Private Deputies' Business. - Shop Hours (Drapery Trades) (Dublin and Districts) Bill, 1930—Second Stage.

Wednesday, 21 May 1930

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 34 No. 18

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Mr. T.J. O'Connell: Information on Tomas O'Connell  Zoom on Tomas O'Connell  I desire to move the Second Reading of this Bill. It is a short, two-clause measure, and its object is to extend the Shop Hours Act which was passed in 1926 and which will expire on the 15th July next if this Bill or some similar measure is not passed into law. The Dáil might like a very short account of how the Act which this Bill proposes to extend came into being. There has been no general legislation governing shop hours and matters of that kind since 1912, and, of course, things have moved very much since then in regard to the hours of work and the hours for opening shops. I will quote, as an instance, one of the provisions of the Shops Act of 1912. It provides that no young person under the age of 18 years shall be employed in a shop for a longer period than 74 hours in the week. I need hardly say we have advanced very far from that. There is nobody who would now think of putting such a section as that into an Act of Parliament. In 1922 or 1923, certain difficulties arose between employers and employees in Dublin and elsewhere with regard to the hours of work. There was considerable confusion, there were strikes and threats of strikes, picketing, and general disturbances. As a result, a Bill was introduced into the Oireachtas in 1925, which fixed the closing on week nights at 6 o'clock, and on Saturdays at 7.30 in so far as drapery shops were concerned. There was some dissatisfaction with regard to that measure and a feeling among certain traders that the hour of 7.30 was too early.

[2235] A Bill amending the 1925 Act was introduced in the later months of the session of 1925. With regard to this measure a difference of opinion arose between the Dáil and Seanad on one particular point and that was the hour for closing on Saturday night. The Dáil wanted to fix the hour at 9 o'clock and the Seanad at 7.30. The matter was referred to a Select Committee of both Houses. Evidence was taken from parties interested and eventually a measure of agreement was reached whereby the hour was fixed at 8.30 on Saturday night. As they appear in the Act, the hours are 9 to 6 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 9 to 6.30 on Fridays and 9 to 8.30 on Saturday nights. This measure has been in operation since 1926 and, generally speaking, there has been satisfaction. I do not say there is complete and entire satisfaction amongst all the sections affected, but in any case the Act has prevented the state of affairs that we had in 1923, 1924 and 1925 before the first Act was passed.

The object of this Bill is to continue the existing Act for a further period. The Bill does not regulate the hours of working, though undoubtedly it has the effect of limiting the hours which an employee will work. It does not follow that when the shop is closed the assistant is automatically released from duty. There are instances in some shops, smaller business places, where an assistant may have to remain for a half or three-quarters of an hour or more doing work of various kinds— putting up stock and generally tidying up after the day. Apart from this Act that is now in operation there is nothing to prevent young people working from 12 to 15 hours a day. I have already quoted a section from the Shops Act which indicates that no young person is to work more than 74 hours in the week.

I should like to see a much more comprehensive measure dealing with the hours of working in shops than either this Bill or the Act it proposes to continue. We have had no [2236] such legislation since 1912. In England they have an Act that was introduced in 1928. Before that they had the Defence of the Realm Regulations which to some extent did operate to restrict the hours of opening. In Britain, too, they are at present engaged in a big inquiry into the whole position with a view to regulating hours, etc. I am anxious to have such an inquiry into matters here, but in the meantime, until that inquiry is established, I am strongly in favour—and I hope the House will also be strongly in favour—of continuing the existing position until we are ready to put something more comprehensive in the place of the existing Act. I suggest the proper thing to do is to continue the existing situation which, though it may not be entirely satisfactory and may have many faults, still has resulted in doing what it purported to do, that is, to bring peace to the particular business concerned—peace between employers and employees.

I would like to refer to Deputy Lemass's amendment. With regard to the general principle comprised in the amendment I am quite in favour of it, but it is doubtful if the suggestion which the Deputy makes is a practical one in view of the time available. The present Act expires on the 15th July. What I fear about Deputy Lemass's proposal, if it were accepted, is that we would not be able to have a satisfactory inquiry of the type that, I am sure, Deputy Lemass as well as I would wish to have within the time available and at the same time have legislation enacted as a result of that inquiry in time before the present session closes. That is the difficulty that I see in regard to the amendment. I am in favour of the general principle in the amendment, and I would like the inquiry to be held, but I think it would be a much bigger matter than the Deputy anticipates. I do not think it could be satisfactorily done inside a month, because not only does the amendment suggest that the Act should be examined with a view to amendments that might be made in it as a result of experience, but it also [2237] brings in a very much wider question, the advisability of extending the terms of the new Bill to include other trades and to operate in areas outside Dublin and district.

I am in favour of having general shop legislation governing closing hours and the work of employees applied to districts outside Dublin, and to trades other than the special one mentioned here; but while the Act applies to Dublin only it does not mean that there are not other provisions of various kinds governing the hours of opening shops in districts outside Dublin. Sometimes regulations are made by order of an urban council or some other local authority, and sometimes by agreement between employers and employees. While the hours are not general, still there are outside Dublin certain regulations which are observed. I suggest to the House, and especially to Deputy Lemass, that we should pass this Bill now. I will not say with certainty that there was a general understanding when the Act was passed in 1926 that something would be done by the Government during the life of the Act, which was approximately three years, to inquire into the whole question and to introduce legislation. I do not know what steps have been taken in that direction, or whether anything has been done. What we do know is that the life of the existing measure is running out, and there is no doubt that if the Act is allowed to expire, and as we have no fresh legislation from the Government, we will be thrown back to a position of chaos, confusion, general disturbance and uncertainty such as existed in 1924 and 1925. I do not think there is anybody who will say that was a good state of affairs, or that it was anything we should look forward to without anxiety. The proper course for the House to take in the circumstances is to secure that the existing measure is continued. I am prepared to support Deputy Lemass or anybody else in any steps he takes to hurry up an inquiry such as he advocates here, or to force the Government to expedite any action they may have in [2238] their minds in regard to this matter.

I think it is necessary that it should be done. I think it is necessary that we should have a scheme of comprehensive legislation governing the whole question. In the meantime, I believe that we cannot get a satisfactory enquiry in a month and that it is essential that we should have the Act continued; there should be no hiatus between the time when the present Act shall expire and new legislation takes its place. Accordingly, I ask the House that they should pass this Second Reading.

Mr. Anthony: Information on Richard Sidney Anthony  Zoom on Richard Sidney Anthony  I formally second.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I move:

To delete all words after “that” and substitute the following:—

The Second Reading of the Shop Hours (Drapery Trades, Dublin and Districts) Bill, 1930, be postponed for one month, and that a Select Committee consisting of eleven members of the Dáil be set up to examine the operation of the Shop Hours (Drapery Trades, Dublin and Districts) Act, 1926, to consider and report on the amendments therein, if any, which experience has shown to be necessary, and the advisability of extending the terms of the Bill to include other trades and to operate in areas outside Dublin and district.

In moving that amendment I realise that while not impossible it is most unlikely that a Select Committee, consisting of eleven members of the Dáil, could properly examine into the question outlined in the proposed terms of reference and submit a report within a month. Deputy O'Connell has urged that the establishment of such a committee might result in a situation in which the existing Acts would be allowed to lapse before alternative legislation was allowed to be substituted for it. That is a situation which I would not like to see arise. I do not think that there can be many members of this House who want to have conditions [2239] in the drapery trade in Dublin City go back to those contemplated by the Shops Act of 1912 which was drafted to meet pre-war conditions that are not parallel to-day. My purpose in proposing this amendment was mainly to concentrate the attention of the House on the fact that the existing Bill, which relates only to the drapery trade, is unsatisfactory in many particulars and that there is necessity to have the question relating to all trades considered with a view to the introduction of an Act to amend the Shops Act and to bring it up to date.

