There are seven amendments in the name of Deputy Coogan. As I have informed the Deputy, I am ruling amendments Nos. 1 to 6 out of order.
Committee on Finance. - Intoxicating Liquor Bill, 1946—Report and Final Stages.
On that point, may I say that this is a Bill to amend the licensing laws from 1833 to date, and the purpose of the Bill is to provide canteen facilities for workers on the bogs? My amendments were designed in no way to impede the grant of these facilities to the bog workers, but to provide an alternative machinery by which these facilities would be made available. I seek to preserve the balance, as it were, between the Ministry and private trade, and to give an opportunity to private trade to take up this business, if they see fit. I am not endeavouring to exclude the Minister in any way. I just want to give priority, if you like, to local traders, in the first instance, to apply, the trade generally after that, and then Bord na Móna, if the trade do not avail of the facilities. With all due respect to your ruling, Sir, that is purely a machinery matter.
Has the Deputy any point of order to submit?
I am submitting that the main principle of the Bill is to provide canteen facilities, and my amendments are designed merely to provide an alternative machinery by which these facilities may be granted. I felt I was entitled to do that, having regard to the Title of the Bill.
Amendments Nos. 1 to 6 are a series of amendments submitted by the Deputy, amendment No. 1 being the key amendment, designed to achieve the Deputy's object, which object was mentioned by him on Second Stage and at considerable length on Committee Stage, that is, to give existing publicans an exclusive primary right to apply for the licence.
Not an exclusive right
A primary right, and, secondly, to have applications determined by the court instead of by the Minister. The practical effect of that would be to delete Section 2, which is the kernel of the Bill, on which a division was taken after prolonged discussion on Committee Stage, and the question decided. These amendments obviously are Committee amendments. They were not submitted on Committee. The point in them was decided and they cannot now be moved on Report. It is not open to a Deputy to say he will put them in on Committee or Report. Radical amendments of this nature should be put in on Committee, and may not be put on Report.
May I point out that there were reasons why I could not put in the amendments on Committee? I had to go to the country. The Committee Stage was taken within a week, and I had really only one short afternoon in which to prepare and submit my amendments. On the division issue, that division took place on the section and not in any way upon the arguments put forward on Second Stage or Committee Stage.
The Second Stage was read and the House adjourned for a fortnight, so that there was a fortnight in which to table amendments. The absence of the Deputy was unfortunate, but if I were to open the flood gates because a Deputy was ill or absent for some other reason, I can assure the Deputy that it would be impossible to have order in this House. It is the Deputy's misfortune, for which I am sorry, that he was not here. The amendments are certainly out of order at this stage. I am allowing amendment No. 7 which deals with a minor point.
There is no purpose in my moving amendment No. 7, in view of the fact that the other six are ruled out.
Might I ask if you, Sir, would accept at this stage an amendment which would provide that only trained personnel would be engaged in these canteens?
I cannot accept an amendment in the House now.
The reason I ask is because we know that in conducting a licensed trade it is essential that you should have trained personnel.
There were three weeks before the Committee Stage in which to put in amendments.
I am disappointed that the Minister has not met us to some extent in this Bill. It may affect only a small section of the community or only a small section of the liquor trade. Nevertheless, it introduces a principle and a precedent which, to my mind, are undesirable and in fact reprehensible. Under this Bill, the entire jurisdiction of the court is set aside and the Minister becomes the licensing authority. He not only grants the licence, but he will renew the licence, and, in the case of death or removal of the licensee for any other cause, he will transfer the licence. He will do all this without being obliged to consult anybody outside his own Department. As I have said, he will do all this without being obliged to take the views of the police or the views of people who have objections to the licensing of canteens in remote areas. He can transfer the licence to any named individual through his instrument, Bord na Móna. Bord na Móna is a statutory body set up under another measure passed by this House and it is a semi-State Department. We get this position under this measure: that the State is now engaging indirectly in the liquor trade through Bord na Móna.
One would have thought that, when the Minister contemplated granting facilities of this kind to workers in bogs, he would have considered the legitimate claims of the local traders. I could instance cases where, as the result of the operations of workers on the bogs, in County Kildare for example, a considerable boom has taken place in local villages. Take Rathangan or Robertstown, for example.
The incursion of bog workers has undoubtedly brought a boom to these villages, a boom which these villages have not seen for 100 years. Having regard to the experiences in Rathangan, Robertstown, and other centres, I thought the Minister would have allowed the local towns and villages and the traders in them to get the benefit of whatever local boom was going to take place. But, instead of doing that, the Minister sets aside the local trade and he proposes to give the business either to Bord na Móna to do the job itself, or to Bord na Móna to sublet by contract to outsiders. On either consideration, I have very strong objections to his doing so. I think it is wrong, in particular, that a State enterprise, either directly or indirectly, should engage in a trade of this kind.
What about the airports?
They are not in the same category.
They are not in this Bill, anyway.
You agreed in the case of the airports.
I did not agree.
