Wednesday, 28 January 2004

Questions (1)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

1 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the cross-departmental teams and interdepartmental committees which his Department is represented on; the purpose of each; the number of times they meet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29730/03]

View answer

Oral answers (15 contributions) (Question to Taoiseach)

My Department participates in a wide range of cross-departmental teams and interdepartmental committees, many of which come under the aegis of other members of the Government and deal with issues primarily under their remit. If the Deputy wishes to obtain information about any specific activity of those teams or committees, he should table a question to the appropriate Minister or Ministers. The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following schedule:

Schedule

Title of Teams/Committees

Purpose

Frequency of Meetings

Cross-Departmental Team on Housing, Infrastructure and PPPs which is chaired by a senior official from my Department.

To support the Cabinet Committee on Housing, Infrastructure and PPPs in the key task of providing a strong central guide and focus for the delivery of key national infrastructure, especially the investment programme set out in the National Development Plan.

The Team usually meets as required.

Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion

To support the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion

Monthly

Subgroup of Senior Officials on Community Employment

To provide strategic advice on the future of Community Employment Schemes

As required

Subgroup of Senior Officials on Disability

To progress work in relation to the Disability Bill

As required

Strategic Task Force on Alcohol

To review international research to identify and recommend to Government, specific, evidence-based measures to prevent and reduce alcohol related harm.

As required

Inter-Departmental Group on Alcohol

Co-ordinate responses to the recommendations contained in the Task Force Report

As required

Inter-Departmental Group on Drugs

Co-ordinate the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy through partnership with Government Departments, State Agencies and Community and Voluntary sector and to bring to the attention of the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion any identified issues which have a detrimental effect on the implementation of policy

Monthly

National Drugs Strategy Team (NDST)

The NDST is responsible for co-ordinating the response to the drug problem nationally, as well as overseeing and supporting the work of the Regional and Local Drugs Task Forces.

Weekly

National Children's Office Advisory Board

To support the work of the Cabinet Committee on Children

Quarterly

Inter Departmental Group on Life Long Learning

Oversees implementation of the Report of the Taskforce on Lifelong Learning

As required

Monitoring Group for Social Economy

Oversees and Monitors the running of the Social Economy Programme

NDP/CSF Equal Opportunities and Social Inclusion Co-ordinating Committee

Established to secure the maximum application of commitments on equal opportunities particularly gender equality and social inclusion across the National Development Plan

Twice a year

Inter-Departmental Committee on 10th Anniversary of UN Year of the Family

Established to co-ordinate a Governmental programme of activities for the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2004

As required

Task Force on Integration of Local Government and Local Development Systems

Oversees the County and City Development Board process

As required

RAPID National Monitoring Committee

Oversees the operation of Strands I and II of the RAPID Programme.

Every 2-3 months

Implementation and Advisory Group on the White Paper Supporting Voluntary Activity

Oversees implementation of the White Paper on a Framework for Supporting Voluntary Activity and for Developing the Relationship between the State and the Community and Voluntary Sector.

Monthly

Management Group for Social Inclusion Office

Oversees the work of the National Office on Social Inclusion

As required

NAPS — Social Inclusion Consultative Group

To provide advice to the National Office on the development of NAPS

Twice a year

NAPS Technical Advisory Group

To provide technical advice to the National Office on data and research issues

As required

The National Security Committee is chaired by the Secretary General to the Government.

The Committee is concerned with ensuring that the Government are advised of high level security issues and the responses to them, but not involving operational security issues.

The Committee continues to meet as required and members liaise on an ongoing basis to monitor developments which might have national security implications, in particular in the international arena.

The eCabinet Stakeholders Group is chaired by an Assistant Secretary in the Department of the Taoiseach.

It provides a forum to allow for consultation with Government Departments in relation to the proposed eCabinet system.

The Group met on 3 occasions in 2003.

Interdepartmental Co-ordinating Committee on European Union Affairs (ICCEUA)

The ICCEUA is chaired by Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr. Dick Roche TD. The Committee co-ordinates national policy across all Government Departments on the EU's policy agenda and assists in the preparation of meetings of the Cabinet Committee on European Affairs. The Secretariat of the ICCEUA is in the Department of the Taoiseach. The following Committees /Groups report to the ICCEUA: 1. The Interdepartmental Co-ordinating Committee for the Presidency 2. The Interdepartmental Administrative Presidency Planning Group

The Committee meets every second week.

Intergovernmental Conference Group

This Group, chaired by the Taoiseach, was established to advise on Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) issues during Ireland's Presidency. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of State for European Affairs and a number of senior officials from key Departments, including the Department of the Taoiseach, attend meetings of this Group.

