I would like to add my voice to what Deputy Johnson has said in saying that a Bill of this complicated nature really cannot receive that care and detailed attention it ought to have in the very short time that is at the disposal of this Dáil, the short time, whenever it be, that we are to adjourn for the summer holidays. In saying that I also want to make it perfectly clear that it is not because I do not think that this Bill is a necessary Bill, and a Bill that ought to receive support and attention at the earliest possible moment. It unquestionably is all that. But because it ought to receive not only attention but detailed attention I am very doubtful whether that can justly be given in the short time that is available. That consideration has been impressed upon my mind particularly because in reading the Bill one criticism instantly suggested itself to my mind and I recorded it at the time in the note of a certain word, and I was glad to notice that the word was used yesterday by Deputy Bryan Cooper, and that is the word "rigidity." The Bill is a rigid Bill. The circumstances with which it has to deal, and the evils and abuses which it purports to correct are all of a very complex kind, and I do suggest that it cannot be said that the hard and fast lines upon which the Bill has been laid out can possibly deal with conditions so complex as the conditions that do prevail in regard to this matter. There is another reason, and that is that the greatest problem, as has already been indicated, is the reduction of licences, and that is not dealt with at all in this present Bill. While we are at the matter, that matter ought to be gone into with some degree of fullness, and the course ought not to be adopted of leaving certain matters over on the chance that these trimmings round about the central question would be dealt with later. I am inclined to think that by the time this Bill has become law, in whatever form it becomes law, there will not be much chance of a Commission being appointed to deal with the other and smaller matters that are left over, and they are very important matters.
INTOXICATING LIQUOR BILL. - SECOND STAGE (RESUMED).
Surely not the smaller matters?
The other matters that will be left over after this Bill has been disposed of. Certain Deputies have suggested that a reduction of licences will lead to a smaller consumption of intoxicating liquor. I do not think that the facts as known in different countries substantiate that. But in any case licences are too many, and the number ought to be reduced. But the chief objection that I see to this Bill, and I state that I intend to support it, because I think the general lines upon which it is framed are lines that ought to receive support—is the question of rigidity. I suggest that to lay down exactly the same time of closing for a hotel in Dublin—the Shelbourne has been mentioned—and a publichouse in a remote country district is not, I think, to recognise the essential difference that there is between the two, because if drunkenness is to be diminished it can best be diminished by the system that has been adopted through the Continent of Europe, and that is by making any intoxicating liquors that are to be served only to be served where non-intoxicating liquors and foodstuffs are available; that is, to break up the general bar system. Now, obviously in the case of a hotel that has no bar, it is not a question of social distinction; it is a distinction of kind, and in the case of the hotel that has no bar, and where drinking, if it has to be conducted, has to be conducted in public, the circumstances are quite different from a house in the country that has nothing except its bar, or where after a certain hour no purchases whatever are made, and the only people to be found there are there for drinking and drinking only.
Yet in this Bill the same hour is adopted for one as for the other. The same principles that are made to apply to one are made to apply to the other; or, take another case the Minister yesterday mentioned a certain club I think we are all very familiar with, although not with its interior, I hope, but we know the club to which he referred when he made reference to the large amount of liquor that was consumed there. If I got his reference aright, I believe one can obtain membership of that company of men for sixpence a year, and you can sign for two guests. It is very little other than a disguised publichouse, and the smallest amount of disguise that can be rendered is rendered. There is a great difference between a club of that kind and a social club that is not obviously intended primarily for drinking purposes, and where, I suggest, the limitation of hours, instead of achieving the purpose the Minister has in mind, and which the Bill purports to achieve, will actually do the very reverse, because I think one of the matters where the rigidity of the Bill is neglecting the essential factors of the case, as these factors do exist, is the neglect of the psychological element in the matter. The Minister knows, I am sure, that the very fact that there is a closing time means whoever is attending at the club is sent round to advertise the fact that closing time is approaching, and the temptation is set up and acted upon when that notice has been received to see that enough drinks are available for a considerable length of time, for another two hours. A number of drinks are actually ordered in those circumstances which none of the persons there would consider had he had that extra time within which to order whatever he liked.
It is a fact that in a city like Paris, where you can get a drink at any time of the day or night you wish, there is less drunkenness than there is in a city that has a rigid closing time. I agree where you have the bar system, where people go in for no other purpose but to stand and drink at the bar, that there is a case to be made out for such places having a rigid closing time. But to enforce the same closing time for other places where drinking is not the primary purpose of the establishment is rather inclined, I suggest, to cause that purpose to become primary in the minds of those who would visit—that they would visit it because closing time is approaching, instead of using it as they might be otherwise inclined to do, mainly if not wholly, for ordinary purposes of social communion. That is the main fault to which I wish to draw attention, because I think it is a very glaring fault. I think that if that line is to be adopted you will get the very purpose of the Bill, as I have said, turned against itself. The case has been mentioned of golf clubs. At the present time golf is played in full daylight a half hour after closing time, and what will happen? Men, before they go out will take good care to order enough drinks to be available for them, put them in their lockers against their return, and they will see that a good ample margin is left, so that instead of men going in as they do now, at ten minutes to ten and taking what is quite sufficient for them, not drinking to excess, because you cannot purchase that small quantity long in advance a large quantity will be ordered in advance. The effect of the earlier closing time in cases of that kind will lead to what I have described, and which is not the intention of this Bill, or the intention of the Minister, and I take it the intention of the majority of the Deputies. I am mentioning these things not because there is any essential difference, at least I would imagine there is very little difference, between the purpose the Minister desires to achieve and the purpose that I for one will support fully, and I am willing to support this Bill because I think that after changes and amendments in Committee, it can better achieve its purpose than it can do, or hope to do, in its present form. I say that for myself, I would not find it difficult to come into alignment as far as its purposes are meant. The question is how far the provisions of this Bill help these purposes. I suggest to the Minister that anything that is of that rigid kind that neglects the psychological factors of the case, and that acts in defiance of the very great difference there is in the kind of establishments throughout the country where drinks are available is bound to prove irritating, and anything that proves unduly irritating is a legislative provision which will not achieve the purpose it is intended to achieve. The two main parts of the Bill that are matters of pressing necessity are, of course, the two last sections. Very grave evils have occurred, and they must be stamped out as strongly as possible.
The next gravest evil of this kind in the country, and this is a matter the Minister says he is going to leave entirely open to the House, is in regard to establishments where we have all seen on a fair day a shop with a bar attached with a number of men in it, some of whom are very much the worse for liquor, and yet women and children going into that shop for ordinary purchases. It is one of the worst sights of the countryside. I am sorry the Minister has left that matter open in the way he has indicated. I think there ought to be a very sharp distinction made and, as Deputy Johnson said, and I entirely agree with every word he said, that the owner of a shop in the country ought to make up his mind whether he is going to run it as a public house or run it as a shop, and having made up his mind, stick to his decision. I have said that one of the gravest matters that this Bill neglected from its consideration was the reduction of licences, which was to be left over for some subsequent Commission to determine. There are indications to show that when this Bill leaves the Dáil this question of the dual shop in the country will also be left undetermined, and I am sorry for it. The Minister in doing that has said that he will bow to the will of the Dáil, because he recognises that the case can be made out on purely economic grounds for that. Even if a case could be made on purely economic grounds, I think the social grounds and the decent grounds are the higher grounds to take. But if he is willing to bend in that matter, then I ask him to indicate in closing this debate how far he is willing to meet reasonable objections that might be argued in Committee, and reasonable amendments that might be put forward to make the Bill a little more flexible than it is—that the conditions I have indicated, that the public houses where people attend for the purpose of taking intoxicating liquor, and primarily for that purpose, shall not be treated in exactly the same way as the club, where that is not the primary intention, and not treated in the same way as a hotel, where that is not the primary intention. The fact remains that people who attend a public house attend it for one acknowledged purpose, and they drink the kind of liquor that will achieve that purpose.
