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 12, inclusive, answered orally.
Question No. 13 answered with QuestionNo. 10.

Insurance Levy.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

14 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Finance if it is planned to reduce or eliminate the insurance levy. [8680/04]

I have no plans to reduce or eliminate this levy, which yielded about €100 million in 2003 and is forecast to yield a similar amount in 2004.

Tax Harmonisation.

Bernard Allen

Question:

15 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance his views on the proposal of the French Finance Minister to harmonise corporation taxes among some member states under the enhanced co-operation provision of the EU Treaties. [8695/04]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

46 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance his views on discussions between the European Commission and other EU member states on the possibility of harmonising corporate tax rates. [8982/04]

I will take Questions Nos. 15 and 46 together.

In 2001, the Commission issued a communication setting out its twin track approach in the company taxation area as follows: targeting particular obstacles in the short to medium term by taking a direct approach to each of the issues and finding a specific answer to the problem and adopting a longer term comprehensive measure, a common consolidated corporate tax base for companies for their EU-wide activities. The Commission made it clear this did not involve harmonizing rates.

In November 2003, the Commission updated its position with a communication entitled "An Internal Market Without Company Tax Obstacles — Achievements, Ongoing Initiatives and Remaining Challenges". The common consolidated tax base has been discussed at EU conferences and has been the subject of a Commission consultation paper. Ireland does not see the Commission's proposals for a common consolidated base as an appropriate way forward. However, we support efforts to eliminate unfair business tax practices within the EU and the removal of barriers to cross border trade and business.

I understand that what is now being suggested is that member states who favour the common consolidated corporate tax base would proceed under enhanced cooperation. Ireland would not favour such a course. It is, however, a matter for each member state to decide on whether to participate in an enhanced cooperation procedure. Ireland does not intend to do so. In any case, it is not clear that it has been established that we are in a position of "last resort" where adoption of enhanced cooperation would be appropriate.

Ireland's opposition to the harmonisation of corporation tax is well known and clear. It is important that the rights of member states in relation to tax are retained at the national level.

Special Savings Scheme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

16 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether any scheme should replace the special savings account when it expires. [8655/04]

The specific goal of the SSIA scheme was to encourage people to save over a period of at least five years. Its effect has been to stimulate such savings over varying income ranges which is evident in the extensive take-up by many low income earners. The scheme has been a success in those terms. The scheme has a specific duration. Any proposals for new schemes either to replace the SSIA scheme or other schemes would be considered as part of the normal annual budgetary process taking account of public policy objectives and Exchequer cost implications.

Tax Code.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

17 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance his views on the contention expressed in the recent publication by the Economic and Social Research Institute, Reforming Pensions in Europe, that tax foregone in reliefs given to encourage private pension provisions now exceed the payment of means tested old age pensions. [8974/04]

A recent publication 'Reforming Pensions in Europe' launched at the ESRI deals with a range of pension issues arising in different EU countries. In one of the chapters it is stated that in Ireland, the UK and the US, tax reliefs for private pensions cost more than means-tested pensions. In Ireland, the tax system is used to encourage private pension provision, that is, occupational pension schemes and personal pensions. Tax relief is available for contributions made by the employer, employee or self-employed. Furthermore, the income and gains during the funding period are exempt. However, as aquid pro quo for these reliefs, tax arises when the income is withdrawn from the pension fund in retirement.

The total very tentatively estimated cost of tax relief for pension funding is €2,600 million for the year 2000-1 which is the latest year available. This covers tax relief on contributions by employers, employees and self employed and the exemption from income and gains in the fund. There is very little concrete information in respect of contributions to occupational pension schemes as the relief is effectively given through the payroll system. In this regard, I provided in the Finance Bill 2004 that from February 2005 an employer will be obliged to show the overall amount of employer and employee contributions in the end of year P35 return.

Expenditure on means tested social welfare pensions is estimated at €720 million in 2004. It is Government policy to encourage pension provisions through tax relief as well as through the PRSI system and payment of non-contributory pensions.

Fiscal Policy.

John Perry

Question:

18 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance his views on the efforts of European Ministers to reduce the strength of the euro. [8677/04]

As Minister for Finance, I have not commented in the past on the euro exchange rate and I do not now propose to make any specific comment on the euro exchange rate. The Eurogroup Ministers meeting on 19 January 2004, with the ECB President Jean Claude Trichet, agreed the following statement on the euro exchange rate.

Concerning exchange rates, our long-term strategy does not change. The euro must keep its value over the medium and long run, in line with economic fundamentals. In the present circumstances we particularly stress stability and we are concerned about excessive exchange rate moves.

I also recently attended the meeting of G7 Finance Ministers held in Florida on 6-7 February in my capacity as President of the ECOFIN Council. The statement issued by the G7 ministers included the following comments on exchange rates:

We reaffirm that exchange rates should reflect economic fundamentals. Excess volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates are undesirable for economic growth. We continue to monitor exchange markets closely and cooperate as appropriate. In this context, we emphasize that more flexibility in exchange rates is desirable for major countries or economic areas that lack such flexibility to promote smooth and widespread adjustments in the international financial system, based on market mechanisms.

Question No. 19 answered with QuestionNo. 8.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

20 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the sections of Government Departments that have already been relocated outside of Dublin to date; and the extent to which the workers transferred were the original workers attached to each Department concerned. [8980/04]

Sections of both the Revenue Commissioners and the Office of Public Works have decentralised offices. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the numbers of posts that were initially relocated outside of Dublin under the previous decentralisation programmes to other locations are estimated as follows:

Staff

Nenagh

215

Ennis

152

Limerick

550

Dundalk

86

Rosslare

47

The estimated percentage of those staff already serving in Revenue prior to decentralisation were as follows:

%

Nenagh

30

Ennis

51

Limerick

31

Dundalk

90

Rosslare

98

The accounts branch of the Office of Public Works decentralised to Kilkenny in 1997. I am informed by the OPW that of the 27 posts involved, five were filled by staff who had already been with the OPW prior to the announcement of decentralisation.

Tax Yield.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

21 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance if late payments by State agencies to companies are taken into account in relation to payments sought from such companies from Revenue Commissioners. [8981/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, where a company is having difficulty in meeting its tax obligations, all aspects of the company's business, including late payment by the company's customers, are taken in to account in considering the action to be taken.

Revenue's consistent advice in such cases is that the company should contact Revenue to discuss the situation so that an appropriate arrangement for dealing with the issue can be considered.

Fiscal Policy.

Damien English

Question:

22 Mr. English asked the Minister for Finance if he plans to introduce new procedures for the presentation of proposals for spending and taxation in Dáil Éireann which would be more meaningful and more timely; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8668/04]

The Estimates outline the Government's main spending proposals and they are presented to Dáil Éireann in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Dáil. I normally present the pre-budget or Abridged Estimates Volume (AEV) to Dáil Éireann approximately two weeks before budget day. The post-budget or Revised Estimates Volume (REV) is normally presented to the Dáil within eight weeks of the start of the fiscal year to which it relates. The Estimates by departmental Vote are then subject to individual scrutiny and approval by the relevant Oireachtas committee.

As regards taxation, the financial statement on budget day outlines the main taxation measures proposed. The details of these proposed measures are contained in the accompanying budget book, which is distributed to Members on budget day. The budget and Finance Bill debates provide the House with the opportunity to give its views on these measures. I do not have any plans to amend the arrangements outlined. I will, however, inform the Deputy of some reforms introduced and ongoing consideration under way which are of relevance to his question.

In my Budget Statement of 3 December 2003, I announced a major change in the financial treatment of capital spending through the introduction of rolling five year multi-annual capital envelopes. In implementing the new envelope system, I intend to allow Departments to carry over to the following year, subject to Dáil approval, any unspent Exchequer capital allocations, up to a maximum of 10% of each year's voted capital allocation.

The capital envelopes, including the carry-over arrangement, as well as leading to improvements in the management of capital programmes, will mean changes in the presentation of voted capital monies to the Dáil. The Finance Bill 2004 makes provision for the new carry-over arrangement. Under the new arrangements, as envisaged in the Finance Bill, the Dáil will be apprised of the amounts to be carried over in the AEV and it will be asked to approve the amounts on three separate occasions: the Appropriation Act of the carry-over year; a ministerial order which must be approved by the Dáil in the following year; and in the REV of the following year. The 2004 Public Capital Programme (PCP) included material relating to the multi-annual capital envelopes and it is intended that future PCPs will provide more project level information on major capital projects when the envelopes are fully operational.

Changes by way of tidying up or rationalising subheads and-or Votes have been made in the REV in recent years in consultation, as appropriate, with the Committee of Public Accounts. The 2004 REV contained a revised presentation of the subheads in the Vote for the Department of Agriculture and Food so that the Vote better reflects the Department's main goals, as set out in its Statement of Strategy, and facilitates a match between the subheads of the Vote and the main programmes or strategic areas of the Department.

Work is ongoing on a pilot project under the aegis of my Department, involving the Departments of Agriculture and Food, Social and Family Affairs and Transport, to examine ways of improving the information available on the relationships between the resources deployed and the outcomes. The results of this pilot project will be evaluated and consideration will be given as to whether this approach should be mainstreamed across Departments. If it is considered that the pilot project should be further developed and mainstreamed, I will bring proposals to Government and to the Committee of Public Accounts. I expect the pilot project working group will furnish its draft report in the next few months.

Public Private Partnerships.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

23 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the impact on public investment of the recent changes in the system for accounting for projects with private sector participation. [8703/04]

John Gormley

Question:

70 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance the way in which EUROSTAT changes in the way public private partnerships can be accounted for will result in announcements in infrastructure projects being funded through such a mechanism; and when. [8978/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 70 together.

I welcome the recent clarification from EUROSTAT as to the accounting treatment of public private partnerships. It will assist Departments in implementing the ambitious PPP investment target of €3.6 billion in the period 2004-2008 under the five year rolling multi-annual capital investment envelopes which I announced in the 2004 budget.

Public private partnership investment is an important component of the five year investment envelope. The latter is set at 5% of GNP, over twice the EU average. The objective of the investment envelope is to address our infrastructure deficiencies. To the extent that the EUROSTAT ruling provides greater clarity it will assist this objective. Individual projects, PPP or otherwise, are a matter in the first instance for relevant Departments. I look forward to the implementation of these PPP targets by individual Departments taking account of the EUROSTAT clarification.

It might be noted that the overall investment envelope will be reviewed in the context of the 2005 budget taking account of budget sustainability and, as appropriate, the EUROSTAT clarification.

Tax Yield.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

24 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance his views on the case for tax neutrality to accompany carbon taxation in order that proceeds of the new tax are used to reduce the tax burden on other resource friendly items. [8651/04]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

41 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the progress made by his Department in its consideration of the consultation papers on carbon taxes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8945/04]

John Gormley

Question:

83 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance if he remains committed to the introduction of a carbon tax as outlined in his Budget 2003 speech; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8977/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24, 41 and 83 together.

In my budget speech in December 2002, I said there would be full consultation with interested parties on the design of a carbon energy tax. In July 2003, I commenced this consultation process and made available a carbon energy tax consultation paper prepared by my Department. This consultation paper was designed to facilitate discussions on the introduction and design of the carbon energy tax while recognising that there are divergent views on the issue. The paper gave a concise overview of the issues relevant to consideration of the proposal including revenue recycling or 'tax neutrality'. Submissions in response to the paper were invited from interested parties to be received in this Department by 30 September 2003, but extra time was given where requested by organisations to complete their submissions. Some 117 submissions were received by my Department in response to the carbon taxation consultation paper.

The issue of revenue neutrality and recycling will be examined, along with all other relevant considerations, during the development of the carbon energy tax proposal in the coming months. Such an examination will include consideration of whether the tax should be recycled to the sectors on which it is levied or whether it should be used for other purposes including reducing the tax burden on other sectors. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on any particular issue at this stage. The current step in this process is the examination of submissions received in the Department. As part of the consultation process, these submissions are now also available publicly via my Department's website.

Decentralisation Programme.

Liz McManus

Question:

25 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance if an assurance has been sought from public service unions that civil servants who opt not to participate in the Government’s proposed decentralisation programme will not suffer in regard to promotional prospects; if such an assurance has been given; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8933/04]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

53 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Finance if promotion opportunities have been made dependent on a willingness to decentralise. [8688/04]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

78 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance the nature of the threats posed to the Government’s Department relocation programme by the reluctance to this policy being shown at recent annual conference of public service unions. [8973/04]

I propose to take questions 25, 53 and 78 together.

I have made it clear on many occasions that the decentralisation programme will operate on a voluntary basis. Civil and public servants who do not wish to transfer to a decentralised location will be assigned to alternative public service posts in Dublin. The exact procedures which will apply in such cases will be dealt with as part of the implementation process, which is being overseen by the implementation group. These arrangements are also being discussed with the public service unions.

Decentralisation will inevitably change the way in which the public service will operate in the future. In the case of promotion prospects, there will continue to be broadly speaking the same opportunities across the service but the impact on individuals, both those serving in Dublin and outside Dublin, will depend upon a variety of factors. The decentralised nature of the service will mean that people, particularly those at the more senior levels, will in the future have to consider their career prospects in the light of the opportunities that arise both in Dublin and outside Dublin. I would also expect, for example, that the question of regional promotion structures is an issue that is likely to arise in the discussions with the unions. Promotion practices for the future will have to have regard to decentralisation.

One of the advantages of the decentralisation programme is that it will create a wider range of work and career opportunities for individuals working outside Dublin than is currently the case. Present and future civil servants who aspire to senior management positions will no longer have to migrate to the capital, although many may well continue to do so. Similarly, individuals serving in Dublin will be able to pursue their careers within Dublin but, again, many may choose to avail of promotion opportunities in decentralised offices.

I am confident arrangements will be put in place to ensure that sufficient staff are available to carry out the work of the Department and agencies involved in the decentralisation programme.

Public Sector Jobs.

Dan Boyle

Question:

26 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the discrepancy between the figures of his Department and those of the Central Statistics Office and FÁS in relation to growth of public sector jobs in 2003. [8971/04]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

71 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the development of public service numbers over the next three years. [8702/04]

I propose taking Questions Nos. 26 and 71 together.

The FÁS labour market commentary drew employment figures from the CSO quarterly national household survey 2003 quarter 3 which do not purport to be an indicator of public service employment. As I have stated previously, the CSO classification of "Public Services" includes sizeable private sector elements in the Health and Education sectors including work without a public sector parallel. For example the health sector figure includes private sector health practitioners and providers and also private crèche workers. The education sector figure includes private schools, colleges, and training providers.

As regards public sector employment, a more relevant CSO series is that on public sector employment and earnings, although it should be noted that this survey includes the commercial State companies, which are not covered by the Government's numbers policy, and only includes figures in respect of the health sector, which is covered by the numbers policy, annually, in respect of December, rather than quarterly as for all other sectors. The most recent figures available under this series are in respect of September 2003, published on 18 February. This shows a reduction of 5,000, from 240,700 to 235,700, between June and September 2003. There is certainly a seasonal element in this but the reduction in 2003 was more than double the average reduction in the same months in the previous three years.

It is also worth noting that the CSO figures under both headings discussed above include all employees whether full-time or part-time. The surveys cover those who worked at least one hour in the reference week for most sectors. The most appropriate measure for the purposes of monitoring the effect of the Government's policy on public service numbers is whole time equivalents. On this basis my Department's figures show a total public service employment of 279,274 at 31 December 2002 and an estimated 279,991 at 31 December 2003 with a projected figure of 278,145 at the end of 2004.

Therefore, the level of public service employment, having risen steadily over several years up to 2002, stabilised in 2003 and should fall this year. Within that overall 2003 picture, numbers are marginally up in the health sector, attributable mainly to persons taken on as public servants during 2003 following the withdrawal of certain private and voluntary providers from areas of the health service; numbers in the Education sector rose by about 1,250, largely attributable to special needs education provision; while numbers reduced in the rest of the public service.

I intend achieving a reduction of 5,000 in authorised numbers by the end of 2005. I consider that good progress has been made to date and I am satisfied public service employers are taking the appropriate steps to ensure that this demanding target will be reached.

Pension Provisions.

Joan Burton

Question:

27 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he has plans to introduce ethical guidelines to cover the investments made by the National Pensions Fund to ensure that the public money is not put into inappropriate investments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8920/04]

The National Pensions Reserve Fund is managed by commissioners who are independent of Government. They control and manage the fund with discretionary authority to determine and implement an investment strategy for the fund. This investment strategy is based on a commercial investment mandate with the objective of securing the optimal return over the long term, having regard to the purpose of the fund as set out in section 18(1) of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000 and the payment requirements of the fund as provided for under section 20 of the Act, provided the level of risk to the moneys held or invested is acceptable to the commission.

These features of the Act are similar to the trustee arrangements which exist in private pension funds. Along with the statutory prohibition on draw-downs from the fund prior to 2025, they insulate the fund from day to day pressures on Government and enable the commission to take a long-term view. This is essential if the purpose for which the fund was established, to meet as much as possible of the cost to the Exchequer of pension payments from the year 2025 until at least the year 2055, is to be achieved.

Section 19 of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000 provides that, in investing fund moneys, the commission shall seek to optimise total financial return provided the level of risk is acceptable to the commission. Therefore, the commission is required to adopt a standard commercial investment policy and it does not have discretion to choose not to invest in particular sectors or companies for anything other than commercial reasons.

In determining the investment policy of the fund during the drafting of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act, I considered whether this policy should be strictly commercial or whether it should be qualified by ethical, environment and other public policy criteria. A major difficulty in deciding on an ethical investment policy is where to draw the line, given that there will inevitably be different opinions and intense debate on what constitutes ethical and socially responsible investments. In short, there is unlikely to be broad consensus on any ethical investment policy. I have no plans to revisit this matter.

Under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act, the chairperson of the commission is required to appear before the Committee of Public Accounts at that committee's request. Furthermore, the commission's annual report must be laid before each house of the Oireachtas and is required to include a detailed list of the fund's assets at year end. These requirements are designed to ensure that detailed information concerning the fund is made available to the public at the appropriate time. The commission's report for 2002 was launched on 23 July 2003.

The commission is specifically required to include in the report information on the investment strategy followed, a report on the investment return achieved by the fund and a valuation of the net assets of the fund at year end. These requirements are designed to ensure that detailed information concerning the fund is made available to the public at the appropriate time.

Decentralisation Programme.

Liam Twomey

Question:

28 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Finance if his Department through the offices of the OPW has given consideration to using Johnstown Castle in County Wexford as the decentralised headquarters of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government taking into account the role this castle has in this country’s heritage, in view of the fact that the Environment Protection Agency headquarters is nearby, that the castle grounds offer a favourable environment to work nearby and that distance and journey times are favourable for travelling to Dublin. [8286/04]

In conjunction with the others received, a proposal to use the Johnstown Castle Estate in Wexford as the decentralised headquarters for the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government is under consideration by the Commissioners of Public Works.

Tax Code.

Joe Costello

Question:

29 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance the reasons he felt unable to respond to the case made by the Gaelic Players Association for the introduction of a special tax allowance for high performance amateur sportspersons in order to recognise their contribution to society; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8922/04]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

162 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance the contacts he has had with the Gaelic Players Association in respect of the concerns it expressed about a taxation allowance for high performance amateur sportspersons; his views on the matter; the actions he proposes to take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8574/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 162 together.

The Gaelic Players Association made representations to me and my Department both by letter and at a number of meetings in respect of the introduction of special tax arrangements for elite amateur sportspersons which would be of benefit to their members. The Gaelic Players Association whose members are not paid in respect of their direct participation in gaelic games proposed a scheme of annual tax credits for elite amateur sportspersons who are resident in the State. As Deputies are also aware this proposal was the subject of considerable discussion during both Committee and Report Stages of this year's Finance Bill. The proposal envisaged that a tax credit of €2,000 would be used against the person's non-sport income since being amateurs, they do not have income arising directly from the sport itself.

Agreeing to the introduction of such a measure would simply result in the taxpayer subsidising certain amateur sportspersons when their own organisations are unwilling to do so. That is the nub of the matter. As I have said on a number of occasions, over the years the needs of GAA players have often been neglected and it was shameful that it was only in recent times that players' concerns had been heard. The GPA is to be complimented on its role in that regard. However, the provision of a new tax credit for each player in recognition of the efforts of GAA players is an entirely different matter. The GPA argument appears to be that because the GAA refuses to pay players for participation in the games, or even reimburse them adequately for legitimate expenses incurred directly as a result of their involvement in games and training sessions, the Government, that is, the taxpayer, should pick up the bill. It is not an argument with which I can agree under any circumstances.

The proposed tax credit of €2,000 per annum per sportsperson is more than the total tax credit available to a non-PAYE single person which stands at €1,520 while the PAYE tax credit itself of €1,040 is almost half of what the GPA proposes be granted to a select group of players. A tax credit of €2,000 is the equivalent of exempting €10,000 of income from tax for a standard rate taxpayer.

The Government has made substantial sums of money available to the GAA at national and local level for the development of facilities which provide the appropriate arenas in which these great national games are played. In the past two years alone the organisation has been allocated no less than €68 million in Exchequer funding, including €1.5 million a year in current funding for the governing body. I am not just referring to Government funding for Croke Park, in respect of which I took more than my fair share of criticism, but for a whole range of GAA facilities built with assistance under the sports capital programme which is administered by my colleague, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism. The record shows that no Government has been as generous to Irish sport as this Administration. In addition, the GAA has also been exempt from income tax for the past 75 years, since 1928. This relief should not be overlooked by those seeking additional tax concessions.

If it was ever considered desirable to grant €2,000 per annum to all elite sportspersons, a direct grant mechanism would be a more appropriate and fairer measure. A tax credit would not benefit many elite athletes who due to the levels of commitment and time demands of their respective training regimes are often not in a position to hold down full time employment.

In seeking this €2,000 tax credit, the GPA has claimed there is discrimination in the tax code in the treatment of the players represented by them and certain professional athletes. This is not the case. Two years ago, I introduced a scheme of tax relief for certain professional and semi-professional sportspersons which was given by way of a repayment of tax which could be claimed in the year in which the sportsperson retired from active participation in the sport. The relief relates solely to direct sports income and not from sponsorship or other income. However, the position of GAA playersvis-à-vis professional sportspersons that can avail of the retirement relief is quite different. In general, specific allowances or credits in the tax system are put in place to compensate taxpayers for necessary expenses incurred in the process of earning an income and not for expenses incurred while undertaking a voluntary activity.

Furthermore, the introduction of this credit would set an unwelcome precedent and would inevitably lead to other voluntary workers demanding a similar credit on equally supportable grounds. If these sportspersons were to get a special tax credit to acknowledge their expenses relating to the activity and their contribution to the community it would be near impossible not to extend this to other categories of individuals who give of their time and incur expenses in a wide variety of community, youth and other voluntary work. Many of the voluntary and charitable organisations to which they contribute are far less likely to be able to meet expenses of these individuals than the GAA can.

Disabled Drivers.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

30 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the delay in publishing the review group report on drivers and passengers with a disability; when the review group was first established; when it reported to him; and when he intends to publish the report. [8653/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

42 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance when the report of the interdepartmental group on the disabled drivers and passengers scheme was completed; the arrangements for consideration being given to this report in his Department; the reason this consideration has not been completed; and if he intends to take action on this report. [8707/04]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

156 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to the interdepartmental group review of the 1994 disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8433/04]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

167 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the outcome of the cross departmental committee to review and revise the tax concessions for disabled motorists (details supplied). [8724/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the position in regard to the interdepartmental review of the 1994 disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions; when it is expected to extend the limits of the scheme; the reason for the long delay in bringing the matter to a conclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9147/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30, 42, 156, 167 and 187 together.

The interdepartmental review group on the disabled drivers' and disabled passengers' (tax concessions) scheme was established in 1998. I received the report of the group in September 2002 and the issues raised in it are currently under consideration. The report is a substantive one and needs to be studied carefully. On completion of this process, I envisage that the report will be made available publicly.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

31 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider the establishment of a commission on taxation to inquire into the fairness and equity of the overall tax system and the impact, in particular, of provisions for exemption from tax and residency rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8921/04]

The last commission on taxation was set up in early 1980. Its terms of reference included the recommendation of such changes as appear desirable and practicable to achieve an equitable incidence of taxation, due attention being paid to the need to encourage development of the national economy and to maintain an adequate revenue yield. The background to the setting up of this commission was the discontentment of the PAYE sector with the system which led to the PAYE tax marches of that time. The 1980 commission on taxation issued five reports between 1982 and 1985. Its key recommendation was a low single rate of direct tax on a wider tax base.

I see no case to set up a new commission. Since 1979-80, the top rate of income tax has gone down from 60% to 42%, the 45% and 50% rates have been abolished and the standard rate, which at one stage was as high as 35%, has come down to 20%, and is now the bottom rate. With regard to PAYE concerns expressed at the timevis-à-vis the self-employed, a PAYE allowance — now a credit — was introduced in the 1980 budget. The system of income tax allowances has been replaced by a much fairer system of tax credits. Standard rating and the move to tax credits has equalised the value of personal allowance for all tax payers regardless of their level of income, thereby increasing the equity of the system.

Since 1993-94, while the total number of those in the income tax record has increased significantly by almost 664,000, or almost 54%, from 1,230,000 to 1,893,800, the number who pay no income tax at all has more than doubled over the past ten years from almost 325,400 to almost 668,700. Over the past 7 budgets, 81,300 aged income earners have been taken out of the tax net. Tax exemption limits for persons aged 65 and over have more than doubled since 1997. On international comparisons relating to the average production worker, Ireland has the lowest tax wedge in the EU and one of the lowest in the OECD.

As regards combating tax avoidance and widening the tax base, I have introduced a series of measures over the past six years, beginning with the imposition in my first budget of a £25,000 annual cap, now €31,750, on the amount of capital allowances on buildings that an individual passive investor can set against non-rental income. On combating tax evasion, I have given the Revenue Commissioners increased powers which they have used to good effect in pursuing tax defaulters.

For all these reasons, there is no question but that the present income tax system is much fairer than it was ten years ago, not to speak of the system that applied in 1979-80.

There are various fora now at which the tax system can be discussed, including the National Economic and Social Forum and the partnership process and these have played a key role in ensuring our economic success in recent years.

The Deputy has made particular reference to the provisions for tax exemption. Deputies may be interested to note that one of the few exemptions which the commission on taxation proposed in 1984 to retain was the exemption from tax on income from stallion nominations. The Deputy also referred in particular to the present rules on residence for tax purposes. I remind the Deputy that these rules were agreed by the then Fianna Fáil and Labour Government following detailed consideration in the context of the 1994 Finance Bill.

The previous residency rules were a mixture of statutory provisions, old case law and administrative practice, which Deputies I am sure would accept was an unsatisfactory situation. In his 1994 budget speech the Minister for Finance had earlier pointed out that the rules were quite complex and that there was a case for clarifying and simplifying them to ensure the legislation provided certainty. This aim was achieved by the provisions in the 1994 Finance Act. The key residency rule is residence in the State for at least 183 days in a tax year, which is also a key rule in several other EU countries. I see no reason to change them, let alone set up a commission on taxation to examine them.

International Monetary Fund.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

32 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with other EU Ministers on a replacement for Mr. Horst Kohler as director of the International Monetary Fund; his views on the qualities required by a replacement; if he has views regarding the person this should be; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8925/04]

Mr. Horst Kohler has stepped down as Managing Director of the IMF. The decision on appointment of the managing director of the IMF is a matter for the executive directors of the IMF in Washington in accordance with the articles of association of the Fund. In the event of a number of candidates emerging, a vote may be needed.

As of this time I do not believe any nomination has been made but various names of possible candidates have surfaced in the media. The matter was discussed briefly during the Minister's lunch as the recent ECOFIN meeting on the 9 March but no decision was reached.

European Council Meetings.

Mary Upton

Question:

33 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the outcome of the ECOFIN council held in Brussels on 9 March 2004. [8923/04]

On 9 March, I chaired a meeting of the ECOFIN Council in Brussels. The Council adopted the key issues paper, which sets out in a clear fashion the priorities that ECOFIN would like to see tackled by the European Council later this week. The Council also adopted conclusions on national contributions to the European Growth Initiative. The stability programmes of Belgium, Germany, Spain and Portugal were examined and opinions for each of the four member states were approved.

The ECOFIN Council heard reports on the state of play in the negotiation of saving tax agreements with UK and Dutch dependent territories and in the Commission's negotiations with European third countries. In this context, the Council also indicated that it was favourably disposed to a Commission recommendation proposing a framework for the negotiation of a monetary agreement with Andorra. On the issue of reduced VAT rates, a brief exchange of views was held at the request of the French delegation.

With regard to the European Community budget, ECOFIN recommended that discharge be given to the Commission in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Communities for 2002. The Council also agreed on the priorities that it would like to see reflected in the 2005 Community budget. There was a brief discussion on the budgetary classification of funded pension schemes.

The discussion over lunch covered the upcoming vacancies on the European Central Bank's executive board and at the International Monetary Fund, the establishment of a European centre for international economics and the need to have informal exchanges of views about some of the longer-term economic and strategic challenges facing the Union in the years ahead.

Prior to the Council meeting, I also chaired a breakfast meeting where Ministers discussed the impact of regulation on economic performance and the possibilities of reducing the administrative burden on enterprises.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

34 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if, in regard to his decentralisation proposals, a survey has been carried out generally to establish the number of public servants willing to transfer to new locations, or if such a survey is planned; if the move will be voluntary and no public servant will suffer in regard to career options or promotional opportunities if they do not wish to move to a new location; if his attention has been drawn to the serious concern that has been expressed by various trade unions representing virtually all grades in the public service at the implication of the proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8931/04]

I have not undertaken a survey of civil servants or public servants to ascertain the numbers who wish to transfer to each of the locations included in the decentralisation programme. Conducting such a survey in advance of clearer timelines for the sequencing of all the various moves would be of limited value. Following the finalisation of the implementation plan by the decentralisation implementation committee, a structured application system should be established to allow staff to apply for each of the locations announced. The nature of this system is currently the subject of discussion between public service management and unions.

The decentralisation programme will operate on a voluntary basis. Civil and public servants who do not wish to transfer to a decentralised location will be assigned to alternative public service posts in Dublin. The exact procedures which will apply will be dealt with as part of the implementation process and is being discussed with the public service unions.

Decentralisation will change the way in which the public service operates in the future. In the case of promotion prospects, there will continue to be broadly speaking the same opportunities across the civil and public service. The new programme will create a wider range of work and career opportunities for individuals working outside Dublin than currently. Public servants who aspire to senior management positions will no longer have to migrate to the capital, although many may well continue to do so. Similarly, individuals serving in Dublin will be able to pursue their careers within Dublin but many may choose to avail of promotion opportunities in decentralised offices.

From the outset the Government has been anxious to consult the unions on the issues of concern to them. Regular meetings are taking place between management and unions on all aspects of the programme.

Stability and Growth Pact.

Phil Hogan

Question:

35 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance the grounds on which the Commission has initiated a court action against the Council of Ministers in respect of enforcement of the rules of the stability pact. [8697/04]

The Deputy appears to be referring to the European Commission action concerning the ECOFIN Council conclusions of 25 November 2003 on the implementation of the excessive deficit provisions of the treaty.

The decision of the European Commission to initiate a court action against the Council in this case is entirely a matter for the Commission itself. In this regard, I would specifically point the Deputy to the Commission press release of 13 January 2004 which outlined the grounds for its decision, available atwww.europa.eu.int/comm/economyfinance/news/pressreleasesen.htm.

As regards the ECOFIN Council meeting of 25 November last, the Commission and the Council differed in their interpretation of the treaty provisions, but not on the substance of the issues in question.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

36 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the steps that were taken in the decentralisation programme since it was first announced in 1999; the consultations that took place with staff associations and otherwise between 1999 and the detailed announcement in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8919/04]

I announced in my budget speech in December 1999 that the Government intended to proceed with a new, more radical programme of decentralisation. Since that announcement, my Department received submissions, representations and inquiries on behalf of more than 130 centres throughout the country seeking to be included in the new programme. There was extensive consultation with interested parties including meetings at official level between the Department of Finance and other Departments and with each of the civil service staff unions; between myself and the staff unions generally to hear the latter's views and concerns; the Strategic Management Initiative Implementation Group of Secretaries General provided advice, at the request of the Government, on how implementation of the new programme could enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the public service; heads of relevant Departments provided views, at the request of the Government, on the experience of their respective Departments with the previous programme of decentralisation; and a major public service union provided advice, in response to an invitation from me, on the development of criteria for the programme.

In coming to its decision the Government took account of a wide range of factors in selecting suitable locations and departments and agencies for the new programme. I refer the Deputy to page B.25 of the summary of 2004 budget measures which describes the main factors taken into account.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

37 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if a report on leases of public service units proposed for removal from Dublin was considered as part of the decision on decentralisation. [8686/04]

Currently, the State rents some 200,000 square metres of office space in the Dublin area at a cost in the region of €70 million per annum. In addition, the State uses some 230,000 square metres of state owned office accommodation in Dublin.

Under the decentralisation programme in excess of 200,000 square metres of office accommodation will be required in the regions for staff moving out of Dublin. A broadly equivalent amount of space will, as a consequence, be no longer required in the Dublin area.

The issues surrounding the disposal of surplus Dublin space, both owned and leased, are currently being addressed. In this context, the following considerations will be taken into account: the specific circumstances associated with each building including location, quality and design, tenure, office area and whether its leasehold or freehold; the relocation of Departments-offices within the Dublin portfolio with a view to the optimum consolidation of Dublin office space and the timing of property disposals; the market value of a building can be greatly affected by prevailing market conditions including a significant influx of properties to the market.

EU Presidency.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

38 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance if he has received the results of the independent investigation into concerns expressed about the procurement of certain goods and services by the OPW in connection with the EU Presidency; the main findings of the investigation; if it is intended to publish the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8949/04]

The review being carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers on behalf of the Office of Public Works of the matters to which the Deputy refers is nearing completion and its report will be finalised shortly. The purpose of the examination is to establish, insofar as possible, the facts in this matter.

