The Minister, myself and a few more colleagues have just left the Royal Ascot corner of the Dáil Bar. We are well refreshed for the continuation of the debate. Before the adjournment of the debate Deputies Dukes, Penrose and I made a plea about the need for representation for punters and racegoers on the new authority. We have put this case both on Second Stage and Committee Stage. I think the Minister should reflect on it very seriously before he makes his final decision. These are the people who are the future of the industry. Without crowds the sport does not exist. I implore the Minister not to disregard this amendment, it is one which speaks for most people involved in the industry. Greyhound racing in Britain may be able to operate without crowds which might be all right for television but Irish racing would be nothing without the thousands of people who flock to race tracks year after year. These people need representation, and I hope the Minister is willing – even at this late stage – to grant that.
Horse and Greyhound Racing Bill, 2001: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.
The effect of this amendment will be to exclude from membership of the racecourse consultative forum any or all interests who are not racegoers. Who is a racegoer? Racegoers are all those who attend race meetings. The intention here is to establish a forum to give all of those interests, and all of those affected by the decisions of the HRI, an opportunity to voice their opinion. That these opinions be respected by the board is written into a section of the Bill. What we are trying to do is accommodate the very large number of people who go racing. In Ireland, 1.35 million people go racing each year and they are a diverse group and include a wide range of people, without whom racing could not take place. Deputy Dukes mentioned a number of people without whom racing could not take place. A commercial industry could not exist without racegoers. On Committee Stage I mentioned stable staff who prepared horses—
Will the Minister give leave?
In view of the presentation and the debate that has been made, will the Minister ignore the text which he has about the technicalities of this amendment and speak about the substantive issue? Can the Minister tell us if he is going to agree to the proposal that the punters be represented on the board of HRI? All the rest is just window dressing and I can see that in the Minister's smile as he reads out the text.
Apart from trying to exclude some people from the consultative forum, Deputy Dukes has some aversion to a person's countenance.
No, I find the Minister's countenance entirely agreeable, but it just hides the obvious.
Will the Deputy allow the Minister to respond? The Deputy will have an opportunity to speak later.
I knew all the members of the outgoing IHA and I am sure I will probably know all the members of the new board.
I have no doubt.
All of them will be punters. I want to establish a broadly based forum that will allow the general public and various other interests involved a say in how the industry proceeds. I reached agreement with the industry in October last year, to which Deputy Penrose referred a number of times, after quite a deal of foreplay of various kinds.
No wonder the Minister has a smile on his face.
I will stand by that deal as any deviation from it would create some unravelling of the structure and I do not intend that. I intend to give a voice and a genuine say in the future running and operation of the industry through the consultative forum. That is why I included in another section that the opinions of the forum would have to be respected and reports would have to be published by the consultative forum.
For the reasons given on Committee Stage, the fact that the board of the HRI, which is envisaged, will not change, as I intend to go ahead with it in the way planned and agreed, and the fact that I will honour the October 2000 memorandum of understanding, I hope the Deputy can accept my reasoning for not wanting to limit or restrict the people or interests that will be represented on the consultative forum or its size or composition. I do not, therefore, have any choice but to oppose the amendment.
I want the Minister to confirm that he does not intend there to be representation of punters on the board of the HRI, that he presumes – he may have foreknowledge of this – that he knows all those who will be members of the board of the HRI, in which case this process of consultation with the various interests will possibly be a little cosmetic. I also want him to confirm that with regard to the forum, he has no difficulty in selecting representatives of punters because they are among the groups he intends to have represented on it, if I understand him correctly – he may already know who will be appointed to it, which would not entirely surprise me – and that he intends this forum will include representatives from various other sectors in the industry, a most laudable basis for consultation.
If I am right in that, the Minister is saying to punters, "we want to hear your views in a forum where there will be one set of views among so many and that we should include all the other interests". He is saying to them, "I will put you in a forum, which is the only place you will represented and you will be there alongside a lot of other people in the industry, some of whom, however, are represented on the board". The Minister is saying to them that as far as the running of the whole operation is concerned that although they are the key people, the raison d'être of the business, they will be treated less equally than the people who provide the horses and train them.
