Some additional amendments were received from the Minister this morning and they have been circulated.
Dentists Bill, 1984: Committee Stage.
Section 2 is a definition section, yet we find that the key definition to the whole Bill is not contained in the definition section. It is the definition of the practice of dentistry which is the absolute key because it is the basis of the register, it is the basis of fitness to practise, and the basis of the prevention of illegal practice. The definition is given in section 49. It is largely a drafting matter. It does not really affect the legal aspect. It would have been more appropriate if the practice of dentistry had been defined in the definition section. In the 1927 Act, which it is replacing, the definition appears in the opening section. The nature of dental practice is central to the Bill.
We have in section 24 a reference to the "profession of dentistry". That has not been defined either in section 2, the definition section, nor is it defined in section 49. I would like the Minister to comment on whether there would be any difficulty in regard to the question of the use of the term "profession of dentistry" when only the practice of dentistry has been defined in the Bill.
I have discussed this with Senator Dooge. Could the Minister confirm that the "practice of dentistry" has the meaning specified in section 49 of this Act and is it a sufficient definition of the "practice of dentistry"?
I am not averse to having the formal definition included in the interpretation section. I doubt if in other legislation, the Medical Practioners Act and so on, there were all-encompassing initial definitions. I do not think that the section 49 definition is in dispute. I am sure Senators Dooge and Ferris would agree that I have been fastidious in having the best possible lay-out in the Bill. It has been a consolidation effort in many respects. If it is the wish of Senators, I would be prepared to have the definition brought forward. It might lengthen the section but the Senators' point could be accommodated on Report Stage.
I am grateful to the Minister for taking this point. I am glad to have the opportunity again to congratulate him on the clean state of this Bill. The Minister has — provided we agree to an amendment he has put forward — removed all external reference to other legislation. We are now going a stage further in getting rid of undue internal reference.
It seems to me that one should look for definitions in the definition section. I would be glad if the Minister would have the matter examined between now and Report Stage or if it is not possible to complete that examination, between now and the passage of the Bill in Dáil Éireann. Perhaps the Minister would examine at the same time the relation of the reference to "profession of dentistry" in section 24 to the "practice of dentistry" as defined.
If the Minister accepts the "practice of dentistry" would that affect other sections further on in the Bill particularly in relation to auxiliary dental workers?
No, it would not affect the general thrust of the Bill. It would make it easier for initial reading of the Bill in time to come. It would not affect the relativity to auxiliary dental workers.
This section is concerned with the commencement. It provides, as usual, for possible phasing of the coming into operation of various Parts and sections of the Bill. I would like to ask the Minister if he would be able to tell us now whether he is of a mind to introduce the Bill in phases or all at once, or, if he proposes to do it in phases, what would be the nature of the phasing?
There has not been any policy decided on that issue at this stage. The only general remit I have is to bring as many sections as possible into immediate operation. I do not intend to dawdle around with the general implementation of the Bill. I intend to set up the council, getting down to work, drawing up the various schemes, urging the establishment of the committees and so on. The phasing will be as tight as possible.
This is an important section. It deals with the establishment of the Dental Council in the form we discussed on Second Stage. I do not want to go on to repeat what was said on that occasion. It struck me when reading through the Bill in preparing for Committee Stage that section 6 is not very positive. The Minister is setting up a charter for a new regulation of dentistry and he is setting up a structure that would be appropriate for dentistry in the years to come. We say in section 6 that we will set up this body to fulfil the functions assigned to it by the Act. It seems that the Minister has not really given a charter to them.
When I looked at the United Kingdom Act of 1957 I found a somewhat different phrasing. I should like to bring it to the attention of the House. I am no proponent that we should slavishly follow United Kingdom legislation and I have no desire to bring down on my head the wrath of Deputy John Kelly, who can prove most eloquent on that point. If we compare section 6 of the Bill before us with section 1 of the UK Dentists Act, which is chapter 28 of 1957, they set up a general dental council and I quote:
whose general concern it shall be to promote high standards of professional education and professional conduct among dentists and who shall in particular perform the functions assigned to them by this Act.
I am sorry to bring this up on Committee Stage. If I had seen the point earlier I would have brought it up on Second Stage. I bring it up now because it is worth while pausing to consider whether it is not appropriate to follow the English standard here and say the charge of this body is to promote high standards of professional education and professional conduct among dentists.
We have a headline here. The change would not affect their legal powers but it would define a clear objective rather than saying they shall fulfil the functions and then reading very carefully through a long and complicated Act to find out what the functions are.
I have no objection. It could be drafted that the concept of the highest possible level of standard and the highest possible level of self-regulation and discipline should be encouraged in section 6. If it is a consolation to the profession, rather than a patronisation of it, I would be prepared to do so. Perhaps we could look at it on Report Stage.
I am grateful to the Minister for taking this attitude. It might be helpful not in that it would affect the law but it could be of assistance to the council. If we look at section 23 (2), on the question of the acceptance of gifts by the council, it states:
The Council shall not accept a gift if the conditions attached to the acceptance by the donor are inconsistent with the functions of the Council.
If there were a new definition of the purpose and function of the council and if it was redefined in section 2, then the council would be in a much stronger position to be able to refuse gifts which might not be inconsistent with their actual functions under this Bill but might well be inconsistent with or reflect on their objective to promote the highest standards of professional education and professional conduct. It does not really affect the law but it would set an objective and standard that might be helpful to the council.
I support the point made by Senator Dooge on this. The initial reference to the Dental Council is very bald. One has to go to section 34 before one gets the start of the key functions in relation to education and training and then other functions relating to removal of people from the register and the disciplinary end of things. It would be appropriate to have a general provision in the section that establishes the Dental Council, affirming what their positive role is and later setting out the other functions of the Dental Council. In that regard, I join with Senator Dooge in commending the Minister on his whole approach to this Bill. It is very welcome to Members of the House that a Bill of this kind, which requires very serious and meticulous consideration on Committee Stage, should have been introduced in the Seanad and that the Minister is clearly open to comments, suggestions and improvements which may come from the floor of the House.
I recall when we were establishing various other bodies that we rarely did it so baldly. The tendency is to characterise in a general way what the overall assumptions or responsibilities would be and then later on to set out in more specific form, either by the words "in particular" or by itemising in a non-exclusive way what the individual functions would be. This would put the Dental Council at least morally in a stronger position than it is. This is something the Minister could look at.
I take the point.
I have three points to make on section 7. The first one may not really be appropriate to Committee Stage. Subsection (1) dissolves the old Dental Board. I do not think that if we dissolve them and replace them by a new council — a massive transformation of dental procedures under the supervision of the new council — that we should neglect to pay tribute to what has been done under the old legislation and the remarkable work that was done under that board.
In subsection (8), the Minister has done such a splendid job in cleaning up this that he makes us look for perfection in regard to the removal of cases of reference. We have a reference in subsection (8) to section 12 of the Finance Act, 1895. It states that this:
shall not apply to the vesting in the Council of the property or rights transferred by this section.
It may be appropriate to re-enact section 12. If we had a hint of what section 12 of 1895 was about, we could judge. I have a memory of a famous occasion when we had a debate in this House. It relates to the late Senator Sheehy-Skeffington. When a section of a Bill from the 1890s was being re-enacted he called out from the back bench where he used to sit: "Act one of Queen Victoria's best years." I would like to be reassured that 1895 was not only one of Queen Victoria's good years but that she had a good Chancellor of the Exchequer in that year. In other words, I am curious as to what section 12 is all about. Could we perhaps put in something relating to section 12 of the Finance Act, 1985 — just a little flag heading that would help us in this regard?
We took the opportunity on Second Stage and it would be appropriate to do so again today, to compliment the outgoing Dental Board. I reiterate Senator Dooge's views on that. Subsection (2) gives power to transfer existing property from the board to the new council. The kind of property that will be transferred is specifically outlined. How will the new Dental Council be funded apart from the fact that they will acquire existing property? A reference to the Finance Act, 1895 would not assist us regarding how the Minister intends to fund the council. If the council are to carry out their duties in the way we would like to see them carried out then they will need finance. Is the Minister making specific provisions to allow them to have finance?
It is correct to say that Queen Victoria was no mean lady when it came to control over her Chancellors of the day. Subsection (8) of the 1895 Act gives exemption from stamp duty in relation to transfers. On Report Stage I have no objection, subject to consulting with my colleague the Minister for Finance who may have a different view about giving exemptions to the dental profession regarding stamp duty——
It is certain to go in.
Looking at subsections (6) and (9) together, I am curious as to why it is necessary to deal with contracts of service separately from other contracts. The wording is very much the same. There are only minor differences. Would "contracts of service" not be covered by the general terms of subsection (6)?
I do not have an answer ready but I will consider the matter for Report Stage. It is wise that if one does not know one should say so.
I thank the Minister for his kind indications.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are consequential on amendment No. 1 and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 8, subsection (1), line 14, to delete "19" and substitute "23".
There are a number of principles involved in the amendments which Senator Ryan and I have put down. Some of the points I raise with regard to the main amendment are appropriate to a change in attitude which will become more and more necessary in relation to professional organisations as a whole and are not specifically directed towards the dental professional organisation. I compliment members of the dental profession on some of the statements which emerged from the Proceedings of the Fifteenth International Conference of the Society of University Dental Instructors, 1983 held in Trinity College. It is indicated, particularly in the statement by the Director of the School of Dental Science, that things are changing in the world at large and that, even among the conservative professions, they must change too. He emphasised the changes proposed for the curriculum. A Dental Council will have a great interest in what is put into the curriculum for dental teaching in our universities for both undergraduate and post-graduate training. He said:
In the 12-week period between terms, students will carry out general dental practice in which particular emphasis will be placed on whole patient care as opposed to isolated and specialised procedures. Students will be encouraged to participate in university activities and sport in order to provide the elements of a broader university education.
His lecture goes on to outline the changes in the way in which a dental student will spend his time as an undergraduate in terms of total hours. It shows that there are now proposals for 826 hours of adult general practice for the student, 368 hours proposed for child's general practice, and for remedial and elective periods, a total of 729 hours. In all three of the figures quoted, there were officially none in the original curriculum, that depended on individuals and on individual teachers. It is also proposed that there will be 630 hours specifically set aside for sport and recreation. If any of my remarks should be taken to be specifically critical of the dental professional institutional control they are not intended as such, and they are made against the background of awareness within the profession of the need for change and the need — which we need even more acutely in the medical profession — to cease seeing diseases separated from organs, organs separated from individuals, individuals from their families and the families out of community context.
