I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I am pleased to introduce the Greyhound Racing Bill 2018. The greyhound racing sector makes a substantial contribution to the economy in terms of jobs - estimated at 5,000 as recently as 2017 by Jim Power, economic consultant - and contributes €300 million annually to local economies. In addition, it is estimated that there are approximately 7,000 active greyhound owners, with an estimated 12,000 people deriving an economic benefit from the sector. It is further estimated that over 14 mlllion people have attended greyhound race meetings in Ireland since 2002. Bord na gCon, a commercial state body, was established under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 to control greyhound racing and improve and develop the greyhound industry. It is responsible for the regulation, control, promotion and operation of greyhound racing. Its activities include: the licensing of greyhound tracks and their officials; the authorisation of bookmakers to conduct business at tracks; the operation of totalisator betting at greyhound tracks; the regulation of public sales of greyhounds; the making of grants for prize money; the allocation of grants to improve amenities at tracks; and the collection of levies from on-course betting.
Bord na gCon licences a total of 16 greyhound tracks and owns and operates a number itself, specifically Shelbourne Park, Cork, Tralee, Waterford, Youghal, Limerick and Galway. It also has a 51% share in the Mullingar track. Bord na gCon receives direct subvention from the State, through the horse and greyhound fund, to assist with the development of the sector. Funding for the greyhound industry declined significantly during the economic downturn, from a high of €15.3 million in 2008 to a low of €10.8 million in 2014. Since 2014, through a series of annual increases, funding has been restored to pre-recession levels. In 2017, and again in 2018, Bord na gCon received €16 million, accounting for approximately 39% of its total income. In 2019, it will receive a modest increase of €800,000, bringing the total Exchequer contribution for the year to €16.8 million. As I am sure the Deputies are aware, until recently, Bord na gCon was servicing a substantial burden of debt, which has acted as a financial straitjacket on the industry.
The sale of Harold's Cross has lifted that burden, and the surplus of approximately €6 million from the sale will allow Bord na gCon, as set out in its strategic plan 2018-22, to make further welfare enhancements and improve basic facilities at tracks to the benefit of all those who participate in and enjoy the sport.
Before I deal with the substance of the Bill, I will refer to the Indecon report, Review of Certain Matters ReIating to Bord na gCon, which was commissioned in 2014 by the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney. As part of the review, advertisements were placed on the Department's website, in the farming press and in the sporting press seeking submissions from interested parties. A wide-ranging stakeholder consultation process was undertaken by lndecon consultants and a total of 17 submissions were received from a broad range of respondents.
The report made a number of recommendations relating to governance, regulation and financial matters. Following publication of the Indecon report, the Minister invited and received feedback on the report. The Department also consulted directly with Bord na gCon, the Irish Coursing Club, the Bord na gCon stakeholder forum and various representatives on the issues. The report has broadly been accepted as a roadmap for the development of the sector. A number of recommendations in the report required legislative change and these recommendations are being addressed in the Bill.
Recommendations were also made in a 2016 report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine as well as in a 2015 Bord na gCon-commissioned report on anti-doping and medication known as the Morris report. Elements in these reports have also been taken into account in the drafting.
The general scheme was subject to thorough pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine in 2017. I understand the committee heard from all the major players in the industry and Department officials also appeared before the committee. The appropriate observations of the joint committee identified as part of the pre-legislative process were incorporated into the general scheme on 15 May. The general scheme was then approved by Government for drafting by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. While the Bill is now arranged differently to the draft general scheme approved by the Government, its key provisions relating to the greyhound racing industry remain the same. During the course of drafting, and on the advices of the Attorney General, a greater emphasis was placed on fair procedures, particularly with regard to the conduct of investigations by the board relating to possible breaches of racing regulations and with regard to the conduct of hearings by the control committee into suspected breaches. Bord na gCon is now required to consult with stakeholders and the Minister prior to making regulations. In addition, the consent of the Minister is required where regulation breaches lead to criminal offences. During Committee and Report Stages in the Seanad I made several minor amendments of a typographical or technical nature together with amendments regarding the membership of the board and the establishment of a fund for the rehoming of retired greyhounds. I will provide further information on these amendments as I outline the detail of the Bill.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to a number of changes in the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 that were not in the general scheme. A Programme for a Partnership Government states that the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 will be strengthened and enforced. The opportunity is being taken, in fulfilment of this commitment, to revise elements of the Act on the basis of legal advice and experience gained in operating the legislation and to remove some minor errors of a typographical nature.
