There was some debate in the other House about horses and horse meat. I assume that meat covers horseflesh as well as the meat of other animals.
An Bord Bia Bill, 1994: Committee and Final Stages.
That matter was raised in the other House and I agreed to include horses. It is included in the Bill as passed by the other House.
At the bottom of the first page of the Bill as passed by the Dáil there is a definition of food. It mentions unprocessed, processed or composed food. What is composed food? I assume it is something contrary to decomposed food.
Unprocessed food means right back as far as slaughtering. I would take the term "composed" to mean in carcase form, for instance. It is still composed, it has not been cut up or deboned at that stage. My advice was that this was necessary terminology to cover the various areas that come within the remit of the Bill.
The Minister will remember the ostriches, I take it.
In deference to Senator Dardis, I undertake that when we set up the interim board, which will be in the near future, we will ask them to look at that area and if a recommendation comes back that we should include ostriches, I do not have any problem with that.
I am sure the Minister will not put his head in the sand on that.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 5, subsection (1), line 40, to delete "The Irish Food Board" and substitute "Food Ireland".
If there is to be a marketing board, it should have a good strong sensible name, not one that sounds bureaucratic. It should not be stuffy and, more importantly, it should not be internally focused. The Irish Food Board is not a good name in marketing terms. That should be the only consideration. The name should be a good one in marketing terms. The word "board" is the problem.
It is pure Civil Service speak. It seems to love this word which appears at the end of the titles of many organisations and does not serve any purpose except the cost of putting an extra five letters at the end of a nameplate. When An Post was set up in 1979, we were lumbered with the name "An Bord Poist". Nobody could get it right because in Irish, "Oifig an Phoist", the genitive case, had a "h" in it but "An Bord Poist", did not. It caused chaos and we refused to accept it because we knew such a clumsy and bureaucratic name would hinder our marketing efforts. That is how the name An Post came about. A tourist walking down the street looking for a post office could easily pick out these words. There is a similar need here. Instead of "The Irish Food Board", why not call it "Food Ireland" which focuses on the product being marketed, which is one step on the long road to being customer driven? This name is already in existence; it has been used for several years in promoting our food abroad. If one lumbers the organisation with the title "The Irish Food Board", it will still have to use "Food Ireland" as a kind of brand name. We will end up with two names when one would have done.
I was in Los Angeles last year and saw an advertisement for the Industrial Development Authority the purpose of which is to bring industrial development to Ireland. The only word that really mattered in Los Angeles was "Ireland". However, the organisation called itself the Industrial Development Authority although it later ran another slogan under the advertisement mentioning the word "Ireland".
We should just call the organisation "Food Ireland" and be done with it. It makes a great deal of sense and is logical. It certainly does not make sense to have the words "company" or "board" branded as a title of an organisation like this.
I see much merit in the thrust of Senator Quinn's argument. A catchy slogan is immediately associated with its product, it is a valuable marketing asset. I have had a short time to consider this proposal. The term may be too general in describing the board, but to be constructive, I will refer Senator Quinn's thoughts on the matter to the new board. There is nothing to stop it from using this type of slogan or theme or variations of it for promotions. I will refer the thrust of the Senator's argument to the new board for examination. It will come back with a suitable recommendation in the context of its multiannual strategic plan, which will be the first task assigned to it and will cover a number of years.
I understand the Minister's sympathetic approach to the matter, but I am not only referring to marketing. The essence of this organisation is to market and promote. We should not lumber it with a name similar to the one we gave to the Industrial Development Authority. It makes sense to have this title, not only as a promotional tool, but to ensure it can be identified and readily understood. I urge the Minister to do more than refer the title to the board, but to make the change himself. It is the sensible thing to do.
I support Senator Quinn on this matter. I have visions of somebody attending a trade show — the Green Week in Germany, for example — wandering about the stands and deciding where to stop. Obviously, the visual impact will be the first element to catch their attention. If I passed a stand titled "The Irish Food Board", I would be inclined to pass it by unless something significant caught my eye. We have to consider modern marketing and the elements involved in it. In that context, I would support Senator Quinn's amendment.
