Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 21 Apr 1927

Vol. 19 No. 13


I move:—

That it is expedient to amend the law relating to Customs and Inland Revenue (including Excise) and to make further provisions in connection with Finance.

I feel myself in rather a difficult position. I am aware of the difficulties in which the Minister for Finance finds himself in his endeavour to provide revenue for the various services of the State. His position is more unenviable and unpopular than that of any member or Minister in the House. Mr. Winston Churchill described himself the other day as "the public executioner." I suppose the Minister for Finance would put himself in the same category. However, it is my duty, as representing a great industry, to bring the position of that industry under the notice of the Minister. In doing so, I will endeavour to be as fair to the Minister as possible, knowing his difficulties. When the Budget was discussed here on the last occasion, I said, speaking of the betting tax:—

It is the considered opinion of everyone who is conversant with the subject that, if this tax is imposed, racing will be so injured that it will not survive a period of nine months.

What is the position of racing to-day? Between the entertainment tax and the betting tax, the attendance at race meetings has been so depleted that more than one meeting has already been closed down. I was at the Curragh to-day for a short time. I went down in an empty train. I arrived to see empty stands. It was perfectly plain to everybody conversant with the subject that if something was not done, racing in the Free State would be killed inside the period I mentioned when I was speaking on the betting tax last May. Mullingar meeting—one of the most up-to-date meetings in Ireland— after paying a large amount in entertainment tax, has suffered a loss of £280 on the year. Their one meeting held this year was so badly attended that they are seriously contemplating closing down altogether. Many other race companies are in a similar position. The Minister said last year:

I am anxious, as I have said to the House, not to injure in any serious way the carrying on of racing in this country.

I have not any doubt that the Minister was sincere in that statement. Under the circumstances, I simply desire to present the present position to him in a fair-minded way. I do not withdraw one word of what I said when this tax was imposed. Quite the contrary. I gave racing nine months to continue then. That will bring it up to the end of July. After six months, I make the statement with greater emphasis. No business could stand a tax on turnover. It would be all right to tax a new hat when you got it, but if you were to be taxed every time you put it on it would be a different matter.

Go without it.

What I have indicated is what is happening in connection with the betting tax. You have just had five days' racing in succession— Phoenix Park, Fairyhouse, and three days at the Curragh. A man might go to Phoenix Park with £25. He might come away from the Curragh with neither winnings nor losings, and the £25 would be gone in the tax he would have to pay. There are six races on each day and he would have thirty investments, on each of which he would have to pay 2½ per cent. on the winnings, including the stake. Either the betting tax or the entertainment tax must go if racing is to continue. In November the licensing and taxation of betting came into operation, so that we have now nearly six months' experience. When I made the statement I have quoted in the Dáil, I pointed out to the Minister that the effect of the tax would be to kill the breeding industry in Ireland, because of the onerous effect it would have on racing. The first notable effect of the tax is the closing down of Tipperary Race Meeting. An annual two-day meeting had been held without intermission in Tipperary for the last 50 years. That is, I regret to say, only a preliminary to similar action which will be taken by various other racing bodies throughout the country. On many of these courses a large amount of capital has been spent, and the closing down of the meetings will throw a great many people out of employment. Those of us who have been attending race meetings lately have been amazed at the small number of the public in attendance. I think members of the House have a very faint idea of the amount of irritation and resentment felt by those connected with breeding and racing on account of the position created by the betting tax. The last year for which I could get statistics showed that the export of horses from Ireland accounted for £2,000,000. Of that amount, I think £1,500,000 represents money paid for thoroughbred horses bred and reared in Ireland. The breeding and rearing of these horses gives the most lucrative return which can be obtained in the agricultural industry. These stud farms constitute the best home market for farmers for their straw, hay, oats and other agricultural products.

As to Ireland's status as a horse-breeding country and the great natural advantages it possesses, I need only mention that the British Empire, with the choice of every country and every climate, has its national stud in the County Kildare, and that the Aga Khan, the immensely rich Indian potentate, whose wealth and position gave him the opportunity of selecting a stud farm in any country, also selected Kildare as the home in which to breed the chargers which are to carry his colours in every country in which he races. The Aga Khan runs horses in India, England and the United States of America, and I think he has paid Ireland a wonderful compliment in choosing it as the centre for his stud farm. The greatest living authority on thoroughbred horses at the moment is probably the German, Frederick Becker. He has compiled a monumental book giving details of thoroughbred horses in every country. In reviewing, towards the end of his book, every country in which thoroughbred horses are bred, he gives it as his considered opinion that Ireland stands in the forefront as the most successful place in which thoroughbred horses can be produced.

