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Wednesday, 23 May 2001

Vol. 4 No. 1

Horse and Greyhound Racing Bill, 2001: Committee Stage.

In this session we will consider the Horse and Greyhound Racing Bill, 2001. I welcome the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Deputy Walsh, and his officials. We have a time frame of up to 7 p.m., and I hope we will be in a position to conclude the Bill today. I ask for the full co-operation of Members. Is that agreed? Agreed?

Section 1 agreed to.

As amendments Nos. 1, 11, 12, 16, 17 and 18 are related, they may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, subsection (1), after line 30, to insert the following:

" 'subsidiary' in relation to-

(a) HRI, has the meaning assigned to it by section 2 of the Act of 1994,

(b) Bord na gCon, means a company established by it under section 18B (inserted by section 10 of the Act of 1999) of the Act of 1958.".

Amendments Nos. 1, 11, 12, 16, 17 and 18 are straightforward technical amendments and were recommended by the parliamentary counsel to provide a definition for the term "subsidiary" as used in the text of this Bill. It is necessary to include subsidiaries where mention is made of State bodies where appropriate to tote licences and staff transfers. In the case of the IHA, a tote licence is held by a subsidiary company, Tote Ireland. In such circumstances, a reference to subsidiaries is essential in sections 17 and 26. This is a technical amendment ensuring that wherever State bodies are referred to, subsidiaries are also included.

Could the Minister lighten my darkness regarding this amendment, which says that "HRI, has the meaning assigned to it by section 2 of the Act of 1994". Does that need to be said given that all references to the 1994 Act are to the 1994 Act, as amended? HRI did not exist in 1994. The reference to the 1994 Act is actually to the 1994 Act, as amended.

What is intended to be conveyed is that we are talking about the term subsidiary "in relation to" the HRI. The amendment refers to the term "subsidiary" in relation to HRI rather than HRI itself.

I assume we are referring to the Horseracing Industry Act, 1994, section 2(4) of which reads that "a reference to any enactment shall . . . . .. be construed as a reference to that enactment as amended". HRI did not exist when the 1994 Act was passed.

Yes, but what we are saying is that the term "subsidiary" in relation to HRI which will come into effect in a number of weeks time will have the meaning assigned to it by section 2 of the Act of 1994. It is the meaning of the term "subsidiary" which will be conveyed with reference to the 1994 Act.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 2, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 3 and 4 agreed to.

We come to amendment No. 2. Amendment No. 3 is an alternative and amendment No. 35 is related. Amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 35 may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 4, subsection (1), line 21, after "as" to insert "Rásaíocht Capall Éireann or in the English language".

My amendment has been accommodated by the Minister's later amendment. We must ensure that we conform with the recent Supreme Court judgment of Mr. Justice Hardiman in the Ó Beoláin case relating to the first official language. The Minister's amendment No. 3 allows for this but places a slightly different emphasis on the matter. I accept the thrust of his amendment as it deals with the position I wish to promote in my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, subsection (1), line 21, after "Horse Racing Ireland" to insert "or in the Irish language Rásaíocht Capall Éireann".

I accept the point made by Deputy Penrose. It is good to make reference to and to use the Irish language as well as promote it whenever we can. HRI will engage in international business and it would not make a great deal of sense to force HRI to use the Irish language title when dealing with its counterparts around the world. It would simply not be understood in other parts of the world. Whenever appropriate, HRI should be encouraged to use the Irish version of its name and to use Irish on headed notepaper and in all other areas of activity. The amendment I propose was recommended by the parliamentary counsel and is a standard insertion. It is not recommended that the Title or any other part of the Bill be amended to insert the organisation's Irish title. The Long Title of the Bill is used solely to state the purpose of the Bill. The Irish version of the Bill will translate all its provisions, including references to Horse Racing Ireland. I propose that "Rásaíocht Capall Éireann" be inserted to join "Horse Racing Ireland" which is already mentioned.

Could the Minister indicate when the Irish language version of the Bill will be published?

I would like to confirm that the Bill will be published in the Irish language, but I am not sure when that will be. I will find that information for the Deputy.

Will the Irish language version of the Bill include a reference in the appropriate place to say "nó, sa Bhéarla, Horse Racing Ireland"?

Yes, reference to Rásaíocht Capall Éireann will be included.

The Irish version should say "nó, sa Bhéarla, Horse Racing Ireland".

The experts have advised me that Rásaíocht Capall Éireann will be in the official version.

Will it be in the Long Title?

It will say it on the back.

Yes, but the Irish version of the Bill, with all the text set out in Irish, will have to state what the name of the body is in English.

Will we have to amend it when it comes out?

I do not think so.

I am amused by this as both the Minister's amendment and that of Deputy Penrose are a bit of blather. If we are to produce the text of the Bill in English and Irish, we will have to ensure that the Irish version of the Bill states the name of the body in English and that the English version states what the name of the body is in Irish. Although I have absolutely no doubt regarding the bona fides of the Minister, I would bet my shirt that when he asks on what date the Irish version will be published, he will be given a completely opaque answer. Those involved will not be able to tell him as they do not have the slightest idea when they will be able to proceed. It is a simple as that. These amendments are grand for amusement, but if I am informed that the Irish version of this Bill is available within the next two years I will return to personally apologise to the Minister. Until then, these amendments are simply cosmetic.

What kind of odds will Deputy Dukes give me on the translation being available within two years?

The Minister can name his price.

I am surprised at Deputy Dukes's remarks that the Minister and Deputy Penrose are full of blather.

I did not say they are full of blather, but that their amendments are blather and purely cosmetic.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 5, as amended, agreed to.
Section 6 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 4, before section 7, to insert the following new section:

"7.-The Freedom of Information Act, 1997, shall apply to HRI.".

I ask that the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, be specifically applied to this legislation. It will probably be applied in any event, but I think a specific reference should be made in this legislation. This is an important Bill and it is important that the 1997 statute applies to it. Along with the public, I am eager to know how various matters are conducted, such as how boards are selected. Deputy Dukes and I seek to make similar amendments in this regard. Members of the public would be eager to know how boards are to be selected, a matter on which I have tabled an amendment, as has Deputy Dukes. What rationale will be used to decide how moneys are to be allocated? There are a number of areas where people would be glad to see the basis on which various decisions are made. It is only right that an Act of the Oireachtas should be applied specifically to this very important Bill.

The amendment proposes that the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, apply to the HRI. I state clearly that Government policy is that the Act's provisions be applied in an organised and effective manner to all State bodies. It has applied to all Departments from April 1998 and was extended to all local authorities and health boards from October 1998. Last year it was rolled out further to hospitals and State bodies in the enterprise sector, including RTE. The process of gradually extending its application is being arranged in a planned and structured way by the Department of Finance in order that bodies involved can fully comply with all its provisions immediately it is applied. These include immediate publication of a large volume of information, the training of staff and other preparatory work.

The Department of Finance is pursuing the extension of the Act to all commercial State bodies. HRI and Bord na gCon are already listed for inclusion in the next year, given which I do not see the need to apply it to the HRI under this Bill on which I give an absolute guarantee. It would introduce an element of confusion to the process were we to write it into the Bill and apply the Act to new or restructured bodies across a selection of enactments. The Act obliges State bodies to comply with it and the HRI will be so obliged.

I accept the assurance of the Minister and I am satisfied with the commitment he has given. It is one of the bodies I see being included for the application of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 7 and 8 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 5, subsection (2), line 47, to delete "or other interest" and in page 6, to delete lines 1 and 2.

