It is not too early in the negotiations with the farming organisations to decide what should be their precise nature, but it is too early yet in the process of negotiation between the Department of Finance, the Revenue Commissioners and the farmers' association to say that the pattern or averaging suggested is the correct one in Irish circumstances. Quite clearly there cannot be an application of an averaging concept in the first year of the new tax. You need to have experience of a number of years before you can measure what is the appropriate dimension of the average. I have assured the farming organisations that I am well disposed towards the idea of averaging. I think we need to have some experience of profit-making and loss incurring before we can work out in the Irish context a satisfactory pattern of averaging. My understanding of the position is that the farming associations accept that my approach to this is the right one and that it is reasonable that we would not try to construct an averaging clause at the moment of initiation of a new tax code. I have indicated that this seems to be the correct thing to do. Under our existing laws people have the right to carry forward losses in an industry where there is such a volatile performance, where there are peaks of profit and valleys of loss.
Committee on Finance. - Finance Bill 1974: Committee Stage (Resumed).
You might have peaks of profit, very small profit, and no loss.
Yes, I accept that. There are variations all the time. It can vary quite considerably.
Depending on whether there is a Coalition Government in office or not.
Yes, you get the peaks of Coalition and the valleys when you would have some other——
You do get these variations, not due to the occupants of political office but rather due to the performance of nature. However, it is proper to point out that the agricultural industry is not the only one which has these variations in performance. If new averaging principles are to be introduced for the agricultural sector, it may well be that these will be taken as a pattern for other sectors which might be inappropriate. Therefore, it is not something to be rushed into, and on that account I would ask that the amendment would not be pressed, and that my readiness to accept the desirability of averaging in principle would be seen as a recognition that I understand the problem, but that it is something which, in the interests of all sectors of the economy, and the agricultural sector in particular, needs to be teased out just a little further.
In the circumstances outlined by the Minister I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 25:
In subsection (1), page 16, line 39, after "apply" to add "but this section shall not apply if the rateable valuation of the farm land occupied by him does not exceed £50 and his spouse is not in receipt of income from a source other than that farm land".
The effect of this amendment would be to ensure that the various personal tax allowances would not be halved if the farmer in question had some employment outside his farm, and the valuation of his land did not exceed £50, and his spouse was not in receipt of any other income than that obtained from the farmland in question. It is vitally important that attention should be paid to what is involved in this amendment.
The Minister showed by the provision he introduced in this section that he had learned, between the budget speech and the introduction of the Bill, something of the importance of what was involved. In the budget speech he had provided that any farmer, no matter what the size of his holding, who had any other employment, would have his tax allowances halved. In the Bill he provided that that would operate only in the event of his having a valuation above £20. Research in Ireland has shown that where farmers, particularly small farmers, have non-farm employment, the standard of performance in the farm goes up, and for a very simple reason. For the first time they have some money to invest in the farm, and they do invest it in the farm. Consequently, it is in the national interest that we should try to ensure that farmers, those with small and medium-sized farms, who have this kind of employment are encouraged to invest in their farms. The whole basis of the policy which was followed by successive Fianna Fáil Governments was to try to ensure, by the provision of non-farm employment, that the flight from the land was stemmed. A very potent factor in this was the fact that people could get industrial and other kinds of employment and still maintain their holdings. Research has shown that in these circumstances the manner in which they conducted their farming operations improved enormously, with considerable benefit, not just to them but to the whole economy.
This is something that is very important. It should be maintained and there should be no disincentive introduced in this Bill to that kind of operation, As to how one arrives at the figure of £50 valuation as the right figure here in coming to this conclusion I relied on the Minister's own assessment, which he gave in his Second Reading speech. He said that he had, in relation to section 16, fixed a valuation figure of £50, and said:
This floor has been introduced so as to avoid bringing into the charge to tax the smaller farmer who has to supplement his farm income by working, for example, as a tradesman on his own account, or as a small contractor.
On that basis it seems reasonable, if you want to get this category of farmer, to arrive at a figure of £50 valuation. Having arrived at that, I believe that it is important that you should maintain the incentive that existed in the past. I want to make it quite clear—because apparently there has been some misunderstanding and misrepresentation of our position in this matter—that this amendment does not apply to where the spouse of the farmer is engaged in an occupation from which an income is earned other than on the farmland in question. Where that does not operate, in other words, where the farmer on the holding of up to £50 valuation has an occupation off the land, as well as farming his holding, he would not have his income tax allowances. It is a matter of considerable significance that stretches far outside the confines of the income tax code. I hope the Minister will look outside the confines of that code in dealing with this amendment.
