Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Questions (398)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

398. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide an update on his proposed State agency mergers; and the process he intends to undertake to ensure mergers are consistent with his commitment under the Good Friday Agreement. [10426/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware , the radical streamlining of State bodies is a key deliverable of the Public Service Reform Plan, published in November 2011. This streamlining included the rationalisation of 48 bodies by the end of 2012, as well as the critical review of a further 46 bodies to take place by the end of June 2012. Details of the bodies involved are set out in Appendices IIa and IIb of the Plan which can be found at: http://reformplan.per.gov.ie/files/2012/01/Public-Service-Reform-28112011.pdf.

On 31 October 2012, my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, announced an update in relation to the programme of rationalisation of State bodies. With regard to State bodies under the aegis of my own Department, the bodies which were scheduled to be rationalised, amalgamated or abolished in 2012 are:

Equality Tribunal (Rationalise the industrial relations/employee rights institutions - Labour Court, Labour Relations Commission, Employee Appeals Tribunal, National Employment Rights Authority and Equality Tribunal into single agency). This overall rationalisation of industrial relations institutions is being lead by my colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The General Scheme of a Bill to provide for this measure has been approved by Government. Administrative responsibility for the Tribunal transferred to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation with effect from 1 January 2013.

Equality Authority, Human Rights Commission (Merge to form new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission). I published the General Scheme of a Bill to replace the Equality Authority and the Human Rights Commission with a new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission on 5 June 2012. The Bill is currently being drafted and it is intended to have the legislation in place later this year. In parallel, arrangements are being made to select members of the new Commission. This is being handled by an independent Selection Panel set up for that purpose. The successful applicants will be appointed to the two existing bodies pending enactment of the necessary legislation to effect the merger. This will ensure that the two organisations can start to operate as a cohesive whole, with a transition programme being prepared and put in place, so that the board(s) can commence preparing a Strategic Plan for the new body and that work can be taken forward rapidly on the staffing review envisaged in the Working Group report. I consider that these proposals and this process is fully consistent with the Good Friday Agreement.

With regard to those bodies under the aegis of my Department, which were subject to critical review during 2012 and in respect of which the Government has decided to proceed with the measure (i.e. to be achieved by end 2013), these are as follows:

Forensic Science Laboratory: The Forensic Science Laboratory is to be brought within the ambit of the State Laboratory. A working group will be established to develop and work through areas of savings and future synergies.

Prison Visiting Committees (Reduce or merge Visiting Committees as there is now a Prison Inspectorate). The Government has approved the drafting of a General Scheme of an Inspection of Places of Detention Bill, which will include provisions to make Visiting Committees more effective, while they continue their role of visiting prisons, meeting with prisoners, and liaising on their behalf with prison authorities. A link will be established between the Visiting Committees and the Inspector of Prisons . As part of these plans, it is intended to expand the role of the Inspector of Prisons. Under the proposed arrangements, it is my intention that Visiting Committees would be able to report any urgent or major matter to the Inspector at any time.

Property Registration Authority (Merge the Valuation Office, Ordnance Survey Ireland and the Property Registration Authority). Following the Government approval of the recommendation of the Critical Review on this proposal that a merger should proceed, work has commenced to advance this proposal.

Reception and Integration Agency, Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and Refugee Appeals Tribunal (Rationalise various Refugee Structures). Consolidation of refugee structures will be addressed through the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill. The Bill will provide for the Office of the Refugee Applications Commission (ORAC) to be subsumed into INIS - the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service. The Bill will also provide for the replacement of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal with the new Protection Review Tribunal.