FINANCIAL RESOLUTIONS—REPORT. - RESOLUTION No. 7 (DEBATE RESUMED).

Question again proposed: "That the Dáil agree with the Committee in Resolution No. 7."

This Resolution concerns wine, and I would like to ask the Minister for Finance why he has not taken steps to prevent profiteering by wine merchants by charging the increased price on wines which they had in stock prior to the passing of this Resolution? I would also ask the Minister whether he has seen a letter in the Press from a parish priest concerning the increased price of altar wines. When the Minister for Finance introduces Resolutions like this, increasing the duty on wine, he should make it quite clear in regard to any commodity on which an extra duty has been placed that the stocks in hands of merchants which had not been subject to the duty should be sold at the usual price. In his letter to the "Independent" on Monday last, the parish priest says: "I called yesterday on my grocer to order my supply of altar wine as usual. The grocer informed me that owing to the new tax on wines the price of altar wines were advanced 5/- per dozen or 5d. per bottle, and I had to pay 35/- per dozen for what I bought for 30/- before the tax."

A great deal of wine is used on altars, and I think the Minister for Finance should have instructions issued to wine merchants that they should not increase prices on the stocks in their possession prior to the tax. Altar wine is not manufactured in the Saorstát. Indeed I do not know why a tax should be put upon that particular wine at all. I think it would be useful information if others besides this P.P. would write to the Press and show where profiteering was taking place. It is not right that wine merchants should get this advantage which gives them an opportunity for profiteering. I should like to know whether the Minister has anything to say in regard to the wine already in hands of those merchants before the tax was imposed. Are the wine merchants entitled to charge the extra duty to the public on wines which were in their hands prior to the imposition of the tax?

I have nothing to say to the point raised by Deputy Lyons. I did not see the letter to which he refers.

I should like to put the case to the Minister that altar wines should be exempted altogether from tax. I take it that the tax on wine is a tax on luxury, and I suggest to the Minister that it would be only right that altar wines should be exempt from any tax. It is not in keeping with the principle upon which the Minister imposes taxes that altar wines should be covered by them.

It is not practicable to exempt altar wines. They have always been charged. As I said when introducing the Resolution, there is no reason why the price should be advanced on wines. The prices charged to the public bear no relation at all to the cost at which they are bought plus the duty. The rate of profit is simply enormous, and this extra tax is no reason at all for any increase in retail price.

Will the Minister appoint some committee, or do something to prevent profiteering?

No, sir.

Might I suggest that there is no need for a committee at all? The competition in the wine trade— and I know a little about it—is so great that no man will unduly raise the price of wine. If he did there would be fifty others ready to sell it at a cheaper price. Deputy Lyons is naturally a kindly man, and I hope his fear will be dismissed by the knowledge that the competition would be too great, and that if I cannot make a shilling I am satisfied with sixpence.

It is the point of view that Deputy Beamish expresses that raises doubts in my mind as to the Minister's position on this wine duty. We are all familiar with the contention that competition between traders or merchants or manufacturers will, in the long run—and perhaps not too long a run—bring down prices to a normal economic level. That is the theory. But the Minister for Finance, three times since the Budget speech, has told us that there is an inordinate profit on wine, and I am prepared to accept the Minister's judgment on this matter because I have no doubt he has made specific inquiries. Why has this competition not affected the price of wine in the past? How does the abnormal profit result? Is it because there has been a sudden drop in the import price, or is it not a fact that this abnormal profit on wines has been existing for a long time, and that the effects of competition in the trade have not been such as to bring down the price to a normal level, that is to say, the wholesale price, plus a normal profit? I want to find out where the truth lies between Deputy Beamish and the Minister. I invite the Minister to give us some more information as to the rate of profit on wines and to do what Deputy Lyons suggests a profiteering commission would do, at very much less expense than a commission would involve. If the Minister has information regarding the rate of profit on the various kinds of wines made by the merchants for whom Deputy Beamish makes himself the spokesman, the public would know what would be a reasonable price to pay for wine, and we might have effective competition. Deputy Beamish would not object, I am sure, to this effective competition, inasmuch as he says that it already exists. But if the Minister can prove to us that it does not exist I am sure Deputy Beamish would enter the trade and help to bring down the price to a normal level.

This is Deputy Beamish's second speech.

No. It is only an explanation.

It must be a personal explanation, not an explanation about the wine trade.

Might I say on behalf of Deputy Beamish that he has already made a successful attempt to bring down the price of stout. He is selling it in Cork at the lowest price.

I might explain what Deputy Beamish wanted to explain, that he is a wine merchant in addition to being a big brewer, and he will bring down the price of wine, I will engage.

Does the Minister propose to take any steps to prevent such a thing occurring again with wine already imported?

I have nothing further to say with reference to the point raised by Deputy Lyons. I am not going to give figures with regard to the profit on wines. That is within the scope of the Committee that is now sitting, and I hope that they will report on it. I have had certain instances before me of what I regarded as inordinate profits in wines, but I will not produce these instances because they might happen to be isolated instances. I do not think they are. I am satisfied that they are not, but it is not my function to carry out an inquiry into the profits in the wine trade. I think it is pretty generally known that the same class of wines may be sold in one shop at twice the price that is charged in another shop, and I believe that the reason why the competition in this trade has not been effective is that to a very large extent it is looked upon as a luxury trade, and the public do not buy very keenly.

Question put and agreed to.