Committee on Finance. - Imposition of Duties (Confirmation of Orders) No. 2 Bill, 1938—Second Stage.

I move, Sir, that the Bill be read a second time. This Bill, as Deputies are aware, is one of a series of such measures introduced from time to time to confirm Orders made. Under the Emergency Imposition of Duties Acts each of such Orders must be confirmed by an Act of the Dáil within six months of its being made, or will then cease to be operative. There is a number of Orders which must be confirmed by a measure some time before February or March of next year. Consequently, it is desirable to get this Bill through this session. In the ordinary course, I think, discussion on the Orders set out in the Schedule of the Bill might be more conveniently undertaken in the Committee Stage than on this stage. Perhaps it would satisfy Deputies if I give them a rough indication of what the Orders relate to at this period. The first four Orders contained in the Schedule, reference numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4, provide for variations and impositions of duties.

The articles concerned were subject to duty but were admitted free under licence. We have found it possible to amend the definition of these articles so as to obviate the necessity for licence and, in future, they will be admitted free of duty. Reference No. 5 merely inserts an open licensing provision in respect of cotton blanketing. The older order operated to confine the licence to persons engaged in the manufacture of cotton blanketing, but it was found that persons imported this cotton blanketing for the purpose of sale to the makers of blankets and it is thought desirable that they should be allowed to import this material also,

Are these cotton sheets?

No, cotton blanketing. It is not made here, but it was found that it could not be excluded from the duty on cotton piece goods; the older Order was so worded that licences could only be given to manufacturers of cotton blanketing, whereas we desired to allow cotton blanketing in to wholesalers and others who sell to manufacturers. It is a mere change in administration. The Order in Reference No. 6 effects a reduction on the duty on dried and powdered milk. Reference No. 7 imposed a new minimum duty in addition to the old duty, on knitted fabric imported in the piece. Reference No. 8 increased the full rate and imposed a minimum rate of duty in addition on certain surface-glazed clay tiles. The Order referred to in reference No. 9 imposed a duty on golf balls, Reference No. 10 effected the removal of a duty no longer operative. Reference Nos. 11 and 12 increased the full rate of duty on the articles referred to without altering the minimum rate. Reference No. 13 imposed a new duty on artificial horn. Reference No. 14 merely adds a licensing provision to the duty in question. Reference No. 15 imposed a new duty on tinned containers. Reference No. 16 repealed a duty which was ineffective in so far as the articles concerned have not been manufactured here. Reference No. 17 postponed the operation of the duty upon steel from the 1st November to the 1st April, because the new works at Haulbowline are not yet completed. Reference No. 18 imposed a new duty on certain advertising signs. If any Deputy wishes to have fuller information or desires to discuss the desirability of these Orders, I shall deal with them on the Committee Stage, when I think they could be more conveniently dealt with.

The Minister's line is that he has told the House all about these Orders and that it will be convenient to discuss them on Committee. My attitude with regard to measures of this particular type is that nothing can be conveniently discussed in this way; that these Orders are matters that are dealing with vitally important aspects of industrial life here, and that they should be presented to the House in such a way that there can be discussion, and discussion of a nature that would afford the House some information so that the House can discuss whatever information is before them. I pointed out on two occasions already that this Act had been passed in 1932 for the purpose of dealing with a grave emergency—an emergency in which we were entering on a struggle with Great Britain and in which Great Britain was dealing very drastically with the trade of this country. It was expressly stated that the very wide powers—and they are very wide powers—that are taken in this measure were required for that particular purpose and that they would not be used after that necessity had disappeared.

As I say, the machinery is entirely impossible if intelligent discussion is to take place in this House on vital matters of industrial business. The Minister has already in his power previous Acts of the Oireachtas that would enable him to put on a duty or to take such steps as he considered necessary to prevent dumping or to prevent the importation into this country of goods from any other country because of certain special circumstances there. He has these powers under the Customs Duties Provisional Imposition Act of 1931. That was an improvement on a previous Act of 1927, but under the 1931 Act it is possible for him to issue an Order putting on any duty to keep out any stuff that he feared was going to come in either to prejudice the establishment of a new industry here and flood the market or to prevent dumping. That Act imposes an obligation on the Minister that, within ten sitting days of the Dáil, Dáil Eireann shall pass a resolution approving of such Orders and the matter shall be subsequently dealt with at the expiration of a period of four months. From the litany we have heard from the Minister, and from the look of the Schedule here and from the Orders, if collected and put together, so far from there being any information available there is nothing but absolute confusion of mind, and any person who wanted to get down and study what the Minister was doing would find it almost impossible.

