Amendments Nos. 25a to 28, inclusive, are related. Amendments Nos. 27 and 27a are physical alternatives to amendment No. 26. Amendments 25a to 28, inclusive, may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015: Committee Stage (Resumed)
Amendment No. 27 relates to the prohibition on advertising in certain places in section 13 and the proposed technical amendment to section 13(2)(a) adds parks or open spaces owned or maintained by the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland to the list of prohibited areas. The intention is to ensure that all public parks owned or maintained by a local authority or the Office of Public Works, OPW, are covered by the legislation. This is not a policy change. It is merely a technical amendment to ensure absolute clarity.
Amendment No. 26 tabled by Senators Black and her group and Senator Devine proposes to extend the restriction on advertising to all public places. This would result in an effective prohibition on all outdoor advertising. As the Senators are aware, this is the first time in this country that we have introduced public health legislation in respect of alcohol. As a first step in restricting the advertisement of alcohol products outdoors, I consider it appropriate to aim those restrictions at areas most frequented by children and young people and I do not propose to accept that amendment.
Opposition amendment No. 28, which has also been tabled by Senator Black and her group and Senator Devine and her party, proposes to prohibit sports sponsorship by 31 December 2023. As the Senators are aware, this topic was debated at length prior to the publication of this Bill going back several years. A consensus could not be reached regarding a prohibition on sports sponsorship. Therefore, the measures in the Bill aim to restrict the alcohol advertising permitted at sports events and also the sponsorship of events in which the majority of participants or competitors are children, events aimed particularly at children and events involving driving or racing motor vehicles.
The Bill provides for a review of all of the advertising provisions after three years. This means these issues can be kept under review pending the outcome of that revision after three years. For these reasons, I do not propose to accept the amendments.
I have put forward amendments Nos. 25a and 27a, which are amendments to ensure non-licensed retail outlets are not prevented from selling alcohol-related merchandise. The broad definition of advertising in section 2 of the Bill means that alcohol-related merchandise, for example a key ring or backpack with the logo of an alcohol company on it, would fall under that definition. Section 13 of the Bill prohibits advertising in certain places and within 200 m of certain other places. Section 20(2) of the Bill provides that licensed shops can expose for sale alcohol-related merchandise in any area of the premises. This means that such shops may sell alcohol-related merchandise even if the premises is located in a zone in which the advertising is prohibited. If there is an off-licence located near a school, it can sell a backpack with a logo on it. There could be a gift shop right next door that cannot sell the same product. This was seen as a peculiar anomaly. When one takes section 13 and 20 together, there could be an anomaly under which a licensed shop could sell alcohol-related merchandise in a location where an unlicensed shop could not. This was never really intended. In order to avoid the anomaly, I propose to amend section 13.
Section 13(1), as currently formulated, sets out the places in which prohibition on alcohol advertising does not apply. On the advice of parliamentary counsel, I am proposing a redrafted version which defines advertising, for the purpose of this section only, as effectively outdoor advertising and the free distribution of alcohol-related merchandise and exempts advertisements attached to licensed premises, a manufacturer or wholesaler. In this way, the sale of such alcohol-related merchandise is not prohibited and the anomaly is resolved.
I welcome the Minister's amendments and offer my support for them. I will briefly speak in support of amendment No. 26, which seeks to limit outdoor advertising. I thank Senator Norris, Sinn Féin and my colleagues in the Civil Engagement group for co-signing this amendment. Although I may not press it to a vote today, I seek the Minister's serious engagement on it and I may resubmit it on Report Stage.
The Bill, as it stands, seeks to limit the advertising of alcohol in public. I welcome the restrictions for parks, public strands, stations and near schools and playgrounds. A key aim is to reduce the exposure of young people to alcohol advertising, which has a huge impact on the age they start drinking. This is not just a public health measure; it is also a child protection measure. We should be clear about that. We need to be more thorough. If we restrict outdoor advertisements within 200 m of a school, children walking home will still see the advertisement if it is placed 201 m away. The 200 m limit is arbitrary. Why not 150 m or 250 m, for example? I have sympathy with the need to draw the line somewhere but we should realise that outdoor advertising is indiscriminate in nature. Anyone travelling past is exposed to it. We prohibited tobacco advertising outdoors for this reason. It is reasonable and proportionate to do the same with alcohol in the interests of child protection. Tanya Ward, the chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance, has stated it is an important children's rights issue, that the marketing and advertising of alcohol in Ireland is widespread and self-regulated by the drinks industry, which consistently disputes the link between marketing and increased consumption and that young people are especially susceptible to the influencing of marketing.
Amendment No. 28 concerns the banning of sports sponsorship. Though I may not push it to a vote today, I would like to facilitate a debate on this point and hear from the Minister and colleagues across the House. Katherine Brown of the Institute of Alcohol Studies has stated that alcohol sports sponsorship is used as a clear way past children's bedroom doors. A picture of a sporting hero on the bedroom wall of children links alcohol to sporting success. I will not cite any studies at length but I am happy to share them with my colleagues. Comprehensive evidence shows that alcohol marketing influences young people's perceptions of alcohol, its safety and the likelihood they will start drinking or increase their drinking. This sad reality is that sports sponsorship is a huge part of this. The amendment includes a target of 2023 in an effort to find common ground and to facilitate the Rugby World Cup bid but over time, we should look to cease all alcohol-related sports sponsorship.
We should look to the GAA, an organisation I respect, for leadership in this. In 2004, it took the commendable decision to completely remove alcohol sponsorship and did so in the interest of the thousands of young members across the country. Seán Kelly, who was GAA president at the time and who is now a Fine Gael MEP, said the aim was to change the mindset of the culture particularly among young people. This was a brave move and the GAA now better reflects what sports should be about, which is activity, health, participation and giving young people a place to play, grow and develop. It followed the lead of many youth organisations doing voluntary work across the country that will not take a cent from the drinks industry, such as the National Youth Council of Ireland. It saw its funding cut by 40% during the recession but made a principled stand and continued to address alcohol harm.
We still see it, however, in soccer, rugby and many other sports which are steeped in alcohol wherever possible. It creates a culture in which children and young people perceive alcohol consumption to be something closely associated with sporting success and celebration. One school principal told us how he was confronted with this issue when Munster won the H Cup, as it is called in France. He invited the team to visit the school and was delighted that a few team members said they would go. They had a great day but when they arrived with all the sponsorship and drinks advertising he realised that he, as the principal of the school, had brought alcohol advertising to the school and found himself having to apologise to his students for doing so. He was highly annoyed that he had inadvertently brought drink companies through the front door of the school. A ban on alcohol sponsorship of sport would help to protect children from exposure to the relentless promotion of alcohol in Ireland. Phasing out alcohol sponsorship of sport over several years, rather than seeking to implement an immediate ban is a proportionate response and one that would provide our sporting organisations with the time they need to secure replacement sponsors, as the GAA did.
I will speak to amendments Nos. 26 and 28. As Senator Black has said, the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is not only concerned with public health but also pertains to child protection. We have just agreed to amend the preamble of the Bill. I hope the Minister will consider advertisements in public places. The Minister has said they will not be in places where children are targeted. How are those areas where children are targeted defined? If one goes to a Dublin match, more than half of the people there are children under the age of 18. Will big matches and events such as that, where children are involved, be included in the definition? It will be difficult stuff to define.
With regard to amendment No. 28, sport is a healthy activity so it seems to be at odds with that to continue to link it to alcohol and alcohol consumption. It is a perfect way for the alcohol industry to show off its brands in a parasitic way by attaching itself to the healthy poster boy or girl playing for his or her team. The recommendations made years ago by the steering group of the national substance abuse strategy was to implement this phasing out by last year. We are hopeful and are asking for it by December 2023, given that nothing has been done on that recommendation of the steering group. We must give sporting bodies the help they deserve for encouraging our young adults to get involved in enjoying themselves mentally and physically as they grow up. To do it alongside a brand that can do an awful lot of harm seems contrary to that.
I welcome what the Minister is doing in terms of public areas and parks. It is a very good restriction. He is also very sensible when, as I understand it, the Bill allows places such as pubs to advertise drink. Of course they should be allowed to do so because the only reason one is in a pub is to have a drink. One knows perfectly damn well what one is doing. It seems to me to be only logical to allow for this.
The prohibition on sports sponsorship is very important. I know that the Minister's feels that a gradual approach is best but I think it is important that Senators stick with this kind of amendment and go for the absolute or golden rule. By the very nature of sports the overwhelming majority of people participating are young, apart from golf where plenty of people play until they are 110 years. It is a dreadful game. I think it is absolutely ghastly. I cannot understand how anybody would want to play the thing.
The Senator does not play any games.
I play tiddly-winks. I used to play a lot of rugby but I am too old and fat to do it now, which supports my point that one plays sports when one is young, apart from golf. The most passionate people about sports, very often, are young. Of course the drinks industry knows that and it knows that sporting events are good occasions on which to nab the attention of the young.
Sport is intended to be healthy. Let us consider the Greeks and Romans and the Latin phrase mens sana in corpore sana, which means a healthy mind in a healthy body. If one talks about health surely it is contraindicated to use these kinds of healthy events to sponsor something that damages one's health and injures. Therefore, I strongly support the prohibition on sports sponsorship.
Different sports will find it relatively more easy to get rid of drinks sponsorship. I signed this Bill so I am implicated. It will be quite difficult to detach the horse racing business from booze simply because people, after the excitement of a race, go into the booze tent and sink a couple of jars. That activity is part of the buzz for an awful lot of people. It will be more difficult to detach alcohol sponsorship from horse racing and dog racing. However, it is important that we set as a target the entire removal of drinks sponsorship from sport.
I agree with my colleagues that we need to work towards removing such sponsorship of sports. In fairness to the sports organisations, there has been a huge sea change in the past ten or 15 years. I mean, in particular, for the players where there are strict rules for those who are actively training to make sure they are not in any way involved in drinking at the same time. I agree with my colleagues. I am unclear about the timeframe but it is something that we need to work on.
I have raised the issue of advertising in open areas with the Minister. I am unclear about section 13(2)(a) which reads: "in a park or open space owned or maintained by a local authority." A public road is owned by a local authority. Will that type of advertising be restricted? If that is the intention then we might clarify the matter. The provision needs to be tweaked.
I had not intended to speak on this section.
With regard to the restriction on advertising during a sports event, I need clarification about section 14(1) that reads: "a person shall not advertise, or cause to be advertised, an alcohol product in or on a sports area." In terms of horse racing, there are advertisements within the circumference of a racetrack. Is the campus of the racecourse covered by the provision? The campus is not a public area as it might be privately owned by a trust, company or whatever. I presume the provision is not confined to the racetrack but the whole racecourse. I would like the matter clarified.
It is literally the track.
Literally the track.
It is literally only the track and not the rest.
Does that mean advertisements could be placed on the side of stands?
Is that allowed even though children would be present?
I will wait until-----
The Minister is next to come in so he can tell us in a moment.
There is no dressing this up. The restriction on sponsorship is quite limited. The advertising around sporting events is quite limited. It is limited for the reasons that I have outlined. We have never used a public health piece of legislation before. I think this is making a good start in terms of events primarily aimed at children. Obviously there will be children at other events, and absolutely that is the case. In both of these sections, in terms of outdoor advertising and sports sponsorship, the Bill already provides that they be reviewed within three years which, I suggest, is before the 2023 deadline proposed in one of the amendments.
I wish to reassure the House that the 200 m distance is not an arbitrary figure. We looked at Blue Line Media, an American advertising company. It states in its outdoor advertising and design tips and best practice that billboards are viewed from 120 m to 180 m. Therefore, a perimeter of 100 m would be insufficient to protect children, hence 200 m.
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 18, to delete lines 21 to 37, and in page 19, to delete lines 1 to 12 and substitute the following:
“(2) Advertising, indirect advertising and other sales promotion of an alcohol product is prohibited if it is carried out or aimed at the general public in public places.
(3) In this section—
“public place” means a public place within the meaning of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994.”.
I will not press the amendment to a vote; we will resubmit it on Report Stage.
It is the Senator's decision on whether she wants a vote.
The amendment will be withdrawn and resubmitted on Report Stage.
I wish to refer to the prohibition on advertising in certain places. Are those advertisements physical structures? Some people advertise by projecting images on to a wall that can be removed the next day. Are all types of advertising prohibited? Does the provision just refer to fixed structures? What about air shows where an advertisement for Heineken, Guinness or whatever is printed on the side of an aeroplane? What about advertisements at big race meetings? When the Pope comes to Phoenix Park one could have an aeroplane circling overhead with Guinness, Ballina whiskey, Connacht whiskey or whatever written on its side or on a banner. I ask the Minister to clarify the matter.
I do not mean this to be disrespectful but when it comes to enforcement there will be practical implications. I mean when a plane flies by with a banner there is a question over how environmental health officers can monitor such a situation, efficient and all as they are. I envisage that an image projected on a wall is covered. It might be quite tricky to monitor a plane in the sky. I shall reflect on the finer details between now and Report Stage.
I would like the Minister to explain to us why it is considered sensible that advertising should not take place within 200 m of a school or an early years service. I presume the latter refers to some kind of crèche. Am I correct? The section states "or within 200 m of a playground". This really is taking things far too far. I know, for instance, that the Giraffe company operates a crèche that is located on Charlemont Street because I pass by it every day on my way to work. What has that to do with advertising drink? It is nonsense. Kids will see advertising hoardings in various places.
I am just thinking now of my journey into this place or my journey into work in the courts every day and the amount of places which are 200 yd. away from a school, a crèche or a local authority playground. It is crazy.
On a point of order, the Minister already explained the 200 m restriction in his speech and it is was not an arbitrary figure. We have voted on this section.
Hold on a second. I am making my point.
Allow the Senator to make his point and the Minister can respond.
There is not just one view of the world. My point is it is patently ridiculous to have a ban on advertising hoarding by David Allen Limited or one of these advertising hoarding companies because it is within 200 yd. of a crèche. The Senator may disagree but I think it is ridiculous.
The simple fact is there are cycles of advertising. Various things go up and down on advertising hoardings if one looks into the products that are sold. It is becoming ridiculous. There is a huge hoarding on the Ranelagh Road that is within 50 yd. of a tiny playground at Mount Pleasant Lawn Tennis Club. Is it to be declared off limits because a child who goes in there to play football might see it? Let us be honest about this. We are real grown-up adults. There could be plenty of places where children walk home every day past a big advertising hoarding that is not within 200 yd. of their school, of a crèche or of a playground and they will see it. However, we are introducing a notion to the effect that an advertising hoarding on Charlemont Street cannot advertise drink because little toddlers are being brought into the Giraffe crèche. This is not sensible law. Sometimes, we get carried away and the zealots get carried away with ideas. This is one example of zealotry going slightly gaga. We do not really need to have people measuring out distances from crèches and playgrounds to work out which advertising hoardings can be used for Heineken and which cannot.
It does not really make a difference to kids. I do not care what evidence is brought.
The Senator should care.
As Senator Black will be entitled to speak when I am finished, she should relax.
The Cathaoirleach has not seen me yet.
I do not believe for one minute it is possible to say a child will be more exposed to advertising because the hoarding happens to be near a crèche than if it is on the side of a road that happens to be 210 yd. away from a whole load of things but which the child goes up and down every day with his parents while going to school. This is pushing things too far. It is excessive law. I am sure the Minister is right in stating that 200 yd. is not an arbitrary figure and was not just plucked from-----
The Senator just keeps repeating himself over and over.
Excuse me, I just want to say one thing-----
With all due respect, while you may not agree with what Senator McDowell is saying, he is entitled to make his contribution and interfering with it is wrong. While bullying is too strong a word, allow Senator McDowell to speak and if you not like it, you can come back in and the Minister can respond.
