Sir, on Friday afternoon, when the Minister for Finance called attention to the fact that there was not a quorum present in the House, I was speaking on this First Schedule, and I was pointing out to the House that this First Schedule is half the Finance Bill, and that this is the Schedule that imposes, I think, 44 or 46 new duties. The Minister, apparently, thought that it was not necessary for the House to discuss this matter at all. Some of us cannot agree with the Minister. We know that last year the Minister, as a result of duties imposed, collected the very great sum of, I think, £10,500,000 in customs alone, and we know that those duties— I think the majority of them—fall particularly heavily on the poorer sections of the community here. A glance through the First Schedule here will show that many of those duties are bound still further to increase the cost of living in this country. The Minister himself, in the Schedule, as I pointed out on Friday, is not satisfied that the greater number of those articles are going to be produced in this country during the coming year, and certainly not going to be produced in sufficient quantities to meet the home demand. Now, of course, we are told by Ministers, and particularly by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, that not only is there no increase in the cost of living, but that, as a matter of fact, the cost of living has fallen. In fact, I think that on one occasion the Minister went so far as to say that the cost of living is lower to-day than it has been for a considerable number of years.
Finance Bill, 1936—Committee (Resumed—Schedule I).
It is lower than it was in 1931.
Well, that is a few years ago. In any case, however, I doubt if there is anybody in this country, outside the members of the Front Bench opposite, who believe that the cost of living has fallen. I doubt if there is a housekeeper in this country who thinks that the cost of living is lower to-day than it was in 1931. I am satisfied that there is nobody in this country who does not believe that the cost of living has been increasing for the last few years, year after year, since the present Government came into office. There is no doubt about that, certainly, so far as the necessaries of life are concerned. On articles that must be bought for use in every household, there has been a considerable increase in prices, even over the last two years. My point about the First Schedule is that it is going further to increase the cost. We have not got from the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Industry and Commerce any idea as to what benefits are going to flow to this country as a result of the imposition of these considerable duties.
I am not going to weary the House by going into details, but certain items could be picked out about which one could ask why it was necessary to put duties upon them. For the first time duties are being imposed on certain articles, and that at a time when the Government say they are going to make £2,500,000 available for employment. Some of the materials that will be taxed by this Schedule are used in certain classes of work, and as there is no likelihood that they will be made here, one can only come to the conclusion that the attitude of the Government is that they will have to be imported for schemes of employment that are to be started—if they are started—and they are proceeding on the same basis as that in connection with cement that, as there was a boom in house building, the Government was entitled to rake in 5/- on every ton of cement used. Some of the materials mentioned in this Schedule are used in sewerage and other works and are not produced here. The general effect, in my opinion, will be to increase substantially the cost of living, and to divert some of the money that is supposed to be available for employment towards the purchase of materials necessary to carry out these schemes. As far as I am concerned, and apparently the Minister is of the same opinion, I do not think many of the materials will be made here, and certainly not in sufficient quantities in the year covered by this Bill.
Deputy Morrissey has rightly drawn attention to the implications of this Schedule. When the Minister for Finance introduced his emergency Budget, in 1932, he boasted that he was putting £4,000,000 additional taxation on the people, and he went through the country pointing out that the additional taxation was being imposed on the rich. I have already quoted the words of the Minister for Defence at Navan, in 1932, where he stated that the additional taxation being put on was coming out of the pockets of the rich. We have repeatedly referred to what has happened since, and by the time we came to the Budget of 1935, we had reached a point in which it was necessary, after dodging it for a couple of years before that, to ask brutally: "Why should not the workingman pay?" Coming to 1936 we had the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, and also the Minister for Education, emphasising the fact that the working classes had to pay. Now, when we look at the size of the bill marked "paid" at the end of the last financial year, we find that customs duties brought in, in the year ending March, 1936, £2,000,000 more than they brought in in the year ending March, 1932. I pointed out that the general bill payable by the people in the first normal Budget was £250,000 more than the bill put before them in the emergency Budget. The figures disclosed by the customs duties show the extent to which workers are being forced more and more to pay for the cost of government here. The Minister for Finance emphasised only the other day, when dealing with the question of additional educational relief, that if it was granted it would come out of the pockets of the working people. The present Schedule adds a large number of articles which are to be subject to customs duty, necessitating an increase of £2,000,000, and when that is compared with the increase in the general wages bill in industries covered by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in the Census of Production, between the years 1931 and 1934, the wages bill of £4,200,000 rose only by £730,000 as a result of the industrial development brought about by tariffs, so that the people have been paying increased customs duties, amounting to £2,000,000, between March, 1933, and March, 1936. The Census of Production for 1934 shows that only £730,000 of an increase in wages has been secured in industries governed by the Census of Production figures, accompanied by the fact that, in a large number of industries, the average amount of wages received by the workers has fallen. The figures also disclose the fact that the capacity of our people to buy the necessaries of life has fallen, so that the burden of the additional customs duties is falling upon people whose capacity to purchase the ordinary necessaries of life, to the extent that they did before 1932, has substantially fallen. Again it has to be pointed out that these duties are falling upon people whose capacity to buy boots, soap and hosiery, to the extent disclosed by the figures for 1933 and 1934, which is the last year for which statistics are available is less. In 1933 they were able to spend £256,000 less on boots and in 1934, £387,000 less.
But they bought more boots.
They did not buy the same type of boots. They bought boots and shoes of some kind, to the extent of 120,000 dozen pairs imported at 1/7 each or 17/4 a dozen.
But they bought more boots.
They bought more boots to the extent of a couple of thousand dozen, if the Minister wants to claim that as buying in satisfactory quantities and a satisfactory type. In one year alone 120,000 dozen pairs of boots or shoes were bought at 17/4 a dozen. The Minister has replied now just as he replied before to criticism on this point, but I have yet to see his reply to the letter contributed to the Press about six weeks ago by Professor Duncan, a member of the commission inquiring into banking, currency and credit, which gave the Minister for Industry and Commerce another side-line on the boots situation, which he has very carefully refrained from answering. Perhaps the Minister has something to say on the hosiery question, as to the quantity used being value for £229,000 less in 1933 and £140,000 less in 1934 than in previous years. The Minister will admit that they are necessaries of life. Do not tell us that it is because civil servants are not wearing stockings.
Because the price has gone down.
Will the Minister seriously go into that?
I gave the Deputy the actual quantities that were used as well as the cost.
