Wednesday, 29 June 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
It is critical that any provision made under section 55 of the Bill, or any regulations made under such a provision, should be brought before the Oireachtas. The power given under subsection (5) means that the Minister may make regulations to exclude the application of subsection (3), which relates to the exemption of farmers from carrying out particular procedures, such as administering an antibiotic or another form of medicine. Currently, procedures such as the paring of sheep hooves and the dehorning of cattle are done on a regular basis. The administration of medicines, whether as doses or inter-muscular injections, are exempted at this time and a farmer can carry out such procedures under section 55 of the legislation. It is only right and appropriate that this is the case.
I have no difficulty with the principle that the Minister can bring forward regulation exclusions because procedures may change at some stage in the future. However, it is vitally important that they receive a positive decision from the Houses of the Oireachtas before the Minister implements any of the regulations. We have witnessed the situation in terms of prescription-only medicines, and there is no guarantee that it will be debated by the Houses of the Oireachtas. I hope we will be given the opportunity to tease out the issues when the occasion arises later this year. However, we do not have a right to debate the detail of those regulations. It is up to members of the Opposition to table a motion in order for them to be debated and the Government can then use its majority to block it.
The situation is the same in this case. If we are to water down the rights of farmers to carry out various procedures on animals, it is imperative that the Minister is able to present a definitive argument to the House as to why he or she believes the regulation should be brought forward at that time and why there should be a restriction with regard to the procedures farmers can carry out on their farms and on their animals.
Amendment No. 14 is similar and elaborates on the issue of regulation of veterinary practice. Under section 59, the regulations provide for the practice of veterinary medicine by non-registered persons. Again, the issue is what will be exempted from the regulations. This was discussed on Committee Stage and it is self-explanatory. However, amendment No. 10 is critical. It is imperative that these issues are put before the House and teased out in detail and that the Minister explains why farmers should be precluded from carrying out a particular procedure, whatever that procedure.
Dr. Upton: This is similar to one of the amendments we discussed yesterday and the reasons for the discussion are the same. When regulations are being made it is very important that there is an opportunity to discuss them and their implications. There is no automatic right that we would have a full debate, if necessary, on the regulations. We highlighted this issue as it related to a different amendment yesterday and, indeed, it was raised on Committee Stage too. I do not want to rehash the entire argument now but I agree with Deputy Naughten that it is important that the option should be available that regulations come before the House and we have the opportunity to discuss them in detail.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Browne): As the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Coughlan, pointed out, this issue was addressed in detail on Committee Stage. Deputies Naughten and Crawford again propose, by means of amendment No. 10, that regulations made under section 55(5) must be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. They also propose, by means of amendment No. 14, to change the form of laying procedure, to be followed when the Minister makes regulations regarding emergencies. This latter amendment also has implications for section 55(5).
In the case of sections 55 and 59, provision is made for the laying of ministerial regulations before both Houses of the Oireachtas, with the standard 21 day annulment procedure. The main purpose of these regulation-making powers is to enable the Minister to deal with difficulties that arise under section 55(2) or section 55(3). Therefore, this provision is generally not intended in any way to broaden this provision but rather to do the opposite, if necessary. In these circumstances, the requirement to lay the regulation before the Oireachtas, as set out in the Bill, is a more appropriate approach and, therefore, I do not propose to accept these amendments.
Mr. Naughten: The Minister of State is making my argument for me. I accept that the reason for the procedure and the provision is not to broaden but to restrict what were, up to now, common agricultural practices carried out by farmers on their farms. Subsequent to the Minister bringing in the regulation, there will automatically be an additional cost to farmers because what the Minister will do is exclude a particular procedure which, up to that point, was carried out by farmers and rule that it will have to be carried out by a veterinary practitioner. That will mean a fee for the call-out of the vet and the cost of carrying out the procedure, whatever it might be. In those circumstances, the Minister for Agriculture and Food should be prepared and willing to come before this House to explain why he or she believes that such a restriction should go ahead. The standard procedure with the 21 day annulment clause is not appropriate in this case because it does not provide for this issue to be debated.
