Before we commence, I remind Senators that a Member may speak only once on Report Stage, except the proposer of an amendment, who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. On Report Stage each amendment must be seconded. I welcome the Minister for Agriculture and Food.
Veterinary Practice Bill 2004: Report and Final Stages.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 10, line 30, after "public", where it secondly occurs, to insert "free or".
I welcome the Minister back to the House for Report Stage of the Bill. The Minister considered this amendment on Committee Stage. I would hope that, since then, she has had a change of heart and will now accept the amendment.
I second the amendment.
We discussed this amendment on Committee Stage, in particular the addition of the word "free" to the definition of "printed and published". Under the legislation, the Veterinary Council of Ireland will be able to make documents available "at such reasonable price (if any)". The council will not have to charge for documents, so it can waive any charge. Provision is made for publication by means of the Internet, which will give people access to such documents as veterinary registers or annual accounts without any charge being attached. I have introduced flexibility so the council may determine whether it wishes to introduce a charge — it may choose not to do so — as well as providing information using modern technology. I do not want there to be an imposition that the documents must always be free. A particular document might cost quite a lot of money to provide. Flexibility is provided for the council to do whatever it needs to do, and it may waive charges.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 11, line 6, to delete "practitioner" and substitute "surgeon".
I welcome the Minister to the House. On Committee Stage, I explained that vets themselves would like the traditional name of "veterinary surgeon" to be maintained. They feel that, in the eyes of the public, "practitioner" means someone who is involved in the practice of veterinary medicine. While that is what most of them will do, a substantial number of vets are involved in academic veterinary medicine or various sectors in the food industry. These people will be covered by the Act but the feeling of my colleagues in veterinary medicine is that the public would not see them as veterinary practitioners and that is why they would prefer the traditional name of veterinary surgeon.
I second the amendment. I cannot improve on Senator Henry's contribution and I support what she said. I welcome the Minister back to the House. On Committee Stage she paid attention to many of the amendments before us again today.
To be quite frank I find it difficult to understand why people are so wound up about this issue, not necessarily the Senators but perhaps the people they represent. If one examines the situation one sees that vets, veterinary surgeons or veterinary practitioners can still use the word surgeon under section 54 of the legislation.
This section indicates that subject to sections 55 and 59 a person, other than a veterinary practitioner shall not use the title or description that would give the impression that he or she is registered under Part 4, such as "veterinary surgeon", "veterinary specialist", "veterinary practitioner" or "veterinarian". Under the legislation those words can be used but a person who is not qualified cannot use those titles. We feel any of those titles can be used; one can be a veterinarian; a veterinary surgeon; a specialist — although of course a specialist has a particular academic acumen; or a veterinary practitioner. They must all still do the same exam.
I accept what the Minister says.
Amendments Nos. 3 to 7, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 16, line 1, to delete "who is not eligible to be so registered, but".
I will not improve on my contribution on Committee Stage. I would appeal to the Minister to use the change of heart she may have had since we last debated this amendment to accept it.
I second the amendment. On amendment No. 6, I acknowledge the Minister has taken on board most of our concerns on this Bill and has done a good job. However, I am still not satisfied with the provision on the appointment of a member of the farming community. The basis for this motion is that I want that provision to be more specific. I recognised the fact the Minister stated that she would allow me to choose a farmer representative for the board.
I said the Senator could recommend someone.
Animal welfare is of prime concern to the farming community — the second most important group in this Bill after the veterinary surgeons as they are the people who care for animals in the majority of situations. I move this amendment which seeks to specify that a full-time farmer is on the board representing the farming community.
The Minister suggested a member of an animal welfare group. Someone from Compassion in World Farming could represent the farming community in that situation. I ask the Minister to ensure that a full-time farmer, someone making his or her living solely from farming, is on the board.
On the amendment to increase veterinary numbers, I acknowledge the Minister has increased the overall number by two and that is designed to cover this issue. Perhaps the figures are wrong.
The point is well made by Senator Coonan, but this is also provided for in the Bill. The final two paragraphs on page 15 clearly mean that someone availing of the service is a farmer. Equally, I would share the concern of Senator Coonan about the definition of animal welfare and the appointment of an individual from that community. It can be stated clearly, without fear of contradiction, that nobody is more concerned about animal welfare than the farmer who is out there looking after a herd of cattle, a flock of sheep or other animals. No farmer wants to see injury done to animals and no farmer wants to see the welfare of animals compromised. I suggest that both sections 16(b) and (c) would allow for the appointment of farmers, who are the people using the services. That is my interpretation.
This has been widely discussed and evaluated and I agreed with the extension of the numbers on the Veterinary Council.
There are two considerations on the issue of education. First, the Department of Education and Science has provided a considerable amount of grant aid to the Veterinary Council. Second, while we only have one veterinary college at present, there is nothing to suggest we will not have another college in the future, which would be entitled to make a recommendation. To restrict the entitlement to one college would be inappropriate. The dean of the faculty of veterinary medicine in UCD is a member of the Veterinary Council at present.
On the issue of subsections (b) and (c), my concern is that if I indicate that the representative must be a farmer, I will have every farming organisation lobbying for a position on the council — the IFA, the ICMSA, the ICSA, ICOS. At that rate ——
It would be up to the Minister to decide between them.
