Committee on Finance. - Finance Bill, 1936—Report.

I move amendment No. 1:—

In page 8, line 11, Section 10 (1) after the word "articles" to insert in brackets the words "(subject to the exceptions mentioned in the next following sub-section of this section)".

This is a drafting amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:—

In page 8, before Section 10 (2), to insert a new sub-section as follows:—

The duty imposed by this section shall not be charged or levied on any article mentioned in the next preceding sub-section of this section in respect of which it is shown to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners that such article or any glass forming part of such article has been subjected to a process of bending or curving.

This is to give effect to an undertaking given by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to Deputy Dockrell to exclude bent glass and plate-glass from the scope of the duty.

Arising out of the Minister's remarks, I am glad to see that he has met me on the question of bent glass. But there is a wider field I was anxious he would explore; there were some things he refused. If the Minister has not exactly done what we wanted, I admit an effort has been made by him to meet the trade and I am thankful for what has been done. We will see how the rest will go on.

Can the Minister say that the process of turning out bent or curved glass will be undertaken here at some future date?

No; not at all events for a considerable period. It will be a long time before we shall be able to undertake that operation.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:—

In page 10, line 2, Section 11 (3), to delete the words "one-half" and insert therein the words "seventy-five per cent."

The effect of the section which it is proposed to amend will, I understand, be a serious matter for some of the theatres here in Dublin. Heretofore theatres which had a charter had built up their programmes in such a way as to give almost a three-hour show. This alteration involves a considerable amount of money for artistes whose services will not be required if the section stands as it is. In the ordinary cinema artistes and bands and others are not now required. I know, of course, there is under the section a refund of 50 per cent., but it will be very difficult for either of the houses concerned here in Dublin to provide first-class entertainment if they are restricted to 65 per cent. production of pictures. If they are so confined they cannot show some of the most attractive films, as there is a tendency now to make first-class pictures run from two hours to two-and-a-half hours. This tax is going to cost a substantial sum and it will mean, if the scheme stands as it is, that the theatre proprietors will have to recoup themselves by the dismissal of a large number of their employees. In fact, already some of the employees have been told their services will not be required after a certain date. Unless the theatres concerned keep up a certain standard of variety turns people will go to the cheaper theatres and this will result in the shrinkage of revenue in the case of the theatres with which this amendment is con-concerned. I suggest to the Minister that he ought to accept this amendment. As I have pointed out to him just now, if people go away from these large theatres in consequence of the artistes having been eliminated it will result in great loss.

Speaking on the 8th May, 1931, after Mr. Blythe introduced his Budget for 1931-32, Deputy Derrig, on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, congratulated Mr. Blythe on the effort he made in his Budget to endeavour to enable artistes and people of that kind to make a living in their own country. At that time, as the Minister knows, there was a tendency to do away with bands and the personal turns of artistes, in the interest of pictures. It was the move made by Mr. Blythe at that particular time which prevented the development of that tendency, and Deputy Derrig, on behalf of his Party, congratulated the Minister on his action. If the Minister persists in his attitude it will mean that a large number of people, including the bands, will be disemployed. It will mean throwing more people on the unemployment lists, and eventually it will mean a shrinkage in the revenue received by the Minister. For that reason I suggest in the interest of everybody, including the artistes, and of even the Revenue itself, that the Minister should accept this amendment.

