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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 17 Apr 2014

Protection of Children's Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill 2012: Report and Final Stages

I welcome the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly. Before we commence, I remind Senators that a Senator may speak only once on Report Stage, except the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion on the amendment.

Government amendment No. 1:
In page 3, lines 7 to 12, to delete all words from and including "AMEND" in line 7 down to and including line 12 and substitute the following:
"create an offence of smoking a tobacco product in the presence of a child in a mechanically propelled vehicle; and to provide for related matters.".

Tá áthas orm bheith anseo inniu le haghaidh na díospóireachta ar an mBille seo. This amendment sets out the Long Title to the Bill. The Senators' Bill has been presented as an amendment to the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 and, as the Senators' know, I have been very supportive of this. The Senators' Bill seeks to amend section 47 of that Act which prohibits the smoking of tobacco products in the workplace. I propose that the provisions to prohibit smoking in cars with children present should be set out in a stand-alone Bill for a number of reasons.

The privately-owned car does not represent a workplace and it is not appropriate that it be included in section 47. The enforcement officers of this provision will be members of An Garda Síochána and not HSE environmental officers, as currently set out in the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts. The penalties outlined for the offence in the Senators' Bill are set out as fixed charge notices and are quite distinct from the penalties already set out in the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts. Bearing these factors in mind, it is more appropriate for the Bill to be presented as stand-alone legislation as its operation does not rely on provisions from existing tobacco legislation and for these reasons, I commend the amendment to the House.

I thank an tAire and his staff for the effort that has gone into getting these Report Stage amendments which my co-sponsors, Senators Jillian van Turnhout and Mark Daly, and I accept. We wish to see the Bill get through as quickly as possible and we understand the reasons for the fundamental change in the nature of the Bill for clarity's sake. The reason we did it this way was that we thought, perhaps somewhat naively two years ago, it would have been faster if we did it as a simple amendment to existing legislation. We will accept the Minister's amendment.

I would like some clarification. When we met the officials the other day - I thank them for all the work they have done, in particular Geraldine Luddy and Dilly O'Brien - they clearly said that there was no outstanding issue or impediment to this Bill going to the Dáil. The Minister's Department has no issue nor does any other Department; therefore, when we accept these amendments, there is no reason the Bill should be in any way slowed down or impeded from going through the Dáil relatively quickly. We could have it in place by the summer. I would like to get that reassurance from the Minister.

I welcome the Minister and thank him for his support for this legislation. I commend Senators Jillian van Turnhout and John Crown for pushing this forward. Following on from what Senator Jillian van Turnhout asked, will this Bill get through the Dáil before the summer recess in light of the fact the amendments are agreed to and that no further amendments should be necessary in the Dáil?

I echo what my colleagues have said and welcome the Minister. I was inadvertently working on his behalf as the tobacco lobbyists are about again and were asking for interviews. However, I will not let the Minister down in the cause. I just told them to send in whatever papers they have and I would read them. However, I do not wish to be lobbied by the tobacco industry. I think we are ad idem on all of that. As my colleagues have said, I hope the Bill will proceed quickly because the original objective two years ago was to protect children going on holidays in cars and that they would not experience tobacco smoke.

As a non-lawyer, I thought we were splitting hairs in substituting the amendments for what was in the Bill but if it all works out well at the end, I will join my colleagues in welcoming it. However, I could not see the point in some of the amendments to the original Bill.

We are all at one on this issue and I will support the Minister in his other moves on plain labelling and restrictions on the sale of tobacco. I share his goal of a tobacco-free society, and that includes in cars and in cars with children. There is also a road safety dimension.

I thank the Minister for bringing the Bill to the House and wish him every success in his continuing efforts to create a smoke-free society. He knows more than anyone else the damage smoking does to people's health and the health service.

I remind Members that just as the Seanad's business is ours, the business of the Dáil is a matter for it.

Following those very wise words from the Cathaoirleach-----

Is Senator David Norris indicating that he wishes to speak to the amendment?

I just want to make a brief contribution. I welcome the Minister. There is very judicious collaboration between Senator John Crown and the Minister in producing the Bill which I very much hope will go through because it is very important because children are so vulnerable. A motor car is a much more confined environment than even a room or public bar. I have no doubt that there are children whose health has severely suffered as a result. The Bill is a very good one and I hope we will have time to deal with the amendments. For that reason, I will not say anything more than Senator John Crown's initiative and those of my other colleagues, Senators Sean D. Barrett and Feargal Quinn, in producing legislation in very important areas have demonstrated post-referendum the significance and the value to the country of Seanad Éireann.

I am nearly afraid to stand up in case I have to sit down again. An bhfuil cead agam seasamh suas anois ar feadh tamaill?

Tá an Ghaeilge go flúirseach ag an Aire.

Tá go leor Gaeilge agam. Tá seanfhocal ann a deir, "Ní neart go cur le chéile". Táimid á dhéanamh sin anseo anois.

