These sections are very highly technical. I wonder would the Minister find it convenient to give us a note on what they mean? Section 3 exempts certain pensions and gratuities. Will the Minister give us an idea of what it means?
Committee on Finance. - Finance Bill, 1946—Committee and Final Stages.
Section 3 is a relieving provision and I undertook in my Budget statement to bring it into the Bill. It is designed to bring up to date the existing legislation exempting from income-tax and surtax wound and disability pensions and gratuities in respect of wounds or disabilities where such pensions or gratuities are granted under the Army Pensions Acts. The existing legislation for exemption covers the Army Pensions Acts, 1923-1943. It does not cover the Army Pensions Act, 1946, which was passed early this year. The proposed new section will remedy this defect by securing that all relief for pensions and gratuities of the type in question granted under the previous Army Pensions Acts from 1923 to 1943 will apply to the 1946 Act as well. They will be all exempt from tax.
This is a most complicated section.
This is the provision for carrying losses forward. It is another relieving section which extends the period of six years within which, under Section 14 of the Finance Act of 1929, losses incurred in a trade or profession can be carried forward and deducted against subsequent profits. The section applies to cases where the six years' period includes one or more of the emergency years, 1939-40 to 1945-46, inclusive. It secures that, to absorb the loss carried forward, the profits of six non-emergency years will, if necessary, be available. The section will benefit those concerns which fared badly during the emergency and did not make sufficient profits to absorb any losses carried forward. Such concerns would not, in effect, derive adequate relief from the existing law.
This is a new principle. It lays down that the persons who have made a loss in any given financial year prior to 1946 may avail of the profits of any years between 1946 and 1952 to offset that loss and claim, if needs be, that they have no obligation for income-tax at all. Let us assume a firm lost during the six years of the emergency, taking one year with another, £6,000 and in 1947 revealed a profit of £3,000, in 1948, £2,000 and in 1949, £1,000. Can they carry forward their £6,000 loss to obliterate all profit in the three financial years which I have described, or are they allowed to carry out this operation of offsetting the emergency losses against the profits of only one post-emergency financial year?
I think the best thing I can do is to read a fuller note that I have here so that there will be no misunderstanding about it. Suppose a loss is incurred by a trading concern in the year 1935——
Supposing the loss is incurred in 1934-35, the concern will be entitled under the existing law to carry forward any portion of that loss for which it has not otherwise obtained relief and to deduct it from the assessments for the following six years, 1935-36 to 1940-41, inclusive. For any of those years it can carry forward the loss from 1934-35. Since these six years include two emergency years—that is 1939-40 and 1940-41—the section will apply to the trading concern in question. These two years will be added. If, however, the loss had been incurred in the year 1932-33, the six years' period would have ended in 1938-39 and, as that period does not include any of the emergency years, the section would not apply.
Is the relief applicable to the one year only?
No; I would say it would be able to carry on if there is still a certain portion of the loss outstanding.
Until the amount is recouped?
This section will apply only to very big concerns who can employ well-paid technicians in order to assist them in the investigation of their problems. That is very proper, but I would like to point out that a lot of small firms have problems which to them may be more important than to the bigger firms who can employ technicians. In this country we have very skilled workmen capable of being trained in new industries. What we most lack is technical knowledge. The smaller firms have been deprived of the scientific research bureau. It was closed down. The Minister seems to recognise that scientific research is urgently required by firms in this country. He is giving the larger firms relief, but at the same time he is depriving the smaller firms of chances, of which they were beginning to avail themselves, of bringing their smaller problems before the scientific research bureau.
In this section there is provision for allowing relief on such sums as are given to any research institute by any firm. We have tried to cover the research institute which will be set up in substitution for the existing research bureau and also for the emergency research bureau that has gone out of existence. There will be before the Dáil sometime soon, I hope, a Bill to set up in a permanent form a research institute which will have wider powers than the existing research organisation. This section provides that if a firm does not do the job itself, it can pay a university to carry out research work, or pay this organisation.
In paragraph 3 of Section 5, there is provision for relief spread over a period of five years. Then in sub-section (4) it is stated:—
"where an asset representing capital expenditure on scientific research, ceases at any time from any cause whatever to be used for such research, relating to the trade carried on by the person who incurred the expenditure then,—
(a) no allowance under this section in respect of that expenditure shall be made for any year of assessment after that in which the cessation takes place."
That means that if a man qualifies for relief for a five-year period and the capital expenditure ceases during that period, he loses all benefit at the time he ceases to expend money on research.
Sub-section (3) sets out the relief to be granted in the case where a trader on or after the 6th April, 1946, incurs capital expenditure on scientific research relating to the trade which he is carrying on. If a person on or after the 6th April, 1946, incurs capital expenditure on scientific research and afterwards starts a trade which is related to the research, he likewise comes within the ambit of the relief. If a trader incurs the expenditure while carrying on his trade he is required, if he desires the allowance, to apply to the Inspector of Taxes within 12 months after the end of the year of assessment in which he incurred the expenditure. On the other hand, if a person incurs the expenditure and afterwards begins the trade, he is required, in order to obtain the allowance, to apply to the Inspector of Taxes within 12 months after the end of the year of assessment in which the trade was started. The relief takes the form of allowing a sum equal to one-fifth of the expenditure as a deduction in charging the profits of the trade to tax for the year of assessment in which the expenditure was incurred (in the case where the trader incurs the expenditure while carrying on his trade) or in which the trade was commenced—in a case where a person incurs the expenditure and then sets up the trade and for each of the four following years.
My point is that if he has qualified for benefit for a five years' period and that then his capital expenditure ceases during that period, is he going to forfeit the remainder of the benefit in the subsequent four years? Under sub-section (4)——
The Deputy was on sub-section (3).
Sub-sections (3) and (4).
He will not forfeit it. I shall read the total note on it. Sub-section (4) relates to the case in which an asset representing capital expenditure on scientific research ceases at any time and from any cause to be used for scientific research relating to the trade. Paragraph (a) secures that in such circumstances no allowance under the section shall be granted for any year of assessment after the cessation. Paragraph (b) provides for the granting, in the case of a cessation, of any unexhausted balance of allowances. It enacts that if the total of the allowances already granted when added to the value of the asset immediately before the cessation is less than the capital expenditure incurred in the first instance the difference (that is, the unexhausted balance of allowances) shall be allowed as a deduction in charging the profits of the trade for the year of cessation.
