Public Business. - Greyhound Industry Bill, 1957—Second Stage.

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

The general purpose of the Greyhound Industry Bill—in the debates on which I am deputising for the Minister for Agriculture—is to provide an adequate regulatory system conducive to the better development of the greyhound industry—that is to say, in particular the breeding, coursing, racing and export of greyhounds. The Bill primarily owes its origin to the Report of the Advisory Committee on the Greyhound Industry which was set up in 1951 with terms of reference as follows:—

"To ascertain and report on the position respecting coursing, greyhound racing, greyhound breeding and other related activities and such measures, if any, as are considered desirable in the national interest for the better control and development thereof."

Coursing has a long tradition in rural Ireland, but the term "greyhound industry" is more readily associated with the development in fairly recent times of track racing and the export trade in greyhounds for that purpose. Coursing interests in this country set up the Irish Coursing Club in 1916 to regulate greyhound breeding and coursing activities. When greyhound racing made its appearance in 1927, the Irish Coursing Club, after some deliberation, decided to undertake regulation in that sphere also. With the expansion of greyhound racing, a growing commercial element developed and an export trade was built up in greyhounds for racing purposes, mostly to Britain. During and after the late war period in Britain, greyhound racing attracted increasing patronage, with resulting benefit to our export trade in greyhounds. For example, exports rose in value from about £77,000 in 1938 to £130,000 in 1942, £733,000 in 1945 and over £1,000,000 in each of the years 1946 and 1947. During the middle and later 1940's also, greyhound racing in this country experienced considerable prosperity.

The export figure declined rapidly to about £409,256 in 1951. Since that date, however, a slow but continuous improvement has been experienced so that last year, 1957, 5,101 dogs, valued at £543,000, were exported.

It became fairly clear that, for the future progress of this promising industry, a more effective type of control would be needed. The Advisory Committee on the Greyhound Industry stated in their report (page 56, paragraph 136):—

"We have been impressed with the demand from practically all quarters for a control board to be established by an Act of the Oireachtas, somewhat on the lines of the Racing Board"

(that is, for horse racing under the 1945 Act).

The Committee went on to say (in the same paragraph):—

"We were informed that the Irish Coursing Club is doubtful as to whether it is legally entitled to take the obvious steps to deal with certain abuses and gathered that the club, while naturally desirous of continuing more or less in its present form, would welcome the establishment of a Control Board."

The Committee had earlier said (page 52, paragraph 127):—

"While we feel bound to agree that many of the criticisms directed against the Irish Coursing Club are well founded, we also feel that its faults have been largely due to the assumption of functions which were not anticipated by its founders and that the necessary reorganisation of the club did not keep pace with the newly assumed functions and increasing responsibilities."

The Advisory Committee's Report summarised their main recommendations as follows (page 81, paragraph 186):—

"1. The reorganisation of the Irish Coursing Club.

2. The establishment of a control board.

3. The transfer to the board from the Irish Coursing Club of control of greyhound racing.

4. The installation of totalisators on city tracks and the imposition of a levy on the betting turnover thereon.

5. The imposition of a levy on course betting on all tracks.

6. Supervision by the control board of sales and exports of greyhounds."

Provisions to give effect to these and other recommendations of the Advisory Committee are contained in the Bill.

As to the Bill itself, Part I deals with some points of interpretation and procedure. Part II provides for the establishment and functioning of the proposed control board to be called Bord na gCon. The board will consist of a chairman and six ordinary members, appointed by the Minister for Agriculture, and three of the ordinary members must be drawn from the standing or executive committee of the Irish Coursing Club. Section 16 sets out the purposes conducive to the improvement of the greyhound industry towards which the board may contribute out of its funds. A good part of these funds which, the committee hoped would amount to about £100,000 in the first year, would come from the operation of totalisators by the board, under Section 20, at the few main tracks.

Part III of the Bill deals with the licensing of greyhound racetracks by the board. The board will be obliged to grant applications for licences in respect of tracks affiliated to the Irish Coursing Club in 1957, but will have discretion otherwise—for example in regard to the licensing of "schooling" tracks. Under Section 25 the board will have wide powers to make regulations in regard to the operation of tracks and the conduct of greyhound racing, with a view to preventing abuses. The section also provides that the Irish Coursing Club may make racing rules and under sub-section (5) of Section 26 such rules would require the consent of the board.

