Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 25 Nov 1925

Vol. 13 No. 10


In moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I feel that an explanation is due to the Dáil since it has for its object what I might call the repeal of an Act that was passed by this House as late as July last. It will be remembered that the Shop Hours Act on that occasion was passed by 22 votes for and with 20 against it. It would appear that the determining factor that secured even this meagre majority was that the House was called upon to give statutory effect to an agreement. Subsequently when it became known that some 500 small traders denied the agreement, certain members who voted for the Act regretted that they had done so, and certain members who absented themselves regretted that they were not present to vote against it. With regard to the agreement, many statements and resolutions were circulated in this House, and the effect of these resolutions was that there was unanimous agreement arrived at and that this House was asked to give it statutory effect.

Would the Deputy give us his reference to anybody who used the term "unanimous agreement"?

At any rate, it was sought to give statutory effect to the agreement, and an agreement is generally unanimous. The impression we all got was that it was an unanimous agreement, though the word unanimous was not used. In 1923, in connection with this very Bill, there was a proposal for an alteration of the 10 o'clock closing hour, and that the hour for closing in future should be 7.30 p.m. A vote was taken, I believe, by the Corporation of Dublin, and the result was that out of 654 drapers, outfitters, and boot and shoe dealers, 392 voted against 7.30 closing and 262 for it. We can see that there was a large majority for the continuance of the 10 o'clock trading. That, I think, disposes once and for all of the agreement. There is no agreement. The Act of 1925 affected only the Borough of Dublin and the adjoining townships. The Dublin Corporation had no power to take the vote of the townships. With regard to the townships, I will not go so far as to say there is unanimity, but there is an overwhelming majority against the 7.30 closing. I will ask you to bear that in mind, because I know from the feelings of Deputies who voted for the Act in July, as well as of those absenting themselves, that they based their action on the fact that they thought they were asked to give statutory effect to an agreement. I have now disposed of that contention.

As to the question of hours, I will compare the hours under the present Act with those which we are now proposing in the Bill. Personally I have an objection to long hours. I told that to the promoters of this Bill, and they have met it fairly. Instead of 49 hours under the old Act we propose to have 47½, that is, we are giving an hour and a half extra to the assistants, so that they will be better off by that time. The hours under the 1925 Act are: on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, it is permissible for drapers, and other traders mentioned in this Bill, to keep their houses open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Wednesday, for those who have the half-holiday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. In the Bill the hours I am proposing will be: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. They will be bound by statute to close at 6 p.m., so that is a substantial gain. On Wednesday, the usual half holiday, the hours are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and there is no change there. On Thursday and Friday the hours are from 9 a.m. to 6.30 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. That is the concession they ask you for. They propose to give 47½ hours instead of the 49 hours under the present Act, and it is asked that you will extend their time on Saturday by an hour and a half.

I think that the people concerned in this Bill and the Act of 1925 want the hour and a half, simply because it is essential to their existence, and the continuance of their solvency, as well as to the continuance of the employment of their present staffs. They tell me, and I have reason to believe it after close inquiry, that if they do not get the additional hour and a half, if the closing time is not extended to 9 p.m., they will have to go out of business. I do not think that is desirable in this time of commercial depression. We have enough closed shops—for instance, go up Grafton Street—without adding to the list. Then there is the question of public convenience, for it is a public convenience of certain people to deal between 6 and 9 on Saturday evening. I do not think there would be much business done by these small traders except during these hours. Certain people cannot get out earlier than 7 o'clock to do their business. These people, as you know, are domestic servants, and the wives and children of wage earners who are engaged during the day, partly at work until 1 o'clock, and after 1 o'clock they follow some pastime like football. When they have come back and taken their tea or supper it is up to 7 o'clock.

That is the hour their women-folk are free to go shopping, and that is the reason why we ask for this extra hour and a half. Everybody knows that is the hour in which these traders can do most business, and the bigger shopkeepers do not do it, as they are not under the necessity to work at that time for such a trade. They do a sufficient trade during the week to relieve them of the necessity for that, and they have another arrangement by which they can open on Wednesday and have the half-holiday on Saturday. Fully upwards of 60 per cent. of the weekly trade of these traders is done on Saturdays, and 50 per cent. of the Saturday trade is done between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. There is another matter that I would like to bring to your notice. Under the proposed amendment Sunday trading will be absolutely abolished, a matter that was not dealt with under the last Act. The time at my disposal, or rather the time at the disposal of the Dáil, is limited, and I cannot say all that I would like to say in support of the Bill. If I did I would be, perhaps, anticipating the objections of certain Deputies. I will therefore reserve for myself a little time, with the indulgence of the Dáil, to answer those objections later. I formally move the Second Reading of the measure.

