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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 26 Apr 1988

Vol. 379 No. 9

Intoxicating Liquor Bill, 1988: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

There are a number of reasons for bringing forward this important Bill. Its most important objective is to help curb drink abuse, particularly so far as under-age drinking is concerned. At the same time, to meet public demand in relation to certain aspects of the legislation, the Bill makes some adjustments in the prohibited hours and proposes that special provision be made to enable restaurants of an acceptable standard to serve a full range of alcoholic drinks.

Existing legislation on intoxicating liquor is extensive and complex. There are about 40 separate Licensing Acts, dating back to the early part of the last century. Of these, almost a dozen date from the foundation of the State, with important enactments in the 1920s, 1940s, and 1960s. The last major item of legislation in this area was the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1962. Accordingly it is now timely to review some of the more important aspects of the legislation. Much of the legislation touches on questions that are difficult and controversial and there are understandable differences of opinion on many aspects of the licensing laws.

There has been a trend in the various Acts passed since 1924 towards gradual liberalisation, to reflect social change and public demand. The intoxicating liquor laws have a very widespread effect and for that reason there will be few people in this country who will not have an interest in the changes now proposed. These changes will, of course, affect the general public, but they will have a particular interest for the trade groups concerned. I regard it as important that the agreement of these trade groups should be secured, as far as possible, for the new proposals. Since becoming Minister for Justice, I have met many deputations from organisations concerned with the licensed trade and before that, over a period of years, meetings took place at frequent intervals with my predecessors in office. It cannot be expected that all the organisations concerned will be able to give unqualified support to my proposals, since the interests of these groups often conflict. The general public interest must, of course, be paramount and I trust, accordingly, that I will receive a considerable measure of agreement from all concerned for my proposals. These will, I believe, serve the public interest while not conflicting seriously with the legitimate commercial aspirations of any particular group. I will certainly listen to any reasonable suggestions for amendments to my proposals but I should make it clear, at the same time, that I cannot contemplate major policy changes which would be solely for the benefit of any particular sectional interest, at the expense of the public interest or of other trade associations.

The consumption of intoxicating liquor in a moderate and responsible way must continue to be accepted as a normal aspect of social and business life. At the same time, the abuse of drink does have grave social and economic consequences, so that controls on its sale are essential and are a feature of legislation everywhere. Since intoxicating liquor is potentially a dangerous substance, most States have a licensing system restricting the outlets through which it may be sold.

In putting forward proposals for amendment of the licensing laws, it is important to maintain a balanced approach. The great majority of people who take a drink do so in a mature and responsible way and it is quite reasonable to liberalise the licensing laws to the extent necessary to meet their legitimate requirements. It may be necessary, at the same time, to introduce restrictions to counter abuses where it is clearly established that these exist. The task of the Legislature is to get the balance right.

The licensing laws are concerned essentially with the number and nature of licensed outlets and the persons to be licensed, as well as the times at which, and the persons to whom, drink can be sold. All of these elements are dealt with to some extent in the Bill now before us. The licensing laws are quite wide-ranging, however, and extend to aspects which are not covered in this Bill. When it has been dealt with, a continuing examination of the legislation will range over a wider area. Deputies may well be wondering why this Bill is being brought forward if there is a possibility of another to follow some time later. This is because the Bill deals with a limited number of important proposals, the need for which has been clearly established, and which merit immediate consideration and attention in advance of any other proposals that may be formulated for amending existing legislation.

The Bill before us is divided into six Parts. The explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill sets out the proposed changes in non-technical language. I will endeavour now to outline the more important provisions. These can be teased out in more detail during the later Stages of the Bill.

Part II of the Bill introduces a new concept into the intoxicating liquor laws, that is, the special restaurant licence. The system of special restaurant licences now proposed is very similar to that already operating in Northern Ireland. Before giving details of this system, I should like to make a few general remarks. In the first place, since there is a natural connection between food and drink, there are many, especially among visitors from abroad, who would regard it as understandable that special provision should be made in the licensing system to enable restaurants to serve a full range of drinks. Any hotel can serve alcohol to residents and the association between eating and drinking is surely as strong as that between drinking and the provision of overnight accommodation.

The background to the present licensing arrangements is, very briefly, that the Licensing Act, 1902, put a stop to the grant of additional full licences for the sale of intoxicating liquor, save for the special case of hotel licences. Since then, anyone wishing to get a new licence to sell a full range of drink has had to extinguish at least one existing public house licence. This includes hotels which wish to sell intoxicating liquor to the public — in such cases at least one existing intoxicating liquor licence must be extinguished. However, there are other criteria which are often difficult, and sometimes impossible, to comply with. It is these other criteria, which relate to the location of licences to be extinguished and increases in population in the locality, that can make it impossible for some restaurants to purchase existing licences. It is, therefore, not correct to argue that any restaurant wishing to obtain a liquor licence under existing arrangements can do so.

Under the terms of the Bill now before the House it will not be a condition for the grant of a special restaurant licence that an existing licence must be extinguished and there will be no numerical limit on the number of these licences. While the licence will allow the sale of a full range of drink for consumption on the premises, the restrictions on the grant and operation of the licences are such that they cannot be compared directly with full public house licences. Thus, any restaurant wishing to get a special restaurant licence will have to meet very exacting standards which will be set out in standards regulations to be made by the Minister for Tourism and Transport.

As the Department of Justice are the Department primarily responsible for intoxicating liquor legislation, the consent of the Minister for Justice will be necessary for the making of these regulations. Bord Fáilte will be the inspecting authority and will decide whether or not any particular restaurant meets the required standards. The special restaurant licence will enable the supply of intoxicating liquor only in connection with the consumption of a substantial meal, during specific periods of the day and evening, either in the waiting area of the restaurant before the meal, or with the meal and up to half an hour after it has ended.

I will now look briefly at some of the specific proposals relating to special restaurant licences. Section 2 of the Bill includes a definition of "bar". While this definition will apply throughout the Bill, its significance, so far as restaurants are concerned, is that a restaurant selling intoxicating liquor under a special restaurant licence will not be allowed to have a bar. In other words, it will not be possible for such restaurants to have any sort of counter or barrier either in the waiting area or the dining area, or elsewhere on the premises, across which drink can be served to customers, as can be done, for example, in public houses or hotel bars.

Section 7 defines "special restaurant licence". As I have indicated, this will permit the supply of a full range of intoxicating liquor on the premises to anyone who has ordered a substantial meal. The drink can be consumed in connection with such a meal, either in the waiting area or the dining area of the restaurant, and must be paid for at the same time as the meal is paid for.

Section 8 sets out the procedures to be followed where application is made for a licence of this kind. In principle, the procedure will be similar to that followed in making application for new public house licences, except that in this case a Bord Fáilte certificate in respect of the restaurant must first be obtained. Where the applicant satisfies the court that a Bord Fáilte certificate is in force, and no objection is made, the court will give the applicant a certificate which will entitle him to receive a special restaurant licence from the Revenue Commissioners on payment of the specified fee. The normal objection procedures applicable to the grant of other intoxicating liquor licences will apply to the grant of special restaurant licences.

One aspect of section 9 which I would like to mention is the fee of £3,000 for the initial grant of a special restaurant licence. It has been suggested that this fee is excessive, though I am also aware that there are those who feel it is not large enough. In deciding on the amount of the fee, the Government bore in mind the considerable commercial value of any licence which permits the sale of a full range of alcoholic drinks. It was necessary, in order to help prevent a proliferation of these licences, to settle on a figure which was more than just nominal. At the same time, it was considered that the fee should be less than what is believed to be the going rate for new pub licences obtainable from the "in pocket" or non-trading stock of such licences. It was borne in mind that as the applicant for a special restaurant licence will not have to extinguish any existing licence, the only requirements he must meet will be compliance with the standards set out in the regulations and payment of the initial fee. In all the circumstances, I feel that a fee of £3,000 is right and reasonable. Since it may be necessary, in due course, to vary the amount of the fee, section 9 provides that this may be done by regulations made by the Minister for Justice. Under section 24, any such regulations, as well as regulations under section 12 prescribing standards for the restaurants concerned, must be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and may be annulled by resolution passed by either House.

I already mentioned that all the normal objection procedures will apply to the grant and renewal of special restaurant licences. Section 10 will give the local Garda superintendent an extra ground for objection, in that he will be able to object to renewal of the licence on the ground that the premises have not been bona fide and solely used as a restaurant.

Section 12 is a very important section which sets out the matters which can be provided for in regulations to be made by the Minister for Tourism and Transport and which will specify the standards to be met in restaurants qualifying for the new special licences. The objective will be to ensure that these licences will be available only to restaurants of good stanard whose primary business is the serving of meals to the public, the supply of intoxicating liquor being merely ancillary. The Minister for Tourism and Transport may wish to amend the regulations in the light of experience or to extend their scope, and accordingly he will have power to make regulations in respect of any other matter, not already mentioned in section 12, where he considers this to be necessary or desirable. The consent of the Minister for Justice will be necessary for the making of any such regulations since he is the Minister with overall responsibility for the intoxicating liquor legislation. As well as having power to grant certificates, Bord Fáilte will be enabled to cancel the certificate in any case where a restaurant no longer complies with the standards required. Section 13 sets out the procedure applying in such cases.

The times at which restaurants holding special restaurant licences will be able to sell intoxicating liquor are set out in section 14. On weekdays these will be from 12.30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 12.30 a.m. The hours for Sunday and St. Patrick's Day are 12.30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Those for Christmas Day will be 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. These are the times when restaurants could resonably expect a public demand for substantials meals. In accordance with the existing practice, the supply of alcohol will not be allowed at any time on Good Friday. While intoxicating liquor can be supplied in premises having special restaurant licences during the times indicated in section 14, such premises will be able to stay open at any other time for normal restaurant business but the sale or consumption of alcohol will not be allowed during such other time.

While I am satisfied that the introduction of a system of special restaurant licences is fully warranted, it is important, at the same time, to ensure that they are used only for the purpose for which they are intended and are not made a basis for carrying on a pub trade. Accordingly, I have specified a fine of £500 in section 15 for contravention of the terms of a special restaurant licence; the mandatory endorsement provisions in the intoxicating liquor laws will apply in the case of any such conviction. I should mention that the ordinary enforcement provisions relating to licensed premises, including, for example, the power of inspection by the Garda and the prohibition of under-age drinking, as well as penalties, such as those relating to prohibited hours, will apply in relation to premises having the new licences.

I have already mentioned that restaurants holding special restaurant licences will not be allowed to have bars. Section 16 sets out the penalties for contravention of that provision. I would regard the carrying on of a bar trade in such a restaurant with the utmost seriousness and the penalties apart from the fines set out in section 16, include the application of the mandatory endorsement system in the case of any such offence.

Special restaurant licences will not enable the sale of alcohol for consumption off the premises and it will not be possible to use them as a basis for obtaining occasional licences or special exemption orders. Section 23 of the Bill is intended to ensure that liquor licences of other kinds, such as pub licences, cannot be obtained by extinguishing a special restaurant licence or licences. Restaurants which do not obtain the new special licences and which already have full liquor licences will, of course, be able to continue operating under those licences and, indeed, any restaurant owner who wishes to obtain such a licence by extinguishing the requisite number of public house licences and meeting the other criteria set out in the legislation can continue to do so as in the past. Similarly, restaurants with wine licences will be able to operate as at present and new wine licences will be obtainable under the usual conditions. However, where a special restaurant licence is obtained, any other liquor licences or certificates held for the same premises will cease to have effect.

If I could sum up in a few words the reasoning behind the statutory provisions I have just outlined, it is that what I would describe as good quality restaurants will be facilitated in serving a full range of drinks with meals at the times of the day and evening when people would normally wish to eat in such restaurants; the restrictions on special restaurant licences to which I have referred are designed to ensure that such licences are not used as a basis for developing another type of drink business, such as a pub trade. The new system will undoubtedly help the tourism industry. It is to be hoped that by emphasising the connection between food and drink it will help to produce a more responsible attitude to alcohol overall. It is my view — and I would not propose the introduction of special restaurant licences if I did not so believe — that these licences will not militate in any way against the public interest and will not unfairly affect the legitimate commercial interests of existing outlets for the sale of alcohol.

I turn now to the question of the permitted hours for the sale of intoxicating liquor in licensed premises generally. This is dealt with in Part III of the Bill.

There is probably no single aspect of the liquor licensing laws which creates more interest among the public than the hours during which intoxicating liquor can be sold. This is a subject on which widely diverging views are held, not merely in this country, but in other countries as well. There are, no doubt, many people who will maintain that the permitted hours are already over-generous. Equally, there are many who believe that public houses should be allowed to open more or less whenever they want to. I have come to the conclusion that the present permitted hours are fundamentally sound and have stood the test of time well. However, times do change, and experience gained from the operation of the present hours for over a quarter of a century is significant. The Government have therefore decided that changes in some aspects of the permitted hours are desirable.