You did not disagree.
There is no analogy between the case of the airports and the case of a bog away in Connemara or Kerry.
One is for foreigners and the other for natives.
What I want to put before the Minister is this. You have in those local areas which I have mentioned quite a considerable boom. As a result of that boom, local traders have not only been able to cater for the trade but they have been able, as the result of the prosperity now flowing from that trade, to improve their premises beyond all recognition from what they were before the bog workers came into the localities. I have no doubt that, if the Minister approaches this problem in the same way in regard to the areas now about to be developed, a similar boom would have taken place and local traders would have been sufficiently enterprising to avail of that trade and to cater for it fully and efficiently. It seems to me that the Minister's Department made up their mind well in advance that private enterprise was to be excluded.
I should like to put this viewpoint to the House. As I said on the Second Reading, the only reason for this measure was that, because of the existing legislation, because of the statutory impediment imposed by the 1902 Act, it was not possible to go to the court to get a new licence. A new licence can only be granted, ordinarily, where an increase in population of at least 25 per cent. has taken place in the locality. There are other statutory conditions, such as the surrender of an existing licence, the character of the applicant, etc. But the main consideration is this impediment of population.
As I said, it would have been quite an easy matter to draft a short Bill empowering the local trader, or any trader for that matter, to apply to the court, despite all the impediments under the 1902 Act, for a new licence. In other words, all that the Minister and the draftsman had to do was to remove that impediment and enable the local trader to go to the court and get his certificate for the grant of a new licence. But not only did the Minister not choose to do that but he went even further.
Under our existing law, it is quite an easy matter for the bog workers to get the facilities they require on the bog. They may set up a club; they may apply for a club licence. Under the existing law, men assembled in conditions of that kind would be entitled to get that licence. Even though it may be a club licence, it would be of some benefit to the locality and to the local traders. On these two grounds, it is clear to me that the Minister's Department made up their minds: "We are going to cut out private trade altogether. We have no regard for private enterprise. We will control these things ourselves. We will go into the liquor trade."
I do not know if Bord na Móna employees are at all fitted for this trade; if they have any past experience of this trade; if they are the right type of person to supervise licensed premises; if they can conduct licensed premises when the crowd gets disorderly. I know nothing of the type of person who will be appointed. But, from the Minister's remarks, I know it will be either some wholesaler, the big fellow, or a camp manager who will be the licensee. The camp manager may be a good man to control bog workers; he may be the wrong man to conduct licensed premises. This measure is indicative of a further step towards State control of everything in this country and even though, as I have said, there is not a big trade interest involved, nevertheless, it is symptomatic of the present-day tendencies of the State and particularly of the bureaucrats who are running the State, to disregard all private interests and convert all business into State business.
On this matter of State control and State interference, it has been said that State control grows large upon what it feeds, that its stature is that of stilts and its girth that of a bladder. Whether or not it is small or big business that is involved, I appeal to all Deputies to take a stand once and for all against this further encroachment by the State upon private enterprise.
It is clear to me that the Minister and his Party are committed to State enterprise, which may eventually lead to a form of nationalisation here. If we set up a precedent and give our support to a principle of this kind, I have no doubt that the Minister and his colleagues will come along at a later stage, on some similar measure, and tell us that we have already subscribed to this principle. We will be reminded that we have already established a precedent. What is a fact to-day is going to be the doctrine of the Government Party to-morrow: "Brush aside all obstacles and let nothing stand in our way." It is quite clear that that is the viewpoint of the Minister's officials. It is quite clear to my mind that they have decided that they would have too much trouble in going to the courts, that there would be delays, that they would have to make applications for renewals, that they would have to apply for interim transfers and to do a thousand and one things, and that they decided to sweep it all aside and let the bureaucrat, behind his desk, grant the licence.
The courts are excluded. The Minister sets himself up now as an arbitrary licensing authority in respect of a number of these bogs and if we once accept that principle, there is no reason why his collegue, the Minister for Justice, should not come into the House and remind us that we have established a precedent and that, as Deputy Davin has already reminded us, we established a precedent in the case of the airports. Again, these things, if they do not suit the particular circumstance of the occasion, will be treated as analogies and you eventually get to the position where private enterprise is put on one side and State enterprise encroaches all around.
This tendency to centralise all control in the State means in effect control of everything from the centre and that the bureaucrat in Dublin will supervise the bog canteen in County Mayo or County Kerry. If we do that in a simple matter of bogs, there is no reason why we cannot introduce the same principle into every Department of our social and economic life. While that may be very desirable from the point of view of the bureaucrat, the gentleman who wants no trouble, the gentleman in Dublin who can scribble out a licence, a grant, a renewal or transfer, as the case may be, what of the people on the circumference of the circle? What of the people who should be considered in relation to the expenditure of public moneys? What of the people who, like our friends in Kildare, would like to get something of the local boom that is bound to ensue? The Minister might have considered these things and have given us a different measure.