I realise the Minister is trying to facilitate us and that he will go to the board and make a recommendation to it. However, I would put it in stronger terms. As Senator Quinn said, the title "The Irish Food Board" reminds one of a hospital board. Admittedly, it is better than "The Meat and Livestock Commission", which is the name of the British equivalent. Nevertheless, I would get rid of the word "board". The only way to do that effectively is to have words like "Food Ireland", as suggested by Senator Quinn.
I also agree with previous speakers on Senator Quinn's amendment. It is a reasonable request. The Minister stated he is prepared to recommend this to the board. However, it would be better if he could accept the terminology. "Food Ireland" is an attractive title and would attract the attention of people walking by stands at food fairs in different cities. The Minister should do more than recommend it to the board to consider it as a slogan. It is worth more than that; it is a good name and I fully support it.
In this amendment, I am being asked to change the English translation of the name of the board. First, the Irish version takes precedence and "The Irish Food Board" is the English translation of that. I am trying to be helpful but there are constraints on me in terms of what I can accede to.
I take the importance of having finely tuned market slogans. I also see merit in the thrust of Senator Quinn's amendment. I do not want to make hard and fast recommendations to the board. It is the general thrust I will be recommending. "Food Ireland" is the slogan put forward by Senator Quinn and the board could come up with a similar slogan or a variation of it. The thrust of a good, modern and impacting slogan is vitally important. In a constructive spirit, I will convey those views to the interim board as part of the area I wish it to consider in its multiannual plan.
Section 7 states: "The functions of the board shall be to promote, assist and develop in any manner which the Board considers necessary or desirable in the marketing of Irish food and livestock." I have a query on this section. Currently many boards including An Bord Bainne, operate on an individual basis across the country. Milk products are currently becoming increasingly attractive and there is huge competition from the French in that area in the British market. What type of promotion assistance, financial or otherwise, could An Bord Bainne expect from the board in respect of promotions in a foreign market? Will the approach come from An Bord Bainne rather than An Bord Bia? How will the promotion side of it operate?
The Minister also mentioned development. What is meant by "development" in the section? Does it mean that financial assistance will be given to research and development in respect of a certain product for advertising or promoting?
I will specifically refer to An Bord Bainne, a private organisation which has in the past used the good offices of the food unit of An Bord Tráchtála for promotion purposes. It is open to An Bord Bia to avail of the services of An Bord Bainne for a range of activities and it will be encouraged to do so.
Market intelligence for An Bord Bia is very important. In this respect not alone must there be use of the intelligence which measures the present market, but trends and demands should be anticipated. This market intelligence should be conveyed to the sectors of the industry which would benefit from it.
The development of markets requires a knowledge of consumer demand, ensuring that products are produced to the standard and price which the consumer will buy and assisting the private sector to sell to such markets. In this respect, An Bord Bia will not be selling but it will facilitate in every way our food companies to capture more market share and identify the direction which product development should take in the context of developing markets, creating wealth and, consequently, creating the jobs that, as Senator Quinn indicated, can be created in the value-added area.
An Bord Bainne is well equipped for research and development work and also in respect of knowledge of foreign markets. What role does An Bord Bia have to play in respect of this area? The Minister indicated that An Bord Bia will undertake research and development, but An Bord Bainne is already involved in this on a wide scale. It has its own promotion unit, together with a research unit working on the requirements of specific markets.
An Bord Bainne can teach An Bord Bia a few things regarding research and development and marketing. In view of the Minister's remarks there may be duplication in the work undertaken by the two boards which should be avoided. All available resources should be fully utilised to the benefit of everybody, rather than allowing a duplication of services.
The elimination of unnecessary duplication is vital in terms of obtaining the best possible value from the resources of An Bord Bia, whether such resources derive from the EU, levies or tax payers. The board cannot be established immediately because various legalities require to be undertaken. An interim board has been established in the meantime, and it is our intention that the very best people, in terms of their knowledge of marketing, be appointed to the board. We will be asking them to develop strategies to examine the situation. We will also provide broad policy directives, and policy directives may be given from time to time. In this respect, the legislation seeks to provide the optimum framework in which the board can operate and to give the board the resources and support it requires to proceed with its task. In addition, duplication from all areas of marketing of the food business will be eliminated.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 6, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following new paragraph:
"(c) encourage and assist the development of new food products, particularly products with high added-value".
