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Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2019: Committee Stage (Continued)

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris] In keeping with the constructive approach everybody is taking to the Bill I sought legal guidance on Deputy Donnelly's amendments and the view I received from the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel was that the current wording was the conventional constructed wording and to do anything else would dilute it. That is the advice I wish to convey to Deputy Donnelly.

  The consequence of adopting the approach outlined in amendments Nos. 8 and 21 would be to impose an additional obligation on the Minister for Health to lay such orders before the Dáil having already received that consent. Such an approach would introduce an additional layer of complexity to the legislative process which is not considered necessary or to be required considering what we are trying to do, which is just to maintain the status quo. In addition, the requirement for a positive resolution of the Dáil in the manner proposed would have the potential to act as a barrier and a delaying mechanism to the timely approval of the necessary legislation, for example, during times when the Oireachtas might not be sitting.

  For the reasons I have outlined and taking into account the urgent and emergency nature of the legislation and the extremely limited timeframe for its enactment, I must decline to accept the amendments in this group owing to the legal advice available to me.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Before responding to the Minister, I have a question on the order for this session. Has it been agreed to guillotine this session?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Yes.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Would it be possible to put the time on the clocks in order that we can keep an eye on it? If votes are called, what will the procedure be? Will there be time at the end of given periods to call votes or if we are in the middle of debate when we hit that time, will there be opportunities to call votes?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy can call a vote at any stage.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The debate on each Part is being guillotined. Let us say we reach zero on the clock and are in the middle of debate, will the opportunity to call a vote or press an amendment be lost?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl It must be taken from the time permitted.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly If we were to reach the end mid-debate-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Yes.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly -----there would be no opportunity to press an amendment.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl No.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Thank you. I just wanted to check.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney For the sake of clarity, if a vote is called, I presume the clock will be stopped while the vote is taking place. Is that right, or does it form part of the hour allocated?

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane No. That is the reason we opposed the Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We will circulate a note to Members to clarify matters.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I have two questions, but I wish to make a point before asking them. The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, stated unequivocally that the current healthcare arrangements between the United Kingdom and Ireland would remain in place no matter what. That is what I heard and he is nodding in confirmation. I hope that is true, but it is a very brave thing to say. For example, the treatment abroad scheme is not an Ireland-UK arrangement but an EU programme. Can it not be the case that there is a Brexit in which the United Kingdom is no longer in the EU programme? How can we guarantee that whatever agreements are in place based on an EU programme that many Irish citizens use, under no circumstances will they not be available in the future? If that is the level of insight and foresight the Minister has, that is fantastic, but I would be very surprised if that was the case.

  It is entirely possible that the United Kingdom will change regulations post Brexit. In fact, its parliament has stated repeatedly that it will be changing regulations in a variety of areas. If the United Kingdom were to change regulations on product safety for pharmaceutical and medical products, procedures and protocols for procedures, import and export protocols and professional qualifications, be it for consultants, nurses, midwives, physiotherapists, radiographers and the gamut of healthcare professionals, it is possible and quite likely that some combinations of qualifications, medicines, procedures, protocols, check backs, audits and so forth implemented in the United Kingdom would no longer be recognised by the European Union. Regardless of what happens or what changes the United Kingdom makes to its regulations, procedures, training, qualifications and so forth and even where the European Union states it no longer accepts a procedure or particular professional qualification and that while a particular drug is regulated for use for a certain purpose in the United Kingdom, the European Medicines Agency has not signed off on it and it is not useable here, the Minister has made a definitive statement that post Brexit no services will be impacted on in any way. That is great if it is true, but it does not sound right. He did not give a caveat in any way. Is there a caveat in that statement? If it is true, that is fantastic, but I do not see how the Minister can make such statements at this point.

  The Minister has stated the consent of the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform will be needed is the legal advice he received. Of course, there is nothing conventional or established about the legislation we are considering. Putting aside the constitutional question about the Dáil which is an important one to be resolved, if the sitting Minister for Health must make a decision on a change to regulations for the training of radiographers in Northern Ireland, for example, or the delisting of a particular anaesthetic used in the NHS, why would that Minister ever need to ask the Minister for Finance for permission? To me, that sounds as if the Minister should also ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport or the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The Minister for Finance has no role in dealing with such detailed regulatory issues. Why would the Minister need consent from the Minister for Finance before making any change to arrangements or regulations in maintaining the status quo in healthcare?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I call Deputy Bríd Smith.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith Will the Minister answer that question first?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl No.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith You want me to ask my question first.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl It is up to the Deputy what she wants to do.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith The previous Deputy said it was a brave thing to say, but I accept it. I accept that it is the Minister's intention to have reciprocal arrangements, which is very welcome. It is an indicator that across the House no Member will welcome a hard border and that we want the status quo to continue. However, I am a little shocked that the Minister does not want to have any discussion on the floor of the House about the possibility of extending the provisions of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act to Northern Ireland.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris That is not my decision.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith It would allow the women of Northern Ireland who showed so much solidarity to us throughout a hard campaign, to avail of a reciprocal arrangement. They would be able to avail of that service on the same basis as women here, but no such discussion is being allowed.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris That is not my decision.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Minister will have an opportunity to respond.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I also warmly welcome the very firm assurance given by the Minister for Health that all services currently enjoyed by citizens of the Republic of Ireland in Northern Ireland and Great Britain will continue to be enjoyed, regardless of what form Brexit takes. That is an important issue.

I have a question about the new information the Minister for Health has given to the House that today the Cabinet approved the memorandum of understanding on the common travel area arrangements between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. The CTA is about far more than common travel arrangements. For the first time in the memorandum of understanding there is a codified body of reciprocal rights which in many instances amount to joint citizenship. They will allow Irish people to work, live, draw social welfare payments, receive full health benefits and vote in the United Kingdom. There will be the same rights for United Kingdom citizens living here.


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