Part IV of the Bill deals with the internal reorganisation of the Irish Coursing Club as set out in the proposed new constitution attached as a Schedule to the Bill, which was worked out with the Irish Coursing Club having regard to the Advisory Committee's recommendations. Subject to the general authority of the board, the Irish Coursing Club will continue to exercise direct control of breeding and coursing matters.

Part V of the Bill will enable a levy to be imposed on course bets as in the case of horse racing, for the purpose of helping to finance the board's activities. Under Section 31 the levy may be replaced at any time, if considered appropriate, by the collection for payment to the board of a specific amount as part of the admission charge for a bookmaker to a greyhound racetrack or coursing meeting. It is believed, however, that a levy on course bets cannot be avoided in the early years if the board is to get sufficient funds to undertake its tasks satisfactorily. I should emphasise here that a levy will require the consent of the Minister for Agriculture.

Part VI of the Bill deals with some miscellaneous matters mainly arising out of the Advisory Committee's Report, such as the authorisation by the board of certain officials to function at coursing meetings, regulation of the training of greyhounds for reward, control of public sales of greyhounds, investigations by the board and the Irish Coursing Club of suspected abuses, the taking of disciplinary action by the board and the club where cases of wrongdoing may warrant it, control of the admission charges for bookmakers and members of the public at greyhound racetracks and coursing meetings. Sections 50 and 51 provide means of appeal to an independent committee against decisions by the board in regard to the grant or revocation of licences and permits.

I commend the Bill for the favourable consideration of the Seanad. I think it provides a satisfactory basis for the future regulation of the greyhound industry, which is a growing and important industry. I think it will be found that the provisions of the Bill will operate in the best interests of all who are concerned to build up the trade in greyhounds.

It was one of my consolations when I lost my seat in Dáil Eireann that I felt I had lost contact with discussions about this Greyhound Bill. I am sure the Minister will sympathise with me about that. I have been associated with this since 1951— I nearly said 1851, for it feels like that. I was a member of the original body which made the recommendations on which the Bill is based. Now that I have been translated to this House, I find, like Sinbad, that this business is following me like the Old Man of the Sea, and I still have to talk about it, though I am very tired of it. I remember that in the last Parliament the Minister now sponsoring the Bill took a very active part in opposing the propositions which the then Minister for Agriculture put before the Dáil. His achievement was remarkable; we had nine months of the most impassioned oratory, all filibustering. Now the wheel has turned full circle and that nine months of oratory has brought forth this mouse.

There is no difference between this Bill and the Bill introduced by the previous Minister, except for the minute change that, for the transition period, three members of the Irish Coursing Club will form part of this governing body. After that transition period, it was, of course, the intention of the previous Minister that the elections to that body would be conducted in a democratic way. I think he felt— he said so in public and I believe him —that he made that arrangement at the time in order to provide a carrying-over machine which would translate the present system to the new system and which would also be a tribute to the men who had brought this greyhound industry, for whatever it is worth, into whatever position it is in to-day.

The results which one seeks from this kind of legislation—and they were the results I aimed at when I was a member of the investigating committee —are twofold. The first is that the small breeder, the man who breeds greyhounds, the small farmer in the country, will get a fair price for his animals when he has reared them. It is quite a profitable industry for the small farmer or cottier, because he can raise two or three dogs a year at a small cost, and if they are well bred and if he is an intelligent and careful man, he will get a good reward, as good as he would get from rearing cattle; and they are only a sideline and the woman of the house generally looks after them. Secondly, on the question of the foreign buyer, it is very important that when he gets greyhounds from this country he should not be deceived when he buys an animal, that it is worth it, that it is what it purported to be and that the racing card accompanying the animal is a genuine card, with all the faults of the animal enumerated on it. If we keep these two objectives in mind and if the Bill works, we will achieve these results. If the Minister can ensure that the men who are on the first board are men of integrity and quality, I think this Bill will produce good results.

The Minister has my good wishes—I will be very brief about them. He has also my thanks for doing what he tried so hard to prevent being done in the last Parliament. I think we should let the Bill go, that the Seanad should pass it and let the greyhound men look after their own business. I hope that never again will we hear the word "greyhound" inside the gates of Leinster House and never again will we see bookmakers lobbying in the House—which was a most objectionable feature of the last Parliament when the Bill was being discussed. I think the Minister might and would say "amen" to that.