There is great strength in working together in the way we have done and I thank everyone involved. As we know, this is part of a long battle and I acknowledge the latitude demonstrated. Senator Sean D. Barrett makes a very important point that the tobacco industry will be very active and bring its considerable forces and might to bear on this small island in order to frustrate our attempts to protect children from the harmful effects of tobacco, effects which are not just harmful but also killer effects. We are all in the one smokeless car together on this one.

There may be a difficulty in discerning the differences between the amendments, but they are serious. I refer to a point that has delayed the other legislation in being published, that we have to be ultra careful in everything to do in dealing with tobacco. The industry has rafts of lawyers poring over everything we do and say, looking to find holes and a rationale for a challenge. Everything has to be done particularly carefully or there will be an attempt to knock it down in the courts. The industry has very deep pockets and will do whatever it takes. We know what it has been like in the past when it has been less than forthcoming with evidence showing that its product is a killer product. We have had this discussion that it is the only product we know of that, when used as directed by the manufacturer, kills one in two of those who use it regularly.

I refer to Senator Jillian van Turnhout's request that I give some guarantee. I cannot give one. There are 166 reasons in the Dáil there might be an amendment because any one Member of the other House might table an amendment that might make sense and I do not wish to preclude this from happening. As the Cathaoirleach has pointed out, it would not be appropriate to do so. I emphasise that I want the Bill to be enacted as quickly as possible. I want to see children protected in every way possible and as quickly as possible and as such, I will do everything to expedite the Bill. I thank Senators Jillian van Turnhout, Mark Daly and John Crown for promoting it, sticking with it and co-operating so well with staff in the Department. Like so many things in life that look simple from the outside, it can become very complicated when so many Departments are involved, which was a concern. Some of the later amendments might seem to some to be a little lenient, but the Office of the Attorney General was very clear on the issue of proportionality.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 2:
In page 3, to delete lines 14 and 15 and substitute the following:
1. In this Act—
“child” means a person who has not attained the age of 18 years;
“mechanically propelled vehicle” has the same meaning as it has in the Road Traffic Act 1961;
“Minister” means the Minister for Health;
“public place” has the same meaning as it has in the Road Traffic Act 1961;
“tobacco product” has the same meaning as it has in the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002.”.

Amendment No. 2 sets out the definitions of "child" and "mechanically propelled vehicle" which were set out in the Senator's Bill. In addition, I have included the definition of "Minister" to refer to the Minister for Health and the definition of "tobacco product" as having the same meaning as set out in the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002. The inclusion of these definitions is necessary for the Bill's presentation as stand-alone legislation, as opposed to amendments to the Public Health (Tobacco) Act. The definition of "public place" was deemed necessary following consultation with the Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána to bring the provisions in the Bill into line with other road traffic offences. I commend the amendment to the House.

I agree with the amendment which we will accept. I stress that at a time when the legislative agenda is at an all-time low, the arguments for advancing the Bill in the coming term are overwhelming. This was one we had hoped would have been protecting children in the summer of 2012. We urge the Minister to take it on as a personal project and ensure his officials prioritise it. Let us get one on the score sheet for the good guys in the battle against tobacco. We can pass the Bill quickly and then proceed to work on the Minister's more definitive Bill on packaging and other regulatory matters.

I welcome the Minister's decision to bring the definition of "child" into line with the definition in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which covers persons up to 18 years of age. While I accept the Cathaoirleach's ruling that we cannot order the business of the Dáil, I can ask a question of one of the 166 Members of the other House - the Minister. His officials told us that there were no outstanding issues or questions being raised by the Department. I appreciate democracy and that any Member can table an amendment. However, I ask the Minister to confirm that there are no outstanding issues with regard to the Bill and that he expects it to be given a good passage.

I thank the Senators for their support. In reply to Senator Jillian van Turnhout, I see no issues with the Bill and no reason it cannot pass through unless someone raises an issue we have not foreseen.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 3 to 5, inclusive, and No. 7 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 3:
In page 3, to delete lines 16 to 33, to delete page 4, and in page 5, to delete lines 1 to 31 and substitute the following:
“Prohibition on smoking tobacco product in mechanically propelled vehicle in which child is present
2. (1) The smoking by a person (including a child) of a tobacco product in a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place and in which a child (or another child if the person smoking is a child) is present is prohibited.
(2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence.
(3) Where a person who contravenes subsection (1) is not the driver of the mechanically propelled vehicle concerned, the driver shall also be guilty of an offence.
(4) In proceedings for an offence under this section, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is shown, that a person who was present in a mechanically propelled vehicle in which the commission of the alleged offence occurred and who appeared to a member of the Garda Síochána, at that time, to be a child, was, at that time, a child.
(5) In proceedings for an offence under this section, it shall be a defence for a person to show that he or she reasonably believed that any person who was present in the mechanically propelled vehicle in which the commission of the alleged offence occurred had attained the age of 18 years.
(6) Without prejudice to subsection (5), in proceedings for an offence under subsection (3) brought against the driver of the mechanically propelled vehicle concerned, it shall be a defence for that person to show that he or she—
(a) was, by reason of his or her driving of that vehicle, unable to prevent the commission of the alleged offence under subsection (2) by another person in that vehicle, or
(b) made all reasonable efforts to prevent the commission of the alleged offence under subsection (2) by another person in that vehicle.”.

