In Committee on Finance. - Financial Resolutions. Resolution No. 5—Customs.

I move:—

(1) That the duty on certain empty glass bottles and empty glass jars imposed by Section 4 of the Finance Act, 1933 (No. 15 of 1933), and mentioned at reference number 14 in the First Schedule to that Act shall, in respect of all bottles chargeable with that duty which are imported into Saorstát Eireann on or after the 24th day of November, 1933, and are, in the opinion of the Revenue Commissioners, designed, constructed, and intended for use for bottling beer, be charged, levied, and paid at whichever of the following rates produces in each particular case the greater amount of duty, that is to say:—

(a) the rate of eight shillings per gross of one hundred and forty-four bottles, or

(b) the rate stated at the said reference number 14.

(2) That the provisions of Section 8 of the Finance Act, 1919, shall not apply to the said duty mentioned in the preceding paragraph of this Resolution when chargeable at the rate of eight shillings per gross of one hundred and forty-four bottles.

(3) It is hereby declared that it is expedient in the public interest that this Resolution shall have statutory effect under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1927 (No. 7 of 1927).

I may say that this Financial Resolution imposes no new duty, but simply confirms the minimum rate of 8/- per gross on empty beer bottles imposed as from 1st November by the Emergency Imposition of Duties (No. 17) Order, 1933, made by the Executive Council on the 31st October, under the Emergency Imposition of Duties Act, 1932.

Last year, as Deputies are aware, we succeeded in reviving the glass bottle industry in the Saorstát. When that revival took place production was limited to green glass bottles. The company engaged in their production was operating a green glass tank only. Since then they have made an extension by installing a white glass tank. They are now producing all classes of bottles required, with the exception of those not subject to duty, such as bottles of a very small size or of a very special character. In connection, however, with the green glass bottles the position is that the total output possible in the Saorstát works is larger than the total consumption in the country, and the fact that importers have cut their prices very substantially has created a position in which it is necessary to impose the minimum duty mentioned in this Resolution. When the revival of the industry was being undertaken the price of imported beer bottles was from 21/- to 24/- per gross. Since then the importing firms have cut prices to 9/- or 10/- per gross—that is the price exclusive of duty and exclusive of the stamping fee. The industry elsewhere, as Deputies are aware, is highly cartalised. All producers are secured in their home market, and obtain comparatively high prices. They are in a position to undersell abroad wherever they get a chance, and they resort to these tactics unfailingly. The fact that since the revival of the industry here the price for imported bottles was cut by about 50 per cent., is an indication of what can be attempted, and the only way to remedy that situation is to impose, in respect of these bottles, a minimum duty, in the same manner as we had to impose a minimum duty upon certain other articles recently. The present price charged for Irishmade glass bottles is lower than the price at which these bottles were imported before their manufacture was undertaken here. Whether the price can be further reduced, following the imposition of this duty, is a matter that can be investigated. It is to be assumed that, with the whole of the market reserved and the output considerably increased in consequence, some reduction in price should be possible. However, as I have said, the position is that the price now being charged is lower than the price prevailing before the duty was imposed.

In connection with the Minister's statement on this Resolution, I am very glad to be able to say that, in my experience, the products of the Ringsend Glass Bottle Company are of a very high quality and, in fact, that they are of a quality very much higher than that of the old Continental bottle that used to come in to the Saorstát. It is true to say that the green glass bottle is being sold by the Ringsend Company at a price not in excess—certainly not materially in excess—of what it could be bought at prior to the imposition of the duty. I do not think, however, that the Minister could quite stand over the statement that clear glass bottles are being sold at as low a price as they used to sell at.

This duty does not apply to that class of bottle. It is worded so as to apply to bottles intended for use in bottling beer.

In fact, to green glass bottles. I see. As I was saying, here is a product of an Irish factory, heavily protected, which is being sold at a reasonable price, but I think that if the Minister would tender a little paternal advice to the factory on the subject of clear glass bottles he would be doing a public service. So far as quality is concerned, it is very good. The quality of these bottles, is much better than that of the Continental bottles, and I should say that it is as good as that of any British bottles of the same class. The price, however, is still a bit out of the way and I think that, with a practical monopoly of the Irish trade, they ought to be able to come a little closer to a competitive price than they are doing.

The Deputy will understand that there is a difficulty in that connection. The only class of bottle used in huge quantities here is the standard beer bottle. In the case of the small bottles the number of orders here is very small compared with that of other countries and, in any case, I think we must be reconciled to a higher price here because of the smallness of the orders prevailing here as compared with elsewhere. So that, while we should certainly look into the matter of price in order to make sure that there is no undue profit taking— and I do not believe there is—I should like to say that the price of that class of bottle will probably be higher in any event because of the limitation of the market.

In connection with this matter I shall give the Minister a piece of information and I invite him to investigate its accuracy. Take the case of "Baby" bottles. I am informed—and I would be glad to be corrected if I am wrong—that a person or a firm, who desired to provide their customers with these glass bottles without taking a profit on the transaction because they were in the whiskey business, offered to buy from the Ringsend Glass Bottle Company something like 100 gross at 14/-, on condition that they would be allowed to pass that on to their customers in smaller quantities at that price, and were informed by the Irish manufacturer that unless they would charge the Glass Bottle Company price per gross which, I think, is 16/-, the Glass Bottle Company would not be prepared to supply the bottles at all. The figures I mentioned are 14/- and 16/-, but the correct ones may be 16/- and 18/-. However, I think that where you have a monopoly it is not right for the factory to impose such conditions when they are offered a 100 gross order. The matter will bear investigation and I should be glad to be corrected if my information is inaccurate.

Resolution agreed to.