Let us be clear about one thing a Chathaoirligh. We have agreed with the Leader of the House that we are going to sit for as long as necessary to get this through. The Senator is going to have to listen to a debate. Three or four hours is not going to kill the Senator. We have to get this law right and we have to make it reasonable. No matter how passionately the Senator believes in her cause, whether it is passed tonight or tomorrow, it is all the same thing. It is going to be the law of the land and our job is to look at it carefully. The Minister said he wanted a constructive approach and I am being constructive.
My point is I do not believe it is sensible to start a process whereby people who conduct outside advertising must work out whether there is a crèche near an advertising hoarding. I ask the Minister to consider the following. If the advertising hoarding is there and the crèche comes to it, is it suddenly going to go off-limits because somebody opens a crèche in the basement of a house? That is a different situation. Let us be reasonable about this. Likewise, if a new school opens up, does that mean that advertising hoardings must be redesignated, signs outside pubs must be taken down and so on? I do not know. Maybe that does not apply there. This is excessive use of regulation and there is a kind of zealotry about it which is disturbing.
Following on from Senator McDowell was talking about, I really want this Bill to go through. I want it to pass. However, take for example the Volvo yacht race that sails into Galway Harbour, which is smack bang in the middle of the city. Let us say, for example, that one of those yachts is sponsored by Heineken. Heineken is going to be all over the docks in Galway as that boat is docked there.
Take the Bray Air Display in the Minister's own constituency. Aircraft are sometimes sponsored by companies in order to remain flying. This year we saw Red Bull sponsor two aircraft that flew over Bray. Similarly, in Waterford we had the tall ships and some of those are sponsored. The issue is whether one must issue regulations to local authorities stating the Heineken yacht cannot sail into Galway Bay because it is branded, that the Bray Air Display cannot bring in a Guinness-sponsored aircraft or the tall ship sponsored by Dewar's whisky or something cannot sail into Waterford. I do not wish to be obstructive but we must consider these issues today because such questions will arise tomorrow. I support Senator Black fully. However, I do not want this legislation to be torn down because it is unworkable at the other end. We must consider those questions today and we must have answers for them today because as sure as day follows night, some yacht will sail into a city harbour or some aircraft will fly over branded in the brand of some alcoholic company. They make their money through branding these type of events. Maybe the Minister might just let us know how he would handle that.
I call on Senator Devine.
Can I make one other point? Horse racing in particular and horse tracks have beer tents and all the rest of it. I would like Horse Racing Ireland to state it is happy with this proposal because I notice that the particular provisions deal with sporting areas or perhaps that is the next section.
That is the next section.
Horse tracks seem to be within it.
I will clarify.
Perhaps I am dealing with the next section. I will come back to it.
I call Senator Devine.
I find myself half in agreement with Senator McDowell, which is an unusual position to be in. There we go.
He has talked about the arbitrary measurement of 200 yd. or 150 yd. Surely it makes more sense to adopt a complete and utter prohibition on advertisement in public places. That is why we will be coming back to the amendment that has been tabled by Senator Black. Perhaps that is where we differ and perhaps that is a bit too zealous.
I seek an explanation of it but certainly, in some of the Dublin secondary schools that have a bar or pub 100 m up the road, people have been standing outside of the schools with vouchers saying come and get food here for €5, they are better than Subway or wherever else children may go.
It is a flagrant abuse of trust and child protection that they are able to stand outside schools and hand out vouchers inviting them into the bar at lunchtime. Senator McDowell need not worry because I will not be on his side for much longer.
It is a long time since Senator Devine agreed with Senator McDowell.
That is reassuring for them both.
Senator Black indicated she wished to speak.
I do not want to waste time and will let the point go.
The Minister may wish to speak to section 14.
I do not want to encourage the redevelopment of tents at famous horse racing events, but in Senator Black's amendment the sport area only refers to the track and that raises an issue similar to my point in respect of outdoor advertising. It refers to the actual track as opposed to------
Hoardings along the side of the track would not be encompassed.
It is very restrictive. For example, it only refers to an actual swimming pool and is very restrictive in that regard.
Are we dealing with Senator Black's amendment?
That has already been discussed and cannot be reopened. The Senator can speak to section 14.
In that case, I am happy.
The section is opposed by Senator Black and others. Does she wish to speak to the section?
Where are we, sorry?
I have a note that the Senator, along with other Senators, is opposing section 15.
I have already spoken on the section. I am confused.
Amendment No. 36 was discussed with amendment No. 2.
The amendment has already been discussed. The Senator can speak to the section.
Did the Cathaoirleach skip amendment No. 28? I think he skipped that amendment in my name. I do not want to push it to a vote but I would like to resubmit it on Report Stage. The Cathaoirleach skipped it.
Amendment No. 28 was discussed with amendment No. 25a.
It will be resubmitted on Report Stage.
I propose a sos for five minutes to allow the Minister to prepare.
We will give him ten minutes.
I thank the Cathaoirleach.
I move amendment No. 38:
In page 21, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
"Advertising on the Internet
19. (1) A person shall not advertise, or cause to be advertised, an alcohol product by means of an information society service unless all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that the advertising cannot be viewed by children.
(2) In determining whether a person has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that advertising cannot be viewed by children the court or the jury, as the case may be, shall have regard to—
(a) whether age verification controls have been used to prevent access by children to the advertisement,
(b) whether demographic targeting has been used to ensure that the advertisement is not displayed to children,
(c) whether the advertisement has been labelled or registered in a way which permits it to be blocked by parental filtering software,
(d) whether the advertisement invites users to share it with others, and
(e) the cost of implementing the measures and the state of technological development.
(3) Subsection (1) shall not apply to advertising by means of an audiovisual media service unless the media service provider is established in the State in accordance with Article 2(3) of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive or under the jurisdiction of the State in accordance with Article 2(4).
(4) A person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence.".
I intend to resubmit this amendment on Report Stage.
Of course. That is your entitlement.
I move amendment No. 39:
In page 21, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
"Advertising on television
19. (1) Advertising or promotion of an alcohol product or brand shall not be shown on television before 9pm.
(2) Advertising or promotion of an alcohol product or brand shall not be shown during or around televised sport at any hour of the day.".
I would like this amendment to be reconsidered on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 40:
In page 21, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
"Advertising on radio
19. (1) Advertising or promotion of an alcohol product or brand shall not be broadcast on radio before 9pm.
(2) Advertising or promotion of an alcohol product or brand shall not be broadcast during or around televised sport at any hour of the day.".
I would like to resubmit this amendment on Report Stage.
Amendment No. 41 is out of order.
Amendment No. 42 is out of order.
As amendments Nos. 43 to 48, inclusive, are related, they may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 43:
In page 21, line 23, to delete "one year" and substitute "two years".
As I said in my opening remarks when we recommenced Committee Stage this evening, I have proposed an amendment to section 20 to try to recognise some of the legitimate concerns that were highlighted by Senators from a number of parties, including Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, who are keen to ensure we do not place an unfair or disproportionate financial burden on small shops. I think we all want to make alcohol less visible in our shops and to ensure it is stored in a certain way.
The amendment I have tabled, having listened to the concerns of Senators, seeks to add a new option to the existing options that are available when retailers are making these products less visible. I hope people accept that I am making a genuine effort to try to recognise such concerns. Having listened to my party colleagues in Fine Gael and other colleagues in the House, I appreciate that there is still concern about what this legislation will mean for some small shops. This concern is reflected in Senator Swanick's amendment. It is appropriate that we pass this section of the Bill at this stage, in the understanding that I will engage with shop owners and representative bodies before Report Stage to clarify what this Bill will mean for shops.
To be honest, I think there is a lot of misinformation out there. It is accompanied by a degree of scaremongering, confusion and - perhaps - misunderstanding. It is important to engage. This Bill will have an impact on shops. I think we should engage as a courtesy to them. As I said at the outset, my bottom line is that we need to make alcohol less visible. That is a tenet of this Bill and one I want to achieve. To adopt a phrase used by Senator Norris, who is one of the most ardent supporters of the Bill, we should achieve these aims with "minimal disruption". I think that is something to which we can all aspire. I will not push the Government amendment. I respectfully suggest that others may consider doing likewise, but that is a matter for the Seanad. I will engage on this issue before coming back with an amendment in this regard on Report Stage. I want to make it clear that there will be a requirement. The issue of visibility is an important one in the Bill. As all Senators recognise, the question of minimal disruption is also of importance.
As I have said previously, any legislative measures to curb alcohol abuse and excessive consumption are to be welcomed. This Bill unfairly penalises responsible consumers and puts smaller stores at a competitive disadvantage. Fianna Fáil is proposing these amendments with responsible retailers and small retailers in mind. They will require the part of a premises where alcohol is being sold to be separated from the remainder of the premises by means of a physical barrier, but they will not require the complete removal of alcohol from public view. We believe they represent a fair alternative.
I acknowledge that the Government has tabled additional amendments to section 20. They are minimal at best and would apply to just 130 stores, which is a fraction of the total. Fianna Fáil will facilitate the Government by withdrawing our amendments to section 20, but we reserve the right to reintroduce them on Report Stage. I welcome the Minister's intention to liaise with stakeholders. I accept everything he has said this evening in good faith.
The changes envisaged in amendment No. 43 would require significant store reconstruction work to be implemented in over 2,500 shops across the country. This work would include the installation of barriers, new shelving units and new fire exits and the reconfiguration of store layouts. According to the people in the industry who are best placed to know, this volume of work simply cannot be done within the one-year timeline that is proposed. They believe a two-year timeframe is more realistic. If we want this to be done right, we need to allow time for retailers to do it right. We will withdraw the amendment, but we reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.
Amendment No. 44 has been tabled because it is envisaged that the introduction of large barriers to ensure alcohol products are not visible from outside alcohol selling areas would cost the industry €70 million. By contrast, the erection of waist-high barriers or gates would meet the separation of alcohol requirements that were originally at the core of the Bill while bringing this country into line with best practice operating in Northern Ireland and across Europe. I would like to remind the Minister of what the Taoiseach said on this matter in 2015, when he was serving as Minister for Health:
When it comes to structural separation in stores, we did not go ahead with the original proposals introduced in 2009 .... because they were probably too onerous. They required separate entrances, separate tills and large physical barriers. We are not going that far, but we want alcohol to be separated in stores. It will not bankrupt any small to medium shop to put in a partition. I am sure they do that type of work all the time as part of their general trade.
My genuine belief is that this proposal could put many local retailers under financial pressure. We have agreed to withdraw amendment No. 44, while reserving the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.
We are proposing amendment No. 45 because we believe the proposal to require alcohol products to be sold behind darkened doors on the shop floors of smaller stores is completely disproportionate. It would unfairly penalise responsible consumers while placing smaller stores at a major competitive disadvantage. I remind the Minister that over 2,600 stores have subscribed to the Responsible Retailers of Alcohol in Ireland, which was established in 2009. This body carries out its own auditing each year and makes reports available to the Minister for Justice and Equality to show the level of competence of retailers. There is a compliance rate of over 90% in this regard. No evidence has been supplied to justify such a radical and costly proposal. The amendment we are proposing facilitates the separation of alcohol from other beverages and food products, which was one of the original requirements at the core of this legislation. I ask the Minister to consider this amendment, which will enable us to achieve the same outcomes, or better outcomes, without unnecessary expense. While we are withdrawing this amendment on Committee Stage, we reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.
I believe the Minister understands the reservations that underpin amendment No. 46. The lack of precision in the definition of a stand-alone off licence is potentially open to abuse, which is not the intention of the Minister or the Government.
If remains as it stands, the clause offers the possibility for stand-alone off-licences to become quasi-grocery stores while still meeting the mainly-alcohol-sales requirement without being subject to the provisions of section 20. I need not point out the risks of abuse that could stem from this provision. We are happy to withdraw that amendment and reserve the right to reintroduce it.
On amendment No. 47, as I have said, the volume of work according to those in the industry simply cannot be done within the one-year timeline proposed. We believe that a two-year timeframe is realistic.
Regarding amendment No. 48, the relevant subsection, as published, prohibits any other product whatsoever from adjoining alcohol products in smaller-store formats. In small stores, the practical application of this section does not appear to be feasible. A product would be next to another in a small store. In larger supermarkets, entire aisles are devoted to, for example, toiletry products or confectionary. This is not the case in smaller stores. I agree entirely that it should not be adjacent to confectionary or other products that entice children in particular, but it is worth noting the level of compliance of members of Responsible Retailing of Alcohol in Ireland in this regard. The amendment tabled by Fianna Fáil is consistent with the original separation of alcohol from other beverages and food products requirements at the core of the Bill by confirming that storage units containing alcohol products shall not immediately adjoin units containing non-food products such as detergents. We will also withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.
We are happy to co-operate with the Minister in passing this section without amendment. I thank him for his work. While he will probably not do this, I respectfully ask the Minister to proceed with Report Stage prior to Christmas - I ask the Leader to facilitate this - in order that we can complete the Bill.
I am very happy to get the opportunity to speak on these amendments, which deal with product separation in shops. We all know how controversial this aspect of the legislation has been. It has also, as the Minister indicated, given rise to a considerable amount of misinformation and confusion. People do not understand how simple this is. There is a lot of fear and scaremongering. I thank the Minister for the briefing that was arranged today clarifying how this will work in practice. I have seen outrageously misleading documents from lobbyists in respect of this provision that were designed to put the fear of God into small shopkeepers.
The reality is that we are talking about the visibility of alcohol beside grocery products, which means a frosted glass door on a fridge or a wooden or frosted glass door on a shelf. Customers will still be able to walk into the shop, slide across the frosted glass door and choose their alcohol. All we are talking about here is visibility; this is not about a nanny state. What is proposed is not hugely burdensome. Shops can still sell the same alcohol as they do now. They will not lose out on their profits. People will still be able to go in and buy alcohol just as freely. All we are asking is that it be stored separately from everyday items. It is about recognising that alcohol is not a normal grocery product like bread or milk. It is a psychoactive drug and it is killing people every day. I constantly attend funerals of those it has killed. I work with families who are impacted by this. I know the Members have all heard it before, but it is really important to stress the importance of this issue. I do not believe it will impact on shopkeepers' profits.
I checked with suppliers and was advised that two cabinet doors would cost €250 and a full frosted glass door fridge is approximately €150. We know that alcohol harm costs the State €2.3 billion every year and we have to put this in a wider context of alcohol harm in Ireland.
These product-separation measures are based on fundamental marketing principles researched by Nielson and others which show the effect of in-store promotion and product placement to drive sales. I have a little granddaughter and I do not like going into my local shop with her when I see that the alcohol is placed right beside the nappies. This does not send a good message to my granddaughter. We need to make the point that it is not acceptable because of alcohol's psychoactive nature. It is not rocket science. What is at issue here is targeted product placement. The alcohol is placed beside the nappies because it is targeted at young mothers, among others. We know that is the reality. Despite lobbyists' claims, research shows that 37% of wine sales are impulse buys at the point of purchase. It is clear that alcohol placement in stores is a key tool for companies to push up sales.
The Bill has been languishing in the Oireachtas for years after endless working groups and reports. When the Bill was finally published in 2015, it went through detailed scrutiny before the Joint Committee on Health and Children with input from all stakeholders. I thank Senator Buttimer for his work in chairing that committee. I am very aware that he did fantastic work. I know he is also very passionate about this issue. We have discussed and debated this legislation for over ten years. Since we debated the Bill in October of last year, more than 1,000 people have died. I ask Senators to forgive me for repeating myself, but 1,000 people have died since October 2016. That is shocking. We are a nation in crisis in the context of the alcohol issue. I thank the Chief Medical Officer and the Minister for their fantastic work and the passion they have shown.
