Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 24 Jun 1926

Vol. 16 No. 16


I move:—

In page 8, before Section 18, to insert a new section as follows:—

On and after the 1st day of November, 1926, entertainments duty within the meaning of Section 1 of the Finance (New Duties) Act, 1916, shall not be charged or levied on payments for admission to any entertainment as respects which it is proved to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners that the entertainment consists solely of one or more courses between greyhounds.

This amendment exempts coursing matches from the entertainment tax. I felt unable to agree that bets on any event whatever should be exempted from the betting tax. On the other hand it is recognised that in the circumstances under which bets are made on coursing matches, the incidence of the tax would be rather heavier than on racecourses. There is also the fact that it is not intended to hold out any hope to the people concerned in the promotion of coursing that anything might be done to assist them in the matter of stakes, and consequently it was felt that there is a case for the particular concession that is offered, that is exempting coursing matches from the entertainment tax. My belief is that, from the revenue point of view, it will probably leave us in very much the same position actually as if we were getting no betting tax on the betting done at coursing matches. The amount of money involved is not considerable. It is perhaps in the neighbourhood of £1,000.

I am very pleased to be able to congratulate the Minister on his decision to exempt coursing meetings from the entertainment tax. It will be welcome news to the many coursing clubs throughout the country which have been finding it very difficult to carry on owing to the heavy drain of the entertainment tax on their resources. I believe if they had their choice of accepting exemption from the entertainment tax or exemption from the tax on bets made at coursing matches, there is no doubt that they would accept the exemption from the entertainment tax.

I do not approach this matter from the same view point as Deputy Shaw. I see, though, that the Minister has gone a long way to meet the case. I can quite understand that when he is determined to have a tax on betting on racing he must also, for the sake of fair administration, carry the same rule into effect with regard to coursing. I see his difficulty, and I sympathise with it. I also see the point that executives of coursing meetings who very often have little or no connection with owners, will welcome the present suggestion in preference to a tax on betting, but I do not receive it with the enthusiasm of members of the executive. I am an owner, and not a member of an executive, and the whole drain now is going to come out of the pockets, to a large extent, of the owners who are already carrying coursing on their backs. I believe this is the best the Minister could do, and in the circumstances I am more or less compelled to accept it. I do not, however, receive it enthusiastically, as I am satisfied that the whole drain is going to fall on the owners, without whom no sport could be held.

The Minister has undoubtedly gone a long way in this matter, but I see some difficulty still in relation to open coursing. Where open coursing is carried on—it is quite different from park coursing—there is no charge for admission to the ground. I have several coursing clubs in County Meath in my mind at the moment which practically all carry on open coursing. They have to drive in the hares and coursing is not carried on in the same manner as at a park meeting.

That is quite a different thing altogether.

They pay out each year a considerable sum of money in prizes. This money is not realised on gate receipts but on voluntary contributions from people who are sympathetic to coursing. In fact the majority of the subscriptions they get are as low as 6d. for each day's coursing. A very large number of people who attend such coursing meetings do not subscribe at all. It is the people who own the dogs who subscribe and who have a bet on the dogs.

The whole burden of this tax will be placed on the owners of the dogs, who, if they want to keep open coursing, which is very necessary, in existence, must continue to give voluntary contributions to the club. At the same time if they wish to bet on their dogs and keep alive their interest in the coursing they will have to pay the tax. I do not think that the Minister went very deeply into the matter or he would have given more consideration to open coursing clubs. In County Meath there are at least five clubs that have open meetings. They will derive no benefit; indeed they will be victimised as compared with their better-off friends who arrange park coursing. At Dunshaughlin they have four coursing meetings every year. The club is kept up by voluntary contributions; some contributions are as low as 6d. and some as high as 5/-. A man who would have a number of dogs running would probably give 5/-. The people who attend the meetings and who take an interest in coursing will be called upon to pay this betting tax. I think it is unreasonable and I believe it will help to kill open coursing in this country.

Can the Minister give us any information, based on the experience of the Department, in relation to the way the entertainment tax falls? Does it fall on the proprietor of the entertainment, or the grounds or building in which the entertainment takes place, or does it, as presumably was intended, fall on the patrons of the entertainment? It would be well to have that made clear, because there seems to be a very general opinion held by persons interested in the provision of entertainment that it is they who pay the tax, whereas the public have a belief that it is the public that pay it. It would be well to have an authoritative declaration on this matter from the Minister, so far as he can base his statement on the experience of the Revenue Commissioners.

I do not rise to take any exception to the amendment; in fact, I quite approve of it. On the other hand, I think I may express a grievance against the Minister because he did not indicate at an earlier stage that the entertainment tax would be reconsidered. I fancy that if some of us had notice that the entertainment tax would be under consideration, we might have put forward much more meritorious claims for relief.

There could not be a more meritorious claim.

Of course, that is purely a matter of opinion. I imagine we could bring forward amendments that would be equally acceptable.

As the Minister has been so kind in agreeing to exempt coursing from the tax, would it be possible also to exempt coursing meetings from the betting tax? The Minister is well aware——

The Deputy is not.

The Minister is well aware that if this betting tax is started at coursing meetings it will take three or more officials to calculate the amount which the State will receive from the tax. It would not be worth the Minister's while to impose it as the amount to be realised will be very small. On behalf of the people who asked me to oppose this tax, I desire to thank the Minister for agreeing to exempt the matter from taxation. As it is an old Irish sport, the Minister might go a little further. He might consider the possibility of buying out, in different areas, a sufficient amount of land for the purposes of coursing. The Minister for Finance could arrange with the Minister for Lands and Agriculture to take over land, and in that way he would encourage this old Irish sport. In my constituency it is difficult to get armers to allow people to course on heir land.

Would the Minister accept the amendment in Deputy Shaw's name in some amended form so as to exempt open coursing?

We have to come to that amendment first; then that question will arise.