The Minister should seriously go into that. Again in regard to clothing, the figure was £740,000 less in 1933 and £541,000 less in 1934.
But actually more suits were sold.
Because they gave worse wear.
The only comment the Minister has to make is that they are wearing more clothes. If they are wearing more clothes, why has the Minister for Finance had to issue circulars——
Will the Deputy produce one of these circulars?
I am dependent on the Press——
TheDaily Express at that.
——for a lot of official information.
Will the Deputy produce one of these circulars?
I have no circular to produce and I do not want to draw a red herring of that kind across the very serious fact that this bill of £2,000,000 is going to be imposed on people whose capacity to buy the necessaries of life is seriously depressed. This bill is imposed upon them on the pretence that it is bringing about industrial development here but, in fact, the increased wages for the classes of industry created within three years is only one-third over what the increased bill for customs duties is.
Most of the points raised by Deputies have been already adequately answered. Deputy Mulcahy has obviously left out of account one very important consideration when he refers to the fact that the yield to the Exchequer from customs duty increased by £2,000,000. He says that in effect the people had to pay £2,000,000 more and therefore the customs duties were not worth having.
They had to pay £2,000,000 more but they had to pay an additional sum for native products.
The Deputy will readily appreciate that money that comes into the Treasury does not stop in it. It goes out to meet the cost of government, the cost of social services. If that £2,000,000 did not come from customs duties it would have to come from some other form of taxes. It is surely better, if people have to contribute taxes, that they should do so in a manner which helps development rather than a manner which retards it. The money required to meet the cost of government must be provided from some source and the fact that additional revenue came from customs duties does not mean that unnecessary taxation was raised. It merely means that taxation was raised in one way rather than in another. Deputy Mulcahy is not quite honest when he quotes figures showing the decrease in the total amount spent on boots, shoes, hosiery and clothing when in fact he has had supplied to him figures showing that the actual number of boots and the actual quantity of hosiery and clothing used has increased. It is our desire to encourage the increased use of clothing. We may desire to make this country one of the brightest spots on earth but we have no ambition to turn it into a garden of Eden. For the moment our aim is to achieve the development of industry by encouraging the people to use more clothes. Perhaps at a later date that policy may be reversed. Deputy Morrissey was entirely incorrect in his statement concerning the possible effect of the First Schedule or in stating that there is any article made subject to duty by the First Schedule, that is not at present made, or that will not at some future time be made in the Saorstát. There is no article made subject to duty by the First Schedule the importation of which will be necessary for the purposes of the relief works to which he refers. The whole effect of the Schedule as regards revenue to the State will be negligible. In fact the estimated yield of all the duties is about £14,000 so the Deputy can be quite satisfied that the whole design behind the First Schedule is a protective one and has nothing to do with balancing the Budget or increasing the surplus of the Exchequer.
You must be going to issue a great number of licences.
Our whole desire is to have these articles manufactured here in sufficient quantities to satisfy our needs. That I think we shall succeed in doing.
The Minister has said that nothing is made subject to duty under this Schedule which is not going to be produced in this country. I should like to join issue with him on that statement and for the purpose of illustration I would refer to the first items in the Schedule—plaster of Paris, Keene's cement and Parian cement. The Minister in explaining the articles on which it was proposed to impose a duty gave a very clear and a very concise definition of these articles. The duties were intended, as far as I am aware, to assist the production of certain articles that are being manufactured in this country. I do not propose to quarrel with his statement in that respect but I should like to call his attention to the fact that there are a number of items which you might call border-line cases. It is only by analysis one can discover what these items are. The chemical analysis of most products imported into this country is well known and can be pretty easily got. It is merely a question of the Government taking up the analysis to see if the statements made regarding these articles is correct. I should like to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that practically nothing that is classed as a border-line case has got through since these duties were imposed. I would suggest to him that it is up to the Government as they have put a duty on these articles, when these articles are put up to them for analysis, either to say that they agree with the statement of what these articles are supposed to contain or to give their own analysis of them. They should not hold up a number of items indefinitely by merely saying that they are dutiable and that it is a matter that must be gone into. That is as far as reference No. 1 is concerned.
Then we come to reference Nos. 20, 21 and 22, which refer to paper and printing. Again, I do not wish to embarrass the Minister's efforts to give employment and to create industries here, but I should like to say that nothing creates such discontent as to put duties on certain articles which are not manufactured here, and which cannot be substituted for articles manufactured here when the public are unable to discriminate on the question of whether they are manufactured here or not. They merely have a vague idea that the Minister must be profiteering —when I say the Minister I mean the Government—at the expense of the Irish consuming public. As an instance of that, I should like to mention two items. The Minister talked of a duty on photographic apparatus and sensitised paper, as brought in here. He gave me the impression—he will correct me if I am wrong—that photographic sensitised paper, either bromide or gaslight paper, is not made by any manufacturer in this country. I do not wish to quarrel with the stationers, who have a legitimate protection for their goods, but if you dare to print the word "postcard" on the back of a piece of sensitised paper or card, it is liable to a 50 per cent. duty.
Not under this section.
Possibly not under this section; but it is paper all the same. That is an illustration of what is going on under this section and other sections. I merely wish to point that out, as an illustration. Sensitised paper is brought in, but because it has the word "postcard" on the back of it, it is classed as stationery, and is liable to a duty of 50 per cent. I am rather afraid that, in spite of the Minister's protest, the Government are very pleased to say, "We are protecting Irish manufacture by the swings, and any we miss on the swings we catch on the roundabouts by some comprehensive tariff."
Another illustration of what I mean is this: In the sale of stocks of sensitised paper, certain manufacturers throughout the world have the habit of printing their own proprietary name upon the paper. That is considered a protection for the public and others. But what is done here? Instead of looking upon the fact that there is no sensitised paper made in this country, the fact that there is printed on the back of the paper some words by movable type, makes it subject to 10 or 15 per cent. increased duty. I would like to ask the Minister to be more precise in his definitions. There is no advantage to the public either in increasing the duty on the necessaries of life, as Deputy Mulcahy pointed out, or on the amenities of life, as Deputy Morrissey mentioned.
There is another matter that I would like to call attention to, and that is item 32. We have a very comprehensive Schedule there, almost a Schedule within a Schedule. I know one firm coming into the Saorstát, and it is intended to give them protection under this, but I would like to ask the Minister to give a guarantee that any firm carrying on business in this country will be in no worse position for obtaining articles not manufactured in this country than the later comers. Nothing creates such a position of discontent as to find that people coming in later can obtain facilities that others cannot obtain. These are the few observations I desire to make upon the Schedule.