The report has been commissioned as an internal management document to assist me and the relevant senior officials in my office to ascertain the facts and as such it is not my intention to make it available generally to the public. However, I will make public the main findings of the report.

Question No. 39 answered with QuestionNo. 10.

National Development Finance Agency.

Michael Ring

Question:

40 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance the number of projects examined to date by the National Development Finance Agency; and the outcome in terms of the recommended system of funding of these projects. [8663/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply of 17 February 2004. I am advised there have been no further developments requiring any update on the information provided last month.

The National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) was established on 1 January 2003. One of its functions is to advise State authorities on the optimal means of financing the cost of public investment projects in order to achieve value for money. The NDFA's role includes advising on the financing and risk evaluation of Ireland's public private partnership procurement projects and raising or arranging finance for national development plan projects. In this respect it provides a centralised expert service to Departments and certain other State authorities. In addition to its advisory role, the NDFA has the power to raise funding itself or through special purpose companies up to a total of €5 billion to finance infrastructure projects. I understand that this facility has not been invoked so far.

I am advised that the agency has completed or substantially completed its input on six infrastructure projects with a combined value of more than €700 million and has organised EIB and other private lending facilities of some €250 million for these projects.

In my recent budget speech I initiated a major change in the financial treatment of capital spending by introducing five year capital envelopes. These envelopes include a commitment to keep the level of Exchequer funded capital investment at close to 5% of GNP over the period 2004-08. A significant development in these capital envelopes are specific targets for projects financed through public private partnership or by the NDFA. These targets increase from 3% of total spending in 2004 to 15% by 2008 and amount to €3.6 billion in total. The NDFA will have an important role to play in advising Departments and agencies in regard to the optimum financing of these projects to achieve value for money.

Question No. 41 answered with QuestionNo. 24.
Question No. 42 answered with QuestionNo. 30.

Non-Resident Accounts.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

43 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the number of High Court orders sought to date by the Revenue Commissioners under the Finance Act 1999 to require financial institutions to supply names, addresses and other relevant information regarding holders of bogus accounts at the latest date for which figures are available; the number of cases in which orders have been granted; the general progress made to date in identifying the holders of such accounts who did not avail of the recent voluntary disclosure scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8950/04]

Authorised Revenue officers are empowered to make an application to a judge of the High Court seeking an order requiring financial institutions to supply names, addresses and other relevant information concerning account holders who may have held bogus non-resident deposit accounts. Such applications are made under Section 908 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, as amended by the Finance Act 1999.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that eighteen applications for orders under Section 908 have been made and have been granted. When one includes institutions which have been taken over or amalgamated with other institutions, these orders seek information in respect of accounts in 26 financial institutions. No further applications for such orders are pending in regard to the bogus non-resident account enquiries.

A large volume of information has been reported to Revenue under the High Court orders. Inquiry work in the examination of the first batch of taxpayers commenced on 11 October 2002. Further general issues of inquiry letters were made in January, May, July, September, October 2003 and January 2004. These general inquiry letter issues relate to 91,000 non-resident accounts that had Irish addresses connected to them. A total of 177,000 inquiry letters have been issued to taxpayers in respect of these non-resident accounts. The final general inquiry letter issue took place in January 2004.

While it is clear Revenue is facing a long programme of investigations over several years, the Revenue Commissioners have informed me that they are satisfied significant progress has been made in this the final phase of the investigations. Since 15 November 2001, payments of €275 million have made to Revenue by taxpayers who held bogus non-resident accounts.

Company Closures.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

44 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the investigations being pursued by his Department in relation to the collapse of a company (details supplied). [8979/04]

I understand a Garda investigation is ongoing in relation to the company to which the Deputy refers. As the Deputy will appreciate, I am unable to give any details as to the progress of that investigation.

As regards the policy-legislative issues arising from the collapse of the firm, it is clear that careful and detailed examination of all aspects will be required before any such action is taken. In that regard, I have decided to set up three working groups to examine the issues arising from the case. These groups will investigate the relevant areas of legislation, including company and trust law, funding for compensation and financial regulation. The groups will comprise officials from my Department and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment as well as representatives from the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority and the Investor Compensation Company Limited. I also intend to invite representatives from relevant financial service industry bodies.

The terms of reference for these groups are being finalised and I expect they will begin their work in the coming weeks. While no date has yet been agreed for completion of their examination of these issues, I envisage that the working groups will report back to me with their recommendations within a matter of months.

Tax Yield.

David Stanton

Question:

45 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the amount collected by way of the increased taxation on alcopops in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8985/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that an estimated €12.2 million was collected in 2003 as a result of the increased taxation on alcopops. This is made up of additional excise duty of €10.2 million, together with additional VAT estimated at €2 million. The figure for additional VAT collected is estimated as VAT returns are not required to be completed in a manner that identifies the yield from particular goods and services.

The 2003 budget increase almost doubled the excise duty content on a 275 ml. bottle of alcopop, that is, lower strength spirit-based drink with less than a 5.5% alcohol content, from 30 cent to more than 59 cent. The increase was equal to 35 cent when VAT was included. The total volume of alcopops on which excise duty was paid in 2003 fell by 11.5%, compared to the corresponding period in 2002.

Question No. 46 answered with QuestionNo. 15.

European Central Bank.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

47 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance when he expects a decision will be made on the new appointment to the board of the European Central Bank to replace the Spanish member whose term expires on 31 May 2004; his assessment of the prospects of the Irish nominee securing the appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8924/04]

Dan Boyle

Question:

56 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding Ireland achieving a position on the executive board of the European Central Bank. [8972/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47 and 56 together.

The vacancy on the six member executive board of the European Central Bank to which the Deputies refer arises from the expiry of the non-renewable term of office of Mr. Eugenio Domingo Solans on 31 May next. The decision regarding the appointment is made by common accord of the Governments of the member states who have adopted the euro at the level of Heads of State or Government. It is based on a recommendation from the ECOFIN Council after it has consulted the European Parliament and the governing council of the ECB.

Three candidates have been nominated to fill this vacancy when it arises. Ireland's nominee is very well-qualified for the position. The eurogroup Ministers, at their meeting on 8 March last, decided that we will decide from among the three candidates on our recommendation to the Heads of State and Government by the time of the European Council at the end of this month. This would allow a detailed consideration by Ministers of the suitability of the candidates proposed. As part of our Presidency, I have convened an informal meeting of Ministers of the eurozone member states on 25 March 2004 in Brussels to consider the matter further.

Carbon Tax.

Damien English

Question:

48 Mr. English asked the Minister for Finance his latest estimate of the impact of a carbon tax on carbon emissions. [8692/04]

The most recent estimate of the effect of various tax rates in terms of revenue raised and the expected reduction in carbon emissions is shown in the following table.

Effects of Tax Rates (2010 with exemptions for emissions trading *)

Tax Rate

Revenue Raised (€)

CO2 reduction (Mt)

€ million

7.50

200

0.75

10

265

1.01

15

390

1.51

20

510

2.02

25

625

2.52

*To facilitate comparison with figures supplied previously, it might be noted that not providing an exemption for those covered by emissions trading would add from approximately €100 million to €250 million, depending on the tax rate, to the revenue figures for 2010, which assume a reduction in energy use by that date. The revenue streams for each tax rate would be higher in earlier years.

Tax Code.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

49 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance when he intends to implement the commitment given in An Agreed Programme for Government to remove all those on the national minimum wage from the tax net; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8928/04]

The position is that the statutory minimum wage is an average hourly rate of gross pay for an employee as defined under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000. The wage currently stands at €7 per hour having been increased on 1 February 2004 from the previous amount of €6.35 per hour. The annualised equivalent of the present minimum wage is €14,196. The provisions in budget 2004 and the Finance Bill 2004 ensure that for a single person in the PAYE sector, he or she will not pay tax on any income of €246 per week or under, equivalent to €12,800 per year.

An Agreed Programme for Government, states that, "over the next five years our priorities .... will be .... to achieve a position where all those on the minimum wage are removed from the tax net". The five year period mentioned commenced two years ago when the Government was elected to office. It should also be noted that the commitment to exempt the minimum wage from tax is given in the context of a broader economic and budgetary strategy which provides, among other things, that the public finances will be kept in a healthy condition and that personal and business taxes will be kept down to strengthen and maintain the competitive position of the Irish economy.

The Deputy will also be aware of the commitment contained in Sustaining Progress which states that, "to the extent that there is any scope for personal tax reductions, progress will continue to be made over the three budgets contained within the lifetime of this Agreement towards removing those on the minimum wage from the tax net". Progress on this taxation commitment is subject to the need to pursue responsible fiscal policies and to maintain the public finances in a healthy condition.

Accordingly, exemption from tax of those on the minimum wage will be a matter for consideration in the context of the annual budgets over the next few years, consistent with the Government's overall economic and budgetary strategy and its commitments as outlined.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Seán Ryan

Question:

50 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the number of special savings incentive scheme accounts opened at the latest date for which figures are available; the average amount of savings per investor per month; if, on the basis of such figures, his Department can give a definite figure for the likely cost to the Exchequer of the special savings incentive scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8947/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that all qualifying savings managers are furnishing their 2003 SSIA annual returns at present. The Revenue Commissioners have begun analysing these returns and final details of this analysis will not be available until the end of April 2004. Consequently, the latest year for which figures are available is 2002.

Based on the 2002 annual returns furnished by all qualifying savings managers, the total number of active accounts at 31 December 2002 was 1,143,418 and the average monthly subscription was €158. It is not possible to give a definitive answer as to the eventual cost of the scheme as it is subject to a number of variables such as where participants die, withdraw from the scheme or vary their monthly contributions. The cost of the scheme in 2003 was €531.9 million. The estimated cost in 2004 is €540 million. This is not a conclusive figure, and the final figure may be different from that if account holders change their monthly contributions. The total gross cost over the period of the scheme will be reduced by the exit tax to be received at the end.

Capital Investment.

Denis Naughten

Question:

51 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance his views on the proposal of an evaluation unit within his Department for independently evaluating capital projects as proposed by the ESRI. [8666/04]

The key responsibility for the evaluation, planning and execution of capital projects rests with line Departments and the relevant implementing agencies. My Department has a strong concern to promote the pursuit of optimal value for money by Departments and has provided guidance to Departments in this regard. This guidance is set out in the 1994 capital appraisal guidelines. These guidelines are designed to enhance the quality of project management and appraisal, including the conduct of more rigorous cost benefit analysis and to promote better value for money generally. Work is advancing in my Department on drafting revised guidelines in the light of experience of the operation of the existing guidelines and of the implementation of infrastructure projects in recent years.

As regards the specific proposal to establish an evaluation unit in my Department, I advise the Deputy that the NDP-CSF evaluation unit is an independent evaluation unit under the aegis of my Department which is co-financed by the Exchequer and the EU and has responsibility under the direction of the technical assistance monitoring committee for evaluation of the NDP operational programmes and related issues. In this regard it has engaged in or overseen a number of evaluations since the commencement of the NDP, including the evaluation of investment in key capital programmes such as the road network and public transport. The NDP-CSF evaluation unit has also been engaging with my Department with regard to the ongoing work on the revision of the capital appraisal guidelines.

My Department co-ordinates the expenditure review initiative under which Departments conduct internal evaluations or reviews of their key expenditure programmes or policy areas on the basis of centrally agreed criteria. Final responsibility for conducting reviews, submitting them for external quality assessment, disseminating their findings and implementing their recommendations rests with each Department.

My Department also provides the secretariat to the expenditure review central steering committee, chaired by the Secretary General of my Department and comprising a number of Secretaries General and an external expert. The ERCSC supports the expenditure review process at a strategic level. This includes making recommendations on future reforms to the process.

More generally the issue of the evaluative capacity of my Department will be kept under review in the context of arrangements being put in place to implement the five year rolling capital envelopes framework, the ongoing work programme of the NDP-CSF evaluation unit and the review of the capital appraisal guidelines.

EU Presidency.

Tom Hayes

Question:

52 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Finance the agenda items which will be discussed at the ECOFIN meeting planned for Ireland. [8700/04]

The informal meeting of the Council of Economics and Finance Ministers of the EU — the ECOFIN Council — will take place in Punchestown, County Kildare on 2-4 April. This will be one of the largest meetings to take place in Ireland during the Presidency. Some 300 delegates and up to 400 media personnel will attend. The national delegations from the 25 member states of the enlarged EU will be led by Ministers for Finance and central bank governors in each case.

I look forward to chairing this important meeting. The draft agenda starts with a review by Ministers and governors of the economic situation and of the outlook for the continuing recovery. It continues with preparation of the Presidency's input on behalf of the EU at the forthcoming spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank in Washington. This is followed by discussion on financial services and markets issues, including an update on the EU-US dialogue on a common approach to financial services regulation to facilitate greater access to capital markets.

Ministers will also exchange views on the Commission's communication of February last on the multiannual framework for the EU budget for the period 2007-2013. The meeting will provide an opportunity for Ministers to provide initial feedback to the Commission. This will inform the Commission's preparation of its legislative proposals in this area by mid-year, following which the negotiations are expected to get down to detail. An important part of the negotiations will be the policy and provision for Structural Funds in the post-2006 period.

This informal meeting is taking place at an important time. Shortly afterwards, on 1 May, the EU will welcome the ten new member states as full formal members into the Union. The meeting itself has a challenging agenda. I look forward to making good progress on the agenda items, all of which are important for the promotion of future growth, trade and solidarity in the Union, to the benefit of all our citizens.

Question No. 53 answered with QuestionNo. 25.

Benchmarking Awards.

Michael Noonan

Question:

54 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Finance his estimate of the total value of benchmarking awards made from 1 January 2004; and the total value of such awards which have been withheld under the performance conditions. [8694/04]

Richard Bruton

Question:

159 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the number and value of awards withheld under benchmarking; and the recommendations of the performance verification group in each case. [8459/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 54 and 159 together.

The estimated cost of the 1 January 2004 increases is as follows: Sustaining Progress — €538 million; benchmarking — €310 million. As regards the awards withheld under benchmarking, my reply will deal only in respect of the Civil Service sector which is my area of responsibility in this matter. The position in other sectors of the public service is a matter for the Ministers responsible for those sectors.

In the Civil Service, save the one exception, no increases were withheld. In the Civil Service a separate performance verification group was set up for the justice and equality sector. Those prison officer grades which are represented by the Prison Officers Association are the only Civil Service grades for which the increases recommended by the public service benchmarking body and the general round increases under Sustaining Progress have not been approved.

The Deputy will be aware that there are industrial relations difficulties in the Prison Service arising from the proposals to introduce an annualised hours system and to eliminate overtime working. The justice and equality performance verification group has deferred making a decision on the prison officer grades pending ongoing developments in this area.

Tax Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

55 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance his views on the desirability of capping the aggregate value of special tax reliefs which can be claimed by an individual. [8660/04]

There is no cap on the aggregate value of special tax reliefs which can be claimed by an individual. However, as the Deputy may be aware, in budget 1998 I announced, as and from 3 December 1997, that an annual a cap of €31,750 would apply on the amount of capital allowances that an individual passive investor could claim against non-rental income in relation to capital expenditure incurred on certain industrial buildings. Any unrelieved capital allowances can be carried forward for offset against the individual's rental income. Industrial buildings such as factories, docks, hotels, etc. are affected by this provision as well as buildings under the area based schemes such the urban, rural and town renewal schemes, and a range of other schemes such as multi-storey car parks, private hospitals etc.

There is also a cap of €31,750 on the annual amount that can be claimed by individual investors under the business expansion scheme as well as a cap of €31,750 on the maximum annual amount that can be invested in a qualifying film under the scheme of relief for investment in films. In the case of the latter scheme, this is further restricted as only 80% of total investment is eligible for relief under the scheme.

In my response to the Dáil debate on Second Stage of the 2004 Finance Bill, I referred to the fact that the special reliefs provide undoubted economic and social benefits. On the other hand, they narrow the tax base, have a cost, and inevitably are used by high earners to reduce their tax bill. A judgment must be made as to whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Imposing an overall cap on the aggregate value of special tax reliefs, other than the caps already applying to specific reliefs, which can be claimed by an individual could undermine the effectiveness of many incentive schemes in providing the economic and social benefits referred to. However, as I have stated previously, I will keep the various tax reliefs under review in the context of annual budgets and Finance Bills.

Question No. 56 answered with QuestionNo. 47.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

57 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance the role he played in approving the most recent increases in fees to lawyers and State counsel participating in ongoing tribunals of inquiry. [8976/04]

Fees payable to legal personnel acting on behalf of the State in tribunals of inquiry are subject to my sanction after obtaining the advice of the Attorney General and the views of the sponsoring Department of the respective tribunal. There have been no increases inper diem rates for counsel in ongoing tribunals of inquiry since July 2002. The increase in 2002 was the only increase since the establishment of the Flood and Moriarty tribunals.

Ethics in Public Office Act.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

58 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if he has concluded his consideration of correspondence received from the Standards in Public Office Commission drawing his attention to limitations in the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995, arising from consideration of a case (details supplied); if he has decided on the steps to be taken to address the issues raised by the commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8953/04]

As I have informed the House previously, I received correspondence from the Standards in Public Office Commission on 2 December 2003 concerning a possible amendment to section 21 of the Standards in Public Office Act 2001. Advice from the Office of the Attorney General on this matter has been received and is currently being examined by my officials. My Department is also considering, in consultation with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, a separate request from the commission that a possible amendment to the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act 1851 be considered. That amendment would increase the timescale within which the commission would be allowed to refer to the Director of Public Prosecutions any possible offence, which may come to its attention under section 6 of the Statutory Declarations Act 1938.

Tax Code.

John Bruton

Question:

59 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the failure to apply indexation in the capital gains code will result in taxes on paper gains. [8690/04]

After indexation relief was introduced in 1978 there was high inflation in the 1980s and high capital gains tax rates. At the time these high rates were a major deterrent for people considering disposals of assets. Now that the tax rate has been lowered to 20% and inflation is also consistently low, there is no reason to retain indexation relief in the capital gains tax system. Internationally, most countries do not apply indexation relief to the taxation of capital gains.

I have consistently stated that I believe in low direct taxation rates but that a broadened tax base is the price which must be paid to achieve this. As regards capital gains tax, the rate is now 20% and streamlining measures, including the abolition of indexation relief, have broadened the base. In the six years since I lowered the rate to 20%, there has been an upsurge in activity and revenue collected under the capital gains tax code. This proves my point that lower taxation means higher yield.

Money Laundering.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

60 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the total number of suspicious financial transactions that might involve money laundering reported to the Revenue Commissioners during 2003; if he has satisfied himself that adequate procedures are in place to prevent money laundering; the work being undertaken by the money laundering steering committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8927/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have received 2,688 suspicious transaction reports, which may relate to money laundering, between 1 May 2003, the date on which the reporting obligation under section 57 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 was extended to the Revenue Commissioners, and 31 December 2003. A dedicated office, the suspicious transactions reports office, has been set up to ensure these reports are comprehensively followed through by Revenue. The commissioners regard these reports as a valuable intelligence resource which will assist them in the identification of cases of tax evasion. They will be used in connection with their investigation programmes carried out by their regional divisions and by their investigations and prosecutions division.

The suspicious transactions reports office and the Garda bureau of fraud investigation meet regularly to review the reports received and to ensure their respective actions are co-ordinated and do not overlap. Money laundering investigations are conducted by the Garda, and Revenue deals with cases of suspected tax evasion. Irish legislation on money laundering is set out in the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, as amended. Primary responsibility for legislation in the area of money laundering rests with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Under regulations made by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in 2003, and in compliance with the second EU money laundering directive of 2001, the list of bodies designated under the Criminal Justice Act 1994 was extended to include accountants, auctioneers, auditors, estate agents, tax advisers, solicitors, investment business firms, dealers in high value goods where payment is made in cash for a sum of €15,000 or more, casinos, administration companies providing services to collective investment schemes, and providers of money remittance services.

Under the legislation, designated bodies are required to identify their customers, report suspicious transaction to the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners, keep records and ensure that they have in place adequate anti-money laundering procedures, including staff training. The Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority requires all institutions it supervises to comply with the anti-money laundering legislation and relevant sectoral guidance notes and to have in place the necessary procedures and controls to ensure such compliance.

The adequacy of such systems is reviewed by IFSRA in the course of its ongoing supervision of institutions and requirements for improvement advised to institutions as necessary. Furthermore, in accordance with its legal obligation under section 57(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, IFSRA is obliged to make reports to the Garda and Revenue where, in the course of its supervision, it suspects that an institution has breached section 31 or 32 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994.

As part of its ongoing supervision, IFSRA ensures that institutions are informed of international developments in the area of prevention of money laundering, in particular in relation to recommendations and reports issued by the international financial action task force on money laundering.

The money laundering steering committee, which was set up in 1994 under the chairmanship of the Department of Finance, is a representative body of Government Departments, enforcement agencies, financial institutions and other designated bodies. Its main function is to facilitate consistent application of the money laundering provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, across the range of bodies affected by the legislation. Ireland's law and procedures on money laundering were the subject of a favourable review by the financial action task force in 1998, under its procedure for the mutual evaluation of its members. The next mutual evaluation of Ireland is due in 2005.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

61 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the different tax treatment of separated, cohabiting and married parents; and the rationale for this structure. [8671/04]

I am aware that the tax treatment differs as between separated, cohabiting and married parents. The detail of this treatment was included in my reply to a question from the Deputy last month. The difference in treatment reflects the differing nature of the relationships involved, the legal arrangements between the relevant parties as regards maintenance and support, and the provisions of the general law as it relates to the status of familial structures.

Revenue Investigations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

62 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons, companies and trusts being investigated by the Revenue Commissioners arising from the Ansbacher accounts at the latest date for which figures are available; the number of cases in which settlements have been agreed and the amount paid to date; the number of cases still outstanding; if additional action has been taken by the Revenue Commissioners arising from the report of the Ansbacher inspectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8951/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their Ansbacher review has inquired into 289 cases to date and 63 of these cases have concluded settlements with Revenue. The 289 cases, taking account of spouses and connected companies, consist of 300 names.

A total of 211 cases have been under active investigation. The remaining cases consist of 62 non-resident persons, including 17 former Irish residents, 12 individuals who claimed the 1993 amnesty provisions and four cases with insufficient identity information.

The investigation includes examining the tax position of disclosed entities and accumulating and assembling information on other connected entities. The number of connected entities in regard to cases under investigation is now nearly 700.

Revenue is making extensive use of its legislative powers to seek books, records, documents and information in the cases being investigated. Where appropriate, prosecutions will be considered but these will depend on the level of evidence available.

Revenue has made five successful applications to the High Court for the production by financial institutions and third parties of books, records and other documentation, which are relevant to liabilities of Ansbacher account holders. Some 150,000 documents have been received under the terms of the High Court orders. Advanced investigative computer software is used in controlling and managing the documentation.

To date a total of €40.56 million has been received, mostly by way of payments on account, in respect of 82 cases. This is made up of:

€ million

Cases involving Ansbacher or Ansbacher type arrangements

72 Cases

32.84

Other cases involving offshore funds or deposits

10 Cases

7.72

Total

82 Cases

40.56

The 63 cases which have concluded settlements with Revenue consist of 31 cases which were settled on payments of €16.33 million, included in the amount listed, 25 non-resident cases which are covered by the provisions of double taxation agreements, five had no additional liability and two were covered by the 1993 amnesty provisions.

Revenue made an application under section 11 of the Companies Act, 1990, for a copy of the High Court inspectors' report which was made available to Revenue on 6 July 2002. The information in this report has been carefully considered as regards the tax liabilities of the persons concerned. In addition, Revenue has made a further application to the High Court for access to the supporting papers to the High Court inspectors' report. The matter was heard by the High Court on 26, 27 and 28 November 2002 and judgment is reserved. Revenue has informed me that the investigations are time-consuming and complex and are likely to continue for some time to come.

Question No. 63 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

64 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the progress made by the Revenue Commissioners into allegations that tax improprieties may surround trust operations in a bank (details supplied) in Jersey; if the Revenue Commissioners have reached a determination regarding whether these trusts facilitated tax evasion as distinct from tax avoidance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8938/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that this investigation is still ongoing and that substantial progress has been made. Arising from a voluntary disclosure programme, 254 individuals came forward and made voluntary disclosures. To date in excess of €105 million has been received by the commissioners. Revenue now intends to pursue vigorously those individuals who failed to come forward, using all powers available to it. Criminal prosecution will be considered in these cases subject to obtaining the relevant evidence. It is clear from some of the disclosures and the amount collected to date that some trusts were used to evade tax.

Departmental Investigations.

Seán Ryan

Question:

65 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance if the investigation being carried out on behalf of his Department into the circumstances in which contracts worth more than €800,000 were awarded by the Office of Pubic Works to a company whose managing director was a business associate of an OPW official has been concluded; the main findings of the investigation; if it is intended to publish the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8948/04]

The review being carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers on behalf of the Office of Public Works of the matter to which the Deputy refers is nearing completion and its report will be finalised shortly. The purpose of the examination is to establish, in so far as possible, the facts in regard to this matter. The figure of €800,000 mentioned by the Deputy refers to the total value of payments to the company in question over a nine year period from 1995 to date.

The report has been commissioned as an internal management document to assist me and the relevant senior officials in my office to ascertain the facts. As it is likely to contain information on the personal and private affairs of certain individuals, it is not my intention to make it available generally to the public. However, I will make public the main findings of the report.

International Financial Policy.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

66 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance the details of the policy direction the Government wishes to see followed by the soon to be appointed head of the International Monetary Fund. [8975/04]

Policy for the IMF is set in accordance with the articles of association at the regular meetings of the governors of the fund and on an ongoing basis by the executive directors of the IMF. The Government would expect the IMF to operate in accordance with the articles of agreement to ensure the stability of the international financial system. The post of managing director of the IMF is of considerable significance. The basic function of the IMF is not likely to be greatly changed by any person holding the post.

Decentralisation Programme.

Liz McManus

Question:

67 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance if he has received the first report of the group chaired by Mr. Phil Flynn to oversee the decentralisation programme; if it is intended to publish his report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8932/04]

The Decentralisation Implementation Committee, chaired by Mr. Phil Flynn, was charged with the development of an implementation plan for the new decentralisation programme which is to be submitted to the Minister for Finance by the end of March 2004. I have not yet received the committee's report.

The chair of the committee, Mr. Phil Flynn, reports directly to the Decentralisation Cabinet Sub-Committee and a first report to the Cabinet sub-committee has been received. There are no plans to publish this report at present.

Departmental Appeals.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

68 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the progress made with regard to efforts to clear the backlog of appeals in the Office of the Information Commissioner; the number of appeals outstanding at the latest date for which figures are available and the average time being taken to hear an appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8946/04]

This is the latest available information which has been supplied to my Department by the Office of the Information Commissioner. The number of review applications received by the Information Commissioner, and accepted as valid, increased by 58% between 2002 and 2003, from 585 to 924.

During 2003 the Information Commissioner completed reviews in 729 cases, compared with 534 cases in 2002, which is an increase of 37%. Of the 729 completed in 2003: six were received in 1999; 62 were received in 2000; 81 were received in 2001; 143 were received in 2002; and 437 were received in 2003.

At 31 January 2004 the Information Commissioner had 796 valid reviews on hands; the comparable figure for 31 January 2003 was 622, representing an increase in the on hands figure of 28% as between the two years. The 796 cases on hand are broken down as follows in terms of year of receipt: received in 1999 — two; received in 2000 — 19; received in 2001 — 182; received in 2002 — 130; received in 2003 — 451; and received in 2004 — 12. The total figure was 796.

Figures are not currently available as to the average time taken to conclude reviews — appeals. At present, the commissioner is dealing with applications received currently as well as older cases including some applications received in 2000. Any average figure thus derived would need to be treated with caution. However, the commissioner hopes to be able to give fuller details of case completion timescales in her annual report for 2003.

Revenue Investigations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

69 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons, companies and trusts being investigated by the Revenue Commissioners arising from the Clerical Medical Insurance/NIB Inquiry at the latest date for which figures are available; the number of cases in which settlements have been agreed and the amount paid to date; the number of cases still outstanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8952/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that arising from the Clerical Medical Insurance/NIB inquiry, 452 cases have been targeted for investigation. To date, 287 cases have been settled on payment of tax, interest and penalties amounting to a total of €44.46 million. A further 111 cases have been finalised with no additional liability arising. The remaining 54 cases are the subject of ongoing investigation, in respect of which €4.58 million has been paid on account.

In the course of 2003, three cases were prosecuted, with fines being imposed in two cases and a suspended sentence imposed in the other. The individuals concerned have also settled their tax affairs and paid the outstanding tax, together with interest and penalties. A further case is currently under investigation with a view to prosecution.

Aggregate results of the ongoing investigations have been published each year since 1998 in the annual reports of the Revenue Commissioners. Individual details of settlements have also been published where the provisions of section 1086 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 applied.

Question No. 70 answered with QuestionNo. 23.
Question No. 71 answered with QuestionNo. 26.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

72 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he hopes to have achieved the targets set in regard to decentralisation by the end of 2004; if disturbance or relocation costs are envisaged; if so, the extent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8440/04]

I have appointed a decentralisation implementation committee to drive forward the implementation of the programme. The committee, which is chaired by Phil Flynn, will prepare an implementation plan and will report back to Government by the end of March 2004. Subject to approval by the Government, work will then start on advancing the programme in accordance with the proposals in the implementation plan. In tandem with this, consultations with unions representing all the staff involved will continue.

The decentralisation programme is on a voluntary basis and therefore it is envisaged that there will be no disturbance or relocation expenses paid to staff who volunteer to relocate.

Pension Provisions.

Dan Neville

Question:

73 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Finance if he has considered the approach advocated by the ESRI for the deployment of funds set aside for the National Pensions Reserve Fund. [8676/04]

I am aware of various views expressed by individuals and institutions concerning the National Pensions Reserve Fund, NPRF. The NPRF was established in April 2001 with the objective to meet as much as possible of the cost to the Exchequer of social welfare and public service pensions to be paid from the year 2025 until at least 2055. I have no plans to alter the basic levels at which contributions are made to the NPRF.

As explained in answers to other parliamentary questions in regard to the National Pension Reserve Fund, I am committed to the investment mandate of the fund as set out in section 19 of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000. This provides that, in investing fund moneys, the commission shall seek to optimise total financial return provided the level of risk is acceptable to the commission. Therefore, the commission is required to adopt a standard commercial investment policy and it does not have discretion to choose not to invest in particular sectors or companies for anything other than commercial reasons. Accordingly, there is nothing to prevent the commissioners from investing in projects in Ireland should they be satisfied that such investments are likely to yield a commercial return.

I note that the ESRI has stressed the importance of infrastructural spending. It should be clear the Government is fully committed to the development of the national infrastructure. As I announced in my recent Budget Statement, the Government will implement multi-annual capital investment envelopes over the period 2004 to 2008, providing for investment of about 5% of GNP per annum, which is twice the EU average.

Tax Code.

Willie Penrose

Question:

74 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the progress made in his review of tax incentive schemes, especially in view of the finding of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General that in 2002 the top 400 earners benefited from tax breaks to the value of €70 million; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8940/04]

As I pointed out to Deputy Michael Higgins in my response to the same Dáil question last month, all tax reliefs and incentives were reviewed in the context of the budget and Finance Bill 2004.

On foot of that review, and having considered the many pre-budget submissions made to me, I made a number of announcements regarding various tax reliefs in my 2004 Budget Statement and these and other necessary provisions are now included in the Finance Bill 2004 which was published last month. The provisions include an extension of film relief to end 2008 with an increase in the amount per film that can be raised under the relief to €15 million and significant administrative changes to tackle abuse. There is also an extension of the termination date for various area-based tax incentive schemes to 31 July 2006 in order to relieve pressure on construction resources to meet the December 2004 deadline and allow for an orderly winding down of these schemes. In line with my position on targeted reliefs, the business expansion scheme and the associated seed capital scheme are also being extended to end 2006 and the company limit is being increased to €1 million. However, the extension and changes to both these schemes are subject to a commencement order to allow clarification of potential EU State aid issues raised by the European Commission.

It must be accepted that, of their nature, tax reliefs even where they can be justified for good public policy purposes will reduce the tax bills of those in the higher income bracket.

As the Deputy will be aware, the figures referred to by the Comptroller and Auditor General are extracted from a study carried out by the Revenue Commissioners in 2002 on the Effective Tax Rates for High Earning Individuals based on the tax year 1999-2000. A similar study was undertaken in 1997. I placed copies of both these studies in the Oireachtas Library.

One of the conclusions drawn from the 1997 study was that the use of capital allowances on the expenditure on buildings in tax designated areas and on hotels was one of the main methods of reducing the tax bills of high earners to very low levels. Subsequently, in budget 1998, I capped the amount of annual capital allowances on such buildings that could be set-off against non-rental income and, in the case of hotels throughout most of the country, I abolished in total the capital allowances against non-rental income.

The 2002 study indicates an increase in the effective tax rate of high earners in 1999-2000 compared with earlier years. However, it is clear that some high earners continue to achieve substantial reductions in their tax liability as a result of certain tax reliefs. The study indicates that property based capital allowances continue to be the chief instrument used by high-income earners to reduce their taxable income by substantial amounts. It is also clear that the 1998 changes were not fully in effect by 1999-2000.

I assure the Deputy that all tax incentive schemes will continue to be kept under review, especially in the context of the annual budget and Finance Bill process, seeking at all times to ensure that there is an appropriate balance between the provision of particular incentives for good public policy reasons and the availability of opportunities for higher earners to reduce their tax exposure. In addition, as part of the work on the evaluation of tax incentives, the Revenue Commissioners are taking steps to ensure that in future there will be better information available in the ongoing cost of tax expenditures such as property-based tax incentives and pension reliefs. I have underpinned this by way of a provision in Finance Bill 2004, which will require additional information to be provided in regard to property-based capital allowances by taxpayers in their annual tax returns for the tax year 2004 and by employers on pension reliefs starting in relation to the tax year 2005.

