An Bord Bia Bill, 1994: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

Last evening, as I commenced my contribution, I pointed out that the Minister had effectively wheeled a Trojan horse into the House and that, apart from organising trade fairs — to borrow from the Minister's speech — to get the leprechaun, shamrock and harp on the one stand the functions of this new board are far from clear. This Bill is a tragic, wasted opportunity. As the Minister said, its origins go back to the Culliton report and to the subsequent report of the expert group on the food industry which made detailed recommendations on the subject. Those who were involved in the Culliton review group and the expert group on the food industry must be sadly disappointed with the Bill as it falls far short of the detailed and excellent recommendations of those bodies in their reports.

This is a window dressing exercise; we are pretending we are establishing a worthwhile body in this most important food and agricultural sector. We should have waited until we were in a position to present a comprehensive Bill and adopt an integrated approach from the plough to the plate in relation to food production, processing, promotion and marketing — the entire food chain — instead of trying to fool those involved in business by putting in place a high powered sales team. Apart from this, I cannot find any other functions which the Bill will confer on the new board. There is nothing wrong with putting a high powered sales team in place but we need to integrate far more in this vital industry which contributes over £2 billion in GNP.

The Minister mentioned that a greater degree of unity is needed in the activities of State agencies as regards promotion and market development for food products, particularly overseas, and that a number of our fellow member states of the European Union have single agencies for food promotion which operate with considerable success. He spoke about promotion and marketing; yet he directed his comments at promotion only. He either believes that promotion and marketing are one and the same or that An Bord Bia will be responsible for promotion but he cannot have it both ways. As far as I can see, An Bord Bia will only have a role in relation to promotion — the super sales team.

The Minister said:

I expect that plan to develop synergies between the different food promotion activities and to develop also "an overall promotion strategy which, making full use of the Irish image, would have a major impact on markets abroad".

That quotation was borrowed from the report of the expert group on the food industry. Does the Minister accept there is a difference between promotion and marketing and my point that the Bill deals only with promotion, in other words high powered sales teams? What role, if any, will the new board have in relation to marketing? It may well have none because I do not think the European Union will allow us to support efforts to market branded products as distinct from generic food products. This would be contrary to the best rules of fair play in the European Union. We have been frustrated by these rules for some time. It is hard to explain to young people the reason we cannot market Irish made food products and run "Buy Irish" campaigns which were successful in the past. I understand this is not acceptable under the rules of the European Union; we are supposed to promote European produce. If that is the case will the European Union allow An Bord Bia to market branded products? I do not think so. I do not see the board having a role in relation to marketing. Perhaps it will be able to make up the rules as it goes along or, to put it more politely, to determine its functions. To borrow the Minister's words, it will stop the squabbling at food fairs and ensure that everyone is on the same trade stand so that we get value for money.

The Bill proposes to combine the present functions of CBF and the food unit of An Bord Tráchtála and to include the export promotion functions of An Bord Glas in relation to edible horticultural products. Despite the recommendations of all the expert groups who reported on this most important area in recent years, An Bord Iascaigh Mhara is not to be included. Fish, fish processing and value added fish products are extremely important but, more importantly, have great potential for growth if properly organised and structured. I have no doubt the Minister will tell us that a review of the functions of BIM is taking place within the Department of the Marine and that when the review is complete and gathering dust on some shelf An Bord Iascaigh Mhara will not form part of An Bord Bia because the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry lost that battle with the Minister for the Marine. There is no point in trying to fool any of us as it will not work. It makes a nonsense of the concept not to include the fish processing sector in an integrated approach to food promotion and marketing.

What is worse is that An Bord Bainne will have nothing to do with An Bord Bia. An Bord Bainne is an extremely successful co-operative which promotes and markets dairy produce but it will not be included in the terms of reference of the food board. The reason that will be given is that it is a co-operative and can deal only with semi-State structures. Is this the truth? Will An Bord Bainne continue to carry out its present functions?

The Minister stated:

With that exception, An Bord Bia will be responsible for promotion and market development for the whole range of Irish food and drink products.

Unknown to those who run An Bord Bainne, its promotion and market development activities in the dairy sector will now be run by An Bord Bia. If this is not true, the Minister misled the House and if it is he should tell An Bord Bainne because it does not realise it. Either way the Minister has a problem.

In relation to the Kerrygold promotion, will there be duplication? Are the promotion and marketing development activities of the dairy industry on which Kerrygold have spent approximately £6 million to be duplicated or run by An Bord Bia? I ask the Minister to clarify that matter quickly.

Will dairy farmers be asked to pay a levy on a gallon of milk to fund An Bord Bia? The board will not receive any extra Exchequer moneys; it will be funded by way of levies, grants-in-aid, European funding and charges for its services. If the board is to be responsible for the promotion and market development of the dairy industry will dairy farmers have to pay a levy? Will the Minister answer that question? Will there be a levy on a gallon of milk or some other product to fund An Bord Bia? The National Dairy Council set up recently to promote the consumption of dairy products at home is doing an excellent job. Will responsibility for it rest with An Bord Bia? Is this an integrated approach to food marketing? As much responsibility lies outside the board it is difficult to see the point of creating the structure proposed in the Bill. The Bill recommends an integrated State aided agency, but there is some confusion about the areas which rest inside and outside the board.

I do not have any difficulty with the funding except to say that the Minister bought peace with the IFA and CBF by giving assurances that the subsidiary livestock committee will take over, lock stock and barrel, the functions of CBF. We are given to understand that the levies CBF receive will accrue to the subsidiary livestock committee to spend on the functions which are the responsibility of CBF at present. The Minister knows that is not the case and that the Bill cannot be interpreted in that manner. The subsidiary committee will have the role of collecting the levy, but unless the board decides to allow the committee to spend it, the committee may not be able to do so. We do not know if the board will make that decision, that is not provided for in the Bill. CBF has been turned into a collection agency, given a different title and the Minister has bought peace with it in order to have this legislation passed. I am not fooled by this and neither are many others. The ICMSA is extremely concerned about the Minister's intentions in respect of the livestock subsidiary committee and it has every right to be.

What independence will the committee have? Will it be able to spend money? There is a minefield of bureaucracy attached to this. Staff will be transferred from CBF to the board of An Bord Bia and not to the subsidiary committee that will take over the functions of CBF. What staff will be available to the subsidiary committee? Will it be pruned and streamlined to the extent that it will not be able to carry out its functions even if functions are transferred to it from the board? Many people could be buying a pig in a poke with assurances that appear to have been given behind closed doors. If those assurances were not given I fail to understand how reputable groups, such as CBF and the IFA, would buy what this Bill purports to do in relation to the livestock subsidiary committee and the decimation of CBF.

Many of those remarks could be directed at the other subsidiary committees. The Minister also proposes to set up a consumer foods committee. This area, which includes the catering sector, is very important. Experts have pointed out that this is an area of real growth in terms of food production and value added. There is great potential for growth in the sale of catering products such as biscuits, ready meats, pizzas, breakfast cereals and so on. We do not know what independence, staffing or funding the proposed committee will have. To whom will it report? Will it have a chief executive officer or will it have to report to the chief executive officer of the board? What autonomy will these committees have?

Is it right to fragment the industry by having so many committees? Such a fragmented, bureaucratic structure may not be the right way forward for An Bord Bia. Why did the Minister not opt for a cradle-to-grave or plough-to-plate approach, such as in the Foods and Drugs Administration in the United States? The people in the US have such confidence in the FDA that it only has to say "yes" and there is no further concern about the issue it investigates. It has only to ban the marketing of a product and people can be assured it will be banned.

We need a body that is held in such esteem that it commands the confidence of the demanding consumer. The FDA has managed to do that and to corner public assurance in the US. I am disappointed that the opportunity was missed to extend this so-called integrated approach and adopt an overall approach to quality control which would include health and safety, quality assurance, hygiene and many other issues that are crucial in preserving our quality food image. Why did the Minister let that opportunity slip? Could he not get agreement from the Minister for Health? He has fallen out with the Minister for Tourism and Trade, Deputy McCreevy, because responsibility for this board lies with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. He appears to have fallen foul of the Minister for the Marine because BIM got its way and to have lost the debate on health, safety and hygiene with the Minister for Health. What are we left with? It is no wonder I consider this Bill to be so inadequate as to be a waste of time.

There are many other variables with which we must concern ourselves in terms of the future of food production and increasing value added here. It is most important that we get this right. The overall importance of the food industry in safeguarding our rural economy both by maintaining viable farming and providing non-farm jobs in rural areas is crucial in a post-CAP reform era and with the impact of GATT from January. CAP and GATT have concentrated our minds on the quantitative controls and limitations in production of main farm enterprises, but we must create jobs in rural areas to ensure that non-farm jobs replace those who are leaving the land.