I move amendment No. 48:—
In Part I, in columns 2 and 4, to delete the figures 18/8 in each case in which they occur, and substitute therefore the figures 14/- and to make consequential amendments elsewhere in Part I of the Schedule.
The object of this amendment is contained in the wording of the amendment itself, and is intended to reduce in some part the duty that has been imposed on sugar. The present Government, since they came into office, have increased the duty on sugar from 11/8 to 21/-. The Minister for Finance, in this Bill, has taken 1/4d. off that day. The total increase on sugar amounted to 1d. per lb. The reduction made by the Minister takes ¼d. per lb. off the duty and my amendment seeks to still further reduce that duty. I think it will be admitted, as was, in other times, contended by the Minister very strongly, that this duty inflicts a hardship upon the people, and particularly upon the poor. I think I can recollect the present Minister for Finance, when in opposition, making a very strong case against the then price of sugar in this country. We know that sugar is a commodity which is used in every household and, perhaps, more largely in the houses of the poor, because of conditions known to everyone, than in the houses of better off people. Of course, the matter is aggravated by the fact that, alongside the very substantial increase in the present price of sugar, the Government has also put a duty of 4d. per lb. on tea. I do not propose to delay the House in this matter, but I say the reduction I ask for in this amendment is comparatively small and reasonable. If the amendment were carried it would leave the duty on sugar still higher by 4/8 than when the present Government came into office. The amendment speaks for itself, is quite clear, and if accepted would relieve somewhat the very sharp advance that has been made recently in the cost of living in this country.
I should like to support the amendment. The increase in the cost of sugar has inflicted a very serious hardship on a very considerable section of the people and particularly on the poorer section. But I approach this matter from a different angle, and that is to call attention to the effect it will have upon traders in towns situated along the Border. Sugar and flour are two essential commodities very extensively used. At the present time the price of both articles is very much higher in the Free State than in Northern Ireland. One can see at a glance the temptation this is to smuggle. As a result of the wholesale smuggling going on, in sugar and flour, traders in these towns have been very badly hit. With sugar at its present price in the Free State, it is only natural to assume that traders have lost a very considerable portion of the trade they did with people living on the other side of the Border.
The Minister himself knows the geographical position of these towns as well as I do. He knows Dundalk was the natural market town for that Northern hinterland right up almost to Armagh. During the past few years, with the increase in the price of sugar, this trade has gone almost entirely to Newry. The result is that, to my own knowledge, traders in the northern portion of Dundalk have suffered considerable loss. Some of them have been forced out of business altogether. As a matter of policy, I think it should be the duty of the Government, leaving out all other considerations, and seeing the peculiar position of this country owing to the Border, to see that the price of certain commodities in the Free State should not be greater than the price obtaining for the same commodities in Northern Ireland. That is an aspect of the situation which I commend to the attention of the Minister for Finance. He himself knows the position. The difference in price as between the Free State and Northern Ireland for sugar and flour is too great at present. The result is that a very considerable share of the trade of towns along the Border, not alone in County Louth, but in County Monaghan, County Cavan, County Leitrim and County Donegal, is lost to them. For those reasons I support the amendment, even though I know it will not pass. Possibly, the Minister cannot see his way to effect a reduction, but I should like to bring the other aspect of the matter to his notice. It should be the duty of this or any other Government so to arrange matters in future that the prices of the commodities I have mentioned would be no greater than the prices existing for the same commodities in Northern Ireland.
When the Minister was dealing with sugar taxation on the Budget, he gave us some indication as to what the sugar duty and the Government's general sugar policy mean to the people. He said on the 12th May:
"On our present yearly consumption of sugar alone an all-round duty of 1¼d. would give us about £1,200,000. We could bring our revenue from sugar up to that level quite easily therefore, and in addition reduce the present retail price of the article by 1¼d. per lb., if we were to do as is done across the Border— import all the sugar we consume. But are we prepared to throw the beet fields back into pasture and leave our sugar factories to the rats and the moss?"
The Minister thus indicates to us that our people are going to pay £1,250,000 more than they need pay.
It is much more than that, as a matter of fact. He says he could get a substantial addition to his revenue while reducing the actual price to the people by £1,250,000.
Where is £1,250,000 mentioned?
If the Minister reduces the price of the 104,000 tons of sugar consumed in the country by a 1¼d. per lb. retail, he will find that the people will have to pay £1,250,000 less than they would have to pay if the retail price were not so reduced. The Minister will not deny that. As well as giving them that reduction, he could get £1,250,000 into his revenue. I take it that he is there referring to the difference between what he is now getting and what he would get —probably £300,000. From the Minister's statement, I take it that he could save the people £300,000 in taxation and £1,250,000 in the price of sugar if he were to adopt the Northern Ireland position. I indicated to the Minister, when dealing with this matter before on the Resolution, that when we take into consideration what the consumer is being over charged, and that the price of imported sugar has fallen, the amount the sugar consumer, as a taxpayer, has unnecessarily to make up is about £1,100,000 at the present time. The Minister says:
"You are paying all this in der to provide substantial employment in agriculture."
He asks if we are prepared to throw the beet fields back into pasture and to leave the sugar factories to the rats and the moss. Before the people had to pay this additional sum for sugar, the beet fields were not in pasture. In the Province of Leinster last year, 18,079 acres of beet were grown.
In 1935. For every 100 acres of beet grown there, there were only 25 acres additional tillage, because 75 of the acres which were growing beet in 1935 were previously growing turnips and mangolds. Take the Province of Connacht. There there were 13,427 acres of beet grown last year. For every 100 acres of beet grown there, 90 acres were not in substitution of pasture, but in substitution of turnips, mangolds and potatoes.
The people are paying this additional sum for sugar, not so much to put more people into employment in our fields in Leinster or in Connacht as to change the crops from turnips, mangolds and potatoes, to beet. The figures have been reiterated here, and they will have to be reiterated until Ministers show that they realise their significance. How hollow is the statement of the Minister about the beet fields going back to pasture, when we recollect that there were fewer agricultural labourers employed permanently last year than were employed in 1931.
