Imposition of Duties (Confirmation of Orders) (No. 2) Bill, 1955. - Imposition of Duties (Confirmation of Orders) (No. 2) Bill, 1955—Committee and Final Stages.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
SCHEDULE.

Mr. Lemass

I move:—

To delete the following:—

"

No.61 of 1955

Emergency Imposition of Duties (No. 346) (Slashers or Slash Hooks) Order, 1955.

Reduction of Duty on Slashers or Slash Hooks.

"

I have not seen the amendment.

Mr. Lemass

The purpose of it is to delete the second item of the Schedule; in other words, to refuse confirmation to the Order made by the Minister reducing from 25 per cent. to 20 per cent.ad valorem customs duty upon slashers and slash hooks. I learned to-day when the Minister was introducing the Bill that this Order was made on the recommendation of the Industrial Development Authority following a review of the duty carried out under the trade agreement at the instance of the British Board of Trade. I recognise that under that agreement the Minister was pledged to refer to the Industrial Development Authority the question of this duty and I recognise that he is equally obliged to act upon the recommendation of that body. I certainly would not argue that the reduction of 5 per cent. in the duty upon slashers and slash hooks is sufficient ground to reopen the whole question of the agreement.

I, therefore, have no intention of putting this amendment to a division. But the fact that the British Board of Trade has the right under the agreement to secure a review of any duty in operation and that the Minister is obliged under that agreement to give effect to any recommendation which the Industrial Development Authority may make as the reviewing body set up under the agreement does not mean that we must silently accept the recommendation of that body. In fact, I think it would be an undesirable precedent to establish that all these recommendations must be acted upon by the Dáil in an unquestioning silence. There will again no doubt be references to that body at the instance of the British Board of Trade and similar propositions will be brought to the House for a review of duties; and it is well that the Industrial Development Authority should know and the Board of Trade should know that the Dáil will look with a critical eye upon all these proposals if they appear likely to have any detrimental effect upon industrial activity or industrial employment here.

As far as this particular duty is concerned, it is difficult to understand the basis of the recommendation, and indeed I think that where there has been a reconsideration of a duty by the Industrial Development Authority on the request of the Board of Trade the Minister should make it a practice to give, in general terms, the considerations which led to the recommendation for an alteration in the duties. The arguments against the reduction of the duty were those I mentioned earlier to-day—that the quality and the price of the Irish products have been always regarded as very good but that there is a natural tendency among shopkeepers in the trade to have something different to sell; and that a reduction in the rate of duty will probably lead to some increases in the imports of these things which might lead to a contraction of sales by the Wexford firm, to less efficiency and might make it more difficult for them to maintain their prices and the quality of their products.

Before I raised the matter here I contacted the firm concerned and asked them if they were agreeable to the alteration and if they desired that the motion for the alteration of duty should be opposed here. The information I got was that they opposed the alternation strongly—perhaps they thought they had made a sufficiently good case before the Industrial Development Authority. So there need be no feeling here that this is something being done affecting a particular firm in a particular county about which that firm is not aware and about which it was not consulted in advance. It is agreed that the rate of duty which was imposed was not a very high one; we have had some very much higher rates on other industries not dissimilar to this one. The rate of duty on edge instruments, the cutlery products of Newbridge, was increased recently and when the Wexford firm sought protection in the first instance it looked for 50 per cent. It did not get 50 per cent: it got 25 per cent. A further decrease in that lowad valorem rate is rather contrary to the interests of the firm, having regard to the estimate of the protection they said they required to develop maximum production with maximum efficiency. I formally criticise the action of the Industrial Development Authority, not the Government, in recommending a reduction here unless a stronger case was made for the decrease than was stated here.

I wonder if the Minister could inform us when the duty was first imposed? There was an application for a 50 per cent. duty and I should like to know what influences the Industrial Development Authority to recommend to the Minister that the existing duty should be decreased. The Minister did say here to-day that the Industrial Development Authority had recommended the present rate of 25 per cent. on bill-hooks should remain. My information is that the use of bill-hooks is a thing of the past in this country—that they are as obsolete now as reaping-hooks were a quarter of a century ago. With regard to slash-hooks, however, there is very definitely a big trade in this country for them. They are used by all the road authorities and by farmers generally and there is no doubt, as Deputy Lemass has suggested, that the products of this firm in the way of edge instruments are second to none in the world.

There is no doubt in the world about that. If it were a case that their products were inferior there would be some justification for this reduction in duty. This firm is entitled to 100 per cent. of the Irish market no matter what the Industrial Development Authority or anybody else may think. We do know that certain hardware merchants in this country have always been hostile to Irish products and these people have sufficient influence with the Board of Trade to have this recommendation made.