A friend of mine in the country a short time ago had occasion to employ a man cutting his turf, and entertaining him at lunch thought he would try him with a bottle of claret to see how the taste would agree with him. The man drank his bottle of claret and he drank a second bottle of claret, and when he was asked how he savoured that for a drink he replied: "Well, it is not too bad a drink, but you know, sir, it is very tedious." There are a good many drinks that are drunk in places till late hours at night that I am afraid would be described by persons who are in the habit of frequenting public houses as being very tedious. This Bill treats all purposes as being primary purposes within the meaning of this Bill, and while supporting the Bill I do so in the hope that in Committee the Minister will be able to meet amendments in order to make its provisions turn more ways than one and recognise more conditions than one, and render it less rigid and somewhat more flexible.
AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE took the Chair.
The proposed Bill is in many points good and to a great extent the reforms suggested in it are long overdue. I was glad to hear the Minister for Justice say yesterday evening that he was going to leave clause 12 to an open vote of the Dáil, as it would be placing too great a hardship on rural areas. In villages and towns the vast majority of licensed holders carry on the retail of all commodities necessary for the rural population, and these holdings are barely, if at all, economic. Ninety-five per cent. of those licensed holders could not, if this section was enforced, carry out the structural arrangements. If this section became law it would mean people would have to build an extra department, and it would mean that an extra person would have to be employed in that department to carry on the business and the volume of business carried on in that department would not allow that, as one part of the trade would not pay. The result would be that traders would have to give up business and find some other means of livelihood.
Summer Time is not an accepted fact in practice, as far as the greater part of the agricultural community is concerned, so that 10 p.m. closing would be a great hardship in the rural areas, not so much to the licensed holders as the workers, whose toil is only completed at that hour.
It is suggested in the Bill that licensed houses are to be closed every, where on Good Friday and St. Patrick's Day. On Good Friday and St. Patrick's Day fairs and markets have been held in towns throughout the country, and it would be causing great hardship to people who travel long distances to fairs and markets held on those days if the licensed houses are closed. They are at the fair at six o'clock in the morning, and if they have to wait until 9 o'clock to get refreshments it is unfair.
God help them.
I say that 9 o'clock opening in the morning would be causing a great injustice to the people in the rural areas.
Will the Deputy tell us, from his experience, how did they manage to wait in the South of Ireland when they started at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning?
Exemptions were granted for fairs.
I consider that 9 o'clock for the opening hour would be rather late in country places. I think the Minister should look into this in the Committee Stage and see if he could carry out the existing statutory hours of sale, say from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. I think it would suit people who live in rural areas. I think the want of consideration for the parties aggrieved by the sections I have referred to is ample reason why I cannot support the Bill, if the Minister does not see his way to delete these sections I have referred to in the Committee Stage of the Bill.
I think it is right that I should rise and indicate that the Minister may count on my full support for the Bill so far as principles are concerned.
What about Government interference?
Of course Deputy Wilson must have his little joke. I am not going to take up the time of the House after the very full debate that has taken place on the Bill but I think it is right and proper that I should indicate to the House that so far as I and my Party are concerned we support the Bill.
There has been a good deal of opposition to this Licensing Bill from various quarters of the country, and, judging by a great deal of the correspondence which I got in connection with the opposition to it, it chiefly came from people who had not read or studied the whole of the Bill, and who knew very little about it. The Minister in his statement yesterday has said that so far as Clause 12, which deals with structural alterations, is concerned, he proposes to leave it to a free vote of the House. That, of course, is the one really contentious clause in the Bill so far as three-fourths of the licensed houses in the South, West, and Midlands of Ireland are concerned. For my part I am in perfect agreement with the principle in that clause. That is to say, I think it eminently desirable that drink and other classes of goods should be sold in separate apartments if possible, but, then, the Minister in introducing the Bill, stated that compensation was not being provided for. The reason that I am opposed to Clause 12 in its present form is not, as I have said, on a matter of principle, but because it is not architecturally possible to carry out the provisions of that particular clause. A great many houses are so situated that, leaving out the question of expense, it would not in practice be possible or feasible to give effect to the alterations referred to in Clause 12. This Bill has a great many valuable clauses in it, and it deals with some very distinct, definite, and pressing evils, and I think that probably the greatest evils with which it deals are the drinking of methylated spirits and, to a very much greater extent, of what is known as poteen. I think that people do not always realise how widespread the evil of poteen drinking is in the country. Apart from the fact that it defrauds the revenue, the great majority of the stuff manufactured is of a most poisonous nature, and is full of high ethers and of all kinds of objectional poisons, and its effect on the human health is most lamentable. I am quite certain that the drinking of poteen has a great deal to do with the filling of our lunatic asylums, and the provisions which deal with that have my cordial approval and welcome. Incidentally I might say that I am sorry that the Minister for Finance is not here, as I think that the growth of poteen manufacture is largely due to the very high spirit tax.
Of course the Minister for Finance must raise his revenue, but I hope that he will consider, when introducing his next Budget, the desirability of making some reduction in the present spirit tax, if for no other reason than for the reason that it would discourage the manufacture of this vile spirit which is playing havoc with the health of the people. Some years ago the spirit duty was ten shillings a gallon, and at present it is £3 12s., and of course, naturally, it is a very much more prosperous industry now to manufacture illict spirit and dispose of it than when the duty was ten shillings a gallon. That is a matter which I would commend to the consideration of the Minister for Finance when preparing his next Budget. Deputy Figgis has referred to the reduction of licences. I think that there is general agreement that the reduction of licences would be necessary but, as the Minister for Justice has indicated, the reduction of licences is such a very big problem and requires such very careful and searching inquiry, it would need to have a special commission set up to examine into every possible phase of this question. The question of the reduction of licences cannot be fairly considered without considering at the same moment, the question of compensation to those people who have had their licences taken from them. There have been a good many suggestions in connection with the reduction of licences, and personally I think as a general principle there should not be any great objection to reducing the number of licences, and having the people whose licences were taken away compensated by those licence holders who were left. I think that is a perfectly fair and reasonable suggestion. However, the carrying out of that would require very careful machinery and when we look into the practical details of compensation by the licensed holders who are left it is not as easy as it looks, but I still believe that it could be got over and that that difficulty is to my mind a very excellent reason why the Minister in this Bill did not deal with the question of the reduction of licences. It is too big a matter and will require very careful going into. For my part I have no hesitation in saying that I sincerely hope it will be gone into. I think it will be for the benefit of the community at large that the number of licences should be reduced. Another important matter touched on in the Bill is the question of clubs. I have no fault whatever to find with clubs which are properly conducted, clubs which provide food and, possibly, lodging accommodation and so on. But there is no question of doubt that there is a good deal of damage done by those clubs which can sell drinks at all hours of the day and night right through the country. From the point of view of the licensed trader it must be remembered that they are paying very heavy licence duty, which is based on valuation, and that they have a lot of other expenses which clubs have not got, whereas clubs pay practically no licence duty except, I think, a nominal one of £1 a year, and they are liberty to sell what they like at any hour of the day or night. That does not seem to be fair. I see no reason why clubs should receive special treatment, and I think it reasonable that the hours regulating the sale of intoxicating liquor in clubs should be the same as the hours regulating its sale in public houses. There are a good many other matters in the Bill to which at this stage I do not wish to refer. I suppose they will be coming up on the Committee Stage. There is, for instance, the very thorny question of the added areas. I do not profess to have any great firsthand knowledge about the merits of the case put up by the added areas, but I must say that at first sight it does seem rather hard on licensed traders in those areas, that they should not have the same terms regarding hours and so forth as the other licensed traders in the city. There may, however, be some strong case against it of which I, at the moment, am not aware, but I hope to hear the Minister explain that and various other matters in detail on the Committee Stage. Taking the Bill as a whole I have no hesitation in giving it my cordial support. I think it is a definite advance in dealing with a very serious problem and I commend the Bill to the favourable consideration of the House.
