Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 31, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 32 to 107, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 108 to 114, inclusive, answered orally.

EU Presidency.

Dan Boyle

Question:

115 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the agenda, specific papers and reports being presented to the Agenda 133 meetings which are to be held under the Irish Presidency will be available to the public or to Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3813/04]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

116 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the access which will be available for the public or Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas to the Agenda 133 meetings which are to be held under the Irish Presidency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3815/04]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

165 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the information which will be publicly available from the Agenda 133 meetings which are to be held under the Irish Presidency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3811/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115, 116 and 165 together.

The agendas of all 133 meetings convened so far under the Irish Presidency are published on the website dedicated to the Irish Presidency. The agendas are added to the website immediately following the convocation of the individual 133 meetings and therefore in advance of each meeting. This advance notification will continue to be a feature of the publication of 133 agendas in the period to the end of the Irish Presidency.

Documents and reports presented to and circulated for discussion at 133 committee meetings are internal negotiating documents in the context of international multilateral trade talks and, as such, are restricted to members of the committee. In accordance with EU treaty provisions, trade policy is a Community competence. This means that the European Commission initiates proposals, which are submitted to the 133 consultative committee, as, designated by the treaty, prior to their submission for approval by Council.

Hence, documents circulated for discussion at the 133 committees contain information communicated in confidence to officials within an international institution representative of all EU member states.

Article 133 committee meetings in common with all other Council formations are confined to member state Government representatives. The 133 committee is a committee established under the treaty and, accordingly, is a body in which only member states, Council and Commission may participate. Attendance by representatives of any other bodies does not arise.

Price Inflation.

Joe Costello

Question:

117 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the report published by the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs finding a considerable variation in the price of the over-the-counter medicines; the steps she intends to take to prevent exploitation of consumers in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3782/04]

I am aware of the report in question, which relates to a survey carried out by the Office of the Director for Consumer Affairs as part of its price awareness campaign.

The survey demonstrates, first, that price competition is operating in the market for over-the-counter medicines, which is a good thingand, secondly, that consumers can benefitfrom comparing the prices of different retail outlets.

More competition and increased consumer vigilance are the best way to deliver value for money to consumers.

Employment Support Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

118 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the decision of the board of Clare local employment service — LES — to discontinue services; the steps she intends to take in view of the fact that this decision will lead to the loss of 16 full-time jobs and the withdrawal of mediation, advice and guidance of job seekers in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3791/04]

The board of management of Clare LES advised FÁS on 15 December last that it was discontinuing operations effective from January 30 2004. A decision of this nature is a matter solely for the board of Clare LES. The board of Clare LES is made up of representatives from the statutory and voluntary sectors and the operation of the service is funded by FÁS. Nonetheless, it is a separate legal entity and I have no function in relation to the internal workings of a body of this kind.

I have, however, asked FÁS to immediately commence an assessment of the labour market needs of the Clare region in the context of the closure of the LES with the objective of ensuring that the needs and requirements of the particular client base being dealt with by the Clare local employment service are met.

Work Permits.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

119 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she intends to take to ease the work permit rules for spouses of persons who are already working here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3802/04]

Martin Ferris

Question:

122 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when legislation will be introduced to allow the work permit to be held by the employee rather than the employer; when changes will be introduced to give the spouses of migrant workers the right to work here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3764/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 122 together.

Employment permits such as the working visas and working authorisations granted to highly skilled personnel such as nurses, doctors, physiotherapists and other health professionals, to IT professionals and to construction professionals such as architects, engineers and town planners are granted to the individual employee and permit them to change employer within the given sector to which their qualifications relate.

At present the work permit facility grants the permit to an employer to recruit a specific employee to fill a specific vacancy, where the employer has been unable to find a suitable employee within Ireland or the wider European Economic Area. This arrangement does have the safeguard that the non-EEA employee in question is coming to fill a specific vacancy, an important factor when most of the personnel in question are at the lower end of the skills spectrum.

Despite assertions to the contrary, in recent years, work permit personnel have being readily facilitated in changing employers and in such circumstances a new work permit is issued to a new, eligible, employer. This flexibility has being possible and warranted by the relatively high number of vacancies arising in recent years. I should mention that in 2002 some 3,888 employees changed employer, while in 2003 this number was 3,512, or an average of 68 per week.

If we were to move to a situation where a work permit was given to the individual employee, we would in effect be giving on authorisation to come to Ireland in search of an employer. Such a system is not impossible, but it does give rise to a number of serious policy questions and does raise very significant resource issues. Any informed decision to move to a new system should take these into account.

With regard to spouses, the Employment Permits Act 2003 provides that an employer may not employ a non-EEA national unless the employer has been granted an employment permit. There is no prohibition on the issue of work permits in respect of spouses of non-EEA nationals already working in the State. However, they are in the same position as other non-EEA nationals and require an employer to obtain an employment permit in order to employ them.

At present, when my Department receives an otherwise valid work permit application from an eligible employer, in respect of somebody who happens to be a spouse, the Department has no problem in granting a permit and regularly does so.

Some spouses resident here appear to have encountered difficulties in persuading prospective employers to apply for a permit to employ them and I have been examining just how such difficulties might best be addressed. It is intended to complete this examination shortly.

Economic Competitiveness.

Joan Burton

Question:

120 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the findings in the recent annual report of the National Competitiveness Council that Ireland is now one of the most expensive countries in the euro zone for consumer goods and among the most expensive for key utilities; the steps being taken to address these issues in view of the serious threat to the competitive position of Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30080/03]

Joe Costello

Question:

151 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the findings of the recent report of the National Competitiveness Council that Ireland, along with Finland, is the most expensive country in the euro zone; the steps she intends to take arising from the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3781/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

191 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she or her Department has identified the most serious obstacles to Irish competitiveness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4011/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120, 151 and 191 together.

At a meeting on 25 November 2003, the Government discussed the contents of the National Competitiveness Council's annual competitiveness report 2003, and the competitiveness challenge 2003. It was agreed that the Government would consider Ireland's competitiveness status every six months and that this discussion would also cover the recommendations in both National Competitiveness Council reports. The Government also agreed to set up a monitoring process to consider and track progress on the implementation of the council's recommendations. My Department is currently following up on this with a view to making a first report to the Government in June of this year.

The National Competitiveness Council stated in both reports that Ireland's immediate priority must be to slow the growth of prices and costs. The Government is committed to providing a positive business environment, which will enhance the competitiveness of the Irish economy. A business environment with low inflation will stabilise firms' costs and provide them with a solid competitive business environment from which they can successfully compete on both domestic and international markets. In budget 2004, the Government demonstrated that keeping inflation low was a key priority. The Government has avoided inflation-fuelling taxes in line with the requests of the National Competitiveness Council.

The most recent inflation figures from the consumer price index show an inflation rate of 1.9% in December 2003. This is significantly lower than the 5.1% rate of increase recorded in February 2003. During 2003 prices for consumer goods such as clothing and footwear decreased by 2.8% and key utilities such as housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels decreased by 3%. However, we cannot afford to become complacent as many of our EU partners and other competitors are experiencing similar downward inflationary trends. The Government is committed to continuing to reduce the inflation differential between Irish and euro area inflation, which currently stands at 0.9%, the lowest level in more than four years.

A key element of the social partnership programme, Sustaining Progress, was the establishment of an anti-inflation initiative. As part of this initiative a group was created to examine ways of addressing domestic inflationary pressures, including inadequate competition in certain sectors, excessive pricing and insurance costs. The group published its first progress report in November 2003. The report stated that to exert downward pressure on inflation there is a need to control public expenditure, increase competition, support small business and increase consumer price awareness. In response to these recommendations, the Government agreed new management and control arrangements designed to keep public expenditure on target. The resources of the Competition Authority have been substantially increased to combat anti-competitive practice in the economy. Enterprise Ireland has introduced a competitiveness fund for companies, including SMEs, to assist them in increasing their productivity. The Government also earmarked €500,000 for the information campaign, Price Awareness Pays, which was undertaken by the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs on behalf of the anti-inflation group.

The most important and sustainable method for reducing costs and ensuring they are maintained at an acceptable level is to facilitate increased competition in all sectors of the economy. We can not afford to have sheltered sectors of the Irish economy immune from price competition. The Government is committed to encouraging competition in all sectors to ensure goods and services are provided at an efficient and affordable price thereby enhancing Ireland's competitiveness, providing a benign business environment and enhancing the interests of consumers.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

121 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of EU directives for which her Department has responsibility which have yet to be implemented; the number in respect of which the deadline for implementation has passed; if she has satisfied herself with the rate of compliance by her Department; the number of cases where legal actions have been notified or commenced by the EU Commission arising from a failure to implement a directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3795/04]

The current position in relation to the transposition of EU Directives for which my Department is responsible indicates a total of 26 directives to be implemented, including ten for which the deadline for implementation, in full or inpart, has passed. Details of the directives,including, insofar as it has been decided, theproposed transposition instruments, are availableon my Department's website at www.entemp.ie/ecd/eudirectives. The website also contains information on directives in respect of which infringement proceedings have been commenced.

A letter of formal notice, under Article 226 of the treaty, has been issued by the European Commission in the case of one, and reasoned opinions in the case of another five, of the outstanding directives for which the deadline for implementation has passed.

I am satisfied that my Department is giving all due priority to the task of implementing the provisions of EU directives, in light of the available resources. As the Deputy may be aware, Ireland's position in regard to the transposition of directives improved significantly in 2003. The latest figures published by the Commission in January 2004 showed Ireland was joint third among the EU member states in the transposition of Internal Market directives.

Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 119.

Job Losses.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

123 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action she intends to take arising from the recent announcement of the loss of 170 jobs at a company (details supplied) in County Cork especially in view of the substantial number of jobs lost at other Cork plants in recent times; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3786/04]

I was very disappointed at the company's announcement of plans to reduce its workforce by 170, including 75 permanent jobs, at its Brinny facility in County Cork. I understand that the decision was taken because of reduced demand for the company's main product, coupled with the recent announcement by the parent company that, as part of major global restructuring, it intends cutting payroll costs by 10% worldwide. The company plans to implement the redundancies initially on a voluntary basis, but will continue to employ about 760 people after these redundancies.

FÁS has made contact with the company and will make available its full range of training and job placement services to the affected workers. Companies in the Cork Harbour area, particularly in chemical-pharmaceutical manufacturing, will be contacted as a potential source of alternative employment for the redundant workers.

There are currently 134 IDA-assisted companies in County Cork employing approximately 18,000 people, an increase of 20% in IDA supported employment since 1999. In 2003, the agency announced 11 new projects for the Cork area, with a job potential of 800 including manufacturing, international services and high value research and development-based activities.

The pharmaceutical and health care sector continues to perform well in the Cork area. In 2003 a number of welcome new projects were announced, such as the establishment of Fournier Laboratories' investment in Carrigtwohill with a job content of 60; a €28 million investment by Italian pharmaceutical company, Recordati, in Ringaskiddy, also with a job content of 60, and a €70 million investment in Carrigtwohill by German pharmaceutical company Altana, with a job content of 150. This was in addition to the €35 million investment in research and development by GlaxoSmithKline, Carrigaline. Pepsi Cola also implemented a major expansion programme in Cork involving an additional 250 jobs.

I assure the Deputy that IDA Ireland, along with the other State development agencies, under the aegis of my Department, will continue to actively market the Cork area for enterprise development.

EU Regulations.

Seán Crowe

Question:

124 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures she is taking to attain the EU target of 57% of women in the labour force by 2005; the measures she is taking to develop a flexible child care system to facilitate parents working outside the usual nine-to-five working hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3767/04]

One of the main challenges in the area of employment policy is to increase the overall numbers of those at work, including women. The rate of employment among females in Ireland has increased by 15% since 1994. The latest female employment rate from August, 2003 of 56.7% is the highest ever and the EU target of 57% to be reached by 2005 has almost been achieved.

A number of measures are being implemented to encourage greater levels of female participation in the workforce including tax incentives, child income support, a greater commitment to flexible, family-friendly working arrangements as well as child care provision.

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which has overall responsibility for the formulation of national policy on child care and for the implementation of child care services, established structures to bring the key players together at national and local level to ensure effective development.

The principal aim of the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006, EOCP, is the development of quality child care to meet the needs of parents in employment, in training or in education. Total funding made available under the programme amounts to €436.7 million up to 2006. To date, over €249.2 million has been allocated in funding under the equal opportunities child care programme. It is estimated that the grants to child care providers and community groups to date will create 27,000 new child care places and will also support nearly 26,000 existing places. The flexibility of service being provided, including opening hours, is one of the considerations taken into account when grant applications are being assessed.

Recently, the national childminders' initiative was introduced as part of the equal opportunities child care programme. It provides childminders' development grants and continuing supports for information, networking and training opportunities for childminders. It aims to improve the quality and stimulate the development of childminding services in the childminder's home and to increase the number of childminding places.

The Government has also allocated €12.7 million to provide for crèches across the Civil Service. Both IDA Ireland and FÁS have introduced initiatives designed to facilitate the increased participation of women in the workforce. IDA Ireland has identified six of its existing business parks for the development of child care services which will benefit both employers and employees and thereby enhance the attractiveness of IDA Ireland parks to international investors.

FÁS has operated a pilot childcare allowance scheme since 2001, to facilitate primary child carers who wish to seek training in order to get back into the workforce. A total of €6.7 million was allocated to the scheme in 2003. It is anticipated that a similar allocation will be made to the scheme in 2004.

Industrial Employment.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

125 Mr. O'Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the figures for the level of industrial employment at the latest date for which figures are available; the way in which this compares with the equivalent date in each of the previous five years; the steps being taken to counter the decline in industrial employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3788/04]

The figures for average annual level of industrial employment between 1998 and 2002 together with the latest provisional figure, which is for September 2003, are as follows:

Average Annual Industrial Employment 1998-2002

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003 (Sept.)

257,900

257,000

266,700

269,000

256,500

241,500

The decline in industrial employment since 2001 undoubtedly reflects the difficult business conditions in the global marketplace in recent years. However, we must also bear in mind that the numbers in employment overall have continued to rise throughout this period. The fact that employment has grown by over 440,000 since 1997 reflects favourably on the Government's management of the economy in difficult circumstances.

While industrial employment has tended to reduce in the past two years, employment in international and financial services has displayed remarkable resilience to international difficulties and has more than offset the contraction in industrial jobs. Among firms supported by agencies under my Department, employment in these sectors consistently grew from 40,221 in 1998 to 67,359 in 2002 or by 67%. Initial indications point to stable employment in this sector last year, which is quite an achievement given the readjustment of financial markets after a period of international upheaval.

Our business support agencies are undertaking co-ordinated strategies to sustain and promote growth in industrial employment. More resources are targeted towards underpinning the competitiveness of existing companies in Ireland, by encouraging existing clients to move into higher value products and higher order functions, such as research and development and more complex or demanding services. IDA Ireland, for example, is pursuing high quality new FDI that is in keeping with the competitive characteristics of the modern Irish economy. Our objective is to excel in niche areas of biotechnology, software and information and communications technologies.

In conjunction with the private sector, Enterprise Ireland has developed a range of seed and venture capital funds, in many cases dedicated to specific emerging technologies or focused on business development in the regions outside of Dublin. More companies are being persuaded to put product and process innovation at the centre of their growth plans and for this to become an embedded feature of their strategic development. EI's other focus on increasing export capacity in indigenous firms has not diminished.

Furthermore, I have set up the enterprise strategy group, under the chairmanship of Eoin O'Driscoll. I want the group to recommend and prioritise new strategies and policies to ensure that the prosperity we enjoyed in the last decade will continue into the future. It will examine how to strengthen our enterprise environment, to promote an innovation and knowledge-driven economy while helping sustain those industries already providing employment here. The group will report to me in a few months.

Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 113.

Work Permits.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

127 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the criticism made by the former UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, of the work permit system, particularly in so far as it requires persons with permits to work for one employer only; her views on the comments made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3801/04]

I am aware of the comments in question and welcome the opportunity to set out the position on this issue. At present, the work permit facility grants the permit to an employer to recruit a specific employee to fill a specific vacancy, where the employer has been unable to find a suitable employee within Ireland or the wider European Economic Area. This arrangement does have the safeguard that the non-EEA employee in question is coming to fill a specific vacancy, an important factor when most of the personnel in question are at the lower end of the skills spectrum.

Despite assertions to the contrary, in recent years, work permit personnel have being readily facilitated in changing employers and in such circumstances a new work permit is issued to a new, eligible, employer. This flexibility has being possible and warranted by the relatively high number of vacancies arising in recent years. I should mention that in 2002 some 3,888 work permit employees changed employer, while in 2003 this number was 3,512, or an average of 68 per week.

I suggest to the Deputy that current reality does not support accusations that the work permit facility resembles bonded servitude.

If we were to move to a situation where a work permit was given to the individual employee, we would, in effect, be giving an authorisation to come to Ireland in search of an employer. Such a system is not impossible but it does give rise to a number of serious policy questions and does raise very significant resource issues. Any informed decision to move to a new system should take these into account.

Workplace Inspections.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

128 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of workplace inspections carried out by labour inspectors for each month of 2003; if she has satisfied herself that there are a sufficient number of inspectors to carry out an adequate level of workplace inspections; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3792/04]

The following figures provide an update on the information provided in October 2003 and state the position up to the end of the year. The numbers of workplace inspections-visits for each month in 2003 are set out in the following table.

As stated previously, a new electronic case management system was introduced into the labour inspectorate in June 2003. For the period following its introduction the old system also continued in use. In December, staff concentrated on ensuring all relevant data was finally committed to this legacy system and its day-to-day use then ceased. This work, together with the earlier preparations for the introduction of the new system, impacted on inspectorate activity both early in the year and in December. However, I am confident that this work and investment in technology, together with other actions that have been completed, such as the streamlining of procedures, ensures that the inspectorate is enabled to provide an effective and efficient service going forward.

There are no plans, at this stage, to increase the number of labour inspectors. I am satisfied the investment and actions described above will, as far as possible, ensure that employment rights and entitlements of all employees working in Ireland are protected.

Month

Inspections/Visits

Month

Inspections/Visits

January

731

July

876

February

421

August

1,085

March

142

September

974

April

35

October

1,065

May

242

November

731

June

612

December

254

These figures amount to a total of 7,168.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

129 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the terms of the recent ban imposed by her on technical assistance or training relating to military equipment and the provision of finance for the sale, supply, transfer or export of arms and related matters in respect of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3800/04]

On 28 July 2003 the United Nations Security Council decided in its Resolution 1493 (2003) to impose an embargo on the supply of arms and related material as well as on the provision of assistance, advice or training related to military activities to all armed groups and militias operating in the territory of North and South Kivu and of Ituri, and to groups not party to the global and all-inclusive agreement, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In line with an existing practice on the implementation of arms embargoes, the European Union implemented the ban on the provision of assistance, advice or training related to military activities by means of a Council regulation, in this instance Council Regulation (EC) No 1727 of 29 September 2003. Article 6 of Council Regulation No 1727/2003 requires that each member state shall determine the sanctions to be imposed where the provisions of the regulation are infringed. In this context, the purpose of S.I. No. 678 of 2003, European Communities (Restrictive Measures) (Democratic Republic of Congo) Regulations 2003, which I signed on 15 December 2003, is to provide for penalties for infringements of the regulation. A person who contravenes the provisions of the Council regulation is guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €3,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both.

Consumer Protection.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

130 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her proposals for a new board to advise the Government on consumer issues and to promote consumers rights; the terms of reference of the board; the powers that will be available to it; when she expects to appoint the members; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3778/04]

There is a growing recognition in the country that our current arrangements for the articulation and promotion of consumer interests are not all that they should be.

We all know how effective and persuasive other sectors and groups can be in defending and pursuing their economic interests. I have no difficulty about that, but if we are to have a fully competitive economy with functioning markets in all goods and services, we need the full participation of consumers and the effective representation of their interests in the economic and political process. The voice of the consumer must be heard and heeded more than it is at present.

There are many problems to be addressed in this area. Some are rooted in our culture such as the lack of assertiveness of many consumers. Another difficulty is the diverse and changing nature of the consumer agenda. Consumer representative structures in this country are generally perceived as weak relative to those of other countries.

I have been giving some thought on how best to move things forward. To help in this work, I propose to bring together a small group of independent minded and public-spirited persons with an interest in tackling this challenge. The mandate of the group will be mainly advisory, with an initial focus on consumer prices, consumer representation and advocacy arrangements and important new EU proposed consumer legislation. The group will be expected to add value to what we already have and not to substitute for any current role or responsibility carried out by my Department, the Director of Consumer Affairs, other regulatory bodies or by bodies such as the Consumer Association of Ireland. I propose to stand down, at least for the time being, the consumer advisory council which has not met for some time. The new group will also be expected, in due course, to make useful contributions to longer-term strategic issues in areas such as consumer law, consumer education and public sector provision for consumer policy and implementation. I wish to see the new group liaising effectively with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business and in that way helping to raise the consumer policy profile in our deliberations here. I hope to be in a position shortly to announce further details of the proposed new body, including its composition, terms of reference and related matters.

To those who may suggest that this is a case of setting up a committee in lieu of taking action, I say that if the problems which we are addressing here, were capable of simple or quick solution they would have been solved long ago.

I have every confidence that this new initiative, the broad lines of which I am conveying to the House today, can make a valuable and lasting contribution to the interests of consumers and to national competitiveness and I hope that all sides of the House will support it.

Migrant Workers.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

131 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps being taken to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3745/04]

The labour inspectorate of the Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including immigrant workers. Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the inspectorate seeks redress for the individual or individuals concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated. The inspectorate operates without any differentiation with regard to worker nationality as statutory employment rights and protections apply to immigrant workers in exactly the same manner as they do to native Irish workers.

During 2003, work was completed on the development of a new case management system to support streamlined work procedures in the labour inspectorate. The new IT system went live at the end of June 2003 and was operated in parallel with the existing system up to the end of the year. The new system represents a considerable investment by the Department, approximately €900,000, in the enforcement of employment rights for all workers. The system provides the technological support to enable inspectors operate more effectively and efficiently in their interactions with employers and employees alike.

In addition, where employers seek work permits in order to employ non-EEA nationals, the Department requires the statement of the main functions of the job, salary-wages, deductions, other than statutory, other benefits and hours to be worked per week. Both the proposed employer and the proposed employee must sign this statement. Work permits are not granted unless there is compliance with minimum wages legislation. Applications for renewals require confirmation that the stated wages have been paid and that P60 and other sources are used. Work permits are not granted for sectors such as domestic employment where it is believed that such employment can be met from the Irish-EEA labour market and where there is a greater risk of exploitation.

I am satisfied that there are sufficient procedures in place and an appropriate level of inspection activity, 7,168 inspections-visits in 2003, to ensure, as far as possible, that rights and entitlements under Irish law are being observed for all workers. If there is evidence that employers are exploiting immigrant workers I ask that it be brought to the attention of the labour inspectorate for investigation and further action.

Employment Support Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

132 Mr. O'Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action she intends to take arising from the warning contained in the FÁS end-of-year review that unemployment will continue to rise with further job losses in low-skilled sectors inevitable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3789/04]

Despite the global economic downturn the Irish labour market has been resilient with employment continuing to grow. A total of 1,820,800 persons were in employment in the third quarter of 2003, which represented an increase of 26,000 in the year. While job losses were experienced in some sectors, they were more than offset by employment opportunities in other sectors. The forecast for employment growth is estimated to be around 1% for this year. Average unemployment in 2003 was 4.7%, which is well below the EU average of 8%. The ESRI predict that it will remain at this level in the short to medium-term.

The challenge for the future is to ensure that Ireland makes a successful transition to innovation and knowledge-based competitiveness. This is being addressed through attraction of further foreign direct investment, increased commitment to investment in research and innovation and through training and upskilling to improve the quality of the labour force.

Ireland, through IDA Ireland, continues to win a major share of inward investment. Independent reviews confirm that Ireland's market share of inward investment into Europe continues to grow in spite of competition and the decrease in recent years in the overall pool of investment available. In 2003, IDA Ireland signed up 64 projects, including greenfield and expansion of existing business located here. Inward investment into Ireland represents 9% of the total into Europe.

The research environment in Ireland has been significantly altered as a result of the allocation of €2.5 billion to the research, technological development and innovation priority across a range of Departments and agencies under the national development plan, NDP. Key investments aimed at building Ireland's research capability are now under way. These are being delivered through Science Foundation Ireland, SFI, the programme of research in third level institutions and through increased support aimed at enhancing research and development capabilities in industry and promoting collaboration between industry and the third level sector. Overall spending on science and technology for 2004 represents an increase of 36% over 2003 levels. I have increased the budget for Science Foundation Ireland by €53 million to bring it up to €201 million.

Enterprise Ireland has also had a significant increase in the moneys available to it to support innovation and research and development within indigenous industry. That agency continues to offer a range of supports to enable companies to minimise negative economic factors, which have an impact on the sustainability of employment. This support focuses on a number of key areas such as developing exports, improving companies' competitiveness, providing funding for research, innovation and upskilling and encouraging new company start-ups.

FÁS continues to provide a wide range of advisory and human resource development services to industries and companies. FÁS works closely with companies to identify their training needs and in 2003 specific emphasis was placed on training for lower-skilled workers. A number of pilot programmes were undertaken in 2003 and further such programmes will be run in 2004. In addition, FÁS, in co-operation with the development agencies and local organisations, has developed a process of engagement with redundant workers, the purpose of which is to ameliorate the effects on local communities of lay-offs and company closures by identifying training needs, new opportunities for enterprise development and working with new promoters to build viable projects.

Job Creation.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

133 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new jobs announced during 2003 from new investments or expansion of IDA-backed plants; the expected level of announcements during 2004; the steps being taken to promote job creation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3785/04]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment — FDI — to Ireland, including its regions and areas. In 2003, 32 greenfield and expansion job creation projects were announced by IDA Ireland. These projects have a projected total job content of nearly 5,600 jobs and were achieved against a background where there were fewer companies actively seeking to invest overseas and consequently less companies visiting Ireland.

As the ultimate decision regarding where to locate a project, including what areas to visit as potential locations are taken by overseas investors it is difficult to predict the exact number of IDA supported project announcements that might be made in 2004.

However, IDA Ireland is cautiously optimistic about the year ahead and believes it will be its best since 2000 in terms of jobs announcements, both for new investments into Ireland and growth in the value and scale of activities in overseas IDA-backed plants already operating here. This view is based on contacts with client companies and strong indications of a substantial recovery in growth in the global economy and consequent increased flows of FDI.

I too, am optimistic about the year ahead, particularly given the track record IDA Ireland has in attracting sustainable overseas investment to the country. Despite the recent global economic turndown, the level of foreign direct investment in Ireland, relative to the size of the economy, remains one of the highest in the world. For a long time, Ireland has received a far higher proportion of FDI inflows into the EU than our 1% of the population would suggest.

Vigorous pursuit by IDA of its main policy objectives is the best strategy to respond to the current challenging global environment and further increase opportunities for employment, not alone in IDA supported companies, but also across the wider economy. It is important to remember that FDI can also have knock-on benefits in other sectors such as supply, distribution and transport, thus creating further investment-employment opportunities for local people in the immediate vicinity and surrounding areas.

I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by IDA Ireland, together with the ongoing commitment of Government to regional development will continue to bear fruit in terms of delivering the maximum possible level of additional jobs.

Departmental Restructuring.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

134 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the proposals produced by the Amicus-MSF trade union for a restructuring of her Department, which would include the creation of a separate department of labour; her views on the proposals made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3804/04]

The configuration of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment brings together a number of functions in a single Department, that have promoting quality jobs at their core. This recognises that enterprise and employment are not competing factors, but rather complementary. Only by growing our competitiveness, increasing our trade performance, and expanding enterprise performance can we produce sustainable high quality jobs. Similarly, only by ensuring that we have a well trained and confident workforce can enterprise flourish.

Calls for alternative configurations appear to stem from a failed paradigm that places jobs and welfare at work in competition with enterprise. Such a view leads to the development of zero-sum policies where the political champions of one perspective are pitted against those of the other. We have a different and more positive view; one that seeks to grow the quality and number of jobs by growing trade and enterprise. We seek policies that recognise the globalised nature of this modern economy. We seek win-win strategies.

Moving away from political philosophy, it is instructive to look at our track record. Since 1993, when the new configuration was started, we have seen jobs and real wages growth of an unprecedented nature, we have introduced the national minimum wage and seen a significant improvement in the legislative framework protecting workers. The welfare of workers, especially those most exposed to low incomes, has been transformed during this period. This has also helped sustain, and be sustained by, a parallel and unprecedented improvement in trade and enterprise performance. The evidence is inescapable.

While the factors supporting this transformation are manifold, and social partnership clearly played its part, our pro-enterprise and pro-jobs policies have made a real difference. Following the last election, the Government affirmed its conviction that the current configuration of the Department is right for Ireland. I strongly oppose any rowing back on this winning strategy.

National Minimum Wage.

John Gormley

Question:

135 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the full increase in the minimum wage will take place immediately; and if she will resist calls to defer half of the increase until 2005. [3819/04]

On foot of a Government commitment in, Sustaining Progress, S.I. No. 205 of 2003 was signed on 24 June 2003, increasing the national minimum wage to €7.00 per hour with effect from 1 February 2004. Accordingly, labour inspectors from my Department are obliged to enforce the new rate with effect from that date.

In such circumstances, the question of postponement of any part of the increase does not arise.

Work Practices.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

136 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the long term strategies she is considering to further the goal of reconciling the demands of work and family life as stated in the Government's report to the informal meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council in Galway in 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3820/04]

At the informal meeting of the Employment and Social Policy Ministers, which was held in Galway on 16 January 2004, the Ministers concluded that, policies to reconcile work and family life are vital elements of the overall package of measures to increase participation in the labour market.

Under the EU employment strategy, the attainment of an employment rate of 67% by 2005 and 70% by 2010 has been agreed. Separate targets have been agreed in respect of women's employment, 57% by 2005 and 60% by 2010. As part of the EU employment guidelines, Ireland is committed to the provision of equal opportunities between women and men, including the provision of family friendly working arrangements.

Considerable work has already been done in the pursuit of these commitments, particularly since the establishment of the national framework committee for work-life balance policies, formerly known as the national framework committee for family friendly policies. The establishment of this committee highlights the commitment of the Government and the social partners to the area of family friendly working arrangements. The work of the committee has been acknowledged by the European Commission as having a positive contribution to the implementation of the employment guidelines.

The national framework committee comprises representatives from the IBEC, ICTU, Departments and the Equality Authority and is chaired by my Department. Its remit is to support and facilitate the development of family friendly policies at the level of the enterprise and examine how best to improve access to such policies in order to realise the potential benefits that these arrangements would offer from both an equality and competitiveness perspective.

A number of initiatives have been undertaken by the committee to date, including: the organisation and hosting of family friendly workplace days; the provision of financial assistance to assist individual organisations in implementing and/or enhancing work-life balance working arrangements; the establishment and funding of a panel of consultants, who are available to assist in developing or implementing work-life balance arrangements; the provision of financial assistance to the social partners to assist in the development of appropriate resources for their members; and the development of an interactive website www.familyfriendly.ie and other information exchange-dissemination activities including newsletters, information leaflets and seminars.

A number of very useful pilot projects and research projects have also been undertaken on behalf of the committee. For example, the committee commissioned and published a major research project, Off the Treadmill: Achieving Work/Life Balance, last year. The focus of this research was to examine issues relating to the types of family friendly working arrangements in Irish workplaces, attitudes to family friendly working arrangements among employers, employees and work colleagues and to identify barriers to the implementation of such arrangements.

The findings of the research report confirms the fact that demands for work/life balance opportunities are increasing among a broad range of people who are at work or who may be seeking work, not just people who are seeking to balance work and family responsibilities. The increasing demand for work/life balance options will require both employers and employees to be innovative in their thinking and actions in this area.

The research report will assist and inform the work of the national framework committee going forward.

Below-Cost Selling.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

137 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the issue of below-cost selling and the wisdom or otherwise of a ban. [3726/04]

Below-cost selling raises difficult issues in the area of competition and consumer law and many countries, including Ireland, maintain specific regulatory restrictions directed against the practice. Since all restrictions which restrain the operation of free markets need to be periodically examined and justified, I am currently looking at the Groceries Order 1987 and hope to make a further announcement on the matter very shortly.

Most people would agree that free and fair markets are better at regulating prices than Governments. Government does, however, have the vital responsibility to ensure that markets are working effectively for consumers and that is the perspective in which I am reviewing the groceries order.

Insurance Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her plans to bring insurance costs here into line with competitors with particular reference to motor, fire and public liability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3808/04]

I no longer have responsibility for insurance undertakings. From 1 May 2003, the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA, is responsible for practically all of the financial services industry, including the registration and supervision of insurance undertakings and the services provided by them. However, I retain responsibility for the insurance reform programme.

I am pleased to report that the insurance reform programme that I announced on 25 October 2002 is progressing well. This programme comprises a comprehensive set of interrelated measures designed to improve the functioning of the Irish insurance market. The key measures include the implementation of the recommendations in the motor insurance advisory board action plan within a target timeframe. To date, 32 of the recommendations have been fully implemented, three have been partially implemented and work is in progress on the implementation of the other recommendations.

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board Bill 2003 completed its passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas on 19 December 2003 and was signed into law on 28 December 2003. The Act will commence in early to mid-2004 providing for the establishment of the personal injuries assessment board on a statutory basis and allowing the board to deal with cases.

My Department and the Competition Authority undertook a joint study into the insurance market. The study will identify and analyse barriers to entry and limitations on rivalry in the insurance marketplace. A significant amount of the work was completed in 2003 and a report will be produced in the near future.

I chair a ministerial committee established to drive the co-ordinated implementation of the reform programme across the relevant Departments and other concerned bodies. Substantial progress is being made on a range of measures that will radically overhaul the functioning of the insurance market and help tackle the high cost of insurance. These include measures to reduce the number of accidents, to tackle fraudulent and exaggerated claims and streamline the law in regard to personal injury claims. Many of the measures contained in the MIAB recommendations will have the effect of encouraging competition, including those relating to transparency and the provision of information to consumers. A number of these measures have already been implemented.

The pricing and underwriting of insurance is a matter for individual insurance companies and EU law prevents Governments from intervening in regard to the matter of premium levels or in respect of what risks they are prepared to underwrite. Insurers generally make decisions about whether they are prepared to quote for a particular risk, and if so, at what premium level, based on their underwriting experience or assessment of that risk in the market. Governments are free to take action, which affects the operation of the insurance market.

I consider there to be an onus on the insurance industry to ensure that the measures the Government is putting in place to reform the Irish insurance market will have the effect of significantly reducing the cost of premia to consumers and businesses. It is heartening to report that a number of insurers have already announced reductions of 15% to 20% in motor and more recently public liability premia. As implementation of the reform programme continues, I expect reductions to occur in all forms of insurance.

I am also confident that these measures will attract new players into the market and lead to further downward pressure on premia, as improvements in the functioning of the Irish insurance market make it more attractive to other firms that do not have any previous presence in Ireland. I am keen to encourage such insurers to enter this market, and over the coming months, I intend to meet representatives of potential new entrants to the market. I have made it known that I am interested in talking to any such potential entrants.

Decentralisation Programme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

139 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in regard to proposals for decentralisation, a survey has been undertaken to establish the number of persons employed in her Department and in boards or agencies operating under the aegis of her Department who are willing to move to the new locations announced by the Minister for Finance in his budget speech; the results of such a survey; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3803/04]

Following the announcement of the Government's decentralisation programme, under which 250 staff of my Department will decentralise to Carlow, a survey was conducted within the Department with a view to establishing the numbers of staff interested in decentralising to locations outside Dublin. A total of 503 staff responded to the survey, 69 of whom indicated that they would be prepared to transfer to Carlow and 160 of whom indicated a willingness to decentralise to other locations outside Dublin.

The National Standards Authority of Ireland and Enterprise Ireland have not yet conducted a survey of their staff on the issue of decentralisation.

The Health and Safety Authority conducted a survey of its Dublin-based staff with 15 of the 107 staff surveyed expressing an interest in decentralising to Thomastown.

FÁS also conducted a survey of its Dublin-based staff with 30 out of the 413 surveyed expressing an interest in decentralising to Birr.

Export Licensing.

Seán Ryan

Question:

140 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when she expects to receive phase 2 of the report from economic consultants (details supplied) on export licensing for military and dual-use goods; if it is intended to publish the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3799/04]

I understand that the report of phase 2 of the review of the operation of Ireland's export controls system is nearing completion and I would hope to receive it shortly. It is my intention to make the report publicly available.

