Perhaps the Minister will tell us what will be the financial effect of this section?
Finance Bill, 1936—Committee Stage (Resumed).
Section 7 of the Finance (Customs and Excise Duties) Act of 1933 provided for the payment of road tax at the rate of £20 in lieu of £30 in the case of a commercial vehicle which exceeded one ton but did not exceed one and a quarter tons in weight unladen, and in respect of which it was shown to the satisfaction of the Minister for Industry and Commerce that such vehicles were assembled in Saorstát Eireann in a manner and to an extent for the time being approved by the said Minister. Section 7, paragraph 5, of the same Act, provided for the payment of road tax at the maximum rate of £16 in lieu of the rate of £1 per horse power, limited in the case of private motor car vehicles in respect of which it is shown to the satisfaction of the Minister for Industry and Commerce that such vehicles were likewise assembled in Saorstát Eireann in the manner and to the extent for the time being approved by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The view is now being adopted that this concession should for the future be limited to vehicles which are not only assembled in the Saorstát to the extent required but are also to the extent required by the Minister for Industry and Commerce assembled from parts manufactured in the Saorstát. I should like in that connection to emphasise that certificates issued under the law as it existed prior to May of this year do not lose their validity and will still carry the benefit of the concession to the vehicles in respect of which they were issued as long as those vehicles are in existence. As to the financial effect of the resolution, it is not expected that the revenue derived from the road tax will be affected by it, as it is understood that manufacturers will comply with the amended law.
Does that mean, Sir, that a person who long doubted the commercial prudence of setting up in the motor car assembling business, and who was subsequently induced to go into that business by the representations of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, now finds himself in the position that, having equipped himself to assemble motor cars out of parts supplied from abroad, he loses all the protection by way of horse-power tax that he had enjoyed, unless the motor car manufacturer for whom he acts as assembling agent indicates his readiness to manufacture the parts in Saorstát Eireann? Let us come down to concrete cases. The Ford Motor Car Company has a great plant in Cork which can be used for manufacturing parts. There are two or three other makes of cars which have no manufacturing plant in Saorstát Eireann, but which are represented here by assembling agents. Those assembling agents have laid out very large sums of money to equip assembling plants. Are they now to find that the Ford Motor Car Company will have a substantial preference over them although they were induced to go into the business on the representation that all persons who assemble motor cars in Saorstát Eireann would be on an equal footing?
I should just like to say that the statement which the Deputy has made does not represent the facts. There is no person engaged in the assembly of motor cars in the Saorstát to-day who did not enter that business with his eyes open; who was not told before he undertook that assembly that as soon as Irish manufactured parts became available he would be expected to utilise them in the assembling of his cars. The section which the House is now asked to assent to gives the Minister for Industry and Commerce power to exact the fulfilment of that condition from those who engage in the assembling of motor car parts here. I have no reason to believe, as I have already indicated to the House, that there will be any difficulty in securing the fulfilment of the regulation prescribed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in this regard. I understand, indeed, that the manufacturers have already indicated that they are willing to comply with the reasonable requirements of the Department of Industry and Commerce in this connection, and that, as I have already said, the section, therefore, will have no effect upon the revenue. There is no desire on the part of the Government, or I am sure of the House, to give a monopoly of manufacture to one firm. That is not the purpose of this section, and it will not be used in that way.
I think the Minister for Industry and Commerce might have attended here this morning to tell us what the facts are. Nobody on this side of the House has had any opportunity of discussing this section with interested parties.
That is not the fault of the Government.
I quite agree. But the Minister, of course, before taking steps in a final form radically to affect the interests of a number of merchants will have discussed this section with those interests, and he could tell us to-day what arrangements have been made to meet the Government's requirements. If it is true, as the Minister for Finance says—he disowns any expert knowledge of the matter; it is primarily a matter for the Minister for Industry and Commerce—that all the persons who are engaged in the assembling of motor cars here have made arrangements to meet the requirements of this section, well then if agreement has been arrived at between the Minister and the manufacturers my primary objection to this section falls to the ground. But I think the Minister will agree with me that it would be a very grave injustice indeed if a man had been induced to enter the assembling business, say, six months ago, and now found that as a result of this section all his arrangements were gone for nought, and that he could not comply with this section and get the same advantages that other assembling plants would enjoy.
The Deputy who has just sat down made use, in the course of his statement, of the phrase "if it is true." He used that phrase and emphasised it, not once but many times. I resent very much that form of address in this House. It is a reflection upon the veracity of the Minister. "If it is true," says the Deputy. Has he any reason to believe that it is not true? He has told the House that he has not heard anything from interested persons in contradiction of what I have said. This section was before the House on the 12th May last in the form of a resolution. It was, subsequently, discussed on the Report Stage. It is almost a fortnight since this Bill got its Second Reading. In the whole of that six weeks not one of the very alert business men engaged in the motor-assembling industry has come to the Deputy and asked him to challenge the section. That is the admission the Deputy has made to the House, and yet he gets up here and, when I tell him that I understand the manufacturers are prepared to comply with the requirements of the Minister for Industry and Commerce in this matter, the only criticism the Deputy can offer, the only argument or debating point that he can make, is "if what the Minister says be true." He has admitted that he has nothing in his possession which would justify him in doubting what I have said, and yet, as I say, he uses an expression here which, in the circumstances as I have detailed them to the House, I think I am entitled to resent.
I should like, Sir, to straighten back on his pedestal this combination of George Washington and Wolfe Tone that my colleague has shaken so badly.
They do not mix in the Deputy.
Once back on his pedestal, I should like to ask for a little information from him. From what the Minister says, the requirements that are going to be made on the manufacturers of motor cars are going to be progressive. According as firms manufacturing parts of motor cars extend the line of parts they are manufacturing here, manufacturers of cars are going to be required, by regulations made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, to extend the use of these parts in order to become qualified for the relief under the section. From the 13th May certain requirements have been made on the manufacturers of cars. The section says:—
"... in respect of which it is shown to the satisfaction of the Minister for Industry and Commerce that such vehicle was assembled in Saorstát Eireann in a manner and to an extent for the time being approved of by the said Minister and was so assembled, either wholly or to an extent for the time being approved of by the said Minister, from parts manufactured in Saorstát Eireann ...."
I should like to ask the Minister what is the general range of parts that are available manufactured in Saorstát Eireann and which are covered by the regulations that have been brought into force and are operative from the 13th May? I think the House is entitled to hear, generally, when this change is being made, what progress has been made in the manufacture of motor car parts here—whether it is limited to a small range of the most important parts of the car, or whether it has developed in small parts even to a considerable extent.
I think, Sir, the House would welcome a further statement from the Minister as to what extent this section would apply. It has been the general experience of motor manufacturers that the Free State market did not warrant a manufacturing plant in the sense that it did in other places; for instance, the Ford Company ceased the manufacture of parts in Cork because it was not economic to do so. If this applies all round, it would seem that we are making for a factory which could not be economic. The House, I am sure, would welcome a further statement from the Minister as to whether his Department or the Department of Industry and Commerce is going to insist on all the parts being manufactured here or only certain of the parts that can be economically manufactured here.
Naturally, the Department of Industry and Commerce, in pursuance of the policy which the country has approved and which the Dáil has already sanctioned when, in 1933, it permitted us to incorporate the existing provision in the law relating to motor vehicles duties, will insist that parts which can be manufactured economically in this country will be utilised, and no others. Of course, we are not going to impose an undue burden on any section of the citizens, and I think I can say this: That notwithstanding all the opposition which the Minister for Industry and Commerce experienced here from certain quarters in this House and outside it when he embarked on this task of establishing the motor assembling industry in this country, everyone to-day in the country is satisfied with the result of the Minister's efforts.
I really feel that it would be of material assistance, not only to the House, but to all interested in the business generally, if the Minister for Industry and Commerce would make a short statement clarifying exactly what the position will be under two heads: one, the comparative position of the different types of motor assembling; that is to say, those who have factories capable of manufacturing parts in Saorstát Eireann, and two, those who act exclusively as assembling agents of motor cars manufactured in Great Britain or in the United States of America. We are all aware that, very recently, two or three new models of cars have been put on the market here in Saorstát Eireann from Germany, the United States, and Great Britain. Whether these assemblers will have any facilities whatever for getting parts, suitable for their cars, manufactured in Saorstát Eireann is something that we know nothing about.
Paragraph (a) relates to commercial people who——
The Minister will understand that the situation is that we asked, when the section first came to be dealt with, for an explanatory statement. The position was not made quite clear, and perhaps the Minister can anticipate much of our inquiry, if he would make a short statement on the matter now.
I think a very lucid explanation was given. Under the existing law this concession is given in respect of cars which are assembled, to the degree prescribed, in the Saorstát. The effect of this section is to require that they should be both assembled and manufactured or assembled from parts manufactured as may be prescribed. In so far as commercial vehicles are concerned, there is no difficulty in having bodies for them manufactured here. They were manufactured here before they were assembled. As far as the bodies are concerned, the intention is to ensure that the bodies will be manufactured here.
The bodies only.
Yes. We have not yet got to the stage of manufacturing the chassis, but we will in due course. In so far as private cars are concerned the various parts the use of which are prescribed, are manufactured independently of any assembly firm and are available to all.
Then we are to understand that this section does not apply to private cars or hackney cars.
Paragraph (a) does not.
Does any part of the Bill empower the Minister to require that parts of hackney cars will be manufactured here?
When the Minister first embarked on this scheme we all know that one firm, the Ford Company, which had behind it a factory in Cork, manufactured here.
Parts are manufactured by independent firms—springs, axles.
Certain parts could be manufactured by the Ford Company in Cork. There was a long pause then during which a number of other motor assemblers or car agents did not go into the assembly business at all. They were strongly pressed by the Minister to get into the assembly business. He let it be known that if they would not do so he was prepared to ask the Dáil to take steps to eliminate their cars. Then these agents laid out large sums of money in the equipment of assembly plants, on the understanding that they would be put on the same footing as anyone else assembling cars here. Having invested large capital in these assembly plants, I want to know if this section empowers the Minister to make further regulations, which might operate to give a material advantage to an assembler who had behind him a factory in the Saorstát which was adaptable to the manufacture of chassis parts.
There is none such.
The Ford factory in Cork.
They do not manufacture; they assemble.
The factory could be adapted to do so.
They purchase parts for other firms.
Long before the Minister's name was heard of in politics the Ford factory in Cork was manufacturing tractors from the first nut to the finished tractor. A factory capable of doing that is capable of adaptation for the manufacture of any standard parts.
Will the Deputy take my word that they are not doing it?
I know that. If the Minister makes regulations requiring any person who wants the advantage conferred by previous Finance Acts, to which the Minister for Finance referred, on those assembling parts manufactured in Saorstát Eireann, the Ford Company can produce these parts. But the Adler, the Morris, the Austin, the Studebaker and the Packard people are not in a position to manufacture in Saorstát Eireann individual parts required for assembly, but they have been induced by the Minister to lay out large sums of money on the establishment of assembly plants, on the understanding, I suggest, that if they were prepared to assemble they would not be required to manufacture chassis parts in this country. Is it the Minister's intention to go back on that implict undertaking, and to differentiate again between the different assembly firms who are engaged in the motor assembly business?
I only want to say that there was no understanding given anyone as to the degree of assembly that would be required.
