The Finance Bill follows very closely the Budget statement and the Financial Resolutions which were adopted. Certain remissions of taxation are provided for in the Bill which were not mentioned in the Budget statement. They are of a minor character. In Section 12 there is an exemption from the duty of the non-textile parts of certain wearing apparel. That remission has been given because it is believed that it will lead to an increase of manufacture.
FINANCE BILL, 1926—SECOND STAGE.
Will the Minister deal with that in a little more detail?
I will leave that to the Deputy. In Section 14 we exempt caramel from the confectionery duty. Caramel was included in the list of articles of confectionery by mistake; it was confused with what are called caramels. It is, in fact, a preparation of burnt sugar, which is used for colouring purposes. I think it is used for colouring whiskey, but in any case it is not a confectionery preparation, and it is exempted. We are specially exempting washing-soda and other preparations from the duty to which soap substitutes are liable. Sometimes washing-soda is imported as a soap substitute, but it is also imported for other purposes which have no relation to that, and difficulties arose in a few cases. In Section 16 we are providing for the exemption of what are really foods, where they are required by dietetic patients. They frequently contain a small proportion of saccharin, and if they are charged the duty it means that the minimum of half-a-crown duty has to be charged on each parcel. Only a small quantity of these preparations can be imported, because they do not keep, and it is felt that no money is involved and that it is desirable that a certain hardship should be mitigated or removed.
In the next section we provide for the bottling of spirits in bond in bottles smaller than a pint. Previously whiskey bottled in bond had to be put into quart or pint bottles. The firm which bottles "Baby Powers" has been applying for a long time for permission to bottle in bond, and other firms have recently joined in the application, and it was felt that the concession might be given. It will entail a small additional cost for the provision of extra supervision, but the cost will be quite immaterial. Then, in Sections 30 to 34 we are providing for bringing the Excess Profits duty to an end. The collection of Excess Profits duty and claims for repayment of the duty have practically ceased, and it is felt that it is desirable, with provisions for certain last-moment claims, that the regulations for the duty should be repealed. There are a number of minor provisions in the Bill to which I do not think I need refer until the Committee Stage. Deputies will notice that the Bill contains no reference to the Tariff Commission. Naturally, the setting up of a Tariff Commission such as we contemplate, would not come within the scope of a Money Bill. A separate Bill is being prepared providing for the setting up of a Tariff Commission.
There are certain new changes in the Bill which were not provided for in the Financial Resolutions. The principal of them are those charges which I may class together as the betting taxes. It had been originally intended that the entire legislation to be proposed to the Dáil in relation to betting should be put in a separate Bill. It was later thought, however, that the definitely taxing provisions ought not to be included with other provisions, and accordingly it seemed desirable that the taxing provisions in relation to betting should be inserted in the Finance Bill. There will be a separate betting Bill which will provide for the legalisation of betting, the regulation of the conditions on which licences to carry on business as a bookmaker and the licensing of premises in which bookmaking may be carried on——
In using the term "legalisation of betting," the Minister is not going back on his original suggestion about the irrecoverability of betting debts?
Does the legalisation of betting mean giving power to the bookmaker to recover debts?
No. I was coming to that. As a matter of fact, I have been in communication with several very reputable and fair-minded bookmakers since then, and although I see by the papers that the bookmakers have demanded the removal and repeal of the Gaming Act, bookmakers who have seen me did not make such a demand. One bookmaker in particular, who is a very prominent man, recognised that the repeal of the Gaming Act would lead to very great abuses, and would lead very disreputable people into bookmaking on account of the abuses, and without my putting the question at all, he volunteered the opinion that the Gaming Act should not be repealed. We heard no arguments at all that would induce us to repeal the Gaming Act. It would lead, as I have already stated, to people being induced to bet, perhaps in their youth, to an unlimited and unreasonable extent, so that the property which they might be possessed of, might get into the hands of those who were inducing them to bet. We intend in the Betting Bill to provide for powers to initiate or establish the Totalisator or Pari-Mutuel system on such racecourses as we may think fit. There are certain difficulties about the carrying on of the Totalisator in this country. They arise largely from the way in which racing is dispersed, the number of courses on which races are held, and the comparative infrequency of racing on any particular course. It is not intended that this system should be set up on every course, but it is intended, at any rate, to try it out on a considerable number of suitable courses.
Is it intended that the State should use the totalisator?
Or by people licensed.
As we are anticipating a Betting Bill, may I ask where either the pari-mutuel or totalisator system is in force will the other kind of betting be prohibited as it is in Australia?
No. It would simply go on alongside with the betting tax. The position here with regard to betting is undoubtedly linked up with horse-racing. Horse-racing is necessary to horse breeding and I think it is universally agreed that it is desirable to keep the horse-breeding industry in the position it occupies at the moment. I believe if racing were to collapse, if there was to be practically no horse racing here, that a most serious blow would be dealt to a very important industry in this country, so that while the State has no interest even in the continuance of betting, it has an interest in the continuance of racing. Racing is necessary to an important industry and we must see that the carrying on of horse-racing is not unduly handicapped or prejudiced in the country. There are some people who believe that much of the difficulty which racing has been subjected to in the past would be cured by the institution of the pari-mutuel or the totalisator system of betting. Since the announcement of the intention to impose a betting tax I have been subjected to what I might call a good deal of long-distance bombardment in regard to it from the opponents of the tax. I received a deputation quite soon after I made the Budget statement and to that deputation I put certain questions. I was promised that figures would be collected and information supplied to me. I need hardly say that there has been no attempt since to supply the information and no figures have been put up. I did not take the opposition to the tax very seriously.
I was one of the members of that deputation. It was the bookmakers who were to supply these statistics to the Minister, and if they failed to do that it has nothing whatever to do with the other persons who have taken up this question—the stewards of the Turf Club, the owners and the trainers. They have given statistics which I have here, and which I intend to mention to the House.
The Deputy apparently thought it wise not to supply them to me because then, perhaps, I might be in a position to analyse them.
I never guaranteed to supply any figures from the bookmakers. Mr. Power made the announcement that he would do it, but I never offered to do it because I do not know anything about the bookmakers' business, and therefore could not do it.
Of course, the tax is one that affects bookmakers, and I do not care very much as to what people who have nothing to do with bookmaking may say about it. Certain points in relation to the betting tax were mentioned when the proposal was announced to the Dáil: the hardship it would be if the credit bets of defaulters were taxed. I recognise that and it is provided for in the Bill. It was also mentioned that it would be a hardship and an impossible burden if laying-off bets were taxed. We have provided in the Bill for the exemption from tax of bets which are in the nature of laying-off bets. These were really the only difficulties or hardships suggested, and these we have met in the Bill. The threats that all betting would stop, and that all the money that is employed in betting would be sucked up by this tax do not, I think, bear any examination at all. In other countries where there is a form of a betting tax, higher rates than 5 per cent. have prevailed for a long time and betting still goes on. There are many countries which have 5 and 6 per cent. rates and there are countries which have rates very much higher. If in other countries betting can pay 7 or 10 per cent., and that racing still continues, then it would take a great deal to convince me that in this country a 5 per cent. tax cannot be borne. The suggestion that there is a certain pool of money in the business and that this simply circulates is not a correct representation of the case. The money invested in betting really comes from the ordinary earnings of numerous citizens who bet a certain amount, perhaps fairly regularly, but who are not professional betters. Not only have the bookmakers not put up the figures which it was suggested they would put up, but although race committees and directors of race courses seem to have protested against the fact none of them has come to me with any figures showing the present position of the executives with which they are connected. I really believe the idea is, by shouting hard enough and simply relying on shouting and loud protests, to scare us from going on with the tax on bets.
It has been suggested, though afterwards the suggestion was withdrawn, that we might get almost as much as the £200,000 which I mentioned in the Budget statement from a heavy tax on bookmakers. It was at one time suggested that a very large number of bookmakers would pay £200 a year as a licence fee so that we might get—the figure mentioned was £140,000 a year— from that source. Afterwards we heard we would get something less. It is, I know, difficult to know how much money a 5 per cent. tax on bets will give. We, after as much consideration as we could give it, hazard the guess, if I may put it so—we hazard the opinion—that it may give from £150,000 to £200,000 per annum. Some of the people who have been opposed to the tax said it would give £500,000, some that it would give £1,000,000, and some in the end that it would give nothing at all, because it would completely kill off betting. The opposition is so incoherent and so inconsistent, as put forward by different persons, that it is impossible to learn anything to add to such knowledge as we have been able to gather from the arguments put forward by those who are opposing the tax. To some extent undoubtedly the betting tax will reduce the volume of the betting business. Sometimes bets of £100 are laid to win £10. Obviously, if there is a 5 per cent. tax, or a tax anything approaching that, bets of that character will cease to be made, and there will be a diminution of business. That provides a quite natural explanation of the opposition of the bookmakers. I believe as a result of this tax that there will not be as much betting as heretofore, and consequently there will be some loss of profit to the bookmakers.
There will be more money for the wives—or husbands, as the case may be.
The bookmakers will not pay the tax. The tax will be passed on to the betters by the adjustment of the odds, and a successful bookmaker carrying on business will still make the same rate of profit as in the past. He will still make his income as before, but if there is a reduction in the volume of betting there probably will be a means of living for a smaller number of bookmakers, and naturally we have the condition there in which there will be strenuous opposition to the tax. It was half suggested at one stage to me that the case of the people who oppose the tax might be met if we had a 5 per cent. tax on betting off the course, that is 5 per cent. on bets laid in offices in towns or elsewhere, and 2½ per cent. on bets made actually on the race-course. That was a suggestion which I had a certain amount of sympathy for, but as I have said already, the only sort of betting in which we have the slightest interest is that which induces people to go to the race courses, and which enables the race committees or directors of race courses to pay their expenses and horse-racing to be carried on.
But, on examination, I came to the conclusion that the chances of evasion. and the difficulties of collection would be enormously increased by having two rates of tax. There will be naturally, and especially in the early stages of such a tax as this, certain difficulties as regards its enforcement and certain difficulties to counter the methods of evasion that will be adopted. It seems to be unwise to make any arrangement which would make the collection more difficult and more costly. I say this that if it proves to be a fact that a 5 per cent. tax gives us very substantially more than £200,000—I had no belief at all that the tax would give us the figures that some people mentioned, such a figure say as £500,000—if it were to give us say £250,000 in practice and that there seemed to be any basis for the suggestion that racing would be injured unless some counteracting measures were taken, I would be prepared to propose to the Dáil that in the interests of horse-breeding a certain sum of money should be provided to give increased stakes at race meetings.
