more. It is not a permanent arrangement, but it has been in existence for a couple of years, and it was felt that two or three years more must elapse before a term could actually be put to this exemption. It is felt that a period of three years should suffice to enable charities here holding investments in Great Britain to dispose of those investments. If during that period of three years it has not been done, the charities will not be able to blame us if we decline to continue the arrangement any further, and if they find themselves liable to income tax in Great Britain.
Could the Minister give us any further information than he has already given on the subject of a better arrangement for the charging of income tax as between the British Government and the Saorstát Government? He explained to us, when the subject was under consideration previously, that he would endeavour to have an arrangement arrived at between the two Governments at an early date that would do away with a great deal of the trouble that exists at present.
I have no further information to give, except to say that I have been in correspondence with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject, and that officials representing both Governments are examining the matter. It is too soon yet for any result.
This Section in part covers something that has been done in practice. We have not yet actually charged income tax on the gratuities or demobilisation pay of ex-officers and men of the National Army. Sub-section 2 was designed to get rid of an anomaly. By an adaptation of the British Act of 1919 pensions granted to ex-members of the National Army are exempt, but pensions granted under the same Act to ex-members of the Irish Volunteers and Citizen Army had not the benefit of exemption. We felt this to be anomalous and the section is introduced to cure it. The third sub-section simply provides for repayments where necessary.
This section is self-explanatory. The amount of duty involved is trifling and a certain amount of work will be saved in the investigation of these cases.
Could the Minister tell us whether the fact that an agricultural society employs a band at one of its shows will exclude it from the benefit of this section? It has been held, I believe, in the past, that the employment of a band rendered it necessary to charge entertainment tax. As is well known, the Royal Dublin Society and a great many other agricultural societies do employ bands or orchestras to add to the attraction of their shows. I should like to have an assurance on that point, if the Minister can give one.
That, of course, deals with entertainment tax and the matter is difficult. The disposition would be to ignore the presence of the band in connection with entertainment tax, if there was only one band, and if it was a subsidiary feature, and the show was the real entertainment. We feel that it would be dangerous to make any change in the law in regard to entertainment tax. You might have entertainments given with a few animals shown, just to cause exemption from the tax. The disposition has been, if the band is a very minor feature of the whole performance, to ignore it.
I take it from the Minister's reply that he will judge the matter very largely by the prize money and the number of exhibits, and if the show is abona fide one he will not stress the presence of a band, either for entertainment tax or for the purpose of this section?
That is really the position.
This is to remedy an injustice that might arise in certain cases of persons having income from foreign possessions. I will just illustrate it by an example. Assuming that a person acquired shares in an Australian company in April, 1925, having previously had no income from abroad, and that he got dividends as follows:— 1925-26, £800; 1926-27, £1,000; 1927-28 was a bad year, and he got £50. As the law stands at present, in respect of the year 1925-26 he would be charged on the first year's income, amounting to £800. In 1926-27 he would be charged on the income of the preceding year. In 1927-28 he would be charged on the average of the two preceding years, or on £900. That would give a total of £2,500 on which he would pay income tax, although the dividends actually received in the three years would only amount to £1,850. It is felt that there is a definite hardship there, and that a person should not have to pay in excess of the income, but on the actual amount earned in the three years.
This is a matter I have already explained on the Resolution. It will bring certain people who would otherwise not be liable to be charged tax during absence from Saorstát Eireann into the same position as the majority of the citizens. For instance, if Deputy Cooper or Deputy Johnson were to go abroad for the purpose of occasional residence, he would not escape income tax. On the other hand, if a Belgian who had become, under the Constitution, a citizen of the country, went abroad, and a certain portion of his income did not arise here, he might escape tax altogether. This will bring the whole body of citizens into the same position.
We might have a little more information on this, especially as Rule 3 of the General Rules is not available for consultation in the library. As I understand it, this is the adoption of the British procedure with regard to temporary residence out of the country. Is it going to be worked in the same spirit as the British work their provisions? I do go abroad for some temporary residence occasionally, and have not attempted to escape Saorstát income tax, but have attempted with some success to escape British income tax. I find the British Government asked me to specify every single occasion on which I have been resident in Great Britain or Northern Ireland, even for a night. I have finally persuaded them that various stays of one or two nights, not exceeding two months in all, is sufficient return. It is possible for a resident in South Africa or Australia to be able to specify his visits to Great Britain, because he possibly only makes one, and that of considerable duration, but I do not believe even the Minister, looking back eighteen months, could give exact details of every time he visited Northern Ireland in that period. It is almost impossible, when the countries are as close as they are, and when crossing the border is so easy, to keep over eighteen months or two years—unless you are one of those people who keep a careful and accurate diary—exact information as to every visit paid out of the country. I would suggest that the Minister would be wise in this matter, where there are people who come here occasionally, even members of the Seanad, who are resident out of the Saorstát and come here for the meetings of the Seanad, to allow a general return. He should have enough information at his disposal to discover whether that return is accurate. It is fairly easy to discover whether a man when he comes over resides temporarily in a hotel or a club, or whether he has a residence of some kind. I do not know if the Minister could invoke the aid of the postal authorities or the Gárda, but there must be machinery by which he can discover this. If you are going to ask people to return every single visit, though it might only be an odd visit for a race meeting, you are going to set up an inquisition which will cost a great deal more than it brings in.
It will only arise in the case of a person with ordinary residence. The position is clear about anybody who has acquired citizenship under the Constitution, and by virtue of the Constitution merely. The change, for instance, will have no effect on Deputy Cooper. But if a Frenchman, or a Belgian, or a Russian was ordinarily resident here and went abroad temporarily, and if portion of his income tax arises abroad, and we are not deducting at the source or anything like that, this will prevent him escaping liability for income tax by an occasional residence abroad. But they are not liable unless they are ordinarily resident here.
Sections 7, 8 and 9 hang together, more or less. They really represent the fulfilment of an undertaking that I gave in the course of the debate last year to Deputy Good.
At present the time limits existing are, in the case of additional assessments and surcharges, three years from the end of the year to which the assessment or surcharge relates; in the case of repayment claims for ordinary statutory allowances, personal allowances, relief in respect of children and so forth, three years from the end of the year of assessment for which relief was claimed; in the case of penalties, three years from the date of the offence. You have a similar time limit in all cases. It is now proposed to extend the time limit in all three cases to six years, that being the period prescribed by the Statute of Limitations in the case of ordinary contract debts. It is not proposed that the extension would affect any case prior to the year 1922-23, when we took over control. Section 7 contains provisions with regard to additional assessments, and it follows the lines of Section 29 of the British Finance Act of 1923, except in regard to the matter of the period of operation. The British section was given effect to as from the year 1920-21. We propose the year 1922-23. This particular section, which was enacted in Great Britain, carried out one of the recommendations of the 1920 Royal Commission on income tax.
Sub-section (1) extends the time limit for making additional assessments to six years. Sub-section (2) extends the time limit for surcharges. This provision was put in the British Act, and it may be of more importance there than it is here. Here it is very rarely necessary to resort to the method of surcharge, because the additional assessment is normally the most effective and convenient method. There are certain differences in the arrangements in England, whereby they have additional Commissioners who are local men and the work is not done by the inspectors, so there is a certain reason for it. It may be convenient for us to put it in; it has been inserted because in certain cases it may be convenient. Sub-section (3) extends the time limit for making an assessment or an additional assessment in respect of super tax, to six years. Sub-section (4) limits the period in which the executors of a deceased person may be assessed in respect of the income of the deceased before his death, for a period of three years after the end of the year of assessment in which the death took place. For example, if a person died on the 1st April, 1924, and the inspector discovered in March, 1927, that he had not disclosed in his returns certain British dividends an assessment can be made for the years 1922-23, and 1923-24, on his executors.
Even though the estate has been wound up?
If the discovery was not made until the 6th April no assessment in respect of his income for any year can be made.
Supposing the estate had been closed, would it be open to the Minister, through his officers, to make a charge on that estate?
Substantially there is no difference in time as compared with the present arrangement. In the previous sub-section we extend our powers of recovery from 3 to 6 years. In this particular sub-section we do not extend it to 6 years; we make the period 3 years, which is approximately the time that is available at present for recovery. I do not know the course to be adopted when the estate has been wound up, and the duty is not recoverable.
Supposing the assets are distributed, what will be the position of the executors? They have dis-discharged their duty, and they are released from their bond. Can the Minister still come down and make a further surcharge? They have distributed the assets, and, I take it, in that case they would be personally liable.
Fundamentally it is the duty of the executors to discover liability. In any case, we are not extending the period of recovery here. In this case the period is dealt with in sub-section (4), and it corresponds roughly to the period available at present.
Under what section could the income tax authorities recover death duties in regard to a man who died in March, 1918? Arrangements were then made between the representatives of the deceased and the Government authorities whereby certain duties were paid. Subsequently, when the Free State Government came into power, that arrangement was set aside, and a valuer was sent down. Another assessment, independent of the first one, was then made. Under what section was that procedure adopted? It has not taken effect yet, and I hope it never will. I think the Minister knows the case I am referring to.
Deputy Gorey handed me particulars of a case, but I have not the papers by me at the moment. There is no section in the present Finance Bill dealing with death duties. I think it would be better if the Deputy put down a question on the subject.
Or perhaps it would be still better to raise it on the adjournment?
If the Deputy would give me due notice, he could do that.
I take it from the Minister this is a new section that is in the Bill, and it has not been incorporated in any previous Finance Act. Am I correct in so understanding the Minister?
No, sir. There is power of recovery at the present time and this does not extend that power. In the case of certain things, additional assessments and so forth, we are extending our period of recovery from three to six years; but in other cases, such as income tax or supertax due by the estate of any deceased persons, we do not extend the period. We except that subject from the extension.
If this provision were not in the previous Finance Act, would it not appear to the ordinary person that there was some doubt about it, and that in order to clear up that doubt the section was inserted in this Bill? This provision did not exist in any previous Act. This raises a most serious question in regard to the liability of executors. It leaves it open, after the estate has been closed and the moneys of the deceased distributed in accordance with his wishes, for a further claim to be made. There still exists, with regard to the executors, a liability under this particular section. If it should be subsequently found out that certain moneys should have been paid to the income tax authorities that had not been paid, even though the assets were distributed and the estate closed, it would still be open to the Minister to make an assessment the executors who, if no funds were available to meet the charge, would become personally liable. That is a most serious position for executors.
I explained to the Deputy that this is a section dealing with time. The first three sub-sections of this section specifically extend the time for doing certain things from 3 to 6 years. In the fourth sub-section we say that in the case of a particular estate those things shall not be done over a period of 6 years, and can only be done for a period of 3 years. The existing law in the General Rules applicable to Schedules A, B, C, D, and E sets out: "Where any person dies without having delivered a statement of all his profits or accounts chargeable to tax with a view to an assessment thereon, in due course an assessment in respect of the profits or accounts which arose or accrued to him before his death may be made at any time within the year of assessment, or within three years after the expiration thereof, upon his executors or administrators, and the amount of the tax thereon shall be a duty due from and payable out of his estate." That is how the law stands in regard to a deceased person. We are extending the time for doing certain things in the section generally. In the fourth sub-section we say that the time shall not be extended in respect of the estate of the deceased person.
I am not at all sure, on the particular case that the Minister has cited, that if the estate has been closed, the assets distributed, and the executors have discharged their liability, that any further liability still continues. I am rather inclined to think that, under the particular case mentioned, the charge must be made against the estate before the assets have been distributed and the estate wound up. As I have said many times, I am not a lawyer, but it is common sense that once an estate is wound up and the executors have discharged their duty, they should not be held personally liable for further liabilities in connection with income-tax and things of that nature. If that point is not clear, it ought to be made clear. It ought to be made incumbent on the authorities that charges of this kind must be inquired into and made on the estate before the assets are distributed; otherwise an impossible position will be created for the executors. None of us would like to be placed in the position —and of course we all like to help our friends—of accepting an honorary appointment as executor if we are going to have a serious responsibility placed upon us in which we may incur liabilities that in many cases we might not be able to discharge, unless at the expense of our own families.
Would not sub-section (4) clear that point?
The Deputy raised a point which does not really arise out of this section. The law as it stands simply says that the new powers for recovery that we take in regard to additional assessments and assessments of supertax and the question of surcharges shall not apply to the estate of a deceased person. We retain the old limit of three years; we do no more. It is a case that very seldom arises. This particular provision is one that was enacted in Great Britain the year before last. There is nothing new or original in this sub-section. The general matter is one that might be argued, but I do not think we are touching on it at the present time.
I am interpreting sub-section (4) exactly in accordance with the Minister's explanation. He followed that up by quoting from the law as it existed prior to the incorporation of this section. Though its substance really applied to previous Acts, the section as we now find it did not exist in any previous Finance Act as regards this particular country. I do not know that it exists under the British Finance Act. Certainly, the custom may be in force but I have no recollection of the particular clause in its present form appearing there.
I can only read the Rule again (Rule quoted).
I think the last clause is the governing clause there. It says "out of the estate." It does not provide for the liability of the executors themselves. If that is carried on, I suppose it would be read by the Ministry that if the estate was distributed the amount in question would be regarded as a bad debt.
The sub-section does not alter it. The sub-section deals with time only. It does not introduce anything new.
I would be glad if the Minister would inquire into it, because even though it has been the custom, it is quite obvious it has not been understood by those who accepted the responsibility of executors. If they understood their position and that this liability continued for a period of three years, I am sure the result would be that none of them would close the estate until after the three years had expired. That would be very undesirable in connection with estates, and it is obviously a matter that should have inquiry and attention at the hands of the Minister.
As far as I can gather, this is a matter that very rarely arises, because anything there was there to be discovered would be discovered in connection with the fixing of the amount of estate duty due. The sources of income and so forth would be disclosed, and any discovery the Revenue Authorities might make would normally be made in connection with the payment of estate duty. It would be a rare thing for anything to be discovered at a later stage than that.
If they had been lax in their duties it is quite obvious the liability would still continue.
I move Section 10. It is practically identical with the section embodied in the British Finance Act of 1924. I dealt with this matter when the Finance Resolutions were before the House in the first instance, and when they were before the House on Report. This section was introduced in Great Britain because, although no case had been decided, a judge, in hearing a case, had expressed certain doubts as to the legality of the practice which this section is designed to put beyond doubt and which had always obtained. This is a question that only arises in the case of a change in the rate of duty and the payment of dividends by companies showing on the warrants a deduction of tax on a composite rate. In certain cases in a year of change, tax deducted might be shown at 4/3, 4/6 or 4/9, and it becomes always very difficult to explain to the taxpayer at what rate he should be entitled to his allowance. Even if it be a fact that there is no necessity for this section, it will put the matter beyond doubt from the point of view of the taxpayer. It simply means that the man is entitled to his allowance at the rate of the year. That is the practice that has always been carried out.
I move this section, which deals with such a case as I will mention. A person who is charged in Case IV. of Schedule D, in respect of income from foreign securities, or in Case V., Schedule D, in respect of income from stocks, shares or rents outside Saorstát Eireann, is normally assessed with reference to the full income arising, but where such a person satisfies the Revenue Commissioners that he is not domiciled in Saorstát Eireann, or that, being a citizen of Saorstát Eireann, he is not ordinarily resident in Saorstát Eireann, he is entitled to have the assessment made with reference to the amount of remittances of such income into Saorstát Eireann. Where a banker has deducted Saorstát Eireann tax from income derived from securities of a foreign State, and the beneficial owner proves to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners that he is not resident in Saorstát Eireann, repayment is made under the provisions of the Rules of Schedule C. Similar repayment falls to be made in similar circumstances where tax is deducted under No. 7 of the Miscellaneous Rules applicable to Schedule D in respect of interest and dividend of foreign and colonial companies, taxed by deduction by Saorstát bankers. The position at present is that the Revenue Commissioners have no satisfactory means of getting the necessary evidence to enable them to decide these questions of "domicile,""ordinary residence," and "residence." The section enables the taxpayer who is dissatisfied with the decision to have the case heard before the Special Commissioners, in the same manner as they would hear an appeal against an assessment. The Special Commissioners can then be required, either by the taxpayer or by the Revenue, to state a case on a point of law for the decision of the High Court. The real position is at the moment that the Revenue Commissioners have to decide these questions of "domicile,""ordinary residence," and "residence," possibly without having evidence adduced, and it is felt that it is desirable to have an appeal to the Special Commissioners open to the taxpayer. It is thought desirable that he should have the opportunity of having his case heard and the matter decided by the Special Commissioners as regards facts. On a question of law there would, of course be an appeal to the courts.
As the Minister knows, this question of the refund of income tax is a very difficult one at the moment. It is further complicated by the fact that in some instances, where refunds of income tax are claimed from Great Britain, the Revenue authorities there refuse to consider the claim until the applicant has furnished a full statement of his income from all sources. I would like to know whether cases of that kind have been brought before the Minister, and when applications are made by residents of Great Britain to the Revenue authorities on this side for a refund of income tax, if a similar custom is adopted here. This question of getting refunds of income tax is quite difficult enough, without the necessity of giving this additional information, and having to answer the immense number of questions which arises out of this additional information. I am sure this matter has been before the Minister, and possibly he has had some correspondence with the Revenue authorities on the other side. I would be glad if he would give us some information on this particular aspect of the question.
I am afraid I am not in a position to give the Deputy the information he has asked. We find that it is impossible to simplify the procedure that exists at present, except by a very radical change in the entire system so far as double income tax is concerned. We are certainly prepared to agree to any reasonable scheme that will safeguard our Revenue. We cannot afford to lose half a million pounds or to lose any substantial sum in revenue. Subject to our revenue being safeguarded, we are prepared to agree to any reasonable scheme to simplify the present arrangement, which we are satisfied can never be other than an arrangement that will cause a great deal of delay and irritation. The whole matter of double-taxation relief is, as I am sure Deputy Good is aware, a very complex one. I certainly would not be able to stand cross-examination on it. It would not require an expert in income tax law to puzzle me in connection with it, and if Deputy Good wants to ask questions in connection with double income tax relief, he will have to put them on paper.
I have no desire whatever to put any difficult problems to the Minister or to add to his troubles. But these are questions that are arising every day. The particular matter which I have just mentioned was brought to the attention of the Minister's Department. The reply of his Department was, when this full statement of income was demanded by the British authorities, that they should not give it as they are not entitled to it. As soon as that information was sent to the British authorities, they replied: "We are sorry we cannot comply with your request for refund of income tax until we get the full statement." This is a very material matter in connection with refund of income tax and there ought to be some understanding between the two Governments as to what information is necessary. If this information is not demanded by the Free State Government and is demanded by the British Government, surely that ought to be the subject of discussion between the two Governments as to whether it is a fair or unfair claim to make. This matter has been going on for a number of years. It is not a thing that was introduced this week or last week. It has been in existence some four years and these problems, instead of becoming less, seem to me to be becoming greater. If some real attempt is not made to assist those who live in the Free State and have investments outside the Free State, the result will be that they will be driven outside the Free State. It is all very well for the Minister to say: "Let them take the money out of investments elsewhere and invest it in the Free State." We have had an enlightening discussion here this afternoon with regard to investments in railway securities in the Free State. That is a question I have not touched, but if pressure of that kind is brought to bear on those who have capital, I think you will find, in nine cases out of ten, that the individual will come before the money will move. In the interests of the Free State, I would urge that every step that can be taken to simplify this matter should be taken.
So far as anything we could do ourselves is concerned, I think it will be generally admitted that the arrangements we have made have been less inconvenient to taxpayers than the arrangements the British have made. As to entering into correspondence with the British Government with regard to something they do in respect of claims upon them for repayment of income tax, that is hardly feasible. After all, Great Britain is not a subject State of the Saorstát, and I do not think we can dictate to them as to what their arrangements should be. We have been continually in correspondence on this subject and a joint investigation of the matter is at present going on. We realise the importance of assisting our people here in getting what is due to them in the matter of repayment of income tax and relieving them of worry and irritation, but the British Government equally has a right to take the steps it thinks proper to safeguard its revenue. We certainly cannot call upon them simply to have regard to our wishes or the wishes of our citizens. So far as making any give-and-take arrangement is concerned, we are willing to do our part, but we cannot do more.
Section 12 is designed to meet the case of companies which declare their dividends free of tax. In cases such as that, taxpayers frequently have difficulty in computing the amount of the tax for the purpose of rendering claims to the Revenue Authorities. This was a reform which was urged by various witnesses before the Royal Commission on Income Tax in 1920, and it was unanimously recommended by the Commission.
