Racing Board and Racecourses (Amendment) Bill, 1975: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Thursday, 12 June 1975

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 282 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 46 Next Page Last Page

[273] Debate resumed on the following amendment.

In page 2, line 28, to delete “Ten per cent” and substitute “six per cent”.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  I mentioned yesterday that this part of the Bill was necessary to get more finance into racing. No matter how one looks at this amendment it is an unreasonable proposal, because the Racing Board must get the consent of the Minister for Finance. That has always been the case in the past when the maximum levy was 5 per cent. The Racing Board, whenever they wanted to change it, had to get the sanction of the Minister for Finance, and that sanction could be given without reference to the Dáil. Under section 9 of the amending Bill, there is an obligation to lay the orders before the House. If, therefore, the House or any Member wishes to annul the order, they have full control over it, which is a distinct change from what has operated in the past. I mentioned yesterday that in the case of Bord na gCon, strangely enough, there is no ceiling whatever, and if sanction is given by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries in the case of Bord na gCon, again there is the requirement that the regulations be laid before the House, so this is precisely on all fours with that with the exception of the limitation.

I think most Deputies will agree that it would be ridiculous to establish a statutory board such as we have established in this case and every time they wanted to take a decision on matters which they were established to deal with, they had to seek the sanction of the Dáil. In fact, because of the change in the requirement of laying regulations before the House, it would be unthinkable that the board would proceed to implement a decision in the knowledge that the matter could be questioned and that an annulling order could be put down.

I think the proposal to increase the levy is a reasonable one taking into account the fact that all the previous [274] experience indicates that different boards acted in a reasonable way, because originally the levy was 5 per cent and it was subsequently reduced, and then over the years raised again to 5 per cent. Bearing in mind the change in the value of money and the fact that it is recognised generally that it is essential to increase stakes, I believe the proposal in the Bill is a reasonable one and I cannot accede to Deputy O'Malley's amendment.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  We support Deputy O'Malley's amendment. It is a very important amendment to the provision empowering the board to increase the levy from 5 to 10 per cent. As Deputy O'Malley said yesterday, he can see no necessity for this big gap of from 5 to 10 per cent. The figure in Deputy O'Malley's amendment is already a 20 per cent increase on the existing 5 per cent. We maintained on Second Stage that any increase in moneys should be diverted towards increased stake money in an effort to improve racing further at provincial tracks.

The 1 per cent increase would mean £170,000 extra, which would be a sizeable sum if voted for that purpose. However, there is another reason why it is not necessary to increase it from 5 to 10 per cent. On Second Stage the Taoiseach said that the total sum staked with bookmakers at horse races increased from £11.8 million in 1970 to £18.4 million in 1974. That is an increase of about 70 per cent in stake money with bookmakers without ever increasing the levy from 5 to 6 per cent. With increases of that magnitude in the turnover every four years, there seems to be no justification for providing for an increase from 5 to 10 per cent as proposed in the Bill.

The Taoiseach said that any proposal for a further increase would be laid before the House, but I understand that this provision is not peculiar to this Bill but is included in many measures that come before the House. If they needed a drastic increase in future years—and we do not anticipate they will—it would only be right and proper that the proposal should come before the House and be debated so that the House [275] could decide as we are deciding now because the racing and bloodstock industry is of great importance to the economy and, apart from that, we are a race-loving people.

Mr. Cronin: Information on Jeremiah Cronin  Zoom on Jeremiah Cronin  I will support any measure that assists the racing industry generally. My objection to the 10 per cent is that I would like to see the various stages of development planned by the Racing Board put before the House. I have in mind principally the position of provincial racetracks. In the south there are a number of such tracks and I am keenly interested to see that any funds being made available to the Racing Board will be distributed equitably to the advantage of provincial racetracks as against the metropolitan tracks.

We have a track in Mallow which is one of the best in the Twenty-six Counties and I should like to see development there. Apart from anything else, it is a tourist attraction and it brings many visitors to the country. I will not oppose measures to make more funds available for the development of provincial tracks subject to what I have already said. My objection to the Bill is that it gives a more or less free hand to the Racing Board to disburse the additional 5 per cent. The House should have an opportunity of stage by stage debates on Racing Board developments so as to ensure that moneys collected from levies will be distributed to the advantage of racing generally throughout the country.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley  Zoom on Florence Crowley  Like Deputy Cronin, I say that any moneys that can be devoted to the improvement of provincial tracks will be well spent. Deputy O'Malley's amendment asks to have the proposed 10 per cent levy reduced to 6 per cent, a very reasonable request in the present economic climate. If anybody wanted ammunition for an accusation of a breach in price stability this appears to be it, a 100 per cent increase being voted. We have been told it is only a 20 per cent increase but, strictly speaking, as the Bill stands it is a 100 per cent increase overnight.

