Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2007/2008

Date: 15 November 2007




Public Health (Amendment) Bill

 15 November 2007

Members present for all or part of the proceedings: 
Mrs Iris Robinson (Chairperson) 
Mrs Michelle O’Neill (Deputy Chairperson) 
Mr Thomas Buchanan 
Dr Kieran Deeny 
Mr Alex Easton 
Ms Carál Ní Chuilín

Mr Seamus Camplisson ) Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety 
Mr Andrew Elliott )

The Chairperson (Mrs I Robinson):
I welcome Andrew Elliott, the director of the population health directorate, and Seamus Camplisson from the health protection branch. You are both very welcome. I apologise for keeping you waiting. The Committee is dealing with the draft Programme for Government and the draft Budget, and this has been its first major opportunity to pick the brains of the departmental officials.

The Minister has advised the Committee that he intends to introduce a Public Health (Amendment) Bill shortly. Officials will brief us on the background and purpose of the Bill, and there will be an opportunity for members to ask questions.

Mr Andrew Elliott (Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety):
Thank you very much. Members will have noticed that the Bill is rather short, and I am hoping that my comments can be equally short to reflect that.

The Chairperson:
Your comments will be welcome.

Mr A Elliott:
The Bill is a fairly technical piece of work. The World Health Organization introduced new international health regulations that place a requirement on all national Governments to introduce domestic legislation to reflect that. The main purpose of the regulations is to improve and modernise the way in which we can perform checks on ships at ports. When the Department started to examine the legislation in Northern Ireland, it realised that our existing primary legislation was slightly weak. Our legal advice was that the legislation should be amended to ensure that it has clear reference to contamination as well as to infection, and that can pick up a range of modern issues relating to chemical pollution or potentially radioactive material that could be on board a vessel.

We sought to include the relevant legislation in a Bill at Westminster before the restoration of devolution. Unfortunately, that Bill was withdrawn at the last minute and the issue has not been progressed. We had no choice but to introduce it as a separate piece of legislation, and that is why the draft Bill is before the Committee today.

The Chairperson:
Basically, the legislation is tightening up an issue that was not properly dealt with in the past.

Mr A Elliott:
Once this legislation is in place, we will then proceed to make the regulations that will fulfil the requirements of the World Health Organization.

The Chairperson:
Have members any comments to make? No comments — after all that waiting. I thank Andrew and Seamus for attending. We note your comments. The legislation will come before the Assembly in due course. Thank you very much.

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