In that document he goes on to say:
This programme will place more emphasis on learning rather than teaching, reasoning rather than memorising. It is based on small group learning where patient care is of fundamental importance...
Our students of the eighties will be practitioners of the next century.
I want to emphasise that it is in that context that Senator Brendan Ryan and I have made the proposals which we will seek to justify.
Who can predict the type of practice expected of them given the changes which have taken place in the past two decades?
We would maintain that it cannot be predicted by social and academic elite in isolation and that there must be the optimum cross-fertilisation with the people who require the service and with all those who have to operate the service.
Dental education is a challenge to all of us concerned with undergraduate, continuing and postgraduate education continuing. It is one which I find exciting and am privileged to be a part of it in this particularly interesting period.
That was written by Diarmuid Shanley, Director, School of Dental Science, Trinity College, Dublin.
For many years I have been acutely aware in my own profession of an over-weaning centrally controlled institutional organisation which is not as responsive as it should be to needs defined by people where they live, or to the non-professional — if I might use that term — operatives who have to participate in the delivery of the health service. This has been to some extent because we have been so obsessed — unlike the writer of that article — with curing. We have paid lip service to prevention, and in that context perhaps the dental profession have done as much as most in recent years, but we have not yet geared into the area of promoting health. Once you come into that area you must conduct a communication with those whose health you purport to be promoting, because the whole requires an input from the whole, and it cannot be left in the hands of a small specialised elite which is only a fragment of that whole.
For a Dental Council to be successful it will have to be concerned with the teaching of undergraduates, the training of post-graduates, of specialised needs, and with the need of people for good dental care which leads to normal function, and it has to be concerned about the health and efficiency of those who practise.
There are special areas, such as the needs of children, the needs of the handicapped and the needs of the elderly. We maintain that there has been a tendency in recent years to look for the best, and unfortunately the best is but an illusion. In searching for the best and in focusing on whatever we mean by the best, all too often those who have the money, or those who are closest to the so-called centres of excellence — a term which I immediately reject because it implies that those who are not in the centre are incapable of practising in any form of excellent or appropriate manner — may not be getting the service they require. Well over 80 per cent of all dental care should be within the capability of the generally trained dental practitioner, provided he relates positively to the other community health care delivery components, has adequate access to auxiliary support systems and knows where his capability ends and his limitations begin.
I am not denigrating in any way, nor do I intend to, the need for the highly specialised segment in any part of the health professions. What I am determined to get across is that we must keep them in perspective, and in order to do that we must be aware of how the Dental Council will be composed. If it is left to an academic elite who have a vested interest in institutional care, research programmes, special lines of education, careerism and promoting this and the demand for it, then we may not be getting the overall balance we need in a health delivery system.
Senators have spoken about how our dental service varies from one locality to another, how difficult it has been in certain areas to get appropriate dental care, and the need to expand that care to liberate the resourcefulness of those involved in it, to spread it and to try to have a more equitable distribution of resources which are inevitably scarce particularly at this time of financial stringency, but to do it in such a way that we can meet the basic requirements of 80 per cent to 90 per cent overall needs of the people, wherever they are, regardless of their income or location.
With a more extensively educated people in our society today who are going to have more and more time on their hands, we are likely to find that those who may not be labelled as professionals will have had the benefits of third level education and will no longer be prepared to take a secondary role in the decision-making process in relation to the delivery of care. That is why, in anticipating the next century as the writer of the article anticipated it, we are anxious to ensure that the operatives, other than the dentists, have a say in how the service is developing.
I believe the day is not far away when we will have to introduce — in the context of the overall patterns of a changing post-industrial high technology society — the tripartite concept in all institutions, the idea that the general operative, the consumer and the man with the special expertise will be coming together to discuss how best to deliver the service in the community in which they live, how best to relate to adjacent communities and to the central, more highly specialised institutions of the State.
I also believe that in our communities we will find the development of the old guild systems, that we will have community health guilds and that there will be a tendency to integrate health and education. Education will no longer be seen as segmentalised, compartmentalised or stratified, it will become more of an integrated thing on a community basis and so will health. We will become more and more aware of the fact that we now run disease centres rather than health centres; that we are running a disease service rather than a health service. As these things dawn on the public mind, and as those who are more extensively educated are more aware of their rights and their rights to participate, they will want to be part of the debate, not only to show what they have to offer but, as of citizens' right, to show that they have the self-respect to make a contribution towards the development of the particular service to which we are referring.
The days of the professional closed shop mentality have passed. We may find that we have more professionals and when the service meets the requirements these men will find it more attractive to work fewer hours than their predecessors. I hesitate to say this, but although the professional may find working fewer hours to his advantage, he may also be required to have less of a pay differential between what he has and what others working with him have and what other members of society will have. I do not believe that society will tolerate for much longer the tremendous differential which is possible in professions existing in a much more egalitarian country than we knew in times past. This will bring about many problems but these problems can be coped with if we provide the opportunity to debate them and come up with what is best for society in general.
I will refer briefly to the scientific challenge which was also alluded to in this conference. The point was made that resources are not infinite, they are finite. The point was also made that now that man has landed on the moon, you could argue that the parameters by which a dental patient or any other patient can be observed or monitored are indeed, in theory, infinite, if we had the resources to sustain them or the people to learn how to use them. That comes back to the question: how is the person with the tooth problem, the cosmetic problem or the functional problem to be dealt with within the context of the limitations of our resources and in relation to the overall talents available?
I draw the attention of the House to one of the first articles to allude to this problem delivered 20 years ago by Lord Platt. I have a copy of it here from the British Medical Journal of November 1967. It is entitled “Medical Science: Master or Servant?”. He deals first with the paradox:
But here we come across what Rustein (1967) has called the paradox of modern medicine.
And, you could argue, modern dentistry.
The expectation of life in the United States has remained almost stationary for the last 15 years or so and has in fact fallen well below that of other countries, such as Sweden and the United Kingdom. Yet, this is not just a phenomenon of the aged, for in males of 15 to 40 years, for instance, the death rate is notably higher in the United States than in Sweden for every major cause of death except suicide. At the same time the infant mortality has failed to improve as compared with other countries, and all this is despite the fact that federal expenditure on biomedical research in universities and hospitals in the United States has increased during those 20 years from $1 m. to $1,000 m.
This section relates to the membership of the council. The Senator is getting very far away from the point.
I take your point, but I make these points because I am aware of the opposition there might be to democratising such things as the Dental Council. I can certainly speak for my own profession and I would love to see the Medical Council opened up. I speak with feeling on this matter because when I went to the job in which I now practise, and found I had practically no staff to support me, I wrote to the representative in Belfast who had the power to determine whether we had certain rights. The reply I got from the man who spoke indirectly for the General Medical Council, and which I have here, was that the only solution to my problem was to arrange to have two of the three hospitals to which I was now attached blown up to force the people to accept centralisation of the services. I do not deal with this matter lightly. It is a most important matter that we get into perspective: how the service is delivered; how need is defined; who controls it; and to what they are responding. It is in that context that I hope Senators will consider most seriously the rather limited expansion of the democratic process which we have proposed here. In proposing the changes in section 9 we are asking that auxiliary workers should have a voice, that dental students should have a voice and that the consumer should have a voice; but not just the consumers of The Pale, but the consumers throughout the country. We have emphasised in particular that there should be at least two from each province, and we almost wrote in "and in Leinster, outside of The Pale".
I feel confident that the Minister for Health will take into account our reservations about the composition of the dental, the medical or any other form of professional council, because at times I have been tempted to say — and have in fact gone beyond temptation — that there seems, and it seems particularly so when I go to the High Court to give evidence, to be a professional class conspiracy which in a way is taking from the services which we could render if we liberated the talents. But we will never do that unless we create a council — a council is the key to this — which will be responsive to the people wherever they live, will be responsive to the needs of all the operatives, not just the profession, and which will allow us to enter the next century giving a lead for the way dental care can be managed for the people of Ireland. Perhaps after giving that lead, we can start to look at medical care in the same context.
I hope that fellow Senators will, first and foremost, pass amendment No. 1. If it is not passed we cannot deal with amendment No. 4. The whole point of my address here today is to emphasise the need for the changes we have proposed in amendment No. 4 and to do that I make a plea to Senators to pass this amendment.
May I apologise on behalf of my fellow Senator, Senator Ryan, who, you may be surprised to learn, is at a protest meeting where I would be glad to be.
Like other speakers, let me make a point — as I did on Second Stage — of congratulating the outgoing Dental Board for the great work they have done, but we are talking about a new situation now. The composition of the membership of the council reflects public concern, consumer concern and the views of the profession. The amendment I suggested, and I mentioned it in all good faith on Second Stage, seemed to be a very good move. The Minister subsequently referred to it but was not so enthusiastic. If INTO members teaching in primary schools became aware of the problems, they could develop the habit of dental care in children at a much earlier age and these boys and girls would be educated in the areas of hygiene and so on. That is the age to instill these habits into young people and they will remain with them for the remainder of their lives. This amendment is trying to help this situation. The role of the INTO could be enormous in the dental care area.
We will deal with amendment No. 3 in due course.
At that stage you will ask the Minister to——
We are taking amendments Nos. 1, 4 and 5 together, but you are discussing amendment No. 3.
I have made my point.
On amendments Nos. 1, 4 and 5, could I deal with a few specific points which have been mentioned by Senator Robb? Auxiliary dental workers are mentioned specifically. As I understand it, that particular category is not yet defined. How can you have them represented on a council who will, by their very nature, be defining what an auxiliary dental worker will be? Perhaps I am reading this too simplistically. When the Dental Council have defined what an auxiliary dental worker is, it may be appropriate then to have them represented. I will leave it to the Minister to say whether dental students should be represented on the board. If they are, who is going to define or be responsible for the definition of a dental student? Will that be a matter for the council? Perhaps I am giving the council too much power, but that is what I understand their function to be. Perhaps the Minister would like to comment.
On section 9 and the composition of the council, I agree with a lot of what——
We are on amendments Nos. 1, 4 and 5.
I am still on the amendments and the section. I agree with a lot of what Senator Robb has said, but I am worried about the final composition of the council. Senator Robb asked the Minister who will be on the council and if he is happy that every view will be represented when the council are appointed. I spoke at length on Second Stage about my total disillusionment of dental care services to the public, particularly by health boards. I hope that when this council, with or without the amendments, are appointed we will not have — I repeat what Senator Robb has said — just an elite group, but that all views will be represented. I am sure the Minister for Health will appreciate what I am saying.