In 2000, the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government accepted an amendment providing for the bringing of procedures and regulations back before the House for debate. Indeed, that is what we did earlier today regarding that Department and the Planning and Development Bill. I cannot see why such a provision cannot be allowed here, especially as it relates to this particular issue. It is critically important that farmers are protected, that the Minister gives detailed reasons he or she is bringing forward these regulations to restrict procedures that would have been standard up to that point, carried out by farmers on farms across the country.
Mr. Browne: As I said, the Minister for Agriculture and Food has given this matter serious consideration since the Committee Stage debate. She is happy that the precedent in this House has always been that the making of an order would be placed before both Houses of the Oireachtas with the standard 21-day annulment provision, except in exceptional circumstances. Deputy Naughten has referred to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, but in my Department, where we introduce levies or charges, they are always laid before this House before the regulation is made by the Minister. The Minister for Agriculture and Food is happy that what she is doing is correct and is in accordance with precedent in this House over many years.
Mr. Naughten: The difficulty is that this is a charge. The reality is that when the Minister excludes a particular procedure that up to now was carried out as a standard operating practice on a farm, it will mean a charge because it will be up to a veterinary practitioner to carry out that procedure. That is why I believe that such a regulation should come before the House.
|Allen, Bernard.||Boyle, Dan.|
|Breen, James.||Broughan, Thomas P.|
|Bruton, Richard.||Burton, Joan.|
|Connaughton, Paul.||Cowley, Jerry.|
|Crawford, Seymour.||Crowe, Seán.|
|Cuffe, Ciarán.||Deasy, John.|
|Deenihan, Jimmy.||Durkan, Bernard J.|
|English, Damien.||Enright, Olwyn.|
|Gilmore, Eamon.||Harkin, Marian.|
|Hayes, Tom.||Higgins, Michael D.|
|Hogan, Phil.||Howlin, Brendan.|
|Kehoe, Paul.||Kenny, Enda.|
|Lynch, Kathleen.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McGrath, Paul.||McManus, Liz.|
|Mitchell, Olivia.||Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.|
|Murphy, Catherine.||Murphy, Gerard.|
|Naughten, Denis.||Neville, Dan.|
|Noonan, Michael.||Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.|
|Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.||O’Dowd, Fergus.|
|O’Keeffe, Jim.||O’Shea, Brian.|
|O’Sullivan, Jan.||Pattison, Seamus.|
|Penrose, Willie.||Perry, John.|
|Rabbitte, Pat.||Ring, Michael.|
|Ryan, Seán.||Sargent, Trevor.|
|Sherlock, Joe.||Shortall, Róisín.|
|Stagg, Emmet.||Stanton, David.|
|Twomey, Liam.||Upton, Mary.|
|Ahern, Michael.||Ahern, Noel.|
|Andrews, Barry.||Ardagh, Seán.|
|Blaney, Niall.||Brady, Johnny.|
|Brady, Martin.||Brennan, Seamus.|
|Browne, John.||Callanan, Joe.|
|Callely, Ivor.||Carey, Pat.|
|Carty, John.||Cassidy, Donie.|
|Collins, Michael.||Cowen, Brian.|
|Cregan, John.||Cullen, Martin.|
|Curran, John.||Davern, Noel.|
|Dempsey, Noel.||Dempsey, Tony.|
|Dennehy, John.||Devins, Jimmy.|
|Ellis, John.||Fahey, Frank.|
|Finneran, Michael.||Fitzpatrick, Dermot.|
|Fleming, Seán.||Fox, Mildred.|
|Gallagher, Pat The Cope.||Glennon, Jim.|
|Grealish, Noel.||Hanafin, Mary.|
|Haughey, Seán.||Healy-Rae, Jackie.|
|Hoctor, Máire.||Keaveney, Cecilia.|
|Kelleher, Billy.||Kelly, Peter.|
|Killeen, Tony.||Kirk, Seamus.|
|Lenihan, Brian.||Lenihan, Conor.|
|McDowell, Michael.||McEllistrim, Thomas.|
|McGuinness, John.||Martin, Micheál.|
|Moloney, John.||Moynihan, Donal.|
|Moynihan, Michael.||Mulcahy, Michael.|
|Nolan, M.J.||Ó Cuív, Éamon.|
|Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.||O’Connor, Charlie.|
|O’Dea, Willie.||O’Donnell, Liz.|
|O’Donovan, Denis.||O’Keeffe, Batt.|
|O’Keeffe, Ned.||O’Malley, Fiona.|
|O’Malley, Tim.||Parlon, Tom.|
|Power, Peter.||Power, Seán.|
|Roche, Dick.||Sexton, Mae.|
|Smith, Brendan.||Smith, Michael.|
|Walsh, Joe.||Woods, Michael.|
I tabled this amendment because it came to my notice from talking to a number of farmers in recent weeks that where Caesarean sections, especially emergency ones, must be carried out on cattle, it has increasingly become the case that veterinary practitioners want the animals to be brought into their premises to carry out the procedure. Up to now the vast majority of Caesarean sections on cows were performed on the farm, but this is not now the case. Given the difficulty this requirement presents and having regard to the provisions of the animal movement regulations in place, it is imperative to make provision in this regard.
