1 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the files which were released recently by his Department under the National Archives Act 1986; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43888/06]
Vol. 632 No. 4
1 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the files which were released recently by his Department under the National Archives Act 1986; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43888/06]
2 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the number of files withheld by his Department from the National Archives in respect of 1976; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43892/06]
3 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the number of files withheld by his Department regarding the files transferred to the National Archives in respect of 1976; the numbers withheld under section 8(4)(a) of the National Archives Act 1986; the number withheld under section 8(4)(b); the number withheld under section 8(4)(c); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1001/07]
4 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the procedures in place for review of decisions by his Department to withhold files from the National Archives under the National Archives Act 1986, including files withheld in relation to 1976; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3728/07]
5 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the number of files withheld by his Department from the National Archives in respect of 1976. [4432/07]
6 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the files that were released to the National Archives in respect of 1976; the number of files withheld; the reason for withholding these files; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6325/07]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, together.
The evaluation of files for release to the National Archives is carried out by designated officials in my Department. I have no role in that process. As files are processed for release each year, it is normal that some are certified by the appropriate official for retention on the grounds set forth in the Act. Under section 8(6) of the National Archives Act 1986, provision is made for the review of closed records at five-yearly intervals from the date the certificate to withhold the records is made. My Department complies with its statutory obligation in this regard.
A total to 724 files or file parts were transferred to the National Archives to be released for public inspection on 1 January 2007. Six files were withheld, of which two were withheld under section 8(4)(a) of the Act, one under section 8(4)(b) and (c) and one under section 8(4)(c) of the Act. On the advice of the Attorney General, two files were withheld under the 75-year European Court of Human Rights rule.
What kind of files were withheld? Does the Taoiseach have the number of files that have not been released and to what they relate? I note that, according to a recent newspaper article, the son of Rudolf Hess wrote to the former President, Mr. de Valera, in 1968, asking him to petition for the release of his father from Spandau prison in Berlin. The Taoiseach will be well aware of the story. The Secretary General of the Department of External Affairs, as it was then known, responded by saying that no further action was considered necessary and that the letter should just be acknowledged. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Does the Taoiseach have a list of what else has been released? Is it available in the Oireachtas Library or on the Internet? How does the average person access such information if he or she should so wish?
The files are sent to the National Archives every year so all of the records will be there. Of the six files in question, two were withheld under section 8(4)(a) of the Act, which relates to public interest, one was held under section 8(4)(b), which relates to information obtained in confidence, and one was held under section 8(4)(c), which relates to distress or danger of defamation. In practice most of the files withheld concern personal security matters. The European Court of Human Rights restricts the release of documents for 75 years and we observe such restrictions when we have documents on file from that body. This year two files were withheld on this basis, both of which related to the case taken against the British Government for the ill treatment of internees in Northern Ireland.
Is it true that they were withheld partially because there are persons living who may be affected by the consequences of their release? Are those persons in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland and is this why the files have not been released or does the Taoiseach have this information?
Even the names of most of these files are not given because that would be too much information. Not many files are withheld every year — between five and nine files each year in recent times — and most relate to people in Northern Ireland who wrote to the Taoiseach of the day with information. While the files come under the category of public interest information obtained in confidence, distress or danger, they all relate to the security situation.
During the Taoiseach's term of stewardship, how many of the files withheld have been transferred to the archives?
Very few, to the best of my knowledge. I have the figures from 1999 and later and no file or part-file was withheld in 1999 or in the few preceding years. The 30 year rule affects files from the 1969 to 1970 period so in 2000 and 2001 there were 12 and 13 such files. The figures for the years after this were five, five and six. Almost all of these files related to security information supplied in writing by people. Inevitably, given the times, a number of documents contained sensitive or confidential information about individuals. In some cases the information may not have been accurate but it was supplied by individuals and no assessment is made as to the accuracy of the information supplied in the files.
I understand officials from my Department made every effort to ensure documents were released in their entirety where possible and sought the release of papers relating to political contacts between the Irish and British Governments and policy considerations of the Government of the time. Files withheld tended to relate to security information and information supplied by individuals in this regard.
Do the files held tend to be reviewed?