I wish to second the motion made by Deputy Doctor Hennessy, who has covered the whole ground plainly, and, I am sure, to the satisfaction of the Dáil. He has proved that this Bill is a most reasonable Bill. It is a Bill that every Deputy who has heard the speech in support of it will have no hesitation in voting for. It simply asks that the small traders be allowed to carry on their business up to 9 o'clock on Saturday evenings instead of closing now at 7.30; that is, an hour and a half of an extension on Saturday evenings. Against that they are reducing the working hours per week by one and a half hours. It might be argued against this Bill that it is giving an advantage to the small traders over the larger firms. It is quite plain to anyone who would wish to look into the matter that those people who deal in the larger houses are not the class who deal in the smaller shops for which we are pleading for these one and a half hours on Saturday evenings.

I also plead for these one and a half hours extra opening on Saturday for the accommodation of the people of Dublin and the surrounding districts. In a city with the population of Dublin, it is not too much to ask that these shops would remain open up to 9 o'clock for the accommodation of the people who patronise them. Deputy Dr. Hennessy has pointed out the great advantage and the help this Bill would be to the wives of the workers who are busy in the middle part of the day getting the dinner ready. It is certainly a hardship on those people who have to do their shopping on Saturday evenings to walk down town and to find all the shops closed at 7.30. I know I have only to appeal to the common sense of the Dáil and I have no doubt it will give a Second Reading to this Bill.

I interpose in this debate because of my special knowledge of Dublin. I was interested during the last fifteen years in philanthropic societies dealing with the people who are dealt with in this Bill. I thought when the last Act was brought in, that this matter of Saturday evening closing at 7.30 was a real blot upon the Bill, and for the reasons set forth by Deputy Hennessy and Deputy O'Connor, the mover and seconder of this motion for Second Reading. Now we have several Ministers here, including the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who, I hope, will not leave. I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce, with his knowledge of unemployment in the city, does he think it an advisable thing for his Department that further unemployment should be created?

I know, fairly intimately, large numbers of people who are in this particular trade. I say they are a credit to the city of Dublin. They are poor, hardworking respectable people to whom the Bill of 1925 did gross injustice. The only argument for including them in the Bill of 1925, with which this Bill is dealing, is that the assistants and the other people who are employed in the big firms and who are in trade unions would suffer. That is all tommy-rot. These people suffered nothing. The larger people and the larger shops are well able to look after themselves, and their interests are looked after in the Act of 1925.

I think it is only common justice that these unfortunate people who are struggling along under difficulties and in circumstances that the big shops have not to meet, should be given this extra hour and a half. Their trade is a catch trade and their trade may be at 6, 7, 8 or 9 in the evening. It may be at such a time as the residents of that district get the money to spend. Are these people at that hour to be precluded form selling their goods and making an honest livelihood? We all know very well, and I suppose nobody better than President Cosgrave himself, who knows Dublin—I was going to say nearly as well as myself—better than myself, and who knows these people, how hard this restriction presses upon those decent and honest people. The case is made that as they are not employing Trade Union labour —and I throw out that information for the benefit of Deputy Johnson—they are to be interfered with. These people are providing for themselves and their families and doing it decently and are these restrictions that were placed upon them in July to be retained? I strongly support the arguments put forward by Deputy Hennessy and Deputy O'Connor, and I ask the Dáil to give this Bill a second reading.

I regret that I have not been convinced by anything that I have heard up to this that there is a case made for repealing an Act which has passed through the Oireachtas so late as July of this year. Now I want to put to the Dáil, apart from the merits of this case altogether, the peculiar position in which the Oireachtas is going to be placed. There are in one year two contradictory measures dealing with the same subject. I think it very undesirable that a thing of that kind should happen. Going a little further and examining this case, I find that Deputy Hennessy in July moved that Saturday opening should be extended from 7.30 to 8.30. He has had the advantage of adding half an hour to this proposed amendment.

I submit that the Oireachtas passed this measure in July on the faith of the statement told us that there had been substantial agreement between two bodies of people, the employers and the employed. The Dáil was told that friction would be avoided by the passing of the measure here which was passed then, that some agreement had been entered into in 1920 to close the drapery houses early, and that this agreement had not continued in force —I suppose that would be the best way to put it. A number of people had entered into a trade who were not in it in 1920, and this particular measure was supposed to accommodate largely the majority of people affected. I am using the word majority in its wider sense as comprising the majority of the people engaged in this particular occupation.