Solomon did a great job ——
I take it the Minister would not be afraid to do that.
It would not work in this ——
Judging by the last consultations, it would be the same people on the council.
Alternatively, the Minister could accept my nominations.
The issue is that if it is limited to a "farmer" then the question arises as to whether it is a farmer representative or a farmer. I accept the principle of the argument. I also said that Senator Coonan could make a recommendation, but I did not say he could appoint someone. He can do that when he is the Minister for Agriculture and Food.
Senator Callanan is correct, however, particularly under subsection (b) which states, “one at least of whom avails of veterinary services in the course of business, trade or profession”. Business, trade or profession includes the farming community and the Senator is correct in saying that someone who uses the veterinary service should be entitled to be part of the Veterinary Council. I do not have an issue with that. I foresee that this will happen.
Another issue that stretched peoples' imagination is the determination of who should represent animal welfare concerns on the council. Should it be a farmer, or should it be X, Y or Z? I would like the freedom to examine that more closely. Animal welfare is an area in which vets are involved, as are farmers. Unless they are not doing their job correctly, they will all have cognisance of animal welfare.
However, there are other people who occupy a particular niche with regard to animal welfare, many of whom are supported by the Department, and they have done a fine job in creating awareness of animal welfare, particularly concerning pets. I feel such people should have a voice on the council. The legislation is purposely not prescriptive in order to allow flexibility on this issue. The aim is to be as fair and as flexible as possible. Often if one is over-prescriptive one can limit the possibilities.
There are other areas where I would like to be over-prescriptive, for example, on the number of women to be recommended by the governing bodies to the Minister. I believe that such recommendations should include at least one man and one woman. There is nothing to suggest I might not change my mind on this issue, although it is a matter for consideration under alternative types of legislation. While there are a number of women vets, it is also important that there be a good gender balance on a council such as this. I have been assured that will be the case and I hope it will happen.
We have a female Minister for Agriculture and Food and a female Clerk of the Seanad.
We are not excluding anybody; we are allowing people to be included. I will take cognisance of the views expressed by Senators and Deputies who wish to see the farming fraternity represented. That is a fair proposal, but I would prefer not to tie it up in a legislative measure.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 16, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:
"(f) one person nominated by the Minister for Agriculture and Food as being representative of persons with a farming interest;”
Further checking of the Bill has revealed two errors in section 18, specifically in subsections (4) and (7). Reference is made to "paragraph" but it should refer to "subsection". This is a technical amendment.
This is also a technical amendment to address the issue I referred to in the previous amendment.
Amendment No. 11 is an alternative to amendment No. 10, therefore, amendments Nos. 10 and 11 may be discussed together by agreement.
I advised on Committee Stage that I would return to the amendment submitted by Senators McCarthy, Ryan, O'Meara, McDowell and Tuffy which would make the confidentiality clause in what is now section 25(1) subject to the Freedom of Information Act while affording the protections provided for in the legislation. The question at issue did not relate to the substance of the amendment but whether it would be better achieved by means of the Bill or the Freedom of Information Act. The Attorney General's office wanted the opportunity to consider the matter as it is likely to arise in other statutes. In the meantime, my Department has received the green light from the Attorney General's office and accordingly, I am happy to provide for this amendment in the Bill. However, the provision will not have any practical effect until the Veterinary Council is brought under the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. The Minister for Finance intends to bring forward legislation to extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to include such statutory bodies in the near future.
Given the Minister's amendment and explanation I will not move amendment No. 11 in my name.
Amendments Nos. 12, 13, 19, 27, 29, 39 and 46 are cognate and may be discussed together by agreement.
This deals with a spelling error which must be corrected. It relates to the usage of a word as a verb. One must be precise.
The purpose of the amendment is to correct an error in section 43 by replacing the word "of" with "for" when referring to applications for renewals of registration of persons providing cross-Border veterinary services. This is a technical amendment.
This is a technical amendment to insert an additional word.
Amendments Nos. 16 to 18, inclusive, 20 and 21 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 35, line 3, after "a", to insert "Class A".
I know the Minister engaged in considerable debate over disease eradication and we had protracted discussions on Committee Stage. At that time I indicated I would again table the amendment on Report Stage. I would be grateful if the Minister accepted the amendment.
I second the amendment. Following our discussion on Committee Stage, I looked up what is officially covered under Class A diseases. It covers a huge number of specific diseases — the Minister may have a copy with her. For this reason, it is important that we specify Class A diseases in the amendment. Unfortunately, I did not being the list with me.
Nor did I.
I would like to make the same case as has been made regarding the insertion of "Class A". The Minister's reasoning for not mentioning "Class A" in the Bill was that this might not be the term used in ten or 20 years time when the legislation would still operate. However, I believe to do so would put at rest the minds of those with concerns.
Section 46(3)(a) reads:
This subsection applies to a person who —
(a) satisfies the Council that he or she has the requisite knowledge and skill for the purposes of subsection (2),
My amendment No. 17 would replace this with "has undergone courses of training and education, and acquired educational qualifications prescribed under section 65,”. The subsection as drafted is too vague and needs to be more specific. The vagueness of “satisfies the Council” is not nearly as clear as the form of words I have suggested. A strong case can be made for this amendment, as it would satisfy those who are concerned that at some point in the future someone with lesser qualifications might be accepted.
