Dáil Éireann - Volume 45 - 01 December, 1932
Finance (Customs Duties) (No. 4) Bill, 1932—Second Stage.
Minister for Finance (Mr. MacEntee) Seán MacEntee
Minister for Finance (Mr. MacEntee): I move that this Bill be now read a Second time. It gives effect, as far as the schedules are concerned, to the Resolutions which have already been before the House. In addition, it makes one or two additional provisions to which, I think, it might be desirable to draw the attention of the Dáil. The first of these is provided for in Section 7 of the Bill. The object of this provision is to exempt from customs duties cinematograph films made outside the Saorastát when Saorstát residents organise the production and the producer and a majority of the persons engaged in the production are Saorstát nationals or are resident ordinarily in the Saorstát. It also makes provision to exempt from customs duty cinematograph films made wholly or for the most part in the Saorstát when the majority of persons employed in the production are nationals or ordinary residents of the Saorstát. Hitherto, exemption was granted to negatives of films produced anywhere when the organisers and the producer and principal artists were Saorstát nationals resident in the Saorstát, but this concession was found to be valueless owing to the absence of any film printing industry in this country. On the other hand, cases have arisen where the negative was produced entirely in this country by Saorstát residents and the copies (positives) were printed abroad and these were chargeable with duty on return for showing here. Obviously, this was a hardship. The provision in this section will remove it and will help persons who take small films in their home surroundings and send the negatives abroad for the ordinary printing of the negatives.
Section 8 authorises the repayment of duty in certain cases. This section is designed to alleviate a case of hardship which was brought to the notice of the Department of Finance by the Department of Agriculture. In January last a duty was imposed on bacon for the first time at a rate varying for non-Commonwealth  countries with the price of bacon, imports from the Commonwealth being untaxed. The duty on American bacon in July last was, approximately, 15/- a cwt., and this was the position when the Emergency Imposition of Duties (No. 1) Order, 1932, was made. This Order imposed a duty of 84/- a cwt. on all pigs' meat, except pigs' heads and pigs' feet, where the duty was at the rate of 42/- a cwt; the Commonwealth preference rate was 56/- per cwt., and 28/- per cwt. for pigs' heads and pigs' feet.
Remembering the circumstances in which this duty was imposed it will be quite clear that it came as a surprise. The earlier duty had been to a large extent ineffective, and importers had continued to bring in consignments and were, apparently, of opinion that no change in the duty was to be anticipated. Messrs. Looney and Company of Limerick were on the point of importing a quantity of American bacon which they had bought and paid for at Liverpool, but the consignment did not actually arrive in the Saorstát until after the duty had been increased.
In connection with this particular case, I should like to emphasise that the Department of Finance does not admit the principle that consignments in transit at a time when import duties are imposed, or are increased, should be admitted free of the increase. It had refused an application made by Messrs. Looney in January last for the exemption of a consignment actually in transit on the ground that the company had notice that an application for a duty on bacon was being examined by the Tariff Commission and should have taken steps not to be caught heavily committed on imports. The circumstances, therefore, in the present case are rather exceptional. No notice of a probable increase was given. The amount of the increase was exceptionally severe, not more severe than the circumstances warranted, however, and there was no possibility of the company reimbursing itself in any way. As the long-run protective effect of the duty would not be materially diminished by allowing this  consignment to be imported, it was agreed, on representations made by the Department of Agriculture, to grant a concession.
In the first Order imposed, however, under the Emergency Imposition of Duties (No. 1) Order, 1932, it was found that no licensing clause had been included, and though steps were taken to have an amending order made conferring on the Minister such licensing power, the Department was advised that it could not be retrospective and that legislation would be necessary to enable the bacon to be imported without payment of the additional duty. To have delayed importation until this legislation had been enacted would have involved complete deterioration of the bacon, and it was, accordingly, arranged that if Messrs. Looney and Company imported the consignment and paid the full duty due under the Emergency Order power would be sought from the Oireachtas for the additional duty to be repayable.
