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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 7 Apr 1927

Vol. 8 No. 17


Question proposed: "That the Bill be read a second time."

It may be convenient for the purposes of the discussion on the Bill if I give a very brief outline of its contents. The Bill is divided into six parts—five parts really, because Part 1 merely deals with definition. Part 2 bears on the question of the hours of sale in licensed houses. Part 3 refers to the question of endorsement, and Part 4 embodies a scheme for the reduction in the number of licences in the country. Parts 5 and 6 are of lesser importance. Inasmuch as the main purpose of the Bill is contained in Part 4, dealing with the reduction of licences, I might perhaps be permitted to take that out of its order and to give the scheme in outline to Senators. There are about 12,300 licensed houses in the State. The report of the Intoxicating Liquor Commission sets out in its schedule the detailed figures. The Commission which inquired into this matter was of opinion that that number of 12,000 odd premises permits of a very considerable reduction. I would not care to attempt anything in the nature of a precise forecast as to the reduction that could take place.

I am roughly of opinion that the public interest or the reasonable requirements of the public would not suffer on a reduction of that number by at least one-third. That would mean the extinction of four thousand licences. The general principle of the scheme is that the surviving licensees for a period of twenty years are expected to recoup the State for the money paid out in compensation for extinction. The area that is taken as the unit is the area that is, in fact, the area for licensing purposes at the moment, the area served for summary jurisdiction purposes by a particular District Court, not by a particular District Justice but by a particular court of a District Justice. There are 340 such areas in the State, and there will, therefore, be for the purposes of this scheme 340 units. There will be credited to each such unit in my department a compensation fund, and when licences are extinguished, compensation will be paid out of that fund and the levy process will commence on the surviving licensed holders of that area.

The process of extinction is that in the first instance a particular licence is challenged as redundant by the district officer before the District Justice. If the District Justice is satisfied that there is a prima facie case he refers the matter to the Circuit Judge. The Circuit Judge tries two issues really: (a) is there in fact redundancy in that particular licensing area, and (b) assuming that there is, is this the most appropriate licence to extinguish? If he finds affirmatively on these two issues he proceeds, with the assistance of a competent valuer appointed under the Act to assess compensation, and when he has arrived at his decision in the matter of compensation, that decision is communicated to my department and the payment is made forthwith. Over a period of twenty years altogether. with the licence duty, the State recoups itself from the surviving licence holders of that area. There was much discussion in the Dáil as to what would be the proper area to take as the unit— whether it should not be the entire State or a county or some area different from that which is embodied in the provisions of the Bill. If I had received from the organisation primarily concerned, the organisation of the licensed trade, a representation in favour of some other area, I would have given very serious consideration to such a representation, but in the absence of enlightment from that quarter I prefer the provisions in the Bill to anything else that has been suggested to me in the Dáil, because it keeps as closely as it is humanly possible to keep to the principle that the area which is to benefit should be the area of charge.

If I were to take even the county as the area there might be many extinctions at one end of the county and none at the other end, forty, fifty, or perhaps sixty miles away, and the people in that part of the county in which no extinctions were taking place might well ask for what they were paying or what benefit accrued to them by the extinction of licences forty or fifty miles away. The suggestion that the State might be taken as the unit and the compensation money collected from all the licensed holders of the State equally, really seems to embody the fallacy of regarding the licensed trade as an entity, as something like a religious Order, as a Deputy in the Dáil remarked. Of course they are not. They are simply a combination of persons engaged in the same calling who, for the purposes of self protection, propaganda and so on, found it convenient to come together in an organisation, and there is not that essential unity which would justify me in taking the entire area of the State as the appropriate area for this part of the Act. I adhere therefore to the principle of simply taking each of these little pockets, these 340 court areas as the unit. They are at present the unit for the purposes of licences and if licences are extinguished within any of those units, the compensation money should be paid by the surviving licensed holders in that area.

Embodied in the following provisions of this Act there is a small state contribution. It is not a very substantial or material one, and in fact it will do no more than cover to some extent the administrative cost of this procedure suggested for the purpose of extinction. We can go more fully into that at perhaps a later stage.

In the matter of extinction we will have to move with some care, and Senators may take it that it will not be left in the unfettered discretion or indiscretion of particular district officers but that there will be control from the Department, and there will be consultation and instruction as to how to proceed, because at one end there is the danger that if one goes too far or too fast in the matter of extinction it may give rise to the greater evil of she beening and great care will have to be taken in deciding what are the reasonable wishes of the public in this matter and how far one can go in the process of wiping out licences.