Meets every second week as required.

Senior Officials Group on the Presidency

The Senior Officials' Group deals with day-to-day preparations of the policy aspects of the Presidency and, in particular, the overall approaches for both European Council meetings scheduled during our Presidency. It is chaired by a senior official in the Department of the Taoiseach and consists of senior officials from key Departments.

Meets weekly.

Interdepartmental Lisbon Group

This Group, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, was established in 2002 to identify priority areas to be addressed and advanced during the Irish Presidency of the EU so that the 10 year European economic, social and environmental reform programme known as the Lisbon Agenda is appropriately progressed at the Spring European Council in 2004. The Group also reviews national progress on implementing and achieving the Lisbon Agenda targets.

The Group meets on a monthly basis.

Other EU/International Committees

The Department of the Taoiseach chairs ad hoc interdepartmental groups as required. In 2003, for example, the Department of the Taoiseach chaired groups on the EU language regime and enlargement. In addition, the Department of the Taoiseach participates in a range of groups chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Finance and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, including on the Presidency, the Initiative for Growth, Communicating Europe, Oireachtas Scrutiny, and the Asia Strategy.

Freedom of Information Interdepartmental Working Group

Its purpose is to provide a background source of support to secure the successful implementation of Freedom of Information by providing advice and guidance on policy areas

Regular scheduled meetings throughout the year

Freedom of Information — Civil Service Users Network

It exists to promote best practice in FOI and to share knowledge and experience. Its work co-ordinates cross-Departmental FOI requests. It also acts as a conduit for the collection of statistics on FOI for member Departments and bodies directly under their aegis.

Approx. once a month

Emergency Response Co-ordination Committee

Under the National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents, this committee meets. Its purpose is to recommend countermeasures to protect the population

As required

Consultative Committee on Nuclear Emergency Planning

The purpose of this is strategic planning for nuclear emergencies. Its work has largely been subsumed into the Government Task Force and the associated Interdepartmental Working Group on Emergency Planning both under the Minister for Defence and the Office of Emergency Planning.

As required

Attorney General's Consultative Committee on Law Reform Commission

A consultative committee comprising representatives of the Departments of the Taoiseach, Finance, Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Health and Children, the Bar Council and the Incorporated Law Society, under the auspices of the Office of the Attorney General, to: assist the Attorney General in his consultations with the Commission in relation to research programmes, in the selection of specific topics for examination by the Commission and monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission.

As required

The Government Task Force on Emergency Planning

This Task Force is under the chairmanship of the Minister for Defence and is an important mechanism which works to ensure that a co-ordinated response to possible emergencies is provided by public authorities

Eight times in the last year

Interdepartmental Working Group on Emergency Planning

This group encompasses all Departments with lead roles in the various Government emergency plans and those key public authorities which plan to support such activities. The group works under the guidance of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning and is a forum for the discussion and sharing of information as well as providing strategic guidance to all those involved in emergency planning.

Eight times in the last year

Interdepartmental Group on National Security

Established in 1974 arising from a recommendation of the Finlay Inquiry into National Security generally, the Committee initially considered broad areas of national security in the context of an overspill of the Northern Ireland situation. In recent years it has focused, almost exclusively, on security at the Government Buildings complex including Leinster House.

As required

National Allocation Plan Steering Committee chaired by Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government

Established in July, 2003 to oversee the work of consultants engaged to make recommendations to policy makers within an Irish policy context, on the most economically efficient apportionment of Ireland's assigned amount units (AAU's) under the Kyoto Protocol between those participating in emissions trading (including new entrants) and those outside emissions trading

At least once a month

Tax Strategy Group

Under the auspices of the Dept of Finance

As required

Contact Group on Affordable Housing Initiative

To co-ordinate the implementation of the Special Initiative under Sustaining Progress on Affordable Housing

Regularly

Cross Departmental Team on Housing, Infrastructure and PPPs — Legal Issues Subgroup

To support the Cabinet Committee on Housing Infrastructure and PPPs

As required

Cross Departmental Team on Housing, Infrastructure and PPPs — Wider Energy Issues subgroup

To support the Cabinet Committee on Housing Infrastructure and PPPs and to consider the Wider Energy Issues

As required

NDP Communications Strategy Group

To co-ordinate communications in relation to the National Development Plan

As required

Inter Departmental Committee on PPPs — Dept of Finance

This is a matter for the Department of Finance

Standing Committee on the GGB — Dept of Finance

This is a matter for the Department of Finance

Inter Departmental Committee on Science & Technology

This is a matter for the Dept. Enterprise, Trade & Employment

Inter Departmental Committee on National Spatial Strategy

This is a matter for the Dept Environment Heritage & Local Govt.

