Seanad Éireann - Volume 52 - 02 March, 1960

Finance (Excise Duties) (Vehicles) (Amendment) Bill, 1959 (Certified Money Bill): Second and Subsequent Stages.

Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister for Local Government (Mr. Blaney): The primary purpose of this Bill is to provide a definition of unladen weight of vehicles for motor tax purposes which will prevent a leakage of revenue. The previous definition was contained in section 18 of the Road Traffic Act, 1933. Read with section 2 of the Finance (Excise Duties) (Vehicles) Act, 1952, this section had been interpreted as requiring the inclusion for tax purposes in the unladen weight of a vehicle of all parts and bodies, including containers, used with the vehicle, the heaviest combination used at any time to be reckoned.

In general, this interpretation had been accepted and applied without question up to recent years. Developments in recent years have encouraged efforts to circumvent this interpretation, particularly the growth in the number and variety of attachments used with the vehicles, as part of the growing complexity and importance of road traffic.

In 1958 and 1959 a number of court cases were taken. In two, the District Courts found in favour of the official interpretation of the definition. In another case the District Court found against the definition. A fourth case was not decided. It was not possible to get an authoritative decision from a higher court before 1st January, 1960. This would put local authorities in an impossible position when dealing with the licensing of vehicles for 1960. It also meant that the majority of owners who taxed on a proper basis could claim to be unfairly treated in relation to those who did not include all parts and fittings for tax purposes. Accordingly it was necessary to introduce the present Bill, and under the Financial Resolution procedure to give effect [776] from 1st January to the definition of unladen weight which it contains.

Here I may say that my bona fides in the matter have been questioned. I have been accused of seeking to get extra taxation by a subterfuge, of seeking to build up C.I.E. at the expense of private hauliers, of seeking to circumvent the courts by a specious plea. I wish to assure the Seanad, as I did the Dáil, that my intentions in this matter are absolutely above board. I am not seeking new taxation by a subterfuge. I am seeking to prevent a growing leak of taxation by affirming in better terms a definition of unladen weight which we always regarded as the proper and, I might add, the fair and practicable one. It was estimated that this leak could amount to £50,000 to £100,000 per annum, a serious loss of revenue to the Road Fund, money badly needed for the improvement and maintenance of the road system used by the lorries concerned.

Again, I wish to repeat that I am not seeking to set the Courts aside. There were genuine difficulties which prevented us from getting a decision from a higher court before the 1st January. The logical thing to do then was to ask the Legislature to put the matter beyond doubt for the future. In any event, if the higher courts had given an adverse decision, the usual practice would have been followed of introducing legislation to restate the law. The Bill in no way interferes with the Courts' jurisdiction to deal with cases arising prior to 1960 on the basis of the 1933 definition.

The new definition is contained in sections 1 and 2 of the Bill. All bodies, parts, fittings and receptacles will be included for unladen weight purposes. Where different parts etc. are used from time to time, the heaviest combination will be taken. Receptacles, or containers as they are more commonly called, are a particular problem. Their use varies considerably. In some cases, a container is attached permanently to a vehicle and is indistinguishable from a built-on body. In other cases a container is attached in such a way that it can be removed but it rarely if ever is. Again, [777] a container can be placed on a vehicle, not attached to it, but left there as if it were a permanent part of the vehicle. Then there are containers which are occasionally taken on and off. Finally, there is the genuine container which is invariably put on and taken off with the load in it. A line has to be drawn somewhere, between the genuine container which forms part of the load and the container which forms part of the carrying capacity of the vehicle. Experience indicates that the only workable principle to follow, if more doubtful cases and more varying interpretations are to be avoided, is that set out in subsection (4) of Section 2 of the Bill.

For most vehicle owners the new definition will involve no increase in duty. For some, who previously adopted their own—and in our opinion, a mistaken—view of the law, it may involve some increase but not necessarily. In general the increase will be light, but in no case should it form a substantial fraction of the cost of operating a lorry. The heavier lorries would carry heavier attachments and would be more affected, but these are the very vehicles which make most demand on the road system. Attachments of various kinds add to their carrying capacity, and that means greater loads and greater impacts on the roads. It is only fair that their contribution to the cost of road work should take account of the total damage they do and the total benefits they derive.

The definition of unladen weight affects licensed hauliers in two ways, on the motor tax side and in regard to road transport licences, the latter being checked by reference to the unladen weight for motor tax purposes. The Government took account of this and the Transport (No. 2) Act, 1959, provided for the flat increase of 7 cwts. for licensed hauliers, besides which special cases can be dealt with under a hardship clause.

The Seanad will recollect that, during the passage of the Transport Act, the Minister for Transport and Power stated that he is prepared to consider under this clause any individual case of genuine and deserving hardship [778] brought to his attention. He has advised the hauliers of the steps to be taken to secure the 7 cwt. increase, which is granted automatically on application, and what information they should furnish when applying for special consideration under the hardship clause. I think the licensed hauliers have been very fairly met in the matter of Road Transport licences.

I now come to the question of enforcement. Any measure of this type must be accompanied by sufficient powers of enforcement, and these are set out in sections 3 and 4 of the Bill. They have been drafted on the principle that the powers must be effective but must also take account of the need to treat vehicle owners fairly. Furthermore, I wish to repeat what I said in the Dáil, that over and above the statutory provisions regarding proper notice of requirements etc., provision will be made by instructions to the enforcing authorities to have the statutory powers operated in a reasonable and understanding way.

Sections 3 and 4 will enable the Garda Síochána and the local authorities to deal with the case where a vehicle is taxed at a certain weight and later used at a higher weight. The present powers to deal with this are contained in the Road Traffic Act, 1933, but are defective in certain respects so far as motor taxation is concerned.

Under subsection (1) of Section 3, a member of the Garda Síochána will be empowered to require a person in charge of a vehicle which he, the Guard, suspects to be infringing motor tax law, to bring the vehicle to an appointed weighbridge not more than 5 miles distant and there have its unladen weight checked. Even if the vehicle is lightly laden, the Guard may make such a requirement. This provision is necessary to meet a case where a driver could claim the vehicle was laden even if it contained a sack or two of goods that could easily be removed and later replaced on it; at present a vehicle must be completely unladen before it can be required to be weighed for motor tax purposes.

Again, under existing law, a Guard [779] can require a vehicle to be weighed for tax purposes only if it also infringes road traffic law on weights of vehicles. The weighbridge must be not more than 2 miles distant, and it must be a Road Traffic weighbridge, of which there are only about one per county. Section 4 of the Bill enables local authorities to “appoint” for motor tax purposes a number of weighbridges in or adjacent to their functional area, and this should get over the shortage of official Road Traffic Act weighbridges without putting local authorities to the expense of providing more.

Subsection (2) of Section 3 of the Bill will enable a local authority to call in a vehicle for reweighing after it has been taxed. A general power to do so is given in subparagraph (1) of paragraph (a) of the subsection. A local authority would use this power where they had reason to believe that a vehicle had been altered during the licensing period or where for some other good reason they felt the weight should be checked.

Subparagraph (ii) gives power to a local authority to call in a vehicle for weighing in the specific condition in which it was observed in use on a particular occasion. This could be employed where a Guard had seen a vehicle used with additions not included in the unladen weight for tax purposes, but could not have it reweighed at the time for various reasons, e.g., there was no appointed weighbridge near enough, the vehicle was laden, and so on.

