Teaching Council Bill, 2000: Committee Stage (Resumed).

SECTION 7.
Amendments Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 9, subsection (2)(h)(iv), line 17, after “Minister” to insert “and the Minister shall have regard to such advice and shall, in any case where he or she does not accept such advice, publish reasons for his or her decision”.

The main purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the Teaching Council does not become a mere talking shop and that the Minister of the day will heed the advice it provides. In cases where the Minister decides not to follow such advice, he or she should give reasons for so doing. The Teaching Council will include representation from all the partners in education and will, therefore, have at its disposal the necessary expertise. Where the Minister is given advice on any aspect of teaching, be it in respect of standards, teacher intake or whatever, if he or she chooses not to take that advice it is important that he or she should publish the reasons for this. This would promote an atmosphere of openness, ensure that the council will not become a talking shop and illustrate that the advice it will provide will carry real weight. Clear reasons must be given in circumstances where the council's advice is not taken.

It is valuable and important that the council should advise the Minister on a range of appropriate matters and provision is made for this in the legislation. However, it is inevitable that there will be instances where the Minister will not be in a position to accept or act on this advice. In such cases, the accountability of the Minister must remain to the Oireachtas and not to the council. There are a range of means by which the Minister is and continues to be accountable to the Oireachtas, not least through this committee. It is my view that this remains the most appropriate way of ensuring the accountability of the Minister. I am, therefore, not disposed to accept the amendment.

It is clear that the Minister is accountable to the Dáil. In practice, however, the Minister might decide to take a particular course of action which could be contrary to the advice which has been given by the council and the Dáil would not necessarily be aware of that. Where advice is given in good faith by the council and the Minister, as is his or her right, ignores that advice or does the opposite of what he or she is being advised to do, it is only fair to the council that he or she should outline the reasons for not taking its advice. There may be very good reasons for not taking the council's advice but it is only fair that these should be stated.

I draw Deputy Shortall's attention to sections 4 and 54 which provide for the laying of regulations and orders before the Houses and for an annual report to be laid before the Houses by the council. If the council wishes to indicate its views on advice it has given or how it has been received, it is welcome to do so and is not prohibited from drawing attention to any matters of concern to it when presenting those reports.

The Minister of State is aware that many annual reports are laid before the Dáil, that these are not necessarily read in detail and that Members are not necessarilyau fait with the background to them. The amendment has the precise objective of ensuring that the council does not become a mere talking shop, that its work is relevant and that the expertise of its members is fully utilised. In my opinion it is, therefore, only correct that the Minister should give reasons for choosing not to follow the advice offered by the council. I ask the Minister of State to reconsider the matter before Report Stage.

We have two excellent Opposition spokespersons on education and I am sure they will read the relevant reports and bring to our attention matters of concern to them. I will reconsider the matter before Report Stage.

Deputy Shortall and I may not always be around.

The Minister of State might not be around either.

I may in the future be in opposition and Deputy Creed may be on this side of the table.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 9, subsection (2)(k), line 25, to delete “represent” and substitute “present the views”.

We adverted to this matter earlier. It is important that it is clear that the teachers nominated by the teacher unions to sit on the council do not do so as trade Unionists. They are not teacher representatives in the traditional trade union mould. Given the terminology used in the section, there is a danger that they will be seen as union representatives. Their function is to present the views of the bodies they represent but not to represent them. It is a small distinction which is relevant if we are to ensure the council has a distinct role to that of trade unions.

When I read the legislation I did not see any distinction between "represent" and "present the views". However, I have listened carefully to Deputy Shortall's remarks and we will talk to the Parliamentary Counsel about it. If any change is necessary, we will introduce an amendment on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 10, subsection (3), lines 4 to 7, to delete paragraph (a).

Section 7(3)(a) states:

The Council in the performance of its functions shall—

implement the policies relating to teacher education and training, probation, qualifications, professional conduct and standards of teaching as established, from time to time, by the Minister,".

Is that the function of the council? What is the Minister's role in setting standards in this regard? The crossover between the council and the Minister in these areas is not clear. Will the Minister of State explain the crossover?

The intention of the section is to lay out a structure for the operation of the council. It will continue to be the responsibility of the Minister for Education and Science to set out general policy for the effective administration of the education system. In this context, probation, teacher education, qualifications and standards of teaching are of paramount importance. Within the context of such broad policies the teaching council will then have responsibility for specific tasks such as the details of a code of conduct or the procedures for probation. It is not possible for the Minister to carry out these tasks without regard for the council. Equally, it is not appropriate for the council not to have regard to overall Government policies when it is carrying out its duties. This framework allows for a balancing of the roles and responsibilities of both parties to allow for a harmonious and coherent relationship.

The paragraph suggest that the autonomy of the council can be overridden by the Minister. The role and functions of the council are set out quite clearly in various sections. If in the exercise of its role and functions the council must be entirely subservient to the Minister, this paragraph suggests it is not autonomous and the granting of self-regulation to the teaching profession may only be done in name only with the Minister retaining control.

I am somewhat confused by section 7(3)(a) and the respective roles of the council and the Minister. The bane of our lives has been the establishment of numerous State, semi-State and other autonomous bodies which are not directly accountable to the House. The import of the section is that a council is to be established to carry out functions of registration and to outline what is appropriate in terms of conduct, behaviour, training, etc. However, the Minister will do this and not the council. There does not appear to be sufficient clarity in the legislation in that regard. Section 7(3)(a) muddies the water rather than provides clarity about the respective functions of the council and the Minister.

I refer to Deputy Creed's central point. If the Minister had no responsibility in this regard, the Oireachtas would not be in a position to question the activities of the Minister and the teaching council. The Minister must remain in overall control. Overall responsibility for these matters must ultimately remain with the Minister. He or she has overall democratic responsibility for the education system. I reiterate that the legislation must provide that these functions are in the overall control of the Minister but he or she will not undertake such functions without consultation with the council. The council will have an input but the bottom line is that these functions must be undertaken within the parameters of the overall education policy, which remains the responsibility of the Minister and he or she is answerable in that regard to the people through the Parliament.

I take that point. Section 7(2) states:

Without prejudice to the generality ofsubsection (1) the Council shall perform the following functions: . . .

(d) determine, from time to time, the education and training and qualifications required for a person to be registered.

Section 7(3)(a) states:

The Council in the performance of its functions shall—

implement the policies relating to teacher education and training, probation, qualifications, professional conduct and standards of teaching as established, from time to time, by the Minister,".

The council or the Minister establishes the education, training and qualifications.

Basically, the council will do that but it must do so within the overall parameters of Government policy.