I doubt very much that Bord na Móna asked for these powers. I doubt very much that, when this matter was first under consideration, Bord na Móna contemplated excluding the jurisdiction of the courts. All I sought in my amendments was simply that the local trader, in the first instance, the trade generally, in the second instance, would have the opportunity of putting in for this business. If the local trader or the trade generally—and by that I mean the retail rather than the whole sale trade—did not avail of the opportunity, then I was leaving the door open for the Minister, through Bord na Móna to come in. That is all I sought, that these people would have priority and, if they failed to take advantage of the opportunity, Bord na Móna could step in. My amendments were designed on those lines.
The argument the Minister put up is that by doing anything of that kind you would be likely to create a property in your licence which might pass on to your children or to your family, that you might create a property which might be saleable in the open market. I endeavoured to stop that by a further amendment and to give the Minister the right to nominate a person to carry on the business when a licence would lapse by reason of death or for any other cause. I gave the Minister the right to nominate a person to conduct that business until, again, the local trader could come in and apply for the grant of a new licence. That is all I sought to do in the amendment and I consider that I was perfectly reasonable in seeking to give the benefit of whatever business is going to the local traders. I was not seeking to do any more than the Minister is seeking to do for himself and for Bord na Móna.
I do want to emphasise that, even excluding the trade, the Minister could have done this in another way. He could have provided the premises and have given an opportunity to the bog workers to register a club and seek the facilities for themselves and let the bog workers then have the benefit of that trade and let the profits of that trade go to a benevolent fund or any other fund to which the bog workers might wish to contribute the profits. But that was swept aside. It is quite legal under existing legislation without any new measure. All the Minister had to do was to give the building. Under this measure the Minister or Bord na Móna go into the liquor business and, as far as I know, they mean to make a profit but they will not say where the profits will go. The Minister said, I think, that he would be prepared to consider devoting the profits to the benevolent fund but he did not tie himself down. He did not give a definite assurance to the House that the profits would go to the benefit of the workers. In the Army or the police, the profits of the canteens are devoted entirely to benevolent purposes, and if the Minister is going into the business, through Bord na Móna, I ask him to give the profits of that catering and licensed business to a benevolent fund or any other fund the workers may indicate. I do not think there is much more I have to say upon this matter except to say that I would again emphasise that this is yet another attempt by the bureaucratic State mentality to impose State control over everything. I do not know where the Minister is going to get his supplies. The extraordinary thing is that if an ordinary citizen— say, for instance, an Army man demobbed after his service during the emergency wants to go into this particular business he cannot get supplies unless the premises which he buys has already had a quota and a quota as at a certain date. Here, you have the Minister going into a business apparently assured of supplies. In the case of hotels, under another measure, the new proprietor is assured of supplies; but no man discharged from the Army, who wants to set up in any kind of business in this country, can get a quota unless a quota was in existence hitherto. I would ask the House to endorse what I say. When a State business of this kind comes into a locality, by reason of State enterprise, then the private trader and the private individual should have priority in whatever business will flow from such enterprise rather than that it should be grabbed by the State.
Deputy Coogan has painted a horrible picture of the position which is likely to arise if we live long enough to see the day when everything in this country will be nationalised, including public houses. I do not believe that either he or I will live long enough to see this present Government nationalise everything or carry out a policy of nationalisation on the lines indicated by Deputy Coogan. I think that the turf workers, like other section of the community, are entitled to reasonable facilities.
We all agree on that.
I think they are entitled to facilities within a reasonable distance of wherever they are carrying out their work, especially when they are obliged to live under camp conditions. Is Deputy Coogan aware that some of the turf workers' camps are four or five miles from the nearest town? From my limited knowledge of what goes on I think it is most desirable that the turf workers should be supplied with refreshments on the spot. Milk and ginger beer are at present provided; so is food.
You are becoming very temperate.
I think they should be provided in the canteens attached to the camps rather than have the workers travelling five miles, or more, in search of refreshments.
No licence is required for the sale of milk.
I know that. I think the manager of the canteen should be in a position to supply refreshments. But there should be some obligation placed upon him to ensure that the workers would not have unlimited refreshments because that would interfere with their production. No licensed trader lives in the vicinity of Clonsast Camp.
But why not give local traders the chance of going into the business?
I see nothing wrong in giving a licence to the canteen manager. If a profit is to be made by the canteen manager I think that any such profit should be set aside for a benevolent fund in the same way as you have an Army benevolent fund or a Gárda benevolent fund at the present time. If a licence were given to a canteen manager in a camp situated in close proximity to a town that might interfere in some measure with existing licensed traders.
I have no interest whatever in the licensed traders in my constituency, but I do know that in Edenderry a licence issued to the turf camp manager there would interfere with the licensed traders in the town. I do not know what the Minister's intentions are in a case of that kind. There is nothing radically wrong in giving licences to Bord na Móna and permitting the canteen manager to provide reasonable facilities in camps situated a long distance from a town.
