INTOXICATING LIQUOR BILL, 1924.—SECOND STAGE.

Question proposed—"That this Bill be now read a Second Time."

I have not had an opportunity of considering this Bill very fully, but I should like to direct the few remarks I intend to make to the general question of the treatment of the liquor trade. It seems to me that some time or other—I do not say we have yet reached that stage—this country will have to take the question of the regulation of the liquor trade seriously into its consideration. What lines are now being followed I am not in a position to discuss. As I say, I have not studied the question sufficiently. Might I suggest, however, that in any future legislation on this subject we would do well to consider what is being done in other countries, notably with so much success in the Province of Quebec, in Canada. An adaptation of the Gothenberg system would seem to be a wise way of approaching the question. I know I am hardly in order in raising the question now, but I would like to make the suggestion to the Government that when they are resolving this matter, seriously and permanently, they might consider what has been done in other countries, and more especially how this Gothenberg system has been actually put into operation in the Province of Quebec, where its operation has met with very considerable success.

I desire to welcome and support the Bill as I believe it is an honest and well-conceived effort to regulate in a legitimate way, and in a statesmanlike way, a very important trade, which has frequently been subjected in the past, here and in other countries, to very repressive legislation. The Bill is in no sense a prohibition measure. All the interests concerned are safeguarded. In this connection I should like to quote a few sentences from a very fearless and very impressive speech which was delivered by the Bishop of Durham quite recently in the House of Lords. The Bishop said:—

"To determine one's own choice of food and drink is, I submit, one of the essential franchises of self-respecting manhood, and, of course, it must be exercised reasonably and with due consideration for the rights and interests of society.... Let us throw ourselves into the great and salutary movement for providing improved public-houses.... Instead of making the trade in alcohol a disreputable one, as with disastrous consequences they have done in America, let us try to make it respectable and responsible. I would have the whole trade know that they are engaged in a lawful and a salutary industry, ministering legitimately to the needs of the people."

I conceive that it is on these general principles this Bill has been introduced. Orderly regulation is the essence of the Bill, and there is no attempt at repressive compulsion or undue interference with the liberty of the subject. We are all very anxious for the cause of true temperance. At the same time, one has to remember that in the words of a very famous and eloquent Irishman—the late Archbishop McGee—we would prefer Ireland to be free, to Ireland compulsorily sober.

This Bill tries to deal fairly and justly with the various people concerned, and I welcome it. One particular section, which I feel is a very proper one, deals with the standardisation of porter and beer bottles. The Commission which dealt with that matter found that originally twelve bottles went to the gallon. That has been gradually extended by licensed holders to sixteen to the gallon, and possibly further. Apparently that is to be stopped. That is a valuable concession to the consumer, and a just one. Having gone that far, I think it is necessary to point out that for this particular offence the penalties are not as stringent as are laid down in other sections which deal with matters that are not any more important. A man apparently may break the law in respect of supplying diminished quantities of drink as often as he likes without having the conviction recorded on his licence. To my mind, that is a flaw in the Bill, and on the Committee Stage I hope to move an amendment to the effect that a conviction in such a case should be recorded on the licence. With that exception, I think the Bill in its main provisions is a just one, and one which shows that the question has been approached from the point of view of equity and fairness and without any idea of what you might call "Pussyfootism."

I would like to run very briefly over the provisions of the Bill and say a word to the Seanad as to the spirit in which it was conceived. We are fairly satisfied that a good deal of the abuses and irregularities that exist in connection with the licensed trade in the country exist by reason of the fact that there are probably twice too many licensed establishments. Figures that I give now are not for the entire country, but for the area of jurisdiction of the Free State. There are 15,000 publicans' licences; that is, roughly, one for every 250 of the population—men, women and children. In England there is one to every 450 inhabitants, and in Scotland one to every 695. There is nothing contained in the Bill under consideration attempting to deal with that side of the question. I would hope, in the very near future, to establish a Committee or Commission whose Terms of Reference would be to make recommendations bearing on that aspect. At the moment I am satisfied that in that particular trade in the country there is too keen a struggle for existence. You have small traders scrambling for crumbs, and the crumbs are only got by abuse and breach of the law. Naturally in any attempt to effect a substantial reduction of licences some consideration will have to be paid to the danger of going so far in that direction as to produce and create shebeening. There can be, without any danger of that, a very substantial reduction effected in the number of licensed establishments in the country. I am satisfied that with such a reduction irregularities and abuses will tend to disappear.

This Bill, as I say, does not purport to deal with that side of the question, but merely regulates hours of sale and matters of that kind. The hours of sale are, I think, reasonable, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., on ordinary week days, and from 9 a.m. to 9.30 p.m. on Saturdays. The Act that is in operation at the moment enforces a 9.30 p.m. closing. Under the provisions of this Bill there will be a further extension of half-an-hour on the ordinary week day.