Section 7(3)(a) states:

The Council in the performance of its functions shall—

implement the policies relating to teacher education and training . . . as established, from time to time, by the Minister,

It is envisaged that the council will draw up the technical detail of the qualifications, the professional standards, etc., but it must do so within the overall parameters of Government policy. The council will be responsible for carrying out those functions but all section 7(3)(a) is saying is that in doing so it cannot contravene the overall parameters of Government education policy.

Policies are not set in stone. They evolve and should be informed to a large extent by the considerations of the council.

They will be.

The section gives the Minister authority over the policies that the council might bring forward.

If there is a conflict between an expedient policy of Government and the council's professional view, how does the Minister of State envisage the resolution of such a conflict? Does the council have a vehicle to articulate a view that is totally contrary to Government policy and that suggests the policy is ill-informed? Must it blindly take Government policy on board and disregard professional advice from its constituent members?

The answer is yes. The council has a vehicle for conveying its view. It has direct access to Parliament through the mechanism of its annual report. There are no restrictions on what may be included in the report. The council may draw attention to anything it wishes, including the example given by the Deputy. If it was being constantly overruled by the Minister, which is unlikely, that would be a serious matter to which it could draw attention.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 7, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 8.

Amendments Nos. 15 to 18, inclusive, have been ruled out of order as they involve a potential charge on the Revenue.

Amendments Nos. 15 to 18, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 10, subsection (2)(b), line 28, after “teachers” to insert “(at least 2 of whom shall be principals)”.

In the consultations prior to the drafting of the Bill experience in other countries, principally Scotland and Canada, was examined and lessons learned to a large extent. In Scotland no provision was made within the membership of the council for principals. Following its establishment it was realised that the omission of principals was a mistake and amending legislation had to be brought forward to provide for their representation.

When the early consultations on the Bill took place principals' representative bodies had not been established. The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals has only been in existence for a short period while the Irish Primary Principals Network has only recently been established. There was a gap among the partners in education, as a consequence of which the voice of principals was not heard. Given their key role in recruitment, standards, qualifications, codes of conduct and many other aspects of teaching, it is important that they are provided for within the membership of the council. Deputy Creed is endeavouring to achieve the same result by way of an increase in membership. I suggest that two places be reserved for principals, the minimum they deserve given their important role in the system.

I support the amendment in the absence of the Minister of State bringing forward recommendations to increase the size of the council. Amendments Nos. 15, 16, 17, 18 and 20 sought to increase its membership by four, from 37 to 41, which would not be unwieldly. They would have given the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals and the Irish Primary Principals Network, a relatively new organisation, the right to nominate two members. The Scottish council consists of 49 members.

The case has been well made. Principals bring a unique experience to education. They have a supervisory role and, as well as classroom experience, have years of experience in administration and management. They would bring something of value to the debate in the council. Notwithstanding all consideration of these matters and the long gestation of the Bill to reach agreement on its composition, the Minister of State should examine the right of principals to be represented on the council. While I understand the INTO is favourably disposed to the idea of providing for principals among its nominees, I do not know if this is entertained by the other teacher unions. It would not make the council unwieldy if the Minister of State were to table amendments to increase its size.

While I take Deputy Creed's point about 37 members as against 41, we must stop somewhere. The membership proposed is that set out in the report of the steering group. It sought to achieve a formula which would allow a balance between teachers and non-teachers, include the teacher educational institutions and other partners such as school managers and parents as well as provide for the role of the public interest. In undertaking this task it relied heavily on the report of a technical working group which included noted educational experts. The difficulty of this task should not be understated. It is a tribute to the steering group, especially its chairperson, Dr. Séamus McGuinness, that it was able to arrive at such a formula.

I am proceeding with the formula proposed because it continues to be appropriate. I accept that principals are an important part of the teaching profession. Their proven expertise and experience in key areas of the profession, such as induction and probation, make it likely that the teaching profession will choose to ensure they are adequately represented on the council, either by nomination by a teacher union or direct election by the body of teachers. My disposition is to leave it to the teaching profession to make its own judgment as to who its representatives will be on the teaching council.

I note what Deputy Shortall said about the Scottish experience. The newer teaching councils in England and Wales, however, do not make such a provision. The steering group contained a number of principals, even though there was no formal representative body for principals at the time.

Does the Minister of State accept that, if the council was constituted as outlined in the Bill without any of the teacher unions making concessions to principals, either at primary or post-primary level, it would be much the poorer for it and that that is a possible outcome?

It is a possible outcome in the sense that many things are possible, but it is extremely improbable. We are leaving it to teachers to decide. The Bill provides for self-regulation by teachers of their profession. I would prefer to leave the matter to teachers and listen to what the experts on the steering group have to say about it, rather than be overly prescriptive. I agree that it would be regrettable if a teaching council was established without principals, but we are being as democratic as we can by leaving the matter to the teaching profession to select the best people.

I am not certain that the INTO is committed to nominating primary principals. As I do not know what the intentions of the TUI or the ASTI are, it is possible that the council could be established without the benefit of their experience. It is within the Minister of State's capacity to ensure it will have their necessary voice. I urge him to reconsider the matter either by increasing the council membership or making provision along the lines suggested by Deputy Shortall in the amendment.

In relation to the INTO, a small minority of the members will be nominated, the majority will be elected. We are leaving it up to the generality of teachers to elect the best possible people and we do not do that lightly. We are doing it on the basis of expert advice which is the culmination of a long period of deliberation. After speaking with my officials and the relevant experts in the area, we are disposed to leaving it like that.

Will the Minister of State accept that the role of the school principal has changed considerably in recent years, mainly due to recent legislation? The school principal is now seen as the chief executive officer of the organisation. There are very distinct legal and professional responsibilities on that person. That job is very different from the job of classroom teacher. An indication of how things have changed fairly rapidly in recent years is the emergence of these two representative organisations at primary and post-primary level. There are strong views in both organisations that there is a need for them to be specifically represented.

The post-primary principals, the NAPD, met with this committee recently and they have done a considerable amount of work in relation to education generally. Their presentation was very impressive. It was quite clear they have a very different remit from the teacher unions because they have specific responsibilities as principals. There is no provision for that voice to be heard within the teaching council, which is critical, given their role in relation to induction, probation and so on. They made a strong request to all of us, including the chairman and both spokespersons, that consideration be given to their request. In deference to the standing of their organisations and their new and important role as a result of the Education Act and the Education Welfare Act, there should be specific provision for their requests. I would prefer to increase the overall numbers but we were limited to dedicating a number of positions for principals within the terms of the Bill.