Now, is it the intention of the Minister for Finance and the Executive Council of this young Free State, for the sake of what is really an insignificant amount of revenue, to destroy this great national asset? The people for whom I speak in this matter, the breeders, owners, shareholders of race companies, and the public who attend race meetings, are unanimous in their declaration that if the entertainment tax and the betting tax are kept on as they are at present, the whole of this great industry will disappear.

I was asked by the owners, breeders, and persons who attend racecourses to approach the stewards of the Turf Club with reference to the present position of racing in Ireland, and to-day I was given the following statement from the stewards of the Turf Club:—"With reference to the interview which Mr. Shaw had to-day with the stewards of the Turf Club, they consider, from personal knowledge of the facts, that it is essential to the interests of racing and breeding that the Government policy concerning betting and amusement taxes should be modified." Now, can the Minister ignore that statement?

I do not wish to put any difficulties in the way of the Minister or the Government. I am not going to propose any amendment. I simply make a statement which is absolutely true and which can be borne out by any person who goes to race meetings. I have no hesitation in saying that if something is not done, before twelve months' time racing will have ceased to exist in Ireland. The entertainment tax and the betting tax together are an impossible burden and you will have one meeting after another closing down. I have confidence enough in the Government to believe that they will not consider the statement made by me unfair. I claim it is a fair statement and I have the evidence of the stewards of the Turf Club, the custodians of racing in Ireland, the owners and trainers, and every person interested in the industry, that if something is not done one of the biggest assets of the Free State is going to disappear. I do not intend to say anything more. I simply place the case before the Government, and particularly before the Minister for Finance.

I desire to support the very forcible plea which Deputy Shaw has made for the abolition of this betting tax. I think he has shown very clearly it is going to have a disastrous effect upon racing. I, as one of the representatives of the premier sporting county in Ireland—a short-grass man, born and reared within a stone's throw of the short grass—can give my testimony to the fact that these taxes are having a most injurious effect upon racing and this is bound to have a reaction upon the breeding industry. If we cannot have racing carried on, if we cannot test the speed and stamina of all horses, we will cease to have a market in England, and in foreign countries as well, for our thoroughbred stock. Horse-breeding is a very important industry, not alone in Kildare but in very many other counties of the Saorstát. Stud farms cost a very large sum of money to maintain. A great deal of employment is given; good wages are paid and, as Deputy Shaw has pointed out, farmers have a market for all their produce. It would be most disastrous, in my opinion, if racing is killed; through the killing of racing the breeding of high-class thorough-bred animals will be seriously affected.

The imposition of the betting tax had one effect which its sponsors did not imagine would come to pass. Since the imposition of this tax and the regulations making betting lawful, betting shops are being set up all over the Free State. I am told of one individual who has no fewer than 26 betting shops in every town and village within a radius of 20 miles. I think some of the people who supported the imposition of this tax did it with the idea that it would prevent betting, especially among the young people. But it has had a contrary effect. It has brought inducement for betting to their very doors. I think the Minister and the Executive Council would be very well advised if they reconsider the imposition of this tax, taking into account the effect it is sure to have on racing and horse-breeding.

I desire to support my colleague in the representation of Kildare in supporting Deputy, Shaw in what he said about the bad effect this tax is having on horse-breeding and racing throughout the Saorstát. Nobody, I am sure, wants to reduce the employment that is being given by racing in the country. There is no doubt that Kildare is suffering, and will suffer, frightfully if this tax is not modified. Racing is the greatest industry in Kildare, and an enormous number of people are engaged in it. It gives a great deal of employment all round the Curragh district. Anybody who attends race meetings throughout the country must be struck by the miserable attendance, except at such places as Fairyhouse or Punchestown. Even at Fairyhouse, though the attendance was large, I have seen it very much larger in former times. There is no doubt something must be done, and the matter certainly cannot be allowed to rest as it is now, because otherwise a great industry may be absolutely killed.

There is very little, if anything, coming into the State as a result of this tax. Before the tax was put on there were only four corporations that paid any dividend at all in the Free State, Tramore, and three in Dublin. I doubt very much if any of them are paying a dividend now. I have not heard anything about the figures in connection with them. I expect they are paying extremely little, if anything. I will instance Naas, which is very conveniently situated for racing, and is in the centre of a breeding district. It is just barely keeping going, whereas it ought to be doing well from its situation and all that. It is not doing well. If there is not something done to improve matters the whole industry will disappear. As Deputy Shaw says, in a few months it will be no more, and so many more thousands will be added to the list of unemployed. I think the Minister has a very serious matter to consider in this respect, and I hope he will give it sympathetic consideration. It will mean an awful addition to the list of unemployed if racing and horse-breeding come to an end.