It would be quite impossible to agree to exempt bets on coursing, or any bets, from the betting tax. That would make the proper enforcement of the tax impossible. All that I could do to meet the claim that coursing was in a peculiar position was to give this concession on the entertainment tax. Taking the entertainment tax broadly, the general position undoubtedly is that the public pays. When the entertainment tax was imposed, houses of entertainment, theatres and picture-houses, put up their prices by the amount of the tax, so that the public pays. The scheme they have in mind when they clamour for the abolition of the tax is that they should keep up their prices at the present level so that the public would pay them, but they would not pay the Revenue Commissioners.

There are certain cases where you have not a regular entertainment. Take, for instance, something like a coursing match which occurs occasionally, and where they have a fixed price of one shilling or one and sixpence. It would not be convenient for them to alter their price. There is something in the nature of a round figure and it always remains at that. It was possibly at the same figure before the entertainment tax was put on, and it remained at that level with the tax, and if the tax is taken off it will not change. Taking the tax broadly, there is no doubt the public pay it. If the tax were taken off it is quite probable that the harvest reaped by the owners would be only a temporary harvest and a certain amount of competition would gradually drive down prices to the level that would allow for the removal of the tax.

Deputy Johnson asked a question as to whether the general public or the bookie will pay the tax. I have been asked several questions in that connection. Deputy Johnson asked the Minister to give a proper interpretation of the position. He wanted an explanation as to whether the bookmaker would pay the percentage or the general public.

I am unable to answer.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I beg to move:—

In page 10, Section 23 (1) to insert after the word "bets," line 19, the words "(with the exception hereinafter mentioned)" and to insert before sub-section (2) a new sub-section as follows:—

"Bets entered into on any racecourse in Saorstát Eireann in respect of any horse running thereat shall be exempt from the duty prescribed by sub-section (1) of this section."

This amendment to the Finance Bill was repeated by me in order to get the Minister's decision in regard to a refund of half the tax collected for the improvement of stakes. I must say it is the unanimous opinion of all persons interested in racing and breeding that this refund is absolutely essential, as even a reduction of the tax from 5 per cent. to 2½ per cent. on the turnover will seriously reduce the attendance of the public at race meetings. If the various race companies are not recouped in this way they will naturally be obliged drastically to reduce the stakes, with inevitable injury to racing and breeding.

I have just received two telegrams from the Curragh which I will read. The first was handed in at the Grand Stand at the Curragh and reads as follows:—

"Shaw, Leinster House, Dublin. Turf Club unanimously favour your amendment advocating a refund of half betting tax to racecourse executives for the benefit of racing. The Turf Club are in no way opposed to a tax on betting away from the course and strongly urge that the burden imposed on racecourse betting should be as light as possible."

The second telegram is:—

"At a meeting of the Executive Committee of Breeders, Owners and Trainers' Association held to-day the following resolution, proposed by H. Usher and seconded by T. Rea, was passed unanimously:—‘That in the opinion of this Association the tax proposed to be levied on betting at racecourses will have a paralysing effect on the continuance of racing, and from what the council of the Association knows of the financial position of the various racecourses now carrying on in the Free State, any further drain on their resources must eventually be fatal to racing.

The Minister for Finance can check this statement through the Revenue Commissioners who are quite aware of the position above referred to. The Breeders, Owners and Trainers' Association call on Shaw and friends in Dáil Eireann to resist the imposition of this tax unless half of it is allocated to the improvement of stakes.' "

As I am rather confident that the Minister will meet me in that matter, perhaps it is not necessary for me to say any more for the present.

This is a matter that has a technical and practical aspect. The technical aspect is, of course, that provision for what is desired by Deputy Shaw could not properly be made in a Finance Bill. If any money, the produce of taxation, is to go in expenditure, whether it be monies paid out for an ultimate object by the Government or whether it is handed over to other people, it should properly be done by way of submission of an estimate to the Dáil and the voting of the money. That means that whatever it might be desirable to do in the way of increasing stakes for race meetings would be a matter for another Bill and a matter for inclusion in the annual Estimates. This matter has been considered by the Executive Council, and while we are clearly of opinion that we must not injure racing, it is not certain whether such a proportion of the tax that is collected at race meetings would be necessary in order to save the position of racing. We do not know, for instance, whether the combined effect of starting the totalisator and imposing a betting tax may not be to improve the position of racecourse executives. It it were to happen that the position, owing to the combined operations of both these things—because the totalisator will be a protection as against the discouragement that would result from the betting tax—is going to be that racecourse executives will be better off, then there would not be a case for improving the stakes up to the amount of half the tax collected at the races. On the other hand, if the combined result of the two things were to turn out that the revenue of the racecourse executives was seriously injured, we would not object to recommending the Dáil to provide the money for stakes up to half the amount of the tax actually collected from the bets made on the course. But this whole matter is a matter that cannot be investigated in advance. We do not know what revenue we are going really to have from the tax on the course. We can form various estimates, but these estimates may be proven to be right or wrong. We have had prognostications of all sorts, but we do not know what the effect of the betting tax is going to be on the revenue that will be available for rececourse executives. In regard to the totalisator, the position is that a decision can be easily enough come to. We propose to take 5 per cent. of the takings of the totalisator, and as the totalisator will be depriving racecourse executives of a certain revenue that they get from bookmakers, and as their consent would be necessary to setting up the totalisator, it is a fair enough proposition that the net receipts of the totalisator should be divided—that is, in case the Revenue Commissioners are actually running the totalisator—between the State and the racecourse executives. In the case where other people are running the totalisator under licence, it will be a matter of striking a bargain which would result in the State getting as much revenue out of the totalisator as if it were running the totalisator itself directly. So that as far as the totalisator is concerned the matter is simple. With regard to the tax on bets at racecourses, there is nothing to guide us or nothing to indicate what we would have to pay or whether we would be properly called upon to pay anything. My own view is that probably a case will appear for our paying something towards the stakes.

