Before we take up consideration of the Committee Stage of this Bill, I should like to indicate that I have ruled the following amendments out of order: Nos. 1, 16, 45, 60, 73, 74, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 86, 87, 97, 98, 99, 100, 103, 107, 112, 113, 115 and 122. Of these amendments, Nos. 98, 100, 112, 113 and 115 are out of order as they are outside the scope of the Bill as read a Second Time. The remaining amendments are out of order as they involve a charge on the public revenue.
Health Bill, 1969: Committee Stage.
I do not know what the correct procedure here is, and any rulings which you give I, of course, accept, but it seems to me that amendments Nos. 44 and 45 are exactly the same, yet amendment No. 45 has been ruled out of order.
Once the Chair has ruled——
I accept your ruling. I just wanted to make the point.
Perhaps it was ruled out of order because it was redundant.
I wish to refer again to a matter on which I spoke on the Second Reading in reference to subsection (3), this novel provision that a reference to an enactment in this Act shall be construed as a reference to that enactment as amended or extended in future legislation. The Minister at that time confirmed my worst fears that this is a reference forward. In my time, a great many people have objected to a great deal of reference back.
Legislation by reference can very frequently be confusing and difficult to understand. Sometimes it is all right, but frequently it is no more than the somewhat obscure statement that in subsection so-and-so of section so-and-so we delete subsection (14) and substitute something for it. Unless you go back to the previous statute you have not got a clue what he is talking about. This is bad enough but here we have a new idea, a reference forward so that in a future amendment or extension of any of the enactments mentioned in this Bill, any amendment which affects this Bill will not be referred to; it will be merely taken that it is already agreed by the passing of this Bill.
As I say, it is bad enough to have to keep looking back to, perhaps, two or three statutes but public representatives, to say nothing of the public, when they see something in an enactment of 1980 may be quite unaware that it, in fact, affects this Health Bill. Therefore, I wish the Minister would have second thoughts in this matter. It is quite new and it seems to be quite unnecessary. The Minister suggested that it would save having to put in amendments to this Bill, when it becomes an Act, at some future date, through some change in social welfare legislation, but there is nothing at all unusual in some social welfare legislation saying that it affects the Health Act of 1970.
This is a type of thing that is quite common and very frequently it is done in a very bad way. As I understand the Minister, he said that no one will know seeing an amendment to a Nurses Act in 1980, say, that, in effect, that amendment affects an Act of 1970. This is highly undesirable. One thing I have always argued in favour of in regard to any statute is that not only should it be understood by the officials who have to work it and the lawyers but by the people to whom it refers, the public in general, who have a right to understand legislation. We are continually complaining about the Establishment getting further and further away and becoming more and more incomprehensible to the public. I do not go along with that very far but if this sort of thing creeps in—and this is only the start—I would agree it is a very bad move indeed. Therefore, I trust the Minister will have a second look at it.
Another point is that the time is drawing near when it will be necessary to consolidate health legislation. Certainly, that is highly desirable but what would happen in the case of a clause like this? You cannot change anything in a consolidating measure. Would it be advisable to say that anything mentioned could be amended without reference in the future? In the Dáil the Minister said that it was due to the parliamentary draftsman and I think he should ask the draftsman again if he is sure that this is a wise thing to do.
Senator Sheldon is really exaggerating the import of this. If there is some change in the Social Welfare Acts or the Local Government Acts which might affect this Bill when it becomes an Act the section to which he refers would be adapted to the changes in such Bills. If it affected materially the health services, or the ambit of the health services, or the interests of the people in the health services, that first of all would be mentioned at Government level and, secondly, when the Bill would come before the Dáil and the Seanad then any change that might have an effect which would be of interest politically could be discussed; Members of the Dáil and Seanad could say: "Well, clause X of the Social Welfare Act of 1980 is having this effect on the ambit of the health services" and they can discuss it and that is the answer. It does not prevent debate on it. If the Dáil or Seanad chose to reject the amendment on the grounds that it would affect adversely or wrongly, from the point of view of the public interest, some part of the health service or administration, then the Government would have to consider it again. I do not think it is of serious import. It is really a facilitating section to avoid having to amend the Health Bill in all sorts of ways as a result of an Act on which it depends being itself amended. That is the position and it has been done before. I think it is the Social Welfare Act of 1952 which has a similar section and in which there is capacity for adaptation with other Acts which were amended which affected the 1952 Act.
I am not sure that I followed the full purport of Senator Sheldon's argument but if I did he is right. As I understood the basis of his argument, it is that here in section 2 you have a subsection which states that a reference in the Act to any enactment shall be construed as a reference to that enactment as amended or extended by any subsequent enactment. As I see it, and I think this is in line with Senator Sheldon's argument, the House is being asked to pass the Health Bill with a subsection which will give carte blanche as regards any changes that may be made in the other Acts and we do not know what changes may be made. It may be, as the Minister argues, that this is purely a matter of convenience, to avoid having to come back with new Health Bills every time an amendment is made to the other Acts. I do see that from a practical point of view there is a lot of commonsense behind that but I am just a little bit afraid, and Senator Sheldon is right in this, that if we do things purely to facilitate the amendments because it is convenient at the moment and it seems a good idea to avoid having to come back when other Acts are amended, that we just might be walking into some trouble. I accept without hesitation that what the Minister has in mind is that the amendments will be of a type that do not alter the whole basis and principle on which this Bill is founded; but, if an enabling section of this sort remains in, the position could result in a major amendment in other legislation being, so to speak, in advance of the event.
I support Senator Sheldon in this. An abominable departure from good British practice has grown up in legislation here. I refer to this practice of amending by reference. Senator Sheldon spoke about the problem of lay people understanding legislation. When one has responsibilities to discharge it is a very real problem for anyone discharging such responsibilities. Literally, one sometimes has one's foot on one Act, one's elbow on another and one's eye on a third. The physical and mental operation of trying to determine what is meant adds to the cost of administering solicitors' offices and, therefore, adds to the cost of their services. Another body will be considering the level of professional charges here and this provides an instance in which consideration will be called for when considering this matter.
I should like to support what Senator Sheldon has raised on subsection (3) of section 2 of this Bill. Legislation by reference is undesirable. Such legislation should be kept to an absolute minimum. That is the general consensus of opinion of this House and it is only natural that we should view with some degree of alarm the question of legislation by forward reference involved here. The Minister in his reply indicated that the House need have no worries on this point and said that if, in fact, such a situation came about in the future the bearing of the new legislation on the Health Act would be referred to at Government level, at Dáil level and at Seanad level. But, surely if it will be adverted to on these occasions, the simplest way of all of having it adverted to on every occasion would be by putting in an appropriate section.
It seems to me either of two things will happen: the matter will be discussed thoroughly when future legislation comes up or it will not. If it is to be discussed thoroughly it should be discussed as a section of a Bill and in no other way. The only guarantee the Minister can give us that we are not, in fact, handing over here not merely legislation by reference but also legislation that will not be immediately apparent to those concerned with the enactment of that legislation, is by striking out the subsection and saying that, in future, all amendments to the Health Act will be by Acts of the Oireachtas and not by indirect legislation by reference.
From the point of view of the pressure exercised in relation to legislation by both the Dáil and Seanad, I am afraid I could not agree with the Senators. If any Government tried to do something nefarious, something against the public interest or unfair to the staffs of local authorities, it would pretty soon be exposed. In the present climate of education and public opinion I cannot conceive of any such action being taken by a Government.
There is no question of that.
I am dealing with the practical side of this. If the Superannuation Acts were amended in the case of local authority officers and staffs and the amending legislation applied to officers and servants of the health boards and, as a result of that, some unfair situation arose for the officers and servants of health boards, then the unions and the organisations in charge would be sufficiently alive and say: "You will not get away with that. If you are going to pass this Bill you must have an amendment to the Health Acts". It is a matter of commonsense. I just could not agree that this would happen. In actual fact, if any changes are made in superannuation arrangements they will go pari passu between one and the other. The Minister for Local Government could make changes relative to the health authority staffs if, for some reason or other, they should be treated differently. This is a matter of public opinion asserting itself. I could not conceive of anything being done against the public interest and the very fact that it is mentioned here today is a sufficient warning to any Minister in any Government that he should not misuse this forward reference section for the purpose of doing something against the public interest.
Why put it in at all then?
This is not, I think, a question of deliberately doing something against the public interest; it is a question of another enactment being amended without somebody affected by it having cognisance of the fact that that amendment will also amend this piece of legislation when it becomes an Act. In any such enactment some subsection in that enactment should refer to the fact that the proposed legislation will have a consequential effect on the Health Act. It is true to say that an amendment of any other enactment may have an effect on the Health Act, an effect to which some affected people might not advert at the time.
Would the Minister not agree that what he is asking the House to do is to pass an Act with a variable future content in that there may be changes in the future in relation to which this Act may not be quoted? This will make life very difficult for those interpreting the Act or advising on it in that they will have to look to the future. This is a valid point. This is a very bad practice and it is one of which we should be very wary. The expediency of which the Minister speaks does not, I think, call for such a major departure in principle from normal practice.