The Minister is doing this as a result of an agreement he and the Minister for Finance arrived at towards the back end of last year to keep those interests happy, vested interests one might call them, and to keep them living together harmoniously. That is what the Minister is saying. It is a great pity this opportunity has been missed to give real representation to the people who are the life-blood of this industry. It is an awful pity the Minister, whose instincts in many cases are surprisingly decent given the party he comes from, has missed this great opportunity.
I have made my views known to the Minister. A similar forum was in place in the UK and, as far as I know, it was not successful. The interests of the regular racegoer, the major consumers of this product, should be reflected at board structure. There is no power or influence in being part of what, in effect, is a toothless tiger. It is nothing more than window dressing. It is a sop to the thousands and thousands who frequent race tracks. I know a good deal about the Kilbeggan track. Some 7,000 to 9,000 people have attended it. Those are ordinary people. They do not go around wearing dickie bows. The Minister knows I represent ordinary people and I will speak vehemently on their behalf. Those people may go to the track with their pension books and be glad to get in for £4. They are not part of the cigar brigade, but their views should be represented at board level.
There was a rush to put the new structure in place. The memorandum of understanding appeared like the Sword of Damocles and the Minister cannot deviate from it. That is the danger of us ceding power to outside bodies. That happened with the NRA and several other similar bodies. Unfortunate people are now the subject of them telling us what to do and we cannot ask a parliamentary question about the running of them.
This is a consultative forum for what? I have outlined a glaring deficiency in the Bill. It arises from the memorandum of understanding that emerged from the famous meeting on 19 October 2000. The structure of the board should reflect an important section of the racing fraternity. This is an ideal opportunity to ensure that punters' voices are heard where it counts, where there is power and influence. That has not happened in the past. I ask the Minister to consider the principal consumers of this product.
I have tried to be fair on this matter and give representation and a voice to as broadly a representative group of people as possible. All the representatives on the new board will be punters. Punters were directly represented by a member of the IHA board. I knew the IHA board and I assume I will know the new board because, happily, we tend to know one another in this sector. Under the old order, I got nothing but grief from the lack of representation of punters, even though they had a direct representative on the IHA board. There are race course clubs, race courses supporters clubs and other various interests throughout the country. Tramore has a race course supporters club, as has Galway and many other tracks. There are also the ordinary race course clubs. I considered that a consultative forum of 13 to 15 members was the way to give as broad a representation as possible
Section 9 provides that the board will be obliged to take their opinions into account. Any fair-minded person on the new HRI board would have to have regard to the views of the consultative forum. Those who will be appointed to the board of the HRI will be punters and the consultative forum will have a direct input into the future of the industry. That is the best way forward for it. Under those circumstances, I regret I am unable to accept the amendment.
I regret that the Minister has arrived at this position. He is not being fair in what he is doing. The Minister and the Minister for Finance stitched up a deal with the other interests here. They did not have the backbone to stand up for the punters. The other people on the board may well be punters but they are not on the board in that capacity. The Minister might believe he had grief from punters, given that the last dispensation included a punters' representative on the board, but that is as nothing to the grief he will get from punters from now on.
I will press this amendment. We will be voting on the Minister's refusal to have a punters' representative on the board.
Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, David.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Blaney, Harry.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Matt.Brennan, Séamus.Briscoe, Ben.Browne, John (Wexford).Byrne, Hugh.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Collins, Michael.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Coughlan, Mary.Cullen, Martin.Daly, Brendan.Davern, Noel.Dennehy, John.Doherty, Seán.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Fleming, Seán.Flood, Chris.Gildea, Thomas.Hanafin, Mary.
Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kenneally, Brendan.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Séamus.Kitt, Michael P.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McGennis, Marian.McGuinness, John J.Martin, Micheál.Moffatt, Thomas.Molloy, Robert.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Ó Cuív, Éamon.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donoghue, John.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Hanlon, Rory. O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Kennedy, Michael.O'Malley, Desmond.O'Rourke, Mary.Power, Seán.Ryan, Eoin.
Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wade, Eddie.Wallace, Dan.Walsh, Joe.
Allen, Bernard.Barnes, Monica.Barrett, Seán.Belton, Louis J.Boylan, Andrew.Bradford, Paul.Broughan, Thomas P.Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).Bruton, John.Burke, Liam.Burke, Ulick.Carey, Donal.Clune, Deirdre.Crawford, Seymour.Currie, Austin.D'Arcy, Michael.Deasy, Austin.Deenihan, Jimmy.Dukes, Alan.Enright, Thomas.Finucane, Michael.Gilmore, Éamon.Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Joe.Kenny, Enda.McCormack, Pádraic.McDowell, Derek.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul.Mitchell, Olivia.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Owen, Nora.Penrose, William.Perry, John.Reynolds, Gerard.Ring, Michael.Shatter, Alan.Sheehan, Patrick.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.