It is not possible for me to accept this amendment. I brought in an amendment on the Committee Stage which apparently satisfied Deputy Corish, who had put down an amendment, which he withdrew. I feel that we have gone as far as we possibly can to meet these people. I, for one, am not a bit afraid that the theatres are going to dispense with the live show. The half remission which we give these people fully covers all the salaries of the bands and the stage hands, as well as leaving a little over for the artistes. In addition to that, because of the fact that they provide a live show, they have the very substantial advantage of having got their theatre patent. If they are going to close down their live show and dispense with the band they are going to lose that theatre patent and it is worth a great deal to them. I think that by working on the natural fears of staff and representing to them that they are to lose their employment, the latter have succeeded in getting Deputies to make a case for them here. I feel, having personally examined all the figures concerned, that this case would not bear investigation. I want again to make it clear that the remission to the theatres which run those shows will secure and will fully cover the salaries of the members of the bands and of the stage hands and leave something over for covering the cost of the native artistes. My feeling is that this concession was given on much too generous a scale originally, as no person could contemplate the situation which ultimately developed. It was worth about £24,000 per year. Sums were going out of this country every year in the payment of artistes from abroad. The intention was to subsidise live entertainments given more or less by native-born artistes. While I assume that the band mainly consists of Irishmen and those who reside here, and, therefore, I would be very sorry to see it going, nevertheless we must not allow ourselves to be misled into believing that those who benefited most under the old proposals were native-born people or people who are even resident in Dublin. Apart from this the concessions which I have made in regard to the percentage of the live show element in their programme will enable those who run cine-variety entertainments to meet the changed conditions which have arisen since 1931-32, due to the fact that feature pictures have now a longer run. Under our proposals, if they want to run a three-hour show, they can have a picture running to 117 minutes. If they want a shorter show, they can content themselves with a shorter feature picture. In any event if it is borne in mind that tax concession costs the revenue so much that it pays the full cost of the band and stage hands, while leaving something over as fees for native artists, I think it will be agreed that we have acted generously and done everything that the State ought to be asked to do in order to subsidise live entertainments.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 39; Níl, 20.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Corbett, Edmond.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Maguire, Conor Alexander.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • O Brian, Donnchadh.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Dowd, Patrick.
  • Daly, Denis.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • Dowdall, Thomas P.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Keely, Séamus P.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.

Níl

  • Alton, Ernest Henry.
  • Beckett, James Walter.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Burke, James Michael.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Keating, John.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Morrisroe, James.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, Timothy Joseph.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • Redmond, Bridget Mary.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Smith and Beegan; Níl: Deputies Corish and T.J. Murphy.
Motion declared carried.

I move amendment No. 4:—

In page 10, before Section 13, to insert a new section as follows:—

Section 7 of the Finance Act, 1916, as amended by Section 17 of the Finance Act, 1924, shall as on and from the passing of this Act be and is hereby repealed.

On the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, I referred to the position of the Aerated Waters Trade Board, being a member of that body. I read a letter from the secretary giving certain particulars concerning the grievances they have in connection with the duty which has been imposed on their products. In that letter it is stated that this duty amounts to ½d. on each ordinary half-pint bottle of soda water, and to ¼d. on lemonade and other sweetened mineral waters. The letter went on to state that the claim made by the association for the abolition of the duty is that practically every article for the production of mineral water is now taxed—sugar, flavouring essences, bottles, crown corks, and increased cost in coal, petrol, insurance on transport and workmen's compensation. I would direct the Minister's attention to certain figures which were given to me to-day by the secretary of the Trade Board. In 1932 the value of the output was £231,000. This decreased in 1933 to £226,000. In 1934 it was £230,000. The number employed in 1932 was 996; it increased in 1933 to 1,018. In 1934 the number was 1,076, and in this year 1,037. The number of firms in the trade in 1927 was 169; in 1928, 170; in 1929, 143; in 1935, 129; and in 1936, 105. It is a struggling trade at present, and its effort to keep going is somewhat handicapped by the heavy duty imposed. When the matter was last discussed there were certain statements made, incidentally, on another portion of the Finance Bill with reference to the medicinal value of strong drinks. From inquiries that I have made, a doctor has informed me that there is only one genuine and real stimulant known to medical science, and that is tea. Other doctors say water is a great preventative of disease, and that if you drink plenty of water and use it externally you will never be sick. What I am advocating here now is that this duty should be remitted on sweetened waters which have additional medicinal powers as compared with common water.

I remember hearing a Deputy speak here last week of the great value ofuisce beatha, which is sometimes called the water of life. He said that our forefathers drank plenty of it. That probably accounts for all the trouble that we are in now. If our forefathers had not consumed so much of it we might have different brains and different minds. I hope the Minister will see his way to accept the amendment. It would be of great help to this trade, which promises to be a flourishing one, especially in the South of Ireland, where its headquarters are situated.

I am not quite clear about this amendment, whether it is meant to refer to an excise duty or to a customs duty, and whether the proposal is to increase or to reduce the duty. Would the Minister say what the duty is at the present moment?