EU Directives.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

141 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the application of the electronic commerce directive, especially in view of the fact that 54% of European Internet users are expected to shop on-line by 2006. [30415/03]

The objective of the EU directive on electronic commerce, Directive 2000/31/EC, is to create a legal framework to ensure the free movement of information society services between the EU member states. In this regard it provides for the regulation of information society services, the legal recognition of electronic contracts, consumer information and protection and rules on unsolicited commercial emails. The e-commerce Act 2000 gave effect to the principles of the directive concerning the legal recognition of electronic contracts. The remaining provisions in the directive that required to be given effect to in Irish law were transposed by the European Communities (Directive 2000/31/EC) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 68 of 2003). The Director of Consumer Affairs enforces the transparency provisions. The Data Protection Commissioner is responsible for the enforcement of the regulation on unsolicited commercial emails.

While experience of the application of the directive is still relatively limited, the European Commission's first report on the directive, published in December 2003, shows that it has had a positive effect on the development of e-commerce within Europe. The report is based both on the Commission's experience and on feedback received from member states, industry, professional and consumer associations and other interested parties.

While retail sales by e-commerce in Europe are still low, the prospects for growth are encouraging and successful stories of online market places, business-to-business, B2B, platforms, and online finance have emerged. The report also notes that the Internet has become a powerful tool for consumers to obtain information and compare offers in an efficient and user-friendly way, even if they do not proceed to make on-line sales. The Commission has not identified any major problems with the way in which member states have transposed the directive and it has received only a handful of notifications from member states of circumstances where they believe that permissible derogations from the terms of the directive may be warranted.

The report does point to some evidence of a lack of awareness amongst service providers of the information requirements in the directive, but also notes that such providers have responded positively and promptly when shortcomings in this regard were brought to their attention. This finding is also reflective of the experience to date of the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs in enforcing the regulations in Ireland. The ODCA website www.odca.ie also provides advice on on-line shopping for consumers. The European Consumer Centre, which is jointly funded by the European Commission and ODCA, also conducted a cross-border e-commerce project entitled, Realities of the European online marketplace, in the second half of 2002 to assess the impact of the adoption of the e-commerce and distance selling directives on Internet shopping in Europe. This report can be viewed on the ECC website www.eccdublin.ie.

The Commission will continue to closely monitor the application of the directive in member states, including follow-up/analysis of relevant case law, administrative decisions and complaints from citizens and business. A second report on the application of the directive is due to be undertaken in 2005.

Ministerial Orders.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

142 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when she intends to make an order under the Consumer Affairs Act to require doctors, dentists and allied health professionals to publicly display their prices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3779/04]

Consultations are continuing on this matter between my Department and representatives of the Irish Dental Association and the Irish Medical Organisation and I hope to be in position to conclude matters in regard to those professions as soon as possible.

I intend to consider the position regarding other professions in the health sector subsequently.

Departmental Inquiries.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

143 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in regard to each of the inquiries being carried out by, or on behalf of her Department; the projected date for the conclusion of each such investigation; the inquiries in respect of which reports have been referred to the DPP; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3797/04]

Seán Ryan

Question:

160 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the costs incurred by the State, at the latest date for which figures are available, arising from the various inquiries instigated by, or on behalf of her Department; the element of these costs which have been recovered from any of the other parties involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3798/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143 and 160 together.

A total of 16 investigations into company law matters have been initiated by me since I first came into office as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. In respect of three of these, the High Court appointed, on an application by me, inspectors under section 8 of the Companies Act 1990. The inspectors appointed to Ansbacher (Cayman) Limited presented their report to the High Court on 10 June 2002. The report was subsequently published. The report has been passed to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Section 8 inquiries into the affairs of National Irish Bank Limited and National Irish Bank Financial Services Limited are continuing. I understand the inspectors made a submission to the court last week to inform the court of the present position of the inquiries.

One investigation under section 14 of the Companies Act 1990 was completed in 1998. The report on this has been passed to the DPP.

A total of 11 investigations were initiated by me under section 19 of the Companies Act 1990. Some six of these have been concluded. Of the six investigations completed, two of the reports were passed to the DPP. A number of summary prosecutions have since been successfully concluded in one case. One report provided an input into the successful application to the High Court for the appointment of inspectors under section 8 while the fourth report was passed to the relevant High Court inspectors. One report was completed in September 2002 and a further report was completed in March 2003. Both reports have been referred to the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Three investigations under section 19 are ongoing and the authorised officer is working towards completing reports of these investigations by mid-2004.

Two investigations were held up in legal appeals. These enquiries are now the responsibility of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. One investigation was undertaken under section 59 of the Insurance Act 1989. The report on this has been referred to the DPP as well as to the inspectors undertaking the section 8 investigation into that company.

The costs incurred since 1997 on company investigations initiated by, or on behalf of, my Department currently amount to approximately €10.3 million. This amount does not include the salary costs of Civil Service staff working on a number of these investigations or the legal costs, which are primarily being borne by the Vote of the Chief State Solicitor. Most of the €10.3 million derives from the costs to date of the High Court inspectors appointed under section 8; €5.3 million in the case of National Irish Bank Limited-National Irish Bank Financial Services Limited and €3.5 million in the case of Ansbacher (Cayman) Limited.

The question of recovering costs from the section 8 investigations does not arise until such time as the inspectors complete their investigations. In the case of the Ansbacher enquiry, the High Court proceedings taken by the State to recover the costs of the inquiry were settled out of court for the sum of €1.25 million in favour of the State. Section 19, as originally enacted, did not provide for the recoupment of costs. This has now changed with the enactment of the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

144 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress which has been made to date to achieve the target outlined in the National Anti-Poverty Strategy 2002 of eliminating long-term unemployment as soon as possible but no later than 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3763/04]

Long-term unemployment has been reduced dramatically during the past seven years. In 1998 long-term unemployment amounted to 63,500, which represented 3.9% of the labour force. By 2002 the numbers had fallen by over 40,000 to 21,600, 1.2% of the labour force. There was a small increase to 26,900 in 2003, a rate of 1.4%. The EU average rate, by contrast, is 3%.

In support of the NAPS strategy, FÁS is providing a range of training and employment programmes for the long-term unemployed. These include skills training, foundation training and employment programmes such as community employment and the jobs initiative. FÁS statistics show that in the first 11 months of 2003, a total of 27,954 long-term unemployed persons started FÁS programmes.

To increase the focus on long-term unemployed persons, FÁS introduced two new initiatives in 2003. The employment action plan process, involving referral by the Department of Social and Family Affairs of unemployed persons to FÁS for help in gaining access to training or employment, was extended to long-term unemployed persons on a regional basis. By the end of the year, the process was operational in six of the eight FÁS regions, including Dublin. It will become operational in all regions during 2004. The process had already been shown to be successful in four pilot areas, so there is every reason to expect that it will now be successful on a State-wide basis.

A high support process was officially launched in January 2003. The process provides additional funding to help purchase specific training courses to meet individuals' needs. The target group includes long-term unemployed clients and over 450 persons were referred to the process in 2003.

Carbon Taxes.

Mary Upton

Question:

145 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the representations she has received from industrial or commercial concerns regarding the possible introduction of carbon taxes; her views on the proposal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3806/04]

I have received representations on the possible introduction of carbon taxation from a number of interested parties, including industrial and commercial concerns. In general, the representations from the industry and commercial interests were expressing concern at possible adverse competitiveness implications of the introduction of a carbon tax.

In addition, a number of organisations which made submissions to the Department of Finance in response to the consultation paper of June 2003 on proposals for a carbon energy tax in Ireland copied their submissions to me. The Minister for Finance has indicated he will be publishing all the submissions received as part of the consultation process on his Department's website.

My Department has provided a submission as part of this consultation process and will continue to be fully involved in the development process. In its submission, my Department has made it clear that in developing the tax framework, a crucial consideration must be the minimisation of any impact on competitiveness. To that end, my Department has argued that companies, which are participating in other greenhouse gas reduction measures such as emissions trading or legally binding negotiated agreements, should be exempt from the tax.

It is also critical that the level of tax be balanced between the objectives of achieving appropriate realistic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and realising these reductions at least cost, thereby maintaining competitiveness in the enterprise sector. In addition, it is essential that the definitive starting date and rates for the tax should be announced well in advance to facilitate proper planning by industry.

Stem-Cell Research.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

146 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she intends to take steps during her period as President of the Council of Ministers to deal with the issue of funding for, and regulation of, stem-cell research; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3783/04]

No agreement was reached at the Competitiveness Council on December 3 on the Commission's amended proposal for guidelines to govern human embryonic stem cell research within the Sixth Framework Programme, or on the alternative proposal put forward by the Italian Presidency. It was apparent from the Council's consideration of these options that there was little, if any, hope of arriving at a set of guidelines, which would have sufficient support to ensure acceptance by the Council.

Given this situation, responsibility now rests with the Commission to examine such proposals it may receive for research into stem cells acquired from human embryos, bearing in mind the provisions of the established regulatory procedure, which governs research in this area. Under this procedure, in accordance with the relevant Council decision of 28 June 1999, the Commission refers proposals for projects to the Council if there is no agreement in the programme committee tasked with examining them in the first instance. The Council may, by qualified majority reject such proposals.

Legislative Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

147 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when she intends to bring forward the promised amendments to legislation to provide for increased penalties for breaches of industrial relations law, and especially for breaching the terms of registered building agreements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3805/04]

During Committee Stage of the Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2003, I informed the Select Committee on Enterprise and Small Business that I was considering the introduction of an amendment to section 32(4) of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 on Report Stage. Section 32(4) specifies the maximum fines that can be imposed by the courts upon summary conviction for breaches of registered employment agreements.

I am actively considering the issue of amending the level of fines under this section and I intend to bring an amendment before the House on Report Stage.

National Minimum Wage.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

148 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number and level of sanctions which have been applied to companies which have been found to be in breach of the minimum wage regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3814/04]

Since the introduction of the national minimum wage in April 2000, labour inspectors from my Department have undertaken inspections under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, with reported compliance and sanctions levels as set out in the following table.

Inspectors operate on the basis of achieving compliance. Where an inspection leads to a detection of infringements the employer is required to rectify the infringements detected. Failure to do so to the satisfaction of the labour inspectorate within a specified period results in the initiation of legal proceedings.

I am pleased to note that the figures indicate infringements detected to date have been minor and have been rectified following the intervention of the inspectorate.

Deputies should be aware that rights commissioners of the Labour Relations Commission, a body independent of my Department, also investigate complaints of breaches of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000.

Deputies should also be aware that there are some 19 employment regulation orders drawn up through the joint labour committee system that regulates statutory minimum rates of pay and conditions of employment for workers employed in the various sectors where these apply.

Year

No. of Inspections

Sanction Applied

2000

3,419

None

2001

1,192

1 Conviction for failure to keep records

2002

1,731

3 Convictions 1 — obstructing Inspector 2 — failure to pay NMW (arrears paid in both cases)

2003

950

None

Groceries Order.

Willie Penrose

Question:

149 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when she intends to publish the results of her review of the 1987 groceries order which forbids below cost selling; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3793/04]

I am continuing my review of the groceries order and hope to conclude my consideration in the near future.

Insurance Industry.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

150 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the recent survey published by the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority showing a huge variation in the cost of motor insurance and that premiums can vary as much as 500% depending on the location at which a person lives and the insurance company in question; the action she intends to take arising from this survey; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3773/04]

I very much welcome the survey by the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, which is to be carried out on a three monthly basis. Provision of this survey implements recommendation No. 7 of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board's recommendations, which are central to the Government's insurance reform programme. This survey will help engender price competition and educate the public on premium variances.

The Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA, which came into being on 1 May 2003 has a wide regulatory remit, covering consumer protection and prudential supervision of practically all of the financial services, including insurance and the services provided by it. The legislation setting up IFSRA provided for the establishment of a consumer director who has a clear role in consumer protection. There is a strong focus on transparency, competition and choice for the consumer.

While I no longer have responsibility for the regulation of insurance undertakings, I continue to have responsibility for the insurance reform programme that I launched on 25 October 2002. The reform programme is progressing well with 32 of the 67 recommendations implemented. The pricing and underwriting of insurance is a matter for individual insurance companies and EU law prevents Governments from intervening directly in the matter. I have made it clear, however, that I consider there to be an onus on the insurance industry to ensure that the reforms to be undertaken will have the effect of significantly reducing the cost of premia to consumers. Reductions have already occurred in the cost of premia and more reductions are expected.

Question No. 151 answered with QuestionNo. 120.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

152 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has undertaken an investigation into the lack of competitiveness in the Irish economy which seems to originate with goods or services not contained in the CPI and consequently not reflected in inflation rates; if a scientific evaluation can or will be undertaken on these issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3807/04]

Both the National Competitiveness Council and the Competition Authority undertake on a continuous basis investigations into the competitiveness of the Irish economy and the level of competition within in it. These investigations highlight the key areas that require attention to enhance Ireland's competitiveness and economic performance.

The National Competitiveness Council in its annual competitiveness report 2003, benchmarked Ireland's performance for 128 key competitiveness indicators against 15 other advanced countries. Though it does not rank countries as a whole or assign a single competitiveness position in regard to competitiveness, it does undertake a comprehensive examination of Ireland's competitiveness under these 128 key indicators. The competitiveness challenge 2003 brought forward the findings from the benchmarking report and offered recommendations to Government to improve national competitiveness. Examples of these recommendations included encouraging the Competition Authority to prioritise and expedite its studies, the need to roll-out national broadband infrastructure and the need to strengthen the research capacity of the third and fourth level system.

The Competition Act 2002 sets out basic competition rules and gives the Competition Authority the power to investigate breaches of the law and where necessary to bring civil and criminal prosecutions. The authority uses its enforcement powers to act promptly and rigorously to tackle anti-competitive behaviour such as collusion between firms on prices, output and market share as well as abuse of market power by firms. By taking action against these anti-competitive practices, the authority is protecting the interests of consumers and enhancing the competitiveness of the Irish economy.

The authority is currently involved in investigative work in the insurance, banking and professional services sectors. In regard to professional services, comprehensive studies are being undertaken of eight individual professions, namely medical practitioners, veterinarians, dentists, optometrists, barristers, solicitors, engineers and architects.

The consumer price index, CPI, is designed to measure the change in the average level of prices, inclusive of all indirect taxes, paid for consumer goods and services by all private households in the country and by foreign tourists holidaying in Ireland. Over 55,000 prices are collected for a representative basket consisting of 613 headings, which cover over 1,000 different items in a fixed panel of retail and service outlets throughout the country. Expenditure on capital assets, such as property and investments, gambling and certain other activities are, however, excluded. To ensure that the selection of goods and services reflects the average spending patterns of consumers, every five years the Central Statistics Office undertakes the household budget survey, which is a comprehensive study of consumer spending patterns and makes changes to the CPI accordingly. The last household budget survey was carried out in 2001. The CPI gives a comprehensive overview of trend and price changes in Ireland. The most recent inflation figures from the CPI show an inflation rate of 1.9% in December 2003. This is significantly lower than the 5.1% rate of increase recorded in February 2003.

My Department and the agencies under its aegis will continue to be proactive in promoting greater competition through policy measures at EU and national levels and through the powers given to agencies such as the Competition Authority. Competition is essential as it stimulates innovation and efficiency among business. This enables consumers to buy goods and services at the best possible price thereby enhancing the economy's overall national competitiveness.

Job Losses.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

153 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of redundancies notified to her Department during 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003; the steps being taken to deal with the sharp increase in redundancies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3774/04]

The number of redundancies notified to my Department in the years specified, were 13,316 in 2000, 19,977 in 2001, 25,358 in 2002, and 27,702 in 2003. The increasing level of redundancies reflects slower economic activity in Ireland in line with difficult economic conditions worldwide. The quarterly national household survey prepared by the Central Statistics Office last December, shows that employment growth continued in the third quarter of 2003 with an increase of 26,000 to bring the total number of persons in employment to 1.82 million.

The Government's focus is on improving competitiveness which is critical to sustaining and developing both the manufacturing and international traded services sectors. Policy initiatives by the Government and the State development agencies are aimed at helping the country progress towards a knowledge and innovation-driven economy. The enterprise strategy group, which I established in July 2003, has been given the task of developing strategic policy recommendations for enterprise in Ireland up to 2010.

Proposed Legislation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

154 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in regard to the establishment of a press council or press ombudsman; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3727/04]

Official responsibility for matters relating to the establishment of a press council or press ombudsman is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform.

I understand that the Minister concerned has recently set out the position in some detail in a reply to a question by Deputy Sherlock, Parliamentary Question No. 48 on 29 January 2004.

EU Presidency.

Liz McManus

Question:

155 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her priorities for the Irish Presidency of the EU; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3784/04]

I have published a priorities paper for the Competitiveness Council of Ministers, which I will chair during the Presidency. The programme for the Competitiveness Council is firmly rooted in the ten year strategy for growth, economic reform and job creation agreed by the Lisbon European Council in 2000. A separate programme and priorities paper for the Employment Social Policy Health and Consumer Affairs Council, which covers policy areas across a number of Departments including my own, has also been published. Both priority papers are available in English, Irish and French. Copies have been placed in the Oireachtas Library and they are also posted on the official Irish Presidency website at www.eu2004.ie and on my Department's website at www.entemp.ie.

The Lisbon Agenda of economic, social and environmental renewal of the EU is a key overarching priority for the Irish Presidency. Progress on the achievement of the agenda and measures to give renewed impetus to advancing economic reform, enhancing competitiveness and stimulating employment in Europe will be the focus of the spring European Council on 25-26 March 2004.

I will chair two formal meetings of the Competitiveness Council of Ministers, which are scheduled to take place in Brussels on 11 March and 17-18 May 2004. Particular stress will be laid by Ireland on the need for the Competitiveness Council to focus on and develop its horizontal remit in line with the Seville European Council in June 2002 and the Presidency conclusions of the 2003 spring summit. It is important that there is attention at the highest political level on issues affecting the competitiveness of enterprise and I see the role of the Competitiveness Council as central to achieving this. The council will also discuss a range of issues in areas such as enterprise, research and innovation policies and the completion and effective operation of the internal market, particularly with regard to the services sector. Specific dossiers on issues relating to intellectual property, including the proposal for a Community patent, company law and consumer policy will also feature on the Council's agenda. I will also chair an informal meeting of EU and accession Ministers responsible for competitiveness, which is scheduled to take place at Dromoland Castle, County Clare on 26-27 April. The meeting will focus on industrial policy and innovation.

The Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, will chair the sessions of the Employment Social Policy Health and Consumer Affairs, ESPHCA, Council dealing with items on which my Department takes the lead such as the European employment strategy and other relevant individual dossiers. The ESPHCA Council is scheduled to meet in formal session on 4-5 March and 1-2 June 2004. The Irish Presidency will seek to promote closer co-operation with the two sides of industry in facilitating change and helping in the effective transformation of the European economy. To this end it will convene a tripartite social summit with the EU level social partners in advance of the 2004 spring European Council. On 16 January, the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, co-chaired, along with the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, an informal meeting of Ministers for Employment and Social Policy on in Galway. The theme of the meeting was, making work pay. On the previous day the Irish Presidency convened a Council Troika meeting with the social partners and the social platform of NGOs.

Both the Competitiveness and ESPHCA Councils will make significant contributions to the preparation of the spring European Council meeting next March.

My Department will also be responsible for EU Council work on European common commercial policy matters during the Irish Presidency. This will involve the organisation and chairing of Council meetings at ministerial and official level in Dublin, Brussels, Geneva, Paris and elsewhere. Among the substantive issues to be dealt with will be the World Trade Organisation negotiations and the European Union's trade relations with various countries and regions. The Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ahern, will be closely involved in pursuing the EU agenda in the foregoing areas during the Presidency.

In addition to the formal Presidency agenda, my Department is organising a number of further Presidency-related meetings in Ireland. The calendar of such events, across all policy areas, has been deposited in the Oireachtas Library by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Job Creation.

Martin Ferris

Question:

156 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs created in indigenous enterprises in each of the past five years; the number lost in the same period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3765/04]

The following table sets out the trend in job creation and employment loss in indigenous companies, supported by the main development agencies. The data is based on data collected by Forfás and updated by the relevant agencies in the light of new information available to them.

Year

Job Gains

Job Losses

1999

16,569

10,692

2000

20,197

11,251

2001

15,071

14,235

2002

15,485

17,272

2003

12,905

16,076

Agencies: Enterprise Ireland, Shannon Development, Údarás na Gaeltachta.

While the 2003 figure represents a drop in the rate of job creation in comparison with the previous year, nonetheless this is a creditable achievement in the context of difficult economic conditions. These employment gains, however, were outweighed by losses of just over 16,000 jobs in agency-assisted companies last year, as slower economic growth and a more competitive marketplace made it much more difficult to do business than for many years.

The sustainability of employment levels in indigenous companies is heavily tied to competitiveness in terms of delivering products and services both in Ireland and to export markets. In the past few years, conditions in the global economy have been difficult, and Irish firms have had to win business against a backdrop of declining external demand, pricing pressures, and an increasingly competitive international environment.

Agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and Shannon Development have been working closely with their enterprise clients to help minimise the negative impact of these factors by providing a range of supports including help with research and development, improving competitiveness, opening new markets and expanding the existing export base. We will be unstinting in helping firms expand employment and develop more profitable sales.

Strategies for creating and sustaining indigenous enterprise include: Supporting in-company applied research and development; encouraging an increasing rate of commercialisation of research emerging from research institutes; stimulating companies to put new product-process innovation at the centre of their growth plans and to become an embedded feature of their strategic development; providing funding for closer and more intensive links between industry and universities-institutes of technology and facilitating the setting up of incubator centres; building the webworks programme that will see high technology enterprise space built in strategic regional centres to support high potential start-ups, especially in the software and information and communications technology sectors; improving competitiveness by for example Enterprise Ireland's €10 million competitiveness fund to help small and medium enterprises, SMEs, overcome distinctive competitiveness difficulties. To date, a total of €7,509,528 has been committed; helping exports growth by arranging access to international buyers, increasing the number of in-market trade promotion activities and expanding the number of overseas incubation centres thus providing a low cost market entry mechanism for clients.

Community Employment Schemes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

157 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress which has been made in relation to the fundamental review of training and employment supports to focus on the needs of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups to help them to progress to the open labour market which was promised in the programme for Government; her views on whether the cuts in community employment places since June 2002 will seriously hamper efforts to facilitate marginalised and disadvantaged groups who are attempting to progress from welfare to work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3762/04]

Mary Upton

Question:

159 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of community employment schemes at January 2000, January 2001, January 2002, January 2003 and January 2004; the number that will be available at the end of 2004; if her attention has been drawn to the severe difficulties being created for community and voluntary organisations by the reduction in community employment places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3777/04]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

169 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position with regard to the various reviews or studies of community employment schemes commissioned or undertaken by her Department; the main findings of each; if she intends to publish the reports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3776/04]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

175 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the review of training and employment supports to focus on the needs of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups to help them to progress to the open labour market which was promised in the programme for Government has commenced; if this review is examining the role of community employment schemes both in terms of allowing disadvantaged groups learn new skills to help them move from welfare to work and in terms of service provision to marginalised and disadvantaged communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4023/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157, 159, 169 and 175 together.

The total funding allocation for employment schemes in 2004 has been fixed at €351 million, which will support up to 25,000 places across the three employment schemes, that is, community employment, CE, jobs initiative and social economy. FÁS is being given some flexibility in the management of this financial allocation to maximise progression to the labour market while at the same time facilitating the support of community services. This allocation, €351 million, is similar to the budgeted amount provided in 2003. Accordingly, there will be no reduction in the total level of provision for the three schemes or in the combined participation levels in 2004.

The review of active labour market programmes, including community employment, job initiative, education and training and back to work programmes, which was mandated by the PPF and outlined in the programme for Government, has concluded without reaching a group consensus on the various elements of the review. The standing committee on the labour market, chaired by my Department, undertook the review. It proved impossible to reconcile the various views and expectations of members, which included representation from the community and voluntary sector, employers and unions in addition to other Departments, particularly with regard to the future of community employment. After a period of some 21 months of deliberations the process was brought to an end in December 2003. However, it is important to emphasise that the input from individual representatives was considerable, and will inform future policy decisions.

As part of this review process Indecon International Economic Consultants was commissioned by my Department on behalf of the standing committee to facilitate a rigorous assessment of the overall effectiveness of existing programmes, and to help inform the deliberations of the standing committee. The consultant's report was finalised and brought to the standing committee in November 2002. This report will be published on the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment website in the near future.

The future structure of the CE programme remains under review by a group of senior officials and FÁS, and this group will report to Ministers on the outcome of their deliberations shortly.

In deciding the financial allocation for employment schemes for 2004, the Government was informed by the work to date of the cross-departmental senior officials group. The commitment to fund a continuing pool of up to 25,000 places across the three schemes brings clarity not only to the levels of activity which will be supported but will enable FÁS to give a clear commitment to the support of local community services.

FÁS has also undertaken a review of CE and jobs initiative and has indicated that this report will be published in due course. The number of CE projects since January 2000 are as follows:

Year

Projects

January 2000

2,274

January 2001

2,041

January 2002

1,967

January 2003

1,694

January 2004

1,368

December 2004 (estimate)

1,325

Ansbacher Accounts.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

158 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason she decided not to pursue certain companies for the full costs of the Ansbacher inquiry; if she will give the full cost to the State of the inquiry; the original amount sought from the companies concerned; the actual amount settled for; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3796/04]

The application made to the High Court to recover the costs of the Ansbacher investigation carried out by the High Court-appointed inspectors was made by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who had defrayed the costs of the investigation. The application made was for the sum of €3,453,577.93, being the total costs of the investigation met by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, at the time the application was made. The application was for the total amount against all parties.

The actual amount settled for was €1.25 million. As part of the settlement all parties agreed to pay their own legal costs, that is, the cost of dealing with the above-mentioned application of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The decision to settle the application for a lesser sum was taken collectively by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and I, in consultation with the Attorney General, and having considered all of the legal advice available to us. The decision was a difficult one and was not taken lightly.

The decision to settle the case was taken on the grounds that there was no guarantee the State would achieve a more favourable outcome if we decided to pursue the case to the bitter end.

In a previous High Court case, Siucre Éireann v. the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the High Court had ruled that only the company which was the subject of the investigation could be required to make a contribution towards the costs of the investigation. Our legal advice was that this precedent would almost certainly be followed by the High Court in the Ansbacher case. This would have meant pursuing the matter in the Supreme Court if we wished to have parties other than Ansbacher bear some of the costs. We were advised that the prospects of successfully doing so were finely balanced. If the Supreme Court ruled against the State, the State would have been faced with fairly massive costs in favour of those companies which were not the main subject of the investigation but which featured in the inspectors' report.

We were also advised that there was a significant risk that the High Court might not direct Ansbacher to pay all, or any significant portion, of the costs of the investigation because Ansbacher and its present owners had co-operated with the investigation and because of the inspectors' acknowledgement that almost all of the wrongdoing uncovered in their report took place prior to the acquisition of Ansbacher by its present owners and that the present owners took steps to bring the irregularities to an end when they became aware of them.

Question No. 159 answered with QuestionNo. 157.
Question No. 160 answered with QuestionNo. 143.

Job Protection.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

161 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she intends to take to counter the growing trend of jobs being transferred to lower cost countries in view of the recent announcement by a company (details supplied) that it was to transfer 150 jobs from its office at Leopardstown to Poland. [3787/04]

While I regret the decision of the company in question to relocate some of their activities from Ireland, I also appreciate that it retains its commitment to the country, as evidenced by a large material investment at one of its Irish facilities recently. The company plans to maintain its other existing operations here and the 320 staff employed in those operations. The company has indicated that up to 50 of the 150 staff whose jobs are to be relocated may obtain jobs in other company facilities, and that a number of these jobs may be retained in Ireland. Efforts are already being made to locate alternative employment for those affected by the relocation. Officials from my Department will meet with the company to discuss the background to the company's decision. I cannot be complacent about these or other job losses from a national viewpoint and from a personal perspective I very much understand the serious blow to the individuals concerned as well as to their families.

Despite this setback, however, IDA Ireland continues to discuss opportunities with a number of companies considering Ireland as a location for similar activities.

Clearly, a more attractive cost environment abroad will inevitably attract some firms that are unable to produce in the high-wage environment of modern industrial economies. The continuing structural transformation of our economy is economically inevitable. With this, some plant transfers and other adjustments are bound to come, but where relocation has occurred to date, it has largely been limited to low technology, labour-intensive activities. Over the past few years I have mandated the enterprise support agencies under my Department to adjust their support strategies to meet both the needs of society in terms of high quality employment opportunities and the needs of businesses that generate and sustain those jobs. We all have a tough competitive battle ahead because our ability to win investment for Ireland will depend on convincing investors that profitable business can be done from here.

The enterprise development agencies have had a good deal of success in attracting higher-value replacement enterprises, in line with our policy of moving enterprise in Ireland to the higher value output of products and services. Such changing specialisation is a reflection of a changing comparative advantage, where we will retain those jobs that are human capital and technology intensive and characterised by high productivity and correspondingly high real wages.

We are implementing a careful progression in the sophistication and breadth of higher value activities that foreign owned companies carry out here. IDA Ireland has responded to the new value-added imperative by attracting firms working with new technologies or involved in higher value activities. We have secured superior new strategic projects and good success has been achieved by IDA Ireland in encouraging their clients to undertake more important strategic research and development and investments in their Irish operations. For example in 2003 Google, Overture and eBay announced the establishment of key European centres in Ireland while Diageo has made Waterford the location for a global supply production facility. This year the Canadian Covers Media Group decided to locate its European headquarters to Galway.

I am committed to creating and sustaining framework conditions that will encourage science and other knowledge-based activities, important to future standards of living, to take place here. We know from experience that creating the best conditions for enterprise and stimulating a climate for investment are the best ways to take industrial policy forward.

The changes taking place in our economy do not have to be consistently negative. We have proved that we can be the authors of our own successful destiny. I am committed to replacing relocated industry with other, higher-value enterprises. Investments in research, innovation, training and ICT as well as re-organisation of work and the ways we do business are constitute key ingredients of the transition process. Effective policy responses include the re-evaluation of the enterprise environment, and gaining a better understanding of the new dynamics facing industry. To this end, in July last year I set up the enterprise strategy group to recommend new strategies to ensure that the enterprise prosperity we have enjoyed will continue into the future. I expect the group to report to me around the middle of this year.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

162 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position with regard to the consultation with the social partners on proposals to increase penalties for breaches of the health and safety legislation, especially in view of the ongoing level of death and injury being caused to workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3775/04]

Legislative proposals to repeal and amend the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 have been developed at departmental level and are presently the subject of legal drafting by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. These proposals are largely the result of a review carried out by the tripartite board, representing the social partners, of the Health and Safety Authority which had been requested to carry out a fundamental review of the Act with a view to identifying where changes and improvements could be made to the existing principal legislation.

The consultations between officials of my Department and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel are ongoing and I expect to be in a position to introduce a safety, health and welfare at work Bill in April. I intend to consult the social partners before publication of the Bill.

I am aware of the concerns raised by various interests about the delay in publishing the Bill. However, I emphasise that legislative proposals involve a detailed revision of the current legislative framework dealing with occupational health and safety. A revised and updated Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, will further strengthen the legislative base for workplace safety and will be of benefit to all sectors of employment.

I can confirm to the House that I intend to provide in the new Bill for the imposition of on-the-spot fines for certain defined breaches of the health and safety code. There will also be provision for increased fines on conviction in the courts.

EU Employment Strategy.

John Gormley

Question:

163 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of the report from the European Employment Task Force which reported in November 2003; and the way in which it is proposed that the main recommendations in the report will be progressed by the European Union and national Governments. [3818/04]

The spring 2003 European Council approved the establishment of the European Employment Task Force to undertake an independent examination of employment policy and to identify practical reform measures that can have an immediate impact on the ability of member states to implement the European employment strategy. The report of the taskforce was presented to the European Commission in November 2003.

The report is useful in that it presents an independent view of the issues facing the EU in terms of employment policy. The issues raised and the recommendations made complement and reinforce the messages already made in the context of the European employment strategy.

The European Council had a first discussion on the report in December 2003 and underlined that employment will be one of the central aspects of the 2004 spring European Council. The recommendations of the report have been integrated in the joint employment report and are central to the ongoing deliberative process being undertaken in preparation for the spring European Council. The joint employment report provides an assessment of the progress made in implementing the European employment strategy and outlines the future actions-directions that need to be taken by member states.

The revitalisation of the Lisbon Agenda as a whole, with particular reference to the employment aspect, is central to Ireland's Presidency work programme. The joint employment report, which incorporates the Employment Task Force report, will feature on the agenda of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council and the European Council in March, where I expect that concrete decisions in taking the process forward will be made.

EU Directives.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

164 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on European Commission proposals to make cross-border mergers more straightforward. [30414/03]

The Commission proposal for a directive on cross-border mergers of companies with share capital, COM (2003)703, which was published on 18 November 2003 is aimed at facilitating cross-border mergers of commercial companies under favourable conditions in terms of cost and legal certainty.

Under the chairmanship of an official of my Department, Ireland has initiated EU Council working group discussions on the draft directive on cross-border mergers and provision has been made to continue to have meetings to progress this issue throughout Ireland's Presidency.

From our experience of the very limited utilisation of the third EU company law directive, which governs national mergers and which forms the basis for the company law provisions of the cross-border mergers proposal, implemented in Ireland by SI 137/1987, and based on responses to consultation taken with interested parties, it seems that interest in, and likely recourse to, the facilities proposed in the draft directive, by operators in Ireland will not be significant.

Question No. 165 answered with QuestionNo. 115.

Labour Market Reviews.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

166 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she intends to act on the recommendation contained in the Irish Labour Market Review 2003 that low skilled, low education employees should get the chance to take part in education or training and get a recognised qualification; if there was a strong case for such training to be provided free of charge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3790/04]

In its Irish labour market review 2003, FÁS emphasised the importance of training the existing workforce to meet Ireland's future skill needs. This importance reflects the fact that the majority of persons at work now will still be in the workforce in 2020, when job and skill requirements are likely to be very different. It also reflects the fact that there will inevitably be a reduction in employment in some manufacturing sectors over the next decade as lower value-added, lower skill production transfers to cheaper locations worldwide. Workers in such sectors will need to change jobs, and re-training and up-skilling are important supports to such change.

The Irish labour market review 2003 examines the particular case of low-skilled employees and it suggests that a new set of initiatives is needed to promote an opportunity for low-skilled, operative-level, employees to acquire a recognised, relevant, qualification.

FÁS is currently developing new training initiatives, employee competitiveness programme, to empower and equip individuals who are employed in the most vulnerable sectors of the economy with the knowledge and skills necessary to operate in a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive economic environment. Pilot programmes have been introduced early in December 2003 and will continue into 2004. The sectors participating are clothing, engineering, textiles and retail and it is planned to include construction operatives in this programme mid-2004. Further training initiatives will be considered for employees in the area of accreditation of prior learning, APL.

FÁS, community services, the Department of Education and Science and Dublin Employment Pact, are co-operating in a pilot programme aimed at young employed workers. This involves a part-time training and education programme organised with the support of the Northside, Clondalkin and Tallaght area partnerships. As a result of positive outcomes as verified by an independent evaluation, the pilot is being extended to include other areas of Dublin.

Under the in-company training measure of the employment and human resources operational programme this Department is funding a number of projects, which promotes the training, and up-skilling of people in employment including those with low skills. The measure supplements existing activity in this area by FÁS and Enterprise Ireland.

While it would be desirable to provide free education and training to workers with low skills or educational attainment the cost of doing so would be prohibitive in the present circumstances. This issue was addressed in the context of the taskforce on lifelong learning but no consensus was reached at that point on how to progress the matter. The European Commission has recently indicated that it proposes to publish a set of proposals, in the form of a draft directive, as distinct from a Commission recommendation, in February 2004 on the data protection of employees. Progress, during our Presidency, on this proposal will very much depend on the timing of its publication. In the light of the need to obtain the views of the European Parliament and the European social partners on the matter, the earliest date for consideration of this topic by Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Ministers will be at the June Council.

As EU Presidency, Ireland will play a proactive role in progressing both of the dossiers to which I have referred during our semester.

EU Presidency.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

167 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if it is the Government's intention to use this State's Presidency of the European Union to improve and harmonise upwards the rights of workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3744/04]

As the Deputy is no doubt aware, the right of initiative in terms of EU proposals in regard to the employment rights of workers lies with the European Commission under the treaty.

In this regard, proposals in the area of employment rights likely to be progressed during our Presidency are as follows.

