Horse Racing Ireland Bill 2015: Second Stage (Resumed)

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

Last night during the debate on the Horse Racing Ireland Bill the Minister announced that he would introduce further funding for the industry in 2015 and 2016, which is to be welcomed, because during the recession there was a reduction in the amount of money available to the industry. The Minister referred to a sum of €54.4 million in 2015 and €59.2 million in 2016.

As I said already, the horse racing industry is very important to rural Ireland. Fianna Fáil is committed to the horse industry, which is a major employer in rural Ireland. The sector is strategically important because of the significant contribution it makes to rural development, farm and other incomes, and the business, services and tourism sectors, as well as to the rural economy as a whole. The horse racing and breeding industries are worth €1.1 billion to the economy, employing some 16,500 people with high-quality jobs based in rural communities. The Irish sports horse industry is worth €700 million in economic terms each year. We have heard much talk in recent times about the decline in rural Ireland and the need to rejuvenate it. In that context, it is very important to recognise the role played by the horse industry in rural Ireland, and I believe there is room for further expansion and development.

The Bill before us builds on the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act of 2001, introduced by a Fianna-Fáil-led government, which created a representative governing body for the industry and transferred various functions to that body. We look forward to tabling amendments to further strengthen the current provisions of the Bill on Committee Stage. The Horse Racing Ireland Bill 2015 represents the culmination of a review of the industry and incorporates recommendations from the report prepared by Indecon in 2012. The Minister has now moved forward with this legislation to incorporate some of the recommendations of that report which should greatly improve the horse racing industry and the organisation that runs it in the years ahead. The new legislation will strengthen governance and transparency within the racing industry and will create greater accountability to the Government in the decisions and membership of Horse Racing Ireland, which was one of the key recommendations of the aforementioned Indecon report. The Bill increases the number of number of ministerial appointees to the board of HRI and clearly assigns governance and regulatory responsibility, clarifying previously grey areas such as point-to-point meetings, finance and administration.

I always wonder, when Ministers announce that they are going to increase the number of ministerial appointees to boards, who those appointees will be. I am sure-----

The Deputy hardly expects me to tell him that today. We have not even completed the Second Stage debate on the legislation.

I am sure the Minister will continue to ensure that people with experience and an interest in the industry will be appointed to the board in the future. I am retiring from politics and am available to serve if the Minister is stuck for an appointee to the board.

It is important to provide a single transparent structure for the administration and financial management of the industry. As the Minister said last night, the Bill's provisions will eliminate duplication and increase efficiencies in areas such as finance, information technology and administration. The Bill also proposes to establish a new statutory committee to focus on the requirements of persons employed in the industry and represent their interests on the board of HRI. In recent days I have been contacted by several people working in the industry about jockeys and injured jockeys in particular. They have asked about the role of the new board in the context of looking after injured jockeys. A lot of jockeys get injured and people have asked whether a fund will be available, through HRI, to compensate those who have been seriously injured. In recent years there has been a lot of fundraising activity on behalf of injured jockeys. Mr. J. P. McManus and many others have run fundraising events, special races and so forth to raise money on their behalf. Perhaps there should be an in-built fund in HRI for this. It may be the case that such a fund already exists; I am not sure. Such a fund could compensate those injured jockeys who cannot return to racing.

As I am on the subject of jockeys, I wish to pay tribute to the late Pat Eddery, who passed away in recent days. He was up there with Lester Piggott, with over 4,700 winners during his career. Eddery, Tony McCoy and many other outstanding Irish jockeys have done a tremendous job in ensuring that Irish horse racing is to the forefront not just in Ireland but also in Europe and the rest of the world. We should recognise the important role played by jockeys in the promotion of the racing industry here. Last night I referred to the importance of people working in the industry. In my own area of the south east, I am referring to people such as Jim Bolger, Aidan O'Brien, Paul Nolan, Colm Murphy and the Mullins brothers. Willie Mullins is an institution in the horse racing industry. People like those mentioned should be utilised more to promote the industry as we move forward.

The Bill will allow the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to undertake regular value for money reviews of the horse and greyhound racing fund in the HRI. I ask the Minister to outline whether he has had particular concerns in that regard. There seem to have been some problems in the greyhound industry. We have a magnificent greyhound track in Enniscorthy which received very little funding over the years but other greyhound tracks in which there was substantial investment now seem to be in financial difficulty and are finding it hard to survive. The make-up of Bord na gCon needs to be re-examined and changed. I believe there will be a change at the top of that organisation in the near future and I am sure the Minister will appoint someone to that role who will drive on the greyhound industry, which is another very important industry in rural Ireland.

