On a point of order has the Minister, Deputy Joe Walsh, lost interest in this Bill? He announced the Bill to a fanfare — the saviour of our food industry — and then disappeared into the long grass. I understood that he had returned from Brussels. I very much regret that he could not be in the House to take our views and concerns on board. I welcome the Minister of State.
Private Members' Business. - An Bord Bia Bill, 1994: Report and Final Stages.
The Deputy will have ample time and opportunity to comment on such matters during the proceedings on the measure.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 4, line 30, to delete "drink" and substitute "drink,".
This amendment which proposes the insertion of a comma after the work "drink" in the definition of "food" arose from an amendment put down by Deputy Liz McManus who expressed concern that inedible food ingredients could come within the remit of the Bill. This amendment tidies up the definition of "food" and ensures clarity in the terminology.
Amendment No. 2. I observe that amendment No. 3 is related and I suggest, therefore, that we discuss amendments Nos. 2 and 3 together. Is that satisfactory? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 5, line 4, after "deer," to insert "horses,".
As I was quick to comment on the absence of the Minister for Agriculture and Food and Forestry, I must now welcome him to the House. His Minister of State, Deputy O'Shea, was very helpful and courteous on Committee Stage and some of the amendments reflect his willingness to take on board points made by us. I am delighted the senior Minister, whose interest in the Bill is paramount, has joined us in the House.
Amendment No. 3 indicates that the Minister is taking my amendment on board and making an amendment to the definition of "meat". If I am correct in my interpretation. I welcome the amendment. Since Committee Stage I have received much correspondence on this point. I was aware that if I was not clear on the point I was making I could be considered provocative or emotive. I am seriously concerned about the huge number of unwanted, neglected and unsaleable horses clogging up the system. If people cannot get rid of unproductive animals they will not be able to replace them with productive animals.
Only one abattoir specialises in the slaughter of horses. A second abattoir of this type is essential if the industry is to be viable. Irish people will not provide a market for horsemeat. It is not part of our culture, it is certainly not part of mine. Be that as it may, it is part of the culture of many continental countries and if there is a demand for chilled or frozen horsemeat, the animals having been humanely slaughtered and properly certified by abattoirs, the food board must provide the proper facilities and extend its remit to include this.
Since I made this point on Committee Stage I have received three letters and one card from the welfare sector and producers who cannot get rid of animals for whatever reason, commending me on raising this matter. While it is not likely that our culture will make any demands on this food product there are markets for it and I would like An Bord Bia to be in a position to develop those markets; it should be able to help the producers of horses in securing outlets so that the unproductive animals are humanely disposed of and not abandoned or neglected. I welcome the Minister's amendment No. 3.
Following the debate on Committee Stage I gave a good deal of thought to the points raised and decided to put down amendment No. 3. I am not in a position to accept amendment No. 2 as the amendment would confer functions on the board in relation to live horses. I spoke about the possibility of an image problem in that horses would come within the definition of "livestock" and a levy for instance could be applied. We want to project an image of an Irish product as a premium product with the emphasis on a green, clean and unpolluted environment. The inclusion of the word "horses" in the definition of "livestock" would not be helpful, but I am prepared to include it in the definition of "meat". This covers the welfare problems about which Deputy Doyle spoke on Committee Stage and again tonight. In other words, it provides for the board to be involved in the marketing of the meat. I ask Deputy Doyle to accept my amendment No. 3 as meeting the substantial problems and concerns she expressed on Committee Stage and again this evening.
I accept the point.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 5, line 8, after "deer," to insert "horses,".
Amendment No. 4 in the name of Deputy Doyle. I observe that amendments Nos. 5 to 12, inclusive, are cognate and amendments Nos. 16 and 17 are related. Therefore, I suggest we discuss amendments Nos. 4 to 12, inclusive, and amendments Nos. 16 and 17 together, if that is satisfactory. Agreed.
On a point of order, am I correct in understanding that when I move an amendment, the Minister can reply and I have a right of reply? Is that correct?
Yes, you, as mover of this amendment, Deputy, have a right of reply.
Sometimes it is more useful to listen to the Minister's view and say what one wants afterwards. I may be making a case unnecessarily if the Minister was of a mind to accept my amendments.
Only the mover of an amendment has the right of reply.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 6, line 28, after "food" to insert "and livestock".
On Committee Stage we discussed the point in these amendments at length. Section 7 (1) deals with the general functions of the board and reads:
The functions of the Board shall be to promote, assist and develop in any manner which the Board considers necessary or desirable the marketing of Irish food and livestock.