We need to get this Bill passed. The environmental health officers will work with retailers to help them on this. I have been working with the environmental health officers who are fantastic people. I understand that shopkeepers are stressed and anxious - my parents were shopkeepers. There is a great deal of scaremongering and untruths doing the rounds in respect of this matter.
I support the objective of Senator Swanick's amendment No. 46 and I will be interested to hear the discussion on it. The amendment would introduce a new more restrictive definition of an off-licence, essentially prohibiting off-licences from selling any items beyond alcohol, non-alcoholic drinks, ice, cigarettes, tobacco, cigars and matches. I like the idea behind it. There is merit to the argument that off-licences should focus on selling alcohol and should not move into the territory of becoming groceries and selling daily newspapers, with bread and milk alongside. However, we need more detail on what items are allowed and whether we should draw the line with this list. I would like feedback on that point from the Minister and a commitment that this could be worked on and perhaps resubmitted as an amendment here on Report Stage or in the Dáil.
I understand the motivation behind amendment No. 48, but I do not see the legal impact of adding the word "immediately".
The Minister has outlined the new amendments aimed at small shopkeepers. Last year, this was a serious issue for many Senators. I understand that local shopkeepers are lobbying Senators and Deputies, and I know how difficult that is in rural areas. Lobbyists went from talking about frosted fridge doors to enormous wholesale building work costing millions. My parents were small shopkeepers and I know the pressures involved. I have been receiving emails. I am thinking of my parents and the lives the Bill can save in local communities. That is what we need to think about. If this legislation can save one life, is it not worth it? We had John and Ann Higgins, who lost a son because of alcohol, with us earlier. This man and his beautiful wife are devastated. If we can save one life, is it not worth it? What we are talking about here is saving people from either going down that mental health route or dying as a result of suicide.
When we debated the Bill last year, several Senators said they were worried about small shopkeepers. The Minister listened and has moved to meet their concerns. I do not want the Bill to be delayed again and I am sure the Minister agrees. I encourage people to get this done. It is time now. I do not want to face into another year of the industry lobbying and picking the legislation apart. I do not want another 1,000 deaths until it comes back to the House next October. If Senators are concerned about small shopkeepers, I urge them to recognise the exemption the latter have been given and to get behind the Bill in full. I hope we can do this tonight. I would sleep very well as, I am sure, would the Minister and the Chief Medical Officer.
On lobbying, the impression is being created that lobbying is happening on only one side. I have been lobbied by those in favour of the Bill as currently drafted and also locally by shopkeepers and others who are genuinely concerned about the impact this legislation may have on them. I am not confused. I am taking an objective, informed view of the Bill and I am expressing views that I believe we, as legislators, need tease out in this House. This is landmark legislation. It is critical legislation in the interests of public health. I support it and I want to see it work. I want to see in place practical, tangible legislation that will bring all of the stakeholders with us to eradicate the abuse of alcohol in this country. That is what we all want to achieve. How we achieve it is the issue.
The Minister may correct me if I am wrong but as I understand it over 80% of alcohol sold in Ireland is sold through the large multiples. Trolley loads of cheap alcoholic drinks are being by these large stores. I have no issue with segregation in these stores because I believe they can afford it. Many of them have already done this already. These stores advertise aggressively. The advertisement and promotion of alcohol is constant in all of the newspapers and will be even more aggressive in the run up to Christmas. This is why sales are so exaggerated and the access is so easy. The remaining 20% is sold in small shops and off-licences. As I understand it, only 8% of it is sold in small shops. By way of example, I have never seen anybody leave the Centra store in my area with slabs or crates of beer. I have seen people purchase a bottle of wine or, at maximum, a six pack of beer but I have not seen trolley loads of beer leaving my local Centra store.
The target of this legislation must be the large-scale sale of cheap beer by the multiples. We need to be careful and to ensure we take a balanced approach in terms of how we implement this legislation. I am happy to raise the concerns of small to medium shopkeepers because I know they are responsible professional people who live and work in their communities and know the parents and children in their communities. Many of them know the customers to whom they are serving alcohol by their first names. They are responsible people. The situation in the multiples is different given the volumes of people passing through them every day.
Like my colleagues, I want to work with the Minister to make this legislation effective and workable and also to bring stakeholders with us. We can have all the ideologies and ambitions we want for legislation but unless it is effective on the ground and unless we bring stakeholders with us, we will not achieve the impact we want. I believe the people on the front line are the shopkeepers. They are the ones meeting people every day and the vast of majority of them have been responsible. This is evident in terms of their adherence to the voluntary code over the past number of years. Strong progress has been made in terms of managing the sale of alcohol in small shops. I am not trying to create trouble for the Government. I am simply raising concerns on behalf of people that I know and live among in communities, which I believe, collectively, we can address. For this reason, I believe the turnstile proposal should be examined. I note that these amendments are not being pressed and I welcome that. I believe we should allow Committee Stage to pass today and I will be supportive of that. This cannot happen without the Minister's co-operation. I acknowledge that he has offered to engage with the retail sector to clarify if, as we are hearing, what is proposed is draconian. It is important clarification is brought to that debate. In my view, the installation of a turnstile in a small and medium shop such that children cannot access alcohol should suffice.
Other measures being introduced via this legislation will directly address the fundamental cause of alcohol abuse, namely, access to cheap volumes of beer. I want to acknowledge the Minister's effort in bringing forward his own amendment and I thank his officials for the document they have produced on the impact on stores of what is proposed. I hope that the retail sector and others will engage with the Minister in a proactive manner - I expect they will - because I have previously picked up on in that sector a sense of disillusionment regarding the engagement to date on these amendments. I welcome that we are now engaging with the retail sector, which is an important stakeholder in this area. This sector can play an important role in terms of the control of the sale of alcohol in this country. The retail sector is made up of responsible professionals, with small shops located in every community in this country. We should not make pariahs of responsible adults who want to buy alcohol, shopkeepers who are trying to manage their businesses or politicians who are expressing views. I have been attacked by people on the basis that I am in favour of alcohol and alcohol abuse. I am not in favour of either. As set out in my contribution earlier, I am well aware of the huge problem we have with alcohol in this country and I support this Bill. However, we need to balanced in our approach to ensure our legislation works.
I welcome that the Minister has offered engagement with the stakeholders. Let us have that engagement and then come back to the table with something that is workable and brings stakeholders with us. We need to do that if this legislation is to work.
The next speaker is Senator John O'Mahony.
What about speakers from this side of the House?
All Members are entitled to speak. I am calling Senators in the order in which they indicated.
Let us have some balance in this debate.
Senator Leyden will get an opportunity to contribute.
The Leas-Chathaoirleach should not be calling speakers from only one side of the House.
Senator Leyden should know better. I will make the decisions here.
The Leas-Chathaoirleach is making bad decisions.
Everybody is equal in here.
The Government side is more equal than this side.
It is not. There is no one more equal than the other while I am in the Chair. I call Senator O'Mahony.
Senator Coffey said that we need a sense of balance. Senator Black said we need to progress this legislation. I agree with both of them and I believe it is possible to do both. I support some of the amendments put forward with regard to the timelines for implementation of structural changes. I believe one year is too tight. It is possible to get the result that everybody wants if we hold our nerve. We need to hold our nerve and get this right. The Minister has promised to engage with the stakeholders.
Lobbying was mentioned. I believe some shopkeepers have been misguided. I have been shown by sales assistants in shops how in relation to alcohol sales the scanners stop working at the time set out in the legislation. Shopkeepers located in petrol stations who wish to sell alcohol are willing to do whatever is required of them under the legislation but they believe the timeline of one year is too tight. It is not helpful if we demonise the professionalism, honesty and integrity of shopkeepers who are providing employment and trying to make a living. I was in a shop yesterday in respect of which rates have trebled in the past year. The owner sought planning permission to make structural changes but was refused. We need to accept everybody's goodwill. We also need to progress the Bill, taking on board some of these amendments. I believe this can be done in the timeframe sought by Senator Black. We can achieve all of our objectives while not trampling on anybody in the meantime.
I respect the Leas-Chathaoirleach's integrity and the manner in which he is allocating speaking time.
I have great respect for the Senator.
I compliment my colleague, Senator Swanick, on his commentary on the amendments on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party.
I also acknowledge the initial comments from the Minister and his comments concerning this section. While we visited this section on the last occasion, there was an attempt on Second Stage to force this legislation through without, in our opinion, proper consultation. I am delighted about the length of time it has taken for this legislation to come back to the House. Some important and sensible changes have been made to it. Through us withdrawing our amendments this evening and the Minister not pursuing his amendment - I welcome the consultation that has taken place with all sides and with Senator Swanick in particular - we can come to a very reasonable and sensible conclusion to this section.
As has been pointed out here by colleagues, including Senator Coffey, we are not here because we are pro-alcohol or because we are promoting alcoholism. We are here because we see on a daily basis the ordinary shopkeepers, male and female, who are dedicated to the profession and who carry it out in a professional and responsible manner. We do not want to see them demonised because of the offences of a few of the very large multiples. Some people get confused and forget that the franchise of a national brand in their town is a franchise and that the person with that franchise is putting up their own money to keep that store going. They are putting up their money to ensure that employment is created and a proper professional service is provided in their communities. They have no difficulty in keeping a tight eye on the sale of alcohol products and in no way allow huge amounts of alcohol to be sold. That is the way it operates in the communities Senator Coffey and I come from. They are not making fortunes. Some of the proposals that were put forward would cost a substantial amount of money. We have heard about small amounts of money for doors and pieces of plywood. That is not the reality in many cases. Extensions will have to be built where it is possible to build them or new premises will need to be secured if they are to remain in business. This is not just a simple process. It has consequences for employment and the economies in these areas. I welcome the fact that Senator Swanick and the Minister have come to this agreement and like Senator Swanick, I very much look forward to see the Minister's proposals back here as quickly as possible because it is in nobody's interest to delay this very important legislation.
I acknowledge the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, who has entered the House. We are in the fifth hour of this very important debate. The Minister set out his stall at the start of debate and really set out the platform for how he hoped to deal and will deal with this section. Consultation and working with all stakeholders is key to ensuring that we make this Bill workable. This will be a very important part of the next few weeks before it comes back on Report Stage.
I have been on the record about this issue, particularly section 20, about which I have concerns. I raised those concerns privately and publicly with the Minister. It is important that we acknowledge that we have a two-tier society in so many ways. We have large volumes of alcohol coming out of these multiples and we need strict legislation to deal with those large multiples because they are no friend to rural Ireland, small shops or the small community. They are not the people who are supporting the local GAA club or supplying or providing jobs locally. I am here trying to support the local shopkeeper. In many ways, that is not really the small shopkeeper. It is the local businessmen who might have ten or 12 employees. They are an integral part of our community and if I was to be honest, will probably not be there in ten or 15 years' time because of the way society is moving. I am concerned that were we to bring in legislation in the way they believe it is being introduced, whereby it had a major impact on them and affected their business and potential to exist, it would not be good for society. I welcome the Minister's approach, which involved sitting down, explaining and dealing with it. That is a very positive approach. The Minister must be complimented on taking on this issue and dealing with it.
However, we cannot forget the lobby. I have lobbied by the industry and groups like Tabor Lodge, which deals with alcoholics in society. The group that lobbied me most was the National Off-Licence Association. Like the multiples, it is somewhat in favour of this Bill as it stands, which is worrying because if the multiples and off-licences are in favour of the Bill as it stands, there is a possibility it literally will become a grab for market share. That would not be appropriate. People with small shops know the community and the people. I have no fear about those people dispensing alcohol because they will do the right thing and will not allow underage people to buy it. Unlike the multiples, they do not have the market share to dispense it at such a low price. Minimum unit pricing is key and if it is not in existence at the moment because of issues relating to Brexit and the Northern Ireland Assembly, we need to look at another way to ensure that the pricing structure of alcohol is sorted out. The Minister said previously that when the price of alcohol goes below a certain level, people, particularly younger people, buy more of it. This is about price more than visibility. It is about people going in and buying a naggin of vodka for €6.42, which is absolute lunacy. Until we deal with that, we are really behind the bat in this regard. The Minister's approach has been positive. What we need now is that engagement. I hope that when it comes back on Report Stage, the fear that exists can be dealt with and we can then move on together.
I note the Minister only indicated at this point that he will withdraw his amendment and Fianna Fáil has indicated that it will withdraw its amendment. I am somewhat surprised and disappointed in some ways because we have had a long lead-in to this. It is interesting to note that this Bill was published on 11 December 2015. We have had a long lead-in to this debate and certainly in the past few weeks, I have spoken to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil backbenchers in the Dáil. I was contacted by a number of Fianna Fáil people today who said they hoped I would be on board for Senator Swanick's amendments. I indicated that I would be sympathetic to them so it is a grave disappointment to find that it is a done deal or that at least everyone is pulling back and there will be talks. I wish them well with those. I wish Fianna Fáil well with its talks but things have not changed.
I spoke to members of the Retail Grocery Dairy and Allied Trades Association and some other organisations. I told the Minister earlier that I was on Quinsboro Road in the heart of his constituency in Bray. What did I see? I saw an off-licence with a window full of whiskies, brandies and other forms of alcohol and it will continue to be able to operate there. The shop next door, six inches away because I took the time to measure it when I spoke to the shopkeeper, will have a different regime.
Let us be realistic and practical. Off-licences on all our streets can do what they like, how they like, with no regulation in this matter. That is the reality. For the big stores like Dunnes Stores and Tesco, it will not be a problem to segregate products. They can do that. I am more interested in the medium sized and small shops that we all know in our communities and, more importantly, in our constituencies. I am talking about the ones who were in the Houses last week and the people who spoke to us. We must remember the commitments we gave them and what they said. They are watching the debate tonight, as are their organisations.
We cannot keep putting off the day. The Minister or somebody earlier on talked about making brave decisions. I have no problem with making them. I think 99% of these provisions are good and should be supported. However, the reality is that we live in a community. We want jobs. We do not want a nanny state; we want responsible people. Anyone over 18 years can legally buy alcohol and that is their given right. Let us look at the principles of these health issues. Take, for example, young people drinking alcohol at 15, 16 or 17. Where are they getting it? They are either going in and getting it illegally or somebody is buying it for them and giving it to them. That is where the problem is and where the focus has to be. That is where we need to address the issues.
I acknowledge the work of an organisation called Responsible Retailing of Alcohol in Ireland, and of its independent chairman, Padraic White. If anyone explained it to me it was that organisation, through its brochure. I looked at all the things it has in common with the Bill before us. The brochure states its solutions "will see the purchase of alcohol for Irish grocery and convenience stores become a deliberate and conscious act by consumers, reinforcing the concept that alcohol is not an 'ordinary product'". That organisation is accepting this. It has a huge membership; 95% of all grocery and convenience stores in this country are members. It is important to note that these members are engaging proactively with every Member of Dáil and Seanad Éireann in respect of the measures.
Nobody misinterpreted me. I asked questions. All of us are called upon to ask questions if someone presents us with a case of facts. We have the right to ask them. This is the only flawed section in the Bill. I am not someone who consumes a lot of alcohol but I have no hang-up about alcohol and am not suggesting anyone here has. I know of the personal suffering that alcohol causes to families. They suffer and we have got to address it. However, this is not going to address it. There is an absence of education, and of funding for youth services. Why are young people hanging around? There is a whole range of issues. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs issued a statement this afternoon, which my office gave me before I came back up to the Chamber, which was very much in support of this legislation. I thought that was really important that the Minister, Deputy Zappone, took the time to send it out. I agree fully with what she had to say. She took the time as Minister with direct responsibility for children and youth affairs to highlight the matter and to use her office to do so. I have no difficulty with that and commend the Minister on taking that action. However, this simple section of the Bill is wrong.