There is the fact that the British Government at the present time is providing about £1,600 per annum for the provision of stakes at Irish races. It seems to me quite likely when we examine the figures of the revenues of the racecourse executives after the tax has been put into operation that some particular figure, in the way of supplement of stake money, will be called for. The position of the Government is that they are prepared to recommend the Dáil to do what may appear to be necessary to prevent the position of racing in Ireland being prejudiced by the imposition of the betting tax up to half the amount that would be collected from bets at racecourses. But they are not prepared at the moment to say that they would recommend the Dáil to provide that sum when they do not know whether the whole result of this tax will be so to prejudice racecourses that they would have no just claims for the amounts. This is simply a matter of stating the policy of the Government on this question. We could not properly deal with the business here and now. We can only say what our view is, and what we intend to propose under certain circumstances, because I am quite clear what ought to be done about this matter is to vote whatever money is going to go for an increase in the stakes, year after year in the Dáil. Our position simply is that we do not think that the position of racing should be prejudiced. We believe that the amount of racing or some amount of racing approximate to what goes on at the present time is necessary for keeping the horse-breeding industry at its present pitch, and keeping up a proper interest in the horse-breeding industry. In fact, I can go a little further, and say we believe that the industry would benefit if stakes were increased, even apart from the betting tax, because if there were greater sums available in stakes there would be encouragement to a different type of owner to breed and race horses.

The position is not that if the race meetings remain with approximately or precisely the same revenue as they have at present we would not propose to do anything, but if the race meetings are not appreciably injured, we would not necessarily propose to do very much, because we would be glad to have all the revenue that we could get out of what is really a luxury for the purpose of enabling us to remit taxation in other directions. On the other hand, if there appears to be any serious injury to racing as a result of the tax, which would require an increase of the stakes to counteract it, and keep racing going, we would be prepared to consider sympathetically the point of view put forward by Deputy Shaw, and to make recommendations. Meantime, as I have said, the whole position is too indefinite, and actual experience is required before a decision can be come to, or before any firm promise can be made in the matter.

On the Second Reading of this Bill I proposed an amendment, the effect of which was what Deputy Shaw has now suggested, namely, that half of the tax so collected should be devoted to improving the stakes. You, sir, ruled that it was out of order on that occasion. The Minister has now stated that he is of opinion that this is not the proper time or way to raise this question. Perhaps I may be allowed to suggest that it would be possible to bring about this desired end by means of the Appropriation Bill. I do not know, sir, what your views upon that are. But the Minister seems to think that the only method of appropriating this money would be by introducing a new resolution and passing a separate Bill. I would suggest, if he were so disposed, that the money having been voted by these resolutions and by this Bill, provision could be made in the Appropriation Bill for the allocation of that money.

Apart from that, I was particularly interested in the tone of the Minister's most recent speech on this subject. When he introduced this betting tax he informed the House that he expected to get a revenue of from £150,000 to £200,000 from it. His latest confession amounts to this, that he does not know what he is going to get, and that he cannot make any promise about allocating any sum, because he really does not know where he is. That has been my attitude all through the discussion of this proposed tax: that the Minister for Finance, not having sufficiently investigated the subject, not being in a position to state definitely what he expects to get by means of this tax, is in reality taking a leap in the dark. We have it now on his own confession that he cannot make certain allocations for a certain purpose of the tax collected on the course, because in reality he does not know what he is going to get. I think that certainly is a timely confession, and one that shows the nature of the proposed tax.

The Minister has sought to draw a distinction between a tax on bets made with bookmakers and a tax collected by way of the totalisator. He seems to be confident in regard to the totalisator. To use his own words, it will be a simple matter. I fail to see how it will be any more simple in regard to the totalisator than in regard to the tax collected from the bookmakers. I do not know whether the Minister's advisers have informed him of the custom in other countries. Perhaps he is not aware that in every country in which there is a betting tax a certain sum actually has been allocated and is definitely earmarked for the purpose of improving the stakes or encouraging horse-breeding. In France, where the system first came in, where the Pari Mutuel first saw the light of day, I think 50 per cent. is allocated for the improvement of stakes and the remainder is given for charitable purposes, such as hospitals. Similarly in Australia and New Zealand. In these countries it is not done by way of an actual proposal dependent upon the amount of tax collected, but it is a definite rule laid down by the respective Parliaments that no matter what the amount may be, or whether the tax is collected by way of the totalisator or from bookmakers, a certain percentage shall go to the improvement of stakes and for the benefit of horse-breeding.

I fail to see why we cannot follow that beaten track. Even though the Minister has confessed that he does not know what he is going to get from the tax, I do not see that that alters the principle of the suggestion in any way. The suggestion is that if this tax produces revenue—no matter what that revenue may be—a certain proportion should go towards the improvement of stakes and for the benefit of horse-breeding. I do not think that that suggestion is dependent upon whether the tax hits the race meeting executives or not. This is a tax which undoubtedly will hit various classes. It will hit those who go to race meetings merely for the sake of pastime and enjoyment and who have to pay entertainment tax. There is no proposal here as in the case of coursing to remove the entertainment tax. It will also hit those who go there for business purposes, such as bookmakers, and it will hit the owners and trainers. To suggest that if it does not seriously injure racing nothing is to be done for the improvement of stakes, or for the benefit of horse-breeding, is, I think, hardly fair. I think in face of the strong representations made to the Minister, especially the latest one which we have just heard from Deputy Shaw, there is no reason why he should not proceed along the well recognised path and in accordance with the customs which have been adopted in other countries. To say merely that this is not technically the opportunity for bringing it up and that he would require a separate resolution and separate Bill to do so, I think is altogether burking the issue. I suggest that it would be possible, if the Minister so desired, to allocate a certain percentage of the revenue derived both from the bookmakers and the totalistator upon the Appropriation Bill. That is, if he so desires. But evidently he does not so desire. I must say as one who has taken part in those discussions that I am gravely disappointed at the Minister's attitude to-day because he leaves no hope for encouragement for either horse-breeders, owners or the executives of the race meetings in Ireland, and I think it is to be regretted that he is not able, as has been done elsewhere, to give an assurance of a certain percentage no matter what the tax may be.

