IN COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. - FINANCE BILL, 1926—THIRD STAGE.
Amendments 1, 2 and 3 not moved.
Before sub-section (3) to insert a new sub-section, as follows:—
"Any college or hall in any university and any public school shall be exempt from income tax in respect of any profits or gains, forming part of the income of such college, hall or public school, which are applicable to educational purposes only."
I have been asked by the headmaster of a public school to put forward this amendment. The Minister may say that it is only excessive caution. That may be so, but I think caution is desirable if the exercise of it, even in the slightest degree, prevents the possibility of legal trouble. I do not regard the amendment as involving any change in what we believe to be the law at present. It does not introduce any new principle. It is, I think, the way in which the law stands at present. The Minister is probably aware of the fact that comparatively recently a case arose in a large secondary school in England, where the decision, I think, of the Revenue Commissioners was brought by the institution, Brighton College, to the courts. The decision of the courts was in favour of the college, but, on appeal from that decision, it was reversed, and the college, inasmuch as it had excessive revenue over expenditure because of increased fees, was held to be a trading concern and liable to income tax. I think, in so far as money obtained from fees by an educational institution is bound to be applied to educational purposes only, that we should not alter that principle, as it seems to be the way in which the law has been interpreted here. The amendment only proposes to exempt from income tax the income of these educational institutions, in so far as it is applicable to educational purposes only.
I would not like, on the consideration which I have been able to give to this matter up to the present, to accept the amendment. It has been the principle of the income tax law, and it is a principle to which I think there are very few exceptions in the code as elaborated, that profits arising from the carrying on of trade shall be liable to tax, whatever these profits may be used for. There are many cases somewhat similar to that which the Deputy quoted. A corporation, for instance, that sells water outside a compulsory area of supply and applies the profits, say, for the purposes of sinking fund, is liable to tax. There have been decided cases in regard to it. The surplus profits on dock dues applied to the replacement of sinking fund are liable. There was a big case in which the Mersey Dock and Harbour Board was involved. There was a case in which an hospital for the insane, which took patients at remunerative prices and which made profits that were applied to the extension and improvement of the building, was held to be liable. It was held in a case in which the Governors of the Rotunda Hospital were involved that the letting of rooms for concerts, the profits of which were applied to the general maintenance of the hospital, brought liability to tax in respect of the profits.
There is a very big series of cases, and it may be that it would not be possible to adopt the amendment without putting ourselves in the position of being illogical, and that by extending the law we would create far-reaching results. Since Deputy Thrift drew my attention privately to the matter, I have not been able to examine it. Before the amendment could be accepted, it ought to be carefully examined. I do not see how we could give concessions to schools, or other educational institutions, and not give them to the various other institutions which, technically, are of a charitable character. Before we do either, a more complete examination of the matter, with a view to seeing its financial effects, would be necessary.
I am glad that the Minister has promised to inquire further in regard to this matter. All the cases which he has cited are, in effect, cases of bodies carrying on work with a view to remuneration, even though the operations of many of them are charitable. The Minister is not a lawyer, as, if he were, other cases would have occurred to him. I have before my mind a case which is altogether in point. An association for cultural purposes where the profits, if any, were to be reinvested in the association to give it ampler funds for its work, namely, the development of art and literature, was held by the English courts to be a body that was exempt from income tax as regards its surplus, which might otherwise be described as profits. I would remind the Minister, especially as he is in a favourable mood, that there are charities and charities.
The colleges of a university, for example, are exempt from municipal taxation in certain regards where institutions with charitable purposes not educational, are not exempt. Consequently the Minister and the law advisers of the Executive Council will find, when they go into the matter more closely, that there is good reason for doing what Deputy Thrift has asked for.
I should be quite satisfied if the Minister would undertake to consider the matter, as I am sure he does not wish that there should be any doubt as to educational institutions being free from income-tax. With Deputy Magennis, I do not think he will find that there is any difficulty in wording a clause like this so as to avoid any possible danger of bringing under it such cases as have been mentioned. I am glad that the Minister is, generally, in favour of what I have said.
I do not think that there would be any difficulty in wording the clause, but there are certain amendments which, if they are accepted, must be pursued logically, and we might have to give other people concessions of a somewhat parallel character. I feel that this thing does require some examination. I do not know whether I could have it examined for the purpose of this Bill, but the matter will be examined thoroughly and the materials for deciding on it, with the knowledge of what the financial effects would be, will be available for some subsequent Finance Bill at any rate.
The Minister could not undertake to do anything before the Report Stage?
Well, I am having it examined, but I could not definitely say. I do not know whether it would be possible.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 1 put and agreed to.
Section 2 gives effect to the double income-tax agreement.
Section put and agreed to.
I have dealt with Section 3 pretty fully on the Resolutions. It prevents a person getting the benefit of a bad year twice under the three years average, and the provision will also be necessary in view of the contemplated change to assessment of tax on the basis of the preceding year. In fact I think it will be even more necessary then.
The Minister has not come to any definite conclusion on that point yet?
We certainly could not undertake it this year. It is a relief that we are of opinion should be made, but the change would mean work which we could not face at present.
It is still under consideration?
Section put and agreed to.
Section 4 is merely for the purpose of a grammar amendment. There was an adaptations section in the Act of 1923, and that section simply said that the words "Saorstát Eireann" should be substituted for the words "United Kingdom," and the words "Great Britain and Northern Ireland" for the word "Dominion." The result was that where in the Principal Act the words were "the Dominion," the phrase then became "the Great Britain and Northern Ireland," and similarly where the words were "any Dominion" it became "any Great Britain and Northern Ireland."
Section put and agreed to.
It was intended under the Act of 1924 that where an appeal was heard by a circuit judge either party should be able to demand that a case should be stated for the High Court, and the Act authorised the judge to state a case. Doubt has now been raised as to whether a circuit judge had jurisdiction to state a case in respect of any appeal for the previous year. Section 5 is to enable a circuit judge to state a case in respect of an appeal for the previous year as well as for that year. It is really to remove doubt.
Section put and agreed to.
To insert before Section 6 but in Part II. of the Bill a new section as follows:—
"The duties of Excise chargeable under Section 28 of the Finance Act, 1925 (No. 28 of 1925), on cider and perry shall cease to be chargeable or leviable as on and from the 1st day of July, 1926, and no duty of Excise shall be chargeable or leviable on cider or perry which is sold or kept for sale in Saorstát Eireann on or after that date."
Though the wording of this amendment is somewhat different, yet the effect of it would be the same as amendments that I have moved on the last two Budgets. The effect would be to remove entirely the Excise duty upon cider manufactured in the Free State. I am encouraged to put it down for the third time for two reasons, the first being that the Minister reduced the Excise duty last year by 50 per cent., and the second being a reply that he gave me on the occasion of the Second Reading of the Bill, I am inclined to think that he might be persuaded to do likewise this time. I will not weary the House by going into details of the arguments in favour of this course; the House must be conversant with them by this time. The case for the abolition of this duty is overwhelming. As everyone knows, this duty was imposed as a war measure by the British Government. It was imposed for the purpose of revenue, and for that purpose only. Since the war it has been abolished in Great Britain and, of course, also in the Six Counties, and the position is that in no other country, certainly not in Europe, and I do not know of any elsewhere, is there any Excise duty upon manufactured cider. From the point of view of the industry itself and also from the point of view of the general public, including both the farmers and those who were employed in the industry, though the employees may not be at present of very large numbers, I think that the proposal is justly commendable. It is not anything in the nature of a tariff, though we have dealt in tariffs recently, nor is it anything in the nature of a subsidy. It is, really nothing more or less than the removal of an obstacle, a hindrance, placed by the British Parliament on an industry which should be a thriving industry in certain districts of this country.
This cider industry exists in Dungarvan, and apples are grown in the district along the valley of the Suir. There is no reason why, if the duty is removed, apples could not be grown elsewhere and while similar factories could not be established, I do not think anybody would disagree with the contention that cider in itself is not injurious to health, but that, on the contrary, it would be well if more cider was drunk. It is true, as the Minister said—and that really is and has been my principal argument in favour of this abolition—that the amount which accrues to the revenue is trivial and infinitesimal. That is why I think that this industry should be given a chance. It may be trivial to the Exchequer, but it is not trivial to the manufacturer. It is of the utmost importance to him that he should be in as good a position to manufacture and produce this beverage in the Free State as are his competitors in the Six Counties and in Great Britain. I hope, therefore, that, this being the third time, I may be successful and that the Minister may bend, and perhaps abolish, the duty altogether.
I am inclined to accept the amendment on the basis simply that each year we have a discussion in regard to the cider duty, that that discussion occupies time, and involves printing and reporting work, and I think on the whole it would be a saving to abolish the duty rather than to continue these discussions.
The Minister has taught the House a very useful lesson. We now know how to get rid of burdens upon home industries.
Proposed new section put and agreed to.
Section 6 put and agreed to.
(1) A customs duty of an amount equal to thirty-three and one-third per cent. of the value of the article shall be charged, levied, and paid on all apparatus for the transmission and reception or the transmission only or the reception only of messages or other communications by wireless telegraphy, whether such apparatus is completely or partially manufactured, and on all component parts and accessories (including cases, cabinets, and other containers) of such apparatus, whether such parts and accessories are completely or partially manufactured, imported into Saorstát Eireann on or after the 22nd day of April, 1926.
(3) Whenever it is proved to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners that any article capable of use as a component part or an accessory of any such apparatus as aforesaid is imported for use or has been and is being used for some other purpose, the Revenue Commissioners shall, subject to such conditions (if any) as they think fit to impose, either (as the case may require) allow the article to be imported without payment of the duty imposed by this section or repay any such duty paid on importation.
In sub-section (1) to delete lines 13, 14 and 15.
This amendment is for the purpose of confining the tax to complete apparatus and for the exemption of parts from duty. The same argument could be used against this as against various other amendments to exempt parts from duty. If parts were exempted from duty it would become practically impossible to collect the duty. A certain amount of dismemberment would take place; parts would be removed or separated, but only in such a way that they could be fitted together again with practically no labour, or with very little labour, and at the same time we would be prevented from charging the duty. I think that to exempt parts of wireless apparatus from duty would be practically the same as failing to pass the section and removing apparatus from duty altogether.
I think the Minister is aware that certain parts of wireless apparatus are introduced simply for the purpose of manufacturing and completing them and are then exported. Would he be able on the Report Stage to introduce an amendment which would free these articles from the import duty, or allow a rebate of duty if they were exported?
That is covered by sub-section (6). The section was drafted after discussion.
The amendment in question was put down because of the plea that is being made that the effect of this duty would be to encourage the manufacture, or at least the assembly, of wireless parts here. It is intended to encourage that proposal. It is claimed that there might well be considerable business developed in the making of wireless instruments. In that case it would be well to make it possible to bring in the component parts and assemble them here rather than put on them a tax equal to that on the finished article. I had anticipated that considerable support would have been given to this proposition by the protectionists in the House, those who are making protection the chief plank in their platform, and that the opportunity the amendment provides would have brought some expressions of opinion from the Deputies who are so interested in this question.
The Minister suggests that this would not be practicable: that there would only be a pinning together of the component parts of wireless apparatus, and that an industry such as is promised would not be developed here. I am doubtful of that. I think considerable work could be provided in the assembling of instruments, and I therefore feel that a better case against the amendment ought to be made than has been made. I would like to hear, for instance, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs on this question. He has considerable experience in the theory and practice of making wireless apparatus, and of the building of component parts into the finished instrument. It appears to me that here is an obvious case where encouragement could be given for the import of the unfinished article and the turning of it into the finished article by reducing, if not abolishing entirely, the proposed duty on component parts while levying it on the finished article.
The Minister for Finance has more than once drawn our attention to this practical difficulty that weighs upon his mind. We had it before in another relation. He objected to relief from impositions on component parts of motor cars, for example. His contention in that case was that these would be brought in free of duty and put together to constitute the complete motor-car, and that the motor-car would be inside the State without any tax. Now it seems to me that there is a certain amount of reasonableness in his argument, but, at the same time, as one who has heard his argument met and discussed in another application, it is not to me convincing.
I was, for many years, a member of the Council of the Dublin Association for Industrial Development. One of its practical problems was in regard to the granting, or assenting to grant, the right to put the Irish trade-mark, "Made in Ireland," on certain products. The raw material used in the manufacture was imported, but it was not quite raw material, because it had already been subjected to several processes by skilled labour in England, and the question was: Should it, in its character of raw material, be allowed to be stamped with the Irish mark to save the operation of stamping at a later stage when it had undergone completion at the hands of Irish mechanics? As I conceive it, that is practically the problem in regard to these component parts of wireless instruments. It is just possible that the tax would be evaded by getting all the elements of the finished product in from another country, and that there would be practically little or no skilled work performed upon it to complete the assemblage and put it on the market. The Minister desires, and properly desires, to exclude that leakage from his collection of taxes. But, on the other hand, would it not be possible, as Deputy Johnson has contended, while excluding that to make the initiation possible for Irish industry in this Department? Everything must have a beginning.
We all know, and you, sir, better than most of us, that in the field of literature some of the greatest poets have developed their skill as literary artists through the mere translation into English verse of the works of Continental poets. That may seem a trivial and minor operation, but through their work upon the work of others, in utilising it for their own purpose, their own artistic sense and their executive capacity were brought into play, so that they take rank high above the men upon whose work they have fed and trained themselves. Now, unless our people in our workshops here are allowed to manipulate the elements that go to make one of these complex instruments, there is very little hope of conferring technical skill upon them, giving it to their fingers, to their muscles, eyes and brains, and the possibility, therefore, of founding an industry, if it is not defeated, is at least delayed and hindered, and if the Minister's Department, or the Department of Industry and Commerce, massing the ability of their civil servants, advisers, and the men whom they are able to consult, could frame a regulation to fit this case, they would do a national service, because, while I support the Minister in trying to obviate the cheating of the revenue, at the same time I have—and this I have entertained for many years—a passionate desire to see our boys and girls, and more particularly our girls, provided with a source of very excellent occupation and good, steady incomes through the development of industries that are particularly appropriate to them. The genius of a Scotch carpet-maker was able, in a tour through Tirconaill, to recognise the craftsmanship and ability of the peasants there, whereupon immediately the Tirconaill carpet industry was founded, and so with regard to lace production. Everyone has noted that the girls of this country have a particular aptitude for becoming rapidly proficient in these technical works which require at once ability and fine muscular dexterity, and likewise a quick brain and an active interest. So if it were for nothing else than to make a beginning in the setting up of this industry to which Deputy Johnson refers, I would entreat the Minister to stay his hand in this matter long enough to consider the possibilities of distinguishing between the effort to defeat the raising of taxation and what would be an honest effort at founding an industry.
I must confess that I see nothing in the proposal put forward by Deputy Johnson from the point of view of increasing industries. The original intention of this proposal was to provide a revenue tax, but apart from its being a revenue tax it would be all to the good if it were diverted or utilised in the direction of employment and towards a development that we would all welcome very much. Were we to accept Deputy Johnson's proposal, I take it that the net result would be that parts of instruments would be imported as against the whole instrument. The only trade or employment resulting from that departure would be mere assembly.
I have never seen anything in the way of assembly give a considerable amount of work. I can never get myself to include the term "assembly" under industry. There is certainly some work given, but the amount given through assembling is, on the whole, small. On the other hand, the 33? per cent. tax which it is proposed to impose will, I am satisfied, create an industry here. It certainly will create an industry in respect to crystal sets which are made of miscellaneous material. There is no use in going deeply into their composition, which is very varied. It is surprising what different materials may be procured for the composition of these sets. I have been informed that already quite a number of technical people have found lucrative employment in the making of those sets. There are certainly parts of valve sets which cannot, and will not, possibly for many a day, if ever, be made here. I refer to the valves themselves.
We may, some day, have coil winding, but through this tax and the furniture tax we have made certain of cabinets. Some day, perhaps, when the Shannon scheme is going, we may have a wire industry, but on the whole my hopes come from the production of crystal sets rather than valves. I am satisfied that through this medium, though not intended at the outset to give birth to an industry, it will be helpful to a great many people. I happened to meet a retailer in this business yesterday. He informed me that much of the trade he was doing prior to the introduction of this tax had departed, and that he was now merely selling those essentials to which I have referred. He said that people had got into the habit of buying home-made sets. He gave me an instance of a set for which he himself would charge something like £20—a two-valve set. It had just been produced and sold for £10, and sold at a profit. There is room for this little industry here, apart from the fact that the duty means an essential revenue. Because of that fact I can see nothing whatever in the proposal made by Deputy Johnson, except that it destroys that hope, to import parts which can be assembled here.
I wonder would the Minister help us a little further by explaining what kind of parts he has in mind that are likely to be manufactured here.
All the parts of the crystal sets, for one thing.
Practically every part of the crystal set.
Miscellaneous items. The original item may not be made here.
I would wish to add very little to what the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs has said. This tax was proposed for the purpose of raising revenue. Undoubtedly and incidentally, a tax of 33? per cent. is bound to have some protective effect, the effect of stimulating certain types of industry. I understand that there are already a couple of manufacturers of parts here. I do not suppose that they are making all parts, but they are making some parts.
Can the Minister give us some information as to what sort of parts?
For instance, amongst the parts are ear phones. There is a considerable amount of work being done in regard to ear phones. I cannot specify the parts, but I happened to see a letter in a newspaper from somebody who talked about what he was doing in regard to the matter of parts. There is protection for assembly, because the duties charged on the parts of the instrument, taken separately, would be less than the duty on the complete instrument. There is protection, you may say, to the extent of 33? per cent. Some of the parts may be made here. If there is no exemption of parts, they gradually will be made here. Others cannot be made here, but we will get the duty from them. I think we will probably promote no industry by exempting parts or very little, because pure assembling will not mean a great deal, and will promote very little industry. I do not see any method by which we can exempt parts and we will lose very substantially in revenue, probably lose it altogether. I think when you have a duty as high as 33? per cent. you have sufficient protection for assembling without carrying it further.