I am not disposed to agree to a Second Reading of this measure. If this measure were put forward in the way in which I think it ought to have been put forward, as a Private Bill by persons affected, a Private Bill which would be open to the examination it should get under ordinary Private Bill procedure, when, if there is a case to be made in regard to big damage being done to certain people by reason of the measure we have passed, due consideration could be given to it, it would assume a different aspect. The Dáil, however, is now placed in the position of having to take the simple statement that people are going to be ruined or are in process of being ruined, and so on. I deprecate those statements. If I were to agree to everything I heard both inside and outside as regards the ruination of people, there really should not be a man solvent in this country. In regard to every action taken by individuals, corporations, institutions and the Oireachtas, it would seem that everybody is going to be ruined.

There are not many solvent.

Well, if there are not many solvent, I would like to know who owns the money on Deposit Receipt in the banks?

The farmers.

If I were to estimate their solvency by their physical perfection, I would say they were certainly very solvent. I am not in a position to speak to this measure on its merits. I am only speaking on it because of the debate that took place in the two Houses of the Oireachtas last July. In view of that debate Deputy Hennessy has not made a case for the Second Reading. Deputy Mulcahy, who introduced the original Bill here, the Bill having come from the Seanad, had the better of the controversy, as far as I could make out from the debate, over Deputy Hennessy. In one case 400 houses were mentioned by Deputy Hennessy as being opposed to this Act now in operation. In another case 250 houses were counted. The number mentioned was 250 and, of the 250, 204 are houses in which assistants are not employed. I would like to know if that statement is challenged, as I want to be perfectly correct in anything I am saying. If there are 250, or even 400 houses, and considerable numbers of them are houses in which the members of the family do the business, how many houses are really concerned in the change as against the number who do not want it?

I mentioned Private Bill procedure because those matters could be gone into there. If there has been a serious shrinking in receipts, a shrinking which compares badly with any shrinking which might be put up on the other side, on the side of the larger houses, then a case would be made for reconsideration of this matter in the light of the injustice that the measure passed in July would have brought about. I am not satisfied with the case that has been made for reversing a decision arrived at only four or five months ago. I do not know what particular reason there was for changing the hour from 7 o'clock to 8 o'clock.

I will reply afterwards, explaining those matters.

The hour originally down was 7.30, and Deputy Hennessy's simple innocent motion was to make an 8 out of the 7. Deputy Mulcahy drew attention to the fact that it was 8.30, and I think Deputy Hennessy did not contradict him. Now, to leave the matter beyond all doubt, 9 o'clock is put down. In all the circumstances I could not see my way to vote for the Second Reading.

This is a proceeding in which an amending Bill is brought forward, as the President properly said, to a Bill passed in this House a few months ago. I am in no way enthusiastic about the amending Bill. I want to address the House on the subject of responsibility in connection with Bills of this sort. The original Bill, to which this is an amending Bill, was brought into the Seanad and passed on to the Dáil, and the principles underlying that Bill, to say the least of it, are peculiar. We are told that in an important trade in the city there was an agreement entered into between the parties concerned, but that agreement was not carried out. To put that matter right, a Bill was brought in which restricted the hours of opening in this particular trade, and that Bill was passed by this House. The essential feature in connection with that Bill was that it did not deal with the whole trade; it did not deal with any principle.

I very seriously criticise the wisdom of dealing with trade matters in this way. I think it is far from desirable to legislate in this fashion. Let us realise what this House has done in this matter. The President says the amending Bill should properly have come forward as a Private Bill. Surely if that applies to the amending Bill, it applies with still greater force to the original Bill? This Bill came before the House without any examination, practically speaking. There was certain criticism and it went through all its stages. I claim as a person engaged in business, a business representative, that it was a very undue interference in trade matters with which this House was not made sufficiently conversant. The legislation enacted did not apply to even the whole of the trade concerned. Is this House wise in dealing with such matters? Any small section of any particular trade can come forward here and promote a Bill. What are we to do? On what grounds can interference be justified? Is the Dáil going to allow itself to become the medium by which one, two, or three people can come here and say that they want to restrict the liberties of people who are competing with them in trade? I am not concerned in this matter. If anything, my sympathy is with that section of the people who say that it is a good thing to close houses at a certain hour on Saturday night. If that is the principle that is being advocated why confine it to the drapery houses? If I go down Talbot Street I see one house, an ironmongers; next door is a publichouse and next to that is another house in another trade. The owner of the latter house is a man who sells boots and shoes. He is going to be closed arbitrarily, but the adjoining houses in the street are to be allowed to remain open. What I am concerned about is that there is a very serious principle underlying legislation of this sort. Deputy Johnson will, I think, tell the Dáil that it is impossible to enforce certain working hours on people in these shops. Is it right or proper to do so? Have we to legislate to please everyone? How can you select a particular area in the city or country in which certain houses are to close because the employees are being worked unduly long hours? If the Dáil is going to legislate in that way I am afraid Deputies will have their work cut out for them, as they will have a very confused mass of legislation to deal with.

