Public Dance Halls Bill, 1934—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill is made necessary because of the increase in dancing throughout the country and, consequently, of the increase in the number of dance halls. Many dance halls are considered by the authorities to be quite unsuitable for the purpose, and it is deemed necessary that power should be given to the Gárda Síochána to supervise and have some control over them. The position, previously, has been that the public health authorities have been responsible both for the supervision and for the granting of licences for these dance halls. That has not proved to be satisfactory owing to the increase in the number of dance halls and the consequent increase in supervision which that entails. Instead of the public health authorities having the right to grant these licences, it is now proposed to transfer that power to the District Courts. An appeal will lie from the District Court to the Circuit Court if persons feel aggrieved. Under this Bill, when the statutory notice has been served, power is given to the Gárda Síochána to come in and oppose the granting of licences as well as to any person who can show any interest in opposing the granting of a licence. The District Justice is given power to grant licences. In doing so he can attach such conditions as he considers necessary to have inserted in the licences, such as limiting the time during which dances may be held, and so on. The grounds are set out in the Bill on which a District Justice may refuse to grant a licence.

I think this is a much needed measure. I also think it will be effectual for the purpose for which it is intended, namely, to control these public dance places. Without in any way wishing to criticise the Bill, I desire to call the Minister's attention to the expression in the Bill defining "public dancing." It means "dancing in which members of the public actively participate." I suppose that is a good definition, as good as the Minister could possibly get. I am sure that he had considerable difficulty in considering that, but I am wondering whether it would be possible to improve it so as to exclude from the operation of the Bill private balls in private houses. Would the Minister consider if a dance held in a private house, for which subscriptions were required, would come within the operation of this measure? On the other hand, does he consider that a dance, for which an admission fee is charged, is a public dance within the meaning of this definition? Perhaps in the interval between this and the next stage the Minister will consider the questions which I have tentatively put to him. I am certain that the Minister has already considered this as carefully as possible, because although the definition looks very simple it seems to me to be one which has caused him considerable thought.

I have gone as far as I could to try to provide for what Senator Comyn has mentioned. It is the nearest definition I could get. If the Senator has any further definition to suggest, then we can consider it on the Committee Stage. It is not intended to deal with the class of dances that the Senator has in mind, because it is set out in the Bill that there must actually be over the door of the dance hall a notice setting out that the place has been licensed for the purpose of public dancing. That indicates that it is not the intention to bring within the measure people who hold private dances.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 19th December.