Recommendation No. 3 is out of order. It proposes, what is in effect, increased taxation.
Finance (No. 2) Bill, 1947 (Certified Money Bill) —Committee and Final Stages.
I move recommendation No. 1:—
That in sub-section (1), line 35, the word "January" be deleted and the word "March" be substituted therefor.
I do not know whether the Minister, when a Finance Bill is being discussed, is impervious to reason or to the hardships that may be imposed on many poor people as a result of this Bill. I cannot speak with authority on the kind of fare our cinemas serve up, but quite clearly, whether the Minister anticipated it or not, this section will close down many of the small cinemas in the rural areas. I have had some opportunity of discussing the results of this tax since it was put into the measure and that is the information which has been given to me.
If I had the choice, I would prefer what Senator the Earl of Longford would call the legitimate theatre, but in our rural districts, in the small towns that are classified as rural, we have many small cinemas. I do not know whether the Minister thinks they ought to be there or not, whether he wants them there or likes them there, but my information is that they will not be there when this Bill is passed. Is that the desire of the Minister in the imposition of this duty? If he is aiming at shutting down cinemas or creating a position where they can open only on a limited number of days in the week, it would be much better to say so.
We hear talk about the brightening of country life. I am not advocating that cinemas do a great deal in that way, but they are a factor in rural life now and they are better than nothing. I am not passing judgment on the sort of cinema fare that is served up, but people are prepared to enjoy it; and this section means that the cinemas will no longer be there. If the Minister finds we can no longer pay for foreign films, it would be better for him to fix a quota and let those who have found their living by serving up this fare over a considerable period be told so. This is a strange oblique way to attack capital. A considerable amount of capital has been put into the small cinemas up and down the country and by a stroke of the pen it is going to be wiped out and be no longer of any value.
This is an inequitable imposition by the Minister for Finance. While he has made the case, or given us the impression, that he is doing this in order to take some of the cream of the spending capacity of the people, my argument is that he is doing it because we cannot buy the films. If that is so, let these people who are running cinemas be told that and told that they must abandon the capital they have invested and look for some other means of livelihood.
I have pointed out earlier that many poor people in cities and towns are accustomed to go from rather cheerless cold homes into the comparative comfort of the picture-house and spend a couple of hours there. This extra tax will deny them that opportunity.
Perhaps the Minister thinks it is foolish for them to spend their money in that way. I might agree that it could be spent more wisely, but that is their choice and if there is that enjoyment and comfort for them it may be some stimulant to work. That will be denied to them from January next. It is a small pleasure for those people who are engaged in manual labour in the country and they should get at least some degree of comfort and pleasure out of their small earnings if they choose to spend it in this way, it is just as legitimate for them to do so as for better-off people to have the enjoyment of motor cars and of dining in large hotels. I believe this is a stimulant to better work and my recommendation asks that instead of January as in the section the date should be March.
My view of cinemas generally is that, from the point of view of the health of the people of city and country, they are something understandable and ought to be enjoyed and be available during the winter months but in the summer, fresh air would be much better for the people. The Minister's section will close the cinema doors and also impose a hardship on small cinema owners. To those on small incomes it will, just like the other taxes on cigarettes and stout, impose self-denial on many people who get very few of the pleasures of life and who are entitled to a little more.
I would hope that the Minister would give consideration to the recommendation. I do not know what loss in revenue that would entail. I do not know what information the Minister had at his disposal before he took the decision that is embodied in this section, but I think he would probably be surprised at the conseqeunces. Perhaps these are the consequences that he is after.
The proposal made by Senator Baxter would reduce the amount of money that we hope to get in this financial year under this particular tax from £143,000 to £23,000. I think the Senator made a very weak case for his recommendation. I do not think this tax is going to have any great effect on the attendances at cinemas, whether in the cities, the large towns or small towns. The actual tax collected on the lower-priced seats is very small. There is no tax on the 4d. seats under this Budget. The seat selling prior to the introduction of the Budget for 10d. is to be increased by 2d., so that it will now be 1/-. It is only in the higher ranges that the tax is rather heavy. The 3/6 seat will bear an extra tax of 1/6.
Listening to Senator Baxter one would think that there was a cinema in every farmer's yard and that neither the farmer nor his workmen could do a day's work unless they were at the cinema at night. As I say, I doubt very much that this particular tax is going to have very much effect on cinema attendances. If it does we will not get the money. We calculate that the cinema attendances will be such, after the middle of January, that we will get this extra £143,000 in this financial year. Very good use is to be made of that money. I do not expect that Senator Baxter would help me to get money from anybody. I am sure he could make a case that there should not be any taxation on any of these particular items, but he is the very gentleman who would demand at the same time that the Government should spend about twice as much as it is spending.
The only comment I have to make on the Minister's last statement is that I would expect the Government to spend to better advantage what they are getting. I think that if anybody else had the spending of it they would get twice as good value for their money. I would like to have from the Minister whether, in the case of this taxation, he is seeking extra money or whether he wants the cinema owners to buy fewer pictures from the dollar area? If we could have something clear on that, then we would know what we were heading for. That is the trouble about this. I think that, in the other House, the Minister for Industry and Commerce indicated that was the purpose of some of the taxes which are being imposed. It is because we do not know what the position is that these issues have to be raised in this way.
The Minister said that, when listening to me, one would think there was a cinema in every farmer's yard. I do not know if I gave that impression to the members of the House. If I did I did not mean to. Perhaps the Minister's intelligence is of an order that is different from that of the members of the House. It is true that there are cinemas in practically every small town in my county. They are in the small towns. We have three urban areas in which there are cinemas, and there are at least nine or ten small towns in each of which there is a small cinema. That is the information that I have, and I have given that to the House. Perhaps we shall have to wait and see whether the Minister gets his taxation in this way. I suppose it means that fewer films will be bought, and by reason of that the cinemas will be closed. If that is what the Minister is after we should be told that frankly. He should tell us that he wants to put them all out of business.
Senator Baxter can start that particular hare if he likes in the country. He can make that type of speech somewhere during the coming election where he cannot be answered.
You can answer me now.
I will answer you, but that will not stop you from going around the country and saying the same thing.
I make the calculation that we are going to get an extra £143,000. That will help to reduce the price of sugar, tea and bread. I also calculate that we shall have the same imports of pictures as we had last year, and that there will be no change.
Is the recommenation being pressed?
On the section, I should like to draw attention to the fact that we are dealing here with a commodity which has a special significance for the ordinary working man with a small income, the man in the rural area, the man in the city or the town. At the end of the day's work he goes into the "local" and buys his pint. It is about the only relaxation which large sections of workingmen have. It is their practice at the end of their day's work to meet their friends in the only hotel they know—the local public house. There they are accustomed to buy their pint and consume it as part of the evening's entertainment. The taxation which a farm labourer will now pay every time he consumes a pint of stout is 8.79 d. Assuming that he drinks two pints per night, the man with a wage of 45/- or 50/- a week will be paying 10/3 a week in taxation on this commodity alone. I do not think that is wise legislation or that it can be defended on any ground that I know of. Admittedly, it is causing discontent. In fact, nothing has been done in the legislative field for a long time which has created more discontent in the community than the taxation imposed under this Bill on the workingman's pint.
There may be a case for collecting more taxation on whiskey which, after all, has been for a long time more or less a luxury. There is a case for collecting taxation, if we need more revenue, from wines, but I am not convinced that there is any case whatever, or that any case has been made anywhere by the Minister or anybody else, for this impost on the popular drink of the people with the lowest income in the country. The reactions of this section are already apparent, apart from the discontent to which I have referred, amongst the consumers. There has been considerable diminution in consumption. I am told that, in fact, 80 barmen in Dublin have lost their jobs since the imposition of the additional duty on stout and beer.
We are dealing in this section with home-brewed beer. We are not talking about imported beers but about a product made in this country by the workers and produced from a commodity grown on Irish farms. I have grave doubts as to the wisdom, from any point whether social or economic, of this imposition. No doubt the Minister will tell us that there is a considerable amount of revenue to be derived from this tax, but at the same time the Minister is throwing away £4,500,000 which he obtained hitherto from excess profits made in trade by corporations. It is difficult to argue that this impost has been levied because of any pressing need for taxation in order to reduce the price of tea and sugar. I reject that theory at once. I do not think any sensible person believes that this is the method by which the Minister ought to get the money which he requires for the purpose of reducing taxation on tea and sugar. I was told that the Minister, speaking to his constituents in the County Louth recently, intimated that this duty is coming off.
Will you quote?
I cannot. I am sorry.
Then you should not throw charges around like that without at least having some way of standing over them.
I am going to state the information conveyed to me, and the House can then accept or reject it.
Stated by whom?
Am I going to be cross-examined?
Are you going to throw allegations around here without giving any shadow of proof?
Is the Chair going to hear me?
I think you stated it as a rumour.
Will the Chair allow me to state my own case?
Is this going to be a rumour-mongering place?
I was informed by a person who was present in County Louth a few days ago—I think last Sunday— that the Minister gave an assurance to questioners at his meeting that the duty on beer and spirits was to be reduced.
I do not believe the Senator.
