Private Members' Business. - Intoxicating Liquor Bill, 1988: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.
Tuesday, 24 May 1988
Dáil Eireann Debate
 (a) allows or permits persons to remain on the premises for the purposes of consumption of intoxicating liquor in contravention of this section shall be liable upon summary convication to a fine not exceeding £300, or in the case of a second or any subsequent offence, a fine not exceeding £600 or
(b) in fact sells or exposes for sale any intoxicating liquor or who opens or keeps open any premises for the sale of intoxicating liquor in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable upon summary conviction thereof, in the case of a first offence to a fine not exceeding £400 or in the case of a second or any subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding £800.”.
Mr. S. Barrett: I am trying in my amendment No. 18 to differentiate between a person caught on premises and the fine levied on the publican for having that person on the premises after the permitted hours and a publican who actually sells alcohol or exposes alcohol for sale on his premises after hours. It is a greater offence for a publican to sell drink after the permitted hours than to endeavour unsuccessfully to get people off his premises. There are two separate offences and they should be distinguished.
Every person who shall sell or expose for sale any intoxicating liquor or open or keep open any premises for the sale of intoxicating liquor or permit any intoxicating liquor to be consumed on licensed premises in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary convication thereof, in the case of a first offence, to a fine  not exceeding £400, or, in the case of a second or any subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding £800.
The Minister felt it would be difficult to provide an amendment to achieve what I have in mind, but I suggest that the amendment I have tabled meets the point. It provides that the maximum fine for a first offence will be £300 for allowing or permitting persons to remain on the premises after closing hours and the maximum fine will be £400 for selling or exposing for sale intoxicating liquor after closing hours. That distinguishes between the two offences. The Minister's amendment relates to section 29 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1962 which deals with permitting persons to be on licensed premises during prohibited hours. He is increasing the penalty to £400 for the first offence and £800 for any subsequent offence. He is not distinguishing between the two offences as I am endeavouring to do. That distinction is worthwhile.
I am quite certain that a district justice would take the circumstances into account when dealing with individual cases. A number of publicans have made the point that there is nothing to stop anybody from ordering three pints ten minutes before closing time and it can be a very difficult job to get those people off the premises. There is an onus on the publican to do it and it is an offence if he does not succeed. A publican who deliberately serves drink 15 minutes after closing time is surely committing a greater offence than the person who is endeavouring to get people off his premises. It is worth distinguishing between the two offences as I have done in my amendment. I will be interested to hear what my colleagues have to say about it and whether they feel there is any merit in it.
Mr. Carey: I support Deputy Barrett's amendment. I agree that there is a need to distinguish between the fine imposed on a licence for allowing people to remain on the premises and the fine imposed on the licensee who sells or exposes liquor for sale after the permitted time. The  Minister might very well accept this amendment. It is an attempt to break down the traditional practice of daring the law when people purchase three pints ten minutes before closing time and then take on the publican and everyone else. In some pubs in Dublin there is an overbearing barman who rattles keys and thumps tubs and people who have paid substantial sums for the luxury of their pint are inclined to react to the attitude displayed by the barman and the owner of the hostelry. The publican who is endeavouring to do his job according to the law should be recognised by the Minister. If he is unfortunate in that the Garda feel it necessary to summons him for a breach of the licensing law there should be a distinction between the publican who has made evry effort to clear his premises and the other fellow who has deliberately decided to flout the law.
Mr. Cooney: I support the amendment for one main reason. The offence related to prohibited hours is the traditional six-count offence. Some of the counts are more serious than others. Selling is more serious than keeping open for sale in the circumstances outlined by Deputy Barrett. They are all endorsable offences. Deputy Barrett's amendment highlights the distinction in gravity between the counts. Once a summons is brought under the prohibited hours section, there is not much distinction made as between the counts on it. Such a distinction should be made and this amendment directs the attention of the court towards making that distinction. In that regard the amendment has merit although its drafting could be looked at to make the point more precisely.
Amendment No. 64 is being discussed with this amendment. This is the Minister's amendment designed to increase the penalties under the 1962 Act for prohibited hours offences. Notwithstanding inflation, the increases the Minister is proposing are out of proportion. To increase the maximum from £20 to £400 and for a second offence from £40 to £800 is ridiculous. This is not a great area of  social jeopardy and these offences are not gravely offensive to the body corporate or to the body politic. To propose penalties of that magnitude, I respectfully suggest to the Minister, is disproportionate.
Mr. McDowell: I have to disagree with Deputy Cooney's views on this. First, when one of these summons comes to court, he is correct in saying that it normally comes as the classical six part summons and the individual offences alleged in each of the six parts are at present all seen as part of effectively one offence, or different facets of one offence and are punishable in the same breath and by the same order of the district justice, one with the other.
It seems to me if we are going to have penalties, we must have serious penalties. For the average publican a fine of £20, as is the case at present, is absurd, because to go to the District Court and bring a solicitor, and the other side bringing the garda sergeant and the other garda who is standing outside, costs the State a huge amount of money. Fines in the District Court are small enough when compared with the costs involved in bringing these offences to court.
I know it would be very stupid of me to criticise lawyers' fees but they are a very substantial imposition on the average publican even if he has been brought along to meet a £20 fine. Let us be honest about it, the substantial penalty when one of these six part summonses comes to court is the endorsement on the licence. The publican could not give a damn about the £20 because it is less than the VAT on a quarter of the solicitor's fee or the barrister's fee that he is going to have to pay.
Mr. McDowell: To him the monetary penality is not the issue. He is not concerned about these issues at all but he is concerned about the endorsement. It is  in that context that I would like the Minister to take on board my very strong view that endorsement in these circumstances, leading as it does to loss of licence in certain other circumstances, is the fundamental punishment now prescribed by law and the monetary penalties are not what is foremost in the publican's mind. If endorsement is the penalty which follows automatically from any conviction on a six part summons, be it for allowing somebody——
Mr. McDowell: It is for a second offence. It is an automatic endorsement in that case. It does not allow the district justice to distinguish between a grave offence and a not so grave offence. If a district justice honestly comes to the conclusion that a person was being allowed to remain on the premises after hours, he is obliged in certain circumstances to endorse just as if the publican was found serving rounds of drink after time. Deputy Barrett's attention should be attracted to that one issue, that is, that endorsement seems to follow on a number of different sets of facts which are of totally different gravity in terms of the moral guilt of the publican involved. That is why I believe that, in lieu of endorsement, we should in the context of this Bill — I know it will be dealt with on amendment No. 62, if that is ever reached — deal with a power other than the power of endorsement so that a district justice who says: “You were slow about getting this customer out and you were culpably slow and you must be convicted,” has a choice short of endorsement to order some other form of penalty which would be a real sanction.
I do not believe that monetary sanctions are the real sanctions in the licensing code. I believe that fines of £20 are derisory. A fine of £400 or £800 is proper as suggested by the Minister. The cost to the State of getting the State solicitor, the three gardaí and all the rest to come along is very substantial. Occupying a court's time for one or two hours while an argument occurs as to whether there  was or was not a reasonable effort to enforce the law involves a very substantial cost which is put on society. Since District Court costs can be awarded either way, when there is a conviction the penalties should at least reflect the cost to the State of the whole operation of securing a conviction.