[276] I should like here to make a special case for Cork which has probably one of the largest racegoing communities in the country but which has not, outside Mallow, got a racetrack. It has trainers, numerous owners and a tremendous number of supporters who travel to tracks all over the country. I would support an increased allocation to the Racing Board without hesitation if they were to acquire and develop a horse racing track around Cork. It is badly needed and it would be an excellent tourist attraction.

The amendment recognises that there is a need to allocate increased moneys to the Racing Board but it also recognises that this money cannot be unlimited, that the Racing Board, like similar bodies, must be governed by general price restrictions. At this stage I ask the Taoiseach to convey from the House to the Board that from the increased funds they will have they will give very careful consideration to the Cork area. Any investment there would be recouped threefold because there will be more people going in and betting with bookmakers, thereby providing greater revenue.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  First of all I want to clear one misapprehension: the ceiling is 10 per cent. The ceiling was 5 per cent in the old days and I repeat that it is not the intention to raise it to 10 per cent. Unlike the parent Act, any order to increase the levy will now have to be laid on the Table of the Dáil. There is no ceiling in the Bord na gCon Act and there has been no objection to that. There is a requirement there that the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries must make an order agreeing to proposals in the case of Bord na gCon. In this Bill, the Minister for Finance will do it.

Having had 30 years' experience of the Racing Board, it would be utterly ridiculous when we bring in an amending Act in circumstances of changed money values that we would allow them only 1 per cent, and that they would have the obligation to come back to the House. When we set up boards of this kind, unless we give them some flexibility it would be [277] impossible to expect them to do their job.

I appreciate what Deputies Cronin and Crowley said about provincial tracks. It is what one might call an unsolved racing mystery that there is only one track in Cork, a very large county with quite a number of training establishments. In Kerry, where there are no, or very few, horses in training they run three successful race meetings. There are historical reasons for this. The fact is that they have festival meetings in Kerry which attract a clientele over and above normal race meeting attendances.

Some time ago the board had a proposal in respect of a grading system but decided not to proceed with it on the basis that the number of runners had increased. The board consider this matter from time to time. I have not got figures available, but I understand one of the reasons for that suggested decision or draft plan was that some tracks which required capital expenditure on them were uneconomic from the board's point of view. It is a known fact that a great deal of revenue comes from relatively few racetracks.

Strangely enough, despite the growth in the size of Dublin in the last quarter of a century, the only track to have closed down was a metropolitan track. It was privately owned and was sold. The number of metropolitan tracks was accordingly reduced from three to two. Though I appreciate fully what Deputy Crowley said about Cork, speaking from memory I would say it is 50 years since a new racetrack was opened in Ireland. Naas was the last one to have been opened. All the other existing tracks were there. Some smaller tracks, such as Miltown Malbay and Rathkeale were closed——

Mr. Power: Information on Patrick Power  Zoom on Patrick Power  Gowran had closed and was reopened.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  That is so. The same also applies to Ballinrobe. A number of these small tracks did not. Another change in relatively recent times is that a number of racecourses which had a single or perhaps a two-or three-day meeting began to hold more frequent meetings. That applies [278] to a great number of places such as Gorey, Punchestown, Fairyhouse and Galway which is a very important case. All these race more frequently and a good deal of the capital development has enabled races to be held more frequently because the tracks have been improved and they can run races on the parts of the track which have the heaviest wear and tear.

As I mentioned earlier, I will have the views of Deputies about provincial racecourses conveyed to the Board and, of course, the Board will have an opportunity of reading the debates. There is adequate safeguard in the section which requires the orders to be laid on the table of the Dáil, if it deems necessary to put down a motion and have the matter considered. It is true that it could take effect, that anything done between the placing of the motion and the decision and its consideration by the Dáil could take effect, but it is highly unlikely that this will happen. In any even the Dáil has the same powers in this as amending legislation, except that it is a less cumbersome procedure. This provides a safeguard that did not exist in the parent Act but exists in this Bill.