I welcome the proposed change to the Forestry Act 2014 which will mean that the process of getting approval for the construction of forest roads will be easier and quicker. In the past there was a lot of duplication and there were delays in that area.

We must recognise the economic value of the horse racing industry to Ireland.

The horse racing and breeding industries contribute €1.1 billion to the economy annually and provide 16,000 jobs, mainly in rural areas. We hear a great deal about the decline of rural areas. The horse racing industry is the only sector that has stood the test of time and I hope it will continue to make a valuable contribution to the rural economy.

During the recession, many horse trainers were forced to reduce their activities owing to a lack of investment in horses. I understand, however, that investment is increasing. The racing industry will be one of the main drivers of growth in rural areas.

Irish horses valued at more than €200 million are exported to 37 countries every year. Our horse industry has the best jockeys and trainers and breeds top-class horses. Every year, many of the foreign riders who appear at the Dublin Horse Show ride horses that were bred in Ireland. Of the 6,500 horse breeders in Ireland, 15% are overseas investors, spread across every county. Racing festivals contribute €260 million per annum to local economies. The Galway Races, for example, generate between €50 million and €60 million for the local economy every year. In 2013, attendances at race meetings increased to 1.24 million. Race meetings at Wexford's valuable and viable track attract large numbers of visitors, including many tourists in summer. For example, people travel from Wales and other countries to attend race meetings in the town. The track is a major driver of tourism in the south east.

The international reputation of the Irish horse racing sector has facilitated exports of more than €150 million annually. The industry supports sport tourism, which attracts an estimated 80,000 visitors annually. Horse Sport Ireland is different from many sporting federations in that it has 28 affiliates under its umbrella and covers a wide range of equestrian activities, from show jumping and mounted games to polo and harness racing. A report produced by UCD in 2012 showed that there were 124,000 sport horses on the island at that time. Clearly, such numbers generate significant employment. The sector is worth €708 million to the economy each year, supporting the equivalent of 12,500 full-time jobs. If a company promised to create 1,000 jobs in any part of the country, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland would offer it all sorts of incentives and supports. For this reason, I welcome the Minister's decision to increase the allocation to Horse Racing Ireland in 2015 and 2016. If additional money comes into the State coffers, it may be possible to further increase funding to the sector.

As I stated, 29,000 people depend on the horse industry for part or all of their income. The industry counts 47,000 regular participants who are defined as breeders or other participants on a fortnightly basis. It is clear from the Indecon and UCD reports that the horse racing industry is very important to the economy. The Indecon report made 37 recommendations in areas such as funding, the board of Horse Racing Ireland, streamlining of functions, marketing, the competitiveness of the sector and legislative and governance changes. I am pleased that the Minister has incorporated many of these recommendations in the Bill.

As I stated, the Fianna Fáil Party will support the Bill. In that context, I apologise for the absence of my party's spokesman on this issue, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív. We will table amendments on Committee Stage to make improvements to this welcome legislation. I welcome the Minister's recognition of the value of the horse industry in a wide range of areas. It is important that we continue to support and develop the industry, which must remain at the forefront of sporting, recreational and tourism activities.

The issue of doping among athletes is topical. From time to time, people raise with me the issue of horse trainers operating outside the law, although I understand the use of drugs in horses is on a small scale. What will be the responsibilities of the board of Horse Racing Ireland in this area? Will it have sole responsibility for weeding out those in the racing industry who may step outside the law, or will responsibility be shared with the Garda and various Departments? If drugs are being used, the practice should be eliminated and those involved severely dealt with. The industry is too valuable to the country to have cowboys operating outside the law. I welcome the Bill and hope it will pass all Stages as quickly as possible.

All Deputies will be conscious of the contribution that horse racing makes to the national economy, including through the large number of people it employs. In 2012, horse racing contributed €1.1 billion to the economy, and in 2013, its exports to 37 countries were estimated to be worth €205 million. The industry is also of significant value to the tourism sector. It is important, therefore, that we get this legislation right and ensure transparency and accountability in horse racing. The entire horse racing structure must be democratised. In that respect, I am concerned about the proposals on ministerial appointments and changes in the structure of the board of Horse Racing Ireland, HRI. Deputies are democratically elected and we need to see democracy at play in all aspects of political life and beyond.