At present the annual sum provided in stakes is about £116,000. That is not a large sum of money when we consider that some 1,300 horses participate in races during the year and when we consider the cost of the up keep of horses. If it were proven that the attendance at race-meetings— which is the thing that keeps racing going—was injured in any way by the betting tax, some recompense of the kind that I have indicated could be given, and I have no doubt that if the situation I suggest arose, the proposition would be acceptable to the Dáil.
So far as I have discussed the matter with those who take an adverse interest in the betting tax proposal, no concession seems to meet their case. If something were suggested by themselves, and if I were to show any disposition to meet them, the next thing would be a statement from them that the concession would be no use at all and that there must be no tax on betting. Anything I have been able to say or do to meet the people who are opposed to a tax on betting has had no effect. It really causes a suspicion to arise in my mind that a great deal more money can be got out of the betting tax without any injury to racing than I first thought.
Amongst the opponents of the tax there is a disposition to have no tax on bets at any price. They have suggested paying very big sums by way of licence duty; they have suggested they are prepared to do anything at all rather than have a tax on bets.
Yes, at racecourses. If there is nothing to conceal about the question of betting on racecourses, any injury that might possibly be inflicted on racing by the tax can be met in the manner I have suggested. I have no doubt the setting up of the pari-mutuel system would have a stimulating effect on attendances at race meetings, because it would enable certain people who usually bet in small sums to get odds they never could get otherwise. It would help to dispel some of the suspicions of rigging and arranging that exist. It has been suggested from many sources that, in itself, would have a stimulating effect on the attendance at racecourses. If, in spite of that, there was a falling-off in the receipts resulting from attendances, I have indicated that could be met, and quite properly met, if there was a good yield from the tax—if there was anything like half or one-third of the yields that have been suggested.
Of course, the question of the betting tax will have to be discussed again by the Dáil on Financial Resolutions. Owing to the change in intention which has taken place, the betting tax proposals have been put in the Finance Bill without first having been the subject of Financial Resolutions. The Resolutions will have to be proposed in the Dáil before the Committee Stage of the Bill can be taken. If passed, they will have to be reported, so that when we come to the Committee Stage of the Bill, the betting tax proposals will have been twice before the Dáil.
I do not know whether there is a hope of avoiding a repetition of the tariff debate on the Second Reading of this Bill. I rather indicated that when we were reporting the Financial Resolutions, I would reply to some remarks Deputy Baxter made on the question of tariffs. In the hope that a renewal of the tariff debate might be held over until the Tariff Commission Bill comes before the House, I think on the present occasion I will withhold what I may have to say on that point.
Would the Ceann Comhairle have power to rule any such discussion out of order? If so, I think it would be advisable.
There is no power to rule out of order on this Bill a question touching on tariffs. The Minister's suggestion would make the position in regard to the other Bill much simpler. If we have a tariff discussion on this Bill, the discussion on the other Bill could technically be restricted. Whether it would be in the power of a human chairman to restrict the discussion, I could not say; I rather doubt it. An arrangement could, no doubt, be made. There is, however, no power to rule out of order a discussion on tariffs when we are at the Second Stage of a Bill which contains provisions for the imposition of tariffs.
It would be very advisable if some arrangement to avoid such discussion could be arrived at. Already we have had a considerable amount of time taken up with discussions on this matter. I do not know if we are anything the wiser as a result of these discussions. Seeing that the time of the House is rather limited, I would be inclined to favour a limitation of the eloquence of Deputies.
As one who has taken a prominent part in the discussion on tariffs, I would be inclined to agree that the subject should not be touched upon in connection with the Finance Bill. I do not know that any purpose would be served by re-hashing old arguments. I think many Deputies will favour the suggestion made by Deputy Good.
You have had your say.
Could we have some views from the tariff side of the House?
I do not think it would serve any purpose to discuss the subject again. We had a full-dress debate for two days and the subject was fairly well covered. I am satisfied that the period between now and the Recess is too limited; it will scarcely be sufficient to get through the remainder of the business. I do not see much possibility of going deeply into the tariff question in the very limited time at our disposal. It might be as well to pass on to other business.
May we take it that it is not proposed that all references to existing duties of a protective character will be deleted from the Bill?
I am glad that for once I am in agreement with the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. I am of opinion that while we might discuss the question of a tariff on, say, oatmeal, or on wireless apparatus, such as is suggested in the Bill, we should keep off the general subject of tariffs; the general subject of tariffs should be ruled out of order.
I could not rule anything of that kind out of order. Deputies can endeavour to reach an understanding, and during the discussion I could indicate to a Deputy whether, in my opinion, he is going outside the limits of that understanding. As regards Deputy Cooper's point, this Bill will be taken in Committee, and on the sections of the Bill which impose an oatmeal tax or a wireless apparatus tax, there will be a discussion touching on these matters. What really arises on the Second Stage is the principle of the imposition of tariffs, and, I take it, it is that type of general discussion that needs to be excluded. If it is agreed that the general discussion need not take place, then in Committee on the Bill we shall have a discussion touching only the points that are involved in each section. On the Bill connected with the Tariff Commission the Chair will not be able to accept any technical point of order suggesting the ruling out of a discussion on tariffs.
Am I right in thinking that the Second Reading of this Bill is the principal opportunity there is for discussing the general financial position of the State, and also the imposition of new duties? If we all agree to rule out new tariff duties, well and good. We can discuss the specific duties later. If any Deputy considers that, say, bachelors or cats ought to be taxed, this is the principal opportunity he has of bringing the matter forward. In the same way, if any Deputy thinks an alternative betting tax should be brought forward instead of the one proposed by the Minister, this is his opportunity. It is desirable there should be some understanding on that point. If there is a general understanding that we should not discuss the general tariff question, it will greatly facilitate the Dáil.
The only matter at stake is a general discussion on tariffs. A general discussion on tariffs such as the Deputy mentioned would be quite in order. It would be well to warn Deputies that if they desire to advocate the imposition of a tax, this is their last opportunity; there will be no opportunity in Committee.
Or removing an existing tax?
I am coming to that. I have had notice from a Deputy by way of motion that he desires the remission of the duty on motor chassis. That would be quite in order in Committee. A reduction or a remission of tax would be quite in order; but no Deputy can propose to put a tax on bachelors, for instance, in Committee. Therefore, the advocacy of a tax of that kind could only take place now. The advocacy of any kind of tax may be made now, but in Committee the advocacy of a tax will not be in order, nor can an amendment be moved by a Deputy to increase a tax. The only amendment that would be in order is an amendment suggesting the alteration of a tax by way of reduction or remission, but not by way of an increase.
I would like to know if the general subject of tariffs can be discussed on the Tariff Commission Bill?
I think I made that clear. We will have to agree to that, apart from what may actually be in the Bill. The proposed arrangement means the postponement of the tariff question in general until the Bill for setting up the Tariff Commission is under consideration.
That would be on the Second Reading?
In case it might be taken as creating a precedent, it should be made clear that any understanding of this kind is merely in connection with this Bill, in the existing circumstances, and does not create a precedent for future Bills of a financial character.
I have made it clear that it does not even bind Deputies in connection with this particular Bill. The phrase has been used: "Will I rule something out of order?" I cannot rule tariff discussions out of order, but if Deputies do not want a tariff discussion now, that is a matter for Deputies generally to decide, by way of an understanding.
If we had an assurance from Deputy Sears that he would not discuss tariffs, we would be quite satisfied.
As I presume the betting tax will probably be the most controversial item in the Finance Bill, I think it as well that I should make my statement now, as I consider that it may be the means of saving a good deal of time in the discussion, as there are many points in my statement which have not, so far, been made public. The clause which I take particular exception to is the 5 per cent. tax on bets on racecourses and coursing meetings. It says, "There shall be charged levied, and paid on and by every bookmaker who makes, lays, or otherwise enters into any bets, on or after the 1st day of November, 1926, an excise duty (in this Act referred to as the duty on bets) of five per cent. of the amount of every bet entered into by him on or after the said 1st day of November, 1926. The amount of a bet shall be the sum of money which by the terms of the bet the bookmaker will be entitled to receive, retain, or take credit for, if the event of the subject of the bet is determined in his favour."
Now I would like to make it perfectly clear that, while it is the bookmakers who transmit the money to the Revenue Commissioners, it is out of the pockets of the public the money will come, in the same way as the wine and spirit duties are paid by the consumer and not by the licensed trader. When it was announced in Mr. Blythe's Budget statement that it was proposed to impose a five per cent. tax on all stakes invested, the various persons concerned with racing and breeding interests held a preliminary meeting at the Curragh. It was there decided to prepare a form of protest which would be presented to the Government, and at Punchestown, and subsequent meetings, over 500 persons representing the owners and breeders, together with very many public representatives including the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Seanad, signed this protest. The Minister gave an explanation in his opening statement as to why the betting tax is now included in the Finance Bill. The opinion of the public is that it has been included in the Bill because it would not have passed through the Seanad and the public are very often very good judges. A subsequent meeting was again held at the Curragh at which the stewards of the Turf Club and the representatives of the signatures authorised myself and Senator Parkinson to convey their views to Mr. Blythe. The Minister for Finance has mentioned something about long-distance bombardment, but I may say that on the following day we interviewed Mr. Blythe and spent over two and a half hours discussing the whole subject. We presented him with the following unanimous agreement which reads as follows:
"We, the undersigned, representing the considered unanimous views of the Stewards of the Turf Club, the owners, trainers, breeders, agricultural and other such interests, hereby request the Minister for Finance to exclude race meetings from the proposed tax of 5 per cent. on all stakes invested. We have no doubt whatever that, if such tax is insisted on, racing in the Free State would not survive even the experimental period. We believe a considerable source of revenue could be obtained by the imposition of a substantial licence duty on bookmakers operating on racecourses, which would be obtained at a minimum cost of collection. In view of the menace that a cessation of racing would mean to our great breeding industry of world-wide fame, and to the fourth largest asset the Free State is possessed of, we confidently believe that no Irish Government would ignore the unanimous opinion of the vital interests affected."