That is complimentary, but I accept it from the Minister. I am repeating that this statement was made to me, that the Minister gave that assurance to questioners, that the duty was to be removed from beer and spirits, but that the other taxes would not be reduced.
I do not believe the Senator heard that from anybody.
I am satisfied that the Minister is very complimentary, but the House knows me sufficiently long to form a judgment as to whether what I am stating is true or not.
I will bet the Senator ten to one that he cannot produce the person to anybody in this House.
Is it in order to make a bet in this House without paying tax on it. The Minister is anxious to get taxation from betting and surely he ought to make his own bets subject to tax. I do not bet and I therefore refuse to enter into any gamble with the Minister.
The Senator runs away and takes cover under anonymity.
He runs away from nothing. I repeat that the statement was made to me, and I believe it to be true.
I do not believe it was made.
Senator Duffy will deal with the section.
Yes, if you will ask the Minister to control himself. I repeat that that statement was made to me by a person who assured me it was true and who, I am sure, told what he believed to be true. I do not put it any higher. If the Minister says he gave no such assurance, I am prepared to accept that without equivocation whatever. But that, of course, makes no difference to the case I am making. The case I am making is that this taxation is quite infinitesimal in relation to the needs of the Minister, that it is not a reasonable taxation and that there are other sources of revenue which were available to him and which he has thrown away—sources which produced £4,500,000 a year from people who could afford to pay that taxation. He is now levying taxation of 10/3 per week on people with low incomes who amuse themselves to the extent of spending an hour or two in a publichouse at night and consuming two pints of porter. That section of the community are taxed out of all proportion to their income. I do not want to refer to other provisions of the Bill, but they are also taxed in relation to tobacco, cinema seats and everything else dealt with in this Bill.
On the Finance Bill earlier in the year, I referred to a matter of very serious importance—that large numbers of people are going to lose their jobs because of this taxation—and while this House can do nothing more than make recommendations or suggestions, or urge the Minister to revise his system of taxation, the House ought at least to be afforded an opportunity of expressing its view in relation to a tax of this kind and of urging on the Minister that it is an unfair tax and, in the long run, an unwise tax.
Might I make a point of order to you, Sir? I have nothing to do with this argument between the Minister and Senator Duffy, but Senator Duffy alleged that he heard the story from somebody and the Minister stated—I do not know why the Minister was vexed—that he did not believe the Senator heard the story at all. That is the same thing as calling Senator Duffy a liar. We are not allowed to do that to one another and the Minister, on consideration, would not like to do it either. I think it is quite a disorderly remark and I suggest from the point of view of our debates that it should not have been made.
I want to submit to you, Sir, that Senator Duffy made an allegation against me. I have stated in this House, in the other House and in public as reported in the papers, that the Government was standing over this Budget, and every tax in it. Senator Duffy comes along here and makes an allegation which he says he heard from somebody whom he will not name that he was present at a private meeting which I attended and at which I said that I was going to take off these taxes. Surely that is a charge against my honour and if Senators are going to make such charges they should be prepared to substantiate them at least to the extent of saying from whom they heard it.
I say again that I do not believe that Senator Duffy heard it from anybody at my meeting, because they were honourable men who were at my meeting. Is Senator Duffy to come in here and use the privileges of this House to make a dishonourable charge against the people who attended the meeting, accusing them of telling lies about what I said?
If Senator Duffy were in England and made the type of speech he made here, he would be called a Tory of a sort of pinkish hue——
If Senator Duffy were in England and were called a liar, the person calling him a liar would have to withdraw it. Of that there can be no doubt whatever. I merely want to get the point clear. The Minister may have legitimate cause for being vexed—I do not know why he is vexed, but let us assume that he has—but even if he has, he has no right to call Senator Duffy a liar. Senator Duffy may be entirely misguided; he may be wrong; he may be misinformed; he may have misunderstood what was said to him—I do not care what you say about it—but if we have reached a point at which we can call one another liars, or at which the Minister, who, under the Constitution, has a right of audience here, can call one of us a liar, we have fallen very low indeed. I do not mind the argument between Senator Duffy and the Minister. I do not begrudge the Minister any strong language he may want to use in rebutting a charge made against him, but if you can be told that you have made a statement which you do not believe, then you are a liar.
Senator Hayes cannot ride away in that fashion. Exactly what I said——
Surely we should have "yes" or "no" on this?
The Senator cannot rush me like that. If I have a right of audience here, I have the right not to be called a liar. I did not call Senator Duffy a liar. What I said was that I did not believe that Senator Duffy heard the story he told here from anybody who was at my meeting. That is exactly what I said.
I do not want to wrangle with the Minister, but that is not so.
The Senator is a pretty wide awake man and if he wants to put a twist on it, he is quite quick enough on his feet and with his tongue to do it; but everybody here heard what I said. We can see it in the records. I said I did not believe that Senator Duffy heard that story from anybody at my meeting and I repeat it.
Could we have a decision on this matter, Sir?
The first person to use the word "liar" here was Senator Hayes himself.
He was the first person to use the word. He said that the Minister implied that Senator Duffy was a liar.
That I called him a liar.
That the Minister called him a liar. That is just as reprehensible as any reading that Senator Hayes may try to put into the Minister's statement.
I am not in the least vexed at being called a twister. That, I think, is a Parliamentary expression and I do not mind it, but what I understood the Minister to say was that Senator Duffy did not himself believe the story. That is different from the Minister not believing it. My interest in this matter has nothing to do with the Minister. I do not care who used the phrase, but if, when a Senator makes a statement, the reply is: "You never heard it and I do not believe you heard it", it is the same thing as calling a man a liar. There is no doubt about that, but if that it not disorderly, we have gone over, and very far over, a particular line.
I want to submit again that Senator Hayes is misquoting what I said. He is a very old Parliamentarian. He was for quite a long number of years Ceann Comhairle of the other House and he is accustomed to knowing exactly what a man said. To the knowledge of every Senator here except Senator Hayes, exactly what I said was that I did not believe that Senator Duffy heard that——
Is that not the same thing as calling him a liar?
That is not what Senator Hayes said I said.
I am not concerned with what the Minister believes. It does not cost me a thought.
Now we are all happy.
If Senator Hayes was up against anybody he could rustle, he would rustle him, but he is not going to rustle me.
I am not so sure about that. I want to ask the Minister a question about the section. Are we getting a decision on this question?
I am on my feet and I claim the right to speak.
The Minister will proceed.
As I was saying when I was interrupted, if Senator Duffy were in England and made the type of speech he has just made, he would be called a Tory of perhaps a pinkish hue. He accused the Government of throwing away £4,500,000 of excess profits tax. The British Government threw away about £300,000,000 of excess profits tax, if annulling the excess corporation profits tax is throwing away money. The reason we withdrew the excess corporation profits tax was that we thought it would have the effect of increasing output in this country and a similar explanation was given by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer for taking the line which was taken there of annulling the excess corporation profits tax, which, so far as I remember, brought in about £300,000,000 a year. When we had the excess corporation profits tax in operation here, Senator Duffy's friends said that the reason prices were so high was that the Government encouraged them to go up so that they might rake in some of the money through excess corporation profits tax. They have not got that excuse about prices at the moment.
Senator Duffy said we were charging 8d. a pint duty on every pint of stout the workman took. His figure is not exactly correct because it is only about 6½d.
Stout or porter?
Stout. A Labour Government in England where artisans have, on the average, about 4d. an hour less than-artisans have here, take about 50 per cent. more duty off their beers and an artisan in England with 4d. an hour less than a man in Dublin has to pay about ½ for a bottle of Guinness whereas he would get one here for 8½d., and he has to pay about 1/7 a pint for beer that he would get here for 1/1.
What about the farm labourer here?
The farm labourer too.
With £2 a week less.
The farm labourer is the one type of workman here in general who has less wages than his corresponding number in England.
Much less—£2 a week less.
There are other things to be set off against that. There is the question of the rents that the farm labourer in England pays. There is the question of what he pays for his pint. There is the question that he pays ¾ for his cigarettes instead of 2/-, as here. There is the question that if he could get a glass of whiskey of the same strength he would have to pay 4/4 as against 2/6 here. There is the question that he has to pay income-tax there. All these things have to be taken into account. There is the fact that he can only get a scrap of meat once a week whereas he can get a full meal here.
If he has the price of it.
I do not know. I would like to see them higher. I think they are the most deserving class of the community because they are giving us output, but I think that, on the £2 10s. 0d. or £3 or more that they are getting here, if they could go over to England and work there they would find they were better off at home. I think we were talking about the tax on beer when we started.
I was going to ask the Minister how much he was going to get out of it as compared with the other things, wines and so on.
About £830,000 on beer. I gave the figure for wine in the Budget. It is £200,000 extra on wines this year.
Does that include spirits?
Spirits are separate?
On spirits, about £935,000; on beer, £830,000; on wine, £200,000 extra this year. Those figures are all for this year.
It is £1,100,000 against £800,000—£800,000 for beer and £1,100,000 for the others. That is what I want to know.
