Veterinary Practice Bill 2004: Committee Stage.

Tuesday, 22 March 2005

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 179 No. 17

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An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I welcome the Minister for Agriculture and Food to the House.

Section 1 agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendments Nos. 36, 38 to 41, inclusive, 74, 94, 108,109 and 135, are related and may be discussed with amendment No. 1.

Government amendment No. 1:

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan): Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I wish to draw to the attention of the House my proposal to insert a reference to the word “approved” in the general definitions con[1445]tained in section 2 of the Bill. This is purely a textual amendment which arises directly as a consequence of the amendment I propose to insert in section 56 to deal with practice by trainee veterinary practitioners and trainee veterinary nurses. The insertion in section 2 merely provides a necessary cross-reference to the definition of what constitutes an approved programme of education in section 62.

I will deal with the substantive amendment to section 56 at the appropriate time. I also propose to make related amendments in a number of other sections, namely, sections 43(2), 45(2) and 45(8), 62, 80(1), 96(2) and 97(2), as well as in Schedule 3, paragraph 8. The purpose of each of these amendments is simply to align the language used in the Bill when describing courses of education or further education so that different terms are not used to describe the same item.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendment No. 2 is in the name of Senator Henry. Amendment No. 3 is an alternative amendment and may be taken with amendment No. 2, by agreement of the House. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I move amendment No. 2:

I propose this amendment because of concern about a certain looseness regarding the situation whereby an unqualified person could put an animal down. It was particularly felt by my veterinary colleagues who have been in contact with me that very inhumane methods could be used. It was suggested that an animal could be attacked with a slash hook. An unqualified person could be given licence as to the manner in which an animal could be put down. My veterinary colleagues favoured the word “euthanasia” as a substitute in this instance.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I support Senator Henry’s amendment, for obvious reasons, considering the amendments have been grouped. It is a reasonable request for the Minister to consider this proposal. The inclusion of the word “humane” is an important issue. We must be mindful of the implications of failing to examine this in the proper context and of perhaps allowing a situation to occur which the Minister would not intend. This amendment is proposed as a result of extensive lobbying by Veterinary Ireland.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  I also support Senator Henry’s amendment. Most farmers would be conscious of the fact that they have a particular affiliation with and sensitivity to animals. The term “putting down of an animal” should be used with care because many people are affected by it. Only today the manner in which some animals are dis[1446]posed of was highlighted in respect of what happens animals in the fox farming sector. It could neither be described as euthanasia nor as being put down. We do not wish this Bill to allow such practices to be tolerated in this country.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Perhaps the Senator should go to the Dáil now to discuss fox farming as it was being discussed there this afternoon.

This is a totally different situation as the other is governed by an EU regulation. I acknowledge that Senators are sincere in their views. The definition of “emergency” is being inserted into the legislation to cater for practical situations which I am aware can arise when it is necessary to treat, and in some cases, put down, an animal before a vet is available. Such situations would include cases where animals were severely injured and suffering severe pain and distress. The definition of “emergency” is necessary to avoid farmers and others, who would act out of concern for the welfare of the animal, being criminalised due to the fact that the practice of veterinary medicine is being legally defined in precise terms for the first time in this legislation.

The definition cannot be seen in isolation from other sections in the Bill. I refer in particular to sections 56 and 60, which regulate how an unregistered person may act to deal with an emergency situation. I will propose two amendments to section 56, one of which mirrors an amendment tabled by Senator Henry which will provide for significant additional safeguards for the unfortunate animal involved.

This amendment also addresses the essential concerns underpinning the amendment put forward by Senators McCarthy, Ryan, O’Meara, McDowell and Tuffy. The first amendment will stress that the primary issue is the welfare of the animal and the second will provide for a more realistic assessment of the timescale within which a vet would be available, by replacing the phrase, “immediately available” with, “available within a reasonable period of time”.

What I wish to say is that a person other than a vet, before deciding to put down an animal, would have to base his or her decision on the welfare of the animal. The means of putting down the animal might not in all cases be totally painless but would nonetheless avoid further suffering and, therefore, would be in the interest of the overall welfare of the animal.

Given the term “euthanasia” implies a painless death, it would not be appropriate to use it in these circumstances. I stress that this is an exceptional provision which could not be relied upon by non-vets as a cover. The emergency must be real and the welfare of the animal must be the primary consideration.

I regret, therefore, that I cannot accept amendments Nos. 2 and 3 which have been proposed regarding the definition of “emergency”. In the proposals for section 56 I believe I will be able to address the concerns expressed by the Members.

[1447]Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 3 not moved.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I move amendment No. 4:

The provision in section 2 does not specifically require the Veterinary Council of Ireland to charge a fee for making information available to the public. However, by using the term “if any”, it may seem appropriate to highlight the possibility of making information available for free rather than the current wording which puts the emphasis on a reasonable fee being charged.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Several Members raised this issue on Second Stage. Senator McCarthy referred to the definition used in the Bill under which the Veterinary Council of Ireland is enabled to make documents available at a reasonable price, if any. The council is already enabled to waive a charge for a document which it publishes. The need for the amendment, therefore, does not arise because that flexibility has been allowed. Provision is made for publication by means of the Internet which will greatly facilitate public access to the council’s publications such as the Veterinary Register, annual reports, etc.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I move amendment No. 5:

To the general public, the word “practitioner” can mean an individual who is involved in the practice of veterinary medicine, whereas the Bill will cover far more than those individuals treating animals on the ground. For example, it will cover academics and those involved in the food industry. The age old name of “veterinary surgeon” is a better choice than “veterinary practitioner”.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I support Senator Henry’s comments. The original 1931 legislation is entitled the Veterinary Surgeons Act. The expression is in common usage which this amendment seeks to take into account. I am not asking the Minister to move mountains on this matter. It is simply being practical in how terminology is applied.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  The vet has always been known as the veterinary surgeon and it makes common sense to continue in that vein.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I know this issue was discussed by the Senators and Veterinary Ireland. It is correct to state that it refers to the 1931 Act. On a day-to-day basis, the term used is “vets” as opposed to “veterinary surgeons”. The common use of the word will never change. However, those in the profession now do more than surgery [1448]on a day-to-day basis. It is felt that the term “veterinary practitioner” would connect with the definition of veterinary practice, defined for the first time in section 54. This creates a flow between veterinary practitioner, veterinary practice and moving beyond the idea of being just a veterinary surgeon. On reflection, while there are common terms in use, the issue of veterinary practitioner goes beyond what was involved in the old terminology of veterinary surgeon.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  While I will withdraw the amendment, I may table it on Report Stage as I am unsure of the UK legislation. Since the Good Friday Agreement, we have been urged to ensure terminology is in line with that in the UK. However, I am unsure if the term used is “veterinary surgeon”.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The UK is reviewing its legislation.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  That is fortunate for the Minister.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Perhaps the UK will follow our terminology. There is also the American term “veterinarian” but we do not need to go down that road.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  Yes, we do not need to go to those lengths.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  This issue is worthy of re-examination on Report Stage. I urge the Minister to reflect on it until then.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 2, as amended, agreed to.

Section 3 agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 4 stand part of the Bill.”

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  Section 4(2)(a) states “the Veterinary Surgeons (Annual Fees) Order 1997 (S.I. No. 131 of 1997) shall continue in force and may be amended or revoked as if made under section 34”. It is interesting that the term “veterinary surgeons” comes up in this part of the Bill. Does this allow the Veterinary Council of Ireland to set fees without a ministerial order?

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  We have verification from the Attorney General’s office that the provision as drafted is clear in the legal terminology and will allow the council, when setting new fees, to rescind the 1997 order. The council will no longer return to the Minister to set fees.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I thank the Minister for clarifying this.

[1449]Question put and agreed to.

Sections 5 to 13, inclusive, agreed to.

Question proposed: That section 14 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  On Second Stage, I raised the matter of the powers vested in the Minister for Agriculture and Food to give instructions to the Veterinary Council of Ireland. I realise it is confined to conferring additional powers. I have no difficulty with section 15 containing a provision for general policy directions, as it is appropriate that the Government should be able to do so. However, I am concerned that section 14 may empower the Minister to be involved in the day-to-day functions of the council.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  While I could be vindictive, which I have no intention of being, in assigning additional functions to the Veterinary Council of Ireland, the drafting of the provision is designed to avoid this by ensuring that, unless dictated by EU obligations, such additional functions must be connected with its functions as defined in section 13. I cannot involve myself in any extraneous diktats to the council outside the gamut of policy. I assure Senator Dardis, I have no intention of doing so either.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  I would never suggest this particular Minister would ever do anything of this nature. I am just concerned about her successors.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I support Senator Dardis on this matter. Naturally the Minister would never interfere in such a way but I am thinking of her successors.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  No other Minister would do so.

Question put and agreed to.