Since 1960 there has been a policy of basic uniformity in permitted hours. In other words, the opening hours of all licensed premises and registered clubs have, in general, been the same. The closing hours adopted in 1962, which are still in existence, may have been regarded as over-generous in some respects, but less than what was justified in others. To put that more specifically, it has been suggested that there should be an even later closing time than 11.30 p.m. during the summer months in tourist areas or throughout the country generally and it has been suggested that there is possibly a case for an earlier closing time in major urban areas. However, I am proposing that the policy of uniformity of opening hours throughout the country should be maintained and indeed extended. I have examined exhaustively the argument that the general weekday closing time for licensed premises, especially during the summer, should be later than at present. I have also been told by some people that I should make pubs close earlier. The view most generally expressed, however, was that the present closing times are basically acceptable. Having fully weighed the arguments, I have come to the conclusion that the present weekday closing of 11.30 p.m. during summertime and 11.00 p.m. during the rest of the year should remain as the latest times for serving drinks but that the present ten minutes drinking-up time is not sufficient to allow last drinks to be consumed in an unhurried atmosphere. Accordingly, I am proposing that weekday closing remain unchanged but that the drinking-up time should be extended from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. This means that during summertime the latest time for serving drink will continue to be 11.30 p.m. but the premises must be cleared by 12 midnight. During the rest of the year last drinks will still be at 11.00 p.m. and the premises must be cleared by 11.30 p.m. As I have said, this will allow last drinks to be consumed in a leisurely manner without all the hustle and bustle associated with the present ten minutes drinking-up time. It will give bar staff an opportunity to begin tidying up before the premises are cleared and will, I hope, go some way towards bringing a calmer and more relaxed atmosphere to drinking-up time.

It has been suggested that we should differentiate between tourist and nontourist areas so far as closing time is concerned. However, such a distinction between different parts of the country is hardly valid nowadays. If it was, and opening hours were differentiated accordingly, we would then have the situation where licensed premises in some parts of the country were staying open later in the evening than similar premises elsewhere. This would put licencees who were just outside the areas where later opening applied at a major commercial disadvantage. An even greater objection to differentiated closing times would be the dangers on the road caused by people leaving licensed premises at closing time and travelling long distances by car to areas where later drinking hours applied.

So far as Sunday evening is concerned, I have received a large volume of representations for some extension in the present 10 o'clock closing time. Having considered these representations, I have come to the conclusion that such an extension is justified and I am proposing accordingly that general Sunday closing should be at 11 p.m. The reaction I have received to this proposal indicates that it will be generally acceptable. Under my proposal, licensed premises generally, as well as clubs, will close for the supply of drinks at 11.00 p.m. on Sundays. With 30 minutes drinking-up time, this means that premises will have to be cleared by 11.30 p.m. on Sundays. This is the same as the proposed closing and drinking-up times for weekdays during the winter months.

One of the main effects of these relatively minor changes in permitted hours will be that people will be able to drink in a more relaxed manner at closing times. I do not believe that these changes will give rise to any significant increase in the total consumption of alcohol.

Section 25 of the Bill, which inserts a new section 2 in the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1927, contains the main provisions regarding prohibited hours in licensed premises and section 26 has corresponding provisions for registered clubs. Section 25 also increases the fine for prohibited hours offences by licensees to a maximum of £400 for a first offence and a maximum of £800 for a second or subsequent offence. The present maximum fines of £20 and £40 were fixed in 1927 — that is, over 60 years ago — and are clearly outdated now in view of the fall in money values. An important point to remember is that up to 1986 endorsement of the licence was mandatory where a licensee was convicted of a prohibited hours offence, the licence being forfeited where there are three live endorsements. Since 1986, however, endorsement in such cases is at the discretion of the court.

In view of the provision for forfeiture, endorsement of the licence is regarded as a more severe penalty than any fine. It is relevant to note that the Bill proposes that the permitted hours for the sale of drink should be liberalised to some extent. The system of prohibited hours remains a very important control, however, and I am determined that the provisions in this respect will be strictly enforced. Taking all these factors into consideration, I am satisfied that a substantial increase in the fines for prohibited hours offences, as now proposed in the Bill, is fully justified.

I would now like to say a word about the abolition of the "holy hour". This refers, of course, to the mandatory closing of licensed premises and clubs in Dublin and Cork between 2.30 p.m. and 3.30 p.m. on weekdays. Afternoon closing of licensed premises was introduced in Britain during the First World War and its adoption in certain areas here was recommended by an Intoxicating Liquor Commission in 1925. The "holy hour" system was adopted because it was thought to be necessary in order to prevent continuous drinking throughout the day. Under the Intoxicating Liquor Act of 1927 it was originally applied to Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford. It was not applied elsewhere because it appeared that about 80 per cent or more of the public houses outside those cities where mixed businesses and it would have been unfair if the proprietors of those mixed businesses had to forego the sale of goods such as groceries or hardware while their competitors in those lines of business remained open.

In 1962 the "holy hour" was abolished in Waterford and Limerick, again because of the number of mixed businesses in those areas, leaving Dublin and Cork as the only areas where it remained. I now propose to abolish it in these remaining areas, not only as an opportunity to extend the policy of uniformity in the permitted hours, but because I believe the "holy hour" has outlived its usefulness and is no longer desirable, especially in view of the increasing tendency to take midday meals in licensed premises. Indeed, it probably has an adverse effect on tourism and on business generally in Dublin and Cork and I have had representations both from the vintners' interests in those cities and from the Dublin City Centre Business Association requesting that the "holy hour" be abolished. Deputies may note that there is no reference to the "holy hour" in the Bill. Its abolition is effected by omitting reference to it in the new provisions inserted by sections 25 and 26.

Finally, as regards Part III of the Bill, I come to a subject which has given rise to considerable difficulty. I refer to the question of special exemption orders. Provision for such exemptions was first introduced in 1927, in the Intoxicating Liquor Act of that year, enabling the District Court to grant special exemptions from the ordinary permitted hours in respect of special occasions in licensed hotels and restaurants. There has been a considerable increase in the number of such special exemptions in recent years and there have been complaints that they are now a source of abuse. In view of this, I have considered whether restrictions on the grant of such exemptions would be justified in the public interest. I have had to bear in mind, in this connection, representations which I have received, particularly from licensed hotels, that the late evening drinking allowed under special exemptions now meets an established demand, especially in rural areas, and that many hotels have come to rely on the income from these occasions for their economic survival and the continued employment of staff. I have, nevertheless, decided that some restrictions are warranted and I will now outline these.

Most of the special exemptions are granted in respect of dances at which substantial meals are required to be served. In the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1962, the definition of "substantial meal" includes a provision that the meal must be of a kind for which it would be reasonable to charge a sum not less than an amount to be prescribed by the Minister for Justice. This minimum figure was last prescribed in 1979, when it was put at £2. I am satisfied that this amount should now be substantially increased, not merely because of the fall in money value in the interval but also as a measure to ensure that the meals served on these occasions are substantial, as the law intended. This has implications for other aspects of the intoxicating liquor legislation. As I have indicated in relation to Part II of the Bill, the intention is that drink may be served in restaurants qualifying for the new special restaurant licences only in connection with the supply and consumption of substantial meals. In this context, as well as in connection with special exemption orders, an appropriate minimum price for a substantial meal would be £5. Under the 1962 Intoxicating Liquor Act a variation in the indicative price for a substantial meal can be affected by ministerial order and, accordingly, this requires no provision in the present Bill.

I would next like to mention weekend special exemptions. As I have indicated, the grant of special exemption orders is a matter for the District Court and such orders tend to be given mainly in respect of weekend nights. The law provides that special exemptions may not be given in respect of any period on a Sunday but this has been interpreted as allowing them to commence at 12 midnight on Sunday. The special exemptions for Monday mornings are of particular concern since, for most of the population of this country, Monday is the first working day of the week. It is a matter for the court to decide the time in respect of which any special exemption would be granted. I am satisfied that some restriction on Monday morning exemptions is justified and seciton 29 of the Bill accordingly provides that they may not be granted for any time after 1.30 a.m. on Monday.

Finally, in relation to special exemptions, I am proposing that persons under 18 will not be allowed to be present in the licensed premises concerned while they are in operation and section 35 of the Bill contains a provision to that effect.

I come now to the part of the Bill which arguably will have the greatest social impact — that is Part IV, which contains provisions aimed at curbing under-age drinking. Before outlining my proposals, I would like to strike a note of caution as to the role of legislation in this area. I agree with those who say that under-age drinking is a major problem which needs to be dealt with urgently. The passage of time has shown up some inadequacies in the licensing laws and I intend to remedy the situation in that respect. However, the introduction of new intoxicating liquor legislation must be regarded as only one of the instruments to be used in tackling this abuse. It will not solve the problem on its own. I do not intend to speak in detail about the other measures that can be used, but I would stress the importance of parental example and a good home environment, of education in the dangers of drinking alcohol and also of social outlets where alcohol is not consumed.

At this point I would like to commend Deputy Sean Barrett for his Private Members' Bill on under-age drinking, which has already been discussed in the House. To an extent, that discussion could be regarded as paralleling the Second Stage debate for Part IV of this Bill but I intend, nevertheless, to outline briefly the main provisions of my proposals, notwithstanding the similarity between them and those already debated. These proposals relate to the presence of under-age persons on licensed premises, the supply of drink to them and the consumption of intoxicating liquor by them.

One change which has been repeatedly requested by those concerned about the problem of under-age drinking is the removal of the word "knowingly" from sections 10 and 11 of the Intoxicating Liquor (General) Act, 1924, since the inclusion of this word makes it very difficult to prosecute successfully in cases covered by the sections. Those sections, which are repealed by section 4 of the Bill, made it an offence for any licence holder to knowingly supply alcohol to a person under the age of 18 years for consumption by that person either on or off the premises.

New provisions aimed at prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquor to under-age persons are now contained in section 31 of the Bill. This important section makes it an offence for any licence holder to sell or deliver intoxicating liquor, either directly or indirectiy, to anyone under the age of 18 years; to permit a person under the age to consume intoxicating liquor on his licensed premises or to permit anyone to supply a person under the age of 18 years with intoxicating liquor on his premises. The penalties for contravention of these provisions include the endorsement of the licence on conviction. It has been pointed out that it can sometimes be difficult for a licence holder to judge whether a particular person is under or over 18 years of age. As a balance to the provisions which I have just outlined, I have accordingly provided that it will be a defence for the licence holder, in any court proceedings, to prove that he had reasonable grounds for believing that the person in respect of whom he is alleged to have committed the offence was over 18.

Whereas section 31 creates offences for the licence holder, section 32 makes it an offence for any person to purchase intoxicating liquor for, or deliver intoxicating liquor to, any person who is under 18 years of age or to send a person under the age of 18 to obtain alcohol. Under section 33, it is made an offence for the first time for a person under 18 to purchase alcohol or to consume it in any place other than a private residence, or to represent himself as being over the age of 18 years for the purpose of obtaining alcohol.

I come next to the question of the presence of under-age persons in licensed premises. It is an offence for a licence holder to allow anyone under the age of 15 years to be in the bar of his licensed premises. There are certain exceptions to this — for example, where the person aged under 15 is resident on the premises. This is a provision which, I am satisfied, should be changed. There are circumstances where the provision may appear to be unreasonable and to that extent difficult to enforce. Thus, for example, it may be convenient, or even necessary, for a parent with young children to remain for some time in a licensed premises, especially in the country, while waiting to catch a bus or to keep a medical or dental appointment. There are other occasions, such as during family holidays, where it will be reasonable to allow children in licensed premises when accompanied by their parents. After careful study, I have come to the conclusion that it is unreasonable to place a blanket ban on the presence of children in licensed premises. I am proposing, accordingly, that children should be allowed in bars at any time during permitted hours if they are accompanied by their parents or guardians. Section 34 of the Bill sets out my proposals in this respect. In doing this, I have had to balance carefully the dangers of introducing children to a pub atmosphere at an early age against the reality that in some cases parents will have no practical alternative to bringing their children with them, for limited periods, into pubs. Deputies will notice that I have set out penalties, both for the holder of the licence and for the parent or guardian, where a child is found in the bar of a licensed premises in contravention of the section.

There have been frequent complaints about drinking by under-age persons at late-night functions. Section 35 of the Bill seeks to correct this abuse by making it an offence, both for the licence-holder and the under-age person, where anyone under the age of 18 is on licensed premises while an exemption order is in operation. I have already referred to this proposal in my comments on special exemptions.

Section 36 restricts the presence of persons under the age of 18 in off-licensed premises which are structurally separate. Under this section, persons under that age will be allowed on such premises only when they are accompanied by a parent or guardian, or where their employment in the premises is not prohibited. It would, I submit, be unreasonable to impose a total ban on persons under the age of 18 from entering off-licensed premises. If that was the case, children — and even babies in prams — could not accompany their parents into the licensed section of supermarkets. I should mention, in this connection, that the provision whereby a person over the age of 15 years could purchase intoxicating liquor from an off-licence, where the liquor was in a closed vessel containing not less than one pint, will no longer apply — this will be the effect of section 4 of the Bill, which repeals section 11 of the 1924 Intoxicating Liquor (General) Act. Deputies will notice a series of penalties for contraventions of section 36, both for persons under the age of 18 who contravene that provision and for licence-holders who allow unaccompanied persons under the age of 18 to be in their structurally separate off-licensed premises.