The Deputy, I think, has raised a very pertinent point.

I would like to add another pertinent point. If the proposal is to reduce the duty, then I think the Deputy who has moved the amendment should realise that—that this proposal is to reduce a duty in order to assist an industry here. The House, I think, would be anxious to hear how an industry can be assisted in that way. I understand that this is a proposal to reduce by 50 per cent. a customs duty in order to assist the industry.

Possibly if I were asked to deal with this on its merits I should do so.

It would be very interesting to hear the Minister dealing with the points concerned.

Perhaps the Minister will allow himself to be tempted to deal with the merits of the amendment.

I understood that a member could only speak once on Report.

I am sorry. I thought we were in Committee. On that point, I have raised a few questions which really were directed to Deputy Kelly. I do not think it would be straining the rules of order too much if, in the circumstances, the Deputy were allowed to add a few remarks in order to make clear the points that I have raised.

I know the amendments that Deputy Kelly wants, but I am afraid that he has not put these amendments on the Order Paper.

Mr. Kelly

I have only moved one amendment. I have a second amendment on the Order Paper to move yet.

I think that the Deputy is under a misapprehension as to the effect of the amendments which he has on the Order Paper. They would, in fact, abolish the customs duty, but they would leave native-manufactured table waters liable to the excise duty. That is to say, they would put the home-manufactured table waters at a disadvantage as compared with the imported table waters. I think when the Deputy arranged to submit these amendments he was under a misapprehension as to what the real position is. I had the representatives of this industry before me, and I think it can be fairly clearly established that, allowing for the vicissitudes of the weather, which have a very great effect——

On lots of things.

Yes, on lots of things, but, at any rate, they have a particular effect upon this. If the weather is unfavourable we drink less lemonade, just as other people drink less beer, stout and porter; if the weather is favourable the consumption of these highly-esteemed temperance beverages goes up. I do say that the one thing that is established by the figures is that over a period of years the native manufacturers of these table waters have certainly improved their position. The Deputy started off by giving figures for 1929. In that year the quantity of imported table waters, sweetened and unsweetened, retained for consumption, amounted to 82,000 gallons, while the quantity of home-made table waters upon which excise duty was paid was 1,211,000 gallons. The total quantity of home-made and imported table waters retained for consumption therefore was 1,294,381 gallons. There was a progressive decline in the quantities of imported table waters and that decline was continued until, in the year 1935, the total quantity of imported table waters retained for consumption in this country had diminished to 16,702 gallons; that is to say, it had been reduced to approximately 20 per cent. of what it had been in the year 1929. As against that, the quantity of home-made table waters which were retained for consumption here had increased from 1,211,000 to 1,413,000 gallons, showing an increase of approximately 16 per cent. on a very large quantity.

The position, so far as we can ascertain it, for 1935-36, is not likely to be any worse. The importation for the nine months which ended in December, 1935, was 12,700 gallons, and the quantity retained for consumption here —I have to make a mental calculation —for the same nine months was 1,158,000 gallons. The number of people licensed as mineral water manufacturers has declined from 167 on 31st March, 1929, to 135 who were licensed for the nine months from April to December, 1935. That indicates that there has been an expanding trade divided amongst fewer firms. There have been a number of amalgamations since 1929 which have enabled these firms to reduce overhead and other manufacturing expenses. We may assume when the rate of duty is not very much larger than it was in 1931, and with a considerably increased trade and fewer people competing for that trade, that after all the profits of these manufacturers of table waters have not decreased to any significant extent.

I know the Deputy has been moved to bring in these amendments by what he has been told by those who appeared before him on the trade board. I have had a fairly exhaustive investigation made of the position, and I am satisfied that the position is no worse, notwithstanding the changes which have taken place in the meantime, than it was in 1929 or 1930, and the probability is that it is something better. As to the real effect of the amendments which the Deputy put down, I think that they would not meet the purpose he has in view. If they were to be adopted, they would mean that, while the Customs duties would be wiped out, the Excise duties at the rate of 4d. a gallon on sweetened and 8d. a gallon on unsweetened table waters imposed in 1916 would be still in force. The position would be that home manufactured sweetened table waters would be deprived of a protective margin of duty which they enjoyed since 1924 and home-manufactured unsweetened table waters would bear a duty of 8d. a gallon, while similar imported table waters would be admitted free of duty. I do not think that is the purpose which Deputy Kelly hoped to achieve. I think it would be disastrous if we were to give effect to those amendments, and I would ask the Deputy, in view of the latter part of my statement, to withdraw them.