The status and health management of our herds is also important. The recent threat of the Germans to ban imports of our beef concentrated our minds on how vulnerable our markets could be if some of our so-called friendly neighbouring countries in the EU decided to look after their domestic producers to massage an electoral lobby, as in the case of Germany. I commend the Government and CBF in that regard. I am delighted I raised this issue on the Adjournment of the House before the Minister made a public statement on the matter. I supported the Minister in tackling the German authorities on their threat of restricting our beef exports. No matter how well we get our homework done and the structure of the industry right we will always be vulnerable to those who want to destroy our increased market share in Europe.

There is an ongoing threat of a major accident at Sellafield, particularly with the commissioning of THORP. God help us if something should go wrong, although the chances are remote, but we thought that of Chernobyl. If such an accident occurred our argiculture, agri-food business and efforts in marketing, sales and green image would be gone for decades in one fell swoop. Are we insured against that? Have we argued our case adequately with the UK authorities or the authorities in Brussels? I do not believe we have. What case will we have against the UK authorities if a questionmark hangs over the quality of Irish food because of a minor or major accident at Sellafield?

I do not know what protection will be afforded to our major agricultural and agri-food industries? I have yet to be convinced that the Government realises the seriousness of the issue. Apart from human health and our environment, our two main industries of agriculture and food and tourism are extremely vulnerable.

There are implications resulting from the changes in GATT, the US rules on growth promoters in beef and the export of US beef to the European market. We no longer use growth promoters and rightly so. The consumer demands a quality premium product. What are the EU plans and our Minister's plans in this area to meet like with like, to have a level playing field in beef production when US beef producers can use growth promoters and have a greater, more efficient and cheaper production of a quality product? How can we compete with that position as price will often win out? If they can produce lean beef on the supermarket shelves of Europe more cheaply than we can, how can we justify allowing the US to use growth promoters when our farmers and those in Europe have rightly agreed not to use them? The same rules should apply.

Pig production is an area of growth potential and we produce quality pig meat. The Japanese market offers great opportunities to this industry. Why should our pig producers continue to labour under a £6 per pig price differential to that of their mainland European competitors? Our compound feed is £27 per tonne more expensive than in Europe. That is a direct result of CAP and the grain regime. When will the feed equalisation grants scheme the Minister is "looking at" be in place? Our industry could develop and capture the European market, but we do not appear to be doing much in this area.

I need not remind the Minister that we are the only island nation in Europe. We should reconsider the EU animal and plant health directive in terms of risks to the excellent health status of plants and our herds. Should our country not be used as an isolation unit for the European Union in the event of a major outbreak of disease? If we had appropriate rules and perhaps some derogation our island status would ensure a nucleus of clean animal and plant stock. We should carefully consider how we are bound under the present animal and plant health directive. There is a missed opportunity in this area. We have a special case to make and the Minister and his Department have failed in this regard.

Orderly marketing and seasonality are other major problems. Orderly marketing is required to ensure a regular supply to our meat processors. The retention periods for the special beef premium and other issues have created scarcities at certain times of the year and promoted gluts at others, with the 100 day retention periods. I believe the Minister has plans to resolve that problem by having several retention periods throughout the year for some Euro schemes. Clarification is required in this area, particularly in respect of the special beef premium and others.

There are many other areas involved; I touched on only a few. I would like the Minister to reply to all our specific questions as it is important that we understand why the Bill is worthy of support and does not represent a major missed opportunity. The Minister should explain why he did not go down the road recommended by Culliton and the expert group and why so many of the food agencies are still outside the ambit of the Bill. It is difficult to understand why this is the case. Our food processing industry is allocated £30 million from the Government and Europe in investment aid. It is a major industry with huge potential. We need to integrate our approach towards State support services and this Bill fails to do that.

How much money will be included in the Community Support Framework for research in the food industry, one of the great Cinderella areas? The Government appears not to understand the concept of or need for research to ensure that in five to ten years we will be at the races, as it were, and lead the field in food production and quality control, ranging from producer to processor to marketing and retail outlets. Research has been neglected. It has been talked about at liaison committees recently. Does the Government understand the importance of agricultural research at Teagasc level through to the different agencies within the industry and State agencies in the many areas related to food production? I am not sure it does.

I wish to refer to the role of veterinary surgeons. We have an excellent system of checking animals at meat factories, post mortem and anti-mortem checks. That level of detailed examination is not carried out in other countries. Such a standard is critical if we wish to maintain our quality image. It was critical in selling our case to the Germans when the recent BSE scare arose. Veterinary surgeons have no quality control role in An Bord Bia; it is amazing that they have been excluded. Regarding safety, quality, hygiene, product assurance, testing and quality control I do not believe An Bord Bia will have a function according to the terms of reference to the Bill.

I agree with the Culliton report that we must strive for a leading and unique position in Europe as a producer of high quality and environmentally friendly safe food. We must "establish the highest standards of safety and integrity in the Irish food chain". The policy review group suggested a unified food safety inspection service which is not provided for by this Bill. The Bill falls so short of what is required and what Culliton and the reports of expert groups detailed as necessary that it is merely a window dressing exercise and does not deserve support.

I welcome the spirit of the Bill but it is presented by the wrong ministry. Extending the influence of State institutions to bring about development is not a positive step. I would rather see a Bill to reform taxation or one which would encourage enterprise. If State institutions are to be changed, radical proposals need to be implemented. Tinkering will create uncertainty without beneficial effect.

We, in the Progressive Democrats, support the view expressed by Senator Feargal Quinn in the Moriarty report. He stated:

So long as food is a function of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, food will remain subordinate to agriculture. At best our vision of food will be restricted to the agricultural horizon. At worst, food will be allowed develop only to the extent that is serves the needs of agriculture.

The Bill, if it is necessary, should be presented by the Minister with responsibility for trade and commerce.

This Bill will be presented to us as a step in the implementation of the Culliton report. Let us look at the facts. The Culliton report said in one of its headlines "It is time for the Government to take hard political decisions needed for a decisive reform of the taxation system". These decisions have not been taken. It said we should advance ahead of other countries in environmental protection. I see no evidence of any will to implement this. It said in relation to State agencies: "the activities of the agencies are now less significant for industrial performance" but recommended nevertheless that industrial policy intervention needed to be delivered in a more integrated and cost-effective manner.

The report recommended that a new agency to oversee the development of Irish industry be set up. It would bring together the services provided by the old IDA, An Bord Tráchtála and Eolas. This agency has not been set up. An Bord Tráchtála has been left as it is, but two new bodies, Forfás and Forbairt, have been set up to carry out the functions of the IDA and Eolas — moving the deck chairs. There is no evidence that the new structures will be any better than the old, and the radical solution recommended by Culliton has been rejected. The Government, under pressure from various institutional interest groups, funked the issues.

It set up 27 — 30 if one includes the new local authorities in Dublin — local development councils whose functions cut across those of the IDA and Shannon Development. It has multiplied significantly the number of board members, board meetings and jobs for the boys, but these changes have meant that those trying to provide public services in industrial development have to watch their backs for inter-institutional squabbles rather than getting on with the job.

The food industry has always been a special case. Culliton employed special consultants to look at this area. It recommended a national plan for food be developed and a review group to prepare such was set up. They did good work and there is some evidence, in the allocating of Structural Fund money for food research, that elements of this plan are being implemented.

If the Minister wished to give stimulus to the food industry, he could have taken the blueprint of the original Culliton report and amalgamated the developmental activities of the IDA, the research and development activities in food carried out by Teagasc and the promotional work carried out by Bord Tráchtála, BIM and CBF. Then he would really have a Bord Bia — a development arm of his Department — worthy of the name. This Bill, which merely proposes amalgamation of the food marketing activities of Bord Tráchtála and CBF and the minuscule foreign activities of An Bord Glas, is hardly worth the effort. What evidence is there that there has been in the past significant duplication of work by these bodies? I understand that there were reasonable working arrangements between them, but in the period before this Bill is passed there will be suspicions, angling for position and so on, none of which is in the public interest.

Most of the Bill is innocuous. It is difficult to see what is achieved by it that could not be achieved with the existing institutions. I note that the functions of the board are concerned with marketing of Irish food and livestock, but exports are not mentioned. It is implied that the board will also be concerned with marketing Irish food in the home market, as were CBF and the former Irish Goods Council. Why then is it only the export promotion activities of An Bord Glas which are to be included? Why not their promotional activities on the home market? There is an inconsistency here.

In section 15 there are very specific requirements regarding the make-up of the subsidiary board for meat and livestock. Sections 14 and 16 are not as specific. Farmers, meat exporters, butchers and livestock exporters are all to be represented, but would it not be appropriate that a marketing board be market led and have representation of consumer interests? This is a perfect example of the production led outlook of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry which Senator Quinn warned against. I would recommend consumer representation on the main board and all its subsidiary boards as of right and we will be proposing an amendment to that effect.

