I am pleased to introduce the Greyhound Racing Bill 2018 to the House. The greyhound racing sector contributes a substantial number of jobs to the economy, estimated at 5,000 as recently as 2017 by Mr. Jim Power, economic consultant. The sector also contributes €300 million annually into local economies. In addition, it is estimated that there are approximately 7,000 greyhound owners, with an estimated 12,000 people deriving an economic benefit from the sector. It is further estimated that more than 14 million people have attended greyhound racing meetings in Ireland since 2002.
Bord na gCon is a commercial State body. It was established under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry. It is responsible for the regulation, control, promotion and operation of greyhound racing. The activities of Bord na gCon 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 licenses a total of 16 greyhound tracks and owns and operates a number itself. These are 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, funding has been restored to pre-recession levels through a series of annual increases. In 2017, the industry received €16 million and this accounted 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 Senators 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 greyhound racing track has lifted that burden. The surplus of approximately €6 million from the sale will allow Bord na gCon, as set out in its strategic plan for the period 2018 to 2022, to make further welfare enhancements and improve basic facilities at its tracks. That will be to the benefit of all those who participate in and enjoy the sport.
Before dealing with the substance of the Bill, I would like to refer to the Indecon report, Review of Certain Matters Relating to Bord na gCon, which was commissioned in 2014 by the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney. A wide-ranging stakeholder consultation process was undertaken by Indecon consultants in 2014. As part of the review, advertisements were placed on the Department's website and in the farming and sporting press seeking submissions from interested parties. A total of 17 submissions were received from a broad range of respondents.
The report made a number of recommendations on governance, regulation and financial matters. The Minister, following publication of the Indecon report, 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 with various representatives on the issues. This 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, and in a 2015 Bord na gCon-commissioned report on anti-doping and medication commonly known as the Morris report. Elements of these reports have also been taken into account in drafting the Bill.
The general scheme was subject to very thorough pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine in 2017. I believe the committee heard from all the major players in the industry and departmental officials also appeared before it. The appropriate observations of the joint committee, identified as part of the pre-legislative process, were incorporated into the general scheme on 15 May, which was then approved by Government for drafting by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. I will be happy to detail the changes on Committee Stage, but in the meantime, I acknowledge and thank members of the committee for their useful input into the development of this Bill.
In addition, during the course of drafting a number of changes were made to the Bill on the advice of the office of the parliamentary draftsman. One such change places a greater emphasis on fair procedures, particularly with regard to the conduct of investigations by the board in respect of possible breaches of racing regulations and with regard to the conduct of hearings by the control committee into suspected breaches. Another requires Bord na gCon to consult with stakeholders and the Minister prior to making regulations. Additionally, where regulation breaches lead to criminal offences, the consent of the Minister is required to those regulations. The ability to make regulation under "incidental, ancillary and miscellaneous" provisions has been removed.
There also has been a modernisation of the provisions relating to the borrowings of Bord na gCon, where explicit reference is now made to a requirement for the consent of the Minister for Finance, in addition to that of the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform before all borrowings can be undertaken.
Before going through the Bill in detail, I draw the attention of the House a number of changes in the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, which were not in the general scheme. The programme for 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, experience gained in operating the legislation and to remove some minor errors of a typographical nature.
Returning to matters related 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 it with powers to make regulations in relation to integrity, anti-doping, administration and traceability to improve welfare and integrity deficits impacting the industry.
I will now provide Senators 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 it inserts 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. It also inserts a definition for a substance, a veterinary practitioner, the control committee and the scientific advisory committee and includes a definition for disqualification and exclusion orders as racing sanctions.
Section 3 amends the definition of "the Board" and "the 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 this 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 this Act. Any appeal from a decision of the control committee provided for in subsection (2) shall be appealed to the appeal committee.
Sections 8 provides for a change of name for Bord na gCon to Rásaíocht Con Éireann.
Sections 9 and 10 are on foot of recommendations in the Indecon report and relate to the governance of Bord na gCon. They are as follows: an increase in the number of members of the board from a chairperson and six members to a chairperson and eight members, and 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 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; cessation of appointment to the board in a number of circumstances, including if a board member is adjudicated bankrupt, is found guilty of offences relating to the greyhound industry, welfare of animals, intimidation or assault, fraud or dishonesty.
Section 11 provides for the current standard provisions in relation to elected representatives participation on State boards. This provision is standard in modern law.
Section 12 provides for disclosure of potential conflicts of interests. This is a new provision and was 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 in relation to 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 CEO as the board considers necessary for efficiency and effectiveness reasons.
Section 16 inserts an explicit provision permitting the board to apply funds to enhance greyhound health and welfare.
Section 17 modernises the wording regarding 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, therefore, 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, of the Bill 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 ensuring the integrity of the sport. Section 21(1) deals with the control of racing while section 21(2) deals 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. Section 21(3) deals with the administration of racing, including the registration and grading of greyhounds and the promotion of racing, section 21(4) deals with charges for entry of a greyhound to a race and section 21(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, lay-out, 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 or both 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 holder or approval holder now carries racing sanction.
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 or 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 are 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 a prohibited substance is disqualified from racing or trialling until it passes a subsequent test.
Section 28 relates to regulatory powers for the traceability of greyhounds. The board may make regulations to require 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. These 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 also 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.
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 the 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 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 1958 and 1993.