I would like to ask the Minister the meaning of the words "in writing," in line 50. Would that exclude typewriting or printing, because very often these dividend warrants are either typewritten or printed? Would it not be sufficient to say: "accompanied by a statement showing—" omitting the words "in writing." Perhaps the Minister would consider that before the Report Stage.
Certainly, but I think any printed or typewritten matter would do.
It might be verbal.
It is the customary form.
This is to amend a section of the Act of last year. Certain difficulties arose in connection with the payment of remuneration to bankers, owing to the form in which last year's section was drafted. Remuneration is paid to bankers for deduction of tax. It is also paid for furnishing particulars, but not deducting under the arrangements that exist in connection with double taxation relief. Now the bankers have a great deal more trouble in furnishing particulars than in actually deducting. We thought last year that the section passed enabled us to fix different rates, one a rate for deduction, another a rate for furnishing particulars. It was found, however, that that was not possible, and we had to resort to a very cumbersome procedure whereby we ascertained the amount of each sort of work done by each banker and fixed the composite rate to cover what would have been the amount received by the bank if it had been paid a customary rate for the deduction and the new rate for the furnishing of particulars.
This practically only applies to banks.
Only to banks.
This is a declaratory section. When the section in the Local Government Act was drafted and passed, perhaps there had not been sufficient advertence to the wording and the form of the Income Tax Acts. The result has been, on examination, that the Revenue Commissioners are afraid that the section in the Local Government Act, although intended only to affect the valuation for the purpose of local rates, might also affect it for income tax purposes. That was not intended, and it is felt that the only satisfactory arrangement is to actually make clear the effect of the section by a section in the Finance Bill.
While there is a remission of rates there is no remission of income tax.
I move amendment 1:—
In sub-section (1), lines 44-45, to delete the words "personal clothing and wearing apparel" and substitute the words "overcoats, coats, waistcoats, trousers, knickerbockers, costumes, blouses, skirts, stockings, socks, underclothing, shirts, collars, ties, corsets, caps or velour hats, handkerchiefs, and umbrellas."
There is a slight verbal error in this amendment. One word has been omitted. The correct reading of the amendment is as in Amendment 2: "caps, felt or velour hats, handkerchiefs, and umbrellas." The word "felt" has been accidentally omitted.
I have put down this amendment with the object of making these duties on wearing apparel more clearly defined in the Bill. It merely says "personal clothing or wearing apparel." This is a very wide and loose term. I have defined it more clearly. If I had a free hand I should prefer to limit the duties more closely. I think the Minister for Industry and Commerce made a very strong case with regard to the duty on ready-made clothing. I think a strong case could be made with regard to the duty on hosiery. Personally I should have preferred that he stopped at this, and when we had our customers trained to this to extend it. But the Minister is prepared to go the whole hog straight off. I have extended the duties to all these articles because the Minister might find that he could not be expected to accept any amendment that would involve a large sacrifice of revenue. Therefore, I drafted an amendment which covers every article likely to be manufactured in this country, and which also covers all the most expensive articles that are likely to bring him in revenue. It leaves out certain border-line articles; for instance, it leaves out gloves. Gloves are a very debatable question. At the present moment they are not manufactured in the Saorstát, though I believe some time ago they were manufactured in Tipperary. But gloves cover not only ordinary gloves, but, as Deputy Dr. Hennessy reminded us yesterday, rubber surgical gloves, and they cover, as I reminded the Dáil some time ago, boxing-gloves. They are not articles of any great value on which any large duty would be obtained, while they would require a certain amount of skill and a certain amount of machinery for their manufacture. So I omitted gloves. I also omitted clothing of very young children, except in so far as they are covered by underclothing.
I think the desire of the Dáil is to relieve the father of a large family of this burden so far as it can. With these exceptions, broadly speaking, I have tried to cover the bulk of the articles included in "personal clothing or wearing apparel." Of course there will be border-line cases, but I think by the more explicit definition you will have fewer border-line cases. If the Minister accepts this amendment it would be impossible for the officials to do as they did the other day, to place this duty on absolutely unmade-up silk which was intended for covering purposes, and not wearing apparel. Because it was silk it was held to be wearing apparel. I have no doubt whatever that a refund of that duty will be obtained. I have no doubt that it was a bona fide mistake, but if the description had been made more detailed as it is in this amendment, it would not be possible to tax these people on silk. I therefore ask the Minister to accept this amendment and the consequential amendments that follow.
Deputy Cooper's amendment, I think, illustrates immediately the great difficulty of dealing with this particular matter by way of schedule. For instance, he suggested that the amendment covers all the articles that reasonably could be taxed, with certain exceptions which he mentioned. Now the amendment would not allow us to tax articles like wool mufflers, which could be made here. It would not allow us to tax jumpers, cardigans, dressing-gowns, night-wear, pyjamas and a variety of other things which could be suggested. I believe myself it is undesirable to attempt to deal with the matter by way of schedule. The difficulties of the border-line cases would increase. The more you had a schedule the greater the difficulties you would have of deciding cases which might be neither one nor the other. If you altered the words in relation to caps and hats and brought in tweed hats there might be a question regarding the tam-o'-shanter, as to whether it was a cap or a hat, or neither. We deliberately put in the words "personal clothing or wearing apparel" feeling that practically all the articles could be made here, or if they could not be made here, as in the case of certain articles of millinery, at any rate, they could be, as it were, assembled here. We believe that all this type of industry is a type which is related and which is suitable to the country. It is not the heavy type of industry in which I suppose this country could never compete. It is a type of industry which might well be carried on here. It is not the type of industry that requires very expensive machinery or huge capital to have it carried on. From all points of view we think that the whole range of clothing or wearing apparel is rightly included in this particular duty. We see no possibility of satisfactorily working the tax by excluding sections of wear. It would be very difficult, for instance, to exclude children's wear. The question of where the border-line was going to be would be difficult and it would give rise to a great number of disputes and a great deal of trouble in actually working it out.
I feel that, while for instance children's clothing has not been made in this country to any great extent, there is no reason why it should not be made, and the object of the tariff is not merely to encourage production and development in the particular lines that have actually been made here, but to induce people to take up new lines, in the feeling that after a very little time organisation will be created, the skill will be acquired or purchased and that the articles may be made here in the future as well as elsewhere.
I am sure what the Minister says is possible with regard to certain of these articles, but it will take some little time to organise these industries and to get them working. Pending that time the great mass of these goods will have to be imported. I have drawn the attention of the Minister on many occasions to the incapacity of his Department to deal with this new problem. Delays of from fourteen to thirty days are taking place in the Customs. I have pointed out to the Minister where his arrangements are hopelessly inadequate. I mentioned a case where duty had been assessed when the goods had been found after a very considerable amount of difficulty in the very unsuitable stores that are used at the moment at the North Wall. When the goods had been found the people concerned were sent a mile away to Beresford Place, where they had to stand in a queue in a hopelessly understaffed office and wait a considerable portion of the day in order to make their payment. They then had to bring their receipt back to the North Wall and get their goods. While the Minister may blame business people for want of capacity in connection with organisation arising out of these duties, I think he might very well consider whether there is not in his own Department an amount of laxity that should be inquired into. As I pointed out on a previous occasion, these particular goods are seasonable goods. While the hot weather is with us light goods are in urgent demand; wires are sent across to get replenishments of stock. Stocks arrive and they are held up in the Customs for fourteen days, three weeks, or a month. by the end of which time we will probably have normal conditions as regards the weather; the demand for these light fabries will have disappeared, and these stocks which have been ordered to meet the demand existing at the moment will be left on the hands of these people.
The heated atmosphere will have disappeared.
Yes. When the Minister interferes with trade he should ensure in the interests of the State that the interference is of the least possible injury to trade. No steps have been taken in order to remedy these matters that have been a constant source of complaint on the part of traders, and I really must press the Minister, in view of the promises that he made, to see that some steps are taken to inquire into these complaints. I can give him particulars after particulars. I have one case before me which only reached me this morning, concerning an article that was sent, not through the Minister's Department, but by registered post. It left the other side on the 27th May; this is the 10th June, and it has not arrived yet. That is the responsibility of another Minister; I think that the Finance Minister has quite enough to look into at the moment.
His Department is causing very serious injury to trade, and we want to get an assurance from him that every precaution will be taken to reduce the interference with trade to the minimum. The Minister, as I said, has promised that these matters would be inquired into. I want to know what the result of that inquiry has been, because it would appear from the complaints that reach me that the methods of doing business to-day are no different from those of six or eight weeks ago, when the duty was first enforced. This is a serious matter for traders, and we want some assurance that the Minister has taken steps, and if the steps he has taken have not met the situation, that further steps will be taken in order to mitigate the trouble.
I support the amendment not only for the reasons which Deputy Cooper advanced, but for those that have been mentioned by Deputy Good. I think that a great deal of the delay that has occurred, that is occurring, and must necessarily occur in connection with new duties of this kind is very largely due to the fact that the officers administering it are not quite clear as to whether a particular article is within the dutiable area or not. I have had cases brought before me, and I will give one example; I could give three or four. A considerable amount of delay has occurred and a great deal of exasperation and loss has been caused in the case of a particular trader who got in artificial flowers. He heard nothing about their arrival until he made his own particular inquiries. He wrote to London; he heard from London that the goods had been sent on a certain date. It was then about ten days or a fortnight afterwards. He sent down to the docks and found that the goods were there. He took the matter up with the proper authorities, and they wanted to know whether the goods were artificial flowers for wear or not for wear, whether they were within the range of the duty or not. This particular trader was somewhat amused at the inquiry because he said that any person who understood the matter, who had any technical knowledge, would know that no lady would use these flowers in wearing apparel; they were obviously unsuited for it. When he gave that assurance they asked him whether he would give a written undertaking that these appliances would not be worn, and he replied: "I can give no written undertaking that the flowers will not be worn; I can give no undertaking that when I have finished with them for the purpose of decorating my shop and they are discarded that some person will not get a hold of them who will think that they are suitable for wearing." He said that he was not going to pay for the goods, that he would leave them there, and that the trader on the other side could make recovery. That is only one particular case. The delay in this particular case occurred because the authorities were not clear as to whether the goods were or were not within the dutiable area.
I think a great deal of the delay of which Deputy Good has complained, and of which many Deputies must have had numerous cases brought to their attention, is very largely owing to the fact that there is not a clear schedule for the guidance of the officers who are discharging this new duty. I urged this on the Committee Stage of the Finance Resolutions. I return to it now, and I join with Deputy Cooper in urging that a list should be set up, that we should not merely say that a duty will be charged upon some general commodity, and that the officials collecting that duty should then be left to discover for themselves, or by reference to their superior officers, whether different commodities are or are not within the dutiable area; that we should set down quite clearly, and as definitely as possible on which goods the duty is to be levied, and on which goods the duty need not be levied. The Minister for Finance, in criticising the terms of this amendment, I think, in quoting the various items, war referring to some list that he had seen or that was before him. I imagine that some kind of list must have been available. I cannot understand his reluctance in making that list, if there be such a list, a definite schedule for purposes of legislation. I cannot appreciate to the full his reluctance in doing that, but I think it would be a good way of starting with this matter, even though it might prove that certain items would be discovered in the course of working to be quite within the dutiable areas, although not set down in the schedule. If that were so, the schedule could be changed, amplified, and made clear so as to include such items. But let us at least expedite the administration of these new duties by letting the officials, and the public have before them some definite statutory list to which reference could be made to determine whether articles are strictly dutiable or are not strictly dutiable. There will always be a border line. I think when the Minister was referring to the border line I heard Deputy Redmond suggest that there would have to be a new Boundary Commission in regard to these border-line cases, but the publication of a schedule would not make it any more difficult or any less difficult in regard to these cases that are doubtfully within the area. It would at least give a certain amount of certainty, a certain amount of information in the first instance, to the public that will be affected, and in the second instance to the officials administering the duties.
Deputy Figgis' instance about artificial flowers is a very strong confirmation of the necessity for an amendment of this kind, because the Minister spoke of these articles of wearing apparel that we could not produce ourselves, but in which we might have an assembling trade. I think that those were his words. Amongst such articles, I presume, are ladies' hats. Surely artificial flowers would be the raw material of that assembling trade. Why should they be taxed? Shapes, I think, are exempted from taxation, but why should artificial flowers be taxed if we are trying to build up an assembling trade here? That helps to show that the thing has not been properly thought out, that a general formula has been adopted without any regard to its working with reference to the general public. There is a dislike on the part of the Minister, or his Department, to have any specific schedule in any detail. On the pier at Dun Laoghaire there is posted up in an obscure place a schedule of taxable articles. It is dated October, 1924, and the unfortunate Customs official has to interpret the duties that we imposed a month ago with the help of a schedule dated October, 1924, which any irritated traveller may invoke against him. I wonder is there any more recent schedule that gives in detail a list of the taxable goods to guide the officials. I hope the Minister will answer that question.
With regard to the omissions that the Minister noted, I deliberately left out cardigans and jumpers, because I see no means by which you could tax them without taxing the jersey of the little boy playing in the street. One definition would cover them all. I would sooner let the cardigan or jumper escape than tax the jersey that the small boy from 5 to 8 years of age wears. Secondly, he quoted woollen mufflers. What are woollen mufflers? They are the consolation of the poor girl who is unable to buy furs. They are comparatively inexpensive. You would really think that when we are taxing so much we need hardly come down to the very poor and tax the thing that keeps them warm in the cold weather. What is the other exception? Nightwear—pyjamas, dressing gowns, and so on, I left out. All our days are taxed, and for Heaven's sake let us have our nights in peace. These are the exceptions that I did not include. They were not inadvertent; they were intentional.
What it comes to is this: the Minister refuses this amendment, because he says we may, at some future date, be able to build up industries in the things I have left out. I have gone a very long way to meet him in this amendment. I have specified twenty articles that may be taxed. I have specified I think, every article we are producing here at present. I have given protection to the twenty men employed in the hat trade: to the thirty-five people in the umbrella trade. I have given protection to every Irish industry operating at present, and, in addition, I am giving protection to every big industry, to the big things such as men's suits, women's costumes, overcoats. All these things will receive protection under the amendment. The Minister says: "That is not enough. We must go the whole hog this year. This year I expect such a development that we will not only manufacture all the things mentioned in Deputy Cooper's amendment, but all the things he has left out." Do we not all know that these things will not be manufactured in the Saorstát this year on any scale that will meet the requirements of the people? What does it come to, then? By a tax on every single one of these items you increase the cost of living. I say concentrate on two or three things, or even on twenty things—I would prefer fewer if I had a free hand—but concentrate on the big things, on the things that will give employment and that give the bulk of the revenue, the things of large value, and let the little things go.
Deputy Cooper's appeal that we should leave our nights untaxed does not appeal to me. I do not know that there is anything I can say further in reply to Deputy Cooper. I presume that he regards this whole tax as undesirable. He regards it as making the best of a bad case to limit the tax in any way that he thinks the Dáil would agree to. I take the opposite view. I think that we desire to have the range as wide as possible in regard to wearing apparel; that we should not unduly restrict the operations of this tax. We deliberately framed a certain policy. We decided to include a certain range of goods in our operations. We estimated that we would get in the circumstances that exist a certain revenue for them. We fixed our remissions of taxation having regard to that revenue, and I do not feel inclined to depart from the general policy that we have already adopted, and which is embodied in this Bill.
With regard to the points raised by Deputy Good. We are trying to remedy the matters complained of. Delays have undoubtedly arisen. I did not see any way, when we decided on having these taxes, of avoiding some delays, and we took the best steps we could to provide additional staff. We are providing a further staff for the Revenue Department, not of a Customs character, but on the clerical side, and so far as we can do it, we are taking every possible step to clear away any accumulation of goods that exists. We cannot take somebody off the street and make a Customs Officer of him. No matter whom you bring in, there is going to be some time when his use will be rather limited. An intelligent man can be made some use of from the beginning, but the assistance he can give for some time is limited.
Is not that an argument for limiting the tax?
No, because you simply will raise new questions. Deputy Figgis talked about artificial flowers. I do not want to have a whole series of questions raised. I mentioned the case of an article like a tam-o' shanter. Great difficulties could be raised in regard to that. If you tax shirts and do not tax pyjamas, there is a type of American shirt which looks very like a pyjama jacket. You will have a great deal of dispute as to whether it is taxable or not. By limiting in this way, and cutting through the tariff, you simply raise new complications, which are the things that are difficult to deal with, things that will cause delays when you have a certain number of comparatively inexperienced officials dealing with them.
Delays are not all due to the Customs. There are, for instance, delays due to lack of accommodation. To some extent, so far as lack of accommodation is concerned, we may put the blame on the carrying companies, who have not been very ready to extend the transit shed accommodation that is required. One company, I think, is not accepting any parcels of dutiable goods at present. The shed where their ships discharge is absolutely choked up. Goods cannot be found; there is a pile of things thrown on top of one another. Once that state of confusion has been created, it is difficult to clear it away. As I say, no goods are now coming in, and that particular pile is being cleared up. We are doing all we can, having regard to the facilities that exist, and the experienced staff that we can use.
The trouble about artificial flowers is that you are always bound to have doubtful cases, and you cannot adopt any course other than such a course as has been adopted. Deputy Cooper seemed to indicate that the delay was entirely due to the Customs. It is not the duty of the Custom authorities to inform importers when goods arrive. Their duties are to see that the revenue is collected, and that goods are not cleared until the duty has been paid. It is not their duty to see that things are presented for payment of duty and for clearance.
Are the dutiable articles not placed in bond?
They are placed in bond by the importers, not by the Customs Officers. Ordinarily, they are placed in a transit shed, which is technically regarded as being part of the ship, by the shipping company; and they cannot be taken away from there, except they are being removed to bond, without the payment of the Customs duty. Strictly speaking, the Customs people could refuse to allow any article off the ship until a full entry had been made and duty had been paid, but of course they do not do that. The custom is to regard the transit shed as being part of the ship, and to allow the goods to be put into the shed. Then they are cleared from the transit shed.
A good portion of the delay, both at present and when our own separate Customs system was first set up—when there was a great deal worse confusion than there is now—was caused through lack of space. When the Customs system was first set up here great piles of goods accumulated in the transit sheds, and those which arrived first were those which were last out. In one case at any rate, I have had reports that that occurred recently. I am informed that difficulty has been overcome. It has not been just overcome yet, but it is being dealt with, and I hope that in a very short time the business of the ports will be going on normally again.
Is the Minister aware that one carrying company has offered to place additional space at the disposal of his department at the North Wall, and has he made any reply to that offer?
I have not heard of it personally.
I will give details of it later.
I do not want to press the case with regard to artificial flowers too far, because I recognise the difficulties attached to it. I only repeat it now because I think some kind of definition with regard to that would assist not merely the importer, but the department itself, if one were to take that instance as an example. The question I now put to the Minister with a view to getting some kind of ruling is: Is it intended to levy duties upon what may be strictly regarded as the raw material of manufacture in this country? When the Financial Resolutions were before the Dáil, I gathered, and I think the majority of Deputies gathered, the impression that the purpose was to levy thisad valorem duty on articles that came into this country in a manufactured state, in order that their manufacture here might be encouraged. I urged then that a duty might be levied on the importation of foreign cloth, and the Minister replied, and justified his case quite fully, that that would be a two-tier duty, and it was not the intention to do that. If you are going to charge this duty, not on the completed article, which might be a hat, but on what is the raw material for a finished product, as it would be in the case of artificial flowers, and a number of other things, then you are going to get exactly the result that the Minister deprecated on the Financial Resolution: you are going to get a two-tier duty and are not going to encourage the manufacture of the finished product in this country. I give that as an instance, and ask the Minister in regard to that particular example if it is the intention to levy this duty on artificial flowers, simply because artificial flowers may be used in the manufacture of hats, and, if so, would then, but not until then, become portion of the wearing apparel.
We have been giving consideration to the question of feathers and artificial flowers, and we have not really completed consideration of that matter. It might be possible that I would, on the Report Stage, agree to exempt one or other, or both, of these particular articles from the duty, but in our discussion with the people interested in the trade, we have only felt that a good case was really put up for unblocked hat-shapes, and we put a sub-section in exempting the unblocked hat-shapes. Artificial flowers are articles that might be made here. We are certainly not imposing a two-tier duty. It may be that, through taxing components, we are not likely to get all the effect that the duty might otherwise have in the manufacture of hats. I think, however, that there has been a great deal of the putting-together of hats done here. There has not been such a tremendous importation of fully-trimmed and assembled hats as the Deputy seems to believe. On the other hand, for things like feathers, which are not manufactured, but which are only treated, there seems to be a somewhat better case. It is one of the matters that we are investigating with a view to seeing whether or not any further exemptions ought to be given. We feel that the only sound case that was put up by these people was on the one point of unblocked hat-shapes.