The existing Act was passed in 1926 for a limited period and it was presumed that during that period the Government would take steps to examine the amendments necessary in the Shops Act and introduce permanent legislation regulating the hours of opening and closing of shops of various kinds, not merely in Dublin but in every town and city. The Government has not done so and we are now faced with the position that this imperfect Act is due to expire and unless renewed we will be back to the position of 1912. Sooner than allow that to happen, I would be prepared to facilitate the passage of this continuing Bill but I do hope that we will be able to get agreement that this continuation will be for a short period and only until the whole question can be properly examined by a Select Committee, and permanent legislation prepared. It would be foolish for the Dáil to contemplate a position in which this Bill would be continued from time to time without having any proper examination into its operations. Anyone familiar with the working of the present Act knows that considerable amendments are required in it. As Deputy O'Connell has pointed out, it does not attempt in any way to regulate the hours of employment in the drapery trade. It merely provides that drapery establishments may not open before and may not close after certain hours. The hours of employment are, in fact, unregulated except in so far as persons under eighteen years of age [2240] are concerned and they can be kept employed for 74 hours in the week, the time fixed in the 1912 Act, which in that matter is the only legislation existing.

The main reason why this Bill was introduced and the main reason why it is supported is because it has the effect, indirectly, of limiting working hours, but I would like to see legislation introduced which would definitely fix the maximum number of hours for shop employees of all kinds. The Bill is defective also in so far as it does not provide adequate machinery for its enforcement. The enforcement of the Act rests with the Dublin Corporation, and although officials appointed by the Corporation have no doubt done their best they have not I think been able to enforce it as rigidly as some of us would like to see it, because it is obvious that legislation of this kind becomes unfair if it is not applied with equal vigour to all persons concerned. If one trader is able to dodge the terms of the Act and keep open longer than another then that is putting the trader who is anxious to obey the law at a commercial disadvantage. When restrictive legislation of this kind is introduced and passed by the Dáil we should be very careful to see that proper machinery for its enforcement exists. In my opinion, the enforcement of the closing hours provided in the Act or in any amending Act should be in the hands of the Civic Guards, as the enforcement of the weekly half-holiday is under the Shops Act of 1912.

There are perhaps a number of minor amendments also possible in the Act. One of the provisions of the Act sought to provide that on the working day prior to bank holidays shops would be allowed to open and remain open after the hours fixed for normal occassions. But one of the most important bank holidays of the year, that of the first Monday of August, was omitted from the terms of the Act, and although a shopkeeper can remain open after half past eight on the Saturday prior to Whit-Monday, he cannot do so on the Saturday prior [2241] to August Monday, which, in the drapery trade, is a much more important occasion. That is a minor amendment which, however, might be repaired by this continuing Bill if it is not outside its principle.

I have no doubt that many Deputies here have been approached by deputations and individuals in recent weeks concerning this Bill. I have. The suggestions put forward by these deputations varied considerably. There were, of course, those representing the assistants and those representing a certain section of the employers who wished the existing Act continued. There were others representing the smaller drapers who desired to have alterations made in the hours provided in the Act. Some of those whom I met were, of course, anxious to get back to the position of 1912. I can tell them that they are wasting their time agitating for that, because it is not likely that in 1930 anybody will be anxious to restore the social conditions that existed pre-war.

The present Act permits drapery shops in Dublin to open for a total of 52 hours in the week. Some reasonable objection might be made to the allocation of that number of hours between the various days, but it is a matter which certainly could be examined by a Committee of the Dáil to which representations could be made by the parties with views to put forward. It is even possible, I think, that an agreement might be reached to provide alternative allocations of the hours which would permit shopkeepers in a certain district, by a majority vote or something of that kind, to select one set of hours as against another, even though the maximum number of hours would not be altered.

One of my purposes in moving this amendment to the Second Reading motion was to have the Dáil consider the possibility of extending the existing Act to cover trades other than the drapery trade. I think that those representing the drapery trade who have met Deputies had a very reasonable case in support of their objection to the Bill on the ground that it placed them at a considerable [2242] commercial disadvantage with other traders who are indirectly competitors of their own for custom. There are shops in Dublin and other towns which keep open for amazingly long hours. I know of assistants engaged by tobacconists, fruiterers, newsagents and traders of that kind who work for 75 hours a week. I know of one assistant who works 14 hours a day in a shop of that nature and it is high time, I think, that the Dáil should take steps to restrict these hours and to compel the institution of civilised conditions. The Minister for External Affairs will be asking the Dáil in the near future to agree to a convention for the abolition of slavery and of the slave trade. I think that this Dáil could show its desire to assist in that useful object by limiting the hours worked in establishments of the kind I have indicated in Dublin. I do not say that these hours are worked in all establishments or that all establishments which keep open till late hours work their assistants fourteen hours a day but there are some which do. There are quite a number of them, of course, which are properly run and in which the assistants do not work more than 48 hours a week. Even though the shops are open arrangements are made for different shifts to come on. If, however, we are going to have an Act in operation regulating the working hours of any one trade it is for those who advocate the continuance of that Act to show why it should be confined to one trade when much more objectionable conditions prevail in others. If all shops were compelled to close at the same hour I think that opposition to the continuation of the present Act from those engaged in the drapery business would become very much modified if it did not disappear altogether. I do not know either why the Act should be confined to Dublin and district. I am sure that the conditions which necessitated its passage in 1926 prevailed in Cork, Limerick and other towns as well as in Dublin and if there was need for it here there was need for it in those places.

These are the main points that are [2243] covered by the amendment which appears in my name. I realise, as I have said, that a Committee of the Dáil might not be able to consider the matter and put in a report within a month. The suggestion I have to make, if the House would be agreeable to it, is that the Act should be continued for a limited period on the understanding that such a committee would be set up. The Act, however defective, is better than the conditions which would exist following its expiration, and if we were placed in the position of having to vote for its continuation or permitting a position to be created in which only the 1912 Act would prevail we would vote for its continuation. We would like, however, to see all these questions I have mentioned thoroughly examined and permanent legislation introduced to deal with them. I think that the Government is open to censure in not having provided for such an examination during the five years the Act operated. I do not want to press that point now, however, but I do ask that we get general agreement to the establishment of this committee, because I do not think anybody, no matter what his views are, could object to the question at least getting the detailed examination which a committee could give it and which this Dáil could not. I do not wish to deal with the various points which are being made by the different Associations and individuals interested in the Act. That we must have a limitation of working hours is, I think, obvious, and that the limitation should be of such a nature as to impose the least hardship on any class will, I think, be accepted. The Dáil is not a suitable body for the examination of a matter of this kind, particularly if it is determined to confine the operation of the Act to Dublin City and district. After all, the number of Deputies from Dublin City and district here in the Dáil is only 23, whereas the question would in the end be determined by the votes of all Deputies from all over Ireland whose interest in the matter would be very slight. One of my [2244] main reasons for having this question referred to a committee was that it would enable Dublin Deputies, as such, to examine conditions prevailing in Dublin and provide a code regulating these hours in the best interests of all classes.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  Is the amendment being withdrawn?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Yes; it is not being moved.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question—“That the Bill be read a second time”—put.

Mr. J.J. Byrne: Information on John Joseph Byrne  Zoom on John Joseph Byrne  I rise to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill, and in stating my opposition to this Bill I want to be perfectly clear and definite that I do not stand for the working of long hours by assistants in shops in Dublin or in any other part of the Free State. Other countries, France, Germany, England and America, are on the verge of a universal eight-hour day, and I, for one, am in complete agreement with that universal movement. If they work an eight-hour day in these countries I see no reason whatever why we in the Free State should not they work an eight-hour day. The legislation that this House is asked to pass affects only one or two sections of traders in the City of Dublin. Deputy O'Connell, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, referred to the 1912 Act. He stated, quoting a certain section of that Act, that no young person should be employed for more than 74 hours a week, and he added that, generally speaking, there is satisfaction with the working of this Act.