I would like to make a remark or two in connection with the matter under discussion. We are all pretty familiar with the aim of the taxation that is involved in the Bill. It has been precisely stated by the Minister when he was dealing with Senator Baxter's questions on Section 8. The aim is to make available to the community certain commodities which are considered to be absolutely essential and to make them available at reasonable prices. So far, so good. The next thing is that money is required in order to achieve this aim. The only way, it is clear, that we can get the money is by taxation. It follows then that in levying the taxation we ought to levy it in such places and in such a way as will cause least hardship. It is clear that a tax on beer will impose a certain amount of hardship. How much, I cannot say. But, it is clear that it must cause a certain amount of hardship, not only to consumers, but to traders. We will all admit that. But, does the taxation involved in this cause the hardship that Senator Duffy claims it will cause?
I referred the last evening I was here to the amount that is spent in the country on beer, spirits and tobacco and I referred to the White Paper on the National Income published some time ago. It emerges from that White Paper that we spend somewhere about £52,000,000 or £53,000,000 per annum on these commodities as against approximately £92,000,000 that is spent on food. Now, is it reasonable to assert that to take £800,000 from that amount that is being spent on beer imposes the hardship that Senator Duffy says it does impose?
I do not know whether, when the Minister was calculating the amount he should levy and the amount he would get from the tax, adverted to the elasticity or inelasticity of the demand for this particular commodity. I do not know whether or not he fully expects that the amount that is being consumed ordinarily will continue to be consumed and that he will get the tax he requires.
For myself, I believe that it must and I hope it does, result in some reduction of consumption of that particular commodity in question. If it does, what will be its effect? The Minister has stated the aim of the taxation is that the wives and children of men who take beer will get certain essential commodities at a reasonable price. If men reduce their consumption of this commodity it means some extra money remains available to be spent on commodities, not included in the list given by the Minister, but which are absolutely essential if the people are to have a reasonable standard of living. In other words, if, as I hope will happen, consumption is reduced, it follows that not alone will the commodities listed by the Minister be made available at reasonable prices but the standard of living of the women and children must be raised in consequence also, because it will make available a greater volume of purchasing power for other essentials for the household. I think that is the only way that we ought to look on this matter.
It is true, and I am sure that Senator Duffy is quite sincere in saying, that this will impose a hardship but the question is, what will be the extent of the hardship? I do not think that Senator Duffy has been quite fair in the way he has treated this matter. For the remainder of the discussion, in the interests of the dignity of the House and the conduct generally of Senators, the less said about it the better, and I hope the like of it will never occur again.
I have listened to the two speeches which have been made in support of the section and I can only say that I never heard such a weak defence of a proposal. The Minister made no case whatever and did not even pretend he had a case for the section. He told us he wanted £850,000 from the duty under Section 10—the duty on home-made beer. Obviously, that duty will be collected off the ordinary working-class people of this country, the people to whom Senator Ó Buachalla would deny the pleasure of a pint of porter or stout.
No, I would not deny them.
Not at all, but they should not drink it.
Everything in reason.
They should not drink it.
Everything in reason.
The people who are going to drink wine, the people who go to the Curragh and to Leopardstown and put £100 on a horse and then buy a bottle of champagne to celebrate the victory are going to pay £200,000 on their wines, but the dockers and the farm labourers are going to pay £850,000 on their beer. There is no defence for this taxation. It is utterly unreasonable, utterly unjust. What is the defence the Minister makes for the section? Here he holds himself out to the House as a Socialist Minister for Finance. He denounces me as a Tory because I dislike to see the farm labourer and the docker taxed in order to provide cheap wine for the wealthy classes. This is the Socialism that we are being treated to by the Minister for Finance.
You must be right. Senator Summerfield disagrees with you and Senator Kelly disagrees with you.
I do not know, but it seems to me that things are becoming topsy-turvey when the Minister for Finance defends his abolition of the tax on excess profits on the ground that he is a Socialist. It is a most amazing defence. I think we ought to get somebody to revise the Socialist text books, the capitalist text books, and the economic text books generally, if there is anyone capable of revising them, in conformity with the Minister's theory here this evening.
It is true that beer and stout cost more in Great Britain than in Ireland. I made no comparisons with Great Britain. I did not know that the Minister was interested in following British examples. Had I thought he was I would have made some advertence to the distinction between the conditions of the two countries. A farm labourer in Great Britain has £4 10s. a week. A farm labourer in Ireland gets £2 10s. A farm labourer in Britain is paying 1/- for a bottle of stout. He pays 8½d. here. I want to put this to the House—all of us here are associated with the ordinary people of the country. We live in the country. We know the country and the people. Is not it a reasonable proposition to suggest that a farm labourer would be willing to pay 1/- for a bottle of stout instead of 8½d. if he could get £4 10s. a week in wages instead of £2 10s.? I have a feeling that he would. The truth of the matter is that although the prices of these commodities, tobacco, beer, spirits, are higher in Great Britain and Northern Ireland than they are here, they are imposing a less burden on the community in relation to incomes than the prices charged here are imposing on our community in relation to incomes. The Minister knows that quite well. He has gone through the country. He has met the people. He knows their views. He knows the view of the people that these prices are excessive in relation to the income of the mass of the people and the prices of dutiable goods are excessive almost entirely because of the level of taxation.
The Minister made another alarming statement when he suggested that some friends of mine—I do not know who they are—some people masquerading as friends, probably—complained that prices were high because of the excess profits duty. I did not hear that allegation made. As I understand it, the duty levied on excess profits was a device invented by the State to collect for the community part of the excess profits which traders were permitted to make at the expense of the community. Had there been regulation and control of prices to the extent that there would not have been excess profits, there would be no excess profits tax, or at least, there would be no revenue from a tax on excess profits. The fact that there was a revenue from the tax shows that excess profits were being made and they were being made under the authority and with the connivance of the Government. I was not dealing with that. I kept strictly to the section which imposes a duty on home-made beer. I was not concerning myself with the other taxes, on spirits, on tobacco or entertainment. I do not know how Senators feel about this generally, but having been through the country a good deal I feel that there is mounting discontent amongst people with small incomes because of the addition of 3d. on the pint imposed in this Budget. I know nothing that has created so much discontent as has this imposition. The Minister may defend it and say we cannot help it; and if he can show the community that this tax is essential and can submit a reasonable ground for his action, the discontent would be removed though the injustice would remain.
Senator Ó Buachalla says this is a method of preventing people spending money on beer and enables them to save it for other purposes, but everyone knows that that is not what happens. The farm labourer who goes into the village after his day's work and consumes two pints at night is still consuming the two pints.
Where would he get two pints?
Would the Senator like to know?
Half the agricultural labourers of the country would like to know, as they have not been able to get it for the past 12 months.
If the Senator is hard pushed, I will tell him. I am informed that the consumption is going down in Dublin a good deal and I am informed —I say "informed"—that 80 barmen have become unemployed in the City of Dublin. In the country I understand that the ordinary workman still goes around to the local at night and drinks his couple of pints, and the only difference it makes to the home is that he is spending an additional 6d. a night or 3/6 a week on refreshments or entertainment. Therefore, Senator Ó Buachalla's theory falls to the ground. The money supposed to be saved for other purposes is not saved at all, but there is a further dipping into the weekly income to satisfy the demands of this Bill.
I suppose there is nothing we can do about it in this House except to draw attention to these facts, in the hope that some day the Minister will take into account the effect of this measure on the community and when he is introducing his next Budget—if he is introducing the next Budget—some regard may be had to the points to which I have drawn attention.
Since we are discussing this Budget in the light of the coming election, we may as well be reasonably accurate. It has been solemnly stated here that the new tax amounts to 8.78d. on the total cost of the pint, while the Minister says it will cost only 6½d. a pint. As I may be taking part in the election, I would like to tell the people what is right or reasonably right. I would like to know which is the correct statement, so that I will not be brought up before a tribunal in the very near future.
When listening to Senator Duffy on a speech of this kind, one comes to one or other conclusion, that he is very innocent in his rambling through the country or that he meets some very peculiar people who put these mysterious ideas into his head. Senator Hearne interjected to ask Senator Duffy where an agricultural labourer could procure two pints. I take it Senator Hearne was referring to the time before the present Budget was introduced. As one who does some travelling up and down the country, I can safely say that the effect of the increase in the price of the pint that is so essential now to the very existence of every worker is to reduce the cost of the pint to the worker rather than increase it. The workers will agree with me that in almost every public house throughout the country the one commodity that could not be procured was a pint of stout and that a definite attempt was made by the publicans to extract the very last ounce of profit out of the sale of stout to the poor working men for whom it was so essential. Since the Budget was introduced, these workers, instead of having to pay an increased price, can now go in and have a pint in the comfort and leisure that Senator Duffy would like them to have. To illustrate the point— a man anxious to have a point of stout before the Budget was introduced was told by the publican that he had no draught stout but could supply him with two bottles at 7d. each, totalling ½; whereas the pint is now only 1/1.
Senator Duffy also questioned the Minister about the excess profits tax. During the time the excess profits tax was in operation, the Government were accused of thereby encouraging profiteering and increasing the cost of living. That point was made up and down the country and in this House. Senator Duffy made reference to the decrease in consumption and to a number of employees being laid off. That is not true. Only last night I had a conversation with a publican in this city who does a good working-class business and he informed me that his takings are the same now as they always were. For Senator Duffy's information and enlightenment—he may not be as familiar with that particular business as others—he also told me that there is a seasonal decrease in the number of sales of stout and spirits in preparation for Christmas, as the working men are saving now in order to have something extra at that time.