With regard to the question of complaints as to delays at the North Wall, the Minister has informed us that he has been doing all he can to remedy that matter, but he has a difficulty in getting suitable officials. Might I suggest to the Minister that he could select some confidential official in his Department to whom he could say: "Here is a real difficulty that has arisen and that ought to be removed?" Let that official see exactly how this problem could be dealt with; leave him on that work until it is dealt with. If it is a question of accommodation, surely the Minister has power to deal with that. These complaints are continuing from day to day, trade is being lost, and nothing is being done to remedy matters. The time has arrived when the Minister ought to take up this task seriously. He should appoint some official who will report from day to day the steps he is taking, and how far the difficulties that have arisen are being dealt with. I would urge on the Minister that in the interests of trade it is necessary to take drastic and immediate action. Complaints have been made for months, and I hope the Minister will take up the matter seriously and have it remedied.
I desire to support Deputy Good in the plea he made for a more prompt clearance of dutiable articles at the North Wall. I have been informed that seasonable goods particularly, like drapery, fabrics, etc., are being held up for as long as thirty days. By the time they are delivered the goods are practically unsaleable, as the demand has ceased. That is altogether wrong, and the Minister, having regard to the business of the country and the protection of the revenue, should insist upon getting a more prompt clearance. It appears to me that forty-eight hours, and certainly not longer than seventy-two hours, should be ample time in which to get the goods cleared. The Minister stated that confusion existed on the setting up of the Customs barrier more than two years ago. I wonder he did not make provision to obviate a similar difficulty when the new tariffs were set up. There was an absolute lack of provision. That was not good enough. It should be obvious to the Revenue authorities and the Department of Finance that the imposition of a tax would necessarily create delays; yet nothing was done, as far as we can learn, to facilitate the handling of goods, and officials are moving very slowly at present in surmounting existing difficulties. If some remedy is not immediately found, it will diminish the sale of certain goods and extinguish trade to a large extent. In any case, prices will have to be raised if you are not to diminish the profits amongst the distributing houses. The essence of the trade is a quick sale. If the goods are too long on hands the traders will require a higher margin of profit to indemnify themselves. If the trade declines, you automatically lower profits for the traders, and, incidentally, you are lowering your own income tax yield. Further, you are helping to create unemployment. Large numbers of people, as the Minister is aware, are employed in the distributing trade in Dublin. Is it in the interest of those people, or of business generally, to have long delays at the quays? I do not think it is. The Minister should insist on a prompt despatch and clearance of goods at the frontiers.
There was one question put by Deputy Cooper to which I did not find an answer in the Minister's reply. Have the Customs officers any kind of schedule as a working instrument? It seems to me absolutely essential that they should have in order to expendite the handling of goods. The Minister admitted how difficult it was to decide whether artificial flowers or feathers could be described as accessories of wearing apparel.
The real point was whether we should decide to exempt them. At the moment they are liable to tax.
There are many border-line cases that will come up from day to day and it is rather hard to expect an official summarily to decide these matters and endeavour to interpret the Act for himself. Would it not be a more reasonable thing to give him some kind of a working schedule?
The Customs officers have full instructions. They have the official import lists which set out the number of articles and the type of articles that are dutiable. Those lists set out overcoats, mackintoshes, men's and boys' suits, vests and trousers, women's and girls' fabrics, mantels and cloaks, aprons and overcoats, under-garments, coats, collars and cuffs, feathers, haberdashery, millinery, braces, suspenders, gloves, hats, caps, bonnets, and other head gear. Those are some of the items in the official import list. Then the officers are given certain instructions following the imposition of a tax and the passing of resolutions. As different points are raised and difficulties are experienced, supplementary instructions are issued, so that the officers have the fullest possible instructions that could be given. Doubtful points arise from time to time, and you are bound to have questions arising that were not fully thrashed out before. Whenever the need occurs, Customs officers are further circularised.
I desire to thank the Minister for the explanation he has given. Many people were perplexed over that matter.
I also desire to thank the Minister for making my case. We should really define those articles ourselves, and not leave it to the Revenue authorities and the Customs officers to interpret what articles are or are not dutiable. We are the people who should indicate what is to be taxed and what is not to be taxed, and not the Revenue Commissioners. Therefore, I must press my amendment.
Of course, the courts ultimately decide. If people feel that the Revenue Commissioners are not interpreting the section properly, they have their remedy. It is not a question of the Revenue Commissioners supplementing, altering or twisting anything in the Bill or the resolution. The resolutions are subject to the interpretation of the courts, just the same as any law. With reference to the provision of accommodation, we have no powers to enforce the provision of accommodation except to stand strictly on our rights and refuse to allow any shipping company to land its goods until full entry has been made.
If you are satisfied in the interests of the trade that the stores into which goods are to be transferred are suitable for the purpose, why not allow them in?
It is really a choice of evils. There was one port at which we met with absolute resistance when we wanted accommodation provided, and it was only when we threatened to close the port that the people concerned climbed down and provided the accommodation. One does not desire to take drastic action unless other means have failed.
On a point of personal explanation, I have not accused the Revenue Commissioners of twisting or perverting their duties in any way. I suggest we are placing on their shoulders a responsibility that belongs to us and not to them.
Would the Minister consider the suggestion I made about appointing a responsible officer from his Department and entrusting him with the task of investigating these delays? Let him see the difficulties, consult with the Department, and deal with them. This problem has continued for months, and it means serious injury to the trade. The Minister, as we all recognise, is an exceedingly busy person. Why cannot he select one confidential person and say to him: "I want this difficulty dealt with; I put the responsibility on you, and I will give you any assistance necessary." That is the way we business men would deal with it.
It is being dealt with in that way. An inquiry has been conducted on my behalf in regard to delays alleged to have taken place at Fowler Hall. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs was accused in that respect, but it is really my responsibility. Investigations are proceeding, and all the steps that can be taken are being taken to remedy matters. But when you have new duties, and when you have difficulties that the new duties necessarily create, it is no easy matter to deal with them. Heretofore the people were not accustomed to having transactions on dutiable goods. You have the difficulties of getting particulars and evidence that would enable you to chargead valorem duties, and they are always troublesome to work. You have a staff fresh on those duties, you have a greater volume of duties and a shortage of space. Certain members of the staff are comparatively new and they cannot deal with those problems as rapidly as a more experienced staff could. It is really a matter of time. It is a matter of clearing away the initial confusion, getting the staffs better trained, having the public taught to comply promptly and fully with the Customs' requirements, and having officers experienced in dealing with those new duties. We have given all the staff that is really necessary. We cannot give an experienced staff, because that does not exist. We have also given the Revenue Authorities a staff for purely clerical duties. The whole situation is being met in that way, and it is now a matter of investigating particular duties and remedying them as rapidly as they can be remedied.
I would, if I had finished with this Bill, give a certain amount more personal attention to it, but I have given a good deal, and I have had numerous conferences with responsible officers with a view to getting rid of any difficulties. I simply say that the imposition of a considerable number of new duties, which bring people into contact with Customs and Customs formalities who were never in contact with them before, must necessarily result in a certain amount of confusion. We can only try to get over the difficulties as rapidly as possible.
I am moved by the Minister's touching appeal to hurry on with the Bill, in order that he should have more time to deal with this matter. Having regard to the number of complaints that have come my way, and to the number of complaints I have heard of, would the Minister consider this definite suggestion: If goods such as I have mentioned, in respect of which a definite decision has not been taken, cross the border-line, will he, pending a definite decision, let the goods go through?
No, sir. I would have to consult the Revenue Solicitor, and if he was in doubt I should have to take the advice of the Attorney-General, and act on his advice.
God help the importer!
- Earnán Altún.
- John J. Cole.
- Bryan R. Cooper.
- Darrell Figgis.
- John Good.
- William Hewat.
- Connor Hogan.
- Séamus Mac Cosgair.
- Risteárd Mac Liam.
- Patrick J. Mulvany.
- Tadhg O Donnabháin.
- Mícheál O Dubhghaill.
- Mícheál O hIfearnáin.
- Pádraig O hOgáin (Luimneach).
- William A. Redmond.
- Nicholas Wall.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Séamus Breathnach.
- Seoirse de Bhulbh.
- Próinsias Bulfin.
- Louis J. D'Alton.
- John Daly.
- Máighréad Ní Choileain Bean Uí Dhrisceóil.
- Patrick J. Egan.
- Osmond Grattan Esmonde.
- Desmond Fitzgerald.
- John Hennigan.
- Seosamh Mac a' Bhrighde.
- Liam Mac Cosgair.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
- Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
- Liam Mac Sioghaird.
- Liam Mag Aonghusa.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- John T. Nolan.
- Peadar O hAodha.
- Mícheál O hAonghusa.
- Tomás O Conaill.
- Conchubhar O Conghaile.
- Aodh O Cúlacháin. Séamus O Dóláin.
- Peadar O Dubhghaill.
- Eamon O Dúgáin.
- Aindriú O Láimhín.
- Séamus O Leadáin.
- Fionán O Loingsigh.
- Séamus O Murchadha.
- Máirtín O Rodaigh.
- Seán O Súilleabháin.
- Caoimhghin O hUígín.
- Patrick W. Shaw.
I move amendment 4:—
In sub-section (1), lines 27 and 28, to delete the words "furniture (other than bedsteads)" and substitute the words "tables, chairs, sofas, stools, desks, benches, wardrobes, cupboards, cabinets, chests of drawers, wash-hand stands and dressers."
I need not take very long in arguing this amendment, because the principle is the same as the principle of the last amendment. It is, briefly, that we should say what we are taxing in detail, instead of dismissing it by a general term such as "furniture." I venture to think that when, by Resolution, we imposed this tax on furniture, we did not know it included every routine article that could possibly be used in a house or office or shop, or even school—though I am not quite certain on the last point. We did not realise that it would cover the wood in the handle of a broom and things of that kind. We thought of "furniture" in the terms in which I have expressed it in the amendment— tables, chairs, cupboards, and so on. These are articles in which we could possibly build up an industry. There are a certain number of firms manufacturing them now, and there may be more firms manufacturing them in future. I do not think that it was contemplated that the tax would apply to such insignificant things as the handle of a hammer or the wooden part of a sieve. I understand that all these articles come under the definition adopted by the Revenue Commissioners—anything that is normally used in a house. I think children's toys come under it, too. I do not think we had any idea, when imposing the duty, that articles of that kind would be included. If we had that idea, I am not at all sure that we would have passed the resolution. I have defined in this amendment all the larger articles of furniture, the making of which would be likely to give employment here or to yield any substantial amount of revenue to the Minister. The duties on these small articles are hardly worth collecting. They cause trouble, annoyance and expense in collection, and that, in itself, condemns them. I, therefore, ask the Committee to accept this amendment rather than adhere to the general term "furniture," which is being stretched to cover a great many more articles than we ever imagined.
The word "furniture" is one that has the advantage, for the purpose of legislation, of having been litigated about a good deal. It has frequently happened that people in their wills have left their furniture to somebody and there has been a dispute as to which of the articles in the house were "furniture" and which were not. So much litigation has taken place in regard to this matter that you can find legal decisions dealing with almost any question that would arise in regard to what was furniture and what was not. While to the layman there might be difficulty in deciding some such questions, there is not, from the legal point of view, any great difficulty in such cases. I would put it to Deputy Cooper that there are many wooden articles of furniture which are excluded from his list which might as well be included as the things he has mentioned. Coal scuttles, shelves, music stands, fire screens, curtain poles, hall stands, umbrella stands, book cases, settees, sideboards, presses, towel racks, and all sorts of other articles would come quite as well within even the narrow view of the meaning of the word "furniture" as the things he has mentioned.
There might be certain classes of articles that would be taxed furniture which it would be thought desirable to exempt. In certain cases we have provided exemptions. We provided exemptions in the case of picture frames and we propose to provide another exemption in the case of vacuum cleaners. I think that the general term "furniture" is one that serves. I do not know that the members of the Dáil in general were in any way mistaken as to its meaning. There is just one class of article that is included in the term furniture which members of the Dáil did not realise would be classed as furniture: that is brushes used in houses. I do not think that is one that we should move to exclude. It is an article that has been manufactured here for a very long time and it has been manufactured in a satisfactory way. Brushmaking is an old industry here, and I do not feel inclined to move for the exclusion of that particular class of article from the definition "furniture."
In regard to the other things that were included I think they mostly are articles that anybody would have anticipated as being likely to be included in the term "furniture."
Will street brushes come under the word "brushes?"
Not if they are street brushes.
Would tools come under the definition?
No, for instance, a hammer handle.
Is crockery ware furniture?
What about clothes pegs. They have been defined as furniture.
I think they have been defined as furniture.
The principle of Deputy Cooper's amendment is to let the public know what they have to pay on. The Minister, in replying to Deputy Cooper, stated that the Commissioners have under consideration, or have adopted certain exemptions.
One exemption appears in the section; another appears amongst the amendments that are on the Paper.
I think the Minister did indicate that the Commissioners have the power to vary——
No, the Commissioners are bound, when any doubt arises, to take the advice of their solicitor; they might feel that it would be well to have the advice of the Attorney-General on it. When they get that advice they act on it, unless the matter is decided otherwise in the courts, or until the matter is decided otherwise in the courts. But they must strictly carry out the law as laid down.
The Minister has not answered me. He quoted articles as being left out, but some of them are made of metal. Coal scuttles are usually made of metal; so are umbrella stands. A side-board would be defined as a table and cupboard, and it would probably come under one or other of these terms. I do not know what meaning the law places on the word furniture. I do not know whether shelves and curtain poles would be included in it. I think if a person takes an unfurnished house he usually gets shelves and curtain poles in it.
You did not go into any of the new houses.
I know that I bought a house unfurnished, and there were both shelves and curtain poles in it. I would rather the shelves had not been in it. But those are minor points. If the principle of this amendment were adopted, there is nothing to prevent the Minister putting in the whole schedule from which he has obviously quoted, on Report. I suggest that we are doing wrong both in this and on the last amendment in transferring to the Revenue Commissioners and to the Attorney-General a duty which it is for us to discharge. It is for us to say what articles are to be taxed and what articles are covered by that general description "furniture." I am not convinced by the Minister's arguments.
Deputy Hewat has appealed on behalf of the public. I would appeal on behalf of the Customs officers, because they find great difficulty in deciding whether items are taxable or not. The result is that articles coming in at the beginning of the year will not be cleared until Christmas. I heard of a case from Sligo where an importer purchased a lot of goods. The Customs officers charged him a certain amount. He wrote a cheque for the amount, but the Customs officers thought that perhaps there might be an overcharge and until the matter was decided they would not give him the goods. He was willing to pay and to get a refund afterwards if there was an overcharge, but the Customs officers would not allow the goods through until the thing was finally decided. If the matter was decided on the lines of the amendment I think it would be a great advantage both to the Customs officers and to the public.
Of course instructions are being given to cover all the points that have been raised. They may not all have occurred to people in the first instance and supplementary instructions are issued. It is not necessary in every case that we should consult the Revenue Commissioners or the Law officer. If the Revenue Commissioners have any doubt as to the position they can take legal advice. In the case of individual officers, they find difficulty in deciding whether an article is dutiable or not. Somebody complained to me that in one place an officer had insisted on charging duty on a bedspread on the ground that it was part of a bed. I rather think it was a false allegation. Some difficulties will arise, but these are only initial difficulties. From time to time, instructions will be issued that will cover every possible point that can be raised. I should say that even now there are very few articles coming under the notice of Customs officers that they will not be able to decide promptly whether they are dutiable or not.
I think the Minister is under a misapprehension with regard to the bedspread case. It was I who mentioned it to him. It occurred with regard to Messrs. Arnott, Dublin. It is a genuine case and no fabrication. It is really necessary, in the interests of the Customs and of the trading public, that there should be some sort of technical education, some sort of continuation school, provided for those who are to carry on the very difficult duties we are imposing on them. In all good faith the Customs official was under the impression that a bedspread was part of a bedstead, and therefore a wooden article. It had to be explained, after considerable difficulty, that it was in the nature of a quilt. He knew what a quilt was and the difficulty was surmounted. Similarly, when the duty was first put on musical instruments, a case arose where it was only after considerable discussion and wrangling that a Customs officer was convinced that a piano-stool was not a musical instrument.
Deputy Cooper is legally, technically, and historically correct in his claim that his catalogue includes sideboards, because a sideboard is literally a side-table, and all sideboards, as he is well aware, were originally tables merely. The cupboard arrangement was a separate entity altogether, which, in the latter part of the eighteenth century was added, and made a component part of it. Now it would come under the category of a cupboard, and it would be hit in either case. There is one article of furniture which is in very general use, and which more than Deputy Cooper would be likely to expect to find as one of the appurtenances of the house he has rented, and would be disappointed, namely, spring rollers for blinds. These are only made in America. An English firm attempted to rival the American producer in their manufacture. They invested a considerable amount of capital and secured skilled labour, but they could not produce this article at a fraction of the cost of the American article. We are protecting nothing by putting a duty on these. They cost a remarkably small sum. You could not buy in Ireland the timber that is contained in one of them for the price of the total contraption, its spring interior, and all the adjustments, and putting on a duty on such an article is really only making things costly for the generality of people, especially poor people, while the revenue to be gained from it is comparatively trifling. It does seem to be a sound principle that the public should know what they are to be charged for and what they are expected to pay upon. As a general warning, the word "furniture," no doubt, is good enough and, if it is intended merely as a sort of prohibitory notice, to prevent the public from importing things in the category of furniture, it is well and good. But, after all, we are supposed to safeguard the interests of the trading community, and to be concerned about commerce, and undoubtedly the want of a detailed and specific list will militate against the swiftness of the clearing of stuff that accumulates in the Customs. We all know the difficulty of the railway porter who, trying to charge for a parrot and some other things, consulted his list and interpreted "cats is dogs, porpoises is insects." You may no doubt create a similar difficulty here. I suggest if, in addition to this collateral advantage of having a detailed list in a schedule, you also had some sort of technical after-hours school provided, you would get over a great many of the difficulties.
I am very glad to have Deputy Magennis's advocacy. I hope, if the curtain pole is not excluded, its associate and neighbour, the spring blind, will be. I think in the main he has made a case. The appeal I really want to make to the Minister is to make these instructions and regulations accessible to the members of the Oireachtas, by placing them in the reading room or in some other way. I do not know how they are issued, but we have no access to them. The result is that we are continually getting questions from constituents as to whether it is right that such an article should be taxed. We have no way of replying without going to the Revenue Commissioners. I think it would save his own Department a considerable amount of correspondence and trouble if he would make these things accessible. At any rate, we would feel that if a mistake had been made we could call attention to the matter by question or by some other means.
I would undertake to let Deputies have, and also to make available for the public in the ordinary way, a document giving the most complete list possible, so that very little doubt could remain in anybody's mind as to what was included in the term "furniture." But there still would be something left out.
In sub-section (2), line 34, after the word "levied" to insert the letter "(a)" and in line 37 after the word "frame" to insert the words
(b) on any apparatus made, wholly or partly of wood and adapted to be used for the purpose of household cleaning by means of suction or on any component part of any such apparatus."
The amendment is introduced because of the fact that the relative value of the wood in instruments of the kind is so very small that the tax would not be worth the cost of collection.
Has the Minister considered that this is, in fact, a brush? It is an apparatus described as a cleaner, worked either by a pump or by electricity actuating a pump. It really takes the place of a brush, and brushes are some of its components. One of the oldest established businesses in Dublin is brush-making in all its varieties, and if this experiment in the way of a protective tariff is to be successful, and if tooth brushes, shaving brushes and so on, are to be put aside and sweeping brushes and brushes for cleaning ranges are to be regarded, and rightly regarded, as furniture, it will mean that this piece of furniture will really be a substitute for many of these brushes. In any house where a suction cleaner is used it takes the place of certain brushes that formerly would be supplied by the Dublin industry. It seems to me, therefore, that although we are benefiting the adoption of modern methods and helping domestic economy in this case, there is a certain amount of cross-purposes. Anything that discharges the function of a brush should be, for the purpose of this Bill, a brush.
I understood up to now that Deputy Magennis favoured the development of electricity. He did enthusiastically support the Shannon proposal because he believed it would aid brightness and comfort, and relieve unnecessary labour in certain departments of social life. He is not proposing in the interests of the candle-making industry to prevent the development of oil lamps, gas or electricity, but he is proposing for the benefit of the brush-making industry that you should prevent the development of suction for the purpose of removing dust and dirt. I am at one with him in desiring to see the brush-making industry retained as far as it is reasonably possible, but I am not so far advanced in the protectionist dogma as to say that you must restrain the development of scientific apparatus in the interests of the old-fashioned brush-making. If I had that view, I would certainly not support any proposal that would come into competition with the old-established industry of candle-making.