I believe in the penalties which are involved here but the point that Deputy Barrett is making on the distinction between the severity and the immorality of the offences would be far better reflected in allowing some form of suspension of a licence rather than trying to make a distinction between £300 and £400. The average district justice does not impose the maximum fine. He normally imposes a fairly nominal fine because in his view endorsement is the real penalty. He will only fine £100 or £200, no matter what penalties we fix in this Chamber tonight on this issue. If we are really talking about deterrents we should look to other things.
Mr. Cowen: I support Deputy Cooney's views on the level of fines being proposed for being found on a premises for a number of reasons. The idea of increasing the fine to the level proposed is on the basis that in large establishments it is worth certain proprietor's while to keep people on the premises after time and, in the event of a small fine being imposed, they will have more than got it back with the number of drinks served after hours. That is why we have the proposal to increase the fine substantially, up to £400 but now agreed at £300. When one is deciding and making a general rule on the level of a fine one should apply an amount which is fair to all sectors of the trade, large and small. The fact of the matter is that, while in lucrative city pubs £300 is a very small amount, the vast majority of licences are held by family run rural businesses, with a turnover not exceeding £3,000 and more likely nowadays to be around £2,000——
Mr. Cowen: ——per week. I am talking about rural family run pubs, which are the general businesses. When we decide on fines we should average them out to be fair to everybody. A fine of £300 would be a small amount to a minority in the trade but to the majority it would be a great deal of money. People with no passing trade cannot fling their customers out of the road. They can only ask them to leave and if there is no sign of them leaving, what do they do? They are their regular customers and there is no intention to break the law. We will find more and more with the increase in the drinking up time that people will go out to the pubs later because they have only a fixed amount of money to spend on a few pints.
When you take a cross section of the trade £300 is too expensive. I agree with Deputy Cooney's sentiment in that regard because it reflects a reality with which we deal in our respective constituencies. Indeed, the same applies in most people's constituencies throughout the country. While, I take Deputy McDowell's point that it is unlikely that there will be a maximum fine of £300 in every case, in one District Court district there could be a district justice who is very anti-drink and who would charge £250 and in a different district down the road the district justice might charge only £20 or £30.
Mr. Cowen: That is where the Deputy comes in. Not alone would one have to pay the State solicitor but he would also have to be paid. We might as well raise the fine to £1,000. The level of discrepancy that could arise could bring the matter into disrepute. I accept that £20 is a ridiculously small fine. The scope in fines from nil to £300 and the way they will be applied by various district justices in adjoining District Court districts will also bring it into disrepute. I accept that the Minister has come a certain part of the way by reducing the fine from £400 to £300 but there is still leeway to bring  about a more satisfactory situation in the implementation of these fines.
Mr. McCartan: Probably the best way to approach this is to accept the Minister's amendment, altered in some small way. It will then be open to the District Court to differentiate in terms of the scale or level of fine on what is ultimately presented in facts. The prosecution can allege that the person was simply on the premises or was being provided with alcohol on the premises after hours and this can be reflected in the level of the fine imposed. I want to address in particular amendment No. 64 and the general question of monetary penalty. I am a little concerned as to whether I will ever get an opportunity to speak on this matter at length on the amendments of The Workers' Party.
The Minister on Committee Stage, agreed to consider the whole question of the level of fines and the product of those considerations leaves me somewhat confounded. In the area of penalties for being found on premises, he is proposing for a first time offence a fine of £400 maximum, not £300 as Deputy Cowen said, and for a second or subsequent offence £800. The one problem we wanted to address is under-age drinking. We wanted to get at the people who were selling and making alcohol available to people under 18 years of age. The Minister in that regard has introduced for a first offence a monetary penalty that is less than the offence for being found on premises and for a second or subsequent offence a maximum fine of £500, £300 less than the penalty for being found on premises. I agree with Deputy McDowell that the fines should be a little higher than the existing ones of £20 and £40. The Minister has gone much too far in regard to the offence of being found on premises but I am not very worried about that. I have to admit there is nothing I enjoy more when I can get down the country occasionally to a licensed premises than to sit there until all hours. I like nothing more than——
Mr. McCartan: There is nothing more that I appreciate than the local garda or sergeant bidding me good night or good morning and going about his business. There is not a major problem in that area and the Minister has gone too far with the penalties. We will support the amendment if the Minister reduces the penalties. I suggest that for a first offence for people found on a premises the maximum fine should be £200 and for a second or subsequent offence, a maximum of £300 or £400.
The Workers' Party proposed on Committee Stage a five-fold increase on what was being suggested in regard to penalties for people peddling or selling alcohol to young people. The Minister has conceded very little in this regard — £50 for a first offence and nothing for a second or subsequent offence. He has not conceded on the imprisonment aspect the possibility of doing community services.
The Government published the Child Care Bill today. Under section 58 of that Bill the Minister is imposing penalties of 12 months imprisonment and a fine of £800 for the peddling of inhalants. With regard to the proof of identity card that is being proposed here under amendment 57, on summary conviction a person can be fined a sum not exceeding £1,000 or 12 months imprisonment if he doctors or interferes with his older brother's identity card. We have lost all sense of proportion in this regard. If a publican knowingly and willingly makes alcohol available through an off-licence to persons under the age of 18 the threat of imprisonment does not exist, the penalty for a first offence is less than that proposed for being found on premises and for a second offence even less again. Yet if a person who wants to get into a licensed premises doctors or uses in some way his older brother's card he can face 12 months imprisonment. We have gone a little off the rails in terms of our sense of proportion in this regard. I am borrowing from some of the other examples of what the Department are doing to illustrate this fact. Perhaps the Minister might reduce the penalties imposed on people found on premises and meet us some way  in regard to the other penalties when we discuss them later.
Mr. Lynch: We must ensure that we bring in legislation that is respected by everybody, the public and the licensees, and legislation that is capable of being administered. As I said on Second Stage, it is impossible to implement the law as it stands at present. If publicans and holders of licences deliberately flout the law they should be answerable in law. It is unbelievable that we have gone through an era whereby publicans have been brought to court because people were found on the premises even though these people had refused to leave the premises. As I have said previously, if we sell intoxicating drink to somebody we have no right to take the glass out of their hands. We have no right to abuse people and to put them off the premises. There should be shared responsibility by all. There is far too much of a gap in regard to the fines and the penalties on the licensee and the people found on premises. That gap should be bridged either by a reduction in fines on the licensee or an increase in the fines on the people found on premises. I also mentioned on Second Stage that on-the-spot fines could be imposed in such cases. Perhaps the Minister would indicate if that would be possible.
Mr. Collins: If the Deputy gives me a chance perhaps we might be able to work out something. Official amendment No. 64 increases the maximum fines on the licensee, and not on those found on a premises as Deputy McCartan seemed to think, for permitting persons to be on his premises during prohibited hours, to a maximum of £400 for a first offence and £800 for a second or subsequent offence. Extending the scope of the offence by altering the wording as Deputy Barrett has proposed and making it necessary to prove that persons are on the premises for the purposes of consuming intoxicating liquor would, I am advised, make it more difficult to prove and would certainly disimprove the existing provision.
Section 25 proposes that the maximum fine imposed on a licensee for keeping open his premises would be £400 for the first offence and £800 for subsequent offences. Deputy Barrett put down an amendment which would have created the new offence of permitting persons to remain on the premises for the purposes of consuming intoxicating liquor with a maximum fine of £300 for the first offence and £600 for the second and subsequent offences. The existing equivalent provision in the law is at section 29 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1962. That Act fixed a maximum penalty of £20 for the first offence and a maximum of £40 for a subsequent offence. These are the maximum penalties at present applicable where the licence holder sells intoxicating liquor during prohibited hours in contravention of section 2 of the 1927 Act.