I have listened to a number of people talking about the danger involved in the procedure laid down in this Bill. I took the opportunity of pointing out to some interested parties that no objection was taken when the Minister proposed to grant licences in the case of airports. This is merely an extension of an existing practice. I do not believe for a moment that in Deputy Coogan's lifetime we are going to see the nationalisation of public houses in this country.
I think that the present proposal is quite good under the circumstances. Like Deputy Davin, I do not think that the turf workers should suffer under an inconvenience that does not apply to other sections of the community. Reference has been made to the facilities given to airports, to newly established hotels, and to guest houses either for the entire year or for a specific season. In the case of the turf workers the camps were established under Government auspices. Having brought about an influx of people because of the industrial development of our bogs, which the State has to subsidise substantially or to underwrite, it naturally followed that catering facilities had to be provided for the workers. I might point out that there was no possibility of any scheme of turf development being undertaken by private enterprise or, if undertaken, being carried out successfully. I have heard no suggestion that the catering now carried out by Bord na Móna would have been better done by private enterprise. I do not know if any representations were made by the catering section of the community that their rights were being infringed in this respect. I think there is no justification for depriving these camps of the facilities ordinarily available to other sections of the community.
Deputy Coogan says that it is an interference with existing publicans and those in the catering business. I do not agree. The publicans to whom he refers have had their licences long before the bogs were developed. These licences are based on population. No doubt they have received some benefit from the camps and no doubt they will continue to do so. We are considering here the proper facilities which we should afford to our workers and not the facilities that are to be afforded in the form of financial gain to those engaged in existing businesses. On that basis it is hardly justifiable to argue that licensing facilities should be withheld from our camps and from our bog workers when those facilities are freely available to every other section of the community.
If it were possible to increase the business of those engaged in trade that would, no doubt, be very excellent and, in small towns, a necessary thing. Should not our first consideration be the provision of facilities for workers rather than for those engaged in the liquor trade? In my opinion, facilities should be made available for bog workers, in view of the fact that facilities have not been offered by local licensed traders. It has been suggested that the profits should be given to a benevolent fund. I cannot see how the two statements can be reconciled. It is not suggested that anything less than the ordinary would be charged, or that there would be any profit to hand over to the benevolent fund. If the argument is that the profits made in this business should be handed over to a benevolent fund, clearly the way to accomplish that is not to hand the trade over to those engaged in the licensed trade. I do not follow the reasoning of Deputy Coogan in this matter.
I am not a teetotaller. I have substantial interests in public houses. Is there nobody in this House except myself to deal with the question of providing beer, wine and spirits for consumption in places remote from the nearest town? Apparently there is going to be a surfeit of amusement or distraction for those interested at the end of the working day until they go to bed. If you take 120 fellows, and if most of them would sooner be on the seachrain than at home, which is evidenced by the fact that they are gone to the bogs, and plant them down with beer, wine and spirits there to the limit of their capacity, what are they going to do? I put that point for consideration by any Deputy who knows the kind of boy who would prefer to go to the bog rather than work at home with neighbouring farmers. Would he be easier in his mind if he heard there was no beer in the camp?
I have no objection to having a comfortable canteen for men where they can get a good nourishing meal at a cheap price. I wish to see them able to get refreshments. I do not think beer, wine, spirits or lemonade was mentioned. This is a Bill to abolish the provision of milk or lemonade. It is a Bill to make certain that anyone who would sooner have something else than milk or lemonade will have an abundant supply of it at hand.
And also milk.
Milk will have pretty formidable competitors. I would not like to be puritanical. Suppose we heard on the authority of University College that undergraduates opened a kiosk in the main hall, where students could get beer, wine and spirits as long as they had money to spend, would we not think that a very odd arrangement? In both cases those concerned are boys. Neither of them are ancient, and neither are overburdened with prudence or wisdom. I do not think, even in regard to young men of 18, 19 or 21, it is any part of the duty of this House to be maternalistic, and be legislating to make them good. There is a far cry between making people good and going out of the way with temptation. It seems to me to be a reasonable kind of maternalism for any young chap away from home, faced with the possibility of the boredom and tedium of a long evening, to leave the situation as it is, so that if such a person wants to go and get a drink there will be that check upon his inclination, that to get it will involve a walk of two or three miles.
Five or six miles in some cases.
What is to happen, suppose we find that one of the consequences of providing beer, wines and spirits in the canteens in these bogs is that a number, not the majority but a substantial number of the young men working there habitually drink too much? What shall we do suppose we find that a substantial number of these young fellows instead of saving their money are spending all they can earn on beer, wine and spirits? Are we just going to sit back and say: "It is just too bad"?
They are doing it at present.
I do not think there is any duty on us to set ourselves up as censors of morals or to tell people what they ought to do with the money they earn. That is their own business, but I do submit to the House that there is a wide difference between taking up that position, of leaving your neighbour alone to do what he likes with his own money, and planting a public house down in front of your neighbour and saying to him: "So long as the wages last you are welcome here."