Amendment put and declared lost.
I move Amendment 7:—
In sub-section (1), line 17, after the words "22nd day of April, 1926," to add the words "up to the 1st day of May, 1927."
This amendment is intended to give the Oireachtas an opportunity of reviewing the operation of this duty next year. This is an entirely novel duty on a very new industry. Last year was the first year in which any figures of any kind appeared in the return of imports and exports with regard to this industry. Therefore, the imposition of a duty on it was in the nature of a leap in the dark. As the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and the Minister for Finance both said, it is primarily a revenue duty. Where duties are imposed for protective purposes it is quite reasonable to say that they should not come up for review year after year because the fact of their coming up will undoubtedly discourage the investment of capital and the giving of employment, but this is primarily a revenue duty, a revenue duty imposed for a specific purpose, to provide funds for the working and extension of the Government Broadcasting Station. We have not yet a year's experience of the cost of that station. We do not know how far the estimate, which necessarily must be a conjectural estimate, will be fulfilled. Less money will be needed, or more money will be needed. Equally we do not know how much revenue this tax will bring in.
It may be that the market was flooded with wireless goods before the duty was imposed. There certainly was a very substantial import, to the net value of something like £70,000, last year. It may be that the development of the industry at home, which has just been spoken of, will curtail the revenue to a certain extent. I do not think it will, because I think the possibility of extension, as far as crystal sets are concerned, is somewhat limited. Most of the people in the vicinity of the Dublin Station who wished to have crystal sets have probably bought them already. There will be development when new stations are opened, but the development will be to a somewhat limited extent. Anyhow, I hold that this is a tax which we ought to be in a position to reconsider when we have more information. There may be, and very possibly will be, substantial reasons on the part of the Minister for Finance for not coming to us next year and asking us to renew it. I hold in essence it is akin to what are described as "the new duties"—though they are now ten years old, having been first imposed in 1916, on clocks, watches, optical goods, musical instruments, and other matters of that character—which are renewed from year to year. I think this duty is very similar to these duties which must be renewed from year to year, and come up for revision from time to time. Therefore, I move this amendment.
I do not propose to accept the amendment. This duty is hardly parallel to the new duties. The new duties certainly had a protective character, although they were imposed in a country which was officially a free trade country, and which sometimes did quite pedantic things in the matter of taxation, in order to keep its character as a free trade country. We have none of the reasons for pretending to give a purely temporary character to a revenue duty, because it is not a duty which a doctrinaire free trader would like. The Dáil will be in no very good position to review the duty from the point of view of suitability for permanence by the time the next Budget comes along. Even in the second year we find that all these duties are disturbed by very many factors. Sometimes there is a considerable importation; sometimes large stocks are held; afterwards, if there is any hope of getting the duty off there are small importations, and people hold back.
I believe, if we were to accept Deputy Cooper's amendment and require this duty to be definitely brought before the Dáil and renewed this time next year, that very small importations indeed would take place during the year. People would hold off in the hope that no duties would have to be paid and, as a matter of fact, our opportunity of seeing the actual effect of the duty and what it was going to come to, would be prejudiced if we did not pass it in the same form as we passed other taxes that are intended to last for a considerable time. Once the disturbance of trade that is caused by the imposition of a heavy duty is got over, imports will flow somewhat normally, and probably in the latter months of the present financial year trade will be quite normal, but it certainly would not be normal if we adopted Deputy Cooper's amendment.
The fact that the duty is not imposed merely for a year does not prevent the Dáil reconsidering it. Although the duty on cider was a permanent duty we have reconsidered it every year. There would be nothing at all to prevent us reconsidering this duty. Deputy Cooper will be able, by question or otherwise, to ascertain next year approximately the receipts coming from this taxation, and if he thinks the receipts are very small, or if he thinks they are too big or if he is dissatisfied in any way, he can move that this particular tax should be repealed.
The Minister for Finance, in dealing with this amendment, refuses to allow the tax to be renewable every year. His argument practically is that the continuity of the tax is required for revenue purposes. His statement was really this: that the reason for the British procedure was to get over committing themselves to any departure from the policy of free trade. Is the Minister or is the Government committing the country to the adoption of the experimental question of tariffs? I think his pronouncement really amounts to this: that he, at all event, considers that the country's interest would be best served by a protectionist policy. I thought that was rather in the melting pot. I would like to know if he now says that the tariff proposals have gone beyond the experimental stage and that he is committed to a tariff policy for the Free State.
It may have escaped the notice of the House that the Minister's speech was divided into two parts. The first half was devoted to proving to us how disastrous it was to have any uncertainty as to whether a tariff should be continued, while the second half was devoted to proving how easy it was to review tariffs next year, as Deputy Redmond succeeded in having the Excise duty on cider reviewed. He cannot have it both ways. As regards the new British duties imposed in 1916 being imposed every year only as a sort of pedantic free trade, he has overlooked the fact that he this year is renewing them and that every year for the last three years while I have been in the Dáil they have been renewed, and, so far as I know, there has been none of this uncertainty and none of the successful importation that he says would result from the acceptance of my amendment. There has been no extraordinary influx of clocks, watches, cinematograph films, microscopes or any of the other objects that come under these duties. They are only to be enforced to the 1st May, 1927. I suggest that wireless apparatus is very much akin to some of these articles, probably to optical goods, microscopes and so on. I suggest it might well be said that in the year 1916 if anybody visualised the existence of wireless apparatus it would have been included in these duties.
They are all revenue duties. We do not produce microscopes, and we are not likely, apart from cabinets and crystal sets, to produce the more intricate parts of wireless reception sets. They are all strictly revenue duties and they are not strictly protective duties. They may have a protective effect incidentally but their main purpose is to produce revenue. I do not think that this uncertainty would result if they come up for yearly renewal. I do not think the Minister need even be inconsistent or indulge in fiscal pedantry. He has taken the fiscal pedantry from the British to the extent that he has renewed the duties I referred to year by year. But I do not see why a duty on a new import, which has not been levied anywhere else in the world, as far as I know, should not be maintained under the supervision and under the close inspection of the Dáil. I think if there ever was a case where we should insist on yearly renewal of duties this is a case. Otherwise, our control in fiscal matters becomes more or less of a farce.
The reason we renew the so-called "new duties" every year is because we have abolished the tea duty. These two matters may not seem to be connected, but they really are. The British practice was to have one indirect and one direct tax which they renewed every year. Income tax was renewed every year. Estate duty and stamp duty were permanent taxes. The tea duty was a yearly tax, and the whole question of indirect taxation could be opened up in that way. We had made up our mind before last year to drop the tea duty, if possible, and as we were dropping the tea duty, and as these new duties had been reimposed from year to year, we decided to let them remain as yearly taxes, which would enable a certain discussion on indirect taxation to take place in the Dáil.
Why not have it on the wireless duty?
We do not want to add to the number. There are a considerable number of taxes which come up every year. It may be that if we had the wireless duty on for four or five years, the fact that it was due for renewal or for disappearance at the end of the year would have no disturbing effect, but if we now accepted Deputy Cooper's amendment it would certainly have a disturbing effect in the present year and probably next year. If there were a certain number of renewals, the people would come to expect renewal as a matter of course, and any disturbing effect would tend to disappear.
Is not Deputy Cooper incorrect in saying, amongst other things, that microscopes are subject to tax? The Minister was good enough, some time ago, to relieve optical glasses and glasses for chemical purposes from tax, inasmuch as to retain the tax would be really imposing a burden upon colleges and schools, who are the principal buyers of these costly articles. The hope of our creating an industry in these articles in the near future was so slight that the Minister was fully justified in relieving these institutions of that tax. I think I am right as regards the history I have given, which rather proves that this tax has been subject to yearly revision from the first hour of its imposition.
It does not appear in Section 10.
What happened was: Deputy Cooper confused the new import duties with the key industry duties. We have repealed the key industry duties, under which microscopes are subject to tax. We have reviewed even the new import duties from year to year. For instance, we exempt gramophone records and certain other articles.
Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment 8—to delete sub-section (3)—not moved.
I move Amendment 9:—
In sub-section (3), line 24, after the word "used," to insert the word "exclusively."
This amendment is for the purpose of confining the exemption to instruments imported exclusively for some other purpose than wireless.
When an article which might be a component part of wireless apparatus is used exclusively for some other purpose, exemption will be given. This would cover articles which might be used in laboratories, in connection with electrical works, other than wireless apparatus.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Motion made: "That Section 7, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
One is pleased to notice the desire on the part of the Minister to insert in this Bill any safeguards necessary in order to prevent the irritation that has arisen over the other duties. In one respect, those safeguards do not go sufficiently far, and there may, therefore, be a considerable amount of trouble. That may happen in a case where these dutiable articles are exported for small repairs. It has been pointed out already that most of those articles are at present imported into the Free State. Few of them are manufactured here. Some of them have to be sent away, from time to time, for small repairs and adjustments. As I understand the Bill, when these articles are re-imported, if there is a charge for repair, it will be the duty of the revenue authorities to make a second charge of duty. If there is no charge for repair—this is a point I would like to get cleared up, because particulars of a case have been sent me from the South of Ireland—the particular article is admitted free of duty. The parallel I would place before the Minister is that of the motor part. If a motor part is exported for repair, when re-imported, duty is only charged on the cost of the repair. If the duty on wireless apparatus is arranged in the same manner, that is all I desire.
The provisions of Section 5 do put wireless apparatus in the same position. There will be no charge except for the new part or new repair, provided the article on its first importation had paid duty, or provided it was imported first before the duty was imposed.
Question put and agreed to.
Amendment 10.—To insert before Section 8 a new section as follows:—
(1) There shall, in respect of beer brewed in Saorstát Eireann on or after the twenty-second day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, be allowed the following rebate from the excise duty payable in respect thereof, that is to say:—
In the case of beer brewed by a brewer of beer for sale, for every thirty-six gallons of beer of whatever original gravity, charged with duty and delivered from the brewery, a rebate of one pound, or where the duty payable in respect of thirty-six gallons of any beer so charged and delivered is less than two pounds and four shillings, a rebate equal to the amount by which that duty exceeds the sum of one pound and four shillings;
and so in proportion for any difference in quantity.
(2) The excise drawback payable on the exportation of any beer, or on the deposit thereof in a warehouse for exportation from Saorstát Eireann as merchandise or for use as ship's stores, shall, unless it is shown to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners that no rebate has been allowed in respect of that beer under this section, be reduced by an amount equal to the amount of the rebate allowable under this section in respect thereof.
This sub-section shall be deemed to have had effect as from the twenty-second day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-six.
(3) The Revenue Commissioners may make such regulations as they consider necessary for the purpose of carrying this section into effect, and in particular for the purpose of facilitating and controlling the calculation of the amount of the rebate to be allowed under this section and with respect to the method of computing the quantity of the beer in respect of which rebate is to be allowed.
(4) If any person acts in contravention of or fails to comply with any regulations made under this section, he shall, for each offence, be liable, at the election of the Revenue Commissioners, either to an excise penalty of one hundred pounds or to an excise penalty equal to three times the amount of the rebate, which through the commission of the offence has been, or might have been, improperly obtained."—John Daly.
Amendment 11.—To insert before Section 8 a new section as follows:—
"(1) There shall be allowed in respect of beer brewed in Saorstát Eireann on or after the first day of July, 1926, the following rebate from the excise duty now payable in respect thereof, that is to say:—
In the case of beer brewed by a brewer for sale for every thirty-six gallons of beer of whatever original gravity charged with duty and delivered from the brewery a rebate of one pounds, or where the duty now payable in respect of thirty-six gallons of any beer so charged and delivered is less than two pounds four shillings a rebate equal to the amount by which that duty exceeds the sum of one pound four shillings,
and so in proportion for any less quantity.
(2) The excise drawback now payable on the exportation of any beer or on the deposit thereof in a warehouse for exportation from Saorstát Eireann as merchandise or for ship's stores shall, unless it is shown to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners that no rebate has been allowed in respect of that beer under this section be reduced by an amount equal to the amount of the rebate allowable under this section in respect thereof.
This sub-section shall be deemed to have had effect as from the 1st day of July, 1926.
(3) The Revenue Commissioners may make such regulations as they consider necessary for the purpose of carrying this section into effect, and in particular for the purpose of facilitating and controlling the calculation of the amount of the rebate to be allowed under this section, and with respect to the method of computing the quantity of the beer in respect of which rebate is to be allowed."—William A. Redmond.
Amendments 10 and 11, I presume, can be taken together.
Yes. Deputy Redmond and I came to an understanding on this matter. I move the amendment in my name. I should like to point out that the duty on stout in 1914 was 7/9, and to-day it is £5. That is a big increase. The increase took place during the Great War. It was intended to be only a temporary increase, but we find that in Ireland it is more of a permanent nature. In Great Britain there was a reduction a couple of years ago of about 24/- per barrel on the part of the Government. The brewers also made a reduction, with the result that the public there can get their stout and beer at a smaller cost than our people can obtain these drinks. We have been declaring for the last 50 years that when we would get power in our own country our first task would be to create industries. The constant imposition of this tax is an attempt to destroy industries. You have Guinness's brewery, which is one of the greatest institutions of its kind in the world. You have a lot of other breweries throughout the country giving vast employment. You have the barely growers and a lot of other people interested in this industry.
Whilst I represent the licensed trade in the part of the country from which I come, I also represent the workingmen there. In their interest, I asked for a reduction of this tax two years ago. Last year I repeated that request. This year I make my third effort, which I hope will be successful. Six or eight months ago, on the passing of the Boundary Bill and on the deletion of Clause 5, we thought we would gain a good deal financially. But the licensed trade and the brewers are gaining nothing at all by it, or by any other tax that is imposed. It is like the story of the man breaking stones along the roadside, who was canvassed for his vote. He said that it was all the same to him, as he would be left breaking stones all his life. It is the same with the licensed trade. They will be left to bear the imposition of taxes as long as they are in business. We all know that this high tax is an incentive to poteen makers and to those engaged in illicit distillation. That, we know, leads to demoralisation.
What I plead for now is that the duty should be reduced by £2 per barrel. From 7/9 to 100/- was a very big jump in the duty. That was imposed because of the Great War—not our own war—not that we had anything to do with it. That duty was imposed by the British Government on us. The British Government have now relieved their own people to a great extent from that duty, but our Government here will not relieve us. If the Government reduce the duty in any fair way the brewers and the licensed trade will so work it out that the workingman can get his stout at a much cheaper rate. Stout is in a great measure the food of the workingman in different places. For instance, when a man is dumping coal or unloading a vessel on the quays at Cork and he cannot wait to have a cup of tea brought to him—he could not drink it with the coal dust in his mouth if he got it—he has to get a pint of stout. He would not be able to get a second if he felt like it because of the price.
If we had a referendum I hold that 80 per cent. of the people would be in favour of a reduction of this duty. I do not know that I would get 80 per cent. of the Dáil. We had a trial of this referendum not long ago. At the recent Seanad election the licensed trade put up two candidates as a trial, and the two of them were placed very high up on the list of those elected. That is a justification for my statement that a referendum would be in favour of a reduction of this duty. I hope that the Minister will make a reduction in this duty. We should do all we can to help established industries while endeavouring to establish new ones. We have all classes of people now putting forward plans to help industries and to establish new ones. We have tariff reformers jumping on top of one another. I am a tariff reformer myself, but not a whole-hogger.
The result of the Seanad election, if it were taken seriously, would justify my claim for this reduction. I would ask the Minister for Finance—and he seldom refuses me—to take at least £2 per barrel off the duty. The licensed trade and the brewers could then put their heads together so that instead of charging 8d. or 9d. per pint, as we do in Cork, we might be able to sell stout to the workingman at 6d. per pint. Having regard to all the new taxes that are being imposed and the broadcasting and other kinds of amusements that are being provided, the Minister for Finance could well afford to reduce the duty by £2 or £1—may be I am spoiling the case. I hope the Minister will meet me on this occasion, as he did when I appealed to him before.
I desire to support generally the case that has been made by Deputy Daly for the reduction in the beer duty. Although the amendment that stands in my name—No. 11— is worded practically the same as that of Deputy Daly, I desire to state that I do not desire to approach this question from the same point of view as he does. I do not propose to speak for the licensed trade in any portion of the country. I am approaching the matter from three points of view. The first is the right of the ordinary individual citizen to procure certain classes of refreshment at a reasonable price. The second point of view is that of a great national industry which obviously is rapidly on the decline and if something is not done shortly will vanish altogether. Strange as it may seem, my third point of view is one which should be, and I am sure is, that of the Minister for Finance himself, namely, the point of view of securing revenue for the country. The condition of the brewing industry, and also the distilling industry, is certainly alarming.
The claims that they have made for instant and immediate relief can scarcely be ignored unless it is the policy—and if so let it be stated—of the present Government to extinguish these industries entirely. For the last two years the revenue derived from duties on both beer and spirits has shown an alarming decrease, and if the existing duties are to continue no reason has been shown why the revenue will not continue to decrease. From the point of view of the industries themselves, of the employment that they give, of the advantage that they are to a country which is mainly an agricultural one, I would direct the attention of the Dáil to the fact that about the middle of the last century there were no less than sixty breweries and a similar number of distilleries in full working order in the twenty-six counties, and that they have now been reduced to something less than half-a-dozen. If things go on as they are, we shall soon have perhaps one brewery— one great industry, it is true, but one monopoly, and perhaps a couple of distilleries.
In 1914, as Deputy Daly has said, the excise duty upon beer was 7s. 9d. per barrel. It is now 100s. per barrel. There was no disguise made of the fact that the duty was raised to 100s. by the British Parliament for revenue-producing purposes to meet the cost of the European war. Even though it was necessary to do that to meet the cost of the war—a cost which we are told we have not to make provision for here owing to recent agreements—in England they have actually reduced that 100s. by 24s. per barrel. That was done by a reduction of £1 in the duty, and making arrangements with the British brewers whereby another 4s. reduction was effected. I cannot understand why it would not be possible for us, when we have such a great industry in Dublin, and smaller industries of a similar kind throughout the country, to make a similar reduction. What I ask for in my amendment is that the excise duty upon beer should be brought down to the level of the duty in Great Britain and the Six Counties.