Coming to Part 3 of the Bill, dealing with endorsement, Senators will remember that in the Act of 1924 certain offences were set out in the schedule, and convictions on any of these offences involved the automatic endorsement of the licence. I have no apology to make for that particular provision in the Act of 1924. During the years 1922 and 1923 there was considerable laxity in the matter of licensing laws, as in the matter of other laws, and exceptional laxity can only be corrected by exceptional stringency. That exceptional stringency was provided in the Act of 1924, and I am satisfied that it has had excellent results. One can afford now to mitigate some of the severity of the Act of 1924 and, consequently, the provisions with regard to endorsement in this Bill are substantially less severe than the provisions that the Act of 1924 contained. There is, for instance, new ground broken in the matter at present of attaching a lifetime to endorsement, the idea of reform comes in. The first point I should, perhaps, make clear, is that no endorsement prior to the passing of this Act will be operative towards the extinction of a licence. The first endorsement after the passing of the Act will have a lifetime of five years; the second will have a lifetime of seven years, and the third and any subsequent endorsement will have a lifetime of ten years. If a holder of a licence has three live endorsements at any one time, then he goes out of business. But let me take a specific case. Let me suppose a man, within a few months of the passing of this Bill, is convicted of some offence which warrants the endorsement of his licence. That endorsement has a lifetime of five years. Let us suppose three years after he is again convicted of one of those major offences, then that man will have two dangerous years—quite dangerous —in which another endorsement would put him out of trade. But if he gets over the five-year period safely his first endorsement dies, and so on, and the second endorsement after the passing of the Act lives for seven years, and the third, and any subsequent one, for ten years, three live endorsements together putting a man out of business. This is a wholly new concession, because in the past if a man was convicted of one of the offences that required endorsement that endorsement stood for ever against his licence, and if joined by two others the licence was forfeited.

Further, the Bill provides a limited discretion to the District Justice to withhold endorsement if he is satisfied that there are circumstances that render the offence trivial or purely technical in character. One can imagine some circumstance which would render an offence wholly trivial. A man's clock might work five or seven minutes wrong in the course of the day. He might have taken the correct time from the Post Office in the morning and if the clock was faulty it could work a bit wrong and he might find at ten o'clock that night that it might register five or seven minutes false. There might be an offence of selling during prohibited hours, but the circumstances would have rendered it trivial in character and it should be within the discretion of the District Justice not to endorse the licence. Together with that limited discretion I ask for an appeal for the officer of the Gárda Síochána. If he is satisfied that an over-indulgent view is taken as to the particular occasion, he may go to the Circuit Court Judge and ask whether he considers that the attendant circumstances of that offence were sufficient to reduce it to trivial proportions not warranting an endorsement of the licence.

If there were an accident outside a licensed house after hours and stimulants were required, if there was a sale there you would have a technical offence, but few people would I think suggest that it was an offence warranting endorsement of the licence, warranting even that the licence holder should be put to the expense of appealing to the Circuit Court to get the endorsement withdrawn.

It is to meet cases of that kind that this limited jurisdiction is vested in the District Justice and as a check and safeguard, I ask that the right of appeal should lie with the district officer. If he considers too lenient a view is taken in a particular case, he may go to the higher court with the case and get the opinion of the Circuit Judge.

There is a new provision also which enables the holder of a licence which is endorsed to sell a clear licence provided that the sale is bona fide. That is intended to meet a point of view put to me on the question of endorsement. The complaint was made that the credit and the borrowing capacity even of traders who are running their shops quite correctly, who are not breaking the law in any respect, who had no convictions against them, and were not likely to have any convictions against them yet their credit was affected. I agreed that if that were the actual position, it was a serious position, for which a remedy ought to be sought. No one wanted, by a provision in our legislation, to penalise people keeping the law strictly and running their establishments quite correctly, yet it was suggested that was happening. Perhaps it was. With the provision of the Act of 1924 in existence a bank might well say to the holder of a licence seeking to borrow on the security of his premises: "We have no guarantee that this year you may not break the law and be detected and convicted and get a sufficient number of endorsements to wipe out your licence." This new provision in this Act purports to meet, so far as it is possible to meet, that plea. It enables the holder of a licence who may have received an endorsement, perhaps two endorsements, to sell to the purchaser an absolutely clear licence provided the court is satisfied that the sale is open and above board and not a mere bogus transfer to a relative for the purpose of clearing the slate. If it is a bona fide sale the purchaser can get a clear licence. That does meet the complaint to some extent, because a man borrows on the ultimate security of what his place would fetch in the open market if sold, and this provision enables a man who is unfortunate and gets two endorsements to get out of business, giving to the new purchaser a clear licence if there is no suspicion in the court that the sale is simply a bogus one. So much for endorsement.

On the question of hours. We come for the first time, and in a limited application, to the principle of the break in the day. This, I think, is a very desirable reform. It exists in Great Britain, and I think it is generally agreed that it is a desirable reform, and a good thing to clear out the house even for a short space in the middle of the day. The hours in the Dublin metropolitan area, and in the cities of Cork, Limerick, and Waterford are as follows:—From 10 a.m. to 2.30 p.m.; from 3.30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays other than Saturday; on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2.30 p.m., and from 3.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. There is half an hour earlier closing on Saturday nights than on other nights. On Sunday and St. Patrick's day 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. In the urban county districts, with a population exceeding 5,000, the hours on ordinary weekdays are:—10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 9.30 p.m. Elsewhere the position is 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. summer time, and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the remaining portions of the year. On Saturday 10 a.m. to 9.30 p.m. summer time, and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the rest of the year.