Mr. O'Connell:  I made no such statement. I was referring to the 1926 Act.

Mr. Byrne:  The Deputy says that there was satisfaction with the 1926 Act. My experience is that business men in the City of Dublin are far from being satisfied with the working of the 1926 Act. There has been almost universal dissatisfaction. If the House passes this Bill, it will be [2245] a benefit certainly to certain workers in this city. It will be a benefit to two classes, I think, in the City—to the merchant drapers on the one hand and to the assistants who work in their shops, but these benefits would be conferred at the expense of the rest of the working class community, leaving out entirely the general public, which should be considered in passing a Bill of this kind. I suggest that the Bill should not have been placed on the Statute Book and that the regulation of hours between employers and employees is really a matter of arrangement between the various traders themselves, who know the different conditions necessary and suitable for their own particular trade.

How has the operation of the Act affected the business men of the City of Dublin? Many of the smaller shops have been reduced almost to the verge of bankruptcy. Shops that had a return of £50 have fallen to £25 and £30 per week. Shops with a return of £100 weekly have fallen to £80 and £75 because the shops are closed when money is available and when business is to be done. Under this Act the smaller traders are compelled to close at half past six on Friday evening. From half past six to half past seven is the busiest hour in the day for the shopping public in this city. When the shops close at half past eight on Saturdays the real work of the day is only about to begin.

The falling off in the turnover I suggest is mainly due to the closing of the shops at half past eight on Saturday evening. Shops are closed at an hour when trade is to be done and money is available. I need hardly remind the House that overhead charges of most people in business have been considerably increased in recent years. A month or two ago a fresh burden of £125,000 was added to the traders of the City of Dublin in connection with the Dublin Poor Relief Bill. Their trade under this Bill has steadily diminished. How do you expect them to pay their way? They do not want anything [2246] unreasonable. They do not want the assistants to work more than a forty-eight hour week, but they do want decided alterations in the hours and they want to be permitted to work on Saturday evenings after 8.30 and on Friday evenings after half past six.

Deputy O'Connell appears to think that the Act was satisfactory as far as the general community was concerned. I would like to point out that when the smaller traders agreed to the passage of this Bill certain gurantees were given to them by the better class shops. It was arranged, in order to secure the original passing of the Bill, that these shops would close at 1 p.m. on Saturday. When the Bill began to operate and when the fall in turnover was realised they adopted a very clever device. Instead of closing at 1 p.m. on Saturdays they continued the half-holiday on Wednesday and remained in competition with these smaller people up to half past eight on Saturday. I ask all reasonable Deputies how is it possible for the smaller traders to get a living. I am authorised to say on behalf of these smaller people that they have no intention of keeping their shops open for a longer period than is at present permitted under the 1926 Act. They have been rather harshly treated by this Bill. The promise that the better class shops gave to them was broken, and we find that the English colony that has come in has taken the national trade of the City of Dublin. Those foreign shops about which there is so much complaint in this city capture the trade from our local traders. I feel sure this House will not stand that condition of affairs. Deputy O'Connell appears to think that if we keep on this Act things are going to be rather in a satisfactory way.

Mr. O'Connell:  I did not say that.

Mr. Byrne:  Anybody who maintains that the trade of Dublin is improved by this Act has no knowledge of the circumstances. The most extraordinary anomalies exist under This Act. Under the 1912 Act, to which reference has been made, [2247] every shop was to close for a half day during the week. What do we find? Woolworth's Stores are kept open for six days in the week, taking profits out of the country and putting traders out of business in the city. This is the Act Deputy O'Connell asks the House to pass, and he says that unless it is passed the business of the City of Dublin will revert to chaos. Those are statements which cannot be substantiated. I cannot see for a moment how Deputy O'Connell can stand over this Bill.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  Do I understand the Deputy to say that Messrs. Woolworths are open six days in the week?

Mr. Byrne:  Yes, open six days in the week, and I have known them when anything special is on to have the restaurant open on Sunday. These are trade anomalies which should be dealt with by proper legislation. I do not want it to be imagined that I am against men working in the City of Dublin. I am as anxious that they should have a 48-hour week as any man in this House, but I say that this Act has operated with great harshness on the bulk of the smaller traders in the city. To give an idea of how the traders themselves, leaving out of the question the employees, are anxious to have this question dealt with, I will read a letter I have:

“Dear Sir—In the hope of obtaining your valued help and support I desire to place before you the present need for legislation— as regards the earlier closing of all shops in Dublin City and suburbs—the suggested hours to be 9 o'clock each evening and 10 o'clock on Saturdays and seven o'clock on sundays. Thousands of small shopkeepers are obliged to keep their shops open and work an average of 14 to 16 hours per day, seven days per week, for want of compulsory closing hours, which exist in all the principal large cities across the water. The health of the shopkeepers and their assistants are serious factors [2248] calling for immediate attention on the part of our members in An Dáil and An Seanad. An extension of the present Shop Hours Act to embrace all shops would meet the position.

“Appealing in the name of humanity for your assistance to stop this slavery before the summer begins.”

And Deputy O'Connell wants this slavery perpetuated! When introducing the Second Reading of the Bill he referred to a section of the 1912 Act, in which he stated that no young person shall be employed for more than 74 hours per week. Deputy Lemass knows what is happening in Dublin as well as I do. The unfortunate assistants, in confectioners, tobacconists and sweetshops, work, I would venture to say, 74 hours a week, and we are giving to this privileged few 54 hours a week. There should be equality for all. Give the men who work in the confectionery, fruit and tobacco trades the same hours as other people, or some reasonable extension if necessary. I ask the House not to pass a Bill which gives 52 hours to one section and asks another section to work for 74 hours a week. If Deputy Lemass's suggestion could be accepted by the Government I would be very glad to support it. There should be some inquiry into the whole question of the working of shops and the working conditions for assistants. I would not like it to go forth that in opposing this Bill I am opposed to offering the shop assistants a 44-hour week. Deputy O'Connell referred to the fact that a Commission was being set up by the Labour Party in England to deal with this question. That should also be done here, but you are not going, as Deputy O'Connell says, to revert to chaos if you reject this Bill. Under the Act of 1912 you still can deal with the matter. The people who are opposing the Bill tooth and nail are doing so because their livelihood is dependent on it. They have not the slightest intention of reverting to a 74-hour week. They will still observe the 52-hour week and are [2249] willing to close their premises at reasonable hours. As I say, an inquiry into the working of shops should be set up before further legislation is passed. I fail to see why the Dáil should interfere with the closing hours of shops. That is a matter that should be arranged between the business people on one hand and their assistants on the other. I say that the bulk of the unfortunate assistants are forced to work for 74 hours a week and that we should not pass a Bill which will give privileges to only a few assistants.

Mr. G. O'Sullivan: Information on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Zoom on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Though I support the rejection of this Bill, I do not do so on the grounds put forward by Deputy Byrne. Not withstanding the Act of 1912 and other legislation, people work 74 hours a week. I myself have to work 74 hours, sometimes 84 hours and sometimes 94 hours a week, and it is on those grounds that I suggest that the principle underlying the Bill is wrong. If the Dáil decides that it should lay down regulations as to who may open a shop and who may not open a shop—it does not matter what is being bought or sold—this question of hours and regulations will arise. This Dáil has no right to intervene in matters of that kind. It has, of course, the right to intervene where licensed premises are concerned, because that is a matter of restricting the hours during which intoxicating liquor can be purchased. Generally, however, in the general question of the sale of goods, whether drapery, cutlery or anything else, I submit that the Dáil has no right to intervene. You might just as well say to any Deputy who happens to be a farmer, that the Dáil must enact that he shall not touch his hay after 6 p.m. in July or that he shall not be allowed to dig potatoes in October. It is exactly the same principle. I submit that it strikes at the very basis of freedom for which my friends across the House have fought.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Not that kind.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Zoom on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Exactly. I am [2250] glad to hear that. Does the Dáil take upon itself the right to say who may start a particular business or shop—I do not say industry—and that it is going to regulate the hours in regard to such business? It is proper that no person should be forced to work hours longer than are reasonable, but what is this Bill going to do? If we refuse to pass the Bill, does it mean that the assistants in this particular trade will have longer and later hours? I do not see why they should. I think that if there is a question as to how long they should or should not work it is a matter that should be arranged in the trade itself.