Certain conditions are attached to the power to call in a vehicle for reweighing. Under subsection (6) of Section 3, at least seven days' notice must be given to the registered owner of the vehicle. Subsection (5) requires that where a reweighing is required of a vehicle in a specific condition observed in use, notice must be given either at the time it was observed or within 14 days. This is to ensure that the vehicle owner will be warned near enough to the occasion his vehicle was observed to warrant his remembering what “additions” were used with it.

[780] Under Section 4, fees for the reweighing of vehicles will be met by the local authority, not by the vehicle owner. Local authorities' expenses will ultimately be met from the Road Fund.

A maximum penalty of £50 is provided in subsection (7) of Section 3 for failure to bring in a vehicle for reweighing. The existing penalty under the Road Traffic Act is £10, a figure which bears no relation to present-day money values and rates of motor taxation.

Section 5 provides that the definition of unladen weight operates as from 1st January, 1960, in accordance with the financial resolution. The other provisions will come into force on the passing of the Bill.

The provisions of the Bill have been very fully debated in the Dáil, on the two stages of the Financial Resolution and on the various stages of the Bill. On the whole, the Bill was accepted. Some suggestions were made for amendment, and, while I gave them full consideration, I found I could not accept them without defeating the whole purpose of the Bill. On one point, I was able to meet the representations made without sacrificing necessary principles. This was in regard to containers and other additions of a substantial nature used for only part of the year. I indicated my intention to make regulations under separate statutory powers, which would allow refunds in such cases. In effect, the containers would be charged with tax for part of the year only. The regulations require careful consideration and are still in the process of preparation. I advised the Dáil that they would probably be subject to limitations of a kind which already apply in the cases where refunds are allowed.

I conclude by recommending the Bill to the Seanad.

Mr. Burke: I listened with much interest to the Minister. One would imagine that every owner of a vehicle, whether a commercial owner or a licensed haulier, is a sort of buccaneer roving around the country for [781] the purpose of defrauding the State of legitimate taxation. It is a complete travesty of the facts to make such a suggestion. The Minister says he wants to stop leakage. He mentioned that four cases were brought before the courts in 1958-59, that the decisions in two were in favour of the Government contention, that one was against it and that the other case was not heard before the introduction of the Financial Resolution last December. He said this Bill is introduced for the purpose of overcoming evasions. If I were as uniformed as the Minister is on this measure, I should feel that the owners of commercial vehicles and licensed hauliers are the sort of people we should not know, that a brand of some sort ought to be put on them all for not having the civil virtues which people ought to possess. However, such is far from the truth.

I understand that commercial vehicles bear a higher rate of taxation in this country than in any country in the world. In itself, that is one of the reasons for this being in the form of a penal tax. During recent years, many of us have been asked to read various papers emanating from Government and semi-Government sources. The most famous and the most fashionable one to-day is Economic Development and one of the conclusions drawn in that paper, referring to what is necessary to help this economy to develop, in Chapter 3, paragraph 14 is that “the opportunity for the expansion of industrial production and employment will not be fully realised unless labour costs per unit of output are low enough to make the price of the product competitive in world markets.” But the imposition of a further £100,000 on the transport of goods and services is not considered something that would impede economic progress at all. I believe that not alone would it impede it to the extent that all the industrial sections of the community would have to provide that £100,000, but it would have a worse psychological effect on anyone who wishes to do anything.

The whole of this measure bristles with minimum fines and it all savours of a sort of witch hunt. It reminds me [782] of the old Star Chamber justice that we had in the days of the Charles's in the 17th century. The suggestion that the Minister and the Government are coming in here to stop something which is wrong, some terrible evasion is so wide of the truth that I cannot find words strong enough to express my disagreement with this measure.

It is suggested that it is brought in to remove doubts. The draftsmen, if they were instructed by the Minister, could have removed doubts effectively without placing an additional £100,000 tax on the most industrious and hard-working section of this community. The Minister could just as easily have instructed his draftsmen how to remove the £100,000 tax as to increase it. In a way, this is only one of these burdens that have been piling up on our economy through the years, particularly since 1932. Today we find ourselves in an appallingly uncompetitive position in the world markets but hoping that some uncle from America will come over and start industries which will pay us and in which we do not have to work, or that we will be brought into some of the trade associations which are starting in Europe, instead of being given the opportunity by the Government to stand on our own feet.

One of the important things in modern development is transport and it is a pity that the Government have come here to put another obstacle in the way of transport and in the way of people who want to do something for themselves. This measure will increase the cost of hauling beet, turf, hay, straw and fodder of all kinds. It will increase the cost of removing furniture, of meat, of carrying all forms of livestock, sheep, lambs, pigs, cattle or horses. It will affect the dairying industry. It will place a burden on the carriage of milk and cream. It will bear heavily on the cost of carrying fish and seaweed and it will even increase the difficulty the farmer will have, perhaps for several months, in a year like last year, in the carriage of water.

It will also effect the rates because [783] county councils who use tar pots on their lorries will have to pay the additional tax because the pot will be weighed with the lorry. I know of an instance where the tax on a local authority lorry will be increased from £78 to £126 because they have a tar pot on the lorry.

I want now to come to the kernel of the whole matter and to tell the House where I believe the case made by the Minister falls to the ground. Generally speaking, a flat bodied truck weighed at 3 tons, used prudently by the owner, will carry about 6 tons. If the owner decides that he would like to carry sheep on that truck, then in order to work it economically not alone will he have to put on creels but a second deck which will weigh at least one ton. Therefore the carrying capacity of that lorry is reduced by one ton. The whole notion in this Bill is that if he puts these creels on that truck he can carry more when the actual effect is that he can carry less. The same applies in the carriage of turf.

A man who has an ordinary lorry can carry a good deal of coal because it is a very dense commodity, but if he wishes to carry turf, he has to put on creels and has to pay more tax because he does so. The maximum weight capacity of that truck is then reduced by the addition of these creels. The same thing applies to carrying milk in containers and more so in the case of meat. It is now required by regulation that when fresh meat is being carried from one abattoir to another for processing or anything of that sort it must be carried in insulated containers. That means these containers will have to be weighed in with the vehicle with the result that the truck will carry less meat but the tax will be increased.

The whole basis of assumption behind this Bill is wrong in the extreme and must create a bad impression in the mind of every man who has a truck and who must feel that the Government are out to make him put his hand in his pocket. If a man wants to carry sheep, calves or cattle in a truck with [784] a carrying capacity of 6 tons, he will find that in order to hold these animals on the lorry, the maximum carrying capacity is reduced, while the Minister says that they are putting these additions on the truck for the purpose of carrying more weight.

The manager of every creamery committee will say to his committee that he had to pay additional tax on his truck because he had to put up two tanks to carry skim milk to Rathmore, or Dungarvan or Carrick-on-Suir or any other place. Every member of these committees and every share-holder in a creamery society will say: “How are the Government so ill advised? How could the Minister get up and say that we would be able to carry more milk? If we put two tons weight of containers on the truck, surely in commonsense, the vehicle's carrying capacity is reduced by the amount put on.”

This sort of legislation brings Governments into disrepute. The ordinary man in the street who has to pay this extra taxation says: “Why do the Government not try to make it easy for us to earn our living?” There is nothing as disconcerting as bad laws and this is a thoroughly bad law which will have very ill effects. It is said that an unjust war sows dragon's teeth. This sort of legislation creates discontent among the people. It makes for bad citizenship and it should not be pressed by the Government. I feel so concerned about this measure that, with a full sense of my responsibilities, I want to ask the Minister to withdraw the measure and have it re-drafted in a more realistic way.