The Minister said on Committee Stage that the animal health Bill would deal with this issue, but that Bill is still promised and nothing has happened in respect of it. That Bill has many implications and it will not have an easy passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas. In the meantime farmers will be left in an unenviable position in that they will not be cross-compliant if they bring an animal to a veterinary practice for a Caesarean section. This is the practice in some parts of the country and vets will not perform the procedure on the farm, rather in their premises. In light of that, I ask the Minister of State to provide for such circumstances by accepting this amendment to ensure that farmers will not be in breach of the regulations until we can thrash out this issue when we debate the animal health Bill.
Dr. Upton: I support this amendment on the basis that if there is not such a provision, farmers will face a difficulty if such an emergency were to arise. An animal welfare issue may arise under the Bill as drafted. If the Bill were passed, a farmer who moved an animal in such an emergency may technically be in breach of the law or, alternatively, the farmer may decide not to move the animal if he or she is to operate within the law. That would be an invidious situation. On that basis I support the amendment.
Mr. Browne: This amendment proposes to provide an emergency clause to cover animals being brought to a veterinary premises. As Deputy Naughten said, the Minister, Deputy Coughlan, outlined the reason she would not agree to this amendment. First, it is not a matter for this legislation, rather it is more appropriate to the animal diseases legislation. Second, there would be serious doubts about providing for such a general exemption to animal movement rules, particularly in the case of highly contagious diseases. The matter would need careful consideration and it is not one for this legislation. It will be discussed when the animal diseases legislation comes before the House.
I raised this issue on Committee Stage because under the legislation, as drafted, it seems harsh that it is a criminal offence for a vet to advertise or use any qualification that is not registered on the register. The deletion of the words proposed in the amendment would address that anomaly. If the qualification in question is one a vet holds, it seems harsh that the use of such a title should give rise to an issue of criminality. Acceptance of this amendment would clarify the position to the effect that a vet is committing an offence by claiming to have a qualification which he or she does not have and it is not necessary that the qualification be registered on the register to avoid criminal liability. A vet should be obliged to register all the details but such provision could be dealt with elsewhere in the legislation.
Mr. Browne: Deputy Upton proposes to delete the phrase “the details of which are registered on the Register” from section 56. The Minister, Deputy Coughlan, indicated on Committee Stage that she would reflect further on these issues. Subsequently, she had the matter further examined in the Department in consultation with the Attorney General’s office and the Veterinary Council of Ireland. As has already been indicated, the current wording of this section is primarily designed to ensure that the public is not misled as a result of a registered person displaying, for example, on the signage for his or her premises a title or a qualification which he or she does not in reality possess.
