Wednesday, 17 October 2018
Greyhound Racing Bill 2018: Second Stage
I am pleased to introduce the Greyhound Racing Bill 2018 to the House this afternoon. The greyhound racing sector contributes a substantial number of jobs to the economy, estimated at 5,000 people as recently as 2017 by Mr. Jim Power, economic consultant. The sector also contributes €300 million annually into local economies. In addition, it is estimated that there are approximately 7,000 greyhound owners, with an estimated 12,000 people deriving an economic benefit from the sector. It is further estimated that more than 14 million people have attended greyhound racing meetings in Ireland since 2002.
Bord na gCon is a commercial State body. It was established under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry. It is responsible for the regulation, control, promotion and operation of greyhound racing. The activities of Bord na gCon include the licensing of greyhound tracks and their officials, the authorisation of bookmakers to conduct business at tracks, the operation of totalisator betting at greyhound tracks, the regulation of public sales of greyhounds, the making of grants for prize money, the allocation of grants to improve amenities at tracks, and the collection of levies from on-course betting. Bord na gCon licenses a total of 16 greyhound tracks and owns and operates a number itself. These are Shelbourne Park, Cork, Tralee, Waterford, Youghal, Limerick and Galway. It also has a 51% share in the Mullingar track.
Bord na gCon receives direct subvention from the State, through the horse and greyhound fund, to assist with the development of the sector. Funding for the greyhound industry declined significantly during the economic downturn from a high of €15.3 million in 2008 to a low of €10.8 million in 2014. Since 2014, funding has been restored to pre-recession levels through a series of annual increases. In 2017, the industry received €16 million and this accounted for approximately 39% of its total income. In 2019, it will receive a modest increase of €800,000, bringing the total Exchequer contribution for the year to €16.8 million.
As I am sure Senators are aware, until recently Bord na gCon was servicing a substantial burden of debt which has acted as a financial straitjacket on the industry. The sale of Harold's Cross greyhound racing track has lifted that burden. The surplus of approximately €6 million from the sale will allow Bord na gCon, as set out in its strategic plan for 2018-2022, to make further welfare enhancements and improve basic facilities at its tracks. That will be to the benefit of all those who participate in and enjoy the sport.
Before dealing with the substance of the Bill, I would like to refer to the Indecon report, Review of Certain Matters Relating to Bord na gCon, which was commissioned in 2014 by the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney. A wide-ranging stakeholder consultation process was undertaken by Indecon consultants in 2014. As part of the review, advertisements were placed on the Department's website and in the farming and sporting press seeking submissions from interested parties. A total of 17 submissions were received from a broad range of respondents.
That report made a number of recommendations on governance, regulation and financial matters. The Minister, following publication of the Indecon report, invited and received feedback on the report. The Department also consulted directly with Bord na gCon, the Irish Coursing Club, the Bord na gCon stakeholder forum and with various representatives on the issues. This report has broadly been accepted as a roadmap for the development of the sector. A number of recommendations in the report required legislative change and these recommendations are being addressed in this Bill.Recommendations were also made in a 2016 report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and in a 2015 Bord na gCon-commissioned report on anti-doping and medication commonly known as the Morris report. Elements of these reports have also been taken into account in drafting the Bill.
The general scheme was subject to very thorough pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine in 2017. I believe the committee heard from all the major players in the industry and departmental officials also appeared before it. The appropriate observations of the joint committee, identified as part of the pre-legislative process, were incorporated into the general scheme on 15 May, which was then approved by Government for drafting by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. I will be happy to detail the changes on Committee Stage but in the meantime, I acknowledge and thank members of the committee for their useful input into the development of this Bill.
In addition, during the course of drafting a number of changes were made to the Bill on the advice of the office of the parliamentary draftsman. One such change places a greater emphasis on fair procedures, particularly with regard to the conduct of investigations by the board in respect of possible breaches of racing regulations and with regard to the conduct of hearings by the control committee into suspected breaches. Another requires Bord na gCon to consult with stakeholders and the Minister prior to making regulations. Additionally, where regulation breaches lead to criminal offences, the consent of the Minister is required to those regulations. Finally the ability to make regulation under "incidental, ancillary and miscellaneous" provisions has been removed.
There also has been a modernisation of the provisions relating to the borrowings of Bord na gCon, where explicit reference is now made to a requirement for the consent of the Minister for Finance, in addition to that of the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform before all borrowings can be undertaken.
Before going through the Bill in detail, I would like to draw to the attention of the House a number of changes in the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, which were not in the general scheme. The programme for partnership Government states that the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 will be strengthened and enforced. The opportunity is being taken, in fulfilment of this commitment, to revise elements of the Act on the basis of legal advice, experience gained in operating the legislation and to remove some minor errors of a typographical nature.
Returning to matters relating to greyhound racing, in broad terms the Bill addresses issues relating to governance and regulation in the greyhound racing sector. It addresses governance issues in Bord na gCon, strengthens regulatory controls in the industry, modernises sanctions, improves integrity, includes the welfare of greyhounds as one of the statutory functions of Bord na gCon and provides it with powers to make regulations in relation to integrity, anti-doping, administration and traceability to improve welfare and integrity deficits impacting the industry.
I will now provide Senators with details of the Bill. Section 1 provides for the Short Title, collective citation and commencement of the Bill.
Section 2 provides the definitions for the Bill. Significantly it inserts definitions for "Racing code”, "Sanction breach" and “Racing sanction". These definitions provide a basis for administrative sanctions for breaching the rules of greyhound racing in addition to the current criminal sanctions. It also inserts a definition for a substance, a veterinary practitioner, the control committee and the scientific advisory committee and includes a definition for disqualification and exclusion orders as racing sanctions.
Section 3 amends the definition of "the Board" and "the Minister" in the Greyhound Industry Act 1958.
Section 4 updates the provisions for service of documents and provides that emails may be used to serve documents.
Section 5 is a general regulation making provision and sets out the procedures to be followed by the board, including consultation with interested parties, when the board proposes to make new regulations under this Act.
Section 6 allows for summary prosecution by the board.