Amendment No. 3 sets out the key prohibition; amendment No. 4 sets out the powers of An Garda Síochána; amendment No. 5 sets out provisions for the fixed charge notice; while amendment No. 7 sets out penalties for the offences included in the Bill. These amendments provide that if a person, an adult or a child, is smoking in a mechanically propelled vehicle, in the presence of another child, the smoker is guilty of an offence. This amendment also makes a driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle guilty of an offence, whether the driver or another person is the person smoking in the said vehicle.

The Senator's Bill contained this principle of the driver's liability. However, we have included defences in our amendments which are proportionate. We have allowed one defence for the smoker and two additional defences for the driver if he or she is not the person smoking in the vehicle. These defences are that the smoker and-or the driver reasonably believed everyone in the car was over 18 years of age; that the driver could not prevent a passenger from smoking without compromising safety; and that the driver made all reasonable efforts to prevent the passenger from smoking. These defences for the driver are reasonable as the driver's main responsibility is to ensure the safety of his or her passengers in the activity of driving, for example, driving safely and ensuring children in the vehicle are strapped in correctly.

Amendment No. 4 provides for the powers of An Garda Síochána. Similar to the Senator's Bill, it gives An Garda Síochána the power to stop a car and request the name and address of the person committing the offence. If a person fails to stop, refuses to give information or gives false information, he or she is guilty of an offence. References to the driver's licence or learner permit have not been included as these are more appropriate in the context of road traffic offences, not this offence which is created from a public health perspective.

With regard to the fixed charge notice provisions, we agreed with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport that it would not be appropriate for the Road Traffic Acts to be amended on the basis that the offence of smoking in a car with children present was a public health matter, not a road traffic offence.

However, it was agreed that the fixed-charge notice provisions should be similar to those already operated by An Garda Síochána for ease of application. For this reason the period of days allowed for payment of the fine is 28 days and not 21 days as set out in the Senator's Bill. In addition this section allows for the increase of the original fine by 50% where that fine is not paid within the 28-day period. The amendment provides that a prosecution shall not be initiated if the fines are paid within the specified periods.

Amendment No. 7 contains summary convictions where somebody has committed an offence under the Act. This includes offences of refusing to stop the car, refusing to give a name or address, and giving false information. The penalty is in the form of a class D fine, which is not exceeding €1,000. I commend the amendments to the House.

I fully agree with the amendments the Minister has set out. I welcome making the driver responsible even if someone other than the driver is smoking. In the initial debate I spoke about a driver under the age of 18 years who is smoking. The amendments there are very welcome. The amendments deal comprehensively with the defence and ensuring that road safety needs to be taken into account in dealing with the issue. As the amendments deal adequately with the matter, I welcome them.

When the Minister referred to smoking compromising road safety, I would make the case very strongly that it does. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Leo Varadkar, recently introduced legislation in which he rightly increased the penalties for the use of mobile phones and texting.

We should consider the transactions involved in smoking: finding the cigarettes; finding the matches; lighting the cigarette; flicking out ash and throwing out butts. It seems far more disruptive of road safety than the use of a mobile phone. At the next revision of penalty points we might consider that point. We drew the attention of the Minister, Deputy Leo Varadkar, to German literature on the road safety dimensions which eventually come back to the Minister for Health given that tens of thousands of people are injured in road accidents and approximately 190 people were killed last year.

There is also the atmosphere, the smoke and the dizziness caused in cars. I believe that smoking most certainly compromises road safety and we might look at it the next time around. This is a dangerous, complicated and polluting transaction that takes place. It seems more serious for road safety than the use of a mobile phone or texting which has deservedly attracted the ire of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

I concur with Senator Sean D. Barrett. I have been a sometime smoker. While these are not my words, I defend my right to use them if I felt like it. A well known English writer described how she was in London and she was driving. She dropped her cigarette, as she said herself, on to her fanny and nearly crashed the car. I had the experience of dropping it on to my fly and one wants to get rid of that pretty quickly. It certainly interrupts one's driving skill. Therefore, there is undoubtedly a question of safety.

Is the prosecution evidence based? Senator Sean D. Barrett referred to throwing the butt out of the window. Is there a requirement to produce the cigarette or ash, or is it just the word of the police? Is there any evidential qualification?

The Minister proposes to insert: "Where a person who contravenes subsection (1) is not the driver of the mechanically propelled vehicle concerned, the driver shall also be guilty of an offence." I was thinking of taxis. Particularly on weekend nights in metropolitan areas and perhaps in the country, taxi drivers often have very obstreperous and drunken or drugged passengers in the back seat and could be at risk of their lives. I note that subsection (a) states: "was, by reason of his or her driving of that vehicle, unable to prevent the commission of the alleged offence under subsection (2) by another person in that vehicle". I presume that would cover taxis also.