Sections 46 and 50 make provision for registration of specialties and additional qualifications where they would be a matter of public record and could assist a member of the public in choosing the best practitioner. It is desirable that letterheads and signage belonging to a practice should match the qualifications registered with the council and that an incentive is provided with a view to ensuring that this is the case. However, as has been said previously, if a person merely overlooks the registered qualification or specialty which that person genuinely holds, it would simply be a matter for him or her to rectify this when attention has been drawn to the oversight by the council. One could not envisage a person being subject to disciplinary proceedings in a situation where he or she has failed to register a qualification which he or she possesses unless that person, having been advised of the oversight, refused to do so. Accordingly, the words which are registered in the register could play an important part in ensuring that the public has accurate information available on which to base the choice of practitioner. The Minister consulted the Veterinary Council of Ireland and the Attorney General’s office and both were of the view that the amendment is not required.
I do not accept the argument put forward by the Minister on Committee Stage for not accepting the amendment tabled on this matter. The veterinary profession is strongly lobbying that its practitioners should be the ones who would be entitled to issue prescription only medicines in this area. That is not provided for in the directive on this area that we will receive from Brussels but that is the interpretation veterinary surgeons are putting on it.
While veterinary surgeons are seeking to have the right to write prescriptions and issue medicines, the practice to date has and will continue to be that they do not issue the medicines, rather they get their staff to do so. The medicines are given out and the prescriptions are written up later. That is what happens on a day-to-day basis. If veterinary practitioners want to have the right to issue prescriptions and particular medicines, the practice of doing so should be solely a matter for them. I do not understand why a person who is qualified to issue medicines in an animal health store or in a co-operative cannot issue them because of a change in the regulations while a veterinary practitioner can get a person who has no qualifications but simply works under the banner of a veterinary practitioner to issue veterinary medicine.
In her response to an amendment on this matter on Committee Stage, the Minister said acceptance of it would mean that only vets could issue prescriptions but as the Minister has repeated on numerous occasions, this is not the legislation to deal with that matter. That type of action should be specified. If it is designated that a vet should issue a particular type of prescription, he or she should not be able to pass that off to an unqualified employee to issue the medicine.
Dr. Upton: I support this amendment based on what Deputy Naughten has just stated. It is a rather unusual situation if the vet may pass along the facility to write or deliver a prescription when somebody else, for example, in a co-operative cannot do it. This has been the tradition up to now. If it were to be made fair, including this amendment in the legislation would take care of matters. There has been a good deal of discussion with the various interested parties on the issuing of prescriptions and it is a critical area. This is an important amendment.
Mr. Browne: I refer to amendment No. 13 in the names of Deputies Naughten and Crawford. The Minister, Deputy Coughlan, indicated on Committee Stage that she did not believe that this amendment was appropriate for this legislation. There is separate legislation on animal remedies involving the number of statutory instruments made under the Animal Remedies Act 1993. On the point at issue, that is, who is to be allowed to prescribe prescription-only veterinary medicines, this is already covered in the Animal Remedies Regulations 1996 where this function is reserved to veterinary practitioners.
There are concerns arising from the forthcoming implementation of the new EU legislation, particularly with prescribing. However, as the Minister pointed out on Committee Stage, this amendment, if accepted, would copperfasten in primary legislation the exclusive rights of veterinary practitioners as prescribers — from which Deputy Crawford’s remarks on the previous occasion appear to be the opposite of his objective. In any event, given that the question of prescribing falls under the animal remedies legislation, I suggest we deal with this matter in that context.
I would have serious concerns if this were to copperfasten in primary legislation the rights of veterinarians only to prescribe because I have had representations from numerous bodies and back bench and Front Bench Deputies on this issue arguing that vets should not be given exclusive rights. The Minister is quite adamant that if this amendment were accepted, we would be saying in effect that vets only can prescribe and that is not acceptable.
Mr. Naughten: I dispute the Minister of State’s interpretation and he is trying to use that argument to muddy the waters. I do not believe that is the situation. Section 57 makes it an offence for a registered person to employ an unregistered person to carry out practices that should normally be done by someone who is registered. The reality is that prescription-only veterinary medicines are being issued by the staff of veterinary practitioners. If at some future date intramammaries and other medicines were to be made prescription-only, the reality is the vet would not be around to issue them. A member of his or her staff would do it. Whether it is in this legislation or in the regulations that are coming forward later in the year, if the issuing of particular medicines is limited to a vet, then it should only be the vet who issues them and not his or her staff. Some of the vets are looking for the powers to issue medicines but do not want to deal with the practicalities involved in the day-to-day issuing of them. That is the reason for the amendment. I accept what the Minister of State is saying. I ask him to ensure that this anomaly is addressed when the animal remedies regulations are being dealt with because it is imperative that the system is not abused. I hope that the list available to vets is extremely limited and reduced from what it is at present. On the issue being discussed, if a vet is required, then it should only be a vet.
