State planning legal and medical changes


THE GOVERNMENT is due to introduce new measures to shake up the legal and medical professions within three months.

Under the terms of the €67.5 billion EU-IMF bailout deal, the State is committed to boosting competition in sheltered sectors such as the legal profession, medicine and pharmacies by banning various restrictive practices.

According to a briefing document prepared by officials for Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, Richard Bruton, the Government has to introduce the necessary legal changes to do this by the third-quarter of this year.

The measures will include establishing an independent regulator for the legal profession and implementing recommendations made by the previous government’s legal costs working group and the Competition Authority.

The working group’s recommendations included making the calculation of costs more transparent and introducing an independent system for assessing and appealing costs to replace the taxation system, which the courts administer. The authority recommended abolishing the King’s Inns and Law Society’s control over training barristers and solicitors respectively. It also called on both professions to make the system for calculating fees more transparent, easing restrictions on advertising and abolishing the practice of paying junior counsel two-thirds of senior counsel’s fees. The coalition is also obliged to take steps to increase competition for medical services, including eliminating restrictions on the number who can qualify as GPs and ending limits on advertising.

Mr Bruton said the Government is taking legal advice on whether the cut in the minimum wage can be reversed by ministerial order or if it requires new legislation.

The programme for government includes a commitment  to restore the minimum wage, within the first 100 days after taking office, to €8.65 per hour from the reduced level of €7.65 brought in by the previous government.

“The position on the minimum wage is that we’re getting legal advice as to whether that can be done by statutory instrument or, more likely, that it requires new legislation,” Mr Bruton said.

“It also is in harness with the reforms of the joint labour committees and the registered employment agreements, which is part of the International Monetary Fund deal,” he said.