The Sunday hours now require some comment and explanation. It is proposed to restrict the hours for the sale of intoxicating liquor to bona fide travellers to the hours of from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the non-summer time period, and alternatively, from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., or from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the summer time period. There will be a discretion to the District Justice in a particular area to grant the 2 to 9 rather than the 1 to 8 if satisfied that there is any particular cause for the change.

Now, the bona fide traffic is something of a growing problem. I think it has changed enormously in its character for the last ten or twelve years. The mobility of the individual in the first instance owing to the introduction of the ordinary push bicycle and later to the motor bike and motor car, and now the charabanc, and so on, has increased considerably within our own recent memory—within the last ten, twelve or fifteen years. I certainly would welcome complete abolition. I invited the Dáil to discuss the question as to whether it would not be an improvement to grant a limited opening throughout the State on Sunday afternoons and abolish entirely the bona fide traffic.

The predominant view in the Dáil was wholly against uniform opening throughout the State. I suppose the explantion of that is that the abuses which arise from the bona fide traffic are not felt uniformly throughout the State but seen and noted only in particular areas. This provision in the Bill is not exactly my own idea, but I consider it a distinct improvement on the existing prohibition whereby if a man once covers the statutory distance he can drink from 1 p.m. until the small hours of the next morning. I am not sure whether his statutory concession ends at midnight or not, but from the Act of 1924 it seems to me he can drink the round of the clock. In the Act of 1924 we took out from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and it is now proposed to restrict it to six hours in the non-summer time, that is, from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., and in the summer time from one to eight or two to nine. I do not think many people will cavil at that.

It seems a proper and reasonable thing to take a substantial slice off the end of the day as in 1924 we took six hours off the early part of the day. I think seven or eight hours are quite sufficient to meet all the requirements of the so-called bona fide traveller. There was a proposal to double the distances. I put that to the Dáil without any great enthusiasm or conviction. It seems to me that to the user of the motor car or motor bicycle it is a small matter to tell him that he must travel six miles instead of three in the country or ten miles instead of five near the four cities. The effect of it would be to wipe out one set of vested interests with a stroke of the pen and create new ones. In so far as the change leaned against anyone it leaned against a man who is perhaps the most genuine traveller of the whole, the pedestrian who goes out for a walk from the town on Sundays, while it made no difference to the man who goes by motor cycle, car or bus. So I did not feel particularly aggrieved when the Dáil voted out the proposed changes in the distances. I do not think there is anything in it myself, and I think it would be simply wiping out, in a rather arbitrary fashion, one set of vested interests and creating new ones without achieving anything substantial from the point of view of temperance reform. That is how the matter of Sunday stands at the moment. I think perhaps the time will come when, with the extension of motor traffic through the country, many more people than at present seem inclined to support the proposal will support the abolition of the bona fide traffic in exchange for some uniform limited opening throughout the State. But for the moment these proposals in the Bill hold the field.

There will be points of detail that can be gone into on another occasion. A certain amount has been said and written on the modification this Bill underwent as between its introduction in and its final passage through the Dáil. As a matter of fact, these alterations were quite slight matters, the most substantial ones being reduction and the break in the day from two hours to one hour. It is unnecessary to stress that the important thing was to get a break to get the publichouses cleared, and it was the fact of their clearance rather than the length of the break that really mattered. I am quite satisfied to have established, for the first time in legislation here, the principle of some break in the day, and I hope, after some reduction has taken place in the total number of licences in the country, and after some greater measure of prosperity is felt among the survivors, that someone will propose to the Oireachtas an extension of that principle over a wider area than is covered by the proposal in the Bill.

Is there an appeal against the Government assessors? When a man makes a valuation of a publichouse on behalf of the Government are the Government now put in a position to conduct an appeal against their own decision? That happens in every compensation claim, and the onus of the defence is put on the person to be compensated. That is strictly unfair, as the publican has to defend himself twice.

The Bill gives no appeal from the assessment of the judge, who will act with the assistance of the valuer.

I have a good deal of genuine sympathy with the Minister's view on this question. I propose, after this stage is passed, that we postpone further consideration of this Bill until after the general election, because I am perfectly satisfied from my observations, and from what I have read of the discussions in the other House, that, owing to the undue influence used on members of all parties in the other House, they were hardly free agents in discussing this most important question with regard to the public and social life of the country. I think the influence wielded by members of the licensed trade is out of all proportion to the influence they should possess in this country. On the Second Reading of this Bill we found present in the Dáil the largest number of Deputies who had voted in a division for years. They were whipped up to vote in favour of particular interests. That is not very creditable. For that reason I think it would be in the best interests of the community as a whole that the further stages of this Bill should be postponed until after the general election. I believe, if reasonable amendments are passed in this House to the Bill, and I sincerely hope there will be, if it goes back to the Dáil in its present state they are not likely to get the consideration they would be entitled to.