I wonder about the term "reasonably believed". Is there a legal definition of "reasonably" - there may well be - or is it left up to the judge, who might be a secret smoker and have sympathy with somebody?

Amendment No. 4 states: "A member of the Garda Síochána may". Since becoming a Member of this House we have had battles between "may" and "shall". I am suggesting a kind of Anglican solution - the via media - of "should, where possible", which would strengthen it. Perhaps the Minister does not want to take amendments here because he wants to get it through. However, he might bear it in mind and include it as a Government amendment in the Dáil. Inserting "shall, where possible" puts an extra onus on the garda to be vigilant.

While perhaps I should already know this, what is the fixed charge? I note it is not quantified, but it may be just a routine charge that is in other Bills. It is referred to subsequently as a class D fine. Is it €25, €100 or €500 with an option of a week in jail? Perhaps the Minister could give us information on that. What is the fixed charge? I presume it is the same as a class D fine.

I very much welcome the Bill and congratulate the Senators on introducing it. In the long term it will be very positive for the country just as the smoking ban was. When the ban on smoking in pubs and public places was introduced, people actually stopped smoking in houses. Any smoker who came into my house went outside the door to smoke and I was delighted with this. I hope the Bill will stop people smoking in cars full stop.

I have similar concerns to Senator David Norris about the phrase, "Where a member of the Garda Síochána has reasonable grounds for believing that a person is committing or has committed an offence". Will that really hold up in court?

Even those in the IRA got locked up.

I know, but we can think of people who did not get locked up and we believe that it was wrong. However, I am just saying-----

Some of them tell us that they were never members of the IRA.

Have we gone on to a different topic?

If one gets the smell off a car that somebody has been smoking in the car, it could be a passenger or driver, if one has not actually caught them doing it, would it stand up in court?

I agree with much of what Senator Sean D. Barrett said about road safety. A driver could be rummaging around trying to find a cigarette or have the unfortunate experience of Senator David Norris and find himself or herself in contortions trying to drive down the road. However, this could be the passenger who is lighting and smoking the cigarette and therefore have no impact. One could equally argue that part of the match could fly off and hit the driver in the eye. This is where we avoid the good being delayed by the perfect. We should proceed with this as quickly as we can, which is everyone's goal.

In response to Senator David Norris's queries on fines, many of the fines are between €80 and €100 for a first offence. The Senator also raised the "may" or "shall" argument and he and others spoke about the word "reasonable". The term "reasonable" is well known in law and accepted as such. It is used extensively in the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act, in terms of "reasonable opinion", as Senators may recall. So I believe all these things are covered off. The "may" or "shall" argument can be for another day. We can look at it and it can be debated in the Dáil.

We would like to see the Bill go through today in order that it can be carried on through Dáil Éireann and become law to ensure children will be protected from the dangers of environmental tobacco smoke. We have been protecting workers but not children, which seems bizarre. We are where we are and can now correct the anomaly.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 4:
In page 5, to delete lines 32 to 43 and substitute the following:
“Powers of member of Garda Síochána
3. (1) A member of the Garda Síochána may, where it appears to him or her that a person in a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place and in which a child, or a person who appears to be a child, is present, is smoking a tobacco product—
(a) require the driver to stop the vehicle, and
(b) demand of any person in the vehicle whom the member suspects of committing an offence under section 2*, his or her name and address.
(2) A person who—
(a) fails to stop a mechanically propelled vehicle in compliance with subsection (1)(a), or
(b) on a demand being made of him or her under subsection (1)(b), fails or refuses to give his or her name and address or gives information which is false or misleading,
shall be guilty of an offence.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 5:
In page 6, to delete lines 1 to 6 and substitute the following:
“Fixed charge notice
4. (1) Where a member of the Garda Síochána has reasonable grounds for believing that a person is committing or has committed an offence under section 2, he or she may serve on a person personally or by post at the address at which the person ordinarily resides or, at the time of the alleged offence, gave to the member or another member of the Garda Síochána, a notice (“fixed charge notice”) in the prescribed form stating that—
(a) the person is alleged to have committed the offence,
(b) the person may, during the period of 28 days beginning on the date specified in the notice, make to a person specified in the notice at the address specified in the notice a payment of the prescribed amount accompanied by the notice,
(c) if the person does not make the payment specified in paragraph (b), during the period of 28 days beginning on the expiration of that period, the person may make a payment as specified in the notice of an amount 50 per cent greater than the prescribed amount referred to in paragraph (b),
(d) the person is not obliged to make the payment, and
(e) a prosecution in respect of the alleged offence will not be instituted during the period specified in the notice and, if the payment specified in the notice is made during that period, no prosecution in respect of the alleged offence will be instituted.
(2) Where notice is served under subsection (1)—
(a) the person to whom the notice applies may, during the period specified in the notice, make to a person specified in the notice at the address specified in the notice the payment specified in the notice, at the appropriate time so specified in relation to the payment, accompanied by the notice,
(b) the person so specified may receive the payment, issue a receipt for it and retain the money so paid, and any payment so received shall not be recoverable in any circumstances by the person who made it,
(c) a prosecution in respect of the alleged offence shall not be instituted during the period specified in the notice, and if the payment so specified is made during the period, no prosecution in respect of the alleged offence shall be instituted.
(3) A prosecution in respect of an offence under *section 2 shall not be instituted unless a fixed charge notice in respect of the alleged offence has been served on the person concerned under this section and the person fails to pay the appropriate amount of the fixed charge in accordance with the notice at the appropriate time specified in the notice in relation to the payment.
(4) In a prosecution for an offence under *section 2, the onus of proving that a payment in accordance with a fixed charge notice has been made lies on the defendant.
(5) Income generated by the payment of amounts pursuant to fixed charge notices under this Act shall be disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer in such manner determined by the Minister with the agreement of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.”.
Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 6 and 8 are related and will be discussed together.