Section 7 provides that existing regulations will be revoked on enactment of the measures in the Bill. Provisions similar to those in the statutory instruments are being brought into primary legislation. However section 7(2) allows matters before the regulatory committees to continue as though the regulations have not been revoked for the smooth administration of justice. If this provision is not inserted, cases before the committees may have to be reheard by the statutory committees under this Act. Any appeal from a decision of the control committee provided for in subsection (2) shall be appealed to the appeal committee.
Sections 8 provides for a change of name for Bord na gCon to Rásaíocht Con Éireann.
Sections 9 and 10 are on foot of recommendations in the Indecon report and relate to the governance of Bord na gCon. They are as follows: an increase in the number of members of the board from a chairperson and six members to a chairperson and eight members, and an increase in the quorum of the board from four to six; a term of office of five years for the chairperson, as opposed to the current indeterminate period; a statutory prohibition on the re-appointment of a person to the board beyond two consecutive terms, to reflect the code of practice for the governance of State bodies; statutory powers permitting the Minister to remove a board member where the member falls ill and is unable to perform his or her duties or breaches the code of practice for the governance of State bodies as published by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform; cessation of appointment to the board in a number of circumstances, including if a board member is adjudicated bankrupt, is found guilty of offences relating to the greyhound industry, welfare of animals, intimidation or assault, fraud or dishonesty.
Section 11 provides for the current standard provisions in relation to elected representatives participation on State boards. This provision is standard in modern law.
Section 12 provides for disclosure of potential conflicts of interests. This is a new provision and was recommended in the Indecon report.
Section 13 sets out for the first time by statute, an overarching statement outlining the functions of the board. It is intended to provide additional legal certainty in relation to the functions of the board.
Section 14 provides that the board is statutorily subject to the code of practice for the governance of State bodies issued by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
Section 15 allows the board of Rásaíocht Con Éireann to delegate its functions to the CEO as the board considers necessary for efficiency and effectiveness reasons.
Section 16 inserts an explicit provision permitting the board to apply funds to enhance greyhound health and welfare.
Section 17 modernises the wording regarding the ability of Rásaíocht Con Éireann to borrow, but retains the requirement for the consent of the Minister and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, acting with the consent of the Minister for Finance.
Section 17 of the principal Act is therefore repealed.
Section 18 explicitly provides for the reporting of the accounts of subsidiaries of the board.
Section 19 increases the maximum fine to €250,000 on indictment for operating a greyhound racing track without a licence. This brings the 1958 Act into line with current sanction regimes.
Sections 20 to 22, inclusive, of this Bill replace section 25 of the principal Act. Section 20 provides for the making of regulations in relation to race tracks and provides for a sanction of a class A fine. It provides for regulations prohibiting racing officials operating unless they have permits and prohibiting individuals from having beneficial interests in aspects of the business. Section 21 extends the regulatory powers of the board to control racing officials and ensuring the integrity of the sport. Section 21(1) deals with the control of racing while section 21(2) deals with the conduct of racing and the promotion of integrity and fair play in racing, including the use of information technology to assist towards this end. Section 21(3) deals with the administration of racing, including the registration and grading of greyhounds and the promotion of racing, section 21(4) deals with charges for entry of a greyhound to a race and section 21(5) states that breaches of regulations provided for in this section carry racing sanctions. Section 22 allows the board to make guidelines to control the establishment, lay-out, construction and maintenance of greyhound race tracks or the use of equipment at such tracks. Enforcement of guidelines in this area will be through the track licensing regime.
Section 23 repeals section 25 of the principal Act.
Sections 24 to 26, inclusive, are a recasting of the provisions in sections 37 to 39, inclusive, of the principal Act in relation to the training of greyhounds for reward, the public sale of greyhounds and the artificial insemination of greyhounds. The corresponding sections or subsections or both in the principal Act are repealed.The consent of the Minister is now required for any new regulations made under these sections. It continues to be an offence to engage in these activities without a licence, permit or approval issued by the board. However, the contravention of regulations made under these sections by a licensee, permit holder or approval holder now carries racing sanction.
Section 27 details the regulation making powers of the board in the area of doping control and the administration of substances to a greyhound. Among other things, it allows the board to list substances that may or may not be given to a greyhound, setting residue limits, withdrawal periods, declaring thresholds and the methodologies by which thresholds can be determined for substances. The board may make regulations requiring the keeping of records regarding the administration of substances, the controls to be operated and records to be kept by persons participating in greyhound racing in relation to doping and medication control. The advice and recommendations of the scientific advisory committee are to be used to determine the processes, methods, levels of accuracy, etc., by which samples are deemed to contain a substance. It also provides that a greyhound that fails a test for a prohibited substance is disqualified from racing or trialling until it passes a subsequent test.
Section 28 relates to regulatory powers for the traceability of greyhounds. The board may make regulations to require the registration of greyhound owners, the registration of racing greyhounds and the notification by owners, breeders and trainers of greyhounds of many more life events than those currently captured on existing stud book and microchipping databases. These regulations will support the board in its ambition to establish and maintain a new comprehensive tracing database for racing greyhounds.
Section 29 allows the board to make regulations for the health and welfare of a greyhound, including requiring those involved to provide information for the sound administration of the industry and to protect the health and welfare of greyhounds. It also allows the board to set down provisions for the treatment of diseased and injured greyhounds and the establishment of funds to protect the health and welfare of a greyhound.
Sections 30 to 34, inclusive, relate to the board's right to grant or refuse licences, to attach conditions to licences, permits and approvals, make charges for the grant and renewal of licences, etc., and to revoke or suspend such licences. The fair procedures to be followed, including the right to reply where the board refuses, revokes or suspends a licence, etc., is provided for.
Sections 35 to 37, inclusive, and 40 relate to the appointment, investigatory powers and functions of the authorised officers. This is the first time the appointment of authorised officers for the purposes of greyhound legislation has been provided for in primary legislation. It provides amplified powers for authorised officers to investigate matters, including investigating the use of performance altering substances. Section 40 specifically provides that, subject to the jurisdiction of the District Court, authorised officers may seek a search warrant, including to search a domestic dwelling, where the authorised officer believes there may be evidence of a breach or an intended breach of the racing code or of the commission or intended commission of an offence under the Greyhound Industry Acts 1958 and 1993.
