Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Right to Housing) Bill 2017: First Stage (Continued)
 Header Item Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2017: First Stage
 Header Item Standing Orders: Motion

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

  4 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett]  I was not aware until recently that, at the time of the debate on the Lisbon treaty, one of the derogations the then Fianna Fáil Government sought from the Charter of Fundamental Rights was, incredibly, in respect of the article on the right to housing. This indicates the disposition of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, which we saw last week with their position on Deputy Pringle's Thirty-Fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) Bill. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are absolutely resistant to establishing a right to housing in the Constitution. This is despite the fact that 84% of those involved with the Constitutional Convention, which the Government set up, said they wanted the right to housing to be inserted into the Constitution. Even its own body has injuncted the Government to establish this right. We have an unprecedented housing emergency that gets worse by the day. The Government's plans have utterly failed to address this but it still resists inserting the right to housing in the Constitution. This is the most elementary right. A Government which cannot secure the basic right to put a roof over the heads of our citizens does not deserve to be in office. If it cannot do that, what the hell can it do? It self-evidently cannot do that. Rebuilding Ireland is an abject and utter failure. Every day the situation gets worse. It is all because of the Government’s ideological commitment to private interests which make money from property.

Last week, I raised the case of a young homeless woman, Sinead, who was told she had to travel 12 km with her young daughter to Francis Street. In fairness, I did get a call from the Minister because he was obviously embarrassed by this. Sinead is now self-accommodated in a hotel in Dún Laoghaire. However, she told me this morning it is only until 7 April, when she will be left insecure again. Will she be put into squalid tenement housing, as some people are, or accommodation with chronic damp, full of drug users, as others have been? Alternatively, will the State have a legal obligation to give her a secure roof over her head? What about child welfare? The homeless child is subject to all of this.

What about the case of Antonia, a woman with two children, whose father suffers from motor neurone disease? She has a four-bed housing need and was granted housing priority in 2012. In the past few weeks, however, she has been given notice to quit by her landlord. When average rents in Dún Laoghaire are €2,300, housing assistance payment, HAP, offers €1,900 for housing which does not exist. This is what is going on. This is the human suffering.

Will the Government listen to the Constitutional Convention, take seriously the housing emergency and support this Bill to insert the right to housing into our Constitution?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is the Bill opposed?

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty No.

  Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Tairgim: "Go dtógfar an Bille in am Comhaltaí Príobháideacha."

  I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

  Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.

  Question put and agreed to.

Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2017: First Stage

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to require medical practitioners to declare any income or gift received from medical suppliers or pharmaceutical companies to the Medical Council in statutory declaration annually.

I will outline the broad principles behind this Bill. I hope we get to Committee Stage at some point in the future, although it looks like it might the distant future in light of the many Private Members’ Bills being tabled. However, we endeavour to try and bring forward legislation which we feel would have a meaningful impact.

  The purpose of this Bill is to make it a legislative requirement that there would be a statutory declaration by consultants, clinicians and other medical practitioners in the context of donations or gifts made to them by pharmaceutical companies and other companies involved in the health care sector. The purpose of this is to bring transparency to the whole issue where, at times, people may receive a gift or some other service from a company which might be providing medicines, therapies or technologies to either the clinician or to broader health sector. This is a meaningful and purposeful Bill. I do not believe it would put an extraordinary burden on individuals to set up a statutory declaration of gifts worth over €600 which would have to be registered with the Medical Council.

  In the years ahead, there will be significant advances in medical technologies, medicines, fourth-generation medicines and orphan drugs. In that context, it is important that there is a full transparency and openness in terms of who is funding who in health care. With this particular issue, it would be a requirement of clinicians and medical practitioners. In some hospitals and other HSE services, certain front-line practitioners are funded by health care companies. While we welcome the fact that they are providing the service, equally, and importantly, it must be open and transparent to ensure that there can be no perceived or actual conflicts of interest, particularly as we are talking about serious ethical issues and significant sums of public moneys in the health system.

  While I am not ascribing any ethical misdemeanour to any individual clinician, who is overseeing those prescribing medicines in the context of trends relating to companies and medicines? If there was a register whereby all clinicians and medical practitioners would be obliged to make a statutory declaration once a year for gifts over €600, I believe it would bring transparency to the issue. The term “declarable incomings” relates to payment or a service from a medical equipment supplier, agents of a pharmaceutical company or others. A “gift” means a voluntary transfer of money grant for research, bursary service or property without compensation above a value of €600. There is a role in this legislation for the Minister to ensure the establishment of the statutory declaration with the Medical Council. In the event of a medical practitioner failing to declare, the sanction will be referral to the Medical Council.