Deputy O'Connell mentioned the 1912 Act, and no doubt a regulation regarding the working of 74 hours is unreasonable in 1930. We must remember, however, that that Act was passed in 1912. The idea of a 74-hour week in 1930 is ridiculous, but traders and persons who are employed by them should agree amongst themselves on these matters and the Dáil should not interfere. It is not because one person is sufficiently affluent to employ seven or eight assistants that another person who has, unfortunately, to run his own business with the aid of a son or daughter should be penalised. That is why I oppose the Bill.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Does the Deputy object to the State interfering as regards conditions which should exist in factories?

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Zoom on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Of course not. The State has always interfered.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  That is liberty.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Zoom on Gearóid O'Sullivan  That is the Factory Act.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Does the Deputy object to the State imposing conditions for the benefit of workers in factories?

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Zoom on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Certainly not, but if Deputy Lemass suggests that there is any comparison he is wrong. That is why I opened my speech by saying that I objected to the Bill on grounds entirely different to those [2251] put forward by Deputy Byrne. There is no reason why there should be long and unreasonable working hours in shops. That will not happen if this Bill does not pass.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Does the Deputy think that conditions in factories should be determined between the employers and employees without State interference?

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Zoom on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Yes, but suppose they cannot?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Then the State has naturally to arbitrate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  We cannot have cross-examination of this kind.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Zoom on Gearóid O'Sullivan  The Deputy should remember that there are elements, such as public health and other matters, in the case of factories to be considered which do not prevail to the same extent in the case of shops. There is no comparison at all. If the Deputy desires to continue in that strain I would ask him why sweet shops, say, in O'Connell Street, are not controlled and are allowed to remain open until twelve o'clock at night.

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  I entirely agree with the suggestion of those who say that we ought not interfere in the matter of the hours during which a particular type of shop in a particular place shall remain open or closed. I think that if we deal with the question of drapery shops in Dublin we ought to deal with the question of sweet shops and tobacco shops. If we deal with them in respect of Dublin then we ought to do the same in respect of Cork, Ballaghaderreen, and elsewhere. I think that the machinery is entirely inadequate, and that we ought not to have it. We have fixed hours in the case of the drapery trade in Dublin. They were fixed in 1925, and when they were thought to be too short on Saturday nights they were changed in 1926. I would be sorry to see the present Act die because, in the first place, it would be absurd that we [2252] should have a social system in which our shops would be open at all hours of the morning and stay open until all hours at night.

There are limits within which the purchasing public want facilities for shopping. These limits ought to be found in such a way as would give as reasonable an amount of leisure as could be given both to owners and employees. I see not reason to say that owners, employees, or the public so far as shopping facilities are concerned, are not adequately served in the drapery trade by a normal weekly closing at 6 p.m., 6.30 p.m. on Friday and 8.30 p.m. on Saturday. We have fixed particular hours for the drapery trade in Dublin, and if we are to understand from Deputies that there is dissatisfaction in regard to hours in other trades, I would not like to see that headline go before the question concerning trades in other towns had been considered.

It has been suggested that Deputies for Dublin should come together and discuss the matter but I would prefer to see the new city council discuss it because I think that they would be in a better position to do so. Deputies from Dublin are sent here to do general national work and I do not think that we should sectionalise ourselves in any way to deal with specific local problems. I do not see why Mayo Deputies should come together to discuss closing hours to be observed by drapery houses in Ballaghaderreen or Castlebar. The question of the closing of shops is a matter which if it is to be discussed in detail by any set of governors should be discussed by local governors.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Does the Minister suggest that the Dublin Corporation would have power under the existing statute to enforce closing hours?

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  No. but they have certain powers under the Act of 1912. I have had representations from businesses other than the drapery trade to the effect that they also want regulation of shopping hours. I appreciate the necessity for [2253] it, but if under the 1912 Act local bodies have not a particular type of power that they think they should have, or if employers or employees think that such powers are not sufficient for their purpose, what we want is not an examination by a particular part of the Oireachtas into the question of hours but representations made from organised employers, organised employees, or local bodies as to the additional powers which they want under an Act such as that of 1912 and which would enable them to make regulations in such matters. I think that progress in that particular direction is wanted and not progress by examination here as to during what particular hours shops here shall be shut or open.

But for the moment I certainly would be very sorry to see the present Act discontinued, because it has set what appears to me, personally at any rate, not unreasonable hours for the shutting of drapery houses in the City of Dublin. Outside businesses such as publichouses, it is the only particular class of business that the Oireachtas has fixed any hours for, and I hope that the headline set in this particular measure will be borne in mind by local bodies when considering hours for different businesses. However, I think we cannot continue indefinitely to keep the present hours in operation in the City of Dublin in respect of the drapery trade by a measure of the Oireachtas. I do not know whether three and a half years is too long to extend this measure, but personally I should like to see the Act carried along for a further period and not dropped.

Mr. G. O'Sullivan: Information on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Zoom on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Will the Minister say why the drapery trade should be selected as the one trade outside that for the sale of intoxicating liquors?

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  No reason in the world except that there were reasons sufficiently apparent in 1925 and in 1926 to warrant the passing of this measure for a particular period. There is a measure in existence, [2254] and a unanimous recommendation comes up from the Seanad in the shape of a Bill for its further continuance for three and a half years. These are the reasons that give me definite ground, and I think that the dropping of this Act by the Dáil now would be interpreted as a going back on what we had in mind as regards hours for business when we fixed the hours in 1926.

Mr. Byrne:  What is to become of those working 74 hours per week?

Mr. Cooney: Information on Eamonn Cooney  Zoom on Eamonn Cooney  I should like to ask the Minister is he prepared to accept the principle of Deputy Lemass's amendment?

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. McGilligan): Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  It is withdrawn.

Mr. Cooney: Information on Eamonn Cooney  Zoom on Eamonn Cooney  The amendment is withdrawn, but I refer to the principle underlying it, namely, the setting up of a committee to inquire into the whole matter.

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  I do not think the matter could be best approached in that way. You have organised workers and employers and local bodies and a Minister for Industry and Commerce, and pens, ink and paper.

Mr. Cooney: Information on Eamonn Cooney  Zoom on Eamonn Cooney  We have a suggestion from the Minister that the most capable body to deal with this Bill would be the new City Council, although that City Council will not, even when it comes into existence, have the necessary powers to give effect to its findings on the matter.

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  Yes, it will.

Mr. Cooney: Information on Eamonn Cooney  Zoom on Eamonn Cooney  Deputy O'Sullivan and the Minister are in agreement upon the most extraordinary assertion that could come from people who claim to be democrats living in the twentieth century, that this Parliament has no right to legislate to regulate the hours affecting the opening and closing of business premises.

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  I did not say any such thing.

[2255]Mr. Cooney: Information on Eamonn Cooney  Zoom on Eamonn Cooney  At any rate, we have it very definitely from Deputy O'Sullivan.

Mr. G. O'Sullivan: Information on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Zoom on Gearóid O'Sullivan  I should like to explain that this Parliament has power to do anything it likes. This Parliament has the right to do anything it likes, whether that is right or wrong. I said it would not be right.

