An Taoiseach

Enda-Kenny

Questions for An Taoiseach

Posted November 1st, 2012

Need for a Junior Minister for Pensions – 4th February 2014

To ask the Taoiseach if he has considered the establishment of a Junior Minister with special responsibilities for pensions, as in the UK, to tie together the disparate Departmental elements across Finance, Social Protection, Health and Public Expenditure and Reform that are responsible for pensions, in view of the looming pension crisis, the complexity of pension arrangements here, the need for ongoing changes and reforms in the pension sector and difficulties being experienced by private pension arrangements.

Reply

An Taoiseach (Enda Kenny):

The appointment of a Minister of State is a matter for the Government under the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1977.

The Department of Social Protection has lead responsibility for pensions policy.

However, given that it is an issue with broad implications, including across a number of Government Departments, there is an Ad Hoc Ministerial Group on Pensions, similar to a Cabinet Committee and which I chair, which ensures broad consideration of pensions policy and related issues as required.

Employment practices in the civil service – 12th February 2013

To ask the Taoiseach if there are any retired public sector workers from his Department, or any other part of the public sector, currently on his Department’s payroll, for example, for sitting on a committee or preparing a report, but not exclusively these two areas; the number on the payroll; the cost to his Department; the services that are being delivered for this money; and the way that the positions were originally advertised.

Reply

An Taoiseach (Enda Kenny):

One person who previously retired from the public service is employed in an unestablished position by my Department.  The person concerned is the Government Press Secretary and I selected him for this position in accordance with the usual procedure for appointments to this post.  His annual salary is €119,795 per annum and his employment contract will cease when my term of office as Taoiseach ends.

Public Sector rostering - 6th November 2012,

To ask the Taoiseach the sectors of the public sector that are currently employed on a roster basis and if there are any plans to remove employees from the rostering system.

Reply

An Taoiseach (Enda Kenny):

No staff in my Department or the National Economic and Social Development Office, which is the only agency under the aegis of my Dpeartment, are currently employed on a roster basis.

The number of staff in the Department’s redeployment pool – 26th June 2012,

To ask the Taoiseach the number of persons in his Department’s redeployment pool, including agencies responsible to it, that is, those persons who are to be redeployed as their current role is no longer necessary, but have not been redeployed as of yet.

Reply

An Taoiseach (Enda Kenny):

Both my Department and the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), which is the only agency under the aegis of my Department, are within the limits set for staff numbers in our Employment Control Frameworks.  Accordingly, neither my Department or NESDO have submitted any posts for redeployment to the Resource Panel which is administered by the Public Appointments Service.

Public sector staffing numbers – 12th June 2011,

To ask the Taoiseach the percentage of staff working in the public sector, including in the civil services, that he deems to fall into the category of frontline staff, administrative, management, elected representative and any other relevant categories; and the way the pay budget is allocated across these categories in percentage and real terms in terms of as a proportion of the Department expenditure on salaries.

Reply

An Taoiseach (Enda Kenny):

My Department’s mission statement at this time is to help the Government and I  to resolve the current economic crisis, to implement the Programme for Government and to build a fairer society and a better future for Ireland and her citizens.

By its nature, the work of my Department mainly entails close engagement with other Government Departments and State agencies, other representative groups, Northern Ireland political representatives , civil society groups across the island, international organisations, other Governments etc.

My Department has limited interaction with the general public other than in its reception area, my office, the offices of the Ministers of State assigned to my Department and the Government Press and Information Service.  Of the 179.61 whole time equivalent staff (wte) employed by my Department at the end of May 2012, 40 (wte) were employed in these areas.  In addition, 8 staff from my Department who are assigned to other duties during the week, work on the Saturday tours of Government buildings.

The 2012 estimated pay costs for staff working in these areas is €2,573,086, which is 23% of the total  estimated 2012 pay costs for my Department.

In addition to the two Ministers of State at my Department and myself ,  approximately 42% of staff are in management grades (Assistant Principal and above) and 56% are in administrative grades.  The estimated pay for my Department on this basis is set out in the table beneath.

