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.
Questions Nos. 13 to 68, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 69 to 76, inclusive, answered orally.

Pension Provisions.

John Bruton

Question:

77 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the requirement whereby a person reaching 65 must first retire for a period before being able to work again and retain a pension will be removed, as promised in the Joint Programme. [17505/04]

In addition to satisfying the relevant contribution conditions, those applying for retirement pension at age 65 must be retired from employment or self employment. Retirement is defined as not having earnings from employment of more than €38 per week or earnings from self-employment of more than €3,174 per annum. There is no retirement condition associated with old age contributory or non-contributory pensions which are both payable at 66 years of age. The retirement pension was introduced in 1970 and was intended to bridge the gap between retirement at 65 and the pension age for social welfare purposes, which at the time was 70 years of age. The qualifying age for old age pension was subsequently reduced over time to 66 years of age but the requirement to retire before receiving a retirement pension has remained in place.

It is important in the context of the demographic changes our society will face in the years ahead that we should encourage and facilitate people who wish to extend their working lives to remain active.

The Government is committed, as part of the programme for Government, to removing the requirement to retire at 65 in order to receive a retirement pension. Progress in this regard will be made as soon as possible, having regard to the availability of resources and other priorities.

Family Support Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

78 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has received a copy of the Family Support Agency’s strategic plan for 2004-2006, including its five priorities for the next two years; her views on whether the agency will be able to deliver on its promise to deliver services for families around the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17713/04]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

91 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will make a statement on the report of the Family Support Agency. [17724/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 91 together.

The Family Support Agency which I established on 6 May 2003 brings together pro-family programmes and services introduced by the Government in recent years which are designed to promote local family support, help prevent marital breakdown, promote continuity and stability in family life and support ongoing parenting relationships for children.

The agency provides a direct, nationwide family mediation service and, through funding, supports, promotes and develops the provision of marriage and relationship counselling, other family supports and the family and community services resource centre programme.

The agency has a responsibility to undertake or commission research, to advise, inform and assist me as Minister for Social and Family Affairs and to promote and disseminate information about family-related issues. I believe that the board have both the necessary experience and expertise to steer the agency through its important first years.

The publication of the Family Support Agency strategic plan which I launched last month reinforces this belief. In clear and concise terms it spells out the agency's priorities for the next three years. These set out to: support and strengthen families; foster a supportive community environment for families; undertake or commission research into family related matters; promote the agency as a key provider of support services and information to families; and recognise the role played by the agency's staff and continue to invest in their development.

I am satisfied with and fully support the priorities chosen by the board of the agency and consider they have put an effective strategy in place to successfully deliver on these priorities.

For my part I have this year, 2004, made over €20 million available to the agency to fulfil its functions. Over €7 million of this is for the scheme of grants for voluntary organisations providing marriage and relationship counselling and other family supports. For the current year, this will mean financial support to more than 500 groups throughout the country.

The year 2004 also sees the continued development of the family and community resource centre programme. In just 12 months from the establishment of the Family Support Agency, 18 new family resource centres have been approved for inclusion in the programme and 12 of these are already up and running. The agency has been given investment of €8.39 million in 2004 to drive forward this important programme.

I also welcome and fully support the priority being given to the continued expansion of the family mediation service. During 2003, new centres opened in Sligo and Waterford, bringing to 14 the number of offices now operating nationally.

I am happy to say that two more centres are planned for this year — in Letterkenny, to ensure effective access to the service in the north-west, and in Portlaoise, to similarly expand the service in the midlands. A major family research programme is being completed with the publication later this year of the final studies commissioned under the programme. The consultation process on family issues, which I undertook last year, together with the findings of the Irish Presidency conference and the OECD study on reconciling work and family life, in which Ireland participated, have provided a wide range of material on the future direction of policies to support families. These will be fully taken into account, together with the board's strategic plan, in drawing up the strategy on supports for families currently being prepared for publication by year end. This strategy should also greatly assist the board in setting its research priorities for the coming years.

I would like to compliment the dedication and professionalism of the board, its chief executive officer and staff. I am confident that the services provided by the agency in accordance with this strategic plan, will be of a high standard. Given the resources put at their disposal, I am confident the board will meet the strategic priorities laid down in the plan.

Pension Provisions.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

79 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on whether the scheme proposed recently by the Irish Insurance Federation to open pension accounts for children here can address the current shortfall in money being put away for pension schemes; her further views on whether the Government should encourage more investment in pension schemes rather than have persons reliant on the State pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17704/04]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

84 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she plans to announce a pension scheme for children that would see the Exchequer contribute a fixed amount annually to pension accounts for the 1.1 million children here; if she has examined the viability of such a scheme in view of the fact that less than half of the population is saving for their retirement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17703/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 84 together.

Data compiled by the Central Statistics Office on pensions coverage have indicated that just over 50% of workers have supplementary pensions cover. The Government aims to increase this to 70% in accordance with the targets suggested in the national pensions policy initiative, and I am aware that this is an ambitious target.

The overall objective of the Government's pension policy is that all citizens will have an adequate income on retirement — the main components being the social welfare pension and supplementary pensions, either on an occupational or personal basis. In this regard, the Pensions (Amendment) Act 2002 provided for the introduction of personal retirement savings accounts, PRSAs, which became available to the public in 2003. The PRSA is a low cost, flexible pensions product which is the main instrument employed in furtherance of Government policy to increase supplementary pensions coverage. Take-up of the new accounts is being monitored closely.

In addition, a national pensions awareness campaign is being run by the Pensions Board on the behalf of the Government to encourage people to consider their requirements for retirement and to make the necessary provision as early as possible. In this regard €500,000 was provided for the campaign in each year for 2003 and 2004. The view of all participants in the national pension policy initiative was that the current voluntary approach to supplementary pensions should not be changed at this stage.

The Government is required, under the Pensions (Amendment) Act 2002, to review progress in relation to the level of pension coverage by September 2006. If, at that stage, I am not happy with the progress being made in pursuit of our objectives on supplementary pensions coverage, other measures will have to be considered, which would include an examination of some form of mandatory cover. In this regard I welcome the suggestions made by the Irish Insurance Federation at their recent conference on "Closing the Irish Savings Gap". The federation, whom I met, has made a number of interesting and imaginative suggestions, including the creation of pension funds for children, on how people can be encouraged to save for their retirement.

At our meeting, I suggested that the IIF should pursue their proposal further and might wish to submit it for consideration to the Pensions Board, which is a representative body and has a statutory role to advise me on pensions policy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

80 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on the current level of uptake for the farm assist scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17655/04]

The farm assist scheme, which introduced special arrangements for farmers on low incomes, was provided for in the Social Welfare Act 1999 and came into operation with effect from 7 April 1999. There are now 8,690 farm assist customers. The current average weekly payment is €142.59.

The farm assist scheme is a practical response by my Department to the situation of low income farmers and it represents a long-term safety net for them. It benefits farm families with children and also provides increased payments to farming couples without children and to single farmers on low income.

The level of take-up is less than had been anticipated when the scheme was first introduced in April, 1999. One of the factors impacting on the take-up of the scheme is the significant increase in off-farm employment in recent years. However, the benefits to those who have joined it have been significant. The scheme has brought about a worthwhile improvement for low income farmers and particularly for those with children and it makes a valuable contribution to supporting those who are at the lower end of the farm income spectrum.

To increase awareness of the farm assist scheme, my Department undertook a major publicity campaign in 2002. Almost €100,000 was spent on that campaign which included radio and press advertising, including specialist farming publications, and the production and showing around the country of a promotional video on the scheme.

More generally, the network of social welfare offices throughout the country provides information to members of the public on the range of schemes and services available, including the farm assist scheme. Information leaflets and applications forms for farm assist are available at these offices. In addition, social welfare inspectors in rural areas promote the scheme when meeting the public in the course of their duties.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

81 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the Government remains on course to bring social welfare payments to an acceptable average payment, as promised in the Sustaining Progress agreement. [17732/04]

Sustaining Progress contains a number of important commitments in relation to social welfare payments, including commitments: to increase social welfare pensions over a five to 10 year period to 34% of average industrial earnings, in line with the recommendations of the national pensions policy initiative; to increase the level of social welfare pension to reach a target level of €200 by 2007 in line with the commitment in the programme for Government; to make progress to increase the level of qualified adult allowance for pensioner spouses to the level of the old age (non-contributory) pension; and to meet the target for the lowest social welfare rates and appropriate child equivalence levels as set out in the revised national anti-poverty strategy by 2007, namely, to increase the lowest rate of social welfare payments to €150, in 2002 terms, by 2007 and to achieve equivalence levels of child income support of between 33% and 35% of the personal rate of payment. The level of increases in payments since this Government came into office in 1997 demonstrates the commitment that we have to providing significant real improvements for social welfare recipients.

The real value of payments has been progressively increased over that period. Long-term payments for a couple without children have risen by 60% since 1997 while short-term payments for a couple without children have risen by over 52%.

The level of child income support has also increased considerably in recent years. The social welfare payment of a couple on a short-term payment with two children has risen by 59.5%, way ahead of inflation which increased by 24.6% over the same period.

Most recently the 2004 budget package cost €630 million and enabled the provision of increases well ahead of inflation for all social welfare recipients of weekly payments as well as significant other improvements in social welfare provisions generally.

As I said in the House at the time of the budget, the underlying objective was to make progress towards the achievement of the various commitments including the commitment on the lowest rate of payment. Further progress will be made towards delivering on these commitments in future budgets.

EU Social Policy.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

82 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way in which her Department has developed its role during this country’s Presidency of the European Union. [17733/04]

During the Irish Presidency, my focus, and that of my Department has been to advance the EU social policy agenda generally and, in particular, to make progress in realising the ten-year goals set by the Lisbon European Council in 2000.

One of the goals of the Lisbon agenda is to achieve greater social cohesion. Based on an analysis of the second round national action plans on social inclusion 2003-2005, a report on employment, social protection/inclusion and gender equality was adopted by the Council of Ministers in March and reflected in a key messages paper to the Spring European Council.

The four key social protection/inclusion messages relate to strengthening social inclusion, making work pay, which was the subject of a special ministerial meeting in January, ensuring that pension systems support longer working lives, and ensuring accessibility, sustainability and quality of health care and long-term care for the elderly.

One of the priorities of the Irish Presidency was to secure agreement with the European Parliament on the reform and simplification of regulation 1408/71 which co-ordinates the social security rights of migrant workers, and members of their families, when they move within the Union. I am very pleased that, following acceptance by the European Parliament and the Council the new regulation was adopted on 29 April last. In addition, I hosted a special conference in Budapest on 7 and 8 May, in co-operation with the Hungarian Government and the Commission which addressed both the future implications of the new simplified regulation for all 25 states and the particular immediate challenges facing new member states in implementing the existing regulation.

The issue of migration has also been a priority for my Department during the Irish Presidency. On 1 and 2 April we hosted a conference on the theme of "Reconciling Mobility and Social Inclusion". The main focus of the conference was on the role of social and employment policies in achieving social inclusion for people moving within the EU and it concluded that clear and comprehensive strategies are required at national level to promote employment and social inclusion of immigrants.

In the area of family policy and to mark the 10th anniversary of the UN International Year of the Family, the Irish Presidency hosted a major international conference on the theme "Families, Change and Social Policy in Europe". One of the key conclusions was that addressing the challenges posed by the profound changes affecting families requires at national level a strategic, integrated approach involving employment, social protection and possibly other policy areas, such as education, health and housing.

The Irish Presidency also progressed an initiative taken by previous Presidencies by hosting a third meeting of people experiencing poverty in Brussels at the end of May. One of the key messages to emerge was that effective participation by people experiencing poverty is taking place and is being developed across all member states to help make a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty and achieve greater social cohesion.

At the last meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council, I updated my EU colleagues on the key conclusions of the various conferences. In my view the successful outcome of this ambitious programme represents a significant contribution to advancing the EU social policy agenda.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Liz McManus

Question:

83 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the arrangements that have been made to accommodate asylum-seeking families from the new EU states who may have lost the entitlement to stay in State-run accommodation following the accession of the new member states; the number of these persons who do not qualify for rent allowance due to the fact that they do not satisfy the habitual residence requirement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17712/04]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

89 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason her Department has decided to scale back social welfare benefits for non-residents; her views on whether this will adversely affect children of new asylum seekers who will not have sufficient money to purchase clothing and for other day-to-day expenses; her further views on whether this may result in children of asylum seekers becoming destitute; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17714/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 89 together.

Access to social assistance and child benefit payments has been restricted since 1 May 2004 by the introduction of a new eligibility requirement, known as the habitual residence condition.

The new condition is designed to safeguard the social welfare system by restricting access to social assistance and child benefit payments for people from other countries who have little or no connection with Ireland. All persons claiming welfare payments, including nationals of the new EU member states who applied for rent supplement after 1 May, are subject to the habitual residence condition. People who fail to satisfy the habitual residence condition are offered the option of being referred to the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform who facilitate their departure home and provide full board accommodation pending departure.

The immigration status of asylum seekers from the new EU member states has been underwritten by EU treaty rights from 1 May 2004 and they now have full access to the Irish labour market. In this context, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform requested new EU member state nationals in direct provision centres to seek alternative accommodation.

However, they are being given ample opportunity to secure alternative accommodation before leaving direct provision. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has assured my Department that nobody from a new EU member state has been compelled to leave direct provision without there being an alternative accommodation option available to that person. Asylum seekers who are accommodated in direct provision centres have all of their basic needs, including the needs of their children, provided for within the direct provision system.

Asylum seekers in direct provision are also paid a weekly allowance of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 in respect of each child dependant. In addition, an asylum seeker can also apply to a health board for a single payment of supplementary welfare allowance to meet an exceptional need. These payments are generally made for the purchase of clothing and are not subject to the habitual residence condition.

My Department asked each health board to furnish data on the number of applications for supplementary welfare allowance, including rent supplement, which have been refused on habitual residence grounds. Six boards have responded so far and they report that some 68 applications were refused on habitual residence grounds during the month of May. This includes nationals of the accession states as well as nationals of other countries. A more detailed breakdown is not available.

I am satisfied that the introduction of the habitual residence condition will not adversely affect asylum seekers in the direct provision system.

Question No. 84 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

85 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will reverse the decision taken in budget 2004 to restrict the back-to-work allowance to those who are three years or more unemployed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13950/04]

The back-to-work allowance scheme which was introduced in September 1993 is part of my Department's programme of initiatives designed to assist long-term unemployed people, lone parents and other social welfare recipients to return to the active labour force. There are two strands to the scheme, the back to work enterprise allowance for self-employment and the back to work allowance for employees.

The allowance was introduced at a time when long-term unemployment stood at 8.9%. In its early years the scheme proved very effective in helping people who had been long-term unemployed to return to the labour force. However, changes in labour market conditions since the mid-1990s have reduced the need for the scheme. This is illustrated by the drop in numbers availing of it in recent years. At present, there are 14,060 participants in the scheme, compared to 39,343 in October 2000 when the scheme reached its peak.

The scheme was reviewed in 2002 in light of economic and labour market changes and, in particular, the drop in unemployment levels since the introduction of the scheme in 1993. This review also took account of an evaluation of the scheme by independent consultants. They recommended that the scheme should be restructured in light of the changes in the labour market. In particular, the review recommended that the scheme be refocused on the longer-term unemployed, that the non-financial supports be enhanced and that the overall numbers on the scheme be reduced.

In January 2003, therefore, the qualifying period for persons on unemployment benefit-assistance was increased to five years. Recipients of other social welfare qualifying payments were not affected by the change. The scheme is continually monitored to ensure its relevance to current labour market and economic conditions. I recognised that there was some difficulty being experienced by persons wishing to enter self-employment after five years' attachment to the live register. I announced in budget 2004 that the qualifying period for access to the self-employed strand of the scheme would be reduced to three years for those in receipt of an unemployment payment.

Effectively from March 2004 persons in receipt of unemployment benefit-assistance accessing the self-employed strand of the scheme only require three years on their payment to qualify for participation in the scheme. I will continue to monitor the scheme but I have no immediate plans to change the existing qualifying criteria.

Michael Ring

Question:

86 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress to date of her review of the supplementary welfare allowance, with particular reference to the rent supplement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17645/04]

The supplementary welfare scheme was selected for review in my Department's series of expenditure reviews largely because of the increasing numbers of recipients on the scheme, the consequent rise in expenditure and the range of changes being proposed in relation to individual aspects of the scheme. The review is being carried out by an interdepartmental working group chaired by my Department and is comprised of representatives from my Department, the Department of Finance, the Department of Health and Children and the health boards.

The review involves a fundamental appraisal of the scheme in which all of its aspects are being examined with the aim of improving customer service and administrative efficiency. The review also provides an opportunity to address the role of the health boards' community welfare service generally in tackling poverty and social exclusion.

The working group carried out an extensive consultation process. This resulted in 145 submissions being received by the working group. More than 700 issues were raised in these submissions covering some 18 broad themes. Due to the number and nature of the issues raised, the working group has decided to draw up an interim report. This is being drafted and I hope to receive it shortly.

As the Deputy is aware, I am devoting a considerable amount of effort to reform of the rent supplement element of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. In recognition of the fact that rent supplements had become in effect a scheme of long-term housing support for many people, the Government set up a planning group to rationalise current arrangements for housing support. Our objective is to ensure that long-term housing needs are addressed by providing appropriate solutions rather than through the social welfare system.

Arising from the work of this group, an action plan is now being finalised. The action plan will include criteria for determining which categories of rent supplement recipient will be eligible to have their needs addressed by the housing authorities, an implementation timescale, financing arrangements and other matters. Discussions between my Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in that regard are at an advanced stage and I expect to be in a position to bring proposals to Government shortly.

Food Poverty.

Joan Burton

Question:

87 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on the recent St. Vincent de Paul, Crosscare, and the Combat Poverty Agency report on food poverty here; the efforts her Department has made to ensure that society’s most vulnerable have access to healthy and nutritious food; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17699/04]

Michael Ring

Question:

104 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the extent of the problem of food poverty here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17646/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 104 together.

The recently published study entitled Food Poverty and Policy is an informative and challenging piece of research and will add considerably to awareness of this issue. The study focuses on the relationship between patterns of food consumption, socio-economic circumstance, and issues of affordability and access to food.

In seeking to quantify the extent of food poverty in Ireland, the study draws on earlier research undertaken by the Economic and Social Research Institute. It notes that a high proportion of those living in consistent poverty experienced deprivation in relation to the three food related basic deprivation indicators. However, the proportion of individuals going without each item declined significantly between 1994 and 2001, reflecting the fall in consistent poverty generally, which is down from 15.1% in 1994 to 5.2% in 2001.

The study found that socially disadvantaged people: eat less well compared to those from socially advantaged groups; spend relatively more money on food; have difficulty accessing a variety of nutritionally balanced good quality and affordable foodstuffs; and are restricted by a combination of factors, including their dependants, personal preferences, access to shops and financial limitations, in maintaining a healthy diet.

The study recognises the crucial importance of school meals' provision in addressing food poverty among children. The school meals programme operated by my Department makes an important contribution to ensuring that school children receive better nutrition and contributes to improved school attendance and quality of learning. The current programme provides funding for the urban school meals scheme, which operates in conjunction with certain local authorities, as well as for a number of locally operated school meals projects in place in both urban and rural areas.

In 2003, €3.29 million was spent on the school meals programme. It is estimated that 382 schools, with a total of more than 50,650 pupils benefited from the urban scheme, while 347 schools and voluntary organisations received funding which benefited approximately 26,000 children under local school meals projects. Budget 2004 provided €6.08 million for the programme.

My Department is working with the Department of Education and Science to extend the school meals programme. In this regard the Department of Education and Science is using its schools completion programme and Giving Children an Even Break initiative to target disadvantaged schools. It is actively promoting the school meals programme through the local schools completion programme co-ordinators.

The range of recommendations advanced in the Food Poverty and Policy study will be carefully considered both by my Department and by other relevant Departments.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

88 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her proposals to improve or extend the availability of the carer’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17698/04]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

100 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she plans to give recognition to the vital work full-time family carers provide to this State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17649/04]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

105 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will relax the means test for carer’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17650/04]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

107 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when she will implement the programme for Government commitment to expand the income limits for the carer’s allowance in order that all persons on average industrial incomes can qualify. [17540/04]

Seán Haughey

Question:

604 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has plans to abolish the means test for the carer’s allowance; if she will substantially increase the income disregards to allow more persons qualify for this benefit; her views on whether this would reduce the cost to the State of nursing home care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17736/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

614 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will evaluate the total number of cases whereby carers are providing a service but do not qualify for carer’s allowance with a view to extending and improving the scheme to enable more persons qualify; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17881/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

615 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the moneys saved to the Exchequer by numerous carers who do not currently receive a payment with a view to acknowledging such contribution by way of recompense; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17882/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88, 100, 105, 107, 604, 614 and 615 together.

Supporting carers in our society has been a priority of the Government since 1997. Over that period weekly payment rates to carers have been greatly increased, qualifying conditions for carer's allowance have been significantly eased, coverage of the scheme has been extended and new schemes such as carer's benefit and the respite care grant introduced.

The Central Statistics Office, CSO, included a question in the 2002 census to identify the number of persons providing unpaid personal care for a friend or family member with a long-term illness, health problem or disability. The analysis of this portion of the census found that: 40,500 people provide 43 hours or more unpaid personal help per week, or more than six hours per day; 23,400 people provide 15 to 42 hours unpaid personal help per week, or between two and six hours per day; and 84,900 people provide one to 14 hours unpaid personal help per week, or up to two hours per day.

There are currently approximately 22,000 carers in receipt of carer's allowance or carer's benefit. This means that more than 50% of the 40,500 carers, as estimated by the CSO to be caring for more than six hours per day, are in receipt of a specific carer's payment from the Department of Social and Family Affairs. However, people providing lower levels of care would not necessarily meet all the qualifying conditions for receipt of a carer's allowance.

The primary objective of the carer's allowance is to provide income support to low income carers. In line with other social assistance schemes, the means test is applied to the carer's allowance so as to ensure that limited resources are directed to those in greatest need. The means test applied to the allowance has been eased significantly in the past few years, most notably with the introduction of disregards of spouses' earnings.

In April 2004 the weekly income disregards increased to €250 for a single carer and to €500 for a couple. The effect of this increase will, for example, ensure that a couple with two children, earning a joint annual income of up to €29,328 can qualify for the maximum rate of carer's allowance, while the same couple, if they had an income of €46,384 could still qualify for the minimum carer's allowance, the free schemes and the respite care grant.

As average industrial earnings in December 2003 were approximately €29,100 per annum, good progress is being made towards the commitment in the Programme for Government that all persons on average industrial earnings will be able to qualify for the carer's allowance. The complete abolition of the means test would have substantial cost implications. It is estimated that abolition of the means test could cost in the region of €180 million per annum. It is debatable whether this could be considered to be the best use of resources. The views of some support and health organisations is that if resources of this scale were available, it would be more beneficial to carers to invest in the type of community care services which would support them in their caring role, such as additional respite care facilities, more home helps, public health nurses and other such services.

While matters relating to the nursing home subvention are the responsibility of the Minister for Health and Children, I will say that, while the abolition of the carer's allowance means test might have some impact on recourse to the nursing home subvention, it would not reduce the overall cost of care. Research suggests that community care can be as costly, if not more so, than institutional care where a proper and adequate range of community services are provided. Government policy is strongly in favour of supporting care in the community and enabling people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. The development of the range of supports for carers will continue to be a priority for this Government and, building on the foundations now in place, we will continue to develop the types of services which recognise the value of the caring ethos and which provide real support and practical assistance to the people involved.

Question No. 89 answered with QuestionNo. 83.

Social Welfare Fraud.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

90 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the efforts her Department is making to prevent fraudulent social welfare claims; the amount her Department estimates has been claimed fraudulently here for each of the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17716/04]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

118 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the payments from her Department which are most subjected to fraud; and the extent to which. [17730/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 118 together.

Fraud against the social welfare system arises in a number of different ways. In some instances persons claiming social welfare payments make false declarations or conceal material facts in order to obtain payment. In other cases there is deliberate failure to notify the Department of a change in circumstances or failure by an employer to comply with PRSI regulations.

The control strategy of my Department which was revised in 2003 provides for a three-pronged approach to control: prevention — having systems and procedures in place that prevent and minimise the risk of incorrect payments, fraud and abuse; detection — detecting incorrect payments, fraud and abuse of schemes and unpaid PRSI contributions by employers and the self-employed at the earliest possible stage; and deterrence — ensuring that the public are aware of the risks and penalties of defrauding the social welfare system and dealing decisively with cases of fraud and abuse detected, including prosecutions where necessary.

This strategy entails the use of a mix of measures to control fraud and abuse. These include desk review of claim papers, home visits, the issue of mailshots to selected claimants, database checking and employer inspections and medical reviews in the case of illness payments. The detection of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system is an integral part of the day-to-day work of my Department. The work of all staff who are engaged in any aspect of claims processing is to some degree concerned with preventing and detecting fraud and abuse.

There are some 600 staff at local, regional and national level whose work is entirely or significantly related to the control of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system. Some 300 of these are responsible for routine investigations under the various schemes and for reporting on and following up suspected cases of fraud where they are discovered. As a result of control activities carried out by these staff, savings of €851 million were achieved during the years 2001, 2002 and 2003.

Controls are exercised at both the initial claim stage and at subsequent stages during the claim life cycle. Claims are reviewed on a regular and targeted basis. Means tested payments are reviewed at certain intervals or when there are indications of a change in circumstances, which may not have been reported to the Department. Those in receipt of illness payments are called for a medical examination by the Department's medical assessors. Customers in receipt of unemployment payments are also checked on an ongoing basis to verify continued compliance with such requirements as being available for and genuinely seeking employment. The Department also has a programme of employer inspections to ensure compliance with the provisions relating to PRSI.

The control programme is carefully monitored and the various measures are continuously refined to ensure that they remain effective. The total amount of overpayments set up as a result of detected fraud or suspected fraud for the years in question was €11 million in 2001, €11.8 million in 2002 and €13.7 million in 2003. The payments most subjected to fraud for these years were those paid to unemployment recipients which accounted for €6.4 million — 58% — in 2001; €8.1 million — 69% — in 2002; and €9.7 million — 71% — in 2003.

It is my Department's policy to seek recovery of all moneys incorrectly paid and every effort is made to recover overpayments in full, having regard to the provisions of a code of practice which is in place to regulate this process. Overpayments which result from fraud are given greatest priority and their recovery is vigorously pursued.

Plans are being put in place for a new central overpayments and debt management system within my Department. When fully operational, this will provide a facility to enhance the targeting of control work, make overpayment recovery more effective and provide better and more up to date information on the main types of fraud occurring within the schemes.

My Department's policy is to consider all cases of fraud for prosecution and revised prosecution guidelines were issued to staff in February 2003. The issue of these guidelines has had a significant impact on the number of cases submitted to the Chief State Solicitor's office to initiate prosecutions during the period in question — 177 in 2001; 245 in 2002 and 405 in 2003. Current trends indicate that there will be some 600 such cases in 2004.

I am committed to ensuring that social welfare payments are available to those who are entitled to them and that they are delivered in an effective and efficient way. I am also determined to ensure that abuse of the system is prevented and is dealt with effectively when detected and I will take whatever steps are necessary to achieve this.

Question No. 91 answered with QuestionNo. 78.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

92 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on a recent report by the ESRI on the number of work poor households here; the efforts she has made to reduce the number of work-poor households throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17700/04]

The recently published ESRI report, Work-poor Households: The Welfare Implications of Changing Household Employment Patterns, examines how the employment situation of working age Irish households has changed over a period of remarkable economic and employment growth between 1994 and 2000.

The report found that households where none of the adults of working age 18 to 64 years were working fell from 22% in 1994 to less than 14% in 2000. The rate of work poor households, which was one of the highest in the EU in 1985, fell to the EU average by 2000. The report showed that the decline in joblessness was particularly strong among households with children. In 1994, 27% of children lived in jobless households, but this fell to 9% in 2000. This is a particularly positive development in the context of the Government's objective of reducing child poverty.

Those households shown to be at particular risk of joblessness were the households of older people aged 55 to 64 years, lone parents, those with a chronic health problem or disability, those without qualifications and those with a history of unskilled work. These types of household were also more likely to be persistently work poor, that is, to have no one in employment for three or more years.

The report highlights the importance of employment as a route out of poverty and the significant progress which has been made in this regard. It also highlights the central role of poor educational outcomes in increasing vulnerability to household joblessness. Improving access to and completion of formal education is thus a key policy tool in preventing households becoming work poor.

The proportion of work poor households headed up by lone parents fell from 70% of such households in 1997 to 41% in 2000. The report does, however, raise concerns about the quality and long-term sustainability of some forms of lone parent employment. Of households where the reference person was disabled or chronically ill, 60% were found to be persistently work poor. Sickness or disability benefits accounted for the biggest share of welfare income among work poor households in 2000. The study notes that the disabled and chronically ill can face a number of barriers to participation in the labour market and reinforces the need for these barriers to be addressed.

The report will be of particular value in the ongoing development of the Government's anti-poverty strategy and in focusing attention on the needs of those categories of households most likely to have no one in work.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Pat Breen

Question:

93 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has satisfied herself that all persons entitled to social welfare payments have their attention drawn to their entitlements; if she has plans for additional promotional or information campaigns to ensure that persons have their attention drawn to their entitlements; if her Department evaluates the effect of information and promotional campaigns on the uptake of entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17652/04]

An essential element of the effective delivery of the social welfare schemes and services for which my Department is responsible is the provision of comprehensive information in a clear and simple manner. The objective of my Department's information policy is to ensure that all citizens are made aware of their entitlements across all social welfare schemes and supports and are kept informed of changes and improvements as they occur.

My Department directs information to citizens on new schemes and services through advertising, using an appropriate mix of national and provincial media, and through information leaflets, fact sheets, posters and direct mailshots. All our schemes and services are publicised on our website atwww.welfare.ie Selective use is also made of free-phone telephone services to provide information on new schemes and services and at particular times of the year, such as budget time.

As regards information products, my Department produces a comprehensive range of information booklets covering each social welfare payment. These are widely available from the network of 130 social welfare local offices and branch offices throughout the country as well as from citizen's information centres and many local organisations. Information is also available from information officers located in social welfare local offices who give talks to many groups and organisations and attend exhibitions and seminars.

My Department also works closely with voluntary and community organisations involved in an information giving role. A number of such organisations receive funding on an annual basis towards the cost of providing welfare rights and information services for their target groups.

Consultation with our customers is another route towards understanding their needs and expectations. We use a range of methods such as customer panels, customer surveys and comment cards. The findings of our customer surveys are, in the main, very positive and show a high overall satisfaction rating with the services provided, including information provision.

I should also refer to the work of Comhairle which is the national information agency coming under the aegis of my Department with responsibility for supporting the provision of independent information, advice and other supports to all citizens, including those with disabilities. Comhairle supports a network of some 85 citizen's information centres whose role is to provide information to members of the public on the full range of social services.

As regards upcoming promotional campaigns, my Department is planning later this year to promote the role of our social welfare local offices as key information contact points in disseminating information on social welfare entitlements across all age groups. In addition, we plan to undertake an information campaign designed to promote carer's benefit for insured workers who leave work to care for persons in need of full-time care and attention.

The primary purpose of advertising by my Department is to reach the relevant target audience and I am satisfied that that objective is generally met. In so far as is possible, surveys are undertaken to assess the impact of advertising campaigns in terms of scheme uptake and the results are generally positive. For example, a survey undertaken following an extensive campaign promoting the personal public services number in 2003 year showed an awareness level of 82% compared with a corresponding level of the order of 15% from a 2001 survey.

Question No. 94 answered with QuestionNo. 76.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

95 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the strategic plan 2004-2006 from One Family, which calls for equality and social inclusion for one-parent families here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17708/04]

I welcome the new stage in the development of this organisation, formerly known as Cherish and now renamed One Family, which has been providing, very effectively, support and empowerment for one-parent families for more than 30 years. Its overall aim now is to affect positive change and achieve equality and social inclusion for all one-parent families. Its strategic plan for 2004-06 sets out how it plans to achieve that aim through helping all one-parent families in providing for their basic needs, advancing their rights and working to affect positive change.

Prior to the release of the plan I met with the director of One Family and discussed with her the goals set out in the plan. I share the commitment of One Family to achieving equality and social inclusion for one-parent families. Its position and proposals will be fully taken into account in the strategy on supports for families being prepared for issue before end year, and in the ongoing context of the national anti-poverty strategy, given the vulnerability of this group to poverty and social exclusion.

Employment is the best route out of poverty. Reconciling work and family life is a major problem for one parent families. Priority will be given to further developing the supports given to lone parents who opt to work outside the home in enabling them to meet both the demands of work and care for family.

One Family offers a comprehensive range of professional services to one parent families, those experiencing a crisis pregnancy and those working with one parent families. I was pleased to be in a position to approve a grant of €4,000 this year under the scheme of grants for marriage and relationship counselling to assist in increasing its current capacity and the accessibility of its counselling services. I look forward to working with the organisation in light of its strategic plan on both policy development and improved service provision, and towards meeting their aims for one parent families of greater equality and social inclusion brought about by positive change.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

96 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding the implementation of an all-Ireland free travel scheme of pensioners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17707/04]

Under existing arrangements free travel pass holders in Northern Ireland and the Republic can undertake free travel within their own jurisdictions. They can also avail of free cross-border journeys on bus and rail services. As the Deputy will be aware, the programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce a system of all-Ireland free travel for pensioners and other eligible social welfare customer categories. This would enable pass holders to make onward journeys free of charge in the other jurisdiction.

I intend to have this scheme in operation before the end of the Government's term of office. Officials from my Department have held initial discussions on the all-Ireland free travel scheme with their counterparts in the Department for Regional Development for Northern Ireland, in the context of regular liaison between the two organisations in regard to the existing cross-border free travel scheme.

A number of policy and operational issues must resolved in regard to the proposed new scheme, including options for joint funding and the possible use of smart cards My Department will continue to progress these issues with the northern authorities and participating transport operators, with the intention of finalising contracts and funding provisions for the new scheme as soon as possible.

Pension Provisions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

97 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons currently in receipt of a State pension; her Department’s assessment of the numbers of persons likely to be in receipt of State pensions over the next decade and the provisions which are being made in that regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17709/04]

At the end of May 2004, there were 202,710 people receiving an old age contributory or retirement pension and 85,877 receiving an old age non-contributory pension. An actuarial review of the social insurance fund, undertaken on behalf of my Department in 2002, projected that the number of recipients of old age contributory and retirement pensions will increase to 255,000 by 2011 and 321,000 by 2016. The increase will, to some extent, be balanced by a reduction in the number of people receiving an old age non-contributory pension. The numbers receiving this pension have declined by more than 20% in the last ten years, which reflects improved social insurance coverage and increased labour force participation, particularly among women.