The Commission communication on the review of the Working Time Directive, 93/104/EC, was published on 30 December 2003 and seeks to launch a wide-ranging consultation process capable of resulting in a possible amendment of the Directive. The communication was addressed to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the social partners at community level. The key aim of the communication is to solicit the views of these institutions and organisations on the issues discussed in the text. The deadline for receipt of views is 31 March 2004.

As Presidency, we have put the review of the Working Time Directive on the agenda of the March Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council, which, we hope, will provide an appropriate opportunity to facilitate and advance the debate on the issues identified in the Commission's communication.

As Presidency, we must be mindful that any developments at that Council would need to send a positive signal to the social partners in their subsequent formal deliberations in the matter as provided for under the treaty. These discussions between the social partners are expected to commence in April.

The European Commission recently indicated that it proposes to publish a set of proposals, in the form of a draft directive, as distinct from a Commission recommendation, in February 2004 on the data protection of employees. Progress, during our Presidency, on this proposal will very much depend on the timing of its publication. In light of the need to obtain the views of the European Parliament and the European social partners on the matter, the earliest date for consideration of this topic by Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Ministers will be at the June Council.

As it holds the EU Presidency, Ireland will play a proactive role in progressing both of the dossiers to which I have referred during our semester.

Leave Entitlements.

Willie Penrose

Question:

168 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the proposals she has to increase the statutory entitlement to paid holidays or to increase the number of public holidays, having regard to the findings of a number of recent surveys showing Irish workers had the lowest level of holidays and worked longer hours than workers in other EU countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3794/04]

The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, which implemented EU Council Directive 93/104/EC of 23 November 1993 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time, provides for an annual leave entitlement of four working weeks per annum for full-time employees and pro rata entitlements for part-time employees as well as an average hourly working week of 48 hours averaged generally over a four month period. The Act also provides for an entitlement to nine public holidays per annum. Notwithstanding these provisions, it is possible for employers and employees to negotiate a longer annual leave entitlement or a lower hourly working week between themselves if they so wish.

I have no plans at the moment to increase the statutory minimum annual leave or public holiday entitlement nor to lower the threshold on weekly working hours provided for in the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.

Question No. 169 answered with QuestionNo. 157.

Trade Union Recognition.

Seán Crowe

Question:

170 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when she will bring forward legislation to enshrine mandatory trade union recognition in law; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3766/04]

Mechanisms to resolve industrial disputes in situations where collective bargaining arrangements are not in place were considered by a high level group established under Partnership 2000 and comprising representatives from IBEC, ICTU, and various Departments and agencies and chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach. This group recommended that two distinct procedures be put in place; a voluntary procedure and a legislative fall back procedure. These recommendations were implemented through SI 145 of 2000, the Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Code of Practice on Voluntary Dispute Resolution) (Declaration) Order 2000, and the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2001. This Act gave new dispute settling powers to the Labour Court in cases where no arrangements for collective bargaining are in place.

During the recent negotiations between the Government and the social partners on the national agreement, Sustaining Progress, the need to enhance the effectiveness of these procedures was agreed. A number of measures, which will result in significant improvements to the existing procedures, will be put in place. The measures include the introduction of an overall time frame of 26 weeks with provision for a maximum of 34 weeks, where necessary, for processing cases, a prohibition on victimisation and the provision of a mechanism for the processing of complaints of victimisation including for redress where appropriate. The Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2003, which has completed Committee Stage in the Dáil, the amended code of practice on voluntary dispute resolution and the introduction of a new code on practice on victimisation give effect to these measures.

Trade Statistics.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Mr. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the extent to which imports and exports between this country and low wage economies have developed in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3994/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tables. The analysis provided does not cover all countries. The classification of low, medium and high-income countries used is based on an analysis done by the World Bank, http://www.worldbank.org/depweb/, and refers to the year 1998. In the case of imports, the country of consignment is used which is not necessarily the country of origin of the goods.

€(000)

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Jan-Nov 2003

Income Rank

Consign

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

1. Low

India

48,361

70,569

77,745

98,809

109,730

118,633

107,045

130,737

131,015

140,022

86,673

110,263

Indonesia

12,984

63,921

43,145

54,131

88,173

84,339

79,217

80,757

50,845

83,373

43,803

50,116

Nigeria

78,127

1,910

84,657

3,024

97,293

2,158

126,989

898

137,145

794

109,265

557

Guinea

496

94,554

360

83,711

620

90,645

1,038

104,575

845

83,435

769

52,325

Pakistan

29,418

15,201

41,833

16,456

64,697

21,639

18,984

30,138

18,726

37,121

16,109

26,759

Ghana

11,507

46,725

20,883

26,718

19,072

29,933

20,454

27,339

15,344

29,280

15,854

21,959

Vietnam

8,988

6,785

7,322

12,257

13,363

20,212

15,064

27,967

16,225

26,719

14,746

17,637

Senegal

14,342

91

21,125

74

25,988

205

40,692

146

38,924

66

32,711

149

Ukraine

17,861

2,995

18,820

2,891

30,670

6,201

31,706

4,199

22,414

1,062

19,992

642

Kenya

12,370

13,278

10,219

14,175

13,192

13,038

11,205

12,678

17,225

13,459

9,314

10,438

Bangladesh

2,712

8,068

1,594

12,093

1,201

17,662

3,053

27,267

1,781

29,747

476

23,754

Ivory Coast

8,906

19,942

6,020

13,858

6,491

12,949

7,838

12,453

7,816

6,711

6,240

10,242

Cameroon

7,223

4,768

5,842

5,242

6,982

13,337

7,144

15,473

6,033

9,930

6,016

14,611

Sudan

5,740

18

7,270

711

7,791

1,014

13,750

795

14,102

1,153

18,472

1,152

Cambodia

109

4,391

209

6,493

353

14,152

175

13,973

370

16,219

684

8,921

Zimbabwe

7,483

3,895

7,464

4,258

5,599

3,512

6,733

2,737

3,296

597

2,683

559

Ethiopia

7,037

22

5,038

34

7,438

5

10,358

5

10,121

14

7,749

125

Tanzania

2,382

1,933

4,487

3,767

6,525

599

5,309

3,737

7,904

199

5,991

127

Congo

3,084

286

5,639

314

7,276

369

9,746

239

8,070

703

Yemen

4,268

631

4,919

136

7,093

43

9,624

109

3,930

62

2,703

4

Benin

2,379

239

3,874

1,224

5,589

723

7,451

352

5,271

1

3,336

308

Congo (Dem Rep)

6,247

5

4,772

87

3,206

23

3,405

0

5,056

7,365

Mali

460

166

1,121

731

3,408

205

7,504

227

12,860

9

3,033

0

Sierra Leone

5,117

1,968

3,054

1,121

4,610

781

4,612

1,632

3,758

807

1,298

392

Uganda

6,221

1,534

3,648

475

3,565

135

4,127

415

4,691

123

3,846

55

1. Low Total

300,738

363,609

388,505

362,762

538,288

452,457

550,753

498,978

545,443

481,142

427,198

351,798

Note: Only the top 25 countries (based on sum of imports and exports over the entire time period shown) listed under each income rank.
€(000)

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Jan-Nov 2003

Income Rank

Consign

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

2. Medium

Malaysia

324,268

432,363

824,183

567,979

753,552

595,098

1,140,342

519,167

764,555

461,129

525,705

290,150

China

75,346

238,895

119,022

287,939

166,511

442,999

338,468

684,331

537,644

877,837

503,842

1,273,670

Philippines

288,691

169,129

424,031

197,352

691,787

211,945

769,453

214,387

342,321

215,052

190,189

164,876

Mexico

164,028

30,464

173,373

46,393

254,873

110,941

552,431

212,067

448,566

211,686

487,808

159,991

South Africa

343,617

50,520

369,838

61,579

391,646

117,987

384,975

94,420

274,983

97,593

251,664

127,116

Turkey

176,345

71,797

215,403

84,793

387,020

109,021

310,411

123,275

325,908

163,338

283,463

190,326

Poland

243,425

65,367

254,021

82,181

361,020

101,884

319,093

132,047

282,096

126,399

230,691

124,345

Hungary

93,583

230,595

162,586

213,468

224,356

282,377

169,208

367,190

143,646

119,788

123,287

83,938

Saudi Arabia

287,904

49,582

329,811

8,022

357,156

6,153

388,228

3,796

364,426

28,507

254,504

6,200

Thailand

82,694

164,131

96,574

131,809

141,117

216,006

144,295

300,581

112,104

228,238

133,549

224,427

Czech Republic

135,272

47,277

203,169

68,355

346,546

119,982

258,341

122,892

197,227

156,696

155,548

147,687

Brazil

145,687

30,042

143,561

82,492

206,012

110,071

225,755

107,592

124,772

122,010

129,815

139,167

Russia

245,897

14,040

257,699

12,234

177,634

8,591

240,551

31,809

254,856

31,072

232,376

28,717

Egypt

191,402

7,491

231,763

9,495

243,009

14,739

120,513

30,263

86,290

15,235

50,060

19,685

Morocco

29,613

37,902

61,621

28,832

87,350

36,582

120,711

53,737

112,972

29,887

101,307

25,635

Argentina

47,355

4,792

57,299

16,707

48,801

33,365

57,846

28,887

26,345

44,744

20,637

39,547

Romania

27,554

5,395

27,293

3,558

74,605

19,537

51,454

75,526

55,715

20,565

45,261

17,408

Chile

31,952

9,142

35,852

16,255

36,958

22,439

37,728

27,936

36,260

31,843

39,893

29,591

Costa Rica

13,114

10,001

48,475

20,337

49,616

3,118

118,513

5,783

8,604

30,934

7,137

22,348

Croatia

13,458

19,830

18,423

25,118

33,741

37,956

27,888

27,293

34,712

37,677

32,148

19,052

Lebanon

43,162

3,408

61,797

1,203

64,865

970

44,027

2,194

47,141

3,872

36,016

1,911

Latvia

9,853

13,550

10,768

44,149

16,675

39,913

19,018

28,809

15,986

29,458

18,930

42,772

Slovakia

18,775

11,091

28,366

12,443

47,366

14,621

38,092

12,172

39,753

15,632

33,393

15,127

Estonia

15,554

3,573

9,851

6,062

25,669

16,958

41,338

17,120

31,613

23,465

23,127

35,394

North Korea

97,356

15,259

4,950

24,778

18,885

31,108

15,887

22,671

118

2,452

2

147

2. Medium Total

3,145,905

1,735,636

4,169,729

2,053,533

5,206,770

2,704,361

5,934,566

3,245,945

4,668,613

3,125,109

3,910,352

3,229,227

Only the top 25 countries (based on sum of imports and exports over the entire time period shown) listed under each income rank.
€(000)

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Jan-Nov 2003

Income Rank

Consign

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

Exports

Imports

3. High

Great Britain

11,441,274

13,639,435

13,247,558

15,331,573

17,123,851

19,008,683

20,793,808

21,493,713

20,872,604

22,112,632

12,294,708

14,452,299

USA

7,742,611

5,999,612

10,336,842

6,681,824

14,227,805

8,353,195

15,694,396

7,923,385

16,489,871

7,934,581

15,671,332

6,225,360

Germany

8,326,405

2,483,115

8,013,810

2,782,536

9,428,588

3,356,369

11,682,508

3,612,006

6,738,005

3,768,877

6,200,460

3,417,549

France

4,823,791

1,502,867

5,646,394

1,774,611

6,357,411

2,515,974

5,541,568

2,684,814

4,689,655

2,126,737

4,556,617

1,561,965

Belgium

3,439,825

705,515

4,115,540

1,064,865

4,446,178

1,048,263

13,547,368

1,001,863

9,540,307

885,753

Netherlands

3,225,315

1,360,511

4,190,297

1,546,157

4,705,719

2,059,122

4,263,614

2,156,171

3,517,523

2,089,751

3,898,826

1,827,663

Japan

1,486,713

2,200,833

1,958,960

2,033,687

3,122,860

2,128,632

3,261,074

1,481,526

2,628,796

1,350,541

1,903,304

1,405,673

Italy

1,943,085

678,644

2,533,052

808,667

3,319,427

1,191,353

3,311,898

1,199,347

3,599,891

908,100

3,404,969

840,104

Northern Ireland

1,513,032

1,291,628

1,515,098

1,374,708

1,785,984

1,479,755

1,864,520

1,489,040

1,611,059

1,215,207

1,291,646

1,165,513

Switzerland

1,156,249

328,663

1,618,754

345,735

2,033,164

406,056

2,705,698

534,123

3,115,546

555,914

2,444,485

624,038

Spain

1,541,917

430,867

1,842,740

498,030

2,126,907

721,360

2,297,985

612,169

2,240,766

600,990

2,126,318

449,861

Singapore

375,884

2,043,395

482,055

1,717,021

506,354

1,961,097

641,308

1,323,374

738,702

954,106

675,767

939,804

Sweden

1,091,177

354,645

1,096,185

419,608

1,336,973

553,898

1,355,024

446,660

1,201,356

379,942

1,097,978

353,223

Norway

560,382

450,273

595,917

534,222

614,928

1,062,228

587,172

951,702

515,466

804,185

485,057

974,475

South Korea

362,694

490,692

361,107

519,319

1,045,817

774,233

695,906

685,442

638,964

676,484

470,595

533,953

Hong Kong

295,114

490,713

333,283

650,003

617,406

909,091

670,201

716,725

535,273

739,525

635,569

462,201

Denmark

587,728

265,441

614,761

358,026

621,906

670,867

596,605

672,223

545,199

684,567

452,973

770,162

Canada

346,157

369,665

330,385

243,163

394,541

307,486

592,502

435,033

510,158

400,739

443,280

413,329

Belgium & Luxembourg

3,647,641

535,360

Australia

449,106

40,948

578,868

58,688

580,737

71,739

834,838

92,077

626,235

93,448

596,885

88,345

Finland

313,237

256,439

531,382

253,838

416,087

310,729

413,573

299,255

308,945

366,541

270,565

209,568

Austria

326,282

79,499

412,800

106,281

468,029

126,555

414,144

158,845

338,423

218,907

298,681

148,273

Israel

231,073

167,628

284,527

267,594

408,812

309,729

344,553

247,317

240,404

91,685

185,745

79,112

Portugal

233,576

86,548

250,009

91,764

256,903

109,917

309,889

129,116

362,192

134,260

274,031

97,797

Greece

157,701

20,321

240,255

22,580

297,400

51,838

329,061

41,264

330,099

41,700

287,021

38,657

3. High Total

52,178,144

35,567,742

60,454,864

39,125,150

75,913,149

49,504,771

83,648,023

50,433,590

85,942,500

49,251,282

69,507,119

37,964,677

Only the top 25 countries (based on sum of imports and exports over the entire time period shown) listed under each income rank.
Question No. 172 answered orally with Question No. 1.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

John McGuinness

Question:

173 Mr. McGuinness asked the Taoiseach if costs can be estimated to determine the State's exposure in regard to those attending the Moriarty tribunal who intend to seek repayment of costs; the plans the State has to meet these costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3654/04]

It is not possible at this stage to state whether costs will be granted to all or any of the parties concerned. Matters pertaining to the award of costs are normally decided by the chairman at the end of a tribunal of Inquiry and his or her decision is then announced at a costs hearing. This costs hearing is held in public after the publication of his or her report.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

174 Mr. Ring asked the Taoiseach the amount which was spent in his Department from January 2002 to December 2003 for media purposes and advertising; the areas in which the money was spent, that is, national papers, provincial papers, RTE radio, local radios and so on; the amounts spent on a year to year basis; and the amount of money which was spent on videos, whether for promotional, educational or advertising purposes. [4057/04]

Details of amounts spent in my Department in respect of advertising and media purposes are set as follows:

Year

Advertising

Media/PR

2002

€84,270.19

Of this total, €16,000 related to advertisements notifying the public of the cancellation of tours of Government Buildings inthree national dailies and €2,969.21 was spent in Iris Oifigiuil.

Year

Advertising

Media/PR

2003

€44,437.00

€46,634.46*

On advertising, €6,239.47 was spent in Iris Oifigiuil.

*This figure relates to media/PR costs for Ireland's EU Presidency and covers the launch of the Irish Presidency logo and apublic relations campaign in the national and provincial papers to increase public awareness of the work involved in Ireland'sPresidency.

There was no expenditure in respect of videos.

A further breakdown of advertising costs on the basis requested was not readily available in the short time frame.

Question No. 175 answered with QuestionNo. 157.

Job Losses.

Denis Naughten

Question:

176 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 254 of 30 September 2003, the progress she has made to address the job losses in the towns of Ballinasloe and Athlone; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3604/04]

I have been advised by IDA Ireland that, since the Square D closure announcement in January 2003, there have now been nine site visits to Ballinasloe. IDA and other State agencies have actively participated in locally generated marketing initiatives and are involved in ongoing meetings with the Ballinasloe Town Council and Chamber of Commerce. Construction of a second advance technology building of approximately 27,000 sq. ft on the IDA business and technology park, is expected to commence shortly.

Enterprise Ireland has approved a management development grant of €38,000 for the Ballinasloe Area Community Development Group, towards the employment of a manager for the community-owned enterprise centre in Ballinasloe.

FÁS continues to participate with other State agencies in helping people find suitable employment in the Ballinasloe area. FÁS is currently running an extensive childcare training programme in the area and is in the process of upgrading the jobs club in Ballinasloe.

These efforts are being supported by specific IDA initiatives in the midlands, which include a comprehensive IDA property programme in the Athlone business and technology park where two new technology buildings are being marketed by IDA. Recent positive developments include the creation of 80 jobs by Alienware Corporation at their European operations centre in Athlone, together with the announcement that the US software company, Mapics Incorporated, is to establish a technical and shared services centre in the town, leading to the creation of 55 new jobs.

The major decentralisation package announced in the budget includes 110 jobs to be relocated to Ballinasloe and 145 to Athlone. This move demonstrates the Government's commitment to balanced regional development and will provide a further boost to enterprise development in these areas.

I assure the Deputy that the State development agencies, under the auspices of my Department, will continue to work closely together and with local interests in promoting Ballinasloe and Athlone for additional investment and job creation.

Migrant Workers.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

177 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will investigate reports that an outlet (details supplied) in Dublin 1 has during the past year been involved in illegally employing migrant workers who do not have work permits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3710/04]

The Garda Síochána is responsible for investigating complaints of illegal employment of migrant workers and the details supplied have been referred to the Garda National Immigration Bureau for investigation. Migrant workers could be permitted to work without work permits in any of the following circumstances: persons who are EEA citizens — the EEA consists of the EU together with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein; Swiss nationals, in accordance with the terms of the European Communities and Swiss Confederation Act 2001, which came into operation on 1 June 2002, and enables the free movement of workers between Switzerland and Ireland, without the need for work permits; persons who have been granted refugee status; non-EEA nationals who have permission to remain in the State as students are entitled by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to take up casual employment, defined as up to 20 hours part-time work per week, or full-time work during vacation periods, for the duration of their permission to remain; and persons who have been granted permission to remain in the State on one of the following grounds: persons with permission to remain as spouse of an Irish national, persons with permission to remain as a parent of an Irish national, and persons with permission to remain on humanitarian grounds having been in the asylum process.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

178 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will investigate reports that a person (details supplied) in County Dublin is involved in charging migrant workers for work permits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3711/04]

The specific information supplied by the Deputy will be investigated by my Department as a matter of urgency.

Departmental Investigations.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

179 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the cost of legal representation will be covered for those giving evidence to investigations being carried on by her Department into a company (details supplied) in view of the fact that the lack of clarity on this matter is causing great distress to witnesses of modest means who have been called to give evidence. [3712/04]

The investigation in question is being conducted by an authorised officer appointed by me under section 19 of the Companies Act 1990, which provides that the Minister or an authorised officer appointed by the Minister may require the production of books or documents of a company or other body corporate carrying on business in the State, if the Minister is of the opinion that there are circumstances suggesting, inter alia, that it is necessary to determine if an inspector should be appointed to the company or that its affairs are being conducted with intent to defraud or the body was formed for fraudulent or unlawful purposes. This power includes a power to require production of documents from individuals and to require individuals to provide explanations to the authorised officer and to give all assistance to the authorised officer as the individual is reasonably able to give in connection with the investigation. In this respect it is an offence for an individual not to comply with a request by the authorised officer.

Witnesses called by the authorised officer are complying with their statutory obligation to assist the investigation. The question of whether or not they wish to be accompanied by their legal representative is entirely a matter for the individuals concerned.

There is no specific legal provision covering payment by the Minister of costs under a section 19 inquiry. The question of whether or not costs would be reimbursed on an ex gratia basis in any particular case could only be considered when the investigation had been completed and the report of the authorised officer had been received in the Department, and after careful consideration of the applicant's involvement in the matters under investigation, including a consideration of any views of the authorised officer, and the nature and quantum of the costs for which reimbursement was sought.

Rural Community Scheme.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

180 Mr. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the new rural community scheme will be administered by FÁS; her views on whether the social economy scheme should be incorporated into the community and employment scheme; and her further views on whether, for the sake of efficiency, the framework that exists for community employment schemes should be used to administer the new rural community scheme. [3728/04]

Funding for the new rural community scheme was allocated in the budget to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and responsibility for the structure and administration of the scheme rests with that Department. The scheme will be run separately from the existing community employment scheme and will not be administered by FÁS.

A review of the social economy programme was undertaken and is being considered at present by FÁS and my Department. The review will inform the future direction of the programme.

Job Creation.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

181 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in relation to job creation and job retention in the north-west region, and Donegal in particular; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3859/04]

In recent months, I have met with delegations from IBEC north-west and from the Donegal County Development Board to discuss employment and related issues in the northwest. As a result, I have arranged for the expert skills group in Forfas to carry out research on the labour market needs of the region.

The Government and the State development agencies are committed to ensuring balanced regional development, particularly through the implementation of the national spatial strategy and the recently announced decentralisation programme, which should facilitate economic development in the area. The agencies continue to try and secure new investment for Donegal and are committed to playing their part in the development of the northwest by maintaining the maximum number of existing jobs and by attracting new investment into the region.

Question No. 182 answered with QuestionNo. 110.

Work Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

183 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work permit applications processed by her office in the past 12 months; the number which were new and repeats; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3996/04]

The numbers of work permits issued in the 12 months up to the end of January 2004 are 21,585 new permits, 560 group permits and 25,327 renewals. Detailed statistics on work permits are available on the work permits page of my Department's website. www.entemp.ie

Export Statistics.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new markets for Irish goods and services which have opened up in the past 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4001/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the growth in imports to this country in each of the past five years to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4003/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent of the growth of Irish exports in each of the past five years to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4004/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has satisfied herself that Irish exports remain sufficiently strong to ensure medium and long term stability in the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4007/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 184, 185, 186 and 187 together

Since the beginning of the 1990's Ireland has become a significant trading nation. On a per capita basis, Ireland ranks as one of the world's top three exporters when the oil economies are excluded. As a result, Ireland trades with virtually every country in the world.

The Government encourages Irish firms to develop export markets in accordance with their potential and their long-term development strategy. Enterprise Ireland is charged with assisting companies in this regard. The key mechanism, which it uses to assist companies in developing export markets, is the brokering of meetings with international buyers, either through inward buyer missions, outward trade missions or the arrangement of individual meeting programmes.

In 2003 it arranged over 8,000 meetings between Irish companies and international buyers. This assisted 120 companies to enter markets new to them, 80 of which exported for the first time. In addition, it assisted Irish companies to secure more than 600 new customers, distributors or partners and helped 136 companies to establish an overseas market presence. Companies in the indigenous exporting sector employ approximately 150,000 people.

Over the course of the year, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and I led 14 separate trade promotion missions in 15 countries. Enterprise Ireland estimates that exports by indigenous companies amounted to approximately €11 billion in 2003, broadly in line with exports in 2002. In the context of the global economic environment and Ireland's overall export trend this was a strong performance, reflecting the dynamism and flexibility of the developing indigenous sector. The following table gives details of the import and export trends in merchandise goods for the past five years, including the period January to October 2003, the latest period for which figures have been released.

Year

Exports, €million

% change

Imports €million

% change

1998

57,321.8

+27.8

39,715

+20.8

1999

66,956.2

+16.8

44,327.1

+11.6

2000

83,888.9

+25.3

55,908.8

+26.1

2001

92,689.9

+10.5

57,384.2

+2.6

2002

93,587.2

+1

55,454.1

-3.4

Jan.-Oct. 2003

67,680

-14

38,880

-17

The overall trend for this period, and for the five years immediately preceding it, is extremely positive. Given the relatively small scale of the domestic economy, exports will continue to be an important driver of economic growth.

The decline in exports experienced in 2003 reflects the extremely difficult international economic environment. The decline in exports began in mid-2002, and appears to have reached its trough in the first half of 2003, with an improvement in the trend beginning to appear towards the end of the year.

The improving global economic environment is expected to assist in the recovery of exports in the course of 2004. The Government remains committed to supporting Irish companies developing markets overseas and to the improvement of the global trading environment through the successful conclusion of WTO negotiations.

Notwithstanding the difficulties of the past two years, I am confident that the strength and flexibility of the exporting businesses in Ireland will continue to contribute to economic growth in both the medium and the long term, and to this end the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and myself will be working with Enterprise Ireland on a range of trade promotion events over the course of the year.

Insurance Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which insurance premiums, including motor and public liability rates, compare now with those of five years ago; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4008/04]

I am not in a position to provide the Deputy with information on public liability insurance costs. The CSO, however, publishes monthly indices of costs for motor insurance. These statistics show that there was an increase of 36.7 index points, or 52.8%, in motor insurance between December 1998 and December 2002. I am pleased that there was a reduction of 11.7 index points, or 11%, in motor insurance between December 2002 and December 2003.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in regard to the finding of a replacement industry at Celbridge, County Kildare, to compensate for the closure of a company (details supplied) with a loss of 300 jobs; if she has received any indication in relation to the required replacement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4009/04]

Following the announcement in September last of closure of the Schneider plant, IDA Ireland circulated a profile of the facility to its network of overseas offices to market the facility but has not been successful in attracting a replacement project. It is understood that interest has been expressed in acquiring the facility for non-manufacturing purposes but agreement has not yet been reached.

Industrial Development.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has evaluated the impact of the creation of a high wage economy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4010/04]

It has been obvious for some time that our economy is undergoing fundamental change and this process has been taking place in both the manufacturing and services sectors. We have become a modern enterprise and service oriented economy. It is fair to say that our strength and competitive advantages, especially compared with low wage economies has inexorably changed. Ireland has now moved into a higher league of developed economies, one typified by high output, productivity and high returns to labour in the form of wages, salaries and better living standards. Ireland has become a more prosperous and wealthy economy while converging with the broad income and prosperity levels of other member states of the European Union.

It is clear from the analysis of many observers and the commentary from informed bodies such as the National Competitiveness Council and Forfás that high incomes are sustainable in the long term only if they are matched by expanding productivity and the production of higher value products and services. We have worked hard to achieve current levels of prosperity, employment and living standards and I doubt anybody in the country wants to see a return to a society of low incomes and low living standards.

The focus of enterprise policy must be to concentrate on economic and business activities with sophisticated characteristics that will justify continued levels of high income and productivity and that will allow us to sustain current levels economic growth and living standards. We have to concentrate on business investments that require high skill levels, that are, as far as possible, innovation rather than production orientated, and that link to an increasingly sophisticated business environment.

Enterprise in Ireland creates the employment, prosperity and tax base that has supported our phenomenal economic growth in past years. The onus is on my Department and the Government to influence the environment and design the framework conditions that encourage investment that brings about higher productivity, higher value added output and more sustainable higher quality employment. We are already making progress in this area. Forfás survey data on productivity and wage growth provides strong evidence of higher quality jobs in clients of the development agencies under my Department. This stems from an increasing focus on more skilled and knowledge intensive activities. According to the data, agency assisted firms enjoyed productivity growth of 4% to 5% in the period 2000-02. This was twice the estimated European Union performance over the same period.

Research and development is the genesis of higher productivity, new product innovation and the creation of new ideas that customers are prepared to pay more to acquire. The Government demonstrated substantial commitment to this objective during 2003, committing a total investment of €285 million for this year, which is an increase of 39% on the 2003 investment. My Department also increased support for basic research through Science Foundation Ireland, SFI, and applied research through Enterprise Ireland. SFI has made over €320 million in investment commitments since 2001, supporting over 750 world-class researchers in Ireland who are working in areas supporting biotechnology and information and communications technologies.

Measures introduced in the recent Finance Bill are clear evidence that my Government is prepared to shape the enterprise environment to encourage investment in higher order activities to meet our strategic enterprise policy objectives. The introduction of tax credits for research and development expenditure will be especially attractive to the manufacturing and technology sectors and should lead to an increase in the number of companies performing research and development. I want Ireland to be seen as the smart place in Europe to do this type of work.

My objective under Ireland's Presidency of the EU is to ensure that across the Union there is a step change in the research and innovation performance of Europe's enterprise base. Progress on the action plan for the creation of the European research area, or ERA, is a key item of the competitiveness council I am chairing during Ireland's Presidency. The ERA covers a wide spectrum of instruments and policies ranging from human resources, financial markets, intellectual property rights, etc. These are vital to helping achieve the Lisbon target of attaining research and development investment of 3% of GDP by 2010.

Last July I asked the enterprise strategy group, under the chairmanship of Eoin O'Driscoll, to recommend and prioritise new strategies and policies to ensure that the prosperity we enjoyed in the last decade will continue into the future. Some of the areas I have asked the group to examine concern what we need to do to strengthen our enterprise environment, to promote an innovation and knowledge driven economy and help sustain those industries already providing employment here. The group is working towards submitting a report to me by the middle of 2004.

Question No. 191 answered with QuestionNo. 120.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost through relocation or otherwise in the past 12 months; the number of new jobs created in the same period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4012/04]

The past 12 months have been difficult for our enterprise sector, particularly from an employment perspective. We have one of the most open economies in the world and trends in world trade, global business investment and consumer decisions will directly influence trends in Irish economic growth, company development and job prospects more so than in other developed economies. The fact that the main State development agencies helped companies create almost 22,800 full-time jobs during 2003, displays both the resilience of our enterprise society and the efforts that these agencies have made to counteract the force of decelerating global growth. Nevertheless we can never be immune from the impact of world business events and unfortunately just over 30,000 jobs were lost during the past 12 months, among the agencies' client base. It is not possible to attribute the numbers of jobs lost due to business decisions such as relocation, etc.

However, employment among clients of the state development agencies is just a part of the job creation picture. The latest data from the Central Statistics Office's quarterly national household survey shows that employment growth across the whole economy continued in the third quarter of 2003 showing an increase of 26,000 in the year to 1,820,800.

There are indications that economic prospects are improving and our propensity to capitalise on trends in global growth is likely to again stimulate business expansion and real employment growth. The Government and the economic development agencies are undertaking a number of co-ordinated strategies to sustain and promote employment growth. Our objective is to capitalise on the potential for research and development, new process and product innovation and more complex services activity to expand higher quality and more sustainable employment.

Measures introduced in the recent Finance Bill, for example, will enhance our position as a holding company location and should prove significant for all inward investment sectors, as well as for the growing number of multinational Irish companies. Similarly, the introduction of tax credits for research and development expenditure will be particularly useful to technology sectors, and should lead to the creation of higher value added employment. We are also accelerating delivery of vital economic infrastructure for businesses such as broadband and electricity networks to reinforce the development potential of the important information and communications technology sector.

Furthermore, I have asked the enterprise strategy group, under the chairmanship of Eoin O'Driscoll, to recommend and prioritise new strategies and policies to ensure that the prosperity we enjoyed in the last decade will continue into the future. The enterprise strategy group will examine the issues that my Government colleagues and I need to take into account to help strengthen our enterprise environment, to promote an innovation and knowledge driven economy and help sustain those industries already providing employment here. The group is working towards submitting a report to me by the middle of 2004.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

193 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has provided adequate funding to enable FÁS operate its full programme of activities throughout the country; if she has received indications to the contrary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4013/04]

A total of €837 million has been provided by my Department to FÁS in 2004. Of this, €366 million is allocated to employment programmes, €307 million to training and integration supports and €22.7 million for capital expenditure.

The allocation to employment programmes includes an amount of €351 million, which will support up to 25,000 places across the three major employment schemes, that is, community employment, job initiative and the social economy programme. This allocation is similar to that provided in 2003. Accordingly, participation levels over the three schemes in 2004 are being maintained at 2003 levels.

The allocation of €307 million to training and integration schemes in 2004 represents a 3% increase on 2003 investments. FÁS, through the prioritisation and efficient use of resources, will endeavour to maintain activity levels at 2003 levels.

The €22.7 million allocation to FÁS' capital subhead this year represents a 65% increase on the level of investment in 2003. This significant increase is being provided to allow FÁS upgrade its training centres and thereby provide improved services to trainees.

The breakdown of the funding between regions and schemes is a day-to-day matter for the board of FÁS within the overall policy guidelines set by my Department.

Job Losses.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

194 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the proposals she and IDA Ireland have to replace jobs in view of recent major job losses in County Kerry; the plans she has to visit the county to discuss these job losses with relevant bodies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4043/04]

I regret very much recent job losses in County Kerry including the Sports Socks Company's plants in Cahirciveen and Tralee, and Rosenbluth in Killarney, and I am conscious of the adverse effects on the workers and their families.

Finding alternative employment for the workers affected is a priority for FÁS and the State development agencies. FÁS is making available its full range of support services including skills analysis, training and job placement for the workers affected. Arrangements are currently being put in place with the companies concerned to schedule a suitable interview programme for the staff concerned.

In addition to targeting potential new greenfield investment from overseas industrialists, IDA Ireland is working with the existing base of companies in the county with a view to supporting them in expanding and diversifying activities. There is already a diverse range of companies located in County Kerry, representing a number of sectors including international services, engineering, pharmaceuticals and consumer products.

IDA Ireland has also completed site development works on its business and technology park in Killarney and is actively promoting the area for new investment, including a new building facility in the park.

Enterprise Ireland is supporting a major expansion at FEXCO, currently under way in Killorglin and Cahirciveen, which will provide additional employment for some 250 people. The agency is working closely with the development of existing enterprises in the county and is promoting the establishment of new enterprises.

In addition, Enterprise Ireland is providing aid for the expansion of Killarney technology innovation centre and to the Institute of Technology Tralee for the establishment of a campus business incubation centre. Shannon Development has invested some €8 million in the development of kerry technology park, Tralee, in partnership with the Institute of Technology Tralee, Kerry County Council and the private sector. This technology park should provide a valuable base for enterprise development in the area. Kerry County Enterprise Board is also providing valuable support for the establishment and expansion of micro enterprises in the county.

The major decentralisation programme announced in the budget includes 165 jobs to be relocated to Killarney and a further 50 jobs for Listowel. This move demonstrates the Government's commitment to balanced regional development and will provide a further boost to enterprise development in Kerry. The designation of both Tralee and Killarney as hub towns under the Government's national spatial strategy adds to the attractiveness of the county for overseas and indigenous investment.

I am satisfied that the combined efforts of the State development agencies, in co-operation with Kerry County Development Board and County Council and other local interests, should provide an adequate framework to deal with job losses and job creation in the county.

I will be glad to discuss the job situation in County Kerry with the relevant interests during my next visit to the area.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

195 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount which was spent in her Department from January 2002 to December 2003 for media purposes and advertising; the areas in which the money was spent, that is, national papers, provincial papers, RTE radio, local radios and so on; the amounts spent on a year to year basis; and the amount of money which was spent on videos, whether for promotional, educational or advertising purposes. [4058/04]

My Department spent a total of €185,692 on media advertising for 2002, of which €141,340 was spent on advertising in the national papers and €6,535 was spent on advertising in provincial papers. The remainder of €37,817 was spent on such areas as statutory advertising, the Department's entry in the Eircom phone book as well as photography and exhibition materials. In addition, a further €11,859 was spent on advertising the increase in the national minimum wage on RTE radio and €9,216 was spent on local radio. No expenditure was incurred on videos.

In addition to the foregoing, the offices of my Department — the Companies Registration Office, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, the Labour Court and the Competition Authority — and the Motor Insurance Advisory Board spent a combined total of €392,769 on media advertising during 2002 of which €382,102 was spent on national papers, and €10,667 on provincial papers. In addition to the above, the Competition Authority incurred expenditure of €35,788 on both national and international advertising.

The Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs incurred expenditure of €691,627 on advertising during 2002. This figure incorporates spending on advertising in the national and provincial papers, RTE radio, local radio and television advertising.

My Department spent a total of €287,239 on media advertising for 2003 of which €248,605 was spent on advertising in the national papers and €605 was spent on advertising in provincial papers. The remainder of €38,029 was spent on such areas as statutory advertising, the Department's entry in the Eircom phone book as well as photography and exhibition materials. No expenditure was incurred on videos.