What is your intention?
My intention is to require the use of Saorstát parts, if available. If the Deputy knew the first thing about the business he would know that.
Why should I know?
Why talk about it.
Because it is my business to find out what the Minister's intentions are, and I have every intention of finding out the last word about this. It is 11 o'clock now and if Ministers are going to take up that attitude they will not get the Committee Stage this morning. If they are prepared to give information the business can go on expeditiously.
This is deliberate obstruction.
It is the business of the Opposition to obstruct vigorously until they get information. If Ministers give information we hope to cooperate with them.
We intend to require the use of parts manufactured in Saorstát Eireann.
Supposing the Minister's attention is directed to the fact that certain makers of cars cannot incorporate in their chassis standard springs and parts, what is the position? Let me repeat that I have had no contact with any motor car company. There are certain makes of car which have a forward drive and certain makes which have a rear wheel drive. Will cars which have a unique form of driving be able to use standard parts that other makes of cars, all of which have the same kind of drive, can use?
The Deputy can be certain that the regulations will not require any firm to use parts if such parts are not manufactured here.
What is the position if the Minister wants them to use springs of Irish manufacture and they cannot get them? He cannot discriminate between different motor assembly plants.
Then we will make all classes of springs.
So the Minister will not order the use of any parts in the assembling of motor cars unless he is satisfied a suitable unit is made for every make of car assembled here.
Unless we are satisfied it is a practicable proposition, and that the parts required to be used are made here.
The coach building industry when the Ford factory was working to a greater extent than it is now had a very big annual wage pool. In 1933 it paid £90,000, and in 1934 £150,000 indicating that there was an increase of £60,000. Between 1933 and 1934, however, the figures disclosed that there had been a falling off in the average wage paid to workers from £125 to £108. I do not know whether the manufacture of general motor parts is included in the returns for coach-building or if it is included in the engineering and implement returns.
If so, in the engineering and implement returns there is a more substantial decline in the average wages paid to workers in the coach-building trade. The amount has gone down by about £27, according to the returns for 1933 compared with those for 1931. I should like to know from the Minister if he had any consultation with the motor car manufacturers on the question of wages, if the apparent fall in wages has been discussed in any way, and whether the proposals now made are likely to increase the cost of cars produced. The position requires a certain amount of investigation, when the Minister is, by further regulation, endeavouring to increase the amount of productive work in connection with the motor car industry. I submit that he might find out why wages are tending to fall and whether the development he is considering now is going to raise costs.
I am not aware that there is any tendency of wages to fall, and I feel sure that any figures supplied to the Deputy will not show that. I think the Deputy is making the same mistake that he made on other occasions. He is dividing the number of persons employed in October in the years in which the Census of Production is taken with the amount of wages paid for the whole year. Obviously the average wage figure which that calculation will give is bound to be less than the real figure if the number of persons employed has been increasing during the year, and it has been the case in this industry particularly, in which there has been a substantial increase in the number employed and in the total amount of wages paid.
As the increase does not take place on the 1st January every year, but continuously during the year, any calculation based upon a division of the number employed in October into the wages paid is bound to give a figure less than the actual average wage. That is why the Deputy has got misleading results from his calculation. Between 1933 and 1934 the amount paid in wages increased from £90,000 to £152,000, and the number employed from 890 to 1,760. There has been, of course, a still further increase since 1934, because not merely are new makes of cars being now assembled, but there has been, as the Deputy is aware, a very considerable increase in the sales of new cars, particularly during the last year. There has been no development in the industry, of which I am aware, which would justify the conclusion that there has been a reduction in the average rate of wages. The rates of wages are more or less standardised.
I do not controvert at all that in an industry where the number of employees are increasing from year to year, if you take the number referring to employment and divide it into the annual wage pool, you are not going to get the average wage paid for the year.
You get a lower figure.
You tend to get a lower figure. What I am saying is that by comparing the relationship between the total pool and the employment in October from year to year, you get a tendency that shows the way the average rate is increasing or decreasing.
No. Even that assumption is based on the conclusion that the rate of increase in employment is steady all the time.
The Minister is able by taking a sheet of paper and with more information than is given in the statistics before me, to make his calculation and develop his theory on it, but the position that is before us is that in the implement trades, taking the relationship between employment in October and the total wage pool, the ratio there has decreased in the implement trades much more than £19 a year between 1931 and 1932, much more than £27 between 1931 and 1934, and, in the industry we are now discussing, as between 1923 and 1934, it is down by £13. It is not possible to make any kind of comparison between 1931 and 1934 because of the Ford factory position.
I should like to point out to the Minister that for the last two years representations have been made to me by coach builders here in the city that as a consequence of the importation of cars for commercial vehicles, there has been a large decrease in employment in that particular business, with consequent loss both to the coach builders and their employers. I should like to ask the Minister if he now intends to have cars which are attached to commercial vehicles manufactured in this country.
That is the intention and that is why this power is taken in paragraph (a).
I move amendment No. 35:—
In paragraph (b), page 12, lines 16 and 17, to delete the words "within 12 months before the importation of the article".
The purpose of this amendment is to delete certain words which would deprive certain persons of the concessions which it was intended to grant under the section. This clause is designed to enable the Revenue Commissioners to exempt certain articles from duty, largely articles which are left to people under certain wills, family heirlooms and things of that description. The point is, of course, that executors are allowed a period of 12 months for the settlement of an estate and for the distribution of legacies. If they have not settled the estate, and legacies have not been distributed and imported within 12 months, in order to comply with the section as it at present stands, the limiting words might impose a very great hardship upon the executors, on the one hand, and would prevent the legatees from obtaining the advantage of the section on the other hand.
I should like to know what is the justification for this extension of an officer's right to seize the books which relate to goods which it is alleged have been smuggled.
It is designed to enable an officer when searching premises to seize and carry away documents which there are reasonable grounds to believe relate to smuggling transactions. That has been the invariable practice already, but we want to make it clear.
It has been questioned whether it is strictly in accordance with the law.
This practice has never been questioned in the courts. There was a case in the courts some years ago where another right to search under another Act was questioned.
We shall deal with that later.
That was dealt with.
I take it, then, that the Revenue Commissioners have felt that possibly their rights to take away books relating to smuggled merchandise might be questioned. They are now seeking statutory powers so that they will have a good defence to any action.
Precisely. The section is brought in because we have decided that the law, in so far as it relates to smuggling, must be strengthened.
Amendments Nos. 36 and 38 can be taken together.
Amendments Nos. 36 and 38 are designed to restrict somewhat the effect of what is a very drastic section, and it is difficult to discuss these amendments apart from amendments Nos. 37 and 39.
The four amendments might be discussed together, with two decisions, if necessary.
I should be quite prepared to fall in with that arrangement, and I formally move the amendments. It is a well-established principle of the common law in Great Britain, Ireland and the United States of America that a man is innocent until he is proved guilty. It is one of those fundamental characteristics of our law which distinguishes our law from much of the Continental law. That distinction, in my opinion, is one of the securest foundations of individual liberty we have got. Every person who is brought into court in this country charged with a crime is innocent until the State is in a position to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that he is guilty. We are all familiar with cases in which any reasonable juryman would very shrewdly suspect that the prisoner at the bar had broken the law, but in all such circumstances the trial judge is scrupulous to warn the members of the jury that shrewd suspicion is not enough, and that they must be satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that the man is guilty. If it should emerge that, in the course of the trial, the trial judge failed to administer such a warning, an appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal would quash the verdict or secure a new trial. Now this revenue section goes to the root of that principle and gives the Revenue Commissioners the right to go into anybody's premises, point out to the owner a particular article of merchandise and say: "We allege that you smuggled that." The very moment the revenue officer alleges that that is the case that man stands guilty of the charge of smuggling unless and until he can rebut that charge. Sub-section (5) of Section 19 says——
I think sub-section 3 is the governing sub-section.
Yes; sub-section (3) says:—
(3) Whenever an officer of customs and excise or a member of the Gárda Síochána reasonably suspects that any goods to which this section applies have been imported into Saorstát Eireann or have been so imported without payment of a duty of Customs chargeable on such importation or without a licence or other special authorisation required by law for such importation, such officer or member (as the case may be) may require any person in whose possession or control or on or in whose land or premises or in the immediate vicinity of whose land or premises such goods are found by such officer or member, to give to such officer or member all information relevant to all or any of the following subjects of inquiry which is in the possession or knowledge of such person and to produce to such officer or member all documents relevant to any such subject of inquiry which are in the possession or custody of such person, that is to say:—
(a) whether such goods were or were not imported into Saorstát Eireann, and
(b) if such goods were so imported, the person by whom and the place and time at which they were so imported, and
(c) if such goods were so imported and were chargeable with a duty of customs on such importation, whether such duty was or was not paid and, if such duty was paid, the time and place of payment, and
(d) if such goods were so imported and a licence or other special authorisation was required by law for such importation, whether such licence or authorisation was or was not obtained.
Sub-section (4) is not, I think, relevant to my argument at the moment; but sub-section (5) says:—
Whenever a person is guilty of any such failure or refusal as is declared by the next preceding sub-section of this section to be an offence under this section, such failure or refusal (whether such person has or has not been prosecuted for such offence) shall, in any proceedings against such person for an offence against or contravention of the laws relating to Customs alleged to have been committed by him in regard to the goods to which such failure or refusal related, be evidence until the contrary is proved that such goods had been imported into Saorstát Eireann by such person and had been so imported without payment of the duties of Customs (if any) chargeable on such importation and without the licence or other special authorisation (if any) required by law for such importation.
It will be observed that this entirely new principle is shrouded here in this endless verbiage.
There is not an unnecessary word.
That may be, but it does not discharge the section from being endless verbiage. The reason for all this is the result of a raid made by Customs officers in Ballybofey because they saw goods in a shop window on which they thought duty was not paid. They demanded that proof should be afforded to them that duty had been paid. My recollection is that when they brought that case into court they were ignominiously thrown out. A very similar case arose in Northern Ireland, and when it reached the High Court the Lord Chief Justice threw it out with contempt and stated that to confer such statutory powers upon the Revenue Commissioners would be a most unjust invasion of the rights of the individual. I put this case, in all seriousness, to the Minister for Finance. We hear, very frequently, in regard to income-tax and Customs, very stringent criticisms of the Revenue Commissioners. The Minister for Finance is responsible for them to this House. But we have to bear in mind the peculiar, autonomous position of the Commissioners, and that, in addition to being autonomous, they have a kind of automatic existence. The Commissioners cannot appear here, and make a case to this House and suggest that in certain circumstances their powers should be qualified. Accordingly, the tendency is to give very wide powers to the Commissioners in order to collect the revenue. They are told they must take drastic steps to collect the revenue. At the same time you may equip them with powers so drastic that they find themselves driven, by the obligation placed upon them by statute, far beyond the limit to which prudent men would care to go, so that in connection with income-tax prosecutions and Customs you may find the Revenue Commissioners labouring under a constraint to act more drastically than common-sense men would act. My contention is that a cases where you do find that a scandal arises, and that people are driven to extremes by reason of the pressure put upon them, the Revenue Commissioners are not all ogres but are ordinary men who have been driven to carry out the law. The responsibility is really ours if we draft law which puts an obligation upon them to go to the very extreme before they begin to temper justice with mercy. It must also be borne in mind that it it is not fair to ask the Minister for Finance to accept responsibility or wide discretion in checking the Revenue Commissioners. The very essence of the system is that they must be autonomous and independent of the Minister and that he will not interfere with them in carrying out their duties.
