Nurses and Midwives Bill 2010: Report and Final Stages

Government amendment No. 1:
In page 27, to delete lines 20 to 27, and substitute the following:
"(5) A person is not eligible for appointment as a member of the Board, or of a committee, if the person is—
(a) a member of either House of the Oireachtas or of the European Parliament, or
(b) regarded, pursuant to section 19 of the European Parliament Elections Act 1997, as having been elected to the European Parliament to fill a vacancy.”.

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that members of local authorities are not precluded from being members of the board. I think this reflects the sentiment that was already expressed in the House. I thank Senator Leyden for bringing this matter to my attention. I thank the House for its co-operation in facilitating a Government amendment on Report Stage at such a late stage. I believe the amendment, as drafted, reflects the intent of the House. I trust that the House will support it.

I thank the Minister of State for dealing with this matter effectively. The impression we had in this House was that the Minister was of the same opinion. It is an important issue for the 1,000 people who serve the public throughout the country. Not many of them are qualified as midwives or nurses, but some of them are. If those who might hope to serve on this board were precluded from serving on this board if they were members of local authorities, it might inhibit them from running in local elections. I thank the Minister of State, the Cathaoirleach, the Clerk of the House and the staff of the Department for their efficiency in drafting this amendment and bringing it before the House. Some discomfort is involved in having to bring the Bill back to the Dáil to finalise this amendment, but it is a very short journey and the implications are worthwhile. I want to emphasise that this provision was in the original Bill. I tried to get the previous Administration to remove it.

I wish the Minister of State well and hope she is promoted to the Cabinet shortly. I know she will not use the bus lanes yet because that would be ill-advised, to say the least.

What has this to do with the amendment?

I thank my colleagues on the other side of the House who were very helpful in working with the Minister on this matter. It is bouquets all around. The Minister of State used her power to act on this matter in the House, as I did when I was a Minister of State. I have seen other Ministers of State refuse to accept amendments because they were concerned their Minister might not accept them subsequently. The Minister of State, Deputy Shortall, has shown she has the knowledge and ability to carry out such a function. I also commend the staff who are so effective in getting matters sorted quickly. The amendment may concern a small item but it is an important one.

I thank Senators Leyden and Gilroy for highlighting this matter, as well as the Minister of State for responding in a positive way and dealing with it immediately. I also thank the staff for dealing with this matter in the appropriate way.

I thank the Minister of State for accepting this amendment. In the past five years several Bills precluded local authority members from membership of various bodies, a point we fought against. It is akin to barring Senator Crown from a body being set up by the Government for cancer care simply because he is a Senator.

I welcome the acceptance of this amendment by the Minister of State. I thank her staff and the staff of the House for facilitating it in such an expedient manner.

I thank the Minister of State for accepting this amendment and Senator Leyden for alerting the House to the issue. They have both done the Seanad a service by ensuring it is relevant and important in scrutinising legislation.

I thank Members for their co-operation throughout the passage of the Bill through the House. It has been around for some time and we are keen to enact it.

The Minister of State just needs to address the amendment for now.

I thank Members for their support for this amendment. It improves the quality of the Bill. I have much respect for members of local authorities who do valuable work on our behalf. There is no reason why they should be precluded from a board such as this.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank Members for their co-operation with the passage of this Bill. It is important it is enacted as quickly as possible. It will now be sent to the Dáil for completion and enacted soon. The legislation will achieve the raising of standards in the nursing and midwifery profession. It was very much overdue and I thank Members for their co-operation in facilitating its passage through the House.

I thank the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, for coming to the House to take the Bill on Second Stage. He was open to positive contributions from Members. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Shortall, for her approach to this legislation. I wish her well in future legislation. She has a progressive approach to this House. It can play an important role in legislating as it has a little more time to reflect on proposals and does consider issues that the Dáil may not.

The Minister of State wanted this excellent and necessary legislation passed quickly which is why I appreciate she gave extra time to it here. The legislation as amended will be passed quickly in the Dáil. I thank the Leader for facilitating the passing of this legislation today.

I thank the Minister of State and the Minister for introducing this important legislation. There are over 90,000 registered nurses, of whom 67,000 are actively working. It is important to highlight the issue of maternity care. While there is much focus on the level of litigation in this area, it must be borne in mind that the number of deliveries in hospitals has increased from 55,000 a year to over 76,000 a year. Despite this increase, the perinatal mortality rate has decreased from 8.9 per 1,000 deliveries to 6.9 per 1,000 deliveries at the same time, highlighting the dedication and commitment of nursing and medical teams involved which is not recognised often enough.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 2.05 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.