This amendment is necessary because it goes to the heart of the issue as to whether An Bord Bia is to be market driven or not. In the list of specific objectives of the board, which are many and varied, there is no mention of developing new food products. This is a serious omission because all of the other objectives of the board, and of the Bill, assumes that what is to be marketed by the board exists. It is almost like saying, "we have the food, just go out there and flog it".
A key part of what needs to be done is to develop new products to meet consumer's changing needs, especially the high value-added products which the Minister and myself spoke of earlier in this debate and where, as I remarked on Second Stage, the sole job creation potential lies. The omission of new product development from the objectives of the board is a dramatic example of the product driven agriculture mentality, rather than the mentality that is driven by the wish to develop the food industry by identifying and satisfying customer's needs.
Approximately 15 years ago, McDonald's opened their first restaurant in Dublin and there was an outcry when it transpired that the company was using imported potato chips from Holland or elsewhere. The company responded that it was importing the chips because they provided the taste their customer's required. Those of us in the business considered the company to be insensitive, but that company was so market driven that it required this product. In response we, the Irish agricultural industry changed by developing and adopting to the type of potato the company requires. In consequence, it is now selling Irish chips. This did not happen at first because the company made clear that it had to provide what its customer's required.
The area of development and developing products to suit the customer's needs must be driven by the market, but this has been omitted from the Bill. While it can be argued that An Bord Bia will have the power to encourage, and to assist new product development under the general empowering clause, this power is not the point I am making.
Section 8 marks the cards of An Bord Bia as to what the priorities of the board will be. If new product development is omitted from the section a totally wrong signal will be sent to the board and to the industry.
I support the amendment as it is very important that new product development be encouraged in every way. There is an important role for the new board in this area. An official of a French company advised me that it could cost up to £100 million to advertise, through the press and television, a new product and try to place it on the market which indicates the huge expense involved in this kind of activity.
If market share is to be obtained, especially in respect of the European market, new products must be targeted, and these are numerous at present. In this respect the amendment proposes to "encourage and assist the development of new food products, particularly products with high added-value". This is a reasonable proposal, although the last clause could be deleted. However, the first clause is most important and is fundamental to the food industry.
I hope the green image of the country prevails and in this context new products must be introduced on the market. To date the industry has been slow to penetrate these markets, which is very difficult to do, especially in Europe, which are our most important markets. The board can assist greatly in breaking into these markets. The Minister should be encouraged to accept the amendment.
I am in agreement with the thrust of the Senators' arguments. As I said earlier, there are two major recommendations for encouraging and assisting the development of new products, the promotional and market development board and the operational programme for the food industry. The development of new products would, in the first instance, be in the remit of Forbairt, working in conjunction with companies. The integration comes with the office of the Minister for Food and the operational programme. Forbairt's representative and high-powered group on prepared consumer foods is now in action. One of the first committees to be set up, after the meat and livestock sub-board, will be the sub-board for prepared consumer foods which will advise An Bord Bia. There is provision under the legislation for further sub-committees to be set up and, though it may not be readily visible from the legalistic terms of the legislation, this area is catered for. That is the thrust of the expert group's report and the type of development that the office of the Minister for Food will be promoting. The thrust of this amendment is something with which we all agree.
To facilitate Senators, I will raise their points on the value added area with Forbairt and Teagasc. The elements of what Senators are seeking are contained in the operational programme on the food industry and the links with the various agencies involved. An Bord Bia will achieve the focus that the amendment seeks. The generalised functions are included in section 7 of the Bill while they are laid out in more detail in section 8. However, section 8 does not exclude anything that comes within the generality of section 7. I know this is legalistic language but I assure Senators that the development of the wider portfolio of value added products is paramount. It is the engine room of the progress we will make in the food industry. However, including this amendment will not change the scenario or the emphasis in any way. As Minister for Food I am committed to developing this area. It is no use endeavouring to sell in the market if you do not have a range of products to command the required market share.
