Wednesday, 31 May 2023
Veterinary Medicinal Products, Medicated Feed and Fertilisers Regulation Bill 2023: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage
Yes, it is.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 10, line 5, to delete “prescription and dispensing” and substitute “prescription, dispensing and prescription endorsement”.
This amendment was discussed on Committee Stage. We are bringing it forward again. It is an amendment we were asked to bring forward by the Irish Pharmacy Union, IPU. Pharmacists want to be reflected in the Bill. That is important. I understand the Minister has engaged with the IPU. The amendment relates to administration and record-keeping, which is important. It would allow and reflect the endorsement requirements in the Bill when pharmacists are supplying veterinary prescriptions. It is important and is something that pharmacists want. We should be led by them as professionals in this field.
This is a difficult area. Many suppliers and providers are concerned about their futures. Above all, we need proper, safe medicines and prescriptions to be available for farmers and all people who own or work with animals. The Ceann Comhairle and I know that chemists gave us good cures, not only for ourselves but also for many farm animals. There should be some involvement and pharmacists should be able to use their professional expertise and accumulated experience, which is probably more important when dealing with animal welfare and diseases over the decades.
I will be brief. This is an issue I have spoken about a number of times in the Chamber. My concern is that the responsible persons are not being recognised as the qualified people they are in the proposed changes. In regard to animal welfare, the North operates a different system than that which will operate here in respect of veterinary medicines. Farmers may go to the North and get veterinary medicines on the black market. That gives rise to questions of animal welfare. The responsible person was always the first point of contact for a farmer in an agri-merchant. Following the Bill's passing, that will change. An animal could be left too long because, as we know, there is a shortage of vets. Measures are being put in place to increase the number of vets. The proposed changes will definitely cause problems and create barriers. I have expressed concerns about this on previous occasions.
I thank Deputy Kerrane for the amendment. It is something we discussed on Committee Stage. Having considered it, it is not something I propose to accept on the basis that the national veterinary prescription system, NVPS, allows for veterinary prescriptions remarked as dispensed on the system. When we discussed this on Committee Stage, my understanding was that stakeholders wanted to ensure there is a robust system that records partial dispensing of prescriptions, including dates and amounts dispensed. I can confirm that this is the case. The NVPS has this functionality built into it and my departmental officials are continuing to engage with pharmacists on the matter. I am confident a technical solution within the NVPS is present to deal with the matter.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 10, line 28, to delete “regulations.” and substitute the following:“regulations;
(i) requirements for a proper assessment of the health status of the animal or group of animals to which the animal belongs by a veterinarian for the purposes of issuing a prescription for specified categories of veterinary medicinal products for non-therapeutic treatment.”.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 56, line 14, after “statute” to insert “anonymised”.
I understand these amendments were discussed on Committee Stage. The amendment seeks to ensure that when information is shared with third parties, it is provided on an anonymous basis, so that individual farmers are not identified, similar to other data privacy concerns. It also arises from concerns that have been expressed by the farming organisations about how data would be used under the provisions of this Bill. Maybe the committee has considered this again in the time since, but the farming organisations have raised concerns. We also have to be very careful, with GDPR, when it comes to the sharing of data. It is fair to ask that individual farmers not be identified and that the Minister might consider including this amendment.
I thank Deputy Kerrane for the amendment. I know we discussed it on Committee Stage as well. I do not propose to accept it. We have given the amendment thought, but we are well covered in the legislation as it is. The legislation was sent to the Data Protection Commissioner for consultation, which indicated it welcomed the inclusion of the listed bodies and the reasons for data sharing. My Department has undertaken to put data sharing agreements in place with each body, before any data sharing takes place. Any data sharing agreements which have yet to be finalised will be, in both the national interest and in collaboration with all the relevant stakeholders. We have taken the steps to ensure any data collected under this Bill comply with all GDPR rules and requirements. It is anticipated a number of Departments, agencies and other third parties may require access to data on fertiliser sales and stock levels. The robust data sharing provisions in the legislation will allow for the specific sharing of data with other bodies to achieve environmental and sustainability targets and will be fully in line with GDPR and other data protection legislation.
I will raise a point on data, data sharing and GDPR. This subject is quite interesting. The Ceann Comhairle was at another meeting earlier, at which we had a Minister of State bring in a breach of data.
I will not go there, but how can we have confidence when a Minister of State - anyone can make a mistake - inadvertently quoted a colleague of mine, Deputy Michael Collins, of being something he is not? There was also a very close direct connection with the Minister of State's family to the information. It is quite serious. A letter has gone to the Ceann Comhairle.
The issue is fully covered.
With regard to the point earlier on, the behaviour was outrageous, as was the allegation by Deputy McGrath's colleague as to why the Minister of State, Deputy Hackett, was here, given she was elected as a Minister of State by this Dáil to carry out her function. A very quick Google search will point the Deputy to where that particular Deputy who made the allegation about organic farming declared it previously at an Oireachtas committee in these very Houses.