Sections 38, 39 and 41 relate to the obligation of persons to provide assistance to and follow the directions of authorised officers when carrying out their functions under the Act, including a requirement to produce a greyhound at a specific time and place. In addition, it is being made a criminal offence to obstruct, fail to give information, to give false information or to fail to provide assistance or follow the direction of an authorised officer when carrying out his or her functions. The standard provisions regarding self-incrimination are provided for.
Section 42 sets out the procedures for the conduct of investigations by the board and permits the board to notify the club where there is a possibility that matters known to it may be of concern to the club. Section 43 sets down the classes of people who are subject to the jurisdiction of the control and appeal committees. It also states that the determination of racing sanctions rests with these committees.
Section 44 provides for the establishment by statute of the control committee and details its operations. The control committee will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight other members to ensure there is a sufficient pool of members to deal promptly with control matters. The control committee will require a quorum of the chairperson, or deputy chairperson, and two other members. Appointments to the committee are made by the Minister for a maximum of two terms. The chair has a term of five years with ordinary member having a term of four years.
Section 45 provides for fair procedures in relation to hearings of the control committee. It specifically provides that decisions may be made in absentiain respect of persons who fail to attend the control committee. Section 46 sets out the details of the racing sanctions which may be applied by the control committee and appeal committee. Racing sanctions may be advice, admonishment or censure, the disqualification of greyhounds, or the exclusion of individuals from racing activities or the revocation or suspension of licences or permits. In addition, a person may be required to pay a sum not exceeding €12,500 to the board in certain circumstances, including where the person has an adverse analytical finding for a prohibited or controlled substance. It provides that a person who fails to make a payment shall not be permitted to train, transfer ownership of, race greyhounds or attend a greyhound race track until the amount is paid in full. It also provides for the publication of the names of those who have failed to pay a sanction payment.
Section 47 relates to disqualification orders. At present, the board may issue a disqualification order in respect of a greyhound for breach of the racing code. Such disqualification orders apply to racing and trials only. Some individuals have circumvented these orders by transferring ownership. This section provides that disqualification orders issued by the control committee or the appeal committee are racing sanctions and disqualify greyhounds from racing and trials and circumvention of the order is prevented by extending the potential restriction to transferring ownership of the greyhound and use of the greyhound for breeding purposes. The disqualification order can be for a specific period and the terms and conditions for revocation or variation of the order will be specified at the time of making the order.
Section 48 provides for the exclusion of individuals from certain activities relating to racing greyhounds. This power currently rests with the board or the club. However, under this Bill, power to issue an exclusion order is limited to the control committee and the appeal committee. In addition, it is now possible to specify a time period for which the order applies and the terms and conditions for revocation or variation of the order will be specified at the time of making. Non-compliance with an exclusion order is a criminal offence. The club will issue its own orders under its rules. This section also provides explicitly that the committee is independent in the exercise of its functions and requires the committee to publish its decisions.
Section 49 sets down the procedures for appeals in respect of racing sanctions or payments imposed by the control committee. Section 50 provides for a single avenue of appeal for decisions in relation to sanctions and payments imposed by the control committee following the abolition of the current control appeal committee established under article 10 of the Greyhound Industry (Control Committee and Control Appeal Committee) Regulations 2007, which is SI 301 of 2007. The appeal committee retains its function in respect of appeals under section 51 of the principal Act from decisions of the board. In the interests of good governance it imposes a maximum of two terms on committee members. It also provides that the board will pay the remuneration and expenses of appeal committee members and will provide secretarial services to the committee.
Section 51 provides the procedures for appeals in respect of sanctions or payments imposed by the control committee and is a recasting of existing provisions in section 51 of the principal Act. Section 52 provides for the communication of decisions of the control committee and the appeal committee to the individual concerned. This section also provides for the staying of sanctions and payments while the situation is under appeal. An exception applies to decisions in relation to adverse analytical findings where sanctions are effective immediately.
Section 53 provides for appeals to the District Court for findings of the appeal committee in relation to exclusion orders and-or sanction payments. Appeals in relation to sanction payments are limited to the quantum of the sum. It also provides that the District Court may grant a stay on the application of the relevant determination of the appeal committee. Section 54 relates to evidential certificates issued by testing laboratories in the case of adverse analytical findings. Section 55 provides for the updating of fines generally, the modernisation of wording and the deleting of sections of the principal Act that are no longer relevant.
Section 56 is intended to provide legal certainty in regard to the eligibility of greyhounds registered in the stud book. Section 57 makes it a criminal offence for a person who is intoxicated or aggressive to refuse to leave a track or sale when required to do so. Section 58 allows for the transfer of information between different entities for the purposes of those Acts relating to greyhounds.
Section 59 relates to the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 and provides that only progeny produced in compliance with subsections (2) and (3) of section 11 of the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 — that is, the first litter to the sixth or the seventh litter and eighth following certification — are permitted to be registered in the Irish greyhound stud book and makes it an offence for a person to attempt to register litters not in compliance with the Act.
Section 60 provides a definition specific to Part 11. Section 61 makes technical amendments in regard to offences under section 36 of the Act and is to be read in conjunction with section 63. Section 62 is a technical amendment that clarifies the penalty applicable for the breach of an obligation under an EU regulation. Section 63 provides for making and recovering charges for the costs associated with the detention of seized animals. Section 64 provides explicitly for record-keeping requirements and the making of returns to facilitate monitoring compliance with animal health and welfare notices.
Amendments to section 65 are to be made, on legal advice, to remove doubt as to the extent to which the Minister may make regulations in regard to EU matters, databases, animal traceability and transport. Section 66 provides for a range of minor amendments to the Act either of a typographical nature or that could be better clarified, and they are proposed on the basis of experience in applying the Act since it came into operation.