The Minister gave a very good explanation for the wording of the Bill as drafted. However, she would expect university Senators to defend professional qualifications. I believe Senator Quinn's amendment is worth accepting. The wording in the section as it stands is very loose. While I am sure the council would do its best when considering qualifications, it must be given guidelines, which is not the case with the words used. The person merely "satisfies the Council that he or she has the requisite knowledge and skill for the purposes of subsection (2),”. This is not very objective and I would like the Minister to accept the amendment.
I appreciate from where the profession is coming regarding amendment No. 17. It does not want to see what is commonly termed "yellow packs". This is not the situation. This provision will only be invoked in the case of a disease eradication programme where there is an epidemic or pandemic. I evaluated this matter. Section 66(2) states: "For the purposes of subsection (1) the Council shall consider any relevant recommendations furnished to it by the Education Committee under section 63.” I assume the education committee would have the necessary prerequisites to determine whether people were qualified. This is not a determination of a permanent registration of the council or having a permanent post in the State. To be permanently registered, a person would have to be qualified and meet the same requirements as other vets.
The purpose of this provision is to enable the Department, in due course, to address the fact that many vets are not entering conventional veterinary practice and choosing instead to work with pets rather than large animals. Vets have always worked with the farming organisations and the Department in carrying out a broad programme of disease eradication and inspection and have developed a good relationship with the farming fraternity. Unfortunately, however, the position is changing because some areas are no longer serviced by vets.
The Department must have emergency legislation available to it to address any pandemic or epidemic that may arise. Registration would be temporary and the people in question would be deregistered once the task at hand was completed. This means, for example, that a person from Australia, New Zealand or elsewhere brought here for a specific purpose would be deregistered as soon as the issue in question had been addressed. He or she would not be allowed to remain registered or establish a practice without holding the necessary qualifications.
The Department is examining the possibility of introducing a consolidation Bill to address the issue of Class A and B diseases. Given that diseases evolve and change, it is possible that a Class B disease or an unknown entity could become a Class A disease. The provision introduces flexibility in dealing with unknown entities because the Department may need to take immediate action without first making classifications.
I appreciate that the Veterinary Council of Ireland and the Irish Veterinary Union are concerned the provision will allow individuals to circumvent the requirements their members had to meet prior to registration. Their concerns are unfounded, however, because any persons brought here must be qualified to perform the tasks they are requested to undertake. In the circumstances provided for they will, in the main, act under the instructions of departmental vets who will determine which tasks they will carry out.
I am concerned to ensure Ireland continues to have a cohort of vets and avoids circumstances such as those prevailing in the United Kingdom where large areas and counties have no veterinary practices providing veterinary services. This is a frightening prospect and one which the Department may have to evaluate in due course.
As I stated, the Bill makes provision for a temporary, emergency arrangement. This is an enabling provision which I hope will never be used. It introduces the flexibility required to deal with disease and will only be invoked in the event of an emergency. If something untoward happens, we will deal with it in due course.
Does Senator Quinn wish to move amendment No. 17?
Having listened to the Minister's logical and rational explanation of the provision, I am happy not to move it.
Amendments Nos. 22, 24 and 25 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 22:
In page 41, line 41, after "an animal" to insert "and in the course of a Class A disease eradication programme".
When the Minister made her case regarding Class A disease, to a large extent, she put the cart before the horse. The qualification and signature of a veterinary surgeon or a veterinary practitioner, as it will become, are recognised worldwide. In an emergency, the Minister will enable other people to carry out these functions which will downgrade their position and is likely to lead to trouble in the future. I have stated that the number of diseases listed under Class A well and truly covers any potential concern the Minister or Department may raise. In this case, the Minister should examine Class A diseases and if a change is needed to cater for a disease or something that is likely to cause trouble, the Minister can make a suitable amendment. I am concerned that by permitting people to do the work of a veterinary surgeon in an emergency, the Minister will downgrade the profession in times to come. This would be a very serious and worrying development and I suggest the Minister should do it the other way around.
Has the amendment been seconded?
I should not have bothered to ask. One of the features that would be removed, perhaps unwittingly, if this amendment were accepted, is that under the definition of "emergency" one can have a situation where a person such as a farmer or farmhand is obliged to deal with an emergency. However, if one ties such a person to being registered on a temporary basis, it is no longer an emergency. I appreciate the Senator is trying to deal with an issue where one determines that an emergency reflects a Class A disease.
On a point of order, I am specifically speaking about disease eradication here.
The Senator is trying to limit the application of an emergency provision to Class A diseases. This is what the amendment means. I am aware this is not exactly what the Senator intends to do as he has agreed there are practical emergencies, where someone must deal with a fallen or injured animal. We do not wish to become tied up in red tape about that issue. I appreciate that what the Senator is saying is that one should have time to ensure that people who are temporarily registered can only deal with Class A diseases which harks back somewhat to the previous amendments. The Senator is correct in stating that Class A and B diseases change as new diseases arise. I am considering the possibility of introducing a consolidation Bill on the issue of animal disease, but this will take some time. We have flexibility in that there are prerequisites to determine what a disease is in the first place.
