Adjournment Debate. - Cattle Export Trade.

Wednesday, 10 August 1932

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 15 No. 32

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Mr. Counihan: Information on John Joseph Counihan Zoom on John Joseph Counihan I want to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that by reason of the tariff imposed on Irish cattle at British ports under the Irish Free State (Special Imposition of [2021] Duties) Act, 1932 of Great Britain, instead of 20 per cent. being charged on our live-stock they are charging at the rate of 25½ per cent. If a bullock is sold in the Dublin market for £50 and shipped to Birkenhead and sold there, it will have to realise £26 10s. more to meet the duty, freight and other expenses. That means that on a £20 bullock the purchaser would have to pay £5 10s. duty. The rest goes on freight and other charges. That imposition of £5 10s. on a beast valued at £20 is more than farmers can stand. I do not think it is fair on the part of the British Government, when the charge was stated to be 20 per cent., to impose it at the rate of 25½ per cent., because £1 or 25s. more per head is a desperate imposition. I am not saying that farmers could carry on even under the 20 per cent. tax. I pointed out on several occasions that the tax is an impossible one, and that farmers could not carry on under it. I do not wish to prolong this discussion, seeing that only half an hour is allowed for it. I have already pointed out to the Government on several occasions what the result of this tax will be. We passed a motion in this House last week calling upon the Irish and the British Governments to have this question settled. Since then two British Ministers have made important pronouncements, and intimated their willingness to settle the dispute. I am sure the House would be glad to hear what our Government have done to meet the overtures of British Ministers. That is the only reason I have for raising this question to-day.

Dr. Gogarty: Information on Oliver St John Gogarty Zoom on Oliver St John Gogarty Apparently Senator Counihan is very fond of the Seanad if he thinks that by making a stand about the percentage of taxation, that that will move the Government, when it does not care a curse if the farmers never sold another beast, and has not the courage to tell the farmers that. He expects that by a motion of this kind the farmers can still keep out of the pincers of bankruptcy and insolvency. It is all very hopeful. England still keeps the path of negotiation open, but the Government's chief plank is that of selling hatred against [2022] England, as the official programme of this country. It is high time that the farmers of Ireland should be told of the Government's intentions, which are to sever completely commercial communications with Britain. I challenge the Government to deny that.

Cathaoirleach: I am sorry that I have not a copy of Senator Counihan's notice to hand to the Minister.

Miss Browne: Information on Kathleen Anne Browne Zoom on Kathleen Anne Browne I only wish to repeat what I said on a former occasion here, that I believe the door is open any time for negotiation. I believe if the Government buried its pride and its arrogance it could make a settlement if it wished. I believe this Government would be met fairly and squarely by the British Government if they went and explained with honest truth the whole position with regard to the land annuities, and pointed to the fact that farmers were not able to pay them, and not as they went before, saying: “We do not agree that we owe you one penny and we are not going to pay you.” What is the good of going into negotiation and saying that? I believe the door is open if the Government wants to avail of it.

Mr. Wilson: Information on Richard Wilson Zoom on Richard Wilson I did not hear how exactly this question was raised. Would you, Sir, kindly read it to the House?

Cathaoirleach: I have not got a copy of it.

Mr. Wilson: Information on Richard Wilson Zoom on Richard Wilson What was in it?

Mr. Counihan: Information on John Joseph Counihan Zoom on John Joseph Counihan I thought I made it clear that the British Government, having imposed a duty at the rate of 20 per cent. on live stock, had gone beyond that, and are levying a tax at the rate of 25½ per cent on live stock.

Cathaoirleach: They are charging on what the beasts makes when sold.

Mr. Counihan: Information on John Joseph Counihan Zoom on John Joseph Counihan On the actual price at which the beast is sold on the other side.

Mr. Wilson: Information on Richard Wilson Zoom on Richard Wilson The British have a right to charge on the value of the animal [2023] at their ports and not on the price here. I take it that the difference is caused by the 20 per cent. being added to the freight.

Mr. Counihan: Information on John Joseph Counihan Zoom on John Joseph Counihan It amounts to £5 10s. per animal.

Mr. Wilson: Information on Richard Wilson Zoom on Richard Wilson I agree that the whole imposition is one that farmers engaged in the cattle trade will not be able to stand. We cannot hope to carry on with an imposition of 20 per cent. I do not see very much use in bringing forward matters of this kind, because I consider that it would be the paramount duty of the Executive Council, charged as it is with the management of affairs in this country, to inquire into these matters, and to do everything possible in our interests, without any action on the part of the Seanad. They have the responsibility and it might be good to point out to them that it is for them to discover a means of ridding us of this burden which we cannot bear. Reading into the statement made by Sir Thomas Inskip, it would appear that the real question at issue is not so much the land annuities as what particular attitude this Government will take in the future—whether it is its desire to remain inside the British Commonwealth of Nations or not. I asked President de Valera in this House the definite question on this point, was it his desire to remain inside the British Commonwealth of Nations and he replied: “At present I have a limited mandate——

Mr. O'Neill: Information on Laurence O'Neill Zoom on Laurence O'Neill On a point of order. We have a motion before us——

Mr. Counihan: Information on John Joseph Counihan Zoom on John Joseph Counihan We have not.