Government amendment No. 6:
In page 6, to delete lines 7 and 8 and substitute the following:
5. (1) The Minister may make regulations prescribing any matter or thing referred to in this Act as prescribed or to be prescribed.
(2) Regulations under this section may contain such incidental, supplementary and consequential provisions as appear to the Minister to be necessary or expedient for the purposes of the regulations.
(3) Every regulation made by the Minister under this Act 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 or regulation is passed by either such House within the next 21 days on which that House sits after the regulation is laid before it, the regulation shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.”.

The amendment sets out the powers of the Minister for Health to make regulations. Senators have given the power to make regulations to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in consultation with the Minister for Health. As this is not a road traffic issue, it is more appropriate that the Minister for Health is granted regulatory powers in this regard. The Senators' Bill sets out provisions in primary legislation allowing for different fixed charge amounts to be prescribed in regulations depending on, for example, the age of the children and the number of passengers. The smoking of tobacco in the presence of a child in a mechanically propelled vehicle is as serious and harmful as smoking in the presence of a number of children, regardless of their ages. With this in mind, the amendments proposed do not include provisions to grade the fixed charges.

Amendment No. 8 sets out the Short Title and commencement date. It is proposed that the Title of the legislation be amended to read Protection of Children's Health (Tobacco Smoke in Mechanically Propelled Vehicles) Act 2014. This Title is proposed to adequately reflect the content and purpose of the Bill. The provision to allow for commencement orders is required in order to allow the Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána adequate time to prepare for the introduction of the new legislation. I commend the amendments to the House.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 7:
7. In page 6, to delete lines 9 to 26 and substitute the following:
6. A person who is guilty of an offence under this Act shall be liable on summary conviction to a class D fine.”.

I was amusing myself by working out how much of the original Bill had been left and thought I would give a brief graphic demonstration of the deletions made. I would also like to give a graphic demonstration of what is left of the original Bill. What is left of the Bill is "Be it enacted by the Oireachtas as follows". In keeping with the spirit and intent of the Bill and the co-operation of the Government, I am pleased that we will support the amendments. I would like to make one small statement of gratitude. There are some folk who did a huge job in bringing this initiative to where it is. It is where it is because it originated with folk in Seanad Éireann and their staff. I thank Senators Mark Daly and Jillian van Turnhout who have been constant supporters of this legislation. Senator Jillian van Turnhout and her colleagues have done much of the running in making sure the Bill negotiates the parliamentary process. She is more skilled at that task. I thank Mr. Shane Conneely who was my adviser throughout the process. He wrote the original Bill and thought through most of the arguments for the defences that should be included. I am glad that we have had the refining influence of the Department of Health and the Department of Justice and Equality to ensure it will be easy to enforce, but I would not like Shane's contribution to this effort to go unrecorded, as it was extraordinary.

That is very generous.

Was it the Minister's decision that the Title of the Bill should be changed? Could we not even have it left intact? I ask for clarification. Is it the same Bill or a new one?

It is the same.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 8:
In page 6, to delete lines 27 to 30 and substitute the following:
“Short title and commencement
7. (1) This Act may be cited as the Protection of Children’s Health (Tobacco Smoke in
Mechanically Propelled Vehicles) Act 2014.
(2) This Act comes into operation on such day or days as the Minister may appoint by order or orders either generally or with reference to any particular purpose or provision and different days may be so appointed for different purposes or different provisions.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

The two year gestation period of the Bill corresponds to an elephantine gestation period, if I remember my biology correctly. The Bill has already achieved my principal aim and that of Senators Mark Daly and Jillian van Turnhout, with Mr. Shane Conneely and other staff, that it provoke debate and have an educational role. People became aware of the real and proximate risk to the health of children if exposed to smoke tobacco products in the confines of a motor vehicle. While others have stated this is a further element of the nanny state and Government interference, the truth of the matter is that its principal role is educational. Children will be aware of it; parents will be aware of it and people will understand this is something they should not do. I would be very happy if there were no prosecutions under the Bill and if no one smoked in a car with a child present. That would be the ideal outcome. I thank the Minister and his officials.

