Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 9 December 2015
Select Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Horse Racing Ireland Bill 2015: Committee Stage
I ask that all mobile telephones be switched off by everyone in the meeting room. This meeting is convened for the purpose of consideration of the Horse Racing Ireland Bill 2015. I welcome the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, and his officials this morning. A grouping list has been circulated to members and I propose that we proceed with those groupings and take them as they arise and then section by section, in the normal way members deal with Committee Stage.
As this section is meant to define the Bill, I cannot understand why harness racing would not be defined as part of horse racing. I do not understand why the amendment can be ruled completely out of order and not even permitted to be discussed. It does not augur well for the efforts made in recent months by the joint committee in meeting representatives of harness racing and with Horse Racing Ireland that an attempt to define harness racing as racing is not being accepted. I cannot find a reason for this and I ask the Chairman to explain this to me.
The effort here is to try to find out what is horse racing. Some members are curious as to why the definition of horse racing cannot include harness racing, because anyone who ever has been involved in organising video horse races for charity will have seen films of harness racing in America. Members seek an explanation as to the reason the fact of pulling a small vehicle behind the horse eliminates it from being horse racing. If it is not allowed under the Bill, that is fine because members will bring up the issue again next week and can approach in another way. However, I am a little puzzled because, for instance, flat racing is allowed, and that is straightforward because it is pure, in that X number of horses start at one point and finish at another. In addition, horses are allowed to jump over jumps. However, what is being indicated here is that for some reason it is not horse racing if the rider sits in a small vehicle as opposed to on the back of the horse. That is what the disallowance of these amendments appears to be stating. Can members get a more detailed explanation from whomever - I do not know who it is - disallows amendments?
To be helpful, I will let the Minister comment, but I must restrict this to the two members who tabled these amendments. This is not about the vehicle but about the horse. As I understand it, the type of horse used is a non-thoroughbred horse and, in its inception, the Horse Racing Ireland Bill pertains to the thoroughbred industry.
When the Bill was being considered, it was the Bills Office under Standing Order 131. These amendments seek to broaden the definition of horse racing to include non-thoroughbred horses and thus provide that other sporting disciplines, such as harness racing, be recognised as horse racing. The Minister should note that the committee is undertaking work on this issue, through which it perhaps is a little more than halfway. Representatives of Horse Sport Ireland, HSI, and Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, will appear before the joint committee next week. I do not wish to delay the meeting on-----
This has to do with how to resolve the issue. Were Members to table an amendment on Report Stage to the effect that horse racing need not be done by thoroughbred horses, would that then be allowed? Would it then be necessary to allow harness racing? Is it possible to get advice from the Bills Office as to whether this would be possible?
First, the disallowing of the amendments had nothing to do with my office.
I understand a decision was made by the Bills Office that the understood definition of horse racing involved a horse and a rider, and there may have been some issues around thoroughbreds and non-thoroughbreds. Either way, the office ruled it out of order. I have said before that I am sympathetic and am trying to be helpful to the work of the committee in its attempts to examine the regulation, management and structure of harness racing in Ireland and to build an industry around the sport. It makes a lot of sense to me on a series of different levels, including regulation and animal welfare. This is a successful sport and an industry in other countries. I do not see why we cannot do something similar here. However, I understand what the Bills Office has done here. This Bill is specific to Horse Racing Ireland and is being introduced to deal with an existing structure and industry to try to improve transparency following the recommendations of a report into the industry. I am more than happy to consider a similar report into the potential of the harness racing industry, get consultants to look at it and respond to the questions and aspirations raised here in order to progress it properly, but I do not think the way to achieve what the committee wants is to force it into a Bill. According to the Bills Office, it cannot be done that way anyway. If it is to be done, let it be done properly. Let us consider how the appropriate governance and regulatory bodies would work to promote integrity and to ensure the correct systems are in place for drug testing, welfare management, licensing and so on. Much of that structure is there already, but decisions are needed on how funding should be made available to the sport and at what level. It needs to be balanced against all of the other sport horse sectors within the overall horse industry in Ireland, which is a huge sector. I am happy to have an open conversation and work with the committee. We are happy to put some money into a report, but I do not believe we can have a prolonged conversation in the context of this Bill, given the decision made by the Bills Office.
We have a draft report that needs further input because of a request from representatives of the harness racing industry to come before the committee. As a result, the report has been delayed until after we meet Harness Racing Ireland and Horse Sport Ireland next week. In good faith, the committee should try to get that completed and over to the Minister's office and to the Department so that it can perhaps form a basis for another Bill, but I do not want to delay the proceedings today.
In view of what the Minister has said on the need for a structured approach and the firm commitment he has given to harness racing, I am willing to accept that. It is a major step in the right direction. We will prepare a report over the Christmas period and, please God, we will publish it before the banking inquiry report. I take it that the Dáil will continue sitting until the banking inquiry report is completed, so we will have until the end of January 2016. I presume that whoever is in the Minister's shoes after the election will be able to take up where the Minister, Deputy Coveney, has left off and will take on board his sensible approach to how this should be progressed. On that basis, the amendments have achieved their purpose.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 3, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:“ “Greyhound racing” means a code with the competitive pursuit of a lure by two or more greyhounds;”.
My amendment is self-explanatory and defines greyhound racing.
This section provides definitions for the Bill, but the phrase "greyhound racing" is only used for the insertion of text into the Animal Remedies Act 1993 in section 18 of the Bill and, as such, it is not appropriate to insert the definition here. This is not a greyhound bill; it is not about the greyhound industry or greyhound racing. I do not see any need to have a definition of greyhound racing in this Bill. I do not see what purpose it would serve.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 4, lines 10 and 11, to delete “in relation to integrity services” and substitute “under this Act”.
This amendment relates to section 2(c) of the Bill, which states:
substituting for the definition of “Racing Regulatory Body” the following:“ ‘Racing Regulatory Body’ means-- [the definitions stated in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c)]and includes any limited company formed under the Companies Act 2014 by such body for the purpose of carrying out its functions in relation to integrity services.
The amendment proposes to widen that function as it relates to the Act, in case there is any function in the Act that does not relate only to integrity services.
I am prepared to look at this. I do not have any problem with it in principle. I would like to check it with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, but if it is consistent with the kind of language it can approve then I will do it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 5, line 25, to delete “3 shall” and substitute “5 shall”.
The amendment proposes to retain the current composition of the board of Horse Racing Ireland in terms of nominees from the racing regulatory body. The original composition of the board included five nominations. The proposal in the new Bill is to reduce it to three. I would urge that it stay as it was.
The amendment suggests that we should stick with what is there at the moment as opposed to making a change. One of reasons this legislation is being introduced is that we asked Indecon to report on the industry, its structure and its governance, and Indecon made some pretty clear recommendations about the composition of the board. One of those recommendations was to reduce the representation of the racing regulatory body from five to three members and to put in place three public interest board members, one of whom would be a representative of the horse racing industry in Northern Ireland. They would be ministerial appointments. At the moment it is a large board and the only ministerial appointment is the chairman. This composition was felt to be a weakness and not in the public interest. This body spends very large amount of public money - the guts of €60 million per year - and the idea that there would be no one on the board with a public interest role other than the chairman appointed by a Minister was seen as a weakness by Indecon, so it proposed the change. I have had many meetings with the Turf Club. This piece of legislation has allowed an honest discussion and the Turf Club has not been happy with some of the things the Bill is trying to do. There have been a lot of compromises. Not all of Indecon's recommendations have been accepted, but the change to the board nominations is one that will be accepted. The Turf Club has not raised this with me as an issue. It may have raised it with Deputy Ferris but not with me.
We are trying to rebalance the board and ensure that, as a body that manages such a large amount of public money each year, it includes an appropriate number of public interest members, if one likes, one of whom will be from Northern Ireland. I am proposing to make the change recommended by Indecon. While I understand where the Deputy is coming from, the purpose of the Bill is to make changes and improvements, as opposed to maintaining the status quo.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 6, to delete lines 3 to 5 and substitute the following:"(h) one shall be chosen by the Minister for their specific skill and competencies and be representative of the horseracing industry in Northern Ireland.".
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 8, line 40, after "administration," to insert "and", and after "governance," to insert "(other than the administration and governance of point-to-point racing)".
The amendment is self-explanatory and essentially technical in nature.
The Minister became a little annoyed with me when I spoke on this issue on Second Stage and I accept that I can be a little off-putting at times. I enjoy point-to-point racing more than anything. The Minister has made clear to all the relevant parties that he does not propose to interfere with point-to-point racing, other than by providing that Horse Racing Ireland will collect moneys that will be subsequently returned through the racing regulatory body.
