Finance (No. 2) Bill, 1939—Committee.

Section 1 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 2 stand part of the Bill."

Could the Minister tell the House what the duties on sugar were when he came into office, and from 1922 until the present imposition? What was the rate of duty in 1932, when the first Budget was introduced by the present Government, what did they make it then, and what has it been since?

In 1924, the rate was 2¾d. per lb.; 1925, 2¾d.; 1926, 2¾d. from 1st April-5th May, 1925; 1d., 6th May, 1925-31st March, 1926; 1927, 1d.; 1928, 1d., 1st January-25th April; 1¼d. 26th April-31st December; 1929, 1d., 1st April-25th April, 1928; 1¼., 26th April, 1928-31st March, 1929; 1¼d., 1930; 1¼d., 1931; 1¼d., 1st January-6th May; 1¾d., 7th May-31st December; 1932, 1¼d., 1st April-6th May, 1931; 1¾d., 7th May, 1931-31st March, 1932; 1933, 1¾d., 1st April, 1932-30th May, 1932; 1¼d., 31st May, 1932-31st March, 1933; 1934, 1¼d., 1st April, 1933-6th February, 1934; 1¾d., 7th February-31st March, 1934; 1935, 1¾d., 1st April, 1934-12th October, 1934; 2d., 13th October, 1934-31st March, 1934-31st March, 1935; 1936, 2d., 1st April-15th May, 1935; 2¼d., 16th May, 1935-31st March, 1936; 1937, 2¼d., 1st April-31st July, 1936; 2d., 1st August, 1936-31st March, 1937; 1938, 2d., 1st April-31st May, 1937; 1¾d., 1st June, 1937-31st March, 1938; 1939, 1¾d., 1st January-8th November.

Without going into the half years, those are exactly the figures the Minister gave in the Dáil and in which, I understand, there was a slight flaw because they were not given in the newspaper reports, or the Official Reports, with regard to the half years. The facts about the sugar tax are, I think, quite clear. In 1924, 1925, and 1926, there was 2¾d. on sugar. That was for the purpose of paying the extra costs of an army. The normal cost was fixed at £1,500,000 and the extra cost of the Army in 1924 was £9,500,000. In 1925, it was £1,500,000 and, in 1926, £1,000,000, so that in 1924, 1925 and 1926, when sugar was taxed at the present rate of 2¾d., £12,000,000 was paid by the State as the cost of an army which was set up to settle a civil war, of which, I am sure, the Minister has heard and which we can leave at that. In any event, sugar was taxed at 2¾d. for the purpose of paying off the expenses of an army in connection with a civil war. Other expenses were also paid out of other taxes. In 1927, the excess cost of the Army had come down to £250,000, and in 1927, the tax on sugar was reduced to 1d. When the Minister came into office, he found a tax of 1¼d., and, in order to illustrate my point of yesterday that this Budget is not something new, but is a continuation of a well-established policy, the tax on sugar was increased from 1¼d. to 1¾d., and to 2d. and 2¼d., before the European War began, and before anything was being done here in the way of building up extra defences in the military and naval sense. Therefore, this Government's policy has been to tax sugar, and what we have here is not the result of the European War but the result of their own particular policy. They brought the tax to 2¾d. before the war broke out at all, and I think that point is well worth making. Apart altogether from the cost of sugar and the tax on sugar, there was another £1,000,000, I think, between the cost of the sugar since it was made here and the cost of imported sugar. That was to save us in an emergency. The emergency is upon us now and we find sugar both highly priced and highly taxed.

Might I ask what the estimated output of the beet sugar factories in the coming season is likely to be? Am I right in thinking that we aim at producing practically the whole of our sugar supplies next year from our own sugar factories?

In the coming season, we hope to produce almost all.

I merely want to point out in that connection that apparently the difference between the customs duty on sugar and the excise duty on sugar is now in the region of 15/- a cwt., or £15 a ton. Consequently, if we produce at home the whole of the 100,000 tons of sugar which we hope to consume in 1940, the loss of revenue from the customs duty on sugar will amount not to £1,000,000 in the year, as I said yesterday, but to £1,500,000 in a full year, and that sum will have to be found by the taxpayers from some other source, in addition to paying the same price for sugar as they would be paying if that sugar were contributing to the revenue.

