Committee on Finance. - Finance Bill, 1938—Committee Stage.
Section 1 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 1:—
Before Section 2 to insert a new section as follows:—
The Revenue Commissioners shall, in the case of a person who is a citizen of any of the following countries that is to say Australia, Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States of America, who takes up residence in Ireland for such a period as would normally render him liable to income-tax at the full rate on moneys brought into Ireland and being income derived from the country of which he is a citizen, have the following powers:—
(a) To remit the tax chargeable on the first £500 of such moneys, and
(b) to remit in part the tax chargeable on the remainder of such moneys up to such sum and at such rate as may be fixed by the Commissioners,
where the income from which such moneys are derived is subject to taxation in the country of origin and such tax is not recoverable under any inter-governmental or other agreement.
As I understand that it is desired to complete the Bill to-night, if possible, I will make my observations on the various amendments as short as possible. The object of this amendment is to provide that people who have made their money in the various countries set out in the amendment, and whose money is invested in those countries, and who return to this country for the purpose of taking up a permanent residence here should not be subject to the double income-tax of this country and of the country from which they derive their income. It is intended merely to encourage people who have made their money abroad to come over and live here, and allow this State to gain such advantage as it can from their permanent residences here by way of collecting taxes from them. In the case of this country and Great Britain, there is a double income-tax relief agreement, but in the case of other countries, we have no such agreement, and this amendment is to enable relief of a certain type within the discretion of the Revenue Commissioners, if the House is disposed to give a discretion to the Revenue Commissioners in a matter of this kind, for the purpose of gaining some benefit. We are supposed to encourage tourist traffic here and this amendment is designed to enable people to become permanent residents instead of tourists.
I am not unsympathetic to the principle underlying this amendment and, in fact, last March, I asked the Revenue Commissioners to examine the whole question of these income-tax concessions afresh. I am sorry to say that, owing to exceptional pressure this year they have not been able to complete that examination. The matter, as the Deputy will appreciate, is a very complicated one, and I ask him not to press the amendment on this occasion. I am having the matter examined, and I may say frankly that I am anxious to move in the same direction as the Deputy.
On the statement made by the Minister, I do not propose to press the amendment, but I ask the Minister to see if he could do anything in the case of particular individuals, pending examination of the whole question. I appreciate that the Revenue Commissioners will say what they always say, that is: "Here is the law which we must carry out," but perhaps a way might be found out of that situation by that species of machinery so inherent in this Bill and so dear to the heart of the Revenue Commissioners—the retrospective operation of the law.
The Revenue Commissioners, in so far as they are income-tax collectors, are getting to be such small fry now, in view of all the other appalling imposts which the people living in this country are subject to that perhaps the Minister, when further considering this matter, and in order to help him to consider the point favourably, might take into consideration how much can be got out of these people by hidden and unhidden taxation, in the higher price of bread, bacon and every other blessed thing they use.
I cannot give Deputy Costello the specific undertaking for which he asked. While exceptional cases might be considered, still I gather that we have not power to do that. If we are able to work along the lines that he has suggested in his amendment I will do that at a later stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 2, 3 and 4 agreed to.
(8) Schedule C and Schedule D of the Income Tax Act, 1918, shall have, and shall be deemed always to have had, effect subject to the provisions of this section.
I move amendment No. 2:
In sub-section (8), line 35, to delete the words "and shall be deemed always to have had."
This is our old friend, the retrospective operations of law. Perhaps the Minister would justify the necessity for having this section in the Bill?
I think these words are absolutely essential, though not put in in order to make the law retrospective. We believe that the law as it is written and as it was intended by the Legislature to be administered, is being so administered at the moment. However, as I have already stated, doubts have been created elsewhere, and all we are endeavouring to do here is to confirm the practice which has been carried on for 50 years in operating the provisions related to this section. The position is that during that period of 50 years the law has been so interpreted and acted upon, not merely by the Revenue but by our bankers and coupon dealers acting as agents for the Revenue, taxpayers and their advisers acting as reasonable citizens. If the particular words which the Deputy proposes to delete were in fact deleted, then a certain amount of confusion might arise, and bankers and others who acted for the Revenue all those years might be faced with claims for sums which it might be contended were deducted illegally. Even though these claims were not sustainable in law, great difficulties would arise and a position of the utmost insecurity would be created. It is submitted here that whatever views may be held on retrospective legislation, there is no doubt that the law is as everyone has assumed it to be over a long period of 50 years. Things have been settled on the basis that the law was such and such during those years and transactions have been settled on the basis that the law was as it was assumed to be. That is the reason why we have these words in the section.