In common with other European countries, the population of Ireland is ageing as a result of a combination of increasing life expectancy and a declining birth rate. The decline in the birth rate is relatively recent and this, coupled with the effects of high emigration for much of the period up to the 1990s, has resulted in Ireland having the lowest proportion of older people in the EU with 11.2% aged 65 and over, compared to the current EU average of 16.1%.

The proportion of older people in Ireland will remain at broadly the same level for the next ten years after which it is projected to increase rapidly to 15% in 2021, 19% in 2031 and 28% in 2056. A similar situation exists in regard to the number of pensioners relative to the number at work. Ageing, therefore, presents the same challenge to Ireland in meeting growing pension costs as to other countries except that we have a longer period to prepare for its full impact. The population projections suggest no special measures are required in the timescale envisaged by the Deputy. However, the Government is making preparations, through the national pensions reserve fund, to part fund State pensions costs from 2025 onwards.

Pensions have been an important issue at EU level in recent years. This is not surprising given that the challenges facing pensions systems are more immediate for other member states. The EU has assessed national pensions systems under the agreed objectives of adequacy, financial sustainability and modernisation. In this regard, a joint EU Commission and Council report, published in 2003, considered that Ireland has made good progress in ensuring both the financial sustainability and adequacy of our pensions system. The report concluded our system appears to be, in broad terms, financially sustainable despite projected major increases in future pensions expenditure. The situation will be kept under review.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

98 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the total projected savings in her Department arising from cuts introduced in the budget for 2004; the areas in respect of which savings have occurred and the extent to which; the number of persons to date affected by these cuts; the extent or degree to which their payment or entitlement has been restricted or affected; the number of applicants who have been refused rent supplement under the six months rule; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17697/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

610 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons whose payment or entitlements have been cut or disallowed since the introduction of the 2004 budget; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17877/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 610 together.

The questions relates to the effect of the measures announced in November 2003 in the context of the 2004 Estimates. These measures included changes to the back to education allowance, one parent family payment, certain child dependant allowance, changes in the conditions of entitlement to short-term social insurance payments and changes in the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, including rent supplements under that scheme. The measures were projected to yield savings of €55.8 million in 2004.

In some instances, including the back to education allowance and certain changes in unemployment benefit, the changes have not come into operation. In other cases, where changes have been implemented, it is not possible to quantify precisely the numbers affected by the measures in question or the accruing savings in that, where disallowances occur, the specific reasons for such disallowances may not be recorded on payment computer systems.

Data are, however, available in most cases on numbers in receipt of the relevant payments immediately before the measures were introduced and the current position. This data supply some indication of the number of persons affected but it is important to note that the number in receipt of a scheme can and does fluctuate for a wide variety of reasons, such as, for example, seasonal factors in the case of unemployment.

With regard to the one-parent family payment scheme, where transitional half-rate payments were discontinued, there are 460 recipients of such payments, a reduction of 120. These transitional arrangements provided for the retention of entitlement to half of the previous level of payment for one year where a recipient exceeded the weekly earnings threshold of €293 per week.

With regard to short-term social insurance claims, the period for linking claims to previous claims was increased from 13 to 26 weeks. The number of linked claims has increased by 2,800 to 21,900. This measure does not directly affect the rate of benefit payable, but may cause entitlement to exhaust earlier. This effect will, in certain cases, be offset by the retention of entitlements which would not have applied without the extended linking period. Persons who exhaust their entitlement to unemployment or disability benefit may claim unemployment assistance or supplementary welfare allowance, respectively.

It is not possible to establish the numbers affected by the increase from 39 to 52 in the number of paid contributions required for entitlement to benefit. Affected persons may claim unemployment assistance or supplementary welfare allowance, as appropriate. The earnings threshold for payment of graduated rates of short-term social insurance was raised from €88.88 to €150 to restore the previous relationship with standard rates of payment. The number of graduated rates of payment has increased by 2,000 to 8,500. Affected persons may be entitled to unemployment assistance or supplementary welfare allowance, as appropriate.

In the case of child dependant allowance payments to recipients of disability and unemployment benefit, there were 63,000 payments of half-rate allowance in payment in cases where the spouse-partner of the recipient was in employment and earning more than €210 per week, the then limit. This allowance was discontinued where earnings exceed €300 per week. The number of such allowances in payment is 46,000 and the weekly rate payable is €8.40 per child.

In the case of supplementary welfare allowance the numbers of rent supplement payments have decreased since the beginning of 2004 to 58,100, a drop of 1,900. The minimum contribution for all recipients increased by €1 per week. Data are not available on the numbers of persons affected by the requirement, in certain cases, to have been in rented accommodation for six months.

The number of crèche supplements has fallen from 1,800 to 1,450 while the number of MABS supplements has fallen from 370 to 240. The number of diet supplements has fallen from 13,580 to 13,180. The rate payable to persons who were in receipt of the supplement prior to its commencement in January is unchanged and the rate payable to claimants in 2004 depends on their means and the category of diet which they are on.

I would like to re-emphasise that the changes in numbers outlined may be due in part to factors other than the policy changes which were made. I am satisfied the measures in question have been implemented in a way which respects the original purpose of the schemes and services in question. Furthermore, these measures produced savings which, in turn, were directly reinvested in a substantial 2004 budget package of €630 million. A budget package of this magnitude enabled the provision of increases well ahead of inflation for all social welfare recipients of weekly payments as well as significant general improvements in social welfare provision generally.

Question No. 99 answered with QuestionNo. 76.
Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 88.

Proposed Legislation.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

101 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason she views this country as not ready for legislation protecting the legal rights of all co-habiting couples, regardless of sexual orientation. [17731/04]

The Deputy is referring to a reply I gave to a press query during the Irish Presidency conference, Families, Change and Social Policy in Europe, on the recognition of same sex partners with children as a form of family. My comment was that, "in terms of official recognition, I do not think Ireland is ready to accept gay marriages as a social norm."

The conference was examining the profound social, economic and demographic changes taking place and the impact these are having on families, which would encompass same sex couples. Much has been done to afford legal protection to gay and lesbian people as individuals, through the decriminalising of homosexual activity for those who have reached the age of consent and through prohibiting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

A further stage is to afford legal protection to same sex couples living together in a long term relationship. One option would be to afford such relationships the same legal protection as that currently afforded married couples though this may not be generally accepted. It could be counterproductive, and even detrimental to the interests of gays and lesbians, to go against public opinion on such a sensitive issue. I do recognise, however, that same sex couples have the same needs, as a couple, for family life, as other citizens, and that appropriate legal protection for that relationship should be provided in that regard.

The Law Reform Commission has addressed this issue in a recent report in the context of the granting of legal protection to cohabiting couples. I trust this report will help to inform public opinion on the various issues involved and on various possibilities for their resolution. I hope it will lead to a calm and constructive debate and thus help in promoting the further social inclusion of gays and lesbians, to which I, as Minister for both Social and Family affairs, am fully committed.

In addition, I have given a commitment to a review of the overall social welfare code in regard to the requirements of the Equal Status Act 2000. The Equality Authority has welcomed this review, which will be conducted in consultation with all interested parties. The review will be based on a framework to be agreed with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The scope and terms of reference of the review and the necessary arrangements for undertaking it are being considered.

Child Poverty.

Seán Crowe

Question:

102 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the measures she has put in place since taking office to tackle child poverty. [17544/04]

Tackling child poverty has been and continues to be amongst my key priorities since taking office. Child poverty can seriously diminish the experience and enjoyment of childhood. It can also greatly inhibit the realisation of the potential of children, which can not only have major negative lifelong consequences for their individual well being, but also, in economic terms, for human capital and for social cohesion.

Strategies to address child poverty and the measures to give effect to them are set out in the revised national anti-poverty strategy, the national children's strategy and, more recently, in the national action plan against poverty and social exclusion. The overall target is to reduce the number of children who are consistently poor to below 2% by 2007 and, if possible, to eliminate consistent poverty amongst children by then. Significant progress has been made towards achieving this target. By 2001, the number of children who are consistently poor had fallen to 6.5% — down from 15.3% in 1997.

One of the key factors underpinning this reduction in child poverty is the reduction in the numbers of parents who are unemployed. Our aim is to continue to maintain high levels of employment and to remove obstacles to taking up employment, especially in the case of lone parents and parents with large families. This approach is reflected in the investment that has been made in child benefit, which offers an effective means of channelling income support to low income families in order to tackle child poverty. Payments amount to €131.60 for the first and second children and €165.30 for third and subsequent children.

The importance of tackling child poverty is reflected in the fact that ending child poverty was identified as one of ten special initiatives being undertaken under Sustaining Progress. Under this initiative, key policy issues are being addressed, including, for instance: child income support arrangements; the development of a strategy for strengthening families; initiation of a longitudinal study of children; and barriers to employment, particularly for lone parents and larger families. The work being undertaken under the special initiative will further enhance our capacity to tackle the issue of child poverty.

Social Welfare Code.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

103 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will consider family proofing Government policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17647/04]

The development of integrated policies to support families is one of my main priorities as Minister with responsibility for family affairs. It is my intention to provide for the ongoing development of such policies in a strategy for families and family life to be published before the end of this year, the tenth anniversary of the UN International Year of the Family. I intend that the strategy will set out the trends in regard to families and family life, the challenges to be faced, the appropriate strategies to meet these challenges, the measures to be taken to give effect to the strategies in the immediate term and the measures to be planned for in the longer term. It will include the institutional arrangements required to ensure the measures are implemented in an integrated effective manner.

I also envisage provision for monitoring implementation of the strategies, evaluating outcomes, adapting existing policies and programmes and, as necessary, developing new ones to ensure families can continue to function effectively at a time of profound change. The strategy will be based and will build on the report of the Commission on the Family and on the nation-wide consultation I undertook last year, which is still ongoing. Full account will be taken of the findings of the research carried out by the UN, OECD, and the Council of Europe, and not least the findings of the international conference hosted by the Irish Presidency in May entitled Families, Change and Social Policy in Europe, supported by the EU Commission. The report on this conference will be published shortly.

The Commission on the Family in its report recommended that consideration be given to provision for family impact assessments on Government policies and programmes, which would be akin to the family proofing of Government policies referred to by the Deputy. The Commission's proposal was based on recommendations in a 1995 UN publication entitled Indicative Guide for Action on Families. Family proofing or family impact assessments of Government policies could be useful tools for monitoring and evaluating relevant policies that affect families and, accordingly, their use will be examined in the context of drawing up the strategy.

Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 87.
Question No. 105 answered with QuestionNo. 88.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

106 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will remove the €107 cap on rent supplement in view of the hardship it is causing. [17541/04]

Seán Ryan

Question:

117 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on the ESRI report, Housing, Poverty and Wealth in Ireland; her further views on whether increases in the rent supplement are the best way to support persons vulnerable to high rents set by landlords; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17706/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 117 together.

Following a review of the maximum rent limits carried out in my Department last year I increased the €107 limit to €115 with effect from 1 January 2004. I am satisfied that, rather than having an adverse impact, setting maximum levels has improved the position of people on low incomes in acquiring accommodation because it has a stabilising effect on the market. Setting maximum rent limits higher than are justified by the open market distorts the rental market and leads to a general rise in rent levels that disadvantages people on low incomes.

The ESRI study, to which the Deputy refers, was carried out for the Combat Poverty Agency. It is based on data from the 2000 Living in Ireland survey and earlier surveys and was completed in 2003. One of its key findings is that problems with the affordability of dwellings are most severe in the private rented sector and that they have the greatest impact from a poverty perspective in that sector. The study found that from 1987 to 1999-2000, the share of household expenditure absorbed by rent among private tenants increased 1.7 times from 12.5% to 21% while the share of household expenditure taken up by mortgage payments remained more or less stable at approximately 10%.

Under the terms of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on behalf of my Department by the health boards, payment of a weekly or monthly supplement may be made in respect of rent to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and who have no other accommodation available to them. The purpose of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme is to deal with emergencies and short term needs that arise when a person suffers a change in circumstances, for example, when a tenant becomes unemployed and can no longer afford to pay rent.

Rent supplements were never intended to meet a person's long-term housing needs as this is best met through housing by the local authorities. In recognition of the fact that the rent supplement scheme had, in effect, become a long-term housing support for many people the Government set up a working group to rationalise current arrangements for housing support. Our objective is to ensure long-term housing needs are addressed through providing appropriate solutions with the involvement of the housing authorities rather than through the social welfare system.

An interdepartmental planning group was established to draw up detailed proposals for the implementation of revised arrangements. Arising from the work of this group an action plan is being finalised and this will include criteria for determining which categories of rent supplement recipient will be eligible to have their needs addressed by the housing authorities, an implementation timescale and other matters. I expect to put proposals to Government on this matter shortly.

Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 88.

Social Welfare Code.

Dan Neville

Question:

108 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the efforts she has made to reduce the risk of poverty faced by lone parents, persons with disabilities and the elderly, particularly elderly women; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17654/04]

The most recent figures on poverty levels in Ireland are based on the analysis by the Economic and Social Research Institute of the results of the 2001 Living in Ireland survey. This analysis indicates that the highest risk of experiencing consistent poverty is faced by lone parents, families with four or more children, people with disabilities and the unemployed.

The consistent poverty measure identifies the numbers who are experiencing income poverty and basic deprivation in terms of being consistently deprived of goods and services regarded as essential for living in Ireland today. The level of consistent poverty has fallen steadily from 15% in 1994 to 5.2% in 2001. We have set a target in the national anti-poverty strategy of reducing consistent poverty to below 2% by 2007 and, ideally, eliminating it altogether.

The analysis also indicates that the at risk of poverty rate, that is, the number of people with incomes below 60% of equivalised median income, has increased overall from 19.8% in 1998 to 21.9% in 2001. It also indicates that the risk of falling below that income threshold is highest for the elderly, lone parents, the larger families, the ill or disabled, persons on home duties and the unemployed.

There are a number of factors which contribute to the relatively high at risk of poverty rate. During periods of high economic growth, increases in household income can outstrip even substantial increases in the incomes of households with relatively low earnings or on social welfare. This is what happened in Ireland in recent years. There were particular circumstances in the period from the mid-1990s when a combination of increased female participation in the workforce, reduced unemployment generally, tax reform and, crucially, high earnings growth caused very large increases in household income. These increases in household incomes were substantially higher than increases both in individual earnings and social welfare incomes over this period, despite virtually unprecedented improvements in employment and social provision across the board in this period.

The policies pursued by the Government over recent years with regard to income supports have brought about significant improvements in the situation of people in receipt of such supports. In the period from 1998 to 2003, for example, the value of the lowest social welfare payments increased by more than 50% in nominal terms and by 19% in real terms. In the case of pensioners, the increases awarded have been higher again with the old age contributory pension increasing by almost 26% in real terms and the old age non-contributory pension increasing by 33% in real terms over the same period. With regard to persons with disabilities, the weekly personal rate of disability allowance has increased by more than 57% or a real increase in excess of 26% since 1997. The 2004 budget continued this progression, as it included a social welfare package of €630 million and the effect of this increase is that the total social welfare spend in 2004 will be almost double that of 1997. As a result, my Department now has an annual budget of more than €11 billion to support those who are vulnerable, less well off or disadvantaged in our society.

The Government's determination to continue to improve the position of the most vulnerable in our society is reflected in the revised national anti-poverty strategy, NAPS, and in the national action plan against poverty and social exclusion which contain ambitious targets across a number of areas, including that of increasing the minimum social welfare rate to €150 per week, in 2002 terms, by 2007. The challenge now is to sustain and build on the progress we have made to date so that we can achieve our overarching objective of building a more inclusive society.

Social Welfare Expenditure.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

109 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to recent statistics from EUROSTAT showing that social expenditure here is at 14.6% of gross domestic product, in contrast to the European average of 27.5%; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17702/04]

EUROSTAT, the statistical office of the EU, publishes comparisons of social protection expenditure as a percentage of GDP across the EU. This encompasses not only social welfare expenditure but also expenditure in other areas such as health care, social housing, employment support programmes and other social inclusion programmes.

The latest such statistics were released on 23 April 2004 and deal with developments up to and including 2001. No comparable figures are yet available for 2002 or 2003. When examining such data it is important to remember that gross expenditure measures do not take account of social charges or taxes which may be levied on benefits after they are paid, nor do they include transfers made by means of tax concessions as opposed to direct cash payments. The EUROSTAT release draws attention to the fact the European average masks major national differences in the structure of social protection funding.

The level of expenditure is also significantly influenced by the age profile of the population. Ireland, with one of the youngest populations in the EU, needs to spend less on pensions and health care and care of the elderly than most other member states. In addition, social protection expenditure as a percentage of GDP is crucially dependent on the pace of economic growth and the level of unemployment. Statistics show that at EU level, between 1993 and 1996, social protection expenditure relative to GDP stabilised at a level below the peak of 28.8% in 1993. This was due to renewed GDP growth and slower growth in social protection expenditure, particularly related to unemployment benefits. Over the period from 1996, the EU average dropped from 28.4% to the level of 27.5% in 2001. Ireland's position mirrored that of the EU as a whole, except that the level of economic growth and the decline in unemployment were much greater in Ireland than in most other EU countries and, consequently, the drop in the percentage of GDP accounted for by social protection expenditure was greater. The fact is that under this Government, there have been sustained and substantial increases in social protection expenditure. The EUROSTAT report states that the increase in real terms expenditure on social protection in four EU countries, including Ireland at 4.7% per annum, over the period 1992 to 2001 was "particularly marked". The EU average was 1.9%. The EUROSTAT figures show a 40% increase in theper capita expenditure on social protection in Ireland in the period 1994 to 2001, compared with an EU average of 13.9%. The Government will continue to address the scope for further improvements in Ireland’s social protection infrastructure, guided by the national anti-poverty strategy, while at the same time continuing to take the measures necessary to maintain economic growth and competitiveness and thereby generate the resources for further social investment.

Family Support.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

110 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will clarify her recent remarks at an EU conference on families and European social policy that the judicial system here must undergo an attitudinal change if separated fathers are to be allowed play a more active role in the upbringing of their children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17715/04]

The Irish Presidency conference in question examined the theme of "Families, Change and Social Policy in Europe". One of the main changes affecting families is the growing participation of women in the workforce. As a result one of the key challenges to be addressed by families is how to reconcile work and family life.

One outcome is that many women are left to carry the double burden of work and care of home and children. It is still frequently expected that women will give precedence to caregiving, while in the case of men it is still more acceptable to give precedence to the demands of employment. One illustration of this is that 98% of those receiving the one-parent family payment in 2002 were women.

These societal attitudes on the respective parenting roles of men and women are, in my opinion, inevitably reflected in decisions given on arrangements for custody and access to the children when parents decide to separate. Custody is generally awarded to the mother and the arrangements made for access and the way in which these are enforced may not reflect the previous degree of involvement of the father in the child's upbringing and the father's desire for such involvement. In some cases this may result in fathers being denied reasonable access to their children.

It is in the interests of all family members, fathers, mothers and children, that fathers assume a more equal share in the care of their children and that this is more effectively facilitated, especially by employers. This should in time ease the double burden that many women have to bear, contribute to achieving a more effective balance of work and family life, and lead to more effective parenting.

Changes of this kind are unlikely to occur overnight and are for the longer term. In the meantime, the difficulties some fathers are experiencing in gaining access to their children, when they are living separately from the mother, must be addressed and the current legal provisions governing this need to be examined. The mediation services administered by the Family Support Agency can also make a significant immediate contribution, which is one of the reasons I have sought and obtained funding to expand the service further, in the north-west and the midlands this year.

This issue will also be addressed in the strategy on supports for families in preparation for issue before the end of the year. I was pleased in this context to be in a position to fund, as part of the celebrations of the tenth anniversary of the UN International Year of the Family, the first national fathers' conference on 14 June, at which a range of issues affecting unmarried and separated fathers were addressed. I look forward to receiving a report on the outcome of the conference, which will be fully taken into account in developing the strategy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

111 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of citizens of new European Union member countries who have sought assistance from her Department since 1 May 2004; and the number who have not qualified for such assistance. [17725/04]

Since 1 May 2004, applicants for a range of social assistance payments and child benefit must satisfy the condition of being habitually resident in this country to qualify for payment. In the period 1 May 2004 to 10 June 2004, a total of 150 claims involving persons from the ten former accession countries have been received for decision in the central unit of my Department. The habitual residence condition has been satisfied in 61 of these cases and the remainder are pending decision or awaiting further information.

In addition to these 150 cases involving habitual residence, there have been 88 applications made for unemployment benefit from the ten former accession countries. Of these cases, 48 have been awarded, 39 are pending a decision, and one has been disallowed. Unemployment benefit is not subject to the habitual residence condition. I am arranging for a note detailing the relevant payment schemes and salient features of the habitual residence condition to be forwarded to the Deputy.

Social Welfare Code.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

112 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, with higher than expected tax revenues in the year to date, she will review and rescind her cutback decisions of November 2003. [17727/04]

The 2004 Estimates for my Department, announced last November, included a number of provisions to better target resources within the social welfare code. The measures in question produced savings which freed up resources towards a substantial budget 2004 package of €630 million. This enabled the provision of increases well ahead of inflation for all social welfare recipients of weekly payments as well as significant general improvements in social welfare provisions generally.

My Department keeps all its schemes under review so that the total social welfare budget is applied to the best effect in tackling disadvantage and to continue the Government's policy of significant improvement in basic payments to social welfare recipients, as well as other improvements to the social welfare code. The question as to what level of increase in payments or other improvements in existing provisions to be provided in 2005 will be a matter for consideration in the context of the next budget.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Martin Ferris

Question:

113 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons in receipt of supplementary welfare allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17542/04]

The objective of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on behalf of my Department by the health boards, is to provide assistance to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their basic needs.

In addition to a basic weekly allowance, assistance may be provided in the form of supplements which may be paid in respect of needs such as rent, mortgage interest, diet or special heating requirements or in any other case where it appears to the board that the circumstances of the case so warrant. A single payment to meet an exceptional need as well as payments in urgent cases can also be made. There is no automatic right of entitlement to an exceptional need or urgent payment. Such payments are made at the discretion of the health board taking into account all of the circumstances of a case.

The number of recipients of basic supplementary welfare allowance on 4 June 2004 was 29,893. Rent supplements are paid to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation needs. Rent supplements are subject to a means test and are normally calculated to ensure that a person, after the payment of rent, has an income equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to his or her family circumstances, less a minimum contribution of €13 which recipients are required to pay from their own resources. The number of recipients of rent supplement is approximately 58,000.

Mortgage interest supplements are paid in respect of the interest portion of the mortgage repayments only. There are some 3,600 recipients of mortgage interest supplement. Recipients of social welfare or health board payments who have been prescribed a special diet as a result of a specified medical condition may also qualify for a diet supplement under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. There are some 13,000 recipients of diet supplement. A heating supplement is a payment made to a person whose means are insufficient to meet the cost of exceptional heating needs. There are some 3,000 recipients of heating supplements.

Health boards also have the power to award a supplement in any other case where it appears to the board that the circumstances of the case so warrant. The number of recipients of other supplements is approximately 5,500. Under the SWA scheme, a health board may issue payments in urgent cases and to meet an exceptional once-off need which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of his or her weekly income. These payments are known as exceptional and urgent needs payments. There were some 4,500 such payments at the beginning of June 2004. Depending on his or her individual circumstances, a person could receive two or more types of supplementary welfare allowance at any given time. For example, about 13,000 people who receive a basic weekly allowance also receive a rent supplement. In total more than 100,000 people receive a supplementary welfare allowance payment in any given week.

Equality Issues.

Dan Boyle

Question:

114 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will make a statement on the increase in equality complaints made against her Department to the Equality Authority. [17722/04]

The 2003 annual report of the Equality Authority records that there were 23 social welfare-related complaints made to the authority last year, an increase of 11 over the 2002 figure. The authority has confirmed that this figure of 23 is cumulative, that is, it includes complaints that were unresolved at the end of 2002 and carried forward.

The Department works with the Equality Authority to ensure that the equality-diversity dimension continues to underpin and inform our policies and service delivery approach. Examples of this include the development, under the advice of the authority, of diversity awareness training courses for staff, and participation in a working group on equality-diversity, which is chaired by the Equality Authority.

In addition, last year, the office for social inclusion in my Department collaborated with the authority in developing an equality proofing exercise on the national action plan against poverty and social exclusion. There has also been collaboration between the Combat Poverty Agency and the authority. Last June I was pleased to launch their joint report, entitled Poverty and Inequality — Applying an Equality Dimension to Poverty Proofing, which highlights the link between the promotion of equality and the anti-poverty process and offers a template that can be used by policy makers.

I have given a commitment to a review of the overall social welfare code in relation to the requirements of the Equal Status Act 2000. The Equality Authority has welcomed this review which will be done in consultation with all interested parties. The review will be based on a framework to be agreed with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The scope and terms of reference of the review and the necessary arrangements for undertaking it are being considered at present.

Clearly, any complaint made in relation to the provision of social welfare services is a matter of concern to me. A fundamental principle of the Department's customer service strategy is to ensure that every person is treated in an equitable and non-discriminatory way. In that regard, my Department has a well-established comments and complaints procedure and it is open to any person to exercise his or her right of appeal or redress through all the available channels. Any complaints which are made are investigated and any appropriate action which is required is taken.

Family Support Services.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

115 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the closures of crèche facilities in the aftermath of her decision to withdraw the crèche supplement. [17726/04]

Subject to certain conditions, a person whose means are insufficient to meet his or her basic needs and the needs of any adult or child dependant may be entitled to assistance under the terms of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme administered on behalf of my Department by the health boards.

The objective of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme is to meet immediate, short-term income maintenance needs. The scheme is not intended to be a long-term solution in any individual case and it was never intended to be an ongoing source of funding for crèches.

My Department is not aware of the closure of any crèche as a result of the withdrawal of crèche supplement payments under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. Necessary child care services should be funded directly in a sustainable and appropriate manner. In that regard, I point out that this approach has been successfully adopted in certain health boards. The boards in question, along with other agencies have put in place appropriate, long term and sustainable arrangements to meet the needs of the families concerned without requiring them to apply for supplementary welfare allowance. I want to see that approach taken up in the other health board regions so that we have sustainable child care arrangements in place throughout the State.

I have held discussions with officials from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Education and Science as well as health board representatives regarding a more co-ordinated approach to the provision of crèche and pre-school supports. It is a matter for the agencies with responsibility for child care to ensure that adequate arrangements are put in place to meet child care needs. As an interim measure, crèche supplements in payment prior to 1 January 2004 are being allowed to continue. The changes introduced relating to crèche supplements paid under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme are necessary to refocus that scheme on its original objective of providing short-term income support.

In the meantime, health boards retain discretion to provide assistance by way of once-off exceptional needs payments in any case where a board considers that the circumstances of the case so warrant.

Social Welfare Code.

Seán Crowe

Question:

116 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will implement the NAPS commitment that the lowest social welfare payment for a single person will be benchmarked to 30% of gross average industrial earnings by 2007. [17545/04]

The revised national anti-poverty strategy, Building an Inclusive Society, was launched by the Government in February 2002. The key objectives of the strategy are to reduce, and ideally eliminate, consistent poverty; build an inclusive society; and develop social capital, particularly for disadvantaged communities. The strategy sets out a range of targets in the areas of income adequacy, employment and unemployment, education, health, and housing and accommodation. In addition, specific targets have been established in respect of groups identified as being particularly vulnerable to poverty.

In relation to the issue of income adequacy in particular, the target set in the revised NAPS is to achieve a rate of €150 per week in 2002 terms for the lowest social welfare rates by 2007. The target has been restated in the national action plan against poverty and social exclusion for 2003 to 2005 and in Sustaining Progress. The Government remains committed to the achievement of this target.

The issue of the level of increases introduced in any given year is one which must be assessed in the context of the budgetary process, having regard to the level of resources available and the competing demands on those resources. In this regard, it should be noted that the increases provided for in the budget from 2004 fully protect or enhance in real terms the standard of living of all social welfare recipients.

Question No. 117 answered with QuestionNo. 106.
Question No. 118 answered with QuestionNo. 90.

Social Policy.

Mary Upton

Question:

119 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to comments by a leading sociology professor (details supplied) at a recent EU conference in Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17710/04]

The statement in question was made in a wide-ranging paper presented at the international conference organised and hosted by the Irish Presidency, with the support of the European Commission, entitled Families, Change and European Social Policy. One of the family-related changes identified in the paper concerns the growing proportion of couples living together as partners, without entering into marriage and assuming the legal obligations to each other which marriage involves.

Generally up to the recent past, a couple, having decided they wished to have a permanent relationship, would get married and soon afterwards have children. Now, a growing proportion of couples live together on a permanent basis but may postpone marriage indefinitely. Undertaking the responsibilities and obligations of having children becomes a separate decision and some couples may decide to forgo taking on parenting responsibilities given the effect it may have on their lives. This is the disjuncture between partnership and parenting referred to in the paper.

Changes made in regard to gender equality and for safeguarding the rights of children and promoting good parenting themselves make, and will continue to make, a major contribution to individual well-being and quality of life generally. They present, however, new challenges to be addressed in promoting social inclusion and greater social cohesion.

Marriage is now seen by some as unduly restrictive on individual freedom. This may have been in part due to the emphasis in much public debate in recent years on marital breakdown, separation and divorce. There has not been the same emphasis on the extent to which the obligations of marriage can safeguard basically healthy and life-enhancing relationships, especially through difficult periods, provide for individual security and family stability generally and provide a secure emotional environment for the upbringing of children.

The State recognises the pressures that marriage and partnerships generally are under and one of the main tasks of the Family Support Agency, which I formally established last year, is to address these. This includes supporting the provision of counselling to assist couples in overcoming difficulties in their relationships. It also includes a nationwide family mediation service to help couples who decide to separate to come to appropriate arrangements in a constructive, amicable manner on living separately, especially in relation to the custody and access to their children.

Parenting emerged as an issue of major concern for many of those who attended the family fora which I held last year. People are conscious of the scale of the responsibility involved in rearing children in ways that will enable them to succeed in today's world and of all the pitfalls to be avoided. As a result many parents are seeking more guidance and support in regard to effective parenting. There is also a need in this context to place emphasis on the joys as well as the problems associated with parenting and provide much reassurance to parents as to their own innate capacities in this regard.

There will be a role for the Family Support Agency, the health boards and other relevant organisations in ensuring the provision of such parental support. These issues, together with many others related to families and family life identified at the conference and at the public consultation fora, will be addressed in the strategy for supports to families, currently being prepared, which I intend to have available before the end of this year.

Colombia Three.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

120 Mr. O’Connor asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with the President of Colombia with regard to the Colombia Three; if his attention has been drawn to the wide interest in this issue; the assurances these persons have received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17202/04]

I raised the case of the three men detained in Colombia with President Uribe at our recent meeting. My concern was for the safety of the men and I raised with the President the possibility of allowing them home pending an appeal. As of now, I have not had any official communication from the Colombian authorities but I understand they have indicated that the Government there had no objection to the three men being allowed home pending an appeal, but this was a matter for the judiciary there.

Electronic Communications.

John Bruton

Question:

121 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if all public services provided by his Department that are capable of electronic delivery are available electronically through a single point of contact, as was promised in the joint programme; and if not, if he will make a statement or explanation in respect of each service not yet so provided. [17555/04]

The e-Cabinet project is listed as a priority for electronic delivery by my Department. This initiative is somewhat different from most of the other services listed in that its users are the Cabinet and civil servants. Given the user base and the necessity for confidentiality and security, it was never envisaged as a service for delivery under the public services broker — single point of contact — but is being developed as a flagship e-Government initiative. The e-Cabinet project, however, is well advanced. Phase One of the on-line system has now gone live and is available for use by all Departments since May of this year.

Pending the development of the public services broker as the single point of contact for services, the relevant information services pertaining to my department are available at the single on-line location for Irish Government information, www.irlgov.ie, as well on my Department’s website.

Expenditure Reviews.

John Bruton

Question:

122 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if his Department has achieved the target, set out in the initiation of the expenditure review initiative in 1997, that all Government expenditure be subject to a formal review under that initiative every three years; and if not, the areas of expenditure in respect of which the three yearly review has not taken place. [17570/04]

John Bruton

Question:

123 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the areas of expenditure of his Department in respect of which an expenditure review under the expenditure review initiative has not yet been completed and published. [17585/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 122 and 123 together.

While the initial objective of the expenditure review process was to review all programmes over a three-year period under the initial expenditure review programme, 1997 to 2000, it was agreed that three reviews would be undertaken by my Department. Two of these reviews on the Information Society Commission and the National Centre for Partnership were undertaken. However, a decision was taken, with the agreement of the Department of Finance, not to proceed with the third proposed review which was in respect of the National Economic and Social Council, NESC, and the National Economic and Social Forum, NESF, as this review was overtaken by the Government decision to establish the National Economic and Social Development Office.

In a review of the process undertaken at the end of the first three-year expenditure review programme, 1997 to 2000, and in light of the findings of a value for money study on the expenditure review initiative undertaken by the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, it was accepted that the target of covering all programme areas in a three-year period was overly ambitious and a more focused approach to the selection of reviews was agreed by the Government.

A new work programme for the period 2001 to 2004 was agreed between this Department and the Department of Finance based on the following new criteria for the selection of reviews: programmes reflecting Government priorities or strategic review areas; programmes involving significant levels of expenditure; programmes where expenditure has been growing unusually quickly; programmes where the external environment has changed substantially since the programme was introduced; and programmes whose objectives are proving particularly difficult to achieve.

Following a review of the Department's programmes for 2002 and subsequent years, it was agreed with the Department of Finance that, due to the relatively small size of the Department's Vote and the nature and size of individual programme allocations, the objectives of the expenditure review initiative would not in general be best served by selecting individual programmes for review.

It was suggested that the Department's role in several cross-departmental issues which clearly fit the selection criteria would be an area in which my Department could have a more useful input. The resulting work programme for my Department included one review of the National Economic and Social Development Office. This review is due to be undertaken following enactment of the NESDO legislation which is going through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

It is my understanding that a limited number of cross-departmental reviews were selected to be undertaken on a pilot basis as part of the 2001-04 expenditure review initiative, in view of the complexity of these reviews and the need to formulate an effective approach to them. My Department did not have any close involvement in the areas to which these reviews related but would expect to be involved in similar reviews in the future.

Departmental Appointments.

Michael Ring

Question:

124 Mr. Ring asked the Taoiseach the appointments that have been made to State boards and bodies within his Department from 1 January 2003 to 15 June 2004; the persons appointed; and the persons they are replacing. [17792/04]

The bodies under the aegis of my Department are:

No.

1

The Information Society Commission

2

The National Statistics Board

3

The Law Reform Commission

4

The National Economic and Social Forum (NESF)

5

The National Economic and Social Council (NESC)

6

The National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP)

The appointments made to these bodies since January 2003 are detailed below:

(i) National Statistics Board. Appointments made to the National Statistics Board in February 2004.