Section 15 agreed to.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I move amendment No. 6:

A mode of thinking exists that the professions cannot be relied on to regulate themselves. However, it is somewhat harsh to rule a vet out of Veterinary Council membership if he or she is already heavily involved in an animal welfare organisation. If the head of the donkey sanctuary is also a vet, will the option of council membership remain for him or her, if suitable for the post? I do not see why vets should be ruled out. I find they are very helpful respectable people [1450]who, unlike some doctors, do not feature on the latest list of tax defaulters. I cannot understand the logic behind this provision.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  The lobby groups also raised this matter and Veterinary Ireland made a genuine point in claiming that the council had insufficient vets. This amendment is worthwhile and the Minister should actively consider it. While considerable discourse about this aspect of the Bill has taken place, it would be reasonable for the Minister to consider this proposal positively.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  I welcome the Minister. I have not spoken about this matter since Second Stage. I believe I understand the purpose of the provision. Obviously vets are represented on the council and the objective is to retain one member who is not a vet. The point made by Senator Henry is correct. I was on the board of a State company at one time. When appointing the board, the Minister asked if I had any suggestions. I said I just wanted the best people regardless of who they were. The Minister responded very well by making sure the best people were appointed and did not eliminate anybody based on particular criteria. Senator Henry has already been more eloquent than I could be. It would be a shame to disqualify somebody from this job because he or she was a vet. While the intention could be included, it should not be so strict as to disqualify a vet. The Minister should reconsider the matter.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I am delighted to see the conversion of the Members of the House when it comes to vets. We have had a long discussion about the matter and I have met numerous representative bodies. My original proposal for the composition of the council was to broaden the membership of the Veterinary Council to reflect interests such as education, consumers, animal welfare and food safety as well as providing a balance between the veterinary practitioners and others. I considered the views expressed by Members on Second Stage and as a consequence I have increased by two the elected membership of veterinary practitioners to assist the council in performing its functions and to be available to participate in the committees as established by the council. This will result in increasing council membership from 17 to 19. This addressed the views and concerns expressed by Members of the House heretofore that the council had an inadequate number of vets. This can be justified by the increased workload of the council as well as the continued professional development and accreditation of veterinary nurses.

I do not propose to alter in other respects the balance provided for in my original proposals. I believe it is appropriate that the membership should include a nominee of the Minister for Education and Science. Of the four people to be appointed by me, it is provided that one will be a veterinary practitioner and I see no need to [1451]increase this. I understand the proposal to, in effect, reserve a place for the dean of the veterinary faculty of UCD reflects the present actuality. We should not prescribe by legislation whom a body like UCD should choose in future as circumstances may change and it may not always be UCD that provides such education. Section 16(2)(a) recognises it would be inappropriate in such circumstances that the legislation would give automatic membership to the head of any one veterinary faculty over another. I have the option to specify one or more than one relevant body.

Members also asked about an additional place for a farming representative. Of the four people I will appoint to the restructured council at least one must represent the interests of those who avail of a veterinary service in the course of business, trade or profession and in such appointments I will consider farming interests. I have gone a long way towards addressing the concerns raised on Second Stage by having a critical mass of veterinary practitioners on the council and by having a balance between other stakeholders. I hope those elected and appointed will be the best people for the job, which is what we all want of the membership of any council, whether appointed or elected.

By excluding a vet from representing those who perform functions relating to animal welfare I can give an opportunity to others to participate on the council. Given the number of vets to be elected and appointed I believe the critical mass has been achieved. I would prefer to afford greater opportunity to those on the animal welfare side. Those elected may come from that area anyway as many people deal in that type of practice. It is a group for which I have much time. We have increased the funding to the animal welfare side in both mainstream farming and as it affects pets. I would prefer to see someone coming from that perspective as opposed to being a veterinary practitioner. I have done my utmost to ensure they are adequately represented on the council.

On Second Stage concern was expressed about continuity and the number of people elected. I will take into consideration the thrust of the views expressed by Members of the House, which represents a practical way of dealing with the issues. I appreciate where people are coming from. I feel I have been as fair as possible. I have met the organisations a number of times and they now seem to be relatively happy with the number of members on the council. I believe others are just as competent as a veterinary practitioner to reflect the animal welfare side. The vets elected or appointed may well also come from that perspective. I would like to give people a fairly wide opportunity to participate and define where the council goes.

Mr. Callanan: Information on Peter Callanan  Zoom on Peter Callanan  I support the Minister’s proposal, with which we should agree. The Minister has spoken about someone who uses the service, probably from a rural area and perhaps with a [1452]farming background. I would like to see the broadest interpretation of animal welfare to be taken into consideration when making that appointment.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  The purpose of my amendment was not to increase the critical mass of vets. I am grateful that the Minister has tabled her own amendment to do so. As Senator Quinn said, this person will be appointed by the Minister. While some excellent people without veterinary qualifications work in the animal welfare area, if the best person for the position was a registered veterinary practitioner he or she could not be chosen by the Minister. The Minister is not required to accept a person proposed by another body but has the power of appointment. My amendment would give the Minister the possibility of appointing a registered veterinary practitioner. As the Bill stands this could not be done. I am not attempting to increase the critical mass of vets, which has been increased from seven to nine by the Minister’s amendment — I had only proposed ten to allow for negotiation.

It would be a mistake not to accept my amendment. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland is allowed to nominate and could decide to nominate a vet. The Director of Consumer Affairs could nominate a vet. However, as Senator Quinn said, if the best animal welfare person happens to be a vet, the Minister cannot appoint him or her.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I do not agree that this provision is severely restrictive. There is nothing to say that a chairperson of the donkey sanctuary who is not a veterinary practitioner would be discommoded in this matter. We are not against veterinary practitioners being on the veterinary council. However, this provision adds to the wealth of the council by stipulating that one member should come from a different perspective. We should not have a situation where a Minister could suddenly decide that four vets should be nominated. In order to prevent this, we have provided for a specific group of nominees who are not veterinary practitioners.

  7 o’clock

I do not understand Members’ difficulties in this regard. If the situation were turned around, there would be objections to the effect that these people reflect a certain sector of society and that those not at professional level have a contribution to make to the council and should not be excluded. One can make either argument. However, I contend that the richness of any council is not dependent on the participation of the professions. Joe Soap is just as entitled to be a member of the council as anybody else. I am allowing that opportunity so as to ensure we do not fall into the trap of simply having another veterinary practitioner.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  I support the Minister in this matter. It is not analogous to compare this provision with those relating to, for example, the [1453]Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Bord Bia or Teagasc. In the case of those bodies, it is a reasonable requirement that board members should be veterinary practitioners. In this case, however, we are regulating the profession and it is not sensible to build in a majority of the profession on the board charged with its regulation.

This is not to say that members of the profession should not have a role. However, it is wrong that the profession should dominate the council to the extent that other legitimate interests would be disadvantaged. The Bill’s provisions represent a reasonable balance in this regard. This situation is not the same as that in regard to bodies such as the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, where there is a genuine requirement that vets should be involved.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  I understand the Minister’s intention is to ensure a balance in that the council should not consist only of vets. However, it is wrong to stipulate that the best person for the job cannot be a vet. The Minister observed that Joe Soap, even if he is not a vet, is entitled to be a member of the council. However, it seems a shame that he is not entitled to do so if he is a vet. Before Report Stage, will the Minister consider some means by which the desirability of ensuring balance is protected without excluding those who possess a veterinary qualification? The Minister has gone a long way towards achieving the correct balance, which is difficult to attain, and I acknowledge her intentions in this regard. However, the explicit stipulation that a person who may be the best choice for the job cannot take the seat if he or she is a vet seems to weaken the authority of the provision.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I support Senator Quinn. It seems I have not made myself clear in this matter. My argument is not that this person must be a vet. On the contrary, I will be delighted if the Minister chooses a non-veterinary person 999 times out of 1,000. However, it is unfortunate to exclude a candidate simply because he or she is a vet.

In reply to Senator Dardis, my point is that section 16(1)(f) imposes no such restriction in regard to the person appointed by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. I do not dispute that vets must be appointed to the authority. Likewise, under section 16(1)(g), the person appointed by the Director of Consumer Affairs may also be a vet. The Minister is aware that I am always interested in consumer participation.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  What about patient participation?

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  There are certainly some clever dogs around.

This provision ties the hands of future Ministers in that the excellent candidate who is involved in running the donkey sanctuary, for example, cannot be appointed to the council if he or she is a vet.

[1454]Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Under section 16(1), the Minister has considerable scope in making appointments to the council. For example, under subsection (a), the appointee who is registered or is eligible to be registered under Part 4 may be a veterinary practitioner. Subsection (b) provides that there must be two appointees who are not eligible to be registered but at least one of whom avails of veterinary services in the course of business, trade or profession, such as a farmer. Subsection (c) is the one relevant to this amendment and it stipulates that there must be one appointee who is not eligible to be registered but who performs functions relating to animal welfare. If I had not been so specific, we could end up with four vets being appointed.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  That is a terrible thought.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I appreciate Senator Henry’s point but I am doing my best in this regard. The Senator argues that I am being over-prescriptive in setting out what the Minister can do. Members have argued for a more prescriptive approach on previous occasions so it may be a case of swings and roundabouts. The provision in subsection (c) is wide in that all veterinary practitioners are involved in the welfare of animals. This will always include veterinary practitioners if one does not exclude them.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I move amendment No. 7:

This is an extraordinary amendment for a university Senator to table. Section 16(1)(e) provides for the appointment of two academics to the council. I am concerned that subsection (d) additionally provides for the appointment of a person who must be engaged in the provision of higher education. Veterinary medicine requires some academic input and is a very professional business. However, notwithstanding the increase in council membership to 19, the inclusion of three academics seems excessive. Some engaged in veterinary practice are concerned that academia should have such a strong influence. Furthermore, the person appointed under this subsection could be a vet which would mean that three members of the veterinary school could be on the council.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  It is strange for a university Senator to propose such an amendment but I agree that the issue of academic representation is adequately covered in subsection (e). Subsection (d) provides for the appointment of “one person who is nominated for appointment as a member of the council by the Minister for Education and Science and is engaged in the provision of higher education”. Section (e) goes on to stipulate there must be “two persons who are nominated for such appointment by a relevant body or bodies [1455]specified by the Minister by order under subsection (2) or, where no body is specified, are nominated for appointment by the National University of Ireland”. The amendment is self-explanatory and I ask the Minister to consider it. I am sure she will agree that subsection (e) ensures adequate academic representation on the council.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  Does the Minister suspect this may be a plot by a Trinity College Member to undermine the National University of Ireland?