The maximum load carrying weight of the vehicle should be the criterion rather than the unladen weight of the vehicle with the containers. I think that everyone here has no difficulty whatever in understanding that the so-called implications of the Bill are wide of the mark.

There is another matter I want to mention, that is, the introduction of minimum fines. The maximum fine that could be imposed under the previous legislation relating to these matters was £10. The maximum fine has now been increased to £50. There [785] are too many provisions in the Bill of a kind permitting a Garda to stop a lorry on the road and bring it to the nearest weighbridge. There is an elaborate system of making it easy for the Garda to prosecute, if not, in fact, to persecute, the ordinary citizen.

The citizen suffers from a sense of grievance. He has a just grievance because any of these containers which he puts on his truck reduces the maximum weight-carrying capacity of the vehicle. Therefore, I hold that the case made by the Minister falls to the ground. The Minister should adopt no other course but that of withdrawing this measure and having it re-drafted in its entirety. If the legislation in connection with the collection of road taxation is not up to date, there is no reason why the matter could not be dealt with and a new measure drafted.

In many of the cases I have mentioned, a new type of traffic is growing up. Meat is carried and milk is carried to the various processing factories. That type of development is going to grow in the country. If our dairying industry is to be made a success, milk, instead of being made into butter, which is the traditional method, will be made into chocolate crumb in one place and processed at other places. Every creamery in the country will feel the burden of this and so will every meat factory. To-day, instead of processing the products in their own factory, meat factories have some of their fresh meat removed for further processing in specialised industries. In fact, everything that can be done in relation to our economy here will be hindered or restricted under this measure.

That is why I believe the measure should be withdrawn and redrafted in order to ensure that it will not impose a hardship or be an impediment to the progress of our economy. That is what this measure will do. I know it was not brought in with that intention by the Minister. The Minister was informed that cases were before the court. The decisions in two of them were for him and another against, while another case was left in abeyance.

[786] He also said in the Dáil that he was trying to have a case stated in the High Court. That would not do any good but what is wrong is that the whole of the law dealing with this matter is archaic. New laws should be drafted in order to allow progress to be made in the carrying of goods in vehicles on the roads. The whole system of motor taxation is out of date and is an impediment to the economy. Therefore, the Minister should withdraw the Bill and have it re-drafted.

Mr. Donegan: In introducing this Bill, the Minister said his intentions were honourable. Might I be facetious for a moment? I attended a pantomime once which showed a pirate who had raided a village. He was a very swarthy, efficient and ebullient type of pirate. He moved up the gangplank with a fair maiden saying that once aboard the lugger, the girl was his. The Minister said his intentions were honourable. If the pirate had said that, I would have been more inclined to believe him.

All this legislation is bound up with developments that have been taking place ever since the Government decided that in 5 years' time C.I.E. must pay its way. The first development occurred when young Guards, picked men, were brought to Dublin and given a course in road traffic legislation. They sent out policemen for the first time—not men of sergeants rank or higher—equipped with cars to see to it that road traffic legislation as far as lorries were concerned was complied with absolutely and in accordance with the strict letter of the law. That was never the spirit and never the intention up to that time.

As a result of this activity, the Minister got into the trouble he has told us about tonight in three court cases. Immediately, as he admitted himself, he said the normal thing to do was to put through legislation to see to it that this could not happen again. I think that is the big stick attitude. It is true to say that over the years there was a liberal approach to road traffic legislation in all its facets.

Slightly outside the ambit of this [787] Bill is a case I know of, of a lorry purchased on the never-never system standing in a farmer's yard. The second son had purchased this lorry and was not in a position to use it for the movement of cattle. He has been contravening the law but so had hundreds of other young country lads all over the Republic of Ireland. Just because the Government decided that they would produce the big stick and see to it that C.I.E. would pay in 5 years, we got this sort of thing, starting with the training of young Guards, the sending of these men in motor cars to catch people and finishing with two parallel Acts, the one dealing with licensed hauliers and the other, the Bill now before the House.

The trend of modern transport is towards tanks and containers. It is quite obvious that that must have an effect on the movement of cereals. There are all sorts of things that go in a sack. The weight of a hundred sacks normally holding 10 tons of material would be 3 cwt., certainly not more. The weight of a bulk container to hold the same amount of grain, cereals or other material which is put in sacks would be 13 cwt. That is what I know from my own experience of the trade. Therefore, this is penal legislation.

I made this case on the other Bill and I want to make it again. Everything in this country has increased over the past 30 years except the cost of the movement of goods. I want to make it quite clear that about the time when the first lorries started in this country, if you wanted to move goods by lorry from Louth, where I live, to Dublin, you could pay 30/- per ton. If you want to do it to-day, you will pay far less. Depending on where you live, you will probably pay about £1 a ton. This, of course, is because of the greater efficiency of the lorries, the fact that they are bigger and heavier, and the development to the point where the helper is dispensed with and you have bulk containers with an arrangement at one end for filling them without man-handling and at the other end for unloading them, again without man-handling.

Almost every flour mill that accepts [788] native wheat has moved into this stage. At the moment they have moved as far as the acceptance of dry wheat in such a way, but the day is not far distant when they will move into the acceptance of green or untreated wheat in a similar way. Of course, the result is that everybody who is in this trade in order to compete has to dispense with the helper and get his goods through, not perhaps for the £1 per ton in the journey I mentioned but for 15/- or some lower figure, and he must use containers.

Even if the financial aspect did not enter into it, he will have to use containers because people at the other end do not want to have man-handling of goods. They want a hopper into which material running is mechanically conveyed to its destination within the mill or the point of processing.

I hold that the only reason for this legislation, which does deliberately cut across the present application of the law, is to catch out all those decent non-protected firms who have to engage in this trade and have to compete, and to make them say that they will be more prepared to go to C.I.E. and make a package deal than to keep their own transport.

Again, perhaps the Minister or people here might say that that would be a good thing. I should like to say a word for the driver of the lorry who lives in a small country area, for the fellow working for the firm which has one or two or three lorries. He is as much entitled to his opportunity of a job, to avoid emigration and to keep his family together, as his counterpart in C.I.E. and the livelihoods of these people are definitely being seriously endangered by this legislation.

Somebody might say: “Do C.I.E. not have to pay this tax also?” I submit that that is a cheap joke. Anybody who looks at the last report of C.I.E. will see two separate sums written off—one of £1,000,000 and the other of £800,000 — by the Government. In that sort of context, is it not true that whether or not C.I.E. pay the Government £100,000 or £500,000 in motor taxation does not matter two hoots because — let us face it — the [789] system of Government accounting that must enter into a semi-state body like C.I.E. in such a large measure can see to it that this is in fact written-off. If so, the unfortunate driver of a lorry down the country who wants to keep his job and maintain his family is most certainly at a disadvantage, because his employer must pay increases of £10 or £70 or £80 on a normal lorry because of this legislation which he did not have to pay before now.

I could give instances of several firms who have the ordinary hand-operated crane, and have containers which they put on the normal lorries with these cranes. Those containers fit directly above the body of a long wheelbased lorry, which allows the grain to run in to the hopper at the other end. They also have an arrangement for mechanically filling the grain. Up to now, they have had not to pay tax based on the weight of those containers. Now they will have to pay and the Government fiddle can enter in the case of C.I.E. Do you wonder if in a light mood I say to the Minister that I would sooner take the word of the pirate in the play than his word that his intentions in this case are honourable?