Name

Organisation

Person Replaced

Mr. Frank Cunneen

Health and Safety Authority

Steve Couldwell (in 1999)

Mr. Ciaran Dolan

ICMSA

Appointed on commencement of Statistics Act 1993

Ms Paula Carey

ICTU

Donal Nevin (in 1997)

Ms Mary Doyle

Department of the Taoiseach

Dermot McCarthy (in 2001)

Professor Brendan Walsh

University College Dublin

Prof. Frances Ruane (in 2004)

Dr. Pat O’Hara

Western Development Commission

Helen Nic Fhlannchadha (in 2004)

Mr. Derek Moran

Department of Finance

Cathal O’Loughlin (in 2003)

(ii) National Economic and Social Forum. The NESF was reconstituted in early 2004 and held its inaugural meeting on Wednesday, 26 May 2004 in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. A full list of membership for 2004 which identifies replacements is below. Of the 62 NESF members, 50 are appointed by nominating bodies, five members areex-officio and five independent members are appointed by the Government. The Government also appoints the chair and deputy chair.

Name

Strand

Person Replaced

Maureen Gaffney

Independent Chairperson

Member in 1998 also

Mary Doyle

Deputy Chairperson

Dermot McCarthy

Paschal Mooney

(i) Oireachtas

Member in 1998 also

Michael Woods

Gerry Reynolds

John Curran

Paul McGrath

Mary O’Rourke

Bill Timmins

Brendan Daly

Therese Ridge

Geraldine Feeney

Derek McDowell

Pat Carey

Joe Costello

Paul Coghlan

Michael Lowry

Damien English

Noel Ahern

Paul Kehoe

Sean Haughey

Joan Burton

Beverly Cooper-Flynn

Willie Penrose

Michael Kitt

Kate Walsh

Helen Keogh

Fergal Quinn

Margaret Cox

Jerry Cowley

Mary Jackman

Jackie Harrison

(ii) Employer/Trade Union

Brian Geoghegan

Heidi Lougheed

Employer/Business

Aileen O’Donoghue

Patricia Callan

Organisations

Lilian O’Carroll

Kevin Gilna

Mirette Corboy

Carmel Mulroy

Alison Begas

Mary McGreal

(ii) Employer/ Trade Union

Eileen Doyle

Michael Doody

Farming

John Dillon

Mary Johnson

Mary Coleman

Carmel Brennan

Pat O’Rourke

Anne Murray

Eva Coyle

Eamon Devoy

(ii) Employer/ Trade Union

Member in 1998 also

Blair Horan

Trade Unions

Member in 1998 also

Manus O’Riordan

Member in 1998 also

Jerry Shanahan

John Tierney

Paula Carey

Rosaleen Glackin

Frances Byrne

(iii) Community and Voluntary

Susan McNaughton

Joanna McMinn

Grainne Healy

June Tinsley

Ursula Barry

Patricia Short

Joan Condon

Sr. Brigid Reynolds

Mary Murphy

John Mark McCafferty

Mike Allen

Brid O’Brien

Chris McInerney

Sharon Keane

Janice Ransom

Malcolm Byrne

Joe Gallagher

Raymond Dooley

Gearóid Ó Maolmhichíl

Robin Webster

Paddy Donegan

Aisling Walsh

Roger Acton

Sean Gallagher

Jeanne Meldon

Seamus Boland

Sean Healy

Fergus O’Ferrall

Liam O’Dwyer

Secretaries General of the Departments of Finance; Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Social and Family Affairs; Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Environment, Heritage and Local Government

(iv) Central Government, Local Government and Independents Central Government

Secretaries General of the Departments of Finance; Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Social Community and Family Affairs; Tourism, Sport and Recreation; Environment and Local Government.

Constance HanniffyDonal O’DonoghueJohn EganPatsy TreanorPatricia McCarthy

(iv) Central Government, Local Government and Independents Local Government

Member in 1998also Member in 1998also Tom KelleherEnda NolanTadgh Curtis

Dr. Mary P. CorcoranCáit KeaneDr. Colm HarmonDr. Brian NolanPaul Tansey

(iv) Central Government, Local Government and Independents Independents

Prof Gearóid Ó TuathaighMarian VickersHelen JohnstonNiall FitzduffNoreen Kearney

(iii) National Economic and Social Council. The following appointments were made to the National Economic and Social Council in September 2003.

Organisation

Mr. Jack O’Connor

SIPTU

Ms Aileen O’Donoghue

IBEC

Ms Deirdre Garvey

The Wheel

Mr. John Mark McCafferty

St. Vincent de Paul

Mr. John Dolan

Disability Federation of Ireland

Mr. Niall Callan

Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

Mr. Colin Hunt

Goodbody Stockbrokers

Ms Brigid Laffan

UCD

Ms Eithne McLaughlin

Queens University

Mr. Peter Bacon

Economic Consultant

Mr. John Fitzgerald

ESRI

The following were replaced on the council.

Organisation

Mr. Des Gerarghty

SIPTU

Jim Walsh

NUI Maynooth

Ms Geraldine McAteer

NI Interests

Mr. John Fitzgerald

Dublin City Manager

Mr. David Finn

Tánaiste nominee

Mr. Turlough O’Sullivan

IBEC

Ms Siobhan O’Donoghue

Community Workers Co-operative

Ms Orla O’Connor

NWCI

Mr. Eric Conroy

INOU

(iv) National Centre for Partnership and Performance. Appointments made to the National Centre for Partnership and Performance were:

Organisation

Mr. Fergus Whelan

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

October 2003 — replaced Mr. Tom Wall as ICTU nominee to the council

Mr. Morgan Nolan

Construction Industry Federation

January 2004 — replaced Mr. Terry McEvoy as CIF nominee to the council

Industrial Property.

Michael Ring

Question:

125 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in regard to the factory of a company (details supplied) built in Crossmolina, County Mayo, the IDA pays rent or has the lease on the property; if so, the length of time this has been the case; and the amount being paid. [17198/04]

The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio, including decisions regarding location and size of land owned by IDA Ireland, are day-to-day operational matters for the agency and not matters in which I have a function.

IDA Ireland has informed me that it has no property interests in Crossmolina, County Mayo. The factory to which the Deputy refers was constructed by the local community. While an existing IDA-supported company had planned to use the facility to accommodate an expansion of its operations, the company has decided to put its plans on hold pending market developments. Any agreement the company may have with the owners of the factory, including any rent the company may be paying to reserve the factory for its use, would be a matter between the parties concerned.

Consumer Rights.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

126 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will examine the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; if this person’s rights can be vindicated here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17394/04]

My Department has been in contact with both the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs, which is the independent statutory office responsible for providing advice and information to consumers and enforcing a wide range of consumer protection laws, and the European Consumer Centre, Dublin, ECC, which is an independent company providing free information and advice on consumer rights in the EU and co-funded by the European Commission and the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs, on this matter and both bodies had corresponded with the person concerned.

The ODCA has responsibility for enforcing the Package Holiday and Travel Trade Act 1995. However, the Act governs travel agents-organisers who sell package travel within Ireland and who have an office within the State. I am informed by the ODCA that the company concerned has no registered office in Ireland and that all its business is conducted in and from the UK. The ODCA further advises that the possibility of reviewing this contract under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1995 is also thwarted by the location of the relevant company's offices. Under the circumstances, the ODCA has indicated that there is little it can do about complaints like these other than to advise consumers to purchase their holidays from tour operators who are licensed and bonded in this country by the Commission for Aviation Regulation. In fact, this advice is number one on the ODCA's top tips for an enjoyable holiday which can be found on that office's website atwww.ocdca.ie.

The European Consumer Centre, ECC, Dublin has advised that it has dealt with 70 cases, and many more information requests, to date regarding complaints against the company concerned in the context of its work in assisting consumers with cross-border disputes. The ECC has been in constant contact with the company to achieve an amicable solution for Irish consumers and has been informed by its managing director that his company was withdrawing from the Irish market and that refunds would be issued to Irish complainants. The ECC is not aware of consumers having received refunds at this stage. The ECC has kept the ODCA and the UK Office of Fair Trading informed of its concerns and developments at all times.

The ECC advises that if an amicable solution is not achieved, the consumer's rights cannot be vindicated in the small claims court in Ireland as the company is based in the UK. Under the terms of the Rome Convention, the consumer can sue the company from Ireland but the practical reality is that this would mean incurring costs far in excess of the amount lost. On an individual basis, the consumer could take a case to the small claims court in the UK, but this would involve the expense of travel and accommodation to attend that court.

The possibility of the ODCA taking action under the EU injunctions directive, 98/27/EC, to protect consumer interests in relation to future activities by holiday promotion firms has also been raised by the ECC and I have requested the ODCA to explore this further.

Organisation of Working Time Act.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

127 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if employees can work seven days per week; the provisions there are in relation to such working arrangements (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17395/04]

For each day an employee is entitled to 11 consecutive hours off under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. In a period of seven days, an employee is entitled to a total of 35 consecutive hours off, that is, 24 hours plus the 11 hours for the preceding day. When an employee works 14 days but did not receive the 24 hour rest period after seven days, he or she is entitled to a total of 59 consecutive hours off, that is, two days — 48 hours — plus 11 hours for the previous day. If, after working 14 days an employee does not receive 59 consecutive hours off, he or she is entitled to two separate rest periods of 35 consecutive hours each.

Certain transport employees are not entitled to the above rest periods. Employees who work in sectors in which the rate of production or provision of services will vary significantly from time to time and employees who are directly involved in ensuring continuity of production or continuity in the provision of services are also exempt from the above rest periods. These employees, however, are entitled to compensatory rest, that is, any hours of rest forgone must be made up to them by their employer.

Decentralisation Programme.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

128 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the Government’s proposal to reduce significantly the operation of Shannon Development does not run contrary to the stated policy of encouraging decentralisation; the reason it is being contemplated when the company has an excellent record in encouraging tourism and in job creation and is self-funded from its own resources; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17458/04]

Changes being contemplated with regard to the role of Shannon Development are consistent with and arise primarily as a result of the Government decision to decentralise the headquarters of Enterprise Ireland, involving 300 of that agency's Dublin-based staff, to Shannon. At present, Shannon Development performs a range of functions on a delegated authority basis for Enterprise Ireland and it has been decided, in light of decentralisation, that these functions should revert to Enterprise Ireland. This is an entirely practical development as it would make little sense to have two agencies in the same location performing the same functions. The decision, which is fully supported by the board of Shannon Development, will result in the transfer of the Shannon Development staff engaged on these functions to Enterprise Ireland.

Second, it has been agreed that the management of Shannon town should be transferred from Shannon Development and vested in Clare County Council. Again, this is a decision that has been made on practical grounds and both Shannon Development and Clare County Council are in agreement.

The proposal by the Minister for Transport, which is again supported by the board of Shannon Development, to establish an independent Shannon Airport authority is also important in this context. Without an independent and viable Shannon Airport, the task of guaranteeing the entire region's continued attractiveness as a tourist destination and as a location for investment would be made considerably more difficult. In that regard, one of the options under consideration is to transfer the assets of the Shannon Free Zone to the new airport authority. While no decision has been taken on this issue, the transfer of the assets would mean no change to either the status of the zone or its attractiveness as an investment location.

In the light of these changed circumstances, I met the chairman, some members of the board of Shannon Development and the chief executive of the company on several occasions to explain and expand on matters under consideration. At the meetings, I also asked the board to bring forward detailed proposals in regard to the role that Shannon Development can play in the future development of the region and this discussion is ongoing.

I am committed to the future of Shannon and the mid-west region as a whole. My concern is to ensure that we put in place the most sensible and efficient structures and manage the region's most valuable and strategic assets so as to optimise their benefit for the entire region.

Departmental Agencies.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

129 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff in Shannon Development who are involved in Enterprise Ireland functions; and the number involved in other work. [17459/04]

I understand from Shannon Development that a total of 185.5 staff — expressed in terms of full-time equivalents — are employed by the agency. These staff are employed on a range of duties relating to industrial development, tourism, property management and general administration functions.

On functions carried out on a delegated authority basis for Enterprise Ireland activities, the number of staff ranges between 50 and 100 depending on the assumptions made in relation to the allocation of the support and administrative staff associated with those delegated functions.

Apprenticeship Payment Rates.

Richard Bruton

Question:

130 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the rates of payment for apprentices in each year of their apprenticeship; if these rates are enforceable by inspectors in her Department in respect of the cabinet makers trade; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17467/04]

Apprenticeship is the recognised means by which persons are trained to become craftspersons in Ireland. The main craft trades have been designated by FÁS and come within the scope of the statutory apprenticeship system. Apprenticeship in Ireland is organised by FÁS in co-operation with the Department of Education and Science, employers and unions. There are about 23,000 registered apprentices in the country.

Cabinet makers come under the construction umbrella. The current apprenticeship rates for cabinet makers are set out below.

Construction Training Allowances Effective 1 January 2004

Year

Rate per week

Phase 2

203.58

Phase 4

304.98

Phase 6

457.86

4th Year

549.12

Construction Training Allowances Effective 1 July 2004

Year

Rate per week

Phase 2

207.48

Phase 4

311.22

Phase 6

466.83

4th Year

560.04

Three employment regulation orders under the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2004 also set rates of payment for apprentices. Details are set out below.

The Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2004 also provide recognition for another form of agreement known as registered employment agreements. In this instance, an agreement is negotiated by the two sides in an industry or enterprise and is presented to the Labour Court for registration. There are 45 registered employment agreements, REAs, on the register maintained by the Labour Court. Two of those REAs that are actively enforced by the inspectorate have set rates of payment for apprentices and details are contained in the tables set out below.

At present, there is no employment regulation order or registered employment agreement that specifically covers cabinet makers. There are trainee rates contained in the National Minimum Wage Act 2000. Trainee rates are applicable to trainees, aged 18 or over, in structured training. The trainee rates are as follows: trainee in the first third of training period over age 18 is €5.25 per hour; trainee in the second third of training period over age 18 is €5.60 per hour; and trainee in the final third of training period over age 18 is €6.30 per hour.

The National Minimum Wage Act 2000 applies a strict definition of trainee and structured training. For example, for the above trainee rates to apply, at least 10% of the employee's training must occur outside day-to-day operational duties, there must be an assessment and certification procedure or written confirmation of the employee's completion of the course identifying the level of attainment of the employee against the objectives of the structured training, and the training must be related to improvement of work performance.

The labour inspectorate of my Department has responsibility for the enforcement of employment rights arising from a range of employment rights legislation. The National Minimum Wage Act 2000 falls within that remit and, accordingly, enforcement of its provisions is an aspect of a labour inspector's work.

Brush and Broom (ERO)

As this JLC has not made proposals to the Labour Court since 1994, no ERO has been made since then and the rates of pay in the ERO for the brush and broom sector are out of date. In the absence of an updated ERO, the terms of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 substitute for the minimum pay rates in the ERO.

Hairdressing (ERO) (Cork County Borough)

Apprentices

From 10 February 2004

Under Age 18

Age 18 and Over

191.10

During 1st year of apprenticeship

204.75

During 2nd year of apprenticeship

218.40

During 3rd year of apprenticeship

245.70

During 4th year of apprenticeship

273.00

Hairdressing (ERO) (for the areas known, until 1 January 1994, as the County and County Borough of Dublin, the Borough of Dún Laoghaire and the Urban District of Bray)

Apprentices

Until31 January 2004Per week

From1 February 2004Per week

Under Age 18

176.89

191.10

Age 18 and Over

During 1st year of Apprenticeship

189.53

204.75

During 2nd year of Apprenticeship

202.16

218.40

During 3rd year of Apprenticeship

227.43

245.70

During 4th year

252.70

273.00

Construction Industry (REA)

Construction Apprentices% of Craft Rate

Rate per Week

1st year 33%

Ç212.36

2nd year 50%

318.54

3rd year 75%

477.80

4th year 90%

573.36

Electrical Contracting Industry (REA)

Apprentice Rates

Rate per Hour

1st Year

5.20

2nd Year

7.80

3rd Year

11.27

4th Year

13.87

Electronic Communications.

John Bruton

Question:

131 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if all public services provided by her Department that are capable of electronic delivery are available electronically through a single point of contact, as was promised in the joint programme; and if not, if she will make a statement or explanation in respect of each service not yet so provided. [17556/04]

The electronic delivery of services through a single point of contact is being progressed through the framework of the public services broker and the Reach agency, which reports to my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

In advance of completion of the public service broker, my Department, as per the joint programme, has embarked on an ambitious e-Government agenda aimed at ensuring that the public have electronic access to services.

These services include access to the Patents Office registers, databases and official journals. The Companies Registration Office provides e-forms for registering a business and filing returns, on-line database searching and calculation of late filing penalties. An on-line redundancy calculator is also available and enables the calculation of statutory redundancy entitlements for an employee.

The BASIS website, www.basis.ie, which was developed by my Department is a one-stop-shop for all public sector information on services that are relevant to the business community. This information is presented in an integrated way, based around the everyday actions of a business like employing staff, funding and expanding one’s business.

New e-services that are under development in my Department include the on-line payment of trademark, patent and industrial design renewal fees; an electronic application and payment system for work permits; the on-line payment of certain Companies Registration Office fees; and a system for on-line submission of redundancy claims for workers and applications for redundancy rebates for employers.

To ensure the continued development of on-line services a review of the Department's e-strategy is scheduled to be carried out in the last quarter of this year. Links to all existing and new services will be available through the single point of contact,reachservices.ie, as and when the public service broker is fully implemented.

Expenditure Reviews.

John Bruton

Question:

132 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her Department has achieved the target, set out in the initiation of the expenditure review initiative in 1997, that all Government expenditure be subject to a formal review under that initiative every three years; and if not, the areas of expenditure in respect of which the three yearly review has not taken place. [17571/04]

John Bruton

Question:

133 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the areas of expenditure of her Department in respect of which an expenditure review under the expenditure review initiative has not yet been completed and published. [17586/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 133 together.

Expenditure reviews under the expenditure review initiative have been undertaken on the following five areas: community employment; IDA 1994-1997; FÁS's standards-based apprenticeship programme; Forfás; and FÁS's traineeship and specific skills training programmes. Additionally, two further expenditure reviews under the initiative on IDA Ireland's property portfolio and Enterprise Ireland's overseas office network are nearing completion. Two other expenditure reviews are under way, one relating to supports for the long-term unemployed, which is a cross-departmental review, and a review of science and technology spending. All of these programmes represent approximately 60% of the Department's 2004 voted programme expenditure plus the national training fund. The remaining elements of my Department's voted programme expenditure has not yet been reviewed under the initiative. It is likely that the Department will shortly decide on the likely programmes to be reviewed under the next tranche of expenditure reviews.

In addition to expenditure reviews under the expenditure review initiative, my Department is very much involved in programme evaluations carried out under the national development plan-community support structure process, in conjunction with the NDP central evaluation unit. Furthermore, the science and technology budget includes a line for evaluations-reviews and has a culture of ongoing evaluation. Other reviews are carried out on an ongoing basis by my Department's agencies, such as FÁS, Forfás etc.

The initial target of the expenditure review initiative, ERI, was to review all expenditure programmes over a three year period. However, a review of the process by the Department of Finance, expenditure review central steering committee, ERCSC, in 2000-01 found that this target had been overly ambitious and that a more focused approach to the selection of review topics was required. This view was supported by a Comptroller and Auditor General value for money study of the ERI in 2001 which proposed that a more realistic target should be set that took into account the level of evaluative capacity in Departments generally.

In June 2001, the Government decided,inter alia, that the Department of Finance and individual Departments-offices should compile and agree a work plan of review topics based on specific selection criteria, that is, that programmes selected for review should reflect Government priorities or strategic result areas, involve significant levels of expenditure etc. Subsequently, in May 2002, the Government approved a schedule of expenditure review topics proposed for the first year of the next three-year planning horizon, 2002-04, and noted the topics proposed for 2003 and 2004. In April 2003, the ERCSC asked Departments-offices to update their expenditure review plans, again in consultation with the Department of Finance. The committee emphasised the Government’s selection criteria and advised that Departments-offices should select a small number of programmes-areas involving major policy issues or significant levels of expenditure. On foot of this process, revised expenditure review plans were drawn up by Departments-offices.

Price Controls.

Seán Haughey

Question:

134 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if action will be taken by her to reduce the price of soft drinks sold in pubs in order to reduce alcohol consumption; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17741/04]

The price charged for any product or service is a matter for the retailer and I do not propose to re-introduce price control for any product or service.

The best way to ensure that the consumer gets the best price and service for a particular product is through competition. Additionally, in the case of soft drinks, there is statutory information available to enable the consumer to decide whether to purchase the product, in the form of the Retail Price (Beverages in Licensed Premises) Display Order 1999, SI 263 of 1999, which obliges publicans to display the price of alcoholic and soft drinks just outside or immediately inside their premises.

Decentralisation Programme.

John Bruton

Question:

135 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason the decentralisation implementation plan for her Department was not completed within the time limit set; and if the preparation of this report has involved the diversion of staff resources from other work. [17768/04]

Officials of my Department recently finalised a comprehensive implementation plan on the decentralisation of those sections-offices of the Department which have been approved by me for relocation to Carlow. The document was substantially completed within the time limit as laid down by the decentralisation implementation group. However, my Department was concerned to ensure that the information provided in the plan would be of the highest quality possible. Therefore, it was decided to spend some extra days finalising the plan to ensure that a high standard document was presented to the decentralisation implementation group. I am satisfied that the additional time taken had no material impact other than improving the quality of the report submitted. The preparation of the plan was treated as a priority by my Department and necessitated input from staff in all of the areas of the Department selected for decentralisation.

Departmental Appointments.

Michael Ring

Question:

136 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the appointments that have been made to State boards and bodies within her Department from 1 January 2003 to 15 June 2004; the persons appointed; and the persons they are replacing. [17793/04]

The information sought is as follows:

Forfás

Dr. Don Thornhill was appointed on 18 June 2003, replacing Professor Yvonne Scannell. Mr. Frank Ryan was appointed on 12 November 2003, replacing Mr. Dan Flinter. Dr. William Harris's appointment, effective from 11 September 2003, was a new appointment. Messrs. Paul Haran and Roddy Molloy were reappointed on 1 January 2004.

IDA Ireland

Ms Loretta Brennan-Glucksman was appointed on 5 March 2003, replacing Mr. Gary Duffy. Mr. Brian Whitney was appointed on 19 September 2003, replacing Mr. Ronald Long. Mr. Paul MacKay was appointed on 15 January 2004, replacing Mr. Frank McCabe. Two board members whose term had expired were re-appointed: Mr. Kieran Corrigan on 5 March 2003 and Mr. Nial Ring on 15 January 2004.

Enterprise Ireland

Mr. Pat Molloy was re-appointed as chairman on 24 July 2003. Mr. Kieran McGowan and Ms. Veronica Perdisatt were re-appointed on 28 July 2003.

Crafts Council of Ireland

Ms Mary Ann O'Brien was appointed chairperson on 9 April 2003, replacing Dr. Frances Ruane. Mr. Martin Walsh was re-appointed to the board as chairman on 17 June 2003, replacing Ms Mary Ann O'Brien. Ms Cathy Honan was re-appointed to the board on 17 June 2003. Mr. Giles O'Neill was re-appointed to the board on 14 May 2004.

Science Foundation Ireland

The following were appointed to the board of Science Foundation Ireland on 25 July 2003: Dr. Pat Fottrell, Mr. Frank McCabe, Dr. Don Thornhill, Mr. Erich Bloch, Dr. Kristian Johnson, Mr. John Travers, Dr. Jane Grimson, Dr. Jim Mountjoy, Dr. Martina Newell McLoughlin, Mr. Ned Costello, Dr. William C. Harris, Dr. Anita Jones. Dr. Jacqueline Hunter was appointed on 13 October 2003 as a replacement to Dr. Anita Jones who resigned on 28 August 2003.

National Competitiveness Council

Messrs. John Fingleton, Peter McLoone, Willy Slattery, Seamus O'Morain and Brendan Butler were appointed on 1 June 2003. Mr. John Travers, Mr. Rory Ardagh and Ms Jane Williams were re-appointed on 1 June 2003. Ms Williams retired on 9 January 2004.

FÁS and FÁS International

In March 2004, Mr. Jim O'Brien resigned as the representative of the Minister for Finance on the board of FÁS and was replaced by Mr Eamon Kearns.

Shannon Free Airport Development Company

Mr. Brian O'Connell was re-appointed to the board on 25 April 2003. Mr John Brassil was appointed on 1 April 2004 to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Ms Frieda Keane-Carmody.

National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI)

Mr. Conor O'Mahony, now resigned, was appointed on 25 February 2003, replacing Mr. Martin Lynch. Ms Rose Hynes, Mr. Des O'Loughlin, Mr. Niall Fitzsimons and Mr. Patrick Rigney, now resigned, were appointed on 21 May 2003, replacing Ms June Finnegan, Mr. Vincent Delaney, Mr. Patrick Geraghty and Ms Jean Cahill, respectively. Mr. Páraig Hennessy was appointed on 4 September 2003, replacing Mr. Conor O'Mahony. Mr. Edmond Stack was appointed on 19 November 2003, replacing Mr. Patrick Rigney. Mr. John N. Hewitt was appointed on 15 April 2004, replacing Dr. Catherine Caulfield. Mr. Dan Tierney and Ms Ann Riordan were re-appointed on 15 April 2004.

Labour Court

Mr. Jimmy Somers was re-appointed a member of the court on 1 February 2003. Mr. Robert Grier was appointed as a member on 1 March 2003, replacing Mr. Patrick Pierce. Mr. Patrick Pierce was re-appointed as a member on 1 January 2003, 1 February 2003, 1 April 2003 and 2 September 2003. Mr. John Doherty was appointed as a member on 27 July 2003, replacing Mr. Vincent Keogh. Mr. Noel O'Neill was re-appointed as a member on 28 July 2003. Mr. Kevin Duffy was appointed as chairman on 22 December 2003, replacing Mr. Finbarr Flood. Mr. Finbarr Flood was appointed as deputy chairman on 01 February 2004, replacing Mr. Kevin Duffy. Mr. Finbarr Flood was re-appointed on 1 April 2004. Mr. Raymond McGee was appointed as deputy chairman on 1 June 2004, replacing Mr. Finbarr Flood.

Labour Relations Commission

A new board was appointed on 1 April 2003 as follows: Mr. Maurice Cashell was appointed as chairperson, Ms Josephine Feehily, Ms Breege O'Donoghue and Messrs. Peter Bunting, Liam Downey, Peter McLoone, and Brendan McGinty were appointed as members.

Competition Authority

Mr. Edward Henneberry was appointed as a member on 14 July 2003.

Departmental Review Groups.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

137 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the name and number and commencement date of policy review groups with a public consultative process under way within her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17875/04]

The policy review groups with a public consultative process which are under way within my Department are as follows:

1.Enterprise Strategy Group

On 28 July 2003 I announced the formation of an independent enterprise strategy group to examine options that I and my Government colleagues might consider in developing medium-term enterprise polices. On 1 August 2003, I announced the membership of that group under the chairmanship of Mr. Eoin O'Driscoll. As part of its work, the group's public consultation process has already been completed.

2.Company Law Review Group

The company law review group is a standing statutory advisory body on the reform and modernisation of Irish company law. The review group reports to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The review group was set up in February 2000 on foot of Government decision. The group operated on an administrative basis until it was accorded a statutory advisory status by the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001. Part 7 of that Act sets out the role and the advisory responsibilities of the review group and the basis on which its members are appointed.

The first report of the review group was the culmination of its work programme for 2000 to 2001 and was published on 28 February 2002. The report mapped out a strategy for the restructuring, consolidation, simplification and modernisation of company law in Ireland. The general scheme of the Bill to give effect to the proposals for this reform of company law is now being drafted. A second report of the review group was published in May 2004. That report elaborates on implementation of the recommendations in the first report as well as recommending changes in a number of sectoral areas such as share capital and windings up. The recommendations in the second report will be factored into the general scheme of the Bill.

For the purposes of public consultation, as each component part of the general scheme of the Bill is drawn up, it is placed on the website of the Company Law Review Group,www.clrg.org, for consideration and comment by interested parties. Comments received will inform the proposals in the general scheme of the Bill to be brought to Government for approval.

3.Consumer Strategy Group

In March 2004 I established the consumer strategy group, under chairperson Ann Fitzgerald, chief executive of the Irish Association of Investment Managers. The group has been asked to advise and make recommendations for the development of a national consumer policy strategy. Forfás provides the group's secretariat.

4.Review of the Employment Agency Act 1971

My Department published a discussion paper on the review of the Employment Agency Act 1971 in May 2004 and has requested views on this discussion paper from interested individuals and organisations by 9 July 2004.

Road Network.

Jack Wall

Question:

138 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding a road (details supplied) in County Kildare; when his Department will hand over this road to the local authority as stated in the reply to a previous parliamentary question; and if meetings have taken place with the local authority in relation to the matter. [17203/04]

My Department has written to Kildare County Council requesting that the road in question be taken in charge by the council and its reply is currently awaited.

Airport Safety Zones.

Pat Breen

Question:

139 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Defence , further to Question No. 206 of 27 April 2004, if the red safety areas at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel are two-dimensional ground areas or three-dimensional surfaces in the air; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17366/04]

Pat Breen

Question:

140 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Defence , further to Question No. 205 of 27 April 2004, the way in which the map included as part of the Aer Rianta report of 1992 differs from the map included at page 313a of the 1983 Dublin Development Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17367/04]

Pat Breen

Question:

141 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Defence , further to his reply to Question No. 212 of 18 February 2004 and the reference therein to a review of policy based on a consultant’s report prepared in 1999, if appendix C of the said report consists of a copy extract relating to Federal Aviation Administration practice and table 2-4 thereof confirms that the largest runway protection zone relating to major international airports in the USA is a mere 750 metres long; if so, the reason it is necessary to have a similar red safety area that is all of 1,370 metres long at either end of both the comparatively minor runways at Casement Aerodrome, particularly so in the case of runway 05 which is classified as non-instrument; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17368/04]

Pat Breen

Question:

142 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Defence the rationale for the determination of the sizes and shapes of the red safety areas at Casement Aerodrome, and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17369/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139 to 142, inclusive, together.

As I explained in my reply to Questions Nos. 204 to 206, inclusive, on 27 April 2004, red safety areas were first adopted at Casement Aerodrome following a review in 1992 by Aer Rianta, on behalf of the Department of Defence, of policy in relation to safety zones at the aerodrome. With regard to the rationale therefor, International Civil Aviation Organisation standards and recommendations in relation to obstacle limitation surfaces for airports as well as considerations in regard to public safety in the vicinity of the aerodrome were taken into account in determining the size and shape of the red safety areas at Casement Aerodrome. The areas are essentially two-dimensional surfaces on the ground originating 60 metres beyond the runway thresholds, have a width of 300 metres and diverge at a rate of 15% at each side to a width of 700 metres and have an overall length of 1,370 metres in the case of each runway. The three-dimensional areas are the runway approach surfaces which extend outwards from the same start point as the red safety areas and the bases of which rise above the ground at a rate of 1:50 for the first 3,000 metres and then at a rate of 1:40 for 3,600 metres to a maximum height of 150 metres above the start point to a total distance of 15,000 metres from the start point. A more detailed technical explanation of such areas is outlined by my colleague, the Minister for Transport, in his replies to Question No. 480 on 16 December 2003, Question No. 415 on 3 February 2004 and Question No. 438 on 17 February 2004. While the consultants' report prepared in 1999, referred to by the Deputy, contains discourse regarding safety zone determinants adopted by certain regulatory authorities such as the CAA and FAA, the recommendation in the case of Casement Aerodrome contained in the report was that the approach areas be retained for security and safety reasons because of the large proportion of training, including single engine-solo flights by inexperienced pilots, carried out at the aerodrome.

A visual comparison of the map included in the Aer Rianta report of 1992 and the map included at 313a of the 1983 Dublin County development plan indicates the extent of difference in the shapes of the restricted areas. For example, area A indicated on the 1983 development plan map takes the form of a skewed cross encompassing the aerodrome and its environs with each end extending outwards from the runways for a distance of up to 1,500 metres and at a width of 1,600 metres. No development was permissible in area A. Following the 1992 report, area A was replaced by cone shaped red safety areas whose dimensions have been detailed above.

Defence Forces Management System.

John Bruton

Question:

143 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Defence if the integrated personnel management system, promised in the Joint Programme, has been introduced; and the way in which this programme interacts with decentralisation.

Initial proposals for an integrated personnel management system, IPMS were developed by the military authorities and then referred to the top-level civil-military Strategic Management Committee for further development. Some of the key proposals were then put to the associations representing officers and enlisted personnel late last year in the context of the negotiations on the application to the Defence Forces of Sustaining Progress. Those negotiations also involved the preparation of an action plan covering the development and implementation of a range of modernisation elements, including key IPMS elements.

Those negotiations were successful in the period before Christmas and both associations signed up to Sustaining Progress and to the implementation of the action plan over the period to mid-2005. The implementation process is now under way.

Given the country wide deployment of the Defence Forces, the IPMS was always predicated on, and designed for, what is a decentralised organisation.

Air Corps Helicopters.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

144 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Defence if the newly purchased helicopters have night flight capability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17552/04]

The procurement process for the acquisition of new helicopters for the Air Corps has commenced. Following discussions between senior officials in my Department and the military authorities, it has been decided that up to six helicopters will be acquired, two Light Utility Helicopters primarily for Air Corps crew training purposes and four larger Utility Helicopters, with the option of a further two such helicopters for use in support of the Army and for other ancillary uses such as air ambulance. The tender competition was advertised in the Official Journal of the European Communities on 29 May 2004. The closing date for the receipt of tenders is Friday, 23 July 2004.

The specifications for the helicopters in the Request for Tenders includes,inter alia, requirements for the aircraft to be twin-engined and have full night flying capabilities. The new aircraft will replace the current fleet of Dauphin, Alouette and Gazelle aircraft.

Electronic Communications.

John Bruton

Question:

145 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Defence if all public services provided by his Department that are capable of electronic delivery are available electronically through a single point of contact, as was promised in the joint programme; and if not, if he will make a statement or explanation in respect of each service not yet so provided. [17557/04]

The electronic delivery of services through a single point of contact is being progressed through the framework of the Public Services Broker. The responsibility for its design and development lies with the Reach agency, which reports to the Department of Social and Family Affairs. My Department is actively involved in the eGovernment programme, with particular emphasis on eProcurement as a major commercial activity. Tenders are regularly posted on the government e-tenders portal. The primary public service is the provision of comprehensive organisational information, contact points and Freedom of Information e-mail facilities, all of which are available on the Department's website.

Expenditure Reviews.

John Bruton

Question:

146 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Defence if his Department has achieved the target, set out in the initiation of the expenditure review initiative in 1997, that all Government expenditure be subject to a formal review under that initiative every three years; and if not, the areas of expenditure in respect of which the three yearly review has not taken place. [17572/04]

John Bruton

Question:

147 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Defence the areas of expenditure of his Department in respect of which an expenditure review under the expenditure review initiative has not yet been completed and published. [17587/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 147 together.