"J.J. Parkinson, Senator.
Patrick W. Shaw, T.D."
That is the considered opinion of everyone who is thoroughly conversant with the subject and everyone believes that if this five per cent. tax is imposed racing will not last nine months in this country. We spent some two and a half hours with Mr. Blythe, but, as stated publicly, we did not succeed in convincing him, for the simple reason that our arguments were futile, as the Minister could not be convinced, and his policy appears to be to take the plunge in the dark and chance the consequences. Arguments were of no avail, and his motto appears to be, "I never yield, whether right or wrong." Last year, in England, Mr. Churchill introduced the silk duties in his Budget statement, but, when the many interests involved proved to him that such tax would be detrimental to British trade interests, he met the people interested and practically withdrew them. We have made a stronger case on behalf of Irish interests, but so far without success. I may also mention that a well-known city bookmaker produced audited figures for the past six years, those figures having been accepted by the Revenue Commissioners for income tax assessments, and that the net results of the six years' trading showed a profit of £9,000, whereas, if a five per cent. tax had to be paid on the turnover, this one person would be liable for £60,000. As this is one of my principal arguments, I would ask the Minister if he will accept or contradict my statement.
Do not the public pay the price?
Would that include the bets he wins and loses?
It would include five per cent. on the turnover.
I think the Deputy argued that it was the public who paid the tax.
He would be responsible for it. He made £9,000, but under this proposal he would lose £60,000.
Deputies can argue the point later.
We are absolutely convinced that a five per cent. tax on turnover will cause a cessation of racing inside nine months, owing to depleted attendance at race meetings by the public, and as, at a low estimate, at least 30,000 people obtain a living out of those industries, the seriousness of such a possibility should be recognised. On behalf of the people interested in racing interests in the Free State, I would like to say we are not at all unreasonable, and are quite agreed that further revenue could be obtained from racing, but that it should be one which the industries of racing and thoroughbred bloodstock breeding could bear. In regard to the question of money circulated in racing I have some details here with reference to the Great Southern Railway only. Up to the 30th November, 1924, over 7,000 horse-boxes carried more than 13,000 horses during eleven months. These totals do not include horses (or mares) coming into Ireland for stud purposes, nor those mares (and their produce) going back to England when they had visited sires at the stud in Ireland. Down to the period stated (for eleven months previously), 50,000 passengers were carried to the Curragh meetings alone. It is computed that millions of passengers are carried on the railways to and from race meetings in the course of a season, and these people would not travel on the railways except for the attraction of racing. The suggestion of five per cent. tax on all bets staked, or, in other words, on turnover and not on profits, will cripple the racing industry, deprive breeders of their business and throw tens of thousands of people out of employment.
The Irish horse-breeding industry is only now recovering from the effects of the war, and the adverse conditions caused thereby, such as rates of exchange, etc. Our live-stock trade has been challenged by Canada, our butter and egg trade by Denmark, our agricultural products by America, our woollen manufactures by England, but up to the present we remain unchallenged in the markets of the world for our world-famed thoroughbred horses. Now, however, a challenge is issued by a Minister of our own Government. On behalf of the persons I represent here, I say that if the Government are going to enforce this tax in its present form and thereby strike a serious blow to our great breeding industry, it is well to know they are going to alienate the sympathy and support of the hundreds and thousands of persons interested in racing and breeding in the Free State. It should be unnecessary for me to have to convince Irishmen of the great asset we possess in the breeding industry, and to show that our bloodstock commands the highest prices in the world's markets, a fact which was again proved last year at Doncaster sales, when Irish yearlings obtained the record prices of 12,000 guineas and 10,500 guineas, being first and second respectively. Over 400,000 guineas were realised at public auction for thoroughbred yearlings, etc., in 1925. This does not include private sales.
We have suggested that a substantial licence duty should be imposed on bookmakers operating on racecourses, which would be obtained at a minimum cost of collection. This, with the huge revenue obtained by the Government from the public by the amusement tax, is surely as much as can be borne with any hope of carrying on. It may not be generally known that the amusement tax yields such a large amount as the following official figures prove:—The actual sum paid in the past five years to the Government by the three Metropolitan race meetings and the Curragh, was no less than £90,993, and there are 31 other racecourses in the Free State, all contributing large sums to the Government yearly, and all out of the pockets of the public who attend; the following are the actual figures for the meetings in question:—Phoenix Park, £24,400; Leopardstown, £21,592; Baldoyle, £18,284; Curragh, £26,767; total, £90,993. Those amounts, together with the tax from coursing, will show what the public are contributing out of these two pastimes. The effect of a 5 per cent. tax on stakes would have even a more serious effect on coursing, inasmuch as where a stake is being run for, a dog, before he could win same, would have to win five courses; the owner would, therefore, be reinvesting his own money five times, and would pay 25 per cent. tax to the Government instead of 5 per cent.
Coursing is not included. The Minister surely does not dream of doing that.
There is also the fact that in almost every course there are partisans of each dog from different counties, who invest their money at, say, 5/4 on and evens, the winner being paid out of the money obtained from the loser's backers. So that a 5 per cent. tax imposed on each individual bet would exhaust the capital of coursing people, even sooner than the tax on racing, owing to the fact of it being a case almost every time of two persons putting up their money against one another. If the 5 per cent. tax is insisted on, I can see all coursing meetings in the Free State being held in the Six Northern Counties.
The people of the Six Counties have the reputation of being very shrewd, and I am sorry our Minister for Finance has not inherited the sound judgment displayed by his fellow-countrymen in refusing to assist Mr. Churchill to enforce the betting tax. Let us, therefore, in the Free State, make a beginning towards the united Ireland we all look forward to, and have no border in the interests of sport, at any rate. In conclusion, therefore, I appeal for the support of the Labour Party on the ground of the unemployment that would be caused. I appeal to the Farmers' Party on the ground that their interests are vitally affected by the menace to the breeding industry. I appeal to the Independent Party on the ground that, as business men, they must be aware that a 5 per cent. tax on turnover of any business or enterprise could not survive. And, as regards our own Party, I claim the votes and support of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and the Protectionist Party, on the ground that as they are prepared even to take chances, by imposing experimental tariffs in order to provide employment for our people, and stem the export of the nation's blood to foreign countries—surely they cannot vote to injure an established successful industry, the fourth largest asset of the Free State, and thus cause a vast increase in unemployment. With regard to the other members of the Government Party, I only ask the Minister to allow a free vote on a question of national importance such as this, as by doing so he would not be coercing very many Government supporters to support a tax which they believe would cause a grave injury to a great industry. I, therefore, confidently, leave the matter to the good sense of the Deputies. It is my intention to move an amendment on the Committee Stage to exclude race meetings and coursing meetings from the proposed tax, and, if the Minister is agreeable to leave those particular clauses to a free vote of the House, my position as to the Second Reading will be easy to define.
There are a few matters that arose out of the Minister's statement that I want to refer to. In the first place, I had nothing whatever to do with the bookmakers or the others who met to prepare and furnish statistics to Mr. Blythe. I find serious fault with them that they did not do it. It is their own look-out. With regard to the Minister's statement about taxes in other countries, there is a tax in other countries, but it is on the totalisator system. The people who bet receive mathematical odds to their money, not the prices that people are obliged to take from bookmakers. I am in agreement with regard to starting the totalisator here as an experiment. I am entirely in agreement also with the refusal to legalise the recovery of betting debts, because I am only too well aware of the abuses it would lead to. There are people, of course, who make fools of themselves in betting as in everything else, but there is no reason that because one man gets drunk or a dozen men get drunk that every publichouse should be closed. There are hundreds of thousands of people throughout the Free State who take a great interest in racing and have a shilling or two on-perhaps a little more-but at the same time, owing to the times we are living in, the most of them are well able to hold their own. There is nothing further that I wish to say on the matter.
I wish to support Deputy Shaw in his opposition to the imposition of this tax. He has gone so fully into all matters concerned with it that I need not detain the Dáil very long. I may say my interest in the matter arises from the apprehension that the tax will kill racing and that it will also destroy the very important industry of horse-breeding. I mean the breeding of high class thoroughbred horses. Perhaps the Deputies as a whole do not realise how important that industry is or the vast amount of capital that is invested in it, and the great amount of employment it gives. Within recent years we have had a remarkable development in the way of horse-breeding in this country.
Extensive breeding studs have been set up, especially in the vicinity of the Curragh, not alone by Irishmen but by Englishmen and other foreigners. We have men of the type of the Aga Khan coming over to Ireland and investing a very large sum in a stud farm. We have men like Lord Furness, Major Giles Loder and other wealthy Englishmen coming over and starting the breeding of thoroughbred horses. They do so because they have come to realise that this country, from the advantages it possesses in the way of soil and climate, is better fitted than any other country for the production of high class racehorses. Deputy Shaw has referred to the remarkable prices which have been realised not alone at Ballsbridge, but at Newmarket and Doncaster for Irish bred yearlings. In connection with that I may say that a man who has a stud farm near my place realised £29,000 for 12 yearlings last year. This industry is not confined to what I might call big men like those I have mentioned. Farmers have taken it up extensively, not alone in Kildare but in a great many other counties in the Free State, and they have got very fair prices—in some cases very large prices—for their horses.
As Deputy Shaw has said, it is the considered opinion of men who have a very intimate knowledge of racing conditions that the imposition of this tax will kill racing in a short time. It has been stated, and I believe with truth, that in Australia and South Africa, where they have this tax in operation, it has had a very bad effect on racing; in fact it has nearly killed racing in those countries, Senator Parkinson, who perhaps knows more about racing than any man in Ireland, is positively of opinion that the tax will not alone kill racing but that it will re-act on horse-breeding. He has been very active in the development of that trade. He has opened up a connection with Continental countries and in the past twelve months he has exported no less than 60 blood horses. That shows how important the industry is. If you wipe out thoroughbred horses you also affect another very important branch of horse-breeding, that is hunter-breeding. You cannot have hunters without a thoroughbred sire. Racing has always been a favourite amusement with the Irish people. I believe it is on record that chariot races were held at the Curragh in pre-historic times. Racing is an amusement that can be partaken of by every class of the community. Even people of very high positions are to be seen taking part in racing. I have had the pleasure of seeing His Excellency the Governor-General and the President enjoying themselves at Punchestown.