Is there any parallel legislation in any other country in Europe? Can the Minister give me any instance in which there is parallel legislation? He certainly cannot quote a parallel case in Great Britain, and that is where the comparison lies, because our economy, whether people like it or not, is integrated with Britain's, and there is not the slightest doubt that any difference in taxation here on the wrong side, any figures higher as compared with Britain, will fall heavily on our people, because our people have lower incomes than those in Britain, and these things must be paid for. This £10 or £70 or £80 which is to go on to the normal lorry will fall eventually on the poorer sections of the community in one way or the other, either in the form of increased charges by C.I.E. or increased costs on the ordinary small business which has to pay this tax.

Finally, I should like to refer to the question of the parallel legislation previously passed. There was there a [790] hardship clause, but here there is no hardship clause. There is no clause whereby, if there is a case that should be met by the Minister, he can deal with it. The only case he tells us of is of a container being used only for portion of the year, and he says that the same provision will apply as in the case of a person who wishes to get a refund of ordinary road tax. Anybody who knows anything about the taxation of vehicles will say that the stringent regulations with regard to the refund of road tax are such that very few people ever succeed in getting it back. If this applies also in the case of a container used for only two or three months of the year, in my view, 90% of such refunds, which under the statement of the Minister would be fair, will never be made because nobody will ever succeed in complying with all the stringent regulations.

There is no hardship clause whereby anybody can make a case to the Minister on any of his operations. I could imagine a small non-protected business which might have to use containers because of the fact that the people receiving the goods at the other end, who might be a very much larger firm, would insist upon their using them. These people might not have the resources or the money to instal the very expensive machinery at their end to load mechanically the goods into the containers. In such a situation, there would, of course, be a hardship on the small non-protected business.

The Minister is taking no power under this Act to do anything about such a case. He is leaving the situation just as it is. These people may find that a small profit on that load will be converted into a loss, and if that continues, they must find themselves going out of business.

This is dreadful legislation and, above all, it is parallel legislation. It is parallel to the lectures given to those young Gardaí who were sent out to change the law, because anybody who seeks to enforce a law which had not been complied with, for 10, 20 or 30 years is changing it. It is legislation which is comparable with the infamous [791] Act passed here giving the unfortunate hauliers an increase of 7½ cwts., and insisting that these attachments, weighing as much as 2 tons 15 cwts. be counted in the weight.

Mr. L'Estrange: This Bill is a retrograde step which will further increase the burden on the most industrious section of the community, the farmers, traders and industrialists who have their own lorries, and the licensed hauliers. Those people have had to meet, for a long number of years now, an increase in the cost of living, an increase in the price of petrol, and an increase in the price of oil, spare parts, and garage services. Now they must grapple with a new imposition which will further increase the cost of production, both agricultural and industrial. Indeed, it may help to price us out of some of the markets in which we have a foothold at the present time.

This legislation has a three-fold object. The first, undoubtedly, is to counteract decisions given by the Courts and this legislation will annul the decisions of various district justices without having to state a case for the High Court. Secondly, and this may be the primary object, another £100,000 will be gathered from an already overtaxed hard-working section of our people. Thirdly, it may drive the private lorry owners off the road—perhaps that is what is intended —and give a further monopoly to C.I.E. It might be no harm to say in passing that C.I.E. have a costly monopoly which definitely has increased, and is helping to increase, the cost of production of what we have to export.

The Minister must know that he is imposing a hardship and that there are many private hauliers who are barely able to carry on at the moment and that many of those people may be put off the road by this new legislation. Despite that, the Minister said, as reported at Column 1060, Volume 178, of the Dáil Official Debates:—

Hauliers so affected would be unable to continue to use their present lorries and in the absence of an increase in standard lorry weight [792] would either have to replace their lorries with lighter vehicles or operate them without the attachments or additions which might be essential to their business.

If those people are already almost taxed out of existence, I should like to know where the Minister thinks they will get the money to buy new lorries or replace the existing lorries.

I should like to remind the House that many of those licensed hauliers were good enterprising farmers, farmers' sons, labourers, and, in some cases, garage workers and others, with a little initiative and a little faith in their own country. Instead of taking the emigrant ship and looking for work in England, they had faith in their own country and stayed at home. They collected a few hundred pounds and put down a deposit on a lorry and went into haulage work. The majority of these lorries are perhaps not paid for yet.

Mr. Murphy: Illegally.

Mr. L'Estrange: The majority of them were doing quite legal work. Perhaps some of them might at times break the law. This Bill will sound the death knell of the little businesses which many of these road hauliers have built up through hard work during a long number of years. I maintain that they are as much entitled to earn their living in their own country as any other section of our people. We should do all we can to encourage private enterprise but, instead, we are dealing it a mortal blow from which it may never recover.

We all know that furniture removers and livestock hauliers—Senator Burke gave a full list and I shall not go further into it—will be severely hit. It is a further tax on agricultural and industrial production. We have often been told it is the last straw which breaks the camel's back. The Government should be concerned at the present time with the appalling death rate on our roads and should be concerned with prosecuting and persecuting the drunken drivers, instead of prosecuting and persecuting the unfortunate road hauliers. Our laws have gone haywire when drivers, drunk in charge of cars, can kill people, and [793] get off scot free, but if the people with lorries do not pay the full tax, they can be fined £50 or £100 or get three or six months in jail. Our laws have gone haywire and it would be better if the Government spent some time amending the existing laws with regard to driving in an effort to reduce the appalling death toll on the roads. Our time would be much better taken up in doing that.

Mr. J.L. O'Sullivan: There is one other section of the community who will be severely hit by this Bill. I refer to the small farmer with the 10 cwt. pick-up truck. These men who have put their whole earnings into buying these trucks to do their ordinary business will have to put certain crates on to the vehicles to carry livestock or other merchandise. I have been informed by these small farmers whose pick-up trucks are the only vehicles they have on the farm that their taxation has been increased considerably under this new legislation.

I ask the Minister at least to deal easily with this section of our people, the poorer section, whose pick-up trucks are their only means of transport and which carry their families to Mass and to the towns. These trucks are the only mode of conveyance they have. I have been informed, as I said, that these people will have to find large amounts of money in addition to the already considerable burden of taxation they are carrying.

I shall not go into what Senator Burke and Senator Donegan said about the big lorries. We all know of the meat in containers that is shifted from one factory to another for processing and when there is no crane to take off that container at the end of the journey, the container is charged in the assessment of the tax. Whereas, if they take it to a railway station equipped with big cranes to handle these containers and take them away, they get off scot free.

I should like to ask the Minister at least to consider the claims of these people, the owners of the half-ton pick-up trucks which are used to carry merchandise for the farming community, for the small farmers. There is no doubt that if the owners of these [794] lorries throughout the country are put out of business, the farming community will suffer a grievous loss. They are there, available in the locality, living in the rural areas. They are easily communicated with, always ready to do the job no matter what hour of the day or night they are called upon. These are men who are not afraid of work. They are men who will put their shoulder behind the wheel and they have been found very reasonable in their charges. If they are to be put off the road, the people of the country will suffer a very grievous loss.

Mr. Murphy: I propose to say a few words on this measure because it is important. It was disclosed here tonight that Fine Gael, although they introduced and put through the 1950 Transport Act which initiated public transport, in effect, were against it.

Mr. J.L. O'Sullivan: Against increased taxation.

Mr. Murphy: That is the argument which was put forward by Senators on this side of the House. Apparently what they are doing is pleading for illegal haulage.

Mr. Burke: I never mentioned C.I.E., directly or indirectly.

