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                                Reducing Red Tape

         An Action Programme of Regulatory Reform in Ireland

                                          July 1999





The Action Programme - A Message from the Taoiseach


I am delighted to introduce this programme of Regulatory Reform measures, which was recently
agreed by the Government, as part of the Strategic Management Initiative in the Irish Civil Service.

Regulatory Reform - known more colloquially as "cutting red tape" - is an important part of the
programme of change in which the Irish Civil Service is currently engaged. Having the right amount of
regulation in an economy is an important contributor to economic growth, competitiveness and job
creation. For these reasons, it is a key objective of national policy.
Regulations are put in place to allow Governments to provide strong protections for citizens, on a
range of issues from health to environmental protection to commercial transactions. However, with the
advent of the Internet, e-Commerce , e-Government and the Information Society, the Irish business
environment is now firmly a part of the global business environment and is changing at a phenomenal
speed. To ensure that we keep pace with developments, it is important that we are not overly
regulated and that we have the capacity to react quickly to emerging trends when required.

Delivering Better Government

When Delivering Better Government was launched in May 1996, a central theme was "Reducing
Red Tape - Regulatory Reform". The Report outlined the principles which should underpin regulatory
reform, as follows:
               to improve the quality, rather than the quantity of regulations

               to eliminate unnecessary and/or inefficient regulations (including legislation)

               to simplify necessary regulation and related procedures as much as possible

               to lower the cost of regulatory compliance

               to make regulations more accessible to the public
while in each case protecting the public interest.

Partnership 2000

Partnership 2000 also includes a commitment to develop a national strategy to improve the quality of
regulation and reduce the administrative burden. This strategy included:
               the establishment of a central control unit to oversee implementation of the

               introduction of Codes of Practice by Government Departments to alleviate the
                compliance burden

               all proposals for legislation will be assessed to minimise any compliance
                burden being created for small business


               the establishment of a consultative forum involving the Revenue
                Commissioners, Department of Social, Community & Family Affairs, the CSO
                and relevant Departments and agencies to work with small business
                representatives to eliminate duplication and unnecessary reporting
I am happy that this Action Programme will make a major contribution to addressing this agenda.

Key Actions

The Action Programme for Regulatory Reform which the Government has agreed is about the
following key actions:
       simplifying the process of doing business with Government

       consultation with customers and clients on the best ways of putting required regulation in

       making our legislation more coherent and more easily accessible to those who need it.


The benefits of this programme will be varied. It will underpin the efficient operation of the various
sectors in the economy by making it easier to do business with Government. It will facilitate
enterprise, and in particular small and medium enterprises, by not placing undue burdens on
business. It will help to promote confidence and make Ireland a more attractive location for foreign

There is also the important benefit of having our Statute Law consolidated in a form that is both easily
accessible and available. This helps society to operate more smoothly and easily by helping business
and citizens alike to understand and to comply with the legal system.

Report of the SMI Working Group on Regulatory Reform
The Government is also taking this opportunity to publish the Report of the Strategic Management
Initiative Working Group on Regulatory Reform. A number of the recommendations have already been
put into action through the Quality Customer Service Initiative and the remaining recommendations
are now incorporated in this ‘Reducing Red Tape’ Action Programme. The new programme is
primarily based on the findings of the Working Group Report and I would like to thank the Working
Group and in particular its Chairman, Kevin Bonner, for the time and effort which was put into the

I am satisfied that this Programme will help us as a country to regulate properly, that it will lead to a
reduction in red tape, and that it will play an significant role in maintaining the current economic
success of the country. It forms part of the overall thrust of the Strategic Management Initiative to
modernise our administration, and is one more example of the way in which we are striving to improve
the service provided by Government to the Irish public.

An Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern TD,
July 1999


                                  Regulatory Reform
                                   The Report of the
                            Strategic Management Initiative
                                    Working Group

1. Introduction

1.1 This is the Report of the Strategic Management Initiative (SMI) Working Group on Regulatory
Reform. The Working Group was established in September 1996, following the publication of
Delivering Better Government, with the following terms of reference:
        (a) To review the current approach to and quantity of Government regulation and
        make recommendations on the programme of regulatory reform so as to simplify the
        regulatory process, reduce the burden of regulation, improve the quality of regulation
        and to provide for five-yearly reviews of regulations.

        (b) To review the need for and make recommendations on a programme of
        consolidation of existing legislation so as to ensure a more accessible and fully up-to-
        date body of legislation.
The membership of the Working Group is listed in the Appendix.