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  The person appointed under the provision of subsection (d) could be from Trinity College.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I will not speculate in this regard. Subsection (d) is perfectly pragmatic. The Minister for Education and Science provided €26 million for veterinary facilities in University College Dublin and is entitled to nominate an appointee to the council. One never knows when we may need that additional funding. Due recognition should be given to her and her Department, as a nominating body.

Did Senator McCarthy refer specifically to the dean?

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  That was in reference to a separate amendment. My amendment indicates that 16(1)(e) deals with the matter appropriately.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  There is a pragmatic political answer to the Senators’ question.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  Between now and Report Stage, I may lobby to change the amendment to state that the nominee must come from Trinity College, the veterinary school of which was taken from it virtually by force 25 years ago.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  We are now getting to the truth.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I move amendment No. 8:

This amendment, if accepted, will ensure that the dean of the faculty of veterinary medicine at University College Dublin will continue to be a member of the council. I expect a pragmatic response to the amendment from the Minister.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  That is the practice at present. The Minister would be putting into law what actually happens.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  That is the position. An opportunity may present itself at a later date in [1456]which another veterinary college may be available to us. We would be overly prescriptive if——

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  Trinity College should be restored. Will the Minister promise this?

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  We might get an institute of technology. That would move things on. The aforementioned position reflects what is happening and it will be mirrored in the legislation. However, we must leave open the opportunity to appoint someone else if there is a change of circumstances in the country. Members will appreciate that it is a long time since this legislation was changed and we must allow for future developments.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  The Minister explained the position very well. Her explanation is probably acceptable. When I first read Senator McCarthy’s amendment, I was inclined, particularly in my capacity as a National University of Ireland Senator, to support it. However, this legislation may be in place for a long period and it is, therefore, best to leave our options open. Section 16(1)(e) seems to cover what the amendment seeks to address.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  I move amendment No. 9:

The Minister has dealt with this matter to some extent but I would like her to be even more specific. I accept her statement that she will place a member of the farming community with direct involvement in animal welfare on the council. By a member of the farming community, I refer specifically to a full-time member.

Some vets are farmers and I am concerned about this. If such a person were to be nominated, would he be excluded in view of what has been stated? Somebody with compassionate involvement with animals could also be on the council and this could include a representative of the farming community, although not necessarily a full-time farmer. The Minister needs to be specific because the members of the farming community are the chief people involved in animal welfare. It is their way of life and they are most concerned about it. That is not to say that the other groups are not concerned. I would like the Minister’s assurance to be included in the legislation because I do not expect her to be Minister for Agriculture and Food forever.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  Senator Coonan has made a good point. Of course, we would have to amend the amendment by excluding specifically the [1457]members of the veterinary profession who are farmers. One could not have a farmer who is a vet as a member of the council.

It is a reasonable proposition. It is standard practice on many agricultural boards, including Bord Bia, to have the Minister nominate from a list, for example, rather than have the farming organisation make the nomination. It is important that the Minister have the discretion to make the selection. However, it is important that the main client base be represented. There are many precedents for this on agricultural boards.

I have previously drawn the Minister’s attention to the Animal and Plant Health Association, which is the type of body that would have important views on this subject because it is obvious that the number of drugs being used in agriculture is increasing all the time. It would be important to be able to draw on the association’s expertise and commercial insight. This is not really related to the substance of the amendment but, given that the Minister is to increase the number of persons on the council from seven to nine, there may be some scope to accommodate both positions. It is important not to let the council expand to the point where it becomes overly cumbersome and cannot do its job. A balance is to be struck and perhaps the Minister has struck it pretty well by way of her proposed amendment in this regard.

Mr. Bradford: Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  I agree with Senator Dardis that we should not allow an endless expansion of the council. I am satisfied that the Minister plans to have limited expansion. I support Senator Coonan’s amendment because the group most affected by the legislation, perhaps only in a minimal way, is the farming community. The signal we should send from the House is that we recognise that the farming community, more than any other sector, has traditionally had animal welfare at the core of its practice. We should try to ensure that it has a leading role in the new council.

I concede that the other nominees the Minister could choose could provide for strong representation from the farming community but it would be appropriate to specifically nominate a full-time farmer. The number of full-time farmers might be decreasing but there are still tens of thousands of them. I ask the Minister to send a strong signal of support to the farming community by making statutory provision for the membership on the council of a representative from that community.

Mr. Callanan: Information on Peter Callanan  Zoom on Peter Callanan  Senator Coonan’s proposal is embodied in section 16(1)(b), which supports the Senator’s proposal in that it refers to one who “avails of veterinary services”. If farming is not a practice, profession, trade or business, I do not know what the bloody hell it is. I am not finding fault with the Senator’s proposal, I am stating that we all regard his proposal as embodied within section 16(1)(b).

[1458]Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  My interpretation is that farmers will be represented by way of a nomination by the Minister. I would prefer if my hands were not tied legislatively. If they were, I would have to stipulate “the farming organisations” rather than “a farmer”, in which case I would have to increase the council’s membership to facilitate the IFA, ICMSA, ICSA——

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  The Minister would have to make a choice.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  ——and the whole gamut. The first person who will not be making the choice will be me. If we were prescriptive and specified the farming organisations, we would have to provide an additional four, if not five, places on the council. That is how partnership works and that is why I would prefer it if the provision were not made on a legislative basis.

It is my intention to appoint a farmer. I would prefer if I was not tied by having to specify whether the farmer should be full-time or part-time because both are equally entitled to membership if they avail of veterinary services. However, a farmer will be appointed to the council because farmers are the people at the coalface who deal with service provision. They interface with the veterinary practitioners to a greater extent than any of us, unless some of the Senators are still involved with the farming fraternity.

I will not determine whether the farmer appointed will be full-time or part-time and I would prefer not to be forced to increase council membership to facilitate the lobby group in question, the vociferousness of which the Senators are aware. I do not know how we would nominate one person from four or five organisations. A partnership issue would arise, with which I would prefer not to have a problem. Instead of having an organisation, one could pick a farmer irrespective of whether he or she is associated with a particular organisation or none.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Or party.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Or whatever. If the Senator feels so passionately about the matter, he can send me some recommendations.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  I would like the Minister to be more specific in the legislation concerning this issue and I may reintroduce the amendment on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 are alternatives to amendment No. 10. If amendment No. 10 is agreed, amendments Nos. 11 and 12 cannot be moved. Amendment No. 13 is related and amendments Nos. 10 to 13, inclusive, may be taken together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 10:

[1459]

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Molaim an rún. D’ardaigh muid an méid daoine atá ar an chomhairle ó seacht go dtí naoi. Ag éisteacht leis na Seanadóirí, i mo thuairimse, rinne mé gach iarracht go mbeidh méábalta tacaíocht a thabhairt dóibh. I mo thuairimse, when the Senator talks about compromise, perhaps we reach one on this issue.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I thank the Minister for her actions. For practical purposes, an increased number of vets is required. These people are working individuals and there are many committees to be serviced. I know from the Medical Council that grim delays occur because one cannot get enough medical members together on a sufficiently frequent basis. One must often rely on retired people to attempt much hard work.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  The Minister stated on Second Stage that she would be willing to accept compromises in many areas and this reflects that in one of the more practical ones. The issue is not so much about figures as it is about having a broad base of knowledge. These people are practitioners involved at the coalface who will bring a greater variety of expertise to the council which is a move in the right direction.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  I also welcome the Minister’s decision to increase the numbers, a change sought by both sides of the House. She also proposes to achieve a balance in the numbers. When we originally sought the change, we were informed that it would have to be within the remit of a council of seven persons. We can accept that the number on the council has now risen to nine members, but the correct balance also needs to be addressed.

Mr. Callanan: Information on Peter Callanan  Zoom on Peter Callanan  I commend the Minister and her officials on this change. I can take some satisfaction from it as I appealed for common sense and a practical working approach during the Second Stage debate. As Senator Henry has stated, the work involved is spread over a relatively small number of people. I am especially glad that the Minister increased the figure to nine persons, as had been suggested.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  The Minister’s actions are to be welcomed and this is a good, practical approach. Although I realise that it is not covered by this section, which deals with people who are registered under Part 4, perhaps the Minister will comment on the matter of the Animal and Plant Health Association, APHA.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I thank Senators, who seem relatively happy with the amendment. I am sorry that I did not refer to APHA. I did not wish to include it in the legislation but it can be included under section 16 (1)(b).

[1460]Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  The association must lobby for this.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  It must do its job like everyone else.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 not moved.

Section 16, as amended, agreed to.