The initial target of the Expenditure Review Initiative, ERI, was to review all expenditure programmes over a three year period. However, a review of the process by the Department of Finance/Expenditure Review Central Steering Committee in 2000-01 found that this target had been over-ambitious and that a more focused approach to the selection of review topics was required. This view was supported by a Comptroller and Auditor General value for money study of the ERI in 2001, which proposed that a more realistic target should be set that took into account the level of evaluative capacity in Departments generally.

In June 2001, the Government decided,inter alia, that the Department of Finance and individual Departments/offices should compile and agree a work plan of review topics based on specific selection criteria, i.e. that programmes selected for review should reflect Government priorities or strategic result areas, involve significant levels of expenditure, etc.. Subsequently, in May 2002, the Government approved a schedule of expenditure review topics proposed for the first year of the next three-year planning horizon, 2002-04, and noted the topics proposed for 2003 and 2004. In April 2003, the ERCSC asked Departments/offices to update their expenditure review plans, again in consultation with the Department of Finance. The committee emphasised the Government’s selection criteria and advised that Department’s offices should select a small number of programmes/areas involving major policy issues or significant levels of expenditure. On foot of this process, revised expenditure review plans were drawn up by Departments/Offices.

Under the aegis of the Expenditure Review Initiative and the efficiency audit group process which preceded that, the Department of Defence has completed and published the following reviews: The White Paper on Defence; Review and Implementation Plan for the Naval Service; Review and Implementation Plan for the Air Corps; and Provision of Medical Services for members of the Defence Forces. It might be noted that these reviews, together, effectively cover all Defence Vote expenditure.

A review of aircraft maintenance is nearing completion while a review of Defence Forces clothing is being planned.

Question No. 148 withdrawn.

Decentralisation Programme.

John Bruton

Question:

149 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Defence the reason he did not provide a reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 91 and 92 of 2 June 2004. [17786/04]

As I indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 91 and 92 of 2 June 2004, my Department's decentralisation implementation plan addresses the issues of risk assessment and mitigation strategies, etc. The question of what follow-up action and measures are necessary to address issues identified in the plan will receive consideration in the weeks and months ahead.

John Bruton

Question:

150 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Defence if he proposes to publish the decentralisation implementation plan of his Department; and if not, the reason therefor. [17787/04]

Following its consideration by the decentralisation implementation committee, it is intended to publish the implementation plan for the decentralisation of my Department on my Department's website.

Appointments to State Boards.

Michael Ring

Question:

151 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Defence the appointments that have been made to State boards and bodies within his Department from 1 January 2003 to 15 June 2004; the persons appointed; and the persons they are replacing. [17794/04]

As Minister for Defence I have made the following appointments in the period 1 January 2003 to 15 June 2004: Coiste an Asgard, Commodore Frank Lynch was appointed on 4 October 2003 and replaced Commodore John Kavanagh. Mr. Gerry Donnelly was appointed on 10 February 2004. Mr. Donnelly did not replace anyone.

The Government nominated the following to the Central Council of the Irish Red Cross Society on 17 June 2003: Mr. David Andrews, re-appointed; Mr. Des Kavanagh, re-appointed; Mr. Patrick O'Reilly, re-appointed; Mr. John Harraghy, re-appointed; Mr. Rory McCabe, re-appointed; Sr. Marie Hennessey, re-appointed; Ms. Hannah Cuddy, re-appointed; Mr. Ted Noonan, re-appointed; Mr.Cathal Finnucane, re-appointed; Mr. Fintan Hudson, re-appointed; Mr. Ciaran Murphy, replaced; Mr. James Sewell; Ms. Kit Robinson; Ms. Jennifer Bulbulia; Ms. Siobhan McGee; Mr. Tom Beary; and Ms. Anna Murphy. Mr. Denis Murphy died on 14 October 2003 and was not replaced.

The following persons, who had previously been members of the Council, were not re-appointed: Cllr. Cait Keane, Mr. Stephen O'Neill, Mr. Paul Foran, Mr. Seán Costello and Mr. Kevin Mannion.

Grant Payments.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

152 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if funding is still available under the neighbour-wood scheme; the number of applications on hand; when a decision will be made in regard to the application from Prosperous village, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17498/04]

I have increased funding for the neighbour-wood scheme to €450,000 for 2004 and the scheme remains open. A total of 79 applications for approval have been received from local authorities since the scheme was launched in 2001. There is no record of an application for approval having been received for Prosperous, County Kildare.

Milk Quota.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

153 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will agree to a transfer of milk quota from one brother to another, the same as from father to son or daughter, in view of the serious situation healthwise which an older brother finds himself in; and his views on whether this is a reasonable and just case. [17199/04]

The milk quota regulations provide that where a holding is transferred by sale, lease, gift or inheritance by a person to a relative, as defined, the milk quota attached to that holding is transferred to that person. The definition of relative in the regulations includes brothers and therefore the same rules apply in the case of transfer between brothers as in the case between a parent and a child. The transfer of milk quota without land is not permitted, even between relatives, except in cases where there is a land and quota leasing arrangement in place. In that case the milk quota may be purchased without the land so long as the lease has been in place for at least one year.

Grant Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

154 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a decision made recently in a force majeure case concerning a person (details supplied) in County Wexford can be reviewed in view of the circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17251/04]

The person named has been notified that the circumstances outlined by him do not satisfy the criteria forforce majeure or exceptional circumstances as defined in Article 40 of Council Regulation EC No 1782/2003. Following this decision the person named submitted an appeal, which has been forwarded to the single payment appeals committee for examination. A recommendation in respect of this appeal is expected shortly and the person named will be advised directly of the outcome.

Animal Diseases.

Billy Timmins

Question:

155 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position in relation to scrapie and the delay in blood sampling which takes almost four weeks from the date the blood is taken until the farmer receives results; if there are plans to speed up this process in view of the loss incurred to the farmer due to the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17291/04]

A total of 16 new flocks have been confirmed with scrapie in 2004 to date. Sheep in flocks in which scrapie is confirmed have, since 1 October 2003, been genotyped free of charge by my Department to determine their genetic susceptibility to scrapie and the more scrapie susceptible animals are slaughtered as required by EU legislation.

The central veterinary research laboratory is testing samples from scrapie infected flocks at present and although there have been some exceptions, the average turnaround time from receipt of samples to reporting of results has been 17 days.

The central veterinary laboratory has now completed the installation of a large automated workstation to cater for the anticipated increase in the number of samples for testing. I understand this equipment is now fully operational and will allow a significant increase in both the capacity and speed of service over the coming weeks.

Billy Timmins

Question:

156 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position in relation to scrapie and losses that occur on lambs (details supplied); if there are plans to amend the compensation scheme in order that the farmer is not out of pocket; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17292/04]

EU rules in relation to sheep flocks in which scrapie is confirmed require member states either to slaughter infected flocks in their entirety and prohibit re-stocking with sheep for three years from the date of slaughter, or alternatively to determine the susceptibility of the animals to scrapie by genotyping, and slaughter the more scrapie susceptible animals only.

A total of 16 new flocks have been confirmed with scrapie in 2004 to date. Sheep in flocks in which scrapie has been confirmed since 1st October, 2003 are genotyped free of charge by my Department to determine their genetic susceptibility to scrapie and the more scrapie susceptible animals are slaughtered as required by EU legislation.

The package for farmers whose flocks are affected includes free genotyping of the flock, genotyping of a limited number of replacement rams, payment of market value less salvage value for sheep required to be slaughtered which are fit for the food chain, payment of full market value for sheep which, by virtue of their genotype, are required to be destroyed and a supplementary payment of €28 per ewe required to be destroyed.

In so far as the market rate for lambs is concerned, I have already adjusted the package in this regard so that lambs sent for destruction are attracting a market rate equal to the average factory rate in the week of slaughter. I have no plans to further adjust the compensation package for the present.

Animal Identification Scheme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

157 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position in relation to sheep tags; the position regarding same if they fade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17294/04]

The national sheep identification system, NSIS, came into operation on the 21 June 2001. From that date, all sheep must be tagged on movement off farm with a tag bearing the flock number of the farm and an individual number. All sheep remaining on farms must be tagged at the latest by 15 December. The system also provides for the issue of replacement tags and import tags. The individual tag numbers are issued centrally by my Department and tags are supplied by commercial operators.

Tag supply companies and individual tags are approved on an annual basis. Approval is subject to compliance with strict criteria laid down by my Department. Failure by any company to meet the criteria may lead to that company being removed from the list of approved suppliers and or an approved tag being withdrawn from the market. This year, 13 tag suppliers have been approved to supply tags to farmers. This allows farmers a wide choice as to the type of tag they wish to use and commercial competition has ensured that tags are available at a reasonable price. To date more than 23 million tags have been issued by approved suppliers to over 46,000 flock-owners — more than 6.5 million of which were short term tags which can be used only for lambs moving directly from farm to factory.

The performance of NSIS in general, including that of tag suppliers and tags, has been satisfactory over the past three years. Where isolated problems have arisen, it has been possible within the context of the approved tag supplier arrangements to address them quickly and effectively and in a manner which does not affect the integrity of the system as a whole. Where instances of tag fading are brought to the attention of my Department, they are taken up immediately with the relevant supplier with a view to having the problem corrected and replacement tags issued to the affected flockowners. Particular design features of NSIS as a whole will allow for any faded tags to be replaced without undermining compliance with the requisite requirements for correct individual animal identification and traceability.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

158 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a ewe premium grant has still not been awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17308/04]

My Department has had no communication from the person named since my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 137 of 11 May, 2004 regarding payment under the 2003 ewe premium scheme. The position remains that as the person named failed to satisfy my Department that he had the number of sheep he applied on in his ownership and possession for the retention period he cannot be paid 2003 ewe premium according to the relevant EU regulations. The issue of proof submitted in respect of the sale of ewes between the date of application on 6 January 2003 and the date of inspection on 17 December 2003 has been re-examined. Despatch dockets dated 30 April 2003 were submitted in respect of 56 animals. The applicant has stated, however, that these were not sold but taken home again. These dockets do not help to explain the missing 34 ewes.

A despatch docket dated 13 October 2003 was submitted in respect of 50 animals. Had the applicant been able to produce a flock register it could have been cross checked to verify whether or not these 50 animals were ewes. The applicant's son had stated at inspection that the flock register had been sent to my Department's district livestock office in Galway via Mountbellew post office but he has no receipt from the post office to prove posting and the register was not received in the district livestock office.

If the person named produces evidence that the 50 animals despatched on 13 October 2003 were sold and were ewes, my Department will be happy to consider such evidence on its merits and review this case accordingly.

Organic Farming.

James Breen

Question:

159 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare was forced to withdraw from organic farming due to difficulties in securing supply and market for their produce. [17317/04]

It is a condition of the rural environment protection scheme that a participant who opts for the organic farming supplementary measure must hold an organic licence for the period of his or her REP scheme contract and have his or her operations inspected annually by one of three approved private inspection bodies. The person named did not renew his organic licence in 2004 with the relevant inspection body. As he did not hold a valid organic licence for the duration of his REP scheme contract, my Department had no alternative but to terminate his participation in the supplementary measure and recoup the payment made under it.

The person named has already appealed this decision to the agriculture appeals office and I understand that his appeal was unsuccessful. The agriculture appeals office is statutorily independent of my Department.

Grant Payments.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

160 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when installation aid will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [17377/04]

The installation aid scheme involves a two-stage application process, i.e. an initial application, IAS 1, and an application for payment, IAS 2. The person concerned has submitted an IAS 1 application but my Department has no record of having received an application for payment, IAS 2, in this case. A decision will be made as regard payment following the receipt of the IAS 2 concerned.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

161 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when installation aid will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [17378/04]

The installation aid scheme involves a two-stage application process, i.e. an initial application, IAS 1, and an application for payment, IAS 2. The person concerned has submitted an IAS 1 application but my Department has no record of having received an application for payment, IAS 2, in this case. A decision will be made as regard payment following the receipt of the IAS 2 concerned.

Michael Ring

Question:

162 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be paid slaughter premium payment in 2002. [17434/04]

The person named originally had four animals slaughtered and deemed eligible under the 2002 slaughter premium scheme. Payment issued in full on these animals in April 2003.

My Department contacted the person named during 2002 regarding the possible eligibility of a further eight animals. As the slaughter records for these animals were incorrect, eligibility under the 2002 slaughter premium scheme could not be established. However, as these records have since been amended and the animals concerned deemed eligible under the 2002 scheme, payment will issue shortly.

Registration of Title.

Willie Penrose

Question:

163 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if all documentation has been submitted by the Land Commission section of his Department to enable first registrations to be registered in the Land Registry Office on behalf of a number of persons (details supplied) who purchased land directly from the Land Commission in 1992; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17441/04]

All the relevant Land Commission maps and documents pertaining to the vesting of the persons named in the question were lodged by my Department in the Land Registry Office in 2001 under the two schedules listed and under previous schedules.

Forestry Development.

John Bruton

Question:

164 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the spread of the grey squirrel, at the expense of the red squirrel, is having a negative impact on forestry development and biodiversity. [17549/04]

I am aware the grey squirrel poses a potential threat to broadleaf forests. I have set up a working group within the Department to monitor the numbers and make recommendations for control of grey squirrel populations in afforested areas.

Grey squirrels are currently found throughout most of the area east of a line from Derry to Cork city and they are expanding their range. The species is regarded as a pest in forests as it feeds on the buds, flowers and seeds of trees. However, its greatest impact is when it strips the bark from the branches and stems of broadleaf trees, particularly those with light bark, aged between 10 and 40 years. The grey squirrel poses a significant threat to those broadleaf crops planted since 1995.

From a biodiversity viewpoint the grey squirrel forces the native red squirrel out of those forests it colonises. In addition it can damage the biodiversity of our native woodlands by reducing the seed production capacity of high forest species thereby over time changing their status to scrub.

Grant Payments.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

165 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when suckler cow grant will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17554/04]

The person named applied for premium for 16 animals under the 2003 suckler cow premium scheme. The application was processed for payment and an 80% advance instalment in respect of the 16 animals amounting to €2,869.12 issued on 29 October 2003.

Following an inspection it was discovered that two animals tag numbers 191546190147 and SKJT0007V were not compliant with identification and registration requirements as they had died and these events were not notified to CMMS. Animal tag number 191546190147 was part of the application lodged by the person named and has been rejected with a consequent penalty to be applied in accordance with paragraph 40 of the terms and conditions of the scheme. An identification and registration penalty in accordance with paragraph 43 of the terms and conditions of the scheme will apply in respect of the other unclaimed animal tag number SKJT0007V. The herd owner was notified of this and was given the opportunity to seek a review of his case but has not done so to date.

The application has now been processed for balancing payment in respect of 15 eligible animals subject to a 5.88% reduction penalty and a 5.58% identification and registration penalty. Payment will issue shortly.

Electronic Communications.

John Bruton

Question:

166 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if all public services provided by his Department that are capable of electronic delivery are available electronically through a single point of contact, as was promised in the joint programme; and if not, if he will make a statement or explanation in respect of each service not yet so provided. [17558/04]

The electronic delivery of services through a single point of contact is being progressed through the framework of the public services broker and the Reach agency, which reports to the Department of Social and Family Affairs, and is charged with responsibility for its design and development.

It is intended that the first stage of the public services broker will be launched at the end of this month. This will be a public facing website, to be known asreachservices.ie, designed to act as a single point of access to a range of services offered by the Irish public service. Initially reachservices.ie will provide access in the form of links to forms or online services provided on other websites. It will provide access to information and application forms for up to 900 services at time of launch. The range of services accessible through reachservices.ie will continue to be expanded until it provides a fully comprehensive index to the full range of publicly provided services in Ireland.

My Department has been co-operating fully in relation to the ongoing development of the public services broker, providing information and contact details for services for the immediate launch, as well as commencing development work on two services that will feature in the next phase of the broker. Many of my Department's services have already been made available electronically through our website,www.agriculture.gov.ie. These services have been developed with due cognisance of the ongoing development of the public services broker and adhere to the standards specified by the broker development team. As development of the public sector broker continues, all of my Department’s services that can be provided electronically will be made available, over time, through the public services broker.

The number of schemes and services that are provided by my Department will substantially change after the introduction of the single farm payment in 2005. A review of all services is currently being undertaken to ascertain those services that will be most suitable for electronic provision in the future.

Departmental Costs.

John Bruton

Question:

167 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his Department has achieved the target, set out in the initiation of the expenditure review initiative in 1997, that all Government expenditure be subject to a formal review under that initiative every three years; and if not, the areas of expenditure in respect of which the three yearly review has not taken place. [17573/04]

John Bruton

Question:

168 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the areas of expenditure of his Department in respect of which an expenditure review under the expenditure review initiative has not yet been completed and published. [17588/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 and 168 together.

The initial target of the expenditure review initiative, ERI, was to review all expenditure programmes over a three year period. However, a review of the process by the Department of Finance expenditure review central steering committee in 2000-2001 found that this target had been over ambitious and a more focused approach to the selection of review topics was required. This view was supported by a Comptroller and Auditor General value for money study of the ERI in 2001 which proposed that a more realistic target should be set that took into account the level of evaluative capacity in Departments generally.

In June 2001 the Government decided,inter alia, that the Department of Finance and individual Departments-offices should compile and agree a work plan of review topics based on specific selection criteria, i.e. that programmes selected for review should reflect Government priorities or strategic result areas, involve significant levels of expenditure, etc. Subsequently, in May 2002, the Government approved a schedule of expenditure review topics proposed for the first year of the next three-year planning horizon, 2002-04, and noted the topics proposed for 2003 and 2004. In April 2003, the ERCSC asked Departments and offices to update their expenditure review plans, again in consultation with the Department of Finance. The committee emphasised the Government’s selection criteria and advised that Departments and offices should select a small number of programmes areas involving major policy issues or significant levels of expenditure. On foot of this process, revised expenditure review plans were drawn up by Departments offices.

In the light of what I have outlined, my Department has undertaken a total of 12 expenditure reviews in the areas listed. The position in regard to these is as follows:

Expenditure Review

Beef classification scheme

complete

Purchase for destruction scheme

complete

Programmes in the potato sector

complete

Overseas development assistance

complete

Control of horse

complete

Installation aid scheme

to be completed in 2004

Farm waste management scheme

to be completed in 2004

Early retirement scheme

to be completed in 2004

Dairy laboratories

to be completed in 2004

BSE eradication

to be completed in 2004

Compensatory allowances

to be completed in 2004

School milk scheme

to be completed in 2004

The completed expenditure reviews are currently being considered for publication.

Grant Payments.

Pat Breen

Question:

169 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has not received forestry maintenance grant and yearly grant for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17614/04]

The person in question was informed by letter of 26 January 2004 that payment was withheld because the plantation was not being maintained to grant standards. The inspecting officer found that it needed fertilizer and control of furze. The applicant informed the Department on 11 June 2004 that he had completed the necessary remedial work. I am arranging for a repeat inspection as soon as possible.

Bovine Diseases.

John Cregan

Question:

170 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he has plans to facilitate the provision of a vaccine to farmers here whose livelihoods and the welfare of their animals are being seriously threatened by the lack of such a vaccine in view of the increasing incidence of the fatal disease of botulism amongst the cattle population in certain parts of the country; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a vaccine available to farmers in Northern Ireland. [17683/04]

Under relevant EU and national legislation, the initiative to obtain the appropriate authorisation to market any vaccine rests with the sponsoring company. While I am aware that there is currently a vaccine for botulism authorised for use in Northern Ireland, no application has been received in this jurisdiction. In response to suspected cases of botulism in Ireland, my Department has, issued extensive guidelines and advice through district veterinary offices, dairy processors and poultry processors and to the farming community on good farming practices to help prevent the occurrence of the disease.

Milk Quota.

Michael Ring

Question:

171 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason no responses are being furnished to this Deputy from his Department in regard to matters (details supplied). [17690/04]

The letters referred to by the Deputy concern a number of individual milk producers who have incurred a super levy liability in the quota year ended on 31 March, 2004.

EU and national regulations on the milk quota system specify that, where the national quota is exceeded, the overrun must be shared between those producers who contributed to the excess. The regulations do not provide for exceptions in individual cases and therefore it is not open to me to intervene in these cases. The amount of levy payable in individual cases can, of course, be reduced by the distribution of unused quota, flexi milk, resulting from other producers not filling their individual quotas. This distribution is done on the basis of objective criteria. My Department on a regular basis throughout the year publishes estimates of milk deliveries and the extent to which these are under or over the national quota and advises producers to keep in close touch with their co-ops-dairies in this matter.

I understand that letters in the individual cases concerned have now issued to the Deputy.

Appointments to State Boards.

Michael Ring

Question:

172 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the appointments that have been made to State boards and bodies within his Department from 1 January 2003 to 15 June 2004; the persons appointed; and the persons they are replacing. [17795/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following schedule.

Schedule

State Board-Bodies

Name

Date of Appointment

Name of Person Replaced

An Bord Bia

* Mr. Noel Cawley

9 July 2003

N/A

* Mr. Dan Browne

31 December 2003

N/A

* Mr. Pat O’Rourke

31 December 2003

N/A

* Ms Gina Quinn

31 December 2003

N/A

Ms Brid Rodgers

31 December 2003

Mr. Wm. O’Kane

An Bord Glas

Nil

Coillte Teoranta

* Mr. Richard Howlin

14 May 2003

N/A

Mr. Frank Toal

29 July 2003

Mr. Michael Glennon

Ms Grainne Hannon

15 April 2004

Mr. JP Crowley

Mr. Philip Lynch

15 April 2004

Mr. Peter Hunt

Coford

Nil

Irish National Stud

* Lady O’Reilly

7 August 2003

N/A

* Mr. Tony Smurfit

7 August 2003

N/A

National Milk Agency

* Mr.George Kearns

9 December 2003

N/A

* James Murphy

9 December 2003

N/A

* Pat Brophy

9 December 2003

N/A

Mr. John O’Callaghan

9 December 2003

Mr. Liam Woulfe

* Mr. Walter Maloney

9 December 2003

N/A

* Mr. Richard Donoghue

14 January 2004

N/A

* Mr. John Foster

14 January 2004

N/A

Teagasc

* Dr. Tom O’Dwyer

15 September 2003

N/A

* Mr. Michael O’Dwyer

15 September 2003

N/A

Mr. Patrick Kelly

15 September 2003

Mr. Peter Kiely

Mr. Jerry Henchy

12 November 2003

Ms Eva Coyle

* These refer to re-appointments.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

173 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the options available to persons whose period of participation in the early retirement for farming scheme has come to an end; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17897/04]

There are no restrictions on off-farm activities either during or after the period when a retired farmer is a participant in the early retirement scheme. The only restriction on former participants in the scheme of early retirement from farming is that they cannot return to commercial farming in their own right. I have recently secured the agreement of the European Commission that retired farmers, both during and after their time as participants in the early retirement scheme, may engage in farming related activities as an employee of a business providing services to farmers, although a retired farmer cannot work on the farm from which he or she retired, or work directly for another farmer.

Child Care Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

174 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider granting a rates exemption to child care facilities similar to that which applies to schools in view of the high cost of child care and the burden which it places on families. [17397/04]

I have no plans at present to provide for special treatment of crèches under the Valuation Act. The Valuation Act 2001 maintained the long-standing position that commercial facilities — including child care facilities such as play schools, pre-schools, crèches and Montessori schools — are liable for rates. Exceptions to this key principle would quickly be followed by demands for similar treatment from the providers of other useful services and products, which would be difficult in equity to resist. The process could thus substantially reduce local authority revenues, which would have to be made good by imposing corresponding increases on the remaining ratepayers.

The rateable valuation of commercial property is based on net annual value (NAV) i.e. the rental value of the property. Any ratepayer dissatisfied with the rateability of a property, the valuation assessed on a particular property or the method of calculation can appeal to the Commissioner of Valuation in the first instance and subsequently to the independent Valuation Tribunal. There is a further right of appeal to the High Court and ultimately to the Supreme Court on a point of law. A sum of €68 million has been provided for in the Justice, Equality and Law Reform Vote for 2004 in respect of grants for the provision of child care facilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if premises used under the equal opportunities children care programme might be exempted from rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17685/04]

I have no plans at present to provide for special treatment of crèches under the Valuation Act. The Valuation Act 2001 maintained the long-standing position that commercial facilities — including child care facilities such as play schools, pre-schools, crèches and Montessori schools — are liable for rates. Exceptions to this key principle would quickly be followed by demands for similar treatment from the providers of other useful services and products, which would be difficult in equity to resist. The process could thus substantially reduce local authority revenues, which would have to be made good by imposing corresponding increases on the remaining ratepayers.

The rateable valuation of commercial property is based on net annual value (NAV) that is, the rental value of the property. Any ratepayer dissatisfied with the rateability of a property, the valuation assessed on a particular property or the method of calculation can appeal to the Commissioner of Valuation in the first instance and subsequently to the independent Valuation Tribunal. There is a further right of appeal to the High Court and ultimately to the Supreme Court on a point of law. A sum of €68 million has been provided for in the Justice, Equality and Law Reform Vote for 2004 in respect of grants for the provision of child care facilities.

Tax Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

176 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider changing the legislation pertaining to rescue craft so that the VAT and fuel relief applicable to seafaring rescue crafts will also be relevant to rescue craft operational on fresh water bodies such as lakes, rivers and so on; the plans his Department has to address this anomaly in the legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17691/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that section 100(1)(h) of the Finance Act 1999 allows relief from mineral oil tax on “mineral oil which is intended for use or has been used as fuel for the purpose of sea navigation, including sea fishing, other than in private pleasure craft”.

Since the craft referred to by the Deputy are for use on inland waterways, the fuel they use does not qualify for this excise relief. I have currently no plans to amend the legislation to provide for such relief because there are concerns regarding the potential difficulties in controlling such a scheme and also the likely negative impact on tax yields.

Regarding the question of VAT and rescue craft also raised by the Deputy, the Value Added Tax (Refund of Tax) (No.18) Order, 1985, provides for the repayment of VAT costs incurred in respect of equipment for use only in respect of rescue or assistance at sea. The order does not extend to fuel in respect of seagoing rescue craft or to fuel or equipment used in rescue craft operational on fresh water bodies.

I have no plans to extend the VAT repayment arrangements for equipment used in rescue at sea to that used by rescue craft operating in fresh water bodies or to introduce such an arrangement facilitating a refund on VAT incurred on fuel costs. Practical difficulties in distinguishing the intended use of such equipment and fuel and the potential costs to the Exchequer are my main concerns in this regard.

However, the Deputy may be aware that the VAT legislation provides for zero-rating of "life saving services provided by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, including the organisation and maintenance of the lifeboat service". This means that while the RNLI do not charge VAT on the services they provide, they are entitled to reclaim VAT incurred on the goods and services which they purchase in delivering their services.

In addition, the Irish Coast Guard, under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, administers the community inland and inshore rescue services grant scheme. The Community of Inshore Rescue Services and the Inland Rescue Service may apply for grants under the scheme in respect of both current and, more recently, capital expenditures. Guidelines on the scheme in terms of eligibility criteria and grant levels are available from the Irish Coast Guard. I hope this clarifies the position regarding excise and VAT reliefs in respect of equipment and fuel used by rescue craft.

Garda Stations.

Michael Noonan

Question:

177 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Finance if the pilot equity exchange programme for Garda stations has concluded; the policy changes being made as a result of the pilot study; if these changes will affect a Garda station (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17196/04]

The consultants appointed to manage the pilot equity exchange programme have now assessed the proposals received and will make a recommendation shortly. Any policy issues which arise at that stage will be addressed at the appropriate level.

The objective of the pilot programme is to determine the potential for replacing non-viable Garda stations with modern facilities using a public partnership approach The Garda stations in the pilot programme include the station referred to by the Deputy.

Tax Code.

Mary Upton

Question:

178 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 is entitled to tax relief while on maternity leave. [17262/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that maternity benefit, which is paid by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, is not a taxable benefit.

Payment of salary to staff while on maternity leave is a matter for the employer. In this case, the tax office has obtained confirmation from the employer that salary is not being paid to the employee while absent. The employee's tax credits will accumulate for the duration of her maternity leave and she will have the benefit of those credits when she returns to work. Should she decide not to return to work before 31 December 2004 and has paid tax during the year, the taxpayer should obtain her P60 for 2004 from her employer in the new year and forward it to her local tax district where a review of her tax liability for the year will be dealt with.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Richard Bruton

Question:

179 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the procedures which have been put in place to identify moneys in dormant accounts which pre-date the introduction of computerisation of bank records; the number of cases which have been brought to his attention, in which persons or their next of kin have been pursuing amounts in dormant accounts and the banks dispute the existence of the account; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17267/04]

The Dormant Accounts Act 2001 makes no distinction between accounts which predate the computerisation of bank records and accounts which were opened thereafter. Therefore, financial institutions are under a legal obligation to treat all accounts which are deemed dormant under the legislation in the same manner for the purposes of the Act.

Part 3 of the Dormant Accounts Act 2001 as amended provides for the appointment by the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA, of inspectors to verify compliance with the Act. These inspectors have the right to inspect and take copies of all records of the credit institutions that may relate to dormant accounts and failure to comply with the direction of an inspector is an offence. I understand IFSRA is currently putting arrangements in place in relation to this function.

To date, I am aware of only one instance in which a credit institution disputed an amount that an individual was pursuing which involved an account that pre-dated computerisation. The issue did not revolve around the dormancy of the account but rather whether the moneys involved had been withdrawn and the account closed. The Ombudsman for Credit Institutions has made a ruling in this case.

As Minister for Finance I have no role in a dispute between a private individual and a credit institution. However, the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority offers help and support to people who have a problem with financial products or services. The authority may be contacted at: Consumer Information Department, Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, P.O. Box 9138, College Green, Dublin 2. E-mail:consumerinfo@ifsra.ie . Consumer help-line lo-call 1890 77 77 77.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

180 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the number of Dublin based civil servants, broken down by grade and Department, willing to move with their present section to the proposed decentralised location, according to the surveys on decentralisation which have already been carried out in each Department; the number of Dublin based civil servants broken down by grade and Department, willing to move to another decentralised location within their own Department; and the number of Dublin based civil servants, broken down by grade and Department, willing to move to a decentralised location in another Department. [17285/04]

No definitive survey of staff willing to transfer within their employing organisation has been completed to date. A number of informal surveys have been carried out at various locations.

The central applications facility was launched on 12 May 2004. This new facility, operated by the Civil Service Commission, allows civil and public servants to apply for or express an interest in transferring to one or more provincial locations. Applications which are received in the first period of applications will be given priority over those received later. The results of the CAF will provide an objective indication of the interest at each grade level in each location. The information obtained from the CAF will provide some of the input into the next report of the decentralisation implementation group.

Tax Code.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

181 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to make provision in the Finance Act to stipulate the supply of quality child care places through the introduction of capital allowances to investors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17424/04]

In budget 1999, I introduced a scheme of capital allowances in respect of qualifying capital expenditure incurred on the construction, refurbishment or extension of a building, or part of a building, used as a child care facility. The allowances are also available in respect of qualifying capital expenditure incurred on the conversion of an existing building, or part of a building, for use as such a facility. The allowances apply in respect of expenditure incurred on or after 2 December 1998 and provide for a seven year write off period at the rate of 15% in the first six years and 10% in the seventh year.

In budget 2000 I provided for accelerated capital allowances for owner operators of such facilities in relation to qualifying expenditure incurred on or after 1 December 1999. Accordingly, an owner-operator can opt to increase the 15% allowance for any year up to a maximum of 100% of the qualifying expenditure. At the same time, I provided for an initial allowance of 100% for both owner-operators and lessors of qualifying premises. A lessor — investor — can only opt to claim the full 100% in year one instead of the annual allowances over seven years. Unlike the owner-operator who can avail of accelerated allowances, they have no choice regarding the percentage of allowances drawn down each year.

An owner operator can set off the capital allowances against their taxable income from all sources. An investor can offset the 100% initial allowances against rental income from all sources in year one. If there is insufficient rental income in that year, the maximum that an investor can offset against non-rental income is €31,750. Thereafter, the balance of the unused capital allowances can only be off-set against rental income in the following years.

Decentralisation Programme.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

182 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance the reason the staff of Shannon Development are not allowed to register for change on the new decentralisation website when staff of organisations such as Údarás na Gaeltachta, the Western Development Commission, Bus Éireann are so allowed. [17460/04]

Following a review of the position, the staff of Shannon Development Company can now register on the Central Applications Facility, CAF, and express an interest to decentralise in the same way as staff of Údarás na Gaeltachta, the Western Development Commission, and Bus Éireann can.

Building Societies.

Richard Bruton

Question:

183 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the circumstances in which an account holder in a building society is entitled to receive an offer of shares when the building society is proposing to demutualise; and the basis on which some account holders can be excluded from such arrangements. [17466/04]

Legislation relating to the demutualisation of building societies is a matter for the Minister for the Environment and Local Government and in this regard I have no statutory function.

A building society proposing to convert itself into a company must comply with the requirements of Part XI of the Building Societies Act 1989 and its own rules. The Act requires,inter alia, that the members of the society who are entitled to vote on a conversion resolution approve a conversion scheme.

Section 101 of the Act requires the conversion scheme to deal with a range of issues, including the rights of members of the society to be given shares in the proposed company and to subscribe for additional shares, and to specify the basis of any cash payments to be paid out of society funds in consideration of the conversion. Section 101 also provides that the terms of a conversion scheme shall restrict any rights conferred on members of the society entitling them to shares in the successor company, to acquire shares in the successor company in priority to other subscribers or to any distribution of the funds of the society. Such rights are restricted, in the case of those persons who become members of the society after 21 December 1988, to those members who held shares in the society throughout the period of two years, which expired with the day on which notice is given to members of the conversion resolution.

That section also provides that a conversion scheme must be approved by IFSRA as meeting the requirements of the Act.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

184 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the proposals he has for decentralising persons working within the information technology section of the public service; if these posts are being included within the current CAF system; and when staff will be given sufficient details in order to make an informed decision on their personal career options. [17546/04]

The identification of the locations for the IT staff is under consideration by the Government at present. These locations will be announced as soon as possible. Following this, the posts involved will be included as part of the central applications facility.

Tax Clearance Certificates.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

185 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the status of the application for a C2 for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; when it will be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17547/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that an application for a C2 was received from the taxpayer on 25 May 2004. C2 certificates are security printed documents and are prepared by an external printing company. In this case, details for the production of the C2 certificate have been sent to the printing company. However, a letter issued to the taxpayer on 10 June requesting information which was omitted from his C2 application form. If a satisfactory response to this letter is received the taxpayer will be notified to collect the C2 immediately on its return from the printers.

State Property.

John Bruton

Question:

186 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance when the national public property register, promised in the joint programme, will be published. [17548/04]

The Government programme states that the Government "will finalise the compilation of a National Public Property Register to identify properties in state control suitable for housing projects". The OPW has compiled an electronic database of property holdings based on information supplied by Departments and agencies. Consistent with the commitment in the joint programme the database has assisted in developing the affordable housing initiative. The latter initiative was agreed as part of Sustaining Progress. A key aspect of this initiative is the identification of surplus state land suitable for social and affordable housing projects. Sites released to date by local authorities and a range of other State agencies, under the initiative, provide for 24 individual projects throughout the country. Together with affordable housing coming through so-called Part V arrangements, the sites identified so far have the potential to deliver 6,100 housing units.

