Before the adjournment of the debate I had just outlined the objectives of Bord na gCapall established in 1970. I am now asking if the Minister is seriously suggesting that his own Department can undertake all these functions in addition to the many functions they already have. The danger is that with the abolition of Bord na gCapall and with other more influential areas of agriculture competing for the attention of the Department of Agriculture and Food, the non-thoroughbred area will be allowed to deteriorate even further and will virtually wither and die.
As I acknowledged earlier, no one would dispute that Bord na gCapall did not have the success they deserved. There seems to have been a number of personality clashes in the organisation and a conflict between the board members and some of the staff. The press drew great hilarity from a series of events in 1987 when it was disclosed that a number of stallions bought by the board were found to be defective in an area of some importance to stallions. This episode was seized upon by the Minister who used it to justify his U-turn on the Fianna Fáil pledge to reorganise the board. The matter was not nearly as clearcut as the way in which it was presented by the media or the Minister as anyone who had any real knowledge of breeding would acknowledge.
One of the main reasons for the board's difficulties was that they were under-funded and under-resourced. In 1985, for instance, the last year for which an annual report has been published, they got less than £500,000 from the State and had only a staff of 15. This is probably less than it costs the State to keep Government Ministers in State cars and supplied with official drivers. It was a tiny sum given the scale of the task they faced. This is the usual attitude of Fianna Fáil and Coalition Governments to the State sector. They refuse to provide adequate finance and resources and complain then that they cannot do the job.
There is another important aspect to this Bill. Although it is entitled, Bord na gCapall (Dissolution) Bill, it actually repeals the entire contents of the Horse Industry Act, 1970. A particularly important aspect of the 1970 Act was Part III which dealt with the licensing of riding establishments. If the 1970 Act is repealed, presumably Part III is also repealed and there would be no provision for the licensing of riding establishments. This would be very serious. The 1970 Act set out matters to be taken into consideration when deciding whether to issue licences. These include measures related to fire protection, treatment of horses, disease control, etc. There is also the question of safety.
Horse riding is a growing leisure activity and one that should be encouraged. There is an area of tourist potential there to be developed. Horse riding can also be a dangerous business, especially if the horses are not properly trained and if it is not done under qualified supervision. It is surely in the public interest that there should be provision for the licensing of these establishments, yet if this Bill is passed there will be no statutory provision for such licensing.
The final point I want to make is that the treatment of the employees of the board was very shabby. Many of the employees had served the board loyally for a long period but their interests received little attention when the Minister made a decision to chop the board and, indeed, they could not even get a meeting with him to clarify their position. We are unhappy with the Bill, with its contents and the way it has been brought to the House long after the board has been scrapped. Unless we get satisfactory answers to the questions raised, we will be voting against this Bill.