Amendment No. 4 is in the name of Deputies Dukes and Penrose. Amendment No. 5 is related and both may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 9, to delete lines 34 to 38.
This amendment proposes to delete section 13(4). The subsection states:
In the performance of his or her duties under this section, the chief executive shall not question or express an opinion on the merits of any policy of the Government or a Minister of the Government or on the merits of the objectives of such a policy.
Amendment No. 5 deals with a similar provision in relation to Bord na gCon.
The people who run the state about which George Orwell wrote in Nineteen Eighty-Four would be delighted to see these provisions and would feel very much at home with them. This is naked censorship and an attempt to muzzle the chief executives of two bodies who through the Bill are being given the job of running the horse and dog racing industries for the greater delectation of the public and for the benefit of people involved in the industry. The people who campaign against blood sports would love to see this as it puts a muzzle on the industries to stop them biting the Minister. I do not know why the Minister feels so sensitive about this. Is he afraid that the chief executive of HRI or of Bord na gCon might some day say the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development is wrong in doing particular things or that his policy is unwise? I cannot remember a Bill coming before this House which proposed to do anything like that and yesterday was my 20th anniversary as a Member.
I congratulate the Deputy.
The Minister has been here longer than I have been. Not even any of the Minister's predecessors in that benighted party would have proposed something like this. We used to say that Fianna Fáil, for all its faults, was a populist party and that except for a certain period under a little dictator it believed in people being able to speak their minds.
The Minister knows as well as I do that there are occasions when the chief executives of various State boards can appear to speak out of turn and sometimes this can be inconvenient. If they are doing their jobs properly, they will find occasion from time to time to disagree with the Minister and his Department, but it is outrageous to write into a Bill a piece of McCarthyism of this kind.
I do not know the kind of advice the Minister got on this matter or the kind of spirit which has moved him to produce these amendments. I wonder would he explain to us why these two subsec tions, which are in sections 13 and 14 respectively, apply to the chief executives and not to the chairpersons of these boards. If the Minister was concerned about the tenderness of his skin and did not want to take criticism, it would seem to me that he would be more inclined to want to muzzle criticism from a chairperson, who would be regarded in the outside world, perhaps wrongly, as being a heavier hitter than the chief executive but instead the Minister has homed in on the chief executives.
Perhaps it is related to the fact that, as the Minister stated earlier, he will know all the members of this board. No doubt he will make sure that he will know them. Perhaps the Minister is counting on the fact that if a chairperson of either of these boards looks like getting out of line, he can call him or her aside for a little chat to say what is what – that has been known to happen too.
It is extraordinary that the Minister would provide in legislation for provisions of this kind. It is even more extraordinary that this Bill has been drafted in the normal way, has gone through the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government and has been seen by no less a person than the Attorney General. The Attorney General has belatedly woken up to what he thinks is interference in our affairs in Europe. If that Attorney General was half awake, doing his job and vindicating the rights of Irish people, he would not allow a provision like this to be written into a Bill.
Why does the Minister believe he needs this instrument to muzzle people who might question or express an opinion on the merits of any policy of the Government or of a Minister of the Government or of the merits of the objectives of such a policy? According to these provisions, these people are not now being prevented from simply expressing an opinion on the merits of any policy of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development but are being prevented from expressing an opinion on any policy of the Government or a Minister or on the merits or the objectives of such a policy. The chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland and the chief executive of Bord na gCon, in the performance of their duties, will not be allowed to say anything which would question any policy of any member of the Government. They may not say, for example, that they disagree with the taxation policies of the Minister for Finance which might affect these industries. They may not say they object to any provisions of public health legislation which might apply to race courses under the aegis of the Minister for Health and Children. They may not say they have any criticism of infrastructure provision policy on water supply or sewerage which might come under the aegis of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government. In their capacity as chief executives of either one of these boards, they cannot express an opinion in public on any policy of any member of the Government. If I ever saw a sledgehammer to crack a nut, this is it.