Section 26 is nonsense. The functions of the board include market surveys and market intelligence. Information for food companies is the essential purpose of the board, yet section 26 prevents the disclosure of any information relating to any company without the company's consent. If, for example, Unilever is about to launch a new margarine, this information cannot be given to Irish food companies without Unilever's consent.

I am also concerned about section 33 which deals with numbers and pay of staff. Similar provisions are in force in most other semi-State bodies and the principle is not in question. In practice, however, the Department of Finance inhibits initiative throughout the public sector. There are examples where Teagasc has won contracts and been awarded money from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry for food research but cannot get permission from the Department of Finance for the necessary staff to carry out the contract. We support, welcome and encourage initiatives in the semi-State as well as the private sector, but the detailed control on all aspects of staffing exercised by the Department of Finance is a real barrier to initiative. I fear a similar result with An Bord Bia. Good marketing men and women are expensive. Will An Bord Bia be allowed to hire them at the going rate or will it be restricted to paying too little and only getting second best?

The main institutional recommendation of the expert group on the food industry is that a single agency — An Bord Bia — should be set up to coordinate the promotion and marketing of Irish food products abroad. The functions of the board are set out in section 8 of this Bill. This recommendation immediately generated tension between the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Department of Tourism and Trade about which should be responsible for the new board. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry won that battle, but he has yet to win the war.

Critics of the Government approach, who include Senator Feargal Quinn, the lone dissenting voice on the expert group — worry that the food board being set up by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry will be hidebound by agriculture and farming interests and will be unable to make Irish food companies more competitive. I believe that if the board is dominated by the producers view it will have neither the vision nor the capacity to develop the food industry in the national interest.

We are at a crossroads in the development of our food industry. The Minister had an opportunity in establishing An Bord Bia to prove Senator Feargal Quinn wrong, to prove that it is possible for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to take on this innovative and developmental project as recommended by the expert group. However, the Bill gives neither the framework nor the conviction that the message has been heard by the Minister or the Department.

What is needed in this Bill is focus. A much clearer division and co-ordination of responsibilities is needed, along with the earmarking of appropriate representation on the board itself. There is a great difference between stating an objective and reaching it. This Bill is along way off reaching the objective of establishing an effective single food board, which is not just a promotion body but is also leading up market development. That is still the challenge that faces us and it has not been faced squarely in the Bill.

The success or otherwise of An Bord Bia is vital to the future development of our food industry. The Irish food industry had an estimated output of £7.6 billion in 1992, yet our consumer food industry is still underdeveloped. It requires a major initiative not only in promotion but in policy development, particularly in the context of post CAP reform and the GATT agreement when the old ways no longer stand up to the test of modern demands. An Bord Bia has two possibilities. It can be a monolithic bureaucratic colossus towering over the food industry, one that is producer rather than market driven, one that carries an outmoded system of dependence on production which aims to dispose of produce instead of producing what the market demands. Alternatively it can be an agency full of hybrid vigour from which exciting policies can emerge and a modern international food industry can grow, one based on consumers needs, an agency that works back from the consummer to the producer, not the other way around. That is the choice.

The report of the expert group on the food industry laid down the framework for An Bord Bia It points out clearly the need to create added value and the potential to protect existing jobs. It warns about the future context in which the Irish food industry will find itself — increased competition, reduction in intervention and EC food legislative restrictions. It argues for a fundamental shift to prepared consumer foods and ingredients. The report states: "Over the next five years sound and market-led prepared consumer food projects should have priority".

Another shift recommended by the report relates to State funding. Of EU and State funding approved in 1989 to 1991, 85 per cent was spent on fixed assets and the remainder on equity, research and development, management development and training. The report sets limits, for example, by 1997 fixed assets non-repayable grants should not exceed 60 per cent. This highlights the urgency of investment in human resources for research and development and market development. What does the Minister intend to do about this?

Lack of a marketing ethos backed up by marketing skills still represents one of the great structural weaknesses within the industry. Even many of the major companies do not have dedicated and trained marketeers. Establishing marketing divisions and installing professional marketing personnel can dramatically change the product profile of food companies, yet we do not have sufficient numbers of them. A dedicated college of science, technology and marketing would be able to meet this need. We already have a model in Limerick in the context of the software and hardware industries where there is a link-in to companies and to the industrial base. Education and training are critical to the success of the food industry. The major question not asked in the report of the expert group is who takes responsibility to see that the education and training needs of the food industry are met. At present different bodies are involved, including universities, regional technical colleges, Teagasc and FAS. It is time to consider the establishment of one authority which would combine the various bodies responsible.

In regard to the funding of research into the food business, announced recently by the Minister, will any of that money be used for technological research? In the same way that native-based hardware and software development in the computer industry has taken place, we could surely develop innovation in manufacturing food processing equipment if the framework and the desire were there. Does the Minister intend to undertake that task?

There has been much emphasis on developing a green image for Ireland. That may well be over-estimated. There is a down side to that kind of strategy; one environmental disaster can negate its value, and the image can only be as good as standards and reality dictate. We have only to look at the recent hysteria in Germany over BSE in Irish beef to see the dangers of a poor image.

We need to address this question in a dynamic way and it would be appropriate to develop an internationally recognised Irish food quality symbol or statement. Last night the Minister mentioned harps and leprechauns, but we could be much more global in our approach and I presume there is no real restriction within the European Union that we could not overcome in developing this international market. When we look at other countries it is obvious we have much to learn. The Irish "Q" mark is not an appropriate model. What we need to do is bury the concept of buying Irish and move towards the concept of selling Irish. An internationally recognised symbol of quality would be of great benefit; the Irish name is good only if we can get the message across. Goods carrying it would have a quality assurance with the imprimatur and authority of the Irish State.

It has been mentioned that the "Kerry-gold" brand offers opportunities in a similar way. It is worth noting that this week the editor of theIrish Farmers' Journal made the point of expanding the “Kerrygold” brand to apply to selected cuts by specially supervised beef plants. He said:

We now have a unique chance to re-emphasise the health and nutritional quality of our beef. We should not let that opportunity slip. That requires rigorous enforcement of standards as well, of course, as a guaranteed supply of raw material.

This Bill establishes An Bord Bia and designates its functions. However, it does not explain how the work of the board will be carried out in a streamlined manner. Since the idea is to establish a single food promotion body whose functions would comprise those currently exercised by CBF, An Bord Tráchtála and the export, marketing and development functions of An Bord Glas, it is worrying that it is not proposed to coordinate all these functions clearly under one roof. If there is division of responsibility who, ultimately, will be the master? It is worth noting that CBF is the only body that, in effect, is copperfastened within the structure in a new form.

It is not clear how An Bord Bia will operate. For example, will An Bord Bia be able to open its own offices abroad or will it use offices belonging to An Bord Tráchtála? The familiar difficulties of interdepartmental arrangements have not been resolved in this Bill. We need a food board and we need it under one roof with a good director and under the right Minister. Otherwise it could well become one of the worst quangos of the lot.

The Bill is woolly in regard to powers and responsibilities. In section 9, which deals with the transfer of functions, it is not clear who will transfer the powers or how levies will be controlled or spent. The IFA has demanded that levies from primary producers should be paid only in proportion to the different sectors they come from. This raises the question of funding and resourcing of An Bord Bia. If the primary source of funds is the primary producer this gives the producer an inordinate capability to argue for representation on the board. Indeed the Minister stated last night that this impied a certain representational pattern. We must know what he means by a certain representational pattern because that is the key to the success or otherwise of An Bord Bia. Where does that leave the processor, the retailer and, in particular, the consumer, the key player who has been disregarded in this Bill?

It is not clear either how other sectors fit into the overall plan. There is a mention of subsidiary boards but the only board that is covered definitively in the Bill is the meat and livestock subsidiary board. The Minister considers that a subsidiary board for prepared consumer foods should be set up. It is an underdeveloped sector with great potential, but it gets no mention in the Bill.

It is stated that the marketing section of An Bord Glas will be absorbed into An Bord Bia. The same is true of An Bord Tráchtála. It would be of benefit if there were a representative of An Bord Tráchtála on An Bord Bia but there is no such commitment.

The membership of the board is nonspecific. Appointments to the board are in the gift of the Minister. There is no indication of how BIM or Teagasc will fit into this new board or that the universities will have a role to play, considering their development of food research and policy analysis. Most important, there is no indication of the role of retailers and consumers. None of these key elements is specifically given a role in An Bord Bia and that is one of the most worrying aspects of this proposal. There is no clear concept of the capability and the make-up of An Bord Bia to meet the task it is being set up to tackle.

We have already seen a dynamic contribution from one of our leading retailers, Senator Feargal Quinn, in his role as a member of the expert body on the food industry. Surely there is an obligation on the Minister to ensure that that kind of contribution is included within An Bord Bia in a way that clearly demarcates the direction and the focus of the board. Other than a vague and ominous phrase about persons who have a knowledge or experience of the food industry, we have no indication about the make-up of the board.