Pension Provisions.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

75 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the position in regard to the discussions between his Department and public service unions regarding the impact of proposed changes in regard to public service pensions; the steps being taken to address the concerns raised by the unions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8944/04]

I take it the Deputy is referring to the proposals on public service pensions which I announced in my budget speech last December. The Government accepted the bulk of the recommendations of the Report of the Commission on Public Service Pensions which was published in 2001. The trade unions were represented on the commission, and subsequently joined a working group set up to advise on the implementation of the commission's recommendations. While this working group failed to reach agreement on key issues, it provided a setting for consultation in which union concerns could be articulated and ultimately channelled to Government after the group's report was concluded in October 2003.

In line with my budget announcement last December, the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2004, which is currently before the Oireachtas, will implement a key commission recommendation by raising the minimum pension age to 65 years for most new entrant public servants. The Bill will also abolish compulsory retirement age for most new entrant public servants.

At the time of the budget I undertook to ensure that the public service unions were kept fully informed as to the details of the implementation of the reforms in the Bill in advance of their introduction for new entrants on 1 April 2004. Several meetings have been held with union representatives over recent months. In the course of these meetings the unions have made their views known on the draft legislation. In framing the legislation, I have had regard to their views.

I also announced in my budget speech that I intended bringing forward a further set of proposed pension changes arising from the commission's recommendations in respect of existing public servants. These changes, which are not part of the Bill, are being discussed with the public service unions at present. Issues being considered include amendment of the formula used for integrating public service and social welfare pensions to make better provision for current and future staff on lower pay levels, along with a new single additional voluntary contribution-type scheme for the public service, as well as the possibility of optional early retirement on the basis of actuarially reduced benefits. Also, it is proposed to examine the feasibility of implementing the commission's recommendation for the payment of survivors pensions to non-spousal partners. The discussions are not yet concluded, but I understand that very substantial progress has been made. I am confident changes in these areas will bring further modernisation of public service pension arrangements in keeping with the other reforms in the Bill.

Tax Amnesty Breaches.

Willie Penrose

Question:

76 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the number of breaches detected of the Waiver of Certain Tax, Interest and Penalties Act 1993 in respect of each year since 1994; the number of prosecutions initiated and convictions secured arising from such detections; if he has satisfied himself that the law is being applied in the manner intended by the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8941/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there are two ways in which a taxpayer may have been in breach of the amnesty, first, in making a declaration that he or she did not comply with the terms or, second, a declaration was not made. I am informed that Revenue does not have figures for the number of breaches of the amnesty. Because of the confidentiality conditions built into the 1993 amnesty legalisation such breaches are difficult to identify and prove.

No individual has been successfully prosecuted to date for failure to comply with the obligatory provisions of the Waiver of Certain Tax, Interest and Penalties Act, 1993.

Growing numbers of individuals and companies have been successfully prosecuted in recent years as a result of Revenue investigations, and although these investigations have in some instances involved consideration of possible amnesty breaches, it was not possible in any of them to obtain the evidence necessary to meet the required standards of "beyond reasonable doubt", in those offences. Revenue's criminal investigation programmes have been refocused recently with the establishment of an investigations and prosecutions division, one of the functions of which is to increase the number of prosecutions for serious tax evasion. Where, in the course of investigations, amnesty offences are identified they will be investigated with a view to taking a criminal prosecution.

Given the real evidential difficulties which arise in successfully bringing a case through the courts for amnesty non-compliance, I am satisfied the Revenue Commissioners are making every effort to ensure the law is applied in the manner intended.

EU Financing.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

77 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the consideration of proposals from the EU Commission for financing the EU in the post 2006 period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8942/04]

The European Commission on 10 February last published its communication on its proposals for the future financing of the EU in the post-2006 period. Publication of the communication initiates a negotiation on the multi-annual framework for the EU budget, otherwise known as the financial perspective, for the period after 2006.

The current framework, known as Agenda 2000, covering the period 2000 to 2006, took some two years to negotiate. It can be expected that there will be a similarly protracted negotiation on the proposals now made in the Commission communication.

Overall guidance and the ultimate decision, at Council level, on future EU financing will be a matter for the European Council of heads of State or Government. While it will be too early for the European Council meeting this week to engage on the substance, the European Council is expected to endorse the general approach proposed by the Irish Presidency for handling these important negotiations. The European Council meeting in June will consider the issue again. The General Affairs and External Relations Council will have responsibility for handling the negotiations on behalf of the European Council.

The Irish Presidency has launched a process, whereby a thorough analysis of the Commission communication will be carried out by COREPER, the permanent representatives of the member states. This process began in late February and is expected to continue until May. This will allow sufficient time for finalisation of a report in advance of the June European Council.

The informal meeting of ECOFIN Council in April, which I will chair, will also have the opportunity to consider the Commission communication. The European Parliament will also play an important role in these discussions.

Question No. 78 answered with QuestionNo. 25.

Tax Collection.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

79 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the progress made with regard to the negotiations between the Revenue Commissioners and the authorities in the Cayman Islands with a view to the conclusion of a tax information exchange agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8937/04]

In response to earlier Dáil questions on this matter, I stated that a first round of negotiations between the authorities in the Cayman Islands and the Revenue Commissioners for a tax information exchange agreement was held in Dublin on 24 November 2003. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a further round of negotiations is planned for next month. As I stated in my earlier responses, it is not possible at this stage of the negotiations to comment on their likely outcome.

Tax Code.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

80 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance the procedures that are in place to ensure that Irish citizens claiming residency abroad for tax purposes comply with the requirement to be out of Ireland for a minimum of 183 days; if he has satisfied himself that existing procedures are adequate; if he has plans to review the procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8934/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have the entitlement to make all relevant enquiries in relation to any tax return or statement made to them and, where appropriate, to carry out an audit to verify the accuracy of the return or statement. This applies to returns or statements made by persons claiming to be non-resident as it does for all other taxpayers.

Audits and other interventions by the Revenue Commissioners are made on the basis of indications of risk. Claims to non-residence status are included in risk profiling and Revenue has indicated it is committed to auditing and validating a number of such claims.

I am informed by the commissioners that the procedures to be adopted in relation to validating a claim to non-residence status will depend on the circumstances in each case. For example, in some instances it may involve the cross-checking of records available to customs. The administration of these audit and validation procedures is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners and I am informed by them that these procedures are kept under review.

Tax Collection.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

81 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance the nature of the arrangement offered by the large cases division of the Revenue Commissioners offering structured communications with wealthy persons and firms that would reduce the number of audits; and if he will make a statement on the matter.[8929/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that their large cases division has responsibility for ensuring that there is the highest possible level of tax and duty compliance by 320 of the largest business enterprises — those with annual turnover in excess of €125 million — and 250 of the wealthiest individual taxpayers — those with estimated net worth in excess of €50 million. The division also deals with the financial services sector in its entirety.

As well as monitoring compliance by these cases through audit and debt management programmes, the division is engaging directly with the companies and individuals concerned to encourage their commitment to observe an agreed framework of good tax compliance standards, supported by open lines of communication with Revenue. These audit and communication strategies allow Revenue to develop a more informed view of the risks posed by particular large businesses and wealthy individuals and to apply audit resources as appropriate to match those perceived risks.

Fiscal Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

82 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he can rely on the financial projections of various Departments as delivered at estimate and budget time in view of the fact that many such Departments have in the intervening period found resources to which their attention had not been drawn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8439/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the circumstances whereby previously unforeseen resources have been found in a number of Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9144/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 and 186 together.

I am satisfied with the financial projections of the various Government Departments and that the increase in resources between budget day and the publication of the 2004 Revised Estimates Volume, REV, reflects the normal process of updating in the light of emerging information. The budget day estimate for gross current and capital spending by Departments and offices was €41.117 billion and the estimate for appropriation-in-aid receipts relating to spending on services — as noted in tables 4 and 5 of the budget book statistics and tables — was €8.170 billion, giving a net total of €32.947 billion.

In the recently published 2004 REV the revised figure for gross spending is €41.239 billion and for estimated appropriations-in-aid is €8.298 billion, giving a net total of €32.941 billion. The increase of €128 million in receipts relates to:

Social Insurance Fund

61.3 million

EU Receipts — on a number of votes

41.4 million

Justice and Garda receipts

10.0 million

Broadcasting — licence fee receipts

9.8 million

Defence — UN Receipts

5.0 million

Petroleum receipts

2.5 million

Environment, Heritage and Local Government

1.5 million

Mining receipts

1.0 million

Enterprise, Trade and Employment

1.0 million

Agriculture — disease levies

5.0 million

Other

300,000

128.8 million

As noted earlier the updated figures reflect the latest available data, including end-year outturn data which were not available on budget day.

Question No. 83 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Ministerial Appointments.

Enda Kenny

Question:

84 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the names, duties, annual salaries, work locations and dates of appointment of the political advisers, personal assistances and secretaries appointed by the Ministers of State at his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8284/04]

The names, duties, annual salaries and dates of appointments of the political advisers, personal assistants and personal secretaries appointed by the Ministers of State atmy Department are set out in the table below. All staff are located in Government Buildings except for the personal secretary to the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, who is based in Wicklow town.

Office of the Government Chief Whip

Name

Job Description

Date of Appointment

Current Annual Salary

Carl Gibney

Special Advisor — co-ordinating Information Society events, liaising with interest groups, monitoring developments in e-government at EU level, and research and speech writing on Information Society issues.

06/06/02

72,128

Averil Power

Personal Assistant — speech writing, research, and political and constituency- related issues.

23/07/02

38,653

Nuala Redmond*

Personal Secretary — constituency related issues and management of Minister’s constituency correspondence.

06/06/02

26,871

Paula Eager

Personal Secretary, replaced Nuala Redmond.

28/07/03

26,931

*Returned to Dept. of Health and Children on 18/03/03

Office of Minister of State Roche

Name

Job Description

Date of Appointment

Current Annual Salary

Ciara Furlong

Personal Secretary — constituency related issues and management of Minister’s constituency correspondence.

06/06/02

34,600

Geraldine Cole

Personal Assistant to MoS Roche at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

02/02/04

40,515(paid by Department of Foreign Affairs)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

85 Ms Enright asked the Taoiseach the number of staff appointed by him, from outside the Civil Service, since the general election 2002; the job descriptions for these staff; the salaries and expenses paid to these staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8325/04]

The number of new staff appointments to my Department, in my office, the offices of the Ministers of State at my Department and the Government press secretariat, from outside the Civil Service since the general election 2002 are detailed in the table below.

Name

Job Description

Salaries

Expenses Received 2004 to date

Expenses Received in 2003

Expenses Received in 2002

Brian Murphy

Special Advisor to the Taoiseach

77,537

Nil

Nil

Nil

Mandy Johnston

Government Press Secretary

100,369

Nil

1,148

971.25

Carl Gibney

Special Advisor to the Government Chief Whip

72,128

Nil

Nil

Nil

Averil Power

Personal Assistant to the Government Chief Whip

38,653

Nil

1,210

Nil

Paula Eager

Personal Secretary to the Government Chief Whip

26,931

Nil

Nil

Nil

Ciara Furlong

Personal Secretary to Minister of State Roche

34,600

Nil

Nil

Nil

International Trade.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

86 Mr. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the full extent of the growth of Irish exports in the past five years [8206/04]

The data requested by the Deputy are presented in the table following. Table 1 shows the total value of exports which increased from €57,321.8 million in 1998 to €82,125.5 million in 2003. Tables 2 and 3 show annual merchandise export data for the years 1998 to 2002 and for the period January to November 2003 broken down by major geographical region and identifying, in particular, the top ten commodity groupings for the period. November 2003 is the latest month for which detailed data are available. Details for December 2003 will be available towards the end of March 2004.

Table 1 — Total Exports

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

€(000)

€(000)

€(000)

€(000)

€(000)

€(000)

Total

57,321,815

66,956,219

83,888,932

92,689,909

93,610,346

82,125,500

Table 2 — Exports by major geographic area

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Jan-Nov 2003

€(000)

€(000)

€(000)

€(000)

€(000)

€(000)

UK

12,920,617

14,690,171

18,869,835

22,629,829

22,453,776

13,565,387

Other EU

26,067,093

28,768,665

33,416,681

34,946,145

37,443,845

32,447,729

USA and Canada

8,088,768

10,667,226

14,622,342

16,286,893

17,000,413

16,115,544

Rest of the world

10,245,337

12,830,157

16,980,074

18,827,042

16,712,312

13,196,887

Total

57,321,815

66,956,219

83,888,932

92,689,909

93,610,346

75,325,547

Table 3 — Exports by top 10 commodity groupings

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Jan-Nov 2003

€(000)

€(000)

€(000)

€(000)

€(000)

€(000)

Office machines & automatic data processing machines

12,940,208

15,152,684

19,616,841

21,034,504

17,309,437

13,222,389

Organic chemicals

9,946,284

11,394,108

16,897,510

17,117,882

17,378,629

14,247,985

Medical & pharmaceutical products

4,212,398

4,815,059

5,311,737

8,975,123

15,669,895

12,407,618

Electrical machinery, apparatus & appliances nes & parts

4,212,243

5,135,805

7,915,994

10,164,509

10,564,769

4,711,309

Miscellaneous manufactured articles nes

4,231,432

5,208,985

6,121,857

6,002,669

5,034,547

4,420,245

Telecommunications & sound equipment

2,150,444

3,582,145

3,736,538

3,657,620

2,635,458

1,196,700

Essential oils, perfume materials; toilet & cleansing preps

2,012,419

2,448,692

2,355,173

3,140,932

3,160,548

3,754,563

Chemical materials & products nes

1,414,116

1,862,762

1,940,871

2,295,191

2,223,569

2,201,768

Professional, scientific & controlling apparatus nes

1,394,955

1,387,281

1,703,242

1,881,812

2,061,755

3,004,397

Meat & meat preparations

1,481,651

1,770,558

1,752,217

1,594,127

1,744,252

1,672,990

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

87 Mr. Stanton asked the Taoiseach the amount of money allocated by his Department in 2003 and 2004 to directly fund services for persons with disabilities and the amount of money allocated to enabling persons with disabilities to more easily access the services of his Department. [8636/04]

No funds were committed to provide additional facilities for people with disabilities in 2003 as my Department provides adequate facilities, including a ramp at the entrance, wheelchair lifts and disabled toilets. However, in 2004, the Office of Public Works are arranging for the upgrade of the lifts in my Department and adaptations will be made to make them more user friendly for wheelchair users in line with building regulations. Three websites are maintained by the Department of the Taoiseach. These arewww.taoiseach.gov.ie, www.bettergov.ie and www.betterregulation.ie. All of these sites are regularly tested to ensure that they are compliant with WAI level 3 accessibility guidelines — these are universal principles for publishing information on the Internet, which include the promotion of a high degree of usability for people with disabilities.

The situation regarding the general suitability of services for people with disabilities is also kept under constant review so that any additional improvements may be made where opportunities are identified. Services for persons with disabilities are, of course, addressed within the social partnership process and the quality customer service dimension of public service modernisation, dealt with by my Department.

Decentralisation Programme.

Pat Breen

Question:

88 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when decentralisation for Trade and Enterprise Ireland staff to Shannon will take place; if he has identified offices for such transfer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8447/04]

The Minister for Finance, in his budget speech, announced the decision of the Government to decentralise 300 of Enterprise Ireland's Dublin based staff to Shannon. The decision on the timing of the move by Enterprise Ireland staff to Shannon will depend on the conclusion of national, public sector wide, discussions on the implementation of the decentralisation programme, and the availability of suitable accommodation in Shannon.

Through the Office of Public Works, OPW, expressions of interest for the provision of accommodation have been sought, by way of public advertisement in the national newspapers. Some ten responses have been passed to Enterprise Ireland by the OPW. These range from the development of purpose-built accommodation to the availability of a potential site or sites. Enterprise Ireland is considering the options in consultation with OPW. Enterprise Ireland has nominated a senior manager to sit on a group established within the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to oversee the implementation of the decentralisation decision.

As requested by the Department of Finance, Enterprise Ireland is preparing an information pack on the Shannon area. The pack will include information on a number of topics such as transport systems, business facilities, accommodation, education facilities and sports & leisure facilities in Shannon.

Job Creation.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

89 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the job creation needs of Tallaght, Dublin 24, which is the third largest population centre in the country, continues to receive special attention by her Department and State agencies; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Tallaght has a very young population and huge challenges ahead as far as employment needs are concerned; the action she plans to take; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8295/04]

With support from IDA Ireland, the agency with statutory responsibility for attracting foreign direct investment, a number of companies in the electronics, internationally traded services and software sectors have established operations in the Tallaght area and are continuing to expand their operations. Recently, Google and Overture, two world renowned high-tech companies, decided to locate in the area. A Japanese pharmaceuticals company has begun construction of a plant in Grangecastle, Clondalkin, which will employ 60 people. A new biotechnology facility, also in Grangecastle, employs 500 people which is expected to increase to 1,300 by 2005.

As regards indigenous industry, Enterprise Ireland, in 2003, approved 16 projects in the greater Tallaght area. Each of these is planning to increase employment in the area over the next few years. Enterprise Ireland is working closely with South Dublin County Council and other agencies in the area. A number of community enterprise centres have been established to provide incubation space for start-up companies. At the micro-enterprise level, the South Dublin County Enterprise Board continues to provide a comprehensive range of supports and training.

The strong infrastructural support already in place will continue to help attract companies to Tallaght and its environs, and the State agencies are committed to promoting the area for industrial development.

Ministerial Appointments.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

90 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff appointed by her, from outside the Civil Service, since the general election 2002; the job descriptions for these staff; the salaries and expenses paid to these staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8326/04]

Since the formation of the current Government in June 2002, I have appointed seven staff from outside the Civil Service, six of whom are currently serving. A special adviser appointed on 6 June 2002 died in October 2003.

The breakdown of staff currently serving is as follows: three special advisers, one of whom is assigned to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; two personal assistants; and one personal secretary. It should be noted that my programme manager was actually appointed by the Taoiseach. The role relates to the implementation of the programme for Government, which involves liaising with departmental officials and programme managers in other Departments.

The special advisers are involved in the provision of advice and assistance to myself and the two Ministers of State. The personal secretary and personal assistants are involved in the performance of general secretarial duties including duties relating to the handling of inquiries made to the offices. The total salaries and expenses for the seven staff employed from 6 June 2002 to date amounts to €750,297.09 and €17,202.68 respectively.

Biotechnological Innovations.

Billy Timmins

Question:

91 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in relation to a group (details supplied); the identity of the members; and their employment at the time the group sat. [8410/04]

In March 1999, the Government noted the range of concerns raised by genetic modification and approved the establishment of an interdepartmental group on modern biotechnology to report with a co-ordinated overall position as soon as possible. The membership of the group at that time was as follows: Ronald Long, Assistant Secretary, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment — Chairman; Tom Mooney, Assistant Secretary, Department of Health and Children; Jim Beecher, Assistant Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development; Dr. Jim Flanagan, chief inspector, Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development; Geraldine Tallon, Assistant Secretary, Department of the Environment and Local Government; Owen Ryan, Assistant Principal, Department of the Environment and Local Government; Alan Reilly, director operations division, Food Safety Authority of Ireland; Dr. Jim Ryan, director, BioResearch Ireland, Enterprise Ireland; Dr. Noel Gillatt, Forfás; Padraic de Bhaldraithe, inspector, Department of Education and Science; and Peter Buckley, Assistant Principal, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment — secretary.

In December 2000, the Government, in considering the report of the group, approved the continuation of the group on a permanent basis and the extension of its membership to include representatives of Teagasc, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food Safety Promotion Board, the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Enterprise Ireland and Forfás. The group is currently chaired by Mr. Brian Whitney, Assistant Secretary, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The future work programme of the group is currently under consideration.

Work Permits.

Willie Penrose

Question:

92 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the requirements for a person from Canada seeking an employee work permit to work here; the stage at which the application should be sought; and if same should be applied for prior to such a person leaving Canada to come here. [8487/04]

Only an employer in the State may apply for work permits. However, skilled workers in certain sectors may apply for working visas or work authorizations. Details of these programmes may be found on my Department's web site atwww.entemp.ie. Details of the working visas and work authorization programmes are also available from the Department of Foreign Affairs web site at www.irlgov.ie/iveagh.

Insurance Claims.

Martin Ferris

Question:

93 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the former employees of Irish Steel at Cobh were not insured; and her plans to ensure that those with claims against the company for work related injuries receive compensation. [8503/04]

I understand that at the time of the sale of Irish Steel Limited in 1995, the company had employer liability insurance in place although there was a policy excess or deductible of £2 million per annum. Claims up to this amount each year would have been a matter for the company. I also understand that such arrangements for limited self-insurance would not be unusual for companies of the size and nature of Irish Steel Ltd. It is also the case that the company's insurance brokers confirmed at that time that the insurance cover in place was adequate for the company's then current operations.

Full information on any claims on hands at the time of the sale were disclosed to the purchasers as part of the due diligence process. Furthermore, as part of the sale agreements, the State made a payment of £2,445,000 to Irish Ispat Ltd. in respect of certain potential liabilities for dust and deafness claims as well as for outstanding taxes. As part of these arrangements, it was agreed that any liabilities in respect of these items would be the sole and exclusive responsibility of the company and the purchaser. The purchaser also undertook to utilise the payment for these items.

I have no information on the insurance arrangements that Irish Ispat Ltd maintained subsequent to the sale. Given that Irish Ispat Ltd is in liquidation, it would appear that any persons with claims against the company should pursue the matter with the liquidator.

FÁS Training Programmes.

David Stanton

Question:

94 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons with disabilities who are in FÁS mainstream training programmes in relation to the policy of mainstreaming; the number of persons with disabilities who are in programmes with specialist training providers; the cost of each group in each case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8611/04]

On 27 February 2004 there were 453 participants in FÁS mainline training programmes with an annualised budget of €5.787 million. This annualised budget cost is a total direct cost and does not include FÁS staff or overheads. In respect of specialist training providers, the number of participants at 27 February 2004 was 1,752, with a total budget for 2004 of €41.833 million. This budget is a total cost for vocational training which includes trainer fees, trainee allowances, trainee travel and child care etc.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

95 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the money allocated by her Department in 2003 and 2004 to directly fund services for persons with disabilities and the money allocated to enabling persons with disabilities to more easily access the services of her Department. [8637/04]

The FÁS actual expenditure in 2003 and the budget for 2004 for programmes specifically related to persons with disability are as follows:

Actual 2003

Budget 2004

€m

€m

Specialist Training Providers

37.792

41.833

Pilot Employment Programme

1.95

2.200

Employment Support Scheme

2.904

3.000

Supported Employment Programme

6.122

7.000

Disability Support/Awareness

1.081

2.000

Total

51.850

56.033

The amounts stated above are the direct costs attributed to the programmes and do not include FÁS staff or overhead costs.

My Department endeavours to deliver all of its services in an inclusive manner and as such the cost of services to persons with disabilities is included in the cost of delivering the service to all customers. In some instances specific expenditures occur. In 2003, approximately €47,000 was spent on evacuation chairs for persons with disabilities. In addition, my Department is currently redesigning the website to make it fully inclusive with a minimum of level II web accessibility initiative compliance at a cost of approximately €45,000.

Job Losses.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

96 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the payment of outstanding claims to the former workers of a company (details supplied); if the State’s responsibility to the workers has been fully discharged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8728/04]

After the company became insolvent on1 June 2001, my Department, which has responsibility for the statutory redundancy payments scheme and the insolvency payments scheme, paid 356 employees their correct statutory redundancy lump sum entitlements from the social insurance fund. A total amount of €2,136,588.53 was paid out. There are no outstanding claims.

In addition, a total of €1,696,068.75 was paid from the social insurance fund to 455 employees for arrears of wages, holiday pay, minimum notice and pension contributions under the insolvency payments scheme. Again, there are no outstanding claims.

County Enterprise Boards.

Denis Naughten

Question:

97 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the funding allocated to each county development board in 2003 and 2004; the top-up funding provided to each board in 2003; the moneys spent by each board from 1 July 2003 to 31 December 2003; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8733/04]

In view of the detailed nature of the information requested by the Deputy I am providing this information by way of a tabular statement.

CEB

2003 Fund Allocations

2003Top-up Funding

2004Allocation

Allocation1/7/2003 -31/12/2003

CARLOW

756,404.00

256,000.00

862,678.00

695,304.00

CAVAN

761,739.00

62,974.00

720,841.00

538,509.78

CLARE

852,690.00

51,345.00

772,158.00

499,035.00

CORK CITY

799,427.00

7,000.00

732,599.00

331,228.00

CORK NORTH

293,977.00

17,131.00

456,000.00

90,807.71

CORK SOUTH

785,746.00

124,219.00

813,114.00

409,514.00

CORK WEST

794,135.00

30,408.00

722,160.00

281,624.30

DONEGAL

1,139,574.00

302,553.00

1,058,010.00

803,012.51

DUBLIN CITY

1,264,393.00

158,600.00

1,178,480.00

726,793.00

DUBLIN SOUTH

926,287.00

14,120.00

885,409.00

458,067.00

DUNLAOGH/ RATH

935,141.00

161,098.00

938,270.00

479,404.00

FINGAL

1,009,446.00

123,510.00

905,772.00

567,856.00

GALWAY

825,109.00

167,500.00

895,947.00

467,198.88

KERRY

899,504.00

30,943.00

737,881.00

551,447.00

KILDARE

764,076.00

30,000.00

852,069.00

441,076.00

KILKENNY

715,736.00

405,000.00

781,225.00

770,971.00

LAOIS

726,901.00

23,511.00

622,280.00

390,058.00

LEITRIM

732,087.00

21,850.00

750,550.00

348,784.00

LIMERICK CITY

703,827.00

20,000.00

696,880.00

363,125.92

LIMERICK COUNTY

839,647.00

22,503.00

760,845.00

483,647.00

LONGFORD

665,115.00

25,000.00

728,975.00

396,757.77

LOUTH

885,666.00

71,740.00

797,470.00

383,201.00

MAYO

824,071.00

41,039.00

744,572.00

485,381.88

MEATH

974,154.00

55,938.00

833,625.00

384,802.00

MONAGHAN

829,405.00

228,000.00

941,154.00

581,544.00

OFFALY

732,640.00

40,564.00

687,179.00

398,204.00

ROSCOMMON

724,586.00

63,091.00

687,346.00

392,677.00

SLIGO

723,068.00

82,000.00

760,484.00

452,478.00

TIPPERARY NORTH

729,386.00

115,254.00

718,070.00

466,991.05

TIPPERARY SOUTH

760,814.00

54,748.00

704,869.00

440,562.00

WATERFORD CITY

856,013.00

9,000.00

668,468.00

278,082.00

WATERFORD COUNTY

671,186.00

35,700.00

684,913.00

340,669.00

WESTMEATH

801,934.00

10,000.00

757,834.00

331,834.11

WEXFORD

934,565.00

62,896.00

847,098.00

432,261.00

WICKLOW

952,245.00

50,000.00

1,080,769.00

204,302.06

These figures represent the Exchequer funding made available to city and county enterprise boards, CEBs, in the periods concerned. However, actual spending by boards may vary somewhat where boards have other sources of funding, such as course fees or repayments of refundable grants or where the pattern of drawdown of funding is slower than expected. In a number of instances, the additional funding made available to boards in 2003 met commitments in respect of enterprise centres.
I remain strongly committed to the support and development of indigenous enterprise, including micro-enterprise, and I am confident that the CEBs will continue to be in a position to provide an appropriate level of assistance to good quality projects that present over the coming year.

Industrial Development.

Denis Naughten

Question:

98 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will review the Enterprise Ireland eligibility criteria for companies to include import substitution as an acceptable enterprise for grant support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8734/04]

Enterprise Ireland has primary responsibility for the development of indigenous small and medium enterprises. SMEs, in the manufacturing and internationally-traded services sectors. I should point out that the decision whether or not to provide funding to a company is a day-to-day matter for the agency itself, and is not one in which I have a direct function.

Enterprise Ireland offers a range of supports aimed at assisting client companies to expand and compete in the international marketplace. As each company has its own distinctive ambitions, capabilities and needs, Enterprise Ireland delivers a flexible set of solutions tailored to the needs of individual circumstances of Irish enterprises. Each client company is assigned a development adviser who works with the company in assessing its needs and capabilities, formulating an agreed growth plan and in assisting the company access the range of services and resources it needs to execute that plan.

The key focus of Enterprise Ireland's policy is to work with companies which have the potential to develop sustainable export sales and in order to qualify for support a company should demonstrate clear potential to do this.

Within this general policy context however, each business development plan is considered on its merits. Import substitution by itself is typically considered insufficient to justify the investment of significant resources in funding and support services. In this regard, it is important for companies to recognise that Ireland operates within the single market and that supplying the domestic market will be carried out in competition with suppliers in other European countries. However, it is well recognised that import substitution can contribute to the viability of a new or growing enterprise and to that extent it can be a valuable and welcome constituent part of the company's target market.

Non-National Employees.

Martin Ferris

Question:

99 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she proposes to introduce legislation to ensure that non-nationals who are employed here and working on ships which are registered under a flag of convenience are given the same statutory protections and entitlement to the minimum wage as all other workers. [8859/04]

There are currently no plans to introduce new, nor amend existing national minimum wage legislation. The Minimum Wage Act applies to employees who work under a contract of employment in Ireland. Irish registered shipowners may apply for work permits for non-nationals working in Ireland. Such workers are covered by Irish employment rights legislation by virtue of section 20 of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 which provides that the full range of Irish employee protection legislation applies to foreign workers posted to work in, or otherwise working in this country.

Community Employment Schemes.

Michael Ring

Question:

100 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in relation to the proposed rural social scheme, persons currently participating in a community employment scheme who qualify for the rural social scheme will be automatically kept on a community employment scheme. [9018/04]

Persons currently employed on the community employment programme and who qualify for the new rural social scheme, will have the option to remain on community employment or transfer to the new scheme. Participants who wish to progress to the open labour market may wish to remain on CE and continue to receive the appropriate level of personal development and training provided by this programme. Eligible CE participants who choose to transfer to the rural social scheme, which is the responsibility of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, will be allowed to do so.

Job Creation.

Michael Ring

Question:

101 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a plant (details supplied) in Crossmolina, County Mayo, will be fully operational; and when the jobs promised to the people of the region will be filled. [9019/04]

DeCare International is a leader in the US dental benefits industry. Its subsidiary and flagship company, Delta Dental Plan of Minnesota, is a non-profit health services company that administers prepaid dental service plans.

In 1999 DeCare established a dental claimprocessing centre in Claremorris, County Mayo. DeCare Operations Ireland Limited currently employs 102 people and handles more than 22,000 dental claims submitted daily from its US headquarters. In November 2001, DeCare announced the expansion of its existing operation in Claremorris and the establishment of a new facility at Crossmolina, County Mayo. The new investment was part of DeCare's growth strategy for both the US and world markets. The company planned to recruit 210 new employees over a three year period, 50 in Claremorris and 160 at Crossmolina. It was envisaged that the Mayo facilities would take responsibility for customer relationship management worldwide outside of the US, including telephone support, written responses and Internet support to dental subscribers.

The company has advised IDA Ireland that, as neither existing nor new markets had developed as anticipated, business and employment targets have not yet been attainable. At this time, the company has stated that it cannot give any indication as to when it will be in a position to commence employment in Crossmolina.

Insurance Industry.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

102 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her proposals to bring about a substantial reduction in motor insurance premia; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9063/04]

The insurance reform programme that I announced on the 25 October 2002 comprises a comprehensive set of interrelated measures designed to improve the functioning of the Irish insurance market. I chair a ministerial committee established to drive the co-ordinated implementation of the reform programme across the relevant Departments and other bodies concerned. 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.

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, four partially implemented and work is in progress on the implementation of the other recommendations.

A second measure is the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. 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 provisions of this Act will be commenced in the near future. A CEO designate has been appointed and commenced duty on 2 February 2004. The proposed structure and staffing levels of the new body are finalised and a recruitment campaign commenced in February. The board will be operational when the necessary staff and IT systems are in place, which is expected to be in the second quarter of this year. The PIAB interim board has made significant progress in this regard.

My Department and the Competition Authority have undertaken a joint study into the insurance market. The study will identify and analyse barriers to entry and limitations on rivalry in the insurance marketplace. The bulk of the study was completed in 2003 and a preliminary report and consultation document on competition issues in the non-life insurance market was published on 18 February 2004. Following a two month consultation period, a final report will be published which will contain recommendations based on its findings.

Significant progress has been made by the Department of Transport in relation to the implementation of the road safety strategy. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform published the Civil Liability and Courts Bill on 11 February. This Bill contains measures to streamline the law in relation to personal injury claims including measures to deal with fraudulent and exaggerated claims.

While EU law prohibits the imposition of price control on insurance I have made it clear that I consider there to be an onus on the insurance industry to ensure that the reforms to be taken will have the effect of significantly reducing the cost of premia to consumers and businesses. Indications to date are that the reform programme is having its desired effect. The CSO publishes monthly indices of costs for a number of classes of insurance. These statistics show that there was a reduction of 11.8 index points,11.1%, in motor car insurance between the months of January 2003 and January 2004. Further, the CSO noted a significant contribution from insurance to the recent reduction in inflation. As implementation of the reform programme continues, I expect further reductions to occur in all forms of insurance. I am also confident that the measures the Government is putting in place to reform the Irish insurance market will attract new players into the market leading to further downward pressure on premia.

EU Presidency.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

103 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of locations and status of functions or receptions held in connection with Ireland’s Presidency of the EU; the number and status of those invited to attend; if Garda motorcycle escorts were provided in any or all instances; if invitations were issued by way of postal service or by other means in every case; if not, the nature of the exception; the total cost to the exchequer or EU of events to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9178/04]

The number of functions or receptions held to date by my Department in connection with Ireland's Presidency of the EU is ten. These events have been held in Dublin, Galway and Kildare. Of these events, eight were at official level and two had ministerial involvement. The numbers attending these functions varied from 17 at a meeting of ASEM, the Asia-Europe meeting co-ordinators, to up to 370 attendees at an informal meeting of Ministers with responsibility for employment, social policy, health and consumer affairs. In three instances, Garda escorts were provided for Ministers. Invitations were mostly issued by e-mail and post, and in one instance by courier. The total cost to my Department for these events is €686,863.