Section 9 sets out to introduce a racecourse consultative forum with which I have no particular difficulty except in the context of the Bill it is all the Minister intends to do. I have tabled an amendment to the Schedule to the Bill in relation to the membership of the governing authority to the effect that it should include representatives of racegoers. I would be quite happy to see this forum disappear from the Bill if I thought the Minister would agree to my amendment later on. Would I be out of order in asking the Minister to indicate if he will accept it?

I will not be able to accept that amendment.

We will have to talk about that matter when we come to it then.

We will.

That disappoints me as the Minister is doing something not very wise, not very democratic and refusing to do something which would not cause him any difficulty. It would improve the operation of this body and certainly improve public confidence in full transparency. I am not making a case against any member of the existing or future body but it is a pity the Minister is not taking the opportunity to involve a wider range of people with a clear interest in what he proposes. That is what I propose in the later amendment. This forum is not an adequate way of doing so, nor will it produce fairness for racegoers in relation to the other interests involved.

I am assured that somewhere in the replies he has prepared to remarks I might make the Minster will point out that although he is not proposing there should be representatives of racegoers on the board he equally does not propose such a forum should exist for any of the other interests involved. It would be disingenuous of him to say so. Authorised racecourses, racehorse owners, racehorse trainers and breeders and authorised bookmakers will nominate to the board. This is perfectly legitimate but there will be occasions when the board of the HRI will be asked to meet a group representing authorised bookmakers, for example, and will probably see this as perfectly in order. The board will make occasional decisions which will not be accepted by one or other of these groups and if it has any sense it will meet a delegation. When such a delegation meets the board a person nominated by it will be sitting across the table about which nobody will feel uncomfortable as everyone will know what are the parameters of the discussion. That is not a problem. The Minister's proposal to establish a racecourse consultative forum does not in any sense give racegoers access that other groups will not have because they will have that kind of access anyway but he is denying this specific group the involvement of nominating board members. This is an awful pity.

As he has proposed section 9 the Minister clearly believes that representatives of racegoers clubs, racecourse supporters clubs and other organisations operating in the interests of racegoers are nominated and he is therefore not saying there is any difficulty in finding representatives of racegoers. Since he accepts he can do this, that they are a legitimate interest, he might as well go the final step and agree to include them on the board. My amendment is slightly different. I would not object to a racecourse consultative forum were it to include representatives of racegoers and cannot see the reason in the framework of section 9 the Minister proposes to include this further reference to other interest groups. Who are they? It further refers to "other interest groups". Who are these groups? This is supposed to be a racegoers consultative forum. I am not aware of another dimension of the term "racegoers" other than racegoers clubs, racegoers supporters clubs and other organisations operating in the interests of racegoers. We do not need a further reference to describe the people that will be represented. Why then mention "other interest groups"? I ask the Minister who these other groups are.

The Minister has proposed a racegoers consultative forum and its membership. By proposing this forum, he has agreed that there is a legitimate interest that needs to be represented. By identifying the various interest groups, he has agreed they can be represented. Since he agrees they have a legitimate and identifiable interest, I now invite him to reconsider his decision and allow these groups to be represented on the board.

I made my views on the racegoers consultative forum known on Second Stage. If the Minister considers this forum necessary, it should operate as an adjunct to full membership of the board and as a representative of racegoers who, as the ultimate consumers of the enjoyments and thrills of racing, are a critical component of the racing industry. I understand an attempt to create similar arrangements in Britain was described by noted journalists and writers there as a charade. There is no point in providing what amounts to a sop to the people paying at the turnstiles who keep the industry going.

Deputy Dukes asked a pertinent question. Who are these other interests and what selection method will be used for members of the forum? Will the Minister be involved and will there be a procedure to ensure these interests are selected properly?

As I said at our last discussion, just two or three of the people elected to the council of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association represent national hunt breeders. There are about 3,000 national hunt and roughly 3,000 flat breeders in Ireland and yet 80% of the latter come from three counties. I tabled an amendment about geographical dispersal aimed at ensuring that the board represents the fundamental interests of people on the ground. National hunt breeders have been sidelined to date in terms of representation on the various boards. I do not want to see that imbalance repeated and my amendment aims to ensure that a procedure will be put in place to reflect proportionally the numbers involved in the industry.

The hard working breeders in my county, many of whom supplement farm income through breeding, feel that do not got a fair shake. I have discovered that there were 1,916 races last year, of which 1,201 were national hunt races. That constitutes about 63% of the total. If the prize money was to be given out on that basis, the national hunt should have received another £370,000.

I know the Minister is locked in to the Memorandum of Understanding of 19 October 2000. Much of this emanated from that document and it will be difficult for the Minister to get out of it. However, he should try to accommodate the interests of the ordinary racegoer in a more meaningful way.

Deputy Sheehan is signalling that he wants to speak. I did not know he was a racing man.

I come from the same constituency as the Minister.

He is looking for the number two votes.

The Minister should reconsider his decision and accept the amendment tabled by my colleague, Deputy Dukes, which calls for deletion of the reference to "other interests". I am sure there is ample provision in that section to cover the horse racing industry. If the Minister allows people to come in from the fringes, he will make the consultative forum too unwieldy. Is he pursuing a hidden agenda by including these people?

The effect of the amendment if accepted would exclude from membership of the consultative forum all interests who are not racegoers. About 1.35 million people go to racing events each year. That figure is made up of a wide range of people, including Deputies and Senators, jockeys, handlers of various kinds, stable and catering staff and sponsors. In establishing the forum, the intention was to give all those interests which are affected by the decisions and operations of Horse Racing Ireland but cannot be accommodated on the board, the right to express their opinions and make recommendations to HRI. This is a real and substantive right and will give interested parties an input into policy and decision making that affects racing.

I refer members to section 9 (5) which states: "HRI shall have regard to any opinions expressed by the Forum on any matter affecting the interests represented by the Forum which may be reviewed by HRI". It would not seek to restrict the membership of this forum in advance of its establishment. It will be for HRI and the industry to make this forum into a useful mechanism for developing the sector into an inclusive type of business that will listen and have regard to the views of all those involved. That is the reason that I have included the reference, "and other interests" in the Bill.

Deputy Dukes pointed to the reference on page 19 defining those that will be directly represented. These are: authorised race courses, race horse owners, race horse trainers, race horse breeders, authorised bookmakers, persons employed directly in the horse racing industry and the horse racing industry in Northern Ireland. I have received representations from a range of people. Take the example of jockeys. While we are in the stand or the box enjoying our racing, the jockeys are on the track endangering life and limb. As we did not want an unwieldy board, we restricted that aspect of membership to "various representation". We could not directly accommodate some of the other categories on the board. A consultative forum is the most democratic way of giving representation to that wide range of people that makes up the 1.3 million people who attend racing events each year.

I can hardly believe my ears. The Minister is now saying this racecourse consultative forum will include racegoers clubs, race course supporters clubs and other organisations operating in the interests of racegoers as well as many other people one finds at the race tracks. Is the Minister telling us that the racecourse consultative forum, regardless of how it is structured - and let us remind ourselves that the Minister proposes to appoint two members to the forum - will include for example the people who sell bars of chocolate and fruit? Will it include the people who drive the buses to bring people to the racecourses and so on? The Minister says 1.35 million people go racing and that is fine, but if the Minister is to carry on down this line, we will have to go back to the definition section and bring in a definition of "racegoer". If the Minister said he thought he had better include in this, the interests of punters who do not go to the race courses, I might be inclined to take him seriously, but now when he tells me that "racegoers" in his mind includes "Uncle Tom Cobbly and all", I cannot really believe the Minister is serious about this.