We have seen the incredible power of producers to define the industry. I am apprehensive about the way this board will shape up considering the lack of clarity of the Bill. This applies even more to subsidiary boards. Other than the way they are to be set up, there is no indication of their role and no specific function outlined for them. There are terms of reference outlined for An Bord Bia itself but there is no such definition of the functions of subsidiary boards. The Minister has a responsibility to tell this House his terms of reference for any subsidiary boards and his objectives in relation to them.

It is not clear either from this document what the relationship between An Bord Bia and the IDA will be. The IDA is a source of large investment which has been directed at food processing. The necessity for links between the IDA and An Bord Bia is irrefutable, but no link is mentioned. This is essentially a food promotion body and it must link in to the existing industrial development bodies.

The source of funding is not particularly clearly defined. Again in appears to be in the gift of the Minister whether he will turn the tap on or off. Essentially this board will be producer-subscribed in the provision of levies which may well be expanded to cover areas other than those currently covered by levies. If there is to be a partnership arrangement among producers, processors, retailers, consumers and the Government, it should be reflected in some way other than a simple grant system, which the Minister can adjust at will, or the levies that apply already.

This Bill is disappointing; I hoped it would mark a new initiative on the food industry in the Department but it does not even cover the comprehensive nature of the industry. It concentrates on the meat and livestock sector yet provides no particular framework for the dairy industry or the brewing industry which constitute such a major slice of our food production. Nor is there any sign of development, for example, of the horticultural side of the food industry.

The staffing measures involve primarily the transfer of existing staff to new arrangements but the overall control and management is not clear from the Bill. This raises considerable apprehension as to the usefulness of An Bord Bia. Although the board has the opportunity to become a dynamic force in the development of our food industry and, most importantly, in the development of thousands of jobs, the report of the expert group argued for a rate of job creation of approximately 1,500 to 2,000 new jobs per year under its proposed programme. This programme is outlined in the expert group report. It requires major funding over a five year period. The gross overall cost would be £1,227 million. The programme is a framework within An Bord Bia is simply one element. It would also provide for an investment fund for branded products, easy financing for dairy product development and a change in the mix of products in our output but, primarily, it argues for a consumer led approach which is fundamentally different from the approach that has been traditionally maintained by the Department of Agriculture.

The weakness inherent in An Bord Bia was outlined in a clear and vivid way by Senator Feargal Quinn in his minority report. In that report he stated:

The present structure reflects the outdated view that the purpose of Ireland's food industry is to dispose of agricultural output. In today's conditions, particularly the extent of unemployment, that is the wrong approach. The purpose of the food industry should be to create wealth and jobs by serving the needs of consumers. That it disposes of agricultural output should be seen as a bonus, not the steering force that determines how the industry develops.

I see no mention of the consumer in the Bill, yet the consumer is central to the issue, the key player.

The NESC report, No. 96, A Strategy for Competitiveness, Growth and Employment, stated that "while the scale of Ireland's agricultural exports in such commodities will continue to be a significant share of exports for the foreseeable future, it is only by pursuing a clear strategy of moving up the value chain that the contribution of the agri-food sector to the national economcy can be maximised and additional employment generated". That is the challenge and that is why the Bill is such a disappointment.

The main obstacle to this kind of development is the fact that the Irish food industry remains primarily producer rather than consumer driven. Irish agriculture remains more dependent on the intervention mechanism than any other member state of the EU. Irish agriculture will have to come to terms with major changes in the marketplace. In order for that change to take place we need a food board, An Bord Bia, that is dynamic, well structured and well representative of the key players with a solid financial base and with a clear direction and understanding of where it is going. This Bill does not provide for that.

I am glad to have an opportunity to make some observations on the Bill before us. I join with other speakers who have generally welcomed this legislation which arises from the report of the expert group on the food industry who reported in 1993 to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

The purpose of the Bill is to set up a single body which will be responsible for the export promotion of food. Such a body has been foreshadowed by the policy review group of the Department, which reported in 1990, and by the more recent publication, the Culliton report. The Bill is most timely. It could be argued, indeed, that a single food export promotion body should have been set up before now. Regardless of the developments in the agricultural policy of the EU in the past year or two, it makes the needs for a single body very clear. The dramatic changes which have taken place in the CAP, the successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round and the demands of the Single Market place additional pressures on our food industry. As an industry we are in the business of increasing the value of our output and our sales.

The 1993 export group report shows that while the industry has made progress, much work remains to be done. For example, we need more vacuum packed exports in the beef sector; we need to increase cheese output; much development is needed in the prepared consumer food sector; there is need for education and training for the industry as a whole and individual firms must become more involved in the whole area of research and development.

The export group estimated that over the next five years their recommendations will cost approximately £720 million. That money is to come from the food industry, the EU and Exchequer sources. The programme for the industry, as recommended by the group, will result in an estimated additional 1,500 to 2,000 jobs per year when the programme is fully operational. The single food promotion body, as provided for in the Bill, is a necessary part of this programme. Because of our small population, we are very much dependent on the export market, hence the need for a co-ordinated effort to bring home to both the consumers and the distributors, who are putting the products into the export market, that Ireland is a supplier of high quality foods produced in a very favourable environment.

I wish to add my support to the Minister's contribution on Second Stage. I congratulate him on bringing in this legislation and I hope it will have a successful and speedy passage through the Houses. I wish to ask a few questions about some of the provisions in the Bill. What will be the working arrangement between An Bord Bainne and An Bord Bia? It is important that a satisfactory working arrangement is put in place in that area.

In section 2 (1) inedible horticultural produce is, by definition, excluded from the work of An Bord Bia. As we all know, an important sector of the horticultural industry is the nursery stock sector, that is, the growing of ornamental shrubs and trees. Bord Glas, in co-operation with An Bord Tráchtála, is very much involved in the export promotional work in the nursery stock sector. Having regard to what has been happening in the horticultural industry, whether one is talking about the field vegetables, the mushrooms or, indeed, the nursery stock, under the new provision the export aspect of that work will be taken over by An Bord Bia. It is important to consider the position of the nursery stock sector when the new arrangements are put in place.

The definition in section 2 (1), defines food as including drink, which is a contravention of the normal usage of the word. I strongly urge the Minister to give serious consideration to the inclusion of the products from the nursery industry in the general responsibility of An Bord Bia.

Food is defined in the Bill as edible products and agricultural products. Are they to be excluded? What will be the position regarding flax production, tillage products normally fed to animals, wool and hides? There is not a huge export dimension to these products but there could be and will the new board have responsibility for them?

As regards the fishing industry will the board assume responsibility for the export promotion of fish products which was the responsibility of BIM? If we are to have a co-ordinated approach to the promotion of the food industry it is important that the range of products within the industry be promoted under the same umbrella.

I take it the normal period of appointment of board members will apply. The principle of giving organisations within the industry the right to nominate members to the board can be a dangerous one. The difficulty is that people with the necessary qualifications may not be nominated to the board. Nominations may have much to do with the internal politics of the organisation concerned. In many instances people may be nominated who are manifestly unsuited to the onerous responsibility of progressing the industry. The food industry is very important and it is essential that those appointed have an interest in it and make a tangible input to the work of the board. Under the legislation the Minister will retain responsibility for nomination of the board.

I welcome the Bill and hope the new board will fulfil its role. We look forward to greater prosperity for the food industry.

The Bill is disappointing. It derives from one of the recommendations made by the expert group on the food sector last year. As a means of giving that recommendation concrete form the Bill has a number of defects not least of which is, like other Bills presented by the Government, this one which is excessively bureaucratic. The Government has a fatal tendency to find the most bureaucratic way possible to operate.

It was amused and gratified to hear that criticism shared by Deputy McManus of Democratic Left. If we go on for long enough Democratic Left will become a market base party. A few weeks ago I heard the Deputy talk about the importance of being market oriented. I congratulate her on arriving at the point where Democratic Left object to bureaucracy. The party will get sense one of these days.

The Bill illustrates that Fianna Fáil, to its eternal shame and confusion in the future, has given in to the apparatchiks in the Labour Party who always seek out the most bureaucratic way possible of doing what they set out to do. That was clear from the Minister's speech. I have rarely heard an introductory speech say so little about the inspiration behind the measure taken. It is appalling that there was no suggestion of any notion of enterprise or development. The Minister blandly told us the Culliton report had made certain recommendations as had the expert group. Then he gave us an expanded version of the explanatory memorandum which accompanies the Bill. He did not give any of the reasons for what is in the Bill. I suspect it is because there is no good reason.

Deputy Doyle commented on the Bill earlier. This is like a dustbin Bill. Had the Minister waited for longer he may have found a few more things to throw into it. There is no plan to the Bill. It is a random collection of what exists. This dustbin Bill will not change the world as far as the promotion and marketing of agricultural products and food is concerned. We could put up with bureaucracy which would change the name and location of a quango. If the Bill did nothing but change the style of the organisation it would not be so bad. However, it is important to bear in mind that the recommendation of the expert group, on which this Bill is founded, was made as part of a strategy. There is other material in that report but the Bill bears little relation to much of it. There is no indication that the Government is pursuing that strategy.