Trade unions have, I think, shown themselves very capable of dealing with the question of shop hours and other matters, and I must confess that I look with very grave apprehension on the Dáil taking any action such as was embodied in the original Bill. Now this amending Bill comes along trying to impose conditions on people who promoted the original Bill. It says that shops are to close on Wednesdays from nine to one. In dealing with this question, the Dáil is bound to be utterly confused. There is nothing to prevent another Bill coming along to amend this one. I did not follow or oppose the original Bill, as it was my duty to do. I would suggest to the Dáil that the less interference there is with the flow of business the better for all concerned. If there is legislation of a general character to be enacted, let it be general and not be applied to any particular trade. There will be hopeless confusion if there is differentiation between trades. I would be glad to hear what justification there is for such legislation as this. I think those who are asking for the amending Bill have a right to the relief they ask as regards Saturday closing. I maintain that their liberty should not be restricted any more than the liberty of shops next door to them. No people should be singled out by law.

I agree with Deputy Hewat that the promotion of legislation in the Dáil to settle local trade questions is really a misuse of the Oireachtas. I had that objection to the first Shops Act that this Bill seeks to amend. I objected that it was too limited even in the trades affected, and even for those trades limited in regard to area. If legislation of this sort is to become a habit the Dáil will be choked with legislation either originating or amending certain local trade matters. Take this Bill on its merits. It really effects three changes. It cancels, for some reason that I have not yet heard explained, exemption given in the previous Bill to businesses run completely by an employer's family. Secondly, it fixes rigidly the areas in which businesses may be opened, and, thirdly, it inflicts a half-holiday compulsorily on certain days. The first change I know nothing of. I do not know what the explanation is or why the exemption clause of the last Bill is being cancelled. The other two are more important. I put it to the House for its serious consideration that the method of fixing hours under the old Shops Act by the local authority after local inquiry into the local circumstances was much more reasonable and a much more just method of dealing with this type of matter than introducing a Bill into the Oireachtas of the Saorstát effecting a small number of businesses in a particular place. Supposing this Bill passes is there not going to be from Cork, Waterford and every other city a demand for legislation of a similar type? Bills affecting business in these particular places will be brought up here and possibly go through the same procedure, one Act and then an amending Act. The third point was put up to me based on a specious plea with regard to unemployment—the question of the weekly half-holiday. I hold that is dealing with unemployment. If this Bill became law the situation in Dublin with regard to a big number of trades is that there will be two half-holidays. There is a trade custom of arranging with workers of certain Unions for a holiday on a particular day and there is going to be enforced a holiday on another day and I ask: Let us posit the state of stagnation in trade which apparently it suits the convenience of the Dáil at this time to express, and see how it is going to be affected by two half-holidays in the week.

Deputy Hennessy makes a plea for a nine o'clock opening on Saturday. It cost me a certain amount of amusement. I do not pretend to quote accurately his words but I think he said that the wife and children of the wage-earner went to do business on Saturday. Work was finished at a certain time and they decided to go to a football match. After the football match Dr. Hennessy said, apparently realising that football matches do not go on to 7.30, they have their tea. Why not make the hour in the Bill 11 o'clock and say that after their tea they have to go to the pictures? If you go on like that you are going to fill up the Bill with a host of conclusions. I do not think the case, based on the particular arguments of Deputy Hennessy, is going to meet with the approval of the House.

I was waiting for Deputy Johnson to voice his opinion on this Bill but, like a fox, Deputy Johnson has always a sly turn in him. I will give him all the credit due, and on behalf of Labour I say he is a real Labour representative. The President, in his remarks, laid great stress upon having two contradictory Bills introduced in the House within five months. He said he acted, more or less, as a kind of a medical adviser to Dr. Hennessy. He was, as it were, administering a soothing powder to Deputy Hennessy to keep him quiet. To my mind the President's idea, as to the necessity of this Bill, was far-reaching. Although he is President of the State I think he must have been canvassed by somebody who is trying to influence the Government against passing this Bill. I do not agree with the Minister for Industry and Commerce with regard to the workman and his family getting their necessaries after the pictures. If the Minister for Industry and Commerce has sufficient salary to enable him to go to those pictures, I can assure the Dáil that the majority of the workers have not sufficient means to go to the pictures. Consequently the necessity does not arise for workers to get necessaries after the pictures. I am sure I shall be asked why, as an independent Labour man, I support the Bill. I went against the Bill introduced in the Seanad because at the time I thought the Bill was unjust. I think the same now. I hold it is unjust to deprive a man who gives employment from opening his shop when you gave the privilege to a man who gives no employment. If I am a draper and have sons, daughters or a wife to manage a shop I can keep my premises open until 10, but because Deputy Johnson gives employment he must close at a certain hour. Surely that is not fair. If a person gives employment we want to keep, in employment, the people he is engaging. Unless this Bill is passed by the Dáil you will have on the Labour Exchange more unemployed than you have now.