A colleague of Deputy Penrose, a former distinguished Member of this House and a member of the Government, former Deputy Liam Kavanagh who was feeling rather upset at being overlooked in some way, said he feels like the fellow who drives the non-runners to the Curragh. That is what the Minister is talking about here, the people who drive the non-runners to the racecourses. I cannot believe he is serious. If this is a racegoers consultative forum, we are talking about people who go racing because they like the sport and to have a bet. They enjoy the atmosphere and being at the racecourse. That is the interest we are talking about.

If the Minister has a concern, as we all should have, about how jockeys are represented in all of this, that is another question, but if he is seriously saying that the racegoers' consultative forum is going to be considered by him or by the HRI to speak for jockeys, then he has another thing coming. If the Minister says to a group who are as central to the whole business as the jockeys are, that their interest is going to be represented by the racegoers' consultative forum proposed under section 9, then he is going to get a fairly dusty answer from people who are used to expressing themselves very often in direct terms. I wish the Minister joy at his meeting with the jockeys when they are told that their interests will be represented by the racegoers consultative forum. I can assure the Minister he will need a flak jacket for that meeting.

What is Deputy Dukes playing around with? There are many vested interests in the racing industry. As the Minister outlined, it is a very big industry with approximately 1.5 million people involved and many outside interests who had no interest in racing five years ago. We can look at the sponsors, for example, as representing other interests. I see nothing wrong with the section and fail to understand why anyone should be critical of other interests. I fully support the Bill.

The Minister wants to reduce the board from 15 to 12 and that has been agreed with all of the people who discussed it.

Will Deputy Dukes put the question?

Can I inform, Deputy O' Keeffe, that I decide when I will put the question. The Deputy has no amendments down.

Through the Chair now, please. Order please.

A Chathaoirligh, if I can continue. The manoeuvre is very clear. The size of the board is to be reduced from 15 to 12 because that is what has been agreed. I know that a great deal of discussion and hard work has been put into it and I do not for a moment argue that there is any kind of bad faith. I congratulate all the people involved in getting that memorandum of understanding. It was a difficult thing to do and at the end of the day it was a very constructive agreement, but it should not be exclusive. The Minister has now agreed that the board will be reduced from 15 to 12 and that is in order to make it effective and to make it work in the way they think it should work. We do not all necessarily agree with that and we were not all consulted about it, but I am not going to try to unpick that. But the Minister comes along with a racecourse consultative forum and puts in "or other interest groups", and Deputy O' Keeffe falls for it hook, line and sinker.

The ploy there is to have a racegoers' consultative forum that is so wide, all embracing and vague, that it is never going to put any pressure on the board. The Minister tells us that in section 9 (5), HRI "shall have regard to any opinions expressed by the forum". Let us thank the Minister for that, he must know what "having regard to" often consists of. Yes, I will have regard to this opinion that is put before me and I will decide what I was going to decide before I ever saw it - that is "having regard to". The bigger the forum the less regard there will be in practical terms. We have been through all that, but Deputy O'Keeffe might not have noticed it when it was happening. That is what the ploy in the racegoers' consultative forum is going to be. We will end up having Bridie O' Leary in it, as well as Uncle Tom Cobley and all the rest of them, because one could spend from now until kingdom come hearing about other interest groups.

Is this another three card trick?

The sensible approach for the Minister would be to accept this amendment and includes the other amendment to the Schedule that includes the punters.

Apart from the gratuitous insult to Bridie, I see nothing wrong with her, or with Lily the fruit seller either.

Yes, Lily.

The Minister does not appear to understand the reference to Bridie O'Leary, so I will explain it to him another time. I do not know her, nor I think does the Minister.

Deputy Dukes might not understand the reference to Lily.

Who will be representing the jockeys on the consultative forum?

Deputy Dukes proposes to delete - "or other interest groups affected by the decisions of the HRI". While speaking of inclusivity the Deputy wants to delete that reference and exclude them. I find that logic hard to follow. I mentioned a number of the categories of interest groups when I spoke earlier, such as the stable staff, handlers, sponsors and jockeys. A range of groups are affected and I think it most democratic to provide a forum where they could express their views and have these regarded by the HRI.

Can the Minister say how many members will be in the forum?

That will be a matter for the HRI and I would envisage between 12 and 15.

Twelve or 15?

About that size, yes.

The Minister has already mentioned a number of categories that when they are put together with racegoers clubs, racegoers supporters clubs and other organisations operating in the interests of racegoers, one reaches a figure of more than 15.

I do not think so.

Yes, the Minister has.

My sums are not that bad.

This is just a ploy, it is going to be a big amorphous body that will never be concerted enough to make decisions.

This legislation and this development mechanism for the horse and greyhound industry is a very serious matter, and it will be well funded. We want to do this right as it is the start of this decade and millennium.

How often will it meet?

It will meet on a regular basis throughout the year.

How often?

I expect it will meet every second month at the least, let us say six times in the year at the least, or to have a meeting as might be deemed necessary from time to time.

Who finds it necessary, the HRI, the jockeys or the racegoers' clubs?

Deemed necessary by the forum itself or some constituent body of it. It is about time it had a mechanism to channel its views because it was not supposed to have a view up to now.

The forum reports to the HRI, which is the authority, and it reports to the Minister. The forum keeps the HRI in touch with what is happening on the ground. Is it true that it does not have a voting right over budgeting, for example?

That is right.

I do not see any difficulty with it or understand the row about interest.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 8; Níl, 6.

  • Blaney, Harry.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Collins, Michael.
  • O’Keeffe, Ned.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Walsh, Joe.


  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 6, line 6, to delete subsection (4).

If this is to be a racecourse consultative forum, and it is to be established by the HRI, I can see no reason whatsoever the Minister should appoint two members. Either the Minister trusts the HRI to be able to identify all the interests he has in mind or he does not. If he does not trust them he should not set up the forum; if he does, he should not be appointing members. I have to say to the Minister, in the friendliest possible spirit, that if he means what he said to me during the debate on the last amendment then he should not be proposing to appoint members to the forum. He should leave some leeway for other people to exercise their judgments. I cannot see why it is necessary for the Minister to get involved in this at all.

If we look at paragraph 15 in the Schedule, which deals with the appointments of members of the board of HRI, we see that five of the members will be nominated by the racing regulatory body and the other seven will be people who the Minister considers to be representative of the various interests. When we get to the Schedule maybe we will have a discussion about this.

I assume that what will happen is that the various interests will be invited to suggest people to the Minister and the Minister will select from among those. At least I hope that is what will be done. They are not going to be people appointed by the Minister out of the blue at his or her sole and entire discretion. There will be consultation with the various bodies. If the Minister is adopting that approach to appointments to the board of HRI, I do not see why he should be involved in appointing members to the forum. If there are as many interests involved as both Deputy O'Keeffe and the Minister say, then I cannot see why the Minister should put his hand in it at all. That is the reason I propose the deletion of this subsection.

Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 seek to remove from the incumbent Minister the right to appoint two members to the consultative forum, as is at present provided for under section 9(4). Naturally I cannot support this amendment. As I said before, I am taking this forum very seriously. I want to ensure that all the interests in the industry who cannot be accommodated on the board will be given the opportunity to air their views on issues pertaining to racing and have them taken into account. I believe that the incumbent Minister can contribute to that process by appointing two people who would represent sectors, interests or expertise that may not otherwise be represented on the forum. In any case, the provision is that the Minister "may appoint two members to the Forum." The word "may" is used. On those grounds it will be open to the Minister to decide not to do so if all the relevant interests are represented on the forum and it has all the necessary expertise available to it. If it is broadly based and representative the Minister may decide not to make appointments.