On the Second Stage of the Bill I raised the question whether the Minister could give an indication on this section as to whom these facilities were proposed to be extended. Is it open to any person who is anxious to undertake mineral exploration to apply for benefit? As I understand the position, Mianrai Teoranta will soon go out of existence. At least, the Minister for Industry and Commerce foreshadowed that it will soon be brought to an end. At the same time, in addition to phosphate deposits, it has responsibility for certain coal deposits. Can the Minister say whether this section would exclude any firm or company from relief from expenditure which had been made either directly or indirectly from moneys provided by the Oireachtas? In the event of Mianrai Teoranta going out of existence, will its successor be entitled to relief, in view of the fact that the original expenditure or portion of the expenditure was provided out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas?
I cannot put my finger on the section at the moment, but there is a sub-section which prevents the State paying twice. If the State has paid, by way of subsidy or otherwise, for mineral development that subsidy is not going to rank for relief from tax.
Under the definition of a "mine", can the Minister say what materials will be determined to be minerals? Take gypsum. Is that deemed to be mined?
If it comes out of a mine then it is mined. If it comes out of an open quarry then it is not mined.
I think that is rather conflicting because under that definition the product of an open cast coal mine would not be deemed to be mined. I believe that some of the operations in Arigna are carried on in an open cast mine. I do not know if there are any open shafts employed in extracting gypsum.
I have been in a couple of these mines and there were shafts sunk. I brought forward this section so that where a firm undertook the hazardous adventure of going underground for minerals we would allow them the expenses incurred of opening up shafts. For instance, in the case of an open cast coal mine or quarry you know what you are going to get but where a firm has to go underground the seam may be very thin and may run out. The whole seam may shift and may be of a particular type. That is the case it is designed to meet. To my mind mining means going below the earth and sinking a shaft of some kind.
As far as I can find out, the definition is contained in sub-section (1) and, we must bear in mind that in litigation for the purpose of establishing before the special commissioners or the circuit judge or a tribunal the right to this relief the tribunal will have to refer not to what our intention is but to what is in the Act. If this becomes law the section will contain the words "the word mine means an underground excavation made for the purpose of getting minerals". Take a deposit such as gypsum. There are two courses open. One is to pursue it through a quarry operation, that is to clear away the overlying deposit and extract such mineral as you can get. It appears to me that a situation might easily arise in which a man would preserve a deposit which ought to be blasted away, if the most efficient and economical methods were used in exploiting mineral deposits. Is it the Minister's intention to promote such excavation?
This section is largely experimental. It is the first step towards giving relief for mine development. My instructions to the Revenue Commissioners and to the Parliamentary draftsman were to draft it in such a way that it would only treat mines as underground excavations. The words in the section are:—
"The word ‘mine' means an underground excavation made for the purpose of getting minerals."
If we do not drive them underground to get minerals, I do not know where we will stop. Deputy Hughes will explain to Deputy Dillon at great length the sowing of seed and ploughing. Seed is put into the ground for the purpose of extracting from it minerals, phosphate and so on. If you do not drive them underground for minerals, a farmer might claim deposits on the soil as being for the purpose of extracting minerals.
I understand the difference between mining and quarrying. You could quarry while there is an out crop and have people working on the outer fringe, but if you are going to work for minerals properly, you will have a mine. I think it is well to distinguish between the two. This activity is going to be very limited. I direct Deputy Dillon's attention to paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-section (5) and I should like to know how they are to be operated. Paragraph (a) reads:—
"(a) the inspector of taxes shall estimate to the best of his judgment the life (in this sub-section referred to as the estimated life) of the deposits, but shall not estimate such life at more than 20 years."
I do not know how an inspector of taxes is going to do that. It is an expert's job. It will depend on the kind of organisation that the owner is going to set up. He may be slow in doing that or he may increase his organisation. I should like the Minister to tell the House how that is going to be operated, or where that idea came from. I know that the object is to encourage people to start mining operations. Is there any such provision in British Acts, or where was this idea got?
Is there any precedent in any British Finance Acts for relief of this kind?
How will an inspector of taxes operate this?
The inspector of taxes or his deputy will see the mine, and will consult the owner and his experts regarding it. If, after discussion with the owner of the mine, they arrive at a life of 20 years, they will allow 5 per cent. on 20 years. If it happens that they are going to work the mine in ten years, he will allow one-tenth for each year. If after nine years, the one-tenth has not worked out, and they estimate that the mine will go on for 20 years, he will then make an adjustment.
Why would they not make it before the ninth year?
Say that they agreed that the life of the mine was ten years, and that they did not discover until the ninth year that it was going to take longer than ten years, they would go on giving 10 per cent. If they had agreed in the first instance that the life of the mine would be 20 years, and discovered in the eighth year that it would be run out in ten years, they would also make an adjustment.
Would it make any financial difference?
It would. The man would get back the total expenditure allowed.
Whether for ten or 20 years?
If he gets it back in ten years he is not entitled to that?
No. He will get no more.
Would the Minister not consider dropping this definition of "mine"? In Great Britain there are varieties of mines. If you could get contact with mining people and with the claims made, there would be a volume of case law as to what the reasonable life of a mine would be. Assisted by that, the judges of this country, if reference were had to them, would be able to determine pretty reasonably what a mine was, or if any given enterprise was, within the meaning of the Finance Acts, a mine; but if we create a completely new definition of a mine, what we are really doing is laying a trap for every applicant for benefit under this provision and preparing a paradise for revenue lawyers. You will find some unfortunate wight litigating with the Revenue Commissioners on the definition of a mine and the Revenue Commissioners making up their minds that, if he gets away with that definition, they will be getting applications from every quarry owner in the country and bringing this particular section to the Supreme Court to get a fence put round it, to get it limited. If, on the other hand, a whole body of case law is there and the applicant whose application for exemption is turned down refers the matter to a competent lawyer in this country, reference will be had to the case law of analogous claims in Great Britain, and reasonably certain advice will be tendered as to what way the judge will go if his attention has been directed to the existing case law in determining whether a specified case comes within the definition of a mine or not.
I think the Deputy is approaching this problem from a slightly wrong angle. I take it that both sides of the House are agreed that what we want to do is to help organisations which are legitimately undertaking a mining operation, but I think we also want to exclude, if we can, the ordinary quarry owners, the people who are quarrying limestone and granite. They cannot go astray on it—we want to exclude these. I would be prepared to undertake that, if there is any difficulty about this business, we are not going to let it get into the hands of lawyers to make sport and to bring it before the Supreme Court, but will examine each particular case which comes along in which a man claims he is doing a mining operation. We can ask; "Is it reasonable that the State should give him a particular relief?" and if we find that he is not covered by this Finance Act, he can be covered in a Finance Act a year hence.
