Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2004: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

I welcome the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the House. I also welcome the minor amendment which has been made to the Bill, which is important, as the Minister has said. I am glad that the Minister has not been lambasted in this House for rushing all Stages of the Bill through in one day. I listened to some of the Dáil debate on the Bill, during which the Minister was criticised for dealing with the Bill so quickly. Of all the Ministers who come to the Seanad, the Minister, Deputy McDowell, cannot be charged with trying to rush through legislation in any way. He painstakingly discusses each minute detail of every Bill. After the Minister has debated a Bill in the House, all Senators understand it thoroughly because we have been immersed in it.

The primary purpose of the Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2004 is to provide for the giving of clear statutory notice of alcohol-free events in licensed premises where alcohol is not being consumed to people under the age of 18. Such events can be held in hotel function rooms or other licensed premises. The Minister has said that before last year's legislation was introduced it was possible for children to stay in pubs until closing time, at 11.30 p.m. or midnight. In retrospect, it was an outrageous situation. It is no wonder this country's culture of using and abusing alcohol was allowed to develop in such circumstances. The Minister reminded us that it was quite possible for a 16 year old girl who dressed up well to drink to her heart's content in a pub with a crowd of people aged 19 or 20 without the fear of legal sanction. A non-uniformed garda does not have the right to enter a licensed premises. I imagine that gardaí who enter such premises in uniform might as well have a beacon over their heads. It was quite difficult to prove that a 17 year old was drinking the alcoholic drink in front of him or her. I am glad the new legislation will bring an end to such problems.

When the 2003 Act was being passed by the Oireachtas, I appreciate that the Minister did not intend to impede in any way the activities organised by certain voluntary bodies which do some fine work. It is important that the effect of this Bill is clarified for such organisations so that they do not have to second-guess the legislation. They should be able to pursue their good deeds, such as looking after the youth of the country. Similarly, a lack of clarity is a problem for some good people in the industry who provide space on their licensed premises to allow voluntary organisations to hold beneficial events for young people. Such people should not be subjected to prosecution as a result of ambiguity. I hope that the uncertainty which has surrounded this area since the 2003 Act was passed will be removed today.

As the Minister said, a certain amount of urgency was needed in this area because the DPP, the Minister and the Attorney General were at odds about the interpretation of the 2003 Act. There was a possibility that the DPP planned to instruct the Garda to bring prosecutions. I think the Minister mentioned that such a prosecution has been pursued in Galway. Such ambiguity needed to be attended to in the circumstances. It would have been inappropriate for all the good works I have mentioned to have been exposed to prosecution.

The Minister can be proud of the focus he has brought to bear on this issue since he came to office. As I have said, it is essential that children aged 13, 14 or 15 should not have absolute access to public houses. If I go into certain public houses in my constituency on a particular pay day, I will see children with school bags running around with crisps and orange. Their older brothers and sisters can be found on the same premises after 9 p.m. on the same day. I do not claim that such behaviour is unique to people in the lower strata of society. I am sure similar scenes are evident at the house parties of the rich and famous. Young people are often initiated by having their first alcoholic drink in front of their parents at such events. The drinking culture is embedded in that way and we are all to blame in that regard.

The Minister has been accused on a number of occasions of running a nanny state. Somebody will have to stand up and be counted if we cannot solve these problems by means of the educational system — I appreciate that we have not really started trying to do so to any great extent, if parents are not prepared to look after their children, for example by knowing where they are at all times, or if certain publicans are not prepared to look beyond their profit margins. The Minister happens to be prepared to stand up and be counted at present. For what it is worth, I think he is doing a fine job by introducing legislation and bringing a focus to this area. I may have heard the Minister say in the past that rather than legislating in this way, he would prefer alcohol to be made more widely available in different settings, such as coffee shops and pizza parlours. The Minister would like to change the environment in which alcoholic drink is consumed, so that people do not automatically stand at bar counters getting blasted, as they do. A new drinking environment and a different culture can be created, one in which food rather than alcohol is the predominant feature.

A survey on alcohol and drugs conducted in schools in 2000 showed that Irish 16 year olds are among the highest abusers of drink or binge drinkers in Europe. One in four reported having been drunk on ten or more occasions in the year in which the survey was carried out. A more recent report on health behaviour in schoolchildren showed that in under-15s the incidence had reduced, but there was no change in the drinking patterns of 15 to 17 year olds in 2002. In the 12 to 14 age group, 16% of boys and 12% of girls were current drinkers and for the 15 to 17 age group, 60% of boys and 56% of girls had experienced serious drinking.

It is in that context that the Minister is legislating, He must do so and there is no doubt that, as a nation, we have lost the run of ourselves regarding drinking. When young people go out at weekends, they do not have a social drink but get absolutely smashed, to use their own expression, and we must do something to confront that problem. Unless we can cope with this as a matter of urgency, we will see a whole generation of children brain dead, with liver damage or deaf as a result of the serious implications of loud music in discos. There is pressure on our health services, but if the situation worsened, it would have serious implications. Parents must be much more vigilant. It is one thing to make laws and another to impose them and ensure compliance. If parents do not know where their children are at night and are not prepared to take responsibility in that regard, it is quite unfair to expect teachers in schools or anyone else to look after their children for them.

It is not just a youth problem. We all bring something to the table when it comes to alcohol abuse. For example, my age group has probably been the slowest to adapt to the drink driving laws, primarily because we grew up with a culture of doing so and it is the hardest habit in the world to break. It is also hard for children exposed to drink at a very early stage in their lives to change their habits as they grow older. A much greater focus is being put on the extent of alcohol abuse and society is now aware of the fact that drink is probably the greatest torment of all, leading to thuggery and abuse. A Public Order Offences Act 1994 survey conducted between 1996 and 2002 found that there was a 160% increase in the amount of disorder caused by drunkenness. That is an indictment. The Minister must continue the fight and has our full support in that regard.

I have 15 minutes and, with the permission of the House, I would like to share the last five with Senator Norris.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Minister and the legislation to the House. I have no difficulty in supporting the Bill and I look forward to doing so. I cannot resist the temptation of having a little swipe at those who drafted it in the first place. They got part of it wrong and this is about the fifth occasion in the course of this year that we have had to deal with emergency legislation. I find draftspeople very inflexible — I do not mean the Minister but the drafting — and this is a classic example.

