Tuesday, 28 February 1989
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. O'Kennedy): This is the section which dissolves the board and transfers its remaining assets and liabilities to the Minister for Agriculture and Food, not in my personal capacity, but in my corporate capacity. It provides that I may sell or lease the board's assets or otherwise dispose of or keep such property. The assets actually consist of the 34 lease stallions to which we referred and some  office furniture and equipment. The cost price of all of the stallions was £87,000 but, dependent on their age and condition, their value is now open to negotiation. As I indicated to the Deputy, we have given first option to the existing lessees. If the offer is considered to be grossly inadequate then it is intended that the stallions will be offered for sale by public tender. In that event the lessees, too, would be free to compete in the sale by public tender. The lease agreements are for a minimum period of five years, the latest of which will expire in 1992.
Mrs. Doyle: Unlike the Minister I do not have legal training. Perhaps he could be specific and indicate to me which choses-in-action he is referring to, or which part of the property could be called choses-in-action in relation to the transfer of same?
Mr. O'Kennedy: Yes, so all existing contracts or liabilities which are now enforceable against the board — if it were to arise — will henceforth be enforceable against the Minister. Therefore, in that sense choses-in-action remains in being. Most of the board's liabilities have been discharged but, for such as are not, the right against the Minister in place of the board remains.
4.—(1) (a) As soon as may be after the debts and other liabilities of the Board have been discharged, the Minister shall cause to be prepared an account of all moneys received or expended by the Board in respect of each year in the period beginning with the year 1987 and ending with the year in which the aforesaid debts and other liabilities are discharged.
Mrs. Doyle: Perhaps the Minister would be good enough to quantify the expression “as soon as may be” because there have been difficulties encountered for many years with the annual accounts of Bord na gCapall. Indeed on one occasion there was a two-year lag in the production of their accounts. Could we have an assurance from the Minister that “as soon as may be” would be within a very reasonable time?
Mr. O'Kennedy: That is a well established phrase in law which has been subject to judicial determination. Therefore, it does not allow the Minister to take carte blanche as to when the accounts would be prepared. It means within any period a court would hold to be reasonable. The Deputy can be assured that it does not give the Minister carte blanche to, as it were, pick his time.
Perhaps I might ask the Minister if the provisions of section 2 (5) would include the transfer of the liability to the Minister to pay the £100 premia — on which Bord na gCapall have reneged — to various mare owners throughout the country. Is that a debt or liability the Minister will now discharge?
Mr. O'Kennedy: All liabilities, debts or otherwise, which would have been properly and legally binding on Bord an gCapall are now legally and properly the liability of the Minister for Agriculture and Food. I will not attempt to prejudge anything in the cases to which the Deputy refers; that is a matter I am not prepared to prejudge at this point. I am merely saying that such legal liabilities as were there remain and are now the responsibility of the Minister.
Mrs. Doyle: These premia are owed to mare owners in the form of awards granted at various shows held throughout the country. Along with other Members of this House, can I now encourage mare owners — who have been awaiting the payment of these £100 premia for over two years — to apply directly to the Minister to discharge his obligation with regard to them?
Mr. O'Kennedy: I do not wish to prejudge anything. The Deputy will appreciate that there is a very definite distinction between a legal contractual obligation on the one hand and the awards she has referred to, which are not legal obligations.
Mr. Sherlock: When replying to my question raised on Second Stage, the Minister referred to the provision which deals with the licensing of riding establishments but I should like to know if that section is being repealed when we are repealing the entire Horse Industry Act, 1970. I should like to point out to the Minister that the section deals with issues other than licensing. For example, it deals with fire protection, the treatment of horses, disease control and the question of safety. The Minister has not answered that question to my satisfaction.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I do not know if the Deputy was present when I referred to the point he made on Second Stage about the licensing of riding establishments and told the House that that part of the original Act was never brought into effect under an order. Therefore, there is no lapsing of what was not brought into effect, namely, the licensing of the riding establishments. A voluntary scheme has been in place for this purpose under the auspices of the Association of Riding Establishments but that is purely voluntary and no order was introduced giving effect to the licensing regulation. There is no change involved.
Mr. O'Kennedy: The normal provisions and regulations of the Department will continue to apply in regard to disease control. I should like to assure the Deputy they are as strict and as stringent as the Deputy would wish them to be. They will fall within the normal remit of the veterinary control section of the Department.
Mrs. Doyle: This is indeed a sad occasion and, lest Deputy Sherlock and others may have forgotten, I should like to point out that the original proposal to abolish Bord na gCapall came from the former Minister for Agriculture. It follows, therefore, that without hesitation I support the Bill before us. Effectively, it is a tidying-up operation of what has been put in practice. However, the occasion  cannot be let pass without thanking those who served the board diligently since 1970 until two years ago and whose commitment was towards the enhancement of the industry. There were members on each of the boards whose sole commitment was towards the enhancement of our half-bred industry and carrying out the functions of the Act we are repealing. I should like to record my thanks and gratitude to the members of the different boards.
The importance of the half-bred industry, a blue chip industry which employs 26,000 people here, to agri-tourism and sport and leisure activities in general has to be recognised by the House. I should like to point out that the future of the draught mare, especially the quality half-bred mare with bone and substance, the unambiguous identification and registration of progeny, the production of sound competition animals — horses and ponies — and the monitoring of Eurodirectives so that people can fully understand their implications for an industry which is so dear to us, are some of the issues facing the new non-statutory advisory committee. Minister, beware of a committee all of whom might be political appointees.
I welcome what the Minister has said in response to the Second Stage debate and I look forward to developments in regard to the appointment of the committee. Will the Minister indicate to the House, or to those of us who have an interest in the industry, from which representative bodies within the horse world he will be inviting nominations for a position on this committee? It should be self-selected and I understand that the Minister has accepted that proposal. I thank him for doing that. I should like to thank the Minister for taking on board many of the suggestions made by the Opposition. I hope that together we can ensure that there will be a healthy future for an extremely important industry.
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. O'Kennedy): I should like to join with Deputy Doyle in paying tribute to those  who earnestly made an effort to make the original Bord na gCapall effective. Unfortunately, and this has been agreed by all, it was not. By way of confirmation of what I said earlier I should like to state that I see the passing of this Bill as the beginning of a great programme. We are going to put a lot of deliberate strategies in place under this legislation. The Deputy is correct in stating that 26,000 people are employed in this industry. It is important to point out that this is perhaps the most labour-intensive industry in the country with one person employed for every two horses. I do not think any other industry has a higher degree of labour intensity than that. When we have 56,000 people employed it will be a measure of what can be done in that industry. I should like to thank Members who contributed to the debate. I look forward to progress.
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