There is another point also. Certain classes of vacuum cleaners contain no wood, and they would escape the tax. It simply would mean that these would be competing with others that contained a small proportion of wood.
I merely spoke to draw attention to a fact that perhaps has been overlooked, that circumstances sometimes arise in medical practice that the treatment which would cure a patient suffering from one ailment will expedite the removal of a patient suffering from another. On the question of tariffs we need to gang warily. That was the sole purpose I had in view.
took the Chair.
I would like to ask the Minister if he has been able to meet the point that I brought up on Second Reading about what are called charity clothes, clothes sent from outside the Saorstát to some charitable agency, and further, if it is possible to do anything to meet the even harder case of people of reduced means who receive clothes from relations or friends living in Great Britain or in the Six Counties? These people are often very poor and they are also very proud; they do not like it to be known that they are in receipt of charity, and at the same time these part-worn clothes are a god-send to them, enabling them to make a respectable appearance in the eyes of the world. I realise that it would be very difficult to make arrangements to meet the case of these people without defeating the objects of the tax, because tailors might arrange with agents to get clothes in under that guise, but if it is possible to do something, I hope that the Minister will do so to meet a case which is really a genuinely hard case. I hope he will be able to tell us what proposals he has in view with regard to charitable societies like the Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers' Society.
I desire to draw the Minister's attention to another matter. I consider that this section imposes a certain amount of hardship on those people whose furniture was destroyed by the Irregulars or otherwise, and who got an award, probably two years ago, with the construction order for their premises. Many of these construction orders could not be carried out up to this, or are not finished, and of the furniture award much of the money is still lying there and the furniture has not been bought. This section imposes a 33 1-3 duty on imported furniture. The Minister may say that this furniture can be procured at home, but I hold that furniture similar to that which most people lost, cannot be produced locally. You may get kitchen chairs and similar articles made here, but if you buy the high-class furniture made in this country the award would not be sufficient, and it is, therefore, incumbent on these people to buy imported or second-hand furniture. The Minister may think lightly of it, but it would come home to him if he had got an award of £1,000 for furniture that he could not buy for £1,300 or £1,400, and he would not think so lightly of it. There are many people in this predicament, and I think the Minister should do something for them on the Report Stage. I would like to hear his views on the matter, and to know if he considers that the imposition of this tax will mean that one-third of what he gave with one hand he is taking away with the other.
Deputy Doyle talks about people who got awards, say, a couple of years ago, and have not yet been able to buy the furniture for which the award was made——
They have not had their houses reconstructed.
Quite. It is a fact that during the past couple of years furniture has slumped very considerably, and probably even with the tax on these people will be able to buy about as much furniture as they would have been able to buy if they had bought before there was a reduction in prices. At any rate, if that does not cover the difference, it covers it in part. I do not think it is possible to meet cases like that, any more than it would be possible to meet the case of a person, say, who may have got money from an insurance company. Any change in a system of taxation will occasionally bear hardly on people.
It is an extraordinarily big change. A thousand pounds would buy a couple of years ago what would now be worth only £630, on the basis of prices at that time.
There are quite a number of kinds of furniture of which there will be no substantial change in price as a result of this tax. There were classes of furniture made on competing terms in this country before the tariff was put on at all. They were not perhaps made in sufficient quantities to meet the market, but in those particular grades of furniture I think competition will be stimulated, and as far as they are concerned, a person who has an award will be able to buy at approximately the same price as before the tax was imposed. There are other cases where, no doubt, an additional price will have to be paid as a result of the tariff, but, as I said before, that is, to some extent at any rate, neutralised by the fall that has taken place in prices during the past couple of years. I do not know that the difficulty is one that any reasonable machinery could be devised to meet.
We have examined the matter of clothing imported for charitable purposes. It would be possible to exempt clothing imported by charitable organisations, but it would not be possible to do in the case of clothing imported by individuals, and, as Deputy Cooper rightly said, in many cases individuals desiring to import second-hand clothing would have a better case than a charitable organisation. In any case I am not frightfully keen on encouraging charitable organisations to gather old clothes in other countries for distribution here. From the administrative point of view it would be practicable to deal with the importations of organisations such as the Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers' Society, or bodies of that sort, by way of exemption, but that is only part of the problem, and no machinery could be devised for dealing with individuals. It does not really seem equitable to deal with one and not with the other. On the whole, I feel that it is not desirable to do so.
I am sorry that the Minister is not more sympathetic towards the charity clothing, because while it may be possible in time to get old clothes in this country, it will take some time to organise it, and in the meantime the poor will suffer. I cannot help thinking that this is one of the cases where administrative convenience should come second to the welfare of the people. With regard to Deputy Doyle's point, I do not think that the Minister has made his case at all. His case, which he also made to me some time ago, is, firstly, that furniture ought to be procurable in this country, and so the tax will not have to be paid, and secondly, that furniture has fallen in price in the last two years. I do not know if he will accept the Board of Works as an authority on furniture, but I find that the Chairman of the Board of Works, in evidence before the Committee of Public Accounts on the 18th June of last year, said: "It may be that members of the Committee do not fully realise how expensive furniture is. It is one of the things that have become most expensive." That was a year ago. Since then I have examined the Board of Works' Estimate for furniture, and I find that it has fallen very slightly, less than 2 per cent. of their Estimate of last year, so that this marked slump in the price of furniture is not borne out by the figures and the statements made on behalf of the Department for which the Minister is responsible.
The Minister's second point is that the furniture is obtainable in this country. I had a letter this morning from a gentleman who is not a constituent of mine, but who said that he wrote to me because one of his representatives was a Minister, and therefore he did not think he would take the matter up. He informed me that he wrote to the principal furniture dealers in Dublin, Messrs. Millar and Beatty, and they informed him that furniture of the class he required was not manufactured in the Saorstát, and he would have to get it manufactured elsewhere, from which I infer there is no reasonable possibility that it will be manufactured in the Saorstát in the near future. I know that firm, and I fancy other firms are in great difficulties, that they cannot get the skilled labour required to manufacture furniture of this class. It seems to me altogether unfair to say to a person who has been put to the loss of his own furniture, put to grave and serious inconvenience as the result of the burning of his house, "You will be able to buy furniture cheaper than when it was burned." He did not buy the furniture when it was burned. He may have bought it 20 years ago. Account has been taken of that in the settling of the claim, and to say to him, "You will have to pay thirty-three and a third per cent. more than you were allowed as compensation for your furniture," will cause a hardship. If that is the result those taxes are bad, because taxes that produce injustice are bad taxes.
Will the Minister say is a test tube, provided with a cork, a bottle?
Is the Deputy complaining that test tubes have been taxed?
No, I am asking for information.
They are not bottles in the view of the Revenue Commissioners.
If they are not, are they jars?
The Minister does not specify test tubes as bottles?
No, they are not regarded as bottles.
I put down this amendment with a view to getting a statement from the Minister as to the progress that has been made in the bottle industry as a result of the imposition of this duty. It will be remembered that when discussing the Resolutions, nearly a month ago, we put to the Minister the case of certain industries in the Saorstát, in particular the manufacture of ink, which were going to be seriously penalised by this duty. A great many of the industries that were being penalised, such as the soda-water bottling trade and similar trades, had their case met by the introduction of an amendment by Deputy Duggan taxing all bottles that contain dutiable goods. Ink is not dutiable. When we put it to the Minister that these industries will suffer as the result of cross-Channel ink coming in in untaxed bottles, whereas Irish ink has to be put into taxed bottles, the only consolation we could get was that the Minister said they would urge the Irish bottlemakers to supply the necessary bottles for the ink and certain other trades—chemists and so on—with as little delay as possible, and in another connection the Minister suggested that the Irish bottle trade hopes to be able to meet the new demand by the beginning of June.
We are now one-third of the way through June. I should like to ask how far the trade has been able to meet these demands. I am informed that the manufacturers of ink in County Wicklow have approached the Irish bottlemakers and have been told that they cannot hope to supply the demands before the end of July. If they cannot supply the demands before the end of July, they might as well not supply at all, because the trade is going. The cross-Channel ink-makers, having their bottles free of duty, are capturing the whole market of the Irish ink manufacturers. So that in order to stimulate a comparatively small industry, which could be stimulated in other ways, we are destroying another small industry. I hardly think that is a satisfactory state of affairs. I suggest that we should be wise to adopt this amendment. It is not a perfect one, but then, at any rate, manufacturers of articles in the Saorstát will say they have got fair play and they have not had to pay more for the bottles in which they put their goods than do their competitors across the water and in the Six Counties.
I do not exactly at the moment know how well the bottle manufacturers have got on. I do know that it was necessary for them to engage in a certain financial reconstruction, and that occupied more time than was anticipated. But I am informed that the progress that was made with that was satisfactory, and that there probably will be a junction of the two companies that exist, and that the anticipations that were held out in regard to the supply of bottles will be fully realised. There has been, I think, a certain amount of delay that was not anticipated, but I understand from the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who is more closely in touch with that particular aspect of the matter than I am, that the matter is going ahead, and that there is no reason to anticipate that they will not be able to supply the bottles required. There will, no doubt, be grave inconvenience if there is any long interval—if the manufacturers of ink have to pay duty on bottles and find themselves unable to get the other bottles for any length of time. But I do not think that we can as a remedy adopt the suggestion—I do not know whether it is in order as an amendment —put forward by Deputy Cooper that we should tax bottles imported as containers, no matter what they contain. The Deputy has already complained at considerable length about delays and Customs difficulties, and I have already suggested that one of the principal reasons for these delays was lack of space. If we have a whole series of articles, that at present are not dutiable, brought into the category of dutiable goods through the containers, we will have further delays and congestion. I do not think that with the staff and the accommodation available at present, we really could afford to take on these new things and to incur the delays that would result.
I am the last person to suggest that a Deputy should be ruled out of order, but I would suggest that this amendment, as it stands, is out of order coming from the Deputy. The effect of it is to impose new duties. By deleting the word "dutiable," of course the word "commodity" becomes enlarged, and therefore a new duty would have to be imposed. The only means whereby this amendment, I submit, could be accepted would be if it were moved by the Government.
I think Deputy Redmond is right. The amendment has served my object. It has extracted from the Minister a statement of the situation. The Minister is too honest for his present job. When he has got a bad case he shows it. I think he showed pretty clearly that he had a bad case on this occasion. In spite of his anticipations, not a single additional bottle has been made up to the present time, though we are in the middle of June, and we were promised that these factories would be in full blast in the beginning of June. I venture to say that as a result of that admission we shall respect the Minister as a man, but we shall in future distrust him as a prophet. I will either be ruled out of order, or ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
The amendment is out of order.
I beg to move:
To add to the section a new sub-section as follows:—
"Any article liable to the duty imposed by this section which is re-imported into Saorstát Eireann after exportation therefrom shall be exempt from the said duty if it is shown to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners that the article had been first imported on or after the 9th May, 1925, and the duty imposed by this section had been duly paid thereon."
I move this amendment in response to the invitation thrown out by the Minister for Finance upon the occasion of the Second Reading, when I raised a question as to the propriety and the advisability of imposing a duty more than once upon what are known as containers, as distinct from empty bottles. I desire to direct attention to the wording of this amendment, which is in identical terms with sub-section (3) (d) of Section 18 in regard to empty bottles. The provision in regard to empty bottles is, that though empty bottles have to pay a duty once, that duty will not be reimposed upon the same bottles. I should like to impress upon the Dáil the distinction that is here made between the imposition of the tax as regards empty bottles, on the one hand, and full bottles or containers, upon the other. I should like to find out the reason for this distinction.
I do not know whether in the meantime the Minister has had an opportunity of further investigating this matter. If he has, I hope that he may be able to say that he has come to the conclusion that full bottles or containers should be treated in the same way as empty ones. I submit that the same argument applies to both as regards the imposition of the tax, in regard to the method of payment and the number of times it should be paid, as far as the empty and the full bottles are concerned. I want it to be clearly understood—it was not quite clearly understood on the last occasion, unfortunately, probably owing to my own fault—that I am not saying that there should be no tax upon full bottles. What I do say is: when a provision has been made, once the tax has been paid upon empty bottles that it will not be levied again upon the same empty bottles, that the provision should also apply to full bottles. When the tax has been once imposed upon full bottles, it should not again be imposed upon the same full bottles. I do not think that is in any way an extravagant demand.
The arguments, of course, in favour of the one levy as against several impositions are very strong. Take the case of the importation of a motor car or anything else. Is it to be said that 33 per cent. has to be paid on a motor car the first time it comes in and, if that motor car is sent out of the country—has to be sent out, perhaps, for repairs—when it comes back again the 33 per cent. shall be paid once more? No, it is not. That is not the case. That is not asked for. The motor car does not pay two duties; it only pays one. That provision has been made with regard to empty bottles, and I am only asking that the same provision should be made in regard to full bottles.
The arguments against this amendment in relation to full bottles, it may be said, are precisely the same arguments as could be used against the provision in Section 18 in regard to empty bottles. It is perfectly true that there is great difficulty in identification. The Minister informed us how to get over that difficulty, to some extent at any rate, in regard to empty bottles. I cannot see why he should not get over it in the same way in regard to full bottles. If an empty bottle comes into the country, pays duty, is exported full and then re-imported empty, and can be identified, and if the tax can only be imposed once on that, I do not see why a full bottle exported empty and re-imported full should not be treated in the same way. I would suggest there are other means besides the one adopted by the Minister in this regard. Say that a trader in Dublin imported 10,000 bottles of a certain mineral water into Dublin and got a receipt from the Customs authorities for having paid duty on the 10,000 full bottles. If he wanted to export the empty ones he goes back to the Customs authorities, brings his receipt for the 10,000 full bottles—he may not have the whole 10,000 empty ones to return, but he would have a large proportion of them—and he will be given credit in respect of the duty he has already paid. When he has to re-import the bottles he will be given due credit in respect of the 10,000 that he had paid duty for. I am only throwing that out as a suggestion.
I do not want to depart from the Minister's own suggestion and the line that he has adopted in regard to empty bottles. But why would he not pursue the same policy in regard to full bottles? It is not a matter that is going to interfere with the bottling industry, which we are anxious to see thriving and flourishing, but in regard to which, unfortunately, the Minister is not yet in a position to tell us how it has succeeded. It will not interfere with that under existing conditions, we may be told. I hold that it will be the contrary, because if these bottles which are imported full are to be exported empty, then re-imported full and another duty made payable on them, it will, perhaps, be more to the advantage of the trader to retain the empty bottles here and sell them here, to the disadvantage of the bottling industry in Ireland. I know, as a matter of fact, that already bottles have been sold, and they have been sold under the price at which they could be made here in Dublin.
Are they branded?
They are not branded. I think, from the point of view of injuring the bottling industry, the boot is upon the other foot. I think if the inducement of sending the empty bottles out of the country is taken away, if there is no inducement in that direction, the effect of a large quantity of empty bottles remaining here will certainly do no good, and may possibly do a considerable amount of harm in that industry which we are endeavouring to start and which we hope will thrive in Dublin.
They would not be the right measurement.
They would be, say, for soda water. Take baby 'Pollys, for instance; they are very suitable for baby O'Briens. Perhaps the Deputy is acquainted with both those commodities. One is soda water and the other is a natural mineral-water bottled at the springs in Germany. If the mineral-water manufacturer in Dublin wants to get bottles, he will probably be able to buy the bottles cheaper from those who have them in Dublin and who do not want to export them than he would from the Dublin Bottlemaking Company, where, to my knowledge, they have not attempted to make anything in the nature of that bottle. That is my view, at all events, as far as the bottling industry is concerned. Consider what is the object of differentiating between the full and the empty bottle. It has been suggested—I do not think seriously, because I do not think it could be—that people might actually import full bottles into the country, that full bottles should be imported in large quantities, in order to evade the tax on empty bottles. That does not touch the point at all. I am not dealing with a tax on full and empty bottles; I am dealing entirely with the question as to whether the tax should be paid once by empty bottles and a dozen times by full bottles. I am not objecting to the tax on full and empty bottles. My whole contention is that what you have done in Section 18 in regard to empty bottles should, in all fairness, be done in regard to full bottles, and the new section that I propose, after Section 19, covers that ground. I do not think I need trouble the House to read the section. It is identically the same as Section 18 (3) (d). I trust the Minister will be able to meet me some way in that regard.
What we have done in regard to bottles exported full is, that we have really stretched the law and departed from the ordinary practice in order to facilitate people engaged in an Irish industry, and who are exporting their goods here. Normally, we should insist on absolute identification of bottles which are being readmitted free, and a comparison with the bottles which were exported. Following the ordinary practice in regard to Customs matters, we ought to be sure that the bottles imported were the identical bottles exported. We do not insist on that. We simply seek that they are similar bottles to the exported bottles. We operate the exemption contained in the previous section, and which existed last year. We operate on a sort of running account which we keep with the trader. We do a thing which we are barely entitled to do. We assume an identification which is not really established. We assume they are identical bottles, although we do not take the steps we should take to establish that identity. We stretch the law for the purpose of enabling the people manufacturing mineral-waters here to carry on their trade without any handicap. It is a different matter altogether when we are asked to do it in favour of foreign manufacturers, producers of mineral or table waters sold here. There is no reason why we should strain the law and depart from the ordinary practice for the purpose of facilitating outside competitors. That is the reason why, under Section 19, we do not make provisions that are in the Bill under the previous section.
If we adopted the Deputy's amendment and carried it out strictly, and insisted on absolute identification, which I think we ought not to do, because, after all, we have no interest in facilitating the trade of foreign competitors of our manufacturers here, it would be practically, if not entirely, inoperative. I suggest there is not really any point in the suggestion the Deputy put forward, that if some concession such as this is not given, bottles will be retained, left here, and therefore fresh bottles will be used for each consignment of foreign mineral or table waters imported. If it pays the people carrying on this trade to take the bottles out of the country now, as I believe it does, it will pay them with the tax on. The tax will make no difference in that way. We assume that if the bottles went out in the past, they will go out in the future. I think that is pretty obvious. Bottles in the past were imported free. They had no duty to pay, and it was cheaper to take the bottle out of here than to buy a new bottle. If there is to be a duty on the importation of bottles, then it will be a question of whether it is cheaper to collect the bottles here and take them away, or purchase a new bottle and not bother with the collection.
And sell the old bottles here?
It really makes no change as regards the practice. It will depend on which system pays. I think that is the whole matter. We make a special point to meet our own manufacturers. We do not see why we should make a special point to meet their competitors, especially as making that special point does involve assuming identification without taking the steps we ought to take to establish identity.
I notice the Minister says that this differentiation between the full and the empty bottles was really to protect the mineral-water manufacturers. I am glad to hear that, because that is what was always at the back of my mind—that this was not a tax on bottles, but on mineral waters. It is a tax for the benefit of mineral-water manufacturers in this country, a tax which the Minister and his Government are perfectly entitled to impose. But I do not think they are entitled to impose it in the way that they have done. I do think it would be fairer and squarer if they came forward and said: "We are going to place an extra tax on mineral-waters." Instead of that they proceed to do it in this exceedingly roundabout and cloaked fashion, and they place a tax upon one class of bottles and another class of bottles, and then get up at the eleventh hour and declare that this is not a tax on bottles, but is for the protection of mineral-water manufacturers.
If, as the Minister says, it is a question of competition from outside, if he thinks that we in this country can produce natural springs such as Apollinaris, Apenta, Vichy, and so forth, he is welcome to his opinion, but, unfortunately, I cannot agree with him. I would point out to him that we do manufacture soda water in this country, and very good soda water, too. Is he aware that, under his proposals soda water can be imported, and is being imported, in syphons, and that there is no tax whatever on the syphons? Would it not have been far better, from the point of view of the soda water manufacturers of Ireland, of which there are many, to protect industries which do exist and not to protect visionary industries, dependent on natural springs, which do not exist here? Would it not have been better to have placed a tax upon syphons than to have placed a tax upon full bottles? If the tax had been put upon syphons, there would have been some protection for Irish soda water manufacturers, but, instead of that, a tax is placed on what is known as "containers," which contain all sorts and kinds of table and mineral waters, which we cannot, and do not, produce in this country. This tax, I submit, with all due deference, will be no benefit whatever to Irish soda water manufacturers or to the glass-bottle manufacturers. This section being supposed to deal with protection of glass bottles, most people would understand it to be for the benefit of the glass-bottle industry. Now we are told that it is not that class of tax at all, that it is an extra tax on mineral-water for the benefit of the Irish mineral-water manufacturers. I think it would have been better if the tax had been struck otherwise.