I, too, support the substance of the reasons and background to these amendments which Senator Robb gave very fully in explaining why he placed considerable emphasis on the composition of the council. I would also like to support the thrust of these amendments which is to broaden the membership and future composition of the Dental Council. Senator Robb is right to place the amendments in the context in which he did. I agree with him that there has been a considerable awareness within the dental profession of the very substantial changes and of the different values and priorities which will be obtaining in the future in the area of dental care. There is no doubt that a very real emphasis will be on preventive care and on health care in a whole context of a greater awareness of the necessity for greater education in health, for greater standards of hygiene and for that background in which to look at the more specific area of dental care. I agree with Senator Robb that we may be moving not only in the area of the dental profession but quite generally in the relationship between the professions and the public, into a new, more open and less elitist stage. I, too, would welcome that.
In setting up the council for a profession in 1984 we must anticipate and indeed help these trends. We must ensure that what we do is in line with the particular course which has already begun to take place and which we would like to see developed and augmented. If we are aware of the very substantial changes that have taken place in the whole approach to dental care and, in the situation on the ground, where the future emphasis will be, then we must ensure that we structure the Dental Council to reflect the broader considerations we are looking at.
In that regard, I agree with Senator Robb, that there has been a great deal of thinking from within the dental profession and from experts, both within this country and outside. I would like to refer to what is a very relevant passage in a paper by David Barnes, who is chief of the oral health unit of the World Health Organisation, a paper delivered recently at a conference here in Ireland on Dental Manpower Needs. This paper considers specifically the future manpower needs. It also refers to the context of dental care. I want to refer to a passage in page 3 of this address because it points out some of the areas of potential, if not conflict, certainly of difficulty, of resolution which the Dental Council will have to face over the next period, and what kind of Dental Council do we want to have facing these problems. Dr. Barnes says:
When we look at levels of oral health care for the future we see a primary health care front which should be purely health education and prevention. There is a first referral level at which moderate technology procedures should be performed. There is a choice at that level between use of auxiliaries, such as therapists, or hygienists or dentists. It is clear that there are some feelings in Ireland against the use of auxiliaries to cut cavities and to insert simple fillings or to scale. Similar feelings are becoming more and more common in other countries as the crisis of surplus dental manpower grows. I support the view that the main focus of such auxiliaries should be prevention, including guidance and organisation in all situations. However, one should not fail to see the irony of exclusion of clinical duties, especially in countries where such auxiliaries have been employed for half a century or more and have maintained excellent technical standards where complex restorative procedures were required. Now that the restorative needs of the population served in such countries are much simpler we hear that dentists are needed to reform those procedures. One day soon, the dental profession must face squarely the issue of whether a high level university graduate, educated over an exacting five year course, is the appropriate performer of reaching scaling, application of sealants or other preventive substances and class one tooth restorations.
That passage refers to some of the areas, the thrust to health care, primary health care and to problems of manpower within the dental section which will be some of the crunch issues which the new Dental Council will have to face. Therefore, I believe that Senator Robb is perfectly correct and right to place great emphasis on the composition of the council. If it is too narrowly based, and if it is over representative of the profession in a narrow sense then there may well be an institutional bias in looking at these issues in areas which are of very real concern to the growing young population in this country.
Therefore, I am very sympathetic to the different structure which is proposed in these amendments. As was pointed out by the Cathaoirleach, we are talking about amendments Nos. 1, 4 and 5. I would support the first proposal, which is to increase from 19 to 23 the size of the Dental Council. That is to increase by a further four. I think that is a preferable course to trying, in looking at the proposals in the existing section 9, to suggest that any of these categories set out there should be deleted, or that instead of two persons, for example, from each of the universities, University College, Cork, or University College, Dublin, you would have only one. It is preferable in broadening the scope of the Dental Council to do it by way of addition and to have a larger council. Therefore, I would support the idea of increasing the size of the overall council to 23 as is proposed.
In amendment No.4 it is made clear that the additional four to be appointed by the Minister would be appointed from sub-categories who would be elected in a number of instances. Here again there is an important value which I very much subscribe to and support, the importance of creating more participation and more democracy within the structure of a council of this kind. It is of value to have persons who are ultimately appointed by the Minister to the Dental Council coming from within groups who elect for that purpose. It creates an awareness of the functions and role of the council; it creates an opportunity for differences of approach and emphasis to be put forward by those who stand for the particular positions and it is a very healthy input.
I certainly had experience both in the law school and in Trinity and on the City of Dublin VEC of working on bodies which had student representation. The students appointed were elected for that purpose by their own peer group. Their input was of great benefit to the particular committee or body. There is no doubt at all that it was a great strengthening of the overall appreciation by that body of the particular functions it was seeking to discharge and the responsibilities it had. I would agree that the time has certainly come when it should be automatic in relation to a profession that there would be participation by representatives of the students who are going through the process of education on that council.
Similarly, I would welcome the participation of auxiliary dental workers. I do not think that there is any real problem with the question which Senator Ferris raised as to how, given it is for the first time characterising in a particular way categories of auxiliary dental workers, you can have them represented. I do not think that should be a problem. There may be an interim stage when there may have to be a quick process by which they can devise an election for the purposes of the first representation but after that I do not see that there should be any problem in that regard.
I am somewhat intrigued by the wording of the last category, looking for regional representation, that of the eight persons so appointed, two at least should be domiciled in each of the provinces. You have a further aspect to the categories in that you must have that regional balance. It is the word "domiciled" that intrigues me. It is being used in a particular context which is not its normal legal context. Even in the use of the word "provinces" there must be a certain self-serving bias by the prime mover of this in seeking to have that province given equal standing with the other provinces in the context of a Dental Council for what is effectively this part of the island.
I again subscribe to the general objective of having a regional balance. I think it was clear from the Second Stage contributions in this House that there was an uneveness and very different perspectives from Senators contributing from their first-hand experience in different parts of the country. It would be very important that the Dental Council would have within its membership, if at all possible, a regional balance. I am not in fact necessarily convinced that it has to be built-in in that rather rigid way or that it would be absolutely necessary to have it so rigidly inserted in the legislation itself so that you could have a problem in securing precisely that composition because it might be difficult to get the person coming either through the electoral process or being a student member or a dental auxiliary member who also came from the right province at the right time. There might be all kinds of unnecessarily bureaucratic difficulties of that kind. I hope that the Minister, when he is replying on this amendment, will give an assurance that the importance of a regionally balanced and representative Dental Council will be borne in mind when the appointments are being made. I would also ask him to look very closely at the thrust of the amendment and to accept the proposal that the council be enlarged, be democratised in this way and be structured in order to ensure that it is a council for the next quarter century which particularly takes into account what are likely to be the trends, the trends into preventive, broader health care, related to the increasing perception of consumers, their increasing desire to have both participation in bodies of this kind and to feel that the bodies are truly representative of their needs and interests. I support strongly the thrust of this amendment.
I share the view that the Dental Council should be as broadly based as possible to ensure the best dental treatment for the community and to ensure the best interests of the dental profession. In addressing oneself to the amendments one cannot do so without reference to section 9 (2). That is the subsection which provides that "The Minister may, by regulations made with the consent of the Council vary the provisions of subsection (1) ..." subsection (1) being the subsection which constitutes the new council. I am a bit worried about subsection (2). In effect, this gives the Dental Council a veto on the amendment by the Minister by regulation of subsection (1). I think what has been referred to in the three amendments might better be provided for if subsection (2) were amended and if the phrase "with the consent of the council" were changed to something like "after consultation with the council". It seems that subsection (2) in effect gives the council a veto on the enlargement or changing in any way of the constitution of the council as specified in this Bill.
I would like to support the point made by Senator Durcan and to make a few other points. We had references to narrow elitism or exclusivism in this council which might result in the council possibly being obstructive in regard to developments in the dental profession. Senator Durcan has a point that the Minister might well look at between now and Report Stage. The working of subsection (2) gives the council as initially established a veto on the expansion to other groups. It might well be that the Minister, on consideration, would consider that undesirable and that it would be preferable to replace it by a phrase such as that suggested by Senator Durcan "after consultation with". I think that would be preferable to the rather clumsy approach Senator Robinson was suggesting, that in some way we should make a temporary interim arrangement for auxiliary dental workers. Legally, auxiliary dental workers will not exist until a scheme is made under section 34. In order to prove that these people were truly representative of the activity you might have to confine it to people who were in breach of the law. I may be going too far in saying that. There would be very real difficulty. We should make sure that subsection (2) is fully operative, as Senator Durcan has suggested. Remember that under subsection (3) of this section the matter will come to the Oireachtas where we would again have an opportunity of seeing whether the views that have been expressed here have been met or not. That power is in the Bill.
Remember also that if amendment No. 22, which is down in the name of Senator Ferris and myself, is accepted, as I hope it will be, then there will be an obligation to make a schemé so that there cannot be an undue delay. The initial council could be established under subsection (1). That initial council is then obliged to produce a scheme under section 34. When that scheme has been operative and the Minister judges it is now the time, the Minister could operate under subsection (2) in order to provide for the representation of the new emerging authorised group. We here in Seanad Eireann could, under subsection (3), debate whether we thought the Minister had done that in an appropriate fashion.
In regard to the question of the representation of students I, too, in the governing body of one of our university institutions, have welcomed the participation of students but we must remember the nature of this body. This council is not a body set up to provide services. This is a body that is concerned with the approval of training, the approval of qualifications and with the approval of conduct. I think there is a distinction here that we must keep. If a dentist is being judged in regard to whether he or she is fit to carry on with the profession, he or she is entitled to have a substantial number — I think a substantial majority — of his peers among those who make that judgment. My inclination is to support Senator Durcan and to ask the Minister to come back to us on Report Stage. Amendments 1, 4 and 5 could be withdrawn and retabled on Report Stage along with an amendment which I hope the Minister will bring forward.
Just one point relating to the participation of students in the operation of the Dental Council. Section 13 provides that a committee to act in relation to the functions of education and training will be established under the Act. That would be an appropriate committee for debating students' interests. I do not think I agree with Senator Dooge that that participation should not be within the Dental Council as a complete body.