On this understanding the company imported the consignment and paid the duty. The amount of duty payable on the consignment at the rate of 15/- per cwt., applicable since January last, would have been £289 10s., while the increased rates would have involved a payment of £1,621 4s., so that the increased amount that had to be paid was £1,331 14s. The import value of the consignment was £1,262. If the concession had not been granted Messrs. Looney would not have imported the bacon because by importing it they would have lost more than if they had not imported and had not been able to dispose of it in any way. On the other hand, if they had not been permitted to import it, if some undertaking of the sort mentioned had not been given to them, the Revenue would have lost a sum of £289 10s., and Messrs. Looney and Company would have lost £1,262.
The position which we are now seeking to put the company in is that in view of the extraordinary circumstances under which the importation was made, in view of the fact that no notice had been given of the proposed emergency duty, and in view of the  fact that if the licensing clause had been embodied in the original order Messrs. Looney would undoubtedly have been permitted to import the bacon, it seems to us that the case being clearly one in which that licensing power would have been exercised, the Dáil should confer the authority which we are now asking and permit us to repay the sum of £1,331 14s. to the importers of this particular consignment of bacon.
Section 9 amends in some minor ways several provisions of the Finance Act of 1932. These are mentioned in the second column of the Third Schedule. The first of these amendments, Reference No. 1, is an amendment to Section 16 of the Act. The amendment is sought in order to admit, as hitherto, without payment of duty, such articles as musical instruments of comparatively small value. The power was given in 1915 and was renewed from year to year since, until the duty was made permanent this year. This provision was not originally included, but it was felt it should have been. Reference No. 2 makes preparations of malt extract and cod liver oil liable to a package duty of 1d. per pint, with a minimum charge of 2d. Reference No. 3 exempts from package duty single gelatine capsules, leaving any quantity of those articles imported in a package under 7 lbs. in weight liable to the said duty at the statutory rate of 1d. per lb., minimum 2d. Reference No. 4 repeals the duty on stone as formerly described, a new description for assessment being included in this Bill. Reference Nos. 5, 7 and 9 are necessary in order to grant exemption from all duty in respect of blankets made of cotton. Reference No. 6 makes the alterations indicated in the scope of the linen piece goods and woven textile goods duty. Reference No. 8 is a corollary to the revised duty on articles of wood set forth in the First Schedule of the Bill. Reference No. 10 gives effect to the alteration in the wood smoking pipe duty. Reference Nos. 11, 12, 13 and 14 are consequent on the changes in classification or rating made in duties on roof felting, lead, cordage and plaster of Paris.
Section 10 provides for the alterations  of duty set forth in the Fourth Schedule of the Bill. These have all been covered by the Financial Resolutions that were recently before the House. Reference No. 1 applies a preferential rate of 6d. per lb. to cut flowers of British origin. Reference No. 2 applies a duty of 21/- per cwt. to potatoes of British origin. Reference No. 3 provides for the exemption of rubber soles and heels for boots which are to be fitted to boots after they are finished and ready for wear. It also provides power to readmit, without payment of duty, boots, etc., which are returned to this country. Reference No. 4 provides for exemption of small household shovels, such as fire shovels. Reference No. 5 provides exemption for motifs, crests and badges, exemption for such articles as electricians' gloves, smoke helmets, gas masks, etc., and it enables articles of clothing returned from abroad to be admitted without a second charge of duty. Reference No. 6 exempts certain classes of small brushes. Reference No. 7 extends to single proofed cloth an exemption which applied only to the double texture proofed variety. Reference No. 8 frees castors from duty and re-enacts the exemption of patent cleaners and parts thereof. Paragraphs (d), (e), (f) and (g) remove certain items in the category of furniture duty which are now covered by the category of articles wholly or mainly of wood. Reference No. 9 refers to parts of horse-drawn vehicles. This duty is reimposed in a modified form.