Clearly, the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, has had problems. He is withdrawing his section. We have heard what people have said. Let us not be divisive here. Fianna Fáil has come under pressure, clearly. Its Senators are pragmatists but they have a view. I do not know why the Minister is nodding his head. He will have his opportunity to come back.
It is because the Senator is misrepresenting my position.
The Minister will have time and I am really, genuinely interested in listening-----
The Senator is being provocative. Senator Swanick and the Minister can speak for themselves, as I am sure they will.
Absolutely. I just want to make the point again that it is important that we remember what we said to those who spoke to us in the last few weeks. We should remember the commitments we gave. I can speak for myself. I gave a commitment that I would raise this issue with the Minister and I am doing so now. I do not think it will work. I wish the Minister well in the coming weeks, and Fianna Fáil in respect of their amendments, and anyone else who wishes to comment on the matter. I hope it moves on faster and that there is a genuine effort.
What the Minister has proposed in his amendment is not acceptable to the majority of retailers with whom I have spoken. I want to be honest with the Minister. Clearly, he has concerns about the amendments coming from the other side of the House. Somewhere between what he is advocating and these other amendments, there has to be compromise. I urge the Minister to be careful. We have small to medium-sized businesses right across the country that deserve our support. The Minister should remember that we are adults and we make choices and must be allowed to continue to do so.
I thank the Minister. There has been a long debate this evening and we are all in agreement that we want to see the issue of binge drinking cut out. I do not think anybody here supports binge drinking. I welcome the Minister's commitment to meeting all those across the sector, from the small retailer to the representative organisations and bigger organisations. This is most positive. I compliment everybody who tabled amendments today. Common sense is prevailing. We all want to reach the same outcome in that we want to promote good health while allowing people who want to take a drink to buy it in a safe and proper manner.
I come from a small business background myself, having worked in our family shop for many years. We have a small off-licence as well and I would like to declare that interest. I no longer work there but it is within the family. Everybody is concerned about the plight of the small businesses and how they can cope. There are many valid proposals today that need to be explored. It is welcome that the Minister is prepared to listen to and work with everybody to achieve the one outcome. Nobody is against this Bill, as is very clear from the debate today.
The one thing I am concerned about is that some of the smaller corner shops in rural Ireland and on the corners in small towns, villages and so on will not have the room to put in a rotating barrier or whatever for separation of stock. The size of the facility needs to be taken into account. The representative bodies are quite happy that the Minister would like to meet them. I suggest that the Minister needs to meet representative bodies right across the board in order to come back with a balanced view. That is what we are all looking for here and I wish the Minister the very best of luck in that regard. It is also important to encourage the representative organisations to make their submissions to the Minister. Consultation is really what we need between now and Report Stage.
I am concerned that some colleagues here might think I was trying to demonise the retailers. That is not my intention by any means. I would never want to do that. My own family were shopkeepers. That is the first thing I would like to say. I understand about responsible retail and I acknowledge that many retailers sell responsibly. However, this part of the legislation is not just about that matter. It is about impulse buying. It is about the woman walking into a shop and just putting a bottle of wine in her basket as though it was a pint of milk. That is all it is. We have to make sure that people know that the bottle of wine could cause that woman to develop breast cancer. That is the reality. One glass of wine every night can cause breast cancer. That is what we are dealing with here. This is evidence-based stuff. When we talk about the difference between the grocer and the off-licence, when somebody goes to the off-licence or goes to pick up that bottle of wine behind the shelf or fridge with frosted glass, it should be a conscious decision.
That is all we are trying to do here. The reality is that today we know that it costs the Exchequer €2.3 billion a year. We know about the suicide issue and the mental health issue. We are a nation in crisis regarding alcohol. I know I keep saying this, but I urge the Minister not to weaken on this part of the legislation. I really appreciate the Minister will talk to the retailers and I encourage him to do so, but I also encourage him to talk to public health people, including the NGOs and the suicide organisations I have met. When I was in Cork, I met people from the emergency department at Cork University Hospital. A total of 30 heads of department came to meet me and support me on this legislation. There are also the heart foundation, the cancer foundation and the children's charities. Dr. Geoffrey Shannon, who has been absolutely 100% behind the legislation, has stated that 90% of children who go into care do so because of alcohol. I ask the Minister to please look at these issues. This is all I am asking.
With respect, section 20 is on structural separation.
I am sorry I must go. I really do have to leave.
The Senator is straying a little bit.
I am performing tonight; I have a gig. I just wanted to get in this last piece. I ask the Minister to think about the people who are dying and children in particular.
I cannot read who is next. It is Senator Joe O'Reilly
It must be me.
Or me. What about us?
You are coming up. You are getting close.
The small shopkeepers and small business people whom I have met on this issue and who have approached me have a number of things in common. I have not yet met one who is a proponent of the abuse of alcohol and who would, for one moment, wish to let alcohol become rampant in society. In actual fact, the small shopkeepers I have met are the people who sponsor everything in their communities. They support schoolboy football and all the social activities in their communities. They are the people who lead community development organisations and local chambers of commerce. They are the people who are responsible for everything that is good, civic minded and responsible in our society. Far from being proponents of alcohol abuse, they are actually the best of our citizens, and this has to be acknowledged whatever side of the argument one approaches this from.
I detected two issues in common in all of the shopkeepers who approached me, and I know that the Leas-Chathaoirleach, who is a very honourable and capable representative nominated by RGDATA, knows some of these issues. The first issue in common is that they are concerned that the cost to them would be prohibitive. They are already hard pressed as many small towns are dying. They are in difficulty as it is. The other concern is that in some way the nature of the restriction on them and the nature of the regulations would be such as to reduce their market share considerably. It would not reduce alcohol consumption but send it up the street to the off-licence that can have a display window or the megastores that can afford the separate areas and walk-in areas. It would be a dislocation of business from the corner shop we all want to preserve and which we all need on Christmas morning or St. Stephen's morning. This shop would be in jeopardy because the bigger multiples can accommodate the legislation. I am happy to know the Minister will engage with them, and I congratulate him on this. He is well able to do this and he can allay their fears and meet their needs in this area.
I am also happy that in one of the Minister's amendments he has come forward with a proposal for two shelving areas with visibility for the product. This will deal with the dislocation question. The shopkeepers explained to me their fear that if we stop the local corner shop from being able to display its alcohol, customers will be sent down the street and the shops business will be dislocated. The Minister is at least addressing this issue now. He will sit down with the small shopkeepers and their representatives, and I acknowledge this. I ask that we address the question of cost for the small shopkeeper, and that we do not send business down the street. A shopkeeper told me he owned another little property down the street which has glass windows, and that he could move his alcohol business to there. It would have high-street visibility but he would have taken it out of the shop. They do not want to hide visibility of the alcohol but have it in a separate section. They are prepared to do what off-licences do, which is not allow children into it. I hope this issue can be addressed on these terms. We are all in favour of attacking the question and dealing with the question of the abuse of alcohol. Nobody coming to this debate has any other agenda. It is a question of how we arrive at that point.
I call Senator Terry Leyden.
People should be patient because they will be reached.
Go raibh míle, míle maith agat.
The Senator does not have to thank me. I am impartial.
I would like to do so. By the way, I did not doubt the integrity of the Leas-Chathaoirleach because I know he is a knight of saint fallon.
The Senator will never get that right.
What is it?
The stenographers will get that right. He is a knight of Innisfallen, and a knight of Innisfallen has integrity.
I welcome the Minister, Deputy Simon Harris. I am sure he is absolutely delighted now that he did not succeed in abolishing the Seanad. The Seanad has done this Bill a great service. I was watching it all day today while doing other work. I am slightly inhibited in this regard because I have a vested interest in a public house, the Castlecoote Lodge Bar and replica Dáil and Seanad lounge.
So ends the advertisement.
I must refrain from getting too involved. I am well aware of the support given to small shopkeepers. I commend Senator Keith Swanick, who made an excellent contribution and has tabled excellent amendments. I am particularly impressed the Minister is considering the situation in a very serious light and is prepared to have consultation. The Bill will be far stronger because of the work of the Seanad. If ever the Seanad served itself well, it has done so in this particular regard. The contributions of everyone have been absolutely excellent, and the Minister would agree. When I was a Minister of State, I always found the Seanad to be the best place to get information on a Bill. There is a broad sense of knowledge, expertise and professionalism here. We have everything from the most senior of senior counsels to solicitors, doctors, lawyers and everything else. We have them all here. It is very useful to have this input.
On the section.
I am very much on the section. The Minister said he will consider the amendments tabled and will have discussions with our spokesperson and the Fianna Fáil Party in this regard and I welcome this. They are practical amendments. One thing about Fianna Fáil is that we are a very practical party.
We are the people's party. We have always kept our ear to the ground.
Stick to the amendments, please.
We are the party of the small farmers and small shopkeepers, and we are proving that today.
I feel a heart attack coming on.
What about Fianna Fáil's 2009 legislation on structural separation? It wanted to build a wall.
Does Senator Leyden remember Dermot Ahern and the 2009 legislation?
Senator Leyden voted for the 2009 legislation.
It wanted to build a wall like Trump.
Senator Leyden without interruption.
It is 40 years since I came to Dáil Éireann so I know a few people.
We are dealing with amendments. The Senator is straying from the point.
Minimum unit pricing is a big step forward and one of the most important sections of the Bill. However, we should be aware that there are six or seven pages of advertising outlining offers in every Sunday newspaper. For example, last Sunday, two 70 cl bottles of Jameson were €50 but then there was a voucher for €10, making the actual price €20 per bottle. One can have all the unit prices one likes, but if supermarkets can bring in these vouchers, it undermines the situation.
That will not be legal under the Bill. The Senator has to read the Bill. It is in there.
That is a clarification and it is fair enough. There are ways of getting around it. They have a lot of bright people. I refer to the very small shops and shopkeepers. My local store, Castlecoote Stores, pays €500 a year for a wine licence, which is the same as Tesco, Dunnes, Lidl, Aldi and so on pay. That is not fair. The amount of wine sold in a small rural area is very low. It does not matter if alcohol is segregated, in which regard I note that the solution our Fianna Fáil spokespersons have come up is very practical. The licence fee for public houses is based on turnover. I accept that this is a matter for the Department of Finance and not the Minister, but he may not be aware that it costs €500 per year to stock and sell wine from a small, rural, privately-owed shop. I ask the Minister to bear that in mind.
Ultimately, it is clear that below-cost selling of alcohol is taking place. That is evident. This may prevent it. Certainly, the Minister's aspirations are worthy.
We have dealt with that section. We are on structure and separation.
I could argue that the separation is very evident from the point of view of cost and everything else. It is all linked. Deputy Harris is a young Minister and I have known him since he was a child. Well, not quite.
With respect, the Senator has made all his points.
I just want to say-----
The Senator does not have to make it personal.
In fairness, I want to encourage the Minister to embrace the Fianna Fáil amendment. That is why I am nice to him. I know he has integrity and good advisors and back-up. There are top people in the Department; I used to have them when I was there myself. The Minister also has the willingness as a good constituency representative to listen to the views of those interested people who are sincere, genuine and not in favour of pushing alcohol on young people or anyone else. Everyone wants to protect young people from alcoholism and excessive drinking and it is the unit price that will achieve that.
I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for letting me speak, I appreciate it. I will not bother him for the rest of the debate.
Section 20 has been a particular sticking point in the Bill. As legislators, we must always consider whether a proposed measure is proportionate and reasonable. The answer quite a number of us on all sides of the House came up with in this case was that this provision would probably constitute too great a burden, if implemented, on small shops as compared to multiple retailers. When it was drafted, no distinction was made between multiple retailers and the small shop. The multiple retailers are a totally different animal and the issues around the power they have arise again and again. As a member of the agriculture committee, I have seen that they engage in below-cost selling of horticultural products, milk, as a loss leader, and alcohol. They have some power and sway. Today, of course, we are discussing alcohol and we are entitled to ask about this and to get it teased out. We are entitled to consider the position of the small shop which is put to the pin of its collar to survive on tight margins in competition on so many levels with these multiples.
Like everyone has said, we have been lobbied on all sides. We have taken on board a lot of valid points and sincere cases which were made on all sides, both for and against the legislation. I am mindful of one particular lobbying session organised this time last year by Alcohol Action Ireland whose representatives spoke to a number of Fine Gael Senators. A number of physicians were in attendance. I see Professor Frank Murray in the Gallery and I thank him and his colleagues for coming along. Nobody in the House has said otherwise than that the consequences of the abuse of alcohol on the body and mind are terrible and shocking. Such abuse is something we should seek to curb and reduce as a policy measure in our health service for the well-being of citizens and society. That is not to mention the financial cost and the way in which it undermines the fabric of our society. How do we curb alcohol abuse and binge drinking and remove people from addiction by getting them to go down another path?
At the lobbying meeting to which I have referred, we had access to a marketing expert from DCU. Structural separation and blocking the visibility of alcohol was discussed. We were anxious to know about impulse buying and the correlation between what one sees and what one buys. A number of us asked what evidence there was that blanking out alcohol with darkened doors or frosted glass would change people's purchasing patterns and get them away from this abuse. We were told there was no evidence. We also know that this has not been done elsewhere. There is evidence that people engage in impulse buying at the point of sale. For example, some supermarkets avoid putting sweets at certain checkouts because they are a temptation for kids. That evidence is also there for alcohol. That is the only empirical evidence that was offered to us. We are talking about evidence-based approaches. Without a doubt, there is a problem with binge drinking which we are trying to address. However, this is not evidence-based in the way the minimum unit pricing proposal is evidence-based.
We are being asked to take a step and see if it works. I go back to proportionality and reasonableness. It seems to me that small business will pay the price here. Not to labour on this too long as we have discussed it, but I cannot understand how anyone could not see that most small shops do not have the space to section off a whole area with its own-door access. The multiples can do it, but a lot of small shops cannot. As I understand it, they will have to have blackened-out doors or some variation on that. Previously, it was suggested that, to minimise the cost, curtains would be put up and that got a fair bit of ridicule. It is generally accepted that people are not going to these shops to buy low-cost or below-cost alcohol but if it is going to be made so difficult for someone who just wants to buy a bottle of wine, he or she will just go to the bigger store. It stands to reason. That is aside from the cost to the small retailer of carrying out works, fitting doors and whatever else.
If the Minister does not address this issue, he will not stop people drinking. He will drive them to a supermarket, a multiple retailer, where they can have a leisurely experience, bringing their children with them because they want only one bottle of wine. Lo and behold they will see there is a series of bottles of wine being sold below cost and they will buy several bottles. That is not solving a problem. The Minister is shifting the market and favouring these multiple retailers. The Minister needs to address this issue. Not implementing minimum unit pricing is not a problem for multiple retailers. I welcome the Minister's initial proposal for an amendment here, which recognises that the small retailer is completely different from the multiple retailer. Whatever the Minister brings forward must be workable. It cannot be 1 cu. m, as that is not workable. It needs to be more than he has brought forward.
That he is going to engage is welcome. There have been complaints that there has not been meaningful engagement with the small shops and their representative organisations until now. This is constructive and positive and I hope we can proceed and achieve the objective we want, which is to continue the trend towards a reduction in overall alcohol consumption and to address binge drinking and other abuses of alcohol without sacrificing small shops in rural areas and elsewhere. They employ local people and provide sponsorship. Facts and figures show that a larger percentage of a euro spent in a local shop is redistributed in the local economy than of a euro spent at a multiple retailer. We want these shops to stay and they deserve consideration and support on this issue.