One of my great friends, who was involved with his wife in point-to-point racing, died last week. The Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee plays an important role in this aspect of racing and must be allowed to continue to issue and register hunt certificates. Regulations are in place for point-to-point steeplechase meetings. Hunt certificates are issued by the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee and these are certified by the master of the hunt. I have done this myself and it is necessary to provide various documents, including registration papers for the horse. Subscription fees are also paid to the hunt. The certificate is issued and only registered by the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee when it has carried out the relevant integrity checks, for example, with regard to passports, flu vaccinations, horses' qualifications under point-to-point regulations, identification of the horse owner, handler and so forth. The issuing of the certificate is an integrity issue. A problem does not arise with the Minister's proposal to ensure full transparency with regard to money. Various proposals have been made regarding ways to collect the money, including online. I am not very well informed on these matters, however.
I have never doubted the Minister’s bona fides. If he is committed to maintaining the current position, this should include providing for the change I have proposed to the certification process. This provides for the exclusion from the proposed process of the certifying of hunter certificates. That would be a simple amendment which would not create a fuss. It gels with the thrust of what the Minister is intent on achieving, namely, ensuring pont-to-point racing remains within the ambit of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee. I hope he will see fit to accept it because while it is not earth-shattering, it is important.
The Bill proposes to substitute section 10 of the original Act with a new section. It follows that section 10-----
I did not propose any amendments to the provisions relating to point-to point racing. I understand the thinking behind these amendments and the Minister is also aware of concerns raised about this matter. He assured us in discussions that the proposed changes in this regard are a paper exercise, as it were. Given that the Minister will not always be in that office, we must safeguard against what future Ministers could do.
We are probably all on the same page on this issue. I have discussed this matter with various people who are passionate about point-to-point racing. I have also been to many point-to-point races and I spent a great deal of time around horses when I was growing up. We are not changing the structure of point-to-point racing, which is a success story. The system works and the sport is predominately run by volunteers in local hunt clubs, which feed into a national steeplechase committee. We are not attempting to change any of the structures for making decisions on fixtures, the management of local events and so forth. What we are trying to do across the industry is to have more transparency in terms of how money is raised and spent. We are trying to create a concept of a single portal whereby all the money comes into one efficiently run office controlled by Horse Racing Ireland because it is answerable to me, the Oireachtas, including the joint committee, and the Comptroller and Auditor General. The only change and the only area in which HRI will become involved is that it will assume responsibility for the registration process for hunter certificates, as advocated in the Smith & Williamson report. I sometimes refer to it as the Smith & Wesson report, which may be because I also have responsibility for defence. This change was recommended in the report as a means of achieving a more efficient administrative structure and cost savings.
Deputy Penrose's concern is shared by others. The role of the local hunt club will remain the same. The only change is to the office to which cheques are sent, which will be a central administrative office. Rather than having two offices, one operated by the Turf Club and a second one operated by Horse Racing Ireland, which are located within a few hundred metres of each other, we are seeking to introduce one administrative function. That is the only change. Everything else remains the same.
Another of my amendments will, I hope, provide some reassurance. Amendment No. 44 is a better way of achieving the objective sought by Deputy Penrose. It amends the section on the rules of racing.
We propose to change that to state: "to maintain the existing nature of point-to-point steeplechases including making and enforcing the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Regulations for point-to-point steeplechase as made by the Stewards of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee." We are trying to reinforce the point that this is the committee which sets the regulations and controls the sector. Deputy Penrose is talking about making a regulation, but this is amending the general functions of HRI. The change proposed by the Deputy refers to the broader roles of HRI across racing as a whole.
HRI has some role in point-to-point racing. It provides prize money, controls bookmaking activities and pays for the integrity services that are provided by the Turf Club. The existing role that HRI provides or supports in point-to-point racing will not change. The core management system, functioning and structure, and success, of point-to-point racing is not being undermined by anything we are doing here. It is simply an administrative function that we are looking to change, moving from having two offices to having one office. That is it.
I reassure anybody listening who is passionate about point-to-point racing and who thinks we are somehow undermining it in the Bill that nothing could be further from the truth. We are trying to ensure that the racing sector as a whole, including point-to-point racing, is strengthened and that there are transparency and modern management structures in place so that we can fully account for and stand over the way in which money is raised, managed and allocated. In fact, the funding stream stays the same. The money automatically goes from that administrative office back into the Turf Club anyway, and that is guaranteed later on. One will see strong language in that regard. This is nothing more or less than an administrative efficiency issue.
I intend to deal with the points Deputy Penrose seeks to make in his amendment in my amendment No. 44 because my advice is that we can deal with it more comprehensively there. I have met the Turf Club and interests from the point-to-point racing sector about this and we will deal with the concerns in the amendment.
We must have some indulgence here. Otherwise, the game goes dead.
I accept the bona fides of the Minister in what he is trying to achieve. Let us start with that, but as a barrister I am not completely convinced that what is contained in amendment No. 44 can override what is contained in section 5, which is the new section 10(1) and (2)(a). I ask that legal advice, perhaps from the Attorney General, be sought on this.
In this regard, there is confusion - I am not saying the Minister's officials are confused but the whole place might be confused - because issuing and certification are different functions. The national hunt committee issues a certificate, the master of the hunt certifies it and then it goes back for certification by the national hunt committee.
This has been a core concern of those involved in point-to-point racing and it is important that we try to nail it. All that is changing here is that when one registers a hunter for point-to-point racing, one sends the cheque to the administrative office. We are now asking it to do all the administration from an efficiency point of view. Everything else stays as it is in terms of local hunt clubs going out and visiting, ensuring that everything is done appropriately, etc., and giving the certification that goes with that.
My understanding of what we are doing is that when one registers the horse as a hunter, instead of sending one's cheque to the Turf Club, one sends it to this single administrative office. This is really about efficiency, because the money automatically goes back to the Turf Club as it would have. This is almost like an outsourcing to a new administrative office so that we have a single office for registration across racing for all horses. That was a strong recommendation from Smith and Williamson and it merely makes sensible efficiencies.
The initial discussion was whether HRI should be involved in a more active way in the scheduling of point-to-point racing, but we scrapped all of that because of arguments that Deputies Martin Heydon, Martin Ferris and Willie Penrose were making that racegoers think that point-to-point racing works. The Deputies did not want to change that structure. Such racing is run by local hunt clubs which are made up of members who are strong and passionate about what they do. As a result, we are not changing any of that and we are simply now focusing on the administrative processing and achieving greater efficiency in that system. That is the intent.
If, as a barrister, Deputy Penrose is saying that the wording we propose is not consistent with that, I want to hear about it and we will get advice from the Parliamentary Counsel to reflect it. However, I want to be clear about my intention here. We want to support strongly the current structures for point-to-point racing because they work but we also want to ensure that the changes we are making right across the Bill are about sensible management, efficiencies and administration. The only relevance to the point-to-point racing sector contained in the Bill is the registration of hunters in terms of getting the hunter certificates.
The governance and general functions of the HRI are contained in section 5, which is the new section 10(2). That is fairly powerful stuff. The Minister is saying that amendment No. 44, for want of a better word, overrides the governance aspect. I am concerned about that, and I must be honest with the Minister.
No doubt the Minister has a good understanding of it but not everybody has an understanding of it, and this is the problem. There are two or three steps in it and everything is grand until somebody from HRI comes down on one of the point-to-point races or calls up to state the HRI's understanding of it when the matter is laid down in law.
I cannot understand for the life of me why "certifying" rather than "issuing" cannot be included in the Bill. It does not-----
The section proposed to be amended states "to provide for the overall administration, governance, development and promotion of the Irish horseracing industry", and then very clearly, "other than functions assigned to the Racing Regulatory Body [which is the Turf Club] under section 39(1), including promoting and increasing attendance at authorised racecourses;". The section dealing with the rules of racing, which, essentially, are the functions of the racing regulatory body, is the section in which we are putting the reinforcing language on point-to-point racing. This is where it should be because it is the body that is primarily responsible for the regulation of point-to-point racing. It states: "to maintain the existing nature of point-to-point steeplechases including making and enforcing the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Regulations for point-to-point steeplechase as made by the Stewards of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee."
We could not be much stronger than that.
I am not bringing that aspect in here. I simply worry about things that might happen afterwards. We all thought that there was a view here that reflected what we thought was going to be in the Bill.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 9, to delete lines 4 and 5.
The amendment seeks to provide a single structure for the administration and financial management of horse racing and calls for the deletion of lines 4 and 5 as it undermines the independence of a separate body.
