Wednesday, 10 March 2004

Ceisteanna (11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17)

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

11 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the progress in the development by the statute law revision unit of the Attorney General’s office of a programme of consolidation and revision of statute law, in consultation with all Departments, offices and the central regulatory reform resources unit in the Department of the Taoiseach, in accordance with the recommendations of Reducing Red Tape — An Action Programme of Regulatory Reform in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1991/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

12 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if the drafting of legislation has been subcontracted out by the Attorney General’s office to outside bodies or commercial firms; the number of occasions on which this has been done in each of the past five years; if he will specify the legislation and the amount paid in each case; if he has satisfied himself that such bodies or firms have the required level of expertise to draft legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1993/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

13 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the number of officers appointed by the Attorney General under section 6 of the Statute Law (Restatement) Act 2002, to perform functions under the Act; if a programme of statute law restatement has been drawn up; if so, the policies underlying the programme; if priority has been attached to any particular groups of connected statutes; if there is a time frame for the delivery of statute law restatements; if so, the number of restatements that can be expected within that time frame; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1994/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

14 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on progress in the programme of statute law restatement in the Office of the Attorney General; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2852/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

15 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if the drafting of legislation has been subcontracted out by the Attorney General’s office to outside bodies or commercial firms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3709/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

16 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if the drafting of legislation has been subcontracted out by the Attorney General’s office to outside bodies or commercial firms; the amount of legislation subcontracted during the term of the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5885/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

17 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on progress in the process of statute law restatement in the Office of the Attorney General; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7661/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 to 17, inclusive, together.

Substantial progress has been made by the statute law revision unit on a programme of consolidation and revision of statute law. This work has been carried out in consultation with all Departments, offices and the better regulation unit in my Department. It has included the drafting of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 and the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act 2003, together with a number of other Bills and Acts involving consolidation and law reform measures, such as the Industrial Designs Act 2001 and the Water Services Bill 2003. Other Bills which are being worked on include a consolidation of company law, a codification of liquor licensing law and a consolidation and reform of the law relating to archaeological objects and national monuments.

The statute law revision unit has been involved with my Department in work that has led to the publication of the White Paper, Regulating Better, and before that the OECD report, Regulatory Reform in Ireland. As a result, in 2003, the statute law revision unit undertook an audit of all pre-1922 legislation to identify legislation which is no longer useful and therefore suitable for repeal. The audit also looked at the statutes which remain with a view to re-enacting them while removing any anomalies in the process. The results of that audit will be the subject of consultation with Departments, offices and interested parties. As a result, the statute law revision unit is now in the process of drafting a Statute Law Revision Bill which identifies some 100 statutes to be repealed, subject to these consultations taking place, and a further 400 statutes that need further consideration as candidates for repeal and re-enactment, consolidation, restatement or other action.

This is the first step in an ongoing drive to streamline and simplify Ireland's statute book. This exercise, in reducing the size of the statute book and bringing greater clarity to its contents, will make it easier for people to understand where they stand under the law. I am informed that drafting of legislation has not been subcontracted out by the office of the Attorney General to outside bodies or commercial firms.

The Statute Law (Restatement) Act 2002 now makes it possible for the Attorney General to restate the law from related statutes and statutory instruments in one document. Because there is no change to the existing law, this can be done without having to prepare new Bills which would need to be debated in this House. This type of consolidation helps to make the statute book easier to use and understand. Two officers have been appointed by the Attorney General to perform functions under the Act. A programme of statute law restatement has been drawn up which gives priority to particular groups of connected statutes where restatement would improve the coherence of the law, for example, the Sale of Goods Act restatement.

The process of preparing restatements is extremely labour and time intensive and I understand the statute law revision unit is considering a number of policy options to improve the productivity of the process. Every effort will be made to restate as many groups of Acts as possible but for this year the priority of the unit will be to complete its work on pre-1922 legislation.