Mr. Power: Information on Patrick Power  Zoom on Patrick Power  This amendment is the kernel of this matter and the only item of difference between us. Our recommendation is a possible 6 per cent, but the Taoiseach's is a probable 6 per cent but a possible 10 per cent. Despite what he said about the rein we can utilise to curb that, my belief is that any increase in the levy must be a deterrent to betting. As Deputy O'Malley pointed out, 6 per cent is a good increase. What was £100,000 will now become £120,000. My personal attitude is that while I would reluctantly agree to a levy of 6 per cent, I would only agree to that because it was going to a very good purpose. Anything more would be unbearable. I am confident that while an increase of 1 per cent, from 5 to 6 per cent but really a 20 per cent increase in the volume of money collected, might be absorbed by backers, anything more would deter them.

It has been said that to back one must be a little mad. But to accept a levy which is twice as much, that [279] means one would have to be twice as mad.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  That is a new definition.

Mr. Power: Information on Patrick Power  Zoom on Patrick Power  I am confident we should tie this increase to 6 per cent. It is our duty to make laws or change existing legislation. We would be foolish to allow any board the right to usurp our authority. My attitude to the Racing Board—I have praised them and they have rightly earned that praise—is that they are all human beings. Being human they are likely to err. We are now asked by the Government to give them a free hand. If one feels that one could get a little more money, it is only natural that one would look for the greater percentage. It must be remembered that if business is good and the Racing Board can attract more betting, the percentage they get will also bring more money to them. If they are doing their work well they might never have to increase their percentages.

As I said, it is our duty to exercise control. In my view, 6 per cent is the maximum we should allow. If they wanted a further increase, it would have to be laid before the House and the best way to deal with this would be to tie it to the 6 per cent. If, in the course of time—and I hope it will be for many years before we hear about it again— we have to increase or even decrease the levy, that matter should come before this House.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  I note what the Taoiseach said but I am afraid we, on this side of the House, cannot agree with him. Any increase in the levy of 5 per cent is something to be wary about. We have agreed to 6 per cent— a 20 per cent increase—only on the basis that the prize money is being increased. I think the increases have been in force since the 1st June, presumably on the basis of this Bill being passed and in the belief, as I understand from the Racing Board, that the further grants will be given to courses —particularly provincial courses— some of which are in difficulties at the moment.

[280] The Taoiseach's argument seems to be based on the misapprehension that betting is fairly static. It is not. Over the past four years, from 1970 to 1974, there was an increase of something over 70 per cent, an average of nearly 20 per cent per annum. With inflation running at its present rate, one could expect an increase in betting and, accordingly, in the levy of 20 per cent per annum in future years. In his reply to the Second Stage debate last week the Taoiseach made a statement at column 1944, Volume 281 of the Official Report to the effect that 10 per cent in present day values is less than 5 per cent was in 1945. By any standards that statement is not mathematically or otherwise correct.

This year, without any increase in the rate of the levy, the Racing Board could reasonably expect to get 20 per cent more than they did last year. I do not know what the up-to-date figures for bookmakers' turnover are but one can see every day the up-to-date figures for the tote turnover because they are published. On average there is an increase of 10 to 15 per cent in tote turnover. That would be fully reflected, I have no doubt, in bookmakers' turnover as well.

Betting is extremely buoyant. It is one of the few things in the country at the present time which is buoyant, because virtually nothing else is. It seems a pity that when we have something that is buoyant and is more than holding its own, the Racing Board should be seeking to take more out of it, when its very buoyancy is increasing each year the yield the Board gets from it.

I appreciate that there is provision in this Bill for the laying of these orders on the table of each House. I am sure the Taoiseach will agree that that does not mean a great deal in practice. If the Government are adamant about allowing it, it will be allowed anyway. The only time I can remember when an order of this nature was laid on the table of the House and disallowed, was about four years ago when I disallowed one in relation to solicitors' remuneration [281] which had been made by the Incorporated Law Society. In practice, this means that if a Government approve of it, it will get through anyway. If it happened that either the Dáil or the Seanad decided to disallow such an order, it is not normally done until the 20th or 21st sitting day after it is tabled. The 20th or 21st sitting day could, if the summer recess intervened, cover a period of three or possibly four months from the time it was originally made and laid on the table. You would then have the very incongruous situation that a higher rate of levy would have been in force for possibly as long as three or four months and then they would have to go back to a lower rate.

