I am subject to correction on that, but it has been in vogue for a long time. The fact is that people now have no faith in savings of any kind because they feel that if they do save their efforts may be negatived by a section in a Finance Bill.
I want to put it to the Minister for his serious consideration that we live in a free society. We believe in private enterprise. I know my colleagues in the Labour benches would not agree that anyone in a case of this kind should be entitled to beat the Revenue Commissioners because he is able to get round the law. We have a private enterprise economy where we believe in private enterprise and the right of the individual within the law so to order his affairs that he does not bear the same kind of burden as if he did not know the law and made different provision.
It is inevitable—and it has always been so—that where there are penal provisions in a statute, clever people, people who set their minds to it, will try to get around the rigours of that statute. What is happening in this country is that in order to catch the few, many small estates have been penalised. It is extremely regrettable that confidence in the continued existence of a particular statutory provision should be abolished, in that way creating a disincentive to savings.
However, as I say, I do appreciate and I am very glad the Minister on the death duties under a will has on this occasion made some amends and, indeed, I should like to pay tribute here, which I have been unable to do on a previous occasion, to Senator Dr. Ryan for the liberality he showed in earlier Finance Acts in raising the estate duty allowance from £2,000 to £5,000.
The present Bill follows the same format as all previous Bills in relation to income tax, customs and excise, death duties, stamp duties, corporation profits tax and turnover tax. The Minister has made no attempt to try to devise new methods of raising finance to meet the commitments which it is recognised have to be met. Indeed, it occurs to me that there is nothing in this Finance Bill to provide any kind of a stimulus to the economy nor do I see that any of the moneys raised here will be used in any way so as to have an appreciable effect on the welfare of the community.
The payroll tax was recently introduced in England. I only mention that because of the bad effect, I think, that payroll tax will have on this community. It is clear that people who were of a mind in England to invest their money in the various services there will no longer do so but that they will try to find many outlets here for the money which they would otherwise have invested in those services but for the payroll tax. I can see a situation developing in this country in which those people will in increasing numbers and with increasing amounts of money invest here the money they cannot use in England for investing in the various kinds of services there to which the payroll tax would apply. I believe the time has come for the Minister for Finance to take note of that and of the fact that much too much foreign money is coming into this country and being used for no other purposes than to buy out and establish large retail businesses in this country.
I do not think the economy benefits by one halfpenny if a businessman comes in here and buys out a retail store. What happens then is that thereafter all the profits made by Irish companies and Irish concerns go across the water to England. The net result is that there is less employment very frequently for Irish boys and girls and men and women in the retail trade, certainly in the upper echelons of the retail trade. The profits which would otherwise be distributed and largely spent in this country are siphoned over the water to England. The time has come to investigate this phenomenon before it gets too late because those big supermarkets are doing nothing to increase wealth in this country. They are doing nothing for economic development, as far as I can see, nor do I think that they are doing a single thing to bring down prices or keep the cost of living stable. It is in that kind of context that the Minister for Finance, if we are not captured by free trade in Britain, should begin to think in terms of a form of tax that would arrest the growth of profitless investment in this country. When I say "profitless" I mean that the net result is that profits go out of the country.
I hope the Minister will have some regard to the fact that a great many small business people, chemists, grocers, traders and the like, are in grave danger and in great uncertainty because of the development of these useless supermarkets from an economic point of view. I know that in the area in which I live such a large organisation is about to take over and, of course, one sees businesses already closing down in advance and other small businesses, which have been giving quite good services and providing the goods as cheaply as the bigger ones, will probably have to face eventual destruction. This is a matter about which the Government should be concerned and it is a matter which perhaps might be dealt with by an appropriate fiscal policy.
It seems to me that the great need at the present time is to introduce some kind of harmony into the relationship between labour and management and, on the other hand, to harness that harmony to the kind of economic projects which the Government want to see realised in their Second Programme for Economic Expansion. To date, I do not see any indication on the part of the Government taking a lead to organise the resources of the community in the kind of way that will inspire confidence between management and labour and between management and Government and bring about the necessary expansion in the development of industry and trade generally.
