Wednesday, 9 December 1959
Dáil Éireann Debate
“the Act” means the Finance (Excise Duties) (Vehicles) Act, 1952 (No. 24 of 1952), as amended by  section 9 of the Finance Act, 1955 (No. 13 of 1955) and section 20 of the Finance Act, 1958 (No. 25 of 1958);
any reference to a vehicle shall be construed as including a reference to a vehicle and another vehicle or an attachment which, in accordance with subparagraph (3) of paragraph 1 of Part II of the Schedule to the Act, are, for the purposes of Part I of that Schedule, to be deemed to form and be a single vehicle.
(2) THAT for the purposes of the Act, the weight unladen of a vehicle shall, on and after the 1st day of January, 1960, and notwithstanding section 18 of the Road Traffic Act, 1933 (No. 11 of 1933), be taken to be the weight of the vehicle inclusive of all additions, but exclusive of the weight of water, fuel or accumulators (other than boilers) used for the purpose of propulsion and of loose tools or loose equipment.
(c) in a case in which, there being two additions (and not more), on no occasion are both of them used, the reference to all additions shall be construed as a reference to the heavier only of the additions or, where they are of equal weight, to one of them only,
(d) in a case in which, there being three or more additions, on no occasion are  all of them used, the reference to all additions shall be construed as a reference to the heaviest combination of the additions which is used on any occasion.
(4) THAT in a case coming within subparagraph (d) of paragraph (3) of this Resolution, where one only of the additions is used on a particular occasion, “combination of the additions” in that subparagraph shall, in relation to that occasion, be taken as referring to that addition.
(5) (a) THAT anything placed on a vehicle for the purpose of the conveyance of goods or burden of any other description shall, subject to the next subparagraph, be a receptacle for the purposes of the provisions contained in the foregoing paragraphs of this Resolution.
(b) THAT anything so placed is excepted from the foregoing subparagraph if in relation to no journey are goods or burden of any other description both loaded into and unloaded from it without its being removed from the vehicle.
(6) THAT in proceeding for recovery of a penalty under section 2 of the Act, the onus of proving that anything comes within the exception specified in paragraph (5) of this Resolution shall lie on the defendant.
(7) IT is hereby declared that it is expedient in the public interest that this Resolution shall have statutory effect under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1927 (No. 7 of 1927).
 This amendment is to obviate the obvious inequality and hardship which were clearly demonstrated from this side of the House on this Resolution during the Committee Stage. I do not propose to go over in great detail to-day all the arguments that were then put forward. The fact is that the Resolution, as it exists and as it is expressed in line 1 of page 2 by the words “placed on” that are included there, means that any loose container which is put on a lorry, having been put on the lorry, even though it just sits on the lorry without being attached in any way, is then loaded, driven off to its destination and, when it gets to its destination, unloaded, will have to pay under this Financial Resolution the tax proper not merely to the weight of the lorry but that applicable to the weight of the container.
We had some considerable discussion on this matter on the Committee Stage in relation to the case I gave there, the absurd case as the Minister suggested, of a farmer who had a lorry and who wanted to draw water to ensure that his stock would have adequate water during a drought. There is no doubt whatever that the law requires in such circumstances the farmer, who once a year, perhaps, has to draw water in a lorry for his cattle, to pay the tax for the whole of the year on the weight of the receptacles in which he draws that water.
Quite apart from that, there are other containers used for carriage just for convenience which are not attached to a lorry. Under this Resolution they, too, will have to be weighed. There is no use in the Minister saying, as he said the last day, that nobody will prosecute them. Fortunately, there are people here who like to keep within the law whether there is any question of prosecution or not; and the law should be framed so that they can do so honestly and honourably. The Minister should not say when introducing legislation “Ah, it is all right. Nobody will ever be prosecuted in cases like those, even though there is, in fact, a breach of the law.”