I will now return to matters relating to greyhound racing. In broad terms, the Bill addresses issues relating to governance and regulation in the greyhound racing sector. It addresses governance issues in Bord na gCon, strengthens regulatory controls in the industry, modernises sanctions, improves integrity, includes the welfare of greyhounds as one of the statutory functions of Bord na gCon and provides the board with powers to make regulations relating to integrity, anti-doping, administration and traceability to improve welfare and integrity deficits impacting the industry.
I will now provide the Deputies with details of the Bill. Section 1 provides for the Short Title, collective citation and commencement of the Bill. Section 2 provides the definitions for the Bill. Significantly, the section provides definitions for "racing code", "sanction breach" and "racing sanction". These definitions provide a basis for administrative sanctions for breaching the rules of greyhound racing in addition to the current criminal sanctions. In addition, the section inserts a definition of a "substance", a "veterinary practitioner", the "control committee" and the "scientific advisory committee" and also includes a definition for disqualification and exclusion orders as racing sanctions. Section 3 amends the definition of "board" and "Minister" in the Greyhound Industry Act 1958.
Section 4 updates the provisions for service of documents and provides that emails may be used to serve documents. Section 5 is a general regulation-making provision and sets out the procedures to be followed by the board, including consultation with interested parties when the board proposes to make new regulations under the Act. Section 6 allows for summary prosecution by the board.
Section 7 provides that existing regulations will be revoked on enactment of the measures in the Bill. Provisions similar to those in the statutory instruments are being brought into primary legislation. However, section 7(2) allows matters before the regulatory committees to continue as though the regulations have not been revoked for the smooth administration of justice. If this provision is not inserted, cases before the committees may have to be reheard by the statutory committees under the Act. Any appeal from a decision of the control committee provided for in section 7(2) shall be appealed to the appeal committee.
Section 8 provides for a change of name for Bord na gCon to Rásaíocht Con Éireann.
Sections 9 and 10 arise on foot of recommendations in the Indecon report and relate to the governance of Bord na gCon. They consist of the following: an increase in the number of members of the board from a chairperson and six members to a chairperson and eight members; an increase in the quorum of the board from four to six; a term of office of five years for the chairperson, as opposed to the current indeterminate period; a statutory prohibition on the re-appointment of a person to the board beyond two consecutive terms to reflect the measures in the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies; statutory powers permitting the Minister to remove a board member where the member falls ill and is unable to perform his or her duties or breaches the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, as published by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform; and cessation of appointment to the board in a number of circumstances, including if a member is adjudicated bankrupt or is found guilty of offences relating to the greyhound industry, welfare of animals, intimidation, assault, fraud or dishonesty.
On Report Stage in the Seanad I introduced an amendment requiring that at least one veterinarian be a member of the board in view of the animal welfare and integrity role of Rásaíocht Con Éireann and at least one individual with detailed knowledge of the industry, thus maintaining the balance in favour of a skilled board in line with lndecon recommendations while allowing for some flexibility in respect of industry representation. I can expand on this further on Committee Stage.
Section 11 provides for the current standard provisions relating to participation on State boards by elected representatives. This provision is standard in modern law. Section 12 provides for disclosure of potential conflicts of interest. This new provision is recommended in the Indecon report. Section 13 sets out for the first time by statute an overarching statement outlining the functions of the board. It is intended to provide additional legal certainty on the functions of the board. Section 14 provides that the board is statutorily subject to the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies issued by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Section 15 allows the board of Rásaíocht Con Éireann to delegate its functions to the chief executive as the board considers necessary for reasons of efficiency and effectiveness.
Section 16 inserts an explicit provision permitting the board to apply funds to enhance greyhound health and welfare. Section 17 modernises the wording relating to the ability of Rásaíocht Con Éireann to borrow, but retains the requirement for the consent of the Minister and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, acting with the consent of the Minister for Finance.
Section 17 of the principal Act is repealed. Section 18 explicitly provides for the reporting of the accounts of subsidiaries of the board. Section 19 increases the maximum fine to €250,000 on indictment for operating a greyhound racing track without a licence. This brings the 1958 Act into line with current sanction regimes.
Sections 20 to 22, inclusive, replace section 25 of the principal Act.
Section 20 provides for the making of regulations in relation to race tracks and provides for a sanction of a class A fine. It provides for regulations prohibiting racing officials operating unless they have permits and prohibiting individuals from having beneficial interests in aspects of the business.