I ask the Minister of State to consider this matter. This strong request has been made in good faith by reputable organisations. There is no guarantee that by going through the channels proposed principals will end up on the council. They may be there representing the members of their respective unions but they will not be there specifically representing principals. That is a voice that must be heard within education.

I do not doubt the bona fides of the importance of the functions of school principals. Neither do I doubt the bona fides of their representative body and the strong case it has made. The different categories within the teaching profession, both at primary and secondary level, are committed to the notion of a teaching council. In fact, they have been seeking this for many years. They are committed to the idea that the teaching council operate and function properly. In light of that commitment, I am sure they will choose the very best people to represent the interests of the teaching profession on that council.

With all due respect to principals, I have no doubt a number of principals will emerge as members. Basically the issues of school management and school administration are not in any way central to the functions of the teaching council. The teaching council is more concerned with the standards and professional codes of conduct of ordinary mainstream teachers. I am not an expert in this area but, looking at the views of those who can genuinely claim expertise in this area and bearing in mind that despite the unfortunate Scottish experience the relevant Legislatures in England and Wales did not consider it necessary to write in a specific provision of this nature, I would be misleading the committee if I were to say this matter can be considered between now and Report Stage. My advice is that the determination of the Minister is to let this section stand.

The Minister of State seems to be saying that this is a voice that should be heard within the context of 37 members or 22 teachers, be they primary or post-primary principals. The Minister who is a past master at successful electioneering suggests that some of these will come through anyway in terms of the 11 vacancies. However, it is a reality that in many instances principals are not the most popular among their staff complement. There would be greater empathy between non-principals for other non-principals who are on ballot papers seeking these positions. There is a real danger we will end up with a council that will not have that voice of experience and which under the Education Act, 1998, and other legislation has been given specific responsibilities.

Different considerations will apply when people are voting for members of the teaching council than apply when I am seeking votes in a general election or whatever.

I have been advised that there are approximately six or seven school management groups who made equally strong cases as the group representing principals. Nevertheless, just two nominees at primary and two at post-primary level are permitted. The steering group considered at length these issues and it is its conclusion we have adopted in the Bill. Therefore, I am not disposed to accepting the amendment.

I am disappointed in the Minister's response because this is a very significant and distinct voice within education which should be heard in the teaching council. I do not share the Minister of State's confidence in the election procedure producing fair representation of principals. Therefore, I wish to press the amendment.

Amendment put.
The Select Committee divided: Tá, 5; Níl, 8.

  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • Reynolds, Gerard.
  • Shortall, Róisín.

Níl

  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kitt, Michael.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • Wade, Eddie.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 12, subsection 4, line 6, after "(3)” to insert “or (5)”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 22 is in the name of Deputy Shortall. Amendment No. 27 is related and the proposal is to discuss amendments Nos. 22 and 27 together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 12, subsection (6), to delete lines 11 and 12, and substitute the following:

"(6) The Minister shall ensure that at least 40 per cent of members shall be men and that at least 40 per cent of members shall be women".

The wording in the Bill as it stands is extremely weak. It is generally agreed that we should aim for at least 40% representation of men and women. I would like that enshrined in the Bill with a clear target being set rather than the weak, aspirational wording currently in the Bill.

I support Deputy Shortall's amendment. There is no doubt that if we were to request that the composition of the council, at least in so far as it refers to the nominees of the various teachers' unions being reflective of the relative gender balance in the teaching profession generally, we would require much more than 40%. It underpins most Government policy now that there should be something stronger in terms of gender balance than is provided for in the Minister of State's contribution. The Minister of State probably recognises that.

Deputies will be aware that the Bill already contains requirements at section 8(6) and section 23(10) that the Minister must have regard to the appropriateness of a gender balance in making appointments to either the council or the committees of the council. This gender balance would be determined at Government level from time to time. It is more appropriate that this mechanism should be used rather than imposing a specific and immutable fixed target. This allows for a change in such balance as may be determined by Government from time to time. It is also the most common approach adopted in legislation.

Will the Minister of State spell out "appropriate gender balance" for us?

As the words imply, we are trying to achieve a proper balance of men and women and that it is not predominated by one sex. That is the purpose of writing that provision into the legislation. When Departments introduce legislation of this nature and set up committees, commissions and councils of this sort, that is generally the approach adopted rather than setting fixed immutable targets.

What does the Minister of State regard as appropriate?

The ideal would be 50-50. I would regard at least 40% as appropriate.

Why not put that into the Bill, if that is what the Minister is trying to achieve?

Because it is our advice that it is not wise to put in an immutable fixed target. What Government might consider to be appropriate may change from time to time.

It is not fixed; it is "at least". It could be greater.

It is not immutable.

It is immutable in the sense that one cannot go below it.

That is not desirable.

No, not on the lines we are thinking but one never knows.

Does the Minister of State accept there is a problem with gender balance in teaching for a number of different reasons? The predominant intake and retention of teachers is female.

Yes. I am told the number at primary level is 85% female as against 15% male.

If there was an adequate representation of that balance on the Teaching Council, the membership of the Teaching Council would be unbalanced, gender wise.

Does the Minister of State equally accept that the practice has shown that males have been disproportionately represented at the higher levels of teaching, principalships and among trade union senior representatives, and that there is a danger the balance could be skewed in the other direction if clear guidelines are not given on gender balance? If the Minister of State is saying we should aim for a 40% level, it makes sense to specify that in the legislation. Does the Minister of State see a situation where we might aim to achieve less than that balance?

Could I ask Deputy Keaveney to take the Chair for a short period? I have to attend a meeting for about half an hour. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Keaveneytook the chair.

Section 8(6) states that the Minister shall have regard to the desirability of an appropriate gender balance as he or she may determine, from time to time, when making not only appointments to the council but also regulations under section 10(1) for the purpose of election of members to the council. The Minister has the power, when drafting those regulations, to impose a fixed percentage of either of the genders.

But without specifying the percentage.

He can specify.

Leaving it like that means it is largely aspirational. It is merely paying lip service to the idea of equal representation.

In relation to gender balance and the appointment of various quangos, committees, etc., it is Government policy to ensure that at least 40% are of one gender.

Is the Minister of State suggesting this is a quango?

I listened carefully to what the Deputy said and I will, in conjunction with the Minister, think about it between now and Report Stage to see if it is appropriate to write it into the legislation in this way. It would be somewhat of a departure from what is usually done in matters of this nature, but I am prepared to have a look at it.

There is always a first time.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 8, as amended, agreed to.
Section 9 agreed to.
SECTION 10.

Amendment No. 23 is in the name of Deputy Shortall. Amendment No. 24 is consequential, so the proposal is to take amendments Nos. 23 and 24 together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 13, subsection (2)(c), lines 2 and 3, to delete “particular category of recognised school” and substitute “sector, i.e. primary and post-primary,”.