The Bill seeks to change the current status of the Horse Racing Ireland board and the committee that submits policy decisions to the board for approval. Since its establishment in 2001, it has been the policy of the HRI board to approve committee decisions and recommendations. It could be argued that the primary reason for the proposed changes to the HRI board is to give more central control to the executive and dilute the power of industry bodies whose representatives are elected to the board by members. One could also argue that this has allowed large corporate bookmaking companies to exercise control over Horse Racing Ireland, a semi-state company. Online gambling is worth approximately €2 billion per annum, while land-based gambling is worth approximately €1.7 billion each year. As such, the gambling industry is worth nearly €4 billion per annum. Many people will argue that vested interests in the bookmaking chains have a strong lobby and exercise considerable influence through Horse Racing Ireland and its connections. This sends out a very dangerous signal.

The changes in the Bill support my argument that the legislation increases the powers of the executive. For example, it is proposed to reduce the number of elected representatives on the HRI board and increase the number of ministerial appointments to the board.

The Minister articulated his case and there was a lot of merit in much of what he said. However, the issue is the message it sends to people in the industry, right down to the stable boy.

Powerful on-course bookmakers now have provision for a seat on the HRI board, which they did not have in the past. That does not sell the right decisions. The change in structures for certain financial committees, including on media rights, that take power away from race courses and traditional industry bodies means a move from three seats to five with two appointed by HRI who are not members of HRI. This changes the balance of power in favour of the executive. I am looking at a table of the current and proposed composition of the HRI board. Nominations from the race and regulatory authority currently stand at five while nominations to the racing regulatory authority in the new board are reduced to three. The position regarding nominations from persons employed directly in the horse racing industry, which was workers and union representatives, has been changed also. The number of ministerial appointments is three, one of which is from the North of Ireland. While I welcome the all-Ireland approach, ministerial appointments are seen on the basis of past experience as a form of cronyism and as political in nature. That can leave a bad taste.

The new Bill seeks to remove any independent financial support from the industry body, the Turf Club, and give it to the executive of HRI. That will control and further weaken the industry body. Anything that reduces the integrity of a body such as the Turf Club or gives the impression of having done so sends a very dangerous signal. The integrity of that body must be protected, maintained and strengthened. Point to point racing, a sport that has never been mentioned in any legislation to date, was not mentioned in the Indecon report and has long had a basis in volunteering, is now being converted into a State Act. What is the point of an applicant applying to the racing regulatory body for a licence, the licence fee having to be paid to HRI and the fees then having to be paid back to the racing regulatory body by HRI? What signal does it send and what does it achieve?

Streamlining, which is what was recommended in the Indecon report.

It is duplication. That is all it is. It is the signal it sends to the Turf Club and the general public who look to the Turf Club to regulate. How can the race and regulatory body be solely and independently responsible for making the rules of racing if it has a statutory obligation to consult with HRI first? It questions the integrity of the regulatory body. It is an issue given the international situation in sport and the allegations surrounding Russia and other countries and doping. The integrity of an organisation that is there to regulate appears to be undermined in this yet I have no knowledge of anything other than that the body has behaved impeccably. I acknowledge that we can tease all of this out on a later Stage through amendments and make our views known. We can add amendments to strengthen the legislation or provide the necessary reassurance. It is our duty as legislators to reassure the public that the workings of the bodies, be it the HRI, regulatory body or the composition of the board, can have their confidence. Public confidence will be the catalyst to move things forward in a better way.

Is there a legal challenge by the Turf Club in relation to that? I am hearing that there is and I ask you to confirm if that is the case. We need to know as we debate the legislation further.

The answer is that there is no legal challenge.

Has there been any indication of a legal challenge?

I ask Members to speak through the Chair. I ask Deputy Ferris to continue.

Is the Chair giving out to the Minister?

No. I am asking you both to speak through the Chair and I am saying that as Deputy Ferris has the floor he should continue.

If there is no pending legal challenge, has there been any suggestion of one arising? The democratisation of industry appointments is essential. The perception is that the way it has worked under the current composition involves far more democracy than what it is proposed to impose going forward. I ask the Minister to deal with that in his reply. I turn to the taking away of point to point control from the Turf Club.

For the record, Chair, a great deal of this is totally misleading and untrue. There is no taking away of any control of point to point racing.

Is it not transferred to HRI?

No, it is not. I am not sure who is briefing the Deputy, but that is not correct.

As such, the Minister is saying that point to point - the hunters' registration system - is not being taken away from the Turf Club.

What I said was that control of point to point races in terms of running them, deciding when they are operating and the management of them is still in the body which currently manages it. It is predominantly volunteers who do a great job. The only thing that is changing is the processing of certain payments in terms of licensing and registration. All of that money goes back-----

That goes to the HRI.

It goes to a central office.