In addition to the foregoing, the offices of my Department — the Companies Registration Office, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, and the Patents Office — spent a combined total of €573,905 on media advertising and €164,547 on radio advertising. The Competition Authority also incurred expenditure of €49,151 on both national and international advertising. The Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs incurred expenditure of € 636,127 on advertising during 2003. This figure incorporates spending on advertising in the national and provincial papers, RTE radio, local radio and television advertising.

Michael Ring

Question:

196 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Defence the amount which was spent in his Department from January 2002 to December 2003 for media purposes and advertising; the areas in which the money was spent, that is, national papers, provincial papers, RTE radio, local radios and so on; the amounts spent on a year to year basis; and the amount of money which was spent on videos, whether for promotional, educational or advertising purposes. [4059/04]

Expenditure by my Department, including the Defence Forces, in 2002 and 2003 on advertising amounted to €1,438,722 and €799,545 respectively, as follows:

Department

Defence Forces

2002

2003

2002

2003

National press

62,527

52,640

314,851

112,190

Local press

38,746

36,900

46,136

7,444

National radio

nil

nil

132,753

20,691

Local radio

nil

nil

44,831

nil

Television

nil

nil

209,554

31,003

Videos/DVD

nil

56,170

nil

70,831

Other (including production costs)

4,229

nil

585,095

411,676

The videos-DVDs were for educational purposes in the Department and for promotional purposes in the Defence Forces.

Decentralisation Programme.

Donal Moynihan

Question:

197 Mr. D. Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the progress made regarding the proposed decentralisation to Macroom; the numbers who have volunteered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3967/04]

Since the decision to decentralise part of my Department to Macroom an internal decentralisation implementation committee has been established. This committee is liaising with the central implementation committee as necessary and other relevant bodies, for example, the Office of Public Works, on all aspects of the decentralisation programme. A preliminary survey of officers serving in my Department has been carried out and some 64 officers have indicated that they wish to transfer to Macroom.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

John Perry

Question:

198 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the pension entitlements of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will be continued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3636/04]

The late husband of the person named was a participant in the early retirement scheme, and following his death on 31 January 2000 she inherited the pension as a dependent. His pension would have expired on 14 January 2004, his 70th birthday. Since the pension had been awarded to him rather than directly to the person named, it was necessary to cease payment to her on that date.

Mayo Landslide.

Michael Ring

Question:

199 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his Department is negotiating with the Irish Red Cross to make available additional humanitarian aid for those affected by the landslide in north Mayo who have not yet received aid. [3658/04]

Michael Ring

Question:

200 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when officials from his Department will meet with members of the landslide committee in north Mayo as promised before Christmas 2003; and when he expects his officials to meet persons who have suffered as a result of the landslide in September 2003. [3723/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 199 and 200 together.

The Deputy will be aware that the Government provided funding of €300,000 last year through the Office of Public Works to the Irish Red Cross, to alleviate hardship to those people who were effected by the landslide in Pullathomas, County Mayo.

On 23 January 2004, a meeting took place between officials from my Department and members of the Pullathomas Landslide Committee to discuss how my Department would address any problems arising under departmental schemes as a consequence of the landslide. My Department is not engaged in negotiations with the Irish Red Cross to make additional humanitarian aid available.

Milk Quota.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

201 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding ten persons who were promised 15,000 gallons of milk quota through the farm managers organisation; when they will receive their quota; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3733/04]

Some time ago I announced my intention to introduce a pilot scheme for the allocation of milk quota to certain qualified farm managers. I indicated that initially ten farm managers would be selected from eligible applicants and each would be allocated approximately 15,000 gallons for use under specific conditions.

Earlier in the current milk quota year, I amended the milk quota regulations to allow for the registration and operation of the owner/manager milk production partnerships to provide a proper legal basis for this initiative. The criteria and conditions governing the allocation of quota in these cases are currently being finalised and I would hope that this can be completed in the near future. I wish to make it clear that no individuals have been promised an allocation of milk under this initiative.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

202 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an application under an early retirement from farming scheme by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3768/04]

The application by the person named for the early retirement pension was received in my Department on 19 December 2003. Following examination of the application, my Department wrote to him on 7 January 2004 detailing a number of issues that needed to be resolved before his application could be considered further. These issues have now been resolved and the person named will be notified of the outcome when processing is complete.

Common Agricultural Policy.

Pat Carey

Question:

203 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if, in his capacity as President of the Council of EU Agriculture Ministers, he will consider bringing forward proposals to ensure that CAP reform which will benefit Irish farmers does not impact drastically on farmers in other countries, particularly in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3850/04]

The recent reform of the CAP will be of benefit to developing countries. Decoupled payments will replace production related supports, thereby reducing the potential distortion impact of production supports.

The Council of Agriculture Ministers is acutely aware of the needs of developing countries and of the implications for them of policy decisions taken at EU level. The EU has provided over many years for preferential access to EU markets for exports from developing countries through the ACP Association Agreement, the Generalised System of Preferences and other preferential trade agreements. More recently, the EU has offered duty-free and quota-free access to all imports except arms from the least developed countries. In the context of the current WTO round of trade negotiations, the EU has offered generous arrangements under the heading of special and differential treatment for developing countries.

While under the EU treaties the right to make proposals rests with the European Commission, I intend, as President of the Council, to hold a debate at the informal Ministers meeting in May on how the impact of CAP reform on international trade as well as opportunities arising from existing and future international arrangements can best be communicated to the EU's trading partners and developing countries in particular.

Sheep Quota.

Michael Ring

Question:

204 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if there is compensation available to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo for the premium on 60 sheep considering that their quota was restored to them under the commonage framework plan for 2003 as notified to them in July 2003, yet the closing date for ewe premium applications for 2003 was in January. [3852/04]

Following an agreement with the EU in 1998 regarding the implementation of measures to rejuvenate commonage land, the ewe quota of the person named was reduced from 397 in 1998 to 278 in 1999, and to 294 for the years 2000 to 2002 inclusive. He was compensated in each of those years for the loss of income resulting from those reductions by Dúchas.

Following the publication of the commonage framework plans in 2002, a preliminary calculation issued to the person named indicating that his ewe premium quota was reduced from 294, the quota available to him in 2002, to 257 premium rights from 2003 onwards. He contacted my Department in November 2002 about the reduction and was advised, if he was not satisfied with the figures set out in the preliminary calculation, to consult a planner to have his calculation reviewed. He was also advised, pending the outcome of any revision by a planner, to apply on the number of animals he had in his ownership and possession and which he intended to keep for the 100 day retention period under the 2003 ewe premium scheme. This advice was given to ensure the farmer received payment on a higher number of animals in the event that the planner's recalculation resulted in a higher stocking level than that set out in the preliminary calculation. He was advised that under EU rules governing all premium schemes, a farmer cannot be paid on animals on which he does not apply. He applied for the 2003 ewe premium scheme on 294 ewes.

Following a revision of his calculation in May 2003 his maximum quota was revised upwards to 354 for 2004. This resulted in a net loss of 43 ewes over his 1998 numbers and I understand that he has recently been compensated by the national parks and wildlife service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for that loss. In the circumstances, there is no other compensation available to him.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

205 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason the farm retirement scheme is not index-linked; if there is provision under the scheme to index-link this payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3866/04]

The rate of pension payable under the 1994 early retirement scheme is the maximum provided for by the EU Council regulation under which the scheme was introduced. The regulation does not provide for indexation of payments.

My Department's proposals for the early retirement scheme that commenced on 27 November 2000, which forms part of the CAP rural development plan for the period 2000-06, included provision for annual increases in pension over the period of the plan. The European Commission rejected this proposal and insisted that a fixed rate be set instead. My Department then proposed a rate that was the average of the scale initially proposed. This was acceptable to the Commission and is the rate provided for in the new scheme.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

206 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount which was spent in his Department from January 2002 to December 2003 for media purposes and advertising; the areas in which the money was spent, that is, national papers, provincial papers, RTE radio, local radios and so on; the amounts spent on a year to year basis; and the amount of money which was spent on videos, whether for promotional, educational or advertising purposes. [4060/04]

Press advertising is mainly placed in the specialised farming press. Expenditure on advertising in the provincial press represented approximately one third of total advertising expenditure in 2002 and 2003. Details of expenditure are set out in the tables beneath:

Advertising — 2002

Press Advertising (including display/general advertising and Statutory Notices)

638,440.00

Promotional videos for disease eradication and beef assurance schemes

3,086.00

Total

641,526.00

Advertising — 2003

Advertising (including display/general advertising and Statutory Notices)

364,370.61

Radio Advertising

1,232.99

Production and screening of video on TB & Brucellosis Eradication Schemes, promotional video on the Beef Assurance Scheme and production of educational video on agriculture

186,892.27

Total

552,495.87

Houses of the Oireachtas Refurbishment.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

207 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made with the provision, and the proposed date of opening, of the Dáil Éireann crèche. [3663/04]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

208 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made with the restoration of Leinster Lawn; and when it will be fully restored. [3664/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 and 208 together.

Phase 1 of the refurbishment of Kildare House includes the provision of accommodation for the Oireachtas crèche. It is expected that this phase will be completed during the summer of 2004. The opening and operation of the crèche is a matter for the Houses of the Oireachtas. The refurbishment of Kildare House necessitates the vacating of Kildare House car park and, pending completion of the project, the car parking facilities were temporarily relocated on Leinster Lawn. The restoration of Leinster Lawn will be addressed on the completion of the Kildare House refurbishment.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joe Costello

Question:

209 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance the respondents in Counties Sligo and Leitrim to his Department's decentralisation programme advertised in the national newspapers before Christmas 2003; the action that will be taken by his officials to progress these applications to the next level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3602/04]

The Office of Public Works has received a number of property proposals in respect of Carrick-on-Shannon and Sligo, the proposed decentralisation locations in Counties Leitrim and Sligo. These proposals, which include both offers of sites and buildings, are currently being analysed. This analysis includes local inspections which will be carried out over the coming days.

Mayo Landslide.

Enda Kenny

Question:

210 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the details of allocations to residents and the community as determined by the Red Cross in the case of the Pullathomas landslide in north Mayo in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3630/04]

As in all previous cases when a humanitarian aid scheme was approved by Government, the scheme for Pullathomas, County Mayo, was administered by the Irish Red Cross Society on behalf of the Office of Public Works.

The assessment of applications for aid and decisions on the amount of aid in each case are confidential to the Red Cross and the individual applicants. The Red Cross has considerable experience in this area and I am satisfied that the scheme has been administered fairly and equitably.

Disabled Drivers.

John Deasy

Question:

211 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the recommendations which have issued from the interdepartmental review group on the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme; when he expects to publish same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3649/04]

As I have indicated in replies to previous questions on this issue, the interdepartmental report of the review group on the disabled drivers and disabled passengers — tax concessions — scheme is under consideration in my Department. The report is a substantive one and needs to be studied carefully. Any recommendations contained in this report will receive full consideration. On completion of this process, I envisage that the report will be made available publicly.

Mayo Landslide.

Michael Ring

Question:

212 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if the OPW is negotiating with the Irish Red Cross to make available additional humanitarian aid for those affected by the landslide in north Mayo who have not yet received aid. [3659/04]

A humanitarian aid scheme for victims of the landslide in county Mayo in 2003 was administered by the Irish Red Cross Society following Government approval. The Office of Public Works provided funding of €300,000. There are no plans to make additional humanitarian aid available.

Flood Relief.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

213 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance the progress made towards flood prevention in Clonmel; the likely timetable; and the role of the OPW. [3747/04]

A flood relief scheme for the River Suir — Clonmel — has been brought to outline design stage and was placed on public exhibition, as required under the Arterial Drainage Acts, in December 2001-January 2002. The next stage in the progression of the scheme is to consider and respond to the large number of observations received following the public exhibition.

The Deputy will be aware that in November 2002 I initiated a major review of the State's approach to flooding with the primary objective of developing a cohesive national flooding policy in the future. That report is currently being considered by Departments before being submitted to the Government in the very near future. The recommendations of the review group will have an important influence on the whole flood management area in the future, and I am confident that the recommendations will, in the long term, substantially mitigate the impact of flooding on Irish society.

The timescale for progression of the proposed scheme in Clonmel is dependant on resolution of all issues arising from the public exhibition and consideration of issues arising from the policy review. I assure the Deputy that Clonmel has a high priority in the OPW flood relief programme and that every effort is being made, in conjunction with the relevant local authorities, to ensure that the scheme is progressed as quickly as possible.

Tax Code.

Billy Timmins

Question:

214 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who is waiting for payment of their RCT for October, November and December 2003; if this can be paid as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3771/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a relevant contracts tax deduction certificate or RCTDC form in respect of the taxpayer, which covered RCT withheld during the period August to October 2003, was received by the Revenue Commissioners on 17 November 2003. A covering letter from the taxpayer's tax adviser requested Revenue not to repay the relevant credit but to retain it instead to offset against future taxes. This request was agreed to and the relevant credit was retained. A further RCTDC form covering RCT withheld during the period October to December 2003 was received by Revenue on 9 January 2004. Again, in the covering letter from the taxpayer's tax adviser accompanying this form, a request was made not to repay the relevant credit but to retain it to offset against future taxes.

I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have been in contact with the tax adviser who has informed them that the taxpayer now wishes to have the relevant credits repaid. I have been informed that both repayments were processed on Friday last, 6 February 2004, on the understanding that the taxpayer's adviser will submit his client's outstanding income tax return for 2002 and other information immediately.

Billy Timmins

Question:

215 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to payment of RCT which has a backlog of nearly three months; the reason this is the position; if extra staff are needed to deal with this backlog; and the plans he has to rectify this in view of the fact that the long delay with payment is putting livelihoods at risk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3772/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that claims to repayment of RCT arise where a sub-contractor does not present a C2 certificate to a principal contractor when they are being paid for work which they have undertaken on a contract. In these circumstances, the principal contractor is obliged to withhold 35% RCT from such payments and to pay it over to Revenue. A C2 certificate can be applied for by a sub-contractor and will be issued by the Revenue Commissioners where Revenue satisfy themselves that the sub-contractor's business meets a number of criteria which includes ensuring that the sub-contractor is fully tax compliant. The Revenue Commissioners encourage sub-contractors to apply for C2 certificates as they not alone reduce the administrative burden on sub-contractors but also significantly assist the sub-contractor's cashflow.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that due to the receipt in recent weeks of an unprecedented high volume of repayment claims and requests for offsets in respect of RCT credits for the counties of Kildare, Meath and Wicklow, there is a backlog of these claims for processing at present. An action plan is in place to deal with these arrears and it is understood that substantial inroads will be made into this backlog within the next two weeks.

The Revenue Commissioners regret the delays in dealing with these repayments and offsets and they have assured me that they are doing all they can to get up to date with these claims as quickly as possible.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

216 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance , further to Parliamentary Question no 256 of 3 February 2004, if he will confirm that grave professional misconduct includes breaches of employment laws in respect of supplies to Departments or State bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3902/04]

What constitutes grave professional misconduct can only be assessed having regard to the circumstances of each particular case. Ultimately such matters may have to be determined by the courts.

Pat Carey

Question:

217 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance the reason the higher rate of VAT is applied to telephone bills; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3935/04]

Telecommunications services were made liable for VAT for the first time at the rate of 10% on 1 January 1991. The rate was subsequently increased to 12.5% in March 1991 and to 16% in March 1992. Telecommunications services remained at this rate until 1 March 1993, when in the context of the general restructuring of the VAT rates to take account of the requirements of the EU Single Market and for budgetary reasons, they became subject to the standard rate of 21%. Goods and services at the standard rate make up to over 50% of the list of goods and services which are subject to VAT. The purpose of VAT, like all other taxes, is to raise revenue to fund State services.

Decentralisation Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

218 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance the situation with regard to the acquisition of a site or building in Killarney, County Kerry, for the proposed decentralisation of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4046/04]

The Office of Public Works has received a number of property proposals in respect of Killarney for the proposed decentralisation of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. These proposals, which include both offers of sites and buildings, are currently being analysed. This analysis includes local inspections which will be carried out over the coming days.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

219 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance the amount which was spent in his Department from January 2002 to December 2003 for media purposes and advertising; the areas in which the money was spent, that is, national papers, provincial papers, RTE radio, local radios and so on; the amounts spent on a year to year basis; and the amount of money which was spent on videos, whether for promotional, educational or advertising purposes. [4061/04]

The amounts set out below were spent on media advertising by my Department for the years 2002 and 2003. The breakdown between categories has been estimated in some cases.

2002

2003

National press

55,125

55,924.22

Local press

5,603

6,886.79

National radio

7,626

nil

Local radio

1,907

nil

Training video

219.14

nil

Other*

46,927

28,471.18

*This category includes Aertel pages, phone book advertisements and related production and design costs and, for 2003, promotional material in relation to the e-tenders website.

In addition, the Euro Changeover Board of Ireland, ECBI, which came under the remit of my Department, had spending in 2002 for media advertising. The following is the breakdown available.

Item

Television

223,515

Radio

161,756

Press

808,509

Outdoor, etc.

46,960

Furthermore, in 2002 a total of €307,519 was also paid in this area by the Department and the ECBI which is not possible to breakdown in the manner requested by the Deputy. The vast bulk of it related to advertising agency fees, production costs and public relations services in relation to the ECBI.

It should be noted that the figures in this reply do not include spending by the NDP-CSF unit.

Overseas Development Aid.

John Perry

Question:

220 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the plans in place during Ireland's Presidency of the European Union to highlight the fact that more than 2.6 billion people still live on less than $2 per day with hundreds of millions going without food and water sanitation; if he will also raise the HIV-AIDS pandemic and an end to the debt crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3641/04]

The problems facing the developing world, including poverty, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, unsustainable debt levels and the HIV-AIDS pandemic, are high on the Presidency agenda.

There are four key development messages that we want to emphasise during the Presidency. First, we believe that the overriding aim of EU development assistance should be to eradicate poverty. Our efforts should be directed towards the attainment of the millennium development goals, which include the goals of halving the number of people living in extreme poverty and halving the number of those without access to clean water. Second, Ireland considers that the EU needs a stronger voice in multilateral institutions such as the UN, the international financial institutions and the WTO to focus international efforts on improving the lot of the world's poorest people. Third, the EU needs to improve coherence in its various policies to respond better to the needs of developing countries. Finally, we believe that the Union needs to continue its efforts to maximise the effectiveness of its aid, in particular building on the recent reform of community aid, from which we are now beginning to see real improvements. This is essential if the Union and its member states are to play their full part in meeting the millennium development goals.

We have already made progress towards meeting these overarching policy goals. At the General Affairs and External Relations Council in January, Ministers adopted Conclusions that reaffirm the EU's commitment to development and set out specific steps for meeting our objectives. The Government is particularly pleased with the agreement to establish allocation criteria based on need and performance, which will help to ensure that the poorest countries in the world benefit most from the EU's development assistance.

The conclusions also place achieving the millennium development goals at the heart of EU development policy and reaffirm the EU commitments to increase official development assistance made at the Monterrey Conference on International Financing for Development. The General Affairs and External Relations Council in April will undertake a review of the follow-up to Monterrey as well as a first assessment of the EU's progress towards achieving the millennium development goals. A successful review of the millennium development goals will ensure that the EU is well-positioned to provide leadership at the international stocktaking of progress towards these goals in 2005.

The Government has made the HIV-AIDS pandemic one of the priorities of the Presidency. As part of our commitment to tackling the HIV-AIDS crisis, we will be hosting three key events during the Presidency. Later this month, an international conference on HIV-AIDS in Europe and Central Asia will be held in Dublin. We hope to obtain ministerial agreement to a new declaration which will provide a basis for stronger regional co-operation across 55 countries to fight AIDS, to tackle discrimination, to provide care and treatment and to save lives.

Ireland will also host a meeting between European and African parliamentarians in April to discuss the challenges that HIV-AIDS presents to governance in Africa. We will also host a third meeting in June on the importance of investing further in the development of an effective vaccine against HIV-AIDS. I should point out that the EU is already the largest donor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, having pledged €2.2 billion as of July 2003, which accounts for 55% of commitments to the fund.

On debt, I launched in July 2002 a new debt strategy which reflected joint work by Development Co-operation Ireland and the Department of Finance. The strategy calls on the World Bank and the IMF to take a new approach to debt sustainability. It also supports, in principle, total debt cancellation for the 41 heavily indebted poor countries, HIPC, committed to good governance and sound economic management.

Since the launch of the strategy we have had discussions, both at political and official level, with the World Bank, the IMF and a number of our EU partners. We are submitting written views to the IMF as part of the review of debt sustainability. The EU is already a generous donor to debt relief having contributed over US$ 900 million to the World Bank trust fund for debt relief. In addition, the Commission is committed to writing off bilateral debts owed to it by countries qualifying for debt relief under the HIPC initiative.

We are using whatever opportunities arise during our Presidency to promote our national debt relief strategy. I addressed the issue of debt relief in my presentation to the European Parliament's Development Committee on 20 January last and called for even greater efforts from EU partners to tackle this problem. While there is no common EU position on the policy issues relating to debt relief, I will be taking a number of opportunities to direct attention towards the urgency of action by member states in this area.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

221 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the construction work being carried out by the British Army at Forkhill Barracks, County Armagh, resulting in the erection of a large mast which is visible across north Louth; if he will raise the matter with the British Home Office to ascertain the purpose of this mast and obtain specific technical information regarding radiation from it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3669/04]

On 30 June 2003, the British authorities informed my officials, through the offices of the British-Irish intergovernmental secretariat, that the British Army was undertaking work on a new communications mast within the Forkhill military base in County Armagh. They advised us that the immediate purpose of the new mast is twofold: first, to replace two older masts at the base and thereby improve local communications for the PSNI, the British Army and also the emergency services, and second, to safeguard the security of the base itself by improving the monitoring of its perimeter.

Immediately following this notification by the British side, I directed my officials to raise our concerns about the refurbishment of security infrastructure at the Forkhill and Crosslieve bases with the relevant British authorities. I also personally raised this matter with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the British-Irish intergovernmental Conference in Iveagh House on 18 September 2003. I have directed my officials to obtain from the British Government an assessment of the environmental impacts of the new communications mast, with specific regard to radiation emissions. I will contact the Deputy directly when my Department is in receipt of this assessment.

Human Rights Issues.

Finian McGrath

Question:

222 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding allegations of severe human rights abuses in North Korea; and if information is available on Camp 22 in that State. [3676/04]

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is ruled by an authoritarian government which maintains tight and effective control on information concerning conditions in the country and has refused access to independent human rights monitors. For this reason it is very difficult for foreign governments and human rights organisations to assess accurately and independently the exact state of conditions in the DPRK. However, I am concerned by the weight of reporting that suggests ongoing repression of fundamental rights and freedoms. Of more particular, and serious, concern to the Government are the recent media reports and allegations of grave human rights abuses in prison camps and Camp 22 in particular.

The protection of human rights was raised by the EU Troika delegation which travelled to Pyongyang in December 2003. The EU delegation, which included Irish officials, emphasised to the DPRK authorities the importance of respecting international human rights norms, and reiterated our willingness to engage on this issue, and to share with the DPRK the experience and expertise of the EU in the area of human rights. However, despite such efforts, it is proving difficult to develop a dialogue with the DPRK authorities on human rights, whilst the nuclear issue continues to dominate the agenda.

The EU has also sought to address this matter through the appropriate bodies of the UN. The 2003 session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, CHR, in Geneva adopted a resolution put forward by the EU on the human rights situation in the DPRK. This resolution reaffirmed that it is the responsibility of the Government of the DPRK to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for its entire population and expressed the deep concern of the CHR at reports of systemic, grave and widespread abuses of human rights in that country. The CHR also noted with regret that the authorities of the DPRK had not created the necessary conditions to permit the international community to verify such reports in an independent manner. As EU Presidency, we are examining closely all such reports and considering them carefully with our EU partners, in advance of the next session of the CHR, to take place in March this year.

In this regard, I on the government of the DPRK to respond to the reports and the human rights concerns of the international community as a matter of urgency, to co-operate fully and without restriction with the UN in relation to human rights, and to ratify and above all implement the key international human rights instruments to which it is not yet a party. These include most notably the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Sorts of Racial Discrimination. These would be important steps towards the improvement of the human rights situation on the ground for the people of the DPRK, and would facilitate a constructive approach to human rights co-operation with the international community.

The elimination of human rights abuses has long been a central tenet of Ireland's foreign policy, and I assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to work, together with our EU partners and through the UN, to press for further information and openness from the DPRK authorities, and to address our concerns about the current human rights situation there.

Timber Imports.

John Gormley

Question:

223 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he intends to use the Irish Presidency to raise the issue of logging in Burma with both the Burmese Government and the Chinese Government, which import much of the hardwood; if, as part of Ireland's Presidency, the EU will make it illegal to import conflict timber and timber that has been logged, transported or traded illegally, and punish those companies and persons involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3677/04]

Officials from my department met recently representatives of Global Witness, and were briefed by them on their report A Conflict of Interests: the Uncertain Future of Burma's Forests, published in October 2003. The Deputy will be aware that the misuse of natural resources to finance illegal armed conflict is one which is of considerable concern to the United Nations. Last year, for instance, the United Nations Security Council imposed a ban on the import from Liberia of all round logs and timber products originating from Liberia, based on the recognised linkage between the illegal exploitation of natural resources such as diamonds and timber, illicit trade in such resources, and the proliferation and trafficking of illegal arms as a major source of fuelling and exacerbating conflict in west Africa. The Council also determined that it was not satisfied that the timber industry in Liberia was being used for legitimate social, humanitarian and development purposes and was, instead, being used to violate the demands of the Council. In all such cases, a number of factors need to be considered, including the reliability of evidence of illegal exploitation of resources and its linkage to conflict, as well as the likelihood and magnitude of adverse humanitarian consequences from any sanctions measure.

As regards Burma, the primary focus of the EU at present is to encourage the restoration of democracy in that country. The EU Common Position on Burma provides, inter alia, for a visa ban on members of the regime, a freeze on all their financial assets in the European Union, an embargo on the export to Burma of arms, munitions and military equipment which might be used for internal suppression, and the suspension of humanitarian aid or development programmes, other than those in support of human rights and democracy, poverty alleviation and health and basic education. While it does not affect the position regarding trade in timber from Burma, we will keep this issue under review, with our partners.

Foreign Conflicts.

John Gormley

Question:

224 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he intends to meet representatives of Burma's SPDC during the Irish Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3678/04]

The Government stands ready to engage with the Burmese authorities if, in consultation with our EU partners, we consider that such contact will contribute to the restoration of democracy in that country. The EU Council of Ministers decided in April 2003 to make an exception to the ban on official visits to allow an EU troika at political level to travel to Burma to convey the EU's position to all interested players there. However, the events of May 2003, when Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters were attacked, and she was arrested, concerns about the level at which the troika would be received, and the effectiveness of such a mission at that time led EU partners to decide that it would not go ahead. The possibility of a troika mission at some time during Ireland's Presidency has not been ruled out. However, for such a mission to be fully effective, it would have to meet with senior members of the government, as well as Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, other opposition leaders, and leaders of ethnic minority groups.

The EU Common Position on Burma, which provides for a visa ban on members of the regime, and a freeze on all their financial assets in the European Union, is due to expire on 29 April 2004. Ireland, together with our EU partners, will discuss in due course what revisions in the Common Position, if any, may be necessary in view of developments in Burma. To date, no evident progress has been made in Burma towards the restoration of democracy. The Government of Burma has indicated that it will convene a national convention some time this year, possibly May or June, which will be tasked with drafting a constitution. In August 2003, the Burmese government issued a road map on national reconciliation and the restoration of democracy. However, it lacks basic elements and benchmarks, such as the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, and a chronological framework for the restoration of democracy.

The Burmese authorities have continued to refuse to give a date for when the UN Secretary General's Special Representative, Mr Razali, might visit the country next. The government of Burma insists that Aung San Suu Kyi is no longer under security detention; she has refused to accept the removal of restrictions on her freedom until these are extended to her supporters arrested with her. During its Presidency of the EU, Ireland will continue to contribute to the ongoing efforts in the region, and to discussion at EU and other fora on possible action with respect to Burma. We are for instance urging Burma's neighbours in Asia to encourage the Burmese authorities to take the necessary steps to end their country's isolation from the wider international community. We will also continue to take every opportunity to register our serious concern at the situation in Burma and, along with our EU partners, to monitor closely events there.

Overseas Development Aid.

Enda Kenny

Question:

225 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the assistance given by Ireland and Irish organisations in attempting to deal with the crisis of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in excess of 11 million children under 15 years of age have been orphaned there which figure is expected to rise to 20 million by 2010; the extent of expenditure to Irish aid organisations to assist in the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3903/04]

HIV-AIDS is a key priority for the Government. Ireland was one of the first donors to develop a HIV-AIDS strategy and we have worked to ensure that the issue is high on the agenda of the EU and of the UN's funds and programmes. Since 2001 Ireland's financial allocations to the fight against AIDS have increased tenfold with a budget allocation of €40 million in 2004, 10% of the total overseas development assistance budget.

These resources are directed at HIV-AIDS activities at the global, regional, national and community levels and are implemented through international and regional organisations and in our programme countries. The latter include six highly-affected countries in southern and eastern Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa, by far the worst affected region, is now home to over 26.6 million people living with HIV-AIDS. Approximately 3.2 million new infections occurred there in 2003, while the epidemic claimed the lives of an estimated 2.3 million Africans in the past year. HIV-AIDS has devastating effects on individuals, families and communities; it also has a profound effect on the social and economic development of countries most affected by the epidemic.

One of the most troubling consequences of the HIV-AIDS epidemic is its impact on children. Global success in combating HIV-AIDS must be measured by its impact on our children and young people. We need to ensure that children are getting access to the information they need to protect themselves from HIV and are getting the care and support they need in the absence of their parents.

In June 2001, a special session of the UN General Assembly on HIV-AIDS paid special attention to children orphaned and made vulnerable to HIV-AIDS, and set specific goals for the subsequent five years in its Declaration of Commitment. These goals underscore the importance of developing and implementing national strategies to strengthen government, family and community capacities to response to the crisis, ensuring non-discrimination and building international co-operation.

Ireland is contributing towards the achievement of these goals through its funding and support at different levels. We provide funding to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV-AIDS, UNAIDS, the main advocate for global action on the epidemic. We are also a strong advocate and supporter of the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, GFATM, and are one of only a small number of countries to have fully honoured our pledge to the fund. Ireland has released €25 million to date.

Through our regional HIV programme in southern and eastern Africa, we are supporting a range of activities in the area of prevention and behaviour change; home-based care and orphan support; and countering stigma and discrimination against those living with HIV-AIDS.

All of the Government's programme countries in Africa — Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia, Mozambique and Lesotho — have very severe HIV-AIDS epidemics as does South Africa, where we also have an intensive involvement in the aid field. In each case our efforts are targeted at strengthening government capacity to respond to the disease and supporting district and NGO responses at local and community levels. In many cases funding is targeted at the provision of support for orphans and vulnerable children including ensuring access to education; provision of food and clothing; and psychosocial care.

Non-governmental organisations, NGOs and faith based organisations, FBOs, are important partners for the Government. They often bear the primary responsibility for delivering home-based care; support to orphans and vulnerable children; and much needed health services in highly-affected areas. Through our NGO HIV-AIDS Partnership Scheme the Government channels financial resources to Irish NGOs working in the field of HIV-AIDS. HIV-AIDS continues to be the biggest single obstacle to reducing poverty and to attaining the millennium development goals. Through the Development Co-operation Ireland programme, the Government will do all in its power to combat the pandemic at the global, regional and national levels in developing countries.

Foreign Conflicts.

Finian McGrath

Question:

226 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received reports on the reported military incursion into Al Zaytoun, a residential district of Gaza city, killing eight Palestinians and causing extensive damage to civilian property on 28 January 2004; if he has raised the matter with the Israeli authorities or with his colleagues on the General Affairs and External Relations Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4047/04]

I am aware of the incident to which the Deputy refers. I issued a statement on 29 January, in my Presidency capacity, in response to the Jerusalem bus bombing, in which I also expressed concern at the events in Zaytoun the preceding day.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

227 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount which was spent in his Department from January 2002 to December 2003 for media purposes and advertising; the areas in which the money was spent, that is, national papers, provincial papers, RTE radio, local radios and so on; the amounts spent on a year to year basis; and the amount of money which was spent on videos, whether for promotional, educational or advertising purposes. [4062/04]

Expenditure on media advertising for 2002 was €251, 605.51 and for 2003 was €203,919.70. This can be broken down as follows:

Vote 38 — Foreign Affairs — expenditure under the general advertising subhead of €61,543.04 in 2002 and €50,343.35 in 2003 and expenditure of €20,411, 2002, and €29,184.36, 2003, from the Passport Office subhead. Expenditure under these subheads included payments for advertisements providing details of the Department's opening hours over the Christmas period, changes in travel requirements for travellers to the United States as well as advertising of employment opportunities, e.g. legal trainees in our legal division. It is not possible, in the timeframe given, to provide the Deputy with a breakdown of each item of expenditure.

There was €18,336.92 relating to advertisements in the national newspapers advising the public of the availability of the revised White Paper on the Treaty of Nice and Seville Declarations 2002, following publication in July 2002 and €18,373.77 relating to advertisements in the national newspapers advising the public of the availability of the summary Information Guide on the Treaty of Nice and Seville Declarations 2002, during October 2002.

Vote 39 — Development Co-operation — there were advertisements placed in three national newspapers and two newspapers in Northern Ireland in 2003 in respect of the development education grants scheme, €14,001. Advertising in 2003 for Development Co-operation Ireland, DCI, recruitment purposes and invitations for submissions to DCI task forces amounted to €22,107.27. The placement of an advertisement in 2003 in two national newspapers by the Advisory Board to Development Co-operation Ireland inviting expressions of interest to tender for research purposes cost €3,747.20. In addition, €132,940.78 was spent on the design and production of a TV and print advertising campaign for World AIDS Day 2002, as well as the purchase of space on TV networks, RTE, UTV, Channel 4, E4, Sky and TG4 and national newspapers, The Irish Times, Irish Independent, The Star, Irish Examiner, Evening Herald, Evening Echo, Sunday Independent, Sunday Tribune, Sunday World, Sunday Business Post and Ireland on Sunday, while €84,536.52 was spent on the design and production of a print advertising campaign for World AIDS Day 2003, as well as the purchase of a full page of space in national newspapers: The Irish Times, Irish Independent, The Star and Irish Examiner.

The Deputy will also wish to be aware of the following other media related expenditure undertaken by the Department during 2002 and 2003: the communicating Europe initiative or CEI funds a range of projects and activities aimed at promoting public awareness about the European Union. In 2002, CEI allocated a total of €43,782.52 for two series of the Eurofile television programme which featured reports on developments in the EU and the National Forum on Europe. The first series of Eurofile was transmitted from February to May 2002 on City TV Dublin, Meath Province 5 Television and on the EBS Satellite system. The second series of Eurofile, which was aired in autumn 2002, was transmitted on TG4.

CEI supported two audio-visual information initiatives in 2003. CEI provided €23,493.54 in funding to the National Forum on Europe in March 2003 for the production of an information video entitled A Journey of Discovery, which was presented by Hector Ó hEochagáin. The video explains the functioning of the EU institutions and provides information on the Convention on the Future of Europe and the enlargement of the EU. The National Forum on Europe transmits the video at public meetings and has circulated copies of the production to all second level schools in Ireland.

Development Co-operation Ireland has contributed for a number of years to the operation costs of the Worlds Apart series on RTE Radio 1. In 2002 and 2003, this contribution was € 47,000 and €55,000 respectively.

Prior to 2003 the development education budget was operated through the National Committee for Development Education, the NCDE. In line with the recommendations in the Ireland Aid Review, the activities of NCDE were incorporated into Development Co-operation Ireland during 2003. In this regard, €110,321 was awarded in grants in 2003, under the Media Challenge Fund 2003, to 15 local radio stations throughout the country for the production of programmes of good development educational content. Grants were also provided to two video production companies and one community radio station in 2003, amounting to a total of€75,000, for the production of videos andradio programmes promoting development education

Apart from the projects referred to above, there was no expenditure on promotional, educational or advertising videos.

School Transport.