That is nonsense.

It is not nonsense.

Of course it is nonsense.

It is no nonsense to say that there are certain elements, a minority if you like, who never were in favour of stocking Irish-made slash-hooks.

I am sorry. I misunderstood the Deputy.

The effect of the motion will be gone if the Minister does not get in soon.

I want to suggest that the Minister should give the House the pros and cons of the case and say why the Industrial Development Authority was influenced to reduce the rate of duty in this instance.

This has been a most extraordinary discussion, completely wide of the circumstances surrounding this case. This duty was imposed long before the war, was suspended in 1942, was restored in 1953 under the 1938 Trade Agreement, and Deputy Allen should find out who was in office then. The British Board of Trade was given a right under the agreement to ask for a review in these cases and, in accordance with the rights then given, asked for this review. The review was not carried out by some people from Siam or by the British Board of Trade; it was carried out by three members of the Industrial Development Authority who were Irishmen and who held office under the last Government and still hold office.

Get rid of them.

All the facts of the case were put before the Irish Development Authority; the British representatives went before them as did representatives of the Irish firm. The representatives of the Irish firm got every possible opportunity of making their case and the case they made was such that the Industrial Development Authority recommended that the duty on bill-hooks should remain but that the duty on slash-hooks should be reduced from 25 per cent. to 20 per cent. If this firm makes bill-hooks they probably sell bill-hooks and if they continue to make bill-hooks they must regard their manufacture and their sale as good profitable business. There is no question in the world that the products of this firm are excellent not merely in respect of these two commodities but in a whole variety of other goods. Neither is there any question of this firm's ability to sell slash-hooks against any other competitor in the Irish market. They are the only firm which makes them and they do not need a tariff to sell slash-hooks here. The plain facts are that they make slash-hooks and can sell them at a lower price than the landed price of British slash-hooks without a duty.

So Pierces need no duty whatever to sell their slash hooks against the price disadvantage. I agree they need assistance to sell against those who may prefer, for reasons not justified by economy, a British-made slash hook or a German-made one, but they get all the protection they need from the price point of view for sales against British, German or any other type of slash hook imported here. Since the duty was reduced from 25 per cent. to 20 per cent. there has been no increase that we can discover in the importation of slash hooks. There has not been a single complaint nor a single murmur by anybody in Pierce's or anybody on behalf of Pierces since the duty was fixed by the Industrial Development Authority at 20 per cent. and representatives of the firm told me at a conference that they were quite satisfied with the result of the Industrial Development Authority review. If they told something else to Deputy Lemass that is their business.

They told me they were quite satisfied with the Industrial Development Authority review. They are quite satisfied that they made a good case and in fact all the representations made since were quite favourable from their point of view. The position is this in a nutshell: Pierces are making and can sell slash-hooks here even without a tariff because their prices are lower than the prices of any imported slash-hooks. Protection is there against a preference for outside slash-hooks; there is no increase in the importation of slash-hooks; there is no complaint from the firm about any inability to sell slash-hooks; on the contrary, the firm told me they were quite satisfied with Industrial Development Authority recommendations. I think Deputy Lemass would agree that it is highly undesirable on this Bill to raise the whole question as to what we should do about Industrial Development Authority recommendations. He has his views and I have mine and they are probably the same views, but when it comes into this House you cannot reopen one side of an Industrial Development Authority report without reference to the other. We are bound to accept the Industrial Development Authority report——

Mr. Lemass

That does not mean that we must not criticise it.

Will you look at the unaltered manuscript of your speech this evening and see what you said? Will you look at your speech of ten minutes ago and see what you said? If we are going to claim the right to repudiate an Industrial Development Authority recommendation, then we had better concede that right to the other side. Does Deputy Lemass think that is going to mean good business from our point of view? Does he think that we are going to retain the Industrial Development Authority as the reviewing body if its recommendations are to be repudiated by us?

A mountain is being made out of what is not even a molehill. I am satisfied that Pierces will sell slash-hooks against the world. They could sell even if the duty were reduced much lower than it is. It is at 20 per cent. now, 5 per cent. less than it was, but the quality of their slash-hooks is such as to sell even without the 20 per cent. The fact that there has been no complaint to the Department and that the firm's representative expressed satisfaction with the Industrial Development Authority report and with the level of duty protection are clear indications that this matter poses no problems to the firm and no problem to a single worker employed at the factory.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Agreed to take remaining stages now.
Bill received for final consideration and passed.

This Bill is a Certified Money Bill within the meaning of Article 22 of the Constitution.