These subsections are ambiguous. What precisely is a "category of recognised school"? On what principle will the Minister define a category? If there is a whole range of categories, the differing sizes of the categories could result in over or under representation for different groups of teachers. There is a need for clarity and the words "sector, i.e. primary or post-primary" are clearer and are likely to lead to an avoidance of any anomalies in representation to which the current wording could give rise.

The current draft of the Bill will allow for the intention behind the Deputy's amendments Nos. 23 and 24. However, it is more flexible in that it could also meet future needs. For example, the council might wish to recommend to the Minister at some point in the future that the category of recognised post-primary school could be further divided among the four categories of post-primary schools. Such a development would be a matter for the council to advise the Minister. However, the draft in the Bill offers useful flexibility in this area as well as meeting Deputy Shortall's essential concern which I recognise. I do not consider it necessary to change the wording. The current wording provides much more flexibility, as it is possible at second level to recategorise vocational schools, other types of secondary schools——

There could be any number of categories then.

My strong advice is there are only four.

Within the primary sector there are different categories of schools. There are all Irish schools, multi-denominational schools and different types of special schools. The list is virtually endless.

It could be used for all those situations, if we were to recategorise within the primary sector.

Is it not important there should be clarity on this, that the primary and post-primary sectors would be represented. It could end up being skewed if there were different categorisations.

I take the Deputy's point. I think that objective is achieved, but if it is necessary to consider the wording to make the position clearer or to ensure there is no ambiguity, I will undertake to do that in conjunction with the draftsman.

In the Bill as drafted, if one teaches in a category of primary or post-primary school, one can vote only for teachers on the ballot paper who are employed in a similar category of school. In the case of post-primary vocational schools, teachers employed in vocational schools could vote only for candidates who are also employed in vocational schools. Is that type of demarcation desirable?

The Deputy's interpretation is correct. That is what the steering committee recommended.

Are places being reserved for each of those categories as some categories, by virtue of their size, will not have sufficient numbers to generate the level of support required?

Section 8(2) states the members of the council shall include 11 registered teachers employed in, or qualified to teach in, recognised primary schools of whom nine shall be elected by registered teachers employed in, or qualified to teach in, recognised primary schools. Subsection (2)(b) states that 11 registered teachers employed in, or qualified to teach in, recognised post-primary schools of whom seven shall be elected by registered teachers employed in, or qualified to teach in, recognised post-primary schools.

The Minister of State said there are four recognised categories of post-primary schools. I presume he was referring to community——

As matters stand, we are only dealing with two categories. I was talking about what might happen in the future.

Deputy Shortall is seeking that there should be only two categories, primary and post-primary.

That is the current position but it might change. The teaching council might advise the Minister at some stage to introduce other categories at primary or post-primary level, to subdivide the primary category along the lines suggested by Deputy Shortall, or to subdivide the post-primary level into vocational, etc.

What would be the position where a teacher is qualified to teach in both?

It would be a matter for that teacher to choose which one he or she wanted to go for. I will check if the wording can be changed to bring more clarity to the situation. The Deputy's points are valid.

Does Deputy Shortall wish to withdraw her amendment?

I would like the Minister of State to consider it before Report Stage and I will withdraw it on that basis.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 24 not moved.
Section 10 agreed to.
Sections 11 to 15, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 16.
Amendment No. 25 not moved.

On a point of procedure, can Deputy Sargent's amendment be resubmitted on Report Stage?

I believe it can be reintroduced when it has already been tabled, but that would be a matter for the Ceann Comhairle.

If the committee has any say in it, it should be resubmitted on Report Stage.

Section 16 agreed to.
NEW SECTION.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 16, before section 17, to insert the following new section:

"17.—Except as provided by this Act, no action shall lie against a member of the Council in respect of anything done by that member in good faith and in pursuance of this Act or any regulations made by the Minister under this Act.".

This is essentially a technical amendment. Most legislation establishing a body provides for an indemnity for the members of that body somewhat similar to that of the shareholders of a limited company. This amendment makes such a provision here. Similar provisions were also made in the Education Act, 1998, concerning boards of management and in the Education Welfare Act, 2000, for the members of that board, the Education Welfare Board.

Amendment agreed to.
Sections 17 to 22, inclusive, agreed to.
Amendment No. 27 not moved.
Section 23 agreed to.
Sections 24 to 27, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 28.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 22, subsection (6), between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following:

"(c) any person, the subject of a request for a certified or uncertified copy of, or extract from, an entry in the register shall be notified in detail of the request by the Director.”.

Will the Minister clarify what is meant by a certified or uncertified copy of a extract from the register? The new subsection (c) I propose is self-explanatory. It provides that if someone is poring over one’s entry in the teachers’ register, one should be entitled to know what inquiries are being made.

A certified copy simply means a document or extract that would be officially stamped by the council. The Deputy raised an important point in his amendment, one to which I would like to return on Report Stage. The purpose of the register is, on the one hand, to serve as a clear indicator by the profession to the public of the members of the profession and of their qualifications to teach to a high and consistent standard. On the other hand, members of the profession are entitled to some privacy and respect of certain details contained on the register. For example, it may be important for the council to know the date of birth of any given teacher, but not necessarily for that fact to be made public knowledge. This question is essentially one for the council. As the guarantors of the standards of the profession, it is their duty to provide sufficient information to the public to make that guarantee meaningful, however, they also have a responsibility to protect the purely personal information of a teacher. I propose, therefore, on Report Stage to provide for an amendment to give such a responsibility to the council where it is best situated.

I will withdraw my amendment on that basis.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 28 agreed to.
SECTION 29.
Question proposed: "That section 29 stand part of the Bill."

In the context of section 29, what is the position regarding the employment of non-qualified substitute teachers? My point relates to a person who is employed as a teacher in a recognised school, but who is not a registered teacher. The implication is that any person who is an unqualified substitute, which is particularly relevant in the primary sector at present, cannot be remunerated by the Department under the terms of the Bill.

Will this place an onus on boards of management to embark on additional fundraising endeavours to cover situations where a teacher is sick and out of the classroom for a day or two or a protracted period and an unqualified substitute is used who, by implication, is not entitled to be registered? He or she cannot be notified to the Department as being entitled to pay. This severe measure will place an extraordinary onus on boards of management at primary and post-primary levels to embark on fundraising for such inevitable eventualities.

