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 Header Item Housing (Amendment) Bill 2013: Report and Final Stages (Continued)
 Header Item Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Order for Report Stage
 Header Item Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Report Stage

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 2

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  Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 not moved.

  Bill received for final consideration.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell As all the amendments have been disposed of, I ask the Minister when it is proposed to take Fifth Stage.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch Now.

  Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin The Minister of State has wide skills.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell She multi-tasks.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch On behalf of the Minister responsible, I thank the Deputies for their contributions. While this is a short Bill, the Minister has a particular interest in it, as do those who contributed. I thank all those who contributed, which always adds to the value of any item of legislation.

  Question put and agreed to.

Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Order for Report Stage

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch I move: "That Report Stage be taken now."

  Question put and agreed to.

Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Report Stage

  Amendment No. a1 not moved.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell Amendment No. 1 is in the name of Deputy Ó Caoláin and arises out of committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 1 and 21 are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch I think amendment No. 1 is in the name of Deputy Boyd Barrett but it was ruled out of order.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell Amendment No. a1 was ruled out of order.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:
"(3) Before specifying priorities or performance targets under this section the Minister shall consult with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.".

Amendment No. 1 is good to go; it was amendment No. a1 to which the Minister of State referred. I have every confidence she will adopt amendments Nos. 1 and 21.

  We are proposing this amendment in order to enhance accountability and the role of Oireachtas Members. Having been a Member of this House for 16 years, I believe this is something that needs to be achieved, particularly with regard to the committee system and to that committee on which I currently serve, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children.

  The executive is being abolished and the proposition in the Bill is that more power and responsibility be vested in the Minister. I will refrain from blessing myself at this point but that is something that I might have been tempted to do. There needs to be a balance and there also needs to be openness and transparency. The explanatory memorandum to the Bill, which I appear to have left behind me, states that it is essential that the HSE be properly accountable to the Minister for its performance, and I agree with that. My question, as I highlighted on Second Stage, is this: what about the accountability of the Minister for Health to the Oireachtas, in the first instance, and to the people of this State?

  The engagements we have not only in this Chamber but on a quarterly basis at the health committee and during Dáil questions - including recent occasions on which Deputy Kelleher and I both strongly objected when, as Opposition voices, we were seriously curtailed in the opportunity to perform our role of holding this Minister to account - are all after the fact. Policies, priorities and performance targets are already set and, as we have discovered only in the recent past, these performance reports by the HSE have been somewhat dickied up in order to present a more favourable picture of performance on the part of the HSE and the services over which it is responsible, as exposed earlier this year in correspondence between the offices of the Secretary General and the director designate of the HSE. We are playing catch-up as elected Members in terms of actual performance and trying to see behind the PR smoke-screen that is often put up by the Department and the HSE, of which we have had ample experience. With respect to the Minister of State, Deputy Lynch, she noted all of that when she was an Opposition voice in this Chamber over many years, and, sadly, the situation has not changed one iota since this Government took up office and the Minister, Deputy Reilly, took the helm of the health services.

  The health committee should have a direct input. It should be consulted. The members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children, as it is designated, work very well together in an earnest effort to address issues collegially and in the interest of the wider public whom we are elected to serve, and, as best as we can, we leave our respective political differences aside in seeking to address matters in the most serious and effective way.

  Amendment No. 1 contains a very simple formula and its purpose is as I have described - to provide that "[b]efore specifying priorities or performance targets under this section the Minister shall consult with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children". It is simple but appropriate, and worthy of the Minister of State's support. I commend the amendment to the Minister of State.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch I thank the Deputy for his amendment. The Bill provides for the abolition of the board of the HSE - not the HSE itself - and the establishment of a new governance structure, namely, a directorate, which will be headed by a director general. Second, it provides for further accountability arrangements for the HSE. The Bill is a transitional measure and it is intended to help prepare the health system for the changes ahead. It does not provide for the abolition of the HSE and I am sure the Deputy fully understands that.

The Minister appreciates the views expressed on Committee Stage on the value of real engagement between public representatives and the HSE. He does not, however, believe that amendments No. 1 and 21 reflect an appropriate approach to such engagement. He remains of the view expressed on Committee Stage in regard to these amendments. The purpose of section 10A is to enable the Minister to specify priorities, to which the HSE must have regard in preparing its service plan, and also to establish performance targets in respect of those priorities.


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