Mr. Murphy: In the same way, they are encouraging evasion of the existing law. The practice of stripping lorries is becoming widespread throughout the country. Vehicles going along to be taxed are stripped to their floorboards and the people concerned are not paying the tax laid down in legislation. The purpose of this Bill is to tighten things up and to provide that these people pay the proper tax.

Dr. O'Donovan: The courts did not agree with you.

Mr. Murphy: That may be so.

Dr. O'Donovan: They are there to interpret the law.

Mr. Murphy: And the Oireachtas is there to make the law. This will tighten it.

[795] Dr. O'Donovan: It will tighten it all right.

Mr. Murphy: What our friends in Fine Gael said is that the Minister should tighten up legislation and allow lorry owners, at the same time, to continue the existing practice of stripping lorries. We are up against the problem that lorries are becoming bigger and heavier, with consequent heavier damage to the public roads. I am sure that my colleagues will raise a howl in the local authorities when they have an increase in rates to provide for the repair of the roads. We all have had experience of seeing heavy vehicles in effect crumbling the road on which they are moving. Many of these, with the practice of stripping lorries, have not been paying the tax they should be paying for the upkeep and repair of the roads they are using.

We are told this is a drive against private enterprise. In fact, the legislation is there all the time and the only people licensed to carry for reward are the nationalised public transport undertaking and the licensed haulier. That is the position maintained and apparently advocated by Fine Gael up to now. Now we are told that the purpose of this legislation is to put off the road the small concerns, which, on the face of it, have been carrying illegally up to now and breaking the law.

Dr. O'Donovan: Except that the courts do not accept this interpretation.

Mr. Murphy: It is illegal haulage.

Mr. Donegan: On a point of information do C.I.E. pay tax?

Mr. Murphy: I am not responsible for C.I.E. I do not know——

Mr. Donegan: I do. They do not pay.

Mr. Murphy: I hope that C.I.E. observe the law and that everybody else observes the law and that Fine Gael advocate that they observe the law. But they can not have it both ways. They want to stand for organised public [796] transport when it suits them and at the same time, they want to stand for the people who are breaking the law and carrying illegally. An attempt is being made now to get the Garda to implement the law as it stands.

Dr. O'Donovan: Cannot C.I.E. break the law?

Mr. Murphy: If C.I.E. are breaking the law they should be prosecuted. I am not here as a representative of C.I.E. nor am I defending C.I.E., but I want to see the law implemented. I think they should decide what side they will come down on. They have advocated nationalised organised public transport. They have spoken previously on behalf of the licensed hauliers whose livelihood in turn is affected by the illegal operations in the same way as C.I.E. is affected by the illegal operations, but in any case they seem to want it on every side. I support this measure and I think the arguments put forward here to-night were largely ridiculous, ill-founded, and bore no relation to the actual road transport position throughout the country.

Dr. O'Donovan: I am urged to speak on this Bill only for a moment —like Senator Murphy—by reason of the Minister's statement. One thing he was accused of was trying to help C.I.E. Up to a year or so ago—perhaps when I had more time on my hands — I was one of the people strongest in the feeling that it was essential to have a body like C.I.E. in existence. Now I feel that you do not necessarily in a country like this have to have a body like C.I.E. You could do it entirely by means of a system of private transport. The trouble up to now has been that Governments have not made up their minds.

If the Minister is attempting to help C.I.E. by this method, he will have his work cut out. I have looked at the figures. I was urged to look at the economics stencil that they send round to us and I saw what the rates for the railways were like. We are all told what a dreadful year for C.I.E. 1958-9 was, that it was terrible, the worst ever. In 1959, up to the [797] new financial year, railway receipts dropped by £25,000 a week and by the end of the year, they had dropped by a million pounds. Where do you get anything out of your package deal? What has happened to your package deal? Where has it gone? It has gone through the roof.

Mr. Murphy: C.I.E. are showing increases every week.

Dr. O'Donovan: They have dropped £25,000 a week. These are the figures and surely Senator Murphy does not query them.

Mr. Murphy: I shall show them to you.

Dr. O'Donovan: The Senator will not show me anything that is not in the record sent round to us all. Of course, the Dublin passenger end is up.

An Cathaoirleach: Could we come back to the Bill?

Dr. O'Donovan: I want to——

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Come to the point.

Dr. O'Donovan: I have another point also, another major point I want to ask the Minister—since the point has been introduced—what is the use when, the capital of the railways having been halved in the 1933 Transport Act, C.I.E. cannot approach paying its way, even with a huge increase in road passenger receipts? Senator Murphy spoke of the practice of stripping lorries. I know very little of the stripping of lorries, but as I understood it, lorries have always been stripped, for 30 or 40 years. This Bill proposes saying it is time to comply with legislation. Now we are changing the law and that is all right of course, provided we have no doubt about the practice on which we are changing the law. Any attempt to raise a smokescreen and to pretend we are not changing the law is all my eye, all humbug and rot, especially, as was stated here, as there were three decisions in the courts on this matter. I do not know how anybody can say people were breaking the law. They [798] may have been doing so in certain respects. We all know what happened under the 1933 Transport Act and the legislation of that time. I know it as well as the Senator does.

Mr. Murphy: Then why were three cases brought to the court?

Dr. O'Donovan: The fact is that the people against whom the cases were brought were upheld in the courts. That is a fact. The Government are obviously changing the law. No talk of stripping or of covering or of piling lorries has any bearing on the fact that the law is being changed and that it is being made tougher. The Minister may have had mixed motives in dealing with it. I do not think he came into the Seanad with quite as clean hands as he sought to suggest here tonight

Mr. Blaney: Listening to the speakers here tonight, it is rather difficult to realise where one has been for the past hour because more irrelevancies, more unrelated conclusions drawn from non-existent cases stated, I have never heard in my life. As just one Senator has spoken, Senator Murphy, has put it, there seems to be an all-out effort to have it both ways. In fact, if there are many ways, you just do not stop at both because there seems to be an all-out effort to have it every way. In every way that the Senators who have spoken can have it, it is always a case of having a swipe at the Government. We are now presenting to this House for its considered and, we had hoped, well-informed opinion, the Bill we have found to be necessary, not in order to penalise or persecute any person in this State, but in order that our laws will properly, fairly and justly be administered in respect of all those who may come under this legislation.

It has been alleged by Senator Burke that the whole context of my approach to this matter was that I regarded the owners of lorries in this country as buccaneers, setting out with the prime object in their daily lives of defrauding the State of tax. If Senator Burke listened to my introductory speech—and, indeed, if he did [799] not listen or did not quite appreciate what I said here tonight, he should read and fully appreciate what is therein contained—he would realise that the approach he has alleged as my approach falls entirely to the ground. I have made it quite clear that this Bill has been brought before the Oireachtas with the intention of stopping a leak that is there.

Mr. Donegan: That is it.

Mr. Blaney: The Bill was introduced with the intention of making the few who are defrauding the State, whether wittingly or unwittingly, pay their just share to the Road Fund to which all these taxes go in order that the roads may be of the calibre of the type and of the nature that will carry the large improved modern transport about which Senator Donegan talked so volubly to-night. It has brought about a situation that, as he said, is practically unique to-day and, in relation to freight and transport, the cost has not increased over the years. Far from increasing, cases may be instanced where in fact this cost has decreased substantially. I agree entirely with Senator Donegan that that is the case.

If we had not the roads, we could not have the trucks of modern design and dimensions that would bring about that happy situation and, without the road tax moneys which are the funds from which our roads are improved, made and maintained, we just could not have those roads for those trucks that are such an asset to our economy to-day and will be in the future.

