I would like to ask, has the Minister had an opportunity of looking into the question that I raised in connection with the bottling industry on an earlier Finance Bill. I then pointed out to him that the quality and production of the Irish Glass Bottle Company left nothing to be desired. But there was some difference with people who applied for bulk purchases which they proposed to distribute in small lots. The company made representations to these purchasers that they could not allow them to distribute without charging 2/- a gross duty, and otherwise they could not fall in with their requirements.
In Committee on Finance. - Finance (Customs and Excise Duties) Bill, 1933—Committee.
The matter has been under discussion with the Glass Bottle Company for a considerable time. They had arrangements with those who engaged in the wholesale selling of these bottles, and it has been stated that these arrangements operated unfairly for those who wanted to buy from them in small quantities. I understand certain adjustments have been made to meet the requirements of those concerned.
I move amendment No. 1:—
In page 5, paragraph (f) to delete all from the words "and is not," line 16, to the words, figures and brackets "(No. 11 of 1933)" in line 18.
This amendment is really intended to correct a drafting error. The paragraph in question, as Deputies are aware, gives a concession in respect of horse-power tax on cars over 16 horse-power where these cars are assembled in this country. The effect of the paragraph as in the Bill would be to limit this concession to those cars only that are used for private purposes. The effect of the amendment is to extend the concession to those cars when used for private hire purposes.
Technically this is an Act to charge and impose duties. I understood from the Minister that the charges for several of those duties were imposed already, and are now simply confirmed by this Bill.
The duties have been collected up to the present under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, which permits of the collection of those duties following a resolution by the Oireachtas. If those resolutions are not confirmed by statute within a certain period — I think it is four months—they cease to be effective and any duty charged becomes repayable. The Act is in fact the legislative foundation for the duty.
Are not some of the tariffs already in operation under a statute passed by this House for the purpose of providing weapons for the prosecution of the economic war? Is not that so?
And I want to draw the attention of the House again to the fact——
I am not accepting the Deputy's interpretation of the other statute.
I know, but I want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that a statute which was got through this House by a representation from the President that it was an essential weapon for him to have for the prosecution of the economic war is now being used as an ordinary method for imposing customs duties on commodities like cotton socks. Is not that so? Has it not been done in certain cases?
Not as an ordinary method.
It has been done in regard to merchandise which nobody could suggest was being tariffed in prosecution of the economic war. I do not say cotton socks in particular, but some of the things mentioned in the Schedule to this Bill. I forget if cotton socks was one of them. I want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that that is a highly dangerous departure. I suggest that the Minister ought to be cautioned that he should strictly restrict his activities under that Emergency Bill to the purposes for which he asked those powers, and that he should not go on to use them as a weapon for usurping the most valuable functions of this House — the imposition of tariffs and the levying of taxation.
The Deputy is incorrect. Every tariff that is confirmed by this Bill was imposed by the ordinary method. A financial resolution was introduced here, came into effect on that day, was subsequently discussed on Report within the ten days limit, and is here being confirmed in this Bill. The point which I think the Deputy is referring to is that, in respect of a minority of the duties covered by the Bill, action had been taken under the Emergency Imposition of Duties Act before a resolution was brought to the Dáil?
But the emergency duty thus imposed was repealed simultaneously with the enactment of the ordinary duty which is now being confirmed by this Bill. The Deputy is not being asked to strain his conscience in passing this Bill, because it is following a time-honoured procedure. On the point as to whether we should use the Emergency Imposition of Duties Act for the purpose of affording protection to industry I say there is no question about the wisdom of doing so. I informed the Deputy yesterday that in 1929 our predecessors took precisely similar powers.
Not under the same Bill.
No; under a Bill which was limited in its operation for two years, and which expired shortly after the Emergency Imposition of Duties Act came into operation. If the Emergency Imposition of Duties Act had not been passed, we would not have allowed the other to expire, but there was no sense in having two Acts conferring the same power. As we have the power under one Act, we are using it for any purposes which are considered justified. In every case where it is decided that a duty should be a permanent one the ordinary procedure follows, even if the enactment of an ordinary duty by resolution necessitates the cancellation of the existing duty imposed by emergency order.
I should like to ask about the First Schedule, item 3, studs made wholly or mainly of leather. One cannot think that that was really an item for which an emergency duty had to be passed. I do not know whether it was one of those particular duties which were passed in that way——
But I should like to bring to the Minister's attention the fact of this continual day to day alteration of the duties, and the effect on the community. I suppose the shipping companies would take a 12 months period to get clear of the stuff which has piled up, due to misunderstandings about the tariffs and various other matters. I should like to mention to the Minister that the delays entailed are reacting most unfavourably in a lot of instances. Though the parts are considered trivial, they hold up other essential parts of a building or machinery, or work in progress. I should like to ask the Minister to try and regulate those duties to some periods of the year, and to give the ordinary community a breathing space in which to familiarise themselves with what is dutiable and what is not.
The Deputy succeeded in making a very general speech in reference to item 3 on the First Schedule. It is, of course, desirable in the interests of the trading community, that as few changes as possible in customs duties should be made. I think that general remark applies more to duties in operation than to new duties. Obviously you cannot impose a new duty too soon — I mean before production has commenced, or before the duty is justified — and it certainly is very undesirable to impose it too late. The practice is to impose it at exactly the time that seems best suited. The imposition of duties in that way is much less likely to cause congestion than to delay all the duties until you have a large number of them, and then impose them all at the same time. When a large number of duties was first imposed under the Budget of 1932, there was congestion in the shipping companies' stores and offices, but there is no evidence that there is congestion now. The statement made by the Deputy that those companies would take 12 months to clear out the stuff accumulated in their stores is not, in my opinion, correct. In fact, the information at my disposal is that there is no evidence of any congestion at all arising out of these duties or any other duties at the present time. The imposition of duties from time to time as the necessity arises is much less likely to cause congestion than any other method which can be suggested.
Will the Minister assure me that shipping companies are now normal? I am painfully aware that that is not the case. If the Minister goes down the quays he will see them piled with empty cases which the shipping companies are unable to ship. In fact I do not see how he can describe the position as normal when the shipping companies will not take empties for return to the other side. I think if the Minister looks into it he will find that, so far from being normal, the position is most abnormal.
When will the Report Stage be taken?
I propose to take it now.