Dr. Upton: I agree with Deputy Naughten’s interpretation. What the amendment does by including this phrase is to state clearly that the vet must be the person to issue prescription-only medicines in this particular context. The other issue is one that must be debated separately, but to include the amendment does not mean that only vets may issue those prescriptions. That is not what is intended. However, if the current situation in practice is that people who are non-veterinarians issue prescriptions and other people are precluded from so doing, then it is fair that this part of the amendment should be included in the legislation.
Mr. Browne: Under the animal remedies regulations it is specifically required that a vet should write prescriptions. It is an offence if others do it. I assure the Deputies that under the legislation forthcoming in line with EU changes, this particular issue will be dealt with.
We would like the word, “triable”, removed and substituted by “which, in the opinion of the Council, would have been appropriate for trial”. We discussed this on Committee Stage and the section as it stands is very broad. There is a contradiction between the side note, “where persons convicted on indictment of an offence”, and the text which refers to persons convicted of an offence triable on indictment, which includes summary offences which are not tried on indictment. The danger is that these could include a multitude of very minor offences. The problem with section 83 is that there is no test, criterion or requirement by which the council should judge whether a person should be struck off the register by reason of having been convicted of an offence. The amendment would use the wording set out, for example, in section 47(2)(d). That makes it clear that merely being convicted of an offence per se is not sufficient but that the offence should be one which renders it, in the opinion of the council, inappropriate for the person to practise veterinary medicine or nursing, as the case may be. It cannot just refer to any offence, rather to one that specifically relates to where it is inappropriate for the person to practise the profession of veterinary nursing or medicine.
Mr. Naughten: I support Deputy Upton’s amendments. She has made a valid point. An ambiguity exists within the legislation which should be addressed. It is appropriate that it should be addressed in this manner. A person might be convicted of something that is completely unrelated and may have nothing to do with how he or she practises as a veterinary practitioner. While it may have no implications for practising veterinary medicine, it seems that the council’s hands will be tied in this regard.
Mr. Browne: Following the raising of these issues by Deputy Upton on Committee Stage, the Minister undertook to return to this matter again when the legislation came back into the House. She has given further consideration to it and had consultations with the Office of the Attorney General. She believes the Bill as drafted strikes the correct balance. An example by way of illustration is a practitioner who steals €500 from a client. Such an offence could be tried in the District or Circuit Court. However, if proceeded with in the lower court, this should not of itself prevent the council from looking into the matter since, taken in context, it is a serious matter. The current provision does nothing more than give the option to the council to proceed. If, having considered the matter, the council decides to do so, the normal procedures will kick in, including a full right of appeal to the High Court.
While I fully understand the concern for the rights of the accused underpinning the amendment, balance is required. I emphasise that this is a “may” provision and, as such, does not imply that a person will be automatically struck off because of such conviction. The council will be required to examine the matter thoroughly and reach a view on whether the person’s ability to practise has been compromised and whether the profession might be damaged by virtue of the person remaining registered. For this reason, I remain of the view that a reasonable balance has been struck and, in light of the Minister’s consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, it is not proposed to accept the amendments.
Dr. Upton: I disagree with the Minister of State’s assertion. Far be it for me to enter into a dispute with the Attorney General, but it strikes me that the words “appropriate for trial”, which would be inserted by the amendment, take account of the example.
The purpose of the amendments is to address an anomaly in the Bill. Under the legislation as framed, the Minister of State, a veterinary practitioner, surgeon, schoolteacher or any other professional may cross the road to help out a neighbour if one of his ewes is in difficulty lambing. A veterinary nurse is the only person who is prohibited from assisting a neighbour in such circumstances. He or she may carry out a procedure such as pulling a lamb on his or her own farm, provided he or she is a farmer. Under the wording of the current provision and the definition of a body cavity, once a veterinary nurse assists another person by putting his or her arm into a body cavity to try to pull a lamb, he or she is committing an offence for which he or she may be struck off the register.