My instructions from the owners, trainers, breeders and stewards of the Turf Club are very definite, and those are that they should get a definite promise from the Minister on this subject. The Minister's reply is vague. We know that racing is bound to be injured and I must ask the Minister to reconsider this matter or otherwise I will be obliged to press the amendment.

Deputy Shaw expressed his great confidence in the benevolent intentions of the Minister with regard to the betting tax and the portion that was asked to be allotted to the racing executives. It is a well-known fact that the racing executives all over Ireland are in a very poor way. In fact, the Curragh executive, which controls the premier flat-race meetings in this country, and which has special advantages in the way of having a racecourse and appurtenances practically free of rent, find great difficulty in paying their way. The plan the Minister has in mind appears to be that first of all he has to find out whether or not injury has been done to the race meetings by the imposition of the tax before he goes to their assistance. It may be too late to go to their assistance then because many of them may be out of existence. As it is, the smaller meetings all over the country are offering very poor stakes which are not sufficient to attract a good class of horse. It is absolutely necessary, if they are to be kept on their feet, that some help should be given in view of the fact that it is almost certain injury will be done to them by the imposition of the tax. It is a matter for regret that the Minister did not fall in with the suggestion made by Deputy Shaw on behalf of the owners and breeders and give those people a definite promise that he would come to their assistance in the way of apportioning to them part of the revenue collected by this tax.

When Deputy Shaw's first amendment on the Committee Stage was before us we thought the Minister was going to accede to this proposal, that half should be given back, and the position of the owners, trainers and breeders then all over the country was clearly stated. At that time the opinion of the premier body in Ireland ruling races, namely, the Turf Club, was not available. Now we know definitely, through the telegram Deputy Shaw read to the House, what their opinion on that matter was, and I think such opinion ought not to be lightly set aside. Of course it is a well-known fact that of the racing corporations throughout Ireland excepting the Curragh and Fairyhouse there are only four that pay any dividends, three in Dublin and the one in Tramore. That being the case, I think a definite blow to horse-breeding and racing will be struck if this money is not promised to be given back to increase the stakes. I think, as far as practically an outsider can understand the technicalities of the case, that it will have a very bad effect on racing and horse-breeding, and everything in that connection, if the Minister does not see his way to state definitely that a certain sum of money shall be set apart for stakes, whether it be taken from the tax or whether it be a sum allocated definitely by him now, as Deputy Redmond suggested, through the Appropriation Bill. I hope even at this late hour he will reconsider his position.

I hope Deputy Shaw will not be so easily led on this amendment as he was on the Committee Stage of the Bill, and that he will not accept promises from the Minister as to his intentions, that he would, as he stated in the Committee Stage, see that two and a half per cent. should go towards the stakes of the race meetings. I put an amendment down on the Committee Stage to reduce the entire betting tax from five per cent. to two and a half per cent. On the statement the Minister made I withdrew the amendment, and as Deputy Shaw was putting down his amendment to-day I did not wish to put mine on the Order Paper. If I did I would put it to the House. To my mind the House should not accept the Minister's suggestion now that the Turf Club, himself and his Government will consider this matter, and that then the Minister for Finance will see what amount of money, if any, he will return. It will all depend on whether the race meetings are flourishing. If they are flourishing with the five per cent. tax there will be nothing refunded. How is the Minister to find out how many men will be unemployed from the different occupations? Will he be able to find out from the Labour Exchanges that so many men in the Curragh and Newbridge were dismissed? Will Deputy Shaw tell him how many men he himself will dismiss? I think the House should not accept the suggestion of the Minister. If the House does it will be something like the promise we got concerning the report of the Old Age Pensions Committee. The old age pensioners were to get the shilling back that was taken off their pensions, but they have not received it yet. The same will apply to the promised refund of half the two-and-a-half per cent. I think, unless the Minister gives an undertaking definitely that this sum will be refunded, Deputy Shaw should press his amendment. I hope that every Deputy who is a lover of sport, and who wishes to see this industry flourish, will support it. I fail to see how the Minister for Finance has in any way met any of the suggestions made to him. The Finance Bill is actually the same to-day as when it was introduced except that in some cases the penalty has been increased from £200 to £500, and that without any authority whatsoever. I think it is clear that no amendment will be accepted by the Minister and no suggestion will be given effect to. I do not believe that the Minister is at all serious when he says that he will consider, at some future time, representations as to refunding of half the two-and-a-half per cent. He says that the amount must be voted by the Dáil. If it is he will come forward next year perhaps with an Estimate for £100 to be distributed amongst all the race meetings. He will tell us that is all the Government can afford. That is the reward Deputy Shaw will get for the manner in which he puts forward the claims of the owners and breeders, the Jockey Club, etc. That is the only guarantee he has got from the Minister. Whether he is going to accept that guarantee or not I do not know, but I say that he should fight for his rights. I think that Deputy Shaw should insist upon his amendment, and I think the Minister should be shown up, so that we will see whether he has his voting machine behind him.

It is a terrible think to put this tax on every class of sport, where there is a bookmaker. If the Labour Party were to organise a sports in aid of the unemployed, and bookmakers were to attend there, this tax would have to be paid. So far as I am concerned I do not believe the Minister has any intention of giving anything in the nature of a substantial sum out of the amount of money collected at racecourse meetings. I am opposed to the 5 per cent. where it is imposed, and I regret not having had an amendment down to reduce it to two-and-a-half per cent.