I praised the report when it was published and while it has some defects, it is a good, well articulated one. Those who produced it have every right to feel disappointed and let down by the way the Bill has been brought forward.

The group highlighted the absolute necessity of reducing seasonal imbalances in milk and beef production if we are to maximise added value from food production. It recommended that we should aim to reduce the percentage of milk used for butter from its present level of 60-65 per cent to 50-55 per cent over three years. It also recommended that we should reduce our share of European Union butter production from 8 per cent to 6 per cent and try to increase our share of semi-hard cheese production from 3 per cent to 5 per cent. There is nothing in this Bill or anywhere else to indicate that the Government has taken any action either at European Union or national level to bring about those changes. If we do not do so then it does not matter a tráithnín what we call the board, how it is appointed or the amount of funding it will get; it will not make much difference to the value added by our dairy sector to the economy.

The group recommended we should aim to ensure that 20 per cent of our slaughterings would take place in each of the first three quarters of the year. Very little progress, if any, has been made in that direction since the report was published. The excessively rigid retention periods which are still insisted on under the beef premium schemes are a very decided obstacle to achieving that kind of pattern in our beef output. As has been repeatedly pointed out to the Minister, those excessive retention periods are a very real obstacle to the orderly marketing of beef and, therefore, a very real obstacle to expanding and increasing added value in food production. Needless to say, the beef industry is still trying to come to terms with the fallout from the humiliating defeat of the Minister on the carcase weight issue, a defeat we could all see staring him in the face long before he even recognised that a problem existed. This is another factor which will militate against the kind of strategy set out by the expert group and which makes this Bill irrelevant in terms of any strategy to develop our food industry.

The expert group proposed that the development agencies should consider supporting final processing and marketing activities abroad. There is no evidence that anything of that kind has been undertaken or contemplated by our development agencies. We all know that it is only now our development agencies are finding their feet after the enormous and useless bureaucratic shake-up the Government imposed on them. I want to remind the House that we now have the IDA, Forbairt, Forfás a mass of committees spawned in the bowels of the Department of Enterprise and Employment, the country enterprise boards, etc. They will not be able to do anything concrete in terms of achieving the kind of objectives set out by the expert group. The evidence is that so far nothing has been done which even goes in the direction of that particular recommendation made by the group.

The expert group recommended the creation of a substantial branded product development fund from extra European Union Structural Funds. That recommendation was grand at the time — the report was published in April last year — but nothing like this has happened to date. On the contrary, we now know that the amount of Structural Funds we will receive will be considerably less than the amount the Government dishonestly claimed we would receive even at the time the expert group report was published. We also know that the amounts allocated to the various programmes set out in the spurious National Development Plan are in danger of being cut. We all know perfectly well that so far Fianna Fáil, Labour, the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Quinn, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the Minister for the Environment and the Taoiseach have all refused to give even the slightest idea of which parts of the spurious National Development Plan will be cut by 8 per cent, 12 per cent of whatever percentage is forced on the Government as a result of its stupidity in the handling of the Structural Funds episode.

The climate has changed utterly since the day the expert group proposed that we should have a substantial product development fund from extra EU Structural Fund resources. We now know that there are no extra EU Structural Fund resources and, as far as I can see, no consideration whatsoever has been given to the creation of a branded product development fund. Another important piece of the strategy set out by the expert group on food production has been totally ignored. This is another reason the Bill should be completely scrapped.

Neither the operational programme for the food industry nor any other operational programme has been published. There is no way we can know the kind of development funding the Government has in mind for the food industry or any other sector of the economy. We have no idea what the development climate will be for this new body which the Government intends to cobble together from the various bodies now in existence. We do not know the kind of framework under which this body will work. How in God's name can the Minister expect this House to give him its views on this body or how can he have any informed view on the kind of role this body should have?

The food industry is not the only sector in which there is uncertainly in the context of this infamous and spurious National Development Plan. The expert group had a number of wise things to say about the necessity for port development. The Minister should look again at the report as he has a constituency interest in this matter. We do not know what will happen in this regard; we do not know what the operational programme in the relevant sector will be. We do not know the level of funding and, therefore, we do not know the kind of funding which will be available for port facilities. The food industry will not know the kind of improvements it can expect in terms of the facilities at its disposal to expand exports.

Given the uncertainty about the National Development Plan and the Government's absolute failure to make any significant progress with the other parts of the strategy on which the whole idea of putting this new body in place was built, it is nonsense for the Minister to introduce the Bill at this time. The Minister referred to the Culliton report. I invite him in all seriousness to look again at that report and the Moriarty report, the report to Government on the report about the report. There is a yawning chasm between what the Government has been doing for the past year and the recommendations in those reports. It is absolute nonsense for the Minister to come forward with a Bill which pretends to be part of a strategy for the food industry. He is wasting the time of the House in bringing this Bill before it.

I was tempted, as I sometimes am, to find out whether the Government has a quorum in the House today, but I will not do so for the moment. I was surprised at how little some people have to say about this Bill. I thought Deputy Kirk would have more to say about it. However, he too seems to have given in to the apparatchiks of the Labour Party and accepted bureaucracy.

I was astonished at Deputy Clohessy's short contribution. The last time the Progressive Democrats were in Opposition they would have been "panoramic", to use a slang word, about a Bill like this. I thought they would have examined its provisions about the appointment of members of the board and requested a High Court judge to supervise the Minister in making such appointments. However, they appear to have lost their interest in agriculture and people will remember that on 9 June when they realise how little interest Progressive Democrats candidates have in the food industry or in agriculture.

There is a lot more in the Bill that fails to match up to the Report of the Expert Group on the Food Industry published in April 1993, which refers to food safety, quality and nutrition. Recommendation No. 27 talks about minimum safety and hygiene standards for food. What is the Minister doing about that? Is anything planned in that regard that would help this new body to promote and market Irish food abroad? As far as I know the Minister has not brought anything forward.

For example, in recommendation No. 31 of the report, the Expert Group makes wise remarks about topics that should be included in the existing syllabus in the second level curriculum in our schools. It is proposed that the Minister should have a nomination to the proposed Council for Vocational and Educational Awards, that FÁS should establish a 16-week foundation course for food and that the Dublin Institute of Technology should provide pre-entry training for meat factory operatives. Is any of that being done? Is it even contemplated? Will this new board have any say in that, or is this just another pious platitude?

Recommendation No. 33 of the report of the Expert Group is an interesting one, part of which states:

£15 million per annum in additional EC funds for food non-commissioned R & D should be included in the new EC Structural Funds Frame work...

That is a far cry from the initiatives the Minister announced last week about research and development when, if my memory serves me correctly, he spoke of £7 million. What is the Minister doing about that? He is not going even half way to meet it and appears to have a different type of research and development programme in mind.

Although this Bill is based on one recommendation of the report of the Expert Group on the Food Industry, nothing is being done about other key recommendations. The measures envisaged in the Bill can have little, if any, effect on securing the objectives — with which I agree — set out in that Expert Group report. Therefore, it is a nonsense taking the step the Minister wants the House to take now because we will be taking it in a vacuum. We might as well not bother going to all the trouble of passing this Bill because it will not have any effect.

The Minister will be surprised if I congratulate him on a provision in section 3 regarding the way orders are made—my old hobby horse. To my gratification I find, by and large, that for most of the orders it is proposed to make under this Bill the Government and the Minister have decided to do so on the basis that there needs to be an affirmative decision of the Houses of the Oireachtas. However, I am still not happy because there are several instances in this Bill of orders being required to be made about important matters where that procedure will not be followed. I approve of a great many of the provisions in relation to making orders but there are some cases where orders or regulations can be made without the Houses of the Oireachtas having affirmative power over them. I do not want the Minister to say that this passive procedure, as I call it, is hallowed by tradition because the last time the Opposition wanted the opportunity of debating a proposal for an order — which would pass if the House did not annul it within 21 sitting days of its having been laid before the House — the Government simply refused to give time to debate it. It is not something one can do in Private Members' time but this bureaucratic, excessively socialist Government, which is supposed to be in favour of open government, on the one occasion on which it was asked to allow this House to debate an order, undemocratically — indeed contemptuously — refused to give time. If this Government behaves like that I will be suspicious of the way it goes about making orders and will always question provisions in Bills about important matters that will have the effect of allowing them to go through on the nod.

In section 10 it is proposed that the Minister may, by order, assign to the board such additional functions as he considers incidental to or consequential on the functions assigned to it by this Act. That is another dustbin provision, allowing the Minister to have second, third or fourth thoughts, to come back in a year's time and decide that something he left out of the Bill can be inserted. That kind of power should never be inserted in a Bill like this.

Section 12 (1) reads:

Subject to subsection (2), the Board may make such charges it considers appropriate in consideration of the performance by it of its functions, the provision by it of services and the carrying on by it of activities.