I want to give Senator Foran the information as to exactly what a working man pays here in the tax on a pint of stout—not a pint of plain—it is 6.55d. Senator Duffy's figure was over 8d.
While the Minister is on that point, perhaps he will explain the meaning of:—
"a duty of excise at the rate of ten pounds, eleven shillings for every thirty-six gallons of worts of a specific gravity of one thousand and fifty-five degrees."
That gives a yield of 8.79d. per pint.
That is stronger than the ordinary pint of stout. On standard barrels here, the excise duty now is £10 11s. 0d. and in England the equivalent is £16 5s. 5d. Translated into pints of stout, it is 6½d. here per pint of the strength of Guinness actually sold and it is 9¾d. in England—about 50 per cent. more in England. Senator Duffy made a very interesting point, if it were true, that we here were taking very much more off the working man's beer, in relation to the amount we were taking of the wine-drinker, than they were in England.
I did not make that point at all.
Well, let me answer that point. The Deputy complained very bitterly that we were taking this £830,000 off the working man for beer and only taking £200,000 off the wine drinker. In England, what do they take? They take £5,000,000 off the wine drinkers and £306,000,000 off the working man's beer. He complains that we are taking £830,000 off the beer drinker as against £200,000 off the wine drinker—one quarter the amount. We take one-quarter as much off the wine drinker, but in England they take 1½ per cent. off the wine drinker in relation to what they take off the working man—as the Senator, if he were in his proper place, in the Tory Party in England, would very quickly point out. The Senator also made the allegation that we are taking more off the individual pint of stout as against the gallon of whiskey or the bottle of champagne. What are the facts in regard to that? We take 6½d. off the pint of stout and in England they take 9¾d.; but here we take 10/- off the pint of champagne and they only take 7/4 in England.
Is it the working classes who are drinking the champagne in England?
That is like a story the Senator got down in Dundalk about what I said about porter and——
It has vexed you all the same.
——about the 80 barmen in Dublin. If Senator Duffy is introducing the next Budget will he as a true blooded socialist, as he likes to pretend he is when going around the country, reduce the 10/- a bottle on champagne down to 7/4 as it is in England, and will he drive up the duty on the working man's pint from 6½d. to 9¾d.?
And put up the wages at the same time.
If the Senator is the true blooded socialist that he pretends to be, will he cut the artisan in Dublin by 4d. an hour in order to put him on the same level as the champagne drinkers in England?
They are still going over there in their thousands.
And they are drinking champagne there on a wage which is 4d. an hour less than they could get here.
In case it should be thought that nobody had any views on this question except Senator Duffy, I should like to make a comment or two before the section is put. I confess that I cannot understand why the Minister should be so terribly annoyed because he is challenged with regard to his section. Listening to Senator Hawkins, one would feel inclined to believe that the Minister was actually granting a concession to the working classes in this country because he is providing them with a pint of stout which as far as he was concerned was prohibited before. If Senator Hawkins is right, then the Minister should be delighted and should be acclaimed by all the people whom Senator Duffy speaks for. If they are not acclaiming him, they why are they so ungrateful?
Because there is an election in the offing.
I suppose there is, but one never knows. Perhaps the Government will yet change its mind. Whether there is an election in the offing or not, I suppose it is true to say that Senator Hawkins knows more about it than I do. If the Minister is annoyed at the consequences of his decision, he should not show his annoyance here in the manner in which he did to-day. He seemed to be annoyed that members of the House were challenging him about something as if they had not the right to challenge him. According to the Minister, and to those supporting him in this House this increase in taxation is going to reduce the cost of living. It has to be remembered, however, that the commodities which the working man and the poor man will be enabled to buy at a cheaper price as a result of this Budget are all rationed and are to be obtained only on coupons. Therefore, the position will be that he cannot buy any more of them than he can at present, even supposing he gets more money.
There are no coupons for meat.
Why did not the Minister avail of his Budget in order to bring down the price of meat for the working man—that is if he was really serious about reducing the cost of living in his home?
Something has been done.
Meat was made available in other days, and the Senator knows that. The Senator should not tell me that a way could not have been found to do what I suggest if the Government wanted to do it. The Minister knows quite well that the decision in regard to what we are dealing with on this section has been a terribly unpopular one. I suppose that, in regard to the use of intoxicants, I am just as puritanical as Senator Ó Buachalla is, but there are a great many people in this country who require a stimulant.
Some people do not.
There are a great many who do. They have accustomed themselves to the benefits which it seems to confer upon them. Now the Minister is making it much more expensive for them. My information is that this decision of the Minister's is a most unpopular one, the most unpopular since his predecessors reduced the old age pension by 1/- a week.
It would be very exciting and perhaps a little interesting if I were to follow Senator Duffy and deal with his remarks with regard to excess profits, and if I were to make comparisons between the duty on wines and on the poor man's pint and all the rest. I do hope that all of us, whether we are affected by the increased taxes on porter, wines, tobacco and motor cars or anything else, will be able to establish in the mind of a Minister that this Bill is a temporary expedient to meet a temporary difficulty and should be definitely regarded in that light. The Minister, in reply to what I had to say last week, said that all he could say was that he trusted it would be temporary. We know, however, from experience that new taxes, as they grow old, become permanent in our legislation. I think it would be catastrophic if these new taxes, which we are prepared to accept because of the exceptional needs at the moment, were to become part and parcel of our permanent legislation. I hope that not only the tax which we are dealing with in this section but all the other taxes which have been referred to—the tax on the poor man's pint or, as someone said, the poor man's champagne—will all vanish as soon as the Minister finds himself in a position to revise the legislation which he is putting before us to-day.
It is only fair, I think to remind the House of one section of the community which is affected by this Budget—a section that has to bear all the taxes that are levied—and that is the section comprised of private motorists. But there is practically no such thing to-day as the private motorist. Most of those private motor cars are as much commercial vehicles as the lorries which bring the turf into Dublin. What we find in this Bill is a greatly increased scale of taxation for the use of an article which, in fact, we are not permitted to use. I am not making the case now that the Minister should waive this particular new tax, but I am urging on him the reasonableness of the claim that he should provide those people with petrol to use the vehicles in respect of which they are being taxed.
I know of no reason—and my sources of information are pretty good—why there should be any rationing of petrol in this country at all. I know of no reason why we should have to accept the austerity conditions that prevail in England except political pressure from England. One of the leading newspapers in England has already published articles to the effect that there is available, from sterling sources, more than enough petrol to satisfy not merely the rationing needs but the normal needs of Great Britain, and the needs of Ireland more than twice over. That statement appeared in March of last year in one of the leading English daily papers. We have every sympathy with our neighbours at the other side. We sympathise with them by reason of the fact that they have to put up with various measures of austerity. We should feel grateful that we ourselves have been spared many of these austerity measures so far as our own economy is concerned. It is well known that we have colossal sterling credits in London. I believe it to be true that this country, if it were not affected by political reasons from the other side, could in fact, buy with sterling more than enough petrol that would enable us to remove rationing in the use of petrol for motor vehicles. I submit that we are entitled to look to the Minister to ease that position. The new tax is not so much a tax on the use of motor vehicles as a tax on ownership. The moment a vehicle is registered the tax has to be paid.
We know that the average vehicle to-day has a limited mileage, and while that is so it has already been hinted that there may be further restrictions on that mileage. I think it would be unreasonable to impose further restrictions, because I do not believe there is any necessity for them. I do not want to obtrude trade matters in this debate, but I do know from my friends who are connected with petrol distribution not merely in England but in Europe that there are many wells in sterling areas capped down, and that supplies of petrol from these wells cannot be made use of. I know, of course, that there are difficulties with regard to tankers— that there are many tankers with their bottoms out in American harbours. I think that many of these difficulties could be surmounted. The motor section of the community, so far as I know it, does not particularly like this new tax, but it would be prepared cheerfully to put up with it in the light of the arguments which the Minister used if he would permit them to have a more free use of their vehicles instead of the more restricted use that is envisaged for the future.
Senator Summerfield started off with the optimistic statement that he hoped these new taxes would not become a permanent feature of our legislation. I am afraid that, in view of what we heard here to-day— that Senator Duffy has, apparently, a great admiration for the Tory Party, and that the Minister is enormously enamoured of the present British Government—Senator Summerfield is not going to get very far in regard to what he said about the motor taxes. The tax of £34 or £36 on a 20 h.p. car may, in present circumstances, be a reasonable tax if the car is of a reasonable age, but I think it is far too much in the case of an old car. The fundamental point is how much petrol you can get at the present time.
A person with a 20 horsepower car can easily calculate what the new tax is going to cost him for petrol. If one is to judge by what one reads in the newspapers the basic ration is to go. In that event, the Minister will not get anything like what he estimates from his new taxation proposals. I think it is essential, if any important change is going to be made, that it should be announced at the earliest date. Certainly, it should be announced long before people set about registering their cars on the 1st January. A good many people do that before that date in order to avoid the rush at the registration offices.