Departmental Properties.

John Bruton

Question:

104 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Defence the plans for Defence Forces families living in Gormanston Camp now that Gormanston lands will be among the State lands released under the Sustaining Progress affordable housing initiatives; the location the families of the Defence Forces will be deployed to; if compensation will be afforded to them to meet the costs of moving house if this is necessary; the time scale for the redeployments; the notice that the families will receive before the move takes place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8255/04]

There are no married quarters at Gormanston Camp so the question as to the redeployment of Defence Forces families does not arise.

Departmental Staff.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

105 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Defence the number of staff appointed by him, from outside the Civil Service, since the general election 2002; the job descriptions for these staff; the salaries and expenses paid to these staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8327/04]

I have, as Minister for Defence, appointed three staff since June 2002, as follows :

Job Description

Current Salary

Expenses up to 12 March, 2004

Special Advisor to the Minister for Defence

72,128 per annum

4,280.97

Personal Assistant to the Minister for Defence

40,918 per annum

Nil

Personal Secretary to the Minister for Defence

633.80 per week

Nil

All three appointments, which are subject to the Civil Service Regulation Acts 1956 to 1996 and any other Act for the time being in force relative to the Civil Service, are to temporary non-established positions in the Civil Service.

Departmental Properties.

Pat Breen

Question:

106 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Defence further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 209 of 2 March 2004, if a map forming part of the said draft order indicated a proposal to designate four sub-areas in the vicinity of Baldonnel Aerodrome; if so, the proposed height restriction on building development within each such sub-area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8467/04]

The draft protected area order proposed in the 1950s, which was not promulgated, provided for four sub areas in the general environs of Baldonnel Aerodrome. The proposed height restrictions were area A: any height; area B: any height greater than 35 feet; area C: any height greater than 35 feet if the elevation is greater than 375 feet; and area D: any height greater than 35 feet if the elevation is greater than 475 feet. The current safety policy reflects best international practice in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation standards and recommendations and provides for military training in the area.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

107 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Defence the money allocated by his Department in 2003 and 2004 to directly fund services for persons with disabilities and the money allocated to enabling persons with disabilities to more easily access services of his Department. [8638/04]

No money has been allocated by my Department to fund services described by the Deputy during the period in question. Offices which are open to the public are accessible to people with disabilities and facilities for disabled persons are provided for in all new buildings and in all major refurbishments contracts.

Departmental Properties.

Jack Wall

Question:

108 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Defence the plans his Department has to protect the many military and civilian monuments and historical sites on the Curragh, County Kildare; if he has satisfied himself that the signage in regard to such historical sites is such that the tourist value is maximised and fully effective; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8895/04]

The main recommendation contained in the report of the interdepartmental task force on the future management and development of the Curragh of Kildare is that a statutory body should be established under the aegis of the Department of Defence to manage the Curragh, with the exception of the Defence Forces training centre. The necessary legislation to give effect to this, and to other recommendations of the task force report, is being prepared at present and it is expected that heads of Bill will shortly be submitted for the approval of Government.

My Department will continue to protect archaeological sites and historical features situated on the Curragh plains until the new authority is established within the legislation currently being prepared. The entire area of the Curragh is classified as a recorded monument under section 12 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994 and my Department ensures that the terms of that Act are adhered to before any works, alterations or signage are permitted.

The military authorities comply with relevant planning legislation in relation to protected structures located at the Defence Forces training centre.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Jack Wall

Question:

109 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Defence the number of contracts placed by his Department with any of the Nordic countries for equipment over the past two years; the total cost of such contracts; his plans to purchase equipment from these countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8896/04]

I am advised that some 40 orders / contracts have been placed by my Department with companies in the Nordic region for equipment in 2002 and 2003. The value of the orders/contracts was €12.5 million, approximately. Tender competitions are held for the acquisition of equipment for the Defence Forces. These competitions determine the company and country of origin of the equipment.

Jack Wall

Question:

110 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Defence the number of contracts for military equipment placed with non-EU member states for each of the past three years; the total cost of such contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8897/04]

I am advised that orders/contracts have been placed by my Department with companies in non-EU member states in the past three years. The details are as follows:

Year

No. of Orders/ Contracts

Value

2001

32

5.5m. approx.

2002

23

39m. approx.

2003

64

77m. approx.

Tender competitions are held for the acquisition of equipment for the Defence Forces. These competitions determine the company and country of origin of the equipment.

The main contract placed in 2002 was for an additional 25 APCs from Mowag of Switzerland with a value of over €34 million, including VAT. Payments under the contract are spread over a number of years, from 2002 to 2005. All 25 vehicles are scheduled for delivery this year.

In 2003, following a tender competition a contract was placed with Pilatus of Switzerland for the supply of eight trainer aircraft for the Air Corps. The value of the contract including VAT is €60 million, approximately and again, the payments are spread over a number of years up to 2005. All eight aircraft are scheduled for delivery this year.

Defence Forces Pay.

Jack Wall

Question:

111 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Defence the consideration given to the payment of the military service allowance to soldiers that have retired; the representations he has received in relation to the matter; his plans to implement the payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8906/04]

Arising from a recommendation made in 1990 by the Commission on Remuneration and Conditions of Service in the Defence Forces, the Gleeson commission, military service allowance was made pensionable in the case of personnel retiring on or after 1 August 1990. This approach was fully consistent with settled public service pensions policy which provides that the benefit of an allowance being made pensionable for serving personnel does not extend to existing pensioners.

More recently, the Commission on Public Service Pensions specifically addressed the issue of the pensionability of allowances, including military service allowance, and the consequences for public service pensioners generally in its final report which was published in January 2001. However, having considered the arguments advanced by the groups affected, together with long-standing public service pensions policy in that context and the substantial cost implications involved, the commission did not recommend any increase for the pensioners concerned. No change in existing policy on this matter has been authorised or is contemplated.

EU Presidency.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of locations and status of functions or receptions held in connection with Ireland’s Presidency of the EU; the number and status of those invited to attend; if Garda motorcycle escorts were provided in any or all instances; if invitations were issued by way of postal service or by other means in every case; if not, the nature of the exception; the cost to the Exchequer or EU of events to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9179/04]

In so far as my Department is concerned, two meetings at senior official level have been held to date in Dublin as part of Ireland's Presidency of the EU. Both meetings were held at the same location, one over two days in January and the other over two days in February. Some 90 delegates attended the January meeting and 160 attended the February meeting. As the meetings were at senior official level, no Garda escorts were required. Invitations were issued both through the postal service and by electronic mail. The total cost of both events is €56,000.

Export Licences.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

113 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he intends introducing an export licence for the export of dogs, including pups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8736/04]

My colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, has general statutory responsibility for the control of dogs and related issues under the provisions of the Control of Dogs Acts 1986 and 1992. I have no plans to introduce a regime of export licensing for dogs.

Under the provisions of the European Communities (Trade in Animals and Animal Semen, Ova and Embryos) Regulations 1996, S.I. 12 of 1996, which transposes Directive 92/65/EEC, my Department provides health certification for exports of traded dogs to other member states, apart from the UK. This certification relates,inter alia, to identification, rabies status and vaccination, distemper vaccination and fitness to travel. Provided there is compliance with animal health rules, there can be no restriction in intracommunity trade in such animals. In recognition of the rabies free status of Ireland and the UK, there is free movement of dogs and cats between these two jurisdictions. The Deputy will appreciate the practical difficulties to which any system requiring the licensing of the movement of dogs to the UK, including Northern Ireland, would give rise.

Animal Identification Scheme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

114 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a herd number has not been granted to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8322/04]

My Department cannot grant a herd number to the person indicated because he has declared that he has no cattle at present and does not intend to purchase any cattle until 2006. As this person has a flock of sheep, he has applied under the national sheep identification scheme and has now been registered as a flock owner by my Department's district veterinary office in Galway.

Departmental Staff.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

115 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of staff appointed by him from outside the Civil Service since the general election 2002; the job descriptions for these staff; the salaries and expenses paid to these staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8328/04]

The details requested are outlined in the following table:

Minister Walsh

Personal Assistant

1

Personal Secretary

1

Drivers

0

Total salaries and expenses paid to these staff in 2003 was €76,315.82.

Milk Quota.

Enda Kenny

Question:

116 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties that have arisen in respect of the case of persons (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if his attention has further been drawn to the complications arising from this particular case; if he has investigated same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8390/04]

I am aware of the case to which the Deputy refers. In 1997 the person named leased land and milk quota from a participant in the early retirement scheme for a period of approximately six years. In 2003, by order of the Circuit Court, that quota was returned to the landlord. The landlord then applied to my Department to have a substitute lessee installed and on the basis that the court had ordered the termination of the existing agreement, my Department agreed to that request. My Department did not have any basis or evidence on which to question the validity of the lease before the matter was dealt with by the court. The basis for action by my Department was solely in accordance with the court order.

Animal Welfare Bodies.

Billy Timmins

Question:

117 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position in relation to the award of a grant in view of the fact that a trust (details supplied) received €12,000, while others received €30,000; the criteria used in deciding the size of the awards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8409/04]

In recent years I have madeex gratia funding available to a number of bodies involved in the direct delivery of animal care and welfare services throughout the country, having regard to the monies available to me from within the Department’s Vote at the end of the year. In December 2003 grants totalling €850,000 were awarded to 80 organisations to assist them in their activities in 2004. A copy of the press release, which details the organisations that received funding, will be furnished to the Deputy. The organisations in question provide a range of services and carry out valuable work.

Applications for funding were considered against a number of criteria. These included the standing of each applicant, past performance in respect of utilisation of grants from my Department and impact, both real and potential, that is, that direct care and welfare services to animals have been delivered which have had a meaningful impact on animal welfare in the locality. The levels of grant assistance provided also took account of the fact that large urban areas make particularly onerous demands on animal welfare services. In considering the amounts granted in each case, a conscious effort was made to achieve proportionality and the greatest possible spread of benefits from within available resources.

This was the first time the organisation referred to in this question had applied to my Department for grant assistance within the context of these disbursements. Its application was considered having regard to the criteria applied to all other applications. On this basis, a payment of €12,000 was granted to assist it in its work during 2004. Those organisations which received €30,000 in 2003 made applications for grant assistance in previous years and all were considered based on the same criteria.

Live Exports.

Pat Breen

Question:

118 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the representations he is making to the European Commission in his capacity as President of the Agriculture Council of Ministers in relation to the proposal by the European Commission to review the live export conditions which will have a devastating effect on farmers here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8450/04]

I assume the Deputy is referring to a Commission proposal for a Council regulation on the protection of animals during transport which is at present being discussed at EU level. In principle, I favour the application of rules which protect the welfare conditions for animals being transported over long distances, while also permitting the livestock sector to continue to avail of the benefits of a single European market. While welcoming many aspects of the proposal, certain elements could have potentially adverse implications for the live export trade. These concerns have been conveyed to all involved in negotiations at every step of the process.

Considerable progress has been made on this complex document during the Irish Presidency. While many differing views have been expressed, I am hopeful that a compromise proposal, which will meet the legitimate concerns of those exercised by the need to improve welfare conditions for animals being transported, while permitting the live export trade to continue in a manner which is sustainable and economically viable, will be presented to Council of Ministers within the next few weeks.

Suckler Cow Quota.

Pat Breen

Question:

119 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will consider a decision to reinstate a suckler cow quota to a person (details supplied) in County Clare in view of the circumstances involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8502/04]

The suckler cow quota of nine premium rights has already been restored to the person named who was informed accordingly on 5 March 2004 following consideration of an appeal submitted by him on that date.

Milk Quota.

Pat Breen

Question:

120 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an additional milk quota will be made available due to hardship to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8555/04]

Allocations of milk quota from the national reserve are granted on the basis of recommendations from the Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal. The tribunal is a body established to consider and advise on applications for additional quota from individual producers who have suffered severe hardship in the context of the milk quota system.

The person named last applied to the tribunal in the 2002/2003 milk quota year, but there is no record of him having applied in the current 2003/2004 quota year. While the deadline for application in respect of the current quota year has passed, an application may be made for the 2004/2005 quota year when the application forms become available in the autumn.

Organic Farming.

Pat Breen

Question:

121 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he intends to take action in relation to the nuisance caused by pine martens to organic honeybee business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8557/04]

No producers of organic honey are registered with my Department. Any action in relation to a protected species, such as the pine marten, is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Grant Payments.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

122 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the application by a person (details supplied) in County Cork for area aid. [8584/04]

The person named included a parcel of land on his 2003 area aid application that was also claimed by another herdowner. Both applicants were contacted and the matter was resolved in favour of the other herd owner. The person named applied for a total area of 46.21 hectares, but the area found was only 36.72 hectares and this resulted in an area overclaim of 9.49 hectares or 25.84%. Under EU regulations, where the overclaim is greater than 20%, a 100% penalty applies unless the area found is sufficient to support a stocking density of 1.8 livestock units/hectare or less.

The person named applied for special beef premium in 2003 in respect of one animal and also participated in 2003 extensification premium. However, as the applicant's stocking density calculation on the found area is greater than 1.8 livestock units/hectare, payment cannot be considered. As required under EU regulations, the applicant's milk quota has to be taken into account when calculating stocking density.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

123 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the money allocated by his Department in 2003 and 2004 to directly fund services for persons with disabilities and the money allocated to enabling persons with disabilities to more easily access services of his Department. [8639/04]

My Department is proactive in enabling persons with disabilities to more easily access services. My Department works in partnership with the Office of Public Works in implementing its access programme in relation to new buildings, the acquisition of buildings and the adaptation of the current portfolio of buildings to achieve the highest standards of access for persons with disabilities.

The Department's website was redeveloped in 2003 with accessibility and ease of use for disabled users integral to the site. The Department has also installed seven touch screen information kiosks at its local offices around the country. These allow free Internet access to clients of the Department and are of the highest accessibility standards for wheelchair users. While there is no specific budget allocation provided, the expenditure in relation to website access and that incurred in the provision of special facilities for employed persons with disabilities are funded from the administrative budget of my Department.

Compensation Payments.

Billy Timmins

Question:

124 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the payment they are entitled to while waiting for compensation; the compensation they are entitled to; when they will receive this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8716/04]

Two reactor animals disclosed at a TB test on 5 March 2004 in the herd of the person concerned will be valued in accordance with the on-farm market valuation scheme. The meat factory will pay the salvage price for these animals directly to the person concerned. The appropriate net valuation amounts will be processed for payment by the local DVO as soon as possible after the required documentation is received.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

125 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason deductions are being made from the farm retirement pension of a person (details supplied) in respect of a social welfare pension when the person is not currently in receipt of a social welfare pension. [8725/04]

The person named is a participant in the 1994 early retirement scheme introduced under EU Council Regulation 2079/92, which she entered in joint management with her husband. It is a requirement of the Council regulation that any national retirement pension to which a scheme participant and his or her spouse or partner in a joint management situation becomes entitled must be deducted from the early retirement pension. The husband of the person named is in receipt of a non-contributory old age pension and this is being deducted from the early retirement pension. His pension was increased with effect from January in line with the changes announced in the 2004 budget and the amount of this increase was deducted from the early retirement pension.

Grant Payments.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

126 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason his Department is denying payment to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [8726/04]

The person named participated in 2002 extensification premium, while opting for the simplified system for the purposes of determining eligibility. On participation, he chose to observe a stocking density of less than 1.40 livestock units per hectare for each and every day of 2002. Under the terms of the scheme and the relevant regulation, my Department is required to carry out stocking density cross-checks against the CMMS animal database prior to payment to ensure that the stocking density, as chosen, was not breached. Cross-checks were carried out on 19 May and 15 September 2002 and stocking densities of 1.2932 and 1.4291 livestock units per hectare, respectively, were established. These stocking densities were calculated on a total forage area of 45.62 hectares. In view of the fact that the chosen stocking density was found to have been breached at 15 September 2002, the person named cannot be considered for payment of 2002 extensification premium under EU regulations. The person named is also a participant in 2003 extensification premium, payment of which is scheduled to commence in June of this year.

The person named was paid his full entitlement of €4,147.77 on 19 September 2003 under the 2003 area based compensatory allowance scheme. He was paid €3,999.60 in respect of the maximum eligible area of 45 hectares of more severely handicapped lowland and an additional sum of €148.17 under a compensation package agreed with the European Union for farmers experiencing losses under the area based compensatory allowance scheme.

The person named had seven animals slaughtered under the 2002 slaughter premium scheme. Payment in respect of these animals has issued in full. The person named also had 13 animals slaughtered under the 2003 slaughter premium scheme and has been paid 80% advance payment on all 13 animals. Balancing payments are due to commence in the coming weeks. The person named applied for premium on 60 animals under the 2003 suckler cow premium scheme. An 80% advance instalment for €10,759.20 issued on 16 October 2003. The balancing payment will issue shortly.

Mayo Landslide.

Michael Ring

Question:

127 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason Parliamentary Question No. 187 of 3 March 2004 was not answered in full; and if he will give a full and detailed reply. [8729/04]

Michael Ring

Question:

138 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be compensated for damage to their land during the landslides in north Mayo in September 2003. [8987/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 138 together.

As stated in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 172 on 10 March, the position is that following from the meeting between officials from my Department and the landslide committee on 23 January last, arrangements were made to have a detailed survey of the affected area carried out. The results of that survey have recently become available and the matter is now under review in my Department. I confirm that the person named is included among the farms surveyed.

Suckler Cow Quota.

Willie Penrose

Question:

128 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position of farmers who are currently participating in the early retirement scheme and who hold a suckler cow quota, which they have now leased in the context of the Fischler proposals and the decoupling measures; if he will indicate how such farmers will be treated therein, and if they will maintain such suckler cow quotas at the end of their lease, which will facilitate them for returning to farming if they so desire; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8735/04]

The position is that all livestock premia and arable aid schemes are to be fully decoupled from production as and from 1 January 2005 and will be replaced by the new single payment scheme to be introduced from 2005. The quota regime in respect of the livestock premia schemes will cease to be in existence from 31 December 2004. Consequently, quotas, including suckler cow quotas, will no longer exist for any farmer after that date and will not be required to ensure payment of the single payment scheme in the future.

Under the European Council regulation introducing the single payment scheme, a farmer may have access to the scheme if he was an active farmer during the reference years 2000, 2001 and 2002 and received payments under the livestock premia and/or arable aid schemes. In addition, farmers for whom entitlements will be established must activate those entitlements in 2005 by continuing to farm and submitting an area aid declaration in that year. In general, farmers must also have an eligible hectare of land for each payment entitlement.

Farmers who were participating in the early retirement scheme prior to the commencement of the reference period will not have any entitlements established for them under the single payment scheme as they had already retired from farming and because of their obligations under the early retirement scheme, they may not return to farming in the future. The persons who were leasing the retired farmer's lands and were active farmers in the reference period will have entitlements established for them. It should be noted that entitlements are attached to the farmer who was actively farming during the reference period and not to the land. However, during the Council negotiations last year I secured agreement that farmers, including offspring of farmers who retired before the reference period, who take over the holding of the retired farmers at some date in the future will be able to apply to the national reserve for payment entitlements under the single payment scheme.

Farmers who entered the early retirement scheme during or after the reference period will have entitlements established for them, provided they were actively farming during the reference period and received payment under the relevant schemes. However, because they have now ceased farming under the early retirement scheme, they will not be in a position to obtain payment under the single payment scheme in 2005 or thereafter. The European Council regulation provides for such entitlements to revert to the national reserve. However, the question of whether retired farmers in this category should be allowed to activate entitlements with a view to leasing them out in 2005 and thereafter is one of the items under discussion in the context of the Commission establishing detailed rules. Negotiations are still ongoing and agreement is not expected until the end of this month or early in April. It would be unwise at this stage to speculate on what the final outcome will be.

Animal Welfare Bodies.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

129 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will give assistance to an association (details supplied) in Dublin 5 so it can discharge its responsibilities. [8737/04]

In recent years I have madeex gratia funding available to a number of bodies involved in the delivery of animal care and welfare services throughout the country, having regard to the resources available to me from within the Department’s Vote at year end. In December 2003, grants totalling €850,000 were awarded to 80 organisations. The organisations concerned had approached the Department seeking assistance. A grant of €15,000 was paid to the Cats Protection Association of Ireland in December 2003 to assist it in its activities in 2004.

Grant Payments.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

130 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for the delay in the payment of forestry premium to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [8738/04]

Payment of the 2004 forestry premium will begin to be made towards the end of March, as has been the position over the years.

Direct Payment Schemes.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

131 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the compensatory payment that will be made to a dairy farmer producing milk on a 32,000 gallon quota under the Fischler proposals; the length of time those payments will last; the likely deductions; if a farmer will be eligible for such payments if they sell their quota and cease milk production in the milk year 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8739/04]

The dairy premium for 2004 will be approximately 1.22 cent per litre. As the total compensation available is based on Ireland's quota for 1999/2000, the premium will be payable on approximately 97% of each producer's milk quota available on his/her holding on 31 March 2004. Accordingly, the premium on a 32,000 gallon quota will amount to approximately €1,722.

In 2005, the single farm payment will replace the dairy premium and all other direct payment schemes and the producer's single farm payment will include payment based on the milk quota available on the holding on 31 March 2005. The gross amount will be 2.44 cent per litre which, when calculated as above, amounts to approximately €3,444 in respect of a 32,000 gallon quota. From 2006, the gross payment will be 3.66 cent per litre, amounting to approximately €5,165. As the dairy premium will be decoupled in 2005, the reference date for that payment will be 31 March 2005 for the duration of the single farm payment scheme.

The single farm payment will be subject to reductions in respect of modulation at 3% in 2005, 4% in 2006 and 5% in subsequent years and linear reductions in respect of the hardship reserve and the national reserve. The percentage reductions for the hardship reserve and national reserve are not yet known. The amount deducted in respect of modulation on the first €5,000 of the single farm payment in each year will be refunded to the producer. Therefore, if the dairy producer with 32,000 gallons received no other direct payments in the 2000-2002 reference period, his/her single farm payment would not exceed the €5,000 threshold so, in effect, no modulation reduction would take place. The linear reductions for the hardship reserve and national reserve will, however, apply.

The dairy premium will be paid in 2004 as a coupled payment and the single farm payment scheme of which the decoupled dairy premium forms part has been put in place for the period from 2005 to 2012. In order to be eligible for the decoupled dairy premium in 2005 and subsequent years, a producer must be a quota holder on 31 March 2005 and have made milk deliveries in the 2004-05 milk quota year. He/she will continue to be eligible for the premium if the quota is sold after 31 March 2005. However, in that situation a farmer would still be required to comply with certain conditions to continue to retain eligibility for the single farm payment.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

132 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the entitlement under the Fischler proposals due to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8740/04]

The single payment will be based on the average number of animals or the average number of hectares in the case of arable aid on which payments were made under the livestock premia and arable aid schemes in respect of the three reference years 2000, 2001 and 2002. The single payment is calculated by taking the three yearly average number of animals or arable hectares which attracted payment and multiplying them by the payment rate for 2002 in respect of livestock or by €383.04 per hectare in the case of arable aid. Entitlements are calculated by dividing this single payment amount by the average number of hectares over the three-year period.

Farmers for whom entitlements have been established must activate those entitlements in 2005 by continuing to farm and submitting an area aid declaration in that year. In general, farmers must also have an eligible hectare of land for each payment entitlement. The European Council regulation provides for various deductions from entitlements to cater for any overshoot of the national ceiling for Ireland, setting up of a national reserve and for modulation.

While the European Commission detailed rules regulation on decoupling has not yet been finalised, my Department has commenced the work of establishing entitlements for every farmer in the country. Work is ongoing on the processing offorce majeure applications and this could impinge on the national ceiling. My Department intends to establish provisional single payment entitlements for each farmer and notify those entitlements to individual farmers later in 2004, with definitive details to issue early in 2005. It will not be possible, however, to finalise this work until such time as the Commission detailed rules are fully agreed which will be towards the end of this month or in early April and all force majeure applications are fully processed. Therefore, it is not possible at this stage to indicate what the definitive entitlements will be for the person named or, indeed, for any farmer.

Grant Payments.

Dan Neville

Question:

133 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a farm retirement scheme payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [8851/04]

The person named made an application under the scheme of early retirement from farming in 1998. His application could not be approved because of difficulties relating to his transferee's eligibility. My Department has been in touch with the applicant on a number of occasions but he has not resolved the outstanding issues.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

134 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when his Department changed the rules for REP schemes. [8852/04]

The rural environment protection scheme was first introduced in 1994 in implementation of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2078/92 and the scheme terms and conditions and agrienvironmental specifications were first published in May 1994. The terms and conditions were updated by documents dated 1 February 1997 and 1 January 1999, and the agrienvironmental specifications were updated by documents dated 15 May 1996 and 1 January 1999.

The first scheme closed to new entrants in December 1999 and a successor scheme was introduced in November 2000 in implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1257/1999. The scheme terms and conditions are set out in the published scheme documentation dated 27 November 2000. Proposals for amendments to REPS were formally submitted to the European Commission in December 2003 and are currently being considered by the Commission services. When these proposals are approved, the existing scheme documentation will again be revised to reflect increases in payment rates and in areas eligible for payment, together with other proposed amendments.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

135 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the changes that are to be made to the early retirement scheme as a result of the mid-term reform; the way these changes will affect farmers in this scheme; the way he intends to compensate persons in the scheme who will suffer a drop in income as a result of these changes. [8867/04]

Dan Neville

Question:

139 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will respond to the concerns of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick who is in the early retirement scheme; and the impact of the recent CAP agreement. [9004/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 139 together.

My Department is involved in working groups and in continuing discussions with the European Commission on the detailed rules for implementing the mid-term review agreement. I have already raised a number of issues relating to farmers who have retired under the early retirement schemes and the implications for them of decoupling and the single payment scheme.

Under the European Council regulation introducing the single payment scheme, a farmer may have access to the scheme if he or she was an active farmer during the reference years 2000, 2001 and 2002 and received payments under the livestock premia and/or arable aid schemes. In addition, farmers for whom entitlements will be established must activate those entitlements in 2005 by continuing to farm and submitting an area aid declaration in that year. In general, farmers must also have an eligible hectare of land for each payment entitlement.

Farmers who were participating in the early retirement scheme before the commencement of the reference period will not have any entitlements established for them under the single payment scheme. This is because they had already retired from farming and their obligations under the early retirement scheme preclude them from returning to farming in the future. The persons who were leasing these retired farmers' lands and were active farmers in the reference period will have entitlements established for them. It should be noted that entitlements are attached to the farmer who was actively farming during the reference period and not to the land. However, during the Council negotiations last year, I secured agreement that farmers, including offspring of farmers who retired before the reference period, who take over the holding of the retired farmers at some date in the future will be able to apply to the national reserve for payment entitlements under the single payment scheme.

Farmers who entered the early retirement scheme during or after the reference period will have entitlements established for them, provided they were actively farming during the reference period and received payment under the relevant schemes. As these farmers undertook to give up farming definitively when they joined the early retirement scheme, they will not be in a position to obtain payment under the single payment scheme in 2005 or thereafter. The European Council regulation provides for such entitlements to revert to the national reserve. However, the question of whether retired farmers in this category should be allowed to activate entitlements, not for their own use but with a view to leasing them out in 2005 and thereafter, is one of the items still under discussion in the context of the Commission detailed rules regulation.

Agreement on the detailed rules is not expected until the end of this month or early in April and it would not be helpful to speculate on the final outcome.

Commonage Division.

John Perry

Question:

136 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will make a decision on an appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Sligo regarding commonage destocking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8880/04]

Appeals against the destocking provisions of the commonage framework plans are considered by an independent appeals committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Gerry Scully, chief sheep adviser with Teagasc. To date, one appeal has been lodged in respect of a commonage framework plan in County Sligo, plan reference SL05-Q. The person named was not a party to that appeal. If he wishes to lodge an appeal against a plan other than the one mentioned above, he should contact the secretary, commonage framework plan appeals, Department of Agriculture and Food, Johnstown Castle Estate, County Wexford.

International Trade.

John Perry

Question:

137 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will make statement on correspondence (details supplied). [8986/04]

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. I am satisfied that the recent reform of the CAP will be of benefit to developing countries, including ACP countries. Decoupled payments will replace production related supports, thereby reducing the potential distortion impact of production related supports.

Trade with ACP countries is governed by the terms of the ACP-EU partnership, which was signed in Cotonou in June 2000, under which the EU grants non-reciprocal trade preferences to imports from ACP countries. In September 2002, the ACP countries and the EU officially launched negotiations on a series of economic partnership agreements which will replace the existing arrangements with reciprocal agreements that are WTO compatible and which will retain an element of differential treatment for the ACP countries. These economic partnership agreements will cover trade in agricultural products. The current preferential trade regime has been extended pending completion of the negotiations.

Furthermore, the EU has recently abolished tariffs and other such restrictions on all products from the 49 poorest countries on the planet, the least developed countries. This "everything but arms" initiative gives these countries immediate duty and quota free access to the EU market. This includes products such as beef, milk products, fruit and vegetables. A transitional period applies for rice, bananas and sugar but full liberalisation will be in place by 2009.

In the context of the WTO talks, the EU is asking that other developed WTO partners provide similar concessions.

Question No. 138 answered with QuestionNo. 127.
Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 135.

EU Presidency.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of locations and status of functions or receptions held in connection with Ireland’s Presidency of the EU; the number and status of those invited to attend; if Garda motorcycle escorts were provided in any or all instances; if invitations were issued by way of the postal service or by other means in every case; if not, the nature of the exception; the cost to the Exchequer or EU of events to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9180/04]

To date there have been no functions or receptions held by me or my Department in connection with Ireland's Presidency of the EU. A number of functions are planned for later in our Presidency.

Grant Payments.

Dan Neville

Question:

141 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a headage payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [9205/04]

The terms and conditions governing the 2003 area based compensatory allowance scheme require that applicants maintain a minimum stocking density of an average of 0.15 livestock units per forage hectare in the calendar year preceding the year of application. As CMMS checks to establish what stock was on the holding in 2002 were unable to establish that the minimum stocking was maintained, my Department wrote to the person named on 13 October 2003 asking him to detail the stock which was maintained by him on his holding during the year. No reply has been received by my Department's local office and a final decision regarding the eligibility or otherwise of the application cannot be made until a reply is received.

Tax Code.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

142 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance if he has any plans to have schools exempted from VAT payments; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this has become a serious issue as far as schools are concerned; his views on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8292/04]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

151 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance his plans to provide exemption from VAT payments to primary and second level schools; if his attention has been drawn to the interest in this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8299/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 151 together.

In accordance with the EU sixth VAT directive and Irish VAT law, most education and training, including primary and secondary level schools, are exempt from VAT. This means they do not charge VAT on the services they supply but cannot recover VAT on the goods and services they purchase. Essentially, only VAT registered businesses which charge VAT are able to recover VAT.

I presume the Deputy is proposing that a provision should be introduced whereby primary and secondary schools are relieved of VAT. It is normal for most State funded services, such as schools or hospitals, to bear VAT on their purchases. However, Exchequer funding for such services, including primary and secondary schools, takes account of VAT when allocations are being made by the Government. Given this position, I would be concerned about the Exchequer cost of establishing a separate mechanism to relieve primary and secondary schools of VAT. There would be pressure to extend such a mechanism to all potentially affected sectors. I have, therefore, no plans to introduce a mechanism to relieve VAT incurred by primary and secondary schools.

Summer Works Scheme.

Pat Breen

Question:

143 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance when works will be carried out at Kilkishen national school in view of the fact that the removal of the asbestos was approved by the OPW and was included in the summer programme 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8451/04]

The asbestos removal works at Kilkishen national school have been rescheduled for the summer programme 2004.

Departmental Expenditure.

Seán Power

Question:

144 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Finance the cost of holding the general election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8613/04]

While the definitive cost of the last general election, held in May 2002, has not yet been finalised, the provisional estimate of cost is €20 million approximately. Of this, postal expenses cost almost €8 million, purchase of electronic voting machines for the three constituencies where they were used cost €3.3 million, while the balance was for other returning officers' expenses, for example, fees for staff.

Seán Power

Question:

145 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Finance the cost of holding each of the past five referenda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8614/04]

It has not been possible in the time available to provide the information sought by the Deputy in respect of the last five referenda. As soon as my officials have collated the data, I will supply the Deputy with the information sought. In the meantime, for the Deputy's information, the provisional estimate of costs of the last two referenda is: Treaty of Nice referendum in October 2002 — €10.9 million and referendum on the protection of human life in pregnancy in March 2002 — €7.2 million.

Civil Service Appointments.

Joe Costello

Question:

146 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who were blacklisted for public service appointments in each decade since 1960; the criteria used to blacklist them; if there is a list of names of persons in the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission who are blacklisted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8874/04]

Under the Civil Service Commissioners Act 1956, the Civil Service Commissioners are responsible for selection procedures for appointment to the Civil Service. Applicants for posts in the Civil Service must go through the competitive procedures set out by the commissioners which may involve short-listing, tests, interviews, and other checks before a final appointment is made by the commissioners. The commissioners must, in common with other employers, ensure that an applicant is qualified for the post being applied for by, among other things, validating their educational qualifications, health status, as well as obtaining statements from referees and character reports. Details of the outcome of the procedures used by the commissioners to check a candidate's suitability are confidential in the interests of both the service and the applicant.

Drainage Schemes.

Mary Wallace

Question:

147 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Finance the progress made over the past 12 months with regard to the Tolka River and Castle Stream at Dunboyne-Clonee including the list of works carried out and the list of works remaining to be carried out; the persons who will be responsible for the works remaining; the expected time frame on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8265/04]

Mary Wallace

Question:

148 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Finance if he will outline the various reports that have been published with regard to flooding of the Tolka River and Castle Stream at Dunboyne-Clonee including the dates of the reports and progress to date with regard to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8266/04]

I propose to take QuestionsNos. 147 and 148 together.

