No, not alternatives, but they can be said arising out of similar circumstances. When the Minister tells me that he does not understand what I mean, I know that I am getting pretty near the truth, but when he tells me that I do not know what I am talking about, then I know that I have really got at the truth.
I should like to ask some questions about some of these items about which I feel concerned and there should be public concern. The first deals with Order 18 of 1958, which is the second item on the Memorandum, dealing with files for filing cabinets and component parts thereof. We are told that the minimum rates are to be 1/- full and 8d. preference per article or component, or per part of per article, as they say in the North country. I should like to know what percentage duty does that represent, because it may be very small or it may be big.
Then I notice that Order 30 imposes a duty on silk and artificial silk. I noticed rather to my surprise that there is a duty of 2/6 full and 1/8 preference, United Kingdom and Canada, per square yard on certain artificial silk, costing not more than 1/3 per square yard. At the very lowest, unless my mathematics are very much gone astray, that is a duty of 200 per cent. I would ask the Minister to consider what kind of effect on retail prices does a duty of that kind have here, as the stuff apparently coming in even from the United Kingdom under a preferential rate of 1/8 costs initially less than 1/3 per square yard. Does the Minister think it necessary to impose this exorbitant duty? I should like to hear something in justification of that.
Order 37 imposes a duty on tomatoes. The Minister has said that this is for the purpose of encouraging Irish growers to grow tomatoes in heat. I would like to hear some more details of the effects of that. Has the Minister satisfied himself on the costs of producing tomatoes in the early season in heated greenhouses? I do not pretend to have any expert knowledge of the matter, but I would be surprised if it is not so, that all the major growers in this country are already growing tomatoes with heat. I know that there are a number of small growers who grow them in cold greenhouses but I should be surprised if large numbers of the growers are not already using heat. I am surprised to find that this is to encourage them to put in heating which they have already. I should like also to advert to the fact that our rivals in this trade are mainly the Dutch, and I should like to ask how do the Dutch do it. What are their advantages over us in the way of heated greenhouses? You may say that they get more sun in summer time but this is not summer time; it is spring, and it depends on artificially produced heat.
I should like to relate this question to the very apposite remarks of Senator Seán O'Donovan when he asked would it not be possible, instead of wasting the heat of the turf-burning power stations, to use it for the production of heat in greenhouses. That was one portion of Mr. R.N. Tweedy's plan for the production of electricity from turf, at a time when everybody was saying that he was mad, and the present Minister was just as pessimistic as he accuses other people of being now, because, after all, this was not started in Ireland until we had learned the hard way from the war, when it became perfectly feasible to produce electricity from turf. Mr. Tweedy long before the war cited as an added advantage in the production of electricity from turf, the fact that you could use the surplus heat, instead of in cooling towers, in heating the greenhouses all around the turf power house.
Those who are familiar with the not very beautiful Battersea Power Station near Victoria Station are aware that they pump hot water under the river to give heat and hot water to blocks of flats on the other side. If that is possible, then it is highly possible in relation to glasshouses growing tomatoes in Ireland. I would like to be satisfied that the best policy in such a thing as this is simply to slap on a duty, because I am not satisfied that that is the best way.
I should like to ask about Order 36 under which the duty on dried peas is being raised from 2d. per pound full, 1?d. preferential the United Kingdom and Canada to 6d. full and 4d. preferential. What percentage does that represent? I would like to hear justification of it, for it appears to be very high.
Order 38 refers to sections for beehives. Is this duty really necessary? I should like to hear justification for it. Who are the main people using these? Large numbers of them are smallholders who have been encouraged to keep bees and produce section honey. This means an almost punitive duty placed upon them, for it is not a small duty—it is 50 per cent. full and 33? per cent. preferential. Is it really worth while, in the Minister's contention, to give this enormous protection to an industry which will not employ very many people at the expense of these small beekeepers? I doubt if there are many large enterprises of that kind in the country. The raw materials of beekeeping are costly enough as it is without putting higher costs still on the wood for making the sections.
Order 49, in this slightly bemusing way, does not mention a percentage, but a sum of money — a duty of 5/7½ full and 3/9 preferential on berets and other similar articles not made wholly or mainly of felt or felted materials. I do not know what they cost initially, but it seems to me that that duty must represent something like 150 per cent. Are the producers of these things producing them efficiently? Has the Minister satisfied himself that that is the case?