There are a large number of people who will not pay the tax at that rate, if there is not to be a basic ration, or if there is to be only a very small quantity. I have only a limited experience of the position in England, but I know that a very large proportion of people here who use their cars on a basic ration would, if they were in England, have a supplementary ration, because it is comparatively easy to get a supplementary ration in England if your car is used at all for the purpose of business. Here, certainly so far as the country is concerned, with the limited amount of transport and long distances from the railways, the question of getting about is a very important matter, having regard to the total production, and I hope that we will not, unless for reasons of sheer necessity, allow ourselves to be unduly influenced by considerations in another country, which, in spite of all that has been said by the Minister and Senator Duffy, are not necessarily comparable at all.
The more comparisons with England that I hear, whether from high sources like the Minister or from other sources, the more I realise how extremely inapt they are, because the circumstances, particularly in the case of the working class generally, have become so different that to take one item, a particular wage, a tax or a price into consideration, without taking a lot of other things into consideration, gives an altogether false impression. It does appear, however, that we are going to have a much more interesting general election than I had anticipated. When Senator Foran has explained to the electors generally how the difference between the 6½d. and the 8d. calculated by Senator Duffy——
I am sorry for the inaccuracy. When the Senator has explained that it is due to the strength of the stout, I think that things will be much more interesting than they are normally. I hope that that desire for complete accuracy which is expressed by him will spread to all Parties and will be a feature of the general election, but I am not nearly as optimistic even as Senator Summerfield is with regard to this taxation.
There is a very small point I want to raise on this section. I do not think it will be of much value as an election point, though I am a little nervous about raising it for fear the Minister might again be hurt. I was asked this morning if I could find out whether the tax on auto-cycles was affected. I have since been informed authoritatively that the tax has been doubled, raised from 30/- to £3. I do not think an awful lot of votes will be affected, but it has been put to me that the auto-cycle is used very largely by insurance collectors and others who use it entirely for purposes of business, and that, as the van and other motor vehicles used and registered for business purposes have not to bear any increase, it is not altogether fair that the auto-cycle should be taxed. I am raising the point because I was asked to do so, but, in doing so, I am afraid I am very much in the position in which I was with regard to picture houses, in which I have not been for 18 months, and with regard to beer, which I very seldom drink, because I have never ridden an auto-cycle and cannot therefore make a very good case.
As a person who motors only from dire necessity, and a person who is in sympathy with Dr. Joad, who regards the motorist as one of the abominations of the age, I am somewhat reluctant to join in this debate. I am, however, a road user and I am appalled at the increase in congestion created by the modern chromium-plated abomination, not only on our roads but in our parking spaces and generally its effect on our traffic. I am not entirely frivolous when I ask the Minister to consider whether it would not be possible to combine horsepower and size in the taxation of cars —something in the nature of a tax on floor space, because these cars are occupying an enormous amount of public floor space and I do not see why they should not pay for it. So far as I see, there is no limit on width or beam and no limit on size, and this is having quite an effect on traffic difficulties.
Would it be unreasonable to ask the Minister if he could help us out of a difficulty in relation to the exact position of the petrol ration? It seems to me that, until that is settled, we are arguing in the most complete condition of perplexity about the taxation of cars which is bound to affect the revenue also. If we do not know, before the 1st. January, whether the ration is to remain or to be seriously axed, a great many people will not register their cars. If things quietly drift on as they are drifting, people may tax cars with the unhappy, feeling that, having committed themselves to the entire year, they may find the petrol ration very badly cut down. It is a little unfair on us to leave us in this obscurity and I believe it is in the interest of the Minister, as it is in the interest of all car owners, car users and of the people knocked down by them, that we should find out something about the programme with regard to the petrol supplies to be available next year. It is certainly going to influence the extent to which we tax cars, which, in turn, will affect the revenue, which, in turn, will affect the Minister's Budget.
I must ask your indulgence, Sir, to reply to the remarks of Senator Sir John Keane. He is like a lot of people who are not motorists at all. He is full of criticism of the types of cars people use, but the chromium-plated monsters to which he refers happen to be the type of cars which have by about 50 to 1 the biggest sales in the entire world. These monsters are just ordinary cars in other countries, and particularly in the country of origin, but, because of our proximity to Great Britain, the smaller type of car has become fairly well-known here. That should not be made an excuse for an attack on the big type of car out of which hundreds of men in this country are getting a living, assembling, distributing and selling, and in which thousands of people are getting comfort and good use in the business purposes for which they use them.
Senator Douglas asked a very simple question with a very peculiar introductory phrase. I will answer his simple question first. He wanted to know what was the tax on the auto-cycle. It is to be £3—double what it was before. Senator Douglas, however, asked me that very simple straightforward question, a question which it was quite easy to answer, after saying that he feared that I might again be hurt. Is that to equate his simple question with what Senator Duffy said? Have Ministers no right to be hurt if they are accused of dishonourable conduct? Senator Douglas and the other Senators who row in that boat will have to take a pull at themselves. So far as I am concerned, if any Senator here in this chamber makes an attack upon my honour and the honour of the greatest Party that ever stood in this country, I will resent it and as quickly as I can. At the same time, if any Senators want to ask any reasonable, any straightforward questions about the business for which I am responsible to the Oireachtas and to the people, I will try to answer them, but please do not let Senator Douglas equate the asking of a simple question with Senator Duffy's particular line of action.
Senator Sir John Keane suggested that we should have a tax according to size as well as according to horsepower. I doubt whether it would be possible to get a yardstick for size in relation to a car and I do not know that there is very much in that particular idea.
Senator Fearon and Senator Summerfield spoke about the petrol ration. I am not, as Senators know, responsible for the control of supplies. I take it that, before the next rationing period commences, an announcement, will be made as to what the scheme will be for that period. It is wrong, however, to say, as Senator Summerfield said, that we could get all the petrol we like from the sterling area. As a matter of fact, all our petrol comes from dollar areas. It is not my business, but the fact is that the British Government can sell petrol for dollars and they are denying a lot of things to their people in order to sell products for dollars. They can sell sterling petrol for dollars.
And we have sterling in London.
Yes, I know we have; but every gallon of petrol which is not used in the sterling area can be sold outside that area for dollars, or for other currencies.
Does that mean that there is a refusal to sell it to us.
It is not a political matter. Everybody knows what the situation in relation to sterling is. The British have to sell more goods and to import fewer goods, and one of the goods they are exporting is petrol from the sterling area.
I move recommendation No. 3:—
That in subsection (5), line 29, the word "twenty-five" be deleted and the word "fifty" be substituted therefor.
This is essentially a lawyer's section, and I might say, from the comments I have heard on the section, that it will be a lawyers' paradise. Like every other section in the Bill, it contains a most distasteful imposition. This levy on capital in this particular form is very objectionable. In the other House, the Minister is believed to have made some concession with regard to certain types of conveyances, but my information, for what it is worth, is that the insertion of the word "voluntary" in this section means that in fact there is no concession at all, because in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred conveyances that go through, there will be some financial consideration. If a man decides to pass his place to his wife, to a son or to a daughter—so far as land transfers are concerned and Senator O'Dea will be able to enlighten us on this point—in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, there is a consideration. There is a payment of £100 or £50, or it may be only £5 to the old person. Insertion of the word "voluntary" means that some duty will have to be imposed in accordance with the level inserted in the section. If the Minister really meant to do what he purported he should look into the matter again. As it is, any consideration whatever eliminates a voluntary disposition, so that in the other House they got nothing from the Minister.
While I do not wish to argue this at length, I think it will have implications, seeing that there are all sorts of reasons for transferring property. For instance, there is the consideration that the old people may get the old age pension, or that a son might get married. Whatever the purpose of the transfer, the tax which is going to be imposed to make it legitimate is of such a nature that, in the opinion of people with experience in this respect, it is going to affect a great many families. It is a really serious matter. I have no experience of drafting such a recommendation, but I raised this question because it is of serious import as far as the transfer of land is concerned. I am informed that the concession is of no value in its present form.
I gave this matter a good deal of consideration. In the Financial Resolution passed in the other House in the first instance voluntary conveyances were subject to increased duties of 5 per cent. I was rather frightened about that. The Incorporated Law Society took up the matter and made certain recommendations to the authorities, pointing out that they were afraid it would interfere with transfers and family settlements from father to son or from uncle to nephew. In consequence of these recommendations, this concession was given and is, I must say, a valuable one.
When I saw the word "voluntary" in the Bill, for the reasons mentioned by Senator Baxter, I was rather disturbed. In most family settlements, there is a consideration that the assignor would be supported and maintained, and very often that sums of money would be given to the daughters. For that reason, the word "voluntary" in regard to a settlement is not a good one. The words "family arrangement" would be better.
Having made inquiries, I gathered that the authorities are going to construe all such deeds as voluntary deeds, even though there has to be a voluntary payment made as well as provision for the assignor. I am afraid that would not be a voluntary deed. Even a convenant put in for support, maintenance and payment is, as they say, feeding the dog with a bit of his own tail, as all comes from the land. It is really an assignment of land subject to certain conditions. Having got an undertaking, I am satisfied that it will be construed in that way. Otherwise, I would be a very strong supporter of the recommendation.
Senator O'Dea has in effect answered Senator Baxter, so that I need not delay the Seanad further.
