The Government recently launched its new Legislative Programme, identifying the Bills that will be given priority in the short term and the other Bills that the various Government Departments plan to introduce in the long term.
In the former category, the Programme prioritises 11 Bills for publication this session. A number of these are linked to post-election Government formation issues, such as the Water Services Bill. Others, such as the Criminal Justice Bill, to introduce new measures to combat organised crime, and the Commissions of Investigation (IBRC) Bill, to address matters affecting the work of the Commission, address issues of immediate public concern.
The Government has also identified as a priority for publication this session:
- a Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill to control certain drugs, including prescription medicines which are being misused and sold illegally;
- a Paternity Bill, to provide for the introduction of two weeks paternity leave and associated social welfare benefit (as from September 2016);
- an Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill, regarding the requirement for schools to operate enrolment policies in a transparent fashion.
The Programme identifies 17 Bills that are presently before the Oireachtas, twelve of which fell with the dissolution of the last Dáil but were reinstated.
The Programme also identifies a number of Bills that are expected to undergo Pre-Legislative Scrutiny shortly. The Pre-Legislative Scrutiny process allows Oireachtas Committees to review the Heads of Bills and meet with experts, interested citizens and civil society groups working in the area before providing a Report to the Minister while the Bill is still being drafted. This process, which was introduced during the last Dáil, has been characterised by Government Chief Whip, Regina Doherty, in her foreword to the Government Legislative Programme as the ‘‘key to the way Government Legislative programmes will now be published’.
Amongst the Bills expected to undergo Pre-Legislative Scrutiny in the next few months is a Health Information and Patient Safety Bill to provide a legislative framework for the better governance of health information, including initiatives in the areas of data matching and the use of other health information resources to support clinical audit and patient safety.
The Programme lists 91 Bills that it has proposed to introduce in the long term and provides an update in relation to the status of each of these, broken down by relevant Government Department. Of particular interest in the regulatory field are:
- an Open Disclosures Bill to support the open disclosure to patients of public safety incidents, in respect of which Heads of Bill were approved in November 2015;
- a Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill to amend the statutory framework of many health regulators with a view to transposing Directive 2013/55/EU relating to the recognition of professional qualifications and administrative cooperation through the Internal Market Information System and to provide for an appeal against minor sanctions. Heads of Bill were approved on 17 November 2015;
- a Patient Safety (Licensing of Healthcare Facilities) Bill to provide for the mandatory licensing of public and private healthcare facilities, with the Heads of Bill expected by the end of 2016;
- a Judicial Council Bill, in respect of which Heads of Bill have been approved and drafting is at an advanced stage.