John McGuinness

Question:

228 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will continue to contribute to the cost of transport to and from St. Patrick's special school, Kells Road, Kilkenny, for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the reason it was discontinued from December 2003; and if he will expedite a decision in the case. [3913/04]

My Department has requested Bus Éireann to provide a report on the case. The family concerned will be advised of the position as soon as the report has been received and assessed.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

229 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 147 of 11 December 2003, if progress has been made in regard to adding to the schedule to the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002, Mary Immaculate school for deaf infant boys, Beechpark, Stillorgan, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3561/04]

At present 128 institutions are listed on the Schedule to the Residential Institutions Redress Act. Section 4 of the Act enables additional institutions that are identified as reformatory schools, industrial schools, orphanages, children's homes and special schools, in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function, to be added to the schedule. My Department has received correspondence from both individuals and survivor groups identifying a number of additional institutions, including Mary Immaculate School for Deaf Infant Boys, Beechpark, Stillorgan, Dublin, that may be eligible for inclusion in the schedule. Discussions have taken place between my Department and other Departments that may have provided a regulatory function in the operation of these facilities in order to ascertain whether these institutions are in fact eligible for inclusion. The initial information received in some cases was scant due to the long period that had elapsed since these institutions were closed and therefore the process of verifying each of these institutions has been time consuming. I intend that a list of additional institutions will be brought before both Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as the verification process is completed.

Schools Refurbishment.

Denis Naughten

Question:

230 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 129 of 2 October 2003, the status of the redevelopment of St. Mary's Hall, Boyle Community school, County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3562/04]

Further to Parliamentary Question No. 129 of the 2 October 2003, my Department is still awaiting confirmation that a suitable lease agreement has been entered into by the VEC with the parish.

School Accommodation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

231 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 672 of 30 September 2003, if his Department will approve funding for Gaelscoil Longfort, County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3563/04]

Gaelscoil an Longfoirt, County Longford, is currently operating from rented temporary accommodation. The cost of the accommodation is €32,760 per annum. My Department provides 95% of the rental cost in grant aid. Any additional accommodation requirements at the school will be addressed on an incremental basis as the school develops. The school will be similarly supported with rental grant aid for any such accommodation.

The 2004 school building programme has now been published and full details in relation to individual projects are available on my Department's website at www.education.ie. On the basis of the funding allocation and the competing priorities for that funding, it was not possible to include Gaelscoil an Longfoirt in the 2004 building programme.

However, a key strategy for building projects going forward will be grounded on the budget day announcement of multi-annual allocations for capital investment in education projects. All projects that are not going to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme will be re-evaluated with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual building programme from 2005 onwards.

I expect to be in a position to make a further announcement on this matter during 2004.

Schools Refurbishment.

Denis Naughten

Question:

232 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Question No. 128 of 2 October 2003, if further information is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3565/04]

The scope of the works required at the school referred to by the Deputy is appropriate for consideration under the summer works scheme which was announced in December last.

Officials in the school planning section of my Department are in the process of registering and assessing all applications received for the summer works scheme 2004. Details of the result of this assessment and the schools which will receive funding will be published no later than 27 February 2004.

Schools Building Projects.

Denis Naughten

Question:

233 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Question No. 121 of 16 October 2003, if funding will be approved for the construction of a multi-purpose room at Ballinagare national school, County Roscommon; the status of the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3566/04]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that, as part of the devolved initiative contained in section 1 of the 2004 school building programme, Ballinagare national school has accepted a maximum grant of €100,000 to fund the provision of additional school accommodation.

Capitation Grants.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

234 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of students at primary level who are repeating a year during the school year 2003-2004; if primary schools receive the same level of capitation per student for those students who may be repeating a year as for other students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3567/04]

The annual primary census forms for the current school year are still being collected, checked, inputted and validated within my Department. Therefore, the information requested by the Deputy is not yet available for the 2003-04 school year.

Under my Department's policy which is set out in primary circular 32/03, pupils should only be allowed to repeat a year for educational reasons and in exceptional circumstances. An additional grade level should not operate through the retention of all or a substantial number of pupils at a grade level. In exceptional circumstances, there may be cases where a principal teacher, following consultation with the learning support teacher, class teacher and parents, will conclude that a pupil would benefit educationally by repeating a grade level. The normal capitation grant is applicable in respect of these students where the provisions of the circular are fully adhered to.

A school must not operate a repeat middle infants class or a repeat sixth-seventh class. Pupils who have completed sixth class must not transfer to another primary school to repeat sixth class. In the event that a school enrolls pupils in a repeat class, capitation grants in respect of such pupils shall not be paid.

Special Educational Needs.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

235 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science when the special education section of his Department will be responding to the request for an extension of home tuition for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 made on 29 July 2003; the reason for the delay in responding; if he will be responding positively and acceding to the request for nine hours' tuition per week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3599/04]

I am aware of the case referred to by the Deputy. My officials will be in contact with the family of the person in question shortly.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

236 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if a staff survey of those wishing to transfer to Athlone has been completed within the Higher Education Authority; the results of such survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3607/04]

Any decision to undertake a staff survey in relation to decentralisation is a matter for the Higher Education Authority. However, I understand that no survey has been undertaken to date.

Staff Transfers.

Denis Naughten

Question:

237 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of staff and grades which are on the transfer list to Athlone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3608/04]

The number of civil servants on the central transfer list for transfer to my Department's office in Athlone is as follows: clerical officer, 238; and staff officer, 12.

Half, 50%, of the clerical officer and a quarter, 25%, of the staff officer vacancies arising in my Department's offices in Athlone, are filled from the central transfer lists.

Schools Recognition.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

238 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he is considering the application of permanent status of Gaelscoil Chaladh an Treoigh; when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3618/04]

An application has been received in the school planning section of my Department for permanent recognition for Gaelscoil Chaladh an Treoigh. Officials in the school planning section are currently examining this application and they will revert to the school management authority shortly.

Benchmarking Awards.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

239 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when he intends to pay teachers their increases in salary under the benchmarking process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3619/04]

The payment of the final two phases of the benchmarking increase and general round increase due under the Sustaining Progress agreement is dependent, in the case of each sector, organisation and grade on verification of co-operation with flexibility and ongoing change, satisfactory implementation of the agenda for modernisation, maintenance of stable industrial relations and absence of industrial action in respect of any matters covered by the agreement.

As provided for in Sustaining Progress, the Secretary General of my Department accepted a progress report provided by the Teachers' Conciliation Council confirming progress on the agreed commitments. This was provided in the context of the payments applicable from 1 January 2004 and was predicated on the expectation that real progress would be made in the discussions on parent-teacher meetings which, under the agreement, were scheduled to be concluded before the end of December 2003. Due to the fact that no agreement had been reached and that the issue was being referred to the arbitration board, it was the view of the Secretary General that it was only reasonable to await executing arrangements for the payments due with effect from 1 January 2004 until the arbitration process had concluded. In this regard, I am happy to report that agreement has now been reached on the arrangements for the holding of parent-teacher meetings following the arbitration process.

In addition, the Deputy will be aware that difficulties arose in relation to issues of non-compliance by certain schools regarding the agreed arrangements for the standardised school year. To report comprehensively on the position and to bring the matter to the Teachers' Conciliation Council for its consideration, my Department requested that each school complete a declaration regarding compliance with the agreements reached in respect of the standardised school year, parent-teacher meeting and staff meetings for the school year 2003-2004.

The outcome of that process is being considered today, 10 February 2004, by the Teachers Conciliation Council in the context of finalising proposals for the arrangements for the standardised school year for the coming school years. I am hopeful that agreement will be reached at the council which will enable my Department to execute the arrangements for payment of the appropriate increases to teachers without delay. The payments will be backdated to 1 January 2004.

Site Acquisitions.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

240 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a site has been acquired for the new post-primary school at Castlegregory, Tralee, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3621/04]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the site for the new post-primary school building at Castlegregory, Tralee, County Kerry, has been acquired by my Department.

Schools Building Projects.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

241 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the new housing developments that have considerably increased the population of Gorey, County Wexford; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that this is likely to continue as many more housing developments are under way in the area; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the Loreto primary school, Gorey, County Wexford, does not have the capacity to accommodate additional pupils and will have to refuse enrolment to many newly arrived families with schoolchildren; the steps his Department is taking to ensure that all children residing in Gorey town can avail of primary education in their immediate locality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3622/04]

The school planning section of my Department is examining educational provision at primary level in the Gorey area. Factors under consideration include population growth, demographic trends, current and projected enrolments, recent and planned housing developments and the capacity of existing schools to meet the demand for places. When the examination is completed, a decision will be taken on how best to meet the accommodation needs of the area into the future.

With regard to the Loreto primary school specifically, five temporary classrooms were recently provided to meet the schools short-term needs. In addition, a proposed extension for the school is scheduled to move into the advanced stages of architectural planning in 2004. The timing of when the project can progress to tender and construction is dependent on the financial allocation for 2005 and subsequent years, the rate of progress of existing projects in architectural planning and the priority afforded to each project by reference to the published criteria for prioritising large-scale building projects. In the meantime, it is open to the management authority of the school to apply for further temporary accommodation to meet any newly emerging needs.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

242 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans he has to fund a two classroom extension to Craughwell national school, County Galway; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the only departmental funding that appears to be available to the management board is €70,000 in lieu of the cost of a prefabricated building sanctioned but not purchased; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the cost of the two classrooms is likely to be more than €200,000; and if he will make available funding in 2004 to allow the school authorities to commence building the badly needed extension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3623/04]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

253 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the €70,000 grant that has been made available to Craughwell national school, County Galway, is inadequate to build on the two classrooms that are now necessary to provide proper accommodation for the number of children attending the school; if extra funding will be provided during 2004 to enable the school authorities to begin work that is so urgently required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3688/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 242 and 253 together.

The management authorities of Craughwell national school were allocated a grant of €70,000 in July 2003 for the provision of a temporary classroom. The school authorities have indicated the wish to build a permanent classroom and my Department has no objections to this proposal. An application for a second classroom is currently being considered by my Department's school planning section and my Department will be in contact with the school management authorities as soon as possible.

Parents' Organisations.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

243 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the response of his Department to the review conducted into the issue of State financial support for and recognition of parental representation at second level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3625/04]

My Department provided a copy of the review referred to by the Deputy to all of the interested parental groups in late October 2003. Each organisation was invited to consider the report and to forward written observations or alternatively to meet with officials of my Department to discuss their response to the report.

My Department has received written submissions from the National Congress of Catholic Secondary School Parent Associations, CPS, the Parents' Associations of Community and Comprehensive Schools, PACCS, and the Federation of Christian Brothers Schools Parents Council, FCBSPC.

In addition, meetings have taken place between officials of my Department and representatives of the National Parents' Council, post-primary, CPSA, PACCS and FCBSPC. The most recent of these, with the federation, was held on 28 January 2004. To date, none of the other parental organisations have chosen to take up my Department's invitation to forward a submission or meet officials.

In deciding on the issues addressed in the review, such as recognition and grant aiding, I must take account of the matter of value for money and the need to avoid unnecessary duplication. The review in question emphasised the fact that many of the issues of concern to parents with children at second level are common across the different sectors. It is important, therefore, that any State funding should promote cohesion to the greatest degree possible as this will best serve to increase the voice of parents in education.

In considering what action to take on foot of the review, my officials and I will take stock of the submissions received and views expressed at the meetings referred to.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

244 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of funding allocated in 2004 to the National Parents' Council, post primary; if other similar organisations are funded by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3626/04]

In 2004, my Department has provided an allocation of €165,000 for the National Parents' Council, post primary. The support provided to the National Parents' Council reflects the commitment given by the Government in recognising the role of parent participation in the education system. My Department also provides an annual grant to the National Parents' Council — primary.

Special Educational Needs.

Richard Bruton

Question:

245 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has met with representatives of St. Joseph's, Gracepark Road, Dublin 9, who are working to advance the proposals of the planning group for a national centre for children with a visual impairment; his assessment of the long-term building requirements for this project; the extent of the contribution from the voluntary body to the building costs; and the system for cross-departmental co-operation in developing different sections of the proposal. [3627/04]

My Department has had a number of meetings with representatives of St. Joseph's, the most recent of which took place on 29 January last. Further discussions are planned.

It is important to clarify the context and purpose of the current round of meetings. Arising from the report of a planning group, which was established to consider proposals for the development of a national centre for the visually impaired, my Department engaged a project team to consider an overall development strategy for the implementation of the planning group's report. The report of the project team was presented to my Department towards the end of 2002.

Having given careful consideration to the matter, I decided in April 2003 that the national centre as proposed should not proceed, having regard to the low and declining pupil numbers in the schools for the visually impaired and the development costs, estimated to be in excess of €30 million. The purpose of the current discussions is to explore with the school authorities concerned how aspects of the proposed centre could be developed in the context of available resources.

My Department expects to be in contact shortly with representatives of St. Joseph's in response to its outline proposal for the provision of a national centre for visually impaired. It should be noted that projects that require funding from the Exchequer, either through conventional procurement means or otherwise, must, like all other major capital projects, be thoroughly and rigorously assessed on grounds of need, viability, affordability and compliance with public procurement legislation. My Department is grant-aiding the provision of additional accommodation at Pobalscoil Rosmini and these works are expected to be completed shortly.

Schools Building Projects.

John Perry

Question:

246 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made on the application submitted in 2000 by Aughawillan national school, County Leitrim; when it will be sanctioned; the reason for the delays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3640/04]

An application for grant aid has been received from the management authorities of Aughawillan national school, County Leitrim. As I announced when publishing the capital programme 2004, my Department will consult with the education partners in the coming weeks on prioritisation criteria. Following this consultation, a review of all projects will be undertaken and considered with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual building programme from 2005 onwards.

Higher Education Grants.

Enda Kenny

Question:

247 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in respect of section 7.7 of the higher education grant scheme, an applicant who has a BA qualification with a masters degree and who wishes to pursue a postgraduate diploma course in primary teaching in a recognised teacher training college here is eligible to be considered for grant assistance under the mature student grant scheme on the basis that the postgraduate diploma course in primary teaching represents progression from the level at which the previous postgraduate qualification was attained in respect of the experience to be gained and the resultant further experience to teaching made available as a consequence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3680/04]

Under the terms of my Department's higher education grants scheme, a student is not eligible for grant assistance in respect of a second period of study at the same level irrespective of whether a grant was paid previously. The scheme also provides that grants may not be paid to candidates who already hold a postgraduate qualification and are pursuing a second postgraduate qualification.

Clause 7.7 of the higher education grants scheme does provide for financial assistance to eligible candidates who already hold a postgraduate qualification and who wish to enter a further postgraduate course at a higher level, which represents progression from the level at which the first qualification was attained. My Department understands that the student referred to by the Deputy already holds a masters degree and, accordingly, as a higher diploma does not represent progression as defined in clause 7.7. of the scheme, the student is not eligible for grant assistance.

However, tax relief is available in respect of postgraduate fees paid in publicly funded colleges here and in other EU member states, as well as in private colleges in the State. This relief applies at the standard rate of tax and is available to full-time and part-time postgraduate students. Further details and conditions in relation to this tax relief are available from local tax offices.

State Examinations.

Richard Bruton

Question:

248 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has satisfied himself with the procedures put in place to introduce the new science syllabus at junior certificate level; and if his attention has further been drawn to the confusion which remains regarding the marking system for some projects which have already been completed by junior certificate classes; and the reason all the arrangements for the introduction of the syllabus were not completed before the start of the academic year 2003/2004. [3682/04]

The circular which issued on the revised junior certificate science syllabus provided that 10% of the marks would apply to mandatory experiments and investigations which students would be required to complete and record in a laboratory notebook over the three years of the course, together with a further 25% of the marks in respect of two specified investigations in the third year of the course, which would be set by the examining body. Arrangements for finalising the detail of the marking systems are being made by the State Examinations Commission.

Overall, I am satisfied with the arrangements for introduction of the syllabus and am particularly pleased that some 614 schools in the free education scheme have applied for grants and signalled that they are providing the new programme this year. As part of the second level support services, an inservice team is providing support for schools to implement the programme, and some €5.1 million has issued in the first phase of grants to schools in January of this year.

In view of the fact that the hands-on investigative approach central to the revised syllabus was seen as vital in encouraging more students to choose science at senior cycle and in third level, and the importance of science, engineering and technology skills to the economy, I announced that the new syllabus would be implemented from September 2003 as had been recommended by the task force on the physical sciences. Various reports have highlighted that Ireland's future economic growth and competitiveness will increasingly depend on the extent to which it can support high value knowledge based industries, supported by the availability of an adequate number of graduates skilled in the fields of maths, physical sciences, biological sciences, technology and engineering.

Science and Technology Funding.

Richard Bruton

Question:

249 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the recommendations which have been accepted and the recommendations which have been rejected from within the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Science report regarding finance in the education system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3683/04]

It is understood that this question refers to the report of the Joint Committee on Education and Science on science and technology of October 2000. Of the 31 recommendations in the report which relate to the education sector, five have not been implemented, 12 have been implemented and partial progress has been made on a further 14. A progress report is being forwarded to the Deputy and is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie.

The recommendations which have not been implemented relate to the following: making junior cycle science a mandatory subject — some 89% of students study science at junior cycle level and ensuring choice is an important part of the strategy to encourage young people to stay in school; altering the marking system in leaving certificate science subjects — a recent study on grading in the leaving certificate has just been completed and is being examined by the State Examinations Commission and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment; practical element — this is not included in the assessment arrangements for science subjects in the leaving certificate and greater emphasis on more practical modes of assessment is one of the areas which will be examined in the context of the overall reforms of senior cycle education mooted in the NCCA paper, Developing Senior Cycle Education: Directions for Development; premia payments — there are no plans to pay premia to teachers for participation in inservice training in particular subject areas but, as part of pay and conditions, teachers receive additional allowances with salary in respect of certain nationally certified higher level qualifications acquired; and the development of a support centre — resources are not available at present for the establishment of a science education technical support centre.

Garda Vetting Procedures.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

250 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has been informed that the Garda Síochána has declined to process an application from a school for a vetting check on a prospective school caretaker on the grounds that Garda clearances are only issued to designated agencies, principally health boards, in respect of prospective full-time employees who may have substantial unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults; if, in view of the recent Soham case in the UK, he has plans to have schools designated for Garda vetting checks of personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3684/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, I am not in a position to comment on individual cases. A joint working group on child protection was established by the North-South Ministerial Council. The group was composed of officials from my Department and the Department of Education, Northern Ireland. It subsequently submitted its report to the council which agreed on the broad approach taken and signalled its desire to have detailed proposals for legislation prepared.

In addition, a cross-governmental working group has been established by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to consider proposals for reform of vetting of employees by the central vetting unit run by the Garda Síochána. The group, which is chaired by a chief superintendent, has met on seven occasions and is due to meet again this week. Without wishing to prejudice the work of that group, the report of which is expected in the near future, it is clear that the issues involved do not relate only to my own Department, and continuing co-operation between the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Health and Children and Education and Science will be required in bringing forward reforms.

Special Educational Needs.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

251 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science if a learning support teacher will be provided to Craughwell national school, County Galway, in view of the urgent need for such a teacher; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3686/04]

The school referred to by the Deputy has the services of a full-time shared learning support teacher.

My Department is currently reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have initiated discussions on the matter with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome. I can confirm, however, that the basic purpose of that review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

Schools Building Projects.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

252 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of money which was underspent in the schools building programme in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3687/04]

The total allocation for the school building programme for 2003 was €342.9 million. Expenditure of €346.9 million was incurred on the programme during the year resulting in an excess of €4 million.

Question No. 253 answered with QuestionNo. 242.

Special Educational Needs.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

254 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding an application for a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3689/04]

The school referred to by the Deputy has the services of a full-time resource teacher together with a shared learning support teacher. My Department has received a further application for special educational resources, SER, from the school.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including the one made by this school, are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03 which issued in September, 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

Schools Building Projects.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

255 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science the consideration which has been given to the accommodation needs of St. Brendan's College, Woodbrook, Bray; the plans he has to meet those needs in the short and medium terms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3722/04]

My Department has received an application for additional accommodation from the school authorities of St. Brendan's College, Woodbrook, Bray. The application has been examined in the school planning section of my Department and agreement reached with the school authorities on the school's long-term accommodation needs. The project is awaiting the appointment of a design team.

As I announced when publishing the capital programme for 2004, my Department is holding consultations with the education partners on the prioritisation criteria used for large-scale building projects. The purpose of these consultations is to ensure that the criteria have optimum precision and are fully tuned to meeting the priority accommodation needs of the primary and post-primary sectors. When the consultations have been completed, a review of all projects awaiting the appointment of a design team will be undertaken and a further list of priority projects will be brought forward to commence architectural planning. The proposed project at St. Brendan's College will be included in this review.

To alleviate the accommodation problems at the school in the short-term, my Department approved the provision of six prefabs in September 2001. To date no further application for temporary accommodation has been received from the school authority.

Departmental Properties.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

256 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will decide to provide a right of way to Kerry County Council and a portion of land to a child care group from their lands at the Grove, Dingle, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3730/04]

The Department is considering the issue of ceding a portion of land to a local group for the purpose of building a child care centre in Dingle. As soon as a decision is made on the matter, the Department will be in contact with the local authority and the child care group.

Schools Building Projects.

John McGuinness

Question:

257 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if the overcrowded situation at the Church of Ireland school, Castlecomer, County Kilkenny, has been examined by his Department officials; the plans he has to deal with this situation in the short term; and the long term plans for a new school at this location. [3737/04]

An application for major capital improvement works has been received from the management authority of the Church of Ireland school, Castlecomer, County Kilkenny. On the basis of the funding allocation for 2004 and the competing priorities for that funding, it was not possible to include the project in the 2004 building programme.

However, a key strategy for building projects going forward will be grounded on the budget day announcement of multi-annual allocations for capital investment in education projects. All projects that are not going to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme will be re-evaluated with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual building programme from 2005 onwards. I expect to be in a position to make a further announcement on this matter during 2004. In the meantime, it is open to the school authority to apply to my Department for temporary accommodation to meet its short-term needs.

School Staffing.

David Stanton

Question:

258 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Question No. 112 of 29 January 2004, the breakdown of the cost of the employment of substitute teachers in each of the cases as outlined in his reply (details supplied); the details regarding the other absences mentioned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3738/04]

The information requested is being compiled and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy.

Asbestos Remediation Programme.

Seán Crowe

Question:

259 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the financial and structural problems existing in St. Joseph's secondary school, Charlestown, County Mayo; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that buildings were recently condemned by the Office of Public Works; and the long-term funding he intends to make available to the school to make it a safe and comfortable place for the education of children. [3739/04]

Officials in my Department are in contact with the authorities of St. Joseph's secondary school, Charlestown, County Mayo, regarding capital development. The Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the national asbestos programme of detection and remediation in schools, is fulfilling its remit at St. Joseph's secondary school.

School Closures.

Seán Crowe

Question:

260 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will consider meeting the funding needs of a school (details supplied) to ensure that the school will remain open in view of the fact that the trustees of the school have been forced to close theschool within three years due to lack of funds. [3740/04]

My Department has been advised of the proposed closure on a phased basis of the school to which the Deputy refers. The Deputy will appreciate that a secondary school is a privately owned and managed institution and a decision to close such a school is a matter for the trustees.

My main role in a school closure is to ensure that the best interests of the pupils are looked after in the period up to the closure and that there will be sufficient pupils places in existing schools in the general area for pupils who would have normally enrolled in the closing school. This process will involve consultation with all affected parties.

School Curriculum.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

261 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the Arts Council and similar bodies in assisting the delivery of the new music syllabus under the new curriculum of 1999; and if he will make a statement on the current meetings that are happening or planned in this regard. [3856/04]

Information requested by the Deputy in regard to meetings is being gathered and will be forwarded as soon as it is available. Following completion of the current year of consolidation and review, the primary curriculum support programme will provide inservice training and support for teachers in 2004-05 in preparation for implementation of the new music curriculum the following year. Trainers have been selected for the purpose.

With regard to the Arts Council and similar bodies assisting in delivery of the programme, the new curriculum provides ample opportunity for this. The teacher guidelines encourage schools to take account of local arts festivals, parades and events in the planning of programmes as well as using the services of local education centres and other agencies such as the Arts Council, the Music Association of Ireland, Music Network, RTE, the National Concert Hall and various artists in residence schemes. Other information sources for music materials and activities in schools are also referred to.

I am aware of the recent report by Music Network, which was published in 2003, proposing the establishment of a national music education council, which would include Arts Council representation, and the development of local music education partnerships in tandem with the local county-city development boards. However, funds are not available at present to progress this proposal.

Inservice Training.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

262 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary teachers awaiting training in the new music curriculum and the number of trainers available to deliver the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3862/04]

Approximately 26,000 primary teachers, full-time and part-time, will be involved in the teaching of the revised music curriculum at primary school. A team of trainers has been selected. The number on the team, 26, has been based on previous experience in the delivery of inservice. Training will be provided for all teachers.

This year, following a request from teachers' representatives, I announced a year of consolidation and review of areas of the curriculum that have already been introduced. It is planned that the in-career development programme for music will take place for all primary teachers in the school year 2004-05, and that teachers will begin to implement the programme during the following school year.

The selected trainers are planning their inservice programme, using the new methodologies in their own classrooms and sharing their experiences and expertise with their colleagues on the staff. The trainers also work closely with the education centre network in the provision of evening and summer courses.

Teaching Qualifications.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

263 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the fact that the removal of the requirement to sit a basic music test before entering teacher training has in any way reduced the overall competency or pool of expertise available to our primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3863/04]

Until 1991, in addition to meeting certain academic requirements in the leaving certificate, candidates wishing to train as primary teachers were required to pass a test in oral Irish, to undergo a test in music and to appear before an interview board to determine their suitability for a course of training as a primary teacher. Since 1992, as part of the general improvement and streamlining of procedures for entry to institutions of higher education, applications for entry to the colleges of education have been processed through the Central Applications Office.

The suitability of students for a career in teaching is carefully monitored and assessed by the colleges of education during their course of training, with the objective of identifying those students who are unsuited to teaching. All the colleges of education have courses in arts education, and music is available in both Mary Immaculate College and St. Patrick's College as an academic option to degree level. Music is also available to students in these two colleges as an elective in their third year.

Psychological Service.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

264 Mr. O'Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding will be made available to cater for the referral of pupils for professional counselling outside the school setting. [3864/04]

My Department funds the guidance counselling service, which is available to all post-primary schools. In addition, the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, provides a psychological service to children and young people in primary and post-primary schools. Guidance counsellors and NEPS psychologists provide a certain amount of counselling input and this is always provided within the school setting.

From time to time, it is felt that a pupil would benefit from more intensive, long-term counselling and-or therapy. In such cases, the guidance counsellor and-or the NEPS psychologist refer the pupil concerned to the child and adolescent psychiatric services funded by the health boards. Parents may also ask their general practitioner for a referral to these services. My Department has no plans at present to fund referrals to counselling services other than those provided by the State.

Special Educational Needs.

Joan Burton

Question:

265 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress which has been made in relation to the establishment of a CABAS school for autistic children on the southside of Dublin in respect of a place for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15. [3865/04]

I am anxious that all children, including children with autistic spectrum disorders receive education appropriate to their needs.

I understand from my officials that the pupil in question is currently enrolled in a special pre-school class for autism attached to a mainstream school in north Dublin. This class has a pupil teacher ratio of 6:1 and has the support of two special needs assistants. I further understand that ten hours' home tuition per week has been sanctioned for the pupil in question until the end of the current school year.

My Department is actively considering an application from CABAS, Dublin, for autistic provision in south County Dublin. My officials are liaising with my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, in this regard. A response will issue to the applicants as quickly as possible.

I understand that the pupil referred to by the Deputy is on a waiting list for the CABAS facility. Applications for enrolment in the CABAS project are a matter for the management of the facility.

Education Consultation Process.

Seán Crowe

Question:

266 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason none of the public meetings in the Your Education System consultation process are taking place in Donegal; and if he will reconsider this decision and arrange for a meeting to be held there bearing in mind the large geographic size of the county will make it difficult for people to travel to other meetings. [3892/04]

A total of 17 public meetings have been scheduled as part of this process. These include a public meeting in Sligo on 12 February 2004 and a public meeting in Letterkenny on 19 February 2004.

I have not ruled out the possibility of holding additional meetings, if it becomes clear during the next few weeks that there is a demand for these. Members of the public can also access the process through the website www.youreducation.ie or by writing to The Secretariat, Your Education System, Educational Research Centre, Drumcondra, Dublin 9.

School Transfer Responsibility.

Michael Noonan

Question:

267 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a child remains the responsibility of primary school until they transfer to secondary school; if so, at what point is a child deemed transferred; if a child does not receive the offer of a place in secondary school, who is then responsible; what should happen to this child; the responsibility of the EWO in these situations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3893/04]

In general, once a child completes his or her primary school education and has reached the age of 12 years, the child will progress to a post-primary school. Responsibility for ensuring that a child progresses from primary to post-primary education rests in the main with the child's parents. Under section 17 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, parents are responsible for ensuring that their children attend a recognised school or otherwise receive an appropriate minimum education.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 provides parents with an appeal process where a board of management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the board refuses enrolment of a student. Where an appeal under section 29 is upheld, the Secretary General of my Department may direct a school to enrol a pupil.

The Education Welfare Board is required to assist parents experiencing difficulty in ensuring that their children attend school regularly, and will also assist schools in fulfilling their role under the Act. Through the appointment of educational welfare officers, the board provides a welfare-focused service which is accessible to parents, school and others concerned with the welfare of young people.

Council for Special Education.

Enda Kenny

Question:

268 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason no representative of the Irish National Teachers Organisation is a member of the special educational council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3894/04]

In establishing the new National Council for Special Education I did not set out to create a council which was representative of any particular sectoral interests, as I feel that it is very important that the council should operate in a cohesive, non-representative way. I have put in place a group of people with a wide range of knowledge and experience in this area. I did consult the INTO, along with other representative groups, prior to making appointments to membership of the council.

Schools Building Projects.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

269 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will give consideration to the plans for Coláiste Mhuire in Buttevant, County Cork, in view of the urgent need of accommodation and that the school situation remains as it was in 2003. [3895/04]

A large-scale building project for Coláiste Pobail Naomh Mhuire, Buttevant, County Cork, is listed in section nine of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website at www.education.ie. This project is at early stages of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band two rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which, in turn, will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Special Educational Needs.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

270 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will give consideration to the appointment of a resource teacher to Clonpriest national school in Youghal, County Cork, with regard to the revisions of the process-criteria so as to enable a pupil to receive learning support. [3896/04]

The school referred to by the Deputy has the services of a full-time and part-time resource teacher together with a shared learning support teacher. My Department has received a further application for special educational resources, SER, from the school.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including the one made by this school, are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nation-wide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

Schools Building Projects.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

271 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will give consideration to the plans for Kilcreadan national school in Ladysbridge, County Cork, in view of the urgent need of extra accommodation, the alleviation of flooding and the upgrading of the sewerage system. [3897/04]

A large-scale building project for Kilcreadan national school is listed in section nine of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website at www.education.ie. This project is at early stages of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band three rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

School Curriculum.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

272 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the details of who was, over the past five years, and who is currently in charge of music inspection in primary schools; the person who is responsible for the delivery of the music in the new curriculum demands of 1999; the numbers and locations of those recruited to deliver the required inservice training in music to fulfil the aspiration of the new curriculum; the level of cross-Border support that has been sought in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3908/04]

Music in primary schools is inspected by primary inspectors. Each inspector is responsible for the inspection of the entire curriculum, which has been drawn up as an integrated whole. Inspectors do not specialise in particular curriculum areas. Primary inspectors are assigned schools on a geographical basis. Each regional team of inspectors is managed by an assistant chief inspector.

The primary curriculum support programme is responsible for the delivery of inservice training in music as outlined in the primary curriculum 1999. Class teachers are responsible for delivery of the curriculum at school level. It is planned that a team of approximately 26 trainers will deliver the required inservice training in music to teachers in 2004-05 with a view to implementing the music curriculum in primary schools the following year. This number is based on the experience of the primary curriculum support programme in delivering inservice training for six subjects to date.

The primary curriculum support programme is in contact on an ongoing basis with the advisers attached to the western library board of Northern Ireland. Our schools have a long and proud tradition in teaching music and I am committed to ensuring that schools continue their excellent work in this regard.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

273 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of meetings that have taken place in the last six months between either himself and his officials or the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism and his officials with regard to developing a strategy for the delivery of the new music curriculum in schools or the general issue of arts in education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3909/04]

The information requested by the Deputy in regard to meetings is being gathered at present and will be forwarded as soon as it is available.

A grant totalling £6.1 million was issued to all schools in December 2000 in order to support schools in the implementation of the arts education section of the curriculum. The aim of the grant was to facilitate the purchase of necessary teaching and learning materials. The new primary curriculum, launched in 1999 and being implemented on a phased basis, is accompanied by detailed guidelines for teachers in respect of each subject area. The curriculum is also accompanied by a support programme which provides professional development for teachers, including organising seminars for teachers, visiting schools and providing tailored support for individual schools and clusters of schools. To date, the following aspects of the primary curriculum have been implemented and fully supported by the PCSP: English, Gaeilge, mathematics, visual arts, science and social, and personal and health education.

This year, following a request from teachers' representatives, I announced a year of consolidation and review of areas of the curriculum that have already been introduced. Music is one of the next subjects to be introduced. It is planned that the in-career development programme for music will take place in the school year 2004-05. All primary teachers will receive training in the new programme during that year. Teachers will begin to implement the programme during the following school year. In preparation for this roll-out, a team of trainers for music and an assistant national co-ordinator who has particular responsibility for this team have been selected. The role of this team is to plan supports for the implementation of the music curriculum. These trainers also work closely with the education centre network in the provision of evening and summer courses.

Religious Orders Indemnity Scheme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

274 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of claims notified to him pursuant to clause 6(A) of the deed of indemnity dated 5 June 2002, made between him and certain religious congregations; the number of such claims classed as existing and as future claims; the number of such claims in each category of which he had previously no formal notice; the number of such claims in each category in which no State or public body had either been joined as a defendant or had been put on notice that they were liable to be joined as a co-defendant; the number of cases where, pursuant to clause 5(A) of the agreement, he has taken over the defence of legal proceedings to which the indemnity applies, specifying whether he or any other State or body had been a defendant in those proceedings prior to their being taken over; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3930/04]

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available within my Department. In the circumstances, I have asked my officials to examine the various questions raised by the Deputy with a view to issuing a comprehensive reply as soon as possible.

Special Educational Needs.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

275 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the current shortage of places for children with autism in applied behaviour analysis schools; if he has received the proposal put forward by The Saplings to open a second school; when he proposes to sanction this much needed essential education service for young disabled children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3942/04]

I am anxious that all children, including children with autistic spectrum disorders receive education appropriate to their needs. There are seven facilities in the State operating on a pilot-project basis and using alternative educational methods for teaching children on the autistic spectrum. Three of the seven are CABAS facilities, whose teaching method involves a comprehensive application of behaviour analysis to schooling approach.

A decision regarding the retention of these establishments will be made in light of an evaluation of provision for children with an autistic spectrum disorder carried out by my Department's inspectorate. It is envisaged that the outcome of the evaluation will be determined and a decision taken on the future of the facilities during the course of the current school year.

My Department is actively considering an application from The Saplings, Kildare, for autistic provision in south County Dublin. My officials are liaising with my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, in this regard. A response will issue to the applicants as quickly as possible.

Youth Services.

John Bruton

Question:

276 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the inability of Kentstown accordion band of Duleek to gain funds by way of grants from his Department in view of the fact that its members are deemed ineligible due to the fact that they are amateurs; and the funds which are available to them from his Department. [3955/04]

The youth affairs section of my Department operates a number of funding schemes to support those providing youth work programmes and services in Ireland. This consists mainly of grant-in-aid assistance for national and major regional youth work organisations and the special projects for disadvantaged youth grant scheme.

Funding is not available to Kentstown accordion band, Duleek, as it would not come within the remit of these schemes. However, the youth affairs section also supports youth clubs at local level by way of its local youth club grant scheme. This scheme, which is administered by the local vocational education committees on behalf of my Department, provides once-off grants and is advertised locally on an annual basis. It would be open to Kenstown accordion band to apply to County Meath VEC for funding under this scheme.

Special Educational Needs.

Finian McGrath

Question:

277 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if the maximum support and assistance will be given to Enable Ireland school, Sandymount, Dublin 4, in granting a special needs assistant to a person (details supplied) and in granting support for more modern IT equipment; and if these will be made priority issues. [3956/04]

I am anxious that all children, including the child in question, receive the resources appropriate to their needs. My officials are considering the application referred to by the Deputy and a response will issue to the school authorities as quickly as possible.