Section 37 of the Bill provides a very useful weapon in the fight against under-age drinking. It gives the Garda powers to remove containers of alcohol from any person who is in a public place, and who appears to be under the age of 18, where the Garda suspects, with reasonable cause, that an under-age drinking offence is being or has been committed. This will give the Garda powers in relation to occasions such as so-called cider parties which are not only detrimental to the young people involved but are a source of nuisance to people living nearby.

Finally, in relation to under-age drinking, I would like to say a word about section 38. This section deals with the employment of persons under the age of 18 in licensed premises. The present law in this respect is contained in section 12 of the 1924 General Act, a section which is now being repealed. Under that provision, no female under the age of 18 and no male under the age of 16, apart from specified relatives of the licence-holder, could be employed in a licensed premises. Section 38 now gives a common minimum age-limit of 18 years for males and females, with a minimum age-limit of 16 for specified relatives. It is usual for young persons to commence their apprenticeship in the bar trade at 16 years of age and section 38 allows this to continue.

At this point I would like to mention a subject which was raised on a number of occasions during the debate on Deputy Barrett's Bill — that is, the question of providing for an official system of age cards to help curb under-age drinking. I would like to make a few comments on this suggestion. I would point out, first of all, that unofficial systems of this kind have already been tried in particular localities, with varying degrees of success. When people speak of the adoption of an official system, I presume they have in mind the establishment of a countrywide system operated through a body such as the Garda Síochána, with penalties for the abuse of such cards and statutory backing for their use, such as a provision that licensees and the courts would have to accept them as evidence of the age of the party presenting them.

While the age of 15 is also significant in relation to presence on licensed premises, we are here speaking of cards which would show that the bearer is aged 18 or over. In my view, any such system would have to be voluntary — there could be no question of compelling all persons who wish to patronise licensed premises and who are aged between 18 years and, say, 21 to have such cards with them. Many such persons will be merely taking a cup of coffee or a snack and will not wish to drink intoxicating liquor. Another basic point is that the initial discretion as to whether to look for the card in a particular case would have to be with the licensee. To put it at an extreme, there will be very young children who will obviously be under 18 and middle-aged and elderly people who will obviously be over that age.

Any system of the kind in question would have to be aimed at the marginal cases, that is, cases where an observer might be in doubt as to whether the person in question was under or over 18. In practical terms, it is the licensee concerned who must make the initial judgment in such cases, so that there could be no general compulsion on licensees to look for age-cards. Of course there will be nothing either in the existing law, or in the Bill provisions, to prevent a licensee refusing to supply drink or refusing admission to a structurally separate off-licence or to a late night extension, where he thinks the person concerned might be under 18. Deputies will note from Part IV of the Bill that in all relevant cases it will be a defence for the licensee to prove that he had reasonable grounds for believing that the person concerned was over 18. The provisions of the Bill are such that there will now be a strong incentive on licensees to look for evidence of age in doubtful cases and for young persons age just over 18 to supply themselves with such evidence. In the case of a prosecution, it would be matter for the court to decide what constituted reasonable grounds so far as the licensee is concerned, but doubtless they would include production of any document which showed that the person concerned was over 18. Reasonable grounds in this context might also include an assurance from a mature person known to the licensee that the young person concerned was aged over 18. Of course a countrywide system of age-cards organised through a body such as the Garda Síochána could provide such evidence but such a system could well prove expensive to install and operate. It is possible that the expense in question could be offset by making a charge for the issue of the card but there would be many young men and women of 19 or 20 years of age who would not be prepared to pay such a charge, since their ages could be readily established by other means or they might feel that it was clear from their appearance that they were over 18. In this connection, it is relevant to remark that the expense of establishing an official, countrywide age-card system would only be justified if there was a large-scale take-up of the cards by people in the age-group at which they were aimed.

There are other points to be borne in mind. Persons who had obtained age-cards might well find that they did not have the card with them when they wished to purchase or consume intoxicating liquor and in such cases, alternative evidence of age would have to be acceptable. Age-cards could of course be abused either by counterfeiting them to help get drink directly for under-age persons or to help older teenagers of 18 or 19 in getting drink from off-licensees for their under-age companions. I would point out that although under the existing law a licensee can be convicted if he knowingly supplied drink to an under-age person, the under-age person who purchases and consumes the drink cannot himself be prosecuted. Under the Bill, however, whereas the licensee will have a defence if he had reasonable grounds for believing that the person concerned was over 18, the under-age person who purchases and consumes the drink can himself be prosecuted under section 33. This should prove of considerable assistance to those many licensees who might be genuinely concerned about difficulties which the provisions of Part IV of the Bill would present for them. In view of all these considerations it was decided not to make provision in the Bill for the establishment of a countrywide system of age cards for the purposes of the Intoxicating Liquor Acts. I should mention, in this connection, that the desirability of introducing a system of age cards in the context of the liquor licensing laws has been considered, and rejected, by official committees in Britain and in Northern Ireland.

Deputies will see that careful consideration has been given to the question of introducing a system of age of majority cards in relation to the purchase and consumption of intoxicating liquor. My own view is that the case for such a system has not been clearly established and that it would be best to see how the new provisions in Part IV of the Bill work in practice before deciding whether the introduction of such a system is warranted. However, in view of the interest already expressed in this subject in the context of Deputy Barrett's Bill, Deputies will doubtless wish to give their own views on the question. Finally, I should mention that the question of introducing a general system of identity cards was referred to during the debate on Deputy Barrett's Bill. This, of course, raises issues going far outside the ambit of the intoxicating liquor legislation and would not be appropriate for discussion in this context.

I would like to turn next to Part V of the Bill which proposes a number of changes in relation to registered clubs. In principle such clubs are private establishments where members enjoy a common interest and where the law allows intoxicating liquor to be supplied to the members themselves and their guests. I have, however, received complaints that in many such clubs the law regarding the supply of intoxicating liquor is not being observed, so that in effect a public house trade is being carried on and that some clubs, at least, are tending to become merely drinking clubs, contrary to the intention of the Registration of Clubs Act. Part V contains provisions to help remedy any abuses that exist.

Section 40 will make it clear that the club rules must forbid the supply of drink to persons aged under 18. Section 41 of the Bill will allow clubs to be inspected on the same basis as licensed premises. At present a club can only be inspected by the Garda Síochána on an order from a member of the Force of at least inspector rank. This amendment will allow for easier and more rapid detections of breaches of the law in registered clubs. Section 42 will allow objection to be made to renewal of club certificates by persons living outside the parish where the club premises is situated. At present only persons living within the parish can so object. I am told that publicans and others living close to club premises do not like to object to renewal of certificates because of the hostility they might incur and, in the case of publicans, that this could be commercially damaging. Section 42 will bring clubs into line with licensed premises generally so far as objection to certificates is concerned. Finally, section 44, with the Schedule to the Bill, will provide increased penalties for a range of offences relating to registered clubs.

In Part VI of the Bill I am taking the opportunity to increase a number of penalties under the licensing Acts and the Registration of Clubs Acts, where the level of fines has fallen out of line with current monetary values. These new increased penalties are provided for in section 44 and the Schedule and individually call for no comment from me at this stage. Many of the fines have been on the Statute Book since the last century and the large percentage increases are justified on that ground alone.

One particular penalty in the Schedule which I should mention is that provided in section 17 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1927, for the offence for being "found-on". The present minimum penalty for being "found-on" is £1 and the maximum £5. I propose to increase these amounts to £25 and £50 respectively. This will give a much greater incentive to customers to leave licensed premises voluntarily by the end of drinking-up time and should help licensees in clearing their premises at closing time.

I said at the outset of my speech that this Bill was concerned with some of the main principles underlying the licensing laws. These include the kinds and number of licences, the permitted hours and the age at which persons can buy or consume alcohol. However, this measure is not a comprehensive Intoxicating Liquor Bill, since it does not cover anything like the entire field of the licensing laws. A further examination of the liquor laws may identify the need for further changes and, if so, a second Bill can be brought before the Dáil. I cannot say as yet what matters might be covered in a second Bill but some areas which may need to be thoroughly examined are the questions of late night drinking and sales from offlicences. It would not be unusual for two Liquor Bills to follow in quick succession. This happened in 1924 and 1927 and again in 1960 and 1962. Not only could areas of the law not covered in this Bill be tackled in a second Bill but, if experience shows that any provisions of this Bill need amendment, this could be quickly remedied.

I am expecting a very wide-ranging debate on this Bill and many Deputies will probably have their own particular suggestions as to what the Bill should cover. I will be very glad to consider all proposals which are put forward during the debate. Where the subject matter of such proposals is not appropriate for inclusion in the Bill now before the House, they can be considered in the context of a possible second Bill. However, I consider it important to proceed now with all possible haste on the matters covered by the present Bill and I would point out that any major changes to the Bill outside those areas could cause major delays as the Bill proceeds through the Oireachtas.

I commend the Bill to the House.

I now call on Deputy Séan Barrett.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle—

I want to correct something I said. It is intended to restrict Monday morning exemptions to 1 a.m. and not 1.30 a.m. Forgive me, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, for misleading the House.

The Bill now before the House dealing with the granting of special restaurant licences to bona fide restaurants, amending the law relating to the opening and closing hours of licensed premises and tackling the problem of under-age drinking is essentially the same Bill as that produced by Fine Gael in Government in December 1986. Unfortunately, that Government did not get the opportunity to put that legislation on the Statute Book due to the general election held in early 1987. It is fair to ask the Government why it has taken so long to reproduce this legislation. After all it is over 13 months since they took office.

The section of the Bill dealing with the problem of under-age drinking is practically word for word the same as the section in the Private Members' Bill which I introduced on behalf of the Fine Gael Party in March of this year and which completed Second Stage on Wednesday last. It proves we have a very long way to go in this House to update our procedures and change attitudes towards the introduction of Private Members' Bills by Members on the Opposition benches. My Private Members' Bill should now be well on the way to becoming law. Instead we have to debate the same issue all over again simply because the Government feel that they and they alone should be permitted to introduce legislative change in this area.

Over the past number of weeks and, indeed, months the problems of alcoholism have been given a lot of coverage on radio and television and in the press. Many startling facts have been revealed, particularly in relation to under-age drinking. Having identified the problems, it is important that we do something about them. Changing the law is important but it is not the solution to our problems. There is an obligation on all of us to support in a practical way those bodies which are engaged in trying to solve the problems. One such body, with which I came into contact recently, is the Irish National Council on Alcohol which is presently struggling to stay in existence because of the lack of finance. In that regard I would like to mention that the grant which the Irish National Council on Alcohol received from the health boards this year was £42,000. Having paid salaries, PRSI, postage, telephone bills and other costs there is absolutely nothing left for the development of programmes. If we are serious about dealing with alcohol abuse, surely the minimum we should do is to fund to a reasonable extent such important bodies as the Irish National Council on Alcohol. I am sure there are many other bodies in a similar position needing support. It is also important that research bodies and agencies be funded so that they can keep us informed of the situation on the ground and it is important having been informed that the urgent and necessary steps be taken to amend our laws on a regular basis.

Dealing with the problem itself is vitally important but we must also take steps to prevent the problem occurring in the first place. There appears to be a lack of proper education programmes available for our schools, parent and youth groups etc. Information should be available in the workplace for staff and anywhere it is possible to communicate with groups of people, information on the dangers of the abuse of alcohol should be available. The success of the non-smoking campaign is an example of what can be achieved as a result of a properly thought out campaign. I am not suggesting for one moment that we should launch a non-drinking campaign but a campaign to educate people in the proper use of alcohol. The difference between drinking for enjoyment and drinking to get drunk should be pressed home to all of us on a continuous basis. The savings for the State as a result of a proper campaign being pursued are there for all to see. It is better to pay now for the provision of good education programmes than to spend ten times as much in trying to cure the problem later.

The need to invest in facilities for young people is also essential. The reality that young people are attracted to the atmosphere in pubs must be understood and if we want to keep young people out of them, we must be realistic in providing the facilities to compete. We are fortunate in having many committed people involved in sporting and youth clubs but they can do only so much. They need financial assistance in order to provide the sort of facilities which will attract young people to their premises. We have no excuse for not helping them. After all, was this not the main reason for setting up the national lottery? The use of existing facilities in our schools and other public buildings must also be liberalised to the extent where they are freely available, properly staffed, outside normal hours. Locking up facilities which were put there as a result of State investment after, say, normal school hours is no longer acceptable. Attitudes must change and change will have to be imposed if it is not forthcoming voluntarily.