Before I switch on to the theme the other Deputies have been speaking about, I want to refer to some items which are included in the list of wearing apparel and which, I think, it was never the intention should have been included in that list. Cricket is amongst the games played in Ireland, and I have had letters from places such as Tirconaill, and appeals from colleges asking me to question the right of the revenue authorities in taxing, say, cricket pads. I do not know if the Minister knows what they are?

I have seen pictures of them.

Then I need not tell you anything about them. Batting pads and gloves were certainly never intended to be described as wearing apparel. They are all necessary to the playing of the game. Did the Minister ever contemplate that cricket pads were intended to rank as wearing apparel?

I cannot say I had cricket pads in mind at the time. I certainly did think that football jerseys and similar articles would be subject to a tax. If you tax a football jersey, I do not see why you should not tax something else that is worn in connection with sport—football boots, for instance.

There is a difference between football boots and jerseys, and what I am referring to. They are worn generally in the country, but in connection with cricket the articles I am referring to are not worn except when the game is being played. They are not worn otherwise in business, or in moving about the country. I think it is ridiculous to describe these as wearing apparel.

Is a diving suit wearing apparel?

I do not know. I am only concerned with pads at the moment. I hope the Minister will give instructions to the revenue authorities to see that the farce of regarding them as wearing apparel should not be carried any further. With regard to the speech delivered by Deputy Shaw and other Deputies on the subject of racing, I have not as much knowledge in the matter as they have. I have ceased to attend race meetings since I got a bit poor, but I attend coursing meetings. I bear testimony to the fact that the attendance at coursing meetings has been reduced by two-thirds. I would be obliged if the Minister could give me the comparative figures of what has been collected with regard to betting tax at race meetings and coursing. With the exception of the month of October, the tax as regards coursing has been in operation all the season. If the Minister is not in a position to give me the information I am asking for at the moment, I will not press him.

There are not separate records. It might be possible to get a good estimate, but the two and a half per cent. tax applies both to betting on race courses and to coursing meetings, and the amount collected has been about £9,800. It is estimated that roughly only about £250 of that was got at coursing meetings. If any further discussion were taking place about it, I would have available the best estimate that could be prepared.

Could the Minister say what is the cost of collecting this £9,800?

It is very small.

I think the Minister has convinced everybody of the absurdity of having a tax on coursing. I have attended a considerable number of coursing meetings this year and the attendance at them has been reduced by two-thirds at least. At Limerick this year at the Irish Cup very few people attended. The same thing applies all round. What I have heard from other people bears out what Deputy Shaw and other Deputies have said with regard to racing. I am told the people are not attending, and that without admission fees the whole industry is going to crumble. There are very few race meetings you could compare with Fairyhouse and Punchestown. The race meetings at these places are dress parades simply for the manequins of the different drapery establishments, who go not to see the racing but to display the style. The cost of collection of the tax with regard to coursing must be "some" item, and the amount collected is very little. In my opinion, in two years' time we will have no coursing in Ireland, having regard to the way things are going. This is the sport of the common people who cannot afford to spend very much money on it, and they have no other sport. The cinemas, theatres and other amusements are available here in Dublin for the well-paid labourer who gets £4 or £5 a week, and pays income tax, but you have to consider the men in the country who are only paid 10/- or 15/- or so a week. I appeal to the Minister to drop this tax on coursing, as the game is not worth the candle. What applies to coursing applies also to racing. There is very little gate money. Executives cannot exist, and in a short time I am afraid racing and coursing, the only sport of the rural inhabitants, will have ceased.

I wish to refer to a small matter which affects a good many people in the Saorstát, and that is the incidence of taxation on motor cars. I am alluding to our old friend, the Ford. I have had a communication from a man who in this matter is typical of many. He has an old Ford, but owing to the tremendous tax on it he could not afford to pay it and he laid the car up. He had a very good pony and trap. The roads in Kildare are made specially for motors, and when he brought out his pony it fell and injured itself, so that unfortunate man is in a bad plight. If something could be done to reduce the tax on that old type of motor vehicle it would be a great advantage.

As everybody knows, the tax on all cars is regulated by horse power, but this car is suffering more than any other in proportion. Compared with others, Ford cars are rated very highly, but they develop little more power than what they are rated for. You will get many cars rated at 18 horse power that develop up to 60, but they have different types of engines. I think that the Minister would only be doing an act of justice in treating this car on a different plane from the other cars. Most of these cars get out of repair very quickly, and it is only with reasonable inducements that they will be used. Otherwise they will become scrap. They are of some use in the country, and their use would save a good deal of money going out of the country. I think the Minister would be well advised, in the interests of the country, and in keeping money in the country, to give these cars the fair play that they are not getting, and I think everybody will admit that it is a great injustice to these old tin-lizzies, or whatever you like to call them, and to the people who use them, to have the tax so high. The Minister would be well advised to see this in a different light from that in which he saw it last year.