I think I may confess that we can never hear the Minister for Justice too often. In introducing this Bill and listening to his speeches, I was forcibly reminded of what I may call the heroic period in Irish history. One would recall very properly, in listening to the Minister's speech, the return of Ossian from Tir na n-Og. We know that that hero, mounted on a white horse, left the land under a charge by his spouse not to touch earth lest he should become a mere mortal, but coming through the Glen of the Thrushes in Wicklow he saw a body of workmen endeavouring to raise a slab of stone or marble, and taking compassion on these poor mortals he leaned forward and, taking the slab of stone or marble, he slung it seven perches away. The Minister for Justice, or may I call him Ossian O hUigín riding the milk-white steed of the Liquor Bill—I was tempted to call it the white elephant of the Liquor Bill—and seeing poor depraved humanity in such a state, rushes forward to lift this slab of moral depravity upwards, but he takes great care that the girth of his saddle is such that he will not fall amongst men or wrangling clerics like Ossian of history. He leaves Section 12 in the Bill open to the free vote of his Party. He faces this issue on a high moral plane, and he asks us to assume and believe that this will help the cause of temperance. That is the basis upon which the Bill is placed, and it is very well worthy of analysis. Does anybody really suppose that the number of public-houses, or the ease by which drink can be obtained, is the cause of intemperance. Does the Minister believe that? Does anybody who knows the question thoroughly believe it?
Some seven or eight years ago it was common comment that Ireland was more temperate than ever it was; that the young men of Ireland were more temperate than ever they were. Was there any rigid legislation at that time to force them to become temperate? There was not, but there was then the result of what one may call the Irish-Ireland movement and the Gaelic League. This influence raised the people above the low moral standard which we are told we have today. It raised them above that, and it gave them something better to live for, something nobler to strive for than mere satisfaction of desires at the moment. If we want to tackle the temperance question properly we must tackle it as an educational problem. We must have education well sustained and well protected. Acts of Parliament will never do that, and they have never succeeded in doing that so far as I know. The publichouse is but a manifestation of the disease, and removing the publichouse is on a par with the doctor who endeavours to treat jaundice by applying a skin lotion instead of treating the blood and the liver of the patient.
Take alone Section 6 of this Bill. What is the need of introducing this section? Does not the present position of the law in that respect, meet all the requirements? Does not the Minister know that debts contracted across the counter for drink cannot be recovered as shop debts, and what, I ask, is the need of going any further, I am not pleading for getting "tick" in public houses. I am merely putting the proposition to the Minister that there is a sufficient guarantee at the present time to prevent drink being got in this fashion. I also put it to him that there is also opportunity for a good deal of abuse in the section. There is the possibility of involving people whom the publican cannot possibly refuse, and there is the possibility of blackmail under the section on the publican afterwards. I think the Minister himself will acknowledge that, if he seriously considers the section. We have heard a lot about section 12, and we have also heard a lot about Clause 12, and Article 12, during the past month or so. I am aware of the conditions governing the sale of drink in some cities, and in a good many country towns. There is a possible inference to be drawn from that. There is an obvious inference, but if you draw that obvious inference it is wrong. I do agree that there is certainly a need for a separation of the licensing business from that of the other business conducted in city houses, but I do not agree that the same thing applies in any proportion at all to the sale of drink in country districts, or in country towns. There is no need. I say for this absolute separation in country public houses. There is no need in these houses to cut off all internal communication. That is what is making the matter difficult. If this provision were to apply, in the case of country public houses, a man would have to go out on the street if he wanted to get from one part of his house to the other. If such a provision as that is made it will cause a lot of unemployment, because a good many people will have to go out of business as a result of it. I know hundreds of houses that will not lend themselves to these structural alterations internally. These people, before they got their present licences, had to satisfy the local police authorities at that period that their houses were fitted structurally for the granting of the licences. Now we come along and we tell them that all that is wrong, that there must be another reconstruction, and that they must spend some more money on their premises. If you have hundreds of houses that do not lend themselves to reconstruction, as I know you have, and if this provision is to be insisted on, it will mean that the people who have these houses will have to go out of trade altogether. Their assistants will be dismissed and will be thrown on the unemployment labour market, causing a lot of hardship to great numbers of people. The Minister has changed what we used to know as the sweet seventeen period in the girlhood scale, and has raised it to impressionable eighteen. He has told us that you must not put a girl of eighteen behind the bar, even though her father and mother are managing the public house. The father and the mother may become ill, but their daughter, if she is under 18, must not go behind the bar to serve a drink to anybody who comes in. Really, that is stressing the matter too far.
I do not think the Deputy has read the section. The section says that "any licensed holder who employs any female person," and so on.
That, of course, will raise a very nice point. Does the father or the mother employ a girl of 18, and will she not at a future period expect recompense for it?
She will get it, too.
No doubt the Minister is very much interested, and so should all of us be, in seeing that nothing is done that would be calculated to lower the womanhood of Ireland from the high standard which it enjoys at present. I suggest to the Minister that there are other directions and other channels in which his energies should be directed. There is nothing to prevent girls of lesser ages than 18 or even 16 from going to theatres and picture houses where the atmosphere is much more morally depraved than in the country public houses. I suggest that that would be the place for his energies and not places where, if this legislation was carried, three or four people coming into a public house cannot get served because there is nobody there but a girl under 18 years of age. Again, take the case of trying to advance the cause of temperance in the improved arrangements at theatres. The Minister tells us that unless people have seats booked they cannot get a drink before the theatre starts.
Would the Deputy read the section?