Richard Bruton

Question:

278 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the waiting list for a special school for children with autism in Dublin 5; and if appropriate education will be available for a person (details supplied) from September 2004. [3957/04]

I am anxious that all children, including children with autistic spectrum disorders receive education appropriate to their needs.

I understand from my officials that the pupil in question is enrolled in a special pre-school class for autism attached to a mainstream school in north Dublin. This class has a pupil teacher ratio of 6:1 and has the support of two special needs assistants. I further understand that ten hours' home tuition per week has been sanctioned for the pupil in question until the end of the current school year.

There are seven facilities in the State operating on a pilot-project basis and using alternative educational methods for teaching children on the autistic spectrum. Three of the seven are CABAS facilities, whose teaching method involves a comprehensive application of behaviour analysis to schooling approach.

A decision regarding the retention of these establishments will be made in light of an evaluation of provision for children with an autistic spectrum disorder carried out by my Department's inspectorate. It is envisaged that the outcome of the evaluation will be determined and a decision taken on the future of the facilities during the course of the current school year.

I understand that the pupil referred to by the Deputy is on a waiting list for the CABAS facility. Applications for enrolment in the CABAS project are a matter for the management of the facility.

Schools Building Projects.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

279 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason Aghina national school, Macroom, County Cork, has not received the go-ahead. [4014/04]

My Department will be in contact with the school authorities in the near future with a view to progressing this project.

Summer Works Scheme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

280 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science the details of all schools in County Kerry which have applied for funding under the summer works scheme. [4038/04]

Officials in the school planning section of my Department are in the process of registering and assessing all applications received for the summer works scheme 2004. Details of the result of this assessment and the schools which will receive funding will be published no later than 27 February 2004.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

281 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he intends to provide proper physical education facilities including an indoor PE facility with showers, toilets and changing rooms at the 1,027-student Loreto secondary school at Balbriggan, County Dublin; when he intends to do this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4039/04]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

282 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Loreto secondary school, Balbriggan, County Dublin, is unable to facilitate PE classes for sixth year students due to inadequate sports facilities; his views on this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4040/04]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

283 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that students taking PE classes in Loreto secondary school, Balbriggan, County Dublin, have to sit out classes due to inadequate facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4041/04]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

284 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are 1,027 students at Loreto secondary school, Balbriggan, County Dublin, and that the only indoor PE facilities it has is an extremely small space in a building constructed in 1909; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4042/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 281 to 284, inclusive, together.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that Loreto secondary school, Balbriggan, is one of 32 additional schools that will benefit from the further €30 million investment in school buildings that I announced last week. These schools will bring to more than 200 the number of schools with significant building projects to be authorised to go to tender and construction during 2004. My Department will be contacting the school regarding the accommodation to be provided and the delivery of the building project.

Special Educational Needs.

Pat Carey

Question:

285 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if the request of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 will be expedited for additional educational support for their child as detailed in reports supplied to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4054/04]

My Department has received an application for special education resources, SER, for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including the one made by this school, are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

Special Needs Assistants.

Phil Hogan

Question:

286 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason special needs assistants appointed after 1 September 2003 do not receive the same remuneration as assistants appointed prior to this date, even though there was a huge backlog of applicants with his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4055/04]

At primary level, special needs assistants employed on a full-time basis receive the same remuneration regardless of the date of appointment. The payment of special needs assistants employed in second level schools is a matter for the managerial authorities of each school.

The matter raised by the Deputy regarding the remuneration of special needs assistants in second level schools appointed after 1 September 2003 is being considered at present. The Deputy will be advised of the position.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

287 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount which was spent in his Department from January 2002 to December 2003 for media purposes and advertising; the areas in which the money was spent, that is, national papers, provincial papers, RTE radio, local radios and so on; the amounts spent on a year to year basis; and the amount of money which was spent on videos, whether for promotional, educational or advertising purposes. [4063/04]

The total expenditure incurred by my Department on advertising was €1,061,889 in 2002 and €919,570 in 2003. In 2002, advertising expenditure by category was as follows: print media €1,014,593; radio advertising €38,271; other advertising €9025. In 2003, advertising expenditure by category was as follows: print media €609,103; radio and television advertising €310,467.

The breakdown of expenditure between national and provincial media is not readily available. Some €1,271,192 was spent on the production of educational videos from January 2002 to December 2003.

Port Development.

Finian McGrath

Question:

288 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position regarding the proposed 52 acre infill in Dublin Bay; and the details of other developments in the bay in 2004. [4045/04]

Certain matters relating to the application by the Dublin Port Company for authorisation under the Foreshore Acts for the proposed reclamation of an area of foreshore in Dublin Bay are being pursued with the port company. These include matters concerning the environmental impact statement submitted with the application and queries relating to the title to the foreshore in question. Decisions on the further action to be taken in respect of the application will be made when these matters have been finalised.

Other proposed developments in the Dublin Bay area generally, in respect of which applications under the Foreshore Acts are being considered at present, include the construction of sea walls, railings and a reinforced concrete slab surface alongside the existing boat parking area at Strand Road, Sutton; construction of a breakwater at the rear of a private premises at Coliemore Road, Dalkey; a one hundred berth marina at Poolbeg for a private boat club; construction of a footbridge from City Quay to Custom House Quay; the repair and extension of an existing slipway to the rear of a private premises at Coliemore Road, Dalkey; relocation of a scout hut at Bull Island; reclamation of foreshore for construction of a boatyard and associated administration buildings at Howth harbour; and deepening and extension of berthage at the Dublin ferry terminal cargo terminal.

Harbours and Piers.

Simon Coveney

Question:

289 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the level of funding available towards dredging costs at Buncrana, County Donegal. [3628/04]

Buncrana harbour is owned by Donegal County Council and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance.

In November 2003 the county council submitted a proposal to my Department for funding to dredge Buncrana harbour at an estimated cost of €200,000. The question of providing funding for this project in the 2004 to 2006 period will depend on the amount of Exchequer funding available for works at fishery harbours generally and overall national priorities.

Mayo Landslide.

Martin Ferris

Question:

290 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will make a statement on the report presented recently to Mayo County Council on the recent landslide at Pollathomas; and his views on whether this contradicts the reports which he had earlier received from Enterprise Energy Ireland to which he referred in replies he gave to Question No. 333 of 7 October 2003 and Questions Nos. 256 and 255 of 21 October 2003. [3634/04]

I am not in a position to respond to the Deputy's question as the report referred to in his question has not been made available to me.

Telecommunications Services.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

291 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when broadband will be available in Kanturk, Charleville, Millstreet and Newmarket, County Cork. [3732/04]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private companies operating in a fully liberalised market regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. The Government recognises the importance of a balanced regional roll-out of broadband and, in this regard, is taking a series of initiatives to support and complement investment by the private companies operating in the market.

An indicative €200 million has been set aside for the current programme of broadband infrastructure developments under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. This includes funding for 19 metropolitan area networks in towns and cities across the country, the extension of digital subscriber lines by both Eircom and Esat BT, the construction of a third national fibre trunk network by the ESB, and other regional broadband investment initiatives.

In my recent announcement of the broadband action plan, I outlined the proposals to stimulate broadband-capable infrastructural investment throughout Ireland. The key elements of the plan include the provision of broadband infrastructure in more than 90 towns with a population of 1,500 people using community broadband exchanges and strategic fibre. Both Kanturk and Charleville are such towns. A new group broadband scheme, similar to the group water schemes, is proposed for smaller communities to pool their demand and secure high speed connectivity from a range of service providers, with grant assistance from the Government under the scheme.

A multi-annual budget of €140 million has been committed to the broadband action plan in partnership with the local authorities and in co-operation with the telecoms industry here. Operational details for the broadband action plan are now being finalised, and I expect to be able to make a full announcement shortly.

The dedicated website www.broadband.gov.ie which was launched today, will allow broadband consumers to register their interest and to see the details of prices and availability of broadband services in their area. It is possible to obtain broadband services anywhere in Ireland at the moment, using one of the satellite and wireless service providers such as Amocom Satellite, Digiweb, Media Sat, South West Regional Authority or applied Dot Solutions Limited. A full list of approved providers can be obtained from the www.comreg.ie website or telephone 01-804 6900.

Harbours and Piers.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

292 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if Dingle Harbour will be given the same recognition as the other fishing ports, Killybegs, Rossaveel and Castletownbere in view of the many promises that were made by several Ministers for the Marine; the reason Dingle has not been designated as a fishery harbour centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3847/04]

The five fishery harbour centres at Howth, Dunmore East, Castletownbere, Rossaveel and Killybegs are owned by my Department and are directly managed by the Department under the Fishery Harbour Centres Acts 1968 to 1998. These arrangements are subject to ongoing review in the context of further streamlining of the executive functions of the Department. The position of Dingle Harbour will be considered in the context of that review.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

293 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the annual cost of wages, insurance, health and safety and maintenance, involved in running each of the following harbours, Killybegs, Rossaveel, Castletownbere and Dunmore East; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3848/04]

The five fishery harbour centres at Howth, Dunmore East, Castletownbere, Rossaveel and Killybegs are directly managed by my Department under the Fishery Harbour Centres Acts 1968 to 1998. In 2002, the last year for which complete figures are available, the operating costs of the five centres amounted to €1.814 million. The total amount of harbour dues collected from the five harbour centres in 2002 was €753,832.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

294 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if funds will be available to carry out dredging at Buncrana Harbour to facilitate launching and mooring of the RNLI lifeboat; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3849/04]

Buncrana Harbour is owned by Donegal County Council and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance. In November 2003, the county council submitted a proposal to my Department for funding to dredge Buncrana Harbour at an estimated cost of €200,000. The question of providing funding for this project in the 2004-2006 period will depend on the amount of Exchequer funding available for works at fishery harbours generally and overall national priorities.

Electricity Generation.

Conor Lenihan

Question:

295 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the plans he has to open up the power supply sector to competition; and the timescale he envisages for the opening of competition in this area. [3889/04]

In the context of the liberalisation of the Irish electricity market, the supply sector is defined as that part of the market concerned with the sale of electricity to customers purchasing it for their own use. Liberalisation of the electricity market is well under way and is proceeding on a phased basis under the regulatory oversight of the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER. As provided for in the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 — No. 23 of 1999 — any party can apply to the CER, for the necessary authorisations to build new plant, a licence to generate and — or a licence to supply. Details of the authorisations and licences issued to date by the CER can be found on its website at www.cer.ie.

The first phase of liberalisation was introduced with effect from 19 February 2000 by virtue of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999, in accordance with the EU Electricity Directive 96/92/EC, concerning common rules for the internal market in electricity, which was in force at that time. Ireland exceeded the requirements of that directive by opening 31% of the market, whereby 400 or so of the largest electricity customers became eligible to source their electricity from licensed electricity suppliers other than the ESB. In addition, all customers became free to purchase electricity from any green or combined heat and power, CHP, licensed supplier from February 2000 and April 2001 respectively.

The second tranche of electricity market opening took place on 19 February 2002 when 40% of the electricity supply market, representing some 1,600 customers all large businesses and many medium-sized businesses, became free to shop around for keener prices in the competitive market. The third increment of market opening will take place within the next fortnight.

On 19 February next, the current level of electricity market opening will increase from 40% to 56% by virtue of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 (Eligible Customer) (Consumption of Electricity) Order 2003 — SI No. 632 of 2003. This further step of market opening will allow an additional 12,000 or so industrial and commercial customers, whose annual consumption is greater than 1 giga watt hour, to source their electricity from independent electricity suppliers. It will result in a seven-fold increase in the target customer base for independent players in the market. The Electricity Regulation Act 1999 (Eligible Customer) (Consumption of Electricity) Order 2003 also provides for the full liberalisation of the electricity market in one year. On 19 February 2005, every customer will be eligible to source their electricity from any supplier licensed by the CER. This date is well in advance on the July 2007 deadline for full liberalisation of electricity markets set down in the recently adopted EU Electricity Directive 2003/54/EC.

State Companies.

Conor Lenihan

Question:

296 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the plans he has for the future of the ESB; and his views on whether the company should be further capitalised but remain in State hands. [3890/04]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the ownership of the ESB. Current Government policy is that the most appropriate form of ownership or structure of State companies will be approached on a case-by-case basis. I have no plans to change the ownership of the ESB and I cannot see a case or need to inject Exchequer funding into the company.

Foreshore Licences.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

297 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in relation to a foreshore lease (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3891/04]

An application was made to my Department by the organisation in question for a foreshore lease in respect of reclamation works. Having considered the application, the Department asked the organisation concerned to provide information on certain matters. A reply was received last month, together with a request that the proposed rental, that had been communicated to the organisation, be reconsidered. The matter is now being reconsidered taking account of this response. A decision on whether the lease will be granted will be conveyed to the organisation as soon as possible.

Marina Development.

Jack Wall

Question:

298 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of grants awarded by his Department in regard to the development of marinas for each of the past three years; if grants were paid for inland marina; if not, the plans his Department has to investigate such applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3975/04]

The Deputy will be aware that an allocation of €5.7 million was provided for marine leisure projects as part of the 2000 budget and that four projects were chosen as flagship projects for marine access infrastructure development in the State. The projects and their grant allocations were as follows:

Projects

Total

Cahirciveen, Co. Kerry

2,540,000

Kenmare, Co. Kerry

752,550

Rosses Point, Co. Sligo

1,270,000

Roundstone, Co. Galway

1,160,000

Payments in respect of these projects are asfollows.

Projects

2000

2001

2002

2003

Amount

Cahirciveen, County Kerry

Nil

2,114,084

425,392

Nil

2,539,476

Kenmare, County Kerry

Nil

332,312

Nil

Nil

332,312

Rosses Point, County Sligo

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Roundstone, County Galway

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

An allocation has been made in the 2004 Estimates in respect of the commitment to the outstanding allocation to projects at Kenmare, Rosses Point and Roundstone but no payments have been made to date this year. Primary responsibility for development of the inland waterways rests with the North-South body, Waterways Ireland, and the provision of grant aid for such development is a matter for that body.

Harbours and Piers.

Niall Blaney

Question:

299 Mr. Blaney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the planning application in relation to Greencastle Harbour has been submitted to An Bord Pleanála; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3984/04]

Greencastle Harbour is owned by Donegal County Council and responsibility for its repair, maintenance and development rests with the local authority in the first instance. Officials from my Department and the county council have been progressing the project including preparation of the necessary planning application documentation. The planning application to An Bord Pleanála in relation to the proposed development at the harbour falls to be made by Donegal County Council.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

300 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount which was spent in his Department from January 2002 to December 2003 for media purposes and advertising; the areas in which the money was spent, that is, national papers, provincial papers, RTE radio, local radios and so on; the amounts spent on a year to year basis; and the amount of money which was spent on videos, whether for promotional, educational or advertising purposes. [4064/04]

The information sought by the Deputy is in the table at appendix I. The expenditure relates primarily to advertisements in the print media as statutory notices of statutory instruments, mining and exploration licences and leases, afforestation grants and aquaculture licences, calls for tender, consultation notices, notices in relation to foreshore development and fishery bye laws, recruitment advertising and advertising in relation to NDP projects. Appendix II gives a breakdown of the advertising and promotional expenditure incurred by the Irish Coastguard on water safety campaigns.

Appendix I.

Breakdown of media and promotional expenditure by the Department in 2002 and 2003.

Area of Department

Expenditure 2002

Expenditure 2003

Communications

Broadcasting

18,874

12,102

Communications Development

400

19,266

Communications Regulation

4,317

11,385

Digital Hub

1,730

Postal Division

1,708

Marine

Sea Fish Admin. & Harbours

17,116

4,427

Sea Fish Policy & Development

117,554

113,000

Inland Fish & Aquaculture

16,103

29,116

Coastal Zone Management

12,075

13,617

Maritime Safety & Environment

24,804

26,031

Sea Fisheries Control

6,961

Engineering

2,386

3,726

Maritime Transport

2,609

Irish Coast Guard

6,321

120,461

Natural Resources

Electricity Regulation

5,047

2,174

Peat Division

25

Oil Supply Division

20.00

Gas Policy

5,571

Gas Corporate

17

Renewable Energy

14,724

Sustainable Energy

140

Exploration & Mining Division

31,029

39,790

Petroleum / Exploration

5,336

60,053

Forestry Administration

114,944

61,237

COFORD

16,247

Geological Survey Video

10,747

National Development Plan

39,685

Support Units

S.M.I./I.T./Research

20,548

Corporate Management

5,504

363

Human Resources Division

1,950

3,772

Services

16,461

Central Division

36,725

Appendix II.

Breakdown of expenditure incurred by the Irish Coastguard on advertising and promotion in 2002 and 2003.

Area

Expenditure 2002

Expenditure 2003

Print Media

6,321

21,349

TV/Radio

nil

77,107

Video

nil

9,000

Internet

nil

13,005

Total

6,321

120,461.

Sports Capital Programme.

Seán Crowe

Question:

301 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on a requirement to receive funding under the sports capital programme that the accounts of an applicant be up to date and the annual returns lodged. [3594/04]

The various requirements which have to be met by organisations seeking funding under my Department's sports capital programme are set out in detail in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme, which have been prepared for the information of applicants. There is no requirement that the accounts of an applicant be up to date or annual accounts lodged.

The financial viability of a project is among the key assessment criteria used in considering applications for funding. It is essential to have confirmation that, in addition to funding provided under the programme, the club or organisation in question has sufficient funds or commitments to funding to complete the project within a realistic timeframe. In addition, it is necessary to have assurances on the extent to which the applicant will be able to maintain the project after completion, given realistic projections of income from the project. Accordingly, an applicant must furnish, with the application form, proof of the organisation's own funding contribution in the form of a recent statement from the financial institution in which their funding is held as well as written confirmation of any proposed loan or overdraft facility with a financial institution.

I am satisfied that the requirements to be met by organisations are appropriate and adequate to enable an effective assessment to be carried out on their applications in accordance with the published criteria of the sports capital programme.

Seán Crowe

Question:

302 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the reason funding was given to the Firhouse Community and Leisure Club in 1999; and the purpose for which this money was to be used. [3595/04]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is run on an annual basis.

Firhouse Community and Leisure Club Limited applied for grant assistance under the 1999 sports capital programme. All applications were evaluated by my Department in accordance with the assessment criteria for the programme published in the guidelines, terms and conditions for that programme. In July 1999, this organisation was allocated a grant of €126,974 towards the extension of an existing sports and leisure centre. Full payment of the grant was completed in June 2002.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

303 Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the reason a significant amount of money allocated under the sports capital programme grants as far back as 2000 has not been drawn down; his plans to remedy this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3226/04]

Under my Department's sports capital programme, grants are allocated to sporting and to voluntary and community organisations for the provision of sporting and recreational facilities and equipment. Through the programme, this and the previous Government have provided unprecedented levels of funding for sport and its infrastructure in this country by allocating almost €267 million in funding to over 3,500 projects since 1998. Under the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme, a sunset clause provision exists for a grant to be withdrawn if within 15 months of the date of allocation the grantee is unable to satisfy the Department that it is in the process of drawing down the grant. In a number of cases each year delays arise on the part of the grantees themselves for a variety of reasons. These include supplying legal, financial and other documentation requested by my Department.

Through ongoing consultation by my Department with the legal and technical advisers to the programme, the CSSO and the Office of Public Works respectively, improvements have been made in dealing with those aspects of grant draw-down. The rate of grant withdrawals by my Department has accelerated in recent years. A total of 131 withdrawals valued at over €3.9 million were made during 2003 and already in 2004 withdrawals to the value of over €800,000 have been carried out. It is my intention that the rate of withdrawals will be increased still further, while taking into account that there are circumstances in which a timeframe greater than provided in the sunset clause provision is required to enable the grantee to deliver the project. An example of such circumstances might be if the project involved was in a highly disadvantaged area or of significance in terms of a large integrated multi-sport project.

It should also be noted that there are a considerable number of projects for which 95% payment has been achieved with the remaining 5% of each retained pending the receipt of a certification of completion of the defects liability period of the project by my Department in each case. This is in line with my Department's procedures for sports capital funding. The certificate of completion is generally available about a year following the second last payment for the grant.

John Perry

Question:

304 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, further to parliamentary Question No. 200 of 25 June 2003 (details supplied), when a decision will be made on an application in County Leitrim; the amount of funding which will be granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3724/04]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis and a separate application for funding must be made for each year for which an applicant requests funding.

Following an evaluation of all of the applications received under the 2003 programme, I announced details of the projects for which funding was being allocated in July 2003. The application from the club in question was unsuccessful and the club was advised accordingly on 5 August 2003. The 2003 programme is now closed and no further grants will be allocated under this programme. The 2004 sports capital programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. A total of 1,302 applications were received before the closing date, including one from the organisation in question. All applications are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

School Curriculum.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

305 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of meetings that have taken place in the past six months between himself and his officials and the Minister for Education and Science and his officials on developing a strategy for the delivery of the new music curriculum in schools or the general issue of Arts in Education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3910/04]

The delivery of the new music curriculum in schools is a matter for the Minister for Education and Science, as is the provision of art education in schools generally. There have been no meetings on these issues in the past six months.

Sports Capital Programme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

306 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will confirm that his Department has received an application for grant aid under the sports facility programme from an organisation (details supplied); the steps he will take to ensure that this group will be considered for such grant aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3945/04]

Willie Penrose

Question:

307 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will confirm that his Department has received an application for grant assistance under the sports facility programme from an organisation (details supplied); the steps he will take to ensure that it is considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3946/04]

Willie Penrose

Question:

308 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will confirm that his Department has received an application for grant assistance under the sports facility programme from an organisation (details supplied); the steps he will take to ensure that it is considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3947/04]

Willie Penrose

Question:

309 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will confirm that his Department has received an application for grant assistance under the sports facility programme from an organisation (details supplied); the steps he will take to ensure that it is considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3948/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 306 to 309, inclusive, together.

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

The 2004 sports capital programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. A total of 1,302 applications were received before the closing date, including one from each of the organisations in question. All applications are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

310 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the grants available for community halls which have sporting and youth facilities. [3954/04]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis. It is the only programme in my Department which provides funding towards community halls which incorporate sporting and youth facilities.

Jack Wall

Question:

311 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of applications for the capital sports grants (lottery funding) for 2004; the way this number compares to the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3968/04]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis. The 2004 sports capital programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004.

The number of applications to the programme for the years requested by the Deputy are as follows:

Year

No. of Applications

2004

1,302

2003

1,337

2002

1,364

2001

1,467

The applications received under the 2004 programme are currently being evaluated against its assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

International Agreements.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

312 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if there has been contact between his Department and the Bulgarian Ministry of Sports and Youth, including discussions in relation to a bilateral sports agreement; if any of the Irish Olympians will avail of the training opportunities in that country, close to the site of the 2004 Olympics in Greece; and if there are future plans to enhance the sports relations between both countries. [3982/04]

Senior officials of my Department met with a representative of the Bulgarian Ministry of Youth and Sports on 12 December 2003, for preliminary discussions on the possibility of agreeing sporting exchanges between Ireland and Bulgaria. My Department is now awaiting receipt of proposals from the Ministry on behalf of any Bulgarian sports federations which may be interested in sharing experiences and expertise with Irish sports organisations. When these proposals are received, the matter will be further considered in consultation with the Irish Sports Council, the statutory body responsible for the promotion and development of sport in Ireland.

The question of training camps in preparation for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games is a matter in the first place for the Olympic Council of Ireland, who it is understood, have already established their pre-Olympic facilities.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

313 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount which was spent in his Department from January 2002 to December 2003 for media purposes and advertising; the areas in which the money was spent, that is, national papers, provincial papers, RTE radio, local radios and so on; the amounts spent on a year to year basis; and the amount of money which was spent on videos, whether for promotional, educational or advertising purposes. [4065/04]

The expenditure for media and advertising purposes by my Department for the period in question was €224,255. The cultural institutions spent €425,167 under these headings. The amount spent on advertising that related to the Department was €167,815. In addition, €278,054 was spent by the cultural institutions on advertising. This sum related largely to advertising in the national newspapers and magazines with some expenditure by the cultural institutions on advertising in local press and radio. Media expenditure by the Department amounted to €56,440. In addition, €147,113 was spent by the cultural institutions on external public relations consultants, media marketing, photography and media monitoring. There was no expenditure on videos during this period.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

314 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow will receive speech therapy services to enable them attend mainstream school. [3570/04]

The provision of health related services, including speech and language therapy, for people with physical and, or, sensory disabilities is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards in the first instance. Accordingly, the Deputy's question has been referred to the chief executive officer of the Eastern Regional Health Authority with a request that he examine the matter and reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

Health Board Services.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

315 Mr. O'Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding will be made available for major works at Millbrook Lawns Health Centre, Dublin 24; if his attention has been drawn to the anxiety of the local community that this issue be finally progressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3571/04]

My Department has recently met with the Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA, and local representatives to discuss this project. I fully appreciate the anxiety of the local community regarding the upgrading of this facility. My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Finance is examining this particular proposal in the context of an overall review of capital priorities for 2004 and beyond. This review will be completed as soon as possible. My Department will continue to liaise closely with the ERHA in relation to progressing this project.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Liz McManus

Question:

316 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children when breast screening is to be in place for women, who in the west and south are at a serious disadvantage in not having breast cancer identified at an early and curable stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3572/04]

The national roll-out of BreastCheck, which I announced last year, requires detailed planning to include essential infrastructure. The BreastCheck clinical unit in the southern area will be located at South Infirmary, Victoria Hospital, with three associated mobile units. Counties covered include Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Waterford and Tipperary south riding. The BreastCheck clinical unit in the western area will be at University College Hospital, Galway, with two associated mobile units. The area of coverage is counties Galway, Sligo, Roscommon, Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim, Clare and Tipperary North Riding. Two capital project teams, one in each region, have been established to develop a brief for the capital infrastructure needed for the static units in the south and west. The South Infirmary considered it necessary to commission a site strategy study to ensure the integration of the breast screening service into the present and future development of the hospital.

In 2004, my Department made available a capital grant of €230,000 for a site strategy study to be undertaken by professional architectural, engineering and quantity surveying experts on behalf of the hospital. It is expected that this study will be completed in March and April 2004. BreastCheck submitted a number of options for the construction of a static unit on the grounds of University College Hospital, Galway. This is being considered by my Department in the context of the framework for capital investment between 2004 and 2008 and is being discussed with the Department of Finance at present.

An essential element of the roll-out of the programme is investment in education and training of radiographers in particular. BreastCheck employs qualified and experienced radiographers who have specialised postgraduate training and qualifications related to mammography. BreastCheck and the symptomatic services combined have a significant ongoing recruitment and training requirement in this area. I also announced the development of a training centre for radiographers and mammography at Eccles Street. Resources are being made available to BreastCheck to support this initiative which will cost in excess of €750,000 and the centre is expected to be completed in the second half of 2004. Any woman irrespective of her age or residence who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.

Hospital Staff.

Liz McManus

Question:

317 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of the public relations and information campaign relating to the report of the National Task Force on Medical Staffing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3573/04]

My Department is arranging for an information campaign on the report of the National Task Force on Medical Staffing. In line with EU procurement guidelines, the campaign is the subject of a formal tendering process, which is in progress. For competitive reasons, it would be inappropriate to specify a budget in the request for tender documents while candidate firms are preparing their proposals. I expect the contract to be awarded by my Department towards the end of this month.

Health Board Services.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

318 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures he has taken to assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; the measures he proposes to take to assist this person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3576/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services to young persons with specific needs such as the individual mentioned by the Deputy in the Dublin region is a matter, in the first instance, for the Eastern Regional Health Authority. While it is not usual practice to comment on individual cases, given that detailed reports have already appeared in the media, I will comment on a number of aspects of this case.

The Eastern Regional Health Authority has informed my Department that following a review of all of this young man's records, some of which were only recently made available to the South Western Area Health Board, the advice now available to the board confirms that he requires a specialist service designed to meet his needs. The South Western Area Health Board has made arrangements for a comprehensive assessment of his needs to be carried out this week. The board has also been in contact with a number of service providers in relation to this person, including a facility in the United Kingdom which specialises in such cases. The outcome of this assessment will facilitate the board in its discussions with various services providers to source a suitable care package for him as quickly as possible.

It must be appreciated that a case such as this does not lend itself to easy solutions. The referral process now envisaged by the health authorities will be contingent on the individual himself agreeing to co-operate and attend a service. My Department has also been assured by the authority's regional chief executive that the question of providing funds should not be a hindering factor in this case nor will his age. The difficulty arises more in the identification of a suitable and appropriate placement which will provide the necessary care package to meet this person's complex needs.

National Health Promotion Strategy.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

319 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on the recent budget measure which introduces benefit-in-kind taxation for employees, when employers provide free medical check ups; and if this move is consistent with the Government's preventative health policy. [3579/04]

The introduction of benefit in kind for employees when employers provide free medical check ups is a matter for the Minister for Finance. However, routine medical check ups by employees give rise to many health benefits especially in relation to promoting the health of the workforce and preventing disease. The National Health Promotion Strategy 2000-2005 sets out the policy framework to promote the health of the population. The health promotion unit of my Department works in partnership with other statutory and non-statutory bodies to create a health promoting supportive environment including educational measures, working with key groups and in key settings. The implementation of the national health promotion strategy and the cardiovascular health strategy have progressed the development of workplace health promotion, in particular through the appointment of workplace health promotion co-ordinators in each health board.

Health Board Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

320 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on whether the €11 million divided between all health boards since 2001 is adequate to implement the recommendations made in the report of the national advisory committee on palliative care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3587/04]

The publication of the report of the national advisory committee on palliative care was approved by Government and launched on 4 October 2001. The report describes a comprehensive palliative care service and acts as a blueprint for its development over a five to seven year period. My Department has provided funding to all the health boards on a pro-rata basis to commence the development of palliative care services in line with the recommendations in the report.

The report recommended that palliative care needs assessment studies should be carried out in each health board area and these studies are either completed or nearing completion. Information gleaned from these studies will inform the future development of palliative care services at health board level in consultation with the consultative and development committees which have been set up as recommended in the report. In addition, a paediatric palliative care needs assessment study is nearing completion and the report of the expert group on specialist design guidelines for palliative care settings is also nearing completion.

As the Deputy can see, my Department, the health boards and the voluntary sector are actively involved in planning for the development of palliative care services in line with the recommendations in the report of the national advisory committee. Funding is being provided for the development of such services on a incremental basis in line with the recommendations in the report.

Liz McManus

Question:

321 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the action which is being taken by each of the health boards with respect to the development of palliative care services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3588/04]

As the Deputy is aware, the development of palliative care services in this case is a matter for each health authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards to provide the information, which will be forwarded to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

Diabetes Incidence.

Finian McGrath

Question:

322 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason 50% of all amputations are related to diabetes; and the action he will take regarding this crisis. [3589/04]

Diabetes is a condition that is characterised by high blood glucose concentrations. The hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, helps the body to take energy from food and use it as fuel for the body. The raised glucose level occurs because the body is not producing sufficient insulin or the cells are resistant to the action of the insulin. The glucose is unable to get into the body's cells. There are two main types of diabetes mellitus, type 1, or insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, IDDM, accounts for approximately 10% of cases. It affects mainly young people and requires lifelong treatment with insulin. Type 2, or non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, NIDDM, accounts for 90% of all cases. It affects mainly middle aged or elderly people and is associated with lifestyle factors. Tackling modifiable factors may be the most effective method of reducing the incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Diabetes is a chronic disease and it is estimated that 6% to 7% of the population may be suffering from the condition. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing due to a number of factors including the ageing of the population and lifestyle factors such as low physical activity, obesity, poor diet, etc. It is estimated that type 2 diabetes may be present for up to seven years before diagnosis and up to half of those diagnosed may have evidence of complications at diagnosis. Microvascular complications include those associated with eye, kidney or nerve damage. Macrovascular complications result in coronary artery disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease which are the main cause of death in diabetes mellitus. Peripheral vascular disease causes reduced blood supply to the extremities and when this blood supply deficiency reaches a critical point, amputation becomes inevitable.

The increasing prevalence of diabetes and the high incidence of complications means that such outcomes are becoming more frequent. The reduction of complications such as vascular disease and amputations depends on the earlier diagnosis of diabetes, better management as between hospital and primary care services and provision of services such as chiropody. With a view to identifying the most effective response to the growing diabetes problem, I have asked the chief medical officer to chair a multi-disciplinary working group comprising representatives of the relevant line divisions in the Department, the health boards and the Diabetes Federation of Ireland. The group has held its first meeting and I hope to have its recommendations before the summer.

Finian McGrath

Question:

323 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a diabetic patient has to wait 15 months to be seen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3590/04]

Finian McGrath

Question:

326 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if the maximum support and assistance will be given to the adult diabetic treatment centre at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9; and his plans to reduce the waiting list of 4,000. [3593/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 323 and 326 together.

Services at Beaumont Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to examine this issue and to reply to the Deputy directly. The Deputy may be aware that I have asked the chief medical officer of the Department of Health and Children to chair a working group which will examine the current and predicted epidemiology of diabetes, health promotion and preventive initiatives including screening, current service provision, including the need to achieve better integration of care using current resources and facilities, the expansion of shared care programmes and future needs in terms of service provision and staffing.

The group is comprised of officials of the Department, service providers and the Diabetes Federation of Ireland. The first meeting of the group took place recently and I look forward to receiving its report in due course.

Finian McGrath

Question:

324 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of public money spent on diabetes; and if there will be further spending in 2004. [3591/04]

The total amount spent on public moneys specifically dedicated to diabetes in 2003 was €49,356,252 as follows:

Programme

2003

Heartwatch (Primary Care Programme)

200,000

Diabetes Federation of Ireland

63,000

Community Health — Screening for diabetic retinopathy

230,000

Long Term Illness Scheme

48,863,252

Total

49,356,252

The national programme in general practice for the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, Heartwatch, commenced on 1 October 2002 and is being undertaken by the Department of Health and Children and the health authorities in partnership with the Irish College of General Practitioners and the Irish Heart Foundation. This programme caters for 1,000 people with diabetes in the Midland Health Board area at an annual cost of approximately €200,000.

The cardiovascular health strategy allocated funding of €63,000 in 2003 and 2004 to the Diabetes Federation of Ireland, DFI, for the post of diabetic nurse specialist. The additional post has enabled the DFI to provide an information database and helpline, development of national awareness of diabetes, development of detailed direction for early detection and prevention of diabetes, review of literature and health promotion initiatives.

Funding of €230,000 in 2003 and €110,000 in 2004 was allocated to community ophthalmic services screening for diabetic retinopathy. This programme allows early detection and treatment and reduces the incidence of visual impairment and blindness. The North Western Health Board has taken the lead in this area and is in the process of establishing a mobile diabetic retinopathy screening programme on a pilot basis using digital retinal photography. Diabetes mellitus qualifies as one of the illnesses for the long-term illness scheme. The drug costs associated with diabetes are €39,926,058 for 2002 and €48,863,252 for 2003 an increase of almost €9 million.

Patients with diabetes who present in the acute hospital system are often presenting for treatment of some other primary condition. The acute hospitals system treats these patients on a needs basis. There was no specific additional funding for diabetes in the 2003 and 2004 letters of determination to the ERHA and the health boards under the acute hospitals heading. When the Abridged Estimates for 2004 were published in November last year, I indicated that I would have the flexibility to manage the overall health services within funding subheads available to me, allowing me to prioritise a limited number of initiatives within the overall envelope of funding available to me. With a view to identifying the most effective response to the growing diabetes problem, I have asked the chief medical officer to chair a multidisciplinary working group comprising representatives of the relevant line divisions in the Department, the health boards and the Diabetes Federation of Ireland. The group has held its first meeting and I hope to have its recommendations before the summer. My Department will consider any funding proposals in relation to diabetes services in this overall context.

Finian McGrath

Question:

325 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if early treatment of diabetes will save public money in the long-term; and if he has strategies to deal with this crisis. [3592/04]

Diabetes mellitus, DM, is a condition characterised by high blood glucose concentrations. The hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, helps the body to take energy from food and use it as fuel for the body. The raised glucose level occurs because the body is not producing sufficient insulin or the cells are resistant to the action of the insulin. There are two main types of DM. Type 1, or insulin dependent DM, accounts for approximately 10% of cases. It affects mainly young people and requires lifelong treatment with insulin. Type 2, or non-insulin dependent DM, accounts for 90% of all cases. It affects mainly middle-aged or elderly people and is associated with lifestyle factors. Tackling modifiable factors may be the most effective method of reducing the incidence of type 2 DM.