Of course, there is no alternative when the Minister makes that appeal. It was as a result of what transpired at the trade board that I submitted these amendments. The difficulty we have on these trade boards must appeal to every member of the House and that difficulty is that we are concerned to see that the rate of wages paid is decent, especially to junior operatives in the trade. Unless a trade is a bit prosperous some of the work which the trade boards are intended to do cannot be done and that is the difficulty. The reduction of this duty, or its total abolition, would, in the view of those who know the trade a great deal better than I do, have a very beneficial effect. Otherwise we are faced with this, that during the coming year the rate of wages paid in this trade will be, I think, the smallest rate paid in any trade. That is the position.

I do not wish to oppose the withdrawal of the amendments in the circumstances referred to by the Minister, but I do think that the House will regret that it is not possible to discuss this matter in circumstances under which we could discuss it on its merits. It is an interesting thing to find a person so closely connected with wage boards and the problem of wages as is Deputy Kelly submitting a proposal to the House to reduce the Customs duty on a particular article in order to permit an industry to improve and to give a decent wage.

I believe the whole thing was due to a misapprehension on the part of Deputy Kelly.

I do not wish to oppose the withdrawal of the amendments, but I think it is interesting to have such a proposal and it is unfortunate that we have not a better opportunity of discussing it on its merits.

Amendments Nos. 4 and 5, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 6:—

In page 11, Section 16 (2), to delete all from and including the word "but" in line 37 to the end of the sub-section.

It is purely a drafting amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 7:—

In page 11, to add at the end of Section 16 a new sub-section as follows:—

The amendment and repeal effected by the foregoing subsections of this section shall not apply or have effect in relation to any vehicle which is shown to the satisfaction of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to have been assembled before the 13th day of May, 1936.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce gave notice that on this stage of the Bill he would move an amendment which would cover the case of a number of certificates which had been issued on and after the 13th May, 1936, under Section 7 of the Finance (Customs and Excise Duties) Act, 1933, in respect of cars the assembly of which was completed before that date, and which complied with the conditions operative at the time of the assembly. In view of the terms of Section 16 of the Finance Act, 1936, the validity of those particular certificates appeared to be open to question, and the Minister accordingly intimated on the Committee Stage of the Bill that he intended to propose an amendment to provide that certificates issued on or after the 13th May, 1936, in respect of cars assembled before that date should be valid. The present amendment is designed to cover that position.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:—

In page 15, line 32, Section 23, to delete the word "receipt" and substitute the word "sending."

This is an amendment—it is perhaps a little more than a drafting amendment —of which I gave notice on the Committee Stage in relation to Section 23 of the Finance Act, which deals with the payment of licence duty by cheque, the position being that up to the present it has been necessary to require a person who applies for a licence to pay the licence duty in cash. That, on occasions, may subject the person who is applying for the licence to a certain amount of inconvenience. We desire to meet that by giving statutory authority for the acceptance of payment of the licence duty by cheque in this case, but subject to certain conditions which will safeguard the Revenue, one of those conditions being that in the event of the cheque being dishonoured the person by whom such licence was granted shall, as soon as may be, after such dishonouring comes to his knowledge, send to the person to whom such licence was granted notice in writing requiring him to deliver up such licence within seven days. We desire to substitute the word "sending" for the word "receipt."

Will the Minister say what is the reason why he desires to substitute the word "sending" for "receipt"?

Because we do not wish to be at a loss if the person's cheque is dishonoured. First of all, if the licence is issued at all the person has authority to do certain things under the licence. Hitherto, in order to safeguard the Revenue, the custom has been that payment of the duty was only taken in cash. Now we propose to facilitate the licensee in this case by accepting payment by cheque. If, however, the cheque should be dishonoured on presentation, obviously we ought to be in a position summarily to withdraw the licence, and that is the position which we wish to establish here. I think that once the person by whom the licence was granted has sent the notice, that ought to be sufficient to validate the withdrawal of the licence.