Government amendment No. 13:

In page 17, subsection (3)(a), line 1, to delete “7 persons” and substitute “9 persons”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 14:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  This is purely a textual change at the suggestion of the Attorney General.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 17, as amended, agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendments Nos. 16 to 18, inclusive, are related to amendment No. 15 and amendments Nos. 15 to 18, inclusive, may be taken together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 15:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I propose to make four textual amendments to sections 18(1) and (2) on the advice of the Attorney General. They involve transferring the three-month deadline for making rules for elections from subsection (2) to subsection (1) and making the consequential textual amendments. There is no substantive change involved.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  This sort of advice should be given far more often in Bills. I congratulate the Minister and her officials on tabling the amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 16:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 17:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 18:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 18, as amended, agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendments Nos. 20 and 21, 80 and 87 are related to amendment No. 19. Amendment No. 21 is an alternative to amendment No. 20 and if amendment No. 20 is agreed, amendment No. 21 cannot be moved. The amendments may be discussed together by agreement.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I move amendment No. 19:

This amendment was tabled because the Veterinary Council recommended that while all members should serve four years, there should be a two year roll-over so that the entire membership of the council is not suddenly lost in a single changeover. It suggested that the 50% of elected members who polled highest would be elected for four years, the other 50% would be elected for two years and thereafter, there would be an election every two years for 50% of the places.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  The Minister’s amendment reflects the current position under the 1988 regulations. I commend her on having put it in again. In practice, this has worked very well.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I propose to provide for the points covered by amendment No. 19 from the Senators under the new subsection (3). I am also in a position to accept the substance of amendment No. 21 tabled by Senator Henry. I propose that a mechanism be inserted in section 19 to provide for the election, every two years, of alterna[1462]tively four and five of the nine elected places for veterinary practitioners to the council. This will have the implication that four of the practitioners elected to the first council will serve for approximately two years rather than four. Thereafter, each group will serve a term of four years. This will address the concerns raised in the House.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Government amendment No. 20:

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 21 not moved.

Section 19, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 20 and 21 agreed to.

Government amendment No. 22:

In page 19, subsection (4)(a), line 40, to delete “Houses” and substitute “House”.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I wish to draw Senators’ attention to an error in section 22, subsection (4), in line 40. It is a reference to “Houses”, whereas the precedent indicates this should be in the singular.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 22, as amended, agreed to.

[1463]

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I move amendment No. 23:

This amendment has been tabled to many Bills in this House. The legislation requires a member of the council to carry out the functions of a registrar. It does not seem appropriate to give the council discretion not to appoint an acting registrar in the absence of the registrar. Where the registrar’s position is vacant or the registrar is ill, suspended or for whatever reason is unable to fulfil his or her duty, there should be a requirement to appoint an acting registrar. That section of the Bill needs a more definitive approach.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Amendment No. 23 would make it mandatory for the Veterinary Council of Ireland to appoint an acting registrar in the circumstances described in subsection (9)(a). I fully recognise the importance of ensuring the office of the registrar of the council operates effectively at all times and that the affairs of the council are dealt with expeditiously. That said, the council must be afforded an appropriate degree of latitude to manage a range of day-to-day practical situations. For example, the registrar might be absent for a short period due to illness and it might not be necessary to formally appoint an acting registrar. I would like to draw Senators’ attention to section 23(5). Under this subsection, the council is enabled to establish arrangements to ensure that its affairs can be conducted during very short absences from the office of the registrar. The subsection provides that another member of staff may be duly authorised to deal with specified issues and it would be prudent for the council to have such arrangements in place in advance. On balance, the concerns underlying this amendment are adequately catered for within the Bill as drafted.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  There might be a situation where someone might not consider it necessary to appoint an acting registrar. The registrar might be absent for a variety of reasons. What is proposed in the amendment would be a safer approach in terms of dealing with the absence of a registrar. It goes back to the use of the words “shall” and “may”. There should be a more binding responsibility or onus on the council whereby it is enabled under the Act to appoint an acting registrar. That would be a more business-like practice.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  Senator McCarthy has put forward a good argument. It would be preferable if a time limit could be put on how long the council could go without a registrar. If a very powerful chairman has had a dispute with the registrar, the chairman may be pleased that he or she does not have to appoint an acting registrar. I am sure the Minister and her officials have discussed this issue [1464]carefully. Powerful people are often quite pleased to be able to run a show on their own. If a situation arose where there had been a dispute between the chairman and the registrar, a council that had been one year in operation could then go on for another three years without an acting registrar. A registrar can act as honest broker in these types of organisations if there is trouble between the council and its constituents.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  I support Senator McCarthy’s amendment. He is calling for a definite arrangement whereas the Bill tends to put the matter on the long finger. The Minister is aware of what happens if something is left on the long finger. It is better to be definite and positive about something than indefinite and indecisive.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  This amendment is very sensible and I urge the Minister to consider it.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Since time immemorial, “may” and “shall” have been discussed. Some day we may bring it to finality.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  We will or we might?

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  We might because, as Senator McCarthy knows, I could be on the other side and table these types of amendments. I am trying not to be too prescriptive in the day-to-day running of the council. I agree there may be issues. We have a new registrar, who is a fine young lady, and hopefully things will go well. Under the legislation, it is not permissible for someone to hold an acting position for more than 12 months. Therefore, if someone is incapacitated and a replacement has been appointed in an acting capacity, that would have to be dealt with by the council within the 12-month period, whichever is shorter. I would hope that within the context of the council and because we will have such fine people on it, they would be able to deal with any type of issue that may arise. However, there will be a 12-month timeframe, which might address the concerns expressed by the Members of the House.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Dardis): Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  Considering the Minister’s reply in respect of our position, I think I will move the amendment on Report Stage. I ask the Minister to seriously reflect on the amendment. I accept the Minister’s point that we could discuss this issue indefinitely but it is a very important point. Since the Minister has gone so far with regard to so many sections of this Act, it would be remiss of her not to seriously consider this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 23 agreed to.

[1465]Section 24 agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 25 be deleted.”

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I am glad that the Minister proposes to delete this section because the House is not a Government body. It is an independent authority.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  There was a certain echo when the Acting Chairman said that the Minister, Senator Henry and the Labour Party have agreed on this section. I recognise the Minister’s practicality with regard to this issue. To be fair to the Veterinary Council of Ireland, it has pointed out that deputy members are already provided for and the pensions scheme is approved by the Pensions Board. I thank the Minister for this amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I move amendment No. 24:

This amendment is self-explanatory. We wish to see the Freedom of Information Act apply to the council and accordingly it is appropriate to make reference to this section in the Freedom of Information Act 1997. Whatever our views are about the manner in which the Freedom of Information Act has been weakened, it is important to table this amendment. This issue is important for the deliberations of the council and in terms of the consistent application of the Freedom of Information Act throughout the public sector.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I support Senator McCarthy’s amendment.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I have no difficulty in principle with the essence of amendment No. 24, which proposes to make the confidentiality clause provided for in section 26(1) subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. The amendment will not have any effect until the Freedom of Information Act is extended to embrace the Veterinary Council and, as Senators may be aware, the Minister for Finance intends to bring forward legislation in the near future to extend the remit of the Freedom of Information Act to embrace a number of additional bodies, including the Veterinary Council of Ireland. In this context, consultations are ongoing between the Department of Agriculture and Food, the Department of Finance and the Attorney Gen[1466]eral as to the best legislative vehicle to address the subject matter of this amendment. I hope to be in a position to return to this matter on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 26 agreed to.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  Amendment No. 26 is an alternative to amendment No. 25. If amendment No. 25 is agreed, amendment No. 26 cannot be moved.

Government amendment No. 25:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I have carefully considered amendment No. 26 which proposes making public all disclosures of interests made by either members or staff of the council. We must be very careful to keep a balance between the legitimate rights to privacy of private citizens and the right of the public to know of issues which might affect the impartiality of a person on the council or a person employed by it. The most important objective is to provide an environment in which disclosures will be made to the council itself so that it may act accordingly.

The public interest would not necessarily be better served by requiring the making public of all disclosures by members and staff of the council. Publishing such details could mitigate against disclosure. I propose an alternative approach through which the council would be charged with making a determination as to whether a disclosure is of sufficient importance to merit publication and, if so, to have that disclosure published in its next annual report. This strikes the correct balance and ensures that the private details, while being brought to the attention of the council as appropriate, need not be made public in all cases.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 26 not moved.

Section 27, as amended, agreed to.

[1467]Section 28 agreed to.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  Amendment Nos. 28 to 30, inclusive, are alternatives to amendment No. 27 and amendments Nos. 31 and 32 are related. Amendments Nos. 27 to 32, inclusive, will, therefore, be taken together by agreement.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I move amendment No. 27:

For the purpose of clarity, are amendments Nos. 27 to 32, inclusive, grouped? Two of these amendments are in my name and three are in that of the Minister.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  They are grouped.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I wish to hear the Minister’s reply before moving my amendments.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Arising from comments, particularly from Senator O’Toole, on Second Stage, my Department has reviewed recent statutes in respect of Members of the Oireachtas or the European Parliament or local authority representatives being members of statutory bodies. While it is true that there has not been a rigid approach to this area in general, Members of the Oireachtas and the European Parliament have been precluded from membership of a number of statutory bodies.

In the case of local authority representatives, this is not the case. My view is that the particularly busy working schedules of Members of the Oireachtas and the European Parliament, coupled with the absence of the latter group from the country for much of the working week, raises a practical difficulty in terms of their availability for meetings that would arise on foot of membership of the council. This would not be in the interests of the council, which we are asking to take on a heavy workload in the years ahead.