1.2 In Delivering Better Government, the Co-ordinating Group of Secretaries General recommended
that the principles of Regulatory Reform should be to :
                improve the quality, rather than the quantity, of regulations

                eliminate unnecessary and/or inefficient regulations (including legislation)

                simplify necessary regulation and related procedures as much as possible

                lower the cost of regulatory compliance

                make regulations more accessible to the public
while in each case protecting the public interest.

1.3 In addition, the Group recommended a programme of consolidation and codification of existing
legislation. This will have the advantage of creating a more accessible body of legislation and of
ensuring that the most recent Act contains reference to all the legislative provisions in relation to the
area it governs.

1.4 The principles, as set out above, have now been reflected in this Report.


2. Main Findings

2.1 The Regulatory Reform Working Group has proceeded on the understanding that its brief is to
examine the reform of legislation, both primary and secondary, as well as other burdens -
administrative practices, statutory and non-statutory forms or surveys, licences, permits and so on.
The term "regulation" covers all legislation, regulations as well as other burdens, while "regulations"
covers secondary legislation only. Regulation covers both primary and secondary legislation.

2.2 The Group has had presentations and submissions from IBEC, ICTU, the Small Firms'
Association, ISME and the Irish Exporters' Association. The Small Business and Services Unit in the
Department of Enterprise,Trade and Employment also made a presentation to the Group.

2.3 The Group accepts that the cumulative effect of regulation is such as to place a burden on the
public in general and in particular on business. The Group also accepts that much existing regulation
performs a necessary function in many instances through setting down minimum standards that
should be followed in particular sectors e.g. food hygiene, tax, planning, and safety. The Group is
concerned however to ensure that the regulatory regime generally makes the minimum possible
imposition on the producers of goods and services. In addition the regulatory framework should
facilitate the development of additional economic activity by eliminating artificial barriers to entry into
particular sectors.

2.4 Attempts to date to reduce the burden of regulation have not been successful. The Industrial
Costs Monitoring Group in the Department of Industry and Commerce during the late 1980s failed to
make a significant impact. While progress has been made by the Small Business and Services
Division of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in pursuing the implementation of
the Task Force Report on Small Business and Services, much remains to be done.

2.5 The Group believes that significant progress will not be made in this area without three essentials,
as follows:

        1. An acceptance by the Taoiseach, Ministers and Civil Servants that the cumulative
        impact of regulation is already excessive and that there must be a means of securing
        relief from some existing burdens.

        2. Agreement by all Ministers and Departments to undertake a programme of
        quantification and reform with specific measurable targets and time-scales, to be set
        out in their strategy statements and annual business plans.

        3. Reallocation of sufficient resources in this area in Departments as well as some
        central resource to drive and monitor developments.

2.6 The Group was clear that the main work involved in this area must be undertaken by Departments
themselves. As regards promoting the work of regulatory reform in Departments, all Departments
should appoint an officer at senior level to oversee this work and should monitor developments in
regulatory reform as part of their management systems.

Each Department should also have at a lower level in the organisation an officer or officers whose
main task is to push forward the agenda of improving the quality of regulation while reducing the
overall burden.

2.7 Where burdens are being placed on clients by agencies under a Department's remit (e.g. local
authorities, Telecom Eireann, etc.), Departments should ensure that the activities of these bodies are
also included as part of the process and have in place procedures for reviewing the regulatory burden
on the lines of those recommended in this report.


3. Central Resource Unit
While the main work would be done by individual Departments, it is critical that a central resource unit
be created to drive forward the agenda of reform. There is a need for a small number of people with a
focused agenda to ensure that Departments address the issue of regulatory reform on a continuous
basis. The Unit would produce an annual report on progress and also interface with the European
Commission on the provision of better quality regulation. The Unit would also provide an independent
assessment of new proposals, in particular of compliance costs (see below). The unit would ideally be
located in the Department of the Taoiseach.

4. Regulation Action Programme

The following is the Action Programme which the Group believes should be adopted by the
Government and by all Government Departments and agencies:
4.1 Stocktake of Existing Legislation and Forms

All Departments and Agencies should prepare an audit of the existing legislation and forms
plus a specific statement as to how they see progress being achieved in the context of these
recommendations. This should also cover licensing and permit systems and other similar
burden-related activities. The results of the audit should be submitted to the Central Resource

4.2 Computer Data Base

A computerised data base of all legislation, both primary and secondary, should be created
and maintained to allow for easier access. This will facilitate access to the legislation by
business and the public and will also facilitate in the review process.

4.3 Removing Entry Restrictions

In order to make a real contribution to competitive performance and economic development,
better quality regulation must address issues such as licences and permits and aim at the
targeted dismantling of burdens to market entry and exit, price controls and other restrictions
on competition.