They are reviewed every five years. I am not sure that the files I have seen and those that have been held back will ever be released unless, as in the human rights situation, we can get them out eventually. Many of the files relate to people writing to the Taoiseach of the day and giving their view or assessment of information they believed to be security information. How can anyone ever make an assessment about whether they were right or wrong? I do not think most of the files in question will ever see the light of day.
Will the files from 1976 which were withheld and not released in January 2007 be considered for review in January 2008? Regarding the 1976 files relating to the Sallins mail train robbery and the subsequent framing of people for that raid, were any files withheld relating to the operation of the Garda heavy gang at the time?
Regarding the inquiry into the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, did Mr. McEntee SC have full access to all files relating to the matter, including those not released, under the National Archives Act?
No files relating to the Sallins robbery were held in my Department. They would have been Garda files or files held by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. As I stated, the only files in my Department related to the security situation and only a very small number of files were held back. The files related to security information and we had no files relating to the issues the Deputy mentioned.
On the McEntee inquiry, on which we will have questions later, any appropriate files, either Garda files or otherwise, were available. I will deal with the matter when we come to the question.
In light of the Taoiseach's response to Deputy Rabbitte concerning the five-yearly review, how many files have been subject to multiple reviews? The Taoiseach referred to the period from 1999 onwards. Do the files withheld relating to 1976 concern a single incident or a number of incidents? Are the same people cited in each of them or do they relate to different groups of people?
The Taoiseach appeared to indicate to Deputy Rabbitte that some files may have been withheld to avoid embarrassment to people who corresponded with members of the Government. Will he explain the security implications of withholding such correspondence?
Has the Department of the Taoiseach succeeded in creating a computer database of archives? To what extent has a division taken place in the National Archives between, on the one hand, professional historians and researchers and, on the other, members of the public who use the National Archives, for instance, to look up family histories? Could the difficulties in the National Archives caused by lack of space be overcome by introducing greater computerisation of records?
The National Archives has legislation, procedures and a budget for dealing with these issues so I do not want to answer on its behalf. State papers are released under the National Archives Act and provide historians with valuable insights into the Government's consideration of the events of 30 years previously. I am sure those analysing these historical records will find the State papers a valuable research resource.
I know from officials in my Department that they make every effort to ensure that documents are released in their entirety where possible. In particular, they have sought, wherever possible, to release papers relating to the political contacts between the Irish and British Governments and the policy considerations of the Government of the time. These are key historical records and the area in which historians are interested. My officials also sought to minimise any redactions within the documents that were released so that they would be fully accessible to readers.
I am not involved in this process, which is entirely conducted by authorised officials within the provisions of the Act. I do not have control over the staff of the National Archives who do a good job in assisting historians and members of the public in accessing records.
Information that is held back is not done so out of embarrassment. Thirty years ago, people in communities in Northern Ireland or in the Border region may have written letters containing facts or information they believed to be of a security nature. Some of these people or members of their families are still alive. Such instances, where people offered their view of sensitive information, are considered under the Act to be files that could create distress to individuals or their families or to present a danger or defamation.
Such people acted in good faith at a time of conflict and great difficulties in their areas. This provision is included in the legislation to protect that type of information so that people who thought they were being helpful at the time are not involved in conflict 30 years later. Only a small number of files are involved. They relate not to policy issues but to judgments of individuals, right or wrong, on the security situation at the time. It would be unfair ever to release those papers. I do not know what purpose would be served in doing so. Perhaps it might make no difference to release them in 75 years under the European Court of Human Rights rule but I do not see what purpose that would serve.
A total of 55 files on Northern Ireland were released to the National Archives this year. Only two of these were withheld under the European Court of Human Rights rule, 44 were released entirely without redactions, and 11 were released with redactions. Such redactions generally relate to the names of individuals. Of the 11 redacted files, 36 documents out of those files were affected.
My question relates to storage and access to the National Archives and to Deputy Boyle's point regarding computerisation. The facilities there are entirely inadequate. Given that the General Registry Office has moved to Roscommon town and its records have been successfully computerised and that the Land Registry is on its way to Roscommon town and is in the process of computerising its records, would it not make sense to decentralise all our national records to Roscommon town? The facilities should be provided where the technology and skills are already available.
Since the Government successfully implemented the other changes, it should consider this proposal along with everything else.
Does that mean the Taoiseach agrees with my proposal?
Deputy Naughten obviously agrees with the actions we have already taken in this area.