As far as whiskey is concerned—if I may say so upon this amendment—the duty in 1914 was 14s. 9d. per proof gallon. In 1918 it was raised to 30s. Immediately after the war in 1919 it was raised to 50s., and in 1920, in order to provide portion of the cost of the war —for that and for no other stated reason—it was raised to the huge sum that it is to-day of 72s. 6d. In a further amendment I propose to reduce that 72s. 6d. by £1 2s. 6d. I make these two proposals now in all seriousness. This is certainly no trivial matter in any sense of the word. It is true the Minister made use of that expression in dealing with an earlier amendment of mine, which he acceded to.
That may be so in the case of cider, but in the case of spirits and beer it is no trivial matter either in regard to the value and extent of the industries or in regard to the revenue that this duty produces. The answer may be made: "It cannot be done; it cannot be done first and foremost because we need the money and must have it." My reply to that answer is: "Go on getting the money in this way and you will be killing the goose that lays the golden eggs." You will see that next year the same story will be told in the revenue returns as has been told for the last two years.
Does the Minister say—can he give any authority for being able to say— that he hopes there will be no further reduction this time next year in the revenue from beer and spirits? I am of opinion that if the present duty is to prevail there will be a further reduction; that there will be a reduction not only in the number of industries being carried on, not only in the output from these industries and not only from the employment in those industries, but there will be also a reduction in the revenue returns to the Exchequer.
It is said that this is incidentally, it certainly was never intentionally, a means of preventing insobriety. Well, perhaps it might interest the Committee to know that in the year 1900, when the cost to the consumer of both beer and spirits was about quarter what it is to-day, the arrests for drunkenness in Ireland amounted to the huge total of 92,927, and in the year 1913 that figure had fallen to 20,000. In the year 1900, in the metropolitan area of Dublin the arrests were over 9,000, and in the year 1913 the arrests were slightly over 2,000. Those figures go to prove that it was not the cost of the drink that made the people sober in those days because from the year 1900 to 1913 there was no increase in the duty. During that period the ordinary individual citizen in the country could procure both beer and spirits for at least quarter the price that he has to pay to-day.
I am convinced that it would not in any way increase drunkenness. It is true that more people might be able to avail of what I claim to be their right to partake of liquor; but it does not necessarily follow that it would be the same people who take it to-day who would drink more if liquor cost less, because there are many people who, as Deputy Daly has said, are scarcely able to procure it. I remember when the late Sir Thomas Macardle was giving evidence before the Liquor Commission he was asked was it not a fact that carters coming in to Dublin spend the whole day, from early morning to late at night, at wayside public-houses, at the cross-roads or elsewhere, in the vicinity of the city. Sir Thomas leant back in his chair, smiled at his questioner, and asked him was he aware of the rate of wages that those carters got. The questioner said he was not. "Well," said Sir Thomas, "if you were aware of the amount of wages received by those carters and the cost of drink, you would know that they could not remain there from early morning to late at night drinking at these wayside public-houses." Therefore, I say it will not increase the amount of drunkenness.
Everyone knows that the drunkard is there and if he wants to get drink he will get it; the fact that it costs more will not prevent the dipsomaniac from procuring it. Unfortunately, it is true that in many cases he procures it at the cost, not only of himself, but also of the health and happiness of his family. We all know these facts. I say that to reduce the cost of intoxicating liquor to ordinary, reasonable figures, making it available to ordinary average temperate men—and I use the word "temperate" in the proper sense; I do not mean teetotal—will not necessarily increase the amount of drunkenness. It will tend to give average temperate citizens what they are entitled to and will not make intoxicating liquor available for certain classes as against the masses of the people.
I want it to be thoroughly understood that I am not speaking against one side or the other in this controversy over liquor. I speak neither for the prohibitionists on the one side nor the licensed trade on the other. I think it is only fair to the general bulk of the community that when people style themselves temperate, temperance advocates and reformers, they should prove themselves to be so, and not in reality be teetotal prohibitionists. We know quite well the state of affairs in America. What is the principal obstacle to the doing away with prohibition in America to-day? Everybody knows that it is not the advocacy of prohibition; everybody knows the one obstacle to doing away with the existing state of prohibition is what is known as the boot-leggers. The boot-leggers are the gentlemen who have, by surreptitious means, secured to themselves a very lucrative and profit-making occupation. They have succeeded, because of prohibition, in bringing into the country liquor, especially in the shape of spirits—and we are told bad spirits at that—and they have been enabled by this law to deluge the country with bad spirits and to make an enormous profit thereby.
I say that very shortly your principal prohibitionist advocates, or your principal advocates for heavy duties upon beer and spirits will not be your temperance reformers but your poteen makers. Everyone knows also that while these excessive duties have been on poteen making has increased, probably increased one hundredfold throughout the country. It may be said that we have passed measures to bring these people to justice and that they can be prosecuted. That is all very well. Is there any Deputy in this House who comes from a country con stituency who can say that, to his knowledge, poteen making has been extinguished throughout the country, and that the prosecutions have been successful.
I say it has been lessened.
One Deputy from Galway says that poteen making has been lessened. I accept his opinion on the matter, but there are other Deputies from Galway, too. I suggest the temptation is so strong for these people to make this article while the duties remain as they are, that no process of law and no prosecutions, no matter how diligently, earnestly and ardently they are proceeded with, can put a stop to it. It is just the same as the boot-legging in America. Efforts have been made there to stop that, and it has not been stopped. Therefore, I would urge upon the Committee, firstly, from the point of view of the right of the individual; secondly, from the point of view of the trade and the industry itself, and thirdly, and by no means least of all, from the point of view of the Minister for Finance, and the revenue of the country, that we should now proceed to reduce these duties not by an abnormal or extravagant means but, in the case of beer, by the amount that they have been reduced to in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and in the case of whiskey, by such a sum as would bring some benefit to our whiskey distilleries, which have given, and are giving even now, a certain amount of employment and which, without doubt, have been of benefit to the farmers.
On that point, I do not think it would be out of place if I made one little quotation from the case that has been made and broadcasted, by which I mean that it has probably been sent to Deputies, or else they have read it in the papers. I think it is a very striking argument in favour of the case put forward by the Irish distillers. It runs as follows:—
"Not many years ago when the duty was eleven shillings per proof gallon there were twelve distilleries working in what is now the Free State, purchasing annually from Irish farmers close on one million barrels of barley. At present there are only three distilleries working with a total output of less than one-fourth of the full capacity, and the number of barrels of barley required scarcely exceeds fifty thousand."
That case speaks for itself. I know that it is a case which applies equally, if not more so, to the brewing industry. If you continue the present duties you will have most, if not all, of the smaller breweries closed down; you may have one large monopoly in a certain portion of the country which will be able not only to control the trade itself but also the farm produce.
That is so. You certainly will have that and you will also have the number of distilleries reduced. You may not, in fact, have any at all in a short time. It may be argued, as I have said, from the moral and revenue points of view, but I hope, if a discussion is to take place upon this amendment, that Deputies will bear in mind that the proposal is not that there should be greater facilities for getting drunk, but rather that these few remaining industries may be preserved and that that reduction and that preservation will be a benefit both to the agricultural and industrial community and also to the Exchequer.
I am sorry that Deputies Daly and Redmond, in framing their amendment, did not endeavour to give some preference to the small breweries and distilleries, as against the larger firms which control these industries in this country.
That was foremost in my mind. I would rather see all the small breweries creeping up and getting back their old trade than have a monopoly.
I want to suggest that the effect of the amendment, if carried, would leave the small breweries relatively in the same position to the big breweries as they are to-day, as the amendment aims at a general, all-round reduction which would apply to the small as well as to the large breweries. I want to impress on the Minister and his advisers the desirability of meeting in some way the case for the small breweries, and I do so simply because I happen to be one of the representatives of a constituency that has suffered more by the abolition of small breweries and distilleries than, I believe, any other constituency. Large numbers of workers have been thrown out of employment in Tullamore and other parts of my constituency as a result of this extermination of the breweries and distilleries.
Let me say frankly that I have been approached by the workers, and I have had access to the books and documents of one of the few breweries left in the country, and the case which I put forward is to enable that one small brewery, the only one left, I believe, in my constituency, to carry on and give employment to 130 or 140 workers, who receive decent wages, and to continue in circulation a sum of about £25,000 in that area all the year round. I understand that the Minister for Finance was recently approached by a deputation representing the small breweries and distilleries and that a suggestion, in my opinion a wise one, was put forward, which would enable a rebate to be given on the first ten or fifteen thousand gallons brewed. That was put forward as the last hope of enabling these breweries to carry on and give employment.
There is one brewery in my constituency which distributes in salary and wages close on twenty-five thousand pounds a year, and up to three years ago about thirty thousand barrels of malting barley used to be purchased for the firm of Guinness. The amount they purchased last year, according to my information, was less than half the amount purchased in the same locality three years ago. While the wages bill in that particular brewery has remained stationery, the output has been reduced by more than half. I am told that unless something is done in this year's Budget to deal with that situation it will have to close down and the workers, who have been given employment for the last twenty or thirty years, will be thrown out of work without much hope of finding other employment in the locality. If the output was 20,000 barrels and if the Minister gave a rebate of five shillings per barrel it would only mean a loss in revenue of £5,000. I suggest that that is very small when contrasted with the loss in wages and the amount of money circulated in the district. If this particular brewery is wiped out it will mean that the market which hitherto existed for malting barley in a large area in my constituency will go with it. I am certain that the appeal I am making to the Minister to find some way out of the difficulty will not have to be made twelve months hence, because, unless some concession such as that suggested by the deputation referred to is made in the present Budget, these breweries will have to close down.
The Deputy must speak to the amendment.
I am speaking in favour of the amendment, and I quite realise that the Minister could find many good arguments against it. If the Minister says that an all-round reduction, as proposed by Deputy Redmond and Deputy Daly, is to be carried out, but that the loss of revenue will have to be made good by the imposition of a tax on the necessaries of life. I must say that I could not vote for it.
I do not want it imposed at the expense of the necessaries of life. Stout is one of the necessaries of life.
The output as regards this particular small brewery, and other small breweries that remain, has been reduced because of the lower cost of the production of Bass's ale which comes in here with a lower duty imposed on it so that it can cut out the small breweries which have to pay higher taxes. I put the case to the Minister from the point of view of employment given by these small breweries, and if he takes the view that they will have to go, let him say so, and let him take on his shoulders the responsibility for throwing men out of employment in a constituency where they have little hope of getting other work.
I desire to support Deputy Davin's statement. Like him, I am a representative of Leix and Offaly, and I may say that he has put the case very fairly, particularly from the point of view of labour. Apart from labour, the question is one which concerns the farmer, the ratepayer and other sections of the community. I trust that the Minister will see his way to meet the case put by Deputy Davin. Otherwise there will be a huge loss to my constituency and to the country generally.
I am afraid that what I am going to say to the Minister will not be in favour of either stout, beer, or whiskey, as I am not interested in them.
You are interested in barley.
I am interested in the welfare of the country. The one fact the Minister has to face is that the national taste demands a certain amount of drink. I will not say whether that is right or not. We have sufficient material to supply the national demand. It is not a question of creating or fostering new industries, but of giving a fair crack of the whip, so to speak, to our present industries and to see that they are not handicapped. They do suffer from a handicap at present, as compared with outside products. We must face the fact that a certain amount of liquor is consumed. A certain amount of it comes from outside and any money that goes to pay for that is lost to the country.
You are talking protection now.
I am not talking protection. If I say that foreign ale and malt come in practically free and that a handicap is put on home products I am not talking protection, but I want fair play for home products. I am not concerned with brewery products, but we must see that our own industries are not suffering from a handicap.
Is the Deputy concerned with the sale of raw material?
I am not speaking personally.
The nation is concerned with raw material, but, personally, I am not concerned either with consumption or production. I hope Deputy Davin has again got his point, whatever his point was. He is a wonderful man to interrupt.
I got the answer I wanted.
Then I hope the Deputy is satisfied. The only point I want to stress is that the home industry should not be handicapped against the outsider, and I hope that where a handicap exists, and that it ought to be removed.
I want to say a word on this question from the point of view of the farmer. Hitherto there was at least a little competition between the distillers and the brewers. As is well known, the distillers purchased large quantities of home-grown barley and oats. The competition has to a great extent been done away with owing to the fact that the distilleries, handicapped, I believe, by the very high duties that are imposed on spirits, have nearly all gone out of action. I believe that only one distillery in the country is working at present. There was a distillery in the town of Monasterevan, in my own constituency, owned by a very old-established firm which employed about 100 men or over. That has been closed down and the whole place has been dismantled. The Jews bought the distilling apparatus, for what purpose I do not know, but at any rate the whole place is derelict and the relief of these 100 men has been put on the ratepayers of the county.
I have it on very good authority that last year, when the price of barley was about to be fixed, £1 3s. 6d. was settled upon as the price that would be paid, but when the people who wanted the barley found that the distillers were not functioning they brought the price down to £1 and finally to 18/-. That shows the effect of these high duties upon the farming industry, especially tillage farming, which has been so warmly challenged by a gentleman outside these benches, as well as by many Deputies here. As Deputy Gorey said, we must all recognise that a certain amount of spirits and beer is being and will be consumed in the country except we adopt prohibition and bring in the boot-legger, which would have the effect of causing people to consume not spirits of high quality that we mostly get at present, but very inferior stuff. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to the points put before him and if possible enable these industries to get on their feet again.
I do not think that this amendment is in the interests of the small brewers. Deputy Daly may know what is in the interests of the publicans, but he cannot know what is in the interests of the small brewers. He indicated that in Great Britain when the £1 per bulk barrel was taken off the duty, the brewers gave a concession of 4/- a barrel. A deputation of small brewers who saw me stated that if £1 a barrel were taken off by the Government and if Guinness gave 4/- a barrel off that, it would be the end of the small brewers and they would be wiped out. So that when we hear about the small brewer in connection with this amendment it is just as well to realise that this amendment would not and is not designed to be of any benefit to the small brewers.
If my memory serves me right, I think that Guinness gave a rebate of 10/- a barrel about six months ago.
They did, to kill two small breweries in Dublin.
If they gave 4/- I am sure it would not kill the breweries we have in Cork, because they would follow suit and give a great deal of employment there.
I do not call the Cork breweries small breweries. There are about thirteen breweries in the country that I would call small breweries. Their difficulties are not caused by the high duty; they are caused by the fact that brewing has become centralised, that one great organisation, with a large amount of capital, is able to beat them in competition under this high duty. It would beat them equally under a low duty, and whether anything could be done for the small brewers is a matter that is very difficult to determine. It is certainly a very difficult thing to say that the legislature should proceed to discriminate against an efficient concern in favour of inefficient concerns.
Does that not apply in the case of tariffs on imported articles?
If one shopkeeper is not doing well and another shopkeeper is doing well, it would seem a very strange thing to ask the legislature to do something to discriminate against the efficient man and in favour of the inefficient man. Various proposals were put up to me by the small brewers, but they seemed to be unsound. They were proposals which would have involved a loss of about £130,000 a year to the Exchequer and no gain to the consumer, and I believe no gain to the farmer or to anybody except the owners of these concerns. When I used the word "inefficient" I did not wish to cast any aspersions on them; they are simply, in fact, not able to compete. A reduction of the duty is a matter which, as I say, will not help the small brewers as against the large brewer. Take the consumption of beer in the sense in which that word is used. The production of beer in this country is not falling to pieces. The brewing industry is a prosperous industry. There may have been some little decline, but at present it is a prosperous industry. There is no need for a reduction of duty in order to help the brewing industry. So that really you may take this amendment as being proposed in the interests, shall I say, of the publicans and, perhaps, in the interests of the consumers, but it has nothing to do with the brewing industry.
In England they gave a reduction of £1 on the bulk barrel. If we gave the same reduction it would practically work out, having regard to the strength at which beer is brewed here, at £1 per standard barrel, and I believe we would have something like the results they had in Great Britain, and perhaps results not as favourable to the Exchequer. In Great Britain, before the duty was reduced, they got £100,000,000 from the beer duty. In the second year after the reduction took place, when any disturbing factors due to the change had been removed, they got £82,000,000. The consumption went up by about ten per cent. It is doubtful whether the consumption would go up by ten per cent. here. I do not believe that it would. I believe that there would be a very small increase in consumption. But if there was an increase of ten per cent. in the consumption the result would be a loss to the revenue of £450,000. The loss would range from somewhere about £700,000, which would be the outside figure, assuming practically no increase, down to £450,000, if there was a ten per cent. increase in consumption. But I do not believe that we could anticipate such an increase. If there were to be a loss of £450,000 of revenue that money would have to be got somewhere else. We could not afford to drop it; our whole Budget would be upset. We would have to look around and see where we could get £450,000, and I do not see any way to get £450,000 that would be as good a way as this. You cannot get a big sum like that by taxing small luxury articles. If you look over the import and export list you can see various items on which you might impose customs duty, but it is very difficult to see where you could get a big sum like this without taxing articles of absolute necessity. Small luxury articles will not bring in much revenue. If you took the whole range of them, leaving out certain articles like wheat and coal, and put on a tariff of a substantial amount you might get £450,000, but you would have to cast your net very wide, and I do not think it would be a practicable thing to do suddenly. If this amendment were to be passed, and whoever was succeeding me was trying to find means of getting revenue, I believe we would have to fall back on a tax on some article of absolute necessity, and we would be substituting some far more undesirable provision. I do not see how it is possible for the Dáil to accept this amendment. I do not believe that a ten per cent. increase in the consumption of liquor would do any harm, because the consumption of liquor here is fairly moderate. But if you did not want to lose this £450,000 there would require to be an enormous increase in the consumption of liquor, an increase that I certainly would regard as entirely undesirable. As I say, I do not think there would be even a ten per cent. increase, but assuming that there would be a twenty-five to thirty per cent. increase so that the loss would be wiped out, I do not think that would be very desirable. I do not think it could happen, but if it could happen it would not be desirable. I do not think that this amendment, which has nothing to do with the brewing industry, should be passed.