I have got neither the advice that the Minister got nor the advice of a lawyer. Surely if the word "voluntary" is to be construed in that sense, that should be set out in the paragraph. Senator O'Dea knows enough about it to realise that no undertaking, Ministerial or otherwise, on the records of this House is of any avail in a court. With all respect to Senator O'Dea and the Incorporated Law Society concerning the undertaking given them, I consider that without some such indication of such a construction being inserted in the sub-section, it is not worth a row of pins.
The practice has been in operation for a long number of years when dealing with stamp duties and there is going to be no change unless it comes within the 5 per cent. duty.
What Senator Baxter says is correct, if the matter goes to court later. According to the section this does not go to court. Officials put one stamp on and once they put on the second stamp, showing that it is properly settled, then the court is bound to accept it.
I should like to express the view that I do not believe the 5 per cent. tax on conveyances should be continued for any length of time. There might be something to be said for it in somewhat abnormal conditions, but if it is to be regarded as the normal tax on conveyances of property, land or houses, it is far too high. It should definitely be accepted as a temporary measure. I cannot make up my mind as to the exact effect of it at a particular time. I am perfectly certain, however, that under normal conditions of exchange it would simply have the effect of adding to the price of houses, a result that nobody wants.
The point I want the Minister to make clear is this. I am informed that in the case of transfers, in which the deeds were completed and the necessary notice given before December 1st, they will not be affected, even though the actual sale may not have been completed until after December 1st. I was asked by a solicitor to raise this question so that the position would be cleared up. There has been a rush recently to have deeds completed. It seemed to me, reading the section as it stands, that it makes it quite clear that the actual transaction has to be completed, and that stamp duty has nothing to do with it. I should like to be sure that that is the correct view. There is some misgiving on the point outside.
That is an important question. I think if the deed is not stamped before December 1st, the full stamp duty will have to be paid, unless the agreement was entered into before October 29th and notification of it given to the Revenue Commissioners. If that was not done, I understand the full stamp duty will have to be paid.
I think I am right in saying that the Minister did not answer a point I made on the Second Reading, asking for some mitigation of this duty, in a case of charity. After all, provident societies are exempt. I think charitable transactions should be exempt. In the case of one particular body of people, the Church of Ireland, many glebes were too large for the incumbents and a number has been sold and smaller houses purchased. In a case of that kind it is very hard to have such heavy stamp duty imposed. I imagine the Minister will say, in answer by implication, that this tax does not fall on purchasers, but that when there is a 5 per cent. tax the price of the property is reduced pro tanto.
I have spoken to auctioneers since the Second Reading and I understood that they were not in agreement with the Minister's view. It is a question that is hard to determine. Possibly, the high price of property and a big tax like 5 per cent. would take the form of an abatement in the price paid, but in the case of cheaper properties it is doubtful if that would be the case. There is a pretty good parallel in the case of two properties, one plot being freehold and the other carrying a moderately small ground rent of, say, £15. In practice, there is undoubtedly going to be no difference in the price paid. Purchasers do not have regard to the price in the case of a small ground rent. After all, the interest value of the tax is equivalent to a small ground rent.
I am not asking the Minister to do anything now, but I hope he will consider the matter before the next Finance Act, by extending a concession to bona fide charities, perhaps limited in amount. I would not ask that a charity such as a convent or a monastery that paid a big amount should be exempt from the tax, but I ask that small purchasers or in the case of buildings like church parochial halls, should be exempt.
I tried to do something which the Orders of the House would not permit regarding this section. I have raised this point on the section as I want to hear what the Minister has to say about it. In sub-section (5) he takes power to impose a tax by way of stamp duty at the rate of 25 per cent. on the value of the consideration where any non-national comes in and buys property. I must concede that the object of the section as a whole is to find more money for Budget purposes. I got the impression, while listening to the debate, that the value of property had gone too high, and that this proposal was to keep control by preventing a tendency towards inflation. But when purchasers as a whole do not mind paying the extra duty in stamps it means that having gone so far they will keep on going giving the extra £10 to get the profit. You have had here over a period, not a very long period undoubtedly, but for some time past, two types of people bidding for property. You had the native and you had the foreigner.
The Minister is proposing to deal with this in a different fashion under this section. The foreigner is to pay £25 where the native has to pay £5, but the Minister, apparently, is still satisfied to permit the foreigner to come in here and purchase. If he does come he is going to put such a levy on him that will be a considerable contribution to the Exchequer. If the Minister, in the first instance, is against this inflationary spiral so far as property is concerned, surely he must observe that the presence of foreigners here in the market competing for farms or houses or factories is, in the main, responsible for whatever inflationary tendency there is in the market. There is hardly any doubt whatever that if foreigners have become owners of property here it is because they have had more money to spend on it than the natives had and were prepared to go on and on to get it. If the Minister wants to control this tendency the proper line for him to pursue is to make it more difficult for foreign money to come in here and become the possessor of capital resources. There is no doubt at all that for some considerable time past the prices paid in the property market have been extravagant, the prices of particular properties especially. We saw a remarkable statement by the ex-Chancellor of the British Exchequer that £10,000,000 of British capital, so to speak, had been shipped over here to be used in this country. It is rather a strange application for or use of the word "capital" for Mr. Dalton when he says that some people can get £10,000,000 into a bank in England and come over here and get £10,000,000 against it which they put into capital goods and that England has lost to that extent. The truth, of course, is that English citizens for paper notes are becoming the owners of Irish capital goods to an extent that is rather disturbing.
What about the taxes they pay?
I would hope that the Irish nationals would be able to pay them.
This is a new source of revenue.
I do not agree. I think it is an undesirable source of revenue and I assure the Senator that some of these people are not in the least bit desirable.
That is another matter.
It is all part of the same problem. I think myself it is a subject that is causing grave concern to a great many thoughtful people all over the country, the thought that all those people are coming here with paper money and getting control of Irish lands and Irish houses. I think that is undesirable and in so far as it is taking place we have two opinions about it. Our Minister on the one hand has said, I think, that it is a rather trifling matter. The British Chancellor on the other hand seems to be alarmed at this amount of money being shipped across here to get control of our lands and of course our houses. Could there be anything more undesirable in these days of inflationary tendency that money that is almost being burned in Britain is being used or can be used by people to buy Irish bricks and mortar or Irish farms. These people are not coming here as producers. Possibly the people who are selling property here to them may not have been making a great contribution in the production of physical goods for the community, but I am sure that those people coming in are going to make a much smaller contribution. I feel that the Minister should take more control. There is not a part of the country in which this is not happening. I saw a report in our local paper recently of a small hotel in what is probably the most remote part of Ireland, in Dowra, County Cavan, away up in the mountains, being purchased by an English lady. I do not know whether the Minister was ever there or not, or whether any member of the Seanad was.
I was there.
It was the last outpost of the Irish when they were being driven out. In fact it is problematical if it had ever been invaded. The O'Rourke held out there. There is not a local paper in the country that is not telling the same story week after week. Business houses in every town are passing into the hands of people who are not natives of the Twenty-Six Counties or the Thirty-Two Counties. I am not going to dilate further on that. I feel that the Minister is still acquiescing in the coming of these people. He is making it somewhat more difficult no doubt and has indicated that there is necessity for standing against this strong current that is flowing against us but in my judgment he should have gone much further than he has. As a matter of fact this section, in part, is unintelligible to me. If I read it correctly some one from the Minister's own county, Armagh, one of his own colleagues who fought with him there, cannot come in here and buy a farm. As I interpret it I do not think any man from the Six Counties can come in and buy a farm in the Twenty-Six Counties. I would like that point cleared up. My main concern is this infiltration that is taking place. I am not in the least influenced by the fact that these people are going to pay taxes. They are not bringing us any physical goods, any greater experience or competence than we possess, any equipment or any spiritual advancement or enlightment. I think the Minister would be doing the nation a great service by standing out definitely against this infiltration and stopping this inflationary spiral that all of us consider so dangerous.
I do hope the Minister will hesitate before he accepts the very reactionary suggestions made by Senator Baxter. Senator Baxter knows the country a good deal better than I do and he knows that many of these properties bought by newcomers had been on offer for years and years and that nobody wanted them. Further, he says that all these newcomers contribute nothing to our national capital, to our national benefit. That is ridiculous. A lot of those people coming here are what are called rich people. If rich people come here surely their capital comes with them is spent here. I do not know whether the Minister has got any figures yet regarding this matter. Probably if he had it would not be appropriate for him to give them but certainly the movement must be adding considerably to the revenue. I have no objection to this heavy stamp duty on people who can afford to pay it. Indeed, so far as I can see, if the Minister's contention is true, the stamp duty is not being borne by the purchaser but by the Irish vendor. It is deplorable at this stage of our civilisation that we should advocate putting up the shutters and placing barriers in the way of people of substance who are willing to come here and be good citizens and observe the laws of our country and contribute very considerably to the national economy.
I just want to say that I regard this matter as being of considerable difficulty but I do not share the views expressed by Senator Baxter. I can see reasons why we in the national interest should want to prevent people from outside the country from speculating or drawing money profits from here but I do not believe there is any reason at the present time why we should not welcome people prepared to come here and to spend their money and to live here and take part in the development of the country. If it is to be the policy of the Government, this or any other Government, that land is not to be bought by persons who are not citizens then the matter should be dealt with by law and not by means of taxation. If you deal with it by taxation even to the extent of a 50 per cent. duty which Senator Baxter would agree with, it will lead to injustices and inequalities. Only the very rich will be able to pay.