If this House, by law, directs the Revenue Commissioners to do certain things, situations may arise where individual circumstances would incline the Revenue Commissioners to pause and give special treatment, but when they are referred to the letter of the law, they find they have no power to exercise a discretion in favour of the person concerned. When they bring this matter to the attention of the Minister, he says: "I have neither the power nor the inclination to interfere with the Revenue Commissioners and the Commissioners must act absolutely independently in this matter." They reply: "In our view, as ordinary men, the statute is driving us further than we think it prudent to go." A dilemma arises and, unless the Finance Acts are amended, the Revenue Commissioners are driven into a course of action which sometimes brings about tragedy, with resulting scandal, which may seem altogether inexplicable to the public and may create the general feeling that the Board of Revenue Commissioners are a public nuisance, a public danger and a body of men who have no consideration for the ordinary every-day affairs of their fellow citizens.
For that reason, I want to warn the House against conferring on the Revenue Commissioners a power of this kind, because we all know that reasonable suspicion will enter people's minds as to whether goods have been smuggled or not. Remember, we have got this infernal Border, and, in these small towns around the Border, the customs officer is going continually to suspect—and reasonably suspect—that goods have been smuggled. This section may put upon him the obligation of marching into people's houses in every case, if he is a conscientious man. It is a dreadfully difficult thing for Deputies sitting in this House to bear in mind the conditions which obtain in a small country shop or in a small shop in a country town. I am a small, country shopkeeper myself. If an officer of the Revenue Commissioners came into me, pointed out any article of merchandise in my shop, and said: "I suspect that to have been imported without paying duty," in respect of half the merchandise which I have not imported myself and in the case of some of the merchandise I have imported myself, I should be wholly unable to prove that I ever paid duty on it.
Would the Deputy have any difficulty in telling the Revenue Commissioners where he got the merchandise?
I shall tell the Minister exactly what I should do. As I am a member of this House and have some experience of the Revenue Commissioners, I should say, in the first place, "Under the authority of what statute do you purport to act?" The answer to that would be Section 19 of the present Finance Act. I would say: "I refuse to give any further information until I have an opportunity of consulting my legal adviser." If the officer prosecuted me, I should plead natural justice and bring him before Chief Justice Kennedy, who would send him out on his ear when I had explained that I had been refused permission to obtain legal advice before answering questions which were calculated to incriminate me under Section 19. But what will happen when the officer of the Revenue Commissioners goes into the ordinary, country shopkeeper? He will immediately get hysterical. He will not know whether duty has been paid on certain goods or not. If he does know, he will not have the sense to say exactly what he means and, in all human probability, he will be thrown into such a state of confusion that he will make a false statement— tell a lie.
I have considerable experience of both the Minister for Finance and of the Revenue Commissioners. As a Deputy, I have approached them both in matters relating to individual citizens of the State. I am well aware that the Minister for Finance is not free to interfere in the business of the Revenue Commissioners but, in other matters, when I have made a reasonable case on behalf of a citizen, the Minister for Finance has heard it sympathetically. My experience of the Revenue Commissioners is that when you tell them the truth—I have had dealings with them in connection with my own private affairs and, in my capacity as public man, on behalf of citizens—and when you show a desire to co-operate, no more reasonable body of men could be found to do business with. But if, through inexperience or folly, you get involved in a long string of lies and misrepresentations, the Revenue Commissioners find themselves in a position in which they are not free to exercise a discretion in your favour. Therefore, I say that to give an officer of the Revenue Commissioners the right to go in and put a man on his defence, without first having proved anything against him, is fundamentally unsound and bad—bad not only from the point of view of the common law rights of the people but bad from the point of view of the Revenue Commissioners themselves.
The Revenue Commissioners ought to collect the revenue, but let this House beware lest they turn the Revenue Commissioners into a kind of sub-division of the Detective Branch in Dublin Castle. That is not their job. They are there to prevent evasion of the revenue duties, but they ought not to have thrust upon them the duty of going about excessively poking their noses into people's houses and rooting about inside people's premises. I know that the tendency is to disregard more and more the doctrine that a man's house is his castle, but if you are going to throw open every man's house to a revenue officer, so that he may go in and root around and put the householder on his defence, I say you are going too far and doing a thing which is not going to be in the interests of the revenue. You are going to give rise to a situation in which you will irritate and madden people to such an extent that whatever degree of co-operation the Revenue Commissioners can depend upon at the present time will be withheld from them. The Minister knows that the income-tax law and excess profits law have given rise to such furious public indignation that he himself has been betrayed on certain occasions into using very immoderate language. Of course, that was in his irresponsible days.
When I was not fortified with the knowledge I now possess.
The Minister must realise that, silly as he was, there are a great many people nearly as silly.
Surely the Deputy is not making my silliness an excuse for his being sillier?
You have got to take that into consideration and legislate in such a way that you will secure from the public the largest possible measure of co-operation. If you so legislate as to turn the Revenue Commissioners into a kind of monster which, once set in motion, cannot be stopped until it has chased a man into the grave, I think you are doing very grave injustice to the public service, to those who man it and to the efficiency of the machine itself, because you will alienate public sympathy from the Department and create in the public mind the impression that the Revenue Commissioners are Public Enemy No. 1. I do not think that that is a character that ought to be forced upon them. If you make them too Draconian by legislation, they will have to comply with the law and they will be driven to measures that will create indignation on the part of the public. I think that that is a highly undesirable development. I believe that this proposal is going to assist in creating that impression. I think that that is bad, because you ought not to encourage members of the public service to be bursting into people's houses and rooting about for evidence of crime except where it is absolutely necessary in the interest of the public weal. I think that this provision is not going to work effective justice. The cute person will be able to meet it, but the simple person will be thrown into such a state of alarm that he will probably entangle himself in the law instead of shaking off whatever measure of guilt he may have contracted before the arrival of the customs officer. That is one point. I think the Minister ought to consider it and withdraw these provisions. The courts have strongly condemned them, in anticipation, both here and in Northern Ireland.
If I am beaten on that point, I want to make a suggestion in regard to Sections 36 and 38. It is going too far to say that not only will you make a person responsible to this drastic extent when the goods are under his control or on his land or premises, but also if they are found in the immediate vicinity of his land or premises. We continually come across cases in which people who have stolen goods or smuggled goods go out and hide them somewhere in a ditch. We know what happens in poteen cases. The poteen is found on an innocent person's land. I know of a case where it was concealed on land belonging to the parish priest. I believe it was deliberately put there by the poteen maker. I know the man who made the poteen. He was afterwards caught. I think it was deliberately done by him because the poteen laws contain a provision of that kind.
I did not quite catch what the Deputy said.
I said that the poteen laws contain a provision that if poteen is found in your immediate vicinity or in your premises you are liable. That is a bad principle because it encourages the guilty person to divest himself of the poteen and put it on the land of a man who has no connection with poteen-making. I know in one case that though the man on whose land the poteen was found suspected the person who put it there, he could not afford to take the risk of making that charge deliberately.
I remember the Deputy started his speech by saying that this proposal of ours contravened a well-established principle of common law. He has now admitted that the law to which he objects has already been given effect to in another statute.
Oh no, not at all. Amendments Nos. 36 and 38 stand separate from amendments Nos. 37 and 39. According to the well-established principle of common law, I think these provisions in the Bill are bad inasmuch as they extend too far the area of responsibility. Let it be "in or on the premises" but not "in the immediate vicinity of the land or premises." In practice, that has worked out unsatisfactorily and it has not operated to bring home responsibility to the guilty parties.
I think the speech to which we have just listened, while very well-intentioned, has been made without full advertence to the seriousness of the position with regard to smuggling in this country. This House has asked the general community to make great sacrifices in order to establish certain industries here and in order to provide revenue to carry on social services. We are not getting the revenue we ought to be getting, and the new industries which have been established are not getting the chance which the House desired they should get because of the serious smuggling carried on along the Northern Border. We have come to the conclusion that if that practice is to be put down, as we desire it to be put down—and the Revenue Commissioners have come to the conclusion that if this practice of smuggling is to be dealt with as we want it to be dealt with—drastic powers of the nature asked for in this section are essential and nothing less will suffice. My submission to the House is that the House, having afforded these industries this protection and having imposed these certain duties for the purpose of carrying on the public services, cannot stultify itself by refusing to give to those who are charged with the administration of these duties the powers which in their view are essential for them if they are to fulfil these obligations. It has been contended that in asking the House for these powers we are running contrary to a well-established principle of the common law in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
In the Saorstát.
To the well-established principle of common law which has been honoured in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
And in the Saorstát.
What is the position? Up to two years ago it was possible to secure, without definite evidence of importation, a conviction in respect to goods seized under circumstances which clearly indicated that they had been smuggled. A decision was given in one of the courts of Northern Ireland. That decision apparently has been taken in certain quarters to imply that definite evidence of importation must be adduced where proceedings in connection with smuggled goods are taken. Subsequent to those proceedings or to this decision, certain of our district justices changed their attitude in regard to this question of smuggled goods. The decision in Northern Ireland was not, of course, permitted to stand by the Northern Ireland Legislature and the British Finance Act of 1934 amended the law.
To what effect?
To more or less the same effect as is contained in this resolution.
Would the Minister be good enough to read the relevant section?
I have not got it here, but the Deputy may take it that as far as I know that is the case.
Did the Minister read the decision given a fortnight ago by the Lord Chief Justice in Northern Ireland?
The Deputy has charged us with going farther, and endeavouring to introduce a new principle by placing the onus of proof in certain cases on the person in whose land or premises the goods were found —charging him with harbouring goods that have been smuggled. It is alleged that that is something entirely new in the Customs law. I think the Deputy himself has admitted that it is not a new thing in similar circumstances to put the onus of proof on the person owning the land—to show that he is not in possession of illicit goods found on his land, and that he is not the owner of them. The Deputy has admitted that that is the case already. A similar provision appears in the Customs Consolidation Act of 1876, which places the onus of proof on the defendant in all prosecutions for the forfeiture of goods or the recovery of any penalties under the Customs Act, that is to say, throws the onus on him to show that they have not been smuggled. It is only because it has been recently held, as I have indicated to the Deputy, that this does not apply unless there is definite evidence of the importation of the goods in question, that certain provisions of this section are necessary in order to restore to the revenue authorities the weapon which they had previously and which as they have advised me, is absolutely necessary for the effective stoppage of smuggling.
Let us see what the real position is, because I think the Deputy has failed to grasp it. He has told us that there was a case in Ballybofey where a customs officer saw certain goods in a shop window and went in and demanded of the proprietor that he should be told whence those goods came. That was not the position at all. The position was, and it will remain the position after this section has been adopted, as I hope it will be adopted, by the House, that the customs officer, before he entered the premises, had to go and swear an information that he had reason to suspect that the goods in question were smuggled. It was because I thought that the Deputy had read this section too hurriedly that I directed his attention to the opening passages of sub-section (3), which make it quite clear that, before an officer can go into any premises and question any person, he must be prepared to swear that he has reasonable suspicion that the goods in question have been smuggled. What is he permitted to ask the person? He is permitted to ask him to give any information that may be in his possession as to whether such goods were or were not imported into Saorstát Eireann.