The Minister said he hoped these charges would not be excessive but there are no provisions in the Bill to have them controlled or inspected by anybody. The Bill provides the proposed new board with powers to enforce these charges. I am not talking about levies, I am talking about fees the board is empowered to charge for its services, if indeed it can find unfortunates in a position to want to avail of its services, particularly if it is operating within the kind of policy vacuum about which I spoke earlier.

The Deputy has exceeded his time by some minutes.

Sir, since you are so generous as not to blame me for that, I shall now conclude. Perhaps the Minister will answer this question. We recently had a Second Stage debate here on the Irish Horseracing Authority Bill, 1994, which provided for various means of establishing boards and nominating people. I have a couple of questions about that. In relation to that Authority the Minister wants to be able to appoint people whom he will select but, in every case where he asks an organisation to make suggestions for the Horseracing Authority Board, he asks them to nominate three people for every vacant position, one of whom must be a woman. The Minister will have the option of deciding which of those three people to appoint. No such provision is incorporated in this Bill. Why? If the Government is serious about doing this kind of thing why is this provision not incorporated in every Bill? In the Irish Horseracing Authority Bill, 1994, the Minister has the arbitrary power, or seeks to obtain it, to fire the chairman or any member of the board without giving cause. As far as I can see, the same provision is contained in this Bill. Why? If the Minister has any kind of confidence in the choices he or she makes why is it necessary to have arbitrary power to fire people?

Because it is not supported by any of the other strategy required to make a real effort to develop value-added in the Irish food industry, the Minister should have the sense and decency to withdraw this Bill because nothing by way of support is provided for the structures he sets out to establish under its provisions.

Because of the pressure of business in various parts of this House, in committee and plenary today, I had earlier hoped to share time briefly with my colleague, Deputy Clohessy. Therefore, I do not intend to take up much time of the House now.

During the afternoon I attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, to which I am due to return to help draft a resolution. It was unfortunate that while I was chatting informally with Deputy Crawford, I missed Deputy Dukes'sobiter dicta on the Progressive Democrats and, consequently I am not in a position to respond. I am sure the Deputy was firing on all two cylinders.

High Court judges are lacking employment.

It was the reference to the High Court which reminded me of theobiter dicta. I agree with the tone of Deputy Dukes's remarks regarding the policy and structural context in which this Bill was introduced. In some respects it is like a free floating balloon which is not organically tied in with An Bord Bia to some of the requirements to develop the Irish food industry. To argue that it is in line with the Culliton strategy is a claim to which the provisions of the Bill are not entitled. The Culliton strategy, so far as one can judge, is in the sphere of the bible, much quoted and, in Catholic countries, seldom read. The Culliton strategy which is reflected in many ministerial speeches and interventions in the House and elsewhere in a number of key respects, has been laid to rest.

I recall from the debate on the Finance Bill, which is before this House and on which we will resume debate tomorrow, that on the tax front Culliton had recommended, in respect of assisting employment in Ireland, that we should move to a position where not more than 20 per cent of taxpayers would pay in excess of the standard rate. While that cannot be achieved overnight the modest steps taken in that direction by the Government indicate that it too has been buried by this administration the life of which is shortening if one can take the recent midterm review by the Labour Party Conference as a measure of the Government's life span. It means it is even less confident about its survival than some of the presumptions from this side of the House.

It is clear, because of the Government's overwhelming majority, that whatever amendments are accepted An Bord Bia will be established. As soon as this board is created there will be a debate on the location of its headquarters. If this is an agency for the food industry it should not be located in the capital city. I am aware that in respect of this matter delegations from the Cork Chamber of Commerce met the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy J. Walsh, and, possibly, the Minister of State, urging the case for my constituency. There are significant players in the food industry in that region, particularly in the dairying sector and their preeminence in terms of product development and food marketing there indicates that the Cork region has a claim for the siting of such a board in the area. It is important that in any region outside the capital city which seeks to site the agency there be a critical mass on other fronts also.

In regard to the food, dairy, science and technology sectors University College, Cork has all the research back-up needed on product and food development and on processing and manufacturing. The Teagasc centre Moorepark has not only established a high reputation domestically but is foremost in the European Union. I made those observations in the context of the Culliton report notwithstanding my constituency plea to the Minister. The Culliton report, in respect of industry in general and not least in respect of such a large scale indigenous industry as food, referred to the concept of developing clusters and suggested that projects which floated alone did not make sense. The concept was that a cluster which had a critical mass of industry, expertise, academic and support infrastructure should be part and parcel of the development of industrial policy. Taking the Culliton report and examining the cluster concept which underpins much of its industrial development philosophy, Cork has a pre-eminent claim and I look forward to the Minister's immediate conversion to that cause. I hope that the board, when established will be located in the southern capital or in that region.

I had hoped, in the debate on the establishment of An Bord Bia to be able to say that I welcomed that board. My worst fears have been realised by the Minister's statement and in the text of the Bill. I was surprised at being called so early in this debate. I had thought that because of the importance of food production and the meat and livestock industry that there would have been a big demand by Deputies to speak on this Bill. I do not have a prepared script.

I was an active member of the board of CBF, which represents the livestock industry, for seven years. What has happened since? The budget suggested by the Minister for An Board Bia is £14 million for the entire food industry. A sum of £11 million has been allocated to CBF which means that only £3 million has been earmarked for the change over from CBF to An Bord Bia. If this is passed the Irish livestock and meat industries will lose their identity. It will be swamped in the bureaucracy. We are reverting to the situation that existed prior to 1979 when the then Minister nominated every member of the board of CBF. It means that those who pay the piper will no longer be able to call the tune. I know the Minister will tell me that they will sit on numerous committees and in fact will have their own board, but the reality is that decisions on how the administration will be run will be made by a politically appointed board. I note that the Minister for Tourism and Trade will nominate one member for appointment and the 11 other ordinary members of the board will be appointed by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry. I hope that member will be representative of the sector that pays £4.5 million in levies and that we will ensure that other members representing the farming organisations will be appointed to the board so that those who pay the levy are represented. CBF receives levies of £4.5 million from farmers, £1.203 million from industry and £1.5 million from Government, £1.5 million from the European Union Special Fund, £0.3 million in projects and £1.9 million from the Structural Funds, making a total of £10.9 million. It is not fair that the people who subscribe that money should not have a say on the board of this organisation. Will the Minister reconsider his position?

I was first nominated in 1979 by the IFA to serve on the board of CBF. We were asked to subscribe levies to which we agreed but on the understanding that the moneys raised by levies would be added to CBF's budget. However, the then Minister, Mr. MacSharry, halved the CBF budget. It was not until Deputy Dukes became Minister for Agriculture that CBF received a serious allocation, the sum of £772,000. By 1986, the then Minister, Deputy Deasy, raised it to £1 million and at that time the Government did not have control over the board.

CBF was then asked to take over the promotion of pig meat. Then, in the height of great difficulties, its budget was slashed once again to somewhere in the region of £500,000. It was only when the meat processors committed themselves to paying in the region of £1.2 million towards projects that the present Government increased the budget to £1.5 million.

If we are serious about the food industry we must finance An Bord Bia properly, not in the stop-go way that CBF was financed. The former Commissioner, Mr. MacSharry, without much opposition from the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Walsh, reformed the CAP and introduced GATT reforms and this will mean we will have to sell more of our product on the European market. We will need greater expertise and greater promotional efforts to achieve this. In recent times we have seen the effects of a food scare in Germany. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry has encouraged CBF to spend more money in trying to regain our lost market share. I remember going to Germany in 1980 to promote Irish beef from the green grass of Ireland. We were very successful but in the meantime people felt they could supply a lesser quality product and we did not maintain the ground we won initially. Bord Bainne has successfully marketed the "Kerrygold" brand and has maintained its market share. CBF has continued in spite of all the difficulties and I understand its market share has increased significantly in recent times.

If we want to retain the trust of those who pay the levies we must take a new look at the composition of this board. We must do so today. Yesterday the Minister said:

I intend to set up the board shortly on an interim basis pending the final passage of the Bill. That will enable a good deal of preliminary work to be done in advance of final establishment and will help to achieve my aim of getting An Bord Bia down to work as soon as possible.

Will the board be set up in the next week or so to guarantee places to people who work hard on the election? Is there need for such a rush? I do not think there is.

I was appointed to the board when CBF was set up and I feel I played a role in ensuring that the board took account of the needs of producers and processors. The board had a coherent approach and people worked together. I believe it has worked even better in recent times since industry made a commitment to provide some funds. As the Minister said, CBF is being wound up. People are being appointed — we may call them political hacks — to run this new board while the other groups will be represented on smaller committees. This is wrong and the Minister must reconsider.

Some sections of the media do not believe that the agriculture and food industry has a major role to play. It does and will for many years to come. It is extremely important therefore that we get this matter right and the board is established properly.

