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PRIVATE MEMBERS LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL AND SPECIAL PETITIONS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
18 June 2003
MEDICAL SCHEME AMENDMENT BILL; PATENTS AMENDMENT BILL; PARDON INVESTIGATION PROCEDURE BILL: DECISION
Chairperson: Mr PAC Hendrikse (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Progress Report on Legislative Proposals
Letter from Head: Research and Monitoring of the Council for Medical Schemes
Letter from Head and Senior Manager in the Office of the Director-General: Labour
Department of Trade & Industry Submission on the Proposed Amendment to the Patent Act
Department of Health Comment on the Patent Amendment Bill
Letter from Minister of Justice Commenting on the Pardon Investigation Procedure Bill
Letter from Director-General of Housing
Letter from Presidency Office in re Child Care Amendment Act
Letter from Chair of the IEC in re Electoral Systems Bill
Letter from Managing Director of the Board of HealthCare Funders
Bell's Memorandum to amend the Medical Schemes Act
Response from Registrar for Council for Medical Schemes
Correspondence on Medical Schemes Amendment Bill from Mr Bell (MP)
Witbank Coalfields Medical Aid Scheme Presentation to Committee
Kalyan's memorandum to amend the Patent Amendment Bill
Mr Tony Leon's Pardon Investigation Procedure Bill
The Committee met to make a decision on the legislative proposals of Mr Bell, Ms Kalyan and Mr Leon:
- On Bell's Medical Schemes Amendment Bill, it decided that the matter would be better dealt with by labour institutions such as Nedlac and thus there would be no need to amend the Act. As there was a lack of consensus the Committee had to vote.
- On Kalyan's Patents Amendment Bill, it decided not to accept the proposal. Again a vote had to be taken due to lack of consensus.
- On Leon's Pardon Investigation Procedure Bill, it was agreed to defer the matter until comment was received from the Justice Department's law advisor.
Medical Schemes Amendment Bill by Mr Bell
The Chair noted that Mr B Bell's proposal was to amend the Medical Aid Schemes Act (MESA) to ensure that all medical schemes that provide short-term medical cover amend their constitutions so as guarantee the discounted rate to their retired members, who would be subsidised by the younger members of the schemes. The submissions they had requested on this proposal from various bodies had all been received and the Committee now needed to decide on this matter.
Mr M Da Camara (DA) recommended that the Committee should proceed with the Bill. As no alternative had been provided by those objecting to the amendment, it would be proper to put this on the parliamentary agenda and follow the parliamentary processes.
Mr A Ainslie (ANC) objected to the proposal and noted that while the Committee sympathised with the views noted in the proposal, it still maintained that this is a labour matter and should be dealt with as such. It was clear that there exists no cause for amending the Medical Schemes Act so as to rectify the labour flaws.
The Chair added that members should remember that the Department of Health did support the notion raised in the proposal, but felt that the Act need not be amended in order to address this as they could be dealt with in terms of labour institutions.
Mr Da Camara contended that since the Act is silent on this issue, its amendment would then ensure that it does deal with the matter together with the one of discrimination.
Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) noted that while no one disputed the necessity of the proposed provision, it is important to note that medical aid is not a condition for employment and has to be agreed on by both the employer and employee. However not every young person would accept the responsibility of supporting elders, except if parents or relatives. Thus the available labour mechanisms should be explored.
Mr B Bell (DA) acknowledged the reasons advanced by the Committee, but appealed that as an interim measure the Act should be amended so as to avoid retired members finding themselves in the situation where they have to pay double the amount originally payable.
The Chair said that everyone acknowledges the importance of the proposal since no one wants to see pensioners being disadvantaged, however it is being contested that the proposed route is not the correct vehicle to address this problem.
Mr L Kgwele (ANC) added his voice that this matter should be dealt with through the appropriate labour institutions such as Nedlac and leave the Act intact, as it is.
Mr Da Camara said that even though this can be taken to the proposed labour institutions such as Nedlac, since the Act does not cater for the proposed mechanisms, it would have to be amended in any event.
Dr D Hanekom (ANC) appreciated the merits of the proposal but also suggested that Nedlac should first be approached on this matter and then see what follows thereafter.
The Chair noted that there is dissent amongst the members and decided that they should vote so that the deadlock could be broken.
The ANC moved that the Committee not proceed with Bell's proposal. This was supported by the IFP, NNP and UDM, while the DA opposed the move.
Mr H Schmidt (DA) asked that the report of the Committee registers the DA's dissent with the decision of the Committee.
Mr Mshudulu reproved the DA for requiring that its dissent be registered in the Committee report. One of the founding principles of the Committee was members should not be blinded by political loyalty and that seems to be the case at present. While the Committee was not obliged to put Ms Kalyan's proposal in abeyance, it did since it looked beyond party politics and afforded impartial attention to every member's proposal. Other members echoed these sentiments.
The majority of the Committee concurred with these sentiments.
The Chair noted that the Committee report to Parliament would state that the Committee acknowledged the importance of the issues raised in the Bill and sympathised with them. However it is of the view that this is a labour matter and should be dealt with by the appropriate labour institutions. Despite members reproving the request for the DA dissent to be noted, the report would include the statement that the DA dissented with the decision of the Committee. This would in any case be recorded in the minutes of the vote.
Patent Amendment Bill by Ms Kalyan
The Chair explained that Ms Kalyan advocated an amendment to the Patent Act to ensure that a safety mechanism is established to facilitate easier access to generic drugs and/or parallel imports in the face of any health crisis. The matter had been put into abeyance at the request of Ms Kalyan and she had later requested that it be reinstated. Responses had been requested from the Departments of Trade & Industry and Health on the proposal and these submissions had been received. The Committee needed make a decision on the way forward.
Mr Ainslie proposed that the Committee should not proceed with the matter, as there is no justification to amend the Act as proposed by Ms Kalyan. Mr Kgwele supported the move.
Mr Schmidt (DA) noted that based on the facts in the letter of the Department of Health dated 28 May 2003, especially in the last paragraph, the DA moves that the Committee should proceed with the Bill.
The ANC, NNP and UDM voted against the amendment, the DA voted in favour of the amendment and the IFP abstained from voting.
Pardon Investigation Procedure Bill by Mr Leon
The Chair explained that Mr A Leon (DA) proposed that a new bill be introduced to prescribe the process by which the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, when requested to do so by the President, has to make recommendations on pardons (Section 84(2)(j) of Constitution). The Minister had been requested to comment on this and the response had been received. The Committee has to make a decision on this proposal.
Mr Schmidt (DA) acknowledged the response from the Ministry, but noted that the Committee is still awaiting a comment from the "law advisor" of Justice, Mr Rudman, as he had undertaken to provide comment. It would be inappropriate for the Committee to make any decision before receiving such a comment from the department.
The Chair noted that it is highly unlikely that the comment to be provided by the legal advisor of the department would be in contrast with the one received from the Ministry. Thus there is really nothing holding the Committee from taking its decision even though such comment has not been received.
Mr Schmidt disagreed with the Chair and noted that the comment to be received from the legal advisor might in fact be totally different and rebut the one received from the Ministry. Therefore it made sense to wait for it before any decision be taken.
Mr Kgwele (ANC) agreed and said that as some crucial information is still outstanding on this issue, it would be proper for the Committee to defer this matter until it has received such information. Mr Da Camara (DA) also agreed and said that the Committee should not try to pre-empt what Mr Rudman would say.
The Chair noted that there is consensus that the matter should be deferred and requested the Committee clerk to contact Mr Rudman and remind him to submit his comment before next meeting, which would be held on 25 June.
The meeting was adjourned.
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