I would ask the Minister to consider sympathetically the plea put forward by Deputy Shaw. I look upon this matter purely from the employment point of view. We are hit very hardly in Kildare by unemployment at present, and if, as is contended by the Turf Club, this tax is going to injure racing and horse-breeding generally, then we at the Curragh will have more unemployed men thrown upon our hands. I cannot see why the Minister will not consider the strong representations forwarded to him by the Executive of racing at the Curragh. I do not believe these gentlemen would put forward any sort of plea to trick the Minister. The Minister should take cognisance of the views of the people. I cannot see why he would not give half the two-and-a-half per cent. tax on course betting to the racing executives of the country. In this country we have an industry renowned all over the world, and the Minister is doing his best to kill it. His protestation as to seeing how it will go for twelve months is all bunkum. There is nothing to prevent his halving the racecourse betting tax and handing it over to the racing authorities. There are a large number of men employed in the Curragh, and we want to see that they are kept in their employment.

The object, I may say again, we had in imposing a tax on betting was that we wanted to impose a tax on what is a luxury so that the taxes on the ordinary articles of necessity might be avoided or remitted.

What have you reduced?

When we come to consider the question of racing we make certain concessions in order that racing may not be injured. But we do not want to reduce unnecessarily the amount that may be realised by this tax. If it was necessary, in order that racing might not be seriously injured, to devote half of the two-and-a-half per cent. to the improvement of stakes, I think we would be willing to do that. But if it is unnecessary to do it and we do not know whether it will be necessary or not, we think it would be wrong to sacrifice a substantial portion of the expected revenue from the betting tax. We have heard the statement that racing would be killed; but do not believe it. We do not believe that racing would be killed by a 5 per cent. tax.

You will not believe it until it is killed.

We do not believe that it will be killed by a two-and-a-half per cent. tax and it is very doubtful whether it will be injured by such a tax. The more I consider this matter the less impressed I am by the protestations of people who say that racing is going to be killed. When you hear people talking of a small pool of a hundred thousand pounds or so in racing and making statements that there is no new money coming into betting, and when it is practically demonstrable that there is a big sum, running well towards £1,000,000 of new money coming into it, every year, you cannot pay much attention to the vague statements of people who say that racing is going to be killed or seriously injured by this tax. Perhaps I am paying too little attention to the serious arguments because I have heard so many exaggerations. But when you do hear a number of exaggerations—demonstrable exaggerations—you are inclined to take with a grain of salt all other statements. I have grave doubts whether the two-and-a-half per cent. tax will inflict any injury on racing. If I were satisfied that a tax as low as two and a half per cent. would inflict an injury, I should perhaps meet Deputy Shaw somewhat differently. I am not convinced and, consequently, I cannot say that I would advise the House later on to vote a sum equivalent to half the yield of the 2½ per cent. tax. I believe it is not desirable that the House should pass a law enabling half the yield of the tax on course-betting to be paid over to the racecourse executives out of the Central Fund. I believe the House should continue to have control of it—that the whole money collected from betting should go into the Exchequer and that any sum to be paid out for any purpose whatsoever should be brought before the Dáil from year to year and voted. I am certainly clear that that is the proper procedure. I am not prepared to promise, on behalf of the Government, that we will bring along an Estimate for the increase of stakes equivalent to half the yield of the tax on course-betting. On the other hand, I am promising this—that if the operations of the tax show us that, in practice, the tax is seriously injuring racing and that it necessitates a substantial sum being provided for stakes, we are prepared to recommend the Dáil to provide that sum. But we do not want to pledge ourselves to come here seeking a sum that may be entirely unnecessary. It may be that what I believe to be the most likely thing will happen—that there will be no appreciable decline in the attendance at racecourses and no appreciable falling-off in the revenue of racecourse executives. If that were so, there would be no case for our providing a very large sum for the purpose of increasing stakes.

I am prepared frankly to admit that, apart altogether from this tax and having regard to the part played by racing in regard to the horse-breeding industry, there is probably a good case for some increase in stakes at the moment but not to the extent of the sum that half the 2½ per cent. tax might amount to. I see no reason why we should tie ourselves hand and foot in the matter, so far as we can be tied by promises. We realise the importance of racing and we are quite sympathetic in the matter. We are prepared to make the necessary recommendations to the Dáil when evidence is available but, as for acting on all the exaggerated and unreasonable prognostications of disaster, that I am not prepared to do.

Who is to judge of what is exaggerated Why should that statement be made at all?

I do not know whether I would be in order in speaking again on this subject?

The Deputy would not be in order, but if he can assist us in arriving at a conclusion, I am sure the Dáil will be prepared to hear him.

I am afraid I cannot arrive at any conclusion other than that I have advocated. In regard to what the Minister has said just now, I think I would not mis-describe his attitude if I said that it was that of locking the stable after the horse was gone. He proposes to leave the stable door open for a year and, at the end of the year, if he finds the horse gone, he will lock the stable. It is a very serious thing to suggest that an industry like this is to be injured and that then we are to come to its rescue. It strikes me that the Minister has developed into a sort of gambler himself, because he is willing to take the risk and responsibility of ruining this industry and then coming along, say this time twelve months, and proposing something whereby he will hope to revive the industry. I, for one, do not approve of that attitude; I do not think the risk is worth it. The Minister has once again dealt out to us the usual story that if we do not pass this tax we shall have to tax food necessities. There are other means of raising revenue besides taxing food. The Minister himself supplied us with one means the other night, when he told us that if he had not overlooked it he might have secured £160,000 from one person, by reason of death duties. If provision had been made on those lines, there would have been no necessity for this tax at all. On practically every tax proposed in this Budget, we have been told that the alternative is to tax food commodities. I think that is bordering on the ridiculous. There are many means of raising money. The Minister has not surely exhausted his own resources and the resources of his advisers. To suggest that to allocate a certain sum now, would be giving up control is, I think, beside the mark. We have control. We can at any time we please revoke that allocation. But in order to satisfy those who are now engaged in this industry and who have put forward their representations reasonably as well as strongly, I think the Minister should adopt the suggestion that a certain sum —it may not be 50 per cent. but it should be a definite percentage—be allocated now. Something definite is what is asked for and not the promise that if racing is seriously injured, then something may be done in the future to prevent its total collapse. I think that is an untenable position for the Minister to adopt, especially in regard to his own admission that although it is a luxury tax, the subject matter of the tax is one of the utmost concern to us, as it is one of our great industries. As a result of the remarks made by the Minister and of the attitude adopted by him, I, for one, shall call for a division on this amendment.

