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 Header Item Public Health (Sunbeds) Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Public Health (Sunbeds) Bill 2013: Referral to Select Committee
 Header Item Health Service Executive (Financial Matters) Bill 2013: Order for Second Stage
 Header Item Health Service Executive (Financial Matters) Bill 2013: Second Stage

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 830 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy James Reilly: Information on James Reilly Zoom on James Reilly] The operator will be required to ensure the client has the opportunity to read and consider the information, and has signed the form confirming he or she has done so before being allowed to use a sunbed.

Concerns have been raised during this debate regarding claims that sunbeds can in some way be good for people or can help with certain conditions such as acne. We know from all the scientific evidence that any claimed benefit for sunbed use is far outweighed by the risks. Where a patient is in need of phototherapy, the Bill provides a clear exemption for such therapy under the supervision of a relevant medical practitioner. Therefore, to avoid industry presenting confusing messages and making health claims for sunbed use, we will prohibit the use of health claims unless such claims are prescribed in regulations. We will also prohibit certain marketing practices aimed at incentivising people to use sunbeds more than they may have originally intended. There will also be a requirement that sunbed use on sunbed premises be supervised.

Through the Bill and the wider Healthy Ireland agenda, we will create awareness of the dangers of using sunbeds. We will promote healthy lifestyle choices among the public by building on this legislation and by supporting and monitoring collaboration between areas such as primary care, hospitals, cancer screening and clinical programmes.

I note the concerns raised by Deputies with regard to the quality of protective eyewear. The Bill requires that such eyewear should comply with the relevant harmonised EU standards.

A question was raised as to why we would require recognised training for those supervising sunbed use. We know that despite all the warnings and information campaigns around cancer risks, some people will continue to insist on using sunbeds. We need to ensure these people are fully aware of the risks, are properly supervised in the use of sunbeds, and that their use of sunbeds takes place in as hygienic an environment as possible. To this end we have, in line with many other jurisdictions, provided for the training of those who will supervise sunbed use.

I have been asked why we would not provide for a prohibition on sunbed use based on skin type. People with skin types 1 and 2 are melano-compromised and the World Health Organization recommends they do not use sunbeds. I strongly agree with this advice. The chief medical officer has suggested that those sections of the adult population at increased risk from ultraviolet radiation could be dealt with by way of regulation rather than prohibition. The HSE national cancer control programme has confirmed a similar viewpoint. The Department of Justice and Equality has advised that a prohibition based on skin type may be incompatible with equality legislation. Recognising the risks and legal complexities, we have taken the decision to deal with this issue by ensuring any adult wishing to use a sunbed is fully informed of the risks and is given appropriate advice to enable him or her to make informed choices.

I was also asked whether consideration was given to the provision of a complete ban on sunbeds in commercial premises. Having reviewed a number of options, it was considered that such a ban would be ineffective for the following reasons. It would simply move sunbed use from commercial premises, which will be regulated, underground to domestic premises where sunbed use would be much more difficult to supervise if it could be done at all. We could not, for example, be assured that warning signs would be in place or that the relevant information on health risks would be available to potential users of sunbeds as well as making it more difficult to protect children. Such an approach would be markedly different from the approach to similarly harmful items, for example, tobacco. It is possible that such a ban would be challenged on EU Internal Market and anti-competitive grounds. Industry might seek compensation through the courts for loss of livelihood. For these reasons it was decided that an outright ban on the use of sunbeds in commercial premises was not appropriate at this time.

I concur with the Deputies who highlighted the need for effective enforcement of this important legislation. I have no intention of passing the Bill for it merely to be left on the shelf. The environmental health service will be responsible for compliance building and enforcement. Environmental health officers, EHOs, have a proven track record in the enforcement of a broad range of environmental health legislation. They play a lead role in the enforcement of food safety and tobacco control legislation. As Deputies will be aware, over the past ten years since the introduction of the smoke-free legislation, EHOs have actively engaged in building compliance. When such efforts have been exhausted, the EHOs have been instrumental in initiating legal proceedings and defending the legislation in the courts. The significance of enforcement is reflected in the consistently high compliance rates of above 90% for smoke-free legislation.

Last November, in preparation for the introduction of this legislation, my Department established a national implementation group with the HSE and the Environmental Health Association of Ireland. This group will work with us in the development of comprehensive information and guidance to facilitate compliance by industry and to inform consumers of the new legislative requirements to protect their health and well-being.

I have listened to the concerns raised regarding the proposed level of penalties. I fully understand and agree with the sentiments expressed. This is why the proposed penalty rates are so significant while still being proportionate. The maximum rate for a first offence will be €4,000 rising to €5,000 for subsequent offences. It will also be possible to commit offenders to prison. These penalties are, as has been noted elsewhere, far higher than the penalties imposed for the sale of alcohol to minors. Given the medical evidence available to us and the worrying trends facing us, it is essential that we act now. I thank all Members of the House for their contributions and I look forward to the Bill being further considered on Committee Stage. I again thank the Deputies opposite for their support.

  Question put and agreed to.

Public Health (Sunbeds) Bill 2013: Referral to Select Committee

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I move:

That the Bill be referred to the Select Sub-Committee on Health pursuant to Standing Orders 82A(3)(a) and (6)(a) and 126(1) of the Standing Orders relative to Public Business.

  Question put and agreed to.

Health Service Executive (Financial Matters) Bill 2013: Order for Second Stage

Bill entitled an Act to amend the Health Act 2004 to provide that the Health Service Executive shall cease to have a separate appropriation vote and shall become part of the appropriation vote of the office of the Minister for Health; to make a consequential amendment to the Valuation Act 2001; and to provide for related matters.

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I move: "That Second Stage be taken now."

  Question put and agreed to.

Health Service Executive (Financial Matters) Bill 2013: Second Stage

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am pleased to introduce the Health Service Executive (Financial Matters) Bill 2013 to the House. The Bill provides for the disestablishment of the Vote of the Health Service Executive and the funding of the executive through the Vote of the Office of the Minister for Health. It also provides for a new statutory financial governance framework.

The Government is reforming the health services and it is reform of unprecedented breadth and depth. It is radical and will ultimately see the introduction of universal health insurance. In November 2012, I set out the building blocks for this reform in Future Health: A Strategic Framework for Reform of the Health Service 2012-2015. Many of the initiatives, such as the eventual replacement of the HSE, will require further legislative changes. The Bill is, therefore, a transitional measure, building on earlier changes provided for in the Health Service Executive (Governance) Act, which was passed last year.

The Health Act 2004 provided that the HSE had its own Vote and that the Minister for Health had no legal role in setting its budget. The House will understand that the intention was to give the HSE greater operational autonomy from what, at the time, was characterised as a politicised decision-making system. In my view, it crucially weakened the accountability of the HSE to the Minister for Health and the Department of Health, and thus this House.

The Bill seeks to rectify that situation by restoring the Vote of the HSE to the Office of the Minister for Health and thus re-establishing appropriate and proper accountability for the HSE to Government. It is also another step on the reform journey, including the dissolution of the HSE, the establishment of a health commissioning agency, new community care structures and the establishment of hospital trusts.


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