Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 6 Mar 1963

Vol. 56 No. 5

Hotel Proprietors Bill, 1962— Committee and Final Stages.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill".

I should like to know from the Minister how the powers under this section will be enforced. If a proprietor refuses me admission to a hotel, can I go for the Guards? Do I have to wait and report the matter and have it investigated? As I see it, this whole section is in default. I think a hotel proprietor could say the next day: "We had no staff" or: "We had rooms positively booked" or make some suggestion like that which would be reasonable or held to be reasonable. I should like just to bring that whole question to the Minister's mind again. I am not suggesting that the idea to make a hotel receive people is not a good one but it will be practically impossible to enforce the section and bring a successful criminal prosecution against them. In that regard I think the section is to a great extent useless legislation. I regard it very nearly in the same way as I regard such hopeful clauses in Bills as:

"the Minister shall after consultation with the Minister for Finance or after consultation with the Minister for Local Government".

I do not think these sort of things have any force at all. I think that in relation to receiving guests and also with regard to food Section 3 is unenforceable.

What is a reasonable refusal to serve food or what is reasonable food at one o'clock at night? The staff have gone and the night watchman or the receptionist may be the only people there. Will they be compelled to rouse the staff to get food or are they supposed to get it themselves and leave whatever job they might be engaged on? What is the position? I cannot see Section 3 being enforced at all or a criminal prosecution under the section ever being brought or ever being successfully enforced. For that reason I feel that the Minister should have made it more a matter for a civil action and cut out the criminal side altogether. I do not think he can possibly enforce it.

I was going to ask a question, but Senator Cole has asked it. I was under the impression that it was not a matter of criminal action by the Guards. I may be wrong. I consider that the person asking for accommodation would have a civil action against the proprietor of the hotel.

It seems the right of civil action is of no use whatever. I can conceive of nobody taking that kind of action except, perhaps, a certain type of crank. This type is in a small minority. I am not a hotel proprietor. I cannot see how this would be enforced. I wonder whether the Minister has any information as to whether any prosecutions or any action of any kind were taken under this kind of provision.

There was an action a few years ago against the Wicklow Hotel.

That was the case of an overcoat.

That was a civil case.

That was a civil action taken against two hotels, I think, because a man would not be served lunch as he was wearing an overcoat. Those cases are very, very rare. I wonder if a man went into a hotel in his shirt sleeves would there be reasonable ground for refusing him? I know, for example, that in a golf club members are not served lunch if they are in their shirt sleeves. That has been tried in one or two places. It is also the case in Spain. The whole thing seems to be—as Senator Cole stated—rather unworkable.

I want to ask the Minister just briefly with regard to the phrase "unless he has reasonable grounds for refusal", where are those grounds to be determined? If it is left to a civil action, surely it would be very hard for the person aggrieved to find the necessary proofs to establish his case once time had elapsed and unless he went to call the Guards straightaway? What more right then have the Guards to enter the premises?

They are brought to the hall door and the doorbell rings again and it is answered. The Guards say: "This man tells us that you have refused him admission." The hotel proprietor or somebody speaking on his behalf gives the same reply to the police: "We are booked out; we are full," or some other such excuse. What more right then have the Guards got after they have been given that answer than the person who was refused in the first place?

I said on the Second Stage that I thought the section was unnecessary, but the Minister is determined to have it in the Bill and I do not propose to push that any further. I should like to clarify this point. Am I right in thinking that, for all practical purposes, this section only applies to hotels registered in the register of hotels kept under Part 3 of the Tourist Traffic Act, 1939?

Not necessarily.

It applies to them in a compulsory way?

There are some very substantial hotels which never came in under the Bord Fáilte scheme. They refused to register.

For all practical purposes it only applies to hotels registered under that Act because in order to escape the provisions of this Bill, all another hotel has to do is to hang up a notice saying: "Right of admission reserved". It is not then holding itself out as ready and willing to accept all comers. I should have more properly raised this on the definition section, which states that a hotel is an establishment which provides or holds itself out as providing sleeping accommodation, food and drink for reward for all comers without special contract. Then it goes on to say that every establishment registered under the Act is deemed to be a hotel. Supposing an establishment that is not so registered hangs up a notice that it is not prepared to cater for all comers, then there is no obligation on it to do so. Am I right in thinking that?