It was said by practically all of the speakers, with the exception of Senator Murphy, that the prime intention is to get £100,000 more in the tax from the public. My prime intention is to retain within the Road Fund to-day by way of this tax anything from £50,000 to £100,000 that we in my Department estimate we are likely to lose by the law being violated by a few within our ranks throughout the country.

We need that money in our Road Fund. That Road Fund is the only [800] real fund from which our local authorities secure their grants annually to undertake the road-making and maintenance of the road networks we have. If we are to continue in that very laudable direction, then we must ensure that the money that should go into that Fund does in fact get to that Fund and that any loophole that may recently have appeared or may have been created should be stopped as fast as possible.

I advert then to Senator O'Donovan's assertion that the loophole was always there, that this practice of stripping trucks is a traditional practice. In other words, in common with some of the other speakers, Senator O'Donovan is of the belief that stripping these trucks to evade the law, because it is traditional, is something that in itself must be right and just and that, far from trying to stop that effort, we should in fact allow it to go unnoticed.

I do not agree with Senator O'Donovan in regard to his assertion that over the past 30 years this stripping of trucks has gone on unabated, without let or hinderance. All down the years, under our tax laws, this very item has been attended to continuously. To ask that we should, now that a crack appears in our laws, allow that crack to become a permanent feature of our tax code is surely rather ridiculous in the situation in which we find ourselves and would be entirely and uncompletely unjust to those members of our community, our lorry-owners and our vehicle-owners, who have been paying the tax fairly and squarely over the years up to and including last year. We want to make the few who have been evading the law conform to the law that is serving many within the State.

Then a plea was made by Senator Burke that this increase in tax, as he put it, would increase the cost of haulage to all. It will not increase the cost of haulage to anyone who has been conforming with the law in the past. If it does in fact increase the cost of any particular cases, then it will be only in cases in which the owners of those vehicles have been evading the law and not paying their just tax in the past.

Even in those cases, the impact of [801] the liability that may now be added to those people who did evade the laws in the past will be of such slight significance that it would scarcely be possible to calculate it in regard to the running of the truck for a year, even on a daily charge, let alone to relate it to the cost per ton per mile, or the cost per ton mile as it is described by those people in the haulage business. It is really making a mountain out of a very tiny molehill for speakers here to raise such a hue and cry about the added cost of transport which will ensue from this measure, forgetting and ignoring completely that it will fall only on those who have in fact not borne their full share of the tax costs over the years.

It has been said that this Bill should not become law, that it should be taken away and should be properly drafted and that it would be a bad law, if it became law. Surely the essence of a bad law is that it has made itself felt in the existing tax code in that it has not been adhered to and was being evaded and was likely to be evaded in greater measure in the future. A very true test of any law is that it cannot be administered, regardless of its other merits. That in itself must, of necessity, make it a bad law. Our present tax code has had these crevices and holes punched in it of late which make it rather difficult, if not wellnigh impossible, to administer it in the future as it was administered in the past. That in itself brought about a situation wherein there could be tagged on to our present tax code the label that it was a bad law, in regard to the vehicle tax, because of the difficulty, and increasing difficulty, of administration.

Senator Burke also made the complaint that there was something wrong with making it easy to persecute, as he said, rather than prosecute. Surely the members of this House, Senator Burke included, do not advocate that we should ask our Guards not to administer the law, that we should in fact make it so difficult for them that they are not likely to administer it. Again, the same application of the law to all our people really makes for good law and if it is alleged that we are making it easy for the Guards to prosecute [802] and persecute, as the Senator said, if that is bad, then conversely, we must take it that it is a good thing to make the law so difficult that the Guards cannot administer it.

Mr. L'Estrange: Oh, no.

Mr. Donegan: Both sides of the see-saw.

Mr. Blaney: I happen to be sitting right in the middle and there are a few people trying to rock me off, which will not happen. Of course, Senator Donegan excelled himself not only in his opening remarks but later in his finishing remarks in his little story of the pirate.

A Senator: He never lets us down.

Mr. Blaney: He does not, but I am rather afraid that the training we gave him where he was before he came to this House will not be looked upon with favour, if his behaviour here is attributable to that training. However, I do not mind whether Senator Donegan believes me or not.

Mr. Donegan: I prefaced my remarks by saying that I was being facetious. The Minister has not so prefaced his remarks. We always had a row in a good-humoured way.

Mr. Blaney: However the Senator prefaced his first remark, he did not preface, at a much later stage, the repetition of that remark and I got the repetition without the preface.

Mr. Donegan: The Minister can accept that there was no personal sting whatever intended.

Mr. Blaney: I accept that completely but I find it difficult to understand how one is not to believe what is being said by a particular person and that it should be taken as a joke.

Mr. Donegan: Take it as a joke. On many occasions, I took remarks from the Minister as a joke.

Mr. Blaney: However, there is another matter I want to bring to the notice of Senators who have gone to great pains to make play with the circumstances [803] of C.I.E. I am not here to defend C.I.E. I am bringing in a law that will be administered in respect of C.I.E. as it will be administered in respect of every other lorry owner in the country. In fact, we know that C.I.E. will be made to toe the line the same as everybody else. That is as it should be. I would ask the members of the House to rest easy in their minds if they think that C.I.E. will be allowed to get away with a certain tax while other members of the community will be asked to bear a heavier tax. That is not part of my intention or that of the Department and the Government, in framing this Bill.

We also had Senator Donegan being very knowledgeable in regard to the uses of modern transport, modern containers and the emptying and filling of these containers with the various commodities carried on those trucks. He spoke about how those modernisations have brought about the elimination of the traditional helper on the truck. At the same time, we have the same Senator shedding tears that this tax imposition, as he regards it, will bring about a situation wherein the driver will be taken off, too, and poor fellows down the country will lose their jobs because it will no longer be economic to run the trucks.

I should like to ask Senator Donegan if that is his concern—the employment of the driver of the lorry—why was it not also his concern when it came to the question of displacing the helper from the truck by adding this mechanical device of modern design? Surely the helper is as important as the driver from the point of view of everyday life.

Mr. Donegan: That is modern business. That has to happen all the time. A man loses a job in one place and gets one somewhere else.

Mr. Burke: Otherwise, the price of bread goes up.

Mr. Blaney: In the case of the helper being displaced by mechanisation, that helper does not find a job somewhere else, but in the case of [804] C.I.E. displacing the driver of a truck, they must, of necessity, employ a driver to drive the truck to do his business and therefore there is no loss of actual employment. There has been grave loss of employment through this mechanisation which the Senator has mentioned, in doing away with the helper, but I am merely making those two contradictory points to bring to the notice of the House just how ridiculous can be the arguments put forward by persons who seem to have no real interest in trying to make this Bill the best we can make it. We shall try to do the best we can.

Mr. Burke: You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Mr. Blaney: Then we had some more rather illogical arguments and conclusions. Senator Donegan excelled himself, I thought, in his last argument, when he talked about the small man with the truck being obliged, if he wished, to engage in the new container traffic, to instal costly machinery for loading the container into the truck.

Mr. Donegan: He might not have the money

Dr. O'Donovan: He would not have the taxpayer behind him.

Mr. Blaney: That, I must admit, is the latest argument. I must say it is an original one, but I am afraid that, like many of the other arguments, it is not a very telling one, so far as this Bill is concerned. Senator L'Estrange quoted me. There is a possibility that he may have quoted the Minister for Transport and Power but I took it that it was the Minister for Local Government he was quoting.