Would you suggest that 5 per cent. tax would keep them at home?
I am afraid not. It would not be a sufficient deterrent for gentlemen of their sporting proclivities. I was glad to hear the Minister say that if this tax is insisted on, and I hope it will not be, something would be done in the way of supplementing stakes at race meetings. Racing committees, I believe, find it very hard to keep things going at present. Not more than half-a-dozen of them are in a sound financial position. If the Minister persists in his proposal, and if it is carried into effect, I hope he will carry out the promise he has made to supplement stakes at these meetings.
I wish to express my view with regard to the interest taken in the betting tax by those who breed horses. Undoubtedly, horse-breeding in this country is a great asset to many people. A lot of money comes into the country year after year, and that money finds its way, in due course, into the pockets of every member of the community. Those who are interested in the horse-breeding industry say that the five per cent. tax on racing will undoubtedly be injurious to the horse-breeding industry. I do hope that the Minister will, in some way or other, reduce the 5 per cent. tax and make it more reasonable. I would be in favour of the totalisator. It ought to be a great asset in bringing in something to the State for the purpose of reducing taxation. I hope, for the sake of the breeders and those others interested in the industry, that the Minister will take a lenient view of this matter.
There are some aspects of this Bill, other than the betting tax, that one would like to refer to briefly before the Minister replies. I was glad to note, and I hope one is correct in the interpretation one takes of Clause 29, that it is the Minister's intention to put a limit to the continuance of the Corporation Profits Tax on the 31st December, 1928.
Oh, no. It is extending the exemption that is given to railway companies and certain other public utility companies till that date.
I was hopeful that one could read into that a little more than what the Minister intends to read into it. I have referred to that tax at considerable length already, and I was hopeful that we would, at all events in this Budget, if we did not see the end of it, get an undertaking from the Minister that it would not be continued beyond a certain period. Clause 29 contains a marginal note which is important, "temporary continuance." I was hopeful that that referred to the whole tax rather than to certain provisions of it, but apparently in this matter, as in other matters, the Minister is like Stonewall Jackson.
One was glad to note that certain hardships which occurred in connection with certain proposals have been met in this Bill. One of those that I was particularly glad to see, and which was one that attention was directed to from a number of quarters, was in connection with wireless apparatus. Apparently there is no provision at the moment whereby apparatus that is imported into this country—as we know there is very little apparatus in connection with wireless manufactured in the country—and which has to be exported for the purpose of having temporary repairs and adjustments made, can escape a second tax. Quite irrespective of how many times it comes in, it has got to pay the duty. That is a matter that I am glad the Minister for Finance has put right in this Budget. One is also glad to see that he has put right another matter that has caused a considerable amount of hardship, possibly more to the agricultural community than any other section, that is where sodas were brought within the jurisdiction of the soap tax. Certain of these soda crystals were used very largely by agriculturists for the spraying of potatoes. That is a matter of very considerable importance to those engaged both in the industrial side and also in the agricultural side. I am glad to see that the Minister has put that right in the present Bill.
There are one or two matters about which difficulties have arisen and in respect of which no provision has been made in this Bill. One of these is concerned with the interpretation of the word "furniture." A number of us have had curious instances brought to our notice of the interpretation of "furniture" in this connection. One outstanding instance was the case of a bucket composed entirely of sheet metal. By no stretch of the imagination could it be regarded as "furniture," but yet because it had a wooden handle it was included in the category of furniture. There are a number of instances of that character which have caused considerable irritation. One would have liked to have seen a provision introduced into the Finance Bill which would obviate that irritation. It could have been done, as was pointed out last year, by means of a schedule setting out exactly the items included under the term "furniture." I hope the Minister will introduce some section that will put an end to this irritation.
Heretofore it was understood that arrangements would be made with the revenue authorities whereby owners of charabancs crossing the Border, particularly from the Northern side into the Free State, could make arrangements whereby duty would not have to be paid on them on every occasion they crossed. Owing to the difficulty that the Revenue Commissioners have had in making such arrangements, it appears that charabancs are forbidden to cross the Border except such duty is paid. I have a letter, dated 5th May, in which the writer, who represents a large firm engaged in this trade, states:
We have been officially informed by the Inspectors of Customs and Excise at Beresford Place that the bonds in this case cannot be issued and that the only way of getting the charabancs over the Border is to pay duty on them.
One would like to see facilities granted to those engaged in that trade. I am sure it is the desire of the Minister to meet all reasonable cases and to endeavour to grant facilities to persons in trade. I would suggest that these two matters receive the consideration of the Minister and that a provision be inserted in the Bill to deal with it.
Under some Bills which we discussed recently, fines heretofore accruing to local authorities are now transferred to the Central Fund. Under those Bills, power is given to the Minister for Finance to re-transfer those fines, or portion of them, to the local authorities if he so desires. I should like to know if it is necessary to get authority for the issue of the order to this effect in the Finance Bill.
I think the Bill provides for the issue of an order by the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Justice.
No provision is, therefore, necessary?
I have no particular views on this betting tax. I am still open to conviction one way or the other. Personally, it is a matter of indifference to me whether the tax is imposed or not, as I nearly always manage to back losers. However, I promised some friends that I would raise a question on the duty which the Bill imposes on wines. At the present time the difference in cost between what would be called cheap wines and the better class of wines is 3/6 per gallon, or 7/- per dozen. Under the new rates, the difference will be 7/- per gallon, or 14/- per dozen. I understand that prior to the imposition of this new duty on wines, wines could be purchased in this city and in the Saorstát generally at from 16/- to 73/- per gallon. Under the new proposals, with the tax added, the same wines will cost from 26/- to 97/- per dozen. At 16/- per dozen the price works out at 1/4 per bottle and at 73/- it works out at 6/1 per bottle. As wine is charged in practically every publichouse at 1/- a glass, that leaves a profit of 8/8 on the 16/- stuff and 3/11 on the five-star Sandeman. I occasionally visit a publichouse. I am not a "pussyfoot." When I do visit a publichouse, I usually have a glass of wine. There are many other people in the same position. But there are wines and wines. I am sure I have often got stuff bought at 16/- for which my friend had to pay 1/-. Occasionally, I have had to pay it myself.
The people who drink porter have had their views expressed in the papers and elsewhere. The people who sell porter have had their views expressed, and I think the people who sell wine and the people who drink wine should have their views expressed. A friend of mine once gave expression to the suspicion that some of the wine he got had never been within one hundred miles of a vineyard. There is a great discrepancy between this cheap stuff and decent stuff, such as the five-star Sandeman. This tax provides the publicans with a direct incentive to stock the cheaper stuff. Some friends of mine who have considered the matter carefully say that these cheap wines bear about the same relationship to good wines as poteen, which it is illegal to make or sell, bears to decent whiskey. I think the Minister ought to consider the advisability of increasing the duty on the cheaper wines, and bringing it more into relationship with the duty on the better class wines.
I recognise that the revenue must be got. I am not suggesting that the amount of revenue from wines should be reduced, because I know the Minister would not consider that for a moment. But if he would reduce the duty on the better class wines and increase the duty on the cheaper wines, so that the total amount realised would be the same, I think it would be well. Otherwise, he could increase the duty on the lower class wines. The course I have indicated would be good for the country. Most of us have read in the papers lately of the prevalence of drink at dances. Some people have pointed out that at some of these entertainments young girls become disgracefully intoxicated. It has been suggested to me that the ability to buy these cheap wines is responsible for that demoralisation. Anything that tends to encourage the seller of wines to stock only the cheap stuff and that tends to the consumption of these cheap wines in unsuitable places and at unsuitable times is very undesirable. I should like the Minister to give attention to this question of the duty on wines.
Is é mo bharúil go bhfuil an t-Aire róchúramach san Bhille seo. Ba chóir dó dhul níos fuide agus cáineacha a chur i bhfeidhm chun obair na tíre a ghríosadh. Tá eagla orm nach dtig linn fanacht ar an Aire. Tá an t-othar ró-olc. Ní leór cuid de's na h-adhbhair tinnis do leasú. Ba chóir caoi a chur ar gach ball d'á chuirp. Tá an tír seo tinn. Níor tugadh an bia ceart di le'n a cuid fola a neartú. Caithfear an bia ceart do thabhairt dí anois. Níl maitheas ar bith do na feirmeoiribh cur in aghaidh gliocais a líonfaidh an tí le daoinibh agus a chongbhochadh ár ndaoine féin 'sa bhaile. Má rinneadh na hearraí a tchímid thart fa dtaobh dínn in Eirinn bheirfí obair do gach duine d'ár muinntir agus ní bheadh orra dul annonn go h-áiteacha iasachta chun slighe bheatha a bhaint amach. Sin obair na bhfeirmeoirí fosda. Gníthear i dtíorthaibh eile é is is fearrde iad d'á bharr. Agus gheobhaidh na feirmeoirí an tairbhe is mó uaidh mar is ó'n monarchain a gheibh siad a gcuid earradh beagnach. Ní chuirfidh an lucht oibre in aghaidh na gcáin seo. Ar an adhbhar sin cad chuige an mhoill? B'fhéidir gur mian le cuid againn na hearraí seo a fháil i Sasain —ach is beag duine a deirfidh gur cóir do mhuinntir na hEireann dul go tíorthaibh eile chun obair a dhéanadh a thiocfidh leo dhéanadh annseo ach é bheith ar fáil.
Is maith is is úsádeach an cháin bheag a cuireadh ar min-choirce. Ba chóir é bheith ar an mhin-bhuidhe fosda; agus caithfidh seo a dhéanadh. Is maith, fosda, an cháin ar na "Gill." Ó'n chéad lá a tháining mé isteach 'sa Tigh seo rinne mé mo dhíheall chur na luighe ar an Rialtas gur chóir a leithéid de cháin a bheith ann agus tá súil agam nach mbogfaidh siad ó'n chasán díreach ar a bhfuil siad anois.
Cha dtearn an tAire dadaidh chunar sileadhánaidhthe a chosaint ar an uisge beatha Albanach atá gá marbhadh mar deirfeá. Is fonomhaideach do rádh gur cóir dúinn díobháil a dhéanadh ar an uisge beatha a gníthear 'sa bhaile chun bheith ábalta dul i gcomórtas leis an uisge beatha Albanach.