We all know that certain people have come here who are not desirable but we do not hear anything about the desirable people. We should not yield to a lot of wild talk. Are we going to say we will not welcome anyone inside our borders who will pay taxes and obey our laws? I do not think our population is so large that we can afford to take that stand. It may be necessary, no doubt, to prevent undesirable people coming here, but the way to do that is by legislation. It would be very difficult but I hope that, because a certain number of people, who are generally thought to be undesirable, may have come here, we will not get into a panic and imagine that the whole of our country is being sold to undesirable outsiders, which we know perfectly well is not the fact, and that we will not allow ourselves to do anything hasty or unwise.
If it is desirable and if it is Government policy to make restrictions then bring in a Bill similar to the Control of Manufactures Act, or something of that kind, so that we will know what the law is and so that people can comply or not with the law. Simply to deal with it by taxation would never be a success. I am assuming that the Minister in imposing this tax is doing it for the purpose of revenue, not for the purpose of adopting a policy.
If the Minister wishes to accept the 50 per cent. I would be satisfied but there are different ways of looking at the problem. In Galway there is a great number of big houses. They were left derelict for some years and they were bought by people whose one object was to dismantle them and to take the slates and materials away. That creates a very serious problem. I would like to see some law brought in that would prevent that happening. The only case that I personally was concerned in was the case of a castle that was sold with some land attached. The husband of the owner of the house told me that he could have got £1,000 more for that house if he would sell it to a man who would demolish it. He refused to take the extra £1,000 and he sold it to an Englishman who is now living there. This Englishman keeps a very big staff of servants and a great number of employees on the land. He has brought over, and intends to bring over, the best thoroughbred sires and mares and the very best breed of cattle and he appears to be very respectable. He and his wife are living there and they are keen on racing and hunting. The question is, is the purchase of that place by those people, who will run it in such a way as will improve the breed of horses and cattle in the locality, better than allowing the house to be demolished? I would like to see a law passed that would prevent the demolition of those houses. That is a matter that ought to be taken up by the Government and considered very carefully.
There is another aspect of the case which ought to be considered. It probably would prevent foreigners buying land here if they knew that they are liable to have that land taken from them by the Land Commission at any time. There is nothing to prevent the Land Commission taking that land from them and dividing it amongst the tenants, and I do believe that that will happen in a great number of cases. I think they ought to be told that that could happen. I am sure they are told because, whenever an application is made to the Land Commission for consent to a sale, they give a conditional consent. They always say that it is subject to the right of the Land Commission to acquire that land at any time and the purchaser's solicitors, probably, are always told that and they know that they are running a risk in coming to this country and buying at a big price land that may be taken from them by the Land Commission, who will not give them anything like the price they have paid, if that price is exorbitant. Twenty-five per cent. would seem to be reasonable. In a particular sale of £5,000, if it were not stamped before the 1st December, it would cost a foreigner £1,250, as against £250 if it is bought by an Irishman. That is an extra £1,000 on a sale of £5,000, or 20 per cent. It is a big sum.
What is he doing, only bringing in paper from England and getting land for it?
It is a very big consideration. The Minister thinks it is the vendor who will lose. I do not mind that much if he has land that he is willing to sell to strangers, but it seems it would be giving a great advantage to the Irishman as against the foreigner. If the Minister thinks he ought to take the 50 per cent. I would be just as pleased.
That is not in order.
I think, in reply to Senator Douglas's question, that subsection (8) of Section 13 is quite clear, that if the sale is executed before the 1st December and the Revenue Commissioners are satisfied on that, that it comes under the old stamp duty. I think it is quite clear and, if the lawyer in question thinks there are any snags he can assure him that it is quite plain and straightforward and does not mean anything other than what an ordinary individual would read from it.
Senator Sir John Keane asked that we should give special consideration to charities. The more exceptions you make to any particular tax, the dearer it is to administer. I would rather abolish a tax altogether, if the purpose for which it was imposed was to collect money, rather than spend half of it in administration. If we were to give special exemption from the 5 per cent. for all sorts of charities and charitable institutions, it would take a very great deal of time on the part of the Revenue officials to decide in each case whether the applicant was in fact a charitable institution and entitled to the exemption, or not.
May I suggest that you already have the information in regard to the institutions that are exempted from income-tax?
I would like to go through those and see whether they would cover even the people that Senator Sir John Keane wants exempted from the stamp duty. There is no doubt about it that if a Church body is selling one house and buying another they are adversely affected by the 5 per cent. stamp duty. I hold that they are adversely affected when they sell, that they get 5 per cent. less than they would ordinarily get. I do not think that a purchaser would take the same view of this stamp duty as he would of a head rent. A purchaser may ignore a small head rent because he only has to face paying it in the years to come and he will say, perhaps, "I may have the money to pay it at a few pounds a year" but in regard to the stamp duty, he has to pay it right away before he gets legal ownership. I have no doubt that the ordinary normal purchaser who has his head screwed on will take account of the stamp duty when making his bid at the auction.
Senator Baxter referred to people coming here from England and from the Six Counties and buying property. I know exactly, because I have seen the lists which I have had prepared ever since I became Minister for Finance, the numbers of properties changing hands—farms and houses— and the places of residence of the purchasers. I can tell the Senator how the averages have been running for this last couple of years. About 2 per cent. of the properties changing hands are being bought by residents outside the State, or on behalf of people outside the State. That includes people coming from the Six Counties, England, America and elsewhere. Of that 2 per cent. of the properties changing hands bought by those people outside the territory over which we have jurisdiction, the fact is that 75 per cent. are obviously ordinary Irish people—Murphys, O'Connors and O'Sullivans, and so on—who are either sending back the money from America or coming over from England or coming down from Belfast or County Armagh to buy a bit of property here.
Will the Minister say what capital that represents?
I am coming to that. Let us take it in percentages first. I say that 2 per cent. of the properties changing hands are not bought by residents within the Twenty-Six Counties but by others, by the people who come in from outside the Twenty-Six Counties. Seventy-five per cent. are obviously people bearing straightforward Irish names and, if one went a little closer, one would probably find that of the ½ per cent. that is left, numbers of them could claim Irish blood. They may be people with normal Irish names, married to Englishmen, Americans, or something of that kind, and the husbands' names might not have been very Irish. So much for percentages.
Senator Baxter does not yet know what money is. That is his misfortune. It is many people's misfortune. When it was said in England that £10,000,000 worth of capital had been transferred here, Senator Baxter did not realise exactly the significance of that statement. The only way that one can make a final transfer of capital is in the form of goods or services rendered. If an individual wants to transfer his own personal capital between, say, England and Ireland, for the £1,000 he brings over here he leaves to the credit of some institution here £1,000. So that, between the two countries the balance has not been changed.
An Englishman may own a deposit in a bank here. If he does, the bank into which he puts the deposit has received a corresponding deposit in an English bank and the only way effectively that capital can be transferred between nation and nation is by the physical transfer of goods or services. At least £10,000,000 worth of capital was transferred in that fashion during this last year because the external assets of our banks dropped by more than that amount and it meant that we imported into the country £10,000,000 worth of goods and services more than we exported in return and that, as Senator Baxter will see, is the only transfer of capital. This particular phrase, that an Englishman or a man from the Six Counties buys property here with a bit of paper, is either a very stupid phrase or said with the intention of deceiving. The bit of paper that an Englishman can buy property with here represents a claim on British goods.
If you can get them.
We got £10,000,000 more than we sent out. A lot of the people here were very glad to see them coming in, whether it was British manufactured goods or maize from the Argentine or American wheat or something else that we imported. It is true to say that the competition helped to inflate the price of houses and, as that competition was added to by people coming from outside the Twenty-Six Counties to compete with those resident here, the advent of those people had tended to drive upwards the properties changing hands. I am sure the 25 per cent. stamp duty will put the resident here and the Irish citizen in a better position to compete with others for Irish property. It is not true to say that an old colleague of mine, one of the men who fought with me, coming in here from Armagh, would pay 25 per cent. He is an Irish citizen and as such is subject to the lower rate of stamp duty.
Senator Douglas asked whether this is a temporary measure. This particular section, covering the alteration of the stamp duty up to 5 per cent. and in some cases up to 25 per cent., was designed to put a brake on the upward movement of property values and to scoop some of the increased value which would otherwise accrue to the vendor into the pockets of the Exchequer, to be spent for very desirable purposes. Everyone knows that properties changing hands in this city, over the last two or three years particularly, have been increasing in value from month to month. Houses that sold for £1,500 in one month go on the market for £1,800 in six months' time and for £2,500 in another six months. As long as this stamp duty lasts, the State will sweep in portion of the profits of the vendor—5 per cent. instead of the normal 1 per cent. they paid heretofore. I do not know how long this particular stamp duty will last. Every Minister for Finance from time to time—even if it be the same one—will have to study the surrounding circumstances before he proposes either an increase or a decrease in tax. I am stating what the tax is designed to do and possibly when circumstances change it may be abolished, but I cannot be a prophet in that matter.