To deal with the last question first, I do not think so. This would be a question of fact to be determined in each particular circumstance and it would be a question of fact whether or not a hotel did, in fact, hold itself out to receive all comers. It could not escape its liability under the Bill simply by hanging up a notice, as suggested by the Senator, if, in fact, the reality of the situation was that it did receive all comers and thereby brought itself within the scope of the Bill.

I think Senator Cole is concerned primarily with the question of criminal prosecutions under the section. Speaking on the Second Stage of the Bill, he indicated that in his opinion that section was unnecessary, because, in fact, we now had so many hotels that the situation was that the hotels were actually looking for business and there was no question of their turning anybody away and, therefore, to a large extent the section was unnecessary. As I indicated on the Second Stage this provision with regard to the refusal to accept persons calling to a hotel is already in the law. It is already a crime not to so receive people and we who examine the law have to consider whether or not this particular provision should be retained. It might be argued that it is slightly anachronistic in present circumstances. I did say that on balance we decided to retain it because I think it is important that society, as it were, through the instrumentality of the State, should have the power to see that the provisions of this Bill are enforced, as distinct from the entitlement of any individual citizen to assert his civil rights.

I agree with Senator Hayes that, by and large, the rights which are set out in the Bill and the obligations which are placed on hotelkeepers will be enforced as a matter of civil law —as a rule by private citizens.

Apart from all that, however, it might be desirable in the interests of social justice from time to time that the State should insist on these provisions being enforced. One of the matters I mentioned was that we might have at some time the emergence of some kind of colour or racial bar in Irish hotels. I do not think that any member of the Seanad would welcome or countenance any such development and in any such circumstances it might be well that the State should retain the power to enforce the provisions of the Bill by criminal proceedings if necessary.

I agree with Senator Hayes that it is very unlikely that we would invoke the provisions of Section 12 except on very rare occasions. Nevertheless, we did decide that on balance it was better to keep it there. I do not think there is any question that it need be any more difficult to enforce criminal proceedings under Section 12 than any other of the various provisions under which the police must proceed from time to time. Any time that a crime is committed there is a problem for the police to procure evidence and to establish that evidence to the satisfaction of the court afterwards. Probably there would be difficulties but every time the police go out to secure a conviction they have to face up to difficulties of one kind or another. They have all the powers here that they have in criminal law generally: questioning, taking statements—all the things that are available to the police in a criminal matter are available to them under the section. So I do not think the fears the Senator expresses on Section 3 from the criminal point of view are valid.

These were the only points put to me, I think.

Is the Minister satisfied that there is now under the Bill no civil right whatever on the part of a person who is refused accommodation?

The principal right.

Section 2 (1) states:

The duties, liabilities and rights provided for by this Act shall have effect in place of the duties, liabilities and rights which heretofore attached by the common law to innkeepers as such.

That would seem to abolish all liabilities except such as are created by the Bill. Subject to correction, it seems to me that the only liability would be criminal liability.

All sorts of statutory duties are now imposed on hotelkeepers under the Bill, in Sections 3, 4, 5 and so on, and those liabilities which are imposed on hotelkeepers will be enforceable by any citizen under the Bill.

Perhaps I am wrong, but suppose a man goes to a hotel, looks for accommodation and is refused accommodation. Where in the Bill is it provided that he can take civil proceedings against the proprietor of the hotel if as a result he can get no accommodation locally and has to sleep in his car for the night? He can, I know, complain to the State and have the State institute proceedings afterwards.

He can enforce the statutory duty under the section. Section 3 states that the proprietor of a hotel is under a duty to receive as guests all persons unless he has reasonable grounds for refusing.

That surely is a public duty and enforceable only criminally? That is how it appears to me.