I should like to ask mercy, not alone for the old Fords, but for other cars that were of very expensive make and have a very high tax but that are now more or less out of date and could not be sold for an amount of money equal to the tax that is payable on them. The British Government recognised that fact, and in 1919 there was a reduction in the case of cars of a certain age of about one-fourth. The Minister might consider whether a reduction of a fourth, or of a third, should not be given in the case of cars the engines of which are ten years old. The tax at present is so high that no one will buy these cars, but if it were lowered they might be able to run for a great many years and bring in considerable revenue to the State. Instead of that, when the owners cease to use them, they will simply be burnt or given away. I know a car that cost £700 early in 1913, the tax of which is £29. It is a splendid car, but you would not get more than £25 for it now, whereas it could run for a long time yet. It will never be sold with its present tax, but if the tax were reduced that type of car would bring in a good deal of revenue to the State for many years to come.

I support the plea for the old car. A number of poor men have old Ford cars, and they find it a great hardship to have to pay this heavy tax. I hope that the Minister will look into it.

The racing business is a complicated one, but I think the old cars question is simple. I am unable to see anything in the argument in favour of a reduction for the old cars. If we had—what many people want—a petrol tax, we could not distinguish between the old car and the new car, and if we had it on a different basis I do not think that constitutes an argument for the old car. The old car uses the road as much as the new car. There is also this point: Certain people saw me with reference to a reduction in the case of all cars that were four years old and over. The number of these cars is very considerable, and if that were agreed to there would be a substantial reduction in the road tax.

Ten years old.

I think the ten years old cars should be superannuated.

I could show the Minister some cars of that age that are pretty good.

The primary purpose of the increase in the duty was to increase the revenue of the Road Fund, so that a greater proportion of the cost of maintaining the roads might be borne by the Fund, that there might be some relief to the rates, and, particularly, that the revenue of the Road Fund might be so increased that it would be possible to mortgage part of the Fund to carry out capital improvements, and still leave a surplus for what would be required to meet repayments and the interest on what had been borrowed to do works of improvement on the roads year by year. When we looked at the question of giving any concession in respect of four years old cars we at once saw that we would be eating into the revenue of the Road Fund to meet what I may call a sentimental claim. I can see no claim in equity that the owner of the four or five years old car has, and, certainly, if we had any other system, if we had the weight system—which was one that was considered before the last Budget, and which exists in some countries—if we had the French, formula, which depends on the revolution speed, with other factors, such as cylinder capacity, we could distinguish between cars of different ages. But I can see no basis on which we can do it. The fact that a man can buy an old car cheaply is not an argument that he should get off the road tax. I am, frankly, unable to see any argument in favour of reducing the tax on the old car, and it is a solid argument against it, that if we did so we would be eating into the revenue of the Road Fund, and we would be defeated in our purpose of gradually putting more of the costs of the roads on to the Road Fund.

Racing is a difficult matter. As I said last year, we do not want to do any serious injury to racing, but I am not at all sure that we have arrived at the point when we can form any judgment on the matter. When you impose any tax, as I have already said in reference to something else, a disturbance is created by that tax; there is a sort of active and vocal opposition, and a sort of passive opposition to it. I am not in a position to say to what extent the attendance on racecourses has been reduced by the tax, but I do not believe that this collection of £9,000 odd has had all the effects that people say, considering that this is only the smaller part of the whole cost of carrying on betting. I will hazard the guess that the propaganda that has been carried on against the betting tax has had as much or more to do with the decrease of attendance than the tax itself has had. Before I would do anything about it I would certainly like to give it a reasonable trial. The statement that racing will close down completely in two or three months if the tax is not taken off is too strong for me to be able to accept. I do not believe that. I do not believe that this great industry is going to collapse because of these few thousands of pounds. I have heard on fairly reliable authority that there are ways that have not yet been exhausted whereby the promoters of race meetings, in collaboration with the authorities of racing, might reduce their expenses. I promised last year that when we were able to get the totalisator going, of the 5 per cent. that would be charged on bets made on the totalisator, apart from whatever was charged for expenses, one-half would be devoted to increasing stakes for the various races. That holds. I think I also indicated that of the amount that was actually collected in the ordinary way on the betting tax on races we would be prepared to devote a proportion to increasing stakes if it was shown to be necessary. Of course very little has been collected yet, and when we were framing the Estimates we had not any information on which to go.