I should like to ask the Minister whether, in connection with any one of these items, it would not be useful for him and for the people generally that there should be an opportunity, by a definite resolution here, for his explaining on the Committee Stage what exactly was the effect of the particular Orders concerned. He says, I think, that Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 are a variation of duties or a reduction of duties, but I read it that item No. 3 is imposing a duty, cutting away a preference. As a matter of fact, there is not a single one of these items on which we have information as to the policy involved in them, not only with regard to the particular industry concerned but with regard to what practice was going to be carried on by the Department with respect to licences, preferences and so on. There is no possibility of intelligent discussion of this thing here in the Dáil. On the Committee Stage the Minister may be able to demonstrate that he is able to afford a satisfactory opportunity to the House to discuss these things. But I am convinced that it cannot be done and that the time has come to stop this particular type of imposition of duties by Order. There can be no objection, in important matters, to the imposition of a duty or to action with regard to stopping, by order, goods from coming in here to the country. But we must ask, when an Order is issued in a matter that warrants it, that a resolution will be put before the House, and that something of the procedure under the 1931 Act will be introduced. A scheme of things under which tremendously strong powers of all kinds are retained under the Emergency Imposition of Duties Act, is entirely wrong, and is cutting this House here out of any serious or reasonable discussion on the details of industrial development.

I agree with what Deputy Mulcahy has stated, that it would be in the interests of everybody if we had a free, open and frank discussion here on matters of this kind.

You can have that.

I know, but I think that to have them put before the House in the manner which Deputy Mulcahy suggests would be helpful to everybody.

There are several matters which arise on this in a more or less general way, and without attempting to discuss those items in particular I should like to mention some matters of more general interest arising out of this Bill before us. First of all, let us take the first four items. The Minister has said that the duties are being taken off certain articles because they have been better able to describe them. I have nothing but praise for that, because anybody who has experience of piloting things through—even to get them exempted—will agree absolutely that the Minister is doing very well in the first four items. The only thing is that one wonders why it could not be brought in on a lot of other items.

There is another class—variation of duties. Now, those are in most cases varying upwards. Of course with regard to the duty on steel the same remark applies, because it is merely postponing the date on which the iron and steel will be increased in price, but I should like to mention one matter arising out of this. It seems to me that we are now opening the second chapter in our industrial career, and I will tell you what that is. Apparently in certain instances the duties have not been found to be high enough. Now they are being steepened up.

Some of them have been reduced.

Well, they have been steepened up in some instances. The point to which I want to refer is this, that those are only in their turn the raw material for other industries and that the Minister, in order to be logical, ought to bring in the things that follow as logically as day follows night: that when the raw material of a certain industry is steepened up, the finished article could then come in free from the other side on the duty which is at present imposed on it, or in its turn the duty on the finished article will have to be steepened up again. I should like to submit to the Minister that it is preposterous to suppose that you can steepen up the raw materials of existing manufactures in this country without giving them additional protection on the finished article coming in. I should like to put before the Minister that that is absolutely logical and follows from those increased impositions of duties.

There is another matter quite apart from Deputy Mulcahy's remarks about those duties. There is another phase of those impositions of duties. The ordinary public and the trading community were accustomed to have duties presented to them once a year, and they made their plans accordingly. Now, they may waken up any morning and find that a duty has been imposed overnight. The Minister may say that that prevents forestalling and has various advantages. That may be so, but it also has disadvantages. I should like to suggest to the Minister that he has almost broken the back of the demand for a better-class article, or, in a lot of cases, not a better-class but a variation from what is manufactured in this country. The difficulties and delays in getting this are such that they have created as much depression in industry as would almost balance the increased employment in manufacturing a number of those items. I should like to suggest to the Minister that great depression has been caused by this whole matter of getting a letter from people to say they do not manufacture a particular article and have no objection to your importing it, and by the various steps which I have outlined in this House before, running into three weeks at the most favourable estimate and to a lot longer if there is the slightest hitch. With those few general remarks I should like to reserve any criticism I have of the details for a later stage.