In view of inflation and in view of the fact that, happily, there is an excellent buoyancy in betting both with bookmakers and on the tote, the maximum we should allow is an increase of 20 per cent as set out in the amendment, and not 100 per cent as suggested in the Bill. Once again I urge that point of view on the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  Naturally 5 per cent is less than 10 per cent. The point I was making was that, allowing for the changed circumstances and the drop in the value of money, it is reasonable, after so long, to provide for an increase of this nature. As I said, in the past the board originally had a rate of 5 per cent. Within the first couple of years that was cut down to 2½ per cent. It was brought up later. The safeguard of laying it on the table of the House is adequate.

While it is true that betting has been buoyant, it is equally a fact, as Deputy O'Malley pointed out, that although the total shows an increase over last year it is less than the rate of inflation. The other factor is that [282] nowadays racegoers also expect much better facilities. In addition, the board spent a great deal of money on improving tracks both from the point of view of safety and the quality of the tracks, and so on. A great deal of capital work has been undertaken in improving stands, accommodation, catering, and so on. One of the complaints commonly made in many places is that the standards provided are not good enough and that they should be much better. It is for that type of work as well as for stakes that this money is required.

The main thing is to increase stakes. As Deputies have mentioned, stakes are being increased from 1st June. It was hoped that the legislation would have been through in order to provide for an increase in the levy. This is reasonable allowing for the experience we have had of the board. They have indicated that they do not intend to increase it beyond 6 per cent. In order to do that they have to get the consent of the Minister for Finance. Over and above that, the order has to be laid on the table and, if the House decides to annul it, it can be annulled.

It is correct, as Deputy O'Malley said, that most of these orders are not dealt with until almost the last few days of the time scheduled. It happened on very few occasions only that orders were annulled, but the power is there. Up to now this power was not in the Racing Board and Racecourses Act. It is in the Bórd na gCon legislation and we are now including the same power here. It is less cumbersome than having to introduce amending legislation and, at the same time, it provides the same safeguard.

Question put: “That the words proposed to be deleted stand.”

Barry, Peter.
Barry, Richard.
Begley, Michael.
Belton, Luke.
Belton, Paddy. [283]Cluskey, Frank.
Collins, Edward.
Conlan, John F.
Coogan, Fintan.
Corish, Brendan.
Cosgrave, Liam.
Costello, Declan.
Crotty, Kieran.
Cruise-O'Brien, Conor.
Desmond, Barry.
Desmond, Eileen.
Dockrell, Maurice.
Donegan, Patrick S.
Dunne, Thomas.
Enright, Thomas.
Esmonde, John G.
Finn, Martin.
Fitzpatrick, Tom (Cavan).
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Governey, Desmond.
Griffin, Brendan.
Harte, Patrick D.
Hegarty, Patrick.
Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.
Bermingham, Joseph.
Bruton, John.
Burke, Joan T.
Burke, Liam.
Clinton, Mark A. [284]Jones, Denis F.
Kelly, John.
Kenny, Henry.
Kyne, Thomas A.
L'Estrange, Gerald.
Lynch, Gerard.
McLaughlin, Joseph.
McMahon, Larry.
Malone, Patrick.
Murphy, Michael P.
O'Brien, Fergus.
O'Connell, John.
O'Sullivan, John L.
Pattison, Seamus.
Reynolds, Patrick J.
Ryan, John J.
Ryan, Richie.
Spring, Dan.
Staunton, Myles.
Taylor, Frank.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Toal, Brendan.
Tully, James.


Allen, Lorcan.
Andrews, David.
Barrett, Sylvester.
Brady, Philip A.
Briscoe, Ben.
Brosnan, Seán.
Browne, Seán.
Brugha, Ruairí.
Burke, Raphael P.
Callanan, John.
Calleary, Seán.
Carter, Frank.
Colley, George.
Collins, Gerard.
Connolly, Gerard.
Cronin, Jerry.
Crowley, Flor.
Cunningham, Liam.
Daly, Brendan.
Davern, Noel.
de Valera, Vivion.
Dowling, Joe.
Farrell, Joseph.
Faulkner, Pádraig.
Fitzpatrick, Tom (Dublin Central).
French, Seán.
Gallagher, Denis.
Gibbons, Hugh.
Gogan, Richard P.
Haughey, Charles.
Healy, Augustine A.
Hussey, Thomas.
Kenneally, William.
Kitt, Michael P.
Lalor, Patrick J.
Leonard, James.
Loughnane, William.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
Meaney, Tom.
Moore, Seán.
Murphy, Ciarán.
Noonan, Michael.
O'Connor, Timothy.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Leary, John.
O'Malley, Desmond.
Power, Patrick.
Smith, Patrick.
Walsh, Seán.
Wilson, John P.
Wyse, Pearse.

