Committee on Finance. - Greyhound Industry Bill, 1955—Committee Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on amendment No. 16a:—
In Section 26, to add to the section the following new sub-sections:—
( ) on the coming into operation of this Act and pending the making by him of the Order under sub-section (6) of this section the Minister shall make an Order appointing an independent qualified person as receiver to administer the affairs of the club.
( ) On the coming into operation of this Act and pending the making by him of the Order under sub-section (6) of this section the Minister shall make an Order appointing an independent qualified person as receiver and manager to carry on the business of the Greyhound and Sporting Press Limited, for the sole benefit and advantage of the club.
( ) On the coming into operation of this Act and pending the making by him of the Order under sub-section (6) of this section the Minister shall make an Order appointing an independent qualified person as receiver and manager of Powerstown Park Limited, to administer the affairs of the club for the sole benefit and advantage of the club.—Deputy MacEntee.

If I am in order, Deputy MacEntee reported progress on this section on the last occasion. As outlined by him, the purpose of this amendment is to ensure, first of all, that between the coming into operation of the Act and the making of the Order by the Minister for an establishment day, the assets, if any assets remain at that time, will be safeguarded for the board, and through the board, for the industry and the people of this country. The Minister stated, by way of interruption or cutting-in, that there would be no avoidable delay and that eased Deputy MacEntee's mind somewhat. In my opinion this Bill could be a fait accompli if the Minister had adopted a more reasonable attitude and had agreed to accept some of the amendments which were put before him in no antagonistic spirit.

To get back to the point of the amendment and Deputy MacEntee's feeling that even, in spite of the Minister's assurance, there may be this delay, I would remind the Minister that Section 9 of this Bill deals with provisions in relation to the appointment, term of office, etc., of ordinary members of the board. Sub-section (1) states:—

"The Minister shall, before the establishment day, appoint six persons (of whom not less than four shall be members of the Standing Committee of the club) to be ordinary members of the board and the term of office of every person so appointed shall commence on the establishment day, and if any such person dies before the establishment day, he shall be deemed, for the purposes of sub-section (4) of this section, to have died on the establishment day."

Surely that suggests that there will be some delay? That, as I say, is the main reason for the amendment put down by Deputy MacEntee.

The first portion of the proposed amendment reads:—

"In Section 26, to add to the section the following new sub-sections:—

( ) On the coming into operation of this Act and pending the making by him of the Order under sub-section (6) of this section the Minister shall make an Order appointing an independent qualified person as receiver to administer the affairs of the club."

It should also be borne in mind that if this Bill became law to-morrow morning, I have no doubt that the Minister would turn round on the day after to-morrow and try to declare what the establishment day was going to be. The Minister should also bear in mind when the establishment day is declared, or an Order made appointing the establishment day, under this Bill or under the Act itself, the club itself will have to reorganise its affairs which will take some considerable time. In other words, some six to 12 or 18 months could pass. Eighteen months is an exaggeration, but they will have to reorganise themselves. Therefore we have the position in which, first of all, this Bill has to become law and then the Minister makes an Order declaring the establishment day. Then the club has to reorganise its affairs and that is one of the main reasons—what is going to happen in the interim period —why Deputy MacEntee wants (a) an independent qualified person as receiver to administer the affairs of the club.

In my humble opinion, the other sections of the amendments put down by Deputy MacEntee could be considered superfluous. If the Minister agrees to appoint an independent qualified person as receiver to administer the affairs of the club, I cannot see why we should also need a receiver and manager to carry on the business of the Greyhound and Sporting Press, Ltd. and a receiver and manager of Powerstown Park, Ltd. I maintain that if the Minister did agree to put in an accountant or somebody like that in the interim period to administer the affairs of the club as suggested in the first paragraph of the amendment to Section 26, the other parts of this amendment would be unnecessary.

