Wednesday, 28 January 1981
Dáil Eireann Debate
(2) THAT the duty of excise on mineral hydrocarbon light oil imposed by paragraph 11 (1) of the Order of 1975 shall be charged, levied and paid, as on  and from the 29th day of January, 1981, at the rate of £16.53 per hectolitre in lieu of the rate specified in section 70 (2) of the Finance Act, 1980 (No. 14 of 1980).
(3) THAT the duty of excise on hydrocarbon oil imposed by paragraph 12 (1) of the Order of 1975 shall be charged, levied and paid, as on and from the 29th day of January, 1981, at the rate of £10.88 per hectolitre in lieu of the rate specified in section 70 (3) of the Finance Act, 1980.
(4) THAT as on and from the 29th day of January, 1981, the rate of any repayment allowed under paragraph 12 (11) of the Order of 1975 in respect of hydrocarbon oil on which such repayment is allowable and on which the excise duty mentioned in paragraph (3) of this Resolution was paid at the rate of £10.88 per hectolitre shall be £9.09 per hectolitre in lieu of the rate allowable immediately before the 29th day of January, 1981.
(5) THAT the duty of excise on gaseous hydrocarbons in liquid form imposed by section 41 (1) of the Finance Act, 1976 (No. 16 of 1976), shall be charged, levied and paid, as on and from the 29th day of January, 1981, at the rate of £0.40 per gallon in lieu of the rate specified in section 70 (14) of the Finance Act, 1980.
(6) 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).
Mr. P. Barry: This resolution, which collects money from hydrocarbon oils, will yield more than £50 million. That is £1 million more than the amount which will be raised from the duty on beer, spirits and wine. When speaking on the other resolution the Taoiseach said that the money was required to help the less well-off people. He said that no drinking man minded paying a few pence extra for his pint as long as the money went for a good purpose. The Taoiseach says the  money is going for the old age pensioners but I believe the greater portion of it will go to pay the huge sums of money which have been borrowed over the last three years.
We are now talking about the same amount of money under this resolution. Many people have to use their cars to get to work every day because there is no public transport, or an inefficient public transport. Will the Taoiseach now tell me that the increased amount of money they have to pay for petrol is to give extra money to the old age pensioners? What about the small shop-keeper who is trying to make enough money to keep himself and his family by delivering goods to people all over the country or the firm who are already in a bad way for cash and whose business is deteriorating but who still must provide a delivery service? What about the doctor in the country who has to travel great distances to visit his patients or the vet who has to travel long distances to see sick animals? We are all concerned to see that the quality of our herds is kept up to standard and that all our herds are free from disease. Those people's cars are a necessary part of their jobs. Will the Taoiseach tell me that the increase of 15p per gallon which they are being asked to pay on top of the 20p increase last year is in the interest of employment and that the livelihood of all those people should be in danger? Inflation is bound to increase after this savage increase in the price of petrol. Are all those things good for the country? Will the people being asked to pay those taxes pay them gladly when they know there is a danger of pricing themselves out of their jobs?
This is the third year running the Government have put a duty on petrol. The accumulation of all those increases is about 40p. That is about twice the amount put on a gallon of petrol in 1973. The Government have put more on petrol in the last three years than the OPEC countries did in that period. This is the most damaging resolution which will be moved here tonight from the point of view of jobs and the competitiveness of our industry. All the extra money  which industry will have to pay in relation to this savage increase will find its way into the cost of individual items which we will have to try to sell abroad. Everybody is agreed that our salvation lies in selling more goods abroad at competitive prices. In one stroke here the Minister will add £50 million to the cost of goods manufactured here. We are opposing this resolution.
Mr. J. Ryan: On behalf of commuter workers I would like to protest in the strongest possible manner about this resolution. I refer to about 200,000 people who will suffer because of this exorbitant increase in the price of petrol. Last year I described the budget proposals as a bomb whose main ingredient was the petrol increase and said that when it exploded it would cause havoc and an escalation in the cost of living. My prediction proved correct. Earlier this evening the Taoiseach gave us a summing up of Matt Talbot's views on alcoholism. I would prefer to talk about something which is very vital to the commuter worker, his motor car, which he needs to get to and from work. The price of petrol ranges up to £1.52p a gallon. This increase of 15p will bring it to £1.67p a gallon. There is another increase of 8p in the pipeline and we are also told that OPEC will put another increase on it. As we approach the end of the first quarter of this year I believe the price of a gallon of petrol will be almost £2. That is a further contribution to an increase in the cost of living.
