The House is, I think, aware that Orders made by the Government under the Emergency Imposition of Duties Act require to be confirmed by the Oireachtas within eight months, and this Bill, which is similar in form to other Bills produced for the same purpose, was framed to confirm 11 Orders made since last December under the Emergency Imposition of Duties Act. Most of those Orders altered the scope of existing duties so as to cover additional lines or to amend definitions, two of them imposed new duties, and one reduced an existing duty.
An explanatory memorandum has been circulated with the Bill which will have given Senators a general indication of the purpose and scope of each Order, but perhaps it would be desirable that I should run through them briefly to indicate the reasons for making them.
The first Order on the list relates to stainless steel couplings. The manufacture of stainless steel couplings was commenced by a Dublin firm during the course of the past year, and it was clear that they were not likely to make progress in securing a market for their product because of the strength of existing trade connections. To give them an opportunity of getting hold of the market here, which is not very substantial, they required the assistance of a customs duty and accordingly a rate of duty of 50 per cent. full and 33? per cent. preferential was imposed on these couplings and also on plug cocks, joints and similar fittings for use with tubes and pipes. The extent of the market for these goods is not very great and it cannot be regarded as a major development in our industrial production.
The second Order relates to television sets. The position was that a duty of 75 per cent. full and 50 per cent. preferential had applied to television sets for a number of years, but the practice had developed of allowing the duty free importation of such sets to traders requiring them for experimental purposes and not for resale. That practice was open to objection on various grounds and it was thought desirable to reduce the duty—which, as the House will realise, is mainly operative for revenue purposes—to half the old rate and then to withdraw the provision of duty free importation under any circumstances. The position now is that any person can import a television set on payment of the reduced duty.
The next Order relates to combs and hair slides. The Order achieved two purposes. First of all, it excluded from the existing duty certain classes of combs—combs made from metal, glass, wood, stone or mother of pearl —combs of that character not being made here, and there being no point in keeping the duty applying to them. The practice had been operated of granting duty-free licences for these classes of combs, in any event. The position is that in future they will not be liable to duty and free importation will be possible to anybody. The second purpose of the Order was to extend the duty to plastic hair slides, which are manufactured in conjunction with plastic combs, by the same firms.
The next Order relates to tarpaulins. Tarpaulins and similar covers were subject to duty under an old Order when impregnated with pitch or tar. Latterly, tarpaulins have been imported which were impregnated with other chemical substances. The effect of this Order is to extend the scope of the duty to all tarpaulins whether impregnated with pitch or tar or any other chemical substance.
The next Order, which relates to woven tapes and webbings, imposes a new duty upon cotton woven piece-goods not exceeding two inches in width, that is to say, cotton tapes, bindings and webbings. The Order was made because representations were made by the home manufacturers of these goods that they were finding difficulty in disposing of their output. The market for these classes of goods is comparatively small and the wide variety required to meet the market needs places our manufacturers at a slight disadvantage as compared with manufacturers in a larger market. It was considered desirable to give them an opportunity of achieving greater efficiency by having the whole of the market reserved to them and that is why this Order was made. How it is working out is a matter on which I am making some inquiries. There has been a reduction of prices here since the duty was imposed, but there is a position there which requires to be kept under examination, because the expansion in output which was anticipated when the duty was brought into operation does not appear to have been fully realised.
The next Order relates to artificial silk piece goods and its effect was to bring within the existing duty applying to artificial silk goods, goods between 1/6 and 1/3 per square yard in value. The old duty applied only to goods exceeding 1/6 per square yard in value. In future, goods down to 1/3 will be subject to duty. It also reduced the width limit prescribed in the original Order, from 60 inches to 53 inches, in the case of patterned piece goods. The home manufacturers of artificial silk goods claim to be able to meet the full market requirements of the classes of goods to which the duty applies, that is to say, artificial silk piece goods excluding patterned piece goods, less than 53 inches in width, velvet or velveteen and rubber-proofed goods. The reduction in the width limit was consequent on representations made from manufacturers of damask ticken that the protection originally afforded to them was being nullified by imports of rayon damask ticken which was not subject to duty or to quota restrictions as it contained less than 60 per cent. cotton. That material was not caught by the original duty on rayon goods because it was less than 60 inches in width, in patterned colours other than stripe. The position was rectified by an amendment to this Order so as to remove the limit under this Order from 60 inches down to 53 inches.