I am even more pessimistic now than I was on Second Stage about where this bureaucracy is leading. The Minister made a point about Forbairt's functions in the development of food products. Forbairt is not answerable to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, but to the Minister for Enterprise and Employment. Section 14 of the Bill mentions the composition of the board and is a victory for the Minister for Tourism and Trade in that he will appoint a nominee, while the Minister for Enterprise and Employment will not. We are again getting into compartmentalisation and Culliton's criticism of the fact that no less than four Ministers and five Ministers of State are responsible. The issue is spreading in all directions and is not being focused to maximise the market penetration we need as a food exporting country, the substance of this amendment. Before the Minister spoke, I was prepared to accept that perhaps under the generality of section 7 we might be able to overcome this problem but it is getting worse. Teagasc is answerable to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, and Forbairt to the Minister for Enterprise and Employment. We are getting into a quagmire and losing sight of a basic element for the success of the enterprise, which is the development of new food products. The amendment is reasonable and should be incorporated in the Bill. Unless we develop new food products we will come to a halt. The vista of an attractive market in which we can compete is fading rapidly because of this type of set-up.
I am more concerned now than I was earlier. Senator Dardis put his finger on it, and it seems to me too that bureaucracy is going wild. Even if we create an organisation called the Irish Food Board — or Food Ireland as I want it to be called — whose job would be to sell what already exists, it will still be the job of somebody else to encourage the development of new products and will only be a small part of their overall remit. That is why Culliton recommended an expert food group to consider the food industry and why the expert group said the development of food is so important. Food has always been the lost cousin of the pharmaceutical and computer sectors but now, suddenly, the development of new food products will be left to Forbairt and An Bord Bia's job will be only to sell what is produced elsewhere. The Minister must think this problem through more deeply. The development of new food products has to be part of An Bord Bia's remit. If not, we will end up believing that marketing is only about selling whereas it is about listening to customers' complaints. That is what spurs people on the development side of the business to improve the situation. However, if the person whose job that is does not even report to the same Minister, we have very little chance of getting this off the ground. An Bord Bia's role must include the discovery and development of new products.
Forbairt reports to the Minister for Food in food matters. That has been the practice and will continue. There will be a representative of the Minister for Enterprise and Employment on the board and while that provision is not included in the legislation it will be done by way of agreement. We need to further clarify the role of An Bord Bia as envisaged in the legislation. The development of value added products, and products in general, is an expensive business where one can be lucky or unlucky. It is the private sector which sells to the multiples. We are endeavouring at the moment to sell to the independent chains, which account for an extensive part of the market in Europe. The market intelligence role of An Bord Bia will enable the scope for value added products to be identified and fed back to industry. When industry requires funding for product developmentper se, it will not go to An Bord Bia but to Forbairt, the agency which will provide funding for the research and development of products.
In the general sense, An Bord Bia will promote Irish products. It will engage in generic type marketing, stressing our clean, green, pollution free environment. Issues such as animal welfare, how animals are reared and the green agenda are of growing concern to consumers. An Bord Bia will have a large role in relation to these concerns. At the end of the day the board will be a facilitator in the sense that it will bring companies that produce products into contact in the most beneficial way with those who will buy their products, identify what the product range should be and relay this intelligence to industry and to Forbairt so that the allocation of resources follows the pattern that emerges from this type of market development. It is a complete overplay to suggest in any way that the value added agenda and the research and development which leads to the widening of our product portfolio in terms of value added products as against commodities is not the whole thrust of the expert group report. This is exactly what the thrust of the report is.
It can be stated that there appears to be layers of bureaucracy. However, when one is setting up a board such as this, there are all sorts of legal questions which must be addressed right down to the rights of those who are at present employees of CBF and ABT and the issue of superannuation. Section 7 gives the bottom line mandate to An Bord Bia. This board is part of the overall blueprint developed by the expert group on the food industry. I do not have the time to talk in great detail about what we have been doing but those various elements are being put in place in a way which will as far as possible remove any bureaucratic restrictions, allow those charged with doing the work to do so in as unconstrained a way as possible and enable the various agencies to dovetail in with the private sector. At the end of the day it is the private sector which will produce the products and which is the last point of sale.
An Bord Bia will have the role of developing markets and generally promoting Irish products. It is not a question of intruding on the mandate of existing agencies such as Forbairt. The office of the Minister for Agriculture and Food will assist in dovetailing between the agencies and through the agencies to industry. I suggest to Senator Quinn that what he is seeking to achieve in his amendment is well catered for, not alone in the legalistic terminology of the Bill itself but in Government policy and the report of the expert group, which has been accepted as Government policy and has become part of the National Plan.