Expenditure Review Initiative.

John Bruton

Question:

187 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the effectiveness of the Government’s expenditure review initiative by reference to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on same. [17550/04]

The Comptroller and Auditor General published in January 2002 a value for money examination of the expenditure review initiative. The examination made several recommendations aimed at improving the effectiveness of the review. Key recommendations included: a comprehensive strategy for the development of the review should be put in place; stronger support mechanisms and central guidance should be provided; a systematic process of quality assessment of reviews should be implemented; a formal process for monitoring review impacts should be initiated; a clear set of principles should be established enabling areas of expenditure to be prioritised and scheduled for review; review reports should be published where possible.

The expenditure review process has taken on board many of the recommendations set out in the Comptroller and Auditor General's study. In 2001 and 2002, the Government approved a series of reforms to the initiative on foot of a Department of Finance and expenditure review central steering committee review of the review process and taking into account the Comptroller and Auditor General's findings. These reforms included the establishment of criteria for the selection of programmes for review, the provision of dedicated central supports for the review process, a process for assessing the impact of expenditure reviews, and steps to address the cross-departmental aspects of the initiative. Arrangements for drawing up the terms of reference for reviews have been strengthened. A system of external quality assessment of reviews has operated since mid-2003 and 12 reviews have been subject to this form of assessment. An expenditure reviewers' network has been established and direct training has been provided centrally to civil servants involved in the conduct of reviews. The Government decided that completed expenditure review reports should be published by Departments and offices using their websites and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. In addition, the steering committee has initiated a rolling series of meetings with secretaries general and heads of office to discuss the impact of the review in their respective Departments and offices.

The initiative has enabled greater attention to be directed to the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of programmes and areas reviewed as well as helping to foster the development of an evaluation culture within Departments and offices. The steering committee is preparing a progress report on the initiative since 2002 which will be broadly along the lines suggested in paragraph 4.55 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's report.

Programmes for Government.

John Bruton

Question:

188 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if all public services provided by his Department that are capable of electronic delivery are available electronically through a single point of contact, as was promised in the joint programme; and if not, if he will make a statement or explanation in respect of each service not yet so provided. [17559/04]

Under the Government's action plans for the information society, my Department is tasked with providing a public sector procurement portal. This portal, namedwww.etenders.gov.ie, was launched in March 2001 and revamped in January 2004. It is a single point of contact providing on-line access to all public sector procurement opportunities. In addition the site includes a facility for the on-line creation and submission of tendering notices to the Official Journal of the EU. Ireland is the first EU member state to do this at a national level. A pilot facility for the electronic submission of tenders by suppliers is also being developed with a view to being available to all tenderers before the end of 2004.

The e-estimates project is also listed as a priority for electronic delivery by my Department. As civil servants are the user base for this, it was never envisaged as a service for delivery under the public services broker which will be the single point of contact for services consumed by the general public. Phase 1 of this project is under development. Pending the development of the public services broker as the single point of contact for public services, the relevant information services pertaining to my Department are available at the single on-line location for Irish Government information,www.gov.ie, as well on my Department’s website.

Expenditure Reviews.

John Bruton

Question:

189 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has achieved the target, set out in the initiation of the expenditure review initiative in 1997, that all Government expenditure be subject to a formal review under that initiative every three years; and if not, the areas of expenditure in respect of which the three yearly review has not taken place. [17574/04]

John Bruton

Question:

190 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the areas of expenditure of his Department in respect of which an expenditure review under the expenditure review initiative has not yet been completed and published. [17589/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189 and 190 together.

The initial target of the expenditure review initiative was to review all expenditure programmes over a three-year period. However, a review of the process by the Department of Finance expenditure review central steering committee in 2000-01 found that this target had been over ambitious and that a more focused approach to the selection of review topics was required. This view was supported by a Comptroller and Auditor General value for money study of the initiative in 2001, which proposed that a more realistic target should be set that took into account the level of evaluative capacity in Departments generally.

In June 2001 the Government decided, inter alia, that the Department of Finance and individual Departments and offices should compile and agree a work plan of review topics based on specific selection criteria, namely, that programmes selected for review should reflect Government priorities or strategic result areas, involve significant levels of expenditure, etc. Subsequently, in May 2002, the Government approved a schedule of expenditure review topics proposed for the first year of the next three-year planning horizon 2002-04, and noted the topics proposed for 2003 and 2004. In April 2003, the steering committee asked Departments and offices to update their expenditure review plans, again in consultation with the Department of Finance. The committee emphasised the Government’s selection criteria and advised that Departments and offices should select a few programmes or areas involving major policy issues or significant levels of expenditure. On foot of this process, revised expenditure review plans were drawn up by Departments and offices.

My Department, as part of the first round of the initiative, reviewed the grant-in-aid to the Economic and Social Research Institute. In the current round of the initiative the areas of expenditure of my Department in respect of which an expenditure review has not yet been completed and published include ongoing expenditure reviews of the grant-in-aid to the Institute of Public Administration; payments to the promoters of certain charitable lotteries; the change management fund; and the Information Society. Planned expenditure reviews include consultancies; the grant-in-aid to the Economic and Social Research Institute which was reviewed in 1997 as part of the first round of the review; and the grant-in-aid to Ordnance Survey Ireland.

It should be noted that EU programmes are subject to their own reviews, including evaluation by independent consultants and a review process with the European Commission led by the Department of Finance. These programmes are not therefore included in the review process. Several programmes have not been included in the review process because of the low level of funding involved, for example, expenditure of €120,000 in respect of committees and commissions. Other programme areas such as the child care initiative and procurement management reform were not included in the current round of reviews because, when the Department's review plan was being formulated, they were at too early a stage to review. These programmes will, however, be considered for future review.

Tax Collection.

John McGuinness

Question:

191 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if a detailed statement will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny regarding a sheriff’s warrant issued from Waterford; and if a refund of the amount on the summons is due to this person. [17633/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a certificate for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny was issued by them to the sheriff in Waterford on 30 October 2002. The certificate related to an under payment of income tax in the amount of €2,191.78, and interest thereon of €2,317.69 for the 1993-94 tax year. The income tax liability was based on a return of income submitted by the person. The certificate was issued to the sheriff as a result of the failure of the person to pay the full amount of income tax due for that year. Revenue made several requests for payment to the person prior to the issue of the certificate to the sheriff. These notifications contained clear warnings of interest charges on unpaid tax and of the possibility that continued non-payment would lead to enforcement action.

The Revenue Commissioners also advise that on 4 November 2002 the sheriff issued a demand for payment of the tax and interest liabilities, together with sheriff fees and expenses, to the person. On 8 April 2003 payment of the total amount due, including a sum of €860.65 for sheriff fees and expenses, was made to the sheriff. Payment of these amounts has fully cleared the liabilities due by the person for that year. Consequently, the Revenue Commissioners advise that no refund is due to the person.

Pat Carey

Question:

192 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance if the necessary arrangements will be made to have the tax claim by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 dealt with speedily; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17686/04]

The Revenue Commissioners inform me that they have reviewed the taxpayer's liability for the years 1998-99 to date. As her income exceeded the exemption limits for the years in question, she is liable to pay tax on her income, including her pensions, for those years. Under payments of tax arose for the years 1998-99 to 2002. A review of her tax liability for the year 2003 has shown an over payment. When this over payment is set against the under payment for previous years, there is still a small liability. The Revenue Commissioners do not propose to pursue this.

Tax Code.

Seán Haughey

Question:

193 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance if he will reduce the tax on soft drinks sold in pubs in order to reduce alcohol consumption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17742/04]

Soft drinks, fruit juices and bottled water are subject to VAT at the standard rate of 21%. Alcoholic beverages are subject to excise duties. VAT applies to alcoholic beverages at the standard rate. Under Annex H of the EU Sixth VAT Directive, member states are permitted to apply a reduced rate of not less than 5% to food and non-alcoholic beverage items. It would be possible therefore to apply our reduced rate of 13.5% to all soft drinks.

There is no evidence to suggest that if the VAT rate on soft drinks was reduced to 13.5% that consumers would benefit from reduced prices in pubs for such products. Such a VAT reduction, even if passed on, would result in a relatively small price change. In addition, a reduction in the rate of VAT on soft drinks would be costly to the Exchequer. Even if there was a reduction in the price of soft drinks, arising from a VAT change, there is no evidence that this would have any impact on consumption of alcohol, or encourage a move away from alcoholic drinks. I have no plans, therefore, to introduce the change proposed by the Deputy.

Decentralisation Programme.

John Bruton

Question:

194 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the contents of the guidance his Department has issued to other Departments on the question of risk management both in general terms and in terms of the particular risks associated with the relocation of Government offices. [17751/04]

My Department produced guidance on risk management for Departments and offices earlier this year and the text is available on my department's websitewww.finance.gov.ie. The document gives guidance on risk management and does not deal with specific risks. I have no doubt Departments and offices will follow this guidance as they proceed with the implementation of decentralisation.

In addition to these guidelines, the decentralisation implementation group appointed by the Government, requested all decentralising organisations to prepare an implementation plan and requested that each plan incorporate specific risk assessment and mitigation strategies.

John Bruton

Question:

195 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the decentralisation plan for all agencies under his aegis has yet been submitted to the decentralisation implementation group; and if not there reason therefor. [17752/04]

The decentralisation plans for all the agencies under the aegis of my Department have been submitted to the decentralisation implementation group.

John Bruton

Question:

196 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he proposes to deal with the risks associated with decentralisation in the annual report of his Department for 2004. [17753/04]

Departments are required to prepare an annual report under section 4 of the Public Service Management Act 1997. This is an account of progress by the Department in the preceding year with the implementation of its statement of strategy. All such reports by my Department concentrate on the achievement of our strategic priorities — and will continue to do so — commenting, where appropriate, on factors, including risk factors, affecting or likely to affect the achievement of our objectives.

Ministerial Appointments.

Michael Ring

Question:

197 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance the appointments that have been made to State boards and bodies within his Department from 1 January 2003 to 15 June 2004; the persons appointed; and the persons they are replacing. [17796/04]

The following table sets out the appointments that have been made to State boards and bodies operating under the aegis of my Department between 1 January 2003 and 15 June 2004 and the names of the persons being replaced, where relevant.

Name of Board or Body

Names of people appointed since 1 January 2003

Names of people replaced

National Development Finance Agency

Dr. Michael SomersMr. Jim FarrellMs Ann FitzgeraldMr. Anthony JonesMr. Peter McManamonMs Ann Counihan

New body set up in January 2003.Mr. Jim Farrell

National Lottery Board

Mr. Donal CurtinMr. Ray BatesMr. Micheal Ó Muircheartaigh

Mr. John HynesRe-appointmentRe-appointment

Central Bank & Financial Services Authority of Ireland(1)

Mr. Gerard DanaherMs Deirdre PurcellMr. David BeggMr. Friedhelm DanzMr. John DunneMr. Roy DonovanMr. Martin O’Donoghue

New financial structure established on 1 May 2003.Mr. Donal Byrne, Mr. Michael McBennett and Mr. Jim Nugent retired from the Board of the Central Bank on the establishment of the new financial structure.

Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority(2)

Mr. Brian Patterson (Chair)Mr. Alan AsheMr. Friedhelm DanzMr. Gerard DanaherMr. John DunneMr. Jim FarrellMs Deirdre PurcellMr. Dermot Quigley

New body established on 1 May 2003.

Revenue Powers Group

Mr. Justice Francis Murphy, (Chair)Ms Julie BurkeMr. James JenningsMs Suzanne KellyMr. Sean MoriartyMr. Michael MullinsMr. Roderick Ryan

New Group established in March 2003.

Decentralisation Implementation Committee

Mr. Phil Flynn (Chair)Mr. Eddie SullivanMr. Sean BentonMs Jane WilliamsMr. Dermot QuigleyMr. Fred Devlin

New Committee established in December 2003.

Valuation Tribunal

Ms Mairead HughesMr. John Kerr

Mr. William NolanMr. Tim Cotter

Interim Board of the Civil Service Childcare Agency

Mr. John BradshawMs Marie McLaughlinMr. Ernan ToibinMs Joyce Nolan

Mr. Eugene LennonMr. John O’ConnellMr. Frank O’BrienMr. John Bradshaw

Committee for Performance Awards

Ms Ann Fitzgerald

Ms Niamh Brennan

Civil Service Arbitration Board

Mr. Gerard Durcan S.C. (Chairperson)Mr. Derek HunterMr. Tom Wall

Re-appointments

Adjudicator for the Civil Service and Teachers C& A Schemes

Ms Niamh Stewart B.L.

Re-appointment

Permanent Defence Forces Arbitration Board

Mr. Gerard Durcan S.C. (Chairperson)Mr. Derek Hunter (as member nominated by Government)Mr. George Maybury (as member nominated by the representative associations)

New Board established in January 2004.

Adjudicator for Defence Forces C& A Scheme

Ms Niamh Stewart B.L.

Re-appointment

Independent Mediation Officer for the Civil Service Grievance Procedure

Mr. Kieran McGovern

Re-appointment

Chairperson of the Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeals Board

Ms Inge Clissmann

Re-appointment

Alternate Director at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

Mr. Desmond O’Malley

Mr. Michael Flynn

Alternate Director of the International Monetary Fund

Mr. Charles X. O’Loghlin

Mr. Nicholas Ó Murchú

Board of Directors of the European Investment Bank

Mr. Noel O’Gorman

Re-appointment

Alternate Director of the European Investment Bank

Mr. Kevin Cardiff

Mr. Cardiff, as part of a rotation agreement, replaced the Danish Alternate Director.

In addition to the appointments outlined in the above table, the President, on the advice of the Government following a resolution passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, appointed Ms Emily O'Reilly, to succeed Mr. Kevin Murphy, as Ombudsman and Freedom of Information Commissioner with effect from June 2003.

Footnotes:

(1)In addition to the persons named the following areex officio members of the board; the Governor and Director General of the bank, the Secretary General of the Department of Finance, the chairperson of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority and the Chief Executive of that authority.

(2)In addition to the persons named the Chief Executive and the Consumer director of the authority areex officio members of the board.

Departmental Bodies.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

198 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance the name and number and commencement date of policy review groups with a public consultative process under way within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17874/04]

Policy review groups in my Department engage in a consultative process where appropriate. However, there is no policy review group within my Department with a public consultative process under way at this time.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

199 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if tax credits can be claimed for the cost of sessions with a psychotherapist; if not, the reason therefor; if tax credits can be claimed for the cost of sessions with a psychotherapist when the patient has been referred by a psychiatrist; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17921/04]

Under section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 relating to health expenses, tax relief may be claimed at the individual's marginal, or highest, rate of tax in respect of sessions with a psychotherapist where the psychotherapist is a qualified medical practitioner registered in the register established under section 26 of the Medical Practitioners Act 1978 or an individual is referred to a psychotherapist by a psychiatrist for a diagnostic procedure. As with all medical expenses, relief cannot be claimed for any expenditure that has been or will be reimbursed by a medical insurer — for example, VHI or BUPA. In addition, the first €125 of any medical expenses incurred in any tax year does not qualify for tax relief. In the case of an individual claiming relief in respect of two or more persons, the first €250 in any year does not qualify for tax relief.

EU Presidency.

Seán Haughey

Question:

200 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position of the Government in respect of independence for West Papua from Indonesia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17286/04]

Ireland, together with its EU partners, welcomes the progress Indonesia has made in its democratic reform process. We recognise the importance of the elections to the Legislature, held in April 2004, and the forthcoming presidential elections, to be held in July 2004.

While acknowledging Indonesia's legitimate concern to preserve its territorial integrity, we continue to encourage the Government of that country to strengthen its efforts to address the legitimate aspirations of the people of Papua. A balanced way forward would involve good governance and more control of the land and resources for their own benefit by the local population. In this regard, I welcomed the decision in August 2003 of the Government of Indonesia to suspend the implementation of the presidential decree dividing Papua into three provinces. I regret, however, that this suspension has been described by the Government of Indonesia as temporary.

At the April 2003 meeting of the EU External Relations Council, Ireland, together with its EU partners, adopted Council conclusions on Indonesia. These confirmed the EU's support for the territorial integrity of Indonesia and stressed the importance of the full implementation, in both letter and spirit, of the special autonomy law in Papua. This law, which dates from November 2001 but has not yet been fully implemented, provides for a greater degree of autonomy for Papua than for Indonesia's other provinces. Subsequently, in January 2004 the External Relations Council adopted conclusions on South East Asia which reiterated our commitment to the territorial integrity of countries in that region, to a democratic and stable region and to the promotion of human rights, democratic principles and good governance.

As a demonstration of our commitment as Presidency to raise the level of our political dialogue with Indonesia, I led an EU ministerial Troika meeting with the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr. Wirajuda, on 18 April last. This was the first meeting at this level between the EU Presidency and Indonesia in a number of years. In particular, I used the occasion to express the EU's continuing concerns about the situation in Papua. Minister Wirajuda took note of our concerns and expressed his belief that the special autonomy law will satisfy the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of the people in Papua. I made it clear that we would carefully monitor the situation in this regard.

Ireland, together with its EU partners, will continue to support the development of a strengthened partnership and effective dialogue between the EU and Indonesia. The Government sees this as the most effective framework at this time for addressing our serious concerns about the situation in Papua.

EU Treaties.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

201 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether the proposal for a social clause through an additional Article III-2a, in the draft constitutional treaty will be accepted as part of the final text of the treaty; his further views on whether the proposal to amend the text of Article III-6 to ensure the competence of member states to provide, commission and fund services of general economic interest will be incorporated into the final text of the treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17484/04]

Proposals to include a social clause through a new Article III-2a and an amended Article III-6 were included as part of Document CIG 79/04 circulated by the Presidency on 10 June last. This document covered those technical issues on which the Presidency considered a broad consensus had been reached and on which it was seeking confirmation from partners that no fundamental problems existed in advance of this week's final meeting of the IGC. Following yesterday's meeting of Foreign Ministers, the Presidency believes a broad consensus exists in favour of the inclusion of these two articles. A formal decision on their inclusion, however, will be made in the context of an overall agreement on the new constitutional treaty.

Electronic Communications.

John Bruton

Question:

202 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if all public services provided by his Department that are capable of electronic delivery are available electronically through a single point of contact, as was promised in the joint programme; and if not, if he will make a statement or explanation in respect of each service not yet so provided. [17560/04]

The electronic delivery of services through a single point of contact is being progressed through the framework of the public services broker and the Reach agency, which reports to the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The Department of Foreign Affairs is working with the Reach agency to offer the Department's services capable of electronic delivery through this single point of contact.

The Reach agency intends to launch the first stage of the public services broker at the end of this month. This will be a public facing website, to be known asreachservices.ie, designed to act as a single point of access to a range of services offered by the Irish public service. Initially, reachservices.ie will provide access in the form of links to forms or on-line services provided on other websites, including those of the Department of Foreign Affairs. It will provide access to information and application forms for up to 900 services at time of launch.

Future releases of the public services broker will include facilities for registration and authentication of customer identity, address validation, the pre-population of forms with previously registered data and an e-payments facility. Another important facility will be the capability for developing and hosting on-line interactive forms which will be offered to Departments and Agencies that are developing on-line services for their customers.

As there are considerable complexities associated with the requirement of customers to provide photographs and signatures in a secure authenticated electronic form, the services delivered by the Department of Foreign Affairs are not easily delivered via electronic channels. The Reach agency has informed the Department that the functionality required to securely accept, authenticate, store and protect the photographs and signatures required for Departmental services will not be available until later releases of the broker.

Pending the delivery by the Reach agency of a fully functional public services broker, the Department is examining the feasibility of making certain passport services available electronically. The Department is considering the feasibility of offering a passport application tracking system and a partial on-line application system over the Internet. Decisions on the feasibility of delivering these services electronically will be made later this year.

Expenditure Reviews.

John Bruton

Question:

203 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department has achieved the target, set out in the initiation of the expenditure review initiative in 1997, that all Government expenditure be subject to a formal review under that initiative every three years; and if not, the areas of expenditure in respect of which the three yearly review has not taken place. [17575/04]

John Bruton

Question:

204 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the areas of expenditure of his Department in respect of which an expenditure review under the expenditure review initiative has not yet been completed and published. [17590/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 203 and 204 together.

The initial target of the expenditure review initiative, ERI, was to review all expenditure programmes over a three-year period. However, a review of the process by the Department of Finance-expenditure review central steering committee in 2000-01 found that this target had been over-ambitious and that a more focused approach to the selection of review topics was required. This view was supported by a value for money study of the ERI, carried out by the Comptroller and Auditor General in 2001, which proposed that a more realistic target should be set which would take into account the level of evaluative capacity in departments generally.

In June 2001, the Government decided,inter alia, that the Department of Finance and individual Departments and offices should compile and agree a work plan of review topics, based on specific selection criteria — that is, that programmes selected for review should reflect Government priorities or strategic result areas or involve significant levels of expenditure, etc. Subsequently, in May 2002 the Government approved a schedule of expenditure review topics proposed for the first year of the next three-year planning horizon, 2002-04, and noted the topics proposed for 2003 and 2004. In April 2003 the central steering committee asked Departments and offices to update their expenditure review plans, again in consultation with the Department of Finance. The committee emphasised the Government’s selection criteria and advised that Departments-offices should select a small number of programmes or areas involving major policy issues or significant levels of expenditure. On foot of this process, revised expenditure review plans were drawn up by Departments and offices. Details of expenditure reviews undertaken by my Department are set out in the appendix.

In addition to reviews under the public expenditure review process, operations and programmes administered by my Department are subject to a range of evaluation mechanisms. The inspection and internal audit unit of the Department conducts regular reviews of services and programmes within the Department with a view to assessing their effectiveness and value for money. In addition, the evaluation and audit unit of Development Co-operation Ireland conducts a schedule of evaluations designed to determine the efficiency of programmes, identify areas for improvement and enable lessons to be learned. Most such evaluations are undertaken by external consultants in co-operation with staff of the unit. Ireland also participates in joint donor evaluation of programmes — often under the umbrella of the OECD's development assistance committee — and has access to a wide range of reviews and evaluations undertaken by other bilateral and multilateral donors.

Appendix:

Reviews completed

·Management of embassy properties abroad

·EU programme on peace and reconciliation

·Irish Aid to Ethiopia

·Reaching out to communities: Area Based Programmes 1994-2000

·Review of In-country Micro-projects Scheme*

·Inhambane Area-based Programme, Mozambique*

Reviews in progress

·Expenditure on cultural relations

·Support to education sector in Zambia and Uganda 2000 to 2003

·Public Expenditure Review of Support to Afghanistan 2000 to 2003

·EU Accession Countries — Training Programme

*These reviews relating to the development co-operation programme are published on the Development Co-operation Ireland website,www.dci.gov.ie. Future reviews, including those in progress, will also be published by the Department.

Human Rights Issues.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

205 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the concerns set out by Trócaire in its document, The Zimbabwean Struggle: Obstacles to Democracy. [17607/04]

Trócaire's document, The Zimbabwean Struggle: Obstacles to Democracy, is a welcome addition to the debate on Zimbabwe. Central to this report are recommendations for the EU to condemn draconian legislation in Zimbabwe, for intensive engagement with Zimbabwe's southern African neighbours and for continued humanitarian aid.

The EU has continually expressed its serious concern at the deteriorating political and human rights in Zimbabwe. A major priority of Ireland's EU Presidency has been the promotion of African issues on the EU agenda, which includes a concentration on the current Zimbabwean crisis. In February 2004 the EU's Common Position on Zimbabwe noted the worsening human rights environment in that country. Faced with this scenario, the Council renewed sanctions on those individuals whom the EU regards as bearing the main responsibility for serious violations of human rights in Zimbabwe. The sanctions are targeted against the political elite and include a travel ban and an assets freeze, as well as an arms embargo.

The Council also expressed its deep concern at legislation in Zimbabwe, which seriously infringes citizens' right to freedom of association and assembly, namely the Public Order and Security Act, POSA. Concern was similarly expressed regarding the application and provisions of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, AIPPA, which denies freedom of expression and restricts freedom of the press. The Council also deplored the consistent undermining of the independence of the judiciary by the Government of Zimbabwe.

With regard to intensive pressure on neighbouring countries in southern Africa, this is a policy that has been pursued vigorously by the EU and by Ireland in its bilateral relations. The EU raised its profound concerns regarding Zimbabwe at both the EU-Africa and the EU-South Africa ministerial Troika meetings in Dublin on 1 and 2 April of this year. I also raised the Zimbabwe issue bilaterally in my meetings with President Chissano of Mozambique, current chair of the African Union, and President Mbeki of South Africa last November. The Irish Presidency arranged for the EU's Common Position on Zimbabwe to be formally communicated to all members of the Southern Africa Development Community, SADC. We also reiterated our willingness to engage with the Government of Zimbabwe on the basis of an established set of governance centred benchmarks.

The EU is strongly committed to the welfare of the Zimbabwean people, as evidenced by its donation of €294 million of humanitarian assistance to the citizens of Zimbabwe over the 2002-03 period. Development Co-operation Ireland, DCI, has also made €8 million in emergency and humanitarian assistance available for the affected countries in southern Africa, of which €3 million went directly to Zimbabwe. In 2003 DCI also provided funding of more than €2 million to five development projects in Zimbabwe. All of this aid is channelled through the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the Red Cross and other international NGOs.

Decentralisation Programme.

John Bruton

Question:

206 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason the decentralisation implementation plan for his Department was not completed within the time limit set; and if the preparation of this report has involved the diversion of staff resources from other work. [17769/04]

As the Deputy will appreciate, the decision to decentralise the Department's development co-operation directorate to Limerick raised a number of issues relating to the conditions of service which would apply to officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs transferring to Limerick and to officers of other Departments and agencies joining this Department. It has been necessary to consider these issues with the Department of Finance and we are in ongoing consultation with them in this regard.

The Department has also recently inspected a site in Limerick city proposed by the Office of Public Works, OPW, as the location for the new premises for the development co-operation directorate. Certain issues arising from that inspection remain to be addressed with the OPW. The suitability, or otherwise, of the site will have a major bearing on the timescale for completion of the decentralisation, and therefore on the implementation plan.

In light of that, it was not feasible for this Department to meet the time frame recommended in the report of the decentralisation implementation group for submission of implementation plans. The plan is now being finalised by a committee, comprising mainly representatives of the Department's corporate services and development co-operation divisions, and has not necessitated the diversion of staff resources from other work. I am confident the plan will be submitted to the Department of Finance within the next ten days.

John Bruton

Question:

207 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason he has not replied to Parliamentary Question No. 120 of 2 June 2004. [17770/04]

In his Parliamentary Question No. 120 of 2 June 2004, the Deputy asked if the Minister for Foreign Affairs would take steps to ensure that the annual report of his Department would contain a risk assessment of decentralisation, as it affects his Department or agencies under its aegis, dealing with strategic, operational, financial and reputational risks as set out in paragraph 6.31 of the Mullarkey report. In my combined reply to this and a number of related questions, I indicated that the Department's annual report would take account of the Department's decentralisation implementation plan which would, in turn, address issues such as service and business continuity, efficiency and effectiveness and financial implications and would incorporate specific risk assessment and mitigation strategies. I also indicated there was a high level of awareness in the Department of Foreign Affairs of the types of risks identified in paragraph 6.31 of the Report of the Working Group on the Accountability of Secretaries General and Accounting Officers, the Mullarkey report, and that the Department's implementation plan would be submitted to me prior to its transmission to the decentralisation implementation group.

Appointments to State Boards.

Michael Ring

Question:

208 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the appointments that have been made to State boards and bodies within his Department from 1 January 2003 to 15 June 2004; the persons appointed; and the persons they are replacing. [17797/04]

The following appointments have been made to boards and bodies within my Department between January 2003 and mid June 2004: On 6 March, 2003, Mr. Pádraig McManus was appointed as a member of the advisory board for Development Co-operation Ireland. Mr. McManus is an additional member of the board and was not appointed to replace anybody else. On 4 September, 2003, Mr. Chris Flood was appointed to succeed Mr. Desmond O'Malley as chairperson of the board.

Ms Morina O'Neill was appointed a member of the development education advisory committee on 8 May, 2003, replacing Ms Annette Honan. On the same date, Mr. Robert Kirkpatrick replaced Mr. Hugh O'Neill as the Department of Education and Science's representative on the committee.

On 24 October, 2003, Mr. Peter Johnson replaced Ms Frances Leahy as the representative of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment on the Committee.

The following persons were appointed to the board of APSO since January 2003: Ms Catherine Boylan replaced Mr. Donal McDonald on 20 January 2003; Mr. Aidan O'Connor was appointed to a pre-existing vacancy on 1 August, 2003; Mr. Pat Bourne replaced Ms Helen Browne on 12 September 2003. Since 1 January 2004, APSO has been integrated into Development Co-operation Ireland. It is expected that the board of APSO will be wound up shortly.

School Absenteeism.

John McGuinness

Question:

209 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if in regard to persons (details supplied) his attention has been drawn to the fact that their child has not been in school for two years; the arrangements his Department has made in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17632/04]

The Education (Welfare) Act 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education.

To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service that is accessible to schools, parents-guardians and others concerned with the welfare of young people. For this purpose, educational welfare officers, EWOs, are being appointed and deployed throughout the country to provide a welfare-focused service to support regular school attendance and discharge the board's functions locally.

The board has appointed a chief executive officer, directors of corporate services and educational welfare services and a management team of eight staff. To date, 62 educational welfare staff have been appointed. I understand the board will soon make a further EWO appointment which will bring the service delivery staff to its authorised complement of 63 service delivery staff.

At this stage of its development, the aim of the board is to provide a service to the most disadvantaged areas, including areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams have now been established with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and an educational welfare service is now available, for the first time, in the cities of Limerick, Galway and Kilkenny. Twelve towns with significant school going populations, 11 of which are designated under the Government's RAPID programme, also now have an educational welfare officer allocated to them. These towns are Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo and Letterkenny. In addition, the board will follow up on urgent cases nationally.

In July 2004, the board will receive the first comprehensive data returns from schools and these will assist it in keeping the level of need for the new service in particular areas under review.

The NEWB has indicated that it is not aware of the circumstances of the case raised by the Deputy. However, the board has indicated that it is prepared to meet the Deputy to hear his concerns and to see how best it can respond.

Special Educational Needs.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

210 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science when the 350 new positions in learning support and resource teaching will be filled; and when schools will be notified of whether their applications for same have been successful. [17190/04]

The position is that applications for special education resources, SER, 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 these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

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

In the case of teacher resources, the outcome for each applicant school will be based on a new weighted system of allocation, as part of which an additional 350 teaching posts will be allocated. Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the weighted system are being developed in consultation with representative interests. It is envisaged that those consultations can be completed and schools notified of the outcome before the end of the current school year.

School Accommodation.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

211 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress being made on the application for a temporary pre-fab to cater for one class at a school (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17192/04]

The school planning section of my Department has considered all applications for temporary accommodation. In the context of the available funding and the number of applications for that funding, it was not possible to approve all applications received and only those with an absolute and demonstrated need for additional accommodation were approved. The application from the school referred to by the Deputy was not successful on this occasion.

The need for accommodation at the school will be considered in the context of a review which is being undertaken of all projects that did not proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including it as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005 onwards. I expect to be in a position to make further announcements in this matter later this year.

Jackie Healy-Rae

Question:

212 Mr. Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Science if the provision of three pre-fabs will be fast tracked for a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17193/04]

All applications for temporary accommodation have been considered in the school planning section of my Department. In the context of available funding and the number of applications received for that funding it was not possible to approve all applications received and only those with an absolute and demonstrated need for additional accommodation were approved.

The application from the school to which the Deputy refers was not successful on this occasion. The school's need for accommodation will be considered in the context of a review being undertaken of all projects that did not proceed as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including it as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005, details of which will be announced later in the year.

Student Support Schemes.

Jackie Healy-Rae

Question:

213 Mr. Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Science if the provision of a remote area grant will be fast-tracked for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17194/04]

Under the remote area grant scheme, provision exists for the payment of grants towards boarding or lodging fees in respect of pupils who satisfy certain eligibility criteria in respect of remoteness from the nearest school providing suitable free second level education. My Department has been in contact with Bus Éireann who has confirmed that as the pupil's residence, in this case, is within 15 miles of Gaelcholaiste Chiarraí, Tralee, the nearest all-Irish medium post-primary school, the pupil concerned does not qualify for a boarding grant under the terms of the remote area grant scheme.

It has been intimated that an exemption be given to the pupil in this case in respect of the remote area grant scheme on the basis that the nearest all-Irish school appears not to be offering the prescribed certified course in two specific subject areas. This is neither a reasonable nor tenable basis to justify granting the exemption in question. In this case, my Department's responsibility to provide an all-Irish medium post-primary education is satisfied through Gaelcholaiste Chiarraí. The extent of curricular diversity at Gaelcholaiste Chiarraí is a matter for the school's management authority.

School Staffing.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

214 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has sanctioned the position of temporary class teacher for the school year 2004-05, to be effective from 1 September 2004, for a school (details supplied) in County Galway. [17195/04]

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. This is in accordance with guidelines agreed between my Department and the education partners.

In the current school year the staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy is a principal plus three mainstream class teachers based on an enrolment of 92 pupils at 30 September 2002.

In accordance with the staffing schedule, the staffing of the school for the 2004-05 school year will be principal plus three mainstream class teachers based on an enrolment of 108 pupils at 30 September 2003.

To ensure transparency and openness in the system an independent appeals board is now in place to decide on appeals on mainstream staffing in primary schools. Details of the appeals procedure are outlined in my Department's primary circular 03/04.

This school is included in the rural dimension of the disadvantage initiatives. The school is one of four schools, in a rural cluster with a rural co-ordinator and is also in receipt of financial support under the scheme.

A detailed review of all educational disadvantage initiatives is nearing completion within my Department and this will impact on existing schemes. I hope to announce the outcome of this review shortly.

Higher Education Grants.

David Stanton

Question:

215 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the procedure to be followed in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17204/04]

The higher education grant schemes operate under the Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Acts, 1968 to 1992. These Acts define a mature student to mean a person "of not less than 23 years of age, or such other age as may stand specified for the time being in regulations made by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance, who have secured places in approved institutions and have reached that age on the 1st day of January, or such other date as may be prescribed from time to time by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance, in the year of entry to such institutions". The Acts further provide,inter alia, for the making of grants to mature students whose means and those of their parents, where the mature students are dependent on their parents, and the means of their spouses, if any, do not exceed prescribed limits.

Under the terms of the higher education grants schemes, mature students are categorised as either independent mature students or mature students dependent on parents. An independent mature student is defined to mean a mature student who was not ordinarily resident at home with his or her parents from the October preceding his or her entry to an approved course. Independent mature students are assessed without reference to either their parents' income or address.