On that point, perhaps I might ask the Minister a question which I know is the last thing he would wish to hear at this stage. I notice that he accepted in the other House the change to the words "physical access". When I read the Bill, I found that phrase kept jumping off the page at me. There is something wrong with that wording, but the Minister has accepted it and I can see why. It is certainly better than what was stated originally and I accept the argument in its favour. However, I am not sure. It is almost as if someone were tied down. The drink would be over there, with me tied up here so I could not move. That is the sort of impression that I get. It is like a comedy.

It would be a vision of hell for the Senator.

Indeed. However, it is right for the reasons outlined. It was a sensible interpretation from the Minister and a pragmatic one from the Attorney General. I can also understand the position of the Director of Public Prosecutions and how his office viewed the matter. I support the Bill.

I would like to cover some broader issues. The Minister will be aware that recently there was a report from the task force on alcohol. I know that it is not his Department, but it impinges so much on it that I would like to make a few points about it. I am not sure whether I tabled a motion, but I certainly sent a note to the party leaders in this House over the past week seeking agreement for a debate which would examine the recommendations of the task force, implementation, current Government thinking and how we might move matters on.

Some of the proposals are revolutionary, especially that there should be an increase in excise duty. I firmly believe that, with current market forces, a pint will be down to €3 within the next six months. I am not sure whether Senator Bohan will be glad of my input on that issue. That will be extraordinarily good news for the Government, which should pick up the slack through excise duty. I listened to my erstwhile colleagues in IBEC recently trying to give two messages at the same time. On national radio and television, they tried to say we should reduce the price of drink to save the drinks industry, while at the same time ensuring that people do not drink too much. Perhaps someone might riddle me that one. I could not understand what they were saying and played it back, but it did not work. We must grasp the nettle on this question.

However, there are also other issues. I have thought long and hard about young people. I know the Minister has been sniggered at for saying this, but I too regret the fact that we do not have a developed café society in this country, something that I have said to him many times.

Hear, hear.

Much of that is to do with the weather, which we blame for everything. However, I notice when I am abroad over the summer that people, including young people, meet outside where there are always things to do. We will never match that but there are things we could do. I wish to put one proposal before the House in the next fortnight. Let us consider what we can do at night. We are always told that there is nowhere to go except the pub and we all play a part in that regard. However, how many public buildings are open after 6 o'clock? How many museums, art galleries, zoological gardens and other places that people might visit are open? They are all closed and that is also a good reason for us to support theatre. There is a great demand coming through at present for us to do so.

This is not off the top of my head. I have examined this very carefully in other European countries. There is a view there, and a discussion is currently ongoing in the UK, that it would be a good idea to open public buildings so there might be another place to go, even if it were merely a matter of where people meet. The only place for people to do so is the pub. We all do it and I see nothing wrong with that. I know that some people would argue that we should have more alcohol-free outlets. I do not feel strongly about that; I have no problem with alcohol being available. However, there should be places where one does not go only to consume alcohol. That is what we should consider and I ask the Minister to examine that suggestion.

There is another conflict with which I cannot deal. I have said many times in this House that there should be no regulation of licensing laws. I now believe that I was wrong to say so. It is my fervent belief that people should be old and mature enough to be able to buy and sell alcohol at any given time, and in a perfect society that would be the case. However, there is now indisputable evidence, against which I cannot argue, that greater access leads to greater consumption. That is now absolutely definite after what we have seen over the last few years and I regret it. One cannot deal with drugs or alcohol on the supply side; it must be on the demand side. That begs the question of how we educate people that there are other things to do and that it is all right to go somewhere without having a drink. The vintners' lobby should be encouraged. It is good to see more coffee machines in public houses, but there are still a fair few in which one is looked at askance if one asks for anything hot, and that could be a hot whiskey or port as much as a hot coffee or tea.

I make that point because pubs should be required to have such alternatives available. The profit on them is high and many smart publicans can see that. It should be as easy to get a cappuccino in a public house as a pint of stout. Those other options should be available and we must move onto them to get things going. I agree with the point that the Minister has made many times that the "superpub" is not a pub at all. Smaller pubs in local areas are far more attractive. Recently, more and more village nuclei are being developed in housing estates on the outskirts of Dublin. These natural developments allow local people to watch local kids drinking in local areas, which has its own built-in restraints. That is how it worked in the old days. Without cars, people could not travel very far, and therefore went to the local pub. Everyone could watch them drinking there, even if they pretended not to, so there was a community restraint or inhibition. We now miss that.

Members of both Houses need to be better educated. I do not purport to know a lot about this subject, despite the substantial portion of my life spent in public houses, which I will continue to frequent. We need to inform ourselves better regarding the attitudes taken by young people. The issue should not simply be about making it more difficult to get drink by restricting opening hours and outlets. Those methods must go hand in hand with a sensible approach to demand. We must educate people so that they will know there is more to life than drink, although drink can be part of life. That balance must be achieved. We should not go over the top on either side. It should not come down to the cause of zealots being opposed to the cause of the vintners. The answer lies somewhere in between.

The vintners' lobby is entitled to make a strong case. I have no objection to that, but the vintners got the smoking issue all wrong. Had they moved properly on that issue, they could have got a compromise from Government at the time. They did not do so and now face difficulties. The same is true of this Bill. The vintners should be, and in many cases are, supportive. On many occasions I have heard Senator Bohan make the case for responsible drinking.

The opening of public buildings which are not designed primarily for alcohol consumption should be considered by the Government. Regarding demand, we must ensure that a fun time can be had without alcohol and that people understand that. We must educate people so they understand they do not need to drink all the time, that there is nothing wrong with having a few drinks, but that one should always be in control. In a far distant age, when I was a young man, it was considered to be a mark of inferiority if one could not hold one's drink. In the current climate it seems it is a mark of inferiority if one does not get so drunk that one falls about the place. We must find our solution within those two positions.

I am grateful to my colleague, Senator O'Toole, for sharing his time. The Bill the Minister is introducing is, in effect, an amendment to an earlier Bill. He is considering two issues, namely, the extension of the exclusion time for young people from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. and the re-definition of the bar area so that functions can be held for young people in an alcohol-free area even though it may technically be part of a licensed premises. Few of us can have much difficulty with that. When the original Bill was going through the Houses, I recall that the time mentioned was 8 p.m, which was extended in this House to 9 p.m. The fact that the Minister accepted an amendment from Deputy Jim O'Keeffe in the Lower House, and is now extending the time to 10 p.m, shows his open-mindedness. That is a very healthy example of participatory democracy.

