All right, I will leave it, but I felt having regard to the statement by Deputy Cowan that it was necessary to put the whole position in its proper perspective.
If we are agreed that there is to be an appeal, to whom is the appeal to be? The Minister quite rightly says that his Department could not deal with the appeals, that he cannot conscientiously say he could investigate every single appeal and deal with it and that from that point of view an appeal to him would not be practicable.
I tried since last night to co-ordinate the views that had been expressed by Deputy Larkin and by the Minister with the views contained in my amendment, and have made a rough draft of an amendment which I thought might meet the position generally. If I may suggest reading it out for the House it may be of some assistance in considering the matter at a later stage. I made some slight alterations suggested in my own amendment to ensure that the only question that the district justice would be asked to decide is whether or not a person is eligible-in other words, whether he comes within a class, whether his means are such as to make him eligible for a service.
"(1) Any person who claims to be eligible to receive any of the services or other benefits provided by this Act and to have been refused such services or benefits shall on complaint to the district justice for the time being assigned to the District Court area in which such person resides be entitled to have such complaint investigated by such district justice.
(2) Whenever a complaint is made under the provisions of the preceding sub-section, notice of such complaintshall be given to the health authority concerned.
(3) If upon investigation of a complaint made under this section a district justice is satisfied that the person making such complaint is eligible to receive the services and/or benefits claimed or any of them such district justice shall make a declaratory order setting forth the services and benefits to which such person is entitled.
(4) Whenever a declaratory order is made under the provision of this section the health authority concerned shall make available to the person in whose favour such declaratory order is made such services and/or benefits as may be determined by such declaratory order and such order shall be final and not appellable.
I think that a stop would have to be put to the possibility of appeals dragging on and on.
"(5) Where a person who makes a complaint to a district justice under the provisions of this section is represented by a solicitor, counsel, or other person before the district justice to whom such complaint is made no fee or remuneration shall be chargeable in respect of such representation."
I see nothing wrong with that suggestion.
"(6) The hearing of complaints by a district justice under the provisions of this section may take place in chambers and in the absence of the public and Press."
If I might deal with one or two points raised in the discussion I have attempted to meet them in this amendment. I quite agree, of course, that finality would have to be reached and that the appeal from the local authority to the District Court should then be final. You have cases—I have not looked up the details, but there are a number of instances in which that happens at the moment. For instance, an application for a licence as a rag dealer is made in the first instance to the police superintendent and there isan appeal from his refusal to the local district justice. Likewise, an application for a bookmaker's licence is made in the first instance to the police superintendent, and if he refuses there is a right of appeal to the local District Court. Therefore, I do not think we are creating any new principle. The system is already in existence.
On the question whether an appellant—who complains that he has been deprived of some service to which he is entitled under the Act—is entitled to be represented legally or not, I think it would be unwise to exclude legal representation in such cases, but it would be quite right to provide that no fees can be charged in respect of it. I say that for one reason-which is one of the reasons pointed out by Deputy Cowan and some of the other Deputies who spoke.
The local authority would in all probability be represented at whatever appeal there is by one of its own trained officials or by its law agent and, therefore, it would be unwise to prevent complainant from having somebody to put his case forward. It could be a local T.D., a county councillor, a solicitor or a counsel; it could be anybody, but the one thing I want to provide for is that that person will not be allowed to charge a fee. It will have to be a voluntary service performed by some friend of the person who is appealing. In many cases the appellant himself would be the best person to present his own appeal. In other cases, particularly if it were a person suffering from an illness, it would be well to leave the door open to enable him or her to be represented on the hearing of the appeal, whoever it is heard by, whether in the District Court or elsewhere. It would be unwise to prevent an intervention of some third person to put forward the case for the appellant. It could be a trade union official, a lawyer, a county councillor, a T.D., or someone else. One thing I want to ensure is that no one is going to make money out of it or allow the thing to develop into a racket of any kind.
