We cannot pass the Financial Resolutions without getting some additional information which the Deputies and the general public require. In his speech the Minister stated that the tax concessions will remove 20,000 taxpayers from the income tax net. I should like to know how this number is made up. What kind of incomes have these people at the present time? What income have the 20,000 people who are to be removed from the income tax net? Everyone knows of the growing dissatisfaction in this country on the part of the workers, particularly single men and women who have incomes in excess of £7 per week and are taxable. This Budget does not change that position. In spite of the fact that the value of money has depreciated steadily this figure has been more or less standard for the past ten years. At the time it was fixed £7 was equivalent to £14 today. Money has depreciated in value. I am not sure of the date when this figure of £7 was fixed. Little or no variation has taken place since then. There has been little or no variation in the Financial Statement of the Minister today.
Deputy O'Higgins said that a single person earning more than £9 per week will not benefit from this Budget. That is a clear-cut statement. Who in Ireland is earning less than £9 per week? Are we to assume there are several thousand such people? Are we to assume that the "several thousand" are included in the figure of 20,000 taxpayers mentioned as escaping the income tax net? It is further stated that a married worker here earning more than £14 weekly will not benefit. The standard wages for local authority rural workers is about £17 per week. The rate is higher in urban areas. Unless the Minister has some further evidence to give us, my present assumption is that instead of any relief being given to such people they will be taxed to the extent of an additional £12. They will lose the remission on the first £100 of income. The reduction on this £100 of income is to be abolished and the standard rate applied.
I wish to protest in this House as I did in the past. I am aware that, in order to provide money for the public services, money has to come from the pockets of the people. At the present time this Government are engaged in a system which was used some years ago by a Mr. Singer who was carrying out certain operations in the borrowing of money. Not only are the Government trying to get money in Ireland from the Irish people but they are going abroad to see where they can find money. They are searching Western Europe and have also moved towards the American field.
When we are considering Financial Resolution No. 2, I wish to refer to the position of the man or woman who is single, who is trying to build up some income with a view to getting married, providing a house and providing the essentials that go with it and who finds himself or herself taxed for sums earned in excess of £7. That is, to my mind, unfair and unjust. While I appreciate what Deputy Haughey, when he was Minister for Finance, told me in reply to a question that those remissions would cost a great deal of money. Whilst I appreciate the difficulty of the Government in getting money—they go abroad to try to borrow money—at the same time it is entirely unfair that the tax free allowance is only the £7 it was ten years ago. It now requires £14 to buy the same amount of goods which £7 did ten years ago.
On behalf of the Labour Party I protest against the continuance of this position. I expected in this Budget Statement, particularly having regard to the long debate we had on this question down through the years, that there would be some reasonable concession so far as the tax-free allowance was concerned. Married men are allowed only £12 to £13 weekly free of tax. I suggested on previous occasions that it was surely within the competence of the Department of Finance to devise a system whereby lowly paid workers should get greater exemption from income tax. A married worker without children who works with any local authority in Ireland cannot be compared with the person who earns as much in one day as he earns in a week. Despite this those lowly paid workers have to pay the same money for their drink, their food and their clothing, although the man on a small income cannot frequent the establishments which the Minister for Finance frequents for his wearing apparel.
People with salaries of less than £20 a week have grounds for complaint. There are some people who are semi-invalid or semi-incapacitated and who are lucky enough to find jobs at rates well below ordinary standards, but the present Minister for Finance now comes along and has the earnings of those people, which are usually around £10 or £11 a week, taxed as much as £1. Despite the financial difficulty of the Government there is undoubtedly an unanswerable case for increasing the tax free allowance of workers in the lower income group. I am disappointed to see that instead of any help being given to such people the opposite is the case.