MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Céadaoin, 13adh Eanair, 1926.
(Wednesday, 13th January, 1926.)
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY RODDY in the Chair.
Mr. Bernard McMullen (Irish Drapers, Outfitters, and Boot Traders’ Association) called and examined.
427. Deputy Johnson.—I take it that you have had considerable experience of the drapery, outfitting, boot and clothing trade?—A fair share.
428. I will put to you the question I desired to put to Mr. Calvert, who had thirty years’ experience of the trade. Is it your experience of the average working-class man or woman that if they cannot purchase clothing, drapery goods, boots or hats at a particular time they will deprive themselves of the use of these things; that they will forgo such purchases entirely?— With the majority of working men you will find very often that if they do not buy these things when they have the money on Saturday nights the money dwindles away on that night or on Sunday.
429. You mean to say that if a man requires a pair of boots, and if he does not buy them on Saturday night, he will not buy them at all?—It is a hundred chances to one that if he gets into company on Sunday the money dwindles away.
430. If a man requires two or three pairs of boots in the year, and if he cannot buy them on Saturday night, he will deprive himself of them?—Not intentionally.
431. But in fact?—It very often happens.
432. You mean to say that is characteristic of the average man or woman?— If you take the average working-man, if he has a few shillings and meets a few friends he goes out and forgets all about purchasing.
433. In regard to the requirements of his children and wife or himself in the matter of clothing, is it your assertion that it is a common practice, because a man cannot buy a pair of boots between 7.30 and 9 o’clock, that he will deprive himself or his family of the boots?—As I suggested, that very often happens.
434. And the process of furnishing supplies for his family and for himself depends upon the one and a half hours in question on Saturday night?—I would not say one and a half hours. There is a lot of trade done in that one and a half hours. We do a big portion of our trade on Saturday nights after 7.30.
435. Taking your observation any time within the last two years, do you say that this class has been worse clothed since the early closing habit came into operation?—The early closing habit is not the only thing. There are a lot evading the law. I am one myself. Most of our shops are still open on Saturday nights.
436. That is to say, you are disobeying the law?—Against our will, and at the cost of our pockets also. I happen to be a defendant in three summonses in connection with my business to-day.
437. Do you mean to say that you are coming to a Committee of the Dáil and telling it on behalf of your Association that you are asking for new legislation, and, at the same time, disobeying the existing law?—Not intentionally. We cannot help it.
438. Whether it is intentional or not, do you open when you are not entitled to open?—If I do not open I would have to dismiss one of my assistants in order to equalise in the matter of profits.
439. You know what you are doing and you say it is not intentional?—I know what I am doing. I have to pay for it.
440. Is your Association backing the proposition?—No. I have to do it myself. I take absolute responsibility for opening. The Association has nothing to do with me in the matter.
441. The members of the Association do not approve of you breaking the law?— They do not.
442. Deputy Hennessy.—The Association disapproves of you opening contrary to the statute?—Yes.
443. Deputy Johnson.—But it sent you to represent them?—Our Chairman is away at present; he was called away suddenly last night.
444. Deputy Hennessy.—You do not come here to represent them as a model citizen?—I am afraid there are not many of them; we all have our faults.
445. I suppose there are plenty of odds and ends not absolute essentials, that people will do without if they do not purchase them when the money is in circulation—when they have money?—There is no doubt of it. There is plenty of stuff bought in the drapery shops. A man will see a shirt, a tie or a collar in a window, and he will go in and buy it.
446. And the sale of those odds and ends means a good deal to the small shopkeeper?—That is so.
447. Deputy Johnson.—Then you are not in favour of the policy of reducing expenditure on luxuries?
448. Chairman.—Deputy Johnson is touching on a different point now.
449. Deputy Hennessy.—Necessary clothing is certainly not a luxury?—Of a certain quality, it is.
Mr. M. J. Moran (representing the Merchant Drapers’ Association of Dublin, Ltd.) called and examined.
450. You represent the Merchant Drapers’ Association?—Yes.
451. I assume you are the Chairman of that Association?—I am the ex-President.
452. What is the membership of your Association?—There are 27 members.
453. Do all the members live in Dublin, or do your operations extend to other areas?—The Association is confined to the city of Dublin.
454. You are opposed to this Bill?—We are.
455. You have read the Bill?—I have read it.
456. Deputy Johnson.—Might we have the Witness’s evidence? No evidence has been tendered on his own behalf.
457. Chairman.—It is my intention to proceed on exactly the same lines as yesterday. We have here a précis of evidence from the Merchant Drapers’ Association, and if we deal with that précis paragraph by paragraph, we will be able to elicit all the information we require.
458. Deputy Johnson.—I would like if the Witness first gave his direct evidence; it would be useful for the purpose of reference afterwards. It may have to be brought out by means of questions, but it would be much preferable if the Witness were to give his direct evidence first, and then we could ask questions.
459. Chairman.—It really means the same thing. If we allow Mr. Moran to make a statement now, each member of the Committee will have the right to question him on that statement. If we proceed paragraph by paragraph, according to the précis before us, we will get exactly the same information without wasting so much time.
460. Deputy Johnson.—The précis of evidence has been handed in, but it has not been put forward as evidence. It will not appear on the records in anyway and we will not have anything to refer to to-morrow or next day when discussing amendments; we will have no reference to point to as to what actually the Witness said except in answer to questions which would be based, presumably, on the précis. Those who read the evidence afterwards, and members of the Dáil, will not know upon what the questions are based.
461. Deputy Cooper.—Would it not be possible to have the précis circulated?
462. Deputy Johnson.—It has not been tendered as evidence yet.
463. Chairman.—Mr. Moran will first deal in a general way with the case to be put forward by the Association. Subsequently we will go through the précis paragraph by paragraph.
464. Witness.—With regard to paragraph 1, I have nothing to add. With regard to paragraph 2, the Bill proposes that certain houses that close on Saturday should be obliged to close on Wednesday. These houses, in addition to employing a large number as sales staff and counting-house officials, also employ tailors, dressmakers, shirt-makers, cabinet-makers, upholsterers——
465. Deputy Hennessy.—Might I intervene? What I am about to say may spare the Witness a lot of trouble. There is one amendment in my name that suggests the Saturday half-holiday should be preserved.
466. Chairman.—It would be better if Mr. Moran were allowed to proceed with his statement. We can deal with that matter afterwards.
467. Witness.—For a long time the practice has been for those people to have their short day on Saturday. That is in common with the arrangements for workers employed outside those particular houses throughout the city. We think that if you compel them to have their half-day on Wednesday they will also endeavour to retain their Saturday half-day, and we see the germs of trouble there. Two half-days are not possible. We think, too, it is rather a cool proposition for a body of traders employing a few hundred people, to ask a body employing as many thousands, to change their half-day from Saturday to Wednesday. Now, take the case of Grafton Street: In Grafton Street they close at 1 o’clock on Saturday; Saturday is not a shopping day in Grafton Street; Wednesday is a recognised shopping day, when there is a moderate day’s trade done. If it were decided that Grafton Street houses should close on Wednesday instead of Saturday, that would mean that Grafton Street would lose its Wednesday’s trade without any compensation whatever. In addition to that, I have information through the manager of Switzers, that if you shut up the Grafton Street houses on Wednesday—if you shut up the drapery places—you have shut up practically the whole street, because no buyers will go into the street if the drapery houses are closed. Grafton Street is not a Saturday shopping centre. People go away for week-ends, and they attend sports and race meetings, and all that kind of thing. It is not recognised as a shopping centre on Saturdays; on Wednesday it is a good shopping centre. The point I want to make is, that if you take away Wednesday from the drapers you practically shut out all classes of trade in the street. It will mean closing up the drapers’ establishments, and you will not be giving them any compensation.
468. Chairman.—Would you deal in a general way with the case you desire to make against the Bill, and we will go through the précis of evidence afterwards?—I heard the evidence given by Mr. Calvert, and I inferred that he alleged that a certain agreement was arrived at by members of the Merchant Drapers’ Association, who summoned a few others outside their body. I want to disprove that. This 6.30 agreement was brought about through a demand made on the Merchant Drapers’ Association by the members of the Distributive Workers’ Union. They asked for a 6 o’clock closing on Saturday night. While we could not concede that, we were satisfied that something could be conceded if those who were outside our Association and who were closing at different hours were also willing to concede something. We felt that the members of the Association could not concede what was asked except those who were outside the Association conceded something likewise. Accordingly, a meeting of our Executive was held on the 26th May, 1920, at which I presided. The following is the minute:
The assistants’ demand for a six o’clock closing was discussed, and it was decided to summon a meeting of the drapers and allied trades, late Saturday closing houses, for 11 p.m., an advertisement calling the meeting to be inserted in the Press.
That meeting was summoned publicly, and we hope to put in a copy of the advertisement later.
469. That special meeting was held on the 29th May, 1920?—I have the attendance here. It was a very representative meeting and Mr. Calvert was present. It was proposed that those who closed at 8 o’clock should close at 6.30, and that those who closed later should close at 7.30. At that meeting, only two dissented. It might, perhaps, be well to read the attendance at that meeting.
Chairman.—Later on we will deal with that.
470. Witness.—That decision was communicated to the Assistants’ Association, and, as a result, pending trouble disappeared, and for some time the agreement was carried out. If it were possible to have any amendment of the existing law it should be of a character that would severely fine those who are disobeying the law. There are some people who have not closed even once since the Act was put into operation. It is the opinion of our Association that the only amendment required of the Act of 1925 is one which would impose such penalties as would prevent the violation of the law being profitable. Although we have only 27 members in our Association, there are many more outside our Association, employing quite a big number of people, who are equally opposed to any alterations in the 1925 Act and who will be equally affected with the members of the Merchant Drapers’ Association.
471. Chairman.—We will now take the first paragraph of the précis of evidence, which is as follows:—
There is no demand for the Bill from the great majority of the trade, and the Association is of opinion that the Bill is being prompted by the traders who seek to carry on business on Saturday nights when their competitors are closed.
472. Deputy Johnson.—Can you say how many employees the 27 members of your Association have?—About 3,000.
473. Have you made any calculation of the valuation of the premises occupied by these 27 members or of the capital involved in the business?—No.
474. Would it be contrary to the desire of your Association to put in a list of the members?—No. The list is here.
475. Deputy Wolfe.—Does this list consist solely of big firms?—No; big and small. (List read and handed in.)
476. Deputy Johnson.—Can you say how many of these 27 firms, employing about 3,000 assistants, are engaged in what has been described as a “working-class trade”?—With the exception of the large houses, such as Clery’s, Todd’s, Arnott’s, Switzer’s and the Grafton Street houses, I should say that the others are engaged in doing, to some extent, a working-class trade.
477. For instance, houses of your members in Talbot Street are doing the same class of trade, with the same class of customer, as some of the houses that are represented in the Small Drapers’ Association?—That is so.
478. Your members in those districts are just as qualified to estimate the desires of the people and the interests of that particular class of trade as the other witnesses?—Quite.
479. You heard me asking the last witness a question as to the habits of the average working class customer. The question was to the effect that if a working man or his wife was not able to buy a garment at a particular hour on Saturday night, would the effect be that that purchase would not be made at any other time?—I do not think so if it were an essential garment.
480. Can you tell us what has been the course in, say, ten or twelve years back of the agitation respecting earlier closing in the drapery trade. Let us say in 1913, what hour was the closing hour in Talbot street?—It was 10 o’clock or after it. So far as I can recollect, in or about seven years an arrangement was made by which an 8 o’clock closing hour was fixed. At that time the closing hour was 10 or 11 on a Saturday night.
481. There was a change made and an earlier hour was agreed on and generally followed?—Yes.
482. Is it your experience that the effect of earlier closing when general is to reduce the total sum of purchases in the drapery trade?—No, I do not think it makes the slightest difference.
483. Is it the view of your Association that if all traders are placed upon the same level there will be no loss to the trade as a whole?—That is our belief, and it is borne out by experience. During the war, for instance, when the hours were curtailed, in our belief we lost nothing although every class of shop had to close.
484. Can you give an opinion as to the effect upon the trade of any few shops which at present open beyond the customary hour, if all the shops were open to the same hour?—If all the shops were open to the same hour, I believe that those that remain open late now would lose a considerable portion of that late trade.
485. I take it that it is the case of your Association that the advantage which is claimed to lie in the opening hours between 7.30 and 9 rests upon the fact that their competitors are not open?—Quite so.
486. Deputy Cooper.—Will you tell the Committee what experience you have of the drapery trade in Dublin?—About 25 years’ experience.
487. You can remember the time when opening was unlimited and when there were no restrictions?—Yes.
488. Do you consider that as a result of the restrictions the drapers have lost trade and that, owing to the fact that the drapery houses are closed, the working man spends his money elsewhere?—I do not think so.
489. You heard Mr. Calvert’s evidence yesterday?—Yes.
490. Do you agree with his definition of a small trader?—Not quite.
491. He defined a small trader as a trader who did a working-class trade. Is it a fact that some of your members do a working-class trade?—Yes.
492. Would you say that the trade conditions in a house like Clery’s would not be very different to those in Talbot Street, and that you get the same kind of customer in each?—No, you do not get the same class of customer.
493. Would you say that a house like the Henry Street Warehouse would get much the same class of customer as a member of Mr. Calvert’s Association in Henry Street?—I would not say so.
494. You agree that Mr. Calvert represents a special class of house?—Yes.
495. Is it your opinion that that special class of house ought to have special concessions made to it?—No, but unfortunately our own trade made a special concession to them. We thought that they could reduce their hours and we agreed that if they gave concessions we would give corresponding concessions. That is how the 6.30 and 7 o’clock hours were fixed.
496. If this Bill becomes law will your Association take action in the matter?— We must.
497. You will remain open longer?—We must.
498. To meet the competition of smaller houses?—Yes.
499. Why, if you do not cater for the same class of customers?—Some of our members cater for the same class of customer. We have two classes of members —those who do what we call a better class trade, and those who do portion of a better class trade, as well as a working-class trade. Those who do a working-class trade must adjust their hours if the Bill becomes law.
500. Your membership is confined to the city of Dublin, with the exception of Messrs. Lee, who have branches outside? —That is so.
501. Have any other members branches outside?—I think Tood’s have a branch at the Curragh.
502. Is there any evidence of a public demand that the shops should remain open later?—No; in fact the tendency is in the opposite way.
503. You Association has not received many complaints that people cannot get things?—We have no such experience.
504. Deputy Thrift.—What do you mean when you say that there is no demand for the Bill by the great majority of the trade?—That is meant to convey that the Merchant Drapers’ Association represents the great majority of the trade in the City of Dublin.
505. You do not mean the numerical majority of traders?—No.
506. It covers the money value?—Yes.
507. You do not mean to suggest, for example, that your Association has not the full support of all its members?—No; that is meant to convey what I have said.
508. Money value?—Yes.
509. Deputy Doctor Hennessy.—Have you any idea of the total number of drapers’ assistants and assistants in shops affected by this proposed legislation or existing statute?—About 6,000.
510. And of these the members of the Merchant Drapers’ Association employ about half?—Yes.
511. So here are 3,000 assistants spread over the other shops?—That is so.
512. You have explained that when you speak of the great majority of the trade you refer to the capital involved and the volume of business done in the big shops?—Quite so.
513. You do not say that on a count of heads you speak for the majority of the drapers?—No.
514. Is the volume of trade on a Saturday evening—both as regards money and the amount of business done—very much; I mean the volume of trade from either 6 or 7.30 to 9?—I have no experience of what can be done from 7.30 to 9.
515. Is that volume of trade neligible? —It is difficult to estimate it, but I would say it is considerable when enjoyed by a few.
516. But spread over the multitude it would not be much?—That is so.
517. Would it be worth your while, in order to cope with that trade, to extend your hours, if the new legislation conferred that favour on you, since the trade is not very much—what great inducement would there be to put that threat into execution?—That might grow, and it has grown. There are houses keeping open on Saturday night which are just as well able to serve the public as those that close at 6.30. It is perfectly natural to assume that if there is one man in a street closing at 6.30 his customers might happen to go to the man who keeps open later, and he may not be able to retain these people. Should it suit these customers they might wait until after 6.30 to do their shopping.
518. Many members of your Association do a wholesale as well as a retail business?—Yes.
519. Do they do a wholesale business with the small traders who cater for the working classes?—I do not know.
520. Possibly they do?—I would be inclined to say that they do.
521. They would have an interest in the sales of the small shopkeepers?—Yes.
522. And would derive some benefit from it?—Yes.
523. You say that there is no demand to have the shops kept open later by the public?—Yes.
524. Still there is a certain amount of business done during those extended hours?—Yes.
525. Does not that go to show that there is some reason for it?—My statement was that we have no information about the public complaining.
526. Of course, I know that the public are an unorganised body and cannot marshal their forces and come here to show that there is a demand. I understand your position. It is because you have no demand from the public, beyond my suggestion that because there is business done, that there is some necessity for it; in other words that people do not deal out of mere cussedness during the late hours?—If you remained open until 12 o’clock at night you would have customers. The public will accommodate themselves to any hours that are fixed.
527. Take, for instance, what I might call the reasonable public. They cannot do business before 7.30 if they are to enjoy the ordinary Saturday half-holiday by going to football matches or elsewhere. I have a fairly long experience of the poor, and I generally find that the man takes his part of the day early on a Saturday, and then goes home and leaves his wife and children out to do their shopping?—That may happen in a few cases, but I would not accept it as a general rule.
528. It happens?—It is quite possible.
529. It is difficult for you to say to what extent it happens?—It is quite possible.
530. With regard to the Merchant Tailors’ Association, previous to the 1912 Act, what were the usual closing hours for them?—On Saturday night?
531. No, but say during the five days of the week?—Seven o’clock on the week evenings.
532. They used to keep open until seven o’clock. I mean Pims and those. I am interested in the merchant houses? —Six o’clock and two o’clock on Saturday.
533. Legislation does not affect you or those people very much. It did not put much restriction on their trading?—That is so.
534. It is the small trader that is being hit by legislation ever since?—Not hit.
He might say ruined himself.
535. Deputy Johnson.—Is any trade done in any of the traders’ shops on Sundays in the city?—I am informed there is, but I cannot give any information on the point. I am informed that in Ringsend and Parnell Street people trade on Sunday mornings.
536. There can be shown the existence of a public demand, so far as it can be shown, by the amount of trade being done. You would not think that is a justification for allowing that to become habitual and statutory?—Certainly not.
537. If legislation has especially hit the trader catering for the working-class trade, and if people have been ruined as a consequence, could you relate that to the proposition that has been made that there has been a great increase in the number of small shopkeepers within the last few years? Do you know whether there has been a considerable number of shops opened within the last few years? —I know there has been.
538. You do not think that increase ruined the state of trade, not restrictive legislation?—I do not think so.
539. Deputy Cooper.—With regard to your reply to Deputy Doctor Hennessy about the assistants, you told him there were approximately six thousand assistants and that your Association employed three thousand of those. You said there were not many firms not members of your Association who preferred the present hours. How many assistants would they employ?—I could not give an accurate answer. Mr. Kidney says about a thousand.
540. That would be four out of six thousand.
541. Deputy Hennessy.—You cannot give absolute information about that. It is only an approximation and is open to error?—Yes.
542. Deputy Nagle.—I want to ask a few questions, but I do not know if I can fit them into paragraph No. 1. They follow on the evidence given yesterday.
543. Deputy Johnson.—I take it you you can do so at the close.
544. Chairman.—When we have disposed of the different paragraphs, I can give you a chance of asking those questions. Paragraph 2 reads:—“The Merchant Drapers’ Association further protests against the proposal in the Bill that all drapery houses shall close for the half-day on Wednesday instead of Saturday which has been the custom for many years. The alternative day is provided for in the Shops Act, 1913, and any attempt to curtail the right of the trader to observe the Saturday half-holiday will be strongly resisted.”
545. Deputy Hennessy.—Might I dispose of that. The concluding paragraph of Amendment No. 11 is this: “Provided also that any shop having Saturday as the weekly half-holiday may remain open until 6.30 o’clock each Wednesday evening.” That is on behalf of Mr. O’Connor and myself and will remove that objection. It will be generally admitted that the amendment will preserve your existing right?—If it does, we are satisfied.
546. Deputy Johnson.—“If it does” I do not think it does.
547. Chairman.—If he thinks it does not we will discuss the case on its merits
548. Deputy Cooper.—I take it Deputy Dr. Hennessy has admitted the principle? —Do I understand we still preserve the rights given to us in the 1912 Act and still have the option of choosing the half-day.
549. Deputy Hennessy.—“May” gives them the option.
550. Deputy Johnson.—I maintain this amendment does not, but that is a matter for discussion in Committee.
551. Deputy Hennessy.—That is the intention. We are ready to amend it in any way what will secure that.
552. Deputy Johnson.—What is the half-holiday in the drapery trade in the other townships? Is it usually Wednesday?—Yes.
553. What is the half-holiday in the pawnbroking trade?—I do not know.
554. They are affected by this Act?—I do not know.
555. Can you tell me whether the order regarding the half-holiday applies to all the trades affected by this Bill?—I do not understand the question.
556. This Bill deals with the trade or draper, tailor, outfitter, hatter, hosier, glover, boot and shoe dealer, or house-furnisher and upholsterer. Can you tell me whether the early Closing Order in the various townships covers all those trades? —I cannot say.
557. Chairman.—Clause 3 is: “By far the greater number of assistants are employed by the members of this Association, and any increase in their working hours which the Bill seeks to bring about, will have the effect of causing grave dissatisfaction and, possibly, dislocation of trade throughout the city.” Perhaps you would care to amplify that?—The difficulty there is this: that if the Bill becomes law and we adjust our hours, as provided in the Bill, that adjustment cannot take place without some disruption. About that I have not the slightest doubt from our experience. There is bound to be dislocation.
558. Deputy Nagle.—What would be the nature of the disruption?—Dislocation of trade and labour troubles.
559. You mean to say that assistants would refuse to work longer hours?—Yes, I do.
560. Deputy Hennessy.—Are they working longer hours under the proposed Bill?—I do not understand the question.
561. Does the new Bill provide for longer hours? We are under the idea that we are shortening the hours?—We have gone into that matter, and we say the new Bill lengthens the hours.
562. Deputy Nagle.—Does it not lengthen the hours on Saturday night?
563. Deputy Hennessy.—Yes; but it takes from the hours under which traders can keep open under the 1912 Act?—It lengthens the hours, for those who close at 6.30 would have to extend their hours if this Amending Bill were carried. That means it would lengthen the hours of a far greater number of assistants.
564. Deputy Hennessy.—Is it not a fact that at present traders can keep open under the 1912 Act if they wish for 49 hours or more and that several of them actually do, while under the new Bill it is proposed to limit the opening to 47½ hours in the week?—That is so.
565. Deputy Johnson.—You heard the evidence of Mr. Calvert yesterday that 50 per cent. of the trade of the week is crowded into the Saturday. Can you tell me, from your experience, whether the strain upon the shop assistants is greater when on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday business is done which comprises only 50 per cent. of the week’s takings and the other 50 per cent. is crowded into one day—would you not say that the strain upon an assistant upon that one day is greater than any of the other days?—Certainly.
566. And the strain being greater, would you say it is desirable to extend the hours during which a strain of that kind is enforced?—I would say it is not desirable to extend them.
567. That there is in fact a greater strain upon the assistant upon Saturday than on the other days of the week by virtue of the fact that 50 per cent. of the trade, if that is a correct statement, is done?—Undoubtedly.
568. Therefore the hours during which the strain is imposed should be reduced rather than extended?—Yes.
569. Deputy Hennessy.—50 per cent. of the trade might represent rather light work. Does it not depend on the amount of work to be done? Does it no necessarily mean that the work is unbearable for the assistants—does it not depend on the work they are called upon to do on Saturday?—It does.
570. And we know it is very light with some shopkeepers, even though it is their best day?—My answer to Deputy Johnson was based on the supposition that 50 per cent. of the week’s trade was done on Saturday, and therefore the strain on the assistants must be very great.
571. Of course it would depend all the same on the amount of business?—No, every house, no matter of what size, carries a staff sufficient for its trade and that only.
572. Is it not a fact that business people often keep a certain number of their staff that they could dispense with if it were not for one day’s trading?— That is so.
573. It is with a view to that trading that the staff is kept up?—That is so.
574. A much smaller staff would do for four or five days of the week?—That is so.
575. Of course you will tell me that a good deal of this is due to the fact that the public want to be readily served—it is not so much that you want an increased staff to do the amount of work, but that the public will not wait?—That is so in a good many cases.
576. Deputy Nagle.—Is it not a fact that many of your members who now close at 6.30 and 7.30 formerly remained open until 9 o’clock?—Yes, and later.
577. Can you tell me what their experience was regarding the volume of trade done between 7.30 and 9 o’clock?—I cannot give you accurate information at the moment.
578. Would it be right to say as suggested yesterday that 12½ per cent. of the week’s trade was done in 1½ hours on Saturday night?—I was very much surprised to hear it.
579. Were you not more surprised to hear that 25 per cent. was supposed to be done then?—I was; personally I do not feel disposed to accept that.
580. You think that there is really nothing in that contention?—I do.
581. Deputy Hennessy.—That is only your opinion?—Yes.
582. You never did a business like Mr. Calvert’s?—No.
583. Deputy Johnson.—Would you say it is the experience of those members of your Association doing a working-class trade that 50 per cent. of the trade is done on Saturday?—I would not.
584. Deputy Hennessy.—As to that list you read out, they do not do a working class trade, at least a very small portion of it would be a working-class trade?—A good many on that list do a working-class trade.
585. Would it not be more correct to say that it is a small fraction of their trade?—No, I would not say that.
586. Deputy Johnson.—Can you give any instance in Talbot Street, Henry Street, Camden Street and Wexford Street of the class of shop which would help the Committee to understand what is in question?—Gorevan Bros., Camden Street, do a purely working-class trade; Moran and Son, Talbot Street, do a purely working-class trade.
587. These are members of your Association?—They are.
588. In close contiguity to those establishments are there any other shops doing a similar trade which do not belong to your Association and are represented by Mr. Calvert?—There are.
589. Can you give the names?—I prefer not.
590. Does Mr. Guiney, for instance, belong to your Association?—No.
591. Is he a member of Mr. Calvert’s Association?—Yes.
592. He is doing the same class of trade as Moran and Son, Talbot Street? —Exactly.
593. So that you will be in a position to judge of the class of trade, at any rate, that would be done in that street by such traders?—Yes.
594. Deputy Hennessy.—And you are of opinion that the amount of trade is negligible, and still that you would have to keep open yourself in self-defence?— I did not say that.
595. You could not understand how during these hours they would even do 12½ per cent. of their trade?—I was asked with regard to the trade between 7.30 and 9.
596. Yes, and you thought even 12½ per cent. was an exaggeration?—I do.
597. Then, you think that the people you represent in their own interests should keep open, though that is negligible?—Yes.
598. Chairman.—The précis continues:
Many of the traders now supporting the present Bill attended a meeting of the Drapery Trade held in the Gresham Hotel on the 29th May, 1920, when the undermentioned resolution was passed:—
“That houses closing at present at 8 p.m. (on Saturdays) shall reduce their hour of closing to 6.30 p.m., and those closing at a later hour shall close not later than 7.30 p.m., except in so far as it is otherwise provided by a Committee to be hereafter appointed, and that an application be made to the local authority for a Closing Order.”
A meeting of the Committee was held on the same evening, and the following resolution was passed and sent to the Assistants’ Association:—
“That all members of the Association will close at 6.30 p.m. on Saturdays, with the following exceptions, who will close at 7.30 p.m.: M. J. Cahill, Talbot Street; W. Kelly and Sons, Earl Street; Duffy and Co., Thomas Street; T. Fallon, Mary Street, and branches; J. Brennan, Camden Street; C. Heather, Arran Quay. The closing hour to be extended to 7.30 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. on the Saturday preceding Easter and Whit-Monday. With regard to Christmas it is proposed that the hours will be as follows: Saturday before Christmas, where it comes within a week of Christmas Day, and the three days preceding Christmas, 8 and 9 p.m., Christmas Eve, 9 and 10 p.m. The new Saturday Closing Hours to come into operation on Saturday, 19th June. The Assistants’ Association to co-operate in carrying a Closing Order and to get wages paid before Saturdays by the various contractors and factories.”
In view of the above resolutions, which were accepted by practically every trader and observed for a considerable time, the Merchant Drapers’ Association is of opinion that the Shops Act (Drapery Trades), 1925, merely made legal an arrangement come to between the representatives of the employers and the citizens, and prevented at the time a dislocation of trade which would have occurred, should the Bill have failed to pass.
599. Deputy Cooper.—You say that many traders now supporting this Bill attended this meeting—can you say how many?—So far as I can gather, about 27.
600. Were you at the meeting yourself? —I presided at it.
601. You heard Mr. Calvert’s account of it yesterday?—I did.
602. Do you concur in that?—I resent it very much.
603. Mr. Calvert informed us that he opposed the resolution and dissented from it when put—is that your recollection?— I cannot recollect, but I do recollect that there were only two dissentients; who they were I do not recollect.
604. At any rate, 27 of Mr. Calvert’s Association attended the meeting?—That is so.
605. There were only two dissentients —the other 25 either concurred or were silent?—That decision was taken on a show of hands.
606. Of those names that are given in your resolution, we were told by Mr. Calvert that Cahill of Talbot Street, Kelly and Son, Earl Street, and Brennan of Camden Street, have now left your Association and joined his?—They have left our Association.
607. He told us they are now members of his. Were they doing similar business to the other members of your Association?—Very similar.
608. Deputy Johnson.—Some of the members of your Association?—Some of the members.
609. Deputy Cooper.—I am not suggesting that they were doing a Grafton Street business. You did not think it unnatural that they should be in your Association?—No.
610. But you recognised that though their business was similar to some of your members they were justified in an extra hour’s opening on Saturday night? —I might explain how they came into the Association. Some years ago there was a Merchant Drapers’ Association representing only the very large houses. There was also an association called the Dublin Drapery Employers’ Association that embraced the smaller type of houses, such as Earl Street houses. After a time they were amalgamated, and hence the formation of the Merchant Drapers’ Association. They maintained their membership up to a certain stage—these firms that you referred to.
611. At that time they were satisfied to close at 7.30?—Yes.
612. They have since reconsidered that and left your Association?—Yes.
613. With regard to Duffy and Co., Fallon and Heather, are they still members of the Association?—No.
614. Do you know their views on this matter?—No.
615. Deputy Wolfe.—As regards those who left the Association, are they large employers of labour?—The largest would employ about sixteen hands, and the smallest about five.
616. Deputy Hennessy.—How many attended that meeting that you referred to?—I did not give that evidence. My answer was in reply to the question: How many attended the meeting who are now supporting this Bill.
617. What I asked was, how many attended the meeting altogether?—Fifty-five.
618. How many do you say attended who are small traders?—Twenty-seven. I do not think I understood your question. Did you ask how many were small traders?
619. I will put it this way. How many attended from the small traders’ Association?—Twenty-seven who were supporting the amending Bill attended that meeting.
620. Did you attend as individuals or as representatives of any association?—They attended in response to an advertisement inserted in the Press.
621. That would mean that they attended as individuals?—I am not aware.
622. Did you issue an invitation to the small traders’ Association to send representatives?—No. I am not quite certain whether at the time they had any organisation.
623. At any rate, these twenty-seven could only speak for themselves, while the number referred to yesterday in connection with the plebiscite as the number entitled to vote was 733?—Yes.
624. Therefore, I take it that these twenty-seven, whether they were for you or against you, were only speaking for themselves?—That may be.
625. You know the result of the plebiscite: that there was a substantial majority, we will say, in favour of the extended hours?—I may say with regard to that, that was due more or less to the very great activity on the part of Mr. Calvert and his friends.
626. We will not go into that, but at any rate it was explained yesterday that that voting did not represent voting by heads. It represented plural voting. In the case of large houses such as Switzer’s or Arnott’s, how many votes would they have?—I am informed that they are entitled to seven votes, but personally I think they are only entitled to two votes.
627. Who regulated the number of votes?—The Corporation.
628. Then it would take the Corporation to give us the exact information? Yes.
629. It was plural voting?—That is so.
At any rate the result of the plebiscite, whether it was due to activity on the part of one particular body or to inactivity on the part of another body, was this: that there was a very substantial majority of votes in favour of the extended hours. That, I think, disposes of your final clause here.
630. Deputy Johnson.—What was the date of the meeting?—The 12th May, 1920.
631. And the plebiscite?—A period of three years elapsed between the date of the meeting and the date of the plebiscite.
632. Can you assign any reason why the plebiscite was not taken immediately? —No. I cannot recollect at the moment.
633. Do you remember what trades were affected by the plebiscite. Were they the drapery, the outfitting and the boot-dealing trades?—Yes, these three.
634. Can you say in regard to shops having these various departments, whether each department affected by the proposed order would be entitled to a vote?— I am not clear on that. I understand they were allowed a vote in respect of each trade carried on.
635. So that Messrs. Clery would be entitled to three votes because they carry on drapery, outfitting, and boot-dealing? —Yes.
636. Can you say, roughly, how many employees there are in the establishment of Messrs. Clery and Co.?—From 300 to 350.
637. Can you say what the maximum number of assistants would be in their drapery, or their outfitting or their boot-dealing department?—I cannot say.
638. So that with 350 employees, the three departments affected by the Closing Order would be entitled just to one vote each, and only one?—Yes.
639. It would mean that the three trades would involve three votes carrying a representation of 350 people?—That is so.
640. And in the case of an establishment doing only a drapery trade or only an outfitting trade or only a boot-dealing trade, it would be entitled to one vote, no matter how few employees were engaged or if none were engaged?—That is so.
641. I think you said there were 6,000 odd assistants engaged in the business in the city?—Yes.
642. And of those entitled to vote at the plebiscite in 1923 the total number— I do not know whether you gave this evidence or not—was 733?—I did not give that evidence.
643. At any rate, perhaps you can say whether it is a fact that if there were 733 persons entitled to vote they would be speaking for at least 6,733 people— that is, assistants plus shopkeepers?— Yes.
644. Can you say from your experience whether it was the practice of the shopkeepers to ascertain the views of the people affected, including the assistants, before they decided how to give their votes?—I do not think so.
645. It was a shopkeeper vote: not an assistant vote?—Quite.
646. Deputy Hennessy.—The plebiscite was a vote of the shopkeepers?—That is so.
647. There was no provision for taking a vote of the assistants?—No.
648. And you really do not know how many votes, say, Clery’s exercised in that connection?—No.
649. Deputy Johnson.—I take it we will be entitled to call evidence from the Corporation as to the law in the matter and as to who is entitled to vote, and so on?
650. Deputy Thrift.—You say the agreement was kept for some time?— Yes, for from two to three years.
651. In the last paragraph you say, “in view of the above resolution accepted by practically every trader.” Do you mean every trader in a general way, or only those traders who had been at the meeting or were members of the Association? —Those who were at the meeting.
652. Deputy Johnson.—In reference to the last paragraph of your resolution, do you know whether it has become the practice for factories, contractors and other employers outside the trade to pay wages on other days than Saturday. You say here, “the Assistants’ Association to co-operate in carrying a closing order and to get wages paid before Saturdays by the various contractors and factories.” Do you know, as a matter of fact, whether it is the practice to pay on other days than Saturdays?—I know it is.
653. Deputy Hennessy.—Is that so in the building trade?—I do not know about the building trade. I understood the question had reference only to the drapery trade.
654. Deputy Johnson.—No. My point is that whether it is within your knowledge or not it is now the custom for workmen to receive their wages on a Friday or a Thursday?—I do not know that.
655. Deputy Thrift.—There is a point I want cleared up. I think Dr. Hennessy referred to 733 persons as if that were the possible number of votes?
Deputy Dr. Hennessy.—As a matter of fact it was 733 votes.
Deputy Thrift.—That is the point I want cleared up; it certainly is not persons.
Deputy Dr. Hennessy.—It is the number of persons on the register—733.
656. Deputy Thrift.—It does not refer to the number of possible votes?
Deputy Dr. Hennessy.—No; it is the voting by shops.
657. Deputy Johnson.—I am not quite sure whether Mr. Moran can answer this or not—whether the term “shop” for the purposes of this plebiscite includes “department or shop”?—I am not clear.
Deputy Thrift.—I was not clear about that.
Deputy Johnson.—It is the legal register.
658. Deputy Thrift.—In fact it is the legal number of votes. Mr. Moran referred to 75 persons who attended a meeting. Do you know, Mr. Moran, what is their voting power?—I would not know without inquiring into the matter, but I would say roughly about one vote per person.
659. Surely it would be more than that. Several persons who were there would have two or three votes?—It is quite possible.
660. Chairman.—There are one or two points further. I think you stated that there are something like 6,000 assistants altogether engaged in the draper trade? —Yes.
661. And of that number 3,000 were engaged by the members of the trade whom you represent?—Yes; that is so.
662. I assume the other 3,000 are engaged by the members of the other Association?—I think I said 1,000.*
663. At all events there are 3,000 of these assistants engaged by the members of your Association, and the others are engaged by shopkeepers who are not members of your Association?—Quite.
664. You heard the plea put forward yesterday that it would greatly convenience the public and convenience the working class in Dublin particularly if drapery shops opened till 9 o’clock. What are your views?—We do not accept that view at all. Our view is this: Once the hour is fixed by law, the public will accommodate themselves to circumstances. Once the hour is fixed everyone must abide by it. The public after a while can accommodate themselves to that hour and do their shopping within these hours.
665. Is it your point of view that there is no demand among the working classes in the city of Dublin that drapers’ shops should keep open until 9 o’clock?—I will answer that in this way: The public can do their shopping if the shops were closed at 7.30 without any inconvenience. There is always a number of stragglers, and if you do not close until 12 o’clock you will have customers. If the law says that you must close at 7.30 the public will do their shopping without any inconvenience.
666. Deputy Dr. Hennessy.—Is it not rather peculiar that there should be special legislation for the people under the 1925 Act limited to Dublin and the adjoining area?—I was rather glad to see it.
667. Would it not be better to do those things on a national basis if at all?— Perhaps.
668. Deputy Johnson.—In the working out of the 1912 Act are you aware what is the course adopted? Is it not to make the Act applicable by the local authority appertaining to the particular area of that local authority?—That is so.
669. And to deal with trades individually in respect of closing hours?—Yes.
670. Deputy Dr. Hennessy.—And the 1925 Act simply does not give the local authority any option at all in the matter?—They have to put it in force.
Chairman.—I think that concludes your evidence, Mr. Moran. Thank you, very much.
Mr. L. J. Duffy, General Secretary, Irish Union of Distributive Workers and Clerks, called and examined.
671. I should first of all compliment Mr. Duffy on the very exhaustive statements he has presented to us. It is really more in the nature of an essay than a précis of evidence. However, it is exceedingly helpful, and it simplifies matters considerably for the members of the Committee. I assume, Mr. Duffy, that you are representing the Union of Distributive Workers and Clerks?—The Irish Union of Distributive Workers and Clerks.
672. And your Union comprises?—Shop-workers generally — milliners, dress-makers, etc.—except, of course, carriers and porters. It includes the staff of the shop, that is assistants as well as clerks in the offices of these shops, milliners, dressmakers, etc.
673. Are all drapers assistants in Dublin members of your Association?—I would not say all; perhaps there would be about 95 per cent.
674. Of course, your organisation comprises drapers’ assistants in the country towns as well as in Dublin?—Quite. Would it facilitate the Committee if I handed in this precis of evidence officially?
Chairman.—I think each member of the Committee has got a copy of it.
Mr. Johnson.—Take it as having been handed in for the purpose of being printed.
(Précis of Evidence presented to the Committee. See Appendix III.)
Chairman.—I do not think it necessary to read paragraph No. 1.
675. Mr. Johnson.—Do you desire to amplify paragraph No. 1?—With regard to paragraph No. 1, I think I have nothing to add. So far as this paragraph is concerned that is all we know.
676. When you speak of the précis of evidence have you included in that précis, and is it included as having been handed in, the supplementary statement?—No, sir, that will arise on paragraph 20 of the précis. With regard to paragraph 2 I might say a word or two.
677. I would like to raise a question here. I am not quite sure whether there is any more appropriate paragraph. There is a reference to the Shops Act of 1912 and closing hours. Can you give us any information as to what the provisions of that Act entails regarding the right to vote on a plebiscite for a closing order?— Yes. Section 10, sub-section (2) of the Act of 1912 says:—“Where several trades and businesses are carried on in the same shop and any of those trades or businesses are of such a nature that if they were the only trades or businesses carried on in the shop a closing order would not apply to the shop the shop may be kept open after the closing hour for the purposes of those trades and businesses alone.” That is, it may be kept open at a time it is required to close in respect of other trades or businesses. In regard to the taking of a vote the same language is used, I think.
678. We will take your memory on the matter?—My memory is that the same phraseology is used in reference to the taking of a plebiscite, and if a vote is taken, as happened in 1923, for the purpose of determining the hours of closing of the drapery trade, the outfitting trade, and the shoe-dealers, the Corporation would determine upon application from a trader whether he should have a vote in respect of each of these three trades. If the trader made no application he probably was not included in the vote at all, but a house, for instance, like Clery and Co. would be entitled to claim that they were drapers, outfitters and boot and shoe dealers and that each of these trades or businesses was a substantial part of the business. The Corporation would decide whether it was or not and whether they would have three votes or only one. In Clery’s case the boots and shoes is not a substantial part of the business and I cannot say whether they have a vote in respect of it or not. They may have. Outfitting has. Outfitting in Clery’s would include ladies’ and gents’. They have millinery, ladies’ underclothing, gents’ outfitting, and all that sort of thing, and Clery and Co. employ fifty odd people in that section. “Drapery,” of course, includes prints, flannels, blankets and Manchester goods generally, and Clery’s employ seventy people there.
679. In that one department?—It is a group of departments.
680. For the purpose of the Shops Act it would be a shop?—Yes. In the boot trade they would only employ seven or eight people. The Corporation may have determined that it was not a substantial part of their business, and they may not have a vote in respect of it.
681. The proposed order that was the subject of the plebiscite in 1923 had reference to only three separate trades. Therefore, no shop could have more than three votes?—Quite. I have a copy of the document, and it sets out the trades in respect of which the closing order was proposed, that is, the drapery trade, outfitting trade and boot and shoe dealers. The maximum votes any firm could have would be three, and a firm employing no assistants might also have three votes.
682. If they had three departments of their shop carrying on a substantial part of the business?—Quite. That is the test, substantially.
683. One of the questions that was decided by this plebiscite was in favour of or against the making of a proposed new closing order, that is to say, they proposed to fix 7.30 instead of 10 o’clock as the closing hour on Saturday. That was the question put to the electorate, and there was a majority of 392 against the proposed order as compared with 262 in favour of it. Will you tell us what is the position of your Association regarding this sub-paragraph (c) whish says: “It deprives traders (that is, the proposed Bill), of the right to observe the compulsory half-holiday on Saturday which, having regard to the provisions of sub-section 2 (1) of the Act of 1912 (still unrepealed), is a rather dubious proposal.” You heard what Deputy Hennessy said regarding the views of himself and those who were supporting him in this matter with reference to the amendment of the present Bill in that regard?—Yes, I did.
684. Have you any comment to make upon that?—Well, of course, the amendment in the manner in which it is drawn does not meet the case. That is my personal opinion. In the first place, the amendment says: “Provided it shall be optional for a shop to remain open to 6.30 p.m. on Wednesday where Saturday is the half-holiday,” that will not meet the case there.
685. Could you give us any evidence as to the trades affected by the Bill which would not be covered by the proposed amendment?—Well, I am afraid I cannot give you definite information. I am endeavouring to ascertain what is the position in the townships.
686. What has sub-section (2) of Section 5 of the Act of 1912 reference to?— Section 5 of the Act of 1912 says that you shall not make any closing hour earlier than 7 o’clock. It is proposed here, without repealing that section, to make the closing hour for 6 or 6.30 on week-evenings and 9 on Saturdays. I am drawing attention to this because I am afraid that if the Dáil does not deal with it the Courts may contend that it is ultra vires owing to the existing Act of 1912. With regard to this matter, after the Act of 1912 became law an application was made to the Corporation to fix certain closing hours. At that time a number of drapery shops in Dublin were open after 10 o’clock on Saturday nights and it was not uncommon to find shops open at 1 o’clock on Sunday morning. I often saw them. An effort was made to have that curtailed, and the proposal was to fix the hour at 9 o’clock. There was pretty exhaustive correspondence between the Corporation and ourselves in reference to the matter, but the sum total of it was that a certain number of small traders threatened to block the closing order. Certain influences were brought to bear on members of the Corporation, and eventually a compromise was reached by which it was agreed that if we accepted a 10 o’clock closing hour the bulk of the traders would agree. The small traders’ representatives who were opposing the other closing hour opposed this, but the necessary two-thirds—it is not sufficient to have a majority, and a shoemaker in a backroom has the same voting power as a big shop like Manfields —majority was secured and the order made fixing the hour on the week-evenings at the earliest hour the law permitted, 7 o’clock, and for 10 o’clock on Saturdays. It took from 1912 to 1918 to get that order made by the local authority. After it came into force nobody seemed to think they were losing anything by its operation. The war restrictions came. Shops were obliged to close at 5.30. A general feeling in favour of early closing grew up amongst assistants, and demands were made for early closing on Saturday nights. Meetings were held, and an agreement arrived at, and all the parties undertook to ask the Corporation to make the closing hour 7.30 on Saturday night, leaving 7 o’clock stand as the closing hour in respect of the rest of the week. That was on the 29th May, 1920. If you look at the manner in which the closing order had to be made, you will discover that before it became operative it should secure the approval of the Lord Lieutenant. That, of course, was the stumbling block in 1920. The Corporation refused to submit any order to the Lord Lieutenant, and no order was made. The matter had to lie there until there was a change of Government, and it took a good deal of time to bring about the necessary machinery to take a plebiscite. An organisation of traders was formed in 1923 for the express purpose of defeating the proposed closing order. A canvass was made, and the majority of people who voted in the plebiscite were people who employed no assistants. That explains why they were not included in the Act of 1925, because they were the stumbling block to the 1923 order.
687. Deputy Hennessy.—Are you quite certain, Mr. Duffy, that a house like Clery’s had only three votes in the plebiscite to which you are referring?—That is the maximum they could have.
688. Are you certain about that?—Positive, and I believe they exercised none of them.
689. Then they did not seem to be very keen on the matter?—Oh, they did not mind.
690. And the whole thing does not concern them very much?—Of course, it does now. At that time they were in a different position to that in which they are now, and under different management. They were then in Abbey Street, where they did a clerical trade and practically nothing else.
691. They did not mind what hour they closed at under the old management?— At that period, no, but the position has changed. Clery and Co. now remains open on the Saturday afternoon before a Bank Holiday, which they never did before.
692. That is not the immediate question before us?—I am endeavouring to show that their mind has changed on this question.
693. The plebiscite was a vote between 7.30 and 10 o’clock, and the 10 o’clock people get a majority?—That is so.
694. Deputy Cooper.—Mr. Duffy, Mr. Calvert in his precis put forward a suggestion that under this Bill the reduction in the number of working hours must appeal greatly to the assistants, pointing out that the working hours are reduced from 49 to 47½ a week. I gather from your paragraph that this reduction is an illusory one?—The position is this: I am not talking of the legal hours; I am talking of the actual hours during which shop assistants work. They work from 9 to 6 on Monday—I am speaking of the smaller class of shops—9 to 1 on Wednesday, 9 to 6 on Thursday and Friday, and 9 to 7.30 on Saturday. That is four days of nine hours, one day of four hours, and a day of 10½ hours, a total of 50½ hours. The proposal is to add to that 1½ hours to make it 52.
695. So that if traders took advantage of their full legal rights, the assistants would be working 2½ hours longer than they are at present, instead of 1½ hours less?—Yes.
696. Up to the present they have not taken advantage of their full legal rights? —I do not know where the 49 or 47½ is discovered, because no calculation I have made has ascertained that result.
697 and 698. At any rate the nett result is, as I have stated, two and a half hours instead of the present arrangement, but at the same time the traders at present do not take advantage of their full legal right. They have a legal right to keep open until seven o’clock?— They have a legal right to stay open until seven.
699. And they do not do it on four days of the week?—For the assistants in the smaller shops (that particular type of shop represented by Mr. Calvert) it would mean an extension of one and a half hours, and for the assistants in the other shops, those for whom Mr. Moran speaks, it would mean an extension of two and a half hours. I think, if I may mention it, that Mr. Calvert juggled somewhat with the meal hour, and he probably got in there a calculation which I cannot follow. He suggested that they had two hours for the meals. The Act of 1912 allows a statutory hour for dinner. Now, our complaint is that the assistants do not get the statutory meal hour. We have instances of cases in which they do not get it. We have such a case in Mr. Calvert’s Association. In this case his member refused to allow the assistants to go home to their meals and insisted on their taking their meals in the shop.
700. Deputy Hennessy.—The witness is now making this ex parte statement. When a statement like this is made proof should be given.
Witness.—I can give the Deputy the name.
Chairman.—Yes; I think the witness should confine himself to answering the questions asked.
701. Deputy Cooper.—I asked Mr. Calvert about the meal hour and he informed me that it was the practice in Dublin to give two hours?—We have frequent complaints that the assistants are not allowed even one hour for the meal. We made representations to the Association on that matter and there were strikes.
Deputy Cooper.—We will leave the matter there.
702. Deputy Hennessy.—You admit that they have a statutory right to keep open until 7 o’clock?—Yes.
703. But do you deny that they keep open beyond 6 o’clock?—I do.
704. Is that true of the traders?—It is true of 95 per cent. of them.
705. I am wondering how you arrived at that. I am only a casual observer and I find, as I pass the doors of the smaller shopkeepers, that they are open between 6 and 7 o’clock?—I happened this week to be in Talbot Street, Capel Street, and Camden Street between 6 and 7 o’clock. On Monday last I saw no shop open in Talbot Street after 6.25 p.m. Last night about 6.15 I was in Camden Street and there was no shop open at that hour. I was in Capel Street last week and saw no shops open after 6 o’clock. I am speaking of drapery houses.
706. Deputy Hennessy.—I could say something else, but it would be profitless. I will put it this way—take the statutory position—the proposed Bill would mean a reduction on the statutory hours?—It would mean a reduction on the statutory hours, but not a reduction on the working hours.
707. You mean the actual working hours?—I am concerned with the shop assistants’ hours and not with what the law says, because some of them work on Sundays. There is a reduction in statutory hours.
708. There is a reduction in the statutory hours; even in the new Bill they may not ask to keep open during the hours prescribed by statute, and you will admit that there is a reduction in the statutory hours?—On certain week days it is proposed to reduce the statutory hours and to extend the number of working hours on other days—that is according to the 1925 Act.
709. I want to make special reference to the 1925 Act—it was passed last July? —I am speaking of the statutory hours.
710. We will not worry over that, but any way, according to the 1925 Act, when you speak of its extension would it not be an extension in accordance with the 1912 Act?—The 1912 Act does not fix the hours except for one day of the week. It does not fix the hours for any other day. Sections 1 and 4 are the sections dealing with that.
711. Does the 1912 Act put any limitation on the statutory hours?—No, the Corporation Bye-laws limit the hours.
712. Then the Corporation Bye-laws fix the hours at 10 o’clock—at any rate they could and they did keep open until 10 o’clock, and they did it before the 1925 Act?—The people who remained open before the 1925 Act are, as far as the bulk of them are concerned, still open.
713. Do not bother about that, they were within their rights?—My point is regardless of the statutory position; our position is that the law is in conflict with the limitation of the hour and will not have any effect. The proposal in the Bill is to give legal sanction to what is being done illegally.
714. I asked you did the 1912 Act put any statutory limit to any machinery in the matter of Saturday trading?—The 1912 Act does not refer to any statutory limitation in hours except that it says——.
715. I will not press the question. The witness knows very well what I am asking, but he will not answer it.—I am answering truthfully.
The witness is answering a question that I am not asking him.
Mr. Johnson.—I think Deputy Hennessy and Mr. Duffy are using the word “statutory” in different senses. Mr. Duffy interprets the word “statutory” in its correct form, I take it, and Deputy Hennessy is using the word “statutory” in connection with the Local Authorities Order.
716. Deputy Hennessy.—I will put it this way. Before the 1925 Act shops kept open until 10 o’clock?—Yes.
717. And they were within their legal rights?—Yes.
718. Deputy Johnson.—I think this is the place where I might ask this question —do you know of any houses which have been in the habit of closing at 6.30 and which recently have extended their hours of opening on Saturday nights?—Yes, there are several such houses, in Camden Street, in Talbot Street, and in Capel Street there are such houses. These were houses that hitherto closed at 6.30 and now they keep open until 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock. I can give you the name of several such houses.
719. Have you any experience within the last two months of any firm extending their opening hours in order to meet the competition of the other houses that opened late?—Yes; there is the case of Kellett & Co., who for 20 years observed the half-holiday on Saturday. Subsequent to the 1912 Act they closed at 1 o’clock on Saturday. Within the last three or four months they changed, and their half-holiday is now on Wednesday; and if this Bill becomes law they will remain open until 9 o’clock on Saturdays. That will involve 90 assistants.
720. Deputy Hennessy.—When did Messrs. Kellett’s actually change their holiday closing hour?—Before last autumn.
721. Was it before the 1925 Act was passed?—It was after the passing of that Act. That was passed in July and it was subsequent to July, any way. It may be August. I think, as a matter of fact, it was August.
722. I only wanted to know whether it was subsequent. But it had no connection with the passing of the 1925 Act?— The explanation given by the firm was that when a number of firms kept open after 7.30 they were compelled also to keep open.
723. And that is notwithstanding the legislation you want to uphold?—We are not asking you to uphold legislation.
724. Chairman.—Is there any question any Deputy wants to ask on paragraph 3?
Deputy Johnson.—Have you any desire to enlarge upon what you have already stated in paragraph 3 of your precis of evidence?
Chairman.—The matter is very clearly and fully explained there.
725. Deputy Hennessy.—Of course, if we preserve the existing privileges by the amendment referred to when Mr. Moran was giving evidence it will satisfy you?—We have no more to say once you assure us that the right of certain members or a certain class of the trade to close, say, on Monday or Wednesday or Saturday, would be upheld. That would preserve us our existing rights.
Deputy Hennessy.—Yes; that would preserve your existing rights.
726. Deputy Johnson.—You speak of the exemption given to traders by Section 6 of the 1925 Act. Is it your desire that this exemption should no longer hold?—We think it never should have been included in the Act.
727. Can you say why?—I do not think there is any reason why this special class of trader should be picked out for preferential treatment.
728. Do you mean a special class within this particular trade or a section within a class?—Well if you take, say, a tailoring establishment you might find that the members of a family, the sons and daughters, may be able to run the shop and they employ only tailors and tailoresses, who are under the factory law, and such a family may be doing the biggest business in the city.
729. Do you know of any business establishments which are run by members of the family?—Yes.
730. Have you any knowledge of a number of persons who are engaged in the larger houses during the day and by virtue of this exemption are allowed to carry on their own personal business at night in their own shops?—Yes, there are a large number included in the list of supporters of this Bill circulated by Mr. Calvert’s Association. I find there are twenty-six people who have other means, who are engaged otherwise than in the shop.
731. That is to say 24 people?—Yes, 24 supporters of Mr. Calvert’s organisation.
732. Apart from membership of the Association, is there anything like a considerable number of persons who have opened shops and are running shops notwithstanding that they are engaged in business for wages?—In the larger houses there are a number of people who have shops of their own and yet who work in the larger houses during the day.
733. Your Association does not stand for that?—No; on the contrary, we have endeavoured to prevent it. Meantime, of course, there are several people, like engineers’, who own shops. We know post-masters, and postmistresses, and various people of that kind who own shops, and I may add that these shops all remain open.
734. Do you know it is the custom in some places that single family establishments remain open even after 10 o’clock? —Yes, we have had cases of that kind. I have reported cases to the Corporation, in the last twelve months, of shops that remained open up to 11 o’clock and after 11 o’clock.
735. Do you know that there is a certain amount of Sunday trading in these shops?—Yes, I am well aware of it. There are some shops in Parnell Street, Capel Street and North King Street which bring in their assistants to work on a Sunday.
736. Would the fact that they remain open on Sundays indicate that there is a public desire for facilities to make purchases on Sundays?—Our experience is that their object in remaining open on Sundays is to satisfy the demand of the man who forgot to get a clean collar on Saturday night. We are told that the only trade in Sunday drapery sales is the selling of collars.
737. Can you say whether in your experience the statement made by Mr. Moran that the giving facilities for late shopping engendered the habit of late shopping, that if, on the other hand, there were restricted hours, and if a definite closing hour became general, the public would accustom itself, and accommodate itself, to that closing hour? Is that your experience, with regard to the early closing generally?
Chairman.—I think that arises on another paragraph.
Deputy Johnson.—Very well; the question of late shopping arises on paragraph 6, and later on another paragraph.