The licensing laws as they stand at present are confusing to many people and are obviously in need of change to meet the needs of today, particularly in relation to the tourism industry. Many tourists find it strange that they cannot obtain an alcoholic drink other than wine with a meal in a bona fide restaurant. I am pleased, therefore, that this Bill will do something to remedy this situation. Changing the licensing laws is not an easy task because of the many inequities contained in our existing laws and because many aspects of the existing laws are not being enforced. The public find it confusing that you can leave a pub after official closing time and go down the street to a club, hotel disco or restaurant and drink for another couple of hours. How is it, they ask, that alcohol can be served after hours in one place and not in another? Admittedly, this alcohol is often sold contrary to what the law permits but, equally, because of some provisions in our laws it can be sold within the law as well.

Those engaged in the licensed trade feel also that there is a certain amount of unfairness in the way some people can trade for certain hours while others are restricted, often, they feel, unjustly. It is important, therefore, that whatever changes we make now will be seen as far as possible to those in the licensed trade to be equitable and to those outside to make sense and to be capable of being enforced.

Before moving on to deal with the various sections contained in this Bill, I would ask the Minister if he has any proposals to allow for the issue of a limited number of exemptions for ballrooms. Over the past number of years discos appear to have taken over from the traditional type of ballroom. I am told that ballrooms which, after all, are capable of providing a good deal of employment, be it through the staff engaged in the actual running of the ballroom or the bands engaged for the evening, find it extremely difficult to compete with discos. I regret the demise of the traditional type of ballroom which for many years provided a very important amenity, particularly in rural Ireland. I do not think anybody would like to see this trend continue and I would ask the Minister to give this matter serious consideration.

I will now turn to the main sections of this Bill. The campaign which started some years ago to allow restaurants to sell a full range of alcoholic drinks with a meal appeared, and still appears, to be reasonable. The problem, however, is to define clearly what is a restaurant and what constitutes a substantial meal. I realise it is not the intention to allow café-type premises which serve snacks to apply for and obtain a licence to serve alcohol. The problem with any legislation is that unless extreme care is taken when drafting it, loopholes will be found later and you end up with a situation where what was intended to be one thing turns out to be something completely different. I suggest, therefore, that before this section of the Bill comes into operation, the Dáil should approve the regulations which are to be drafted by the Minister for Tourism and Transport and that those regulations should set out clearly the conditions that must be met by those applying for a special restaurant licence. The Bill should not allow for the issue of a Bord Fáilte certificate until the Minister for Tourism and Transport has made regulations prescribing the standards to be complied with in restaurants. I would ask the Minister to confirm that it will be necessary for each restaurant to be inspected annually before a Bord Fáilte certificate for renewal of the licence will be issued.

Section 8 of the Bill sets out the procedure to be followed by a person applying for a special restaurant licence. On receipt of a certificate from the Circuit Court, the applicant applies to the Revenue Commissioners for a licence and pays a fee of £3,000. Is this a once-off payment or is there a charge for the annual renewal? It is not clear from this section whether it is necessary to insert a notice in a daily newspaper as to the applicant's intention to seek a licence, or is it the intention that the only requirement is a formal application to the court? In relation to the renewal of a special restaurant licence, it would appear from the Bill that the only person entitled to object to the renewal of the licence is the Superintendent of the Garda Síochána for the Garda district in which the restaurant is situated. Surely the same conditions should apply to the renewal of a special restaurant licence as apply to other liquor licences. Perhaps the Minister will comment on this matter when replying to the debate.

The hours during which alcohol may be supplied on premises having special restaurant licences — week days from 12.30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 12.30 a.m. and on Sundays from 12.30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. — appear to be reasonable, bearing in mind that the intention is to allow restaurants to sell alcoholic drink during their normal trading periods. I find it difficult, however, to understand why we should insist on 11 p.m. closing on St. Patrick's Day, bearing in mind the day that is in it. It seems extraordinary that in this country we are restricted in opening and closing hours on St. Patrick's Day while in every other country in the world where there are Irish present they seem to celebrate well into the early hours of the morning. It does not make sense that we should select St. Patrick's Day for special licensing hours.

I note that there is a provision in the Bill which requires that no drink be consumed 30 minutes after the completion of a meal. I cannot see how this provision can be enforced unless somebody is present to check when each meal is finished. The other points I have to make in relation to this section of the Bill are more appropriate to Committee Stage and I will make these points when we reach that stage.

I feel a fair attempt has been made to provide a service to the public through the issuing of special restaurant licences. As previously stated, we want to see bona fide restaurants being allowed legally to serve alcohol to their customers. It is not, nor should it be, the intention to provide a second string of pubs in the country. It is better that we encourage the eating of food by those taking alcohol, and that in itself is a step towards a more responsible attitude to drink.

Part III of the Bill which deals with the opening and closing hours of licensed premises is essentially the same as a similar part of the 1986 Bill produced by us in Government. The main differences are that summertime closing remains at 11.30 p.m. instead of 12 midnight, and "drinking-up time" has been extended from ten minutes to 30 minutes. The Bill provides for 11 p.m. closing on Sundays throughout the year and also extends the new hours for opening and closing to registered clubs, hotels and licensed restaurants.

I note that the Bill also provides for the abolition of the "holy hour" in the county boroughs of Dublin and Cork. While this will be welcomed by many people for the simple reason that it previously applied only in parts of Dublin and Cork, and was very difficult to enforce mainly because it is difficult to clear the premises — on a personal note I was one of the people who always felt that the "holy hour" was a ridiculous imposition — I have some reservations about this move. Having listened to many people and read many articles on alcohol abuse over the past number of weeks I can appreciate the fears expressed by some people that without a break in the hours during which drink is served during the day, we could be putting some people at risk of continuous drinking, thus leading to a greater risk of alcohol abuse. While I appreciate that this may affect only a small minority of the drinking public, I feel at the same time that we should give this matter further consideration before taking this step.

The alternative to abolishing the "holy hour" would be to prohibit the sale of alcohol between 2.30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on a countrywide basis — this in effect would mean the non-availability of alcohol between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. allowing for the "drinking-up" period of 30 minutes. I make that point in all sincerity. I have given it a lot of thought. While I am not definite in my views — I could be persuaded otherwise — I think it is worth making the point that there are a considerable number of people who are concerned that without a break during the day — and it is not for me to specify areas — people who are unfortunately unemployed and have social problems including alcohol problems, can find it very easy to stay on premises if they are not asked to leave for a limited period. The consequential effects on the family home and the amount of money available for essentials can be serious. Therefore, this matter should be considered in greater detail before we take the final step.

Since 1927 the fines for prohibited offences for licensees have been a maximum of £20 for a first offence and a maximum of £40 for a second or subsequent offence. This Bill proposes to increase these fines to a maximum of £400 and £800, respectively. The problem as I see it with setting a fixed sum as a maximum fine is that it does not take into account the turnover of one premises against another and, while £400 could be a severe penalty for a small premises, it might be only a drop in the ocean in another instance. While I appreciate that it will be up to the court to use its discretion when dealing with individual cases, it might be worth considering ways of punishing offenders other than the imposition of fixed amounts.

Like many other Deputies I have received complaints about the activities of some clubs which are ignoring the law as it stands at present and engaging in business not covered by their licences. I would ask the Minister to state in his reply if he has any proposals to see to it that the law is enforced and that those small number of clubs which are behaving in such a manner will be prevented from doing so in the future. Has the Minister any proposals to increase the number of members required before a club can seek to be registered for licensing purposes? I understand at present 25 members are needed and that figure was set some time ago. Perhaps we should consider increasing that number at this stage. It is my intention to raise a number of other points on Committee Stage but, in the meantime, I invite the Minister and the House to consider the points I have raised under this section of the Bill.

Part IV of the Bill deals with the problem of under-age drinking. This particular subject got a very good airing in this Chamber over the past weeks as a result of the Private Members' Bill which I introduced on behalf of Fine Gael. The provisions contained in Part IV of this Bill are practically word for word the same as those contained in my Bill, with a few exceptions. I propose to deal with those differences later.

It was very pleasing for me to see the level of agreement on all sides of the House during the debate on the problem of under-age drinking. It is quite clear that those of us who spoke accepted that legislative change can only do so much to deal with this problem and that parents, schools and other influential groups in society have a major role to play in dealing with it. It is important to stress that the proposed changes in this area relate to the sale and consumption of alcohol on licensed premises and in public places.

The Bill in no way interferes with what goes on in the home and in that regard I think it is important to mention that teaching young people to respect drink is just as important as making it difficult for them to obtain it. There is an enormous difference between drinking and drinking to get drunk and learning this lesson at a young age will prevent many problems later on in life.

The changes proposed in this section of the Bill are reasonable and indeed necessary. They are necessary, not because those involved in the liquor trade are irresponsible in the way they sell alcohol to young people, but because the law as it stands at present is in some respects out of date and incapable of dealing with some of today's problems.

The vast majority of publicans, off-licence holders, hotel or restaurant owners, I am sure, are as much concerned about the problems of under-age drinking as I am and, indeed, welcome some change in this area. I am sure they are equally concerned that the proposed changes might cause them difficulties in the daily running of their businesses, particularly the removal of the word "knowingly" from the legislation. However, I am sure the House will agree that as long as the word "knowingly" remains, it is impossible to enforce the legislation.

There is another alternative, however, and that is the introduction of identity cards. It would appear from the debate over the past few weeks that there is considerable all-party agreement on this issue and I would urge the continuation of a constructive debate and examination of this subject. If identity cards were introduced it would certainly be far more convenient for everybody concerned.

Deputies on all sides of the House are well aware of the problems caused by the so-called "drink parties" often held in public places. The public suffer considerably from the results of these parties through acts of vandalism, joy-riding episodes, etc. The need for legislative change to make it more difficult for under-age people to purchase alcohol from whatever source is quite obvious as, indeed, is the need to increase the penalties for those who break the law. On the same subject, may I say that the new powers proposed for the gardaí to confiscate bottles or containers suspected of containing alcohol from under-age persons are also very necessary and welcome? This new measure should help in dealing with the problems associated with "drink parties".

The Minister's Bill differs from mine in that it will not be an offence for children under 15 years of age to be on licensed premises, accompanied by their parents or guardians, during opening hours. I had proposed that children could not be on licensed premises after 8 p.m., and I must say I thought that was reasonable. I am not at all sure that it is a good idea to allow children in pubs or other licensed premises during opening hours without restrictions on time. While the majority of parents will probably behave in a reasonable way, there are dangers that some might not. I do not think it helps children if they are left in pubs for hours — I do not need to expand on the theme of good example as I am sure most Deputies will realise what I am trying to get across.

Another area where both Bills differ is in relation to the employment of persons under 18 years in licensed premises. I have to admit that the change proposed by the Minister is reasonable in that it allows for bar apprentices over 16 years to be employed. I think we could go a bit further and allow persons other than bar apprentices over 16 years to be employed. Many young people do casual work and the money earned often goes to help in the running of a home. I was seriously considering recommending to my party that we should amend the provision in my Bill to allow persons over 16 years to be employed and I would ask the Minister to give this matter further consideration before Committee Stage.

Part V dealing with registered clubs is broadly along the lines I had proposed. It is reasonable to insist that the rules of registered clubs should forbid the supply of alcohol to persons under 18 years and that persons under 18 years should not be admitted as members unless the club in question is one devoted to sporting activities.

Other points I have to make on this Bill can wait until we are discussing Committee Stage. My party will be supporting this Bill on Second Stage and will be considering introducing some amendments on Committee and Report Stages.

I am very glad the Bill promised by the Minister some weeks ago has been introduced so speedily. I agree when he says this is an issue that has been demanding attention for a long time and is one on which the House should move fast and without any undue delay. I would like to aid him in this exercise.

This Bill deals with a subject on which legislation has been long awaited. For many years people have been calling for extending the full licensing facilities to restaurants and for some way of coping with the emerging and increasing problem of under-age drinking. The Bill goes a long way towards dealing with these problems.

As the Minister and Deputy Barrett pointed out, the main provisions of the Bill are the granting of special restaurant licences to designated restaurants, allowing for the sale and consumption of alcohol with a meal, a change in the opening hours of licensed premises and measures to deal with under-age drinking. I also welcome the decision to increase the amount of fines as a realistic move. I should like to deal first with the decision to grant licences to restaurants. I regard that move as having wider implications than just a change in the licensing laws. It seems to me, and to the Progressive Democrats, that this amounts to an opportunity for the Minister to ensure that a positive step is taken to develop our tourism industry. In conjunction with the Minister for Tourism and Transport, the Minister for Justice should ensure that there is a positive development as a result of this exercise.