I am delighted to hear the Minister comment on the difference of "shall" and "may." That is not usually what happens during Committee Stage debates. It is usually the Opposition who say it should be "shall" rather than "may." I want to remind the Minister that section 9(1) says, "HRI shall establish a Forum. . . " It uses the word "shall." Subsection (2) says, "The Forum shall consist of so many members as may be decided, from time to time, by HRI. . . " HRI will establish the forum, it will decide how many members there should be on the forum. Is it the case that the Minister does not trust HRI to do the job properly? That is the only reason the Minister is keeping this optional power. I have not been around politics quite as long as the Minister. I have been a Member of this House for 20 years and I have yet to find the case where it says in legislation, "The Minister may appoint. . . " where the Minister does not make an appointment but I have seen umpteen pieces of legislation which provide, "The Minister may spend money. . . " where he does not.

The only reason for including this, even with "may", is that the Minister will make it his or her business to make sure that they appoint these people. HRI is either trusted or it is not. If it is trusted, its business should not be interfered with. If it is not trusted then the forum should not be set up. The Minister will do no violence to his position, or that of any future Minister, by agreeing to this amendment and the consequential one.

Deputy Dukes - and those who have been around here for a few decades - knows that until relatively recently Ministers made all appointments to boards. That was the case on the Racing Board. In the old IHA there were only a number of appointees by the incumbent Minister. In the HRI there is only one appointee. It is my experience that Ministers do their jobs and act responsibility, if they do not then the electorate have their say. The incumbent Minister has every right to see that the forum represents the various interests. If all the interests are not represented, I cannot think of anyone more qualified than the Minister to identify the gap and he or she may appoint members on account of that.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 7 not moved.
Section 9 agreed to.
Sections 10 and 11 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 12 stand part of the Bill".

Section 12 is an important part of the Bill because it looks at the establishment of a fund. As one who has an interest in the smaller courses, whether greyhound tracks or racecourses, there is nothing in the Bill to say the fund must be made available. There are many supporters clubs and committees supporting racecourses and greyhound tracks throughout the country. I am convinced, given the type of progress proposed, there may be a hidden agenda where racing and greyhound tracks may have to be rationalised. A major change is taking place. It is moving from a sport to entertainment and becoming a hospitality industry in relation to tourism.

While the Minister is aware of my views on this matter I wish to express them here. There is an important greyhound track in my constituency known as the old hospitality town which very much depends on that facility. There is a threat to the track which is not being modernised or upgraded and to which I would like to see a commitment. I see no future for it given the way in which the section is drafted. If funding is not available for such tracks, including Kilbeggan with which Deputy Penrose will be familiar, Ballinrobe, Roscommon, Sligo etc. which are mainly supported by communities and supporters clubs, from the Exchequer or from some other source they do not have a great future. In the past the greyhound racing industry received generous tax concessions following the 1969 Act and other Acts. These small areas have an entitlement to recognition. I am concerned because I can foresee what will happen.

I come from the north Cork area and can look back to about 1975 when Mallow was under threat and lost many influential days which it never won back. The two main racing days in Mallow are in August and April, usually Easter weekend and the August weekend. They were always successful days. Even if there was no stand there would be thousands in attendance. Other days will have be made more attractive. I appreciate the full development taking place and congratulate all concerned. I am aware that huge amounts of capital are being spent and there may be no necessity for further capital for some time. However, without wishing to be parochial, there are a number of smaller tracks, one of which is the one I have mentioned in my own area, about which I am concerned. They are community and supporters club based because they are important to the community.

Deputy O'Keeffe has made a fair point and I hope the Minister will take cognisance of this aspect of the market. Significant funding is being provided with a cap of £200 million. My concern is that when it comes to the disbursement of the money the well known highly populated tracks will be the first port of call. We must look around the country where communities are dispersed and where race tracks and greyhound tracks have given great enjoyment to ordinary people, some of whom have given tremendous community support. One cannot unscramble an egg in so far as if those who are allowed to run down the small race tracks do not have the muscle in the HRI they may not get their deserved contribution from the fund. I would prefer if the smaller tracks were the focus for the allocation of funding because it would ensure racing, whether greyhound area or horse, was made available to all as opposed to the few who may be well heeled. I want the small tracks made accessible but to do this, as Deputy Dukes said on the last occasion, proper facilities must be put in place because there is much competition in the leisure pursuits and activities area having regards to people's disposable income. If the facilities are not up to scratch people will go elsewhere. I know the Minister's heart will be in the right place. Significant funding should be specifically designated for those small tracks throughout the country.

The track in Kilbeggan is a shining example of what can be done with a level of support. Mullingar greyhound racing track, in which the Minister has been involved with the provision of funding, is now one of our premier tracks and of which we in Mullingar are proud. Kilbeggan which has had significant investment started off as a small rural track. Such tracks are the real hub of the Irish racing industry. Will the Minister give a categoric assurance that we will not be back here in three years' time, that there will not be a report before one of the committees and that it is not only those with the greatest muscle that will be funded? I want the small tracks in the greyhound and horse racing industry to benefit from this generous largesse being made available by the taxpayer.

I am happy to be able to agree with Deputies O'Keeffe and Penrose on this issue. I did say on Second Stage that deciding fixtures and giving grants is where the real power lies. Those are the important elements. I said on Second Stage and I am delighted to say on Committee Stage that the provision in section 11 of the Schedule for an appeal against a decision to remove a fixture is an important one. It has been suggested to me in relation to horse racing - I am sure the same could be done in relation to dog racing - that a specified percentage of the funding that will be made available be ring-fenced for the use of smaller tracks. That is where the power lies and where the real decisions will be made. For this reason I hope the Minister will come back to us on Report Stage with a provision of this kind. I am not accusing him of being a megalomaniac or anything like that but if the Minister is taking powers to do such a simple thing as appoint two members to the racecourse consultative forum he could exercise a bit of muscle in a more important context, the kind of decision on which the continued existence of a track can depend. I invite him to consider this.

There is another issue which I mentioned on Second Stage on which I would like the Minister to comment. It concerns the revenue from the foal levy, an important enough source of funding. How does the Minister see this fitting in with the overall financing position of the racing industry as a whole? Does he have any comments to make about it?

Perhaps the Chair will give me a little leeway to go off on a slight tangent. There is a whole part in this Bill that deals with the accountability of the chief executive officers of the HRI and Bord na gCon to the Committee of Public Accounts and others committees of the Oireachtas. That is as it should be. Will Members of the Oireachtas be able to ask the Minister of the day to account for the activities of the HRI or will it escape from the ambit of the Oireachtas by the device normally used when we establish a semi-State body? When I was trying to get some information about the foal levy I tabled a question to the Minister but it was ruled out of order by the Ceann Comhairle on the grounds that the Minister is not answerable to the Oireachtas for it. Will that be the case with Horse Racing Ireland? At the very least we would need to know whether it is worth our while bothering the Minister when we have questions, or should we just invite Bord na gCon and HRI to come before our committees?

I concur with the previous speakers. I would like to see the smaller tracks improved, both greyhound and horse racing. A number of years ago some of the smaller tracks like Kilbeggan, Roscommon, Ballinrobe and Tramore were threatened with closure but a great lobby was formed and they have been very successful. The most successful of all of them - and I have a good experience of racing as I did a great deal of it in my time - was Kilbeggan.