It would be ludicrous if the effect of the Bill were to prevent teenagers dancing in an alcohol-free environment, which is not what either House of the Oireachtas intended. The Garda moved very quickly into this area and indicated to a number of sporting venues, including Old Wesley rugby club in Donnybrook, to which I belonged for a while and which holds regular dances, that prosecutions could be initiated against it if, for example, it ran a disco to celebrate the end of the leaving certificate examination. This was despite the bar being locked and no alcohol being available. That looks like nit-picking and was not the intention of the Oireachtas.

This debate has highlighted the need for appropriate venues for young people. I live in Dublin's north inner city, which remains quite a troubled area with regard to unemployment, drugs and alcohol abuse, etc. One of the best developments in the area was the opening of a playground in Gardiner Street. It is really terrific. The community now has a facility which gets kids, young people and the young immigrant population off the streets and playing together.

It is a reproach to this country that in so many towns, the only places available for social functions are pubs. With the greatest respect to my friend, Senator Bohan, and the decent publicans, a pub is not an entirely appropriate environment for young people. There is the reek of drink, glasses about the place and advertisements for booze-ups on the wall. Among the recommendations of the strategic task force on alcohol are the regulation of availability and control of the promotion of alcohol. There is an insidious promotion of alcohol in the pub environment. I have never thought it a proper environment for children. I accept that when people are on holidays in hotels it may be a little tough to separate out people under 18 from their parents, and we are right to consider that.

A couple of weeks ago I listened to a programme on traditional Irish music. Those involved were bellyaching about the situation. They were talking about "our Irish culture", which seemed to be confined to drinking, and suggesting that our music could only be heard in pubs. We should ask whether the core of our culture is merely drinking. If it is, we are in trouble.

Other countries can cope with the situation. Luckily and happily, I spend part of my time in Cyprus. There are no bars there, except in places like Ayia Napa and Limassol, and indeed there are very few in Limassol. One can go to the kahvehane, the village coffee houses. No one thinks any less of one if one has a coffee, which is what most people have. One can have a beer, a zivania or a brandy, but there is no pressure to drink all the time. We must address this issue and be prepared to spend money on providing youth clubs, sports centres and recreation centres as an alternative, so people are not channelled into thinking that the most natural and most Irish idea in the world is to drink.

Senator O'Toole also raised the question of licensing. It is not directly referred to in the Bill but I cannot resist the opportunity to refer to it. I have spoken at length about superpubs and the licensing laws. It is important, for example, that the Garda be proactive. It seems to me, although I am ready to be corrected, that pub licences are more or less automatically renewed and that pubs are investigated only if there is a complaint. That is not good enough. There are a number of lousy pubs within a cuckoo's spit of my house. I could name them, but would not abuse the privilege of this House — at least not yet. There should be a pub checklist with regard to health and safety. This would also protect decent publicans. Drugs are openly on sale in some pubs and in others very dangerous physical fights take place, sometimes involving weapons. It is not right that the proprietors of those pubs should automatically have their licences renewed. Quite often, people are reluctant to make complaints because those complained about are so dangerous. The Garda should be asked whether a clean bill of health can be given to a pub. It is fairer on judges because they sometimes give licences to venues that should not have them.

We should get rid of the hypocrisy. What is meant by "special" extensions and "special" licences? I know of pubs which get 30 of these per month, which is daft. Either the extension is "special" or it is not. We must consider this realistically and try to control the situation.

I am not anti-drink. I enjoy a drink and enjoy getting slightly tight on appropriate occasions, particularly with a good meal in the mountains of Cyprus, which is heaven. I enjoy wine and make no apologies for it. However, I behave reasonably and decently and do not drive my car when drinking.

Did the Senator say "reasonably indecently"?

I do not get the opportunity to behave too indecently in Cyprus, unfortunately. I am not rabidly anti-drink or against decent pubs. Pubs give great pleasure, particularly old style pubs where one can have a civilised conversation and not have one's ears split open.

I will conclude with an example. A pub with a beer garden on Parnell Street obtained a special extension. Elderly residents lived nearby but, due to the equipment being used at the pub, the noise would shatter the glass in Busaras. I complained and eventually got the sound turned off by saying I would object to the pub's licence on the basis of its disgraceful behaviour. It is not right that elderly residents were terrified by noise and although this was not the correct environment for the young, the pub intended to attract the young.

I welcome the Minister and the Bill. We are again discussing drink, an issue we have discussed on countless occasions in the past two years. When I was a child, the famous statue of Fr. Matthew was just two miles from my house in County Tipperary. I was often told of the evils of drink when passing the statue. I was told Fr. Matthew was heading for perhaps Cashel or Dublin and was pointing in a direction away from Tipperary.

At a time when volunteerism is at an all-time low and when attempts are being made to organise alcohol-free teenage discos, it is disturbing the Minister must introduce emergency legislation to ensure that such events continue. I am particularly alarmed that after centuries of drink consumption in Ireland, the Minister and legal experts are discussing the definition of a bar, and whether it is something one leans on or something over which drink is sold for consumption. Where are we going when debate on drink reaches this point?

I recently read to my children some of the recommendations contained in the report of the task force on alcohol. The task force suggested that some 50% to 60% of 16 to 18 year olds were consuming large quantities of drink and believed that binge drinking was consuming over six pints. Young people are told that two to three pints is enough for anybody but drinking from six to 12 pints is the norm. The health implications for such drinkers and the cost implications for the Exchequer are serious. The former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, introduced the smoking ban to try to save lives and save health service costs. However, we will incur significant costs caused by liver failure and other diseases because of the quantity of drink being consumed. I do not know where it will end.

I spoke to the Minister over the summer, as did other colleagues, in regard to the 9 p.m. limit for children on licensed premises. I am delighted the Minister followed up on his commitment to revisit this subject as soon as he could in the new term. He did so last week in accepting the amendment in the other House. The parents most affected by the 9 p.m. rule were those who had their children with them, whether on holidays or otherwise, and not parents from dysfunctional families who do not know where their children are. I am open as to whether 10 p.m. is the correct cut-off time and perhaps 11 p.m. might be considered. However, while we may revisit the issue again, it is certain that 9 p.m. was too early in the summer months, especially given the importance of tourism and given that one has the option of flying abroad, whether with Ryanair or Aer Lingus, where one could sit at a cafe bar all night. The time limit needed to be changed and I am delighted the Minister has done so. I commend the Bill to the House.