When assessing the means of students, other than independent mature students, the Acts specify that the students' means and those of their parents or guardians must be below a prescribed limit. This provision requires that parental income be taken into account irrespective of the individual circumstances in any case where the student is not an independent mature student.

School Accommodation.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

216 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the problems facing a school (details supplied) in County Wexford now that its application for temporary accommodation has been refused; the action the school can take when enrolment increases in September 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17250/04]

All applications for temporary accommodation have been considered by the school planning section of my Department. In the context of the available funding, and the number of applications for that funding, it was not possible to approve all applications received, and only those with an absolute and demonstrated need for additional accommodation were approved.

The need for additional accommodation at the school to which the Deputy refers will be considered in the context of a review which is being undertaken of all projects that did not proceed as part of the 2004 school building programme, with a view to including it as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005, details of which will be announced later in the year.

Psychological Service.

Tom Hayes

Question:

217 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will take action in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary who needs urgent assessment for dyslexia; and if an assessment will be expedited. [17253/04]

It is a matter for the school authorities, in consultation with the assigned psychologist from the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, to determine the priority list for individual psychological assessments. In this instance, it appears that the school felt that other assessment work was more urgent, as a referral has not been made to NEPS. However, the NEPS psychologist is available for consultation about the case and will monitor progress.

With regard to the concern about the student's eligibility for reasonable accommodations in certificate examinations, RACE, I assume that he will be sitting the junior certificate examinations in June 2006. Schools may apply to the State Examinations Commission for RACE regarding those examinations not earlier than September 2004 and not later than 31 December 2004. Full details are available in circular letter S40/94, paragraph 3.3, on the website of the State Examinations Commission.

It is not necessary to supply work samples or psychological evidence in most applications for RACE in the junior certificate examinations, see circular letter S70/00, final paragraph, SEC website. Therefore, the fact that the student has not yet been reassessed at post-primary level by a NEPS psychologist has no adverse implications for any RACE application that the school authorities may wish to make on his behalf.

If it should be the case that a psychological assessment is required to support the application, then the school should consult its NEPS psychologist in good time, so that priority can be given to the referral.

Schools Building Projects.

Phil Hogan

Question:

218 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will bring forward the project regarding the extension of Presentation College, Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17256/04]

The large-scale building project for the Presentation College, Carlow, is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This project is at stage 5, bills of quantities, of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 3 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

The programme is designed to give maximum amount of information to managers, boards of management, principals, parents and students and to give assurance that the building programme is being operated in an open and transparent manner.

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 to tender in this year's programme, including Presentation College, Carlow. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Disadvantaged Status.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

219 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Donegal can be included for disadvantaged schools status in the disadvantaged schools programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17258/04]

Any decision to expand or extend any of the initiatives aimed at tackling educational disadvantage is being considered in the context of a detailed review of all such initiatives. This review, which will have an impact on existing initiatives is nearing completion and I hope to announce its outcome shortly.

Special Educational Needs.

Jackie Healy-Rae

Question:

220 Mr. Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps he intends to take to ensure that a special needs assistant and resource teaching hours are sanctioned for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17269/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received an application for special education support for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. This application is being considered at present and a response will issue to the school authorities as quickly as possible.

School Accommodation.

Pat Carey

Question:

221 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if sufficient resources will be found within the 2004 budget to fund the purchase of even one of the two small prefabricated classroom buildings already sanctioned as being necessary for the proper operation of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17271/04]

All applications for temporary accommodation have been considered by the school planning section of my Department. In the context of the available funding and the number of applications for that funding, it was not possible to approve all applications received and only those with an absolute and demonstrated need for additional accommodation were approved.

The need for additional accommodation at the school to which the Deputy refers will be considered in the context of a review which is being undertaken of all projects that did not proceed as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including it as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005, details of which will be announced later in the year.

Special Educational Needs.

Pat Carey

Question:

222 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department can supply laptop computers and appropriate software to persons (details supplied) in Dublin 11; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17272/04]

Under present arrangements, my Department provides funding to meet the special equipment needs of pupils with disabilities for use while attending primary and post-primary schools.

Schools can apply, through the special education section of my Department for this support. Supporting documentation should include, psychological assessment, occupational therapy and physiotherapy reports, etc., and should be made available to the school inspector when considering the application.

To date, no application has been received in my Department on behalf of the children referred to by the Deputy.

Pat Carey

Question:

223 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if additional resources can be provided to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 either to help them at school or to allocate home tuition hours to assist them combat the effect of dyslexia on their academic progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17273/04]

I wish to inform the Deputy that my Department has no record of receiving an application for supplementary teaching support for the pupil in question.

Children with dyslexia are generally catered for on an integrated basis in ordinary primary schools where they can be supported by the learning support teacher service or the resource teacher service. The Deputy may be interested to know that my Department is currently developing a weighted system of allocation of teaching support for schools to cater for pupils with special needs, including those with dyslexia. This system, as part of which an additional 350 teaching posts will be allocated, will involve two main elements: (a) making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs; and (b) making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower-prevalence special educational needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring with it a number of benefits. The new system will: reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment; reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils; and give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs.

Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the weighted system are being developed at present in consultation with representative interests. As soon as those consultations have been completed, the detailed arrangements will be set out in a circular to schools.

Home tuition is intended to provide education for children with a significant medical condition causing major disruption to their attendance at school or as an interim support for children with a significant special educational need pending the provision of an appropriate school based educational service.

Pat Carey

Question:

224 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 will continue to receive the same level of assistance in the academic year 2004/2005 as they are currently receiving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17274/04]

The pupil referred to by the Deputy is currently in receipt of 2.5 hours resource teaching support per week and in addition, has the services of a full time special needs assistant.

My Department continues to review the existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. The basic purpose of the review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs. Resources will be retained in schools where there are continuing special educational needs in accordance with the Department's circulars.

I am anxious to ensure that the support services are properly targeted at the children who require them and that the substantially increased resources which are being made available in the special educational area have the desired effect of ensuring that all children assessed as having special needs receive the support they require.

Pat Carey

Question:

225 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will examine the request of the parents of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 for additional resource assistance for their child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17275/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received an application for special education supports for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. The school in question has been requested to furnish additional documentation in support of the application. A decision will be conveyed to the school as soon as the documentation has been received and considered.

School Staffing.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

226 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if the services of a visiting teacher for the deaf will be available in the school year 2004-05 in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17288/04]

My Department is currently assessing the role of the visiting teacher service in the context of the level and range of teacher supports now being provided for children with special educational needs. Decisions regarding appointments to the visiting teacher service will be made when this assessment is completed.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Joe Costello

Question:

227 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has a record of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1. [17289/04]

My Department maintains records on former residents of some 59 industrial and reformatory schools who were placed there by way of a court hearing. However, many children were placed in these schools by alternative means such as referral by State agencies or voluntary placements and, in such cases, my Department generally does not hold any records in respect of such children.

Officials at my Department have checked the database of former residents using the details supplied by the Deputy. However, without further information, it is impossible to definitively state whether or not my Department holds records relating to this individual.

In the circumstances, I would recommend that the former resident should make a written application under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 1997 to The Residential Institutions Redress Unit, Department of Education and Science, Athlone, County Westmeath, for access to records concerning his period of residency in the industrial school. The application form that should be used for making such applications requests further detail to that supplied by the Deputy and the additional detail would enable my Department to definitively determine if it holds records relating to the individual in question.

School Staffing.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

228 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will sanction with all haste the urgently required resource position requested jointly by schools (details supplied) as neither school can continue to function adequately without the resource post to which both are entitled. [17295/04]

On 4 June my Department received correspondence from the schools about the introduction of the weighted model of resource allocation. A response will issue to all schools setting out the details of the weighted model to be implemented in September.

Teaching Qualifications.

John Perry

Question:

229 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the avenue open to a person (details supplied) in County Sligo to secure a work placement. [17301/04]

The higher diploma in special education needs provided by St. Angela's College, Sligo, is designed to meet the continuing professional development training needs of serving teachers. They must be employed to work with pupils with special educational needs in special schools or special classes or as resource teachers in mainstream primary and post-primary schools and other educational services.

The programme is of one year's duration. Time will be divided between the programme venue and teaching in a participant's school and other settings.

To be eligible for the programme a post-primary teacher must be eligible to hold a permanent post in a second level school, must be nominated by the school authority or VEC that has been allocated special class posts, resource posts or resource hours and must spend a minimum of 12 hours per week working with pupils who have special educational needs.

The demand from serving teachers in schools for places on the programme is high. There are no plans to extend beyond its current scope of continuing professional development for serving teachers. In general priority is given to those teachers who hold permanent posts in schools. There is no provision to facilitate applicants who do not meet the eligibility criteria.

School Transport.

John Deasy

Question:

230 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science when catchment areas for school transport were reviewed; and if he will consider population movement and carry out a review. [17305/04]

For the purposes of post-primary education provision the country is divided into catchment areas. Each area has a post-primary education centre.

In the late 1960s the areas were drawn up for the free education scheme. The catchment boundaries were determined following consultation with local educational interests. It was intended that certain primary schools would feed exclusively into each centre. A relatively small number of primary schools are shared between two or more centres.

My Department will revise catchment areas as the need arises. It is normal practice to consult local educational interests where adjustments are being contemplated.

Higher Education Grants.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

231 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science if a higher education grant will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [17311/04]

An approved course under my Department's third level student support schemes means a full-time undergraduate course of at least two years' duration or a full-time postgraduate course of at least one year's duration pursued in an approved institution.

Students pursuing full-time undergraduate courses of a minimum duration of two years in publicly funded third level institutions in other EU member states, including the UK, may be considered for maintenance grants only, subject to the usual conditions. Grant assistance is not available in respect of postgraduate courses outside of Ireland.

Under the terms of the schemes students who already hold an undergraduate degree are ineligible for funding in respect of further study at undergraduate level.

The person referred to is a graduate. At present they are completing a year's training in practice and appear not to be registered as a full-time student. Therefore, they cannot be considered for grant assistance.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

232 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay of two years in assessing an application for development and refurbishment of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if he can investigate the fact that it appears his Department lost the plans for the school; the reason the fees were paid to the design team prior to his Department accepting the project. [17318/04]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

233 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if design team fees are paid by his Department prior to or subsequent to his Department accepting a project. [17319/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 232 and 233 together.

In December 2003 the school was offered €350,000 under the small and rural primary schools initiative. The scheme operates on a devolved basis. It allows boards of management to address accommodation and building priorities with a guaranteed amount of funding and control the pace building works proceed.

On 30 January the board of management informed my Department that it would not participate in the scheme. The project will progress in the traditional manner.

Indicative timescales were 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 schools building programme. This will allow me to be clearer about projects are do not progress to tender in this year's programme, including the school referred to. During the year I will make a further announcement.

Fees are generally paid on the satisfactory completion of a stage submission.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

234 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when progress will be made on an application for an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Donegal. [17320/04]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

280 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science about a school building (details supplied) in County Donegal. [17523/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 234 and 280 together.

The large-scale building project is listed in section 8 of the 2004 schools building programme. It is published on my Department's websitewww.education.ie. It is at stages 4 or 5 or pre-receipt of tender documents of architectural planning. My Department assigned it a band 4 rating in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

Indicative timescales were 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 schools building programme, which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing to tender in this year's programme, including the school in question. I will make a further announcement during the year.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

235 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 216 of 1 June, if an institution (details supplied) in County Galway is one of the institutions identified for inclusion under section 4 of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002. [17321/04]

Section 4 of the Act enables additional institutions that are identified as reformatory schools, industrial schools, orphanages, children's homes and special schools, in which children were placed and resident and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function, to be added to the Schedule.

A number of institutions were identified for possible inclusion and I intend to bring the matter to Government shortly for its consideration. The institution named is under consideration.

Departmental Expenditure.

Paul McGrath

Question:

236 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the capital expenditure on primary schools for the years 1999 to 2003, inclusive, per county. [17322/04]

The details on capital expenditure are provided in the following tabular statement. The expenditure relates to various projects undertaken at specific primary schools. Every primary school received funding under the grant scheme for minor works to national school properties in the amount of €3,809 per school and €12.70 per pupil for each of the academic years during the same period.

Primary School

Counties

Expenditure

Expenditure

Expenditure

Expenditure

Expenditure

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

Carlow

525,229.18

341,341.60

462,366.97

2,199,301.15

1,863,042.60

Cavan

1,669,090.94

1,135,638.88

1,028,374.35

1,052,401.06

2,974,656.85

Clare

730,743.80

1,527,799.36

1,548,238.09

6,966,902.64

2,463,194.76

Cork

8,713,287.73

11,146,068.58

18,061,921.07

15,579,170.32

14,453,969.86

Donegal

1,767,943.06

2,438,452.46

4,537,696.95

7,727,446.45

2,876,907.18

Dublin

16,178,976.89

18,191,924.74

33,534,287.45

49,183,909.02

30,202,004.27

Galway

1,935,713.04

2,649,880.25

3,624,017.68

4,643,460.55

3,154,665.66

Kerry

2,404,089.09

1,136,716.20

1,103,079.88

1,969,200.40

1,747,780.92

Kildare

2,247,721.49

2,717,260.60

10,677,212.81

5,804,337.56

10,929,255.47

Kilkenny

3,121,838.07

1,042,532.04

1,646,380.11

4,247,791.09

3,763,250.82

Laois

265,361.14

475,607.44

395,922.83

1,495,431.68

1,388,418.38

Leitrim

344,565.07

88,839.54

368,222.55

952,108.88

614,960.16

Limerick

2,792,082.58

1,875,194.64

8,060,883.64

7,042,899.45

7,395,277.65

Longford

28,838.95

176,103.36

362,215.06

739,109.59

1,327,162.15

Louth

314,192.82

244,544.79

1,901,359.71

2,474,231.63

2,027,949.08

Mayo

1,170,478.73

3,051,482.71

2,670,336.60

5,313,285.04

4,372,072.81

Meath

2,003,341.15

3,347,385.14

4,626,609.51

4,013,041.99

3,106,337.91

Monaghan

1,109,384.31

721,328.73

920,618.39

2,687,800.78

1,757,487.06

Offaly

1,150,564.18

444,648.52

2,808,498.92

6,674,488.03

4,708,321.31

Roscommon

116,999.45

346,838.13

1,445,497.80

93,364.74

3,409,020.10

Sligo

587,075.88

1,280,193.73

1,407,134.74

1,832,137.62

2,465,697.62

Tipperary

1,847,572.37

845,603.17

2,163,678.23

3,634,818.09

3,922,979.03

Waterford

1,469,986.85

2,005,676.10

1,450,086.49

1,108,810.13

2,950,734.06

Westmeath

650,618.40

737,839.82

965,651.86

2,097,683.37

3,475,276.24

Wexford

1,536,720.13

830,553.21

1,663,644.91

2,731,988.93

1,825,517.70

Wicklow

3,260,136.70

3,090,157.92

3,215,220.92

6,066,849.83

8,546,062.86

School Enrolments.

Paul McGrath

Question:

237 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools that have an enrolment of under 12 pupils, 13 to 22 pupils and 23 to 40 pupils. [17327/04]

The information requested is as follows:

Number of Schools 2002-2003

Under 12 pupils

33

13 to 22 pupils

132

23 to 40 pupils

462

Special Educational Needs.

Paul McGrath

Question:

238 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the educational facilities available in County Westmeath to primary school age children who are autistic. [17328/04]

Children with autism have access to a range of special support services. To date 130 special classes dedicated to children with autism have been established in the primary sector. Each class operates at a maximum pupil-teacher ratio of 6:1 and have the support of at least two special needs assistants. More classes are being established on an ongoing basis in response to assessed needs. At present there are two special classes for pupils with autism attached to schools in County Westmeath.

Children with special educational needs, including autistic children, attending mainstream schools are generally catered for by the support of a resource teacher and special needs assistant services. The level of support provided is determined by the professionally assessed needs of a child.

While autistic children wait for a suitable educational placement my Department may sanction home tuition as an interim measure, if appropriate.

Psychological Service.

Paul McGrath

Question:

239 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science about locating a school psychological service in Mullingar, County Westmeath. [17329/04]

Premises for the National Educational Psychological Service regional office for the midlands region are located in Mullingar and are being fitted out. It will be a base for NEPS psychologists serving counties Westmeath and Longford. It will also be the administrative headquarters for those counties as well as counties Laois and Offaly. I expect the office to be operational in time for the commencement of the 2004-2005 school year.

Higher Education Grants.

Willie Penrose

Question:

240 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if he shall cap PLC numbers at the level that pertained in 2002; if his attention was drawn to the concern it is causing to schools that offer the courses. [17330/04]

In the current academic year the enrolments on post-leaving certificate courses in certain schools and colleges have exceeded the number of places approved by my Department. Teacher allocations for 2004-2005 and capitation grants were allocated on the basis of the approved number of places or the numbers enrolled. My Department approved nearly 28,700 places for the 2003-2004 academic year.

Officials from my Department met management representatives in the sector and the Teachers' Union of Ireland to hear their concerns. They have also received submissions from a number of VECs on their needs.

My Department is considering appeals from the VECs, schools and colleges for the recognition of the excess numbers enrolled for the purposes of teacher allocations and grants. A decision will be taken shortly in the light of the totality of demands for teaching resources across the system.

Schools Refurbishment.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

241 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason children at a primary school at Knockmore, County Mayo, must do without a playground because a new, safe sewerage system is required. [17333/04]

The management authority of the primary school did not apply for the works outlined.

The grant scheme for minor works to national school properties is a devolved grant scheme that was introduced in 1997. The works required would appear to be appropriate for funding under the scheme. Schools are not required to communicate with my Department about minor works under the scheme.

Special Educational Needs.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

242 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science the guarantee he can give to identified special needs pupils that they will receive support from suitably qualified teachers in special needs areas in second level schools, in view of the fact that so many contracts are not being renewed in September, including, Ennis community college. [17334/04]

My Department allocates resource posts and special needs assistant posts to second level schools and vocational education committees to cater for special needs pupils enrolled therein. Applications are made to my Department by the relevant school authority. Each application is considered on the basis of the assessed needs of the pupil involved and the nature and level of the support provided is determined on the advice of the psychological service.

Ennis community college was allocated 4.35 wholetime teacher equivalents and three wholetime special needs assistants for the 2004-2005 school year to help cater for students with special needs, including traveller and non-national students, attending the school.

A further application for additional resources for students with special needs attending Ennis community college has been received by my Department from County Clare VEC and the application is now being considered. My Department will notify the VEC of the decision as soon as possible.

With regard to the matter of suitably qualified teachers being appointed in the special needs area, the position is that such appointments are made by the vocational education committee concerned. Permanent wholetime teaching, temporary wholetime teaching or regular part-time teaching posts are filled by vocational education committees following a public advertisement and selection process. Teachers who meet the prescribed minimum qualification for the advertised post are eligible to be considered for appointment.

School Accommodation.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

243 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science if meeting the increasing demand for all-Irish provision in the Lucan area will be met by expanding the general provision as the option being pursued by his Department on Gaelscoil an tSairséalaigh appears to contravene its guidelines on site density and usage. [17335/04]

Officials of my Department requested a consultant architect to conduct a feasibility study on Gaelscoil Naomh Pádraig, Lucan, to ascertain its development potential for the provision of additional accommodation. The consultant's report confirmed that it can be extended to facilitate additional pupil numbers.

My Department shall correspond with the patron of the existing gaelscoil on the matter.

Schools Building Guidelines.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

244 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science the details of the guidelines on site density and usage for primary schools; and the action that can be taken if breaches exist. [17336/04]

My Department seeks to purchase sites ranging from 2.5 to three acres in size for new school buildings for eight to 16 classroom schools. A new eight classroom school would generally be designed with a site area of 2.5 acres and a site of approximately three acres for a new 16 classroom school.

These size guidelines are advisory and relate solely to the provision of new school buildings. Smaller sites are often considered, particularly for urban areas where sites are not always available or where the cost per acre is prohibitive.

Design teams for schools building projects work closely with the relevant local authorities to ensure that sites are developed in a manner compatible with local authority planning requirements.

School Closures.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

245 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason appropriate provisions were not put in place prior to Greendale community school being targeted for closure. [17337/04]

The trustees of the school notified my Department that a decision was taken to close it. The timing of the closure has yet to be determined. Given the pattern of falling enrolments at the school, together with surplus capacity in the general area, my Department concurs with the recommendation.

When a school closes my Department's main role is to ensure that the best interests of the pupils are looked after in the period up to the closure. Alternative provision must also be available to accommodate the pupils who would have ordinarily attended Greendale community school.

School Transport.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

246 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when a final decision will be made on the impaired bus transport for children in Maynooth attending a school (details supplied) in County Kildare for the academic year commencing in September. [17353/04]

A report was requested from Bus Éireann. The Deputy will be advised of the position when it is received and assessed.

School Policy.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

247 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science about a school policy matter (details supplied). [17380/04]

Under the rules of my Department pupils in infant classes may have a school day that is one hour shorter than the length of the normal school day. It is a matter for a school's board of management to decide whether the concession should be applied. If pupils in infant classes are being given a shorter day their parents should be notified and invited to collect them at the time of dismissal.

In the event that parents cannot collect their children on a particular day due to exceptional, unforeseen circumstances then the children must be supervised in school up to the time school ends or until they are transferred into the care of a nominated adult.

Schools that have notified parents of their policy would be entitled to expect that parents would comply with the stated policy. It is acknowledged that particular circumstances can arise whereby the implementation of the shorter school day for pupils in infant classes can cause difficulties for some parents. This can be especially so where, for instance, parents have other children in senior classes in the school who would not be finished until one hour after the infant classes have concluded. In such cases parents are required to undertake two return journeys within the space of an hour if the school policy is strictly implemented. Difficulties may also arise due to the organisation of the school transport system where children are only collected at the end of the school day.

In such situations parents should contact the board of management and explain the difficulties that they will encounter if the school policy is strictly implemented. My Department requests schools to take a sympathetic approach to cases where the strict implementation of the policy would cause genuine difficulties for parents.

Schools Building Projects.

Tony Gregory

Question:

248 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science when the necessary funding will be made available for the refurbishment of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 7. [17381/04]

The large scale building project for the school is listed in section 8 of the 2004 schools building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. The project is at stage 3, developed sketch scheme, of architectural planning. My Department assigned it a band 1 rating in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large scale projects.

It is planned to progress this project to advanced architectural planning during 2004.

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 schools building programme, which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing to tender in this year's programme including the school referred to by the Deputy. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Benchmarking Awards.

Richard Bruton

Question:

249 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science about analogue payments to workers, due to receive payment under the benchmarking awards, that work in third level colleges; and if his Department has provided finances to the colleges that recognise the additional cost involved. [17382/04]

My Department has issued instructions for payment of revised salary scales and the institutes of technology have been requested to furnish details of the costs involved. On receipt each institute's 2004 allocation will be revised to include the associated costs for the implementation of the craftworkers and general operatives award.

The overall funding provided to the university sector for 2004 includes provision for the implementation of the award. The management of available resources is a matter for the third level institutions.

Schools Building Projects.

Richard Bruton

Question:

250 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the action he has taken as a result of the undertaking given in Dáil Éireann during the course of an Adjournment Debate on the use of prefab buildings at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and when his Department will allocate funds to the school. [17383/04]

My Department's school planning section has considered all the applications for temporary accommodation. Details of successful applicants are available on my Department's websitewww.education.ie.

In the context of the available funding and the number of applications for same, it was not possible to approve all of the applications. Only applicants with an absolute and demonstrated need for additional accommodation were approved. The application from the school was unsuccessful on this occasion because the provision of additional accommodation to meet shortfalls was given a higher priority than the replacement of existing accommodation.

An application form for grant aid for major capital improvement works has issued to the school authority for completion. On receipt the school will be included in a review of all projects that did not proceed as part of the 2004 schools building programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual building programme from 2005 onwards. Later this year I expect to make a further announcement on the matter.

Special Educational Needs.

Richard Bruton

Question:

251 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made to establish a class for children in the autistic spectrum at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [17384/04]

At present the school has two special classes for children with Asperger's syndrome. My Department has no record of receiving an application from it for the establishment of additional special classes for children in the autistic spectrum. My officials will contact the school to clarify the position.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

252 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans he has for the future allocation of special needs assistants; and if they will be part of the weighted system proposed for 2005 or continue to be allocated on the basis of assessment by individual children’s needs. [17385/04]

Special needs assistants may be approved to support a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or other pupils. The criteria used for the assessment of the need for special needs assistant support is outlined in my Department's circular 07/02.

My Department continues to review the existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. The basic purpose of the review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

I am anxious to ensure that special education support services are properly targetted at the children who require them. I also want the substantially increased resources that have been made available in this area to support all of the children that have been assessed as requiring special needs.

The proposed weighted system relates to the allocation of special education teaching support only.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

253 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will allow schools to retain their current number of special needs assistants until the new weighted system is introduced in 2005. [17386/04]

Special needs assistants may be approved to support a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or other pupils. The criteria used for the assessment of the need for special needs assistant support are outlined in my Department's circular 07/02. Resources will be retained in schools where there is a continuing care need in accordance with the Department's circulars.

My Department continues to review the existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. The basic purpose of the review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

I am anxious to ensure that the support services are properly targetted at the children who require them. The sector has received a substantial increase in resources. I want the funding to have the desired effect of ensuring that all children assessed as having special needs receive enough support.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

254 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when his Department will make a decision on the applications for special needs resources from more than 4,000 children whose applications with psychological assessments were in his Department since before September 2003 and of the children whose applications were received since that date. [17387/04]

More than 5,000 applications for special education resources were received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 and are being considered. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September. All of these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications were reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service. The applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year and the data submitted by schools as part of a nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of applications is a complex and time consuming operation. My Department will complete it as quickly as possible and my officials will respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03 that was issued in September 2003. The circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs.

Teacher resources for each applicant school will be based on a new weighted system of allocation which I announced recently. The system, as part of an additional allocation of 350 teaching posts, will involve two main elements: making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs; and making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower prevalence special needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring with it a number of benefits. The new system will reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment, reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils and give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special needs.

Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the weighted system are being developed in consultation with representative interests. As soon as consultations are completed the detailed arrangements for processing applications for resources, including those for special needs assistants and those received after 31 August, will be set out in a circular and will be issued to schools.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

255 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention was drawn to the insecurity felt by special needs assistants about their future employment; and his plans as they affect special needs assistants for the school year 2004-2005 and from 2005 onwards. [17388/04]

Special needs assistants may be approved to support a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or other pupils. The criteria used for the assessment of the need for special needs assistant support is outlined in my Department's circular 07/02.

My Department continues to review the existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. The basic purpose of a review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs. Resources will be retained in schools where there is a continuing care need in accordance with the Department's circulars.

I am anxious to ensure that special education support services are properly targetted at the children who require them. The sector has received a substantial increase in resources. I want to ensure that the funding has the desired effect of ensuring that all children assessed as having special needs receive enough support.

Schools Building Projects.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

256 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when he will provide funding to build a promised extension to a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [17389/04]

A large scale building project for the school is listed in section 9 of the 2004 schools building programme. It is listed on my Department's websitewww.education.ie. The project is at the early stages of architectural planning, detailed plans and costs. It was assigned a band 3 rating 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 building programme. I will be able to be clearer about pro-jects that do not progress to tender in this year's programme, including the school in question. During the year I shall make a further announcement.

Special Educational Needs.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

257 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a special needs assistant will be allocated to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 whose application was first sent to his Department in February 2003 with an additional report in December 2003; and if his attention was drawn to the fact that a special needs assistant is essential for this person to participate in class in a non disruptive way. [17390/04]

On 24 October 2003 my Department received an application for special educational resources for the pupil. On 2 January further documentation was received.

At present the school has the services of one full-time learning support teacher, one part-time resource teacher and four full-time special needs assistants.

The position is that 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 these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year and the data submitted by schools as part of a nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. My Department shall complete the process as quickly as possible and my officials will respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03 that was issued in September 2003. The circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs in a school.

Teacher resources for each applicant school will be based on a new weighted system of allocation that I announced recently. The system, as part of an additional allocation of 350 teaching posts, will involve two main elements: making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs; and making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower prevalence special educational needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring with it a number of benefits. The new system will reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment, reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils and give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs.

Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the weighted system are being developed in consultation with representative interests. As soon as the consultations have been completed the detailed arrangements for processing applications for resources, including those for special needs assistants and those received after 31 August, will be set out in a circular that will be issued to schools.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

258 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention was drawn to the fact that a school (details supplied) in Dublin 10 is due to lose three of its four special needs assistants in September, despite its disadvantaged designation, due to the delay in his Department’s sanctioning psychological assessments in the past year; and if the school will retain the resources its pupils need. [17391/04]

The school receives a service from NEPS. My Department does not sanction a specified number of assessments to be carried out by the organisation in a school. It is a matter for discussion between the school's authorities and the assigned psychologist.

In this case a psychologist assigned to the schools conducted four psychological assessments during the current school year, in addition to consultation work. It was one more assessment than had been planned for at the start of the year. It is the normal level of service that can be provided by NEPS for a school of its size and type.

At present my Department allocates special needs assistant support on the basis of the assessed care needs of individual pupils. Special needs assistants may be approved to support a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or other pupils. The criteria used for the assessment of the need for special needs assistant support is outlined in my Department's circular 07/02. Resources will be retained in schools where there is a continuing care need in accordance with circulars.

My Department continues to review the existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. The basic purpose of the review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

I am anxious to ensure that special education support services are properly targetted at the children who require them. Resources for the sector was substantially increased. I want the resources to have the desired effect of ensuring that all children assessed as having special needs receive enough support.

School Transport.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

259 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science if school transport will be provided to persons (details supplied) in County Carlow. [17392/04]

The family lives 1.4 miles from the service route and are considered to have a level of service within my Department's guidelines. As a rule primary school transport routes are planned so that, as far as possible, no eligible child will have more than 1.5 miles to travel to a pick-up point. Pupils living off the main route of a service are generally expected to make their own way or to be brought to convenient pick-up points along the main route.

Bus Éireann cannot extend the service as the proposed route is unsuitable for the vehicle operating the service.

Medical Training.

Fiona O'Malley

Question:

260 Ms F. O’Malley asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the fact that 1 July is the last date in the CAO system for change of mind slips to be considered, a clear decision will be made on the future training of medical doctors, having regard to the deadline, in regard to the basic degree that students sitting their leaving certificate this year should opt for if they wish to pursue medicine as a career. [17393/04]

Students sitting the leaving certificate examination in 2004 and wishing to pursue medicine as a career can apply for undergraduate medicine in 2004 in the normal manner through the CAO. Application will be processed and offers made in the normal way.

On 24 September 2003, together with my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, I announced details of the membership and terms of reference for a working group on undergraduate medical education and training. It was jointly established to make recommendations on the organisation and delivery of high quality training for doctors here.

The working group will examine and make recommendations on a range of aspects of medical education and training in Ireland. It was asked to consider and provide advice on issues arising from the recent Higher Education Authority's report that recommended a move to all graduate entry for medicine and other health science disciplines. I requested that the HEA commission the report on foot of a commitment in the programme for Government to address the issue of the distortionary impact of these high points courses on the points system.

The report recommends that students should undertake an undergraduate programme of their choice in any area before taking a decision to enter medicine or one of the other health science disciplines. The other programmes in question are physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy and radiography, all of which currently require extremely high points for entry. The working group's initial consideration of the detailed implementation issues that arise for medical education will also inform my approach to the proposed later introduction of changes for the other health disciplines. I expect to receive the working group's recommendations later this year.

School Accommodation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

261 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide funding to a school (details supplied) in Clonlara, County Clare, to address the urgent need for an extra classroom for the school in September. [17427/04]

My Department's school planning section has considered all of the applications for temporary accommodation. In the context of available funding and the number of applications received for same, it is not possible to approve all applications received. Only applications with an absolute and demonstrated need for additional accommodation were approved. The school referred to by the Deputy was not successful on this occasion.

Its accommodation needs will be considered in the context of a review that is being undertaken of all projects that did not proceed as part of the 2004 schools building programme. This will be done with a view to including it as part of a multi-annual schools building programme from 2005, details of which will be announced later in the year.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

262 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department’s building unit has a policy of obliging schools that have a physical education hall and need an extra classroom to cater for numbers in September to use the hall as a classroom; his views on the hall as a classroom; his views on whether children will lose the opportunity to have physical exercise at school. [17428/04]

Recently the school planning section completed its assessment of applications for temporary accommodation to be provided in 2004. A list of successful applicants was published on my Department's websitewww.education.ie. In the context of available funding and the number of applications for same, it was not possible to approve all applications. Only applicants with an absolute and demonstrated need for additional accommodation were approved. Schools must maximise their existing accommodation until my Department can provide additional facilities.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

263 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide funding for a temporary classroom for a school (details supplied) in Naas, County Kildare, to cater for the extra urgent need in September. [17429/04]

My Department's school planning section has considered all applications for temporary accommodation for 2004. A list of successful applicants was published on my Department's websitewww.education.ie. In the context of the available funding and the number of applications for same, it was not possible to approve all applications received. Only applicants with an absolute and demonstrated need for additional accommodation were approved. The school’s application was not successful on this occasion. It will be required to maximise existing accommodation until my Department can provide extra accommodation.

Educational Projects.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

264 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if he intends to mainstream the young mothers in education project that operated under the auspices of Galway city partnership. [17430/04]

My Department provides funding for the educational element of four teenage parent educational support projects in Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Tallaght, Dubin 24. Funding was committed to the projects up to 2005.

The project to which the Deputy refers is part of the Galway teenage support project that is currently supported by my Department.

School Staffing.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

265 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an extra mainstream teacher for September 2004 under the teacher support pilot scheme. [17431/04]

A detailed review of all such initiatives is near completion. I hope to announce the outcome shortly. Any decision to extend the pilot project will depend on the review's findings.

Willie Penrose

Question:

266 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department is prepared to sanction the necessary finance to appoint a resource teacher for children in a school (details supplied). [17440/04]

My Department has received an application for the establishment of an autistic class in the school referred to by the Deputy. Assessment reports in respect of potential pupils were received in my Department on 14 June and these have been referred to the national educational psychological service for recommendation. A decision will be conveyed to the school as soon as a recommendation has been received from NEPS. Meanwhile, my officials are continuing to liaise with the school on an ongoing basis concerning the application.

Teaching Qualifications.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

267 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science the criteria that exists to allow teachers who have qualified in Spain to teach a second subject at second level here in view of the fact that in the Spanish five year system a second subject is dropped after second year. [17448/04]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

268 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are any barriers preventing Spanish and other EU citizens from finding employment as second level teachers assuming they have qualified in their home country; and the measures that can be taken to rectify these. [17449/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 267 and 268 together.

To be eligible for appointment to a teaching position at second level an applicant must hold a suitable qualification at degree level in the subject or subjects of the post as advertised. Normally, they must also hold an acceptable training-in-teaching qualification.