 The effect of this Resolution is not to catch the defrauding lorry owner alone, but to catch the innocent person as well. I can understand the case being made by the Minister where a person gets a lorry—I shall not say where—weighs that lorry and then gets an entirely different type of body, dismantles the previous body, screws on or attaches to the lorry the new type of body and for the rest of the year has the lower rate of tax. I can understand the Minister trying to catch that type of man. I agree that that is an attempt to get habitual use for one weight of lorry at a lower rate of tax. Where a person, on the other hand, has the body bought with the lorry in consistent use throughout the year but, perhaps once, twice or three times in the year, puts up a temporary ramshackle sort of crib to bring home just a load of turf for himself, or where a person puts up some sort of loose container which, if he had a crane on his premises, he could swing into the lorry but which because he has not a crane, he puts on the lorry loosely, puts what he wants into the container and drives off to his destination and because there is no crane there, takes the things out of the container, the container still remaining on the lorry, that man is caught under this Resolution in a most unfair and unjust way.
By using the words “attached to” instead of “placed on”, in a simple amendment I have tried to ensure that whatever will be weighed will be something permanent or quasi-permanent. By so doing it will be possible to ensure that what I might term the defrauding case will be caught. The honest case is that of a person who utilises something merely placed on the vehicle, so placed only because he knows he will use it only once or twice in the year, and that it is not something of its very nature that could be used regularly. It would be most unfair to extract from that person for a whole year the tax applicable to the weight of that additional article, be it a container, the sides of a door used as a rough crib or anything else. It would be most unfair that he should be  penalised and I urge the Minister, therefore, to accept the amendment.
Minister for Local Government (Mr. Blaney): I regret very much indeed that, after full consideration, I cannot agree to the Deputy's amendment. First, I should say that I do not think there is any need for the amendment. Paragraph 5 should be read in the light of the provisions of the Resolution as a whole. They refer to the vehicle and additions, namely, additions to the vehicle. The paragraph itself speaks of “anything placed on a vehicle for the purpose of conveyance of goods.” The word “conveyance” is, therefore, of importance, particularly having regard to the fact that taxing enactments, as I said before, are construed strictly against the State. I do not think there is any danger that the paragraph would capture items like barrels, sacks or the like, which form part of the separate packages of goods and are used as such primarily and not as additions to the vehicle.
Further, I do not think that the change proposed by the Deputy would give proper effect to what he has in mind. There are in fact quite a number of full-sized containers in use which are placed on a lorry, particularly for short local hauls, without being attached to the lorry. They are very often held in position by the weight of the goods and the weight of the container plus the help of the edges of the lorry platform. There are other types of full-sized containers with projecting legs or shafts which go into ready prepared slots. For these reasons I feel that the Deputy's amendment would not result in what he is trying to attain.
There is a danger inherent in the acceptance of the amendment that lorry owners might be encouraged not to attach containers which normally would be attached, thus giving rise to increased dangers in regard to such contrivances. Then we come to the much talked of case of the barrels of water the Deputy has in mind.
Mr. Blaney: I am taking the Deputy's word for it and do not doubt that such a case may exist. In such a case, the person concerned would have to refrain from fixing the barrels in any way, even tying them on with a piece of rope or string. He could not in any way secure them to the truck. Otherwise, this amendment would include them.
Mr. Blaney: The roads are usually pretty good. I put it to the Deputy, seriously, that in the very case he has quoted and the case which typifies his whole approach to this matter, the case of the barrels of water, the person concerned would be precluded from tying the barrels, if and when he carried them. Anybody who has handled barrels on a truck, cart or trailer of a tractor, particularly in farming areas where they have to be carried on and off the public roads and on to mere cart tracks which are often rough and bumpy, knows that it is very necessary to be able to tie them on.
This is an amendment intended to help a man engaged in that operation  but which, in effect, would be far from helping him and would put him in the position that he could not tie on the barrels. As I have said already, I do not think there is any necessity for a special clause to cover this type of case because I think it is exempt. I do not think it is caught within the terms of the Resolution.
I might add, for the benefit of the Deputy and others who may feel with him, that although I do not accept his main argument, it does not at all imply that I have not given the matter full consideration in every possible way to try to meet his point of view but the difficulties I have outlined and the matters that would be thrown up as a result of meeting his wishes were such that I just could not find any formula that would meet it and meet the objections which are inherent in the case he has made on this amendment. I am quite satisfied that the Resolution, as drafted, will not have the effect suggested by the Deputy and I, therefore, recommend its acceptance, without amendment, by the House.