I thank the Minister and, particularly, Senator John Crown for taking the initiative and asking Senator Mark Daly and me to join him. I was proud to do so. I also acknowledge the work done by Mr. Shane Conneely. I thank the Minister's officials and advisers. It would be remiss of me not to mention Fionn O'Callaghan, aged nine years, whom Senator John Crown brought to the first briefing on the Bill. He is a young boy from Wexford who wrote to the Taoiseach to ask him to bring forward this legislation. I have double pride in view of the fact that we are responding to a young person in Ireland who asked the Taoiseach for this legislation. It is a good day. The Bill is educational; it is a public health issue and, first and foremost, a children's rights issue. Children cannot extract themselves from a car filled with smoke. They cannot extract themselves from smoke-filled environments. We need to denormalise smoking as we are putting lives at risk. It is good and we will do everything we can to support the process in the Dáil. We will encourage it, as we need to see this Bill in place in the summer.

I thank Senators John Crown, Jillian van Turnhout and Mark Daly for their work on the Bill. I also thank the Department and the Minister for their work on it. It is welcome that we are using the process in the House to bring forward new legislation. Senator John Crown said it had taken two years for his Bill to come through, but in October 2009 the Minister and I published the Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill making it compulsory for all medical practitioners to have insurance. The process has not been completed and I ask the Minister to revisit the issue. I hope it will be done at some stage during the year.

Likewise, another Bill I have raised is the Civil Law (Missing Persons) Bill. If we had a similar accident to the Malaysian aircraft crash, we would rush through emergency legislation to deal with the issue of missing persons. I ask that the legislation be considered in view of the fact that the Law Reform Commission produced a report on the issue. The groundwork has been done. A number of Bills have been published by other Members and they should be given serious consideration in the coming months to ensure they get through during the term of the Government. I thank those involved in bringing forward this legislation.

I agree with my colleagues that Mr. Shane Conneely deserves great praise for his work on the Bill. It is not often the recognition deservedly due to officials is acknowledged in the House. It is fitting and appropriate that we do so. The Bill shows the strength of independent voices such as those of Senators John Crown and Jillian van Turnhout and those who have a particular skill, whether in dealing with cancer or children's rights.

That is the role of the Seanad. I thank the Minister and his officials. This is a health issue, but given that this is Easter week it would be appropriate to quote the Bible. There is a line quoted in the opening credits of the film "Schindler’s List": "Whoever saves one life saves the world entire." The Minister’s allowing this Bill come through this House protects children from parents or guardians who would, through pure ignorance, smoke in a car with them. The most telling statistic we have heard is that if a child is in a car for an hour with a smoker he or she inhales an amount of smoke equivalent to what a firefighter will inhale in eight hours at work. As Senator John Crown said, we do not want prosecutions. The Bill does not aim to punish people but to educate them and point out the stark reality that by smoking in a car a person subjects a child to enormous health risks, immediately and long into the future.

This Bill was published on 3 May 2012. That is a long time ago. The processes within these Houses have failed the people for a long time. They failed the people in respect of the cause of the economic crisis, because the way we make legislation and bring about change is far too slow and in some cases it does not happen at all. Senator Colm Burke pointed out some of the great Bills he and others have introduced which just stop because legislators do not legislate. The bureaucracy decides what goes forward, and there is too much that needs to be done and too few people at drafting level allowed to do it. We are not allowed to do it. The Shane Conneelys of this world are not allowed to do it either, generally. This is unique. It should not be unique. It should be an everyday occurrence that non-contentious legislation such as this, which everyone agrees is needed, is passed. It does not happen because legislators are not allowed to push it forward. It gets jammed in the system. I told the Taoiseach last night that the fact that only four Bills have been passed in four months is not the revolution in democracy required to ensure this society works better for all its citizens.

The House and Irish society are indebted to the Minister for accepting the Bill and to Senators John Crown, Mark Daly and Jillian van Turnhout for working on it; to Shane Conneely, who inspired it; and to Fionn O’Callaghan, for bringing the matter directly to the Taoiseach and for coming up here to speak about it. Is it not a matter for reflection, as Senator Daly said, that this Bill, on which we are all agreed, has taken so long? Recently a letter went AWOL in the Department of Justice and Equality for 15 days. We really have to question this. We were all elected on a reform agenda. Is the system of governance - the machinery - able to respond, even when we are all agreed? It needs reform. The Government might pay attention to that in the remaining two years it has to serve. We need reform of governance to speed up the process, particularly when we are all agreed. Parliament needs to assert itself. It seems to have come about that the permanent government decides the priorities and we are just a nuisance. That is a negation of everything we will celebrate in the centenary of 1916 and of the earlier Irish parliamentary tradition of Grattan and O’Connell, praised by Her Majesty the Queen of England last week. We have to assert our role in serving the people. They can give us our walking papers very quickly. The permanent government has to respond when Parliament requires things to be done, and this most desirable and very attractive measure has taken far too long to get onto the Statute Book. I hope there will be no further delay.

