This Bill is similar in form to others that have from time to time been submitted to the Seanad. Its purpose is to confirm eight Orders which were made under the Emergency Imposition of Duties Act over the past eight months. Orders made under that Act have to be confirmed by legislation. This Bill would have been time enough in May or June next but in view of the pending dissolution of the Dáil it was thought desirable to bring it forward now and get it enacted so that no complications would arise by reason of the fact that the Dáil would not be meeting during the month of May.
There are eight commodities affected by the Orders scheduled to this Bill. None of them is of major economic importance. They include berets, pot scourers, oils and fats, welding electrodes, single yarns of cotton and artificial silk, asbestos draining boards, milk cans and agricultural tractor tyres. The only new duty imposed in this Bill is that on welding electrodes. The Orders relating to pot scourers, oils and fats, single cotton yarns amended duties already in operation. The duty on berets was increased. The duty on milk cans which had been in operation previously but which was suspended was restored at a lower rate. The Orders relating to asbestos draining boards and agricultural tractor tyres revoked duties previously in operation.
So far as berets are concerned this form of headgear has increased in popularity among certain people and berets are manufactured here by two firms, one in Cork and one in Mayo. Competition between them is fairly keen and prices are fully competitive with the prices of imported berets. While I understand there were some technical difficulties associated with the manufacture these have been overcome and production is now proceeding on a scale capable of meeting the full demand for these products. There are over 50 people employed in the manufacture of berets, which seems to be an indication that their popularity is increasing.
There was a duty on pot scourers made of metal and that was extended to include pot scourers made of artificial plastic and also to cover steel wool. The Order really effected an amendment of the definition of pot scourers to which the duty applied.
The position is the same in regard to oils and fats. That duty operated for a number of years and covered within its scope a number of oils which were not in fact produced here. At the time when the duty was originally imposed it was considered that definition difficulties would arise if these oils were excluded from the scope of the duty. Since the duty came into force duty free licences for these oils have been issued on application. On reconsideration of the duty, however, it was found possible to get over the definition difficulty and actually to exclude these oils from the scope of the duty so that the necessity to issue licences for importation would no longer arise. The Order also amended the duty to provide that the mere addition of water would not invalidate the duty and that, again, was a small measure taken to make good the original decision and to prevent evasion of the duty.
As I said, the only new duty arising out of this Bill is on certain welding electrodes. Welding Electrodes (Ireland) Limited have commenced production of these commodities. They are associated with a firm in Britain which formerly supplied most of the market. That firm has given them the technical assistance and marketing advice which they required and they are producing these welding electrodes at prices similar to those prevailing in Britain. This firm when established planned to develop an export trade from the beginning and they have installed capacity which represents about twice the requirements of the Irish market. They will need to get export business if the whole of the capital is to be remunerated and they have had ample testimony as to the quality of the production and evidence that the prices at which welding electrodes are being sold here are comparable with the prices of those selling elsewhere.
The Order with regard to single cotton yarns was designed to amend the scope of the previous Order which related to single cotton yarns. That duty upon single cotton yarns was imposed for the purpose of protecting firms engaged in production here. There are four such firms operating in the country. It was found that the market was being seriously affected by the importation of yarns composed of a mixture of cotton and rayon to which the duty did not apply. It was decided then to extend the scope of the duty. That step was taken more readily when the firms engaged in the production of single cotton yarns undertook to supply these mixture yarns as well and are now doing so, I understand, in a reasonable degree.
There was a duty upon asbestos draining boards which are not now made here and, so far as I can discover, not used here, and, therefore, we are revoking the duty.
So far as milk cans are concerned, this duty applies only to milk cans under 12 gallons capacity. Most Senators will know that the majority of milk cans used here are of a larger size than that. The duty was brought into operation before the war but it was suspended during the war years. The manufacture of these 12-gallon milk cans and smaller milk cans has been resumed and the firm which is making them has entered into undertakings with us that the cans will be sold in this country at the British domestic prices; that is to say the same prices at which similar cans are sold in Great Britain. There was, however, some reason to apprehend that supplies of cans might be imported for the purpose of getting rid of surplus stocks, particularly from continental countries, at the time of the year when seasonal demand was greatest. There is a seasonal element in the demand for these cans and it was thought desirable to keep that position under control by imposing a small duty. The customs duty, which was previously fairly considerable, has been lowered to 15 per cent. full rate and 10 per cent. ad valorem and that is merely to ensure that this firm making the cans will be able to enter upon production for meeting the whole market requirements for the cans and, therefore, to fulfil its price undertaking.
The position in regard to agricultural tractor tyres was somewhat anomalous. The House is probably aware that, following the commencement of the manufacture of rubber tyres here, an excise duty upon Irish-produced tyres was brought into operation. The purpose of the excise duty was to secure revenue for the Exchequer, or, rather, to prevent the loss of revenue to the Exchequer which the commencement of manufacture at home would otherwise have occasioned. There was a limited range of agricultural tractor tyres produced by the Dunlop company in Cork. These tyres were subject to an excise duty while at the same time agricultural tractor tyres could be imported without duty. We had, therefore, the anomalous situation that home-produced tyres were subject to a duty while imported tyres were not subject to it, and that was resolved by revoking the excise duty on agricultural tractor tyres.