Just on that point, the committees to be established would be committees of the council to deal with the separate functions, which is an argument in favour of having student representation because you can ensure that you have——
But you would have non-members on all except the fitness to practise committee.
Yes, I appreciate that, but nonetheless the approach would be rather analagous to the VECs. The VECs have a role in relation to the staff of the VECs, in relation to educational standards and students have been participating on the City of Dublin VEC and participating very effectively. It is not a reason not to look for that kind of participation. The value to be met in looking for that kind of participation is a very real one, particularly in view of the likely tensions and difficulties that there will be in this area over the coming years. It is important that students on or their views be represented very definitely at the Dental Council if that is possible.
Just one or two points. I was grateful to Senator Durcan for making his point about the need to veto the veto and to Senator Dooge for his suggestion as to how one might be able to get around the difficulty. I want to try to keep us back on course. We have been talking about moving into the next century. A quite changed situation exists at present. Only 15 years ago the thought of having students on boards in universities participating at departmental level was anathema to many professors. I can remember a time when my own Professor of Surgery felt totally threatened in the aftermath of the Sorbonne riots that we were going to have representation from the students. It was only subsequently that he began to find that he could cope quite adequately with those students, talk with them on an equal level around a table. We should remind ourselves also that the age of majority in Ireland has come down to 18. Was that just a sop to the frustration of youth or was it an attempt to try to engage them realistically in the society in which they live? We should also remind ourselves that people have pointed time and time again to the increasing numbers of young people in Ireland. It is high time, with all this extra education that they are receiving, that we entrusted them to play a mature role in our society. We need age; we need middle age — thank goodness — but we also need youth and it is only the balance, just like the other balances I was talking about, which will give us a healthy and whole society. Therefore I implore you to break from tradition, to steer a new course into the next century, if we have not all been blown into oblivion before it, and to listen to youth just as we would hope they will listen to age, because most of us here will be aged by the time that century begins. But we cannot expect them to listen to us in increasing numbers if we are not prepared to listen to them.
The other point is about the auxiliary workers. I would stress also that it is in much the same context that I urged their inclusion in the council. I think Senators have pointed out how this might be managed. I certainly hope that by putting it on the potentially long finger it is not going to be forgotten. I have no doubt that this Minister will not forget. I have every hope that he will be sitting where he is for a long time to come. Nevertheless, the political process is full of pitfalls and who knows? It is important to keep to the fore the need for this wide representation. I would like to thank Senator Mary Robinson for her generous remarks and for her helpful and constructive development of the ideas that I was trying to put forward.
I suppose it is always useful to be positive first and then give the negative reaction. I think that Senator Durcan and Senator Dooge, certainly in relation to subsection (2) make a good deal of sense. I would be quite disposed on Report Stage to introduce an amendment along those lines. However, I find that when I tend to advance, my troops tend to disappear behind me into a slight fog. I hope that when I consult — this would be a very rapid process of consultation because I would hope that we would have Report Stage next week, if we could finish the Committee Stage this week or, indeed, early next week — that I can secure the general support of the Dental Board on this issue. The Dental Board have shown, as you are aware, extraordinary sensitivity about the encroachment of the current Minister for Health in certain directions — as perceived by them and not at all as would be intended by such an ultra-democrat as myself.
To dispose of the question raised by Senator Dooge and Senator Durcan, I would be quite happy to open up a prospect there which I think would be generally beneficial because this Bill when enacted is likely to last for a considerable time to come. I accept the viewpoint of Senator Robinson that, strictly speaking, it should be legislation for eventual abolition because if we are to develop an absolute sense of oral hygiene and general dental care this country could be served by probably 400 or 500 auxiliary workers and, if I may be totally heretical in that regard, the Irish people will have a different concept, understanding and practice of dental care at that stage. That may be wishful thinking but it is an ideal which is something to work for and something which is quite attainable as people learn more about how to care for their own health instead of having it delivered to them and they themselves being passive recipients when they get into trouble.
I want to deal with the amendments and that brings me to the negative aspects. Certainly, as formulated I would have great difficulty in accepting these amendments. I favour student representation to the highest possible level. There is a genuine difficulty here because in a body which would determine disciplinary action and a body which would decide on the formal level of qualification—these basically are the two functions of the new council and they are very exclusively confined to that—the question of formal student participation in such a role is difficult to sustain. I have had a long searching look at the section and have discussed the matter in Cabinet and we are very anxious to involve, broaden out and open up the general level of student participation in our various educational structures. There is nothing to preclude me from seeking the nomination of a student at the moment under the section relating to my own nominees. Whereas for the few persons relating to consumer interests I am obliged to consult with the Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism, I have two other nominees to appoint. I would not be precluded from appointing a student representative in that capacity. Certainly, in relation to one of the nominees I could have a nominee from the Department of Health who I think would be a very valuable nominee particularly on a professional level. That could be done and should be done in my view. That is a general reaction to the amendments and the particular reaction is that the very mechanics of implementation would give rise to very considerable difficulty. It proposes here the election of representatives of dental students in Ireland: we do not have a comprehensive electoral role as such. Presumably dental students under our own statutes would cover students, for example, from Belfast, in the context of the Forum Report that might be an entirely laudable wish on all our parts but it would give rise to the practical difficulty that we do not have jurisdiction over their school or indeed over the profession in Northern Ireland at this time.
The auxiliary dental workers' situation gives rise there to very practical difficulties. At present there are only two types of dental auxiliaries, namely the dental technicians or mechanics and the dental surgery assistants. We have no auxiliaries who could undertake any form of actual dental work because currently it is illegal under the 1928 Act. Part VII of the Bill sets out to redress this situation by providing for the introduction of classes of auxiliary dental workers who may undertake dental work under schemes to be made by the council. Therefore until the council have established such classes and until such time as they have determined the work they can do and their qualifications and set up registers of auxiliary dental workers, it would not be possible to hold elections and give them representation on the council.
In any case, holding elections in regard to dental technicians and surgery assistants, with their particular qualifications, would present almost unsurmountable difficulty. They are not registered nor are there any recognised qualifications prescribed in relation to their employment. The level of their qualifications varies very widely with many having no forma qualifications of any sort. Indeed some have had no formal training of any sort Technicians are represented by four separate organisations and a number of them are not members of any organisation, as we well know throughout the country.
This brings me to the other section in the Bill, namely section 13(2)(c). It provides for the establishment by the Dental Council of a committee to act in relation to their functions in regard to auxiliary dental workers. It would be laudable that that committee should give representation to auxiliary dental workers. Section 13(7) specifically provides for this. On the point raised by Senators Robb and Robinson, that section could cope for the role of auxiliary dental workers.
These are my general points in relation to amendments Nos. 1, 4 and 5. I am not disposed to accept the amendments. There have been considerable advances in setting up the new council. It should be remembered by Members that the outgoing Dental Board was very narrowly structured in membership. It comprised three nominees of the Medical Council, five dentists who must be registered dentists and resident in the State elected by their fellow dentists and just one nominee of the Government. So you had one Government nominee, three nominees of the Medical Council and five dentists. That is being broadened quite considerably into two each from UCC and UCD.
There are now only two undergraduate dental schools in the country. I would argue that for a country of our size there should be one, but coming from Cork and living in Dublin, who am I to arbitrate as to where it should be sited? While the approved output of dental students by Trinity is about twice that in Cork, nevertheless parity of representation is proposed by giving two each. We had enough difficulty in that regard without chasing that hare around the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Not greater than the disparity in this House.
Yes, indeed, but in effect UCC and UCD will be represented. That may appeal to the elitist, but the country is riddled with elitism. It will take us decades to get rid of it.
I do not think this Bill will do it.
It is a representation made to me. The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, through its faculty of dentistry, is the body primarily concerned with post-graduate dental education, and such education is likely, in my view, to be of increasing importance in the future and I have made minimal provision in that regard. There will be seven dentists. Seven out of 19 compared with five out of nine previously is a proportionate reduction.
It may be that the dental profession will ensure that their interests are represented through UCC, UCD and TCD. The Royal College, as well, may produce a dentist, and as a consequence there would be a substantial number of members of the profession in the new council, but nevertheless there is in fact a reduction. In a body which is deemed to be self-regulatory and in a country which is obsessed with the Department of Health allegedly trying to run everything, I think on this occasion we have struck a reasonable balance.
The two consumer representatives should be on the council. That is a broadening out of it again. The Minister for Education has been quite adamant, and understandably so, in view of the council's role in the education area, that the Minister for Education will nominate one representative to the Dental Council. I suppose the Minister for Education could end up nominating a dentist. In that regard that would not be for lack of representation to the Minister. I will leave that. I will not change that any further.
Nevertheless, subsection (2) provides the prospect of a change whereby, subject to consultation with the council, I could make alterations in relation to nominating bodies. That indeed may be necessary as a result of any changes in third level education affecting dentists, or indeed post-graduate education. As of now I feel I have struck as good a balance as possible. The composition of the council has not been contentious to date. I would be reluctant to open up the area. Otherwise the Bill would never have seen the light of day. Regarding two persons to be domiciled in each of the provinces, this would make it necessary for the eight persons proposed to be appointed to be divided into two each of the four provinces. I do not see the point in that. It would be highly discriminatory rather than an equitable distribution since, for example, if I may indulge in a partitionist mentality, we might have the three counties of Ulster having the same representation as Munster. Having been in Cavan and Monaghan recently that is not a particular relationship which I would like to open up — a tribal warfare in this country on representation.
I thank Senators for their observations on this section but as of now I would wish to get the Bill through with that structure of representation and indeed with the change which I think is being sensibly proposed here this afternoon. As I say, I am not precluded from appointing student representation on the council by whatever means I wish. That is still open to me under that section.
Or an INTO member.
I would be against that. I do not want to pre-empt the amendment but the Minister for Education in my view should be dealing with the education representation, not the INTO or the ASTI or the TUI.
My amendment was suggested in the best of good faith. I thought it was a practical suggestion. The Minister is obviously not happy with it.
I thank the Minister for making the points in relation to the proposal which we made. However, I still feel that perhaps, not being a member of the medical or dental professions, he has been unable to grasp the point I have been making. I have worked for a number of years in a department of surgery in Belfast and was responsible for post-graduate training in surgery throughout Northern Ireland in a course which was highly commended by the people sent to vet it. That was more than ten years ago. I have also worked in a peripheral part of Northern Ireland in a small hospital. It took almost five years to get the three professors who were responsible for grading our hospital for junior staff requirements to come to Ballymoney. Only one of them has been through the door of the institution in 12 years.