Is there any great hardship in asking a person who is suspected of being in the possession of smuggled goods to tell an officer of the customs—a member of the service which this House has set up to make certain that goods will not be smuggled—where he got the goods. Let me quote the exact words of this part of the section:—"If such goods are found by such officer or member, to give to such officer or member all information relevant to all or any of the following subjects of inquiry which is in the possession or knowledge of such person"; to tell him whether such goods were or were not imported into Saorstát Eireann?
If the police were investigating a burglary or robbery and they found goods which they thought had been part of the proceeds of the robbery in the possession of any person, would they not be entitled to ask any such person where he got the goods? Is not that the common procedure in tracking down crime? It is a crime under the law of this land to smuggle goods. All that is asked is, if a person has goods in his possession, that he should give to the officer all the relevant information he may have in regard to them.
Where in Section 19 is there any reference to swearing an information?
That does not appear here. That is in the general customs code.
What do you mean by saying that he cannot enter any premises? Can he not enter into my shop any day?
He cannot enter premises for the purpose——
He can enter a shop in Ballybofey to get a pint of porter and on his way say "Where did you get these goods?"
I do not think so.
What is to stop him?
He is not authorised to do that under his instructions.
What is to stop him from entering and asking for a pint of porter?
I take it that, if he is on duty, he is not authorised to go in and ask for a pint of porter. I take it that if he goes into the Deputy's business premises upon his own private business, he is not entitled to ask the Deputy any question in relation to public business.
What is to stop him under Section 19?
He is not authorised to do that because, under Section 19, he has to act in accordance with the general customs code.
I see nothing about a declaration here.
The Deputy is taking up the position that before we can amend the customs law we must reprint, as part of the text of the proposed amendment, the whole of the customs code. I should like to furnish the Deputy with a copy of the customs code and ask him to read it here during one session of Dáil Eireann. I guarantee he would not get one quarter way through it before we adjourn next year, and that all that time we would not have a single word from the Deputy if he occupied all the time reading this code.
The Gárda Siochána are not subject to the customs code.
In certain cases.
Certainly not under Section 19.
In certain cases. The Deputy may try to make points which are not really relevant to the principle at issue, which is, whether an officer of customs is entitled to ask a person, who is in the possession of goods which the officer suspects of being smuggled, to tell him whether or not the goods were imported into the Saorstát. Is there any difficulty about that? If the person takes up an attitude different to that Deputy Dillon suggests and, without having recourse to a solicitor, says: "I do not know, but I can tell you from whom I got the goods," is there any great hardship in asking a person in the possession of goods suspected of being smuggled to tell the officer of customs, if he is not able to tell him whether the goods were imported or not, from whom he got them? The person upon whom the onus of showing whether the goods were imported or not really rests ought to be in a position to prove that the duty was or was not paid and, if such duty was paid, the time of the supposed payment. He will have customs receipts for every one of these duties if he conducts his business properly. I am certain that Deputy Dillon conducts his business properly and that he will not be subject to all the imaginary terrors with which he has tried to endow this section. The person who conducts his business honestly within the law will be prepared, if he has reason to believe that goods have been smuggled, to assist the officers of the law in the discharge of their duty. Again, I come back to the point that I think the House, which has imposed certain customs duties, would stultify itself if it did not give the officers of the State the powers which they advise me are essential if these customs laws are to be enforced.
The Minister, in reply to Deputy Dillon, said it was not unreasonable to give the Revenue Commissioners certain definite powers, where they find goods in the possession of a person, to discover whether duty was or was not paid on them. I would like to put in a word for the amendment more than for the section. To use the Minister's words, it might not be unreasonable to ask a person who is in possession of goods to give certain information, but I am thinking of the person who is not in possession of anything. I have no idea, of course, of how the words "in the immediate vicinity" might be interpreted by the Revenue Commissioners, but take the position that certain goods which are subject to duty are found on land contiguous to my place. If I am asked for information whether the duty has been paid on them, it would be impossible for me, or for people in my position, to give the information, and yet if I refuse to do so I am liable to the penalty set out. That, surely, is not right. I do not think that we should leave it in the power of anyone to put such interrogations to people. People who did not know anything about the importation of the goods might, as Deputy Dillon said, give an evasive answer, and then get themselves into serious trouble. For the reasons that I have given I support the proposed deletion of the words "in the immediate vicinity of land or premises." In the case of a person found in the possession of goods, it is perhaps reasonable that the Revenue Commissioners should have power to get some information about them, but it would be undesirable, I think, to place the unlimited powers asked for here in the hands of any authority.
The Minister has sought to draw an analogy between stolen goods and smuggled goods. There is no analogy between the procedure adopted by the representatives of the law in regard to these two categories of things, because the law specifically recognises that, in many circumstances, the possession of stolen goods is no evidence of guilt whatever. It clearly says that, if goods are bought in good faith, no crime is committed. If they are purchased in market overt they become the legitimate property of the purchaser. They may be recovered, but if bought in good faith they carry no shadow of guilt to the person who has bought them.
And so far as persons affected by this section are concerned, that would still be the position. If he shows that he bought them in good faith he is not liable to any penalty.
As I have said, there is no analogy at all between the two classes of goods. The Minister went on to say that it is a crime to smuggle goods, and that it is no hardship to require persons to tell the officers of the Revenue Commissioners whether they have committed that crime or not. That is all they are asked to do, he says. If a citizen of this State murders his mother-in-law and is brought into the dock, does this House think it would be no hardship to put on him the statutory obligation of telling the judge that he had murdered his mother-in-law? Is it not the very essence of our law that he is entitled to plead "not guilty" and to assert and maintain within the law to the very last hour that he did not murder his mother-in-law? Would it not be a perfect absurdity to make it a statutory crime for a person to deny criminal guilt when put upon his trial?
The Constitution (Amendment 2A) Act can be carried too far. It is bad enough that such an Act should have become necessary in the statute law of this country, but for heaven's sake let us restrict its operation. It is a terrible thing that legislation of that kind has had to be invoked for the purpose of maintaining the very fabric of the State itself, but if we are to carry the Public Safety Act procedure into the Revenue and into every other law, then we are getting straight down to the time of the star chamber. You are doing worse, because you are throwing the cloak of legality over the third degree methods of the American police force. I do not think that any representative of the law in this country has the right to go to a person and convict him by asking him "Have you committed a crime?"
That is not what you ask him. You ask him from whom he got the goods.
If the officers of the Revenue Commissioners come into me and ask, "Did you smuggle these goods?" and if I say "No," I have committed a crime; if I say nothing I have committed a crime, and if I say "Yes" I have committed a crime. Is that not so?
It depends on whether you have smuggled the goods or not.
Suppose that I have smuggled the goods?
Then you have committed a crime.
I admit that I am standing in my own house with the goods and I admit that I have broken the law, but the law of this country provides that if I, as a citizen, have broken the law the State must arrest me, put me on trial and bring home guilt to me beyond all reasonable doubt before I can be made subject to the penalties of the law. But, under the new dispensation, the officers of the Revenue Commissioners can come to me and ask, "did you smuggle those goods?" If I say "yes," I go to jail; if I say nothing I go to jail, and if I say "no" I go to jail. Is that good law? I submit that we are being drawn slowly by the handy method provided by the Public Safety Act to get persons, whom you suspect, into jail. That is the terrible danger of allowing legislation, such as Article 2A of the Constitution, to be enacted, because once you have carried an Article of that character into your statute law, the difficulties of penning it up, and of preventing the principles which underlie it of spreading out and of running through the whole law of the country, are almost insuperable.
In order to clarify the position, let me remind the House that all that we are asking the House to do is to restore the position to what it was here prior to a certain decision which was given two years ago. There is no question whatever of a customs officer or a police officer going and asking a person such a question as "did you smuggle these goods." Let me remind the House again that what the officer is entitled to ask, is, whether or not the goods were imported into the Saorstát. Surely that is a question that is capable of an answer "Yes" or "No." I do not think that there is any undue coercion being imposed by the law which requires a person to answer that question. If the person answers "Yes," he is then asked to state the person by whom they were imported and the place and time. If he has that information in his possession, he can at least answer the first question and tell the officer the person by whom they were imported. That would allow us to carry our investigations further, and with regard to the person who actually imported the goods to ask him:
if such goods were so imported and were chargeable with a duty of customs on such importation, whether such duty was or was not paid and, if such duty was paid, the time and place of payment.
I think that there is nothing unfair in asking a person who is in possession of goods reasonably suspected of being smuggled to answer certain questions. That is all that the section requires.
The Minister did not make any allusion to the amendment. He referred to a person found in possession of goods and said that that person would be asked to give certain information to the Revenue Commissioners as to the possession of the goods if they are found in his premises. The Minister has not replied to the arguments suggesting the elimination of this particular phrase "in the immediate vicinity of whose lands or premises they are found." The Minister attempted to make a case for requiring a person found in possession of goods to give information as to where they were bought and if the duty was paid. He is seeking power in this section to allow officials to visit a man on whose premises or land nothing was found and to ask certain information from him. Let us say that I have land or premises half a mile away from the Minister. Something is found on the Minister's land and then officials come to me and ask me if I know that the Minister has certain goods on his land which are believed to be imported.
Has the Deputy land on both sides of the Border?
The section does not specify whether it is on one side or the other. The point is that I am asked to give information about something found on premises other than mine, found in the immediate vicinity. The words "immediate vicinity" can be defined in various ways. It might mean a place half a mile or a mile away. I submit that the Minister is seeking power that will put practically all the people in the neighbourhood under penal laws.
I want to say a few words in support of the amendment. As a representative of a Border county, I can see that many difficulties will arise if this section is passed as it stands. It is rather peculiar that the Minister should want such powers at the present time. I should like to ask the Minister if smuggling has been on the increase during the past few months and, if so, why has it been on the increase? Is there a sufficient staff along the Border to cope with the smuggling business? I am strongly in sympathy with the views expressed by Deputy Dillon. I venture to suggest that Deputies who do not happen to know much about the Border cannot have the faintest conception of all the trouble that can be created amongst the traders in Border towns as a result of the passing of this section.
We may as well be candid with ourselves. We are not the great people we are supposed to be. There are certain types of people with very narrow minds, selfish types of people, people possibly who want to get their own back on their fellow-man, on neighbouring traders along the Border, possibly as a result of a long-standing agrarian dispute or some other form of dispute between their families, their fathers and grandfathers. A particular man may be in business. What is to prevent an individual giving secret information to the preventive officers that such a man has imported goods, say, from Northern Ireland, thus exposing that man to a visit from the officers, perhaps on a day on which he is extremely busy with other business? I can visualise the feelings of a trader who has to contend with many difficulties that have not to be contended with by traders in other parts of Ireland, having to answer such questions as: "When did you import such an article?""From what country have you imported it, Northern Ireland or Great Britain?""Can you give me the receipts in respect of the duties payable?" and so forth. I can imagine the feelings of such a man, and what his answer would be. I think it would be the usual answer, to go to a hot place, and I believe that would be the correct answer, too.
