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 Header Item Order of Business (Continued)
 Header Item Foal Levy Bill 2017: First Stage
 Header Item Ceisteanna - Questions
 Header Item Cabinet Committee Meetings

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 951 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy James Lawless: Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless] We know that school boards of management and management teams struggle with the challenges of new technology in the classroom, including cyberbullying, inappropriate images and digital usage across the schools. I am concerned that while the money has been committed, we are not seeing the appropriate support system in place, including technical guidance for boards of management to deal with difficult situations and making the right decisions on how to utilise technology within their schools.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The intention here is clear. I will have the Minister, Deputy Bruton, respond directly to the Deputy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl That concludes the Order of Business. I apologise to the six Deputies who were not reached.

Foal Levy Bill 2017: First Stage

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Irish Horseracing Industry Act 1994 and the Horse and Greyhound Racing (Betting Charges and Levies) Act 1999; to amend the provisions that apply to the levying of the foal levy; and to establish a foal levy committee to be known as the Levy Committee.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his indulgence following our mess-up on Thursday when we were supposed to move this Bill. It was entirely our responsibility. I thank the Ceann Comhairle very much for facilitating us today.

  The horse racing industry is obviously a serious business in Ireland. People refer to it as the sport of kings, but while ownership and breeding is in some ways the sport of kings, the reality is that 91% of the 7,000 breeders in Ireland, representing the backbone of that industry, are small owners and breeders who own four mares or fewer. The current foal levy operated by Horse Racing Ireland unfairly and ridiculously discriminates against those people in favour of the big boys. The system was introduced in 2000 without any consultation.

  The Bill before the House today proposes to change the utterly bizarre manner in which the foal levy is currently calculated. For every mare covered currently owners are charged on the basis, not of the sum they pay, but on the advertised fee. Where would you get it? It is as if somebody advertised their services to extend a house or paint a kitchen and an individual managed to negotiate with them a reduced amount but yet had to pay VAT on what was advertised not what was actually paid. It is a ridiculous system. Despite many efforts by small owners to have this changed, they have not been successful.

  The Bill proposes to replace the current foal levy system with a simple 1% levy on the sale price of all registered thoroughbred horses sold in Ireland. It would raise, if not the same amount of money, perhaps a little bit more money for Horse Racing Ireland. It would end the discrimination against the small breeders and actually mean that those with the most money at the top would end up paying a little bit more.

  The Bill was motivated by a court case taken by the owner and breeder, Gerry Callanan, who challenged the issue in the court in Naas and was granted permission by the Circuit Court to take a case to the Supreme Court to clarify the legislation. As a small breeder and owner, he does not really have the means to do that himself. In many ways, why should the Supreme Court adjudicate on this when a simple change in the statutory instrument by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine could sort the issues out? The judge certainly felt there were issues to be dealt with.

  As a result of the failure of the Minister to change the statutory instrument and as a result of the strenuous efforts of Horse Racing Ireland to frustrate the small owners' efforts in the courts, I have no choice but to lay the Bill before the House to try to correct the anomaly.

  The Bill also proposes a change in the membership of the foal levy committee to make it more representative of the interests of all owners and breeders and not just the big ones. We propose that the membership of the committee would include representatives of all large and small horse-breeding operations. We hope that the mix of interests on the board would mean that the funds would be distributed more equitably because currently the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association holds three out of the seven seats on Horseracing Ireland's foal levy committee.

  It is no surprise that the funds raised through the foal levy goes to the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, Irish Thoroughbred Marketing and the Irish Equine Centre. However, the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association only represents 700 of the 7,000 breeders. In other words they are all paying the money to keep this organisation, in which they have no involvement, afloat.

  We are proposing a more equitable manner of doing it. I believe there is some urgency in introducing the legislation because Horse Racing Ireland, in particular, has adopted a pretty heavy-handed approach recently, with a number of breeders being threatened that if they do not pay up in full despite the lack of legal clarity in this matter, being before the courts, they will be banned from horse racing in Ireland and the UK for the next two years.

  I have repeatedly attempted to address the issue with both Horse Racing Ireland and the Minister to no avail, and am left with no choice but to introduce this legislation in the hope of sorting out an appalling anomaly and injustice.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is the Bill opposed?

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty No.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

  Question put and agreed to.

Ceisteanna - Questions

Cabinet Committee Meetings

 1. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny when the next meeting of the Cabinet committee on infrastructure, environment and climate action will take place. [23019/17]

 2. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny when the Cabinet committee on infrastructure, environment and climate action last met; and when it will meet again. [23088/17]

 3. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny when the Cabinet committee on infrastructure, environment and climate action last met; and when it will meet again. [23089/17]

 4. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny when the Cabinet committee on infrastructure, environment and climate action last met; and when it will meet again. [24333/17]

 5. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the number of times the Cabinet committee on infrastructure, environment and climate action has met since June 2016. [24366/17]

 6. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny his Department's role in Ireland's infrastructure planning; and if there is an official involved in this from his Department. [24676/17]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, together.

The Cabinet committee on infrastructure, environment and climate action has met on five occasions since it was reconstituted in June 2016. The last meeting of the Cabinet committee took place on 15 May 2017. The next meeting of the Cabinet committee will be scheduled shortly.

My Department provides the secretariat to the Cabinet committee on infrastructure, environment and climate action and chairs the associated senior officials' group. The Cabinet committee oversees the development and delivery of key infrastructure and associated policy, including oversight of relevant commitments in A Programme for a Partnership Government. In addition, the committee addresses the climate change challenge in terms of domestic policy and in relation to Ireland's EU and international obligations.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I appreciate that the Taoiseach is currently in a handover position in respect of his Government. Nonetheless he has always been extremely diligent regarding all the Cabinet committees he has chaired. The review of the capital programme is under way. There is an unallocated €2.65 billion extra to be committed. That has been the understanding up to now. As I said earlier, the European Commission in the country-specific recommendations took an ultra conservative line regarding Ireland and basically dismissed our hopes of an expanded capital programme by reducing the fiscal space by €7 billion over the next three years, which is a significant amount. In addition last week the Dáil passed the motion on AIB saying that any proceeds raised should go to capital investment.

It appears that the Department of Finance has co-operated with the European Commission in making essentially a political choice that the fiscal space, particularly regarding the capital programme, over the next three years should be reduced. This is a major economic decision which will influence-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I thank the Deputy. We have limited time.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton -----the investment in infrastructure, public transport particularly-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We need to get an answer now, Deputy.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton -----in housing and in all the other areas like education and health that require capital finance.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl As a number of people are offering on this, we need to stick to the time limits.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As the Deputy rightly points out, under the mid-term review, the Government will confirm the allocation of the additional €5.14 billion committed for capital investment. Following commitments made in the budget for 2017 and the increase in funding for housing, there is approximately €2.65 billion in uncommitted additional capital through to 2021. Submissions from the Departments are being received by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Public consultation was undertaken in April to inform the view of the capital plan. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will assess the submissions received from Departments and make recommendations to Government in the third quarter of 2017 to inform the Government's final decision on revised capital allocations to be announced in the context of the budget for 2018, which will obviously take place in October.

The review of the plan will take place in two stages. Phase 1 will be a focused review of priorities, aimed primarily at advising Government in the context of budget 2018 on how the additional capital funding committed by Government should be allocated over the remainder of the plan.


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