I am not particularly interested in bankers, nor do I speak for them. I have no touch with bankers except by way of overdraft. But I have been informed that this special Section 8 will impose a very large additional amount of labour on bankers. I do not know whether that is so or not, but I have been told by persons in touch with bankers that if this section is pushed retrospectively, bankers will have to go back a long number of years in their books, and will be given a great deal of trouble. I draw the attention of the Minister to that because I have been told that it is so. I have no means of verifying whether it is or not.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 5 put and agreed to.
Amendments 3, 4, 5 and 6 are the same. Having made my protest about retrospective legislation I will, at this late hour of the night, deem everything I said in past years said again.
Amendments not moved.
In the copy of the Bill that I hold there is a verbal mistake in line 41, Section 6 (1). The word "virtues" is put in instead of "securities." I think the word "virtues" is out of place altogether in a Finance Bill. I do not think that this appears in the copies of the Bill that my friends on these benches have.
It is all right in my copy.
Section 6 agreed to.
Section 7 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 6:—
Before Section 8 and in Part I, to insert a new section as follows:—
(1) Where by or under any statutory or other provision in relation to income tax, surtax, excess profits duty or corporation profits tax a period is fixed for the doing of any act or thing the court may, either before or after the expiration of the said period, extend such period upon such terms as the court thinks proper.
(2) In this section the expression "the court" means the Special Commissioners for Income Tax or, on appeal, the Circuit Court.
This is a matter in which I am very much interested and to which I would press the Minister to give very serious consideration. There are a number of statutory provisions scattered through the income-tax code making provision for certain acts to be done within a certain period. The period must be strictly complied with irrespective of whether hardships ensue from it, or irrespective of whether the Revenue would be prepared to accept an extension of the time or not. The general experience has been that there are cases where a statutory provision should not be so strictly or rigidly enforced. Accordingly, in most statutes it will be found that there is power in some tribunal to extend the time laid down by statute. There is no power in any body, either in the commissioners, the High Court or the Circuit Court, to extend the time laid down in this case. If relief is sought by the taxpayer in connection with taxation or by reason of the fact that he puts in a farm account that shows a loss, then he must make that claim within a period of one year from the period of assessment. There is no power in any tribunal to extend that time. I think it ought to be possible for the Revenue Commissioners or the circuit judge to extend the time on a claim being made. There was actually a case where the circuit judge did assume that he had power to extend the time as all courts, by the Rules of Court, have power to extend the time. But the circuit judge was quashed on certiorari. I would ask the Minister to reconsider this section with a view to giving power to some tribunal to extend the time.
If the Deputy could give me the specific cases he has in mind I will have the matter examined.
I am speaking of specific cases that came within my own practice. In one case that point was raised rather acutely. Even the Minister himself could do nothing about it, however sympathetic he might have been, because the law says that the claim must be made within 12 months from the period of assessment. That period elapsed and no one can do anything about it because the time cannot be extended and no relief can be given.
What I am asking the Minister to do is to provide power in the Special Commissioners or the circuit judge, or some judicial authority, where there is a proper case, to extend the time. As a matter of fact, I modelled this amendment on the section of the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1931, where there are various statutory provisions requiring certain things to be done within three months, six months, and so forth, and the operation of that statute has shown the necessity for having such a provision as I propose here. In actual practice, in courts dealing with the statute of 1931, to which I have referred, the judges have been very rigid in their application of their own powers to extend the time, and all I am anxious to ensure is that there should be some power, in a proper case, and for the purpose of avoiding admitted hardship, in some judicial tribunal to be able to decide, as between the Revenue Commissioners and the taxpayer to extend the time. I do not think it would work any hardship on the Revenue Commissioners and it would certainly prevent a hardship that ought not to be imposed on taxpayers.
Perhaps, Sir, I might be permitted to add, very briefly, one or two remarks that I might have made on another section of the Bill. I admit that they are not strictly relevant, but I think it will save time if I introduce the matter here. In this connection, in dealing properly and adequately with taxpayers, I do think that the policy of the Revenue Commissioners and of the Minister for Finance ought to be somewhat changed: that the taxpayer ought not to be regarded, so to speak, as the prey of the Revenue Commissioners, and that a time has now come when the policy ought to be changed, the past shut down, and an effort made to inculcate in the minds of taxpayers that it is their duty as citizens to make honest and proper returns of their income-tax. I feel myself, personally, that that would be a proper state of mind to induce in taxpayers—that we should endeavour to inculcate in the minds of taxpayers that it would be for the benefit of people who do make proper returns of income-tax that everybody should make proper and honest returns.