Question declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Question proposed: “That section 3, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  We would much prefer that the figure of 10 per cent did not appear in it but as we have voted on that just now I do not propose to have the matter put again but, potentially, the percentage is too high. Now that the power is given to the Racing Board to make regulations up to this limit we have no guarantee that they will not use that power and use it quickly although we are assured that in the current year the figure of 6 per cent will not be exceeded. However, we would be much happier if the figure did not exceed this 6 per cent which, as I have pointed out, is, in effect, an increase of 20 per cent and not only 1 per cent as might appear from a first glimpse of the figures.

Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The amendment to this section, tabled by Deputy O'Malley, has been deemed to be out of order.

Question proposed: “That section 4 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  It is unfortunate that amendment No. 3 has been ruled out of order. It was an important amendment but it was ruled out on the grounds that it would constitute a charge on revenue. It is one that could be put down by the Taoiseach or by a member of the Government but not by a Private Member. On the section, but in relation to the amendment, may I say that it is a matter which should be looked at carefully by anyone interested in the welfare of racing? One of the reasons why we and the British, as opposed to virtually every other country in the world, have been able to put only very little money into racing is that in Britain and here the State takes the tax that is secured from off-course betting, whereas if it were put directly into racing, as happens in Italy, France and elsewhere, it would make a tremendous difference. I do not know what is the figure regarding tax on off-course betting for the current year but for last year it was about £3 million. Presumably it will be more this year because of the increase in the rate to 20 per cent, an abnormally high rate. We were seeking to have only half that amount devoted, through the Racing Board, to racing because it would more than double the income of the Racing Board and, consequently, revolutionise racing. It would mean that prize money could be doubled, that the grants to tracks could be doubled and that, generally, there would be a big improvement in the racing scene. Therefore, I ask the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance to consider a step such as this either in a Finance Bill or in some other Bill that would be suitable.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I, too, would urge the Government to consider this step. Even if the amount collected in tax on off-course betting were to remain at £3 million, to devote 50 per cent of it to [286] racing would mean an extra £1,500,000 for the industry. This would help to bring us in line with English prize money and would result in a vast improvement in racing and in the bloodstock industry. We cannot hope to approach the levels that obtain in France.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  The opposition to this is the principle that it has never been the practice to allocate specific revenue for specific purposes. Deputy O'Malley raises the question of channelling more money into racing but that is the purpose of the Bill. The question of using money accruing from bets placed other than on the course raises the wider question which we discussed here in the course of the Second Stage, that is, that in this country we have not the totalisator monopoly system that operates in France but we have the same system as operates in Britain. To change this would be to change something that is fundamental. Undoubtedly, such change might provide more money for racing but I do not know whether it would enable us to retain the character of Irish racing. Certainly, it would involve the elimination of bookmakers. The other difference is that in France there are no football pools, whereas some of the money placed here in bets is on the football pools. This is not, strictly speaking, supposed to happen but some money that might otherwise be placed in bets within the country goes across the water because of our proximity to that island. However, it is impracticable to designate the revenue from any one source to specific expenditure. It has always been standard practice that revenue into the Exchequer is regarded as revenue for the Exchequer and that its disbursement subsequently is a matter for decision by the Government.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  I should like to ask a question regarding subsection 9. I take it that the section generally is on the lines of the corresponding section in the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 but there is a problem there as I recall from having drafted amendments to that section at one stage. Under that Act the judge who is the chairman of the Appeal Committee cannot be paid [287] travelling expenses in respect of attendance at appeals. I think the wording is slightly different here but I would like the Taoiseach to confirm that the judge can be paid.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  That is so.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  Otherwise, I take it that the section is on the lines of the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  The next amendment is intended to change it slightly.

Question put and agreed to.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  I move amendment No. 4:

In pages 4 and 5, subsection (6), to delete paragraph (d) and to substitute the following paragraph:

“(d) if, in relation to any witness, the Appeal Committee so determines or either party to the appeal so requests, the Appeal Committee shall require the witness to be examined on oath (which the chairman is hereby empowered to administer).”.

The purpose of this amendment is to tighten up the wording of subsection (5) and to provide that the Appeal Committee, as a whole, rather than the chairman, will require a witness to give evidence on oath. It ties in with subsection (8) (d) which says that a witness shall be guilty of an offence if he refuses to take an oath when legally required by the committee.