Mr. L'Estrange: Yes.

Mr. Blaney: That is all I wanted to know. I have not the record before me now, but without any check on that quotation whatever, there is no doubt that it has been taken so completely out of its context that it could scarcely be other than deliberate. It was absolutely and completely irrelevant in the manner in which it was used. I would ask the Senator for his own [805] edification to read a little before and after the quotation.

Mr. L'Estrange: I quoted the exact words.

Mr. Blaney: Yes; I quite agree, but I heard that one before.

Mr. L'Estrange: The Minister is an apt hand at it himself.

Mr. Blaney: I did not think it was practised in this House though. I am learning—that is true.

Mr. L'Estrange: We shall not learn much from the Minister—good or bad.

Mr. Blaney: Senator L'Estrange started off to sum up. There were three points which this Bill really brought to the forefront, according to him. The first was that we counteracted the decisions of the courts. I think, in my opening speech, I pointed out that we were not in any way contemplating counteracting the courts' decisions in so far as the cases with which they have been dealing or which have arisen under the existing law are concerned.

The second point was that it would add £100,000 to the “kitty.” Again, I want to refute in toto that assertion by Senator L'Estrange and to say that it is designed to ensure that the £100,000, if it does amount to £100,000, will not be taken from our Road Fund so that it may get back into a good healthy state and so enable us to bring our roads up and keep them in a proper state.

Mr. Burke: Manna from Heaven.

Mr. Blaney: Not quite, but it is very necessary, just the same. The third point made was that it was designed to drive private lorry owners off the roads, the implication there, of course, being that the private lorry owners were the offenders in this matter of evasion of tax. I do not agree with Senator L'Estrange that they had a monopoly of this offence. In fact, I should rather be inclined to think that they did not have any such monopoly and that while within their ranks, there may have been those who did not [806] conform to our taxing code, there would be no greater proportion of them in that section of the community than among any other of the vehicle owners who might be concerned.

Many of the private lorry owners who particularly use their lorries or trucks possibly for the carriage of farm produce, market garden produce or such like, take their cattle to and from the markets or fairs. Their trucks, in the main, are not of the largest variety that we now see so much of on the roads. As such, the impact, if any, will be proportionately less than it will be on the bigger trucks, if these people have been evading the law. In a case where they have not been evading the law, no impost of any size or dimension will fall upon them.

There was a very strong plea made by the Senator, with many little heartrending strings attached, that the whole trouble with us here was that we did not do something to improve our road traffic legislation. Regardless of how that came into the House to be discussed as any part of this measure, I want to assure the House that steps are in fact being taken and the White Paper outlining what we hope to do, provided the public want it and the two Houses of the Oireachtas want it, will be in evidence within the next week.

Senator O'Sullivan made a very special plea for the 10 cwt. pick-up truck. I have not got the unladen weight of a 10 cwt. pick-up truck here, but I think it will be of some use to the Senator to hear the following table that applies to this small weighted vehicle. If it is under 12 cwts. unladen weight, the tax is £15; if it is between 12 cwt. and 16 cwt. unladen; it is £20. I think it is within that weight range that the 10 cwt. pick-up truck falls, but I am not quite sure. If, as I have said of all the others, it is within that category the 10 cwt. pick-up truck falls and if the owner has in the past been using creels or any sort of attachment for which he has been paying his proper amount in road tax, then nothing will be added to the £20.

On the other hand, if his pick-up truck is 17 cwt. and he puts on these small light creels which are quite [807] common on the little pick-ups, the chances that they will exceed the ton, which is the next measure taken, are quite remote. Because of the smallness of the creel and the light construction, I do not think they would run beyond 2½ cwts. or 3 cwts. If his vehicle at the moment is just over 12 cwts, he could add anything up to 3 cwts. or almost 4 cwts. and it would still not alter his tax, even if he had not been conforming with the law in the past. If it is 16½ cwts., he can add 3½ cwts. almost and it will not alter the, tax he will now pay on the 16½ cwts. From a ton to 2 tons, weight unladen, the tax is £30.

I have, not got the actual category into which the 10-cwt. pick-up truck falls but it is somewhere within the range I have mentioned. If a person had been paying his proper tax in the past, nothing whatever will be added to his tax. If he is just above the 12-cwt. or 16-cwt., he still has 4 cwts. to play around with in the addition of these creels without additional taxation. I think Senator O'Sullivan may have been misinformed as to the impact this could possibly have on the farmers who own these small vehicles.

Mr. J.L. O'Sullivan: I should like to say that I have been informed by the owners of a few pick-up trucks that the previous tax was £18 and that their tax had been raised by £4, bringing it up to £22.

Mr. Blaney: I shall look into that.

Mr. J.L. O'Sullivan: That is my information.

Mr. Blaney: Off-hand, it does not seem to tally with the table. It does not seem to tie in with any of the figures.

Mr. Donegan: It might be a van.

Mr. Blaney: If it should be taxed as a van, the question does not arise at all, but I rather doubt that is the case or should be the case. These other considerations should be taken into account. I think the fears expressed by the gentlemen who spoke to Senator O'Sullivan are not well-founded. I think he will find the position is not the unhappy one he has outlined.

[808] Mr. J.L. O'Sullivan: I hope I shall be able to send it to the Minister in the near future.

Mr. Carton: Send him a copy of the debate.

Mr. Blaney: That would not lighten his burden. I recommend this measure to the House. I want to restate and reiterate fully with as much emphasis as I can command that the Bill and the Financial Resolution which preceded it through the Dáil were brought forward purely and simply for the reason that a leakage had developed a short while ago in the Road Fund and it was likely to increase in the future to the possible tune of from £50,000 to £100,000. The Road Fund could not afford that sort of leak. We hope that by stopping the leak, the Road Fund will continue to show healthy signs in the future so that we in turn from that Fund can distribute to our local authorities money by way of grant in sufficient quantities to enable our roads to be made better, safer and more economical for use by the vehicle owners who are contributing this money in road tax.

Question put and agreed to.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.

Bill considered in Committee.

Section 1 agreed to.

SECTION 2.

Question proposed: “That Section 2 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Burke: Section 2 deals with the addition of a body, a part, a fitting and a receptacle. The additional tax will be paid on the additional weight of this receptacle, body, part and so forth. This is the major point I made when speaking on the Second Stage. The Minister carefully avoided that because it is the kernel of the whole Bill. I said that a lorry taxed at 3 tons could prudently carry a load of 6 tons. The Minister understands what I want to get at. I never mentioned C.I.E. The point I made was that a lorry which is taxed at 3 tons can prudently carry about twice its weight and that any container, creel, body or part will [809] reduce the maximum carrying capacity of the lorry. If the maximum capacity of the lorry is 6 tons and you put 5 tons weight of a container on that lorry, it will be able to carry only 2 tons of goods. That lorry will carry an enormous tax.

The Minister studiously avoided that point which is the whole kernel of the Bill. He spoke about tax evasion. I felt we were getting almost a lecture on good citizenship. There is neither justice nor equity in a section which states that a man, by putting on a container, will have the maximum carrying capacity of his vehicle reduced.

I am talking about private business. I think the Government should be well aware of the fact. People are being encouraged to handle goods in the modern way. We speak about packaging and the mechanical handling of goods. Everything in the modern set-up is being carried in some form of container. Salt for factories is being dry pumped from the salt works into containers. That container may weigh, as Senator Donegan said, 13 cwt. It reduces the carrying capacity of the truck.