The next sub-section provides that the hearing of appeals of this natureshould be held in chambers, in the absence of the Press and the public. Deputy Cowan has talked a lot of nonsense. Probably Deputy Cowan is so anxious always to throw innuendoes of one kind or another that he even forgets the law that he should have learned. There are many instances of cases of appeals that are held in chambers. A typical instance, comparable to this one, is the appeal from an income-tax assessment. It is heard in chambers, in the judge's room, around the table. I suppose it was thought that persons might not like to have a public examination of their means. That is exactly the same type of procedure, so there would be nothing new in providing that appeals of this nature should be held in chambers. Of course, I would leave it to the discretion of the district justice to decide in some cases to allow the holding of the appeal in public. The parties themselves might wish to have it in public. All these arguments about the freedom of the Press, the lack of publicity and the lack of protection being put forward by Deputy Cowan are nonsensical, because his alternative is that there should be no appeal at all, or if there is an appeal, that it should be held bureaucratically behind closed doors, in which case no one will even know what evidence has been received or even know on what basis the claim has been turned down.
The appellant, the person who claims that he is deprived of his rights, will not even be present. All that he knows is that he sends a letter appealing, then he gets a printed form of acknowledgment and six months afterwards he is told he has lost his appeal or has won it. I trust that whatever system of appeal we have it will be one that will enable a person who claims he has been deprived of his rights to know on what evidence his claim has been turned down. For that he should be entitled to be present.
Now, to meet Deputy Larkin's viewpoint, which I think is an absolutely correct one, that quite apart from the question of eligibility, quite apart from the question whether a person comes within the framework of the Act or not and is thereby entitled to a service, there is a question as to whetherthe service is adequate or not, I tried a tentative draft of a section I thought might meet Deputy Larkin's viewpoint and also the Minister's viewpoint as expressed last night. It is as follows:
"(1) Whenever a person who is eligible for any benefit, service or treatment under this Act (whether free or subject to a charge) makes a complaint to the Minister as to the adequacy of such benefit, service or treatment the Minister shall cause such complaint to be inquired into and may issue directions to the health authority to ensure that the benefit, service or treatment in question is in all the circumstances of the case adequate.
(2) Save as aforesaid nothing in this Act or any instrument made thereunder shall operate to enable the Minister to direct the giving of any service or benefit to any individual person."
I tried to anticipate some of the difficulties that the Minister might have, first of all, by not casting the responsibility on the Minister personally for determining any question but merely by casting on him the responsibility for causing a complaint to be investigated and then leaving it entirely to his discretion as to whethere he would issue a direction to the health authority concerned.
Deputy Larkin's amendment as framed cast the legal responsibility on the Minister to investigate the question himself and to be satisfied himself on evidence before he could act. That would be a difficult task to impose on the Minister and one which it would be nearly impossible to comply with, in the legal sense. Therefore, we should aim at merely casting on the Minister the obligation of having the complaint investigated and then giving him powers to issue directions to the local authority, if he so decides, having had the report from his officers.
I think that two sections of that nature would probably meet the viewpoints expressed by the reasonable members of the House. The Minister suggested that my amendment should be left over for the Courts of Justice Bill. I do not think so. If I may remind the Minister, in most legislationof this nature the right of appeal from an adverse finding is contained in the Act in which the original right is provided. It is not contained in the Courts of Justice Act but in the Act which gives the right to the person. I think that these provisions should be included in this particular Bill and not in any Courts of Justice Act. I think we would be departing from the usual procedure if we included a provision of this nature in relation to health services in the Courts of Justice Bill. The point to be determined is whether or not there is to be an appeal as to the eligibility of persons to benefit under the Act and, if there is to be an appeal, who is to determine the appeal.
I think that the Minister should accept the proposals that were made by Deputy Larkin and myself in regard to these two questions. I can quite well understand that the Minister may want an opportunity of considering the position further and possibly of consulting the Attorney-General to find out whether it fits in with his views. I would ask him not to press the amendment to a division but to say that, generally, he agrees with the purpose of these amendments and that he will have the matter considered and will see how far he can meet our views on the Report Stage.