This is what might be termed the operative section of the Bill in so far as the existing powers under the Principal Act and the extension of them are concerned. The objects of the company are covered in the Schedule to the Principal Act but those objects are extended by paragraph (c) of this section. It is dealt with by way of deletion of paragraph (c) in the Schedule to the Principal Act and the insertion instead of the paragraph that is now before us. There is in respect of this considerable uneasiness in certain circles. It has been rumoured—I do not know with what truth, but I think it is absolutely essential that the truth or falsehood of the rumour should be cleared up beyond question—that one of the things that Ceimicí Teoranta propose to do is to manufacture potable spirit, that is to say, spirit for drinking purposes. It is very desirable and essential that the House should know what is intended in that regard. I go further and say that it is essential that the House should determine that the company that is being set up here should not produce potable spirit.
The situation in regard to distilling in Ireland is far too well known to every member of the House for me to discuss it at any length. It is divisible into two aspects. There is first of all the aspect of the export trade. The distilling industry is one of the ways in which we get very considerable currencies from abroad by export, particularly hard currency. It is an export business which has been brought up and nurtured and has thrived on the fact that Irish spirit sold abroad is pot-still whiskey of a certain well-known class and perfection. It is entirely on that basis that the good name of Irish whiskey has become known abroad. The company that will be set up under this Bill is not going to produce spirit by pot-distillation, and it is by pot-distillation that Irish whiskey has built its name. It will manufacture spirit by a synthetic process. It would be absolutely disastrous to the good name of one of our principal industries abroad if there could be any possibility of doubt that any spirit, even though it would not be under the name of Irish whiskey, would be exported which might run the slightest risk of damaging the reputation of Irish pot-still spirits as sold abroad.
Apart from the question of export, there is the home market. I am a babe in matters of the distillation of spirits, without going into the question of whether I have any knowledge of certain other aspects of the product. So far as I understand, the situation in regard to the home market, pre-war —it is not fair to take emergency years—was that all our needs of the home market of potable spirit were adequately met by existing private enterprises, and there was only a very small importation, comparatively, of other drinks and spirits. The other drinkable spirits that were imported were brought in in a manufactured state and there was no raw patent still spirit imported for the purpose of being manufactured into drink in Ireland. If there had been, I would be quite prepared to agree that we should make patent still spirit here rather than import it but, in fact, there was not.
Therefore, it seems to me that in so far as the home market is concerned, if this company is, in any circumstances, to produce spirits for drinking purposes, it can only do so at the risk of displacing the product of the existing industry in the home market. The existing industry was quite well able, prior to the emergency, to cope with the demand here. The existing industry is not able at the present moment to cope with the demand, not because of any defect in itself but because Government controls have not allowed it to produce as much as it would wish to produce. I am not attacking Government control for one moment. It is perfectly obvious, in the circumstances that exist at present, that barley must be diverted to purposes other than distillation but I do suggest that, if it were not for that control, the existing industry would be well able to cope with the home demands. If any other spirit is introduced to meet that home demand, it can only achieve one of two things. It can only take a certain portion of the market from the existing industry, or in the alternative, mean that it will increase our spirit-drinking capacity as a people. Quite frankly, I think that capacity is high enough already. I do not think for a moment the Minister intends to do that.
Seeing that there is this feeling of uneasiness in the country at the present time because of the rumour that it is intended by this company to engage in this trade, I think it would be very undesirable, either for the home or export market, that these rumours should go uncontradicted. As it is so desirable I think it would be wise to put, as an express instruction in the terms of the Bill, a proviso that this company should not sell any spirit for drinking purposes. I go a little further and say that it should use its best endeavours to see that any spirit which it does sell shall not be used by somebody else for drinking purposes. That is quite a common method of legal expression—that a company shall not do something and that it will do its best endeavours to see that somebody else will not do it, otherwise I could come along, buy the spirit from the company and sell it for drinking purposes afterwards.
I think this matter affects very vitally a major industry, and I think that major industry is entitled to be assured, as I am reasonably confident that it will be assured by the Minister, that there is no intention of doing what these rumours suggest. As these statements have been made in several quarters in the last week in the city, I think it essential that there should be something specific on this point in the Bill. If it had been clear to me earlier that the rumour was as current as I since have heard it is, I would have put down specific amendments for the Committee Stage. Having regard to all the circumstances I would ask the Minister to clear the matter up, not only to clear it up by his own assurance here but to clear it up for future Ministers and for the future working and direction of this company by inserting in the Bill a specific proviso preventing the company from carrying on in the way that I do not think the Minister intended it to carry on, in a way that might give rise to a great danger in the future and that would be absolutely disastrous to the existing industry.