The amendment arises from an undue worry that this Bill undermines the veterinary profession. However, the Bill is intended to place the veterinary profession on the same level as the medical profession, as was reflected in a number of amendments. We have high educational standards for our vets and I do not want to have them undermined. That is not the intention or the practical implication of the Bill. This is also the case within the European Union and some other countries such as New Zealand and Australia. I will keep on eye on this issue and if we detect a situation whereby the rules are being circumvented, it will be dealt with quickly. However, many issues arise pertaining to emergencies and if I accept this amendment it will mean that unwittingly, I will prevent people from dealing with an emergency, which is not the Members' intention.
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 42, line 40, to delete ", the details of which are registered on the Register".
This follows on from the debate on Committee Stage and concerns the section dealing with a registered person not using an incorrect title, with an important emphasis on a person who deliberately misleads the public into believing he or she has or uses a title which he or she is not necessarily qualified to use. This amendment seeks to delete the last part of the section, namely, "the details of which are registered on the Register". I hope the Minister will examine this issue, use the practical approach she adopted during the passage of most of the Bill and accept this amendment.
I am aware that Senator McCarthy raised this issue on Committee Stage when he outlined his concern about the current wording of the section. I have indicated that it is designed to ensure the public is not misled as a result of a registered person displaying, for example, a title or qualification which he or she does not possess on the signage of his or her premises. However, if a person simply overlooks the registration of a qualification or speciality which is genuinely held, it would simply be a matter for that person to rectify the situation when his or her attention has been drawn to the oversight by the council. Moreover, one cannot envisage a person being subjected to serious disciplinary proceedings in a situation where he or she has failed to register a qualification that he or she actually possesses. Hence, I am not in a position to accept the amendment as I do not think that kind of draconian ideology should be part of the council's work in a case where someone actually possessed a qualification and it was just a mere oversight.
May I comment?
Senator McCarthy is the one who may reply.
It is immediately clear that the Minister will not accept my amendment. It is with great disappointment that I withdraw it.
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 45, line 7, to delete "two" and substitute "three".
The amendment is self-explanatory.
I hope the Senator will accept my self-explanatory "No" to this amendment. I am being fair in increasing the members available to the council. I am not in a position to accept the amendment.
I move amendment No. 28:
In page 56, line 44, to delete ", or the testimony of the applicant".
The House discussed this amendment at length on Committee Stage and I have now re-tabled it. The point was well argued on that Stage. The inclusion of "the testimony of the applicant" is impractical in that a host of issues is associated therewith. The Bill itself would be better without that particular section. I appeal to the Minister for the reasons well articulated on Committee Stage. The Minister defended her position then but I hope that on reflection she has examined the issue with a view to accepting the amendment and deleting those words.
I have evaluated this amendment and as the Senator is aware, we made quite a number of changes concerning evidence and a person's entitlement to know of what he or she is accused. I have given the fitness to practise committee the flexibility to call upon the complainant to give direct evidence, where appropriate. The council will determine whether it is appropriate that this should be done. This is not a diktat but will take place when it would be appropriate to permit a person to give evidence. I do not envisage this in terms of someone giving evidence against himself or herself but as an opportunity for people. I want to have an open attitude under the fitness to practise provisions because it is a very onerous task. I would not like to have such an onerous task as either the medical or veterinary fitness to practise committees. I do not see the complainant as being under a microscope on this issue but the Bill provides an opportunity to put forward his or her case. It is appropriate to allow that possibility because the legislation permits the council, if it is appropriate, to determine that.
I appreciate from where Senator McCarthy is coming. People might feel some pressure because they are talking about themselves or they may feel they are giving evidence against themselves, although that is a nonsensical way of looking at the question. However, the measure is not prescriptive so it permits this flexibility.
I move amendment No. 30:
In page 63, line 28, after "appropriate" to insert "having regard to section 47(2)(d)”.
This amendment is self-explanatory. I indicated on Committee Stage that I would re-introduce it on Report Stage. I appeal to the Minister to accept it.
By being so prescriptive, we would remove people who may have an indictable offence that does not affect their fitness to practise as vets. I gave the example of a person who was convicted of drink driving. Should this person be deregistered as a vet? Indictable offences that affect a person's fitness to practise as a vet will, of course, be treated differently. We have to be fair and say that there is no person in this House and this country who may or may not escape any type of impropriety of any sort over their lifetime. We should not punish people for offences which they may have committed but which do not affect their ability to practise as vets. It is on that basis that I prefer to not to be so prescriptive on this issue. There are issues regarding a person's ability within their profession, which will be dealt with by the council. We are all practising politicians who know that people have unfortunate circumstances and I would prefer if we do not tie ourselves into knots because of a conviction which may not impinge upon a person's professional ability.
The Minister has made a good point and I will, therefore, withdraw the amendment.
Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 67, to delete lines 13 and 14.
The legislation here appears to be loosely constructed although I accept that the Minister is speaking in terms of minor medical procedures and minor surgery. However, in human terms, a heart bypass operation was considered major surgery some years ago, whereas it is now considered minor surgery. If one is concerned about animal welfare and a situation prevails where remedies can be left up to individual veterinary surgeons, to the extent that they oversee them, the provisions set out in section 91(2) appear to allow them to do anything. They are very loose and the purpose of these amendments is to be more definite about what a veterinary nurse can and cannot do. This aspect of the Bill needs to be tightened up.