One might question the necessity for the amendment and the grounds for the fears that any of these assets of the club might be depleted. At the outset, I wish to say that I have no doubts regarding the present Standing Committee of the Irish Coursing Club that anything would be done in a dishonest way by such individuals when they meet. Unfortunately they are not all attending meetings but I do not suggest that even if only certain members turn up, anything dishonest will ensue. I say that, in the light of previous experience, the Minister should seriously consider taking some steps to protect the future of the industry. The report of the advisory committee set up to inquire into the industry, of which Deputy A. Barry was a member——

I think the House knows that already.

Section 19, paragraph 109, states:—

"Although the resolution setting up the company directed that the property and assets thereof would be held by trustees of the Irish Coursing Club and by the directors of the company, no trust deed in these terms was executed."

The same paragraph of the report states earlier:—

"In 1924, the Irish Coursing Club decided to promote, jointly with the secretary of the club, a publication to be known as the Coursing Calendar. By 1928 this paper was firmly established. The club then decided by resolution to take complete responsibility for the paper and for this purpose incorporated a company known as the Greyhound and Sporting Press, Limited, of which the share capital of £5,000 was subscribed from the funds of the Irish Coursing Club. On the formation of the new company the secretary of the club in consideration of certain financial arrangements made with him, agreed to assign to it all his interest in the Coursing Calendar.

At the end of the paragraph, the advisory committee have this to say:—

"We feel satisfied that the directors and shareholders of the company do, in fact, hold the property and assets in trust for the club, but it would seem desirable that the position should be regularised by the reorganised Irish Coursing Club."

There is a typical example of the slipshod method in which the Irish Coursing Club do their business.

The trust deed has been executed since.

It was not executed on the last occasion this Bill was before the House, because I have here a document hawked round by the Irish Coursing Club and sent to every Deputy. The trust deed has not been executed. I must disagree with the Minister. I would like to be very clear on this matter. In the assignment by the late Mr. T.A. Morris to the Greyhound and Sporting Press, it is stated, inter alia:

"The said Thomas A. Morris started, originated and carried on the business of publishing the said Coursing Calendar on his own behalf but handed over, as a voluntary payment, half the profits thereon to the said Irish Coursing Club, and whereas owing to the difficulties in having the printing of the said Coursing Calendar carried out at Clonmel without erecting special printing works, an agreement was entered into between the said Thomas A. Morris and the members of the said Irish Coursing Club that if the Irish Coursing Club would join in forming a company which could erect such works”——

This is a new attack. The first was that there was no trust deed. I said the deed was executed. Now we have this.

When was the deed executed?

It was executed.

Here is a document sent to every member of this House. It is 14 weeks old now and there is no comment in that that the trust deed was executed. There is reference to the fact that the advisory committee reported that the trust deed was not executed in a proper manner. The document quotes the trust deed and goes on:—

"The said Thomas A. Morris would assign over to the company all his interest of every kind in the Coursing Calendar in consideration of an annual payment to him, his executors, administrators and assigns, of £250 and whereas the company was formed and registered on the 22nd day of November, 1928, with full powers in its memorandum and articles of association to carry on the trade or business of newspaper proprietors and to acquire and take over the whole or any part of the business property... and whereas the parties have now agreed that a sum of £4,000 should be paid to the said Thomas A. Morris in full satisfaction of his claim for £250 per annum and that the said Thomas A. Morris should accept payment of the said £4,000 by way of four debentures of £1,000 each on all the property, both present and future, of the said company with interest at 6 per cent. per annum”——

Would the Deputy relate that to the amendment we are considering?

I am pointing out that the decisions which have been taken in the past on certain matters of the gravest concern are affecting the industry as a whole. I will leave that now.

It appears to me that this matter could be more properly discussed on the section. It does not seem to be very relevant on the amendment. I do not wish to stop the Deputy making any points he wishes to make, but I do think that they would be more relevant on the section.

My main point is that I put down a parliamentary question which I withdrew in due course. In it I asked the Minister if he would use his good offices with the Irish Coursing Club to get them to reorganise themselves immediately, and if he would also intimate to them that it would be his wish and the wish of the House that none of the assets as such should be depleted.