I support Senator Sheldon in this. I would remind the Minister of the provisions of subsection (2) of section 45 which decides that the way in which yearly means shall be calculated is to be in accordance with Rule 1 of the rules contained in the Seventh Schedule to the Social Welfare Act, 1952. I pointed out on Second Stage that this means that any capital sum that a person may have over the amount of £400 is treated in this rule as if it were bringing in ten per cent, irrespective of whether or not it does. It is quite conceivable that the Social Welfare Act might be modified in its Seventh Schedule to such a degree that the presumption would be that any capital sum over £400 would be bringing in 15 per cent or 20 per cent. When the 1952 Act was passed it was quite fantastic to suppose that any capital normally held would be bringing in ten per cent; yet recognition of this fact has been enshrined in successive Health Acts. The Minister says he could easily point out there is an injustice there and something would be done but, in fact, ever since the first Health Acts based upon this type of means test, we have been supposing that any capital sum of this kind is, in fact, bringing in ten per cent, irrespective of whether or not it brings in anything.
The Minister's argument that this kind of thing would cause a public outcry and would have to be changed and so on is thereby proved to be false. In this particular instance, this subsection (2) of section 45 makes precisely this kind of reference to another Act which could be modified either way and which would bring with it the modification of the present Act if we leave in the subsection which Senator Sheldon is rightly objecting to.
I would just like to say that I agree with Senator Eoin Ryan. The Minister, quite clearly from the debating point of view, takes the extreme case of something very upsetting and something underhand being done. I am not concerned with that at all. It is very unlikely. Senator Ryan sees the danger of something that no one even thought of, that some abstruse reference could be made and even the draftsman might for once nod and not notice the effect. It is all right to say that what is said here and what the Minister says should be remembered by other Ministers. This I rather doubt, say, in 12 years time. There have been people in public life who make a habit of reading everything and who keep on reading it for years and who may refer back to what somebody said in 1932 but it is usually in relation to other matters rather than a technical point. I rather doubt that anyone will refer to the Seanad Debates to see the danger signals that were then pointed out.
As I say, I am not afraid that some villainous future Minister for Local Government or Health or some other Department will set out seriously to affect people's rights by doing something in consequence of this. What I am afraid of is that things happen in legislation which are proved to be rather objectionable. The Committee on Statutory Instruments are very well aware of this. It would be very easy over the passage of years to lose sight of objectionable things in legislation unless you had an enormous staff and each member had an enormous staff to keep track of all the ins and outs and possibilities. The Minister rightly said, I am sure, that if some major change were envisaged the Government would have reference to it and the attention of the House would be drawn to it. Suppose it was not a major issue, something that went on for five or six years and then the courts discovered that someone for five years had been doing something quite wrong. I think it is a bad principle to go on. Legislation nowadays is difficult enough to follow and this Bill is not exactly a shining example of light from the point of view of any ordinary person reading it. There is this confusion so that a person reading a Social Welfare Act in 1980 would not know exactly what it means. I cannot see the advantage.
The Minister talks about this as being administratively better, and possibly from the narrow point of view that is so, but I think it would lead to much confusion and a type of confusion which it is difficult to put right. It is never easy for Government Departments or local authorities to admit five or six years later that they were wrong and I do not think they should be put in jeopardy of being wrong through inadvertence because nobody ever believes that a Government Department or a local authority is wrong inadvertently. At least, if anyone does, I have not yet met him personally.
I should like to ask the Minister a specific question before he intervenes here. If, in fact, this subsection is retained and a future Bill not related to health makes an amendment which affects this Bill, will the Health Act, 1969, appear in the Schedule of Repeals in that new Bill or will it not?
Whereas, in fact, it will tend to repeal or amend?
Could, in fact, repeal. Is that the position?
Amend, yes. I do not mind looking at this between now and Report Stage to see if there is any way of ensuring clarification. I am quite willing to do that. I can see the point Senators have been making but it would be very difficult to do it. I still think it would be in the interest of any Government in office, regardless of what party they represented, not to confuse the public or the Dáil and Seanad by attempting to enact health legislation in another Bill in a way which would be against the public interest. I do not believe it would happen. I shall look into it to see if anything can be done by way of a qualifying amendment to this subsection so as to try to introduce something which will relieve the fears of Senators. I will try to do that. I think it will be impossible.
I certainly could not accept that every time the enormous body of local government legislation and social welfare legislation is altered we have got to have a very elaborate series of amendments to this Bill parallel with them and to make all sorts of new adaptations because I do not think we would be able to get through the business of Parliament on that basis. I shall look into it and see if anything can be done.
Is section 2 agreed?
Yes. We are thankful to the Minister for undertaking to look at it between now and Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 2:
In subsection (2) (a), page 5, line 6, to add to sub-paragraph (i):—
"including at least one member from each county electoral area and city electoral area".
This amendment is self-explanatory. In effect, what we are asking for here is that one councillor from each county electoral area and one councillor for each city electoral area will be appointed to the new health boards. By doing this, much better representation would be given population-wise. On Second Reading references were made to disparities between areas in regard to population. Special mention was made of Kildare-Wicklow vis-a-vis Dublin city and Dún Laoghaire. For that reason we thought that, electoral areas being units in any county council area, to have one representative from each electoral area would be the ideal way in which a health authority should be composed.
I might give an example here of an area with which I am familiar and with which the Minister is familiar, namely, Cavan - Monaghan - Louth - Meath. It would mean that Cavan which has a representation of three at present would be increased to four, Monaghan constituency which the Minister represents and where it is proposed to have two, would have four; the representation of Louth would increase from three to five and of Meath from three to five. It is not asking too much. It is true that the Minister may argue that the composition of the board might be too big and unwieldy but there could be a cutting down in other spheres of representation. It is important that public representatives and members of local authorities should have adequate representation on the new health boards.
I should like to support Senator Fitzgerald on this amendment. One of the important aspects is that each area should feel that it has direct representation and the electoral areas are the obvious choice from this point of view. One of the big fears throughout the country in regard to this Bill is that there is a whittling down of representation on the health boards. People feel that local persons will not have as much say as they used to have under the local government system. Even at the expense of making the boards slightly larger than the Minister intended, we feel that it would be very worthwhile to have at least one representative from each electoral area. The Minister feels very strongly on this point about too large a board not being as effective but there has been operating since 1960 the Dublin Health Authority which has a membership of 30 and which has proved fairly effective. I do not think anyone would query that. In fact, although the membership may be 30 one can count on a certain absentee rate which would give an effective board of 22, which I do not think anyone would consider too large. I would ask the Minister seriously to consider this amendment as one which I think would be welcomed by all parties throughout the country from the representation point of view.
First of all, I should like to apologise for my initial intervention. I was at fault because I was referring to the wrong document. On this amendment I think the Labour Members have a point in that it is equitable that each electoral area should be represented. Take a particular county, Wicklow. The interests may vary from area to area, the west side of the county having a much more rural aspect than the east side; it is still rural but one side is more urban than the other. If some proposal like this is not accepted there may be elected people confined to certain areas, and the county at large may not have the representation it should have. You may have an area with no representative on the board, that is no person who would have the interest of this area at heart. There is merit in the suggestion and I would ask the Minister to have a look at it.
I am afraid I could not possibly accept this amendment. I quite understand the reason underlying it, but you have this growing concept all over the world of enlarging areas for administrative purposes simply because of the change of techniques and the change of characteristics of whichever service is being carried out. The general principle has been accepted, but I could not accept this amendment if for no other reason than what is contained in the Second Schedule, section 2 (1) (a), (b), (c) and (d) where we have this method of ensuring proper political representation in the regional health boards. There is absolutely no other way of ensuring this political representation. It could not possibly be linked with the concept of electing one member from each county electoral area and city electoral area.
I should like to remind the House again of the fact that we are providing for local representation through the local committees from each of the county council and corporation borough areas; there will be representatives on the board from each electoral area chosen by the county councils. It will be the duty of these local committees to keep alive in the minds of the regional health boards any obvious defects in the service either in a rural area as compared with an urban area or some particular area. It will be the duty of the local committees to draw attention to defects in the choice of doctor system or to omissions or to failure to provide the new child health service in some particular area. These bodies, I hope, will be very vocal about this. Now I think we are getting pretty good in this country about communications and small groups protesting through their committees or associations on matters which they regard as important.
I expect the representatives of the county councils and corporations on these regional health boards to act more and more in a corporate capacity. Perhaps I am too much of an optimist but after about five years operation of these boards I cannot conceive of a Dublin County Council representative deliberately fighting to get a better service for Dublin County Council than for Wicklow or Kildare. I do hope it will not happen. I hope the regional concept will operate satisfactorily and that the representatives will act very much in their corporate capacity while at the same time obviously having a thought for and a deep interest in the county council to which they are elected.
This was raised in the Dáil as well, the connection between county councillors and the present health authorities in respect of appeals. That will still remain. Not only will those having medical cards have a statutory right of appeal for eligibility but the democratic practice whereby councillors or Deputies for the area, people of importance, can make appeals in regard to decisions on eligibility or unfairnesses in carrying out a particular kind of medical service, will continue in the same way. The fact that it is a regional health board will not prevent some person in some remote part of Mayo making quite sure a local representative can go to the regional health board's chief executive officer and say: "Have you had regard to this particular circumstance in your officer's making this decision?"
