Seanad amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are related and may be discussed together.
Seanad amendment No. 1:
Section 5: In page 8, subsection (1), lines 36 to 39, "an officer of which is the accounting officer in relation to the appropriation accounts of that body for the purposes of the Comptroller and Auditor General Acts 1866 to 1998" deleted and "which is not the subject of an allocation by a Minister undersubsection (2)” substituted.
Ms Lynch: Amendment No. 1 concerns section 5. This section was probably discussed on Committee Stage more than any other section. Difficulties arose regarding how various elements of the structure were to work but, nevertheless, section 5 is probably the most fundamental section of the Bill.
Section 5 makes reference to services and states a "Minister" means "a Minister of the Government". This Bill affects several Departments and therefore it is a question of "Ministers of the Government". Given the importance of ring-fencing, what is meant by "services"? Do the services to be provided by each Department comprise only services specific to people with disabilities or all services? If, for instance, the OPW were to install a ramp to facilitate access to a building, would it be part of the service? Would it be what the funding is for? Is the tactile pavement the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government provides through local government services part of the service? Does it pertain to the budget?
Is the education service provided by the Department of Education and Science part of the service? Is this what its budget is for? I do not refer solely to the education service for children with disabilities because the Supreme Court decision on primary education for people over 18 extends the scope in this regard. Exactly what services are we talking about? To what does ring-fencing apply? If the education service is part of the service referred to, how does this square with the constitutional obligation regarding primary education?
Will the Minister state exactly what he means by "services"? Are they disability-specific services? Does he mean services including those which are available to us all? I would like a comprehensive answer to these questions because it is very important that we know exactly the budget that will be available to each Department. Will it be a question of the comprehensive service including services for people with disabilities or simply a question of disability-specific services? If it is the latter, how will the budget of each Department be determined at the start of each year?