Will the Minister deal with the whiskey duty now?
The same kind of arguments apply in relation to the whiskey duty. To have no loss of revenue if we took 22/6 off the whiskey duty there would require to be a 45 per cent. increase. I do not believe there would be a 45 per cent. increase, and I would not like to see it. Whatever we did in the way of a reduction would certainly mean a very substantial loss.
What is the value of foreign whiskey coming into the country?
The duty estimated to be received is about £725,000, and about £2,300,000 on the home-made spirits.
What is the duty received on foreign beer?
£200,000, and £3,450,000 on home-brewed beer.
I do not think it would be politic or desirable or that it would be desired by the brewery people that we should discriminate between foreign produced liquors and the home produced, because, of the beer brewed in this country, two-thirds is exported. If anything were done to reduce that export trade, it would be a serious thing for the country, and would outweigh enormously any benefit we should get by reducing the amount of imported foreign beer. In regard to whiskey, any hope there is for real prosperity in the distilling industry depends on that industry recovering the foreign market. If it can do that, well and good. If it cannot there will be no great prosperity for it here. If there was to be the great reduction in the whiskey duty that has been suggested, it would be of trivial advantage to the distilling industry: something that would give it no elbow room at all in comparison with facilitating it to recover the foreign market. If, as is suggested, the whiskey duty were to be reduced by 22/6 a gallon, there would be a loss of revenue to the extent of half a million, or perhaps £700,000, and that would not have any effect on the poteen-making. When the whiskey duty was as low as 11/- per gallon, you had poteen-making in the country.
But not to the extent that we have it now.
The increase that took place in poteen-making was partly due to the increase in the spirit duty and partly to the conditions in the country. If there had not been disturbed conditions in the country there would probably have been some increase in poteen-making, but if we were to reduce the spirit duty to 50/- a gallon there would still be a profit so high for the poteen-maker as for all practical purposes to provide him with as much inducement as he has at present for making poteen. Whatever reduction there may be in poteen-making, it will not take place as a result of reducing the duty on spirits to 50/- a gallon. I should say that from the point of view of reducing poteen-making, it would have no effect if you were to reduce the spirit duty to 11/- or 12/-. Of course, it would make some difference, but, then, such a reduction as that is out of the question altogether because it would mean either that the country would have to debauch itself with whiskey or that our taxation from spirits would disappear. The position is that we cannot afford to reduce the spirit duty by 22/6 to 50/- a gallon. Whiskey may be used occasionally for medicinal purposes, but it certainly is a luxury, and it would not be desirable that we should be driven to reimpose increased tea duties or increased sugar duties or to put some additional duty on wearing apparel, flour or wheat in order to reduce the spirit duty. I do not think that would be desirable, or that it is a thing the Dáil should seriously contemplate.
I want to refer to the views of the Minister as to the effect upon revenue of his anticipated concentration of the whole brewing industry of the country in the hands of one firm. That is a matter which, from the revenue point of view as well as from the general political point of view, is of very great concern. I wonder whether the Minister has realised the possible effects on the revenue of the closing down of all the small breweries in the name of efficiency in competition. I suggest to him that it may be worth the spending of a considerable sum of money to keep in being the smaller breweries if we are to rely to so great an extent in the future as at present on revenue derived from beer. To give a monopoly to the extent that one can anticipate means that the Minister for Finance in the future is going to be putty in the hands of the owners of that firm. All they will have to do is to threaten to remove their brewery or something of the kind and the Minister must give way.
That would not lose any revenue.
It would certainly be a loss of revenue if there was no consumption of the products of Guinness's brewery.
A substitute could be used.
But not if the other breweries were closed down.
The Minister says it could be imported. I think the possibilities of wiping out all rivals are of a kind which we ought not to view with unconcern. It may well be worth the revenue loss which will be occasioned to take such revenue steps as would secure the survival of the small breweries. I acknowledge that the Minister's argument is conclusive regarding the effect of this amendment, that is to say that it will not mean the survival of the small breweries. It may possibly mean an increase in the consumption of beer, and it may mean a saving to the consumer, but from the industrial point of view I do not think it is going to have any valuable effect at all. I support the views suggested by Deputy Davin that at some cost to the revenue it is worth while to keep in existence the small breweries of the country and not let them be wiped out on the score that the big brewery is more efficient. The Minister has, of course, explained that the term is only used in the very narrow technical sense —that is to say that in meeting the desires of the public this firm is more efficient in producing or advertising an article to secure a demand. I would ask the Minister if he has any figures to put forward showing whether in any increase of consumption that there has been there was increased production in Guinness's brewery, and whether concurrent with that increase it led to an increase in the employment of labour, speaking in the gross. I think it has not, and I think that the cost to the community of wiping out all the small breweries more than counterbalances any social advantage which the concentration in one efficient industrial concern provides.
Sitting suspended at 6.15 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.,AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE in the Chair.
As was to be anticipated, the Minister's reply, for the most part, took the form of asking how he could possibly find the deficit which would be brought about, in his judgment, by the proposed reduction in beer and spirit duties. He says even if there was a ten per cent. increase in consumption, which he, at the same time doubts, that there would be probably a deficit of about £450,000 to be met by the Minister for Finance this time next year. I am not disputing the Minister's contention in that regard, though at the same time I am not to be taken as agreeing with it. But what I would like to ask him—I have done so previously—is, supposing that the duty is allowed to remain as it is at present, is he in a position to say that there will not be a deficit, or that there will not be a deficit almost if not as great as this £450,000. This year, in his own Budget statement, he showed to the Dáil that there was a huge deficit—I think it was in or about the figures he has mentioned—in regard to beer. It may not have been as large in regard to spirits, but certainly for the last two years it has been almost about the same sum. What I want to know is if the duties remain what they are will the Minister not also have to find the difference which he anticipates he would have to make up if the duties were reduced, and if that is so would it not be more beneficial for the industry and for the country generally, if the duty were reduced.
Mention has been made by several speakers of the position of the small breweries. With the general sentiments in that regard I am entirely in accord. I quite agree that this amendment in itself might not necessarily be of particular benefit to small breweries as in competition with or against the larger ones, but, at the same time, one cannot disregard the fact that small breweries would have equally as good a chance, and probably a better one, if the duty was reduced, than they have at present. Certainly, this amendment in no way would injure the small breweries, and it might possibly—I will not go further than this—render it more easy for them to carry on for the future than it is, when the duty is so excessive, at the moment. I would be the very first to support any amendment on the lines laid down by Deputy Davin, Deputy Johnson, and other speakers which would bring relief to the small breweries. Deputy Davin, of course, is not an exception in having one of these decaying industries, which they undoubtedly are at the moment, in his constituency. Probably there are many other Deputies in the same position.
Apart from that, I think, instead of having a monopoly confined to one centre of the country, and giving employment there, that it is desirable and it is right that existing industries, small as they may be, should be kept in existence as far as possible, scattered throughout the country, and if any amendment is proposed to that effect, giving a chance to these small breweries, I certainly shall endeavour to be the first to go into the lobbies to support it. That does not at the same time mean that I do not believe in the amendment I am proposing. The amendment I propose, as the Minister for Finance himself has stated, is directly in the interest of the consumers, and much as I would desire to see those engaged in the brewing and distilling industries continue their employment, I am speaking, I hope, in the interests of the vast bulk of the people who are not therein engaged, but who desire to exercise their right to purchase certain commodities at a reasonable price.
I cannot follow the argument put forward that if this reduction is made there would necessarily have to be some future imposition on the necessities of life. There was a deficit this year—a very heavy deficit in this very heavy duty—and the Minister has by certain ways and means estimated that he shall make up for it in the Budget for the coming year. He did not think it necessary to make impositions on necessities of life. I believe if these duties are not reduced that there will be another deficit this time next year, and that he will have to provide for it just as he provided for it this year. I do not say that it necessarily means that he will have to go out of his way to impose duties upon the necessities of life. I do not think that that is altogether a conclusive argument against the amendment. I believe the only answer the Minister has is that this deficit will be there. My reply to that is if the duties continue as they are there will be a deficit also, and that it is worth while, for the sake of the employees engaged in the factories, for the sake of the industries themselves, and for the sake of the general consumer, to make the reduction, which is a small one, which is a reasonable one, and which is one similar to the one which has already been made in Great Britain, and I do not think the Exchequer would be in a bit worse position this time next year than if they continued the duties as they exist at present.
In regard to distilleries, the Minister seems to suggest that they would be no better off if the spirit duty was reduced. That might be his opinion. I do not think that is the opinion of the distillers. I think the distillers have approached him—certainly they have approached Deputies of this House. There were various intimations from them that they desire such a reduction, and the distillers surely should know something about their own business. I submit that though the Minister may not think this reduction would be a benefit to the distilleries, that the distillers are of a very different opinion. Therefore, I do not think that the Minister has conclusively answered the case which has been made for a reduction of these two duties.
It has been stated that this amendment, if passed, would not be of any benefit to the small brewers and distillers. It means a reduction amounting to one-sixth on spirits, and a pound per barrel on beer. If the reduction is agreed to, I think that without any increase in drunkenness the Exchequer will be, if anything, benefited. You have done everything in your power to increase the cost of living on the general worker of the Saorstát. Furthermore, you have advised the local authorities to reduce the wages of the workers. The wage to-day is something like 33 or 35 per cent. less than it was in 1921.
That question does not arise.
It does, sir, on the price of liquor. Yet you are charging the very same duty to-day as the British Government charged in this country in 1920. I have in mind the distillery in Kilbeggan, where seventy people were employed. Those men were earning a good wage. There was something like one thousand acres of land under barley, portion in Leix and Offaly, and portion in Westmeath. Each year there was something like 10,000 pigs raised by the small farmers in the district. You have to-day two employers in Kilbeggan, and you have not twenty acres of land under barley, while the return of pigs for Westmeath is 2,450 as against 10,000.
Is the Deputy sure of that?
Yes, sir, quite sure of it. I do not see why the Government cannot reduce the duty on beer and spirits. The Minister for Finance may argue that it would mean a loss to the Exchequer, or that it would increase drunkenness. It will do nothing of the kind. It might mean more work for the publican; it would keep him more busy behind the counter, but it will never increase drunkenness, because at the present time, even if the workers could buy drink at 4d. a pint, they could not afford to buy a quantity that would make them intoxicated. I am giving pure facts. I have received resolutions from every part of Westmeath and Longford asking me to do my utmost in the Dáil to get the price of beer and spirits reduced in order to give those small publicans and those employed in the industries an opportunity of living in the State.
If you continue the duty of £5 per barrel on stout and £3 12s. 6d. per proof gallon on spirits, you must realise that you are not carrying out the wishes of the people. You may be carrying out the wishes of a few Pussyfoots or a few people who, if they took a glass, could not stop until they would reach a state of intoxication. These people advocate temperance. They go to the Government and tell them not to reduce the price, but to increase it if possible. They tell them that a reduction in price means an increase in drunkenness and increased demoralisation. The Government are led by those few people and they pay no attention to the appeal of the majority of the people. I ask the Dáil to agree with this amendment. If they do so, they will be enabling men who are unemployed to find employment. I wonder if the Minister for Finance realises that there is £3,000 a week earned in the city of Dublin on the manufacture of liquor? Is he aware that if the present prices continue these people will all be out of employment? The small distilleries in the Saorstát are dismissing their hands because of the high duty. The people will not allow the Government to crush them into the mire.
There are numbers of small farmers who, if the distilleries were working— and they would all be working if this reduction were given—would be able to take their barley into the distilleries and take back the offal for pig-feeding. In Kilbeggan, where the people were prosperous, they are now idle and practically starving. The Government have introduced the Trades Loans Act and other measures to encourage industry, but with one stroke of the pen the Minister for Finance could give employment to 2,500 people. I am beginning to think that the Government are not serious with regard to the relief of the unemployed. If they were, they would accept this amendment. Take the ordinary man working on the quays in Dublin. He has probably for his dinner a pint of stout and a piece of bread and cheese. That man is charged one shilling for the pint of stout. How do you expect a man in that position to be able to pay 6/- a week for stout? That is only an allowance of one pint per day. Surely a man working hard deserves more than one pint per day? Reduce the price to 8d. and he will then be able to get an extra pint when he is finished in the afternoon. He will begin to think then that the State has done something to reduce the cost of living.
The Minister may say that drink is a luxury. It is a food and a necessary food in a lot of cases. When hardworking men have no time to go home to their meals, they simply go into a bar and get a pint and a sandwich. These men would work on that better than the Minister for Finance could work on a lunch of roast turkey and ham. But we do not allow a man of that class to have his pint except he has a shilling to pay for it. He cannot get a glass of whiskey for his wife, or for his child, if sick, except he has one and eightpence. The whiskey may be ordered by the doctor and the life of the patient may depend on it, but it cannot be got except the man has 1/8 or except the publican is kind enough to give it to him free. I ask the Minister for Finance to reconsider his view of this amendment and to give some reduction equivalent to the reduction in wages. I do not speak for the lord or the rancher or the railway director who can purchase liquor regardless of price. I speak for the man in the street. There is no man in the Dáil knows the situation as regards the worker better than the President. He has had practical experience and he knows the amount that a worker requires to keep body and soul together. The President has more experience in this regard than the Minister for Finance. He saw those men go into his place, when he was in business, and he knows that he never had occasion to order them out. We are asking the Government to reduce this duty on beer and spirits, so that people in the same business as others were some time ago may be able to improve their position. It is absolutely essential that the high duty on beer and spirits be reduced. I am sure the Minister for Finance would not like to see this country "dry." If the workers of the Saorstát were to say "We will drink no more," and the publicans were to say "We will sell no more," I wonder what would be the position of the Exchequer? There would have to be another loan to make up for the loss. If the worker gets his drink more cheaply it does not mean that he is going to work more cheaply. I do not suggest that at all, but I say that it will help him to give a little more to the upkeep of his home.
Year after year I have advocated the reduction of the duty on spirits and this evening I do so again. The duty of £3 12s. 6d. upon a gallon of whiskey is absolutely oppressive. And for whose benefit? For the benefit of the Scotch patent-still distillers. But that is not my main reason for advocating a reduction of the duty upon whiskey. My main reason is that unless the duty on whiskey is reduced, we will never do away with the poteen evil. I think the wiping out of the poteen evil would be worth £450,000 in one year. I am fortified in my opinion about this matter of the reduction of duty on spirits, because I am just after discovering that that was the opinion of the late Mr. Gladstone. And Mr. Gladstone was as wise a man as there is in this House. The Minister for Finance will have to find an alternative tax. As regards a tax on tea, it really makes no difference. The 2/- tea will be sold as 2/- tea whether you increase or reduce the tax, and the 3/- tea will be sold at 3/-. It is simply a matter of blending, and the blenders will turn out stuff seemingly as good as the stuff they turned out before.
Táim cinnte go mbeidh Teachta Liam O Réamain in ánn an cupla focal atá agam le rádh a thuigsint. Do labhair sé ar cheist an phoitín agus dubhairt sé go rabh an obair ag dui ar agaidh nios láidre fa láthair na mar bhi araimh. Diarr sé orainn é sin a bhréagnú da dtiocfadh linn. Ní raibh Teachta on. Iarthar i lathair an t-am san act mé fhéin agus do bhréag mé an sgeil. Bréagnuighim an sgeal arís anois agus os rud go bhfuil Teachtai ó Chonnadae Mhuigheo agas aiteacha eile san Iarthar i láthair anois, iarram ortha an sgeil a bhreagnú cho maith. Deirim go bhfuil ceist an phoitin in uadhacht bháis ar fud na tíre.
Lest the Deputy from Waterford might not understand the few remarks I have made, I should like to explain them. The Deputy stated that if his amendment were not carried the poteen evil would increase and that it is stronger now than it ever was before. He asked if there was anybody in the House to deny that. I happened to be the only Deputy from the Western area present at the time. I represent an area where the poteen evil was very strong and I denied the Deputy's statement. I pointed out that the evil was decreasing. There are other Deputies from the West present now and I ask them to support me in the statement that the poteen evil was never in such a parlous condition as it is at the present time. It is practically broken in Connemara, which was, I suppose, the capital of the poteen industry. It is practically broken in Connemara and all over the West. If we continue to carry on as at present there will shortly be an end of the poteen industry.
I simply want to say that from all the information that I have at my disposal the position with regard to poteen is exactly as Deputy Nicholls has said. It is very much on the wane, particularly since the legislation, which the Dáil thought fit to pass, giving power to control the raw material or certain raw material for poteen within scheduled areas, came into operation. All the information that I get from the Gárda Síochána; all the information that I get from outside civilian sources points to the same state of affairs: that it is becoming daily a more difficult and a more dangerous matter for those who are engaged in that particular industry. Incidentally, owing to the firmness of most of the District Justices, it is becoming an expensive matter following on detection. In Donegal it is almost wiped out and along the west, in Connemara and other places, it is very considerably reduced. I should say that it exists in much smaller proportions than perhaps has ever been the case before.