I am open to correction, but the point I want to make is that if you want to get a drink in a theatre there is nothing to prevent you booking one seat. There are two conclusions, to my mind, that emerge from this Bill, and one is that the Government Party that drafted this Bill is hopelessly out of touch with the ideas and thoughts that prevail in the country. Secondly, and perhaps it is a good thing, the second conclusion that emerges from this Bill, and it is the only matter that I can congratulate the Minister on, is that he seems himself to be entirely without knowledge of the conditions that govern the sale of drink in country towns. I am in agreement that some remedy is necessary in order to provide for the separation of two sets of business in cities, but in country districts that does not hold. I suggest to him, as it comes to my mind, that you cannot induce or inculcate temperance, if that is the idea of the Bill, through rigid Acts of Parliament. An educational programme is one to bring that about, and if he would attack that programme and start it, and carry it through, and utilise the power that is in his hands of setting up counter attractions in these places, perhaps he might find the public house would not be such a source of evil, and perhaps he might find the standard of morality and temperance that was in the country some seven years or eight years ago would be revived and increased, and that a good many publicans would have to get out of business for want of people coming to them. It is by creating these counter attractions you will achieve anything. I believe the Bill is inadequate for the purpose for which it is brought in, and, therefore, I believe that the cast iron regulations in it should not be supported. I believe that the Bill in its present form is useless and not worthy of support.
I feel we are suffering somewhat at present, no doubt due to pressure of Bills, from the fact that the Second Reading of Bills becomes simply a stage in which reference is made to what is contained in this or that particular section of the Bill, and we do not get the opportunity of seeing the Bill as a whole referred to, and its relations to the general matters of social and economic life in the country. I feel that the Minister would get over some of his difficulties in connection with this Bill if he had been able to give us an impression, in introducing the Bill, of what he would consider an ideal Intoxicating Liquor Bill or an ideal Temperance Bill. A number of conferences have taken place with different parties interested in it both from the social and commercial point of view, and I am sure very many aspects of temperance were discussed at these meetings. I am sure that an explanation of what would be the ideal thing to have, though it could not be had at the moment for particular reasons, would be very useful and instructive.
Take even Clause 12, where the division of premises for the sale of intoxicating liquor, from business of another kind, is being insisted on. I think it would be very much easier to get that clause through in the light of an exposition of what the Minister or the Government think the publichouse and such institutions should become in the social life of the country. These institutions are there, and are bound to stay in some form or another, but it is desirable they should not stay in the particular form in which they exist now. I do not know very much about it, but it seems to me that the point to be aimed at in the Bill as it stands at present could as easily be arrived at in an alternative way. I would like to see what the effect would be of bringing in a regulation that a person could not take a drink standing, and what I would like to press for now is that the Commission that the Minister spoke of would be set up at the earliest possible moment. There are restrictions in this Bill which will give rise to a big volume of complaint—real complaint or complaint simply made for one purpose or another. At the time that these complaints are arising, and I realise there are a good number of different details to settle in connection with the liquor or drink traffic in this country, it would be very advisable if the Commission would actually be set up with terms of reference at a time when people perhaps with curious grievances are coming along, so that you would have a pretty definite machine examining what the complaints were. A Commission such as this should, I consider, get twelve or eighteen months in which to make its report, and to take into consideration a very wide number of things.
There is restriction, but control of the drink traffic must be looked at purely from the point of view of the requirements and the benefits of temperance in the country, and temperance in the country will cover a very large number of matters, one item of which will be the control of the sale of intoxicating liquors. It is a matter in which the education of our people has to be considered as well as housing and conditions generally. There are some people who are very much interested in temperance as affected by education, and who now see a very strict and stringent Bill being brought forward at a time when the very moderate demands of the secondary teachers are being given a deaf ear by the Government. I do realise that this Bill is intended to be a Bill for the reduction of licences and for the crushing out of a certain number of the licensed houses. Now you will get much more support for a Bill like that in the light of a policy of temperance fully set out with activities on the part of the Government in different directions that would show that they knew how temperance was really to be arrived at, and what temperance was really to be aimed at. I therefore press that the Minister, if he has not already done it, should arrange that the commission which has been suggested be set up at once. I take an interest in the added area districts in Dublin where some of of the owners of the seven-day licensed premises are suffering under an injustice that was not meant to be an injustice. I propose to bring forward an amendment to the Bill dealing with that particular point.
I intended to reserve what I had to say for the Committee Stage, but I would like to say a word or two now on the general principles. For 11 or 12 years we have been, very assiduously and energetically cultivating disrespect for law and order in this country. We have taught our people they were doing the right thing when they broke the law, and you are giving them another law to break now. In general I think if you want to arrive at temperance you cannot do it by legislation. You cannot legislate our people into it. I do not think I need stress that. Everyone knows people will go out of their way to get a drink when they ought not to get it. On the Continent, for instance, where cafés are open until four or five o`clock in the morning, you never see anyone under the influence of drink simply because a man on his way home has no need surreptitiously to go in by a back way for a drink. He knows he can get a drink on his way home. I say, if this legislation is intended to make people temperate, it is going on the contrary to do the other thing. I am afraid I will have to say something that struck me when Deputy Hogan was speaking. He said, "You want counter-attractions." It is the counterattractions that bring people into the public houses. I will say anything I have to say abou the details of the Bill in Committee. With regard to the question of added areas, and those houses in the city whose seven day licences lapsed because the owners did not apply for them, the Minister gave an undertaking to Deputy Byrne in August last that the question of the added areas houses and those which had seven day licences, but which could not open on Sunday could be considered. Whether he has considered and decided against the seven-day licences since I do not know, but he gave a definite undertaking, and so far as the members of the Association in those areas who have houses for which they are paying seven-day licence duty are concerned, they are not satisfied that he did consider it. However I would like to know that.
Secondly, there is another class, the men who have the six-day houses in the city. In some cases the licence lapsed because somebody was not particular about opening on a Sunday and did not apply for a Sunday licence. The house was sold, and the argument will now be put forward by the Minister that people who bought houses in the added areas, or who bought these six-day houses in the city, bought them knowing that they could not open on a Sunday. That is so, but they bought them in the hope that they would be allowed to open on Sunday in time, and the hope was always on the horizon. With regard to the added areas, the Clancy Act allowed them to open for, I think, ten months. Then someone discovered a flaw in the Act and they had to close. Subsequently a new Bill was prepared—I may be corrected in this— but I think a time was allotted in the British House of Commons for the introduction of the new Bill in the Private Members' time. Owing to the war, the Bill was never presented. I think that if the Minister wants to reduce the number of houses, let him reduce them, but until he does so I think those two classes of licence holders will be labouring under a disadvantage.
