Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Family Planning Advice.


asked the Minister for Health, if in view of his statement in the media (details supplied) that the Government are committed to the provision of full family-planning advice and facilities to all those who need them, he will exercise the powers conferred on him by section 3 (1) of the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979, and provide by regulations for the making available by health boards of a family planning service.

I have initiated a full review of the Health (Family Planning) Act. When completed I will consider the extent to which the Act requires amendment. I do not, therefore, propose to make additional regulaitons under the present Act.

Can the Minister say when this review is expected to be completed and by whom it is at present being undertaken?

It is being undertaken within the Department of Health. I expect to have the review completed in a matter of a month or two. Meanwhile I have the absolute embarrassment of signing non-medical import orders which should never have been placed before me in the first instance.

The Minister states that it is an embarrassment to him. Can I take it then that he will see to it that that embarrassment will not continue?

Certainly I would hope that no Minister for Health ever again will have to sign importation orders for non-medical family planning appliances.

Is the Minister, in his review, considering enabling health boards to provide full family planning services?

The existing regulations permit health boards to provide family planning services under article 3 of the regulations. The boards generally see these services as family doctor services and hence they do not provide clinics. My personal view — and this is a matter which will have to be negotiated with the health boards and perhaps additional moneys made available to them — is that it should be open to the health boards to provide such services, if they so wish, or to subvent voluntary family planning organisations providing those services — whether a service on a national basis must be made available and the current anomalies in legislation removed.

May I ask the Minister——

Deputy, we cannot have a debate on the matter.

It is a very important subject and the Minister has made a very important statement, with respect, Sir.

It is probably so important that it should not be dealt with on a question, Deputy.

In the course of our reform of Dáil proceedings one would hope that this is something that could be dealt with by way of parliamentary question in the normal way. Am I to understand that the Minister is now saying that he is very anxious to bring about a position in which there would be no control on the import or distribution of contraceptives of a non-medical nature, that these would be freely available in all circumstances and places?

I said I do not believe that a Minister for Health should have to sign import licences for non-medical contraceptives on a regular basis, that a Minister for Health should not have to sign import licences. That is quite a different matter. Health boards and family planning centres operate under controls as they see fit. That is an entirely different matter but I personally should not be placed in the farcical situation devolved on us under the quite ridiculous legislation which was adopted by this House.

Who will do it if the Minister says he will refuse to do so?

That will emerge from the outcome of the review of the proposed arrangements.