On the question of expenses, one of the anomalies is that no effort is being made to change the situation in this legislation. The chairman of Bord na gCon is paid a fee, whereas the Racing Board members are entirely voluntary and, strangely enough, there has never been a provision to remunerate the chairman. That is still the case but the change regarding travelling expenses is covered here.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  Are not the ordinary members of the Racing Board paid a fee?

[288]The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  No. They get only travelling expenses.

Amendment agreed to.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  I move amendment No. 5.

In page 5, subsection (8) (a) (ii), line 10, after “witness” to insert “to answer any question relevant to the appeal and”.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  The only point I would make in relation to this amendment is that there are various questions a witness cannot be compelled to answer, that he would have the same immunity as would apply in the High Court. For example, if he is asked a question that would tend to incriminate him he is entitled not to answer it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  It is the same.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  All right.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  I move substitute amendment No. 6:

In page 5, subsection 8 (d) (ii), line 23, after “oath” to insert “or affirm as” and to delete “to be taken”.

This amendment is in substitution for amendment No. 6 on the list of amendments. Its purpose is to allow a witness who for good and sufficient reason cannot or will not take an oath the same rights as he would have in an ordinary court, namely, that he can affirm. It would be unreasonable, if he cannot be compelled to take an oath in the High Court, to expect him to take an oath before a committee such as this.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Will the Deputy please move to report progress?

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  Maybe we could dispose of this, if the House agrees.

Agreed.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  I understand this amendment is not necessary because the objective which the Deputy wishes to achieve is covered by the Interpretation Act, 1937. The Schedule, Article 20, says:

[289] The word “oath,” in the case of persons for the time being allowed by law to affirm instead of swearing, includes affirmation.

The amendment is not necessary.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  In those circumstances I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Would the Deputy or the Taoiseach wish to report progress?

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  I should like to finish it.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  The next amendment may take a bit of time. Does the Taoiseach wish to finish Committee Stage?

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  Does the Deputy agree to take it now?

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  Yes.

Question, “That section 5, as amended, stand part of the Bill”, put and agreed to.

Sections 6 and 7 agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 8 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  I made the observation on Second Stage that the penalties proposed here seem in some cases to be very high indeed, including an increase in one instance from the existing fine of £100 to a new fine on indictment of £5,000. That is a very large increase indeed. I presume the board are satisfied that they need these heavier penalties. I realise that the evasion of levy would cost them a great deal of money if it takes place.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  That is so.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  In the circumstances I do not think one would oppose it but I would like to draw the attention of the Taoiseach to the fact that in subsection (1) £500 is being substituted for £100 as the fine on summary conviction. At least, by implication it is. It goes on to say, “on conviction... on indictment”. There is a case that I [290] recall in which the Supreme Court held that a fine of more than £200 by the District Court was not in the Supreme Court's view a minor penalty. I can recall in preparing Bills being advised by the previous Attorney General that summary monetary penalties should not exceed £200. I just mention this to draw the attention of the Taoiseach to the fact that it is possible that the summary aspect of this fine may be excessive.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  Was this instituted in the District Court? It would have been since the jurisdiction was increased.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  The jurisdiction was increased only on the civil side, not on the Criminal side, since 1951, I think.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  That is right. I will have a look at the point.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  I move amendment No. 7:

In page 6, line 52, to add the words:

“: provided always that any regulation increasing the levy provided for in section 27 of the Principal Act shall not come into operation until it has been passed by Dáil Éireann.”

The purpose of the amendment, as I indicated on amendment No. 2, is to avoid the difficulty that notwithstanding the fact that under section 9 the Racing Board's regulation would now have to be laid before the House and could be annulled within 21 days, the section contains the usual qualification that any annulment would be without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder. I pointed out to the Taoiseach, and would do so again now, that in practice these statutory motions for annulment are not ordered by the Government until the 20th or 21st sitting day after the making and laying before the House of the regulation. The 21st sitting day could and sometimes does in practice mean an interval of three, four or possibly five months from the date [291] of the making, particularly if the Summer Recess intervenes. The normal number of days for the House to sit in a week is three, which means that 21 sitting days would cover seven sitting weeks. If after six sitting weeks the House recesses for three months there would then be an interval of 4½ months between the making of a regulation and its discussion by either House of the Oireachtas.