I am sorry that after due consideration of this matter I am unable to support the amendment of Deputy Daly for two reasons. I do not see how we are going to get over the point made by the Minister, that he could not afford to give up the £450,000 revenue that he has estimated for and that he would have to put it on the necessaries of life. That, I think, almost prevents any Deputy from voting for the amendment. But the second point carries a good deal of weight with me also, namely, whether the consumer would get any benefit from this reduction. I have very little hope of getting fair play for the consumer from the licensed trade. At all events, as far as I know, they gave no concession for the ten shillings per barrel which has lately been conceded to them by Messrs. Guinness. Furthermore, after a very careful investigation, the first Food Commission, of which I was a member, recommended that the price of stout per bottle should be sixpence-half-penny, giving, as we thought, a very good average profit. Not the slightest notice was taken of that and the price has been kept up by the Dublin trade, as far as I know, at one shilling per pint and eightpence per bottle for stout, whereas in Cork, in the West of Ireland, and even up in the County Antrim, where they have to pay for the carriage of the stout, you can get it for sixpence or sevenpence per bottle. So that we have the Dublin licensed trade standing out against all recommendations made and still insisting upon their shilling per pint, and eightpence per bottle for stout.
If a reduction of £1 were granted by the Minister, that would mean five-sixths of a penny per pint. In my opinion that would be taken advantage of by the retail trade, and would not mean that a penny would be taken off to the consumer. It would, perhaps, mean a halfpenny at the outside. If the duty were reduced by £2 it would amount to one and two-thirds of a penny per pint. How that would work out I am not prepared to say. The point I want to make is, that I do not think, in view of what the Minister said, that we can very well vote for the amendment, because he would have to put extra taxation on the necessaries of life, and, in the second place, I am not sure that the consumer would get the benefit. Deputy Gorey unquestionably made a point which appealed to me very strongly—that we should not have a higher duty upon the native article than on that imported. That is a point that is very well worth considering, and when it comes to Deputy Redmond's amendment I may be able to support him—I do not know yet. At all events, I do not feel able to support the present amendment.
I should like to correct a statement made by Deputy Gorey. I did not correct it at the time because I thought it was only a slip of the tongue and that the Dáil knew he was wrong. There is no such thing as a higher duty charged on home-made spirits than on spirits imported.
When I, with other Deputies of the Labour Party, supported and partly applauded the first Protectionist Budget of the Minister for Finance, I did so clearly realising that it was a means of making inefficient industries more efficient. When I subsequently supported the Trade Loans (Guarantee) Bill, now an Act, I did so realising that money would be guaranteed by the Government under that Act to help to make the firms that were being paralysed through inefficiency more efficient and capable of meeting the great competition arising from mass production from outside. I say that because the Minister rather allowed us to infer from his reply that he was leaning towards the bigger brewing firms because of the fact that they were more efficient than the smaller breweries in turning out beer and stout.
The Minister told us that the revenue from beer imported into the Free State, during last year I presume, amounted to £120,000. The revenue from imported beer is, I presume, largely the result of the duty collected on Bass's ale from Burton. The Minister also told us that the proposal put before him by the representatives of the small breweries would mean a loss of approximately £130,000 in revenue. I gathered from him that the proposal of the small brewers was to reduce the duty on beer, to them at any rate, by £1 per barrel. Therefore, I take it, the output of the small breweries, or those that the Minister is prepared to put in the position of small breweries, would be at the rate of 130,000 barrels per annum. When I put up a suggestion for a preference—if you like you can call it internal protection for the small brewers—to allow them to carry on and to employ whatever number they employ at present, I put it up for a far smaller figure than that. I gathered from one of the principal men in a small brewery in my area, when I met him accompanied by the workers on a recent occasion, that a far smaller rebate than the amount proposed to the Minister by that deputation would meet the case, and enable them to carry on for the present.
It may, as I say, be claimed that what I am putting forward is tantamount to internal protection, but does the Minister realise that in supporting and putting before this Dáil the Beet Subsidy Bill, which is now an Act, giving £2,000,000 as a subsidy for the beet industry as against other home industries, he was favouring a policy of internal protection? I cited a case in my area—and I must keep it before my mind because I know what the result of doing nothing in this particular case will mean—where the maximum output at present would be in or about 20,000 barrels. If you allowed a five shilling rebate, which would be the minimum, to that small brewery as against the monopoly, it would only mean a loss in revenue of £5,000 per year.
If the output of all the small breweries is 130,000 barrels per annum, it would only mean a loss in revenue of £32,500 for all of them.
The Minister must have at his disposal, as a result of the case that was put before him, the number of men employed by the small breweries, and I ask him to reconsider the matter and take into consideration the number of men that are likely to be thrown out of employment during the coming year, because I believe these breweries will be wiped out during the coming year unless something is done for them in this Budget. I ask the Minister to take into consideration the loss of wages and of the money that would otherwise be put into circulation if the breweries are allowed to be wiped out. In the brewery I referred to the salaries and wages bill would amount approximately to £25,000 per year. I am sure the Minister will appreciate what the loss of the circulation of that money will mean in that area, especially when it is taken into consideration that there is no possible chance whatever of any other form of employment being found for the men now employed in that brewery if it goes out of existence. The same thing applies to the other small breweries and distilleries.
I am told that previous to the closing down of the Dublin Distillers' Company and Power's Distillery, their wages bill was in or about £3,500 per week. Consider what that means to the men thrown out of employment and to the shopkeepers and others in the localities where they reside. Deputy Lyons amazed me when he spoke about the wages bill of the brewery workers in Dublin amounting to £3,500. I imagine it is much above that figure.
What I meant was that owing to the number now unemployed the amount paid in wages is less by that amount.
I think the information I have given as regards the loss in wages as a result of the closing down of the Dublin Distillers' Company and Power's Distillery is fairly correct. The wiping out of the small breweries would also mean destroying the local markets for the purchase of malting barley in those areas and giving the preference to Messrs. Guinness and Co., who import most of the malting barley necessary for the production of the stout they manufactured. These things should be taken into consideration.
From what I know of the facts of the case—and I may say that I had an opportunity of going into all the details of the working of this concern recently—if the Minister does not give way on this occasion and in this Budget nobody will have an opportunity on the next Budget of making a plea on behalf of the small breweries, because they will not exist, and the Minister and his advisers, and the Government as a whole, will have to shoulder the responsibility for throwing a large number of men out of work in areas where no other suitable form of employment can be found for them. Take Kilbeggan, on one side of the constituency of Leix and Offaly. Deputy Lyons stated that seventy-five men were employed in that distillery. I have heard that at one time 750 men were employed in that distillery. Perhaps the Deputy left out the nought. Take Tullamore, in the centre of that constituency, and Monasterevan on the other side, and the one I have in mind, which will close down shortly unless something is done. I am not speaking only from the point of view of the unemployment caused. If these are allowed to close down and men are deprived of employment, then the Minister and his advisers and his colleagues will have to shoulder the responsibility and defend their attitude at a later date. I gathered from the Minister, so far as his reply went, that he was not unsympathetic.
I was asked by Deputy James Cosgrave why I did not bring forward an amendment covering the ground I have travelled over in this discussion. I do not regard myself as the spokesman of the small brewer or the licensed trade, and I merely take advantage of the opportunity afforded to me by the amendment of explaining to the Minister what it will mean if something is not done. I gather that he is not unsympathetic and I ask him to reconsider the whole matter sympathetically before the Report Stage. If he agrees to do so it will meet the point of view that I have put up and which I expressed as representing my constituency. As the Minister must have heard, it is also the point of view of Deputy Dwyer and the other Deputies representing that constituency that has suffered more as a result of the wiping out of the small breweries and distilleries than any other constituency.
On a point of explanation, I do not want to let the Deputy's statement regarding my remarks about Kilbeggan go, especially in the Official Report. The correct number of employees who were engaged was not 750 but 75; that was the actual number in the industry.
Employed previous to the premises being closed down?
I desire to correct a misapprehension on the part of the Minister for Justice. He says that the poteen industry has been more or less wiped out. It is certainly more difficult and dangerous to carry on the industry, and therefore it has to be carried on more secretly. I can assure the Minister, however, that the industry is——
—as vigorous as ever it was. Further, they are making the poteen from a material which they never used before. I do not know anything about the material that they use in Deputy Nicholl's constituency, but I know they are making poteen pretty plentifully elsewhere.
The Minister's main line of defence, and it is an exceedingly strong one, is that to produce the present revenue some seventeen millions are spent on drink. The Minister believes that that is quite enough for us to spend. He does not wish to make up a possible loss of revenue contingent on reduced duties by a greatly increased consumption. I think he might recognise that every worker who has contributed to that seventeen millions feels that he has a grievance and that some, at least of our manufactures are seriously threatened. I think the Minister might chance, for this year, a decrease in his net revenue. He would please the great majority of our people and he would give a chance to threatened industries to increase their output.
Deputy Redmond said we would have a deficit anyway in our yield of liquor duties. We do anticipate certain decreases, but the position is that we have estimated for a certain sum and we have decided our scheme of taxation on the basis of a certain yield from liquor duties. If the proposal in regard to the beer duty is accepted by the Committee, we shall have to estimate the yield at £450,000 less than we estimate it at now, and we cannot wait until next March to rectify the position. If the amendment is passed it will certainly be the duty of some Minister for Finance to take immediate steps next week or as soon as practicable to propose some alternative taxation. If, in addition to the proposed reduction in beer duty, an amendment were carried reducing the spirit duty, it would be necessary to find a further additional sum of, say, £600,000 or £700,000.
There could be no question at all of budgeting for a big deficit and hoping that something would happen to prevent it materialising. Last year we still had a big reservoir in the arrears of income tax and, while the liquor duty did not yield as much as we anticipated, we were able to speed up the collection of the arrears of income tax and come out somewhere like level on our whole tax yield; but the arrears of income tax pool is practically dried up. If any of the existing taxes are now reduced, and there is no alternative tax immediately imposed, there is no blinking the fact that we are refusing to impose the necessary taxation to meet our current expenditure.
I did not understand Deputy MacBride when he said we were imposing a spirit duty which was oppressive and which was for the benefit of Scotch and patent whiskey. The Scotch whiskey and other whiskey which is imported bears duty at the same rate as the home-made article. As Deputy Gorey is back I may as well correct his suggestion that there was some discrimination against the home article in favour of the article produced outside. There is no such discrimination. They all pay equal rates of duty; they are subject to the same regulations of law.
One is a poorer spirit than the other.
Of course, if people take it——
The public are taken in over it.
If the public take it there is nothing to prevent the people here manufacturing any type of spirit that they choose to manufacture. It is really a matter of producing the article the public wants. We have talked a great deal about the small breweries.
The Minister is quite wrong when he mentions what should be done with the whiskey. He may make a very good Minister for Finance, but he would make a very bad publican.
I do not know what Deputy Gorey is referring to.
You were talking about watering whiskey here to a certain point and making it equal to Scotch whiskey.
It can be done, and I am told that sometimes it is done. There was a great deal of talk about the small breweries, and it is difficult to link up the discussions which have taken place with regard to them with the amendment, which would be of no benefit to the small brewers, but probably a disadvantage. I do not want a monopoly, and I see certain advantages in having a number of breweries. But is there anything alarming from the public point of view that would call for the taking of exceptional measures in favour of one manufacturer or group of manufacturers as against another manufacturers or group of manufacturers of the same article in our own territory?
It seems to me the arguments we have heard of giving the special brewer lower duties—charging him taxation at a lower rate—could be applied to charging one manufacturer of cigarettes less duty on his tobacco than another manufacturer of cigarettes. It is utterly unsound to discriminate when you are charging an excise duty between one manufacturer and another in our own territory. The Dáil has taken exception to retrospective legislation and legislation against individuals. Every argument that has been used against that sort of legislation being unsound could be used against the proposal to discriminate in favour of one manufacturer of an article as against another manufacturer of the same article in our own territory.
But the big brewery would be still entitled to a rebate on the first 20,000 barrels.
The object is to have an average duty—to charge them on the average a lower duty per barrel.
Is not the cost of the output per barrel much lower in the case of a big brewer as against the smaller brewer?
You are simply proposing that efficiency and good organisation should be taxed and discriminated against. I do not think that is a good thing.
Does the Minister know the familiar American quotation: "If the public don't control the trusts, the trusts will control the public?"
There might be justification if an article of necessity were concerned. There might be justification, if one saw a monopoly growing up, to take certain steps, but, when you are dealing with an article of luxury, I think it is quite uncalled for. Deputy Johnson mentioned the possibility of a brewery closing down. I daresay the public could just manage to get along quite nicely, although perhaps not quite as good-humouredly in that event. The public has the whip-hand there. In regard to anything which the public can do without for a week, a fortnight, or three months, it has absolutely the whip-hand. There is no danger to the dublic interest involved.
Deputy Johnson seemed to indicate that if you had only one brewery, and that brewery were to threaten to close down, the revenue would be affected. Not at all. People will drink. It has been found in America under the most discouraging circumstances that they will continue to drink alcoholic liquors. If one particular brand were not available another brand would take its place. There are manufacturers of these liquors in many countries who would be very glad to export them here.
Is it not your policy as an advocate of protection to see that the articles we require are manufactured in this country and our workmen are given employment by helping manufactures here?
I am merely answering Deputy Johnson's argument, and perhaps the Deputy will permit me to do that. I say there is no social or public danger threatened by the fact that one firm is growing large here and is able to beat others in competition. There seems to be no justification for the sort of legislation that is being proposed in regard to taxation. There seems to be no justification, when you are charging a beer duty, to try and charge on the average a lower rate of duty to some firms than to others. If we once embark on that all sorts of cases could be made and we would find we would have the system of taxation complicated, inequitable and practically arbitrary, and we would have so much favouritism and consideration of special interests that even any equitable administration of our system would be difficult.
Better raise the quota of emigrants to foreign countries.
It is simply a question of getting our necessary revenue, and if we do not get it off this particular commodity or group of commodities we must get it off some others. We cannot have our prospective revenue reduced by one million or one million one hundred thousand and endeavour to carry on.
The tide of argument frequently beats against a rock and leaves the Ministers untouched and unaffected; but the arguments upon the amendment this evening have evidently brought terror to the soul of the Minister for Finance. I have found from experience here that the Minister never threatens to resign until he is confronted with a situation from which he thinks nothing can be extracted. It is the S.O.S. cry—it has been the S.O.S. cry—"If you do not do this, or if you propose to do that, I will threaten to resign." Under that intimidation by the Ministry, many things have been passed that should not have been passed, and which would not have been passed otherwise. We do not care whether the Minister resigns or not. It leaves us cold. We discuss the thing without any sense of dread. The Minister says—it is a parrot cry—"We must raise our revenue," but, if he said that revenue must be raised of an amount and character suited to the State, we would all assent, as it would simply be a truism. But whatever revenue the policy of the Ministry requires support for must be voted for here and raised. That is a very different proposition. The Minister told us twice in the course of this debate that there was no peril to the State, no risk whatever, in creating a monopoly for one firm and one industry.
Some years before the war I stayed with a friend of mine in the south-east who was making a desperate attempt to keep his brewery on its feet. He showed me, what was to me intensely interesting, the portion of his works devoted to the making of malt, and when I expressed my admiration of the whole process, he said somewhat bitterly: "It is all useless. I have been offered by German travellers this week malt quite as good as mine at a much smaller price." That brewery and three others like it, which I knew, have passed out of existence. That means a loss to the farmers of consumption of so much barley, and it means also so much labour unemployed in that particular district. I may be told in answer to that, that that is foreign competition, and the war removed it. What has happened, however, is that that great firm, which is gathering all the brewing trade into its own hands, now practically is its own maltster.
A neighbour of mine, who was in the malting trade, to my own knowledge, had gone down steadily in income and the explanation he gave was that formerly his best customer was Guinness, and that Guinness now provided for himself. That is the greater organisation and greater efficiency to which, I take it, the Minister alludes—mass capital, mass production. I would like to know if it is the policy of the Ministry to say that they stand for that, that their object is concentration and, what Deputy Davin rightly calls, the destruction of local markets. The big firm which is its own master can buy its own barley at its own price. That is not strictly accurate. It is in a better position to dictate to the farmer the price at which he must sell, because, if that firm does not take it, the farmer will find himself in queer street. Surely our policy of building up the country, of which we heard so much in the first days of this Parliament, the policy of reconstruction, does not involve a policy that makes for the destruction of local centres of activity.
Deputy Davin anticipated me in using the case of the subsidy for beet. I supported the Government through thick and thin in that measure, and my only complaint was that they were not sufficiently thorough-going and had not sufficient confidence in their own enterprise. All that we were doing in granting the subsidy for beet was to embark on the very policy which the Minister for Finance is now opposing. We were doing our best to use the moneys of the people at large to help a section of the people engaged in a particular output, so that, through the improvement of that section, the general level of living would be raised and the industrial life of the nation promoted. We are now told that we are not to do that sort of thing. Is the difference because Guinness is in question in the one case? What is Guinness to us? We are a great deal to Guinness. I will not finish the quotation in that regard. I do not say what Guinness is to us or what we are to Guinness. I know what we are to Guinness. The great purpose we have in view is not merely to have a home market and to supply it, but to have a big export. The way to promote an export trade is very obvious from the history of other countries.
I am not interested in the retail trade in any way. I am as near to a temperance advocate as anyone can be without being actually so, but I do not agree with the Minister in his description of beer and stout as luxuries in Ireland. A fanatical temperance reformer, an apostle of a teetotal crusade, might use the language of the Minister and speak of these as luxuries, but anyone knows who knows anything that in northern latitudes, in islands particularly, the climate is such that men engaged in hard manual labour cannot be actually healthy and cannot digest without the aid of alcohol. It is a question of the degree of strength of the alcohol. Therefore, to some men in some occupations it is not a luxury. It is part of their every-day refreshment. We all adjourn for tea. What is tea but a stimulant, a liquid refreshment, the chief virtue of which is not its nutritive but stimulating quality. We indulge in a stimulant for the better carrying on of our work because it is not under another name, but we refuse to the working man what is a necessary stimulant to him. We call that virtue and high policy.
They did not say that in the County Dublin election.
