On the consideration of the Finance Bill a few years ago I drew the Minister's attention to the alarming spread of faked and medicated wines, which depend for their sale on persistent and flamboyant advertisements. One of these wine advertisements states that it is recommended by 17,000 doctors, though no doctor who has any knowledge of the stimulating and curative properties of good wine would ever recommend such a wine. When I drew attention to this matter previously the Minister received my remarks rather favourably and promised to have something done. From that time to the present nothing has been done, and that is why I am calling attention to it again—so that something may be done.
Finance Bill, 1931 (Certified Money Bill)—Report Stage.
I made an effort through Senator Comyn to have a recommendation introduced on this stage of this Bill. I do not know why it was not accepted or if it was not in order. At any rate, it is not before the House. I would like to know what the Minister will have to say in connection with the matter I wished to deal with, that transport lorries should be allowed to be used on Sunday afternoons. In outlying districts, I do not think it would be any harm to allow these lorries to convey players to football matches, without the owners incurring any liability or committing any breach of the regulations, for which they might be summoned. The reason I was anxious to move such a recommendation is that in these outlying districts no transport is available as a rule. Where there are no cars or buses lorries can be had, and my idea was that if such a procedure were allowed, it would give the young people opportunities that they would not otherwise have of being conveyed twenty, thirty or forty miles from the southern or western sea-boards to areas where football matches take place.
With regard to the transport of passengers by lorries to which the last Senator referred, there is nothing to prevent passengers being conveyed if a charge is not made. Any man who has a lorry, and who wishes to convey young men to play a football match, has a right to do so, so long as he does not make a charge.
I want to direct the attention of the House to a fact in favour of the Free State which has not been adverted to by critics of this Bill. The fact is that of all the people in Europe who took part in the Great War, the Irish Free State has no war debt. We should congratulate ourselves, and congratulate the Government that brought about the state of affairs, that we, alone of all the participants in the war, are free from war debts, and we are liable for neither munition nor reparation payments. It would be well, owing to the present condition of Europe, that a fact of that sort should be made known. If the Ministry, instead of apologising for their action in connection with the settlement, would take the other course and proclaim the virtue of their action in regard to that matter it would be a good feather in their cap for political purposes.
I think if they were to do that it would be a feather off their tail. I want to speak on another subject, however. On Second Reading I objected to Section 2 of this Bill on the ground that it created penaltiesex post facto. I was informed that there is no penalty involved in an executor or an administrator failing to make a return. If that were so, of course, as I admitted on the last occasion, my entire argument would go by the board. I accepted the statement made by the Minister. It is right for me to say that when the Minister made the statement the matter which was under discussion was income tax, and in regard to income tax I do admit, having looked into the matter, that there is no penalty on an executor or an administrator who fails to make a return. But I think the Seanad understood that the Minister's disclaimer involved a much wider question, that it involved every obligation on executors and administrators under this Section 2. As I was bound to, I accepted the statement which had been made, and I admitted that my argument had no foundation if that categorical statement of fact were true, but I reserved to myself the right to verify it. I now find that under Section 7 of the Income Tax Act, 1918, dealing with super-tax, there is a regulation in sub-section (2) providing: “Every person upon whom notice is served, in manner prescribed by regulations under this section, by the special commissioners, requiring him to make a return of his total income from all sources, or in the case of a notice served upon any person who is chargeable with or liable to be assessed to income tax, as representing an incapacitated, non-resident, or deceased person, of the total income from all sources of the incapacitated, non-resident, or deceased person, shall, whether he is or is not chargeable with super-tax, make such return in the form and within the time required by the notice.”
You may say that that is not for income tax, that it is for super-tax, but I say that Section 2 covers income tax and super-tax. Here is sub-section (4) of this Section 7:—
"If any person without reasonable excuse fails to make any return or to give any notice required by this section, he shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding £50, and after judgment has been given for that penalty to a further penalty of the like amount for every day during which the failure continues."