I remind the Members that we are on Second Stage and I ask Deputy Ferris to continue.

It is just so that we have the facts.

The Minister will have an opportunity to come in later.

It goes to HRI so it is undermining the Turf Club.

Before I turn to forestry, I note that there is nothing in the Bill regarding harness racing. We had a presentation in committee yesterday from harness racers. I understand that they have been talking to the Minister. I would like to see their interests forming part of the Bill and I think everyone on the committee agrees. Many would argue that it has been left outside the loop because, as one person put it yesterday, it is a working man's and working woman's sport. That sector of the industry has no financial support whatsoever from the Department. It has been ignored continuously. The HRI has been preventing those involved from having access to privately owned race tracks. I would like the Minister to clarify in his reply whether he intends to take amendments to include harness racing in the Bill. It would be very helpful.

The Minister said in relation to the Forestry Act issue that on enactment of this position, only one consent will be required and that this will be administered by his Department. Currently consent is required from the Department in relation to the construction of a forestry road while an entirely separate consent is required from the local planning authority for an entrance from a forestry road onto a public road. I read this to mean the Department will be able to give the consent. As such, the Minister will give consent for a private road to go onto a public road.

How does this fit into the planning laws? As every elected representative knows, be they local councillors or Deputies, planning rules and regulations must be adhered to and any access to a public road requires planning permission. Is the Minister saying that his Department will have the power to overrule these laws and allow a private forestry road access to a public one?

I understand that Deputy Fitzmaurice is sharing time with Deputy Finian McGrath. Is that agreed? Agreed. The Deputies will have 30 minutes between them, so I assume that they will take 15 minutes each.

Five minutes will do me.

Deputy Catherine Murphy is on her way as well.

I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity to contribute on this Bill. Before I start, my condolences go to the Eddery family.

Horse racing is a major money spinner and is important to rural Ireland, where the business has been handed down to breeders and trainers through the years. The amount of money that horse racing generates around the country is incredible. For example, approximately €200 million worth of horses are bred and exported each year. In my county of Roscommon, the Galway races are well known for the amount of money that they generate. This is great for the country, the Government and the people. We must protect the industry and handle it well.

Appointments have been made. I have been vocal on this issue down the years, in that our system of appointments should not be ministerial in nature or the like. We should always opt for the best person for a job. The process should have no ministerial involvement. Transparency must be to the forefront. People could be placed on interview boards who knew the ins and outs and how to determine the best person for a position. It should not come down to who one knows. This is something that should be the case in every walk of life.

The industry creates 16,000 jobs, which is vital. By the look of the situation, even more jobs are being created. Watching races in America, Australia and so forth on television, in which Irish horses, jockeys and trainers compete with the best, is a credit to them.

As a previous Deputy did, I welcome that the Minister or the Department can give the go-ahead for a forestry road, but how does the planning issue stand? If one builds a house, one must get the go-ahead from the local area engineer or submit a planning application for a new access road.

Both of them together.

Fair enough, but this issue may need to be examined.

Another issue needs to be raised, namely, the number of horses without books. While that has been addressed to a certain extent, there have been major problems. Various groups made proposals to the Government to try to resolve the situation and reduce the number of horses in question. Will the Minister of State ensure that this problem is addressed? Large numbers of horses were roaming around forestries and wild bits of land. In fairness to people in the horse industry, they tried to tackle the problem. Some opted for killing, but the issue was that a bit of paperwork was preventing people from acting. The situation is falling into line, but we must devise something that addresses those horses that have not been covered historically.

The horse industry is worth a serious amount of money, as is the greyhound industry. Many people go to greyhound tracks during the week or at weekends. In some parts of the country, greyhound tracks are struggling. Breeders near me are committed to the game. Will the Government give them as much help as possible?

I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity to contribute on this legislation. I use the occasion to express my deepest sympathy to Pat Eddery's family on the sad loss of that wonderful and excellent jockey. A great Irish sportsman, he was admired by many throughout the State. He had an amazing record and was recognised internationally. He was crowned champion jockey 11 times. He had three Epsom derby wins, four Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe wins and four Irish derby wins. He won nearly 4,600 races during his career. He had the most winners in a day at seven on 26 June 1992 and the most winners in a season at 200 in 1990. What a record. To his friends and family and everyone involved in horse racing, I offer my deepest sympathy and strongest support. I commend a tremendous Irish sportsman.

