Health Bill, 1947.—From the Seanad.

The Dáil went into Committee to consider amendments from the Seanad.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 1:

In page 14, Section 25, line 11, at the end of sub-section (4) the words "and shall be entitled, on request, to be present at such inspection" added.

This is to make sure that parents will have the right to be present when their children are being examined.

Does the House apprecíate what this amendment means? This Chapter of the Bill was assailed in this House and in the Seanad on the ground that it arrogated to the State the rights and duties of parents to provide for their children.

That does not arise now.

The measure of concession which the Minister for Health proposes to make to that fundamental infringement of the most solemn rights guaranteed by the Constitution is to say——

The Deputy must come down to the precise point of whether or not it is advisable that parents should be present.

"Heretofore," says the Minister, "my proposition was that when the county manager deemed it necessary or expedient to have the child of any or every family within his area of jurisdiction examined——"

The Deputy is outside the amendment. The net point is whether or not it is advisable that parents should be entitled to be present. That is the sole matter before the Committee.

Surely, the Bill, if this amendment is not carried, is matter we can envisage? If we are to consider the merits of this amendment, there are two possible consequences——

The Deputy may not consider the section again in any guise. The principle has been adopted by this House. If the Deputy would obey the Standing Orders and resume his seat while the Chair is speaking, it would be a good thing. The proposal before the House is whether or not it is advisable that parents should be present.

I take it that in examining the question whether that proposal should be herein inserted, I may envisage what might happen if we do not insert it, so that, if two courses are available to us, we can excogitate only one; we can accept or reject the amendment.

That is the exact point, accept or reject.

I can envisage, then, how the law will stand if we accept the amendment, and I take it I can envisage the situation that will obtain in the event of our rejecting it.

And in such a vision, the Deputy may not deal with the section or with anything that was discussed on the Second and Subsequent Stages.

The Minister proposes to extend the gracious concession to parents in this country that, in the event of the country manager requiring their children to be examined by a doctor nominated by him or approved by him, whether the parents think it necessary or not——

The Deputy is again irrelevant.

Surely I am entitled to state what the position will be if we put this in?

The Chair is entitled to give a decision as to what is relevant.

The Minister's proposal is that the parents can attend and witness this outrage. "A parent shall be entitled, on request, to be present at such inspection." Does the House think that is a matter of material consequence? If parents believe that the mandatory right to force upon them and their children a medical inspection is an outrage——

The Deputy is again irrelevant.

Is it of any consequence to say that they may be present to witness it? Who justifies this proposal? Who recommends it? This is proposed because from every informed quarter in the country a sense of grievance has been expressed.

With the amendment?

This amendment is proposed in order to represent to the country that no valid ground for complaint exists because parents will be allowed to be present at the inspection. The Minister has not thought it necessary to make any case for this at all, but unless the case is made by him that this is a matter of substance, he will find it hard to justify having summoned Dáil Eireann to approve it. This is one of the amendments he will recommend to the House, one of the amendments which the Seanad passed with his approval. The exclusive purpose of it is to throw dust in the eyes of the legislators in this Oireachtas and in the eyes of the people of the country. It makes no difference whatever to the fundamental objections that exist against the section——

The section is not under discussion.

——against page 14, Section 25, line 11, at the end of which this is to be inserted.

And we are concerned with the insertion, not with the section.

I want to discover from the Minister for Health if he will tell me, in his capacity as member of the Government—I believe that the amendment here proposed violates the constitutional rights of our people——

The amendment?

Yes. Would he state as a member of the Government, in reply to a question addressed to him by one Deputy, representative of a certain body of constituents, whether it is a matter for the Government or a matter for the Ceann Comhairle to determine the time and the occasion on which a Bill of this character is presented to the President for his signature——

That does not arise.

Might I ask the question? I just want to find out——

It is not relevant.

I want to raise the constitutionality of this——

It cannot be raised. This is a question of whether it is or is not advisable for a parent to be present.

There is no time in connection with this procedure in which I can inquire of the Government at what time a particular Deputy can petition the President to refer it——

It does not arise.

You can do it now; it would be a very convenient time.

I thought it might involve some disrespect if I did so, but if the Deputy has the authority of his leader for his statement I shall do so.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 2:

In page 20, Section 38, sub-section (2), paragraph (h), line 10, the words "under sixteen years of age" deleted and the words "a child" substituted.

There is a definition in the Bill that a child is a person under 16 years of age and in this particular section it is proposed to delete the words "under sixteen years of age" and to substitute the words "a child".

Would the Minister explain at what stage a parent may appeal in respect of age?

The parent is the guardian until the child reaches 16 years of age.

But supposing a child is between 16 and 18?

We are not dealing with anyone over 16 in this particular part of the Bill.

Why the alteration in the phrasing then?

It is merely a drafting matter. Although the draftsman in the definition section defined a child as a person who is less than 16 years of age, he referred in this particular section to a patient under 16 years of age. It is thought better to delete these words and to insert the words "a child."

The definition of a child in this Bill excludes a person who has reached his sixteenth birthday?

Therefore a person is not a child on his sixteenth birthday.

He is on the day before.

We are dealing here with children who are subject to inspection under the mother-and-child welfare scheme. They are all children under 16 years of age.

One form is "under 16 years of age" and the definition is "less than 16 years of age."

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 3, which is similar to the previous one:—

In page 20, Section 38, line 62, the words "sixteen years of age or over" deleted and the words "an adult person" substituted.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 4:—

In page 22, Section 44, line 46, the word "which" deleted and the words "whose functional area" inserted. This is again a drafting amendment. The phrase "the health authority in which such person ordinarily resides" will now read "in whose functional area such person ordinarily resides."

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 5:—

In page 44, Section 82, line 15, the words "a newspaper" deleted and the words "one or more newspapers" inserted

"A newspaper" was mentioned in Section 82 and I was advised that, in fact, the phrase legally means one or more newspapers but the Seanad thought it better to insert the phrase "one or more newspapers" so that there could be no misunderstanding.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 6:—

In page 45, Section 84, line 14, the words "a newspaper" deleted and the words "one or more newspapers" inserted.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 7:—

In page 53, Section 109, line 25 after the word "resolution" the words "annulling the order" in serted.

This is also a drafting amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 8:

In page 55, Second Schedule, in the second line of paragraph (2), the words "medical officers of health" deleted and the words "registered medical practitioners" inserted; and in the fourth line of paragraph (2), the word "officers" deleted and the word "practitioners" substituted.

In the Schedule we speak of medical officers of health but under the new arrangement it will be quite possible that every medical man, in addition to the medical officer of health, will be called upon to deal with health matters. It was thought better, therefore, to insert the words "registered medical practitioners" rather than "medical officers of health".

It does not widen in any way the class of persons who may make statutory demands on a citizen?

No. In case of an epidemic, for instance, it is quite conceivable that many doctors will be dealing with the epidemic as well as the medical officer of health.

It has exclusive reference to infectious diseases?

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 9:—

In page 55, Second Schedule, after paragraph 14 the following paragraph inserted:—

15. Precautions against the spread of infection from animals.

In the Seanad my attention was drawn to the fact that we had not specifically provided for the prevention of the spread of infectious diseases from animals such as dogs. Although not specifically mentioned, I think a case could be made that the matter was sufficiently covered already in the Bill but still it is better to be on the safe side in regard to precautions.

Question put and agreed to.
Reported that the Committee had agreed with all amendments from the Seanad.
Report agreed to.
The Dáil adjourned at 6.20 p.m. until Wednesday, 8th October, at 3 p.m.