Procedure

Last week we completed Part V of the Bill and I hope, with the co-operation of the members, that we will complete Part VI today, amendment No. 163 to amendment No. 178, inclusive. To avoid any confusion, I would also like to inform members that any additional amendments tabled which have not yet been disposed of are all to be found on the single sheet list of amendments with today's date. The amendments we are dealing with today will either be on the main list or this additional list. We can begin with amendment No. 163.

Before you take amendment No. 163, since our last meeting there was a Supreme Court judgment in relation to a particular case, which I believe has very serious ramifications for our work and it arises out of a judgment given by the Supreme Court and the remarks of a Supreme Court judge. This seems to suggest they were feeling that there was a great need in certain child care cases for an advocate on behalf of the child to be represented in court, separate from the parties of parents or the health board or whatever. May I ask the Minister perhaps, to report back at our next meeting on what his advice is to the implications of this, because it would be of great concern to me if the advice I am getting is correct. Should we pass this legislation without reference to a child advocate in the court structure then parts of this Bill would be unconstitutional. I ask the Minister to consider that and to come back to the committee with an informed view on it.

I am aware of media reports pertaining to the aforementioned Supreme Court decision. A 30 page judgment arrived to me today on this matter and I will be examining it in consultation with my officials over the next week and I will report to the committee on it as quickly as we can.

Can we begin on amendment No. 163 in the name of Deputy Yates? Amendment No. 163a is an alternative so amendment No. 163 and amendment No. 163a may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.