The debate on this Bill is important, given the horse racing sector's major contribution to Ireland and internationally. It has put Ireland on the map in terms of horse racing, breeding and show jumping. It puts intense efforts into all sectors of society and sends a positive message about Ireland. The Minister of State knows that it is important that we protect and develop the industry. It has major potential to generate further jobs and expand internationally. There is no point in sitting back because we have done a great job, end of story. We need to be proactive.

The racing sector makes a significant contribution to agriculture, as the Minister of State is well aware, given his strong background in that regard, and the general economy. It is estimated that the horse industry provides in the region of 14,000 jobs and generates €1.1 billion in economic output. I will zoom in on these important figures.

Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, is financed by profits from the tote, funding from on-course and off-course bookmakers and a statute-based direct grant from the Government. Government support for the horse and greyhound racing industries is provided under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund, which was established under section 12 of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001. In accordance with that Act, 80% and 20% of the moneys paid into the fund each year are distributed to HRI and Bord na gCon, respectively. These amounts are subject to annual approval by the Houses of the Oireachtas. In 2014, €43 million from the fund was paid to HRI.

When dealing with this, it is important that we understand the background to the whole industry and the particulars. Although we frequently hear about tourism, our lovely scenery, conferences and web summits, which are all very important, we often forget about the number of people directly connected with horses and horse racing who come to Ireland. It was estimated in the Alan Dukes report of 2013 that approximately 80,000 people travel to Ireland annually for racing. This is a very large number. They come from the United Kingdom and from right across Europe. This significantly benefits the hospitality sector, including those who provide accommodation such as hotels. We need to look after those who travel here as tourists and also as consumers. We do not want to cheese them off, so to speak, as some hoteliers in Dublin are doing by overcharging them and screwing them for bed and breakfast. We need to wake up to this. Some Dublin hoteliers are exploiting people in respect of the costs of bed and breakfast and basic accommodation.

If we are to promote Irish tourism and reduce VAT to help the tourism sector, we do not want to find out consumers are being ripped off and paying €280 or €300 for bed and breakfast. That is not acceptable in this day and age, irrespective of the rationale. I know from speaking to my colleagues that some of them cannot even get a hotel bed in Dublin on certain nights. I am delighted the sector is doing well - good luck to it - but that is never an excuse to rip off the people. I raise this in the context of 80,000 people coming to Ireland for racing related activity. The same applies to the fishing industry. Anglers regularly tell me this. I recently met a group of golfers from Newcastle who came to the north side of Dublin. As the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Hayes, knows well, Dublin Bay North is a fantastic place to go and he is always welcome there. It has a very important tourism industry. We have a beautiful bay and also beautiful golf courses.

And a sea wall that is doing our heads in.

I remind the Deputy that we are talking about the Horse Racing Ireland Bill.

I will return to the Bill. I could not resist.

They got rid of a racetrack at Baldoyle.

That was before my time. The Deputy is dead right. It was disgraceful. I believe the previous Government was responsible.

The Deputy should speak through the Chair.

My apologies. I draw attention to the tourism potential associated with the 80,000 people who come to the country for racing. One needs to look after one's customers if one wants to develop a long-term relationship.

Attendance at race meetings is important. Data show growth in both total and average attendance rates of approximately 4% in 2014. However, there is potential for further growth. We need to up our game in developing the sector to get people away from the televisions and Intranet. We must encourage them to go out and have a good day at the races, thereby supporting the industry. With a bit of leadership and creativity, the growth rate of 4% could be increased to 6% or 7%.

We need to protect and keep our eye on the industry. We have a problem in the country with gambling and need to be conscious of those who find themselves in such circumstances. At the same time, however, we should never blame the industry for people's personal problems. There are times when I hear people having a go at the industry. I call them the nanny state brigade. They need to back off a little and realise many people work and are doing great work in the sector. The great majority of punters are decent, responsible people. For some in modern society, it is nearly a mortal sin to go into a bookmaker's shop to back a horse or greyhound or bet on the result of a football match. There is no need to go down that road.

The legislation boils down to three aspects, namely, the administration, governance and funding. There are a series of amendments to existing legislation. The Bill proposes amendments to the composition of the board of Horse Racing Ireland, provides for revised functions of Horse Racing Ireland, proposes the establishment of two statutory committees and proposes changes to the rules of racing. I welcome the legislation. It is important we focus on the needs of the industry. There is considerable potential in the sector. We need to get out there and push it strongly.