The type of people to be included on the register is defined in the Bill. There are legitimate concerns in this area and representations have been made to me about it, but it will be possible for schools to employ unqualified substitutes on an urgency basis, for example, if a person is out sick. One of the main aims of the teaching council will be to increase the supply of qualified teachers so there will be less need to resort to unqualified substitute teachers. I am advised that it is possible for a school to bring in a substitute teacher who does not fulfil the requirements for membership of the register and pay him or her from public funds.

I take the Minister of State's assurances, but that flies in the face of the Bill. It states that a person who is employed as a teacher in a recognised school, but is not a registered teacher or is removed or suspended from the register under Part 5, shall not be rumunerated by the school in respect of his or her employment out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas. How does this square with the Minister of State's comments? As he is aware, hundreds of schools are in that position.

I am concerned about this matter. My advice is that it will continue to be possible for schools to employ those categories of people on an emergency basis. However, I undertake between now and Report Stage to get a written opinion on the issue in terms of how and why it can be done. I will communicate that advice to the Deputy and to Deputy Shortall.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 30.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 22, subsection (2)(a), line 32, to delete “as a teacher” and substitute “in a teaching capacity”.

This amendment is related to my concern about people who are currently employed, but may not have a recognised teaching qualification. I am not sure that is widespread, but what constitutes a recognised teaching qualification? This relates to my earlier point that an amnesty may be necessary. It can be said that, from a certain date, qualifications will be needed, but the council should not be in a position to retrospectively terminate a person's employment by virtue of standards which are to come into force on a certain date.

A person is a teacher only if he or she is fully qualified. The Bill refers to a person employed as a teacher. The proposal is to substitute that with the phrase a person employed "in a teaching capacity". This would cover people who are not fully qualified teachers. I presume that is the intention of the Bill and the amendment would cover all situations where a person is not a fully qualified teacher.

Regarding Deputy Creed's point, an amnesty effectively exists because everybody is being included. The Bill cannot impose these conditions retrospectively. The Bill states that the term "teacher" means a person who, before the establishment day, has achieved a qualification required by the Minister for employment as a teacher in a recognised school. Teachers are entitled to be registered. They are automatically registered under section 30.

The Bill provides a specific mechanism for the registration of teachers and for the subsequent conditions to which schools must adhere for the employment of teachers. This is predicated on the clear definition of teachers as set out in section 2. The council will assume responsibility for any changes to the definition of what constitutes a teacher after its establishment. The use of the phraseology "in a teaching capacity" would create a great deal of uncertainty in this context. If it is intended to have the same effect as the current formulation, I would prefer to retain the existing phrasing. If it is intended to capture a further category of persons not covered at present, it would not be appropriate to do so within the scope of the Bill.

As I said, the council has responsibility for the further extension of the register to include other categories of teachers. This specific point was addressed by the report of the steering group, which noted that the teaching council might consider providing for the membership of lecturers in colleges of education, departmental inspectors, teachers in the early childhood sector and other appropriate groups after it had been established. This would be a more appropriate means for such an extension.

An amnesty applies in relation to registration with the council, but not in relation to qualifications. We accept a large number of the people who are unqualified are doing a good job in keeping the system going but, technically, they are not teachers in so far as they are not fully qualified. The intention of the amendment is to cover people who are working in a teaching capacity, but who technically or legally are not teachers in respect of their qualifications.

Many people have worked for ten or 15 years in that capacity and are well qualified in a personal sense. However, they do not have a written qualification.

One of the functions of the teaching council is to assist those people in every way to acquire the necessary standard and to get onto the register. We must have some quality assurance.

That is reasonable. However, there is a difference between the type of in-service training that is routine for teachers in terms of upskilling themselves or participating in additional courses on information technology, etc, and a person who lacks the basic degree requirement, but who is working in a teaching capacity through some accreditation system that is insufficient. The danger is that the council could decide that a person must reach the standard by a certain date or he or she is out.

A person who has been working for ten or 15 years could have a basic degree, but not the higher diploma.

That is particularly prevalent in the vocational sector.

For example, regarding the Irish qualification.

Yes. I am conscious of the Deputies' comments. A specific duty of the teaching council will be to assist people to acquire any required qualification they may lack. It will also be one of the objectives of the teaching council to increase the number of properly qualified teachers. However, I recognise the validity of the Deputies' points and I will discuss the matter with the Minister between now and Report Stage. We do not want a person who, as Deputy Creed said, is missing a minor part of the qualification, for example a higher diploma or the Irish requirement, but who has years of experience and may have done a better job than a person with all the qualifications, being told he or she must have the required qualification by a certain date or he or she will be permanently refused registration. I doubt that will happen in practice, but it must be avoided. I recognise that such a possibility cannot be allowed under the legislation and I undertake to examine it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 30 and 31 agreed to.
SECTION 32.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 24, subsection (2), lines 44 and 45, to delete "may apply for renewal of" and substitute "shall be deemed to have renewed".

The Bill suggests that payment of the prescribed fee is only an invitation for consideration for registration. My argument in the amendment is that if a person has not transgressed any of the criteria laid down by the council, there should be an automatic entitlement to registration on payment of the fee. If there is an established transgression of, for example, a code of practice, the onus should be on the council. A teacher should be able to assume that, on payment of the fee, he or she is automatically re-registered.

I accept Deputy Creed's point and I will consider it between now and Report Stage. The last thing we want is unnecessary bureaucracy and there should be an automatic entitlement in this area. I assure the Deputy that I will consider the matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 32 to 39, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 40.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 27, paragraph (b), line 23, to delete "or otherwise".

The provision reminded me of the infamous case in Wexford and caused alarm bells to ring in my head. I am sure the Minister of State recalls in more detail the case where a teacher was sacked or suspended and there were protracted legal cases arising from behaviour outside the classroom.

The Deputy is referring to the Eileen Flynn case.

Yes. By proposing the deletion of "or otherwise", I do not suggest that a teacher's behaviour outside the classroom is not in any way relevant to their standing, ability or suitability for employment as a teacher. However, people live in small communities and I can envisage a situation where a teacher involved in the GAA might hit a person during a football match and, because tempers are high over the match result, somebody might decide, following the incident on the playing field, that he is not a suitable person to be employed as a teacher. I am concerned about that type of circumstance rather than anything associated with the Eileen Flynn case or comparable circumstances.

The term "or otherwise" is all embracing. I do not suggest that teachers should have acarte blanche in terms of their behaviour outside the classroom or the school environment. However, the term is too broad. What is envisaged by the Minister of State and the Department as behaviour that would be covered by the term “or otherwise” and would compromise one’s capacity to be employed as a teacher?

An investigation will take place and the appropriate body must decide whether it is conduct outside one's——

Conduct unbecoming.