Mr. Cooney: Information on Eamonn Cooney  Zoom on Eamonn Cooney  I submit that Deputy O'Sullivan has asserted that this Parliament had no right to interfere in a matter of this kind. It is certainly illuminating to have such a statement coming from Deputy O'Sullivan, that this Parliament has no right to interfere in a matter of this kind.

Mr. G. O'Sullivan: Information on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Zoom on Gearóid O'Sullivan  On a point of order. The Deputy said I made a certain statement. I have stated what I did say. Is the Deputy in order in repeating his misquotation of what I said?

Mr. Cooney: Information on Eamonn Cooney  Zoom on Eamonn Cooney  I do not know whether Deputy O'Sullivan is concerned about the legal or the moral right of this House to deal with the question, but, as I say, it is illuminating to hear him make such a statement. If he is viewing it from the legal aspect, I should like to remind him that it is an accepted truism that all law is based upon common sense and I will ask him to apply commonsense to the practical application of allowing business premises to open and close when they like. What would it mean in practice? He talks of certain shops in O'Connell Street remaining open at present until 11 and 12 o'clock at night. Yet his attitude means, in effect, that all other shops should be allowed to do likewise—that no limitation should be applied. I think anyone who exercises common sense in this matter will admit that if no restrictions are applied, the owner of business premises is going to remain open as long as his competitor remains open. Even if there were no assistants employed, the health and interest of the family of that owner certainly should be the concern of this Parliament, as well as those of [2256] other citizens. Deputy Byrne treated us to a most extraordinary lecture in opposing the Bill. Will he show us how the passing of this Bill means reducing the hours of labour of one section of assistants to 52 hours and forcing another section to work 74 hours?

Mr. Byrne:  While the Act itself does not control the particular section to which I referred, practical conditions show that that is what would happen if the Bill passed. The people working for 74 hours per week will continue to work for that length of time, and only those engaged in the drapery trade—the privileged few—will get the benefit of the proposed legislation.

Mr. Cooney: Information on Eamonn Cooney  Zoom on Eamonn Cooney  Therefore Deputy Byrne's remedy is to add to the number of people who are already working 74 hours per week.

Mr. Byrne:  I have clearly stated that those for whom I am speaking undertake that no hours beyond the hours worked under the Act, namely, 52 hours, will be worked if this measure is rejected.

Mr. Cooney: Information on Eamonn Cooney  Zoom on Eamonn Cooney  That is exactly what it means in substance. The passing of this Bill, according to Deputy Byrne, means the forcing of one section to work 52 hours and another section to work 74 hours. His remedy is to have them all work 74 hours. I submit that there is only one alternative to the passing of this Bill and that is the suggestion contained in Deputy Lemass's amendment. There can be no reasonable argument advanced against the principle of that amendment. I admit the amendment is not before the House, but if the Minister is viewing this from an impartial standpoint and is concerned about the welfare of all classes affected by the working hours in these trades, if he is alive to the fact that the owners and employees of every shop in practically every line of business in this city and throughout the country would welcome uniform hours, I suggest that the best way out of this difficulty is to allow the Bill to pass and stipulate the period within which a committee [2257] would be set up representing all interests in the House to deal with this from a national standpoint. The Minister misrepresented Deputy Lemass's view when he said that he wanted to make it a local affair. If I interpreted Deputy Lemass aright, I understood him to say that Dublin Deputies would have the opportunity when this committee was set up to have the views of Dublin traders and assistants represented there, as well as the views of all other traders and assistants throughout the country. There is a crying necessity for legislation on this question and I appeal to the Minister to agree to the setting up of this committee within as short a period as possible.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  On a point of explanation. I have withdrawn my amendment, not because I did not think it contained the best suggestion for dealing with the question, but because it has been pointed out that it would be impossible to put that suggestion into operation in the time available. I have asked, however, that if the Act is continued for a limited period a committee should be set up on the lines I have suggested and to consider the terms of reference which I propose. I had hoped that we could get agreement to set up such a committee, in which case a motion to that effect might be passed in Government time. If not, I shall put down such a motion myself, but if it appears in my name it will not be considered by the Dáil, in view of the state of the Order Paper, for a considerable time. I should like to have the committee meet soon, in which case it would require the agreement of the Government, and I hope still that we shall be able to get that agreement.

Mr. Good: Information on John Good  Zoom on John Good  It appears to me that we are likely to establish a dangerous principle if we are not very careful. This is only one branch of industry, and there are some hundreds, if not more, branches of industry in this State. I am in touch with the conditions in several of these branches of industry. In any of them that I am in touch with the hours of labour [2258] are regulated by employers, on the one hand, and labour on the other. That, as far as I know, is the general principle with regard to the regulation of working hours in industry. Much the same principle—I happen to know something about it—prevails on the other side.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  They have ratified the forty-eight hour week.

Mr. Good: Information on John Good  Zoom on John Good  That is a different matter. I am opposed to Governments interfering in industry. On that account, it is only something very special that would make me vote for this Bill. I do not think it is desirable, from the point of view of the State, on the one hand, or from the point of view of industry, on the other hand, that there should be any Governmental interference. It is primarily a matter for the employers, on the one hand, and for labour on the other hand, to regulate the hours, and if those two are not able to regulate the matter, it shows that there is something wrong in either camp or in both camps. From that point of view, and from the experience I have had of the working of that particular system, I am loth to depart from the principle I have referred to. It would require some very strong inducement to make me vote for any Government interference of that kind.

Mr. Cooney: Information on Eamonn Cooney  Zoom on Eamonn Cooney  How would Deputy Good deal with shops in which no labour is employed?

Mr. Good: Information on John Good  Zoom on John Good  That is a matter I do not want to discuss on this occasion, but I know that Labour has ways of dealing with shops that do not observe regular hours.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Would Deputy Good say how he would deal with a situation in which there are two employers' organisations having different views?

Mr. Good: Information on John Good  Zoom on John Good  I am only explaining to the Deputy the arrangement that exists in from 90 to 95 per cent. of industry. The regulation is on that basis, and, as far as I know, it works satisfactorily.

[2259]Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  Is the Deputy in favour of an inquiry such as is suggested?

Mr. Good: Information on John Good  Zoom on John Good  I am not in favour of anything which will take the power from the two parties which should settle the question.

Mr. O'Kelly: Information on Seán T. O'Kelly  Zoom on Seán T. O'Kelly  I, and I am sure other Deputies, have received letters from the organisations representing the two parties interested in the passage of this measure. I received— and probably Deputy Good received also—a resolution from the Secretary of the Merchant Drapers' Association asking that this Bill be passed, as well as a similar resolution from the Labour organisation concerned—the Distributive Workers and Clerks' Union. So far as Deputy Good's point is concerned, he ought to vote for this Bill, seeing that it has the support of the employers and the employees chiefly concerned. Probably, the Merchant Drapers' Association employ the greater number of the assistants engaged in the drapery trade in Dublin. As Deputy Lemass has pointed out, there is at least one other employers' association that is not affiliated with the Merchant Drapers' Association and for whom they cannot speak. That is one of our difficulties with regard to this Bill. Personally, I am not satisfied with this Bill. I think it is unsatisfactory in so far as it deals with one trade and one trade only. I should like many other trades to be brought within the scope of this measure. There is an Act in operation at present dealing with the drapery trade, and those of us who are in favour of a restriction in the hours of work for other trades will have to allow this Bill to pass and make an effort later to get the other trades dealt with. As other Deputies have pointed out, if the Act at present in operation were allowed to lapse in July, we would be forcing both the employers and the employees concerned under this measure to work seventy-four hours or longer. That is a thing which I am sure the House does not wish to do. I think the Bill is unsatisfactory from other standpoints. [2260] Possibly, many traders who agreed with the passage of the Bill originally are now dissatisfied with it, having had experience of its working. Alterations could be made in the hours of closing which, while not allowing employers to keep assistants working longer hours, would enable them to re-arrange the hours. Like many other Dublin Deputies, I have received several deputations on this question. One and all agreed that they were not desirous of working their assistants longer than forty-eight hours per week. Some of them wanted this Bill dropped. Others wanted it amended in various ways. It was suggested that amendments might be brought in, even at this late hour, and that while the hours would not be extended they might be rearranged. I do not know that time would allow that to be done. I would certainly favour Deputy Lemass's proposal, that this House should hold an investigation into the whole problem. I do not see why this House should not do that, or why it is not competent to do it. We legislate every day in the week on matters closely affecting, not alone the business, but the life of every individual in the State. I do not see, therefore, why we should not be fully competent to deal with a matter affecting the hours of business of employers and their employees. There is nothing wrong in principle in that proposal. I do not mind Deputy O'Sullivan. We hear many ridiculous things from him from time to time. It is worthy of him to suggest that we have no right to interfere.