7 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the implementation of the Nally report on the reorganisation of the Chief State Solicitor’s office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43889/06]
8 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on progress in the reorganisation of the Chief State Solicitor’s office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3729/07]
9 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the implementation of the Nally report. [4433/07]
10 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the implementation of the Nally report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6326/07]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, together.
As I indicated in reply to previous questions on the matter, the recommendations of the Nally report in regard to the reorganisation of the Chief State Solicitor's office have been largely implemented. The recommendation that responsibility for local State solicitors should be transferred from the Attorney General to the DPP, with legislative provision to enable the DPP to delegate to them, is almost implemented and should be fully implemented in the nearfuture.
The offices of the Chief State Solicitor and Director of Public Prosecutions have been in negotiations with the State Solicitors' Association for some considerable time. Following these lengthy negotiations, a revised offer was made to the association on 6 September 2006. The association indicated it will accept the offer subject to agreement on new contracts with the Director of Public Prosecutions. The details of the new contracts are in the final stages of agreement.
Officials in the Chief State Solicitor's office and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions are confident final agreement will be reached in the near future allowing for the service to transfer. The enabling legislation and appropriate legislative provisions on the transfer of the local State solicitor service are contained in the Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Act 2005, which was signed by the President on 9 July 2005.
There has been much talk about what the DPP might be able to do and what generally happens. Traditionally, as the Taoiseach is aware, the DPP was seen as being in a position to assist the courts to arrive at a decision. In our adversarial court system a situation may arise where the defendant's barrister can go into a long tirade about mitigation for a defendant while the DPP, because of a convention, sits there and says nothing. Just as the barrister for the defendant can make a case for mitigation, so too should the DPP's office be able to make a case for prosecution. He often does that by giving his views on the leniency of sentences. Does the Taoiseach accept the current system does not allow for the people, through the DPP, to have their say prior to a sentence being handed down? Would it be reasonable to set aside the current convention? In an adversarial situation, prior to a judge handing down a sentence, and where the defendant's barrister makes a case saying why the person should be given a lenient sentence, the DPP should speak on behalf of the people even if referring to tariffs set down by the Oireachtas.
The problem is that this does not happen because of a traditional convention. Does the Taoiseach have a view on this? Does he think the antiquated system should go by the board and that the DPP should be able to speak up on behalf of the people to say that a certain crime should carry a certain sentence? It would send a clear message to criminals who think they can get a soft touch and that the law is tilted in their direction.
I will not give judgments on these issues. The questions relate to the Nally report's recommendations on the updating of the Office of the Chief State Solicitor's in 1999 to improve relationships between the office and the DPP and on the powers that should be transferred from the Attorney General to the DPP, with legislative provision to allow the DPP to delegate to the Chief State Solicitor. Other aspects in the report are almost fully implemented.
The DPP has contributed to some of these debates. He is independent under the 1974 Act so I do not want to give my view or that of the Government on how he handles cases. He has a level of independence that allows him to decide how he deals with these issues. He has stated in some speeches at conferences that there are areas we should examine or that his office should examine.
Since the Nally report was published in 1999, negotiations with staff to implement the recommendations and the putting in place of adequate staff structures took a few years. Staff structures for the criminal division of the Chief State Solicitor's Office were transferred to the DPP's office to form a unit headed by a solicitor. That unit has professional staff who work for the DPP under the meaning of the 1974 Act. Removing those powers from the Office of the Chief State Solicitor and giving them to a solicitor in the DPP's office was a significant change. If I was to say how he should do his job, however, I would be interfering.
What is the relationship between county solicitors and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor? Are they subcontractors? Do they get a set amount of money or are the staff of such solicitors paid equally? Is the deal done with the county solicitor who then employs the number of staff he or she thinks appropriate at different levels?
The DPP stated it would be desirable for a legal policy unit to be established in his office. Is that proceeding or have discussions taken that into account in the new arrangements?
In recent times 75 additional staff were taken on but the more recent proposal is to have a separate research unit with staff who would not be involved in the ordinary day-to-day cases. In the context of this year's Estimates, they sought resources. I do not know at what stage the negotiations are at present. It seems a very valid point that staff involved in day-to-day cases should not be the research people. Additional staff is required for that.