I would be prepared, when the tax is a little longer in operation, when we see what we are getting, and when we have some idea of what the real effect is, to return a substantial proportion of the 2½ per cent. actually collected to the authorities of racing for the purpose of increasing stakes, in recognition of the fact that we realise the importance of racing to the horse-breeding industry. People have told me that the totalisator would actually increase the attendance and popularise race meetings in spite of the fact that we would be taking five per cent. of the stakes and an additional figure for the cost of working the totalisator. As indicated in reply to Deputy Shaw, I have been conducting certain negotiations with reference to the appointment of some body which would be licensed to work it. It would strike anybody at first sight that the Turf Club would be the best body but from certain quarters objections have been suggested to the Turf Club, and another type of body has been suggested—a specially created body. I am not sure whether that specially created body would not itself have certain disadvantages, but that is a matter on which we are not yet in a position to give a definite decision. If we can come in a short time to a decision I believe that steps can be taken to institute the totalisator in a number of places at an early date.

I would suggest to Deputies that this is a thing that has not been tried out. I would suggest, too, that while it is possible that it will prove that the tax cannot be borne, they should not jump to that conclusion, and they should not allow themselves to be panicked into the belief that we are going to have a complete collapse of races in a month or two if it is not taken off. Because of my position, I have had so many deputations from every sort of interest, stating that ruin was staring them in the face, if each particular type of taxation was not at once abolished, that I am somewhat case-hardened, and I do not take these alarmist statements exactly at their face value.

The Minister has not thought it worth while to reply to me. Evidently coursing does not appeal to him.

I have not looked into the question of coursing.

You had a full season of that.

The racing people are applying, as I gathered from Deputy Shaw, whom I did not see privately at all about this matter, for either the abolition of the betting tax or the entertainments duty. In response to the case made by Deputy Gorey last year I introduced a section abolishing the entertainment tax at coursing meetings, so that they have got something. I understand, of course, that betting at coursing matches is in small sums. The amount of the tax is 2½ per cent., so that the labourer who bets £1——

A labourer?

He may bet a shilling, win, and bet again, bat if he stakes a pound during the whole day the tax is only sixpence, and that is very like the entertainment tax he would pay. I simply cannot believe—the Deputy may be able to convince me——

The proof is there in the amount of money collected. People are not going.

The Deputy said he did not attend race meetings for some reason that was not connected with the betting tax, and it may be that people are failing to attend coursing meetings for some other reason. The fact that a man who stakes one pound in the course of a day would have to pay a tax of sixpence seems to me not to leave anybody convinced that the tax has caused this falling away in the attendance. I believe the propaganda that has gone on about the tax has scared far more people away.

How much has been expended for what has been collected in the case of coursing?

That is a different matter altogether. So far all betting with bookmakers has been taxable. It must be all recorded and dealt with in a particular way, and there would be objections that would outweigh anything to do with the cost of relieving certain betting from the duty. I think this is premature and that by this time next year the case both in regard to the racing and coursing position will be clearer. I think we must allow for the disturbance.

You cannot revive what is a corpse.

There is no fear that it will be a corpse. If it was not suggested to me that the disaster was going to be so complete I would be really more impressed.

What about the cricket pads?

I have to consider that.

I desired to say something on Resolution No. 6, but it was rushed through so quickly that I did not get an opportunity. I, as a border Deputy, wish to bring a certain matter under the notice of the Minister. A considerable amount of irritation exists in County Donegal, particularly in my own area, owing to the manner in which officials on the Border act towards business people, traders and farmers going into and coming out of the city of Derry in the administration of the Border regulations. The manner in which they treat people is in striking contrast to the civility, courtesy and consideration shown by the British officials in charge of the Northern Border posts. Our officials do not seem to care what inconvenience they put people to and what obstruction and delay they cause to business through mere technicalities. They want every "i" dotted and every "t" crossed on documents which mean nothing to the revenue, while at the same time wholesale smuggling of yeast and other taxable commodities is allowed to go on and no serious attempt is made to stop it.

Yeast is not a taxable commodity, so that smuggling in that sort of thing is not so serious.

Under the Intoxicating Liquor Act certain substances must not be brought into certain areas.

That is another matter.

That is a different question.

Is not yeast prohibited in certain quantities, according to certain regulations made by the Minister last year? Do the Customs officials carry them out? In connection with the new motor regulations and getting cards stamped going in and out of the Free State, there is an arrangement which causes the greatest possible trouble and inconvenience. I do not see why a motor registered in the Free State, of which the owner is a citizen, should not go in and out of Derry merely on the production of the registration certificate and the licence. The Minister should understand that it is our people who are paying the taxes that are put to this inconvenience. These officials at the Border should be instructed that they are the people's officials and not their masters. The Minister should issue instructions to these officials to discharge their duties towards the citizens of the Saorstát with more tact, more courtesy and more commonsense than is at present the case. There should be the minimum of inconvenience to the people who of necessity have to use Derry city, because the Minister or the Executive Council cannot change the geographical position of certain parts of Donegal.