Section 8 goes on to deal with the particular functions of the board and, all of a sudden, there is no particular function in relation to the promotion, assisting and developing or the marketing of Irish livestock. It is a general function in section 7 (1) but disappears from the particular functions enunciated in section 8. Quite frankly, it makes no sense unless it is an omission by the Minister. I ask that the substance of my amendment be accepted if the Minister feels he can word it better. However, section 8, dealing with the particular functions, should read:
Without prejudice to the generality of section 7 the functions of the Board shall be to—
(a) survey, investigate and develop markets and potential markets for food and livestock.
If the general function in the preceding section is to promote, assist and develop in any manner which the board considers necessary or desirable the marketing of Irish food and livestock, surely the particular function in section 8 (a) should be to survey, investigate and develop markets and potential markets for food and livestock if there is any logical sense or relationship between the provisions of sections 7 and 8. Given that this Bill abolishes CBF, the Irish Meat and Livestock Marketing Body, and that a subsidiary board will be set up to take over most of those functions, the functions of the board should include reference to livestock all through and not just a once-off general reference in section 7. I feel it has been stuck into section 7 almost under duress, judging by the Minister's attitude on Committee Stage. My amendments are logical. I am merely asking the Minister to ensure that the particular functions of the board, as outlined in section 8 (a) right through to (i), in relation to food should also extend to livestock if the Bill is to be logical.
I undertook on Committee Stage to again look at this. I am prepared to make one amendment. I think I had better explain the whole context in relation to this. Amendments Nos. 4 to 12, inclusive, and No. 17 propose the insertion of the words "and livestock" after the word "food" wherever it occurs in section 8 and after the words "food products" in section 11.
Amendment No. 16 proposes the deletion of the word "products" after the word "food" in section 11. The problem I discovered, when I examined this, was that section 11 relates to the exercise of the functions of the board in that it reads:
The Board shall, in respect of the promotion, assistance or development by the Board of the marketing of any food products. . . .
"Food products" there I believe could not include livestock, so I propose to delete the word "products".
If we revert to the interpretation in section (2) one finds that "food" is defined as "edible products, including drink whether in an unprocessed, processed or composed state . . . ". Since slaughtering constitutes processing, livestock are inedible products in an unprocessed state; in other words, within the definition of "food", we have covered "livestock".
Then why mention "livestock" in section 7?
That is in the generality of the function.
The Minister does not need it if what he says is true.
It is true but it was felt that, in the omnibus definition of functions, it was important to include it. Quite frankly, I do not see how it would affect the livestock trade in any way if we included "livestock" throughout those sections — I do not think it would make any difference — and the interpretations section already covers the point the Deputy made. I detected one weakness in respect of which I am proposing an amendment to address.
I ask Deputy Doyle to accept that we have covered the difficulty she pointed out on Committee Stage.
In the Minister's amendment the deletion of the word "products" in page 7, line 40, helps to bring a little consistency to sections 7, 8 and 11 inasmuch as they interrelate in describing the functions of the board. However, it does not solve the problem of inconsistency, particularly by way of the Minister's explanation for not accepting my amendments. If the general function of the board is to deal with the marketing of Irish foods and livestock and it is deemed necessary to include "livestock" specifically in defining the general function, I do not understand how the Minister can contend that the reference to "food" in section 8 — the particular functions of the board — can be deemed to include "livestock" without expressly stating "and livestock" after the word "food" right through.
The reason I feel the livestock industry might be helped if there was express reference to livestock throughout section 8 (a) to (i), inclusive, is that, for example, if the board decided to survey, investigate and develop markets and potential markets for food, but excluding livestock, they would have little comeback. It strengthens their claim if they feel sufficient attention and importance is not given to the livestock sector by An Bord Bia; that is the point. I want to put beyond doubt that the functions of CBF will be taken over not just by the subsidiary committee but by the board itself. Given that the addition of "and livestock" is, at most — according to the Minister's statement — superfluous, it would not change the meaning if the Minister would accede to my request. I cannot understand why he cannot do that to copperfasten the interests of the livestock sector alongside the food sector.
The present interrelation of sections 7, 8 and 11 is inconsistent, even though the Minister has improved the consistency by his amendment to section 11. The Minister should either delete the reference to "livestock" in section 7 — given that the definition of "food" includes livestock on the Minister's own admission — or else, wherever "food" is mentioned in terms of a function of the board, it should be accompanied by the words "and livestock". I am disappointed the Minister will not take my amendment on board, even if he could accept the first of that group of amendments, amendment No. 4 dealing with section 8 (a), so that at least the concept of the particular functions dealing with food and livestock could be introduced into one subsection. It would put many minds at ease. I do not think it changes any substance of that subsection. It just brings the concept of the board dealing with food and livestock through from the general functions to the particular function. Even one reference in section 8 (a) would make a huge difference. I ask the Minister to accede to that small request given that it will not change substantially the meaning of the section so far as the Minister is concerned.
As I said, the Deputy's speech terminated the debate on amendment No. 4.