On top of the price that has to be paid by the ordinary consumer for sugar to fill in the gaps made by the general policy of the Government in the pockets of the farmers and the labourers—I should say that only a small portion of the moneys paid for sugar goes into their pockets—we have to pay £700,000 or £800,000 to maintain a Government which is costing £8,00,000 more this year—the first normal year—than it did before the Minister set about helping the farmers and farm labourers. Why is it necessary to pay all this money in order to induce people to turn from the growing of turnips and mangolds to the growing of beet? I think the Minister shows great effrontery in asking the people to meet this bill and saying that, if they do not, our beet fields will go back in pasture, when, out of every 100 acrs of beet grown in the province of Connacht, 90 acres represented land which had been previously growing mangolds, turnips and potatoes.
After the very naive speech that, we have listened to, it seems scarcely worth while replying to the statements made by Deputy Mulcahy because they have been trotted out again and again in the last few weeks. I think it was the Minister for Industry and Commerce who said he hated giving Deputy Mulcahy statistics, that statistics were bad for Deputy Mulcahy because he was not able to digest them.
If I were the Minister I would hate to be giving such statistics.
Sometime ago we heard the Deputy making a statement here which appears to be demonstratively unfounded—that although we put an increased number into employment nevertheless the average rate of wages paid has declined——
We have just listened to a statement of a similar sort. The Deputy alleges that for every 100 acres of sugar beet grown in Leinster there was only in the aggregate 25 acres of an increase in tillage. From that he wishes the House to deduce that beet had been grown merely as a substitute crop for other root crops. The real point to consider is if a sugar beet market had not been provided for those farms what would have been the decline in the cultivation of these root crops?
That is the point.
It might have been this—that the 100 acres that have been put under beet might not have been tilled at all. This 100 acres may have been an absolute increase, possibly——
——grown upon an area that otherwise would not have been tilled at all.
I do not quite get the Minister.
As a matter of fact, under the administration of which the Deputy was a member there had been a continuous decline in the area under tillage from year to year. That was a phenomenon which was most marked and what we have succeeded in doing, by fostering the cultivation of sugar beet, has been not merely to arrest that decline but to show an absolute increase in the area under tillage.
And in the area under grass.
In the area under tillage, anyhow.
What are the facts about the sugar duty as it exists at the present moment? I know that in the last year of the Cosgrave Administration Deputy Morrissey was so full of admiration for it that he threw in his lot with the then Government.
I suppose it is the Public Safety Act.
What was the position? In the year 1931-32 they introduced a Supplementary Budget. That Budget was brought in in the autumn of that year when Deputy Morrissey was so filled, as I have said, with admiration for the tax policy of my predecessor that he declined to accept the Labour Party's Whip and attached himself to Cumann na nGaedheal.
I supported them on the Public Safety Bill.
And on the sugar duty—on the whole policy of the then Cumann na nGaedheal Government. What was the position then in regard to sugar? In the year 1931-32 the total yield from sugar duty was £1,371,901, almost 50 per cent. more than it was for the year 1935-36, and about 120 per cent. more than it will be for the year 1936-37. In 1935-36, the total yield from sugar duty was £954,825. Of course, Deputy Morrissey will chime in and say that last year we got in taxes from tea £370,000. The total yield from both tea and sugar was £1,324,825 for the year 1935-36, while the sugar duty alone in the year 1931-32 was £1,371,901. For the current year it is estimated that our yield from both the customs and excise duty on sugar will be £625,000, and from tea £430,000 odd. Out of the two together we expect to get £1,055,000. The total yield from both duties is to be compared with £1,371,901 for sugar duty in the year 1931-32. That sum was collected from the people by the Administration which Deputy Morrissey supported in 1931-32.
You had only one white elephant that time.
Let us consider this: in the year 1931-32 — for the greater part of the year—the customs duty on sugar was 1¾d. per lb. We are now reducing the duty so that the customs duty on it will be 2d. per lb. But in the year 1931-32 the excise duty on home manufactured sugar was ½d. per lb. After the 1st August this year it will be ¼d. per lb. Moreover, in the year 1931-32, almost 83 per cent. of the sugar consumed in this country was charged at the higher rate of duty of 1¾d. per lb., and only 17 per cent. was charged at the ¼d. rate per lb. In the current year the position is almost the exact opposite, for 80 per cent. of the sugar consumed here will be charge at the rate of ¼d. per lb., that is a rate of duty which is 50 per cent. below what was charged by the administration which Deputy Morrissey then supported, and only about 20 per cent. of our sugar consumption will be charged at the rate of 2d. per lb.
Apart altogether from the act that, as I have said, the revnue has not been the gainer by the change, the more important matter to consider is, who has been the gainer. Of course, as usual, one examines Deputy Mulcahy's fibres— some of these rash statements he makes in the House—one will find tit the Deputy is not quite corret. He stated that I said that not merely could we bring the sugar duties up to £1,200,000, but that also I admitted that sugar consumers were paying £1,250,000 unnecessarily for sugar. I asked him what was the basis for that, and he told me the basis of the calculation was an approximate sugar consumption of 104,000 tons per annum and, an unqualified statement apparently, that sugar could be reduced by a 1¼d. per lb.
It is the Minister's statement.
That was not the statement I made at all.
It was the Minister's statement.
It was not. It was Deputy Mulcahy's version of the Minister's statement.
It was taken from column 12 of the Official Reports of the 12th of May.
That was Deputy Mulcahy's version of the Minister's statement.
I read your words and I am prepared to hear your comments.
Here is what I said:
"We could bring our revenue from sugar up to that level quite easily, therefore, and in addition reduce the present retail price of the article by ld. or 1¼d. per lb..."
I think there is a fair amount of qualification as between the two limits "by 1d. or 1¼d. per lb."
Which is the limit?
One would say by 1d.; 1¼d. might be the most optimistic estimate that one could make. At any rate, the point I am making is this, that, as usual, Deputy Mulcahy, purporting to read from the report of my speech, made me fix the possible reduction at 1¼d., with no qualification whatever.
I read your words.
Not merely that, but he stated before he read the words, and he stated it subsequently, when he thought people had forgotten the exact text of the extract, that I had said the people were paying £1,250,000 unnecessarily for sugar. When I asked him the basis for that, he said he found the basis in the fact that our annual consumption of sugar is about 104,000 tons, and that he was estimating that the price could be reduced by 1¼d. Even taking it on that basis, the Deputy is not correct, because 1¼d. per lb. on 104,000 tons does not come to £1,250,000. It comes to a little over £1,200,000, but not to £1,250,000. The Deputy is a stickler for exactitude.
How much over £1,200,000 is £1,250,000?
Quite a lot—more than I have and, I daresay, more than the Deputy has at his command.