One of the functions of the board will be to survey, investigate and develop markets and potential markets for food. The functions do not include encouraging and assisting the development of new food products, which I would like to be included. I cannot believe that we can ask the board to survey, investigate and develop markets and not ask them to encourage and assist the development of new food products. I have huge difficulty with what we are asking An Bord Bia to do.
If we take the Minister's point that the State is involved through not one but several agencies in some of these activities, it is appropriate that the State be included in section 8, as proposed by Senator Quinn. I accept that it is expensive to develop products and I can even accept that there is a responsibility on private industry to do so, but the State is already involved and has a responsibility to bring forward products in those areas where private industry cannot, to do this effectively.
I will give a good example of where the private and public sectors are at odds. I have seen a person in County Laois produce a cheese called abo blue brie, which is a cambazola. The large co-ops were not able to produce it but this person did it in his own mobile home by growing this mould in a cupboard in his bedroom. This was a little like inventing the light bulb or the telephone. There are geniuses who can do things which very large companies cannot do. They are the sort of people who should be encouraged and whom the State should be involved in helping. The large multinationals can look after themselves, even though they need help at times. This product has the capacity to absorb large amounts of milk and export it to countries in the form of a cheese which is a high value added product and is demanded by the market. A large internal co-op tried to develop this cheese and was not successful but this person did it on his own.
That is the coalface where the State must be involved. If the State is already doing this type of thing through Teagasc and Forbairt, it should bring this function under one umbrella and include it in this section so that it services the people who are trying to get products into the market place.
New product development is outside the mandate of An Bord Bia. If it were to become involved in this, it would duplicate the work of Forbairt. Senator Dardis spoke about cottage cheeses. We should welcome in every way we can the type of person he mentioned who developed a product and process. The cottage cheese sector was worth about £2 million in 1992. A group representing this sector has been set up and is seeking ways of expanding its role and markets. We should give every assistance to niche operators, whether it is Country Butter in Mayo, Farmhouse Cheeses in Waterford or any other product. One of the directives to the new interim board will be to use every means possible to help these people.
In the first instance, they have to develop a local and national market and then they have to make the quantum leap beyond that. Some of them have very humble beginnings, as the Senator outlined. At a recent launch for this type of product there was very fulsome praise for Senator Quinn's retailing operations and how helpful he is to people with such products.
That is why the Minister should listen to him.
If Senator Dardis thinks I do not listen to Senator Quinn he is mistaken. This is an area which needs to be developed. There are structural problems. For instance, in Mayo there is Farmhouse Pantry where a number of products, with different producers, are brought under one label. There are difficulties in relation to sharing overheads. Some of these producers are in fairly remote areas and may not have three phase electricity, etc. There are many difficulties. I am totally committed to An Bord Bia playing a very full role in assisting this type of operator. It was one of the areas which the expert group did not address. We tended to address the larger producers. It is an area which possibly warrants setting up its own expert group to come up with recommendations. I have spent a great deal of time looking at it and there are many difficulties there. However, there is also a great deal of potential.
It is an area which is very dear to my heart because it provides the opportunity to create jobs in fairly isolated areas. In the British market, for example, the independent sector — convenience shops which stay open late at night — has at present about 3 per cent of all sales and 10 per cent of food sales. However, the graph suggests that by end of the century they will have 20 per cent of food sales. Their customers have above average incomes because many of them work and do their shopping in the evening. I see potential there. A number of products have got into that area fairly successfully.
Our discussion is opening up areas. However, I see An Bord Bia as an agency which will have the top people — that is the firm intention. It will have its own momentum and expertise and will range across various areas assisting niche operators, identifying product areas for value added and so on. We can become a little too narrow and legalistic in how we approach it. This board will not be the subject of any interference. It will be charged with doing a job and given every assistance to do that job by this Government.
However, it will be excluded from encouraging the development of new food products, which is my problem with it. I believe the Minister should accept the amendment.
It will not, with respect to Senator Quinn. However, development of productsper se is an area which belongs to Forbairt. This board is concerned with the development of markets and the promotional area. However, there is a vitally important interface between this promotion agency and the development agency. In that context, the catalyst is the private sector, in my view. If I shared his fear, I would accept his amendment. However, the fear he expresses is not one I believe will have any relevance in practice.