I feel that it is as well that I should express my views on this question. I listened with care to the arguments that have been put forward, and I must say that I am entirely unconvinced that any legitimate case, even for doubt or hesitation, has been made on the score that the imposition of this tax will reduce the income of the racecourse executives. The proposition that is being discussed is not the effect of that tax on betting will have upon horse-racing, but the effect of the tax on the attendance at race meetings and on the income of the racecourse owning companies from that source. I do not believe that there is going to be any appreciable reduction in the number of people who will pay for admission to a racecourse because of the imposition of 6d. in the £ on their bets. No good arguments of an anticipatory kind have been adduced to further that proposition.

It is quite natural and easily understandable that people who are faced with what is a minor revolution in their own particular calling are afraid; something new has suddenly come before them; they are frightened by it, and they want to destroy the spectre. I can understand even more easily men who are engaged in this business being frightened by the threats of their employers, and alarmed as a consequence of the fear that has been created, the agitation that has been stirred up. I can understand, for instance, the people who are employed on the Curragh being alarmed when they are told by their employers that this new project will destroy the source of their livelihood.

They have stated that on their own account.

They have stated that on their own account, as I suggest, echoing the alarm that has been created by their employers, and they have circularised Deputies in envelopes and with printed material provided, to all appearance, by these same employers. I can understand, as I say, quite rightly and sympathetically, the alarm which is occasioned in the minds of these men, and I have no blame whatever to attach to them for expressing these fears. But I say that in this House, and outside it, as far as I have been able to follow the public prints, no substantial evidence has been adduced or arguments put forward to convince an impartial observer that this is in fact going to interfere with the attendance on racecourses.

Has Deputy Johnson no respect whatever for the opinions of the Stewards of the Turf Club, who are the custodians of racing in Ireland?

I am prepared to listen to them, and I understand that they have said this thing, but that is all that they have done; they have merely expressed an opinion without putting forward any argument in support of that opinion. As I say, every body of men, following an industry for a generation, as soon as something comes up against them, especially in the form of a tax, immediately react to that as though it meant inevitable destruction confronting them. I say that nothing that has been put forward convinces me, or has moved me even an inch or two towards conviction, that the effect of this will be to reduce attendance at race meetings. People are attracted to race meetings sometimes by the pure love of sport, sometimes by the love of money-getting for its own sake, but the great majority by a mixture of the two things. They feel somehow that there must be the attraction of chance in addition to the pleasure of the sport, and one helps the other. I do not believe for a minute that that psychology will be affected by the prospect of having the odds shortened to the extent that this tax will involve. That is really the kernel of it, as I see it, and nothing that has been said convinces me that that is wrong or doubtful. In that case the claim for the abolition of this tax with respect to racecourses falls to the ground from the point of view of argument.

The other proposition regarding the return of a portion of the tax collected to the racecourse company is an entirely different one, and I think that that is met on two grounds by the Minister's statement. I think it is quite sound for the Minister to take up the position that he refuses to put into a Bill a promise to hand over out of the Exchequer an indeterminate sum to private companies, sums which may be great or small, but which he cannot calculate, and to make that part of the Finance Bill. I think the Minister would be quite wrong to do anything of the kind. He has gone to the utmost that he can go legitimately; that is to say, as Finance Minister he is prepared to recommend to the Dáil under given circumstances that a Vote be taken and a grant made to these companies as compensation for losses. I think that is a reasonable position for the Minister to take up, and I think he has met the case put forward. He might go a little further and follow out what, I think, he seems to have suggested— that is, inasmuch as the stakes are too small at present, and as the companies cannot afford more, and as he realises that horse-breeding and the racing industry depend to a considerable extent on the amount of the stakes, he could promise to increase these stakes, not merely to make up for the losses but actually to give an increase. That is a promise that I think the House would not resent, but, on the matter of procedure, I think the Minister was perfectly right and justified in resisting any temptation to put such a promise into a Bill as to pay over an indeterminate sum on chances which might not be fulfilled. I think it is a wrong procedure even to suggest, and I will certainly vote against Deputy Shaw's amendment.

I have been disappointed at the attitude the Minister has adopted in this matter because the full revenue from starting-price betting, the full revenue from excise duty and from licence duty, half the totalisator receipts, and half the amount from the racecourse executives, would give a very substantial sum to the Treasury. I have no doubt whatever that if he did accept this it would yield, as long as the money is there, the amount he estimated. As my definite instructions are to ask for a Division if the Minister is not able to give a promise that 50 per cent. of the money would be refunded, I am afraid that there is no alternative but to do so now.

Is it in order to ask Deputy Shaw what he means by "instructions"? He is the Deputy for Westmeath and Longford. Are his instructions from his constituents?

I think that I can, perhaps, assist Deputy Shaw. He used the word "instructions" a couple of times. I suggest to Deputy Shaw that he should not say that he has instructions to do something here. He should do what he pleases when he is here but not on instructions from outside.

I may say that the people I represent are practically unanimously in favour of the suggestions in the amendment. I would ask the Minister to allow a free vote on this amendment. Several members of the Government party are in favour of my amendment, and under the circumstances I think it would be very unfair to ask them to go into the Lobby and vote for proposals that they do not approve of.

They should not be asked to vote against their consciences.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided:! Tá 13; Níl, 42.