I should like also to urge this amendment on the Minister. Reference has been made already, particularly by Deputy Sheridan and Deputy James Leonard, to this whole question of valuation. As you know, the different valuation—I think the date was 1854—was made at a time when in my native province and county and in Deputy Leonard's county also, the linen industry and the growing of flax were very important. Consequently, the yield per acre was high and on that basis land was valued very highly. That valuation has been retained since then and it is in a sense a gross injustice. The buildings, for example, in the Dublin city centre are grossly undervalued and the people feel a sense of grievance because of that.
For that reason the raising of the valuation to £50—indeed in some cases it is too low—as mentioned in the amendment is important. This party have, in accordance with the findings of sociologists, attached great importance to the maintenance of the vigorous rural community. As Deputy Colley has just said, much of our economic policy has been geared for that purpose. The special designated areas and the support for small industries in rural areas and so on—all this was based on a policy which regarded the preservation of a virile, vigorous and populous rural community as important. This adds, if not eloquence, at least enthusiasm to my pushing of this amendment on the Minister. European rural sociologists have made studies in these matters and they regard encouragement to people who are living on farms that are not adequate to support a farmer and his family as very important. Sociologists also show that where you have not got a vigorous rural community the large urban communities suffer, because the large urban communities are not able to support themselves population-wise. The words of the amendment are adequate. I, myself, would be a little more lenient with regard to the wife, but I am not permitted by the wording of the amendment to wander off what is here. I would urge on the Minister the importance of accepting this amendment, particularly because of the anomaly in the valuation system.
I would like to speak in favour of the amendment and in relation to section 28.
You may talk only on the amendment.
I support this amendment. I believe that it is a terrible state of affairs when we have a Minister for Finance who should be a responsible Minister introducing a section like section 28 of the Finance Bill. We all know that in rural areas, areas like County Kerry, we are trying to promote industry and trying to get farm employment. I challenge the Labour Party members to stand over section 28. When you are talking about a farm with a valuation of £20, you are referring to a farm of about 18 to 20 acres. Do Deputies in the Labour benches expect a man with a farm of 18 to 20 acres to make a living on that farm and to support a wife and family on it in present circumstances?
It has been the policy of Fianna Fáil Governments to provide for off-farm employment in industry for small farmers whose valuation was £20 or less. It is only right that in an economy such as ours, in a situation where we have so many small farmers, we should provide employment in industry, and if we are going to penalise small farmers in the way the Minister for Finance intends to do in this Bill by cutting their tax-free allowances by 50 per cent for off-farm employment, then we are about to see the end of small farming in this country and force those men to emigrate to seek a living for themselves and their families.
I was speaking to the County Kerry chief agricultural officer recently, and he told me that industry in the Killarney area and throughout south Kerry was a tremendous boon to agriculture. Through their incomes from non-farming activities, those people were able to increase production on their farms. They were able to maintain production at a high rate, and were it not for their industry many of the small holdings in south Kerry would have gone years ago and many of the owners would now be in England and America. As I have said, if section 28 is passed it will mean the end of small farmers, and this would be the worst thing that could happen to the economy of this country.
We must remember that between the age group 18 to 60 those engaged in productive work are fewer in number compared with the same group in any other country and, particularly, in the EEC countries. Instead of passing section 28 we should encourage people to remain on their small holdings with valuations of £20. We should encourage these people to take up employment off the farm to help maintain and educate their families and keep them in the country. I have an objection to section 28 as it stands and I strongly support the amendments to the section. I believe that section 28, if passed——
The Deputy must confine himself to amendment No. 25. We are not dealing with the section.
I fully support this amendment. If this section is passed it will be the ruination of the small farmer.
I would make one appeal to the Minister. I have not spoken for the last three hours, but this is an amendment of vital importance to small farmers. He has accepted that up to £20 valuation there will be no cuts in the allowance, but from £20 to £50 there will. I can assure the Minister that the majority of the farmers, even in the £20 to £50 bracket, will be transitional farmers and will not, therefore, qualify. It is scandalous to do away with the incentive to these people to get off farm employment and, if this section is passed without the amendment, that is what will happen. I would like to make it clear that there is more need for this amendment than for any other amendment. I represent the small farmer and, on his behalf, I would urge the Minister to accept this amendment.
