I move the Second Reading of this Bill. The object of the Bill is to amend the Act of 1915 by substituting a period of at least five years. It means that in future spirits cannot be delivered for ordinary use as beverage unless they are warehoused for at least five years. There are certain classes of spirits to which the Act of 1915 does not apply and the present Act does not apply either:—Spirits delivered free of duty for methylation or other uses, for art or manufacture, and spirits used for the composition of mixtures or compounds, that is spirits used for the manufacture of something, for instance, such as spirits used for scientific purposes, imported Geneva and liqueurs. It is provided in the Bill that this new restriction shall not come into force for at any rate a period of two years. It is believed, however, that there is not the quantity of the requisite age in the country which would enable the trade to be carried on in the ordinary way, if special arrangements were not made. Some similar concession was given in the Act of 1915. For the future, after the passage of this Act, no spirits, subject to the exception I have mentioned, which have not been warehoused for at least five years, can be delivered for use as a beverage.
At present the greater quantities of the spirits taken out of bond have been warehoused for five years, but something like fifteen and twenty per cent. of the whiskey drawn out of bond is under the five years, some of it even under four years or less. It is generally felt and certainly this is so in the case of potstill whiskey, that whiskey ought not to go into consumption under five years. Many believe the age should be still more mature and that it ought not to go into consumption under seven years, but it would be impossible to compel the maturing for a period of seven years at present. Distilling was interrupted during the European War, and it would upset the whole trade if a period longer than five years were to be insisted on.
A further extension in the period was a matter that might be considered after some years. The position certainly is that we must, so far as we can, by legislation, see that the reputation of Irish whiskey and its character are maintained. Competing whiskey is made in the main by a cheaper process. It is a whiskey consisting mostly of spirit which can be obtained at a cheaper rate and the Irish whiskey cannot compete with it on the mere basis of price. If it can compete and hold its own, it must do it on the basis of quality and just as we have certain provisions on the Statute Book for the purpose of seeing that Irish butter and eggs are up to a certain quality, it seems to be proper and desirable, that corresponding steps should be insisted upon with regard to Irish whiskey, at any rate as far as consumption here is concerned. No upset of any kind will be caused by this Bill. Only some fifteen or twenty per cent. of spirits going into consumption are less than five years of age. There are quite sufficient quantities of spirit to meet the demand, at least for five years. At present the issue of spirits out of bond being restricted temporarily owing to the passage of this Act an undue quantity of younger spirit cannot be taken out before the Bill becomes law.