Under section 25 of the Bill, the maximum penalty for selling drink during prohibited hours is increased to £400 for the first offence and £800 for any subsequent offence. My proposal is that there would be corresponding increases in the maximum penalties for permitting a person to remain on a licensed premises  during prohibited hours. But I am worried that the new wording proposed by Deputy Barrett as to remaining on the premises for the purposes of consuming intoxicating liquor would make the offence more difficult to prove. I consider it enough that persons are on the licensed premises during prohibited hours for the licence holder to have a case to answer. Under the Bill, customers found on the premises will be liable on conviction to a minimum fine of £25 and a maximum fine of £50.
I think I know what Deputy Barrett is trying to do and I do not think there is any disagreement between us, but I am advised that he is providing a loophole, is creating a new offence and is making the offence more difficult to prove. I see Deputy Barrett does not accept what I am saying, but I am advised very strongly that he is creating a new offence.
(2) Every person who shall sell or expose for sale any intoxicating liquor or open or keep open any premises for the sale of intoxicating liquor or permit any intoxicating liquor to be consumed on licensed premises in contravention of this section...
(a) allows or permits persons to remain on the premises for the purposes of consumption of intoxicating liquor in contravention of this section  shall be liable upon summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £300, or in the case of a second or any subsequent offence, a fine not exceeding £600 or
(b) in fact sells or exposes for sale any intoxicating liquor or who opens or keeps open any premises for the sale of intoxicating liquor in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable upon summary conviction thereof, in the case of a first offence to a fine not exceeding £400 or in the case of a second or any subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding £800. They are two different paragraphs and in the first the Deputy is very definitely creating a new offence. I am trying to move along the same road as the Deputy. The penalties here are fairly heavy and I do not accept the description of them given by Deputy Cooney. It is because the endorsement is now discretionary in this area that the penalties are as heavy as they are. The endorsement for these offences have been at the discretion of the District Justice since 1986.
Deputy McCartan criticised the penalties laid down for people selling drink to persons who are under age, but the endorsement is mandatory there. We should bear in mind that there is a distinction here. I would not have any worry if the only difference between us were the penalties of £300 and £600 and £400 and £800. I have no monopoly on common sense or wisdom in deciding the right figure. As I said, the figure of £20 was laid down in the 1962 Act and we have adjusted those penalties to a maximum of £400 now. This is very important. If a good argument was put forward that the  figure should be changed to £300 and £600 we might find some way of doing that, but I do not believe there is a good argument for doing this. I believe I am being consistent in raising the two sets of penalties to the same figures. As I said, I am worried that the creation of the new offence in Deputy Barrett's amendment would create a legal loophole and that it would make it more difficult to get convictions. That is my dilemma. That is my case.
(2) Every person who shall sell or expose for sale any intoxicating liquor or open or keep open any premises for the sale of intoxicating liquor or permit any intoxicating liquor to be consumed on licensed premises in contravention of this section...
The Bill as it stands has in it the offences I am talking about. All I have done is to revise it and say the offence of selling or exposing for sale should be distinguishable because in my opinion it is a more serious offence to sell or expose for sale alcohol after closing time than it is to have somebody on your premises. I have merely taken section 25 (2) (ii) and divided it up. I have said that for one offence there will be a fine of £300 and for the other of £400. I am not creating a new offence.
Mr. Collins: I am sorry to interrupt. The level of fines is not creating any great problem; it is the creation of the new offence. In an effort to get consensus, section 29 of the 1962 Act dealing with permitting persons to be on licensed premises during precluded hours says: “A person who permits a person to be on a licensed premises contrary to subsection (1) of section 17 shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction in the case of the first offence...” That is a tighter version altogether.
Mr. S. Barrett: Yes, that can still apply. The garda could come in and find me sitting comfortably on my stool consuming my drink, or perhaps not even having a drink in front of me, but the same maximum fine of £400 applies. It is a far more serious offence to be caught serving drink than to be found sitting in a licensed premises. Perhaps I have not framed my amendment very well in drafting terms, but I think it is all right. However, I do not profess to be a lawyer or an expert in this area.
Mr. S. Barrett: It should be a greater offence and seen quite clearly to be so to serve somebody after hours rather than have somebody sitting in your premises after hours. It is a different matter altogether. A district justice hearing the case could say: “Barrett, you have been caught serving drink after hours. This garda saw you handing a pint of Guinness to Deputy Carey.” It would be different if the offence were such that the district justice said: “Barrett, Deputy McDowell was on your premises at ten minutes past midnight——
Mr. S. Barrett: The first is a very serious offence. I was trying to distinguish between the two offences, asking that a fine of £300 be imposed in one case and £400 in the other. We have discussed the matter long enough.
Mr. Collins: Section 25 talks of permitting drink to be consumed. Section 29 of the 1962 Act, however, deals with permitting persons to remain on a licensed premises. There is a certain confusion between these two sections in Deputy Barrett's amendments. I am thankful to him for making his case. First, with regard to penalties, there is no problem there. I accept the Deputy's point that it is a more serious matter to have a barman selling drink at 20 minutes after the stipulated time rather than being outside the counter trying to empty his premises. In an effort to show that one offence is greater than the other, if the House would agree I would accept the proposed figures. I do not know if this is technically possible. I would accept Deputy Barrett's figures of £300 and £600 instead of £400 and £800.
Mr. Collins: I shall communicate my reasons to the Deputy and give him my views on his amendment tomorrow. We have gone beyond the agreed order now. It is a very serious matter, something with which I could not deal right now on Report Stage.
An Ceann Comhairle: Amendment No. 24 in the name of the Minister is related to a large number of other amendments, as the House will observe. I am suggesting in connection with amendment No. 24 that we take amendments Nos. 28, 29, 42, 45, 46, 47, 51, 55, 56 and 57. All are related. Shall we debate them together? Agreed.
On Committee Stage, Deputy Colley and Deputy Seán Barrett put down amendments proposing that provision should be made for a system of age or identity cards to help curb under-age drinking. As I said at the time, I agree in general with the principle that a provision of this kind would be of advantage. It would help people who are just over 18 years of age to obtain a drink; it would help the licence holder and also dissuade under-age persons who would realise that they would probably not be able to get drink in a licensed premises without having such a card. Accordingly, amendment No. 56 now provides for the introduction of a new section at the end of Part VI of the Bill so that the Minister for Justice may make regulations providing for the establishment of a system of age cards to be  issued to anyone aged over 18 years requesting such a card. It will be a matter for the Minister to specify the authority or organisation through which the cards will be issued and to specify in the regulations such matters as that a charge should be made for the issue of the card, the format of the card and its period of validity.
So far as the licence holder is concerned, the important thing is that, under amendment No. 28, section 31 of the Bill will be amended so that if a card is produced to him which genuinely appears to be an age card, he will be regarded as having had reasonable grounds for believing that the person concerned was over 18. This will given him a defence to any charge under section 31 such as that of selling drink to an under-age person.