I had hoped that the board would cover a much wider area. It will cover the work done by CBF and some of the work done by the national marketing board and An Bord Glas. The pig industry which has come through a difficult period must be strengthened and encouraged, with the mushroom industry which is a major export earner in my own constituency of Cavan-Monaghan. As it has not been affected by the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy we must ensure that it is properly promoted.

I hope there will be close co-operation between all the other sectors of the food industry. I remember attending food fairs where there was a degree of disunity and products were promoted under two or three different banners. We must ensure that our products are promoted under the one flag in cities such as Berlin and the united front is presented. I do not know as much about An Bord Glas and the others involved in the food industry but we must encourage the industry to provide a better product, including branded products.

There is a need for trust. Without it, this new board will start from a bad position. I ask the Minister to reconsider the way the board will be established and funded in the future and members appointed. We have not received the funding that the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste claimed we would from Europe. The Government will ensure that the flagship industries will be financed. This may mean that less money will be available for this area.

The Minister must reconsider the structure of the new An Bord Bia. We should ensure that as many jobs as possible are created in food processing. To do this we need a board which will market our products properly and which will have the trust of farmers and the industry as a whole, not just the meat and mushroom sectors. The industry needs to move forward with unity of purpose to ensure that it gets the best price for its products, that as many people as possible retain their jobs and that as many farmers as possible remain on the land. The reason the price of cattle, milk and lamb is so good — the Minister is claiming some of the credit for this — is that our currency was devalued by 10 per cent.

I was looking forward to the establishment of An Bord Bia but I am very disappointed with what has been proposed. The Minister must reconsider the questions of representation on the board and funding. The personnel who have worked in CBF and other sectors have the necessary expertise to move us forward into the next century with pride.

I welcome this Bill which has an important contribution to make to the development of the food industry, which has enormous potential. A long list of people have made this point during the years, some of whom took to writing reports which now fill the libraries of universities and Government Departments. However they flattered to deceive and did not make any contribution in allowing the industry to fulfil its enormous potential.

In the early seventies Professor Séamus Sheehy and Doctor John O'Connell from UCD suggested that the industry had enormous capacity to create jobs if a series of conditions was met. Other reports were produced by Mr. Bob O'Connor and a Mr. McStay for the ESRI, who were more cautious, and by Coopers & Lybrand. A full section was devoted to the industry in the Culliton report. No aspect of Irish life has been reported on as extensively as the food industry, yet it has not fulfilled its enormous potential.

Having said that, I have been encouraged by developments during the past ten to 15 years in some sectors of the industry, particularly the dairy sector where enormous progress has been made in seeking new markets and developing new products. In the meat industry the story is not as encouraging; by any standard, it is exceptionally disappointing. Irish meat products have little, if any, real impact on European markets. It is difficult to find branded Irish meat in any major European supermarket. I am not aware of any serious penetration of international markets by Irish meat. That problem needs to be addressed. Over the years the meat industry has been typified by an attitude of opportunism, profits in the short-term with little consideration or concern for the long-term capacity of the industry. I hope that will change in the future, although I am disappointed with much of what I have seen recently. It is disappointing that the export of live cattle is rapidly increasing. I am aware of the pressures on the farming community and the tremendous anxiety farmers are experiencing in terms of urgently maximising the price of their produce. In some cases such maximisation has been achieved with little concern for the long term impact. It is regrettable that there has not been greater concern for the long term effects.

Deputy Crawford talked about the "best price". That is fair enough, but the best price now is not always the wisest. In marketing food we are talking in the long-term. If we are to develop products it is essential that there is an element of consistency and that consumers can be certain that high quality Irish beef is available on the shelves of European supermarkets when required. As far as meat products are concerned we are simply producers of commodities. We are slaughtering animals, cutting them up, boxing the meat and effectively selling it at a wholesale level. While those circumstances prevail we will not have a hold on consumers or establish consumer loyalty and we will be at the mercy of the huge conglomerates who can shop around and buy in bulk. We will be at the mercy of the Dunnes Stores equivalent in Europe who are able to exert enormous influence and power in markets. The dairy industry and Dunnes Stores are well matched in the knockabouts they have had in terms of price. I am disappointed at the progress in terms of marketing Irish meat on the European market.

The progress which has been made in the dairy industry can, to a large extent, be traced to the faculty of dairy science in University College, Cork which, by any standards, has made a remarkable contribution to our dairy industry. People in that faculty have set their minds to building solid foundations and to developing technology and expertise in business. Many of them compare favourably with the best in the world. In saying that I am not being sentimental in regard to our capacity; those comments would stand any analysis. The high level of technological capacity in our dairy industry originated in UCC. I accept it has been boosted by other agencies such as An Foras Talúntais that have provided research and technical capacity over the years, but most of the captains in the dairy industry started off in the faculty of dairy science in UCC.

I am somewhat disappointed about the extent to which the food industry has failed to consolidate. I was encouraged recently to note some of the annual reports of the major dairy co-operatives in which the managers referred to the desirability of further consolidation. At least it appears the subject will be debated in the industry. It is important that progress is made on that front. If we are to be realistic and face up to world changes in respect of the food industry, we are talking in terms of two or three changes in respect of the food industry, we are talking in terms of two or three major food conglomerates. It is important that we move in that direction as rapidly as possible. I accept it will not be easy and that political considerations are involved. The chief executive of a major dairy co-operative will not take lightly the idea of stepping aside — in the words of Charles Haughey — to allow somebody else become the chief executive of a consolidated and much larger organisation. Without consolidation our food industry will not have the capacity to invest in research and development or product development. It will not have the capacity to invest in marketing or to penetrate major European markets to establish brands and hold a market share.

In some cases it may be necessary for those in the industry to form partnerships with international food conglomerates and I hope that can be done from a position of strength rather than weakness. For that reason I am anxious that future consolidation takes place. The Minister and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry should do everything possible in that regard. I accept this is a minefield and I am not suggesting that the Minister should go into this lightly, but the idea is worth pursuing.

Our food industry is in many respects starting from a position of strength. Research on European markets indicates that our food is perceived as being wholesome, of a high quality and produced in a healthy environment. Because many consumers are preoccupied with health considerations, our food has the type of image to suit them. The reality may be somewhat different, but that is the perception of our food. It is essential we maintain that image.

I welcome the recent crack-down on the abuse of angel dust. Having regard to its long-term effect, it is regrettable that such abuse should take place. It would be disastrous if European consumers perceived a problem in regard to Irish food produce. I welcome the firm action taken in that regard. I also welcome the action of the Department in respect of BSE which is a major concern for consumers. It could be said that it is radical to adopt a policy of depopulating entire herds having regard to the small number of cases. However, that type of radical action is necessary to ensure there is no doubt in regard to our meat products. Such action may be expensive in the short-term, but wise in the long term because it protects the image of our food products and, more importantly, it protects the consumer from the risks associated with BSE. The small number of cases is tailing off because of the action by the Department.

I share the concerns of Senator Quinn about consumers not getting the attention they deserve. Not everybody might agree in that regard, but the interest and concerns of the consumer are paramount. In the final analysis the consumer will call the shots because he or she will decide on what products to spend their money. However, I do not agree with the suggestion that the food section should be moved from the Department. It is easy to make a superficial case in favour of, but when one considers the levels of expertise in the area of food, the interaction between food and agriculture, food and the veterinary services and so on in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, one realises the importance of the food section remaining within the Department. However, it should be more consumer orientated and there is no reason that should not be possible.

We must accept that the concerns of farmers and the politically lobbying on their behalf during the years is a declining force. Unless we recognise that, the food industry will not reach its full potential. Deputy Creed is smiling. I recognise that a significant number of farmers in County Cork, who I am sure will give Deputy Creed their number one vote, and I am sure he will speak on their behalf shortly. I do not see a conflict between the concerns of farmers and consumers. If farmers do not produce what consumers want they will not buy them. The food business is international and there has been a significant penetration of our market by overseas foods. If our consumers cannot buy the food they want from Irish producers they will buy an imported product. It is important that maximum levels of interest be paid to consumer concerns and that the industry addresses them. The new board will have an important role in that regard.

Over the years I have been concerned about hygiene standards in retail outlets. Everyone who works in the food industry should have a knowledge of food hygiene. I do not suggest they attend intensive courses, but the basic principles should be understood by those who work in shops which sell food. It would be a good investment if such people were required to attend a short course, of one to two weeks, on food hygiene. Further education in this area is needed, because some people working with food, handle it in a way that would not be recommended in textbooks on food hygiene. An initiative should be taken by the board or other agencies responsible in this area.

The consumer should not be doubtful about products labelled "home made". Are they made at home or do standards apply to them? I am aware EU directives on such matters will be implemented, but we should set the pace in respect of labelled products, such as health foods, which lead the consumer to buy and to pay more than the market price for them. If the consumer is prepared to do that it is only fair that he or she should be assured that basic standards are met. People who make up those nice names continually change the goal posts and if strict regulations are laid down they will come up with a new buzz word. It should be possible to ensure consumers receive the product they believe they are buying.