  • Seoirse de Bhulbh.
  • John Conlan.
  • John Daly.
  • Seán de Faoite.
  • Risteárd Mac Liam.
  • Ailfrid O Broin.
  • Aodh O Cúlacháin.
  • Mícheál O Dubhghaill.
  • Seán O Duinnín.
  • Donnchadh O Guaire.
  • Seán O Laidhin.
  • William A. Redmond.
  • Patrick W. Shaw.


  • Earnán de Blaghd.
  • Séamus Breathnach.
  • Seán Buitléir.
  • Séamus de Búrca.
  • Máighréad Ní Choileáin Bean
  • Uí Dhrisceóil.
  • Séamus Eabhróid.
  • David Hall.
  • Thomas Hennessy.
  • John Hennigan.
  • William Hewat.
  • Patrick Leonard.
  • Liam Mac Cosgair.
  • Tomás Mac Eoin.
  • Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
  • Pádraig Mac Fhlannchadha.
  • Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
  • Liam Mac Sioghaird.
  • Séamus O Murchadha.
  • Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).
  • Pádraig O hOgáin (Gaillimh).
  • Máirtín O Rodaigh.
  • Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
  • Martin M. Nally.
  • Tomás de Nógla.
  • John T. Nolan.
  • Michael K. Noonan.
  • William Norton.
  • Peadar O hAodha.
  • Seán O Bruadair.
  • Risteárd O Conaill.
  • Eoghan O Dochartaigh.
  • Séamus O Dóláin.
  • Eamon O Dubhghaill.
  • Peadar O Dubhghaill.
  • Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
  • Eamon O Dúgáin.
  • Risteárd O Maolchatha.
  • Domhnall O Mocháin.
  • Seán O Súilleabháin.
  • Mícheál O Tighearnaigh.
  • Caoimhghín O hUigín.
  • Liam Thrift.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Redmond and Conlan. Níl: Deputies Dolan and Sears.
Amendment declared lost.

With regard to amendment 3, to which my name appears, and which has reference to coursing meetings, a reasonable compromise has been effected, and in the circumstances I am prepared to accept that compromise in the name of those for whom I speak. I accordingly ask the leave of the Dáil to withdraw the amendment.

My name is to the amendment as well as that of Deputy Shaw. I have very little to say on the amendment, inasmuch as I did not agree to it. Yesterday, however, I and those with me came to an understanding with the Minister, and I am not going to go back on that. I do not like it, and personally I do not agree with it, but I recognise that when I say I agree to a thing I should stick to it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment 4:—

In page 10, Section 23 (1), line 50, to delete the words "of five per cent. of" and substitute the words "at the rates hereinafter mentioned on," and at the end of the sub-section (line 52) to add the words "that is to say, when either the event which is the subject of the bet is a horse race and the bet is entered into during the meeting of which such race is an item and at the place at which such meeting is held or the event which is the subject of the bet is a greyhound coursing contest or one or more courses in such a contest and the bet is entered into during such contest or during the meeting of which such contest is an item and at the place at which such contest is held, two and one-half per cent. of the amount of the bet, and, in every other case, five per cent. of the amount of the bet."

This amendment reduces the tax on betting on racecourses and at coursing contests to 2½ per cent.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move Amendment 5:—

In page 11, Section 25, lines 43-44, to delete the words "and any member of the Gárda Síochána," and in lines 46, 49 and 58 to delete the words "or member," and in line 54 to delete the words "or a member of the Gárda Síochána," and in lines 55-56 to delete the words "or such member."

This amendment eliminates the reference to the Gárda Síochána. It is felt that while it is necessary for the officers of Customs and Excise to be able to enter for the purpose of checking the revenue, it is not considered desirable that the Gárda Síochána should have any powers of entry other than the ordinary powers which would require a warrant. If the Civic Guards enter they will have to enter in the ordinary way, and not by any powers under this section.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move Amendment 6:—

In page 14 to add at the end of Section 37 a new sub-section as follows:—

"(2) The First Schedule to the Stamp Act, 1891, shall be construed and have effect as if the following exemption were inserted therein under the head of ‘Receipt given for or upon the payment of money amounting to £2 or upwards' in addition to the exemptions contained therein or heretofore or hereinbefore added thereto under that head, that is to say:—

"(18) Receipt given for any payment of money which is less than three pounds and is made either to or for the benefit of an office-holder or employee for or on account of salary, wages, remuneration, or other like payment in respect of his office or employment or to or for the benefit of any person for or on account of any pension, superannuation allowance, compassionate allowance, or other like allowance."

This is an amendment that meets to some extent at any rate the point of view put forward by Deputy Norton. It increases the amount of wages on which a stamp would be required from £2 to £3.

On the Committee Stage of the Bill I think a very strong case was made for giving complete relief from this stamp duty. The Minister on that occasion made, I think, a very weak answer to the case put up. On the Minister giving an undertaking to look into the matter with a view to raising the amount of wages on which stamp duty would be payable to £5, I agreed to withdraw my amendment at that time. The Minister comes along now and offers what I consider is inadequate relief. He offers to increase the amount by £1, from £2 to £3, and proposes to continue to levy this receipt stamp duty on wages over £3 on all public servants who are obliged to pay this while outside people are exempt. The position will be that public servants receiving a weekly wage have to pay four times the amount paid by public servants who get their salaries monthly. I thought that the Minister, having given an assurance to look into the matter with a view to increasing the amount to £5, would at least have increased it to that sum. I am sorry that he should come along now and only offer the very small relief contained in this amendment. So far as I am concerned, the Minister's amendment does not meet my point or satisfy me, and I think he should have been more generous when he undertook to look into the matter. If he had made the figure £5 it would have given me some satisfaction, but as it is it practically gives me none, and means practically nothing.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move Amendment 7:—

In page 15, before Section 39, to insert a new section as follows:—

(1) In order to remove doubts it is hereby declared and enacted that the Finance Act, 1922 (except so much of Part II. thereof as relates to inhabited house duty, the proviso to sub-section (3) of Section 16, Sections 32 and 33, and Part IV. thereof) was accepted and applied accordingly in Saorstát Eireann.