There was a report on the workloads and the expense base of the office of the Chief State Solicitor by reviewers engaged by the Chief State Solicitor's office before the offer was made last year. The offer dealt with many of the issues raised in the course of negotiations with the State Solicitors' Association. It is designed to have a benchmark of expenses. What happens in the Chief State Solicitor's office is that they are contracted. They have separate offices and separate staff, so their workloads are different. They are endeavouring to have a contract that would be compatible for them all. They do the vast amount of the work on a nationwide basis, so they represent a vitally important cog in the whole system. The negotiations are concluded and they are drawing up the contracts that will allow them to work to the Chief State Solicitor's office. There are a large number of people on a nationwide basis involved in these offices. At last, after a long industrial relations process, they seem to have resolved the issue and the contracts are being drawn up. They would be contracted to the Chief State Solicitor's office with terms affixed. There will not be the same money for everyone because the workloads are different in the cases of different counties.
11 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the implementation of the recommendation of the OECD report on regulatory reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43890/06]
12 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the implementation of the recommendations of the OECD report on regulatory reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6327/07]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 and 12 together.
Significant progress has been made since the publication of the 2001 OECD report, Regulatory Reform in Ireland. The focus of our efforts in progressing regulatory reform is now on implementing the Government White Paper, Regulating Better, which was published in January 2004 in response to the OECD's report.
The White Paper sets out six core principles that must be reflected in how we design, implement and review legislation and regulation. Some of the key areas outlined in the OECD report relate to specific sectoral issues and the appropriate Ministers with responsibility for those sectoral areas report directly to the House on progressing those OECD recommendations.
The better regulation group was established in 2004 to progress the commitments in the White Paper and to oversee the implementation of the action plan, which forms part of the White Paper. The group met on five occasions in 2006 and presented a detailed report to Government at its meeting on 13 February on its progress in implementing the commitments in the White Paper. The better regulation group has played a leading role in overseeing the introduction of regulatory impact analysis across Departments and Government offices. Officials are now routinely applying regulatory impact analysis, RIA, to regulatory proposals in advance of their submission to Government. The better regulation unit of my Department provides practical support for officials conducting regulatory impact analyses.
Concrete examples of this support include a dedicated RIA training course, the RIA guidelines, the guidelines on consultation for public sector bodies and the recently established RIA network. Alongside this work, the better regulation group has steered and focused work in the area of statute law revision. The Statute Law Revision Bill 2007, published on 1 February, provides for the repeal of more than 3,000 obsolete Acts that predate the foundation of the State. Two comprehensive public consultation processes preceded the drafting of the text of the Bill. The Bill completed all stages in the Seanad on 14 February and is listed for Second Stage in this House tomorrow. It is envisaged that the Bill will be enacted in the lifetime of the current Dáil. The removal of these ancient Acts from our Statute Book will undoubtedly assist in clarifying the legislation that remains in force.
To identify priorities for improving the regulatory environment for business, the better regulation group has also commissioned the Economic and Social Research Institute to conduct a survey of business attitudes to regulation. This comprehensive survey of more than 800 companies, including SMEs, focuses on red tape and on the impacts of regulation on business more broadly, such as the extent to which regulation facilitates, or is a barrier to, economic growth and the competitiveness of business. I intend to publish the results of this survey shortly.
In addition to the initiatives already mentioned, the better regulation group also oversees the work of a number of subgroups, including the subgroup on regulatory appeals and the subgroup on electronic statutory instruments.
The subgroup on regulatory appeals has been charged with progressing commitments in the White Paper in relation to developing improved approaches to appealing the decisions of the major economic and sectoral regulatory bodies. Given the complex nature of the issues involved in appeals, the Government decided, in July 2006, to initiate a broad public consultation process on the issue, with advertisements placed in the national media.
As part of this consultation process, the subgroup published a consultation paper on regulatory appeals and a successful consultation seminar was organised by my Department in September 2006 to generate debate on the issue and encourage interested parties to respond to the consultation paper. The seminar presented legal, international and business experience in relation to appeals and speakers at the seminar included the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and the Attorney General.
Thirty five submissions have been received to date in my Department in response to the consultation paper on regulatory appeals. The better regulation group is currently in the process of reviewing the submissions received and will publish a synthesis document in the first quarter of this year. These submissions will inform proposals on appeals which the better regulation group will prepare for consideration by the Government.