Amendment No. 57 introduces a new section providing a penalty for forging an age card or using a like document with intent to deceive. The other amendments, which are amendments Nos. 24, 29, 42 and 45, are necessary amendments arising out of the basic provision as to age cards. It will be noted that these provisions will not come into force until the necessary regulations have been made by the Minister. I regard these provisions as an important contribution to the drive to curb under-age drinking and I commend them to the House.
Mr. S. Barrett: I am very pleased that the Minister has agreed to do something in this area. It is wise that we should enable him to make regulations providing for the issue of age cards or identity cards on a voluntary basis. Anybody who wishes to receive one for convenience sake should be able to get it. It should be an official card, issued by the Minister's Department on request made by the individual. This scheme has operated quite successfully on a voluntary basis in County Mayo, where people chose to receive an identity card which they found to be extremely convenient.
When I first mooted this issue of identity cards, there was much emotional talk about imposing restrictions on people. Many destructive comments were made  in relation to the whole issue. I was very pleased that as the debate continued, sanity crept in and people saw that we were not trying to impose anything on anybody, that this was a question of convenience for the individual and to help the implementation of this new Act.
We all agree that under-age drinking is a serious problem. I am very conscious that by removing the word “knowingly” we are imposing a heavy obligation on the publican to be satisfied that a person to whom he is selling alcohol is over 18. That is a very sudden change. The community can reciprocate if they so wish by receiving an identity card, or an age card and by making it available if requested. Anybody who has spoken to young people lately will say that the majority do not find any difficulty in seeking an age card or an identity card. What we are doing here is making it optional. That is a sensible approach. I have no difficulty in accepting the Minister's wording. It goes further than what I had proposed and it is quite in order. This will be of great benefit to everybody, in particular to young people who from time to time can be embarrassed by being refused a drink because they look younger than 18 even if they are over 18. This makes it easier for the publican to administer the law. It is a step in the right direction.
Mr. McDowell: I agree with what Deputy Barrett has said. This is voluntary and it should not raise any ideological hackles no matter how sensitive they are. The reality is that this scheme is optional. Some other day this House will address itself to a proper identity card and it will be different from this document. Some other day people in this House will give up the idea of having to queue in Molesworth Street to buy books when they want to travel to European countries and they will be happy to have an identity card in their pockets. The Left can sit and wait until that comes. I suggest that they should reserve their ammunition for that time.
This amendment is very sensible. When I was about 18 a few people who  were frequently in my company looked younger than 18 years and they were often flung out of pubs because they could not convince anybody that they were aged 20 or thereabouts. This was a huge embarrassment to them. It is a major intrusion on the rights of adults to be refused legal entry into a pub because the publican cannot take the risk of serving them because they look so young and because he knows that a judge would not believe him if he was brought to court. If an adult has the right to go to a Garda station to secure evidence of his age who, from whatever ideological view, can say that he should not have that right?
On the last occasion people spoke about producing a birth certificate but, as Deputy McCartan said, there is nothing easier than to produce one's brother's birth certificate because there is nothing on it to identify it with the owner. This is a reasonable, sensible amendment designed to give publicans some assistance in making hard decisions which can embarrass people who are only exercising their lawful right to have a drink in circumstances where a publican might reasonably have a doubt about their age. I ask those who opposed this when it was first mooted in this House not to oppose it now, to see the sense of it and to see that it is not the thin end of any wedge but merely an entitlement to save some people the embarrassment of being flung out of pubs at the age of 21 because a publican has the brass neck or the good judgement to say he does not believe them.
Mr. McCartan: I thank the Whips for ordering the debate so that we could reach this important issue tonight. Earlier on, due to progress and the number of amendments to be tabled, there was a concern that we would not get this far. During the debate on the Private Members' Bill on under-age drinking the Minister inquired of Deputies as to their views on this issue. This was something that was taxing the Minister's mind at the time and he did not come down strongly on one side or the other. The indications  were that the Government had an open mind on this issue.
I was not present, and I did not hear, and I hope I am not considered to have contributed to whatever attacks Deputy Barrett was subjected to. The Deputy has mentioned them three or four times. Perhaps the attacks did not come from within the House but from outside.
This is an issue in which The Workers' Party gave consideration because the Minister inquired about it during the Private Members' debate. On consideration we are opposed to the scheme that the Minister proposes on the basis that there are many people who rightly or wrongly would not be disposed to having an identity card. They have not the cultural or educational means to go to a place of authority for the card. They do not like the idea of going to the local Garda station for an identity card. During the course of my work I have talked to many respectable people who would not be happy to frequent a Garda Síochána station. Two classes of people will develop — those with the card and those without it. There will inevitably be a bias and it will militate against those who opt out of the system.
I have often been told that I look young for my age. I started taking drink a lot younger than the age this legislation is trying to get at. Never in my life have I seen a person being ordered out of a licensed premises because he looked too young. I do not believe that is a problem. However, in my locality recently I heard an off-licensee saying to a boy who was about 12 years old that he would not serve him. I complimented that man because it was the first time I had ever come across a licence holder refusing to sell alcohol.
The problem is one of dealing with publicans and off-licence holders who are not prepared to abide by the law. They know the law and should enforce it where there is doubt. The problem is not of people who are over the age being embarrassed. We have to bear that in mind when we try to address this problem.
I take it that this identity card will have some distinction so that when it is produced it will be clearly identifiable  and that it will not be easily interfered with. Such a card will cost money. What will be the charge, if any, to a young person who wants one of these documents? That is an aspect which has not been addressed. The various identity cards that have been made available cost several pounds to produce. Where will people find the money, particularly now when we have so many young people unemployed? This is an aspect worth considering.
One of my major concerns about this scheme is that it would present an out for publicans and off-licence holders in serving drink to those under age. This is the single greatest problem we are seeking to address in this Bill. As has been mentioned, we are taking new steps in this legislation and one of the major steps which we are taking and which is what every party has been screaming for for so long is we are getting rid of the defence of “knowingly” serving drink to under-age people. Publicans have been able to walk out of court time and again by arguing that they could not have known that a person was under 18 years of age and that on looking at him or her they had the impression that they were on the borderline. There is all-party agreement that this has led to problems in policing the legislation.
What is proposed offers a way of reintroducing the word “knowingly” into the legislation whether we like it or not and I will explain that in this way. The publican in court would be able to say, and I quote amendment No. 28, that “the person in respect of whom the charge is brought produced to him a document that appeared to be an age card relating to such a person or that he has other reasonable grounds for believing that such person was over the age of 18 years”. A similar defence is provided in respect of an off-licence holder. It would be open to the publican to say in court, providing he can be convincing in his or her presentation to the justice, that they saw a document which appeared to them to be an age card. Unless a garda has the power to put the young person in question against the wall, to frisk him or her, to  take the card and retain it for production in court and to say it was a credit card or student card or that he or she had nothing on them to show that they were over 18 there would be no way to answer the publican's case and a district justice would have to concede on the word sworn to him by the publican.
What I am worried about, with the greatest of respect to the Minister, is that we are going backwards. The defence provided in this amendment is repeated in amendment No. 29, amendment No. 42 and amendment No. 45. I wonder can the Minister see the difficulties which would arise in the prosecution of these offences? I have to suggest that the defence of “it appeared to him” is the same as using the word “knowingly” because a garda would not have the power to produce the young person in question in court or to search the young person. When a garda enters a public house there may be seven or eight people sitting around who appear to him to be under age but when he confronts the publican he could say that they produced cards to him and he could also say the same subsequently in court. How can a garda contradict that evidence or present a contrary case beyond saying that they looked to him to be under age? He cannot produce them in court and that is why we are probably going to make it easier for publicans in this legislation than in the existing legislation.
