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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 30 Jul 1970

Vol. 68 No. 17

Imposition of Duties (Confirmation of Orders) Bill, 1970 (Certified Money Bill): Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

An explanatory memorandum has been circulated for the information of Senators. The purpose of this Bill is to confirm two Orders made during 1969, under the Imposition of Duties Act, 1957, and the Finance Act, 1962. It is a statutory requirement that such orders must be confirmed not later than the end of the calendar year following that in which they are made, if they are not to cease to have statutory effect at the expiration of that period.

Order No. 178 was necessary because of a decision by the Customs Co-Operation Council regarding the classification of certain trailers in the Brussels Tariff. As you know, this country's Customs and Excise tariff is based on the internationally accepted Brussels nomenclature form of Customs classification. The effect of the council's decision was that some trailers, which were already liable to duty, were being re-classified at a tariff heading where duty was not payable. The order ensured that the trailers in question remained liable to duty on reclassification.

Order No. 180, which was made by the Government on the recommendation of the Minister for Finance, provided for the fourth tariff reduction on goods of United Kingdom origin, in accordance with the terms of the Free Trade Area Agreement. In addition, it provided for the maintenance of the special tariff concessions in favour of certain goods of Northern Ireland origin and implemented the remaining tariff concessions, at 55 headings, arising out of the Government's accession to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The order also transferred the licensing powers in respect of a number of duties on wheaten products from the Minister for Industry and Commerce to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and made a number of minor changes in the Customs tariff.

I shall be glad to give any further information required in connection with the Bill.

There are only one or two points I should like to make on this Bill. One thing that puzzles me in connection with these orders is that very frequently they take considerable time before they are introduced. I understand the position is as the Minister stated that they are allowed a period up to the end of the year following their making before they have to be enacted. Would there not be more reality about it if it were possible for the Minister and the Department to bring these before the Houses of the Oireachtas within a reasonably short time after their making?

On the two orders we are concerned with here, the first of them is due to reclassification in respect of certain matters in relation to the Brussels tariff. I understand the position to be that these were in one category to which a particular rate was applicable and that by reason of an alteration of definition or nomenclature they were put into another category which was free and that what the Minister is doing now in making this order is to ensure that the duty will continue as it was before the reclassification. As far as I am concerned, I am not objecting to that.

As regards Order No. 180, as the Minister pointed out, this now constitutes the fourth 10 per cent reduction under the Anglo Irish Free Trade Area Agreement. There is only one point I want to make in this connection. It is that an order of this sort—the wording would not be "10 per cent of the tariff"—is of general application. I do not know whether it is possible under the terms of the Free Trade Area Agreement to deal with this on some more selective basis rather than by an order of general application.

I think all of us would probably be able to think of examples as between different industries where a 10 per cent reduction might be comparatively easy, but there might be one industry which would find it extremely hard to meet it. That aspect was dealt with by the Minister in the Dáil and I do not intend to labour it here. However, I would be interested to know if in respect of future such orders and future reductions it might not be possible for the Minister, within the framework of the Free Trade Area Agreement, to deal with the matter more selectively.

The Senator raised the question of why it was not possible to have introduced this Bill at an earlier stage in the year and at a time which would have followed more closely on the making of the order. I must say that I was anxious to get this particular Bill to the House during the present session and, possibly, one of the reasons why it is being discussed at this late stage in the session's that the last occasion when my predecessor was dealing with the Bill confirming the imposition of duties, it was late in the calendar year following the actual making of the orders and he promised the House then that he would endeavour to bring the confirmation Bill at an earlier stage next time.

Normally, the Bill is introduced during the Christmas session but on this occasion it has been brought forward. As far as I am concerned I will endeavour to keep it more close to the actual making of the orders. One should endeavour to bring in a Bill to cover all of the orders made in a given calendar year rather than to bring in a multitude of Bills to the House covering each individual order. From that point of view, I can assure the House that there will be no avoidable delay in introducing a Bill of this nature, say, next year to confirm the orders that have been made during the present calendar year. At the same time, it is always possible that I, as Minister, may find it necessary to make an order late in a calendar year and it is not very easy to follow that through in the beginning of the following calendar year by way of confirmation.

Concerning the second point as to the question of selectivity in regard to the 10 per cent—it is not possible to be more selective in arranging the reduction but there are provisions under the Anglo Irish Free Trade Area Agreement whereby special arrangements may be made for a particular section of an industry which may be badly hit by the further reduction in the 10 per cent duty following discussions concerning those industries. In fact, in this particular year we are at the stage where a general overall review is deemed necessary and is laid down in the arrangements made in connection with the Anglo Irish Free Trade Agreement. This matter will be the subject of discussion between both sides during the coming year and the particular industries which were hit by the withdrawal of all those duties will get special attention and consideration at these discussions.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.