For this session we are joined by the HSE director general, Mr. John Connaghan; Dr. Peter McKenna, acting clinical director of CervicalCheck; Mr. Ray Mitchell; and from the Department of Health, we are joined by Mr Jim Breslin, Secretary General and Ms Tracey Conroy, assistant secretary, acute hospitals division. I remind members, witness and those in the Public Gallery to switch off their mobile phones or put them into airplane mode as they interfere with the recording system when merely switched to silent.
I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. Members are reminded of the provision under Standing Orders that they shall refrain from inquiring into the merits or policies of a Government or a Minister of the Government or the merits of the objectives or such policies.
While we expect witnesses to answer questions put to them by the committee clearly and with candour, witnesses can and should expect to be treated fairly and with respect and considerations at all times in accordance with the witness protocol. We are allocating up to one hour for this session so there will be five minute slots. I think people will understand that the topic might come up again as part of the general discussion with the HSE over the course of the afternoon.
I will put one question to Mr. Connaghan before the clock starts for this hour. He got a request from us for information but I do not see the response. Perhaps he can point it out to me. We asked specifically for a note in advance of today's meeting regarding the three CervicalCheck laboratories and who signed off on the forms when they were returned to the HSE. We asked for details of whether the person or persons were administrative or medical staff with relevant medical qualifications and we asked for the HSE to provide a sample of such forms, redacted as appropriate, and to explain what sign-off process was involved. Can Mr. Connaghan tell us those details?