Deputy Quinn made the point that experience had shown that some of the legislation passed in this House over the years setting up semi-State bodies had been found to be defective in that it was too restrictive or limiting on the boards concerned and that it was necessary for Ministers to come back to the House from time to time to extend their powers. This is true and there is no doubt that 20 years ago the thinking was that we should restrict the powers of these boards. There was a certain jealousy about the setting up of the boards and the extent of the powers they should get. For that reason there are very considerable restrictions, even in an Act as recent as the Export Promotion Act, 1959, which set up CTT. There are an enormous number of restrictions which we have discovered in recent times and many things which CTT would like to consider doing are in some doubt, even though they might be obvious things to the average observer.
I do not think anybody here today, 21 years later, would have any objection to an export promotion board doing such things but, because that Act — and I take that one specifically — was drafted in the kind of way that the proposers of this amendment are asking us to accept now, those difficulties have arisen. On the other hand if the Export Promotion Act, 1959 had been drafted as subsection (1) of section 4 of this Bill is drafted then there would not be any problems. The same applies to many other organisations. Perhaps the proposers and those who inspired them may not realise that from everybody's point of view the broader the drafting the better it is from the point of view of the board concerned or the company concerned or the industry which they are trying to help. This is true in something like the film industry because it changes quite rapidly from year to year and what might be appropriate in 1980 as we discuss and pass this Bill might be quite inappropriate in 1985 and might be positively harmful by 1990. But under this subsection as drafted any developments in any direction in regard to how the industry might more beneficially be assisted and promoted are catered for.
Having made that general point, which I suggest to the three Deputies concerned is a valid one—and they should accept it—I come to the specifics of what they say. Their amendment can be divided into three parts because it adds three bits to the subsection as it is here. The first one is that the board shall assist in the promotion and distribution of films made in the State. That is the first part of the new part; that is essentially the amendment, I dealt with this the last day in my reply to the debate on 16 October:
There is a great danger that if the board were to set themselves up as a distributing board also and take over responsibility for distribution they would have landed on their doorstep many films which may not be easy to distribute in the difficult world of film distribution. In such a case if a film was not distributed successfully the board would be blamed. Film distribution is not like selling an ordinary commodity; it is a very specialised and narrow area which is controlled worldwide by a small number of companies. It is not the kind of area in which an Irish semi-State body would necessarily be successful for quite a while.
What I said then holds true now. I would not be prepared — and I think the House on reflection would agree with me — to impose from the start a statutory obligation on a board such as this to distribute throughout the world films that are just planked on their table. What I would envisage is that they would give every assistance that they can. I would hope they and other people in Ireland in the semi-State bodies who have some experience and have had some limited success at least in terms of worldwide distribution will help. They are the NFSI and RTE. Certainly this board will co-ordinate all these efforts. But it would not be appropriate to have in this section the phraseology used here, "shall assist in the promotion", because if they are handed a film which they say is not capable of distribution outside the country it will be open to the producer of that film to go to the High Court and seek an order compelling the board to exercise their statutory functions. For example, CTT are not obliged to assist every exporter who comes to them. If they look at his case and decide his product is useless they will tell him to go away, that there is nothing they can do about it. It would be otherwise under this amendment and it would be unreasonable. Distribution is a very difficult area. There is no question about it. It is important that the board should seek to build up expertise and experience and contacts in respect of this area at the earliest possible date but I could not accept, and I am sure the House on reflection would agree, that I could not accept a situation where they were statutorily compelled to distribute films right from the start. There was no such provision in the Film Industry Bill, 1970, and it was never really suggested until very recently when some people saw that it might be an easy way out of a difficulty that obviously smaller producers of films would have.
The second part of this amendment, the new part, relates to the question of a film archive. I made some references to that on the last day too. I said:
Again while I recognise that the establishment of a film archive has merit and that this is another matter which the board will have to consider, I feel nevertheless that there should be no statutory obligation on the board to get involved in this area at the very start. The establishment of an archive could be fairly expensive and could present certain technical/administrative difficulties and therefore I feel that it would be more prudent to await an in-depth study of this whole question. In my opinion, the main preoccupation of the film board should be to get films made and if they become too deeply involved at an early stage in ancillary matters, it could have a detrimental impact on their operations.