I have not attempted to deal at all with the bona fide traffic in this Bill. That, too, is a matter that has to be left over for the consideration of whatever committee or commission is established. There is only this provision that, as between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sundays, no bona fide traffic is allowed. There is a section in the Bill dealing with clubs. The hours for the sale and consumption of drink in clubs is restricted to the statutory hours for licensed premises.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I might mention that I was asked to receive, and did receive, the Chairman of the Clubs' Association as a deputation. He interviewed me on behalf of this Association which is mainly concerned, I think, with working men. He expressed a very strong desire on the part of the Association which, I believe, numbers some 15,000 members, that the Seanad would at any rate carefully consider the question of extension. In view of that, perhaps the Minister might say a word on the existing provisions.

Part 3 of the Bill deals with clubs and in Section 20, Senators will find that the hours for sale in clubs are identical with the provisions with regard to licensed premises. That matter received a good deal of consideration, and it has to be recognised that legislation of this kind must be uniform for the country and must embrace all kinds of clubs. I am well aware, and the officials of my Department are well aware, that there are clubs here and there through the country which are well run and are well managed, and in connection with which there is little, if any, abuse. On the other hand, there are a great many establishments where that is not the case, and where it is not true to state that the sale and consumption of drink is a mere side line incident to the existence of the club. It is the main purpose of the club's existence and the main purpose of its membership. The consumption of intoxicating liquor in many of these establishments would run very close the consumption in the average prosperous public-house, and would probably exceed the sale and consumption in most public-houses.

That being so, and having regard to conditions generally in the country, we have to ask ourselves whether 13 hours in the day is not adequate for the purpose of the consumption of alcoholic liquor by the ordinary citizen; whether there is a case for the further extension of the hours with regard to clubs. Personally, I do not think there is. The idea was that it is bad to have men turning out, whether from licensed houses or from clubs, making their way homeward after the ordinary life of the city or the country has been suspended for the night, and after people have retired. I am satisfied that 10 o'clock is reasonable. I met deputations from clubs, and some of them put up a very plausible case for extension; they pictured the case of a man who goes for a walk after his day's work, and so on, who does not come back to the town or city perhaps until 9 o'clock, and who might wish for a couple of hours' social intercourse in his club, and a certain amount of drink—of refreshment, as it is called.

Well, that is not the average case. The average case is that people repair after their day's business to their club just as other people repair to licensed premises, and the case that the sale of drink is a mere side-show in the club and that it is not the main purpose of its existence, that people play billiards, read, and so on, is met by the fact that this Bill does not lay down that clubs shall turn out their members and lock their doors at 10 p.m., but merely that the bar shall be closed and that the sale and consumption of liquor shall cease at 10 p.m. If the consumption of drink is merely accidental to the club's existence, why is the cry raised that we are turning them home at 10 o'clock if there is no use in staying on? It is not as if we struck the newspaper from their hands or the cigar from their lips, at 10 o'clock. We merely ask that the bar shall be closed at that hour. What happened was that where you had the distinction between the club hours and the licensed premises, people who left the licensed premises went to some club, and having spent two or three or perhaps four hours in a public-house, spent two or three more hours in a club either on their own membership or on the introduction of a friend who was a member. It is said we are taking an unduly rigid and puritanical view of a matter like this, and it was urged most eloquently and almost passionately in the Dáil that what was needed was more enjoyment for the people of the country and not irritating restrictions of this kind. My view is that legislation of this kind must be taken in the setting and with regard to conditions as we know them in the country. This is a period of subsiding lawlessness, but there is still a good deal of jibing at restraints of one kind or another, a tendency to wildness and abuses, and you have to frame your social legislation in recognition of that fact.

If the circumstances were other than what they are, there might be a case for greater latitude, but with the tendency in the country, it is a perfectly reasonable provision to say that the sale of drink shall cease at 10 o'clock, that people coming out from places where drink is sold, shall come out at an hour when people are up and about, and that there shall not be a temptation to outrage and excesses of one kind or another that there is at a later hour in the night, and that there will not be the same prospect of committing offences of one kind or another with impunity that there would be at a later hour in the night. We are not tending towards prohibition. We hope we are tending towards moderation in the direction of temperance, and I believe that we will, when the struggle for existence in the licensed trade is somewhat reduced by a substantial reduction in licences, bring about a situation where the publicans themselves will be the most active and industrious agents in seeing that the laws are properly carried out and properly obeyed—the laws in connection with the sale of drink. On Committee Stage, if any Senator feels strongly on the matter and puts down an amendment bearing on this question of clubs, we can discuss it further, but in view of the statement which has been made by An Cathaoirleach I thought it as well to say that much.