Mr. M. Conlon: Information on Martin Conlon  Zoom on Martin Conlon  He never said any such thing.

Mr. O'Kelly: Information on Seán T. O'Kelly  Zoom on Seán T. O'Kelly  I took down Deputy O'Sullivan's words—“The Dáil has no right to interfere.”

Mr. Conlon: Information on Martin Conlon  Zoom on Martin Conlon  What he said was that it would not be right for the Dáil to interfere.

Mr. T.J. O'Connell: Information on Tomas O'Connell  Zoom on Tomas O'Connell  That may be what he meant to say but he said the other thing.

[2261]Mr. O'Kelly: Information on Seán T. O'Kelly  Zoom on Seán T. O'Kelly  He may have meant to say that. It required half a dozen different efforts from him to explain what he said, and, with every effort, he bogged himself worse and worse. However, that is characteristic of him. I do not suppose anybody here minds him very much or takes very serious notice of what he says. The House, in my humble opinion, has the right, and I go further and say the duty, to investigate a matter of this kind, which affects the lives and the health of citizens of the State. There are a great many of our people —probably far too many—engaged in shops. We have laws and regulations governing work in factories and prohibiting workers in certain industries from working beyond certain hours. I do not see why anybody should suggest that we have no right to interfere, from the point of view of public health, and restrict the hours of working in shops. It was put to me recently by a trader with whom I discussed this question, that if no legislation of this kind remained in operation the hours of closing in certain areas in Dublin would be regulated by the traders who remained open latest. Competition would immediately set in, and if one trader in a district kept his door open until a certain hour on a Friday night his competitor would remain open for half an hour later the next night. That would continue until we would get back to the state of affairs which some of us remember, when many drapers' shops were not alone open until twelve o'clock on Saturday night but open on Sunday morning as well. The traders themselves do not want that state of affairs revived. Much against my will and for the reasons I stated, I am constrained to vote for the passage of this Bill. I do so on the understanding that we, on this side, will make an effort to have carried into effect the suggestion which is down in the name of Deputy Lemass. We want the scope of this legislation widened. We want other trades brought within its ambit. We believe that it will be possible to arrive at agreement between the interested parties by which while the hours of [2262] trading may be altered, there certainly will be no extension of the hours of working as laid down by the present Act.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I desire to say a few words about this Bill and about the amendment, which has now been withdrawn and put forward as a suggestion. To my mind, it is a rotten Bill, and a rottener amendment, and the mover of the amendment so thought, as is shown by his withdrawing it almost the moment he put it forward. He asked this House to do what he frankly recognised was impossible in the time in which he asked it should be done. I do not know what the suggestion is that is now emerging from the amendment. The month has gone, I suppose. Are we still to examine the operation of the Shop Hours Act in its relation to certain trades and in its relation to Dublin? Are we to extend the inquiry to other localities, and, extending it to other localities, extend it to the possibility of bringing in other trades? Are we still to stick to the idea of a Dáil Committee? A Dáil Committee is the worst body that could deal with this matter. I shall not go into the question of competence. The Dáil can appoint a committee to do anything. The Dáil could deal with this matter itself. But a more unsuitable body to deal with matters of that kind than a Dáil Committee can hardly be conceived. The Committee will presumably take evidence. It will take evidence, say, with regard to the hours at which butchers in Claremorris will have to close their shops. How are the butchers of Claremorris to give evidence before the Committee? How are the people who want to buy meat in Claremorris to give evidence? Are they all to tramp up to Dublin? Would not the wisest course be to have some body which could go round the country and take evidence in different localities, and if it is thought suitable, set up a Dáil Committee which would do that work?

[2263]Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I did not suggest that the butchers in Claremorris should shut at all.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  It is possible that the extension of this to other businesses might come in. Certainly the scope would have to be widened, both in regard to the area and in regard to the trades to be covered. Take any other example. A shop might have branches located down the country to which the same conditions might apply. Does anybody think that a Dáil Committee would be a suitable body to deal with that? I have been investigating the Shop Hours Act of 1912, and the whole code of which it was the final Act, for two or three years. There was neither a promise, nor was there a presumption, when this particular Act was passed, that there would be any immediate amendment of the general shop hours code. One of the things that has kept us departmentally in difficulties on that particular branch of the work is this, that there does not appear to be any general feeling through the country that shop hours ought to be changed.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  What inquiries has the Minister made?

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I was going on to state the reasons for what I have said. Will the Deputy wait? Deputy Cooney, in an easy-going fashion, said he knows that there has been, but he weakened later, and said he believed that both the employers and the employees would welcome uniform hours. We have not received any representations from anybody outside the City of Dublin with regard to shop hours.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  But you have received them in the City of Dublin?

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  In the City of Dublin. That is not the amendment.

Mr. Cooney: Information on Eamonn Cooney  Zoom on Eamonn Cooney  Outside the City of Dublin.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I mean the city and townships—the Dublin area. Outside that area nobody has made any representations. I do not see [2264] that there is any public desire for a change in the Shop Hours Act of 1912. Certainly I have no information that would lead me to the conclusion that there is. Within Dublin I have had representations both ways—for and against this Bill—but I have received very few representations asking that the terms of the Bill should be applied outside the drapery trade, and I have received representations from people in the drapery trade that it should no longer be applied to them. Any representations that have come have been confined to the Dublin area— I say that with a little reservation: there may have been some casual enquiry from outside, but nothing of any volume. What am I to do under these circumstances? Set up a committee? I can set up a Departmental Committee at any time, and I think if the matter is to be tackled that we should do that, and set up a Committee of the Dáil to consider the legislation that would be produced following on the Departmental Committee's report. That is the only way to do it. But am I to establish a Departmental Committee because one trade in Dublin got this Bill passed for itself in 1925 on what nearly amounted to false pretences, and because certain other people in Dublin want it extended to another group of trades? Why should we set up a committee under these conditions? There are much more urgent things requiring committee work and committee examination than this. If there seems to be a desire, if in the next three or four months, as a result of the publicity from this debate, I get representations from any substantial group of employees or employers throughout the country, if there is any real demand for an investigation of the Shop Hours Act to lead to an improvement of conditions in shops, we can get it examined. But I suggest that the only way to have it examined would be by a Departmental Committee which I would establish and which would report to the House.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Would the Minister [2265] require that the representations should be made by associations of employers or employees?