Suppose the very reverse happens? Suppose somebody comes in and beats the Revenue Commissioners on an appeal? Suppose this fellow, having preserved the umbrella of clay or stone by propping it up and going in under it, instead of blasting as he would normally have done, in order to come within this definition of "an underground excavation made for the purpose of getting minerals" brings the Revenue Commissioners to the Supreme Court and there gets his decision, are we then to have a situation in which we bring in an amendment in the next Finance Act providing that where a man digs under a heap of clay, where a reasonable person ought to have blasted it out of his way, it will not be deemed to be a mine for the purposes of Section 6 of the Finance Act, 1946? There, I think, is a most evil principle, that is, an ad hoc amendment of the law to set aside the court's interpretation of legislation. It means that a citizen in good faith, trusting the laws as we have made them, goes to court to get them interpreted, but when the courts have interpreted them, if the interpretation does not suit us, we bring in an ad hoc amendment to rob him of the benefit of his judgment. The less we do that, the better for the stability of the country and the confidence of our people in the law.
At what stage of development does an underground boring become a mine?
I feel that there is a point in what Deputy Dillon says. If, as has been the case in England, a mine is defined as a result of experience and the definition has been satisfactorily concluded as a result of cases decided, I think a definition of this kind may be upset. The definition may be water-tight, but it does appear, looking at it superficially, that the matter may give rise to litigation and that, within the next 12 months—it might even escape notice for the 12 months and come up within the next 18 months —a case might arise and, in a subsequent Finance Act, the Minister will have to bring in an amendment to deal with it and to make it retrospective in order to rule out the particular applicant or applicants who raised the matter. The Minister should reconsider it. I have a recollection—I do not know if it is accurate—that a definition of mining is given in the Minerals Act in England, and I suggest that, before he decides to pass this section, the Minister should have it reconsidered in order to see if the definition is water-tight.
I am always open to reconsider it, but personally I would say that, as a mine owner will only earn, at most, a relief of income tax on a fraction of his total expenditure, he is not likely to go to the trouble of propping up a couple of feet of subsoil in order to earn it. It will not be worth his while. If it is more convenient for him to throw away the top soil, he will do so, and if he intends to go below the ordinary clay, he will come to a stratum of rock. Normally, if coal is not open, if it is just covered with clay, it is found under a stratum of rock.
Not always. Sometimes they have a very big problem in that they have not got a good roof, and, because of that, have been unable to mine. It all depends on the roof.
It will not pay him to go in under a bad roof in order to earn this relief.
If the Minister will have it looked into, I shall be satisfied.
Can the Minister give the licensed trade any indication as to whether he has discussed the problem with the Minister for Industry and Commerce as to when the licensed trade will be informed, authoritatively and finally, what they are to do in regard to these increased impositions of duty? Are they restricted to increasing the retail prices at which they distribute this merchandise to the actual amount of the duty imposed by him? I think in one case—I cannot remember whether it relates to the wine duty which comes under Section 8 or this duty which comes under Section 7—a situation has arisen that if a licensed trader is restricted by the Standstill Order affecting wines, beers and spirits, the extra duty is levied at a rate which involves the publican in charging 1¾ extra, and it is physically impossible for him to do so. Any rational arrangement, I think, will be very acceptable to the trade, but I suggest to the Minister that he has a duty, in view of the rates he has elected to fix, to ensure that an expeditious decision will be given by the Minister for Industry and Commerce as to how that duty is to be passed on by the publican without any breach of the existing law.
The duty of 1¾d. per glass was fixed so that the ordinary retailer would charge 2d. per glass extra and I was giving ¼d. margin on the glass.
Has the Minister adverted to the fact that under the regulations made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce he cannot do it?
I am afraid they are all doing it. I think all the retailers have put up their price by 2d. as far as I know.
Is there not a Standstill Order which prohibits the publican from charging more for whiskey than he was charging in 1941, without the authority of the Minister for Industry and Commerce?
I think the Minister has given the authority to charge 2d. more.
To charge 2d.?
If that is so then my query is answered. I understood there was still some perplexity (1) in regard to the price of whiskey and (2) in regard to the price of wine. All I am anxious is that the matter should be determined and that the publicans should not be falling between two stools—between the Minister for Finance, on the one hand, and the Minister for Industry and Commerce on the other. Perhaps, the Minister would go into that and ascertain that the controlling Department has taken the appropriate action.
I think the Minister for Industry and Commerce is allowing the 2d. but the retailers want more.
Then they are very unreasonable if they do and, knowing the poor publicans as I do, I do not think they are unreasonable men. Will the Minister look into the matter?
I move amendment No. 1. It is merely a drafting amendment.
In sub-section (4), page 10, line 43, to delete the number "31" and substitute the number "15".
I move amendment No. 2. It is similar to the last amendment.
In sub-section (7), page 11, line 23, to delete the number "31" and substitute the number "15".
Somewhere Homer nodded.
What is involved there? Are we to understand there is now no excise or customs duty on refined sugar.
What did the difference amount to?
The excise duty was seven-eighths of a penny—that is, the excise duty on sugar made within the country—and the import duty was 2½d. per lb.
Both these are now gone?
Subject to permits from the Department of Industry and Commerce we can now import sugar duty free?
Yes, but I think Comhlucht Siúicre Eireann has been nominated as the sole importer. They are free to import sugar without any customs duty.
Was there any hand back of any excise duty?
There is no excise duty; it is abolished.
But up to this?
That was adjusted with the sugar company.
They did get it back?
There was an adjustment made so that all the sugar that was consumed after a certain date was excise free and duty free.
They were the sole importers in the past, or in the recent past?
They were, yes.
What is the difference between mineral hydrocarbon light oil and hydrocarbon light oil?
The mineral hydrocarbon light oil is petrol and the other is fuel for internal combustion engines which do not come within the first definition —Diesel oil, kerosene and so on.
What are the special films that are here being exempted?
During the war owing to transport difficulties it was necessary to import a second copy of films—that is, of the ordinary commercial films shown in cinemas—and, therefore, an allowance was made. Instead of paying the full rate of duty, because the second importation was due to transport conditions, a second copy of a film was allowed in at half the rate of duty.
And the effect of this is to make them pay the duty on every foot brought in, regardless?
No. It is to continue in a permanent form in ordinary legislation what was done under an Emergency Powers Order to meet transport difficulties.
You do not expect our transport difficulties to last for ever and a day.
We shall have them for a year anyway.
It is subject to review at the end of the financial year?
It is, yes.