The Minister wants to introduce the issuing of identify cards on a voluntary basis and he has received support for this from the Fine Gael Party through Deputy Barrett and the Progressive Democrats through Deputy McDowell. Looking at the numbers I am on a lone pitch but I have made my point. I am worried about certain elements of this scheme on principle — it may be called ideology but I am not too worried about that aspect of it. I have to say to Deputy McDowell that the National Youth Council, of which Young Fine Gael and Young Fianna Fáil are constituent members, are opposed in principle to the issuing of identity cards  and they have written to every Deputy in this House to say——
Mr. McCartan: ——that they are opposed to the concept of identity cards as means of trying to enforce the legislation. They have made the exact point which I am trying to make here tonight, that the onus should always rest full square on the publican to police the legislation and that if he is in doubt he should refuse to serve.
Let me say to all Deputies present here tonight, if we are going to allow a voluntary scheme to be introduced — looking at the numbers I am on a losing wicket — let me urge the Minister to reflect again on amendment No. 28. The Minister can introduce a voluntary scheme as a means of helping the publican to police the legislation or as a means of helping those who, as Deputy McDowell said, might be embarrassed but we should not give them the means whereby they can walk out of a prosecution which if I am right in my interpretation, amendment No. 28 and the related amendments would give them. Perhaps what could be done is that in evidence a publican could say to a district justice that he came to the reasonable conclusion that the person was of age but they should not have it as an absolute right of defence as is suggested here and it should not be left open on wider grounds. That would be one way of addressing this problem but leaving aside the wider arguments I believe amendment No. 28 and the related amendments would make this legislation almost inoperable.
Mr. Lynch: I commend the Minister for the efforts he is making to introduce some form of identity card system. As somebody who is involved in the trade, the Minister asked me if I would be in favour of some form of identity card system and my reply to him was that I would welcome such a system and that is why I am delighted to have an opportunity to debate this issue here tonight. I do not believe we are imposing any  restrictions but rather we are introducing liberalisation in this area. Many voluntary organisations and many concerned organisations have been crying out for the introduction of some form of identity card system and those involved in the trade have also asked that some form of identity card system be introduced under legislation — not as an “out” for a licensee but rather as a way of helping them to find out whether the person is over 18 years of age.
I would like to remind the House that we are not going to discriminate against anybody under this Bill. When I first entered the licensed trade one would not dare serve a lady in a public bar. If she was lucky she might be brought into a public bar on a fair day and served with a small port. That was a fact of life. I am not a very old man but at that time a lady would not be allowed into a public bar to have a drink. Therefore, there was discrimination at the other level. Abuses now exist at the other end which nobody wants to tolerate any longer and I want to put the record straight in this House tonight and say that probably 98 per cent of publicans uphold their name and a degree of credibility. Any publican worth his salt must uphold such a degree of credibility within his local community. As far as is possible he must comply with the provisions of the law. However, having said that, I contend they should also receive a certain amount of help from the law in maintaining their businesses to the highest standard possible. Nobody who has been involved in the trade over a long period of time, inside or outside this House, would convince me that people who serve intoxicating liquor after hours or before hours or to young people, will maintain any degree of credibility or their businesses because they will not. As I said on Second Stage, there are a number of such people, perhaps one in a certain town, none in a small town, but I guarantee that those who do not adhere to the provisions of the law will be those that will carrry a “for sale” sign every two or three years. Perhaps they constitute a necessary evil for the type of people who  do not want to frequent the more honourable type of premises.
We must enact legislation worthy of this House and of the Minister who spent so much time and thought on all of its aspects. With co-operation right across the board it is my contention that we can successfully introduce a form of identity card acceptable to everybody.
Mr. Taylor: The Labour Party do not support the notion of identity cards, voluntary or compulsory. We believe it will not help the objective of this part of the Bill in trying to control under-age drinking. The experience of those countries that do operate identity card procedures, for example, such as the United States, shows that these procedures tend to be totally eaten away by forgeries of these documents. This has become a simply, commonplace thing. The extent of forgery of these cards taking place in the United States is quite remarkable. We contend it would be an extremely difficult if not impossible thing to control. Indeed the Minister realises that difficulty. That is the reason that, in the section dealing with the offence of forging these cards, he has prescribed surprisingly heavy penalties for that offence, penalties which are considerably heavier than any of those prescribed for any of the other offences arising under the provisions of the Bill. The fact that such heavy penalties are prescribed is an indication of the weakness to be encountered trying to enforce these regulations. I contend we should not go about giving rise to such circumstances, setting up the possibility of forgery and so on of these cards.
Deputy McCartan is quite right, the provision of identity cards possibly will give publicans an out. I am sure that is not the intention of the Minister or indeed that of any other Member or party who may be supporting it.
This whole notion of having to carry an identity card — or, even if one does not have to carry one — I find somewhat repulsive and alien. I know that in European countries such practice is the order of the day, that everybody must carry a carte d'identité, for example, in France,  Germany and countries like that. I do not like that practice. It constitutes a kind of big brother position, with everybody being recorded numerically and all the rest of it. It is all very well for Deputy McDowell to say that this does not constitute the thin end of the wedge. I have heard that kind of talk before. I am sure he is well intentioned in so saying. However, the Labour Party believe that this would be the thin end of the wedge, would lead to more comprehensive and compulsory schemes. Perhaps the fact that some young people would have such a card would save them embarrassment. It might cause an equal amount of embarrassment to others who did not have a card. Almost certainly it would cause difficulties in the prosecution of the offences that would arise under the provisions of the Bill.
I realise that there will be difficulties encountered and that great care will be needed on the part of publicans in dealing with people both under and over 18 years of age. I am sorry about that but, for decades past the prosecution have also encountered difficulty in this regard and that difficulty is now being met.
I contend that the provisions of the Bill adequately meet the circumstances. The House decided to tackle this by deleting the word “knowingly”, which constituted a major step forward. We would be better advised to allow the Bill go through on that basis and ascertain what would be the response. The pendulum swung too far in favour of the publican before. It is now time they lived up to their responsibilities, it being put up to them that some of them have been enabled to flout the law blatantly to date, and many establishments in this city are well known as havens to which people under age would go. When we have advanced to the position that we are updating the law in a perfectly acceptable and reasonable manner I should not like us to provide a possible out here by having forged identity cards, pass cards around or whatever, that would throw us back to square one and reopen the whole question of under-age drinking. We would feel very sorry  for ourselves and it would be a bad day's work in this House if we did that.
Mr. Cooney: Like everyone else, I share the instinctive reaction Deputy Taylor against personal identity cards as being somehow an invasion of the privacy we feel we are all entitled to as independent citizens living in a free democracy. Instinctively that is the position which we would all take and would like to have the luxury of enjoying if we lived in a perfect world. But we live in an imperfect world, in which there is trouble from drugs, drug smugglers, pushers, in which there are reports of highly organised crime and extortion and, above all in this and many European countries, where there are highly organised terrorist organisations, with all the criminal tentacles that that produces within our society. If the holding of personal identity cards is going to enable democracy, as a whole, to protect itself against all those evil influences, then I would put my personal feelings of distaste for the invasion of my privacy which that card would represent to one side in the interests of the common good and co-operate with all my fellow citizens in having personal identity cards so as to enable democracy, through its agencies, to more effectively fight the troubles, gangsterism, and terrorism we all have to face. That is the reality. I do not think any of us is entitled to the luxury of indulging our personal, instinctive feelings having regard to the well nigh emergency circumstances in which we have to live in western democracies these days. In any event the reality, from the point of view of the innocent, law-abiding citizen, is that it will be no hardship on him to carry an identity card. He should be pleased to produce it whenever he has to produce it to the proper authorities.