The same as a publican in a shop.
Who wants a bar out in the bog? Who has asked for this? Whose idea is it? Suppose we heard that the Army were out on manoeuvres and that the first action taken by the Quarter-Master General where a camp was set up was to plant a public house in it, would we not think it rather odd?
It has happened.
If it has happened, does the Deputy approve of it?
It is the regular procedure.
Does the Deputy approve of it? He smiles nonchalantly; he will not say "yes" and he will not say "no". I shall vote against this Bill if there is a division challenged on it because from my experience of my fellow-men—and I am not confining myself to workers—I know that if you gather a group of men together in a given place and require them to stay there to endure a considerable measure of tedium, and put beer, wines and spirits in their midst to the limits of their pockets' capacity to pay, it is only natural to expect that these workers will bring home less of their money to their wives and to their dependents. It is not only turf workers who will try to relieve the tedium by having recourse to stimulants of an alcoholic character and to drink more than is consonant with prudence. Deputies in this House know well what I mean.
I think that we should provide on the bog, in so far as it is necessary to keep men there at all while alternative supplies of fuel are scarce, good food and such other provender as working men may require to maintain strength and health, and that these things should be provided on the most advantageous terms we can contrive. I believe that if persons employed there or anywhere else want alcoholic refreshments it would be much better that they should go to the nearest licensed premises and there consume, in the company of their neighbours or strangers whom they meet there, such beverages as they choose to call for.
I do not suppose that logically one could build up a case for imposing on such persons the necessity of walking a distance to a public house before they get drink. I doubt if there is a single practical Deputy in the House who does not know that if there is an open pub. in every turf camp, a lot of young fellows will get drink, and take drink, who would never think of taking drink had they to walk three or four miles to get it. It is very easy to speak here in lofty detachment, but the plain fact is that there is no Deputy who has not seen the tragedy of a young fellow going off to England or to work elsewhere where he has got into bad company as a result of excessive indulgence in alcohol. The family who has to deal with a boy of that kind when he returns home has a very unhappy tragedy on their hands. I think this House ought to scruple before they put temptation under the very hands of these boys. I am not suggesting to the House that we have any duty to control them. We have neither a right nor a duty to control them so long as their conduct conforms to the existing laws but we have, it seems to me, an obligation not to put temptation in their way. I am saying that with due deliberation, as a person who is not a teetotaller himself, and a person who has 20 years' experience of the licensed trade. Is there any Deputy in this House with that kind of experience who is not in his heart in substantial agreement with me? If there is, it astonishes me. I never knew a young fellow to be improved by having beer, wines and spirits brought to his door. I never knew a young fellow harmed by his keeping away from them.
Why should we be the means of inviting these young fellows to make the acquaintance, if not to become the familiar friends, of alcohol, when but for what we propose to do under this Bill these boys might never make its acquaintance at all? Is there any Deputy who would not be happier to know that his 21-years-old boy was a teetotaller rather than that he habitually consumed alcohol? Is there a single countryman of our acquaintance, knowing that his daughter is about to marry, who would not be relieved in his heart to know that her suitor is a teetotaller? Is there any Deputy who says that any young fellow was prudent in abandoning total abstinence for moderate or immoderate drinking? There are many, I admit, who, adhering stictly to moderation all their lives, have suffered no evil consequences, but how very many all of us know who, having been brought into close contact with alcohol, have wrecked not only their own lives but the lives of those closest to them?
Let me conclude by saying this: I am not asking the House to undertake the duty of making anybody good, of making anybody sober or of making anybody wise. All I am saying is that, if my vote will help, I will do what in me lies not to place under the very hand of these boys the kind of temptation that I would not like anyone to have put under my hand when I was their age.
Nobody can quarrel with what Deputy Dillon has said, so far as putting temptation under the hand of young people engaged on turf work is concerned, but I think it is a nice question whether those who are afforded facilities in a canteen have, in fact, less temptation, although the canteen is quite convenient to them or just outside their doors, than those who are obliged, if they wish to secure drink, to go three or four miles for it. I have some experience of the facilities which were provided in Army canteens, and I cannot remember a single occasion on which I saw a person under the influence of drink who had obtained that drink in an Army canteen.
I shall come in a moment to the desirability or otherwise of the proposed procedure under this Bill, but I imagine that if the facilities intended to be provided are provided, they would be something similar to those provided in Army canteens. These canteens were run by a particular firm which had the contract. The price charged for liquor was lower than that which normally prevailed and the canteens were open at certain times. That being so, those who wanted to avail of the facilities could do so at certain times and those who wished to avail of them in excess could not do so, unless they were unusually fast drinkers. The facilities being there, however—and only beer and stout were provided—I think that far less temptation was put in the way of the soldiers than was the case when they had to leave barracks or camp and go to the local public house. That is my experience.