The question we must all ask ourselves as Members of this Parliament is what prevents us from carrying out reforms in the whole area of governance across the board, because this country proved to be ungovernable between 2008 and 2010, when it had to be rescued by the IMF. We have not reformed the permanent government enough. We are still firefighting in so many fields. Perhaps the ban on recruitment has meant that there is no new talent in the permanent government coming up with ideas. The people who were here when the country crashed in 2008 are still in charge. That is serious. What has happened in this Bill raises issues about how the permanent government operates. I appreciate the difficulties Ministers have. They have explained how hard it is to get legislation through Departments and the parliamentary draftsman. We have to address this because the pace of reform is not fast enough. Given the trouble we got into a few years ago, we have to reform the system to ensure that never happens again.

I agree with my colleague regarding government. The Bills Office would probably confirm what we all know - that there is a kind of constipation throughout the session and at the very end there is an effluxion or diarrhoea of Bills all over the place. Everyone suffers because of this. This is a departmental problem, not necessarily just in the Department of Health. Why is it that here in the Seanad we have statements on this, that and the other when we do not even take the Bills proposed by the Independent Senators?

I support what was said about Senator Colm Burke’s Bill on medical insurance. I tried to force that because I felt he was coming under a certain amount of pressure from within his own party. I copied the Bill with three or four words changed and registered it but was told the Government would push it and that I would be impeding the matter. I urge him to push it. There was agreement on all sides. The Government said it agreed with it in principle but it would need some amendment. I cannot comprehend why the Government did not take that Bill and amend it on Committee and Report Stages. That should have been done. Senator Colm Burke did this House a service by introducing that Bill.

There is a phenomenal lack of courage in political life. I exempt this Minister. He is not the most popular Minister. In this House he is all right, but in public he is everlastingly being battered-----

I will need two Easter eggs after that comment.

A predecessor of his described his Department as Angola. The Minister has courage. He took on one of the most vicious lobby groups on the planet, the tobacco industry. He deserves a Victoria Cross for that alone.

I have tabled a privacy Bill. The Government has a privacy Bill but is absolutely terrified to move it because of the damage the media can do to it.

We are on the tobacco Bill.

I know, but I am talking about courage and moral courage, which is very important. The Minister has shown great courage and this is a very serious Bill.

I am entertained and delighted to see that snuff is not included. In some of the shops near me they still sell snuff. It is such an engaging and antique habit-----

Is it too late to propose an amendment to the Bill?

I have concluded from a detailed reading of the Bill that if one’s chauffeur has his children in the front seat, provided there is a glass wall, the passenger in the back can smoke a cigar.

The only publican in the House, Senator Terry Leyden, wishes to add his comments.

I am not really a publican. I commend the Minister. It is not often he gets bouquets from Roscommon.

They do not have many flowers in Roscommon apart from the Senator himself.

I commend the Minister for having the courage to take on a Private Members' Bill promoted by Senator John Crown, supported by his personal assistant, Mr. Shane Conneely, and Senators Jillian van Turnhout and Mark Daly, who is my party colleague. It is a crowning success for Senator John Crown to have introduced this with colleagues, and he has demonstrated that this is something very important. The Minister may be interested to know that in the Visitors Gallery are some girl scouts with their leaders from County Roscommon. They will be the beneficiaries of today's Bill. History is being made today as nobody will be able to light a cigarette in a car when youths are present, as the youths become involuntary smokers at that stage. Such an act will be illegal when this Bill goes through the Dáil, and nobody will be able to impose a smoke-filled environment on young people as a result. Everybody should take credit for this, as it is a step forward.

It is ten years since Deputy Martin was courageous enough to introduce the ban on smoking in places of work, and it is now administered practically everywhere. I returned from Montenegro yesterday and although a similar ban is imposed virtually everywhere there, some people were smoking in public areas in the Parliament. I was surprised by that. In all the restaurants and bars, smoking is banned, despite people being very fond of the habit in that country. Deputy Martin did the State, and the wider world, a great service and is responsible for saving thousands of lives.

This Bill was brought through the Seanad, and the House has contributed greatly by bringing forward the Bill's concept. The Minister has made that process easier. I brought forward a Private Members' Bill dealing with registration of wills, and it is very important, but the Minister's Cabinet colleague, Deputy Joan Burton, was not as courageous as the Minister for Health in allowing it to proceed. That Bill to register wills was approved by the previous Seanad. I would like the Minister, Deputy Joan Burton, to adopt the Bill like the Minister for Health has done in this case. It would show courage and demonstrate that a Minister is prepared to listen to the Seanad.

The Senator is moving away from the smoking legislation.