In June 2001 Dublin City Council had commissioned the greater Dublin strategic drainage study which is a multi-million euro engineering study of the strategic drainage requirements of the greater Dublin area. A full study of the Tolka, covering the Meath and Fingal County Council areas as well as the Dublin City Council area, was not included in the GDSDS at this time but, in view of the November 2000 flood, the Office of Public Works requested that it be included and funded it at a cost of €870,000.

The Tolka flooding study was under way when the November 2002 flood occurred. The consultants were asked to produce interim reports for all three local authorities to identify works that could be undertaken straight away to reduce the risk of flooding in the worst affected areas. The interim report for the Meath area was received by Meath County Council and the OPW in February 2003. Officials from the OPW and the county council agreed a programme of works, which would be funded and undertaken by the OPW. The proposed works were the subject of a public consultation procedure by Meath County Council as required under Part 8 of the planning and development regulations, and the main construction work began in July 2003.

The final report on the Tolka was completed in November 2003 and brings together many of the recommendations contained in the interim reports and also much additional information which will provide the basis for further decisions in relation to the catchment as a whole. The final report was published by Dublin City Council in December 2003, as Dublin City Council is the contracting authority for the report, and is available in the offices of each of the three local authorities involved. In Dublin it is available for viewing at the Civic Offices in Wood Quay and the public library in Drumcondra. It is available to view in the Meath area in Dunshaughlin area office and library, while Fingal County Council has made it available at its offices in Swords. In addition, the report has also been published on the websites of Dublin City and Meath county councils. The programme of works initiated in 2003 in County Meath included: the construction of a 1,400 metre long embankment on lands adjoining the Tolka River downstream of Dunboyne, from Loughsallagh to Clonee; the deepening and widening of the Castle Stream from the Maynooth Road bridge, Dunboyne, to the confluence with the Tolka River; underpinning of the old railway culvert to the rear of Beechdale Estate, Dunboyne; the construction of a 300 metre long, 1.5 metre high wall from Clonee bridge to the M3 and the upgrading of the Tolka over the same stretch; the replacement of the Rooske Road bridge, Dunboyne; general cleaning of the River Tolka in the Dunboyne and Clonee areas; and the removal and storage of the Castle bridge, Dunboyne. These works were funded by OPW and carried out, for the most part, by the OPW direct labour. Expenditure in 2003 was €766,000.

Some minor elements of above programme remain to be completed in 2004. The main element of the recommendations contained in the final report left to be done is the replacement of Loughsallagh bridge. Meath County Council will invite tenders for the replacement of this bridge shortly, and OPW has agreed to fund the costs of the work subject to the costs being reasonable. Expenditure in 2004 in the Meath area is expected to be in the region of €1million.

When work on Loughsallagh bridge is completed, almost all the recommendations contained in the final report for the Meath area will have been implemented. The remaining recommendations relate almost entirely to the Bennetstown-Bracetown area and involve the raising of parts of the Navan Road and the construction of some embankments. These recommendations will be considered by the OPW and Meath County Council for a further phase of works in due course. As the recommendations cater for a 100 year level of flood protection, I am satisfied that these works, when fully completed, will give long-term protection from flooding in the Dunboyne and Clonee areas from the Castle Stream and River Tolka.

Garda Stations.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

149 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance if the OPW will report on its evaluation of the need for a second Garda station in the west Tallaght area of Dublin 24; if his attention has been drawn to the need to deal with this particular issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8297/04]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

150 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding plans for the redevelopment of the Garda station site at Tallaght, Dublin 24; if his attention has been drawn to the need for action in respect of this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8298/04]

I propose to take QuestionsNos. 149 and 150 together.

Having completed a feasibility study on the redevelopment of the existing Garda station site at Tallaght, the Commissioners of Public Works have decided that the site will be offered for sale on the open market on condition that the purchaser constructs a new Garda station on a designated part of the site to a specification approved by the OPW and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The new station will fully address all Garda requirements in Tallaght, and a sketch scheme will be drawn up for the Department's approval in the next few months. Following receipt of planning approval for the Garda station, the site will be offered for sale on the open market on the basis that the purchaser must deliver the new Garda station in a definite timeframe. It is expected that the new station will be available by the end of 2006.

Question No. 151 answered with QuestionNo. 142.

Tax Code.

Pat Carey

Question:

152 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance if the tax matters of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8324/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer was in partnership with another individual between March 2002 and April 2003. VAT returns for all periods up to April 2003 have been received and a VAT credit of €2,075 arises. Relevant contracts tax of €3,542 has also been paid. The total credit available for set-off against any other tax owed by the partnership is €5,617.

Given the nature of the break-up of the partnership, the taxpayer in question is finding it difficult to complete accounts for the partnership and his own personal tax return. He has agreed to submit to Revenue full details of the partnership, including debts outstanding at date of termination. On receipt of this information, Revenue expects to be in a position to finalise the tax liability of the partnership and his own personal tax liability.

Departmental Staff.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

153 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff appointed by him from outside the Civil Service since the general election 2002; the job descriptions for these staff; the salaries and expenses paid to these staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8329/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table:

Name

Noeleen McCreevy*

Michael Fitzpatrick

Position Held

Personal Secretary

Personal Assistant

Date of appointment

17th May 2002

17th May 2002

Salary Details

17/5/02 to 31/12/02

€23,272

€22,838

01/01/2003 to 31/12/03

€39,970

€42,234

01/01/04 to 19/3/04

€9,876

€10,075

Total salary

€73,118

€75,147

Allowance details

17/5/02 to 31/12/02

€2,245

0

01/01/2003 to 31/12/03

€3,432

0

01/01/04 to 19/3/04

€829

0

Total Allowances

€6,506

0

Expenses details

17/5/02 to 31/12/02

0

€6,720

01/01/2003 to 31/12/03

€1,674

€8,927

01/01/04 to 19/3/04

0

€1,584

Total expenses

€1,674

€17,231

*Since the 1980s Ms McCreevy has been employed as a Dáil secretarial assistant and would have been paid out of the Vote of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Upon the appointment of a Deputy to an office holding position, such Dáil secretarial assistants may be appointed as employees of the relevant office holder's Department and are then paid from the relevant Department Vote. The information above relates to payments to Ms McCreevy in her capacity as personal secretary to the Minister for Finance.

State Claims Agency.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

154 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the role of the State Claims Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8406/04]

Under the National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act 2000, the management of personal injury and property damage claims against the State and of the underlying risks was delegated to the National Treasury Management Agency. When performing these functions, the NTMA is known as the State Claims Agency.

The Act sets out two objectives for the SCA: to manage claims to ensure that the State's liability and associated legal and other expenses are contained at the lowest achievable level, and to provide risk advisory services to State authorities with the aim of reducing over time the frequency and severity of claims.

The SCA manages personal injury and property damage claims against certain State authorities, including the State itself, Ministers, the Attorney General, the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, prison governors, community and comprehensive schools and various other bodies listed in the Schedule to the Act.

The following classes of claim are expressly excluded from the SCA's remit: claims which give rise to constitutional issues; claims for compensation under the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts; claims against the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda Commissioner or a prison governor in respect of alleged assault by a member of the Garda Síochána or a prison officer; claims under the non-statutory scheme providing compensation for personal injury criminally inflicted on prison officers; hearing loss claims against the Minister for Defence or the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; claims arising from infection with hepatitis C through the administration of blood or blood products; child abuse claims against the State; and claims in which torts other than negligence are pleaded.

These classes of claim have been excluded either because alternative compensation arrangements have already been put in place by the Government or because they give rise to issues of legal policy which require the ongoing close involvement of the Attorney General.

Child Care Services.

Joe Higgins

Question:

155 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider introducing tax relief or other incentives to help parents with the excessive burden of child care costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8432/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, over the past number of years the Government has considered carefully the whole area of child care. The core objective of Government policy in the area of child support is to provide assistance which will offer real choice to parents and which will benefit all children. In that context it has been decided that, as a matter of policy, child benefit will be the main fiscal instrument through which support will be provided to parents with dependent children. Child benefit provides assistance to all parents in whatever caring choices are most appropriate for them and their children. In addition, unlike tax relief, it provides support to parents irrespective of their income status.

In line with this policy approach, the Government commenced a major initiative to substantially increase the rates of child benefit. In 2001, the rate for the first and second child was increased by almost €32 per month and by €38 per month for the third and subsequent children. This represented an increase of over 50% on the rates prevailing in 2000. Similar monetary increases were provided in 2002. Further increases were implemented in 2003 and, in my recent Budget Statement, I announced additional increases of €6 and €8 per month respectively in 2004 which are around double the projected inflation rate for this year. All this means that, since 1997, the child benefit rates have increased by more than 230% compared with a projected increase of inflation of only 28% over the period 1997 to 2004.

In addition, the Government has in place a package of other expenditure measures to support child care needs. The supply of formal child care places throughout Ireland is being stimulated through a programme of investment under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. The equal opportunities programme is making capital grant assistance available with the aim of increasing the supply of quality child care places to address the child care needs of parents who wish to remain in or return to employment, education and training. The programme aims to increase by 50% the supply of child care places by end 2006. The budget for the programme is €436.7 million and is funded by the Government and the European Union. This funding and the recent increases in child benefit are a significant financial commitment and clearly show the Government's continuing support for the child care sector.

Given the Government's policy in this area as outlined above, I have no plans at this time to introduce a specific tax relief for parents in relation to the costs incurred for child care. There is an exemption to the usual benefit-in-kind provisions for employees who have free or subsidised child care facilities provided by their employers. The exemption applies whether the employer provides the facilities in-house or in a premises made available by the employer in another location. The exemption also applies if an employer provides child care facilities jointly with others, for example, other employers.

Furthermore, capital allowances are available for expenditure incurred on child care facilities which meet the required standards for such facilities as provided in the Child Care Act 1991. Child care services are also generally exempt from VAT, so no VAT should be chargeable on fees levied by crèches.

Under the auspices of Sustaining Progress, the Government has committed itself to ensuring,inter alia, that the Department of Social and Family Affairs will review the contribution made by its income support system to people reconciling work and family life and prepare a national programme focusing on the development of family policy and supports to mark the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

Question No. 156 answered with QuestionNo. 30.

Decentralisation Programme.

Pat Breen

Question:

157 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider a proposal by Industry Ennis to decentralise some information technology units to Ennis in view of the fact that Ennis has important IT infrastructure and is Ireland’s information age town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8445/04]

An implementation committee was set up immediately after the budget announcement on decentralisation to drive forward the programme. Among its terms of reference was the provision to Government of advice on 835 IT posts included in the programme. The implementation committee will report to Government on its overall implementation plan by the end of March 2004.

Pat Breen

Question:

158 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance when decentralisation of revenue staff to Kilrush in County Clare will take place; if he has identified offices for such transfer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8446/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the timescale for the decentralisation of 50 staff to Kilrush is dependent on the availability of suitable accommodation in the location and the completion of the decentralisation implementation committee's implementation plan. A site has not yet been identified in Kilrush. The OPW is undertaking an initial assessment of proposals.

Question No. 159 answered with QuestionNo. 54.

Planning Issues.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

160 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance when the planning and management study for Oldbridge Estate by a company (details supplied) of May 2001 will be made available to the public. [8480/04]

The study will form part of the briefing documentation accompanying a formal memorandum being prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs for the Government's consideration. It is envisaged that the study will be published shortly thereafter.

Sale of Land.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

161 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance when the Office of Public Works expects to be in a position to complete the sale of a portion of land attached to Ballydesmond Garda station, Mallow, County Cork, to facilitate a housing development. [8485/04]

The request to dispose of the portion of the land in question has only recently been referred to the Commissioners of Public Works. This request will be examined in the context of the effect on the overall existing site and indeed any possible future requirement for the site. On the completion of the review the commissioners will contact the person involved.

Question No. 162 answered with QuestionNo. 29.

Pension Provisions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

163 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the impact of the new pension provisions on the pension entitlement of paid public service workers as a result of the new rules for social welfare pension co-ordination with public service pension entitlements. [8616/04]

I indicated in the budget for 2004 my intention to bring forward proposals to change certain pension terms for existing staff. These proposals include, among other things, provisions to amend the formula used for integrating public service and social welfare pensions in order to make better provision for current and future staff on lower pay levels.

Integration is the arrangement whereby, in the case of public service employees on full PRSI, the social welfare pension is combined with the occupational pension to provide a combined pension which is at least as good as the pension which would have been payable if the sole source of pension were occupational pension alone. The lump sum payment due at the time of retirement is not integrated and as such is payable in full based on pensionable remuneration and service.

Under the current approach to integration of pensions, the occupational portion of pensions is calculated on the basis of net pensionable remuneration, that is, pensionable remuneration less an offset of twice the value of the old age contributory pension. The occupational portion of pension is then calculated at a rate of 1/80th of the net pensionable remuneration for each year of reckonable service up to a maximum or 40/80th over 40 years. The current approach can provide a very low rate of occupational pension, apart from lump sum, for public servants who retire on low levels of pay.

In the approach recommended by the Commission on Public Service Pensions and discussed with the public service unions, a new formula would be used which would ensure that workers with income below 3 1/3rd times' old age contributory pension, currently €557 per week or €29,100 per annum, would be guaranteed a certain level of occupational pension as well as the full old age contributory pension. Discussions are under way with the public service unions on the development of a new formula in line with the commission's recommendations.

Garda Stations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

164 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if funding will be made available for the construction of a new Garda station in Wexford town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8617/04]

The question of funding for the construction of a new Garda station in Wexford town will be addressed when a suitable site is acquired. The process of identifying a suitable site is at an advanced stage.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

165 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the money allocated by his Department in 2003 and 2004 to directly fund services for persons with disabilities and the money allocated to enabling persons with disabilities to more easily access services of his Department. [8640/04]

As the Deputy will appreciate, providing services to persons with disabilities is not among the functions of this Department and, consequently, the Department's Estimates for 2003 and 2004 do not contain allocations for directly funding such services. However, the Department's Estimates for both years contain an allocation of €7.618 million in each year for payments to the promoters of certain charitable lotteries. The main beneficiary of this allocation in 2003 was the Rehab Group which received €5.845 million, while the Polio Fellowship of Ireland and the Irish Wheelchair Association were among the other beneficiaries.

As regards enabling persons with disabilities to more easily access the Department's services, the Department's Estimates for 2003 and 2004 do not contain specific allocations for this purpose. However, in 2003, the special projects unit of the Department spent €2,178 on Braille key panels for attachment to the Department's time and attendance clocks and the departmental training unit spent a further €600 in providing services for visually-impaired staff at presentations and talks. The Department will continue to keep under review the accessibility of its services to persons with disabilities.

I should add that responsibility for the improvement of physical access to the various buildings occupied by my Department rests with the Office of Public Works, OPW, and my Department maintains contact with the OPW regarding the implementation of access improvements. In 2003, at the Department's request, the OPW provided an external disabled access lift from the South Road into Government Buildings, and in 2004, the OPW has been requested to provide a similar access at the front door of the Department's Mount Street offices. In view of the OPW's cross-departmental role in this area, I have arranged for it to supply information about its activities directly to the Deputy.

Tax Code.

Seamus Kirk

Question:

166 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Finance if there are plans to introduce VAT on postage stamps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8723/04]

The European Commission proposed a draft directive to change the existing VAT treatment of public postal services and postage stamps on 5 May 2003. This has been discussed in Brussels at the relevant tax questions working party. If the draft directive were agreed as proposed by the European Commission, one of the potential effects would be the imposition of a positive rate of VAT on postage stamps. Ireland has indicated in the context of EU discussions that it is opposed to this proposal in its present form.

Question No. 167 answered with QuestionNo. 30.

Flood Relief.

Seán Haughey

Question:

168 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on discussions between the Irish Insurance Federation and the Minister of State at the Department of Finance in relation to flooding; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that householders in Drumcondra, Dublin 9, still cannot obtain household insurance from any insurance company in this State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8764/04]

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 for the future. On 6 December 2002, I met the Irish Insurance Federation, IIF, which welcomed my decision to initiate the review and outlined its views and concerns. I indicated that the State would play its part in risk reduction and that, in turn, the insurance industry would be expected to act in a responsible manner. I invited the IIF to make a submission to the review group. A submission was received and OPW officials subsequently met with the IIF to clarify certain aspects of that submission.

These discussions, along with all others involved in the consultation process carried out as part of the policy review, have contributed to shaping the review group's draft final report. That report is currently being considered by Departments before being submitted to Government for final consideration in the very near future. I am confident that the recommendations of the report can lead to a much improved flood management regime in Ireland and will, in the long term, substantially mitigate the impact of flooding on society.

One of the key components of future flood management strategy is the development of flood maps. These provide valuable information to assist in numerous decision-making processes, for example, planning and development, flood works prioritisation and assessment of risk. In this regard, I can confirm that the OPW has commenced work on a flood mapping programme, the first phase of which will be completed in 2005.

I am not in a position to intervene with insurance companies in regard to the risks that they are unwilling to underwrite. The appropriate regulatory body for the industry is the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority. I remain confident that the increased availability of risk information arising from the production of maps and other recommendations of the policy review, together with the implementation of a more strategic approach to flood management, will reduce exposure to risk and provide a more accurate basis upon which insurance companies formulate their decisions relating to potential flood damage in the future.

The final report of the River Tolka flooding study was published by Dublin City Council in December 2003 and details the measures required to protect homeowners against flooding along the river. The report is available on the Dublin City Council website and is also available to view in the library in Drumcondra. Copies of the report in CD-ROM format are also available from Dublin City Council.

An initial phase of works outlined in the report has already been completed by the Office of Public Works on behalf of Dublin City Council. The OPW and the city council are committed to carrying out the next phase of works in the current year, and discussions are ongoing to agree the detail and timing.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

169 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to increase the number of pumping stations on the Cashen Estuary, County Kerry, to alleviate flooding at that location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8765/04]

There has been no change in the situation since my reply of 9 December 2003 to the Deputy on the same subject.

Offshore Accounts.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

170 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the physical and mental anxiety and concern being placed on the elderly who are receiving documentation from the Office of the Revenue Commissioners in relation to foreign deposit accounts. [8766/04]

I assume the Deputy is referring to letters which have recently issued from Irish financial institutions to customers who hold or held accounts or investments in their offshore branches or subsidiaries. As part of a Revenue initiative to deal with tax evasion involving the use of accounts or investments in such offshore subsidiaries, Revenue recently encouraged the financial institutions to advise such customers of an upcoming Revenue investigation. They were also encouraged to advise any such customers, who themselves considered they may have tax issues, of the opportunity prior to commencement of that investigation on 29 March 2004 to avail of the Revenue voluntary disclosure scheme. Revenue has also written to the holders of foreign accounts or investments in some cases where it has been contacted directly by the taxpayer.

The letters issued by the banks and financial institutions clearly state that, if the customer's tax affairs are entirely in order, the letters should not be a cause of any concern. Where an individual's tax affairs are not in order, it is in the individual's own interest to take action prior to 29 March 2004 to regularise the matter in the context of the opportunity for voluntary disclosure.

Revenue has made available a comprehensive booklet entitled Making a Qualifying Disclosure of an Offshore Related Tax Default to Revenue. This booklet contains a series of frequently asked questions and answers together with calculation worksheets to assist taxpayers to determine if they need to make a disclosure and, if so, to calculate the tax interest and penalty due. Assistance is also available from Revenue's offshore assets group and local Revenue districts by telephone. The booklet contents and interactive spreadsheets are also available on the Revenue website atwww.revenue.ie. I understand that Revenue is providing this material and assistance in the interests of ensuring that individuals can quickly determine if they have a tax problem so that they can deal with any such problems as effectively as possible and with the minimum of stress.

Property Investment Funds.

Seán Crowe

Question:

171 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the success of REITs in Britain, he has plans to introduce a similar system in this country. [8767/04]

REITs, real estate investment trusts, exist in the United States to assist investors achieve diversified ownership of primary passive real estate investments. They qualify as pass-through entities, that is, entities which are able to distribute the majority of income cash flows to investors without taxation at the corporate level providing certain conditions are met. Therefore, an REIT is a tax transparent structure aimed at encouraging increased institutional investment in the housing market and at boosting affordable housing development.

The UK Chancellor, Gordon Brown, announced in his budget speech on 17 March 2004 that the UK Government accepts the recent UK Barker report recommendations for British real estate investment trusts to improve the supply of rented property. In this context it is understood that the British authorities will seek views on how these new vehicles, to be called property investment funds, PIFs, may be structured to meet the objectives of further enhancing the liquidity of property investment. I have no plans at present to introduce a similar system in this country but the position will continue to be monitored by my Department.

Mayo Landslide.

Michael Ring

Question:

172 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works has provided funding for the rebuilding of a bridge (details supplied) in County Mayo, which was completely destroyed by the landslides of September 2003. [8864/04]

The Office of Public Works has no responsibility for this matter.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

173 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the number of applications received for the provision of facilities, that is, site, buildings and so on, for the decentralisation of the Department of Defence to Newbridge, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8907/04]

The number of property decentralisation proposals received by the Office of Public Works in respect of Newbridge is seven and these proposals are currently being assessed.

Jack Wall

Question:

174 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the number of applications received for the provision of facilities for the decentralisation of a section of his Department to Athy, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8908/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Office of Public Works received 16 proposals for accommodation facilities in Athy, County Kildare. These include sites and proposals to build. The Office of Public Works is currently undertaking an initial assessment of proposals.

Departmental Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

175 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance his the plans to appoint contract staff within the public service as permanent staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9062/04]

The following reply concerns the Civil Service only. I am not considering any general policy instruction or plan in this regard. Contract staff are appointed to carry out specific tasks or functions. This is reflected in the terms of the contract and, in particular, in the period of the contract. The issue of extending any contract is examined by management in Departments in the light of the business needs of the organisation and is a matter for Departments.

Tax Code.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

176 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if there are special income tax arrangements for Cumann Luthchleas Gael or for other sporting bodies. [9133/04]

Bodies established and existing for the sole purpose of promoting athletic or amateur games or sports are exempt from income tax, dividend withholding tax and corporation tax in the case of an incorporated body. The exemption from tax only applies to so much of the income as is shown to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners to be income which has been or will be applied for the sole purpose of promoting such games or sports. These general exemptions are currently provided for in section 235 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 but have their origins as early as 1927 where specific exemptions were made for the games of Gaelic football, hurling and handball.

Relief from income tax or corporation tax is also available in respect of donations to approved sports bodies for the funding of certain capital projects. This relief was introduced in the 2002 Finance Act and is provided for in section 847A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. To be eligible for the relief, the project must be approved by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism and the aggregate cost must not exceed €40 million. The sports body must be exempt from tax under section 235 and it must have a valid tax clearance certificate. The relief, which is available at the donor's marginal tax rate and subject to a minimum qualifying donation of €250 in a year of assessment, is given by way of refund of tax by Revenue to the sports body in the case of a PAYE donor and by way of a trading deduction in the case of a self-assessed individual or corporate donor.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

177 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the measures he proposes to reduce the cost of tribunals of inquiry. [9134/04]

To the end of October 2003, the total cost to the Exchequer of completed and sitting tribunals of inquiry and other public inquiries was €138.6 million. Of this €99.4 million was in respect of legal costs and €39.2 million related to other costs. The figure for legal costs includes some €25.5 million in respect of third party legal costs awarded at three completed tribunals. This represents some 68% of the total cost of these tribunals.

In relation to tribunals and public inquiries which are sitting at present, the total cost to the end of October is €101 million, of which €68 million is in respect of legal costs. The latter only refers to the costs of the tribunal of inquiry legal teams as the issue of third party costs has not yet been adjudicated on in any instance. Given the significance of these costs in completed tribunals and inquiries there is scope for a sharp acceleration in Exchequer costs if third party legal costs follow the pattern of completed tribunals.

Given the considerable actual and potential costs arising, I am concerned as to the ongoing resultant burden on the Exchequer. At the invitation of the planning tribunal, I made a submission to the tribunal last May which argued that the liability of the Exchequer for third party legal costs should be greatly circumscribed. The tribunal has not yet adjudicated on the issue.

More generally, I have a number of proposals under consideration aimed at reducing costs. These proposals follow liaison with the Attorney General and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It is my intention to shortly submit the proposals to the Government for approval. I am not therefore at liberty at this juncture to go into individual detail of these proposals but, broadly, they are aimed at addressing a number of issues including the following: tightening and better focusing of the terms of reference of future tribunals with a view to minimising duration and costs; streamlining the operation of tribunals; and a review of basis of payment for legal representatives.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform recently introduced the Committees of Investigation Bill which passed Second Stage in the Dáil on 5 March. The mechanism being provided by this Bill may be considered as providing either a precursor or an alternative to tribunals of inquiry. It is, however, also designed to address concerns such as those relating to the time and cost of public investigations. Overall, it seeks to provide a more effective and flexible way of investigating matters of public concern while balancing the issues of time, cost, fair procedures and the rights of affected parties. This measure has the potential to considerably reduce the need for full-scale tribunals of inquiry and I strongly support it.

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when he or his Department expects to have further consultation with Kildare County Council on the alleviation of flooding with particular reference to Mill Lane, Leixlip, and other locations in north Kildare which suffered from flooding in recent years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9135/04]

The Office of Public Works met with officials from Kildare County Council last month to discuss flooding problems at a number of locations. The county council confirmed that it has commissioned a report on flooding at Leixlip and agreed to forward a copy of the report to the Office of Public Works when available.

Works undertaken on the Lyreen and Meadowbrook rivers in the Maynooth area are now complete and no further works are planned. This work was carried out by the OPW as an agent of the county council.

In relation to flooding in Ardclough, Kildare County Council agreed that insufficient information is available to address the flooding problem with further technical and engineering data required. The county council agreed to consider how this information might be gathered.

Flooding problems in the areas mentioned are a matter for the local authority in the first instance. The OPW is happy to assist with technical advice and guidance but no flood relief scheme is planned for any of these locations.

The flood policy review which I initiated in November 2002 has now completed its work and the report of the review group will shortly be submitted to Government. I hope to be in a position to publish the report in the very near future. As well as setting out a strategy for flood management in the future, the report will clarify responsibilities of central and local government and set out criteria for prioritisation of resources on flood management measures.

Economic and Monetary Union.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

179 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the way in which the strength of the euro has affected the cost of imports and the competitiveness of exports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9136/04]

The euro is trading significantly higher against the US dollar than when it was introduced in January 2002. The euro's appreciation against sterling has been much less significant. The appreciation of the euro affects the economy in a number of different ways.

The main negative effect of a stronger euro is to make Irish exports less competitive on world markets. This occurs as exports to non-euro areas become relatively more expensive while at the same time imports from these areas become relatively less expensive. Also, firms competing with US and UK firms in markets outside the eurozone will experience competitiveness problems. The reduced competitiveness of the euro area lessens demand for Irish goods and services.

A significant proportion of Ireland's trade is with non-euro countries such as the UK and the US. The recent rise in the euro against sterling and the dollar must be a cause for concern. In my Budget Statement, I specifically highlighted Ireland's vulnerability to sharp falls in the US dollar exchange rate against the euro. That is why competitiveness is a priority for the Government. We must remain vigilant to the risks to our competitiveness, such as wage and price inflation. Otherwise, jobs will be at risk.

On the positive side, a stronger euro lowers inflation by reducing import prices and reduces oil prices, as oil is invoiced in US dollars. The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show that import prices during the first 11 months of 2003 fell by 5.2% in comparison with the corresponding period the previous year. During the same period, around 78% of our imports came from outside the euro area.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

180 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself that the banking sector is secure and free from the possible recurrence of problems (details supplied). [9137/04]

I understand the Deputy is referring to events that occurred at Allfirst Bank some time ago. The Minister of Finance is responsible for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation. Once the necessary legislative framework has been put in place, day-to-day responsibility for the supervision of credit institutions is a matter for Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority. The primary responsibility for managing a bank and preventing fraud lies with the management of that institution. No supervisory regime can guarantee a financial institution will never be a victim of internal fraud. However, I am satisfied that we have a solid legislative framework for banking supervision and that the creation of a single financial services regulator in the form of IFSRA provides an effective organisational structure for enforcement of that framework.

Up to May 2003, the Central Bank of Ireland was the independent statutory authority for banking supervision. IFSRA now has that role. The primary regulators of Allfirst's activities were the US Federal Reserve Bank and the State of Maryland banking regulator. When, in February 2002, I became aware of the events at AIB's then US subsidiary, Allfirst Bank, the Central Bank was asked to provide a report, on the completion of its investigations, as to whether it considered that any changes to legislative provisions governing banking supervision might be required. The Central Bank reported that there was no evidence that the Irish legislative framework contributed in any way to the losses at Allfirst and that it already had sufficient powers to work with the US regulators. Accordingly, the bank did not consider it necessary to recommend any changes in legislation in the area of supervision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

181 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself that interest charged on loans and interest paid on deposits by the banking sector leaves adequate latitude for business to survive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9139/04]

I have no function in connection with the setting of interest rates. The setting of official interest rates for the euro zone is a matter for the European Central Bank. Retail interest rates are determined by financial institutions themselves in the context of a competitive market among commercial entities.

Price Inflation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that price increases are not reflected in the recorded inflation rate on a month-by-month basis; the way in which this has come about; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9140/04]

The director general of the Central Statistics Office has sole responsibility for, and is independent in deciding, the statistical methodology and professional standards to be used in compiling the consumer price index. The latest CPI release shows inflation in February was 1.7%, down from a high last year of 5.1% in February 2003. This is its lowest level since October 1999, which is a very welcome development.

Departmental Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

183 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if projections and end of year returns were supplied to his Department by the established Civil Service or by advisers or consultants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9141/04]

All projections and end of year outturns for voted expenditure are supplied by the finance units of the various Departments and offices.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he expects to achieve annual targets in respect of decentralisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9142/04]

I have appointed a decentralisation implementation committee to drive the implementation of the programme. The committee, which is chaired by Phil Flynn, will prepare an implementation plan and will report back to Government by the end of March 2004.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil and or public servants who have so far agreed to relocate under the Government decentralisation proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9143/04]

I have not undertaken a survey of civil servants or public servants to ascertain the numbers who wish to transfer to each of the locations included in the decentralisation programme. Conducting such a survey in advance of clearer timelines for the sequencing of all the various moves would be of limited value. Following the finalisation of the implementation plan by the decentralisation implementation committee, a structured trawl should be carried out to allow public servants apply for each of the locations announced. The nature of this trawl is the subject of discussion between public service management and unions.

Question No. 186 answered with QuestionNo. 82.
Question No. 187 answered with QuestionNo. 30.

EU Presidency.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the number of locations and status of functions or receptions held in connection with Ireland’s Presidency of the EU; the number and status of those invited to attend; if Garda motorcycle escorts were provided in any or all instances; if invitations were issued by way of postal service or by other means in every case; if not, the nature of the exception; the cost to the Exchequer or EU of events to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9181/04]

The main focus for my Department in the Irish Presidency of the EU is the meetings of the Council of Economics and Finance Ministers of the EU. These meetings, which I chair on behalf of the Presidency, are held once a month over the six months of the Presidency. Most of the meetings are in Brussels or Luxembourg, but the informal meeting between 2 and 4 April takes place in Punchestown, County Kildare.

This meeting will be among the largest meetings to take place in Ireland over the period of the Presidency. It will be attended by some 300 delegates and up to 400 media personnel. The national delegations from the 25 member states of the enlarged EU will be led by Ministers for Finance and central bank governors in each case. The attendance will also include a number of Commissioners, among them President Prodi, and other distinguished representatives of EU institutions, including Mr Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank. Security is a prime concern in an event of this importance. As part of this, Garda motorcycle escorts will be provided for the transportation of delegations. Coach transfers will be used to the maximum extent possible. Invitations have been issued by post, fax and e-mail.

It is estimated that the direct Exchequer cost of the event, including venue hiring, venue fit-out, media facilities, hotel accommodation of delegates, transport, catering, hospitality, security, etc., will be of the order of €500,000. This is net of a contribution to the cost by the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland, reflecting the participation of central bank governors in the meeting. Holding a meeting of this scale and importance and ensuring that it is carried off in a manner that reflects well on the country is unavoidably expensive. Where ECOFIN Council meetings are held in Brussels or Luxembourg, the cost falls mainly on the EU.

The other main meetings in Ireland arising for my Department in the Presidency are:

Date

Meeting

Venue

Est. Cost (€)

26/27 February

Regional Ministers Meeting

Portlaoise

380,000

1 / 2 March

Asia-Europe Finance Deputies Meeting (ASEM)

Cork

60,000

27/28 May

Public Administration Directors General Meeting

Dublin Castle

76,000

Northern Ireland Issues.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

189 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his contacts with political parties in the North regarding the peace process; if his attention has been drawn to the widespread interest in this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8300/04]

Since the review of the operation of the Good Friday Agreement was convened on 3 February 2004, we have had the opportunity to meet with all the political parties elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Over recent weeks, in partnership with the British Government, I and the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt, have met with the parties on several occasions to discuss all aspects of the operation of the Agreement and to examine ways to resolve the outstanding issues.

On 9 February the Secretary of State, Paul Murphy, MP, and I met the Alliance Party, Sinn Féin, SDLP, DUP and UUP when we discussed a broad range of issues, including institutional matters regarding strands two and three. The Secretary of State, Mr. Murphy, also updated me on strand one meetings that had taken place the previous day.

Following the alleged abduction of a man in Belfast on 20 February, the review meetings on 24 February and 2 March focused primarily on paramilitary activity. After discussions with all the parties, both Governments asked the Independent Monitoring Commission to bring forward its first report, from July to May, covering all paramilitary activities since its establishment in early January. The commission subsequently indicated that the report would be presented to both Governments in early April. On 9 March, I met the Secretary of State, Mr. Murphy, in Stormont to review developments. On that day, I also met a DUP delegation and Mark Durkan, MLA, leader of the SDLP.