Under the terms of the Bill, the owner and occupier of a bona fide restaurant must make application for a licence to the Circuit Court and submit a certificate from Bord Fáilte with that application. Such a certificate must be a realistic one that takes note of the requirements that are demanded of a restaurant in modern society. Bord Fáilte must use this provision to spearhead a drive in the tourism industry. I would go so far as to say that that industry has been stymied for many years by the lack of good restaurant facilities accompanied by full licences. We have suffered in our image abroad when visitors who normally associate drinking alcohol with eating have found that they cannot have liquor with their meals here. They see it as an uncivilised way of behaving. The granting of licences to restaurants to serve alcohol can only improve our image.

The Bill does not provide, as Deputy Barrett said, that the regulations should be laid down by the Minister for Tourism and Transport before licences are issued under the Bill. That is a mistake. We should be aware of the regulations and be happy that they address the problems in the restaurant industry. We should see to it that what are described as "high standards" in the Bill are high standards. I do not mean they have to be the highest haute cuisine. They must be high in terms of efficiency, management, hygiene and general food preparation so that the public, and visitors to this country, can have confidence in the new system of licensing.

The fee of £3,000 which must be paid to the Revenue Commissioners for a licence for a restaurant is reasonable. It would be unreasonable to look for more money because it would be adding another overhead to an industry where the income is marginal enough. The restaurant industry is not renowned for making a lot of money but it creates quite a lot of employment. We should not add more burdens than are necessary. In my view there is a case for charging restaurants in seaside resorts, where there is a season of between eight and ten weeks and where they close completely after the summer a lot less than the fee charged to restaurant owners whose premises are open all year around.

The Bill allows for a high degree of supervision of the new system. The Circuit Court, Bord Fáilte and the Minister for Tourism and Transport are involved. We should make use of that and not allow the new system to amount to no more than a series of rubber stamps. In the past year the Government have indicated that they are relying on the tourism industry to provide thousands of new jobs and we should be pinpointing areas where that can be assisted in legislation. This is one area where we should be careful to stress that we mean what we say. We should set out in black and white what we mean by the term bona fide. We should make a great virtue of the fact that only decent, well run hygienic restaurants will be granted a new licence. We should make a virtue of the fact that we will be offering a high-class comprehensive restaurant service.

People from other countries regard our tradition of drinking as being very strange and slightly uncivilised. I see the move to link drinking and eating as a positive one. If there is one area where we have failed it is in the diverting of drinking activity down one lane and eating down another. That must have catastrophic consequences. Deputy Barrett was afraid that with the abolition of the "holy hour" some people may go into a pub and sit there drinking all day. I disagree with certain aspects of his contribution, that because we did not have liquor licences for restaurants people here see drinking as an activity in itself. That is unhealthy. Many people who deal with alcoholics say that the pattern for becoming an alcoholic is set early on in one's drinking career. The availability of alcohol is a factor but we must have regard to the idea of educating our children, and ourselves, about the normal way to enjoy alcohol.

The Bill is not about preventing the consumption of alcohol but about the abuse of it. We should concentrate on that and ensure we do not go overboard in our efforts to try to rid society of alcohol. That is not the object of the exercise. Those dealing with alcoholics say that it is not just alcoholics who are affected by the abuse of drink and that for every one alcoholic there are up to ten people affected. That brings us back to the tradition of drinking here and the fact that, sadly, we have failed to educate our children in regard to the consumption of alcohol.

In expressing my agreement with the decision to extend licences to bona fide restaurants I do not wish to downgrade the licensed vintner trade which has given a lot of employment and has for long been part of the social fabric. However, it has been allowed to run away with one aspect of social activity in a way that is unhealthy. In my view, licensed vintners will agree that it would be healthy to allow people the option of drinking all types of alcohol, including those of Irish manufacture, with meals. Their concern is that licences should be given out on a fair basis. That is true up to a point but they are not the same types of licences. I would draw quite a distinction between the type of service provided by a public bar or lounge and that provided by a restaurant. Therefore it does not stand up to say one should have the same approach to the granting of licences as between the two. I would contend that they should not be in competition, they provide a different service. I predict that, after the enactment of this legislation, there will not be a rush to the restaurant, on the part of those who would normally go to a pub for a pint of stout. Those people will continue to go to the pubs. I would predict that those who want a meal will go to a restaurant and be delighted to be able to have a drink with their meal but I do not honestly believe that the provisions of this Bill will change the pattern of drinking here to any large degree other than getting people used to the idea that a different atmosphere prevails when one is drinking and eating.

The provisions of this Bill will help in achieving some balance in the type of drinking engaged in in, say, late night discos to which there is a rush from the pubs because no drinking can be done after 11 o'clock or 11.30 p.m. in pubs. It is my belief that if people felt they could get the type of drink they wanted with a meal they would begin by going to a restaurant and, possibly, go home earlier. Nothing horrifies me more than hearing of the late hours kept by people in nightclubs — I do not know how they keep it up — but drinking has a lot to do with it; the reason they go there is to get drink. If they want to incorporate a meal, after the enactment of this Act, they can have a meal with their drink.

With regard to the hours in which restaurant proprietors are allowed to serve alcohol there will be real difficulty experienced in adhering to the times stipulated under the provisions of the Bill. The Minister has indicated that normally people eat what might be described as their substantial meals between the hours of 12.30 p.m. and 3 p.m. and from 7 p.m. onwards in the evening. In this day and age it seems unrealistic to expect people, en masse, to go for lunch between those hours and, likewise, for dinner later. It must be remembered that there is now great flexibility in people's eating, working and social habits. I would be against the disallowance of the serving of alcohol in restaurants between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. The Minister has contended that there is no need for the abolition of a licence in order to be the holder of a special restaurant licence. That is not strictly true because they will cease to hold their present wine licences. If they continued to be the holders of those wine licences they would then be able to serve wine with a meal between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. It should be remembered that many people lunch a, say, 2.30 p.m. which would mean that it would be, say, 3.10 p.m. by the time they would reach their main course. It is unrealistic to contend that restaurant proprietors cannot continue to serve alcohol at that point. There seems to be an anomaly obtaining here in that, on the one hand, restaurant proprietors are being given a special licence to serve the full range of alcoholic drinks while, on the other, the "holy hour" in pubs is being abolished. This means that restaurant proprietors are being restricted from serving drink at a given time while allowing the proprietors of pubs — who also serve food — the flexibility of serving drink throughout the whole day. That is an anomaly the Minister should examine between now and Committee Stage. Certainly we will be addressing ourselves to that anomaly, which applies not only to the indigenous population but also to tourists. If this anomaly is allowed to continue it will appear elsewhere that we do not know what we are at, that we are giving a facility with one hand while abolishing it with the other.

I might deal now with the changes in the opening hours in general. I welcome the abolition of the "holy hour" in pubs. I disagree with Deputy Seán Barrett's view in this respect. I understand that people may have misgivings about the fact that there is no pressure, or need, on a person who comes into a pub at say, 10.30 a.m. to ever move out of those licensed premises before, say, 11 p.m. or 11.30 p.m. that evening. There will be no pressure on them to do so after the enactment of this Act. If there is anything to the credit of the provisions of this Bill it is that they are moving us toward a greater degree of responsibility for ourselves and our actions. While realising that we have a large alcohol problem generally I do not believe this is the way to solve it. We cannot continue to legislate for morality, for the good health of those in our society who may abuse alcohol. The way to solve that problem is to educate people, to try to avoid people becoming alcoholics rather than closing the door after the horse has bolted.

It is only reasonable that this so-called "holy hour" should disappear. It always seemed to me to be ridiculous that, once one found oneself outside Dublin or Cork, one did not encounter such restriction. I could not see the reasoning behind it and I welcome its abolition.

The move to implement an 11 p.m. closing hour on Sundays is also welcome. As one publican said to me only yesterday, a 10 o'clock closure in the middle of the summer was ridiculous, when one found oneself putting the whole of one's pub out into the bright summer evening. That is just not on. People go out for an evening, want to enjoy themselves, and may only do so at approximately 9 o'clock or 9.30 p.m. and then find themselves turfed out at 10 p.m. or shortly afterwards. In effect we have had the 30 minutes drinking-up time in operation for many years. However, if its inclusion brings legislation into line with reality, that too, is to be welcomed.

Deputy Seán Barrett referred to drinking hours on St. Patrick's Day. We shall be referring to them also. We would contend that there should be no reference to any special licensing laws with regard to that national holiday. If the holiday happens to fall on a Sunday, then let it be and, if it does not, likewise. There would appear to be no underlying reason for making special provision for licensing hours on that day. We will contend that all references to special licensing hours on St. Patrick's Day should be deleted.

I did say I was open to any reasonable suggestions.

I hope the Minister will regard that as being a reasonable one.

The provisions of Part IV in regard to under-age drinking constitute an important move in the right direction. If the provisions of the Bill can be seen to be moving in any direction, they are in the direction of those who should be taking responsibility for themselves and their actions. It is the key concept that those who are under-age and who are at present purchasing drink will be made responsible under the provisions of this Bill. That is only right. Even if they are juveniles they should be brought within the scope of the law. Those licensees who are serving under-age drinkers should also have the rigours of the law fall heavily on them; likewise, anybody who purchases drink and supplies it to an under-age drinker in a public place. That is another practice which should incur heavy penalties.

However, the responsibility for enforcing this legislation it seems depends almost entirely on the fact that the licensee can identify who is and who is not under age. Nothing in this Bill helps that licensee to any great extent. I believe the last legislation on this has gone into disrepute publicly. If we want this legislation to work, if we want something that moves in the right direction, we should have great regard to the difficulties facing the licensee and subsequently the Garda in obtaining prosecutions. In 1986 the Commissioner's report indicated there were only six prosecutions for under-age drinking and only five of those resulted in convictions. We know the breaches are far more numerous than that. Why are we not having more prosecutions? The answer staring us in the face is the difficulties of proving that the licensee under present legislation knew the person was under age. That difficulty is tremendous and it continues in this legislation. It is not made that much clearer that the licensee will be able to know. The onus of proof is on him. He has to show only that he reasonably believes. It is elusive and vague and we should tighten up on it if we are serious about this legislation.

Therefore, some identity card system would seem to be called for. There are people who shy away when they hear the words "identity card" because they feel it is an encroachment on their civil liberties. That does not stand up to scrutiny. We have already systems of cards for voting, driving licences and passports and a number of so-called licences are available to people in different areas and there are no difficulties. People do not object to carrying passports or driving licences. We need to co-ordinate all these licences held by the public. We could have one licensing card and, for instance, a letter on it to indicate what one was being licensed for and that could be added to from time to time or, as my colleague Deputy Quill suggested in the debate on the Fine Gael Bill, we could have an age of majority card.

These suggestions should be considered very seriously. I appreciate the Minister says he has done so, but in the light of the fact that this Bill lacks the possibility of really taking the kind of effect we would wish it to have without giving the licensee and those in authority something to go on, we should give further consideration to it. There is no inherent threat to civil liberties with an identity card system. It is easier and less onerous on the individual to carry that card if he wishes to have a drink — he does not have to carry it all the time — than having great tracts of regulations and legislation to get around the fact that the whole thing is shrouded in uncertainty, indecision and so on particularly in the present situation.

A "no card, no drink" rule would be something we would become accustomed to very quickly; it would affect only those in their late teens and early twenties and they would not mind having to carry such a card. It is done in many other countries. Many states in the USA use it and it is very effective. It would show that we are serious, that we mean business in our fight against under-age drinking. If we do less we are showing that we do not really want to follow through, and the follow through is what it is all about. If we do not have the follow through in this Bill there is no point in talking about further Bills coming in.

The Minister in his speech said we could have a second Bill on liquor licensing, that on two other occasions Bills followed in rapid succession. I do not know what he means by "rapid succession". Three years and two years respectively do not seem to me to be Bills following in rapid succession. I would be talking in terms of weeks and months. If the Minister gets the ideas here I see no reason why he cannot move with them. I believe there would be a great deal of public support for identity cards. They would inconvenience very few people and would bring certainty into the implementation of this Bill.

I welcome the Minister's move to allow children with their parents or guardians to be on licensed premises, not so much in an unrestricted way but really leaving it to the discretion of the parents or guardians. It would be very difficult to implement a system where children were not allowed on licensed premises after, say, 8 o'clock. Deputy Harney asked in the other debate what one would do with the children who are on the premises in a hotel which is a licensed premises after 8 o'clock. I do not think that anomaly could be got over.

Delicense them.

Throughout the Bill there is a move to increase the fines being imposed and I see that as urgently needed. It should have been done a long time ago. It is another area which, not being attended to, brought the licensing laws into disrepute and, therefore, brought the whole of our body of laws into disrepute. I would increase some of the fines, and we might address ourselves to that on Committee Stage.

Deputy Barrett said that sometimes the fines are not adequate. The owner of a small pub would find a £400 fine quite onerous but in a large premises, as the Deputy said, it would be quite a small outgoing. He said there are other ways of deterring but he did not bite the bullet or go so far as to say what they might be. Our view is and has been that there should also be the possibility that the court could impose a suspension of licence instead of or with a fine instead of loss of a licence or endorsement. The problem at the moment in this area is that the ultimate deterrent of loss of licence is just not used. It is akin to the nuclear deterrent; we know it is there but we are too afraid to use it.