Why did he withdraw that question?

In view of the fact that the Bill had reappeared on the Order Paper, I thought this would be the appropriate time to raise such matters.

This amendment has to do with the appointment of a receiver.

For the purpose of protecting the assets of the club. That is the important point. Everybody in the House and throughout the country is aware that the disposal of Powerstown Park, one of the largest assets of the Irish Coursing Club, is in contemplation. If that is rushed through with undue haste, it will be a very serious matter. In view of this legislation, I think the Minister should make his position clear on the matter, even though I agree he has no power over the club at the present time. He could certainly communicate with the Irish Coursing Club, expressing his view that no sale of Powerstown Park racecourse should take place. In case the Minister thinks that either my suggestion or the amendment is frivolous, I should like to quote from a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Irish Coursing Club, held in Jury's Hotel on Tuesday, May 1st, 1956, at 2.30 p.m. The Standing Committee discussed the question of Powerstown Park, and I quote from the Sporting Press of Thursday, 17th May, 1956:—

"Arising out of the minutes of the previous meeting re Powerstown Park, Mr. Ahern said it was decided at the meeting in Clonmel to get a valuer to value the land and buildings. The president and himself contacted Mr. Smith, of Smith and Griffin and Co. They were accepting a 30 guinea fee. Mr. Smith had given Mr. Ahern copies of the report to-day, which is the valuation of the property. He had valued the lands separately. He asked the secretary to read the report. Mr. A.J. Morris said if he was an interested party they might prefer if he withdrew while they were discussing the matter."

The report goes on and indicates that some were for and some were against disclosing the valuation put on it by Mr. Smith of Messrs. Smith Griffin:—

"The secretary said he had made an offer for renting himself but there was no offer for purchase."

The offer made by the secretary was a rent of £1,200 per year and in the document, circulated to everyone in this House, the Powerstown Park racecourse is valued at £26,000:—

"When one considers that the present day value of the Greyhound Sporting Press is estimated at £60,000 and of Powerstown Park at about £26,000..."

I am trying to show that this question of Powerstown Park could be disposed of and the sale completed before this Bill even becomes law. I agree that at the present time the Minister has absolutely no control over the Irish Coursing Club, but surely through his good offices with the club he could ensure that they will do nothing until this Bill becomes law. The report goes on further and says:—

"The secretary said at the meeting in Clonmel that Mr. Cox asked was there not someone who would offer an overall rent. Subsequently he offered £1,200 rent and to take over the whole thing—that is, land and race meetings."

It would be fantastic to give these premises of Powerstown Park racecourse to any individual or body of people for a rent of £1,200 per year. The balance sheet of Powerstown Park is in a sound position. There is over 168 statute acres and over £12,000 has been spent on it by the Irish Coursing Club themselves. To agree to a rent of £1,200 per year—to use Mr. Morris's words "to take over the whole thing, land and race meetings"—would be fantastic, and the Minister should step in. Mr. Morris continued in the report:—

"There was no final decision as regards whether they would sell or let or what price they would take. The decision was to get an independent valuer."

Further on it says:—

"Mr. Henehan said if they let or set the premises to Mr. Morris and company with the right to establish a factory at Powerstown Park, he maintained it would injure the amenities and it would be impossible to sell the property afterwards."

Let me hark back again to our amendments. There is an area of 168 statute acres and a racecourse showing a good profit down through the years and the figure of £1,200 a year is ridiculous by comparison with their own valuation of £26,000. Notwithstanding that valuation, the secretary, on his own behalf or that of his associates, offers that small sum. The Minister knows well that the grazing rights on that 168 statute acres of land would be very considerable. Then, into the bargain, there is a certain portion of the lands of Powerstown Park which is admirably suited for the manufacture of pottery.

Is the Deputy's argument that a receiver should be appointed as an alternative?