There are provisions in the Bill bearing on illicit distillation which were generally approved in the Dáil, and which, I think, are scarcely open to objection. I think that for effective treatment of the illicit distillation problem it is necessary to take power to schedule an area and restrict within that area the sale of the raw material for poteen. I am aware that in anticipation of this Bill for the last few months, very large orders have been sent from the West to brewers and maltsters round Leinster and the Midland counties, so that there is a kind of intelligent anticipation there of hard times ahead, and they are taking steps with regard to it. We will not make any inroads on that problem until it becomes a difficult matter, an increasingly difficult matter, to get material without detection, and the provisions in the Bill in that connection are framed with a view to bringing about that result.

I would like generally to support the Bill. It was not my intention to speak at this stage, but rather to reserve my remarks for the Committee Stage, but as you, sir, referred to the deputation, I should like to mention the fact that Senator O'Dea and myself received a deputation of three leading members of the Catholic Church, a well-known Dean of the Church of Ireland, a prominent Minister of the Presbyterian Church, and a member of the Society of Friends. They were not at all satisfied that the restrictions on clubs were sufficiently satisfactory. I am not expressing my own view; I will keep it for the Committee Stage, but as you, sir, mentioned the deputation, I should like the Minister to know that there is apparently an organised public opinion which has another view. There was another point which was raised in regard to clubs and which was emphasised there, and which is, I think, of importance. If it were possible to frame an amendment to meet it, I think it would meet with a more or less general approval. It was pointed out by that deputation that there are certain clubs in Dublin that have what is called honorary membership—that you pay a shilling a year, but you do not get any of the privileges of the club except the right to go to the bar. It seems to me that quite a reasonable arrangement could be made by which, for the purposes of the Act, members only who would be entitled to all the privileges of the club would be regarded as members of the club. I suggest that the Minister might consider this. I think it is an important point. Generally I welcome the Bill. I think it is a good Bill, and I am glad it is received as such.

I merely rise to ask: Is there anything to prevent a member of a club who is under eighteen years of age from being served with intoxicating liquor in a club, and whether the same restriction that affects the licensed holder will bind the club?

I am afraid I cannot answer Senator Linehan's question offhand. My own impression is that Section 11 in the Bill, which deals with sales to young persons for consumption on the premises, applies only to licensed traders.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I think that is so. The answer to the Senator's question is in the negative.

Under the existing law, the Act of 1904, I find that one of the conditions of registration is that the rules must prescribe that no young person under eighteen years shall be admitted a member of the club unless the club is one devoted to athletic purposes ... and that no excisable liquor shall be sold to any person under eighteen years of age.

Like everybody else in the Senate, I have sympathy with everything tending to make the lives of the people more decent in this country, and although this is not a teetotal Bill in any way, it may tend towards a little more decency in drinking than has hitherto been shown. For many years, perhaps for many centuries, every good man and woman has been trying to limit the amount of drink consumed, and the damage done to everybody in the country, yet we have gained but little in the efforts that were made as far as the enforcement of the law is concerned. Efforts were made by numbers of the very best people in olden times, by Father Mathew, and later by the Gaelic League, by the Irish Volunteers, and by all sorts of temperance organisations to establish temperance in the country. These efforts succeeded for a time, but afterwards lagged, on account of the state of the general law, and still more, on account of the assistance given by the police in permitting everyone to do what was illegal.

I have knowledge of the country, and I have seen these things done before my eyes. I have seen public-houses opened immediately after Mass on a Sunday, when they should not be open. I have seen police within one hundred yards from the houses where people were streaming in and out, and they did not come near these houses until the people were gone away, and if they did walk in the direction of these houses they did so at a pace that enabled everybody to clear out. I am alluding now to the old police, and not to the new police. I hope that the new police will not follow in the footsteps of the old. The main point of this Bill seems to me to be to prevent liquor being pushed in the faces of people in places where they did come in particularly to fetch it. There was a section included in the Bill, which has since been taken out to my very great regret—to prevent the sale of drink at grocery bars and such places. According to that section there were to be different places for the sale of drink and for the sale of food and groceries. I consider that was the most important section in the Bill, but, on account of certain people offering opposition in the Dáil, unfortunately it was left to a free vote, and was defeated and taken out of the Bill.

I congratulate the Minister on his courage in bringing forward this Bill. I know this is a very difficult and troublesome matter, and that it caused great opposition in the country. I do congratulate the Minister on his efforts to retain that clause in the Bill so far as he could. He was overruled unfortunately.

We all know what it is to have women and children going into grocery shops, and the efforts sometimes made to induce them to come over and have drink. It is an absolute curse on the country, and should be stopped more than anything else. I would sacrifice the whole of the Bill for that one section; it was by far the most important section of the lot. It was most important that people should not be persuaded to drink in order to sanction some bargain with the owner or with some customer. We all knew the efforts that are made in such houses to induce people to come and have a drink. Women were induced to do the same; it is notorious. I, for one, hold that that clause should be reintroduced into the Bill.

Question—"That this Bill be now read a Second Time"—put and agreed to.