The House will be told it will be possible to turn a blind eye to this provision and the circumstances I describe will not arise. Human nature being as it is, it is certain that at some point an elderly man living in a rural area who has a ewe in difficulty and cannot reach a vet will knock on a neighbour’s door to ask for help. If his neighbour is a veterinary nurse, she will no longer be considered a farmer the moment she leaves her premises to carry out the procedure. Instead, she will be considered a veterinary nurse and, as such, is prohibited under the legislation from carrying out the procedure. This unfair anomaly must be addressed and the amendment proposes to do so. I ask the Minister of State to accept it.
Dr. Upton: I support the amendment. The provision, as defined, creates an anomaly in that a qualified veterinary nurse who carries out a minor medical procedure or surgery in a personal capacity could be at risk of placing himself or herself outside the law.
Mr. Browne: Deputies Naughten and Crawford have again proposed amendments covering the carrying out by veterinary nurses of minor medical or surgical procedures. The effect of these amendments would be that ministerial regulations would be required before nurses could become active in this area. When this matter was discussed on Committee Stage, the Minister drew attention to the amendment she had agreed in the Seanad by which nurses would be permitted to carry out functions of this type on the direction of a veterinary practitioner. She also pointed out that the Bill provides for a definition of the word “minor” in the context of medical or surgical procedures. In light of this and given that we are not adopting a similar approach in respect of other tasks a nurse may carry out on the direction of a veterinary practitioner, it is not necessary to provide for ministerial regulation-making powers in this sole instance. Accordingly, I do not propose to accept the amendments.
Mr. Naughten: Does the Minister of State accept that the question of body cavity creates a major anomaly in the system? We must all live in the real world in which we will experience increasing difficulty securing sufficient veterinary practitioners to service rural areas. The majority of veterinary practitioners who complete their training will move into small animal practice. In addition, elderly people who have stuck to the land and may not have proper procedures or equipment or the required housing will call on neighbours for assistance, as people have done for generations. Under the legislation as framed, if the neighbour is a veterinary nurse, he or she can be struck off the register for providing such assistance. This is wrong and the section must include provision to cover genuine emergencies. Animal husbandry issues and human nature must be considered. I ask the Minister of State to ensure that if a veterinary nurse acts as a good samaritan, he or she will not jeopardise his or her career.
Mr. Browne: The Minister has considered this issue since Committee Stage. The Bill defines certain functions which may only be performed by a veterinary practitioner, while all other functions may be undertaken by a veterinary practitioner, veterinary nurse or layperson. The Minister is satisfied, particularly following her acceptance of amendments in the Seanad which further clarified the position, that the section is adequate to meet the requirements outlined by Deputy Naughten.
This is purely a technical amendment which arises from the amendments made to this and related sections on Committee Stage. Arising from the earlier amendments, the reference “Notwithstanding section 109” in paragraph (i) of section 107 is redundant and, on the advice of the Office of the Attorney General, can be deleted.
There is no difficulty with the authorised officer seizing the property of the vet because it is intended the legislation will provide for that. It is important, however, that any third party who is a client of the vet and whose animal is in the surgery at the time is protected.
The first part of the amendment states that the authorised officer is not required to get permission from the owners in advance but must notify them after the event. That is reasonable and practical. It is then up to the owner to request the return of the animal and if that request is made, the animal should be returned unless the owner is going to mistreat it.
When the animal is returned, production of the animal in court or before the veterinary council is not required and scientific evidence is satisfactory. It might be practical to bring a Manx cat but it might not be best practice to bring a Friesian cow to a court or sitting of the veterinary council.
Mr. Naughten: I agree with Deputy Upton, particularly on her last point. Whatever about bringing in a Friesian cow, I can imagine trying to bring in a Limousin bull — it would cause severe difficulty. It is fair that an unrelated third party who has an animal on the premises should be given proper notification. The amendment is balanced. It would protect the inspectors who might have to remove animals and protect the rights of the owners of the animals, particularly animals as valuable as a Limousin bull.