  The reason I tabled this Bill is because some eminent clinicians came to me and expressed concern that the issue of pharmaceutical companies interacting with clinicians, and supporting them in a meaningful way, is becoming more pervasive in Ireland and across the western world. In a previous life as a Minister of State with responsibility for trade, I always supported the collaboration of business companies, pharmaceutical companies, universities and the State. We must also ensure, however, that there are clean lines of demarcation and that there is no overlapping or greying of the ethical barriers critical to health care.

  I know this Bill will have to be taken in Private Members’ time. To be honest, we need a lot of Private Members’ time to get through the number of Bills backing up in the system. If we could pick out a few from time to time and give new politics an opportunity to work in a non-partisan, bipartisan, tripartisan or whatever way, Bills such as this would be meaningful. It may annoy some people and make others uncomfortable. For the good of health care, openness and transparency and ensuring that medical practitioners have no suspicions about how they are funded, this Bill is critically important. I commend it to the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is the Bill opposed?

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty No.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

  Question put and agreed to.

Standing Orders: Motion

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I move:

That, in accordance with the recommendation of the Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform under Standing Order 107(1)(a), the Standing Orders of Dáil Éireann relative to Public Business be amended as follows:
(a) in Standing Order 84, in paragraph (2) (ad) by the substitution of ‘Standing Order 111A(1)’ for ‘Standing Order 111A’;

(b) by the adoption of the following Standing Order in substitution for Standing Order 108:

‘108. (1) There shall stand established, following the reassembly of the Dáil subsequent to a general election, a Standing Committee, to be known as the Working Group of Committee Chairmen, which shall consider the operation of Committees generally.

(2) The membership of the Committee shall be the Chairman of each Standing, Select, Special and Joint Committee, with the exception of the Committee on Procedure and the Business Committee, and the quorum of the Committee shall be six.

(3) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), the Committee may consider–

(a) the effectiveness of the Committee system,

(b) reform and policy proposals relating to, or impacting on, the Committee system,

(c) matters of common interest to Committee Chairmen and the issuing of guidance for Committees generally,

(d) scheduling of legislation in Committees,

(e) proposals which affect the delivery of services to Committees, and

(f) any other matter on which it may be consulted under paragraph (7).

(4) The Committee shall, in particular, consider and decide on–

(a) apportionment of moneys available to Committees for consultancy and travel, subject to the consent of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission; and

(b) allocation of accommodation available for Committee meetings:

Provided that this paragraph shall not apply to the Committee on Procedure or the Business Committee.

(5) The Taoiseach shall appear before the Committee in both the Spring and the Autumn Dáil sessions to discuss matters of public policy, and the Committee shall agree an agenda for those meetings with the Taoiseach in advance.

(6) The Committee may, subject to the provisions of legislation governing the Houses of the Oireachtas Service, and the consent of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission where appropriate, make recommendations on any matter relevant to the provision of services to Committees falling within its remit.

(7) The Committee may consult with, and be consulted by, the Committee on Procedure, the sub-Committee on Dáil Reform, and the Business Committee in relation to matters affecting Committees. The Committee may make such recommendations to those bodies in relation to matters affecting Committees as it considers appropriate.

(8) The party in Government or the group (as defined in Standing Order 143) which has been allocated the most Chairman posts under the d’Hondt system, pursuant to Standing Order 93(2), shall nominate one of its Chairmen for appointment by the House as Chairman of the Committee.

(9) The Committee shall have the powers defined in Standing Order 85(1), (2), (3), (5), (8) and (9).

(10) Until further notice in the 32nd Dáil, the Working Group of Committee Chairmen shall, with effect from the date of adoption of this substitute Standing Order, stand appointed as the Committee under this Standing Order, and the membership, Chairman, papers and any work programme of the Working Group shall be those of the Committee.’;

and

(c) in Standing Order 111A, by the insertion of the following paragraph after paragraph (1):

‘(1A) The Committee may also consider a matter of general public concern or interest in relation to the legislative powers of the Houses of the Oireachtas or an issue of public policy: Provided that prior to the commencement of such consideration, the Chairman of the Joint Committee shall consult with the relevant Committee established pursuant to Standing Order 84A.’.”

  Question put and agreed to.


Last Updated: 03/03/2020 15:23:27 First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page