I think this is really putting the law too far, giving too much power to the Revenue Commissioners, power which in my opinion they do not want to have vested in them. Why should they want such power if the officials are doing their duty? Let us suppose that a man is lucky enough to get a thing across the Border and he is not caught by the preventive officers. I cannot see why the law should be extended in such a way that that man is going to be pilloried, even though he is guilty. This section gives power to the Revenue Commissioners to question a man who is not guilty of smuggling in any shape or form. Knowing the difficulties that traders in those towns have to encounter as a result of the setting up of the Border, the loss of trade they suffer, and the many other difficulties with which they have to contend, I think the least the Minister might do is to show a little sympathy with them, and not make it more difficult for these people to eke out a living. At present they find it difficult enough to make ends meet.
I am honestly of the opinion that this section will create a great deal of hardship, and possibly very bad relations between the preventive officers and the various traders. The Minister may or may not wish that, and quite probably the Revenue Commissioners may not realise the full possibilities of this section. If we consider this matter from a selfish point of view, the point of view of votes, I think if this section is put into operation it will make the Government very unpopular. From the point of view of commonsense alone I suggest that these traders should not be unduly worried by visits from preventive officers, pimping into their business, possibly in nine cases out of ten on information supplied by people who, through a personal grudge, would be only too willing to give information. It is a power that should not be given to the Revenue Commissioners.
To what extent has there been such abuse in connection with smuggling that it is necessary to take these powers?
I cannot give any exact answer beyond saying that there has been extensive smuggling.
From across the Border into here?
In so far as we apply the term "smuggling," we merely use it in respect of the illegal importation of goods into this country.
Across the Border, I presume. How does the Minister expect a person to prove a negative? Is it not practically impossible?
That is a matter for the judge to determine.
He has to prove a negative. The judge cannot determine that he has done an impossible thing. If the law requires a person to do an impossible thing, the judge cannot say that he has done an impossible thing. There is nothing harder to do than to prove innocence, and that is the reason the general maxim is that a person is assumed innocent until he is proved guilty. The section is presuming to do the opposite. It is asking a man to prove that he is innocent. Practically speaking, that is impossible. There is no question of his being proved guilty; what he has to do is to prove that he is innocent. No person can prove that. It is practically impossible, as everybody knows, to prove a negative, and that is what you are asking them to do. Then, if they cannot do what is impossible, they suffer. The judge cannot save them because you put an impossible condition to them.
Would the Minister say anything on the amendment?
No; I think we ought to have the section as it stands, without amendment. I am advised that any other form than that in which it appears on the Paper would be valueless.
The law of evidence provides that a police officer who is about to put questions to a person whom he suspects to be guilty of the gravest crimes known to the law, the answers to which might incriminate that person, must first say to him: "I warn you that you need not answer my questions now, but, if you do, your answers will be taken down and may be used in evidence against you." Unless he takes that precaution, any answers that are given will be disallowed against the defendant at the Bar. I say that if this House enacts legislation to provide that a person who is admittedly guilty of a breach of the law can be asked by an officer of the law a question which places him in the dilemma that whether he says "Yes," keeps silence, or says "No," he has committed an offence, it is bad law, and is a departure from all principles of human liberty and decent administration. It can be defended if the alternative to adopting such a position is that the whole State will be undermined and destroyed by persons who are using the law not for the purpose of vindicating their liberty but as an instrument to destroy the State. Then I admit that a case might be made for revolutionary departures from the accepted fundamental principles which govern our system of society, but short of such a claim there can be no justification for legislation of this kind. I sometimes despair of trying to make appeals on principle to members of the Fianna Fáil Party, because they seem to have lost all sense of principle, and to have surrendered themselves, body and soul, to the doctrine of expediency, but I certainly will resist a proposal of this kind with all the available resources provided by the Constitution.
Amendment No. 36.
Are amendments Nos. 37, 38 and 39 also being put?
It is presumed that amendment No. 36 will govern amendment No. 38 but not amendment No. 37.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Beegan, Patrick.
- Blaney, Neal.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Brady, Brian.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Carty, Frank.
- Concannon, Helena.
- Crowley, Timothy.
- Daly, Denis.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- De Valera, Eamon.
- Flynn, Stephen.
- Gibbons, Seán.
- Goulding, John.
- Houlihan, Patrick.
- Kehoe, Patrick.
- Kelly, James Patrick.
- Killilea, Mark.
- Kilroy, Michael.
- Kissane, Eamon.
- Lemass, Seán F.
- MacEntee, Seán.
- Maguire, Ben.
- Maguire, Conor Alexander.
- Moane, Edward.
- Moore, Séamus.
- Moylan, Seán.
- Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
- O Briain, Donnchadh.
- O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
- O'Grady, Seán.
- O'Reilly, Matthew.
- Pearse, Margaret Mary.
- Rice, Edward.
- Ryan, James.
- Sheridan, Michael.
- Smith, Patrick.
- Traynor, Oscar.
- Victory, James.
- Walsh, Richard.
- Ward, Francis C.
- Bennett, George Cecil.
- Burke, James Michael.
- Coburn, James.
- Cosgrave, William T.
- Dillon, James M.
- Doyle, Peadar S.
- Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
- Keating, John.
- MacDermot, Frank.
- McFadden, Michael Og.
- McGovern, Patrick.
- Morrissey, Daniel.
- Mulcahy, Richard.
- Nally, Martin.
- O'Leary, Daniel.
- O'Reilly, John Joseph.
- O'Sullivan, Gearóid.
- O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
- Redmond, Bridget Mary.
- Reidy, James.
Ordinarily, Sir, I would challenge a division on this section. At the beginning of our debate we had a slight difference with the Ministers and I suggested that, if they were prepared to give the information we asked for, we would cooperate in getting through the business as expeditiously as possible. In the light of that, I am prepared to let the section pass.
I move amendment No. 40:—
Before Section 20, page 14, to insert a new section as follows:—
Whenever the Minister for Finance so thinks proper, the Revenue Commissioners may, subject to compliance with any conditions which they may think fit to prescribe, permit the importation or delivery without payment of any duty of customs or of excise of any article required for or in connection with any of the following things, that is to say—
(a) the establishment or maintenance of a transatlantic air service using or involving the use of an airport in Saorstát Eireann, or
(b) the establishment or maintenance of radio or meteorological services or other aids to air navigation ancillary to any such transatlantic air service, or
(c) experimental purposes in connection with the establishment or maintenance of any such transatlantic air service.
Will Section 20 put an end to the necessity for getting a cheque certified by the bank?
Wait a moment. This amendment proposes to insert a new section before Section 20. The purpose of amendment 40 is to provide for the duty-free importation of certain goods liable to customs duty in anticipation of the establishment in the near future of a transatlantic air service using the air services or seaports in the Saorstát.
I move amendment No. 41:—
Before Section 20, page 14, to insert a new section as follows:—
The Revenue Commissioners may, if they so think fit, allow any hydrocarbon oil which is liable to a duty of excise to be warehoused without payment of duty, and may, if and so far as they so think proper, remit duty on any deficiency arising in oil so warehoused where they are satisfied that no part of such deficiency was caused by illegal or improper means.
Although there is a provision for the warehousing of goods liable to customs duty, there is no general legal provision for warehousing of goods liable to a duty of excise, and it is desired to give that power in this case.
With regard to Section 20, I do not know whether the House would permit an amendment to be made at this stage, but in case there should be any difficulty about it, I should like to give notice that, on the Report Stage, I propose to bring in an amendment to delete the word "receipt" in line 41 and substitute therefor the word "posting." The reason is that it may be difficult to prove receipt.
I would sooner leave that to the Report Stage. I am not quite sure that it is a more sensible method than the purpose the Minister has in view. Will the section alter the existing situation under which, if one desires to pay duty by cheque, one must get the cheque certified by a bank?
As far as the licence is concerned, yes.
This does not refer to customs duty at all?
No, only to payment of licence duty by cheque.
I move amendment No. 42:—
Before Section 21, in Part II of the Bill, to insert a new section as follows:—
The Minister for Finance shall cause to be laid before the Dáil within 21 days of the end of each month a schedule giving particulars of the licences issued by the Revenue Commissioners during that month for the importation without payment of duty of goods otherwise liable to customs duty, and including the name, address and occupation of the licensee, and the number of the articles in respect of which in each case the licence was issued.
The gravest possible dissatisfaction and very grave suspicion exist amongst certain manufacturers in the City of Dublin that discrimination is made between various manufacturers in the issuing of licences. I have had one manufacturer in particular with me who makes various articles of women's clothing, and he indicates happenings in the mantle and gown industry and other articles of women's clothing that suggests that there are manufacturers in the city who are allowed to import certain fabrics or various pieces of partly manufactured clothing which other manufacturers in the city are not allowed to import. The Minister very likely heard of this. There are others as well, and there is a general atmosphere of suspicion that licences are being issued to some people and not issued to others. I have had it put up to me that it is impossible to get information, that it would require a court order to discover documents in Dublin Castle to get to the bottom of this matter, and that there is certain differentiation in prices charged for various commodities that indicates that quantities of stuff are coming in under licences that are not given to others.
It is very essential, in the general situation here, where traders of all kinds are suffering grave disabilities through Government interference, that any shred of suspicion, even if it is nothing but suspicion, should be removed. It is a matter that vitally affects the interests of the State generally, that manufacturers should not be left labouring under suspicions of this kind. They can be completely swept away, if they are nothing but suspicions, if a monthly schedule of the licences granted were placed in the library here. If discrimination was being made we could see what exactly that discrimination was and have an explanation given. Even though the Minister might for particular reasons of his own be pursuing a policy of discrimination, at any rate, we would have a statement of the facts, and to these facts he could add any explanation as to why it was necessary to have discrimination of this kind.
I do not think the amendment could be accepted for two reasons: One, because it would be almost completely impossible to give effect to it without adding very considerably to the staffs of the various Departments and incurring very considerable expense. Furthermore, if the necessary records were to be published it would mean considerable delay in dealing with applications. Apart from that, there are obvious reasons for refusing to publish, in the manner suggested, information which might be very damaging to persons concerned; that is, information of the extent to which they are importing goods of the class dealt with in the return. I do not think that information concerning an individual's private business should be published, nor do I think there are any reasonable grounds for contending that there are circumstances which justify the adoption of that course. If Deputy Mulcahy takes the opportunity, which, I am sure, will be given him, to ascertain the views of responsible organisations of traders on the issue of licences, I think he will find that they will not allege that any discrimination is shown as between one person and another in the same circumstances. They sometimes complain of slowness, and complain of the policy when we do not issue licences as they think we should, but they make no allegation of discrimination. It is undesirable that an individual allegation of that kind should be mentioned without reserve. I think I know the particular person who was speaking to the Deputy. He made that allegation before and sent the Deputy letters.
He sent them to the Minister for Finance.
And sent them to me. My advice to the Deputy is to take anything he says with considerable reserve. In any event, the circumstances in that particular case are different from those described. He is a man who is manufacturing certain articles of clothing. He is the only man doing so, and apparently he is not getting orders from particular firms, and alleges that they must be getting licences. He does not consider apparently the possibility of persons preferring to pay the duty to purchasing his goods. There is no foundation whatever for the allegation he made that licences are issued to Protestant firms and refused to Catholic firms, and other wild statements of that kind. I have had frequent discussions on the question of the licensing policy with important trade organisations such as the Drapers' Chamber of Trade and manufacturers' associations, and I think we have got the system relating to the consideration and disposal of applications on a basis which eliminates all these little causes of complaint. In fact, testimony to that effect has been given by responsible officers of these associations on occasions during the past year.