This difficulty is not as acute for local authority members. Accordingly, I can partially accept the proposals from Senators Henry and McCarthy. This is hoped to be achieved by removing the ban on local authority representatives being appointed to the Veterinary Council and tabling the four individual amendments to section 29(1) and (4).

Mr. Callanan: Information on Peter Callanan  Zoom on Peter Callanan  Hear, hear.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I am catering for Senator McCarthy’s voters.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  It is amusing that the Members of the Oireachtas keep ruling themselves out of various jobs but I take the Minister’s point about people being busy. Nothing is more irritating than finding that people take on responsibilities for which they do not have time. I accept the Mini[1468]ster’s comments on local authorities and thank her for them.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I welcome the part that agrees in principle with the amendments. It is good that the ban on members of local authorities has been removed. Whatever about everyone else, we are dealing with one type of body, the members of which were elected. Communities have faith in these people’s ability to deliver at local government level. This should not necessarily suggest that their membership of local authorities should prevent them carrying out a function under another guise. I welcome the part that favours my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Government amendment No. 28:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 29:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 30:

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 31 not moved.

Government amendment No. 32:

Acting Chairman: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  I do not wish to abuse the privileges of the Chair but, in light of the fact that I raised the issue dealt with in this amendment on Second Stage, I join in the thanks offered to the Minister.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 33:

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  This amendment is consequential on the matter of superannuation.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Yes and, as that is the case, subsection (6) must be deleted.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  Senator Henry has indicated her opposition to this section.

[1469]Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  The Minister has been entirely logical and has removed the part that followed on from the superannuation area discussed earlier. I am no longer opposed to the section.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 29, as amended, agreed to.

Section 30 agreed to.

Government amendment No. 34:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  This amendment corrects a grammatical error.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 31, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 32 to 37, inclusive, agreed to.

Government amendment No. 35:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  This is a minor textual amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 38, as amended, agree to.

Sections 40 to 42, inclusive, agreed to.

Government amendment No. 36:

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 43, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  Will the Minister have other Departments read this and the previous sections? The House goes to so much trouble to have registers published annually, etc. If people’s names are appearing on and disappearing from registers, they must be compiled annually. I commend the Minister’s officials on these sections and urge them to pass this information to anyone trying to compile a register.

[1470]Question put and agreed to.

Section 44 agreed to.

Government amendment No. 37:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I draw the attention of Senators to two technical amendments that are necessary to be made to section 45.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 38:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 39:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 40:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 41:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 42:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  This amendment is also consequential on decisions that have been made previously.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 45, as amended, agreed to.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  Amendment Nos. 43, 45 and 46 are related and may be taken together by agreement.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I move amendment No. 43:

[1471]This amendment is a result of the negotiations we have held with Veterinary Ireland. There is a point to be made about the temporary influx of foreign vets under the limited registration provisions. Examining this issue in the context of the manner in which limited registration applies to foreign vets, it should only be required where the disease or the eradication programme concerned involves a class A disease, rather than any possible disease eradication programme. There are sufficient numbers of personnel to deal with general cases of possible disease eradication programmes. The situation speaks for itself in terms of demanding assistance from outside Ireland. Reservations were expressed about the logic of allowing limited registration to apply more broadly than is necessary. I hope the Minister will consider this section in the same context.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  I agree with Senator McCarthy. This is something about which Veterinary Ireland has expressed a concern. The concern is that some future Minister could allow others in when there is no national emergency. I am told the reference to class A might not be acceptable, on the advice of the Attorney General, because class A might not exist in ten years time. Could some other term be accepted, wording such as “a disease that poses a significant threat to the national herd”? I understand the concerns of the vets. It is necessary to tighten this legislation, as a laxity could develop in the future under someone who does not have the same commitment. I understand class A poses a difficulty but some other words might be acceptable, and this would overcome the concerns of the vets.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  We must be careful about the maintenance of professional standards. We have a high professional reputation in this country and internationally. I support the amendment.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Taken in the context of my amendment, I agree with my colleagues. We must be conscious of the impact of the veterinary signature on exports and animal welfare. It is accepted worldwide and any diminution thereof could have a knock-on effect. We need to be more specific about the type of individual who can be registered in certain cases. We must consider the impact this will have.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I had the opportunity to meet the representatives and we had a robust conversation on this issue. There are concerns that this provision could be used as a backdoor to register unqualified persons. This would undermine the veterinary profession. That is not my intention. While the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2001 was limited in geographical scope, it showed the pressure a large outbreak could put on the veterinary service. We need to be aware that a disease episode could occur throughout the EU or throughout the hemisphere. In that case we [1472]could not call on practitioners elsewhere in the European Union. We have educational recognition throughout the EU, but if something were to affect the entire Union there would be restrictions on who I could call. I think it prudent to make provision for an exceptional recognition mechanism, which would allow persons with requisite skills, such as trainee vets from other countries, to be taken in expeditiously. They would carry out specific tasks determined by the council.

The Senator is correct, because if we define it as a class A disease it may change. Hopefully, we will introduce new legislative proposals on animal diseases. Important safeguards are in place. The council must be satisfied that it is appropriate to activate this provision. There is also an education committee, provided for under section 66, that advises the council. The grounds for limited registration are specified under section 46(2). Conditions can also be attached, such as conditions of time, geographical limits or operating under supervision. It is not an opportunity for unregistered people to practise as veterinary practitioners. We are enabling the council to make a decision in the event of a pandemic. Unfortunately, this is something of which we must be aware.

I have expressed my views to the veterinary council. It has no problem with suitably qualified people coming in. We may need this, as many retiring practitioners are not being replaced, especially in rural Ireland. We may have to consider encouraging people to remain in rural Ireland to provide a service. Allowing this service to be provided is vital for the welfare of our animals and for our disease status. This is not a quick-fix solution but is only for certain time periods and particular pandemics. We may discover a disease that we do not have time to classify. It is prudent to allow the council to work instantaneously as this is appropriate for the disease status of this country. I have reassured the veterinary practitioners.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I thank the Minister but there are other reasons this amendment might be accepted. If there is a requirement to import expertise, this has a host of industrial relations implications. How many practitioners will be available? What will be the rate of remuneration? Consider the manner in which the retail market is being exploited by foreign companies. Accepting the Minister’s response, I ask her to keep an open mind on this amendment for other reasons on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I move amendment No. 44:

[1473]Foreign registration applicants should have appropriate educational qualifications. Studying to enter the veterinary profession is very difficult. High points are required in the leaving certificate, and for the next six years students must apply themselves. The qualifications required to operate in this country must be consistent. There was an issue with the MRCVS obtained in UCD and I hope the Minister is favourably disposed to this amendment.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  On Second Stage the Minister said that as there are ongoing threats of disease outbreaks we must ensure that, if necessary and at short notice, we can call on adequate support and veterinary expertise from outside the State. That is the proposal for the limited registration. We have no problem with the present Minister, but there is a concern we believe is worthy of consideration.

  8 o’clock

The Minister touched on the idea of an epidemic or a threat to the national herd. I was in Asia last year during the outbreak of avian flu. It was frightening to see what could happen and the help that would be needed to deal with such an outbreak. That is the Minister’s point. I want to ensure that while we are scared of such an event and want to make sure we are prepared for it, we must also ensure that in the future those who do not have qualifications are not invited in. The purpose of the amendment is to protect the future.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  I support the amendment. Veterinary Ireland pointed out clearly that it wanted this amendment included in the Bill. It comprises professional people who know what they want and they should be accommodated.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I appreciate the Senators’ points of view but this argument is driven by a fear that people’s professionalism is being undermined. That is not the situation. If one were to tie the phrase “requisite knowledge and skills” into section 66 the people concerned would have to be veterinary practitioners which would tie their hands. They must have appropriate linguistic skills, be of good character and repute, not have been convicted of an offence which would render them unfit for the practice of veterinary medicine, and not stand prohibited in either Ireland or another country from practising veterinary medicine, as well as other issues.

This would arise in the event of a short, sharp response to a pandemic or epidemic that may, but hopefully will not, reach our shores. Senator Quinn is correct that the Department is examining how best to deal adequately with other pandemics that may arise, such as avian flu.

Parliamentary questions have been submitted in the other House about what we are doing to ensure we can give an adequate response. If this were to be introduced as an EU-wide issue we would not have enough veterinary practitioners [1474]to deal with a problem that may arise. That is why we need flexibility.

I appreciate the Senators’ points. I have told the veterinary practitioners that we are not trying to undermine them or the profession. I want to encourage people in the profession, especially to encourage them to move back into rural areas where a lack of veterinary practitioners with their one-to-one interaction with farmers would have a detrimental effect on disease and issues appertaining to animal welfare.

This is enabling legislation which will not be used willy-nilly simply because we are short of a few veterinary practitioners. Those to whom it applies will be under instruction if they are at training stage. This preparatory provision has worked before.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  The Minister has made her case well. Happily, the veterinary council includes many veterinary practitioners who will not want to see their profession denigrated in any way. The Minister has put the case well for this provision to deal with an emergency or pandemic.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I acknowledge the Minister’s response but it is important to reiterate that those involved in the profession want to ensure that the same standards of delivery to customers should apply no matter who is the practitioner.

One sees young graduates from other countries beyond the European Union working in veterinary practices around the country. They cope well and are as capable of practising here as they would be in their own countries despite the different accents they hear around the country. It is important to achieve consistency across the board, no matter who is practising, not least in terms of animal welfare but also for delivery of service. The consumer is entitled to receive the same standard and level of expertise.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 45 not moved.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  Amendment No. 46 has been discussed with amendment No. 43.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  I move amendment No. 46:

I accept this amendment was already discussed in part.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  If that happened, it is the fault of the Senator not of the Chairman. However, I will give him some latitude.