A general system, for the mutual recognition of professional qualifications awarded within the EU, provides for the recognition of higher diploma awards on completion of professional education and training of at least three years duration. It applies to citizens of member states who seek recognition for the purpose of teaching here.

If the Deputy is aware of a case perhaps he would ask the individual to contact my Department's post-primary teachers qualifications unit in Athlone. He or she will receive information about second level teaching.

Schools Building Projects.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

269 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the Office of Public Works did not purchase a site for a new school at Rathcormac, County Cork, as requested by the board of management. [17450/04]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

270 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science if the refurbishment or extension of a school (details supplied) in County Cork will commence soon. [17451/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 269 and 270 together.

A large scale building project for Rathcormac national school is listed in section 8 of the 2004 schools building programme. It is published on my Department's websitewww.education.ie. My Department assigned it a band 1 in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large scale projects. It was planned to progress the project to advanced architectural planning during 2004.

Recently circumstances changed with staff changes and the possible impact of the proposed housing developments in the area emerged. My Department's school planning section is conducting a full review of the brief for the proposed project. Full account will be taken of developments and decisions will be taken on the possible need for a new site. The review will be conducted over the summer as part of an overall review of projects on the schools building programme that have not yet gone to construction.

Indicative timescales were included in the programme 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 schools building programme. This will give greater clarity on projects that are not progressing to tender in this year's programme, including this school. I will make a further announcement on the matter during the year.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

271 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science when work shall commence on a new school (details supplied) in Buttevant, County Cork. [17452/04]

When publishing the 2004 schools building programme I outlined that my strategy will be rounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects that were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 schools building programme. This is being done with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual schools building programme from 2005. I expect to make further announcements on the matter in the course of the year. The school's application will be considered.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

272 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science when work will commence on an extension at a school (details supplied) in Kilworth, County Cork. [17453/04]

The large scale building project for the school is listed in section 8 of the 2004 schools building programme. It is published on my Department's websitewww.education.ie. The project is at stage 1, site suitability, briefing and site report, of architectural planning. It was assigned a band 1 rating in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large scale projects. During 2004 I plan to progress the project to advanced architectural planning.

Indicative timescales were included for large scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement of multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the schools building programme. It will give greater clarity on projects that will not reach tender in this year's programme, including St. Martin's senior national school, Kilworth. I will make a further announcement during the year.

Higher Education Grants.

Willie Penrose

Question:

273 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason applications for higher education grants insist that persons who are 21 years of age or more, who are independent in their own right and wish to return to education are classified as dependants of their parents for the purpose of assessment for a higher education. [17485/04]

The higher education grant schemes operate under the Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Acts 1968 to 1992, inclusive. They define a mature student as:

Of not less than 23 years of age, or such other age as may stand specified for the time being in regulations made by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance, who have secured places in approved institutions and have reached that age on the 1st day of January, or such other date as may be prescribed from time to time by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance, in the year of entry to such institutions.

The Acts further provide,inter alia, for the making of grants to mature students whose means and those of their parents, where the mature students are dependent on their parents, and the means of their spouses, if any, do not exceed prescribed limits.

Under the terms of the schemes mature students are categorised as either independent mature students or mature students dependent on parents. An independent mature student is defined to mean a mature student who was not ordinarily resident at home with his or her parents from the October preceding their entry to an approved course. Independent mature students are assessed without reference to either their parents' income or address.

When assessing the means of students, other than independent mature students, the Acts specify that the students' means and those of their parents or guardians must be below a prescribed limit. The provision requires that parental income be taken into account irrespective of the individual circumstances in any case where the student is not an independent mature student.

There is provision under the terms of the scheme for candidates who are re-entering as mature students, following a break in study of at least one year, to pursue or complete an approved course for the first time. Such candidates may be assessed under the terms of the scheme appropriate to the year in which they re-enter. Under the provision candidates who were not independent mature students at the time of entry to an approved course may be reclassified as independent for the purpose of completing a course or commencing as subsequent course such as a postgraduate course.

Similar provisions apply under the terms of the other student maintenance grant schemes.

School Staffing.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

274 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in respect of special needs assistants in primary schools, the measures he proposes to offer security of employment to these workers; if he will allocate a quota of special needs assistants to each school to secure continuity; and when he will announce his plans to reform the conditions and position of special needs assistants and the system of allocation. [17487/04]

Special needs assistants may be approved to support a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or other pupils. The criteria and procedures for the allocation of special needs assistant support are outlined in my Department's circular 07/02. It may be accessed on my Department's website under the heading children with special needs.

Since 1998 the number of special needs assistants in primary schools has grown from about 300 to in excess of 5,500 full and part-time posts. My Department is anxious to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs. Resources will be retained in schools where there is a continuing care need in accordance with circular 07/02.

Higher Education Courses.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

275 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Wexford can be accepted by the CAO in order to take up a place offered to them due to their special circumstances. [17493/04]

Mature students seeking places on undergraduate courses at Waterford Institute of Technology must apply initially via the central applications office. The office is a company limited by guarantee. It was established in 1976 to accept applications for admission to undergraduate courses in higher education institutions in Ireland. It is an organisation representative of higher education interests and is controlled entirely and jointly by them. I have no function in the operation of the CAO.

The institutes of technology are statutory bodies established under the Regional Technical Colleges Acts and Dublin Institute of Technology Acts 1992 to 1999, inclusive. Under these Acts the governance and day-to-day activities of the institutes, including student admissions, are a matter for the institutes concerned.

School Staffing.

Tony Gregory

Question:

276 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has received a petition from the parents at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 7 detailing the urgent requirement for special needs resource teachers; and if he will give the matter immediate attention and allocate a special needs resource teacher. [17495/04]

My Department has no record of receiving a petition. Applications for special education resources were submitted. More than 5,000 SER applications were received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 and are being considered. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September. All of them were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service. The applications will be further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year and the data submitted by schools as part of a nationwide census of SER provision.

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

Teacher resources for applicant schools will be based on a new weighted system of allocation that I announced recently. It is part of an additional allocation of 350 teaching posts and will involve two elements, making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs and making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower prevalence special educational needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring with it a number of benefits. The new system will reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment, reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils and give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs.

Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the weighted system are being developed at present in consultation with representative interests. As soon as those consultations have been completed, the detailed arrangements for processing applications for resources, including those for special needs assistants and those received after 31 August last, including the applications from the school in question, will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools before the end of the current school year.

Teacher Training Requirements.

Pat Carey

Question:

277 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science the provision made by the authorities at the Froebel College, Blackrock, to improve their competence in oral Irish; the entry requirements of the college in this area of study; and if it is possible for students to progress to their final year of study without having passed their oral Irish examination. [17496/04]

My Department specifies the minimum academic requirements for entry to primary teacher training courses provided in the colleges of education, including the Froebel College of Education. As part of these requirements, all candidates, including school leavers, mature students and university graduates, must have a minimum of a grade C in higher level in Irish in the leaving certificate or an approved equivalent. The requirement embodies both the written and oral element of a student's proficiency in Irish. My Department considers it to be the minimum standard in Irish necessary for students entering a teacher training course that will equip them to teach Irish to pupils at all levels in primary schools.

The selection process for school leavers is through the CAO system. Mature students and graduates who satisfy the minimum academic requirements are required to undergo an interview and oral Irish test. All students are also required to attend a three week course in the Gaeltacht at the end of their first year in training. In addition, students are subject to an oral Irish test at the end of their first year of training, a pass in which is necessary in order to continue to the second year of the course. Students who fail the test may, at the discretion of the college, be allowed to repeat it following attendance at a Gaeltacht course.

School Staffing.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

278 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that pupils in a school (details supplied) in County Kildare, comprising junior and senior infants classes, will be taught in the same classroom with the same teacher due to the school having an insufficient number of teachers; and if he will increase the number of teaching staff for the school. [17497/04]

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule and is finalised for a particular year following discussions with the education partners.

The mainstream staffing of the school for the current school year is a principal and nine mainstream class teachers based on an enrolment of 242 pupils on 30 September 2002. The staffing level will remain the same for the school year 2004-05 and is based on an enrolment of 245 pupils on 30 September 2003. The current enrolment figure is significantly less than the required minimum figure for an appointment of a tenth mainstream class teacher.

It is open to a board of management to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent appeals board established to adjudicate on mainstream staffing allocations in primary schools. Recently details of the criteria and application date for appeal were issued to all primary schools.

Special Educational Needs.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

279 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science about a special needs assistant application for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [17522/04]

Recently my Department received an application for special needs assistant and resource teaching support for the pupil.

More than 5,000 SER applications were received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 and they are being considered. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September. All of these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and NEPS. The applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys on SER provision conducted over the past year and the data submitted by schools as part of a nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. My Department shall complete the process as quickly as and my officials will respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03 that was issued last September. It contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within a school.

Teacher resources for each applicant school will be based on a new weighted system of allocation that I announced recently. The system, as part of an additional allocation of 350 teaching posts, will involve two main elements: making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs; and making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower-prevalence special educational needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring a number of benefits. The new system will reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment, reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils and give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs.

Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the weighted system are being developed at present in consultation with representative interests. As soon as those consultations have been completed, the detailed arrangements for processing applications for resources, including those for special needs assistants and those received after 31 August last will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools shortly.

Question No. 280 answered with QuestionNo. 234.

Literacy Tests.

John Bruton

Question:

281 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if every school received support for the purchase of appropriate age related literacy tests to assist teachers in their work, as promised in the joint programme; and if not, his intention to remedy the situation. [17524/04]

The joint programme for Government undertook to provide financial support to schools for the purpose of age related literacy tests to enable teachers to measure the progress of students and to use the results of the tests to inform their subsequent planning and teaching.

Following the introduction of the revised curriculum to schools in 1999, a number of changes were made to the English curriculum in primary schools. As a result test providers revised their standardised reading literacy tests in English. One of the test publishers has completed the test revision and another will publish a new reading literacy test in February 2006. I propose to consider the question of supporting schools to purchase the tests when all of the revised standardised reading literacy tests in English become available.

Student Support Schemes.

John Bruton

Question:

282 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to the implementation of the Donagh O’Malley scholarships for students from areas of significant disadvantage, promised in the joint programme for Government; and the amount of money proposed, the areas to be covered and the timescale involved. [17525/04]

In May 2003 I announced a package of measures costing €42 million aimed at improving the student support systems, with particular emphasis on providing support to those from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The latest figures indicate that the number of people who benefited from the special rate of maintenance, or top-up grants, in the academic year 2003-2004 is in the region of 10,700.

In addition the Government, with assistance from the European Social Fund, provides funding through my Department for a number of initiatives to increase participation in further and higher education from students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Last year I also announced the establishment of the national office for equity of access to higher education within the Higher Education Authority, proposed by the action group on access to third level education. The national office is fully operational since February 2004. Its remit is to facilitate inclusive and equitable access to higher education from under represented groups and promote improved participation by students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, students with a disability and mature second chance students.

It must recommend a possible national strategy to me that will achieve a significant improvement in equity of access to higher education. It must undertake a review of the effectiveness of existing measures and programmes. It will suggest, if necessary, a more structured approach to the allocation of funding for future years that will result in measurable improvements in line with our overall objective of promoting greater equity of access to third level education, through improved targeting of student support access initiatives.

The implementation of the Government's commitment to introduce the Donagh O'Malley scholarships can be addressed when the outcome of the review becomes available. It should inform decisions into how best the commitment can be progressed.

Educational Disadvantage.

Richard Bruton

Question:

283 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the schemes in place to target disadvantage in primary schools and the proposals for expanding these measures over the coming years; the pilot programmes that are being wound down; and the reason they have been found to be unworthy of continuation. [17526/04]

The expansion of initiatives aimed at tackling educational disadvantage must be considered in the context of a detailed review of them. A review is nearing completion and I hope to announce its outcome shortly.

Computerisaton Programme.

John Bruton

Question:

284 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the way in which the pupil-computer ratio in primary and secondary schools compares with that in each of the other OECD and EU countries. [17533/04]

Since the inception of my Department's schools IT2000 initiative 1998 to 2000, inclusive, and the Blueprint for the Future of ICT in Irish Education initiative 2001 to 2003, inclusive, significant progress has been made in our primary and post-primary schools in the development and use of ICY infrastructure. A census of ICT in schools was carried out by the national centre for technology in education in 2002 and outlined the pupil-computer ratio as follows:

1998

2000

2002

Primary

37

18.1

11.8

Post-primary

16

13

9.4

Special Schools

9

6.6

3.9.

An EU wide survey conducted in early 2002 showed that despite the progress made Irish schools were slightly below the European average in terms of pupil-computer ratio as follows:

Ratio

Denmark

3.2

Finland

6.3

UK

6.9

Luxembourg

7

Sweden

7.4

Netherlands

7.9

Austria

8.1

Spain

8.2

France

8.3

Belgium

9

EU Average

9.3

Ireland

10.3

Greece

12.5

Portugal

12.7

Germany

13.5

Italy

14.9.

Electronic Communications.

John Bruton

Question:

285 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if all public services provided by his Department that are capable of electronic delivery are available electronically through a single point of contact, as was promised in the joint programme; and if not, if he will make a statement on each service not yet provided. [17561/04]

The electronic delivery of services through a single point of contact is being progressed through the framework of the public services broker and the Reach agency is charged with responsibility for its design and development.

I intend to launch the first stage of the public services broker at the end of this month. This will be a public website and will be known asreachservices.ie. It will be designed to act as a single point of access to a range of services offered by the Irish public service. Initially the website will provide access in the form of links to forms or online services provided on other websites. It will provide access to information and application forms for up to 900 services at the time of its launch. The range of services accessible through the website will continue to be expanded until it provides a comprehensive index to the range of publicly provided services in Ireland.

In parallel, Reach is working to provide essential online capabilities for the benefit of customers and public service providers. These capabilities will include an integration framework that will allow for the secure electronic transmission and exchange of service requests. My Department is examining the possible use of the framework for automating the receipt and matching of death notices from the general registrar's office, and the location and validation of personal public service numbers in conjunction with the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

Reach is also developing facilities for the registration and authentication of customer identity, address validation, the pre-population of forms with previously registered data and an electronic payments facility. Another important facility is the capability for developing and hosting online interactive forms that will be offered to Departments and agencies that are developing online services for their customers.

Reach is in discussion with a number of Departments and agencies, including my Department, about a range of online services that will be launched with the next phase of the development ofreachservices.ie in the autumn.

Expenditure Reviews.

John Bruton

Question:

286 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has achieved the target, set out in the initiation of the expenditure review initiative in 1997, that all Government expenditure be subject to a formal review under that initiative every three years; and if not, the areas of expenditure where the review has not taken place. [17576/04]

John Bruton

Question:

287 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the areas of expenditure of his Department in respect of which an expenditure review under the expenditure review initiative has not yet been completed and published. [17591/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 286 and 287 together.

The initial target of the expenditure review initiative was to review all expenditure programmes over a three year period. A review of the process by the Department of Finance-expenditure review central steering committee in 2000 and 2001 found that the target had been over ambitious and that a more focused approach to the selection of review topics was required. The view was supported by a Comptroller and Auditor General value for money study of the ERI in 2001. He proposed that a more realistic target should be set that took into account the level of evaluative capacity in Departments generally.

In June 2001 the Government decided,inter alia, that the Department of Finance and Departments and offices should compile and agree a work plan of review topics based on specific selection criteria. In other words, that programmes selected for review should reflect Government priorities or strategic result areas and involve a significant level of expenditure. In May 2002 the Government approved a schedule of expenditure review topics proposed for the first year of the next three year planning horizon, 2002 to 2004, inclusive, and noted the topics proposed for 2003 and 2004.

In April 2003 the ERCSC, in consultation with the Department of Finance, asked Departments and offices to update their expenditure review plans. The committee emphasised the Government's selection criteria and advised that Departments and offices should select a small number of programmes or areas involving major policy issues or significant levels of expenditure. On foot of the process my Department drew up revised expenditure review plans in consultation with the Department of Finance.

Since the inception of the ERI in 1997 my Department has completed expenditure reviews on the following topics: primary education, Institiuid Teangeolaíochta Éireann and the home-school-community liaison scheme.

As part of the ERI's 2002-2004 phase a number of reviews are nearing completion. They are as follows: supply panel for primary teaching that was finished and quality assessed according to ERI procedures; operation of the education centres that are being assessed; and youth encounter projects that is due for completion before the end of the year.

In response to the above mentioned request of April 2003 to update our reviews plans, a number of topics were considered. The following reviews were agreed and are scheduled for completion in the current phase of the ERI: first and second level schools building programmes; schools ICT programmes; expenditure on guidance services; and ICT undergraduate skills programmes and in career development.

School Staffing.

John Curran

Question:

288 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of students enrolled in a college (details supplied) in Dublin 22 in September 2003; the number of teachers who were employed by the college on that date; and the number of teachers who were employed in roles as remedial or learning support teachers. [17608/04]

The post-primary school operates under the auspices of County Dublin Vocational Educational Committee. The enrolment of the school on 30 September 2003 was 352 pupils.

My Department approves an annual teacher allocation for each VEC based on the number of schools and the enrolment in the schools on 30 September of the previous year. It is a matter for the VEC's chief executive officer to allocate teaching resources and arrange for appointment of teachers to its schools.

Fostaíocht Scoileanna.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

289 D’fhiafraigh Mr. O’Shea den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta mar gheall ar CP 226 den 11 Bealtaine, an ndéanfaidh sé athbhreithniú ar an gceist sin ó thaobh an eolais bhreise atá curtha ar fáil agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [17658/04]

Níl aon athrú déanta sna rialacháin a rialaíonn ceapachán agus coinneáil múinteoirí i mbunscoileanna i leith na scoilbhliana 2004-05. Cuirfear ceist na scoileanna Gaeltachta san áireamh nuair a bheidh na rialacháin á aithbhreithniú i leith na scoilbhliana 2005-2006.

School Books.

Richard Bruton

Question:

290 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department encouraged schools to introduce a book rental scheme as a means of reducing the extortionate cost of school books for parents in view of the fact that many families have multiple children attending school at the same time; and if his Department will introduce a pilot scheme in the area to encourage schools to recycle books. [17659/04]

My Department operates a grant scheme towards the cost of providing school textbooks for pupils from low income families in schools at first and second level. For the purposes of the scheme a needy pupil is a pupil from a family where there is genuine hardship because of unemployment, prolonged illness of a parent, large family size with inadequate means, single parenthood, or other family circumstances, such as substance abuse, that would indicate a similar degree of financial hardship.

Principal teachers administer the book grant schemes in schools in a flexible way under the terms of the schemes based on their knowledge of particular circumstances in individual cases.

In 1993 my Department received a consultancy report that dealt with the factors that contribute to the cost of school textbooks. Its main conclusion was that book rental schemes are the most practical way of limiting cost of school books to parents. Copies of the report were sent to all schools. It contains a number of useful suggestions, including a code of good practice for successful operation of book rental schemes. My Department endorses the recommendations and urges school authorities to put in place book rental schemes to the greatest extent possible.

School authorities were advised that books should be changed only to the extent that is absolutely necessary. Syllabus planners are conscious of the need to avoid over frequent changes, primarily in order to minimise increases in the cost burden for parents. Textbooks must be changed periodically to enable teachers to keep their own and their students' work educationally stimulating and to ensure that content and methodology are kept up to date.

I am satisfied that the problem of disposal of unwanted textbooks is minimised because many schools operate book rental schemes and second-hand book exchanges. Locally operated schemes are the appropriate and efficient way to address the issue. There are no proposals to introduce a pilot scheme.

School Premises.

Pat Carey

Question:

291 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if discussions have taken place with the trustees of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 on the uses that its building and surrounding play area will be put to when the school closes. [17660/04]

The future use of the school premises is a matter for the De La Salle Provincialate. They are trustees and owners of the school buildings.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

292 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will continue to receive one to one teaching. [17661/04]

The person attends a school for physically disabled children. The current recommended pupil-teacher ratio for this disability category is 10:1. At present the class operates at a ratio of 5:1. My officials are liaising with my Department's inspectorate and the school concerning the pupil's specific educational needs.

School Transport.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

293 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in respect of a school, details supplied, in County Kildare, the free bus travel scheme can be extended to persons living within a mile’s radius of the school they are attending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17662/04]

To be eligible for school transport under the terms of the primary school transport scheme a child must be living not less than two miles from the nearest suitable school.

Colleges Refurbishment.

Michael Noonan

Question:

294 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that classes had to be suspended on a number of occasions in a college, details supplied, in County Limerick during the past winter due to breakdowns of the heating system; if funds will be provided in 2004 to upgrade facilities at the college; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17663/04]

I understand that there were difficulties with the heating system last winter at the campus referred to by the Deputy, but my Department has been informed by the institute that these have been resolved. The institute concerned has also informed my Department that it has no record of any classes being cancelled in that context.

The Deputy may be aware that I announced a pause in relation to all capital developments in the third level sector in November 2002 pending a review of the entire set of demands in the sector. At my request the Higher Education Authority, HEA, undertook the review and a review group was established. The group has now presented its report to the HEA. I look forward to receiving the report and recommendations from the authority. Decisions in respect of the capital investment programme for the third level sector, including any developments at the institute in Limerick referred to by the Deputy, will be taken in the context of the capital envelope of funds available to me.

Schools Building Projects.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

295 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the application for an extension to a school, details supplied, in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17664/04]

When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be rounded in capital investment based on multiannual 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 multiannual 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 by the Deputy will be considered in this regard.

Special Educational Needs.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

296 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if a resource teacher will be assigned for a person, details supplied, in County Cork. [17665/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received an application for resource teaching support for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. The position is that applications for special educational resources, SER, received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including the application in question are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year and the data submitted by schools as part of a 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. In the case of teacher resources, the outcome for each applicant school will be based on a new weighted system of allocation which I announced recently. This system, as part of which an additional 350 teaching posts will be allocated, will involve two main elements, making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs and making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower prevalence special educational needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring with it a number of benefits. The new system will reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment, reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils and give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs.

Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the weighted system are being developed at present in consultation with representative interests. As soon as those consultations have been completed, the detailed arrangements for processing applications for resources, including those for special needs assistants and those received after 31 August last will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools shortly.

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

297 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if grant assistance will be offered to a person, details supplied, in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17672/04]

On the basis of the information available, the person in question does not qualify for the vocational training opportunities scheme, VTOS. The main objective of the VTOS is to give unemployed people educational and training opportunities which will develop their employability. The scheme is confined to adults over 21 who are in receipt of unemployment assistance-benefit, a one parent family payment, disability allowance-benefit or signing for credits. One must be in receipt of one of these allowances for at least six months to join VTOS. Dependent spouses of people in these categories are also eligible. As the person in question does not meet any of these criteria, she is not eligible to participate in a VTOS programme.

The adult education organiser of any vocational education committee would be happy to advise her on course options available to her.

Schools Building Projects.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

298 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the stage of the new school development for a school, details supplied, in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17719/04]

The new school building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This project is at stage 1-2-3, detailed plans-costs, 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. It is planned to progress this project to advanced architectural planning during 2004.

Indicative timescales have been included for large scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement regarding multiannual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multiannual framework for the school building programme, which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing to tender in this year's programme, including the school in question. I will make a further announcement in this regard during the year.

Higher Education Grants.

Richard Bruton

Question:

299 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the income limits and maintenance levels in the 2004-05 higher education grant scheme. [17754/04]

My Department reviews the student support maintenance grant schemes annually, having regard to eligibility-income limits and maintenance grant rates and to take account of policy decisions. This review is close to completion and the 2004-05 schemes will be published in the near future and issued to the awarding authorities. The full schemes, including details of the income limits and maintenance levels, will be available on my Department's website,www.education.ie.

Schools Building Projects.

Phil Hogan

Question:

300 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science when all outstanding installations and improvements will be carried out at a school, details supplied, in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17755/04]

The scope of the works referred to by the Deputy would appear appropriate for consideration under the summer works scheme. The school did not apply for funding under the scheme for 2004. It is open to the management authority to apply for key priority works required at the school as part of the 2005 scheme, details of which will be announced later this year.

Education Schemes.

Phil Hogan

Question:

301 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science when funding will be provided for the individual learning programme in respect of 60 part-time teaching hours plus secondment of one permanent whole-time member of staff from the County Kilkenny VEC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17756/04]

The proposal for an individual learning programme for Kilkenny to which the Deputy refers has recently been received within my Department. The application for funding for the programme is currently under consideration.

Decentralisation Programme.

John Bruton

Question:

302 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science when the decentralisation implementation plan of his Department will be completed; and the reason it was not completed within the time limit set. [17765/04]

The full decentralisation of my Department impacts not just on the staff currently working in Dublin but also on the existing decentralised locations of Athlone and Tullamore. Indications are that staff working in decentralised offices will take the opportunity to further decentralise. Because this impacts on the entire organisation, the Department has decided to adopt a participative approach to drawing up the implementation plan.

The decentralisation group of my Department has been holding a series of meetings with senior management in all locations. This takes time but is necessary to address the concerns of staff, all of whom are directly affected by the programme. It will also ensure that the entire organisation will have an opportunity to participate in the formulation of the plan and will enable management to capitalise on the experiences of senior staff who were involved in earlier decentralisation moves. This initial consultative phase is now nearing completion.

Schools Building Projects.

John McGuinness

Question:

303 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to the file submitted to him by this Deputy on a school, details supplied, the stage in the process the application for a school extension and refurbishment, the steps which should be taken by the school with his Department in view of the fact that it was his Department that suggested the scope of the works; if he has considered the request from the school to replace the 60 windows in the school at a cost of €45,000; if this work can be funded immediately in view of the fact that some of the windows are now beyond repair; if he will consider this work under two phases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17772/04]

When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multiannual allocations. My officials are currently 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 multiannual school building programme from 2005 onwards. This review will include the proposed project at the school referred to by the Deputy. I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year.

In the meantime, it is open to the school's management authority to apply for key priority works required at the school as part of the 2005 summer works scheme, details of which will be announced later this year.

School Staffing.

John Bruton

Question:

304 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the funding his Department will be allocating to provide resource teachers to those schools which apply in 2004 and 2005; the funds that were allocated in 2003 to 2004; the number of applications for resource teachers that were made in County Meath; the names of the schools; the number of resource teachers positions that were filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17773/04]

The number of resource teachers in primary schools nationwide is currently in the region of 2,600 at an estimated annual salary cost of €75 million. The funds to be made available for resource teaching support in future years will be conditional on the allocations voted to my Department in the context of the annual Estimates.

With regard to the matter of funding of resource teachers for the 2004-2005 school year, my Department is currently developing a new weighted system of allocation which I announced recently. This system, as part of which an additional 350 teaching posts will be allocated, will involve two main elements, making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs and making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower prevalence special educational needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring with it a number of benefits. The new system will reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment, reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils and give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs.

Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the weighted system are being developed at present in consultation with representative interests. As soon as those consultations have been completed, the detailed arrangements for processing applications for teacher resources will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools shortly.

I regret that the specific information sought by the Deputy in relation to applications from schools in County Meath for resource teaching support is not readily available. However, it is my intention that all schools, including those in County Meath, which are due to receive additional resource teaching support in the context of the weighted system will be advised by my Department before the end of the current school year.

Barry Andrews

Question:

305 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will sanction a full-time resource post between schools, details supplied,) following the recent increase in numbers of pupils requiring assistance. [17789/04]

My Department received correspondence from the schools referred to by the Deputy on 4 June 2004 concerning the introduction of the weighted model of resource allocation. A response will issue to all schools, including the schools in question shortly, setting out the details of the weighted model to be implemented in September 2004.

Barry Andrews

Question:

306 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Education and Science if a full-time learning support and resource teacher will be allocated to a school, details supplied, for September 2004. [17790/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school in question. The position is that SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including an application from the school in question are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year and the data submitted by schools as part of a 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.

In the case of teacher resources, the outcome for each applicant school will be based on a new weighted system of allocation which I announced recently. This system, as part of which an additional 350 teaching posts will be allocated, will involve two main elements, making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs and making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower prevalence special educational needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring with it a number of benefits. The new system will reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment, reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils and give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs.

Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the weighted system are being developed at present in consultation with representative interests. As soon as those consultations have been completed, the detailed arrangements for processing applications for resources, including those for special needs assistants and those received after 31 August last will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools shortly.

Barry Andrews

Question:

307 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Education and Science when staff will be allocated for the 20 new special education needs children at a school, details supplied, in County Dublin. [17791/04]

My Department allocates resource posts and special needs assistant posts to second level schools to cater for students with special educational needs. Applications for such support are made to my Department by the relevant school authorities. Each application is considered on the basis of the assessed needs of the pupils involved and the nature and level of the support provided is determined on the advice of the psychological service.

An application for additional resources for students enrolled for the 2004-05 school year has been made by the school in question. The application is currently under consideration in my Department and the school authority will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible.

Appointments to State Boards.

Michael Ring

Question:

308 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the appointments that have been made to State boards and bodies within his Department from 1 January 2003 to 15 June 2004; the persons appointed; and the persons they are replacing. [17798/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table.

Board

Person appointed

Person replaced

Advisory Council for English Language Schools, ACELS

Ms Anne Murray

Ms Anne O’Mahony

Ms Margaret Kelly

Ms Maura Clancy

International Education Board of Ireland, IEBI

Ms Anne Murray

Ms Anne O’Mahony

Residential Institutions Redress Board

Ms Ann O’Brien

New appointment

Mr. John O. Mason

New appointment

Ms Mary Concannon Bluett

New appointment

Ms Darina Conlon

New appointment

Ms Fionnuala O’Loughlin

New appointment

Mr. John A. Campbell

New appointment

Residential Institutions Redress Review Committee

Mr. Colm Gaynor

New appointment

Ms Ita Mangan

New appointment

National Centre for Technology in Education

Mr. John Fanning

New appointment

Dr. Gerard McMahon

New appointment

Dr. Sarah Fitzpatrick

New appointment

Ms Una Halligan

New appointment

Ms Eileen Ward

New appointment

Mr. Bill Morrissey

New appointment

Mr. Jerome Morrissey

New appointment

National Education Welfare Board

Mr. Gerry Mangan

Ms Catherine Hazlett

Mr. Richard Dooley

Ms Cate Hourigan

National Council for Special Education

Mr. Christy Lynch

New appointment

Ms Mary Grogan

New appointment

Ms Mary Keane

New appointment

Ms Maisie Dooley

New appointment

Mr. Gearoid O’Conluain

New appointment

Ms Daraine Mulvihill

New appointment

Mr. Brendan Ingoldsby

New appointment

Ms Antoinette Buggie

New appointment

Mr. PJ Gannon

New appointment

Dr. Michael Shelvin

New appointment

Ms Frankie Berry

New appointment

Ms Sinead McLoughlin

New appointment

State Exams Commission

Mr. Jimmy Farrelly

New appointment

Ms Mary Bridget O’Hara

New appointment

Mr. Barra Ó Briain

New appointment

Dr. Dympna Glendunning

New appointment

Dr. Martin Newell

New appointment

National Children’s Advisory Council

Ms Breda Naughton

Mr. John Fanning

The National Platform for Biodiversity Research

Ms Breda Naughton

New appointment

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA

Ms Marion Lyons

Mr. Michael O’Riordan

Schools Building Projects.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

309 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has received an application from a school, details supplied, in County Dublin for funding for building purposes, in particular to facilitate occupational therapy work; the consideration he has given to this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17821/04]

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.

Special Educational Needs.

Phil Hogan

Question:

310 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science when a resource teacher will be provided for a person, details supplied, in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17839/04]

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

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year and the data submitted by schools as part of a 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.

In the case of teacher resources, the outcome for each applicant school will be based on a new weighted system of allocation which I announced recently. This system, as part of which an additional 350 teaching posts will be allocated, will involve two main elements, making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs and making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower prevalence special educational needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring with it a number of benefits. The new system will reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment, reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils and give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs.

Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the weighted system are being developed at present in consultation with representative interests. As soon as those consultations have been completed, the detailed arrangements for processing applications for resources, including those for special needs assistants and those received after 31 August last, will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools shortly.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

311 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when his Department will make a decision on an application for resource teaching support for a person, details supplied, in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17840/04]

My Department has received an application for resource teaching support for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. The position is that 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 these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

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

In the case of teacher resources, the outcome for each applicant school will be based on a new weighted system of allocation which I announced recently. This system, as part of which an additional 350 teaching posts will be allocated, will involve two main elements making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs and making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower prevalence special educational needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring with it a number of benefits. The new system will reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils and give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs.

Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the weighted system are being developed at present in consultation with representative interests. As soon as those consultations have been completed, the detailed arrangements for processing applications for resources, and those received after 31 August last, including the application for the pupil in question, will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools shortly.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

312 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if a special needs assistant who has been assigned to a person who moves on to another school can automatically transfer to the school to which the person has transferred and continue as a special needs assistant to that person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17867/04]

Responsibility for the recruitment and appointment of special needs assistants, SNAs, rests with the relevant school authorities. The criteria for the appointment of SNAs is outlined in Department circular SNA 03-03, Appointment Procedures for Special Needs Assistants. The circular may also be accessed on my Department's website,www.education.ie.

The management of the school to which a pupil transfers must secure my Department's approval to recruit an SNA. In the event that such approval is given, it is a matter for that school to appoint a suitable person to the post.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Joe Higgins

Question:

313 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science when a school, details supplied, in County Dublin will come under the remit of the Residential Institutions Redress Board. [17868/04]

Section 4 of the Act enables additional institutions that are identified as reformatory schools, industrial schools, orphanages, children's homes and special schools, in which children were placed and resident and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function, to be added to the Schedule. A number of institutions have been identified for possible inclusion and I intend bringing this matter to Government for its consideration shortly. The institution mentioned by the Deputy is one of those institutions under consideration.

Special Educational Needs.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

314 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of a special needs assistant application by a person, details supplied, in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17869/04]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

315 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of an application for resource teaching hours for a person, details supplied, in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17870/04]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

316 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of an application for resource teaching hours for a person, details supplied, in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17871/04]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

317 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of an application for resource teaching hours for a person, details supplied, in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17872/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 314 to 317, inclusive, together.

My Department has received applications for special education resources, SER, for the four pupils referred to by the Deputy. Three of these applications were received during the period 15 February 2003 to 31 August 2003 while the other application was received after 1 September 2003. The position is that 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 these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year and the data submitted by schools as part of a 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.

In the case of teacher resources, the outcome for each applicant school will be based on a new weighted system of allocation which I announced recently. This system, as part of which an additional 350 teaching posts will be allocated, will involve two main elements making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs and making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower prevalence special educational needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring with it a number of benefits. The new system will reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment, reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils and give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs.

Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the weighted system are being developed at present in consultation with representative interests. As soon as those consultations have been completed, the detailed arrangements for processing applications for resources, including those for special needs assistants and those received after 31 August last, will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools shortly.

School Staffing.