The commuter workers are very important to industry. They get into their cars every morning at 7 a.m., drive 20 miles to work and a further 20 miles home in the evening at 7 p.m. Those people are entitled to some consideration. Their cars are not a luxury. Jobs are not available near where many of them live and they are prepared to drive to their jobs, so consideration should be given to them. Those people are being punished this year the same way as they were punished last year.
I remember in 1973 when the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Richie Ryan, put 15p on the gallon of petrol the  hue and cry which was raised throughout the country. I consider the increase tonight a savage increase on the ordinary rural workers who travel a considerable distance daily to their work and who are also prepared to work Saturday and Sunday. They now have to face the prospect of the price of a gallon of petrol being £2 in about two months' time. If you consider that such people are travelling 60 miles a day this savage increase will have completely eroded any relief they may get in income tax relief. That is the reason why as a rural Deputy I want to make the strongest possible protest at this savage increase which commuters are being asked to pay.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan-Monaghan): I do not propose to take up much time on this because I do not believe it is necessary. I spoke on the increase in the tax on beer and spirits and I pointed out that that would put up the cost of living and in that way generate a demand for further wages which would lead to our being less competitive, with all the drawbacks and disasters which would flow from that. This tax will have the very same result. Most people have to use petrol to get to work. The effect will be to generate a further demand for wages.
The Fianna Fáil Party are absolutely shameless in imposing this tax. In 1977 they announced in their manifesto that they would remove the tax from motor cars. The opposition parties said that if they did that they would collect the lost revenue on petrol. The Taoiseach's predecessor immediately gave a solemn assurance to the electorate that the tax loss on motor cars would not be made up by a tax on petrol, but that is what exactly happened. An increase of 20p a gallon was imposed last year and 15p is being imposed this year by a party who are pledged to reduce the cost of motoring. On top of that there is another resolution, which will be moved shortly, which restores £20 of the tax removed from motor cars. Is there any shame left in the Fianna Fáil Party? Do they think they can do what they like to the people?
Mr. M.P. Murphy: They feel people with smaller incomes should not have colour sets. Black and white sets are good enough for them. On Resolution No. 6, the Taoiseach with his usual kindness, might let me have the figure accruing to the revenue at 12.01 a.m. on 29 January, on the assumption that this resolution will be passed, which is a reasonable assumption.
Mr. M.P. Murphy: When Resolution No. 6 is adopted a person buying ten gallons of petrol will be handing over to the Taoiseach and the Government a sum of £9.14. If he buys a bottle of whiskey he will be giving them £7.15½. It is no harm to let the people know how they are collecting the money. Deputy Fitzpatrick referred to 1977. The Taoiseach and his party are quite capable of thinking up a good old gimmick to sell to the people. The “think tank” thought this up in 1977  and they addressed themselves in particular to the motoring public.
Let me preface my remarks by saying that during all my time in this House I never heard any Deputy from any party asking for the abolition of car tax. It was assumed that roads must be maintained and everybody agreed that car tax had to be paid. Perhaps people cribbed that it was too high, but nobody looked for its abolition. The “think tank” conjured up this package and addressed themselves in particular to the motoring public. They said: “If we remove car tax young people with small incomes who own cars will give us a leg up on the day of the election.” This was a contributing factor to the success of the Fianna Fáil Party.
I want to emphasise that we got an assurance that if they gave it away with the right hand by abolishing motor taxation they would not take it with the left hand by imposing additional duty on petrol and diesel, and I see diesel is being increased by 10p per gallon. The House was assured that there was no gimmick of giving something away with one hand and taking it back with the other, but this has happened in a much bigger way than anyone could have anticipated at the time. Coming up to Dublin this week I could not have dreamed that a further increase of 15p per gallon on petrol and 10p on diesel would be embodied in this Financial Resolution. It is very hard to find the proper term for what will happen as a result of these impositions. Deputy Ryan mentioned commuters and Deputy Barry mentioned professional people who travel in their cars to do their business. Everybody could be mentioned including bread van drivers.
Mr. M.P. Murphy: And Ministers. Almost all sections of the community  must use petrol or diesel in the course of their work. They will be looking for increases to compensate them and up will go the cost of living. I want to say to the Taoiseach, with all respect, that he is leaning rather heavily on the people. I can envisage him concluding this discussion, as he concluded the previous one on beer, spirits and wine taxation, and saying: “The motoring public do not mind. They know it is for a good cause and that we will give it to the old age pensioners.” I do not think that is quite correct.
We all know the financial position. We all heard the lengthy statement read out today by the Minister for Finance. We know that as a result of the policies of the “think tank”, as set out in the 1977 manifesto, we proceeded in the wrong direction. They had a short term advantage for the Government in that they got across to the people. I remember the gimmick about fisheries and all the other gimmicks. By the accumulation of all those gimmicks they got themselves over there with a majority which almost made them disintegrate. They did so well that they almost fell asunder. There were so many of them there that they got in one another's way.