Caithfidh an t-Aire agus an Rialtas greamú le gach rud a ghníonn dochar do'n tír agus do dhéantúis na hEireann agus má ghníonn mar a rinne leis na rudaibh eile a d'fhiach dochar agus díobháil a dhéanadh beidh gach duine sásta. Ach caithfidh siad seo a dhéanadh.
I should like to support Deputy McGoldrick if I were not backing a blank cheque.
The Deputy would be breaking the agreement about a discussion on tariffs if he did.
I do support Deputy Nagle's point of view. I think it is the general desire of Deputies that Deputy Nagle should speak more often. He always brings an individual point of view to bear upon a question and he generally has something very sound to say. I do not want to elaborate Deputy Nagle's point of view. I agree with him, and I think he has expressed it so fully and well that it is not necessary for me to do so. But I would like to say that it is a pity that this discussion has centred so much on details of the Bill. As it has, I would refer to one or two points raised. Deputy Shaw—I am sorry that Deputy McGoldrick frightened him away— told us that the betting tax would kill racing. He said that racing would not survive the experimental stage and the tax on betting would cause a cessation of racing within nine months.
I am not an expert on racing. I once rode in a point-to-point, and my position was returned as "also ran." It would, I think, have been more accurately returned as "also fell." But I have observed a certain amount of racing from time to time. I am not as conversant with it as Deputy Shaw, but I do not believe that any tax of 5 per cent. on turnover will kill racing in this country. Racing is very much more firmly based in this country than that, and I think in a way it is a misfortune for racing in this country that it is associated so much with betting, that at the average race meeting the assumption is that you are going to bet and win or lose so much, that you do not care what you pay for admission, what you pay for meals and refreshments and what you pay for a race-card. That has been the assumption in racing, both here and in Great Britain, and I think it has done harm. There are a number of men and women who delight in the sight of a good horse well ridden, who delight in the thrill of a test between two horses, but who are not interested in betting at all, and, because racing is based on betting, they do not go racing as often as they might. It is not necessary to bet to delight in racing. I do not believe nowadays that more than 40 per cent. of those who go to race meetings bet. A great many bet who do not go. I accept that. But of those who go to race meetings there are a large number of ladies who never bet, and there are a good many men, who go for the sake of seeing a good horse, and who do not bet.
I do not believe that racing depends on betting, but if it did, a 5 per cent. duty on turnover will not kill it. Deputy Shaw has bought a horse at an auction sale before now. So have I. He has found at an auction sale that the bidding goes in guineas. I pay £40, £50 or £100 for a hunter. Deputy Shaw, no doubt, pays larger amounts for racehorses. But you pay in guineas, and the 5 per cent. on your pound goes to the auctioneer as commission. What will happen under this measure is, that you will bet in guineas, and the five per cent. will go to the revenue of the Minister for Finance, that the bookmaker, instead of sending out a bill to a client for £1 or £5, will make it one guinea or five guineas. I think that that scheme is a practicable one. My only doubt about it is, that it may involve very considerable costs of collection, that the inspection of bookmakers' accounts and the issue of cards and tickets may cost a good deal of money. If any tenable alternative proposal had been put up, I would have been inclined to advocate it, but as far as I can gather, the bookmakers began by putting up an alternative proposal of the high licence duty, and then ran away from it. As far as I can understand, there is no such proposal now in the field. That being so, I think that I am bound to support the Bill, and I do so, believing that it will not kill racing. If an autocrat arose in this country he could abolish the Dáil. There would be a few perfunctory protests; Deputy Johnson would protest, but the Seanad would go quietly. Deputy Johnson has very high sense of principle, and I know that he might insist on coming in here, and on getting the autocrat to remove him. But let that autocrat try to kill either racing or hunting in this country, and his days would be short. Racing and the love of horses is a much stronger thing in Ireland than the life of a parliamentary institution, and I do not believe that this measure will kill racing.
Leaving that, I want to refer to Deputy Good's point about the tax on charabancs coming from Northern Ireland. I am not in great sympathy with charabancs, but in regard to other motor vehicles, including motors carrying furniture, I gather that a definite preference in this matter is given to charabancs and motor lorries coming from firms in Belfast who have no branches in the Free State. But where a firm has a branch in Belfast and Dublin there is a certain suspicion on the part of the Revenue Commissioners that it may be getting motor vehicles in without paying duty. I think that that can be avoided. I think that a substantial bond entered into by the firm and a reasonable system of inspection ought to be able to get over that. It does seem to me that it is a little hard to penalise people who are giving employment in the Saorstát, paying rent and rates and employing people in Dublin, as against those who are known to have headquarters in Belfast but who, having no branch in the Saorstát, are bound to bring back their lorries. There are administrative difficulties, but I cannot help thinking that if the Minister would go into it a little more in detail, these difficulties could be overcome.
There was one omission from the Minister's speech to which I want to call attention. As far as I know, he has not said anything about the sixpence duty on parcels. Last year he adumbrated the suggestion that it might be possible to dispense with that duty. I hope he will tell us more about it. It is a duty that is, I think, yielding a decreasing revenue, because people are learning to use the book post and other methods of sending goods by which they will not be taxed under this head. It is one of these petty duties that cause annoyance out of all proportion to the amount of money collected, and I had hopes that the Minister in his Budget statement was going to announce its withdrawal. If he is determined to continue it I hope he will tell us whether he thinks it is a sound duty, or whether he is merely retaining it for experimental purposes for another year.
I have gone more into details than I intended to on these matters. This is one of the few opportunities we have of discussing the general financial position of the State. The Minister has very wisely decided to resort to borrowing to meet part of his expenditure, expenditure which may be called of an abnormal and non-recurrent nature. I think that the process might have been carried a little further. I think that some, at any rate, of our housing problems might have been treated as abnormal expenditure; not the whole, but a proportion. But I would suggest that if the Minister is going to meet such expenditure by borrowing, he should consolidate his borrowing. He should, in fact, issue another loan. Our financial position at the present moment is eminently sound, sounder, I think, than any other Dominion of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The one Loan that we have issued stands four points above its issue price, a most valuable testimony of the administration of the Executive Council, of the Minister for Finance in particular, and also, I think, to the stability of the State. That being so, I do suggest to the Minister that it would be sound financially to consolidate his debts, and not to have a variety of debts. There is one loan on certain definite terms. There are various Ways and Means Advances from banks, and there are Telephone Capital Loans, compensation grants, and so on. I believe that it would be a sound, financial doctrine to consolidate the majority of these, not the £10,000,000 of the National Loan, but the other minor loans, and also to provide for the capital expenditure that will be needed in the coming year, by the issue of another loan. I do not want to press the Minister to make an announcement now; it may be premature. I do not want to handicap the prospects on the market of our present loan, particularly as I hold a certain amount of it. But I do suggest that on broad financial lines it is a mistake to go on taking little savings from Estimates, Ways and Means Advances from banks, and so on, and that it would be better to have a general scheme. The Minister need not be afraid that any loan of £10,000,000 or £15,000,000 will interfere with our credit. Our credit, compared with that of New Zealand, Canada or Australia, is in an extraordinarily strong position. Australia alone is paying in interest annually more than double our total debt.
I intend only to deal with the proposal in the Bill for a tax on betting. I was struck by the peculiar idea of betting that Deputy Cooper has. He compares betting to buying a horse. As a general rule, a horse is only bought once a year, and the horse that goes under the hammer once a year has very close acquaintance with the hammer. On the other hand, the same money is betted, practically speaking, every week. If there are fifty, or even twenty, extractions out of this amount of money in the pool there will be very little left after a time. We ought to approach this from a commonsense point of view, and we ought not to be led away by the people who preach that betting is immoral, is wrong; that sport of every description is wrong.
I have not said that.
I did not say that the Deputy did, but there are people, in this country and outside, who are continually saying it, and who are endeavouring to interfere with the legislature and to have their way. I will only say of that kind, that no nation was ever great and no people ever worth much because of these craw-thumpers. Old maids and others who belong to that class of people are only a drag; they have never built up a nation and are no use to it. There is only a very limited amount of money in the racing pool of this country. Coursing has been mentioned, but you may leave coursing out of it, for the amount of money involved in the case of coursing does not amount to much, nor does the bookmaker make very much. For an obvious reason, pretty well understood in coursing circles, the bookmakers found it very expensive. You can tax coursing in any way you like, but racing is a different matter.
It has been said, and of course there is no idea of contradicting it, that racing is an absolute necessity if horse-breeding is to be carried on. The mares and stallions that are going to carry on the line, that is to say, the blood horses, must be tested and proved. The national income derived from the sale of our bloodstock is something too substantial to be trifled with and too much of a necessity to the nation. It has been admitted that our country is peculiarly suited for the raising of the best bloodstock in the world. The reason for that is that we have the best quality of limestone at the surface of our land which goes to build up the bone of the thoroughbred in quantity and quality. Very little of that limestone is found in England or, indeed, in any other country. It is because we have this rich sub-soil of limestone in our land, so near the surface, that Ireland will always, and more in the future than in the past, be the home of the thoroughbred. The establishment of a betting tax here is likely to do more harm in England than it is here. If you establish it here you fix its roots in England, and if you do not establish it here then they will find it a very difficult proposition to establish it in England. I do not care what form this drain on Irish racing takes, whether it be through the means proposed by the Government by the use of a totalisator, or whether it be from the pockets of the bookmaking fraternity. I have no brief for the latter, but what I do say is that you cannot have both systems. You must make a choice. The money that is in a pool of this kind could not possibly support both systems.
Let us for argument's sake assume that there is a fairly substantial sum in the pool. That money is circulating all the time. It is being reinvested week after week, and one might almost say day after day, by those who attend race meetings. Take it, say, that a man goes to a race meeting one day in the week throughout the year, and that he has one bet per day per week. That represents fifty transactions in the year. The proposal is to charge 5 per cent. on each transaction, or, say, that he has half a dozen transactions for each week in the year. If you are to charge five per cent. on all these transactions, how long, I ask, will it take you to get to the bottom of the pool or this turnover on racing? You can easily prove it if you put a hundred coppers in your pocket and you start making certain subtractions. You will soon find that very little will be left after a short time if the process of subtracting goes on in the way that I suggest your charge of five per cent. on the racing pool will operate. The point I want to emphasise in this connection is that you cannot have both systems at work. If the State thinks it is a good thing to take this up, then by all means let it do so, but you cannot have the two. As Deputy Shaw pointed out, countries which introduced the totalisator made provision at the same time to enrich the stakes for racing, to subsidise horse racing and horse-breeding. If the Government here is going to take all the money they expect to get out of the racing pool in this country, then they had also better make up their minds to subsidise and foster racing, and that can only be done by adding to the stake money for races in the country.