I welcome the Minister. I am glad he has introduced the Bill. Members have taken the opportunity to philosophise on the issue of alcohol. One aspect which distinguishes politics on this issue is that some of those in politics who have been most constructive are those who could not be accused of being puritans in regard to alcohol or anything else. Whatever about my views on the Minister's politics, he is not a puritan. He has many other traits about which I am not positive but he is probably closer to a bon viveur than a puritan.

We must address the fact that there has been a spectacular increase in the per capita consumption of alcohol in this country in a terrifyingly short period of time. Some of this has to do with the changing habits of older people who used to be Pioneers but now drink a few glasses of wine with a meal. However, if one considers the distribution of alcohol consumption, I am certain the intensity in terms of consumption increases, the lower the age group. Some of the content of alcohol use surveys is typical youthful bravado. If one asked a 16 year old how many sexual partners he had, the number he suggested would probably be physically impossible. However, there is no doubt a frightening culture of mindless drinking has taken over among some sections of the young.

It is worth considering whether this is the cause of a problem or the symptom of a deeper problem. I always regarded myself as on the liberal wing of parenting. Although all of my children are now over 18, I learned early that I had to be sceptical about certain matters, in particular that I had to be sure I knew where my children were as distinct from thinking I knew. If one begins this process when children are young, by the time they are 16, despite the occasional stand-up row, a culture has been inculcated, though perhaps grudgingly and reluctantly. Then follows that awful period when children are aged 16 to 18. For example, when asked what time they are coming home, they reply 1.30 a.m. and one tells them that one will collect them. For a couple of years one hauls oneself out of the house at 1.30 a.m. pretending it is because they might not be able to get a taxi, pretending it is because one wants to be an indulgent parent letting them stay out, but knowing full well that the consequence of picking them up is that they know one will see the condition they are in, know where they have been and collect them from somewhere approximating to where they said they would be. There is no route around that. Giving them €20 and telling them to get a taxi home is probably an easier option and most of us in this House could easily have afforded that. However, it is not the way to steer people through.

Neither can one write a law to make that happen. Parents' groups in particular get worked up about what the political system is or is not doing about under-age drinking. Perhaps they should take a look at themselves.

We need to be wary because since alcohol was invented, 50 year olds have thought 40 year olds drink far too much, 40 year olds have thought 30 year olds drink far too much and so on. At the same time the objective evidence cannot be denied. In my student days and, I suspect, in the Minister's student days we drank as much as we could afford, but we could not afford much. One of the manifestations of youth culture that has changed is that most young people work during summer and sometimes during school or college time. Some of the money they earn is to support themselves but some of it goes to support a lifestyle that would have been unimaginable in the past. This is not a case of older, venerable people, or whatever people want to call us, bemoaning something. It is simply a fact of life that we must address. There is no way things will return to the way they used to be.

Some of what is said about young people reflects a certain jealousy on the part of an older generation of the perceived hedonistic lifestyle that is now available to young people which was, perhaps, denied to them when they were young. We need to be very careful about that. I have the good fortune to teach young people. I work in a place that is populated by about 10,000 people aged between 17 and 23 years, consisting of 6,500 full-time students and a good number of part-timers. They work in a crowded environment with one overcrowded shop, one overcrowded canteen area and soon, I suspect, one overcrowded bar. They are fantastic people. There is no enforced security. Gardaí are rarely on the premises. They are not needed. I keep wondering how this impulse to mindless self destruction and mindless violence emerges because from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. it is not seen. However, it seems to emerge when the same young people, or perhaps different ones, go out somewhere else. However, approximately 50% of the age cohort between 18 and 24 is now in third level education, so the violence cannot all be elsewhere.

There is a question of culture, attitude and values and of how one behaves under certain circumstances. My experience is that young people, as I see them in third level education, are fantastic. They are better behaved in their attitude to academic staff than I and my classmates were 30 years ago. There is a less rigid authority structure, but there is a much better sense of involvement and engagement between staff and students than there would have been 30 years ago. The degree of willingness to act up and make trouble for an academic staff member is far less than it would have been 30 years ago. We must take that into account instead of flagellating young people.

The Minister is wrestling with this and has come up with some ideas with which my party does not agree. However, his ideas about café society and café bars are very good. When I was in Italy last year unfortunately in some cases I was in areas where there were many tourists. I noticed the bars stopped bar service at approximately 9 p.m. and resorted to table service only. If all our superpubs had to resort to table service at 10 p.m, instead of crowds of people waving €20 notes at the barmen behind the bar, a different culture would evolve. There could not be a huge rush because it would be constrained by the speed at which a reasonable level of service could be provided. The small café bars the Minister mentioned would be ideal places in which that type of culture could evolve.

It is extraordinary, given that we do not have a tradition of drinking either coffee or anything else outdoors, that we are developing a new attitude to our weather, based on the smoking ban, which will produce the most remarkable displays of people drinking and, perhaps, having coffee out of doors on cold November nights simply because it is the only place they can smoke a cigarette. However, in Cork the Garda has demanded that items of street furniture be removed by 9 p.m. because they might be used as weapons in the case of disorder. The city council demurred and the time was changed to 11 p.m. That seems to be a chicken and egg argument because if people are sitting and there is table service it would probably reduce the incidence of disorder, but I will leave that to the Garda.

I am glad the Minister introduced the Bill. I am still intrigued because all law is ambiguous. This week this Minister is in a very strong position to agree that all law is ambiguous. I do not want to pursue what I do not believe is a very serious issue, and which I would not want to make a political issue. However, all law is ambiguous because it is written down in language. The country's policing resources are always by definition over-stretched. The DPP's office is over-stretched. It takes a long time to get from a file being sent to the DPP to a decision to prosecute. In the middle of all these strained resources somebody somewhere decided this was an issue worthy of pursuit. There are issues on every bit of law from the possession of drugs to whatever one likes, where there is uncertainty or ambiguity and where what is written in what seems reasonable language is open to unreasonable interpretations. Perhaps when the archives are finally published somebody will explain — with a bit of luck I will be around to see it — why so much of the time of the Minister, the Department, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and senior members of the Garda Síochána——

And the Oireachtas.

—— and the Oireachtas has been taken up with an issue that common sense should have dictated. In other places which I will not mention because it might get people into trouble, for instance, in rural areas, common sense approaches are taken to how the licensing laws are enforced. Reasonable positions are adopted by reasonable members of the Garda Síochána to be reasonable to the people in the communities in which they live and it works extremely well. Suddenly somebody somewhere decided to pursue this. It is still a matter of some contention to me.