Having said that on the general issue of identity cards, I do have to confess that I feel the Minister's proposal here of voluntary identity cards is a half-baked one, a nod in the direction in which he and many people want to go, the only effective destination being represented by circumstances in which everyone held an identity card. Then there could be no  question of publicans being able to evade their duty. A very strict obligation could be imposed by law, black and white circumstances, in which we would not encounter the dangers about which Deputy McCartan is rightly apprehensive in regard to trying to prove offences under the régime now proposed.
The proposal which provides for voluntary identity cards for persons aged 18 and upwards does not make sense to me; it is somewhat unreal. The objective of it is to try and redress the balance from the point of view of the publican who, up to now, escaped unless he could be proved to have knowingly sold liquor to a person under the age of 18. We have removed that exemption from him. We do not want to make it an absolute offence because all of us would jib at the injustice that that would present because it would impose an impossible burden on the publican and could not constitute a definite offence. We are now reduced to looking for a compromise, some sort of a halfway house between the absolute exemption and the absolute offence.
Originally the halfway house in the Bill was that, if a publican could convince the court he had reasonable grounds for believing that the person was over the age of 18, he was exempt. Of course that opened a Pandora's box from the point of view of the defending lawyer and the offending publican as to what were “reasonable grounds”. All sorts of ideas and hypotheses could be advanced to a court and, depending on the humour of the court and the skill and imagination of the defending lawyer, goodness knows what might turn out to be reasonable grounds.
In a further effort to try to get a compromise between the two extremes, the Minister, with encouragement from this side of the House, has thought up this idea of a voluntary identity card. If there is a very high rate of application for this card among all the 18 year olds in the country I suppose it will have some validity but, quite frankly, I cannot see  that happening. I cannot see people of 18 years and upwards heading en masse to their local Garda station with a photograph and the appropriate fee in their hand and asking for an identity card. The Minister has to prescribe regulations stating how long the card lasts for and he has to decide who can issue these cards, the form of the card and the particulars it has to contain.
A whole new bureaucracy is being set up here to provide for something which might not be used. Even if it is used I am afraid it will be open to abuses because it will not be uniform for everybody. The abuse can be in the court, in the swopping of the cards and in the veracity of a publican who takes a casual look at something that is produced and says “Yes, I saw it” and who is prepared to go into court and say that he saw it. Are those reasonable grounds for exempting him from conviction? They probably are.
We are putting in place here something which is well intentioned but which I am afraid is woolly in concept and which will be imperfect in its execution. In order to make our last stage a little less ridiculous if we are going to go down the road of identity cards we should make a decision to go all the way and have identity cards for all citizens. It would have advantages in the general area of public order and it would bring us into line with many of our European colleagues. This will probably have to come in any event as cross-border documentation will be removed following increasing integration within Europe. There will have to be some sort of security identification and it will probably take the form of identity cards which will be issued nationally. We may as well get into it at this stage because it is inevitable. We should arrange for it now rather than embark on this rather woolly, halfhearted proposal which I do not think will be effective and which in its implementation will only put an impossible burden on the court, bring the law into disrepute and will not assist in what  we all want to achieve, which is the elimination of under-age drinking.
Mr. Carey: Lest there be the impression that there is a divided Fine Gael Party I have to say that I believe Deputy Cooney's sentiments, as expressed now, would not be the majority feeling within our group.
Mr. Carey: The current effort in this Bill has the support of the vast majority of those who have confidence in the young people of today. I was a little disappointed to hear both Deputy McCartan and Deputy Taylor talking about the things young people might get up to, that they might forge identity cards and that there might be underground factories in every college in the State. I am disappointed in so far as this is a proposal which has been sought for a long number of years by people outside of politics, especially by those on the western sea board. I know that increased security arrangements are being operated at discos and the people who guard the doors will not allow young people in unless they have some kind of identification or they know them personally. In order to reduce this hassle, I believe young people will avail of the opportunity to get ID cards if the Minister, in setting up the regulations, makes it easy for them to apply and to get a quick response to their application for this documentation.
Other Deputies have examined amendment No. 28. I cannot see how it would improve what is already contained in the section. Deputy Barrett who was the first to suggest this notion of identity cards in the House proposed that it should be on a voluntary basis. Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 are at the nub of the objections of Deputy McCartan and others and I think they are unnecessary.
Mr. Stafford: It has been mentioned here that on the western sea board and in other areas it might be quite easy to control under-age drinking because in most small areas everybody is fully aware of the ages of people who are drinking. However, in city areas, whether it is in Cork or Dublin, a young person will travel from one end of the city to the other in order to get drink. In my area they will even travel long distances to off-licences. This is an extremely difficult problem to get around.
I am not madly keen on the idea of national identity passes. I do not think it is in the interests of democracy that we should have to carry identity cards. However, there is the problem of how a publican can decide the age of a person on his or her premises. I disagree slightly with Deputy McCartan on this point because in many cases public houses now have security staff on their doors to stop young people entering. Most Members in this Chamber would find it very hard to identify a person between the ages of 16 years and 21 years. It is almost impossible to tell the age of a young boy or girl. However, I do not believe a publican should be relieved of his responsibilities in this regard. They are selling a highly dangerous drug and must take a great deal of the responsibility when selling this dangerous substance to young people. The Minister's amendment will help in that direction because the barman will have to be satisfied that a person is over 18 years of age. I have here a small card — Deputy McCartan and I are the only ones who have one — produced by Dublin Corporation with my photograph and name but no address. Something like that would be suitable. The only problem would be proving a person's age. I have no doubt that young people will go to any lengths to forge a card if that is what they want to do; it will become a cult to be able to forge such cards and this is a difficult thing to get around.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: In accordance with the agreement of the House I must interrupt. It is now 10 p.m. and I am required to put the following question in accordance with the Order of the Dáil of this day.
Question: “That amendments Nos. 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 32 to 35, inclusive, 37, 39 to 46, inclusive, 49, 50, 51, 53, 54, 56 and 57 set down by the Minister for Justice and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill” put and declared carried.
In page 21, line 51, after “recreation” to insert “which does not take place outside the hours during which excisable liquor may be supplied or consumed on the club premises in accordance with the club rules”.
This amendment relates to advertisements for sport and physical recreation which takes place outside the normal permitted hours during which liquor may be supplied in clubs. I am assured that dancing is not a physical recreation under this amendment. Dances or discos in registered clubs may not be advertised anyway if they take place after the normal closing time of 11 p.m. or 11.30 p.m. as they almost always do.