I perceive that the Minister is a little puzzled by this. Were he to do the decent thing, he would stand up and say that he accepts these two amendments, that he has enough confidence in himself and the kind of policy he proposes not to put this kind of muzzle on the chief executives of two bodies being set up in this Bill.
Can he tell me of a precedent for a measure like this in any of the legislation enacted since 1922? Have the chief executives of CIE, ESB, Bord Gáis or any of the multiplicity of public sector bodies established over the past 80 years ever been told anything like this? What was the Minister thinking when he put this provision in the Bill? This provision is so blatantly anti-democratic that the Minister should agree immediately to delete it.
I tabled an amendment which is broadly in line with those of Deputy Dukes. On Committee Stage we spoke extensively about these amendments and we impressed upon the Minister that it was undesirable for the Bill to contain section 13(4) and section 14(4). I am sure the Minister has reflected on the fairly trenchant views in that regard expressed on that occasion. I hope he has taken cognisance of the views expressed, which reflect the broad view of the Oireachtas, and that he will accept the amendments.
A chief executive officer would obviously operate independently in the exercise of his or her functions and would work within the confines of the articles of association of the board, but he or she should not be inhibited, muzzled or censored if he or she wanted to express an opinion on the merits of any policy. The provision is so broad as to be tantamount to circumscribing the independence of the holder of the office of chief executive. The provision should be removed totally because it is too broad and invasive. There should be no place for it in the Bill, particularly in current circumstances where the Oireachtas is continually providing for powers to allow for openness, transparency and accountability such as the Freedom of Information Act, 1997.
It would be incumbent on the chief executive officer to be free to express in an unbridled way an opinion on any aspect of Government policy. It might be beneficial for the Government to take cognisance of the views of the chief executive of such a fairly significant body. While the organisation will not reflect the views of the punters in the way we wanted, it should still represent the views of the vast bulk of people involved in the industry in a fairly authoritative way.
It shows a lack of confidence on the part of the Minister. As there are significant moneys being voted to this body, it is unlikely that criticism would arise in the context of its financial position but criticism could arise regarding some aspect of policy, not only of areas within the responsibility of the Mini ster for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development but of areas covered by other Departments which would impinge, directly or indirectly, upon the free and untrammelled operation of the authority.
The Minister has an opportunity today, by the removal of this provision, to ensure the chief executive officer will not, in any way, be hamstrung in the performance of his or her duties. The drafting office made a major slip-up in including this particular provision in the Bill. I was surprised, from day one, at its inclusion and I am equally surprised it remains in the Bill on the final day of its discussion. I have no doubt the Minister has given some thought to this matter and I anticipate he will do the honourable thing and accede to our amendments to delete sections 13(4) and 14(4). To do so would be a sign of maturity and confidence. A chief executive officer appearing before the Committee of Public Accounts to deal with various aspects should be entitled to say what he or she feels is a lacuna or negative in relation to Government policy in this area. Acceptance of these amendments would be to everyone's advantage.
I support the amendments. The unamended section contains an extraordinary provision which would create a very negative imposition on the legislation.
The possibility of the State having too much of a hold over Irish racing has raised many doubts about the Bill. I would not have agreed with that objection. Those who had such worries and who were concerned about Irish racing becoming too beholden to the Government feel this particular section justifies their argument. To impose on any chief executive the provision that he cannot comment or criticise Government policy as it relates to the industry over which he or she is to preside is negative, damaging and dangerous. It is something more akin to the type of legislation enacted in eastern European countries in the 1950s and 1960s. I see no reason this provision should remain in the legislation.
The chief executive officer, who will be charged with responsibility for developing our racing industry and ensuring its expansion, must be in a position to make known his or her views when Government policy impacts on the racing industry, be they supportive or critical. Deputy Penrose pointed out that the Bill contains a provision requiring the chief executive to appear before Oireachtas committees. Will the chief executive officer have to pass on some questions if a member raises an issue which might result in criticism of Government policy? It is unfair to tie the hands of the chief executive officer to that extent.
It would be important that the chief executive officer is in a position to make known his or her views when taxation or other measures, as they apply to the racing industry, are being proposed and debated by Government or politicians in general. One would hope that the chief executive officer's opinion on proposed improvements would be favourable on the majority of occasions. There may, however, be times when a word of criticism may be necessary.