Section 21 extends the regulatory powers of the board to control racing officials and to ensuring the integrity of the sport. Subsection (1) deals with the control of racing, subsection (2) with the conduct of racing and the promotion of integrity and fair play in racing including the use of information technology to assist towards this end, subsection (3) deals with the administration of racing including the registration and grading of greyhounds and the promotion of racing, subsection (4) deals with charges for entry of a greyhound to a race and finally subsection (5) states that breaches of regulations provided for in this section carry racing sanctions.
Section 22 allows the board to make guidelines to control the establishment, layout, construction and maintenance of greyhound race tracks or the use of equipment at such tracks. Enforcement of guidelines in this area will be through the track licensing regime.
Section 23 repeals section 25 of the principal Act. Sections 24 to 26, inclusive, are a recasting of the provisions in sections 37 to 39, inclusive, of the principal Act in relation to the training of greyhounds for reward, the public sale of greyhounds and the artificial insemination of greyhounds. The corresponding sections or subsections in the principal Act are repealed. The consent of the Minister is now required for any new regulations made under these sections. It continues to be an offence to engage in these activities without a licence, permit or approval issued by the board. However, the contravention of regulations made under these sections by a licensee, permit or approval holder now carries racing sanctions.
Section 27 details the regulation making powers of the board in the area of doping control and the administration of substances to a greyhound. Among other things it allows the board to list substances that may and may not be given to a greyhound, setting residue limits, withdrawal periods, declaring thresholds and the methodologies by which thresholds can be determined for substances. The board may make regulations requiring the keeping of records regarding the administration of substances, the controls to be operated and records to be kept by persons participating in greyhound racing in relation to doping and medication control. The advice and recommendations of the scientific advisory committee is to be used to determine the processes, methods, levels of accuracy etc. by which samples are deemed to contain a substance. It also provides that a greyhound that fails a test for prohibited substances is disqualified from racing or trialling until it passes a subsequent test etc.
Section 28 relates to regulatory powers for the traceability of greyhounds. The board may make regulations requiring the registration of greyhound owners, the registration of racing greyhounds and the notification by owners, breeders and trainers of greyhounds of many more life events than those currently captured on existing stud book and microchipping databases. The regulations will support the board in its ambition to establish and maintain a new comprehensive tracing database for racing greyhounds.
Section 29 allows the board to make regulations for the health and welfare of a greyhound including requiring those involved to provide information for the sound administration of the industry and to protect the health and welfare of greyhounds. It allows the board to set down provisions for the treatment of diseased and injured greyhounds and the establishment of funds to protect the health and welfare of a greyhound, including the establishment of a fund for re-homing retired racing or breeding greyhounds. I made this latter refinement as a Report Stage amendment in the Seanad.
Sections 30 to 34, inclusive, relate to the board's right to grant or refuse licences, to attach conditions to licences, permits and approvals, make charges for the grant and renewal of licences etc. and to revoke or suspend such licences. The fair procedures to be followed, including the right to reply, where the board refuses, revokes or suspends a licence etc. is provided for.
Sections 35 to 37, inclusive, and 40 relate to the appointment, investigatory powers and functions of authorised officers. This is the first time the appointment of authorised officers for the purposes of greyhound legislation has been provided for in primary legislation. It provides amplified powers for authorised officers to investigate matters including investigating the use of performance altering substances. Section 40 specifically provides that subject to the jurisdiction of the District Court authorised officers may seek a search warrant, including to search a domestic dwelling, where the authorised officer believes that there may be evidence of a breach or an intended breach of the racing code or of the commission or intended commission of an offence under the Greyhound Industry Acts.
Sections 38, 39 and 41 relate to the obligation of persons to provide assistance to and follow the directions of authorised officers when carrying out their functions, including a requirement to produce a greyhound at a specific time and place. In addition it is being made a criminal offence to obstruct, to fail to give information, to give false information or to fail to provide assistance or follow the direction of an authorised officer when carrying out his or her functions. The standard provisions regarding self-incrimination are provided for.
Section 42 sets out the procedures for the conduct of investigations by the board and permits the board to notify the club where there is a possibility that matters known to it may be of concern to the club.
Section 43 sets down the classes of people who are subject to the jurisdiction of the control and appeal committees. It also states that the determination of racing sanctions rests with these committees. Section 44 provides for the establishment by statute of the control committee and details its operations. The control committee will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight other members to ensure that there is a sufficient pool of members to deal promptly with control matters. The control committee will require a quorum of the chairperson or deputy chairperson and two other members. Appointments to the committee are by the Minister for a maximum of two terms. The chair has a term of five years with ordinary members having a term of four years.
Section 45 provides for fair procedures in relation to hearings of the control committee. It specifically provides that decisions may be made in absentia in respect of persons who fail to attend the control committee.