It must decide if it is conduct unbecoming if it relates to a person outside the classroom. The council or relevant investigating bodies will have to decide whether it is sufficient to impinge or adversely affect a teacher's capacity to teach. Deputy Creed gave an example of a person involved in a fracas on a playing field. Depending on the circumstances, most reasonable people would not regard that as impinging on a person's capacity to teach or to be a proper person to be in charge of a classroom. However, it is impossible to find the appropriate dividing line in legislation.

The subsection is an important bedrock for the council in ensuring the maintenance of high quality standards in the teaching profession. The particular nature of the profession, where teachers continually occupy a positionin loco parentis and, to an extent, act as a form of moral standard for the pupils in their care, makes it imperative that where a teacher substantially and consistently departs from such a standard, the council should be in a position to investigate and take appropriate steps. An obvious example is a teacher convicted of a serious criminal offence, such as a drugs related offence, which has no direct relationship to his or her teaching position, but which carries with it implications for his or her care for pupils. The amendment would remove this aspect of the council’s role and it is not appropriate to do so.

I accept the Minister's rationale, but my point is that we should not underestimate the trauma involved in being reported to the council and having this procedure initiated. Nevertheless, there is another side and I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 40 agreed to.
SECTION 41.

Amendment No. 33 is an alternative to amendment No. 32 and both may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 32:

In page 27, subsection (1), lines 28 to 32, to delete paragraph (a).

While there are some safeguards, the all encompassing nature of the grounds in the paragraph gives rise to fears among teachers because it relates to a failure to comply with any aspect of recent education legislation. It could be said that the Minister, Deputy Woods, has failed to comply with a number of those Acts. The provision is much too broad given the amount of legislation. The provision means that if a teacher fails to comply with an aspect of any legislation, he or she can be investigated. The paragraph should be deleted because the other provisions cover all possible situations where a teacher should be investigated.

In tabling the amendment, I was of the opinion that it might impact on the teachers' right to strike. That was the sole basis on which I tabled it. I hope that is not theraison d’ètre for the provision there but it would appear to cut across the right of individuals or groups to embark on industrial action. I would like to know if that is the case, how the Minister can achieve want he wants, which is understandable, without threatening the right to strike.

These matters will be decided by teachers — they will judge the conduct of a teacher.

They are not all teachers.

The majority on each committee will be teachers and they will judge whether some failure to comply with a minor technical requirement brought in in some regulation is sufficient to warrant somebody being investigated and to put the investigation machinery into action. Section 41(1)(a) lists some of the grounds for initiating a fitness to teach inquiry. These are failure “to comply with or contravention of any provision of this Act, the Education Act, 1998, the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000, the Vocational Education Acts, 1930 to 1999, or any regulations, rules or orders made under those Acts.”

Some would argue that this section is too all encompassing and could give rise to fears that complaints may be made against teachers for minor infringements. I believe there are enough safeguards within section 41(3)(b) to ensure minor or isolated infringements will not be used to instigate investigations. All applications will be examined by the direction of the teaching council before any investigation is initiated and the director may refuse an application should he consider that the application is frivolous, vexatious, made in bad faith or an abuse of process.

Having said that, I remind the committee that all the Acts mentioned in this subsection were passed by the Oireachtas. They are a protection for parents and their children and are there to ensure they will have clear grounds in the future to base any valid complaints they may have against a minority of unsuitable teachers. All the Acts mentioned in the subsection allow for the making of regulations and orders. These regulations and orders are the means under which these Acts are put into operation. To accept amendment No. 33 would negate the purpose of this subsection.

However, in relation to Deputy Creed's main point, it has been brought to my attention that this provision may interfere with an individual's right to engage in legitimate trade union dispute. I will check this with my legal adviser and will reconsider the issue again on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 33 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 are related and may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 27, subsection (1)(d), line 36, after "teach" to insert "in accordance with the advice of the Chief Medical Officer".

This is a technical amendment. One of the grounds about which we are talking here is that a person is medically unfit to teach. Again, it is a question of definition. I think it would be helpful if we were to add "in accordance with the advice of the Chief Medical Officer".

My amendment is somewhat similar. The title chief medical officer is not one with which I am familiar but it is probably an established post within the Department for certifying these matters. I have an open mind in relation to Deputy Shortall's amendment and to my own. If someone is deemed medically unfit, that has to be done by somebody who is in a position to so do. That is the concern.

There are two amendments before us and there is a substantial difference between them. With all due respect, the chief medical officer would probably be the worst person to have here. I would imagine there would be a certain amount of bias. I know many people would be unhappy if that was part of the legislation.

Who is the chief medical officer? Is that a Department post?

Yes. I would imagine that if somebody was to embark on this investigation on the basis of medical unfitness and they did not have medical evidence to back them up, they would be in the High Court very quickly. I do not see any great difficulty writing into the legislation that they must have sight of a report from a registered, recognised medical practitioner. I do not think that would do any damage to the legislation — in fact, it might help it slightly. I will recommend to the Parliamentary Counsel that he draw up something along those lines.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 35 not moved.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 28, subsection (5)(b)(ii), line 28, to delete “section” and substitute “sections 24 and”.

Section 41 provides that a person or the council may request the investigating committee to inquire into the fitness to teach of a registered teacher on a number of specified grounds and outlines the procedure that the disciplinary committee must follow in conducting the inquiry. Section 41(5)(b) provides a list of reasons an investigating committee might refuse to consider an application, including a provision that, in general, all local procedures under section 28 of the Education Act, 1998, and procedures under the VEC Acts must have been exhausted. The Bill as currently drafted omits to take account of the provision in section 24 of the Education Act which provides procedures for voluntary, secondary and community/comprehensive schools to appoint, suspend and dismiss teachers. This amendment simply rectifies the matter.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 28, subsection (5)(b)(ii), lines 31 to 33, to delete all words from and including “save” in line 31 down to and including “fact”, in line 33.

The documentation I received from the Teachers Union of Ireland on this matter expresses concern that where disciplinary procedures are being considered, a parallel system of justice should not be operating under vocational education legislation. They should be sequential in that one should be exhausted rather than have them run simultaneously. The amendment might prevent that possibility. There would be some merit in not obliging somebody to defend such an action at two levels simultaneously.

I see the Deputy's point of view. However, in the majority of cases, the teaching council would not even think about considering an application or an appeal until all local procedures have been completed. I must, however, ensure that in the rare case where the local procedures have taken an unacceptable amount of time or where there is an issue of public interest, the council must be allowed to proceed. I would not expect that his provision would be used except in the most exceptional circumstances where either the board of management of the school or the vocational education committee were not in a position to complete their procedures or could not otherwise guarantee the safety or well being of pupils. In those admittedly rare circumstances, the council must have the power to intervene.