Mr. Browne: Arising from concerns expressed in both Houses, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Coughlan, agreed to substantial amendments to this section under which investigations by authorised officers of the council at veterinary premises will be carried out under a search warrant.
Amendment No. 28 deals with the seizure of animals in the context of investigations. The Minister explained on Committee Stage that she could not accept this having taken into account the legal advice of the Attorney General’s office. She has since given the matter further consideration and, where authorised officers of the council seize animals belonging to a third party, they will be assumed to take on a duty of care for the animals and it is reasonable to assume they would inform the owner. It is not, however, appropriate to cover such procedural matters in primary legislation.
There are also concerns about paragraph (b) of the amendment where there would be a more specific difficulty. There may be cases other than potential ill treatment where it would not be possible or appropriate to return animals to the owner. The animals may have been given banned drugs requiring their removal from the food chain. Bearing in mind the substantial amendment which the Minister accepted on Committee Stage on veterinary premises, the correct balance has been struck and, accordingly, we do not propose to accept the amendment.
Dr. Upton: This amendment would protect the rights of the owner. The Minister of State made assumptions in his response, which is not always best practice legally. Significant issues arose in the recent past related to the seizure of animals and the right of people to enter premises. That is why the rights of owners should be particularly well protected in the legislation. I accept that if banned drugs are present, it would not be reasonable or practical to return the animals to the owner but where there are no grounds for suspecting ill treatment of the animal, it would make sense that the owner would be informed and the animal returned. It is important primarily from the point of view of protecting the rights of the owner of the animal.
Mr. Naughten: Reality can be very different from what is envisaged in legislation. The Minister of State is making many assumptions and people know that assumptions in previous legislation did not apply when it came to implementation. I ask the Minister of State to reconsider the amendment.
Mr. Browne: I discussed all the amendments with the Minister and she was anxious that I would make Deputy Upton aware that she had considered this amendment seriously and discussed it with the Office of the Attorney General, but found that she could not accept it. It would be difficult to frame legislation where banned drugs might be involved and she is not prepared to accept the amendment.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Browne): I thank Deputies Upton and Naughten in particular for their contributions on the Bill. I was here on Second Stage of the Bill and I know they made important suggestions on how the Bill could be improved. The Minister for Agriculture and Food acted on many of the proposals put forward by Deputies on all sides of the House. I thank them for their co-operation and support. There were 104 amendments to the Bill, which was a significant number. I thank all Deputies, particularly the Front Bench Members, Deputies Naughten and Upton. I thank the officials from the Department of Agriculture and Food.
Mr. Naughten: I endorse what the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Deputy Browne, has said. I thank him and the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Coughlan, for their co-operation with the Bill. I also thank the departmental officials who did an excellent job with an extremely complex Bill. There was a significant amount of lobbying regarding it.
The legislation is dramatically different from that originally published. This is the proper way that legislation should be brought through the Oireachtas. Consultation must take place following a Bill’s publication. Credit must be given to the Minister for Agriculture and Food on the advice that was provided by her officials. When the legislation went before the Seanad, a number of significant issues were flagged which the Minister took on board. To her credit and that of her officials, when the Bill came before this House — traditionally it can be very difficult to have amendments accepted when the Bill is passing through the second House — the Minister was flexible in accepting reasonable amendments. Credit is due to all involved in this dramatically improved Bill. There will be significant battles in the next couple of months with the animal health Bill where many of the issues raised with the Veterinary Practice Bill will again be raised. I thank all those involved in the enactment of the Bill.
Dr. Upton: I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Deputy Browne, for taking amendments yesterday and today. He has been co-operative in moving the Bill through the House. The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Coughlan, took on board a large number of amendments after the Bill was passed by the Seanad, and that is appreciated by all Members of this House. I realise how much work the Department officials put into this long Bill. There have been significant changes since 1931 and we now recognise there are vast improvements. The legislation was overdue. This is a complex area and much work remains to be done in the area of animal health. I thank everyone involved for their co-operation with the Bill.
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