On behalf of the Minister for Agriculture, I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The Bill replaces the Greyhound Industry Bill, 1955, which was awaiting the Report Stage in the Dáil at the dissolution early in 1957. Accordingly, it perished with the then House. Explanatory notes on the provisions of the Bill have been circulated for the convenience of Deputies, and the notes include particulars of the differences between the present Bill and its predecessor.
The general purpose of the Bill is to improve the system of regulating the breeding, coursing and racing of greyhounds and to promote the quite important export trade in greyhounds. The position of the Irish Coursing Club is dealt with in the Bill. I should explain that in its early years this organisation had to deal only with the regulation of breeding and coursing. The advent of greyhound racing introduced a growing commercial element which has shaped the industry as we know it to-day and which indeed has given rise to the major problems with which this Bill is concerned.
As is perhaps generally known, the rapid expansion of greyhound racing in Britain created something of a boom in the industry here and a big increase took place in the export of greyhounds from this country. These exports rose in value, for example, from about £77,000 in 1938 and £130,000 in 1942 to about £733,000 in 1945 and over £1,000,000 in each of the two following years. With this rapid expansion events proved that the Irish Coursing Club was not providing, or indeed was unable to provide, the degree of control necessary.
In these circumstances, an Advisory Committee on the Greyhound industry was appointed by the then Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Dillon, on the 21st February, 1951, with terms of reference as follows:—
"To ascertain and report on the position respecting coursing, greyhound racing, greyhound breeding and other related activities and such measures, if any, as are considered desirable in the national interest for the better control and development thereof."
The Advisory Committee, which reported in 1952, summarised the position in the concluding section of its report—page 83, paragraph 188— as follows:—
"We have found that no branch of the industry as at present conducted is entirely free from criticism. In connection with breeding and coursing, many well-defined existing rules have not been enforced and have gradually come to be ignored, thus giving rise to irregularities and more or less serious abuses. But it is in connection with greyhound racing that the most serious abuses have been practised with impunity."
Having said that, the committee went on to say:—
"The greyhound industry, in the absence of an export trade in greyhounds, cannot be regarded as an economic proposition. It is, therefore, in the national interest that this trade should be encouraged and developed on a sound and reputable basis. We believe, however, that the full potential of an export trade will not be attained on the basis of greyhound racing and allied activities as at present conducted."
In paragraph 186, page 81, the Advisory Committee had previously stated that its report as a whole is based on the following main recommendations:—
"(1) The reorganisation of the Irish Coursing Club.
(2) The establishment of a control board.
(3) The transfer to the board from the Irish Coursing Club of control of greyhound racing.
(4) The installation of totalisators on city tracks and the imposition of a levy on the betting turnover thereon.
(5) The imposition of a levy on course betting on all tracks.
(6) Supervision by the control board of sales and exports of greyhounds."
Provisions to give effect to these and other recommendations of the Advisory Committee are contained in the Bill. The two central features of the measure are the establishment of the Greyhound Industry Board and the reconstitution of the Irish Coursing Club to regulate in their respective spheres the various branches of the greyhound industry and to provide for its co-ordinated development on a sound basis.
As regards the setting up of a board for the industry, the Advisory Committee's report stated in paragraph 136 on page 56:—
"We have been impressed with the demand from practically all quarters for a control board to be established by an Act of the Oireachtas, somewhat on the lines of the Racing Board——"
that is, under the 1945 Act for horse racing, and also:—
"...We were informed that the Irish Coursing Club is doubtful as to whether it is legally entitled to take the obvious steps to deal with certain abuses and gathered that the club, while naturally desirous of continuing more or less in its present form, would welcome the establishment of a control board."
As regards the reorganisation of the Irish Coursing Club, the Advisory Committee reported in paragraph 126 as follows:—
"With few exceptions, witnesses criticised in greater or lesser degree the administration of the Irish Coursing Club and the standing committee. The criticism was not confined to any particular interest, but that coming from representatives of greyhound breeders was definitely the most severe."
The report then went on to say in the next following paragraph—paragraph 127:—
"While we feel bound to agree that many of the criticisms directed against the Irish Coursing Club are well founded, we also feel that its faults have been largely due to the assumption of functions which were not anticipated by its founders and that the necessary reorganisation of the club did not keep pace with the newly assumed functions and increasing responsibilities."
Finally, in paragraph 128, the committee said:—
"We therefore propose the continuance of the Irish Coursing Club in a reorganised form which we deem to be more representative of the greyhound industry than has heretofore been the case."
In respect of the existing organisation of the club, the criticisms of the Advisory Committee focussed on the preponderant influence exercised by a large block of permanent "elected" members, that is, members elected at general meetings from amongst consistent supporters of coursing, as compared with the "representative" members, that is, members comprising one member each appointed for three-year periods by the affiliated clubs and tracks; and the fact that the influence of persons directly connected with race tracks both in the general body of the club and on its standing committee had become disproportionate.
Under the Bill, the reconstituted Irish Coursing Club is to concern itself primarily with the supervision of greyhound breeding and coursing, subject to the general authority of the Greyhound Industry Board, and the board itself will exercise direct responsibility in regard to the control of greyhound racing, training of greyhounds for reward, public sales of greyhounds, and certain matters relating to the export of greyhounds.
To come to the Bill itself, Part I of the Bill consists of some provisions of a general introductory character. The only point I need mention in regard to them is that under sub-sections (4) and (5) of Section 5, every regulation made by the Greyhound Industry Board, and every rule made by the Irish Coursing Club relating to the racing or training of greyhounds, must be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and may be annulled by either House.
Perhaps I should draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Greyhound Industry Board makes regulations and the Coursing Club only make rules. That distinction runs through the whole Bill and will enable members, if I happen to refer either to the rules or regulations, to identify the appropriate body concerned. I should also point out that the rules and regulations must be laid before the House and may be annulled. This provision should enable the House to scrutinise, if necessary, the operations of the board and the club. It gives the House itself a great measure of control to ensure that the board and the club will operate within the terms and in the spirit of the Bill.
Part II of the Bill deals with the establishment and the general functioning of the Greyhound Industry Board. I should like to say at this stage that, in accordance with the practice adopted under other Bills, it is proposed that a title in Irish should be substituted for the title "Greyhound Industry Board" which appears in the Bill. I intend to table an amendment to deal with this matter on the Committee Stage. The Bill differs——