I believe that I can approach the consideration of this Bill without any regard to Party obligations, and certainly without any regard to the numerous appeals, letters and wires that I have received on the subject. When any legislation is being dealt with in this House for the revision of the existing licensing laws, I think we should take into consideration the conditions under which we have been living for hundreds of years in this country. Any revision of the existing licensing laws should be more by gradual than by revolutionary methods. I want to say right away that while I am opposed to one or two clauses of the Bill as it stands now, I propose to give my vote in favour of the Second Reading, because I believe a case has been made for the revision of the existing laws. I want to say this much, that in all cases of this kind I am not influenced in any way by the eloquent advocates of the temperance cause. I have discussed the question many a time with eloquent advocates of the cause of temperance, but many of those advocates are, in my opinion, only reformed drunkards. I dare say it is very useful for people to learn in the school of experience, and any lessons that can be taught by people of this kind or by people who advocate temperance as a result of their own experience should be listened to, but I am not influenced in this matter by that particular class of people. Section 12 of this Bill has been referred to by everybody here to such an extent that I do not think there is anything for me to say. What is in the mind of the Minister, so far as I am concerned, would get my support, but not in the way it stands in the section at the moment. I believe it is impossible to put that clause as it stands into operation without doing an injustice, especially in the case of country traders. I might be prepared to give support to the idea which is in the mind of the Minister if a longer period is substituted. I think the hardship is too great to impose it in the very short period laid down in the Bill. With regard to the question of hours, I believe that the Minister is right in the hours he laid down for opening and closing on week-days. I believe it is quite right that the opening hour of public houses in cities and towns should be in or about 9 a.m. I am not speaking as a prohibitionist or a temperance advocate, but I believe that the working man or any other class of individual who works or renders service to the State should not be in a position to be able to go into a public house before he starts his day's work. I am opposed to the clause which lays it down that the public houses should be closed on St. Patrick's Day.
With regard to the question ofbona fide traffic and Sunday opening, I would find it very difficult to justify the uses and abuses of that traffic on the lines on which it is conducted at present. My own idea—I have no commission from anybody, and I am not going to be rushed by anybody—is that if publichouses are allowed to be open anywhere on Sunday, they should be allowed to open everywhere—that they should be open in all the cities, towns and villages during certain hours all over the country. You will find, for instance, that if a man in Dublin cannot get a drink at 6 o'clock on Sunday evening he will go down to Westland Row and take a train to Bray, and perhaps, owing to the liberty allowed him by the licensing laws down there, he will miss his last train home. I think any legislation which would prevent happenings like that—to my own knowledge it happens in a great many cases, particularly around the cities—should be supported as far as possible. The only solution of that question that I see is to allow every publican everywhere at given times on Sunday, to open and close his house. Many men who are anxious to obtain intoxicating liquor on Sundays will perhaps, spend 2s. 6d. to get to a place where they can get it, while they will not have, perhaps, another half-crown to spend on drink.
Regarding the question of clubs, some of the Deputies who have spoken here on the hours of opening are, I think, only looking at this matter from the point of view of the higher-class clubs. I would not draw a distinction between the hours laid down in a Bill of this kind for any club. I believe that if the Stephen's Green Club is allowed to be open until 11 o'clock at night, the Workmen's Club on the quays should have the same privilege. I believe that such consideration over and above that given to publichouses in the matter of hours should be given to clubs. I believe in encouraging competition. The extension of the hours for clubs is the only method I see that is likely to provide the licensed trade in the city with any kind of effective competition. The licensed trade in the city—I say this quite frankly—have not been playing the game. They did not think fit even to recognise the Commission that was set up by the Government in order that they might convince the Government and its Commission that the prices they were charging were just and fair. That is the only distance I am prepared to go in the case of clubs. If the extension of an hour in the case of clubs would create an effective competition against the monopoly that exists in the City of Dublin and in other places, I would be prepared to support that concession for that reason. I know many workmen who are well conducted and who belong to workmen's clubs, and they hardly ever visit licensed premises. I do not think they should be debarred, if they care to get a drink in a club, from that right. I do think that any man, whether he be a workman or be engaged in any other sort of occupation, should leave his club at eleven o'clock at night if he wants to be fit for his work next morning. With regard to penalties for abuses of the existing licensing laws, I will go to any extent the Minister may think fit in that direction. I will also support him, particularly, to any extent he may think fit to go, in penalising people who are disgracing this country and demoralising its citizens by taking part in the sale of or encouraging the distribution of poteen. I have heard some very sad tales told about areas where poteen drinking has been resorted to, and I think any Deputy, or any man charged with responsibility in the public life of this country, should assist those who are endeavouring to put down that traffic.
With regard to the sale of drink and the employment in licensed houses of persons under the age of 18 years, if it is right to refuse to supply people under the age of 18, it is equally right and equally fair to say that young people, especially girls, should not be employed in those houses. With regard to the question of structural alterations, I hope the Minister does not mean by the clause as it stands something in the nature of an attempt to wipe out a number of licensed houses. I believe, as other members have said, and quite truly said, that the number of licensed houses in Ireland, and especially in the cities and towns, is excessive. I think the Minister might compromise on this question. If he deems it advisable, as I think he says he does, to set up a Commission to deal with that aspect of the case, I think he might agree as a compromise that the question of the injustice or otherwise of putting Clause 12 into operation might be left to the Commission to deal with. It is not right to insist upon insertion of that clause in its present form, because whether it appears in that light to the Minister or not, it certainly appears to me to be confiscation on a small scale. To my own knowledge, in certain parts of the country, in the case of certain old houses, it is impossible to put that clause as it stands at present into operation. I am prepared in regard to the Bill to listen to the arguments for and against, but in respect of the contentious clauses I shall use my own judgment in voting —that is, such clauses as Clause 12 and the clause dealing with the hours.
On the question of the sale of drink, I have often noticed by reports of the Police Courts—I have myself witnessed the occurrences sometimes—that individuals were fired out of licensed houses under the influence of drink. After being fired out, they were arrested by the police, brought into court, charged and fined. I have very seldom noticed that in these cases the licensed trader suffered in any degree whatever. The licensed trader in a case like that is a party to the crime—if a crime be committed—and in such cases he should be prosecuted as well as the individual concerned. I hope the Minister will give fair consideration to that aspect of the case and bring home to the people associated with occurrences of that kind their responsibility in the most effective way. There is a clause with regard to the forfeiture of licences for three consecutive convictions. On that I am quite in agreement with the Minister. We had, as far as I can see from a considerable experience in travelling, a great amount of liberty over and above that which they had in England, France and other countries. We have abused that to a great extent. When we come to deal with the extent of the abuse of the existing licensing laws, it is not so much a matter for legislation here as it is for the administration of the existing laws by the servants of the Government. That is the most effective method of dealing with people who are abusing the laws that exist at present or who may abuse the laws that come into operation as a result of the passage of this Bill.
On the question of the application of the suggested hours in country districts on fair days, I think Deputy McGoldrick suggested yesterday that that matter should be submitted by the trader to the District Justice, with an application to open at an earlier hour than the hours laid down in the Bill, on the occasion of fair days. That is the only way out of the matter, and I think the Minister should give very serious consideration to that very useful suggestion. As I have already indicated, I have no commission in this matter from anybody. I do not regard myself as being responsible to anyone, or any section, of my constituents in giving my vote. I have no prejudice against the Bill, because I am not a prohibitionist. I do believe, however, if we are to get back to our normal position—the pre-European war position which this country occupied—we can only do so by useful legislation of this kind. While I reserve the right in Committee to use my own judgment upon any amendments that may be brought forward to one or two clauses in the Bill, at the same time I have great pleasure, for the reasons I have stated, in voting for the Second Reading of the Bill.