Mr. Good Mr. Good
Mr. Good: The Minister mentioned that an alteration has been made in the description of stone. The Minister for Industry and Commerce will remember that on a previous occasion I drew attention to the fact that large quantities of Portland stone and Bath stone are imported into this market. They come in a rough state and are then worked. Before they leave the quarry they are roughly squared—what is known in the trade as scappled on the surface; they are not sawn on the surface. That might be held by the Revenue Commissioners to be a form of labour. The Minister promised that he would look into that matter. I  would be glad to know if that stone will be subject to any duty by reason of that labour on the surface. The stone is imported in considerable quantities.
Another matter I would like some information about relates to planing timber. I pointed out to the Minister for Industry and Commerce on another occasion that it was usual in this market to import floorings and sheetings dressed or planed on the surface. It was the intention of the Minister to put a duty on such dressed timber with the object of having the dressing done here. I pointed out to the Minister that the rough timber which is used in other places where the dressing is done locally is not imported into this market. I also drew his attention to the fact that this rough timber can only be imported—if we are to get it at the ordinary rates at which it is imported into other markets—at certain seasons by reason of the fact that the ports from which it comes are very largely ice-bound at certain periods of the year. The Minister undertook to look into the matter and I am sure he did so. I would be glad to have from him the result of his inquiries. I would also be glad to learn from him what information he has to give the House with regard to the setting up of these special machines. It was pointed out by Deputy Dockrell—I am sorry the Deputy is not here—that these machines would take some considerable time to instal. By reason of the size of the machine, a considerable amount of timber is necessary in order that it may run economically. I should like to know the result of the Minister's inquiries into that aspect of the question.
A further question was raised on the Schedule as to lead goods. The Schedule only refers to sheet lead and lead piping. I understand that other items in which piping and sheet lead are used have been stopped by the Customs. Whether that was the intention or not, I have not been able to find out but, as it appears on the Schedule, the duty applies only to sheet lead and lead piping. If it is intended that that should have a wider  meaning, some information would be desirable as to the extent to which it is to apply.
If it is permissible, I should like to draw the Minister's attention to the extraordinary delays that are taking place in the Customs. One hears from business men widespread complaints as to the way work is held up and business interfered with by the delays in the Customs. We are approaching the time of year when business is usually more brisk than at other times and it is very essential that any effort which can be made now to expedite the passage of goods through the Customs should be made. I am sure that the Minister has had complaints, as we have all had complaints, about these delays. If anything can be done, it ought to be done to help business at the present time.
Mr. Goulding Mr. Goulding
Mr. Goulding: I should like to draw the Minister's attention to hardship inflicted on some importers of small articles used in advertising. Small articles of cutlery, such as penknives, were ordered about three months ago or earlier. Their manufacture took a considerable time owing to the fact that advertising inscriptions had to be placed upon them. At the time of ordering the people concerned got, I understand, an undertaking that no duty would be imposed on these articles. The articles have arrived at the port now and the people who ordered them find that they are being called upon to pay the duty. The Customs authorities say that, as cutlery, these articles are liable to duty. But they are not cutlery in the ordinary sense, because they are to be given away as advertisements. It is hard lines on the agents who ordered these goods that they should be left on their hands. They cannot be sold or returned. They are a special line and those who ordered them find themselves in a very awkward position. If it is possible for the Minister to make an exception in such cases, I think it would be only fair to do so.
Mr. Lemass Mr. Lemass
Mr. Lemass: So far as stone imported roughly squared is concerned, duty is not chargeable on it. The  work involved in roughly squaring stone is not regarded as making the stone come within the description of “worked stone.” The Deputy can be easy in his mind as regards that.
Mr. Good Mr. Good
Mr. Good: There is nothing in the description to make that clear.