The situation further was that, if a person by any chance did drink to excess in the canteen, he had not very far to go before reaching his billet or camp. If, on the other hand, a person is forced to go a distance and drinks to excess, he encounters all kinds of danger on the way home, and not only is he a danger to himself but he is a danger to others. I need not elaborate on that, but my experience is that if soldiers were forced to go, or if they went, to a public house a mile or two miles away, invariably, at some time or another, there was trouble, either because complaints came in from local people who were molested or interfered with, or someone in the camp was obliged to bring back some of these men who could not get back under their own steam.
While it is not possible, and certainly not desirable, that we should try to legislate to make people good, it is a very moot question whether, if these facilities are provided close to where the men work or close to the camp, if there is proper regulation and if the canteen is open only for a short time— say, from 12 to 2; from 4 to 6; and again from 7 to 10 p.m.—it was under some such arrangement most Army canteens were run—and if these hours are adhered to, the temptation will be any greater. So far as my experience goes, you will have a larger preponderance of young men in an Army barracks or camp than in a turf camp.
Listening to Deputy Dillon, one would get the impression that those employed at turf work are all boys. I cannot speak from very close experience, but, having gone through some of these camps and having been in close proximity to some of them, I can say that there are people there from 18 to 60 years of age. Most of them are from 25 to 35 years of age.
They are nearly all over 20.
In the Army, on the other hand, particularly in the early days of the emergency, very many were between 18—and maybe 17, if they succeeded in getting in—and 21 and 22. If these canteens are established, they should be controlled in the same manner as canteens established in certain barracks and camps by the Mountjoy Brewery, which ran them for the Army. If they are run on the same lines, there will be less danger than there would be by not providing the facilities, because the workers will be obliged then to go further for their drinking facilities.
Does the Deputy propose the exclusion of spirits? I think that would be a very good idea.
No spirits were sold in any of these canteens. Only beer and stout were supplied, and they were sold at prices cheaper than the trade prices and, so far as I know, the funds which the canteen collected were devoted to charitable or welfare purposes. Whether it will be possible to get people to provide these facilities under these terms or not, I cannot say, but I suggest that it is desirable that stout and beer should be the only types of liquor provided. On the other hand, I suppose we cannot object if a person wants to drink spirits and will drink only spirits, and in that case he will go to the nearest public house.
While everyone here wishes to see that workers in these camps are provided with comfortable and suitable surroundings, and some facilities which will render life tolerable under the rather unusual conditions, what I object to in the Bill is the fact that the method adopted is a departure, and a very grave departure, from the ordinary procedure in licensing cases. It may be said that the system under which licences have been granted in the circuit and district courts is not sacrosanct. That may be so. Any system may be built up from experience or decided on at some stage in an arbitrary fashion, but the system which has developed in this respect is one which, so far as my experience of it goes, can be commended. First of all, if there are a number of applicants, they will be considered and, if there are objectors, the objections will also be considered. In addition, the Gárda are in a position to give evidence as to the suitability of applicants and of the premises. While it is an easy matter to provide suitable premises for a canteen, it will not be quite such a simple matter for the Gárda to see that the law is strictly complied with.
The proposed procedure under the Bill gives the Minister directly a monopoly. I hate to think of the Minister at the same time as I think of M. Molotov. But, when one reads the pronouncements of M. Molotov, they can be put into the same category. M. Molotov says they are all in favour of peace and have no totalitarian ideas. They are all in favour of disarmament, yet they are preparing for war. They are not reducing their army, if they are not building it up. They are all the time most unreasonable. The Minister, on numerous occasions, praised private enterprise and said that he was in favour of it. But, practically all the time, the Minister introduces provisions in Bills here which prohibit private business getting under way. So far as the Minister and M. Molotov are concerned in that respect, I think there is a similarity.
I think the ordinary procedure should be adhered to. In this Bill, power is given to the Minister to give a monopoly to someone. If this monopoly is to be given under the same terms as the canteens which were run for the Army, then the monopoly is not a very great one, and I do not think anyone could object to it, except that it prevents the ordinary licensed traders in the district, or other traders who are anxious to start, applying for these facilities. Under the Bill, the Minister can pick any person he wants and that person will then have a monopoly. I suggest that the Minister, at any rate, should consider bringing in an amendment which would allow tenders to be made for the position of canteen manager or canteen owner. I remember one case in which a person who had got a contract from the Turf Development Board, which was the predecessor of Bord na Móna, said that out of one contract alone he made a clear profit of £12,000. That case may be an exception. But it is an example. I would be loath to think that any person who was granted a monopoly, or a contract, as it will be in this case, could make such a profit without everyone else being afforded an equal opportunity for tendering for the contract. I suggest to the Minister that in this case tenders should be invited before any contract is given. I object to the procedure adopted in the Bill, and I suggest to the Minister, if he will not consider amending it, that, at any rate, he should consider allowing people to tender before any contracts are granted.