This Bill is one to control and regulate, and powers are being invested in the new board to achieve the purposes of the Bill. Certain other powers are vested in the Irish Coursing Club. I do not know if it has occurred to the Minister to look into the matter with which I am about to deal. Since this Bill passed through Dáil Eireann, there has been a decision of the Supreme Court which, to my mind, has a direct bearing on a great many of the provisions of this Bill. The Constitution provides that no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to the provisions of the Constitution.

In the light of the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of the Solicitors Act—which was decided on last Friday—it seems to me that the House has a duty to consider whether sections of this legislation are not repugnant to the provisions of the Constitution. The position for the future, as I read the Bill, will be that people who are free now to carry on certain matters in relation to racing and coursing of greyhounds, the sale of greyhounds, their training and breeding, will in future be permitted to do so, only under a licence to be granted either by the new Greyhound Racing Board or under some authority given to them by the Coursing Club. In other words, the position which may be created by the enactment of this legislation will be, for the future, that activities which at present could be carried out without any licence, permit or approval of any statutory body will become illegal, if carried out without these permits or licences.

Section 21 of the Bill provides in sub-section (1) that after the appointed day, a person, other than the board, shall not operate a greyhound racetrack, except under a licence to do so. Under Section 22 (1), the board is empowered to grant or refuse such a licence, but there is the saving provision that anybody who operated a greyhound racetrack in the year 1957 will be entitled to get that licence. However, that will not provide for the future. If someone establishes a track and it does not comply, in the view of the board, with their requirements, that person may be denied the exercise of the right he has to establish a track at present. That denial may occur by reason of the board's refusal of the licence. Under Section 24, the board may withdraw a licence or suspend it, if satisfied that the track concerned is conducted in a disorderly manner, or is in a condition dangerous to persons frequenting the track or has ceased to be used for greyhound races.

Section 25 contains a number of prohibitions, the effect of which is that persons will not be entitled to act as racing managers, handicappers, judges, stewards, time-keepers or hare-drivers, save under and in accordance with permits granted by the board at its discretion. In other words, people at present carrying on these functions will not be able to carry them on in future, except under permit of the board. If the board withdraws the licence or refuses the permit in any of these cases, the people engaged in that occupation and deriving their livelihood from it will be unable to make their living.

There are other sections which contain similar requirements. Section 29 enables the board to grant or refuse a permit to a licensed bookmaker to carry on his business of bookmaking at a racing or coursing meeting. Section 37 provides for the granting of licences for the training of greyhounds. Section 38 provides for the granting of licences to hold public sales and auctions of greyhounds and Section 39 provides for the granting or refusal of licences for engaging in the artificial insemination of greyhounds. All of these are impositions being introduced by this Bill and if the Minister has not already considered this matter, I would ask him to consider, before it is taken another stage, whether, in the light of the decision of the Supreme Court on the Solicitors Act, the new situation as disclosed by that decision makes this Bill unconstitutional.

The Minister has said that in a later part of the Bill provision is made for disciplinary measures against people who do not carry out the provisions of the Bill and in the constitution of the Coursing Club contained in the Schedule, there is provision that the executive committee of the club "may take or authorise the taking of disciplinary action, including the imposition of disabilities in relation to participating in greyhound breeding, coursing and racing, against persons who appear to them to have been guilty of conduct inimical to the breeding or coursing of greyhounds or to have contravened rules made by the Club relating to greyhound racing or the training of greyhounds for reward". Unfortunately, I have not got the judgment of the Supreme Court and I must only rely on my memory of what I heard when the judgment was being delivered and on an extract from it, as printed in theIrish Independent of March 8th.

The members of the House are probably aware that the Act in question was the Solicitors Act, which provides for the control and regulation in certain respects of the solicitors' profession. The Solicitors Act, 1954, established a disciplinary committee, and that committee was invested with certain powers, amongst which were the taking of disciplinary action against a solicitor into whose conduct they had held an inquiry. They were authorised by the Act to do one or more of the following: to dismiss the application, to admonish the solicitor, to suspend the solicitor from practice, to remove or strike off the roll the name of the solicitor and oblige him to make a contribution towards the cost of the inquiry. They could also oblige him to make restitution or satisfaction to another party who had come to the disciplinary committee.