Mr. Sweetman: As I understand it, this Resolution is the forerunner of a Bill the Minister proposes to introduce after the Recess. We shall have an opportunity on the Committee Stage of that Bill of discussing again the wording of the section. I do not pose as being the perfect draftsman, nor do I hold myself out as such. I was quite conscious when putting down the amendment that it might not cover exactly the point but I thought that, in any event, it was adequate to raise the matter on this section of the discussion and that the full discussion would come at a later stage. I hope the Minister, between now and then, will suffer from the pressure of certain farmer Deputies of his own Party who will see that, if the Bill is drafted in form to follow this Financial Resolution, it will extract money for him all right, probably even more than he intends to extract, but will work out with very great hardship indeed.
Mr. O'Malley: It has not been passed. I understand that Deputy Sweetman's amendment was defeated without a division and now you, Sir, will have to say that the Resolution is accepted. I respectfully submit that I am entitled to say something.
Mr. O'Malley: The point I wanted to make was this: The suggestion was made the last day on this Resolution that £50,000 to £100,000 was being imposed as new taxation. That was repeated to-day. Just before the Minister came in, Deputy Sweetman remarked that £100,000 was being introduced as a new burden on the people who are paying this duty. I should like the Minister to make some observations on that point.
Secondly, Deputies on all sides of the House must have been aware when they returned to their constituencies over the week-end that there was quite an amount of consternation amongst licensed hauliers with regard to their position if this Resolution were passed. I understand  that when the Minister for Transport and Power introduces his Bill, he will deal with the matter more comprehensively but perhaps the Minister might say in passing what the position is.
I shall give an example. Say a merchandise licence is for two tons unladen weight. The people who have merchandise licences were under the impression that all that was being allowed to them, irrespective of the weight of the crib, the creels or the container which they had carried hitherto, was 7 cwts.; in other words, that if they had two tons unladen weight, the maximum they could enjoy under the new position would be 2 tons, 7 cwts. If that were the case and if there were no escape clause or no consideration of the hauliers who have been on the road for many years——
Mr. Sweetman: On a point of order, Deputy O'Malley is addressing himself to the wrong item on the Order Paper. We are discussing the Financial Resolution, Item No. 13-not Item No. 14, the Transport Bill.
Mr. O'Malley: There was mention by the Opposition of what the position would be and the hardship which might be inflicted. There has been a certain amount of consternation amongst those people with merchandise licences the unladen weight of whose vehicles is shown on their licence. They feel that a nominal increase would be of no use and would put them off the road. Perhaps the Minister will have something to say on that.
Mr. Sweetman: On the Financial Resolution? The first part of the Deputy's observations was entirely germane to the Financial Resolution but I am submitting that the second part was not in order. If the Chair rules the Deputy's observations in order, then I shall follow on the same lines.
Mr. Blaney: For Deputy O'Malley's information, for the information of this House and of those who have felt perturbed as a result of the allegation that £50,000 or £100,000 additional taxation would be levied as a result of this, I want to reiterate what I said on the earlier Stages, that we hope to ensure the collection of this money. It is due and we believe it is not being collected. This measure is to ensure it is collected.
Mr. Blaney: We are going to the High Court. It has nothing to do with myself or my office that it has not already been heard in the High Court. We cannot leave the situation as it is, with a state of chaos in the taxation offices and another year coming on 1st January. That was the reason for the urgency in presenting it to the House.
Mr. Blaney: As far as my Ministry was concerned, we understood that this would have been heard in the High Court during these 12 months. It is now quite evident that it will not be so heard. Therefore, we have to move in this manner to deal with the chaotic conditions which exist at the moment. With regard to the taxation weight as it is related to the licensed hauliers' licences, their licences are related to the taxation weight. In so far as this has any bearing on their licences, the Minister for Transport and Power is following me with a measure which is intended to remove any question of injustice being done to these people because of their licence rates being tied to taxation rates. The Minister for Transport and Power will deal adequately and fully with the matter put by Deputy O'Malley. If there are cases of hardship, undoubtedly there is, within the powers already vested in the Minister, provision whereby hard cases can be dealt with on an individual basis. I shall not  say anything further on the matter. I shall leave it to the Minister for Transport and Power to deal with on his own measure.
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