The purpose of this Bill is to enable the incorporation in Ireland of any international body, the functions of which under their constitution relate wholly or mainly to the health of persons, health insurance, the care and treatment of the sick or infirm, medical (including dental) research or the administration of health services.
The Bill is of general application but it will in the first instance be used to enable the incorporation in Ireland of the International Federation of Voluntary Health Service Funds. This body had its origins at the first International Conference on Voluntary Health Insurance held in Dublin in September, 1966 at which the delegates decided to establish an international federation to promote co-operation in the development and and study of voluntary nonprofit making health services throughout the world. At the second international conference held in Sydney in 1968 a constitution was adopted and it was also decided at that meeting that the headquarters of the newly constituted International Federation of Voluntary Health Service Funds would be in Dublin. The Council of Management of the Federation discussed the question of the incorporation of the federation so as to give it a legal existence and decided in the first instance to seek incorporation in Ireland if that were feasible, or otherwise to seek incorporation in another country suitable for that purpose.
The federation at present consists of 83 organisations providing health services broadly speaking similar to those which are being provided by the Voluntary Health Insurance Board which is the Irish organisation in membership. The General Manager of the Voluntary Health Insurance Board is in fact the first Secretary General and Treasurer of the Federation.
I consider it desirable that an international organisation of the standing and potentiality of this federation should be encouraged in the establishment of headquarters in Ireland and facilitated as respects incorporation in Ireland. Existing legislation, including the Companies Act, is not suitable for the purpose and hence the necessity for the introduction of this Bill.
I have of course a secondary objective. The Bill is, as I have said, in general terms and can be used to facilitate other appropriate and suitable international bodies in the health field who may wish to be incorporated here to do so. I would hope that the International Federation of Voluntary Health Service Funds would be the first of many such organisations who might be attracted to come here.
The House will readily appreciate the significance to the country and to the economy in prestige and economic terms if we were to become a recognised centre of international activity in the health field. We have much to offer in location and facilities. The fringe benefit to our tourist industry would indeed be significant.
The Bill itself is straightforward enough and in view of its size and directness calls for little explanation. The Minister for Health will be the appropriate Minister for the purposes of the Bill and the bodies concerned will be international bodies with functions relating to health or the administration of health services.
The Bill provides that any such body may apply to the Minister for Health to make a corporate status order in relation to that body. On the Minister's deciding to make a corporate status order that body will then be a body corporate with perpetual succession and with power to sue and be sued in its corporate name and to hold land. There are other minor requirements that may be imposed by the Minister in the order such as the title to be used by the body and the provision of a seal and its authentication.
I want to draw attention, however, to the provisions of section 8 of the Bill which provide that before any order granting corporate status is made a draft of the order shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and the order shall not be made until a resolution approving of the draft has been passed by each such House. In other words the Houses of the Oireachtas individually will have the opportunity of examining each such order before it is made and will have the right to veto any such order. This procedure will ensure that incorporation under the Bill is publicity seen to be subject to the full scrutiny of the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The Bill requires that any such body granted incorporation will be obliged to maintain an office in the State and shall supply to the Minister for Health any such information regarding its activities or accounts as he may reasonably require. The Minister is obliged to maintain a register of such bodies and this register will be kept open for public inspection during normal office hours. With the register will be kept for public inspection, copies of the constitutions of the bodies and the address of the office maintained by the registered body.
A corporate status order may be revoked, in either of two ways. First, on the application of the organisation to which it relates, and provided the Minister agrees, and secondly, when the Minister considers it would be in the public interest to do so. Provision is made for particular requirements to be included in the revocation order so as to safeguard the interests of the body itself and of those with whom it has dealings. Again, I might point out that the revocation order must be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and if a resolution annulling the order is passed by either House within the next 21 days in which the House has sat the order shall be annulled. Provision has been made in the Bill for the expenses of the Minister. These expenses will be of a very minimal nature.
As already indicated I consider this Bill is desirable. I have built in adequate safeguards in the Bill itself which should allay any fears Senators may have in relation to the type of body which will be incorporated. I would therefore commend it to the House for a Second Reading.