It could not be the idea of any Government to kill racing and horse-breeding, which is one of our greatest industries. I would suggest to the Minister that he should seriously consider this matter, and do all in his power to preserve the goose that lays the golden egg. In my opinion we should increase our subsidies for horse-breeding and do all in our power to improve the bloodstock of the country. Though I have not been on a racecourse for five or six years, I am well aware that many of the executives conducting race meetings in this country find themselves unable to keep the stakes at a point that will attract a sufficiency of horses. Practically all our race executives are in that position. There is no use in comparing the present time to the period after the war, when there was a great circulation of money in the country. A great part of that money undoubtedly found its way at the time to racecourses. Those in touch with things know very well that the amount of money circulating on racecourses at the present time is very small compared to what it was from 1918 to, say, 1922. At coursing meetings in England during those years I saw people betting in thousands, but now the same people bet in ten pounds notes. There is another point I would like to urge. The Government is getting considerable revenue from the amusement tax. I suggest that in the steps they are taking now they are going a long way to dry up that source of income. Unless the Government, from a moral point of view, wanted to kill amusements then they had better be careful as to the steps they are taking in this matter. As a source of revenue the amusement tax is bringing in a lot of money.
I have no hesitation in forecasting that if the experiment indicated by the Minister is carried out in the way he suggests that it will be a failure,, because the racing public will not be able to carry the double load it is proposed to put on its back. In the event of the Minister not proceeding with his betting tax I would ask him, whether the bookmakers like it or not, to put a substantial tax on them. A certain number of undesirable people attend at race meetings to make a book. They offer prices above those offered by the solvent bookmaker, and they usually reap a rich harvest from an unsuspecting public. I have seen that happen myself at race and coursing meetings. In my younger days I think I first came into notoriety by flogging a few people of that sort. They had to be removed on stretchers from the course. People of this class constitute a most undersirable element. The law apparently is not able to reach them. The only law that has been made to reach them is that of the ashplant and of the boot. I would suggest to the Minister, if he has made up his mind that this thing is wrong, that he should substitute for it a substantial tax on bookmakers.
I do not believe the Minister is on sound ground when he proposes to recover a 5 per cent. tax on the turnover, because it is the same money that is being circulated all the year round. I suggest to him that the turnover is not anything like the amount he fancies. The same money is passing between the bookmakers and the backers all the year round, but of course I would say that on balance the bookmaker has the best of it. The same money is being paid and repaid, and I suggest the amount invested will not bear this tax. I suggest to the Minister that he is living in a fool's paradise if he thinks he can recover the tax in the way suggested in his Bill.
There are one or two points that I would like to put before the Minister. It frequently happens at race meetings that three favourites win and three favourites lose. A man, say, might have £50 on the winner of the first race at even money. That would mean that he would have in hand a £100. He puts his £100 on the favourite in the last race, and the horse loses. What tax would the Government get from him? Would it claim 5 per cent. on the £100 invested?
That proves Deputy Gorey's case home to the hilt, that the pool will be exhausted. If you take 5 per cent. from this money that is reinvested, then you are bound to exhaust the pool. At race meetings I have often seen men have six bets in the one day. A man might have a £100 on each race. That is to say, that on the six races he would have £600 invested. As a result of playing up and down during the day he would probably go home in the evening not having made as much as his taxi fare. That means that out of the pool you are going to take 5 per cent. on the £600 invested by that man. Cases such as that are quite common at race meetings, where a man invests £600 and neither wins nor loses. How is he going to pay 5 per cent. to the Government on his £600? I think that is a matter that ought to be considered; some steps should be taken to deal with it. Otherwise, as Deputy Gorey has stated, the pool will be exhausted probably before the end of twelve months.
I would like a little more enlightenment in regard to this proposed tax. I confess to an immense amount of ignorance and I am waiting for a little light. I have had a few rays; I am not quite sure whether they are violet rays or other coloured rays, but they tend, however, to give one a little clue to some of the economics of racing. I gather there is such a thing as a pool. A certain amount of money exists, which rotates.
When I made that suggestion I meant that there was a certain amount of loose money invested in racing. You may call it a pool, or you may call it by any name that will indicate the meaning. There is only a limited amount of money involved.
Deputy Gorey was not the only one who used the term. Deputy Shaw also used it.
I think he used it in the same sense.
We will get at the meaning in a short time, I hope. I gather it is not a fixed sum; indeed it is a sum which varies. Presumably as some proportion of it falls into the pockets of those who live by the profession, as it is now called, money is poured in from other sources. It is a pool having its source in the general wealth production of a community and has its exit in the profession which lives upon the pool.
And the profession gives it back again to the public.
They cannot, if they have to eat, drink, smoke, live in hotels and drive motor cars. The money cannot all go back. The members of the profession are actually the final consumers of this pool, which rotates, having its source in the general wealth production of the community. The profession manipulates this pool and the people who engage in the profession invest. I presume it is not the casual betting man amongst the general public that is called the investor. Once upon a time that kind of financial transaction was called a speculation, but now it is an investment. The terminology of this profession differs from that of the ordinary economist.
Call him a chancer, and have done with it.
Perhaps a Chair in the University could be established.
The subject does not bear all that analysis.
It does bear examination. We are dealing with a very important question, the question of imposing a tax upon, as Deputy Gorey and others term it, a source of income. That is the case: that this is going to militate against the economic wealth of the community by putting an obstacle to the breeding of horses and it is worth while examining from the point of view of the financial consequences. Will any Deputy explain to me what the effect of this proposed duty will be? Am I wrong in putting the matter this way? To-day, without the tax, a man will put down one pound in the hope of winning two pounds. In the future he will put down one pound in the hope of winning 38/-. Take it that to-day he will put down one pound in the hope of winning ten pounds; in the future he will be putting down one pound in the hope of winning £9 18s. That seems to be the net effect of this proposal. The person who now hopes to receive £10 as a consequence of his bet can, in future, hope to receive only £9 18s.
There is a tax on the losses, too.
He puts down his pound in the hope of receiving something. If he loses he does not receive anything, but the money which he has put into the bookmaker's hands has to return five per cent. to the State. In the long run, taking losses and gains into account, my first statement is correct. I cannot understand how that is going to have the immense influence upon horse-breeding that is contended. So far as I have been able to understand the psychology of the man who bets, the difference of 10 per cent. in the odds does not deflect him from following his bent, and it certainly is not going to prevent him from attending a race meeting. I am possessed of an immense amount of ignorance on this whole question, but nothing that has been said here to-day gives me any reason to believe that the Minister is taking the line that he is going to destroy, or move towards destroying, horse-breeding or even racing. If Deputies will throw their minds back a little to the time when there was a proposal years ago to increase the whiskey tax, not by five per cent., but by a much higher percentage, they will recollect there was a great cry as to the effect such a tax would have. It took very many times five per cent. to have any effect on the consumption of whiskey.
Look at the condition of the distilling industry in Ireland to-day.
A very much higher percentage than five per cent. has been imposed on whiskey since pre-war days. What effect has it had upon consumption? I wonder if it is unreasonable to connect this proposal to add five per cent. to the Exchequer from the pockets of those who bet, with the recent decision of the Dáil to add ten per cent. of the rental charge to what 999 out of every 1,000 people in the towns and cities in the Saorstát will be obliged to pay? The cry in regard to that matter has been very weak indeed. That is practically a compulsory charge, whereas this is a voluntary charge upon the public. It is very important to bear in mind the fact that, I think, was stated by Deputy Shaw, that this was a tax which has to be borne by the public who bet. It is an optional tax, and it is not to be borne by the "profession," save the mark!
I want to repeat what I said on the Resolution Stage of this Bill. My protest was against the proposed reduction in super-tax—reduction in the taxation of those in receipt of more than £2,000 per annum. Of course, the Minister has endeavoured to defend that by saying that the man who lives may, while he lives, get a benefit, but when he is dead his heirs and successors will pay out on his account. But it is a distinct proposal to relieve the rich man of a liability while additional charges on, or abstractions from, the very poor are continued. I speak now, of course, of the old age pension reductions. I repeat my protest against this proposal to reduce the super-tax so long as the cut in the old age pension remains effective.
In regard to the general proposals affecting income tax, I was curious as to what the Minister's budget speech this year would contain in relation to the proposal made a year ago to abolish income tax altogether on Irish industrial undertakings. The part of the proposal which, I think, had soundness in it, was that suggesting preference in respect to income tax to investors in Irish industries, and particularly to make allowance to the fullest extent far every halfpenny that was reinvested in the capital undertaking. I think that portion of the Cork proposals of a year ago was sound and worthy of favourable consideration. I looked forward with some anticipation to the introduction of that idea into the income tax proposals of this year. Instead of that we have the income tax maintained at a flat rate, except so far as super-tax is concerned, and super-tax payers get a distinct advantage. But then there was also a distinct hope that the Minister would have been more generous in his allowance in respect to children, and particularly in respect to children whose education was being considered.
That section of the community is much more entitled to benefits in the way of reduction than super-tax payers. I regret that the Minister has not seen his way to meet the lower income taxpayer in respect to remissions, particularly remissions in the case of families and school-going children. That is a matter on which, I hope, we shall have something to say later, but I leave it to the consideration of the Minister, trusting that even yet he will meet the case made on that behalf.
As regards the betting tax, it seems to me that the arguments which have been used against that tax are quite sound, in exactly the same way as arguments used against every tax in the Finance Bill may be regarded as being sound. It does not seem to me that disastrous results will flow from the introduction of this tax any more than disastrous results flowed from other taxes. My broad criticism of this Bill is that which I have adopted in connection with the subject from the very first, namely, that the burden of taxation which we are called upon to bear by the operation of these taxes is very heavy and our aim ought to be, as far as possible, to lighten it. I do not propose to do more than to say that the betting tax is, I am sure, a very unpleasant one and one which will not be very popular among people who bet.
Among people who do not bet.