When one considers the average age of people attending either greyhound or horse racing, it is obvious that we are not attracting younger people. In fairness to Bord na gCon, since it got the increased allocations it has improved the numbers and the age group, especially in terms of the Dublin tracks, but the rural tracks such as Limerick, Enniscorthy and Galway are not attracting younger people to this type of sport.

I could only make a brief contribution to the Bill on Second Stage because of the restrictions placed on us but I focused on coursing. We are talking about greyhound racing but coursing is also a part of the greyhound industry and anyone who knows anything about coursing will know that it is of vital importance. I am disappointed because I understood the Minister, in his concluding remarks, gave an indication that an allocation would be made. I am not seeking a large allocation but one on which the coursing industry can survive. However, I do not see anything in the Bill about that. Perhaps the Minister can tell me otherwise. He is doubling the funding to £37 million for horse racing and £9 million for greyhound racing, but not one penny will go to coursing. That is unfair because these people do not have the facilities and the Minister knows that people in the coursing industry are up to their knees in muck and dirt, especially when the weather is bad. Now that the Minister has a chance, I urge him to consider the coursing industry because, as he knows, coursing is vital to the greyhound industry.

I call Deputy Crawford. We seem to be having a rehash of Second Stage, which is not the purpose of this debate.

This section is the kernel of the Bill.

It is not the purpose of this committee, but we would ask for brevity because we have to conclude by 7 o'clock.

It is strange that whenever I am called, the Chairman asks for brevity. As he knows, I am always brief.

A Deputy

The Deputy should have been here for the vote.

I add my appeal to those of Deputy O'Keeffe about the need for smaller tracks to be maintained. I spoke to the Minister on his way into the committee about the need for support for one in Clones town. There was a greyhound track in Clones town during my youth. It was an extremely valuable track and it served a purpose on the Border. It was closed down, unfortunately, because of the railroads disappearing and, subsequently, the roads around Clones town being closed as a result of the Northern Ireland troubles. Roads were spiked, blown up, etc., so the track had to be closed for unnatural reasons. A group of strong greyhound enthusiasts is putting together plans to set up a new track in Clones. This town is still extremely depressed as a result of the problems and such a track would give it a much needed lift. I hope that within this figure of £200 million, the Minister will be able to find some way to help that group. It may be possible to tie it in with some of the cross Border funding but I urge the Minister to seriously consider an application which is either with him or will come into the Department shortly for support for that project.

I will be brief, but I remind the Minister that he should not put all his eggs in the one basket. He must agree with me that in my constituency of Cork South West, we have only one all-weather race track in the little village of Leap. I am sure the Minister enjoys Sunday afternoons there during particular months of the year.

He gets many votes there.

We meet in the area and we discuss business there.

Share the votes.

The manager of that track, Paddy Collins, spoke to me last Saturday and asked me to appeal to the Minister to allocate some funding to get this track off the ground. It is the only track we have in the constituency——

What about Ballabuidhe?

——and we should be proud of it, but we need funding. I hope when the Minister has the £200 million in the kitty he will not forget his own constituency and the Leap all-weather track.

I have no doubt that with Deputy Sheehan pushing the Minister, he will get a few bob.

I will not delay the committee. I am fortunate to live in a constituency that has two of the finest racing tracks in the country - Fairyhouse and Navan.

The Deputy is a lucky man.

Not too many years ago, Navan was under threat but refurbishment took place and we now have a fabulous track. We also had a very fine greyhound track in Navan but, unfortunately, it closed down some years ago. If one goes over to the north end of the county towards Deputy Penrose's constituency, there is a fine track in Mullingar. The refurbishment that took place in Mullingar was welcome because it caters for many people who enjoy a night at the dogs. It is an important part of rural life and I welcome that. I agree with the other speakers that the smaller tracks should be kept open and funded.

The points raised were well made. Deputy Ned O'Keeffe made his point to me previously and it was important to have it on the record. I insisted that section 25(5) of the 1994 Act, which refers to the improvement of authorised race courses and amenities thereof, be amended to include "and in so doing, use a graded system of grant rates". The old system was on a 50-50 basis. The race course involved had to provide pound for pound but under the new system, a grant of up to 100% can be made available.

People mentioned various tracks around the country such as Mallow and, for greyhound racing, Tralee and Mullingar. Navan and Kilbeggan were mentioned also as well as a range of other tracks. The idea is that for the smaller tracks which cannot come up with the local contribution, a grant of up to 100% would be made available.

Deputy Penrose referred to Kilbeggan and Mullingar. Kilbeggan is used for national hunt racing and Mullingar is a very nice facility. I am sure he has had an opportunity to visit it.

Deputy Dukes talked about the foal levy. That goes into promoting thoroughbreds and I spoke at length about that on Second Stage.

On the body itself and other State bodies, the Minister of the day is obliged to answer parliamentary questions on any policy issues. That is why I included in another section of the Act that committees of this House will question the various day-to-day activities of the two bodies, Bord na gCon and Horse Racing Ireland, including this Oireachtas committee.

On the matter raised by Deputy Collins, the Deputy raised it with me before and I said Bord na gCon maintained the stud book. It is the linchpin of the whole industry and deserves to get its proportionate amount of funding. I will ensure that happens. I have received no submission on Clones but Deputy Crawford said one will be made and when it arrives I will ensure it is given appropriate and sympathetic consideration provided there are enough greyhounds and people likely to go greyhound racing in the area. It would be helpful if young people were included as it was pointed out that the age profile at such meetings is, to say the very least, middled aged.

While Paddy Cullen is a mate of mine I do not know who gets his No. 1. It probably goes to Deputy Sheehan.

That is to be debated.

There could be a question mark over it.

A Deputy

Does Deputy Jim O'Keeffe get any votes down there?

One thing is sure, other than Deputy Sheehan and me, no other candidate would have a chance of getting it.

Deputy Ned O'Keeffe mentioned Ballabuidhe where there is a good turf track. There is a good future for trotting and sulky racing here. Apart from the track in Deputy O'Keeffe's area, such racing only takes place on one other track, Portmarnock in Dublin. I used whatever influence I had to get a sizeable allocation for Leap and Ballabuidhe. With the recent difficulties regarding the restrictions on racing I made sure racing could go ahead on the tracks in question and it did.

Deputy Brady mentioned we should look after the smaller tracks. Fairyhouse is an outstanding track while the hill on the Navan track tries out even the best of them. I am glad Arctic Copper was able to get up it fairly well to do the business on a number of occasions.

The Minister has his ear to the ground.

As far as racing is concerned, yes.

I am partly satisfied by what the Minister said. Tracks should be categorised as many of the smaller ones are feeder tracks which form the base of the industry. The Ryans, etc., the four main breeders of dogs, are based in Youghal from where all those dogs came. The same applies to the racing industry. It all starts on the smaller tracks and we will have no base for the industry if they are not kept in place. I do not want to get into an argument because I am on the Government side but I am concerned about the matter. The Bill has been speeded through and we did not get an opportunity to speak on it on Second Stage. It should not be railroaded through here.

That is unfair to the Chairman who is very impartial.

I have no doubt that bureaucracy will kill off the smaller tracks. I am aware of the agenda about which I am concerned. I ask that consideration be given to identifying how we can save the smaller tracks. Such a provision should be included in the Bill. Governments and Ministers change and different attitudes are adopted.

The Bill provides for a graded system which will cater for the smaller tracks. The track in Youghal has a great future. As the Deputy will be aware there was a problem with its lease in terms of the title.

I could not get a licence and I was a Minister of State.

There is no question of the Bill being railroaded through. We have spent an hour and half on it and are only half way through.