I admit it is a tax on all classes of mineral-water. It means that the mineral-water coming in here at present, which pays 8d. per gallon duty already, will have to pay a further duty now upon the vessel which contains it. That vessel will come in here. It will vary in size from the "Baby 'Polli," which, by the way, was the foster-mother of the "Baby O'Brien," to champagne bottles which, I admit, are not of much use once they have been used. But you would have all kinds and descriptions of bottles which it would not be worth while to export and re-import, with the new duty on them, each time. They will be inevitably dumped here and that will be to the disadvantage of the bottle industry. I put that very strongly to the Minister and I would suggest that if it is not possible for him to accept my amendment, as it stands, he should consider the matter between this and the Report Stage and see if he could not mitigate to some degree the extent of the tax that is imposed. Threepence per dozen is to be placed upon bottles under 5 ounces, and 6d. per dozen is to be placed upon bottles over 5 ounces. That is not anad valorem duty at all. I do not know how it is arrived at. A champagne bottle will pay only about as much as an ordinary split soda water bottle. In that regard, something might be done to make the tax more fair. If the Minister would consider between this and the Report Stage the whole question in its different aspects, he might see that there was something to be said from the point of view of similar treatment, in the first place, for empty and full bottles, no matter whether they can be identified or not; in the second place he might discover the possibility of future injury to the new bottle industry, and in the third place he might see the possibility of mitigating to some degree the extent of the new imposition which, I respectfully submit, has been reached in an arbitary manner and not upon any basis that is apparent on the paper, as it is before us.
This duty was imposed solely with reference to the bottle industry. It was imposed because we found that people would import large quantities of soda, mineral or other waters for the purpose of getting the bottles free of tax, as they would have been able to do if there had been no tax on the bottles. Immediately after the first resolution was passed, we heard of people who actually ordered large quantities of mineral water from outside the State, not because they would have preferred that mineral water to mineral water they could have got here, but because they got the bottles in free of duty. It was with reference to that it was imposed and not as an extra tax on mineral waters. We are asked to make concessions in regard to the operation of this tax and we are asked to make those concessions really for the benefit of people who send in mineral or natural waters here which compete with mineral-waters made here. I do not see any reason why we should make that special concession. There was a reason to make it in regard to bottles exported full because we had to prevent our own industry from being handicapped. If I had any belief that such an amendment as Deputy Redmond suggests was necessary in the interests of the bottle industry, I would certainly consider it very carefully but, so far as I have been able to go into it, I do not see that there is going to be any danger in that respect. I think the bottles which have been customarily collected and exported will be collected and exported in the future, independent of any change.
In regard to what the Minister has said about the importation of full bottles, that has not got anything to do with the question, because I am not opposing the tax at all as proposed for both full and empty bottles. I am in favour of both. What I am opposing is the differentiation in the imposition of the tax as between one case and the other. In one case, the tax is imposed once and in the other case it is imposed every time. In regard to the suggestion that quantities of full bottles would be imported as a means of providing empty bottles——
That was without the tax on bottles.
Does the Minister suggest that the freight that would have to be paid on those full bottles would not be considerably more than the tax that would have to be paid? Is he aware of the fact that empty bottles cost much less not only in weight but in the comparative charge for carriage on the railways? They cost very much less in freight than full bottles and any trader who would import bottles full of liquid— whether water or any other liquid— and pay in respect of the extra weight and extra freight in order to avoid the duty, would be out of his mind.
I wonder did the Deputy ever hear of the town of Dundalk? The freight from the Border would not be very considerable.
I see the Minister's point now. I am always forgetting the Border. Really, that point does not affect the case. As I said before, I am not against the tax but against the difference in the imposition of the tax—the number of times it is being imposed on one as compared with the other. In regard to the Minister's suggestion, that the amendment would be for the benefit of outside competitors, I venture to say that it would be nothing of the kind. It is not my intention that it should be so. A great many of these waters are beneficial from the medicinal and table water point of view. They are waters that cannot be made in this country, and their distribution has given considerable employment here. For some time, at all events, you will not be able to have sufficient bottles manufactured here, and you will not be able to have the wonderful Connemara baths developed in order to replace the amount of distributive employment that is given at present. However, the Minister seems to have made up his mind, and he is now about to impose, by this section, an extra duty upon mineral waters. I congratulate him upon the manner in which he has done it, but I hope the next time he proposes a new duty it will not seem to be upon one article when, in reality, it is upon the other.
I rather gathered from Deputy Redmond's last remarks that he is not pressing his amendment. I would like to say in regard to this question that I think the Minister has got rather into difficulties over this bottle question. In this particular case referred to in the amendment the bottles travelled backwards and forwards, and on the present method they will pay a tax in the first instance and pay a tax on every other occasion on which they come in. I look on it in this way: that obviously the people who are sending in this stuff will consider their own interests entirely. If it suits them to leave the bottles here they will leave them here, and if it suits them to take away the bottles, and pay the duty again on reimportation, they will do it. The one thing I would like to emphasise to the Minister is that it will come out of the pocket of the consumer. Deputy Redmond has made the point that these special bottled waters he refers to are not produced here. Then, obviously, they do not come directly into competition with any local product, so that the tax is a tax that does not protect any Irish industry, and it is going to be paid, I presume, if one understands the ordinary economic laws, by the people who wish to use these particular waters.
I move amendment No. 9:—
In sub-section (1), line 55, to delete the word "and" and in the same line, after the word "tobacco," to insert the words "spirits, and any article on which a duty is imposed by Section 25 of this Act."
The effect of the amendment is to exempt spirits from the operation of the section and to make the wording of the section consistent with the wording of Section 7 of the Finance Act of 1901.
I might say that sweetened spirits are charged on their sugar content. As they are charged spirit duty on the proof gallon and on the bulk gallon, the section would be extremely difficult if they were to be charged, as they would be, sugar duty on the bulk gallon, while the spirit duty is charged on the proof gallon. They will continue to be charged on the sugar content.
I move amendment 10:—
In sub-section (2), page 10, lines 5 and 6, to delete the words "contained in or," and in line 8 to delete the words "contained in or."
This is a drafting amendment.
I move amendment 11:—
Before sub-section (3) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
"Whenever the Revenue Commissioners are satisfied that any motor car or motor car part imported into Saorstát Eireann is for the use of a poor law medical officer they shall, subject to compliance with such conditions as they think fit to impose, exempt such motor car or motor car part from payment of the duty on motor cars and motor car parts imposed by this section."
In moving my amendment, I may, at the outset, suggest to the Minister that for the purposes of the amendment he could give relief under two heads— firstly, in import taxes, and, secondly, in licence duties. Whilst I should be glad if the Minister would see his way to give relief to all members of the medical profession, I would confine the amendment to giving relief to those in the Poor Law Medical Service. The average doctor uses his motor car not as a luxury, but as part of his equipment. He brings speedy relief to his patients, and it cannot be said, in any sense, that it increases either the number of his patients or his income. The justification for increased motor taxation is mainly based on the fact that the tax goes to the upkeep of trunk roads, or main roads. The mileage of the dispensary doctor's district is about 100.
I may point out that none of the Customs duties collected on motor cars goes to the upkeep of trunk roads. They go into the Exchequer.
That helps the Deputy's argument.
That makes it all the worse, because I have no doubt that out of every hundred miles there were only ten miles of trunk roads. In fact, there was very little money put into the repair of the roads, with the result that they do fearful damage to the doctors' cars. The net result is that the average life of the dispensary doctor's car is two years. That means that every other year he will have to pay an import tax and a licence tax, about £40 in alternate years. This would be an intolerable taxation on a man whose salary averages about £400 a year, and that £400 a year is not net. At least half of it goes to travelling expenses. I would ask the Minister to make some allowance in the case of these doctors. They feel that since the establishment of the Free State Government they have not got very good treatment; they have got less than concessions. They feel that they have not got justice. We would be satisfied, even if the Minister said that he would give us the same consideration and the same treatment as hackney cars. I think the Minister could well afford to do this, because on a recent occasion he found it necessary to withdraw a certain grant in the administration of the National Health Insurance. This grant was used for medical certification. The result was that when the doctors were paid from other moneys their remuneration was reduced by something like £10,000 a year, which was quite a considerable sum to men already badly paid. I leave it at that. I think the Minister will see the justice of the case I make. These men, as I said before, are very badly paid. Relief has been given to others who find themselves in distressful conditions owing to the times, and I know no men harder hit than the average dispensary doctor. He was at one time able to keep his children in a boarding-school. The average dispensary doctor nowadays has to withdraw them from the public schools and give them whatever education he can locally, with the result that he is very badly able to equip them. At least he cannot equip them as well as he was equipped himself, for their future life.
I wish to support the amendment. I know something about dispensary doctors in my district. I know that they would not be able to carry out their work properly without the aid of motor cars. I think Deputy Dr. Hennessy was very moderate in his demand. He only asked for equal treatment with the hackney cars. I know of a case in my own district where a serious accident occurred, and not alone did the dispensary doctor use his car for his own purposes, but on finding that an immediate operation was necessary he gave the patient the benefit of his car and drove him away immediately to the infirmary. Dispensary doctors have to go long distances both day and night. They have to visit the poor. They have not very big salaries, and the least they might get is the treatment that Deputy Hennessy asks for them, that is to put them on a par as regards taxation with the hackney car people. I do not think that there is anything unreasonable in his demand.
Deputy Hennessy seems to be under some misapprehension. A hackney car pays the ordinary Customs duty on coming in, and I do not see, if you want to make distinctions between individuals, how you can do so in respect of Customs duties. You might as well say that a doctor should be allowed to import during the year so many lbs. of sugar free of duty, or so much clothing. You cannot really distinguish between one individual and another when you are dealing with Customs duties. It would be practicable to do so if you were dealing with the road tax. I do not say that I would favour that, but the working out of the thing would be possible. It would not be possible in this case, because there would be nothing to prevent a doctor frombona fide importing a car for his own use, and when it ceased to please him selling it and importing another for his own use. You would have the possibility of abuse arising in that way. Some dispensary doctor might decide that he wanted his car no longer; you could not compel him to keep a car when he has got it, and the same difficulty would arise in regard to the parts. I do not think that this is a concession that could possibly be administered, and in any case I think it is entirely the wrong way of approaching the matter. We should be giving concessions to certain classes of public servants, shall I call them. If they are insufficiently paid the way to attack it is to put them on a higher basis of pay, but we should not unnecessarily introduce the giving of concessions and privileges to individuals. That always complicates the law, and it creates new grievances and new discontents. It is a most unsatisfactory way of dealing with things. If public servants are insufficiently paid the matter should be examined and their pay adjusted, but I do not think they should get special concessions. In saying that I am thinking more of the road tax. You might allow a doctor to pay less road tax or you might make arrangements to issue him the licence free of duty, but this proposal to allow his motor car or his motor parts in free of duty could not be administered without opening the way to very grave abuses.
I would remind the Minister that the case of the dispensary doctor is not on a level with that of other officials. It is well known that he is paid no salary; he does not even get his travelling expenses, and he performs services for which he receives no pay, such as the issuing of death certificates for which the State pays him nothing. I think a concession of this kind would help to make matters smoother for dispensary doctors. They cannot very well go on strike, and the Government has certain powers when it comes to fixing their salaries. It could increase their salaries, but it has always declined to do so. It appears to rely on the fact that the doctors cannot go on strike and that anything they are given is enough. Another matter to which I would like to draw the Minister's attention, although it might more properly come under another Ministry, is that there are a number of people who receive medical treatment free under the Medical Charities Acts who are not entitled to it legally or morally. The Government has continued simply to exploit the doctors in the treatment of these people, and now when they ask for some small recognition they are told that they should be put on a level with other officials.
I would like to ask the Minister for some information with regard to the Committee which he promised to set up to consider the question of motor parts and whether he would possibly let in smaller motor parts free of duty. Has any progress been made in setting up that Committee? Can the Minister tell us who its members will be and what will be its terms of reference, or if it has not got to that point can he give us any information as to what associations and organisations he has approached with regard to the nomination of members of the Committee?
It has got to the point that the terms of reference have been drawn up. The terms of reference suggested are as follows:—
To consider and report as to the causes of delays in the clearance on importation of component parts of motor cars and motor cycles whether on first importation or on re-importation after repair, and as to what alterations, if any, should be made in the regulations governing the clearance of such goods.
It is proposed to have a couple of people on the Committee representing the motor trade, a couple of officials, and a chairman. I am not yet in a position to announce the names of members.
Would the Minister consider putting on a representative of the motoring public, representing the Automobile Club or some such body?
I would be quite willing.
And possibly add another official as well if he were afraid that there were too many against him.
I am not afraid. If I do not like the report I need not act on it.
In page 11, to add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
"The duty imposed by this section shall not be charged or levied in respect of sugar or molasses made from beet grown in Saorstát Eireann, and the provisions of Section 6 (except sub-section (1) thereof) of the Finance Act, 1922, as adapted under the Adaptation of Enactments Act, 1922 (No. 2 of 1922), shall apply and have effect subject to the following modifications, that is to say:—
(a) the word "non-dutiable" shall mean exempted by this sub-section from the duty imposed by this section, and
(b) the expression "Saorstát Eireann" shall be substituted for the expression "Great Britain or Ireland."
Section 6 of the Finance Act, 1922, provided that Excise duties on sugar and molasses made from home-grown material were to cease. The object of the amendment is to make it clear that these duties are not being reimposed in the provisions of the present Bill and to remove any doubt that may arise on the construction of the section. It simply means that the law in that respect remains as it is.
I do not understand the meaning of this amendment. There is no sugar manufactured——
The need for the existence of an Excise duty at all is that glucose may be made and that is liable for sugar duty on a certain basis. Glucose is to a considerable extent used in certain classes of cheap confectionery and jams.
Yes, but I cannot help but relate this to the discussion last night, and I think it is inevitable that we must consider the proposal to remit excess duty on sugar in relation to the general question of beet sugar. I do not think that this has any relation to anything except sugar made from beet grown in Saorstát Eireann.
No, the amendment has nothing to do with that.
The position is that the amendment is proposed in anticipation of the establishment of a beet sugar industry in the Saorstát, I was going to say during the period of this financial year, but presumably once this is passed it would require a special repeal to be enacted, so that apparently what is anticipated is that there would be no Excise duty on sugar made from beet grown in the Saorstát. I say we cannot help but relate that to the proposal of the Beet Sugar Subsidy Bill. In effect, if we pass this amendment it will mean an additional subsidy of £9 6s. 8d. per ton. That did not appear from the Minister's speech last night. There was in comparative British legislation in the first place a remission of Excise duty; that was the subsidy the beet sugar industry obtained in Great Britain. The proposal over there now is that beet sugar will pay a regular Excise duty equal to the import duty, but that it shall receive a subsidy. It now appears that we are proposing to pay a subsidy of 24/6 per cwt., with an additional subsidy in the form of a protective duty on imports, or shall I put it the other way, a remission of Excise duty of 9/4. I take the opportunity that this amendment affords of showing what it will mean with respect to the proposed beet sugar industry. Deputy Magennis provided us with some estimates of costs which laid the foundation from which we could draw some conclusions. On the basis of 6,000 tons production from 50,000 tons of beet as an average per year of the first three years, which is the basis upon which the Minister is putting forward his scheme, we have the following balance sheet:—There will be paid to the farmers per year for beets, £135,000. The cost of turning that beet into sugar, according to Deputy Magennis's figures, would be £90,900. On the other side we should have a subsidy of 24s. 6d., £147,000, and the sale of pulps, £12,500, and assuming the price of 20s. per cwt. of sugar, £120,000 for sugar. That would show a net profit of £53,600, to which it is now proposed to add £56,000, that is, a net profit of £109,600 upon a capital of £300,000.
£300,000 was the installation cost.
That is the figure Deputy Magennis gave when he was trying to show the small return. But the figure of the Minister was £300,000, which the Minister for Agriculture tried to correct by saying £200,000. I am taking the £300,000 figure, and assuming the costs will be ‘omewhat equivalent to those in Deputy Magennis's scheme, we have a return of £110,000, or thereabouts, per year for the first three years, assuming that this amendment is passed, and the Bill also becomes law in its present form. If the Bill does not become law, the amendment, whether it is passed or not, does not matter, because there will be no beet sugar industry without a subsidy. So that obviously the amendment is intended to fit in with the Bill. I wonder are we to understand that part of the bargain with M. Lippens is that there should be a remission of duty on sugar made from home-grown beet. That was not stated last night, but it is surely a central fact, because it will mean an additional charge upon the Exchequer of £56,000 per year. If the figures have been given and the estimate has been made with this remission of duty, then I think the case that I endeavoured to make last night, on the figures that were then available, was not so serious as it appeared, but if we are to add £56,000 to the subsidy, which this amendment would entail, then I say that we are entirely too extravagant, that we are making too big a present to the shareholders in the proposed company, and imposing altogether too great a burden upon the State for the benefit to agriculture. If we are going to spend this amount of money, we must examine very closely whether the establishment of the beet sugar industry is the best way to expend that money. The proposal is confined in this first factory to probably 800 to 1,000 farmers, and it would mean £200 per year to that number for, say, ten years.
I do not want to argue the case of the Bill again, but one cannot but relate this amendment to the Bill, and consider the effect upon the Bill of the amendment. I would say, in any case, that as there is not likely to be any beet sugar produced before the next Budget statement in April next, we ought not to tie ourselves by passing this amendment, because, whether there has been any agreement or not, if this becomes law, it will be assumed by the promoters of the company that they are to have a remission of duty, in addition to their subsidy. Once we enter upon that, we shall be bound, on pain of breach of faith, to continue this remission. It is very serious I think, that we should have discussed the Bill last night without having an understanding that it is also proposed to remit 9/4 per cwt. upon all sugar produced in the Saorstát.
I have not been able, perhaps, to follow Deputy Johnson's arguments entirely, but I may say that this amendment is proposed more for the purpose of making sure that we have not inadvertently repealed the exemption of beet sugar from Excise duty which has heretofore existed. At present, apart from the effect that the Resolutions may have, there is no Excise duty chargeable on this sugar. We did not intend to repeal that provision of the law, but since this Bill has been drafted, it has been suggested that the form of the section may perhaps repeal it. To ensure that it will not repeal it, we propose to put in the amendment specifically declaring the exemption of beet sugar from Excise duty to be in force.
I thought it was deliberately designed to repeal it.
No, on the contrary. I do not want to discuss the Beet Sugar Bill now, but the Bill was drawn up on the basis of there being no Excise duty on beet sugar produced here. The various figures at different periods are the net subsidy that they will have. Of course there will be deducted from that the amount of the Customs duty on sugar at any particular time. That is the net advantage that those manufacturing beet sugar here will have over competitors—the average of 23/-.
Will the Minister explain what is meant by the comparison with the British subsidy, which is to continue for the next two or three years?
That was adjusted to give the corresponding figures. The British figures were net figures, too. The figures were strictly comparable. We give the net advantage that the manufacturer has. That average of 23/- over ten years gives the net advantage that the manufacturer here gets over his competitors. The British figures that we gave were corresponding figures. If we impose an Excise duty on sugar, and charge it to the manufacturer here, we should have to add the amount we charge in Excise duty to our subsidy. We do not wish to impose an Excise duty here, because it seems to be absurd to charge a person duty and to give him that duty back with some more as subsidy. In Great Britain they have an Excise duty, possibly because, theoretically, they hold themselves out to be a Free Trade country, or for some such reason. That in fact is the only reason there could be for charging an Excise duty and paying people to whom we charge the duty a greater sum in subsidy. You have two transactions instead of one.
There is not the slightest possibility I should say, in our time that sugar manufactured here can afford to pay a net amount in taxation. That is, that it can afford to pay more than it would get in subsidy. Certainly, one can say that for 20 years it will not be able to do such a thing. I do not think there is any country in the world where sugar can pay a net amount in taxation. Consequently, we regard it as absurd to impose an Excise duty. We do not wish to alter the existing provisions of the law which exempt beet sugar from Excise duty. The figures that we have in the Bill are the net figures of the advantage that the beet sugar will have here. They are figures, of course, that are reducible in the actual amount paid by the amount of the Customs duty on sugar which might prevail at any particular time.
I beg to move:—
In sub-section (2), line 29, after the word "handball" to insert the words "gymnastic displays."
I do not think this amendment modifies in principle the section as drafted, but it makes verbal additions which really complete the category that is provided. In sub-section (2) the Minister recognises that certain athletic games are often played indoors, and by referring to badminton and handball as being excluded from the entertainments tax, along with other games, he showed that he approved of a similar remission applying to them. I do not think his list is complete, and this amendment proposes to add gymnastic displays, which would be, as athletic performances, quite on a par, I should think, with the games of badminton and handball. I do not think there is any real principle involved, and I have every hope that the Minister will be prepared to accept the amendment. I have two amendments in which the same principle is involved, but I am simply referring to gymnastic displays in the first instance.