Can the Minister indicate whether he would be of a mind to accept one amendment?
If by way of clarification the Minister of State wishes to intervene, without tending towards debate or any breach of the rules governing Report Stage, he may do so.
I feel I have gone a long way to meet the Deputy's difficulty and I am not in a position to concede at this stage.
It will come to haunt the Minister yet.
Amendment No. 13 is in the name of Deputy O'Malley. The question on that amendment will be, "That the word proposed to be deleted stand".
Before I move the amendment the Chair should not say: "That the word proposed to be deleted stand".
That is the question I will be putting.
You cannot put it until it has been proposed. It does not make me feel confident about the outcome of my oration in support of amendment No. 13.
It is the function of the Chair to advise Members of the manner in which an amendment is put.
I move amendment No. 13:
In page 7, line 21, to delete "export".
I suggest that the word "export" in subsection (1) of section 9 where it relates to the functions of An Board Glas be removed. Subsection (1) would then read:
On the establishment day, those functions of An Board Glas which relate to the marketing of edible horticulture produce shall stand transferred to the Board.
It seems to make no sense whatever that one rather obscure little board, called An Board Glas, should promote the marketing of horticultural produce in the State and that another of these interminable boards, An Bord Bia, should promote the marketing of the same product outside the State. In other words, if you are trying to sell asparagus in Dundalk you get An Bord Glas to sell it but if you are trying to sell the same asparagus in Newry you have to get An Bord Bia. What sense does that make? Clearly it makes none, it is a joke.
It is my belief that An Bord Glas should never have been started. It was started for what might be called local reasons, for the purpose of compensation to satisfy persons at a particular time by a man who was great for satisfying those who were dissatisfied. I do not think it has any greater genesis than that. It was never taken seriously. It makes a joke of the recommendations of Culliton that we should rationalise all these boards. It must be remembered that Culliton reported only two years ago. Here we are with 35 county enterprise boards, the separate retention of An Bord Tráchtála——
——three IDAs, as opposed to one, plus a whole range of others which Culliton said should go or be amalgamated. We now have an extra board here. Instead of amalgamating An Bord Glas, which has served whatever temporary little purpose it had, with An Bord Bia we are retaining it in respect of some functions and not in respect of others. It does not make any sense whatever. The only purpose of section 9 (1) is to retain in their jobs whatever number of people work in An Bord Glas. It is not good enough and this matter should be approached more seriously.
Under European Union laws and rules we discovered some years ago that we could no longer distinguish between the home market and the export market. I had to amalgamate the Irish Goods Council with the then Córas Tráchtála because home and export agencies, particularly if they were operating within the European Union, were not permitted. If it was not permitted in that case how can one justify retaining it in this case? Therefore, I ask the Minister to agree to this amendment, which is a simple one, and transfer the marketing functions of An Bord Glas to An Bord Bia. It does not make sense not to do it. That was made abundantly clear with the establishment of An Bord Tráchtála. This is a very narrow field. If it was appropriate to do it in respect of all home marketing and export marketing how much more appropriate is it in respect of the marketing of a narrow file of products such as edible horticultural produce. For that reason I ask the Minister or Minister of State to agree to this amendment in order to make sense of the situation.
I concur with the remarks by Deputy O'Malley on this point. Indeed, we had a long debate on Committee Stage on this issue. It would appear that instead of abolishing An Bord Glas and transferring all its functions to An Bord Bia that for some inexplicable reason the Minister wants An Bord Glas to continue and is transferring from that board, perhaps its most successful end — even though a limited end — its export marketing functions. One of the great horticultural success stories of the past few years has been our mushroom industry which is 95 per cent export oriented. The big money in mushrooms has come from sourcing and developing markets, particularly in the UK, by the various growers and producers in that industry. Apparently that successful end is to be hived into An Bord Glas. I am not sure what they will be left with.
As one speaker said on Committee Stage in regard to bacon and cabbage, the export aspect of bacon will be An Bord Bia and the cabbage, depending on where it comes from, may be an Bord Glas or An Bord Bia. What is it all about? Who is the Minister trying to satisfy? Why does he not rationalise, put both boards together call them An Bord Bia and disestablish An Bord Glas? What is left when the export marketing functions are taken from An Bord Glas and transferred to An Bord Bia is probably not worth keeping? Literally, I am tempted to use the vernacular. The Minister has done such damage to An Bord Glas that what is left is not worth keeping. There are excellent people with expertise in An Bord Glas and these should be part of An Bord Bia, as should BIM.
The food marketing functions that An Bord Bia is taking on should cover all aspects of the food industry. The Bill is severely weakened because the marketing and promotion functions of An Bord Bia will be extremely limited in terms of the areas of food production for which it will have responsibility.