No, these are statutory duties imposed by the Bill on hotel proprietors and as such they render the proprietors open to an action in tort for any breach of that statutory duty by the hotel proprietor.

Could the Minister tell me if there is any provision in the Tourist Traffic Act to allow the Guards compulsorily to inspect the books of a hotel to see if it were full on the night I presented myself at the door? Otherwise what proof is there?

I do not know what is in the Tourist Traffic Act about that but if the police decided on the basis of a complaint by a citizen that a hotel proprietor was in default of his obligations under this and they decide to take criminal proceedings then all the normal instruments would be available to them. They could take statements from the proprietor of the hotel and from the hall porter and they would be able to establish whether the hotel people had reasonable grounds for refusing. It is not too easy to hoodwink the police in matters of this sort.

If the hotel proprietor locks his books in the safe the next morning—the attendance book, the visitors' book or whatever it might be —how will you convict him?

The police can take a statement from the bookkeeper.

She need not make a statement. I maintain that under this section the police have no more right than the person first aggrieved to enter the premises on being called upon. I do not think it gives them any power.

They have no power under this Bill but ordinary police powers are available to them and they are adequate under the circumstances to enable them to enforce the Bill.

Let us reduce this to a simple happening, which all of us I am sure have in mind. A person arrives at one or two in the morning to a hotel and seeks admission. The porter or somebody at the hotel opens the door to him and answers his request for accommodation by saying: "I am sorry we are full up." The fellow may have reason to believe, rightly or wrongly, that they are not full up or he may be a crank who says: "The Minister for Justice recently put a Bill through the Seanad to protect fellows like me and I am going to the Guards." A Guard comes up with him. The same person answers the door and says "Well Guard, I have already told this man that we are full up and we are." What can the Guard do then?

It is not for me to speculate on what a Guard should do in any particular circumstance but commonsense indicates that the Guard should take a statement to that effect from the hotel porter.

Who need not make it?

He might indicate to the porter that the complainant had reasonable grounds to believe that the hotel was not full and that it was a matter which the Guards would investigate fully—not necessarily there and then—to see whether criminal proceedings would lie. I am not suggesting that it would be open to them or desirable at that point to search the hotel to see if they could find an empty bed—that might have dreadful results. It would be a matter that they would investigate in the ordinary routine way in which police investigate matters of the kind to see whether a prosecution would lie or not.

The principal thing which this section will prevent is a hotel proprietor picking and choosing his guests. It does mean that if he is, in fact, doing that and does not like a particular guest he will be in the position if he refuses that guest, and if he takes anybody else later, that he will be liable to have that person called as a witness to show that there was, in fact, accommodation. If he wants to refuse a guest he has to refuse all other people who present themselves that night, or else run the risk of having an action taken against him because the person who is received subsequently could be called as a witness to show that there was not a room. I think that is the principal thing that this section is designed to prevent.

As I understand it, the point made by Senator Cole and Senator Lindsay is that if a hotel proprietor knows the law sufficiently well it would be impossible to convict him under this Bill, because under this Bill there is no power—I am not saying there should be but I am showing the futility of the Act—given to the Garda to enter and inspect the register. As I understand it, the Garda cannot enter on private property to make investigations and search a house unless under statutory authority. There is no such authority contained in this Bill. I think that is the point made.

Searching the house would be the least effective instrument available.

Searching the house and inspecting the register. If they were entitled to inspect the register for the night that the complaint was received they would know whether all the accommodation was availed of.

We seem to be trying to visualise a rather odd situation. Someone turns up and asks if there is a room in a hotel and the proprietor says "No, you cannot get in because I have no room". I understand most hotel proprietors are in the business to make money and will not turn away customers. I presume that if he turns someone away, the hotel proprietor will have grounds for so doing. It would be presumed that he had reasonable grounds: the man might be roaring drunk and kicking up a row.