That is the worst of taxing us £8,000,000 more than we were paying—we get used to talking in big numbers.
The Deputy has been found out and people who have been listening to him quoting statistics here know what reliance in future to place on any statistical statement the Deputy may make. Let us see, in any event, where this £1,200,000 odd goes to.
I suppose Deputy Mulcahy does not take a great deal of interest in the efforts of his colleague, Deputy Dillon, in this House. But, on the 30th April last, Deputy Dillon asked some very searching questions as to the production of sugar and sugar beet in 1934-35 and 1935-36. The information he got seems not to have been too satisfactory from his point of view, because Deputy Dillon, who used to be very eloquent about the iniquities of this sugar tax, has been strangely silent throughout the whole of the Budget discussions in regard to this question of sugar. He had embarrassed himself by getting a certain amount of information which, from his point of view, was undesirable. That is possibly why the Opposition recently have changed their tactics in regard to these Budget discussions, because now they make a point of coming in uninformed in regard to the matters which they propose to debate and then fling questions at the Minister asking for information which ought to have been extracted, as this information was extracted in regard to sugar by Deputy Dillon, by way of Parliamentary question and answer. At any rate, what do we learn? That in the year 1935-36, as I have said, the total amount of revenue collected by the Exchequer from the sugar tax amounted to £954,000 odd, as against —again I must emphasise it—£1,371,901 collected in 1931-32.
Is that the customs duty?
That is customs and excise. The total amount collected in customs duty was £1,331,000 in 1931-32, and the amount collected in excise duty was £40,889. If the Deputy wants a little more statistical information he can find that in 1935-36 the customs collection was £653,000 odd, and the excise collection £301,772. In any event, the total sum paid to the growers of beet delivered in the year 1935-36 was £1,055,000, and the total freightage, excluding deliveries under the private arrangements of the growers, in the year 1935-36 was £153,295. If we add these two figures what do we get? We find that this extra £1,213,000, to be exact, which Deputy Mulcahy ought to have used instead of his figure of £1,250,000 when he was trying to decry the advantages which the cultivation of sugar beet under the new conditions has brought to the farmers, and which represents, even at a price of 1¼d. per lb., the total amount which we ask the consumers of sugar in this country to pay to implement the Government policy of producing all the sugar that we require in this country, as against the position in Northern Ireland, where no sugar is produced, but is all imported, is offset to the extent of £1,209,000 by the amount paid to the growers of beet here and the amount paid to the public carriers for freightage. That takes no account of the amount distributed in wages to workers in the factories, nor to those who are making the ancillary requirements of these factories, such as the sugar bags, those who are producing the lime used for cleansing the sugar, those who are producing the coal, almost all of it from Irish mines, which is now being burned in the factories of the sugar company and the hundred and one other people who find employment in the subsidiary industries which are dependent upon these sugar factories. That is the real position in regard to this article of sugar. Again I say the Government will this year in taxation get much less than one half of what was collected from sugar, mainly imported sugar at the high rate of 1¾d. per lb. of a customs duty, by the Cumann na nGaedheal or Fine Gael Administration in 1931-32. In addition to whatever else the Irish sugar consumer has to pay by way of an increased price for that article, remember this: that, at the best or at the worst, it is not more than a 1/2d. per lb. dearer to-day than it was in 1931-32. The average price of sugar in February, 1936, was 3¾d. per lb. The price in February, 1931-32, was 3¼d. per lb.
Where did the Minister get that figure?
What is the difference in the world price? What was it then and what is it now?
That has got nothing to do with it, because there is no guarantee that the world price will remain at anything like its present depressed level. We have made ourselves virtually independent of the world supply, and if there were to be again disturbed conditions on the Continent of Europe such as there were during the period 1914-1918, the people of this country would be very glad that we are able to produce all our requirements of sugar out of the beet fields of the Free State.
So that the white elephants will now defend this country. The Minister talks very often about the changes of other people. I do not know who was responsible for the phrase: "The zeal of the convert," but I often wonder how it was coined without the person who coined it having some knowledge of the Minister for Finance. The Minister has been converted in a good many ways, but in none has he shown more zeal than in relation to this particular matter. He now tells us about all the figures. Naturally, he devoted practically the whole of his speech to the effect of this tax on the revenue. Just before he sat down, the Minister spoke a few words about the real point at issue in which I and most members of the House are concerned, and that is the effect of the price of sugar on the consumer. The Minister took Deputy Mulcahy to task about the accuracy of his figures. The Minister said that the price of sugar in February, 1930, was 3¼d. per lb., but when he was asked where he got that figure he did not reply. As far as we have been able to get figures, they go to show that the ruling price then was 3d. per lb. The Minister quoted the figure of £1,213,000 and the figure £1,250,000. I am sure the taxpayers will be relieved to know that there is a difference between these two figures of £37,000. The Minister then proceeded to tell Deputy Mulcahy that he ought to be more accurate about his figures. I suggest to the Minister that the taxpayers would be far more relieved if he would now produce the £2,000,000 that he promised them as soon as he had the opportunity of making a careful and minute inspection of the Estimates.
The fact is that the consumers of sugar in this country are now paying ¾d. a lb. more for their sugar than they had to pay in 1930. The Minister, in his reply to Deputy Mulcahy, spoke about the substitution of crops, but his statement on that was not supported by any evidence whatsoever. There was simply the Minister's statement and nothing to support it. The Minister, having started on that line, soon realised that he was treading on very soft ground, and he blundered on to tell the House that there was a 100 per cent. increase. Would the Minister produce some proofs in support of his statement? The figures quoted by Deputy Mulcahy were figures supplied to members of the House by Government Departments. Deputies, no matter what Party they belong to, if they come from the rural areas and are in touch with rural conditions, know quite well that it is largely substitution of crops that has taken place and that there has been no actual increase in tillage. They also know quite well why farmers are growing beet at all at the price and under the conditions in which it has to be grown at the present time.
The Minister talked about the amount of employment given. The growing of beet certainly gives a certain amount of employment, but no thanks are due to the Minister for that. If the Minister had his way at one time there would be no sugar produced in this country at all, so that we would be absolutely dependent on outside countries for our supplies. I suggest to the Minister that he ought to address himself to the net point before us and that is the price that has to be paid for sugar by the consumer, and particularly when regard is had to the fact that tea has been taxed to the extent of 4d. per lb. The Minister's statement had very little bearing on the net point before the House, which is whether the consumer is going to get any reduction in the price that he is now compelled to pay for sugar.