There is little interest and no excitement in the industry about the advent of this board, which speaks volumes. It really does not care and does not believe that this board, proposed by the Minister of State, is the answer to what we need in a promising food industry, in terms of the development of consumer food products. This board will not do it; it is only a souped up sales team to try to justify the existence of the section concerned in the Department which believes it is doing something and, with respect to the Minister of State who is an agreeable man and who has done his best to meet us somewhere along the road, to justify his existence. It is a case of jobs for the boys and spreading it around. Deputy O'Malley referred to the original idea behind the establishment of An Bord Glas. This is more of the same and it is not good enough.
The functions of a national board should encompass all aspects of the food industry including food quality, hygiene and research — so many areas have been omitted. If that was the case we would be doing something worthwhile for an industry which has huge potential to develop markets and create jobs in the future but the Bill does not get it right. It is a farce in that while its export marketing functions have been transferred, An Bord Glas will retain its home marketing functions. The Minister has done so much damage to An Bord Glas he will not do it justice if he does not include it as he has done with CBF. If he wishes, he could establish another subsidiary committee of An Bord Bia which would encompass the home and export marketing functions, which would make sense.
I thought I had explained the rationale behind the report of the expert group on the food industry on Second and Committee Stages. That report contains 54 recommendations. It was never envisaged that An Bord Bia would have a research and development function as it is a promotional and marketing agency.
The recommendations of the expert group are being implemented systematically. For instance, yesterday we announced the establishment of the committee on prepared consumer foods which will advise Forbairt on the matter.
Of which board is that a sub-committee?
It does not form part of any board; it has been set up to act in an advisory capacity——
Deputy O'Malley missed that one.
It is easy to be flippant and not to deal with the issue.
Another committee unrelated to An Bord Bia.
I had better go back to the beginning. The sub-programme for the food industry being submitted to Brussels is divided into four parts, one of which covers research and development. A committee has been established which is dominated by the industry to select appropriate projects. A sum of £7 million will be disbursed this year. Forbairt, which has a role in the development of companies, will provide funds for research and development, be it in-house or commissioned.
The committee to which I referred, that announced yesterday, is high powered and dominated by the industry. Its function will be to advise Forbairt on policy matters in the area of prepared consumer foods. The expert group recommended it should be our objective to increase the volume of prepared consumer foods by £250 million by 1997. Because of the quota system — we discussed this matter many times during the debate — our production is limited. Therefore, we must extract the maximum value from our products. It was an important step to establish a high powered committee which is dominated by the industry to advise Forbairt on policy matters in the area of prepared consumer foods, which are of vital importance.
An Bord Bia and An Bord Glas do not sell — under Community rules State agencies cannot do so — they are promotional and marketing agencies. The mandate of An Bord Glas covers far more than edible horticultural products. It also covers nursery stock, flowers, shrubs and so on. What is important is that there is a production function. An Bord Glas has done a very good job. There was a very good return in terms of job creation, full and part time employment, during the period of the last strategic plan. A new plan is nearing competition. We are looking for a product comparable to mushroom production and we must restructure the horticultural sector as many of our producers are too small and are spread out. An important function of An Bord Glas, which is also a function of the Department, is to encourage the establishment of producer groups, the adoption of better practices and regulate supplies so that producers can capture and hold markets.
There are sound reasons for agreeing to what has been proposed. This is in keeping with the proposal of the expert group on the food industry which provided a blueprint for the industry. I am not in a position to accept this amendment as it runs counter to the strategy put forward unanimously by those who served on the expert group. It is our intention to ensure that boards co-operate with each other as provided for in the legislation. As Minister of State with responsibility for food, I intend to ensure that this happens.
Neither An Bord Glas nor An Bord Bia will be involved in selling, but in food promotion and gathering market intelligence. They will assist Irish companies in selling in a very competitive European market. I am unable to accept the amendment.
It is a pity the Minister of State cannot accept the amendment. It is only in the last minute or so he came to the point. He gave us a long lecture about two groups of people in whom he places enormous confidence — high powered committees and expert groups. I have never heard of a committee which was not high powered and of a group of advisers which were not experts. The Minister of State has not addressed the point.
In a wider and more important sphere, why was it necessary to amalgamate the Irish Goods Council, with responsibility for the domestic marketing of Irish goods, with Córas Tráchtála with responsibility for export marketing? They were amalgamated because it made no sense to have them separate. If it does not make sense to have them separate in respect of the virtual totality of Irish exports, how does it make sense to have them separate in respect of a narrow group of edible horticultural produce? It makes no sense to have them separate and nothing the Minister said suggests that they should be separate.