This legislation will improve the governance of Bord na gCon, strengthen regulatory controls in the industry, modernise sanctions, improve integrity in the sport through new anti-doping provisions and improve the welfare of the greyhound through the traceability measures being introduced and the increased powers being provided to the authorised officers of the board. All of this is with a view to building a reputation for excellence in the sector. The Bill will strengthen the Irish greyhound racing industry, enabling it to deal with the existing challenges it faces and help to maximise its potential. I commend the Bill to the House.
I thank the Minister of State for his opening statement. It was one of the most detailed we have heard in a good while. I am not sure how anyone will respond to it but Senators will probably have a good few questions.
I welcome the Minister of State and thank him for a very comprehensive and detailed explanation of the Bill. It was really appreciated. I do not intend to go through the Bill in such detail step by step today. That would be more appropriate to further Stages. Fianna Fáil supports the Bill and its passage to the next Stage.
The Bill, as the Minister of State said, seeks to improve governance of Bord na gCon. It strengthens the regulatory framework and controls in the racing industry. It also updates sanctions and improves integrity in the sector, including in respect of greyhound welfare, as a statutory function of Bord na gCon, which will soon be known as Rásaíocht Con Éireann, while empowering the authority to make regulations with respect to integrity, traceability, anti-doping and administration. Unfortunately, this is another example of the Government's sluggish legislative delivery. It has dragged its feet in implementing the recommendations in the 2016 all-party joint committee on the Irish greyhound industry, the 2014 Indecon report on the sector and the 2016 Morris review of anti-doping and medication in Ireland, commissioned by Bord na gCon itself. All these reports have exposed deficiencies in the governance of the greyhound industry, industry standards and greyhound welfare. The proposals in the reports are pivotal to securing the future of the industry and strengthening governance, administrative and animal welfare structures.
Promoting public confidence in the sport, industry and business was important. It is a game that is often portrayed in a bad light, as is most evident from the highlighting of illegal and horrific training regimes that were in practice in Australia. By virtue of the fact that we were waiting for this Bill, it left our industry somewhat vulnerable and open to an onslaught from by the general public. I hope this Bill will help to enhance the image of greyhound racing. The Government should have exhibited greater urgency in trying to pass this legislation swiftly.
Greyhound racing employs in the region of over 5,000 people and contributes an estimated €300 million annually in economic output to local economies around tracks over a wide geographical spread. Since 2002, over 10 million people have attended greyhound racing meetings. As the Minister of State said, the majority of the 18 tracks are in rural areas. Most training yards and most greyhound owners are rurally based. The associated financial input is vital to the rural communities concerned.
Fianna Fáil is committed to developing the greyhound industry as a quality Irish industry through good regulation and maintaining premier animal welfare standards and enforcement. It is vital, in ensuring the integrity of the industry, to make sure the highest standards permeated all levels. We do not condone any cruelty to any animals, including greyhounds. I encourage anyone who is aware of cruelty to report it immediately to the relevant authorities.
This Bill relates to the welfare of greyhounds, including the use of funds to enhance the welfare of greyhounds and improved investigatory powers in regard to greyhound welfare. Animal welfare groups inputted their policy proposals at the pre-legislative stage of the Bill before the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, of which I am a member. Great credit is due to the committee because this Bill was examined very thoroughly. All those who deserved or needed to have an input were invited to meetings of the committee, and all their recommendations were taken very much on board.
Representatives stated additional funds were needed to look after dogs when they stop racing. The State must ensure sufficient funding is made available to cater for this. Fianna Fáil supports the annual horse and greyhound racing fund proposals laid before the Houses, as provided for under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001. This Act paved the way for substantial changes in both structures and funding for this key national asset. As stated, €80 million was allocated in 2018 to the horse and greyhound racing fund, with 80% going to Horse Racing Ireland. Basically, this amounted to €64 million, while 20%, amounting to €16 million, went to Bord na gCon. I welcome the fact that, under budget 2019, it is proposed to increase the funding by €800,000 to €16.8 million. I hope that, following the sale of the stadium at Harold's Cross, and now that Bord na gCon is in a position to write off its long-standing debts, there will be more financial resources available within the industry to invest in the smaller rural tracks and to put towards the implementation of many measures in the Bill. I look forward to the Bill progressing through the Houses and to its imminent implementation.
I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I acknowledge his work in bringing this Bill to fruition. I appreciate that the delay in bringing the Bill to the Seanad was partly because it was subjected to pre-legislative scrutiny by the committee. That was the correct course of action because it gave the committee the opportunity to engage with stakeholders and hear their opinions and views. It allowed for the strengthening of the legislation. That was good and helpful.
Overall, this Bill is long overdue. It dates back many years.Even before this Government came into office, there was a need to strengthen the industry to protect all of the stakeholders. I will keep my comments general and then reserve the opportunity on Committee Stage to bring forward more specific queries or amendments, if the opportunity arises. The greyhound industry is a tremendous industry with huge potential. At its core are those who provide the dogs, the owners and the breeders. The greyhound has often been referred to as the poor man's race horse. Down through the years, particularly when the recession hit, there was a decline in the financial standing of the Irish Greyhound Board. As a result, many issues came to the fore that were not dealt with.
Recommendations were made by the Morris report, as well as our own Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, when Deputy Doyle was the Chairman and the 2014 report from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, under the stewardship of the then Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney. These all shed light on issues emanating from the sector that needed to be addressed. That is why this Bill is here, why I welcome it and the opportunity, if it is available, to engage with the Minister of State and his officials to tease out some of the issues.
Much criticism has been levied at the Irish Greyhound Board, Bord na gCon, which is now to be renamed, and much of the criticism is absolutely justified. The greyhound industry is a wonderful sector, but it is one that has been diminishing over recent years. There is a new chief executive officer, CEO, at the head of the Irish Greyhound Board. That is welcome. I have engaged with the CEO and there is now an engagement process for Members of the Oireachtas to engage with the Irish Greyhound Board. I welcome that as well. There were issues with the governance of the organisation at management and executive level. The issues raised were very serious. We do not have to go over them today but I did want to say that. I welcome the attempts in this Bill to try to regularise some of those issues. I refer in particular to governance, board appointments and the length of time of some appointments, particularly in the role of chairman. One chairman was there for years. It was almost an issue beyond reproach. The owners and the breeders were totally isolated and not being listened to.
