Amendment No. 1 is in the name of Senator Costello. Amendments Nos. 2 to 9, inclusive, 15 and 98 are related. Therefore, amendments Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, 15 and 98 are being discussed together by agreement.
Education (Welfare) Bill, 1999: Committee Stage.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 5, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following new subsection:
"(2) This Act and the Education Acts, 1878 to 1998 may be cited together as the Education Acts, 1878 to 1999 and shall be construed as one Act."
It is fairly normal practice that we should insert a provision whereby previous legislation would be recorded in a consolidated fashion. Amendment No. 1 proposes to record that this Act, together with the 1878 to 1998 Acts, should be construed as one Act.
In relation to the other amendments, I will await the Minister's response.
I do not propose to accept the amendment. This Bill is clearly focused on the educational welfare of children, particularly those in difficult situations. I have also been advised by the draftsman that the amendment is not considered necessary. The draftsman recommended not to accept the amendment.
I understand it is normal practice to provide some record of consolidation of legislation and that the Acts be cited together as one consolidated legislative proposal. I will not press the amendment if the Minister was advised that it is not required.
A Chathaoirligh, I ask that the list of proposed groups of amendments, which are to be discussed together, be circulated. We have not seen it yet.
I will arrange to have that list circulated immediately to Members.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 6, line 2, after "means" to insert "an Bord Náisiúnta um Leas Oideachais or in the English language".
I have some sympathy with the Senator's amendment. The draftman's office put it in the order in which it appears in the Bill but I would be prepared to look at the inclusion of the Irish language title and perhaps accept the principle of that on Committee Stage in the Dáil. I want to be satisfied with the Irish language title, which I think is a good enough title. I have discussed it with my officials and I think we will be in a position to change it to reflect the spirit of the amendments which Senator Costello and his colleagues tabled.
That is exactly what I wanted.
Amendment No. 6, which is in the name of Senator Costello, was discussed already with amendment No. 1. Is amendment No. 6 being pressed?
When you read out the group of amendments I understood you referred to amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 9 rather than amendments Nos. 1 to 9.
I stated "amendments Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive,".
I misunderstood what you said because I did not have the list before me. I did not think this amendment was being taken as part of the group. May I speak on the amendment?
In view of the misunderstanding, I will of course permit you to speak on it.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 6, line 21, after "1970" to insert "including the Area Health Board".
This is a matter of clarification. The old health boards no longer operate. The Eastern Health Board and the Western Health Board are being replaced by new regional health authorities. In that context, an area board is not, by definition, a health board. It would seem to me that the Minister would be required, under the legislation, to specify that the reference in the Bill is to an area health board. Many area boards will be established under new local government reforms but presumably the only boards we would be likely to refer to in this legislation would properly come under the old Eastern, Western or Southern Health Boards. I propose that we clarify that the reference is to the area health boards under the new authorities currently being formed.
I understand the Senator's intentions but I am assured by the draftsman that the definition contained in page 6 of the definitions section of the Bill is acceptable.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 6, line 32, after "regulations" to insert "made under section4(1)".
Amendment Nos. 10 to 14, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
Amendment Nos. 10, 12, 13 and 14 are essentially technical amendments. Amendment No. 10 is intended to clarify the existing section 3(1), namely that the Minister may include other children up to the age of 18 years within the provisions of the Act.
Amendment No. 13 provides that draft orders changing the minimum school leaving age will have to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. An order cannot be made unless a resolution, approving the drafts, has been passed by each House. My intention in this amendment is to ensure the Oireachtas can supervise this aspect of the Act. Amendment Nos. 12 and 14 are purely technical.
Is the Minister proposing an amendment to Government amendment No. 10 which would insert "resident in the State" after "class of persons" in the second line of the text of amendment No. 10?
I presume this amendment refers to persons from outside the State and would allow the Minister, by order, to cut across the definition of ‘child' in the appropriate sections of the Bill in every aspect, save the age aspect. That is appropriate and I support it; its omission could have caused an anomaly.