On 11 March, the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, MP, met at Farmleigh to assess the state of the process and to seek to add momentum to the efforts of the two Governments to find a way forward. To follow up on this meeting, the Taoiseach and Prime Minister, accompanied by appropriate colleagues, will meet the parties at Hillsborough Castle today. In all our meetings to date, the Government has made it clear that we are determined to see an early restoration of stable inclusive political institutions with a definitive end to all forms of paramilitarism. The Taoiseach recently stated: "There can be no half-way house between violence and democracy" and equally "no comfortable resting place between exclusion and partnership".

Foreign Conflicts.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

190 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on negotiations, within the context of Ireland’s EU Presidency, regarding the future of Cyprus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8301/04]

Ireland, as EU President, welcomed the announcement in New York on 13 February by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, with the agreement of the parties, that negotiations for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem would resume in Nicosia on 19 February. The accession of a united Cyprus on 1 May remains the clear preference of the European Union and these negotiations offer a real opportunity to achieve this historic objective.

The negotiations will move into their second phase tomorrow, 24 March, in Switzerland when Greece and Turkey, at the invitation of the UN Secretary General, will join the representatives of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities in a concentrated effort to agree a finalised text by the end of the month. In the event of continuing deadlock at that time, the parties have invited the Secretary General, Mr. Annan, to use his discretion to finalise the text for submission to separate simultaneous referenda on the basis of this plan.

The General Affairs and External Relations Council, which I chaired on 23 February, welcomed the agreement of the parties to resume the negotiating process for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem in the framework of the Secretary General's mission of good offices and on the basis of his proposals. The Council stressed the full support of the Union for the Secretary General's efforts to conclude an agreement. It reiterated the willingness of the EU to accommodate the terms of a settlement in line with the principles on which the EU is founded and welcomed the readiness of the European Commission to fulfil its supportive role by providing assistance requested by the UN Secretary General. The Government continues to give its full support to the Secretary General. We are in regular contact with his team and with the Governments of Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. It is our firm hope that the parties will redouble their efforts in the negotiating process on the basis of their commitment to reach a settlement based on the Secretary General's proposals. The goal remains a settlement which will enable the accession of a united Cyprus to the EU on 1 May.

I welcome the organisation by the European Commission of a high level international conference in Brussels on 15 April to prepare a donor's conference. In advance of the referenda, scheduled for 20 April, this conference will demonstrate in a tangible way the support of the international community for the settlement and for its implementation. On 20 April, the people of Cyprus will exercise their democratic prerogative. I sincerely hope they will seize this opportunity to choose a future together which is in the interests of all the people of the island, of Europe and of the wider region.

Departmental Staff.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

191 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of staff appointed by him from outside the Civil Service since the General Election 2002; the job descriptions for these staff; the salaries and expenses paid to these staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8330/04]

The tables indicate the numbers, job descriptions and salary scales of the staff appointed by me and by Ministers of State, Deputies Kitt and Roche, since June 2002.

Minister's office:

Job Description

Number

Salary scale

Personal Assistant

1

€37,520 — €44,328

Personal Secretary

1

€18,741 — €36,160

Minister of State, Deputy Kitt's office:

Job Description

Number

Salary scale

Personal Assistant

1

€37,520 — €44,328

Personal Secretary

1

€18,741 — €36,160

Civilian Driver

2

€26,468

Minister of State, Deputy Roche's office:

Job Description

Number

Salary scale

Personal Assistant

1

€37,520 — €44,328

Civilian Driver

2

€26,468

Overtime, travel and subsistence expenses are paid in accordance with normal Civil Service regulations.

Arms Trade.

Richard Bruton

Question:

192 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his proposals to advance the case for stricter controls on small arms through international fora in which he participates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8394/04]

Ireland is fully supportive of the principle of having strict controls on small arms and is working within the European Union to address the need for such controls. The export of arms from EU countries must conform to the EU code of conduct on arms exports which establishes criteria to control such exports. Ireland was actively involved in the establishment of this politically binding code which lists the factors to be taken into account when deciding whether to allow an export of military goods. These include respect for human rights, the internal situation in the country of final destination, and the preservation of regional peace, security and stability. Discussions are under way during our EU Presidency on the possible reinforcement of the status of the code of conduct, for example, by its transformation into an EU Common Position, which would be legally binding. Ireland supports such a reinforcement of the code.

The European Council adopted a joint action on the EU's contribution to combating the destabilising accumulation and uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons in July 2002 which is concerned primarily with enhancing efforts by EU member states to build consensus in the relevant regional and international fora, such as the UN and the OSCE, to prevent the further accumulation of small arms and to ensure that the EU's arms controls are as effective as possible. More recently, the European Union adopted a Common Position on arms brokering, in June 2003, requiring member states to introducead hoc legislation to control the activities of brokers. Ireland has contributed within the framework of the OSCE in developing best practices guidelines which will provide useful common standards in this area. The OSCE published a handbook of best practices on small arms and light weapons last December. Work is ongoing within the OSCE on issues such as end-use certificates, brokering and man portable air defence systems. Ireland will continue to participate fully in this forum and other international fora to promote the objective of strengthening arms controls globally.

There is widespread recognition in the global community that illicit trading of small arms must be addressed in a multilateral context. In July 2001, the United Nations convened a conference on small arms to consider how this could be most effectively addressed. A programme of action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects was agreed at that conference. The programme of action is a politically binding document which includes measures for implementation and international co-operation and assistance and provides a procedure for follow-up, including biennial meetings to assess progress in implementation. The first such biennial meeting took place in New York in July 2003 and focused on the presentation of national experiences in the field. A review conference will take place in 2006.

Ireland also welcomes the recent recommendations of a UN group of experts on the feasibility of a multilateral instrument to enable states to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit small arms and light weapons. The first substantive discussion by the working group established to examine this issue will take place in New York in June. In our EU Presidency capacity we must prepare and co-ordinate the EU positions for this session. While the nature of such an instrument will be the subject of negotiation, we together with our EU partners, have stated our preference for a legally binding measure.

Parental Rights.

Pat Breen

Question:

193 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received correspondence from a person (details supplied) in County Clare regarding the legal rights of a separated father; if he intends to act on it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8449/04]

A reply has been issued to the correspondence received from the person referred to by the Deputy. While my Department is sympathetic to the situation of this person, the assistance that the Department can give is limited. If the person wishes to pursue this matter, he will have to do so through legal channels and he has been advised to consult his legal advisers on this point.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

194 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs what assistance the Government will offer to the Conway Mill Preservation Trust development in west Belfast. [8560/04]

My Department's reconciliation fund was established in 1982 to assist organisations involved in reconciliation work and in developing a better understanding between people in both parts of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain. Since its establishment, it has funded a wide variety of organisations working in the field of reconciliation in Northern Ireland, between North and South and between these islands.

The Department welcomes applications from organisations whose activities may qualify for consideration under the criteria governing the fund. All applications are considered by an interdepartmental advisory committee on the basis of published eligibility criteria and the committee then makes its recommendations to me. In 2003, Conway Mill Preservation Trust Limited applied for grant aid of £300,000 sterling to the reconciliation fund. I regret that, on account of the constraints arising from the numerous applications received and the limited resources available, it was not possible on that occasion to provide financial support to this application. A letter informing the organisation of this decision was issued in August 2003. It is open to Conway Mill Preservation Trust Limited to apply again to the reconciliation fund.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

195 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the money allocated by his Department in 2003 and 2004 to directly fund services for persons with disabilities and the money allocated to enabling persons with disabilities to more easily access services of his Department. [8641/04]

The Department of Foreign Affairs is responsible for Vote 28-Department of Foreign Affairs, and Vote 29-International Co-operation. Details of the funding allocated by my Department for services for persons with disabilities in 2003 and 2004 are as follows Vote 28: in 2003, the communicating Europe initiative, which is administered by the Department for Foreign Affairs, allocated €10,018.11 in funding to the Disability Federation of Ireland for a series of ten EU information workshops for DFI members in locations throughout the country. The workshops were aimed at people with disabilities who wished to learn about the European Union, its history and institutions, and to review how the EU impacts on the lives of people with disabilities.

On 16 July, 2003, an interpreter was engaged to conduct a meeting between the personnel officer and a member of staff who is hearing impaired. The cost of this service was €101.34. On 3 March 2004, sign interpreters were engaged for a PMDS course at a cost of €426.72. The video production company making an induction video for new staff has been requested to include a sign language version. This will cost approximately €2,500. The Department's website and the EU Presidency website meet recommended standards for accessibility. The Department's building and refurbishment programmes give priority to provision of services and facilities for those with disabilities.

Vote 29 covers civil society funding. Development Cooperation Ireland supports specific projects and programmes for people in the developing world with disabilities through a variety of funding schemes and mechanisms, including the multi-annual programme scheme, the annual block grants and project co-financing. For various reasons, it is difficult to identify precisely how much of DCI funding in 2003 and 2004 is specifically targeted at disabled people, for example, certain programmes may address education, health or water and sanitation needs in communities with high incidences of river-blindness or landmine injury, but it is not possible to differentiate between the beneficiaries of such programmes in many cases. However, funding in the region of €300,000 was allocated for projects addressing the specific needs of disabled communities under the non-governmental organisation co-financing scheme and the block grants arrangements. Under the block grant arrangements for 2004, Action Aid Ireland proposes as one of its broad themes to focus on physical and intellectual disability.

Examples of projects or programmes specifically targeting disabled groups which have received DCI support include €88,000 allocated in June 2003 for the development of a school for the deaf in Nigeria. Under the block grant arrangements, allocations were made to World Vision DCI provided €65,000 to an integrated education project for children with special needs in Armenia and Action Aid Ireland gave €25,000 to the construction of an orthopaedic workshop in Nepal. Under the in-country micro project scheme, just more than €80,000 was provided to three projects in India supporting autism, physically handicapped and leprosy projects, a river-blindness control programme in Nigeria, support to a society for the mentally handicapped in Lesotho and occupational therapy services support to enable children with disabilities to realise their rights in Tanzania.

The United Nations Development Programme received funding of €57,340 from the human rights and democratisation scheme in 2003 for its strengthening the rights protection of the disabled project in China. That project is intended to lay foundations in policy-making for relevant government departments in China and to improve the mechanisms providing legal assistance to persons with disabilities. Under the missionary development fund, which provides co-funding to projects implemented through the Irish missionary orders, funding in the region of €146,000 was allocated for projects addressing the specific needs of disabled communities in 2003 and 2004. Examples of projects aimed at groups for those with disabilities include €50,000 support to Nkokonjeru Providence Cheshire Home in Uganda through the Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa. Support of €58,769 was also provided through the Vincentians order to a primary school for deaf pupils in Nigeria.

The Agency for Personal Services Overseas personnel co-funding expenditure for disability under Vote 29, subhead C is as follows:

Agency

Country

Skill

Amount in Euro

Health Action Overseas

Romania

Two occupational Therapists

30,000

Irish Red Cross

Iraq

Ortho-prosthetist

7,500

Skillshare International

Tanzania

Two occupational Therapists

30,000

VSO

Thailand

Special Education Teacher

15,000

Namibia

Teacher Trainer of Hearing Impaired

15,000

Philippines

15,000

Vietnam

Special Education

15,000

Ghana

Occupational Therapist

15,000

Sri-Lanka

Disability Careers Adviser

15,000

India

Physiotherapist

15,000

Medical Missionaries of Mary

Brazil

Nurse for the Disabled

15,000

Honduras

Literacy trainer

15,000

Sisters of St Louis

Nigeria

Co-ordinator of Leprosy education Programme

15,000

John Grooms

Bangladesh

Speech Therapist

7,500

Bangladesh

Occupational Therapist

9,000

Total

234,000

DCI's humanitarian assistance is aimed at victims of natural or man-made disasters in the poorer countries of the world. Those with physical or intellectual disabilities are often among the most vulnerable groups receiving such assistance. Under the DCI partnership agreement with the International Labour Organisation, funding has been allocated for an ILO programme aimed at capacity building for female entrepreneurs with disabilities in developing countries. Funding for this initiative, which focuses mainly on east Africa, has amounted to more than $789,860 from subhead B of the DCI Vote. The Government also supports a second programme with the ILO that provides advice and advocacy at government level for the employment of people with disabilities in developing countries. Funding of more than $600,860 has been provided for this from Subhead B. The timeframe for both programmes is from 2002 to 2005. The ILO provides information and advice to governments, employers' organisations and workers' organisations on policy, legislation and programmes relevant to the employment of people with disabilities. The programmes also review the impact of legislation in these countries regarding this matter and advise the national governments accordingly.

Since 2003, DCI has delivered €2.89 million for landmine action in the developing world. Of this, €2.5 million was provided through a partnership programme with the Halo Trust for the period 2003 to 2004 and further funding of €390,000 was delivered to Handicap International, a non-governmental organisation which assists victims of mines and explosive remnants of war to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

Much of the assistance DCI gives to countries of the Balkans and of the Commonwealth of Independent States is targeted at minority groups, including people with disabilities. Importance is also attached to awareness raising and to an advocacy role for disabled people and the organisations which represent them so that they can better influence public policy. In 2003, DCI provided funding of €217,336, the second part of a two year grant, to the international non-government charitable organisation, Catholic Relief Services, for a project for disabled people in Serbia. The project involved training for disabled people, for personal assistants for them and for organisations representing the disabled, the objective being to enable them to lead independent lives and participate more fully in their communities. DCI gave a grant of €18,881 in 2003 to the Bulgarian Association for People with Disabilities for equipment for a rehabilitation centre for people with intellectual difficulties. No funds have, as yet, been allocated in 2004 to projects specifically for people with disabilities.

In 2003, DCI contributed €250,000 to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to support its work for a thematic cluster that includes disability as well as gender and HIV and AIDS. This contribution was part of our 2003 voluntary contribution to the OHCHR which comes under Vote 29, subhead E. In 2004, we contributed €2.539 million to OHCHR. DCI will decide on the distribution of this contribution across various OHCHR activities, in consultation with the OHCHR. We intend to earmark a percentage of this contribution for the same thematic cluster reflecting the Government's strong commitment to these issues. In 2003, a grant of €5,000 was given to Gulluddene Unit for mentally retarded children for water tanks under the in-country programme in Uganda.

Overseas Development Aid.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

196 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the economic situation in Kosovo, its population, GDP, income per capita, and rate of unemployment; and the assistance that is being given by Ireland towards its economic development. [8813/04]

Despite progress in recent years under the administration of the UN mission in Kosovo, the situation remains tense. Together with our EU partners, the Government fully support the special representative of the UN Secretary General, Mr. Harri Holkeri, in his work to ensure the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1244.

The EU is committed to a stable future for a secure, democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo with its place in Europe. Through the EU pillar of UNMIK, the EU has particular responsibility for reconstruction and economic development in Kosovo. In the four years to end of 2003, the EU has provided almost €960 million in assistance to Kosovo.

Notwithstanding significant international assistance since 1999, the economy of Kosovo remains underdeveloped. Given the political circumstances there, statistical data are unreliable. The last census figures, dating from March 1991, show that the population then was 1,956,196. However, many ethnic Albanians boycotted this census. The Statistical Office of Kosovo estimates the current population to be still some 1.9 million. One third of the population is under 15 years of age, and more than 50% is under 25. According to the UNDP, 70% of those aged between 16 and 24 are unemployed while overall unemployment is estimated to be between 49% and 57%. Gross domestic product in 2001 was estimated to be under €1.2 billion, rising to almost €1.3 billion in 2003. On that basis, averageper capita income in 2003 was about €684.

The Government, through Development Cooperation Ireland, has provided €950,000 in direct bilateral assistance in the past two years in support of health, education, employment generation and democratisation. Assistance has also been provided to the UNMIK office of missing persons and forensics which, through its work on the identification of remains, is helping to address one of the most sensitive post-conflict issues, and to UNMIK's refugee return programme.

In addition, Ireland funds the regional activities of multilateral agencies active in the western Balkans, giving in excess of €550,000 in assistance in 2003. We also provide direct support for the privatisation process in Kosovo through grant assistance channelled through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. We support the efforts of the OECD and the stability pact for south-eastern Europe to encourage foreign investment and facilitate trade.

EU Presidency.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

197 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of locations and status of functions or receptions held in connection with Ireland’s Presidency of the EU; the number and status of those invited to attend; if Garda motorcycle escorts were provided in any or all instances; if invitations were issued by way of postal service or by other means in every case; if not, the nature of the exception; the cost to the Exchequer or EU of events to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9182/04]

During the course of the Irish Presidency, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, Ministers, Ministers of State and senior officials from many Departments are required to host meetings in Ireland as well as in Brussels and other countries throughout the world. Usually hospitality, by way of a lunch, dinner or reception, is extended during these meetings. There are, in addition, many other bilateral meetings held during the EU Presidency context over the course of the six months. However, in view of the number and scale of events, I hope the Deputy will understand that it is not possible to provide the number and status of those invited to attend all of the functions. Following is a copy of the calendar for Council meetings in Brussels and for meetings in Ireland and a list of the summits at which the Taoiseach will represent the European Union.

With regard to the security aspects for meetings held in Ireland, these are a matter for the Garda Síochána However, I can confirm that Garda escorts are only provided where it has been deemed necessary for security reasons.

Invitations to meetings and functions issue in different ways. To date, invitations have been issued by post, e-mail and through Irish embassies abroad, as well as those embassies accredited to Ireland, for onward transmission to the appropriate authorities. It is not possible at this stage to provide a figure for the total cost to the exchequer of hosting Presidency events.

Summit meetings at which the Taoiseach will represent the European Union

Date

Meeting

Location

18 March

EU — Canada Meeting

Canada

28/29 May

EU — LAC

Guadalajara, Mexico

End May

EU — Russia

Moscow

22 June

EU — Japan

Tokyo

26 June

EU — US

To be decided

Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union

January/June, 2004

Day

January

February

March

Thu

1 New Year’s Day

Fri

2

Sat

3

Sun

4

1

Mon

5

2

1

Tue

6 Government/Commission meeting PSC

3 PSC

2 ENVIRONMENT PSC

Wed

7

4 COREPER 2 / COREPER 1

3 COREPER 2 / COREPER 1

Thu

8 AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (poss) COREPER 2

5

4 EMPLOYMENT, SOCIAL POLICY, HEALTH AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS

Fri

9 PSC COREPER 1

6 PSC COREPER 1

5 EMPLOYMENT, SOCIAL POLICY, HEALTH AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS PSC

Sat

10

7

6

Sun

11

8

7

Mon

12

9 Eurogroup

8 TRANSPORT, TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND ENERGY Eurogroup

Tue

13 PSC

10 ECOFIN PSC

9 ECOFIN TRANSPORT, TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND ENERGY PSC

Wed

14 COREPER 1

11 COREPER 2 / COREPER 1

10 COREPER 2 / COREPER 1

Thu

15 COREPER 2

12

11 COMPETITIVENESS

Fri

16 Employment and Social Policy (Informal) PSC

13 PSC COREPER 1

12 PSC COREPER 1

Sat

17 Employment and Social Policy (Informal)

14

13

Sun

18

15

14

Mon

19 Eurogroup

16

15

Tue

20 ECOFIN PSC

17 PSC

16 PSC Conciliation Committee

Wed

21 COREPER 1

18 COREPER 2 / COREPER 1

17 COREPER 1

Thu

22 Justice and Home Affairs (Informal) COREPER 2 PSC

19 JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS PSC

18 COREPER 2 PSC

Fri

23 Justice and Home Affairs (Informal) COREPER 1

20 JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS COREPER 1

19 COREPER 1

Sat

24

21

20

Sun

25

22

21

Mon

26 GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES

23 GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS

22 GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES

Tue

27 GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS PSC Conciliation Committee

24 GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES PSC Conciliation Committee

23 GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES PSC

Wed

28 COREPER 1

25 COREPER 1

24 COREPER 2 / COREPER 1

Thu

29 COREPER 2

26 COREPER 2 EDUCATION, YOUTH AND CULTURE

25 EUROPEAN COUNCIL, BRUSSELS

Fri

30 PSC COREPER 1

27 PSC COREPER 1

26 EUROPEAN COUNCIL, BRUSSELS

Sat

31

28

27

Sun

29

28

Mon

29

Tue

30 PSC JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS

Wed

31 COREPER 1

April

May

June

1 EMPLOYMENT, SOCIAL POLICY, HEALTH AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS Eurogroup

2 ECOFIN EMPLOYMENT, SOCIAL POLICY, HEALTH AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS

1 COREPER 2

3 COREPER 2

2 PSC COREPER 1 Economic and Financial Affairs (Informal)

4 PSC COREPER 1

3 Economic and Financial Affairs (Informal)

1

5

4 Economic and Financial Affairs (Informal)

2

6

5 Defence Ministers (Informal)

3

7

6 PSC Defence Ministers (Informal)

4 PSC

8 JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS PSC

7 COREPER 2 / COREPER 1

5 COREPER 2 / COREPER 1

9 COREPER 1

8

6

10 TRANSPORT, TELECOMMUNI-CATIONS AND ENERGY European Parliament Elections COREPER 2 PSC

9 GOOD FRIDAY

7 PSC

11 TRANSPORT, TELECOMMUNI-CATIONS AND ENERGY European Parliament Elections

10 Easter Saturday

8

12 European Parliament Elections

11 Easter Sunday

9 Schuman Day Agriculture (Informal)

13 European Parliament Elections

12 Easter Monday

10 Agriculture (Informal) Eurogroup

14 GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS / COREPER 1

13

11 ECOFIN PSC Agriculture (Informal)

15 GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS

14

12 COREPER 1

16 COREPER 2 / COREPER 1

15

13 COREPER 2 PSC

17 EUROPEAN COUNCIL, BRUSSELS

16 Gymnich

14 COREPER 1 Environment (Informal)

18 EUROPEAN COUNCIL, BRUSSELS

17 Gymnich

15 Environment (Informal)

19

18

16 Environment (Informal)

20

19

17 GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS, including Defence Ministers COMPETITIVENESS

21 AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES

20 PSC

18 GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS, including Defence Ministers COMPETITIVENESS PSC

22 AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES PSC

21 COREPER 2 / COREPER 1

19 COREPER 2 / COREPER 1

23 COREPER 2 / COREPER 1

22 COREPER 2 PSC

20 Ascension Thursday

24

23 COREPER 1

21 Bridging day

25 COREPER 1

24

22

26

25

23

27

26 AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS, including Development Ministers PSC

24 AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES

28 GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS(poss) ENVIRONMENT

27 AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS, including development Ministers PSC

25 AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES PSC

29 GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS (poss) PSC Environment

28 COREPER 2 / COREPER 1

26 COREPER 2 / COREPER 1

30 COREPER 1 / COREPER 2

29 JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS

27 EDUCATION, YOUTH AND CULTURE

30 JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS PSC COREPER 1

28 EDUCATION, YOUTH AND CULTURE PSC / COREPER 1

29

30

31 Whit Monday holiday

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

198 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science the estimate of the cost to the State of the indemnity agreement in relation to abuse in institutions run by religious orders. [9114/04]

The indemnity agreement to which the Deputy refers is the agreement between the State and 18 religious congregations that was signed on 5 June 2002. Under the agreement, the congregations made a contribution of €128 million to the residential institutions redress fund and, in return for this contribution, the previous Government agreed to grant an indemnity to the congregations that were parties to the agreement.

The indemnity applies only to cases which are eligible to be dealt with under the terms of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 but which are not resolved within this scheme and in respect of which litigation is commenced within six years of the date of the agreement. In the event of a congregation deciding to run a case itself, then the indemnity will not apply.

It is hoped that the vast majority of cases will be dealt with by the Residential Institutions Redress Board rather than through the courts. Therefore, it is expected that the indemnity will apply to relatively few cases. However, as there is no way to predict at this time how many claimants will opt to go through the courts rather than the redress board, I am not in a position to estimate the likely cost of the indemnity to the State. However, to date, the indemnity has been invoked in settling just three cases. Furthermore, the settlements that were reached in these three cases were all well within the parameters of the awards that can be made by the redress board.

Teacher Training Colleges.

Richard Bruton

Question:

199 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is now no home economics faculty available to students who wish to study it in the Dublin area or on the eastern side of the country; his proposals to develop faculties for the teaching of home economics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8251/04]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the decision to close St. Catherine's College of Education for Home Economics in Sion Hill, Blackrock, over a four year period and to designate St. Angela's College in Sligo as the sole centre for training of home economics teachers.

The issue of the future of St. Catherine's arose in the context of a decision by the Dominican trustees of St. Catherine's that, due to personnel and financial considerations, they were no longer in a position to fulfil the role of trustees of the college. Following discussions between the trustees and my Department, it was agreed that a consultant would be appointed who would meet with relevant parties and prepare a report on the options available for consideration by the Minister.

The consultant's report was thoroughly examined in my Department and the options for the future of the college were set out for my consideration. Having carefully considered all of them and having taken into account other factors such as the national spatial strategy, relevant costs in a time of financial constraint, a Government decision to restrict public service numbers, the need to secure value for money and a better allocation of resources, I decided that these considerations are best served by the closure of St. Catherine's and the designation of St. Angela's College, Sligo, as the sole centre for the training of home economics teachers.

The closure of St. Catherine's will be phased over the next four years to facilitate students enrolled in the college in completing their course of training in the college. The supply of home economics teachers will not be affected by the closure as student intake to St. Angela's College will increase. On the issue of location, figures obtained from the CAO for the past number of years indicate that there will not be a problem in filling all the available places in Sligo.

Special Educational Needs.

Richard Bruton

Question:

200 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the terms of reference of the audit which he has announced in respect of special needs provision in schools; the way in which he proposes to handle outstanding applications for resource teaching and special needs assistants during the period the audit is taking place; and if this delay is consistent with the legal obligation on his Department to make appropriate education available to children with special needs. [8252/04]

As part of its evaluative role, my Department's inspectorate conducted a sample survey, in late 2002, of 25 primary schools which had been allocated resource teacher and special needs assistant support. The objective of the review was to provide a detailed account of the additional allocation of resources for pupils with special educational needs with particular reference to the terms of the relevant departmental circulars.

While expressing concern at the higher than expected incidence of significant disability identified in the survey, the report emphasised the need for caution in drawing firm conclusions because of the small sample involved. It also noted that increased access to psychological assessment services in recent years had led to increased numbers of pupils in mainstream schools being identified as having special needs. Nonetheless, the report expressed concern that the greater availability of resources in recent years may also have led to significant over-identification of special needs in schools and that such over-identification had serious long-term implications for the future funding and development of special education services.

Arising from the findings in the report, all applications for special educational resources are subject to individual verification. In addition, my Department is reviewing the existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In this 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.

Pending the conclusion of discussions with the representative interests, 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.

Higher Education Grants.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

201 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review the request by a person (details supplied) to recognise the dental nursing one year certificate course at the Belfast Institute of Further Education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8256/04]

Grants under my Department's higher education grant scheme and vocational education committees scholarship scheme are tenable in respect of full-time undergraduate courses of not less than two years' duration pursued in a university or third level institution which is maintained or assisted by recurrent grants from public funds in another EU member state. With regard to colleges of further and higher education in the UK and Northern Ireland, generally speaking, an approved course means a course at higher national diploma, HND, level or higher. As the course referred to by the Deputy does not meet the definition of an approved course for the purposes of the schemes, it cannot be recognised for grant assistance.

The terms and conditions of the schemes are reviewed by my Department annually and revised where necessary. Additional courses may be approved under the schemes only where they meet the prescribed definition of an approved course.

Schools Building Projects.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

202 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if the building of schools by public private partnerships has been an economically sound decision; if the running costs of these schools has decreased or increased in view of the fact that these schools have been operating for more than a year; and if he will commission a report to quantify exactly the overall cost-benefit of these public private partnership agreements for schools. [8257/04]

The Department's interest in participating in the PPP pilot programme arose primarily for four reasons: to take school principals away from running buildings and thereby allow them concentrate on their core educational and management functions; to test value for money of school provision over a longer period than construction; to get new ideas on school design through an output-based approach; and to see better usage of school buildings outside school hours.

The contract for the first pilot education PPP in Ireland, a bundle of five post-primary schools, was signed in November 2001. Construction of the schools was completed by the end of December 2002, four of the schools ahead of schedule while the fifth was signed-off as scheduled. The speedy delivery of infrastructure is one of the attractions of this form of procurement. The private sector is paid on the basis of a combination of asset usage, availability and performance during the life of the project — in this case 25 years — and is not paid upfront for construction. Under PPPs, the private sector is required to take a stake in the whole-life cycle of the building, aligning responsibility for operation and maintenance with responsibility for design and construction.

The cost of operating the schools is determined by the project agreement. This provides for a review of the annual operating costs of the schools and allows for an inflationary increase in this element of the unitary payment. My Department is pleased with the project and is in the process of undertaking an initial evaluation of the project to date. As part of this evaluation, regular meetings are held with the management of each of the schools to allow for updates on the operation of the individual schools.

My Department provides grants to post-primary school to meet the running costs of the schools. These grants have been significantly reduced in respect of each of the PPP schools.

Special Educational Needs.

Finian McGrath

Question:

203 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if assistance will be given to pupils and staff at Scoil Caitríona primary school, Coolcock, Dublin, in their efforts to obtain a resource teachers and special needs assistant to improve the education service for children with special needs. [8258/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school has the services of one full-time special needs assistant, SNA, four part-time SNAs, one full-time resource teacher and one part-time resource teacher.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered. 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 before or soon after 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. 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.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Summer Works Scheme.

Dan Neville

Question:

204 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the schools in County Limerick which will obtain assistance through the summer work scheme by his Department. [8259/04]

The list of successful applicants under the summer works scheme is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. Contact will be made with the school authorities shortly with details of the works approved.

Early Childhood Education.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

205 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has verified the need for early start school places in Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin 24; if his attention has been drawn to the serious demand in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8293/04]

Any decision to expand or extend the early start pre-school pilot project is being considered in the context of a broad review of all initiatives to tackle educational disadvantage which is underway in my Department.

Schools Building Projects.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

206 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans for the provision of further school places in the Tallaght area to deal with the additional house building approved by South Dublin County Council and which is now in various phases of development; if his attention has been drawn to the urgent need to deal with this challenge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8294/04]

Officials of my Department's school planning section meet on a regular basis with the planning department of South Dublin County Council with a view to identifying the need, if any, for additional educational provision and reserving sites for schools where required. A decision on the provision of new schools in the Tallaght area will involve further consultations with the local authority regarding the rate and likely timescale of housing developments, together with an ongoing assessment of the capacity of existing schools in the area to meet anticipated demand. My Department will continue to monitor developments in the Tallaght area and any needs identified will be addressed by initially increasing capacity at existing schools where appropriate or through the provision of new schools as necessary.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

207 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of the new community school in Dingle, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8305/04]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that a new school building project for Dingle community school is due to proceed to tender and construction as part of the 2004 school building programme.

The indicative timescale in the programme for this project proceeding to tender is the second quarter of 2004. The tendering process for this project has commenced with the pre-qualification of suitable contractors. The school authorities will be kept advised of developments.

Departmental Staff.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

208 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of staff appointed by him from outside the Civil Service since the general election in 2002; the job descriptions for these staff; the salaries and expenses paid to these staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8331/04]

Details of the number of staff appointed by me, from outside the Civil Service to my office and that of the Minister of State, Deputy de Valera, are as follows:

Office of the Minister

Name

Position

James Fegan

Special Adviser

Margaret Conway

Personal Assistant

Una Grehan

Personal Secretary

Grace Cappock

Press Officer

Office of the Minister of State

Name

Position

Mary McNamara

Personal Assistant (July 2002-February 2003)

Seamus Browne

Personal Assistant (April — June 2003)

Mairead Collins

Personal Secretary

John Flanagan

Civilian Driver

Frank O’Sullivan

Civilian Driver

PJ Higgins

Civilian Driver

The total cost of salaries and expenses for these staff from July 2002 to date is €642,066.08. Department of Finance guidelines for appointments in ministerial private offices have been adhered to in all cases.

Special Educational Needs.

John Deasy

Question:

209 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in appointing one-to-one teaching for a person (details supplied) in County Waterford who has been assessed and approved for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8341/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are currently being considered. 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 before or soon after 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. 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.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003, including the application for the pupil in question, will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Early School Leavers.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

210 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to a matter regarding a college (details supplied); if he will consider reinstating the stay in school retention initiative at this college; if not, if he will continue funding at current levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8342/04]

Any decision to expand or extend the school completion programme is being considered in the context of a broad review of all such initiatives to tackle educational disadvantage and early school leaving, which is currently under way in my Department.

Consultation Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

211 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the members appointed by him to a board to examine the future of Irish education; the salaries or expenses payable to these members in the course of their duties on this board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8368/04]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the YES consultation process, which is underway at present. The purpose of the process is to facilitate a wide public discussion-debate on the issues to be faced in the framing of future education policy. I am encouraging students and parents in all socio-economic circumstances and education providers, along with employers and other groups with a more oblique interest in future education policy, to contribute. The result of the process will be a report that will outline the issues raised by those who have participated in or contributed to the process during the year, which should provide a blueprint against which future education policy can be framed. The secretariat for the process is also producing reports on individual elements of the process as these occur. At present, reports on the public meetings that have taken place as part of the process can be viewed onwww.youreducation.ie.

I have not appointed members of a board to examine the future of education in Ireland. Instead, I have set up this process to facilitate public debate and discussion. The Educational Research Centre, ERC, in Drumcondra is providing the independent secretariat that both manages and reports on the information and contributions being gathered through the process. The ERC will require funding of about €60,000 to purchase the resources it needs to undertake this task.

School Accommodation.

Seán Crowe

Question:

212 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will make funding available for the provision of a small prefab to be used both as a library and for use by the resource teacher of Gaelscoil Barra, Faussagh Road, Cabra, Dublin, which is without accommodation. [8369/04]

An application has been received from Gaelscoil Bharra for grant-aid for the provision of a temporary room to accommodate a resource teacher. Officials within my Department are assessing and prioritising applications for temporary accommodation. I intend shortly to publish details of all temporary accommodation projects that will proceed in 2004.

Special Educational Needs.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

213 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when resource hours for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford, who was diagnosed in 2002 with dyslexia, will be allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8370/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including this application, 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 before or soon after 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. 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.

School Accommodation.