I think the licensed trade as a whole will be in a better position if this Act, goes through in its present form than they were before the passing of this Act. We find in regard to the days on which there should be no trading that Saint Patrick's Day has again been made a day on which publichouses have permission to open. In 1924 we had a battle royal on the question in this House and I am glad to say that those in favour of closing on St. Patrick's Day won. As far as lies in me I shall endeavour to convince the House that on St. Patrick's Day there should be total closing. It is practically an open day all over the country under the provisions of the Bill because the bona fide regulations will allow every publichouse in the country to open; for that reason I hope we will add St. Patrick's Day to Christmas Day and Good Friday in order to make it a total closing day as far as the licensed trade is concerned. I know members of the licensed trade will say: "Why restrict the hours of licensed houses above any other houses? You do not restrict the hours of people in other occupations." That is true. There is no necessity for it. Every other decent trader closes his premises on Christmas Day, Good Friday and other days without any law compelling him. He does it on his own volition because he believes it is the right and proper thing to do. The licensed grocer would say: "Of course you can curtail our hours of opening. You fix under this Bill that we dare not open our business before a certain hour in the morning and we must close our premises before a certain hour at night. You regulate our hours of trade." We do, and quite right. He says: "You do not do it in other occupations." Our answer is: "We do not prevent competition in other trades." The publicans are sheltered; they are protected. No man can open a publichouse and be in competition with the present traders. He will not get a licence. He will have to go before the District Justice. For that reason the competition is limited and the licensed trader is in a better position than any other trader in the country. Therefore it is necessary that the hours of trading should be regulated.

I agree with the Minister in the principle that he has established. He is to be congratulated on that, notwithstanding all the influences that were brought to bear on him, congratulated for standing for the break in the day in the licensed trade. He has established for the first time a break in the working day in licensed houses. It is true that he did not get all he wanted to get. He did not get as much as prevails in Great Britain, where they close for a few hours in the morning and for a few hours in the afternoon. He is confined to a break of one hour in the day. For five days in the week it will not make any great difference, but I think on Saturday it will. I am speaking from experience, and my experience is not quite so bad, I am glad to say, as the impression that generally prevails. From my experience, the closing of the licensed premises for one hour each Saturday will be a great boon to the wives and families of some of the unfortunate men who are so infatuated with alcoholic liquor that when they get a taste of it they will not go home to their families and have almost the only dinner they can have in the week with their families, and bring home with them what would keep the family for the rest of the week.

The Minister referred to the question of the bona fide problem. I must say that I am in absolute agreement with the suggestion that was put forward by the Minister in the Dáil dealing with this question of the bona fide traffic. I, personally, would prefer to see every licensed house in the country allowed to open from 2 to 5 on Sundays than to continue or allow the system of the bona fide traveller as it is carried on. I think we would benefit somewhat if instead of the bona fide system we allowed the houses to open from 2 to 5 on Sunday. I travelled this country a good deal during the past ten years, and I stayed in publichouse-hotels and other hotels, and I observed things as I went around, and I say that, for the sake of decency, it would be much better if every publichouse were allowed to open for a few hours than to continue the system that obtains at present.

Anybody who observes what is happening knows that this thing of closing on Sunday in the country is all nonsense. Any man who wants a drink in the country on Sunday can get it if he knows his way. For that reason I certainly would prefer that licensed houses in the country should be permitted to open for three hours on Sunday than allow the bona fide system to go on as at present. In the country a man is permitted to get a drink on Sunday and St. Patrick's Day if he walks three miles. The distance from where I live, at Dolphin's Barn, to Nelson's Pillar is about three miles. Fancy a man being a bona fide traveller by walking from Nelson's Pillar to Dolphin's Barn. The thing is a farce. You might as well open them all. In Dublin, of course, a man must go five miles to be a bona fide traveller, but you can get the twopenny tram to the Yellow House, where a man is qualified to get a drink. The thing is absurd. A man in the country goes three miles and then he can get a drink. Would it not be much decenter to open the houses for a number of hours on Sunday and allow men to get a drink than have this farce of making them travel three miles? A fellow gets on his push bicycle, he travels on, and in five or six minutes he is a bona fide traveller.

A bona fide traveller is allowed to get more drinks than one in a publichouse. There is nothing in the Bill, as far as I can find out, that will prevent him. I had an extraordinary experience one time. One Sunday morning, a good many years ago, I was in the Phoenix Park and I found my way to Chapelizod. The man with me was a teetotaller, and it was a very warm Sunday. He suggested that we should go in and have a bottle of ginger ale. We went into a publichouse in Chapelizod. There was nowhere else to go to. Unfortunately they do not cater in this country for the teetotaller. When we went into the publichouse the house was so crowded that we could not get served. We left the house and crossed to the other side of the street and were going into another house but we were stopped and told it was against the bona fide laws to go into two publichouses in the one village. I understand, but I do not know whether I am correct or not, that formerly under the bona fide laws a person was only entitled to one drink in the house. I do not know whether that is correct. But a man is allowed to drink for hours in a publichouse. He is doing more than the bona fide when he stays there drinking to his heart's content. I do not want to say any more at this stage on the bona fide question.