Will the Minister indicate the precise difference between an order and a regulation as the two are normally married together? I asked experts around the House about this matter yesterday but failed to get a clear answer on it. As far as I understand, an order requires the positive endorsement of the House prior to its implementation whereas a regulation must be annulled within 21 days.
May I take it that an order will refer to a class or group of children, rather than an individual child? I can see the sense in this as the range of the Bill would be extended. I can also see why an order and a regulation are being dealt with differently but what is the difference between them?
I am advised that an order relates to a specific matter, while a regulation can cover a range of issues. An order would not relate to an individual case. In the context of the Bill, it could, for example, relate to a decision of a future Government to raise the school leaving age from 16 to 17. Such an order would have to be placed before the House. I will send the Senator a note on the matter.
I will settle for that.
As a consequence of the acceptance of amendment No. 14, section 4 is deleted.
Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 8, subsection (2), line 16, to delete "1990" and substitute "1999".
I accept the amendment.
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 8, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following new subsection:
"(3) In relation to a body corporate whose affairs are managed by its members, subsection (2) shall have effect as if ‘director' included a member of the body corporate".'.
I am willing to accept the thrust of the amendment and intend to bring forward an appropriate amendment in the Dáil.
We now proceed to amendment No. 18. Amendments Nos. 41, 42, 43, 51, 52, 55, 71, 73, 86, 87, 95 and 97 are related and may be discussed with amendment No. 18.
This is a technical drafting amendment. I cannot accept amendment No. 41, the effect of which would be that the Minister would be restricted from giving policy directions relating to individual cases. While it is not my intention that the Minister would give directions on particular cases, the possibility of directions applying to or arising from individual cases cannot be discounted.
I also have to reject amendment No. 42, the effect of which would be that the Minister might be obliged to prescribe a minimum education for every child. This was never the intention. The intention is to prescribe a minimum education for those being educated outside the formal school system.
The Minister said that he will not accept amendment No. 41 which states, "A direction under this section shall not relate to an individual case". I am not clear on the reasons he cannot accept it. In amendment No. 42 I am seeking to substitute "shall" for "may" in page 11, line 28. Section 14 states:
The Minister may, after consultation with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and such other persons (if any) as the Minister considers appropriate, prescribe a minimum education to be provided to each child. . .
Given that every child is entitled under the Constitution to a minimum education it would be most appropriate to substitute "shall" for "may".
I will look at the matter again. Every child is entitled under the Constitution to a minimum standard of education. Under the Bill the Minister will have the power to prescribe a minimum standard of education, primarily for children outside the school system. If parents wish to have their children educated outside the school system, an issue can arise as to whether that education meets the minimum standard. There is an obligation on the State to ensure a child receives a minimum standard of education.
That is what it was designed to do. The Senator is suggesting that the wording should state that the Minister "shall" as opposed to "may". I understand the point being made and I will look at this in the context of the section.
Amendment No. 97 proposes to change the wording to "not less than one person appointed from among persons nominated by the national associations of parents". There is only one national parents' association so what is the point of this amendment? Am I missing something? As far as I know the National Parents Council is the only national association of parents. I think the National Parents Council was mentioned by name in the Education Act. This amendment inserts a plural – the national associations of parents.
Primary or post-primary.
It is the same. The National Parents Council, primary and post-primary. I apologise, the Minister sees that as being two different associations. That is fine.
I have some sympathy with Senator Costello's amendment. The word should be "shall" but we do not want to extend it to children to whom it is not meant to be extended. We have formal standards in primary and secondary schools and so on. This section is not intended to stipulate that there would be an individual school plan for every child. There was some concern in the draftsman's office that we could give effect to that if we used the word "shall" instead of "may". I will be glad to insert the word "shall" if I can tidy this up and clarify the issue.