A good many Deputies have already spoken on this Bill, and many have dealt with the interests of a certain class who allege that they have a grievance. I will just deal with Clause 12, which refers to structural alterations. I will deal with it from a different point of view than it has already been dealt with. I have had a little experience of the licensing trade in Dublin. Instead of putting up a partition in any business premises, I would be in favour of abolishing the snugs, private bars and the screens in publichouses, and I would also be in favour of doing away with the upstairs rooms. I would leave the place perfectly open, so that any man who comes in to have his drink may be seen by others who may go in there for the purpose of doing other business. There is an old saying that everything bad is done in the dark. Any person going for a drink into a place so altered as I have suggested may remain as long as he likes, just the same as he would in a snug. If the bar forms part of the shop, a person can go in for groceries or meal, and if he feels like it he can have a drink as well. By leaving the place perfectly open it will be in the interests of temperance. If anybody has an objection to go into a bar for the purpose of purchasing tea, sugar, or meal, there are other places in town, with no bar attached, where he could get those things. Take restaurants as an example. Drink is sold there, yet there is very little drunkenness. I will vote against that particular clause, not in the interests of the grocers who are victimised by it, but in the interests of temperance.
There is one matter that is not mentioned in the Bill, and it has reference to occasional licences. In the old days the resident magistrate or the justices of the peace had power to grant occasional licences to any persons who desired to have a tent at race meetings or gatherings of that sort. Especially in country towns, race meetings are very often got up for the sake of some local person having a tent for the purpose of selling drink. I know—not of personal knowledge, thank God—that the stuff sold there is anything but right. I remember a year or two ago a publican got a licence for a tent at a race meeting and the manager of the bar in the tent said that two of the bottles, of what was supposed to be whiskey burst. You can judge the nature of the stuff in those circumstances. I would like if the Minister would include something in the Bill dealing with this matter. As regards the sale of wine, it is proposed in the Bill to give permission for the sale of wine to grocery houses. I do not think that is fair or right. Some concession ought to be made with regard to hours of opening on fair days. Some provision could be made by which a man travelling a distance of 12 or 14 miles in the wet perhaps should have a chance of getting a cup of tea or a drink of some sort. If he cannot get that, he will find some means of getting into a public house, through the back door if necessary, and that is not a state of affairs that should be encouraged. I hope the Minister will take those matters into consideration.
I desire to make one or two remarks in connection with this Bill. First and foremost, I am going to vote for the Second Reading of it because I believe all legitimate traders will welcome a Bill of this class, which is not of the drastic nature that some people anticipated it would be. Legitimate traders are anxious to conduct their business in the best interests of the trade, and I believe that this measure, with very few alterations on the Committee Stage, will be acceptable to the licensed trade both in the city and in the country. I admit there are objectionable clauses in the Bill. I am not going to refer to Clause 12, because it has been flogged enough already. There are clauses that could do with slight amendments in Committee, and I am sure that these amendments will be forthcoming. If they are reasonable ones, I hope the Minister will give them due consideration. There is one thing that the Minister should make provision for in the Bill. At the present time any person who has a valuation of £10 can go to the Excise Authorities and get a wine licence without making any application elsewhere. I do not think that that is fair to people who have to pay licences to carry on business. Where people pay licences for the sale of wine, as well as other spirits, they should be protected from the person who has a little shop and who gets a licence in the way I state.
Is this in the interests of temperance?
If a man has a £10 valuation he can get the licence from the Excise authorities. A clause, I think, should be inserted in the Bill debarring people from getting those privileges. Questions have been raised in regard to the ages of barmaids. These are things that I do not want to go into. I think a bar is not the place for a little girl of tender age. To put a girl of tender age behind a counter is not quite right. At the same time, I believe that members of the licensed traders' family should be allowed to serve people under certain circumstances. With very few amendments I think the Bill is one that will be acceptable to the trade, and I therefore will vote for the Second Reading of it. There are one or two clauses that, with slight amendments, can be made to meet with the general approval of the trade.
I think I cannot do better than follow the loyal example of Deputy Hewat, and I will convey to the Minister what the intentions of my Party in regard to the Bill are. I may say, however, that they are quite the opposite to Deputy Hewat's. A great many Deputies have been prophesying what they intend to do on the Committee Stage. I will endeavour to prevent the possibility of those prophecies ever materialising by voting against the Second Reading of this Bill. There are undoubtedly some meritorious features in the Bill. Probably they are more exactly in the memorandum which precedes the Bill, and which is, I think, a very desirable addition in the direction of supplying Deputies with information. I think that suggests a step which might be of great advantage to the discussions here and should, for the information of Deputies, be followed in the presentation of all future Bills.
Follow a good example.
I also consider that the last two parts of the Bill are of vital importance and of urgent necessity, but I think they are irrelevant in this instance. They aim at a distinct purpose from the main purpose of this Bill, which is for the regulation of certain beverages, and this is for the entire prohibition of certain things. I think the combining of the two in the one Bill prejudices the speedy passing into law of that part which I consider important and urgent, and at the same time it gives a fictitious value to the other portion of the Bill.
The question arises, what is the purpose of this Bill? Is it merely the regulation of the sale of certain drinks or is it aiming at temperance? Is it directed to trying to convey the impression that those who are engaged in this business are engaged in an illegitimate traffic? If that is so, then why these professions of non-prohibition proclivities on the part of the Minister and certain other Deputies? If it is a legitimate trade, then why have flung at it, by practically everyone who speaks who has never known the joy or the delight of partaking of refreshments which the trade gives, those statements that have been uttered? Why, if it is a legitimate trade, can the matter not be discussed in the same calm, tranquil and business-like way in which every other business is discussed—in which, for instance, the business which Deputy Gorey's colleagues raised yesterday in regard to dairy produce, was discussed?
I do not know whether I ought to be afraid to suggest that this was the production of minds conscious of the necessity of making up for the sins of mis-spent youth. I do not see why humanity in the Saorstát should have to pay the penalty for those sins of omission or commission. We are told that the reduction of hours is going to produce a certain very material reform. The reduction of hours is not very serious or material in extent of time. There is still quite sufficient time left, both on week-days and on Sundays for anyone whose main or sole purpose is to become inebriated, to accomplish that rather doubtful question of achievement.
We are told by two or three speakers who gave us the advantage of their experience on the Continent. that they had not had an opportunity of getting drunk over there. I think it is only fair to say that it is not so much the hours during which these establishments on the Continent are open, as the nature of the beverages that are dispensed. When Deputy Hughes complains of people who can get a licence for the sale of wines without an application to any authority, I believe that it is a step in the right direction, because to popularise wines instead of whiskey or brandy or stout would be a very good thing.
It would increase facilities for drinking in every house in the city and country.
If it produces temperance, why not?
If I may interrupt again, I think the Deputy is well aware of the fact that wherever there is a wine licence, you always have another bottle.
I have not a wine licence and therefore I have not another bottle. I was going to suggest that instead of concentrating upon these artificial and generally unsuccessful expedients, such as rigid regulations, endeavours directed towards temperance with the object of popularising a particular make of light wine as a beverage for those requiring it, would be very much more likely to secure that desired result. I think the Minister for Justice could do a great deal in that direction if, in the shops that dispense the beverage, he would authorise advertisements to be hung up indicating that the wines sold there were the same as supplied to the Minister for Justice. I am sure the example he would set would very speedily be followed by the greater portion of the population.
There are other classes of advertisements that would require no words.
