Friday, 20 March 2020
An Bille Sláinte (Caomhnú agus Cosaint agus Bearta Éigeandála eile ar mhaithe le Leas an Phobail), 2020: Céim an Choiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha - Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
Simon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
It is absolutely my intention to share the rationale for any decisions made, under any such provisions of this Bill, with the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Senator will know this, but for the benefit of people following the proceedings, I remind them that the reason we are bringing in these measures is purely the extraordinary situation of a global pandemic in which we find ourselves. These measures are time limited until November unless these Houses decide to extend that.
The purpose of the text of the provision concerned addresses the circumstances that would necessitate regulatory measures and restrictions being put in place for the safeguarding of public health and human life. The detailed list of the possible regulatory measures outlined in the provisions of subsection (1) outlines a range of possible regulatory options, ensuring that appropriate and proportionate measures can be put in place. A proportionality test is already provided for in subsection (2) of the new section 31A of the Health Act 1947. That outlines, in a detailed list, the matters to which I, as Minister, must have regard when making regulations under section 31A. That obviously includes having regard to the expert advice of the Chief Medical Officer. Proportionality and necessity will be at the core of what we do and we will share the rationale for our decisions with the Houses of the Oireachtas. We believe the proportionality test is met by the new section 31A.As to the other point, the purpose of regulations is to protect the public by preventing, limiting, minimising and slowing the spread of Covid-19. Regulations, whether about travel or events, will only be in place for as long as is needed to meet that test based on advice. They will be kept under regular, constant review as the situation changes. It was the view of the public health experts in my Department that we did not need to set it out in the Bill. For that reason I would rather not accept that amendment, other than to assure the House that they will absolutely be kept under review and only kept in place for as long as needed and based on expert public health advice.