Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 15 February 2018
Select Committee on Justice and Equality
Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016: Committee Stage (Resumed)
As we are in public session, all mobile telephones must be switched off as they cause interference with the recording equipment.
This meeting has been convened to resume Committee Stage of the Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016. It is a Private Members' Bill sponsored by Deputy Alan Kelly whom I welcome to the meeting. I welcome again the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Charles Flanagan, and his officials. We adjourned yesterday after a lengthy debate on amendment No. 1 proposed by the Minister, which is part of a group of amendments, Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive. The amendment proposes the insertion of a new section. As I indicated yesterday, if the amendment is agreed, amendments Nos. 2 to 5, inclusive, cannot be moved. I believe we completed our debate on the new section. Deputy Jack Chambers has indicated he wishes to make a point.
Two of the amendments in the group make sense in the context of the section the Minister proposes to insert. The first proposal, in amendment No. 3 in the name of Deputy Mick Wallace, is to extend the time during which sales will be permitted to 7 p.m. I support this proposal and ask the Minister to consider it before the Report Stage debate.
A second proposal by Deputy Wallace would ensure breweries that are unable to provide guided tours are not prohibited from selling their product to customers. This proposal should be reflected in the Bill before it is passed and I will support on Report Stage any amendment by the Minister or Deputy Wallace to give effect to it.
I echo the remarks of Deputy Chambers. It makes sense to allow smaller breweries and distilleries to provide off-sales. It is reasonable to argue that such a provision would assist tourism. I also support the amendment to extend the permissible opening time by one hour.
On the basis that Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are willing to support extending the permitted opening time until 7 p.m. and allowing small breweries that may not be able to provide tours to engage in off-sales, I will support the Government amendment and I will not move my amendments in this group. We can address these issues on Report Stage in the Dáil Chamber.
I take the opposite view. As we heard on the news today, pubs in rural areas need to generate income of between €8,000 and €9,000 per week to stay open. Deputy Mick Wallace stated yesterday that he comes from a rural part of County Wexford. We should provide as much support as possible to pubs in rural areas. I fully support breweries offering tours but, as I stated yesterday, we should take small rather than big steps. The main reason I support the Bill is that it will encourage tourism and job creation.
What we are proposing is a small step that would support an indigenous industry and address an anomaly. We are united on the need to address this anomaly and the majority of us are coming to the same conclusions on two other issues. I do not have a problem with the proposal to extend to 7 p.m. the time during which off-sales would be permitted. One minor issue that remains to be addressed is the sale of products below the wholesale price. We must deal with this matter on Report Stage. I share the views expressed by other Deputies on it. I propose that we accept the Government amendment and address the two other issues on Report Stage. I will be willing to work with other Deputies and departmental officials on drafting amendments that would meet the requirements.
To respond to the point raised by Deputy Fitzpatrick, under current legislation, the large breweries are able to do what we propose allowing small breweries to do. Diageo and Heineken account for more than 99% of the beer products sold in pubs. We were approached by a large brewery which tried to bribe us. It promised us X amount free per month if we included their beers and excluded Irish craft beers from the provisions. That is the truth. The large breweries have an incredible stranglehold on the industry. The status quois that Diageo and Heineken have complete control of the market. They invest money, create banners and so on and get young people into drinking. They have played a major role in alcohol becoming a serious problem in this country. Most Deputies agree that promoting craft beer and small breweries will lead us to a better rather than a worse place in terms of our approach to alcohol.
I acknowledge the contributions of Deputies, in particular Deputy Kelly when he stated he would be disposed towards accepting amendment No. 1 and that we might revisit what I would describe as ancillary issues on Report Stage. Perhaps we will get a broader flavour of the disposition of Members of the House during the Report Stage debate. However, in saying we can revisit issues on Report Stage, I do not want to raise expectations.
When Deputy Wallace talks about facilitating people who "call around", that is his terminology, that may differ somewhat from the purpose of the Bill, which Deputy Kelly described in 2016 as being to facilitate visitors on guided tours to tourist attractions. That is a little at variance with people calling around to stock up from off-sales and treating the facility as an off-licence, I would be concerned about that but we will return to it on Report Stage.