The point I am making is that regardless of how brilliant, how well meaning, how well versed in education, how highly qualified in research, how dedicated to the teaching of students, two persons each appointed by University College, Cork, Dublin University, one person appointed by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, seven fully registered dentists, two persons appointed by the Medical Council, one person appointed by the Minister for Education, leaving four persons to be appointed by the Minister, even if the Minister appointed four of the most liberally minded and orientated folk whom he could find in the country they are at an institutional disadvantage vis-á-vis the rest of his council. It is a truism that people who work in universities, in spite of the very important contribution they have to make to our society, are blissfully unaware in far too many cases of what is going on at ground level. A professor of surgery is more likely to spend a month in New Delhi than he is to spend a week in Ballymoney. Unless he is particularly well intentioned I do not think he will go out and participate in the debate between Monaghan and Cavan — a debate I was sorry to be unable to attend some weeks ago.
Was the Minister not lucky.
If we are concerned about mobilising participation and making people feel confident that they are living in a country where their participation is welcomed, we must get the balance right.
In spite of what the Minister is proposing here, I do not believe that this balance is correct. In spite of the very laudable representation which he has outlined there are many elements that are missing. That is what Senator Brendan Ryan and I were endeavouring to redress. I hope the Minister will take note of what other Senators have said even if he does not take note of what I may have wished to put across. Section 9 (2) states:
The Minister may, by regulations made with the consent of the Council, vary the provisions of subsection (1) of this section.
It has been the general feeling of Senators — I have not heard anyone speaking against it — that that should be changed to "after discussion with the Council", so that the council cannot veto any other form of veto, that it must be accountable. Far too many of our institutions are centrally controlled, particularly our professional institutions, which are not accountable to the people affected by their decisions. Decisions are being made continually about practice and need by people who are unaffected by the result of their decisions. It is in that context that we put forward our proposals for a much broader base, a more democratically oriented council than the one proposed.
I do not think anybody doubts the sincerity of what Senator Robb wants to do. The points I made when I contributed on the amendment were met by the Minister's assurance that with the strengthening of section 9 (2) he will take into account the various views expressed about the membership of the council and at the appropriate time, when the various auxiliary dental workers are defined by the council, the reservations about the competition will be considered by the Minister in the powers that he will be reserving and that he will take out "with the consent of" and put in "after consultation with". That will meet all the reservations Senator Robb has.
With regard to the question of the role of students — we would like them to have as big an input as possible — we must not run away from the functions of the Dental Council. They are slightly different from what is necessary in the amendments. The Minister in replying said that he would not rule out the possibility of putting a student on the council if he considered it necessary, having looked at the functions of the council.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 8, subsection (1) (c), line 22, after "dentists" to add "at least one of whom shall be a fully registered dentist employed by a public body and engaged whole-time in the practice of dentistry in the State sector".
In an attempt to broaden the base of the council we have made this suggestion. It is to ensure that those who are full-time are represented as of right, that an assurance will be given that in no way could the Dental Council have that section represented only by those in private practice. That is the purpose of the amendment.
The views expressed in the amendment are views that most of us would share, but whether they can be achieved by this amendment is debatable. There are 1,000 registered dentists in the country of whom approximately 200 are in the public service. The Minister would share the same concern that I have, that people in the dental profession who are working in the public service are under tremendous strain because they are under-staffed. I wonder whether the Minister can make a regulation as to how the dentists will elect their membership of the council. If it is done under proportional representation which I hope it will be and if such was laid down in some ministerial guideline to the Dental Association if PR is used in the system of appointing registered dentists to this council, dentists engaged in full time public service would almost of necessity, and taking any average voting — if there is 20 per cent of them in the public service — no doubt be entitled to have one or two appointed in their own right.
I do not know if it is discriminatory to specify in legislation that there shall be some from the public service and that there shall be some from the private sector, because they are all registered dentists, represented by the same Dental Council, members of the same association. I am quite sure the Dental Association are concerned that there would be fair representation for dentists in the public service. I would ask the Minister, if he can, to give advice to the Dental Association to ensure that in their voting procedure it would be perceived to be our intention that dentists in the public service would get their rightful places on this board.
I support what Senator Ferris has said. In the past, a number of professional organisations have held elections to their councils in which voting was by means, when there were seven vacancies such as there are here, that people could give seven crosses or in some cases give any number of crosses between one and seven on the ballot paper. If that were to be the form of election in this case there would be the danger that Senator Robb is concerned about. I would hope, and urge the Minister strongly, that in the regulations which he makes under section 11 of this Bill he will prescribe that the election should be held by proportional representation. I may indicate to the Minister that, if he does not so prescribe, when these regulations come to us under section 63 there will be an argument in the House in regard to the fact that he has not done so.
Some figures are available for dentists in this country. In a lecture to the IDA in December 1980, John Clarkson identified that there were 692 dentists in general practice and 216 employed by the health boards and there were about 44 others. If we take merely those in practice and those in the health boards, those in the health board account for 24 per cent. Politicians in this House are good at those sort of figures — that is only 1 per cent less than two quotas. With 1 per cent less than two quotas you are damn poor politicans if you do not get two seats. If these elections are held according to proportional representation and the dentists in the health boards want to vote for dentists in the health boards I do not see anything that could stop them getting two out of the seven seats.
I support Senators Dooge and Ferris. I do not think it is very specific in this legislation. This is our chance to back up all the talks we have given to the dentists who have served in all our health boards at half the money — I say half the money very definitely — that they should receive. Let us recognise the service that these dentists have given to this nation. If we think at all as legislators that this will not happen, whether we divide or subtract, whether we have PR or whether we know our quotas, let the legislation, before it leaves the two Houses make sure that these people get representation, whoever the dental profession decide to vote for. Every one of us who is a member of a health board knows the money those people are working for at the moment and the money the private dentists are making.
Senator Ferris and I are on a health board. We know the service the dentists are giving and the vacancies we cannot fill because of the salaries. Surely this is the way to give recognition to these people, giving them places on the council? I hope that before the legislation leaves this House we as politicians will ensure that they will get representation on the council. Let us not leave it to any chance outside.
Public service dentists constitute over 25 per cent of the electorate and should have no difficulty in having a representative elected. They number 270 out of approximately 1,000 dentists. In practice, although only five dentists are elected to the present Dental Board, one of these has been a public service dentist for a considerable number of years. In at least the last couple of elections to the board the public service dentist elected was the only such representative to go forward for election. In the regulations under section 11 the Minister has agreed to have a look at the suggestion to use a PR system, which should be much more favourable to the public sector dentists than the system which was there heretofore. I am sure there are people in this Seanad and if not, certainly in the Dáil, who would give them an education on these things.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 8, subsection (1) (c), line 22, after "dentists" to add "at least one of whom shall be a fully registered dentist employed by a public body and engaged whole-time in the practice of dentistry in the State sector".
I have made my case and I think I am hitting my head off a stone wall. I have heard the Minister's reaction and I regret it. I did it in all good faith. I thought it was an opportunity to create a habit at an early stage. But obviously the Minister is not agreeable to my suggestion, and I regret that.
There is some misunderstanding about the role of the Department of Education on this council. The Department of Education are to be represented on it because the Department will be involved in the funding of facilities for the education and training of certain classes of auxiliary dental workers who will receive all or part of their training in approved educational institutions. It is most unlikely that type of training, or any of the required education, would be provided in primary or second level education.
For that reason, whereas I share the Senator's view that in the education of children in schools and otherwise, the INTO would play a major role at that level, the question of what function the Department of Education will have on this council is spelled out differently. The Department have a specific role and responsibility in a different area. It is not that there is any resentment against any teaching organisation. For that reason I do not see the necessity for the amendment.
In rising to support the thrust of the amendment, perhaps the Minister may consider, if he is going to redraft, and to take into account some of the comments that have been made today that there may be a place on the council if not for all those people I was suggesting might have found a place on it at least for a member nominated by the INTO. Education is important in two areas. First, it is vitally important that the publicity and involvement of the schools and the school dental service will be sustained by the teaching profession as much as it has been promoted by the dental profession. It is also important to remember that if we are dealing with education people whose training is perhaps more geared to the philosophy of education should have a say. I am not altogether clear that those of us who have gone through to medical schools or dental schools dealt with the philosophy of education at all. Indeed, even those who are labelled teachers are very often research workers, not teachers at all.
For those two reasons, I recommend that the Minister strongly considers the proposal made by Senator Fallon. Even if, as seems likely, it will fall on stony ground here this afternoon, by the time the Bill becomes law, the spirit of that suggestion if not the suggestion in words, will find its way into the esteemed council we are debating today.
This amendment is not accepted by the Minister. To have the appointee of the Minister for Education to the Dental Council nominated by the INTO would cut across the reason for giving the Minister the right to make an appointment. This is that decisions of the council in relation to the education and training of dentists will affect the expenditure on staff, equipment and facilities in third level educational institutions of funds under the control of the Minister for Education. Similarly, decisions in relation to the education of auxiliary dental workers will involve expenditure of those funds in approved educational institutions. It is only reasonable that the Minister for Education should have a voice in the decision-making process involved. A nominee of the INTO would not be in a position to carry out this function adequately.
The question of giving representation on the Dental Council to teacher organisations was raised by some Senators during the debate on the Second Stage of the Bill. The reason put forward was the involvement of teachers in the giving of education on matters relating to dental health to pupils. This is not a valid argument, since the Dental Council will not, in any way, be involved in the delivery of dental services, including education in dental health.
The principal functions of the council will be to regulate the dental profession by controlling registration, the standards of education and training which dentists will receive, and matters of discipline of the profession. It will have similar functions in relation to auxiliary dental workers. There is no case for giving teachers' representatives a part in the exercise of these functions.
Did I hear the Minister of State correctly when he said that this council will have nothing whatsoever to do with education and, therefore, that no teacher or persons in the field of education should have anything to do with the council or have any say on it?
Nothing to do with the provision of services.
Section 34 deals with education and training. I know that is for dentist personnel. Did the Minister say that teachers and the world of education will have nothing to do with this Bill, which is all about education? Will the Minister repeat what he said?
The question of giving representation on the Dental Council to teacher organisations was raised by some Senators during the debate on Second Stage of the Bill.