The Supreme Court adopted the attitude that where the functions of a statutorily appointed body impinged in a profound way upon the livelihood or fortunes of the citizens and that body was not a judicial body, any Act which contained these provisions was repugnant to the Constitution, as far as these provisions were concerned. I quote from theIrish Independent:

"If the exercise of such powers and functions was calculated ordinarily to affect in the most profound and far-reaching way the lives, liberties, fortunes or reputations of those against whom they were exercised they could not properly be described as ‘limited'.

The short point involved in the appeal was, said Mr. Justice Kingsmill Moore, whether the disciplinary committee set up by the Act had been given powers and functions the exercise of which involved the ‘administration of justice', and which could not properly be regarded as falling within the saving provisions of Article 37."

Article 37 of the Constitution provides for the exercise of limited powers of a judicial character by statutory bodies. I continue the quotation:—

"Here they were dealing with a tribunal which depended for its existence and its powers on a legislative act of the State."

I think that in relation to this Bill the powers and functions of the board are dependent upon a legislative act of the State. They do not find their power except under this Act. The quotation goes on:—

"If the effect of such legislation was to confer the powers to administer justice on persons who were not regularly appointed judges it was by Article 34 unconstitutional unless it could be brought within some of the saving provisions of the Constitution.

Mr. Justice Kingsmill Moore considered the constitutional powers and functions of the disciplinary committee and said that it seemed to the court that the power to strike a solicitor off the roll was, when exercised, an administration of justice, both because the infliction of such a severe penalty on a citizen was a matter which called for the exercise of the judicial power of the State, and because to entrust such a power to persons other than judges was to interfere with the necessities of the proper administration of justice."

It seems to me that if an owner of a racetrack is conducting that track in accordance with what he considers proper standards and the Greyhound Racing Board decides that it is not a properly conducted track and withdraws the track licence from the owner, they are undoubtedly interfering with the fortunes of that proprietor and that consequently to do that under a legislative Act of the Oireachtas would be quite unconstitutional.

I should mention that in the case of the Solicitors Act, the disciplinary committee, while entitled to exercise these powers, could be appealed from by anybody affected by their decision. No doubt under Section 50 of this Act, an appeals committee is appointed. Section 51 provides for an appeal where a greyhound racetrack licence, and these different permits to which I have already referred, are refused, and, in the case of revocation or suspension, provides for appeal to that committee; but if the situation is that the committee is the final body to determine whether a person is to have a licence or permit, then it is quite clearly, on the basis of the Supreme Court's decision, unconstitutional. Similarly, provisions in the constitution contained in the schedule of the Irish Coursing Club enable the executive committee to take disciplinary action, including action in relation to racing and coursing, and that would also be, on the basis of the decision, unconstitutional.

There seems to be another matter which occurred to me when studying this Bill that was in conflict with the Constitution. What the Minister has said in his opening statement suggests that this matter is not quite so important. As I understood the Minister's opening statement, the Irish Coursing Club came into being in 1916. In 1927, it assumed, apparently reluctantly, the business of greyhound racing, but, as of this moment, there is in being an association known as the Irish Coursing Club and they are entitled to give themselves what constitution they like. That is the right which is guaranteed to them under the Constitution to form free associations. The Bill seems to me to make an end to the Irish Coursing Club and to say to them that they shall not continue in existence, unless they take the constitution which is provided for them by an Act of the Oireachtas.

That may be only a theoretical difficulty in view of what the Minister has stated—that this constitution has been worked out in conjunction with the Irish Coursing Club. It may also be that this section which provides for this constitution may be a legitimate exercise by the Oireachtas of its powers to enact for the regulation and control of the industry, in the public interest of the rights of citizens to form associations. It may be a borderline case, but it does seem to be one which requires some further investigation, if the Minister is to satisfy himself that the provision is quite constitutional.

