I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
The main purpose of the Bill is to increase the share capital of the National Stud Company who were formed in 1945 to operate the National Stud at Tully, County Kildare. Over the years the company have made a very significant contribution to the development of the Irish bloodstock industry. With increasing demands on their services and the growing popularity of the stud as a centre of tourist interest they now wish to buy extra bloodstock and to make further improvements in the stud amenities. It is, therefore, necessary to improve the company's access to capital for investment.
The company have seven stallions at Tully. The stallions are available to breeders throughout Ireland for the service of approved mares at fees ranging from £100 for Linacre bought in 1965 to £2,000 each for their more recent acquisitions, Sallust and African Sky. All fees are charged with "no foal no fee" and "live foal" concessions. The company also have seven mares for breeding whose progeny are sold as yearlings.
The entire stud farm comprises 850 acres. To maximise their returns the company are endeavouring to increase the output of cattle and crops on the farm. They now produce almost their entire fodder requirements and, by careful planning, they hope to show a substantial profit on the farm in the years ahead.
Education and research have become an important function at the stud. The company conduct a six-month training course in stud management each year for boys and girls in the age group 18-25. Many students from abroad have taken these courses and the demand for places far exceeds the supply. The company also conduct short refresher courses for stud farm employees, and seminars and open-days for horsebreeders. In addition, there are regular conducted tours throughout the week for visitors from Ireland and abroad. The company also engage in research into stud management and disease control and co-operate with the Agricultural Institute and other bodies in various areas of equine research.
The company provided the site and buildings for the Racing Apprentice Centre of Education—the training centre for jockeys at Tully—and help in the organisation of courses and the provision of lectures. Finally, the company have responsibility for the Japanese Gardens which attracted 27,000 visitors in 1975.
The company maintain close liaison with the other semi-State bodies associated with horses, that is the Racing Board and Bord na gCapall whose main functions are to promote horse racing and show jumping respectively.
The company are devoting increasing attention to financial planning and cost control, desiring to provide a first-class service to the horse industry while maintaining a close watch on ever-increasing costs. They have formulated a five-year development programme which envisages an increase in the number of stallions at the stud, extra stabling, laboratory and research facilities, a museum of the Irish horse and possibly a health farm for horses. They also hope to extend their educational and training programmes. Discussions are being held with the company about the details of the programme and its implications.
Turning to the bloodstock industry generally, it continues to occupy an important place in the economy. The capital value of the industry is estimated at £100 million. The number of horses competing in Irish races in 1975 reached the record figure of 3,300. Total attendance at race meetings exceeded one million. Total exports of horses in 1975 exceeded £6 million— £5.1 million bloodstock and £1 million other horses.
In promoting this Bill the Government are showing their confidence in the future of the industry and in the magnificent work of the National Stud Company. Those of us who have visited the stud are well aware that it has become a very worthy showplace for the Irish horse. We also relish the many tributes which are paid to the stud by countless visitors from home and abroad. I would like to thank the board of directors and the staff for their excellent work and wish them well in their plans for the future.
I now turn to the details of the Bill. Section 1 contains the usual definitions. Section 2 increases the share capital of the company to £5 million from the existing £2 million which was fixed by the 1969 Act. The shares will be taken up by the Minister for Finance from time to time for the purpose of financing approved programmes. In keeping with the increase in share capital it has been decided to increase the company's borrowing limits. Section 3 increases the maximum amount which may be borrowed by the company from £0.2 million to £0.5 million.
Section 4 relates to the pay of the company's chief officer. As part of general policy on remuneration in the public service, it is desired to avail of this legislation to bring the chief officer's pay under ministerial control. Similar provisions have been made in recent legislation affecting other State-sponsored bodies. Section 5 relates to the accounts to be kept by the company, the auditing of accounts and the submission of accounts and annual reports to the Minister for presentation to each House of the Oireachtas. A modern text replaces provisions which were included in the 1945 and 1953 Acts.
Section 6 is another modernising provision. It has become standard practice to provide that where a member of the board of a State-sponsored body is nominated as a member of Seanad Éireann or nominated for election to either House of the Oireachtas, he shall cease to be a member of the board. Similarly, sitting members of either House may not become members or employees of the board. Employees of a State-sponsored body stand seconded from their employment from the date of nomination if nominated as members of Seanad Éireann or nominated for election to either House. There are no such provisions in the National Stud Acts. Section 6 corrects this omission.
As Members are aware, the Government have approved the transfer of direct responsibility for certain State-sponsored bodies from the Minister for Finance to other Ministers. One of these bodies is the National Stud Company for which the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries will in future have primary responsibility. This involves some textual changes which are set out in section 7. Section 8 repeals the accounting provisions in the 1945 Act and repeals the 1953 and 1969 Acts in full. I recommend the Bill for the approval of the House.