I mentioned a case where the tax would be increased from £78 to £126. I do not think the people concerned had any desire to start any form of evasion. Neither do I think that the creameries which have a crane at the filling end for their milk cans and another crane at the other side are anxious to attempt evasion. If the creameries can provide a crane to lift the full milk cans on to the trucks and provide another crane at the other end to lift off the full milk cans, they will not be guilty of any evasion. The whole thing does not add up and make sense and the Minister has not answered this point which is the whole basis of the matter.

If the Minister wanted more money for the Road Fund, if he wanted to add one, two or three per cent. or whatever is required to give him the correct amount of money, instead of bringing in a Bill which is bristling with absurdities and injustices and which will impede the handling of all sorts of goods, he should have done it in a modern way. This Bill relates to the time when a man with a red [810] flag had to walk in front of lorries and other road vehicles. Instead of trying to continue on the basis of that legislation, a new Bill should have been brought in to deal with the situation in a proper, modern and realistic manner.

Mr. Blaney: The Senator has talked about absurdities. One of the reasons I studiously avoided the case made by the Senator in regard to this question of the reduction of the carrying capacity of trucks with certain containers and appliances was that I felt the case made was ridiculous. Now that I have been prompted into the belief that it may not be ridiculous, or may still be held not to be ridiculous, let me put to the House how it strikes me.

It was said earlier that the additional weight of creels reduced the carrying capacity of the vehicle. It was further said that six-ton sheep trucks with creels would be able to carry fewer sheep. I wonder would the Senator think of trying to carry sheep without creels and see how many he would carry. What is the point? Are the creels not for the transport of the sheep? If there were no creels on the truck, the sheep could not be carried. Far from reducing the carrying capacity of the truck, the creels make it possible to carry sheep and without the creels, they could not be carried, unless they were trained sheep or sheep from a circus, capable of piling up and hanging on by themselves.

Mr. Burke: I could tell the Minister a little more about milking sheep.

Mr. Blaney: The Senator knows which side to milk a sheep from, I take it. If the suggestion is that a three-ton unladen weight truck could carry six tons and that a container added would reduce the maximum carrying capacity, I entirely agree with it. I am sure Senator Donegan is well aware——

Mr. Donegan: Not yet.

Mr. Blaney: A three-ton or thereabouts, unladen truck, is usually operated as a 5/7-ton truck and nine times out of ten, if it is so desired, up to ten tons can, and have been, carried [811] on such trucks. It is not the truck I would advocate.

Mr. Burke: I used the word “prudently.” Otherwise, you would have no tyres or back axles.

Mr. Blaney: The Senator would be over-prudent if he had a three ton unladen weight lorry which would normally carry six tons but which, with a one ton weight container, carried only five tons. That would be more than highly imprudent; it would be bordering on the ridiculous.

In so far as the approach to this question of transport is concerned, let me put this question in answer to all the cases that can be, have been and will be made, with regard to the decreasing of the carrying capacity of the truck by adding a container, a creel or an attachment. Why are these containers, creels or additions put on, if the effect is to render that truck less attractive from the carrying capacity or economic point of view? Why should they put them on? Why do the owners put them on, if they are in fact a disadvantage? That really is the answer to the cases made with regard to this question.

Mr. Donegan: The Minister talked a lot about the three tons and the six tons. I agree that in the case of a truck with an ordinary body weight of three tons or three tons, five cwts., normally, the trailer on such a truck will be 10 tons, but these figures do not enter into the matter at all. The point is that if the carrying capacity of that truck is 10 tons and a container weighing 13 cwts. is added then in fact the carrying capacity, the payload is reduced to about 8½ tons. The Minister agrees with me on that. If that three ton five cwt. truck carries 10 tons of payload material and if a 13 cwt. container is added, the effect on the road is the same.

If I wanted to be biting about the matter, I could tell the Minister that it was none of his business whether the container was payloaded or not. If a man is paying for 10 ton capacity and if he chooses to use a container, that is his own business. The Minister has [812] stepped outside what is the realm of his business and has entered the realm of the lorry owner's business. Of course, he is seeking to get extra taxation for extra container weight which reduces the pay-load.

Mr. O'Reilly: I wonder if the Minister could tell me if a cover on a truck to protect goods and merchandise against the weather, which is not normally part of the vehicle, will be regarded as part of the vehicle for taxation purposes? I do not know if the Minister is prepared to state if the cover will be so regarded but I suggest to him that it would be unfair to regard a cover on an open vehicle as part of the vehicle for taxation purposes, in view of the fact that it would be necessary only in inclement weather.

I agree with the Minister when he says that trucks of an unladen weight of three tons are asked and made to carry weights up to 10 tons. I have received information from the Leitrim County Council and the county engineer that the Leitrim roads are broken up by the continuous traffic of the Donegal trucks from Malin Head. They are travelling on roads which were not designed to carry the volume of traffic they are being asked to carry since the closing of the railways. I want to tell the Minister that he will hear much about the damage that is being done.

Mr. Burke: Surely it is the maximum weight on the wheels that is the criterion in this matter. There has been much talk about damage to the roads and the Minister spoke about creels for the purpose of carrying sheep. These 5/7 ton trucks carry about 80 sheep and they have to use creels and decking for that purpose. The total weight of the sheep will be about four tons and the creels and decking will be one ton, which is a far jump from the 9/10 tons mentioned.

The Minister did not answer the question about the county councils and what the position of a vehicle with a tar pot would be. For the five or six months of the year in which they [813] would be operating the tax would increase from £78 to £126 and they would not be doing any damage to the roads. I feel that no case has been made for not recasting the whole of this measure and bringing in a system of charging for the weight on the wheels of the lorries which are using and destroying the roads, rather than creating a lot of inequities and encouraging people to seek to evade the law. We should make good laws and people would not want to evade them. There is a Bill going through the other House, the Intoxicating Liquor Bill, and everyone in the country knows that when it is enacted, it will be evaded.

Mr. Blaney: Might I say very briefly in reply to Senator Burke that this Bill is introduced to remove the inequities existing in the present law and it will do that, we sincerely hope, in that there will be one law for all and we hope it will be possible so to administer it. In so far as the wheels question is concerned, I did not mention the matter of the local authorities, and the adding of a tar pot, as he described it, to a truck that has the effect of bringing its tax from £78 to £126. If this truck with the tar pot was in fact in existence in the past, it should have been paying what is now claimed. It should have been paying £126, if £126 is the proper duty to-day. To that local authority, might I say they should not have made such a mistake? Excuses could be advanced for the ordinary individual, but for a [814] local authority, there is no such excuse, not even of ignorance of the law, because the Tax Office administers these laws in the application to the various vehicles of the tax disc which is rightly theirs.

Mr. Murphy: There is a touch of private enterprise about that.

Mr. Blaney: Senator Burke also said something about using this truck with a tar pot on it for only six months. That can give rise to a rebate. Where a container attached to a machine is used for only part of the year, it is possible and will be possible under regulations which we hope to make and have promised to make, to relieve the tax for the part of the year during which the container actually is not attached to the lorry or in use.

Very little new was raised. Senator O'Reilly asked whether covers used on a truck would be included in the weight for taxation purposes. Senator O'Reilly can be quite happy in the knowledge that these covers are definitely not included in the unladen weight or weighing of any such truck.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 3, 4 and 5 agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without recommendation; received for final consideration; and ordered to be returned to the Dáil.

The Seanad adjourned at 11.5 p.m. sine die.