There is another important matter in connection with this Bill, which is, I think, an innovation—that is, total exemption on Saint Patrick's Day or other days. The District Justice will be entitled to make an order of exemption, that publichouses in a certain locality may open so that all and sundry may be permitted to go in and drink to their heart's content for three hours on Saint Patrick's Day or on the other days that may be exempted. That is an innovation, I think. Some alteration should be made in that respect. The argument will be made that people going through the country should be entitled to get a drink. I do not stand for it that the people who go to a football or hurling match should not get a drink. I do not stand for that, but I do not stand for open exemption. I have only to say that I hope the Seanad will take my view on this and in the circumstances existing, postpone this Bill until after the General Election.

I beg to support this Bill. I agree with Senator Farren that it does not seem to me creditable that the first time there was any sign of independent thought and judgement shown in the other Chamber, or when it was exercised so obviously, was in connection with this Bill——


Senator, I would suggest to you not to discuss action or proceedings in the other House.

I congratulate the Minister on having preserved so many useful provisions in this Bill, and for that reason I hope that the House will not assent to Senator Farren's suggestion that the further progress of the Bill should be held up. Because, as he himself has admitted, the reduction in the number of licences and a break in the day are in themselves so valuable; and particularly as this is so substantial a Bill, considering the questions you are dealing with, it is almost an agreed Bill. It has had a most exhaustive discussion and contains many useful provisions. The progress of this Bill should be facilitated, and it would be to the advantage of the country to have it become law in the present session. The Minister said there were 12,000 odd licences in the State, and he suggested that one-third of the publichouses may be regarded as redundant. I was disappointed at hearing the number put at that figure, for I know that men connected with the liquor trade consider that in some districts fifty per cent. would not be more than sufficient to bring the number to the figure where ample facilities for reasonable refreshments in accordance with the legitimate requirements of the districts could be provided.

I agree thoroughly with everything practically in this Bill, but I have some misgiving as to one point. I notice that the Circuit Judge with his assessor is to fix the compensation. That is the Tribunal before which the redundant licensee is to go both as regards the question of redundancy and the question of value, and the appeal with regard to endorsement and the appeal at the discretion of the Civic Guards also goes before the Circuit Judge. I am very much afraid that the Circuit Courts, which are already congested, will be overwhelmed if this Bill comes to function. The amount of work thrown on the court purely in connection with the administration of the Act will be very great. It may be possible and desirable, in order to secure a sufficient and speedy working of the Act—not rushing it to the extent that the Minister has pointed out—to appoint extra judges or even commissioners to help the Circuit Judges in the administration of the Act. In regard to that very vexed question of the bona fide traveller, I would suggest to Senator Farren that the bona fide gentleman after an arduous and weary journey of three miles on his push bicycle raises possibly a question he has forgotten, and that is, that that gentleman has to go back again on his three miles journey home with perhaps more difficulty than on the three miles journey out.

I think that under the circumstances in regard to that question, the Minister has come to a very reasonable arrangement, an arrangement with which no reasonable man would disagree. Anyone who suggests that the bona fide traveller cannot get sufficient refreshment from 2 o'clock to 9 o'clock is not suggesting what is reasonable. If there is one point in the Bill with which I disagree it is with regard to selling a tainted and endorsed licence. The bona fide sale will give to a bona fide buyer a licence that had been endorsed but that is now a clean licence. My objection to that is this, that it is not fair to the publican who has complied with the provisions of the law. It is giving a dishonest trader an incentive to continue his course of fraudulent trading in competition with the honest trader. He is able to sell for its full value something that might in a very short time become redundant and probably be forfeited. I may tell the Minister that I will probably move some amendments with regard to drinking in clubs. I would ask the Seanad, as this is generally an agreed Bill, to pass it and not to stay its course here.

The Minister, in bringing in this Bill has done something to minimise the worst evil of the liquor traffic. I find on looking up the figures for the last year that 17½ million pounds was spent in drink. Whether that is an undue proportion for three millions of people I do not know. What a reasonable proportion would be I do not know. But anyway you analyse the figures it would appear that there is an excess of drinking going on somewhere, and to the extent of that excess our people are worsened both mentally and physically. A man may drink a certain amount of alcohol and possibly it may not do him any harm. It may benefit him, for men's constitutions differ. That is a matter for each individual and for his constitutional ability to stand it.