He would not, just because he was crooked about it, be likely to turn away a customer. What I want to raise is the point mentioned by Senator Fitzpatrick to which the Minister replied but the answer to which I do not understand. He wants to know about the case where an establishment under this Bill which was not a registered hotel existed and the owner sought to provide the provisions of this Bill by hanging up a notice to say that he did not accept all comers. The Minister said, if I understand him aright: "Ah, but it is not established in that way. Hanging up a notice is not any good. It is the facts that matter." Surely if the case arose it would mean that he had in fact, restricted entry and therefore the case would already have been proved. I cannot see what could arise to show that he did, in fact, accept all comers in spite of his notice and if a case arose it could be proved that he did not receive all comers,

It is a question of proofs, as practitioners in the House know better than I do. Many a citizen has an excellent cause of action from time to time but it often turns out to be unenforceable because he is not able to produce the necessary proofs. In this case there would be a question of fact to be determined if somebody wanted to take an action against a hotel proprietor, on the basis of the nonobservance of the duties imposed by Sections 3, 4, 5 or 6. If the hotel proprietor is registered with Bord Fáilte it is a different matter. He is liable anyway. Senator Fitzpatrick spoke about the liability of the proprietor who is not registered and who endeavours to throw off his responsibility under the Bill by the simple device of putting up a notice to the effect that he reserves right of admission. I say the simple act of putting up that notice would not be enough because the definition section—Section I—speaks about an establishment which provides or holds itself out as providing accommodation for all comers.

For all comers?

Yes, an establishment which provides accommodation for all comers. The person taking the action may be able to show that, despite this notice in the foyer of the hotel, the establishment does in fact receive all comers and does provide accommodation. If the hotel proprietor proves that this notice means what it says and that he does not hold himself out as receiving all comers, then presumably the action would fail, but it would be a question of fact whether or not he did, in fact, provide for everybody who came along or, alternatively, hold himself out as providing for everybody who came along.

What I cannot understand is how the man could hold himself out as providing accommodation for all comers if he had a notice up to say he did not.

It is either one or the other.

The Minister says he could prove whether, in fact, he did accept all comers. Suppose I run an inn to provide bed and breakfast and out of the first two thousand guests there is not one at whom I could raise an eyebrow. I am restricting entry but I accept the lot. The two thousand and first fellow comes along but he is refused. He says: "You accepted the two thousand, therefore the hotel is open to all comers and you cannot exclude me".

That is so. That would be the commonsense of the thing. If two thousand people come along and he, in fact, provides accommodation for them, then he is a hotel for the purposes of this Bill.

I do not agree with the Minister on this. I do not want to be unduly querulous on it. This is a Bill which by definition applies to all hotels registered with Bord Fáilte and to such establishments as hold themselves out for the reception of all comers.

May I refer to the definition section again? It speaks of an establishment which provides or holds itself out as providing. In other words, it is both. It can be brought in one way or the other.

No. It either provides it for all comers or holds itself out as ready to receive all comers. Once the notice is up, or right of admission reserved, in my view it is no longer a place that provides for all comers, or holds itself out to receive all comers. Once that notice is there that is a salient fact to be considered by a judge if a case comes before him —is the right of admission reserved and if it is, is it displayed in a prominent place? I do not see that it can be enforced in that regard.

It seems to me that if the argument put forward by the other Senators is correct, all that a hotelkeeper has to do is put a notice up to say that his establishment is not a hotel and he, therefore, escapes from all liability.

I would not agree with that.

It is a fact that where an establishment does fall within this definition, merely by saying that this is an establishment which although it appears to provide and holds itself out to provide accommodation for all comers it is, in fact, not technically a hotel, it can escape all the obligations imposed by the Bill. Then, unless registered under Bord Fáilte it seems very easy for every hotelkeeper in this country to escape the obligations of this Bill.