Is the amendment being pressed?
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 7, lines 23 to 35, to delete subsection (2) and substitute the following:
"(2) On the establishment day, those functions of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara which relate to the export marketing of fish and fish products shall stand transferred to the Board.".
The intention of this amendment is clear. This section of the Bill refers to An Bord Glas how it stands on the establishment day, the functions, etc., which will be transferred to An Bord Bia. Precisely the same situation should apply in the case of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara in terms of the export marketing of fish and fish products.
On Second Stage the Minister stated that this section would cover, for instance, the case where, following the review of BIM's functions which is currently in progress, it might be decided to transfer to An Bord Bia responsibility for fish as a food. I am saying that that should be done now. I do not see why there should be a delay. Fish is a food and is included in section 2, the interpretation section of the Bill.
There is huge potential in this area. If, as we hope, An Bord Bia is going into the export markets and effectively promotes and markets our food, the whole fish product end of the business should be involved in that. There is huge potential, for example, in fish farming — although as a practising angler for sea trout I have difficulties with what has happened with salmon farming. However, it is producing a valuable product. There is the undoubted potential of the shellfish area. Because of our clean waters we can produce very high quality fish. I appeal to the Minister to include An Bord Iascaigh Mhara under the same terms as An Bord Glas.
Earlier, the Minister spoke about the rights of employees in some of these bodies and what might happen to them. The virtue of including BIM here is that such difficulties are provided for in the Bill. Section 9 (2) (c) states that:
An order under this subsection may include provision fro the employment by the Board of members of the staff of any body to which the order relates who are designated by that body for such employment.
The inevitable difficulties which would arise are, therefore, covered. There are significant advantages to be gained by including the export functions of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara under this section.
I support Senator Dardis. I am very enthusiastic about An Bord Bia but unless we are very careful, we will end up with a bord bia which does not include anything that An Bord Bainne does — for which we have had a very understandable explanation; it does not include the development of new food products — for which we have had an explanation; and it does not yet include fish but perhaps it is understandable for there to be a delay until the report of the investigating committee is presented.
I support Senator Dardis's view that fish should be included. Perhaps that could be catered for by including the words "within one or two years or as soon as the report has been presented". It seems wrong to have a food board which is responsible for fish, the development of new products and dairy products. We are ending up with a very badly structured organisation.
The amendment seeks to delete lines 23 to 35. If we did that, we could not in the future establish any other agency. However, that is only a technical point. It is disappointing that we are not in the position to give An Bord Bia the marketing functions of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara and I outlined why earlier. When the review is complete and with the consent of the Minister for the Marine, those functions can be given. As it stands, I am not in a position to accept the amendment much as I would like to.
We are back to the problem of the multitudinous responsibilities in this area and the number of Ministers and Ministers of State involved. However, we will not recycle that argument.
I criticised the inclusion of this section on Second Stage. It states:
"The Minister may by order assign to the Board such additional functions as the Minister considers to be incidental to or consequential on the functions assigned to it by this Act."
I suspect a hidden agenda in this short section, which does not explain anything. What has the Minister in mind in this section? I always worry about provisions to make orders because it gives the Minister full authority under the Act.
Senator D'Arcy's party spokesperson in the Dáil tabled an amendment on section 9 which I conceded. Under the section any order will need the approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas. This section is effectively a tidying up one and any order made under it would not be of any great consequence. It would apply if, for example, the marketing functions of Bord Iscaigh Mara were subsumed into An Bord Bia and if an area, such as pensions, was overlooked in the order which gave effect to that.
The wording "incidental to or consequential on" makes it clear that nothing substantial is envisaged. Requiring an affirmative order from both Houses of the Oireachtas would be an overkill in this area. I conceded an amendment to section 9 in the Dail because the arguments advanced were substantial.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 8, between lines 39 and 40, to insert the following subsection:
"(5) One ordinary member shall be appointed to represent the views and interests of consumers.".
The consumer should be directly represented on the board. As I said on Second Stage, I realise the Minister made a minimalist advance in the Dáil by including subsection (5) which states:
"The chairman and the persons appointed to be ordinary members shall be persons having knowledge or experience of the food industry and of consumer requirements."
A meat processor or someone involved in processing other agricultural produce or food has, by definition, a knowledge of the food industry and consumer requirements if they are selling a product. However, I would go beyond that.
