That Dáil Éireann, pursuant to Standing Order 128(1) of the Standing Orders Relative to Public Business, directs that the Health Bill 2004 in whole be recommitted to a Committee of the whole House.
I wish to explain why I move this motion. I regret that the Minister for Health and Children is not present but I think it is an indication of the problematic way in which this Bill has been dealt with. A major transformation of the health service is envisaged under the terms of this Bill, which will change radically the relationship between members of the public and the health service upon which they depend. The legislation is being rushed through the House at a disgraceful speed, without proper scrutiny, preparation or consultation. People with an interest in knowing what is going on with these changes have not had a chance to read the proposed changes.
On Committee Stage we had an enormous number of amendments proposing radical changes in the relationship between the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health and Children. In effect, the Health Service Executive, through its chief executive officer, who is the sole accounting officer, will be responsible for a budget comprising €8 billion of public moneys, and the figure is rising. That, in itself, is a serious change.
Some 140 amendments, spanning 72 pages, have been tabled for Report Stage. Some of them will not increase accountability, as the Minister promised, but will reduce it. We are not yet living in a dictatorship. I ask the Government to meet its obligations concerning public accountability and ensure that legislation is sound, which is doubtful in this case because of the speed at which the Bill is being rushed through, and properly scrutinised, although that is clearly not the case.
Major changes are envisaged on Report Stage. The Government's many amendments were furnished to Opposition spokespersons last night, but that is unacceptable. Nobody has the right to abuse the Oireachtas in this way. I realise that the Minister of State is caught in a bind because it is not his Bill. The Minister for Health and Children should be here to take the Bill. The reputations of both the Minister of State and the Minister are being seriously damaged by this headlong rush whereby the Bill must be passed, no matter what the cost to accountability and good, responsible legislation. As far as the Government is concerned, it does not seem to matter a damn. The Government just wants to drive the legislation through relentlessly, but that is not good enough. The Bill should be recommitted.
It took approximately two years for the Health Act 1970, which established the health boards, to pass from publication to implementation. With this Bill before us, which proposes to dismantle the health boards and goes much further in dismantling the normal accountability of a Department, it is taking a matter of days to pass through the Houses. We have no chief executive officer and do not have a health service executive either. There are serious industrial relations problems. The likelihood is that the lack of partnership and union co-operation will worsen because of what is being done here. I urge the Government to accept the motion for recommittal so that we can do our job properly and effectively.