I support this amendment. I believe it would be a considerable help in bringing industries into areas like the area I represent. There has been an intensive drive in the last number of years to bring industry to the western seaboard. In the Ballina area that drive has been very successful. This amendment would benefit that drive. If the Minister does not accept the amendment I can see a situation arising in which people will be discouraged from taking up industrial employment. The average valuation in the Moy valley is roughly £1 per acre and that would leave under the section, if the amendment is not accepted, a holding of roughly 20 to 25 acres. The EEC and various other bodies have said that in order to get an economic living out of a holding it must be in the region of 40 to 45 acres and, if it is not of that acreage, it is essential then that off-farm employment should be available.
What the Minister is doing is, in effect, putting the onus on people with off-farm employment to prove to the Revenue Commissioners they are not making a profit from their farms. This will involve them in the expense of getting accounts prepared and getting an auditor to present their case on appeal. What will happen is that assessments will be made on these people. They will be paying PAYE and they will then have their allowances cut in half.
This section is an indication of the thinking of the Minister. It is the forerunner of the ceilings of £100 and £50 that he has set, which apply to other sections. The amendment includes categories of workers like county council workers, Bord na Móna workers, ESB workers, CIE workers, factory workers, forestry workers. It will even include men who put in some part-time work assisting at cattle marts for one or two days a week. It covers tradesmen and those who carry on business in a small way as handymen. The implications for the economy are very very widespread. In my constituency certainly there is deep resentment against this section. Even the amendment will not satisfy quite a number of the people who rightly resent this section. But, if this amendment is not accepted, there will be an inevitable move away from the small industries that are being set up. There is a definite pattern. The men work in off-farm employment during the day and their wives and families do whatever they can on the farm. When the men come home in the evening they work on the farm. A 15-hour day put in by some of them. If they make a profit —because of the size of the farm their profits will be small—they will now be in the position of having to prove to the Revenue Commissioners that they are not really making a profit. If they are making profit it is as a result of many long hours of toil both by themselves and by their families. I appeal to the Minister to help these people by accepting this amendment. I do not believe it goes far enough.
We would help everybody if we abolished all taxes and all rates. All kinds of anomalies, all kinds of difficulties, all kinds of distress, all kinds of disadvantages, all kinds of fresh disincentives have been produced ever since the debate on this Bill began. Naturally enough the situation we are trying to cure is that of two men working at the one workbench, doing the same job, and one has no income other than what he earns by the sweat of his brow at the workbench——
But they are not equated. That is the point. They are not even in the same area.
Fan nóiméad. The Deputy does not know rural Ireland.
Has the Minister any idea of what a 20-acre valuation farm is like? I do not believe he has.
The Minister, without interruption.
My family has had a longer connection with Cavan than Deputy Wilson.
The Minister's grandfather was from Tipperary.
They were there a long time before Deputy Wilson. Before the Wilsons were ever heard of in Cavan the Farrellys were there.
The Minister is talking nonsense and he knows it.
The Minister, without interruption, on amendment No. 25.
I was giving an illustration and Deputy Wilson, from a facile experience, wanted to contradict me, and I was entitled to repudiate all the "tripe" he was propounding. I always say that a person who roars "Nonsense" at one never has any real argument behind him, because one does not accuse someone of nonsense if he has a real argument to make.
I come back to the workbench, with two men working side by side at it. One has no holding; his only income is what he earns at the workbench, through man hours, to support his wife and family. He is caught for every penny. Beside him is another man who has a farm. He is able to set off against his farm income his tax allowances and concessions. Both have the same number of dependent children, wives, the same obligations to meet, but the man without the farm pays a higher price than does the man with the farm. That is a hideous injustice.
Would the Minister apply——
Let us take another example.
——the same principle to the export tax reliefs? He is cancelling the export tax reliefs.
Let us take another example. I am talking about human beings doing the same job.
Export tax relief to the farmers, but not on exports.
The wife of a labourer is a nurse. Her husband has to pay tax and, because all the family allowances are set off against his rate, the wife's salary gets the full impact of the income tax, with the exception of the £200 this year's budget is allowing against the earnings of the night worker. Beside her, doing the same job, lifting the same patients, performing the same menial tasks is the wife of a farmer and she is able to set off against the farmer's income her earnings——
Not under this amendment.
——and the end result is that, in the case of these two women, doing the same job, one, the wife of a labourer, pays a higher rate of tax than does the wife of a person who has another income from another source and has a capital asset as well.
The Minister did not read the amendment at all. That is what is wrong.
A thousand and one anomalies, all kinds of far-fetched situations, trying to suggest that housing for greyhounds is the same as the provision of accommodation for guests in farmhouses——
I quite agree.