[1475]Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  I spoke on amendment No. 44. We did not discuss amendment No. 46.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  We discussed amendment No. 46 with amendment No. 43 but we will not make a federal case out of the matter.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Amendment No. 46 is different. It is a specific amendment on this issue. If the Minister introduces limited registration, what will happen to those people when the pandemic is over? How will they survive?

The danger of introducing limited registration is that those people can continue to operate. I tabled the amendment to define what they can and cannot do.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  People will be brought in on a contract basis, at the council’s instigation. Once it has been decided that the problem has been resolved, they will no longer be registered.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Is the Minister saying they will be deregistered?

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Yes because it is a contract and that will reflect the registration.

Mr. Bohan: Information on Eddie Bohan  Zoom on Eddie Bohan  Deregistration is automatic.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The contract is framed by a time limit.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  No.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 46 agreed to.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  Amendments Nos. 47 and 81 are related and will be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 47:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  It is proposed to provide, for the first time under the legislation, for different categories of recognition by the Veterinary Council. The council expressed a concern about specialists such that under the Bill as drafted a person once registered as a veterinary specialist could continue to enjoy such registration indefinitely, even if he or she was no longer recognised by the body which had granted the specialist qualification.

I am aware that Senator Henry has tabled a similar amendment, namely, amendment No. 81 [1476]to section 64(2). This would not be a desirable situation and, having consulted with the Attorney General, I propose this amendment to avoid any legal doubt on this point.

Accordingly, I propose to amend section 47(2)(b) by entering the words “or continue to be registered”. Thus the council will be enabled to deregister as a veterinary specialist a person who is no longer recognised by the relevant body. This amendment will also cover Senator Henry’s concerns.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I thank the Minister for moving this amendment and thank her officials for pointing it out to me before we came into the House so that I do not have to waste energy later.

This issue is very important because practitioners must keep up with the many changes in the professions. The Minister’s proposal is adequate to cover this problem. Someone who said he or she was an equine specialist in 1982 would not be an equine specialist now.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  Except for the ones who were in Cheltenham last week.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 47, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 48 to 53, inclusive, agreed to.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  Amendments Nos. 49 and 50 are alternatives to amendment No. 48. If amendment No. 48 is agreed, amendments Nos. 49 and 50 cannot be moved. Amendments Nos. 51 and 55 are related and amendments Nos. 52 and 53 are consequential on amendment No. 51. Amendments Nos. 54 and 56 are alternatives to amendment No. 55. If amendment No. 55 is agreed, amendments Nos. 54 and 56 cannot be moved. Amendments Nos. 48 to 56, inclusive, will be taken together, by agreement.

Amendment No. 54 is out of sequence and should appear after amendment No. 56. It will be dealt with once amendments Nos. 55 and 56 have been disposed of. I mention this in case Senator McCarthy is worried about his amendment. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 48:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Amendment No. 48 is proposed to meet the concerns of those who believe that the absence from the definition of a reference to diagnosing the health of an animal creates an imbalance in the definition. I recognise that vets are not in all cases engaged in diagnosing specific diseases and in some situations are, in effect, diagnosing the apparent absence of dis[1477]ease. Accordingly, I propose to replace the word “condition” with “state of health”. I do not believe it is appropriate to retain the word “condition” in the definition since it covers much of the same ground as “state of health”. Accordingly, I am not in a position to accept amendment No. 49 proposed by Senator Henry or amendment No. 50 proposed by Senator McCarthy in so far as they relate to this issue. In essence, what I am proposing will have the same effect.

As regards amendments Nos. 51 to 53, among the many useful comments which the dean of the veterinary college passed to me was one relating to the interpretation of “tests” which, under the published version of the Bill, will be reserved in all cases to vets. I recognise, particularly in the increasing complexity of technologies associated with the carrying out of tests, that in many cases it is the expert rather than the vet carrying out the analysis who actually interprets the test. Having given the result to the vet, it is for him or her to determine appropriate treatment, bearing in mind other symptoms and results. Accordingly, I propose to delete section 54(a)(iv) in its entirety. A consequential amendment arises in subsections (v) and (vi) of the section. Amendments Nos. 52 and 53 refer.

In amendment No. 55 I am accepting the substance of Senator Henry’s amendment, and that of Senator McCarthy, in regard to the placing of the reference in the definition of the veterinary practice of necropsy. As I am sure Senators are aware, necropsy refers to carrying out a post-mortem. However, having consulted with the Attorney General, and with an eye to simplification, I propose to use slightly different terminology by referring to “cause of death”. I also propose to make an addition to the definition of “diagnosing” in section 56(2). This arises from concerns expressed to me by members of the veterinary profession about diagnosing pregnancy and related procedures in mares.

Senator McCarthy also tabled an amendment in this regard. Having considered in detail the specific suggestions put forward, I propose to add to the definition the phrase “examining the reproductive organs of the mare via the rectum”. While I recognise that it would not be usual to be so specific in primary legislation, in this instance I believe it is the best course in the interest of absolute clarity.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I agree with the Minister.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  How sure was the Minister when she maintained Members knew what necropsy was to begin with? I accept the Minister’s pragmatism and her worthwhile and timely intervention.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  This approach will solve a problem which concerned people.

[1478]Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  I compliment the Minister, even though I am not so sure about the meaning of the word.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 49 and 50 not moved.

Government amendment No. 51:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 52:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 53:

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 54 not moved.

Government amendment No. 55:

“(2) In subsection (1)(a)(i), ‘diagnosing’ includes the following:

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 56 not moved.

Section 54, as amended, agreed to.

Section 55 agreed to.

Acting Chairman: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  Amendments Nos. 58 to 62, inclusive, are alternatives to amendment No. 57. If amendment No. 57 is agreed, amendments Nos. 58 to 62, inclusive, cannot be moved. Amendment No. 62 is a logical alternative to amendment No. 63 and it will be discussed with that amendment. Amendments Nos. 57 to 61, inclusive, will be discussed together.

[1479]Government amendment No. 57:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  In view of the fact that I am proposing under the Bill to define the practice of veterinary medicine for the first time, and to avoid farmers and others being criminalised for doing something in an emergency out of concern for an animal that is sick, injured or in severe distress, it is necessary to specifically provide for emergency situations.

I recognise that there could be concerns about the possible abuse of such a provision. However, I would point out that the provision is quite tightly drafted and that, under section 60, I may make regulation under which I could address any symptomatic problems which might be identified. Notwithstanding this, I can accept the essence of Senator Henry’s amendment, which is designed to better define the timescale elements by replacing “immediately available” with “available within a reasonable period of time”. This construction in section 56(2) will offer better protection against abuse of the provision.

I also propose to make an amendment to section 56(2) to provide for greater emphasis on the primary importance of the welfare aspect when a person other than a vet decides to treat an animal in an emergency. Accordingly, I propose to insert the phrase “having regard to the welfare of the animal”. This means that the welfare of the animal will be the overriding issue in an emergency situation. Taken together, the two [1480]amendments will improve the protection afforded by the provision and will make it clear that it cannot be relied on by non-vets as a cover, that the emergency must be real and that the welfare of the animal must come first. This is something to which we referred in our initial discussions. The amendments reflect the concerns expressed by Members of the House.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  The Minister has gone a long way to try to deal with this issue which is a bit nebulous. My concern was that if the price of sheep was low, and someone began to do a caesarean section on them if they were having trouble lambing, calling a vet may cost more than the value of the lamb. How often could this happen on one farm before one would take notice of it? The Minister has gone a long way in trying to cover this aspect. I am not sure how one can deal with the scenario I envisage. When the price of animals is low, calling a vet is a very expensive business. I am thinking about difficulties with lambing in particular. I do not know why sheep are not designed to lamb themselves; humans are much easier. This is the aspect about which I am concerned. What the Minister has included covers the concerns I expressed previously. I am not sure how to deal with the problem, other than to say that people should be vigilant about animal welfare. It is well known that some farmers’ animals are always getting into trouble.

I will have to rely on the person from the sheep sanctuary who will be on the council and will keep a special eye on these cases. It is a problem that people are sometimes reluctant to seek help about because of the cost involved. One can understand that because there is a very fine line in terms of profit margins. However, the welfare of animals is very important.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  The most important phrase in the Minister’s response was “welfare of the animal”, which is enshrined in my amendment No. 60. It is a technical amendment to ensure that reference to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1931 can be avoided. The Minister has accepted the general principle which is based on the welfare of the animal.

I accept what Senator Henry said that it is an expensive business to call out a vet if people feel they are dealing with a product which is not financially rewarding. There are situations where the decision-making ability rests within the parameters within which that decision can be made, considering at all times the welfare of the animal. I thank the Minister for her reply.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Senator Henry mentioned that there are a number of farmers who always have problems with their animals. However, the number is limited and the vast majority pride themselves, for example, when 40 cows are calved successfully or when there are 39 live births out of 40. They set very high standards. The Minister referred to somebody who is an employee of the [1481]farmer for at least two of the previous four months. Calving and lambing seasons are very defined and that cannot happen in the terms which the Minister has set. I am worried in that regard. Otherwise, I commend her efforts to address these problems.