I think this section is the queerest section that has ever been brought in. The effect of this section would be to bestow on the dance hall proprietors of this country a sum of £65,000, and that at a time when the National University of this country is starving for funds, unable to pay its professors, unable to provide equipment, and unable to erect accommodation for the higher education of the people because we cannot afford to give them any money. We are asked here to waive a revenue of £65,000, not to secure relief for the widow and the orphan, not for the benefit of the sick and infirm, not to secure added comfort for the blind or the afflicted, but to ease the burden on the backs of the down-trodden dance hall proprietors of this country. It is with the greatest difficulty that we have succeeded in preventing the erection of dance halls at every crossroads in the country. It is perfectly manifest that if there is one industry in this country which is booming and will continue to boom under any conditions and, apparently, at any price, it is the dance halls. Up to 3/9 you could fill the Albert Hall in any rural area in this country. I admit that after you pass that figure the crowd begins to dwindle and half the company turn up in dinner-jackets that do not fit them. But below that, all and sundry are prepared to go as often as the opportunity offers and, apparently, have sufficient money to go as often as the opportunity offers. Surely, if there was ever a tax which no reasonable citizen in this country could object to pay, it is a tax on dancing. I said on the Second Stage—and I now repeat it—I am not one of those who condemn dancing as something that ought to be discouraged on the ground that it is in itself evil. Like everything else, it is capable of being abused.
So far as I know, there is nothing intrinsically evil in it. But it is the kind of luxury which is eminently taxable. If there is a desirable purpose for which such a tax might be used I suggest to the Minister that here is a purpose which is desperately in need of money and, far from reducing the tax on dances, I think it would be perfectly legitimate to raise it to such a figure as would yield £100,000 per annum to be offered to the National University of Ireland for the purpose of repairing the manifest and scandalous deficiency in its existing revenue. I do not believe there would be one single word of protest from one end of Ireland to the other if the usual revenue system were departed from in this particular case and the dance hall duty were deliberately earmarked for higher education in this country. Ninety-nine per cent. of the people paying this tax would gladly pay it, and a little more, if they were satisfied it would mean something approaching an adequate endowment for the starved universities to which their children will in large numbers some day be going.
In reply to Deputy Dillon I would say that if we wanted £100,000 and if the Dáil decides that the universities should get that £100,000, or whatever figure they will decide on, it is up to us to collect it in the best way possible. I think the revenue raised from the tax on ceilidhthe and dances was the worst means by which that could have been raised. First of all, it was a very costly tax to collect.
Have you any statistics on that?
No, I cannot give the Deputy exact statistics but I have asked the Revenue Commissioners. This tax has to be enforced by the revenue officers throughout the country. There are dances in all sorts of remote parts. The revenue officers have to go there to inspect and examine and they get into trouble with people in remote localities who resent the inspection of the dance by the revenue officers. There is much more than the ordinary dance halls involved in this question. As far as the commercial dance halls are concerned. I hope they will not benefit a single penny. I hope, as a result of taking off the expense of managing their hall in such a way as to comply with the revenue requirements that, when they are free, they may not only reduce the price of admission by the appropriate amount of tax taken off but by something over and above that which represents their cost in collecting for the Revenue Commissioners these particular duties. If the people of the country who attend ordinary commercial dances have any wit they are not going to give, when the remission of this tax comes into operation, the price they have been giving heretofore. I think it would be most unfair if these commercial dance halls were to charge such prices. But let that be between the patrons of the commercial dance halls and the proprietors. The owners of commercial dance halls should reduce the price of admission by about 20 per cent. in the lower ranges.
Let us come to this wider question. Any person who wants to run a ceilidhe for some local purpose or for some charitable national purpose, say, like the Red Cross——
Or the Fianna Fáil club.
Or Clann na Talmhan club.
I am taking a charitable purpose. I do not think political organisations, whether they support Deputy Dillon or myself, would come within the term "charity." The Revenue Commissioners would not be charitable enough to regard them as charitable organisations. But, supposing it is for the Red Cross or for the local parish hall or the St. Vincent de Paul——
It cannot be for the St. Vincent de Paul. You may not raise funds through the medium of a dance for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. I think the Minister is getting rusty on the rules. His attendance at his conference must not be as regular as mine.
Supposing it is for a charitable organisation, the duty has to be collected or they have to get the Revenue Commissioners to agree, first of all, that it is for a charity which they can recognise as a charity, and secondly they have to keep expenses within 30 per cent. If the total receipts are, say, £30 and the committee's expenses run up to £11, they are out. Some of them have resorted to subterfuge, even though they have incurred £11 expenses, to show the Revenue Commissioners an expense sheet of £10. A number of cases occur in the courts every year where all sorts of people are prosecuted for offences against this particular excise duty. I do not think it has served the country well. If we want money we can collect it more cheaply, we can collect it without doing so much damage to local initiative and charitable initiative. When a committee come together to run a dance for the Red Cross or some other charitable organisation they have, I think, sufficient trouble to look after the details of organising the function without giving them the extra job of satisfying the Revenue Commissioners and keeping books and so on that would satisfy the Revenue Commissioners. I think it is a good thing for the country to get rid of it.
I was fortunate in being able to have a number of reliefs to give in this particular year. I felt that some future Minister for Finance, next year or the year after, might not be in the same fortunate position and, even though he was convinced that this tax should go, could not bring in the relief as the only relief. I brought it in simply because we were able to bring in a number of reliefs with it and I was conscientiously convinced that it was a duty that should go and, even though Deputy Dillon can make a little bit of play with it and compare 90 per cent. relief on the tax on dances with something that would appeal to the universities, we will have to put up with it. It is a good job of work to get rid of this for the country.
There is something in what the Minister says and also something in what Deputy Dillon says in relation to this reduction as far as entertainment duty is concerned. The Minister indicates the problem of enforcing this tax in rural areas, where halls exist. I would have dealt with this by drawing a line, by allowing a dance or entertainment up to, say, 2/-, to be exempt, because halls in outlying districts very rarely charge more than 2/-. It is only in large towns and cities, where there is an urban population, that dances go above 2/- to 5/-, 10/-, £1 1s 0d.
What about the 3/9?
I am drawing the line at 2/-. Let anything above that be taxed and then you will have no trouble in enforcing the tax, and, if a revenue officer comes along and finds that a proprietor is defaulting, let the fine be pretty severe. It was indeed a big shock to most people to learn that entertainment tax was removed, in particular, when there was no consideration given to old age pensioners or to other sections, that it was the most unexpected section of the community that got consideration, namely, the dance hall proprietor. It is a very weak excuse indeed to say that it would be impossible to enforce the tax because, to my knowledge and to the knowledge of Deputy Dillon and of the Minister, dances in rural Ireland are generally from 1/- to 2/- except in very exceptional cases, perhaps at Christmas and St. Patrick's Night, when it is 2/6. In towns like Castlebar and Ballina, where there are big dances, they are £1 1s 0d, 10/-, 5/- and you will not get the ordinary young man or woman to go because they cannot afford it.