Let us get back to basics. We are here to protect public health. We have just inserted child protection into the preamble of the Bill. We need to keep the focus on that. We have heard from Members and from my experience working on the front line, I know of the destructive effect of alcohol on families.
We discussed minimum unit pricing, which was contentious. I am glad that these amendments have been withdrawn and that there will be further discussion on them because this is the other contentious issue. I am absolutely for structural division and the lack of visibility, however that is worked out. That is my default position and neither I nor my party will move from it.
Alcohol does not need to be visible for people to know it is there. Replacing the "not" with "immediately" should be opposed. Alcohol may end up beside food products, thereby defeating the aim of the Bill. If it is visible that goes against the spirit of the Bill. I do not want it weakened. I am not demonising small shops, I use them in my own area. I was asked to sign a petition in the one around the corner from my home. The petition was very exaggerated and misinformed. It is a scaremongering tactic by the bigger lobbyists I imagine. The local shops are embedded in our communities and are more user-friendly and concerned and have ownership of how we buy our goods. I look forward to the amendments coming back when they have been tweaked following consultation. I cannot and will not move from the visibility and separation issue. I hope to be able to support the amendments when they return and look forward to reading and assessing them then.
I have never heard such a love-in in all my life. Is there anybody here who is against anything?
I agree wholeheartedly with everything Senator Coffey said. He epitomises somebody who understands rural communities and how to deal with them. It is not necessary, however, to go to a rural community to see what he is talking about. Less than half a mile from here there is a Centra shop and if the Minister demands structural separation, that shop will have to throw alcohol out because there is nowhere for it to segregate alcohol. I too have never seen anybody coming out of a rural shop with trolley loads of booze. I have seen in the North of Ireland how the large multiples segregate booze from the rest of the store. I have also seen that it is less visible in the way they manage it and I think there is some merit in that. I have to admire the Minister for being willing to go back and meet retailers and listen to their problems because it is true that if he forces the small shop in Kilmacow or Balla to segregate, the shopkeeper may find that because alcohol sales only slightly improve profits they no longer need to sell it and an employee may lose their job or the shop may have to be closed. I disagree with Senator Mulherin; if the shop in Balla cannot sell wine nobody will drive the extra 20 miles to buy seven bottles of wine. I do not see a mother saying she will put the kids in the car and go to Castlebar to buy six bottles of wine because she could not buy one locally. She may be right but I do not think that would happen.
The Minister is willing to go back and meet people to find a solution to this problem. While some of the solutions offered this evening have merit, I am not sure taking it from view will stop addiction. There is drug addiction in every town and village in Ireland but there is no shop advertising, "Get your cocaine here" or on the basis of "Buy one get two free". If people want it, however, they will find it. If I go to any shop in my area in the evening, I will find four or five young fellas or girls outside the door who will ask me to bring them out a bottle of vodka. That goes back to what Senator Boyhan and I said earlier today. There is a massive education and enforcement issue here. Sealing off the off-licence section of a Centra will not stop this problem. It will curtail it, as will pricing, but without the education and enforcement this will not stop.
I admire what the Minister is doing. He should meet the retailers and come back with what he thinks may pass as amendments to this Bill and let us get behind him and pass the Bill before Christmas. That is the way forward.
There has been a lot of discussion today about the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 and in the main there has been really strong support for its objectives of trying to deal with binge drinking, particularly among young people, and addiction.
On section 20, the Minister has been reasonable in trying to come up with a practical, cost-effective solution for retailers. That is what we need to see. There has been much discussion of small retailers. In respect of the Minister's efforts to try to reach a solution for them, it is important to see a better, cost-effective practical solution for small to medium-sized retailers.
From my point of view, the major issue is access to large volumes of cheap alcohol and much of today's discussion has focused on that issue. We need to target below-cost selling by the multiples, which are advertising vigorously, and it is critical that minimum unit pricing is implemented as quickly as possible. As I said, the major issue is access, particularly by young people, to large volumes of cheap alcohol. Others have said it already: there is no one solution but many different solutions. Education, enforcement, cost and, overall, a culture change are key. The culture change is relevant to our debate on segregation. We are trying to ensure that we do not treat bread and milk like we treat alcohol. A solution can be found, however. The Bill seems to have cross-party support but this final section needs a practical and cost-effective solution for small to medium-sized retailers. That the Minister has agreed to engage with the retail sector on achieving such a solution is positive.
I, too, will be brief. It is not often that I am afforded the opportunity to compliment and acknowledge positive contributions from the benches opposite, particularly from those on the Government benches. I am glad to report tonight an exception to the rule.
It comes easier the second time.
If I may without interruption, I will compliment the contribution of Senator Paudie Coffey who hit the nail on the head. This is a complex issue. On a global point, when we drill down to this section it is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that in many ways we are discussing the symptoms of a problem without discussing the problem itself. However, I think common sense will prevail and I have every confidence in the Members of this House. I compliment the Minister on his ability to listen and take on board concerns. I welcome that he has given a commitment to speak to all sides to see if a solution can be found which all sides can live with. At the end of the day, we all have the one destination in mind. We might differ on how to get there but it is clear that we all have the one goal. I compliment the Minister on that and wish him well in his deliberations with all concerned.
It is important that we keep in context the statistics, as outlined by Senator Coffey, on the volume of sales by large outlets, at 80%, as compared to that in smaller outlets, at 20%. I hope that the Minister takes on the board the practicalities for small shopkeepers and shop owners to make the separation which would be required by law. I hope that common sense will prevail and have every confidence it will. The Minister deserves to be given the space of a few weeks to find a solution, which I am confident he will do. I hope that he will then be able to come back in here and that we can pass the legislation before the year's end.
We are elected as legislators and all we are doing here is our work. People often say that there is not enough perusing of legislation but that is exactly what we are doing here. In saying that, we need to enact this legislation as quickly as possible. The public expect it and many of the retailers about whom we are talking would like to see it as they want certainty on what will be introduced. I welcome the fact that we and Fianna Fáil are now looking for a common solution that will work for small retailers. In many cases, our small shopkeepers are the lifeblood of small villages and are employing up to 30 people. I differ slightly from other commentators in that I think they will be there in 30 years time. Many of them are young and they are enterprising men and women. They know they cannot compete with the multiples so they are moving into other markets such as fresh fruit and fresh meats. They are diversifying into healthy food areas where they can compete. In a former life, I was an accountant and these people were the bread and butter of my business. Many of them are innovative and enterprising but many are also under pressure. It is not inconceivable, however, that what is being proposed in terms of the turnstile is a better solution in terms of security, as there is a danger if something is locked away and people are going inside, and in terms of management. However, the separation is important.
The whole thrust of the Bill relates to public health and reducing the abuse of alcohol. The minimum pricing provided for in section 10 is probably the most substantive and fundamental section of the Bill. We have an issue in terms of the North. When considering the particular issue in section 20 on the turnstile and the barrier, there should be a twin track approach. At this moment in time, they are looking to see what the situation will be vis-à-vis our neighbours in the North in terms of being able to find a way to bring in the minimum price in a consistent way and as cohesive a way as possible.
We have been told that this does not apply to stand-alone off-licences and that they will be entitled to have food count for up to 49% of their turnover in the shop. This needs further consideration. We would hate to have a situation where someone would go to the off-licence for milk and bread in the morning instead of the local shop. We could have the unintended consequence of people going to the local off-licence instead of the local shop for their groceries. If such a situation is being considered, it will have to be restricted to certain types of foods. We cannot suddenly have people going to a place where the majority of the stock on display is drink rather than a corner grocery. I would like to see the matter examined further.
I very much welcome that in a short period of time the Minister has taken on board the concerns of small shopkeepers in particular. This does not take away from the fact that we are fundamentally seeking to deal with the number of people prone to alcoholism and binge drinking. It is a problem in our culture and we have to tackle it. However, we must not lose sight of the substantive element of the Bill, which concerns minimum pricing. We must not win the battle and lose the war. That the Minister is willing to consider measures for smaller shops which may end up being a more practical and preventative solution than what was hitherto being proposed is welcome. That is the art of politics. To turn full circle, as legislators that is what we are elected to do. No apology is needed for what we are doing here tonight.
This is my first contribution to the debate but, given the time, I will be brief. I acknowledge the Minister's leadership and determination to bring through the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill and he will be remembered for it. This will be an amazing legacy for him to leave when he decides perhaps to move on from these Houses and parts.
It will be a long time yet.
Legacy is important. I appreciate that the Minister is engaging with shopkeepers and I know first hand his track record for engagement having worked with him on another matter last year. In his discussions on structural separation between now and Report Stage, in addition to the shopkeepers I ask the Minister to bear in mind certain people and to speak to them or to their representatives if he cannot speak to them directly.
I think of the children I worked with who were born with foetal alcohol syndrome. I bear those images very strongly in my head and heart.
I ask the Minister to bear in mind the family of the young man who disappeared on new year's day after a party the night before. He was taken from the River Lee weeks later, after weeks of terrible searches. I think of the hundreds of lovely people I worked with while I was in Cork Simon Community for eight years who were ravaged by the effects of alcohol. Some of those people started life the same way those children experiencing foetal alcohol syndrome did. I also think of the people there who were trying desperately to recover. The Minister should bear those people in mind. I think of the members of my own family. If we are truthful, we all have alcoholism in our families and among our friends.
By all means, the Minister should talk to the shopkeepers. I come from a long line of shopkeepers. I have family still running the kind of small shops the Minister is talking about. I think of my dad when he was running a butcher's shop back in the days before refrigeration. I do not know how we did it but we did. When refrigeration came in, my father had to adapt. Senator Kieran O'Donnell is correct, in that small shopkeepers are very adaptable and resilient and will adapt to the sensible measures that will be introduced. The Minister should bear in mind what is at the core of what he is trying to do, which is public health. He should hold those people in his mind during his deliberations and hold his nerve.
Much has been said about this Bill. The best place to debate a contentious Bill is in Seanad Éireann because there will be 60 Members contributing on every section and every amendment whereas when a Bill goes to the Dáil, there will only be a handful of Deputies at a select committee. This is a great Chamber in which to debate a Bill. Senator Coffey said much of what I would like to say. Small shops are the heart of communities. They are the heart and soul of communities up and down the country, particularly in rural parts. I welcome the decision the Minister has made and his commitment to the House to look at this before Report Stage. The Minister's staff, and perhaps the Minister, will meet traders on the ground and their representatives and will have a look at the issue of physical barriers and products that are not readily visible. If those issues are substantially addressed in the Bill, I have no doubt at all but that we can work our way through Report Stage of the Bill. The last thing we need when the Bill is passed is for there to be ambiguity. The last thing we need is for what we agree here and what we think has been passed into law to work out differently on the ground. That has been the case over the years. In some cases when the health officer goes out to a pub or butcher's shop, for example, what we think is in law is different to how it works out on the ground. Senator Black mentioned the woman who goes into the shop for a pint of milk and comes out with a bottle of wine. However, only 8% of alcohol sales are in those small shops so that is 8% of such women. The other 92% is sold in off-licences or big multiple stores. Of the women who go in for a pint of milk and come out with a bottle of wine, 92% are going into a multiple store or an off-licence. We are talking, as Senator Coffey said, about the 8% to 10% of alcohol sales which happen in such small shops.
Those shopkeepers have quite a lot on their mind. They have in the region of 20 to 30 employees. They have to deal with VAT on a two-monthly basis, PAYE, PRSI, insurance and the licence fee. Senator Leyden outlined that a wine licence costs €500 a year. They have to deal with the health authority if they are doing food. If they are doing drinks, they will be dealing with the health authority from now on. They have to deal with their customers, banks and staff. They have quite a lot on their minds and the last thing they want to be dealing with is legislation that we pass here that will work out differently on the ground. There will be ambiguity. When the Minister comes back on Report Stage, he should have the issue of structural separation in section 20 ironed out. It has been a stumbling block for many of us. It is a big part of the Bill. Everybody agrees and wants to stamp out the scourge of drink. It has affected every house in the country. Everybody is at one on that. We are talking about the small shopkeeper who is the life and soul of our communities up and down the country. As some Senators have said, they provide a great service in cities and large towns also. I welcome what the Minister has outlined. I welcome that he is going to come back to us and that he or his staff will meet the traders and their representatives on the ground to see how this can work out before he comes back on Report Stage.
There are a number of things I want to say about section 20. I will put them in context first. I was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in a previous life and was responsible for intoxicating liquor policy before the Department of Health ever got involved in it. I had to deal with issues such as happy hours, the promotional selling of alcohol and cafe bars. If one names it, I have been there. I remember in the other House proposing cafe bars and everybody, even including the Labour Party and the Green Party, descended on me saying it was a foolish idea. The reason I and the commission chaired by Gordon Holmes, who was from Limerick, proposed cafe bars was to change attitudes to alcohol in Ireland so that one did not have to go into a pub to get a beer but could go and have a pizza and a beer. Things have changed since. Some of the barriers that existed then have changed. The culture has changed and now there are pubs turning themselves into restaurants because there is no profitability or viability unless they serve food. That is a dramatic change in the ten-year or 15-year period we are talking about. Perhaps the smoking ban and drink-driving legislation played its part in all of those things. They are real phenomena.
This Bill has three broad thrusts, namely, minimum unit pricing, control on advertising and the invisibility of alcohol displays under section 20. I will ask the House to reflect on what we have heard from the Minister today. We should be evidence-based in all of this. Let nobody be under any illusion - the unit price of alcohol stipulated in the Bill will only affect the cheapest of beers. It will not affect the price of spirits and wine.
That is not true.
I think he said that. If one had listened very carefully, one would have heard him say it. He said that the price of a bottle of gin will not go up as a result of the ten-----
Certain brands of gin.
That is what he said.
The Minister will have a chance to answer in a moment. Senator McDowell should make his points.
That was the evidence we heard. We should not get up in a heap. Unless at some stage it is proposed to radically increase the unit price of alcohol having regard to the criteria set out in the Bill, which is possible, the minimum unit price stipulated in the Bill will not have a radical effect. It may marginally affect the Dutch Gold merchants but that is all it will do. That is what we are achieving in that respect. I am a strong supporter of minimum unit pricing for alcohol but I want us to remember the evidence we have heard today. I am not imagining this; I heard it from the Minister's lips.
There has been a discussion in respect of advertising and we now come to section 20 in respect of the invisibility of retail sales. I know people are saying they are proposing to amend the section but it proposes a choice for a retailer with one option being having a single area separated from the remainder of the premises by means of a physical barrier from outside of which alcohol products and advertisements for alcohol products are not readily visible to members of the public. Just think what that actually means. It means an area cut off from the rest of the shop or store which cannot be seen into from outside.
Cannot readily be seen into.
Readily. One can put one's head around a corner or something but cannot readily see it .
We are not talking about-----
I ask the Senator to maintain order.
Senator Coghlan will have his time to contribute.
He is at the end of the list.
I agree that Senator Coghlan is at the end of the list.
Senator McDowell is probably correct.
It would have to be an area through which members of the public would not have to pass in order to gain access or make a purchase of products other than alcohol. Only alcohol or alcohol-related products would be sold therein and nothing else of significance. The choice is between that kind of regime or something akin to the tobacco cabinet, where everything is kept in a cabinet into which one cannot see or know what is therein but there could be a notice on it informing people there is alcohol behind the doors. That is the fundamental philosophy here.
I understand some Senators are driven by a very passionate view that alcohol is harmful in our society, a carcinogen, destructive of psychological well-being, socially destructive, a danger to an unborn foetus and a bad thing. Some of their passion has come across in this debate to the point that anybody who opposes anything in the Bill is a lobbyist with an agenda who should hardly be listened to and that it is the big battalions against the proponents of the Bill. I do not accept that outlook at all.