The Minister made a great song and dance out of the fact that in 1931-32 the Revenue got out of sugar the sum of £1,371,900, and that he was only going to get this year £625,000. Let us examine that statement. According to the Minister's statement, at the period he refers to, the people were paying out of their pockets £500,000 less for the sugar they bought, and the Revenue was getting £1,300,000, or £746,900 more than the Minister is able to get now. Let us count the losses there. To-day the people are losing £500,000 out of their pockets, and the Revenue is losing £746,000 which it is taking out of the people's pockets in another way, not to talk at all about what the people are losing if we compare the position here with the world price of sugar. Take all these factors into consideration. At present the people are losing £500,000 out of what they pay for their sugar; they are losing £746,000 out of what they pay by way of tax to make up the hole in the Minister's Budget, and they are losing in addition £450,000 because they ignore the world price in regard to sugar, so that the people are paying to-day £1,700,000 unnecessarily for sugar. If the Minister thinks that is not a fair figure to be taking in round figures, then I will give him the exact figure, which is £1,696,900.
The Minister says that we should not shut our eyes to the fact that the farmers are getting £1,213,000. When you take that amount out of the farmers' pockets, if they have it in their pockets, they are going to have that much less, but if there is an absolute addition of £1,213,000 to the farmers' income for the purpose of their own use and for the purpose of agricultural labourers' wages, why is it that at a time when they are getting that income, compared with a time when they had not such an income, the agricultural labourers' wages bill is down by £1,000,000 a year, that there are less permanent labourers employed on agriculture throughout the year, and that we have 63,562 more acres under grass? The Minister and his colleagues used to refer to the previous Minister for Agriculture as the Minister for Grass. Here we have a Ministry for more grass. Do not let the Minister obscure himself or attempt to obscure the public as to what the situation is. You have less permanent agricultural labourers, substantially reduced agricultural wages, a substantial increase in grass, and the people paying £1,700,000 more for their sugar than they need pay. That sums up the whole position.
I have been asked by Deputy Vincent Rice to move this amendment:—
Before Part I of the Schedule to insert a new Part as follows:—
FINANCE (1909-10) ACT, 1910 (10 Ed. 7, c. 8).
Section or Schedule Amended
Nature of Amendment
General Subject Matter of Amendment
First Schedule, Reference C, Reference Number 1.
The duty mentioned at the said reference number 1, shall be equal to one-third the annual value of the licensed premises subject to the minimum duty payable under scale 3.
The duty on publican's licence.
The object of the amendment is, I understand, to reduce the licence duty paid by licensed grocers and vintners from one-half to one-third of the valuation. The present licence was fixed at a time when the number of hours available for trading were far greater than the number available at present and when the volume of trade was at least double what it is at the present time. Members of the House will realise that the quantity of beer, wine and spirits now sold has decreased by, roughly, 50 per cent. in the last 12 years and, of course, hours of trading have been considerably reduced. It is contended that many of the traders who in former years found little hardship in paying the licence duty find to-day that there is considerable hardship entailed in meeting it.
Throughout the country in the last ten or 15 years a number of traders have expended fairly considerable sums in improving their premises, carrying out improvements that in many cases were very necessary. As a result, their valuations were increased, very substantially in some instances, and that means higher rates and an increase in the licence duty. The Minister, for what appeared to him to be very good reasons, refused certain concessions sought by the licensed trade during the course of this year on the ground that the loss to the revenue would be very substantial and that that loss could not be met in other ways this year. I am informed by Deputy Rice that the loss to the Government through the granting of this concession will not be very considerable. I daresay the Minister has the exact figure as to what the concession would cost, but my information is that it would not be a very considerable figure. That being so, I think the Minister ought to consider accepting this amendment in view of the fact that the present licence was fixed at a time when traders were doing nearly double their present trade and when the hours available for trading were considerably greater.
I desire to say a few words in support of the amendment proposed by Deputy Morrissey. It is well known to the Minister, as it is to everybody in the community, that not only have the hours of opening been reduced, but that the volume of trade has diminished almost to vanishing point in several rural towns. In fact, in the case of some of those poor people who try to eke out a wretched existence in a publichouse in the country this tax is appalling and intolerable. Some people seem to consider that a publican is the devil's fishing rod, that he is a man to be shunned and be anathema maranatha. As a matter of fact, some of the decentest members of the community are publicans. I should like to bring before the Minister the outstanding fact that during the Land League agitation, which I well remember, in the fight against landlordism—and a fierce struggle it was—the farmers had no sounder or more faithful allies than the publicans in the towns and also the workers in the towns. I need hardly say that the congregated toilers of the towns can always put up a better and a bigger fight than the scattered tillers of the fields. I think, in view of their services to that agitation and to nationality in these days and since the publicans deserve some consideration, and I hope that if the Minister can do it without putting any undue burden on the other members of the community and without disrupting in any considerable way his Budget proposals, he will hearken to and favourably consider this appeal of the publicans, most of whom, as I have said, are very respectable people, law-abiding, well-conducted and good citizens.
With regard to this amendment, there is a matter which I should like to raise, and that is the compensation which is a part of the licence at present payable. Does the Minister say it is not in order?
The only question in order is the question on the paper, that of reducing the licence duty.
On a point of order, I take it that it would be in order to refer briefly to some of the things which make it necessary to bring about this reduction.
There are a lot of things attached to the licence duty at the present time, and I am just referring to the annuity in respect of compensation payable on redundant licences. I think that is a relevant matter. This Act, which formed the idea of wiping out licences and paying compensation raised off the surviving licensed traders on the grounds that their trade would be increased by the wiping out of those so-called redundant licences, was not passed by the Fianna Fáil Government, and I am not blaming them for that at all. I do not want the Minister to think that I am not trying to throw any asmhucháin on him on account of that. I want to point out that there is a big falling off in trade, and a great hardship on the existing publicans in some parts of the country who have to meet the annuity for compensation payable to other publicans whose trade they did not get because the trade had ceased to exist. It was found at the time that this Act was not necessary. The publicans began to obliterate themselves owing to loss of trade, and that Act was never persisted in, so that any publicans who went out of business by force of circumstances got no compensation. It is, therefore, unfortunate that those few who are now paying this compensation should still be saddled with it. The Minister cannot give them any big relief owing to the operation of the law, which he is bound to carry out, but if he accepted this amendment he could make things easier for them. I think this is the only practical way in which it could be done, and I suggest to the Minister that he should give sympathetic consideration to this amendment. I do not know exactly what would be the amount of money lost to the revenue, but it would be small, and would be a great consideration to those people who are very hard hit.