The horse racing industry is well represented in my constituency, Kildare North, which may have one of the oldest traditions of horse racing on the islands of Ireland and Great Britain. I became a blow-in in Kildare a very long time ago. When I moved there, I became acutely aware of the fact there is a complete language change when one moves to a county dominated by a certain industry, just as one hears nautical terms when one goes to a coastal area. In Kildare, one hears phrases such as "through the gap", "past the post" and "over the hurdle". These phrases are part of the language, as the Minister of State will understand. I have had to get used to it, unlike my constituency colleague, Deputy Lawlor, who is one of the few indigenous people who represent Kildare.

I am raising certain concerns because they were raised with me. I have spoken briefly to the Minister of State and will send him a more detailed note on this issue. A major issue for thoroughbred breeders is the foal levy. The three counties that are probably most affected by this are Kildare, Wexford - in respect of the National Hunt - and the Minister of State's county, Tipperary. Therefore, he will be paying some considerable attention to this. Most breeders are not associated with big stud farms; they are farmers. Approximately 90% of all horses are bred in this environment.

As the Minister of State is aware, the foal levy is administered by Horse Racing Ireland. It sets the rate each year. The proceeds generated are used to fund the Irish Equine Centre, Irish Thoroughbred Marketing and the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association. It is perfectly normal that an industry should pay a percentage to support itself and its proper governance. However, it has come to my attention recently that the foal levy is designed in a very regressive way. The people who raised concerns with me provided me with many tables to show that. The levy takes proportionately more from the small-scale breeders than larger stud farms. As I stated, 90% of the breeders are farmers. The levy is based on the advertised fee for the stallion. I have a table with approximately half a dozen examples. An advertised fee of €1,000 attracts a levy of 3.5%. However, where there is an advertised fee of €40,000, the levy is 1.62%. Where the advertised fee is really high, the levy is 0.14%. Therefore, the levy decreases with an increase in the advertised fee.

I am told the advertised fee is rarely the fee that is charged. The main reason the levy functions in the way outlined is that it is calculated based on the advertised fee for the sire of the foal and not on the value of the foal itself. The point has been made to me that although one pays the fee, the foal might not survive or be of any use. Alternatively, it might not prosper. One could pay a fee on a foal that loses money. Therefore, the amount bears little relationship to the principle on which the fee is calculated. This seems to be a very serious flaw in the design of the levy. The upshot of the regressive design is that small breeders, such as those who breed perhaps two or three foals each year, pay far more proportionately than their better-resourced counterparts in the large stud farms. When one considers that approximately 70% to 80% of foals in Ireland are bred by small-scale breeders each year, one realises the very unfair nature of the levy.

It is interesting to note that the number of foals bred in 2006 was 12,500, while the figure for 2014 was 7,000. That is quite a dramatic change in terms of scale, as I am sure the Minister of State is well aware, and it will have a bearing on the regressive nature and viability of this levy.

It is unusual that most of these small-scale breeders are not members of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, yet they continue to fund its existence. One would have to question whether that is fair when they are not represented in the design of this scheme. It is also not possible to claim a refund of levies paid in cases in which a foal is injured or dies. Again, this seems like a large burden on small-scale breeders. I spoke to a breeder close to where I live and he had a foal which he expected would realise a certain amount. However, the foal was frightened by a low-flying plane and ended up with some blemishes that dramatically reduced its value. That is the kind of thing that can happen. Would it not be better to calculate the value of the levy on the actual value of the foal in question? Is it not time to reorganise how the money is spent to give better representation to small-scale breeders who clearly make up the backbone of the industry?

The people to whom I have been talking are not opposed to the application of a levy, but they have proposals on how the Minister of State might rearrange it. They suggest that the proposed wording in the general scheme of the Horse Racing Ireland (Amendment) Bill 2014 should be changed from a foal levy to a sales levy, where the valuation can be established for each animal and the levy can be calculated on its true value. The proposal is to put a 1% levy on all animals sold by thoroughbred breeders in Ireland. In 2014, approximately €155 million worth of horses were sold in Ireland. That proposal would also give a proportionate figure in view of the fluctuation in numbers. In 2014, such a scheme would have brought in revenue of approximately €1.55 million to support the industry, which is almost €155,000 more than the present foal levy. In this way, everyone in the industry who sells horses at some stage - horses in or out of training, yearlings, mares, etc. - would pay a little, and that would bring in some extra revenue. With this system we would save in the region of €80,000 in administration fees. It would only take a piece of software to transfer the money to Horse Racing Ireland from the sales company. All other levies in the agriculture sector are paid at the point of sale, so people are asking why the bloodstock industry should be any different. That is a valid claim.