We cannot have an industry going forward without the most important aspect of the industry, the greyhounds. The people sitting in the office in Limerick do not produce the greyhounds. It is the ordinary people out breeding the greyhounds. If they felt disenfranchised and not listened to, then I hope that was a shortcoming this Bill will address. There are also financial issues which need to be addressed. It is hoped that under the stewardship of the new CEO that the Irish Greyhound Board can improve its own financial standing because it has largely become dependent on the State for income. The Minister of State mentioned 2007-2008 when the horse and greyhound racing fund provided around €15.3 million. The overall income of the Irish Greyhound Board, however, was about €78 million. The percentage of State intervention, therefore, was approximately 20%. That has, however, grown to the region of 40% this year. I understand that is due to the economic recession, attendance numbers and the income outside of the State levy. Nonetheless, there is a need to bring this sector to a better level of financial independence.
There will always be a need for the levy. I welcome the levy and I also welcome the recent introduction in the budget of an increase in the levy from 1% to 2%. It is the right way to go and it was one of the recommendations we touched on in the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine back in 2016. We cannot, however, just provide money to sectors that are not endeavouring to improve their own financial situations. I acknowledge the strategic plan launched by the Irish Greyhound Board. I welcome the plan which goes to 2021 and the objectives therein. That will help the sector. There is much more I could say but I will confine my remarks to what I have said. I might just add some comments on doping in the sport. It has been tarnished by the issue of drugs and that links into an animal welfare issue as well.
Animal welfare has to be central to the future of the greyhound industry. I refer to dealing with cruelty in the sport, setting up a fund to protect retired greyhounds and dealing with drugs in the sport. There can be no place in the greyhound industry for drugs. The testing facilities being used in Limerick have come under question, unfortunately. If there are questions on the testing and laboratory facilities in Limerick, then they need to be addressed in this legislation as well. I am sure they will be. Those are my remarks. I support the Minister of State fully in what he is trying to achieve. It is the right way to go. I will reserve judgment in respect of small amendments I may or may not bring forward. This is a very important Bill. It follows on from the excellent legislation which was brought in on Horseracing Ireland a number of years ago. This is the right way to go. The Minister of State is on the right path and I am fully behind him. The sooner this legislation is passed in both Houses, the better. The Minister of State may, hopefully, be able to indicate when he expects Committee Stage to take place, if there is a timeline for that. There is no need to rush it because it is better to tease out the legislation and give all of us an opportunity to interact.
I welcome the Minister of State. I also welcome this legislation which will serve to modernise the greyhound racing industry in this country. That is very important, not only from an animal welfare point of view but to provide more governance appropriate to the times we are in. That is particularly the case since substantial Government funding goes into the greyhound industry. This year it is €16.8 million. I welcome that. It is fair to say, going back to 2014 when the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney, commissioned the Indecon report, there were a number of issues not addressed in respect of governance and animal welfare. Many of these have already been elaborated upon. I am a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. We got to hear witnesses setting out their concerns and giving their suggestions as to how issues could be addressed.
Much work has been done. As has been mentioned, we have the report from the joint committee, after it heard the witnesses. The Indecon report rightly embraced all the stakeholders, so that we could get a full picture as to how we were to go forward with the greyhound racing industry. More recently, we had the Morris report commissioned by Bord na gCon itself. It looked at issues on anti-doping and animals being medicated, which is an animal welfare issue as well as a competition issue. All of this is very healthy for the industry. That is the general import of my colleagues' contributions.
It has already been said, but there is €16.8 million going into the greyhound industry this year. This is an industry that deserves investment. Now that we are updating the whole industry, it is important to reflect and communicate, because communication has been a problem and a concern at times for the public at large. Those issues have now had a light shone on them. It can be seen that we are now addressing them. In his report, Mr. Jim Power stated that between full-time and part-time jobs, there are 5,058 people employed in the industry. That has a spin-off of additional spending of €121 million. There are also 7,313 greyhound owners who derive some sort of economic benefit from their involvement in the greyhound industry.That generates €135 million for our economy. That is a considerable number of people and it illustrates the depth of interest and passion. While some people derive an economic benefit from racing, I expect many are not making any money and it is more a labour of love.
In towns and areas with race courses, meetings provide a great boost for the local economy with many people attending them. It means a lot and is a great source of pride. While Mayo does not have a greyhound stadium, there is a horse racing course in Ballinrobe. The town benefits significantly and great work is put into maintaining the course so well. There is so much local activity when the race meetings happen. Greyhound racing provides a platform for people who love dogs and want to race them.
The Minister of State comprehensively set out the governance framework. We now know much more about corporate governance and what happens with boards when we do not have proper governance and how things can go wrong. Many lessons have been learned, not only in the greyhound sector but across the board. It is welcome to see these lessons being applied to Rásaíocht Con Éireann. I also welcome that the legislation stipulates that there should be a gender balance. There will be more women on the new board, which is welcome. It also provides for more interface between the Minister and the board itself. It is more serendipitous, so to speak.
The Bill provides for regulation of the race tracks and the nuts and bolts of racing, which I welcome. There is considerable concern among the public regarding animal welfare. From what I see locally, breeders treat their dogs like princes but we cannot rely on individuals or expect that animal welfare will be delivered on an ad hoc basis. There must be standards and regulations and the Bill provides for that. The vast majority treat animals very well but there are people who have their own ideas. They have no concept of what it is to neglect or abuse an animal and they have no compunction about mistreating animals or show no concern when that happens. We must ensure that in an industry such as this animals are cared for in an appropriate manner and that animal welfare is central. We must also ensure we take steps to strengthen regulation to combat doping of animals. Traceability is welcome and this legislation reinforces that.
I welcome the legislation and look forward to it progressing through the Houses. I acknowledge all the stakeholders, individuals or organisations who have prepared reports or made inputs into the process. It has given a new impetus to the industry and it can be seen that there are many people who are serious about their business. They want everything to be done properly and now, through legislation, the Government will facilitate this and complement the welcome funding that has been provided.
