Wednesday, 10 July 2019
CervicalCheck Tribunal Bill 2019: Report Stage
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 6, line 31, after “concerned,” to insert the following:“where that woman agreed to participating in the Review of Cervical Screening up to 3 months after the commencement of this Act,”.
This is effectively the same as my Committee Stage amendment. I hope to be able to withdraw it. I would like the Minister, though, if he could, to clarify where we have got to on this. For the benefit of the House, I remind Members that the tribunal covers all the women involved in the CervicalCheck group, that is, the 221+ group. It also covers the additional women who were on the national cancer database, who were not in the CervicalCheck group and who agreed to the review by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, RCOG, in the UK. The group that has been excluded from the review is comprised of the women who were on the national cancer database, who contracted cervical cancer and who for their own reasons declined the audit by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. I believe, and I think the Minister shares the belief, that the group of women who declined the RCOG review did so without knowing that they were excluding themselves from the tribunal. It is imperative that they have access to the tribunal, and this amendment speaks to that. The Minister said on Committee Stage that he would look at ways of doing this. I am very open to what his solution is but, ultimately, its result, for me and for Fianna Fáil, needs to be that a mechanism is found for the women who declined the RCOG audit such that they can participate in an independent audit, thereby gaining access to the tribunal. The Minister might address this. We want to hear about the mechanism, but before that comes the principle. Does the Minister believe he has found a way for that group of women to have one more option, time limited, to participate in a review or an audit of their slides, thereby gaining access to the tribunal?
We cannot discuss amendment No. 4. If the Deputy wishes to discuss amendments Nos. 2 and 3, I will allow her to do so. She is entitled to seven minutes, but not on amendment No. 4. It has been ruled out of order.
-----to allow women who did not sign up access to the tribunal because it is really important we do so. That is all. I just wanted to support the amendments and to put on the record that I am fully in support of the Minister finding a method of doing so.
I thank Deputies Donnelly and Bríd Smith. Deputy Kelly also tabled an amendment on this. Deputy Donnelly and I agree on this. We are trying to find a way - he is right that we originally set up a tribunal - to provide a route for compensation if adjudicated. To the 221 group we added the RCOG group. Deputy Donnelly is right that there is now a number of women, a number I expect to be quite small, who declined to partake in the RCOG audit and who were not part of the CervicalCheck audit but to whom I am happy to provide one more time-limited opportunity. The criteria as to what that independent review would look like would absolutely need to be set out and acceptable to my Department for obvious reasons. I therefore suggest, in the interest of allowing for the establishment of this tribunal in the autumn, that I return to the House in the autumn with a legally sound amendment to achieve exactly what Deputy Donnelly seeks to achieve, which is to give that group of women who could have participated in the RCOG audit but chose not to, whatever their reasons were, one more opportunity to participate in some form of independent review that would then allow them access to the tribunal. Were the Deputy happy to withdraw the amendment, I would commit on the floor of the House to return in the autumn with the legally sound way of doing this.
I thank the Minister. That is fine. I will withdraw the amendment. I appreciate his comments and take him at his word. I will just put on the record - it could be through no fault of his own - that Bills, particularly miscellaneous Bills, to which we often try to table amendments, can have a habit of drifting. We would therefore very much like to see the Bill on the Dáil schedule, on the priority list, in order that we could have it passed through the Houses of the Oireachtas shortly after they reconvene.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 11, line 3, to delete “on,”, where it secondly occurs, and substitute “6 months from”.
I do not feel the need to speak on this at length. It is an amendment that Deputy Kelly asked me to table, and I gave him a commitment that I would look at this. The Deputy basically asked that a six-month period be allowed. He referred to, I think, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, on Committee Stage. I am happy to table amendments Nos. 6 and 7, which would give effect to this. The amendments effectively provide that if the tribunal says it is not in a position to assist someone for whatever reason, he or she then has an additional six months added to his or her statute of limitations. We discussed this on Committee Stage, I think there was broad support for it, and I thank Deputy Kelly for bringing it forward. My two amendments give effect to the proposal.
I thank the Minister for taking on board what I said. This is a critical issue. We must compare this legislation with other legislation to ensure consistency, and a timeframe of six months should be added to the Bill. In fairness to the Minister, on this issue, if this issue alone, he has listened to us. Otherwise, we would have been left in a scenario in which some women could potentially, due to certain circumstances, have fallen outside of the time period. Adding on the six months ensures that they are within the time period. For this reason I welcome the fact that the Minister has added it.