I understand the Minister's point and I can understand that he would rather that Diageo and Heineken continue to make money from the Irish people than promote indigenous industry. It is disingenuous of him to present the situation as if Deputy Kelly and I are in different places because we are in agreement that-----
-----we should bring small craft breweries forward and help them get off the ground and give indigenous industry some chance. It would be a welcome change from our total dependency on foreign direct investment. Even if the small brewers make an impact on the pockets of Diageo and Heineken both companies would survive that.
Rather than try to divide the views of Deputies Wallace and Kelly, let me say that I support what we are trying to do here. I want to see consensus and would be happy to reflect on what has been said between now and Report Stage so that we can enact legislation that is in keeping with what the proposer, Deputy Kelly, sought to do as far back as November 2016.
I will work with the Deputies and the Department. I thank the Department for its help and co-operation which was always available to me on this.
We will deal with one or two issues on Report Stage but many craft brewers are waiting for this legislation. In fairness to the Minister he has met several of them and supports this. I would like everyone's help in scheduling this in as short a space of time as possible so that it can go to the Seanad. Many of these breweries are waiting to take up investments, create jobs and develop their products when this legislation is passed.
It is the intention of this committee to conclude Committee Stage today and the scheduling of Report and Final Stages will rest with the Minister and the Department. I have no doubt that he will heed the Deputy's appeal.
I move amendment No. 6:
6.In page 3, after line 29, to insert the following:“Amendment of section 13 of Licensing (Ireland) Act 1833
3.Section 13 of the Licensing (Ireland) Act 1833 is amended by the deletion of—(a) “Distiller,” and
(b) “Rectifier or Compounder of Spirits,”.”.
This new section includes a technical amendment to section 13 of the Licensing (Ireland) Act 1833 which will remove the prohibition in that section on distillers and rectifiers or compounders of spirits from selling intoxicating liquor products for consumption on their premises. Without this amendment the provisions of section 1 that we have just inserted might well be open to legal challenge. I am keen to ensure that every effort is made to obviate that likelihood.
I move amendment No. 7:
7.In page 3, after line 29, to insert the following:“Amendment of section 1094 of Taxes Consolidation Act 1997
4.Section 1094(1) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 is amended—(a) in the definition of “licence”—and(i) in paragraph (o), by the substitution of “2003,” for “2003, and”,“(q) section 1 of the Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Act 2018;”
(ii) in paragraph (p), by the substitution of “2010, and” for “2010;”, and
(iii) by the insertion of the following paragraph after paragraph (p):(b) in the definition of “specified date”, by the substitution of “paragraphs (a) to (q);” for “paragraphs (a) to (p);”.”.
This is also largely a technical amendment. I bring it forward at the request of the Revenue Commissioners. Section 1094(1) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 deals with tax clearance requirements. This amendment is required to bring the tax clearance conditions attaching to the licence created under this legislation for the new licence into line with the conditions which are applicable to the other licences in the code of intoxicating liquor licences.
I move amendment No. 8:
8.In page 4, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:“(2) This Act shall come into operation on such day as the Minister for Justice and Equality may by order appoint.”.
The Revenue Commissioners will require some time to make the necessary and appropriate adjustments to their information technology systems for the purposes of issuing licences under this legislation as soon as it is enacted. For this reason amendment No. 8 inserts a commencement provision in the form of a new subsection (2) in section 3 of the Bill, which is not dissimilar to many such provisions in many Bills coming before this committee. In moving this amendment I am mindful of the comments made by Deputy Kelly, which I am sure are echoed around the table. It is my desire that this legislation, if enacted, will come into force on the earliest possible date and I wish to assure members of the committee of that. Notwithstanding that, I am advised this technical amendment is necessary.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 4, line 4, to delete “2011” and substitute “2018”.
Without wishing to pre-empt the committee, I do not think these amendments will attract any great debate or controversy. They are drafting amendments to update the Title of the Bill and the collective citation of the Licensing Acts which will read "Licensing Acts 1833 to 2018".