Only 80 had applied this day week for the additional 7 cwts. which they are entitled to get but for which they are obliged to make application. There were a further 80 applications—possibly they would be duplicates—under the hardship clause seeking more than the 7 cwts. which has been given generally in the Bill introduced this year by the Minister for Transport and Power. Those further 80 had been received under that head and of them, to date, only one has been granted. All the others had to be referred back for further information and are still under consideration. That information is a week old and I do not know what change has been made in the positions since, but I think the general pattern indicated was really to assure Deputy Norton on the point raised by him. The figures would incate at this stage that, to some degree, towards the end of February there is not any real hardship being caused generally to these licensed hauliers, particularly if we have regard to the numbers who have come forward to seek anything granted by the Minister for Transport and Power.
The question was mentioned by the Deputy of a light load requiring a large container. I think I appreciate what he is trying to get at. Possibly we differ in this but I think he may have taken instances of commodities with which I would certainly not agree. I do not agree that the hauling of unbaled hay is a process wherein a load can be carried better, more efficiently, and in greater quantity by virtue of crates being put on a lorry. In fact I think general experience with unbaled hay is that no crates are used and very often no sides or tail boards but, what is required above all, is somebody who can build the load which may protrude very far over the end and even over the cab of the truck. The same might be said of dry and semi-dry sea weed, but I dispute the actual cases instanced by Deputy O'Donnell as being good instances of light loads requiring crates, as compared with a load of coal which requires only a small container to carry a heavy weight.
I can appreciate the point made but I think the Deputy and the House will appreciate that this is the very essence of the taxation code. Certainly I did not institute it and I should have to have to try to smooth out all the little asides that one can see in it. The Bill is merely continuing the principles already enunciated and carried out over the years in other Bills in regard to taxation. Though a case can be made in various directions as to how the incidence of taxation may, for the purposes of one particular commodity, appear to bear more heavily on the owner of a vehicle carrying that kind of commodity, nevertheless I think it is fairly true to say that the general code of taxation is long established, well understood, and nothing that we are proposing to do in this Bill radically alters in any way the basic principles which have come to be accepted by the House and by the public generally throughout the country.
Deputy O'Donnell then got on to a point, with which some play was made on Committee Stage, in regard to paragraph 2 of subsection 1 of Section 3 of the Bill, which obliges the driver or owner of a vehicle to carry a member of the Garda Síochána in his vehicle to a weighbridge where that vehicle's weight has been the subject of challenge or is suspected of being over-weight from the point of view of the taxation code. I should say, first, that I did not say exactly what Deputy O'Donnell gathered, or seems to have gathered, that I was introducing legislation to cure this matter. Actually what I said will be found at Column 432, Volume 179 of the Official Report, where it states:
"However, we shall have regard to it in impending legislation and we hope to rectify even that little matter.
That is not a commitment; it is not even regarded as a necessity or essential to be dealt with in regard to the Bill. The reason I direct the attention of the House to that paragraph is that it is not clearly established on the evidence that any such amendment is absolutely necessary or essential, whatever about being desirable. Examples of a similar provision will be found in Section 16 and Section 98 of the Road Traffic Act, 1933, and again in the Emergency Powers (No. 386) Order, 1945. As I pointed out here on the last occasion, since they came into operation, none of these provisions has given rise to any difficulty nor has any doubt ever been expressed in regard to them.
I have also been advised that compliance with a statutory requirement of the kind in this section does not invalidate an insurance policy or upset the protection afforded by it to a third party. While I am quite happy about the position in regard to this matter and the question of liability, I would not object to a specific provision being made to confirm the position and put an end to any of the arguments that may arise, although, as I have said, they have never arisen in the past.
The place for these provisions is in the Road Traffic Bill, which I hope to have before the House during the course of this year. As I said, over the years nothing has transpired to make it appear that this provision is actually necessary, but if for no other reason than to put an end to the arguments about it, when the Road Traffic Bill comes before the House, I shall give consideration to the inserting of a provision in it clearing up the matter once and for all.
Deputy O'Donnell said he appreciated to some degree what I said about the purpose of the Bill being to catch interlopers. I do not think I actually used that word, but it is a good word to describe those who have been in the habit of stripping their trucks in order to reduce the weight and then, as soon as the truck has been taxed putting on the standard equipment which should have been weighed. While that is the plea I make for the Bill, the Deputy was inclined to think that its purpose was to acquire additional aid for the Road Fund to the extent of £100,000. If that had been the purpose, no such Bill would ever have been introduced by me. The Bill was introduced because experience has shown that there was a leak from the Road Fund by virtue of these manipulations of the weighings for tax purposes and that that leak was becoming greater and was likely to increase substantially in the future. Rather than wait until the bottom had gone out of the sack altogether, we in the Department felt it was incumbent on us to recommend to the Government that measures should be taken to stop the leak. That is the sole reason the Bill is before the House.