I thoroughly agree, but all kinds of puerile examples have been quoted against our efforts here to amend and purify the tax laws. This is what we have had to put up with since the beginning of this debate. I am coming down to the realities. I am giving examples of two men and two women, performing exactly the same tasks, putting in exactly the same hours, coming from the same areas, one perhaps was born and bred in a small town, with a population of 2,000 and the other living just outside the town on a small farm; but because of the advantage of the farm relief in the past, the better-off man, with two incomes and a capital asset, is subjected to a lower rate of tax than is the man who happens to come from the working-class——
The working-man is paying rates.
And the man on a £20 rateable valuation farm is not paying rates either. He is totally exempt. This, again, indicates to me that Deputy Wilson's entitlement to represent people——
The Minister is talking nonsense.
There is a principle involved here.
It does not justify £20, on the basis on which the Minister is talking. Let us hear the principle applied.
It can go to £23 and the principle is written across the doors at the threshold of the National Coalition Government: people with equivalent incomes will pay an equivalent amount of tax.
Unless their valuation is £18.
And we will not allow any departure from that.
Nonsense. The Minister is departing from it in this section.
I am not departing from it.
In the preamble to my speech on the Second Stage I said that this was not the last word in respect of the taxation system. I said we were taking a number of steps in the right direction. Eventually, we will abolish all exemptions, all privileges, so that people with equivalent incomes will pay an equivalent amount of tax. It is a long-term project. Deputy Colley knows that export tax relief has to go eventually.
Yes, and the Minister is saying he is going to abolish it.
I am saying that all these things will eventually be abolished.
Apply the principle, and do not be tricking around. In one case the objective is what the Minister is concerned with; in the next case it is supposed to be equity. Stand on one principle or the other.
The Minister, without interruption, please.
The principle is that people with equivalent incomes will pay an equivalent amount of tax. That is our objective. People doing equal work will pay an equivalent amount of tax, irrespective of the wealth of themselves, or of their spouses, or irrespective of whether or not they themselves or their spouses have another occupation. In respect of whatever number of man-hours a labourer puts in there ought to be drawn out from that an equivalent amount of tax, subject of course to whatever exemptions ought to be granted in respect of dependencies. Apart from that, there ought to be a similar amount——
Would the Minister not agree that in the vast majority of small farms the number of hours put in by the farmer, his family and his wife far outweigh the number of hours worked by the normal man in a town?
I am not going to enter into any competition about man-hours. I have heard very futile arguments over the years about man-hours. My own knowledge, which is a very realistic knowledge of both urban and rural environments, is that it requires as many hours for many people in the city to work in order to earn a standard of living equivalent to that enjoyed by their country cousins. There may be a basic argument of 40-hours a week, but it requires in a very large number of cases many hours beyond that before people can earn an income and a standard of living similar to that available to their country cousins. Of course, there is the seven-day week for people in the country. There is no such thing as the five-day cow. Nobody is pretending that there is. There is no such thing either as the five-day bus, or the five-day railway, the five-day sewer, the five-day water supply or the five-day electricity supply.
There was a ten-week transport strike.
What I utterly deplore is the readiness of so many people in the Fianna Fáil Party to try to drive some kind of wedge, to try to generate conflict between urban and rural Ireland. I have said on many occasions, and I say it here again today——
The Minister is drawing a distinction.
I am doing no such thing. I am trying to get equality before the law and that includes equality of tax law for everybody. I would be doing a very, very grave disservice——
Deputy Calleary is disorderly. Will the Deputy cease interrupting?
More damage is being done to the rural community by Fianna Fáil antics on this Finance Bill than is being done by any provision in the Bill.
I will conclude with these words: if what Deputies opposite are saying represents the view of rural Ireland, then we should have been slaughtered in the local elections. But that did not happen because the ordinary people of Ireland, and that includes the people of rural Ireland, have an understanding of what is fair, of what is straight and of what is proper. They know that our tax amendments affect only about 7 per cent of all those involved in agriculture. They are the 7 per cent who have in the main incomes far beyond the 730,000 unfortunate people who are caught in the net of PAYE and who have no opportunity of escaping. Even if the Opposition were to win the next general election, and we were beaten, I would have to live with my conscience. I have to live with that which brought me into politics, namely, to try to do justice to the people of Ireland, to try to spread whatever opportunities and incentives there are equally amongst all our people. Opposition Deputies failed when they were in Government and they are now trying to obstruct us, but they will not succeed. I believe we will succeed. We are doing what we promised to do and the results of the local elections prove that the people are on our side.