The middle class, as they call themselves, or the upper class—you may call them what you like; I have one particular name for them, but I would not be allowed to use it here—would not associate with that section of the community. They want a 5/- dance. The people who go there are considered respectable, whether they are or are not. Tax these people, make them contribute towards the general good. What you get out of it could be used in helping those who are less well off. I think it was a big mistake. I can see the Minister's point that it is very hard to take into court the proprietors of small dance halls in the outlying districts because they have defrauded the Revenue Commissioners. The way out is to draw the line and have no tax on any dances up to 2/-. There are charitable dances or dances for foreign missions or for very poor persons. The bread-winner of a family might die and a dance is organised to assist his widow or orphans. The admission fee runs from 1/- to 2/-, and that applies everywhere in Ireland. The dances run in the big ballrooms in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Drogheda, Galway and Sligo are on a different footing. The people there have money to spend—to throw away, in my estimation. These are the people who should be taxed. It is a handy way of getting money and no one can grumble. If they grumble they can stay at home. Some person may say: "I consider the Minister an abominable man to put a tax on our only entertainment." The Minister is not forcing them to pay that tax. It is not compulsory and they can stay at home if they wish. They will not go to the dance if they cannot afford it. If you put a 10/- tax on some of them they will still go because they have plenty of money. It is very foolish to cut out the entertainment tax in regard to those dances. The Minister should draw the line up at the limit I have mentioned. In that way you will satisfy the public.
The Minister says: "Deputy Dillon might make capital out of this and Deputies must not mind him." I think if I had said that the Minister was wrong in taking off £65,000 in relation to dances and leaving the old age pensioner unprovided for, I would have left myself open to that charge, because we all know that £65,000 cannot effectively be passed on to the relief of the old age pensioner. But I have pointed out a service that urgently needs a sum approximately commensurate with the volume of revenue that is now being abandoned, and I make a case that nobody denies, that a very valuable service could be rendered genuinely more efficient by the appropriation of this sum to it and the only reason such sum is withheld is that the Minister for Finance has consistently said: "I will not deny the desirability of the service advocated, but the difficulty is that the money is not there." Now that he has the money, now, when reviewing reliefs which he could contemplate in the situation in which he found himself at the beginning of this financial year, I think there is an obligation on him to look at the good claims for additional financial assistance that were outstanding and unsatisfied for the want of money and then to look at the people who are bearing tax burdens and who require relief, if and when he had money to give them the relief, and to weigh the claims of one against the other.
I have no doubt that, when reviewing the list of cases for which he would have liked to make better provision than he was making, he thought of the old age pensioners, but when he thought of them in the context of £65,000 it was manifest that sum enabled him to do nothing effective for them. But he must have found somewhere in that list of deserving services which were in want of money the universities, and the moment he found them he might ask himself the question: "Could £65,000 per annum, in addition to their existing grants, do them any good?" He must have said: "Oh, yes, that will be a very substantial contribution which would solve a great many of their most urgent problems. Even if it was not enough for everything, it would help them materially." Now, once he has made up his mind that the universities can use that money and give good value for it——
I do not think we should have a discussion on the needs of the universities at this point. This remission of duty ought to be discussed.
What does the Minister do when he is considering remitting a tax? Does he whistle: "Pop goes the weasel" and wipe off the tax, or does he consider the claims made upon him and the resources at his disposal? I am envisaging the procedure which a conscientious Minister would follow. Having ascertained that this sum could greatly relieve a truly necessitous and desirable service, he was bound to look at the other side of the account to see would the retention of this taxation impose an insufferable burden on the tax-paying public. I think he would have seen at once that the dancing public, by the evidence of their own activities, deny the possibility of their being an overburdened or overtaxed section. The very fact that they go to dances is in itself an admission that they are financially circumstanced to meet a modest impost of this kind. I do not think I can be fairly charged with making capital.
If the Minister took my advice and deleted this section and announced that he was going to add the proceeds of this tax to the revenues of the National University, he would find his name well and favourably remembered in academic circles for many years to come. He would have done something long over-due; he would have used the £65,000 for a very good purpose; he would have set a precedent which, I think, would be followed by Ministers who come after him, where they are confronted with a small tag-end of revenue from the total revenue point of view, with the claim of the university always to be canvassed, and where it would be manifest that to maintain a tax would not bear unduly on a vulnerable section, and that it would be a good thing to throw it into the general revenue of the university because what was a very small sum and a very light impost, a soft tax from the revenue point of view, might be a very valuable contribution to the slender funds of our university.
This regular practice of appropriating the tag ends of revenue of that kind in perpetuity to academic institutions like the university would make a very effective and adequate subsidy for the endowment revenue which learned institutions in other countries very largely depend on, because they have amongst their alumni numbers of people who have earned great incomes and who, in disposing of their benefices, generally think of their Alma Mater whereas in this country no such persons exist. I suggest to the Minister that he might set a headline in providing that the place of these benefices would be taken in this country by such tag-ends of revenue as are represented by the dance tax.
I do not think that any revenue that has to be collected in as costly a way as this dance tax had to be collected is worth while keeping on. There were 70 prosecutions last year.
You did not abolish the licensing laws and there must have been 770 licensing prosecutions last year.
How much do we get out of the licensing laws?
What is the ratio of expense?
It costs us nothing extra to get the £700,000 that we are getting out of wines and spirits this year— nothing at all. If the Deputy wants to do it, it would be much easier to put an extra farthing on whiskey and there would be no extra expense in collecting it than to keep on the tag-end of a tax that is not a soft tax, that is a difficult tax and that is creating a lot of trouble and hardship and, I think, some dishonesty in parts of the country by people who are ordinarily well meaning. They cannot understand why if they want to run a dance for a charity, for a local church or something of that kind, the revenue commissioners step in and keep them down to 30 per cent. in their expenses and why when they reach 31 per cent. the Revenue Commissioners have to carry out the law and collect the tax. I am not very long Minister for Finance, but I have got a number of letters from priests and others saying: "Oh, well, we were only 1 per cent. over the 30 per cent. and why should we have to pay tax?"
You will get plenty of letters from the same gentlemen about their income-tax too.
They do not write to me about their income-tax. So far as Deputy Cafferky's idea is concerned, of applying a limit of couple of shillings, we would have the same expense. Deputy Cafferky's suggestion is even worse than that of Deputy Dillon's because we would still be faced with the heavy expense of collecting this tax. The officials of the Revenue Commissioners would have to go out to see whether it was a 2/- dance or not.
