Written answers

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Department of Justice and Equality

Legislative Programme

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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571. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the legislation she intends to introduce in the Houses of the Oireachtas before August 2014; the legislation she intends to introduce in the Houses of the Oireachtas before December 2014; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25598/14]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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The following Bills are those that I would hope to have published before August 2014 circumstances permitting. Obviously, much depends on other competing legislative priorities and the potential for legal complexities that can arise during the drafting process.

- Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) (Amendment) Bill

- Redress for Women Who Were In Certain Institutions Bill

- Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) (Amendment) Bill

- Court of Appeal Bill

- Personal Insolvency (Amendment) Bill

The following Bills are being worked on with the aim of publishing them before the end of 2014. I recognise that it is quite an ambitious target to have all 12 Bills finalised in this time frame and obviously closer to the end of the year I will have a clearer idea of the actual number which will be published.

- Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill

- Judicial Council Bill

- Children and Family Relationships Bill

- Criminal Records Information System Bill

- Transfer of Sentenced Persons and Transfer of Execution of Sentences Bill

- Criminal Justice (Cybercrime) Bill

- Criminal Justice (Mutual Recognition of Probation Judgements and Decisions) Bill

- Criminal Justice (Mutual Recognition of Decisions on Supervision Measures) Bill

- Family Leave Bill

- Mediation Bill

- Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Bill

- International Recovery of Child Support (Hague Convention) Bill

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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572. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will proceed with the inclusion of multi-disciplinary practices in the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011; when she intends to establish the Legal Services Regulatory Authority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25599/14]

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
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577. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the current status of the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25662/14]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 572 and 577 together.

The Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011, which has completed both Second and Committee Stages, is due to commence Report Stage in the Dáil on 17 July 2014. It is intended that the Bill be enacted by the end of this year and that the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority come into operation early in 2015.

Provisions relating to multi-disciplinary partnerships have been a key structural reform objective of the Bill in its initiation and approval by the Government as a General Scheme for drafting. This has remained the case in the Bill's publication in 2011 and in its completion of Committee Stage earlier this year when key amendments were introduced including a number of further enhancements to the regulation of the Bill's new legal business models which include multi-disciplinary partnerships. These new legal business models are intended to provide more competitive business structures for the delivery of legal services to consumers and enterprise alongside those more traditional legal service models that will remain in place. The relevant provisions now stand in Part 8 of the Bill having been in Part 7 of the Bill prior to Committee Stage amendment. I expect to table a number of further amendments to this Part of the Bill along with those other amendments I will be bringing forward for Report Stage. It should be noted that the new legal business models provided for in the Bill, including multi-disciplinary partnerships, will be commenced under the terms of the Bill, only following the completion of the relevant public consultation and reporting processes that will be conducted by the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority.

It should be recalled that the Legal Services Regulation Bill gives continued legislative expression to the commitment in the Programme for Government to "establish independent regulation of the legal professions to improve access and competition, make legal costs more transparent and ensure adequate procedures for addressing consumer complaints".This commitment had, in turn, a long lineage going back as far as reports of the Fair Trade Commission in 1990 and of the Competition Authority in 2006, both of which had criticised the limitations on the forms of business model that can be used by Irish legal practitioners. The Bill is also an ongoing stated objective of the Action Plan for Jobs, the Medium Term Economic Strategy 2014-2020 and the National Reform Plan, respectively. Having been a key undertaking of the EU/IMF/ECB Troika Memorandum of Understanding the Bill is, in succession to the Troika programme, now the subject of a Country Specific Recommendation being negotiated under the EU Semester Process which provides that Ireland should take action during the period 2014-2015 to, " Reduce the cost of legal proceedings and services and foster competition, including by adopting the Legal Services Regulation Bill by the end of 2014, including its provision allowing the establishment of multi-disciplinary practices, and by seeking to remove the solicitor's lien. Monitor its impact, including on the costs of legal services. Take executive steps to ensure that the Legal Services Regulatory Authority is operational without delay and that it meets its obligations under the legislation, including in terms of publishing regulations or guidelines for multi-disciplinary practices and the resolution of complaints."

Detailed preparation of the Bill continues on this basis including in conjunction with the Offices of the Attorney General and of the Parliamentary Counsel. As Minister, I am engaged in an ongoing process of consultation with the professional bodies and other stake-holders. Along with officials of my Department, therefore, and as part of the ongoing preparations for Report Stage on 17 July, I am giving detailed consideration to these latest views and to those further submissions on the Bill that continue to be received. It is the intention that the Government's amendments to the Bill for Report Stage will be circulated sufficiently in advance for their consideration by stake-holders.

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