I am prepared to accept the principle of both this amendment and the next amendment, but I should like the draftsman to have a look at the phraseology.
Will the Minister bring the matter up on the Report Stage?
There is one point I should like to raise on this section, and it is one that the Minister would probably be inclined to meet, that is that entertainments tax is charged on exhibitions given by artists who exhibit their pictures for sale. I do not think it could have been intended that that particular form of exhibition should be taxed, and it is causing a considerable amount of hardship.
These exhibitions are not held in the same way as ordinary entertainments. They are merely held in order that the artist might be able to put his wares before prospective purchasers. A small charge is made for entering into these exhibitions, merely for the purpose of keeping all and sundry out who might take advantage of the opportunity offered and flock out to the place. I believe that happened in a large number of cases. I know it to be the case from my own experience. Whenever I have gone to one of these exhibitions I have not paid because, I suppose, I was considered to be a prospective purchaser. I believe that in a large number of cases friends and others who go are not charged. Charges are only made in some cases and they are not levied in other cases. It would be just as much an absurdity to charge an entrance fee to a grocer's shop in respect to the people who go there to buy commodities the grocer has to sell, as to charge entertainment tax on a person going to see certain things that he might purchase. That is the only way the artist has to exhibit his wares to prospective purchasers. This might be met by way of administration. All the Minister might do is to undertake an entertainment tax will not be looked for in cases of that kind. I think the case is equally fair and just.
I was not aware that entertainment tax was chargeable in such cases until very recently when the matter was brought to my notice. I have been considering it and I will promise to go fully into it before the Report Stage. I think it is a case in which we could agree to have the payment exempt from entertainment duty. I will promise to consider it further.
In the event of the Minister exempting these exhibitions from entertainment tax, will there be a refund?
No; it was a legal charge.
From what date will the remission commence?
From the date of the passing of the Act.
I beg to move:—
To insert before Section 28 a new section as follows:—
(1) There shall, in respect of beer brewed in Saorstát Eireann on or after the twenty-second day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-five, be allowed the following rebate from the excise duty payable in respect thereof, that is to say—
In the case of beer brewed by a brewer of beer for sale, for every thirty-six gallons of beer of whatever original gravity, charged with duty and delivered from the brewery, a rebate of one pound, or where the duty payable in respect of thirty-six gallons of any beer so charged and delivered is less than two pounds and four shillings, a rebate equal to the amount by which that duty exceeds the sum of one pound and four shillings;
and so in proportion for any difference in quantity.
(2) The excise drawback payable on the exportation of any beer, or on the deposit thereof in a warehouse for exportation, from Saorstát Eireann as merchandise or for use as ship's stores, shall, unless it is shown to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners that no rebate has been allowed in respect of that beer under this section, be reduced by an amount equal to the amount of the rebate allowable under this section in respect thereof.
This sub-section shall be deemed to have had effect as from the twenty-second day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-five.
(3) The Revenue Commissioners may make such regulations as they consider necessary for the purpose of carrying this section into effect, and in particular for the purpose of facilitating and controlling the calculation of the amount of the rebate to be allowed under this section and with respect to the method of computing the quantity of the beer in respect of which rebate is to be allowed.
(4) If any person acts in contravention of or fails to comply with any regulations made under this section, he shall, for each offence, be liable at the election of the Revenue Commissioners, either to an excise penalty equal to three times the amount of the rebate, which through the commission of the offence has been, or might have been improperly obtained.
This amendment is rather a long-winded one, but I will endeavour to condense it. At present the tax on stout is £5 per standard barrel, and if you reduce that by £1, and if the brewer gives 4s., the same as they did in England, it will reduce the price of stout by one penny per pint. I do not think the brewers should have any trouble in giving another £1 off the barrel, considering their shares are running up miles high, so to speak, every day. They are giving big dividends to the shareholders. I hold that the real shareholders are the people who drink the stout; they are the people who put up the shares. Those are the people for whom I now claim a bonus, just the same as others are getting this year. If £1 were taken off the tax, then perhaps we could agitate against Messrs. Guinness and other brewers. By so doing we would reduce the price of Guinness to 8d., and the price of other stout in another side of the country—stout just as good— to 6d.
I am not here speaking on behalf of the public. It is very hard, I am sure, to disabuse your minds on that point. I am speaking this time from the point of view that it is recognised that stout is a food. That has been recognised by the Ministry. I am not quite sure if it was the Ministry; but when a question was raised about regulating the size of bottles Deputies Johnson and Sir James Craig pointed out that the matter came before them at the Food Commission. There the size of stout bottles was questioned, and they did not think there was enough going into the poor man, who was using stout for food. I hold that stout is a good food. There are some foods you eat—you must eat them, because you cannot get better—and you can hardly digest them without having a bottle or a pint of stout. The pint of stout is essential in the every-day food of the working man. If you reduce it by £1 in the barrel, and if the brewer gives 4/-, you will bring the price of Guinness down to 8d. in my side of the country, where they sell it for 9d., and you will bring other good stout down to 6d. The workmen would appreciate that. The weather favours me in moving this amendment. I think a few pints will be necessary for the hay-saving very soon.
An arrangement was made in the British Finance Act of 1923 whereby there was a rebate of 20/- per bulk barrel, and whereby there were certain reductions by the brewers. That was for two purposes. It was for the purpose of reducing the price of the pint and for encouraging the consumption of lighter beers. For instance, if a brewer made a bulk barrel at a gravity of 50, he got only one rebate of 20/-; if he made two barrels with a gravity of 25, he got two rebates of 20/-. There was definite advantage in the brewing of light ales. I do not think it would have much effect in that direction in this country. The number of bulk barrels consumed in the Saorstát annually is about 900,000. If we gave a rebate of 20/- a barrel on that it would mean an immediate loss to the revenue of £900,000 per annum. If, in addition, beer were to be brewed at a lower gravity than is usual here, as the duty is charged on the standard barrel there would be a smaller amount of duty collected, while the same amount —£900,000—of a rebate would be given. In consequence, we might lose considerably more than £900,000 per annum by this. By adopting Deputy Daly's amendment, it would mean a minimum loss to the revenue of £900,000. The amendment cannot be accepted.
Out of stout alone the revenue gets four and a half millions annually, and they are trying to shut down half the public-houses.
It is an idle policy-suicide.
It is not. I agree with them. But, after all, this is a very small concession.
Considering that you will have £3,600,000 out of stout, this is not much to grant to the people. You are hardly entitled to it at all. It was a war tax and it is still kept on. Now it is a teetotal tax, and you will be grumbling by and by if you are asked to pay a big price for the licensed houses when they are deprived of their licences. We are paying beforehand for that.
Amendment put and negatived.
Deputy Redmond is not here, and I formally move the amendment standing in his name:—
Before Section 30 to insert the following section:—
"The duties of Excise chargeable under Section 5 of the Finance (New Duties) Act, 1916, on cider and perry shall cease to be chargeable or leviable as on and from the 6th May, 1925, and no duty of Excise shall be chargeable or leviable on cider or perry which is sold or kept for sale in Saorstát Eireann on or after that date."
This will give the Minister an opportunity, as the President would say, to show his form, if he wants to do it.
As I explained to the Dáil already, there is, practically speaking, no money in this. We are charging duty not only on beer and spirits but also on mineral-waters, and it does not seem consistent that one form of drink should be selected for exemption from taxation. There is this to be said in favour of the amendment: that, owing particularly to the reduction in the sugar duty, mineral-waters do enjoy a measure of protection. That is, at any rate, sweetened mineral-waters; cider does not. I was inclined to meet Deputy Redmond to this extent, that there is one form of dutiable liquor which is made to a very small extent here, perry. There is a charge of 2d. per gallon, and I was inclined to meet him by agreeing to halve the present duty on cider.
Is there an Excise duty as well as a Customs duty on mineral-waters?
There is an Excise duty of 4d. per gallon on sweetened waters and, in addition, they use certain dutiable essences.
Do I understand in respect of this amendment that on Report the Minister will be introducing an amendment halving the duty on cider?
Right. I will withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment 18, which is as follows:—Before Section 34 to insert a new section as follows:—
The Stamp Duty on Customs entry forms chargeable under Section 22 of the Finance Act, 1924 (No. 27 of 1924) shall cease to be chargeable or leviable as on, and from, the 1st day of July, 1925, and no Stamp Duty on Customs entry forms shall be chargeable or leviable on or after that date.
The effect of this amendment will be to repeal the Statistical Tax that we imposed last year. When we were discussing the Statistical Tax and its brother-in-arms, the sixpenny postal tax on parcels, I adduced many arguments against this tax. I think the lapse of time has not weakened the arguments, and the Minister's statement, in introducing the Budget, indicated, I think, that the Government, to a certain extent, have an open mind on the matter. The Minister said then that they did not propose to remove this tax until they had had a little more experience of its working. So far as experience of its working has gone, the general trend of evidence is to show that it has caused a considerable amount of inconvenience to the private individual and also to the merchant, and that it has not achieved the object which was intended—reducing the number of small parcels imported. That is inevitable. It was inevitable as a result of the protective duties we imposed last year. It will become even more inevitable—if that be possible— as a result of the duties we are imposing now. We are going to tax a large number of diversified articles of comparatively small value. There will be a far greater importation of small, individual parcels than there would be if you were merely taxing staple commodities like sugar, tea and tobacco. A shop is not likely to have to send to England for a lb. of tea to meet the wish of one special customer, but it is quite likely to have to send to England for half-a-dozen handkerchiefs or one pair of shoes or something of that kind.
I do not know whether the Minister thought this was an original tax, or whether he knew there was a precedent for it, and that he, sixty odd years after, was following in the footsteps of Mr. Gladstone. In the year 1860 Mr. Gladstone imposed a similar tax— a statistical tax—on what was then the United Kingdom. I think it was levied at the more moderate rate of 1d. per entry, instead of 6d. Then everything was much cheaper than now. Income tax, I think, was about 4d. in the £. One penny then was about the equivalent of 4d. now. The levying of that tax produced serious complaints. After it had been in operation about two years, a Select Committee of the House of Commons was set up to consider its operation. That Select Committee, all things considered was a strong committee. It had amongst its members Mr. Cobden, then in the last years of his life; a future Chancellor of the Exchequer in Mr. Robert Lowe, and a young member in Mr. William Edward Foster, who did not know then that, twenty years hence, posterity would connect his name with the word "Buckshot." But it was a fairly strong committee of the House of Commons, and Mr. Gladstone gave evidence before it. He admitted that petitions had been received against this tax from most of the principal ports of the United Kingdom. He gave a list of the principal ports of the United Kingdom. He gave Dublin first place; then Glasgow, Belfast, Cork, Derry and Wexford. I wish some of the Deputies for Wexford were here. I wish Deputy Corish was here. It is obvious that a good deal of the exception taken to this duty was taken in Ireland.
Deputy Doyle is here for Wexford.
I apologise. I had hoped Deputy Corish would be here, because he is peculiarly identified with the port of Wexford. I think Deputy Doyle is more connected with the port of Rosslare, which Mr. Gladstone had not foreshadowed. Mr. Gladstone said:
I frankly admit that we cannot justify, for the sake of the 1d. which it produces, the permanent imposition of a charge which involves so much labour and delay and cost upon the community over and above what it brings into the Exchequer.
I believe that to be true of this tax, though it is a 6d. instead of a 1d. tax. Mr. Gladstone also said:
The tax was originally imposed for statistical purposes, but also because we wanted the money.
I have no doubt the Minister would also plead that justification here. Mr. Gladstone proceeded:
I am afraid it causes a good deal of trouble, and, through trouble, cost to the mercantile community.
That is my case; that this tax is one that causes an altogether excessive amount of trouble and cost to the mercantile community—excessive both in regard to the revenue it brings in and to its intended purpose in relation to statistics. The committee reported— and their report was unanimous—
As to the operation of these charges on the trade and commerce of the country, mercantile witnesses were unanimous in describing them as obstructive, vexatious, expensive and unequal.
I believe that is as true to-day as it was in 1862. This tax produces an amount of revenue altogether insignificant, when compared with the trouble, annoyance, and obstruction caused by its collection.
The Commitee's report proceeds:—
The evidence which has been obtained fully sustains the acknowledged principle of sound taxation, that the tax shall produce the revenue required with as little annoyance to the payer as possible.
I sometimes think that that sound principle is overlooked in the Ministry of Finance. I should like to have it emblazoned on the walls in letters of gold.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Not gold.
Then, if gold is obsolete, in letters of paper. Finally, the Committee reported:—
Your Committee are of opinion that these small charges on commerce are unwise and inexpedient and recommend their abolition.
Mr. Gladstone acted on the report of the Committee, and in the following year, in proposing the repeal of the tax, he said:—
It was believed that this tax was capable of being framed with great simplicity and of being levied without entailing any delay or hindrance in the course of trade. I am bound to admit that this expectation could not be realised.
I believe that precedent, 60 odd years old as it is, is a sound precedent. I believe that if the Minister and the Government have, as has been suggested, an open mind but that they do not see their way to accept this amendment, they should see their way to set up either a committee of the Dáil or an outside committee to consider the operation of this tax and also the 6d. charge levied on parcels. They are at present not taking up any position because the tax has not been in operation for a year. Will they set up a committee of this kind when the tax will have been in operation for a year— that is, next September? Will they allow merchants interested, Chambers of Commerce, and others to give evidence before such a committee? If so, I believe we shall, next year, give the matter fairer consideration and approach it from a juster standpoint. I do not want to weary the Dáil and I do not want to read to them all the matter I have here from Chambers of Commerce and smaller bodies. If the Minister will agree to set up this committee, it will not be necesary for me to do so. The Chambers of Commerce and others can come forward and make their case. If the Minister will indicate that he is prepared to take that step, to have this tax and the 6d. parcels tax examined by a commercial committee, then I shall not press this amendment. Otherwise, I fear I must press it, because I do believe that this tax causes enormous inconvenience not merely to the trader but to the general public as well.
I could not agree to set up a Committee such as has been suggested by Deputy Cooper. I did indicate in my Budget statement that, so far, the tax did not seem to be lessening the number of small parcels imported, which was one of the purposes we had in imposing it. However, a very short period has really elapsed. It is difficult for people to take up a new course in regard to their dealings in goods and it may be that, before the end of the present financial year, it will show results such as it has not shown heretofore. At any rate, we feel that we are not going to take any action or even consider the tax on trial for its life until a further period has elapsed. If, by the end of the financial year, it is not proving successful in diverting this stream of small parcels, then we may decide to abolish it. However, the tax has not had anything like a fair chance yet and I would not propose to set up any committee to inquire into it.
I would like to say, moreover, that the 6d. charge on postal parcels is on quite a different basis. We do not see any reason at all for abolishing that charge. That particular tax has been successful. It has reduced the number of postal parcels very considerably. We have considered it from every point of view and there is a cast-iron case for the maintenance of the postal parcels charge. Where we have doubts is in regard to the Customs entry duty. There is this further point, that the tax will produce a revenue of £40,000 a year. We have budgeted on the basis of obtaining that revenue and that is an additional reason for declining, at this stage, to agree to abolition of the duty.
I am sorry the Minister has not received this amendment more favourably. Deputy Cooper asked him to set up a Committe of Inquiry if the tax was not successful at the end of 12 months—that is, next September. He has not conceded that. The Minister has a very small idea of the amount of inconvenience this tax causes. It does not hinder the large wholesaler as much as it does the small country grocer. The ordinary country shop has to send out orders for all sorts of goods— jams, paints and so on. They are charged 6d. each in respect of these parcels. That is really a very heavy tax on the ordinary grocer along the Border who, at the present time, is finding it very difficult to carry on. In addition to the actual cost, the inconvenience is extremely annoying and I would join with Deputy Cooper in asking that the Minister should give this matter reconsideration.
I want to give formal support to Deputy Cooper's amendment and to press on the Minister the advisability of considering the removal of this tax. I think I was the first member of the Dáil to object to this tax and I have steadily held the opinion that it was unnecessary. I also said, on the occasion of the introduction of the tax, that it would cause inconvenience, and that, still more, it would cause irritation. My forecast in that regard has been fulfilled. It has caused a great deal of inconvenience and it has caused a great deal of irritation. It hampers trade and anything that hampers trade should not be encouraged by the Minister. It has not succeeded in its object. The parcels are coming in in as great numbers as before the tax was imposed and I think the tax has not been justified. It has not succeeded in causing distributing stores to be set up in this country for the purpose of getting the goods in in large quantities and disposing of them to the buyers here. Apparently, the articles required vary so much in type that it is not possible for any distributor in this country to get in a sufficient stock to work the business on a paying basis. I think Deputy Cooper's idea of setting up a small Committee is an excellent one and I feel that the Minister is not really adamant in regard to it. I think he is inclined to consider the question and I would press upon him, if he does not set up the Committee, at least to give the question of the removal of the tax his most careful consideration between now and the introduction of the next Budget.
The actual distance between the Minister and Deputy Cooper is not really very considerable. I would like to urge the Minister to consider if he could not diminish it further. The Minister has said that there are doubts in his mind as to whether this tax is justified. He urges that another year's working will be sufficient to show whether these duties are justified or whether the tax is justified. Deputy Cooper has urged that a committee should be set up to examine into the matter with a view to making recommendations for a change, if such a change be considered necessary, next year. The Minister, if I understood him correctly, has already intimated that the matter will remain in doubt between now and this time twelve months in view of the prospective change. Deputy Cooper suggests that there may be certain matters of doubt in which the Dáil as a whole may care to enter with a view to seeing whether there should be any change at the end of twelve months. I urge on the Minister to let the committee be appointed and have access to the information that will be available to himself and his staff in order that he and the Dáil through that committee of the Dáil, appointed either by himself or by the sessional committee of selection, should co-operate in coming to that decision.
Surely that is not a very far-fetched conception to urge upon his convenience. If there be that doubt in his mind, and if there be a doubt in the mind of the Dáil, why not let the committee be established? Let the amendment be withdrawn, and let the committee be established in order that all the information that will be present to the Minister's mind in coming to his decision in twelve months' time, and that will be present to the mind of his advisers, should be available to the committee also.
I am not prepared to put the facts on trial in the way suggested.
The Minister refuses to divide his responsibility. I admire his courage, but I deplore his tactics. I am afraid I must inflict on the Dáil one, at any rate, of these documents which expresses the opinion of an important section of the country on this duty. The following is a copy of a resolution passed by the Sligo Chamber of Commerce:—
Resolved: That this meeting of the Council of the Sligo Chamber of Commerce, having discussed the question of the new Customs entry duty (or statistical tax) strongly approve of the statement issued by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce on the subject.
I might remind the Dáil that the statement of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce at that time was a condemnation of the tax:
We urge upon the Government the necessity for an amended classification of the import list. In its present form it very often amounts to a heavy tax on a small consignment. For example, a member of this Chamber recently got in a consignment of groceries, weighing about 2 cwt., by steamer from Liverpool, and according to the present import list he had to pay 10/6 entry duty. This we consider is an imposition that should be rectified immediately in the interests of the trade of the Free State.
Copies of this resolution to be sent to our local T.D.'s.
Where are they? Deputy Dolan is there, and the others will be here for the division. It was also ordered that a copy of the resolution be sent to myself. That is the view of the Sligo Chamber of Commerce, and there is no doubt that so far as this duty is concerned, the views of commerce as a whole have been pronouncedly hostile. It is felt to be an impediment on business, and it deserves all the epithets which Mr. Gladstone was forced to apply to a duty of his own sixty-five years ago. As regards the 6d. parcels tax, the Minister said that he regarded it as an admirable tax, and that it was well justified. We have heard of a reduction in the number of parcels, but we have never yet heard of any increase in the book post. No figures have been given as regards that, but I am aware that a considerable proportion of parcels have been transferred to the book post. The Minister and his Department are satisfied that this is a good tax. In that they stand alone. The tax has been condemned on every side. The Minister has probably seen the figures of the Dublin Mercantile Association, in which, by ten to one, the retail traders, the wholesale traders and the manufacturers of the country have condemned it. I do not know whether the Minister for Finance ever reads the "Cork Examiner." The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs does, which matters more. Once a week the "Cork Examiner" has a leader condemning this tax. I regard the "Cork Examiner" as one of the most important and influential papers in the country.