Estimated Pay

2012

% Estimated Pay

2012

Management

€4,623,198

42%

Administrative

€6,190,835

56%

Elected Representatives

€208,286

2%

The abolition of the Seanad – 24th April 2012,

To ask the Taoiseach the time frame for the abolition of Seanad Éireann.

Reply

An Taoiseach (Enda Kenny):

Work is proceeding on the preparation of proposals for a referendum on the abolition of the Seanad. The proposal to abolish the Seanad is contained in the Programme for Government and the Dáil and Seanad will have an opportunity to fully debate the necessary legislation when it is published.

It is intended that the referendum on abolition of the Seanad will take place as soon as practicable, consistent with the Government’s other referendum commitments.

Number of barristers awarded briefs by the Attorney General’s office – 24th April 2012,

To ask the Taoiseach in line with commitments given in the Programme for Government, if he will provide information on the number of barristers briefed and the number of briefs per barrister awarded by the Attorney General’s office since 2011 as well as the number of those who applied to be briefed and were not selected, broken down by senior and junior counsel.

Reply

An Taoiseach (Enda Kenny):

Seventy nine Senior Counsel have been briefed in 334 cases since January 2011 to end March 2012 while 235 Junior Counsel have been briefed on 2,400 cases in the same period. It should be noted that both Senior and Junior Counsel may be engaged in the same case. The following table shows the breakdown of counsel briefed:

The Offices operate a system of panels based on legal specialisms. It is open to any counsel who wishes to do so to apply to be placed on each panel appropriate to their expertise and it is from such panels that nominations of counsel are then made. All members of the appropriate panel can be considered as the work arises. As such, counsel do not apply for any particular brief so it would not be correct to state that counsel applied and were not then selected.

Number of cases Senior Counsel

35 1
18 1
17 1
14 2
13 1
11 1
10 1
5 to 9 15
1 to 4 56

Number of cases Junior Counsel

136 1
103 1
97 1
83 2
77 2
62 1
50 to 59 3
40 to 49 7
30 to 39 9
20 to 29 12
10 to 19 22
1 to 9 174

The Office of the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor’s Office have put arrangements in place to increase the number of Junior and Senior Counsel briefed by the State pursuant to Section 7 of the Prosecution of Offences Act, 1974. These arrangements are designed to ensure an equitable distribution of State work to counsel and to avoid situations where a small number of counsel earn very large sums from the State. The arrangements are being monitored on a monthly basis by the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor.

The Offices operate a system of panels based on legal specialisms. It is open to any counsel who wishes to do so to apply to be placed on each panel appropriate to their expertise and it is from such panels that nominations of counsel are then made. All members of the appropriate panel can be considered as the work arises. As such, counsel do not apply for any particular brief so it would not be correct to state that counsel applied and were not then selected.

The selection process for the Constitutional Convention27th March 2012,

To ask the Taoiseach the way citizens are going to be picked to be on the panel for the constitutional convention; and the way a variety of viewpoints will be included without pre-screening or prejudicing potential candidates.

Reply

An Taoiseach (Enda Kenny):

The Government’s proposals for the Constitutional Convention, including its composition and the topics it will consider, have been made public on www.merrionstreet.ie.

It is proposed that the Convention should consist of 100 members, including a chairperson.  66 will be ordinary citizens and the remaining 33 will be made up of Oireachtas members and one parliamentarian from each of the political parties in Northern Ireland which accept an invitation to be represented.

It is envisaged that the electoral register would be used to select the 66 citizens and that a polling company would be used to make the selection so that it is as representative of society as possible.  It is also proposed that the involvement of citizens from Northern Ireland, and of Irish people abroad, will be facilitated by electronic means.   Such technology should of course also facilitate the engagement of citizens at home.

In its proposals the Government has said that, rather than appoint experts as members of the Convention, an Expert Advisory Group will be established to provide the Convention with information and advice. This Group would be made up of political scientists, constitutional lawyers and academics. The Convention would be able to call on different experts from this panel according as different topics are examined. Persons on the panel will be expected to give their services ‘pro-bono’.

I have met representatives of the Opposition parties and the Dáil Technical Group to consult them on the Government’s proposals for the Constitutional Convention and they have reverted to me with their views.  A further meeting is envisaged when these have been been considered.   The Government proposes that the Convention be set up by Resolutions of the Houses of the Oireachtas and these will be introduced in the next session.