Talking about high powered committees and boasting about setting up more and more committees, boards and sub-boards will not solve any problem. The Government or the Minister of State, who is relatively new in the job, may think it is great to set up all these bodies but in reality we need fewer of them. We should be heading in the opposite direction. To have the same product marketed in Dundalk by one board and in Newry by another is laughable.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 7, to delete lines 23 to 35 and substitute the following:
"(2) On the establishment day, those functions of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara which relate to the export marketing of fish and fish products shall stand transferred to the Board.".
Essentially some of the arguments that applied to the last amendment apply to this amendment which proposes to transfer the functions of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara on the marketing of fish and fish products to An Bord Bia. It does not make sense to exclude fish from the remit of a food board established to promote all Irish food. Was fish excluded for a reason similar to the reason horticulture was excluded, simply to retain An Bord Iascaigh Mhara? Why could such boards not be amalgamated with An Bord Bia? The board is not a food board if it excludes important food products such as vegetables and fish. The board seems to be a meat board under another name, as everything else seems to be excluded. Surely vegetables and fish are the two most important other consumer items? Why is fish excluded other than to keep yet another quango in existence? While other countries are getting rid of them, amalgamating and rationalising them as Culliton strongly recommended, the Government is creating more quangos. The Minister of State should read the Culliton report about the damage caused by overlapping quangos. If he creates more of them duplicating functions, as is done here, he is in danger of being christened the quango king. We are persecuting ourselves with more and more of those wretched bodies which do not solve any problems. If they did we would not have any problems because we have so many quangos. It does not make sense to continue in this fashion. The Minister of State will probably tell me that some obscure expert group from a high powered committee recommended this and, therefore, we must proceed with it.
It has not recommended it, the review is under way.
The review is under way.
It has yet to report.
This system does not make sense and I could continue at some length about it but I will not do so because of the late hour. Will the Minister and the Minister of State exercise common sense and not separate something as important as fish from the control of the main food board? Many other countries in Europe have national food boards. Does any of them exclude vegetables and fish from the remit of their boards?
An Bord Bia does not exclude vegetables from its remit. I wish to clarify a peculiar inconsistency in the Deputy's two amendments. His first amendment seeks to transfer the home market and export functions of An Bord Glas to An Bord Bia while his second seeks only to transfer the export functions of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara to An Bord Bia and does not refer to the home market. That inconsistency which we had also on Committee Stage is somewhat puzzling. I would prefer if fish could be included within the remit of An Bord Bia, as recommended by the expert group. The expert group's report has been endorsed by the Government and is part of the national plan; it was not some little committee — disparaging remarks do nothing to alter the status of committees of which I would have thought the Deputy would have considerable knowledge. I have no difficulty with the thrust of this amendment but it is not possible to accept it. A major review of the functions of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara is taking place but the report will not be available until the end of the year. It is not possible, therefore, to include An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. The legislation provides that that can happen with the agreement of the two Ministers concerned.
If the Minister of State has difficulty with the reference to "export" marketing of fish. I will drop the word "export" and relate the amendment to the marketing of fish. I am not conscious of any great effort to market fish at home. I suppose there is some but the sales of fish here are disappointing, for historical and other reasons. The Minister said that under the existing subsection (2) it would be possible to amalgamate these two boards at some time in the future when a committee, which will be large, high-powered and expert, has reported on it. However, it has to be with the consent with the other relevant Minister.
And that will not happen.
That, as we well know, will not happen.
The Minister has lost that battle, and he knows it.
How would Deputy Andrews get to a football match in America again if he were not responsible for the export marketing of fish? The Minister of State should realise that this kind of thing could happen in theory under the section but will not in practice. If he wants the amalgamation to take place he should accept my amendment without the word "export".
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 7, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:
"(3) Whenever the Minister proposes to make an order under this section, a draft of the order shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and the order shall not be made until a resolution approving of the draft has been passed by each such House.".
This amendment arose out of a commitment I gave to Deputy Doyle to look at a number of her amendments. An amendment to section 3 was tabled by Deputy Dukes to make the section read: "The Minister may, by order, revoke or amend an order made by the Minister under any provision of this Act other than sections 5, 9 and 10". The effect of that amendment, had I agreed to it, would have been to prevent the Minister, by order, from revoking an order made by him under the Act so that what was being sought in the other amendments would be excluded by that.
What I propose to do is to include an extra subsection to section 9 and this is in the context of the positive resolution by the Dáil which the Deputy was anxious to include. I am conceding that in the context of section 9. Section 10 provides that the Minister may by order assign to the board such additional functions as the Minister considers to be incidental to or consequential on the functions assigned to it by this Act. It is not envisaged that any order arising under section 10 would be other than a tidying up operation in relation to an order made under section 9. The procedure of having to go before the Dáil for positive endorsement or approval would be an overkill in that situation. I am sympathetic to the line promoted by the Deputy and, in this context, I have gone as far as I can possibly go to meet the concerns expressed on Committee Stage.