When it comes close to the time when the licensee sees he may be subject to loss of his licence he quickly transfers that licence and gets out from under the legal system as it stands. To get away from that and allow judges a discretion of using something they know will be a reasonable deterrent, we should have the possibility of suspension of a licence for a week, a month or longer depending on the gravity of the offence. A pub owner will simply not allow that to happen. If it has happened once he will not let it happen again. It is too costly. He does not just lose the business for that week, he loses the trade that will obviously go somewhere else in that week, and he will make darn sure it does not happen again. On the other hand, it is not fair to do that to a vintner if he has not a reasonable way of identifying, for instance, in the under-age drinking problem who is under age and who is not. Therefore, harsh deterrents can only go hand-in-hand with reasonable and definite identification of those who are under age.

I would like to finish on that point. We will be addressing a number of items on Committee Stage. I take the Minister at his word when he says he is looking for reasonable suggestions and hope he can take on board some I have mentioned. As he said at the outset, we should not delay in implementing this Bill. If by any chance he feels there is need to bring in a second Bill, for heaven's sake let it not be in two or three years but in weeks or months.

This Bill represents the first major reform of the licensing laws in 25 years. The Minister is to be complimented, as he has been already, and congratulated on his courage and initiative in bringing in this measure.

I listened with interest to the remarks of both Deputy Barrett and Deputy Colley. At least 95 per cent of what they have said is sound, logical and reasonable, especially Deputy Colley's remarks regarding the enforcement of the law on under-age drinking. If there is one major flaw in this Bill, that is it. We should take her remarks seriously and consider inserting some enabling powers. I hope this Bill will bring a sense of reality into the whole question of the sale and consumption of alcohol and the responsibility of all concerned. I hope it will lift the licensed trade out of the limbo in which it has existed for some years. The trade has been through a period of instability, insecurity and unrest. It has been governed by legislation with which it was almost impossible to comply on the part of the supplier and impossible to implement from a legal point of view. The family publican has had to endure a system where there was one law for one section and in other cases almost no law at all.

I agree that premises should be closed on Good Friday, but I have witnessed the sale of alcohol on that day from supermarkets controlled by multi-nationals. We should amend the law and bring in proper controls. The Minister has done his utmost in drawing up this Bill and I believe he will be well disposed to suggestions and amendments. The end result will be legislation worthy of this House, designed to deal with complex problems.

I am interested in this Bill for a number of reasons. I was vice-chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Small Businesses which published a comprehensive report in April 1985 containing a number of recommendations of interest to the licensed trade. We carried out an in-depth study of tourism-related businesses under the chairmanship of Deputy Ivan Yates. The committee is now defunct but must be complimented on its tremendous work. Some of our recommendations have already been implemented and others will soon be put into force. I am also a member of the licensed trade and the provisions of this Bill are relevant to my business. Thirdly, I am a family man and a public representative with a deep concern to control the abuse of alcohol, particularly by the young.

I now turn to the recommendations contained in the report and I want to analyse the manner in which the Bill responds to them. There were seven recommendations dealing with the licensed trade, six of which are directly relevant to this Bill. The first recommendation is the only one outside the scope of the Bill but of very great interest to the licensed trade. I feel justified in referring to it and commenting briefly. We asked the Government of the day to reduce the excise duty on beer, having regard to the recent reduction in the excise duty on spirits and beer price differential between the Republic and Northern Ireland. That recommendation was complied with. No trade has been hammered more by taxation in recent years than the licensed trade. I am grateful that this Government have at least not put any further taxation on our hard-pressed business. However, I would urge that our rates of excise duty and VAT on beer be brought into approximate harmony with those in Northern Ireland.

The second recommendation was as follows:

closing hours should be fixed on a seven day basis at 11.30 p.m. all the year round with 30 minutes drinking up time and 1.00 a.m. on New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day. The 2.30-3.30 p.m. Holy Hour in Dublin and Cork should be abolished.

I have no quibble with what the Minister has recommended in the Bill because I believe 11 o'clock with half an hour drinking up time is late enough in the winter months. The Minister might give further consideration to a couple of special exemptions. In Scotland they do not close at all on New Year's Eve. Very responsible people from all sides of the House who were members of that committee suggested that leaving the pubs open all the time would lead to a levelling out. Such a suggestion would be of grave concern to me.

It would be a disaster.

Yes, it would. The recommendations in the committee's report are more or less in line with the Minister's proposals. I have no strong feelings with regard to St. Patrick's Day and New Year's Eve but I am very glad that in other respects the Bill comes very close to the thinking of the committee.

Section 25 in Part III maintains the existing week-day closing hours of 11.30 p.m. in summer and 11 p.m. in winter, but section 27 extends drinking up time from ten minutes to 30 minutes, as recommended by the committee. I am glad that the "holy hour" has been abolished since the logic of its existence always defeated me. The extension of closing time on Sundays to 11 p.m. is again in line with the thinking of the committee.

The essential view of the committee was that licensed premises should be vacated by midnight. It is my belief that alcohol should not be served on any premises other than a hotel after midnight. During the summer months closing time on weekdays will be 11.30 p.m. On a Sunday night it was very difficult to try to call time at 10 o'clock, especially in country areas where farmers might have come in for a drink about 9.30 p.m. having finished the milking. The day should be long gone when a publican was called before a district justice by a garda who said he did not hear the publican calling time outside the door. One does not have to call time to people in the street. Every drinker knows what closing time is and there should be a responsibility on the customer to vacate the premises.

Our third recommendation deals with registered clubs and states:

Licensing laws should be standardised for all lounge/bar outlets e.g. restrictions on garda supervision on clubs should be abolished. Extensions to pubs should be available in line with those to clubs.

The Minister has gone a considerable distance in meeting this recommendation. Section 40 of the Bill makes it clear that registered clubs must forbid the sale of intoxicating liquor to persons under the age of 18 years and section 41 puts registered clubs on the same footing as licensed premises in relation to inspections by the Garda Síochána. This is very welcome. Section 42 places registered clubs and licensed premises on the same footing so far as the right to the objection of renewal of a certificate or a licence is concerned. All in all these provisions will leave many members of the licensed trade with the feeling that they are now being dealt with more fairly under the law.

Our fourth recommendation states:

Responsibility for vacating a licensed premises should rest with the customer. On the spot fines should be introduced. Existing penalties for customers found drinking after hours should be increased from £5 to £25.

That recommendation was made in 1985 and the Minister has raised the limit to £50. Section 44 of the Bill provides for a minimum fine of £25 and a maximum fine of £80 for customers who are found drinking after hours. However, on-the-spot fines are not being introduced and there is no change in responsibility for vacating a licensed premises. This Bill has my support but I, like other members of the trade, wish that the onus for vacating a licensed premises would rest with the customer. If there is not an equally shared onus of responsibility by all sections — parents, guardians, members of the licensed trade, who are willing to do their bit, and customers — I believe we will still be operating under legislation which is impossible to comply with or implement. It has already been stated here that the general feeling, especially among young people, is that they should not be pushed out of a licensed premises at 10 p.m. when they can pay £5 to get into a disco and drink in comfort, even though they pay substantially more to drink there. I am not saying that this is total irresponsibility on the part of young people. They do not seem to understand the pressures under which publicans have operated for a number of years. I hope this legislation will relieve some of the pressures that have been wrongfully imposed on publicans for a long number of years. I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to the Oireachtas joint committee's recommendation of on-the-spot fines. It would certainly boost the Exchequer.

We could issue parking tickets for public houses.

Yes, gardaí are being taken from stations to attend court proceedings when they could be better employed in imposing on-the-spot fines. If on-the-spot fines were imposed on a number of Sunday nights the legislation would be complied with and it would be very easy to implement.

One would want to have more of a compliance rate than is the case with parking tickets.

Look at all the summonses that are thrown out.

If a licensee complies with the regulations, ceases selling liquor at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night, calls time, informs his customers that it is closing time and urges them to drink up but they refuse to leave the premises, this poses a legal problem; should that licensee be summonsed to attend court if people are found on the premises at 11.35 p.m. on a Sunday night——

Of course he should.

What legal right have I or any other publican to forcibly eject them from our premises? What legal right has a publican to take a glass out of a customer's hand? We must remember that even though the customer only has the loan of the glass, he has purchased the drink. That is where the legislation could fall down. It could be argued that the publican has the right to seek the comforts of the law, to go to court and to defend his case. However, people do not like going to court and we should look at that aspect of it. I say in all sincerity to the Minister that publicans and people in the legitimate licensed trade are willing to play their part so far as they can and that they welcome this legislation.

The increase in drinking-up time from ten minutes to 30 minutes has to be welcomed. It will certainly help to alleviate the problems I have mentioned. The increased fine on customers will also be a help. However, at the end of the day no publican can force a customer to leave his premises and, therefore, there is a need to increase the onus of responsibility on the customer in this regard.

If he is a troublesome customer one has the right to refuse him drink.

They only get troublesome when one tries to put them out.

I would refuse them drink. One has a responsibility to refuse them.

I agree with the Minister in that respect.

I am afraid, Deputy, this snug conversation between you and the Minister might not be all——

I apologise.

I regard the fifth recommendation of the Oireachtas joint committee report to be important because it states:

Forfeiture of a licence should be a discretionary sanction of the courts and not a mandatory one. Endorsement should be removed after two years if there are no intervening convictions.

Thankfully that issue has been dealt with. Recommendation No. (vi) states:

Restrictions on credit sales should be altered to cater for organised groups, receptions and resident guests.

This is not the most important recommendation of the Oireachtas joint committee and it is not addressed in this Bill. However, it is a petty restriction which should be removed. No member of the licensed trade or any other trade is going to allow credit unless he is very sure of the soundness of the customer. In other words, if I sell alcohol on credit this is not legally binding. We recommend that this be changed.

Our seventh recommendation states:

Children, accompanied and fully supervised by parents should be allowed on licensed premises until 6.00 p.m.

Section 34 of the Bill provides that a person under the age of 15 years may be present on a licensed premises during normal hours if accompanied by a parent or a guardian. Similarly, section 36 provides that a person under 18 years of age may be present on a licensed premises only if accompanied by a parent or guardian. At present, a person over 15 years of age may enter a licensed premises unaccompanied. These are sensible measures. Children on a licensed premises who are accompanied by their parents are not a source of social problems except when they scatter Tayto around the floor or do something like that. The real problem are the young teenagers who have cash in their pockets and who have uncontrolled access to alcohol, usually not from licensed premises. I congratulate the Minister for going so far in responding to the recommendations of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Small Businesses.

In recent years we have all been concerned at the rise in under age drinking. It seems that many teenagers are generously funded with pocket money by parents who in many cases should be more interested in the way the money is spent. As a parent I worry about the growth in under age drinking. As a member of the licensed trade, I run my business in a responsible manner and would never allow my premises to be used in this way. I believe that is the attitude of most of my colleagues in the trade, yet it is the licensed trade which is always the football when the search for a scapegoat is on. We read reports in the newspapers every day about premises, and they exist, who open early, close late and sell alcohol indiscriminately. I can assure the Members of this House that these are the premises which carry "For Sale" signs every two or three years.

To exist in the trade one must keep up a certain standard. The growth of off licences and supermarkets has transformed the availability of alcohol, as has the growth of hotel discos. There are no restrictions on children and teenagers entering supermarkets. Wine, cider and beer are available on a self-service basis just like groceries, even on Good Friday. Many supermarkets are highly responsible in this matter of selling drink to minors. However, alcohol available in this way is more accessible than alcohol which must be sold over the counter in a licensed premises. Part of the reason for the growth of teenage drinking is that teenagers have much more freedom, particularly financial freedom. However, the uncontrolled growth of alcohol outlets in the retail trade is a major factor in this whole issue. When alcohol was sold mainly through the family pub we did not have the problems we have today.

Part IV of this Bill is devoted entirely to persons under 18 years of age. Section 31 provides that it will be an offence for a licence holder to sell intoxicating liquor to a person under 18 years of age for consumption on or off the premises or in any place other than a private residence. I welcome this tightening up of the 1924 Act. I can assure this House that it is my belief that we are passing into law what most publicans already practice.

Section 32 makes it an offence for any person to purchase alcohol for consumption by a person under 18 years of age except in a private residence. I welcome this provision as it makes the purchaser legally responsible and I hope that the Minister will ensure that this measure is widely publicised.

I also welcome section 33 which makes it an offence for a minor to purchase alcohol, and section 36 which makes it an offence for a person under 18 years of age to enter a licensed premises unless accompanied by a parent or a guardian. I wonder if there might not be a point in making parents or guardians responsible for the actions of the children in their care? However, let me come back to what I said earlier. Enforcement of this proposed legislation will depend on effective control of the sale of alcohol to young people, and that means a certain concentration on retail outlets. There is a world of difference between purchasing alcohol over the counter from a publican who knows the trade and purchasing it in a supermarket where the person at the check-out has to cope with queues of shoppers with wire baskets and trolleys containing an enormous variety of domestic goods. It is entirely understandable that a person in such a position would make no particular distinction between a packet of soap powder and a six pack and would not pay any particular attention to the age of customers. This is not a criticism of supermarket staff. They are under considerable pressure during their working day. But it is an indication of the problem we face in this whole area.