The consumer must be directly represented for some of the reasons we spoke about on Second Stage and because the primacy of the consumer is paramount. I do not suggest as a representative someone who wanders into one of Senator Quinn's supermarkets to buy off a shelf — although it may be desirable to have some of that nature — but a representative of perhaps the Consumers' Association of Ireland or some such body, someone with a degree of expertise. It would strengthen the focus of the board and would assist it in its remit to market effectively.
There are precedents for this, the most recent being in the Bill we passed this afternoon, the Milk (Regulation of Supply) Bill, 1994 where the Schedule states:
"The appropriate number of first and subsequent ordinary members nominated by processor, distributor, retail and consumer interests shall be appointed to the Agency by the Minister."
We are not asking for something new. It was done in the case of An Bord Glas and, more recently, in the Irish Horseracing Industry Bill passed last week giving racecourses representation on the Authority. There are many precedents and in this case the argument is more compelling than in the others.
I mentioned on Second Stage that I would like to see the consumer's interests being represented on the board of An Bord Bia. Section 14 (5) adequately ensures that consumers will be represented. It states:
"The chairman and the persons appointed to be ordinary members shall be persons having knowledge or experience of the food industry and of consumer requirements."
Senator Dardis wants to ensure there is a representative of consumers on the board. If that was included, others, including producers, retailers, etc., would look for representation. Consumers are adequately covered by section 14 (5).
Senator Dardis will be disappointed that I do not support him. In seeking a board, the Minister will seek the best people for it. As Senator Kiely said, there is a danger that if a person is appointed to the board as a representative, he is obliged to represent that view. The consumer is well covered as it stands. There is a danger in asking people to represent a view. I am happy to support steps the Minister has taken, which take into account that consumer experience and expertise is on the board at chairman's level.
Senator Dardis referred to the Irish Horseracing Industry Bill and the Milk (Regulation of Supply) Bill, which relate to sectoral areas. This Bill has a larger remit. The board may comprise a chairperson and nine members or a chairperson and 11 members. Whichever model we choose, three places are already spoken for — an officer of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, a nominee of the Minister for Trade and Tourism and a nominee of the Minister for Enterprise and Employment. That reduces the scope.
Senators Kiely and Quinn pointed out that if we decide to follow a sectoral model, there are so many areas of interest, it would be impossible to cover them all within the size of board envisaged here. If we increased its size, it would become unwieldy. I introduced an amendment in the Dáil which Senator Dardis said was minimalist. When examining amendments I focused on the fact that the consumer we are talking about here is not primarily the Irish consumer and a knowledge of consumer requirements in major markets in which we need to get a share is paramount. We need to get a much bigger market share. Some people advance the argument that, at the end of the day, we are all consumers, which is true. I ask Senator Dardis to accept that it is the firm intention of both the Minister and myself to establish a board that will do the job.
I was very impressed by two contributions in the Dáil. The first was that of my constituency colleague and former Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Deasy, who strongly warned against sectoral nominees. The second was by one of my predecessors, Deputy Kirk, who made the same point on Committee Stage. The Minister has to be free to put the best people on the board. I accepted the thrust of the arguments in the Dáil and included an amendment which provides that there should be knowledge and experience of consumer requirements.
I accept much of what the Minister said. I appreciate the difficulty because if we open the door, everyone will want to get in. Deputy O'Malley made a similar point on the Horseracing Industry Bill where he said the Minister should appoint people rather than giving numerous agencies nomination rights. I ask the Minister to be careful about the sectoral interests which might be introduced when appointing a person with knowledge or experience of consumer requirements. As far as possible, he should step back from some of those sectoral interests. For example, I would hate to see the chairman of a meat factory being defined as the person with the knowledge and experience of consumer requirements. While I accept that they have knowledge, I am looking for a person with a slighter broader focus. To be fair to the Minister, his comments indicate that this is also the type of person he will seek. In that context, I will not press the amendment.
Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 form a composite proposal and both may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 9, subsection (3) (a), line 23, to delete "five" and substitute "four".
The arguments for this amendment are the same as those on section 14. In order to save time and avoid covering the same ground again, I withdraw the amendment.