I welcome the Minister's amendment. He has accepted the main drift of the amendments in the name of Deputy Dukes which I supported on Committee Stage. I will not delay the House any further. I thank the Minister for travelling down that road with us.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 7, line 40, to delete "products".
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 8, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:
"(2) The Board shall by order made with the consent of the Minister establish a subsidiary board to be known as The Veterinary Advisory Committee and shall authorise it to exercise any functions on behalf of the Board, relating to quality assurance of meat products and livestock, including animal health and welfare, production systems and distribution and dairy hygiene regulations.".
I spoke at length on Committee Stage of my concerns about quality assurance and quality control. Without firm procedures in place on assurance and control procedures, we will not abe able to inspire the confidence we must in Irish food products among consumers both at home and abroad. I would specifically like a veterinary advisory committee to be part of the sub-committee system of the board. I will not reiterate the case I made on Committee Stage but I feel strongly that our veterinary team, including those in the local authority, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and private veterinary surgeons, should be involved in quality control and quality assurance, animal health and welfare production systems and distribution generally and the dairy and hygiene regulations. These must all be catered for, monitored and enforced by a sub-committee of An Bord Bia. I am suggesting a veterinary advisory committee for meat and livestock products.
By international standards our products have a very high health status and I know that Deputy Doyle and I are not in conflict on that. This amendment seeks to insert a new subsection in section 13 to require the board to set up a special subsidiary board to be known as The Veterinary Advisory Committee to exercise functions in relation to quality assurance, including animal health and welfare, production systems and distribution and dairy hygiene regulations. The amendment was discussed at some length on Committee Stage when I gave an undertaking to convey the Deputy's concerns to the interim board when set up with a view to it coming up with recommendations. My undertaking was given openly and the Deputy's concerns will be conveyed to the interim board without comment from me and dealt with objectively.
I have a difficulty with the regulatory functions in terms of food being part of the promotional and marketing board. Last week we discussed at great length our attitude to consumers. Deputy Doyle — and others who expressed concern — will see that I have gone a good part of the road in meeting them in this regard.
The expert group report, about which Deputy O'Malley spoke disparagingly, refers to a consumer-led industry. In the market economy we must produce quality goods at a price which consumers are prepared to pay. They are becoming more and more demanding and setting higher standards all the time. I am supportive of the best possible regulatory system, but it should be seen to be independent of the marketing sector that promotes Irish products overseas.
CBF's quality assurance schemes have worked well. Section 8 will empower the new board to operate similar schemes. As I pointed out to the Deputy during last week's debate, there is provision under the Bill for the board or a subsidiary board to set up committees to assist in its work. Deputy O'Malley may not see great merit in that, but this amendment seeks to provide for setting up another tier. I can give an assurance that, as was the position previously in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, there will be strong emphasis on quality, hygiene and related matters. As technology develops and new methods come on stream, they will become part of the overall thrust of this system.
I have given a commitment that when the interim board is set up in mid-July — assuming that we successfully complete all Stages tonight and that the Bill is passed in the Seanad before the summer recess — I will submit to it for its comment and proposal the concerns expressed by the Deputy in this area and the framework she suggests as appropriate. I assure the Deputy I will make no comment on the matter and that her views and concerns will be objectively presented.
I thank the Minister.
I ask the Deputy to accept that assurance and not to pursue the amendment.
Amendment No. 19 in the name of Deputy Avril Doyle. Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 are related and I suggest that we take the three amendments together.
I move amendment No. 19:
In page 8, line 14, to delete "levy, on behalf of the Board" and substitute "determination, collection and expenditure of levy relating to meat and livestock".
I will be brief and as I can nearly write the script for the Minister's reply, I would appreciate if he would be equally brief in his response. I will waive my right to reply unless he says something provocative. This is a very important amendment. One of the functions of this Bill is to abolish CBF and it will be reconstitued as a subsidiary board of An Bord Bia. At present CBF has functions in the determination, collection and expenditure of the levy relating to meat and livestock generally. I want all those functions to be transferred to the new meat and livestock subsidiary board that will replace CBF. Rather than simply having a levy collection duty. I ask that all the functions be transferred to the board, including the determination, collection and expenditure of levy.
I have given much consideration to the Deputy's amendment and noted her concerns in this area. Amendment No. 19 seeks to specify, in section 13 (1) which deals with the setting up of the meat and livestock subsidiary board, that the subsidiary board shall have the function of determining, collecting and expending the meat and livestock levies. Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 seek to specify, in section 38 which deals with levies due and payable, that levy returns should be submitted to the board, or subsidiary board, as appropriate.