Mr. O'Neill: Information on Laurence O'Neill Zoom on Laurence O'Neill You are not in the Chair yet. We have a motion before us dealing with the imposition of a 20 per cent. duty. Are we in order in discussing the land annuities, the British Commonwealth, and Sir-this and Sir-that? I respectfully suggest to you, Sir, that we are not.

Cathaoirleach: Very well, I will decide. We are discussing the imposition of a 20 per cent. tariff by England, [2024] and Senators desire to show that that duty might be got rid of by certain action. I rule that, for the twenty minutes more I am going to allow for this debate, they can talk on that matter.

Mr. Wilson: Information on Richard Wilson Zoom on Richard Wilson I do not wish to take up the time of the House at all. In my opinion, if we wish to get rid of this tariff, it will be necessary for this Government to decide frankly whether they are going to continue inside the British Commonwealth or not. I know what their intention is. They say: “We want to place this national assembly in such a position that all shades of thought can come into it, extremists and others, and, if and when that national assembly declares that it wants a Republic, then we will declare that Republic.” That is the statement, and that is the policy that is placed up against the British at the present time. I contend that that particular policy should have been enunciated last year instead of now. It was not enunciated during the last election, and many of us would not have then invested our capital in cattle at high prices to lose our cattle, and the result of our work at the end of the year on account of this tariff. This is a very serious matter for the country. I do not for a moment suggest that the Executive Council do not know that it is a serious matter. I have been examining the minds of a number of my countrymen on the point, and I know that there is great desire for a settlement, but they certainly do not want a settlement by surrender. I have that from men who are going to suffer a good deal. They want a fair settlement on the merits of the case between the two countries, and they want this incubus taken off their backs, and, therefore, while I do not see much use in it, it is well that these things should be ventilated.

Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Connolly): Information on Joseph Connolly Zoom on Joseph Connolly First of all, before coming into the House, I did not know anything about this motion, and, at the moment, I do not know just what purpose Senator Counihan had in raising it. I am divided in my mind as to whether he wanted a technical explanation as to the methods by [2025] which ad valorem duties are imposed or not. Ad valorem duties are imposed on the goods plus freight plus insurance—in other words, on the landed cost at the port of reception. That is the usual method, and I presume that the British are applying that method of ad valorem tariffs. That being so, and that being what seems to be the main purport of his speech, I doubt very much if it is advisable to go into all the various issues he has raised with regard to the whole position. We had a separate motion down here last week by Senator Counihan, in which the whole position was reviewed. During the course of that debate, many members of the Seanad expressed their opinions. I expressed my own opinion at that time, and I see nothing that has occurred since to give me any reason to change it.

Mr. Counihan: Information on John Joseph Counihan Zoom on John Joseph Counihan The statements by the two British Ministers since.

Mr. Connolly: Information on Joseph Connolly Zoom on Joseph Connolly At the moment, I am not going to deal with the statements by two British Ministers. I do not think it would be reasonable or wise or discreet to come into the Seanad at three o'clock, get an intimation that Senator Counihan was going to raise the matter on the adjournment and be expected to deal with such important matters as the statements made by Sir Thomas Inskip and Sir John Simon. The wisdom of Senator Counihan in putting down this matter is, of course, entirely an open question. I do not know whether he hopes to speed the day of peace, to convenience the present administration, to help the country in the conflict in which it is engaged, to assist the cattle trade or to do the very reverse of these things. He has not made himself explicit or definite enough to indicate just what is in his mind. I am, therefore, forced to the position of feeling that he is not very clear in his own mind as to what purpose he wanted to achieve. I can assure him that our line of policy has been clearly defined. Our position has been made clear, not only in this House and the other House, but throughout the country. The situation is being watched day by day and our line of policy is being followed. At this [2026] moment, I do not propose to go any further either in reply to Senator Counihan or to his friend, Senator Gogarty.

Mr. Counihan: Information on John Joseph Counihan Zoom on John Joseph Counihan I am disappointed in the Minister's reply, and I want to assure him that my whole interest in raising this question and putting down the motion on the previous day was because, as I said plainly, the farmers of the country are heading straight for bankruptcy. If Senator Connolly thinks that every representative of the farmers and the cattle trade should say: “Go ahead” to the Government and not make their views known, he is wrong. We certainly will tell the Government and give them our opinion of where this is leading. On the previous occasion in this House, I said that there was no other market but the British market for our live-stock. That statement was controverted by no less a person, I think, than the President of the Executive Council, but, since that day, at the last meeting of the Dáil, President de Valera stated definitely that there is no other market.

Considering all these things, I think the Executive Council should pay some attention to the responsible representatives of the farming and cattle trade interests of the country and not say that whenever we dare to get up and speak on behalf of those interests we are doing it for the purpose of downing the Government. I am not interested in downing the Government. I am speaking on behalf of men who want a settlement of this question. As things are progressing, it is clear to my mind that the country is heading straight for disaster. I want to assure the House that my motive in bringing this forward was in order to bring the Government to some sort of an arrangement on this question that is of such paramount interest to the people of the country.

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