I am not particularly taken with the decision to move the 9 p.m. watershed to 10 p.m. for four months of the year. It is one step back towards a time when we had different laws for different times of the year. I cannot see why the new time could not apply to the whole year. This is an issue that needs to be revisited regularly. I do not disagree with what the Minister wants to do or with his unhappiness with the culture that has developed. However, I am not sure that having different thresholds for different times of the year is a good idea. I will be suggesting that it be amended. A good friend of mine, who runs a successful bed and breakfast and restaurant, recently received a Bord Fáilte representative. A question arose over licensing when the Bord Fáilte official claimed that what my friend described as a "counter" was in fact a "bar". The Bord Fáilte official then asserted that it was a bar if he said so. This is not a basis for good law. If definitions are needed, they should not leave power in the hands of middle-ranking individuals who like to flex their muscles.

I wish to share my time with Senator MacSharry.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, to the House. I congratulate him on this Bill which expeditiously clears up the grey area that emerged when he was put in an awkward position between the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions. When I spoke on Committee Stage of the Intoxicating Liquor Bill, I appealed to the Minister to extend the 9 p.m. watershed to 10 p.m. It is impossible for the large number of licensed premises that serve food to ask families with children having a meal to leave at 9 p.m. I hope, like Senator Ryan, it can be extended to a year round basis, as families go for meals in the winter too. I hope the licensing and codification Bill will provide for this extension in winter time as 10 p.m. is not really late. I disagree with Senator O'Toole's claim that it is not possible to get hot drinks, such as a cappuccino or hot port, in some licensed premises. A licensed premises where one cannot get a hot drink is now an exception, as 95% supply them. Recently, I got coffee and sandwiches in a small pub in Drogheda at 5 o'clock in the evening.

All Members are concerned about under age and binge drinking. However, another problem lies in home drinking. A culture has emerged where young people now consume alcohol before going out to the pub or disco. Instead of paying €4 for a drink in a pub, young people can go to supermarkets and off-licences. Supermarkets, particularly foreign ones that have opened recently, sell foreign-brewed beer at €1 per can in a loss leader strategy. As €30 can purchase much alcohol, it encourages young people to load up the boot of a car. Then, after the party at home, they head out, well steamed up, to a pub or disco at 10 p.m. Unfortunately, many of these supermarkets employ foreign nationals. They are perfectly entitled to these jobs and I am glad about that. However, it is hard for people from China or Africa to determine whether a customer is 18 or 16 years of age. They do not really care anyway as they are part-time workers and will just serve the alcohol. A solution to this could be found in the codification Bill. We will be making representations to the Minister before that Bill is introduced to the House. I congratulate the Minister on clearing up this grey area.

I welcome the Minister to the House and this amending Bill which is a positive step. Since the Minister, Deputy McDowell, took office, he has stated his intention to address the chronic alcohol abuse and under-age drinking endemic in society. Extending the cut-off time from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. from May to October is another positive step. Even though a more detailed Bill on the licensing laws will be introduced, the 10 p.m. rule should be kept under review with the industry and the Garda. As Senator Ryan has stated, it would be positive if this were a year round provision. The Minister has displayed unprecedented willingness to be open-minded and prepared to change if it is necessary.

Until recently, numerous Administrations failed to address the worsening alcohol problem. From time to time we have persisted in addressing the symptoms of the problem rather than the problem itself. This has been by way of various approaches from closing pubs earlier to extending the number of licences. However, we must get to the root cause of the problem which is one of culture and attitude. In addressing the cultural attitude to alcohol, changes will have to be made. The Minister referred to providing additional licences for café culture establishments. However, I do not see great merit in this encouragement as 16,000 licences are already available with more than enough access to alcohol. While it is great that one can buy a beer in McDonalds in Italy and Spain, Irish alcohol culture is not ready for such a direction. In the context of alcohol abuse, we could cut out under age drinking if there was a statutory identification card because there would not be the opportunity for these fake identification cards. It would, effectively, remove from the publican an obligation to make a judgment call. In the United States, there are random identification checks, whether people are in the 60s or 20s. That would be a great advantage. I believe the Minister would be interested in such a measure and I hope we could implement it in the future. As I said, there are many other positive aspects to such a measure, for example, one's PPS number could be on the card.

In terms of addressing the drink culture, education in terms of showing young people the benefits and the woes of alcohol and that it can be enjoyed in moderation is the way to go. In regard to creating alternatives, perhaps we could involve the GAA and ask it to hold non-alcohol events for people. Pricing is also an issue, particularly when one considers that it is almost as expensive to drink coca cola or other soft drinks. We have a role to play in that regard. A variety of activities should be arranged for young people in the evenings so the focus would not be on going out and getting drunk. They could go out and celebrate whatever event or just have a Saturday evening out. Parents have a huge role to play in terms of incentivising their children and leading them away from alcohol. I welcome the Bill and ask the Minister to be cognisant of the points I made.

I welcome the Minister. I am delighted he accepted a common sense amendment tabled by Deputy Jim O'Keeffe last week. The 10 p.m. time restriction should not be set in stone for all time. Time will prove there is much off season tourism in remote places. The west and Donegal already have off-season tourism when people bring families on holiday. We need to keep an open mind on the legislation which prohibits under 18 year olds from being in pubs after 9 p.m. in the winter.

Before any debate on alcohol, we must acknowledge that Irish people like to drink. It is part of what we are and we must be open, up front and frank about it. This afternoon Denis Bradley, who chairs the North West Alcohol Forum, will be in the House and will meet the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, to address alcohol problems in the north west. It is important the Minister stays in close touch with that group which has many good ideas. It is not my opinion that Irish people like to drink; it was said by Denis Bradley. He was the first person to say that before we do anything, we should start from the premise that Irish people like to drink.

It is accepted that unless a young person can show valid identification, he or she should not have access to alcohol. However, the next challenge is what happens to 15, 16 or 17 year olds. As far as I am concerned, a 15 or 16 year old is a young adult. I am not saying they should have access to, or be served, alcohol in a pub but they are young adults and the question is what do we do for them? The only places where young people can be with their peers — every young person wants to be in a group — is at a disco or in their own homes. Senator Bohan hit the nail on the head when he said young people are meeting before they go to the pub. They have no problem drinking on the street on a cold night as long as they are well wrapped up. That is a challenge we must face. How do we cater for that group?

As I said, everybody wants to be part of a group just as Fianna Fáil wants to be part of that all-encompassing Sinn Féin-Fianna Fáil group even though the natural partners for Fianna Fáil at present are the Progressive Democrats. Young people want to be part of a group, to hang out or, to use their language, "to chill out" with their peers.