There is a definition of "minor" in the Bill. Equally, we have carried out considerable work, which I agree was the right route to take, regarding the work of a veterinary nurse under the direction or in the presence of a veterinary practitioner. On that basis, we are allowing a new type of profession to develop. We are not saying that a veterinary nurse can carry out a major procedure. The legislation contains definitions of what constitute minor procedures. We would tie ourselves in knots if veterinary nurses were not permitted to do a stitch or deal with minor issues. I understood Senator Coonan was satisfied with the definition of "minor" given on Committee Stage. That is democracy at work.
I would like to see the work of veterinary nurses develop. This is the first time that they have been recognised. It is a new type of profession and I agree that it has to be developed under the direction of others who are professionally qualified. However, the definition of "minor" in the Bill is appropriate and it determines what a veterinary nurse can and cannot do.
Senators will recall that on Committee Stage it was agreed to remove all ministerial controls over pension aspects of the council or the Veterinary Nurses Board of Ireland. Accordingly, it is no longer appropriate that the regulatory power provided in section 102 covers superannuation. The amendment will delete this reference.
Amendments Nos. 34 and 36 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 34:
In page 76, line 32, after "person" to insert "regularly".
We consider that this amendment takes this section of the Bill further by introducing the word "regularly" after the word "person". If accepted, section 106(1) would read: "In this Part ‘veterinary premises' includes any place where the practice of veterinary medicine by a registered person regularly occurs". The amendment takes it to its logical conclusion and I hope the Minister accepts it on that basis.
Following the debate on this issue on Committee Stage, I thought many people's concerns had been met. I also understand that the council has indicated it is happy with amendments that have already been made. Regarding amendments Nos. 34 and 36, the concerns expressed by the Senators have been substantially addressed by the amendments we introduced on Committee Stage. According to the legal advice available to me, the term "regularly" is not sufficiently precise. Therefore, I am not in a position to accept the amendments. We have addressed previous concerns in the changes we made on Committee Stage.
I move amendment No. 35:
In page 76, line 41, after "transport" to insert the following:
"(f) premises owned or occupied by the owner of an animal being attended to by the registered person,”.
This amendment also relates to section 106(1). It proposes to add a new paragraph (f), which states: “premises owned or occupied by the owner of an animal being attended to by the registered person”. I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment.
This amendment refers to premises owned or occupied by the owner of an animal being attended to by the registered person. I have already provided for this principle in the case of farms. It would not be appropriate to extend it to other premises. Regarding pet animals, the usual approach is to bring them to the vet and I would not like to encourage a trend in the opposite direction. I draw attention to section 106(1)(d), which provides a general exemption for emergencies.
I move amendment No. 37:
In page 79, line 25, after "person" to insert "or two or more registered persons applying jointly".
Section 110 deals with the certificate of suitability. This amendment would insert, in subsection (1), the words "or two or more registered persons applying jointly" after the word "person". It aims to facilitate the situation whereby one or more persons could be setting up practice together and could apply jointly. Again, it takes this aspect to its logical conclusion and I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment.
The legal advice available to me is that it would not be possible to make provision for a joint application, as suggested by the amendment. However, it will be possible for veterinary practices to make private contractual arrangements among themselves, enabling a single applicant, in effect, to make an application on behalf of a practice. Equally, and things may change as they are evolving from a legislative perspective, the matter of partnership law as it relates to the professions is likely is be reviewed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment as part of a review by the company law review group. If it has an implication on the basis of this registration over and above the contractual arrangements that are allowed to proceed, we must amend the legislation. It would be best to await the outcome of that discussion. The advice from the council to its members would be that a private contractual arrangement can be made whereby members are registered in a single practice.
I move amendment No. 38:
In page 79, to delete lines 36 and 37 and substitute the following:
"(2) Only a person or persons registered under Part 4 may apply for, or be granted, a certificate under subsection (1).”.
We debated this on Committee Stage. The intention is to copper-fasten the Bill's provisions. The existing provision, at section 110(2), states: "Only a registered person may apply for, or be granted, a certificate under subsection (1).” However, there is no definition of the word “registered”. The amendment is clear and leaves no room for doubt. I move it to ensure someone does not misunderstand the word “registered” and make an error in registering or accepting somebody who is registered in some other manner.
I second the amendment.
A consequence of the amendment would be to exclude the possibility of veterinary nurses applying on their own behalf to register veterinary premises. We must have a balance between on the one hand, the established profession of practitioners and, on the other hand, nurses. In the case of veterinary nurses, there is an opportunity for them to register in their own right. As nurses will carry out certain tasks, these tasks will operate either in the presence of or under the direction of a practitioner. Often in practice, veterinary nurses who are registered in their own premises carry out post-operative work. This type of treatment, as carried out under the direction of a veterinary surgeon, practitioner, specialist or whatever, was the issue brought to my attention.
There is also complementary work, such as grooming, for which a veterinary nurse would be allowed to register. Under the amendment, he or she would not be able to do certain things unless under direction. I do not wish to prevent veterinary nurses from registering although I appreciate from where the Senator is coming in that people cannot simply stick up signs and claim they are registered. However, the question of with whom they are registered is another issue. For this reason it is important that the council does its work to ensure people are aware of what will be within the remit of the legislation.