Beyond that, all I want to say about the Bill is that it is undoubtedly desirable that abuses and malpractices should not be permitted in relation to an industry such as the greyhound racing industry. People who are discharging their duties and trying to keep proper standards in the breeding and coursing of greyhounds should not suffer from these malpractices of a few people. It is desirable that a Bill such as this to encourage, and as far as possible, to control and regulate these standards should be accepted. I think, however, in view of the doubts which I entertain as to the constitutionality of the powers, control and regulations in disciplinary matters that this is a Bill which should receive further consideration.

This might well be a Bill which the President might refer to the Supreme Court for a determination in accordance with the provisions in the Constitution as to its constitutionality, after, of course, consultation with the Council of State. I trust that I do not seem too pedantic in raising this matter, but I feel, in view of the very forthright decision of the Supreme Court in relation to a disciplinary committee set up under Statute that it was proper to draw the attention of the House to this matter.

There is not much that one can add to the statements made by Senator Barry and Senator O'Quigley on this Bill, and the very full statement made by the Minister in the debate in the Dáil. He has covered the ground and has explained matters in a way which is an enlightenment to those who have not seen the Irish Coursing Club and the greyhound industry grow as I had an opportunity of seeing them grow. As Senator O'Quigley has said, the Irish Coursing Club was founded in 1916 and that is a year memorable in our history. The Irish Coursing Club was founded for all Ireland and it is still an all-Irish body. To us in Clonmel it is rather unique in being one of the things that is truly national and, at the same time, has been kept in the country away from Dublin. I think it is one of the activities of any great importance that has not its headquarters in the City of Dublin.

It is said that the Irish Coursing Club functioned very satisfactorily until 1927 when new commercial interests then became interested in coursing by the introduction of mechanical racing, known as the greyhound racing track. I believe the Irish Coursing Club were very well aware of the many difficulties that they had. The Minister stated in the Dáil that they felt they had not the powers to deal with irregularities which occurred from time to time, and which always happen in any sport of that sort, whether it be greyhound racing, horse racing, or racing of any sort for high stakes.

I know myself that the Irish Coursing Club were very anxious, even with the limited powers they had, to stamp out irregularities. It is a democratically elected group and maybe it was not always possible for them to have the powers to do what they would like to do. I do know that, on one occasion, I had an opportunity of meeting two of the most competent detectives from Scotland Yard who came over to Clonmel to look over the records of the Irish Coursing Club with regard to grave scandals that were taking place on English tracks. The Irish Coursing Club were in no way responsible for what was taking place on English tracks, but they went out of their way to help Scotland Yard to put an end to the irregularities in England. I mention England particularly, to show that irregularities are not confined to Ireland and the Irish Coursing Club.

The figures given by the Minister in the Dáil with regard to the export of greyhounds show how large the problem became and how important the industry became in such a short time. In 1938, £77,000 worth of greyhounds was exported, but, by 1946, the exports had reached £1,000,000. The exports had increased about 14 times. What was done and has been done is a great credit to those who were members of the Irish Coursing Club during all that period, and few of them have personally benefited in any great measure. Many of them were men of outstanding ability. Maybe some of the decisions they had to take were highly controversial, but it is easy to throw mud at a big man—he is certainly a better target than a small man—and some of the people at whom mud was thrown were very big men indeed. I had an opportunity of knowing them for many years.

Many of them are now dead and gone and I think, on an occasion like this, we should pay a tribute to what they did to make this a truly Irish Coursing Club, as removed from the English Coursing Club as it was in 1916. In view of what was done in the past, the Minister might consider that when the Greyhound Board is established, it should be established in the country. I suggest it should be established in Clonmel which has been for so many years the headquarters of Irish coursing and has been synonymous with the great development which has taken place since the Irish Coursing Club was first established in 1916.

I propose to deal first with the suggestion which has just been made by Senator Burke, that the headquarters of the Irish Greyhound Industry Board should be located in Clonmel. I should like to explain my position with regard to the Bill. When the late Senator Moylan was designated as Minister for Agriculture, he was not a member of either House of the Oireachtas and I was asked to take charge of the Billpro tem. It has happened that since Senator Moylan's death the present Minister for Agriculture has been very busily engaged, as you know, with other matters, and I have continued to deal with the Bill, merely for the purpose of having it enacted by the Oireachtas. I shall have no association with the administration of the Bill once it becomes law—that will become the function of the Minister designated in the Bill—but I shall convey to the Minister for Agriculture the suggestion which has been made by Senator Burke and which was made, I think, in the first instance, in the Dáil by Deputy Loughman. What action the Minister may take in regard to that suggestion, I cannot say.