I wonder what they will say at the coming election. The way to promote temperance is as obvious as any obvious thing— train your citizens to have proper character, to have self-control in the use of nature. Are we to destroy an industry which can be profitable to the country merely in order to make a greater number of people drink less? If that is our theory, are we sure that we will do that? It may be that, when we kill the small brewery, destroy the farmers' local markets, and increase unemployment, we may drive people to desperation, and they may drink to drown their misery. We may be taking the very means to promote intemperance. It seems to me, to repeat the formula which I myself have now made something of a parrot-cry here, that we must cut our coat according to our cloth. We will have to think seriously and we will have to think deeply as to what we are going to do about the future of the country and ascertain whether the services we are keeping up and the scale upon which they are being kept up are such as to demand that type and that amount of taxation that will crush industry which otherwise could go on profitably. We must recast our programme altogether.
I would like to point out to the Minister that there are a great many small breweries and a great many houses just hanging on to see the result of this Budget in the hope that the tax, both on whiskey and on stout, will be reduced. This evening we are making a final effort to try and realise that hope for many of these poor people. There are a great many other industries, a great many services, and a great many farmers who are still of the opinion that they are rack-rented, and a great many people think that they are overtaxed through the change of circumstances which occurred suddenly some five or six years ago. I think we should allow our children and our children's children to bear that burden so that we may get over the whole difficulty, both in regard to this incident this evening and the other incidents which I have already pointed out.
The Committee divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 33.
- John Conlan.
- John Daly.
- David Hall.
- Séamus Mac Cosgair.
- Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.
- Patrick McKenna.
- Liam Mag Aonghusa.
- Martin M. Nally.
- Ailfrid O Broin.
- Criostóir O Broin.
- Aodh O Cúlacháin.
- Liam O Daimhín.
- Mícheál D Dubhghaill.
- Seán O Laidhin.
- Tadhg O Murchadha.
- Pádraig O hOgáin (Luimneach).
- William A. Redmond.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Séamus Breathnach.
- Seoirse de Bhulbh.
- Próinsias Bulfin.
- Séamus de Búrca.
- Sir James Craig.
- Máighréad Ní Choileáin Bean Uí Dhrisceóil.
- James Dwyer.
- Desmond Fitzgerald.
- John Good.
- John Hennigan.
- Liam Mac Cosgair.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Patrick McGilligan.
- Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
- Liam Mac Sioghaird.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- John T. Nolan.
- William Norton.
- Peadar O hAodha.
- Seán O Bruadair.
- Parthalán O Conchubhair.
- Séamus O Dóláin.
- Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
- Eamon O Dúgáin.
- Risteárd O Maolchatha.
- Séamus O Murchadha.
- Máirtín O Rodaigh.
- Seán O Súilleabháin.
- Mícheál O Tighearnaigh.
- Caoimhghín O hUigín.
- Seán Príomhdhall.
- Liam Thrift.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Magennis and Redmond. Níl: Deputies Dolan and Sears.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendments 11 and 12 not moved.
Amendment 13 deals with a different subject matter— whiskey—but I dealt with that on the last amendment, and I will not move this amendment.
Amendment not moved.
Section 8 put and agreed to.
SECTION 9—Sub-section (1).
In lieu of the present customs duties in respect of wine, there shall (subject to the provisions of this Act) be charged, levied, and paid as on and from the 22nd day of April, 1926, the following customs duties on all wine imported into Saorstát Eireann, that is to say:—
Not exceeding 30 degrees of proof spirit, the gallon
Exceeding 30 but not exceeding 42 degrees of proof spirit, the gallon
And for every degree or fraction of a degree, beyond the highest above charged, an additional duty the gallon
Sparkling wine in bottle, an additional duty, the gallon
Still wine in bottle, an additional duty, the gallon
In sub-section (1), line 43, to delete the figures "12s. 0d." and substitute the figures "9s. 0d."
I do not think that very much need be said for this amendment. I raised this matter on the Second Reading. In the section the proposed duties are 5/- per gallon on one class of poorer wine not exceeding 30 degrees of proof spirit, and over that 12/-. As I said on the Second Reading, the difference in prices will be 14/- per dozen bottles between the two classes of wines. I pointed out then that in my opinion this huge difference in price would tend towards the purchase on the part of retailers of the poorer quality wines and that consequently the general public who drink wine as a beverage would be getting less value for their money than they should get. I have heard a number of statements recently regarding the sale of wines and, properly speaking, an amendment to this Bill of any sort, as far as my information goes, would not tend to improve matters in the direction in which they should be improved. For instance, I understand that quite a good deal of wine is sold by chemists and by hucksters, and I heard of one case where a woman who keeps a dairy shop sells wine at night, and can sell on a Sunday or on any day after the hours when the public-houses are compelled by law to close. I will give one instance. I understand that one huckster in a working-class district of Dublin, sells a quarter-cask of wine per week. That contains fourteen dozen bottles which, on the old duty of 5/-, cost him approximately 1/4 per bottle. He can sell it at 2/- a bottle and make on the quarter-cask a profit of 104/- per week, which is quite a nice little sum for a huckster shop to make if it never sold anything else but this cheap quality wine. In my opinion the fact that there is such a difference between the duties on the cheap quality wine and the better quality wine, will tend to encourage, not alone hucksters and people like that to stock and sell this stuff, but will encourage publicans to do so.
Deputy O'Connor, I understand, purchased a wine merchant's firm recently, and I am quite willing to admit, without thinking that I should blush for doing so, that I am not as well up in the brands of wine as Deputy O'Connor.
I think the interruption was from another Deputy.
Deputy Duffy, I understand, is an agent for the Deputy I mentioned previously, and I suppose it is his business to know more about brands of wine than I do. I hope I am not right in assuming that his interruption means that he objects to my statement because he has been selling these cheap wines. If that is the case, of course, it makes it worse than ever. There has been a good deal of talk about boys and girls drinking wine to excess at dances, and certain people have been saying that this should be stopped, but in my opinion so long as you can get wine that is of an inferior quality at a comparatively cheap rate which can be sold at any time, the tendency to purchase and drink these cheap wines, with all the evil results that follow, will increase. So far as the publicans are concerned, though I have no great grádh for publicans as such, I certainly think that it would be better if wines were sold by publicans only, because there are people who buy wine in hucksters' and chemists' shops who would not be seen going into a public-house for it. So far as selling wines in public-houses goes, as I said on Second Reading, wines can be purchased from the wholesalers at prices ranging roughly from 2d. per glass to 8d. or 9d. per glass, but the average man must pay at least a shilling a glass in a public-house for poor wine. I think there are only two or three houses in Dublin owned by the one firm that sell wine for less than a shilling a glass.
Mooney's. They have a place in the Strand in London, too. I know quite well that if this great discrepancy between the prices of the different classes of wines is allowed to continue the whole tendency will be for the publicans to stock cheaper wines, and it is very likely that there will be a considerable reduction in the amount of better class wines sold. As a matter of fact, I understand from some firms that there has been a great reduction in the demand for the better class wines since this new duty was imposed.
The Minister put forward an almost unanswerable argument against the previous amendment when he mentioned the sums of money that the revenue would lose if he accepted the amendment, and the impossibility, as well as the undesirability, of increased consumption being sufficient to make up for the loss. I can understand that the Minister is not likely to be swayed by anything that tends towards a loss of revenue. I understand also that a Deputy is not allowed to put forward an amendment which would increase proposed duties, but I would like to suggest to the Minister that if he accepts this amendment and he wants an alternative method of getting what he would be likely to lose by it, it would be up to him to increase the duty on the lower quality wines to such an extent as would be likely to make up the amount he would lose. Having given what is in my opinion a fair alternative, I assume that the Minister will accept the amendment.
One of the flaws in Deputy Nagle's argument is that he assumes that the lighter wines, that is, wines of low alcoholic content, are poor wines, and that the others are better wines. That is not so, or at least it is only so in part. A number of the good quality wines, like Hock and Moselle, are of low alcoholic content.
They are as good a quality of wine as any other, and by no means a class of wine that should be discouraged. They are of low alcoholic content. It seems to me that that wrong generalisation of the Deputy's vitiates his argument. I do not think any benefit would accrue by adopting a different grading as he suggests. If we wanted to get the benefit the Deputy aims at we would have to have anad valorem basis for charging duty on wines. I do not know whether it would be practicable to charge a duty on wines on that basis. It has not been done before, and there would be considerable difficulty in establishing it. You could not get what the Deputy is aiming at otherwise than by an ad valorem duty on wines. In regard to the other points that the Deputy has raised, they are not very pertinent to the amendment, but they are being made the subject of consideration. For instance, an amending Licensing Bill is in preparation, and one of the provisions in that Bill will deal with the granting and the regulation of wine-dealers' licences. So far as wines sold in public-houses are concerned, I have no doubt at all that the profits are so large that there is not the slightest reason for any increase in the price. If they are selling wine at 1s. a glass there is no reason why, because we have increased the duty from 6s. to 12s. a gallon, they should make any change. The really inordinate profits in the wine trade are made in the retail end of it, and not in the wholesale end.
The only effect that I can imagine following the Deputy's amendment would be that the tax having been doubled on some wines, the licensed dealers might put up the price. If they decided to put up the price, they would put it up on the wines with the higher alcoholic content, as if the Deputy's amendment were not adopted. That would only confuse the public. It would enable the retailers to obscure the issue they were being taxed on, and they would unreasonably put up their prices. The actual effect of the change would not be great this year because we would naturally have forestalling, but in a full year the effect would be very considerable. The Deputy's proposal is based on a wrong view of the conditions of the wine trade, and I do not believe that you will really have a better quality of wine sold. If there are qualities of wine which are really harmful—I do not know whether that is so or not because that is an aspect of the matter I did not go into—the matter would be worth examination. Even if we could go on anad valorem basis, there might be some tests of quality applied which would exclude them. I am not in favour of increasing the duty on the lighter wines or on the wines of lower alcoholic content and of decreasing it on the wines of higher content. That would not get at what the Deputy aims at—the discouragement of the inferior qualities.
I just want to say a few words on the amendment, though I do not intend to press it to a division. I do not agree with the Minister when he says that publicans would be more inclined to increase prices under this amendment. He said dealers, but I am not interested in what the dealers do. I suppose they can increase the price. As a matter of fact, what would be sold at present as a very poor quality of wine at 2/- would be 5d. extra, and I suppose the dealer might increase it to 6d. So far as the publican is concerned he could have no reason for increasing the price. Anyone with a sense of shame could not ask more than 1/- a glass for wine. Some of them at present are making 9d. on some classes of wine where they could only make 2d. or 3d. on the higher priced wines. I think there is a certain amount of reason in my amendment. I think the Minister has as many misconceptions about it as I have myself. I am sorry he has not accepted it, but I do not propose to press it to a division.
Amendment put and declared lost.
Question put: That Section 9 stand part of the Bill.
On this section I want to say a few words, partly in the hope of clearing up a misunderstanding created by the words of the Minister for Finance at an earlier stage when referring to the enormous profits made on the sale of wines. I gathered from what he said on Deputy Nagle's amendment that he was referring entirely to the retail trade in wine, because it is a matter of common knowledge that the wholesale trade in wine has not been making extraordinary profits compared with other wholesale trades. I myself know of one firm—possibly there are others—that has gone out of business simply because the increased wages and the overhead charges they had to pay made their business unprofitable. No doubt there were other contributory causes; the loss of a good many customers who had left the country, and probably the loss of custom of certain messes of the British Army. There were various other causes, but it is not a trade which people have been flocking into.
The wholesale wine trade is one that people have been getting out of because it has ceased to be to the members of it very profitable. Undoubtedly the Minister's statement, which was then unqualified, did cause both ill-feeling and unrest in the trade. The Minister has mended it, and I hope he will mend it a little more specifically when he comes to reply to me. The main point that I want to discuss on this section is its effect on our overseas trade. We have very considerable direct trading with European countries in wines. In the year 1925 we imported from Spain wines to the value of £32,371; from Portugal, wines to the value of £208,704, and from France, wines to the value of £64,017, altogether, something over £300,000, besides the imports through Great Britain of wine to the value of £113,000. These are rather remarkable figures.
Wine is almost the only commodity of which we import the bulk of our requirements from the Continent of Europe. Only about one-third of our requirements comes through Great Britain. These would include German wines of which the Minister spoke and some Italian wines. We have small direct imports from Italy, and possibly there would also be certain Australian and Californian wines. But the bulk of our requirements in wine comes from the countries that produce it, and that involves certain exports in return because ships will not come here unless they are going to get some sort of trade back. That is not sufficiently marked at present, but I am stating a general principle, that the fact of ships coming here direct from European countries tends to develop trade with these countries. That has been very marked so far as our relations with France are concerned. As regards Spain and Portugal, we are still somewhat backward, apparently, because the Department of External Affairs is not represented in these countries. As regards France, there has been a great development. Last year, in return for the £64,000 worth of wine that we imported from France, we exported to France £87,000 worth of oats.
I am sorry Deputy Wilson is not here because this indicates a new opening in trade that is of direct interest to the farmer. In 1924 we exported no oats at all to France. Last year we exported to France horses to the value of £20,000 and hams to the value of £12,000. That is a very valuable portent and a sign of developing trade in a new market. The Minister for Finance, a little while ago, said it was very desirable to open up new markets besides the British market. I agree with him. But where are we to open up these new markets? Surely in those countries of Europe which are nearest geographically to us, and to which we can send our goods without enormous cost. France, Spain and Portugal all come within that category. So do Belgium and Holland, but they do not affect my argument. If we are to develop new markets there is not use in trying to do so in places like Singapore and Madagascar. The countries that are nearest geographically to us are the ones in which we can hope to open new markets.
All commerce is a matter of exchange, and we cannot hope to sell our goods to other countries if we do not take their goods. Now the imposition of this duty may act as a check on our taking the classes of goods that are directly imported to us from France, Spain and Portugal. It may, and I think will, reduce the consumption of wine across the counter in public-houses, and to some extent the person who deals with the wholesaler. He buys, say, one dozen bottles of port or claret. When he finds that it is going to be more costly he will be tempted to make his supply last longer. I would like to know if the introduction of this tax has had any effect on our proposed commercial treaty with France? Six months ago the Minister for External Affairs told us that we were negotiating a commercial treaty with France, but nothing more has been heard of it since. I presume that the approval of the Oireachtas would be needed before the treaty could be made. It is possible that this check imposed on wine—one of the principal exports from France—may materially alter the basis on which this treaty is to be contracted. I think, before it is definitely decided to impose the duty, that we are entitled to a little information on this point.
I would like to take this opportunity of voicing what I have heard as the opinion of the wholesale trade on this matter. I have heard men very prominent in the trade expressing the definite opinion that this tax on wines is going to have a serious effect—that it is likely to knock some people out of business altogether. I do not express that as my own opinion, but at the same time I think that the House will recognise than an honest expression of opinion on the part of the trade ought to get due consideration. It certainly is the tendency of the Minister in connection with his Budgets to put on very heavily increased taxation in nearly all the main directions. As regards this particular tax we must recognise that a hundred per cent. increase of the duties is an increase that cannot be suddenly put on to any trade without the trade and the public generally feeling the effect of it pretty quickly. I could not hold out very much hope of being able to make much impression on the Minister as regards the wine tax, and we must recognise that the Minister is requiring all the money that he can get to balance his Budget. But I would ask the Minister to give serious consideration to the representations of the trade on this matter, and to have due regard to any arguments that may be put forward.
As regards what Deputy Bryan Cooper has said about this being a means of exchange as between the countries concerned, I am doubtful if the figures he has given as direct imports into Ireland are really new trade. Direct imports largely depend on whether you can get direct shipments or not. The tonnage employed on direct shipping with the Continent is very small, and up to a very short time ago there was very little direct shipping from the Continent to this country. One should recognise the importance of encouraging that as far as one can. I know that the Minister will not accept, at the present time, any reduction in this tax, and all I would ask him to do is to give due consideration to the representations of the people engaged in the wholesale departments of this trade. Undoubtedly they have been very considerably hit by the increased duties on spirits in recent years, and now added to that is the very heavy duty that is going to be put on wines. If the wine trade is going to be affected to such an extent that the consumption of wine will be very much reduced and the trade will be so much less profitable a good many of those engaged in it may consider that the game is not worth the candle. It seems to me that that aspect of the case is not as desirable as one would wish, because the consumption of wine, in moderation, I think is preferable to the consumption of strong liquor, and I think it will not be any great advantage to the country as a whole if the people who consume wine go without drinking it altogether.
I feel that the tax on this particular trade, in general, is too high. There is no question whatever of that. I do feel it does not serve the cause of temperance to keep such an oppressive tax on the trade generally, but while I do I cannot quite agree with the statements made here that wines should have a special exemption. I feel that wines should be taxed on their alcoholic strength the same as spirits and unquestionably the Minister has not, at all, reached the standard of tax that wines could bear on their alcoholic strength in relation to spirits. Wines are importations from other countries, but spirits are manufactured at home. I feel that there should be a real equalisation of the duties in proportion to the alcoholic strength as between wines and spirits. I think that would be a fair proposal for the Minister for Finance to make. I feel, at the same time that it would not be fair to have this tax imposed in proportion to the present spirit tax which should not be kept at the figure at which it is. I think it is preposterous to keep it at such a figure and if anybody argues that it is conducive to temperance to keep it at such a high level I do not agree. I feel that there would not be any increase in intemperance by a reduction of this tax on spirits. I do not feel that it is possible to bring spirits down in taxation to the struggling point which would prevent manufacturers of illicit spirits continuing their unholy trade. At the same time I feel that the tax is oppressive and that it is not favourable either to temperance or to the revenue. I would urge the Minister to bring the tax on spirits to a reasonable level and at the same time equalise the tax on wines and spirits in proportion to their alcoholic strength. In doing so I think he would serve the cause of temperance better than by any other method I know of.
