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Published 19 October 2017
On 19 September 2017, the Government Chief Whip released a list of the Government's legislative priorities for the new Dáil term.
A total of 28 bills have been prioritised for publication in the Autumn Session, including:
The Regulated Health Professions (Amendment) Bill
This started life as a Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill back in December 2015 with pre-legislative scrutiny conducted at that stage and again in December 2016. The revised title more accurately reflects the changes being introduced with the purpose of the bill being to amend the legislation relating to the Medical Council, the Dental Council, CORU, the Pharmaceutical Society and the NMBI as well as amending the Health Acts of 1953 and 2004.
One of the amendments is to provide for the availability of an appeal against "minor" sanctions being imposed against a regulated professional. Currently, an appeal to the High Court is not available if a registrant wishes to challenge the imposition of an advice, admonishment or censure. This point has been raised before the Courts on a number of occasions, most notably in the case of Corbally v. the Medical Council.
Other matters to be addressed by the bill include the transposition of Directive 2013/55/EU on the recognition of professional qualifications and the action to be taken by a regulator if a person has been prohibited / restricted from practising in another county.
Data Protection Bill
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be directly effective from 25 May 2018 without any need for further legislation. However, Member States have discretion on certain derogations and other limited areas. The Department of Justice and Equality published the General Scheme of Data Protection Bill 2017 in May. Pre-legislative scrutiny was completed in July.
What are the headline issues?
Aside from the priority bills, a further 30 bills are expected to undergo Pre-Legislative Scrutiny in the current session. From a regulatory perspective, the following are of interest:
Building Control Bill
The heads of the Building Control bill were approved on 30 May 2017 and the purpose of the new bill is stated as "to place Construction Industry Register Ireland or CIRI on a statutory footing and thereby provide in law for the registration of builders, contractors and specialist sub-contractors". CIRI was established by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) with the support of the Government and provides a list of construction professionals who are deemed to be "competent" for the purposes of signing certificates of compliance on completion of projects as required by Regulations introduced in 2014.
The Board will be able to conduct investigations and appoint inspectors. Findings include improper conduct, poor professional performance and breach of registration requirements. Possible sanctions will range from advice / admonishment up to suspension and erasure from the register with the more serious sanctions requiring High Court confirmation, mirroring that of other professional regulatory bodies.
A separate appeals committee will be established to deal with appeals by members / applicants who are adversely affected by a decision of the Admissions and Registration board.
The date of pre-legislative scrutiny is yet to be determined.
Irish Aviation Authority (Amendment) Bill
Work is said to be underway with respect to Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of this bill which aims to amend existing legislation dating from 1997 "to extend the existing powers of the IAA, with regard to its safety regulation function, to recoup costs through fees and charges for its aviation security regulation functions". It is also planned to recognise the IAA's role in compliance monitoring under Annex 17 of the Chicago Convention which deals with security of civil aviation.
It should be noted that this bill was assigned a similar status in the Spring / Summer 2017 Legislative programme so its progress in this session remains to be seen.
73 other pieces of legislation are listed in the programme, each at varying stages of progress. It is unclear whether any of these will make any significant progress in the current session. The following are included in this section:
Greyhound Industry (Amendment) Bill
The heads of bill were approved in March 2017 and pre-legislative scrutiny has also taken place but this is not designated as a priority for the government in the current session. This will update the 1958 Act and is intended to "ensure that the principles of good governance and regulation are clearly laid down in primary legislation". Among the main amendments will be:
Work is said to be underway on amending the 1990 Act which will give the representative associations of An Garda Siochana (the Garda Representative Association ("GRA") and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors ("AGSI") access to the workplace relations commission and the Labour Court.
The proposed legislation was mentioned to the Dáil by the then Taoiseach in November 2016 where he noted that he had instructed the Attorney General to move as quickly as possible to put the required legal frameworks in place. It was reported earlier this year that this legislation would not be in place until the end of 2017 at the earliest but as no heads of bill are approved at this stage and the fact that it does not appear in a priority list, it seems highly unlikely that there will be any significant progress by the end of this year.
Cyber Security Bill
This Bill will provide powers to the Minister for Communications to transpose the Network and Information Security Directive (NISD) into Irish law. The NISD is designed to create a focus on the protection of IT systems in European critical national infrastructure. Essentially it introduces new breach reporting obligations to whole new swathes of industry, including the energy, transport, banking and healthcare sectors. It will also require Member States to adopt a national cyber strategy which defines objectives, policy and regulatory measures to protect the State.
Health Information and Patient Safety Bill
The heads for this amendment bill were approved in November 2016 with Pre-Legislative scrutiny completed in December 2016.
The bill aims to "provide a legislative framework for the better governance of health information and initiatives including data matching and health information resources for use in the health service and support for clinical audit and patient safety notifications".
However, possibly of most significance will be its provision to extend the remit of the Health Information and Quality Authority to private health providers. This proposed extension was announced by the then Minister for Health in June 2015 to include private hospitals and certain cosmetic surgery procedures as well as an oversight role for research ethics committees for clinical trials.
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