Some of the Deputies may say people can get anything they want before 9 o'clock. I agree that they can, because they have the means of getting it. Some may say also that the majority they represent in this Dáil can also get anything they require before 9 o'clock. That may be so, but take the man, working in the suburbs of Dublin, who cannot go to the pictures. Farmers hold on as long as they can before they give wages to the agricultural worker, and it is 6 o'clock before that employee receives his wages. He gives a few shillings to his wife to support the family. The wife finds certain boot shops closed but the huckster is open. That huckster can profiteer if he so wishes. The persons with no assistants to pay are open, but the traders who have to pay assistants are closed. Consequently the wife of the industrious worker will have to pay more for her necessaries. I want to see, if it is possible, that justice is done to every section of the community. The Act only applies to Dublin city and the suburbs. I see nothing in the amending Act introduced by Deputy Hennessy as to why it also should not be accepted by the Dáil. I agree with the Minister for Industry and Commerce when he said that Waterford, Cork, and other centres might attempt such legislation as this. We are supposed to be a Free State, and if we are then why not allow citizens that freedom?

You have tied them down in the other Act of 1925 to a certain hour. You have decided that the shops must close at 7.30, but let me take the case of provision stores. As regards these it does not matter how many assistants are employed in them they can remain open until 10 o'clock. I suppose we may soon expect some legislation in connection with the liquor trade, but at any rate the law at present is that public house bars can remain open on a Saturday night until 9.30. Why should this difference be made in the case of a draper and why should he be victimised? I fail to see why the draper or boot merchant carrying on a respectable trade should be victimised in the matter of closing hours when there is no such regulation in the case of hardware merchants, provision merchants and others. I think that Deputies representing not only the city and county of Dublin but every other constituency in the country would be doing an act of justice by supporting the Bill introduced by Deputy Dr. Hennessy. In my opinion if Deputies fail to support this Bill it will mean that at least 20 per cent. of the assistants employed in drapery houses will have to join up in the labour exchanges. I have asked the opinion of several assistants in the city on this matter, and they have all told me that they are in agreement with the hours in this Bill. Unless you want to have 20 per cent. of the drapers' assistants on the unemployment list, if not before Christmas certainly after it, I think Deputies should support this Bill.

I am impressed by Deputy Lyons' advocacy of the same cause that Deputy Hewat advocates— of freedom from legislative interference with trade. They are both agreed that there should be no restriction on the hours that shops may open—in fact they are in favour of having shops open at all times so long as the proprietors desire it. That is consistent with Deputy Hewat's usual advocacy, but I did not understand before that it was Deputy Lyons' view. It is well, however, to learn as we live.

On a point of explanation, I desire to say that I did not advocate that shops should be open all night. What I did say was that I did not see why shops that employed assistants should be closed while shops that employed no assistants could remain open.

I understand now that Deputy Lyons dissents from Deputy Hewat; that is to say, that Deputy Lyons favours a restriction upon the hours that shops may open and an interference with the right of shopkeepers to open, but that in fact he agrees that there should be a restriction upon traders. However, that is immaterial. The Deputy has made quite a good point regarding the anomaly that traders who do not employ assistants are free under the present statutes to remain open. That point was raised during the discussion of the earlier Bill, and when Deputy Nagle spoke on that point and agreed that there was a hardship in the matter, Deputy Dr. Hennessy said: "I regret I cannot accept Deputy Nagle's suggestion, because it does not get over the difficulty of the public inconvenience." That is a quotation from Deputy Dr. Hennessy's speech. If Deputy Dr. Hennessy has changed his views and agrees now with Deputy Lyons I put it to both the promoters of this Bill, that there may be a reasonable amendment to the original Bill, passed comparatively easily, I think very easily, to bring within the scope of the existing Act all traders, whether they employ assistants or not. That, I think, would be a distinct amendment to and an improvement upon the present Act, and it would satisfy whatever is legitimate in the contentions of those who are behind the present proposal. I put that forward to Deputy Dr. Hennessy and those for whom he speaks as a proposition about which, I think, there might be fairly general agreement, except perhaps that there may be other Deputies who would stand for the shopkeepers who do not employ labour. Nevertheless, I think we could get over the difficulty that Deputy Lyons has stressed by that method.

Deputy Hewat, supported to some extent by the Minister, decried this method of legislation, and in the abstract perhaps they have some justification, but we must bear in mind that both the Minister and the Deputy, and most, or all of us, did agree upon taking over the social legislation of this character which was already in operation and we have not up to now repealed it. Now that legislation in respect to shop hours did, in fact, discriminate between trade and trade, between shop and shop, for under the Shop Hours Act the trade itself had to decide in respect to shops within that trade—not in respect to their neighbours in other trades—so that the legislation we carried over was of this differential kind which Deputy Hewat deplores.

