It is proposed to take Questions Nos. 536 and 538 together.
No decision has yet been taken with regard to the future of the branch offices. Any such decision will be fully discussed with the branch managers who are represented in negotiations with the Department by the branch managers' association under the terms of the conciliation and arbitration scheme which covers them.
At my request, officials from the Department met with representatives of the branch managers' association at the end of May and are currently examining the various issues raised at this meeting. It is hoped to be in a position to begin negotiations with the association on the future of the branch offices in the near future.