Studies estimate that type 2 DM is present for on average seven years prior to diagnosis and up to half of those diagnosed may have evidence of complications at diagnosis. Micro vascular — small blood vessel — complications include those associated with eye, kidney or nerve damage. Macro vascular — large blood vessel — complications result in coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease, which are the main cause of premature death in diabetes mellitus. A total of 2,747 patients with a diagnosis of type 2 DM were discharged from hospital in 2002, an increase of 26% in the preceding two years. The corresponding figure for type 1 DM is 8,279, an increase of 9%. Approximately 400 people die each year where DM is listed as the primary cause of death. Diabetes results in a high cost to the health service mainly associated with treatment of preventable complications. Interventions aimed at preventing or delaying onset of complications are cost effective. International evidence indicates that detection and control of diabetes and its complications will lead to lower health care costs in the long term.

A range of services for persons with diabetes is provided by the health services generally and many initiatives have significant benefits for persons with diabetes and in the prevention of the disease. A particular case in point is the cardiovascular health strategy, which made a number of recommendations on the prevention of heart disease and these will help to reduce the occurrence of cardiovascular disease in persons with diabetes.

People with diabetes mellitus should be targeted by GPs to tackle cardiovascular risk factors. The strategy recommends that diabetics should be treated in the same manner as those non-diabetics who have had a myocardial infarct. The 47% increase in the frequency of prescriptions for cardiovascular disease for people covered by the General Medical Services Payments Board, reflects the increase in the numbers now being detected and treated with chronic heart failure. People with diabetes have a worse prognosis after myocardial infarct and should be treated intensively. The first phase of the Heartwatch programme being carried out under the cardiovascular strategy with the Irish College of General Practitioners and the Irish Heart Foundation includes up to 1,000 people with diabetes in the Midland Health Board. The third area of prevention under the cardiovascular health strategy refers to the implementation of the health promotion aspect of building healthier hearts. This, coupled with the implementation of the national health promotion strategy 2000-2005, is of direct benefit to diabetics.

The population approach being adopted through the implementation of these strategies addressing healthy eating and increasing exercise in the population, especially among children should, in the long term, reduce the numbers developing diabetes. Also in recent years, part of the €54 million funding for the implementation of the cardiovascular health strategy is providing for the appointment of 17 additional consultant cardiologists and 300 other hospital-based professional staff, resulting in the substantial increase in cardiology diagnostic and treatment services and providing more accessible, equitable and better quality care for patients with cardiac conditions.

Another major complication of diabetes is end stage renal disease requiring dialysis and possible transplantation. The evidence suggests that diabetes is the leading cause of this condition in western countries and some estimates indicate that between 30% and 50% of all patients beginning kidney dialysis are diabetics. A pilot Irish renal register compiled a number of years ago, indicated that diabetes caused end stage renal disease in 14% of patients beginning dialysis. The incidence of this condition and, therefore, the numbers requiring kidney dialysis in the future are expected to rise significantly as a result of the growing prevalence of diabetes and the ageing of the population in future years. In anticipation of this and other requirements for dialysis, significant investment of the order of €20 million has been made over the last number of years to develop renal services in response to this increased demand. This investment is supportive of the development of services on a regional basis so that patients do not have to travel long distances for dialysis and has facilitated the approval of five additional consultant nephrologists with the commissioning of a number of new dialysis units around the country. Furthermore, I have established a group to undertake a national review of renal services. This group will be charged with formulating a national framework for the future development and delivery of services in this area with a consequent improvement in services for the large number of diabetics who require this treatment.

Another area of frequent complication is that of retinal — eye — disease leading to blindness. The evidence of the value of screening for this condition is strong and currently my Department is supporting a pilot screening project in the North Western Health Board which has set the criteria of annual examination for those with diabetes, quality assurance written into the service and a programme integrated into the care plan for each patient. A total of €340,000 has been provided by the Department for this project. It is anticipated that the first patients will be screened in April 2004.

In the development of health promotion activities and materials, the Department works in partnership with the Diabetes Federation of Ireland. These developments include a national media campaign, Ireland Needs a Change of Heart, which includes an all-island physical activity campaign, Get a Life, Get Active, and the recent physical activity campaign, Let it Go. They also include the national healthy eating initiatives. At regional level, a broad range of service developments and initiatives occurred in the areas of smoking cessation, nutrition, physical activity and dissemination of good practice. These services work in co-operation with the Diabetes Federation of Ireland. The Department supports the employment of a diabetic nurse specialist by the Diabetes Federation of Ireland which has enhanced national awareness of diabetes, development of detailed direction for early detection and prevention of diabetes and many health promotion initiatives.

The primary care strategy, Primary Care: A New Direction, is intended to develop a model of care that will provide an appropriate structure to enable the shift in care from secondary specialist care to primary generalist care and deliver the full range of health, personal and social services appropriate to this setting. A primary care project that was established in the Southern Health Board as part of the implementation of the primary care strategy and which illustrates this point is located on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. The team has selected shared care of diabetes as one of its key initial priorities. It covers the entire population of the Dingle Peninsula and has been developed in co-operation between the GPs, the local health board and Tralee General Hospital. The main features of the programme include the establishment of a register, the use of opportunistic screening in domiciliary and practice settings for diabetes, a quality assurance and audit mechanism and participation in the diabetes quality of life study being led by UCC. It is an example of how structured shared care in primary care can be developed in a manner which works for both hospitals and primary care and most importantly, of how, especially in such a remote region, dependence on acute hospital care for people with diabetes can be appropriately reduced. Through further roll-out of the primary care strategy, further development of such programmes can be expected.

The national steering committee of the primary care strategy recently produced a framework for quality assurance in primary care. These guidelines have recommended that diabetes be chosen as the specific initial focus for the development of quality indicators in primary care. I recognise that more work needs to be done. After detailed consideration of issues relating to the treatment of diabetes and having had a series of meetings with the Diabetes Federation of Ireland to consider its strategy document, Diabetes Care: Securing the Future, I asked the chief medical officer to chair a working group consisting of officials of the Department of Health and Children, service providers and the Diabetes Federation of Ireland. The first meeting of the group took place on 30 January. The group hopes to report to me by the summer.

The working group will examine the current and predicted epidemiology of diabetes, health promotion and preventive initiatives including screening, current service provision including the need to achieve better integration of care using current resources and facilities and the expansion of shared care programmes and future needs in terms of service provision and staffing.

Question No. 326 answered with QuestionNo. 323.

Health Board Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

327 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo can be brought for immediate orthodontic treatment in view of their urgent need for same. [3596/04]

As the Deputy is aware, responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in County Mayo rests with the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Hospital Services.

Seán Crowe

Question:

328 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the use of resources in State and public hospitals by hospital consultants who conduct the business of their private practice; his views on whether this amounts to ethical conduct; if it is his view that enforcing properly accountable use of public funds might cut costs that could be better used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3598/04]

The provision of private care in public acute hospitals has been a long standing feature of the Irish health care system. The White Paper on Private Health Insurance 1999 sets out the advantages of allowing private practice on public hospital sites, as follows. It helps to ensure that medical and other staff of the highest calibre continue to be attracted into and retained in the public service. It promotes the efficient use of consultant's time by having public and private patients on the one site, it represents an additional income stream to the public hospital system, and it allows patients to avail of private health care when admitted as emergencies to public hospitals.

The consultants' common contract includes a provision to allow consultants treat private patients in public hospitals. Beds in public hospitals are designated public or private. On average, 20% of the beds in public hospitals are designated as private beds. The Government's health strategy, Quality and Fairness, contains a commitment to improve access to hospital services for public patients. This policy objective will be addressed through a series of integrated measures including increased capacity for public patients, use of the national treatment purchase fund to reduce waiting times for public patient, equity for public patients in a revised contract for consultants and clarification in relation to the rules governing access to public beds.

I am committed to ensuring that private practice within public hospitals will not be at the expense of fair access for public patients and I can assure the House that in the context of the on-going health reform programme every opportunity will be taken to reinforce the application of this principle in the health system.

Denis Naughten

Question:

329 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 741 of 27 January 2004, the plans his Department has to fund residential services for persons suffering from Alzheimer's disease in County Roscommon; the specialist residential services available to such patients in County Roscommon and the complement of beds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3603/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Roscommon area is a matter for the Western Health Board in the first instance. My Department has been informed by the Western Health Board that people suffering from Alzheimer's disease in County Roscommon are currently catered for in the Sacred Heart Hospital, Roscommon, in community nursing units in Boyle and Castlerea and in Aras Naomh Chaolain, Castlerea. The board has further stated that it has established a project team to prepare a brief for the development of a 12 bed unit within Our Lady's Unit in the Sacred Heart Hospital, Roscommon for people suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Following preparation of the project brief the board has stated that it will be seeking approval from my Department to appoint a design team for this project.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

330 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a query was sent by the Western Health Board to his Department, concerning blind welfare allowance entitlement policy in respect of persons aged over 16 years and under 18 years without dependants on 5 January 2004 and a reminder sent on 30 January 2004 has not been replied to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3613/04]

A reply has issued to the Western Health Board in response to the query raised regarding blind welfare allowance entitlement in respect of persons aged over 16 years and under 18 years.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Liz McManus

Question:

331 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children when cervical screening is to be rolled out; if the €2.5 million was allocated in 2002; if the €1.4 million in 2003 was adequate to meet the additional demands for cervical cytology laboratory services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3614/04]

Phase 1 of the national cervical screening programme has been up and running in the Mid-Western Health Board since October 2000. Under the programme, cervical screening is being offered at five year intervals to approximately 74,000 women in the 25 to 60 age group free of charge. The national health strategy includes a commitment to extend the programme to the rest of the country. The Health Boards Executive, HeBE, has initiated an examination of the feasibility and implications of a roll-out of the national programme which is a major undertaking with significant logistical and resource implications. The work currently being undertaken as part of the roll-out includes an evaluation of phase 1, policy development and the establishment of national governance arrangements. This work has regard to both the experiences gained from the phase 1 programme and other international programmes as well as current best practice.

The evaluation of phase 1 is a key element in informing the development of a high quality cervical screening model for Ireland. The evaluation is currently under way and it is anticipated that it will be completed within the next few months. Once completed, HeBE has advised that it will be in a position to prepare a draft roll-out plan. Over the last number of years my Department has allocated additional funding, including the amounts referred to by the Deputy, to support the ongoing development and enhancement of cervical cytology services including the achievement of a reduction in waiting times for smear test results. The funding has facilitated the employment of staff, provision of training, introduction of new technologies such as liquid-based cytology, investment in new equipment and upgrading of facilities. Further additional funding amounting to €500,000 was allocated in 2004 as part of a programme of continued investment in cervical cytology and colposcopy services.

Health Board Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

332 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will receive respite payments, and their family will receive the maximum clarification, advice and support. [3615/04]

In 1999, the then Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs introduced the respite care grant for recipients of carer's allowance. In 2000, the respite care grant was extended to beneficiaries of domiciliary care allowance. At the time it was decided that the then Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs would be responsible for paying the respite care grant to those providing care who are beneficiaries of the carer's allowance and benefit only, or the carer's allowance-benefit and domiciliary care allowance. It was also decided that the Department of Health and Children, via health boards, would be responsible for paying the respite care grant to those providing care who are beneficiaries of domiciliary care allowance but who are not in receipt of the carer's allowance and benefit.

The provision of health-related services for people with physical and-or-sensory disabilities is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards in the first instance. Accordingly, the Deputy's question has been referred to the chief executive officer of the South Eastern Health Board with a request that he examine the case and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Cancer Treatment Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

333 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children if equitable access regardless of location as a stated objective of the radiotherapy report is in practice a reality for terminally ill cancer patients who require radiotherapy for relief of pain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3616/04]

Liz McManus

Question:

334 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on whether patients in areas not facilitated by radiotherapy will not have access to radiotherapy for pain relief in the last period of their lives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3617/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 333 and 334 together.

As the Deputy is aware, I launched the report, The Development of Radiation Oncology Services in Ireland, in October 2003. I established the expert group on radiotherapy services to ensure that we effectively plan the current and future development of this element of cancer care. Palliative care was identified as a particular issue in relation to radiotherapy services and the expert group included a consultant in palliative care among its membership. The report provides a detailed plan for the further development of radiation oncology services in this country. The Government has accepted the recommendations of this report.

The Government accepts that there is under-capacity in radiation oncology services at present. The model of radiation oncology service proposed in the report provides a framework that provides improved access for all patients, including patients who require radiotherapy for palliation. The implementation of the report's recommendations is the single most important priority in cancer services in the acute hospital setting. Since the launch of the report, I have approved the purchase of two additional linear accelerators for the Cork centre and the necessary capital investment, amounting to more than €4 million, to commission this service as rapidly as possible.

In 2004, €1 million ongoing revenue funding is being made available for the development of these services at Cork University Hospital. I will also provide for the appointment of two additional consultant radiation oncologists in the Cork unit. This means a doubling of the consultant manpower at that unit. Discussions are taking place with Cork University Hospital in relation to the sessional commitments of the additional consultant radiation oncologists which will include significant sessional commitments to both the South Eastern and Mid-Western Health Boards. I have also approved the appointment of a project team to prepare a brief for the rapid expansion of current capacity at Cork University Hospital from four to eight linear accelerators. This project team is meeting for the first time this week.

I am making available €2.5 million ongoing revenue funding to ensure that the necessary resources are in place to allow for the commissioning of the radiation oncology centre in University College Hospital, Galway. Approval issued last year for the appointment of a consultant radiation oncologist. I will also provide for the appointment of an additional two consultant radiation oncologists. Discussions are taking place with the Western Health Board in relation to the sessional commitments of these consultants, which will include significant sessional commitments to both the Mid-Western Health Board and the North Western Health Board.

I have requested the Western Health Board to prepare a development control plan to facilitate the expansion from three to six linear accelerators in the medium term. I have also approved the establishment of a project team to plan this expansion. These developments will significantly improve access to these services. In relation to the Eastern region, the report recommends that there should be two treatment centres, one serving the southern part of the region and adjacent catchment areas and one serving the northern part of the region and adjacent catchment areas. I have asked the chief medical officer of my Department to advise on the optimum location of radiation treatment facilities in Dublin. A detailed request for proposals will issue shortly in this regard.

It is my intention to develop a national integrated network of radiation oncology. The twin objectives of equitable access regardless of location and an effective national quality assurance programme need to be supported by a co-ordinating mechanism, as recommended in the report. I have now established a national radiation oncology co-ordinating group. The group, which recently held its first meeting, comprises clinical, technical, managerial, academic and nursing expertise from different geographic regions. The group's remit encompasses measures to facilitate improved access to existing and planned services, including transport and accommodation. The group is developing proposals in this area which will involve consultation with all health boards.

In addition, the Government has also decided that, in the future development of services, consideration should be given to developing satellite centres at Waterford, Limerick and the north-west. Such consideration will take into account the international evaluation of satellite centres, the efficacy of providing this model and the need to ensure quality standards of care.

Health Board Services.

John Perry

Question:

335 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will be called for treatment in view of their extenuating circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3637/04]

Responsibility for the provision of health services to persons living in County Sligo rests with the North Western Health Board. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Hospital Services.

Barry Andrews

Question:

336 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will make a statement on the status of St. Michael's Hospital, Dún Laoghaire and of St. Colmcille's Hospital, Loughlinstown, in relation to current services provided and proposals for changes in those services in view of the Hanly report. [3648/04]

The report of the national task force on medical staffing — Hanly — proposes that the hospitals referred to by the Deputy should form part of an integrated network alongside St. Vincent's University Hospital to meet the acute hospital needs of the east coast region. The report recommends that St. Columcille's Hospital, Loughlinstown, and St. Michael's Hospital, Dún Laoghaire, should be local hospitals within the network. The Hanly report recommends that local hospitals should provide a wide range of services as close as possible to the local community, meeting most of the local population's need for acute hospital care. This would include a greatly expanded proportion of elective day surgery and elective medical procedures, appropriate diagnostic and treatment facilities and improved access for general practitioners to services and diagnostic facilities.

I will shortly announce details of a local implementation group, which will develop a detailed action plan for the implementation of the Hanly report's recommendations in the east coast region.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

337 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 452 of 4 November 2003, if an application for a medical card will be expedited in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and the reason the matter has not been resolved in view of the serious medical circumstances involved. [3655/04]

Responsibility for the provision of a medical card is, by legislation, a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health authority. I understand that the Deputy raised this matter previously in a parliamentary question last November and was subsequently informed by the South Eastern Health Board that there was a medical card valid until the end of November 2003 in this case and that the renewal of this card was being assessed at that time. My Department has further asked the CEO of the South Eastern Health Board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Health Board Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

338 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if, due to the lengthy delay in the publication of two reports dealing with Galway Hospice, one by the hospice itself, and the other by the Western Health Board, he will facilitate the intervention of an independent professional authority to make the residential beds in the hospice available to the public. [3668/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services, including hospices services, in the Galway area is a matter for the Western Health Board in the first instance. The Galway Hospice Foundation, has for the past number of years, provided a valuable service to cancer patients and their families in the west. I am aware that there are difficulties surrounding the operation of the in-patient unit at the Galway Hospice and that no new patients are being admitted at present. However, home care and day care services are continuing to be provided to approximately 100 patients by the foundation with those patients who require consultant-led specialist in-patient care being admitted to University College Hospital, Galway. The Western Health Board has informed my Department that an independent expert group was established by the Galway Hospice Foundation to review procedures at the hospice and that it is expected that the report of the expert group will be available in the near future. In tandem with this review, the board is also conducting an internal review in relation to allegations made against one of its consultants and this review is ongoing.

The board has assured my Department that it is anxious that both reviews be completed as quickly as possible and that it will continue to work in partnership with the board of the Galway Hospice Foundation to deliver quality palliative care services to the people of the west. In the circumstances, I do not consider that it would be appropriate to intervene at this stage, but I can assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to monitor the situation actively.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Dan Neville

Question:

339 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when moneys will be paid under the refund scheme operated through the GMS payments board for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick who is eligible for a refund under the drugs payments scheme. [3670/04]

My Department put in place a refund scheme to process applications from people who may be eligible for a refund due to the delay in putting the drugs payment scheme on a statutory basis. The scheme was advertised in the national press on 26 June 2003 and again on 12 and 14 September for the extension of the closing date for applications to 31 October. The GMS payments board is operating the scheme on behalf of the Department. I have had inquiries made in the matter and I understand the board was unable to process the claim due to a discrepancy in the details of the claim. The board is in the process of resolving the issue.

Health Board Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

340 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 will be given the maximum support and assistance when they are released from the Mater Hospital and to ensure they receive a back-up home service. [3672/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Dublin 3 area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the Northern Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. Since my appointment as Minister of State, I have been encouraging the authority and the health boards to introduce home care packages, including home based subvention for clients applying for nursing home subvention, as an alternative to long-stay residential care. The criteria that apply for home based subvention are the same that apply for nursing home subvention. I am pleased to advise that a number of health boards are developing personal care packages that are more focused on individual care needs. These include the public health nurse service, attendance at day care, day hospital and rehabilitation and the provision of respite care, home help and care assistance. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Nursing Education.

Mary Wallace

Question:

341 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to the proposed four and a half year integrated sick children's-general nursing degree programme; and if his attention has been drawn to fact that a sick children's nurse tutor was appointed to UCD, sponsored by his Department, to develop a curriculum for this programme, that there was huge disappointment that the programme did not commence in 2003 and that there is concern with regard to the timeframe for college applications, for example February 2004 for the autumn 2004 academic year. [3673/04]

The commission on nursing, which reported in 1998, recommended that pre-registration nursing education move from a three year diploma programme to a four year degree programme in each of the disciplines of general, psychiatric and mental handicap nursing. The Government expressed its commitment to implementing the programme by providing capital investment in excess of €240 million to ensure the provision of purpose-built facilities for nursing students with state-of-the-art clinical skills and human science laboratories. In addition, when the programme has a full cohort of students in 2006, the total annual revenue cost will be in excess of €90 million.

The new nursing degree commenced in 13 higher education institutes in autumn 2002, with an annual approved intake of 1,640 students across the three disciplines concerned. This level of intake is 70% higher than it was in 1998. I am aware that valuable preparatory work has been done on curriculum development for an integrated sick children's-general nursing degree programme. Officials from my Department are examining the feasibility of options for progressing the matter in consultation with stakeholders. I am keeping the situation under review.

Health Board Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

342 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children if an earlier MRI scan appointment can be made for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo who has a further six months to wait; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3674/04]

The provision of medical services to residents of County Mayo is the responsibility of the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this case and reply directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Pat Carey

Question:

343 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Eastern Regional Health Authority has made funds available to the Northern Area Health Board to allow it to support Our Lady's Nursery in Ballymun, Dublin 11, following the withdrawal of crèche supplements by the Department of Social and Family Affairs under the provisions of SWA circular 05/03; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3675/04]

Responsibility for the level of funding to be provided for child care services in the Ballymun area rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the Northern Area Health Board. My Department has asked the regional chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority to respond directly to the Deputy on the matter which he has raised.

National Drugs Strategy.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

344 Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will make a statement on his Department's strategy to provide drug-free treatment facilities for the under-20s as requested recently by the Drug Prevention Alliance. [3248/04]

Responsibility for the provision of drug treatment services rests with the health boards in the first instance. I have been advised by the Eastern Regional Health Authority that the three area health boards within the eastern region provide detoxification and rehabilitation services on both an in-patient and out-patient basis. Those under 18 years old are prioritised for these services. For drug-free treatment programmes to be successful, the individual must be motivated to commence a programme of detoxification and engage in follow-up care. I am advised that the relapse rate for this type of treatment is high.

The three area health boards also utilise in-patient rehabilitation services outside the eastern region. The Aislinn Centre, Ballyragget, County Kilkenny, provides drug-free residential treatment for male and female adolescents aged 15 to 21 who are dependent on alcohol and drugs. The Matt Talbot adolescent services, a drug-free residential facility for the treatment of alcohol and drug misuse in young males between 14 and 18 years in the Southern Health Board, is also in operation.

The development of a protocol for the treatment of those under 18 years old presenting with serious drug problems is one of the actions set out in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. A working group, chaired by an official from my Department and comprising members of both the statutory and voluntary sectors, has been established to implement this particular action. To fulfil its remit, the group undertook a number of initiatives, including an examination of the legal issues surrounding treatment, a literature review carried out by the Addiction Research Centre, a review of services and service gaps nationally, focus groups of services for misusers within and outside the ERHA region, and a review of the treatment issues raised by the above by a consultant adolescent and child psychiatrist in substance abuse. The group's report is nearing completion and will focus on a four-tiered model of treatment around which are linkages to other services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

345 Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the interventions he has in place to reduce the significant increase in drug related deaths, particularly from opiate misuse. [3250/04]

The overall objective of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 is to reduce the harm caused to individuals and society by the misuse of drugs through a concerted focus on supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research with the ultimate aim of leading a drug-free lifestyle. The health related aspects of the strategy focus in particular on education and prevention and treatment and rehabilitation, including substitution treatment under the methadone protocol. The number of methadone treatment places has expanded considerably in recent years in line with the Government's commitment under the national drugs strategy. At the end of December 2003 there were 6,883 people receiving methadone treatment. This compares with a figure of just over 5,000 at the end of 2000. In the Eastern Regional Health Authority there are 59 drug treatment locations. This compares with 12 locations in 1997.

Outside the ERHA, treatment clinics have been established in the South Eastern Health Board, Mid-Western Health Board, Western Health Board and Midland Health Board. General practitioners and pharmacists also provide treatment services and their involvement has also increased over the last number of years.

The boards aim to address substance misuse by providing effective and sustainable services working in partnership with clients and with fellow service providers. All clients entering the addiction services are assessed and appropriate treatment plans are identified based on client needs. Decisions concerning the appropriate treatment for patients are made in accordance with best practice guidelines. Overdose prevention is an inherent part of the comprehensive range of services which the boards provide, including education and prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, counselling and harm reduction. International evidence supports the view that opiate users are safer in treatment; therefore every effort is made to encourage clients to engage in treatment. For opiate users outside of treatment, outreach workers and needle exchange services actively engage drug users to promote safer drug using practices to address the risks involved in terms of overdose, transmission of blood-borne viruses and unsafe sex practices. Harm minimisation is at the core of the three area health boards' outreach strategy and this includes the risk of overdose.

Building on existing initiatives, one area health board has designed a series of posters and leaflets, due to be piloted in spring 2004, directly addressing risk factors contributing to overdose and how individuals can best provide assistance to those who may have overdosed. This is taking place as part of a health promotion programme, which has been designed to promote service users taking a more active role in their own health in a range of areas. In the context of the increased risk of overdose facing opiate users who are released from prison, there are protocols in place for the transfer of those who are engaged in substitute treatment while incarcerated to facilitate their take-up of treatment on release.

The national advisory committee on drugs, NACD, has recently published a study on the prevalence of opiate misuse in Ireland. The study estimates that 14,452 people were using heroin in 2001. Of these, 12,456 were in the Dublin area. This represents a decrease on a 1996 figure which estimated that 13,461 people were using heroin in the greater Dublin area.

Organ Retention.

Dan Neville

Question:

346 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the expected date of completion of the Dunne inquiry into organ retention. [3690/04]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

369 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the nature of relationship required to make representations to the Dunne inquiry in respect of organs of relatives retained without permission in this State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3937/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 346 and 369 together.

The post-mortem inquiry is a non-statutory inquiry chaired by Ms Anne Dunne SC. Since the beginning of 2003, the inquiry has been concentrating on the investigation of the post-mortem policy, practice and procedure of the three main paediatric hospitals, the National Children's Hospital, Tallaght, the Children's University Hospital, Temple Street, and Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin. By mid-October, the inquiry had heard 56 hospital and non-hospital witnesses at oral hearings and had accumulated almost 3,500 pages of transcripts of oral evidence. The chairman has informed me that the inquiry has received considerable co-operation from each of the hospitals with which it is presently dealing. I am further informed that the inquiry's non-statutory nature has not thus far significantly hampered its substantive work. The chairman is mindful of the need to have her report completed as soon as is reasonably practicable following the completion of the oral evidence. Any member of the public can make a submission to the Dunne inquiry in respect of matters relevant to its terms of reference.

Health Board Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

347 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if domiciliary care allowance is payable to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3691/04]

The assessment of entitlement to and payment of the domiciliary care allowance in any individual case is a matter for the relevant health board. Accordingly, a copy of the Deputy's question has been forwarded to the regional chief executive, Eastern Regional Health Authority, with a request that he examine the case and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Dan Neville

Question:

348 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when arrears of the drug refund scheme will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [3719/04]

I presume that the Deputy is referring to the drugs payment scheme, DPS. My Department put in place a refund scheme to process applications from people who may be eligible for a refund due to the delay in putting the drugs payment scheme on a statutory basis. The scheme was advertised in the national press on 26 June 2003 and again on 12 and 14 September for the extension of the closing date for applications to 31 October. The GMS (payments) board is operating the scheme on behalf of the Department. I have had inquiries made in the matter and I understand that the board has no record of having received a claim from the person referred to by the Deputy. I have asked the GMS (payments) board to communicate directly with the person referred to by the Deputy concerning their application under the DPS refund scheme.

Hospital Services.

Mary Wallace

Question:

349 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding to Blanchardstown Hospital is to be cut by €1 million due to inefficiency in throughput of patients and average length of stay of patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3720/04]

The rationale for the use of casemix systems as part of the budgetary process is the wish to base funding on measured costs and activity, rather than on less objective systems of resource allocation. It is also used to fund hospitals based on their mix of cases. The national casemix programme operates in 34 hospitals nationally. Those whose cost per case is higher than the mean have some of their funding redistributed to those whose cost per case is lower. The peer group sets the mean for each type of case treated, not my Department.

As part of the 2004 financial allocation, based on 2002 activity and costs, a negative adjustment of €1.079 million has been applied to James Connolly Memorial Hospital based on its performance relative to other hospitals which participate in the system. The hospital's in-patient base price — the cost of a standard case — was €731, which is 18.6% higher than the mean as a result of its costs rising faster than its peers. This resulted in the negative adjustment.

Hospitals are not penalised for excessive length of stay; credit is given to all hospitals for long-stay patients. Account is taken of hospitals' unique issues and they are invited to make submissions on such issues each year. The programme is operated in an open and transparent fashion, and full details of the clinical and financial information on which casemix budget adjustments are based is provided to all participating hospitals. It is a matter for local management, in consultation with their board, to review these issues and identify how best to address these matters going forward.

A comprehensive review of the entire national casemix programme has been carried out by the casemix unit of my Department. The intention of the review was to ensure that the system remains fair and accurate, and robust enough to incorporate all the strategic developments being proposed in the medium term. A report on the matter is being prepared which will make recommendations for the enhancement of the model.

Compensation Scheme.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

350 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is his intention to implement the task force findings of March 2003 recommending the setting up of a no-fault compensation scheme for psychiatric nurses; the commencement date for such a scheme; and if the scheme will apply to all health service workers. [3721/04]

I met representatives of the Psychiatric Nurses' Association on 24 September 2003. Among the issues discussed was the report of the task force on assaults on psychiatric nurses and, in particular, the proposal that a scheme be established to compensate psychiatric nurses seriously injured as a result of assault by a patient. Officials from my Department prepared a draft memorandum for Government on the recommendations contained in the report. This draft memorandum was circulated to other Departments for their observations. Responses have now been received from all Departments and are under consideration.

Health Board Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

351 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to correspondence (details supplied), the number of persons on the home help waiting lists in counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon; the total number of hours being sought in each county; the average waiting time on the list in each county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3731/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the Western Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

352 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an appeal for a medical card will be expedited for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the medical circumstances of their family. [3751/04]

Responsibility for the provision of a medical card is, by legislation, a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board or authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the CEO of the South Eastern Health Board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Health Board Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

353 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if orthodontic treatment will be provided immediately for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if their case will be examined again to establish a programme of treatment; and the criteria used in such assessments by health boards. [3752/04]

Statutory responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons rests with the health boards in the first instance. Entitlement to orthodontic treatment is determined by reference to orthodontic guidelines, a set of objective clinical criteria applied by health board orthodontists when assessing children's priority of need for treatment. The orthodontic guidelines were issued by my Department in 1985 and are still in use. The orthodontic guidelines are used to ensure that orthodontic resources are prioritised for and applied equitably to the most severe cases. Patients assessed as category A have severe malocclusions and should receive urgent orthodontic care; patients assessed as category B have less severe problems and are placed on orthodontic treatment waiting lists.

The number of cases treated is dependent on the level of resources available in terms of qualified staff in the area and this is reflected in the treatment waiting list. In fact, the provision of orthodontic services is severely restricted due to the limited availability of trained specialist clinical staff to assess and treat patients. Consequently, a category C waiting list may not be maintained in some health boards.

However, I have taken a number of measures to address this shortage of specialists and so increase the treatment capacity of the orthodontic service. The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. These 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001. Thus, there is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics. These measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.

Furthermore, the commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided to both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for the Cork Dental School. This appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board has reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 December 2003. In recognition of the importance of this post at the Cork Dental School, my Department has given approval in principle to a proposal from the school to further substantially improve the training facilities there for orthodontics. This project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities and it will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

The chief executive officer of the South Eastern Health Board has informed me that at the end of the December quarter 2003, there were 2,249 children receiving orthodontic treatment from the health board. This means that there are over three times as many children getting orthodontic treatment from the board as there are children waiting to be treated. As responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in County Kilkenny rests with the South Eastern Health Board, my Department has asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Health Board Funding.

David Stanton

Question:

354 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the conditions that were attached to the €857,000 that was provided to the Southern Health Board in 2003 for an expanded service in its area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3753/04]

David Stanton

Question:

355 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 128 of 29 January 2004, if he will provide additional funding in 2004 to enable a further expansion of the out-of-hours doctor co-operatives service to the areas of the Southern Health Board not having such a service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3754/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 354 and 355 together.

The additional moneys, €857,000, allocated to the Southern Health Board in 2003 arose out of consideration of revised proposals from that board earlier in the year. This decision was taken after careful consideration of the applications from all boards for the available funding under this heading. The allocation sought and granted covered capital and other part year costs for a start up date later in the year. The expanded service started in 2003.

Allocations to boards for 2004 under the GP development heading included these additional moneys in base funding. Further expansion of the out-of-hours service will be considered in the context of service requirements, health board proposals and funding availability. It will be noted that decisions in respect of the geographical area to be covered in any expansion are matters which fall within the remit of the relevant health board to decide having regard to the strategic, financial and other issues involved.

Hospital Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

356 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the physiotherapy service at Baltinglass District Hospital; if this service will not be withdrawn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3770/04]

The provision of health services in the Wicklow area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Western Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Health Board Services.

Seán Haughey

Question:

357 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has issued guidelines to health boards about the provision of wheelchairs to the residents of nursing homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3824/04]

The provision of health services is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards. All applications for aids and appliances, including wheelchairs, are assessed on the basis of need and, therefore, there are no guidelines issued on the provision of wheelchairs to residents of nursing homes. A resident of a nursing home is assessed on the basis of need for any aid or appliance, including a wheelchair. If a resident of a nursing home is assessed as having a need, the aid or appliance would normally be supplied by the local health board.

Health Board Allowances.

Seán Haughey

Question:

358 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of the guidelines issued by his Department, effective from 1 July 2002, for persons claiming both the mobility allowance and the motorised transport grant; the purpose of the motorised transport grant as referred to in those guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3825/04]

The national health board review group on Department of Health and Children disability allowances and grant schemes was established to review certain Department of Health and Children disability allowances and grant schemes. The review group finalised draft circulars, which were issued by the Department of Health and Children to all health boards in July 2002, to standardise the procedures used at health board level for the operation of the various allowances and grants.

The circular confirms the purpose of mobility allowance as an allowance that:

provides financial support to eligible people who are unable to walk or use public transport and is intended to enable them to benefit from a change in surroundings — for example, by financing the occasional taxi journey.

The circular on motorised transport grant states that:

a Health Board may pay a grant towards the purchase of a car and/or adaptions to a car being purchased by a person with a severe disability who is 17 years or older and up to 65 years of age, where such a car is essential for him/her to obtain or retain employment. Self-employed persons who satisfy the criteria of eligibility may also be considered (subject to the above age limits).

Therefore, the two schemes are mutually exclusive. Furthermore, the 1968 circular on motorised transport grant stated that:

the making of grants should be on the condition that the Health Authority will not be called upon at any future date to contribute towards the running expenses.

The revised motorised grant circulars reiterate this position by confirming that:

The payment of a Motorised Transport Grant is subject to the condition that the Health Board will not be called upon at any future date to contribute towards the running costs of the vehicle. In this context, a Mobility Allowance recipient cannot qualify for the Motorised Transport Grant. Similarly, a person who has received the Motorised Transport Grant in the previous three years cannot qualify for Mobility Allowance. Where a Mobility Allowance recipient wishes to avail of a Motorised Transport Grant, Mobility Allowance should cease from the date of payment of the Motorised Transport Grant.

Health Board Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

359 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the place a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has on the orthodontic treatment waiting list; and when his treatment will commence. [3826/04]

Responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in County Mayo rests with the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Residential Facilities.

Pat Carey

Question:

360 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if the concerns of persons regarding a residential facility (details supplied) in Dublin 11 are being addressed on an ongoing basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3827/04]

Responsibility for the residential facility in Dublin 11 referred to by the Deputy rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the Northern Area Health Board. My Department has asked the regional chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority to liaise with the Northern Area Health Board and to respond to the Deputy directly.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

361 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be issued on medical grounds to a person (details supplied) in County Carlow given the history of the case as outlined in applications and appeals in previous years; and if a further appeal will be arranged without delay to consider all aspects of the case and to approve the application without delay. [3904/04]

Responsibility for the provision of a medical card is, by legislation, a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board or authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the CEO of the South Eastern Health Board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Health Board Services.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

362 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting times for women in the North Western Health Board region for smear tests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3905/04]

The current waiting time in the North Western Health Board region in respect of cervical smears is four weeks for priority smears and 16 weeks for routine smears. The North Western Health Board will continue to make efforts to reduce the waiting times further.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

363 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is envisaged that children with orthodontic criteria of category C will be seen in the North Western Health Board region and the efforts that can be made to avail of the treatment purchase fund for people who are already assessed or who are still awaiting assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3906/04]

The provision of orthodontic services is the statutory responsibility of the health boards or authority in the first instance. The aim of my Department is to develop the treatment capacity of orthodontics, both nationally and in the North Western Health Board or NWHB, in a sustainable way over the longer term. Given the potential level of demand for orthodontic services, the provision of those services will continue to be based on prioritisation of cases based on treatment need, as happens under the existing guidelines. The guidelines are intended to enable health boards to identify in a consistent way those in greatest need and to commence timely treatment for them.

