As I indicated on Second Stage, the Government intention is to replace the term "disability". This term was imported directly from the 1946 order into the current text of the Bill. The term was differently understood and had a different connotation then from what it has now. Clearly, its use in the particular context of the provision is not only inappropriate, but does not achieve the underlying intention. It is proposed to draw on the recent carefully developed concept of mental disorder from the Mental Health Act 2001. This is what the amendment does and it is intended to encapsulate what is intended here through reliance on that concept. I am glad to cast aside the language of the 1940s. Public health considerations go further than the threat posed by certain infectious diseases and I would be unwilling to confine the scope of the provision much further than is provided here.
Immigration Bill 2004: Committee and Remaining Stages.
I ask the Minister of State to clarify this important amendment. Will he confirm that the wording which was in the regulation under the Aliens Order is now being significantly diluted? Am I correct in saying that given the terms of the Mental Health Act 2001, subsection (1)(a) must be included in addition to subsection (2 and that it is not a case of either-or but that one is a consequence of the other? The legislation only refers to somebody who is classified as an immediate and serious threat. Is it also the case that in making a medical assessment, the interpretation of a medical officer would be sought in support of an immigration officer? If so, it would mean that only those who have undergone a medical assessment could be refused entry and that this would apply only to those who might be a threat to themselves or others. Will the Minister of State clarify that this is a significant diminution of what was in the legislation? The question as to the grounds on which a person may be refused entry is a separate argument, which perhaps could be addressed in an overall comprehensive review of the legislation in this area, to which the Minister of State referred.
The present position under the 1946 order, as consolidated — the particular definition was inserted in 1975 — would be much more extensive than as envisaged under this proposal. The immigration officer would have had wider powers under the orders than will be conferred by this legislation, or a wider measure of discretion because of a much more extensive definition.
The second issue raised by the Senator relates to section 3 of the 2001 Act, which is the legal concept that is being imported. The Senator is correct that the entirety of the section is not being imported. What is being imported is section 3(1)(a), as clarified by section 3(1)(ii). In effect, the significant element of the definition for the purpose of this legislation is that it is predicated in every case on the serious risk that the person will injure himself or herself or others.
I thank the Minister of State for that clarification. It deals with many of the concerns expressed on this issue on Second Stage. I hope this puts minds at rest. I am sure the principle of the issue can be considered more comprehensively when we examine the new legislation which is under preparation.
This amendment sets out a series of criteria for the guidance of immigration officers for deciding whether to give or renew a non-national permission to be in the State. These cover a number of factors, as listed in the amendment, to the extent that they are known to the immigration officer or represented by the non-national to the officer. As a matter of operational practice the renewal of a registered non-national's permission is done as a matter of routine at the time the registration is being renewed. This list of criteria will be of significance primarily then, when the question of not renewing a permission arises.
The word "in" is superfluous to the section.
The Government has brought forward this amendment to ensure that the correct reference in the relevant provision will be made to this Bill when enacted rather than to section 4 of the Immigration Act 2003. It is a purely formal amendment.
While it is customary to congratulate a Minister and his officials when a Bill is passed in this House, we cannot do so on this occasion due to the manner in which it was done. I regret that I am the only Member on this side of the House who has the opportunity to say this. The way the Bill was dealt with was wrong and it is not something of which we should be proud. While it is probably necessary to enact this legislation, it seems outrageous to use this House to pass a Bill by breaking all traditions and rules to rush it through without providing an opportunity for debate. I regret that. My congratulations are for ensuring the country is in good hands, but not for the manner in which that has been accomplished.
I thank the Minister of State for attending the House and providing a very comprehensive introduction to the Bill, which I and other Senators found extremely informative. He dealt with every major issue, the background and the reasoning behind the Bill and the High Court case. I share many of the concerns of other Senators on taking all Stages of a Bill together. It is a bad practice. In December when a number of Bills were taken in this way, I was surprised there were no expressions of opposition from the Opposition benches. In the last Seanad, the leader of the Opposition was very determined that a principle was involved which should only be breached in extraordinary circumstances.
In this instance, the Minister of State has outlined that there is a strong element of emergency attached to the legislation before us. Another mitigating argument in defence of what was done today, which I do not think is good practice, is that this legislation contains no provisions we did not think were already in force. The measures contained in this Bill were already in law as far as we were concerned until a judge of the High Court decided the legislation did not conform to the Constitution. Consequently, there was an urgency in terms of protecting our sovereignty and dealing with this issue satisfactorily. As the Minister of State rightly said, this issue has emerged in recent years as a significant challenge to the State. Thinking, policy and legislation is evolving constantly in this area. I welcome the fact that a major review is taking place within the Department in the context of the preparation of the legislation to which the Minister of State referred.
Whenever they have attended the House, the Minister of State and his ministerial colleagues from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform have demonstrated a great degree of sensitivity in dealing with these matters. This issue involves many people whose circumstances warrant the greatest sensitivity and sympathy on our part. However, we must balance that with the defence and protection of the existing citizens of the State. I welcome the provisions of this Bill which will serve to correct the legislative lacuna resulting from the High Court case.
While I sympathise with members of the Opposition, it would have been better if they had participated on Committee Stage. Of the 46 amendments tabled, only four were put down by the Government. The Opposition put thought into tabling 42 amendments.
There was only 15 minutes to debate them.
No request was made for additional time. I would certainly have supported one if it had come to that. To conclude, I thank the Minister of State. Hopefully, we will avoid scenarios of this sort in the Seanad in future.
I will draw Senator Quinn's point to the attention of the Minister. It was a point made by other Senators as well. I will also convey to the Minister the strong feeling I detected in the House that there is a need to bring forward comprehensive legislation in this area. I thank the Seanad for the substantial co-operation it extended in this matter despite understandable resistance to the process. Senators have been of considerable assistance to the Government.
When is it proposed to sit again?
At 10.30 a.m. next Wednesday.