Inter Departmental Committee on NCCS

This is a matter for the Dept Environment Heritage & Local Government

Inter Departmental Committee on Lisbon Strategy

To consider progress on the Lisbon Agenda

As required

Inter Departmental Committee on the OECD — Dept of Foreign Affairs

To co-ordinate communications with the OECD

As required

IDC on Non-Labour Market Aspects of EU enlargement

Established to look at the non-labour market aspects of EU enlargement

One meeting held to date

British Irish Interdepartmental Co-ordinators Group

To co-ordinate Government policy in relation to the work of the British-Irish Council

As necessary

High Level Interdepartmental Committee on North/South

to exchange information and to co-ordinate Government policy on North/South matters

On a regular basis

North/South Interdepartmental Co-ordinators Group

to exchange information and to co-ordinate Government policy on North/South matters

On a regular basis

Implementation Group of Secretaries General

This group provides leadership to and co-ordinates the modernisation programme for the Civil Service.

It generally meets on a monthly basis.

HRM Subgroup of the Implementation Group

This group reports to the Implementation Group in relation to the HRM aspects of the modernisation programme.

It generally meets four or five times a year.

Change Management Network

The Network assists the implementation and integration of the modernisation programme within Departments/Offices.

It generally meets every six weeks.

PMDS Network

This Network facilitates the sharing of information and best practice regarding the implementation of the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) across the Civil Service.

It generally meets four times a year.

Subgroup of General Council on the Evaluation of PMDS

This Group is responsible for the evaluation of PMDS which is currently taking place.

It generally meets three to four times a year.

Subgroup of General Council on the Evaluation of Partnership

This Group is responsible for the Review of Partnership which is currently taking place.

It generally meets three to four times a year.

Steering Group on Implementation of the Strategic Review of the Civil Service & Local Appointments Commission (CSLAC)

This group oversees implementation of the recommendations of the Strategic Review of the Civil Service & Local Appointments Commission

It generally meets three to four times a year.

Ad Hoc Steering Group on Competitive Promotion Procedures

This Group was recently established to consider best practice for competitive, merit-based promotions in the Civil Service.

There will be two or three meetings this year.

Committee for Public Management Research (CPMR)

The Committee carries out and publishes research on public management issues.

It meets about four times a year.

Quality Customer Service (QCS) Working Group

This group's role is to oversee the development of the Quality Customer Service initiative.

It meets six times a year.

QCS Officers Network

This Network provides a forum for those directly involved in driving the QCS agenda in individual Departments to raise issues of concern and mutual interest and discuss ideas for improvements.

It meets six times a year.

QCS Research Sub Group

The role of this Group is to develop and oversee research projects in support of the wider QCS agenda.

The group has met nine times to date.

QCS Equality/Diversity Subgroup

This Subgroup addresses issues relating to equality (including legislative matters) and strategies for serving a diverse customer base.

The group meets approximately four times a year.

Communications Strategy Group

The function of this Group is to develop strategies for communicating the modernisation programme within the civil service and to the general public.

The group has met nine times to date.

High Level Group on Regulation

The role of this Group is to oversee the development and co-ordination of the Better Regulation agenda in Ireland.

The Group has met 16 times to date.

Regulation Policy Drafting Group

The role of the Regulation Policy Drafting Group is to assist in the drafting of a Government White Paper on Regulation.

The Group has met eight times to date.

Financial Management Subgroup

The Financial Management Subgroup, a subgroup of the Implementation Group of Secretaries General, provides a forum for discussion of the implications of Financial Management reforms, including Management Information Framework (MIF).

The Group has met on six occasions to date

MIF Consultative Committee

MIF Consultative Committee This Committee oversees the roll-out of MIF across Departments and Offices.

It is understood that the Group meets every two months.

MIF Project Management Group

This is a sub-committee of the MIF Consultative Committee whose purpose is the project management of the MIF roll-out in Departments

Approx. every 6 weeks

MIF Training Group

This is a sub-committee of the MIF Project Management Group whose purpose is to determine the requirements for and design training interventions for MIF across Departments

This Group meets quite frequently — approx. once per month depending on the work schedule.

Mullarkey Implementation Group

To oversee the implementation of the recommendations in the Mullarkey Report for improvements to systems and structures in Departments to support the Secretary General in discharging his responsibilities as Accounting Officer.