Alcohol is an integral part of our society and has been so for millennia. It is enjoyed by a great many people and makes our lives more enjoyable in many respects. It probably curtails our lifespan and we could all live to 120 and be in some nursing home with tubes sticking out of us if we stayed off alcohol but I do not accept the proposition coming from some quarters in this debate that alcohol is an evil that has to be suppressed, is analogous to tobacco and must be treated in an analogous way. That is an almost totalitarian view.
I remember the Ireland of 20, 30 or 40 years ago when the rural pub was the social hub of every community and people were not crawling out of it on their hands and knees in the evening but alcohol was part of what we were about. I do not accept that alcohol should be kept in a locked cabinet in any circumstance whatsoever. That is neither sensible nor reasonable. If I want to go into a Centra, a big shop or anywhere else, I do not see why I should not see a shelf with wine bottles. It is perfectly reasonable that I should be able to see a variety of alcohol in a shop that sells alcohol. No useful purpose would be served by such a measure in my local Centra in Roosky run by a family who do incredible work to keep the place going and offer a variety of food, warm food and so on as a service to their community. They work so hard to keep it going and I do not see why the small array of wine they have should be hidden. Their selection is not something for which the great connoisseurs such as Deputy Gerry Adams would pay €30 a bottle.
Deputy Adams would not be too happy about that.
We are talking about relatively modest wines.
Can the Senator describe a modest wine?
On Sunday mornings I see them pulling a veil over their wine display because of some stupid law that Minister McDowell brought in donkey's years ago or did not demand. I do not believe that is a social evil or such a display is normalising alcohol. The point was made earlier that 8% of alcohol in Ireland is sold through smaller shops and we are, therefore, dealing with a tiny fraction of alcohol sales in our community. I want to emphasise that, whatever we do, we must realise we are dealing with a tiny fraction of total alcohol sales. Anybody who has a grand plan to change Irish society or the culture in Ireland which would result in the effect being felt most in local Centras, for example, all around the country, which are not a multinational, where 8% of our alcohol is sold, is deluding himself or herself that they are engendering any significant change in Ireland. They are deluding themselves that this is where the problem is to be found. I want to emphasise that strong belief.
In such shops, spirits are behind the counter for the same reason that batteries and razors are, which is that they can be lifted with the greatest of ease. Blades for a disposable or non-disposable razor cost €5 or €10 a packet and are the size of a box of matches. They are behind the counter not to promote impulse buying but to control access to them. To legislate that alcohol in a smallish enterprise should be in a place not readily visible to staff unless one staffs the interior of the premises will lead to significant shoplifting. Anybody who has such a cut-off structure will find a bottle of whiskey or a couple of naggins of drink or whatever gone in pretty rapid order and their profit for that morning will very easily disappear into smoke.
I am just making the point that we have to be practical about what we are doing. If one cannot see the alcohol on the shelves in these boxes or rooms, there will have to be produce there to ensure that they are not going into the shopping bags and overcoat pockets. Remember that is what we are talking about.
I believe that the responsible retailers have come up with reasonable ideas and I believe that there are ways to deal with the control of alcohol. The crucial thing is to stop it being sold to youngsters and to stop cheap, almost below cost, slabs of alcohol being sold. The crucial thing too is to have a regime in shops which is manageable by those shopkeepers. If that is not done, if something unreasonable is imposed, let us be clear about what will happen. It costs shopkeepers €500 a year to have the drink licence. They will lose it to the likes of Topaz down the road which will have the capital to do all these things. They will lose it to the Aldis and the Lidls which will be able to manage accordingly. What will happen is that people who want to buy a bottle of wine or a six pack and have a game of cards at home or whatever will find that it is more difficult to do it.
The idea of having this cabinet with a grey front on it and a "Danger: Alcohol Within" sign on it or whatever is ridiculous. Can one go up to a checkout and ask for the cabinet to be opened up so that one can see what is in there, and see what kind of red wine is in it? Are we serious about this? Is this a real scenario that we actually believe is going to happen? Unless alcohol is dealt with as some kind of poisonous drug that should be kept under lock and key and kept away in the same sense that we approach cigarettes, that is the kind of scenario that we are going for.
It is clear that I am against this section. I am glad that I have gotten that message across. I do want to say that we can have pragmatic agreements and the Minister can do whatever dealing he wants to do with smaller shopkeepers and other interests. I agree with Senator Kelleher that there are other interests at play here. However, I am against the whole idea that we can somehow achieve an effect in regard to alcohol which is to de-normalise it and to marginalise it in our society which in turn will have a huge effect on social behaviour, consumption, availability and the like. I do not agree with it. I heard what Senator Reilly said about the effects of alcohol. I believe every word he says about the effect on the oesophagus and every other organ in the body. I heard all of that and I heard all of what was said about other effects.
However, I do not believe that we should set out as a society to marginalise alcohol in the same way that we are attempting to do in regard to tobacco. That is a mistake. It will not work and I do ask people to look back to America in the 1920s, a society that became convulsed with a hostility toward alcohol in the 1900s. It ended up worse off than ever after an attempt to ban it completely. Nobody is proposing that here. We have to go softly softly with alcohol, and not take steps which are too radical or unrealistic. I support a public health approach. I had to try and achieve it from a justice perspective before. I am glad that a Minister for Health is now taking an interest in the alcohol issue. However, I am strongly of the view that this section is going about it the wrong way. I do not believe that it is going to change things if one has those separate rooms in supermarkets. I think people will go into them if they want to, unless there is some kind of embarrassment factor involved in doing so. I do not believe that people impulsively buy all that much. In regard to all of these surveys run to see if people do or do not impulse buy, knowing the younger generation, in which I have been involved in parenting, if they want their slabs or if they want their drink or whatever they go for it. They will not be inhibited by the display arrangements in any shop.
Where I live in Ranelagh there is a Spar shop almost 40 yards away from my house, it has a smallish display of alcohol, wines and beer, and about 20 yards up from it is an excellent off-licence, which has won prizes as the best off-licence in Ireland on a number of occasions, and across the road from it is a SuperValu which has one aisle with two sides in it devoted to alcohol sales. I do not believe that any changes such as are in section 20 are going to significantly change the amount of alcohol that is sold in Ranelagh one way or the other. We would be far better off looking at the unit pricing and doing something serious about that. I come back to this point. The Minister said airily that the point was that alcohol was alcohol, in whatever form. That is true. However, our big issue is to stop undercost and low cost selling of alcohol to our younger generation. That is where it is most important. I do not accept the proposition that alcohol is located beside nappies for hard-pressed mothers who are going to impulse buy. I do not believe in any of that. I believe that this is a construct being dreamt up to try and persuade us of these things.
I believe absolutely in the unit pricing if it is done properly. However, this particular proposal is mistaken in principle. It will not work. It will probably concentrate alcohol sales in specialist stores and make life more difficult for those, such as small shopkeepers, who are trying to offer a general supply of goods to their community. It is mistaken in principle and it will do damage to them and do more damage to those parts of Ireland which are dependent on small shops to be the centre of the economic life of the community. If Rooskey, to which I referred earlier, did not have that Centra there would be nothing for 15 miles in any direction.
I thank the Minister for making his decision and for speaking to the small business groups. It is to be welcomed. Coming from a family business background, anything that is hidden makes it very appealing. Down through the years I have seen from video shops to shoe shops to clothes shops and various other outlets that if one hides something under the counter it makes it appealing. That was especially the case in the video business when we put certain items under the counter and those items thrived.
Really? What were they?
I will let the Senator use his imagination.
On structural separation in the multiples, if mammy and daddy bring Johnny and Mary to the supermarket and want to buy a bottle of wine, then Johnny and Mary have to go with them through the structural separation and into "Funderland". That is what will happen. It will become a Funderland. The multiple will get out its advertising team and make it so attractive to go in behind those barriers that it will be unbelievable. The kids will want to go in every time they visit the supermarket. That is what multiples will do. They do it every time people go to the cash register. They put things in front of us so that we will grab them and take them with us. Do Members think they will do anything different when a structural wall goes up around the alcohol? No way. They will get in the advertising teams to which they pay millions and get it up and running.
What I call small community shops as opposed to small retail shops are the backbone of rural Ireland. The men and women who own them are heavily scrutinised when it comes to the sale of any alcohol because they have to deal with Johnny and Mary's mammy and daddy if someone under age gets a bottle of vodka and is later found, God forbid, intoxicated in a field or on someone's property where they should not be. Those shop owners scrutinise everything sold on their premises and do not need blinds or fridges to hide anything. As Senator McDowell said, it is ridiculous to have to open a cabinet or pull over a blind. It might mean the shopkeeper has to get in extra staff to do that job while he or she is looking after the cash register. It makes no sense. I am glad common sense has prevailed. The real issue is minimum unit pricing and the education of young people about alcoholism and alcohol in general. This debate has gone on and on. Taking alcohol out of view will not stop anything. I could hardly believe it when Senator Paddy Burke said that only 8% of all alcohol sales took place in small community shops. Therefore, I welcome what the Minister has done today. I ask him to please listen to the owners of these small community shops because they need our help. They will scrutinise every bottle of alcohol sold in their communities because it is their businesses and survival about which they are concerned.
I thank the Minister for dealing with this by way of a compromise and for taking on board the concerns raised by Senators. He was prepared to sit down and deal with the issues relating to segregation. I refer back to the work of Senator Buttimer and the health committee, of which I am a member and which looked at this matter comprehensively during the lifetime of the previous Oireachtas. The committee brought in all of the people who deal with this area. Senator Buttimer referred to one of the people who gave evidence.
We face a major challenge in dealing with this issue and the health problems to which it gives rise. Average consumption per capita is 11.46 l but one in five people in the country do not drink. The real average therefore is 46 l of vodka per annum per person. We face and will continue to face major health issues over a long number of years. As a result, this is not about a change in one area; it is about a change in many areas in the context of advertising, minimum unit pricing and segregation. The Minister has outlined that he is prepared to look at segregation. The 8% figure to which people have referred relates to more than 4,000 retail units. I do not accept that 4,000 retail units sell only 8% of the alcohol. The figure is far higher than that.
Senator McDowell expressed the concern regarding minimum unit pricing to the effect that there would be no increase in the multiples. My understanding is that the price of Tesco vodka will rise from €12.99 to €20.71.
I forgot about Tesco vodka.
The Senator was concerned that there would be no increase in this area.
Senator Colm Burke is allaying Senator McDowell's concerns.
I have six other speakers who wish to contribute.
I am well aware of that. I will just finish this point.
If we stick to the section and the amendment, we can deal with the statistics at some other stage.
I will stick with the section. In case it is not vodka about which Senator McDowell is concerned, gin will increase in price from €15.99 to €20.71. That is the minimum unit pricing we are talking about.
The Bill is not just about one issue, it is about a number of them. There is no proposal to marginalise people who drink alcohol. The Bill is about a balanced approach to the consumption of alcohol. Everyone wants to enjoy a drink and the legislation is not about banning alcohol. It is about approaching it in a different and more reasonable way and about helping people by reducing the health risks arising. If one spends a night in any accident and emergency unit in the State, one will find that over 30% of those admitted are there because of excessive use of alcohol. As we sit here tonight, more than 2,000 hospital beds are being occupied as a direct result of excessive use of alcohol. Therefore, we have a duty to provide leadership on this issue.
The way in which the Minister has approached this matter is the correct one. While we have to compromise on certain issues and will not deliver everything one side or the other wants, we want to bring about change in order that, over a period, everyone in the country will benefit. The Bill will achieve this. I hope the Minister can come back with a compromise which is acceptable and which will work. Those aspects of the Bill which introduce regulations can be reviewed, but it is important to set up the framework and move on from there to ensure we address the excessive consumption of alcohol by a large number of people.
The Minister is intent on meeting stakeholders to discuss separation. Particular reference has been made to retailers or to the owners of what Senator Butler refers to as "community shops", which is a decent and accurate way to describe them. First among the stakeholders we have to consider are the children and young people of Ireland. In saying that, I am not dissing people in retail.
I grew up in Tipperary Town. I could take the Minister from one end of the town to the other and name the families that ran grocery shops, little pubs, etc. As in every other town they have been decimated by the big multiples. Senators Kieran O'Donnell and Kelleher referred to their valiant efforts to reinvent themselves in order to support themselves. I do not see them as the villain of the piece.
Contrary to what other contributors have said, I am clear that separation is significant. Two weeks ago I was working in Montenegro for a number of days. The first night when I went to a restaurant with a colleague I got annoyed that people were smoking at the tables around us. Twenty years ago I would not have got annoyed. In his opening remarks, the Minister very graciously mentioned Deputy Micheál Martin and the smoking ban. Forgetting about party and all the rest of it, that stands as a great testimony to our country. There has been a huge change across Europe, in any countries in which we travel. That is the one that was awkward for me because it is: "Oh no. The culture. They don't do this."
Here is how I relate that to separation. It is down to the child and the young person going in to the premises. It will be a slow burn; it will not happen overnight. We need to have confidence in ourselves about this. It will become normal not to see alcohol set out beside nappies and other bits and pieces. That will have an effect in the same way that we now consider it odd - to put it mildly - that people would smoke in a place where we eat or drink. Cultural change happens and it has a real effect. It is not appropriate to think that something like alcohol can be treated as if it is an ordinary substance.
When the crash came in Ireland, many people changed their minds very quickly about the nanny state. Let me explain that. People were happy to get 100% mortgages and more as if they almost had a right to it. How dare the banks, regulators or whoever intervene. Sadly for some of those people, their day of ruin came. They lost their houses. They then turned around and said, "Where was my nanny state? Where was my protector? Where was the regulator? Where was the governance in banks?" If we are to err, we must err on the side of the duty of care and rebalance it as we go along.
Am I right to say that alcohol is a poison? It is a poisonous substance, as I understand it. Dr. James Reilly, Dr. Tony Holohan, Dr. Keith Swanick or others having sat down with a patient will then give a prescription and they will have to go to a special shop and get it dispensed. That is treating things that have an inherent goodness in them and I do not disagree with the idea that drinking alcohol can have pleasant and good effects. I am not a zealot when it comes to the issue of alcohol. While they can speak for themselves on this, I do not think any of my colleagues are zealots on this issue. However, we need to treat certain substances with the respect they deserve. If we were talking in a different domain and were talking about war, we would talk about our troops as being courageous and about the enemy being cowardly even though both of them would have practised the same behaviours.
It is not helpful to use terms such as "ideologues" and "zealots" at this point. I see people who have passion, have a public interest and have a bucketful of evidence behind what is being said here. We are going to have to cut the cloth to measure and make some judgments about it.
This issue is not primarily about us as adults. I am in my 60s. Others are in their 60s or close to it. Others are thankfully much younger. This is about children and young people. That is where we have to come down on this. Senator McDowell spoke strongly about his belief that separation was unnecessary. There is a lot of evidence-----
There is not.
I would be obliged if I could continue. There is a lot of evidence about how the hand goes out when one sees something beside something else. If there is no evidence, let us find that out, but I am very clear that there is. We need to go from what is my belief about something to stay with the evidence as far as we go. After that it is actually not about beliefs; it is about us making the best collective judgment we can in this House, no more than a jury would do. One looks at all the stuff and it does not turn out to be a pure science; people have to honestly make a judgment. That is the space we are collectively in. It is particularly the eye of the storm that the Minister and his officials are in.
The Alcohol Health Alliance comprises more than 40 organisations. Has it got everything right? I do not know. However, it is a proxy for the public interest, particularly the interest of the next generations.
It was more than symbolic that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs was here this evening and I very much welcome her statement.