I have such very great confidence in the statement that I made in connection with racing, and as I am personally aware of the facts, I am quite prepared to leave the matter to the Minister if he would just say that he would have an impartial inquiry made by his own officials. I would facilitate him in every way by getting returns from the various racecourses, and if I cannot convince the Minister that the statements I made are true, I will not make any further objection to either the entertainment tax or the betting tax. The Minister met us in connection with coursing when he took away the entertainment tax. I would ask him to consider the advisability, after making due inquiries, of either taking off the entertainment tax or the betting tax.

Owing to the comparatively short time at my disposal to examine the Budget statement, I do not intend to make a very elaborate examination of it. I think, however, that it is only right to take advantage of this opportunity to express the opinions I hold regarding the general economic and financial conditions of the country, in view of the relations between those and the finances of the State as expressed in the Budget. In the early part of the Budget statement the point was made, and Deputy Johnson referred to it, that the high price of National Loan was an indication of the comparatively prosperous conditions existing in this country. While I am pleased to see that the credit of the State is good, and that National Loan is commanding a price that is almost on a level with the British War Loan, I think it is a wrong deduction to deduce that because National Loan is at present high, the economic and financial conditions are proportionately good. Possibly it may be an indication to the contrary. The very fact that there is a demand for fixed security of the National Loan type is very often an indication that people are withdrawing money from productive work and are going in for a safe security. Because of the increased demand for fixed interest security that security increases in value. It will be found even that a similar condition of affairs obtains in England, where, because of the low and uncertain returns from industrial securities money has a tendency to fly for safety into fixed securities.

I do not want to be sounding an unnecessarily pessimistic note but, at the same time, I think it would be unreal to pretend that conditions are satisfactory in the country. I am judging from my own observation and from information I got by coming into contact with people in the country. Judging by the two classes of people that I come into close touch with—members of the farming community and people in the country towns—and hearing the tales they have to tell and the different indications we have as to their financial position, such as civil bill courts, I am of opinion that economic conditions are not at all good. In the first place, the agricultural community have been feeling the pinch for several years. We have been preaching since I came to this House in 1923 about the depressed condition of the agricultural industry. The outlook is not now any brighter. It is, in fact, less bright now than it was then. At that time the depression had not found its way into the country towns. Up to a certain point agriculturists could be milked perhaps even of capital in addition to earnings, but we have reached a stage now when they will not infringe any further on their capital and a definite halt has been caused to the purchaser of anything but absolute necessaries in the small towns.

The shopkeepers are finding it increasingly difficult to collect debts. I heard them saying that it is almost impossible to collect a large proportion of outstanding debts. The only conclusion that can be come to is that economic conditions are not at all bright. I make allowance for the fact that these economic conditions are, to a large extent, due to extraneous conditions. I am not at all trying to say that the Government is responsible for the economic conditions. I think it would be dishonest to say that. Still we must recognise the fact and see if there is anything we can do. We must see if the Government have any responsibility for aggravating the unfortunate conditions that exist, and if there are any steps the Government should take to improve the situation. As Deputies are aware, the economic depression is due to a variety of causes, particularly, I suppose, because the purchasing power of the outside nation with whom we trade has been reduced, and because competition from outside agricultural countries is such that the price of our agricultural produce has fallen very low. The incomings of the farming community and those dependent on them being smaller, we ought to try and reduce the outgoings. In that connection I have constantly emphasised the desirability of a reduction in taxation. I am aware that even with a very considerable reduction in taxation we are not going to make the economic conditions right, but high taxation, certainly in my opinion, is one of the factors which is helping to cause increased depression. If we can, by some particular effort, reduce taxation, we will help, in part at least, to right economic conditions. I know that taxation is only one factor, but when you combine that with local taxation, the two are certainly a most important factor in the high overhead charges which the producers in this country have to bear.