It is remarkable that at this late stage, only the other day, the Taoiseach in the Dáil referred to the prices and incomes policy with this comment "whatever that may mean". This is something that has been well thought out by the NIEC, has been the subject of a very learned and lengthy report by them and has the advantage of having the blessing of management, labour and other interests. Nonetheless, we had the Taoiseach speaking of a prices and incomes policy in terms of "whatever that may mean". Of course, part of the difficulty the Taoiseach finds himself in at the present time is that he does not like the military exercise of "about turn". He has had to do that far too often in the recent past and he is getting tired of it.
Let us not forget that a prices and incomes policy almost on the same lines as that indicated in the NIEC report was adumbrated in the Fine Gael policy Towards a Just Society, and, of course, the Taoiseach at the height of the election campaign dismissed the whole document as being as unnecessary as the fifth wheel on a motor car. Then he went on in a speech in Mullingar which the Minister is tired of hearing about to say that he would have nothing to do with a prices and incomes policy. “If we are in Government we shall not implement it,” he said, “and if in opposition we shall oppose it.”
Nonetheless he makes an about turn last November and gets up at a meeting of some group out in Skerries and proceeds to tell the country what is involved in a prices and incomes policy. Evidently he was reading from a prepared script at that time, because his latest indication is that he does not know what a prices and incomes policy is. It seems to me that a departure such as the introduction of a worthwhile and practical prices and incomes policy would be of the greatest benefit to the country. It would give some assurance to the workers of participation in an increased national product, and would also enable industrialists who have to compete with outsiders to cost in advance with some certainty the prices of their products.
I have had the experience of meeting recently a large industrialist who complained bitterly of the present Government—and he is a supporter of the present Government—because he had lost one order for £200,000 and another for £300,000 because he could not possibly fulfil them because of the increased wages. He was moaning into his glass of beer and asking us why we did not do something about it. That is not the kind of thing, I think, that the Taoiseach's Ministers hear, apparently, at the various functions which the Taoiseach exhorts them to attend, or if they do they do not do anything about it. I believe that a prices and incomes policy would go a great distance to eliminate this uncertainty from which both labour and management suffer at present. The only authority that can bring both these parties together is the Government. I believe that that should be a function of either the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Taoiseach or some other Minister. That is one of the things that is contained in the NIEC report, and notwithstanding all that has been said about that by the Minister in the Dáil and by the Taoiseach it does not seem from the Taoiseach's latest acquaintanceship with this idea that we are any nearer to establishing a prices and incomes policy in this country.
We all know the basic reason for the present unrest in the country. It was a gross error on the part of the Taoiseach to think that he could get a wages agreement lasting for two and half years. The trade unions had no doubt at all that it was not going to last for two and half years, because the ink was scarcely dry on the agreement when there were rows as to what was intended by certain sections in it. The Taoiseach was very prominent in the negotiations which culminated in this great national agreement, but I have not seen any activity on the part of the Taoiseach in the last twelve months in trying to bring about industrial peace. Nothing has been done by him.
He is going to remain in office until June, 1970, we are told, and he does not have to busy himself about these things. I would have thought that even before this wretched Electricity Supply Bill was introduced the Taoiseach would have done something to try to bring the parties together, but he has not done that. It was a fundamental flaw, and showed a great lack of understanding of how the trade unions work and how the people who pay contributions to the trade unions work, to think that the secretaries, presidents and officials of the various trade unions, who are in receipt of reasonably good salaries, were to sit back for two and a half years and make no demand upon the employers. The thing was quite absurd from the start. There has been no recognition of that fact even to this date. I think that the sooner that the Ministers, instead of going to social gatherings— and I intend to discuss this point on the Ministers and Secretaries Bill— should get themselves invited to meetings with trade unionists and find out what way trade unions react and how various things come before executive committees, branch meetings, and general meetings of the unions, and get some kind of inkling into the demands, hopes and aspirations of the people who work in industry. When they get that there will be less criticism of an idea from the NIEC of a prices and incomes policy of the kind we have had from the Taoiseach in his sneering remark "Whatever that may be."
I am no expert on agriculture. That, I suppose, could go without saying, but I cannot but be surprised at the wholesale resignations from the Pigs and Bacon Commission. I had heard that these were going to take place, and I do not understand what the Minister for Agriculture is doing in order to bring about a situation where, if we carry on an intensive advertising campaign for the sale of bacon in Britain, we can put the people who carry on that advertising campaign in a position to meet the demands made on them as a result of it. The Minister for Agriculture went on one of those trips abroad, to Germany, I think it was in Cologne, and when he came back from Cologne, he said that there were unlimited markets for Irish agricultural produce abroad, or words to that effect.