The next Order refers to certain sanitary wear. Representations were made by the linen and cotton textile manufacturers that the effect of the quota restrictions upon cotton woven cloth was being nullified by the importation of these articles fully made. The Revenue Commissioners had ruled that they were not liable to duty as clothing. Consequently, their free importation was possible. It was an unsatisfactory position in that, while the woven cloth was liable to import restrictions, the goods made from it were not so liable. The effect of this Order is to make them liable to duty.
Cotton ply yarns: Last year, quota restrictions were placed on single cotton yarns. The next stage in the development of the yarn spinning industry was the doubling of cotton yarns. As that stage had been reached by the principal firm engaged in this activity, it was felt that the time had come to impose a duty upon doubled yarns. The producers claim to be producing a range of doubled yarns within certain counts sufficient to meet the full demand here. That, by itself, justifies the imposition of the duty. It will still be necessary, I think, to permit free importation of certain types of yarn which are not being produced here and which are required by other manufacturers in the country.
Iron and steel bars and sections: The steel mills at Haulbowline have been extending the range of their activities to the extent of producing rods, rounds, squares and flats slightly larger or slightly smaller in size than those caught by the old duty. There is a desire to extend the range of activities there in order to maintain the output of the firm. Consequently, the duty was amended to bring within its scope all the various sizes of bars, squares and flats which the company is now in a position to produce.
Unprinted paper: This was one of the Orders which gave the most difficulty and which required the most careful consideration. The effect of the Order is to bring within the scope of the existing duty paper weighing more than 9 lb. per ream. The duty applied previously only to papers weighing 12 lb. per ream or more. It is proposed also to remove from the list of papers excluded from the scope of the duty certain classes of paper including imitation art paper, printing paper containing mechanical pulp, featherweight esparto printing paper, tinted printing paper, writing paper, cream wove bank paper, twin wire cartridge duplex paper, pasting paper, tinted bank paper and manifold bank paper. The original duty was imposed in 1939 on a limited range of writing and printing papers, the manufacture of which in this country commenced in that year. The companies concerned were naturally handicapped by the difficulties which developed immediately afterwards from the war situation and, since then, they have been having difficulty in maintaining their output. In fact, one of the larger concerns engaged in the production of printing paper was closed down for a period during last year. The desire is to give to this industry sufficient protection to ensure its development and, at the same time, to interfere to the least possible extent with the development of the printing and other industries which depend upon them for their raw materials. I do not know that we have solved the problem yet. There is still a possibility that a difficulty will emerge in keeping the paper-making industry in full production and, at the same time, meeting the requirements of the printing industry. I hope that all of these difficulties will be resolved in time.
One of the conditions under which the Government agreed to make this Order was that technical experts would be engaged to examine the production methods here and to see what changes or developments therein would assist the expansion of the industry. I think it is well to say that the intention is to develop this industry and that that intention will be persisted in. We are passing through what may be described as a transition stage in its development now and it will be necessary to keep in very close touch with it to ensure that everything works out as we would hope.
Root crop knives: A customs duty operated before the war upon certain edged tools. It was suspended during the war. Representations were made for its restoration and it was urged that, when being restored, it should be extended to include these root crop knives. That is why this Order had to be made.
As Senators probably know, this industry is located in Wexford and it appears to be quite efficiently carried on. In fact, all the evidence available to me suggests that the prices at which these goods are produced are lower than the prices of comparable imported articles. It was not easy, therefore, to understand why imports were continuing but, in any event, the situation is one in which the restoration of the old pre-war duty could be undertaken without much apprehension as to the consequences. There is a manufacturing capacity equal to the entire requirements of the country and every evidence of efficiency in the firms concerned.
I appreciate that I have given a very brief sketch of the considerations which led to the making of these Orders, many of which were considered for a long time before being made. However, if any Senator wants additional information I shall endeavour to supply it.