FINANCE BILL, 1926.—FIFTH STAGE.

—I move:—

"That the Bill do now pass."

There is one matter which I do not think has been referred to previously to which I should like to draw the attention of the Minister, and that is the question of the reduction of the tax on Ford motor cars. From information I have received, I understand that if a person possesses a Ford motor car which was in existence prior to 1923 he will have to pay the old tax. That seems strange and rather unfair. If a person has an old Ford, surely there is no reason to expect him to pay a higher road tax than if he had one purchased since 1923. As far as I know there is no distinction between the two in regard to the manufacture of these cars in this country. Up to the present Budget, I do not think that what is usually known as the Ford open car has been entirely turned out in Cork, and I do not see why a person who is in possession of a car turned out previous to 1923 should have to pay at the old rate of £20 or £22 instead of the new rate of £10. I do not think there is a very great number of these cars in existence, and of course they will be a diminishing number. I only mention the matter to give the Minister an opportunity, if he so desires, of looking into it, because it does seem distinctly unfair that a person who still chooses to run an old Ford car of 1923, or prior to that date, should have to pay more than a person who owns one of more recent date.

I should like to draw the Minister's attention to the extraordinary hardship suffered by owners of motor cars manufactured after 1st January, 1913—in 1914 and so on. In many cases these are extremely expensive cars, with a very high tax, and are now hardly worth the tax that they have to pay. The British Government recognised that in 1919, and put a lower tax on such cars. It seems very hard that owners of such cars should have to go on paying the same tax—a very high tax when the value of the car is hardly equal to the tax that has to be paid.

I think it is a great hardship on the owners of Ford cars purchased prior to 1923 that they should have to pay a higher tax than those who can afford to buy a new Ford who get off with a tax of £10. The Ford car is not a cheap car to run, as it is heavy on petrol and oil. The older it gets the more expensive it is as regards repairs. It is very hard on people who run old Ford cars for taxi work—the majority of such cars plying for hire date back prior to 1923—and who are trying to earn a living by them, to have to pay the old tax in addition to the heavy expenditure necessary to keep them in repair, whereas the owners of more up-to-date Ford cars get off with a £10 tax. It is very unfair and unjust that the owners of these old Fords should be asked to pay the higher tax.

I want to ask the Minister whether the concession he made in regard to taxis plying in Dublin also applies to the country. There is a very large number of good-class taxis in the country towns. The Minister agreed to a tax of £10 for taxis which are exclusively for hire in the City of Dublin. I should like to know if that concession is to be extended to the country. A large number of people in the country have to depend solely on their earnings from taxis for the upkeep of themselves and their families, and it would be very unjust to charge them a higher duty than is imposed in the City of Dublin. In the country districts the taxis are not working as regularly as in Dublin. I should like the Minister to make that point clear, as it has been brought to my notice by people in my constituency. I should also like to support the plea made by Deputy Redmond and others concerning the tax on old Ford cars. Many persons who own such cars are unfortunately not in a position to purchase new ones, and they will be very hard hit. As a rule they are poor people who are depending on their cars to earn a living for themselves and their families. The Minister should not try to fleece them more than he fleeces those who can afford to buy a new car.

I should like to ask the Minister as to the position of those people who paid a full year's licence at the beginning of this year on a Ford car. If they happen to have taken out a full year's licence they will have paid £18, whereas under the new rate they would be only liable to £10 for the year. People who took out a licence for three months or six months will get the benefit of the new rate for the remainder of the year, and, therefore, would be in a very much more favourable position than those who have taken out the full year's licence. I am sure the Minister is aware of the difficulty and I should like to ask him if he has come to any further conclusion about it.

I should like to ask the Minister if he has come to any conclusion as to the exact definition of the word "production" in the paragraph in the Bill dealing with cars. According to the Bill, anybody who satisfies the Minister for Local Government that 75 per cent. of the cost of producing the car has been incurred in Ireland, is entitled to a rebate of duty. The owner of a Ford car of 1918 or 1920 has, in many cases, spent in the Free State considerably more than 75 per cent. of the value of the car. If that does not amount to "production," I do not know what does.

There seems to be some confusion as to the position of Ford taxis. A new Ford taxi will pay £10. An old Ford taxi will pay £12.

The Fords which will pay the full tax will be the old Fords, which are not taxis but private vehicles. The reason why we are not charging all Ford cars the same amount is simply because we have provided that where a car is, to a certain extent, made in the Saorstát, we will give this concession. The new arrangement is made for the purpose of inducing or encouraging people to buy a certain make of car, the production of which gives a great deal of employment in the Saorstát. We do not see any reason why cars which were not produced in the Saorstát and do not come within the definition, should be given a reduction in duty. As a concession, we did leave the Ford taxi at the present rate, but that was a concession which was made with some reluctance and which tended to upset the calculations on which the whole new scheme rested. We introduced this new scheme of motor taxation for the purpose of getting additional revenue for the Road Fund. We have modified it, in certain respects, where it was felt that a strong enough case was made, but where there did not seem to be a very strong case made, we kept the scheme as it was when introduced.

I do not know if it is possible to meet the sort of case put up by Deputy Wolfe. I see no reason why old cars, as such, should have a lower rate of duty than new cars. There is no logic in that contention.

You cannot get rid of the old cars.

The purpose of the tax is to raise revenue for the Road Fund. In a rough way, by basing the tax on horse power, we relate the tax to the damage which a car does, or may do, to the roads. The connection is only a loose one, but that is the idea behind the graduated tax. There is no reason why an old car should get off with a smaller tax than a new car. There is no reason why we should give a concession to a car made in 1915 if we will not, in a year or two, give the same concession to a car made in 1917. We would have to accept the principle that because a car was aged, it should be let off lightly in the matter of taxation. We do not feel that old cars deserve any special mercy.

Does the Minister consider that the Ford car does damage to the road in proportion to the tax imposed on it?

It would take too long to go into that. I think the interpretation of the phrase regarding production, referred to by Deputy Leonard, will not be interpreted by the Minister for Local Government in the sense the Deputy suggested.

Will the Minister not note the words "or in relation thereto?"

I think the Minister for Local Government intends not to be satisfied unless the work is done elsewhere than in a repair shop. The people who pay their licences for the full year may dislike seeing other people getting off more lightly than they get off, but they are just in the same position as the people who, a year or two years ago, took tea out of bond and then found the duty on tea reduced. That is one of those accidents that may happen to anybody and I do not think that we can base our schemes of taxation so as to avoid that.

Will taxis in the country be given this concession as in the city?

This concession applies to taxis fitted with taximeters, the owners of which cannot alter their fares. The cars not fitted with taximeters and not running under regulations can alter their charges to the public so as to recoup themselves.

Would the Minister consider the question of giving relief to heavy motor lorries, so as to put them on the same level as steam lorries and thus avoid further damage to the roads?

Question put and agreed to.
Bill certified as a Money Bill within the meaning of Article 35 of the Constitution, and ordered to be sent to the Seanad.