Ceisteanna–Questions. - Office of the Chief State Solicitor.

Wednesday, 30 May 2001

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 537 No. 3

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  7.  Mr. Noonan  Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   if he will report on progress to date in respect of the implementation of the Nally report on the functioning of the Chief State Solicitor's office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13505/01]

  8.  Mr. Quinn  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   if he will make a statement on the progress to date in implementing the Nally report on the Chief State Solicitor's office. [14787/01]

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 8 together.

[587] In replies to questions on 8 November 2000 and 14 February 2001 I summarised the main recommendations of the Nally report on the public prosecution system in relation to the Chief State Solicitor's office. These were the transfer of the criminal division of the Chief State Solicitor's office to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the transfer of the State solicitor services from the Attorney General to the DPP.

Following long negotiations with the staff side on the additional staff resources and structures required under new organisational arrangements for the prosecution service, agreement was reached earlier this month. Arrangements are now in train to implement the terms of the agreement.

One of the key factors in the transfer of the criminal division will be the provision of additional accommodation to cater for an enhanced staffing complement. Progress on the accommodation front has been made and it is now expected that the move to new premises will take place towards the end of this year. The formal transfer of responsibility to the solicitor to the DPP will take place in advance of the actual move.

The transfer of responsibility for the State solicitor service is the subject of ongoing discussions between the Attorney General's office and the DPP.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  At the end of March, 40 staff vacancies existed within the Office of the Chief State Solicitor, including two at assistant chief State solicitor level, one at principal solicitor level and 13 at assistant solicitor level. What impact have these gaps on the delivery of the service? What steps are being taken by the Taoiseach to ensure the posts are filled at the earliest possible date?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  There have been a number of competitions in recent years and I recently reported to the House that there had been a competition to try to fill the remaining posts, as a result of which the vacancies will be filled. The fulfilment of the new agreement will be a challenging task and I will outline some of its terms to the House. A publicity campaign to help recruit staff will be launched within the next few days by the offices concerned. As a result of the agreement reached two weeks ago, which will be effective from 1 April 2000, the staff complement will be increased by 75, including 66 professional and technical workers. Confined competitions for serving contract staff will allow those on contract employment to take up full-time employment. The staff side has accepted a competition system to fill promotional posts and will co-operate fully with the implementation of the Nally report, subject to negotiation and the acceptance and operation by staff of new work practices and procedures arising from the introduction of IT and IT-linked work management systems.

[588] Solicitors have engaged in long, drawn-out negotiations over the past two years to come to new agreements on grades. A new recruitment scale will replace the existing two lower grades. Newly qualified solicitors with a degree will start with a salary of just under £24,000 and will progress to just over £40,000 within six years. Fifty-two extra professional staff will be appointed, representing an increase of 56% and 12 extra posts will be created at principal solicitor level and above. There will be recruitment for technical posts such as legal clerk, which will be a higher grade than law clerk, a grade where recruitment was difficult. The appointment of 14 extra technical staff will mean a 31% increase over existing levels. There will be nine extra senior technical posts and the current grades of legal clerk, senior legal clerk and legal staff officer will be replaced by two new grades, staff officer and higher executive officer. There will be new opportunities and support for technical staff to qualify as solicitors.

There will be a campaign to recruit additional staff during the coming months and probably for the remainder of the year. The necessary regrading and the implementation of the Nally report will be carried out at the same time. One of the main recommendations of the Nally report was that when the criminal division was switched from the Office of the Chief State Solicitor to that of the Director of Public Prosecutions, a new post of solicitor to the DPP would be created. That person is in place, has been part of negotiations and is involved in arranging new structures.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  The Taoiseach is probably aware of media speculation that it may not be possible to introduce the long-awaited penalty points system for driving offences for at least another 12 months as a result of computer system deficiencies. Next weekend has been designated as national road safety awareness weekend. Will the Taoiseach firmly indicate when this system will be introduced and when computers will be upgraded to facilitate it?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I understand the technical and software development aspects of this project will be finished this year. It may be the end of the year, which is still six months away, before the system is completed and ready for implementation.


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