The Minister said today that we would be so educated in this field in years ahead that we probably would not need dentists at all. To say that the teachers would have no role to play in educating all of us——
There is a specific role for this council——
I am aware of that.
It will define certain qualifications and decide on the performance of the members who are appropriate to deliver the services. It will include people such as auxiliary dental workers who will have to be socially educated. The Department of Education have responsibility for this. It also will discuss and resolve the question of hygienists and other people who will be working in the field. Once that is defined and they determine what their role is, then that person will be involved very closely with education at primary level in advising children at school on how to look after their teeth. It has nothing to do with the council, who have a totally different role to what hygienists or the auxiliary dental workers will have once that is defined by the council.
It is important to be clear that in resisting this amendment, the Minister is not saying that people who are concerned with school health — he is not saying that teachers should not be members of the Dental Council.
The Minister of State just said that.
No, he did not say that. We are talking about the particular seat on that council to which somebody is nominated by the Minister for Education. The argument being made here by the Minister of State is that since the reason that the Minister for Education nominates somebody is that decisions of the council may involve the Department of the Minister for Education in expenditure and therefore, that Department has a right to have a say before such commitments are made. That is not saying that teachers should not be involved. The question of the whole effort of public education, in which teachers play a vital role, is not the concern of the Minister for Education. It is the concern of the Minister for Health. We hope that it would be one of his major concerns, and I am confident that it would be. If he thinks that at any time this is of such paramount concern that somebody should be appointed to the Dental Council who has expertise, perhaps a life long knowledge in this, then of course the Minister has the power to provide. The Minister has four nominations to this board. The Minister has to consult the Minister for Trade, Industry and Tourism — or whatever he is called this week——
It is hard to keep up with the names.
I know it is. But the Minister for Health has two free nominations. Of course, he is going to have ten organisations all trying to be under that particular umbrella. But if he wanted to stress the paramount importance of the school element of the education of the children of this first line defence in regard to dental hygiene, then it should be the Minister for Health who should make the appointment under paragraph (vi) of section 9 (1). It would not be appropriate for it to be done under paragraph (e). The Minister of State has given the specific reason why the Minister for Health has allowed the Minister for Education to invade his territory.
There are two sides involved. There is the health education aspect which is being dealt with. There is also the education of those who are undergraduate for five years, who are then post-graduate for a number of years and who have to sustain their education throughout the remainder of their professional life. I am only suggesting that Senator Fallon may be correct in outlining the need to have a specific input from somebody who relates to the teaching institutions so that what is coming out from those institutions in relation to modern approaches to education and training may find itself injected into this council. Not very long ago, our profession thought they knew all about teaching. Approximately 20 years passed and it was discovered that the teaching methods were antediluvian. An association for the study of medical education was set up. Those involved became particularly interested in questioning the whole approach to the education of undergraduates and post-graduates in our universities, not only in relation to the needs of society but in relation to their development as people and to the best value for money — if you like to put it as crudely as that — for the time that they spent at the university so that they could develop as professional persons with a specific contribution to make. I do not believe that we professionals, medical or dental, have had enough of an insight into the whole area of education to turn our backs on the sort of contribution which someone with the whole support of INTO might be able to make in a very positive and constructive sense to education and training, two of the responsibilities of the council in the fulfilment of its obligations.
I support the sentiment expressed by Senators Fallon and Robb to the extent that the whole education area should have some input into the council. It would be very important if we are to implement a proper health education programme and to extend the whole field of dentistry into the wide area of education. On the other hand, Senator Fallon was rather narrow in recommending that a representative should be appointed from the INTO. There are other organisations that are dealing with an age group which relates to dental hygiene just as much, for example, TUI and ASTI. While I am in total agreement that there should be a representative from the whole education area, I would not restrict it to one body. That is not to say that I would not agree with an INTO representative being put on the body. The terms of reference should have been wider.
When the Minister of State, Deputy Donnellan, is speaking to the Minister for Health, I would like him to propose that we would have teacher representation on the council.
Are they not represented through UCC and the University of Dublin which are the specific teaching faculties involved in the provision of the education for dental surgeons?
No. Senator Ferris is giving me a lesson. He is teaching me here this evening. I am telling Senator Ferris that we want teacher representation. He is taking on the wrong person to educate.
I was asking questions. This is a non-political debate. I was asking for a guideline.
This Bill is about the regulation of the dental profession. I hope that members of the INTO and other teaching professions would always be a help to their children in talking to them about dental care and so on.
I repeat the earnest hope that the Minister's regulations will provide for PR and no other system.
This is to provide that the Department of Education be represented on the committee of the Dental Council dealing with auxiliary dental workers. This amendment was requested by the Department of Education because of the Department's involvement in the funding of facilities for the education and training of certain classes of auxiliary dental workers who receive all or part of their training in approved educational institutions.
I should like to comment on this section which deals with the committees of the council. The number of points that have been brought forward on section 9 can be very easily accommodated here under the committees on section 13. There is specific provision for a committee on education and training which has a number of ex officio members from TCD, UCC and from the Department of Education. It will have on it other council members but it can also include other persons. Many of the points that Senator Honan made when we were discussing amendment No. 3 on section 9 could be provided for if, in fact, this third group of other persons, other than ex officio members and council members appointed by the council, were to include people with particular expertise. Similarly in regard to the committee on auxiliary dental workers. The point made on amendment No. 4 by Senator Robb could be accommodated here. Again, the committee is designed to have three types of member, members of the council appointed by the council, representatives of each class of auxiliary worker elected by those in the appropriate class, and other persons. There is a general provision, quite apart from the committees that are mentioned, for the establishment of committees which could include representatives with particular knowledge of any matter which the council at any time thought necessitated a committee, such was its importance. On the other hand, it is quite appropriate that the section, as drafted, should draw very narrowly the composition of the committee on fitness to practise. Here, we are concerned with exercising a quasi judicial function. It consists of members of the council, the vice-president or president with a majority drawn from the seven elected members, the electorate being registered dentists. There is a good deal of power in this section. It is well drawn. The committee structure is being tightly drawn where it should be tightly drawn and it has been left open where it should be left open.
In regard to the committees, non-members of the council can be members of committees but the chairman shall be a member of the council. Does it follow that decisions of the committees are final or are they subject to the control and jurisdiction of the council itself? Can they make decisions on their own authority?
I refer the Senator to subsection (8) where acts of a committee:
shall be subject to confirmation by the Council unless the Council, at any time, dispenses with the necessity for such confirmation.
Definitely they are subject to the overall guiding hand of the council.
They report back.
I see their role being the same as local health committees — advisory to the council itself. All the points that Senator Honan made during the afternoon in relation to education can be met under this and this is the very place to have it. It is a vital role for them to play.
Did Senator Ferris just say these committees would have the same powers as advisory committees in health and go to the health boards for clearance? Is that what the Senator just said? If it is, they have no powers at all. I have the misfortune to sit on one of these so-called advisory health committees. With the CEO we have in Limerick I could stay at home. I am now convinced more than ever that if what Senator Ferris has said is right, they have the same powers and they have to be cleared through the council. The Minister need not smile. He knows my views on advisory health committees. If that is the power that these committees have — I go back to section 9 which has been agreed — I want teachers on it.
I opened my contribution by saying "as I understand it". The Minister can confirm it under another section.
Subsection (2) obliges the council to set up three committees to deal with its functions concerning education and training, fitness to practise and auxiliary dental workers respectively. The analogy drawn by Senator Ferris is extremely broad and slightly unfortunate. It is not one which need unduly disturb Senator Honan, because very considerable power can be devolved directly by the council to the sub-committees.
I have no wish to arouse Senator Honan again, but I should ask the Minister if there is power to devolve statutory functions in the sense in which we have defined the functions of the council.
It is my understanding that there is, because the section refers to "all members of the Fitness to Practise Committee with its disciplinary powers". Admittedly they must be members of the council but there is a formal apparent devolution. I have no doubt that the council at large will ensure that the reports are subject to confirmation by the council. That is clearly written in. It appears that they would have the entitlement to exercise at committee level the statutory powers of the council, but only on devolution.
Perhaps it is a time for unfortunate examples.
It is a good one if you know what is going on.
That is a most doubtful case in regard to devolution because if one looks, for example, at section 40 it states: "The Council, following an inquiry and report by the Fitness to Practise Committee". I take that as an example of that committee having met and the council following an inquiry. It would be difficult for the council in that case to avoid the duty of reviewing what the Fitness to Practise Committee has said. It is similar in regard to the others. I would be glad if the Minister would look at that point. To my mind, it is clear in other cases under section 13 (8) that the council can dispense with the necessity for confirmation except in the case where the council's functions are clearly set down as a review function as it is, for example, under section 40.
I am sorry for delaying the House on this. Will the Minister come back and tell me that members of these committees will have the power that we are pretending to give them in this House this evening? They will not get a place on the council and this is a sop to give them places on these committees. These committees will not have any power at all. Will somebody tell me what power the committees will have or will they have any say at all? Are we saying we will not give them a place on the council but we have various committees and we will put them there? That is fine, but I do not accept it.
The council is obliged to serve three committees, namely, education training, fitness to practise and auxiliary dental workers. To take the Fitness to Practise Committee which is parallel to the Medical Practitioners Act which has been the subject of considerable litigation and currently the subject of a judgement in the High Court, it is important to point out that when the council specifically decides to set up a structure and then devolve that structure onto the committee and proceeds to divest itself of the need for confirmation back to the council, the Fitness to Practise Committee can so decide. I assure Senator Honan that the powers vested in the council are major ones and the divesting of these powers to committees is very considerable. I have no doubt that may well happen in time. If one had a spate of, for example, fitness to practise issues arising there may be formal decisions to devolve the whole lot and get decisions, but normally the council reserves to itself under subsection 8 authority to request subject to confirmation by the council unless the council at any time dispenses with the necessity for such confirmation. Therefore, in establishing a committee it can devolve very considerable power on it. It is not analagous to the health advisory committees of the Health Act. In that regard, I wish the Health Act had been better drafted. It is very loose legislation.
Or never drafted.
The Minister might smile but he has not convinced me, although I have been derogatory about the Health Act, regionalisation, sub-committees and committees, that this will be any better. I asked the Minister what powers these committees would have.
Effectively, to use the phrase of the Senator's party leader, they have the totality of devolution.
I am glad you are listening to him.