I thank the Minister of State for outlining the provisions of this Bill, which is welcome. It was only produced recently despite a long process, which led to its provisions and scheme being complied. It will proceed quickly. We are on Second Stage and Committee Stage is set for next week. I welcome this, as it demonstrates the Minister of State's determination and leadership. I wish we could see more of that when it comes to other legislation such as the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill 2016, of which I spoke in the House yesterday.
This is an important Bill. It is an important industry in Ireland but the welfare of the animals is also important. It was great to see the different stakeholders involved during the pre-legislative scrutiny and their evidence has led to the Bill as drafted. I am from Waterford where Kilcohan Park greyhound stadium has operated for years. It is a place of great community interest.
I welcome action from the Government on regulating an area of animal sporting life in Ireland that has so often been open to mismanagement and problems relating to welfare. Each step we take in changing the way the greyhound industry operates has usually led to an improvement in the welfare of the animals involved, but we must still be cognisant of animal welfare and still have a long way to go before we can be sure the sport is safe and free from cruelty and neglect.
I refer to a number of aspects of the Bill. Section 28 establishes a system of traceability for greyhounds, but the language is too voluntary. There is no provision for the greyhound board to collect and collate relevant data currently. This makes it difficult to assess the health, safety and welfare conditions of these animals.
The specific issue of export regulations and controls is not covered in this legislation. It seems that despite the fact that current exports must be authorised by the Department and the greyhound board, there are no publicly available figures on the total number of dogs exported, nor their destination. We need a whitelist of countries with strict animal welfare regimes that we are authorised to trade with without fear that doing so would endanger the animals involved. Such a system would lessen the burden of regulation falling on the Department and the board, with some inappropriate destinations being ruled out.
We are all well aware of some of the grotesque cruelty and neglect that takes place in some countries where greyhounds race, and that Irish dogs should be sold to these countries where their safety is not guaranteed is clearly a contradiction of the principles of this Bill, and the concept of a fair level of animal welfare. I am reminded of the old adage, "What you can't see won't hurt you". This legislation sets us out in the right direction but it would be remiss of us not to consider the welfare of greyhounds should they be exported.
The amendment of section 28 to create an obligation rather than the option for the Minister to regulate in respect of transparency would be a small but important improvement to ensure the welfare of dogs can be accounted for throughout their lives. This lifetime protection of animals is also key. How greyhounds are treated in the latter years of their lives currently is often unfair, and presents a burden to the taxpayer and those who give their time to work in voluntary shelters such as those run by the Dogs Trust, ISPCA, PAWS, Retired Greyhound Trust and Irish Blue Cross, instead of those that have profited from dogs during their lives. Plans and regulations for the retirement of dogs need to be put in place, and they need to be funded by the industry. That is only fair.
Other Civil Engagement Senators and I support this legislation so far.As I have indicated, however, there could be some strengthening of the legislation and we support any improvements in the general standard of care for greyhounds in Ireland. We cannot make a mockery of such controls by allowing the export of live animals to countries where there is no protection for them. We believe that is a shortcoming.
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, who I know is committed in this area. I commend him on bringing forward comprehensive legislation for the governance of the greyhound industry in Ireland. In his speech, he covered in detail all of the sections of the Bill with regard to animal welfare, traceability and regulation. It is all leading to the modernisation and the renewal of the greyhound industry in Ireland. I am a greyhound owner, and have been all my life, as have my family with track and coursing greyhounds. It is in the interest of owners and trainers to see a strong industry. That is important. Ireland has a world-class industry, where the standard of greyhound produced from here is recognised right around the world. Not only do we race them in Ireland, we have also exported top-class greyhounds to the UK, Australia and other locations around the world. To me, this says we are doing something right. There have been some issues, which I will speak about briefly, and there have been some legacy problems in the industry but we should recognise the world-class ability of breeders and trainers to produce top-class greyhounds for Ireland and the world. As has been pointed out by the economist Mr. Jim Power, the industry leads to more than 5,000 jobs in the Irish economy and it contributes some €300 million in economic benefits to the State. Jim Power is a Waterford man, like myself, and he comes from a traditional greyhound area in Glenaphouca, Whitestown, Clonea Power. I come from the neighbouring parish in Portlaw where the Droopys Stud is run by the Dunphy family. This is a world-recognised breeding establishment in Ballyvalican, Portlaw, where top-class greyhounds come from. I want to recognise that it is not all bad news. We often hear the media headlines about the bad news about the greyhound industry but it is important to put on record the positive news that world-class greyhounds are produced in Ireland by Irish people from our own communities.
I referred to the legacy issues. We have had doping scandals in the greyhound industry and this issue needs to be rooted out. We need to restore the integrity and the confidence to the sector. We have had governance issues where substantial debt was being raised and where taxpayers' money might not have been spent in the most effective or efficient way possible. We have also had animal welfare issues in the greyhound industry. This Bill presents a real opportunity for renewal in this area. I wish the new chairman of the Irish Greyhound Board, Mr. Frank Nyhan, well and I wish the new chief executive officer of the board Mr. Gerard Dollard well. I also wish the Minister of State well in this regard. There is a new strategic plan and it has been well consulted. It is ambitious for the industry and will mean change and reform but along with the Bill, this will present opportunities to strengthen the industry.
On governance, the Bill provides for an increase in the board numbers from six to eight members, and that the chairman can only stay for a maximum of a five-year term, which I believe is good. Any member will only be able to spend two maximum terms on the board. This measure will bring motivation and a sense of renewal to the board in how it governs, which is important. This board is responsible for proper governance, oversight and accountability in the Irish greyhound industry.
I welcome Senator Paul Daly's earlier comments on Fianna Fáil support for the budget. I also support the horse and greyhound fund, which is now seeing incremental increases and it is back to €16.8 million for 2019. I support this horse and greyhound fund on behalf of the Fine Gael party. It is important. It has been an easy target for some populist parties in the past when they have tried to reduce that fund. We have, however, heard of the economic benefits of this to the area. While the sale of the Harold's Cross stadium was controversial, it has produced a surplus of €6 million that needs to be invested in resolving debt and invested in sustaining the future of the greyhound industry.