Question put and agreed to.

As amendment No. 9 is related to amendment No. 8 they may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 9, to delete lines 34 to 38.

I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply.

These two amendments refer to the proposed deletion of section 13(4) and section 14(4) which refer to the audit and presentation to the Oireachtas of the annual accounts of the HRI and Bord na gCon and require the chief executive in each case to attend the Committee of Public Accounts, if required, to give evidence on the regularity, etc., of the accounts. That forum would not be an appropriate one for the chief executive of a State body to question the merits of either Government or ministerial policy. If the chief executives of the bodies in question wanted to discuss policy being adopted by Government or a Minister, as provided for in section 16, the Government would have no problem with them raising such a matter with any committee of the House apart from the Committee of Public Accounts which deals with accounts. Based on this clarification I ask the Deputies to withdraw their amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 13 agreed to.
Amendment No. 9 not moved.
Section 14 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 10, subsection (3), line 49, to delete "or may at a future" and in page 11, line 1 to delete "time be".

I await the Minister's reply.

Section 15 requires the chief executives of the HRI and Bord na gCon, if called upon, to attend Oireachtas committees to give an account of their stewardship. Subsection (3) allows them to refuse to give an account regarding any matter which has or may in the future be the subject of proceedings before a court or tribunal in the State. Deputy Dukes's amendment would remove this right to refuse to attend in the case of any matter that may in the future be before a court or tribunal. This could be applied to any subject matter.

There is protection however against the abuse of this provision by chief executives as the final decision will lie with the High Court under subsection (5) of the section. While there is a precedent for the provision in subsection (3) the law in this area is evolving and in the circumstances the right to refuse to give evidence on any matter which has been or is currently before the courts or a tribunal is strong enough. On this basis I am satisfied to go along with what is proposed and therefore accept the amendment.

That is welcome. I am encouraged by the fact that the Minister is prepared to go along with Deputy Dukes's request.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 15, as amended, agreed to.
Section 16 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 12, line 2, after "Bord na gCon" to insert "or a subsidiary of either body".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 12, line 3, to delete "either or both of them and substitute "it".

Amendment agreed to.
Section 17, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 12, subsection (1), to delete lines 17 to 25 and substitute the following:

19A.-Notwithstanding section 19(3) of this Act, it shall be lawful for the registered proprietor of registered premises, so long as he or she continues to be a licensed bookmaker, in addition to carrying on the business of bookmaking-

(a) to accept at such premises totalisator bets for and on behalf of Horse Racing Ireland or Bord na gCon or a subsidiary (within the meaning of section 2 of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001) of either body operating under a licence granted under the Totalisator Act, 1929, or

(b) to sell on the premises-

(i) such newspapers, magazines or other journals which are wholly or mainly concerned with horse or greyhound racing, or

(ii) for consumption only on those premises, any non-alcoholic beverages, packaged confectionery, potato crisps, peanuts or other similar products or fruit.".

The purpose of this amendment is to accommodate the extension of the tote betting services of the HRI and Bord na gCon to allow them to be operated from off-course bookmaker shops under section 17. It was necessary to amend the 1931 Act to remove the blanket ban on any activities, other than bookmaking, being carried on at registered premises. This prohibition is being lifted in respect of tote betting only under section 18. Following publication of the Bill off-course bookmakers made representations seeking a further amendment of the restriction in the 1931 Act. They sought to be able to sell a number of small items, including tea, coffee, snacks, non-alcoholic beverages and specialist racing newspapers such as The Racing Post and so on. The amendment proposes to allow this in addition to tote betting. It is felt that bookmaker shops should not be made attractive places for people to frequent other than adults specifically looking for betting services. There is however no reason to deny the people concerned while on the premises basic customer services such as non-alcoholic drinks, coffee, tea, light snacks or periodicals which are all, or substantially all, about racing and betting.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 18, as amended, agreed to.

As amendment No. 15 is related to amendment No. 14 they may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 12, line 28, to delete ", with effect from 1 July 2001,".

Amendment Nos. 14 and 15 propose the removal of the 0.3% betting turnover charge on off-course bookmakers. This charge posed a problem for small bookmakers in small towns and resulted in the threat that some of them would go out of business. The amendments propose to remove the date of "1 July" from the Bill to empower the Minister to commence the section and effectively abolish the charge by order from the earliest date which is administratively feasible after the Bill is enacted.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 12, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following subsection:

"(2) This section shall come into operation on such day as the Minister may appoint by order.".

Amendment agreed to.
Section 19, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 20 to 25, inclusive, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 14, line 7, after "Authority" to insert "or a subsidiary of it".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 14, line 8, after "HRI" to insert "or a subsidiary of it".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 14, line 9, after "HRI" to insert "or the subsidiary concerned".

Amendment agreed to.
Section 26, as amended, agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 20 to 25, inclusive, are related to amendment No. 19. Is it agreed that amendments Nos. 19 to 25, inclusive, be discussed together? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 14, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following subsection:

"(3) Every person who is, immediately before the transfer of any functions under section 8(1)(f) from the Racing Regulatory Body to HRI, a member of the staff of the Racing Regulatory Body engaged in work relating to these functions, shall, subject to agreement on terms and conditions, have the right to transfer, on the transfer of those functions, to HRI and become a member of the staff of HRI or a subsidiary of it, as HRI may determine.".

This amendment proposes the insertion of a new subsection (3) into this section. This is required in order to give any staff engaged in the work in the Racing Regulatory Body which is later transferred to the HRI - the agreement on the transfer of functions provided for under section 8(1)(f) of this Bill - the same rights given under section 27 to those transferring now. We discussed and agreed this with the union concerned.

Amendments Nos. 20 to 24 are technical amendments consequential on the insertion of subsection (3). Amendment No. 25 was sought by the union. We agreed the detail of this with the union representing the staff at the Turf Club. It requires HRI to give due recognition to the length of service staff have had with the IHA and the Turf Club when deciding the conditions of service for those staff in HRI. The way this will be done will be the subject of negotiations between the Turf Club, the IHA and/or HRI and the unions concerned. These amendments are necessary to protect the interests of the staff involved.

I welcome the amendments so far as they go. It is important the staff are not forgotten in this matter. While there was a tremendous amount of consultation initially, there was major concern among the staff and the MANDATE union in regard to future employment and how this legislation would impact on them.

The fact there was no consultation was a source of concern for the members of MANDATE. They made a number of suggestions to the Minister in relation to this matter in conjunction with the Turf Club. The members in the registry office were given to understand that all registry office functions would transfer to the HRI and this was reinforced by the publication of the memorandum of understanding between the Turf Club and the Department, particularly what was contained in Annex 1B of that document. They were extremely concerned when the publication of the Bill appeared to cast doubt on their understanding because the functions transferred to HRI under section 8(1)(a) did not seem to be fully inclusive of all the functions within that office.

A joint approach was made by the Turf Club and the union to the Minister to deal with those concerns. Most of them have been accepted but I understood they still had concerns as late as yesterday. It is important that all concerns are addressed so the transfer of the functions to the HRI can take place. Will the Minister give an assurance that all matters impacting on the workers will be addressed? Any hiccups that might be involved and any clarifications sought in relation to the tenure of employment and conditions attached thereto and the transfer of undertakings that would be associated with it must be fully ventilated and cleared in an agreed procedure to allow an orderly transfer to take place. The workers should have the protection of their current positions enhanced. I hope the Minister will take that on board in relation to the members of MANDATE.