There are some veterinary nurses who are registered and carry out specific types of practices. They work with veterinary practitioners and, on this basis, Senator Quinn's amendment would discommode them from a practical point of view. It would also disallow them from a type of practice that is holistically complementary.
I understand the concerns which gave rise to this amendment but it is fair to say that, as the Minister has explained, there could be situations for which it would not be the ideal solution.
I move amendment No. 40:
In page 86, line 15, after "suitability" to insert "or a copy thereof".
We debated a similar amendment on Committee Stage. I have an issue with the certificate of suitability being displayed in the premises itself. I see no logical reason as to why a copy cannot suffice. Having experience of dealing with officials while searching for original copies of certificates and documents, it is a difficult and onerous task. It is bureaucratic and unnecessary in many cases and this amendment adds to the security of maintaining such original documents and certification. We must do this for the sake of being non-bureaucratic and for assisting those who panic when they cannot find original documents. For example, a passport application is a typical case where people scramble at the last minute to find original documentation.
These certificates are vital and they must be secure and maintained. I appeal to the Minister to subscribe to the notion that they must be stored in safe places and not left hanging on walls. A copy should suffice.
I second the amendment. We had a good debate on Committee Stage and I agree with Senator McCarthy's point. Documents are hard to come by and are not always easily replaced. I keep my birth certificate in a safe for when I need it but I have a copy if it is required for other occasions. The same applies in this instance.
We passed legislation concerning driving licences to the effect they must be carried while driving. I am unhappy with this. Copies can now be easily obtained. I am sure the Minister will accept this amendment due to the manner in which the House has accepted her other points. It is sensible, logical and correct.
I also support the amendment. I previously made the suggestion of using a copy. If the Minister does not find a copy acceptable for display on a premises, her Department should insist that dual copies are issued when a person makes an application or qualifies for a certificate. If so and if the Minister insists on an original being placed on a wall, the person will have a second original to be in safe keeping. The amendment is logical.
The Minister has learned much from her predecessor, Deputy Joe Walsh. Every now and then he would throw the House a bone, a little amendment such as this. We would all be grateful and then assist in passing whatever legislation he introduced.
We know what happens to originals if they are too easily accessed. Signposts are now taken home as souvenirs, never mind a nice little document denoting a registered veterinary premises. I hope the Minister can see her way to throwing in little bones, as have former Ministers.
We threw in 75 bones recently. Every now and then we need a bit of craic when discussing legislation. The easiest place to find a copy is on the wall as it will always be there, whereas if it were in a drawer it would never be found. In my previous portfolio Senator McCarthy and I agreed on the introduction of good legislation with regard to access to birth certificates. It can now be done anywhere in the country in 30 seconds. It is progress and there is now no need to cry about birth certificates.
Not all birth certificates can be accessed in this way.
If Senator McCarthy is stuck for a birth certificate, he does not have to travel to Dublin but can get one closer to home. He should not feel he is ever under pressure when getting an original.
We are not speaking about a copy of one's qualifications. The first action everyone takes after receiving their qualifications is to place them on a wall to show how great they are.
This is not a problem. It must be an original, otherwise there would be problems. I would prefer an original on the wall but, in the spirit of co-operation, we will provide that a copy from the council will suffice. The Senators need not panic. Is that fair?
The Minister is accepting my suggestion.
I do my best.
I had prepared two more points but, in view of the Minister's co-operative remarks, I thank her for accepting the amendment.
We must examine whether an amendment is necessary. If so, we will deal with it in the Dáil and bring it back to this House. If not, we could do it administratively with the council when it has expressed a view.
I move amendment No. 41:
In page 87, line 9, to delete "veterinary".
I explained this issue at great length on Committee Stage. Why is it only a veterinary premises which can be entered if the authorised officer believes something is wrong? It could be as relevant for the authorised officer to be able to enter a premises which is not a veterinary one. I realise this extends the provision. If an authorised officer believes a registered veterinary practitioner is acting in an unprofessional manner, he or she should not have to wait until the veterinary practitioner is found on a veterinary premises. I realise most of these activities will probably take place on a veterinary premises but it would be better if we did not confine it to such premises. It restricts matters to an extent that might make it impossible for the practitioner to be discovered engaging in misdemeanours as he or she could engage in such activities elsewhere.
I second the amendment.
The substance of this amendment relates to the next one, in which context I will address Senator Henry's concern. She is referring to obtaining a search warrant to gain access to a veterinary premises. This section relates to granting certificates of suitability whereas the Senator's substantive concern is malpractice, which will be dealt with in the next amendment. It is a matter for the inspectorate to determine whether a premises is suitable.
This is a technical amendment to remove brackets.
Amendments Nos. 44 and 45 are related to amendment No. 43, therefore, amendments Nos. 43 to 45, inclusive, will be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 43:
In page 87, line 17, after "premises," to insert "on foot of the issue of a warrant issued by a judge of the District Court,".
