The Finance Bill each year affords the Seanad its principal opportunity to discuss financial administration. The Bill before the House has, in that connection, perhaps, this year a greater significance than usual, inasmuch as, together with the Budget, it marks the first stage in the implementation of the financial policy of the present Government.
I assume the House would not wish that I would go over again here the ground which I covered in the other House when I was introducing the Budget. I do, however, want to emphasise that the Budget of 1955, when compared with the 1954 Budget, provides benefits amounting to £4,250,000 without any change in the rates of taxation while at the same time it carries a net £1,000,000 more for the service of debt for capital development.
The benefits to which I have referred include £2,000,000 for butter subsidy, almost £750,000 for additional health services, £900,000 for increased old age, blind, widows' and orphans' pensions, £100,000 for relief to income-tax payers with dependent children and £600,000 for the additional cost this year of the tax concessions made last year. This, if I may say so, is a gratifying achievement for a Government but one year in office and is an earnest of the sincerity of our intentions.
Now to come to the technical aspects of the Finance Bill. Its chief purpose is, of course, to give permanent legislative effect to the Budget Resolutions passed by Dáil Éireann. These Resolutions dealt with the rates of income-tax and surtax for 1955-56, the agreement with Canada for avoidance of double taxation on death duties, the aggregation of assurance policies when computing the rate of estate duty to be applied in certain cases, and the stamp duty on credit-sale agreements. The covering legislative provisions are contained in Sections 1, 10, 12 and 17 of the Bill. Other matters to which I referred in my Budget statement are also provided for, income-tax being dealt with in Sections 2 to 5, the excise duty rebate for small brewers in Section 6, the agreement with Canada for avoidance of double taxation on income in Sections 14 and 15, and the termination of the stamp duty on yearly certificates of notaries public in Section 16. Section 2 incorporates, in addition, a provision which was not amongst my original budgetary proposals, namely, the increase from £40 to £60 in the amount of income a child may have in his own right without prejudicing the grant of the normal child allowance for income-tax purposes. I propose now to give a brief explanation of the purpose of the remaining sections of the Bill.
Section 7 reduces from 35 per cent. to 25 per cent. the minimum proportion of a cine-variety programme in a patent theatre which must consist of personal performances so that the entertainment may qualify for the 30 per cent. repayment of entertainments duty allowable under the Finance Act, 1948 (paragraph (c) of sub-section (4) of Section 10). This casement of the qualifying conditions is intended mainly to help the management of Dublin's Theatre Royal to maintain the stage show as part of the theatre's entertainment and so preclude as far as possible the danger of unemployment amongst musicians, stage hands, etc.
Section 8 revokes the customs duty on galvanised corrugated iron or steel, which has been suspended since 1942 and which, in the absence of this provision, would automatically come back into force with the lapse next year of the Supplies and Services (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1946.
Section 9 provides, in the first instance, that the £8 excise duty— applicable to agricultural tractors used on public roads for haulage of goods without reward—shall apply also as from 1st July, 1955, to agricultural tractors using a "carry-all" or other detachable container for the conveyance of goods without reward. This extension of the concession is warranted on grounds of equity.
Section 9 provides also that, as announced in the Budget, agricultural tractors used for hauling for reward milk, separated milk and containers to or from creameries and separating stations shall, as from 1st July, 1955, be subject to duty only at the £8 rate.
Section 11 provides that where property is being taken out of settlement the trustees may obtain from the Revenue Commissioners a certificate of the prospective amount of estate duty for which they, as trustees, may become accountable. Should the amount of the duty payable eventually be found to exceed the amount specified in the certificate, the trustees will not be liable for the excess but any such excess will be payable by the beneficiaries. The merit of this provision is that it will enable trusts to be wound up in certain cases.
As regards Section 13 the position under existing law is that a deceased person's own estate, if it exceeds £2,000, is aggregated for estate duty purposes with any settled estate in which he had an interest and, accordingly, becomes liable to the higher rate of duty appropriate in the circumstances. Section 13 sets aside the rule of aggregation where the net value of the property of the deceased does not exceed £10,000. There is provision also for marginal relief in cases where the property is not substantially in excess of £10,000.
Section 18 makes the usual amortisation arrangements in respect of borrowings for voted "capital services" in 1954-55 and 1955-56. The repeals provided for in Section 19 and indicated in the Third Schedule are, in so far as they relate to the Stamp Act, 1891, consequential on the repeal by Section 16 of the stamp duty on the certificates of notaries public. The repeal of Section 5 of the Finance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1935, and of Section 23 of the Finance Act, 1938, abolishes the bounties on tobacco made from home-grown leaf and on sugar made from home-grown beet which were introduced in 1935 to compensate exporters for the higher duty-free cost of such commodities as compared with the imported products. The tobacco bounty was suspended under the Emergency Powers Act. No bounty has been paid in either case since 1943. Tobacco has virtually ceased to be grown here and sugar ceased to be liable to duty in 1946. With the lapse of the Supplies and Services (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1946, the original legislative provisions would be revived and in the circumstances their repeal is now proposed.
The remaining sections, that is, Sections 20 and 21, are standard and require no explanation. I accordingly recommend the Bill to this House.