Certainly a man who drinks more than his constitution can stand is encroaching upon his capacity, both mental and physical, and in the present state of depression in the country there is need for every ounce of capacity we have. I think that the Bill goes in the right direction towards minimising the worst evils of the drink traffic. Prohibition has been tried in other countries and it has given rise to worse evils even than the sale of alcoholic drink. As long as human nature is human nature people will go in the direction of certain mental excitement and enjoyment. It is a matter for legislation, such as this, to control the evils that may arise from traffic such as the drink traffic. I may say on behalf of the county councils that a Bill of this sort, which has provisions for the reduction of licensed premises, or a Bill that has any effect on the licence duties, affects the county councils in their administration. The resulting fees from these licences are paid into the local taxation account, and under that account certain grants are made to mental hospitals and other institutions towards the reduction of the rates. This Bill will, in time, to some extent have the effect of depleting the funds going into the local taxation account. I introduce this question because it has been the attitude of the General Council of County Councils and of individual county councils, and boards of mental hospitals, that the basis of the grant accruing to them is entirely wrong, and that these grants should be borne out of the central fund and not be liable to be affected unduly by depletion or otherwise by the incidence arising from the present method of dealing with local taxation accounts.

Regarding the afternoon break, the aim of the Bill is to clear the bars and prevent continuous drinking, which is no doubt one of the worst evils of the drink traffic to-day. I do not know that a very large percentage even of the most habitual drinkers drink the round of the clock, as the Minister says. Anyone who has information in the matter, or who has made personal observation of what is happening throughout the country, knows that there is a great amount of excessive drinking going on in the bars and publichouses at certain times. That, possibly, may be defended by the argument that many people have not comfortable homes, and they naturally seek the lure of the publichouses, where they have a certain amount of social enjoyment and leave their cares behind them. When one friend meets another in a social atmosphere of that sort excessive drinking may take place. The Bill, so far as it goes, will in one way or another tend to remedy that by clearing out the houses at least once a day.

This Bill, as introduced, is, I think, one of the very first which follows very closely on the lines of the recommendations of the Commission set up to consider the question. From that point of view the Minister certainly ensured that the time of the Commission was not wasted. It is rather unfortunate, I think, that the measure should have been introduced at this particular stage. I am not blaming, in the least, the licensed trade for having used all the influence they can command, but they are to be congratulated on the fact that they have established all their pristine glory in the way of public influence in matters affecting their trade. The Minister is to be sympathised with in the fact that, notwithstanding the strong line he generally takes in regard to many matters he brings forward, in regard to this particular question he beat such a rapid, strategical retreat that his pursuers were thrown into disorder when trying to keep up with him. However, he has brought away in the remnants of what he introduced originally some very good principles which will go towards regulating in some proper way the licensed trade. It is peculiar that the more civilised we are supposed to become the more we have to place restrictions upon our appetites. Three hundred years ago or less, I think it was in 1634, the first licensed measure was introduced in Ireland, and the licence fee was fixed at 5/- per annum. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, about 1790, it was found necessary to enact that no licence should be issued for the sale of alcoholic liquor in prisons and workhouses, showing that there must have been a considerable amount of looseness in the sale of drink. It was only in 1886 that the first measure was introduced prohibiting the sale of drink for consumption on the premises to children, and then it only applied to children under 13 years of age. Since then we have advanced very considerably, but that has been not only because of legislative measures, but, I think, because there has been an increase in the general prosperity of the community, and in the upliftment of their general view of what is enjoyment.

It is a pity when this measure was being introduced that some attempt was not made to codify the law in regard to licences. At present there are no less than 14 different types of licences, and one of these is divided into four or five sub-heads. The result is that there is an immense amount of dubiety regarding the various licences. This creates difficulties for the police authorities, and it gives an immense amount of work to solicitors that would otherwise be unnecessary if there were a simplification of the licensing laws. Senator Farren dealt with the question of the bona fide traffic, and suggested that instead of having any bona fide traffic there should be universal Sunday opening. From the point of view of preventing intemperance that probably would be the right course to take, but I think the almost inevitable result would be that more money would be spent on drink on Sundays than at present. The person who wants drink on Sundays manages to get it now, but the person who would take drink if it were easy to get, and if it could be got legally, does not bother getting it now, but he would get it if there was universal opening. A good deal of evidence was given before the Liquor Commission on that question, and one of the best witnesses in regard to the matter was Mr. Williams, who owns 22 publichouses in the vicinity of Tullamore.

This is an extract from a report of his evidence at the Liquor Commission:—

He explained that his publichouses are controlled by managers, and in view of the risk which would be involved he has forbidden these managers to serve bona fide travellers. He made it clear that he had no objection on principle to drinking on Sundays, but as a business proposition he felt that the risk would be too great. He felt it would be to his financial interest if a limited opening on Sundays were allowed, as such alteration in the law would place him in as favourable a position as the owners of competing publichouses living in their premises who can afford to take the risk of serving the bona fide travellers. Notwithstanding that, he advised against the opening of publichouses on Sunday. He said that in most villages where he owned publichouses groups of young men loitered around the streets on Sundays. Were the publichouses open he felt that on a Sunday they would go into them and no good result would accrue.