We are back to the Committee Stage debate when I spoke about rights in respect of a person's home. A person's home and veterinary practice could be the same premises. Interestingly, the report of the Data Protection Commissioner was published yesterday, on which I called for a debate on this morning's Order of Business. I am concerned about the invasion of privacy that may occur as a result of legislation being slipped through. My first experience of this occurrence was in the context of the Competition Bill which gave rights to invade a person's premises in pursuit of information. I am concerned we are passing legislation without reminding ourselves that we are giving the right to somebody, other than a court of law, to invade a premises. While I understand why we do so in the context of drug, tax and competition offences, I am reluctant to allow somebody, other than a judge, to make that decision.
The amendment states "on foot of the issue of a warrant issued by a judge of the District Court," which is stated elsewhere in that if one wants to inspect another premises, one must go to court to get that right. However, in this case, one does not need to do that. The Minister will state that a veterinary premises is not somebody's home but it is possible that it could be. I express this concern that we may end up in a police state by allowing legislation to intrude on our private lives without a court order. I would like the Minister to put my mind at rest or to accept the amendment.
I second the amendment. I would like some equality to apply in the searching of premises. When I spoke about this issue on Committee Stage, I said the Veterinary Council would not want people to have illegal drugs, such as angel dust and so on, on their premises. However, I have a considerable amount of sympathy for veterinarians in respect of various drugs they may have on their premises. Immediately after I spoke about what reputable people they were, I noted two veterinarians were had up somewhere for bringing in some drugs which could, in fact, be useful.
Veterinarians face a very difficult situation, particularly in regard to equine drugs. The horse is considered part of the food chain despite the fact thoroughbred horses are most unlikely to end up in the food chain, although perhaps the Minister knows horses which perhaps should end up in the food chain as result of running too slowly. This is a considerable problem because there are drugs which are very satisfactory for horses, for example, butazolidin which is probably the most successful anti-inflammatory drug for inflammatory ailments in horses. However, it is not allowed because there is a small risk of aplastic anaemia in humans. It is not really a practical proposition to suggest that humans will get aplastic anaemia from whatever amount of horse meat they may eat where the horse has been given butazolidin. Veterinarians' hands are severely tied.
I understand an EU group has come together in London to consider veterinary medicines. However, I do not know what progress it is making. Ireland is particularly disadvantaged because the market is smaller. For a company to sell some of these drugs in this country would involve considerable expense and it would not be in its interests to bother doing so. We have what are described in medicine as "orphan drugs" which could be very useful for some animals, particularly expensive race horses and so on.
We have seen people run into trouble as a result of using human drugs because perhaps there were no similar drugs in the veterinary line which could be used and it has caused much grief and distress. Such veterinary drugs would perhaps be available and licensed in America given the considerable number of animals there on which they could be used. I have a fair amount of sympathy for veterinarians in respect of this issue. I do not believe the Minister can do much to persuade the pharmaceutical companies making veterinary medicines to apply for licences for drugs for which there will be little demand.
Veterinarians are being singled out here and people can go into their premises without warrants. Of course, they must act within the law but it is hard on them in respect of the treatment of some animals. Everybody should be searched in the same manner rather than veterinarians being singled out. If any of these drugs were kept on other premises, the authorised officer would need to get a search warrant before entering the premises but he or she would not have to do so in respect of the registered veterinary officer.
I support these amendments. Senator Quinn articulates his views very well. We have to be careful about those to who we give the power to search people's homes. It is a significant authority to invest in anybody and there are prescribed methods by which that should be done. This certainly reflects Senator Quinn's amendment which outlines the only way such a search should be allowed to be carried out.
There is a second issue in regard to the location of a premises and the home place. I know of a practice that is conducted for two hours, one evening per week. A bedroom in a bungalow has been converted for the purpose of holding that clinic. Therefore, to go into the home place where there is a family is unnecessary and extreme. I urge the Minister to look at the amendment with a view to accepting it on that basis. This is an important issue and goes beyond the power one entrusts in these people. The issue of privacy is important and dear to all of us.
On balance I support amendment No. 43, as I did on the last occasion. I ask the Minister to give it favourable consideration. To enter such premises would be an intrusion without the warrant being properly structured.
I support the amendments, particularly amendment No. 43 in the names of Senators Quinn and Henry. I am concerned about what is contained in the legislation. This matter was argued at great length on Committee Stage when the Minister gave an undertaking that she would look at it again and, perhaps, come back with amendments. I am disappointed she has not done so because I thought she was getting the core of our amendment. Will the Minister define what she and her Department would define as "reasonable force"? Is she proposing to set up a hit squad or a crack squad within the Department that would go around breaking down doors?
There is one organisation charged with administering law and order and that is the Garda Síochána. I support Senator Quinn on going down the District Court route or at a minimum getting a search warrant from a chief superintendent in the area. Reasonable force should be used or exercised only by members of the Garda Síochána. It is deplorable that the Bill provides for the use of "reasonable force" by a Department. Will the Minister clarify what is meant by "reasonable force"? Is she in favour of a hit squad or hit men going around the country breaking down doors or will she employ lads of 20 stone like me to break down a door to get into a premises? This is a worrying issue and it cannot be allowed to happen.
I agree. My problem is that in the interregnum between our debate on Committee and Report Stages I have not had finality on my discussions with the Attorney General. My personal view is that there should be equity. Therefore, in the case of registered and unregistered premises we should look at a court order. Unfortunately, I have not been in a position to provide the amendment to the House. I will probably have to provide a further amendment at our further discussions in the other House and bring it back to this House.
