There is but one amendment before the House.
Health (Amendment) Bill, 1996: Report and Final Stages.
Limerick East): I move amendment No. 1:
In page 10, line 22, after "length" to insert ", not exceeding seven years,".
This is an amendment to section 14 and arises from one tabled by Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn on Committee Stage, the main purpose of which was to provide that a person appointed chief executive officer of a health board shall hold office for a period not exceeding seven years. Fully accepting that the principle of that amendment was technically defective in certain respects — I often did the same when I was in Opposition — she agreed to withdraw it, when I undertook to have a suitable one drafted for Report Stage. Effectively, this is Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn's amendment, tabled on Committee Stage, recast in accordance with normal drafting procedure.
Section 14 will now provide that in future chief executive officers of health boards will be appointed on a fixed term contract basis as is the case with county managers at present. This amendment proposes an upward limit of seven years on such contracts.
I express my sincere thanks to the Minister whose amendment, as he said, is a properly cast replica of what I attempted to put forward on Committee Stage. I felt very strongly then, and knew the Minister agreed with me, that there should be a fixed term for the appointment of a chief executive officer of any health board, as in the case of county managers. Therefore, it is appropriate that the same should apply to chief executive officers of all health boards. I thank the Minister for his generosity in tabling it.
Does the Minister wish to reply to the debate on his amendment?
(Limerick East): No, agreed.
(Limerick East): I avail of this opportunity to thank Members on all sides for their support and co-operation in advancing this important Bill the provisions of which will have a positive, lasting effect on the future planning and management of health boards. In particular, I thank Deputy Pattison, chairman of the Select Committee on Social Affairs and Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn for her excellent input, not only in the discussions but on the very helpful amendments she tabled, some of which we were able to accommodate on Committee Stage and another today.
Unlike Question Time, a Cheann Comhairle, I am sure you are in a state of shock at the mutual admiration society the Minister and I formed this evening. I too extend warm thanks to all Members who participated on Second Stage — when there was much interest expressed in this Bill — and on Committee Stage when we did much good work. Its provisions constitute a very positive contribution to the accountability, badly needed over a long period, of health boards.
I urge the Minister to have the second leg of this legislation, if possible, introduced and debated within this parliamentary session, that is the accountability aspect, in so far as the Eastern Health Board is concerned, so urgently required and about which we talk regularly here, because of anomalies in relation to hospitals and so on.
I thank the Minister for his generosity not merely on the one amendment proposed today but in respect of my very important one submitted on Committee Stage, now recast, relating to the obligation and duty, now on a statutory footing, of health boards to consult and co-operate with voluntary agencies working in this area. It represents a very important milestone and I am sure those voluntary agencies have communicated their thanks to the Minister. However, they have been in touch with Members in Opposition who are interested in its provisions and I hope it will make a very positive contribution to the development and accountability of health boards generally.
There will be a short break before proceeding to deal with Private Members' Business at 7 o'clock. With the agreement of the House we shall adjourn until then.