Mr. Scanlon: Information on Eamon Scanlon  Zoom on Eamon Scanlon  I have some knowledge of farming and while the value of a lamb or a sheep may not be as high as the cost of a visit from a vet, the farmer would have the welfare of the animal at heart in all cases with which I have dealt. Farmers can deal with 99.9% of lambing cases and vets are usually called out when cows are calving, which is when serious problems can occur. Vets are always called in such cases. The risk is very high in that the loss of a cow or a calf is serious and farmers do not usually wait.

Farmers are better organised than they were years ago and know exactly when their sheep are yeaning. They bring them in, look after them and watch them closely and it is crucial that they do so or they will not stay in business.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I support what Senator Scanlon has said and would not like anyone to think I was suggesting this often happened. Unfortunately, it is the notorious cases which are often well-known in an area. This probably does not apply to best practice farmers. Are we sure we can be sufficiently vigilant with regard to these cases? I do not know whether the Minister can do more than rely on those who have great concern for animal welfare, which would be 99% of people in this country.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  If we are not happy, I have the opportunity to introduce regulations.

The issue regarding employees is not an emergency situation. An employee would be covered in terms of normal husbandry as opposed to an emergency situation. This measure is to avoid abuse of the provision by persons who might hire themselves out on a daily or very short-term basis but who would not be an employee in the true sense. Senator Coonan is referring to the lambing and calving seasons. An employee working in normal husbandry and looking after their animals is not in an emergency situation and will not be covered. We are not providing that cover, rather we are saying that such people exist, that they are involved in normal husbandry and are, therefore, covered under the safeguards.

The emergency situation would be of concern to us all. There are also practical implications. If one is on Arranmore Island and has a cow that is going to die one could be waiting three days for the vet. We must allow for that normal aspect of life. Practicalities exist in all of these issues. In the main, farmers are very anxious about the welfare of their animals, in particular during the vital seasons. Unfortunate accidents can occur and no one in this House would want any animal to suffer as a consequence of having to wait an inordinate length of time for something to be dealt [1482]with. Similarly, no one wants to criminalise the farmer for dealing with the issue.

There must be parameters and awareness. An enabling legislative proposal will introduce a statutory instrument to deal with any issues which may be brought to the attention of the council or the Department. The other issue, under section 56(4) , does not relate to an emergency situation. We are not reflecting such a situation and that is why we are speaking of two to four months of employment and not casual labour.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  What sort of employee does the Minister visualise as suitable?

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Any employee that is genuine would be suitable, not just someone who comes in for one evening. He or she must be an employee of a farmer over a stretch of two months.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  They must have been working on a farm for two months out of the previous four.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I would envisage an even longer period.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  There will be a problem if the letter of the law is adhered to.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  When has that ever happened? These are part-time people and will be there to assist during a certain period. Larger farming enterprises have such people coming in on a regular basis. The normal people know the score, they know what to do and know what is necessary. What we do not want is someone coming in once and making a decision which may be detrimental to the farming fraternity. That is not what we are saying. We are reflecting the fact that there are part-time people who work as farmers and they should equally have the same support and recognition within the legislation.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 58 to 62, inclusive, not moved.

Government amendment No. 63:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I recognise the concerns which underlie Senators Henry and McCarthy’s amendments with regard to trainee vets and nurses who as part of their course of training, in effect, practice veterinary medicine to gain a requisite level of experience specified by the veterinary college. Therefore, I can accept the substance of these amendments and propose new subsections (5) and (6).

The amendment I propose will provide for a number of safeguards as follows. The work done must be under the direct supervision and in the presence of a registered practitioner. The practitioner and the college must be satisfied that the student has the requisite knowledge, skill and competence to do what is being asked, and the work done must relate to the need to gain a level of experience prescribed for the course concerned.

A subsequent amendment arises in section 2 which lists definitions where it is necessary to provide that the definition of an approved programme of education, which is already provided for in section 62, will also apply to approved programmes referred to in section 56(6).

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I thank the Minister; the amendment entirely deals with my concern. Students must have some practice and that is why it is important to include that they must practice under supervision.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I too thank the Minister for dealing with this in terms of her own amendment. We discussed the matter on Second Stage. Graduates leave the veterinary college after six years of very hard study and then arrive on to the practical field of their profession with, in some cases, no internship and, therefore, no experience. They might have the knowledge but they would not have the practical experience of carrying out procedures.

With regard to the Garda college, no trainee garda would go through the practicalities of learning to breathalyse somebody until they were qualified in dealing with the issue. Equally, a nursing student would go through the rigours of [1484]carrying out various intravenous and injection procedures based on experience accrued during the practical stage of his or her course. This is an important point.

Many of the veterinary practices are extremely busy and many are of different sizes and must deal with the resources available to them. Therefore a situation could possibly arise whereby somebody who owns and is in charge of a practice would rely on new and fresh graduates to carry out procedures that should only be carried out by those who are experienced and by senior practice members. There is a double-edged sword in terms of the work being carried out by the newly-qualified veterinary surgeon, the level of remuneration available to that graduate for the work carried out and the delivery of service, bearing in mind the welfare of the animal. It is not fair in terms of the welfare of animals or the service delivered to the animal owner that somebody would arrive in a yard to carry out a procedure which he or she has not carried out heretofore and, therefore, would not have practical knowledge of. In that respect the Minister’s amendment deals conclusively with that issue. While there have been many calls for the legislation in recent years this is matter that should be borne in mind.

In regard to the educational aspect there is a need to be cognisant of the manner in which people can practice and operate within the profession once qualified. They should have the appropriate qualifications to allow them carry out the procedures but there is the important issue of the level of practical knowledge and experience a person would have accrued, not least to protect people from unscrupulous employers. I do not say they are prominent in this profession but it is an issue of which we need to be cognisant.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  I welcome what the Minister and Senator McCarthy have said. I am a little perplexed because I am amazed at the standards in Cork and Donegal. For more than 20 years, student vets have been attending in our area with the veterinary surgeon and taking part on a practical basis. I hope they would not have done anything illegal.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  They would not.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  If that is what the Minister means by the legislation that is certainly positive and worthwhile.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 64 not moved.

Section 56, as amended, agreed to.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I move amendment No. 65:

[1485]If the Minister has spare civil servants, perhaps she would dispatch them to Members who have tabled too many amendments.

My amendment deals with the details registered on the register. Section 57, as drafted, would make it a criminal offence for a vet to advertise or use any qualification that is not registered on the register. This appears unduly harsh, particularly if the qualification is one the practice might enjoy. The amendment would make it clear that a vet is committing an offence by claiming to have a qualification he or she does not have and it is not necessary that the qualification be registered on the register to avoid criminal liability. We consider that the vet should be obliged to register full details but that can be dealt with under other sections. We tabled this amendment to seek clarification.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Section 57 is designed to ensure the public is not misled as a result of registered persons displaying on signage on their premises a title or qualification they do not possess. By definition, this concerns titles or qualifications relating to veterinary practice. Sections 43, 47 and 51 provide a comprehensive framework for registration of all relevant aspects relating to a person’s qualification, including specialised and additional qualifications. Similarly, section 108 provides the council with adequate means of controlling the description to be used in various types of premises. Accordingly, if a registered person misleadingly uses any such terms he or she will have committed an offence. Therefore, it is appropriate that section 57 should refer to qualifications and so on which are registered and I would not be in a position to accept the amendment.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  It is important to leave the position as it is. There are dreadful problems with people who claim to have degrees and diplomas they do not possess. Given that this is an international scandal, the public must be protected. It is unfortunate that the most rigorous measures have to be taken to prevent such claims being made. It is shocking to do this to the public and it debases any degrees a person may possess.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  On a point of clarification, when this legislation becomes law will it be illegal for a veterinary practitioner to advertise himself or herself as a veterinary surgeon?

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  There will be no veterinary surgeons, there will be only veterinary practitioners. If I remember correctly, and I leave it to our university Senators, all qualifications stand in the time in which they have been conferred even if the establishment has changed. If one was a veterinary surgeon in 1931 one is still recognised has having the acumen of a veterinary practitioner in 2005.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[1486]Section 57 agreed to.

Sections 58 and 59 agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Amendments Nos. 67 and 68 are alternatives to amendment No. 66. If amendment No. 66 is agreed, amendments Nos. 67 and 68 cannot be moved. Therefore, amendments Nos. 69 to 71, inclusive, are consequential on amendment No. 66 and amendment No. 72 is related. Amendments Nos. 66 to 68, inclusive, and amendments Nos. 70 to 72, inclusive, may be discussed together.

Government amendment No. 66:

that relates to the practice of veterinary medicine,

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  A number of concerns have been expressed about this provision which is designed to enable the Minister of the day, if necessary, to make regulations to deal with specific situations which may arise. It is a permissive provision which does not have to be activated unless required. Formal consultation with the Veterinary Council is required before any regulation is made. The Oireachtas may annul any [1487]regulation in accordance with standard procedures.

I note there is a particular concern about including the administration of anaesthetics in this provision and Senator Henry has tabled an amendment to replace this with a more general form of words. While I can agree to the deletion of the reference to anaesthetics, on the advice of the Attorney General I cannot accept the second element of the Senator’s amendment as it is too broad. Nonetheless, in removing the reference to anaesthetics I am going a long way to meet the essence of the concerns being expressed. Consequential cross-referencing amendments arise in subsections (3) and (4).