We are shown by the Budget statement that the people of the State will be called upon to make a payment of something approximating to twenty millions in actual taxes in the coming financial year. The total revenue is larger, of course, but the non-tax items come into it. The total expenditure is, of course, very considerably larger, including, as it does, the items of a non-recurrent kind. The fact is that in taxation the people will have to meet a payment of something over twenty millions, and in addition to that they will have to meet a demand of something like seven millions in local taxation. Local taxation is, to a large extent, at present governed by the legislative action of this House. So that in all, the population of the country will have to meet something like twenty-seven millions in taxation. That amounts to nine pounds per head of the population. Taking the average family at five, it amounts to about £45 per family in taxation to maintain national and local services. The question we have to ask ourselves is: Is the taxable capacity of the people such that they can pay? And secondly, are they getting value for the money expended? I can only come to general conclusions, as it is difficult to say what the taxable capacity of the people is— when it has reached a stage that taxation will produce no more and revenue begins to go down. But I am definitely of the opinion that anything in the nature of £45 per family for the services which the community gets from the State is in excess of the advantages which they gain. I am also of the opinion that they are practically unable to pay, and that if we continue the present high taxation we will reduce the producing powers of the people.

The Minister pointed out the extreme difficulty of showing where reductions in taxation can be brought about. In that connection I want to say that I am pleased that the Minister has at last acceded to the request I have been making and which has been made by other Deputies for a long time. He is going to appoint a Geddes Committee of a kind. I think I was the first Deputy that advocated that such a Committee should be appointed. The original demand in that regard was not received in any favourable way. We had comments of a kind which showed that the Minister regarded our demand in that respect as insincere. Our sincerity has been proved by the fact that the Minister now says——

I do not want to interrupt the Deputy, but I specifically stated that we still are of opinion that a Committee of the Geddes type would be of no use and that we would not appoint such a Committee. This Committee is quite a different thing from that which the Deputy proposed, and certainly quite a different thing from a Geddes Committee.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE resumed the Chair.

We will not go into a fine definition of exactly what type of Committee is proposed. I made it quite clear that I did not model my idea of a Committee on the Geddes Committee. I was prepared to consider any type of Committee. If we were prepared to face up to the question of a Committee at all, the House, I am sure, would come to a decision as to what type of Committee would be best.

I was not unaware of the type of Committee which was called the Geddes Committee. I was not unaware of the terms of reference, and I quoted them here in making the claim that such a committee should be appointed—a committee to deal with departmental administration and also with policy. This committee will have nothing to do with policy. Whatever type of committee it will be, it is to examine into departmental expenditure, and I am pleased that that is being done. I do not say I am satisfied with the type of committee—I have not thought about it sufficiently yet, but I am pleased it is being set up and I believe that something useful will accrue from the examination by that committee into the financial conditions.

I do not intend to deal with the general financial statement put before us by the Minister in regard to the revenue of different kinds—recurrent and non-recurrent—and his justification for using this £550,000 to reduce income tax, by means of a reduction in the permanent cost of the maintenance of the Army. His justification is, perhaps, doubtful. In the circumstances, however, it might be tolerated, particularly in view of the fact that in the past Army expenditure, in my opinion, to an unreasonable extent was paid out of revenue. There might be a very good case made, as far as I can see, on account of the fact that in the past the Government paid the expenditure of maintaining an army in abnormal times out of current revenue—one year to the extent of £15,000,000, I think.

Let the dead past bury its dead—financially.

It may be the dead past, but it is important to try to revive it again for the sake of discussion. What was non-recurrent expenditure was paid out of current revenue in the past. On that account it may be justifiable in the particular circumstances in which we are placed that even recurrent expenditure might be funded, as a substitute, as it were, for the non-recurrent expenditure which was not funded when it should have been. I do not know whether that is sound finance.

I should think not.

It is arguable. It is certainly worth considering in the present circumstances of the country. I would stand against the argument that in any other circumstances recurrent revenue might be funded. There was one particular remark made by the Minister which I should like to refer to. I think it is important, because it denotes the outlook of the Minister and of the Government. He said:

But we can no more afford the reckless scrapping of services than we can afford reckless expenditure on them. We must seek for economy, but we must not forget that we have an undeveloped country and that our real hope is in development.

If we are going to found our financial policy on the statement that the country is to a large extent undeveloped, well I think that is a fallacy. An idea seems to be current that this is an undeveloped country, and some people compare it with countries like New Zealand and Australia, which have only been civilised within the past sixty or one hundred years. They seem to forget that this country has been going through a course of development for thousands of years. It is really not an undeveloped country. There also seems to be an underlying idea that we have extraordinary natural resources here which can be developed. I submit that we have only one of any consequence and that is the agricultural industry. If we are to rely in the future, in the matter of the tax-paying capacity of the people, on the development of the natural resources of the country, then in my opinion we are relying on something that is very dubious and uncertain. I say that with every desire to see the country making progress materially. It would be foolish, I think, to entertain the notion that we can count on revenue from undeveloped natural resources. Any further development that takes place must be very slow, and will be dependent, in my opinion, almost altogether on our technical resources.