A single structure is at the core of the Bill, in terms of what we are trying to do here. Following the advice of both Indecon and Smith and Williamson, we are trying to provide a single office whereby cheques and moneys come in and flow out to the various different parts of racing thus providing more transparency and efficiency. To delete a section and say that one seeks to provide a single structure for the administration and financial management of the Irish horse racing industry undermines the thrust of what we are trying to do. Again, having spoken to a lot of people, most people have settled in their minds what we are trying to do here and they are happy enough with it. There is strong language in our own amendments to reinforce the message that the money that was coming in for the Turf Club, in the past directly, is now coming through a single administrative office and that will continue to come into the Turf Club without undue delay. We have used strong language to describe the matter which we will debate later. I cannot accept the amendment as there is an explicit provision later in legislation which reinforces the independence of the Racing Regulatory Body. In many ways it strengthens the body's independence when compared with the present situation. The body has primary legislation which forms the basis for its independence in law. This legislation strengthens the Racing Regulatory Body. It separates the body from the HRI in terms of function and reliance. It gives the body independence in terms of providing integrity services for the industry. I do not see how having a sensible and efficient administrative office dealing with registration and payments would undermine that situation and, therefore, I cannot accept the amendment.
My counter argument is that the Bill undermines the integrity of the regulatory body which can create difficulties. Several people working in the industry have concerns about this aspect and that is why I tabled my amendment. It does not augur well if there is a suggestion that the confidence or whatever of the body will be undermined. I withdraw my amendment.
The purpose of my amendment No. 18 is to ensure that money is collected and transmitted, in total and without deductions, to the Racing Regulatory Body. This issue might have been picked up somewhere else in the Bill and, if so, I shall withdraw my amendment but I seek confirmation.
We met the Turf Club to discuss this issue because I said that I would try to give reassurance here in terms of what is happening which is simply that there is administrative efficiency being introduced here. The concern of the Turf Club, if we are honest, was that by having a collection agency within the HRI that somehow HRI could hold on to that money for a period and use it as influence over the Turf Club or something like that which would be a totally unacceptable situation. My amendment No. 47 reads: "after “pay” to insert “, without undue delay or any set off, counterclaim or deduction,” which is language that came from the Turf Club and we were happy enough with such language. My amendment deals with the issue that Deputy Ó Cuív has raised which is a legitimate issue that we want resolved. Amendment No. 47 deals with the matter and uses language that we have discussed with the Turf Club which I hope that he can accept.
In terms of amendment No. 15, I reiterate that we are streamlining the income stream of the HRI and the Racing Regulatory Body only. Other income streams in horse racing will not be affected by these provisions. In addition, I do not propose to accept amendment No. 16.
Obviously it is up to Deputy Ó Cuív but I suggest that I have dealt with the thrust and purpose of his amendment in amendment No. 47. I hope that he can see that is the case.
Yes. We have debated certification already but my amendment would put the issue beyond doubt. It would clarify and make sure that everybody understands their roles. On line 19, it states "including the registration of hunter certificates" which means the activity will now be given to the HRI which is part of the problem. Point-to-point steeplechase regulations stipulate that hunter certificates must be issued by the relevant Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee, INHSC. The master of the hunt certifies the application and then it goes back to the INHSC which registers the hunter. That function has been taken away from the committee. Let me outline my problem with the Bill. On page 9, line 16, it reads:
(b) the provision of registry office services including the following activities—(i) naming of horses,
which is grand but the provision continues:
the issuing of horseracing passports and registration of matters relating to racehorses, including the registration of hunter certificates.
That is why one cannot have one without the other. That is why I was hoping the issuing and certification of the hunter certificates would be dealt with in the way I asked the Minister to deal with it. Perhaps the Minister would review the issue with a view to accommodating what we are trying to achieve. I think there is some misunderstanding of the roles. They are very finite and very technical. One might say it is the one body that is doing everything. It starts with X, goes down to Y and goes back up to Z within the one body. I ask the Minister to consider it.
I am reviewing the language of this provision and if it is not correct I will bring forward an amendment on Report Stage. We are trying to accommodate the Deputy.
Do not be too analytical on this. I might as well be honest with the Minister. The Minister is a racing person and he knows the issue inside out. I am afraid that some day, someone will be sitting on that seat and will be given back a parliamentary reply from this side, stating that the Bill was passed and one is left with a fait accompli and that is what worries me. I ask the Minister to deal with it as best he can.
We will. If the Deputy is happy for us to look at this issue and come back with a wording, having spoken to him and tried to reassure him, on Report Stage. We are hoping to take Report Stage next week if we can.
HRI will accept a cheque for the registration of a hunter and will send out a certificate as a result of that. On the question of the issuing of certificates as done by local hunt clubs at present, and the certification that they go out to endorse, my understanding is that none of that changes. If the Deputy wants-----
It does. I do not want to get into an argument with the Minister but it does. This clearly does. The HRI kicks over the issue. It will do the registration. That is a function gone from the local INHSC-----
No, it is not. The issuing of the certifications stays with the local hunt club. The registration of a hunter, in the first place, is a separate issue. That is what goes nationally at the moment into the turf club offices and will simply go to this new administrative office. All of the existing functions of local hunt clubs stay the same. Whether we use the language "issuing" or "certifying" is a matter for legitimate discussion. I will use the wording to achieve the outcome we both want to achieve. If we need to change it on Report Stage we will do it and will speak to the Deputy in the meantime.
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 9, line 14, after "steeplechases" to insert the following:", which charges and financial sanctions shall be collected by HRI as collection agent for the Racing Regulatory Body and returned to the Racing Regulatory Body without undue delay and without deduction, counterclaim or set-off),".
I move amendment No. 19:
In page 9, line 16, after "services" to insert ", in accordance with the Rules of Racing,".
Section 8 of the 2001 Act provides that HRI shall carry out registry office functions in accordance with the rules of racing. The Bill proposes to remove this wording but I propose that the status quoremain.
The Deputy is seeking to reinsert the wording as it existed prior to the establishment of Horse Racing Ireland in 2001. The registration office functions have moved to HRI and are governed by both HRI directives and the rules of racing. To insert the wording proposed is incorrect and would not reflect the situation post-2001. In other words, what is being proposed essentially switches power back in a way that reverses the thrust and decision and legislation in 2001 so I do not propose to accept the amendment. If accepted, it would mean that the turf club would be the regulatory body for the office that is managing the charges, the collection of licence fees and so on. Obviously, that needs to be done in a way that complements the rules of racing but essentially that body has to be answerable to the Comptroller and Auditor General and to the Oireachtas. The turf club has a role but it is not the regulatory body. If one was to insert the words "in accordance with the rules of racing" it would become the regulatory body for that administrative function. I do not think that is what we are looking for here. I understand that this office needs to be run in a way that is consistent and complements the rules of racing as opposed to anything else. I think the wording proposed potentially goes too far so I am not proposing to accept it.
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 9, line 19, to delete "including the" and substitute "excluding the issuing and".
The amendment is self-explanatory. Paragraph (i) states:
the naming of horses, the issuing of horseracing passports and registration of matters relating to racehorses, including the registration of hunter certificates.
I seek to delete the words "including the" and substitute "excluding the issuing and" registration of hunter certificates. It is straightforward.
I have referred to this on a number of occasions and do not want to bore everybody to death, including myself. We got into this argument previously. It might be a bit Jesuitical but it is important. This is extremely important for the local committees. I agree the services should exclude the issuing and registration of hunter certificates. Leaving the registration of hunter certificates with the HRI is not consistent with the tone and tenor of the statements the Minister has made here and I accept them. It is a matter of wording and it may be a matter of understanding the particular functions. The issuing of the certificate goes first to the person, then to the master of the hunt and then back to the INHS committee as the Minister said. I was hoping that process would remain the same notwithstanding that HRI has all the other functions. I want to recognise the important role the tremendous activists in the point-to-point steeplechase area have played and the service they have given. We should not denude them of something to say we have achieved a big centralisation pot. Centralisation is not the panacea for everything. There are lots of things about centralisation that we wish we had never done and I do not think we should rush to do it in this regard. I urge the Minister to look at this issue again.
In the Bill there is no suggestion that the issuing of anything is being transferred, including the registration of hunter certificates. None of the payments going to local hunt clubs at the moment is changed. The only thing that has changed is that the registration of a hunter that would have gone to the national hunt committee is going to the new administrative office and then going back to the national committee. It is an administrative issue. None of the payments that would have been going to local hunt clubs is being taken away from them and their role is not being changed or undermined. The issuing of certificates still stays with the local hunt club.
Instead of going to the national hunt committee, the registration of a hunter certificate will now go to this new administrative office which then pays the national hunt committee. The provision is part of the process of streamlining the functions of Horse Racing Ireland and the racing regulatory body. The amendment, as proposed, would return the registration of hunter certificates to the racing regulatory body, which is what we are trying to change for the purposes of efficiency in administration. I cannot accept the amendment.