The point concerns Private Members' Bills. The Minister-----

----- is big enough to accept this Bill and ensure it can become law. That is something he can have on his record when he leaves politics in 20 years or whenever his time is up. He can say that he brought forward this Bill and young children will not be exposed to cigarette smoke in cars.

It is outrageous to think a child can be strapped into the back of a car with a mother, father or uncle smoking in the same car and exposing the child to second-hand smoke involuntarily at six or nine months old. It is a health issue but the Minister has run with it. I suggest he bring it to the Dáil as quickly as possible after the Easter recess in order that it can be passed by the summer and brought into law.

I wish to add my voice in welcoming this Bill. The children in the Visitors Gallery are witnessing history in the making, as this legislation will benefit them and their peers because children will no longer be in cars where people are smoking. At earlier Stages I mentioned that when my son was about four, my father-in-law was smoking in the car and I did not have the courage to tell him to stop but my son had that courage. He said "Grandad, stop smoking in the car. It is horrible and I hate it." That woke me up because he was right and from then I asked people not to smoke in the car. Such things come from the mouths of babes.

It is great to see this become law in Ireland. As others have stated, I hope the Minister will ensure this gets through the Dáil as quickly as possible in order to be enforced. I congratulate the Senators who brought it forward and if they did nothing else in this term, they would still have done a great favour to the children of Ireland.

As the proposer of the Bill has another compliment for the Minister, I will break all the rules by allowing him to contribute again.

I thank the Minister as I know he will use his personal influence to ensure the Bill travels expeditiously. I hope that at some stage before the summer, I will have the opportunity to thank him and the President when he signs the Bill in the presence of Fionn O'Callaghan, who provided much of the inspiration for the Bill, on the evening when the protections it contains are enshrined. He was correctly acknowledged by Senator Jillian van Turnhout. I must thank another group which was critical to the Bill getting here today, namely, the office of the Leader of Seanad Éireann. Senator Maurice Cummins has taken this on board and by specifying timelines for the Bill, he has facilitated its progress through officialdom. I thank Ms Orla Murray and the others in his office for their great work.

We are all on the same page and I have some comments. I agree with speakers in that gardaí will have very little to do with this issue, as it will be self-policing. Anybody who sees an adult smoking in a car with a child will take immediate offence and make it very clear to the individuals concerned that a law is being broken and a child is being harmed. It is very important that this forms part of an overall approach to a tobacco-free Ireland and we denormalise smoking, as Senator van Turnhout has indicated. In Fingal smoking is banned where children gather, such as in public parks and playgrounds, etc., and that should be extended.

I am very concerned about the use of e-cigarettes. They may have a role in helping people kick the addiction but they certainly have no role as a lifestyle choice and they should not be marketed as such. We need to remember how many people die every year from smoking - it is 5,200 - and 700,000 Europeans die from smoking every year. Getting the directive on tobacco through Europe was another big win for Ireland and the people of Europe. I attended a non-communicable diseases conference in Europe last week which dealt with diabetes and other chronic illnesses and I was told the World Health Organization held a conference the day before at which it was said there was a lack of political leadership with regard to public health. I would criticise us as politicians in that respect also, as we find it much easier to open a wing of a hospital or an MRI scanner than to introduce a public health initiative like the one before us.

Having said this, the comment was qualified by noting the two exceptions of Australia and Ireland. The picture was used of the Healthy Ireland document, which contains much about measures to combat tobacco and alcohol use, as well as initiatives to control obesity and promote physical activity. I hope we all agree that across government we must maintain people's health, and it is not just about the Department of Health. We need the Department of Justice and Equality to make products safe and the Department of Finance to impose tax policies to encourage healthier eating and discourage abuse of alcohol and smoking, for example. The list goes one, as the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government could help in providing a safe place to exercise, etc.

Much has been mentioned about the slowness of reform and Bills have been mentioned that are having difficulty. I agree that we must reform our legislative procedures as it takes too long for a Bill to come through. Senator Colm Burke mentioned the Bill I introduced when in opposition that would not allow people register for the Irish Medical Council without having medical insurance. That is yet to come through because of various issues, despite for obvious reasons my being keen to see it enacted. I thank the Senator for taking this on through the Seanad process.

I am mindful of Senator David Norris's humorous analogies, with many bodily functions brought into play. It was once stated that the Department of Health was akin to Angola but it is my goal - and I would like to think it would be everybody's goal - to turn it into East Anglia.

It should be normal and boringly predictable and safe. There should not be too much excitement. I thank everybody for their contributions and will undertake to expedite this legislation through the Dáil. I will use all my influence in trying to ensure this happens in order that we can protect children in future. I agree that some history has been made today, as the legislation will be on the Statute Book for many years to come as another one of the public health policies that made a difference. I look forward to the Seanad's support with regard to standardised packaging of cigarettes.

I believe if standardised packaging is introduced it will result in no smoking anymore because young people just will not take it up. If we can stop our children taking up smoking then it will die out as a habit over the next generation. I again thank Members and commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.