Committee on Finance. - Imposition of Duties (Confirmation of Orders) Bill, 1954—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. As the House is aware, Orders made under the Emergency Imposition of Duties Act have to be confirmed by legislation of this type, which is introduced periodically. This Bill concerns Orders which were made recently relating to various commodities. One of these Orders affecting welding electrodes imposed a new protective duty. Most of the other Orders involved an amending of existing duties, either in respect of the scope or of the rate of duty. Two of the Orders provided for the removal of duties. The first relates to berets. This type of headgear is being manufactured now by two firms in the country—one in Mayo and one in Cork.

It is the Minister for Lands' special line of country.

Whether he adorns the beret or the beret adorns him is a matter of opinion.

He utilises it, anyway.

It was contended that the existing duty which was 25 per valorem flat rate was insufficient and it was amended to provide for an effective preferential rate of 50 per cent., with certain minimum duties—5/7½ full and 3/9 preferential. The trade in these articles has developed and the home products are very good and there is no reason why we should not make all of them that people are prepared to wear.

The second Order relates to pot scourers. There was a duty upon metal pot scourers and it was extended to cover pot scourers made of artificial plastic and also to cover steel wool, which is also used in connection with the cleaning of household utensils.

The next Order relates to fats and oils. That Order, which is of long standing, applied to vegetable oils and fats and to mixtures of two or more vegetable oils and fats. This Order amended the duty to provide, first, that the mere addition of water would not invalidate the duty; and secondly, that certain oils which are not produced here would be specifically excluded from the scope of the duty, so as to avoid the need of issuing duty-free licences for their importation. There is a number of such oils specified in the Order. The Order makes no really significant change in the duty. The main advantage resulting from it is that those oils not produced here will be admitted free without any necessity for applying for an import licence.

The next Order applies to welding electrodes. The manufacture of these was begun by a new firm established in County Dublin. They are producing in sufficient quantity to supply all the requirements of the country, at prices which are competitive with the imported electrodes. In fact, this firm planned its scale of operations from the very start on a basis which makes it essential for it to get export trade if it is to remunerate the whole of its capital. There is a fairly substantial market for these goods within the country, reckoned at around £40,000 in value and the firm making them has a capacity sufficient to turn out double that quantity. They are associated with a firm in Britain of very high standing, which is providing them with all the technical knowledge they require to make a good job of it.

The next Order, perhaps, is more important. It amends the Order made some time ago imposing a customs duty on single cotton yarns, to cover these single yarns when composed of a mixture of cotton and artificial silk. Some time ago it was found that there was substantial importation of these mixed yarns taking place and that it was threatening the market for these firms here spinning cotton into yarn.

Is this the Japanese import?

Not necessarily—no. No mixed yarns were subject to duty, no matter where they came from; though undoubtedly some supplies came from Japan, it was not merely because of price that they were causing difficulty—they are a cheaper type of yarn because of the use of artificial silk in them. At any rate, the firms producing cotton yarns here went into the business of producing these mixture yarns, which are in increasing demand. So it was thought desirable to extend the scope of the duty to cover these mixtures.

Nineteen million yards came in. Is this the Order that deals with that?

It does not deal with fabrics at all; it deals only with single cotton yarns.

The next Order revoked an old duty on asbestos drainage boards which are no longer made here and, in fact, do not even appear to be in general use here.

The next Order revives and alters the rate of duty which we had before the war on milk cans of a certain capacity, that is to say, under 12 gallons capacity, made of tinplate or tinned plate. The bulk of the milk cans used in this country are of larger capacity than that, as the House knows, and they are not affected by the duty. Production here has commenced. The arrangement made with the firm doing it is that they are to sell here at prices equivalent to those prevailing in Britain—which they have undertaken to do. The customs duty was considered necessary only to prevent the possible dumping of odd supplies of these cans at the peak season of the year—it is rather a seasonal trade—to the detriment of the home-produced article. A rather small duty was considered necessary and this Order reduced the old rate of duty to 15 per cent. full and 10 per cent. preferential. That is considered ample to ensure that the available market for these cans will be given to the Irish producer—which, in any event. they should be able to get if, as we hope, they are able to live up to their undertaking to sell here at the British domestic price.

The final Order remedies a position that has existed for some time but only became acute recently. As the House knows, there is an excise duty upon rubber motor vehicle tyres produced in this country. That duty operates solely for revenue purposes. It was designed to protect the revenue against loss following the commencing of manufacture of rubber tyres here. The business has developed of reconditioning tractor tyres here and the position was that tyres imported were not subject to the duty whereas home produced or reconditioned tyres were. The purpose of this Order is to remedy that situation, to revoke the operation of the 7½ per cent. excise duty on agricultural tractor tyres.

Could the Minister explain something now? I understand this covers all the Orders made under the Act from 6th November, 1953, to 16th March, 1954. I understood that during that period there was an Order made in respect of this Japanese fabric that was brought in. I understand that 19,000,000 yards of it came in.

It was not done under an Order. An old duty had been suspended and on the expiration of the period of suspension it was allowed to come back into operation. No formal Order was necessary.

I want to make some inquiry about that point.

Would the Minister say if any of these Orders apply to wooden dowels and handles, about which I wrote to the Minister recently?

They do not come within any of these Orders. We will have to deal with that privately. I hope I have explained clearly to Deputy Sweetman about the art silk goods.

There always has been a duty. It was suspended during the war and remained suspended until February.

It terminated before the 3rd March, a very relevant date in regard to that particular type of goods in Drogheda. That is how I know a little bit about it.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 1st April, 1954.