I wish to support the suggestion of the Minister that these duties should be increased on the understanding that was given by the Minister for Industry and Commerce at the conclusion of the debate on the Budget statement, to the effect that these duties are liable to reconsideration in view of the possibility of arriving at international agreements in connection with this matter. I welcome in that connection the speech made by Deputy Cooper a few minutes ago. Some members of the Dáil may be aware that about 130 years ago there was a danger of war between this country and Portugal during the period of Grattan's Parliament, as a result of the excessive wine duties which were imposed by the Irish Parliament upon ports coming from Portugal at that time. The danger was, luckily, averted. I hope that as a result of this excess duty, and as a result of negotiations which I hope are going on that a satisfactory agreement will be reached between this country and various continental countries who export wine to this country, which will be of benefit to the trade of this country. This is one of the few points on which we can bargain. For that reason I welcome the decision of the Minister to impose this increased tax which, I believe, will be of benefit, ultimately, to the trade of this country.
I do not object to the increased tax on wine because I believe wine is responsible for a whole lot more damage in the country than an honest pint of stout. I do not object to it because it is the luxury of the rich man, but when I saw a certain class here this evening shouting to take the tax off the wine while they had not a word to say in favour of the poor man's drink I said I would vote for the tax on the wine.
There would be more point in Deputy Esmonde's argument if there were a hostile tariff imposed by France against any exports of ours——
——against which we have waged a complaint ineffectively. I have already dilated on the doctrine which lies behind Deputy Esmonde's criticism. Several years ago, in this Dáil, I pointed out the uses and consequent value of tariffs, and one of them was as an instrument of negotiation. They serve in international negotiation as to trade treaties, something of the purpose served just now by the Minister for Finance's threat to resign if he did not have his way—really a pistol to the head of the opposing trader. If we are to have a commercial treaty with France it seems to me we should enter more profitably into these new relations, without having just imposed wantonly, as it would seem, taxes upon France's exportations. However, with the common-sense of Deputy McGoldrick's speech I am in substantial agreement. It is true that, on the whole, our native drinks are healthier and cheaper and more in the nature of necessities, as I have just now said, for some section of the community than the wines. The more expensive wines are, undoubtedly, a luxury for the few. But when Deputy Daly recommends it to us on that ground, that it is a tax upon the few, I began to see the danger of class legislation.
Let us look at the thing in its broad character. For many years before the war the Industrial Development Association to which I belonged was expending considerable effort and money on the effort to create direct trading with France, and for a little while, in what Deputy Hewat describes as vessels of small tonnage, an attempt, was made. The difficulty lay, however, in that sometimes there were no cargoes for return, or if there were cargoes they were not altogether ready for transit at the moment and the project fell through. But quite recently, to my own knowledge, a proposition has been made by an Italian combine to take from us in winter months some two or three hundred tons of dressed meat per month and the return for that would be, amongst other things, wines that are capable of export, but which are not, unfortunately, the best wines, for the very reason that they do not bear exportation without deterioration, and materials, for example, that grow so luxuriantly in Italy—raw material for brush-making, which is one of the healthy, profitable industries of this State. Deputy Cooper, I am glad to welcome as a convert to Irish-Ireland economics; Deputy Cooper rightly declares, not in so many words but by implication, that so long as Great Britain is our best market, in the sense of being practically our only market, through the historic contrivances of the past, so long shall we be economically a dependent nation. The only way to escape the shackles of economic dependence—and where there is economic dependence there is very little political liberty worth having—is to promote trade with other countries— in other words, to invade other markets and compete for the mastery of them there with other nations. In any healthy, normal state of trade, the exchange flows in that way: we pay for our imports with our exports. Our exports are taken by the countries whose imports we take. We import only what we need and cannot produce ourselves.
Deputy Cooper spoke of promoting direct trade with foreign countries and opening up new markets. He did not see—perhaps he did; if he did he would be the great convert—the corollary; that that means less dependence upon what hitherto, through artificial means, had been made practically our sole market. The editorials of the "Irish Times" are constantly dilating upon this subject—that we must not offend our best customer. That was the great argument against the Shannon Scheme—that we would offend our best customer. We are England's best customer. But why should we go on playing the old game of confining our attention solely to the British market? Unless we invite exchange with other countries, that exchange will never become a flow of any considerable magnitude. The taxes now imposed upon wines are increased taxes. Deputy Daly spoke just now as if he thought that any opposition to them meant advocacy of removal of taxation. It means merely the retention of the taxes at the level at which they have been and not the imposition of increased taxes. By that means, let us develop trade with foreign countries and get in exchange the things that they give to us. I do not at all say that wine is one of the best things that we could get or that any considerable amount of wine would be desirable to have. But it is the making of a beginning.
We are practically at the beginning of the State's fortunes. We may be historically and in point of tradition an ancient nation, but we are now, with the measure of freedom we have got practically in our infancy as a trading nation. Everything that reacts deleteriously on our development as a trading nation is so much influence cast against the development of a rich and varied civilisation. We shall not escape from the destiny that was sought to be imposed on us of being raisers of bullocks and exporters of butter to the British markets unless we set about having from other countries something of those products of their civilisation that shall develop in us the sense of what a civilisation of a varied kind, such as they enjoy and was denied to us in recent centuries, means. It is not because it is so many pounds more taken from this body of traders or that body of traders or because of so many more shillings imposed upon this or that bottle of wine that I object to the increased tax, but because it is setting up an obstacle to our development—because it is something that bars the path of our development as a trading nation.
The implications in Deputy Magennis's mind are so ingenious that he must not assume that I accept all of them. He is not only so humorous, but he is so individual that nobody but himself could accept all of them. When he hails me as a convert, I must protest. Two years ago I called attention to our adverse trade balance. Two years ago, on the Vote for the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, I urged the Minister for Industry and Commerce to develop other markets than the market of Great Britain. Two years ago, I urged that the adverse trade balance with the Argentine and with the United States should be redressed if possible. All that time Deputy Magennis sat silent—comparatively silent—and acquiescent behind the Ministers. I am not a convert. Deputy Magennis is the convert, and I welcome him.
It is obvious economic folly to put all your eggs in one basket. It is equally economic folly to knock the bottom out of your basket before you have got other baskets to put them in. I am most anxious that we should develop other markets, simply as a matter of business, without any question of political dependence or political independence. The more you drag politics into business, the more harm you will do. As regards Deputy Esmonde, I welcome his intervention, though he did not agree with me. His quotations from Grattan's Parliament prove that he and I, at any rate, can learn from the mistakes of our ancestors. Deputy Daly surprised me. I never knew the Deputy was so innocent. Deputy Daly had never heard of a poor man asking for a glass of port. Either Deputy Daly's experience of public-houses is painfully limited, or else he has entirely avoided the society of teetotallers.
Port is not a teetotal drink.
Port in this country is regarded as a teetotal drink. If Deputy Daly has never heard of teetotallers in this country drinking port, I do not know whether to congratulate him or to commiserate him. Returning to the question under discussion, Deputy Esmonde talked as if this increased duty—let us not forget it is an increased duty—is being put forward as a basis for negotiation. Is that the case?
If it were the case, I think it would be justified. If it would help us to make a commercial treaty with France or Portugal or Spain and to sell our oats or agricultural products, it might be good business. But merely as an economic measure, I do not think it will bring in much revenue. I think it will check the drinking of wine and, as Deputy Hewat said, it will not be advantageous in its general application to the community in regard to temperance and sobriety.
I rise to seek further information about the point mentioned by Deputy Cooper, to which the Minister replied in the negative. At the end of the Budget discussion, the Minister for Industry and Commerce intervened in the debate and pointed out, as far as I remember—I have not got the Official Reports of the House at the moment—that some of the duties imposed by that Budget were liable to revision in the course of the present financial year, in view of certain negotiations which were then being conducted—and I presume are still being conducted—with foreign nations in connection with commercial treaties. I concluded that this was the particular duty referred to by the Minister for Industry and Commerce as liable to revision. Yet, when Deputy Cooper put a question to the Minister for Finance a few moments ago, the Minister replied in the negative.
Some confusion has arisen on the point. The duty is being imposed for two purposes. It is being imposed because it will produce added revenue at very little cost to the consumer, having regard especially to the inordinate profits in the retailing of wine. It is imposed because we think it undesirable that, on alcoholic content, a foreign production should be let off so much more lightly than the home liquors. It is not being imposed in any sense for the purpose of bargaining with any other country, but the Minister for Industry and Commerce did indicate that, if certain agreements with other countries were arrived at, duties being imposed in this Budget—he had, I suppose, this particular duty in mind —might have to be modified. That is an entirely different point from that mentioned by Deputy Cooper. He asked if the tax was imposed for the purpose of bargaining. My answer is, that it is not.
It may be used for that purpose?
That is a different matter. Having regard to the inordinate profits in the retail wine trade—I mean the publicans, restaurant-keepers, hotel-keepers, and so forth—the extra cost to the consumer should be very little.
When the Minister makes the admission regarding the possibility of this duty being used for bargaining, does he anticipate that the effect of it will be to reduce the consumption of imported wine? I take it that that is the obvious anticipation if he thinks it is going to be of any value as a bargaining instrument.
I express no view about it as a bargaining instrument. I believe that any increase in the tax will have some small effect on the consumption. The doubling of the duty is bound to have some little effect in reducing the consumption. I wish only to convey what was, I think, meant to be conveyed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, that if agreements were entered into with another country those agreements might include changes in the rate of duty on articles imported here.
Question—"That Section 9 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Sub-section (1) The new import duties which were first imposed by Section 12 of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1915, and were (with the exception of the duty on records and other means of reproducing music) continued up to the 1st day of May, 1926, by Section 23 of the Finance Act, 1925 (No. 28 of 1925), shall, with the exception aforesaid and the further exception of the duty on blank film on which no picture has been impressed, continue to be charged, levied, and paid on and from the said 1st day of May, 1926, up to the 1st day of May, 1927.
I move amendment 15:—
In sub-section (1), line 65, to insert after the word "music" but inside the bracket the words "and the duty on chassis," and in page 7, line 2, to delete the word "exception" where it first occurs and substitute the word "exceptions," and to insert before sub-section (2) a new sub-section as follows:—
"The duty on chassis which was first imposed by the said Section 12 of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1915, and was continued up to the first day of May, 1926, by Section 23 of the Finance Act, 1925, shall cease to be charged, levied and paid on and from the first day of May, 1926."
In asking the House to accept this new sub-section, I should like Deputies to understand that if there was a firm engaged in engineering capable of building chassis for motor cars, I would not put this sub-section down. Until such time as the engineering trade in this country starts the manufacture of chassis, I think the duty now imposed should be withdrawn. This amendment is put down for the purpose of trying to give a fillip to the coach-building industry in this country. A large number of coach-builders are idle at present and almost all those working are on half-time. If this amendment were carried it would mean that the purchaser of a motor car here would have the option of selecting for his car a body made and upholstered in the Free State.
At the present time the system is that a man is shown catalogues of English or American cars on which practically not one penny has been spent in wages here. The cars are imported by an agent who has no interest other than the commission which he receives from the firm which he represents. I am satisfied that if the chassis of cars of good make could be brought into this country free of duty the difference between the duty on the chassis as compared with the whole car would give the purchaser something to play with in deciding what body should be put on it. We all know that Irish-made bodies are dear—that it costs probably from £20 to £25 more for the manufacture and upholstering of a motor car here. If the duty were taken off the chassis, firms in the trade here who have to do the work in small workshops without the machinery for mass production that they have in Great Britain and America, could compete with the imported cars.
Some years ago there were 185 factories in the Saorstát engaged in coach-building. There were about 6,000 skilled workers engaged in the industry, and 3,000 other workers. In addition about 1,200 families over the country were engaged in providing the raw material for the industry, and by that means getting their living out of it. The complaint is that owing to the Imperial preference, which we are a party to, English cars have an undue preference of 11 per cent., owing to the refund which they receive when 25 per cent. of the car is British made. It is impossible to expect that a Dublin workshop can compete on those terms. especially when they are not fitted up like those of foreign firms with big capital where cars are produced by mass production. Between the up-to-date machinery and this preferential rate it is impossible for the coach-building industry to survive in this country unless something is done in the near future to protect it.
I know the Minister can say that this can be considered as the granting of a subsidy. It would mean that. But coach-building is an industry that Ireland was always famous for. We have subsidised other industries that the country so far has not been proved to be suitable for. I hope they will be a success. I cannot understand, however, subsidising new industries and crushing out existing ones which the country is suited for. I have here a statement which was submitted to the Minister some time ago and there is one paragraph which I should like to read. It states:—
In competition with England and the Colonies for the manufacture of motor bodies to be fitted to chassis manufactured outside the British Empire, the Free State firms are at a decided disadvantage, as they have to counter what really amounts to a subsidy under the guise of Imperial Preference against them. To put the matter more explicitly, we will take the case of an English concessionaire importing a foreign-made chassis into England. On this chassis he will pay 33? per cent. import duty, but if that same chassis, with an English body fitted, is later reshipped to the Irish Free State, the concessionaire is refunded his import duty by the British Government, which means, in substance that England can develop her shipping and carrying interests to our detriment, and actually subsidise her motor-body building at the expense of the Saorstát revenue, and to the complete disruption of the native industry. To further elucidate this point, we will take it that a chassis of foreign make is imported into England—the figures pan out as follows:—
Assuming the cost of chassis to be
Duty paid by conces- sionaire (refunded when chassis passes out of Britain)
Import Duty of 22 2-9 per cent. into I.F.S. on £400 value, being Commonwealth Pref. rate, as 25 per cent. of car is product of Empire
Total cost, exclusive of shipping charges at Irish port
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Take it now that this same chassis was shipped direct into the Irish Free State, and that there was put on in this country an Irish-made body costing the same as the English one, the figures would be:—
Chassis direct into Ireland
Duty of 33? per cent
Body (Irish made)
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Five hundred pounds for the chassis and body that Ireland deals with exclusively. Four hundred and eighty-eight pounds eighteen shillings for the same chassis with the same priced body that comes through England. Thus the Irish revenue is deprived of £11 2s. import duty on the foreign-made chassis, and the English-made body that is supposed to be bearing an Ad. Val. of 22 2-9 per cent. gets in free of any impost whatever. The difference illustrated is, of course, much more marked when agents' discount is added, and the alternative flat rate sought would scarcely cover this difference.
That is the case that was stated by those engaged in the trade. If the Minister cannot accept my amendment in order to give this industry the encouragement it deserves, and which would provide much needed employment, he at least ought to make some concession which would enable these firms to compete with those of other countries who get the advantage of the Imperial preference.
In this connection I may say that some hundreds of small coach-building factories all over the Saorstát have closed down. About fifteen years ago there were 185 such factories employing 6,000 skilled workers and 3,000 other workers, whilst to-day there are only 110, employing, probably, one-third of that number and those are all on short time. In Dublin alone 21 firms have closed in that time with loss of employment to 700 workers. In fact the only firm of any importance that is giving any encouragement or help to the coach-building industry to-day is the Dublin United Tramways Company. Their workshops are a credit to the country. The buses they have turned out cannot be beaten for workmanship in any part of Europe, and that is all due to Dublin workmen. That is sufficient proof that on fair terms the workmen engaged in that industry here can turn out work as good as, if not better, than any others in Europe. The proof of that can be seen on the streets of Dublin to-day. The Tramways Company, as I say, deserve great credit for the encouragement they are giving to the coach-building trade and with the Minister's help I hope that other firms will be able to follow the lead of the Tramways Company.
In the early days of the Provisional Parliament, when Mr. Joseph McGrath was Minister for Industry and Commerce, a deputation approached him on behalf of industries. The deputation was accompanied by Deputy Johnson, and I also had the honour of being with them. In the course of that interview I put before the Minister what I had already advocated for over two years, that the ancient coach-building industry of Dublin, which was remarkably proficient, could be easily revived; that the fact that motor cars, both for pleasure and for trade, were imported in their entirety had dealt the last blow practically to the coach-builder in the capital. The Minister was good enough to say that the proposal was a happy one and that he agreed with it thoroughly, and I expected, and I am sure Deputy Johnson also expected—all of us expected— that as he was a member of the Executive Council the proposal would find its realisation in the next Budget. That is part of my answer to Deputy Cooper's criticism that I am a recent convert to the doctrines that I expounded on the last section.
Everything I have said to-day I have said before and written about in the last twenty years again and again. It is true, as he says, that I sat in silence throughout the periods of various Budgets behind the Minister on those benches. That is perfectly true. I may have been silent on those benches, but I was not silent in another Parliament. It is quite obvious that if we are to revive industry, we must do what every industrial country does, get its raw materials, and where it cannot get its raw materials or make with advantage for the period what is, relatively to its finished product, raw materials, though it is a manufacture, it must import, and to subsidise the producer of a finished article becomes a rational necessity in that connection.
What the Deputy who proposed the amendment on this occasion may not have stressed—at least in my view may not have stressed—sufficiently, although he did advert to it, is that we are obliged to compete with what I call mass capital and mass production, backed up by a highly skilled labour that owes much of its skill to long years of tradition. And we have to capture a market, even though it is the home market, which is accustomed to buy the product of the foreigner through the ignorant illusion fostered in the national mind that anything that comes from elsewhere is better than anything we can produce ourselves. In spite of the patriotic pride of which we are accused by our enemies and our boasting of our country and its history we have, unfortunately, side by side, with arrant inconsistency, accepted the doctrine of our own inferiority and there is that idea among the purchasing public that what comes from abroad must be better.
This happens to be a particular class of output in which the work can be done here and the subsidy in favour of getting it done here is to remove the tax on the chassis. Keep your tax on the ready-to-drive-away car and upon those who want the better car, if there are better cars in the sense of more luxurious cars, or cars of a more specialised kind than our first outputs would aim at being, because the first aim would be to produce them cheaply and in that way get into the position of the mass producer. The only thing, therefore, is to remove the tax from the chassis. There is no difficulty to the customs in that connection. I have been in sympathy with the Minister in regard to a great many things where, theoretically, it was desirable there should be a tax, but the practical difficulty confronted the customs officials of discriminating and there was the likelihood of expense in multiplying customs officers almost indefinitely and giving them training and a sort of continuation school enlightenment so as to become expert in the discrimination that would be necessary. But anyone with half an eye knows the difference at a glance between a chassis of a motor-car and the finished article, so that in this case the difficulty would not arise at all. The thing is feasible, it is desirable, and the advantage of it is obvious.