We will look at the other matter concerning issuing, certifying and so on to ensure we get the right language to protect the local hunt clubs which, I understand, is the main concern of Deputies. If we were to accept the amendment, essentially we would be doing nothing and there would be no change. We would simply be leaving it as it was in terms of the registration and associated administration. This is precisely what we are trying to bring some efficiency to.
I move amendment No. 24:
In page 10, line 27, to delete “rules” and substitute “protocols”.
I have engaged with the racing regulatory body and have acceded to its request not to use the word "rules" in this context. The intention is to reserve the word "rules" for the racing regulatory body's rules of racing. This was a sensitive issue for the body and we are trying to deal with that.
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 10, line 34, to delete “consult” and substitute “inform and where practicable engage in a consultation process”.
What I am proposing in amendment No. 26 would be taken care of, more or less, in amendment No. 27. Is that correct?
I move amendment No. 27:
In page 10, line 35, after “directive.” to insert the following:“HRI may dispense with such consultation where it considers there is an urgency to make the directive and shall inform the Racing Regulatory Body accordingly.”.
This is another issue that was sensitive for the racing regulatory body. We are trying to clarify what "consultation" means. Does it mean a person or body has to get approval or does it mean that they simply have to consult? Before I make decisions I consult all manner of people but certain decisions rest with me at the end of the day. Those in Horse Racing Ireland need clarity on the level of consultation they must have before making a decision. Obviously, the racing regulatory body also sought to understand what level of consultation would be involved or what "consultation" means in terms of interaction with HRI when it comes to making changes in the rules of racing. The wording we have put in place is, "HRI may dispense with such consultation where it considers there is an urgency to make the directive and shall inform the Racing Regulatory Body accordingly." The inverse language applies as well. In other words, if those in the racing regulatory body need to change the rules because of something urgent, they can do so. In normal circumstances they would be expected to consult to ensure the process works. However, if they have to make a decision, they can get on with it and make it happen quickly. The same applies for those in HRI if there is some crisis that needs to be dealt with.
I move amendment No. 28:
In page 11, line 34, to delete “shall not be bound by any recommendation” and substitute “shall be bound by any recommendation”.
The amendment states that HRI shall not be bound by any recommendation of the race fixing committee and that the final decision on race fixtures shall be taken by HRI. I do not see the logic in that. The race fixing committee is made up of officials from HRI. It is an independent group, albeit made up of HRI members. If the committee has a view on a matter, it can be overturned by the HRI board. I do not see the merit in it. I am recommending the text "shall be bound by any recommendation".
I understand the point that is being made but this is a standard governance arrangement. I will set out the explanation I have and perhaps elaborate on it a little. The legislation ensures all interests of the horse racing industry are represented on the board of HRI. Setting horse racing fixtures is one of the primary functions of HRI and final decisions in this regard need to be ratified by the board. I am seeking to ensure consensus and cannot accept this amendment because it undermines the inclusivity I seek in respect of horse racing in Ireland. What we are saying is that the fixtures committee is essentially a sub-committee of HRI. A sub-committee cannot dictate to the overall committee. It is a little like the set-up in An Bord Pleanála. The main board makes the final decision at the end of the day, regardless of the recommendation coming through. Normally, the board will follow it, and in practically every instance the recommendation from the fixtures committee will, I expect, be endorsed by the overall board. However, there may be some reason in the broader interests of the industry for the board to take a different view. At that point, I believe we should accept that the board of HRI is legally responsible for standing over the decisions it makes. This issue will arise in other cases as well. The sub-committees feed into the board and make recommendations. However, the HRI board is the only body that has full representation of the entire industry and its interests. The board will get recommendations from sub-committees, but those recommendations cannot be binding. If they were, we could have a bizarre situation whereby the fixtures committee would be forcing the board of HRI into a position where it has no wish to be in the interests of the industry. One would have to think of very unusual circumstances where that could be allowed to happen. Ultimately, we are appointing a board that is representative of the entire sector with ministerial appointments and a chairperson. The board will be answerable to the Oireachtas and the Comptroller and Auditor General and so on. Essentially, the buck stops there and the members of the board must have the final say.
I understand the point Deputy Ferris is making. He is suggesting that if the race fixtures committee makes recommendations, because it has examined the issue in detail and so on, these recommendations should be binding. However, let us consider the governance structure around boards and sub-committees in any semi-State or State agencies, for example, Bord Bia. Bord Bia has multiple boards feeding in and making recommendations to the board itself. Ultimately, however, the buck stops with the chairman and the chief executive when it comes to making decisions. That is what we need in this case as well. It is a standard governance model that works.
I have made the argument. The people who are charged with the responsibility are on the fixtures committee. One would assume they have a hands-on approach and that their recommendations should be binding. People sitting on boards are usually divorced from the reality in many instances.
People who sit on boards can, for political or other reasons, use their influence to undermine the committees they have put in place. The people who are charged with the responsibility should be the ones whose recommendations are binding. I will withdraw the amendment and revert to it later.
Let us read the legislation:
(4) The race-fixtures committee shall have not more than 5 members (including a chairman) and shall include at least one representative from the Racing Regulatory Body and one from authorised racecourses with such other members that HRI considers appropriate.
(5) The chairman of the race-fixtures committee shall be appointed by HRI.
(6) The membership of the race-fixtures committee shall be limited to members of HRI.
(7) A member of the race-fixtures committee who fails to perform his or her functions may be removed at any time by HRI.
(8) HRI may regulate the procedure of the race-fixtures committee.
This is a sub-committee of the board and its members are on that board. It is a recommendation body and works closely with the board. This is not a case of the board sitting on high above the race fixtures committee, which understands what is happening on the ground. It is the opposite. They interact with each other. The committee advises the board on finalising decisions for fixtures. I am unaware of any incident in which the HRI board disagreed with the race fixtures committee. They work hand in hand. This is about ensuring a focus group feeds into HRI to ensure the fixtures are right. Were the situation different, I would understand the Deputy. If there was a prawn sandwich brigade making decisions on fixtures and ignoring the people on the ground, that would be one thing, but that is not how this structure works. It cannot work like that because of the way it is designed under this legislation.
I move amendment No. 29:
In page 12, to delete lines 9 and 10 and substitute the following:"(4) The relevant industry representative bodies should determine the constituencies and method of election of members of the industry services committee.".
The Bill reads, "HRI shall determine the constituencies and method of election of members of the industry services committee." Instead of HRI, the bodies should have the authority to make this determination.
The Minister read through this section, spoke about advising the board and finalising the work on the race fixtures committee. While that is grand, I do not understand why the membership of the race fixtures committee should be limited to members of HRI. Section 19(3) of the 1994 Act reads, "The membership of the race fixtures committee referred to in paragraphs (b)to (d)of subsection (2)may include persons who are not members of the Authority." Deputy Ferris has tabled a worthwhile amendment on this important matter. We must reflect upon it. The committee will have a limited gene pool. The Association of Irish Racehorse Owners, AIRO, will have members on the HRI board, so they could be on everything, including the race fixtures committee. The association could have two, three, four or five people involved. They have a good level of expertise across various areas, so there would be a lot of work involved.
In July 2014 or whenever it was, we had a good debate and I did not believe that the Minister would propose this provision. Currently, owners are represented on the race fixtures committee. I do not understand why their involvement is being limited to only one person. What if they want to put forward someone else who has relevant expertise? There is much involved in the race fixtures committee and it is not as simple as the Minister claims. I have seen some stuff coming from HRI to the small racecourses that I was not impressed by. I will discuss that with the Minister.
Demands are being made everywhere, for example, for a great deal of money. My main crib with HRI is that the State is providing it with money, the guts of €60 million. That is grand, well done and we are getting good value for it, but HRI is not very good at raising its own money. It raises money from racetracks. According to letters I have received, if a course does not have €3,500 in sponsorship for a race, it will be moved out of prime time. I take grave umbrage at this type of language.
Be that as it may, this is why the section is important. The race fixtures committee deals with the eligibility of horses that run in races. This provision is too restrictive. Racehorse owners used to have two representatives on that committee. It has always been an active and vibrant committee. Anyone selected to it has the necessary expertise. People would not be members otherwise. It has many functions in terms of performance criteria at racecourses and so forth. I would like to think that the committee's membership would not just be confined to the HRI board and that if someone wanted to nominate someone else in his or her stead who had the expertise, it would be allowed.