Senator McCarthy has sought the deletion of section 60. I would point out that it offers an important safeguard by enabling a Minister in the future to intervene to curb any systematic abuse which may become apparent under the emergency provisions of section 56(2). I believe that the provision which is permissive should be retained with the amendment I have outlined and, consequently, I cannot accept his amendment.

Senator Coonan has proposed, by means of two amendments, to limit the regulation making power under this section to class A diseases. In regard to the amendments tabled to section 66, it is not appropriate to link emergencies with class A diseases, not least because if we were to do so, we could leave out injuries entirely. Therefore, I am not in a position to accept amendments Nos. 67 and 72.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  I thank the Minister. I am totally confused after that explanation. Veterinary anaesthetics come under the Medicines Act and can only be given by a veterinary surgeon-practitioner.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Yes.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  Will that continue to be the position under the Bill?

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Yes.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  The anaesthetic can be given only by a veterinary surgeon or veterinary practitioner.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  We are not going to regulate for anaesthetics.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  If that is the case, does this provision not then conflict with the Medicines Board legislation?

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  No. The Attorney General has advised that we can remove the provision relating to anaesthetics.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  Far be it from me to dispute what the Attorney General has said, even though I fre[1488]quently disagree with his advice. Is there no conflict?

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  There is no conflict because it would have been cross-referenced.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  Can the anaesthetic still be given by someone other than a vet?

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  No. Anaesthetics can only be given by vets.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  That is fine.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  This is reflected in section 56. An anaesthetic can only be administered by a veterinary practitioner who is suitably qualified and registered.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  Suitably qualified and with no false diplomas.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I thank the Minister for providing clarification. A fair point was made by members of the profession that a situation could arise whereby unqualified persons could involve themselves in carrying out procedures or certain prescribed acts that would subtract from what an established professional practice has to offer. For example, a person trained by, but not possessing the same educational qualifications as, a vet who has similar access to that vet in terms of carrying out certain processes could possibly establish a business down the road and concentrate on dealing with small animals. In other words, an unqualified but competent person who has experience of carrying out procedures, etc., on such animals in a larger practice — of which said procedures might form a substantial part of its business — could establish their own concern and specialise in the areas of activity to which I refer. We have opposed section 60 to avoid this happening. Important procedures should be carried out in the context of an overall practice.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  I thank the Minister for providing clarification. Will she further clarify the situation in respect of non-registered persons? Senator McCarthy referred to this but, to be more specific, routine procedures are being carried out by farmers or their employees. I refer here to matters such as hoof paring or skulling and I will not upset the Minister by describing them.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I have a fair idea about what the Senator is talking.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Will the Minister assure the House that the status quo will continue and that these services will not be affected?

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Yes.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  I wish to pose the same question. I am somewhat confused.

[1489]Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I confused the Senator and I apologise.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  I deserve to be confused when I come to the Chamber. I refer to the submission on the Bill from Veterinary Ireland which states:

I am not sure I understand the change made by the Minister. Will she put my mind at rest?

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I apologise to the Senator. We are talking about emergency situations. A non-registered and non-qualified person can treat an animal in an emergency. I am removing the phrase “administering an anaesthetic to an animal” from section 60(2). In an emergency, an anaesthetic may not be administered. Only a veterinary practitioner can administer an anaesthetic and that is how it will be.

The Senator also referred to the exceptions in section 56, which states:

The normal procedures such as hoof paring and those performed either by a farmer or the farm relief service are not dealt with in this proposal. This section deals with emergencies. Anaesthetics cannot be used in an emergency but the normal day-to-day aspects of dosing and dipping sheep, looking after animals and paring hooves are dealt with under section 56. We are not being proscriptive in respect of this issue; we are dealing with what can happen in emergencies. We are removing the provision relating to anaesthetics because some members of the profession raised it as an issue.

Mr. Bradford: Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  We are at one in trying to ensure that the section is tidied up. The Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food heard a presentation from Veterinary Ireland in which strong representations were made to have this section, as Senator McCarthy’s amendment suggests, removed. The Minister is proposing a new version [1490]of the section and I accept that she is trying to tidy it up. She made the point that she is removing the clause concerning the administration of an anaesthetic to an animal. Would the treating of an animal in an emergency not sometimes include the administration of an anaesthetic?

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Under the Animal Remedies Act 1993, only veterinary practitioners have access to anaesthetics. We are tightening up on that so that no one but a veterinary practitioner, because of the issues involved, will be able to administer an anaesthetic. Having access to something which, under other legislation, is not permitted would have significant consequences outside the parameters of an emergency situation.

Mr. Bradford: Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Will the Minister’s amendment deal with the matter?

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  It deals with the issue of concern to the vets, namely, that we were allowing the use of anaesthetics during emergencies. We have removed that provision completely. Only a vet can administer an anaesthetic and no one can have access to an anaesthetic except the veterinary practitioner.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 67 and 68 not moved.

Government amendment No. 69:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 70:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 71:

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 72 not moved.

Section 60, as amended, agreed to.

Section 61 agreed to.

Government amendment No. 73:

[1491]

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  This is a textual amendment which relates to a term used in the context of the definition of “management” for the purposes of the Bill. I wish to replace the term “computers” with the more appropriate terminology of “information technology”.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  This issue was raised many times by Members on these benches. I am delighted with this amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 74:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 62, as amended, agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  Amendment No. 76 is an alternative to amendment No. 75. Amendments Nos. 77 and 78 are related to amendment No. 75. Amendments Nos. 75 to 78, inclusive, will be taken together.

Government amendment No. 75:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I do not have a difficulty with the principle underlying the amendments to provide for the possibility of an increased number of members who could be appointed to the Veterinary Council of Ireland education committee. However, the advice of the Attorney General is that an upper limit needs to be specified. Accordingly, having consulted further with the council, I propose to provide that the eight persons stipulated with the education committee may be supplemented by up to three additional members drawn from the council. In these circumstances, it is not necessary to provide, as proposed, for an increase by one in the minimum numbers of elected members of council who must be appointed to the education committee. It will be a matter for the council to decide which members will fill the additional three places.

[1492]Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry  Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry  Despite this amendment, this section will still not allow for the council’s education committee to co-opt specialists. While I am sure the Minister has good reasons for tabling this amendment, this is perhaps a limiting factor, which is a matter of concern to me. The Minister has gone some way in adjusting the size of the committee.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I agree the Minister has gone some way in dealing with this matter but we need to be mindful of the bigger picture. If the Minister were not so resolute in her determination to proceed with her amendment rather than those tabled by myself and Senator Henry, our amendments could be examined more closely on Report Stage.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I will do my best for the Senators. Section 64(4) provides for the committee to take advice from experts when reaching a decision. I am sorry Senator McCarthy feels as he does about this issue. I have taken on board the Senators’ proposal on three members. I was advised that it was not possible on the maximum number. This permutation was, therefore, introduced to address the issues raised on Second Stage.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 76 to 78, inclusive, not moved.

Government amendment No 79:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I draw Senators’ attention to an error in section 63(3). The cross-reference should be to section 18(5) and not subsection (5) that appears in the published version of the Bill. This amendment will correct this error.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 80:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 63, as amended, agreed to.

Amendment No. 81 not moved.

Sections 64 and 65 agreed to.

[1493]

Government amendment No. 82:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 66, as amended, agreed to.

Government amendment No. 83:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  This section is concerned with the making of regulations by the council as regards programmes of further education to be undertaken by veterinary practitioners and nurses. As such the provision represents an important new dimension to regulation of the profession by bringing in the concept of continuing professional development. Section 67(6) is designed to ensure that the affected providers have appropriate appeals procedures available to them.

The Attorney General’s office has reviewed the section suggesting three amendments which are designed to improve a construction from a legal drafting perspective. This amendment, along with amendment Nos. 84 to 86, inclusive, does not make a substantive change to the meaning of the subsection.

I thank Senator McCarthy for spotting the punctuation error in section 67(4) on line 30. Amendment No. 83 will delete the offending comma.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  The Minister is being too generous to me as the error was spotted by my parliamentary assistants. I thank the Minister for accepting the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 84:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 85:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 86:

[1494]

Amendment agreed to.

Section 67, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 68 to 73, inclusive, agreed to.

Government amendment No 87:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 74, as amended, agreed to.

Section 75 agreed to.

Government amendment No. 88:

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Concern was raised on Second Stage about procedural assessments or aspects of the fitness to practise provision. This relates to, whether at the preliminary investigative phase, the relevant committee should be required to seek observations from the person complained against before reaching a decision on whether a substantive inquiry is to proceed. The Bill provides this as optional. Having considered the matter further and taking account of the advice from the Attorney General’s office, on balance it will be better to make this obligatory. I propose to replace the word “may” with “shall”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 76, as amended, agreed to.

Section 77 agreed to.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I move amendment No. 89:

[1495]

The section appears to suggest the fitness to practise committee can require the applicant to give evidence against himself or herself. The Labour Party considers this inappropriate and has tabled an amendment to correct it.

Mary Coughlan: Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  These disciplinary procedures were drafted in close consultation with the Attorney General’s office to ensure they are in line with legislative and case law norms. Section 78(4)(c) is concerned with outlining, although not exhaustively, what evidence the fitness to practise committee of the council may choose to call when considering a complaint. It is appropriate that the fitness to practise committee would have the option when it considers it appropriate to call for direct testimony from the complainant. This would be in addition to the original complaint submitted by that person.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  When is it proposed to sit again?

Mr. Moylan: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Tomorrow morning at 10.30 a.m.


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