I wish to support this amendment. As I said the other day on other amendments, I base this case not on the cost, but on the question of justice. Here is a section of the community, as Deputy Burke has said, who have rendered great service to this country. If you take all the sections of the community that were involved in the national struggle, no section of the community contributed more to the war chest than they did. I could go on and deal with their contributions in regard to the development of this State, but every Deputy knows them. As I said already, I base this case on justice. I referred the other day to the taxation in this matter; there is an increase of 1,190 per cent. over 1914. We had a new Licensing Act which greatly reduced the hours of business and, of course, from a business point of view some of its provisions looked silly. To have a business house closed in the afternoon, at perhaps the busiest time of the day, strikes me from a practical point of view as leading to disorganisation of the business. You have a trader opening at 10 o'clock in the morning and closing the door for an hour or two in the afternoon, while the employer and employees go out and come back in again, and this hide and seek proceeds during the day. That is a serious handicap to those people.
There is also the portion of the Licensing Act prescribing for the abolition of redundant licences. I took part in the courts at the hearing of some of those cases, and I have never seen anything more farcical. A certain number of traders were notified that their licences were to be abolished. They came along to the circuit court and then valuers were brought in to put a face on things by valuing the trade done in those houses proposed to be abolished. The thing was a huge farce. Even taking the best value that some valuer plus the man who owned the business could put on the place the thing was ridiculous, and yet they were awarded a certain sum, and it was levied on those people for a trade which did not exist. The trade of those houses was already dead. If the Act were not there at all the principle of the survival of the fittest would have applied, and those houses would have naturally died, but yet the cost of that compensation was put on the remaining publicans. Surely a body of people like these are entitled to say as of right—it is a question of justice —that the State should not continually and perpetually year after year come along with a milestone of taxation, and have no other use for them except to be the milch cow for the Exchequer. When you look at the figures of increased taxation they are so appalling and overwhelming that the one result which must inevitably follow from them is that trade will be practically extinguished. Should not the Minister take that into consideration? Does he not think it wiser to take the long view in this matter, and to give them some small relief? The question of reducing the figure on which the licence duty will be assessed from half to one-third is a very meagre thing. I hold no brief for those people in particular, but I hold a brief for justice for every section of the community, and since our native Parliament was established in this country the people who did their own part and more than their own part in providing the sinews of war have got nothing but the milestone of taxation around them. I think those people can justly claim that they have been badly treated, and are entitled to some relief. I think the relief asked for by this amendment is a meagre one, and I would ask the Minister to grant it.
I should like to support the amendment. In supporting it I do not propose to describe the persons engaged in that particular occupation as being the milch cows of the State, because perhaps they have done a certain amount of milking themselves, and the brew which the cows produce may not always be as favourable as that of Deputy Bennett's cattle. I do feel that they have a case in equity, and I should like the Minister to take this matter seriously, as I know he will. Taxation should be distributed as equitably as possible. In whatever way the Minister brings in his Budget, or in whatever way the Finance Bill is drafted, some section or some party or some group will have a grievance. In this particular case I think the Minister will agree with me that the licensed trade have a grievance. It has already been said that the reduced hours of trade have interfered with their income. In Paris, as the Minister knows, the hours are fixed on a very interesting basis, which perhaps he should take into consideration. You can keep your tavern open as long as you like provided you pay for it and the public-house—if I may apply that term to Paris—is open till four or five in the morning, and they pay a tax or duty according to the number of hours it is open. In this country, we have reduced the hours in which persons can ply their trade. It certainly must be admitted that it is a sheltered or protected trade— nobody may sell spirits, or stout or beer here, or any of those other beverages that are so pleasant to some people, except with the permission of the Government. It is, as I say, a sheltered and protected trade; but, sheltered and protected as it is, it should not be prosecuted and persecuted. It must be remembered that quite a number of the persons who are engaged in this business, not only in Dublin, but throughout the Free State, took on this business at a time when they could start work at 7 or 8 o'clock in the morning and continue until 11 o'clock at night, and at a time when thebona fide trade was on quite a different basis from that on which it is to-day. The Government here to-day has restricted the rights of these people to carry on that trade.
I began by saying that it was a sheltered and protected trade, but within that protection the trade has been crushed and bruised more and more in recent years as a result of the causes I have mentioned. The hours of opening in that trade now are later in the morning and the hours of closing are earlier in the evening, and I do feel that there is really a case to be made for this particular trade. I am not talking now about the price of beer or stout or any of the other beverages sold by these people. I am speaking purely of the equities in the case. I am speaking of the equities in the case of the man who has been engaged in a trade for many years—a protected trade, if you like—but a trade that is now bruised and crushed. I think there is an equity there that the Minister ought to recognise and that this is an amendment the Minister ought to accept. Whatever might be said about the resolution that, I am sure, the Minister got with regard to the danger of reducing the price of drink—resolution that, I am sure, he received as well as people on these benches received, to the effect that he and his collagues on those benches, as well as we on these benches, would go to the devil if the Minister reduced the price of drink—I suggest that that does not arise in this case at all. It has nothing to do with the case. The customer does not arise in this case. As a matter of fact, it is the absence of customers that constitutes the equity of this case, as I put it to the Minister. I am concerned with the trader himself. The trader has been in that particular business for years, and we crushed him out of it. When I use the word "we," I mean the Oireachtas—the Dáil, the Government. The Government has ordered that the trader in this particular business may not open his door before 10 o'clock in the morning and that he must close his door at 10 o'clock in the evening. It is on that ground that I appeal to the Minister. I ask the Minister to realise the equities of the situation and also to remember that this would not cost very much to the Exchequer. It would not interfere with the Minister's budgetary arrangements. If it did interfere—if it were, so to speak, a major problem— I should feel that I should not speak on the subject. In that connection, by the way, I wonder would the Minister tell us what it would amount to?
£40,000? Only £40,000—not half the cost of the Broy Harriers. Well, at any rate, I think that this is a concession that the Minister could give with grace.