I want to support the general principle behind Deputy Byrne's amendment. I think the case is a sound one. Here is an industry which has its machinery available for doing the work, and has craftsmen available in considerable numbers, but it is an industry which will require to be encouraged if it is to maintain its position in the country. I put the proposition forward for general acceptance that it is desirable to retain this industry in the country. Accepting that, and knowing also that other classes of coachbuilding, horse cars and the like, are decaying, it is essential that attention shall be paid by the coachbuilders, both employers and workmen, to coachbuilding operations for motor-cars. The answer may come that Irish coachbuilders have proved themselves inefficient or not as efficient as the mass producers from other countries. I am prepared frankly to say it is quite possible that motor-car producers in other countries can turn out finished cars, or the bodies of cars, more cheaply and more luxuriously at a given price than the Irish manufacturers. That is contested by some Irish manufacturers, but I am giving away that point as possibly true.
I am making the claim in this, as I have done in other cases, for the survival of the less efficient; that is if efficiency is going to be tested by cheapness, which is a different thing from saving. I plead for the survival of the less efficient. We have to bear in mind the difficulties, the handicaps, that have been placed on Irish manufacturers of various kinds and that that argument applies just as well to coach-building as to other industries. I plead with the Minister that he should give this industry the opportunity which would be given by the free importation of chassis so that the body building may be encouraged at home.
We have had frequently from Deputy Good suggestions, complaints and queries regarding the decay of apprenticeship, the difficulty of maintaining the craft spirit and so on, amongst workmen, and the lack of opportunity for apprentices. Here is a craft which ought to be maintained. It comprises a considerable number of men through the country well trained, well equipped but frequently unemployed in large numbers. How can we expect men who are unemployed for long periods to encourage youths to learn this trade when there is no prospect of making a livelihood out of it when they are out of their apprenticeship.
I say the opportunity here is one which ought not to be allowed to pass, and I think the Minister would be well advised to give a hearing to the plea put forward behind this amendment. I am not able to say whether the amendment in its drafting is sufficient to accomplish the ends sought. I am not examining it from that point of view, but I do add my support to the plea that the industry of body building in connection with motor cars should be encouraged by the free entry of the chassis.
The amendment as set down would not, of course, achieve anything except a loss of about £200,000 a year in revenue. What would happen is that the chassis would be imported separately and would pay duty; then the body would be imported separately and would also pay duty and it would be fitted to the chassis. Revenue would be lost and the body-making industry would not be helped. I can say with absolute frankness that the Government is distinctly sympathetic to this particular industry. As a matter of fact, a reason that had considerable weight with us in not pursuing the project of getting reciprocal free entry of cars between this country and Great Britain was that it would do away with all possibility of fostering the motor body building industry here. At present the industry has a certain protection.
Deputy Byrne cited a certain sort of case and, while I could not agree with him that anything approaching what he describes ever occurs, it is a fact that owing to the operation of the preference there are cases in which the 22 2/9th preference is not given to the Irish body builders. That is where a chassis which is made outside the British Commonwealth is imported to England and admitted with the body there. Deputy Byrne was confused between the percentage on which the preference was given and the costs on which duty is charged here. I think in all cases the duty on the imported car is higher than the duty on a chassis to which a body might be fitted here. Various things are taken into account and, instead of having the imported car paying £11 less it would most probably pay £11 more.
I do admit that there are certain cases in which the Irish body maker has not the advantage or even the full 22 2/9th preference, and I concede that is a matter which should be looked into with a view to having it rectified by an amendment of the law. I go so far as that, but it must be remembered that the number of cars in connection with which anything like that could happen is not large. The great majority of the cars imported here are either cars which are made entirely outside the British Commonwealth or are made entirely inside the British Commonwealth. Consequently, in regard to the great majority of cars there is a payment of duty on the body or the chassis of 33? or 22 2/9 per cent. The body builder here consequently has a very substantial protection. He has, I suppose, in connection with the cars which are most common 22 2/9 per cent. The body builders say that is not sufficient. I have had the argument put to me that 55 per cent. was required, that the Irish body builder could only compete if he had preference to the extent of 55 per cent. That is a very high rate, a distinctly higher rate than any other rate of protection which we are giving. I would not like to accept the figure without further examination. I think that if 55 per cent. is required it is a rate which I would not concede. I do not know whether it is right to say that there is an industry here. There was a coach-building industry, but it seems to me that motor body-making is rather a new industry. Before a factory making bodies of cars could be used for building motor-bodies there must be quite a transformation.
The same men do the work to a very great extent.
Not entirely. Whether we should pay 55 per cent. to give this industry a chance, and whether there is likelihood of the 55 per cent. enabling it to carry on and, ultimately at the end of a reasonable period, either without protection or with a moderate degree of protection, are matters that would require a good deal of investigation. It seems to me that this is precisely one of the sort of matters that ought to be examined by a Tariff Commission. I had both sides before me, and I found it very difficult to get at the precise facts of the case, or to feel any certainty that I am so well informed in the matter as to advise the House or to take a decision on the matter.
The body-building industry could not be helped by this amendment as it stands. I do not know whether it could be helped by a regulation which would prescribe that the chassis should pay no duty, or a less duty, when an Irish-made body had been fitted, as there might be certain difficulties in administration. That would mean giving a preference to Irish-built bodies even more than 55 per cent.—it might mean a preference of over 100 per cent.— and to that I would not consent. I think the way the matter should be dealt with is by referring it to the Tariff Commission. If it could be proved, or even if something in the nature of proof could be given, that here was an industry which, given a high rate for some time to enable it to organise itself and carry on for four or five years and, ultimately at a lesser rate, it would succeed, it would be all right, but I do not think it could be managed by exempting all chassis in the way proposed in the amendment.
You could easily have a case where you would be giving protection at the rate of 200 per cent. to body-building but that would be the sort of unregulated protection which would not be good for the industry. If we decide to give a protection more than 22 2-9 per cent., investigation should be carried out to determine what would be necessary to enable the industry to compete. If that amount was, say, 55 per cent., there would have to be considered such questions as, how long it would have to be continued before the industry was established, what were the general prospects of the industry if we were only prepared to give that sort of protection for a limited time, what would be the general effect, both on revenue and on the cost to the consumer, and the general possibilities of going so far with protection. A certain amount of investigation has been done by the Minister for Agriculture and myself and statements entirely contrary to one another have been made by both sides. It is hard to know what the facts are until there has been an examination of books and witnesses, such as the Tariff Commission could undertake. That is not alone desirable but, indeed, necessary to enable us to come to a proper decision.
I am satisfied with the Minister's statement which has been rather sympathetic and I believe that something good will be done as a result of it. The trade and the workers who are on half-time, as well as those who are unemployed and who are capable of doing good work, will be grateful if, as a result of the Minister's statement, something will be done in the near future. After that statement I will not attempt to press the amendment to a division but shall withdraw it.
Can one Deputy propose the withdrawal of an amendment?
With all respect, if the amendment is put I shall support it.
Amendment put and negatived.
On the whole section, I would like to raise a small point. Reference has already been made to the repeal of the Key Industries Act but, although that was done, when the tax was proposed on furniture the taxes on certain scientific instruments were, to a certain extent, renewed inasmuch as these instruments might be described as furniture. For example, I think the tax might be imposed on barometers and thermometers, whether they are intended to be used as furniture or not and quite apart from the fact that they do not contain wood. When used as scientific instruments they do not contain wood.
They are not subject to tax, but they would be if they contained wood.
A firm of manufacturers informed me otherwise and I am glad to learn that they are wrong.
Question—"That Sections 10 and 11 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
The duty imposed by Section 16 of the Finance Act, 1925 (No. 28 of 1925), shall not be charged or levied on any component parts of corsets made wholly or mainly of non-textile materials.
In line 28 to delete all words after the word "corsets."
This amendment is intended to exempt corsets and the component parts of corsets from the duty imposed by Section 16 of the Finance Act of 1925. It happens that corsets have been included amongst clothing, I suppose quite rightly. During the discussion on the proposals a year ago to put a tax on imported clothing, I supported the proposals, one of the grounds being that it would tend to lead to the employment of girls and young women in Dublin and other places, which employment was badly needed. It has come to my knowledge, and I am very pleased to have the knowledge to convey, that the working out of this particular tax has led to the establishment of a factory in Dublin for the manufacture of corsets which hitherto had been imported. On visiting the factory a few days ago I found practically 100 girls working at machines making corsets. The factory was opened at the beginning of the year and, apparently, it was opened in the faith that certain concessions would be granted in respect to the parts. It would be surprising. I am sure, to Deputies of the male sex if they were to have regard to all the various parts that go to make up a corset.
Are they men's or women's?
I have not gone so closely into the inquiry, but I am sure that if Deputy Hewat is in the way of buying corsets he would be provided with all the information at the factory. Perhaps, indeed, they would make a corset specially to fit him. It would be an easy matter for the firm to import a piece, such as would be required by Deputy Hewat's corset, because it would not be shaped in the same way as a lady's corset. It happens that, while all the other parts of the corset may be imported under this proposal free of tax, the part of the corset which up to the present is shaped, that is to say, it is a piece of fabric cut into shape, is intended to be taxed. The piece of fabric can be imported without tax, but the fabric, if cut into shape, is to be taxed. The firm in question is conducting its work in the hope and expectation that in a comparatively short time it will be able to do the whole operation in this country, but for some months to come, it will not be able to import the fabric in the piece and cut it into shape here. It requires special machinery and special skill to do that. I draw attention to the Act of last year in respect of umbrellas. It says that the duty imposed by this section shall be charged or levied on any component part of umbrellas, so that the piece of umbrella covering may be cut, if necessary, and brought into this country without being taxed as a component part. It is quite clearly seen what it can be used for, namely, as a covering for an umbrella.
In this case there can be no question whatever of the purpose for which the textile fabric is to be used, and the effect of my amendment would be to allow all the parts, including the textile fabric, to come into the country free of the tax, so that the whole of the articles would be made in this country, minus the mere shaping of the fabric. I do not think that the cost to the revenue would be great, but it would make a very great difference to the fixing and the real establishment of the business in this country, and I think that because of the promise that this industry is giving of success, it really deserves this concession.
There is a further consideration. This firm supplies its British trade, and hitherto it supplied its Irish trade from Portsmouth. It is at present supplying its Free State trade from this Dublin factory. There is, of course, a considerable trade in this class of garment, shall I call it, in the North of Ireland, and with this proposition it it would be an advantage to the company to send its finished article into Northern Ireland from its English factories. Remove this proposition and it will certainly be an advantage to supply Northern Ireland from its Irish factory, which would mean a considerable addition, judged by population an addition of one-fourth, to its output. I think that that is a consideration that we ought to take into account, and I would ask the Minister to agree to this very small concession, which may only be necessary for a year or eighteen months, at the end of which time it will be possible for the firm to carry on the whole of its processes in this Dublin factory.
I also support the amendment and would ask the Minister to accept it. This factory is giving employment here, as Deputy Johnson has said, to a hundred girls, and with the small concession that has been asked the factory will be a success. Otherwise, I believe it cannot carry on. Deputy Johnson has covered the whole ground; he has stated the case fully, and anything that I might say would be going over the same ground. The proprietors of the factory will give an undertaking that within two years they will have a complete factory and will be cutting those parts. The Minister is only asked to allow certain cut parts to come in to complete the finished article here, and it would be a pity if an industry of this kind is stranded and is not given a chance to make good for want of this concession.
Our general principle in dealing with all these industries is that identifiable parts shall be taxed. That applies to boots, to caps, to ordinary clothes and to shirt-making. The people who started this factory knew that that was the law and the policy. They were given no promise, and no hope was held out to them that any concessions would be made. Before they started the factory they specifically asked for various concessions. They were told that no promise could be made to them, that the law was there, that they could start the factory or not, that we had imposed tariffs for the purpose of getting factories established, and that they would have the benefit of the tariff, but that no special concessions would be given to them. Certain people on behalf of the firm are now indicating that if they do not get further concessions they will withdraw.
We have heard these statements before, and they are the kind of statements we will always hear from time to time, but I do not think we need take them too seriously. The umbrella case is really a different one. I believe that umbrella components are not even made in Great Britain, and we exempt them on the same basis as we propose to exempt the non-taxed parts of corsets. But the cutting of the cloth part of corsets can be done here, not now, perhaps, because they have not yet installed the machinery, just as none of the work could be done before they put in their sewing machines. If we exempt these parts from duty there will be no incentive to the firm to proceed to manufacture further here. The position would be just the same as if we allowed boot manufacturers to have their uppers cut and stitched somewhere else and then brought in.
We should insist on everything being done here that can reasonably be done, and we should not proceed to break up our tax on clothing in regard to this. As I say, we have not done it in respect of other articles of clothing, and, personally, I do not like to show any favouritism to corsets. In any case, Deputy Johnson's amendment goes too far. It would probably close the factory because it would mean that if corsets were imported with their halves separate and not laced together they would be free of tax because they would be parts and would not be chargeable, so that the amendment as it stands goes very much further than Deputy Johnson would wish. The real position is that we are being asked for a concession, for the exemption of parts that could be made here.
If we give that to this particular factory we will have scores of other people stating that they will withdraw unless they get similar concessions. People making caps would want the cut parts imported, manufacturers of suits would want to have the suits cut so that they would only have to stitch them here, and it seems to me that we would only bring a swarm of people about us asking for concessions and would do away with the incentive to make as much as can be made here. The tax is really a very trivial one on the firm. It amounts to, I think, about 1¾d. per corset, so that it is really very trivial. It is a tax in respect of which the firm could find ordinary means of recouping themselves. But it seems to me that we should not really give a firm a concession that is not given to other people, simply because it is active and has a good agitating solicitor who makes a fuss.
It was because I had a certain suspicion of the agitating methods either of the firm or of the solicitor that I took it upon myself to visit the factory, see the operation itself and satisfy myself that there was a very strong case indeed. So strong is it that I cannot see the point of the Minister's objection. It is not, I take it, because of the revenue that he is deriving; and the amount of benefit to labour in Ireland from the actual cutting of the material into shape will be very trivial indeed. Having put in a machine, one man will probably do all the cutting that is required. So that it is not from the point of view of labour employed that I make this plea; I do not think there is anything in that worth considering. But it seems to me that a real barrier is put up against the possible success of this business.
I am not impressed either by the contention that the business may go away. I believe that the firm, having established itself, is quite prepared to stick on for a year if it is necessary. Giving all that away, what is the case that the Minister puts forward? He gets 1¾d. per article. Following arguments that I have heard here and in other places, I can imagine that that 1¾d. would mean a very considerable rate of profit on the capital invested in the business, and the loss of it might well determine the continuance or otherwise of the business, other things being equal. So that the point that the Minister makes is really against his own case. If there is a duty of 1¾d. on each article it may very well mean a very big consideration in the success or failure of the project, taken as an additional charge upon the capital invested in it. I cannot understand the weight of the argument that this would be a departure from a general rule, and the position as it faces me is that the company is free to import the cloth in pieces, one yard in length, but it is not free to import these pieces six inches in length.
I think that there is a great deal of reason in the proposition that it would only be possible to set up with advantage the particular class of cutting knife for shaping when a permanent factory is established. The present factory is a temporary one, and the putting in of the cutting machines will only be possible when a permanent factory is established. If the Minister's opposition is merely from the point of view of maintaining a practice he has a very weak case, and I would urge him to reconsider this plea. I will not press my amendment, especially as he says that it would do damage rather than good. But I think that the case that is made is a very strong one, and that the cost to the Exchequer would not be of any material moment, while the concession might be of great benefit to the establishment of the industry in the country.
I am pleased to know that Deputy Johnson does not propose to press this amendment, because I was going to make an appeal to him that he should definitely withhold pressing it to a division at this moment, and consider a matter which he now seems to pass over so lightly, that is to say, the principle involved. I put it to him as a person whom I believe to be interested in tariffs, and to be convinced of their suitability and necessity at the moment, that you would be opening a very, very wide door; you would be weakening the whole tariff position, and you would definitely destroy the best effects of the experimental stage we are passing through if this were accepted in this small matter, and if it were pressed, as undoubtedly it would be pressed, for acceptance in other things.
The only articles on which a concession has been given so far are umbrellas. That was a very distinct case, and very definite reasons were put forward for it. Yet the Deputy comes forward and quotes that as a reason why we should weaken the whole value of the tariffs on another article. This would become a growing process; you would have manufacturers of various other things coming along, and if you reduce and weaken the tariff by saying that identifiable articles in a practically completed state should be admitted, you will destroy the effect of the tariff. Deputy Johnson referred to the question of the 1¾d., and the effect it might have on the firm. What should be looked at is: What advantage is the firm getting? They lose 1¾d., but what advantage do they get on each corset? Probably the outstanding benefit to them is at least 10d., as compared with a competing article. They may lose 1¾d., but it is 1¾d. lost off an advantage of at least a shilling, and that ought to be borne in mind.
I congratulate Deputy Johnson on his amendment, because it seems to show a change of heart on his part. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has indicated what the probable effect of the amendment would be and has deprecated it on that score. I would rather take the other view and welcome it as a change of heart and mind on Deputy Johnson's part as a strong protectionist.
This is the only tariff about which it has not yet been remarked that it will raise the cost of living to the farmer.
I am very sorry that the Minister has not accepted the amendment. It is a serious matter. He has stated that if this were allowed perhaps he would have cap factories and others coming along looking for concessions. But the amendment definitely states "corsets," so that I think that cap factories or any others would not apply. I would ask the Minister to reconsider the question.
Amendment by leave withdrawn.
Section 12 put and agreed to.
The Dáil went out of Committee.
Progress reported, the Committee to sit again to-morrow.