Written Answers. - Regulatory Reform.

John Bruton

Question:

248 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will make a statement on the adoption or otherwise by his Department of the recommendations made in the OECD review, Regulatory Reform in Ireland; and the concrete steps taken by his Department in pursuit of these recommendations since the publication of the report. [10787/03]

A progress report by the high level group on regulation was published on www.betterregulation.ie in December 2002. Appendix 1 of this report outlines progress made in relation to the OECD's recommendations on regulatory reform in relation to the regulatory functions of my Department. Reference in the report to the ODTR should now be taken as reference to the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

Work is continuing in my Department on the implementation of the OECD's recommendations and on the development of regulatory policy frameworks, which seek to balance independence and accountability, sustain competitiveness, address market entry, deal with access to services and consumer interests and which encompass the public resource dimension of my responsibilities. The following are some of the actions under way in my Department.

In the utilities area, there are a number of ongoing developments in relation to market access. In the energy sector, Ireland has already gone beyond the requirements of the EU electricity directive by opening 40% of the market since 2002 and is moving towards full liberalisation of the market in February 2005. We have also exceeded the EU requirements in relation to the natural gas market by opening over 80% of the market in April 2002, with complete market opening planned for 2005.
In the telecommunications market, the Communications Regulation Act, 2002, provides for the new Commission for Communications Regulation to have the function of investigating consumer complaints regarding the supply of and access to electronic communications networks, services and associated facilities. Appropriate powers in this regard will be enhanced through the transposition into Irish law of the new European regulatory framework for electronic communications by July 2003.
On the provision of a pro-competition and high quality regulatory environment, the forthcoming electricity Bill will consolidate over 40 pieces of legislation, while eliminating unnecessary legislation currently in force. This will provide a more user-friendly and accessible regulatory framework for the electricity sector. Work is also under way in my Department on the repeal and, where appropriate, consolidation or replacement of all primary legislation from 1847 to the present day relating to the natural gas sector. The aim is to provide a modern regulatory framework for the natural gas sector that promotes the development of a competitive multi-operator environment for the benefit of all gas customers.
Future policy directions for the governance and regulation of the commercial ports will be informed by the findings of the high level review which will be published shortly. I have also mandated my Department to develop proposals for more effective regulatory frameworks in relation to coastal public resources.
My Department is represented on the high level group on regulation, which is developing and co-ordinating the overall better regulation agenda with particular regard to the institutional and policy proposals required on foot of the OECD's report. An internal working group on regulation, representative of the relevant divisions of my Department, has recently been established. This group will provide input to the work of the high level group and will act as a standing forum to review existing regulatory practices in the Department with a view to identifying and implementing best practice. The forthcoming national policy statement on regulation will inform the process of ongoing review and reassessment.
Given the key role of the Department, under my policy direction, across so many critical areas of economic activity, regulatory policy is a core element of our strategies going forward, both in sector-specific and overarching policy terms. This is highlighted in my Department's statement of strategy 2003-2005, which will be published shortly.