Deputy Dr. Hennessy referred to the agreement on which he said the original Bill of last July was passed. He quoted certain figures regarding the proposal to limit hours of closing as being taken by a plebiscite of the trade under the Shop Hours' Act. He said that out of 654 votes cast, 392 were against and 262 were for the proposed limitation of hours. I would remind Deputies that the electorate who vote under such elections are the owners of the shops, irrespective of the number of persons employed in the shops or the number of persons affected by the proposed closing order.

Every small shopkeeper, employing any number of persons, no matter how few, had equal votes with the largest shopkeeper, employing, perhaps, hundreds, and in this plebiscite the 262 persons who voted for the proposed restriction on the hours, proposed at that time, probably represented ten times the number of persons engaged in the trade, as the 392, who voted against the proposal, and the effect of the situation undoubtedly was that you had small traders who had one or two or three assistants, or no assistants, taking advantage of the extension of the hours beyond that which the employers and employed had agreed upon, eating into the business of the organised employers who had agreed with their employees about the hours of closing. There has been, of course, a considerable increase in the number of such trading shops in recent years.

The agreement that was referred to was an agreement entered into by representatives of the employees who covered 80 per cent. of the shops in the city, and covered probably 80 per cent., possibly more, of the employed persons in the trade. At the present time 90 per cent. of the people engaged either on the employing side or the employed side are in favour of the present hours in regard to Saturday nights, and are against a change in the existing hours in the direction desired by this Bill and the number opposing is a very small minority. Now it is said that the people affected do 60 per cent. of their trade on Saturdays, and 50 per cent. of that 60, that is 30 per cent. of the whole week's trade, between the hours of 7 and 10 on Saturday nights. That is a matter that I ask Deputies to take into account, and it is probably a growing proportion. The amount taken on Saturday nights between the hours of 7 and 10 is a growing proportion, and unfortunately owing to the laxity with which the recent Act is administered we find there are existing business houses quite prepared to defy the law, and, in view of the fines inflicted, to take little account of the prosecutions that may and do take place, and are doing a very considerable business in these three hours. But that is by the way.

There is said to be 400 traders affected by these provisions who are anxious that this Bill should extend the hours of traders on Saturday nights. That figure has been named in any case and I will take it. If we assume as a small average that the week's trade is, say, £40, a little calculation will show that the three hours' Saturday night trade is of a value of £11,000 to the traders who are open during these hours. Now that is a considerable plum.

The traders who have agreements with their employees look with envy upon that £11,000 of trade. Whatever the sum may be it is enough to create a feeling of envy and anxiety at the loss of it to-day, and a desire to get it back, and the proposal here is to extend the hours to 9 o'clock, and by such means to force owners of other shops, who are keeping their agreement with their employees, to open during these hours and to take back the trade which those, unorganised-and-unbound-by-agreements traders have already succeeded in obtaining.

On a point of explanation, I do not see anything at all in the Bill to force people to keep open their shops.

That is an argument, not an explanation.

The position is now as it was before, that if there is to be a general extension of the hours of opening on Saturday nights, then very many of the traders who at present close, and who have agreements with their employees, will be forced to break these agreements for the purpose of getting back some of that trade. We are going to have the position created that the small trader who refuses to enter into an agreement with his employees, is going to force the larger trader who is willing to enter into an agreement with his employees, and carry on his business in a properly organised fashion, to retaliation, and to create general disorganisation.

It is not of very great importance to deal with what has been stressed about the probable increase of unemployment. It would be of importance if there was any foundation for such a suggestion. As a matter of fact, the boot is on the other foot, and what will happen, if this Bill becomes law, will be that there will be disorganisation and consequent unemployment arising out of the proposals in the Bill. I suggest to Deputies interested in this matter, that they would do far better to endeavour to meet the people concerned in the organisations concerned, whether the Merchant Drapers' Association or the Irish Union of Distributive Workers, with a view to coming to a proper understanding as to the kind of legislation that would be acceptable to meet the reasonable objections that have been suggested, such as that objection about the single family shop. There is something good in this Bill, and that is the abolition of Sunday trading. That is a consequential result of this Bill. I think there could be general agreement upon that point. There could be agreement on the point that it is undesirable to exclude from the operations of the present law the single family shop, because they are really taking an unfair advantage of people who have consented, in the public interest, to limit their trading activities.

People who give employment.