Mr. Lemass Mr. Lemass
Mr. Lemass: The interpretation put upon that expression “worked stone” is stone definitely worked for use. In the case of planed or dressed timber the position is somewhat as the Deputy stated. At the present time, we are issuing licences for the importation of planed or dressed timber to those who are engaged in the saw-milling trade and who have undertaken to instal the necessary machinery for the doing of that work here in the future. In certain cases licences were also issued to other persons who had cargoes shipped at the time the duty was imposed because of our desire to avoid hardship being inflicted upon those people. For a period which we fixed—up to the end of this month— the normal quantity of planed and dressed timber will be imported, subject to that one condition, that persons who will be importing it as merchants, or persons who will not be installing machinery, and, consequently, will not be in a position to supply planed or dressed timber in the future are not getting these licences. There is an exception in the case of Donegal, where, as Deputies are aware, certain abnormal conditions exist. A question was raised as to whether it is possible at this time of the year to get supplies of the rough timber. On that matter, we will have full information before the present period of the licences expires. If it is found definitely that suitable timber cannot be secured until the ports in the exporting countries are free of ice, the licensing arrangement will continue until supplies of the raw timber are available. On the question of sheet lead and piping, if duty is being demanded on articles in which sheet lead or lead piping is incorporated, it is not being done correctly. If particular instances are brought to my attention I shall arrange to see that the articles are cleared free of duty and the practice will definitely be  stopped. Duty is chargeable only on sheet lead and lead piping as such.
Mr. Good Mr. Good
Mr. Good: That is the raw material.
Mr. Lemass Mr. Lemass
Mr. Lemass: Yes. As to the Deputy's remarks concerning Customs delays, it was, of course, inevitable that when a large number of additional duties were imposed, certain delays and certain confusion would arise in consequence of the fact that the staff available to the Revenue Commissioners was not adequate to the new duties imposed and largely due to the fact that persons who had not heretofore to bother about Customs duties were not experienced in the best way of getting their goods cleared. A large number of delays were due entirely to the fact that importers were not familiar with the correct procedure. They were themselves the cause of the delay. That is gradually disappearing and I think we have reached, or are very near, the point where no more than the normal delay will occur. No doubt, difficult cases will arise from time to time in which delays will necessarily occur because of the necessity of getting an authoritative decision from responsible officers as to whether a particular consignment of goods is dutiable or not. But in regard to classes of goods in respect of which decisions have already been given, unusual delays should not occur.
As to the point raised by Deputy Goulding, I am afraid nothing can be done. The duty imposed upon cutlery is a small duty, largely designed for revenue purposes. It is naturally collectible upon knives imported for distribution as advertisements as well as upon knives imported for distribution by way of sale. It would be almost impossible to get an amendment in the Finance Act which would enable a distinction to be drawn between cutlery imported for one purpose and cutlery imported for another. Consequently, no concession is possible in that connection. The duty is only ten per cent. and I doubt if that can be regarded as very onerous on those who are in a position to give away penknives free for advertising purposes.
Mr. Goulding Mr. Goulding
 Mr. Goulding: I should like to point out that these articles were to be sold at a price fixed at the time and that now the unfortunate agent is at a loss as the makers cannot take them back.
Mr. Lemass Mr. Lemass
Mr. Lemass: I do not know to what duty the Deputy is referring. It is possible that he is referring to an Emergency Duty and not a duty imposed under the Finance Act this year. However, I suggest that the Deputy should send particulars of the case he has in mind. In the case of an Emergency Duty, there would be a certain discretionary power exercisable by the Minister for Finance if undue hardship was being caused. However, I could not say what can be done in the absence of all the facts.
Mr. Cosgrave Mr. Cosgrave
Mr. Cosgrave: Are these an advertisement for home-manufactured goods?
Mr. Lemass Mr. Lemass
Mr. Lemass: I do not know.
Mr. Goulding Mr. Goulding
Mr. Goulding: I really think they are for home-manufactured goods— home-manufactured beer and things like that.
Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday next, December 6th.
Dáil Éireann 45 Finance (Customs Duties) (No. 4) Bill, 1932—Second Stage.