The Commission felt that no real case was made for universal Sunday opening for the reasons I have stated, that such alteration in the law would tempt thousands of people after last Mass on Sundays to wait around the towns and villages until the publichouses opened, and then they would go into them and come home late for their dinner, after having spent more money than they could afford, leaving their families, perhaps, to go short of the necessaries of life as a result. I do not know whether universal opening would do away with drunkenness, but it would certainly do away with some of the abuses of the so-called bona fide traffic. As against that, one has to consider whether it is advisable to place temptation before tens of thousands of people who do not now think of touching publichouses on Sundays.

Regarding St. Patrick's Day closing, personally I do not feel very strongly on that. I am not particular about a short opening on St. Patrick's Day any more than on Sunday. It seems peculiar that opening is only allowed in the four exempted cities. Of course I can see the reason, as in the four cities there is Sunday opening. Although St. Patrick's Day has been added in the exempted cities there will be a demand, I think, from people in the larger towns for limited opening on St. Patrick's Day. I notice that publichouses in the small villages will be, in the summer time, open for 11½ hours on Saturdays, and in the winter time for a stretch of 12 hours. From the point of view of the publican whose licence will be extinguished, I think it is hardly fair that a year should elapse after his house is closed and his licence taken away before any compensation is paid to him. The Commission recommended that the house should not be closed until the compensation was paid. An owner's income should not be taken away until something was given in its place. As I read the Bill, the house may be closed on the 30th September, and the question of compensation may not be considered until the following April.

The Senator's statement is not correct.

I thought the house could be closed before compensation could be paid. That would be going against the recommendations of the Commission, but the Minister informs me that that view is not correct. Generally speaking, I support the Bill. I think it should be welcomed by the licensed trade, as it extinguishes by a gradual process those redundant publichouses that have militated against the efficiency and respectability of the trade. There are some hundreds of these houses in various places that sell little or no drink. They are competing with the other publichouses and encourage breaches of the law. To extinguish them does not mean taking away much income from the people concerned while, of course, compensation is provided.

I imagine the better-class publican will welcome this proposal. Nevertheless the Bill created an immense amount of anxiety as to how compensation might be arrived at. Needless to say there will be an objection on the part of the remaining publicans to pay compensation. Such a scheme has worked well in Great Britain and has been satisfactory in Northern Ireland. I fail to see what other steps could be taken by the Minister. With Senator Farren I would like if a more suitable opportunity had been selected for the discussion of the Bill. I think, however, it is inevitable that we should go on with it, and, if suitable amendments are inserted, I am sure they will receive reasonable consideration in the other House.

I wish to support the Second Reading of the Bill. I do not propose to deal with the various points that were referred to by the Minister and by Senators. In the main I agree with Senator Farren, with this exception, that I do not think there will be anything gained by leaving the Bill over until after the General Election. If Senator Farren would be prepared to ask people to vote for the Government, so that they should come back strong enough to bring in the Bill in its original form, I think there would be some title to ask the House not to bring it on before the General Election. As that is too much to hope for. I am afraid we can only come to the conclusion that this would not be, in any real sense, an issue before the election. Therefore I do not see that anything could be gained by postponing it. I agree with Senator Farren to this extent, that if it were possible to put the issue before the country as between the Bill as introduced and as amended, we would get a verdict in favour of the Bill as introduced.

There are one or two matters I am sorry the Bill does not deal with. Children are not allowed to be taken into licensed premises in Great Britain where drink is consumed over the counter. I mentioned that matter when the 1924 Bill was before the House, and it was postponed because the question of mixed trading would arise. In the interests of the decent carrying on of the trade it would be far better if children could not be taken into these premises. I know that there are certain difficulties and that in England some of the best licensed houses provide nurse-maids to look after children. I think it is a bad thing to allow children to be brought into ordinary licensed premises. If possible I would like to see an amendment dealing with that matter provided in the Bill.

In view of the Commission's report it was quite obvious that the original proposals with regard to mixed trading, which this House passed, and which were withdrawn as a result of opposition in the Dáil, could not be insisted upon. At the same time, I feel that after a period of five or six years structural alterations should be enforced where there is mixed trading. By that time, or some reasonable period, it is anticipated the weaker houses will have ben found redundant and abolished. As a result the other traders will be presumably wealthier owing to better business, and should be in a position to carry out structural alterations. I recognise that it could not be done fairly or with justice at the present , but I think there should be some indication that after a period such a regulation will be enforced. It would be highly desirable to have it.

It is not clear to me from the Bill that where there is an application for the abolition of a licence on the ground of redundancy, that any person other than the police could make it, or that anyone else can give evidence when the application is being heard. It seems desirable that in some way the public might be able to state their point of view, particularly local clergymen or other persons in an authoritative position, so that the Court could have their views as to the desirability of reducing the number of licences or taking a licence from a particular house. It might be possible to provide that the police might put before the magistrate any written evidence sent in by a responsible person. To some extent that might meet the case. I think there is a want there. It is difficult to understand how it will work after reading the Bill. There is no doubt the House should pass the Second Reading, and with some amendment the Bill should be proceeded with and not postponed. Two important alterations were made in the Dáil, one of which was with regard to the endorsement of licences. There is, as far as I am concerned, no need for the Minister to explain that. I think the alteration made was a just one.