Of course, in the case of the Seanad the periods are even longer because, with the exception of the last few weeks, the Seanad has not normally sat as frequently as the Dáil.

In my amendment I do not seek to cover every regulation which would be made by the Racing Board, because it would be unreasonable, but I do suggest in the amendment that where the board makes a regulation increasing the levy provided for in section 27 of the Principal Act as amended now by this Bill, it shall not come into operation until it has been passed by Dáil Éireann because it is, of course, a regulation in the nature of taxation.

If the Government, for example, as they did this very year, seek to increase the rate of tax on off-course betting, they have to pass a Financial Resolution here after the budget, as they did this year, and it has to be confirmed within three or four months— whatever the period is—in the Finance Bill. Essentially, there is from the point of view of the payer of the levy no difference between what is called off-course betting and what is called on-course levy. In fact, it is not usual to refer to the on-course levy as a levy at all; it is always called a tax. Both bookmakers and punters refer to it on the course as a tax and it is regarded by the general public as the same thing. Therefore, because it is, in effect, from the point of view of the general public an imposition of tax I do not think the Racing Board should be allowed to do it simply by way of regulation without reference to this House unless there is a resolution passed by the House bringing it into effect.

The proposal is confined simply to regulations proposing to raise the levy [292] and does not apply to any other regulation. I think it is needed here, particularly in the light of the fact that a long interval, potentially 4½ months could elapse—and may well elapse this year or any other time the levy is increased—during the summer. So far as increases in levy are concerned, which are in the nature of taxation, it is only right that the Dáil should approve them in advance in the same way that the House must do by way of financial resolution after a budget if the Government propose to increase the off-course betting tax.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  We have discussed the principle of this Bill. Under the amending legislation provision is made for the purpose of laying orders before the Dáil. This is a departure from what was in the original Act. In that Act if the Racing Board wanted to increase the levy or vary it, all they had to do was to get the consent of the Minister for Finance. This amending Bill provides in this section that orders made must be laid before the Dáil.

Deputy O'Malley referred to the fact that they can be annulled within a period of 21 days. With very few exceptions—there was one in the case of certain salary increases, and a few others—all sections dealing with resolutions are in what is known as the negative form. In other words, they take effect unless an annulling order is made. It is highly unlikely that the Racing Board would operate this procedure without getting a reasonable assurance regarding the length of time. It is obvious that any change in the levy would require a good deal of thought and generally some notice is given. It is a matter that comes before the board, is considered by them and when they make a decision it is referred to the Minister for Finance. This is a safeguard that was not there before and it is in the usual form. Anything else would involve getting sanction in advance and, obviously, it would be more cumbersome and would involve much greater delays.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I wish to support Deputy O'Malley's amendment. It is [293] unfair to on-course punters that they are not treated in the same way as SP punters in the offices. As the Deputy pointed out, it is regarded as taxation whether it is paid in SP offices or at the racecourses. If the SP taxation is increased—it is rather unlikely because it is 20 per cent now— the matter must be debated and passed by this House. The Taoiseach has emphasised that an order will be laid before the House but that is not the same thing. From 1970 to 1974 the volume of stake money on the racecourses increased from £11.8 million to £18.4 million, an increase of approximately 70 per cent.

Having regard to the huge increase in the volume of betting on racecourses and the present trend, the Racing Board should be compelled to come before the House, as in the case of this Bill and in the case of an increase in taxation on SP punters. We do not think it should be made any easier to increase the present levy on the racecourses without a full debate in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Mr. Power: Information on Patrick Power  Zoom on Patrick Power  I should like to impress on the Taoiseach that it is imperative for him to accept this amendment in view of the result of the vote a few moments ago. When the discussion was going on about whether it should be a possible 10 per cent or whether it should be tied to a 6 per cent levy, the Taoiseach gave us an assurance that it would only be 6 per cent and if the Racing Board want an increase they will have to come before the House.