I should like to join with Deputy Mulcahy in suggesting to the Minister that this is a matter which requires to be put before the House in great detail, and on which we should be given all the information that is necessary. In this regard, several very vexatious matters arise every day in actual practice. To give an instance: you have a duty on cogwheels and pinions——

Not under this Bill.

I am only pointing out that the whole thing ought to be examined. I know, for instance, that harvesting machines are imported free of duty into this country. If a pinion or cog-wheel is broken in that a particular machine, and has to be imported, there is a demand for 40 per cent. duty on it. In the meantime, that machine may have to stand still in a harvest field where there is a ripe crop. There is very vexatious delay arising out of the fact that that matter has to be cleared up. As a matter of fact, at the present time that pinion or cog-wheel cannot be made in this country, because it is made of a highly-tempered malleable metal. That kind of article is not produced here at all. There is no cog-wheel or pinion made in this country to fit a reaper and binder, and I think it is very unfair and unjust to have an article of that sort dutiable at all. If one of those machines is in operation in a field, and a particular part is required and has to be imported—most of them have to be imported—the matter should be speeded up as much as possible. Otherwise ideal weather conditions cannot be availed of, and a great loss is incurred.

I notice in reference No. 8 that there is a variation of the duty on certain surface-glazed clay tiles. I am of opinion, Sir, that we have had during the past few years a great many sewerage systems laid down all over the country in which clay tiles were used. I should like to know what this variation in duty actually means. Are we going to allow glazed tiles to be imported free of duty?

Those are wall tiles.

Has the Minister got any report from experts as to the possible life of concrete tiles?

The Deputy seems to have wandered from questions about mowing machines to concrete tiles. This is not the time to do that.

They are provided for here.

The Minister is not concerned with the life of concrete tiles.

I believe it is a matter that requires very careful examination by the House. I am not satisfied that things are being done properly.

Deputy Hughes may be assured that there is no desire to limit discussion on any single item in the Bill. I merely suggested in my opening remarks that such discussion could be more conveniently undertaken on the Committee Stage, when we could take every single one of these orders separately, and discuss them. On the contrary, rather than limit discussion, I offered Deputies every opportunity of getting the fullest information at my disposal concerning these items, and if they wanted to single out one they could move to delete it and in that way indicate those about which they are concerned. Deputy Mulcahy dealt with a question we discussed before, namely the need and the desirability of retaining this legislation which empowers the Government to impose duties by order. The Deputy is hypnotised by the word "emergency" in the title of the Act under which the orders were made. While it is true that the Emergency (Imposition of Duties) Act was introduced in circumstances of emergency, it is also true that if the emergency had not arisen legislation of that character would be introduced in any event. If we are going to embark on an industrial protection policy it follows inevitably that the Executive must be given power to impose duties by order. In the circumstances of this country, where news that a new industrial project was under consideration could spread rapidly, where we have a small market that could be easily flooded with imported products; where we are up against a highly industrialised country, only a few hours' steamer journey away, power to deal expeditiously with the imposition of duties is essential, if a protectionist policy is to be effective at all.

The 1931 Act gives you absolute power.

I disagree with the Deputy. The Provisional Imposition of Duties Act, 1931, to which the Deputy refers, was passed by our predecessors and proved inoperative in practice. If he recalls the experience of the Ministry of which he was a member, he will recollect that they were unable to avail of the terms of the Act. They made one Order under it and its legality was questioned. I admit that they utilised it, but because of faulty phrasing the Act was practically a dead letter. That Act would have to be repealed or replaced by another measure, even if the emergency of 1932 did not arise. If it is admitted, and I think it was admitted, that our predecessors and ourselves found that the power of imposing duties by Order was necessary, then the only question that arises is the extent to which that power should be limited. In that connection the only point of issue is whether the Orders should be submitted to the Dáil within a week, a month, three months, or six months after being made. Apart from that, I submit that no other question arises than the power of imposing duties by Order, and, therefore, the power is given to the Dáil to repeal or annul these Orders. Within what time should these Orders be confirmed by statute? The only question that arises, apart from the circumstances of one or two special cases, is the convenience of the Dáil.

Another question arises.

I do not know about that.

Discussion in this House on the Orders, getting information as to what was the intention, what were the effects on industry, and something of the nature of the industries that the duties dealt with.

No one wants to shirk that.