Deputy Gorey generally advertises the art of being irrelevant and impertinent. The question of structural alterations is something which it will be impossible to put into operation, and though it would be interesting to discuss what would be the effect if that were practicable, still it is simply sheer waste of time to prolong a discussion on that matter, because it is absolutely physically impossible to carry this into operation in the greater proportion of the establishments in different parts of the country. Many of them would have to tear down practically the whole interior of their shops, and reconstruct, and unless the Minister for Finance is willing to subsidise those places, to enforce such a clause in the Bill, or to persist in its enforcement, simply means sending that class of trader out of business. That clause in the Bill cannot stand. We would be simply legislating for something that we know in advance cannot be carried into effect, and that is simply deluding ourselves and irritating the people of the country.
On the question of the reduction of hours, the point has already been made that it will cause serious inconvenience to the people who come into fairs and markets. That is an undoubted fact. It cannot be pleaded that this provision is intended to be aimed at the prevention of drunkenness or over-indulgence in liquor to any extent. I challenge any Deputy to recall to his mind any occasion when he saw a man under the influence of drink at 7 o'clock in the morning on a fair day. If there is a time when there are reasonable grounds for the reduction of hours, surely it is in the evening and not in the morning. I commend to the consideration of the Minister, if this Bill does reach the Committee Stage, the suggestion of Deputy Davin, that on application to a District Justice, or some other authority, some arrangement could be made to meet the convenience of the people concerned.
Another point as to the reduction of hours is that the licence fee that has been paid by those who own these establishments has been based on a certain numbers of hours' trading. If you are going to reduce the number of hours of trading upon which that fee was based, then I think it is only fair and equitable to the traders that the fee should be reduced. I am thoroughly in agreement with the idea that on Sundays there should be certain hours, in town and country, when refreshments could be obtained in reasonable quantities.
Is quantity in the Bill?
I presume there is a certain degree of reasonableness in the quantity which a man could or should consume. Does the Deputy suggest that I should have said an unreasonable quantity?
I suggest that the Deputy might for the Committee Stage produce a scale of quantities according to personalities.
If every Deputy, including the Deputy who has made the suggestion, will furnish me with particulars of the quantity they consume of every kind of beverage, whether soda, milk or other more vivacious beverages, if this Bill reaches the Committee Stage—which I firmly hope it will not; I hope it will meet the same fate as the Sweepstakes Bill—I will try to comply with the suggestion of Deputy Johnson. In furnishing the particulars, Deputies should state not only the quantity they consume now but the quantity they consumed in the days of their unrepentant youth. That should give us a fair idea of what is the all-round beverage amount that is reasonable for a Christian and a statesman or a politician to consume.
I also want to support the idea that the sub-section which deals with the non-employment of any female person under the age of 18 years, should be amended on the lines suggested, I think by Deputy Hughes and other Deputies, with regard to the employment of a person in the trade of a member of his own family. It is quite possible, I believe, to amend this Bill, but its amendment will have to be considered on common sense lines and not on the lines of partisan feeling. If the underlying idea is that this trade is not a legitimate trade and should be stamped out, then we ought to have it frankly and candidly stated.
What does the Deputy mean by "legitimate?"
Is it a trade which has a moral right to existence within the State? Is it a trade which serves nothing but a reprehensible purpose? Is it a trade which has any functions to serve within the State, which are of advantage to the community? I hope I have made my interrogations sufficiently explicit for the Minister to understand. If the answer to these questions is "No," then let us have a Bill suppressing it. If the answer is "Yes," then let us have a Bill regulating this trade, if you like, but regulating it on business lines and not in the direction of hampering, irritating and destroying it.
resumed the Chair at this stage.
There is no questioning the fact that there are too many licensed houses in the country. In the small town of Cavan there are fifty-four licensed premises. Half the number would be quite sufficient. If that number could be reduced, I believe the remaining traders would be willing—and I think this would apply generally—to contribute half the equitable compensation to those whose licences were extinguished.
Why not the whole?
That is a matter for investigation. It may be that the whole would not be too much. It may be that the whole would be too great. I cannot say. But I believe that there is, even amongst the members of the trade themselves, a perfect willingness to have the number of licences reduced. But the number will have to be reduced on the principle of fair dealing and fair compensation to those who have, up to the present, been obtaining a livelihood out of the licensed premises which are to be discontinued. I believe, too, that the complaint against the proposed legislation with regard to clubs is well founded and that as they stand the provisions in this respect will meet with very justifiable criticism and opposition. A differentiation must be made in all fairness between clubs which are mere drinking clubs, constituted solely for the sale and consumption of drink, and those which are social clubs, frequented for an entirely different purpose, and which serve a very useful link in the chain of social life in this country. I omitted to draw attention to one point, and that is sub-section 6 of Section 12. I would not allude to it save that nobody else has done so. If the section becomes effective it would reduce the premises considerably, but make no reduction in the valuation. Revision of the valuation of the premises is precluded by this particular section.
On that point Deputy Figgis drew a very heartrending picture of women and children going into these places, which were, in the main, filled with men the worse of drink. I wonder where did Deputy Figgis discover these particular associations? Has he penetrated into these dens of infamy, and, if so, to what extent? I could as easily have drawn on my imagination and said that if women and children go in and see men taking a casual drink the desire on the part of these men for over-indulgence is restrained, because they see these women and these children pass through. Probably the one would be as true as the other. There is no use, no sense, and no public service rendered by people drawing upon their imagination, by putting forward pictures of things which there are no real grounds to substantiate. I think I have covered all the points that interested me. I had hoped to have spoken until three o'clock, but, as I have exhausted my resources, I hope sufficient speakers will follow to talk this Bill out, or, at least, cause it to be adjourned until some day in the far-distant future.
This Bill is like life: a mixture of good and evil. I will not say that as in life, the evil is predominant. I hardly think so. At the same time it cannot be denied that there are some bad regulations prescribed in the Bill which will have a very detrimental effect on the country. The Bill has been very exhaustively criticised. I do not propose to go over all the provisions of the measure. At the outset, I may say that I do not propose to vote against the Bill. There are many good points in the Bill, particularly those dealing with illicit distillation, and the sale of methylated spirits. I am sorry to see that the provisions dealing with these have been put at the end of the Bill, when they they should be in the front. There is no doubt whatever that the drinking of methylated spirits is increasing to a very large extent in this country. I am strongly of opinion that methylated spirits imported into or manufactured in this country, should be denatured before it is passed on for industrial purposes.
As to illicit distillation, I do not think any law you could pass could be too stringent or too severe in order to put down that demoralising traffic. It is essentially wicked. Unfortunately, in the poorer parts of the country its victims are those who, owing to physical privation, have not the moral strength to resist the temptation. In order to stamp out that traffic I think every person who is found in possession of poteen, whether a licensed trader, a man engaged in its manufacture, or some poor dupe who got possession of it, should be sent to prison, without the option of a fine.
