Financial Motions. - (1) Customs Duty on Oats: (2) Increase of Duty on Oatmeal.

The Dáil went into Committee on Finance.

I wish to propose two motions to the Dáil that arise out of a report of the Tariff Commission, which considered a reference made to it by the Executive Council as to the desirability of imposing a Customs Duty on oats imported into Saorstát Eireann. The report presented by the Tariff Commission has been received by the Executive Council within the last two or three days, and it recommends the imposition of a tariff on oats and an increase in the duty on oatmeal. Resolution No. 1 is as follows:——

(1) That a Customs duty at the rate of two shillings and sixpence the hundredweight shall be charged, levied and paid on all oats imported into Saorstát Eireann on or after the 24th day of October, 1931.

(2) That the provisions of Section 8 of the Finance Act, 1919, shall apply to the duty mentioned in this resolution with the substitution of the expression "Saorstát Eireann" for the expression "Great Britain and Ireland," and as though oats were included in the Second Schedule to that Act in the list of goods to which two-thirds of the full rate is made applicable as a preferential rate.

(3) It is hereby declared that it is expedient in the public interest that this resolution shall have statutory effect under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1927 (No. 7 of 1927).

It is proposed that the general duty on oats should be 2/6 per cwt., the Imperial preference rate being 1/8 per cwt. Consequential upon that the Tariff Commission recommend that the duty on oatmeal be increased, and the second Resolution is as follows:—

(1) That in lieu of the duty of Customs chargeable under Section 7 of the Finance Act, 1926 (No. 35 of 1926), there shall be charged, levied and paid on all oatmeal imported into Saorstát Eireann on or after the 24th day of October, 1931, a Customs duty at the rate of six shillings the hundredweight.

(2) That the provisions of Section 8 of the Finance Act, 1919, shall apply to the duty mentioned in this Resolution with the substitution of the expression "Saorstát Eireann" for the expression "Great Britain and Ireland," and as though oatmeal were included in the Second Schedule to that Act in the list of goods to which two-thirds of the full rate is made applicable as a preferential rate.

(3) That in lieu of the drawback payable under Section 16 of the Finance Act, 1927 (No. 18 of 1927), there shall be allowed as from the 24th day of October, 1931, on the due exportation or the due shipment of stores for use as stores of any goods in the manufacture or preparation of which in Saorstát Eireann any imported oatmeal chargeable with duty under this Resolution has been used a drawback equal to the duty paid under this Resolution in respect of the quantity of such oatmeal which appears to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners to have been used in the manufacture or preparation of the goods.

(4) That in allowing the drawback under this Resolution the Revenue Commissioners, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, may, in order to facilitate trade, modify or dispense with all or any of the requirements of Sections 104 and 106 of the Customs Consolidation Act, 1876, as to the giving of security and the examination of the goods.

(5) It is hereby declared that it is expedient in the public interest that this Resolution shall have statutory effect under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1927 (No. 7 of 1927).

It is proposed that the duty on oatmeal which is at present 2/6 per cwt. without any Imperial preference rate should become 6/- per cwt., with an Imperial preference rate of 4/-. That is, broadly speaking, that the effective duty on oatmeal should be increased from 2/6 to 4/- per cwt., corresponding with the imposition of an Imperial preference rate on oats of 1/8, and 2/6 as a general duty. I think it would be better not to discuss this proposal at any great length to-day. The report is ready to be sent to the printers and will be in the hands of Deputies when the Dáil next meets. A good deal of evidence was submitted to the Tariff Commission. A considerable number of people volunteered, or were invited to give evidence, representing farmers, agricultural committees, trainers of racehorses, oatmeal millers and people variously interested, and, in general, the view of the Commission was that the duty should be chargeable on all oats; that although there has been constantly an importation of seed oats, it would be difficult, if not impracticable, to exempt seed oats. Furthermore, the Commission was satisfied, having heard all the evidence, that there was no good reason for the importation of seed oats; that in fact better seed oats could be produced in this country, and that oats that were being imported as seed oats were simply good commercial oats, and not a special pure line of oats at all. It would be better that the quantity of seed oats required should be produced at home, and that the importation of seed oats should be confined to whatever small quantities were necessary for the introduction of new varieties.

There was opposition also on the ground that imported oats were required by the trainers of race horses. The Commission were satisfied that only in wet seasons were small quantities of imported oats necessary for this purpose, and that no appreciable hardship would be inflicted by the imposition of the moderate duty on oats that is proposed. The view of the Commission is that the imposition of the tariff will prevent, in certain circumstances, the importation of commercial oats which would depress the market. There is a certain tendency towards increasing imports and this will prevent the market being depressed by that particular kind of import.

It will also give an increased market and, in fact, develop a certain line of oat growing by causing the seed oat requirements of the country to be produced at home. Undoubtedly, while this increase on oatmeal is necessary, it will, in fact, I think further substantially increase the preference that home oatmeal millers enjoy and tend to further exclude the oatmeal produced outside. It is necessary to increase the tariff on oatmeal because if, in any season, it was necessary for the oatmeal millers to import substantial quantities of oats and pay a tariff on them, they would be at a disadvantage with competitors outside if the tariff were allowed to remain as at present. It is not anticipated that, generally speaking, substantial quantities will have to be imported by the oatmeal millers. This increase in the tariff will, I think, have the effect of improving their position, and in that way of increasing, or giving some addition to, the market for home grown oats.