Mr. Cooney: I take it that it would be in order for clubs to announce that they are holding a function and that the normal club exemptions would apply. The Minister would need to be careful that in placating the publican's lobby he does not come down too heavily on the activities of bona fide clubs. I am well aware that there are some clubs which probably abuse the special position they have under our licensing laws but the vast majority are run for the purpose of the entertainment of their members and for the advancement of the sport they are set up to foster. They cannot effectively carry on their functions of providing recreational facilities for their members to the degree that is expected in this modern age unless they can generate some income, and the common way in which they can generate income is by using their club facilities and their licence for reasonable recreational activities. They have to be allowed to advertise and notify their members in the public press that such functions are going to take place. It will not always happen that all of their members will be such assiduous attenders on the premises of the club that they will see notices at the club of what is going to take place. The club could have a very widespread membership and it would be quite impossible and overexpensive for it to have to notify its membership through the post if it is going to have a function. Clubs may have different grades of members; some of them may be just social members who would not come normally to the premises. This restriction on advertising is unduly harsh and I think the Minister should look at it again.
The defences that are available to the club indicate that the Minister has some doubts about the justice of what is being proposed here. I would ask the Minister to look at this section because social clubs and sporting clubs form a very important part of the life of many of our country towns and villages. If they find themselves unduly restricted they may go to the wall simply because they will not be  able to generate enough funds to continue in being. I know there is a strong publican's lobby very hostile to clubs; in some cases they have managed to persuade the Garda that the clubs have to be monitored in an extremely strict way. I would not like to think that the Minister has become a victim to the lobbying by the vintners in this regard.
Mr. McDowell: On the last occasion the Minister produced an amendment and it had a general prohibition to advertising any function in a club. Then it is provided in subsection (2) (b) that it would not apply to an advertisement in so far as it related to a function involving any sport, game or physical recreation. I pointed out then that dances would undoubtedly come under the category of physical recreation and that since most of the advertisements that I have ever seen relate to dances the effect of that exclusion was effectively negatived.
Now it appears that the Minister has decided to bring in an amendment the gist of which is that one cannot advertise an extension in the context of a dance. I presume that is what it is supposed to do, but if that is what it is supposed to do I wonder does it achieve that aim because the rules require a club to confine drinking to the hours allowed by statute. Would it be open to a club to set out in its rules that there could also be drinking where the District Court extended the time? If there was such a rule in the club that it could cover extensions then the amendment the Minister is putting down would allow the club to advertise the extension as well. Unless the registration of clubs procedure is that a club cannot provide in its rules for extensions, or even acknowledge the right of the District Court to provide for an extension, then it seems that the purpose of this Act will be self-defeating and we will not actually stop the advertising of extensions. If a club's rules said that there could be drinking after the hours, where the District Court under statute so provided, then  the club could advertise such an event. I wonder if we have achieved anything by this amendment. The more we wander into this thicket the more lost we become. I do not think we will be able to stop rugby clubs from advertising dances and if the rules provide that they can drink after hours and the District Court so permits, I think the Minister will allow them to advertise the extension as well.
Mr. M. Barrett: I am somewhat disappointed that we have extensions. We have extended the hours of drinking and I am disappointed that we must have such extensions. If people who are in premises can drink up to midnight, why is it necessary to have extensions? We must all remember — and I referred to this on Second Stage — the number of people who have lost their lives on the road because of drunken drivers. This will make the position even worse. I do not see the need for further extensions. It is an indictment of us all that we can run no functions now without drink.
Mr. Collins: There was a fairly long debate on this matter on Committee Stage. As a result of that debate I said I would try to tighten up the loophole in section 43 (2) (b). I am now satisfied that this amendment is watertight and it is only applicable for what is provided for within ordinary club rules — that is, drinking up to 11 p.m. or 11.30 p.m. It is not applicable for the occasions mentioned by Deputy McDowell where a special exemption is given and where there is also late night dancing. It is applicable within the ordinary rules of the club.
On Committee Stage Deputy McCartan expressed the view that the defence given in relation to the issue of advertisements in contravention of section 44 was too generous and I undertook to look again at the relevant provisions. Having done so, I came to the conclusion that far from being too generous the defence was, perhaps, too restricted.
Under the section as it stood the person concerned would have had to prove that the advertisement was published without his consent or connivance and also that he used all due diligence to prevent its publication. If the advertisement was published without his consent or connivance, then in many cases the person concerned, for example, a committee member might not even be aware that the advertisement had been issued so that he could hardly have used all his due diligence to prevent its publication. Accordingly, under this amendment the person concerned will have to prove either that the advertisement was published without his consent or connivance or that he used all due diligence to prevent its publication. In the first case he would probably not have known the advertisement was being published, for example, he might have been abroad at the time. In the second case he would probably have known about the advertisement and in those circumstances would have to prove that he attempted to prevent its publication and that he used all due diligence to stop such an advertisement.
Mr. Cooney: I can see clubs devising all sorts of ways to get around this problem. There could even be the extreme case that clubs would publish a notice in the local newspaper to the effect that: “This club will not be holding any particular function on the night of 24 January and  there will be no exemption on that night”. Would that be an offence? Clearly, in attempting to restrict clubs from doing what they have been doing for generations — and which was perfectly valid — I think this is an outrageous restriction and the Minister will provoke a daft situation. The type of advertisement which I mentioned, or a variation thereon——
Mr. Collins: I do not accept the argument put forward by Deputy Cooney. This is working well in the North. We have examined how it operates there and we are satisfied that it is operating well and we can certainly use it here.
On Committee Stage Deputy McCartan raised the question as to whether an adequate penalty was provided in section 45 which relates to the sale of intoxicating liquor in supermarkets. He also raised the question as to whether convictions of such offences should be endorsable on the licences.
I have considered this matter and in view of the importance which I attach to this provision I am disposed to agree that the offence should be endorsable and  amendment No. 61 provides accordingly. This will mean that on conviction endorsement of the licence concerned will be mandatory and on the third such conviction the licence concerned will be forfeited. As regards the monetary penalty provided this is the maximum fine of £500. It will be noted that this is the largest maximum fine that may be imposed for any first offence under the Bill and, taken in conjunction with the fact that the offence will, as I proposed, be endorsable, I think the monetary penalty provided is adequate.
On Committee Stage it was suggested that some types of off-licence are a particular source of abuse. I would point out that section 45 applies to all off-licences so far as they are used for liquor sales from mixed premises such as supermarkets. I think this is adequate control. The Intoxicating Liquor Acts provide for a variety of on-licences and off-licences. The question of rationalisation of this system involving perhaps the abolition of certain types of licence is a very large one. It requires careful study and is not one which could be dealt with adequately in the context of this Bill.
Mr. McCartan: This is a very important section in the Bill and I understand it came on the suggestion of a number of Deputies in the House to the Minister. I welcome the amendment. The section provides for a penalty on summary conviction, not just for the first offence but for any offence. There does not seem to be in the section a gradation upwards for a second or subsequent offence. Can the Minister explain why that is so? Has he a firm view now as to when this section will come into operation? He reserves to himself the right to set the date when the section shall come into operation. What considerations is he bearing in mind as to when the section should come into force? It is an important section and I hope it will not be too long before the Minister will bring it into operation. I appreciate that time must be given to the owners of  the premises to re-adapt to reflect what is required under the law. I welcome the fact that people will not now be able to buy in a self-service that places alcoholic beverages on open display. This is a good development and I thank the Minister for accepting the proposal put forward on Committee Stage.