Seán Power

Question:

214 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Education and Science if a decision has been made on the future use of lands and buildings adjoining Gaelscoil Cill Dara, Curragh, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8373/04]

My Department's school planning section is currently assessing the need for accommodation for permanent education provision in the Newbridge area. This assessment will involve a review of the lands and buildings adjoining Gaelscoil Cill Dara.

Schools Refurbishment.

Seán Crowe

Question:

215 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide funding to upgrade the heating and security measures, including consideration of the installation of closed circuit television cameras, at St. Francis junior and senior schools, Priorswood, Dublin 17. [8378/04]

The scope of the works required at the schools referred to by the Deputy are appropriate for consideration under the summer works scheme which was announced in December last. The closing date for applications under the scheme was 30 January 2004. I note that the schools in question did not make applications under this scheme.

Subject to a review of the summer works scheme 2004, it is planned to invite applications for the 2005 scheme later this year. Full details will be posted on my Department's website atwww.education.ie as soon as possible.

Post-Leaving Certificate Review.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

216 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the elements of the McIver report he has put in place; his views on whether the PLC colleges are giving a tremendous service and that the review initiated by his Department can no longer be ignored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8382/04]

The post-leaving certificate review was commissioned to examine the sector and make recommendations as necessary regarding the organisational, support, development, technical and administrative structures and resources required in schools with large scale post-leaving certificate, PLC, provision, having regard to good practice in related areas across the system and in other countries. The final report was completed in April 2003.

The recommendations of the report are wide-ranging and encompass proposals that extend beyond PLC provision. The report poses considerable challenges in regard to the shaping of structures for the delivery of further and adult education into the future. The recommendations are being considered at departmental level with a view to addressing the priority issues within the context of overall educational policy and provision.

During 2003, officials in my Department held discussions with the management and staff representative interests in the sector to examine their respective priorities and to consider issues surrounding a number of the recommendations of the report, having regard to the implications for other areas of the education system. Discussions involving all the relevant interests with regard to prioritisation of the recommendations will continue as necessary in the coming period.

Pension Provisions.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

217 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if the new proposal regarding the retirement age for national teachers will apply to the final year students in Mary Immaculate training college, Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8383/04]

The Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2004 provides for the raising of the minimum pension age of most new entrants to the public service, including teachers, to age 65. It also provides for the removal of the compulsory retirement age for most new entrants to the public service, including teachers. A detailed definition of new entrant is given in section 2 of the Bill.

The definition provides, broadly, that persons entering employment in the public service on or after 1 April 2004 will be regarded as new entrants. The new arrangements do not apply to public servants who are serving on 31 March 2004. A broad scope has been given to the term "serving" in the context of the Bill. The general principle is that anyone who has an employment relationship with the public service as of 31 March 2004 will not be deemed to be a new entrant.

I cannot comment on the position of individual students. The application to them of the proposed new terms would depend on whether or not they fall within the definition of new entrant if they take up employment in the public service.

Special Educational Needs.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

218 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will sanction the proposed Sapling’s ABA school in Rathfarnham, south County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8384/04]

My Department is actively considering the application referred to by the Deputy. My officials are liaising with my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service in this regard and a response will issue to the applicants as quickly as possible.

Following an initial examination of the application, my Department raised certain queries with the applicants relating to details of the children who would attend the facility and regarding the proposed accommodation. A response has recently been received and is being examined at present.

Dan Neville

Question:

219 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science if a one-to-one remedial teacher will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick who has been assessed with very special needs and is unable to read or write. [8385/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received an application for special educational resources, SER, for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 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 of these cases were responded to before or soon after 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. 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.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003, including the application for the pupil in question, will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Schools Building Projects.

John Bruton

Question:

220 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the initiatives his Department has put in place to provide additional second level schools in the Navan area for the increasing number of students who will have left primary schools in Navan and require access to second level education; the information his Department has received regarding the increasing numbers of students; if a report has been published regarding an analysis of population increase in Navan, which gives an indication of the increased numbers of second level schools required in the Navan area over the coming years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8412/04]

While enrolments in the 11 primary schools in Navan have increased by 14% over the past eight years to 2,757, it remains the case that there is sufficient pupil places in second level schools in Navan to cater for demand. The school planning section of my Department will continue to monitor developments in the Navan area in light of increasing enrolments in primary schools and in light of the overall pace of demographic change in Navan.

School Accommodation.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

221 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the support which exists for a school (details supplied) in County Donegal to tarmac a play area to help facilitate ease of movement for a special needs child in a wheelchair; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8428/04]

Since 1997 my Department provides the grant scheme for minor works to all primary schools including the school referred to by the Deputy. Details of the scheme are available on my Department's website atwww.education.ie and works covered by the scheme are improvements to school buildings and grounds such as re-surfacing of school yard.

School Enrolment.

Seamus Healy

Question:

222 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will remove the capping of pupil numbers at Rathkeevin national school, Clonmel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8429/04]

The school planning section of my Department has received an application from the school authorities of Rathkeevin national school, Clonmel, County Tipperary, to remove the enrolment cap in place at this school. The school planning section of my Department, in conjunction with the local district inspector for the area, is carrying out a review of the enrolment capping policy at this school. As part of this examination an extensive review of the enrolment situation in all the primary schools in the Clonmel area and neighbouring parish is taking place. It is expected that this review will be completed shortly. A decision in this matter will be conveyed to the school authorities as soon as possible.

School Accommodation.

Seamus Healy

Question:

223 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will approve Cahir boys’ national school, Cahir, County Tipperary, for the pilot scheme for the construction of much needed classrooms and physical education facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8430/04]

An application for additional accommodation was received from Cahir boys' national school by my Department in 2000. However, the application was returned to the school authorities for necessary additional information. The completed application form has not as yet been received back from the school authorities. Accordingly, at present there is no application under consideration for funding for this school. On receipt of a completed application form for capital funding from Cahir boys' national school the matter will be considered further.

Adult Education.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

224 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps he proposes to take to rectify the anomaly that has arisen in Drogheda Institute of Further Education due to the capping of enrolment in the post-leaving certificate sector at 2003-04 levels, whereby the DIFE will be funded for 396 students in a facility that was built for 500. [8431/04]

In the 2003-04 academic year, 666 post-leaving certificate places were approved in County Louth VEC. The allocation and distribution of PLC places among schools in scheme is an operational matter for consideration by the VEC concerned in the first instance. In the circumstances I have asked the VEC to correspond directly with the Deputy in regard to this matter.

Physical Education Facilities.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

225 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science when phase two of the successful junior cycle physical education support service will commence; the number of schools that will be involved; if the programme will continue in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8468/04]

The phased introduction to schools of the revised syllabus at junior level for physical education began in September 2003. In all, some 112 schools have participated in the first introductory phase.

It is proposed that a further cohort of schools will introduce the revised syllabus in September 2004. The relevant circular inviting schools to participate in phase two is being prepared in my Department and will issue to all post-primary schools in the coming weeks. It is not possible to indicate at this time the number of schools which will be involved in phase two. This will be decided when the applications have been received and plans for inservice provision have been prepared. It is envisaged that the junior cycle physical education support programme will continue during the 2004-05 school year.

School Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

226 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will increase the size of the general purposes room in the proposed extension of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare in line with the extra classroom accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8477/04]

A GP-PE room of 200 m2 is provided for in the proposed extension to this school. However, my Department has no objection to the school increasing the size of the proposed GP-PE room, provided the additional costs are funded locally.

Special Educational Needs.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

227 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the application for resource hours for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8479/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 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 of these cases were responded to before or soon after 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. 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.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Finian McGrath

Question:

228 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if urgent assistance will be given to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 14 in its efforts to develop resource services and provide special needs assistants for its pupils; and if this matter will be given priority. [8490/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school in question has the services of three full-time and one part-time special needs assistants, two full-time resource teachers and one shared learning support teacher.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 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 of these cases were responded to before or soon after 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. 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.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

School Enrolment.

Tom Hayes

Question:

229 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will address the capping of numbers attending a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary due to the consequences and hardship for many families in the locality. [8508/04]

The school planning section of my Department has received an application to remove the enrolment cap in place at the school referred to by the Deputy. The school planning section of my Department, in conjunction with the local district inspector for the area, is carrying out a review of the enrolment capping policy at this school. As part of this examination an extensive review of the enrolment situation in all primary schools in the Clonmel area and neighbouring parish is taking place. It is expected that this review will be completed shortly. A decision on this application will be conveyed to the school authorities as soon as possible.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

230 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the stage the application for a new school (details supplied) in County Clare is at; the reason for the delay in the provision of the new school; if he intends it to proceed by public private partnership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8526/04]

An application has been received in my Department for building works at Ennis national school. The project is at the pre-architectural planning stage. When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme, with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005. I expect to be in a position to make further announcements in the course of the year to update schools in the context of the multi-annual programme of works including public-private partnerships. The application from Ennis national school will be considered in this regard.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

231 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding has been made available to upgrade the science facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8527/04]

My Department has not received a specific application for the refurbishment of science laboratories at the school in question. However, there is a proposed large-scale building project for this school listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. The proposed works include an extension and refurbishment works to the existing school. As part of this project, it is proposed to address the service requirements in the science laboratories. This proposed project is at an advanced stage of architectural planning and has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

Indicative timescales have been included for large-scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. 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.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

232 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to an application for an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8528/04]

The proposed large-scale building project for Rice College, Ennis, is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This proposed project is at advanced architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

Indicative timescales have been included for large-scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. 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.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

233 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the meaning of fast tracking a project through the school building programme; the number of projects that have been told they will be fast tracked; the method to be adopted by him to do this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8529/04]

The various stages of architectural planning for large-scale building projects are set out in the frequently asked questions, FAQ, section of the 2004 school building programme which is available on my Department's website atwww.education.ie.

While most of the projects in the 2004 school building programme are at an advanced stage of architectural planning, there are over 15 projects in the very early stages of architectural planning that are earmarked for progression through architectural planning and on to construction as part of the programme.

These projects mainly arise in rapidly developing areas and are listed in the programme as part of my Department's response to meeting urgent demand for school places in these areas. To meet the indicative timescales set out in the programme, my Department is using innovative methods to deliver these projects, including a design and build contract, combining of stages of architectural planning for projects, generic designs and various forms of devolved authority.

The expansion of the devolved initiatives that were introduced in 2003 to over 90 further projects enables these schools to progress their projects themselves through architectural planning and on to construction without reference to my Department.

Departmental Schemes.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

234 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide finance for the following works at a school (details supplied) pending the building of a new school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8530/04]

The scope of works required at the school referred to by the Deputy are appropriate for consideration under the summer works scheme. While the school's application under the summer works scheme for 2004 was unsuccessful, it is open to the school's management authority to reapply for the key priority works required at the school as part of the 2005 summer works scheme, details of which will be announced later this year.

Class Sizes.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

235 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when he will implement his promise to send an inspector to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare to address the problem of large classes, two of which consist of 33 boys; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8536/04]

The relevant Department officials met the school authorities on 19 February 2004 to discuss a range of issues, including the issue raised by the Deputy.

Schools Building Projects.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

236 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the need for a second level school in the Laytown area of County Meath in view of the rapidly expanding population in Laytown and Bettystown and also in areas such as Drogheda where young persons from Laytown and Bettystown have traditionally accessed second level places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8537/04]

As I recently announced, over the remainder of this year a new school planning model involving published area development plans will be piloted in five areas. Included in the pilot scheme is the south Louth and mid-Meath region, which covers the area referred to by the Deputy.

The purpose of this new approach to school planning is to ensure that in future, the provision of school infrastructure will be decided only after a transparent consultation process. In this regard, parents, trustees, sponsors of prospective new schools and all interested parties in a locality will have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process. Following the consultation process, individual plans will set out the blueprint for schools' development in an area covering a period of up to ten years. In this way, the education needs at both primary and post-primary levels in the Laytown area will be assessed as part of the development plan to be drawn up for that area.

School Staffing.

Pat Carey

Question:

237 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will examine the application by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 for additional teaching resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8562/04]

Teacher allocations to second level schools are approved annually by my Department in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment. Each school management authority is required to organise its time table and subject options having regard to pupils needs within the limit of its approved teacher allocation. Apart from meeting requirements in regard to the provision of the core subjects, the curriculum offered in individual second level schools is a matter for the authorities of the school concerned having regard to its approved teacher allocation.

The rules for allocating teaching resources provide that where a school management authority is unable to meet its curricular commitments from within its approved allocation, my Department will consider applications for additional short term support, that is, curricular concessions. The school concerned has made an application for additional teaching resources. This application is currently being considered. My Department will contact the school when a decision has been made.

Departmental Correspondence

Denis Naughten

Question:

238 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 263 of 16 December 2003, a decision has been made in regard to same; if he has satisfied himself that the delay in making a decision on this matter is acceptable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8563/04]

My Department expects to be in a position to respond to the matter referred to by the Deputy shortly.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

239 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the application for funding for tarmacadam resurfacing at a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if other funding can be made available to complete the playground resurfacing before September 2004. [8570/04]

Since 1997, my Department has provided the grant scheme for minor works to all primary schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy. Details of the scheme are available on my Department's website atwww.education.ie and works covered by the scheme are improvements to school buildings and grounds such as re-surfacing of school yard.

University Library Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

240 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has satisfied himself with the situation which now exists in colleges such as Trinity and UCD in which libraries are closed at 6 p.m.; his views on whether this has serious implications especially for rural students who have to survive in one room flats with minimum facilities; his further views on whether this is a result of Government failure to cover the cost of benchmarking or inflation in their funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8585/04]

The day to day management of universities and institutes of technology, including library opening hours, are matters for the institutions themselves. My Department does not have a function in such matters.

Some €630.5 million has been provided in the 2004 Estimates for universities and HEA designated institutions. I have no plans to provide additional funding to the sector this year. Overall funding, capital and current, for the higher education sector will stand at €1.48 billion in 2004. From 1997 to 2004, there has been an increase of almost €300 million in the recurrent provision to the university sector. This represents an increase of approximately 90% over this period. This is up €631 million or 74% on 1997 levels.

I am aware that institutions will be challenged in the short term by the constraints on recurrent Exchequer funding placed on them in 2004, having regard to overall cost pressures. I appreciate that individual institutions are required to find economies and to become more streamlined in some of their operations to reconcile available budgets with pre-existing demands and commitments. This must be viewed, however, in the context of overall increases in investment in higher education over recent years and the Government's longer-term strategic objective for excellence in the sector.

Site Acquisitions.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

241 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the money set aside in his Department in 2004 for site acquisition for primary and post-primary schools; the amount spent to date and the amount remaining to be spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8586/04]

Some €32 million has been allocated for the acquisition of sites for primary and post-primary schools during 2004. The Office of Public Works manages site acquisitions on behalf of my Department and to date a total of €7 million has been transferred to the OPW account. This leaves a balance of €25 million.

Schools Building Projects.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

242 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science if an application from a school (details supplied) in County Galway for grant aid towards construction of two classrooms will be approved; when funding will be made available; the amount of funding that will be allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8609/04]

An application for grant aid towards additional accommodation has been received from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers. When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme, with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005 and I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year. The application from the school referred to will be considered in this regard.

Seán Power

Question:

243 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Education and Science if agreement has been reached on the extension at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8610/04]

Proposals for the delivery of approximately 575m2 of modular accommodation this year have issued to the management authorities of Naas CBS. I understand that the management authorities have agreed in principle to the proposals.

Special Educational Needs.

David Stanton

Question:

244 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the money allocated by his Department in 2003 and 2004 to directly fund services for persons with disabilities and the money allocated to enabling persons with disabilities to more easily access services of his Department. [8642/04]

Any application for special educational needs, SEN, supports received in my Department will be considered in the context of the criteria outlined in the relevant Department circulars and the existing level of SEN resources already available in the school.

My Department's commitment to supporting children with special educational needs within the primary school system is reflected in the significant growth in investment in special needs provision in recent years. This is illustrated by the following details. The number of learning support teachers in the primary school system has increased from 1,302 in 1998 to 1,531 at present. The annual salary cost of these teachers is approximately €54 million. The number of resource teachers has increased from 104 in 1998 to more than 2,500 currently. The annual salary cost of these teachers is estimated at over €75 million. The number of special needs assistants within the primary system has grown from 300 in 1998 to 4,319 full-time and a further 1,353 part-time posts. The salary cost of this service in 2003 was €103.56 million and is estimated at €120 million for 2004. The allocation for part-time tuition services for children with special educational needs has been increased from €24.27 million in 2003 to €31.7 million in 2004. Funding towards special equipment within the primary school system has increased from €2.12 million in 2003 to €3 million in 2004.

The resources that have been and that continue to be allocated by my Department represent real and substantial improvements in special education services. They provide concrete evidence of the Government's commitment to build on the unprecedented development of special education services.

Departmental Schemes.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

245 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason an application by a school (details supplied) in County Cork under the summer works scheme has not been approved; and when approval for these works is likely to be forthcoming. [8721/04]

Each unsuccessful applicant under the summer works scheme 2004 will receive a letter from my Department outlining the reason works were not approved. The 2005 scheme will be announced later this year.

Schools Building Projects.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

246 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of an application by a school (details supplied) in County Galway; when phase 1 of this school will commence; if phase 1 will be included in the small schools devolved initiative scheme; if so, when his Department will grant approval for this project; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this school will increase from a five class teacher to a six class teacher school in September 2004; if this attention has further been drawn to the fact that there are only two proper classrooms in the school, together with two sub-standard classrooms and a pre-fab for the other three teachers; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that in September 2004 another class will have to use a pre-fab, that the full-time resource teacher is currently housed in a pre-fab and that the shared learning support teacher based in the school works from a small kitchen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8722/04]

The proposed large scale building project for Killeeneen national school, Craughwell, County Galway, is listed in section 9 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This project is at early stages of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 3 rating in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects. This school will not be considered for inclusion in the small and rural schools initiative as the scheme is aimed at schools with a total mainstream classroom requirement of four or less.

When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme, with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005 and I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year.

I am aware that Killeeneen national school will increase to a six teacher school in September 2004. Officials in my Department's school planning section are currently assessing applications for temporary accommodation.

Gaeltacht Education.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

247 D’fhiafraigh Mr. O’Shea den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta an mó cruinniú a bhí aige leis an gComhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta óna cheapachán, an bhfuil sé sásta le plean straitéiseach na comhairle, an gcuirfidh sé airgead ar fáil chun an plean a mhaoiniú agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [8741/04]

Ní raibh aon cruinniú agamsa go fóill leis an gcomhairle, ach bhí timpeall cúig chruinniú idir phríomh fheidhmeannach an chomhairle agus oifigí den Roinn. Maidir leis an plean stratéiseach, tá mo Roinn sásta leis an stratéis ginearáltá ata léirithe, ach amháin go gcaithfear í a gníomhú leis an soláthar airgeadais atá infhaighte. Tá mo Roinn ag scrúdú faoi láthair an féidir níos mó airgid a chur ar fáil don chomhairle i gcomhthéacs meastacháin iomlán na Roinne.

Site Acquisitions.

Finian McGrath

Question:

248 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if the maximum support and assistance will be awarded to a school (details supplied) in Santry, Dublin 9, in obtaining a premises; if his Department will include the purchase of school sites in the 2005 programme; and if he will make this school a priority issue. [8746/04]

My Department is considering options for the long-term accommodation needs of the school to which the Deputy refers, including the possible purchase of a site. However, due to the commercial sensitivities surrounding site acquisitions the Deputy will appreciate that I am unable to comment on specific site purchase issues.

Schools Building Projects.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

249 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the need to replace a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary with a new structure in view of concerns about the safety of the building and also over-crowding in the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8747/04]

An application for additional accommodation was received from Cahir boys' national school by my Department in 2000. However, the application was returned to the school authorities for necessary additional information. The completed application form has not as yet been received back from the school authorities. Accordingly, there is no application under consideration for funding for this school. On receipt of a completed application form for capital funding from Cahir boys' national school the matter will be considered further.

School Staffing.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

250 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has considered the application for resource and special needs assistant hours for a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if he intends to agree to the request. [8748/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including this application, 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 of these cases were responded to before or soon after 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. 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.

Damien English

Question:

251 Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will allocate a person (details supplied) in County Meath one hour per day with the resource teacher in a school (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8749/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 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 of these cases were responded to before or soon after 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. 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.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003, including the application for the pupil in question, will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

252 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of appeals against the awarding of assistant school principal and special duties posts at primary and second level throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8750/04]

Appointments to assistant principal and special duties posts are a matter for the authorities of the school concerned. My Department's function is to ensure that the proposed appointee is appropriately qualified for the post in question. As there is no requirement for school authorities to notify my Department where an appeal is lodged, the information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

253 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Science if the individual breakdown of marks awarded in interviews for teaching posts and school administrative posts are made available to interviewees, as in many other sectors of the public service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8751/04]

The issue raised by the Deputy is a matter for the relevant school authority or vocational education committee as the employing authority for the posts in question.

Education Schemes.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

254 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason an application under the summer works scheme has been refused in respect of a primary school (details supplied) in County Cork. [8752/04]

Each unsuccessful applicant under the summer works scheme 2004 will receive a letter from my Department outlining the reason works were not approved. The 2005 scheme will be announced later this year.

School Transport.

Michael Noonan

Question:

255 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason appropriate school transport is not being provided for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8753/04]

To be eligible for school transport under the primary school transport scheme, a pupil must be residing two miles or more from his or her nearest national school. My Department has been informed by Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport service on my Department's behalf, that the pupil referred to in the details supplied is residing 1.7 miles from his nearest national school which is referred to in the details supplied. The pupil is, therefore, not eligible for free school transport.

The pupil may avail of concessionary fare paying transport to his nearest national school, subject to no extra State cost being incurred by way of extending or altering the route of service and on condition that spare seats exists after all children fully eligible for school transport have been accommodated.

Exemption Certificates.

Denis Naughten

Question:

256 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made on an application by a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon for an exemption certificate; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8754/04]

The exemption certificate for the pupil in question issued to the school on 15 March 2004.

Special Educational Needs.

Denis Naughten

Question:

257 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if primary school teachers receive training in identifying dyslexic students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8755/04]

Existing pre-service teacher training programmes provided by the colleges of education include specific elements aimed at equipping all primary teachers to recognise and cater for children with specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia.

In addition, the learning support teacher service has a particular role to play in addressing the special educational needs of such children. This service, which was extended in 1999 to cover all primary schools with a pupil teacher ratio of 10:1 or above targets specifically the children in question. At present, there are 1,531 learning-support teachers in primary schools.

My Department is engaged in an ongoing programme of specialist training for learning support teachers to enhance their capacity to address the needs of children with literacy and numeracy difficulties. A significant proportion of learning-support teachers have already participated in this programme.

The courses in question are supported and directly funded by the in-career development unit of my Department. Course syllabi include training in the diagnosis and identification of reading difficulties and in appropriate techniques for remediation. In particular, there is a focus on the problem of specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia, in regard to diagnosis and pedagogy.

Many shorter courses, including on-line courses, for primary teachers in the area of specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia, have been and are currently supported by the special education support service which was established by my Department in September 2003. Similar courses are also provided through the network of education centres, through teachers' organisations and through the programme of summer courses for primary teachers.

Schools Building Projects.

Denis Naughten

Question:

258 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if an application for funding will be expedited for the extension to a school (details supplied) in County Roscommon which is currently with his post primary building unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8756/04]

A large scale building project for Scoil Mhuire, Strokestown, is listed in section 9 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website at www.education.ie. This project is at the early stages of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 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.

John Cregan

Question:

259 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Education and Science further to recent correspondence to his Department from a secondary school (details supplied) with regard to its application for funding under the access for all scheme, if he will arrange for his Department’s architect to call to this school at the earliest possible date to resolve outstanding matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8757/04]

My Department has requested a revised proposal in respect of access for all at St. Brigid's College, Convent of Mercy, Callan, County Kilkenny. When the requested information is received in my Department the application will receive further consideration. Therefore, the Deputy will appreciate that it will serve no useful purpose at this time to have an official from my Department attend the school until such time as the revised proposals are submitted for examination.

Institutes of Technology.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

260 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the recent annual lobby of the Oireachtas 2004 organised by the Union of Students in Ireland which was attended by student leaders of the Institute of Technology in Tallaght; if he will confirm that the concerns of the USI are being addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8758/04]

I do not have details of the concerns to which the Deputy refers. I would need more information regarding the issues involved to address the matter further.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

261 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science the contacts he has had with the Institute of Technology, Tallaght regarding the need for further development of facilities at this institution; if his attention has been drawn to the anxiety of the college’s student union to see progress in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8759/04]

I am not aware of the concerns of the student's union at the Institute of Technology, Tallaght as referred to by the Deputy. However, if the Deputy is referring to further capital developments at the institute he is probably aware that the Higher Education Authority, at my request, is carrying out a review of capital projects to assess the entire set of demands in all publicly funded third level institutions, to establish prioritisation and agree re-phasing.

I understand the Institute of Technology, Tallaght has met the review group and made a presentation on its institutional strategy and set the capital development proposals in such a strategic context. It is the intention of the review group to have a report submitted to the HEA by the end of March. The authority will then advise me of its views. Decisions in respect of capital projects at third level institutions, such as those at the Institute of Technology, Tallaght, will be taken in the context of the capital envelope of funds available to me.

Special Educational Needs.

John McGuinness

Question:

262 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science the school and home support that has been put in place for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if a full assessment of the person has been completed; if all of the recommendations from that assessment have been acted upon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8818/04]

My Department has received an application from the school in question for special educational resources, SER, for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including this application, 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 of these cases were responded to before or soon after 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. 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.

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.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

263 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when a full time classroom assistant will be appointed to a ten year old student (details supplied) in County Clare, who suffers from a very rare condition resulting in frequent black-outs and seizures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8855/04]

I am aware of the case referred to by the Deputy. My Department has recently received an application for full time special needs assistant support for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. The school has confirmed to my Department that they will obtain and forward the relevant professional report(s) for this pupil. When the additional documentation is received, the application will be considered in the context of the criteria set out in the relevant departmental circulars and the existing level of SER provision in the school.

Mary Upton

Question:

264 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will take immediate action to assist a person (details supplied) to increase the number of hours of schooling he receives; and the other measures his Department will take to assist this person and his family. [8856/04]

The child referred to by the Deputy is currently in receipt of ten hours home tuition per week which is being delivered in the school environment during the afternoon. This is in an effort to provide continuity of education and continuing contact with the school in the hope it will lead to re-integration. The National Educational Welfare Board is currently seeking a school placement and is awaiting a response from a number of schools. Pending the outcome of these efforts, my Department will continue to fund the home tuition.

Dan Neville

Question:

265 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science when a resource teacher will be sanctioned for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick, in view of the fact that this pupil was psychologically assessed on 1 March 2003 and a recommendation of five hours per week to support learning needs and ten hours per week special needs assistant was recommended. [8857/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 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 of these cases were responded to before or soon after 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. 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.

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.

Higher Education Grants.

John Perry

Question:

266 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties encountered by a person (details supplied) in County Sligo in regard to financial assistance while at college; if he will ensure that this funding is granted in light of the circumstances outlined; the avenues available to him to secure funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8858/04]

Under the terms of my Department's higher education grant schemes, the position is that, generally speaking, students entering approved courses for the first time are eligible for grants where they satisfy the relevant conditions as to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment. An approved course for the purpose of the higher education grant schemes means a full-time undergraduate course of not less than two years' duration and a full-time postgraduate course of not less than one year's duration pursued in an approved institution. An MA qualifier is not an approved course for the purposes of the schemes.

Accordingly, the candidate referred to by the Deputy is not eligible to receive a higher education grant in respect of this course. He may be considered for grant assistance after successful completion of the MA qualifier and admission to the masters degree course subject to the prescribed terms and conditions of the schemes. The back to education allowance, BTEA, is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Coughlan.

Special Educational Needs.

John Bruton

Question:

267 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in regard to Parliamentary Question No. 252 of 9 March 2004 (details supplied), his Department has received the 18 psychological reports sent in by parents of autistic children, all of whom wish to attend the proposed CABAS school in south county Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8990/04]

The position is as indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 252. Details in respect of 12 of the 18 children for whom the facility is proposed are still awaited. To expedite matters, my Department will contact the proposers of the facility with a view to obtaining the outstanding details.

Course Compliance.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

268 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason he failed to refer a case (details supplied) to the advisory committee in circumstances where the course in question did not comply with the architects directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8991/04]

My Department is currently making inquiries into this matter and a further reply will issue as soon as possible.

Qualification Recognition.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

269 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science if courses offered post leaving certificate at a college (details supplied) in County Dublin, are formally recognised by his Department; if not, if the question of recognition by his Department of qualifications obtained by students at this college is under active consideration; if recommendations contained in a report (details supplied) will be implemented in the near future; the recommendations which will be so implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9010/04]

The VEC in Dun Laoghaire has indicated that all PLC courses in the Senior College Dun Laoghaire have prior sanction of the Department of Education and Science and all lead to recognised qualifications. The post leaving certificate review was commissioned to examine the sector and make recommendations as necessary regarding the organisational, support, development, technical and administrative structures and resources required in schools with large scale post leaving certificate, PLC, provision, having regard to good practice in related areas across the system and in other countries. The final report was completed in April 2003.

The recommendations of the report are wide-ranging and encompass proposals that extend beyond PLC provision. The report poses considerable challenges in regard to the shaping of structures for the delivery of further and adult education into the future. The recommendations are being considered at departmental level with a view to addressing the priority issues within the context of overall educational policy and provision.

Officials in my Department have had discussions with the management and staff representative interests in the sector to examine their respective priorities and to consider issues surrounding a number of the recommendations of the report, having regard to the implications for other areas of the education system. Further consultations with all the relevant interests with regard to prioritisation of the recommendations will be held in the period ahead.

Site Acquisitions.

Tony Gregory

Question:

270 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science when it is intended to allocate funding for the purchase of school sites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9011/04]

When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I allocated €32 million towards the acquisition of sites for primary and post-primary schools. Due to the commercial sensitivities of site acquisitions, it is not proposed at this stage to identify specific sites to be acquired. However, this information will be placed on my Department's website when the relevant acquisitions have been completed.

Special Educational Needs.

Tony Gregory

Question:

271 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 who has been independently psychologically assessed for dyslexia will be referred by his Department to the resource teaching at his school. [9012/04]

My Department has no record of having received an application for special education resources, SER, for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. Any application received will be considered in the context of the criteria set out in the relevant Department circulars and the existing level of SER provision in the school.

Schools Building Projects.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

272 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans concerning schools provision in the Laytown and Bettystown area; if his attention has been drawn to the widespread concern of local parents; if there is a strategic educational plan for this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9013/04]

As I recently announced, over the remainder of this year a new school planning model involving published area development plans will be piloted in five areas. Included in the pilot scheme is the south Louth and mid Meath region, which covers the area referred to by the Deputy.

The purpose of this new approach to school planning is to ensure that, in future, the provision of school infrastructure will be decided only after a transparent consultation process. In this regard, parents, trustees, sponsors of prospective new schools and all interested parties in an area will have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process.

Following the consultation process, individual plans will set out the blueprint for schools' development in an area covering a period of up to ten years. In this way, the education needs at both primary and post primary levels in the Laytown-Bettystown area to cater for the rapidly expanding population in the area will be assessed as part of development plan to be drawn up for the area.

Special Educational Needs.

Michael Ring

Question:

273 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the resource teaching hours that are allocated to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; the psychologist who assessed him; and when he was assessed. [9014/04]

My Department has received an application for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy in regard to the pupil in question. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 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 of these cases were responded to before or soon after 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. 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.

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.

The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Grant Aid.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

274 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects to allocate the balance of grant aid available to encourage participation in the sciences to the authorities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if his attention has been drawn to the urgent need in view of the fact that the school is expected to respond to and participate in the policy decisions announced by his Department; if his attention has further been drawn to the damage likely to the schools junior syllabus in the event of further delays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9015/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

275 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects to allocate the balance of grant aid available to encourage participation in the sciences to the authorities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if his attention has been drawn to the need in view of the fact that the school is expected to respond to and participate in the policy decisions announced by his Department; if his attention has been further drawn to the damage likely to the schools syllabus in the event of further delays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9016/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 274 and 275 together.

My Department is currently examining all the applications received and upon completion of this process will issue payments to all eligible schools. To facilitate schools participating in this process, it is the intention of my Department's school building unit to have finalised this examination by mid April 2004 at the latest and to proceed at that time with the issuing of the relevant grant aid.

Youth Services.

David Stanton

Question:

276 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the mechanisms through which youth groups and youth organisations and others providing facilities for youth work can apply for, and avail of, funding to enable capital and refurbishment works to be carried out on premises to be used for youth activities; the amount of such funding made available by his Department specifically for capital and refurbishment works for youth activities in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9017/04]

Funding at the disposal of the youth affairs section in my Department is designed principally to ensure the provision of non-formal educational opportunities for young people. For this purpose, grant-in-aid funding is provided for youth organisations at national level under the youth service grant scheme, special youth work projects for disadvantaged young people and youth clubs and groups through the local youth club grant scheme. These schemes are of a current expenditure nature.

In 1998, the Government approved the establishment of the young people's facilities and services fund to assist in the development of preventative strategies in a targeted manner through the provision of youth facilities, including sport and recreational facilities and services in disadvantaged areas, where a significant drug problem has been identified or has the potential to develop. Decisions regarding locations from the fund are made by a national assessment committee, which is chaired by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. My Department agreed to administer the funding to the local authorities and vocational educational committees in respect of more than 300 capital and services projects. The capital provision in respect of the YPFSF for the years 2000 to 2002 was €4.762 million, €11.0645 million and €10.254 million, respectively, and was administered by the youth affairs section. In 2003, responsibility for the YPFSF funding transferred to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

In addition, my Department's youth affairs section made available a once-off capital contribution of €1.27 million towards the reconstruction costs of the Limerick youth services centre, which had been announced in the 2001 budget. A capital allocation of €507,895 was provided in the post primary capital Vote in 2000 towards the cost of the construction of an administrative building and resource centre of the Catholic Scouts of Ireland. A total of €457,105.71 was drawn down by June 2001 and the balance in June 2003.