Mary Wallace

Question:

318 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has received correspondence dated 12 May 2004 regarding a school, details supplied, in County Meath; if he will respond positively in view of he special circumstances outlined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17894/04]

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. This is in accordance with guidelines agreed between this Department and the education partners. The enrolment of the school referred to by the Deputy on 30 September 2003 was 74 pupils. This enrolment will entitle the school to a staffing of principal and two mainstream class teachers for the 2004-05 school year.

The agreement referred to above can only be deviated from when a school experiences rapid growth in its enrolment. Rapid growth is defined as an increase in its enrolment in one year relative to the previous year of 25 pupils plus a stipulated excess of five pupils on the appointment figure. For this school to be considered for developing school status the school would require a minimum enrolment of 99 pupils on 30 September 2004. Unfortunately, an additional mainstream teacher cannot be sanctioned under any other circumstances.

If the board of management of the school feel that the enrolment of the school will increase to a minimum of 99 pupils by 30 September 2004, it may apply for a post under the developing school criteria as outlined in Department circular 03-04.

To ensure transparency and openness in the system, an independent appeals board is now in place to decide any mainstream staffing appeals. Details of the appeals board are outlined in Department circular 03-04. I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in the operation of the independent appeals board.

Special Educational Needs.

Willie Penrose

Question:

319 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science when a special needs assistant will be appointed for a person, details supplied, in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17902/04]

I understand that the person referred to by the Deputy is the parent of a child for whom an application for special educational resources, SER, was received in my Department on 3 April 2004. The application is in respect of special needs assistant and resource teaching support for the pupil who is due to commence school in September 2004. The position is that 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 these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

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

In the case of teacher resources, the outcome for each applicant school will be based on a new weighted system of allocation which I announced recently. This system, as part of which an additional 350 teaching posts will be allocated, will involve two main elements making a staffing allocation to schools based on a predicted incidence of pupils with special educational needs and making individual allocations in the case of children with more acute lower prevalence special educational needs.

It is expected that the change to a weighted system will bring with it a number of benefits. The new system will reduce the need for individualised educational psychological assessment, reduce the volume of applications to my Department for additional resources for individual pupils and give greater flexibility to schools, which will facilitate the development and implementation of improved systems and procedures in schools to meet the needs of pupils with low achievement and pupils with special educational needs.

Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the weighted system are being developed at present in consultation with representative interests. As soon as those consultations have been completed, the detailed arrangements for processing applications for resources, including those for special needs assistants and those received after 31 August last, will be set out in a circular to be issued to schools shortly.

Vocational Education Committees.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

320 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science the exact position on the recruitment of clerical staff by VECs in respect of qualifications; the reason a leaving certificate is required in the case of a person with a primary degree; his views on whether this requirement discriminates against persons who avail of second chance education opportunities; and if he will review this policy. [17922/04]

The qualification criteria required for the recruitment of administrative and clerical staff in the VEC sector are governed by collective agreements involving VEC managerial authorities, representative trade unions and my Department. In the case of the clerical officer post, candidates must have obtained at least grade D in five subjects in the leaving certificate examination, ordinary level, or have at least two years experience in a VEC, local authority or health board and have a competency in Irish. I understand that, normally, candidates with equivalent or higher qualifications are eligible to apply for the posts concerned.

My Department is currently reviewing the qualification criteria with the VEC managerial authorities and representative trade unions concerned.

School Transport.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

321 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a school bus will not collect a person, details supplied, in County Mayo from his home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17928/04]

A report on this case has been requested from Bus Éireann. The Deputy will be advised of the position as soon as the report has been received and assessed.

Educational Projects.

Tony Gregory

Question:

322 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science the timescale for the exchange of lands at Grangegorman, Dublin 7, from his Department to the DIT; when the necessary legislation will be ready; if provision is being made for a primary school on the site as previously agreed with Dublin 7 Educate Together; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17932/04]

It is my intention to publish a Bill for the establishment of an agency to develop Grangegorman as a site for education, health and other facilities. It will be known as the Grangegorman development agency. The agency will be responsible for producing a comprehensive plan for the development of the site in consultation with interested parties, including local residents, Dublin Institute of Technology, health authorities, transport providers and Dublin City Council. My Department has always envisaged that the development of the Grangegorman site has the scope to help facilitate the long-term primary and post primary needs of the area including those of Dublin 7 Educate Together.

The agency will also be responsible for the implementation of the planning scheme once it has been approved. To facilitate this, title to the lands at Grangegorman will be vested in the agency during the development.

Telecommunications Services.

Paul McGrath

Question:

323 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in the context of revised criteria for broadband provision, Kinnegad, Castlepollard and Moate, County Westmeath, will have access to this service. [17323/04]

My Department's regional broadband programme includes plans to roll out broadband to more than 90 towns with a population of 1,500 and over, between now and 2006. Moate is one of the towns listed for inclusion. The group broadband scheme, which is also administered by my Department, offers smaller communities the opportunity to pool their resources and, together with service providers, to apply for funding of up to 55% towards the cost of delivering broadband in their areas. An application has been submitted by a group based in Kinnegad and is currently under consideration.

Full details of the broadband rollout programme are on my Department's websites,www.dcmnr.ie and www.gbs.ie.

Harbour Authorities.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

324 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he first requested to give his consent to the Drogheda Port Authority to lease the Mornington Port field to Coastwatch Ireland; the reason for the delay in a decision being made; the further reason consent has not been granted to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17439/04]

In July 2003, Drogheda Port Company applied to my Department for my consent under section 15(3) of the Harbours Act 1996 to the reservation of a rent below open market rent obtainable for land at Mornington, County Meath. The company informed my Department that it had agreed to lease the land to Coastwatch Ireland Limited for 999 years at a peppercorn rent. In October 2003, the company provided further information to my Department relevant to its request.

My Department has not yet completed its consideration of the company's request, principally because the company has indicated that the lease of this land takes place in the wider context of the application to the Boyne Estuary Special Protection Area of the provisions of Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora. This has given rise to the need for additional consultation which my Department is pursuing at present with a view to finalising the matter at the earliest opportunity.

Telecommunications Services.

John Bruton

Question:

325 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the proportion of homes here with access to broadband communications; and the way in which that proportion compares with each of the other OECD and EU countries. [17534/04]

The latest statistics published by the OECD on broadband access, which date from June 2003, show Ireland with 0.41 per 100 inhabitants compared with the OECD figure of 6.06. The most recent European Commission data, from May 2004, indicates a penetration rate of 0.9% of the population.

Broadband access in Ireland has been increasing dramatically in recent months, so these figures may not reflect the current level of broadband penetration here. For example, the number of DSL broadband customers in Ireland grew from 1,000 in May 2003 to over 44,000 by May 2004. In addition, the numbers availing of flat rate Internet access grew by 50,000 in the same period. In addition to these figures, 10,000 customers are now availing of corporate ultra high speed broadband, and up to 5,000 have access to broadband by wireless, cable and satellite.

The recent announcements of new broadband offers, with three months of free trials and start-up packages, together with the general lowering of broadband prices, will certainly help to drive broadband penetration into even more homes and businesses.

Electronic Communications.

John Bruton

Question:

326 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if all public services provided by his Department that are capable of electronic delivery are available electronically through a single point of contact, as was promised in the joint programme; and if not, if he will make a statement or explanation in respect of each service not yet so provided. [17562/04]

My Department's information systems division is in the process of implementing a programme of ICT projects and e-services, which the public will be able to access on the Internet. During the current year a number of those e-services will be available via my Department's own website.

My Department has furnished the relevant details of all these e-services to the Reach public service e-broker. When the Reach e-broker is ready and available, my Department's e-services will subsequently be made accessible through a single point of contact,www.Reach.ie.

Expenditure Reviews.

John Bruton

Question:

327 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department has achieved the target, set out in the initiation of the expenditure review initiative in 1997, that all Government expenditure be subject to a formal review under that initiative every three years; and if not, the areas of expenditure in respect of which the three yearly review has not taken place. [17577/04]

John Bruton

Question:

328 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the areas of expenditure of his Department in respect of which an expenditure review under the expenditure review initiative has not yet been completed and published. [17592/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 327 and 328 together.

The initial target of the expenditure review initiative was to review all expenditure programmes over a three year period. However, a review of the process by the expenditure review central steering committee, ERCSC, in the Department of Finance in 2000-01 found that this target had been over-ambitious and that a more focused approach to the selection of review topics was required. This view was supported by a Comptroller and Auditor General value for money study of the expenditure review initiative in 2001 which proposed that a more realistic target should be set, taking into account the level of evaluative capacity in departments generally.

In June 2001 the Government decided,inter alia, that the Department of Finance and individual Departments-offices should compile and agree a work plan of review topics based on specific selection criteria set out in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report. Subsequently, in May 2002 the Government approved a schedule of expenditure review topics proposed for the first year of the next three-year planning horizon, 2002-2004, and noted the topics proposed for 2003 and 2004. In April 2003, the ERCSC requested Departments-offices to update their expenditure review plans, again in consultation with the Department of Finance. The committee emphasised the Government’s selection criteria and advised that Departments-offices should select a small number of programmes-areas involving major policy issues or significant levels of expenditure. On foot of this process, revised expenditure review plans were drawn up by Departments-offices.

This Department has completed six expenditure reviews from 1997 to date. Summary details are listed in the following table, together with the subheads to which each review relates. Three of the Department's reviews are being prepared for publication: BIM ice plants, fishery harbours and coast protection. It is at the discretion of the Department whether to publish these reviews and lay them before the Houses of the Oireachtas since this is not required for reviews listed in the 1997-2001 phase. The reviews will be placed on the Department's Internet site, and simultaneously laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The Department has also completed two further reviews. It is a matter for the Department of Agriculture and Food to publish the review of the forestry structural programme as the function transferred to that Department on 1 January 2004. The review of the inland fisheries programme will not be published until the high level review of the inland fisheries sector is completed. Both reviews have been forwarded to the committee.

Three other reviews are under way or about to commence, those on marine research, the national seabed survey and on alternative energy and energy conservation.

Table 1: Summary of DCMNR expenditure review reports.

Report

Progress

2004 areas of expenditure to which reports relate. The references for 2004 may not be the same as previous years since sub-heads can be re-categorised from year to year.

Value for money review of the Irish Coast Guard

This was the first value for money review carried out by the Department under the ERI. The report was made available to stakeholders and to any other interested party or individual.

B.1. Irish Coast Guard

Value for money review of fishery harbour development expenditure programme, undertaken by Richard Banks Ltd

Completed and considered by the ERCSC, to which reviews in the 1997-2001 phase were sent. Reviews undertaken in the 2002-2004 phase are sent to an external assessor for consideration rather than to the ERCSC. Analysis and implementation of recommendations is ongoing. Publication on DCMNR’s Internet site is imminent.

C.2. Development & Upgrading of Harbours for Fishery Purposes; C.3. Fishery Harbour Centres Fund

Value for money review of coast protection programme, undertaken by Fitzpatrick Associates

Completed and considered by the ERCSC. Analysis and implementation of recommendations is ongoing. Publication on DCMNR’s Internet site is imminent.

C.4. Coast Protection & Management

Value for money review of the BIM ice plant programme, undertaken by Nautilus

Completed and considered by the ERCSC. Analysis and implementation of recommendations is ongoing. Publication on DCMNR’s Internet site is imminent.

E.1. (part) Bord Iascaigh Mhara

Value for money review of the forestry structural programme, undertaken by the CIRCA Group

Completed and has been sent to the ERCSC. The committee has decided to forward the report to the Secretary General, Department of Agriculture and Food, given the transfer of the forestry function to that Department, 1 January 2004.

K.6. Sub-head prior to transfer of function to Dept. of Agriculture and Food Grants for Promotion of Forestry

Value for money review of the inland fisheries development programme, undertaken by Indecon Economic Consultants

Completed and has been sent to the ERCSC. Decision on publication will be taken when the high-level review of the inland fisheries sector is completed.

F Inland Fisheries

Value for money review of marine research, undertaken in-house

Currently underway and nearing completion of final draft

D.1. Marine Institute (Grant-in-Aid); D.2. Salmon Research Agency (Grant-in-Aid)

Value for money review of the alternative-conservation energy programme

Due to commence summer 2004

H.2. Energy Conservation

Value for money review of the national seabed survey

Due to commence summer 2004

D.3. National Seabed Survey

Appointments to State Boards.

Michael Ring

Question:

329 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the appointments that have been made to State boards and bodies within his Department from 1 January 2003 to 15 June 2004; the persons appointed; and the persons they are replacing. [17799/04]

The material requested by the Deputy is provided in the table below.

State body

Name of appointees

Date of appointment

Person replacing

An Post

Ms Margaret McGinley, Chairperson

04.02.2003

Mr. Stephen O’Connor

Mr. Donal Curtin, Chief Executive

14.07.2003

Mr. John Hynes

Ms Cathy Herbert

04.02.2003

Ms Margaret McGinley

Mr. Peter Wyer

04.02.2003

Re-appointed

Mr. James Quinlivan

09.05.2003

Mr. Alan Benson

Mr. James Hyland

11.12.2003

Mr. John A. Lally

Mr. James Alan Sloane**elected Postmaster Director: appointment requires Minister’s approval

01.01.2004

Re-appointed

Commission for Communications Regulation

Mr. John Doherty, Chairperson

02.01.2003

New appointment

Ms Isolde Goggins, Commissioner

02.01.2003

New appointment

Broadcasting Authority of Ireland

Mr. Conor J. Maguire, Chairperson

02.12 2003

Re-appointed

Mr. John Waters

02.12 2003

Ms Olive Brady

Ms Mary Davis

02.12 2003

Mr. Colm Kenny

Ms Angela Kerins

02.12 2003

Mr. Caimin Jones

Ms Kay McGuinness

02.12 2003

Mr. Frank Masterson

Mr. Tom Collins

02.12 2003

Ms Lenore Mrkwicka

Ms Vivienne Jupp

02.12 2003

Re-appointed

Mr. John O’Brennan

02.12 2003

Re-appointed

Ms Mary Kerrigan

02.12 2003

Re-appointed

Mr. Joe Griffin

02.12 2003

Re-appointed

Digital Hub Development Agency

Mr. William Burgess, Chairperson

21.07.2003

Existing Board re-appointed entirely

Mr. Philip Flynn, Chief Executive

31.07.2003

Dr. Don Thornhill

31.07.2003

Mr. Dan Flinter

31.07.2003

Mr. John Fitzgerald

31.07.2003

Mr. Sean Dorgan

31.07.2003

Mr. Paul Kavanagh

31.07.2003

Mr. Peter Cassells

31.07.2003

Ms Jackie Harrison

31.07.2003

Mr. Paul McGuinness

31.07.2003

ESB

Mr. Joe Lacumbre*, Deputy Chairperson

01.01.2003

All re-appointed

Mr. John McGinley*

01.01.2003

Mr. Pat Smith*

01.01.2003

Mr. Eamonn Connelly**elected Worker Directors: these appointments require the Minister’s approval

01.01.2003

Bord na Móna

Mr. P.J. Coghill

19.05.2003

Re-appointed

Mr. Pat McEvoy

1.1.2003

Re-appointed

Mr. P.J. Minogue

1.1.2003

Re-appointed

Mr. Paddy Rowland

1.1.2003

Mr. Con Stokes

Mr. Paddy Fox

1.1.2003

Re-appointed

Bord Gáis Éireann

Mr. Aidan Eames

3.3.2004

Mr. Tony Kenna

Mr. Tom Donlon

26.03.2003

Re-appointed

Mr. Micheal Ó Faoláin

19.05.2003

Re-appointed

Sustainable Energy Ireland

Mr. Martin Finucane

24.10.2003

Mr. Tom Kennington

Mining Board

Mr. Philip O’Brien Chairperson

21.07.2003

Ms Nuala Butler B.L.

Mr. John Shackleton

04.12.2003

Re-appointed

Mr. Eoin Ó Buachalla

04.12.2003

Re-appointed

Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company

Mr. Don McManus

05.02.2004

Mr. Tom Welby

Drogheda Port Company

Mr. Tom O’Reilly

24.01.2003

Re-appointed

Mr. Frank Maher

24.01.2003

New appointment

Cllr. Jacqui McConville

21.12.2003

Re-appointed

Galway Harbour Company

Mr. Robert Molloy

10.02.2003

Mr. Patrick O’Sullivan

Mr. Martin Connolly

04.12.2003

Re-appointed

New Ross Port Company

Ms Rosie Kehoe

17.02.2004

Mr. Patrick Nolan

Cllr. Sean Connick

17.02.2004

Mr. Tom Clerkin

Port of Waterford Company

Mr. Ben Gavin, Chairperson

05.02.2004

Re-appointed

Mr. Pádraig Ó Gríofa

05.02.2004

Re-appointed

Mr. Maurice Lonergan

05.02.2004

Re-appointed

Mr. Michael Flynn

05.02.2004

Re-appointed

Mr. David Lane

05.02.2004

Re-appointed

Mr. Patrick Murphy

05.02.2004

New appointment

Ms Fiona Robbins

05.02.2004

New appointment

Mr. Derek Donnelly

05.02.2004

New appointment

Marine Institute

Dr. J.P. Crowley, Chairperson

11.04.2003

Re-appointed

Mr. Joey Murrin

28.11.2003

Re-appointed

Advisory Group to the Irish Maritime Development Office

Mr. Alex Mullin

21.01.04

New Body — all new appointments

Capt. Kevin Cribbin

21.01.04

Mr. John Dundon

21.01.04

Capt. David Hopkins

21.01.04

Mr. Padraic White

21.01.04

Mr. Jim Healy

21.01.04

Mr. Brian Kerr

21.01.04

Mr. Pat Keenan

21.01.04

Mr. Dermot McNulty

21.01.04

Ms Sheila Tyrell

21.01.04

Bord Iascaigh Mhara

Mr. Hugh Byrne, Chairperson

08.07.2003

Mr. Pat Ridge

Eastern Regional Fisheries Board

Ms Betty Hayes

08.12.2003

Mr. Pauric Kelly

Northern Regional Fisheries Board

Mr. Billy Grimes

July 2003

Mr. George Gallagher

National Salmon Commission

Dr. Philip McGinnitty

31.01.2003-19.08.2003

Mr. Paul Farrell

Mr. Brian Sheerin

20.08.2003

Dr. Philip McGinnitty

Mr. Brendan O’Rourke

31.01.2003

Mr. P.P. Ó Conchubhair

Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board

Mr. Conleth Bradley, Chairperson

17.7.2003

Mr. Conor J Maguire SC

Mr. Sean Murphy

17.7.2003

Dr. Richard D Fitzgerald B. Sc PhD

Mr. Mario J. Minehane

17.7.2003

Mr. Martin Howley

Mr. Lorcán Ó Cinnéide

17.7.2003

Mr Jim Killeen

Grant Payments.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

330 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on a matter, details supplied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17876/04]

An application seeking grant assistance in respect of the company referred to by the Deputy was received on 18 November 2003 by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara under the EU co-funded aquaculture development measure of the Southern and Eastern, S & E, and the Border Midland and Western, BMW, regional operational programmes of the National Development Plan 2000-2006.

The application was assessed and prioritised by BIM for Exchequer and FIFG grant assistance and BIM submitted the project to the aquaculture selection boards for the S & E region and the BMW region. The application is one of a number of applications considered by the aquaculture selection boards at their meetings on 25 May. A large number of new projects were submitted involving total grant of €10.517 million. When taken together with projects previously approved, the total commitment would amount to an estimated 94% of the grant aid provided for aquaculture under the BMW regional programme and an estimated 87% for the S & E regional programme, assuming all projects were approved. Taking account of the substantial level of grant aid involved, the boards did not make any decisions pending a determination on the allocations of such funding in the 2005, 2006 and 2007 financial envelopes for aquaculture development under the NDP to be provided to the Department in the Estimates.

Over the coming weeks the Department will be examining the extent of financial commitments arising out of grant aid awarded to date under the scheme, and will also be examining the projected demand relating to prioritised projects in the context of available funding for 2005 and subsequent years. Decisions on the processing of the applications under the measures will be made in light of the outcome of this exercise.

On regional advisory councils, these are stakeholder-led organisations and include representation of all the interests affected by the Common Fisheries Policy, while recognising the primacy of fishing interests given the effects on them of management decisions and policies. I am satisfied that the interests of the aquaculture sector can be effectively represented in the councils and I am pleased that the sector is actively interested in getting involved in the work of the councils.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Jack Wall

Question:

331 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his Department’s position in relation to funding for local authority run swimming pools when such pools need refurbishment or need to be replaced; if it is within the remit of his Department to initiate legislation in order that local authorities can raise loans to carry out such work; if his Department has plans to implement private and public partnerships in regard to such work; if his Department has discussions with the Department of Finance in regard to such possible proposals; if so, the results of such discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17166/04]

Jack Wall

Question:

332 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the problems that local authorities are encountering in providing funding for the refurbishment or replacement of swimming pools, many of which originally were community based or initiated; the plans his Department has to overcome such shortfalls in funding; the mechanisms that are available to local authorities to obtain such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17167/04]

Jack Wall

Question:

333 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department has considered a private public partnership agreement in regard to the provision or refurbishment of local authority based swimming pools seeking capital sports grants; if he has had meetings with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government or in regard to such proposals; if so, the results of such meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17155/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 331 to 333, inclusive, together.

Private sector involvement in the local authority swimming pool programme, LASPP, is just one of a number of issues being considered in the context of an expenditure review of the programme, which is currently under way in my Department. This review is due to be completed later this year. The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government is represented on the expenditure review group.

At the moment, the various arrangements and accompanying guidelines in place for public private partnership, PPP, are geared towards major and complex capital projects with significant ongoing maintenance requirements, that is, projects having a capital cost of €20 million or more. The advice is that the PPP model should only be used where it is appropriate and where it can deliver value for money. Conversely, it would not be appropriate where the transaction costs of pursuing a PPP are disproportionate to the value of the project.

The policy framework for PPP schemes in the local government sector issued by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in November last, and implementing guidelines from the Department of Finance, are detailed and complex, in implementation terms. The scale of project costs in the LASPP are in the region of €8 million and would not be seen, therefore, as being of sufficiently high cost to justify the extra resources involved in pursuing a formal PPP approach. Indeed, the Department of Finance confirmed some time ago that there were several considerations which would militate against a PPP approach in this programme and that pool projects do not strictly comply with the definition of a viable PPP in terms of scale and optimal transfer of risk to the private sector.

Where local authorities require to raise loans, section 106 of the Local Government Act 2001, allows for borrowing of money by local authorities, subject to ministerial approval. In the case of borrowings in respect of local authority swimming pool projects, my Department seeks advice from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the ability of the relevant local authority to repay the loan.

It is important to bear in mind that the LASPP is merely a grant scheme and it is a matter for local authorities to devise funding and operational arrangements as they see fit, to complement the grant element. Experience shows that there is potential for private sector involvement in the provision and operation of local authority swimming pool facilities and many local authorities are exploring various ways of involving the private sector in their projects. From my Department's perspective, there is no objection to the involvement of the private sector provided the generally accepted operational considerations of a public pool form part of the project.

The expenditure review of the LASPP, which is underway in my Department, will input into the formulation of future policy in this area. This review is examining, among other things, how the existing programme has worked to date, the benefits which have accrued where pools have been built and what changes, if any, are required to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of the programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

334 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the assessment his Department has made in regard to swimming pools in the country in relation to refurbishment or replacement or the provision of new pools; the number of applications with his Department with regard to the provision of new pools; the number in regard to the replacement of existing pools; if there is a priority list in regard to such lists; if so, if such a list is available; the way in which it can be obtained; the effect which an area or town with designated RAPID status has on such assessments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17156/04]

My Department has commenced an expenditure review of the local authority swimming pool programme, the outcome of which will be used to assist in formulating future policy. This review is examining, among other things, how the programme has worked to date, the benefits which have accrued to areas where pools have been built and what amendments, if any, are required to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of the programme. It is hoped to have this review completed later this year.

The closing date for receipt of applications under the current round of the local authority swimming pool programme was 31 July 2000 and since then 55 applications have or are being dealt with under the programme. Of these applications, 17 are for new pools in greenfield sites, 24 for replacement pools and 14 for the refurbishment of existing pools.

Under the programme, there are four principal stages in the approval process of a swimming pool project: feasibility study-preliminary report, contract documents, tender and construction. Grant-aid is only approved when the tender is approved for a project and is at a grant rate of 80% of the eligible cost of the project. Projects developed in areas designated as disadvantaged, however, qualify for financial support at 90% subject, in both cases, to a maximum grant of €3.8 million.

Because of the long lead-time associated with swimming pool projects, it can take some time for projects to proceed through the various stages of development. Of the 55 projects: 13 swimming pool projects have been opened or have completed construction work; five projects are at construction phase; 37 other applications are at various stages in the process; four are at tender stage; 18 are at contract document stage; and 15 are at preliminary report stage.

Projects are considered on a case-by-case basis and consideration is given to such issues as to whether the area is classified as disadvantaged, the viability of the project, particularly in relation to operational and maintenance issues, overall funding package for the project, technical details, the number and geographical spread of projects within and between counties. The Department's annual Estimates provision for the programme has a significant influence on the approval process.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Revitalising Areas through Planning, Investment and Development — RAPID — programme aims to target the most disadvantaged areas of the country for enhanced development. No additional funding has been set aside for the programme but rather these areas are prioritised for support within existing budgets.

Jack Wall

Question:

335 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department had consultations with Kildare County Council in regard to the funding of the proposed works at Athy and Naas swimming pools; if his Department has committed funding for these works; the position regarding the application; if his Department has agreed with the design proposals in regard to both proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17157/04]

Seán Power

Question:

337 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when funding will be provided to replace the existing swimming pool at Athy, County Kildare; when the project can proceed to tender stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17491/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 335 and 337 together.

Kildare County Council submitted to my Department the contract documents for the replacement of the swimming pools in both Athy and Naas. This documentation has been examined by my Department's technical advisers, the Office of Public Works, and is now under consideration in my Department.

Sports Capital Programme.

Michael Noonan

Question:

336 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the reason a grant which was promised by his Department to a club, details supplied, in County Limerick has not been awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17201/04]

A grant of €100,000 was provisionally allocated to the club in question under the 2002 sports capital programme operated by my Department. Approval of grants under the sports capital programme are subject to recipients meeting the terms and conditions of the programme.

The club in question was advised in May 2002 of the conditions to be met and the documentation required by my Department to approve the grant. Among the conditions required is the execution of a deed of covenant and charge, which provides,inter alia, for a refund of grants in the event of the facility not continuing to be used for the purpose for which the grant was allocated. The deed of covenant and charge is invoked by my Department’s legal advisers, the Chief State Solicitor’s office, CSSO. Payment of the grant due can only proceed when the deed of covenant and charge is in place. The club’s solicitors are currently dealing with the CSSO in attempting to finalise the deed.

The grant cannot be formally confirmed or any payment made until all of the required documentation has been submitted to my Department and found to be in order. In addition to the first formal written notification in this regard in May 2002, the club was further advised in May 2003 and again in May 2004 of the other outstanding documentation required by my Department in order to have the grant confirmed. To date, this documentation has not been submitted.

Question No. 337 answered with QuestionNo. 335.

Performing Arts.

John Bruton

Question:

338 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in regard to the promise in the joint programme of the early establishment of an Irish academy for the performing arts; and the location in County Kerry at which this academy will be located. [17551/04]

Capital funding is not currently available to progress the development of an Irish academy for the performing arts.

Electronic Communications.

John Bruton

Question:

339 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if all public services provided by his Department that are capable of electronic delivery are available electronically through a single point of contact, as was promised in the joint programme; and if not, if he will make a statement or explanation in respect of each service not yet so provided. [17563/04]

The electronic delivery of services through a single point of contact is being progressed through the framework of the public services broker and the Reach agency, which reports to the Department of Social and Family Affairs, is charged with responsibility for its design and development.

It is intended to launch the first stage of the public services broker at the end of this month. This will be a public facing website, to be known asreachservices.ie, designed to act as a single point of access to a range of services offered by the Irish public service. Initially, reachservices.ie will provide access in the form of links to forms or on-line services provided on other websites.

Reach is in discussion with a number of Departments, including my Department, and agencies in relation to the range of on-line services, combining a number of the new capabilities, which will be launched with the next phase of development ofreachservices.ie in the autumn.

Expenditure Reviews.

John Bruton

Question:

340 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department has achieved the target, set out in the initiation of the expenditure review initiative in 1997, that all Government expenditure be subject to a formal review under that initiative every three years; and if not, the areas of expenditure in respect of which the three yearly review has not taken place. [17578/04]

John Bruton

Question:

341 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the areas of expenditure of his Department in respect of which an expenditure review under the expenditure review initiative has not yet been completed and published. [17593/04]

I propose to take questions Nos. 340 and 341 together.

The initial target of the expenditure review initiative, ERI, was to review all expenditure programmes over a three year period. However, a review of the process by the Department of Finance expenditure review central steering committee, ERCSC, in 2000-01 found that this target had been over-ambitious and that a more focused approach to the selection of review topics was required. This view was supported by a Comptroller and Auditor General value for money study of the ERI in 2001 which proposed that a more realistic target should be set that took into account the level of evaluative capacity in departments generally.

In June 2001 the Government decided,inter alia, that the Department of Finance and individual Departments-offices should compile and agree a work plan of review topics based on specific selection criteria, that is, that programmes selected for review should reflect Government priorities or strategic result areas, involve significant levels of expenditure, etc. Subsequently, in May 2002, the Government approved a schedule of expenditure review topics proposed for the first year of the next three-year planning horizon — 2002-04 — and noted the topics proposed for 2003 and 2004. In April 2003, the ERCSC asked Departments-offices to update their expenditure review plans, again in consultation with the Department of Finance. The committee emphasised the Government’s selection criteria and advised that Departments-offices should select a small number of programmes-areas involving major policy issues or significant levels of expenditure. On foot of this process, revised expenditure review plans were drawn up by Departments-offices.

My Department's updated expenditure review plan for 2003 and 2004 includes five reviews as follows: the sports capital programme expenditure review is currently being finalised; the swimming pools programme expenditure review is proceeding; the sports tourism initiative expenditure review has been deferred pending consideration by the Department of the outcome of the review of the initiative currently being conducted by Fáilte Ireland; and expenditure reviews of the Irish Sports Council and the Irish Film Board are due to be undertaken in 2004.

Sports Capital Programme.

John Curran

Question:

342 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of funding granted to a football club, details supplied, under the sports capital programme; the amount of other funding it may have received from his Department; and the annual breakdown of this funding, that is, when it was allocated and when it was drawn down. [17609/04]

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 club in question has been allocated three grants under the sports capital programme: €634,869 in 2000, €634,869 in 2001 and €1,300,000 in 2002. No other allocation of funding has been made to this club by my Department.

Of the funding allocated, €1,206,251 was paid to the club in 2001 and a further €1,235,000 was paid in 2002. These payments combined represent 95% of the total grants allocated; the remaining 5%, in this case €128,487, is retained in accordance with standard practice pending the receipt of certification of completion of the defects liability period of the project.

John Curran

Question:

343 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the funding allocated to the FAI and its affiliates on an annual basis under the sports capital programme since the programme commenced. [17610/04]

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 Football Association of Ireland, the governing body for soccer in Ireland, has been allocated two sports capital grants of €225,000 in 2003 and €100,000 in 2004 towards the provision of equipment required for the FAI's development programmes.

I have listed below the funding allocations since 1998 to projects classified as soccer projects, which would include Eircom League clubs, district junior and schoolboy leagues and clubs and also some municipal community soccer facilities.

€ million

1998

0.89

1999

4.10

2000

6.92

2001

8.62

2002

19.98

2003

9.17

In relation to the 2004 sports capital programme, I announced on 7 May provisional funding allocations totalling €50.8 million, of which €8.05 million was to soccer projects. I will shortly be making further announcements under the 2004 programme in respect of funding for projects of major significance which, while meeting local needs, will also add considerably to the national and regional sporting infrastructure which is required both for increasing levels of participation and improving standards of performance.

Decentralisation Programme.

John Bruton

Question:

344 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the reason the decentralisation implementation plan of his Department was not completed within the time limit set. [17766/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the report of the decentralisation implementation group, dated 31 March 2004, requested each Department to prepare its own implementation plan in the light of the report. My Department immediately set about this task, listing the issues which required to be addressed in terms of people, property and business and incorporating risk assessment and mitigation strategies.

Contemporaneous with the publication of the report the Flynn group invited the Secretary General of the Department to meet to discuss the issues arising for the Department. That meeting took place on 3 June 2004. Following this meeting at which relevant issues central to the implementation plan were discussed, the plan was finalised and considered by the management advisory committee of my Department. The plan was furnished to the decentralisation group on 10 June 2004.

Appointments to State Boards.

Michael Ring

Question:

345 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the appointments that have been made to State boards and bodies within his Department from 1 January 2003 to 15 June 2004; the persons appointed; and the persons they are replacing. [17800/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is as follows:

Arts Council **

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

Olive Braiden — Chair

14 August 2003

Patrick J. Murphy — Chair

Jerome Hynes — Deputy ChairNoelle Campbell SharpTheo DorganJohn McGahernOrlaith McBridePhilip KingWillie DohertyMary NunanRosaleen Linehan

14 August 2003

Noel CrowleyProinsias MacAonghusaSéamus Ó CinnéideMaud CotterT.V. HonanMáire Ní RiainCarlo GéblerClare DuignanSiobhán Ní ÉanaighMary BradyBrendan FlynnDr Thomas MitchellDr Jane O’Leary

Patrick Sutton

14 August 2003

*

Úna Ó Murchú

14 August 2003

*

Emer O’Kelly

14 August 2003

*

*Reappointed

** The Arts Act 2003 reduced the board of the Arts Council from 17 to 13 members, including the Chairperson

Abbey Theatre

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

Eithne Healy

26 May 2003

*

Dr John O’Mahony S.C.

26 May 2003

Deirdre Purcell

*Reappointed
Irish Film Board

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

No appointments

N/A

N/A

Music Board of Ireland

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

No appointments

N/A

N/A

National Concert Hall

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

No appointments

N/A

N/A

National Museum of Ireland Caretaker Board

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

No appointments

N/A

N/A

National Museum of Ireland and Botanic Gardens Board of Visitors

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

No appointments

N/A

N/A

Irish Museum of Modern Art

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

Gerard Mannix Flynn

20 January 2004

Eoghan Harris

National Gallery

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

The Duke of Abercorn K.G.

21 May 2003

The Earl of Belmore

Pauline Bewick

18 December 2003

Geraldine Hone

Bernard McNamara

18 December 2003

K.C. Rohan

Dr. Abdul Bulbulia

18 December 2003

Andrew O’Connor

National Archives Advisory Council

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

No appointments

N/A

N/A

Irish Manuscript Commission

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

Prof. JFM Lydon

27 May 2003 *

Prof. DW Harkness

27 May 2003 *

Dr Mary Daly

27 May 2003 *

Dr Anngret Simms

27 May 2003 *

Dr Mary O’Dowd

27 May 2003 *

Prof. Nicholas Canny

27 May 2003 *

James McGuire — