On Friday I made certain references in connection with this Bill. I propose now to deal with the Bill itself and I hope that when I have drawn the Minister's attention to certain aspects, he will be prepared, before the next Stage, to examine the position with a view to finding some means to alleviate certain hardships which will be imposed on various sections of the public. The Title sets out the purposes of the Bill. In the last few lines of the Title it is stated—
"to authorise the Irish Turf Club and the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee to exclude persons from racecourses, and to provide certain other matters connected with the matters aforesaid."
May I draw the attention of the Minister first of all to these two bodies? These two bodies have no statutory existence and, for the first time, they are being brought in and are being given statutory existence. I do not know whether or not the Minister has ever looked up the Racing Calendar to see who are the persons who comprise these two bodies. I have taken the trouble to examine this Bill in great detail and everything connected with it. I find that these two bodies are controlled mainly by persons who, from a national point of view, are very far away from us, some of them actually living outside the State. As members of the Turf Club we have such people as Viscount Adare, W. Barnett, Esq.; Capt. R.B. Brassey, P.E. Burrell, Esq.; Col. R.B. Charteris, A.D. Comyn, Esq.; Major E.M. Connolly, W.T. Cosgrave, Esq.; P. Dunne Cullinan, Esq.; Col. D.W. Daly, Capt. H. de Burgh, Lord Talbot de Malahide, Duc de Stacpoole, D. Gordon Dickson, Esq.; Sir T. Dixon, T.B. Donnelly, Esq.; Earl of Drogheda, Capt. G.F. Dunne, Earl of Fingall, Capt. Fowler, H.S. Gill, Esq.; Lord Glentoran, Earl of Granard, Sir Harold Gray, Earl of Harewood, Lt.-Col. S.S. Hill-Dillon, Lt.-Col. Giles Loder, Marquess of Londonderry, Sir Percy Loraine, Bart.; Major D. McCalmont, Major Durham Matthews, W.J. Mitchell, Esq.; Pierce Moloney, Esq.; Capt. Charles Moore, A.L. Moore, Esq.; Sir James Nelson, Bart.; Sir Walter Nugent, Bart.; Sir T.C. O'Brien, Bart.; Capt. John E. O'Brien, C. Odlum, Esq.; A.P. Reynolds, Esq.; P.J. Ruttledge, Esq.; Duke of St. Albans, Lt.-Col. E. Shirley, Major G.E.F. Tenison, D. Twomey, Esq.; A.C. Vigors, Esq.; Major A.H. Watt, The Hon. W.E. Wylie, K.C.
The members of the I.N.H.S. committee are:—Viscount Adare, Sir T. Ainsworth, Bart.; E. Bellaney, Esq.; A.D. Comyn, Esq.; Col. Croft, P. Dunne Cullinan, Esq.; Col. D.W. Daly, Capt. H. de Burgh, T.B. Donnelly, Esq.; Capt. G.F. Dunne, Capt. R.A.B. Filgate, Earl of Fingall, Capt. E.A. Gargan, Major T. G. Gerrard, Capt. Glen Browne, Lord Glentoran, Sir Ernest Goff, Bart.; G. A. Harris, Esq.; Lt.-Col. S.S. Hill-Dillon, Col. Honner, E.W. Hope-Johnstone, Esq.; Lt.-Col. Sir Cecil S. King-Harman, Bart.; Lt.-Col. A. Knowles, Major D. McCalmont, James McClintock, Esq.; John McEnery, Esq.; N.D. Mahony, Esq.; G.V. Malcolmson, Esq.; Major C. Mitchell, Pierce Moloney, Esq.; Sir James Nelson, Bart.; Sir Walter Nugent, Bart.; Capt. John E. O'Brien, B.T. O'Reilly, Esq.; P.J. Ruttledge, Esq.; Lt.-Col. E. Shirley, D. Twomey, Esq.; A.C. Vigors, Esq.; the Hon. W.E. Wylie, K.C.
The gentlemen with military titles are gentlemen who hold these titles from a foreign army. Not one of them in that list holds his military title from our Army. It is not so long since this very body—I should like the Minister to take a serious view of it— actually refused a licence to a jockey in this country who had served his apprenticeship across the water and who came over here to ride in his own country. He was refused a licence because, in their opinion, he could be classed as a deserter. A deserter from what? A deserter from another army, from a country to which he did not belong. These are the people who are going to be given statutory rights and supreme control. I think the Minister ought to leave these gentlemen where they are and be satisfied to give the board he wishes to set up full powers and let them consult, if they like, these people who have certain experience in racing matters. Certainly, I appeal to him to leave them out of the Bill and to let the board be the be all and end all in racing and matters pertaining thereto.
I come now to Section 2 of the Bill, the definitions in which state that the expression "course bet means a bet entered into by a licensed bookmaker during a race meeting held on an authorised racecourse and at that authorised racecourse or in the precincts thereof on a horse race forming an item at that race meeting." Those of us who have any slight knowledge of racing matters know that many of the big bets are usually made away from the course with a bookmaker before the race meeting, and that the levy that it is sought to impose in this Bill will not be contributed to by the big betters, who are in the know, but will be taken exclusively, or almost exclusively, from the smaller betting public.
Everybody knows that in connection with the recent meeting at Thurles very big betting transactions took place. These betting transactions did not take place on the course. Anybody with the slightest knowledge of racing knows that, if I were the fortunate owner of a good horse which I had tried out in secret and was satisfied on the information I had that it was likely to be a winner, a dark horse, in a forthcoming race, I certainly, like the rest of the gentlemen, would not be running it for the benefit of the public. I would try to have a bet placed for me away from the course so that there would be no bet from me on the horse at the racecourse and I would in that way get the biggest odds to my money. If these gentlemen who should pay the levy are to pay the levy, why not say that on every bet this levy shall be made?
The word "precincts" is defined again in the definitions and it is clearly set out that the bet must be made within the precincts of the racecourse itself. There are a few Deputies who occasionally indulge in a bet. We are told when we get a tip: "Do not have a bet on the course, because if you bet there they will know I told you and we will not get the odds to our money. Make sure that you get somebody who is not at the races to put the money on for you in Dublin or some other place and then you can go and look at your horse winning." We all know that this takes place.
Section 5 says:—
"(1) The board shall consist of 11 members.
(2) Each person appointed a member of the board shall be a person who, in the opinion of the Minister, is representative of, or has functions in relation to, or is otherwise connected with, racing (including the management of racecourses) or the ownership or breeding of bloodstock, or bookmaking, or other like pursuits."
Other parts of the Bill provide that anybody appointed to this board is to be a member of the board for five years, but he must have some of these qualifications. What is to prevent a person from becoming a racehorse owner for a certain period for the purpose of being put on the board and then getting rid of his horses and still remaining on the board? I think the Minister should insert an amendment that when a person ceases to have any of the qualifications he automatically ceases to be a member of the board and somebody else will be appointed in his place.
Section 6 (9) states that the Minister shall consult the Minister for Agriculture before exercising the powers conferred on him by this section. I should like to see consultation between the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Agriculture in connection with the whole of the operations of the Bill because, apart from the revenue sections of the Betting Tax Act which are taken over and embodied in this Bill, there is nothing else in connection with which the Department of Finance can help. Everybody interested in the horse-breeding industry from the point of view of the country knows that the Department of Agriculture is vitally interested in this matter all the time. If we are to have a national stud, it is the Department of Agriculture, I assume, that will exercise control over it. It is the Department of Agriculture that will have to be consulted when certain sires are to be licensed and so on. As this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will be a permanent feature of our legislation for the benefit of the horse-breeding industry, apart from horse racing, I suggest that the Minister for Agriculture should be consulted in connection with every section of the Bill, rather than this one section.
Section 13 states:
"The board may, with the consent of the governing bodies, establish, equip and maintain racecourses, and for this purpose may acquire by agreement or lease any land (including any racecourse)."
Again I want to protest. I say that the governing bodies should not be consulted at all; that if the board is to get authority from anybody, it should be from the Minister who is responsible for this Bill. I am satisfied that everybody connected in any way, directly or indirectly, with the matters dealt with in the Bill would be more satisfied to have the Minister for Finance deal with this matter, in conjunction with the Minister for Agriculture, rather than these governing bodies. Sub-sections 2, 3 and 4 of Section 13 ought to be operated subject to the consent of the Minister for Finance, even if it is only formal. There is a levy to be imposed and certain expenditure to be incurred. Nobody knows what the operations of the board will be, whether the board will acquire racecourses from private owners or undertake to equip new ones. If they are to spend large sums of money in a variety of ways, I think the sanctioning authority should not be these governing bodies to which I have a very distinct objection. I think everybody in the House will have the same objection from the point of view that they cannot be expected to have the national approach to this matter that ordinary people in this country have.
In Section 15 there are a number of paragraphs and I suggest that, in connection with these, there should be an overriding section or sub-section providing that all these things can be done subject to the protection of private racecourses and in such a way that the public will not be exploited. There should be some protection against unlimited activities which may have adverse effects on some interests or individuals.
Section 18 deals with the methods to be adopted in connection with the control and the finances and books of this board. It states that the board shall furnish to the Minister such information with regard to the exercise of its powers and duties as the Minister may from time to time require. I wonder is the Minister satisfied, in the event of criticism or complaints in the future, that Parliament has the power or the right to raise a question concerning the operations of the board. We all know that boards have been set up from time to time with certain powers and that these boards are subject to the Minister of the Department concerned. When a Deputy raises a question here, however, or wants to discuss a certain matter, he is told: "The Bill gives this power to this board. The Minister may get the information, but Parliament has no further function in the matter, and you cannot raise it here." I want to get an assurance from the Minister that, in the event of genuine grievances having to be aired or genuine complaints having to be brought to the notice of the Minister, or of the House wishing to discuss certain matters, the power will not be withheld from Parliament to raise or discuss these matters.
Section 21 is a very short section, and when I read it first I thought it sounded very funny. I have, however, since been referred to another Act, which had the very same, or almost the same, section in it—the Pigs and Bacon Act. As the House knows, I have very little experience of bacon and pigs and, consequently, I can be excused if I have not gleaned any information from looking up that Act. Section 21 reads:—
"An offence under any section contained in this part of this Act may be prosecuted by the board."
I have spoken to a colleague, who is a barrister, who tells me that that is quite a usual legal phrase. I should like to see the word "offender" substituted for "offence", because I cannot see how you can prosecute an offence except in so far as you commit it yourself. To that extent, I can understand it, but I am told I am wrong, and I suppose the draftsman is definitely right.
Section 22 may create a very serious situation. Sub-section 3 states:
"Where a person who is not the holder of a course-betting permit is found carrying on the business of a bookmaker at any authorised racecourse, any person acting under the direction of the board or the executive of that authorised racecourse may remove such first-mentioned person therefrom and for this purpose may use such force as may be reasonably necessary."
I hope I am wrong when I read into that that the board may have its own officials who may use force in ejecting people with whom they have disputes or whom they have reason to eject. I would like to be assured that, when it comes to physical violence, the board will have the dignity to call for the assistance of the Guards and that we will not be faced with the spectacle of a racing board with its own private police force or gang at every race meeting. I only read that into this section and would like to be assured that force, where necessary, will be used through the Guards.
We all know that there are Guards on duty at race meetings who can satisfactorily deal with anything that may arise. Surely, if a man happens to be a bookmaker or a member of the public who offends, he is at least entitled as a citizen to be removed by the forces of the law rather than by some private individual whom he never saw before and who, possibly, may not even wear a uniform.