I suppose, Sir, that if anything could move me in this matter it would be the speech we have just listened to from Deputy O'Sullivan. However, I am afraid I cannot afford this £40,000. Although I say that, I am not denying that there is a problem here that will have to be faced some day or by some Administration. I agree that there is a problem, but I cannot deal with it, this year anyhow. In this connection, also, it must be remembered that we are not responsible for either the legislation or the restrictions to which the licensed trade is subjected at the present moment. I do not wish to be misunderstood here. I do not wish it to be understood that I think there is any great merit in imposing conditions that make it impossible for the trade to carry on. As I say, the conditions under which the publican has to carry on his trade to-day have deteriorated as compared with the years 1918, 1919 and 1920, but it must be remembered also that the conditions are no worse than they were any time during the past six or seven years.
We are not making this a political issue.
I am not suggesting that we are, but I want to make it quite clear that while, as I say, there is a problem that merits consideration, that problem has not been of our creation. It is a problem that is due to the changing habits of the people.
This is only a matter of £40,000.
Therefore, as I say, I would like to be able to do something about this problem.
Why not do it?
I cannot, because we have entered into very heavy commitments in this year's Budget for the relief of the people generally.
Nobody feels it— or at least nobody knows about it.
We have entered into heavy commitments.
Nobody knows about it, if so.
Well, there is no use in getting into controversial regions into which I might wander if I were to take Deputy Mulcahy's interruption seriously.
I have only stated what is the fact.
Well, after all, the Deputy did not put up a case when he might have put one up.
I think, anyhow, that I ought to be permitted to address myself to those who are interested in the matter. I pointed out that this would cost £40,000.
I did not intervene except to point out that, when the Minister said that he had given relief to people in this year's Budget, nobody realised it.
As I have said, we have entered into very heavy commitments and have given very substantial reliefs. Whatever I or my colleagues might feel about this suggestion, I could not agree in the present circumstances to something that would cost £40,000. As I have said already, it might be possible to do it at another time, but it cannot be done now.
I move amendment No. 50:—
In Part III, at Reference No. 6, to add in the third column on page 38, a new paragraph as follows:—
(d) the following provision shall be added at the end of the fifth column, that is to say:—
Whenever the Minister for Finance, after consultation with the Minister for Industry and Commerce, so thinks proper, the Revenue Commissioners may by licence authorise any particular person, subject to compliance with such conditions as they may think fit to impose, to import without payment of the duty mentioned at this reference number any Christmas crackers chargeable with such duty either, as the Revenue Commissioners shall think proper, without limit as to time or quantity or either of them or within a specified time or in a specified quantity.
The object of this amendment is merely to insert a licensing provision in respect of the duty chargeable on Christmas crackers. There is reason to think that only the ordinary type of cracker will be manufactured here for some time and perhaps not in sufficient quantities and it is felt desirable to have this licensing provision in order to enable manufacturers of confectionery who require special kinds of crackers and other traders to obtain their requirements so that there will be no difficulty in obtaining supplies during the year.
They are going to tax the workingman's rice pudding no matter what we say.
Oh, no. We grind the rice flour here.
The Finance Act of 1935 imposed a tax of 5/- a cwt. on slabs formed of cement not otherwise liable to duty. Reference No. 20 includes under that tax slates and slabs, and I understand from persons engaged in the building industry that it puts a substantial burden on some of their costs. The Minister may indicate that he is extending this duty in order to protect the cement industry that is going to be established here, but the argument I heard put up was that slates and sheets made from cement are not available and are not made here, and that the duty will substantially increase some of the cost of house-building. A statement was published in the Press by certain house-builders stating that there is going to be an increase of 4 per cent. in the cost of houses. There is a point as to why this tax is being put on before these things are actually being turned out by a cement factory here, and then the increase in the cost of house-building. In addition to the 4 per cent. increase in the cost of house-building the most recently published figures of the number of workers in the building industry who are unemployed show a remarkable increase so that from that point of view alone this matter is worthy of consideration, and I should like to hear the Minister's comments. It is just another sample of the type of procedure adopted very often by the Minister. An industry is going to be established here, a tariff is put on, and that raises costs immediately, but the revenue picks up a couple of pounds, and by the time the industry is started the people are accustomed to paying a substantially increased price. It is very ingenious but a very brutal way of developing industry.
I am afraid Deputy Mulcahy is reading more into this than is in it. It is being introduced merely as an alteration in the definition, because of the difficulty of distinguishing tiles and slates from slabs and sheets. There is no difficulty in manufacturing these things. The duty has nothing to do with the establishment of factories for the manufacture of cement. These slates and sheets are at present manufactured from imported cement by a number of firms, and will no doubt be manufactured from home-produced cement. The main reason for this reference is to meet an administrative difficulty, due to the fact that customs officers found a difficulty in distinguishing one class of slabs and sheets from tiles and slates.
This brings in things that were free of duty.
Anyone can manufacture slabs.
The Minister says that there is no difficulty in making these things. That is quite common in modern industry and apparently quite true, yet certain industries seem to become specialised in certain places for no apparent reason. I can understand the Minister's difficulty about separating a slate from a slab, but surely the question of size enters into it. I am not aware that asbestos cement slabs are manufactured in this country, but if the Minister has better information I suppose he will not mind mentioning the manufacturers. This is another instance of what I referred to earlier, to which, by the way, the Minister did not reply, as to the cost involved where duties are imposed to protect tiles which are being made here, and extended to cover slabs that might be described as tiles. The duty is then extended to large sheets and slabs which are not made here, but the Government is going to get revenue or to force builders to use home-produced material which, while it can be used, may not be as useful. The asbestos cement slabs are vermin proof, rot proof and also rat proof.
Asbestos sheets are not covered by this duty. The duty always applied to tiles and slabs of all kinds. There is no extension of the duty.
Do not slabs come under the term "sheets"?
So far as asbestos sheets are concerned they do not come under this.
Are they duty free?
They are not covered by this.
Are cement sheets?
Tiles and slabs made of clay or earthenware or cement are covered.
I am afraid the Minister will find that cement enters into the making of slabs and sheets, but he can look into the question. We could spend time arguing the matter. The Minister thinks that if made of asbestos they are free, but I could argue that if made of cement they are dutiable.
As far as slabs are concerned the duty is not being extended. Asbestos sheets are not liable to this duty.
I want to indicate that it will be necessary to introduce a minor amendment on the Report Stage to alter the provisions concerning the issue of certificates in respect of motor cars entitled to get the road tax concession. Section 23 validates the issue of certificates issued before the date mentioned therein. I understand that a small number of certificates were issued in respect of cars completed before that date, but as the certificates were issued after that date, it will be necessary to introduce a minor amendment to validate these certificates also.