Consultancy Fees in the Department of An Taoiseach – 11th october 2011,

To ask the Taoiseach the amount that he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in Government Departments.

Reply

An Taoiseach (Enda Kenny):

Since March 2011 my Department engaged QTS Limited, to carry out an annual risk assessment and update the Department’s 2011 Health & Safety Statement at a cost of €1,271.   Procedures are in place in my Department for ensuring the expenditure undertaken on consultancy is necessary and that relevant guidelines are being followed.

How can citizens become involved in the constitutional convention – 19th July 2011,

To ask the Taoiseach the mechanisms that are to be established to involve persons who are interested in assisting with the constitutional convention.

Reply

An Taoiseach (Enda Kenny):

Work has commenced on the preparation of detailed proposals for the establishment of the Constitutional Convention and, when ready, these will be considered by Government. The proposals will address matters such as the structure, composition and working methods of the Convention.

The national census and autism – 7th June 2011,

To ask the Taoiseach the steps he will take to ascertain the number of those affected by autism; and the reason a provision for collecting this information was not included in the recent census.

Reply

An Taoiseach (Enda Kenny):

As part of the preparatory work for the 2011 census, the CSO conducted a public consultation on the topics to be covered; all Government Departments were contacted for their input and a notice calling for submissions was published in the national press. Over 90 submissions covering 31 topics were received in total, among them submissions on the subject of disability, and in particular on the subject of autism.

All submissions were considered by a specially convened Census Advisory Group which was representative of central and local government, the social partners, universities, research bodies and other users of census data along with the relevant CSO personnel. A specific sub-group was convened to consider the disability questions on the census form.

This sub-group was composed of representatives from the National Disability Authority, the Equality Authority, the Disability Federation of Ireland and the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies. The proposal to list specific disabilities within the disability question, namely to make specific reference to autistic spectrum disorder, or Down’s syndrome, in the category ‘A learning or intellectual disability’ was considered at the second meeting of the group.

The group concluded that it would not be appropriate, nor would there be enough room on the census form, to list all individual disabilities. However, in order to go some way towards accommodating this request the existing (2006 census) category ‘A learning or intellectual disability’ was split into two categories ‘An intellectual disability’ and separately ‘A difficulty with learning, remembering or concentrating’. The group felt that this approach narrowed the categories and thus helped address the issue of autism, while allowing the question to remain as inclusive as possible.

The topics that were ultimately included in the recent census were agreed by Government at its meeting on 11 December 2009 and Question 16 of the 2011 census distinguished the two categories as described above.

The National Disability Survey, which was carried out in 2006 following the Census of Population that year, found a prevalence rate for autism of approximately 4 per 1,000 among children aged 0-17 years. However, international clinical studies generally find higher prevalence rates and this is indicative of the difficulty in measuring autism by means of household surveys or censuses. There are no plans for the CSO to repeat the 2006 National Disability Survey.

A stand alone Oireachtas Human Rights Committee – 19th April 2011,

To ask the Taoiseach his plans to establish a Human Rights Committee as a stand-alone committee within the new Oireachtas Committee system.

Reply

An Taoiseach (Enda Kenny):

I am currently preparing proposals for a Committee system for the 31st Dáil, for consideration by the Government.  Once the Government has approved proposals, I will consult with the Opposition Whips in relation to them.

In view of this, I am not in a position at present to comment on the detail of these proposals.

A State visit to China – 19th April 2011,

To ask the Taoiseach when he will make a State visit to China.

Reply

An Taoiseach (Enda Kenny):

The Government attaches great importance to developing our trade and bilateral links with our Asian partners and in particular with China.  We look forward to building on the excellent bilateral relations that exist between our two countries and further enhancing our trade, investment, education and tourism links with China.

In this context, I very much hope to be in a position to travel to China, perhaps later this year, though of course this is a matter for agreement with the Chinese authorities.  Contact between our respective administrations is continuing, including through our Embassy in Beijing, to see if a visit can be confirmed on mutually acceptable dates.