Deputy O'Malley pointed out that it can happen that an increase can be in operation for four-and-a-half to five months before it would come before the House. Therefore, a levy increase would be implemented without the permission of the House. Our amendment is simply to ensure that the House will not be faced with a fait accompli, that we will have a suggestion that the levy be increased but we will not be faced with a situation where the levy has been increased and where we have to decide whether to reject that increase or accept the suggested new increase. If [294] the Racing Board are in difficulties surely they will have the time to put the matter before us rather than increase the levy and then send it to us for sanction.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  The procedure suggested is exactly the same as in Bord na gCon——

Mr. Power: Information on Patrick Power  Zoom on Patrick Power  It is as bad as that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  Nobody has raised any objection. There will be the difference that in Bord na gCon there is no ceiling. If the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries agreed with Bord na gCon they could take 90 per cent——

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  In their own interests they will not do that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  That is the whole point. We do not expect the Racing Board to act in an unreasonable fashion. They are bound to act reasonably because they are interested in keeping it going. The only difference on this occasion is that we require them to lay the regulation before the Dáil. Up to now all they had to do was to get the consent of the Minister for Finance without coming to the Dáil. I did not appreciate that this matter would drag on. I am afraid we have trespassed on Question Time——

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  Deputy O'Malley wants to filibuster his way——

Mr. Power: Information on Patrick Power  Zoom on Patrick Power  This is the Deputy's first contribution today.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  Deputy O'Malley is an employee of Bord na gCon. He should know what this is all about.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  I should like to welcome Deputy Coughlan back to the House. He has been in the precincts all day. The House will have noticed that he abstained from voting on the amendment put at 2.10 p.m.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  I abstained from voting because I was otherwise engaged.

[295]Mr. Power: Information on Patrick Power  Zoom on Patrick Power  The Deputy did not come under orders. He pulled up.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Personalities should be left out of the discussion.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  Deputy O'Malley [296] should look after his job as an adviser to Bord na gCon——

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Order.

Amendment put.

Allen, Lorcan.
Andrews, David.
Barrett, Sylvester.
Brady, Philip A.
Briscoe, Ben.
Brosnan, Seán.
Browne, Seán.
Brugha, Ruairí.
Burke, Raphael P.
Callanan, John.
Calleary, Seán.
Colley, George.
Collins, Gerard.
Connolly, Gerard.
Cronin, Jerry.
Crowley, Flor.
Cunningham, Liam.
Daly, Brendan.
Davern, Noel.
Dowling, Joe.
Farrell, Joseph.
Faulkner, Pádraig.
Fitzpatrick, Tom. (Dublin Central).
French, Seán.
Gallagher, Denis.
Gibbons, Hugh.
Gogan, Richard P.
Haughey, Charles.
Healy, Augustine A.
Kenneally, William.
Kitt, Michael P.
Lalor, Patrick J.
Leonard, James.
Loughnane, William.
Lynch, Celia.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
Meaney, Tom.
Moore, Seán.
Murphy, Ciarán.
Noonan, Michael.
O'Connor, Timothy.
O'Leary, John.
O'Malley, Desmond.
Power, Patrick.
Smith, Patrick.
Timmons, Eugene.
Tunney, Jim.
Walsh, Seán.
Wilson, John P.

Barry, Peter.
Barry, Richard.
Begley, Michael.
Belton, Luke.
Belton, Paddy.
Bermingham, Joseph.
Bruton, John.
Burke, Joan T.
Burke, Liam.
Byrne, Hugh.
Clinton, Mark A.
Cluskey, Frank.
Collins, Edward.
Conlan, John F.
Coogan, Fintan.
Corish, Brendan.
Cosgrave, Liam.
Costello, Declan.
Coughlan, Stephen.
Crotty, Kieran.
Cruise-O'Brien, Conor.
Desmond, Barry.
Desmond, Eileen.
Donegan, Patrick S.
Dunne, Thomas.
Enright, Thomas.
Esmonde, John G.
Finn, Martin.
Fitzpatrick, Tom. (Cavan).
Governey, Desmond.
Griffin, Brendan.
Harte, Patrick D.
Hegarty, Patrick.
Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.
Jones, Denis F.
Keating, Justin.
Kelly, John.
Kenny, Henry.
Kyne, Thomas A.
L'Estrange, Gerald.
Lynch, Gerard.
McLaughlin, Joseph.
McMahon, Larry.
Malone, Patrick.
Murphy, Michael P.
O'Connell, John.
O'Sullivan, John L.
Pattison, Seamus.
Reynolds, Patrick J.
Ryan, John J.
Ryan, Richie.
Spring, Dan.
Staunton, Myles.
Taylor, Frank.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Toal, Brendan.
Tully, James.

[297] Amendment declared lost.

Section agreed to.

Section 10 agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Next Stage?

The Taoiseach: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  Now.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  I understand the Taoiseach has an amendment. If I could see it we could take it now.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.


Last Updated: 14/09/2010 19:15:33 First Page Previous Page Page of 46 Next Page Last Page