Senator McHugh can hang out with us.

They do not want to be with adults. We do not want to go back to the days of youth clubs where young adults were under the supervision of parents, volunteers or the local parish priest. We must afford young adults the opportunity to be under supervision in a controlled environment but with young people, perhaps 18 to 21 year olds, working with them in a paid capacity.

Pubs are seriously feeling the pinch. The Minister does not need me to tell him that. Day time drinking is on the way out as is week night drinking. The trend is changing. People will ask whether it is the smoking ban or the increase in the price of drink. It is a combination of a number of factors. Society is changing. I have sympathy for good publicans who operate good public houses and who would not serve people if they came in drunk at 11.30 p.m. There are ambassadors in terms of good practice in public houses.

I believe Senator Bohan hinted at the massive economic implication. A considerable amount of employment is provided by public houses. In Letterkenny, staff are being laid off. I am not demeriting the smoking ban but maybe we should consider facilitating people in a room separate from the main public house.

We received literature in our post today from Restaurant Express. It is tapping into the change in society in terms of people staying at home. Perhaps it is because the price of drink in pubs is becoming expensive. The literature refers to dining out at home. I am giving good publicity to Heineken if "Oireachtas Report" decides to broadcast this debate but the literature states that one can get 20% off one's bill if one orders six or more bottles of Heineken with one's Restaurant Express food after 8 p.m. This is a reality check. There is a complete change in social behaviour. The implications of this are very dangerous. If couples are meeting in each other's houses, what happens young people when they are not being supervised? This is uncontrolled drinking until perhaps 6 a.m.

Despite serving restrictions, the smoking ban and trying to introduce a nanny state, Irish people like to drink. We are not talking about prohibition as in the United States in 1929. People will drink elsewhere in uncontrolled environments. It will damage the pub trade which proved a controlled environment in which people could drink. That is the danger.

I am glad common sense has prevailed and there has been an extension to 10 p.m, although I am not fully in agreement with it because it should be 10 p.m. all year round. Many people with young children go into pubs which serve food at 8 p.m. but they are often told they cannot be served food because they might be there beyond 9 p.m. If one's order is only taken at 8 p.m, one may not be served on time.

I wrote to the Minister in connection with the very successful Comhaltas Ceoltóirí activity of which Senator Ó Murchú would be aware. In the summer, many pubs in the area got people involved in Comhaltas to provide events that would appeal particularly to tourists. These were mainly young people, most of whom would be drinking soft drinks. In many cases they were under 16 years of age. A side effect of the ban, which one would perhaps not have anticipated, was to prevent those people from participating in Comhaltas activities in pubs over the summer. As tourists like to hear traditional music, I wrote to the Minister in the hope that an exception could be made, but the response was that no exception could be made as it is a general regulation and one has to accept it.

It is said there is much pressure nowadays on people to drink. Publicans are complaining of a decline in the sale of alcohol. We all recognise that society has changed and more people drink at home. Many people are also drinking wine, sales of which have increased dramatically.

I was in a well-known Dublin hotel which hosted one of the teams after the all-Ireland final. The place was absolutely mobbed. When I ordered a pint of Guinness at 11.15 p.m, it cost €4.15. However, at 11.30 p.m. when I went up for another few pints, I discovered the price had increased to €4.70. I queried the matter as I had not previously encountered such a practice, at least not in County Limerick. I was surprised to be informed that prices go up at 11.30 p.m. each night. The place was jammed. It was probably the biggest bonanza this hotel would have during the entire year. The people there were predominantly from rural locations. Many people must have been aware of what was going on. We must consider if the industry is going for overkill in regard to prices.

There is no incentive for young people to consume soft drinks in a public house. In most public houses, the combination of a bottle of orange and lemon would cost way in excess of a pint of Heineken or Guinness. When I was growing up people often decided to join the Pioneers and one respected their decision. I wonder how many young people join the Pioneers nowadays, given the tremendous peer pressure they are under. Publicans could do something to incentivise the drinking of soft drinks in public houses. Most of them would admit the profit margins on soft drinks are extremely high.

I wish to share my time with Senator Scanlan.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator McHugh referred to people hanging out. In Galway County Council, Sinn Féin is keeping Fine Gael and a rainbow of other parties in the chair.

There is nothing wrong with that.

I quoted Shakespeare to them. He said misery makes for strange bedfellows. I welcome the Minister to the House and thank him for clarifying a few issues that have caused much confusion. I wish to make the case for the No Name Club organisation which needs more support than merely saying it is doing great work. By "support" I mean assistance with the organisation of discos and other functions, whether it is in a community hall or a licensed premises. In County Mayo the group is known as Dóthain. Dr. Michael Loftus has championed this particular cause for years. County Roscommon has another name for the organisation.

Transport to events is also a major problem. As the Minister stated, licensed premises are more popular venues as they have good lighting, comfortable surroundings, disco music, special effects and so on. The Garda will confirm that many problems are associated with buses taking circuitous routes to these centres. Drink is often taken on board both on the way to events and on the way home. The current trend is for young people to travel further from home to discos and such events. I urge the Minister to address this issue.

I welcome the extension of the 9 p.m. exemption to 10 p.m. but I would like to see it in operation all year round. The Minister referred to the tourism season. However, in County Galway, the three-day racing festival in July and early August has been extended to a week. Two oyster festivals follow that and another racing festival takes place on the October bank holiday weekend. It is very difficult to say when the tourism season starts and finishes in County Galway.

Previous speakers referred to social events in licensed premises, such as weddings, retirement parties and birthday parties, particularly 21st birthday parties, which are important occasions. One does not expect everyone at a 21st birthday party to be over 18 because younger members of families also attend such events.

What takes place after discos is a great cause for concern. As a father of teenagers, I am very worried about this issue. If we had enough taxis they could be relied on to bring people home safely, but that is not the case. I smile when I hear of people in Galway saying their young people come home in a taxi and if they do not have enough money, the parents will leave money on the table in the hall for them so they can pay when they get home. That is not an option when there are not enough taxis.

The Minister referred to Galway in connection with the Director of Public Prosecution's direction that prosecutions be taken in certain cases where alcohol-free events were being held in licensed premises. Even though the District Court dismissed the charges on hearing that alcohol was not available and the bar shutters were closed, it still caused a great deal of concern as some confusion remained.