When Senator Dr. Ryan was Minister for Finance in the first Budget he introduced he set aside a certain sum of money for adaptation of industry and as I understood it at that time for the exploitation of foreign markets and their development for our industry and agriculture. I must say that I do not know what efforts have been made or any great success that has attended these efforts, but I do know that the Minister for Agriculture told us that there were markets abroad and that we should go and get them. At the same time, when apparently we are able to sell bacon to Britain we are not able to fill the orders that are made. That is only symptomatic of what is going on, and it is profoundly disturbing to think that the lives of the rural population and the future of agriculture in this country are dependent upon people who have that knowledge of what is available and do nothing to make that available to the Irish farmer.
The NIEC report also deals with the building industry, and indeed the Finance Act, 1965, had something to say about the building industry. I am greatly disappointed that the Minister for Finance has done nothing in this Bill to bring some clarity into the provisions of Part VII of the Finance Act, 1965, which dealt with the development of land. I can tell the Minister that there are no two lawyers in this country who will agree as to what is the interpretation of many of the provisions of Part VII of the Finance Act, 1965. I very much doubt if those who drafted it, the people who gave out the subheads to the Parliamentary Draftsman, knew what they wanted to achieve and knew the kind of exceptions they wanted to make. It is something which has caused a great deal of heart-searching in the building industry. At a time when the building industry requires a stimulus rather than the reverse, it would seem to me that it would have been better to repeal the whole of Part VII and substitute it by something more intelligible and workable.
Indeed, a comment that applies to most legislation dealing with taxation is that the only people who really understand what is contained in the legislation are those who administer it because most of them administer a few sections at a time and become experts on it. They understand it for the simple reason that it is what they say is the interpretation, unless an unfortunate taxpayer decides he will go to court and, in most of the cases as we know, the taxpayer can only go to court after he has first of all lodged the money in court—maybe £13,000, £15,000 or, perhaps, £18,000 as we have seen recently in a particular case—and then waits his chance for a judicial interpretation with no certainty because there never can be any certainty that he will succeed. It seems to me that there is a great deal of injustice done to people and a great deal of duty paid that they probably are not liable to pay in those less clear sections of the Revenue Acts because of the utterly impossible way in which those sections are worded.
It is a strange commentary upon section 29 of the Finance Act, 1965, that what should have been perfectly clear if people wanted to say: "a widow shall be entitled to an abatement of so much", "a child shall be entitled to an abatement of so much" that that could not be said in a way that anybody reading it would be able to say—"That is what it means and it cannot mean anything else".
The building industry, from what I know of it, has been greatly perturbed about the provisions of Part VII. It is not affecting the people who are, in fact, making the money and whom the section was designed to catch but it has become quite impossible for the ordinary builders to know where they stand because of the complicated provisions of this particular Act. At a time when the NIEC report expresses some concern about the slowing down of the building industry, it is altogether regrettable that they should find themselves harassed by the provisions of Part VIII, well intentioned though these provisions may have been.
As I understand the position, we are within a few days of the application of the Free Trade Area between this country and Great Britain. I do not know of anything substantial being done in order to prepare industry and the people who derive their livelihood from it for the competition about to come upon them. I do not know of anything the Minister has in mind, any financial provisions, which are available in order to help industry. I gather that, indeed, the financial provisions which were available to industry up to now were not that readily taken up by industry in order to fit themselves for the rigours of the time to come.
I hope that the Government in the coming months, after they have taken the usual summer rest, will get down to a very full examination of the needs of industry. When I say the Government, I mean the Government themselves; not doing it by their civil servants. I believe that until our Ministers spend more time thinking about the problems which confront the country, discussing day in and day out with their advisers ways and means of resolving them, we will never have the kind of firm and uniform direction of policy this country needs at this time more than anything else. If the Government, for whatever length of time they continue in office, spend more of their time discussing the problems with which we are confronted, examining them, teasing them, being advised about them, getting further information and so on, we can hope that, even if they do not adopt the kind of policies which the NIEC recommend or even the policies which have been advocated by the Opposition in this House and in the Dáil, even their own policies, thought out by themselves and properly co-ordinated, they will confer a greater benefit on the community than has resulted from the sporadic and unco-ordinated efforts up to the present.