As I recall, amendment No. 19 was defeated on Committee Stage and I gave an undertaking to consider amendments Nos. 33 and 34. The Deputy's concern about section 13 seems to stem from the fact that subsection (1) contains the word "function". I accept that because of time constraints it was not possible for her to develop that argument in a more comprehensive way. The Deputy was concerned that because the singular was used it implied that there was only one function in regard to the levy, that the collection could be delegated. The Attorney General's office was asked to amend the subsection to make it clear that this is not the case.
Deputies Doyle and Crawford expressed concern about the future of CBF and I indicated that I wanted to meet those concerns as far as I could. The fact that the word "function" is used does not limit what can be transferred or delegated from the main board to the sub-board to a single function. We were advised that there is no need for this amendment because the Interpretation Act, 1937, covers that matter. In effect, the word "function" does not simply refer to one function but also covers the plural. I hope that not alone will that cover the fears and concerns expressed by the Deputy but also the fears and concerns expressed by the people who made representations to the Deputy.
The bottom line is that the Minister is not accepting my amendment.
I am explaining the reasons I am not accepting it. We had quite a long debate and a great deal of time was spent on this issue. I am giving the Deputy the benefit of the advice I have got. The office of the Attorney General was also consulted about section 38 and advised that the proposed amendment was inappropriate.
As we are unlikely to reach the section I ask the Chair to halt the Minister at that point so that we can move forward?
I owe the explanation to the House and I will decide what information I will provide to the House.
In the spirit of getting through the Bill I was very brief when moving my amendment. I urge the Minister to allow us to move on because half the amendments have not been dealt with.
I have very little more to add and if the Deputy had not interrupted me I would have finished by now. In the same spirit of co-operation I ask the Deputy not to interrupt me. The Attorney General's Office was consulted about section 38 and advised that the amendment was inappropriate because under section 13 (1), levy functions are for assignment to the subsidiary board by way of an order under that section.
I am not in a position to accept any of the amendments.
Amendment No. 20 in the name of Deputy Doyle. Amendments Nos. 21 to 27, inclusive, are related and it is suggested that we take amendments Nos. 20 to 27, inclusive, together.
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 8, lines 32 and 33, to delete "be appointed by the Minister, one of whom shall be an officer of the Minister." and substitute the following:
(a) three persons appointed by the Minister, one of whom shall be an officer of the Minister,
(b) three persons who shall represent the producers of livestock who shall be appointed by the Board with the consent of the Minister on the nomination of such organisations as the Minister considers to be representative of such producers,
(c) two persons who shall represent the export trade who shall be appointed by the Board with the consent of the Minister on the nomination of such organisations as the Minister considers to be representative of such export trade, and
(d) one person who shall represent meat traders who sell meat by wholesale or retail for consumption in the State who shall be appointed by the Board with the consent of the Minister on the nomination of such organisations as the Minister considers to be representative of such traders.".
These amendments deal with the appointment of the membership of the board and the term of office of the members. I will not waste time commenting on the term of office. The Minister makes Tammany Hall activities of a bygone era pale into insignificance with what he is taking on board here. Every one of the nine or 11 board members is a political appointee. There is no guarantee to any producer or processing group or to consumer interests that their nomination will be accepted by this Minister. He has gone a step further than he did in the Irish Horseracing Authority where 12 of the 16 board members were political appointees. The Minister invited the Northern Ireland authority, the Department of Agriculture at Stormont, to nominate a member to represent Northern Ireland racing interests on the Horseracing Authority. A review group was set up to canvass all the interests in the North and it came up with a unanimous choice as to who the representative should be and conveyed it by letter to the Minister last January. The Minister then ignored the view of the Department of Agriculture at Stormont. That is the way this Minister behaves, making political appointments. That is why I totally oppose this section. I am not so sure we would be any better off if we had nominating bodies or interest groups because apparently the Minister can ignore them when he chooses. Whatever about ignoring the views of our groups which is indefensible, it is even more indefensible given the sensitivity of the all Ireland position and the 32 county basis on which racing has been conducted for over 200 years, that the Minister contemptuously ignored the nomination of the Northern Ireland authority. It begs the question whether this Minister supports his Government's policy on Northern Ireland. It is one of the most appalling examples, metaphorically speaking, of giving the two fingers signal to the North of Ireland. I will not stand over it. I accuse the Minister of being political to the nth degree and of packing boards with his cronies, protecting old pals whom he appoints as chairpersons to make sure of having majorities on the board. I challenge this Minister before or after this debate to take me up on this. His actions with regard to the Northern Ireland nomination to the Irish Horseracing Authority are despicable and I certainly apologise to everybody across the spectrum in Northern Ireland with racing and breeding interests for what our Minister has done and for the insult he has meted out to those who nominated a representative. The Minister turned his back in contempt and nominated somebody who was never heard of in racing circles and does not attend race meetings but who is probably an excellent person in her own right. It is appalling and I invite other Opposition Deputies to interest themselves in what has gone on with this new racing authority.