The Minister refused to grant this concession on the ground that the extra work involved in his Department would be more expensive than the concession would be worth. That is palpably absurd, as there must be a record of licences kept, if chaos does not obtain in the Department of Industry and Commerce. I have no doubt such a record is kept and that there would be no difficulty in ascertaining every licence issued by the Department of Finance since this system of licensing began. The revenue accounts could not be kept in order unless such a register existed. All that would be necessary would be to publish extracts from that register at monthly intervals. The second ground on which the Minister rejects the proposal is, that it would be quite wrong to reveal the quantity of goods that a merchant was importing. No one wants to reveal the quantity of stuff that anyone is importing.
That is what the amendment suggests.
It would be sufficient if the class of article was given in the register showing simply the merchandise the licence referred to, and the name of the licensee. The Minister stated that he had discussed the matter exhaustively with the Drapers' Chamber of Trade and other responsible bodies. I do not know what negotiations have gone on between the Minister and the Drapers' Chamber of Trade. The Drapers' Chamber of Trade represents a very small section of the drapers in this country, as 90 per cent. of the drapers operating in rural Ireland do not belong to it. A small draper down the country has just as much right to live as big drapers in the City of Dublin and the City of Cork. I hereby allege that to my own personal knowledge differentiation has taken place between merchants in this country who are exactly similarly situated. I have no intention of referring to the case of anybody who has given me information, for I have reason to know that if I do so in this House, that person becomes identified in the Department of Industry and Commerce, and, in due course, will get to realise that the Department will give him the strict letter of the law, give him just what he is entitled to under the letter of the law, no more and no less.
There is no valid complaint against the Department so long as it fulfils the strict letter of the law, but merchants who have to depend for their livelihood on getting a licence and on getting a little latitude such as human creatures expect, know that that latitude can be perfectly legitimately withdrawn if the Department makes up its mind that any particular individual is a nuisance. If any individual makes himself the spokesman of such merchants for the purpose of criticising the Department, that individual is in the eyes of the Department a nuisance. I am not suggesting that anything to which he is legitimately entitled is taken from him, but I am asserting that he gets the letter of the law and no more. I do not ask from the Department any more than the letter of the law, but I shall take damn good care to get that. I know I shall get no more; I do not want it, and I will take no less, but I say that there are cases in which discrimination has been used. I say there was a period in which licences were being issued for the importation of thread to certain parties and being refused to others. I say there was a period when persons were getting a licence to import sewing cotton into the country and I could not get it.
I think that if you examine into it closely you will find that the letter of the law was being complied with. I am not sure how far the letter of the law was being strictly complied with there. The Minister had absolute discretion to issue licences in the matter of sewing cotton. There was a period in which he expressed himself as having been satisfied by the Drapers' Chamber of Trade that the Westport Thread Company could not supply the demands of the country. Finally there was an arrangement arrived at under which the Westport Thread Company would import all the thread and distribute it from Westport, but there was a period in which the Minister either gave a licence to members of the Drapers' Chamber of Trade or to certain selected parties. For a short period certain rural shopkeepers brought in thread on licence, and I could not get it at the same time. Whether that was due to an oversight I am not in a position to say. I have repeatedly pointed out to the House that for those who are not engaged in the trade it is almost impossible to understand the difficulties which arise.
Take this case. The Minister decides on the 1st April that he will not issue licences for the importation of a commodity like flannelette. I write on the 2nd April and ask for a licence to import flannelette. There is a delay, and then I get a letter to say that the Minister, having carefully considered the representations made in the application, cannot see his way to recommend the issue of the licence. That is the end of it so far as I am concerned. I have to get the flannelette somewhere else and I pay duty on it. On that day fortnight the Minister changes his mind. He makes up his mind that he is now going to issue licences for the importation of flannelette. My next-door neighbour then writes for a licence. The Minister writes back and says: "Let me have a pro forma invoice for what you want and I shall recommend the issue of a licence." He gets the licence and brings in the flannelette free of duty. Now the picture presented to me is that when a few weeks before I asked for a licence I was refused it. I paid the standard price for flannelette in Manchester and I had to pay a duty of 33? per cent in addition. Having paid that, I cannot sell it at less than 1/2 per yard. It cost me 11 7/8d., duty included. I walk down the street a few days later and I see flannelette being carried from boxes outside my competitor's shop into the window, with a ticket marked 1/- per yard on it.
The amendment does not alter that situation.
I say to myself immediately "Here I have been refused a licence but this man obviously got a licence or he could not sell it at 1/-." It immediately occurs to me "There must be some hanky-panky about this." I say to my friends "There is the written evidence. The Minister has refused me a licence." Bear in mind that we are talking about two merchants down the country who are not members of the Dáil and who cannot come in here and put down a Parliamentary Question about the matter. A bitter sense of grievance resides in the man who has been refused a licence.
He feels that his neighbour has a preference over him to which he was not entitled. I say that if the Minister published at the end of the month "Licences in respect to the following persons were issued for the importation of flannelette during the month"— immediately those aggrieved could come forward and say: "Well, we were refused a licence" whereupon the matter could be raised here and the Minister would be afforded an opportunity of saying: "Circumstances altered and I changed my mind." It would be open to us then to say that justice demanded that any duty paid in respect of the importation of flannelette prior to the Minister changing his mind should be refunded. At least all the facts would be before the public and the Minister would be put on his proof to satisfy the House that he was justified in changing his mind in that way.
Now, to go back for a moment to the question of thread, suppose the Minister made an agreement with the Drapers' Chamber of Trade that he should get their co-operation in meeting the difficulty that existed while Westport was unable to supply the demand. The Minister mightbona fide have thought that the Chamber of Trade spoke for all drapers in the country and that if he gave licences to everybody named by the Chamber of Trade he had done his duty. Then a number of country shopkeepers might say: “We do not belong to the Drapers' Chamber of Trade and we do not want to belong to it. You have been induced to issue licences to certain persons, not for the purpose of relieving the difficulty that existed but for the purpose of giving the Drapers' Chamber of Trade a boost. They are swaggering round the country and saying: ‘We can get licences and the poor fools who do not join us, cannot get any.’” Unless there is full publicity inevitably misunderstanding must arise. Take a person who is not a politician, a person who is irritated and comes foaming up to the Department, denouncing them horse, foot and artillery. One word will borrow another and eventually he will be met by an official who, acting quite properly, will say: “If you have any observations to make I suggest that you put them in writing,” whereupon the unfortunate applicant storms out into the street and says: “Oh, well, can you expect anything else from Fianna Fáil?” There is a general feeling of dissatisfaction, bitterness and suspicion created by that system. It is an intangible kind of thing, but is a very human thing, and to my mind it is a very unhealthy thing in the public life of this country.
Deputies will say that there is no culpable discrimination, but I wish Deputies would face this from a practical point of view. You take the ordinary small shopkeeper down the country. He writes in a simple letter to the Department. The letter appears to come within a certain category and a stock circular is sent out: "The Minister regrets, etc." He knows a Deputy, or a close friend of a Deputy in this House, and next day he furls his umbrella and comes up here to this House and says to the Deputy: "Will you tell me what I have to do to get a licence?" In turn the Deputy furls his umbrella and the pair set out for Lord Edward Street. That Deputy will know some official who will say to him: "Look here, this is a very decent fellow and he does not quite know what he wants. Will you tell him what he wants?" My experience of most officials is that they are extremely helpful and invariably courteous. That official will sit down and take the utmost trouble to find out what the fellow wants. He may say to him: "Look here, if you ask for a licence in that way for that purpose you will not get it, but if you want a licence, ask for it on this form and you are entitled to it." We are not suggesting any trickery or anything like that. Under the existing regulation, if you approach the Department in a certain way you fall into the category of people whose applications may be rejected, while if you approach it in another way, your application may be considered. If a simple man wrote a letter asking me to go with him, or asking a member on the Independent Benches, he would probably get exactly the same treatment. It may be that the Deputy who is asked by some enterprising merchant to accompany him to Lord Edward Street is a Fianna Fáil Deputy. It may as well be a Deputy on this side of the House, but the licence is given in one case and in the other it is not.
My submission is that the publication of a list at the end of a month, on which appear the names of certain persons who have got licences, would have the effect of giving everybody else, who was refused, the opportunity of making a protest. I feel, in that way, much more substantial justice would be done than is done at the present time. I dealt with this case time and time again, and I repeat now everything I said on previous occasions. I do think that a system of licensing, and of licences being issued in that way in the dark will inevitably lead to corruption, and is going to bring corruption into the public life of this country. These licences can be of very great value. A licence to import a large quantity of goods, which are under a heavy tariff, to a manufacturer, can be worth anything from hundreds up to thousands of pounds. To say that devices of that kind, by which licences can be distributed under cover of darkness can be operated without danger to public morality is to adopt the policy of the ostrich by hiding one's head in the sand. This proposal to have the list of licences published would be an adequate safeguard without doing injustice to any licensee and I strongly urge upon the Minister to put it into operation.
The only thing I want to say is that the circumstances the Deputy has described are purely imaginary. They do not happen—I mean the Minister changing his mind overnight and things of that kind—and I would not like anyone to think that they do. Secondly, the question of granting a licence is not a matter for one official alone. It is not only not a matter merely for one official, but it is a matter for other Departments as well. Licences are issued on the recommendation of the Ministers for Industry and Commerce and the Department of Finance; but, in the Department of Industry and Commerce, the system of checking and counter checking is such that no one official could possibly determine decisions on these matters.
Can the Minister say if what I instanced in regard to the issue of licences to import thread is correct?
Licences were issued to manufacturers, not to traders. The only difference was between these two classes, which are distinct and definite classes.
Were not licences issued to the Drapers' Chamber of Trade?
There were three periods. The first period was while the factory was building, during which licences were issued generally. The second period was after the factory had commenced production, when licences were issued to manufacturers to import their thread, and certain classes of threads were imported by the Westport company and redistributed. We are now at a stage when licences are not issued.
Immediately prior to that period, when certain classes of thread were imported by the Westport company, and distributed, was there not a short period when licences were issued to retailers or wholesalers to import their thread from Great Britain, while others were refused?
Not that I am aware of.
I was informed that merchants in the West of Ireland did import thread from Great Britain at the time on licence, when I, personally, was refused a similar licence, and was constrained to buy thread from the Westport Thread Company, although I wrote to the Department about the matter. I now repeat that the Westport company were then asking more for their thread, and are to-day asking more for their thread, than the price for which that thread can be got at Leicester.
That is not so. If it is so, the company is open to the revocation of its licence.
I assert it is so, and I ask the Minister to apply to the High Commissioner in London and get from him the price of thread from the English Sewing Cotton Company in Leicester. If he does so he will find that I am right, and that they are selling "My Lady" thread in reels of 170 yards, on an average of 14/9 a gross, while 16/6 is charged in Westport.
Not under similar conditions of sale.
I am afraid that does not arise on this amendment.
I challenge the Minister to make the test.
