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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 4 Nov 1931

Vol. 40 No. 7

Death of Deputies. - Customs Duties (Provisional Imposition) Bill, 1931. First and Second Stages.

I ask leave to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to authorise during a limited period the provisional imposition or variation of customs duties by the Executive Council where such imposition or variation appears to be immediately necessary to prevent an expected dumping of goods or other threatened industrial injury, and to provide opportunity for the consideration of Dáil Eireann of such imposition or variation, to authorise the reference to the Tariff Commission of questions relating to such duties, and to make provisions for matters connected with the matters aforesaid.

This Bill is introduced because it is feared that actual or expected changes in tariff policy in Great Britain might lead to the sudden diversion to this country of large quantities of goods or the removing out of bond in Great Britain of large quantities of goods, and of their being dumped here in such a way as, perhaps, for months ahead, to deprive certain industries of their market. Under this Bill it is proposed to ask for power so that the Executive Council may by order in such cases impose customs duty. That duty would have to be confirmed by the Dáil within ten sitting days after its imposition or it would lapse. It is proposed to substitute in this case for a resolution of the Dáil in Committee on Finance an order of the Executive Council. The Bill would have to be confirmed by legislation in the same way as ordinary customs duties or it would lapse. If the First Reading is agreed to I propose to circulate the Bill immediately and to take the Second Reading at 7 o'clock, when Deputies will have an opportunity of reading the Bill.

A Chinn Comhairle—

Does the Deputy wish to speak at this stage?

On behalf of the Independent Labour Party I welcome the introduction of any legislation calculated to prevent the dumping of goods.

We cannot have a debate on the First Reading.

I am not suggesting that. Am I not entitled to make a statement about proposed legislation on the First Reading?

I do not think so, unless the motion is opposed.

I am not opposing it.

Deputy Anthony has spoken on behalf of the Independent Labour Party. Has the Independent Labour Party a right to occupy these benches?

That does not arise now.

I have what is known as a squatter's right as I was here before the Deputy.

Leave granted.
Bill read a First Time.
Second Stage ordered for 7 p.m.

Could not the Minister make his opening statement on the Second Reading now and postpone the debate until 7 o'clock?

If the Minister agrees that is quite feasible.

I move—

"That the Bill be read a Second Time."

As I have already stated, the Bill arises out of the change in the tariff policy, which seems almost certain to occur in Great Britain. We know, particularly in certain classes of goods, that there were labels or other notices in English on them. Perhaps I had better not mention any particular class, but there are goods prepared for sale in markets where English is spoken, and the labels and other notices attached to these goods are in English. If they are suddenly shut out of Great Britain the tendency of those who manufacture them for export to Great Britain would be to send them here as far as the market here could absorb them in any reasonable period. In many other countries there is power in existence for the Executive to impose a customs duty in order to prevent dumping, without going through the ordinary legislative procedure. As a rule, in all cases some investigation by a committee precedes the imposition by the Executive of a duty, but in the peculiar circumstances which we are faced with, it would not be possible to have that investigation in advance. We might get word that steps had been taken to impose a duty in Great Britain, or even that manufacturers who export goods to Great Britain feared there was going to be a tariff imposed there immediately, and that they were diverting their goods here. If we were to delay there might be a case even within two or three days where very large consignments of goods might be landed here, to be sold at very reduced prices, and in such a way as to prevent manufacturers here having the normal market they would have. We came to the conclusion that there was no way to face this difficulty except by the Executive taking power to take the initial step of putting on a duty.

The Bill proposes that within ten sitting days after the imposition of the duty by Order the Resolution must be approved by the Dáil; otherwise it lapses. Then a Bill ratifying the taxation must be introduced within the next twenty sitting days of the Dáil and the legislation confirming it must be passed by Dáil Eireann within four months of the making of the Order; otherwise it lapses and any duties collected under it must be repaid. As I said, elsewhere the usual procedure is to have an investigation by some sort of Board or Committee before the duty is imposed. The close proximity of this country to England, and the fact that labels or wrappers on these goods are printed in English, makes this the natural place, when goods are refused admission to England, to dump such goods. Because of these circumstances it is necessary to be able to act here more rapidly. We believe there are many cases where there might be a measure of doubt as to whether the duty should be continued at a particular rate or whether it should be continued at all for any length of time. At any rate we propose to enable the Executive Council to submit to the Tariff Commission immediately after a tariff has been imposed the question of its continuation, variation or termination, to get the Tariff Commission to hear the evidence that is available, and to present a report at the earliest possible moment, because the object of the Bill is not to prevent the importation of cheap goods, provided it is a legitimate importation and provided the goods are not being positively sold here below the cost of production and in such a way as to make it impossible for the Irish manufacturers to compete. So that where there is any doubt about the absolute need for the tariff the intention would be to refer it immediately to the Tariff Commission for investigation. Meantime, whenever necessary, steps will have been taken and such a duty will be imposed as to make it impossible for this market to be flooded with such goods.

I do not care to mention any particular class of goods though I think there is one that I might mention because I had occasion to refer to them once before with regard to this particular point. I remember the British Parliament some years ago changed the incidence of the customs duty on matches. It had been imposed on one basis and it was altered to another basis. The effect of that would have been that if we had not changed our duty, foreign matches which had been intended for the English markets and which could no longer have got in at minimum rates or at favourable rates, would have been dumped here in such quantities as would have put the factory which operates here out of commission or out of work for a period. We felt obliged on that occasion to adjust our tax so that the basis of admission here would be the same as in England. One of the reasons why those matches which could not have got in at favourable rates to England would have been sent here was simply that the notices on the boxes were in English and the matches were intended for a market where English was spoken. That would apply to other classes of goods. It is absolutely certain that if there were sudden tariff changes in England on any very large scale quantities of many classes of goods which would not ordinarily have reached this market, would be diverted here to the disturbance of trade and the injury of our manufactures. It is a very good thing to get goods cheap, but it is a bad thing to get dumped goods, which, while they might benefit consumers for a while, would permanently destroy a source of wealth in some manufacturing industry.

Debate adjourned to 7 p.m.