Subsection (1) of section 16 states:
A subsidiary board established under section 13(2) shall consist of a chairman and not fewer than five or more than eleven ordinary members.
I ask the Minister for some detail on this subsidiary board. Will there be two or three of these subsidiary boards working under the umbrella of the main board? In which areas does the Minister visualise subsidiary boards being established?
The legislation provides for a subsidiary board in the meat and livestock area. Both the Minister and I have already given indications in relation to prepared consumer foods and outside of that, it would be at the discretion of the board to make recommendations. Obviously the consent of the Minister is required.
I certainly do not want a plethora of committees but I believe the calibre of person we intend appointing to this board will ensure that this will not happen. If I understood the Senator, his point was that we should not have a plethora of boards which effectively would not be serving any useful purpose. That is certainly not the intention. Any subsidiary boards or committees will have a very definite role and will constitute a substantial addition to the work of An Bord Bia.
When appointing subsidiary boards, sectoral interests immediately come into play. This should be avoided. Subsidiary boards should have a broader base than any sectoral interest.
Section 37 provides that a levy will be paid to the board on all livestock slaughtered in premises to which the section applies and all livestock exported live from the State. Does this section cover butcher's shops and places of that nature? The levies are £1.50 per bovine animal and 20p per animal for sheep and pigs. Is the Minister going to collect this levy on all factories and all livestock? Butcher's shops and livestock exported on the hoof are both specified in the Bill. Will the levy be collected across the board, irrespective of whether meat is being exported?
It will apply to all premises licensed for export or registered for the home market.
Could the Minister specify what is the home market?
It would involve animals slaughtered in an abattoir which is approved by my Department. There are some large abattoirs — I can think of one in my own area — which supply a large segment of the home market and are not involved in the export trade. They would come within the definition of the "home market". The legislation applies to approved abattoirs. There is a range of abattoirs that does not slaughter for the export trade and they would be defined as slaughtering for the home market.
Is it correct to say that all abattoirs, big or small, require approval under the health regulations? Do all abattoirs not require approval from the health boards irrespective of the size of the killing? Some may be just slaughtering ten to 20 cattle a week.
My Department would approve those abattoirs. If a health board becomes involved and makes representations to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the problem would have to be investigated immediately. There are two levels: the approval of the abattoir and the licence to operate. A licence could be withdrawn on foot of representations but this is distinct from approval for the abattoir. Certain works would have to be carried out in the abattoir before a licence could be restored. Does that answer the Senator's point?
This is only a minor point and I do not wish to detain the House unduly but it relates to something I said on Second Stage about the colour of stamps with which I have terrible difficulties. The 10p stamp is deep yellow, a £5 stamp is yellow and a £20 stamp is cream. I can imagine some people who might be using these stamps having them on the back of their Mercedes 500 exposed to the sunlight and the shade of the stamps might become difficult to distinguish. Does the Minister think that the differences are adequate to readily distinguish the denominations of the stamps? I notice that there are no green stamps for instance which would be easy to distinguish from red or pink stamps. Part III of the Schedule refers to mid-blue as being cyan — I talked about that earlier. I did not know what cyan was.
My understanding is that this mirrors the system presently in operation with CBF which has worked successfully. The Senator referred to the shade of blue called cyan. In a legalistic document one has to give an exact description of the colour to meet the problem raised. As I understand it this system has worked effectively with CBF and it is merely bringing it into operation with the new board.
I thank the Minister for the way he has dealt with the Bill. Thankfully, we have completed it in one session. We all hope it will achieve its objectives and I am prepared to accept that it is a step forward. I hope that the undoubted potential of the food industry will be exploited and we can greatly increase the national wealth and employment.
I also thank the Minister for the way he has listened to us and took account of the points made. He has sympathetically dealt with all the points put forward.
I wish to add my voice to the thanks to the Minister. My party is a little dubious about the Bill but we wish it well and we will be watching it closely. I hope the body gets off the ground quickly as it is fundamental to the economy, particularly in rural areas.
I also thank the Minister; this is important legislation for the food industry.
I thank the Senators who contributed to the debate for the constructive manner in which they addressed the issues. Obviously, there are differences of opinion but we are all seeking the same objectives. I am particularly pleased with the positive elements of the contributions of the spokespersons.
When is it proposed to sit again?
It is proposed to sit at 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.