In connection with this system of licensing, may I put it to the Minister that the present practice of not stating a reason for refusing a licence is not a good practice, particularly when it is not final? Frequently a licence is refused with the idea of getting the applicant to make a more substantial or a more elaborate case. It is not clear always what ground the Department had in mind for the refusal. It is too much to expect a business man to know the reason for the refusal when it is not set out in the refusal. I submit the Department could well afford to give a hint that if a proper case was made the matter would be again considered.
I have no idea of the class of licence Deputy Moore is talking about. That is not the practice of the Department so far as licences attaching to customs duties are concerned. It may have been done in relation to applications for a licence to import British goods, such as machinery and things of that kind free of the special duty. I take it that is what Deputy Moore is referring to, but in ordinary cases that is not done. In cases of application to import machinery of British origin free of duty the application would, in the ordinary course, be refused until evidence is produced that the same machinery cannot be procured from sources to which the duty does not apply, or some other good reason for the granting of this concession is advanced. These are entirely different circumstances, because the application would be of the kind not likely to be repeated and would relate to a particular industry or class of machinery. Applications for licences to import are considered by the Department, and I determine the circumstances in which a licence is issued. These instructions are followed and there is no discretion whatever beyond that.
- Bennett, George Cecil.
- Bourke, Séamus.
- Burke, James Michael.
- Coburn, James.
- Cosgrave, William T.
- Dillon, James M.
- Doyle, Peadar S.
- Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
- Keating, John.
- McFadden, Michael Og.
- McGovern, Patrick.
- Morrissey, Daniel.
- Mulcahy, Richard.
- Nally, Martin.
- O'Leary, Daniel.
- O'Reilly, John Joseph.
- O'Sullivan, Gearóid.
- O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
- Redmond, Bridget Mary.
- Reidy, James.
- Rowlette, Robert James.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Beegan, Patrick.
- Blaney, Neal.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Brady, Brian.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Carty, Frank.
- Concannon, Helena.
- Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
- Crowley, Timothy.
- Daly, Denis.
- MacEntee, Seán.
- Maguire, Ben.
- Maguire, Conor Alexander.
- Moane, Edward.
- Moore, Séamus.
- Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
- O'Briain, Donnchadh.
- O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
- O'Grady, Seán.
- O'Reilly, Matthew.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- De Valera, Eamon.
- Flynn, Stephen.
- Gibbons, Seán.
- Goulding, John.
- Kehoe, Patrick.
- Kelly, James Patrick.
- Killilea, Mark.
- Kilroy, Michael.
- Kissane, Eamonn.
- Lemass, Seán F.
- Pearse, Margaret Mary.
- Rice, Edward.
- Ryan, James.
- Sheridan, Michael.
- Smith, Patrick.
- Traynor, Oscar.
- Victory, James.
- Walsh, Richard.
- Ward, Francis C.
What does Section 21 do?
It comes after Section 20.
I thought that was all that the Minister for Industry and Commerce knew about it. The Minister for Finance may know more.
As I explained on Second Reading, Section 21 is a purely drafting amendment of Section 27 of the Finance Act of 1934. The purpose of that section was to impose a penalty of £50 for breach of any condition in relation to a duty of customs which the law imposes or which the law authorises the Revenue Commissioners to impose. It has been found that the provision applies only to powers conferred by the Act of 1934, to Orders made under that Act and to Resolutions, and that no mention was made of powers directly conferred by other Acts. It is in these other Acts that the powers are mainly to be found.
So far as this particular section is concerned, it would have the effect of ensuring that where goods, in respect of which a person is unable to prove that the duty outlined in Section 19 was paid, are found in the vicinity of a man's house, that the person near whose lands or premises they were found is liable to a fine of £50. Is not that the effect?
No; it has got nothing to do with Section 19. We are dealing with Section 21.
Does not Section 21 react on Section 19?
What is the penalty in respect of Section 19?
We have nothing to do with that section now.
Is not the penalty in Section 19 implemented in Section 21?
Section 21 has nothing to do with that. It is dealing with the penalty for a breach of the provisions of Section 27 of the Finance Act of 1934. The point is simply this, that where a merchant is allowed under the conditions imposed by the Revenue Commissioners to import goods, there shall be a penalty attached for a breach of that provision. It has got nothing to do with Section 19.
Is this a section relating to an incident to which I have referred in this House on more than one occasion?
It has nothing to do with the baker's flour at Dungloe?
It has nothing to do with any incident to which the Deputy referred.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce remembers this and assures us this section has no reference to the position in connection with the abuses that arose in the issuing of these licences for bakers' flour, at Dungloe, for which he was responsible.
I am not aware of any abuses about the issuing of these licences.
Would not the Minister at this moment give a slight description of the ramifications of this section?
Deputy Dillon spoke about this incident at least 25 times in the last two years, while I was chained down here listening to him.
I move amendment No. 43:—
Before Section 23, page 15, but in Part IV, to insert a new section as follows:—
With a view to providing moneys to meet charges which will fall upon the Central Fund in relation to schemes for the provision of employment and the relief of distress, the sum of £100,000 shall be transferred and paid from the Road Fund to the Exchequer at such time or times in the financial year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937, and in such manner as the Minister for Finance shall direct.
The purpose of this amendment is to give effect to the proposal in the Budget whereby a sum of £100,000 is to be transferred and paid from the Road Fund to the Exchequer in the current year for the relief of distress.
The Minister talked about an extended scheme of employment.
The Minister is going to raid the Road Fund to the extent of £100,000.
For road work.
That work would have to be done if this £2,500,000 had not been mentioned at all. The Minister on the hustings talked about providing £2,500,000 for a big employment scheme leaving the people to believe that all this was additional while in reality it is only a transfer from one fund to another. This is one of the ways in which this money is to be found—taking £100,000 out of the Road Fund. Of course, the Government want to get it out amongst the people that they are providing £2,500,000 additional for relief works. In fact, the additional sum provided by the Government is not a quarter of what the local authorities will be compelled to provide for this particular scheme. Is not the Minister aware, so far as relief works on the roads are concerned that the numbers employed on those roads have been reduced in four years from 15,000 odd to just a little over 4,000? I suggest to the Minister that he is not going to give additional employment so far as this particular sum is concerned but that he is merely taking it from the Road Fund where it was intended for employment on the roads and that it is now being used to swell his own total so that he can talk in round figures about £2,500,000 for unemployment.
I would like to ask the Minister in connection with this £100,000 that he is taking from the Road Fund to whom exactly is it intended that this money is to give employment or to whom is employment to be given out of the £2,500,000 of which this £100,000 forms a part? Is this money intended to check the stream of emigration which is going on at present to Great Britain and Scotland? Very recently in the town near which I live every man and woman in one townland went off in one day to Great Britain. I was standing on the platform in Mullingar the week before last and there were three separate or special coaches put on to the train at Mullingar to accommodate the emigrants from Achill. The emigration I have seen from those parts of the country is unlike anything that has happened for a considerable time.
Is this in order?
It bears no relation to the transferring of £100,000 from the Road Fund.
This money is taken out of the Road Fund to provide employment for those otherwise unemployed.
And the only portion that may be discussed is the £100,000 to be taken from the Road Fund.
Yes, this money in the Road Fund designed to keep at home the boys and girls now going to England.
The House has given leave to introduce an Estimate which will deal with this question.
I want to know if this £100,000 is going to be used to keep those boys and girls at home and, if it is, does the Minister think that he is taking a sufficiently large amount from the Road Fund? If he wants to keep those boys and girls at home will he not require to take a lot more from the Road Fund when he has exhausted every other fund? Has the Minister any figures to give the House as to those who are emigrating at present?
The figures for emigration have nothing to do with this amendment.
How can I advise this House as to how much money we ought to take out of the Road Fund unless I can tell the House how many unemployed persons are seeking relief from unemployment by emigrating to Great Britain? That is the net point. Is the sum sufficient to meet the emergency that has arisen, or is it not? Some investigation must have been made before this sum was determined upon. The only investigation which could be made was, how many people must we provide employment for? My inquiry now is: Did the Minister, in arriving at that estimate, say, "We can depend on Great Britain to take so many of the unemployed and all we need provide for are those who are unable to go"?
That might have some relevance to the gross total and it can be discussed on the Supplementary Estimate which is to come before the House.
Let us have a preliminary discussion now on the £100,000.
I suggest that that is not in order.
When the Minister decided on the sum of £100,000, did he choose that sum with a view to checking emigration? We must remember that the Minister for Industry and Commerce stated that the purpose he had in mind was, not only to stop emigration, but to promote immigration and bring back across the Atlantic the countless thousands who would be necessary to start the wheels of industry turning. Now we are faced with the problem of countless thousands going across to get work in England.
The whole grant for the relief of unemployment may not be discussed on this £100,000.
What may I discuss?
The £100,000 which it is proposed to take from the Road Fund.
Is this sum sufficient to check the emigration going to Great Britain? If it is not, I desire to argue that a larger sum should be taken from the Road Fund. It is the policy of the Government to do away with the dog and the bullock and establish employment for all in this country.
That is not relevant.
Is it relevant to say that this sum is sufficient to stop emigration? What is the sum for? However, I will not trespass on your patience further. The Minister, I take it, is concerned to provide employment for all and sundry. Is he aware that a greater number of boys and girls are going to Great Britain now than ever went to America in the past? I assure him that that is true. I have no doubt that many are not going from Limerick, where the dairying industry is prospering, but from the poorer areas, where, I take it, this £100,000 will be spent—Mayo, Donegal, Galway and Clare—the people are going to Great Britain in greater numbers than they ever went to America. Is the Minister aware of that? Were those facts present to his mind when he fixed on this sum? If so, is he in a position to assure the House that when this money becomes available for expenditure in accordance with the plans he has in mind, it will no longer be necessary for the girls and boys of this country to go to Great Britain and get work there. The second question I want to ask is this: When he proceeds to distribute this £2,500,000 by way of wages on relief works, will he bear in mind——
The Deputy is anticipating a matter which will come before the House and afford an opportunity for discussing the whole question. The administration of the £2,500,000 does not arise on this section.
Am I entitled to ask the rate of wages which will be paid to the persons who will get a share of this £100,000?
That is administration.
I may not ask that?
Administration may not be discussed.
I understand that if the Minister proposed to appropriate this money with a view to paying people one penny per week we are not entitled to oppose it. I will not press the matter, but I give the Minister notice that I shall arise, at the appropriate stage, a discussion on the comparative scales of wages he proposes to pay and those available to emigrants going to Great Britain.
I should like to ask why this money is being taken out of the Road Fund and the administration of it put under the charge of a person not normally responsible for the carrying out of the work generally carried out under the Road Fund. Usually the work provided by moneys paid into the Road Fund is done under the supervision and control of county surveyors throughout the country. It is rather interesting to see what was the money spent like that during the last four years. For the year ending March, 1932, £856,000 was spent out of the Road Fund. On 1st January, 1932, the total number of persons unemployed was 29,331. The number of persons unemployed on 1st January, 1933, was 100,987. During the year ending the following March, £1,417,000 was spent out of the Road Fund. The number of persons unemployed on 1st January, 1934, had fallen to 79,414. By the end of the following March, a couple of months later, £1,099,000 had been spent out of the Road Fund. The number of persons unemployed had risen very remarkably by the 1st January, 1935, to 128,000, before there was any inducement to register in respect of unemployment assistance. In spite of the fact that the number of persons unemployed had risen from 79,000 in January, 1934, to 128,000 in January, 1935, the expenditure from the Road Fund between the years ending 31st March, 1934, and 31st March, 1935, had fallen from £1,099,000 to £715,000. For the year ending March, 1936, the allocation from the Road Fund was only £716,000. So that the money actually spent from the Road Fund, under the control of the persons normally expending that money, was reduced by half in the year ending in March, 1936, from what it was in the year ending in March, 1933.