We have had to listen throughout this whole debate to a great deal of drivel and we have had the Minister finishing up on a typical note, telling us that he is aiming at equality; he is aiming at equality of taxation on equality of earnings. Of course, he is not and, when this is pointed out to him, he says they cannot do everything at once. But that is what they are aiming at.
What are the facts in relation to this section and the amendment tabled? Is it not a fact that the Minister came in here on budget day and said he was going to disallow half the personal allowances in all of these cases? That is what he said first. Did he not then come in with the Finance Bill and say: "No. We are not going to do that for anybody below £20 valuation." Why does the Minister try to bluff his way through right to the end? The fact is that he said what he said in his budget speech. Then he found out what the reality was and when that happened, he forgot all about equality and he comes back now and, in an effort to reach a practical political solution to the problem, he introduces the £20 valuation limit. Would he please think for a moment? How can he say that, if somebody is on an £18 valuation, he can have his full allowance but, if he is in a £22 valuation, he cannot because it is a gross inequity, a distortion of justice and an inequity in the tax system? The whole thing just does not make sense and the Minister should stop posturing in this way. If he really means what he is saying, he is threatening to take away this £20 limit that is there, and I hope the Deputies on both sides will bring that message back to their constituencies. He is also saying that, as far as he is concerned, in order to achieve equality on the principle he has been enunciatingad nauseam, between not just one individual and another but one company and another, because companies are really individuals, he should abolish the export tax relief and, if he gets the chance, that is what he is going to do.
I said no such thing.
Can the Minister deny that that is the logic of what he said? How can you have equality between two companies engaged in the same operations, one exporting and one not, if you are going to free one of them from tax and not the other? Of course, what the Minister is doing here is having regard to the objective. That is the sensible approach and that is what we are urging the Minister to do. Let him not tie himself down with this nonsense about equality and then run away when the political pressures are put on. If there is any logic at all in what the Minister is saying, it means he wants to abolish export tax relief and, indeed, it would not surprise us very much if he did. He has done so many things in the name of alleged equality, without any regard to the human consequences and social consequences, that he is capable of even that folly, were he allowed to get away with it. But even he recognises that that would be such a task for him he would not like to take it on. That is the logic of what he is saying and he should recognise the nonsense to which he is subjecting this House and the people in his whole approach to the Finance Bill, an approach specifically illustrated in his approach to this amendment.
May I say there used to be a revered Member of this House whose memoirs are appearing currently inThe Irish Times. We used to refer to him as “Old Mischief”. I can see Deputy Colley is now succeeding to his shoes and one could call him “Middle-aged Mischief” because he has endeavoured to——
Will the Minister justify his stand?
——put a totally mischievous interpretation on the remarks I made about the necessity to achieve equality in the treatment of people before the tax laws.
The Minister will appreciate that the time is almost up.
I appreciate that. I will conclude with those remarks: Deputy Colley's contribution, in concluding the debate on behalf of Fianna Fáil, has been totally mischievous and totally obstructive. He has been at all times obstructing reform, totally against reform. Fianna Fáil have shown themselves to be what they are, a truly conservative and antireform party.
In accordance with the order made earlier this morning I am now putting the question: "That all amendments set down by the Minister for Finance for the Committee Stage and not yet disposed of are hereby made to the Bill and the Committee Stage is hereby completed."
I believe all of this is illegal.
We have not had the opportunity, because of what has happened, to discuss the Minister's various amendments with him. On the basis of what he has shown us during this debate we can be reasonably safe in voting against him and we intend to do so.
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- Barry, Richard.
- Begley, Michael.
- Belton, Luke.
- Belton, Paddy.
- Bermingham, Joseph.
- Bruton, John.
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- Desmond, Barry.
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- Dockrell, Henry P.
- Dockrell, Maurice.
- Donegan, Patrick S.
- Dunne, Thomas.
- Esmonde, John G.
- Finn, Martin.
- Fitzpatrick, Tom (Cavan).
- Flanagan, Oliver J.
- Gilhawley, Eugene.
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- Griffin, Brendan.
- Kavanagh, Liam.
- Kelly, John.
- Kenny, Henry.
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- Lynch, Gerard.
- McDonald, Charles B.
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- Daly, Brendan.
- de Valera, Vivion.
- Farrell, Joseph.
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- Fitzpatrick, Tom. (Dublin Central).
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- Wilson, John P.