The Minister expects us to accept that every single appointment to An Bord Bia will be political. He appointed a cumann member from Kildare to represent the Racing Club of Ireland on the racing authority board. The Minister was so brazen that he did not even pretend. Will these appointees all be cumann members? Will the Minister scrutinise the IFA and the ICMSA representatives to see if they have a cumann card in their back pocket before they are nominated to An Bord Bia? It is an insult to a board which should represent the interests of food producers and processors. It is an insult to a flagship industry to present this as a way forward. It is a huge missed opportunity. I oppose the section.
My constituency colleague Deputy Austin Deasy, a former Minister for Agriculture, made an excellent Second Stage speech on this Bill in which he took a diametrically opposite position to the one the Deputy is enunciating tonight. We can all play politics and make attacks. That is part of the business.
They are factual attacks.
I did not interrupt the Deputy once throughout her contribution and I ask for the same courtesy.
The sectoral model will not work for An Bord Bia as there are too many interests which would need to be accommodated if we were to go down that road. The horseracing board, on which the Deputy spent most of her time, is a sectoral board and deals with the horse sector, so comparisons between the two boards are invalid.
Political appointments are political appointments.
The Deputy has done it again. Not once did I interrupt her.
The Minister fails to understand the point I am making.
The Deputy fails to understand that good manners never go astray.
The Minister need not lecture me. He will not hide his incompetence in that way.
The board will comprise 11 people; three places are already spoken for, the nominee of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the nominee of the Department of Tourism and Trade, and the nominee of the Department of Enterprise and Employment.
All political appointments.
These appointments are in the interests of strengthening the board. When it suited the Deputy she aptly pointed out the inter-relationships that should exist in this area. It makes absolute sense to take the food unit of An Bord Tráchtála out of that Department. In the interest of continuity and co-operation between both Departments and their subsidiary boards and in the interests of the food industry it makes absolute sense that we should have those nominees. When one looks at the developmental side of the food industry, it is easy to forget that very substantial funds have been invested in the food industry since the office of the Minister for Food was set up in 1987 and my colleague Deputy Joe Walsh——
I agree with the Minister but appointments do not have to be political. The Minister missed the point about political appointments. It is more jobs for the boys.
As it is now 12 midnight I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry and not disposed of, are hereby made to the Bill, that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill is hereby passed".
- Ahern, Michael.
- Ahern, Noel.
- Bhreathnach, Niamh.
- Bree, Declan.
- Brennan, Séamus.
- Costello, Joe.
- Coughlan, Mary.
- Cowen, Brian.
- Dempsey, Noel.
- De Valera, Síle.
- Doherty, Seán.
- Fitzgerald, Brian.
- Fitzgerald, Eithne.
- Fitzgerald, Liam.
- Flood, Chris.
- Foley, Denis.
- Gallagher, Pat.
- Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
- Haughey, Seán.
- Higgins, Michael D.
- Howlin, Brendan.
- Hughes, Séamus.
- Jacob, Joe.
- Kavanagh, Liam.
- Kemmy, Jim.
- Kenny, Seán.
- Killeen, Tony.
- Kirk, Séamus.
- Lenihan, Brian.
- Leonard, Jimmy.
- Broughan, Tommy.
- Browne, John (Wexford).
- Burton, Joan.
- Byrne, Hugh.
- Callely, Ivor.
- Martin, Micheál.
- McDaid, James.
- McDowell, Derek.
- Moffatt, Tom.
- Morley, P.J.
- Moynihan, Donal.
- Nolan, M.J.
- Ó Cuív, Éamon.
- O'Dea, Willie.
- O'Donoghue, John.
- O'Hanlon, Rory.
- O'Keeffe, Batt.
- O'Leary, John.
- O'Shea, Brian.
- O'Sullivan, Toddy.
- Penrose, William.
- Power, Seán.
- Quinn, Ruairí.
- Ryan, Eoin.
- Smith, Brendan.
- Taylor, Mervyn.
- Treacy, Noel.
- Wallace, Dan.
- Walsh, Eamon.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Allen, Bernard.
- Bradford, Paul.
- Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
- Bruton, Richard.
- Carey, Donal.
- Connor, John.
- Crawford, Seymour.
- Crowley, Frank.
- Doyle, Avril.
- Durkan, Bernard J.
- Finucane, Michael.
- Fitzgerald, Frances.
- Foxe, Tom.
- Harney, Mary.
- Higgins, Jim.
- Kenny, Enda.
- Keogh, Helen.
- McCormack, Pádraic.
- McGinley, Dinny.
- McGrath, Paul.
- Mitchell, Gay.
- Noonan, Michael.
- (Limerick East).
- O'Donnell, Liz.
- O'Malley, Desmond J.
- Owen, Nora.
- Rabbitte, Pat.
- Sheehan, P.J.