The whole of that public relations system will continue and at the same time there will be a statutory right of appeal in regard to eligibility. The same thing would apply in relation to any defects in the service. I would hope it would be done largely through the local committees in so far as general defects of the service are concerned as distinct from particular personal cases of eligibility or non-eligibility. I would hope the local committees would be given teeth in that way. I do not think the House need worry about this question of individual electoral areas being ignored, being bereft of adequate service or adversely affected. In any case I cannot agree to the proposal, as I have said, because of the method of ensuring political representation in the Second Schedule.
Finally, I do not believe in the regional health boards—and I have made a statement on this—being large. I do not want to make them any bigger than from 25 to 32, because the larger they are the more unwieldy they become.
I am sorry the Minister appears to be so adamant on this. I want to assure him that in putting down this amendment we were not thinking in terms of politics at all, because in regard to political representation it would have no effect anyway. It was to ensure that each county council area would have representation on the health board. After all we are talking now of regionalisation and this is the first real attempt we have had at setting up regional boards. I have no doubt they will be quite successful but I think they would be more successful if every electoral area believed that they had representation on that particular health board rather than that three out of five or two out of four would have representation.
The Minister has mentioned local health boards and local health authorities. To my mind they will have no powers under this Bill at all. If we want to give the whole local authority area the feeling of being involved in the new health authority, this is the ideal way of going about it and I would have hoped that the Minister would have another look at this to see if he would be able to meet the amendment.
It would be unfair and I think I would be dishonest if I were to say that I could alter the system. I know what the Senator is getting at. I understand his view, that he wants this geographical representation. I am not sure whether in relation to regional health boards so strict and narrow a geographical representation is essential in regard to what the board does and in relation to looking at the health services for a complete area and making certain every part of the area receives a fair share of services and hospital services, and so on. I cannot do it, if I am to retain the Second Schedule arrangements for appointing the board. These have been approved by all parties in the Dáil. They were approved at the time of the Health Authorities Bill, 1960, in relation to the four health authorities. It is an excellent method of ensuring adequate representation. I simply cannot do it and maintain the Second Schedule. I am afraid I cannot give way to the Senator.
I am not convinced that the Minister cannot do it. I have not referred to the Second Schedule to which he has referred. Every section of this has been discussed in the Dáil. Yet we have amendments in here. Even on the very first discussion that we had here on section 2 the Minister agreed to have a look at it on Report Stage. Therefore, it was not really copper-fastened when it passed through the Dáil—either the Schedules or any of the sections. For that reason I am not convinced by the Minister's arguments that you cannot have representation on an electoral basis.
It is not with getting representation for every area or county or every part of the county that I am concerned but rather with the local jealousies on local authorities. I can only speak for the local authority of which I am a member. While one may be elected on a political ticket to serve a particular area, it is not unknown for the five members elected for that particular electoral area to become almost one political party in putting down motions to their local authority and in fighting for what they believe their people need in that particular local authority. This is designed to prevent the feeling that any particular group on a local authority have no say in what may happen on the health authority. It is to ensure a better working of the local authority that I should like to see every local authority area and every city ward area represented on the new health authority. I find it very difficult to withdraw this amendment because I am not convinced that the Minister's argument is reasonable.
- Belton, Richard.
- Boland, John.
- Butler, Pierce.
- Desmond, Eileen.
- Dooge, James C. I.
- Farrelly, Denis.
- FitzGerald, Alexis.
- Fitzgerald, Jack.
- Kelly, John.
- Lyons, Michael D.
- Mannion, John M.
- O'Brien, William.
- O'Higgins, Michael J.
- Owens, Evelyn P.
- Reynolds, Patrick J.
- Ahern, Liam.
- Alton, Bryan G.
- Bourke, Mary T. W.
- Brennan, John J.
- Brugha, Ruairí.
- Cranitch, Mícheál C.
- Crinion, Brendan.
- Doyle, John.
- Eachthéirn, Cáit Uí.
- Farrell, Joseph.
- Fitzsimons, Patrick.
- Flanagan, Thomas P.
- Gallanagh, Michael.
- Garrett, Jack.
- Hanafin Desmond.
- Honan, Dermot P.
- Horgan, John.
- Jessop, W. J. E.
- Keery, Neville.
- Killilea, Mark.
- McGlinchey, Bernard.
- Nash, John J.
- Norton, Patrick.
- Ó Maoláin, Tomás.
- O'Sullivan, Terry.
- Quinlan, Patrick M.
- Ryan, Eoin.
- Ryan, Patrick W.
- Ryan, William.
- Sheehy-Skeffington, O. L.
- Sheldon, W. A. W.
- Walsh, Seán.
I move amendment No. 3:
On page 5, line 11, to add to subsection (2) (a) (iii) the following:—
"Such persons shall include not more than two persons nominated by the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in accordance with regulations to be drawn up by the Minister."
This amendment and the question of staff representation has been mentioned before both in the other House and on Second Reading in the Seanad. The medical side are very well represented in the Minister's proposals as are the local representatives. The reason the Public Services Committee of Congress is mentioned is that the Minister did express elsewhere that there would be difficulty in arriving at the method of electing people who would represent such a variety of people as porters up to staff officers and other clerical and administrative grades. For the information of Senators the Public Services Committee are a sub-committee within the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and there are 15 unions represented on it. Within these 15 unions you will find every grade of people employed in the health boards and it would be convenient and simple to use the Public Services Committee to provide representation as they would have no problem in electing the people concerned.
On the trade union side we feel that this is an opportunity for the Government to give at least some recognition to the idea of staff and worker participation. There is a precedent for this in the Dublin Port and Docks Board to which the Dublin Trades Council elected two members and no good reason has yet been given me why we cannot have representatives from the staff side on the board. The Minister referred to the possibility of getting the staffs involved in a sort of management committee but I do not think this would be accepted by the staffs as being the same as representation on the board. I do not see any reason why they should be treated as second-class citizens in that regard.
I believe they have quite a contribution to make. They would obviously be very useful at administrative level. What we often ignore is that people who work in what appears to be the lowest level of an organisation are, perhaps because of their low position, denied the opportunity of making a greater contribution. One often finds if one goes into a public office that in many cases the person who knows most about the day-to-day activities in that office is the porter. I would strongly urge the Minister to consider again including staff representation. We have cut the figure down to two, which would be very little in an organisation as large as the Eastern Health Board which has an extensive staff employed. We would be satisfied with this figure which would at least be a start towards more modern thinking in worker participation.
We have had considerable discussion on this and I am afraid I cannot accept the amendment. I do not believe that all grades of staff can make equal contribution to what is a matter of executive management. People very often can make suggestions in regard to the individual working of their own particular section of any Department or office but I honestly do not believe that this, at the present stage of affairs, is a practical suggestion.
A great many of the clerical staff, for example, are in the same sort of position as a chief executive officer and they have their unions to represent them in matters of service, conditions of service and I think, at this stage of the growth of the regional health boards, to have representatives, for example, of the clerical staff on the board would place the chief executive officer in a difficult position and the members and the representatives of the clerical staff equally in a difficult position. The professionals are chosen for their ability to contribute in a specific professional field and they are, therefore, different from representatives of the staff and, although I would be willing to give the Public Services Committee of the Congress of Trade Unions an acknowledgment of their competence, how on earth they would be able, in a democratic way, to get representation from 15 different groups of people who work in health authorities I do not know. I do not honestly think this is a very practical suggestion.
I have studied this in relation to the State bodies over which I have general supervision for ten years. I have also read a good deal about it in periodicals related to industrial relations. There is a great deal of talk about industrial democracy but a great many people, both on the trade unions side and on the employers side, see the difficulty in this automatic participation concept. I read particularly about this, for example, in Sweden. We have been able to have some success in the joint consultative council of CIE in which groups of management staff meet representatives of the unions at regular intervals and they discuss the sort of grievances that do not necessarily arise under trade union negotiation. They also discuss suggestions for the improvement of the service. The number of suggestions made are fairly limited and they are made by certain individuals and the system works fairly well and I think that this is the alternative to trying to get two representatives from a very large number of employees involved in miscellaneous forms of employment.
Therefore, I have to retain the point of view I had before about this. I do not think it would be practical, certainly not in the first stage of the operation of these regional health boards.
There are two points I should like to make here. Firstly, the Minister talks of the difficulties in securing such representation; I think he might leave that to the members themselves. If we were prepared to grant representation I am quite sure they would be fully able to work out a satisfactory method of arranging for the designation of the persons.
The second point I should like to raise is that the Minister has put his face firmly against an acceptance of this amendment. Does that mean that he is putting his face equally firmly against such representation or will he keep an open mind, in regard to his nominations, to the desirability of such representation?
I could not commit myself in regard to my nominations at this stage because, quite possibly, my nominations would partly depend on the kind of persons who had already been appointed. We would have to make quite sure that there was not a need to appoint somebody with some particular skill or experience so I could not commit myself as to whether I would appoint for my own nominations somebody representing the staff. I could not commit myself on that.
The Minister does not rule out the possibility?
I would not rule out the possibility, no.
I am amazed at the Minister's concern for the Public Services Committee of Congress, their difficulty in selecting from so many different grades and how they could do it in a democratic way. I do not think this is a principle that the Minister should be involved in. If Congress feel and the Public Services Committee feel that they can do this, that this should be done, then I think that is their problem. What I am amazed at is the Minister's attitude, that while he is making the case for the difficulties of the Public Services Committee in trying to select two from 15 of a group yet he seems to have set his face against these groups having any representation at all. I would like the Minister to elaborate a little bit more on that.
