Financial Resolutions. - Financial Resolution No. 5: Customs and Excise—Beer.

I move:

(1) That in this Resolution "the Act of 1969" means the Finance Act, 1969 (No. 21 of 1969).

(2) That in lieu of the duty of excise imposed by section 34 (1) of the Act of 1969, there shall be charged, levied and paid on all beer brewed within the State on or after the 29th day of April, 1971, a duty of excise at the rate of £29.167 for every 36 gallons of worts of a specific gravity of 1,055 degrees.

(3) That in lieu of the duty of customs imposed by section 34 (2) of the Act of 1969, there shall, as on and from the 29th day of April, 1971, be charged, levied and paid on all beer of any description imported into the State, a duty of customs at the rate of £29.192 for every 36 gallons of beer of which the worts were before fermentation of a specific gravity of 1,055 degrees.

(4) That there shall be allowed and paid on the exportation as merchandise or the shipment for use as stores of beer on which it is shown, to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners, that the duty imposed by paragraph (2) or paragraph (3) of this Resolution has been paid, a drawback calculated according to the original specific gravity of the beer, at the rate of £29.18 on every 36 gallons of beer of which the original specific gravity was 1,055 degrees.

(5) That where, in the case of beer which is chargeable with the duty imposed by paragraph (2) or paragraph (3) of this Resolution or in the case of beer on which drawback under paragraph (4) of this Resolution is payable, the specific gravity of the beer is not 1,055 degrees, the duty or drawback shall be varied proportionately.

(6) That section 24 of the Finance Act, 1933 (No. 15 of 1933), shall not apply or have effect in relation to the duty of customs to which this Resolution refers.

(7) It is hereby declared that it is expedient in the public interest that this Resolution shall have statutory effect under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1927 (No. 7 of 1927).

First of all, I would like to know what is the present revenue on a pint of beer?

The revenue heretofore?

Yes, the excise duty heretofore.

Pre-Budget the revenue from a pint of beer, average gravity, is 6.865p.

Almost 7p.

Call it 7p.

When you are dealing with the number of pints consumed in the country even the difference between 6.865p and 7p could make quite a difference in the revenue.

With this addition the revenue from beer will be almost 7½p. It has been usual in budgetary proposals in recent years to lean on beer drinkers and on spirit drinkers as well. It is assumed that people who drink need not do so and that drink is a luxury. I do not share that view. It is not unusual in rural Ireland for men, after their day's work, to retire to their local public house to discuss matters and to have a few drinks. This is essential. It is the only social outing for many of our rural people, be they self-employed or be they workers. That tradition is there and the State is taking advantage of it and imposing taxation of 7½p on their pint as from tomorrow. I believe such people are carrying an undue share of taxation. What would happen if consumption declined? What would happen if Father Mathew's campaign was reactivated and became successful? As far as smoking is concerned, the Minister shied away from imposing extra taxation on cigarettes. I understand that revenue from this source declined last year by some £4 million. My reason for rising to speak is that I believe that we are leaning too heavily on the section of our community which mainly drink beer—the working population. When I say the working population I mean, in particular, the manual workers and, indeed, to a more limited extent, professional people. As a publican I have first-hand knowledge as to the people who frequent public houses. It is a good thing for people to have their drinks and I see nothing wrong with it.

At rating authority meetings throughout the country during the past six or seven weeks, protests have been voiced in relation to rate increases. A person may say, with some justification, that the rate burden is becoming too great. In some cases the increases may mean an extra £10 to £14 per year. However, the kind of taxation we are talking about here is not collected by any State agency; it is collected without any cost to the State by the publicans throughout the country who must take this revenue from the pockets of their patrons. It is collected in the easiest possible way. From tomorrow morning each time we serve a pint an extra 7½p will go to the Exchequer. Let us pause here for a moment and make a calculation: when a publican has sold 13 or 14 pints, £1 will have been channelled to the Exchequer. That is a sizeable amount of money for that quantity of drink. Let us take the case of a man who drinks say two pints each day: such a man would contribute to the Exchequer the sum of £52 in a year. There may be some people who will say that because a fellow is not paying rates he should have no say in the country. In fact, some might even say that he should have no vote at a local election but let us remember that if that man consumes the moderate quantity of two pints each day, his contribution to the Exchequer is £52 in the year or, if he drinks an average of four pints each day, his contribution will be £104.

I am against this increase. The men and the limited number of women throughout the country who drink beer are paying enough already towards the central Exchequer. Let it not be assumed that I am endeavouring to promote drinking but it is my opinion that anybody who wishes to have a few drinks is entitled to have them if he has the money to pay for them but the State should not push him too far in so far as taxation is concerned. Some people might say that if people stayed out of the publichouses, they would not have to pay this extra 7½p but we all know that if there were a serious decline in drinking habits, it would be necessary to revolutionise our tax system to make up for the loss in revenue.

I am expressing a personal viewpoint but I am sure it is a view that is shared by the members of my party because we all know that the tax on beer rests most heavily on the workingman. We are told that only .55p of this extra 1p finds its way into the Exchequer and that the remainder will go to the brewers. Be that as it may, we must remember when talking about pence that there are now only 100 of them to the £ as compared with 240 when we discussed the Resolutions last year.

Deputy Murphy is to be commended for drawing the attention of the House to the situation in which a workingman who consumes two pints of beer a day will find himself because of this increase in taxation. A man who consumes this amount on his way home from work and who, in this way, replaces some of the fluid he has lost in perspiration during the day, pays the State the sum of 15p. This is unbelievable. I would not have thought it was possible. As Deputy Murphy inferred, it is necessary to spell out exactly what is meant in this Financial Resolution so that the people will understand what is involved. Also, another very important aspect to be considered in this regard is that the price of beer in this country is much higher than in England or Northern Ireland and this will have its effect eventually on tourism.

Nobody will come here for the beer.

It is not a question of the cost of beer alone. That is only one item; food is another and when one considers the cost of all other items it will be realised that there will be no incentive to anyone to come here on holidays. Therefore, we should not forget that this extra imposition will have its effect on tourism.

Question put and agreed to.