Section 37 of this Bill which empowers the Garda to seize bottles or containers suspected of containing intoxicating liquor from persons under the age of 18 years of age has all my support. This Bill represents a major assault on the problem of under-age drinking. The measures proposed to combat this problem have my full support and that of the licensed trade.

The granting of special restaurant licences is a major aspect of this Bill. Many people in the licensed trade argue that there are thousands of inpocket licences available and restaurants could obtain full licences without too much difficulty and on the same basis that ordinary publicans have to acquire licences. It is a view with which I have the utmost sympathy. However this particular measure has been signposted for some years now. The representative associations for the licensed trade who are fearful for the livelihoods of their members at a time of declining sales have asked that in the instance of restaurants being licensed the following conditions should be met:

(i) Licences should be granted only under the most stringent and enforceable conditions.

(ii) They should not be granted to fast food outlets or similar establishments.

(iii) There should be no bar or waiting area in licensed restaurants.

The definition of a restaurant is set out in section 6 of the Bill as follows:

"restaurant" means any premises which are structurally adapted and used for the purpose of supplying substantial meals to the public at midday or in the evening, or at midday and in the evening, and in which any other business carried on is ancillary and subsidiary to the provision of such meals.

That definition is reasonable but I wonder if the insertion of the phrase "for consumption thereon" after "to the public" would make the definition that bit more tight?

I welcome the provision that when making an application to the Circuit Court for a licence a restauranteur must produce a Bord Fáilte certificate in relation to the application. The provisions set out in section 8 as to the requirement for a Bord Fáilte certificate are comprehensive and what one would reasonably expect in a properly run restaurant establishment and would certainly exclude a fast food operation. I welcome the provision for inspection of licensed restaurants by Bord Fáilte as set out in section 11 of the Bill. We are in an era of cuts and tight management of State resources, but I would welcome an assurance from the Minister here this evening that resources will be allocated for regular inspection of licensed restaurants. If a restaurant is found to contravene the conditions under which it received a licence, Bord Fáilte should be ruthless with regard to the revocation of the certificate. If the provisions of section 13 are applied rigidly in the first year of the new restaurant licence system, there will be far fewer problems later on. Standards in restaurants will be very positively influenced.

I find the midday hours from 12.30 p.m. to 3 p.m. as provided in section 14 to be reasonable, but I wonder would it not be better to substitute 11.30 p.m. for 12.30 a.m. in sections 14 and 6. That is something that Deputy Colley referred to.

I was not in agreement with the Deputy.

The effect here would be to have closer conformity with pub closing times and thus ease somewhat the apprehension in the existing licensed trade.

The penalty not exceeding £500 on summary conviction as provided in section 15 is stiff, but I feel it would be better if the fines could be brought into conformity with those applicable to pubs in section 25 of the Bill — up to £400 for a first offence and up to £800 for a subsequent offence. Indeed, on reflection, I wonder if the fines set out for pubs are not a little on the high side, as many rural publicans simply could not afford fines on the scale outlined. In fact, it would mean the end of their business.

The logic behind section 19 which prohibits the granting of a separate court certificate prior to construction is very clear. If inspection is the key to the implementation of this system the restaurant should already be in existence. Members of the licensed trade will be very happy with the provisions of section 21 that prohibit the granting of occasional licences to holders of special restaurant licences.

Section 22 preventing the granting of special exemptions from the permitted hours is also welcomed. Like any other member of the licensed trade I have reservations about these new licences at a time when there are so many inpocket licences available. However, I must compliment the Minister on the balance contained in the Bill with regard to this issue. He has certainly done as much as is legislatively possible to prevent abuse arising from the issue of special restaurant licences.

There is one area with which I should like to deal briefly, that of discos. Section 29 provides that in future special exemptions may not be granted to licensed hotels and licensed restaurants, those with full on-licences, in respect of any time after 1 a.m. on Sunday morning. This welcome provision should go some way towards dealing with Monday morning absenteeism, which is a genuine problem in many of our workplaces. This Bill does not deal with the whole area of late drinking in hotel discos, nor was it intended to. However, no attack on teenage drinking can be fully effective until this matter is given the attention it deserves. We hope that the next reform of the licensing laws, it is hoped within the next few months, will deal with this very difficult issue. It is not easy to deal with a Bill in such a complex area as the licensing laws, but the Minister has done this after only one year in office. He certainly deserves the praise of all concerned with the welfare of our young people and the praise of all of us for the sense of fairness with which he has approached this problem. As I said earlier, both Deputy Barrett and Deputy Colley made some interesting points and I hope the Minister will give them due consideration at a later stage of the Bill.

As well as dealing with restaurants, public houses and discos, we should have some regard for the few remaining ballrooms left in this country. I think that these number only around 21 or 22. The owners of such ballrooms have made representations, I am sure, to every Member of this House asking for occasional licences with regard to weekend dancing. As somebody who is very interested in music and who has played light music, I consider these are the places where live music and entertainment can be found. They have kept an art alive in the form of dancing, Irish and ballroom. It is bad for tourism that almost all our ballrooms are locked up, including one in my home town. They were a legend in their time.

If he can help the owners of these ballrooms, the Minister should give this favourable consideration.

The Bill is a very good one and is long overdue. I hope it receives a safe and quick passage through this House.

I am obliged to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to contribute on this very important legislation. It is said that alcohol per se is not evil but its abuse is clearly a problem with which we must contend. In a country where an estimated £3.5 million per day is spent on alcohol, obviously the extent of the consumption of alcohol within our community is something that must concern us all. The function of legislation in this area is to challenge and deal with the abuse that stalks so many in our community, but in doing so to seek to strike a balance between the individual need for consumption and the need to curtail unlimited sale and abuse of alcohol publicly. The Bill, in general, has struck this balance correctly. The Workers' Party will give it broad support in its thrust, but there is a number of areas where this balance perhaps has tipped unfairly one way or other and we shall be proposing amendments to a number of items on Committee Stage. It is hoped that the Minister, in the spirit of his speech inviting contributions, views and ideas both inside and outside the House, will be able to take on board some of the constructive suggestions from the Opposition with a view to making this better legislation.

I have already commented, in my contribution last week on Private Members' time, on the unfortunate collision which took place between Government legislation and that proposed by Deputy Barrett of Fine Gael. There should be a better way of ordering the business of the House. However, if that collision was the means whereby this legislaiton has come more quickly on to the floor of the Dáil for discussion, then it is a welcome duplication. If, on the other hand, it is simply another feature of the seemingly time honoured or time abused practice of the House that nothing can emanate from the Opposition benches and all innovative legislation must come from Government, it is an unfortunate repetition of what I believe to be a needless and very narrow approach to the working of the House. Time has been wasted in that context, time which is apparently so valuable that tomorrow very urgent and important legislation on the question of powers of Customs and Excise officers is being so severely truncated.

The main thrust of Deputy Barrett's Bill, taken up verbatim by the Minister in his Bill, is in a section dealing with under-age drinking. Because of that, I propose to address my initial remarks to that section and in some way I am out of touch with the Minister's approach and the draft of his Bill. It is vital that we confront what is now a major problem of under-age drinking and abuse of alcohol, in urban areas in particular. The Minister and I and anybody else who has drifted into the use of the name "cider party" exclusively describing these events stand corrected in a circular from the Cider Council of Ireland. They have made a fair point which I shall come back to briefly later on. These drinking parties in public areas are a source of major community turmoil. They are a source of major serious crime such as assault, malicious damage and rape. On occasions I have had the dubious pleasure of defending young people charged with such serious crimes as murder which originated from mindless arguments, senseless bravado fuelled by the abuse and over-consumption of alcohol at these assemblies. We must urgently, as an interim measure, bring in legislation to confront the problem in a practical way.

One point must be made, that is, that so long as we condemn our young people to living in conditions of poverty by giving them no serious prospects of employment and equipping them with an education that is irrelevant and oftentimes utterly inadequate to help them to cope with finding employment in our community, we shall always have to live with and expect to find these gatherings of aimless and directionless young people in our communities. We have now a very new and different problem among young people growing up, a problem that never existed in any previous generation in this State. A whole generation is growing up without affinity with the community. They are coming out of the schools with no prospect of ever having long-term employment. In previous generations there was emigration, or the unskilled labour pool. Now one cannot even approach those options without some form of advanced formal education of leaving certificate standard or higher. It is from this pool of totally uncommitted and unassociated youth that we have these drinking parties which are a major problem and they cannot simply be dealt with by legislation although one cannot deny the need to improve our existing laws.

People other than the under-age abusers are involved in this phenomenon of under-age alcohol abuse. There are the preying proprietors of our off licences, there are the supermarkets who sell alcohol from the open shelf to all and sundry and there are the pub owners. In a survey carried out by the ESRI in 1986 it was established that the extent of alcohol consumption among under 18's is as extensive as it is among the adult population. Three out of four young children are alcohol consumers. That in itself is a startling fact and it must be addressed by legislation in conjunction with acting on other factors.

If we want to address alcohol abuse among people we must work to draw down the mystique we have built around alcohol and its consumption over the years, a mystique that the alcohol industry seeks to perpetuate through its advertising campaigns, which give the impression that it is the "in" thing to be seen to drink. It cannot be denied that perhaps the best place to help young people appreciate the positive features of alcohol is in the family environment. We should ask parents to be more flexible and to help to educate their children on the positive aspects of alcohol consumption as opposed to continuing the notion that they cannot have it thereby making it more exciting for young people to try to get what is forbidden.

There are aspects of the Bill that are too restrictive. It is unnecessarily restrictive in sections 31 and 32 to prohibit a young worker of 17 years from drinking a glass of wine with a meal at, say, a family wedding reception. That is something that should be looked at in regulating the consumption of alcohol by people under the age of 18 years. The prohibition on young people under the age of 18 years from working as lounge people is somewhat restrictive. Many school going children on their transition year from secondary to third level or who must repeat the leaving certificate which will cost up to £200, often avail of and welcome the opportunity to take seasonal work in the lounges of licensed premises. To cut out that opportunity for people under 18 years of age is a bit heavy handed.

An important area which does not come within the ambit of this Bill but which must be mentioned to the Minister in the hope that he will bring it back to his Cabinet, is the question of the unfair imposition of a similar tax on non-alcoholic wines and beers. The mystique surrounding the consumption of alcohol makes it very difficult for young people to say "no" in company and to be seen the odd person out. One obvious way to help them is to have available cheap non-alcoholic beverages such as non-alcoholic wines and beers. At the moment, a bottle of many, if not all of these, beverages costs more than the price of a half pint of beer. This does not help to deal with the problem in a positive way. I would like the Minister to consider my point and pass it on to the relevant sections so that we might be able to get amending legislation to deal with this problem.

The pub is often the centre of the community, the centre of social activity and, regrettably, too often the only centre of social activity in many communities. If we wish to keep young people out of these places, we must provide alternative recreational and sporting facilities so as to draw them away from the pub as the centre.

Our pubs are part of the tradition of our communities and are very important features of our landscape. In the context of restaurant licences, it is important that pubs receive the protection of legislation. I was interested to hear Deputy Lynch of the trade say that he considered the legislation to be fair. Many of the submissions I received from the Vintners Association suggest that it is unfair vis-àvis the restaurant licence. I am worried that many of our community and local town pubs would be threatened economically by competition from the restaurant trade. We have a duty to protect many of these important features of our tradition and geography.

In the area of under-age drinking I would repeat that the imposition of monetary fines alone as penalties is not enough. The endorsement on licences is there but this is so easily circumvented by skilful lawyers or skilful manoeuvring of the assignment of the licence to nominated parties. The imposition of these endorsements is in the main, discretionary and often a well earned endorsement is avoided simply because of the eventual consequences of a suspension of licence should a third active endorsement be imposed. One cannot blame district justices taking that discretionary circumvention of the legisation when the consequence of it would mean the loss of a livelihood.

In the context of the current penalties, fines and endorsements not being adequate, what I am arguing for is the alternative of imprisonment. I believe that the peddling of alcohol to those who are under age is an offence which merits imprisonment per se, particularly where there is persistent repetition of this practice. One of the best ways of bringing licence holders who are so uncaring of the community as to peddle and sell alcohol to under-age drinkers to appreciate their important role in the community and the serious damage which they can cause is to have them do community work and the only way this can be imposed under the present legislation is as an alternative to imprisonment. District Courts and Circuit Courts who deal with offenders in this area should have available to them as an alternative the imposition of community service and for that reason I advocate the availability of imprisonment as a penalty.