I said I am told there are some 15 different organisations, not 15 people——
——of whom two would have to be selected and I expressed doubts as to whether two people could be selected from all these groups who would have particular and good experience of executive management or who would be able to make an effective contribution to what is fundamentally executive management because in relation to terms and conditions of service as the House knows that is a reserved power of the chief executive officer as of the county managers and in relation to conciliation and arbitration and so forth there are ample means for expressing views about improvements and conditions of service and so on in that way. That is what I said.
It seemed to be the Minister's intention that as far as possible the members of these health boards should not function as representatives of any other groups and I am in total agreement with that and I think if the health boards are to succeed that will have to be stressed right from the beginning, that they have a very important task, that they are selected in various and diverse ways but after that their job is as members of the health board alone and we should try to discourage the idea of representation and especially reporting back by every possible means. I should like to know if that is the Minister's view on this. Am I interpreting him correctly?
Well, I suppose it is true to say that in no board could the point Senator Quinlan is making be absolute. Quite obviously, the local authority representatives will have to think to a considerable extent about the county they represent but, in general, I agree with the Senator that if these boards are to be successful those on them must think in a corporate capacity and although a consultant surgeon may be on a board and bring to the board his knowledge of consultant surgery nevertheless, although he can contribute that and he can get good advice on the hospitals operating within the regional board area, he should also think as a corporate member of the regional health board and not always be thinking narrowly on the aspect of any decision which might or might not affect adversely or favourably some particular hospital or some particular aspect of hispital service. This is a very difficult thing to bring about. The same thing applies to the Government of a country. Very much so. We cannot start a long philosophical political discussion on that but I agree with the Senator, bearing in mind that there are limitations to this, and there are definite representational features in the Bill as, for example, the local authority members who do come from certain county councils and who should act in a corporate capacity as well as acting on behalf of their county councils. Incidentally, they are the people who do represent the users of the health services on the boards in a corporate capacity.
I agree entirely with the Minister's last statement and the point raised by Senator Quinlan. Indeed, this word "representative" is, perhaps, unfortunate in the context of what we are talking about. It was not my intention that they would be representatives, as we would normally consider them, of the trade union side of the health board, but if we examine the proposals for the health boards we have the local representatives, the pharmacists, the dentists, the psychiatric nurses, the non-psychiatric nurses, the general nurses, and the one group of people involved in the health services who are excluded are the clerical, administrative and manual staffs. I do not think that it is asking too much that they should be given two people on the board, as full members of the board and not as staff representatives. I do not quite agree with the Minister that the CEO is the same as the clerical officers, having been a clerical officer myself, for it is not so. The public services committee and I think the Government, and, indeed, the Minister here today, recognised their competence. The Minister for Finance on the last day, I think, paid tribute to them on their competence in the 11th round wage negotiations.
They do not represent 15 groups as such. You cannot say that one person on the Public Services Committee represents, say, the ambulance drivers. They are representatives of unions, including the big unions like the Transport and General Workers Union and the Workers Union of Ireland which have nurses within their membership. You cannot just say that they are representing one group, therefore, or that there are only 15 groups. There are far more. In the Dublin Health Authority, if you examine the broad structure, you will find that there are something like 100 different groups employed at least, that would be a vehicle for electing those members. This is the policy of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions as adopted by their annual congress and they are anxious that they should be recognised on the health boards. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister for another look at it.
I do not mind having another look at it, but I want to make it clear that I have read a lot about this. This whole question of the concept of participation in industry is the subject of very much discussion, and I have read quite recently documents from both Sweden and Germany where there is nearly as much objection from trade union organisations to direct participation in private company management direction as there is from the management side, as they say it places people on the board in an almost impossible position. There has been, as I say, a great deal of discussion over this whole business and we have nearly reached the stage of thinking that it is authoritative now. We shall inevitably see changes taking place in the future with regard to all these matters, but in relation to the whole operation of the State boards and the general consideration of this problem I do not feel that I would be entitled to accept the proposal of this kind in the form in which it has been put, but if the Senator likes I will think it over again before Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 6:
In subsection (2) (b), page 5, line 15, after "board" to add "by at least a quarter of such number."
The Minister in various statements that have been embodied in this Bill as passed by the Dáil has graciously consented to give more than 50 per cent representation to the local members on the health boards. This seeks to define what the extra amount is and this is our suggestion, that it ought to be increased by at least a quarter. There are various reasons for this. Most regional health areas comprise approximately four counties, and if the Minister in giving the increase to local representatives had much less than a quarter he would be giving that increase to a certain county rather than to another, and by a quarter it equalises this increase amongst the counties as far as possible.
There is a further aspect of this that I should like to direct the Minister's attention to. The five bodies which it is proposed to make up the eastern health board have already met in the premises of the health authority in James's Street and after not such a protracted discussion agreed on the respective figures for their areas. This does bring the size of the body up beyond what the Minister might envisage and might in his view make it a bit unwieldy, but in its favour is the fact that agreement has been reached. I do accept the principle of the Minister that large bodies are not necessarily the most efficient bodies, but where we find at least in one region five bodies coming together in agreement and agreeing on the representation that each should have—and for the Minister's information on the eastern region I give the figures that they agreed upon—Dublin Corporation, eight; Dublin County, five; Wicklow, four; Kildare, four; Dún Laoghaire, two. This with the 16 other members would bring, if my mathematics is correct, this body up to 39, which normally I would myself consider a bit large, but I would say that when you have agreement amongst five constituent bodies that represent a health region I think it should weigh to a great extent with the Minister's decision to allow this amendment to go through.
That, of course, is more than I am asking for in this amendment, because it is, indeed, slightly more than what I am asking for. These two reasons I think are very cogent reasons, the first being that it spreads the increase more equitably over each county, and the second that already one region has come to examine what representation there should be from each of its constituent bodies. I should like the Minister to accept this amendment.
I am not absolutely clear from the Senator whether the excess is to be quarter of the total membership or a quarter of the total of the non-local authority membership.
Yes, I understand. The Senator mentioned in this connection the possibility of altering the present constituent proportions in representation on the different local health areas. These things have to come in the form of regulations before the Dáil and Seanad later, so that there is nothing rigid about the draft proposals put into the memoranda supplied to the Oireachtas. I think myself that there must be some flexibility left to me in regard to this, and if you say that we must accept a quarter of the number that makes it very difficult, thinking of the various boards throughout the country and the varying numbers of health authorities to be absorbed in one board. I must have some flexibility related to the different situations that are going to arise. I must be honest with the House. I do not believe that there should be more than a fair majority, because I have never believed and I still do not believe that if these health boards operate successfully there will be a continuous opposition from the professional side to the local authority side. I just do not believe it, and when I went around the country and saw representatives from every local authority in Ireland I said this to them and I could see faces in rows looking at me nodding. A great many people know that very well. It is right that there should be strong representation from the local authority representatives because I feel that it is their democratic right even though the central Government pay for 75 per cent of the total cost of the health services in this country, including the agricultural grant.
Therefore, I think the bare majority is quite sufficient. I do not believe there will be continuous conflict between the two groups. Indeed, I should think they are far more likely to come together when they are going over their annual reports, to unite and to ask the Minister for Health for more and more of this and more and more of that, than there is to be a conflict between the two groups of people.
There will be doctors appointed who have a good sense of public administration or who will quickly begin to grasp the point of view represented in the first instance by local authority representatives, and after a few years they will be working together as a team. Indeed, as often as not there could be a conflict on which there will be members of each group combining to have a majority or a minority. It is essential I should have flexibility here, firstly because of the different kinds of boards and secondly because I think it is sufficient to have a simple majority, though not a big one.
I appreciate the Minister's difficulty but at the same time I should like him to have another look at this proposal. I feel that our amendment would make it simpler for him in the long run. I do not intend to be rigid in the actual proportion but I suggest that if the Minister provided for a majority of nearly a quarter he may find it simpler when he goes later to deal with the various local authorities and particularly the constituent bodies which make up the boards. He will find it simpler if he has given a majority of more than one.
The eastern region group have come to agreement among themselves, subject of course to sanction because the Minister will have some say in it, and once an authority have agreed on their representative membership, it is a strong argument in favour of the Minister having a look at the provision again.
All I can say is that if I felt it would help me to get a consensus to express a particular percentage, I will look at it between now and Report Stage. I cannot say more than that.
This is an interesting way to approach this problem. Would the Minister think that doctors, nurses, psychiatric nurses, dentists, pharmacists and so on could get together and agree to get a certain representation for their group and that local authorities would face the same problem?
This could be a kind of leapfrogging process in which each group would ask for more and more. I can see what Senator Jessop thinks about this. I will look into the matter to see whether, by expressing the percentage of the total non-local authority members of the board, I can get some value out of it, either by consensus——
I hope the Minister will consult the medical bodies.
I doubt if I have time to consult everybody.
I assure the Minister that, as far as I am concerned as a member of the Dublin Health Authority, having spoken at some length to my own party members and to members of other parties, I am quite sure that all public representatives would be glad to have some clear majority over non-public representatives. The majority need not necessarily be a quarter. They would be far happier with the proposals in section 4 and with the idea of the new boards generally if there was that clear majority. The Minister intends to meet the local authority representatives again before the provisions of this Bill are operated and from his point of view at any rate he will get a far better reception if he has written into the Bill some specific percentage by which public representatives would exceed the other representatives.