I am not criticising the Revenue Commissioners or their staff in any way. They are only carrying out the law, and it is their business to bring in revenue, but I am suggesting that, perhaps, they may have been rather harsh in some cases on people who, let us say, over-stepped the mark and made, perhaps, not as honest and proper a return of their income-tax as they should have made. I think that that particular bag has been squeezed dry and there is not much left in it; and I think that, from now on, except in cases of actual fraud, that kind of thing should be regarded as a closed book: that the taxpayer should be asked to make proper returns from now on and that that spirit should be inculcated in taxpayers. I think that, if the idea abroad generally amongst taxpayers to the effect that they are the prey of the Revenue Commissioners, that they are squeezed dry, their businesses turned inside out, their past raked up, and the past of their fathers and their great-grandfathers raked up, is got rid of, we might have a better spirit amongst taxpayers and, ultimately, a better revenue. As I say, Sir, these remarks are somewhat irrelevant to this section, but I thought it would save time if I introduced the matter now.
Well, of course, we could not give an undertaking of that sort without a great deal of consideration.
Yes, but all I want is that the Minister should consider it.
I am prepared to consider it. Of course, I am not accepting the point of view that the taxpayers are the prey of the Revenue Commissioners, and if I were speaking on the Estimate, I would endeavour to controvert that suggestion very vigorously; but on the question of the amendment to which the Deputy desires me to give consideration, I am prepared to consider the question of whether we could not, in regard to time limits, have some kind of appeal either to the Revenue Commissioners or some other court. However, the matter will require to be very carefully examined, as I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that the question is a very wide one. When I asked the Deputy if he had any specific cases in mind, what I meant was whether he had any specific type of case in mind where this would be desirable.
If he could let me have some specific cases, it would make it easier, as it would be better to consider a limited number of cases rather than go over the whole wide field. If I got such specific cases in time, I would endeavour to introduce an amendment which might give effect to what the Deputy has in mind. Otherwise, the matter would have to stand over, at any rate, until the next year. I could not accept his amendment at this stage and undertake to give effect to it.
Would it not be wise to adopt it now? Could there not be some such arrangement as a penalty in connection with this matter of the extension of time?
It must be remembered that the due and orderly collection of the revenue is one of the first interests of the State. There is a considerable sum of money involved here and, without a great deal of examination, I could not undertake to give effect to any important amendment, and this would be an important amendment in the existing code.
Will the Minister undertake to consider it?
Because it is a matter on which I feel very deeply. I think it will not affect the revenue to a serious extent, and it may avert hardship: The actual case I have in mind is where a person is engaged in a business—let us say, a farm—and that he has made a loss. For the purpose of making a claim for relief in respect of that loss, he must make a claim— speaking from memory—within a year of assessment. That is a matter of statutory provision. By reason of circumstances over which he has no control, such as negotiations going on in connection with his business, and so on, he forgets to put in the claim within the period of 12 months, or whatever it is. Well, then, I hold that it is a hardship, in a proper case, that by reason of the fact that the time limit is allowed to go by, he should now find that statutory provision facing him and that nobody can do anything about it. That is one case I have in mind.
Is the Deputy withdrawing the amendment?
Very well. On the Minister's undertaking that he will consider it, I shall withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 8 to 13, inclusive, agreed to.
(4) The Revenue Commissioners may by notice in writing require any person being or having been a personal representative of a deceased person, or having or having had an absolute or a limited interest in the residue of the estate of a deceased person or in a part thereof, to furnish them (within such time as they may direct, not being less than twenty-eight days) with such particulars as they think necessary for the purposes of this Part of this Act, and if that person without reasonable excuse fails to comply with the notice he shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding fifty pounds, and, after judgment has been given for that penalty, to a further penalty of the like amount for each day during which that failure continues.
I move amendment No. 7:—
In sub-section (4), page 14, line 27, to delete the words "or having been" and in line 28 to delete the words "or having had".
I should like to say one or two words on this amendment, because it is slightly different, or at least there are some additional considerations arising on it besides those arising on the general principle of retrospective legislation. The position that is provided for in sub-section (4) of this section may possibly work very great hardship on the person who occupies the position of personal representative of a deceased person because, if the words "having been" or "having had" are allowed to remain, the personal representative of a deceased person may find that, years after the estate has been distributed and when he has no assets, he may be called upon to give the information or the particulars, mentioned in the sub-section, to the Revenue Commissioners, without being in a position to give such information or particulars.