I am raising this matter now because I failed to table an amendment to that effect, although I wanted to. I concentrated so much on media rights that I nearly forgot this. The Minister should consider this amendment. There is nothing to be lost. It would not be earth shattering in terms of the overall structure. We should not confine committee membership to HRI. Board members would deal with everything then. Deputy Ferris was right in that there will never be any disagreement. The board members are on the committee that sends a matter back to the board. Dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi, that is grand and away we go. We should widen the membership and not be afraid of the additional expertise of, for example, the owners.
I will address the issue that Deputy Penrose raised, as it relates to the previous amendment while still being relevant. HRI has a large board with a broad representation. There will be three members from the Turf Club and breeders, owners, trainers, stable staff and the betting industry will be represented. My role as Minister will be to try to fill knowledge gaps or add more to the board. It is a large board, larger than I would have liked. Indecon's recommendation was for something smaller.
Any good board sets up a sub-committee within the board to advise it on certain matters. That is how these situations work. The board, which has a broad representation, sets up a fixtures committee comprising people from that board with appropriate skill sets and tells them to consider fixtures and revert with recommendations. We are not discussing an outside body setting fixtures that needs the approval of HRI. We are discussing HRI board members doing the jobs they are nominated and appointed to do, those being, administering horse racing and providing efficiencies, transparency, accountability and so on. They are answerable for these to the Oireachtas, the Comptroller and Auditor General and elsewhere. Deputy Penrose is right in that a major part of that role is setting fixtures, as these determine much in terms of sponsorship, media rights, when in the season races are run, which has an impact on horses' training profiles, and so on.
It is a contentious area, but I want somebody who is answerable if they make a mistake, so that I get the reasoning behind how we schedule racing and when we put together events like champions weekend and so on. It involves a very significant amount of public money in terms of prize money and so on. I want to be able to talk to the chair of HRI and ask him or her to explain to me the thinking behind various decisions. I want people to understand in a practical sense that HRI, as a board, has responsibility for all these things. One of the big responsibilities it has is race fixtures, because-----
I wanted to clarify the points raised because they are legitimate concerns. It is not the case that we have an isolated satellite body that is working on fixtures. It is really a subcommittee that is set up by the board with appropriate people on it who have relevant knowledge. It makes recommendations to the larger board, which ultimately holds the responsibility. That seems a fairly good governance structure and it is a fairly standard one, across a whole series of other areas. If we deviate from that and have one or two outsiders coming in, to whom are they answerable? They are not answerable to me.
Criteria are set down there whereby the constituencies the various representatives come from, and the five members, are determined by HRI and not by the constituencies themselves. When we look at the likes of jockeys and qualified riders, there are people other than stable staff employed in the horse racing industry. What about trade unions? Is there any avenue for somebody from a trade union to get on to the board if the constituency is so rigidly determined by HRI? It depends on the ideological position it adopts or what it tries to pursue or represent and people can be blocked. Constituencies should be determined by the sectors themselves; let them select that person. As a board, HRI will have ultimate control over everything anyway, but it should be flexible and open-minded enough to accept somebody from a constituency determined by the services sector.
I wish to make a point on amendments Nos. 29 and 30 and also fixtures because it is the same. Some of the comments that have been made here are very reflective of comments one would hear in the industry in general, that HRI is the big baddie, that it is not flexible, it does not listen and it has its own agenda. That perception is out there in the industry and it has been reflected by some of the comments here this morning. Surely everything we are doing is about challenging that perception and making the board more accountable. I accept the Minister's point that we always listen to experts from outside and the grass is greener on the other side, but those experts are not answerable to anybody. It is not about accepting that there are deficiencies in the board and looking for somebody from outside to fix our problems, but instead having confidence in the people appointed to this board, by the Minister and others, and trusting them to do the job. They are then answerable for that. There are safeguards in this because if the Minister of the day is not happy with the decisions made, he or she can ask questions, and HRI is the accountable body that will come before the committee and answer for its actions through its chair.
I have some sympathy for the issue raised by Deputy Ferris, but there has to be a contingency here. If, for example, there were multiple representative bodies and they could not agree, what would happen? Somebody needs to put together a constituency and a mechanism for electing or nominating members of this committee. The idea of the industry services committee is to identify and improve the requirements of those employed in the industry and represent the interests of such workers. I was very insistent that we would have a services committee like this, because there are about 14,000 people working in the racing industry in Ireland. Many of them work incredibly hard and we need to make sure their interests are part of our thinking and of HRI's thinking. The membership of this committee does not have to comprise HRI members. This involves people working in the industry, including jockeys, qualified riders, stable staff, and so on. My concern is that if we do not state that HRI shall determine the constituencies and method of election of members of the industry services committee, then who determines it?
The people on this subcommittee will be from the services within the horse racing industry or people associated with the horse racing industry, so they are supportive of this sector. The Minister mentioned jockeys and persons other than stable staff employed in the racing industry. That is not a problem, but the size of that constituency should be determined by the sector itself. If Horse Racing Ireland decided to limit it, it has the power to do so. There is nothing here to prevent it from limiting the services sector and the services sector is bigger than jockeys and stable staff. There are people who are providing services to racehorse owners and who are members of trade unions. There are trade unions associated with it. All of this can be blocked, unless it is left to the sector itself to determine it. I am quite certain that any sector within Horse Racing Ireland will have the greater good of the industry, from its position, in mind.
I know the point the Deputy is making, but he seems to have great faith in the broader services sector's capacity to organise itself tightly, and to put a fair, democratic system of election or appointment in place. That is also a structure that could be influenced by people within the industry who are not part of HRI and who may want to have a strong voice through the services committee. They may get their way in a manner that is far less transparent. At least if HRI does this, it has to come before this committee and explain the basis for determining the constituency and the election of members. It has to stand over it. If it is blocking somebody out, it will be exposed. If the industry itself does it, it is not answerable to anybody. If it would help, I could insert something on Report Stage that would state something like "HRI shall consult widely" before determining the constituencies and method of election. Something like that might go some way to address what Deputy Ferris is saying, but he should not forget that most of these sectors are represented on the board. I want to have somebody who can come in here and answer to this committee, or to me on the phone, regarding the basis for deciding the constituencies and method of election, rather than a group of people who are not answerable to anybody except, perhaps, their own representative body.
The Bill currently states, "HRI shall determine the constituencies and method of election of members of the industry services committee". If we wanted to find some sort of agreed position, perhaps this could be changed to "HRI shall consult with the various constituencies and agree after consultation the constituencies and how-----"
Subject to legal checks, I could certainly propose a wording for Report Stage that would state "HRI shall consult widely before determining the constituencies and method of election".
It will consult the representative bodies, etc., before determining "the constituencies and method of election". I think "consult widely" covers that. In other words, it will have to go out and listen.
I would like to seek some clarification regarding a report that was produced by this committee. We proposed that a member of the stable staff should be on the board. I think that is the reason for the extra board member. It will be a nominee of the stable staff representative organisation who is accepted by HRI in the first instance. Is it the case that the sub-committee will have to contain that person in any event? The Bill provides that "the industry services committee shall [...] [include a representative of] stable staff" who will be the nominated member in this example. I hope the Minister knows what I am trying to say. I cannot say too much. I am just pointing that out.
They are on HRI but they are not automatically on the services committee. It is great that there is now a voice for stable staff on the full board of HRI. Deputy Ferris is talking about the services committee, which will make recommendations to HRI and express concerns on behalf of the services sector in horse racing, etc. We want to make sure that functions well. All I am saying is that at the end of the day, somebody has to determine the constituencies so that people can be elected or appointed. I think HRI is the only body that has the legal accountability to do this. If it would be helpful, we could require HRI to "consult widely" across the sector before making a determination. I think that is as far as I can go. I am willing to look at that in advance of Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 30:
In page 12, to delete line 39, and in page 13, to delete line 1 and substitute the following:"(4) The relevant industry bodies representative of bookmakers, shall determine the constituencies and method of election of members to the betting committee.".
I am moving this amendment formally so that we can come back to it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 13, to delete lines 28 to 30 and substitute the following:"(2) Subject to subsections (3) and (4) the media rights committee shall consist of not more than 5 members appointed by HRI, one of whom shall be the HRI representative of the body known as the Association of Irish Racehorse Owners and may include members who are not members of HRI.".
I am proposing this amendment to require that one member of the media rights committee, which "may include members who are not members of HRI", will have to be "the HRI representative of the body known as the Association of Irish Racehorse Owners". I think it is in the interests of this legislation that we try to include a representative of racehorse owners on the media rights committee.
I am not in favour of giving a particular representative organisation rights where other representative organisations have an equal interest. I think it should be up to the board of HRI to ensure the right balance of interests and expertise is represented on the committee. If we were to say that a representative of owners has to be on the committee, someone might say we should ensure representatives of a whole series of other bodies are on the committee as well. All of those bodies are represented on the overall board. I suggest that the overall board, with its broad representation, should be the body that actually decides who is on the committee. I am proposing to stick to that position.