What were the admission fees in the case of dances for which there were prosecutions during the last year? Were the prosecutions not generally brought in respect of the cheaper type of dances?
They could charge 1/9 and let 3d go to the State.
The Chair would like to know if five Deputies wish for a Division.
Deputies Dillon and Cafferky rose.
There will be no Division, but the names of the two dissenting Deputies will be recorded.
What duty does this refer to?
The package duty.
Is it proposed to set up a court?
No, but to make exemptions. It refers to spare parts and equipment for planes that crashed here. We are now giving a drawback.
This section seems to cover the same thing.
They are mostly the same. The last section deals with international planes and this section deals with planes that crashed here.
This is a section that makes permanent a concession made to wholesalers. Is it intended to change the permanent law?
It is brought into this Finance Bill out of the emergency code. When conditions get back to normal we will probably revert to the procedure we had prior to the war.
Does this section do anything important?
No. The law has been amended in certain respects. This merely provides that the old valuation which related to poor relief shall be construed as referring to valuation under the Valuation Acts. Certain Bills have gone through the Dáil, in which the rate for the relief of the poor is obselete. We are bringing them under the Valuation Acts.
May we assume that this section, when enacted, will not alter the valuation of any existing tenements?
It will not.
Section 21 deals with wine and refreshment houses and this section has relation to tobacco.
What is the difference?
There is no difference. The poor law valuation is now the valuation under the Valuation Acts.
This section does not cure some existing anomaly in the law? Both of these sections are retrospective, Section 21 to 1860 and Section 22 to July, 1932. Have we the Minister's undertaking that making these retrospective does not in any way affect any judicial decision, any award or anything in contemplation?
No. Under the Acts dealing with Dublin County Borough and Dun Laoghaire Borough the poor rate went out. It is now under the Valuation Acts. It will not alter the amount of licence duty that a tobacco dealer or a refreshment house has to pay. There is no such thing now as poor rate in the County Borough of Dublin, in Dun Laoghaire or in a number of other places.
When I see a provision that a sub-section of this Bill shall be deemed to have effect as from July, 1932, I begin to wonder if there are some proceedings pending, or if an award has been made, the effect of which the Revenue Commissioners wish to correct by ad hoc legislation. Why did they leave this outstanding since July, 1932, without taking the necessary steps to alter the appropriate words and to bring them into conformity with modern legislation?
There are no cases pending.
The Minister says that there are no cases outstanding.
Why make the section retrospective to 1932?
I think it was in 1931 the Local Government Act came into operation in Dublin, in 1935 in Limerick and Waterford, and in 1931 in Cork.
Let us see what this section is about. A great many people in Monaghan are interested in it.
This clause provides for the forfeiture of (a) any goods liable to excise duty, or (b) any articles manufactured from such goods or (c) any materials or utensils used in the making of such goods or articles which are removed, deposited or concealed with intent to fraudulent evasion of such duty. The clause also provides that every person who removes, deposits or conceals any such goods or articles with intent to defraud shall be liable to a penalty of treble the value of the goods or articles or £100 at the election of the Revenue Commissioners.
The clause repeals Section 32 of the Excise Management Act, 1827, and is intended to be in substitution therefor. Clause 32 referred to has been found to be insufficient and inappropriate to present conditions. In the first place it does not cover articles which, while not in themselves liable to excise duty, have been manufactured from goods so liable, that is, tobacco manufactured from home-grown leaf; secondly, it does not indicate that the duty is payable to the Minister for Finance. Finally, certain words and expressions in the section are now inapplicable, that is the reference to informer. The clause removes these defects.
There is a certain general trend in connection with revenue matters of this character to shift the burden of proof from the person who alleges the revenue offence on to the person who is accused of it. I understand that the Revenue Commissioners have, under some statutes, the right to come upon your premises and to challenge you to prove that in respect of certain commodities found there duty has been paid and that, until you are in a position to do so, the Revenue Commissioners are entitled to hold the goods under their control, that, until you are enabled to demonstrate that duty has been paid, you are not entitled to get them back from them. I want to make this perfectly clear: my experience of the Revenue Commissioners in matters of this character and in respect of income-tax and anything else of the kind has been that, if you play square with them, they play square with you. If you act honestly when you have dealings with them, you will find most of the officers of that Department to be eminently reasonable and helpful men.
At the same time, there may be exceptional cases in which there is a genuine and bona fide difference between a citizen and the Revenue Commissioners, the Revenue Commissioners honestly believing that an attempt is being made to evade the law, and a malicious attempt at that, and the person against whom the Revenue Commissioners are acting believing that he is in good faith and entitled to the protection of the law. When you get into the sphere of beliefs, or of declaring a thing to be deposited in a place with intent to defraud, you are getting into a very ambiguous kind of country in which the question of intent and not the net actually done bulks largest. I should like an assurance from the Minister that, if the powers prescribed in Section 23 are to be enjoyed by the Revenue Commissioners, the general power they have of shifting the burden of proof on to the person who has deposited the goods, or who has removed the goods, will not be exercised, but that it will be the duty of the Revenue Commissioners to prove that the goods were removed by the person charged with the intention of defrauding rather than merely to make that allegation and put the person charged on his proof that this was not so.
I do not think the general powers of the Revenue Commissioners arise on this section alone. The Revenue Commissioners, under the existing law, if we do not pass this provision, have the powers contained in Section 32 of the 1827 Act. If we do not pass this, it means among other matters which follow from it, that they can seize goods manufactured from foreign-grown tobacco but cannot seize them if they are manufactured from home-grown tobacco. They can still charge three times the revenue, if they are manufactured from foreign-grown tobacco, but cannot do so, if they are manufactured from home-grown tobacco. This really brings the Act of 1827 up to date.
I raised a particular matter on the Second Stage and have since sent particulars to the Minister.
I wonder is he in the position to give his view on the actual case.
I got only a short glance at the Deputy's letter this afternoon and had not time to consult the Revenue Commissioners about it, but I have sent it to them for their remarks. At first blush, I should say that, in the particular case, there is no great hardship and that, as the Corporation Profits Tax is being abolished this year, there is not much necessity to do anything about it.
The only point is that for the three years since 1943, the company will be liable, and I suggest that the Minister should ask the Revenue Commissioners to consider it in that light and also in the light of the fact that, if the capital of the company had been in excess of £15,000, the Revenue Commissioners would have had a discretion, which, in this case, they have not. They might on that account consider it more sympathetically.
I move amendment No. 3:—
In sub-section (1), page 16, line 52, to delete the words "a writ of Levari Facias" and substitute the words "an execution order (the form whereof is set out at No. 37 in Appendix N to the Rules of the Supreme Court (Ireland), 1905, and is therein described as a form of writ of Levari Facias)".