I consider that these are very unselfish people by considering the whole State as apart from the individuals. Deputy Gorey argues that this tax is going to injure horse-breeding and its adjunct, horse-racing. I do not believe that that is going to happen any more than in the case of the forecasts made at the inception of other taxes, which very often resulted in a satisfactory income being drawn from these sources, to such an extent, indeed that the Minister has been attracted in the direction of making them unbearable. That is what happened in the case of the motor duties. All that Deputy Gorey has said in connection with the suppression of horse-breeding and horse-racing can be applied by me, with even greater force, to the question of motor duties. I recognise that, so far as the Dáil is concerned, Deputies in all quarters are adamant on the subject of heavy motors on roads. There may be one or two Deputies who are not, but the general cry is to shove these motors off the roads altogether. The roads, apparently, are only to be ornamental and must not be injured. The Minister in regard to the tax on motor lorries has in my opinion, accepted the principle of taxing them out of existence. What happens there is that, in the case of a car which in the past paid about £30, the owner will now be called upon to pay £117. That is a very steep increase, an increase which, in my opinion, will probably drive these cars off the road altogether. I am, of course, expressing only my own opinion on the matter, but when I am talking to Deputies here I may as well be talking to a stone wall. I do not think that my opinion will influence the Government on one side, or Deputies on the other.
The main thing, of course, is that the whole gamut of the taxes is very unacceptable to the individual who has to pay, but in the assessment of the levy I think the Minister has been rather hard on the motors. I think he has not been as hard in connection with the betting tax as we would be led to believe, but I do not wish to say that those who express the opinion that the betting tax is going to damage horse-breeding and horse-racing do not believe that it is going to do so. In my view, however, I think that the injury which they expect to be done by the tax is exaggerated. As regards the question which Deputy Johnson raised about the super-taxpayers, I think it has been thrashed out before. I think, so far as business is concerned, that if income-tax and super-tax are continued at their present rates, they will have, as they have had, a crippling effect on the development of business. It is quite true that anything that the Minister misses in connection with super-tax is certainly got back on death duties. These duties in connection with property are very heavy.
The Deputy is arguing in the same way as the Minister, that the super-taxpayer, to whom is remitted certain proportion of the tax now being charged, is thereby better off when alive, but that his estate pays for it on his death. I want to know whether a super-taxpayer receiving, say, £100, more to spend during this coming year, is necessarily a man whose estate is going to pay higher estate duties on his death.
No, I do not think so, but Deputy Johnson will, I think, recognise, that those whom you may call super-tax people are more likely, as regards their income, to spend more in the development of industry, or at all events in the accumulation of capital, which will ultimately benefit the Exchequer when they shuffle off the mortal coil. If a person spends it, the actual spending of it benefits, I suppose, more people in his lifetime to a greater degree than the Government would benefit. The circulation of money is always beneficial to the community. Except on these broad lines which I have indicated, I think that the time is too late to criticise the incidence of taxation which is placed on the shoulders of the people by this Bill. In my opinion, the hope of relief lies more in the development of the country and in the development of industry, and also in the development of farming than in anything which can be said against these particular taxes. I quite agree with Deputy Johnson as to the need of fostering education in every direction and of a rearrangement of the income tax allowances which will induce and promote better education among the coming generations.
In the proposals under review in the Finance Bill submitted by the Minister for Finance, I feel that there is a general appreciation of the continuance of the tariff duties of last year. I desire to express my regret that a further extension has not been made in that direction other than the items included in the Bill. As to the general tariffs which were imposed last year, it may be the opinion of many that it is too soon to pass judgment on the results, but I think that, having regard to the amount of employment that has been given and the consequent increased production of the goods protected, these tariffs have justified their imposition.
As regards immature spirits, I may point out that there is a considerable quantity of Scotch whiskey imported into the Saorstát and I consider that the law ought to be amended so that each vessel—which would include bottles—in which this whiskey is exposed for sale should have thereon a certificate stating the respective quantities of pot and patent whiskeys in the ingredient. It would have the effect of letting the public know that they were receiving mainly patent whiskey and it would have a deterrent effect on its consumption. Another advantage would be that it would be necessary to have Scotch whiskey bottled in the Saorstát.
Now as to representatives of foreign manufacturing firms, in the Saorstát there is a considerable number of men who have taken the places of those Irishmen who were representing Irish firms, and I would urge on the Minister to consider the matter of imposing a licence on commercial travellers or agents who do not permanently reside in the Saorstát. There are well established precedents in other countries for the licensing of commercial travellers. In South Africa they have such a licence. Commercial travellers are allowed to pursue their calling on holding a certificate of such a licence. The payment is something like £100 in the first year. I am glad the Minister granted exemption of corset component parts as it will mean a considerable impetus to a new Dublin industry. I am sorry that he did not also give the application for the extension of taxes on blankets and quilts, and confectionery bottles. However, I presume he has given the fullest consideration to the many applications put before him and in his wisdom considers that he has done the best under existing circumstances.
As regards the betting tax, I must express my approval of the principle. I believe it will clear away a good deal of the irregularities that have taken place in the past regarding betting. But I am not sufficiently acquainted with the details of the tax to express an opinion on it. I believe there is strong feeling against the point that has been referred to by Deputy Shaw, that is, as regards racecourse meetings.
There has been a good deal of discussion on the question of the betting tax, and I do not think I could throw very much light on it by virtue of any experience I have had in the matter. But I would like to say that I thoroughly approve of the general principle to tax betting, because betting is a very definite luxury, and I think it is very much fairer that a thing like betting should be taxed than that the poor man's bottle of stout should be taxed. With regard to the particular method of putting on a betting tax it does appear to me at first sight that five per cent. on every individual transaction is a fairly high tax. I can understand a tax on profits, but to put a tax on losses appears to me to be a little severe. I have consulted various people connected with the racing industry, and numbers of them appear to think that the tax will have a very serious effect on the horse-breeding industry. I do not follow them the whole way in their exposition of the case, but I would think it a pity that anything should be done to injure the horse-breeding industry. My idea about a tax on betting is that I would tax as severely as possible the sort of betting that is done away from racecourses, because, to my knowledge, a good deal of harm is done in that way. A great many people go astray and back horses with money they cannot afford. I am rather inclined to think, owing to the semi-legal position that is going to be given to betting now, that very probably there will be an increase in the type of betting that is done away from racecourses, and that, in my opinion, will do a great deal of harm.
Deputy Johnson mentioned that he was opposed to the reduction of the super-tax. I think if he looks into the matter a little more closely he will see that a reduction of the super-tax is likely to help industry. There is no question about it that a reduction of the super-tax will bring a certain number of people who have left this country back to live in it. Quite a number of people are attracted to Ireland by hunting, shooting, fishing and sport of various kinds. Numbers of them who used to spend their surplus incomes in amusing themselves in Ireland left the country. I think a reduction of the super-tax will be one of the things that will bring back a number of these people, and it will bring a greater circulation of money into the country.
One of the things that makes it difficult to pay great attention to the arguments of the opponents of the betting tax is the extreme way in which they put their case. There certainly is not the slightest possibility that this tax will finish racing, either in six months, twelve months or twelve years. If it were possible to stop betting altogether you would not stop racing. You would certainly restrict racing but you would not stop it. Racing does not depend, as Deputy Cooper put it, entirely on betting. One has only to look at the attendance, for instance, at the horse jumping competition at Ballsbridge or at any other horse jumping competitions to see that there are people and considerable numbers of people who will attend races even if betting is not carried on. The extent to which this tax will reduce the number of bets is extremely doubtful. The illustration that Deputy Johnson put forward will apply in many cases. The tax will not deter people from betting but there are bets which I mentioned earlier and which I believe will cease to be made with a 5 per cent. tax. Where a man formerly put on £100 to win £10, if the tax is to be payable on £100 I believe that type of bet will practically cease. There will be, I believe, a decrease in the volume of betting. Deputy Byrne talked about the man who in the course of the day invested £600. With the tax in operation he will not invest £600, because the odds that he will get will be shorter. If he starts with a certain sum of money he will have less to reinvest. He will invest less than he invested formerly, but it will not necessarily keep him away from betting. Deputy Gorey supplied me with an argument which seems to me to show the unreasonable character of the opposition. He talked about people who a few years ago at coursing matches bet in thousands but who now bet in £10 notes.
I said in England. They never did it here.
It applies equally. They pay no licence and now they are betting in £10 notes. I suppose if they were poorer they would go lower and bet in £5 notes. Even if you have a falling off in attendances at race meetings it does not follow that you are going to have a serious decline. A number of people who go to races go purely for the outing. Whether they are going to invest £5 or £50 does not matter very much to them. Five pounds will, as they say, give them an interest in the races, just as £50 will give them an interest in the races. I think the suggestion that this 5 per cent. tax could by any chance kill racing is ridiculous. I believe that there is not any danger that it will seriously injure racing. I believe it would be a serious thing if you had not sufficient racing to keep horse-breeding at the point at which it is, but, on the other hand, I do not think it can be argued that it is absolutely necessary that every one of the hundred and fifty race meetings that are held in the Free State should be continued. Some of these meetings are of no value from the horse-breeding point of view. Some of them are held in places that do not attract any horses from outside at all. A few old stagers go round the course and the whole thing is rigged.
Apparently the Minister knows everything about it?
I have heard a few things about it.
He has never been at a meeting.
As a matter of fact, I have been twice at race meetings, so I am not as ignorant as Deputy Shaw would suggest. A reduction in the number of these meetings would not necessarily be a loss. As a matter of fact, while some of the courses are in certain difficulties, I understand that at the point-to-point meetings, which also are of value to horse-breeding, the attendance has gone up, and I doubt very much whether the 5 per cent. tax is going to have the slightest effect on the attendance at these meetings.
Is the Minister aware that there is betting at the point-to-point meetings?
I am absolutely aware of that.
Is the Minister aware that it is only in those counties where there is no racing that the point-to-point meetings are popular and well attended?
That is nonsense.
The idea that because people may bet on a slightly smaller scale, owing to the odds being shorter, they are going to stay away from the meetings is a thing that will not bear investigation. Further, there is the point that in countries where they have for a long time the totalisator a much bigger tax than 5 per cent. is put on, and still racing survives.
Adopt it then.