Not merely will he have difficulty in furnishing the particulars required, after the lapse of years, but he will have no money, except what money comes out of his own pocket, to pay any expenses that he will be put to in eliciting the information or particulars required. The personal representative of a deceased person is in a gratuitous office, and very often he is not paid for what is usually an onerous task; the only way that he has to recoup himself for any losses he may sustain is out of the assets of the deceased person. If the section remains as it stands, it would mean that when all the assets are distributed he may be called upon to give these particulars and that may put him to the expense of hiring an accountant or other people, and there will be no assets left out of which to recoup him for his expenses. I should like to know if the Minister has considered that point.
Well, I did not know the precise point the Deputy was going to raise on this amendment, but now that I have heard him I shall consider the matter. I think it is a point of importance.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 14 agreed.
Question proposed: "That Section 15 stand part of the Bill."
There is one point which I should like to make in regard to Section 15. It really arises on number 7 of the Schedule relating to golf clubs. I did make certain representations to the Minister for Industry and Commerce in reference to golf clubs. Under number 7 of the Schedule referred to in Section 15, a very prohibitive tariff is placed on the importation of golf clubs, whether imported in whole or in part, shafts or heads of golf clubs. The position as I understand it at the moment is that there is only one particular company in this country which is actually manufacturing golf clubs. I am not interested in anybody except one set of persons in connection with the matter I am raising now. The persons in whom I am interested are golf professionals and their assistants; I am not interested in anybody else except those. I did make representations to the Minister for Industry and Commerce asking that there should be granted to those professionals and their assistants in the clubs throughout the country licences to import certain heads, shafts and things of that kind, in order to enable them to carry out their business in their shops attached to the various golf clubs.
There is no doubt about it that if those duties are insisted upon as against the professionals, it will throw a lot of assistants throughout the country out of employment. At the time I made the representations to the Minister for Industry and Commerce he appeared to be sympathetic with the point of view which I put before him on behalf of those professionals and their assistants. I do not know whether or not the Minister for Finance himself endeavours to play golf, but the Minister for Industry and Commerce did appreciate the proposition I put to him, and that was that golfers are apt to blame their caddies, the ball, the lie, the club, and everything else except their own incompetence if they are playing badly. The first thing they do is to rush off to the professional and ask him for a new golf club and a different one from the one with which they had been ploughing their lonely furrow for some time before. That is a source of remuneration to the professionals and a source of employment to their assistants. The prohibitive tariff proposed in this schedule—if persisted in, and if some relaxation is not granted in favour of professionals and their assistants—will undoubtedly prevent those professionals and their assistants from satisfying the desires of golfers to cure their incompetence at any price. While the Minister for Industry and Commerce appeared to me to be sympathetic towards the proposal which I put up to him, I do not know whether anything has been done about it. Perhaps the Minister might have regard to the considerations which I put forward.
I was hoping that the Minister for Industry and Commerce might be here to deal with that point himself.
If the Minister will consult with the Minister for Industry and Commerce about it, I will not press the matter any further.
Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 16 stand part of the Bill."
Several matters arise on Section 16. First of all there is the question of the steel erectors in this country, who are caught between the appear and nether millstone, having to pay the increased price for their raw materials under this section, and being up against the price at which fabricated steel can be sent in from the other side. I do not know whether the Minister has given any consideration to that point. I scarcely think that at this late hour the matter can be gone into very fully, but I should like again to call the Minister's attention to that point.
I should like to refer to two other points which arise on this section. The steel that is brought into this country is of very varied kinds. Probably the entire range of samples that are used in England are used over here, but in very small quantities. It is absolutely impossible for the industry here to hope to supply the varied samples required. I think on the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce I called attention to the various steps that a person had to take in getting permission to import articles which were not even manufactured in this country. That will arise to a very great degree under this section. There is also another question which will arise under this section, and it is in relation to the same class of thing, namely, that there are all sorts, kinds and descriptions of steel which people require in small quantities. Those are special sizes and special shapes. Take, for instance, guillotine knives. Those probably have to be slotted to a particular pattern, and saws would have to be gulletted to various shapes. If the people cannot get the component parts which they want for the various machines, it practically renders the machinery obsolete. There is a great deal of delay and hardship occasioned to people in this country who have to import special kinds of articles which would come under this section. I should like to ask the Minister if there is any hope of relaxation in regard to the present difficulty about a letter from the manufacturer to the effect that he does not manufacture the goods. Some of the manufacturers have a most unpleasant habit of replying not exactly that they do not manufacture the goods but that they have something which is equally suited.
Persons who wish to import goods know that they are absolutely unsuitable, and, as they are not experts in every line in the department, they find difficulty in deciding between the rival claims. The consequence is that quantities of goods are imported on which very high duties have to be paid, and that is, really, only adding to the burden that the people of this country are carrying.
I should like to know if the Minister has anything to say on the points that were raised on the resolutions and on a previous stage of this Bill.