Again I do not see any real need to revise that view. Quite clearly the board, under the general powers given to them in this section, have the power to establish a film archive. There is no question about that. It is a question of whether or not to put a specific statutory obligation on them to do it. If, for example, when they were established they felt they should not start spending a large sum of money setting up an archive in the first two years, should we put them into a situation where they can be compelled by somebody who wants his films stored to establish an archive? I do not think so. The board should be allowed to exercise their judgment independently on that, and with the very limited amount of money that inevitably will be at their disposal to establish in the general interests of the industry a reasonable order of priorities, and since their main priority will be the making of films, I do not think it would be appropriate to put this obligation on them as a statutory obligation because there is no doubt that however desirable this might be, and I suppose we all recognise that, it is very much an ancillary activity from any stand point, a kind of a luxury item to some extent compared with the necessity to get films made and to give employment and so on.
On the other hand, this part of the amendment is drafted differently because it says they may do it and it is of course unnecessary for the section to say they may do it because the general clauses of the section enable them to do it anyway. But because it says "may" and to show my goodwill I am not prepared to say no to it. It is meaningless and unnecessary and a bit prolix but I have often accepted prolix and unnecessary amendments to show that I am not being unreasonable in regard to them. Because it is worded differently from the earlier part of it I am prepared to accept it. I hope I am not offending the draftsman's good sense of drafting but I am prepared to accept a prolix amendment because it does not add to anything that is already there and it does not create an obligation on the board. They have, of course, full power to do it.
The third part of this amendment is the last sentence in it, "Specifically the board shall have as one of its primary functions the assistance and promotion of Irish film culture." I am sure a bevy of lawyers—six or eight of them one must employ nowadays if one goes to the High Court, two Senior Counsel, one junior and one solicitor on each side—would knock a few lucrative days out of arguing about that sentence, because I cannot imagine anything more vague. I am disappointed that my friend, Deputy Kelly, is not here today because he would be very eloquent about this one. He was very good on Second Stage at deriding the whole notion of what is contained here. I do not agree with all of what he said, but some of what he said was relevant to this. I am sorry he is not here today to deride it on my behalf. It is hopelessly vague and likely to create some problems for us within the Community.
I made the point at some length in my opening speech on the last occasion that of course Irish film producers will get considerable assistance from this board; that was one of the principal reasons for setting it up. But the board will have to be given reasonable discretion to exercise their independent, commercial and artistic judgment. I am not prepared in advance to tie down the hands of any board so that they have to do specific things. Irish film making, like any other Irish activity, should rise or fall on its merits or abilities. I am not prepared, and I strongly advise this House not to direct by statute, any board to devote a high proportion of their very limited resources to specific projects thereby directing them to devote a very low proportion only to certain other projects.
I have discussed this matter with various interests in this industry. There is by no means unanimity in regard to the point made. It comes from a very limited circle indeed. The board will administer what is essentially a circulating fund. The nature of a circulating fund is that at least some of the investments will have to be able to show a sufficient profit to maintain the size of the fund for the benefit of everybody. It would defeat the whole purpose of the fund, and therefore of the board and of the legislation, if a situation were to obtain in which the board were forced to invest a high proportion of their money in activities not likely to prove commercially viable. It is not in anybody's interest to do that because the fund would be extinct within a very short time. What I would hope to foresee is a judicious mix of, hopefully, commercial and profitable activities with ones which are likely not to be commercially viable or profitable. In that way the profitable projects will carry the unprofitable ones to the benefit of everybody. On reflection I think people will accept that that is the obvious and only way to do it. That is the way such funds have been utilised in other countries, and with some success. One must mix the commercial successes with the others for the purpose of developing an industry.
Also one cannot disregard the interests of the National Film Studios of Ireland, the next Bill on the Order Paper. Unhappily that studio has been commercially and financially very unsuccessful over the past number of years and has been losing over £500,000 a year. It will not continue to lose £500,000 a year because, if it does not get straightened out very quickly at least in part as a result of this legislation, I shall, as they say, pull the plug. I do not see why the taxpayer should continue to lose more per annum on this operation than I think the place cost the first day——