At No Name Club functions I observed that soft drinks were available close to the door where one paid one's admission. In fact, the drink was almost given away for free, which was not a very good situation either. It is important for bar owners to know what are their rights and obligations. Difficult situations can arise for bar owners who have two bars or more in a premises which have to be organised and supervised. Another difficulty relates to people getting passes for a premises due to the risk of them availing of drink elsewhere.

Accusations have been levelled at the Minister and others regarding the nanny state syndrome. That is all right as regards cutting turf but not accident and emergency departments. We have all seen programmes about this and I listened to discussions about it when I was a member of a health board. The suggestion was often made in that forum, as elsewhere, that people in a drunken state in need of accident and emergency services should be charged.

One of the best things we ever did in the Western Health Board was to organise a one-day conference on alcoholism. A board member, Dr. Greg Kelly, spoke very movingly about his situation as a GP in the town of Castlerea where a disco was held every weekend. He was often up all night treating people involved in accidents or rows. The Garda was aware of what was going on. At one stage he was told he should get a psychiatrist's or psychologist's report at 3 a.m. His response was to query where he would get such people at that time of night.

Down in the disco.

He gave a very good account of what it was like for a GP in a small town where a disco was held and that is something that will always remain with me.

The Minister made a very good point regarding the woman from Connemara who spoke about her daughter's death which was brought about because she was served alcohol. That is the reality of what is happening. We have to examine the overall situation. I am very much in favour of the family pub in particular. I could not understand why discos got an extension of one hour to closing times when pubs got an extra hour. I am sure the Minister will address the matter in the codification of the law which he intends introducing. Unfortunately, in a way, the pub still has to be used for music and dancing lessons. The Minister has laid down the manner in which it should be used. Parents have an important role, as other Members have said. I hope that when the Minister introduces the law on codification, some of these other issues will be clarified.

I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Minister on listening to the concerns of people. I come from a rural area where the only place open to organisations such as the GAA, soccer clubs or whatever to run a function or disco is the local bar. There is no hall available and I am glad that this situation is being sorted out. It presented a problem in certain areas and people were somewhat reluctant and afraid to organise particular functions.

I agree with Senator McHugh. Members received leaflets this morning highlighting the concerns of the restaurant business about drink being ordered with meals. I am sure it is more relevant to Dublin than rural Ireland. However, drink will be delivered as long as the person collecting it has the money to pay for it. There is no control as regards who may be receiving this drink. I believe it is a retrograde step and there should be more controls in this regard.

Some small publicans, who are decent people, are finding the business climate particularly tough at present. Many people agree with the smoking ban. I do not know a smoker who does not want to give up cigarettes, but the ban is certainly having an effect in rural areas, particularly in smaller pubs which have no yard space at the rear so that smokers have to go out onto the street to smoke. We should try to resolve that situation by providing some degree of flexibility in this regard. I say this in all sincerity because otherwise some publicans face closure. People will not go onto the street to smoke and to be seen standing outside a pub. It is having a serious effect on some businesses.

While we complain about publicans and the price of drink, it is possible to buy a pint for €3 in my home town, Ballymote. The publicans there are making a genuine effort to keep prices regulated and to try to hold on to the business. Despite that, a friend of mine who runs a popular award-winning pub tells me his Guinness sales are down 9% on last year and spirits sales are down 18%. This is a well-managed pub which has won awards at county and provincial levels. When such a pub is losing business, God help the rest of them.

It is happening all over. Off-licence sales are making inroads as are supermarkets.

That is correct. Sadly, the tax take on all this will have a significant effect on Estimates, perhaps not this year but in years to come. I welcome the Minister and the Bill. It is a step in the right direction.

I wish to share my time with Senator Quinn, two minutes for me and the rest for him.

I welcome the Minister to the House. Some Senators said this Bill would not be before the House today if common sense had been applied to the main piece of legislation. However, since the clarification was sought by the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is a constituent of mine, I do not believe I will get involved in that debate. Votes are hard got sometimes.

The purpose of the Bill is to clarify the situation and we have to reinforce the efforts being made to run alcohol-free discos. This is of major importance. I come at it in particular from the viewpoint of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency's report and the sexual assault unit in the Rotunda. Both have said that in teenagers, excess alcohol is an extremely important factor as regards sexual assault and unplanned pregnancies. I welcome anything that is being done to assist people in organising these types of events.

Like other Senators I am somewhat concerned about the increase in the hours during which children are allowed into pubs. I hope it is not the thin end of the wedge. When the original legislation was going through the House, I was not the only Member who said that pubs were unsuitable places for small children late at night. I would hate to see that happening again. I see the Leader nodding and I would add that it is distressing to see little children crying frequently in pubs late at night. It cannot be great for those who want to drink in peace either.

Other Senators made the point about the cost of soft drinks. This is extremely important and I hope the Minister will urge the Director of Consumer Affairs to keep a close eye on it. Perhaps the Minister would indicate also at the end of the debate whether tap water has to be available at these venues. The reason I ask is that about ten or 12 years ago a problem arose when some nightclub and disco venues turned off the tap water, even in the hand basins of lavatories. This pushed up sales of drink and it was truly dreadful. The environmental health officers were in dispute with the Department of Health at the time, so this carry-on continued for about six months. I would like to know if tap water has to be available in these venues free of charge or not.

If possible, people should be encouraged to sell bottled water at a cheaper price than sweet sugary drinks which contribute to the problems of obesity. These are matters which the Director of Consumer Affairs must take up. I would like the Minister to liaise with her office about this matter.

I welcome the Minister and the Bill. I have notes prepared but I will not stick to them. I fear we try to solve everything through legislation. There are many matters we should not attempt to resolve through legislation. I am not sure where to start, but let us take the example of prohibition in the United States. It was introduced there in 1919, clearly did not have the support of the population and was repealed in 1931 after much greater problems had been created than heretofore. I agree entirely with what has been said concerning small children in pubs late at night. However, perhaps we should not attempt to solve everything by legislation.

I will take one instance, for which I am partially responsible, when it was suggested in the House last year that something should be done about the dangers of salt in food, perhaps by taxing it. Since then I have thought it over and concluded that this would be the wrong approach. It is interesting to see what the Food Safety Authority of Ireland is now doing to try to convince, encourage and educate people in this regard and get them to think about it and even to shame them into not doing other things. One does not see many fur coats on the streets nowadays because people are somewhat shy and afraid of wearing them. This has nothing to do with legislation but with social pressure. Similarly, practices have changed in supermarkets, where plastic bags are not used to nearly the same extent. Whatever about the 15 cent tax, it is accepted that one is not acting in the best interests of society by using a plastic bag.