Deputy Dukes asked if any other legislation which passed through this House contains such a provision. Is any other chief executive officer or chairman of a State board constrained in this manner? The answer to that question is "no". Difficulties may arise from time to time, they may be rare, with a person at that level indicating a difficulty with Government policy. It will be a helpful check and balance if the person appointed as chief executive officer of Horse Racing Ireland feels free and able to comment on issues affecting his or her industry.
I am happy with the overall structure of the Bill and the Government's commitment in this area. I hope the next Government will have the same commitment to racing. I would not like to see Irish horse racing so beholden to a Minister or Government of any persuasion that the chief executive officer has to have his hands tied behind his back to the extent provided for in this legislation. I look forward to the Minister's response. I do not see any justification for the proposed degree of censorship. It is important, in an industry as big as horse racing, that we listen to a broad spectrum of opinion and act upon it if necessary. I am sure what the Minister is proposing to do during his time in office will be supported by the new chief executive officer. We cannot speak about the next Administration or what other Administration will be in place in 20 years time. We cannot say what will be the view of any future Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. We may be guaranteed funding under this legislation but policy could become very different. It is important that the chief executive officer be, on occasion, absolutely free to say what he or she feels about Government policy. This provision must be removed from the Bill. Can the Minister justify what he is trying to do? I cannot see any reason to include this provision.
The amendments refer to the proposed deletion of sections 13(4) and 14(4). The sections refer to the audit and presentation to the Oireachtas Committee of Public Accounts of the annual accounts for the HRI and Bord na gCon. They require the chief executive officers, in each case, to attend the committee and give evidence on the regularity and probity of the accounts for the year. Like the board, I assume I, too, will know the chief executive. The position of chief executive will be publicly advertised in both instances and the appointment will be made by an independent body. The Minister of the day will have no say in the matter.
The Committee of Public Accounts is a forum used solely for examining accounts at issue. It will examine financial matters in relation to the two bodies concerned. I want Deputies to note that the restriction on chief executives is not included in section 15 under which the same chief executives will be called before any other Oireachtas committee to discuss policy and various directional matters. It was my understanding that, based on this clarification which I also gave on Committee Stage, Deputies were happy to withdraw the amendments.
I admire the Minister's ability in dancing. He will go down in history with very interesting people – Vladimir llich Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Lavrenti Beria and Eric Honeker – who felt they needed this kind of control. The Minister has a short memory because it is not that many months since the Committee of Public Accounts conducted an investigation which went much deeper than concern with just the accounts of bodies under its remit. It would be inappropriate for that committee to feel it could not ask the chief executive of the Irish Horseracing Authority or Bord na gCon for a view on policy. I am sure there are occasions when the committee, in speaking to the Accounting Officers of various Departments comes across events or incidents where they will tell the committee they cannot elaborate on the answer to a question because it is a matter of policy. One does not need to be an expert to know that the Accounting Officer believes the policy to be unwise but is bound in loyalty to remain mute on the point. I do not know if that is a good idea because although others may hold different views, I believe that, by and large, Ministers get very good advice from Accounting Officers.
However, Ministers can get bad advice from Attorneys General. No Bill that was found to be unconstitutional was not passed by an Attorney General. In this instance the Minister has received bad advice from the Attorney General and he can delete these provisions without doing any damage to the system to be established by the legislation.
I am somewhat confused because I thought the Minister was to amend the section. The only feasible amendment is to delete it because it serves no purpose other than to constrain the person involved from expressing an opinion on the merits of any Government policy. The Minister has indicated he is not concerned with restricting the chief executive in this way. Why, therefore, will he not delete the section? While I am sure the Minister will not use the section it will be used by somebody else who, in referring to the provisions of this legislation, will tell the chief executive he cannot express any opinions on Government policy. Given the nature of the Committee of Public Accounts, attempts will be made to elicit the chief executive's views on policy at which point he will say that unfortunately he cannot comment because of this provision. Some such comments may be positive but others will be negative in so far as it may be the view of the chief executive that aspects of Government policy will not benefit the industry. He should be free to express such views. There is no point in dividing on this point. I ask the Minister to see the sense of our argument and accede to our reasonable request.