The subgroup on electronic statutory instruments is looking at improving electronic accessibility to statutory instruments. Revised procedures for the production of statutory instruments have been developed and are currently being piloted across Departments and offices.
The 2001 report refers to bottlenecks in the physical infrastructure of housing, transport and other areas. Will the Taoiseach comment on how many of the OECD's conclusions and policy options have been dealt with since then? I note in the executive summary of the 2006-07 global competitiveness report that Ireland is ranked at 31. In respect of higher education and training, Ireland is ranked at 16, which means a slippage in terms of our competitiveness as against countries such as Finland, Norway and Sweden which have held the top three places in these areas for a long time.
Will the Taoiseach comment on reform of the energy market in view of the decision to grant the ESB authority to build a new power plant? Will he also comment on the implementation of a North-South interconnector? This was agreed by Government a long time ago but not a single pylon has gone into the ground.
Some of those questions might be more appropriate to the line Minister.
The Taoiseach will also be aware that 40,000 Smart Telecom customers had their service disconnected last year. Does he agree that, in respect of the regulatory impact of such an occurrence, there is a clear need to tighten up the regulations which would require Eircom to give notice to ComReg who, in turn, could warn customers of a breakdown in the service?
These questions relate to the regulator and would be more appropriate to the line Minister.
My question is about the implementation of the recommendation of the OECD report on regulatory reform.
Yes, but individual questions for line Ministers should be addressed to the line Minister. The Deputy may ask a broad general question.
This is a broad general question about telecommunications regulation. Some 40,000 customers on a particular scheme had their service disconnected last year. Does the Taoiseach consider there should be a tightening up of regulatory reform in order that ComReg could give notice to customers of such an event?
The website of the Department of the Taoiseach includes a section on the customer action plan for 2005 to 2008. The target set is that all correspondence will be acknowledged within three days and answered comprehensively within 15 days and that all emails will be acknowledged within one day. Are these targets being met by the Taoiseach's Department? Is he happy with them? What recourse is open to a person who does not receive an answer from the Taoiseach's Department within three days or 15 days? That is a specific question that he will want to answer.
I hope those targets are being met. My officials are doing their utmost.
Depending on the constituency.
On what has happened with regard to regulation generally, a unit in my Department is working across the whole OECD area and the 2001 report. It is actively driving implementation and working with other Departments in trying to move it on. In some cases, it is the regulators who have the responsibilities. In other cases, a number of regulatory bodies are involved in respect of the professions and all the reports relate to range of professions. I have previously replied to Deputy Kenny in respect of this.
In respect of the reports specifically mentioned by Deputy Kenny, ComReg's latest quarterly data covering the fourth quarter of last year details what is happening in the telecommunications area. There is a long list of data. It provides an update of what is happening in the Irish market and what happened last year with regard to Smart Telecom and all the other areas. They have followed up these issues.
In the energy sector, there have been communications between the Department, the Commission for Energy Regulation and the ESB. They have followed up with regard to Bord Gáis and the tariffs and so on. There has been follow through on all these areas covered in the 2001 paper.
Is this the issue relating to Smart Telecom?
Yes. On that issue, one will never stop a company from running into difficulties. One will encounter more of that given the huge range of operators in the market. There will be change and rationalisation; some will pull out of the market, while others will expand and there will also be takeovers. This will not stop.
The study of this has moved on and we have looked at the detail. A study by either the Economic and Social Research Institute or the National Economic and Social Council on the area of regulations will come out shortly. This is a Europe-wide issue. We have done a considerable amount of work over the past five years, but the EU has demanded that for business regulation the burden imposed on businesses should be reduced by 25% for administrative purposes and for EU legislation. An examination across Departments all over Europe is taking place to seek to reduce the burdens that arise from EU legislation. There is a demand that we should try to do this in our own countries as well, which is what we have been doing since 2001. Our view is that the Commission should focus on the 25% target at EU level before it considers how we can deal with reducing the burdens here. Germany is doing a considerable job on this at the moment. I believe it has 120 statisticians going through all its legislation.
We have carried out a similar exercise here. The small unit in my Department is driving the change and reform. I have recently gone through the details of much of this with the unit. There are too many regulatory bodies and regulations. We have 130 different regulators, including local authorities. It is a very cumbersome area. There is a job to try to streamline this. It is the first time the unit has gone through all our Acts, legislation and agencies and identified the regulations. It has done a very good job in putting it all together and has consulted with business on this.
