I beg formally to move the Second Reading of this Bill, which is to implement, as I already explained, the Order made by the late Government on the 30th day of December, 1931, under Section 1 of the Customs Duties (Provisional Imposition) Act, 1931, and a copy of which has already been laid on the Table of the House.
In Committee on Finance. - Finance (Customs Duties) Bill, 1932.—Second Stage.
Is this a permanent Bill imposing a tariff on bacon?
It is confirming the Order which is made under that Provisional Protection Act, and I presume it will remain in force until the House sees good to repeal it.
That is what I want to know. In connection with the Bill, as one of the protagonists of the bacon tariff, I am glad that it has gone even a step further, but I would draw the Minister's attention to the position on the Northern frontier or the only frontier we have got. There are, of course, pigs purchased on this side of the Border which are taken across the Border to be cured and some of them come back in the form of bacon. At the present time, on account of the small price at which foreign bacon can be bought, an undue amount is coming across to be sold here. They are taking advantage of the position and buying cheap Polish, Lithuanian and Swedish bacon in amounts altogether out of proportion to the trade there used to be and the proportion bought and resold in Saorstát territory. I would ask the Minister to keep his eye on the position so that an undue amount of Northern cured bacon would not be coming in here and replaced in the North by consumption of Lithuanian, Polish and Swedish bacon.
In this connection I would like to call attention to the fact that Section 3 sub-section (2) remains exactly in the form in which the order was made, and I am taking it that this represents a considered policy on the part of the Government. The sub-section to which I refer says: "the duty imposed by this section shall not be charged or levied on any bacon which is shown to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners to have been consigned from a country within the British Commonwealth of Nations and produced entirely in a country or countries within the British Commonwealth of Nations." When the Order was first made, a certain amount of complaint arose in connection with it, mainly centred upon the allegation that the imports of Canadian bacon were of such an amount as if not entirely to destroy the effect of the order, at least to nullify its good effects. It appears that whether that is true or not, the policy of admitting Canadian bacon free from this tax is going to be persisted in and I call attention to it because, as I say, I am assuming that when we see it appearing in what we presume is a permanent Act, it represents a considered policy on the part of the Government by whom this particular Bill, with this particular section, is being introduced. I call attention to it also because of the fact that a prominent producer of bacon in the country has raised a certain amount of anxiety in the public mind by statements which he made, to the effect that quite an amount of bacon actually produced in the United States of America was being brought across the frontier and was being brought into this country as Canadian and consequently escaped tax. That particular statement was countered in the newspapers by a private individual, and, later on, countered by the Canadian Trade Commissioner. The only apology or withdrawal I saw from the manufacturer who made the original complaint was in reference to a private correspondent, and not at all in reference to what was stated by the Trade Commissioner of Canada in this country. I am assuming that, inasmuch as this Bill is introduced in a permanent form with this clause incorporated, it represents a considered policy on the part of the Executive, and consequently, we can take it that it also represents their view that the allegations made as to the extent to which the United States of America bacon was coming in, disguised as Canadian bacon, were false. I welcome the fact that this still remains, because it shows, at any rate, that whatever the Government may be disposed to do on the political side, they recognise the value of the economic association with the British Commonwealth of Nations.
With reference to what Deputy McGilligan has said, the only considered view that the Government want to be taken from this Bill is that they want to be in the position of not having to give back the tax already collected. The Provisional Order was made by the late Government on the second-last day of December, and unless it is confirmed by the Dáil and Seanad, I am told, before the 30th April, the money that was collected as import duty on bacon imported would have to be handed back. That is the only considered view that can be taken from this Bill—that we do not want to give back that money. With regard to bacon coming in over the Northern frontier, as stated by Deputy Gorey, there has been an increase. As a matter of fact, whereas the import for the first three months of 1931 was 7,600 cwts., the imports this year are 11,900 cwts. But it is certainly not the North of Ireland that has increased its imports so much under this Bill as Canada. We imported in the first three months of 1931, 123 cwts., and this year we imported 34,500 cwts. Our increase in imports was practically altogether from Canada, with a small increase from Northern Ireland. The tariff had the effect, it is true, of stopping imports practically completely from the Continent. Imports from Denmark have gone down from 15,000 cwts. to 2,000 cwts. for the first three months this year as compared with the corresponding period last year.
Mr. P. Hogan (Galway):
Was the 34,000 cwts. from Canada for three months or a year?
The first three months, during which the tariff was in operation.
That is from Canada?
Yes. The imports from Poland which were 22,000 cwts. for the first three months of last year have gone down this year to 500 cwts., so that the tariff has really been effective so far as keeping out imports against any country against which the tariff was imposed is concerned, but it has had the effect, on the other hand, of replacing Continental imports by imports from Canada and the North of Ireland. Taking our imports as a whole, they have been reduced considerably during the period of the tariff, as compared with the corresponding period last year, while our exports have remained at the same level, so that as far as this tariff went, it would appear to be effective, but it does not, of course, go so far as to exclude countries like Canada, Northern Ireland or any other country within the British Empire. The Government must take notice of that position, and I am not in a position, at present, to say what the result may be. As I said, however, unless this Bill goes through the Dáil and Seanad before the end of next week, we shall be in the unhappy position of having to hand back whatever duty was collected on the bacon during the last three months.
Is it not a fact that the order could have been introduced with such modifications as would have excluded Canadian bacon?
That is quite true.
It was on that that I founded my previous statement: that it seemed to me that because this Bill has been introduced in the form of the original order when modification of it could easily have been made, it did represent something in the way of a considered policy on the part of the Executive Council in regard to Canadian bacon.
As everyone is aware, the Tariff Commission has been for quite a considerable time considering an application for a tariff on bacon. We would like, if possible, to await their report.
Mr. P. Hogan (Galway):
I take it that the Tariff Commission will be allowed to complete its examination of that application? Could the Minister say what the price was of the Canadian bacon that came in? I understand that Polish bacon came in at 36/- or 37/-. Could the Minister say if the wholesale price of the Canadian bacon that came in was the same as that for Irish bacon?
It certainly came in at a much higher price than that of Polish bacon. It would have been in or about the price of Irish bacon.