The owners and the trainers are the foundation of the industry. The breeders and the racegoers need to be supported. I come from Waterford, which has a very traditional track in Kilcohan Park. It has had its challenges. I put it to the Minister of State, to the Department officials, to the board members and to all of those in authority in the greyhound industry, to visit the tracks, attend a night's racing, meet the stakeholders, the trainers, the breeders and the regular racegoers. These are the people who support the industry and the way to connect and engage with them is to listen to them. This is how we will identify ways - such as in the strategic plan - to sustain the greyhound industry. This is something I want to support. We need to represent the social side of the sport to the Irish public. People enjoy a good night racing at the greyhounds. We have some excellent calendar dates: the Derby Final at Shelbourne Park; the St. Leger in Limerick; the Laurels in Cork; and the Red Mills Waterford Masters. These are all excellent race nights out for any racegoer and we need to encourage more of that and support the industry. The Minister of State's Bill will go a long way in trying to develop that.
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Andrew Doyle and the comprehensive Bill he has provided to us to discuss today. I worked on the Horse Racing Ireland Act, which also went through a long process. Is there much of a repeal of the Greyhound Industry Act 1958, which is the basic Act that will be taken over by this new Bill? One key point, as noted by Senator Coffey, is the change of board membership from seven to nine members. In fairness, in 1958 they actually clearly stated what the chairman could or could not be. The 1958 Act clearly states: "The chairman of the Board shall not be beneficially interested in the ownership, control or operation of greyhound race tracks, the holding or conduct of public sales of greyhounds or the training of greyhounds for reward or in bookmaking." We do not see any such provision in this Bill about what the chairman is or is not to do. It does not give any detail; it is just very broad as to what the Minister would do.
With regard to the nine board members, when we worked on the Horse Racing Ireland Act, we included in the legislation the provision for all the various sectors within the horse racing industry who could be on the board of Horse Racing Ireland. This Bill provides that it is up to the Minister to decide who is to be in the legislation. In his own words, could the Minister of State tell the House who he would like to see on the greyhound board? Perhaps the Minister of State could give us an indication. If so, would the Minister of State consider including in the legislation the provision for certain sectors that are heavily involved in the greyhound industry to be included on the board, for example, the Irish greyhound owners and breeders associations? These are the organisations that are contributing because it is the owners who pay the fees to participate in the races. Perhaps the Minister of State will outline who the Minister might consider to be put on the board, and maybe put specifics into the legislation, as we did with the Horse Racing Ireland Act whereby owners, trainers and people were included in order that they could then be identified clearly.
I have already alluded to the chairman and what he or she can and cannot do, and that it is quite ambiguous in the Bill. On the finance side, the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 said that the board shall not borrow more than "twenty-five thousand pounds" without the "concurrence" of the Minister. This Bill does not have that provision. The Bill should give some leeway to the board to borrow money without running cap in hand to the Minister. The Bill could include some figure - be it € 2 million or €5 million or whatever - in order that the board does not have to keep coming into the Department to make sure they are okay with spending. I am aware there were issues on the overspend, especially on the track in Limerick, which caused financial problems for the board.
One of my pet hates is the totalisator - the tote - but it is actually run well in the Irish Greyhound Board. Perhaps the Minister of State could look at this again and I could speak with him about it when the Bill comes back on the next Stage.The word I am hearing on the street is that there are problems associated with the testing facility in Limerick. Will the Minister of State have a look at that, as well as the costs associated with testing?
I would like to see the board report to the agriculture committee on a regular basis without the CEO because most of the time when a CEO comes in with a board or a chairman of a board, the prompts from the CEO help the chairman of the board. If the chairperson is as good as he or she says, and the board members are good, they should have a knowledge of the industry. I request that the Minister of State arranges for the board to appear before the committee without the CEO.
The 1958 Act was easily read and understood because of the language that was used. I wish to read a sentence from section 15(1) of the Bill:
The members of the Board may appoint an officer of the Board to be the chief executive officer and the chief executive officer shall carry on, manage and control generally the administration and business of the Board, advise the board of the Board in relation to the performance of its functions and perform such other functions as may be determined by the board of the Board as it considers necessary for the efficient and effective operation of the industry having regard to the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies.
It is one sentence but I had to read it three or four times to get my head around it. The language of legislation is for the legal profession. Legislators are mostly ordinary fellas and gals who try to work in simple English. When can we get legislation in the language of the ordinary people and not of the legal profession?
There is one equine sport that has still not been legislated for, which people seem to be scared to go near, namely, trotting. It might not come under the Minister of State's brief, but he might discuss it with the Minister. We need to do something about it. It is unregulated, there are many issues with it, and we need to do something about it. I know that State funds are being requested but I would be nervous about doing something like that because I am worried about that industry.
I welcome the Minister of State and I welcome this long-overdue Bill. I have been involved in the breeding of greyhounds and the greyhound industry all of my life. It is the best breeding industry we have in this country, and Irish greyhounds are raced all over the world. Between full-time and part-time trainers in the greyhound industry, approximately 10,000 to 10,500 people are involved countrywide.
Many tracks have closed down through the past five, ten or 15 years, which is sad. The bookmakers' afternoon greyhound service, BAGS, meetings are the new show in town, and they are a lifeline to tracks because they can get anything between €5,000, €8,000 and €10,000 per meeting for showing pictures. I worry about them, however, being overly favourable to or run by big bookmakers. I am not talking about the small man who comes in with a satchel but rather the big multinational companies that come in and throw out their rules and regulations about how many times a dog can run or what kind of greyhounds are running on the tracks. Lower-grade greyhounds are being kept to run these BAGS meetings and, in certain cases when one tries to look at the races and the race meetings, God himself would not come down and pick the winners. It is welcome as a lifeline but we should not let these multinational corporations come in and start running the industry. They are welcome, but there must have governance.