This is really a drafting amendment. The expression "writ of Levari Facias" was used in the rules and was put into the Bill, but, after consultation with the draftsman, it was thought better to put it in the form set out in the amendment.
Can the Minister say if depositors who had their deposits in before the introduction of the Budget this year and of this Bill will have their rate of interest cut as a result of this provision, or is it only depositors from now on who will be affected?
Under this section, nothing will be done until an Order is made and laid on the Table of the House. My intention is that that Order will affect all deposits in the Post Office Savings Bank and Trustee Savings Banks from 1st January of next year.
I understand. They have a period now in which to take them out if they wish to do so.
They have, and they have also a period during which they can continue the present rate of interest by investing in Savings Certificates.
On Section 29, does it follow that under this section the rate of interest on bank deposits will now be regulated in accordance with the present interest or the future interest on Savings Certificates—in other words, that the two of them will be at the same rate—or is this a departure from the law as it stands at the moment?
This particular section defines the rate of interest for Trustee Savings Banks; it defines the rate of interest that they can pay and they can only pay the same rate as the Post Office Savings Bank. It is confining them within these limits.
That will reduce them to 1¼ in the future.
To 2 up to £300 and to 1¼ after that.
I understand that the Minister is going to make a statement on this.
This section is the section which provides the legal authority for the setting up of the transition development fund. Under the Money Resolution, which was passed earlier to-day, we can put into that fund a sum not exceeding £5,000,000. If this particular section passes through both Houses it is my intention to introduce a Supplementary Estimate which will show in as much detail as possible the purposes for which the moneys will be provided. I gave a few examples in my Budget speech of the way in which the moneys would be drawn out of that fund and paid for specific purposes.
I instanced the farm improvements scheme; and I told the Dáil that after the Estimates had been prepared last December we considered a sum of £400,000 would be sufficient to cover all the applications made during the year. However, when the applications came in it was found that there were more than had been anticipated when we allocated the £400,000. Out of the transition development fund we can provide for the surplus applications, which total £60,000. As farm improvements are very desirable I feel that the farmer should be given every encouragement in that direction. I told the Minister for Agriculture to accept these applications and he told the applicants to go ahead and that we would pay the State's share of these improvements. If this particular clause in this transition development fund did not exist we would have to introduce a Supplementary Estimate in order to meet our commitments to the Department of Agriculture and for the Department of Agriculture to meet its commitments to the farmers who applied for the grants.
The Minister for Local Government will be introducing his Estimate one of these days—perhaps to-day. There was one matter about which we were both anxious, that is, housing. We are both anxious that housing should proceed as rapidly as possible with the available material in the country. As Deputies are aware, building materials are very dear at the moment and the pre-war subsidy on post-war housing costs would leave a very large sum to be met either by the incoming tenant or by the local authority. It is impossible to calculate how the prices of materials will fluctuate during the next few years, and it has been decided to leave the pre-war grants as they are. If tenders, however, are made which are reasonable, having regard to building costs, a free grant will be made available out of the transition development fund to local authorities to enable rents to be reduced to a reasonable level having regard to the current rates of wages.
The Minister for Local Government will deal with that matter in due course. He has asked me to provide in the Estimate for a payment out of the transition development fund to enable grants to be made to local authorities in regard to houses which have been built over the last few years in order to reduce rent charges and to reduce the burden on the local authorities, which they would have to meet if only the pre-war housing grants were available to them. As the Deputies are aware the Minister for Local Government is encouraging the local authorities to go ahead and build houses, even though they are dear, and he has promised them that he will come to their assistance.
There is one other suggestion which has been made—I do not know whether we shall agree to it or not—that is, that the agricultural rates relief, which was provided for and foreshadowed in the Budget, should be met out of this fund; but that is a question which has not yet been decided. I think, perhaps, it could be borne on this particular fund. Apart from housing and farm improvements, the local authorities have quite a number of other schemes under consideration and some of these should, I think, be proceeded with as rapidly as possible under present conditions. We all want to see water and sewerage works carried out throughout the country. If that work is undertaken this year is is undoubtedly going to prove much more costly than if it were postponed for a couple of years, or until such time as material became freely available. It is, however, very desirable that public health works of this kind should be undertaken as rapidly as possible. If a local authority has a sewerage scheme under consideration and that scheme would cost £20,000 under present conditions, but would only have cost £15,000 pre-war, then if they have a tender for £20,000 and we consider that the scheme is a desirable one we can give them a grant out of this transition development fund.
This fund is designed to meet unknown circumstances. It is being set up in order to give the Minister for Finance the opportunity to meet a fluctuating situation, and to meet demands that cannot be budgeted for, cannot be estimated in the exact concrete form that departmental expenditure is estimated for in the ordinary Departmental Estimates. If, last December, we could have foreseen that an additional £5,000,000 worth of development work could be undertaker during the coming financial year and could have foreseen how the expenditure would have been segregated, then we would have asked for those sums in the ordinary Departmental Estimates. As Deputies are aware, in the Book of Estimates there are, not only sums providing for social services and other things, but very big sums of money, upwards of £7,000,000, I think, which is earmarked for development works of various kinds.
This fund will enable us to undertake more development work than was anticipated last December and if I can give any more detailed information about how exactly portions of this £5,000,000 will be spent in the coming year, I will give it when the Estimate comes up for consideration. We are really asking the Dáil, in establishing this fund, to put me in the position of not having to turn down a good proposition simply because it was not estimated for last December by Departments. I believe we all know that very much more than £5,000,000 should be spent on capital development. We do not know, however, how much can be spent in this financial year. This figure of £5,000,000 for the transition development fund was merely a shot of mine as to the extra development work that we may hope to undertake in this financial year.
If we do not reach it, it cannot be helped, but I hope we will reach it and that local authorities all over the country will look around them and see what improvements are there to be made, what material is available, the number of unemployed in the district and, if they can get ahead with the work, I am prepared to help them to meet the extra costs that are due to the prices of materials in the existing circumstances.
This is an extraordinary section and it is approaching a problem in an extraordinary way. We could all sympathise with the Minister in trying to make some sort of estimate as to the trend of prices in the next few years but the Minister seems confidently to expect, inside the next few years, a big drop in prices. What is to be covered under this scheme? The first item is the farm improvement grant. Most of us would approve of the Minister's idea of seeing that improvements to existing farmhouses would not be held up for want of additional subsidy or because the amounts required had been somewhat under-estimated. It only goes to show the extent of the problem which this section is intended to relieve.