First of all, I want to point out that to a large extent we are dealing with an unreal aspect of the matter because there is no doubt about it that the provision that every hotel registered with An Bord Fáilte as such comes within the ambit of the Bill is the main thing on which we rely for the effectiveness of the Bill. Over and above that, it is possible, I think, to visualise an establishment which is in business as a hotel but does not call itself a hotel and is not registered with Bord Fáilte. Once it does not call itself a hotel it does not have to be registered as such with Bord Fáilte. I know one or two fairly large establishments which are not registered with Bord Fáilte but, nevertheless, carry on full business as hotels. In such a case if a hotel, as a question of fact, does provide for all comers, then even though it may have some notice of the sort referred to in the hall of the hotel, it comes within the ambit of this Bill. It is a question of fact for some one to establish that the notice in the foyer of the hotel means nothing, because the premises is a hotel which provides food, drink and accommodation. Alternatively, if a hotel advertises itself as such and is generally in business and by its activitives and management conveys the impression that it is, or holds itself out to be, a hotel which is prepared to receive all comers, then the fact that it has some bogus notice in the hall of the hotel would not take it outside the scope of the Bill.

I think these fears are unreal even in the case of a hotel which is not registered as such with Bord Fáilte. It could be fairly readily established by someone who was anxious to enforce his rights under the Bill whether or not a hotel did, in fact, carry on business as a hotel despite some bogus notice it had on the premises.

I take it that the Minister would agree that the notice which he calls a bogus notice would certainly get over the provision of holding itself out to be——

Not necessarily. It would not be conclusive.

How in the name of patience could it be said that I, as a hotel proprietor, hold myself out to receive all comers if I put up a notice in black and white that I am not prepared to receive all comers?

In the hotel; but if you advertise in books or magazines——

Supposing I do not advertise.

I am saying that the mere putting up of a notice would not be conclusive evidence.

I would say that it shows the state of my mind and it displays my intention that I am not prepared to accept all comers and I am advertising the fact that I am not. How in the name of goodness could it be said that I am holding myself out to receive all comers?

If you have a big notice on the gate of your hotel, Ard na something or other, saying that you are fully licensed, that you serve meals and so on, that would be fairly conclusive evidence in the opposite direction.

It would be evidence that there was an establishment inside that provided those things but not necessarily for all comers. On the question of "an establishment which provides..." as has been said by another Senator, a person might supply food and accommodation to 2,000 people but when the 2,001st person comes along the proprietor might say: "This is the very type of case in which I reserve my right to refuse; this is the very type of case I meant to cover by that notice." I think that no court of law could enforce Section 3 of this Bill against any hotel proprietor who chose to opt out of the Act if he were not registered under the Tourist Traffic Act.

It may well have the effect of making some hoteliers opt out.

I think we are striving at unreasonable lengths to protect the interests of the odd individual who may arrive at a hotel at 12 o'clock at night and say that because it is a hotel he must be given accommodation. It is reasonable to provide for an individual who makes a prior booking and if that is so all this argument is so much hot air. It is reasonable because the man has made a prior booking and has some sort of contract which can be enforced against the hotel proprietor, but we should not be striving to protect the very odd individual——

The crank.

——who might arrive late at night with no prior booking and demand accommodation. As another Senator said, it is reasonable to suppose that if there is accommodation available a hotel proprietor would be anxious to make it available in order to get the money. I think it would be quite unreasonable to try to make this Bill so water-tight that any individual can come along at any time of night or day and be assured that because it is a hotel he must be given accommodation, and if he is not given accommodation that the hotel proprietor must be able to prove that the hotel was full.

Many hotels operate on the basis of keeping reserved accommodation available for regular customers. They know that commercial travellers may be visiting their area on a certain date and it is quite reasonable for them to set aside a certain number of rooms in the expectation that Mr. X, who usually comes on the first Tuesday of the month, may possibly arrive. I think it would be quite unreasonable that any chance person who comes along should be able to demand that accommodation even though the hotel proprietor might have a reasonable expectation that his regular customer would come along later. I think we are striving at unreasonable lengths, and I feel that this discussion is largely wasted.