In listening to Senators McDowell and Boyhan earlier, I closed my eyes and thought I was back to the days of the PDs and the philosophy that was there. I was nearly hankering for the return of the PDs until I realised that under its regime, alcohol outlets increased, availability went through the roof and supply increased.
The Senator should talk about section 20 and the issue of segregation.
I choose to speak-----
It is only a preamble.
Many of the previous contributions did not deal with section 20 at all.
The section is not about prohibition. It is a bit disingenuous to equate alcohol with batteries and razors in a shop. I am very fond of Senator McDowell, but that is straying across the line completely because batteries and razors are not addictive, do not alter the mind and do not cause people to get into all kinds of bother as alcohol misuse can. Alcohol harm occurs in our society whether we like it or not. It causes cancer; it causes addiction; and it leads to people becoming depressed with mental health issues. That is a fact and is evidence-based. Senators should go and read the Healthy Ireland report and we can have a debate on alcohol. I am not a zealot. I take a drink and, God knows, I am good to drink. I am not a supporter of the pioneer movement, but let us be real. Let us get ourselves on this.
I commend Senator Swanick's courage in agreeing to withdraw his amendment until we come back on Report Stage. He may be a physician, but he is also a lawmaker and he recognises his duty, on which I commend him.
That was a brave decision by Senator Swanick. This is a matter of denormalising alcohol because alcohol misuse affects our country. Each one of us can tell tales about our own families, extended families, communities, neighbours, friends and work colleagues who have been affected by alcohol in some way. Collectively we must reduce alcohol misuse in our society. Senator Colm Burke and I, along with other Members of this House, did not spend years working on pre-legislative scrutiny on the health committee just for the sake of getting it wrong. As part of that pre-legislative scrutiny we did not in fact recommend segregation with regard to section 20, but not for the reasons put forward by Senator McDowell. Alcohol is poisonous, whether the Senator likes it or not.
I point out to Senator Boyhan that today we have passed 25 amendments to this Bill. We certainly are getting things done: the new politics which he condemned earlier is about finding solutions to make this Bill, and this section in particular, better. This our priority on this side of the House, along with the Minister and with Members sitting opposite and on all sides. We want to make this a Bill that is workable, enforceable and that gets results. We do not want future generations of Irish citizens to condemn us for having lacked the courage to take on either big business or alcohol. I do not support anyone or anything here other than doing the right thing. This is why it is important that we make the distinction clear. Young people do not go into off-licences because they know they will not be able to buy alcohol there and that is why they ask older people to go in to buy it for them.
We are all of and from communities. Section 20 will have a profound impact on many of our friends who own, manage or work in shops. I refer here to convenience stores and not necessarily to small shops. I point out to Senator Boyhan that the Government is spending money to support young people through the sports capital programme, ETB grants, Department of Children and Youth Affairs sports grants, Department of Health lottery grants and so forth.
What does this have to do with the amendment?
I would say that it was something like Senator Craughwell's own contribution: rambling.
By God, the Leader is fairly rambling now.
I did not interrupt Senator Craughwell.
It is unfair to attack people.
I did not attack anyone. I am defending the integrity of what the Minister is trying to do and I respect the right of all of us to take a different view. That is fair enough; that is democracy. I am not a zealot or a fundamentalist. I am a democrat and a republican who recognises the importance of the citizen. That is what we are doing with this Public Health (Alcohol) Bill and this is why, speaking as former Chairman of the health committee, we on that committee produced a tome of work to assist in the publication of this Bill.
The Leader should stick to section 20.
I will come to that.
I ask him not to take too long about it.
I will try not to, Senator Devine. I have no vested interest in this. I am not swayed by populism, as was proven when I lost my seat at the last election. I will always do the right thing and I will always speak my mind freely whether it be in this Chamber or when I meet the Fine Gael parliamentary party. This is not a matter of division or of passing a Bill that ticks a box. We could have done that two years ago. We must distinguish between groceries and alcohol and section 20 is central to this. As I mentioned today, I am a member of the joint city and county policing committee in Cork and we were recently addressed by David Lane of the Cork Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force. This is not just a matter for us here. This is a matter for the people we all know who are affected by and have witnessed the effects of alcohol. We cannot trivialise the harm caused by alcohol. Senator Dolan's contribution on section 20 was right: our shops have diversified and will continue to do so and if this Bill does not change, then the shops themselves will. Off-licences will start stocking a few bottles of milk, packets of sweets or in some cases, ready meals. In my own constituency I have seen shops developing cafés and coffee counters because these bring in profits.
They are entrepreneurs.
It is a matter of survival, yes.
The culture of alcohol in our society must change. Structured separation will not bring this about in itself. Perhaps we should have gone down the road of the café bar culture promised some years ago. I supported the concept at the time. Where I live in Curraheen Road in Bishopstown, for example, there are ten outlets within a stretch of less than a mile where one can buy or consume alcohol. That is crazy.
In our pre-legislative scrutiny we did not recommend the imposition of what is now known as structural separation, primarily because we felt that it should be put on a statutory code. Let me remind the House that structural separation was part of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008, which was voted for by Members of this House, some of whom are still here. Let me also remind Members that wine was excluded from that particular Act. The health committee supported the concept of structural separation but, mindful of what the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland has said about the placement of alcohol, we did not call for it be imposed on retailers. I very much hope that we can get to the stage where we can have a change to section 20 and introduce some kind of compromise. I worked with very good people on that committee in the past, people like Padraic White and various people from different industries who were very genuine and wanted to work with all of us. This is not a matter of diluting this Bill or of allowing one side to emerge as victors or losers. This is a matter of all of us, as public legislators and Members of the Upper House, taking our responsibilities seriously and marrying the need to address the misuse of alcohol with the needs of the retail industry. As Senator Coffey has rightly said, retailers should not be treated as pariahs. They are, in my opinion, responsible people. I often hear people talking about the impact of structural separation, drink driving, and social isolation on rural Ireland. What, however, of the man or woman living in rural Ireland who does not drink? They are still socially isolated and this is a fundamental question to which we must return.
Let us get the result right. Let us ensure that we pass a Bill that is workable, enforceable and that achieves results. I commend the Minister on his willingness to engage on section 20. I will conclude by again thanking Senator Swanick for the spirit of co-operation he has shown here tonight. I do not wish to pick a fight with Senator McDowell. He is a former Minister and I accept that he achieved many good things. Embracing a level of populism to pursue an argument is fine but public health is far too serious a matter for us to do nothing about. We have to do something.
I join other Senators in commending the Minister, Deputy Harris. I would also like to take a moment to commend the former Minister of State, Deputy Corcoran Kennedy, who did extraordinary work in preparing this Bill and was a great loss to Government.
I would like to briefly correct a point that seems to have been taken up erroneously across the House. As for the cabinets proposed, be they wooden doors or frosted glass, people will be free to be open them themselves. Customers will not require the assistance of members of staff to open these cabinets for them. As they will be able to slide the door open themselves and select whatever drinks they wish, I do not believe this measure will prove unduly intrusive.
We certainly know that cigarette sales continue even though they are out of sight.
I want to address some of the questions about evidence and highlight some of the areas where there is strong and important evidence. We have extensive evidence about advertising and promotion and about how decisions on sales are made, to cite just two areas. I do not want to go into it extensively. A well-established research company, Nielsen, has shown that 37% of wine sales are impulse buys. In the United States, Field Agent research among 500 adults that was done for advertisers found that in-store displays trigger 34% of sales. There is extensive research into how and when people decide to buy drink. There might not be research into the direct implications of frosted glass, but there is extensive research into the power of advertising and product placement because it is an area that rewards research. We need to look at that and apply it in retrospect.
We have important research into alcoholism and the triggers for those who are seeking to recover from alcohol abuse and trying to change their lives by giving up alcohol in any respect. We know from research into how alcoholism and alcohol abuse work that the question of visibility - encountering visible displays of alcohol - is a concern and a triggering factor for many people who are trying to recover from a history of alcoholism as they go about their daily lives. I remind the House that some people have only one local shop to go to. I want to address something in this context. I fully appreciate the grave concern of people across the House about issues like binge-drinking and alcohol consumption among young people. It is great to see that such concern exists. We need to be clear that alcohol abuse takes many forms and affects all ages. People of all ages have engaged in alcohol abuse. They and their families have suffered as a result of that. We also know that it is a struggle to get over alcohol abuse. It is something to be challenged.
This legislation is addressing alcohol in the wider sense. I know people are very keen on certain aspects of it. I think we can do more than one thing with the Bill. It is wonderful and appropriate for us to address minimum unit pricing, large-scale sales and the triggers for youth alcoholism. We should also address the needs of the person who is taking his or her recovery day by day and may have to encounter a bottle of wine at the counter when he or she goes to buy food. If such a person has €5 in his or her hand, sees a naggin of gin that costs €5 and knows how it will make him or her feel, purchasing that alcohol might seem like an easier choice. We need to think about such people. When the Minister meets important stakeholders over the next few weeks - it is very appropriate for him to do so - I hope he meets not just those involved in our health services but also those who have the experience of recovering from alcohol addiction.
I would like to make a point about the evidence base. We have heard from our fellow Senators about the wide range of experience they have had. They have expressed their thoughts and outlined potential proposals. I ask the Minister to ensure there is an evidence base behind all of the proposals. When we are looking for evidence in respect of a health concern, we should not be speculating about an outcome that we feel may or may not result from this Bill. We have seen that businesses, etc., can adapt. We need to require evidence for all of our proposals. The fears and concerns that are expressed may be very valid. We need to look for evidence in all of this. As my colleague has said, when we come to the point where the evidence has taken us so far, we have to make a further decision. I remind the Minister that the precautionary principle is a common principle in European law. When we have a decision to make, we need to remember and apply the precautionary principle in our final judgment.
I commend the Minister. I strongly commend Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy for her work. I ask for this to come back in strong fashion. I look forward to that. I thank Senators on all sides of the House who have supported this legislation. I ask the Minister to ensure we keep the focus I have mentioned in mind over the next two weeks.
I thank the Minister for his understanding and his willingness to engage. I do not think we are far away from agreement on the structural issues. I have listened to colleagues and I have thought about this at length. I come from a retail background. My family has run shops in County Clare for many generations. I am familiar with the absolute bureaucracy faced by retailers. They have to contend with environmental health inspectors and a myriad of different charges and rates. Ireland is probably one of the most bureaucratic and administration-heavy countries in Europe. It always seems to be the first country in Europe to implement the latest directives from Europe in areas like food safety and waste disposal. I know the Minister understands the challenges that exist.
I will not defend SuperValu, Eurospar or any of the big shops. All the multiples have an absolute responsibility to segregate and to do the right thing. I have a certain sympathy for the people in Roosky who were mentioned by Senator McDowell. In many cases, such people are getting no more than a salary out of their business. They are certainly not making a major profit. They are providing a very important service to rural Ireland. In many ways, it is probably the new rural corporate responsibility. That is all very well, but the bottom line is that the principle of this Bill is to deal with a scourge that has affected this country for generations. Alcohol is poisoning thousands of our people on a daily basis. Alcohol addiction is an extremely worrying scenario in our society. It is not new, but unfortunately it is deadly. It is shocking to walk into a supermarket and see pop-up stands everywhere selling alcohol at special rates. When I was in a supermarket approximately six months ago, I noted that wine or another form of alcohol was on special offer adjacent to each of the tills. There were signs saying things like "wine of the month" and "special offer of the month". The Minister is right to eliminate that.
In 2003, before I entered politics, I watched the campaign that certain sectors ran against the then Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Micheál Martin when, to his credit, he was introducing the smoking ban, which was a public health milestone in this country. I remember the abuse he got at the time. One of the representatives of publicans argued on television that publicans were running the country, on the basis that political parties held their meetings in their establishments. The attitude of the publicans was that they would deal with the proposed smoking ban by facing it down and beating the Government, but they were wrong. Fourteen years on, would anyone in our society contemplate any suggestion that smoking in pubs should be reintroduced? Such a person would be laughed out the door. In 2003, many people campaigned to retain smoking in pubs. Senators and members of the Government have to show leadership sometimes. The Minister is showing leadership with this legislation.
I believe minimum pricing is a no-brainer. I am glad I have not heard anybody objecting to it. At one stage, the pitch that the lobbyists were making to us with regard to advertising was based on the Guinness Christmas advertisement. I said frankly at the time that I could not care less about the Guinness Christmas advertisement. They have three or four years to pay people to come up with another creative advertisement to capture the imagination of the public.
I would go so far as to say that Guinness has destroyed the lives of thousands of people at Christmas time and it has some nerve to try to use that advertisement to try to block the Minister from curtailing advertising. When I saw the proposed revised Guinness advertisement I was absolutely convinced that what the Minister was doing was right.
I will conclude because I am conscious that it is late. I was tied up in my office for some of the day and I watched the debate from there. I have been following it even though I was not in the Chamber. I commend the Minister, his officials and his support staff, and our colleagues who have campaigned tirelessly on the issue. I refer to Senator Black and others. This is groundbreaking legislation. While it needs to be tweaked to reflect the livelihoods of our small retailers, I know the Minister will do that. I appeal to the retailers to be reasonable because I would not consider some of the emails I got from RGDATA and others to be reasonable. Everyone needs to step up to the plate and take their responsibility seriously. The Minister will engage but he needs a realistic genuine engagement from the retail sector.
During my period as Minister for Health I said at many conferences that politicians were to blame for much of the lack of progress in many areas and in particular in health. It is much more politically attractive or sexy to open an MRI scanner, a new hospital or a new primary care centre than it is to implement a public health initiative that will save many more lives on an ongoing basis for generations to come - long after the hospital ceases to be or the MRI scanner ceases to work.
This is one such piece of legislation. Notwithstanding some of the strongly expressed opinions about certain elements during tonight's debate, it has been really good that we have all had our say. People have offered different views. I particularly look at Senator McDowell, who would probably allude to me as being a bit of a zealot because of my earlier contribution when nothing could be further from the truth. I welcome that we have lobbyists. I respect the alcohol industry. I do not say that alcohol is the same as tobacco in so far as one can drink reasonably and one will not suffer ill effects, but every cigarette does damage. However, there are many similarities between the two products in that alcohol is a poison if taken to excess. We use the term "alcoholic poisoning" as a cause of death and that is a fact. Sadly the alcohol industry in its tactics bears considerable resemblance to the tobacco industry.
As recently as a few weeks ago a representative of that industry told us that alcohol was not a carcinogen when the WHO has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that it is. I will not repeat what I said earlier about the illnesses it causes.
A critical part of the Bill relates to alcohol being not readily visible, which is essential. I disagree with those who say it will not make any difference. There is an old Irish adage, "What the eyes don't see the heart doesn't grieve over." It is a well-known fact. One of the Senators talked about it being put beside the cash register to attract shoppers' eyes encouraging them to buy that product. We had this discussion about sweets and chocolates that are placed at children's eye level. That was done very purposely because research showed that it sold more goods.
While I respect the Senator's view, this Bill is mainly about children. In the same way as kids being addicted to cigarettes by 18 with 78% of smokers starting before that age, many of our young people have already formed the habit of drinking alcohol by the time they are 18. What we have to do and the primary purpose of the Bill is to protect children from it. I disagree with those who say we should not be trying to denormalise alcohol; we should, in particular from a child's point of view.
In the same way that we would not dream of asking a child to buy ten fags - it is illegal in any event; one can only buy packs of 20 - we would not ask a child to go around and buy a six-pack which we would have done ten, 15 or 20 years ago. One could say alcohol is hugely addictive. If Senators want further evidence, 20 years ago many corner shops did not sell alcohol and now we are told they cannot survive without it.