In addition, a capital allocation of €1,237,994.63 was provided for An Óige in the post-primary capital Vote in 2000. The allocation was in respect of refurbishment works to Aughavannagh youth hostel. To date, this grant has not been drawn down by An Óige.

ICT Programme.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

277 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Science if he proposes to provide computer hardware for primary schools; the level of investment in computer hardware for primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9132/04]

Since 1998, my Department has provided funding of more than €140 million for the schools' ICT programme, including capital grants for computer hardware and software, teacher training and a range of support services to promote ICT in teaching and learning in schools.

Under the schools IT 2000 initiative 1998-2000, €22 million was made available to primary schools in ICT capital grants while a further €35 million was provided to primary schools under the Blueprint for the Future of ICT in Education, 2001-2003. In this period, significant progress has been made in enhancing access to and use of ICT in primary schools. The average pupil to computer ratio has fallen from 37:1 to just over 11:1, every school has been provided with an Internet connection and approximately 90% of teachers have acquired basic training in the use of ICT, while many teachers have gone on to undertake further training.

Future funding for computer hardware in primary schools will be considered in the context of available resources and plans for a new schools' ICT strategy which are currently at an advanced stage of preparation in my Department.

Schools Refurbishment.

Mary Upton

Question:

278 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review the maintenance needs of a school (details supplied) in particular, repairs to windows and the leaking roof; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9151/04]

Carrying out routine maintenance works in a school is the responsibility of a school's board of management. The school's management authority should use a portion of the capitation grant provided by my Department for this purpose.

More extensive works of a capital nature can be addressed by accessing funding under the summer works scheme. While an application from the school to which the Deputy refers under the 2004 summer works scheme was unsuccessful, it is open to the school's management authority to re-apply for funding for capital works as part of the 2005 scheme, details of which will be announced later this year.

EU Presidency.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

279 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of locations and status of functions or receptions held in connection with Ireland’s Presidency of the EU; the number and status of those invited to attend; if Garda motorcycle escorts were provided in any or all instances; if invitations were issued by way of postal service or by other means in every case; if not, the nature of the exception; the total cost to the Exchequer or EU of events to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9183/04]

To date, my Department, together with bodies under the aegis of the Department and other educational bodies, has hosted nine Presidency events in the field of education and training. The information sought by the Deputy in respect of each event is set out as follows. The total costs of all events to date is not available as final payments have yet to be made.

Launch of the European Year of Education Through Sport, 29-30 January, Croke Park, Dublin — the Presidency hosted one dinner at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham during this event. The dinner was attended by the Dutch Minister for Sport and by approximately 180 delegates representing Ministries of Education and Sport and other relevant bodies in each EU member state and accession country. A number of EU Commission officials were also in attendance. No Garda motorcycle escorts were provided. Invitations were issued by post and by e-mail.

Learning in the Europe of Knowledge Conference, 6-7 February, NUI, Galway — a delegate dinner was held in Newcastle, County Galway. Some 101 delegates attended, including educational experts, lecturers and professors in third level institutions from Ireland and Europe. No Garda escort was provided. Invitations were issued by post. European Student Convention, 10-12 February, Dublin Castle — no functions or receptions were held.

Youth Ministerial Conference, 4-6 March, Dromoland Castle, County Clare — a reception and gala dinner was held on 5 March. Approximately 170 delegates attended, including several Ministers for Youth Affairs from EU and accession countries, senior officials, representatives of non-governmental organisations and two young people from each country. Several local dignitaries, including TDs and representatives of the European Parliament, the EU Commission, the European Youth Forum and the European Economic and Social Committee also attended. Garda escorts from Shannon Airport to Dromoland Castle were provided for the eight Ministers who attended, for the chairperson of the education committee of the European Parliament and the EU Commission Director for Youth, Civil Society and Communication. Invitations issued by post and e-mail.

Meeting of Directors General for Higher Education, 5-6 March, Dublin Castle — a reception was held in the Mansion House and a dinner in Farmleigh. Both events were attended by 80 people composed of delegates from EU and accession countries, delegates' spouses or partners, invited speakers, invited speakers' spouses or partners and officials from the Department. No Garda escort was provided on either occasion. Invitations were issued on registration.

Conference on Common Approaches to Vocational Training and Higher Education, 8 March, Dublin Castle — a reception was held in Trinity College, hosted by the Tánaiste, attended by approximately 250 people, including delegates from EU and accession countries and from relevant Irish bodies. No Garda escort was provided. Invitations were issued by e-mail. A reception was held in the Chester Beatty Library at the end of the conference with delegates from the Directors General for Vocational Training and the Bologna Follow-up Group also present. Approximately 200 people attended. Invitations were issued by post and e-mail. No Garda escort was provided.

Meeting of Bologna Follow-up Group, 9 March, Department of Education and Science, Dublin — delegates attending the Bologna Follow-up Group also attended a reception at the end of the conference on Common Approaches to Vocational Training and Higher Education.

Meeting of Directors General for Vocational Training, 9 March, Dublin Castle — a dinner was held in Farmleigh attended by 70 people, including senior officials from EU member states and accession countries. No Garda escort was provided. Invitations were sent by post.

OECD Ministers Conference, 18-19 March, Dublin Castle — a dinner was held in Farmleigh attended by 154 people, including Ministers for Education from OECD countries and senior officials. A Garda escort was provided to the venue. Invitations were hand delivered.

Ministerial Appointments.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

280 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of staff appointed by him from outside the Civil Service since the general election 2002; the job descriptions for these staff; the salaries and expenses paid to these staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8332/04]

I have appointed four staff from outside the Civil Service since the general election in 2002. The details which the Deputy has requested in relation to these individuals is laid out in the following table:

Name

Title

Salary 2002(June to Dec)€

Salary2003€

Salary 2004(Jan to date)€

Travel & SubsistenceJune 2002 to date€

Richard Moore

Press adviser

47,061

97,854

24,404

2,265

Ciaran O’Cuinn

Special adviser

31,512

71,001

20,316

4,696

Myra Wall

Personal secretary

22,059

51,832

13,493

Nil

Christine Maguire

Personal assistant

23,252

55,314

15,215

Nil

Telecommunications Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

281 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on whether, in respect of his commitment to open up access to broadband for all, that the inclusion of a former Eircom subsidiary (details supplied) in a consortium can be interpreted as an appeasement of a major telecommunications operator, and at the same time provide an additional blocked competition in the market place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8396/04]

Arrangements for the marketing, management, operation and maintenance of the metropolitan area networks will be consistent with the Government's strategy of providing broadband infrastructure on an open access and carrier neutral basis. It is intended that this open access principle will be enshrined in a code of practice for the use of the metropolitan area networks thus ensuring that access to the infrastructure is administered on fair, transparent and non-discriminatory terms to all interested parties. The competition for the appointment of the management services entity is a public procurement process. I have, and have had, no role in the tendering process.

Radio Broadcasting.

Enda Kenny

Question:

282 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the conditions required for Internet radio station approval; and his views on the feasibility of such a project by a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [8405/04]

In so far as the broadcasting sector in Ireland is concerned, the Radio and Television Act 1988 and the Broadcasting Act 2001 confer on the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland the function of arranging for the provision of sound broadcasting services, including local radio services. Sections 5 and 6 of the 1988 Act set out the process through which local radio licences may be awarded and the factors which the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland must consider. The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland is an independent statutory body and I have no role in relation to licensing decisions.

With regard to radio stations established for transmission on the Internet, these do not fall within the remit of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and as such are not subject to regulation. I have no plans to introduce regulation to this area.

Marine Safety.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

283 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in regard to the new independent agency for marine and water safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8435/04]

As I informed the House in my reply on 11 November 2003, my officials have been engaged in the detailed preparatory work necessary to finalise proposals for the establishment of a new independent safety agency to take responsibility for all aspects of marine safety and emergency response. The ongoing work entails a detailed examination of all existing legislative provisions relating to maritime safety and the marine environment, essential in defining the functions of the new agency. The agency will, among other things, bring together safety services currently provided by the Irish Coast Guard and the maritime safety directorate of my Department. Drafting of heads of a Bill and a memorandum for Government are well advanced and it remains my objective to bring the proposal formally to Government as quickly as possible to get the agency up and running without delay.

Fisheries Protection.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

284 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the status of cod recovery plan proposals for the Irish Sea; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8436/04]

A cod recovery plan for the Irish Sea was agreed at last December's Fisheries Council and its provisions are now applicable to vessels operating there. The plan provides for a progressive recovery of the Irish Sea cod stock to a safe biological level over a period of time. The main elements to achieve this objective include limitations on catch and fishing effort, strengthened control and enforcement and also a seasonal closure during springtime to protect spawning cod aggregations. This seasonal closure covers the period from mid February to end April and was a particular priority of Ireland in its approach to the development of this recovery plan. I am satisfied that these recovery measures represent a balanced and reasonable approach to the recovery of this important stock.

Mobile Telephony.

Martin Ferris

Question:

285 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on whether the decision requiring a company (details supply) to indemnify the State against all costs or claims that might arise from the use by that company of Garda station sites for the erection of mobile phone masts proves that these masts are not safe. [8444/04]

The conditions attached to the use of Garda sites for the erection of mobile phone masts is a matter for the Garda authorities and Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The decision to require a company to indemnify the State against all costs or claims that might arise from the use by that company of Garda station sites for the erection of mobile phone masts does not imply that these masts are not safe. The requirement reflects the general situation where one organisation permits another over which it has no control to use its property or chattels. A legal indemnification is prudent practice in such situations. The use of such an indemnity does not imply a view that the activities in question would not be safe. If such a view was held by a responsible authority, the permission would be withheld.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

286 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in relation to a boat licence for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8540/04]

The independent licensing authority for sea fishing boats, established under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003, has informed me that it has issued a letter of licence offer in respect of the vessel concerned. It assures me that a licence will issue as soon as the terms and conditions of the licence offer have been complied with.

Fisheries Protection.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

287 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the demand of associations (details supplied) for a permanent end to all drift net activity in and around coastal waters from the end of the 2004 salmon season. [8564/04]

I am aware of the demands as expressed by the associations mentioned by the Deputy in regard to drift netting for wild salmon. I take this opportunity to reaffirm the Government's commitment to the conservation of the wild salmon stock so that in the future the resource can provide the maximum contribution to the regional and national economy.

The Government views our salmon stock as a national asset, which must be conserved, protected and shared among all our citizens. As a result, a delicate balancing exercise is necessary between the needs of the coastal and inland communities who depend on fishing resources for their livelihood and the recreational users, including tourists, who each pursue the noble salmon for their own end.

We all agree over-exploitation of fish stocks is a significant threat to the long-term sustainability of the inland fisheries resource. The Government has accepted the scientific advice to the effect that reductions in the overall fishing effort are required in order to sustain and rebuild wild salmon stocks on a district basis. For this reason, the current policy has been designed to bring spawning escapement in all districts and catchments up to the level of the scientifically advised conservation limit in 2005.

With regard to commercial salmon fishing, I would argue strongly that the Government's management of the Irish home water commercial salmon fisheries, which limits the commercial salmon fishing season and restricts the number of fish being caught, clearly demonstrates a commitment to the conservation of the wild salmon stock which is in keeping with the highest international standards.

My Department has in recent years introduced a range of conservation measures which have seen considerable advancements made in salmon policy and, in particular, the management of the drift net salmon fishery. As part of these measures, the drift net season is now confined to a two month period in June and July on a four day week basis. Fishing is only allowed during daylight hours and is confined to the area within the six mile limit.

The Department has recently published draft wild salmon and sea trout tagging scheme regulations which, inter alia, limit the total allowable commercial catch of salmon for the 2004 season. The current strategy of developing a sustainable commercial and recreational salmon fishery through aligning catches on the scientific advice by next year holds out the strong prospect of a recovery of stocks and of a long term sustainable fishery for both sectors.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

288 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the money allocated by his Department in 2003 and 2004 to directly fund services for persons with disabilities and the amount of money allocated to enabling persons with disabilities to more easily access services of his Department. [8643/04]

There was no specific allocation by my Department in 2003 or 2004 to directly fund services for persons with disabilities. In terms of enabling access to my Department for persons with disabilities, the refurbishment of the reception to the Department's offices in Leeson Lane incorporated a number of items to facilitate and enhance access for persons with disabilities. The Department's offices in Adelaide Road have also been refurbished and access for persons with disabilities enhanced as part of that project. While it is not possible to accurately separate the cost of these items from the overall cost of the contract, it is estimated that the cost was in the region of €61,500 plus VAT.

Harbours and Piers

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

289 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he proposes to make funding available to a local authority (details supplied) to complete very necessary works. [8719/04]

Knockadoon Pier is owned by Cork County Council and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance. In July 2003, Cork County Council made an application to my Department for funding to carry out works at Knockadoon slipway at an estimated cost of €94,500. There was no funding available in 2003 for these works. The question of providing funding in the 2004-06 period will depend on the amount of Exchequer funding available for works at fishery harbours generally and overall national priorities.

Departmental Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

290 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the action he is taking to extend three phase electricity to rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8732/04]

My Department administers the farm electrification grant scheme which subsidises the installation of electricity supply to farms located in disadvantaged areas which are without supply or where supply is inadequate to facilitate their development and modernisation. Both single phase and three phase installations are eligible for assistance under the scheme. Apart from that, the question of availability of three phase supply is a matter for the electricity sector players and not one in which I have a function.

Motor Ferry Employees.

Finian McGrath

Question:

291 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will assist the 75 mostly European crew of a motor ferry (details supplied) operating out of Cork; and if he will give them the maximum advice, support and assistance. [8988/04]

I have no statutory function in regard to seafarers' wages. Terms and conditions of employment in respect of the seafarers operating on board the super ferry is primarily the responsibility of the ship owners. The super ferry is not registered on the Irish ship register. Obligations on the ship's owners regarding maintenance, crewing standards and certification of those matters are appropriate to the flag state operating the ship's register, which in this instance is St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The primary concern of my Department is to ensure that all sea-going vessels operate in a safe manner and in compliance with all the relevant regulations and legislation. This is in accordance with the International Labour Organisation, ILO, Convention No. 147, article 4, which authorises port states to take measures necessary to rectify any conditions on board a vessel which are clearly hazardous to health. In this regard, the maritime safety directorate of my Department regularly inspects the super ferry under port state control and EU mandatory ro-ro vessel inspection procedures, to ensure that the vessel complies in every respect with international maritime safety requirements.

Fishery Inspectors.

Martin Ferris

Question:

292 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the action he intends to take to settle the industrial dispute with the fishery inspectors which affects the fish processing industry by the Department’s ban on landings between midnight and 8 a.m.; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that boats are now landing outside of this country and thus seasonal workers are being denied the right to work by the actions of his Department; and if the Minister will compensate the fish processing workers for loss of earnings and the fishermen for additional transport costs. [9073/04]

The new landing times for pelagic fish have been imposed because of more stringent monitoring controls and weighing procedures recently introduced by the European Commission in regard to the mackerel, horse mackerel and north west herring fisheries. These new rules are designed to facilitate effective control of pelagic fisheries. Such control is a key element in fisheries management policy and enables the sustainable management and development of the fisheries concerned. This is an entirely valid policy objective and I fully support it.

In implementing the new EU procedures, my Department has acceded to industry requests to allow landings at a variety of ports around the coast. The immediate impact of that decision was that some restrictions had to be placed on permitted landing time at the range of permitted ports. The permitted times for landing are between 8 a.m. and midnight on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and public holidays. This represents fairly comprehensive coverage given the constraints on staffing resources. While a 24 hour coverage would be an ideal situation, there are certain organisational and resource realities that my Department has had to consider and the current rate of coverage is a reasonable response in the prevailing circumstances.

I and my Department officials continue to work closely with the industry in the implementation of these new requirements. We have worked together in the past few weeks to put in place certain transitional arrangements which are both effective in control terms and also satisfy the legitimate requirement of both fishermen and processors to maintain the quality of catches. This process will continue and I am confident practical problems can be resolved in a mutually satisfactory manner. In this context, I have not ruled out a possible extension to the existing permitted hours of landing going forward provided that a clear justification exists and that sufficient resources are available to support any such changes.

The supply of fish to fish processing plants has always been subject to the influence of many factors including weather, the location of where the fish is being caught and the prices paid at different ports. A significant proportion of the catches in the spring pelagic fisheries have normally been landed abroad. The choice of where fish is landed, whether into ports within Ireland or elsewhere, cannot be directed by me and is a matter solely for the individual fishing skippers. Under the current arrangements, the maximum possible waiting period in Irish ports of up to eight hours during a weekday and up to 14 hours during a weekend is substantially less than the time that is often spent by these vessels sailing to alternative landing ports outside Ireland. Clearly, the choice of some skippers to land some pelagic catches abroad is not determined by the limited restrictions on night time landings.

EU Presidency.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

293 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the locations and status of functions or receptions held in connection with Ireland’s Presidency of the EU; the number and status of those invited to attend; if Garda motorcycle escorts were provided in any or all instances; if invitations were issued by way of postal service or by other means in every case; if not, the nature of the exception; the cost to the exchequer or EU of events to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9184/04]

The following table sets out the EU Presidency events undertaken to date by my Department. Final costs are not yet available.

Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Presidency events.

Date

Event

Number/Status invited

Involvement of Garda Motor Cycles

Method of invitation

01-03 March

Broadcasting Conference — Dublin

30 Ministers 80 Delegates

Yes

Letter

10-11 March

Ministerial Fisheries Conference — Dundalk

25 Ministers 105 Delegates

Yes

Letter and E-mail

17 March

International Maritime Organisation — Sub-committee on Flag State Implementation, 12th session — St. Patrick’s Day reception — IMO, London

200 Delegates

No

Verbal by announcement at the meeting

Dissolution of Board.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

294 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when a board (details supplied) was informed of its dissolution and the structure in place in the interim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9206/04]

Donegal County Council has been wholly responsible for the management, control and operation of Buncrana Harbour since December 1999. Following consultation between the various interested parties, the Buncrana Harbour Commissioners, which had operated the harbour under the Harbours Act 1946, was dissolved by means of an order, S.I. No. 394 of 1999, made under section 88 of the Harbours Act 1996. On dissolution, all property, rights and liabilities and every member of staff of the harbour authority transferred to Donegal County Council.

Ministerial Appointments.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

295 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of staff appointed by him from outside the Civil Service since the general election 2002; the job descriptions for these staff; the salaries and expenses paid to these staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8333/04]

Since the general election in 2002, I have appointed two people from outside the Civil Service to positions in my Department. The appointees are my personal assistant and my personal secretary. The total salary paid to these appointees since June 2002 is €137,585.69. The total paid to date in expenses is €34,488.21. These appointments are in accordance with the Department of Finance guidelines on such matters.

National Conference Centre.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

296 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in regard to the national conference centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8434/04]

As I informed the House on 25 February last, four submissions were received by the Office of Public Works in response to its advertisement for expressions of interest in the provision of a national conference centre in the Dublin area.

Those submissions are currently undergoing detailed evaluation by an assessment panel representative of my Department, the Office of Public Works and its advisers, the Department of Finance, Fáilte Ireland and the National Development Finance Agency. A separate panel will subsequently evaluate the site proposals that candidates were also required to put forward, following which the next stage of the process will be initiated with a view to securing a final decision from Government in the autumn. Subject to the acceptability of proposals, the national conference centre could, as envisaged in the expressions of interest notice, be constructed before the end of 2007.

Tax Code.

Pat Breen

Question:

297 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has received correspondence from an organisation (details supplied) in County Clare; the action he will take in regard to the correspondence under the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8549/04]

Section 847A of the Taxes Consolidation Act provides for a scheme for tax relief for relevant donations to an approved sports body for the funding of approved projects. This scheme is administered jointly by the Revenue Commissioners and my Department. My Department's sole function is to certify that the project is a sports project.

It is a requirement under the scheme that the applicant be recognised as a sports exempt body under section 235 of the Taxes Consolidation Act. Sports exempt certification is provided by the Revenue Commissioners alone. This certification by the Revenue Commissioners states that a body is established and existing for the sole purpose of promoting sport, whose income is exempt from income-corporation tax.

An application to this scheme was received by my Department earlier this year from the organisation in question. However, this organisation is not recognised by the Revenue Commissioners as a sports exempt body and as a result its project does not qualify for consideration under this scheme.

Sports Capital Programme.

Michael Ring

Question:

298 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when funding will be made available under the sports capital programme 2004; and if he will sanction funding to a centre (details supplied) in County Mayo under this programme. [8550/04]

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. A total of 1,304 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.

Dance Training.

John Gormley

Question:

299 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is currently no dance training to professional level available for dance students here; if he has plans to fund dance students who have no choice but to live and train abroad; and if he has plans to provide a comprehensive dance education system and an academy for the performing arts. [8566/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 225 on 17 December 2003.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

300 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the money allocated by his Department in 2003 and 2004 to directly fund services for persons with disabilities and the money allocated to enabling persons with disabilities to more easily access services of his Department. [8644/04]

Under the national lottery funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is available to sporting clubs and organisations and to voluntary and community organisations, including organisations representing people with disabilities at local, regional and national levels throughout the country towards the provision of sporting facilities and equipment. It is a requirement of the programme that projects funded be accessible to those with disabilities.

Under the 2003 sports capital programme, €56.35 million was allocated to 628 projects. The type of projects involved include indoor sports halls, community centres, athletic tracks, all-weather playing pitches, basketball courts, provision of sports equipment and a variety of other sports facilities, all of which can be used by disabled persons. In terms of specific allocations to organisations representing the disabled under the 2003 programme, grant aid of €100,000 was allocated to the Irish Wheelchair Association and €3,000 to the Laois Riding for the Disabled Association under the 2003 programme.

Funding in 2003 included €350,000 allocated to the AUL complex in Clonshaugh and €275,000 to Morton stadium to refurbish and improve their facilities for hosting the soccer and athletics competitions of the 2003 Special Olympics World Games. In 2003, my Department also paid the final 5% of the €19.05 million grant allocated in 2001 to ensure that facilities at Croke Park were ready for the games.

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 1,034 applications were received before the closing date, all of which 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.

In addition, the Irish Sports Council, from the funding provided by my Department, provided annual grants to a number or organisations representing the disabled, such as the Paralympic Council of Ireland, Special Olympics Ireland, Cerebral Palsy Ireland, Irish Blind Sports Association, Irish Deaf Sports Association and the Irish Wheelchair Association and also to individual elite competitors with disability to assist with their programmes and activities. In 2003, €9.05 million was allocated from my Department's Vote to assist towards the costs of preparing for and staging the Special Olympics World Summer Games.

There is no provision within my Department's Vote specifically allocated to enabling persons with disabilities to more easily access the services of my Department. However, I am happy to say that my Department's website has been certified for maximum possible accessibility for users with disabilities and is monitored on a monthly basis to ensure it continues to be fully accessible.

The main services of my Department used by the public are provided by the cultural institutions — the National Museum, the National Library and the National Archives — which form part of my Department. The capital expenditure for new construction and refurbishment in regard to these institutions is provided by the Office of Public Works and the provision of access for disabled persons is incorporated to the extent that is practicable.

Sports Capital Programme.

Martin Ferris

Question:

301 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when the grant application by An Tinteán Theatre, Ballybunion, which was submitted more than two years ago, will be assessed; and when they will get a reply. [8742/04]

A capital grant of €825,000 was allocated by my Department to this project in December 2001, to assist with the development of phase 1 of the project, which involves the construction of an auditorium with associated administration and backstage facilities. My officials have been in regular contact with the promoters of this project and €675,000 was paid to the promoters in December 2003. The balance will be paid on submission by the promoters of the appropriate documentation. In addition, I announced yesterday that a grant of up to €709,803 has been allocated to this project under the EU co-financed tourism product development scheme, operated by Fáilte Ireland.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

302 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will approve a grant for a club (details supplied) in County Kerry from the national lottery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8743/04]

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. A total of 1,304 applications were received before the closing date, including one from the organisation in question. All applications are 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.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

303 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the contacts he has had with the institute of technology in Tallaght regarding the need for the development of sports facilities at this institution; if his attention has been drawn to the anxiety of the college’s student union to see progress in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8744/04]

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. A total of 1,304 applications were received before the closing date, including one from the organisation in question. All applications are 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.

Grant Payments.

Jack Wall

Question:

304 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the applications for funding to support potential sporting or art events submitted to his Department for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006; the decision of his Department in regard to such funding or assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8892/04]

A total of 117 applications for cultural events taking place abroad were received by my Department for consideration by the cultural relations committee. Of these, 70 applications were successful, 40 were not recommended for funding and seven are to be considered by the committee at its next meeting. No applications have yet been received in respect of events in 2005 or 2006.

Apart from the above my Department does not fund sporting or art events directly. A range of sporting and arts events are funded through various schemes and programmes operated by the State agencies under my Department's remit. Information in respect of these events may be attained directly from the State agencies concerned.

Sports Capital Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

305 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the applications received from national or local sporting bodies of all sports for facilities or the provision of such facilities at Abbotstown sports centre; the meetings the Minister or his Department has had with the various bodies; the criteria used to process such applications; the guidelines in regard to capital sports grants such as to permit associations to make applications with the provision of facilities at Abbotstown thereon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8893/04]

The Government has agreed to proceed with the development of state-of-the-art sporting infrastructure at Abbotstown. In February I met the board of Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited. I outlined the Government's views for the sports campus to the members of the board and asked them to provide me with a phased and prioritised proposal, with a sporting and business case and annual budgets, which would deliver the component elements of the campus within a realistic timeframe by building on and updating the existing framework plan for the site, in consultation with the various interested parties and taking account of developments which have taken place in the meantime.

The campus will very likely include pitches and training facilities, administrative facilities for the smaller sporting bodies who depend very largely on voluntary commitment. It might also include medical and training support for elite athlete development and, eventually, an indoor sporting arena, which it is expected would attract private sector investment.

CSID has been given the responsibility for translating this concept into an action plan for delivery and overseeing a programme of development that, over time, will be seen as accomplishing a major transformation in the quality of Ireland's sporting infrastructure. I understand that it has commenced the process of consultation with the various interested parties, in particular the national governing bodies of sport.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

306 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a sports capital grant for 2004 will be awarded to a company (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9123/04]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

307 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a sports capital grant for 2004 will be paid to a company (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9124/04]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

308 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a sports capital grant for 2004 will be paid to a company (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9125/04]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

309 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a sports grant for 2004 will be paid to a company (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9126/04]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

310 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a sports capital grant for 2004 will be awarded to a company (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9127/04]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

311 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a sports capital grant for 2004 will be awarded to a company (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9128/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 306 to 311, 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. This 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 1,304 applications were received before the closing date, including one from the organisation in question. All applications are 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.

National Cultural Institutions.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

312 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department has received a request for additional staffing from the National Museum of Ireland following implementation of the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997; the levels of additional staffing requested; the levels of additional staffing to be allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9153/04]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

313 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the provisions of the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997 which have yet to be implemented; the timescale for the full implementation of the Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9154/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 312 and 313 together.

The main provisions of the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997 that have not yet been brought into effect relate to the establishment of statutory boards for the National Museum of Ireland and the National Library of Ireland for the purpose of granting these institutions autonomous status. Work has been proceeding with a view to bringing the relevant provisions into force. However, it is not the intention to grant autonomous status unless the resources available to the institutions are adequate to enable them thereafter to function satisfactorily.

To date, the finance and human resource functions for these institutions have been carried out by my Department and, at a minimum, resources necessary to allow those functions to be transferred must be provided to the institutions. The National Library of Ireland has sought an additional 12 posts in the context of autonomy. The National Museum of Ireland has sought a total of 93 additional posts in the context of its ten-year capital expansion programme and the granting of autonomous status. The granting of autonomous status and the bringing into effect of the remaining provisions of the Act are dependent on the resolution of the issues surrounding staff resources. In this regard, discussions are ongoing with the Department of Finance, in the context of current Government policy on staff numbers in the public sector.

EU Presidency.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

314 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the locations and status of functions or receptions held in connection with Ireland’s Presidency of the EU; the number and status of those invited to attend; if Garda motorcycle escorts were provided in any or all instances; if invitations were issued by way of postal service or by other means in every case; if not, the nature of the exception; the cost to the exchequer or EU of events to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9185/04]

The following tabular statement sets out the information requested by the Deputy on EU Presidency events held to date.

Event

Detail

Date

Invites

Status of those attending

Garda Escorts

Total Spend €

Cultural Programme

Cultural Programme Launch (Dublin)

7 January

1000 posted

Minister, Arts community, Media, Department Officials, Embassies

No

11,500

Danu Concert (Brussels)

12 January

1500 posted

Minister, Brussels Diplomatic Community, Department officials, Media

No

48,200

Gallery of Photography Exhibition Launch (Brussels)

12 January

100 bye-mail

Minister, Artists, Diplomatic staff,

No

1,000

National Gallery — New Frontiers (Dublin)

2 March

1000 posted

Minister, Ambassadors, Ministers of Culture, Arts community, Sponsors, Media, Department officials

No

12,500

Music Tours Launch (Dublin)

9 March

500 posted

Minister, Ambassadors, Arts community, Participating musicians, Media, Department officials

No

7,500

Official Events

Seminar on Literature as a means of promoting Linguistic Diversity (Killarney, Kerry)

11-12 March

10 posted66 by e-mail

Minister, EU Cultural Affairs Committee, Sectoral Representatives, Department officials

No

100,000

TOTAL €

180,700

Health Board Services.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

315 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if speech therapy will be provided for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8. [8344/04]

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.

Adoption Services.

David Stanton

Question:

316 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children adopted from outside the State each year in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and to date in 2004; the countries of origin in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9026/04]

The Adoption Board, which is an autonomous body, collects the information requested. My Department has asked the CEO of the board to reply directly to the Deputy.

Heart Disease.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

317 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the deaths due to heart disease in each health board region for the years 2000 and 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8267/04]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

318 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the deaths due to cardiovascular diseases in County Kerry for both males and females in the years 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8268/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 317 and 318 together.

The information sought by the Deputy is in the following tables.

Deaths of residents in Kerry classified by cause of death and sex

Year of occurrence: 2000

All

Male

Female

393-398

Acute rheumatic fever

2

0

2

401-405

Hypertensive disease

15

8

7

410-414

Ischaemic heart disease

312

169

143

415-417

Diseases of pulmonary circulation

5

4

1

420-429

Other forms of heart disease

97

49

48

430-438

Cerebrovascular disease

118

58

60

440-448

Diseases of arteries, arterioles and capillaries

43

24

19

451-459

Diseases of veins and lymphatics, and other diseases of circulatory system

9

4

5

All

601

316

285

Year of occurrence: 2001

All

Male

Female

401-405

Hypertensive disease

16

10

6

410-414

Ischaemic heart disease

278

159

119

415-417

Diseases of pulmonary circulation

2

2

0

420-429

Other forms of heart disease

87

50

37

430-438

Cerebrovascular disease

104

55

49

440-448

Diseases of arteries, arterioles and capillaries

40

25

15

451-459

Diseases of veins and lymphatics, and other diseases of circulatory system

5

2

3

All

532

303

229

Year of registration: 2002

All

Male

Female

393-398

Acute rheumatic fever

2

0

2

401-405

Hypertensive disease

18

6

12

410-414

Ischaemic heart disease

288

149

139

415-417

Diseases of pulmonary circulation

2

1

1

420-429

Other forms of heart disease

82

46

36

430-438

Cerebrovascular disease

110

54

56

440-448

Diseases of arteries, arterioles and capillaries

40

25

15

451-459

Diseases of veins and lymphatics, and other diseases of circulatory system

12

6

6

All

554

287

267

Year of registration: 2003 (1st, 2nd and 3rd quarter)

All

Male

Female

401-405

Hypertensive disease

11

5

6

410-414

Ischaemic heart disease

180

111

69

415-417

Diseases of pulmonary circulation

2

1

1

420-429

Other forms of heart disease

63

31

32

430-438

Cerebrovascular disease

83

39

44

440-448

Diseases of arteries, arterioles and capillaries

23

9

14

451-459

Diseases of veins and lymphatics, and other diseases of circulatory system

3

0

3

All

365

196

169

Year of occurrence: 2000

Healthboard area of residence

All

Eastern

3,775

South-Eastern

1,384

Midland

766

North-Eastern

1,062

Mid-Western

1,169

Southern

2,217

West

1,440

North-Western

853

All

12,666

Year of occurrence: 2003

(1st, 2nd and 3rd quarter available to date

Healthboard area of residence

All

Eastern

2,548

South-Eastern

917

Midland

506

North-Eastern

646

Mid-Western

738

Southern

1,404

West

1,023

North-Western

565

All

8,347

Hospitals Building Programme.

Paul McGrath

Question:

319 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children when the builders’ warranty on phase 1 and the new accident and emergency department of the new James Connolly Memorial Hospital expire. [8269/04]

Responsibility for the capital development at James Connolly Memorial Hospital, phase 1, is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Finian McGrath

Question:

320 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the waiting list for new patients for both diabetes and endocrine disease is still 16 months at Beaumont Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8270/04]

Finian McGrath

Question:

321 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will appoint and fund four full-time diabetes consultants for Beaumont Hospital, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on improving the services for patients who have to wait 16 months. [8271/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 320 and 321 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 the issues raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Hospital Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

322 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is no dietician in St. Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown; the reasons this is so; when the post is to be filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8272/04]

Any proposal to develop services at St. Columcille's Hospital, Loughlinstown, is a matter for consideration by the Eastern Regional Health Authority in the first instance. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matters raised by the Deputy and to reply to her directly.

Home Help Service.

Jack Wall

Question:

323 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has had their home help hours cut; if there is medical evidence to support such a reduction; the plans his Department has to review such reductions; the number of hours allocated to the person now; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8273/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Kildare 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.

Organ Donation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

324 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans to introduce an organ donation scheme such as found in several other European countries in which consent to donate is presumed unless an opt-out form is signed. [8302/04]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

332 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions he has had with the Minister for Transport in regard to introducing an organ donation scheme using the new plastic card formatted driving licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8347/04]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

343 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will conside