I think that is a mistake because racehorse owners are the cornerstone of this country's horse racing industry. It is very important for them to have a member on the board. For that reason, I will be pursuing this amendment.
To be honest, I would be surprised if there was not a representative of racehorse owners on the board. I think that if we use this legislation to require the owners to have priority status on the board without requiring others to have the same status, it will provide an imbalance. We have to trust that HRI, as the broad representative body it will be, will make sensible decisions and will answer for those decisions. That is a fairly consistent theme I am advancing throughout this legislation. As a publicly accountable body that administers a large amount of money, HRI has to make all sorts of decisions about media rights and fixtures, etc. I was going to say "fixtures and fittings", so I must be thinking about flooding. Quite frankly, we need to trust HRI to get on with the job rather than prescribing to it exactly who it should be appointing by picking out and prioritising representative bodies. While I take the point made by Deputy Ferris, I would be surprised if there was no representative of racehorse owners on this committee. I think we should trust HRI to make balanced and sensible decisions and to stand over them.
There is a balance for us to strike in order that we are not overly prescriptive in the legislation and do not tie people's hands. Horse Racing Ireland, HRI is answerable to this committee and will continue to be so. The important role of the owners also needs to be borne in mind by HRI in everything it does. The owners fund a very significant portion of everything that happens and are a key constituency. While I can understand the difficulty with legislating specifically for HRI, in broader terms I think all the members of the joint committee would feel very strongly that the role of owners always needs to be remembered and maintained. After the horse and greyhound fund, their very valuable input is crucial to all the jobs that are involved in the racing and breeding industry.
This brings it back to owners and everything else. Owners buy the horses and pay the entry fees, the trainers' fees and the fees to HRI which first got my attention, and there was a flood of stuff into me about it, which is what got me angry with HRI. There are people with substantial expertise who are on the owners committee. I happen to have been an owner myself and was a member of the Association of Irish Racehorse Owners, AIRO. An owner may not be a board member because of the way the board is set up. Somebody who goes for election might not be the best Deputy, and the curate could be better than the parish priest. We may not have the person who is representing the particular owner's interests. By small owners I mean one and two person set-ups.
I do not understand why what worked in 1994, section 19(3), will not work now. There was never a complaint; the owners were happy. Willie Penrose might be the representative on the board but Deputy Martin Heydon might be the best person with the deep, intense, comprehensive knowledge of ownership and all that goes with it - fixtures, sponsorships, courses and all that. These people go around to all the courses. They keep those courses going. If the owner does not have the horse, close down the course.
I know myself from outside of owners that there is intense interest in this amendment. The Minister would not believe it. There is a need to ensure it is not restricted and that fixtures do not just have to be by board members. There is expertise. Of course the board has to deal with it, but there are going to be some members of the board on this fixture committee. Outside expertise is what we often get in to help us.
Members can discuss amendment No. 32 now with amendment No. 31. Just to clarify for Deputy Penrose, we have not skipped anything. We have done everything through the various amendments, with them being moved, withdrawn and so forth. We are on amendments Nos. 31 and 32 which are being discussed together. I think the Deputy had already expressed an interest in media rights.
The only issue under discussion which is relevant to what Deputy Penrose has been saying is whether we prescribe in legislation to require HRI to put someone from the racehorse owners association onto the media rights committee or whether we trust HRI as a board to be able to put a balanced committee of five people together. That is the only issue. The view I have taken so far has been that HRI is responsible and answerable to the joint committee and elsewhere. It needs to make sensible, balanced decisions and we should trust it to do so rather than prescribe to it who should be on the committee.
I take the point that others have made. Nothing happens without owners of horses paying the bills. We are talking about the negotiation and management of media rights, which is a complex area in which we should be raising a lot of money for horse racing in the future. It requires specific expertise. This is what will fund a lot of the racetracks throughout Ireland as well as a lot of the prize money and the promotion of racing. We need five people on the media rights committee who know what they are doing. Prescribing who those people are or where they come from is a bit of blunt tool for primary legislation. I would rather have the HRI board members in here and give them a bit of a grilling in terms of the basis for their five appointments to the media rights committee.
It is a slightly different approach. I do not disagree that owners are very important to the overall mix. Whether one is an owner or someone with other interests in the racing industry, the most important thing is that we get right the issue of media rights and that we have a committee that makes good recommendations and ensures we are not missing any opportunities. Ultimately this is an opportunity to raise a lot of money for the sector. I do not want to get distracted by other issues. I take the point that people are making, but I would be very surprised if one of the five was not a racehorse owner. I want to put a bit of faith in HRI to make a balanced decision.
On the one hand the Minister is saying he cannot imagine not doing it and on the other hand he does not want to tie HRI to it. If he cannot imagine HRI not doing it what is wrong with tying it down? Stranger things have happened. Bodies can make very strange decisions at times, everyone asks the Minister why he does not do something about it, and the Minister says the Act leaves it to the body to make the sensible decisions. The sensible thing is to put it in. It is not conceivable, if the board operates properly, that it would not have a racehorse owner on the committee, so it is not tying it up in any way that is unreasonable. Therefore it is safer to have it in the legislation just in case some HRI board decided not to put a racehorse owners representative on the committee.
We talk about HRI like it is some group in its ivory tower that is not interested in the broader interests of the sector. This is probably the most representative board or group of any sector or industry in the country bar none. It is prescribed in legislation that it has to be that way. Of a board of 14 people, the Minister appoints only three. They are probably better qualified to make the decision than we are in terms of media rights. Sometimes when politicians try to prescribe in primary legislation who should be on what committee or who should be doing what, it may not be the wisest thing to do. That is all I am saying. I will have a look at it for Report Stage if the Deputy wants but I want to put a bit of faith in a board to which I am going to be appointing three members plus the chair and on which every other element and stakeholder in the racing industry also has representation.
While I would like to have faith in every board, the reality is that we have seen in the not too distant past how some boards have operated or failed to operate as they should have. Deputy Penrose outlined in his very articulate way the issues about the contribution of racehorse owners and what they bring to the industry. Without them there would be no industry, let us put it that way. If it were up to the board to nominate somebody, and the Minister says it is inconceivable it would not nominate anybody from the racehorse owners association-----
Who determines whom the board nominates? Does it pick somebody it wants on the board or does it ask the racehorse owners association to nominate somebody?
That is why reference is made to a body from the Irish racehorse association, which again refers to determination. It goes back to the Association of Irish Racehorse Owners to determine who represents it, because the amendment would copperfasten the fact that it will know it has somebody on the board.
A number of different sectors will have a claim to media rights - I am sure Deputy Penrose will refer to racecourse owners - such as racehorse owners, jockeys and trainers, who have a deep knowledge of how to use the product they are training. Ultimately, HRI has a responsibility to put a structure in place that can negotiate the best possible deal for the racing industry for media rights. The IRFU has to do that for rugby. It is proposed to put in place a media rights committee, comprising five people who know what they are doing. My inclination is to trust the board, which ultimately has to stand over any decisions made and deals done and signed off on. It will have to engage in consultation, something that we will come to later, in terms of racecourse owners. It is a group of five people who need a certain skill set to get a good job done in a fairly complex area - that is, media rights - which is constantly changing.
I will consider the issue between now and next week when, it is to be hoped, Report Stage will be taken. We should not prescribe the areas or elements of the sector that the people concerned should come from.
I move amendment No. 33:
In page 13, to delete line 31.
This has been a contentious issue that we are trying to deal with. It concerns deals regarding media rights. In recent years the collective, rather than the individual parts, of the racing industry has become far more valuable. The Irish racing industry is a powerful negotiating tool in terms of the media because of the standard and quality of racing here. We need to make sure that we harness that to get the maximum financial value possible out of negotiating media rights collectively.
The sector involves racing across multiple different racecourses across the country and it is in the interests of everybody to get the best deal we can. The allocation of that money once it comes in is a different issue, in terms of who gets it. Everybody wants to make a case for their priorities and so on. The current approach towards media rights seems to be working reasonably well. We are trying to develop a language in the Bill that ensures that everybody who has a stake feels he or she has some involvement in the finalisation of decisions.
We propose to insert the following: "[A] contract or arrangement referred to in subsection (1) shall not be made by the media rights committee without the agreement of the board of HRI and representative of executives of authorised racecourse." The Association of Irish Racecourses, AIR, is the representative body of racecourses. We examined the wording and tried to get it right. I met representatives at a senior level in AIR. Deputy Penrose has raised issues in this regard and we have tried to develop a language that will ensure everybody feels he or she is part the decision-making process before a final agreement is made by HRI. This language achieves what we are trying to do. It means there will not be an agreement of the board of HRI without consultation with the representative body of authorised racecourses. That ensures it has a say, which it should have, in the final outcome of how media rights are negotiated. It is to be hoped people will support that.