Patients in category A require immediate treatment and include those with congenital abnormalities of the jaws, such as cleft lip and palate, and patients with major skeletal discrepancies between the sizes of the jaws. Patients in category B have less severe problems than category A patients and are placed on the orthodontic treatment waiting list. The number of cases treated in the NWHB is dependent on the level of resources available, in terms of qualified staff, in the area and this is reflected in the treatment waiting list. In fact, the provision of orthodontic services there is currently severely restricted due to the limited availability of trained specialist clinical staff to assess and treat patients and, accordingly, boards do not normally maintain category C waiting lists.

I have taken a number of measures to address this shortage of specialists and so increase the treatment capacity of the orthodontic service. The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards, including one from the NWHB, for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. These 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001. Thus, there is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics. These measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.

Furthermore, the commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided to both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for the Cork Dental School. This appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board has reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 December 2003. In recognition of the importance of this post at Cork Dental School, my Department has given approval in principle to a proposal from the school to further substantially improve the training facilities there for orthodontics. This project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities. It will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

In June 2002 my Department provided additional funding of €5 million — €285,000 for the NWHB — from the treatment purchase fund towards the treatment of persons on the orthodontic waiting lists. My Department instructed the health boards or authority that the funding was to be allocated on the basis of the following principles: treatment of clients longest on the waiting list in accordance with the severity of their treatment need; allocation to provide additional treatments over and above what was provided in the normal way; efficiency and value for money; and equitable delivery across health board populations. In accordance with these principles, the chief executive officer of the NWHB is responsible for identifying patients on its waiting list to be treated under the treatment purchase fund.

The chief executive officer of the NWHB has informed my Department that, at the end of the December 2003 quarter, there were 2,532 patients receiving orthodontic treatment in the board's area. This is an increase of 433 patients in orthodontic treatment when compared with the number of patients receiving treatment at the end of December 2001.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

364 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the position on the roll-out of the BreastCheck initiative into the north-western region and Donegal in particular; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3907/04]

The national roll-out of BreastCheck, which I announced last year, requires detailed planning to include essential infrastructure. The BreastCheck clinical unit in the western area will be at University College Hospital, Galway, with two associated mobile units. The area of coverage is counties Galway, Sligo, Roscommon, Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim, Clare and Tipperary North Riding.

A capital project team has been established to develop a brief for the capital infrastructure needed for the static unit in the west. BreastCheck submitted a number of options for the construction of this unit on the grounds of University College Hospital, Galway. This is being considered by my Department in the context of the framework for capital investment 2004-2008 and is being discussed with the Department of Finance at present.

An essential element of the roll-out of the programme is investment in education and training of radiographers in particular. BreastCheck employs qualified and experienced radiographers who have specialised postgraduate training and qualifications related to mammography. BreastCheck and the symptomatic services combined have a significant ongoing recruitment and training requirement in this area. I also announced the development of a training centre for radiographers and mammography at Eccles Street. Resources are being made available to BreastCheck to support this initiative, which will cost in excess of €750,000, and the centre is expected to be completed in the second half of 2004.

Any woman, irrespective of her age or residence, who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.

Health Board Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

365 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an OT's report is available relative to an application under the DPG scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if approval under this scheme will be expedited given the urgent need of the case. [3912/04]

The provision of health related services, including occupational therapy, for people with physical and-or sensory disabilities is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards in the first instance. Accordingly, the Deputy's question has been referred to the chief executive officer of the South Eastern Health Board with a request that he examine the matter and reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

Hospital Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

366 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has carried out any recent assessment of the adequacy of neurology services in Ireland; if he will indicate whether these studies have identified deficiencies which need to be filled; and if he will indicate what plans he is putting in place to fill the gaps. [3914/04]

At my request, Comhairle na nOspidéal established a committee to examine existing arrangements for the provision of consultant level neurology and neurophysiology services nationally and to make recommendations on the future organisation and development of those services. Comhairle na nOspidéal has now published its report and, having considered it, I am happy to endorse its recommendations for a significant enhancement of neurology and neurophysiology services, including increases in consultant manpower.

The report also recognises that there are aspects of a number of other specialties and services, such as rehabilitation medicine, geriatric medicine and old age psychiatry, which are related to and overlap with neurology services. Comhairle na nOspidéal has recommended that a national multidisciplinary review of rehabilitation services be undertaken to further inform the policy framework on the development of neurology services. Consistent with this recommendation and in line with commitments in the national health strategy, a national action plan for rehabilitation services is being prepared by my Department. The action plan will set out a programme to meet existing shortfalls in services and to integrate specialised facilities with locally based follow-up services. The rehabilitation action plan, together with the Comhairle na nOspidéal report and the work undertaken by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland through its own publications, will offer a comprehensive policy framework for the future development of neurology and neurophysiology services in this country.

My Department will continue to work closely with the alliance and with the Irish Consultant Neurologists' Association on the future development of services. The implementation of the Comhairle na nOspidéal recommendations will be progressed having regard to the evolving policy framework in this area, competing funding priorities and the report of the national task force on medical staffing.

Health Board Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

367 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will provide funding to the Western Health Board to provide a residential place to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3915/04]

Responsibility for the provision of funding for services to persons with intellectual disability and those with autism in the Western Health Board region is a matter, in the first instance, for the Western Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the health board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him.

Smoking Ban.

Liz McManus

Question:

368 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to his reply to Question No. 139 of 27 January 2004 regarding the ban on smoking in public places, if he will elaborate on his reference to the powers available to the Office of Tobacco Control to cross-authorise, as set out in the extracts from his reply (details supplied); and to explain the meaning of the term and its application to the present circumstances. [3936/04]

Environmental health officers from the health boards and staff from the Office of Tobacco Control authorised under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 will be monitoring compliance with the smoke-free workplace regulations when made. The Health and Safety Authority, which is the statutory body with responsibility for health and safety in the workplace, will also be involved with monitoring compliance in the authority's traditional areas of operation. If it is necessary to authorise personnel other than those working with the health boards or the Office of Tobacco Control, the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 provides for this.

Question No. 369 answered with QuestionNo. 346.

Health Board Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

370 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children and teenagers on the waiting lists for orthodontic assessment and treatment in the Eastern Regional Health Authority area and in the other seven health board areas during 2002 and 2003. [3949/04]

The provision of orthodontic services is a matter for the health boards in the first instance. I have taken a number of measures to improve orthodontic services on a national basis.

The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. These 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001. Thus, there is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics. These measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.

Furthermore, the commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided to both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for the Cork Dental School. This appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board has reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 December 2003. In recognition of the importance of this post at the Cork Dental School, my Department has given approval in principle to a proposal from the school to further substantially improve the training facilities there for orthodontics. This project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities. It will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

Orthodontic initiative funding of €4.698 million was provided to the health boards and authority in 2001 and this has enabled health boards to recruit additional staff, engage the services of private specialist orthodontic practitioners to treat patients and build additional orthodontic facilities. In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. This funding is enabling boards to provide both additional sessions for existing staff and purchase treatment from private specialist orthodontic practitioners.

The chief executive officers of the health boards and authority have informed me of the following information on their waiting lists for December 2002.

December 2002

Assessment Waiting List

Treatment Waiting List

ERHA

3,344

2,924

MHB

303

161

MWHB

1,869

676

NWHB

0

239

NEHB

846

1,150

SEHB

356

550

SHB

6,511

3,328

WHB

744

971

The chief executive officers of the health boards and authority have informed me of the following information on their waiting lists for December 2003.

December 2003

Assessment Waiting List

Treatment Waiting List

ERHA

570

3,583

MHB

287

210

MWHB

2,432

642

NWHB

0

287

NEHB

990

794

SEHB

283

644

SHB

4,034

3,301

WHB

654

759

The chief executive officers of the health boards and authority have informed me that, at the end of the December quarter 2003, there were 21,295 children receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service. This means that there are over twice as many children getting orthodontic treatment as there are children waiting to be treated and 4,000 extra children are getting treatment from health boards since the end of 2001.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

371 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of consultant orthodontists and auxiliary staff currently employed and in training for the Eastern Regional Health Authority area and for the other seven health board areas. [3950/04]

According to figures made available to my Department by the health boards, there are ten consultant orthodontists employed in the health boards and authority public orthodontic service. In addition, my Department funded 13 dentists from various health boards to obtain specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom in 2003. These 13 specialist trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001. Thus, there is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics.

Furthermore, the commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided to both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for the Cork Dental School. This appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board has reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 December 2003. In recognition of the importance of this post at the Cork Dental School, my Department has given approval in principle to a proposal from the school to further substantially improve the training facilities there for orthodontics. This project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities and will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

A new grade of orthodontic therapist, auxiliary dental worker in orthodontics, has been created in conjunction with the Dental Council. The Department will bring together the various staff associations at the Health Service Employers' Agency to discuss the terms to apply to these posts in the health boards. The chief executive officers of the health boards and authority have informed me that, at the end of December 2003, there were 21,295 children receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service, 4,000 more children than were receiving treatment at the end of 2001.

Hospital Staff.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

372 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if the national task force on medical staffing, part 2, is continuing its work on deciding the configuration of hospitals nationally despite the fact that the consultant members have withdrawn from the task force. [3963/04]

Decisions regarding the work of the acute hospitals review group are a matter for its independent chairperson. I understand that the first meeting of the group has been scheduled for 19 February. It will be a matter for the chairperson to decide whether this meeting will proceed. In the meantime, the analytical and research work for the group, which is provided by a secretariat from my Department, will continue.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

373 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the danger inherent in the current uncertainty in the health service regarding the future configuration of hospitals and consultant appointments which may see mass emigration of SPRs; and if he has plans to ensure potential Irish consultants are not lost to the system. [3964/04]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

374 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in identifying the training needs of SPRs to ensure a sufficient flow of home-grown consultants to meet the demands of the staffing arrangements proposed in the Hanly report. [3965/04]

The Government approved the publication of the report of the national task force on medical staffing, or the Hanly report, in October 2003 and is committed in principle to the implementation of its recommendations. Those recommendations include a number of measures which, far from precipitating mass emigration, are expected to improve significantly the retention in Ireland of the doctors who train here and are likely to attract back into the Irish system some of our postgraduates who are training or working abroad at present.

The Hanly report sets out in considerable detail the projected training requirements which are expected to result from the shift to a consultant-provided public hospital service model, with a near doubling of public hospital consultant numbers. The training environment, post-Hanly, will be based on a greatly improved career path for doctors in training together with more and better training opportunities, based on: aligning the numbers of doctors in training at all levels, including specialist registrar or SpR, to projected vacancies at consultant level; ensuring that all NCHD posts will in future be genuine structured training posts, that is, the eventual phasing out of all non-training NCHD posts; correcting the present unsustainable trainer-trainee ratios by significantly reducing the overall number of NCHD posts as consultant numbers increase; implementing a flexible training strategy to address the increasing need for family-friendly and part-time working and training opportunities.

I announced at the launch of the Hanly report that I had asked the members of the task force's medical education and training project group to remain in place to address a number of outstanding issues, including the implications for medical education and training of the Hanly report itself and the short-term and long-term implications of the European working time directive, in a final report to be submitted to me as soon as possible. I understand the group expects to forward me its advice shortly on how best to accommodate training in the context of the August 2004 deadline under the directive — 58 hour maximum average working week for all doctors in training — and to submit its final report to me this autumn.

The group has been in close consultation with the key medical education and training stakeholders over the past two years and has continued to engage in detailed consultation since the publication of the Hanly report. On 9 January 2004, the group convened a successful and well-attended national seminar on postgraduate medical education and training titled, "Implementing Hanly: Top Quality Training and Improved Working Hours", which examined the long-term and short-term implications of the Hanly report and the European working time directive for all involved.

The combined effects of the measures referred to above, together with the ongoing work to address the training needs of all doctors in training and the implementation of the wider programme of health reforms, will include a greatly enhanced training environment and more and better opportunities for doctors in training to progress to consultant posts.

Departmental Properties.

Richard Bruton

Question:

375 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the future plans for lands at the St. Ita's campus; if the proceeds from a transfer of these lands to new uses will be earmarked for badly needed improvements in the services for the 238 persons with intellectual disability and 189 persons with mental health problems; and the details of the improvements for these patients which are proposed. [4052/04]

The Northern Area Health Board has submitted outline proposals for the future development of the St. Ita's campus to Fingal County Council for consideration in its revision of the county development plan. Further development of these proposals can only be considered in the context of the final development control plan to be issued by Fingal County Council. The provision of high quality accommodation and related facilities for the existing clients of the St. Ita's mental health and St. Joseph's intellectual disabilities service is a priority in any future development of the lands at St. Ita's.

The Northern Area Health Board, in conjunction with the Eastern Regional Health Authority, is keen to ensure that the need to provide high quality accommodation and related facilities is met within both a sustainable planning framework and a strategy within which the value of the site can be optimised. The Northern Area Health Board is continuing to work with Fingal County Council in this regard. I understand that it is the intention of the Eastern Regional Health Authority to apply funds that may arise from either the potential receipts from land disposal and-or development of lands at St. Ita's towards the provision of more suitable accommodation unless alternative capital funding can be clearly identified.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

376 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount which was spent in his Department from January 2002 to December 2003 for media purposes and advertising; the areas in which the money was spent, that is, national papers, provincial papers, RTE radio, local radio stations and so on; the amounts spent on a year to year basis; and the amount of money which was spent on videos, whether for promotional, educational or advertising purposes. [4066/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available at present. I am having the information collated and will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Motoring Schools.

Enda Kenny

Question:

377 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport the schedule proposed to implement regulation of motoring schools here and the introduction of a compulsory driving instructors register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3629/04]

Proposals being developed by my Department for the regulation and quality assurance of driving instruction will involve a test of the competence of individual instructors. A working group comprising representatives of my Department and of instruction interests has formulated the design of the standards that a driving instructor must meet. I am considering what arrangements will be put in place to oversee implementation of the standard in the context of the establishment of the driver testing and standards authority.

Road Network.

Barry Andrews

Question:

378 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Transport the projected cost of delays arising from the High Court decision in the Carrickmines Castle case on 29 January 2004 and the cost of re-aligning the motorway in a manner that will not interfere with the site of the castle. [3646/04]

The management of the construction of the south-eastern motorway, including issues related to additional costs attributable to delays, is a matter for the National Roads Authority or NRA and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

I am informed by the NRA that, as a target lump sum price was agreed in May 2003 with the contractor for the completion in full of the south-eastern motorway by September 2005, it is not possible to identify the additional costs attributable to the delays arising from the legal proceedings relating to the Carrickmines section of the project. The lump sum contract negotiated in May 2003 took these delays and others into account and was predicated on early resolution of issues concerning the Carrickmines site. Any delay to, or disruption of, the project attributable to the Carrickmines situation beyond that anticipated in May 2003 will, I am advised by the NRA, increase costs on the scheme and therefore the target lump sum already mentioned. The NRA has advised that such costs could exceed €1 million per month given the level of labour and plant resources involved.

Any significant change to the route of the motorway such as could arise from an effort to realign the scheme at this stage could necessitate the preparation of a new environmental impact statement and the initiation of procedures to obtain a new statutory consent. The outcome of this process and the decision to be reached by An Bord Pleanála taking account of submissions and objections received cannot be predicted. In the event that a feasible realignment of the motorway could be identified and the necessary approval obtained from the board, it is possible that completion of the south-eastern motorway could be delayed by up to five years. The costs associated with such delay, including continued serious traffic congestion problems in south County Dublin, have not been quantified but would be substantial.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

379 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the penalties applied in respect of HGVs over 12,000kg or buses over 10,000kg which are found to have a speed limitation device that is not functioning properly; the penalties applied when it is discovered that a cut off switch for the speed limiter may be operated by the driver; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3586/04]

The fitting and use of speed limitation devices on goods vehicles over 12,000kg and buses over 10,000kg is governed by the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations 1993. Under these regulations such vehicles shall, at all times when used in a public place, be equipped with a speed limitation device the set speed of which does not exceed 85 kilometres per hour in the case of a goods vehicle and 100 kilometres per hour in the case of a bus.

The use of a vehicle that is subject to these regulations in a public place where the fitted speed limitation device was not operating or was not functioning correctly would be offences under the Road Traffic Acts. The penalties for a breach of the regulations involve a fine not exceeding €800 in the case of a first offence, a fine not exceeding €1,500 in the case of a second or subsequent offence and a fine of €1,500 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months in the case of a third or subsequent offence in a period of 12 consecutive months. In addition, the Road Traffic Act 2002 provides that certain offences relating to speed limitation devices will attract between one and three penalty points.

Rural Transport Initiative.

Joe Costello

Question:

380 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to allocate additional funding to the rural transport initiative to expand the programme to include other rural and isolated areas; if he considers the RTI value for money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3600/04]

Area Development Management Limited, or ADM, administers the rural transport initiative, or RTI, on behalf of my Department. Specific allocations for individual RTI projects are made by ADM from funds provided for this purpose by my Department. A total of €6 million has already been provided for the RTI in the two-year period ending December 2003 and further funding of €3 million is being provided in 2004. This compares favourably with the €4.4 million earmarked up to 2006 for the RTI under the national development plan.

All 34 community transport groups being funded under the RTI are now fully operational and I understand from ADM that an external body has now been commissioned to undertake a full appraisal of the initiative. Among other things, the purpose of the appraisal is to measure the effectiveness of the RTI in addressing the transport needs of rural Ireland and in providing value for money. I will consider the results of the appraisal, which is due to be completed by the summer, before making any further policy decisions on rural transport.

Rail Network.

Joe Costello

Question:

381 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that, despite the many millions of euros invested in the rail network, thousands of tonnes of untreated raw sewage is continually dumped on the nation's railways and their environs annually as a result of no sewage treatment or holding facilities on many of Iarnród Éireann's inter-city rolling stock; his views on whether, in view of the fact that nearly 500,000 people used the train between Sligo and Dublin in 2003, this practice is a health hazard to employees, local communities and to drinking water, particularly in places at which wells are in use; the action he intends to take to safeguard the environment and to have this practice discontinued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3601/04]

I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that all trains purchased since the mid-1990s are fitted with a closed toilet system and these do not present a problem. With regard to other trains which are quite old, particularly the mark II and craven carriages, Iarnród Éireann has informed me of its plans to withdraw these from service on a phased basis over the next two to three years as additional inter-city trains which are on order come into service. There are a number of trains in service, mark III, which will be required to continue in service after the current replacement programme, and it is intended to fit closed toilet systems to these vehicles.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

382 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with the staff of the National Roads Authority regarding decentralisation; if a staff survey of those wishing to transfer has been completed; the results of such survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3606/04]

I have established a decentralisation implementation group in my Department to manage the decentralisation process. It is chaired by an assistant secretary and includes representatives from the areas or agencies scheduled for decentralisation. The chief executive officer of the National Roads Authority is a member of this group. A staff survey has not been completed but the question of conducting a survey of the nature referred to above is among the issues being considered by this group.

Light Rail Project.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

383 Mr. O'Connor asked the Minister for Transport if, in the context of the start up of Luas services in 2004, consideration has been given to including these services on the integrated transport tickets which many members of the public purchase in April; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3632/04]

The Railway Procurement Agency has statutory responsibility for the implementation and delivery of an integrated ticketing system which will enable a passenger to use a single ticket on one or more public transport services by road or rail, irrespective of the operators involved. This includes Luas. The system which the RPA is developing will use smart card technologies and the target date for launch of the full integrated ticketing system is 2005.

Pending the full introduction of integrated ticketing using smart card technology, the RPA and Dublin Bus are working on an integrated ticket using existing technology. The scheme under which benefit-in-kind tax exemptions are available on travel passes paid for by employers has been included in the new Finance Bill to include integrated tickets and the new Luas services.

Pat Carey

Question:

384 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Transport if an assessment has been made on the possibility of providing a Luas line to Dublin Airport via Glasnevin and Ballymun; if so, the outcome of this assessment; if an assessment is being made of the feasibility of building a spur to the airport off the DART line serving the north side of Dublin city; if this examination includes a cost comparison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3693/04]

The programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a metro with a link to Dublin Airport. The proposed metro overtook earlier proposals for a Luas line to Dublin Airport.

The original outline business case for phase one of the metro from the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, involved a line from the airport to the city centre. This was subsequently revised to take account of the relevant experience in Madrid and contained a number of changes in comparison with the original business case. These changes reduced the capital cost of the proposal significantly and involved a shorter, more direct route and fewer station changes in design. At my request, the RPA is doing further work on this revision. I expect to bring my proposals on the metro to the Government in the coming weeks.

The precise route, and hence costs, will depend on a number of factors, including the Government decision, geo-technical surveys, negotiations with bidders and the railway order process, including the public inquiry. In preparing a submission for the Government on this matter, the merits of all alternative solutions and routes will be considered. In this regard, a spur from the DART to the airport would have only limited capacity, would deal only with airport traffic and, compared with a Dublin metro system, would make little contribution to relieving congestion.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport has recently commissioned a report on the metro. The committee's report will be completed shortly and I look forward to receiving it.

Driving Tests.

Tom Hayes

Question:

385 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Transport the procedures for persons with literacy difficulty to obtain a driving licence; and the plans he has to change these regulations. [3759/04]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the requirement that applicants for first provisional licences must undergo and pass the driver theory test before being granted a licence.

The specification which the contractor operating the driver theory test is obliged to meet provides for the delivery of a user-friendly computerised theory testing system and requires that candidates with special needs be provided for. This includes the provision of reading assistance and voiceover audio with an extended time slot for the test. The test is based on a question bank, which has been developed, inter alia, in consultation with the Association for Children and Adults with Learning Difficulties and the National Adult Literacy Agency. The question bank is available in book format or as a CD rom which includes voiceover audio.

Pat Carey

Question:

386 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the suggestion that his Department's driver test centre at Finglas, Dublin 11, has a higher failure rate than any other in the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3760/04]

As in other EU countries, there are variations in the pass rate among driving test centres. The pass rate may be influenced by a number of factors, including the number of lessons taken by the candidate, the standard of instruction available and demographic factors. Pass rates in the Finglas test centre are broadly in line with pass rates in the other Dublin test centres. The failure rate in the Finglas test centre has not been the highest nationally in any of the past five years.

Taxi Hardship Panel.

John McGuinness

Question:

387 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Transport the person who set out the eligibility criteria for the taxi hardship payment scheme; the reason the minimum loan outstanding at the date of deregulation was set at €40,000 under category five; if this regulation will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3761/04]

The taxi hardship panel was an independent three person panel established to report in general terms on the nature and extent of extreme personal financial hardship that may have been experienced by individual taxi licence holders arising from loss of income as a direct result of the liberalisation of the taxi licensing regime. The panel's report recommended the establishment of a scheme to provide payments to individual taxi licence holders who fall into one of six categories that the panel assessed as having suffered extreme personal financial hardship arising from taxi liberalisation. The Government approved the implementation on a phased basis of these recommendations.

Category five of the panel's report refers to particular circumstances where large loan repayments are outstanding and these have been secured against a family home. The report recommends a hardship payment under this category to qualifying persons, ranging from €6,000 to €12,000, depending on the amount of the loan outstanding, the minimum loan amounts ranging between €40,000 and €100,000.

The taxi hardship payments scheme is based on the recommendations and parameters set out in the taxi hardship panel report, as approved by Government. The scheme allows individuals who find, due to their particular circumstances, that they fall outside the requirements for a particular category of hardship to complete the application form and submit their details, including information regarding the extenuating circumstances involved in their hardship, for consideration by Area Development Management Limited, which has been engaged to administer and manage the scheme. I have no proposals to depart from the terms of the panel report or the Government's decision on it.

Road Network.

Pat Carey

Question:

388 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the matters raised in a report to Dublin City Council on the impact of the Dublin Port tunnel on traffic flows in the areas surrounding the tunnel portals and to the concerns that traffic congestion should be avoided in the tunnel itself; if he has satisfied himself that the ventilation system within the tunnel is adequate to deal with emergencies which may arise within it; his views on the proposal to charge motorists for the use of the tunnel as a disincentive to its use by motorists; his further views on whether the expected number of HGVs using the port tunnel will have a positive impact on traffic flows in Dublin city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3828/04]

A copy of a draft interim report prepared for Dublin City Council on the development of a HGV management strategy for Dublin city to coincide with the opening of the Dublin Port tunnel to form the basis of a public consultation exercise on this issue was sent by Dublin City Council to my Department. I understand from Dublin City Council that this plan has three objectives: to ensure the optimal use by HGVs of the port tunnel; to minimise adverse effects of remaining HGV movements in the city and to manage the movement of vehicles not within permitted dimensions, for example, through permit systems. Implementation of such a HGV management strategy was always envisaged as part of the overall transport strategy underpinning the construction of the port tunnel to ensure that port HGV traffic utilises the tunnel to the maximum extent.

Ventilation in the port tunnel is matter for Dublin City Council and the NRA. The tunnel has been designed as a longitudinally ventilated tunnel. This means that for each tube air is drawn in at one end and pushed through the tunnel both by means of the "piston effect" of vehicles and by large fans mounted on the roof of the tunnel. Under this arrangement, in the event of a fire the fans push the smoke downstream of the fire incident, that is, in the direction of vehicle travel, and the smoke is limited from affecting the area behind the incident. Vehicles downstream of the fire incident can exit the tunnel safely by continuing to drive out of the tunnel. This is the basis upon which numerous international tunnels operate. A recent safety audit of the project confirms that the Dublin Port tunnel complies in all respects with the requirements of the proposed EU directive on safety on road tunnels.

The operating system for the tunnel and the ventilation and safety systems have been designed with safety as a paramount parameter. This ventilation system, along with a package of further safety measures, including emergency telephones, lay-bys, pedestrian and vehicular cross passages, continuous CCTV coverage of the tunnels, a 24 hour manned control room, fire detection equipment and incident detection equipment, represents a comprehensive approach to ensuring the safe passage of vehicles through the port tunnel. It is in line with the best international practice.

A key objective of the operating system for the Dublin Port tunnel will be to ensure that there is no build-up of traffic in the tunnel. This objective would apply regardless of the ventilation system in use. A vital mechanism to ensure that the tunnel meets its primary objective of providing easy access to Dublin Port for HGV traffic will be the implementation of a differentiated tolling system applicable to private cars. Currently, all truck journeys in and out of Dublin Port pass through city centre streets and adjacent residential areas. Completion of the tunnel will provide relief to the city centre, environmental and safety benefits and relief from congestion for freight distributors and other port related traffic.

Air Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

389 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport if the 50-50 share of transatlantic landings between Dublin and Shannon as enshrined in the bilateral agreement between the Irish and US Governments will be maintained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3829/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 162 of 28 January 2004. Negotiations have begun between the European Commission and the US authorities to establish an EU-US open aviation area agreement. The third round of those negotiations will take place in Washington next month. Officials of my Department met with the Aer Rianta unions on a number of occasions late last year to hear their views on this matter.

I consider it appropriate for any changes that occur in this area to be on a phased basis over a number of years. To protect the Irish position and with a view to securing new US routes for Aer Lingus as well as taking account of the developing EU-US negotiations, I have authorised my officials to seek negotiations with the US so both sides can discuss arrangements for any possible phased amendments to the Ireland-US bilateral agreement. Negotiations have not yet commenced.

In January, I wrote to SIPTU and ICTU regarding, inter alia, the dual gateway status of Shannon and I confirmed my commitment to renew direct engagement with them to seek to work out a means of best addressing the challenges arising for Shannon Airport. I will also consult further with the board designate of Shannon Airport about this issue.

Driving Tests.

Pat Carey

Question:

390 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Transport if he will establish the reason a person (details supplied) was forced to forfeit the €34 fee in respect of the driving theory test; if he will request the company to refund the fee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3925/04]

The driver theory testing service has procedures in place for dealing with complaints, including any about the refund of fees, which may be addressed to the customer service manager at PO Box 144, Drogheda, County Louth. The granting of further tests without payment of fees would be a matter for determination by the driver theory testing service as part of the complaint consideration process.

Road Safety.

Denis Naughten

Question:

391 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide funds to the National Safety Council to make drivers aware of the danger of overtaking and cutting in on HGVs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3926/04]

The National Safety Council has been mandated with responsibility for promotional and educational initiatives relating to road safety and has been allocated €2.886 million by my Department for 2004 for this purpose. In addition to Exchequer funding, the Irish Insurance Federation contributes to the National Safety Council's budget and funding is also received by the council from other sources, such as local authorities and sponsorship.

The form and focus of the promotional campaigns mounted by the council is a matter for its determination. Recent promotions have included the presentation of filmlets that highlighted safe driving practice in the key areas of roundabouts, motorways and overtaking manoeuvres.

Air Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

392 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport the discount schemes which are in operation currently for Shannon and Dublin airports for new transatlantic routes; if he will provide a route by route and by airline breakdown for these schemes; if any route discounts are proposed for the 2004 summer schedule; the start date and end date of these schemes for both Shannon and Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3940/04]

The incentive schemes for the development of new routes at the three State airports, including Dublin and Shannon, are a day to day matter for Aer Rianta. Details of the new route support schemes for 2004 in Dublin and Shannon airports are available on the Aer Rianta website at www.aer-rianta.ie. Operators on any new routes which commence operations during the period 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2004 and which meet the qualifying criteria listed by Aer Rianta in the route support documentation are entitled to such support.

Pat Breen

Question:

393 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if his officials are currently engaged or propose to engage with American officials about a change in the current bilateral agreement to permit two flights into Dublin and one into Shannon Airport; if he can confirm that this is true; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3941/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 162 of 28 January 2004.

Light Rail Project.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

394 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport if the Luas works on Davitt Road, Dublin 12, are over schedule and the time limits have been breached several times; and the new deadline for completion. [3979/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

396 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport if the contractors involved in Luas works on Davitt Road, Dublin 12, will reinstate the Grand Canal banks along the stretch of road to a condition acceptable to the local community which has patiently awaited completion of these disruptive works. [3981/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 394 and 396 together.

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, is responsible for the management of the Luas project. I have contacted the agency about the Luas works on Davitt Road and it has informed me that the two way traffic system will not be restored until all the works are completed. The decision was taken in consultation with all interested parties. The estimated date for completion of these works is April 2004.

The section of the scheme along Davitt Road canal bank has been designed in conjunction with Waterways Ireland. The RPA has informed me that the Luas contractor's responsibility extends only to those areas disturbed by the construction of the Luas.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

395 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport if the disruptive Luas works are six months overdue for completion on Steven's Hill, Dublin 8; and the new deadline date for completion. [3980/04]

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, is responsible for the management of the Luas project. The RPA has informed me, however, that St. Steeven's Lane has now been closed permanently to through traffic following initial periods of temporary closure. It has also assured me that the closure of the lane to through traffic is in line with the plans for Luas, line A, in respect of which a light railway order has been made. The Luas works in this area will be completed over the coming weeks when trial running will commence.

Question No. 396 answered with QuestionNo. 394.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

397 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport the amount which was spent in his Department from January 2002 to December 2003 for media purposes and advertising; the areas in which the money was spent, that is, national papers, provincial papers, RTE radio, local radio stations and so on; the amounts spent on a year to year basis; and the amount of money which was spent on videos, whether for promotional, educational or advertising purposes. [4067/04]

With regard to 2002, I refer the Deputy to my replies to Question No. 163 of 13 February 2003, when I indicated that expenditure of €261,443 was incurred in 2002. This expenditure was mainly in respect of national newspaper advertising. There was no expenditure on video during 2002.

The amount of money spent from the Vote of the Department of Transport on advertising from January 2003 to December 2003 was €191,342. This was spent primarily on formal public notice advertisements on the tendering for and information on specific projects being undertaken by the Department. A sum of €3,110 was spent on videos for training purposes on enhanced customer relations in 2003.

Juvenile Offenders.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

398 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures he has taken to assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; the measures he proposes to take to assist this person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3577/04]

It is not my practice to comment on individual cases. However, I have been advised by the probation and welfare service that this young man was accepted by a hostel, which is funded by my Department, prior to Christmas 2003 but that during his one week stay, he absconded from the hostel on a number of occasions. I am further informed that a recent multi-disciplinary case conference was held to consider whether the hostel in question was a suitable placement in the short term as an alternative to a continued remand in custody, pending the availability of a place at a unit specialising in cases of this type.

Following further deliberations, the management committee at the hostel decided that it was not in a position to offer a further placement, even temporarily, to the young man in question. Arrangements have been made by the South Western Area Health Board with the National Rehabilitation Hospital to carry out a comprehensive assessment of this young man's needs. The assessment is to take place this week. This young man is currently on remand in custody to Cloverhill Prison and this case is listed for further hearing on Wednesday, 11 February2004.

Citizenship Applications.

Damien English

Question:

399 Mr. English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the stage the citizenship application for a person (details supplied) in County Meath is at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3581/04]

A declaration of acceptance of post-nuptial citizenship from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in my Department in February 2003. The declaration and accompanying papers were examined by officials in the citizenship section of my Department in early September 2003. Following contact with the declarant on two occasions about some necessary amendments, the declaration was accepted as valid on 26 November 2003.

Unfortunately, the letter confirming acceptance of the declaration contained a number of clerical errors and, following contact from the individual concerned, a corrected letter was issued on 26 January last. As soon as the person concerned completes the procedures requested in the letter, a certificate of citizenship will issue to him.

Damien English

Question:

400 Mr. English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether five hours per week is sufficient time for the citizenship information lines at his Department to be open to the public; the number of calls dealt with per week during that five hour period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3582/04]

Damien English

Question:

401 Mr. English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of staff who operate the citizenship information lines at his Department during the five hours per week these lines are open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3583/04]

The helpline for the citizenship section of my Department operates from 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. During this period, two telephones are in operation. A total of 8,572 calls, approximately 165 per week, were dealt with in 2003 and 842 calls were dealt with in January 2004.

The citizenship section, in common with other areas of the immigration and citizenship division of my Department, has seen a huge increase in recent years in the volume of business it deals with. In 1999, a total of 739 applications for naturalisation and 1,242 declarations of post-nuptial citizenship were received. In 2003, the corresponding figures were 3,580 and 2,369. In 1999, 416 certificates of naturalisation and 1,022 certificates of post-nuptial citizenship were issued. The corresponding figures in 2003 were 1,664 and 2,227 respectively. At the same time, the processing time for applications for naturalisation and declarations of post-nuptial citizenship has been reduced from 2.5 years and 12 months at the start of 2001 to 15-18 months and eight months respectively at present.

Given the volume of applications being received, it is intended to continue to focus resources on decision making and maintaining the processing times at their current levels. Since November 2002, comprehensive information leaflets on citizenship matters are available on my Department's website at www.justice.ie. Application forms for naturalisation and post-nuptial citizenship can also be downloaded from the website.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

402 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself with the enforcement of regulations in respect of the compulsory fitting of speed limitation devices on buses over 10,000 kg and HGVs over 12,000 kg; the number of prosecutions for violations of these regulations recorded in the past three years for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3585/04]

The Garda authorities enforce the regulations in respect of the compulsory fitting of speed limitation devices on buses-coaches with more than eight passenger seats, excluding the driver's seat, with a design gross vehicle weight exceeding ten tonnes and heavy goods vehicles exceeding 12 tonnes. Vehicles first registered prior to 1988 are exempted from these regulations. Speed limiters must be set at 85 km/h in the case of heavy goods vehicles and 100 km/h in the case of buses and coaches.

Breaches of these regulations are dealt with as part of routine enforcement by the Garda Síochána and are also targeted by multi-agency checkpoints carried out by the gardaí in conjunction with the Department of Transport, the Health and Safety Authority and the Revenue Commissioners. The Garda authorities have advised me that figures from PULSE for the period 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2003 indicate that proceedings for breaches of the regulations were initiated in 56 cases. This figure is provisional and subject to change.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

403 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the discussions he has had with officials in the Land Registry section of his Department regarding decentralisation; if a staff survey of those wishing to transfer has been completed; and the results of such survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3605/04]

The chief executive officer-Registrar of Deeds and Titles is a member of the justice and equality sector decentralisation implementation group, which is actively planning the implementation of the Government's decision on decentralisation for the entire justice and equality sector. In line with other Departments and agencies, the Land Registry has provided information to the central implementation committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Phil Flynn.

On 15 December 2003, the human resources manager conducted a "preliminary survey" of staff to ascertain the level of interest amongst existing Land Registry staff in moving with the Land Registry to Roscommon town. The survey was for indicative purposes only and a response at that time did not imply any commitment or otherwise to decentralise to Roscommon. Out of a total of 710 staff surveyed, 45 indicated a possible interest.

Drug Seizures.

John Deasy

Question:

404 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the arrangements that exist for the safe custody of illegal drugs seized by the gardaí; the arrangements that exist for the destruction of such illegal substances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3610/04]