I agree with Deputy Penrose. If the new body is to get off the ground in a quick and efficient manner, these issues with the unions must be settled. I welcome the Minister's efforts to accomplish this through changes to the Bill. If there are outstanding issues, I urge the Minister to deal with them as quickly and as smoothly as possible.

I am glad to give that categorical assurance. The staff are everything when it comes to the administration of this new body. Section 27(2) makes it clear that every person who is, on the day immediately before the commencement of section 8, a member of the staff of the Racing Regulatory Body and who is engaged in work relating to the functions to be transferred from that body to the HRI under paragraph (a) or (b) of section 8(1) shall, subject to agreement on the terms and conditions, have the right to transfer on commencement of section 8. The functions are largely IT and are covered in the provision. Of course, the staff are entitled to all protections and the legislation will provide that.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 14, subsection (3), line 24, to delete "subsection (1) or (2)” and substitute “subsection (1), (2) or (3)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 14, subsection (3), lines 28 and 29, to delete "or the commencement of section 8” and substitute “, the commencement of section 8 or the transfer of functions under section 8(1)(f),”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 14, subsection (4), line 34, to delete "subsection (1) or (2)" and substitute "subsection (1), (2) or (3)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 14, subsection (4), line 35, after "HRI" to insert "or a subsidiary of it".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 14, subsection (4), lines 39 and 40, to delete "or the commencement of section 8” and substitute “, the commencement of section 8 or the transfer of functions under section 8(1)(f)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 14, between lines 40 and 41, to insert the following subsection:

"(5) HRI shall have regard to the period of service in the Authority or the Racing Regulatory Body of any person transferred under this subsection when deciding the conditions of service of the person under subsection (4).”.

Does that take account of the transfer of superannuation benefits and so forth? The undertaking will be transferred. Will the workers get the enhanced benefits of the superannuation? Are all positions covered in this section to ensure the workers are fully protected?

Yes. They will get the same right of transfer. The superannuation is specifically dealt with under paragraph 3 of the Schedule.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 27, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 15, paragraph 3, line 24, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".

This amendment is the result of representations made by the union involved with the staff of the Turf Club who will be transferring to the HRI. It is proposed to change the wording in the section of 1994 Act dealing with superannuation schemes from providing that the HRI may make such schemes as stated in paragraph 3 of the Schedule to the Bill to requiring the body to make such schemes so that the employees concerned are more affirmatively guaranteed the entitlements concerned. That was our original intention but, having consulted with the unions, we made this change to affirm it.

I thank the Minister on behalf of the union and its members. It was a significant source of concern. They wanted to ensure that the mandatory effect of the provision would be spelt out in the legislation.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 18, lines 6 to 10, to delete paragraph 10, and substitute the following:

"10. In section 44 (alteration of Rules of Racing)-

(a) by the re-numbering of that section as subsection (1) of that section, and

(b) by the insertion after subsection (1) of that section of the following subsection:

'(2) HRI shall publish in the racing calendar any Rules referred to it under subsection (1) and any other information required to be published under the Rules of Racing, in accordance with the Rules of the Racing.".

Under section 8, HRI will take over publication of the racing calendar. Paragraph (10) requires HRI in those circumstances to publish in the calendar changes to the rules of racing which have to be published under those rules. The Turf Club requested a technical amendment to this section to require HRI also to publish in the racing calendar any other information which is required to be published under the rules of racing, such as licences to those participating in racing, and I am glad to accede to that request.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 18, lines 11 to 19, to delete paragraph 11 and substitute the following:

"11. In section 45 (appeals against sanctions of Racing Regulatory Body) by the substitution for subsection (1) of the following subsection:

"(1) Where the Racing Regulatory Body imposes a sanction against any person involved in horseracing or refuses to grant to a person a licence or suspends or revokes a licence granted, under section 39(b) or (c), it shall afford the person an opportunity to appeal to it or such other person nominated by it against the sanction imposed or the refusal to grant or the suspension or revocation, of the licence, as the case may be.”.

Paragraph 11 of the Schedule to the Bill requires the Racing Regulatory Body to provide a mechanism for appeals against decisions by that body where it decides that the race fixture may not proceed. There were some examples of that recently. Following further consultation with the Turf Club, it was agreed that it would not be feasible to provide an appeal mechanism against decisions of the Racing Regulatory Body on whether fixtures could go ahead which are taken on the morning of a race meeting and relate primarily to weather.

However, it was agreed that all other decisions of that body relating to licences for racecourses as well as all the other participants in racing referred to in paragraph 6 of the Schedule that may be refused, suspended or revoked should be subject to appeal. Deputy Dukes said he welcomed the fact that people would have the right to appeal such decisions. The amendment will require the Racing Regulatory Body to provide such an appeal system against all those decisions of that body. Subsection (2) of the 1994 Act that is being amended requires the Racing Regulatory Body to ensure that such appeals are heard in a fair and impartial manner. This is fair and I commend the amendment to the committee.

To whom will people appeal? Who will form the appeals authority?

At present, if a decision is made against somebody, he or she must accept it. For example, if a decision is made that a racecourse cannot hold a meeting, it must accept it. There must be an appeals mechanism and the Racing Regulatory Body must establish that appeals system. This is why the provision states that the appeal must be heard in a fair and impartial manner. That will be mandatory. The Racing Regulatory Body will establish the appeals system, but appeals must be heard in a fair and impartial manner.

Who will ensure that the personnel take a fair view? The horseracing authority will make the decision so the appeals system must be independent. I am aware of cases in the past where people had to tolerate the decision because there was no appeals system.

I take the Deputy's point, but we decided to give protection to the individual or the racecourse by including it in the legislation that the appeal must be heard in a fair and impartial manner. If the staff or an employee of a racecourse can show that it was not held in a fair or impartial manner, they have recourse to the courts.

This is an opportunity to provide direction. The Minister could decide, for example, that an independent chairperson of legal or other standing - it could even be a member of the racing consultative forum although I have views on that - a member of the Turf Club and another person will be nominated. Three people would hear the appeal, one of whom has legal training and who would act as the chairperson, and they would make findings. People could have recourse to the High Court on points of law. I thank the Minister for including an appeals system, but he should indicate the type of appeals mechanism to be put in place. There will be a mechanism, but to whom will people appeal? The more independence involved in an appeals mechanism, the better. This could be done through an independent chairperson with some legal training.

I support the idea of an independent chairperson and group. I find it difficult to understand how an appeals system within the structure will work. This matter was discussed at length with regard to agricultural appeals bodies and I will not repeat those arguments. However, it is a similar situation and the mechanism must be seen to be whiter than white. I urge the Minister to give a commitment that it will be an independent body.

My point is that one cannot appeal to the people who made the decision in the first place in an appeals sub-committee. It must be an independent mechanism.

My main intention is to give people the right to appeal. The amendment states that it shall afford a person an opportunity to appeal to it or such other person nominated by it. This such other person could be the independent person to whom the Deputies referred. That individual could be a legal or eminent person of high standing. I will convey the committee's views to the Turf Club to ensure that is done. In addition, the Bill also states that an Oireachtas committee will have the right to question the chief executive officer on a regular basis to ensure matters are handled fairly and impartially.

I do not have any quibble with the Minister in that regard, but this is a contentious point that should be included in the Bill. The appeals system should be tightened up and this could be done by way of an amendment on Report Stage that would designate a person as an appeals officer. As the Minister and members are aware, there are difficulties with appeals in many areas. It is a contentious matter.

Perhaps the Minister could consider the matter for Report Stage.

Will the Minister consider it? We are not trying to be difficult, but it should be examined.

The Bill states that an appeal must be heard in a fair and impartial manner.