The Minister has effectively shirked it.

I have not. It is true that the Order only goes for six months.

Eight months.

Except in certain cases discussion of the Orders took place within six months of being made. None of the Orders in this Bill would expire in default of confirmation until next March. We took the earliest possible opportunity of coming to the Dáil to get the Orders confirmed. We propose to do that as a general policy, but we think it wise to leave a fairly wide margin, so that an emergency meeting of the Dáil will not be necessary perhaps to deal with trivial Orders. Many of the Orders referred to in the Schedule are quite trivial. When I discuss the question of protection with Deputy Dockrell the position is different. The Deputy seems to think that a higher duty means a higher price. He cannot conceive a position where it might involve a lower price, that is to say, where an industry that was not manufacturing here is not working to capacity, not getting the fullest output from the machinery and staffs, and in consequence, prices are higher than prices in other countries, where an increased market is available, consequently an increased output, greater efficiency and organisation which enables them to reduce prices. That is the common experience. Yet Deputy Dockrell goes on as if such circumstances could not possibly arise. There is no point in the Deputy and myself having a discussion on these matters, because we would be like two parallel lines that could not possibly meet. I agree with Deputy Hughes that it is undesirable that there should be delay in importing articles that must be imported, but it is necessary that importers should co-operate in preventing delay. The complaint we have is that, in fact, very infrequently do we get that co-operation from importers. If people are to act on the assumption that they must be allowed the same facilities for importation, as if this was a free trade country, they are bound to be disappointed. People must recognise the fact that the Government has embarked upon a protectionist policy and that involves the imposition of restrictions upon imports.

I ask the importers to plan their requirements ahead. If people are selling harvest machinery and other articles of machinery which require replacement parts, it is only a reasonable precaution for them to maintain a store in the country. Even the ordinary trader or businessman would make adequate provision for that sort of thing, any man of average intelligence would do so. These people must not blame the Government if there is delay in trying to get their goods cleared through the Customs. The whole organisation of industry and commerce is designed to ensure that there will be a minimum delay in dealing with the issue of licences to facilitate the importation of articles that must be imported where a case is made for their importation. But that organisation will be impotent unless the importers are prepared to co-operate in a bona fide way. A great many of these importers are hostile to the protectionist policy and sometimes they have allowed that hostility to injure themselves. I do not think I quite understood Deputy Mulcahy's reference when he referred to weighing scales and component parts. The effect of the order was to release component parts from duty and this dealt with the manner of doing it.

And did away with the 20 per cent. preference.

No, I do not see the Deputy's point. The effect of the order was to release the component parts from duty.

And to do away with the 20 per cent. preference.

Question put: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
The Dáil divided:—Tá, 69; Níl, 31.

  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Bourke, Dan.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Brennan, Martin.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Buckley, Seán.
  • Cogan, Patrick.
  • Cooney, Eamonn.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Corry, Martin J.
  • Crowley, Tadhg.
  • Davin, William.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Dowdall, Thomas P.
  • Everett, James.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Fogarty, Patrick J.
  • Friel, John.
  • Fuller, Stephen.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hickey, James.
  • Hogan, Daniel.
  • Humphreys, Francis.
  • Hurley, Jeremiah.
  • Kelly, James P.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Kennedy, Michael J.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Loughman, Francis.
  • McDevitt, Henry A.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Meaney, Cornelius.
  • Moran, Michael.
  • Morrissey, Michael.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Mullen, Thomas.
  • Munnelly, John.
  • Murphy, Timothy J.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Loghlen, Peter J.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Rourke, Daniel.
  • O'Sullivan, Ted.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Rice, Brigid M.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Laurence J.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Conn.

Níl

  • Belton, Patrick.
  • Benson, Ernest E.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Broderick, William J.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Costello, John A.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Henry M.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Gorey, Denis J.
  • Hughes, James.
  • Keating, John.
  • Linehan, Timothy.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • McFaddin, Michael Og.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Mongan, Joseph W.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.
  • O'Neill, Eamonn.
  • O'Sullivan, John M.
  • Reidy, James.
  • Reynolds, Mary.
  • Ryan, Jeremiah.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Smith and Kenn edy; Níl, Deputies Doyle and O'Neill.
Question agreed to. Bill read a Second Time. Committee Stage fixed for Wednesday, 7th December.