I do not want to hold up the debate but I should like to reply to Senator Murphy. What the Bill is practically doing—although it is changing the word "innkeeper" to "hotel keeper"—is affirming the common law in respect of innkeepers. The common law in respect of innkeepers grew up many centuries before Bord Fáilte was ever heard of, and in the middle ages the innkeeper did not put up a notice to the effect that it was an inn or a hotel or anything else. An establishment which held itself out to receive travellers was an inn in common law. Under this Bill an inn is a hotel and all this Bill is doing is reaffirming the common law in relation to the rights of travellers. Whether or not we in this House think it reasonable, that was the common law and it will remain the statutory law under this Bill. The proprietor of a hotel has certain common law obligations which this Bill simply enforces. That is my attitude.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 4 stand part of the Bill."

Subsection (2) provides:

This duty is independent of any liability of the proprietor as occupier of the premises.

I take it that is the ordinary duty one owes to such people as invitees and licensees.

Subsection (1) states that, "for the purpose of personal use by the guest, the premises are as safe as reasonable care and skill can make them." Should there not be some question of degree? Should there not be some clause such as, "the guest may expect to find in such premises"? Surely we should not expect to find the same degree of care and skill in regard, say, to fire escapes or anything like that in places where they charge 10/- a night—if there are any such places—and places where they charge five guineas a night?

This is social heresy.

We are living in an age of heresies.

A poor man can be burned to death with impunity?

Does the Minister think that the same degree of care in regard to fire escapes is, in fact, there? Will he say it is there?

I object to any suggestion that a poor man can be burned to death with impunity. This Bill is not relevant in that context. Fire escapes and matters of that sort are matters for the public health authority. They are taken care of under its regulations.

The man will be prosecuted under this Bill.

Not for a breach of the fire regulations in regard to the safety of the guests.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 5 stand part of the Bill."

I do not remember whether the Minister referred to any specific articles of property when dealing with Section 5 on the Second Stage. I do recall that he made some reference to reasonableness. He mentioned that you could not bring in an elephant or something like that. I do not know whether he has in mind the bringing in of dogs to a hotel.

The Senator will recall that when the Bill was first put forward by me the section merely referred to property for which the proprietor had "accommodation". We had representations by the hotel proprietors and at their instance an amendment was inserted in the Dáil and the word "suitable" put in. Now, when the word "suitable" is included it ensures that a hotel proprietor will be under a liability to receive property only if he has accommodation suitable for that particular property. In that connection it seems clear to me that unless a hotel proprietor had accommodation specifically reserved for dogs he would not be under an obligation to receive them, or, in fact, animals of any sort.

The Minister knows there are people who insist on bringing their pet dogs to bed with them.

I am not sure that I do know any such people. I will take Senator Lindsay's word for it but I am quite happy in my mind that under this Bill they would not be entitled to do any such thing.

Far from inferring that the Minister does, I accept that people of that type would be far removed from his social contacts. I was merely thinking of nights of coursing meetings in different towns. I remember the consternation in a hotel in a western town when owners of greyhounds tried to insist on keeping them in their rooms.

As a safety precaution?

It was a safety precaution but one should not be asked to take sides.

Suppose dangerous goods were brought in, would suitable accommodation or suitable provision be made? It would be possible to have goods that would be highly inflammable. I just wonder whether suitable accommodation would have to be provided by the hotel proprietor.

Naturally that is one danger. An article of an inflammable or explosive nature was one of the things we had in mind and one of the things which the hotel proprietors had in mind. It seems to me that if a hotel proprietor has not got accommodation that would be absolutely safe for such items he is under no obligation to receive them.

Would it be a good defence for a proprietor to say to one of Senator Lindsay's friends that he had not a room fit for a dog?

It would depend on the kind of dog.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 6 stand part of the Bill".

I should like to refer to subsection (2). It imposes a liability on the hotel proprietor for the safety of a motor car which is brought to the hotel and placed in any garage, car park or other premises provided by the proprietor of the hotel for this purpose. Now, I have in mind a number of hotels which have a large unenclosed car park in front of the hotel. I think this subsection does place a very wide obligation and liability on the hotel proprietor. Suppose during the night some other car owner comes along and backs into the car which is parked in the open car park outside the hotel, the hotel proprietor, I think, is clearly liable under this Bill. I think it is too wide a liability and is an unreasonable liability. I suppose I should be standing up for the rights of car owners but I think the person who leaves his car in an unenclosed car park outside the hotel accepts the liability. I know subsection (5) of the same section does give some relief but it only gives relief where damage is due to an "unforeseeable and irresistible act of nature". It does not say it is unforeseeable.