Perhaps the Minister could also say something about golf clubs.
As to the point raised by Deputy Dockrell, he is taking it for granted that steel produced at Haulbowline will be dearer than steel produced in Great Britain.
There is no reason why that should be so.
You may take it that there is a law to that effect.
I do not think there is any such law. All I have to say is that steel fabricators have, at the moment, protection sufficient to enable them to get the bulk of the market here, and it is only in the face of a higher price being charged at Haulbowline than for British steel that that degree of protection will be impinged upon. If that should happen, and if it is clear that steel fabricators are not sufficiently protected, the position will have to be considered. Certainly, I do not propose to take action upon an assumption which may be entirely incorrect.
I think the Deputy read the reference to guillotine knives wrongly. They are referred to in sub-section (3) for the purpose of excluding them from the duty on products from Great Britain and the Dominion of Canada. That provision is inserted in consequence of the Trade Agreement with the United Kingdom. Machinery parts, as such, are not liable to duty at all. The firm that erected the steel mill at Haulbowline intends ultimately to manufacture all classes of steel that might be liable to duty. There may be an interim period during which full supplies will not be available, but licences to import these goods will be issued. The firm's programme contemplates the manufacture of the full requirements of the country in these goods.
A point was raised concerning the duty upon golf clubs, and the position of golf professionals under the new duty. The firm which is manufacturing golf clubs here has undertaken to supply professional golfers with heads and shafts for assembling, which has been the practice up to the present, and, I think, that will leave the position of professional golfers unaffected by this duty. There were certain proposals in reference to this duty on golf clubs against which the professional golfers made representations and, as I thought there was force in their representations, the duty as it now operates will not affect their position at all.
I agree that the Minister is quite right in what he said about guillotine knives. As to iron and steel, he said that he does not propose to take action on a matter based on assumption. The real test is this: If and when this duty is enforced it can be shown that the price of goods in this country is considerably higher than the price at which they could be bought outside, will the Minister issue a licence? That is the acid test.
If the Deputy is referring to steel fabric, I say that we will take such measures as are necessary to ensure effective protection, because, obviously, it would be unwise to start a steel mill for the home manufacture of steel girders, if the tariff arrangement would permit fabric steel to be imported. These steel fabricating firms will be in no worse position than they are now, unless there is an increase in price. An increase in price must not be assumed. There may be certain charges which will be higher here than in Great Britain but, subject to that, there is no reason why, in a properly equipped steel mill in this country, they could not produce steel as cheaply and as well as in Great Britain.
I am not talking about fabric steel. That is in another category—raw material. The Minister in his platitudes stated that there is no reason why steel should be dearer here than steel that can be imported. If that is so, it is quite useless to put on this protection. I should like to know from the Minister what the position of users of steel will be, if they find that the price charged here is con siderably higher than the price outside. I am referring to raw material not fabricated steel. That is the acid test.
I do not get the point in the Deputy's question. We are imposing this duty on steel, and we will take whatever measures are necessary to hold the price of the product. I do not think the price will be higher here than in Great Britain. If it is higher it will be very slight.
The point I am concerned about is this, that I say the price in this country will go to the world price, plus the duty. The Minister denies that. He says he is not going to deal with something that has not arisen. I put it to him that if the price of steel manufactured here for angles, girders, joists and other things is such that it can be bought outside for 25 per cent. less, what will be the position? What action will the Minister then take?
I was referring to the price at which Irish steel is sold compared with British steel. It is possible to buy steel cheaply in small lots of occasional lines, but that is a different matter. If the price should be raised here, and if it is what I consider unjustifiable, then the duty will be reviewed.
There was a certain aspect of this question before the Minister for Finance, and it was left over in the hope that the Minister for Industry and Commerce would face it. The Minister seems to have stuck his feet in the ground: I should like, however, to put one or two points before him. He will admit that the success of the Haulbowline mills depends on there being Irish firms fabricating steel, taking that steel and using it.
There is no future for the Haulbowline mills if there are not firms fabricating steel here. Firms that extended their works during the last couple of years, that put in additional capital, and gave employment to additional workers had the advantage of a 50 per cent. tariff against non-British steel fabrics, and against British manufacturers had a 60 per cent. tariff, because the preference of 33? per cent. that normally would be available for British steel fabrics was wiped out, and to the 50 per cent. that then stood against them was added an additional 10 per cent. tariff. The industry then extended here, additional capital was invested and additional employees taken on, under the effective tariff against foreign manufactures and the 60 per cent. against British steel. With the signing of the Agreement the 60 per cent. tariff against British steel was reduced to 33?, and the cost of raw material is definitely going to be increased by at least 25 per cent. Irish steel fabricators have been importing 50 per cent. of their steel from Great Britain and 50 per cent. from Belgium. They imported it from Belgium at an average of £3 per ton cheaper than from Great Britain. As well as the tariff of 50 per cent. falling to 33? per cent., as far as imports of British steel are concerned, now the cost of raw material will be affected. I am not asking for an increased tariff, but I am asking what kind of policy is supposed to operate that would induce people under such an extraordinary tariff arrangement to develop their business, or to induce firms to take men into employment, that they felt was going to be fairly permanent, if there is going to be such a radical change in the whole position?