I think it was a wise thing to bring in the original Bill as it was, because I believe if it came in the form in which it is now the trade would have raised the same objections, and we would have a much less satisfactory section. As the section concerned stands I think it should be supported. As to the break during the day the Minister was not so convincing, and as far as I can gather, experience in Great Britain has shown that a break of two hours in the afternoon is desirable. I am told by friends on the other side of the Channel that the two hours break has considerably reduced the amount of drunkenness amongst women. One of the problems which a good many reformers feel is a serious one—I do not think it is as bad recently as it was some time ago—is the increase of drunkenness amongst women. I think a reduction of the hours of trading in the afternoon is certainly a gain in that respect.

I do not require to say much in reply to the points that were made in the course of the discussion. I would like to refer briefly to the line that Senator O'Farrell took when commenting on the Bill. He suggested, rather than stated, that he and the other members of the Commission had signed an excellent report. To that extent I agree, but the Senator went on to suggest that I had turned my back on that excellent report in the Dáil, and that, in fact, this Bill as it stands represents simply the mutilated remnant of the Commission's report. That is not so. If it were so I might plead in extenuation to the Senator that only two just men were found in his Party in the Dáil, prepared to give a Bill based on the report of the Commission that he signed a Second Reading. Only Deputy Johnson and another Deputy in his Party voted for the Second Reading. In fact, the Dáil did not mutilate the Bill to anything like the extent that the Senator suggested. The main changes made in the Bill are three in number. The break in the day is reduced from two hours to one hour, with this important difference that, whereas under the two hours break mixed houses were to remain open for the non-licensed side of the business, under the one hour break they are compelled to close their doors.

I have no illusion about this question of mixed houses being left open for the non-licensed side of the business for two hours. I knew it would give rise to a great deal of evasion, that it would be a rather difficult matter to administer, and impose a rather heavy burden on the police, but personally I would have preferred a two hours break even with this inconvenience. When I agreed to accept a break of one hour I did make the condition that if that were to be a provision in the Bill we would have to make that one hour a complete closing hour both for the mixed houses and those that were publichouses only.

Another alteration is that to which Senator Douglas has referred in Section 26, sub-section (1). The sub-section states:—

Whenever the holder of a licence for the sale of intoxicating liquor is convicted by a justice of the District Court of an offence to which this part of this Act applies, such justice may, if satisfied that by reason of the trivial nature of the offence such conviction ought not to be recorded on such licence, make an order stating the circumstances which reduce the offence to one of a trivial nature and declaring that such conviction shall not be recorded, and whenever such order is so made such conviction shall not be so recorded.

Sub-section (2) provides an appeal for the superintendent. People may hold their own opinions as to just how far that section constitutes a mutilation of the Bill. Personally I did not regret accepting that particular amendment. I think provided it is properly administered, that it does meet the case that is purely trivial, the purely technical case, which I myself would agree should not be subject to endorsement —the matter of the clock being five or seven minutes wrong, the matter of the sale under special circumstances, such as an accident outside the door and so on. Then there is the bona fide sale of the clear licence. An amendment dealing with that was not brought in by me as a result of any pressure in the Dáil. It was brought in to meet the case put to me by a deputation that this whole system of endorsement is affecting the credit of men who are conducting their houses quite properly, that it is affecting the credit of the trader who is observing the law punctiliously and it was a case that I felt should be met some way. Because I could find no better way of meeting it I brought in the amendment now in the Bill. I referred to it, I think, in my Second Reading speech in the Dáil.

On Sunday the proposal was two spells of two hours for the bona fide traffic, from 1 to 3 and from 5 to 7. I believe it would not be possible to administer a break in the bona fide traffic. I felt, whatever the hours, there should be a straight run, because the bona fide traffic is not like the ordinary retail trade. It is a closed-door business, and if the police were to administer that break between 3 and 5 it would be necessary for each sergeant to visit as many of the licensed houses in his area within these hours as he could reach, and for that reason I departed from the recommendation of the Commission in favour of six hours in the non-summertime period and seven hours in the summertime period.

On the question of distances, there again I did not find myself very heartily in agreement with the recommendation that the distance should be doubled up. It is a matter of sending the fool further and creating new vested interests instead of those that would be wiped out. These are, to the best of my recollection, the principal modifications in the Bill that were inserted in the Dáil. On the question of the postponement, I do not take that suggestion over-seriously. I do not regret that this Bill was brought forward within three or four months of a general election. I think it has been educative to bring forward a Bill of this kind so close to a general election. I think it has been educative to show that a Bill of this kind can be introduced and discussed on its merits and passed on the verge of a general election, and to show that there is always likely to be here in the Free State not merely a Government, but a Dáil and a Seanad, that will refuse to be deterred by any organised ramp on the part of any vested interest from discussing and considering legislation on its merits and from the point of view of the public interest.

Question put and agreed to.