Mr. M.P. Murphy: I was dealing with this resolution which relates to the imposition of an extra 15p on the gallon of petrol and an extra 10p on a gallon of diesel. The Government must find money in this way in order to offset the additional expenditure imposed on the State by virtue of what was promised in the manifesto. In the next resolution we shall be dealing with the doubling again this  year of the car registration fee. It is not correct for the Taoiseach to assert that the increases embodied in the resolution before us are necessary in order to pay old-age pensioners. We are all aware of our balance of payments situation and of the extent of our borrowings. We are aware, too, of the problems and difficulties facing the country today and of the increasing unemployment figures. Obviously, additional moneys must be found for the Social Welfare Department as a result of the closure of factories daily and the consequent redundancies.
Mr. M.P. Murphy: I am taking into account what has been said from the Government benches in respect of Resolutions Nos. 2, 3 and 4 and I am saying that the motoring and business public and the public generally will be hit hard as a result of the provisions of this resolution. There is a car in each of 95 out of every 100 households and these cars are needed either in the course of business or as a means of commuting to and from work daily. It will be seen, therefore, that the proposed increases will have a colossal impact on the cost of living and will push us further down the road which, unfortunately, we seem to be travelling.
Mr. Bermingham: I consider myself duty bound to contribute to the debate on this resolution. For some weeks past people have been asking me what kind of budget might be introduced. All I can say is that I expected something very different from the Taoiseach from what we have been presented with today. He is the man whom many people expected to produce some ideas in regard to rescuing our economy. Instead, the budget is merely a rehash of its predecessors, that is, a falling back on the old reliables for increased revenue.
For the past two years we have been hearing Fianna Fáil say that the biggest factor in terms of the state of our economy  is the cost of energy. I am speaking of the actual cost of energy as distinct from the balance of payments situation. However, one can only be totally disillusioned with the budget statement. It does not contain any semblance of a new idea from the Taoiseach. Instead, there is no indication of anything other than what might have been proposed in a budget of 20 or 25 years ago.
Already the price of petrol is a severe imposition on those people who must commute to work daily and of small business people who must use cars and vans in the pursuit of their business. In these circumstances one would have expected the Taoiseach, with his reputed magic touch in economics, to have taken some step other than crippling further these small business people and daily commuters. Hundreds of my constituents undertake a 50 to 60 mile round journey each day in order to get to work. Is there any inducement for these people to continue travelling these distances and paying such a high proportion of their salary in travelling expenses merely to arrive at the place of employment? They would be as well off staying at home and drawing social welfare benefits. It is to the discredit of the Government that they should impose this extra duty on energy at this time. In addition to the cost of petrol the daily commuter who must travel a long distance must keep a good car on the road and that, too, is very expensive.
Mr. Bermingham: That is a point that I have made here on several occasions. A business person is allowed for expenses in connection with his business so far as income tax is concerned but that is not so in respect of the person who must bear the expense of travelling long distances to work.
It is not my intention to object to any taxation that may be imposed on items that can be regarded as being in the luxury bracket but petrol is not a luxury any longer. Many years ago anyone owning  a car was considered to belong to the affluent society but that is no longer the case. Petrol is an essential element of life today. Even the health boards, who are not known for their generosity in relation to the granting of medical cards, take into consideration the distance that one must travel to work when assessing applications. There is no such consideration on the part of the Minister for Finance. In these circumstances can we be surprised if many of the people I am talking of opt to stay at home and draw unemployment benefit?
So far as the farming community is concerned this increase will represent a big imposition in terms of the delivery of milk to the creameries. The Taoiseach was regarded by many, even by some outside his own party, as being a man who would be able to do something to help us out of the economic morass in which we find ourselves. We are disappointed, disillusioned and agitated that no better means of raising tax could be found than to clap it on the old reliables and that there were no new ideas in the thinking of the Minister for Finance. What will stand to the discredit of the Government more than anything else is putting 15p extra on the price of a gallon of petrol. That will resound through the cost of living and through the economy and increase our difficulties. It will be bad for employment, industry and industrial relations. The people who make up a great part of our work-force will have no alternative but to demand increases in their wages to cover these serious costs.
The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment knows that what I am saying is the truth. He comes from an area which is adjacent to mine and he knows about people commuting from that area to the city to work. He knows about farmers sending milk to the creameries. He knows that this will add to the cost of everything in society. I appeal to the Taoiseach to have another look at the 15p when the Finance Bill is introduced and see if there is not some other way to get the revenue and not further destroy the economy.