In our amendment we are not asking for a quarter extra over and above the other members for any political reason. We realise that the public representatives on any health board would be drawn from all parties, with, indeed, some independents. We are asking that the public representatives on these boards should be in a clear majority because they are the people who have been elected by their constituents to look after their interests—to strike a rate and to see that the various affairs of the area are dealt with. Public representatives are the people most in touch with their constituents. They are the people who most often receive complaints in respect of the administration of any health authority area. The doctors' representatives, the nurses' representatives, no matter how admirable they may be, will not be doing this work of representation on behalf of individuals. Neither will the Minister's representatives. They will not have to receive criticism in relation to the increased charge on the rates because of the operation of the new health boards, and an increase there will certainly be.
It is because of this especially that we feel public representatives should have a clear majority. If our proposal were implemented, the number of non-public representatives might be 12, and the greatest number of public representatives would be 16. The health boards would consist of between 27 members and 36 at the greatest. Our amendment proposes that the Minister could give public representatives more than a quarter more if he so desired. The figure does not seem to be unworkable. It allows public representatives the majority they want and it seems to me that in such circumstances the Minister would get a much more favourable reception, especially from his own party members, when he goes to meet the public representatives. We ask the Minister very definitely to consider this proposal, not in a political light but from the point of view of getting agreement on administration.
As I stated on the Second Reading, this is one of the parts of the Bill about which I am uneasy. I think the Minister has already gone too far in yielding to democracy in this matter. The idea that you would give any group a majority presupposes that that group will somehow or other keep all the others at bay or, in the last resort, that they will do it by sheer counting of heads. That is a very bad spirit, a very bad approach to bring into the health boards which should be team affairs.
Indeed it seems that a majority in fact means nothing because I cannot see how the situation would arise in which all the party representatives among the local authority members would combine to vote down the others. You could not conceive such a situation arising. The very suggestion of having a majority of one group over another is irksome and would act as a means of bringing home to the others that they were only there on suffrage, that they were a second-class type of citizen. I would prefer to look on the reorganisation of the present health authorities as being in two stages: you have the health boards and you have the local committees, both of which will be doing the job which up to this has been done by the health authorities. It is quite right that in the local committees the local authorities should have adequate representation, and, indeed, a majority, but the other being a regional matter we should by every means possible endeavour to develop the regional approach and get away from the county approach.
That is why I believe this majority in itself it wrong and the Minister should not go beyond where he is. Again, there is no discretion left to the local bodies in regard to the rates they have to pay and the levy is laid down by the Minister. I do not think the matter will arise of whether an authority can resist or not resist the question of an extra penny on the rates. I hope it will not. If we have to have services we have to pay for them and the decision as to whether we will have them or not will have to be made on a more national basis, or certainly on a regional basis. I would hate to see too much county politics intruding.
I join with Senator Boland in appealing to the Minister to consider this amendment favourably before Report Stage. The Minister stated that the public representatives would represent the people who will be benefiting under the health services. This is the important point and not what rates one county might have to pay in the future. In my own county which is 100 miles in length there will be six representatives on the regional board and when the people have a problem, if they are seeking something or if they feel they are being jeopardised, to whom will they go? It will not be to the Minister's representatives or to the medical representatives or, indeed, the representatives of the psychiatric nurses, but to the people they helped elect, whether they are in Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour or anything else. The doors of public representatives will be open to them from early morning until late at night and the people know that. For that reason it is very important that the representation from public bodies should be as large as possible on the health boards.
Has the Minister——
I said I would consider it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 5 to delete subsection 2 (c).
This subsection is inconsistent with what we are trying to do and it would have a damaging effect on the procedures we are setting up. The section sets out the composition of health boards which will consist of persons appointed by the local authorities, persons elected from the registered medical practitioners and ancillary professions and persons appointed by the Minister. Paragraph (c) is a temporary measure and I do not think it is a good one. It says in regard to the second category, those to be elected by the medical and ancillary professions, that the first appointments will be made on nominations from bodies which in the opinion of the Minister are representative of the medical and ancillary professions or of particular branches thereof.
I have four reasons for rejecting this temporary measure in regard to the first setting up of these boards. First, we are setting up a health service which I agree should have as a first priority serving the people and should be in their best interests but in serving the people it must be attractive to those implementing it and to those in the medical profession and ancillary professions who will be participating in it. Here, however, we are broadening the scope and suggesting that a wider range will participate in the scheme. They must be encouraged to do so by an accountability from the very start, by electing their own members to the board. I agree with the views expressed in regard to local representation. It is very important to have a democratic method of election. Secondly, this Bill is strongly characterised by the wide ministerial powers in regard to making regulations, appointments and nominations. Certainly it is a skeleton Bill which the Minister will fill out by regulation. It is necessary to have flexibility and to have this type of framework when drawing up social legislation on such a scale but as a House of Parliament, in order to maintain the balance of power, we ought restrict those powers as far as possible, where the Minister is asking for nominations which in his opinion are representative of the medical profession rather than letting them elect their own representatives to the boards. We are giving an unnecessary power to the Minister. I do not think the Minister will take me as imputing misuse of that power because I am not but we must control as far as possible any delegation of our powers in setting up the boards and it is unnecessary to have this stop-gap measure which will only apply to the first setting up of the boards.
My third reason is that this could be taken as implying that these professions are unable at present to arrange for such machinery. If the Minister does not accept this amendment I imagine he may use the argument that the local bodies and the Minister would be geared to elect members while the others would not be. This is not true; it is an argument of expediency but, in fact, it does not do justice to the medical profession or the ancillary professions to say they would not be capable of setting up fair and democratic electoral processes. Finally, this is an example of where we can abide by a perfectly sound constitution of the boards, to the extent that we can make them democratic and accountable. This is a temporary measure which takes away those two qualities from these professions. Therefore, I would ask the Minister to delete this subsection in order to make the process more democratic. It would make it more acceptable to the medical profession because in framing a health board you are framing it on solid foundations if the first time you do it you determine how it can be done hereafter and you do not have to have a special way of setting up machinery the first time.
Senator Bourke has hopelessly misunderstood the whole purpose of this subsection. I wish she had read the Dáil debate. I have no intention whatever of taking away the democratic rights of consultants. What I said in the Dáil was that it was utterly impossible administratively for me to set up elaborate permanent electoral machinery, with registers and what-not, for nurses, psychiatric nurses, surgeons and consultants for each of these regional board areas by October of this year. These would come before the Dáil and Seanad in the form of regulations to be passed and, in the interim, I would simply ask the professional people in the area to nominate in their own democratic way, on an informal basis, whatever number of consultants and general practitioners I indicated would be desirable for each regional board, together with nurses, psychiatric nurses and pharmacists. If the medical association of a very large area, such as the Eastern Health Board area, decided that, for the first occasion, they would not all meet and form an unofficial panel but that they would send representatives for an executive council meeting and entrust the executive council for that area—it might be an ad hoc one or one already constituted—to nominate a representative, for instance, of the general practitioners of the area, I would accept that. My intention is to ask the consultants and others—they will know they will be in the glare of the public eye and they are extremely responsible people —to do this kind of informal nomination in the first instance, without having to obey a strict pattern of regulations, regulations which will come before both the Dáil and Seanad ultimately.
Senator Bourke has really misunderstood me. I am sure the Senators would accept my proposition for the first election, knowing these people are responsible and not likely to appoint someone grossly unsuitable for the position of, for example, consultant surgeon for the Eastern Health Board or someone who might grossly misrepresent the views of all the other consultant surgeons in the Eastern Health Board area. I am perfectly certain the thing will work out satisfactorily and then, in 1972, we would hope to have some statutory arrangements—these will have to be agreed with the medical associations and by the Dáil and Seanad—for a permanent form of electoral system for these various professions to the boards.
While I have some sympathy with Senator Bourke I must take the side of the Minister in this. The Minister introduced an amendment on the Report Stage in the Dáil.
I gave way on it.
The Minister did and that is why I am inclined to support him in this. As originally introduced, the provision read: "Paragraph (a) (2) shall not apply in the case of the first appointments of members of a health board" and the inference was that the Minister himself would make the appointments. The Dáil objected to that and the Minister brought in an amendment on the Report Stage which is incorporated in paragraph (2) (c) of the Bill as passed by the Dáil.
I am aware of what happened in the Dáil. I am also aware that there was this amendment. I understand that the professions are happy to feel they are in a position to elect members in co-operation. I do not see the enormous ministerial administrative difficulty the Minister seems to see in drawing up regulations. The medical profession have a fairly tight-knit organisation. They have their union. They have methods of co-operating with the Minister in drawing up regulations, regulations they envisage could be implemented next October which would put them on the same footing as other members of the board. If this is possible then I would regard it as a better method of setting up the original board rather than have a preliminary board which will not be in full operation until 1972.
I wish I could speed it up. I hope the Bill will be signed by the President on either February 15th or February 20th. It will be very difficult to get it into operation, particularly in relation to the boards, by October, however anxious I am in the matter. It is an immense measure and my staff are working very hard on it. I can assure the Senator that, with all the co-operation in the world, it would be impossible and so I think there will be a reasonably democratic election by the bodies concerned for the first occasion and then something more formal in relation to the second and subsequent elections.