There is much that could be done in respect of old legislation. Every new Act must go through a regulatory impact analysis. In reply to Deputy Kenny's question, there are communications between the regulatory impact analysis and various agents and regulatory bodies. In respect of existing Acts of the Oireachtas, there are far too many bodies. Every year, we add to this by passing Acts. The area needs to be streamlined. The unit in my Department that is doing this is small, but it is doing a good job in trying to narrow down the amount of regulation and bring it together. We will not drop anything that is useful but we should at least remove some of the burdens from people. Much work remains to be done in this area. Perhaps it is easier with major areas such as gas and energy in general because there is much focus on them currently and CER has its own offices and staff.
A great deal of legislation and regulation is involved in some of the other areas and this is proving to be hugely cumbersome. We have a clear picture of what remains to be done. Some good work has been done in regard to the proposed pharmacies' legislation that is going through the Houses currently. A report is currently being carried out on solicitors. Reports have outlined action that has been taken across a range of bodies. They provide an indication of the amount of regulatory issues involved and we hope to dispose of many of them. When we bring forward new legislation, we should be slow to build up these things if they are unnecessary. It is ridiculous that we have 120 regulatory bodies.
The Taoiseach did not answer Deputy Kenny's specific question about the number of recommendations from the 2001 OECD report that have been implemented by the Government either wholly or partially and the ones that remain untouched. It is important this information is provided to the House.
Does the Taoiseach accept Deputy Kenny's point regarding the Statute Law Revision Bill that it will have little impact on many of the impediments that still exist in terms of over-regulation because most of the laws being tackled under that Bill predate the type of mania in regulation that has come from Acts of this House, especially in recent years?
The Taoiseach referred to the existence of too many regulators. Is it not the case that his Government passed most of the legislation bringing many of these regulators into existence? It appears regulators have been used as a shield to hide behind to prevent questions being answered in this House? I cite the example of the electricity regulator not allowing renewable energy onto the national grid. If the Taoiseach is sincere about reducing the number of regulators, will we see legislation in this area in the near future?
Deputy Boyle has got the wrong idea. I did not refer to the number of regulators who were recently established. I refer to our overall legislation which brought into existence approximately 120 regulatory authorities. I do not refer to a handful of regulators.
Is the Government not adding to them?
We are; last year, we added 11 more. We have been trying to reduce the number of regulators in recent years. Instead of appointing new regulators, we have been trying to assign new duties. Many of the existing regulatory authorities are local authorities such as urban councils. However, there are too many in terms of trying to do business or answer to them.
I do not have precise figures on the number of OECD report recommendations that have been implemented. However, although all the recommendations have not been completed, action has commenced in all of the areas. All of the work on regulatory impact analysis has been done. That work is almost concluded across most of the professional areas.
The Competition Authority completed a report on the engineering profession in December 2004. The report on the architects' profession was completed in March 2006. The report on the optometry profession was completed in June 2006. The report on the legal profession was completed in December 2006. A preliminary report on the dental profession was published in December 2005 and a final report is due later this year. A preliminary report on veterinary surgeons will be published this year. The final profession awaiting a report is medical practitioners and this is due in 2008. Reports on all of the major areas that required focus will be finished by next year.
I did not refer to progress on the reform of the legal profession. The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform announced the establishment on a statutory basis of a legal services ombudsman to provide for independent statute-based supervision of the complaints system for both solicitors and barristers. The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill includes required provisions to establish a legal services ombudsman. While work has not been fully completed, it has commenced in most of the areas. Much work has been done on the decision-making processes of regulators. The Deputy's question was on regulators. The Enterprise Strategy Group published a report — Ahead of the Curve, Ireland's Place in the Global Economy — and made suggestions on how best we could deal with regulators and the idea of a super-regulator. This raised the question of the best way to address this. The Director of Consumer Affairs, the Competition Authority and the White Paper are examining this but the matter is not so simple. The report made the point that some regulations are minor whereas others, to do with building power stations, are wide. The best way of dealing with it has yet to be teased out. We cannot continue appointing regulators willy-nilly. It must be tightened and, to get expertise, perhaps we should create expert offices that can deal with a broad range of areas.