Deputy Daly expresses the opinion of the average man in the country, and condemns the tax. I do suggest that there is a case for more inqiury as regards this. This is not a thing that should be settled in the secrecy of the office and brought down as an ultimatum to the Dáil. This is a case in which there should be an inquiry, and if there is to be no inquiry then this amendment goes to a division.
- John J.Cole.
- Bryan R. Cooper.
- Darrell Figgis.
- John Good.
- William Hewat.
- Connor Hogan.
- Séamus Mac Cosgair.
- Risteárd Mac Liam.
- Patrick J. Mulvany.
- Ailfrid O Broin.
- Tadhg O Donnabháin.
- Mícheál O Dubhghaill.
- Seán O Duinnín.
- Donnchadh O Guaire.
- Mícheál O hIfearnáin.
- Pádraig O hOgáin (Luimneach).
- William A. Redmond.
- Liam Thrift.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Thomas Bolger.
- Séamus Breathnach.
- Seoirse de Bhulbh.
- John Daly.
- Máighréad Ní Choileáin Bean
- Uí Dhrisceóil.
- Patrick J. Egan.
- David Hall.
- Thomas Hennessy.
- Seosamh Mac a' Bhrighde.
- Liam Mac Cosgair.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
- Patrick McGilligan.
- Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
- Liam Mag Aonghusa.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- John T. Nolan.
- Peadar O hAodha.
- Criostóir O Broin.
- Seán O Bruadair.
- Risteárd O Conaill.
- Tomás O Conaill.
- Parthalán O Conchubhair.
- Séamus O Dóláin.
- Peadar O Dubhghaill.
- Eamon O Dúgáin.
- Fionán O Loingsigh.
- Risteárd O Maolchatha.
- Séamus O Murchadha.
- Seán O Súilleabháin.
- Andrew O'Shaughnessy.
- Caoimhghín O hUigín.
took the Chair.
I beg to move amendment 19:—
Before Section 34 to insert a new section as follows:—
The minimum charge of 2/6 on goods liable to any Customs duty chargeable under Section 25 of the Finance Act, 1924 (No. 27 of 1924), shall cease to be chargeable or leviable, as on, and from, the 1st day of July, 1925, and all goods liable to any Customs duty shall, on and after that date, be charged and levied such duty without regard to any minimum charge.
This amendment is intended to repeal the minimum Customs duty. Last year we decided that whatever the Customs duty might be, if it was less than half a crown, it should be levied at the rate of half a crown, so that even if the Customs duty was only threepence the person receiving any parcel or packet on which it was leviable would have to pay half a crown. It might be much more than the value of the packet, but still the duty would have to be paid. That provision was intended to facilitate the operation of the Revenue Commissioners, and it would have been a reasonable provision, as long as the Customs duties were only imposed on a small number of articles imported in bulk, such as tobacco, wine, spirit, tea, and sugar, because these are all things that are dealt in by wholesalers, and there were practically no small parcels or packets of these kind of things. Then what were called the McKenna duties were imposed, and there would be again a number of small parcels: one small parcel containing a part for the repair of a motor car, one small musical instrument; but in these circumstances there would be no gross anomaly in imposing the duties. In imposing these duties now we have completely altered the basis of our fiscal system; we are putting on duties on all manner of articles of comparatively insignificant value. The result is that on a birthday, or an anniversary, when a present is sent to one by post with a single handkerchief, one has to pay a minimum Customs duty of half a crown, in addition to the sixpenny statistical duties tax. That is not equity. It is not right to tax one single article one hundred or one hundred and fifty per cent. of its value. Yet so long as we maintain this provision in the Finance Bill we are bound to have that charge. If the provision was intended to lessen the work of the Customs officials it might mean something, but we have, by our own Act, enormously increased the work of the Customs officials. By imposing a duty on various articles of wearing apparel and on furniture, the work of the officials has increased to an enormous extent without even mentioning the duty on bottles and blankets and rugs.
There is no justification, therefore, for continuing this duty. There might be a justification if the duty was imposed on a small number of things and we wanted them dealt with in bulk, but it is impossible to deal with two hundred or three hundred types of wearing apparel in bulk. Fashion is capricious. A new pattern of scarf, a new type of stocking comes into vogue and there is a desire and a demand extending through the whole country to a degree that some of us would have thought impossible fifteen or twenty years ago. I was in the West of Ireland last week and I had been accustomed to see girls going about barefooted. I still thought I saw girls going about barefooted, but instead of that they were going about with the latest style of silk stocking so that their legs were not as bare as I supposed them to be, and they were wearing shoes. The levelling up of ranks, and the diffusion of fashion throughout the whole country has reached such a pitch that every retailer, even in the small towns, and in Ennis, Sligo, and Enniscorthy has to keep the best, and he has to import these things quickly, very often from across the Channel. The result is this tax is a crippling charge on trade and industry and I suggest, therefore, that it should no longer be continued.
I wish to support this amendment again. I also took exception to this on the last Budget statement. I think Deputy Major Cooper has covered the ground fairly fully. It is a tax that will cause still greater inconvenience now that there are a greater number of articles covered by the new Customs tariff, and it affects a great many smaller articles that may be sent as presents, such as handkerchiefs, stockings, and small articles of that kind, which are not at all valued for the amount of money, or which would not warrant the imposition of 2/6 as the actual tax to be placed on them. I am not as much in touch with merchants as Deputy Cooper, but I have heard of one or two extreme cases. I have heard of one case in which a small article valued for about 9d.—it was, I think, a motor cycle part —upon which 2/6 had to be paid as well as the 6d. statistical tax. There you have somebody being frightfully annoyed having to pay 3/3 on an article worth 9d. and which had to be sent for to England because it was not obtainable here. Now that machinery has been set up for collecting Customs tariffs, I see no reason why these articles should not be charged the actual tariff which they are bound to pay in accordance with their actual value.
I would like to support this amendment for the same reasons as I supported a similar one last year. Last year I took the case of a chemist in a Border town in the Free State and tried to compare his case with that of one across the Border. I tried to show the inconvenience that arose. I dealt first with the case of a prescription being made up in two towns, one situated on this side of the Border and the other on the other side. The cost of the prescription here was a great deal more than that on the other side, and I pointed out that that tended to decrease trade in the Border counties. The inconvenience is also considerable. Drugs are not like anything else, and cannot be kept at full stock. It is a great drawback for chemists to have to meet this extra tax.
The tax might not be necessary if it were not that we have here a new State set up, that previously from an economic point of view we were joined to another country, and if the channels of trade to a large extent remained the same as they were, and were intended to remain so, so that this country was not an economic entity and that there were no Customs of our own here. It is really a tax aimed at ending the trade across the Customs frontier in small parcels of trifling value. As I explained before, that involves a large cost to the State in keeping statistics. It involves extra work and extra costs in Customs administration. Without this tax, and before this particular minimum was put into force, it often happened that a fairly highly paid Customs officer worked the whole day dealing with dutiable goods on which he collected, perhaps, 3/- duty. One effect of the minimum is that an officer can do in half an hour work which previously would have taken a day. The actual removal of the minimum at present would lead to further delay and congestion and would lead to the necessity of further cost in the administration of the Customs. Once, I think, this country has its own Customs system and is trying to develop its own economic policy, we must try to arrive at conditions that are normal between countries economically separate, where trade, broadly speaking, flows in important channels, where you have wholesale or substantial dealing across the Border, and where you have not single handkerchiefs, for instance, to be assessed separately and to have inserted in documents the duty to be charged on them. If we got a reduction in this terrible flood of parcels of trifling value it might be possible for us to modify this tax and let the small number of parcels come in, but until we have got trade into channels that are normal we should, and must, maintain this tax. There is no reason that I can see why a chemist on this side of the Border should not deal with a Dublin wholesaler.
How could he get a serum from Dublin?
I do not know about that particular article, but, generally speaking, that is his remedy. There is no doubt, where you have a country an entity from the point of view of Customs, you must check this expensive and troublesome system of trading across the frontier in small packets of very little value.
I think the Minister's argument cuts both ways. His argument is, that inasmuch as we have just cut away politically and are cutting away economically our connection with another State, it is desirable to have taxes like these, that shall more completely set us on our own legs in regard to business matters. So far so good. But the connection that has remained until now has had another effect. I suggest that it is this other effect which is most injuriously hit by the imposition of a minimum tax, and that is that there have been family friendships and connections of many sorts set up as between one country and another, and, whatever may be the case in regard to chemicals to which Deputy Cole has referred, I venture to suggest that the majority of small parcels on which this minimum charge would be levied, are parcels not sent in the way of business, but in the way of friendship, of association, and as birthday tokens. I would like very much to see exactly how many items at 2/6 each are charged as duty in respect of (a) on parcels sent to traders for traders to sell; and (b) from private individuals to private individuals.
That would be very interesting.
It would be very interesting, and I venture to say that the second would greatly outweigh the first. Complaints are being received from people here on this side, and they will be far worse now than in the past if, on small parcels sent to people here containing dutiable goods, the value of which is trifling, there is, nevertheless, 2/6 to pay. That was the case in the past, but now that we are including wearing apparel, handkerchiefs, ties, and so forth, these half-crowns are going to be collected on a much larger scale in future, and an amount of inconvenience will be created which will have no compensation in the creation of a greater amount of business. If any person in Great Britain or Belfast desires to send a present to anybody in Dublin, it is in his own locality that that purchase will have to be made, as it cannot be made in the Free State, but it is the person in the Free State who will pay dearly for having such parcels sent to him.
I think the Minister has made no case for the continuation of this tax. There is no justification for it whatever in my judgment. The Minister says that for sentimental reasons we must cut off the connection.
No, not for sentimental reasons; for practical reasons.
For practical reasons based on sentiment?
However, there is one class of people that have not been taken into consideration and that is the unfortunate public. This grand-motherly legislation tends to make this charge intolerable. In my judgment it is bad finance and bad administration. I do not think that outside the House or outside the Government benches you will find many people to stand by this tax as a reasonable tax.
What tax will they stand by?
I suppose income tax, especially the man who has not to pay any of it. I do not think the Minister says it is a tax at all.
It is not a tax; it is really a minimum charge, for whatever taxes are imposed by the Oireachtas.
The whole basis of his argument is to stop traffic, to make this island, or our portion of it, a very little island.
I say yes. In reply to the Minister's statement I say the whole trend of this legislation is to curtail trade with the outside world. Whether the Minister agrees with me or not, it is tending towards isolating us while as far as the people in the country are concerned it is giving the maximum of irritation for a very small return. The Minister talked about the expense to the Customs and Excise being curtailed. I do not think that if he would analyse the amount that is charged to the State for the collecting of the half-crown, he would find that it is justified.
There are two grounds on which the tax is opposed. One is that it causes great irritation to a great number of people and that it interferes with the sending of presents, birthday presents, and other articles of endearment, I suppose. From the business man's point of view, examining this particular traffic, the question that the Minister for Finance has got to ask himself is: is it an economic proposition to handle something like 39,000 articles in a month, as the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs told us come by post containing these articles, assess the value of them, put a value on them and collect the tax in turn from every person to whom the articles are delivered? I do not think anybody, viewing the thing from a business point of view, could stand for the extra expense that would be inevitable from the examination of such a large number of parcels.
Take the case of people in trade here having a house of one sort or another paying rates, taxes, and rent and keeping up staffs and running their business, if we are to take it from the Chamber of Commerce, on sound business lines. These people doing business on sound business lines, continue getting small parcels of half a dozen handkerchiefs or some other small quantity of goods to satisfy one or two particular customers. I would like to know if that is the modern method of doing business on sound business lines? It does not appear to me to be so. I think business houses should make an effort to get in goods in fairly large quantities and that they should not be making use of what is really a convenience for the public, a public service, and imposing enormous trouble and considerable expense of time on the Custom authorities and throwing a charge on the State which it cannot bear.
I would like to know if any business man was charged with this particular duty of handling so many articles as are brought in here in parcels, would he say: "Certainly I will examine every one of them and I will charge every person only the exact proportions of the duty that he is responsible for. I think it is an excellent method of doing business between one country and another, and that it is a popular business. Because of the fact that here are so many people engaged in it, and the fact that it is popular, whether it is economic or not it should be the duty of the Government even at a large expense to maintain a staff for the purpose of examining these parcels." I do not think any business man would approach the matter from that point of view. If we are satisfied that this particular traffic imposes a heavy burden on the State, even at the expense of antagonising some of our constituents, it is our duty to the still larger number of constituents who do not use that traffic, to see that they shall not be called on to pay taxes, which will enable the smaller number to benefit by an immediate delivery of goods, in consequence of that very expensive method of doing business. Even though there is a large number of people inconvenienced, even though there is a large number who object to the extra burden of two and sixpence, even though there are business houses getting in small parcels of half a dozen, you could not expect the Government to carry out a work that will impose a heavy cost on the whole community. You must look at this matter from the broad, general view of the State. If Deputy Cooper, Deputy Hewat, Deputy Heffernan and Deputy Cole were the managing directors of the State would they count this as a legitimate, well-balanced, sound proposition—to handle such a large number of small parcels and assess the tax on each commodity in accordance with the value of each article?
The President has really pronounced an extremely eloquent condemnation of the whole Finance Bill. He has appealed from those of our constituents who are inconvenienced to those who are not. In other words, he appeals from those who wear imported clothes to those who do not. Apparently the majority of his constituents do not wear any of these imported articles.
I have worn apparel for many years and I have never paid the tax on it. I have no intention of paying it.
I must visit Kilkenny. The President has not paid any tax for the past two months, but I am sure that he will pay it unconsciously in the future. Sometimes when he thinks he is buying Irish goods he is buying what Irish retailers buy outside.
I do not think they could humbug me to that extent.
We are not all so free from being gulled as the President. He has the unique experience of not alone being in the Dáil for some years, but he has also been in the Dublin Corporation. I am not going to accuse the Minister for Finance of being sentimental. We were told by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer that he was a wise and determined man. Of the latter I have no doubt whatever. I have put up too many amendments in my time, and have had them turned down to have any doubts about the Minister's determination. I regret to-night that determination is so prominent and wisdom so much in the background. He has told us that he is trying by this 2/6 minimum tax to alter the channels of trade. That is a very dangerous and a very difficult thing to do. If the Minister for Industry and Commerce were here he would agree that the alteration of the channels of trade is a thing that must be carried out on scientific lines, that you must not indulge in any rash or any haphazard efforts to control it. I suggest that a flat rate of 2/6 is an indiscriminate and haphazard method of dealing with it. It is true that all sorts of links of trade have grown up in the past, and that is inevitable in a small country.
Deputy Cole instanced the case of chemists. It is a fact that no Dublin chemist, no wholesaler, can stock the whole range of drugs required in the modern pharmacopoeia, because drugs will not keep. Some drugs might not be asked for once in two or three years, by which time they would have lost their value. No firm is rich enough to sink capital in a venture of that kind. Precisely the same thing applies here, because demand varies with the caprices of fashion. There is no wholesaler in the Free State, and I have been in touch with some of the biggest of them, who can carry such a stock as the wholesaler in London or Manchester. It means locking up capital for a period of months, probably for a period of years, without a prospect of return. There has to be a considerable amount of overseas trade, and, what is more, overborder trade. The President could not be thinking possibly of any shopkeeper getting half a dozen handkerchiefs. I agree in the case of the Dublin shopkeeper, but what about the shopkeeper in Newbliss or Glenfarne? Will he not get half a dozen handkerchiefs from a shopkeeper at Enniskillen?
He would be very unwise.
He would be on account of this duty.
Where is he to get them? He is a long way from Sligo, and there is no place but Enniskillen where there are big shops that can supply them. By the time he pays freight, if he gets them by train, or pays postage, he will probably find that he might have got supplies cheaper. He is accustomed to dealing with certain wholesalers long before the border came into being. Tirconaill is accustomed to dealing with Derry, and the border has not broken all these bonds of trade communication. It would be the greatest misfortune if we did anything here to make the border more permanent. I am afraid that is one of the effects of a minimum half-crown duty, making us more self-contained. I would be more inclined to put the case on sentimental grounds rather than accuse the Minister of being sentimental. I think that is one of the serious indictments of this duty. The President's argument is really not an argument in favour of the minimum duty. It is an argument against taxing an enormous number of articles of infinite variety and comparatively small price. That is the reaction of his argument. I would agree in every word if he is dealing with wine, porter, spirits, and tobacco. There a man might say: "Why not take the whiskey I have in stock; why insist on other whiskey?" In the case of tobacco he might say: "Is not the tobacco I have good enough; why do you insist on something else?" But when you deal with women and the ramifications of women's apparel you will find that reason fails, that argument fails, and I do not believe that even the President would convince them that they ought to get what they do not want.
I knew that once the President got going he would fairly get away. I have been watching him for two or three hours, and I knew that when he did come in, from my experience of him, he would have a real good innings. With regard to large parts of the country, the President was fairly correct in saying that shopkeepers would not be bringing in goods in small parcels, thereby increasing this higher percentage duty. Let that be so. What about the other end of it, of which I spoke at the beginning? I think the President was trying to suggest that I had an excessive number of birthdays, or that someone had an excessive number of birthdays.
Different people thought they were on different days.
I do not know. I always had the idea that birthdays were limited to one in a year.
You could have two, one for Darrell and one for Figgis.
There is the fact to which I referred before, and that is that a great deal of irritation is undoubtedly being caused to people who receive parcels that are sent to them for purely sentimental reasons, and by way of friendship, on which they have to pay a duty that is probably half as much again as the value of what they receive. It is not as if that could be corrected by the giver of the present. That cannot be done, obviously. The only person penalised is the person who receives the goods. It is on the ground of irritation in this way, without any benefit whatever to the Irish shopkeeper or the Irish trader, that I urge that this minimum tax of 2/6 should be abolished.
I am afraid the President has not strengthened his position by the interesting statement he has made to-night. As I understand his case, he is anxious to alter the present channels of trade. If he is so anxious to alter the present channels of trade why not stop these parcels coming in altogether, instead of putting on this irritating tax of 2/6? If he is really determined in his proposal that is the proper line to adopt, if he wants to effect the change. I am afraid that in attempting to attack trade to-night the President with all respect has shown want of knowledge of trade. We have been dealing with new taxes this year largely put on apparel and commodities of that kind. This parcels tax largely affects commodities of the kind. If the Minister had any knowledge of that particular trade in apparel he would come to the immediate conclusion that it was one of the trades in which mass production was impossible. If he were to consult—and I am sure he will as a result of tonight's discussion—some of his lady friends he would find that mass production would be the last thing ladies in this country would desire. If two ladies happened to be at a function wearing similar dresses I know that the people who sold these dresses would hear about it for years.
Not if it suits the two ladies.
If I know anything of ladies' fashions it is one of the things that seem to irritate them more than anything else. If they buy a dress in a particular place they understand it is the only dress of that kind that will be sold by that particular firm.
They would be well able to pay the 2/6.
That is quite right, but what I am coming at is this: the President's argument was, why not order 20, 30 or 50 dresses of that particular pattern? If he will consult any of the people interested in that particular trade he will be told by them, as I tell him, that is impossible, that it would ruin their custom if they sold even two costumes of the same pattern. When you are talking about trade in apparel and trade in motor cars you are talking of two different commodities. What is possible, and is the custom, in one is impossible in the other. If the President wants to alter the methods of these trades, as it seems he is determined on doing, and have our girls out in the same dress, and our ladies in the same shoes, stockings and umbrellas manufactured by the million, and all alike, he will want to alter the fashions and to alter the views of these people. I assure him that if he starts on that problem he will find it is a big task.
I think the Deputy has misunderstood what I said. I do not think I mentioned alteration in the channels of trade—good, bad or indifferent. I said this was a particular method of traffic which was costing the State too much money, and that with this tax of 2/6 the ladies interested in models will get off very cheap, for they will get off with 2/6 for an article on which they would pay £3 or £4.
They have also to pay 33? per cent.
I have no intention of altering the fashions or the views of these ladies.
I am sure the President is prudent in not undertaking that further trouble.
I centre on the one thing. If Deputy Good, Deputy Hewat, Deputy Cooper, Deputy Heffernan, and Deputy Cole were seated here with the responsibility of this service superimposed on them, as the Minister for Finance has said, and they found that is was a costly service inasmuch as it took up so much time and so many officials, and that the tax in respect of this immense number of parcels of 33? per cent. would be insufficient to pay for this service, then they would have to do exactly as we are doing or lose their reputation as business men.
