SECTION 39.

I move amendment No. 171:

In page 19, line 5, after "time to time", to insert ", and not less than once every 12 months,".

The section itself is very specific. It says that the health board "shall" cause to be visited from time to time each pre-school service in the area in order to ensure that the person carrying on the services fulfils the duty imposed on him under this section and that the services are carried on in accordance with regulations made by the Minister. The amendment is asking that the inspection be carried out not less than once every 12 months. I think that is reasonable. If there is a statutory obligation on the health board to carry out the inspection there must at least be a period within which it must be carried out. While one has to be clerical in one's appraisal of the situation and sympathetic in one's approach, nevertheless, it must be specified that within a certain period of time inspections have to be carried out.

I appreciate Deputy Sherlock's concern in this matter. While I agree it would be desirable that services be visited at least once a year, I have a difficulty about agreeing to this amendment. One of the major problems my Department and the health boards face in setting up a system of inspection for pre-school services is that there is no reliable comprehensive information available on the number of pre-school services that exist throughout the country. However, the indications are that there may be several thousand such services. I understand, for example, that there are about 1,500 groups affiliated to the Irish Pre-School Play Groups' Association alone. Given the uncertainty that exists about the number of services, I could not give a commitment that a service would be inspected within any fixed time period.

I want to elaborate again and confirm what I said earlier that we want total flexibility to be able to send in inspectors from our Department, the health boards, the local authorities, the Department of the Environment, the Department of Education, without notice at any time, as we think necessary. To tie ourselves to doing one annual inspection on every service might preclude us from ensuring the application of standards in certain services. That would be to the detriment of the overall service. I would be grateful if Deputy Sherlock would withdraw this amendment. However, I am happy to give an assurance that the services will be inspected as often as possible and as quickly as we can, as soon as the Bill is passed.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I propose to take amendments Nos. 172 and 173 together.

I move amendment No. 172:

In page 19, line 7, to delete "duty" and substitute "duties".

These are technical amendments to improve the drafting of the section. To explain the amendment it is necessary to refer to section 38. This imposes two duties on a person carrying on a pre-school service. The first is to take all reasonable measures to safeguard the health, safety and well being of pre-school children attending the service. The second is to comply with regulations made by the Minister for Health. Looking now at section 39 it can be seen that the reference in line 7 to the duty imposed under section 38 is confusing and should read the "duties". The remaining words in the section are superfluous since the requirement to carry on the service in accordance with regulations is already encompassed by the reference to the duties imposed under section 38. I would be grateful if the Committee could agree to these two minor amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 173:

In page 19, lines 8 and 9, to delete all words from and including "and that the service" to the end of the section.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 39, as amended, agreed to.