I accept the Minister's logic.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 41, as amended, agreed to.
Section 42 agreed to.
SECTION 43.

Amendment No. 39 is an alternative and amendment No. 56 is related to amendment No. 38. Amendments Nos. 38, 39 and 56 may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 30, subsection (1) line 8, after "Where" to insert "having afforded the registered teacher and his or her representatives an opportunity to make oral or written submissions,".

This amendment is self-explanatory and I do not have to elaborate greatly on it. It provides that, either through legal or union representation, written or oral, the subject of such inquiry as to fitness to teach should be in a position to make representation before a decision is reached.

The amendment ensures there is due process, that where a teacher is under investigation he or she would have the right to proper representation and to have the case heard. It is important to specify that in the Bill.

I accept the spirit of what has been said and I agree it is a principle of natural justice that an individual be entitled to make either oral or written submissions in his or her defence and to be represented by his or her trade union representative if he or she so wishes. I intend to take legal advice on the matter for Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The time we are saving here will be made up on Report Stage.

Amendment No. 39 not moved.
Deputy M. Kittresumed the chair.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 30, subsection (1), lines 12 to 17, to delete paragraph (a), and substitute the following:

"(a) that the registered teacher shall be removed from the register,”.

Section 43(1)(a) does not appear to allow for the removal of a teacher from the register without also specifying the period during which he or she shall not be eligible to re-register. The amendment seeks to delete this by providing merely “that the registered teacher shall be removed from the register.” That would be adequate in the circumstances.

This amendment would ensure that one of the decisions the disciplinary committee may reach is to permanently remove a teacher from the register. I accept this is a necessary provision in legislation of this type, however, I do not intend to accept the amendment as this situation is already covered by section 43(1)(a) which provides that the registered teacher shall be removed from the register and shall only be eligible for re-registration within a period specified by the disciplinary committee. This allows the committee to use its discretion — the word “may” is used — in each case and also allows it not to specify any period.

The section as drafted already provides for the effect of the Deputy's amendment. It also allows the committee, where appropriate, to set a time limit before the teacher can apply to re-register. This allows the committee to use its discretion for each case. In such circumstances it would be preferable to retain the existing draft.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 42 and 43 are consequential on amendment No. 41 and amendments Nos. 41 to 43, inclusive, may be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 30, subsection (1), between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:

"(d) that the registered teacher shall be censured.”.

The censures proposed vary from the draconian to the less severe. While a teacher should be the subject of disciplinary action for certain indiscretions, the options provided for are too severe. This amendment provides a modification in that it allows for a teacher to be given a warning. The teacher should be censured to the extent of being notified that the Teaching Council has recognised an indiscretion and is unhappy with it, but that it is not sufficiently serious to warrant a removal or suspension from the register or that he should be retained on the register subject to the four conditions set out in section 43(1)(c). Amendment No. 42 goes on to provide that where a registered teacher has been censured on more than one occasion the disciplinary options set out in section 43(1)(c) shall be invoked. There should be a provision allowing a teacher to get off with a warning for the first censure.

Under this and previous legislation a teacher can be investigated for a range of minor misdemeanours and it should be possible to provide that a warning be given. The Bill provides an insufficient range of options for taking disciplinary action.

Section 43(1)(c)(iv) allows the disciplinary committee general discretion to apply such sanctions as it sees fit. Nothing in that precludes it from including a statement of censure, so amendment No. 41 is unnecessary. With regard to amendment No. 42, it is the function of the committee to decide what level of sanction should be applied in any case. It is inappropriate that the legislation should prescribe further rules on the issue. It must be the responsibility of the committee to judge each case on its merits and to apply an appropriate sanction depending on the circumstances of each case.

Amendment No. 43 is also unnecessary because an application to the High Court, if there was such a case, would have to be in the context of the existing powers of sanction of the disciplinary committee. I will consult further with the Parliamentary Counsel and should a further amendment be necessary I will move it on Report Stage.

Section 43(1)(c)(iv) is too open ended. It could in effect be more severe than the other conditions set out in the paragraph. We are seeking to insert a censure that represents a minimum sanction. I am sure the Minster of State can envisage occasions where there would be a desire not to seriously question a teacher’s career. In such circumstances the teacher should receive no more than a warning. If the incident recurs the range of other sanctions provided for would apply. That makes sense.

We are dealing here with the High Court, which has been given a statutory power to hear an appeal from a decision of a disciplinary committee. One such power is to vary a decision of the committee. While the court is unlikely to introduce a range of disciplinary measures of its own, it will probably vary the decision of the committee, usually to reduce its severity — otherwise a teacher would be unlikely to appeal. Theoretically, it could sometimes be more rigorous.

I am more concerned with amendments Nos. 41 and 42 rather than amendment No. 43.

As already stated, we will consider amendment No. 43 to see if a change is required. I do not believe amendment No. 41 is necessary because it is clear from section 43(1) that a teacher can either be removed by being suspended or by being removed indefinitely or he or she can be retained on the register. A teacher can be retained on the register in accordance with 43(1)(c)(iv) under “such conditions as the Disciplinary Committee thinks fit.” This could mean the disciplinary committee could retain the teacher on the register while issuing a statement of censure against him or her which would probably be recorded on the register.

With regard to amendment No. 42, the disciplinary committee has certain powers and this amendment directs it on how to exercise them. In my opinion it is best left to the committee to decide on how to use its powers. I accept the logic behind Deputy Creed's argument but time will prove the legislation will operate better if it is left as it stands.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 42 and 43 not moved.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 31, subsection (5), line 28, to delete "ex parte" and substitute ", on notice to the registered teacher concerned,".

It seems wrong that a teacher could be struck off without being informed about the application to the High Court. In my view any application should be made on notice to the respondent, in this case the teacher. For that reason, I suggest that we delete the term "ex parte" and that the teacher involved would be notified.

The Bill as a whole provides ample protection for teachers. Section 41 provides that a registered teacher must be provided with a copy of the application for inquiry and be invited to make a submission in writing to the investigating committee. The decision of that committee will be forwarded in writing to the registered teacher, as well as any subsequent decision of the disciplinary committee. In this way, each teacher will be fully aware of the procedures that will be used by the teaching council, particularly its disciplinary committee, in taking any action. It is not, therefore, in my view necessary to once again serve notice on the teacher of its intentions. I would further point out that this would be in the context of a case where unfitness to teach had already been established, albeit by one committee, and where there was a necessity to ensure the teacher was entitled to remain as a fully registered teacher.