I think in the case I have mentioned the hotel proprietor would be clearly liable and the limit of £100 does not apply to cars. Therefore, he might be liable to the extent of several hundred pounds. As a matter of fact, I think under the Bill—and I should like to hear the Minister on this—if somebody stole a car from the unenclosed car park—a person who had no connection with the hotel, or a guest—and crashed the car and damaged it to the extent of £700 or £800, the hotel proprietor would be liable

We are dealing here with a matter which is to some extent difficult. We are trying to preserve a proper balance between the rights of the hotel guest and the obligations to be placed on hotel proprietors. I think in the section as it is drafted we have succeeded in arriving at a fair compromise. The section provides that a hotel proprietor shall be fully liable for the car which is the property of a guest staying overnight, subject to the important proviso that the guest must bring to the notice of the hotel proprietor the fact that the car is there. That gives the hotel proprietor an opportunity of directing the guest to put the car in some particular place. Once the hotel proprietor has that notice and is given that opportunity, then I think it is not unreasonable that he should be fully liable for the property in this regard. It must be borne in mind that the hotelkeeper is in business as such and that he has a certain obligation to provide garage accommodation, or suitable accommodation of one sort or another, for the cars of the people coming to stay in his hotel. It is to some extent an onerous obligation on him but, nevertheless, I think it is one that must be placed on him if we are to preserve a proper balance between himself and his guest. Of course, the hotel proprietor will be able to insure against any damage which may be done to the cars of guests.

In addition to that, there is another matter I want to point out to the Senator and it is this. Under the Civil Liability Act if the guest is guilty of any form of contributory negligence, that would have to be taken into account in any award which would be made to him. By that I mean if the accommodation provided by the hotel proprietor was in the form of an open or unenclosed car park, then I think it would be reasonable to expect the guest to at least lock the car. If he leaves an unlocked car in such a car park, then I think you could reasonably say that he was guilty of contributory negligence.

It is not an easy matter, I admit, and we gave a great deal of thought to it. I think, as it is drafted at present, it strikes a fair compromise between the rights of the two parties, the hotel proprietor and his guest.

I should like to ask the Minister if it is clear that subsection (2) is right in relation to subsection (1). Take one of these hotels where they have built perhaps 20 yards back from the street and left the carpark open for the convenience of the guests. That, I take it, is a carpark within the meaning of the section? I park my car there and I stay in the hotel.

It only refers to cars which are the property of overnight guests.

I take it the Minister agrees with my interpretation of the section that it does impose an absolute duty on a hotel proprietor to be responsible for the safety of a motorcar which, he is informed, has been brought to the hotel and which is placed in a garage or parking place provided by the hotel, whether it is open or otherwise?

Once the hotel proprietor is informed.

There is an obligation——

Subject to contributory negligence.

If the car is locked and if it is broken into or opened by some mechanical device, he is an absolute indemnifier of the owner of the car.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 7 stand part of the Bill".

This matter of £30 is going from one extreme to the other. While I may not agree with the Bill at all, I think it is the duty of the Opposition to try to make the Bill as perfect as possible. If the Minister decides that he is going to impose an absolute obligation on a hotel proprietor to be responsible for the safety of the goods of a guest, I think the sum of £100 is low. It certainly is not the equivalent of £30 when the last Innkeepers Act was enacted.

It is arguable what exact figure we should put in. £100 is higher than the figure suggested by the Council of Europe, which is of the order of £75. £100 is also the figure provided in Britain and Northern Ireland. There is a good case for keeping in conformity with Britain and Northern Ireland. Having regard to the Council of Europe figure, £100 is as good as any other.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 8 to 15, inclusive, agreed to.
First and Second Schedules agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill received for final consideration and passed.