Before members get hot under the collar, I will point out that the process will involve a bit more than consultation; it has to agree to it.
A contract or arrangement referred to in subsection (1) shall not be made by the media rights committee without the agreement of the board of HRI and representatives of executives of authorised racecourses, which we interpret to be the representative body, that is, AIR. That is about as a good a compromise as we can make.
I thank the Minister. This is a very important amendment. My worry is that the representative body of authorised racecourses includes some very powerful bodies, and the voices of smaller racecourses might be overcome. I hope that is not the position and that ordinary racecourses have their voices heard. It is important because property rights and legal issues are involved.
If something is not done in a fair manner, I would be the first to kick over the traces. If I had to, I would take a court case on my own for the people involved, because it is very important that the voices of small racecourses are heard. No one should think there is a free lunch. From 2001, HRI was clamouring for media rights, and it got them. Small racecourses are not run on a free gratisbasis. They pay money to HRI for every meeting. As I said earlier, there is now a demand for more money. The money may trickle down to racecourses, and it should, particularly the smaller ones that have felt excluded.
The Minister has worked hard on the wording and I will seek an assurance from the representative bodies of racecourses that if, for example, there are to be three representatives on a board, one from smaller racecourses should be included. The owners of racecourses should be properly represented in order to achieve this agreement. I do not want things being circumscribed by someone who is very intelligent and will try to get around the thrust of what we are trying to achieve today.
I read out the percentages at a previous meeting. Nobody has contradicted them, which means they stand uncorrected. I was correct. I spent some time researching the figures. I said section 10, which deals with the distribution of income from media rights, must be deleted, and I am glad it has been deleted.I wanted a fair shake-up. Before media rights were an issue, every course was in the same situation, which was very important. It is the lifeblood of racecourses. Large racecourses can negotiate major sponsorships and are in the public eye and constantly on television. Smaller racecourses such as Kilbeggan, Ballinrobe and Roscommon have to scrabble for attention and work hard to try to survive. I am not ashamed to articulate on behalf of such voices today. We have done a good day's work. The Minister is dealing with the issue, which I have acknowledged. I accept his and his officials' bona fides. They have worked very hard. I will now cast my eye wider and make sure the voices of smaller racecourses are heard.
I thank the Minister very much for listening.
I move amendment No. 34:
In page 13, to delete lines 32 to 35 and substitute the following:“(b) by inserting after subsection (4) the following:“(4A) A contract or arrangement referred to in subsection (1) shall not be made by the media rights committee without the agreement of the board of HRI and representatives of executives of authorised racecourses.”,and
(c) by deleting subsections (9) and (10).”. In page 15, line 8, to delete “(following consultation with HRI)”.
I move amendment No. 35:
In page 15, line 8, to delete “(following consultation with HRI)”.
Consultation with HRI is provided for in subsection (3) of the section and does not need to be included here.
I move amendment No. 37:
In page 15, line 10, to delete “, in accordance with paragraph (c), adequate on-course” and substitute “adequate”.
The purpose of the amendment is to clarify that integrity services may be on or off-course. It is something the Turf Club, or the racing regulatory body as it is referred to in the legislation, is anxious to have in place.
We have said in the past that integrity is something one takes for granted when one has it. We have it. The integrity in question relates to our good name and it is crucial to the industry in terms of its overall importance. We must ensure that in the changes we make here, we do not impinge on the role of the racing regulatory body to carry out those functions and maintain the high standards and high reputation we have.
I move amendment No. 40:
In page 15, to delete lines 24 and 25 and substitute the following:“(x) stewards’ secretaries,
(xi) veterinary assistants, and
(xii) senior racing officials,”.
The amendment extends the racing regulatory body's control functions at authorised racecourses to senior racing officials and is made at the request of the racing regulatory body.
I move amendment No. 42:
In page 15, line 26, to delete “upon payment to HRI of the appropriate licence fee, to”.
This is down to the fees, licences, funding and so forth being paid to HRI which undermines the racing regulatory body's integrity. For that reason, I ask that part of the first line, "upon payment to HRI of the appropriate fee, to", be deleted and also that the power to set charges, licences, registration certificates with the participation of the HRI at (d) be removed.
It is necessary for the sake of clarity to retain the wording. The racing regulatory body will not be able to issue licences without the payment having been made. As such, it is only reasonable that it should be clear in the legislation. One cannot issue a licence if there is no payment for it.
This was never raised with me by the racing regulatory body. It is perfectly reasonable to have licensing for trainers, jockeys, valets and so on. However, one cannot licence them unless they pay. The collection mechanism for that is an entirely separate issue. None of the current income streams of the Turf Club is changing, it is just the collection mechanism and the efficiency around it that is changing. The money will end up where it would today. I understand why someone would make the point but it does not make a great deal of sense, to be honest.
I move amendment No. 44:
In page 16, to delete lines 3 to 5 and substitute the following:“(i) to maintain the existing nature of point-to-point steeplechases including making and enforcing the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Regulations for point-to-point steeplechase as made by the Stewards of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee).”.”.
We have debated this already. I hope people see it as positive.
It is. More succinctly, I note that hunter registration has an important integrity role. That has been overlooked in the debate, although not purposely. It should continue to be done by the National Hunt committee. I appeal to the Minister to look at the issue with the parliamentary draftspeople. I accept that the money will be paid through the HRI at the end of the process and go back. I have no problem with that. It will be like a circular board and land back where it was meant to go. However, I understand the Turf Club made a recommendation to the Minister some weeks ago about the Smith and Williamson recommendation he wants to implement. The Turf Club says the same thing can be accommodated and achieved while allowing the Irish National Hunt steeplechase, INHS, committee to issue and register hunt certificates and carry out the integrity checks regarding passports, flu vaccinations, the qualifications of horses and verification. That can all be achieved if the Minister looks at it again. We have not divided as a committee and are trying to work through this with the best interests of the horse racing industry at heart. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider the matter again while accepting that this is a step forward from where the Bill originally started. I am glad it is there but I appeal to the Minister, strongly and wholeheartedly, in respect of the other aspect of the matters I have raised, particularly the importance of the integrity role hunter registration plays.
Amendments Nos. 45 to 51, inclusive, are related and amendments Nos. 46 to 50, inclusive, are physical alternatives to amendment No. 45. Amendments Nos. 45 to 51, inclusive, may be discussed together, by agreement.
While I could not move amendment No. 46 given that it is an alternative to No. 45, I ask the Minister to address amendment No. 48. My amendment No. 49 proposes to delete “its” and substitute “the" and refers not to HRI but to the racing regulatory authority. The Minister might look at that. Amendment No. 51 is self-explanatory.
Amendment No. 47 is on the issue we spoke about earlier to ensure that money comes to the racing regulatory body without undue interference, delay or pressure. We are adding in the words "without undue delay or any set off [which is important language], counterclaim or deduction".
This is fairly standard legal language which says to get on with it and that once the money comes in, to transfer it across.
Regarding amendment No. 48, all charges referenced in section 10(2)(a)(i) include payments due to HRI which are not due to the racing regulatory body, and it is incorrect to divert money due to HRI to the racing regulatory body. There are some charges that have always, and continue to, come into HRI. There are some that would have gone to the racing regulatory body, and they will continue. There is an issue with amendment No. 48.
Regarding amendment No. 49, given that "its" refers to the previously mentioned racing regulatory body, the reference to "the" is incorrect. If the Deputy wishes, I can raise check it with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.
I understand the Deputy's point. I have no problem. If it is the correct wording, I will change it. Amendment No. 50 is a minor amendment to the wording that allows HRI to take into consideration the receipts of the racing regulatory body when determining its budget for the year, but it allows it some additional flexibility in this regard where particular needs arise. We need to show some flexibility in this area. The racing regulatory body needs to run itself and has some functions outside integrity. It is a reasonable amendment.
Regarding amendment No. 51, as part of any budget process, likely income and expected expenditure must be calculated in order that the budget can be agreed with HRI. It would not be prudent to permit deductions from current income for expected future expenditure. This would be likely to give rise to difficult budget negotiations, if not completely undermine the budgetary process. It would be wiser to leave the existing budgetary arrangements intact and the only effect of subsection (2) would be that HRI would have information from its receipts which it may use in subsequent budget discussions.