738. Deputy Cooper.—What proportion of the trade does the one-man business form?—You mean people who employ no working assistants? Amongst the list of traders circulated by the Small Traders’ Association there are 90 who employ no assistants.
739. That is 90 in 400?—If you refer to paragrpah 20 you will see that I show that there is no 400.
740. A considerabe proportion of this one-man business is backing this Bill?— Mr. Calvert said so yesterday.
741. In reply to Deputy Johnson you said you disapproved, very strongly, of persons employed in the larger drapery shops running shops of their own as well. Can you tell me why your Association disapproves of that?—We formed the opinion, rightly or wrongly, that the source of the present issue, and what has given rise to the present issue, is that a number of people availed themselves of the agreement of 1920 to open shops. Their wives, or their brothers or their sisters, worked these shops, and the owners themselves work up to 1 o’clock on Saturday in the larger shops, and, then, they come into their own shops and work the whole afternoon and evening.
742. But they must have a certain amount of capital to open a shop?—I suggest that some have not £50 worth of capital.
743. But they must have some capital. Landlords would want a little money, for instance. Is there any difference, in principle, between investing £50 in a shop of their own, and investing it in any other enterprise?—We do not disapprove of their investing in shops provided they do not seek special privileges.
744. It is merely a question of special privileges.
745. You told us about the plebiscite and that this one-man business was active and well organised and succeeded in defeating the plebiscite?—Yes.
746. Are they still active and well organised?—They are.
747. They do not appear to have taken any action against this Bill. I have not had any representation?—You mean people who employ no assistants. I cannot understand their point of view. We understood from the representatives of the Small Traders’ Organisation in July that they opposed any change in the law. Apparently they have changed their minds and they now propose in fact to limit their hours to some extent. It must also be borne in mind that numbers of people, shop assistants, who own shops employ shop assistants which brings them within the Act of 1925.
748. Mr. Calvert told us that the exemption given in the Act of 1925 led to unemployment, that people dismissed their assistants and took on members of their own family?—I heard Mr. Calvert say he dismissed some people, but we have no evidence of people losing their positions.
749. It is not a widespread practice?— No.
750. Deputy Johnson.—Do you think the general practice of running a drapery business by means of a one-man trade is conducive to the ordinary conduct of the drapery trade or that it is conducive to the prosperity of the trade to have large number of single family establishments? I am now speaking of the matter of general principle, as to the national economy of having such a large number of small establishments as contrasted with the smaller number of large establishments?—I think it is generally agreed that the multiplicity of shops of that kind has raised prices.
Chairman.—I do not think he need give the effect of it in this inquiry.
Deputy Johnson.—I think it of very considerable importance as affecting the desirability of encouraging or discouraging a multiplicity of retail shops. If it is decided, in this Bill, to exempt from regulation the small individual family shop, then that is going to have an effect upon the social economics of the country.
Chairman.—I am not convinced myself that it really affects the matters we are dealing with at present.
Deputy Johnson.—The matter we are dealing with is the exemption given to traders by Section 6, and the exemption is calculated to encourage a multiplicity of that class of trader; and I was endeavouring to find out whether, in the witness’s view and the view of his Association, that the trade in output of drapery, boots and such like commodities is better done from the point of view of the general community by a multiplicity of small unorganised and detached shops rather than by the various larger number of well-conducted establishments?—It is much better done by the larger shops, and I think that from the point of view of economy multiplicity of shops means increased prices, because the owners of them must all get something in the way of profits to run them.
751. Deputy Cooper.—In fact you prefer the larger capitalist to the smaller capitalist?—Yes, I do.
752. That is assuming there are capitalists at all?—Exactly.
753. Deputy Thrift.—You would not accept a general principle that a man working for his own profit should be prevented by law from working as long as he likes?—I would not suggest that he should be prevented provided he is not to do injury to the community. The suggestion here is to allow 90 or 100 people in a business because it is their own doing something to the detriment of 6,000.
754. Life is competition, and everyone advances more or less at the expense of the community?—Provided it is done according to the rules, but this is an endeavour to make special rules to enable people to secure exemption for their own purposes.
755. If a man is living by his brains and works for twelve hours a day—if the Dáil wishes to work for twelve hours a day it can—he should get more than he would get for nine hours a day?—If it is the opinion of reasonable people, but if it is unreasonable that the community should work for 12 hours a day, and it should not be permitted.
Chairman.—I do not think this bears upon this question before the Committee.
Deputy Johnson.—The Act of 1925 provides for exemption and has certain social consequences which have a reaction upon the social quality.
Chairman.—I think that is only repeating the point which the Deputy already made.
756. Deputy Hennessy.—What class of houses of the Merchant Drapers are assistants employed in who own shops of their own? You say that there are Drapers’ assistants who keep shops of their own to supplement their incomes? —That is so.
757. Where do these people find employment? Through what class of traders?— With all classes of traders. We have cases, for instance, of assistants working in a large house, and some of them would employ assistants of their own.
758. I am not bothering what association they are members of. The point I am after is, do they work in these shops themselves?—Yes, after 1 o’clock on Saturdays.
759. They are a majority of the class of people that work on Saturdays?—I do not quite follow.
760. The assistants in their shops on Saturdays are the majority of the class who keep these houses?—You may take it that practically every shop assistant who owns a shop of his own works in that shop on Saturday afternoon.
761. Since the people who give the Saturday half-holiday are the Merchant Drapers these Merchant Drapers are their employers?—A very large number of shops besides the Merchant Drapers have the Saturday half-holiday. Take Miss McGuinness in Dawson Street; she is not a member of the Association, but she closes early on Saturday.
762. They would be Merchant Drapers but not members of the Association, and they would be employing these small traders?—Quite.
763. They would be eligible for membership?—Quite.
764. And they are the people who get the Saturday half-holiday?—Yes.
765. So that there would be a way out of that by changing the Saturday half-holiday?—Of course there would not unless the others kept open until 9 o’clock, if this Bill becomes law. To prevent these people working in these shops the large shops would have to be kept open.
Chairman.—Are you dealing with paragraph 4, which refers to exemptions? If not, I am afraid you are getting to another paragraph.
766. Deputy Hennessy.—You also stated that you thought the existence of small shops was not desirable?—I have no objection to small shops as such, but I am perfectly satisfied that the multiplicity of such shops is adding to the cost to the consumer in this as in every other line. It is admitted that in greengrocers’ shops the cost is added to 100 per cent. in the case of vegetables, because of the multiplicity of such shops and the small sales in each.
767. For that reason it is not desirable that they should exist?—I am not saying one word against their existence, but I say they should not be encouraged.
We will leave it at that?—I am suggesting that they should not be encouraged by the Legislature making special provision to enable them to carry on.
768. I do not think that was the point. From the economy point of view you think they should not be encouraged?— I do not think they are any advantage to the community and I object to the Oireachtas providing facilities to encourage them.
Deputy Johnson.—And to put them in a privileged position.
Mr. Duffy.—It means inviting new people to come in and open new shops because they know they are going to get certain privileges under the law.
769. Deputy Hennessy.—Would it be desirable that all these shops should be eligible for membership of the Merchant Drapers’ Association?—As I understand it, every shop in Dublin in a large or small way of business is eligible for membership of the Merchant Drapers’ Association. Some of the larger houses are not members; for instance, the Shelbourne House, which is much larger than some of the shops which are members, is outside.
770. Do you think we have too many shops in Dublin?—I am perfectly satisfied we have.
771. Like the publichouses?—Quite.
772. And that it would be well to legislate them out of existence?—I have no objection to reducing them to half; both publichouses and drapers’ shops.
773. The publicans are to be compensated?—I objected to that, and I gave evidence against it. That is not my fault.
Deputy Cooper.—I gathered that Mr. Duffy is prepared to hand in certain tables mentioned in paragraph 21, and it might be convenient if members of the Committee had them in order to consider them.
Mr. Duffy.—I have a supplementary statement in reference to that and I can hand it in. (Statement handed in.)
Chairman.—We will deal with this statement later.
Deputy Cooper.—Is that under paragraph 21?
Mr. Duffy.—No. My difficulty is that it is a pretty extensive document, if you desire to print it. There are about fifty pages of matter.
Deputy Hennessy.—I am afraid, owing to the scope of the inquiry, that I will have to ask to be relieved from attendance. I cannot give the time to it, and I think that is the position of other members.
The Committee adjourned at 2 p.m.
* Afterwards corrected to 400.