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I am not going to be definite about that but let us get some indication that there is a public feeling on this matter.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I wish to bring to the Minister's notice the fact that in the trades which are the worst offenders in Dublin the assistants are not organised at all, and consequently are not in a position to make any representations.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  If there is such an unorganised set of employees in a particular business down the country that they cannot even make representations to my Department, they certainly have not any following to speak of behind them. Numbers of people in the distributive trades down the country are organised.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I was referring to the in trades in Dublin, which are the worst offenders in this respect.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I am talking of the Dublin situation as one thing. There is the question of the consideration of the drapery and other businesses in Dublin, and everything, drapery included, in the areas outside Dublin. I do not want to have a peripatetic committee set to work unless there is an indication that there is a public demand for an inquiry into the Shop Hours Act outside Dublin.

Mr. Cooney: Information on Eamonn Cooney  Zoom on Eamonn Cooney  Does the Minister not admit that legislation and regulation in this matter are required for the dairy and provision shops?

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I do not admit that any of these businesses require regulation by this House. I think that the duty of this House in that connection is confined to the passing of such legislation as the Factory Acts and other Acts which safeguard the workers' lives and which tend to safeguard their health or to improve the conditions which operate against it. Any other improvements [2266] to my mind should be operated under the machinery that is laid down in the 1912 Act.

Mr. Cooney: Information on Eamonn Cooney  Zoom on Eamonn Cooney  Is the Minister aware that in the dairy shops particularly girls work sixteen hours per day? They are unorganised. There may be only 300 or 400 of them throughout the City of Dublin.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  Then there is useful material there for a trade union to organise in order to get their conditions bettered. But if they are not organised their opinions will not reach this House, even if this committee is set up.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Could they not reach it through their elected representatives?

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  Let their elected representatives make representations to me. So far, by letters or interviews or in any other way, representations have not been made to me. There is a volume of complaint throughout the country with regard to the Shop Hours Act. Representations could be made through any of these channels, and on that case when it is made I will act. On the Bill itself, I said that the 1926 Act was passed almost on false pretences. It was passed on a statement that it amounted to an agreed measure. It was not an agreed measure, and it was clearly shown not to be so once it was passed. Secondly, the Bill does this very deplorable thing to which the Minister for Local Government and Deputy O'Sullivan referred: it establishes a precedent for this House to interfere to regulate the hours in a particular area with regard to a particular trade.

If we are to act at all in regard to hours we should act generally, or else—and this would be the better method—we should establish machinery to enable areas down the country to put in force hours for themselves. The Minister for Local Government said that as far as he saw there was a provision of services in the way of sale sufficient to meet the needs of the public. Why does anybody [2267] want to open in these areas outside the hours that are laid down? Surely it is because they know there is a demand for their goods outside these hours. The very fact that certain traders came to a certain Senator in 1926, and said to him: “We, the owners of the bigger shops, had an agreement with the members of the Trade Union. That agreement is on the point of being broken. Why? Because certain of the smaller and intermediate shops are realising that very good business can be done outside the hours we agreed to. If they open we will have to follow suit.” Why are they going to open? Very few of these people want to keep open. As a matter of fact, the longer a shop keeps open the more overhead expenses it incurs.

It will not do that for the sake of having the assistants hanging around idle, or having them in the shop for a couple of hours longer, but because there is a demand. As to the other point which the Minister for Local Government made and in which there is more force—with reference to bringing this Bill to a sudden conclusion—he suggested that it might be allowed to run on for some period, possibly not for the three-and-a-half years that it was proposed. I hold that if there is to be an examination into the 1912 Act we should not prejudice that examination by having this Bill on the Statute Book. We would have a committee meeting, representations would be made, and people would be giving evidence for or against a condition that was established under the 1925 Act in a rather arbitrary fashion by the Dáil without having had much argument put up in support of it. If there is to be an examination—and if there is any feeling in regard to it I can promise an examination speedily—it would have to go back to the condition of things before the 1926 Act came into force, and anybody can see that this would lead to chaos and confusion. Talk about going back to seventy-four hours a week is the greatest folly.

[2268] The 1912 Act imposes these obligations, that with the exception of certain businesses all shops must close on one day in the week not later than 1 o'clock, that there must be a weekly half-holiday given—which two things need not occur on the same day—and that on the voting of two-thirds of the traders in a particular business the hour for closing may be not later than 7 o'clock. That may require amendments of a small nature. For instance, it may be considered that it should be not earlier than 7 o'clock, but that is a small point. The main contest that there was about both the 1925 and the 1926 Acts was with regard to the hour of Saturday closing, and the hour of Saturday closing could be established under the machinery set up by the 1912 Act. But the point about the 1912 Act that Deputy O'Connell I am sure does not like is that it requires a vote of two-thirds of those concerned; in other words, it gets down to the people concerned in the business. I say that the 1912 Act machinery is the best possible machinery.

It may not be correct in all its details; it is an old Act now and it may have to be brought up to date to meet present requirements, but it has the machinery. But we should not get into the habit of dealing with special trades and special areas. If we do, our task will never be ended. I suggest that this Bill be allowed to drop, that if necessary an inquiry can be started at once, both from the point of Dublin and of the drapery trade. It could be constituted at once even on the question of Dublin and other trades, and it could be constituted a little later on the question of Dublin and other districts and the drapery and other trades. But if we are to have an enquiry let us approach it with the main Act, the Act which is on the Statute Book and which established rather good machinery, and let this Act, which arose in peculiar circumstances which do not, I think, arise at the moment, lapse, so that we can get back to the old conditions.

[2269]Mr. T.J. O'Connell: Information on Tomas O'Connell  Zoom on Tomas O'Connell  The Minister for Industry and Commerce comes along now after five years just when this measure is about to lapse and says that an inquiry can be started at once. He is now most profuse in his promises of an inquiry. What has he done for the past five years with regard to the matter? He made no promise of an inquiry and we have had no inquiry. I do not say that there was a promise, but I distinctly say that there was an understanding among Deputies at the time when this Act was passed that there would be an inquiry and an investigation, and possibly permanent legislation. Otherwise why was there a period of five years originally fixed in the Act? That was what the five years period was fixed for—to give the Gevernment and the House an opportunity of looking into the whole question. It is only at the end of that period that we have this promise from the Minister. He throws that promise out as a reason why the Bill should be dropped as an inducement, as it were, to the House to drop the Bill. He tells us that the Act was passed under something like false pretences because there was, in fact, no agreement. The records are against him. It was only afterwards he said that people disagreed with it, but I say that there was an agreement at the time the Act was passed.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  No.

Mr. O'Connell:  We have it on the records.

Dr. Hennessy: Information on Dr. Thomas Hennessy  Zoom on Dr. Thomas Hennessy  I was associated with the passage of the Bill, and I have no recollection of the Minister giving any promise such as Deputy O'Connell mentions.

Mr. O'Connell:  I did not say he promised.

Dr. Hennessy: Information on Dr. Thomas Hennessy  Zoom on Dr. Thomas Hennessy  As a matter of fact the Minister voted against the Bill, and gave as one of his reasons that there should be an inquiry, but he made no promise that he would in the meantime institute an inquiry.

[2270]Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  He is promising an inquiry again.

Mr. O'Connell:  If we are to take Deputy Hennessy's word for it, we know what value to put on the Minister's present promise.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  Because I made no promise before.

Mr. O'Connell:  The Minister has not attempted to make it clear to the House how the existence of this Act, the status quo, could prejudice any inquiry that he proposes to establish immediately or within the course of the next twelve months. I cannot see that the continuance of the Act would prejudice any such inquiry. Deputy Byrne has a rather unfortunate knack of making people say what they never said and insisting that they did say it. He said that in my opening statement I indicated I was satisfied with existing conditions. That is not so. I made it quite plain I was not satisfied, but I pointed out that if the Bill were allowed to drop the new state of affairs would be less satisfactory than the conditions now existing. The Deputy also referred at length to the position in other shops outside the drapery trade, and, as Deputy Cooney pointed out, he declared that we wanted slavery perpetuated. As Deputy Cooney also pointed out, Deputy Byrne apparently wants to put those engaged in the drapery business into the state of slavery that he talks about in relation to other trades.