In fairness to the Minister, one should say that the general public has rather a wrong idea about the tightness with which the medical profession is organised in this or any other country. One just cannot say how many doctors there are in a particular area at a particular time. A certain number are registered in the Medical Registration Council's register, but the doctors may not be there; they may be in another country. There are some doctors who are members of the Irish Medical Association, but not all doctors have to belong to that organisation. The same applies to the Irish Medical Union. If one wants to get a register of doctors in a particular area to form the basis of electing a representative I do not think that can be done easily. I do not know whether or not it could be done by October next. If Senator Bourke has information that it can be done I will not dispute that but I can see the Minister's difficulty.
I should like to say that the medical profession is very pleased that this Bill proposes, for the first time, to give it representation officially on boards which will be responsible for the health services of the country. Naturally it would also like to be responsible for the election of its own members to these bodies. The Bill obviously recognises the enormous difficulty there will be in setting up an actual statutory electoral body and I do not think that at the time the professional medical organisations were worrying about this matter they realised the election would have to be on such a strict statutory basis.
The Minister's assurance now that the initial nomination by himself will follow a reasonably democratic election by the doctors in the area will do much to reassure them and the further fact that elections in a more formal way will take place in two years time, in 1972, will do much to settle their worries in the matter.
Amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 14 are cognate in principle. It is suggested that these amendments be discussed together with separate decisions, if required. Is the House agreed?
I move amendment No. 8:
Before subsection (5) to insert the following new subsection:—
"( ) In the case of a first appointment of members of the Eastern Health Board subsection (2) (a) (i) shall not apply to appointments from Dublin Corporation, and the persons to be appointed shall be appointed at a meeting of persons who were entitled to vote as representatives of the Dublin Corporation at the last previous Seanad General Election."
We come to a thorny problem here—— I am sure this problem has been concerning the mind of the Minister—as to how he would nominate from Dublin Corporation whatever representation is eventually decided upon unless there are local elections before 1970 because it is, I think, in the Minister's mind to have these health bodies established by approximately September-October, 1970, and to have them in existence for six months so that they would become au fait with the work and the area they have to cover. In the absence of an election some method has to be found by which Dublin Corporation will get representation.
The suggestion in the amendment in my name is a very simple one, that whatever proportion is allotted eventually to Dublin Corporation, those members should be taken from past members of Dublin Corporation, if you like, persons who were members of the dissolved body. My main argument is that they still retained a vote in the Seanad election and, as they did retain a vote in the Seanad election, it would be only reasonable and fair that from their number should be elected the representatives on the Eastern Health Board.
I am not a member—an ex-member I should say—of Dublin Corporation. I have never been a member of Dublin Corporation. If we have to have equity, reasonableness and, possibly, the shaking of hands after some unfortunate incident, it might go a long way in actual fact to reinstate the interests, not alone of the ex-members but, possibly, of the people of Dublin in local government. I shall not go into the merits or de-merits or reasons for the dissolution of Dublin Corporation but even the Minister will agree that it is not a satisfactory method to have one man running a body like Dublin Corporation and especially where the people have not the personal touch. If a method such as this is used to appoint the members, whatever number it may be, who represent Dublin Corporation in such fashion on the basis that they had votes at the last Seanad election, the Minister might think that it would be reasonable enough for that reason to allow those ex-members to vote as a body and from that body to get representation on the Eastern Health Board.
Amendment No. 9 which is in my name and that of other Senators is as follows:
In page 5, before subsection (5), to insert the following new subsection:—
"( ) Notwithstanding anything contained in any enactment (or in the Dublin City Council (Removal of Members) Order, 1969, dated 24th April, 1969) the members of the dissolved Dublin City Council may meet and select the persons to be appointed by the Dublin Corporation (at a meeting convened by the Dublin City Manager) as if the Council had not been dissolved, provided that this subsection shall not apply if the Dublin City Council is restored before the first appointments are made."
Amendment No. 9 is very similar indeed to the amendment which has been moved by Senator Belton. In my view, the wording is slightly better in that it does cover the evenuality of the Dublin City Council being restored before the first appointment are made, in which case the subsection will not apply. I did not consider it necessary to put in any reference to voting at the last previous Seanad election. Of course, this is the argument and precedent for it, as we all know, that they retained their vote in the Seanad election.
The Minister should be very grateful to this side of the House for the fact that we put down the amendment because it does get over a problem and the problem does exist. He did say, replying to the Second Stage debate, that he would have to discuss this matter of appointing persons to the Eastern Health Board with the Minister for Local Government and the method is spelt out for him now. Like the previous speaker, I do not wish to get involved in the reasons for and the arguments about the dissolution of Dublin Corporation but this is an opportunity at least to allow the citizens of Dublin to be represented on the health board through the people who were elected, regardless of what happened afterwards. I think I could move amendment No. 14 now?
The Senator may discuss amendment No. 14.
I am very glad the Senators who spoke agreed that we simply could not start a debate on the rightness or wrongness of the action of the Minister for Local Government in dissolving Dublin Corporation.
Not at this stage.
Whatever about the desire of the Minister and the House, the Chair would not permit it.
I am sure we will get an opportunity at some stage.
The position is that under section 52 of the Local Government Act, 1941—I do not think I need to read the clauses—the Minister for Local Government may make consequential provisions to deal with situations that arise when a dissolution of a local body is enforced and he can deal with this by making appointments as he thinks fit to vacancies on subsidiary bodies. There is nothing to prevent the Minister for Local Government, if he so chooses, when this Bill passes and when the resolutions are passed in the Dáil and Seanad for the formation of the regional health boards and their actual constitution, appointing Mr. Garvin if he chooses, to represent the whole of the Dublin Corporation. There is equally nothing to prevent him appointing any number of persons he wishes to represent the Dublin Corporation on the Eastern Health Board. I shall be in touch with him about this. It would be unfair for me to ask him to commit himself in advance in regard to this situation.
All I can say is that I fully appreciate the reason underlying these amendments, that there is a certain anomaly. Quite apart from the question of whether the corporation should have been dissolved or not, there is the question of whether a single individual should represent the Dublin Corporation on the Eastern Health Board. I quite see that point of view and I will discuss it with the Minister for Local Government but I cannot really accept these amendments because they are based on matters of local government concerning which the Minister for Local Government is the authority.
I understand the Minister's difficulty and am sure that, as he says, it lies with the Minister for Local Government to replace on any subsidiary body of the corporation the members or a man that he wishes and that if any new appointments have to be made he has to be consulted. But it would meet the case—it certainly would meet the case I have made in amendment No. 8—if the Minister would agree that he would approach the Minister for Local Government and advocate this. That would meet my wishes.
I will be approaching the Minister for Local Government and pointing out to him that he has this discretion of appointment and I will do all I can to point out the very heavy responsibility if he appoints only one person and that he should consider sympathetically appointing more than one person, assuming the Dublin Corporation body still remain dissolved. I will do that.
I am sure the Minister knows that the Commissioner for Dublin Corporation has only one vote on the health authority.
It would be wrong to have such a person representing the Dublin Corporation with one vote.
I can see that difficulty.
This is one of the reasons why I should like the Minister, if he would, to press this on the Minister for Local Government.
I do not think I quite understood what the Minister said the same way as Senator Belton. I understood the Minister said he would discuss this matter with the Minister for Local Government; he pointed out he recognised the problem of the eastern health region and again reminded us the Minister for Local Government had power to appoint people. However, this is not what the amendment is trying to do. What we are asking is that a meeting would be held at which people would be elected, which is very different from saying that the Minister would appoint people, even if these people happened to have served on the Dublin Corporation when it was in existence. Perhaps, the Minister would clarify what he has in mind.
We would be getting into very controversial waters if I were to start talking about the dissolution of the Dublin City Council and as to who should or should not be appointed by the Minister for Local Government. This is a point of principle, and the Minister for Local Government, quite rightly from his own point of view, might say in regard to the city council: "I dissolved you. You are not persons whom I would think fit to take this decision." One gets straight into this argument and you really cannot do it.
The Minister has, perhaps, put his finger on the point that may be at issue here. It is a question, as I see it, of a democratic or an undemocratic approach to this matter. The view taken by those who sponsored the Fine Gael amendment—I have no doubt the same motive is behind the Labour amendment—is that so far as the Dublin Corporation is concerned the proper people to make the election are the people who were elected at the last city council elections. They have, as Senator Belton pointed out, the right to vote for Members of this House. We either approach this in a democratic way or we do not.
I am fully aware of the views of the Chair and I respect them, and I am fully aware of the fact that we cannot on this amendment or at this stage discuss the reasons for the dissolution of the city council. However, it is relevant to say that whatever reasons may exist for the dissolution of the city council by the Minister for Local Government they are not and should not be a relevant consideration for the Minister for Health in dealing with the Health Bill. We are dealing with a Health Bill; we are dealing with regionalisation; we are dealing with the establishment of the regional boards, and the Minister apparently visualises a situation where a very important regional board, the eastern board, is going to be established by election by certain of the councils or county councils concerned, but at the discretion not of the Minister for Health but the Minister for Local Government as regards other members of that board.