Thank you, sir.

In regard to Senator Barry, he is very modest. He says that there is a minute change in the Bill. I suppose it depends upon the point of view one takes. The fundamental change in the Bill is that, under Section 9, the Greyhound Industry Board will control the Irish Coursing Club, and under the Bill as introduced by Deputy Dillon when he was Minister for Agriculture, the position was the reverse.

My criticism of the Bill in 1955, and the action which I took in relation to it, was based entirely on the fact that I did not think that this control would be in the interest of the Irish greyhound industry, and I and those who were associated with me did succeed in ensuring that the Bill in that form would not be passed. The change, therefore, which has been made is not a minute change. If the control of an organisation or an undertaking passes from one body to another, the change is not at all minute. In fact, the difference between the two Bills is analogous to the change which would take place if Senator Barry were to decide to change his allegiance from Fine Gael to Fianna Fáil. I do not think he would regard that as being a minute change.

There are several other changes in the Bill. Under Section 26, for instance, it is provided that the reconstitution of the Irish Coursing Club will take place under the supervision of the Greyhound Industry Board. That, I think, is very important, having regard to the criticisms of the Irish Coursing Club which were embodied in the report of the Advisory Committee. I do not want to traverse that ground again.

In addition, there are many other changes in the Bill which were introduced at the last moment by the Minister then in charge of the 1955 Bill, on the Report Stage, and which have been embodied in this Bill. These amendments were all introduced to meet the criticisms of the 1955 Bill by those who were opposed to it in its then form. The Bill, therefore, has been substantially changed, and, I think, has been changed very much for the better.

With regard to the point raised by Senator O'Quigley, there may be a great deal in it, but the Oireachtas is not the place to determine this question. The Constitution has a means or procedure provided for settling the constitutionality of any measure which may be enacted by the Oireachtas. All we are concerned with, at this stage of the Bill, at any rate, is to say whether we approve in principle of the dominant provisions of the Bill, that is to say, whether we approve of the establishment of the Greyhound Industry Board, whether we think the Irish Coursing Club should be reformed, and whether we think that a body should be entrusted with the control and regulation of the greyhound industry.

I cannot discuss here the decision which the Supreme Court came to the other day in relation to another enactment of the Oireachtas. It would be improper for me to do so. But I can say that we may find ourselves in a very difficult position, because we have proceeded on the assumption that vocational and professional bodies are the best means of controlling the vocations and professions which they represent. In the Constitution, there is a sort of vague general acceptance of that principle. On that basis, even before the Constitution was adopted and enacted by the people in 1937, there were established various regulatory and disciplinary bodies to control the medical profession, bodies like the Bar Council to control the barristers, and a body to control the dental profession. It is quite clear that the effect of the Supreme Court decision will have to be considered in relation to these bodies and to many others, but I do not think it should naturally arise for consideration on this Bill.

As I have said, it is the duty of the Oireachtas to legislate. It is, too, certainly, the duty of the Oireachtas to legislate with some circumspection, and not to legislate blatantly in defiance or in violation of the Constitution; but in a matter like this, we are entitled to proceed on the assumption that what was valid and legitimate for us to do in the past is valid and legitimate for us to do now. If it is felt necessary that the issue which Senator O'Quigley has raised should be determined, there is a means provided in Article 26 of the Constitution for determining it. Article 26 says:—

"This Article applies to any Bill passed or deemed to have been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas other than a Money Bill, or a Bill expressed to be a Bill containing a proposal to amend the Constitution, or a Bill in respect of which a resolution shall have been passed by Dáil Eireann under Article 24 of this Constitution."

The first provision of this Article reads:—

"The President may, after consultation with the Council of State, refer any Bill to which this Article applies to the Supreme Court for a decision on the question as to whether such Bill or any specified provision or provisions of such Bill is or are repugnant to this Constitution or to any provision thereof."

Despite the question which has been raised here by Senator O'Quigley, I suggest that we should proceed to deal with this Bill in the ordinary normal way, to discuss its provisions on their merits, and, if they appear to us to justify our approval, to give our approval to them.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 26th March, 1958.