That is the whole basis of my argument and it is connected with paragraph (c) of Section 16 (1). The report continues with Mr. Connolly, another member of the Standing Committee, stating that he had been trying to calculate what it was worth and he thought a rent of £1,200 would not justify selling it or leasing it. Our friend Mr. O'Donoghue was at the meeting and he asked would it be possible to get an expert to examine the present position. Evidently Mr. Smith of Messrs. Smith Griffin was not expert enough for Mr. Paddy O'Donoghue. At that meeting there were some other views expressed and Mr. Cox asked would Mr. Morris continue to write the leading article in the Sporting Press. That concluded the meeting of the Standing Committee of the 1st May.

On Wednesday, 2nd May, at 2.30 p.m. the Irish Coursing Club had their meeting at which the secretary stated that there had been no developments in the Greyhound Industry Bill. That was in the opening paragraph of the report of the secretary's remarks. They came then to Powerstown Park and Mr. Rahill said:—

"... for a long time past they had been considering the question of Powerstown Park, which was the property of the Irish Coursing Club. It was not making as much as they would like it to do but if they sold or let it, it would be with the condition that they could still hold the National Coursing Meeting there. They had got a competent firm of valuers to make the valuation as to the value of the property. The Standing Committee had not decided on anything yet but they would be doing something within the next few months."

That statement by Mr. Rahill was an indication that within the next few months something definite would be done; they would decide either to sell or hold it. It would be reasonable to assume that by July or August something definite would be done. Supposing this Bill does not go through in the present session——

It will be largely the fault of the Opposition.

As I stated at the outset, if we had the co-operation of the Minister in regard to the amendments we put down——

You would not have obstructed the proceedings.

——this Bill would be law long ago.

In other words, the argument of the Opposition is, "If we had got our way, we would not have obstructed at all."

He did not say that. He said that if there were some co-operation we might have made quicker progress.

Mr. Rahill continued:—"They were not giving away anything to anybody". He asked for an expression from the members whether it should be let or sold. The report continued:—

"Mr. M. Ennis thought they should be very reluctant to sell the land. Just take, for example, that they got £20,000 they would get applications from every club in Ireland for some of the spoils.

They would be mad to part with a property like Powerstown Park. Mr. P. O'Donnell endorsed Mr. M. Ennis's remarks. The balance sheet of Powerstown Park indicates how the business is moving and it would be worth a lot of money in time to come. Colonel Kelly asked why did they propose now to sell the property. Mr. Rahill said they had not decided on anything yet. Colonel Kelly asked what put the bad thought into anybody's head. The secretary stated that this had been going on for quite some time"

—that is, the bad thought of selling Powerstown Park—

"following the report of the advisory committee."

The secretary throws the onus for the suggestion of selling Powerstown Park on the advisory committee, which, of course, is incorrect.

"They sowed the seeds at one stage. It was felt by some members that the return from Powerstown Park was so small that some steps should be taken to realise the investment or see if something could be got out of it.

It was referred to a subcommittee and it reached the stage when they would not take the responsibility. The views of the committee were divided. In response to a query if an overall letting was possible, he (the secretary) had offered £1,200 per annum on the understanding that he would be free to erect a factory building there."

Now we have the position. I am bringing it to the attention of the Minister and I am sure that after he reads the facts he will accept Deputy MacEntee's amendment. We now have an offer from the secretary of the Irish Coursing Club to pay £1,200 a year for the use of the lands, the house and permission to erect a factory on 168 statute acres and to run race meetings there and to take all the profit which such race meetings would make. Even Deputy Barry would agree that that would be a good business proposition.

I do not think I would agree with anything the Deputy is saying.

These are not my opinions. These are the minutes of the Irish Coursing Club meeting.

I would prefer to hear the Deputy's opinions.

I will give my opinions on what these people say now. The secretary went on to say:—

"Other members thought it would be better to put it up for auction and it was decided to get the opinion of the general body of the Irish Coursing Club. Mr. Whittle thought the members of the club were hardly in a position to give a considered view or give a decision regarding retaining Powerstown Park... Mr. Rahill said the secretary would read the valuer's report if they liked but it was only a guide as to what the value of the property was in case they decided to sell or let it later. Mr. C. Murphy thought the valuer's report should be read.