I am broadly in agreement with the Opposition Members. The racing industry greatly appreciates the huge interest taken in it by the Minister and the Minister for Finance, including the benefits and security they are trying to give to the future of the industry. However, I see no sense in introducing this unnecessary control. Perhaps we will be in Opposition after the next general election – Deputy Dukes will get long odds on that – and if so, I would like to think that we could elicit opinions from the chief executive on policy matters. The phrase used in the section, "shall not question", refers to days that are long gone. I hope we do not return to them.
Chief executives of State bodies make measured contributions. We should not attempt to restrict them but should be aware of their responsibilities and rights. The kind of blind loyalty sought by this section is unnecessary and unhealthy. It is not that long ago that difference of views were expressed on the debate in the House on the muzzling of greyhounds. I do not believe there is any great necessity to muzzle the chief executive of this new board.
I gave the background to the reason for both of these sections. The accounts and financial affairs of both bodies will be discussed at the Committee of Public Accounts and discussion will be confined to those matters. I was happy to introduce provisions regarding the muzzling of greyhounds. It has worked well, has removed the cruelty from the sport and allowed coursing to continue and be enjoyed by many people, apart from this year when it was unable to be held. No doubt it will flourish again next year.
With regard to amendments Nos. 4 and 5, I find the force of argument by the Deputies compelling and their logic impeccable and reasonable. In the circumstances I am pleased to accept both amendments.
An excellent decision.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 10, to delete lines 28 and 32.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 12, between lines 40 and 41, to insert the following:
"(2) Section 19(5) of the Betting Act, 1931, is amended by the substitution for ‘one hundred pounds' of ‘3,000 (£2,362.69)'.".
Section 18 allows bookmakers to provide tote betting services from their high street premises on behalf of the Irish Horseracing Authority or Bord na gCon. It also allows them to sell the likes of teas, coffees, defined snacks and racing papers to their betting customers. It will be an offence for them to engage in any other business in such premises. This amendment increases the maximum fine for breaching these provisions from the outdated sum of £100 to the more realistic figure of 3,000.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 18, line 40, to delete "the Racing" and substitute "Racing".
This is a minor technical amendment correcting a typographical error where the word "the" was mistakenly left in the text before "Racing" in a reference to the rules of racing.
Carlow-Kilkenny): Amendments Nos. 8 and 11 form a composite proposal and amendment No. 10 is an alternative, so amendments Nos. 8, 10 and 11 may be taken together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 19, line 41, to delete "the substitution for ‘15' of ‘12' and".
In view of the debate on amendment No. 1 I will withdraw amendments Nos. 8 and 11.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 20, line 8, after "interests" to insert "having regard to the overall geographical dispersal of such interests".
I am focused on the geographical dispersal aspect and I ask the Minister to bring it to the attention of the board. The ITBA is the organisation for the thoroughbred horse industry and it is recognised by the Minister. However, as we are aware from the discussion on the previous Bill, not all thoroughbred breeders are happy with the representation, particularly the national hunt sector. Approximately 6,000 breeders are registered by Weatherbys Ireland and it is generally accepted that 50% of them breed horses for the flat while the other 50% breed national hunt horses.
The ITBA only represents 10% of thoroughbred breeders, but it concerns me that some geographical areas have much greater representation than others. There are approximately 160 national hunt breeders in Westmeath, but the problem is that only 5% are members of the ITBA. In Meath, there are 350 flat breeders and only 30% are members of the ITBA. Kildare, which, as Deputy Power knows, is the kingdom of flat breeders, has 500 breeders and 50% are members of the ITBA. I recently got nosey and looked at the geographical dispersal of the members of the ITBA council for 1999 to 2000. There are 19 elected members, but 80% – 16 members – came from three counties. Seven members were from Kildare while five were from Meath and three were from Tipperary.
Meath and Tipperary are seriously over-represented.
I do not want the same situation to arise with the new board that will be established.
Not to forget Cork.
The Deputy does not need to tell the Minister not to forget Cork. That will be a sine qua non of any legislation. However, 1,500 members were represented by 80% of the council. They were mostly flat breeders but the remaining 4,500 members, or 75%, had just three representatives at council level in the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association – one each from Kilkenny, Wexford and Down. Breeders from the rest of Ireland did not have an elected representative at council level.
I hope that whatever system is put in place does not perpetuate the election of members from the same geographical areas. This is why I want a geographical spread. This would be fair because there is inequality in the representation of flat and national hunt breeders. This is because not all breeders are affiliated to the ITBA and it is why I use every opportunity in the House to represent the important views of people involved in national hunt racing.