The Minister has already gone a mile; we only want another inch.

I have included the provision that a person will be afforded an opportunity to appeal to such other person. I have gone a long way towards accommodating concerns, but we will consider how it works. If it is not working in a fair and impartial manner, we will amend it.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 32 is consequential on amendment No. 29 while amendment No. 31 is related and all may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 19, paragraph 16, line 11, to delete "the substitution for '15' of '12' and".

I urge the Minister to consider extending the board to include punters and supporters. They form an important group and the organisation could not work without them. I do not understand the reason they should not have a place on the board.

The proposal is that there should be one seat on the board for racecourses. Deputy Dukes's suggestion is that the number should be increased from 12 to 15 with three places for racecourses. I regret that I cannot accept the amendments. Under the Bill as it stands a chairman will be appointed by the Minister of the day - this is the only appointment the Minister will make. Some 12 board members will be elected by industry organisations and the resulting nominees will be automatically appointed by the Minister. He or she will have no say in the nominations. There will be a democratic election and they will be automatically appointed.

The reduction in the size of the board from 16 to 13 will make it more compact and manageable. The only member of the new board appointed by the Government will be the chairman. All the other members will be nominated directly by the relevant representative bodies. These organisations will be required to use an open and fair electoral process to democratically select their nominees. Due to the significant transfer of functions from the Turf Club and the National Hunt Steeplechase Committee to the HRI, their representation will increase to five members of the board. The other interest groups will have one seat on the board.

This balance of representation is the cornerstone underpinning the memorandum of understanding. Deputy Penrose referred to this aspect. I will honour that memorandum of understanding and stay faithful to it. I made a deal and will stand by it. It was agreed in October and overcame a significant impasse to the major restructuring of the industry. If the balance is changed now it would be unfair to everybody concerned. As it would not in these circumstances be possible to accommodate all the interests in the sector on the board it was decided to require the new body to establish and maintain a special forum to cater for the needs of those who would not have direct representation on the board. This will be done under section 9.

During the Second Stage debate in the Dáil there was support for the racecourses to be separately represented on the board of the HRI. I am not surprised therefore by the amendments. There are however a number of advantages to the forum in comparison to the direct representation on the board option. The greatest representation to be achieved on the board would be one seat out of 14. As we know, there was one seat for punters from 1994 up to now. I do not know if anyone agreed there was any special representation given to racegoers because of that one seat. A forum where these matters, which affect various interests in the industry, can be discussed and where HRI would have to take account of them would be a more satisfactory way of doing business. On balance and in line with the memorandum of understanding, I oppose amendments Nos. 29, 31 and 32.

I am disappointed because I know Deputy Dukes wanted this group to be represented. I understand the Minister has clearly said he will not break his word. I assure him that we will remind him of promises made in other areas in the past, such as those relating to abattoirs. He gave an assurance before he took office that the abattoirs would be restructured, but we are still waiting for that to happen. I hope the Minister's promises today will not be broken. I will not press the amendment.

I will not press my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 19, paragraph 16, line 21, after "interests" to insert "having regard to the overall geographical dispersal of such interests".

I am concerned that the national hunt industry, including breeders and trainers, should have representation on the board in proportion to its strength. Perhaps I am wrong but there were not many people representative of the national hunt industry on the board of the ITBA in 1999-2000. People are concerned about that. I like flat racing. Unfortunately, I had a share in a horse which did not go too far. I am one of those people who suffered in that area. I enjoy national hunt racing. Many people in the midlands have made major contributions to that industry. It will be under threat from a strong French national hunt industry, for example, where prize money is twice what we offer. Prize money for flat racing is more or less equivalent. I want to ensure that those people are well represented on boards. There are 19 elected members of the ITBA, but only a few are from the national hunt industry. Some 80% of the board is made up of members from three counties. I want to ensure that the representation on the board reflects the wider interests. That means someone who has one or two horses and who is the backbone of the industry should get an opportunity to have his or her voice heard. We must ensure that matters pertinent to the national hunt breeders are brought to the attention of the board. We must have regard to the geographical dispersal of those people who are the nub of the industry. They should not be forgotten when times are good. I support them.

I support Deputy Penrose because geographical spread is important. Although my constituency does not have much interest in horses, it has some small breeders and racers. I encourage the Minister to ensure a geographical spread.

I agree with the Minister in principle. How will the greyhound industry be represented? The list includes owners, trainers, breeders and bookmakers. Will there be a separate board for greyhounds?

That is fine.

The Deputies are suggesting that we should consider if nominating organisations are representative of their sector and we should ensure geographical spread. Most of the interests in the industry want to keep the political finger out of the pie. Some of the Deputies, particularly Deputy Dukes, made that point today about the forum. The industry should look after its own business. If any one of those sectors nominates someone, that nomination would automatically go on the board. In the old days three names were sent to the Minister who decided which one of the three would go on the board. However, it was felt that was too much political interference. At least it gave the Minister of the day an opportunity, such as the Deputy is suggesting, to give a better geographical spread. Most members know that Kilbeggan, for example, draws huge crowds and it is a special case for national hunt racing.

The Minister can see why it concentrates on national hunt racing.

Yes. I will convey those wishes to the racing regulatory bodies, which have a national hunt section, and the Turf Club. They have five nominees to the board. I expect the national hunt industry would be proportionately and adequately represented on that. As regards other bodies, such as the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association which the Deputy mentioned, they are open to people to join. I do not know why people do not join and give a better geographical spread. Some counties are better represented than others.

I could tell the Minister why, but I will not.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 not moved.

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 20, lines 5 to 7, to delete all words from and including ", in" in line 5, down to and including "women" in line 7 and substitute "comply with the requirement that 40 per cent of the members shall be men and 40 per cent shall be women".

I am sure this amendment will not create any difficulty for the Minister. If it does, it will be a major embarrassment for the Government.

As with the geographical spread on the board, it would not be possible to force the gender balance suggested in the amendment. I accept it would be desirable because it is Government policy. However, it is not practical or feasible in these circumstances. The representation on the board will be arrived at through a democratic process of elections at general meetings for which adequate notice has been given. It is not possible to say what will happen, just like it is not possible to say whether men or women will be elected in a general election or to ascertain the make-up of the Dáil. Democracy is a funny business in many ways and one does not have an option but to accept the outcome of the election. The aspirational statement in subparagraph (6) of paragraph 7 of the 1994 Act, as amended, is as far as we can go in terms of gender balance. I have received a good response from the industry on this issue and I expect the organisations concerned to actively promote participation in the process and the selection of women, where possible. I will write to each organisation concerned to have regard to gender balance when it is selecting people and to seek to ensure there is a proportionate representation of women on the board.

It will be a major embarrassment for the Government if it is not implemented. I understand and accept the Minster's point. It is important that Government policy is made clear to everyone concerned. That is the minimum the Minister should do. I accept his assurance that he will outline Government policy to the organisations and encourage them to apply it as far as possible. I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 20, paragraph 16, line 21, to delete "lot.'," and substitute the following: "lot.

(5) A member of HRI shall not serve for more than two consecutive terms.',".

This amendment inserts into subparagraph (c) of paragraph 16 of the Bill a new subparagraph (5) to paragraph 9 of the Schedule to the Act of 1994 to limit any member of the board of HRI to at most two consecutive terms. This is accepted as good practice to ensure the infusion of fresh blood at regular intervals. The omission of this provision in the original Bill was an oversight.

Amendment agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment No. 35 not moved.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.

I thank the Minister and his officials for attending today's session and members of the committee for their patience. I also thank the officials to the committee.