Mr. Byrne:  I stated emphatically that I was prepared to agree to a 48 hour week.

Mr. O'Connell:  There should be no objection to the Bill then. Deputies Byrne, O'Sullivan and Good emphasised that the matter was one which should be settled between the employers and the employees; it was a matter for arrangement in the trade. Let me point out that the 1925 measure had its origin in an agreement between the principal people engaged in the drapery trade and the employees.

[2271]Mr. Byrne:  I said that that agreement was broken.

Mr. O'Connell:  It was to prevent it being broken that the Bill was introduced originally. The Bill sought to give effect to the agreement. What the Minister indicated was actually taking place. There was an agreement and conditions were satisfactory, but some of the smaller drapers who were not in the Merchant Drapers' Association proceeded to open their shops and not to observe the agreement which existed between the general body and those employed in the trade. The merchant drapers held that if that was going to continue, and if the smaller shops were allowed to open and take the trade away, they could not afford to close at the hours arranged. All this led to the trouble that we had in 1924 and 1925, and that is why the Act was passed. That was why the House in its wisdom and good sense passed what the Minister for Industry and Commerce now calls a rotten Bill. I am glad all the Ministers have not the same opinion of that Act as the Minister for Industry and Commerce. If the Bill has succeeded in creating a cleavage in the Cabinet, it will at least have done something of importance.

There was one thing that the Minister for Industry and Commerce seemed to emphasise, and that is that the mere fact the shops were not open would tend to indicate that there was not a demand for their goods. That might provide a sound argument why shops should be allowed to open on Sunday morning. I am quite sure that a number of shops would do a good trade if they were allowed to open on Sunday morning. Perhaps the Minister might give some indication that all shops should be allowed to open at any time they wished. I agree with the Minister for Local Government that there ought to be some regulation in this matter. Deputy Lemass will understand that, so far as I am concerned, the matter is not under my control, and therefore I can make no promise. I can only repeat [2272] that so far as the principle of his amendment is concerned, I am in agreement with it. I am in thorough agreement with the proposal of an inquiry with a view to having permanent legislation suited to 1930. As to the means by which that inquiry would be instituted, that could be settled afterwards.

On the point as to what amendments could be introduced in connection with this measure, that is a matter I would have to consult the Chair upon—whether any amendments could be permitted of the nature suggested; that is, a change in the hours set out in the original Act. Generally speaking, I would be disinclined to have any patching of the existing measure. I think the fact that there is certain dissatisfaction with it is an advantage rather than otherwise, inasmuch as it would be a spur to go ahead with permanent legislation. Deputy Byrne told us about people on the verge of bankruptcy because of the operation of this Act. I would like further proof than anything Deputy Byrne advances.

Mr. Byrne:  May I inform the Deputy that in Rathmines alone six small shops have been closed down since the passing of the Act?

Mr. O'Connell:  That does not establish that if they had longer hours they would not be closed down. They might have closed down anyhow. I have no sympathy with people who will keep out of the Bankruptcy Court only by sweating their employees and over-working them. Reference has been made to the inconvenience caused to the public. I have heard no outcry with regard to the inconvenience caused by early closing. I am not satisfied with the position in regard to shop hours. I agree with the Minister for Local Government that the existing position is better than the position that would be created if this Act were allowed to drop on the 15th July. While undoubtedly there are abuses in other trades it is not good argument to say that the advantage, small or large, that we [2273] have under this Act should be thrown away because we have not a similar state of conditions in other trades. Let us deal with the other trades by all means but not by simply throwing the drapery trades people back into a position of confusion. I do not think there is anything in the argument put up by the Minister for Industry and Commerce that his proposed investigation would be prejudiced by the continuance of this measure. Any inquiry he proposes to institute, and I hope it will be instituted immediately, can be carried on more satisfactorily if the present conditions are maintained than if we were thrown into the confusion and chaos that would undoubtedly exist if the Act is not continued.

Mr. Byrne:  May I ask a question?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  Of whom?

Mr. Byrne:  The Chair. This is a continuing Bill. If it passes the Second Reading Stage now will we be in order in moving amendments to it?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  I could not tell the Deputy whether an amendment [2274] is or is not in order until I see it.

Mr. Byrne:  I am anxious to know if Deputies would be in order in moving amendments to the Bill.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  Amendments which are accepted by the Chair are in order.

Mr. Good: Information on John Good  Zoom on John Good  The proposal is to extend the existing Act for three years.

Mr. O'Connell:  Two and a half years.

Mr. Good: Information on John Good  Zoom on John Good  Would an amendment be in order proposing to limit the extension of the Act to twelve months?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  The Bill is described as an Act to continue the Shop Hours Act. Would it be in order to move an amendment to provide that the Act would not operate on the working day before the August Bank Holiday?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  The Chair is not in a position to answer hypothetical questions. It has consistently refused to do so.

Question put—“That the Bill be now read a second time.”

Aiken, Frank.
Allen, Denis.
Anthony, Richard.
Blaney, Neal.
Boland, Patrick.
Bourke, Daniel.
Brady, Seán.
Broderick, Henry.
Carney, Frank.
Carty, Frank.
Cassidy, Archie J.
Clancy, Patrick.
Colohan, Hugh.
Cooney, Eamon.
Corish, Richard.
Crowley, Tadhg.
Davin, William.
Doyle, Edward.
Dwyer, James.
Fahy, Frank.
Flinn, Hugo.
Fogarty, Andrew.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Goulding, John.
Hayes, Seán.
Jordan, Stephen.
Kent, William R.
Kerlin, Frank.
Kilroy, Michael.
Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick John.
MacEntee, Seán.
Moore, Séamus.
Morrissey, Daniel.
Mulcahy, Richard.
O'Connell, Thomas J.
O'Higgins, Thomas.
O'Kelly, Seán T.
O'Reilly, Thomas.
Powell, Thomas P.
Ryan, James.
Sexton, Martin.
Sheehy, Timothy (Tipp.).
Smith, Patrick.
Thrift, William Edward.
Tubridy, John.
Walsh, Richard.
Ward, Francis C.

[2275]Aird, William P.
Alton, Ernest Henry.
Beckett, James Walter.
Bennett, George Cecil.
Blythe, Ernest.
Bourke, Séamus A.
Brodrick, Seán.
Byrne, John Joseph.
Carey, Edmund.
Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
Conlan, Martin.
Craig, Sir James.
Crowley, James.
Daly, John.
Davis, Michael.
De Loughrey, Peter.
Doherty, Eugene.
Dolan, James N.
Doyle, Peadar Seán.
Duggan, Edmund John.
Fitzgerald, Desmond.
Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
Good, John.
Gorey, Denis J.
Haslett, Alexander.
Hassett, John J.
Heffernan, Michael R.
Hennessy, Thomas.
Hennigan, John.
Henry, Mark.
Hogan, Patrick (Galway).
[2276]Holohan, Richard.
Jordan, Michael.
Kelly, Patrick Michael.
Keogh, Myles.
Law, Hugh Alexander.
Leonard, Patrick.
Lynch, Finian.
Mathews, Arthur, Patrick.
McDonogh, Martin.
McFadden, Michael Og.
McGilligan, Patrick.
Mongan, Joseph W.
Murphy, James E.
Nally, Martin Michael.
O'Connell, Richard.
O'Connor, Bartholomew.
O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
O'Leary, Daniel.
O'Mahony, Dermot Gun.
O'Reilly, John J.
O'Sullivan, Gearóid.
O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
Reynolds, Patrick.
Rice, Vincent.
Roddy, Martin.
Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).
Tierney, Michael.
Vaughan, Daniel.
White, Vincent Joseph.
Wolfe, George.
Wolfe, Jasper Travers.

Motion declared lost.

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