Monthly

Public Service Decentralisation Programme Liaison Offices Network

To act as a channel of communication between the Decentralisation Implementation Committee and Government Departments in relation to the roll-out of the Public Service Decentralisation Programme

As requested

Steering Group on Business Planning and Resource

The Group's role is to explore the potential for better links between business planning, resource allocation, financial management, accountability of resources at output/outcome level and managing performance at an individual level.

It is understood that the Group generally meets on a quarterly basis.

Personnel Officers Network

Provides a forum for discussion on HR issues and implementation of same

Every quarter

Working Group Resource Allocation and Business Planning Pilot Project

This Group is co-ordinating a Resource Allocation and Business Planning pilot project, the results of which will be considered in due course by the Steering Group on Resource Allocation and Business Planning.

It is understood that the Group usually meets on monthly basis.

Cross Departmental Civil Service Training and Development Committee

The committee will have overall responsibility, now and in the future, for advising on the implementation of the Civil Service Training and Development Framework 2004-2008 and addressing common Civil Service training and development needs. It will also promote collaboration and sharing of resources in addressing common training and development needs.

The Committee have not had their first meeting yet.

Are there operational cross-departmental teams below ministerial level that deal with aspects of the peace process or the all-Ireland ministerial council, given, for example, the shared responsibility between his Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs? As all Departments have a responsibility in this, given the work of the ministerial council and the Implementation Bodies, at what level is this work co-ordinated, if at all, between them? How has this work been affected by the suspension of the institutions in the North? Are the structures being kept in place and is work continuing pending the resumption of those institutions?

How does the Taoiseach envisage the work of the cross-departmental committees and the working groups being affected by the proposals for decentralisation? Does he have concerns that the decentralisation of Departments will have an adverse effect on the effectiveness of the current arrangements between Departments in regard to the peace process and the all-Ireland ministerial council or other areas in which cross-departmental co-operation is important? Was that matter substantively evaluated prior to the announcement by the Minister for Finance of the Government's intent to decentralise?

The relevant point concerning my Department is that, in regard to the bodies involved in the British-Irish interdepartmental co-ordinating group, we have a high level interdepartmental committee on the North-South issues and a North-South interdepartmental co-ordinating group and, as the Deputy pointed out, there are three separate groups to deal with Northern Ireland issues together with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

I can confirm that all the arrangements put in place since the Good Friday Agreement to deal with aspects of North-South bodies and their operation are fully in place and working and it is our intention to keep them so. We have managed to keep them operating effectively with a work flow. It would better if the institutions were up and running but we have managed to keep the system in place and will continue to do so.

The other questions are more relevant to the Department of Finance. However, the Deputy's second question answers his third because all the meetings of the interdepartmental committees on the North-South bodies involve officials based in the secretariat in Northern Ireland. They are some of the most effective working committees there or elsewhere. Based on my long experience of six and a half to seven years, this system will also work well in other decentralised Departments and may well work better.

A Cheann Comhairle——

The Chair has been generous. My predecessors have ruled that, when a reply is to be printed in the Official Report and not given orally, Members should await that reply rather than pursue the matter by supplementary questions. In the Chair's opinion, it does not make sense to have supplementary questions when the reply to the main question is not known.

With the Chair's indulgence, may I simply revisit one detail of the question I asked the Taoiseach to which he did not respond?

I would prefer if we did not pursue the matter in this manner because, as my predecessors ruled, it does not make sense in the absence of having the details of the question.

It does not make sense for me to ask a question——

The Deputy can submit questions to the appropriate member of the Government.

I must disagree, but if that is what the Ceann Comhairle insists on——

It is in accordance with the rulings of my predecessors.

In respect of the interdepartmental committees on which the Department of the Taoiseach is represented and in light of the announcement on decentralisation——

Sorry, Deputy, but I have already ruled on this matter.

It is one point in respect of the committee on which the Department of the Taoiseach is represented. Only 33% of Departments have conferencing facilities. Officials in the Department of the Taoiseach must be in contact with other departmental teams dealing with issues of State and Departments. How does the Taoiseach propose that officials of his Department on interdepartmental teams will be able to conduct their business efficiently and professionally, given the inadequacy of the communication service?

The two main aspects of my Department's work are Northern Ireland and Europe. We engage at all times with our colleagues in Northern Ireland. My main people on the Northern Ireland aspect work there and have done so for many years and for successive Governments. It works very well. In regard to European affairs, we co-ordinate with our people in Brussels, who come home for some meetings. However, this is not a problem and communications on these issues are very good. I do not wish to disrespect any other groups but my best committees are those which are spread out. Therefore, the concern about whether the system will work under decentralisation is not an issue.