I supported this Bill on its introduction and during the subsequent stages. I disagree entirely with the suggestion made by some Deputies that this is an attempt to nationalise this branch of industry. I think the fears on that score are quite unjustified and do not arise as a result of any experience, either of this industry or of others. I think even Deputy Davin will agree with me that the nationalisation of the liquor industry in this country will never be suggested by this Government or any subsequent Government for the next 40 or 50 years, at any rate. I have always been a constant and consistent supporter of private enterprise. I agree, of course, that there are certain industries which would bear nationalisation. However, I have sufficient confidence in my fellow countrymen to feel that there will be no attempt made to nationalise this industry and that these fears which have been given expression to to-night are without any foundation in fact.
When this Bill was introduced, I felt that bog workers were entitled to get the same facilities as are granted to workers in the towns and cities. The fact that canteens will be established on the bogs does not indicate to me, or to anybody coversant with the lives of persons in the rural areas and in remote areas, that they will be an inducement to these persons to get intoxicated. I do not share the fear given expression to by Deputy Dillon that this will be an extra temptation put in the way of these young men. My experience of these canteens—and I have been in a few—is that I have never seen a case of drunkenness in any one of them. On the contrary, I have seen more discipline exercised in these canteens than you will see exercised in any of the public houses. Therefore, I think a lot of time has been wasted in expressing fears that these canteens will lead to more drinking and, eventually, to drunkenness.
The remoteness of some of these bogs from towns and villages has not been exaggerated. One Deputy stated that five or six miles was about the average distance of some of these bogs from the nearest licensed premises. I know cases where members of the Construction Corps, and other members of the Army had to walk five or six miles to get refreshments on week days and holidays. If these people had a canteen on the bog, it would give them the facilities which are enjoyed by some of their civilian brother in the cities and towns. I cannot see any analogy between an undergraduate attending a university and a man working on a bog. The man on the bog has to put a lot of physical energy into his work and, at the end of his day's work, he is not very much attracted to a bottle of lemonade; he would much prefer a pint of stout or porter. It is not very fashionable to give expression to these views. But some people outside who hold up their hands in horror at a bog worker being given facilities for getting a drink on Sundays and other days, can themselves go into clubs and other places and consume all the drink they require.
With regard to the profits that may arise in the establishment of these canteens, I have the feeling and also the hope that the Minister, with the experience he has behind him in this matter, will see to it that any profits will be devoted to a benevolent fund.
There is an Army benevolent fund to which, I understand, a good deal of the profits from Army canteens are devoted. If the profits made out of the bog canteens were put into a benevolent fund, so much the better, and it would have the benediction of the general public. Deputy Cosgrave referred a moment ago to the desirability of inviting contracts. I would be in partial agreement with that suggestion but, if there is a question of excess profits, the books of the civil contractor should be available and profits over a certain amount should be put back into the benevolent fund.
However, this is not a case so much for private enterprise as it is for State enterprise. The objection has been made that it would be the initial step towards nationalisation of various industries. I do not believe a word of that. The fear is quite unjustifiable. I have every hope that these canteens will be a success and I do hope that the Minister will put them into the hands of trained personnel.
I, as a worker, am glad that the Minister is providing facilities so that the workers may get refreshments. Men who are sent to the bogs from my constituency have told me that on a summer evening they would have to walk three or four miles if they wanted a pint. Some of these men live for a pint. Some of them would have a pint in preference to their tea. I have had experience of working in England and Scotland in camps where canteens were operated. I know that in cases where there was no canteen men lost their lives by going along a railway to the nearest village and being knocked down by a train. In England and Scotland there is a canteen on the job. There is no such thing as men going mad. Any man who has to work hard needs a drink. There is not much nourishment in a bottle of minerals. I cannot see why there should be opposition to a canteen being provided for 400 or 500 workers when there was no opposition when bars were being provided at the airports for people who had only to get into a plane. There was a great deal of opposition by some Deputies to-day to the provision of canteens for turf workers.
We all know that the bogs are situated in isolated parts and the nearest public house may be three or four miles away. We all know, for instance, that dockers would not be able to keep going were it not for the drink they get. Men working on the bogs are working on a piece rate. Perhaps Deputy Dillon has at the back of his mind that some of the bog workers around his area might drop into his own public house and that he might lose their custom if canteens were established. I am glad that this provision is being made and I do not think there is any need for alarm about the worker going mad if he gets a few drinks. That does not happen. There is a bar in the Dáil and there is no opposition to that.
There is nobody very mad in here.
Surely not, and I am sure the turf worker will not go mad. I am glad the Minister is providing these canteens because I have had experience of working in camps and have met some of the workers. They are not all young boys. Many of them are married men. I have no objection to the proposal, as a worker.