Nothing could be more ridiculous, I think, than, we might say, halving the protective tariff under which they are working, and increasing the cost of their raw materials, the raw material being about one-third of the total value of the fabricated article. The one thing I am concerned with, and that I am asking the Minister for Industry and Commerce to tell us is what does he expect is going to be the result of this change on employment in the City of Dublin where there are, I suppose, five or six factories employing a fairly large number of men. The Minister knows that one of the things that shut down the Dublin dockyard was that it was not able to compete even with the 60 per cent. tariff against work that was coming from outside.
It had nothing whatever to do with it.
The Minister knows that, even under those favourable circumstances, with these high tariffs, the Dublin dockyard could not continue.
It had nothing whatever to do with the fabricated steel side at all. That was the only side that was making a profit.
There is nothing I am telling the Minister that he does not know. I say it is an astonishing thing that he can walk into Parliament practically with his mouth shut, and, as it were, take up an attitude that these things are going to stand. He is not going to discuss the pros or cons of them here. He is simply going to declare that fabricated steel is going to be made in this country at the same price it is made outside. The Minister knows very well it is not.
If he has any information as to the position with regard to the steel industry either in Belgium or Great Britain he must know that there is not any possibility, in its early stages particularly, of the Haulbowline mill competing with Great Britain and Belgium without raising, as Deputy Dockrell said, the price of steel substantially. He has had evidence himself in estimates that have come from outside firms for doing certain works in connection with the new building for the Department of Industry and Commerce that indicates what the position is. He has, no doubt, seen estimates that have come in for steel work in connection with some of the new airports and, as I say, there is no information that we can give him that he has not got already, and yet his attitude is that he is not going to say anything about it, that the Haulbowline mills are going to flourish and be all right, that they are not going to charge more than is charged by outside firms, and, as to the possible effect on unemployment in the steel fabricating firms in the City of Dublin or Cork or Waterford or elsewhere, he has nothing at all to say about it.
I only want to say this. When the Deputy refers to existing contracts such as the contract for the new Department of Industry and Commerce building or the airports, he is obviously trying to make the case that the existing tariff is insufficient. I am not convinced that it is. I think that unless unfair methods of trade are being resorted to by firms the 50 per cent. against Continental firms and 30 per cent. against Great Britain should be sufficient. If that assumption is correct, then the existing position will not in any way be detrimental to those firms engaged in the fabrication of steel. If I am convinced to the contrary—I have not been convinced yet that a higher duty is necessary, assuming efficiency in operation by the existing firms here —then I would be prepared to consider an increase in the duty, but I am not yet convinced that an increased duty is necessary. The position, therefore, of these firms is quite safe until this steel is being manufactured at Haulbowline and will only be adversely affected if the steel manufactured at Haulbowline is dearer than the steel they are buying at present.
I want to say here, for the information of the Deputy and for the information of those associated with the Haulbowline mills and everybody else, that there is no reason that I know of why steel manufactured here should be dearer than steel manufactured in Great Britain. I would expect after a while, when they get their plant properly organised and their machinery properly run in that their prices should be lower than the prevailing prices in Dublin at the moment. If I am convinced that there are circumstances not within the control of the people directing that industry which prevent these prices being secured then the position of the fabricating firms will have to be reconsidered but I am not going to take action now which would assume an acceptance by me that prices at Haulbowline will necessarily be dearer than prices in Great Britain.
They are going to be cheaper than Richard Thomas's of Ebbw Vale?
I have the authority of one of the foremost people in the world connected with the manufacture of steel for saying that a properly equipped mill in this country should do an export business in competition with any of the firms in Europe.
Will the Minister say, if he thinks now that this new tariff of 33? per cent. is enough, why it was necessary to have 60 per cent. until the other day?
It was not necessary. It was an accidental result of the economic war.
I wonder if there is any chance of getting agreement that we would dispose of this business before 11 p. m.?
I want about four or five minutes. By the time I am done with the Minister he will want to go to bed.
If I do, I hope it will not be due to the Deputy's harshness of expression.