With regard to the taxation that is levied on wireless apparatus imported into the country, this was a duty that Deputies on these Benches took exception to when it was first imposed, for the reason that it penalised the users of valve sets in the country. We regarded it as advisable that the users of these valve sets in rural districts should be encouraged and stimulated, and we opposed the imposition of the duty. In actual fact, we find that the importation of wireless apparatus is diminishing and shows signs of disappearing altogether. Those in the trade say that is largely due to the duty of 33 ? per cent. imposed on imported wireless apparatus. In my opinion if this duty were not imposed you would have an increase in the number of sets brought into use throughout the country, and consequently an increased revenue from the licence fees that would be paid by the users. This, I think, would make up for any loss of revenue that might occur because of the remission of the duty. That is a point, I submit, for the consideration of the Minister, and also the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. Under the present system I hold that people down the country who buy wireless apparatus are obliged to pay an unfair proportion of the tax.

I would like to know from the Minister whether any report or recommendations have been received from the Tariff Commission, in view of the hopes that he held out when appointing that Commission. I have a recollection that at the time the Commission was being set up the Minister used words to this effect: That the Commmission would report on industries that might not be able to hold out after this Budget, and that he would take steps to render some assistance to them. These were not the actual words used by the Minister at the time, but that, I think, was the impression which his statement created in the House. Nothing, however, has been done to save many of our industries. I congratulate the Minister on the reduction in income tax. With him I believe, and am hopeful, that it will lead to increased employment in the country. I had hopes, however, that existing industries that are gradually being crushed out would have got some relief under this Budget. Our distilling industry, for instance, is getting no relief whatever. Everyone who reads the papers is aware that at the moment this country is being flooded with imports in opposition to the products of our own distilleries. Even outside the distilling industry, the dumping that is going on in the matter of foreign-made goods is killing our industries, and something must be done to save them.

We referred last year to the continuous loss of trade to our woollen mills, and we had hoped that something might be done for them. Then, again, last year all parties joined in complaint about the wholesale importation into this country of foreign-built bodies and motor cars and buses coming in ready to put on the roads, without as much as a paint-brush being put to them or any upholstering done to them in this country. From the returns published in the newspapers and the official returns from the Department of Industry and Commerce it can also be seen, that there is wholesale dumping of printed matter into this country. Books, bound, come in from Germany and other parts of the Continent, having been made in places that can only be described, and were descrbed, as sweated works, where wages are practically on slave conditions. These articles are brought in and set against the home-made articles produced on labour paid for at fair wages. Take some of our religious books, whether they be bibles or prayer books of any church, and you will find that they have been printed and made in Belgium, while our own bookbinding industry is practically wiped out.

We had hoped that the Minister would do something for these industries since his last statement. I am certainly hopeful that he may be encouraged now to impose further tariffs in the direction suggested. If he has not got the power already, I hope he will not wait for another 12 months but will seek for that power in order to save our industries. To any opponent who attempts to stand in his way he might point to our new tobacco factories and show how well they are doing and the employment they are giving. He could also point to the fact that recently one of the best-known firms in the jam business in Scotland thought it worth their while to come to Dublin and start a factory. Any movements that will create employment in this country will receive the wholehearted support of everybody. We have in our midst thousands of unemployed from every industry.

The iron and steel trades are also hard hit by the importation of foreign goods dumped into the country. Girders of dressed steel are coming in ready to be used in the erection of buildings or to be brought into the workshops merely to be put together with bolts and nuts without giving hardly an hour's employment upon them. Again, I notice that an industry that is giving a good deal of employment in Dublin, while to a very small extent protected, is not, I suggest to the Minister, anything like sufficiently protected—I refer to the match industry. We see only a difference of a couple of pence in the thousand containers as compared with foreign matches dumped down here, and, I think, in view of the employment given in Dublin to match workers, that something further ought to be done in the interests of that trade. The match factory in Dublin is capable of supplying the whole of the Free State with matches, and the Government could get a definite guarantee from those people that they would not in any way increase the cost to the users of matches if they got further consideration.

Then we have our Irish paper mills still closed. If anybody wants to order printed goods or to purchase paper he will find great difficulty in getting Irish manufactured paper for his requirements. I hope if there is any proposal to be brought forward calculated to help that industry that it will be brought forward quickly. All the other items have been dealt with at length by many Deputies, and I will not delay further but will simply conclude by congratulating the Minister for what he has done, and expressing the hope that in the near future he will seek powers that will enable him to provide employment for the many thousands of idle men in this country.

Perhaps it might be convenient to report progress.

Ordered: That progress be reported.
The Dáil went out of Committee.
Progress reported. Committee to sit again to-morrow.