I have been listening to Deputy Good with some interest, especially when he suggested that mass production in the matter of clothing was out of the question. I wonder does he ever see the London dailies of great circulation with illustrations of dresses of all kinds, and does he not realise that those are almost daily produced under mass production conditions, with occasional little alterations, and that, in any case, the particular kind of article that is in question would not have to pay the tax, for it would be already paid in the larger sum. The Deputy's chief point seems to be that there was no basis for the allegation that there was this uniformity in clothing, and that infinite variety was the vogue. He was not speaking solely of ladies' dresses, and I venture to suggest that if it happened the Deputy were in the neighbourhood of this building about this time to-morrow night and he looked around he would see that there is a very great deal of uniformity about articles of clothing. It so happens that a certain event which is to take place to-morrow night is confined to those who are prepared to wear uniforms, and this tendency to uniformity has a considerable effect upon the clothing trade. Mass production and uniformity go together, and I suppose if we could all be induced to wear uniforms for social functions the next step would be to get them all made on one model out of one particular firm's production.
And of the same size.
And possibly of one size with the aid of pneumatic blowers. The possibilities of cutting down or adding to the garments would be the means of encouraging a certain amount of local industry. There is no doubt that there is a great deal of mass production in the clothing trade, and that has forced everybody connected with the trade in this country to look favourably on these proposals which limit, to whatever degree, the introduction of clothing produced under mass production conditions. I think the effect of this minimum duty will be, if it has not already been, to limit the importation of single articles produced under mass production conditions, and which are advertised so largely in the daily and weekly press. I hope the Ministry will stand by this tax for at least a sufficiently long time to prove that it has an effect upon import trade of this kind. So far as luxury trades are concerned, the effect of this duty on the smaller articles is really very little, that is, as regards the consumer, but it may affect the trader to some degree. The consumer is attracted by the design, colour and the fashion rather than by its inherent cost, and the tax of 2/6 on these articles has hardly any influence on the retail price of any of the articles sold of a luxury character.
I hardly expected to hear this tax defended on the grounds of uniformity, to have it put forward that it will enable you, A Leas-Chinn Chomhairle and Deputy Thrift, to occupy the same clothes as well as the same chair. I do not know if that is a consummation devoutly to be desired. I would tell Deputy Johnson that it is precisely in regard to this matter of clothing which he calls uniform that there is the greatest divergence of cut, the greatest expense and the least mass production. It is precisely in regard to clothes, at ceremonies, worn in the evening, that the greatest pains are taken to make certain differentiations of shape, cut, outline and material, and at great cost these differentiations are obtained.
Might I ask the Deputy whether those particularly well-cut garments, when going through the post, are subject to the two-and-six duty?
They have done so in the past, and it is probable they will do so in the future.
I hope those for to-morrow night will be held up in the post.
You never know.
Apart from all that, we have got off the subject of the amendment altogether. I want to put the case that a level flat minimum rate of duty is untenable and penalises people who cannot afford to be penalised, people who get old clothes from relations or, from want of a better word, from patrons or former employers or people of that kind. It creates a sense of injury and injustice in the mind of the recipient and therefore I suggest the Dáil ought not to continue it.
Before sub-section (3) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
"The dog duty in respect of any dog aged one year and upwards shall be paid by the person keeping the dog on or before the 1st day of January in each year, and the duty in respect of any dog aged less than one year and more than one month, shall be paid within one month of such dog attaining the age of one month."
I am glad to have come to an end of controversy. After the fighting we can now come to the dogs. This amendment relates to the Excise duty on dogs.
The amendment may be advocated on two grounds. First, from the farmers' point of view from the 1st of January to the 1st Ápril there are any amount of cur dogs going through the country in the lambing season, chasing, worrying and destroying sheep. Those same dogs are hunting birds when they are making their nests, chasing rabbits and hares. They are a general nuisance. If a dog is to pay duty he should not be given a loose period of two or three months during which time he is not to pay duty. It is not a good thing for the dog himself. When the duty is payable there are hosts of dogs either turned out by their masters or else drowned and got rid of. I think the country is in favour of a change of this kind and of having it done at an earlier date.
I think, if the Minister will remember, he practically gave me a promise that he would change the date on which this duty would be levied on the introduction of the Budget. I suggested to him, for the very reasons given by Deputy Cooper, that it would be desirable that this duty should be charged on the 1st January rather than on the 1st April. The reason is the one given by the last Deputy who spoke, that those dogs, unlicensed mongrel curs, were loose at the very worst time of the year and that they killed lambs. Sometimes they form into packs and scour the country at night. I have seen packs of those dogs. Some of them may be licensed, but usually they are not, because people who license dogs go to some trouble to keep the dogs around their premises. Serious damage has accrued to many farmers. Sometimes the dogs kill sheep as well as lambs. With regard to the latter part of the amendment, I do not quite understand what the intention of the Deputy is, except that he wants not to have those mongrels exist at all. People will be obliged to destroy them and not to allow them to grow up to be a year old. I think it is a good idea, and I have pleasure in supporting the amendment.
I think it was Deputy Wolfe who made the appeal that the ordinary licence duty which used to be levied in March should be changed to December or January. I quite agree that that would be a very wise and necessary thing to do. There is no doubt of the hardship and the harm that is done by dogs wandering in that particular season of the year. Just then we have the lambing season. The months of February and March are the months of the lambing season, and more harm is done at that time to sheep than at any other season of the year. The Deputy talks about dogs worrying large flocks of sheep. I have seen thirty or forty sheep being attacked at one time by half a dozen dogs. That is no uncommon thing in the country in the case of anyone who has kept sheep. It is only in exceptional cases that the owners have been traced and connected with this damage. The result generally is that the unfortunate people to whom damage is done have no redress in any court or otherwise. If the date is changed to December and you have registration by the first of the New Year it would be very beneficial. With regard to the latter part of the amendment, to make dogs of one month or upwards be licensed, that is ridiculous. Let there be a particular date, and let all dogs over a month old on that day be registered. I hope the Minister will have this changed and brought up to an earlier date. The country wants it. It would save a considerable amount of damage to sheep. Another thing is within recent years, when there was very little law in the country, packs of mongrels have been allowed to exist and they have done considerable damage. Last year the law was not enforced as it should be, and a lot of those dogs are living still. I know the law will be enforced this year. The machinery is there to enforce it. There are huge numbers of unnecessary dogs in the country. I do not know where they find food; certainly they do not find it in their own kennels.
I will support the first part of this amendment, but not the second. There is no necessity for a second licensing day varying from month to month and week to week. That would be ridiculous. There is another thing, too; it is not in this, but it is almost up to the time when we might seriously suggest all dogs should be kept under control, at least by night. It does not arise under any section here, but it is something that will have to be considered in the near future, I think.
I support Deputy Cooper's amendment, and especially the latter part of it.
The second part, the part that you object to. It would save an amount of trouble to the Gárda Sióchána if that were done.
When I was supporting this resolution I did not support two licensing days. I said that the licensing days should be changed from March to December. I do not suggest two licensing days at all. No one could tell the age of a dog.
I would like to support Deputy Cooper's amendment as far as having the dogs licensed in December or January is concerned. I think it would be a very good thing. Personally I would prefer the 1st of December to the 1st January, but I think January will meet the case best for most farmers. I am sure there will be a general claim for the licensing day to be as early as possible in the year, so that dogs will be paid for at that particular time. I agree with everything that Deputy Gorey has said about these dogs roaming about the country and the damage they do. People turn them out to save themselves the trouble and expense of feeding them, and they let them roam about the country in packs. It is a quite common thing to see this happen about the country. At the present moment it is going on largely. Every night I hear packs of dogs barking about the place. They are looking for food, and are not fed by their owners. As regards the age of the dog. I entirely agree with what Deputy Gorey says. I think this part of the amendment is extremely vague. It is not satisfactory as far as I understand it. I think the age of the dog should be fixed at from three to six months on the 1st January, and after the 1st of January, when the dog attains a fixed age, the dog should be paid for.
Perhaps I might, with regard to the second part of the amendment, enlighten Deputy Gorey and Deputy Wolfe as to my intention. My view is, that every dog over a month old should have a licence, and it is quite fair and an easy thing to tell the difference between a month-old puppy and an eleven months old dog.
What about the difference between a 10 months dog and an 11 months dog?
I am putting it as the difference between a month old dog and an 11 months old dog. Under this amendment every dog should be entitled to get his licence after it is one month old. I cannot agree that a man who had a dog born should be allowed to keep it until it was 11 months without getting a licence for it. The next thing we shall hear is that Deputy Gorey will be winning the Waterloo Cup with an unlicensed dog.
The Deputy is inclined to be ridiculous. He must have had his dinner.
Unfortunately the Deputy has had too many amendments to have any dinner at all. If you fix the 1st of January as the time for taking out a licence you will have the position that some dogs will not be licensed until they are 10 or 11 months old, and other dogs will have to be licensed as soon as they are a month old. However, I am glad that the principle of the amendment finds favour. If the Minister thinks the latter part of it is unacceptable I am prepared to allow it to be altered.
I accept the principle of the amendment. As regards the second part of it, I do not think it is necessary, because the section already says it shall be the duty of every person who keeps a dog aged one month or upwards to produce on demand by the Gárda Síochána a licence under this Act. So that the second part of the amendment is unnecessary. With regard to the first, I agree wholly, and I would be prepared to accept it by changing the period from the financial year to the calendar year. There is one little difficulty that prevents me from accepting the amendment. Licences are paid at present up to the 31st March next. We will have to provide some sort of transfer period so that the people would not have to be paying again for the three months from January to March. As soon as I think out a clause to cover that part I will bring it in.
I am quite satisfied with that.
Before Section 34 is put I wish to draw attention to the custom that prevailed in the past by which owners of kennels were enabled to register dogs by giving a description of the lot. It is the custom in kennels to keep two, or sometimes more, packs of foxhounds. They are all of one colour, and having to fill a separate form for each is vexatious, unnecessary and serves no useful purpose. The whole lot could be described, and have been described, on one sheet or form. I do not know that the harrier packs that are very useful could not be done in the same way. I do not know at what number you would fix the kennel or packs that would come under this. It would be very handy, especially if it were put down at ten or twelve; where the dogs are all of one breed they are easily dealt with. If the old system were reverted to it would be very simple, and it would be very welcome to the people of the country who have large packs of dogs.
The system that Deputy Gorey desires will be reverted to. That has been considered and there is no difficulty in the matter.
I beg to propose amendment No. 21 which stands in my name and of which I have given notice. It reads:—
21. To insert before Section 35 a new section as follows:—
"The duties of Customs and Excise chargeable or leviable on twist plug tobacco shall on and after the 9th day of June, 1925, be chargeable or leviable at rates amounting to four shillings per pounds less than the duties chargeable or leviable previous to the 9th day of June, 1925."
Of all the increases of taxation in recent years none has imposed greater hardship on the poor than the extra duty on tobacco. The labourers and the small farmers who a few years ago got an ounce of tobacco for 2d. or 2½d. have to pay now 8½d. or 9d. I submit in all seriousness that there is no justification for continuing this oppressive and cruel tax. The victims in my opinion are in need of relief. We are told by some expert economists that tobacco is a luxury and that the poor people can very well do without it. We might as well say that tea is a luxury, and yet you have, I am glad to say, given relief to the poor householders from the tax on tea. To most of the labourers and small farmers that I know the occasional smoke is an absolute necessity. I know many to whom the deprivation of a meal would be far less disconcerting than that of their usual smoke. Why inflict, or continue to inflict, this great hardship on the poorest section of the community while you are giving substantial relief to those who, like ourselves, have incomes up to the taxation mark? If you can possibly draw the distinction between the poor man's twist and luxurious Havana and select mixtures puffed by the well-to-do by all means do so. But whether or not you make such a distinction, I ask you in all sincerity to relieve the poor man of at least half this duty on tobacco, and that is all I am asking you to do.
I seem to have struck a very favourable portion of the amendment sheet, because these amendments, one after the other, are meeting with my approval. I support the amendment because I think the idea in it is a good one. I do not know if it is financially feasible; I cannot tell what loss it would involve to the Customs, but I certainly think that an excessive duty on plug and twist tobacco is a hardship on people—I might say the poor, because the people who use this kind of tobacco are mostly poor. I remember when they were able to get their ounce of tobacco for 3d. I think it now costs 8d.; I am not quite sure what the exact price is, because I do not smoke twist, but it is more than double the original price—three times the original price, Deputy Figgis tells me. It is really a necessity of life to these people. The working man, the farm labourer, is as fond of his clay pipe and of a smoke as he is of his food, and he would be more unhappy if he missed his smoke than if he missed his dinner.
He is a fool, then.
They are not all like Deputy Gorey; most of them are smokers. Deputy Cosgrave is not asking to have this tax taken off cigars, cigarettes, or the luxury tobaccos, but to have it taken off the common twist. I would ask the Minister to consider the proposal, and if the amount suggested is too great he might possibly agree to a lesser amount. If he does not accept the amendment and it is not carried I would ask him to bear this particular aspect of the question in view when he is preparing his Budget next year.
I also support the amendment. Like Deputy Heffernan, I do not smoke.
I smoke, but I do not smoke twist.
I know from experience that poor men would rather do without their breakfast than without a smoke. This tobacco is not used altogether as a luxury; they regard it as a necessity. Half of them say that they would go mad if they had not their smoke. They would rather do without their dinner, and for that reason I support the proposal to reduce the tax on what the working man smokes, the common tobacco.
I also wish to support the amendment and to say a few words with regard to one class in particular, the old age pensioners. It is really hard on these poor people, of whom, I am sure, I would be safe in saying that 90 per cent smoke, who have only 7/- or 8/- or 9/- a week to exist upon and who have to pay 1/6 a week for a couple of ounces of tobacco. That leaves them a very slight margin to exist upon. I think that something should be done on the lines of Deputy Cosgrave's amendment, particularly for the benefit of this class of people, and also, I might say, for the working men.
As we were framing our Budget we had to decide what might be done with the amount available for remission of taxation. We gave that amount principally in the abolition of the tea duty and in the reduction of the sugar duty. We considered other things that might be done; we considered whether there might be a reduction in the beer duty or a reduction in the tobacco duty, and what we felt was that these other things were not at all so widely used. I do not know what proportion of the adult population of the country uses tobacco, but we have to remember that the great majority of women do not, and that children and young people do not, so that perhaps you have only one-fifth or one-sixth of the population who use it. You have a very much higher proportion using tea or sugar. We decided to give a reduction in the most widely used commodities. We had only a limited amount available for the reduction of taxation. If we were to pass the amendment the effect would be that the Customs duty would be reduced; there would be no reduction in Excise duty. At present we are charging on the tobacco as it comes in. There is a higher rate of duty on certain manufactured tobacco. We might reduce the Customs duty if we liked and thereby lead to the abolition of any manufacture of tobacco here. We charge duty on the leaf coming in. There is no means of distinguishing between twist and plug, or any other form of tobacco, when the leaf is coming in. If we were to try to distinguish between them it would mean an alteration of the whole system under which tobacco is manufactured; every tobacco factory would have to be a bonded factory, and all the work would have to be done under supervision, because if not we might have people cheating the Revenue to an almost unlimited extent. It would really be impracticable. All tobacco is charged as as it enters, and except it is to be manutured into Cavendish or Negro Head it passes out of the purview of the Customs altogether. Tobacco used for Cavendish or Negro Head is manufactured in a bonded factory under Customs supervision. If we were to try to distinguish between twist and plug and tobacco that is to be used for cigarettes or other things we would practically require to have all the tobacco manufactured in the country under supervision.
Even if it were possible to do that we could not afford it. It is difficult to estimate what this would cost, because we have not any firm figure of the amount of twist and plug used in the country, but it would probably cost anything in the neighbourhood of three-quarters of a million. On the other hand, if we were to take the line of reducing the duty from 8s. odd to 4s., the effect would be a much bigger loss in revenue—£1,600,000 or £1,700,000. It is obvious that we can do neither of these things. We cannot afford to lose three-quarters of a million, and we can even less afford to lose the bigger amount. Really, this is one of the things that might have been an alternative to the big reduction which we made in the sugar duty. Instead of the penny-three-farthings reduction in sugar, we might have given one-half-penny reduction, and done something like this. But there is not the money to do this, or anything like it, as things stand.
Do I understand the Minister to say that the effect of this amendment, if adopted, would mean a loss of three-quarters of a million?
As well as we can estimate.
I want to get the figure checked because I have here the Finance Account for the year 1923-24, where the net receipts from tobacco and snuff are entered at £3,719,000 odd. Even putting the whole question of snuff aside, and taking that figure as the total receipts of tobacco alone, it appears, then, from the Minister's figure that the amount of duty paid by those who consume twist and plug—that is to say the very poorest in the community—amounts to one-fifth of the whole of the tobacco receipts for the Saorstát. I think that that calculation is a justification of Deputy Cosgrave's argument, that on those grades of tobacco, consumed as they are only by the poor, a relief should be given, and that they should not be asked to pay duty which does amount, on the figures that I have shown, to one-fifth of the entire duty paid on tobacco in the Saorstát.
I recognise the difficulty that the Minister is in, especially at this late stage of the entire movement that one describes as the Budget. He has intimated to us before we went into Committee on the Finance Bill that there were certain limited moneys within which he had to move, and I can see that the adoption of this, at the moment, might not be a practical course for him to take. But, I do draw his attention to the fact that these poorer grades of tobacco, consumed by those who could not afford the other type of tobacco, amounting so largely as they do in the total receipts in respect of tobacco, ought to claim some special attention from him for the future.
I am sorry I cannot agree with this suggestion, especially as it has found some support on these benches. If there is going to be a reduction on any article of general use, let it be a further reduction on sugar that everybody consumes, and which is a necessity of life.
On a point of order, are we discussing sugar or tobacco?
The Deputy is in order in giving an illustration.
The claim made on behalf of tobacco smokers, that they would sooner do without their breakfast than a smoke, does not appeal to me. If they did do with a little less tobacco and substituted food for it, they would be doing a good thing. It has been pointed out that a certain proportion of the population will benefit by a reduction in this tax. If there is going to be some reduction made to benefit the poorer section of the population let the reduction be made on some article of food that is used by all of that section of the population. A reduction in the tobacco duty would do no good to the community, as in many cases tobacco is used as a drug. People get into the habit of using a certain amount of that drug, and it is very difficult for them to give it up. If they could be induced not to use so much of it, they would be much better off. If it could be done, I would like to see no tobacco smoked. The people would then be much better off than they are to-day.
Does the Deputy smoke?
I wish to support the amendment, and to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that the present high duty on tobacco was imposed as a war tax. It is time for the Minister to consider a reduction in the taxes that were described as war taxes when they were being imposed at Westminster. The average workman in this country is severely handicapped by these war taxes. Even the price of stout and beer is higher here than in Northern Ireland by practically 24/- per barrel. In the Saorstát the Excise duty is £1 per barrel more on Guinness's porter than in Northern Ireland or Great Britain. I think the Minister for Defence, who is always seen with the pipe of peace in his mouth, would not like tobacco to be described as anything else but a necessity of life. I had expected to see him supporting this amendment.
I will let Deputy Gorey and Deputy Byrne fight this out between themselves.
As this tax was described as a war tax when imposed, it is time that the Minister should consider a reduction, and give those who use tobacco an opportunity of getting it at a reasonable price.
I have nothing more to say; the money is not there to do it.
- John J. Cole.
- John Daly.
- Darrell Figgis.
- David Hall.
- Connor Hogan.
- Séamus Mac Cosgair.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Risteárd Mac Liam.
- Patrick J. Mulvany.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- Ailfrid O Broin.
- Tomás O Conaill.
- Tadhg O Donnabháin.
- Mícheál O Dubhghaill.
- Seán O Duinnín.
- Mícheál O hIfearnáin.
- Pádraig O hOgáin (Luimneach).
- William A. Redmond.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Thomas Bolger.
- Seoirse de Bhulbh.
- Próinsias Bulfin.
- Máighréad Ní Choileáin Bean
- Uí Dhrisceóil.
- Patrick J. Egan.
- Desmond Fitzgerald.
- Thomas Hennessy.
- John Hennigan.
- Seosamh Mac a'Bhrighde.
- Donnchadh Mac Con Uladh.
- Liam Mac Cosgair.
- Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
- Patrick McGilligan.
- Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
- Liam Mag Aonghusa.
- John T. Nolan.
- Peadar O hAodha.
- Seán O Bruadair.
- Risteárd O Conaill.
- Parthalán O Conchubhair.
- Conchubhar O Conghaile.
- Séamus O Cruadhlaoich.
- Séamus O Dóláin.
- Peadar O Dubhghaill.
- Eamon O Dúgáin.
- Donnchadh O Guaire.
- Séamus O Leadáin.
- Fionán O Loingsigh.
- Máirtín O Rodaigh.
- Seán O Súilleabháin.
- Andrew O'Shaughnessy.
I move to report progress.
Progress ordered to be reported.