4.4 Quality Regulation Checklist

In regard to new legislation or regulation, all Departments should be required to implement a
regulation checklist as set out overleaf, before a decision is taken to introduce the regulation.
The checklist basically asks whether the regulation is really necessary or whether are there
other means whereby the objective can be achieved. This approach should also be applied to
EU initiatives.


        Quality Regulation Checklist
        1 Is the proposed legislation and/or regulation necessary
        i.e. is the problem correctly defined and can the objective be achieved by other means (i.e.
        improved information, voluntary schemes, codes of practice, self-regulation, procedural

        2 Will the legislation affect market entry, result in any restrictions on competition or increase
        the administrative burden?

        3 Is the legislation compatible with developments in the Information Society, particularly as
        regards electronic Government and electronic commerce?

        4 Outline the consideration which has been given to exemptions or simplified procedures for
        particular economic or social sectors which may be disproportionately burdened by the
        proposal, including the small business sector.

        5 Outline the consideration which has been given to application of the following principles:

                 (a) Sunsetting i.e. establishing a date by which the measure will expire unless

                 (b) Review date i.e. a predetermined date on which the efficacy and impact of the
                 proposed new measure will be reviewed

                 (c) The "Replacement" principle i.e. where the body of regulations/legislation in a
                 particular area will not be added to without a corresponding reduction through repeal
                 of an existing measure

        6 Outline the extent to which interested or affected parties have been consulted, including
        interest groups or representative bodies where such exist. A summary of the views of such
        parties should be provided.

4.5 Compliance Costs

All Memoranda for Government should have a statement of impact assessment and
compliance costs and a summary of the position of the regulation vis a vis the quality
regulation checklist.

4.6 Sunsetting and Replacement

All Departments should be required to consider setting a date by which legislation or
regulations will run out of date if not reinstated. This would have the effect of forcing a review
of the relevant legislation or regulation by the same date. Consideration might be given to a
replacement principle whereby the sum of regulations cannot be added to i.e. to add a
regulation another must be removed.

4.7 Regulation Consolidation

It is time-consuming and demanding of resources, both political and administrative, to
consolidate primary legislation. However, the consolidation of regulations is relatively
straightforward. In view of this, as a general rule, where new regulations are being
promulgated, existing regulations in the same area should be consolidated.


4.8 Priorities

The Group urges that consideration be given to implementation of the outstanding
recommendations of the Small Business Task Force in relation to taxation, audit and
improving the provision of state services. Attached is an indicative list of areas where action is
particularly needed:

                                            Labour Market
                                            Forms and

4.9 Information and Guides

All Departments should be required to provide user-friendly information to client groups and
easily-read guides to legislation.

4.10 Consultation

There should be adequate consultation with interested parties before new legislation is

4.11 User Groups

Each Department or Agency should have a user group or groups of its clients which should
be consulted regularly on the quality and quantity of regulation and their views should be
incorporated into Annual Reports.

4.12 Enforcement

As regards the enforcement of legislation, Departments should be asked to ensure that
legislation is enforced in a fair, positive and user-friendly fashion. Self-regulation should be
introduced where appropriate.

5. Review and Monitoring
The Regulatory Reform Working Group should remain in existence to monitor developments
and make recommendations as necessary. The Group should comment on the annual report
of the central resource mentioned above and remit its findings to the relevant Dáil

December 1996



             Membership of the Working Group on Regulatory Reform

Mr. Kevin Bonner                Dept. of Enterprise, Trade & Employment (Chair)
Mr. Wally Kirwan                Department of the Taoiseach
Ms. Mary McCullagh              Department of Public Enterprise
Ms. Bernadette Lacey            Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs
Mr. Paddy McKernan              Department of Foreign Affairs
Ms. Mary Moylan                 Department of the Environment & Local Government
Mr. Liam Hennessy               Revenue Commissioners
Ms. Margaret Hayes              Department of Tourism, Sport & Recreation
Ms. Finola Flanagan             Office of the Attorney General
Mr. Padraig Cullinane           Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment
Mr. David Doyle,                Department of Finance
Mr. Tom Carroll                 Department of the Marine & Natural Resources
Mr. Bernard McDonagh            Department of Justice, Equality, & Law Reform
Mr. Michael Buckley             Chief State Solicitor
Mr Paul Skehan                  Chambers of Commerce of Ireland
Mr. Colum McDonnell             Chief Executive, Irish Exporters Association
Ms. Aisling Doyle, BCL          Steven McKenzie & Co. Solicitors
Mr. Andrew Whitaker             Competition Press
Dr. Robert Clark                Professor of Law, UCD

                             Secretariat to the Working Group

     The Secretariat to the Working Group was provided by the Department of the Taoiseach.


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