They can devolve anything they wish and I am sure the Senator will not cavil at the authority to so do. They have absolute power to devolve. A health board, for example, cannot devolve onto a local health committee any statutory powers. It may seek advice and guidance from it but it cannot devolve any authority onto a health committee, but in this instance, this council in the spirit of self-regulation will have power of devolution.
The Minister has emphasised the fact that the council have this power to devolve but he has not convinced Senator Honan or myself that they have not got the power to retain. The question again relates to the issues we discussed earlier: is he convinced — he must be from the responses he gave to the earlier questions — that the constitution of the council will be such that they will be ready and willing to devolve to these committees and that there will be a mechanism for ensuring that such devolution will be forthcoming? If so, we will feel a little more confident that the committee system envisaged will go some way to meeting the reservations which I and other Senators have with regard to the total composition of the council.
In section 2 the setting up of the three particular activities is mandatory on the council. It says "the council shall establish" and then the option of having additional members. To that extent, they are obliged to set up the three committees. These are the three major committees of any professional body and as such there is a considerable divesting onto the committee structure of their powers under legislation.
Section 13 deals with auxiliary dental workers. Subsection (7) says that the committee "shall include a person representative of each class of auxiliary dental worker established..." I appreciate the term "representative" is a very broad one, but there may be some difficulty in regard to the first appointment. It would appear that as soon as a scheme has been made under section 54, the council is required to set up this committee. There has not been time for the development which would reveal who the people are under the scope of the scheme. The council are then obliged to have somebody on the committee who is representative of this group which is still a rather amorphous one.
The purpose of the section is to get the particular appointment off the ground. The initial appointments to this committee will be for a period of one year and subsequent appointments shall be made by election in accordance with the rules made by the council.
I agree, but it is the first appointment I am worried about.
That is a particular formulation. I have no strong views on it, but I want to get the council off the ground and the initial appointment will be for one year only. This is a useful method of getting it moving.
We can assume that somebody would get to the High Court within 12 months in order to claim the first modern representative.
Who funds the council?
The basic income of the council is derived from registration fees. Like all such bodies it is the general wish of the Government that they should be self-financing. As is noticeable from another section, in relation to any residue which might be used for research and development, we have divested ourselves of consent as to the disposal of that residue. It would be a self-financing and self-regulating body and the fees would be determined by the council.
I have reservations as to whether that would be sufficient to ensure that this council will function in the manner we want. The existing council functions in that manner, and in recent times they have been having problems trying to meet even the limited requirements we put on them. In this Bill we are adding a whole new range of responsibilities to a council. I am just wondering whether the Minister has thought this method of funding through. It would be nice to think that they could charge registration fees to fund them, but I do not want the registration fees to be prohibitive. That might be another anomaly the council are already trying to eliminate.
It may be appropriate for me to make a general observation at this stage. I have found in the health sector that a very large number of members of professional bodies — self employed persons — give a great deal of their time to their own organisations and meet the cost of doing so. They devote a considerable amount of their time to the effective organisation of their professional activities. Equally, the members of the Dental Board have being doing this. There is no provision in section 14, for example, for the payment of fee or remuneration to members of the council. The 19 persons serving will be devoting their talents and time to this council, probably during working hours, and the selfemployed persons will not be getting any remuneration. Such remuneration is not provided by various health bodies. Apart from being paid the rather meagre travelling and subsistence expenses which are available to such bodies — members of the committees are being paid these expenses as well — the other major expenses would not arise. The new council will not have major expense factors facing it. I hope the registration fees will be reasonable. Nevertheless, to keep a relatively small body going effectively, there has to be a reasonable level of fee. I do not know what level it is intended to strike, but as Senators noticed, the Minister for Finance is not spattered throughout this Bill, if I may use such a derogatory phrase about my colleague.
It would be bad news to mention him today.
The sanction of the Minister for Finance in relation to various expenditures of the council is not required because effectively Exchequer funds do not arise and it is not envisaged that Exchequer funds in any form will arise.
Are we saying that there is no provision of money to implement this Bill?
Putting it crudely, there never has been. This is a new council and it is envisaged that it will be — to use the immortal phrase of Senator Honan's colleague from her constituency, self-financing. There will not be a subsidy.
I am confused about which party the Minister belongs to. He is quoting us so much.
Amendments Nos. 7, and 28 to 31 are related and will be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 10, between lines 46 and 47 to insert a new subsection as follows:—
"(4) Every order made under this section shall 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 of the Oireachtas within the next twenty-one days on which that House had sat after the order is laid before it, the order shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder."
Even though five amendments are to be discussed together, I do not think the discussion need take very long because the principle we are concerned with here is a simple one. In regard to a number of important matters that occur throughout this Bill, there is provision under section 63 for regulations to be tabled before the Houses of the Oireachtas and subject to annulment within 21 days. It seems to Senator Ferris and myself that in regard to the powers of the Minister to limit the absolute autonomy of the new Dental Council under section 15, this equally was an area in which there should be the opportunity of the annulment of any order by either House of the Oireachtas. The new Dental Council have certain mandatory powers and certain discretionary powers. We are legislating with a view to the new Dental Council regulating their own profession in the public interest. Because the public interest is concerned, the Minister has given them certain powers and he represents the public interest. Equally, the Members of the Oireachtas on certain matters of particular importance are also entitled to be able to express their opinion where the Minister decides to take unusual action. I think the Minister would agree that action to be taken under section 15 would be unusual and this should be subject to debate and, if necessary, to a decision by the Houses of the Oireachtas.
I welcome the amendment because I constantly feel that there is far too much brought in by way of Bills as to additional powers by Ministers and additional secondary legislation which is taken out of the control of the Oireachtas. I am as well aware as every other Member of this House that laying a thing before the Oireachtas may not necessarily mean that Senators actually read it or notice it, and I wish they did. There is so much material involved, it is not always possible to study it fully, but nevertheless this gives the opportunity for Members of this House and Members of the other House to do something about it if they feel some wrong action has been taken by the Minister. While I am not suggesting that the present Minister is likely to embark on any particularly draconian act under this section, I feel that, on principle, it is better that there should be some control over it.
In this context, I welcome the reactivation of the former committee of this House to deal with secondary legislation which would deal with this particular type of thing and draw our attention to it.
That function has gone to the legislation committee.
The other committee had a specialist way of drawing our attention to it. It has been agreed that we will discuss amendments Nos. 28, 29, 30 and 31 but I take it that that does not mean we cannot discuss the substance of section 56 when we come to it, because there are other remarks I would like to make about it.
Certainly you may discuss the section, but not the amendments.
To allay the fears of Members, while I would be quite prepared to accept the concept of the negative annulment of an order made I am not prepared to accept it in relation to section 15 for a number of reasons. In relation to the medical and dental professions, I am anxious to maintain a degree of continuity of statutes. The powers I have under this section are identical to those I hold under the provisions of the Medical Practitioners Act, 1978, in relation to the Medical Council. I have considered the matter in detail, and I would also point out that similar powers are held by other Ministers in relation to a large number of bodies, many of whom are much larger and of far greater importance than the Dental Council, for example, Exchequer bodies in receipt of substantial Exchequer funds, and the Minister for the Environment has very clear powers in relation to local authorities. Senators may remember that by decision he was in a position to remove Dublin Corporation some years ago, and even recently there was the imminent prospect of Wexford Corporation being in a similar position for failing to strike a rate. In none of these particular cases have the powers of the Minister been subject to annulment by either House of the Oireachtas. We are of the view that there is no particularly good reason for treating the power in relation to the Dental Council any differently. Quite clearly, it is evident in relation to section 15 that no Minister of the day would exercise that power unless it was a very grave matter which would require a formal Government decision and would unquestionably require perhaps an Oireachtas debate, but it would not in normal course of the exercise of Executive function, require the placing of an order before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The power to remove from office the members of the council would only arise in the gravest of circumstances. In any interpretation of legislation subsequently, the wishes of the Oireachtas would be taken into account and the observations made by the Minister of the day used in interpretations. It would be my wish that any such decision would have to be unquestionably the subject of a Government memorandum and a formal Government decision. I do not want to anticipate the debate on section 56 but that section is different and deals with the day-to-day establishment——
With respect, the Minister will have to anticipate the debate on amendments Nos. 28, 29, 30 and 31.
I am not averse to anticipating it, subject to the order of the House. Under section 56 if I reach a total impasse with a council, which is an ongoing body doing its day-to-day work, I would face the prospect of the House annulling an order that I made. In relation to the dissolution of the council — the formal abolition of the council — for a grave reason, this would be a Government decision and should not be subject to a nullification order as such. The matter would be so grave that the nullification order does not meet the requirements of the day. This is the general advice I have received. It is slightly tortuous but nevertheless I am disposed to accept it at this time.
The Minister is right when he says this is tortuous. He is making two points here. The first is that he should not accept this amendment because it has not been done on previous occasions and other Bills do not have it. This is the kind of argument which I find very difficult to accept: because something was done badly before, it should be done badly again and again, and again. If a thing is good, it is good to do in itself and it does not have to be dependent on what happens in other Bills. Quite a number of local authority people might be sorry that the Minister for the Environment has the power to do away with county councils, corporations and so on without referring to any democratic sanctions, but we will leave that aside. The second point the Minister made is that the issue is so grave that it would be a pity to have the power of retrospective annulment by the Oireachtas. I would suggest that the issue is so very grave that it is essential to have the retrospective annulling power of the Oireachtas. If the decision is as grave as this, he will want some kind of democratic backing for it rather than leaving it simply in the hands of the Minister.
I would like to follow along the same lines as Senator McGuinness. The argument from past legislation is unworthy of the Minister and we should not bother to consider it. We are concerned now with the Bill that is before the House and in putting it into as good a shape as possible. I take no argument from authority in regard to the Medical Practitioners Act or anything else in regard to this. I agree with the Minister on one point: tortuosity is a good description of the arguments he has put forward. I think the arguments he put forward are not worthy of the Minister who has been concerned throughout his political career with the promotion of the Houses of the Oireachtas having a real function in regard to the question of the running of our community. Of course, the powers under section 15 would only be used in unusual circumstances. It may well be that they would only be used after a Government decision. Why then can we not have the amendment to section 15? What does it do? It says that following a Government decision there may not be a debate in Seanad Éireann and there may not be a decision in Seanad Éireann.