Of course we agree with the Government in taking power to accept payment by cheque. The Minister is quite right in saying that it is sometimes a considerable inconvenience to ask people to make payment in cash. I take it that he has taken power also to say that it is not necessary to have the cheque marked "good," except, perhaps, in certain cases. While the Government might conceivably be dealing with a person whose financial stability they were not sure about, and might require him to get the cheque marked "good," in other cases where they are getting cheques from an individual two or three times a week I do not think there is any necessity for it. There is another point which I should like to put to the Minister. I think it is clear that the Government merely want to avoid having to prove receipt of the notice. While I agree with the Minister that possibly the wording of this amendment is desirable, I have not much sympathy with the person who has to be written to about a dishonoured cheque. At the same time, some difficulty might occasionally arise in the case of a person to whom a notice had been sent, but who did not receive it because it got lost or mislaid. I just merely wish to ask the Minister to see that the matter would be all right in a case like that—which is not a very usual one—where the person could genuinely prove that he did not receive the notice.

On the point which Deputy Dockrell raises, the section as originally drafted indicated that the person was to get seven days to return this licence, including the time of posting back. The next sub-section says that if he does not deliver it up within the proper time he is liable on summary conviction to an Excise penalty of £50. I do not know by whom that is to be imposed, but at any rate some people in the country may impose a punishment of £50. It, for the purpose of making it easier to prove that a notice has been sent out, the word "receipt" is being changed to "sending," the seven days ought to be extended to ten days, because this is, in fact, reducing probably by three days in some cases the period of time available for the return. I, therefore, think that the least concession which ought to be given would be to increase the seven days to ten days.

I am prepared, if the House would permit it, to make that verbal amendment.

Personally, I should also like that the notice—in such cases where a penalty is involved, and where postage by whatever authority is concerned is going to be accepted as proof that the person got the notice—ought to be sent by registered letter.

That is provided for in paragraph (d).

I think the House would be quite willing to give the Minister permission to change the seven days to ten days in lines 32 and 34.

Question—"To delete the word ‘seven' and substitute the word ‘ten'"—put and agreed to.

On the point made by Deputy Dockrell, I think he may be under a misapprehension. This will legalise the payment of licence duty only by cheque. The section does not affect the payment of Customs or Excise duties; they would continue to be paid in the ordinary way. It is only in a case where a person applies for a licence that payment of the duty will be accepted by cheque. Of course, I should like to point out that the purpose of insisting on the giving up of the licence is to prevent the person who holds it from making a wrongful use of it— possibly, not to the detriment of the State, but to the detriment of some other citizen.

Arising out of the Minister's reply, would he not consider what one might call extending the powers of the Government in connection with these cheques? because, undoubtedly, where the Government are in a perfectly safe position, I do not think they should seek to impose any different conditions on the ordinary trading community from what they would be if they themselves were trading. I perfectly accept the position that they should not have to undergo any risks. At the same time, in most of these transactions the risks are absolutely negligible and a certain amount of inconvenience is imposed on the trading community. I should like to ask the Minister to look into that in a general way with a view to seeing how far he could extend the use of cheques to these transactions without decreasing in any way the position that the Government wish to be in, of being sure of their money.

The other point which Deputy Dockrell has raised is a very much wider one than could be discussed here, because one difficulty is that you must treat all taxpayers alike, and you could not give a facility to one person, whose credit and probity were known, and not extend the same facility to some person who was less credit-worthy.

Amendment No. 8 agreed to.

Before proceeding to put the question, Sir, I was anxious to ask the Minister, with your permission, what exactly, is an Excise penalty of £50, and who is the authority that is going to be responsible for imposing such a penalty?

The court. It is the court that imposes the penalty, but there is a body of law which prescribes conditions for Customs and Excise penalties, and this will fall within the category of an Excise penalty imposed by the court.

It has nothing to do with the imposition of duties or with thread?

Question—"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Fifth Stage ordered for Wednesday, 8th July.