There is not much more to be said on this side. There are very few other points to be raised and there is no reason why the Committee Stage should not be finished by 10.40 p.m. None of the remaining stages is opposed.
We will continue till 11 p.m. if necessary.
There is a matter arising out of the remarks of the Minister for Industry and Commerce which is not strictly relevant, but which with your permission I would like to raise. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, in his reply to Deputy Dockrell, said machinery parts were not dutiable. I would just like to know if that is a general statement and if it is correct.
I was referring to this particular duty. They may be under other tariffs.
Is Haulbowline going to produce all the unfabricated steel that the manufacturers of agricultural implements will have to use?
No, only steel of the classes that are set out here which are ordinarily used in constructional work —sheets and girders, angles and joists.
Sections 16 to 19 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 20 stand part of the Bill."
I want to raise one point on Section 20. I have been approached by a number of people who lost their positions from various newspapers in consequence of the tax imposed on imported newspapers. They are under the impression that if some relief could be given in that respect they would get back their positions. They number about 50 people altogether, and I wonder would the Minister take into consideration any method by which their condition could be relieved. I am informed by them that if the tax were taken off or some remission made that at least 50 or 60 of them would get back their employment.
What is the amount of duty received under the tax on periodicals?
About £20,000 or £30,000—is it the newspapers or the periodicals?
I am afraid we cannot find any grounds for relaxation of the present position in regard to that.
Is the circulation of the Irish Press still falling?
Or the circulation of the Irish Independent or even of the United Irishman?
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 21 to 24 agreed to.
Section 34 of the Finance Act, 1933 (No. 15 of 1933), is hereby repealed and in lieu thereof it is hereby enacted that the value of any article or goods for any of the purposes of this Act or any other Act (whether passed before or after this Act) relating to the customs or of any order relating to the customs heretofore or hereafter made under any Act (whether passed before or after this Act) shall, in the absence of provision to the contrary, be taken to be the price which, in the opinion of the Revenue Commissioners, an importer would give for such article or goods if such article or goods were delivered, freight and insurance paid, in bond, at the place of importation.
I move amendment No. 8:
To delete all words after the word "which," line 40, to the end of the section, and substitute the words "appears on a bona-fide invoice together with the cost of freight and insurance for such article or goods delivered at the place of importation.”
I put down this amendment because I thought it was a vicious practice to leave it to the discretion of anybody to fix the price an importer would give for any article. I think it is vicious. Take a case of misapprehension, to put it mildly. One person may import an article the price of which has not been fixed before importation by the concern from which he imports it. Another person may import an article of similar quality for which the price has been fixed before importation and he is charged a different price from that fixed by the Revenue Commissioners for the first article. I consider the whole practice vicious. I understand that goods are sent into this country to factors and brokers for the purposes of sale and that the price is not fixed before importation in many cases. When such goods are consigned to factors or brokers, I think it should not be left to the Revenue Commissioners to fix the price.
I think on the Second Stage of the Bill I called the attention of the Deputy to Section 34 of the Finance Act of 1933. The object of Section 25 of the present Bill is to amend that section so that the values, as defined by the Revenue Commissioners, may be made applicable to purposes other than the charging of duty. I think that since the Legislature has already agreed that the Revenue Commissioners should have power to fix the value for the purpose of levying or charging a duty upon an article, which of course might be rather onerous on the subject, there should be no objection to their being entitled to fix the value for the purpose of relieving an article from duty. That is really the purpose of the present section. So far as people who import goods, and who present bona fide invoices, are concerned, they have got nothing to fear. To provide against fraud it was necessary in Section 34 of the 1933 Act to give the Revenue Commissioners power to fix the value of goods for the purpose of charging duty. It is thought necessary to amend that in order that they may be empowered to fix the value for purposes other than that of charging duty.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 25 and 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
In the case of any person dying after the passing of this Act, the property which is deemed, by virtue of paragraph (e) of sub-section (1) of Section 2 of the Finance Act, 1894, as amended by Section 32 of the Finance Act, 1924 (No. 27 of 1924) to be property passing on the death of the deceased shall not include property comprised in dispositions or gifts which—
I move amendment No. 9:—
In line 52, page 20, after the word "dying" and before the word "after" to insert the words "whether before or".
I made the case for this amendment on the Second Reading of the Bill, but I presume the Minister is still adamant. The point is that wherever it is a matter of collecting taxes we get retrospective legislation, but wherever it is a matter of relief from taxes there is no retrospective legislation. I think there should be some reciprocity in this matter.
I think there would be too much reciprocity in this matter if we accepted the Deputy's amendment. This section does grant immediate relief in certain circumstances. That is as far as we can go.