Can the Taoiseach provide figures in respect of the cost of subcontracting the drafting of legislation to commercial law firms? If he cannot provide the figures immediately, he might do so at his convenience. What is his assessment of the efficacy of subcontracting? Is it true that statutes contracted out come back in a fashion that does not meet with the approval of the Attorney General's office, that its staff must then startde novo to bring the work up to their standards, and that there is conflict in terms of the manner in which traditional draftspersons and commercial law firms draft a particular mandate?

My Department or the Office of the Attorney General contract out drafting work. While I do not have specific information, I understand the Departments of Finance, Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Transport and, perhaps, other Departments contracted out specific legislation. Work on the pre-1922 project was also contracted out. A consultant solicitor from Whitney Moore & Keller, solicitors, was contracted to the project at a cost of €43,439. Four researchers were also contracted for five or six months to assist, at a total cost of €34,387,000. The consultant originally engaged has been re-engaged to cover the period during which the consultation process of the Statute Law Revision Bill is in progress. While the office was updating the chronological tables in recent years, they brought in specialist indexers at a cost of approximately €30,000 for 2001, just over €78,000 for 2002, almost €15,000 for 2003 and approximately €19,000 to date for 2004.

I agree with the Deputy that specialist draftspersons do not love the work of outsiders. In some areas, there is now expertise within Departments, particularly among those working on Revenue and tax matters who are carrying out similar work all the time. I understand that such work is close to perfect and can be used substantively. However, in regard to the normal drafting of legislation, professional draftspersons, most of whom have long experience, do not like the contract work and feel they must do an amount of further work with it. While I am not as familiar with this area as I used to be, I am certain this is the view of the draftspersons.

The difficulty is that the process is slow if one has to wait. Therefore, Departments are trying to do as much of the preparatory work as possible. Some years ago, I asked that draftspersons give information sessions to outline the manner in which they want legislation prepared, which might help. There are many intelligent barristers working in Departments and outside. If they at least knew the kind of techniques required, it would help the system despite them not being professionals. I am not too sure how that is done but the professional draftsperson does it his or her way.

I understood from the debate on the Statue Law (Restatement) Act that statute law restatements would be published on a regular basis. Now, 16 months after the Bill passed, we have had only one. Has the statute law revision unit been staffed recently with only one drafter and one typist as the second drafter is on leave? If so, given the complexity of what the Taoiseach has read out, it is impossible to live up to the requirement of the Bill that statements on this work should be regularly made in the House.

This is an ongoing project. As I said, it is not work where one can have many people doing the core work. I gave Deputy Rabbitte the figures on researchers and consultants but two people are engaged in the core work. This year they have made a priority of trying to bring the Statute Book covering the period before 1922 up to date. Other work is also going on in consolidation. We are using technology to cover the period from 1922 onwards but it is also important to bring the pre-1922 material to a point where we can re-enact what we need to re-enact and interpret any changes. There are two experienced people dedicated to this work and they have the help of outsiders but one could not have any more people doing the work.

My question is broadly the same as Deputy Kenny's. The obvious question on consolidation is that of resources, whether that work is on regulations or on statute consolidation. I am not clear from the Taoiseach's answer whether additional resources have been made available as a result of the commitment to embark on this work. Section 6 of the Statute Law Restatement Act 2002 permits the Attorney General to direct any of his officers to perform, on his behalf and in accordance with his instructions, any particular function conferred on him by the Act. I do not know if that section has been invoked by the Attorney General or if any such persons have been so appointed by him for the stated purpose.

Five consultant drafters are working in Departments, so they are fairly well up to their full staffing levels, although it took some time getting there. Two people are dedicated to this work, as I said. On Bills being prepared for restatement, one restatement Bill dealing with the Sale of Goods Act has been published, while another covering the Defence Acts is being printed. Six more, which are being reviewed by the appropriate Departments, cover unfair dismissals, citizenship, the Statute of Limitations, ethics, succession and freedom of information. The Attorney General's office is preparing a further restatement covering tourist traffic and will soon start work on three others dealing with corruption, arbitration and the European Community. That work is in addition to the pre-1922 legislation, where it is estimated that 400 Acts will have to be restated, while 400 others will also have to be examined. We are achieving good productivity on this.