In dealing with the problem of under-age drinking in open places it is essential that the Garda Síochána be given the power of arrest. This is not provided for under the existing legislation or in the Bill as proposed. One can envisage the problems a garda would be presented with if he were to approach a crowd of young people drinking in a public place. He can confiscate their alcohol and take their names in certain circumstances if they will give them to him but what often happens when the Garda arrive is that the crowd scatters in all directions. What is important for the Garda Síochána then is to identify the ring leaders, the people who set the scene, who manage to get the alcohol from off licences and who, if it is confiscated, will go back down to Phibsboro or Fairview or wherever these off-licences exist to buy another stash. I believe it is important for the Garda Síochána to have the power to arrest these people. It would be no harm to have them cool off and sober up in a cell for a few hours and face the court subsequently.

It would be of great assistance to bus drivers in the city if persons who are clearly under age and carrying alcohol on buses could be confronted and removed in custody by the Garda Síochána, if necessary. It should not be left to bus drivers and bus conductors who on a daily basis are being given more and more policing powers on buses. Bus drivers have now got to collect fares and police good conduct on buses. It is a bit much to ask them to deal with the problem of under-age drinkers carrying or consuming drink on buses. Therefore, I believe the Garda Síochána should have the power to remove from buses in custody persons who are not prepared to behave or who are in breach of this area of the law.

The deletion of the word "knowingly" is to be welcomed. The issuing of identity cards as a means of assisting licensees and publicans was raised recently in a debate during Private Members' time. We believe that a compulsory identity card system would be too oppressive and is not warranted in the context of this legislation and problem. At no stage in the course of that debate did I suggest otherwise, although Deputy Barrett may wrongly have taken me as having suggested that. At that time the Minister asked me what my views were on the matter and I indicated that we had not considered it but in looking at the matter in the context of this legislation we believe such a system could only be introduced on a voluntary basis, area to area, and that its probable effect would be that it would provide a means of circumventing the legislation rather than making it more effective.

It would be very easy for an older brother on the basis of likeness to pass it to a younger brother, for a friend to pass it to a friend and for a publican to suggest that on a busy night he had asked for seen quickly produced an identity card which assured him that the person was over 18 but that on a closer subsequent examination he realised that the card did not belong to the person producing it. In those circumstances that would I believe provide an adequate defence or means of defence for a publican to say that on a flash of the card he believed the person had been over the age limit. In any event, we believe that the onus to conduct the premises according to law must always rest on the shoulders of the licensee. If there is any doubt about the age of the person seeking to purchase alcohol, that person should be refused. For too long publicans have had the benefit of legislation which allowed them when in doubt to serve and then to argue later on the question whether or not they knew. We say that the onus should rest on them and that if they are in doubt they should refuse and that if they do serve they do so at their peril.

During the debate on Private Members' time, as on this Bill, the issue of young people under the age of 18 being allowed on premises in the company of a parent or guardian was raised. As on that occasion, I suggest that this is not a desirable development. It has received the specific disapproval of the licensed trade, particularly in the Dublin area, and it is one which I would be very slow to support. However, I believe there are other ways and means of dealing with this issue in a more sensible way. The purpose of this legislation is to prevent the introduction of young people to the environment of the pub at too young an age. As I have stated before, one possible compromise is the designation within a licensed premises of an area for young people who would be accompanied by their parents. In other words, the person who is in the pub for the purpose of consuming alcohol and who has brought along with him of necessity a young person would be compelled to remain in an area away from the general run of the bar. Of course the point has to be made that parents should, as much as possible, avoid bringing young people into licensed premises. I note the Minister's point about rural areas where other facilities do not exist but on balance it is not a desirable development and I would have grave reservations about supporting that provision of the Bill.

The curious section of the Bill relating to the proof of age in prosecutions, section 39 (2), suggests that the proof of the person seeming to be under age shall rest not just on the shoulders of the garda at the time of the initiation of the prosecution but also, as stated in the Bill, "and such person appears to the Court to have been a child at the date of the commission of the offence". That subsection goes on to raise the presumption, shall be presumed to be under the age until otherwise proved. Those words should be deleted for reasons that, I hope, are obvious. The onus should rest upon the garda or prosecuting person at the time the offence is committed. We know that, particularly on summons, it can take up to a year in many instances for prosecutions to be brought. Even if there is an elapse of only a short period of time people can do many things so as to look older or younger and I am sure that is not unfamiliar to the Deputies in the House. It is a curious wording that will work to frustrate the intentions of the Bill unless properly amended.

The final point I wish to make in this area is in response to the submission made by the Cider Industry Council which recently announced its establishment under the auspices of the Confederation of Irish Industry. In the context of our debates — I strike my own breast on this — we have been somewhat unfair to cider as a beverage. Cidermaking is an important indigenous industry, although I am curious to see some of the names that represent the members of the council — certainly not names particular to our own jurisdiction — for example, West End Wine Company and Taunton Cider Company. Nonetheless, we know that cider is an important beverage and many jobs depend on its manufacture. The cider industry has a big job to do in correcting its own image. It is a very recent phenomenon that it is now being promoted as an adult or table drink. Perhaps we could help in its promotion as a reasonable beverage by being careful not simply to single it out as the only source of under-age drinking.

The licensing of restaurants for the general consumption of alcohol is a very good development and must be welcomed by all. It brings our legislation up to modern day conditions and that is a good thing. However, I would like the Minister to expand a little more on the definition of a restaurant of, to quote his words, "good standard". He said that licences will be available only to those restaurants of good standard. I am a little concerned in the drift of what the Minister has said and in some of the comments on the Bill that there is an element of snobbishness creeping in. A good and substantial meal to the lovers of haute cuisine— I am not one of them — would be very much frowned upon by the man or woman who likes simple foods such as chicken and chips. The Minister did not elaborate on his idea as to what is a restaurant of good standard. Is it a restaurant that is well appointed, well decorated or provides a particular standard of food? That needs to be clarified. I note that there are provisions for the issuing of standards regulations at a later stage by the Minister for Tourism and Transport but before we are fully satisfied with the legislation we are now dealing with, we are entitled to hear what those regulations will deal with.

I am also concerned by the indication of the Minister that the £5 worth meal in the area of special exemption provisions will also apply to a restaurant meal where a full licence for alcohol and beer will be available. There is a different case to be made for a special exemption function which is usually associated with a dance and where the consumption of alcohol is often secondary to the event of the night or the special occasion. We have known for a long time the meal plays a very small role and that is because the value was put at £2. You can serve little for that amount but you would have to justify to a court later that it constitutes a substantial meal within the monetary definition of the term. When dealing with restaurants, the meal is the primary reason for being on the premises. We should differentiate between the value of the meal in the context of the special exemption and the value of the meal in the context of the restaurant. It now seems that by putting down £5 on the table you will have your choice of the alcohol in the restaurant.

That is a very small premium to pay. However, I am extremely concerned in the context of this legislation that it will seriously undermine the local pub, the town licensed premises. I am not convinced by the arguments of the publicans' trade at present that they are under serious threat and I do not fully accept the arguments they advance on the numbers game about the proliferation of licensed premises, particularly in urban areas. I am concerned because it is inevitable that their trade will be affected in some regards by the introduction of the restaurant licence. It would be foolish to suggest otherwise. At the same time we have a duty to keep a close eye to ensure that the traditional pub is not obliterated by reason of the proliferation of the restaurant licence.

In this regard I ask, is the premium of £3,000 for such a licence a fair figure? It certainly does not seem to be half enough but it is a figure that the Minister has picked. I ask the Minister, subject to debate later and amendment to that area of legislation by those of us who believe the figure should be higher, to at least give an undertaking or an indication that he will keep that figure under very active review and in the event that there appears to be a rush or proliferation of the creation of restaurant licences as a result of the passing of this legislation, to take appropriate and pre-emptive action to dissuade the proliferation of these kinds of licences.

In the context of this Bill, I am anxious to know why the Circuit Court is the court of application for restaurant licences. I am always concerned with legislation which seeks to play down the primary importance of our District Courts. These are the courts that are more widely distributed, more in touch with what goes on in the community and, if properly staffed and furnished, are the best equipped to deal with legislation of this sort and we should be working to build them up. However, this is another example of where we are saying these licences should be applied for in the Circuit Court, with the next stage of appeal to the High Court with the consequent cost and delays that attach in the higher courts. We should use the District Courts and have recourse to the Circuit Court if there is an appeal.

What was the Minister's response to the submission from the Irish ballroom industry and the brief that lobby group submitted to him? Will he tell us why there is nothing in the Bill to address their problem? Does he accept that a lot could be done for this traditional form of entertainment by granting the concession of the two special exemption licences per week for which they are looking? This would, and must, be welcomed if it would help an obviously ailing area of leisure, and if the exemptions were to be confined to the weekends, say, Friday, Saturday or Sunday night going into 1 a.m. Monday as with special exemptions for pubs.

The abolition of the "holy hour" is welcome. The increase in the licensing hours, where appropriate is welcome but must not involve any compulsion on those working in the trade to work longer hours. At this time their conditions are appalling, and we would support them, through their unions, in resisting any effort to impose on them the duty to work longer and more unsocial hours. This matter must be negotiated and I hope the Minister in promoting this legislation will use his good offices to promote a fair resolution of any disputes that will inevitably arise between the staff and their employers.

I am worried about homeward-bound late night transport, particularly in urban areas. Have the Government any proposals to negotiate or discuss with CIE making available late night homeward transport in view of the extension of drinking hours?

I am also concerned about the half-hour drinking up time and I ask that it be seriously policed because what will inevitably happen is that people will double or treble their last purchase and be sitting happily not drinking up but consuming more alcohol and availing of the longer time to clear the premises. There must be strict enforcement of this legislation and the licence holders and publicans must be held responsible if we find they are dispensing double and treble rounds as the last round, realising there is longer time to clear the premises and more money to be made.

I am happy the Minister has not conceded to the tourist/non-tourist designation of areas with regard to licensing hours. I believe uniformity is useful and workable. It would be unbelievable to have people, having consumed a lot of alcohol, trying to get from one area to another late at night, to avail of longer drinking hours in an adjoining area. There is no district in this country remote from a tourist location. Some people would argue that the entire country is a tourist area.

Those are some of the general points I wanted to raise and in view of the time I do not propose to delay the House. I ask the Minister and the Government to ensure that this legislation moves expeditiously through the House. This Bill covers a very important area of law dealing with under-age drinking. This could have been passed in this House last week if we had accepted Deputy Barrett's Bill. Now, under-age drinking has been incorporated into wider legislation and I hope it will not be delayed unduly while we debate other aspects of the Bill. I hope the Minister will ensure that the Committee Stage will be taken without delay and that this legislation will be dealt with by both Houses as early as possible. I have some memory of a commitment being made by the Minister that he would have this legislation steered through both Houses by the height of the tourist season — I think July was mentioned — but he did not refer to that today.

It would be impossible to do so.

I wonder if that is the deadline? However, we will assist the Minister in getting this legislation on the Statute Book by such a deadline particularly because of the abuse of alcohol by those who are under age. We welcome this legislation and will work positively to see it improved and on the Statute Book without delay.

Deputy Jacob will appreciate that we will be moving to Private Members' Business at 7 p.m.

I commend the Minister's initiative in introducing this legislation, long overdue as it is. This exercise will have the effect of bringing the liquor licensing laws up-to-date and consistent with the requirement of Irish life in 1988. I was delighted to hear the Minister's invitation to Deputies to debate and to tease out thoroughly this issue so that the legislation in its ultimate format will represent real improvements in these areas, will result in bringing equality to the trade in general and will serve the best interests of the general public.

I believe the Minister, in preparing this legislation, has sincerely striven to achieve this equality throughout the trade. The intoxicating drink business is very diverse with retail outlets ranging from pubs to hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, off-licences, discotheques, clubs and so on. There are 10,477 fully licensed premises operating in Ireland. Of these 834 are situated in the Dublin area and 9,643 throughout the remainder of the country. There are 817 hotels with fully licensed restaurants and there are 300 fully licensed restaurants. There are 557 registered clubs which supply alcoholic drinks. These figures would appear to emphasise the fact that this country is more than adequately provided for in terms of available drink outlets and there does not appear to be a need for providing further outlets.

However, realising that we are in the midst of a major operation to attract more tourists to our country, particularly from continental Europe, we must provide appropriate services for visitors. It is in that context that I must accept the Minister's proposal to allow certain restaurants to have liquor licences so that they can provide alcoholic drink to those who are having a meal on the premises. That is the custom that prevails elsewhere in Europe. It appears ludicrous to prevent the making available of Irish beers and spirits — in fact, a full range of drink — to those people. However, all conceivable measures must be taken to ensure that there is no abuse of the new system. Frankly, I have serious reservations as to whether this abuse can be prevented in practice.

The principle of providing bona fide restaurants with the facility to serve drink with a meal is one I can agree with readily but, however, I do not want to see that exercise develop to such an extent where in issuing a special restaurant licence we are, in effect, creating another pub.

Debate adjourned.