The second primary point I wish to make is not really unrelated to the first one. It has been highlighted to me that the institutional architecture of Horse Racing Ireland is a bit opaque and lacks accountability. There is a clear need for the chairperson of the board to have a statutory requirement to govern the organisation in line with Government policy. There is an awful lot that is positive about the horse racing industry, but there should be a symmetry and there is not. Government policy, the organisation itself and the sport can be going in separate directions. There is also a need to address the power imbalance by ensuring that at least one member of the board represents horse owners at all times. Those are the points that were made to me and that I have been trying to narrow down. I will certainly give the Minister of State some of the additional documentation that was furnished to me when I had discussions with the people involved.

I recently read some articles from 19th-century newspapers on the Punchestown races, including a report that detectives were dispatched from Dublin Castle to Punchestown, which provides a sense of the longevity of the sport in Kildare. The county has been known as the thoroughbred capital for a very good reason, and long may it continue.

I wish to echo Deputy Finian McGrath's comments on the death of champion jockey Pat Eddery. I extend my sympathies to his bereaved family.

I understand that the Minister of State is sharing time with Deputy Lawlor. Is that agreed? Agreed. They will have ten minutes each.

I am delighted to be here as part of a Government that is introducing the Horse Racing Ireland Bill 2015, which is an important piece of legislation.

Part of this Bill concerns the issue of forestry roads, which I would like to address before going into some detail on the horse racing industry. I acknowledge that a lot of work has gone into solving the difficulty of duplication between my Department, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Now that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is to take the lead role, it will cut out that duplication, as forestry roads have been a problem for many people for a long time. Many officials were involved in that work, but I wish to mention the efforts of an engineer who passed away in tragic circumstances. Mr. Peter Britton from Tipperary died while climbing in the Mont Blanc range of the French Alps almost 18 months ago. It would be only fitting for us to acknowledge his contribution and input into this matter. Some of his ideas helped us to reach a conclusion that will be of benefit to many private forestry owners around the country. I welcome the fact that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is now playing the lead role in this respect, thus making it easier for all those involved in the forestry sector.

The horse racing industry has a major impact on our country and Irish people have a passion for horses and racing. I grew up in a county in which the industry is deeply embedded, including among breeders. The horse racing sector is a leveller. Some people might say that only the wealthy are involved in horse racing, but that is not true. Everybody can be involved in the industry, which is great for the country. Some 18,000 people are employed in the equine sector around the country. Many rural parishes might have no other income but for agriculture, tourism, and horse racing and breeding. The Government must support the continued impact of the 18,000 people who are working in that industry.

We have proven in the past the importance of the export market for horses. At this time of year, one can see bloodstock sales taking place in Doncaster and Newmarket, as well as at Goffs, Tattersalls and elsewhere. Wherever they are, they represent fruitful breeding into which endless work has gone. That work includes preparing foals for sale at market, and those involved in it have a passion for breeding.

Their aim is to produce a foal that can probably go on and win a gold cup, grand national or derby. The impact of success and the relationship between a stable yard or breeding yard and the community as well as the associated pride is immense.

We are here today because the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney, appointed Indecon to carry out a report to track the way forward for this industry and put a structure in place to improve the whole industry and make it more feasible. One thing that has come out of the process is the question of investment in the industry. In this budget and the previous budget, the extra money given to the Horse and Greyhound Fund will help to establish it in a better place. It will send out a message loud and clear that the Government is fully committed to helping this industry in future.

The most important issue that has arisen in recent years and that has now come to fruition is the five-year plan Horse Racing Ireland has produced for stadia and race tracks throughout the country. This includes investment in the Curragh, which is the flagship for the industry. The plan is to make the Curragh a place where we can go and bring people from throughout the world to see some of the greatest races in the world. The Curragh could take on and match other venues, in particular in Kentucky in the United States and the venue for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I welcome the investment not only by the Government but by HRI. The fact that major trainers and owners have put private money into the business and the fact that they have been forthcoming will ensures the future of the industry.

Not alone is the Curragh being developed, almost every other track in the country will see investment, including the tracks at Gowran Park, Tipperary, Galway, Leopardstown and many others throughout the country. Few tracks are without a mention in the report.

The investment is important for the public who go racing. It is important to have the facilities in place to bring tourists into Ireland. We can talk about the industry and the affect it has on farms and land throughout the country but the major impact and potential relates to when tourists come to Ireland. They can go to an evening meet in the Curragh, Leopardstown, Tipperary or Clonmel. People can have a splendid evening. That is where the potential to affect the community lies.

I live a few miles from Tipperary Racecourse. Years ago many people used to attend the races there. The numbers have fallen but the capacity and the facilities are in place now for that racecourse and many other racecourses throughout the country to attract people and give them a good evening's entertainment, something that is singularly worthwhile.