There you have clearly a penalty, and a retrospective penalty, imposed by this new Section 2. It is quite right that it is not in respect to income tax, but it is in respect to super-tax. Still my point is sustained that here you have anex post facto law which provides a penalty for something which will be an offence to-day, although it was not an offence yesterday. I do not like to get into a discussion or to make charges against Ministers, but I certainly am in the habit of accepting absolutely what a Minister says in regard to a matter of fact. All I say now is that I stated in my speech that I had not had an opportunity of looking into the law to see if there were penalties imposed. I stated in the speech that I believed from my knowledge of the revenue law that there could be no obligation without a penalty. I certainly did accept the statement of the Minister in the fullest sense. I do not say that the Minister, or anybody else, deliberately stated what he knew to be wide of the fact, but at the same time I wish to point out that we expect and require and will insist upon absolutely frank statements—uberrima fides—in this House and in these debates, and nothing else.
I should like to ask as to the question raised by Senator Comyn whether that would not be governed by the provision in the Constitution with regard to an offence?
That was the burden of my argument, that this section is unconstitutional, and is consequently not binding, and I am also in a position to say that probably this section will be challenged in the courts on that account.
With reference to what Senator Comyn has referred to, the position is perfectly clear, and I still state that no question of a penalty of any sort is involved, and for this reason: that it is a well-known rule of interpretation that no statute with retrospective effect shall be construed in such a way as to have greater retrospective operation than it renders necessary. Cases have been decided to that effect more than once. It is a well recognised rule that the Senator should be aware of. Therefore this cannot have the effect that the Senator says. You cannot by implication say that one thing involves another, that another thing involves another, and consequently that the passing of this retrospective section will involve penalties. That is not so. There is no penalty. Senator Douglas is quite right, of course, that if this section did operate to impose a penalty retrospectively it would be void as being unconstitutional. It is not so, because, as a matter of fact, it cannot be construed to have a retrospective effect in the direction that the Senator suggests because of this rule of interpretation. A retrospective section is simply retrospective so far as appears plainly on the face of it, and no further.
Senator MacKean has called attention to the question of the importation of medicated wines. I sympathise a good deal with the Senator. I do not think that the matter could be disposed of by anything that we could do in the Finance Bill, not readily. We might if we decided to do so impose very heavy duties upon the importation of medicated wine, something much higher than the ordinary wine duty, but if that were to take place I think an arrangement would be made by certain people to carry out the process of medication here. I understand it would be a very simple process and would not give any employment in the country so that the mere imposition of a heavy tax on medicated wine imported into the country would not have the effect that the Senator desires.
They are a peril to those who use them.
Without necessarily accepting that view I agree that probably these medicated wines are a peril to the pockets of those who use them, in that they are alleged to have properties and values which, in fact, they have not got. I think Senator MacEllin was answered by Senator Wilson. Anyone who wants to take people to football matches on lorries can do so if he is sufficiently sportsmanlike to do so without payment, but if he wants to make a trade of it he must pay the tax. The matter will come before the Seanad when the Traffic Bill, introduced in the Dáil, comes up here, and the Senator will have an opportunity of challenging it, because there will be definite legislation against the particular thing he wants done.
On a point of explanation. Senator Wilson said, and the Minister agreed, that a man could use his lorry if he was willing to do so without charge. As a matter of fact I have been warned by the Civic Guards for giving my lorry free for that purpose. Furthermore, within the last twelvemonths a lorry driver was fined for giving a lift to two passengers to the next town.
Did he charge them?
Not at all. This is how the thing stood. The case was made that he had no authority to have anybody on the lorry except the driver and the man working with him. The case happened in South Mayo.
I am surprised if the Senator is correct, but the forthcoming legislation will probably have the effect of making that the law, if it is not the law already. The Senator will have a full opportunity of challenging that matter. I agree with Senator Wilson that the advantages of our position, as being free from war debt, are not sufficiently understood. However, we are exceptionally modest and do not boast about our achievements. I think if we did boast properly of our achievements we would have to take up a great deal of time.
Are you going to get a moratorium for the five millions?
You gave no notice of that question, Senator.
There is no Government debt of anything like that sort. The principal payments to which the Senator refers, as explained, are really the payments of private debts, the Government being a mere intermediary.