There is, of course the very big objection to this Bill that was mentioned by the President, that it is, in effect, removing the option that has been in force for a long time regarding the day on which traders will close for the half-holiday. This Bill compels every trader to close for the half-holiday on Wednesday, and the probable result would be to endeavour to force open those shops which are at present closed on Saturday. Very many of the shops in the city, particularly in the centre of the city, choose the Saturday closing instead of the Wednesday closing, but the effect of this Bill will be to compel them to close on Wednesday which, in effect, would be to compel them to open on Saturday. That is not going to ease the situation for the small trader. The small trader is going to lose more than he is going to gain by this Bill if that happens.

Without dealing with other effects of the Bill, I leave the matter with this proposition: that Deputy Hennessy should not press the Bill at this stage and run the risk of having it defeated and never hearing anything more about it or any other Bill of the kind, but that he should withdraw the Bill and enter into a conference with the organisation of the employees or their representatives and see if there could not be an agreement come to to remove the defects of the present law. Then there might well be an agreed measure with a view to amending the Act passed as late as July last. An amendment of that Act, which is really an amendment literally as well as technically, would not create the same objection as a reversal of the policy outlined in that Act. Although we were told a day or two ago that we were never going to agree with the President, I agree with him that it is undesirable to reverse policy within three months in a matter of social legislation of this kind, unless there is very strong grounds of an emergency character to support such a proposition.

I wish to offer a few remarks in support of the Bill. When the Act that is now in force was being discussed in the Dáil last July, I felt that it was one that had not got the consideration that it was entitled to, and I think that that is evidenced by the fact that an amending Bill has been introduced and is supported in a good many quarters that were indifferent about the matter before. I quite agree with Deputy Johnson that there ought to be an effort made to try and solve this problem, other than on the lines of the existing Act or the Bill before the Dáil. A section of the traders are favoured by the existing Act. A large section of traders are victimised by it.

I admit that there is something in the argument put forward on behalf of the assistants as regards the matter of later hours. It is to the credit of those who have worked on their behalf that they have secured for them much of the comforts that they now enjoy in that respect. At the same time, I think there is an inclination to overdo the matter by suggesting that the one and a half hours on Saturday will cause them any hardship. It seems to be overlooked in introducing legislation of this kind that the public ought to be considered to some extent. Marketing on Saturdays is an old-time custom in Dublin, and it is very difficult to change it on the lines of the existing Act, which only deals with a section of the trade. At present shopping may be stopped at 7.30 on a Saturday evening. Anyone who goes through Dublin between six and nine p.m. on a Saturday can see that there is a considerable amount of marketing done by the working classes. Having regard to the arguments put forward in favour of this Bill, it is my intention, at any rate, to support it for the present, but I think some consideration ought to be given to the suggestion of Deputy Johnson to endeavour to deal with this question on broader lines than those suggested in the Bill.

I feel constrained to vote against this Bill. It is a direct reversal of the Act put on the statute book last summer. By passing this amending Bill, in my opinion, the Dáil would be stultifying itself by voting what is really a direct negative to the legislation passed in July last. I am quite ready to admit that the Act passed last summer has been prejudicial to a limited number of people in the drapery trade who are interested in this Bill. It is inevitable that almost any useful Act, no matter how ameliorative, should hit a few, but we should always try and legislate for the majority. It has been put up to me, and I firmly believe it, that taking the drapery trade alone, the majority of those engaged in it are in favour of this Bill. Deputy Johnson put the case very fairly. He said there are a certain number of people in the drapery business who employ a large number of assistants and who have carried out this agreement and closed their shops, out of loyalty to the agreement, at 6.30 p.m. on Saturday. Take a street in my own constituency. This Bill, if passed, would make this differentiation, that certain traders on one side of Talbot Street would be allowed to keep open until 9 p.m. on Saturdays, while other traders, in order to carry out their agreement, would have to close their shops at 6.30 p.m. Is it fair to these traders that on account of their loyalty they should be victimised and lose the huge amount of trade which Deputy Hennessy tells us is carried on between 6.30 and 9 p.m. on Saturdays? There is now a happy state of affairs existing between the traders I speak of and their employees. Does the Deputy think it fair to interrupt that happy state of affairs? If only in the interests of good citizenship, I think Deputies should vote against this Bill. I do not believe in trying to face both ways, and if we want to keep up the reputation of the Dáil as a deliberative assembly, we should not record our votes in favour of a Bill that is a direct negative to the legislation passed last July.

