asked the Minister for Industry. Commerce and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the difference in price of motor vehicles between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the reason for the vast difference since both countries are members of the EEC, and if he will make a full statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Motor Vehicle Prices.
The National Prices Commission have carried out a number of surveys of the relative prices of motor vehicles in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. As indicated in the Commission's monthly report for January 1980, the most recent survey related to prices in February 1979 and the results showed that on average the retail list prices of a selected range of 23 vehicles were 25 per cent higher here that in Northern Ireland.
This difference was accounted for in the main by the differences in the rates of fiscal charges applicable.
Would the Minister agree that it seems ridiculous that the cost of vehicles and motor car parts in the Republic are so high mainly because of the additional duty collected by the State here? Is the Minister also aware that recently his Government put an additional 5 per cent duty on? Is there any justification at all for doing that in view of the difference in prices as between the Republic and the North? Furthermore is the Minister aware that a motor tyre manufactured here and sold in the Republic for £36 can be bought in Northern Ireland for £13?
I doubt if the last example given by the Deputy is correct. If he would like to give me details afterwards it could be checked out but inquiries have been made from the manufacturers of motor car parts, including tyres, here who sell on the home market and also in Northern Ireland and the selling price of the firm concerned is the same to both markets. The difference in fiscal charges as between here and Northern Ireland cannot account for a differential of the kind mentioned by the Deputy and I can only assume that it refers to some other make or is in some other way not comparable.
Would the Minister answer the second part of the question? Is he prepared to agree that the difference in the cost could be reduced substantially if this State reduced the fiscal charges on the cars coming in here? Is there any justification for increasing them by 5 per cent recently?
Of course there is no doubt whatever that the greater part of the differential in price could be removed if the fiscal charges here were reduced. As the Deputy says, so far as fully assembled motor cars are concerned there was an increase of 5 per cent in the excise payable on such cars here in the recent budget. But that is perfectly justifiable. The figures for imports of motor cars into this country over the past two years in particular is exceptionally high and is having seriously adverse effects on our balance of payments. The level of motor car ownership here seems to be exceptionally high.
Would the Minister not agree that cars assembled here are costing as much as the imported cars? Is he not aware that there is some kind of a racket going on whereby the cost of motor vehicles in this State is the highest in western Europe. Surely there is no justification for that except that the State want to get more money.
It is a means of collecting revenue for the State; it has traditionally been so. I would remind the Deputy, without wanting to make anything out of it, that the Government of which he was a member maintained the fiscal charges on motor cars at what I believe is probably one of the highest rates in western Europe. So the situation has only rather marginally changed.
The Minister's Government has time to change it if he considers it was wrong.
Is the Minister satisfied that there is a difference in price between CKD vehicles and fully assembled vehicles being imported? Is he satisfied that the promise made in the manifesto, specifically relating to this area, has been fulfilled to his satisfaction?
We have had a number of surveys carried out on this differential in price to satisfy ourselves that it is not a matter that relates to price control. It is a matter that relates primarily to fiscal duties.
I have said that in order to facilitate Members who wish to get replies today, I would limit the number of supplementaries to all questions.
The Minister did not answer my first question in relation to CKD cars as opposed to fully assembled cars.
Of course CKD cars are dearer than FBU cars; that stands to reason. We can reduce them all right. If the Deputy wants to he could do it at the cost of 3,000 or 4,000 jobs in the assembly industry but the policy of the Government is to maintain the situation up to 1984 as we are allowed under the protocol to the Treaty of Accession. We propose to retain that situation even though, undoubtedly, CKD cars are dearer.
Is the Minister satisfied that the present policy is in line with past promises made in the manifesto.
It certainly is. The Deputy need not worry about that.
There are thousands who are worrying.