Of course, we have to have concerns for small retailers and I am very pleased that the Minister is going to speak to the stakeholders. However, I hope he speaks to all the stakeholders. By that I mean the Irish Cancer Society, Alcohol Action, the Children's Rights Alliance and Barnardos. I also mean those in organisations such as the AA who have been the victims of alcohol, bearing in mind what it has done to them and their families, including domestic violence.
I support the Minister. I believe in pragmatism. We cannot let the perfect get in the way of the good. The Bill contains important positive provisions. Minimum unit-pricing is proven to work. The advertising restrictions are key, as they have been in other areas. Visibility and education are all part of that.
Members have raised concerns about cross-Border sales. The former Northern Ireland Minister, Mr. Poots, and Mr. Wells who succeeded him were both of a mind that we would have co-operation in this area and on tobacco across the Border. As I said earlier, sometimes we have to lead and not follow. Scotland did it, and we can and should do it.
Many of us elected representatives may want to put ourselves before the public again. Members have all been lobbied very heavily. The alcohol industry has come at it not directly head-on, but has used others as proxies, talking about jobs and the small retailer when all they are really concerned about is sales of goods and the bottom line of a profit margin. I have two things to say to that. Whether it is alcohol or anything else, legislators in this House should never put livelihoods ahead of lives or put jobs ahead of the well-being of our people. I know nobody wants to do that. I respect that people have different views, but this is very important legislation. The Minister needs our support. The Bill, of itself, deserves it and he deserves it too given the amount of time and effort he has put into it. His presence here shows his commitment to it.
Those who want to put themselves before the public again should bear in mind this statistic from the Health Research Bureau. A survey of more than 1,000 individuals found that 85% felt alcohol consumption in this country was too high; 73% felt we tolerate it too much; and 58% feel that the Government and the Legislature, that is us, are not doing enough about it. Let us not allow those facts to go unnoticed. Let us go ahead and be seen to take action. Let us be remembered as people who put the well-being of our people, particularly our children, first. What good are jobs if we lose loved ones through ill health and suicide? What good is wealth if we have a society riven by domestic violence?
I commend the Minister on his determination and I commend the Department on its ongoing commitment and unstinting resolve to see this through. I hope the consultations go well and I hope the Minister will be back in the House before Christmas to deliver the children of our nation a Christmas present in the form of this Bill.
I apologise for dipping in and out today. I had intended to give a lot of time to it tomorrow but we will not be dealing with it tomorrow. We will deal with it all today, thank God. I thank the Minister for his commitment to the issue. I have been advocating on alcohol-related problems and everything in that area since I was first elected. I have been ridiculed many times and accused of promoting a nanny state. I am passionate about this issue and the issue of obesity, so much so that I actually feel emotional talking about it. I have felt like I was banging my head off a brick wall. I am encouraged that people in my party have finally taken the issue seriously. Structural separation is not a panacea, and education is key, but it keeps alcohol out of the view of children on a regular basis. As far as I am concerned, children are the only show in town. For many people, including many of us in this room, our habits are already formed and we are who we are. Many of us would like to change a little bit but generally we are already formed. Children are who we need to think about.
We are not like any other country when it comes to alcohol, as far as I am concerned. There are similar elements in the UK but we have a very broken relationship with alcohol here. Anyone who says otherwise is denying the reality of the situation. Dignitaries have come to the country in the past - thankfully it has changed a bit - and the first thing they did was put a mouthful of Guinness in their gobs. I am sick of how proud we are of this ridiculous drunken nation stuff that goes on. I like a drink too. As Senator Buttimer said, most of us here probably take a drink and enjoy it. Some of us may even have problems. This is a step in the right direction but it is not a panacea. The reality is it will reduce alcohol consumption in the country. We cannot reduce alcohol consumption without reducing profits. That is the reality. I have a certain sympathy for smaller retailers and it is fair for the Minister to interact fully with them. The reality is the bulk of drink is being bought from the likes of Tesco, Lidl, Aldi and all those who use alcohol as a tool to get people through their doors. People are with their children buying bread, milk, alcohol and butter and it is just another item. It is not another item; it is a drug and we have a big problem with this drug.
I do not want to be repetitive because many people have said what I am saying. I acknowledge Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy.
She was extremely brave in the face of negativity and had to put up with difficult personal stuff. I witnessed it and did not approve of it. It was not on. The reality is it takes a bit of bravery and courage on occasion. I am glad the Minister has the courage of his convictions to see this through. I am grateful for that because health is wealth. That expression is a cliché but it makes sense. If we have our health, we have our wealth. We talk about fiscal space but we will have an awful lot more fiscal space if we deal with our problem with alcohol. My aunt has been in the emergency department in Galway for 24 hours. She is very ill. I have not had a chance to speak to her this afternoon. However, we can be damn sure many of those delays are created by alcohol-related illnesses which my aunt does not have. People going to emergency departments should be seen sooner. We should face up to the reality that we have problems when it comes to alcohol. It is causing cancer and many other illnesses. We could spend hours in here talking about it. I do not have the medical expertise to go into it all.
I will finish on this point and I am sorry to be long-winded. I know I am repeating some of the points that were made. The health and vitality of our children is of importance to everything in their lives. If they start drinking in their teens some might get away with it and will turn out to be fine adults. However, as a result of that exposure to alcohol at a young age, many will have different lives. I will repeat, probably for the third time, that this is not a panacea but it will help in this area. I thank the officials who have worked so hard on this. It is really technical and difficult work. I thank the Minister. I am grateful that we in Fine Gael are leading on this. I am just so happy about that.
We now come to the last person on the list, the Leas-Chathaoirleach, Senator Paul Coghlan.
We are saving the best one to last. I salute the Minister and thank him most sincerely for the manner in which he has approached Committee Stage and the way he co-operated, in particular with Senator Swanick. There has been goodwill and constructiveness in all quarters of the House today.
I support the Bill entirely except for this section, as the Minister knows from my repeated representations. I would have that attitude as I have the honour of being the nominee of RGDATA. I thank the Minister for accepting he will meet with the representatives of the various interests between Committee Stage and Report Stage. I have no doubt that as a result of that and whatever amendments he then brings forward it will be a much better Bill.
Structural separation is an issue. We are all concerned with rural Ireland and small shops. As Senator McDowell said, uisce beatha, the water of life, has been an integral part of Irish life and society for generations. We will not be able to banish it. They cannot hide it away. We should be practical. None of us supports addiction or excessive drinking but most of us enjoy a drink. Why should we deny people that? I am thinking of people who live in Beaufort, in Rooskey or in places like that. Take, for example, a husband and wife, getting ready to watch the "Late Late Show" on a Friday evening when the wife decides she would like a little drop of white wine. Maybe the husband prefers a drop of red and she is encourages him to go down to the village or nearest town, a few miles away. He goes to a Mace, Centra, Gala, Spar or an unaligned-----
It is for a dual purpose because he comes back with a sliced pan and a bottle of milk for the next day. Let us be practical. I salute the Minister's approach totally. Whatever separation we are going to get must be practical. If it is stupid we will be in further trouble again on Report Stage. I do not want to say much more because it has already been said by those present. It has all been said. I salute the good humour we have had as well.
The Senator without interruption, please.
I wish the Minister and all his officials very well in the vital work that is ahead between Committee Stage and Report Stage. I wish him every success.
How to follow all of that? I thank Senators on all sides of the House for the tone of the debate and for the constructive and engaging manner in which they have approached it. There have been different views, some of which I vehemently disagree with, but we still had a very constructive debate. Everybody here, as I hope I am, is discharging his or her duty, as a legislator, to scrutinise legislation. The significance of this debate and the seven hours we have spent on it is not lost on me. When the Seanad considered this Bill on Committee Stage 13 months ago, it was unable to finish Committee Stage. We are building on the work the Seanad and the former Minister of State, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, did then and the excellent work of the officials who are sitting behind me who have worked on this Bill for a significant period of time.
Today, as the Leader of the Seanad rightly pointed out, the Seanad has accepted 25 amendments to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, 20 of them being amendments I introduced and five of which were non-Government amendments. In a cross-party way, we have accepted 25 amendments. We are on section 16 of the Bill and we have dealt with a range of issues in terms of minimum unit pricing, advertising, sponsorship and now the issue of visibility which we have been debating for some time. While not always agreeing, we have managed to do it without dividing this House. I hope that sends out a very powerful message to the people that we are determined to enact a Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. It seems odd to me that we have never before used a public health legislative tool to address the alcohol issue. I know it is late but alcohol consumption in this country is not low. We should not convince ourselves that our relationship with alcohol is appropriate or correct, or nothing to be worried about - "Sure is it not just something we do in Ireland and is it not great?" or "When we bring a world leader to Ireland, do we not see how quickly they can skull a pint of Guinness?" If the new Taoiseach brings a world leader here and decides to go for a jog instead and promote a healthy Ireland, people ridicule him for doing it. Let us not convince ourselves that all is well because it is not. We have a serious problem with alcohol.
Professor Frank Murray, the former president of the RCPI, is still with us here today. He had an editorial in The Lancet on 2 November and it was a very interesting read. He pointed out that Ireland has become the fourth heaviest drinking nation in the OECD in terms of the quantity of alcohol consumed. We now rank joint third for binge drinking in an analysis of 194 nations by the World Health Organization and the Health Research Board found in 2014 that the average drinker in this country drinks the equivalent of 46 bottles of vodka, 130 bottles of wine or 498 pints of beer each year. We have a problem.
I can inform Senator McDowell that is why I intend to put forward radical solutions. We can agree or disagree as to the effectiveness of what I am proposing, but there is an onus on me as the current incumbent in this office to put forward solutions. This is having a really serious effect, with three people dying every day in this country as a result of drinking alcohol. One death per day is due to poisoning or trauma and two deaths are due to chronic conditions. It is having all the knock-on effects that people rightly talk about in relation to the health service, the pressures on public services and issues related to child welfare, and it must be tackled.
I thank Senator Martin Conway for his point about the Guinness Christmas advertisement, as though we could not have a happy Christmas in this country without some sort of outdated advertisement putting Guinness's stamp all over it. It is pathetic and stupid. It is the most ridiculous argument I have ever heard. He is correct. How many families have their Christmas destroyed every year, and many other days, due to alcohol problems in this country? I assure Senator Kelleher that I will hold my nerve. I will leave the Seanad shortly, I hope, on the conclusion of Committee Stage, although I had better not get ahead of myself.
Are we not doing Report Stage tonight?
I leave here with greater clarity, to be quite frank, and a greater sense that there is a common purpose in terms of what people want to achieve. Let me be clear about section 20. I have heard what Senators have said tonight. I have heard legitimate worries and concerns from small shop owners. In fact, I heard Senator O'Reilly outlining very succinctly two of the worries of small shop owners being that it is cost prohibitive and-or that it would basically result in business leaving their shop and going to a larger shop or a multiple. I have heard that articulated numerous times in numerous different ways by my colleagues on all sides of the House. That is not what this about. I hope that we can now decouple this issue that has been getting muddied up in all of the other issues to do with alcohol and we can sit down with those who represent the retailers and have a discussion on that one item. I do not want anyone misinterpreting what I said. The record of the House will be very clear in relation to what I said. Visibility is not the be-all and end-all of the legislation, but it is an important part. I will engage with the retailers, but as I said at the start of this debate today on Committee Stage, it will be on the basis that my bottom line is that alcohol will be less visible in our shops.
It is really important. We will do it in a common sense manner and we will explain, clarify, try to sort out misconceptions and we will work our way through it, but alcohol must be less visible. Senator Boyhan seems to spend an awful lot of time in my constituency and I am getting terribly worried. He could run in it in the next general election. He seems to be taking me on a walk around the constituency.
He must have been doing a tour of the off-licences.
Whether he wants to talk about shops in Bray or in Bantry it will not change my view in relation to the importance of this legislation. He is correct. There are organisations watching the debate even at this late hour of the night who represent shop owners and he is also correct to say, as many other speakers have said, that those people have a right to be represented by their organisations and to have their views heard. This is a democracy and I welcome their views. However, there are also many other organisations watching the debate tonight, and I know Senators are conscious of that, including the Children's Rights Alliance, the Irish Heart Foundation, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, the Irish Cancer Society, the Marie Keating Foundation, the Union of Students in Ireland, the National Youth Council, the National Women's Council, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, the Royal College of Surgeons, the Irish College of General Practitioners, the IMO-----
There are more than 50 organisations in total and they represent a substantial number of citizens in this country as well-----
-----and they are looking to us tonight to find out when we are going to sort this out, and when we are going to have the courage of our convictions as an Oireachtas to put in place legislation. I think we can leave here tonight, whenever that will be, telling them that we have made significant progress. We have improved the Bill, and we accepted 25 amendments. We will have engagement on that one issue with a view to reducing the visibility of alcohol in shops but in a way that minimises the financial burden or impact. I have put forward some ideas in that regard.
It is not all about having to have structural separation with locks and keys and people hiding behind curtains. There has been extreme hyperbole in the 13 months between last October and tonight on the issue. I tabled an amendment that would allow visibility of a significant amount of alcohol. Even industry can see it is a workable measure for a number of shops as well. I will engage on that basis. I will also make the point that the legislation says "not readily visible". Without getting into a very technical discussion or perhaps even a legal discussion about "readily visible", it is not the same as invisible. It is in that space that we should have that discussion.
I would also make a point for those who report on these debates or comment on them. It is nonsense to say that the Minister is open to amending the Bill, or that he is watering it down. I spent a lot of the weekend looking back at the debates and the media reportage of the debate in 2004 on the smoking ban, and also the coverage of it ten years on and the impact it had made. Deputy Micheál Martin also amended his Bill in a number of ways. There were measures concerning hotel rooms, for example, that were amended as the Bill went through the legislative process. By the way, he also had to deal with people in his own Cabinet publicly opposing the Bill. Public health legislation is never easy.
That is correct.
It is never straightforward but it is absolutely worth doing. It is worth getting right and we are going to do that. I do not wish to end on a note of disagreement, but I respectfully disagree with the point Senator McDowell made. I do not wish to misquote him but it relates to our ability to change Ireland's societal relationship with alcohol.
Not this way.
I do not accept that. Many people said that about tobacco. They are not the same by the way. I do not want to ban alcohol in the way we banned tobacco but there are similarities. Many people said that if we went ahead with the smoking ban that we would close down rural Ireland, we would shut down the pubs, restaurants and hotels, that it would have an impact on tourists and it would not do much in terms of smoking. Let us follow the evidence now 13 years on.
We have a way to go. I thank Senator Swanick and everybody for their co-operation and while we will now have a period of engagement - a very short period of engagement - we are not starting afresh or starting with a blank piece of paper. Let us get the Bill through Seanad Éireann if at all possible in advance of the Christmas break.
I just want to put two points on the record before we finish tonight. I am a very brief speaker. I could give lessons on being succinct. I wish to let the House know that I intend to introduce an amendment to the Bill on the incentive and reward system that is in place for the bigger retail outlets.
These reward cards encourage people to buy more alcohol because the more they buy, the more points they get. My amendment would deal with that issue.
I do not want to open up this debate to the floor because we have had an excellent debate already. We must move on and I apologise if that offends anyone. Senator Keith Swanick has indicated that he is withdrawing amendment No. 43. Is that correct?
Does Senator Keith Swanick intend to resubmit his amendments on Report Stage?
He has already indicated thus.
I indicated that that was my intention.
Will the Senators claiming a division please rise?
As fewer than five Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 61, the names of the Senators dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Seanad.
I move amendment No. 52:
In page 5, line 9, after “products,” to insert “generally and in relation to children,”.
When is it proposed to take the next Stage?
Is that agreed? Agreed.
When is it proposed to sit again?
Tomorrow morning at 10.30 a.m.