The Taoiseach: I would be a lot more convinced were I not aware of the fact that the party to which Deputy Bermingham is a fully fledged, loyal, committed and dedicated member put 15p additional tax on a gallon of petrol as far back as 1974.
The Taoiseach: No-one on this side of the House likes this taxation. We recognise it will be an imposition on a lot of people but so would any tax that we would put on. We have to get £50 million because we have to find well over £100 million, somewhere in the region of £150 million, for various desirable social purposes. We must raise £50 million in some way. Deputy Bermingham said he was very disappointed that we did not find some new, enlightened, farseeing, even romantic way of raising taxation other than this. I want to tell him that there is no such way.
As I said in regard to the other taxes, if we want to get the kind of revenue we need to increase old age pensions, long-term social welfare benefits by 25 per cent, short-term social benefits by 20 per cent and provide additional benefits for the disabled and under-privileged in our society, we must get big money. The only way to get big money and revenue of the kind we are looking for is by these popular, widespread —
The Taoiseach: ——consumer products everyone in the community uses. That is the only way to get the amount of revenue we need in the circumstances of today. I accept that this is a fairly severe  imposition and increase on the gallon of petrol but I should like to make a few points in connection with it. Deputies will be surprised to learn that when one takes the effect of inflation into account the duty content on a gallon of petrol today is less than it was in 1970. That is a fact.
The Taoiseach: Deputies on that side of the House seem to abrogate to themselves the right to shout me down, barrack me, attack me and accuse me of all kinds of things and if I try to put any kind of case I am apparently being out of court. I will defend this resolution as I see fit and no amount of shouting will keep me quiet.
The Taoiseach: What I said was that the duty content of a gallon of petrol today, if one takes the depreciation in the value of money into account and the rate of inflation, is now less than it was in 1970.
The Taoiseach: It is a statistical fact that the rate of duty now is relatively less  than it was in 1970. Another fact which must be taken into account, although it does not help the person who must pay the extra 15p, is that as of October last year, the latest date for which we have figures available, Ireland had the third lowest rate of the price of petrol in Europe leaving out Luxembourg.
The Taoiseach: The argument I am making is that in this country as of October last year we had the third lowest price for petrol within the EEC countries. It is another argument that the increase in the price of petrol, which is now being put on, will hopefully encourage people to be much more economical in the use of their cars and petrol.
The Taoiseach: I accept that there are some people who use their cars for business purposes but I do not think there is any car owner who does not use a car also for luxury purposes, for relaxation and recreation.
The Taoiseach: Perhaps it is possible for most people, through more economical use of their cars, co-operation with their neighbours, and having cars properly serviced, to save without any great disadvantage, the extra amount of this imposition in any one week.
The Taoiseach: Is the Deputy quite incapable of showing the simplest sembance of good manners or must he keep interrupting me all the time? The Deputy is a legal person and is accustomed to court rooms, practice and procedure and surely he can restrain his most vulgar instincts and let me talk.
The Taoiseach: It is possible for the vast majority of motorists if they are a little more economical in the use of their cars and have them serviced properly to avoid most of the burden of this extra imposition.
The Taoiseach: When I have finished my modest, unassuming contribution I will be delighted to answer any questions put by the Deputy. As I said it should be possible for the majority of motorists by more prudent and economical management of their motoring to save most of this extra imposition in one week.
The Taoiseach: I offer that fact to the general body of motorists as some compensation  for this additional tax on petrol. I offer that by way of some amelioration. We will be making a major onslaught this year on the improvement of our roads, particularly our major roads. As I said in regard to the tax on drink, I hope this extra tax on petrol will be accepted by the motoring public for the reasons I have given but particularly on the assurance that the return from this revenue will be put to very desirable, worthwhile social purposes.
Burke, Raphael P.
de Valera, Síle.
de Valera, Vivion.
Fitzpatrick, Tom. (Dublin South-Central).
Fitzsimons, James N.
Fox, Christopher J.
|Haughey, Charles J.
Lalor, Patrick J.
Murphy, Ciarán P.
O'Connor, Timothy C.
Wilson, John P.
Woods, Michael J.
Bermingham, Joseph. Creed, Donal.
D'Arcy, Michael J.
Deasy, Martin A.
Donnellan, John F.
Enright, Thomas W.
Fitzpatrick, Tom (Cavan-Monaghan).
Harte, Patrick D.
Corish, Brendan. Kenny, Enda.
Cosgrave, Michael J.
Mannion, John M.
Murphy, Michael P.
Ryan, John J.
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