I wish very heartily to congratulate the people and the electors of Kildare on the tardy conversion of the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Agriculture. For several years we have been pressing the Government to protect cereal growers. We have used practically the same arguments that the Minister for Finance put forward here to-day, notwithstanding the fact that four or five years ago he turned them down. As the Tariff Commission have made up their minds to put on this tariff— rather I should say that the Minister for Agriculture made up his mind five or six months ago that he was going to put it through—I am sorry they did not apply it on the 31st August instead of the 31st October. The hardest hit farmers have had to get rid of their oats already. It is too bad that they did not know that the Government were going to apply this tariff.

The Minister has stated that the discussion on the motion should be postponed until we get the Report of the Tariff Commission. We have no intention of discussing it to-day. I certainly think that the people of the country, the electors of Kildare and the Grain Growers' Association, are to be congratulated on bringing the necessary pressure to bear on the Government to do something for agriculture. It is to be hoped that if they keep up the pressure the Government will be forced either to do something for agriculture as a whole or to get out and let somebody else do it.

I think it is better not to discuss the tariff until the Report of the Tariff Commission is available. I merely want to give my opinion that the tariff will be as useful as the tariff on butter. From my point of view if it has any use at all it is this: it will get the farmers' minds off a perfectly unimportant point.

I congratulate the Minister for Finance on his conversion. In the Budget for 1928 I looked for this tariff. The Minister then told me that instead of being a benefit, such a tariff would be a decided hardship on the agricultural community. If our presence here and our education of the farming community throughout the country has done nothing else except to bring this eleventh hour conversion of the Minister, who will soon have to face the farmers at the polls we have at least done some good. I welcome the tariff because I believe that next year if he is here the Minister will find himself compelled to double it. If he is not here then there will be somebody else in his place to do so. I wonder whether the Minister is going to follow the tariff on oats by imposing the tariff that has been demanded on bacon and on foreign barley. We have succeeded in bringing the Minister a long way on the road to see our point of view on this question, or at least the impending election has brought about his eleventh hour conversion. Perhaps before he faces the country again he will see the absolute need for a tariff on bacon and on foreign barley as well as on oats. If he does then we will have got him almost completely round to our point of view.

I wonder what change has come about since the Minister told us in 1928 that this tariff would be a decided hardship on the farming community. I would like to hear that from him. At any rate he is to be congratulated on his conversion, the people are to be congratulated and I think the Fianna Fáil Party is also to be congratulated on educating the Minister. We get so much education from those who sit on the front bench opposite that I think our education of the Minister in this matter will undoubtedly prove of benefit to the country.

Will the Minister say whether any estimate has been made of the revenue that he expects to get from this tariff either during the remainder of this financial year or in a normal year?

No such estimate has been made. It is of no consequence.

I would like to refer to the awkward method adopted by the Tariff Commission for taking evidence, the awkward time at which it was taken. A good many farmers believe that it is through sheer ignorance in those who control the Tariff Commission that evidence was taken at that time. I do not like to have to say that, but that is the case, because September is generally the month in which farmers sell their oats. The Minister for Agriculture thought that oats was not sold for cash—that it was fed. Now he realises that is not the case. A number of complaints have reached me during the last week or ten days that while a number of men wanted cash they did not want to sell their oats. A number of them will now be put in a very awkward position. Some of them have been compelled to sell. I think it is a pity this tariff was not brought into operation a month or two ago. There should be no trouble in calculating these things. We think that this tariff should have been introduced when the Dáil met or before it met. If that had been done farmers would have known what they were going to get for their oats.

I think that when the Tariff Commission did impose this tariff it might as well have prohibited the importation of oats altogether. If that had been done outside countries would have thought a lot more about us. It is a poor thing to say that we have to import oats, that when we have a fine season and a good harvest and perhaps a surplus of oats we have not business capacity enough to store it to meet the requirements of a season when the supply is short or perhaps not of good quality. I do not think that any oats should have to come in here at all. The Minister admits that he will get nothing out of this. If oats does come in the collection of the tariff on it will cost something. I think it would simplify matters if the importation of oats was prohibited altogether.

Resolution No. 1 put and agreed to.

With regard to Resolution No 2, I just wish to say it is my opinion that, in any normally governed country where the policy of the Government either through force of circumstances or the force of public opinion or whatever the force might be had been so completely reversed as the policy of the present Free State Government has been on this question of tariffs, the Government would get up and resign. That is what would have happened in any normal country. This country has not yet probably, according to some people, reached a stage of normality. Therefore, the Government, despite the fact that they have been completely reversed, that they have had to completely reverse their own declared policy on tariffs as instanced in the case of this tariff on oats and as recently happened in the case of the tariff on butter, still hang on to office.

I know they have claimed that their policy has been to refer these matters to the Tariff Commission. They have claimed that in the House, and sometimes elsewhere, but there has not been anywhere a more vigorous opponent of tariffs in general than the present Minister for Agriculture. He has in season and out of season declared that he has no belief or faith in tariffs of any kind.

We are not on tariffs in general now, of course.

I know that, but in this instance he has had to reverse his policy in standing up here to advocate and to agree to the advocation and adoption by the Government of a tariff on oats. He had to do the same recently in regard to the tariff on butter. Despite that he has the face to remain in office. Having been completely, as much as any public man can be, reversed in policy, he still holds on to office. It shows what political morality and public morality are so far as the Government are concerned.

There has been no change in policy. We have always believed that where a case could be made for a tariff the tariff should be imposed, and where a case could not be made for it, that it should be refused. We are only Free Trade in this sense, that we do not believe in all round protection without investigation.

Can the Minister state what change has come over the country since 1928?

Resolution No. 2 put and agreed to.
The Dáil went out of Committee.
Resolutions reported.
Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 4th November.