(2) Every person who paid in Great Britain or Northern Ireland any sum in respect of any stamp duty chargeable in or for the financial year commencing the 1st day of April, 1922, or in respect of estate duty chargeable on the death of a person dying after the 31st day of March, 1922, and before the 1st day of April, 1923, is entitled to credit for the sum so paid when computing his liability in Saorstát Eireann on foot of the same duty in respect of the same instrument, property, or event.

(3) In this section the expression "Saorstát Eireann" includes the area of jurisdiction of the Provisional Government set up under Article 17 of the Treaty of 1921.

This amendment, as appears from the first words of the proposed new section, is to remove doubts. Heretofore the view has been taken and acted upon that the Finance Act of 1922 applied, in so far as it was by circumstances applicable, to the Saorstát, and of course taxation has been collected on that basis since the Saorstát came into being. In fact, a couple of sections of that Act have actually been repealed by the Oireachtas, but in the course of a recent case before the Supreme Court certain expressions were used which seemed to cast doubt on the matter, and once those expressions were used which did throw any doubt on the fact that this Act was in force in the Saorstát, it was necessary for us to take steps to remove that doubt. We have examined the matter, and while we feel it is only a matter of doubt we do not desire to leave it where it is and invite litigation, and if litigation did arise, of being put perhaps in the position of defending the validity of the Act by arguments that we did not particularly care to use.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move Amendment 8:—

In page 22, to add at the end of the Third Schedule the following words:—

"If any person proves to the satisfaction of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health that he has paid in respect of any vehicle to which this paragraph applies the duty chargeable under this paragraph for any period commencing on or after the 1st day of January, 1927, and that during the whole of the period for which such duty was paid the vehicle was a hackney carriage as defined in Section 4 of the Customs and Inland Revenue Act, 1888, and was fitted with a taximeter and was lawfully plying for hire on the public streets or roads as a vehicle so fitted, he shall be entitled to repayment, where such duty was paid for a period of twelve months, of the amount (if any) by which the duty so paid exceeded twelve pounds or, where such duty was paid for a period of less than twelve months, the amount (if any) by which the duty so paid exceeded the proportion of twelve pounds appropriate to such period."

This amendment is to meet a point raised by Deputy Cooper and other Deputies on the Committee Stage. In the case of a hackney which is a taxicab fitted with a registering device we are remitting any duty in excess of £12 which may be chargeable upon it. It is given in the form of a rebate, because otherwise a vehicle entitled to it, and used only for two or three weeks in the year, might receive it.

Amendment put and agreed to.

The question is: "That the Bill, with amendments, be received for final consideration."

I think it would be only right for the House to vote against the Fourth Stage of this Bill. The Minister for Finance gave no relief in his Budget this year. He maintains that the 5 per cent. tax on betting is to pull up for the loss to the Exchequer by reductions on the cost of foodstuffs. I hold that the Minister in his Budget has not reduced taxation on any foodstuffs, but has increased it. We are now asked to agree to a measure that will increase the cost of living. We have been told that the entertainment and betting taxes must be collected for the purpose of reducing the cost of some of the necessaries of life. I hold that the 10/- licence for motor drivers included in the Finance Bill this year is unnecessary and uncalled for, as well as the 5 per cent. tax on betting and the 2/6 per cwt. on oatmeal. All this is increasing the cost of living, and I ask the House in giving their final decision to vote in opposition to this. It appears the Minister can come here and introduce any measure, and when, as explained by Deputy Norton, he promises to consider an amendment he comes back and gives entirely inadequate relief. The Minister has the voting power behind him and he knows he can get any measure passed. The old cry was: "If I do not get this through I must resign." I would like to see any Minister of this Government resigning on the question of the Budget. I ask the people of the Saorstát whether they are prepared to pay the high taxation put upon them by the Budget. Let it be put on the programme of Cumann na nGaedheal and test the country. We should try above all things to reduce the cost of living, which has not been reduced as we have been led to believe by the Government, who tell us that it is only 93 points above pre-war days. I say it is 150 over pre-war days. The Minister for Finance would not reduce the cost of the one luxury the worker can afford to get, and that is tobacco. An ounce of common tobacco pre-war cost three-pence, and now it is ninepence, an increase of 200 per cent. The Government are giving no help or facilities to the people so that they might be able to keep body and soul together. I could fully understand it if this measure was brought before the House in 1920 or 1921 when the country was in a state of revolution and when there was plenty of money flying about. The ex-service men were then coming forward and joining the National Army, and even a great number of the civil servants of those times were no doubt very anxious to fight for their country. You had the Secret Service, big wages and plenty of money in circulation, but to-day there is nothing of the kind. I hold that this is not a measure that the people expected. They want something better, and I for one will certainly oppose it. I am convinced that the Minister and the Government are not sincere in the promises made and they have not been fulfilled.

With regard to the last amendment, as to taxi-cabs, I would like to ask the Minister is the ordinary hackney carriage in the country, the old Ford car, to have any relief in this respect?


Then I think it quite unfair. You do not meet taxi-cabs in the rural districts. I think people in cities like Dublin, and in the towns, would have a better chance to pay the higher tax than the owner of an ordinary car in the country who would get a job perhaps only once or twice a week. I think their exclusion from the benefit of the amendment is a great injustice to the owners of the ordinary hackney cars in the rural districts, and in the provincial towns. These cars have not the speedometers the Minister speaks of, and, therefore, will not get the benefit which the taxi-cabs owners in Dublin will reap.

Question put.

I ask for a division.

Are there many Deputies who want a division?

There is one anyway.

You cannot have a division for one.

Question put and declared carried.
Final Stage ordered for Wednesday, 30th June.