Deputy Catherine Murphy made some interesting points. She commented on the concern among some people because of the drop in the foal registration from 12,000 down to 8,000. That is a fact of the industry. However, I see it a different way. I believe there is an advantage in that. In the past, particularly during the good times, the number of mares who got in foal was high, despite the breeding. Now, the fact is that we only get a mare of good pedigree in foal and we can be certain she will produce a better type of foal. This is what we have to produce for the export market. I hope that the culling that has occurred to bring the figure down to the 7,000 base will be successful. The base we will be working at in future will produce a better foal for the export market. That is what we have to work at. There is big money and a big prize to be got. Greater prices are to be got when we have the right type of stock. There is money to be made.

There are significant costs as well. Deputy Murphy adverted to the foal levy and various costs. It is important that everyone contributes to the betterment of the industry. Prize money and marketing are all-important and they must be put in place. In the past two years I have come to know that this is about marketing the product throughout the world. The dairy industry has done a remarkably good job in that area. The Irish Dairy Board has put money into that and worked at it. The same thing has to happen with horses in Ireland. We have to market and sell the industry. We have to compete with the French and other producing countries. That is something people should keep in mind when they are paying a levy. Mostly, the foal levy is set at a reasonable rate for smaller producers. I take the point, however. It is something that might be looked at in future at some stage in respect of the point of sale. Everyone needs to contribute and we need money to be available to sell our foals into this industry. I have no doubt this industry can develop in future.

I will not take any more of Deputy Lawlor's time but my last point is important. It relates to betting and betting shops. This is another part of the industry we cannot overlook. Paddy Power and other major players such as BoyleSports have big shops and seem to be taking over as monopolies. We should not forget the small bookmakers who perhaps operate in a small village with one shop. I know one such man in Tipperary who happens to be a friend of mine, Seamus O'Dwyer. He runs a small shop.

The Minister of State is canvassing hard.

He runs it himself. We talk about pubs closing, but this man is open during the day. He runs the office himself with one employee. He is giving a great service. That should be encouraged. That is better than Internet backing. He pays his taxes. These are the type of people who should be encouraged and we should not forget them. The same thing seems to be happening with the betting industry, in that players are getting bigger and bigger. However, there are smaller players too throughout the country. They are in Deputy O'Dea's county as well. I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak about the industry which, I believe, can only prosper in future.

I propose to speak generally first and then to speak on the Bill later in the afternoon. I would like to be associated with the sympathies following the death of Pat Eddery. He was from Newbridge and he passed away yesterday at 63 years of age, a young man. Those of us who grew up in the industry will always remember Pat Eddery and some of the great horses he rode down through the years. In particular, I have fond memories of his ride on Dancing Brave to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. I also remember him at the Curragh, where he won the Irish Derby three times. He won at many racetracks here when he was associated with Vincent O'Brien, for whom he was a stable jockey for six years.

The reward he brought to not only those who went to see him but to others too was immense. There was a lady in my area who would always like to have a flutter of a Yankee every day. Unusually, she did not back horses, only jockeys. The jockey she followed all the time was Pat Eddery. Invariably, that Yankee would come up on a regular basis. The man had in excess of 4,000 winners over the years and won multiple classics. He was champion jockey 11 times in the United Kingdom. We should be proud to be associated with him. My sympathies go to his family on the sad occasion of his passing.

I thank the Minister, Deputy Coveney, and the Minister of State, Deputy Hayes, for their support for the horseracing industry. Almost 4,000 people are employed in the horse racing industry in Kildare, either directly or those associated with the three racetracks. Deputy Catherine Murphy will know that in Kildare North we have a racetrack and a bit. The racetrack is in Naas and there is a bit of the track in Punchestown in Kildare North. Deputy Martin Heydon has a racetrack and a large bit of one, namely, the Curragh and Punchestown.

I was in the Curragh the other day for the announcement of the support for the funding of the new development of the Curragh racetrack. There will also be support for the track at Naas, where HRI is forwarding a grant of €1 million. This will be supplemented by €1.4 million from the racetrack company in respect of the development of Naas Racecourse. I hope that Punchestown might also gain from the capital fund.

The fund has been reducing over the years. This is the first time it has been increased and that is welcome. As I said, some 4,000 people are employed in the racing industry in Kildare. Most are in the training stables. I am beside one such place, where Ted Walsh works. He is a well known racing commentator. That stable has produced a grand national winner and an Irish grand national winner. I will return to the debate this afternoon when I hope to make a further contribution.

Debate adjourned.