Again, I should like to know something about the implications of Order 57 which refers to what the paper before us rather coyly calls "certain electrical accessories" and promptly slaps on a 75 per cent. duty. I did not have time to check the Order again to-day but it is available of course. It was made on the 7th March, 1958. I should like to ask what are those "certain accessories" that require a duty of such a high order.
Order 157 refers to door and window fittings—imposing a duty of 75 per cent. full and 50 per cent. preferential. I do not know what is covered by that but, in fact, window sashes come in and are assembled here, frequently rather unskilfully. I do not know if the Minister has ever noticed that many window frames are so assembled that when the window is theoretically fully opened it is not at right angles to the frame, because the drilling has been badly done. It is not because the raw materials are wrong, but because the drilling, which is about the only operation done here, is done in the wrong place. I have tried on two different occasions to get a properly fitted window of this kind but it is impossible apparently to get satisfaction. What are the door and window fittings which are so unsuccessfully produced in many cases in Ireland that they require a duty of 75 per cent. or 50 per cent?
Then, No. 128 of 1958 is an extension of a duty which I opposed when it first came before us here. It puts a duty on milk cans. Again, this hits the agricultural community. The milk producer is asked to pay more for the milk cans. This is an extension of the duty. I have forgotten what the amount of the duty is. This merely extends it from 12-gallon cans to 14-gallon cans. I am not satisfied, and I do not know whether or not the Seanad is satisfied, that that is the way to help agriculture. I do not think it is. I doubt, if that duty is justified. I thought the same thing the last time. I am sorry to say that, in this Seanad, where the farming community is vocationally represented, my memory is that I did not even get a seconder when I moved the deletion of this duty originally from the Bill. A lot of people in this Seanad speak vocationally for the farmer but vote vocationally for the protected industrialist.
There are three other items which I want to mention. No. 190 of 1958 refers to the duty on certain wire webbing, netting and fencing. What I said about the milk cans applies here too. Here is a duty from 33? per cent. to 50 per cent. going on to fencing and netting. Again, this is an impost upon the agricultural community in order to keep industries going. I should like to have some assurance as to whether the efficiency of these industries has increased a little since they started.
Then, Order No. 194 of 1958 refers to certain portable oil-fired space heaters and component parts therefor. These had a 60 per cent. duty full, and a 40 per cent. preferential. In this Order, No. 194 of 1958, there is a clause which disturbs me — Clause No. 3. It is common form but I think it should be more commonly disturbing. It provides:—
"Whenever the Minister for Finance, after consultation with the Minister for Industry and Commerce, so thinks proper, the Revenue Commissioners may by licence authorise any particular person, subject to compliance with such conditions as they may think fit to impose, to import without payment of the duty imposed by this Order any articles chargeable with such duty or, in the case of any such articles already imported, to take delivery thereof without payment of such duty either as the Revenue Commissioners shall think proper without limit as to time or quantity or either of them or within a specified time or in a specified quantity."
That means that any person having the ear of the Minister can get a licence to import these space-heaters duty-free in any quantity at all.
I am not suggesting that this right would be improperly used. I am suggesting it is a right we should be reluctant to give. This is a statutory Order. It places within the power of the Minister the right to make this concession to anybody he likes, with any conditions he likes, or no conditions, as to time or quantity. Some people would be paying a 60 per cent. duty and having to sell the articles with that duty while others would be importing them and paying no duty at all. That is unsatisfactory. It is another of these Orders which I should like to see deleted.
The final one is Order No. 206 of 1958 which puts a duty of 50 per cent. on imitation cotton wool. That may be what our Irish industrialists are wrapped up in; I am not sure if that is the genuine or imitation article. Again, it seems to me that this is a very high percentage of duty to be imposed. This imitation cotton wool is used largely in homes where there are young children. It is an ordinary item of household expenditure and here we have this exorbitant duty.
I desired to put down some recommendations. I thought from the Order Paper the last time that this Bill would come first to-day. It came to us first but the Turf Development Bill was taken first. I should like to propose recommendations. I am quite happy to allow them to stand over for a week, if the Committee Stage is to be taken then. However, I took the precaution of handing them in beforehand. I want to give the Seanad an opportunity to vote in accordance with a concern that is often expressed here for the consumer and the farmer in relation to some of these matters and move the deletion of certain of these items from this Bill which seems to me to be inordinately long.