Although I did not welcome the sale of Harold's Cross, we have moved on. I welcome that there is extra money, that the debt will finally be paid off, and that we have €6 million to put into doing up Shelbourne Park, hopefully, because it needs a lick of paint and a restructuring. I would like to see money being spent on other tracks around the country, not least in Mullingar where there was a fire escape in the building which was up to standard a couple of years ago but when it applied for a late licence, the fire officer nearly closed down the whole place. They are now restricted to 120 or 150 people per meeting, which is sad and has a huge impact. The board has promised money but that money is in the clouds. I wish it would come down from the clouds to allow us get it up and running and get the job done in order that people can be attracted to the track again. It should have been done for this Christmas because the Christmas trade now takes up approximately 60% of the total turnover of the year. It is huge and I would have liked to see it being done before now.
Down through the years, I have noted that people who are employed in the industry get somewhat indoctrinated. It is as if they say that now they are in the job they will just go with the status quo. We need to push on and push out boundaries to get more people coming through the doors like in the good years of the Celtic tiger when people came through for charity meetings. We have lost that impetus of the charity meeting and we need to advertise it. My local track is Mullingar, and if one asked someone about that track in Trim, where I live, the majority of people would not even know about it even though it is only 30 minutes down the road. We should get people out there on the road in all areas, such as Munster and Leinster, advertising the greyhound industry and the tracks for charity meetings. Many people are stuck in offices for five or six days a week looking out the window when they could be telling schools, GAA clubs or various fundraising charity organisations that they have a product for sale, that they want the organisations to come, and that special offers will be made in order that the charities or organisations will benefit.
I welcome the governance in this Bill on doping and breeding, but the legislation on doping is not strong enough. Governance committees are set up but the fines do not fit the crime. Giving somebody a €500, €1,000 or €1,500 fine for doping dogs is not enough. Anyone found to be doping dogs should be struck out, gone and banned for life. On breeding and its governance, any unauthorised people who breed in back sheds and are caught doing so should also be banned, as should anybody responsible for any cruelty or suffering caused to the animal.
Some 90% of all the dogs which race in Great Britain are Irish-bred. The need for passports, clearance from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and injections such as rabies jabs to get one's dogs into England has increased the expenditure on breeding. This should be looked at so the breeder would get some little allowance for exporting his or her dog, as long as it is done correctly and to the right countries which have proper governance of greyhounds. I welcome that all dogs are microchipped but it is expensive to have an ordinary vet to get one's dog microchipped.
I welcome the Bill. I have much more to say but I will finish by saying that breeding rates are down all over the country and we need a new scheme for breeding. We had a scheme in the 1990s that worked well, where if one kept a brood bitch and raced her for ten races, one received IR£150, while if one kept her for another ten races, one received IR£300. If that bitch produced a litter of pups, the owner received IR£300 when the pups were on the ground. We must implement something like that for the industry to get breeding going again because there is a shortage of dogs.I thank the Minister for coming here today. I welcome the Bill and I will contribute further on it when it returns to the House.
I thank all Members for their contributions and positive engagement and for the general welcome and support they expressed for this legislation.
I share the anxiety and desire to get this legislation enacted as soon as possible, as I have done since I was given responsibility for the greyhound sector. I appreciate that the industry has a long and traditional connection with many urban and rural parts of the country. The industry is held dearly in the hearts of many communities. I have experienced the odd night of greyhound racing in my role as Minister of State and, therefore, I have witnessed the joy and ecstasy experienced by families and people from villages. Such joy, especially when the underdog wins, is something to behold.
Some Members have referenced operational issues and policies. Senator Lawlor referred to membership and I take the point made about the HRI. What we are trying to do is underpin the sector with modern fit-for-purpose legislation. Our ultimate aim is to have robust legislation to rebuild, and let us be honest that we must rebuild the reputation of the industry, so that one can have charitable events, engagement and, without fear or favour, promote the sector for fundraising and charity events in the knowledge that governance, integrity and welfare have all been dealt with comprehensively.
The strategic plan has been mentioned, which is important. Some people have a difficulty with the betting tax. If we are going to continue to increase both the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund then we must demonstrate that it is self-financing, which it more or less will be though that tax. It is not just those sectors that are supported by the betting tax, which will increase to the rate it was 12 or 15 years ago.
There has been a focus on the three issues of doping integrity, welfare and governance in the debate. All of them have been comprehensively dealt with in the Bill. We have taken a long time. There has been a lot of toing and froing with the Office of the Attorney General about some of the sanctions and penalties, and it took time to place some of the responsibilities of the board on a statutory footing.
Money is referenced because there are still powers and competence. Section 15 allows the board to delegate to the CEO certain functions in order that the board does not micromanage. The CEO must report back to the board at all times. I do not know the logistics of the board. It will be the first time that any chairman has ever to come before a board without the support of the officials. There is no precedent for that but I do not expect that will be the case.
Regarding board appointees and the chairman, every appointment must be approved through the PAS and candidates must have a certain competence. On Committee Stage, we can consider cross-representation. Based on my experience of the work done on the HRI legislation during pre-legislative scrutiny, we included in our recommendations at the time that the stable staff would have a nominee on the board. The recommendation was taken on board in the final draft of the legislation.
It is my ambition to have this legislation through both Houses before this session concludes. We have scheduled Committee Stage to be taken in the House next Tuesday when I will be happy to comprehensively deal with any amendments that are tabled. I appreciate the concerns expressed by Senator Grace O'Sullivan. I can deal with the whitelist. EU law determines all exports from the EU. We would certainly not support, in so far as our statute allows us, exporting to any countries that do not have welfare as a priority. However, we cannot control secondary exports where some country decides to export to another country that is not on a whitelist, if it were prepared. Such a situation is beyond our control. I ask the Senator to bear that in mind in respect of the limitations of this Bill in that general area.
I thank all of the Members again. In particular, I thank the members of the joint committee for the work that they did as part of pre-legislative scrutiny. In 2016, I was Chairman of that committee and we prepared a report on foot of hearings at that time. The process has been long but it has been worthwhile because the legislation will assist the industry in rebuilding its reputation, and becoming an industry one can be involved in or enjoy in the full knowledge that everything that needed to be taken care of in the context of welfare and integrity has been addressed and catered for.