As already stated, these procedures are designed to ensure the matter is concluded as quickly as possible and that the rights of all parties are protected throughout. Both the Nurses Act and the Medical Practitioners Act use this specific type of provision.

What are the circumstances in which it would be justified to make it anex parte application? What is the position in relation to notifying the teacher?

What will happen is that the disciplinary and investigating committees will do their work and the teacher concerned will be kept informed of what is happening throughout the entire process. At some stage there is a need for finality. It will take a certain amount of time to complete the various procedures and a final outcome must eventually be reached. These matters cannot be allowed to drag on indefinitely, particularly if a conclusion has been reached following an investigation report. If, at the end of the process outlined, it is concluded that a teacher is unfit to teach, it is in the public interest that he or she should be removed from the register as quickly as possible.

Yes, if the High Court so decides. What is the justification for not notifying the teacher at that point, particularly in view of the fact that there are safeguards throughout the rest of the process?

If the application is not to beex parte and if the attendance of the respondent is required, a respondent could leave the jurisdiction for a period or change address and, thereby, could not be served with the relevant documentation. Effectively, the process would come to a shuddering halt and the name of the person in question would remain on the register as a person who is qualified to teach. I do not believe that is desirable.

I accept the Minister of State's point and I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 45:

In page 31, lines 34 to 38, to delete subsection (6).

Why does the Minister of State want to limit the right of appeal to the Supreme Court? That seems to set a bad precedent. If there was a major issue at stake in relation to the facts of a case, why should the Supreme Court be precluded from reviewing it?

The Deputy must remember that matters of this nature will initially be the subject of a full investigation and a decision will then be taken as to whether they should be submitted to the disciplinary committee. At that point, the disciplinary committee will hold a hearing and then the case will ultimately be re-heard by the High Court. Again, it is a question of finality. The purpose of this section is to ensure that matters are brought to finality by a decision of the High Court. This is necessary to ensure the council does not become embroiled in lengthy court actions which would not change the material decision. Any appeals, following the application of all provisions in this section, would be allowed only on a point of law and would not involve a complete re-investigation of the case.

I will provide an analogy in respect of an area in which I was involved for many years, namely, the taxation system. I refer to a case where a person could receive a tax demand that would literally bankrupt them. In such circumstances the procedure used is that the person is allowed to argue his or her case with an inspector on taxes. If the inspector decides the assessment should stand, the person can appeal to the appeal commissioner and then have the case heard in the Circuit Court — not the High Court. After that, however, the appeal is on a point of law.

In the planning process, a local authority may make a decision and a person may appeal it to An Bord Pleanála. Any appeal to An Bord Pleanála is by way of case stated, by way of judicial review on a point of law. There is a general principle that a point of finality must be reached.

The Supreme Court is not open to long re-hearings, particularly if cases have already been heard by two fora. We do not want to clog up the courts. Generally speaking, the purpose of the Supreme Court is to decide on the finer points of law in respect of particular matters. We would be establishing a precedent if we were to provide for a re-hearing of a case of this nature by the Supreme Court.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 46:

In page 31, subsection (7), line 41, after "practicable," to insert "by notice in writing,".

This section provides for certain actions following a finding of unfitness to teach by a panel of the disciplinary committee. The committee will reach a decision as to the removal, retention or suspension of the teacher. The section further provides for the notification of the decision in writing within 21 days to the relevant parties and for appeals of the decision by the teacher to the High Court. The amendment will ensure that, in line with the previous decision, a decision of the High Court under this section will also issue in writing to all parties. It is being made for the sake for uniformity to make sure both decisions are issued in writing.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 43, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 44 and 45 agreed to.
SECTION 46.

I move amendment No. 47:

In page 32, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following subsection:

"(4) Following a decision under this section by the High Court, the Council shall, as soon as practicable, by notice in writing, inform the teacher, the Minister and, where the teacher is employed as a teacher, his or her employer, of the decision.".

The amendment will ensure that should an application be made to the High Court in the public interest, the teacher, the Minister and the teacher's employer will be informed in writing of the court's decision. This is entirely consistent with section 43.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 46, as amended, agreed to.
Section 47 agreed to.
SECTION 48.

Amendment No. 53 is cognate to amendment No. 48. Both may be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 48;

In page 32, subsection (2), line 35, to delete "1990" and substitute "1999".

This is a technical amendment to update references to the Companies Acts.

I accept the amendment and thank the Deputy for bringing the matter to our attention.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 48, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 49.

I understand the Minister of State wishes to move a short, technical amendment to amendment No. 49 without notice.

I move amendment No. 49:

In page 32, after line 45, to insert the following subsection:

"(2) The Minister shall, out of monies provided by the Oireachtas, indemnify the Council against all costs incurred by it in or in connection with legal proceedings referred to insubsection (1).”.

I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 49:

In line 46 to delete "monies" and substitute "moneys".

I apologise for the lack of notice. As the Bill is drafted, the teaching council could be responsible for any legal proceedings pending against the registration council on establishment day. It would be unfair to burden the newly appointed council with any costs which might result from such proceedings. The amendment will allow such costs to be paid from moneys provided by the Oireachtas. I also propose to make an oral amendment to correct the spelling of "monies" to "moneys" to ensure consistency in the legislation.

Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 49 agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Section 49, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 50 to 52, inclusive, agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 not moved.
Sections 53 to 59, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 60.

I move amendment No. 52:

In page 37, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following subsection:

"(2) Notwithstanding section 10(4) of the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act, 1851, summary proceedings for an offence under this Act may be instituted within 12 months from the date of the offence.".

Under the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act, 1851, summary proceedings for an offence of this nature must be instituted within six months of the date of the offence. The amendment extends the time limit to 12 months to allow for the completion of procedures outlined in the legislation.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 60, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 61.

I move amendment No. 53:

In page 37, subsection (3), line 34, to delete "1990" and substitute "1999".

Amendment agreed to.
Section 61, as amended, agreed to.
First and Second Schedules agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 54 to 56, inclusive, not moved.
Third Schedule agreed to.
TITLE.

I move amendment No. 56a:

In page 5, line 18, to delete "AS".

Amendment agreed to.
Title, as amended, agreed to.

I thank the Minister of State and Deputies Shortall and Creed for their contributions.

I thank the Opposition spokespersons for their constructive and co-operative approach to the legislation. The Bill will be better as a result.

I thank the Minister of State for his open approach to the Bill. He was happy to listen to us and took many views on board. We look forward to Report Stage.

I concur with Deputy Shortall's remarks. The Minister of State has displayed a willingness to take on board some of the points raised. Likewise, we have bowed to his advice in other areas. I look forward to Report Stage.