The Minister will be aware of horses such as Pigeon's Nest and many people in my area bred some very good horses. However, they have different views from those echoed at ITBA council level. I ask the Minister to ensure that the geographical dispersal reflects the location of national hunt breeders. They should have a reasonable say because their concerns are different from those of flat breeders. Their views should be represented and echoed in the portals of power in the context of the new authority. I ask the Minister to ensure that happens. This issue should be brought to the attention of the chief executive. I noticed the geographical spread during a lazy perusal of the membership of the council. The figures related to the council for 1999 to 2000 and perhaps the position has changed since then. However, I ask the Minister to ensure this aspect is addressed. I do not intend to press the amendment but I want to alert the Minister to this matter.
My heart and head agree with the concerns expressed by Deputy Penrose. Two issues concern me and Deputy Penrose is probably familiar with one of them. In most representative bodies, the number of people who partici pate in the body's activities tends to be much smaller than the total membership.
That is correct.
We discussed several bodies in detail earlier in the year and a minority of members elect the office holders. This can be a problem.
I do not know if the Minister has a solution to the other problem. How can he have regard to the overall geographical dispersal if one person will be nominated to represent authorised race courses, another will represent race horse owners and another will represent trainers, etc? I do not know how geographical dispersal can be addressed in terms of one person. In taking all the categories together, it appears Deputy Penrose ultimately wants representation from throughout the country. However, it could be the case, particularly given the prominence of Kildare in this area, that the board has a person from the Curragh representing authorised race courses, a person from the Maynooth area representing race owners, a person from Maddenstown representing race horse breeders and a close associate of Deputy Power's representing authorised bookmakers.
This would be justifiable because all the people in County Kildare would serve the industry extremely well. However, Deputy Penrose's point is that, somewhere along the line, some of the other counties should get a chance. I am sure Deputy Power would agree that we could afford to be that generous.
I agree with the point made by Deputy Penrose and supported by Deputy Dukes that a geographical spread is desirable. It is desirable in many professions, but it is almost impossible to achieve. However, I will convey the strongly voiced recommendation of the House that consideration should be given by the ITBA to geographical spread, although when it involves one person it cannot be done at a particular time.
The Schedule contains a provision that will ensure a turnover of the board's members. It states that on the anniversary of the establishment of the HRI and thereafter on each anniversary of such establishment, three of the ordinary members of HRI shall retire from office. I will convey the Deputy's views to the ITBA that, in the turnover of its membership, it should make an allowance for geographical spread.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 20, lines 36 to 38, to delete all words from and including ", in" in line 36, down to and including "women" in line 38 and substitute "comply with the requirement that 40 per cent of the members shall be men and 40 per cent shall be women".
As with the geographical spread, gender balance is not easily attained. I have a real problem with the practicalities of the amendment and I must oppose it.
I thank the Minister for being more than moderately understanding during the Committee and Report Stages debates. I hope the enterprise that will be established will work in the way that we all wish.
It is good to hear something nice in the Dáil.
I concur with Deputy Dukes's remarks about the Minister. He listened and knew that we were being constructively critical on certain aspects of the Bill. He has taken some of the amendments in the spirit in which they were put forward and that is appreciated. This evening's work shows the value of fairly trenchant views put forward by Opposition spokespersons. I acknowledge the assistance of Deputy Power in ensuring that the Minister listened to the arguments on one of our amendments with great understanding. The Minister displayed great forbearance and patience on the matters that were put forward.
I express my appreciation to the Deputies for their very constructive contributions on this legislation, which is important. The horse racing and breeding industry is very important economically and socially to the country and gives us a status internationally that other domestic industries would not give us. The weekend of the Epsom Derby was a great indication of this where on Friday and Saturday we had winners of the Oaks and Derby. Indeed at yesterday's Royal Ascot meeting, the St. James's Palace Stakes was won by an Irish bred and trained horse. Before we came in here some of the Members had the opportunity to watch some of the early racing today. I had a modest punt today on Mozart. I thought he was dead long ago but he ran very well and stayed on to win by a neck.
The quality of the contributions was outstanding. We obviously have an industry in which there is a tremendously keen interest. Knowledgeable contributions are always a delight to hear and I was very pleased to listen to reasoned argument during the course of the Bill. It will stand the industry and the country in good stead for the years ahead.