Mr. S. Barrett: I welcome this amendment also because this is one of the areas where most of the abuse took place in relation to under-age drinking. I mentioned on Committee Stage that this so-called sweets licence was causing some concern particularly in relation to some alcoholic drinks sold by some of the smaller shops. I may be out of order but section 45 (2) does not impose restrictions on premises where the business carried on is the sale of intoxicating liquor for consumption off the premises and the sale of commodities ancillary to such business as cigarettes, tobacco, cigars, matches, confectionery and nonalcoholic beverages. I am afraid these types of premises, small, so-called grocers' shops, are some of the worst offenders in relation to under-age drinking, and I am a little disappointed that we have nothing before us in relation to these sweets licences.
Mr. S. Barrett: I understand that many of these very small shops are operating on these licences they are getting for something like £70 a year. It proves that it is unwise of this House in important legislation such as this not to have adequate time between Committee and Report Stages. All of these amendments have had to be rushed. It would have been wiser had we waited another week, and we should learn a lesson from this because we have had to skip over a few things here. When we are dealing so well with this problem of under-age drinking, it is a shame that we let slip an opportunity to amend the law that we might  not get for another five or ten years. To be told that time restrictions do not allow for adequate research to cover these potential danger areas is a shame. What has been done in relation to supermarkets and the larger shops selling drink is wise and welcome, but I am warning that many of the difficulties in the area of under-age drinking are coming from the very small shops where the owners are not displaying the sense of responsibility they should and are selling to very young children cider, beer, and other alcoholic drinks. The real problem is in that area. In fairness, I have not seen supermarkets abusing the off-licence in relation to under-age drinking to any great extent. Generally the large supermarkets are conscious of their responsibility. It is the smaller shops operating on these sweets licences, as they are known, that are causing a great number of the problems, and there is no amendment here to deal with that.
However, I welcome what we have. When this Bill goes to the Seanad the Minister should ask his officials to look at this area and when there is a chance to amend it let him bring it back here and we will have it passed in half an hour for him if it means tightening further on this under-age drinking problem. Let us not lose this opportunity here and now to deal with it.
Mr. Collins: I note what Deputy Barrett says and when the Bill is in the Seanad I will see what we can do here. With reference to what Deputy McCartan says, the maximum fine here is £500 accompanied, of course, by a mandatory endorsement. That is quite a severe penalty. With regard to a date for the reintroduction, I will have to consult with the supermarkets. I cannot give a date as of now but we will bring it in as early as possible.
“48.—(1) Where a court has convicted a person of an offence under the Acts and such offence is deemed for the purposes of Part 3 of the Act of 1927 to be an offence to which that part of that Act applies, the court may in lieu of, or in addition to such endorsement, order that the licence relating to the premises shall stand suspended during such period as shall be specified in the order, being not less than one day and not more than thirty days.
(2) Where a licence is suspended under subsection (1) during a period, the premises to which it relates shall not be used for the purposes of sale or of consumption of intoxicating liquor, and in any proceedings arising out of the sale or consumption of intoxicating liquor on the premises during the period of such suspension, it shall not be a defence to show that there was a licence in being authorising such sale or consumption.”.
I have said everything I have to say about ten times in this debate so I will not say it again. I made the same point on Deputy Barrett's Bill. Even though time is available, I will not make the same points but I would like to know the Minister's attitude. He indicated that he would come back to us on the suspension of licences. I still hold that monetary penalties are not adequate as a method of distinguishing between large and small pubs and the gravity of offences. Many pubs in the city of Dublin if caught infringing the law in an endorsable situation would be much more scared of a closure order than of anything else and there are  many places such as Leeson Street — I do not want to be too arch or puritanical about it — where the endorsement is of no interest to them. They swap ownership and licences and everybody wonders who owns which club in which month and they add interim transfers to get around the law. It would be far better if a district justice could order the place to be closed for a time rather than wipe out the licence and we would get far more compliance with the law.
Mr. Collins: As Deputy McDowell mentioned, I said on Committee Stage that I would look at this suggestion by Deputy Colley. A provision for the suspension of licences such as exists in Nothern Ireland would mark a major change in the system of enforcing the liquor licensing laws. An in-depth study would be required before such a change could be contemplated.
The relationship between the existing penalties including the amount of fines and the provision for endorsement or forfeiture would have to be examined as well as whether suspension would be appropriate for a whole range of recordable offences as apparently is contemplated in Deputy Colley's amendment. The present Bill, as I said early on Second Stage, is not intended to be a comprehensive Intoxicating Liquor Bill and many important aspects of the intoxicating liquor laws would need to be examined in the context of a subsequent Bill. The question of providing for suspension of licences in certain circumstances might be one of those aspects, but it raises too many difficult questions to be settled within the timescale of this Bill. On Second Stage Deputy Colley and other Deputies suggested that, whereas we recognised that this legislation was not to be regarded as an in-depth study covering all the ins and outs of the liquor laws, we had a consensus that we did not have to wait five or ten years to come back into this House if we had matters examined. I am prepared to say to the House that  we can have an ongoing examination of the liquor laws and come forward again in the autumn if necessary and ask the House to consider further proposals if I think them worth while. We do not have to wait ten or 20 years.
The liquor laws are an area where there have been very few differences between us in our approach to what we are trying to achieve. There has been a worthwhile consensus from day one when Deputy Barrett introduced his Private Members' Bill. We have made considerable progress. Perhaps we should have done better, but on the whole have made far more progress than many of us thought we would ever make from the very beginning. A number of areas require further attention and in-depth examination such as the one we missed out in Deputy Carey's amendment this evening. I say to him that that area requires very careful consideration and we must give consideration to it together with others. I am prepared to have that study which is required undertaken with a view to coming back into the House perhaps in the fall of the year to do some more worthwhile work in this area.
Mr. S. Barrett: I respect what the Minister says, but I think this is a good amendment. I ask the Minister to throw off the shackles around his shoulders because he has not had a chance to examine this. Nothing in this amendment can cause difficulty. All it is doing is giving a judge extra powers or another option if he wishes to use it. It is a very wise provision because, as I said on Second and Committee Stages, £300 or £400 to a pub in rural Ireland is a considerable amount of money, a heavy penalty to pay, but £300 to many pubs in large urban areas is a drop in the ocean. The fact that the judge can use his discretion in relation to imposing a penalty for a serious offence, the fact that he can say to a publican “Because you have been consistently breaking the law and abusing it, I am going to suspend your licence for two or  three weeks” will make people sit up and take notice. In rural Ireland, the judge may say to the owners of a small pub run by a husband and wife, “I am imposing the maximum penalty of £300” which is a severe penalty, whereas the loss of a licence for three weeks would not be as heavy a penalty. This is a good amendment and it is a pity it cannot be accepted bacause it advances the law in this regard. We have got into the habit of either sending people to prison or fining them for an offence. We are afraid to take new ideas on board although that is why we were elected. Grave doubts were expressed about the community service orders but now they are seen to work. The Minister provided more money to implement them last year and I hope he will provide even more this year.
Mr. McDowell: I am disappointed that the Minister will not accept this amendment because it is a deterrent that will work, unlike monetary deterrents. Licence endorsements can be circumvented but you cannot circumvent the closure of a pub. The Minister talked about introducing another Bill in a couple of years — perhaps I will be around to see it——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: As it is after 10.30 p.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with today's Order of the Dáil: “That the amendments set down by the Minister for  Justice to the Bill on Report Stage and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill and Fourth Stage is hereby completed”.
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