What does this mean? It will not stop a debate from taking place; it will not even stop a debate happening in Seanad Éireann because a motion can be put down to discuss the Minister's action. It will not avoid the debate. What will happen at the end of the debate? We all know what will happen at the end of the debate. If it is the result of a Government decision — a Cabinet decision — that decision is not going to be overturned in Seanad Éireann unless the Government have lost the confidence of Seanad Éireann. The position could only be a most unusual circumstance in which the decision could be overturned in Seanad Éireann. Maybe majorities are narrower in the Dáil and there is a danger in going into the Dáil, but if the Minister likes to accept this amendment as applying to the Seanad only, I would certainly amend it in that particular form. The real position is that here is a case of a Minister taking a decision after a Government decision. To my mind, the most appropriate way to discuss this decision and to discuss other important decisions which the Minister might take under this Bill, is for it to be laid before the House. Then it is up to the Members of the House to decide whether they want to debate it or to decide whether they want to uphold the decision. The Minister should think again. The Minister has gone so far in making this a model Bill that he should think again in regard to this particular amendment.
As Senator Dooge and others are aware, the parliamentary draftsman and the law agent of my Department jealously guard the powers of the Executive. However, in relation to the arguments which I have just put forward, I have difficulty in these examination times in giving myself more than three out of ten, and in the circumstances, I am prepared to accept the amendment, subject to one particular proposition which will be examined for Report Stage, namely, that the order shall be annulled accordingly. It may be necessary to amend the order, as distinct from annulment, or annulment and amendment. Subject to the examination of this, and without prejudice to that prospect, I will accept the amendment. The discussion has been useful in this regard.
I should like to thank the Minister for his most democratic approach to the argument made and the respect which I know he has for the Houses of the Oireachtas. It would be a pity if Cabinet or Executive decisions were ever made without consultation with the various constituent parts which make up the political units. There is political support on all sides of the House for this kind of approach. I welcome what the Minister said. I have no problem with the suggested wording that the Minister can have particular powers.
Is the amendment accepted?
Subject to the understanding that there will be a small amendment on Report Stage. I must express my gratitude to the Minister. There is hope for Senatorial democracy yet.
I take it that the position of registrar is a separate appointment from the council.
He will be separate only in so far as his remuneration and conditions of service will be determined by the council, subject to the approval of the Minister and, of course, subject to the ubiquitous approval of the Minister for the Public Service.
The Minister is saying here that the registrar will be paid by the famous Minister for Finance. Where is the money to come from? Under section 14, the council got no funds.
The purpose of the utilisation of registration fees will lie in that direction. I do not think the profession will be allowed to become inpoverished.
It is not clear to me that the payment of the registrar's salary will be separate from funds available to the council. Is that the point Senator Honan was making?
The council will pay the registrar.
This raises an important matter. It means that the council will have funds, less the salary of the registrar, or the council has funds separate from the payment of the registrar.
It is now 5.30 p.m. but I am sure Senators who have shown an interest in this Bill would not object if we sat on for 15 minutes in the hope that we might finish Part II of the Bill, that is complete section 25 and then break at a natural breaking point for the discussion. I put that forward as a suggestion.
Would the Minister clear this point about the money for the registrar? Senator Robb is also confused.
I confirm that in relation to all of the regulatory bodies the payment of the remuneration of the registrar comes from the registration fees. That is the normal practice and it is being adhered to in relation to this section of the Bill. There is a degree of consent on the part of the Minister for the Public Service because of the wish to retain uniformity in relation to statutory self-regulatory bodies.
It is desirable that people in employment of any kind should retire at the age of 65, but is this section necessary when the Minister retains the power by order to amend or revoke any order under the section, in other words to extend the age limit of anybody who is employed as an officer of the council?
In the context of the uniformity of health legislation it is essential. There is a similar provision in the Health Act of 1970 in relation to permanent officers of health boards. The Minister for the Public Service would be equally adamant about a particular age limit being put in at this stage.
May I put a question to the Minister? It is in regard to superannuation. What is the degree of mobility at present for posts under the Dental Board and what will be the position for mobility and transfer of pension under the new Dental Council?
I understand that under the existing board there is not mobility transferability but under the new council there will be a provision — that is in relation to the agencies set up under the Health (Corporate Bodies) Act, 1961.
How wide will that mobility be?
From the cases I had recently it appears to be quite substantial. There seems to be a general mobility within the superannuation framework.
It is not the full mobility of the 1963 Act, is it?
It appears to be the general public sector mobility, which is very broad.
This is my concern, exactly where the limits are taken. One gets into difficulties here because people make distinctions between Public Sector with initial capitals and public sector with initial lower case letters. I take it there is absolutely no difficulty about mobility in respect of health boards, dental hospitals, university appointments in dentistry — are these all included?
I will check the matter carefully, but as far as I am aware the Local Government (Superannuation) Act, 1980 and the application of that to the council and its officers and servants has an all-encompassing transferability. I am going on memory here.
I thank the Minister for his offer to look into the matter. I feel if there is any bar to complete mobility it should be remedied before the legislation has passed through both Houses.
I will check that, particularly the academic side, the situation with regard to universities. There may be separate superannuation provisions of a degree in your own awareness, whether it precisley applies to the academic side of the profession——
There is transfer between most academic institutions and State and semi-State at the moment.
The Minister will be aware of the concern I expressed in regard to previous legislation coming before the House on this matter. I got an assurance from him that in any other legislation in which he was directly involved he would take cognisance of what was said in connection with people who are just nominated to stand for public office. I have no objection if people are elected but a person who is nominated should not be penalised unless elected. Perhaps the Minister would have a look at this on Report Stage. The Minister spoke about somebody should stand seconded if nominated. He knows my reservations on this. This has penalised people that I have close associations with. It discriminates against the right of individuals to allow their names to go forward for nomination and to be nominated. Such a person may not necessarily be successful in an election and will have lost a position arising from the extension of democracy, as I consider it to be, for people to go into public life.
I should like to support Senator Ferris here. I trust the Minister is not going to come forward with the argument that this is the standard legislation. It is because it is the standard legislation that it is being objected to in this House. I think it is absolutely fair that anybody who is elected immediately ceases to be an active servant of the board. But look at the crazy situation here: a person can be nominated without his consent to Seanad Éireann. In fact the Irish Dental Association would be able to nominate a servant of this board and make sure he was no longer employed. We have a crazy situation here because the draftsman insists in trying this to nomination and not to election. I would ask the Minister to give it his most serious consideration and at the same time to make sure that there are no difficulties in regard to breaks of service in relation to superannuation in such cases. Someone who wishes to be nominated, to be elected and to serve either House of the Oireachtas certainly should not receive superannuation in respect of that period, but under a number of superannuation schemes great care has to be taken to ensure that there is no break in service which could affect a person's entitlement. I would urge the Minister to look seriously at this section before Report Stage.
I support that.
As a nominee may I ask if Senators would be aware of a situation in which if one finds oneself on such a council, it would seem to be inappropriate that matters which were being discussed in the council could be brought as matters of privilege into this House? The nominee to the Seanad who is on such a council would have a tremendous advantage in a situation where there was a point of contention on which perhaps he was very much in a minority in the council and he would then have the benefit of this floor to debate his position. I would be interested to hear how the Minister will cope with the two sides of the argument.
We would not want to confuse a candidate and somebody who is privileged to be nominated as a Member of this House, because he is then a Member of the House and would automatically be debarred in any case. It is people who are nominated as candidates for election that I am worried about. That is the only reservation I have. I do not want Members of either of the Houses of the Oireachtas or of the European Assembly to be in privileged positions and hold office also. That could happen with a nominated person as Senator Robb is. We are grateful for his contributions. It is people who are nominated as candidates and might never be elected that we are concerned about. If elected I have no sympathy for them but if they are nominated for election they should not be penalised until they are elected.
May I thank Senator Ferris for elucidating that point.
I have considerable sympathy with the viewpoint of Members of this House in that regard. I have seen it affect a number of Members of the House. Shortly before the issue was brought in, it became a source of considerable argument in my own family, but it was and is a standing Government decision. To change it I would have to go back to Government with a prospect of considerable delay in the Bill; it would require separate memoranda, separate submissions and it has been the generally-held view of the Department of the Public Service in particular that that section should stand. I have a strong view on the matter but I doubt if I can accommodate Senators in relation to this Bill before Report Stage. I will certainly have another look at it.
I think we have heard in this House from sufficient Ministers that they are in complete sympathy with us that if we could only get it to the Government there should be a majority there. It may well be that the Minister would not be able to do anything before Report Stage and that the better procedure would be that we in this House, at the next meeting of the Committee on Procedures and Privileges, might address a communication to the Taoiseach on the point. It is a matter which has come up repeatedly. We have had the sympathy of a cavalcade of Ministers but no action.
I would not have mentioned it at all if the present Minister in person had not assured me on the last piece of legislation where we had these reservations that he would ensure that any legislation emanating from his Department in future would not contain this reprehensible clause. I realise that he is probably the busiest Minister in the Cabinet and he cannot watch everything.
The parliamentary draftsman or his agent was also present when the commitments were given; they should take more notice of what we say on this side of the House or any side of the House when we have reservations specifically on areas that we know affect Members' daily lives; I think they are discriminated against. I am saying in the presence of officials who are advising the Minister, that we have made those comments before, we have got sympathy but on the last occasion we got a commitment. I would ask the Minister if possible, allowing for all constraints, that before Report Stage comes this should be discussed. It would only take a matter of minutes. I am sure the Minister for the Public Service would also agree.
Just in case the Minister thinks that by my silence — I am nearly worn out at this stage — I do not support my two colleagues. I do. This is discrimination against us on any side because we are serving in public life. Perhaps it is your colleagues in the Cabinet; if you sent Senator Dooge instead of yourself you might get——
I am delighted to know that Senator Dooge will exert considerable influence on the Taoiseach of the day. I can assure him that my colleagues, the public servants associated with this Bill, have no vested interest whatever in the preservation or the amendment of this section. They would be prepared to facilitate a change at Report Stage provided there is a Government decision. In the meantime, if Senator Honan, who is unquestionably influential with her party Leader and Senator Dooge with his party Leader, can convince them I shall have great pleasure in talking to my colleague, the Minister for the Public Service.
It is not usual, Senator Ferris, to refer to officials. I just want to make that comment.
We may have an amendment put down for Report Stage so that it will assist the Government to discuss it.
We have spent an additional 15 minutes without reaching the end of this part of the Bill and since we are resuming at 6.30, perhaps we should adjourn now.
Until 6.30 p.m. Is section 20 agreed?