On amendment No. 50 and the consideration that such amounts be taken into consideration in determining the budget for integrity services under subsection (1), if the Turf Club is receiving funds from elsewhere to do something, that the Exchequer funding needs to be taken into account is definitely part of it. However, we also need to ensure we maintain appreciative independent functions for the Turf Club in order that it is not cut to the bone and there is leeway such that it does not impinge on its integrity services.
Absolutely. There is a binding arbitration process if either side is unhappy with the outcome of the budgetary discussion, although it has never been used. The budget for the racing regulatory body and the Turf Club has increased significantly this year and last year. The role of the racing regulatory body is vital to racing into the future, given that in the industry, if one does not have integrity, one has nothing. In the betting industry there is a need for proper, robust integrity services. The racing regulatory body and the Turf Club need to funded properly to do this job. It also needs to make its case for funding and this needs to be transparent. There must be a process to ensure it is being done with a sense of value for money, which it is. We also receive much voluntary support and activity through the Turf Club. We have a good structure for the administration of racing and integrity services. It has proven itself. However, we must constantly examine it, modernise and ensure we have the right accountability, transparency and efficiency structures. This is what the discussion between the Turf Club and HRI will be about in terms of getting the funding it needs to do the job. In case it breaks down, we have an arbitration process and body to ensure there is an outcome that takes account of all the factors.
I move amendment No. 51:
In page 16, line 16, after “subsection (1)” to insert the following:“after appropriate deductions for the reasonable requirements of the Racing Regulatory Body to ensure it maintains appropriate independent functions and infrastructure”.
I will come back to the amendment on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 53:
In page 16, line 19, to delete “consult” and substitute “inform and where practicable engage in a consultation process”.
Given that amendment No. 54 deals with the issue, I withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 54:
In page 16, line 20, after “Racing.” to insert the following:“The Racing Regulatory Body may dispense with such consultation where it considers there is an urgency to make the Rule of Racing and shall inform HRI accordingly.”.
I move amendment No. 55:
In page 16, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:“(4) Section 42(2) (as inserted by Section 7 of the Act of 2001) should be replaced with the following:“(2) If in respect of the level of or costs of integrity services or the provision of information pertaining to the integrity services budget in any particular year, or disputes in relation to legitimate budget overruns and unforeseen costs that the Racing Regulatory Body may need to incur to carry out its functions under this Act, agreement is not reached between HRI and the Racing Regulatory Body:(a) they may agree to the appointment of one expert or group of persons or consultancy arbitrate on (i) the level of integrity services to be provided for that year bearing in mind that the Racing Regulatory Body is obliged to provide integrity services to the highest possible standard to ensure the Rules of Racing are fully and fairly enforced for the benefit of horse racing and breeding in Ireland and that where possible integrity services recommended by the Racing Regulatory Body in any year shall be fully funded for such purpose and (ii) the cost of that level of integrity services; orHRI shall not be entitled to withhold from the Racing Regulatory Body any funds which are part of an integrity services budget which has been agreed (or which has been determined by an expert or group of persons or consultancy.”.
(b) in case they fail to agree to any such appointment to arbitrate on that cost or level, the Minister may appoint a person to so decide and the decision of the expert or group or consultancy shall be final and binding on both parties.
Given that there are arbitration boards and dispute boards available, there will be no issue with the amendment. When I put forward the amendment, I did not realise it would be a slam dunk. I am glad there is an arbitration board to deal with disputes and budget overruns. My amendment only provides for an extension or subset of it and it should not create any hassle. I am sure the Minister and officials will be delighted that somebody has proposed a simple amendment on which they will not have to do much drafting work. This is about the cost of the integrity service and it concurs with the Minister. It provides for situations in which additional or unforeseen costs or overruns arise in the racing regulatory board rendering it unable to carry out its functions and giving rise to a dispute with HRI. If they cannot resolve such a dispute, we need a mechanism whereby somebody takes an independent, objective view of the matter and arbitrates on whether the level of service provided was required.
As the Minister said, the racing regulatory board is obliged to provide integrity service to the highest possible standard to ensure the rules of racing are fully and fairly enforced to the benefit of horse racing, breeding, owners and punters. Without integrity, we would have nothing. The amendment provides for a fall-back position whereby the Minister could step in and appoint a senior counsel to arbitrate in the event of such a disagreement. It is a simple way to ensure there are no disputes. I do not anticipate it would ever be used. As the Minister said, what is there has not been used. It is always good to have the horse firmly bolted in in order that it does not escape. I am ensuring the legislation is watertight in the event of any dispute. While one can never legislate for every eventuality, this is one I see as apparent.
I am trying to ensure the horse is well and truly bolted in and that the door is not open for people to come back for more and more money. There needs to be a responsibility for accountability when a budget is agreed.
Let us not forget, this is public money. We cannot have a situation like with the HSE where, year after year, a budget is agreed and then it comes back halfway through the next year looking for more. Next year it will not be legal and the significant increases in budget we have seen halfway through a year, through Supplementary Estimates, will not now be facilitated. We have an arbitration process and a fair budget negotiation process and we should stick to what is in the Bill, which has been painstakingly put together to get accountability and the right balance. To introduce this would bring something else into an area that is already catered for. I am trying to be helpful in areas where the Deputy is raising issues but this is already catered for.
I move amendment No. 56:
In page 17, line 32, after “investigation” to insert “and inquiry”.
This amendment is inserted at the request of the racing regulatory body and reflects the different means by which a sanction may arise.
I move amendment No. 59:
In page 18, line 23, to delete “suspended”.
This amendment is being made at the request of the racing regulatory body and it provides that a sanction will remain in situpending appeal. Amendment No. 60 allows for the lifting of a sanction pending an appeal and is again being made at the request of the racing regulatory body.
I move amendment No. 60:
In page 18, line 25, after “Racing” to insert the following:“, unless the Racing Regulatory Body in the circumstances of the matter concerned suspends the decision upon application to it”.
I move amendment No. 61:
In page 18, lines 26 to 28, to delete all words from and including “shall” in line 26 down to and including “section” in line 28 and substitute the following:“shall maintain fair and impartial procedures for the appeal of sanctions imposed under subsection (3)”.
This amendment is being made to reflect the fact that the rules of racing already contain fair and impartial measures and to ensure that those measures continue to be retained in some format in the rules of racing. Changes in this section are still being reviewed and I may need to bring forward further amendments on Report Stage but this is our best stab at it for the moment.
Will the Minister look at some of the procedures? Following the Supreme Court judgment of Mr. Justice O'Donnell in the Lambe and O'Connell case, section 45 seems to be working quite well. It was assumed a disciplinary structure was in place and there was no need for this. The Minister said he would bring back impartial procedures for appeals against sanctions imposed under subsection (3) so I will withdraw my opposition until I see what comes of it.
I move amendment No. 64:
In page 20, to delete lines 31 to 33.
This concerns the transfer of personal data from HRI to the racing regulatory board and vice versa. I see the Minister's amendment No. 66 and the reference to "data (including personal data) held by it for purposes of enforcing the Rules of Racing" but I am not sure if that covers this point. Can he confirm if this covers the points in our amendments?
Both HRI and the racing regulatory body hold information on participants in horse racing which was collected without the participants' knowing that the information provided may be shared with the other party. In accordance with the Data Protection Act and the principles of natural justice, these participants must be advised in advance of any transfer of information and given the opportunity to refuse or correct the information. In the circumstances, I do not propose to accept the amendment. We are in favour of the transfer of information between State bodies but data protection law needs to apply. It would be very strange if that was not the case, given that we are trying to manage and ensure integrity within the industry. As long as we apply the principles of natural justice and the data protection law, we will be covered.
From now on people will be told. This wording has been put together in consultation with the Data Protection Commissioner to make sure that, if information is gathered in the future-----
I move amendment No. 66:
In page 21, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:“(9) The Racing Regulatory Body may transfer data (including personal data) held by it for purposes of enforcing the Rules of Racing, the Animal Remedies Act 1993 or the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine or the Revenue Commissioners for the purposes of enforcing the Rules of Racing or those Acts.”.
The racing regulatory body asked that I include this amendment to allow it to pass information it receives in the course of its functions, under the rules of racing or relevant Acts it operates, to my Department or the Revenue Commissioners, in particular customs officials. This information relates to actions the racing regulatory body believes may be evidence of a crime or criminal activity. It seems sensible to me.
I thank the Minister, his officials and my colleagues on the committee for a constructive and engaging consideration of the Bill. The committee has done a great deal of work on the Bill. It was probably our first exercise in pre-legislative scrutiny and that showed today in the nature and spirit in which we were able to expedite Committee Stage without rushing it. I acknowledge that certain recommendations which the committee made after considering the Bill at pre-legislative scrutiny stage were incorporated into the Bill on its publication.