Sections 38, 39 and 41 relate to the obligation of persons to provide assistance for and follow the directions of authorised officers when carrying out their functions under the Act, including a requirement to produce a greyhound at a specific time and place. In addition, it is being made a criminal offence to obstruct, 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 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 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 made by the Minister for a maximum of two terms. The chair has a term of five years with ordinary member 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.
Section 46 sets out the details of the racing sanctions which may be applied by the control committee and appeal committee. Racing sanctions may be advice, admonishment or censure, the disqualification of greyhounds, or the exclusion of individuals from racing activities or the revocation or suspension of licences or permits. In addition, a person may be required to pay a sum not exceeding €12,500 to the board in certain circumstances, including where the person has an adverse analytical finding for a prohibited or controlled substance. It provides that a person who fails to make a payment shall not be permitted to train, transfer ownership of, race greyhounds or attend a greyhound race track until the amount is paid in full. It also provides for the publication of the names of those who have failed to pay a sanction payment.
Section 47 relates to disqualification orders. At present, the board may issue a disqualification order in respect of a greyhound for breach of the racing code. Such disqualification orders apply to racing and trials only. Some individuals have circumvented these orders by transferring ownership. This section provides that disqualification orders issued by the control committee or the appeal committee are racing sanctions and disqualify greyhounds from racing and trials and circumvention of the order is prevented by extending the potential restriction to transferring ownership of the greyhound and use of the greyhound for breeding purposes. The disqualification order can be for a specific period and the terms and conditions for revocation or variation of the order will be specified at the time of making the order.
Section 48 provides for the exclusion of individuals from certain activities relating to racing greyhounds. This power currently rests with the board or the club. However, under this Bill, power to issue an exclusion order is limited to the control committee and the appeal committee. In addition, it is now possible to specify a time period for which the order applies and the terms and conditions for revocation or variation of the order will be specified at the time of making. Non-compliance with an exclusion order is a criminal offence. The club will issue its own orders under its rules. This section also provides explicitly that the committee is independent in the exercise of its functions and requires the committee to publish its decisions.
Section 49 sets down the procedures for appeals in respect of racing sanctions or payments imposed by the control committee.
Section 50 provides for a single avenue of appeal for decisions in relation to sanctions and payments imposed by the control committee following the abolition of the current control appeal committee established under article 10 of the Greyhound Industry (Control Committee and Control Appeal Committee) Regulations 2007, which is SI 301 of 2007. The appeal committee retains its function in respect of appeals under section 51 of the principal Act from decisions of the board. In the interests of good governance it imposes a maximum of two terms on committee members. It also provides that the board will pay the remuneration and expenses of appeal committee members and will provide secretarial services to the committee.
Section 51 provides the procedures for appeals in respect of sanctions or payments imposed by the control committee and is a recasting of existing provisions in section 51 of the principal Act.
Section 52 provides for the communication of decisions of the control committee and the appeal committee to the individual concerned. This section also provides for the staying of sanctions and payments while the situation is under appeal. An exception applies to decisions in relation to adverse analytical findings where sanctions are effective immediately.
Section 53 provides for appeals to the District Court for findings of the appeal committee in relation to exclusion orders and/or sanction payments. Appeals in relation to sanction payments are limited to the quantum of the sum. It also provides that the District Court may grant a stay on the application of the relevant determination of the appeal committee.
Section 54 relates to evidential certificates issued by testing laboratories in the case of adverse analytical findings. Section 55 provides for the updating of fines generally, the modernisation of wording and the deleting of sections of the principal Act that are no longer relevant.
Section 56 is intended to provide legal certainty in regard to the eligibility of greyhounds registered in the stud book.
Section 57 makes it a criminal offence for a person who is intoxicated or aggressive to refuse to leave a track or sale when required to do so.
Section 58 allows for the transfer of information between different entities for the purposes of those Acts relating to greyhounds.
Section 59 relates to the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 and provides that only progeny produced in compliance with subsections (2) and (3) of section 11 of the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011, that is, the first litter to the sixth or the seventh litter and eighth following certification, are permitted to be registered in the Irish greyhound stud book and makes it an offence for a person to attempt to register litters not in compliance with the Act.
Section 60 provides a definition specific to Part 11. Section 61 makes technical amendments in regard to offences under section 36 of the Act and is to be read in conjunction with section 63.
Section 62 is a technical amendment that clarifies the penalty applicable for the breach of an obligation under an EU regulation.
Section 63 provides for making and recovering charges for the costs associated with the detention of seized animals.
Section 64 provides explicitly for record-keeping requirements and the making of returns to facilitate monitoring compliance with animal health and welfare notices.
Amendments to section 65 are to be made, on legal advice, to remove doubt as to the extent to which the Minister may make regulations in regard to EU matters, databases, animal traceability and transport.
Section 66 provides for a range of minor amendments to the Act either of a typographical nature or that could be better clarified, and they are proposed on the basis of experience in applying the Act since it came into operation.
This legislation will improve the governance of Bord na gCon, strengthen regulatory controls in the industry, modernise sanctions, improve integrity in the sport through new anti-doping provisions and improve the welfare of the greyhound through the traceability measures being introduced and the increased powers being provided for the authorised officers of the board. All of this is with a view to building a reputation for excellence in the sector. The Bill will strengthen the Irish greyhound racing industry, enabling it to deal with the existing challenges it faces and help to maximise its potential. I commend the Bill to the House.