I would not suggest that my predecessors wrought any injustice in the matter of taxation.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 27 to 31, inclusive, and the First Schedule, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question proposed: "That the Second Schedule be the Second Schedule to the Bill."
In Part III of this Schedule the exemption from duty of lighter expanded metal is withdrawn and it is now subject to duty. That is my reading of this section. I should like the Minister for Industry and Commerce to say what material is intended to replace this metal or is this merely a revenue-producing duty? This is a very useful article, which is used by builders for all sorts of work and I do not believe that there is any substitute for it. I should be glad to hear from the Minister what is his idea as to the material that will be used in place of it. I ask the Minister the straight question: is this intended to be a revenue-producing tax or what material is it intended to substitute for this expanded metal?
It is not intended that this duty should produce any revenue or that any material should be substituted. This material is now being manufactured here.
If the Minister is referring to woven wire I should like to disagree with him. I thought expanded metal was a proprietary article. However, if the metal is being manufactured in this country I have nothing to say.
It is being manufactured here and is procurable from an Irish manufacturer.
Question put and agreed to.
Third Schedule and the Title put and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."
This Bill, together with the Appropriation Bill, already passed, may be said, in essence, to be the Budget of this year. In my view, last year's Budget was not balanced, and neither has the Minister's Estimate for this year been on the basis of a balanced Budget. We have the unusual spectacle of having for two successive years unbalanced Budgets. During the last few months of this year, we have had, month after month, records of the largest adverse balance in trade this country has known. The road of unbalanced Budgets and big adverse balances, which we are travelling, leads only in one direction. If that be the policy of the Government, the question of whether or not we remain on sterling will not arise. That policy leads, and has led in every other country, to the one and only resort of countries with adverse balances beyond their means and unbalanced Budgets. That is inflation. The remedy, of course, is a Budget balanced not merely on figures, but balanced on the capacity of the people to bear the taxation that is imposed. In my view, the taxation that is imposed in this Budget and for some years past is beyond the capacity of the people to bear. The Budget must be balanced both on figures and on the capacity of the people to bear taxation. The remedy in the other case is to aim at increasing our production. Notwithstanding all the efforts that have been made in connection with industrial development, about which we hear so much and of which we see so little result, the situation was never worse. If the policy is towards self-sufficiency, we were never less self-sufficient.
We have had to pour out more money in this country since the Government came into office than we ever did before and the result must be, and has been, a reduction, in our reserves and in our resources. The source from which an improvement could be effected has been badly damaged during the last five or six years and the better trade relations that are now going to subsist are, apparently, to be left to themselves to effect that improvement. There has been no indication whatever on the part of the Government since the Agreement with Great Britain was made of any attempt to improve our agricultural production or to lessen the costs that are so regularly and systematically imposed upon agriculture. There has been no effort to improve either our agricultural production or our sales.
Within the last week, I understand that the Prime Minister made a reference to the point to which the Government was urged to go in connection with the collection of moneys for the Exchequer. He used the words "to the point of being unjust." I should like to know if any other Catholic Minister in the world would make a statement like that—"to the point of being unjust." Justice should be the headline and the guiding spirit of administration. Unfortunately, I think Ministers know very little about it. It would be well for themselves and for the country if they knew a little more about it. I should like to know whether, during the adjournment that is to take place, there is to be any advertence to the dangers likely to arise from (1) unbalanced Budgets, (2) a very big adverse balance and (3) the absence of any policy to improve the output or the sale of our agricultural produce.
Deputy Cosgrave's hypotheses are wrong and his conclusions are equally erroneous. Taking one year with another, our Budgets have been balanced ever since this Government came into office. I think that the people, who study these matters just as carefully as Deputy Cosgrave, have expressed their judgment in a practical way in that regard and I do not think it is necessary for me to answer the questions which the Deputy has put. Justice has always been the guiding spirit of this Government's administration—justice and consideration for the common people and, above all, for those who have to bear the cost of the upkeep of our services. I can promise the Deputy that, not merely during the adjournment, but during the remainder of our term of office that will continue to be the lodestar of our administration.
Will the Minister promise me that before they go to the point of being unjust in the collection of annuities or other charges, the Government will issue instructions to the Department concerned to have the same forbearance as they were told to have during the general election?
I can assure the Deputy, for what it is worth, that no instructions were issued, so far as I know, to any Department that had any relation to the circumstances existing during the general election.
Is the Minister aware that the sheriff was not in action during the general election and that he started almost immediately afterwards?
If he had been in action, you would be the first to declare that we were attacking our political opponents.
The Minister does not know what I am talking about. I do.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill certified as a Money Bill within the meaning of Article 22 of the Constitution.