Deputy Crawford referred to the people who will be appointed to the board of the new organisation, it is essential to have people of the highest calibre. The industry is too important to play politics with. If the board is to be successful people with the capacity to steer it in the right direction should be appointed. I have no doubt that will be the Minister's first priority. The food manufacturing industry is still a major employer with 40,000 to 50,000 people and it has a capacity for a modest increase. It is a significant employer, particularly in the context of a declining workforce in farming, estimated to decrease to 8 per cent of the workforce by the year 2000.

I am glad that fish is included in the board's terms of reference because the consumer will not distinguish between fish, meat, bread and so on. The terms of reference of the board should be as wide as possible and encompass all products considered food by the consumer. Every taste is catered for by the lobbying capacity of organisations who speak on behalf of producers but there is very little lobbying on behalf of the consumer. The board, its chief executive and other members should be conscious of the significance of the consumer. The noise from the lobbying of the vested interests on behalf of producers should not drown the concerns and welfare of consumers. If that happened it would have an undesirable effect down the road. Terms such as "market-led" and "market driven" are used. I do not fully understand those terms and I suspect neither do many who use them, but it is essential that those concerns are carefully researched, properly understood and every effort made to address them. Those appointed to the board should be aware of the tendency of producer lobby groups to distort or overstate their case or to have an influence which may be undesirable in terms of community welfare. I do not suggest the Minister should go with that, but people in the industry should have a good understanding, capacity and a balanced approach to this matter and the views of consumers should be represented. I welcome the Bill and I hope it will move rapidly through the House.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Moffatt.

Deputy Moffatt. I am sure that is satisfactory.

I apologise to the Deputy. In case Deputies might think I had a few "small ones", nothing could be further from the truth.

That would be supporting the drinks industry in the spirit of the Bill.

We are dealing with the food industry.

We are dealing with both. Drink is defined as a food.

It is difficult to separate them on occasions.

Fish is an agricultural product.

That may surprise some people, but Deputy Upton explained the necessity to include fish in the Bill and Deputies do not disagree with him.

Except BIM.

It is not represented in the House. A single food promotion body has been recommended by various bodies including the groups set up to examine the food industry. I am pleased the Minister is acting on that recommendation. In Ireland we have something that many other countries seek, that is the green image, one that was portrayed magnificantly in the Eurovison Song Contest. The green image is associated with Ireland and is an invaluable asset in the promotion of Irish food. In the future we must build on this image and I hope the board will use it in the promotion of Irish food.

The food industry has undergone enormous changes in recent years. There has been a tremendous growth in the industry. Deputy Upton stated that 40,000 or 50,000 people are employed in the food industry, but, considering the number of subsidiary industries indirectly involved, employment is close to 100,000. There is great potential for job creation in the food industry.

I welcome the Minister's indication that funds will be made available for research and development. We have been slow to invest in research and development because it is very difficult to see a return. The most successful businesses throughout the world invest heavily in research and development. If we are serious about promoting the food industry, it is vital that adequate funds be made available for this purpose.

In recent years there has been a tremendous change in the eating habits of the Irish people, particularly the young population. Ten or 15 years ago people would not have been aware of pizzas. There has been a growth in the number of Chinese restaurants around the country. While bacon and cabbage is still very popular, young people's eating habits have changed enormously. It is important that the food industry take cognisance of that and meet the changing demands.

Deputy Upton referred to the difficulties created by angel dust. We have, to a large extent, created many problems by giving bad publicity, particularly to the meat industry. In other European countries people appreciate the industry and realise the effects on it of bad publicity. In recent weeks we witnessed a BSE scare. The reduction in red meat consumption in that period was obvious and will be confirmed by the local butcher.

There has been great competition in recent times among producers, with people marketing their goods through the use of catchy phrases. CBF came up with a good line to sell meat: "Beef eaters make better lovers". The Curragh sheep farmer, not to be outdone, came up with an equally good phrase; "Linger longer on Leinster lamb", which seems to have been very successful. If we are to promote the food industry we must be imaginative in our approach and meet the changing demands.

I recently ate new potatoes, which, unfortunately, were imported from Italy. We must address the question of import substitution. In the coming weeks and months there will be large-scale imports of new potatoes from Cyprus, Italy and other countries. In a country where soil is very suitable to the growth of potatoes, it is a shame that we import that product. It is important that every encouragement be given to Irish farmers to produce potatoes to at least meet home demand.

I listened to a number of speakers, including Deputy Dukes, who was critical of the composition of the new board and the way it will be appointed. He compared the composition of this board with that of the new racing authority. I have every confidence in the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry. He, and the Department, have taken the food industry very seriously and they are to be complimented on that. It is vital that the Minister appoint people who have a thorough knowledge of the food industry and will do their best to promote it. All parties must accept blame for appointing people not on what they could offer but on what they did in the past, but that system is changing, and rightly so. It is vital the right people are appointed to this job as they will play a significant role in the future of the food industry, and I have every confidence that will be done.

I compliment the Minister on bringing forward the Bill which has been well received throughout the country, with a few exceptions. It represents a step in the right direction. I wish the new board every success.

I welcome the Bill. There has been a demand in recent years for a board to adequately advertise abroad our food, drinks and fish products and the provisions of this Bill gives us an opportunity to do so in a professional way. It will be funded with £14 million per annum which is something to be welcomed.

Our food industry has been under great pressure lately because of the made cow disease scare, but our standards were so high that we were able to offset criticisms laid against us by the Germans and others.

I am glad to see that the drinks industry is included as Baileys Irish Cream is one of our greatest products. I would like to see further such development in the drinks industry. It is nice to see it drunk abroad as well as here and to see that this Bill has taken cognisance of developments in this industry. Sin an méid a bhfuil agam.

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words about the establishment of An Bord Bia. The establishment of a single marketing agency for the food industry is a positive development. It is stated in the explanatory memorandum that the expert group on the food industry which reported to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry last year recommended the establishment of a single food promotion body. It is regrettable that this Bill does not meet that objective. Section 2 (1), the interpretation section, defines agricultural products as meat, milk, eggs, cereals and other field crops, edible horticultural produce and fish. Despite that, Bord Iascaigh Mhara is not included within the remit of An Bord Bia. That suggests we are embarking on a half-baked idea and that, for political reasons, the concept envisaged by the expert group on the food industry cannot be delivered because the Minister was unable to surmount the objections which Bord lascaigh Mhara had to their independence being interfered with.

The food industry is of enormous significance to the economy. Although there has been a reduction in recent years in the number of people employed in the industry, the value to the economy in terms of exports is significant and we must make every effort to protect it. Only recently the German authorities proposed, at the stroke of a pen, to exclude Irish beef products from German markets. That matter was satisfactorily resolved but it pointed up how much effort is required to defend the good name of our food industry. It also highlights the fact that certain nations are prepared to embark on unilateral courses of action to meet internal political exigencies, which is not desirable. The threat posed by the BSE scare emphasises the importance of being vigilant and alert to attacks on our food industry's market share.

The Bill does not offer the taxpayer value for money in terms of the co-ordination of effort that is needed. It does not indicate how An Bord Bainne will be incorporated into the efforts of An Bord Bia and the marketing strategy abroad. We are all familiar with the extraordinary efforts and expense incurred by An Bord Bainne to promote the Irish brand name "Kerrygold". As a brand name "Kerry-gold" is internationally recognised and that was achieved by An Bord Bainne. An Bord Bia will be responsible for the promotion and market development of the whole range of Irish food and drink products. However, it is not clearly outlined how An Bord Bainne will fit into the new arrangement. Will there be competing strategies for increasing market share by An Bord Bainne and An Bord Bia? That is something we could not endorse.

This Bill has had a long gestation period. The expert group that reported on the food industry had a number of positive things to say and gave clear indications as to how we should develop and progress those ideas. The Minister has singularly failed to devise a coherent strategy to fulfil those objectives and give the taxpayer value for money in terms of increased market share. It appears that what we are to have is a continuation of existing boards in one form or another and at the same time competing marketing strategies abroad by An Bord Bainne and An Bord Bia. Bord Iascaigh Mhara will not be included, although that is an obstacle I would presume the Minister could surmount at another stage, given that he wants to include fish under the definition of agricultural products.

The strategy outlined is not coherent and does not meet the objectives set out by the expert group. Given that this Bill was awaited with interest and optimism in many quarters, it is regrettable that the Minister has failed to capitalise on the good will that exists on the need for a coherent approach to marketing our products abroad.

The agricultural industry is, without doubt, of enormous importance. The differences in approach that my colleague, Deputy Upton, alleges exist between the proponents for consumers and for agricultural interests are non-existent. It is in a farmer's interest that there is consumer confidence in his product.

Debate adjourned.