Section 12 provides:—
From and after the 25th day of September, 1925, it shall not be lawful to carry on any business (except the businesses hereinafter expressly authorised) in the same building as that in which the business of the sale of intoxicating liquor by retail for consumption on the premises is carried on, unless the portion of the building in which such sale of intoxicating liquor is carried on is structurally separated from and has no internal communication with any portion of the building in which any other business (except as aforesaid) is carried on.
Now, I put that to Deputies as a proposal, and with regard to that section, if I cannot convince the majority of the Deputies, voting freely and without party ties or obligations, as to the propriety of that portion of the Bill, I am prepared to drop it. That is not a new decision on my part. It is an arrangement which I came to four or five weeks back with the party which gives habitual support to the Government. I put that section in the Bill because I want to argue it with the Dáil, and it is a matter which I am prepared to argue and discuss very fully on the Committee Stage. Now, I will see on the Order Paper when the Committee Stage comes, an amendment to delete that section, and I would much prefer an amendment purporting to deal with cases where the application of the principle would involve undoubted hardship. My complaint is that with regard to this matter there is a tendency to exploit the hard case. I would sooner have the principle examined on its merits, whether at this hour of the day, whether in the year 1924 the public are satisfied that a system should continue by which women and girls going into shops for a package of tea, or a pound of butter, or half a pound of rashers, must, as it were, force their way in, past men standing over their pints; or, put it in another way, whether at this hour of the day it is considered proper that a man going in for a pound of nails should be subject to the temptation of wasting—I will not use the word "wasting" because it is partisan—of spending his time and money in a different way to that which he intended. I think it is a fair thing to say that a man going in for a drink should go in for a drink, and that a man going in for a pound of nails, and should go in for a pound of nails, and there will not be that inducement of spending that time and money in a different way to that which he originally intended. Extravagant statements have been made as to the expenditure that this would involve, and people have spoken as if it were a three-foot wall that would be necessary between one portion of the establishment and the other. Deputies know, of course, that a lath-and-cardboard, or a lath-and-plaster partition would meet the requirements of the Bill, that all that is asked is that the two portions of the shop shall be separate. If the principle is right, if at this hour of the day the public are entitled to be better served, then let the hard cases not be exploited. I am well aware, and was well aware when I asked that that section be written into the Bill, that there are cases in which very considerable architectural difficulties would arise, cases in which the question of light would be somewhat difficult if the owner of premises would be expected to divide them in the way suggested in the Bill.
Very good; let us, by amendment, deal with the hard cases but let the hard cases not be exploited to defeat a principle, if that principle is right and sound, or, if it is a question that September, 1925, is too near and that the time should be extended, let that, too, be argued. I will ask Deputies on the Committee Stage to agree with me that this system of a mixed trade carried on in the same room is bad in its sociological aspect; that, first of all, that is not the way that people should be served, that women and girls and children should not be expected to go in through a public house for the purchase of their groceries and other household requirements, and, there is also that other aspect, that temptation should not be there for a man going in for some requirements for his house or for his farm to spend his time and money in a different way. I am told that it would really mean two shops, and that it would mean additional requirements as to staffs. Well, there is considerable unemployment in the country and, if it means additional requirements as to staffs, I think that in that matter I can depend on the support of the Labour Deputies. This Bill, as I have stated, is an attempt to interpret the mentality and to interpret the wishes of the average electors, and I put this aspect to people who referred to this measure as tyrannical and confiscatory—I do not know how many other adjectives were applied to it in resolutions that I have got during the last few weeks—that the measure might very well be something different even from their point of view. I feel that, if year after year measures of reasonable reform are shouted down and voted down, a time will come when matters of this kind will be put by referendum to the people, and when the people, with the recent large additions to the electorate, and with the recent large additional woman vote to the electorate, may pass a much more comprehensive and much more drastic measure of reform. And I do put it, even to those who are vitally and personally affected by the Bill, that unless they show a disposition to meet the reasonable requirements of the public as to temperance, as to sobriety, and a reasonable catering for what people are entitled to expect for their wives and children, boys and girls, the public may very well deal with this whole question in its own way at a later stage.
I am not a Prohibitionist, nor in any measure that I would take responsibility for would there be any complexion of that kind. But if I am right, I believe that the trend of public opinion in this country is running strongly in favour of reasonable temperance reforms of this kind, and that, if that is not met, and met in a reasonable way by the interests concerned, there may come more far-reaching measures. I put that simply as food for thought to those who are inclined to think, or, if not inclined to think, are inclined to say that this measure goes beyond the bounds of reasonable change. That structural separation clause must abide the verdict of the free vote of the Dáil. That is an understanding and an arrangement. But the other sections involve very little more than was embodied in the Bill that was passed by the Dáil last year.
I feel certain that it is unnecessary for me to dilate upon or to advocate the two concluding portions of the Bill —the portion dealing with illicit distillation and that dealing with methylated spirits. Deputies know the need for both of these parts of the Bill. The illicit distillation traffic is one on which considerable inroads have been made by the activities of the Gárda Síochána, but which has not been stamped out; and I have come to the conclusion now that much further headway is unlikely to be made unless we take power to control the raw material. I am so advised by the police themselves, and by Deputies and public officials in the areas affected. I am advised that we have got to come down to the point of absolute control of the raw materials of poteen if we are to hope to absolutely stamp it out. It is a great evil—a great social evil—in the areas in which it prevails. The methylated spirits traffic is, of course, no less an evil. If it exists on a smaller scale, at any rate it is no less injurious in its effects; and we propose here what we hope are adequate powers. It will be noted that illicit distillation no longer remains on the basis of being mainly or primarily a revenue offence; it is made an ordinary criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment.
I do not know that at this stage of the Bill there is matter calling for much further comment. Deputies will notice that in Section 23 power is given to the police to search clubs or to visit and inspect clubs under certain circumstances where there is suspicion that a breach of the law is taking place. Formerly the police were under considerable difficulty with regard to clubs, because they had to have something more than suspicion, they had to have something little short of absolute personal knowledge before they would get from a magistrate the necessary warrant. I am glad to say that at the conference which I had the representatives of the club assured me that they would welcome police supervision and police inspection, and had no objection to the insertion of a clause of that kind in the Bill; and that is something which certainly gives every evidence ofbona fides and every evidence of a desire to run the clubs properly on the part of those who represented the clubs at the conference.
I am aware that Deputies—or some Deputies—will see in the Bill not merely sins of commission, but sins of omission. From time to time I got requests to bring certain matters within the scope of the Bill. There are local problems and special interests here and there in regard to which people saw, or thought they saw, in the Bill, an opportunity of having grievances, real or imaginary, redressed. There is the problem of the Cork tied house, which I am not attempting to deal with in this measure, and which must be left over for fuller examination by a Commission. And then, here in Dublin, there were two special requests, one from certain people on the North side who had six-day licences, and who would like to have seven-day licences, and the other had reference to a problem which I am sure is well known by circular and memoranda to many Deputies, if not to all—the problem of the added areas. These are questions which I think can better be dealt with on the Committee Stage, if amendments are put down, and which I would suggest, at any rate, ought to be omitted from the scope of the discussion at this stage of the Bill. I formally move the Second Reading.