The Minister said there is nothing to prevent the Minister for Local Government making particular appointments. I do not know what other colleagues of mine on this side may feel, but I do not think that is going nearly far enough. I accept fully, when the Minister says he will consult with the Minister for Local Government, that he intends doing that. I do not know to what extent the Minister for Health is likely to be able to influence the decision of the Minister for Local Government in this matter. I would prefer to see the hands of the Minister for Health strengthened in this matter and that we should write into this Bill the particular machinery for the election so far as membership from the former Dublin City Council is concerned. There is no question then of the Minister for Health having to depend on the good offices of the Minister for Local Government. There is no question of the Minister for Health having to plead his point of view before the Minister for Local Government.
I want to see the hand of the Minister for Health strengthened in this matter and strengthened in the way proposed in these amendments. There is a difference in the wording of the amendment. I do not think it is particularly important. An agreed amendment could be worked out. The one central idea is there in both of these amendments and I would strongly urge that this House should accept one or other of the amendments.
I am not concerned with the rights or wrongs of the dissolution of Dublin Corporation or any other body for that matter. This is not why we were motivated in putting down this amendment. What we are primarily concerned with is the amount of goodwill that will be required in the setting up of this eastern regional board which is the board that will be responsible for a much larger number of people than any other regional board. I am sure the Minister and the Government are as concerned as we are that these regional boards should get away to a good start, because if they do not I do not know if they will prove as effective as we would like them to be. We should not be concerned with the Dublin Corporation as such. We should be concerned with the people whom the members of that corporation represent and through their representatives they should have a say in who would represent the people on the regional health boards.
I understand the views put forward by those who feel strongly on this matter but I have covered completely the situation and given the reasons why I must refuse to accept the amendments.
The House has agreed to take amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 14 together. Accordingly, if any Member wishes to say anything on any of these three amendments he should make his contribution now before any of the questions are put.
I take it the one vote will cover the three?
Separate decisions may be taken. After amendment No.8 has been dealt with, it is a matter for the House whether Nos. 9 and 14 are separately dealt with. All contributions should be made now.
Amendment No. 14 relates to local committees.
That is right. If anyone wishes to make a contribution on this aspect he should make it now.
Senators might not be so worried about the local committees because they feel they are not going to have anything to do anyway. The principle is the same.
Is amendment No. 8 accepted?
- Belton, Richard.
- Boland, John.
- Bourke, Mary T. W.
- Butler, Pierce.
- Desmond, Eileen.
- Dooge, James C.I.
- Farrelly, Denis.
- FitzGerald, Alexis.
- Fitzgerald, Jack.
- Horgan, John.
- Kelly, John.
- Lyons, Michael D.
- Mannion, John M.
- O'Brien, Andy.
- O'Brien, William.
- O'Higgins, Micheal J.
- Owens, Evelyn P.
- Prendergast, Mícheál A.
- Quinlan, Patrick M.
- Reynolds, Patrick J.
- Russell, G. E.
- Sheehy Skeffington, O. L.
- Alton, Bryan G.
- Brennan, John J.
- Brugha, Ruairí.
- Cranitch, Micheál C.
- Crinion, Brendan.
- Doyle, John.
- Eachthéirn, Cáit Uí.
- Farrell, Joseph.
- Fitzsimons, Patrick.
- Flanagan, Thomas P.
- Norton, Patrick.
- Ó Maoláin, Tomás.
- O'Sullivan, Terry.
- Ryan, Eoin.
- Gallanagh, Micheal.
- Garrett, Jack.
- Hanafin, Desmond.
- Honan, Dermot P.
- Jessop, W. J. E.
- Keery, Neville.
- Killilea, Mark.
- McElgunn, Farrell.
- McGlinchey, Bernard.
- Nash, John J.
- Ryan, Patrick W.
- Ryan, William.
- Sheldon, W.A.W.
- Walsh, Seán.
In view of the result of the division and as both amendments were debated at the same time we will not press amendment No. 9.
Amendments Nos. 76, 85 and 114 will be taken with amendment No. 10.
I move amendment No.10:
In subsection (5), line 35, before "and" to insert "for the purposes of considering and if thought fit passing with or without amendment" and in line 37, before "has" to insert "or the draft as amended".
I move this amendment with a view to understanding what is intended by the subsection drafted in its present form. In the normal course regulations are laid before the House and there is no question of laying a draft of the regulations before the House. The only difference there is between two different methods of approach. In the first case, where regulations are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, it is necessary to move a resolution to annual them. They take effect when they are made by the Minister under a particular statute and they are annulled if the Oireachtas passes the necessary resolution.
I understand from the Minister's words in the Dáil that a concession was intended to be given here and I should like to pin-point the precise nature of this concession. I understood the only concession is that the regulations do not take effect until there is a resolution approving them. In this situation we would be given an alternative method simply of having a debate; the debate would not, in fact, give the Houses of the Oireachtas any additional opportunity of improving the draft if the draft did not seem to be right. It is in accordance with the proper dignity of this House that it should feel capable of improving draft regulations coming from any Minister, however skilful he or his advisers might be. As I understand the word "draft" in its general use, it is something capable of amendment; it is not something final but is offered by one party to another for improvement on the basis that it may be improved. Possibly, in certain circumstances it is the process of negotiation, and something like negotiation is intended to proceed here between the Executive and Legislature.
If we cannot amend the draft—the intention of the amendments we propose to sections 44 and 45 are similar to the intention behind this amendment —I see very little point in having it in this form. There is a built-in reason for not accepting any amendments in so far as it would seem necessary for the Minister to reject amendments unless statutorily empowered to accept them. Perhaps he would be in the position here, standing over draft regulations, where he would listen to members of his own party making some points on how they could be improved and bringing to him knowledge which he previously did not have. The idea of laying draft regulations before the House is a very desirable development; it would be valuable to this House if Members felt that they were of use to the country and could improve draft regulations. On amendment No.12 I shall be making some comments on the rules which have emanated from the draftsmen. Perhaps I could anticipate some of the things I may be saying——
It is certainly not advisable.
You could have a set of draft regulations for the functioning of a body which failed to make provision for certain matters and these draft regulations might come before the House and might contain provisions, for example, whereby a man might be a member of a health authority and be convicted of a criminal offence and yet not be disqualified from continuing in membership. You might have draft regulations providing for a man with a lot of property being a member of a body who would continue to be a member of that body after he had been declared a bankrupt. You could have draft regulations for the government of a body that provided a man would not be disqualified if he became a lunatic and still exercised great power in relation to the control of the property in question. You might have a set of regulations establishing some body which gave it a lot of property without giving it any power to borrow money on the property and thereby sterilising considerable property to the disadvantage of the State.
I could see draft regulations with defects coming under these three sections. I accept the Minister's sincerity that he considers he is making a concession on this. I do not wish to press it too far, but I wonder if advice has been taken on what the position will be if draft regulations were submitted to and rejected by the House. Is the Minister empowered under this section to re-submit draft regulations or does he come to a full stop? I recall the 1953 Health Act that enabled the Minister by Order to bring certain sections of the Act into power. A Minister vacating office made an Order bringing these sections into power and it was found necessary to come back to the House for a new Act as the Order could not be revoked. Does the Minister want to be in the position, after he has laid draft regulations before the Houses of Parliament and has listened to many good points made by Members of these Houses— not perhaps political points at all— and is convinced himself that they are good points, that he cannot take advantage of the wisdom presented to him without coming back and enacting a new Health Act? I submit that the amendment is a desirable one for reasons of this kind.
I should like to support this amendment. The case has been well stated by Senator Alexis FitzGerald. On the Second Stage the Minister justifiably emphasised the fact that he was giving the Seanad more power in relation to such regulations than it often has in that we would have the right to veto them and not merely to hold them up, to delay them for 90 days. I made the point that we apparently would not have the right to amend them and, in answering, he suggested that what could be done would be that a regulation would be rejected and that he would then come back and submit another regulation. It is quite obvious that such a method would be cumberous in the extreme and that if we in this House had the right to amend regulations the old procedure would be much more efficient.
The Minister today has been rejecting certain suggestions on the grounds that they would be unnecessarily cumbersome and unwieldy and slow in practice. This amendment suggests a way in which his regulations could, if thought necessary, be improved and amended by this House immediately without the necessity of first vetoing them and then putting him under the obligation of redrafting and re-submitting them with the danger that they might again be rejected.
It seems to me, therefore, on the very grounds that the Minister uses in other connections, grounds of efficiency and, as Senator Alexis FitzGerald said, the utilisation of the combined wisdom of this House, on these grounds this amendment I think should be accepted by the House and by the Minister.
I brought this point up before because I was somewhat at sea about the difference between regulations laid before the House and regulations laid before the House in draft. I took different opinions on it. None of the opinions was the same so I am still slightly at sea as to the difference between draft regulations. Even if draft regualtions have a rigid meaning, this Bill is really a committee Bill and, as mentioned by Senator Miss Bourke, it is a skeleton that has to be filled in by regulations. There are so many regulations involved in this that they should be by draft and the concession should be made, even in this Bill for the moment, that, when regulations are laid in draft before each House of the Oireachtas, the Members of each House would have the opportunity of amending these regulations. That is what I would like the Minister to elucidate for me.