On the question of legislation, my wife and I were in Salt Lake City in Utah a short time ago where we joined friends for dinner and were asked what we wanted to drink. My wife said red wine and I said white and this presented an immediate problem. The legislation in Utah stipulates that there cannot be two bottles of wine on a table in a restaurant at the same time. I switched to red wine, as we all did, and we had the white afterwards. This, perhaps, is an example of trying to legislate for everything.

I know we talked in the House today about the nanny state. It is less a question of the nanny state that the danger of a police state which says, in effect, "We are going to legislate for everything." This is, perhaps, an example of where we have got to change attitudes and where people's behaviour patterns must alter. We must change the way they think. To draw on words used earlier, we must enthuse, encourage, educate and shame, so that people do not behave in a particular way. We opt too readily to try to resolve everything by legislation. In this case we thought we were doing the right thing. It was interesting to hear the Minister explain the difficulty he faced. The Minister, his adviser and the Attorney General were of one view on this aspect but the Director of Public Prosecutions had another. I am delighted the DPP is not a constituent of mine. Obviously, he is a Trinity College graduate and, therefore, I do not have to worry. I am not a lawyer and I hesitate to adjudicate between such legal luminaries as the Minister and the DPP.

If I had to choose, and I read the DPP's guidelines, I would side with the DPP on the point of law but who is legally right or wrong in this case is irrelevant because either way the prosecutions should not have taken place. While I give the DPP ten out of ten for law, I give him zero out of ten for common sense, a term that has been used already. We are back here debating the Bill because some common sense has to be introduced.

The DPP's guidelines state that the interest in seeing the wrongdoer convicted and punished is itself a public interest consideration. They go on to state that the more serious the offence and the stronger the evidence to support it, the less likely that some other factor will outweigh that interest. They state further that the first factor to consider in assessing where the public interest lies is the seriousness of the alleged offence and whether there are aggravating or mitigating factors.

It would appear those guidelines were not followed on this occasion. We are not dealing with a serious offence for which it is important the wrongdoer is punished. We are dealing with nothing more than a technical offence brought about by sloppy drafting on our part because "bar" was used in the legislation when perhaps it should not have been.

I mention this as a word of caution to us, as legislators. Let us not try to solve every problem by way of legislation. Speaking from a business point of view we market, advertise, promote and try to change attitudes. We do not have the right to instruct people what to do and we, as legislators, should consider that. I have no problem supporting the Minister in regard to this legislation. I regret it had to come back to this House because we slipped up when it was before the House previously.

I wish to share my time with the Leader, Senator O'Rourke.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Minister. While I recognise this is technical amending legislation, I do not intend to get into the debate on the issue of under-age alcohol abuse which the Members of this House have discussed here at length. In that regard the Minister was helpful in giving us a good deal of his time in the last session. Senator MacSharry and others dealt adequately with the change of culture, an issue on which Senator Norris also expressed views.

Alcohol is readily available both inside and outside public houses, either through off-licences or other circumstances which my colleague opposite mentioned in regard to it being delivered to one's house with a meal. That is a worrying development and something I am sure the Minister will monitor.

We must consider dealing with this problem through the education system because we do not want to return to the days of prohibition. Once we start regulating the sale of alcohol we will find that people have the capacity to drink either before they go to the pub or through other mechanisms. At least in the regulated environment of the pub there is some level of a safeguard because the majority of public houses I am aware of are run exceptionally well with a good management structure in place.

I welcome the fact that the Minister has taken into account the difficulties surrounding the No Name Clubs and the alcohol-free discos. I am not concerned about the view of the DPP, unless he becomes a county councillor, although he is not in my constituency.

I welcome the extension of the time limit. I come from a rural constituency, County Clare, where tourism is the mainstay of some of the villages, particularly along Lough Derg. The Minister mentioned the River Shannon and beaches in the past few days, and County Clare fits neatly into that category. We have seen the issues that pertain to the good management of a tourism business in the county.


I am sure Roscommon is a good tourism area also.

I welcome the extension of the time to 10 p.m. from 1 May to 30 September. Like other Senators, I believe it should be extended to a year round basis. I hope the Minister will review that going forward. The Minister said the extension will facilitate parents, particularly around the holiday season, but it will also help to address some of the negativity within the tourism sector, particularly on the part of foreign tour operators. I am aware an effort is being made by some tour operators outside Ireland to label Ireland as unfriendly to tourists because of the smoking ban and the early closing time. That is important from the point of view of national as well as foreign tourism. It is also important to help maintain the fabric and infrastructure of our tourism sector, and pubs and restaurants do that. As Senator Bohan and others said, there is a real threat to the livelihoods of some of those businesses. From talking to business people over the summer it appears that while tourist numbers nationally are up, the spend is down dramatically. We have to monitor that problem because the livelihoods of some of those people are in jeopardy.

While the smoking ban has had a positive effect, it has also affected the businesses concerned. In some respects it is now more acceptable to bring young children into pubs for a meal because many of the publicans have altered their business model and are now investing in quality kitchens and a good food facility as part of their businesses. These areas are becoming more attractive, therefore, to the sector of people who like to eat out in that they facilitate people with young families. It will be interesting to see how the Minister deals with that aspect when he brings forward the codification Bill because there are many licences available, particularly in light of the change in model with which many businesses are dealing, and the demand for the standard pub is no longer as relevant as it was previously. This is a challenge to the tourism sector, an area we must examine, because while tourist numbers are up the spend is down. That is causing hardship and has the capacity to have a long-term effect on the overall sector if the level of infrastructure is not maintained, something about which I would be concerned.

In light of this I ask the Minister to consider extending the 10 p.m. limit to a year round basis to ensure the issues I have raised do not result in a weakening of the infrastructure. Effectively, we have a year round tourism industry. Easter, St. Patrick's weekend, Hallowe'en and Christmas are family holidays. People like to spend them in the rural areas from which they come, as do those returning from overseas. Social life begins a little later in rural areas. People do not go to the pub at 6 p.m. as they may do in the cities on their way home from work. At 8.30 p.m. or 9 p.m. there are very few people in pubs in rural Ireland but by 11 p.m. there is a crowd. Perhaps that is part of what the Minister is trying to do in terms of the change of culture but it is a slow process.

In regard to foreign tourism, the school terms abroad are different and we must ensure we cater for that in whatever way possible. I thank the Minister for the work he has been doing in this area.

Debate adjourned.