The Minister told us that only 2 per cent. of the purchasers were non-nationals. I want to know what percentage of the investments involved in the purchases here was represented by this 2 per cent. How much did this 2 per cent. of purchasers represent in the amounts spent in purchases? That is the vital figure and not so much the percentage of the sales which fell to foreign buyers.
The Minister said that the trouble is that I do not yet understand what money or capital means. I suggest that he himself has a great deal to learn, judging by the interpretation he puts upon the facts. He tells us that people coming in here with what is styled paper money put us in the position that somebody has a corresponding deposit in an English bank and goes on to indicate that this money taken in here which enables the foreigner to get control of Irish land or houses is available for us for purchases abroad. He went on to say how glad we were to be able to purchase American wheat and Argentine maize. Have we now reached the stage when we are depending on people coming in from abroad to purchase Irish land and houses in order to purchase wheat from America and maize from the Argentine,
At the same time, he pointed out that the interpretation to be put on this statement of Mr. Dalton's was that £10,000,000 of our capital assets had been drawn upon for current expenses. Where is the Minister trying to lead us? If it be true that it is possible for us to draw upon our investments abroad for our current living costs, surely it is no argument to make that the purchase of Irish land or houses by foreigners is a desirable way for us to obtain money so that we may buy Argentinian maize or American wheat? I hope we have not been reduced to that state yet. Surely those assets which we have abroad, which are a legitimate claim on the goods and services in England, should be drawn upon to a much greater extent first, before we find it necessary to transfer our property to the foreigners, so that we may have available in this commodity which will be taken in exchange for American wheat or Argentine maize?
The Minister has said nothing to justify what is taking place. He has not clarified the position, as far as I am concerned, with regard to how much control these people are getting.
Senator O'Dea pointed to one particular case where, if the story follows the line which Senator O'Dea believes it will follow, a foreigner comes in with thoroughbred horses or thoroughbred cattle. He is bringing something, but many of the others are not. Senator Sir John Keane talks about the capital they are bringing in. What in the name of goodness is that? They are bringing their bare hands and an English cheque book, and they are going to an Irish bank and writing out cheques and getting Irish pound notes with which to live here and which they are going to utilise because their ancestors earned money in England in some generations before. I see no sense whatever in it. While this section in the Bill has put some hindrance in their way, I am disappointed at the Minister's attitude. It is quite clear that, whatever lecturing he does to me, he himself has a great deal to learn.
Senator Baxter said I had indicated that we had to sell our property in order to buy or to meet the bill for £10,000,000 extra in imports over exports in a certain period. I said no such thing. The lesson I wanted to convey to Senator Baxter was not to sneer at British pounds as bits of paper. The same sneer could be made against American dollars. They are only bits of paper too, but on that bit of paper is written a promise to pay. To the extent of £10,000,000, in a certain period in this year, the British honoured those promises to pay. They met £10,000,000 more than were earned currently. It was in such circumstances that the bit of paper, which Senator Baxter sneered at, was turned into some petrol, into British goods of one sort or another or into goods from the ends of the earth. I do not want to sell Irish property here for bits of paper, as Senator Baxter would call them, from England, America or elsewhere. As regards the selling of our property in order to obtain foreign exchange, I wish to goodness we had some means of earning more of it than we are earning at the moment. That is going to be one of our big difficulties.
Have we not hundreds of millions of claims on English goods and services?
Of course we have. Do we want to use these for capital goods or go on a "spree" spending them?
Why not use them first before giving them the land?
I am not giving them the land. I am not saying anything against spending our external assets provided we have a productive use to put them to here. No man with a couple of hundred pounds in the bank would think that he was doing a good job of work if he were to go on a "spree" and spend the money. He would surely be doing a better day's work for himself and his family if he bought some machinery or fertilisers to improve his farm, and improve his annual output.
Can the Minister tell us what the 2 per cent would represent?
I cannot give the exact figure. It represents the people outside the State.
But not capital which is the vital question?
The 2 per cent. is the total sales.
I would like to say a few words about the recent live-stock agreement.
That would not be in order on this section.
Could we have some information from the Minister with regard to the classification of the tobaccos referred to in the Schedule, the tobaccos, say, used by the ordinary pipe smoker, and those used for other purposes?
The big difference in the case of these tobaccos is the moisture content and the waste there might be. If tobacco is already stripped or stemmed it comes under the unmanufactured, or first part of the Schedule, and if it is unstripped or unstemmed it comes under the second part.
Are these all pipe tobaccos?
They are not. They are tobaccos of all sorts which might be used for pipe or cigarette.
There is one point that I would like to make on that question. I would like to reply to what Senator Duffy and others said on nearly every section of the Bill. They referred to the fact that there was not any excess profits tax. That statement was made several times by Senator Duffy. I was surprised the Minister only dealt with it in a somewhat half-hearted way. The statement was that the Government was handing back some £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 in excess profits tax. It is simply not true. Any one with experience or knowledge of business, particularly the manufacturing business, knows perfectly well that the annual profits permitted are controlled by the Department of Industry and Commerce. When the excess profits tax was removed, the profits were reduced to the extent of that tax. The tax is not handed back, but there has been a reduction in prices. If additional profits are made they have to be made by increased turnover. It is important that that fact should not be ignored in a discussion on a Bill of this kind.
The system is that the prices branch of the Department of Industry and Commerce makes arrangements with every manufacturer as to the total amount of profit which is to be permitted. When there was an excess profits tax on they had to make arrangements which allowed for the payment, in certain cases, of excess profits tax and so as to leave enough to the company to carry on. When that tax was removed, then in every case that I have knowledge of, the amount which was allowed was consequently reduced, so that the tax is not handed back to the trade. It possibly may be true in the case of a few businesses or trades which are not controlled. The number would be extremely small. I think it is important that I should draw attention to that because I think there is a good deal of misapprehension about it. I am not now discussing the merits or otherwise of price control, but it is simply not true to assume that this money is now being handed back to individuals in the way of profits. That is not a fact as long as there is price control.
I thought that we had got to the end of the excess profits controversy. I am afraid that in the absence of Senator Duffy I will have to reply to what the last Senator has said.
I think the Senator based his total of £4,000,000 on the last published returns of excess corporation profits tax yield. It may be that the excess corporation profits tax—a horrible mouthful—not being in operation now, the yield would be substantially less— Senator Douglas says so, at any rate— than the yield during the war years, when it was in operation. All I can say is that the persons to blame, the villains of the piece, for high war profits were the price control department officials, because they were in operation all the time. Why are they effective now in reducing profits when they were ineffective in the war years? They cannot have it both ways and I leave it at that.
I did not really expect the Minister to deal in his reply on Second Reading with the betting tax and I do not intend to say very much further about it now. I can understand that it is somewhat embarrassing, under the shadow of forthcoming events, to deal in any detail with the principle of increased taxation on betting, but I do postulate this as a general principle: You look to tobacco, a luxury, for revenue; you look to drink, a luxury, for revenue, largely perhaps on account of its ease of administration and the large amounts involved—I venture to say that they are very large, although I do not know how large they are in comparison with the amounts involved in betting. Possibly it is not quite so easy to administer a betting tax, but on moral grounds I feel it should be done, and I hope the Minister's Department will examine and get to close quarters with the imposition of a betting tax which will fall on all classes of betters. That is as far as I go at present. I feel that it would not only be a very valuable addition to our revenue but would have a good moral purpose.
It has become a formula in relation to many Government-sponsored companies to have a provision whereby moneys borrowed or advances made are borrowed or made with the consent of the Minister for Finance. I wonder to what extent that is really more than a formula. Perhaps the Minister does put an active brake——
Can the Senator show how that arises on this Stage of the Bill?
I will only say this: I notice that we are now going to write off a sum of nearly £500,000 in respect of advances made for mineral development, and made with the consent of the Minister for Finance.
That will arise later to-day on another Bill.
The Minister for Finance will not be here then. I want to ask why that does not appear as an asset in the finance accounts. I have the finance accounts here and I see most of what I imagine are State assets included. There are repayable advances to the Electricity Supply Board, local loans, shares in the Agricultural Credit Corporation, sugar, industrial credit, air, shipping, and so on together with some Irish names I do not understand, but there is not one word about the advances made to the minerals company. My suggestion is that that publication is not complete, and I thank you, Sir, for allowing me to say so much.
Would I be in order in referring to the recent agreement in respect of live stock?
That matter was debated at great length on the Second Reading of the Bill and I do not think it should come forward again on this stage of the Bill. It would be a repetition of what we have already heard on the Second Reading.
I did not intend to delay the House very long. I heard portion of Senator Baxter's remarks with regard to one of the clauses of this Bill and I want to say that I entirely disagree——
I think the Senator is reopening the Second Reading debate.
I want to say that I am in thorough disagreement with regard to allowing foreigners to come in and purchase land here.
The Senator might get away from that point. If he has a speech to make it must be proper to the Final Stage.
Might I ask what one is allowed to debate on the Final Stage of a Bill?
What is in the Bill.
Surely Senator Counihan is entitled to debate the duty on land transfers to which he is now referring.
That might have been debated on Section 13. I understood that what the Senator proposed to say was in reference to the agreement with Britain.
Very well, Sir; I will sit down.