Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Tax on Books.

23.

asked the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy if he is aware that some stores are charging an additional tax on items such as books and so forth due to the implications of the break with sterling; if such a tax is legal and the plans, if any, to control such an imposition.

I am aware that retailers are charging a surcharge on the retail prices of books and magazines. The matter of the surcharge was examined by the National Prices Commission and, on their recommendation, the scale of the surcharge was agreed in consultations between the chief prices inspector of my Department and the trading interests concerned. I am satisfied that no further action is required at this stage.

Is the Minister aware that a surcharge is being charged in some instances on books and publications printed and published in Ireland prior to any currency change fluctuations?

I am not so aware, but if the Deputy would give me examples I would have them followed up.

If the Minister of State would visit a few bookshops within 500 yards of this House he will find a surcharge on such books, which is outrageous.

Is the Minister of State aware of wide-scale apparent abuse in relation to this surcharge which apparently he is going to allow? Can he put a figure on the percentage increase which it represents on the cost of such items?

Arising from the consultations that the chief prices inspector had with the trading interests involved, a surcharge of 4 per cent was allowed for May, 5 per cent for June and the surcharge for July has not been decided upon yet.

How is the information conveyed to the stores? For example, is there a type of retail prices order form? How are they to know what they are to put on? It appears at present that the little lady at the checkout decides what to put on.

As I have said, the chief prices inspector met the trade involved and a scale of percentages was worked out. It is on that scale that the figure is arrived at. I am not sure of the exact amount but I can find out and let the Deputy know.

Did the Minister of State say that the surcharge for July is not decided on yet?

That is right.

This is 12 July.

That is the answer.

What happened between 1 July and today?

The Minister does not care. They can do what they like.

The average surcharge incurred by importers on all their payments to UK suppliers is calculated at the end of the month and any under- or over-recovery is taken into account in calculating the rate of the surcharge for the following month.

The June one applies to July and so on?

Is it not quite clear that particular consumers or purchasers are being treated unfairly, and those who are asked to pay more in one month will not receive the benefit of the alleged depreciation in the surcharge the following month?

On the contrary. The whole thinking behind the procedure is to make sure that consumers are protected in this situation and that there should be a recognised scale of charges, rather than leaving it to the whim of individuals.

Is it not whim which has been operating for the past three weeks?

Are bookshop-owners obliged to re-mark all stocks of books when the new surcharge rate is announced?

I have not that information but I assume there is re-marking. I will check on this matter and get in touch with the Deputy.