I think it is desirable to make it clear what this Bill is intended to achieve. Its purpose is to permit Bord na Móna to operate what are called wet canteens in turf camps in isolated areas. Deputy Coogan talked about interference with local traders. I tried to make it clear when introducing the Bill that if there is a local trader providing reasonable facilities for the persons resident in the camp, within reasonable distance of the camp, no licence will be issued to the camp manager under this Bill to operate a canteen in the camp premises. I am sure, however, that the members of the Dáil fully appreciate that by their nature turf camps are as a rule removed from centres of population. That is not universally true. There is a camp in Newbridge. There is a camp at Edenderry, and some of the existing camps established during the emergency are within easy reach of towns and villages. Where that is the case, no licence would be granted. But the bogs to be developed under the machine-turf scheme, which were set out in the White Paper circulated to the Dáil, are in many cases remote from towns and villages and it is very likely that no facilities of any kind will exist in the localities where the camps are established.
If there are camps established in these areas, it is desirable that the Turf Board, which will be providing in these camps recreational facilities as well as canteen facilities, should be permitted to undertake the sale of beer. It is their intention, I understand, to permit the sale of beer only in their camps. If I understood Deputy Coogan properly, he objects to that system and wants to substitute for it one by which the sale of drink in the turf camps will be undertaken by private traders. I would strongly object to any such system. If there is to be established at these camps canteen facilities for the sale of drink. it should, I think, be done by the camp authorities and not by private traders. The private trader in such circumstances, in any circumstances, would be concerned only to sell as much drink as possible and make as much money as he could out of the business. The camp authorities will be mainly concerned to give reasonable recreational facilities to their men and to ensure that the conduct of the camp is properly supervised and that no unsatisfactory features will result from the provision of the facilities.
It is not proposed to give these licences on a contract basis. The intention is that the official of Bord na Móna employed as camp superintendent or as canteen manager will be given the licence ex officio. He will hold that licence so long as he is employed in that capacity by the board. If he ceases to be employed by the board in that capacity he will lose the licence. He will have no property in it. There is no intention of permitting him to make any profit out of it. He will be employed for that purpose by the board at a salary. It is extremely unlikely that there will be any profit. The board does not make any profit from the provision of hostel and canteen facilities at its existing camps, quite the reverse. All the accommodation provided there, the board and lodging and recreational facilities, are provided at substantially less than cost price. I think, in any circumstances, the board would be quite happy if they recovered their costs in the operation of the services for their workers.
Clearly, however, it is undesirable that there should exist any private property in the right to sell drink in these camps and it is for that reason that this Bill is so framed as to make it clear that the licence given to the board official to operate a canteen can be withdrawn at any time for any reason and will be withdrawn if he ceases to hold that particular position in the board's organisation.
I do not think it is necessary to stress that there is no intention behind this Bill of interfering with private enterprise in the licensed trade. This is no more interference with private enterprise than is the sale of drink on a dining-car by the railway company an interference with the licensing trade. The structure of the Intoxicating Liquor Acts requires that there should be a licensee. It would be a simple matter to frame this Bill to permit the board to operate wet canteens at their camps; but as it is intended that this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will form part of the whole licensing code, it is necessary to have a licensee and the sole purpose of the Bill is to enable a licence to be given not by the procedure laid down under the Acts but by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to an official of the board who will, in fact, be in charge of the canteen arrangements. If we followed the procedure of the Licensing Acts we would be creating a property in the licence and operating these canteens upon a profit-making basis—that is to say, a private profit-making basis— which is certainly not intended. If, however, there do exist in the vicinity of the camp reasonable facilities provided by private interests then a licence will not be given. I have said that before, and I want to make it quite clear now.
I do not think there is anything in the arguments advanced by Deputy Dillon. I think the few common-sense remarks made by Deputy Cosgrave adequately disposed of them. It may be that people should not take beer after their day's work; or it may be that some people hold that view, but I see no reason why facilities to obtain refreshments of that kind should be denied in some camps when they are available in others. If the camp is in the vicinity of a town the facilities are there. If it is not in the vicinity of a town, then it is considered desirable that facilities should be provided. In the view of the board it will make not merely for contentment amongst employees in the camp but will also facilitate the recruitment of workers for this work.
This is a very simple Bill and at one time I thought that it would go through the Dáil with very little discussion. I find, however, that any Bill which reacts upon the licensing trade always promotes the maximum amount of discussion. I want to repeat that the sole purpose of this Bill is to facilitate Bord na Móna in providing wet canteen facilities at isolated camps in turf areas where such facilities have not been provided up to this by private traders. I indicated my personal view that the absence of such facilities within a radius of two miles of the camp would justify the granting of a licence under this Bill. I would regard it as an unnecessary hardship to require workers to walk a greater distance than that after the very strenuous work in which they are engaged on the bogs during the day. I think there is a great deal of common sense in the view put forward by Deputy Cosgrave as to the wisdom of not requiring them to do so.
Will the licence permit the sale of spirits?
It will permit it but the board will make its own regulations in that respect. I tried to make it clear that while the canteens will be subject to the licensing Acts the board may, in fact, make regulations governing their management which will be even more restrictive than the licensing Acts themselves and which will require a stricter supervision over the canteens. The board have informed me that it is their intention to permit the sale of beer only.