What I wish to call the attention of the House to is the Minister's statement that sewerage and water schemes, though costly, will have to be gone on with. Some of us on this side thought that the Government had six years in which to develop that type of scheme so that housing could proceed immediately materials became available. We also thought that possibly some of the labour that had to emigrate from this country during the war might have been held at home if more development schemes had been initiated earlier. It seems as if the old problem will arise, to which attention has been called from this side of the House, namely, that the lay-out of sites is going to compete with the actual building of houses.
In regard to houses, the Minister says that he hopes local authorities will be able to let their houses at a rent that bears a certain ratio to existing wages and that, in order to enable them to do that, he will make grants to them out of this development fund, and that he is also going to make it retrospective to some of the schemes that are either in course of being carried out or, I presume, actually carried out. I would like the Minister to produce some formula— because somebody will have to produce it some time—so that we could understand how the ratio of the rents to existing wages was to be determined. I would like the cost of living brought into that formula. In any case, it would be most desirable for the Minister to let us have the details as to how that is to be arrived at. At present it would seem as if the amount of the grant was like kissing, to go by favour. We would like to have something more precise.
I would like to call attention to the fact that there are a number of houses being built or just erected, and there are houses under contemplation, and they are not in any way covered by the statement the Minister has made. I refer to the speculative builder and his enterprise. Why does the Minister think that those people can become philanthropists and put up houses without knowing the cost? The Minister says he cannot calculate it. When will the Minister produce details in order that people who are contemplating the building of houses may be able to know what they are going to cost?
I suggest much of that would be more relevant to the Estimate which comes next—the Department of Local Government. The cost of building is not a matter for the Minister for Finance.
The Minister for Finance has told us that he wants to reduce the cost of houses.
But he will reduce the rents by the process of reducing the cost of the houses to the local authorities, and I am suggesting that if the Minister is interested in the cost of houses to local authorities he might also interest himself in the cost to other sections of the community. How far the Minister is right in assuming that materials are going to fall very much in the next few years, I do not know. I suppose the Minister is not a prophet either. With the world shortage of building materials and a very limited supply, it looks to some people as if it is only the production of the material that can bring down the cost. In other words, there will be no reduction in the cost until the supply gets somewhat nearer the demand.
Probably the Minister is aware that at the present time it is nothing unusual to see 100 weeks quoted as the time for delivery of certain building material? That does not suggest that there will be any considerable price reductions in that class of material in the near future. I wish the Minister would become more precise and arrange some formula for the local authorities in order that they can make up their minds about the rent they may be expected to charge and, as regards the much bigger class of persons who are not covered by the Minister's statement, he ought to give us the benefit of his attention towards that class. We want houses built and people will not build them without knowing where they stand. The sooner the Minister realises that, the sooner the job will be undertaken.
I cannot understand Deputy Dockrell's difficulty. First of all, there are no grants to be given out of this fund to speculative builders to build houses for private people. This fund is designed to help State, semi-State and local authorities to get ahead with their work. So far as builders are concerned, if the local authority in the town of Dundalk or the City of Dublin ask for tenders for, say, 100 houses, the builders will consider the houses required and will put in their tenders for £500 a house or £700 a house. If it is decided that the scheme should go ahead and should get a grant out of this transition fund, the contractor will get his full £500 or £700 a house, whatever the cost may be, but that might mean the rent, if nothing further was done than to give the help that existed prior to the war, would be twice or twice and a half the pre-war rent for that standard of house.
If the local authority, however, under present circumstances, having issued its call for tenders, considered they were reasonable, they would pass them on to the Minister for Local Government and he would decide, having regard to the charges that will have to be imposed, whether the tender was a reasonable one in relation to present costs and recommend, if necessary, not only the pre-war subsidy, but an additional grant of a certain amount out of this transition fund. If we could foresee what are to be the building costs in Kerry, Dublin, or Dundalk over the next couple of years, or even over the next six months, we could make out that formula to which Deputy Dockrell refers. It is because we cannot foresee what the tenders are likely to be in the circumstances of the different local authorities, with varying supplies of building materials in all sorts of districts, that I am asking the Dáil to give us this elastic system whereby we can come to the assistance of the local authority in relation to its needs. If we were to give a formula at the moment, it might easily be too much in certain districts and too little in others.
I believe that, difficult as the supply position is at the moment, if we can get a reasonable output of work from building employees and if we can get the master builders to accept a reasonable standard of profit we can get ahead with house building, and, taking into account that the interest charges would be greatly reduced, that perhaps without very much out of this transition fund in certain cases we can build houses to let at a reasonable rent having regard to the existing level of wages.
You have the situation throughout the country that there are local materials available, the transport of which do not cost very much. In other districts, if you use that same material you would require a good deal for transport. All these factors will have to be taken into consideration viewed from the standpoint that transport costs are very high and transport facilities very scarce. It is because of the uncertainty of these facts we are asking the Dáil to give us this elastic system. I know it is going to be very much more troublesome to operate than a rigid system in which we would announce well ahead of the time that for all the contracts in the next two years we would bear a certain proportion of the costs or that we would give a certain fixed grant but that would not fill the bill under present conditions. It is because it would not, that we have fallen back on this system. I am quite prepared to admit that it is going to cause a lot more difficulty to local authorities, to the Minister for Local Government and to myself than a rigid system. I think we shall have to put up with the disabilities of this system in view of the uncertainty of the price situation. All I can hope is that we can make a start in the next couple of years with house building. If we postpone it for another couple of years, not only will the expert staff that should be working preparing plans, lose heart in their work, but we might have a dispersal of skilled labour. We would then be in a serious position to start in a couple of years hence. Let us get on with what we can do and take the disabilities of the system.
The Minister seems to think that costs are in an absolutely chaotic condition at the moment. I should like to suggest to the Minister for the purpose of estimating the formula which evidently he has in his mind but which he has not yet disclosed to us, that a rough and ready guide to present costs would be somewhere about 50 per cent. over pre-war prices. What would be his idea on the subsidy that would be paid to a local authority who showed him an estimate that was 50 per cent. over the cost of a precisely similar scheme carried out in pre-war years?
I could not answer that question.
Is that insoluble?
I think the Deputy's assumption that there was a 50 per cent. increase all over the county would not bear examination.
I quite agree; I did not say that. I said that it was a rough and ready estimate, varying from place to place.
Then it is a hypothetical question.
On a hypothetical Vote.
Is it proposed to devote the whole £5,000,000 to local authorities?
No, to any State or semi-State organisation.
When is it proposed to take the Report Stage?
I should be glad if I could get the Report Stage now as I should like to take the Bill to the Seanad as soon as possible.
Agreed to take the Report Stage now.
This is a Money Bill within the meaning of Article 22 of the Constitution.