We have no indication yet as to the amount of money that is to be allocated from the Road Fund for normal expenditure on the roads during the year ending 31st March, 1937. I should like to ask how much money is going to be allocated from the Road Fund in respect of construction and maintenance for the current year. I do not see the advantage of taking money from the Road Fund, which would normally be expended under the supervision of the county surveyors, and transferring it to be expended under the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance. We require some explanation as to the amount of money that is going to be spent out of the Road Fund during the year, and why £100,000 is going to be spent on special work. I think the question really does arise as to whether it is going to be spent on special wages, because it is being transferred from the county councils, who pay various rates of wages, according to the conditions that have been traditional in each county for work on the roads, to the administration of the Parliamentary Secretary who has indicated to the House that it would be as much as a man's life was worth to stand between an unemployed person and a job at 21/- per week. We should have information on these points before we agree to this taking of £100,000 from the Road Fund.
I wish to support the transfer of this £100,000 from the Road Fund and I wish to do so because my eyes have borne witness to the truth of what Deputy Dillon said a few moments ago. Any Deputy who takes the trouble to go down to Dun Laoghaire or to go to the North Wall on a Friday night will see the boats for England absolutely packed with young emigrants, mainly from the Counties of Galway and Mayo. Thinking that I might perhaps be generalising too much from what I saw myself on one or two occasions, I took the trouble to ask an officer on the ship at Dun Laoghaire whether this was an exceptional phenomenon, and he assured me that for a considerable time past it has been the same thing every Friday night: that the ships for England have been absolutely packed with emigrants, mainly from the Counties of Galway and Mayo.
On a point of order, I submit that a discussion on emigration hardly arises on an amendment to the Finance Bill.
It does not.
The Chair is not obliged to give reasons. The Deputy knows that the Chair has already ruled that when the motion for the £2,500,000 for the relief of unemployment comes before the House, the matters that are now being discussed will be quite relevant. The Deputy is anticipating discussion on that motion.
I am sorry if I have been out of order. I did not wish to be. I shall not pursue a theme that I see is an unpopular one with the Government.
What the Government thinks on the matter does not concern the Chair.
I realise that.
Can we have the information asked for?
No. The Minister is struck dumb.
So far as I could gather, most of the information asked for by the Deputy refers to the administration of the Road Fund which, following the ruling of the Chair, ought not, I take it, to be discussed on this section. I have already said that a full opportunity will be given to the House when the Supplementary Estimate is brought in to discuss the method of financing and administering the Employment Fund. I think that the questions put by Deputy Mulcahy would be more relevant on that Supplementary Estimate than to this section.
This amendment to the Finance Bill has been moved by the Minister for the purpose of indicating to the House that additional employment is going to be given. On the face of it, it does not seem to me that there is any promise of additional employment being given out of the Road Fund by transferring from it £100,000 to be administered by the Parliamentary Secretary, thus leaving the county surveyors with that sum of money less to spend.
The Deputy will have the opportunity of moving an amendment to the Supplementary Estimate to delete the reference to the Road Fund.
What is proposed here in this new section indicates that money that would be normally spent under the direction of one part of the engineering machinery in the State on a definite class of work that we know the general lines of, is now going to be spent on another class of work. Reference has been made to the fact that there are certain areas in the country which, more than others, require to be assisted in this particular way. I submit that we ought to be told the general lines of the work on which it is proposed to spend this £100,000, and in what particular areas it is proposed to spend it.
The section moved by the Minister sets out that the object of it is to provide moneys—
"to meet charges which will fall upon the Central Fund in relation to schemes for the provision of employment and the relief of distress."
Therefore, what the Minister is proposing is to insert a new provision in his Finance Bill to enable him to provide money for the provision of employment and the relief of distress. The Minister is taking the sum of £100,000 out of the Road Fund to do that. Deputies are well aware that the procedure at present is that moneys voted out of the Road Fund are spent under the supervision of the county council officials. I am not at all satisfied that, if this sum of money is transferred to the new Employment Fund to be administered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, as high a rate of wages will be paid to workers employed on the schemes undertaken as if the Road Fund moneys continued to be administered in the ordinary way by the county council officials.
All that can be discussed on the Estimate.
The Minister seems very anxious to prevent the House from discussing that aspect of the situation on this new section. It is a matter for the House to decide whether or not the Minister is to get this £100,000 from the Road Fund. There is no doubt whatever, in my opinion, that as high a rate of wages will not be paid on works financed out of this money as if the money were voted in the ordinary way from the Road Fund and administered by the county councils. I suggest that the wording of this new section gives the House perfect liberty to discuss the unemployment and distress that prevail in the country.
I move amendment No. 44:—
To delete reference No. 3, and all references thereto in columns 2, 3 and 4.
In moving this amendment I feel that I might as well be addressing my remarks to Nelson's Pillar or the North Pole as to the icy heart of the Minister for Finance. At the same time, I shall take the liberty of pointing out that this deals with a proposal to put a duty of 6d. per lb. on white, red and black pepper, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, mace, caraway seed, and the other spices mentioned which are used for various purposes in the very poorest households in the country. This is, to me, the worst of the hidden taxes. It means a heavy imposition on people who find it very difficult to balance their weekly budget, far more difficult than the Minister for Finance finds it to balance his annual Budget. In addition, I may point out that the Minister ought to know, with his extensive knowledge of agriculture, that ginger is very largely used in veterinary medicine, and that an increase of 6d. per lb. in ginger adds to the already overwhelming and oppressive burdens which the farmers of this country have to bear under the present conditions. Perhaps, also, the Minister for Finance knows that in certain parts of the country during the cold months, a mixture of pepper and ginger is sprinkled on stout—so it is supposed to have some healthful effect and save people from various ailments. It is known in my part of the country as a "shake of the lad." For the future I am afraid the "shake of the lad" will become a thing of the past, as so many things have become under the present régime. Quite honestly and sincerely I appeal to the Minister that as this 6d. duty will press heavily on the extremely poor people, he ought to consider the advisability of withdrawing it.
That duty applies only to ground spices. Unground spices will not be affected. The grinding of these spices will be undertaken here, and there will be no increase in price.
What about caraway seeds?
Anyway, the Deputy's constituents will have no difficulty in getting pepper and ginger to sprinkle on their beer. I want to take this opportunity of correcting a misapprehension that may have been created by some remarks I made on the Report Stage of the Resolutions. I stated then that the grinding of spices was not being done in this country, or that all spices affected by the duty were imported in the ground state. The firm of William Black, Limited, of Shandon Park Mills, Phibsborough, have protested against that statement, and asserted that they have been grinding pepper and spices for some time past, and in fact sold a considerable quantity of ground pepper and spices during the course of the past year. I merely make that statement, as the firm have asked that it should be made. There will be other firms, I am sure, also engaged in the preparation of these ground spices, and there will be no difficulty in getting adequate supplies at present prices.
This just shows the kind of information acted upon in this House. The Minister romps in here and tells us he is going to put a duty on ground spices. He gets quite indignant if any questions are asked in regard to the proposal and he declares that it is a shame that the man-power of Ireland should stand idly by while pepper and other commodities are still to be ground. He declares that the opportunity should be given to the men of Ireland to work. The fact then emerges that the men of Ireland have been grinding pepper and spices for the last six months without the Minister's intervention. Where does the Minister get his information? Does it simply mean that anyone can ramble into Government Buildings and put a proposal before the Minister, or is there any kind of exhaustive inquiry made before tariffs are clapped on? Imagine a tariff being clapped on at the instance of persons who suggest to the Minister that all these commodities were being imported and it then emerges that a firm has been carrying on the grinding of pepper and spices for months.
Does it mean that some inefficient crumpaun, who could not ordinarily compete with anybody, comes in and asks for high protection in order to enable him to establish a business, while an enterprising man, prepared to meet competition and to put in efficient plant to meet competition whence ever it comes, does not come around begging to Government Buildings, but simply sets to work, establishes a little business and forges ahead? Now some incompetent crumpaun is going to be set up under the Minister's ægis to compete with a competent man who starts out on his own to establish a business. The end of it might be that the incompetent crumpaun, under Government patronage, will probably seriously interfere with the business of the efficient man. If that is not tariffs gone mad, I do not know what is.
About 90 per cent. of the ground spices are imported.
Amendment No. 44 put and negatived.
I move amendment No. 45:—
To delete reference No. 12, and all references thereto in columns 2, 3 and 4.
This reference in the Schedule proposes what I consider to be a monstrous duty. It is a monstrous thing to tax our offerings at the shrine of Cloasina. It is quite possible that the indirect object of this duty may be to increase the sale of the Government organ.
We have here 18 pages of new duties, or duties that have been altered in some way. The remarkable thing is that out of the 44 items dealt with in this Schedule, in no fewer than 34 does the Minister take to himself power to issue licences for the importation of these things free of duty.
There is another one under amendment No. 50, and that makes the number 35.
I am glad to have the Minister's correction, and I take it that he accepts the amended figure of 35 as correct. Therefore, in respect of 35 of the new duties, the Minister is not satisfied that we are in a position to produce those articles ourselves?
To meet all our requirements?
If that is so, will the Minister explain why he wants power to have them imported under licence free of duty?
Mainly to meet home requirements until home production has commenced.
Will the Minister give us any information, in regard to the 35 items, as to when home production will commence or when it will be sufficient to meet home requirements?
The position varies from one item to another.
A great number of these duties will seriously affect the very poorest sections of the people.
Could not this discussion have more properly taken place on the Report Stage of the Resolutions?
It is a great pity the Minister is not in the Chair. If he were he might try to stifle all discussion on matters of supreme importance to the country. Here we have 18 pages in the First Schedule alone, and the Minister apparently is anxious to have it passed without discussion. If the Minister got his way, probably that is what he would like.
We have spent three days already on it.
It requires at least three days to consider it. It is being moved as a First Schedule to this Bill for the first time.
It was twice before the House already on the Report Stage of the Resolutions.
This is the Stage on which the Schedules are to be examined in detail.
They were already examined in detail on the Report Stage of the Resolutions.
I submit that a detailed examination comes more appropriately on this Stage. If necessary, I am sure the Ceann Comhairle will reinforce that opinion of mine.
It is now 2 o'clock. Will you adjourn the House, Sir, and let us go home?
Is the House to be treated in this way? Are members not entitled to exercise their rights, and are they to have no protection from this gentleman?
We adjourned the discussion on the Finance Bill early last night in order to enable the Minister to go out and make an election speech. We ought to have the last few minutes to-day in order to deal with this matter.
If I am not finished before 2 o'clock, I will move to report progress. The Minister has not yet power to amend the Standing Orders of this House. The real reason why the Minister is so angry is that he does not want to have these matters exposed. According to the Minister, we are to pass these items without discussion.
I desire to draw attention to the fact that there is not a quorum present.
I move to report progress.
I called a count of the House first.