I would like to refer to the point made by Deputy Johnson. If there is anything in the Bill to make it compulsory on all the people concerned to observe Wednesday as the half-holiday, we are prepared to accept an amendment that any shop having Saturday as a weekly half-holiday may remain open until 6.30 on Wednesday evening. If the Second Reading passes, we are prepared to include an amendment such as that I have just referred to. I find that an attempt is made by different speakers to uphold the statement that was made on the passing of the 1925 Act and the statement that succeeded in getting the 1925 Act passed by the small majority of two. That was the statement that the Bill was giving effect to an agreement. I have given figures to show that 392 of the traders affected in Dublin voted against the closing at 7.30, and 262 for it. That leaves a substantial majority for the continuance of trading until 10 o'clock. In face of those figures, arrived at under the guidance of the Corporation of Dublin, it is useless to speak of the existence of any agreement. To trot out that agreement in order to uphold the Act that was passed under a misunderstanding, I do not think is really fair.

A good deal has been said about the procedure of the present Bill. If the procedure adopted in the present Bill is objectionable, it is owing to the objectionable procedure adopted in the Act that was passed last July. The President's objection is one that would have a good deal of substance in it under certain circumstances. He says —and Deputy Mrs. Collins O'Driscoll repeats—that it would be stultifying this House to repeal an Act passed as late as last July. I think it would be more discreditable to this House to allow an Act to remain on the statute book that was based on a misunderstanding and that inflicted a serious injustice on a body of deserving citizens. I realise that we are up against very influential opposition and against a rather unexpected combination. We had the Vice-Chairman of the Seanad interesting himself in the 1925 Act. We had the President supporting it.

The President is in opposition to the present Bill and so is Mr. Johnson. I admit it is a very doughty combination, but I would ask Deputies not to be influenced by personalities. It has been said that the giving of 1½ hours to these people—that means the difference to them between solvency and insolvency —will injure the larger traders. I do not agree with that, because these people are simply acting as retailers for the wholesale traders at certain hours. In acting as retailers, they are making it a commercial proposition for the larger wholesale houses to close at 6 o'clock and give their assistants the opportunity of having their half day and those early hours. In the present Bill, we are only asking 47½ hours' work. In fact, we would be satisfied, if the demand be made at a later stage, to give 46 hours as against 49 hours in the old Act. We are only asking for the 1½ hours because it is necessary in order that those people may support themselves and their families and keep their assistants in employment. We are giving a good deal instead of those 1½ hours. I have no personal interest in those small traders, but many of them are in my constituency and I think it right to give them an opportunity to live. I would ask Deputies not to be swayed by the great personalities opposed to us. Do justice above all things. I object to the principle of repealing an Act which is only a short time on the statute book, but I prefer to repeal an unjust statute than to create a greater injustice by allowing it to remain.

Question put.
The Dáil divided.
Tá, 51. Níl, 18.

Pádraig Baxter.Séamus Breathnach.Próinsias Bulfin.John J. Cole.John Conlan.Louis J. D'Alton.Patrick J. Egan.Osmond Grattan Esmonde.Thomas Hennessy.John Hennigan.Connor Hogan.Patrick Leonard.Seosamh Mac a' Bhrighde.Donnchadh Mac Con Uladh.Séamus Mac Cosgair.Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.Pádraig Mac Fadáin.Risteárd Mac Liam.Seoirse Mac Niocaill.Liam Mac Sioghaird.Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.Patrick J. Mulvany.Martin M. Nally.John T. Nolan.Criostóir O Broin.Seán O Bruadair.

Risteárd O Conaill.Parthalán O Conchubhair.Conchubhar O Conghaile.Máirtín O Conalláin.Eoghan O Dochartaigh.Séamus O Dóláin.Mícheál O Dubhghaill.Peadar O Dubhghaill.Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.Eamon O Dúgáin.Seán O Duinnín.Mícheál O hIfearnáin.Seán O Laidhin.Aindriú O Laimhín.Séamus O Leadáin.Fionán O Loingsigh.Pádraic O Máille.James O'Mara.Domhnall O Mocháin.Séamus O Murchadha.Pádraig O hOgáin (Luimneach).Seán O Raghallaigh.Máirtín O Rodaigh.Mícheál O Tighearnaigh.Patrick W. Shaw.


Earnán de Blaghd.Seán Buitléir.Seoirse de Bhulbh.John Daly.Máighréad Ní Choileain BeanUí Dhrisceóil.David Hall.Tomás Mac Eoin.Risteárd Mac Fheorais.Patrick McGilligan.

Tomás de Nógla.Tomás O Conaill.Aodh O Cúlacháin.Eamon O Dubhghaill.Domhnall O Muirgheasa.Tadhg O Murchadha.Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).Seán O Súilleabháin.Caoimhghín O hUigín.

Tellers—Tá: Deputies P. Doyle and J. Lyons. Níl: Minister for Industry and Commerce and Deputy Morrissey.
Motion declared carried. Bill read a second time.

It will be necessary to refer the Bill to a committee. We will take that up on Friday.

The Dáil adjourned at 8.30 p.m., until Thursday, at 3 p.m.