I do not dispute at all the points which Senator Hayes made. The only thing I said in the Dáil, and which I repeat now, is that the previous Government had a heavier tax on sugar than this Government, and that they had a tax on sugar all the time, as we have had a tax on sugar all the time.

But not so high in normal times.

We have not had it anything like as high as it is; not all the time, either. I said here last night and in the Dáil that I do not dispute that an emergency existed in the days of the last Government for which they needed the revenue derived from that taxation. There was a very strong attack made on the tax on sugar in particular, and all human feelings and emotions were played upon to a great extent by one member, not in this House, who pointed out the inquity of any tax on sugar when one considers how heavily it bears on the poor. That is what drew from me the statement that sugar was always taxed by the previous Government and that they had a heavier tax on sugar, perhaps for good reasons, than is now proposed. I was told immediately: "But you know what we had to have the tax on sugar for". I do not deny that, and I say that we are in an emergency now. There were some years during which that tax was raised, 1934, 1935, 1936, and 1937, when we were in a state of emergency, to some extent, too, because our economy was being upset as a result of the economic situation then prevailing. I do not propose, however, to go into that now, but the tax on sugar we took over from the British. A tax has been on sugar for 38 or 39 years. It was not this Government, or the previous Government who initiated that tax. It has always been there and the previous Government as well as this Government took advantage of it. The previous Government increased it when they needed money, and we have done the same.

May I point out that the Minister got a tax on sugar at 1¼d., and it is now 2½d. It was 2d. before there was any emergency and along with the tax on sugar which bears very heavily upon the poor, the policy of this Government, with no regard for this present war, increased the price of the necessaries of life, increased the cost of living, and, therefore, makes a 2½d. tax on sugar even bigger than it looks.

I could go further and say that when the previous Government had a tax on sugar, they had also a heavy tax on tea. There is no tax on tea now. There are taxes on other things, of course.

One good thing emerges from this, and it is that there seems to be agreement that it is a highly objectionable tax.

The Minister's predecessor called it "a hard tax."

All taxes are hard in my opinion.

No; the former Minister for Finance said that one was soft.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 12.

  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Byrne, Christopher M.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Corkery, Daniel. Goulding, Seán.
  • Hawkins, Frederick.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Healy, Denis D.
  • Honan, Thomas V.
  • Keane, Sir John.
  • Kennedy, Margaret L.
  • Lynch, Peter T.
  • MacCabe, Dominick.
  • MacDermot, Frank.
  • Mac Fhionnlaoich, Peadar (Cú Uladh).
  • Magennis, William.
  • Nic Phiarais, Maighréad M.
  • Quirke, William.
  • Ruane, Thomas.
  • Stafford, Matthew.

Níl

  • Baxter, Patrick F.
  • Butler, John.
  • Counihan, John J.
  • Crosbie, James.
  • Cummins, William.
  • Douglas, James G.
  • Foran, Thomas.
  • Hayes, Michael.
  • Hogan, Patrick.
  • Johnston, Joseph.
  • McGillycuddy of the Reeks, The
  • McLoughlin, John.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Corkery and Hawkins; Níl, Senators Crosbie and Hogan.
Question declared carried.
Section 3 agreed to.
SECTION 4.
Question proposed: "That Section 4 stand part of the Bill."

Perhaps the Minister would give some indication as to whether he would be able to make any arrangements on the question of plug tobacco of the common type which I spoke about yesterday and, if so, what remission he may be able to make to these working people who use this type more than anybody else. I would suggest that those young men and older people who smoke cigarettes in very great quantities might easily suffer a little bit more in order to relieve the poorer man who gets his plug tobacco and has to make it last a week. I hope the Minister will be able to do something for these people.

I do not think I can say anything more definite than I said last night. I do not know whether the Senator was here then or not.

I think what the Minister said then was that he might be able to make arrangements. Could he say anything more definite?

No. It is not possible to do anything about it in connection with this Supplementary Budget, but certainly I will have the matter examined again with a view to doing something when the next Budget is being brought in next April or May.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 5 to 10, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedules 1, 2 and 3 and Title agreed to.
Bill reported.
Agreed to take the Fourth and Fifth Stages now.