I agree with all that has been said. Amendment No. 114, which is being taken with amendment No.10, is practically identical with those put down by Senator Alexis FitzGerald. It is a practical way of dealing with regulations. There is a worthwhile reason for doing it this way in that, where one cannot propose amendments, where one must either accept or reject, one is inclined perhaps not to pay so much attention to the matter. If one gets a document that one can amend, then one is inclined to examine it. There is also the very valid point made by Senator FitzGerald that it is a bit ridiculous that one can only reject the whole or accept it, that one cannot modify. Often we will be in a position where we will agree with 99 per cent of a regulation but, if one disagrees with only 1 per cent of it, one has to reject the lot. It seems to be unnecessary work both for the Minister and his officials and the House.
I should like to support this amendment and the others that are being considered with it. The Minister would be doing a very good day's work if he were to accept this amendment. A number of very weighty arguments have already been put forward and I have no doubt that the Minister will regard them as weighty arguments.
This House and the other House are legislative assemblies. It is our job, surely, to consider legislation coming before us, whether it is coming in the form of a Bill or in the form of regulations or draft regulations. We lose all purpose as a legislative assembly if we have no power to amend the legislation coming before us. Apart from the obvious practical disadvantages of a system whereby this or the other House can merely accept or reject a global regulation brought before them, it seems to me that we are not acting realistically as a Legislature unless we have the power of not merely considering but amending what we are considering.
I can see a situation arising where, if this section and others throughout the Bill remain unaltered, Members of the House my find themselves put in rather difficult and embarrassing situations. Under subsection (5) of section 4 it is provided that a draft of regulations which it is proposed to make under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and the regulations shall not be made until legislation approving of the draft has been passed by each House. The House may find itself in a situation where the Minister in all good faith comes before the House with a draft regulation which he wants to get passed as a matter of urgency, not for his own convenience but for people who are to be affected by it under this Act. We then find ourselves in the position where some Members of the House have a strong objection to a particular portion of a regulation, that they make a good argument as to why that portion of the regulation should not be accepted by the House. The Minister then is in the position of having to say to the House: "Well, that is true. I accept that that is a good argument but unfortunately under section 4 (5) of the Act I must have the entire regulation or none of it." You cannot amend it and you must give him all or nothing, and the House, if it feels sufficiently strongly on the matter, has then no option but to reject the entire regulations as drafted.
On the other hand, Members of the House may feel that it is better to accept a curate's egg type of regulation which is in their view largely bad and only good in spots rather than to delay matters by rejecting it in a situation which, as I say, may be a situation of urgency—by rejecting it and having the whole thing re-submitted. I do seriously think that in the interests of the Houses of Parliament, of the legislative bodies, and the interests of the smooth functioning of this legislation as well, the Minister would be doing a good day's work if he were to accept these amendments. If he did not feel like accepting them as they stand most of the Members on this side of the House would feel that if the Minister is prepared to meet us by introducing Government amendments on Report Stage we would be happy with that situation.
I just wish to support the cases made. In point of fact we lose all function here if we are not capable of amending. Surely a regulation in its passage before being printed in the Minister's Department would have originated in one section and probably been shown to the others who would, if they saw anything wrong at that stage, have their normal right of amending. We are only asking that we should be in the position to look at it in the same way and be able to argue for a change and thereby bring in better regulations. I do not think that there can be any argument for not accepting these amendments.
I am afraid that I could not possibly agree with those who have spoken on this question. These are ministerial regulations related to very detailed consideration of construction, organisation and standards and so forth. I suppose that the House realises that in relation, for example, to regulations setting up the regional health boards there could be such a conflict of opinion between the Members of the Dáil and the Seanad without any kind of political inconsistency that you would have amendments that might be introduced and passed in the Seanad and these detailed regulations would be rejected by the Dáil. There could be all sorts of different points of view about the constitution of a regional health board in one area or in another. It is because these regulations relate to very detailed matters, and because there could be such a conflict between the two Houses, that the Minister must be fundamentally responsible in putting forward the regulations. If one House modifies the regulations it would seem in some ways to cut across the powers of the other House. As the various provisions of the Bill stand, regulations must either be submitted to both Houses before making for approval in draft form or else submitted to both Houses after being made and either House may annul them. I do not think that there is any need for either House to be empowered to amend the regulations, which would give rise to complications in the other House. If either House refuses approval to the draft regulations or decides to annul the regulations that have been made, then the Minister will have to have new draft regulations or new regulations before the House, and if he wishes to have them passed he will have to take into account the wishes of the House in respect of the regulation. In this way I think that the rights of both Houses of the Oireachtas are preserved.
For example, Seanad Éireann could move an amendment "that Seanad Éireann declines to approve of draft regulation so-and-so unless the following changes are made" and if a majority is secured in the Seanad the Minister would then have to go back and redraft the regulations, taking into account what has been said here, or else draft them in such a way that he thinks on balance they would be approved.
Again, in connection with anything so detailed as the regulations provided in this Bill there is the difficulty that he could go back to the Dáil, and if the Dáil were prepared to accept some regulations suggested by the Seanad he could be faced then with a further difficulty that some regulations or some amendments might be proposed which would have secondary effects on the rest of the Bill and the whole Bill itself would have to be amended. As I have said, I quite agree with the modern concept of democratic procedure, but I am afraid that we are up against enormous complications in legislation of this kind and it is up to the Minister to try to frame regulations that are likely to get the consent of both Houses. As the House very well knows, this concerns a whole lot of complicated detailed considerations in relation to regional health boards, regional hospital boards, Comhairle na nOspidéal, the standards to be adopted, and so forth, and I think that the whole arrangement must be done by one blanket regulation either rejected or accepted.
It is up to the Minister to use his intelligence to put forward regulations that are likely to have a majority view accepting them and likely to be accepted by the majority, and it is up to the Minister to at least show consistency in framing the regulations so that he would not get himself into trouble and offend the legislature by offering regulations that do not seem to show any consistent pattern in relation to any particular matters that might be discussed. In other words, if I was to put forward regulations in Dáil Éireann for the regional health boards that showed gross inconsistency of treatment as between one regional health board and another that would reflect either incapacity on my own part or an attempt to favour someone on my part, I would be asking for all the trouble I would get and I would be doing a very bad day's work if I tried to force it in through the Seanad.
I would ask the Seanad to accept the position that these regulations, for instance, detailing the whole eight regional health boards proposals will be complex, and to think that every detail would have to have the consent equally of the Seanad and of the Dáil is impracticable. This is a point into the discussion of which we could go for a long time, going into details in relation to the operation of the Bill. As I have said, these are matters for the commonsense and the perspicacity of the Minister to put forward regulations which the majority of the two Houses will accept, and I could not possibly accept these amendments.
I am sure that the Minister will not for one moment think that if he introduces regulations, for instance, as he gave the example himself, in relation to the eight health boards this or the other House would tear them to pieces. They might very well make suggestions which they would feel in the light of their experience would improve the regulations considerably, but certainly the approach from this side of the House would be a constructive one, offering what we felt would be improvements to the regulations or draft regulations. I am only a short time here, but I am very interested and it has been a great enlightenment to me to hear one thing emerge, when the Minister mentioned that regulations or draft regulations should not be passed unless the Minister does so and so. As the Minister has told us, we could move a motion. This at least is something to have learned from the discussion, that such a motion could be put forward to draft regulations saying that we do not particularly want to reject them out of hand but that they should be rejected unless the Minister himself decides to amend them in a certain way.
That I understand was more or less what the Minister was saying. This is certainly not the advice or the explanation of what could be done on draft regulations that was given to me by several people and, indeed, I would ask the Minister that he might again just before we leave these amendments clarify this position for us and let us know categorically if we can enter a motion like that on the subject of draft regulations. It certainly was a great surprise to me to hear it.
I am afraid that I have not a very legalistic mind. I have never had, and I must confess, perhaps, that it is a great advantage sometimes. I feel, on the other hand, that one makes progress in certain terms without a legalistic mind. It is quite obvious to me and I hardly believe that the Leas-Chathaoirleach would refuse to accept a resolution of that kind, a motion of that kind, saying that Seanad Éireann declines to approve of draft regulations unless the following changes are made in them by the Minister.
There is nothing in the Bill to prevent such a thing being done. There are not many precedents for these kinds of regulations, which are not made in the House and are subject only to annulment. I cannot recall any legislation of this kind. It is something perfectly obvious. I do not see how the Cathaoirleach could refuse to accept a proposition of this kind. It could still leave us in this difficulty: there might be a resolution of that kind framed by Seanad Members in relation to draft regulations and the proposals might reflect the opinions of certain Members. If I were to accept the proposals made, I would be getting myself into trouble with people in the Dáil who might feel that the balance had been upset in regard to their particular county councils or counties. It is a very complicated business. There would have to be some kind of omnibus resolution in respect of these things if the Seanad grossly disapproved of them. For those reasons I cannot accept the amendment.
I just wish to raise a query. Is it not possible that as a result of the argument here the Minister himself would want to amend because he would see suddenly a weakness or a danger in something in a regulation? Does the Minister then have to ask his party Leader to move that the Seanad reject the regulations unless the Minister makes the change that the Minister himself wants to make? How ridiculous can we get?
I could withdraw a regulation or ask leave of the Seanad to withdraw the regulations. I would have power to do that, as far as I understand.
Would that not be very much the second best compared with having the right to make the change when it appears necessary? We have the practical fact that no change can be made in legislation unless the Minister approves—in other words, whatever the party says. The Minister's party will naturally have to back the Minister and that guarantees that what the Minister wants, so long as he has a parliamentary majority, will be achieved.