The secretary said in reply to a question that the holding was 167 acres and there was a profit from racing."

That is on the records of the House once and for all. I having brought it to the Minister's notice. It is on his head if Powerstown Park is sold before this Bill becomes law. He can prevent it. First of all, he can go a long way if he says he will accept Deputy MacEntee's amendments in whole or in part. He would more than meet us if he gave an undertaking that he would communicate with the Irish Coursing Club suggesting to them that he is alarmed at the information disclosed to the Dáil by Deputy O'Malley on the 19th June, that Deputy O'Malley pointed out that an offer had been made by the secretary of the Irish Coursing Club for 167 statute acres, the house, the lettings of such lands, the building of a factory there and any profits derived from racing. Would the Minister consider communicating with the secretary saying that he would much prefer if such a decision were deferred until the Bill became an Act?

On the question of the other portion of Deputy MacEntee's amendment No. 16a, that is, the question of the Greyhound and Sporting Press, Limited, that is also a matter over which the Minister at the present time has absolutely no control. The advisory committee's report——

I think the Deputy could occupy the remaining three minutes by reciting the alphabet.

My time and Deputy Briscoe's time and the Minister's time in this House would not be taken up if the Minister were a little co-operative and would say: "Yes, I accept Deputy MacEntee's amendments in the spirit in which he put them down, which was for the benefit of the greyhound industry."

The Deputy will find the recitation of the alphabet quite as effective.

I am going to find the recitation of paragraph 111, page 35 of the advisory committee's report very effective and I trust the Minister will consider it so. I am dealing with amendment No. 16a (b).

The amendment as a whole is under discussion, not any sub-division of it.

The advisory committee's report stated—page 35:—

"The Greyhound and Sporting Press Limited appears to have been remarkably successful from the outset and the value of its assets, including buildings and equipment, is estimated by the Irish Coursing Club to be at present at least £60,000. This estimate includes buildings which were erected in recent years at a cost of approximately £14,000, and includes also plant and equipment said to have cost £18,000. This heavy expenditure on the construction of new buildings and installation of equipment was stated by the Irish Coursing Club to have become imperative when the printing company was informed by the military authorities during the emergency period that it would have to vacate certain buildings held on lease by it in Clonmel..."

Then the committee go on to state:

"On the whole, we have some doubts as to whether in the circumstances mentioned, the company was justified in expending, on the erection of new buildings and more particularly on the installation of new and elaborate printing machinery, large sums which, properly speaking, belonged to the Irish Coursing Club and to the greyhound industry. We have no information as to whether the Greyhound and Sporting Press Limited decided on this expenditure or whether the sanction of the Standing Committee for the expenditure was sought. The company appears to hold liquid assets to the value of £13,000 approximately."

Here is a very important point to show how they transact their business:—

"Although these assets include Government Securities earning only from 3¾ per cent. to 4 per cent., no effort has been made to redeem 6 per cent. debentures to the value of £4,000, held personally by the senior joint secretary of the Irish Coursing Club who is also the manager of the Coursing and Racing Calendar. Here it might be noted that income and corporation profits tax to the amount of £24,800 was paid by the company since 1933.”

Is the Deputy's argument by way of proving that the assets are so valuable that they might be disposed of?

It is not a question that they might be disposed of at all.

I am trying to understand the Deputy's argument.

If you are, you are undertaking a very difficult assignment, a Cheann Comhairle.

I have read the minutes of the Standing Committee of the Irish Coursing Club and of the club itself. In the minutes is disclosed the fact that they have under contemplation at the present time the disposal of one of their assets dealt with by Deputy MacEntee in his amendment, namely, Powerstown Park, Limited. I am now endeavouring to point out to the House that if they dispose of one asset such as Powerstown Park there is nothing to prevent them from doing the same with another asset.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.