I do not see why the bookmakers should be relieved of the tax. The position that is put up in connection with the betting tax is that they will agree to anything except the tax. That rather tends to arouse my suspicion. One can get no reason from the people who are opposing this tax for their attitude. They say 5 per cent. is too much. Somebody who gave evidence before the Select Committee set up in England said that half per cent. would be too much. You cannot deal with the mentality that is responsible for that attitude.
Horse-breeding and horse-racing can do without bookmakers altogether if the State is going to step in and take their place.
I have already said that it is the intention of the Government on a number of race courses, suitably situated and where the meetings will be large enough to justify the innovation, to install either the parimutuel or the totalisator system.
What about the towns where the betting is done?
Betting in the towns does not affect racing in the country. What keeps racing going in the country is the money realised at the gates. That is what enables the stakes to be put up. If betting in the towns were wiped out altogether—which would not be a bad thing—it would not injure horse-racing in the least.
The betting is on English races.
It does not matter what races the betting is done on. Betting in the towns does not keep racing going.
As Deputy Cooper said, a sport like horse-racing has a very definite hold on the people. All the efforts of the police cannot eradicate another practice which can hardly be described as a sport. I noticed where people recently attended a cock-fight adjacent to Dublin. Where any sort of a sport is popular, or where a practice which can hardly be described as a sport is popular, people will follow it even under the greatest difficulties.
Does the Minister mean to cast any reflection on Deputies?
No. A Deputy said he hoped that if we were going to do anything that would be injurious to racing—and he believed the betting tax would be—he believed we should do something towards increasing the stakes. I have already said that if we found that we were getting an unexpectedly large sum from this tax, or if we found that it was seriously affecting in an adverse way the attendance at race-meetings, and, consequently, the funds available for keeping racing going, we would be prepared to consider the putting up of a substantial amount by way of increasing stakes.
Is the Minister going to provide for State-aided betting?
No, not betting. After all, betting is only indirectly connected with racing. The stakes are a very important thing. If the stakes cannot be maintained at a reasonable level, racing will undoubtedly fall off. On the other hand, if you could have stakes, the attendance on the course would not matter seriously. As I have said, only experience can resolve the doubt that exists as to whether any appreciably adverse effect will follow from the imposition of this tax or not. I have heard nothing from the opponents of the tax that would convince me. They start out by asking us to assume that this five per cent. tax will kill racing. They then proceed to argue about the necessity of racing to the horse-breeding industry and about the value of the horse-breeding industry to the country. Those latter are points on which we are in agreement with them. The type of argument Deputy Johnson put forward is one which the opponents of this tax decline to meet. I have not seen the argument met by anybody.
Would the Minister answer the question I asked with regard to certain figures that were produced to him? Is he in agreement with those figures or does he contradict them?
The figures referred to were produced to me but, at the moment, I do not exactly remember what they were. Deputy Johnson, in my opinion, answered that argument fully. The public pays, not a particular bookmaker. As I have already said, if he shortened his odds to pay the tax, presumably the volume of transactions would be smaller.
He makes £9,000 in six years and he pays £60,000 back.
Where does he get the £60,000?
From the public.
Then he does not pay it.
That is one of the points that have already been fully met——
By the experts.
By Deputy Johnson and by the arguments I used myself. I am glad that Deputy Gorey made no point about coursing in connection with this tax. I should have had to say, in that event, that while I saw the economic importance of horse-racing, I did not see the economic importance of the other sport.
The Minister must have very little knowledge of the number of greyhounds that are sold out of the country.
Deputy Nagle spoke about the duty on wine. The duty on wine is based on the alcoholic content. I do not know whether it would be possible to adjust the duty so that wines of a certain quality would be taxed at a higher rate and wines of another quality—a higher quality— taxed at a lower rate. That is a matter I would have to consider.
Coming back for a moment to the betting tax, I do not believe that the expense of collection of the tax will be high or that it will be difficult. So far as the revenue officers, who will be responsible for the collection, have been able to examine the question, they are satisfied that it will not be difficult or expensive.
Will it be proportionate to the Entertainments Tax? Will it be collected as easily as the Entertainments Tax?
Not quite as easily. We will be dealing with people, many of whom have, in the past, been acting illegally, and it may be some time before they can be brought to realise the necessity of complying with the regulations.
Will the Minister guarantee that the officers dealing with this matter will not back a good thing if they get it?
If they back a good thing, I am sure they will be quite willing to have the five per cent. tax paid on the bet. Deputy Cooper referred to the importation of charabancs and motor lorries across the Border. This whole matter of the duty-free, temporary importation of lorries and cars is receiving consideration. We are acting under British regulations which came into force in 1915. They are regulations which, of course, did not contemplate a land frontier, and they are not, perhaps, entirely suitable for the circumstances that exist in the Saorstát. We are examining those regulations with a view to recasting them. At present, the position simply is that there is no legal power to allow a lorry or car to enter when owned by a person resident in the Free State. There is power to allow, temporarily, a car owned by a person outside the Free State, to enter. The position of a firm having a branch here and a branch outside the Saorstát is that they are regarded as residents here. Before the position was understood, certain cars were allowed in and bonds were taken. That was discovered to be wrong, and it had to be stopped once we obtained legal advice as to the effect of the law.
Does the Minister give an undertaking to examine that question?
The whole matter is being examined, but I do not know that I can indicate that I will take a view favourable to the people who have been circularising Deputies. There are difficulties in meeting their case, or perhaps I should say, in providing for what they want. At present a lorry imported temporarily can be kept a considerable time and a firm could use practically a whole fleet of lorries and avoid paying import duty if it established a branch here.
Could the position not be met by providing for a certain deposit which would be forfeited if the lorry. did not return within a limited time? I may say that I have not been circularised by anybody. I have been interviewed, and I have gone into the case with some care.
I dare say the matter could be met in various ways. It is really a question of seeing what are the maximum facilities that can be given to people without endangering the revenue and without introducing anomalies. The lorries would not have to pay tax every time they came in. If they paid tax once—and they would be only charged tax on the value of the body—they could come and go without having to pay tax again. The Deputy referred to the sixpenny duty on parcels. There are two sixpenny duties. As regards the postal delivery fee, it is not intended to drop that. We feel that this tax is fully justified, in view of the cost of the postal service and the loss sustained on parcels post work—particularly on parcels coming from outside the country. The greater part of the work of handling those parcels falls on the Post Office, which has to deliver them, and the loss is consequently greater. There is then the Customs Entry Duty. That is a tax which did not produce the results we had hoped as regards reducing the excessive number of small parcels brought in. But it yields £40,000 of revenue, and just at the moment we do not feel like dropping it.
It was suggested that another loan should be issued. I might say that, in the ordinary course, I should not think of issuing a loan until a great part of the loan could be absorbed immediately. Once the Exechequer were empty, the procedure would be to borrow temporarily and when temporary borrowings had reached a substantial figure, to make a new issue of National Loan. But to issue £10,000,000 of loan at present would simply result in a very substantial balance remaining in the Exchequer, on which we would be paying 5¼ per cent., and on which we would be getting a rate of interest very much less.
Could the Minister say what rate of interest is paid on temporary borrowings?
Not more than 5¼ per cent. We are able to use for telephone capital certain funds like the Teachers' Pensions Fund very satisfactorily. These advances are paid within a comparatively short and stated period. They suit the working of the Pensions Fund very well, and I do not think it would be desirable to interfere with that. I do not think that I need refer any further to Deputy Johnson's argument in relation to the reduced super-tax and the increased estate duty, but I would ask him to look at the matter from another angle. If a person comes into an estate now and pays high estate duty we are simply letting him recoup himself by reducing the super-tax. That is the converse of the case that Deputy Johnson quoted.
Does the Minister ask us to assume that the person who comes into an estate is receiving an income necessarily liable to super-tax?
In the great majority of the cases where estate duty will be charged at the increased rate they will be liable to super-tax. I admitted last year that it would be desirable, if possible, to increase the allowance for children. I can only say that the general position of revenue and expenditure does not seem to admit of it. We could only do it by getting further revenue. If this betting tax yields as well as we expect we might hope to do it.
It was a case once of depending on the whiskey tax.
The Minister has already stated that he does not expect to get much out of that.
Well, it may do very well. Deputy Doyle made certain suggestions about Scotch whiskey. I do not know that it would be very desirable to take steps directed at making impossible the trade in Scotch whiskey in the country. If the distilling trade here is to get back to any really prosperous position, it can only do so by increased exports and by inducing people in England to return to some considerable extent to the consumption of Irish whiskey. It is not the trade in whiskey that would be done in Ireland that would make the distilling trade here prosperous, and I do not think, if we face up to the position in that way, that it would be desirable to make unduly difficult the carrying on here of the trade in Scotch whiskey. Scotch whiskey has not the advantages that it is supposed to have. There is a notion abroad that Irish whiskey can be sold at not more than 25 under proof and that Scotch whiskey can be sold at 30 under proof. As a matter of fact Irish whiskey can be sold under the same conditions as Scotch whiskey if the people in the trade desire to do so. The condition is that the bottle be marked with the strength of the whiskey sold.
Is it legal to sell either Scotch or Irish whiskey out of a bottle that is open at a lower strength than 25 under proof?
Yes, provided the bottle is marked. The law in regard to the strength of whiskey applies equally to Irish and Scotch whiskies. There is no difference except that, as a matter of practice, Scotch whiskey is sold at 30 under proof. On the other hand, the policy has been that Irish whiskey should be sold at 25 under proof. There are what you might call two standards in regard to it, and I know that the Irish distillers are against the policy of selling at anything lower than 25. But it is not a matter of a legal privilege for Scotch. It is simply a matter of practice.
I understood that there are legal decisions to the contrary, that it was illegal to do so when the bottle had been opened.
I am not going into the question of the bottle being opened. I do not know the law in such detail with regard to that. I only say that whatever applies to Scotch whiskey applies to Irish whiskey also. I do not know that I should like to agree with the suggestion that there should be a duty on commercial travellers; at least I would like to hear a good deal more in justification of the suggestion before I would consider it. There are some people, unfortunately, whose only notion of beating a rival is to hit him with a brickbat, and it is just possible that it would be as well to leave the Irish commercial travellers to beat their rivals by commercial traveller methods.
I want to make my position clear as regards the Second Reading of the Bill. I am only in disagreement with one thing, the betting tax, and I do not feel justified in asking for a division on the whole Bill. I will therefore wait until the Committee Stage.