Section 12 of the Bill has been adequately debated, but there are one or two things that strike me in connection with the arguments used for and against this section. I am somewhat interested in the psychic theory of contagion by visual contact. We had a Deputy standing up here this afternoon with very melodramatic concern for the morals, if I may so express myself, of ladies who have to enter the licensed grocers' premises to make purchases. Deputy Milroy has anticipated me largely on that question. I am afraid the Deputy who spoke like that was drawing very much on his imagination. We have idealists, unfortunately, in this country. They are indigenous to the soil. If Deputies can only pick out and emphasise that as an argument in favour of structural alterations, are they not acting the part of valetudinarian moralists? Is it right or just that outsiders, foreigners, should regard the normal people of this country as neurotics who cannot resist these things? I see no temptation to any person in going into these places where such a division does not exist. There is not the slightest temptation to indulge in drink. If these alterations that the Bill provides for have to be made, I am afraid one of the results will be that shrewd shopkeepers, seeing that conditions in the licensed trade will not be very profitable in the future, will retire from the licensed trade altogether, and seek other means of livelihood. Then what happens? The licensed trade will fall into the hands of undesirables, which is the last thing that Deputies want to occur. There is very great danger of that.
The result will be that the depravity of the publichouse, as it has been described, will be very much increased. Everyone agrees whole-heartedly that publichouses should not open on Christmas Day or on Good Friday. St. Patrick's Day should, at least, be regarded as Sunday. On that day we have many political and social reunions, that even Ministers have not hesitated to attend. I think I will be only speaking the truth when I say that Ministers have a penchant for dining out on this day. What will be the effect of closing on St. Patrick's Day? Could the plain man get a drink in a publichouse or a club on that day? Can drinks be supplied in restaurants after dinner? That is one of the questions, and it is scarcely fair. After all, there is no use in throwing a Puritanical gloom over St. Patrick's Day; it would not be desirable, even in the best interests of the country, to restrict whatever gaieties take place on that day. Deputy Corish considered that with regard to clubs the Bill was scarcely drastic enough. I think that the right of the police to enter and search a club can be exaggerated. We all want temperance, but, at the same time, even to ensure temperance, we cannot have private places—and, after all, a club is a private place—invaded at unusual hours by the police. It is wrong. Again, I am doubtful of the effect of the section which prohibits any person under the age of eighteen from serving behind a bar. The Minister was rather doubtful as to whether the publican's daughter could do so, but at the same time, I think that the age limit could with advantage be lowered a year or two—certainly not more than two. I do not think that there is any great danger to morals for a girl to go inside a bar when she is sixteen.
There is one aspect with regard to the structural alteration section that I have overlooked. Amongst those who may retain their business premises, it may mean uneconomic labour, that is, that they will require two people to serve, where one served before. That would be uneconomic, and I say it would hardly be fair to a struggling country that is endeavouring to get on to its feet that any business man should be forced to employ persons for whom he has no work. In conclusion, I think I should pay a tribute to the Minister for bringing into the one chamber, and for going in with them, the advocates of prohibition and the representatives of the licensed trade. His courage was extraordinary.
I intend to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, and as the debate has dragged on so long and as arguments for and against the Bill have been so elaborately dealt with, I do not intend to weary the Dáil by going into them.
In the main the objections I have to the Bill are the objections that were outlined by Deputy Hogan, and I am looking at the Bill as it will effect the rural districts and the small country towns. I think the effect of it, as far as a good many people I know who are in the trade are concerned, will be to drive them out of business altogether, and I think that would be an undesirable thing, if the State is not willing to compensate them. During the debate on the Town Tenants Bill, the Minister for Justice used a good many arguments that I think could be used against this Bill. He spoke about confiscation, and so far as I know of what the effects of this Bill would be in rural districts, I think the argument of confiscation, or something like it, would apply, because the result will be that people will be forced out of business, and will get no compensation, and that would be a position to which the argument of confiscation or something like it, could be very properly applied. I do not intend to deal with the question of structural alteration. That has been dealt with very fully, and there is certainly nothing else to be said on the point. In regard to fines and the powers which are to be given to the District Justices and the Superintendents of the Gárda Síochána, I think they are rather drastic. Deputy Lyons, last night, referred to the powers that will be given to Superintendents of the Gárda Síochána to ask a District Justice to close down a particular town or village at a certain time. It may be necessary that something like that should be done at times, but I think it is not a very good precedent to give too much power to the District Justices or the Gárda Síochána. I know cases where very heavy fines have been inflicted on publicans, and where the decisions of District Justices have been reversed, or the fines considerably reduced, and I do not think that it would be well to do anything in the direction of giving the District Justices too great powers in connection with this matter.
Deputy Hogan also referred to the clause that prohibits the giving of credit. I believe that that clause is unnecessary, and that it could be very easily evaded. And a person who wishes to give credit will find a good many ways of evading it, and I think it will do no good and serve no purpose whatever. I believe this Bill will press very heavily on the small traders in country towns and rural districts. They are very much penalised as it is; their business on account of the taxation on liquor, is very small, and a good many of them are in a very struggling position. I do not think it is reasonable or just to penalise them any further, and I submit the effect of this Bill will be to penalise them unduly and to make their position impossible. I think the Bill is being put up to the Dáil at an inopportune moment. If the Minister for Justice believes that certain vital matters in connection with the licensed trade are to be referred to a Commission, I think that the whole matter might be deferred until that Commission has reported, and for the reasons that the Bill is, as far as I know, unnecessary in the rural districts, and that it will penalise traders, I shall vote against it. As has been indicated by Deputy Hogan, there is no great drunkenness in the small towns or rural districts at present. Some of us may remember the time when St. Patrick's Day was the occasion of a drunken orgy in a good many places. That time has passed away, and the influences that Deputy Hogan and other Deputies mentioned have contributed to that, and I do not think that there is any serious drunkenness or any serious illegal drinking at present. On the contrary, I submit that if the Bill is passed the effect of it will be to encourage illegal drinking, because when the restrictions make it harder for people to get drink there will be more of an effort made to evade the law, and consequently there will be more illegal drinking. I believe the Bill is harsh, unnecessary, and unjust, and I shall vote against the Second Reading.
I also intend to vote against the Second Reading. Deputy McCarthy, last night, said that he was going to vote for it because 95 per cent. of it was bad and 5 per cent. good. For the same reason I am going to vote against it, and if I had any doubts in my mind before I came here to-day as to whether I would be doing right or not in taking that course, they would have been removed by the speeches I have listened to—not alone by the speeches, but by the speakers, because it seems to me to be more than a coincidence that a large number of Deputies who, I know personally, are rather partial to a little drop, are in favour of the Bill, and a big number of the Pioneers are against the Bill. I cannot understand that reasoning, and I am beginning to think that there must be something in the Bill which will not do any good for temperance, but will give more opportunities to the people who want an opportunity of going into a publichouse. I do not intend to try to argue against the different clauses of the Bill; I think that has been done sufficiently already; but I agree with what Deputy Murphy has said, that the Bill is harsh. I think it would be an injustice to a number of country traders to pass it at the moment, and I believe that a number of its sections are really absurd, particularly Section 12. With regard to the hours I do not quarrel. I agree with other Deputies that there are too many publichouses. There are far too many. I am sorry that the Minister has thought it right to include in the Bill the question of the putting down of the traffic in poteen and methylated spirits. I think that if he really desired to do that at once he should have brought in a separate Bill to deal with it, and I am sure that he would have got such a Bill through the Dáil with the consent of every Deputy.
As there is private business to be taken at 3 o'clock, I move the adjournment of the debate until Tuesday.