There are some concerns in the Attorney General's office with regard to the exact issue raised, and other types of legislation where a search warrant would not be the appropriate way to proceed. Such measures are designed for use in an emergency which is not the case in the scenario we are discussing regarding this legislation. I am working on that issue and I hope to provide the amendment in due course.
The court will determine what is "reasonable force". If a search warrant is required the Garda will be present. Therefore, it is a matter for the Garda and the court. It is not a matter for the Minister or the council to determine what is "reasonable force". I am taking on board the Senators' concerns. I agree with them and will table the necessary amendment in due course.
I do not know how we sometimes come to debate horses. Under the new passport scheme there are exemptions for horses, which will address some of the concerns raised. In other words, if they are for human consumption that is written on it and certain issues have to be adhered to. If they are not for human consumption that is also written on it.
I doubt very much if a horse that has won the Gold Cup will be on anybody's plate. It would certainly be an expensive evening. The Senator is correct in saying there are practical issues in regard to drugs. It is a very expensive process to have drugs approved by the Medical Council.
Under a new EU Directive 2004/20/8 vets, under controls, will be allowed to import foreign drugs. That will address the issue to which the Senator has adverted. Many drug companies have pointed out that making a number of drugs available here would be very expensive. Given that the EU directive is being introduced it should address the concerns of the vets.
I thank the Minister for that cheerful news because it has been a serious practical problem.
The Minister has used moderate words. In regard to an amendment we tabled with the best of intentions, time has not been found to answer it and it may be answered in the other House, in which case it will come back to us. We would like the kudos of having it in this House rather than in the other House.
I will refer to it in my speech.
I appreciate that and thank the Minister.
Section 128 states: "On the application of an authorised officer, a judge of the District Court, if satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that—". Section 127(1) states: "In carrying out his or her functions under section 126, an authorised officer may—”. I do not understand why in one case a judge of the District Court is required and in other cases a judge is not required.
I am going to ensure that in all cases a judge will be required.
That is what I was hoping for. On that basis we certainly will not push the amendment.
I am very sorry but I will refer to it in the other House and point out it was a proposal of this House.
I appreciate that.
That will be the 77th amendment.
The Minister has responded very positively to numerous suggestions and amendments we have tabled. In that case I look forward to seeing what happens in the other House. I thank the Minister and withdraw the amendment.
This is an amendment to correct a spelling error.
This is an amendment in which a textual error is being addressed.
I thank the Minister and her officials for the way in which they have handled the Bill. We look forward to the outstanding one or two amendments coming back to the House. The Bill is a much improved and better Bill than when it originally came before the House. I thank all concerned who have contributed to the improvements and to a constructive debate which will be in all our interests, that of the country, animal welfare, people involved with animals, farming people, veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses.
I thank the Minister and her officials for this very good Bill which has come before the House. I thank her too for her courtesy and the good humour with which she deals with all of us. It is important legislation and I hope she can encourage the Minister for Health and Children to bring forward a medical practice Bill as soon as possible and, perhaps, a few hints from her Department would be useful in regard to the setting up of registers.
I add my congratulations to the officials and to the Minister and echo the words of Senator Henry regarding the manner in which the Minister dealt with this Bill. It had a long gestation but nothing seemed to be happening until the Minister took hold of it. I reiterate that she dealt with the Bill in a logical, rational and moderate manner. I did not use the phrase, "pleasant smile" but I could have done so. I assure the Minister it is a powerful weapon to ensure amendments are withdrawn.
I acknowledge the Minister and her officials for the manner in which they dealt with this Bill and for the powerful weaponry of the smile and everything else that goes with it. This was difficult legislation involving much dialogue and debate but common sense prevailed for which I thank the Minister and her officials.
I join with my colleagues in the expression of appreciation to the Minister and to the officials. It is fair to say that at 12 or 14 years, this is the longest gestation of any Bill ever known. At long last, we have a substantial and competent Bill. In my communications with interested bodies such as the Veterinary Council, Veterinary Ireland and the Irish Veterinary Association, I am aware they are substantially satisfied with the Bill.
I refer to Senator Henry's contribution this morning in which she said, "Give us a bone, Minister." Not alone did the Minister give us a bone but she took the carcass of the Bill and put flesh on it. She made a Bill out of something that needed alteration and reconstruction and I congratulate her. The House appreciates what she has achieved. This is a substantial Bill which has gone through this House without a vote and that is to be appreciated. I thank the Minister and her officials.
I thank the Seanad for accommodating this legislation. Since its initiation we have developed this legislation to reflect many of the concerns which the Department, the profession representatives and Members have brought to my attention.
I agree this Bill, brought forward by my colleague, the former Minister, Deputy Walsh has had a long gestation. This type of legislation must reflect modern trends.
I thank Senators for their constructive proposals and for working with me to ensure this is the best possible legislation. I thank the two officials who accompany me who have suffered in rewriting this legislation since its initiation and other members of the staff of the Department. Unless one is on this side of the House, one does not appreciate the amount of work involved in drafting legislation and in the consultative process.
I believe the legislation will reflect the concerns of the profession regarding its regulatory needs and equally will address many of the human concerns raised. I thank the House for its support in ensuring the passing of the Bill.