IN COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. - SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATES—LEAVE TO INTRODUCE.

I move:—

Go dtugaidh an Dáil cead chun go dtabharfaí isteach na Meastacháin Nua agus Breise seo a leanas i gcóir seirbhíse na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1927:—

Vótanna a 43 (An Coimisiún Arachais Sláinte Náisiúnta), 61 (An Roinn Puist agus Telegrafa), 69 (Coimisiún na nDleacht).

That leave be given by the Dáil to introduce the following Additional and Supplementary Estimates for the service of the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1927:—

Votes Nos. 43 (National Health Insurance Commission), 61 (Department of Posts and Telegraphs), 69 (Tariff Commission).

The first two votes are token votes. For the National Health Insurance Commission a vote is asked for £10. That is to enable a sum of about £14,000 to be paid in respect of the grant in aid of contributions towards benefits. There have been additional amounts of benefits paid out by the societies beyond what was anticipated when the original estimate was introduced. It is not possible, as they are grants-in-aid, to transfer from another sub-head in the Vote, without bringing the matter before the Dáil.

In respect of the Posts and Telegraphs Vote, this estimate is introduced because certain premises and a building site in the City of Cork are being acquired for post office purposes. It was promised the Committee on Public Accounts that where a building or site involved an expenditure of more than £5,000, it would be separately brought to the notice of the Dáil. The third estimate is for a sum of £330 to meet the expenses of the Tariff Commission, under the Tariff Commission Act, until the end of the financial year.

Would the Minister say when this vote on the Tariff Commission will be presented?

I think the vote went to the printers this afternoon. I presume it will be presented next week.

I simply wanted to make the plea that the Tariff Commission, if it has this number of applications submitted to it already or to be submitted by the Minister, should proceed with something like speed in its examination. A good deal of time has elapsed since the Bill was passed amid the exultation of the Deputy for Cork and others. There has been a great deal of anxiety aroused since that time because of the delay. People have been hoping that their doubts would be removed and that their anxieties would be relieved, one way or another. I am taking this opportunity to ask the Minister to give an assurance that now they have started work, there will be regular, steady hearings and no longer delays between hearings.

The Deputy may take it that the hearings will be fairly frequent. There have been certain delays. First there was some delay in the choosing of the membership of the Commission. Until the members were appointed, it was impossible to proceed with the making of certain statutory regulations. Even when the regulations were made, it was discovered that, in order that the regulations fixing fees should have validity, an adaptation order should be made by the Executive Council to render it unnecessary to publish the fees in the "London Gazette" which one of the Acts relating to fees and stamps requires. Then, the members of the Commission had to have a number of private meetings to determine procedure and method, and to discuss, generally, how the work of the Commission should be done. It was felt that should be carefully thought out beforehand and that they should not rush into hearings without having considered their plan of campaign. Now that they have done all that preliminary work and have started hearings, there will be no such delays as there have been in the past. I would not like to give the Deputy the impression that a case could be disposed of, as some people suggested, in a couple of days. After the hearing a certain length of time will have to be allowed to elapse to enable people who may oppose the granting of a tariff to make their case. There will even be a necessity for examining accounts in most cases. The mere statements of people making a case cannot be received without being at least checked. I do not think any application, from the time it first comes before the Commission, is likely to be reported upon within a couple of months, ordinarily speaking. If there were a very complicated case, it might be more than that. The work of the Commission could not be properly done unless the documents sent in by the applicants were examined and the Commission put in a position to ask the right questions by examination of them. Then time must be given for people who oppose to come forward and to make their case and even have their arguments rebutted by the original applicants if necessary.

The Minister need not be reminded that we are in February now and that usually new Budget proposals are offered to the House in April. I think the Minister has given an impression to the country, if he has not given a positive assurance, that no new taxes will be placed on imports without the proposal being examined by the Tariff Commission. We have to look to a two months' interval between the first application and the final decision by the Tariff Commission. I do not know whether the Minister intends us to infer that we are not to have any new tariff proposal in the Budget.

There will be no tariff proposals that have not been reported on by the Tariff Commission.

The first hearing is to-day and you are to give a certain number of opportunities for responses and other proposals which are to come forward between now and April 1st.

The Deputy has forgotten that it was also stated that if the Commission did recommend a tariff in a particular case we would come to the Dáil to give it legislative effect, irrespective of the time of the year, and that if it brought more money into the Exchequer than was regarded as necessary it simply would have to be adjusted when the next Budget came along.

Has the Minister gone back on his statement to the House that no new tariff proposal would be put into operation until after the General Election?

The passing of the Tariff Commission Act represents a modification of that.

I thought the Tariff Commission was eyewash.

Is not that obvious now?

Question put, and agreed to.
The Dáil went into Committee on Finance.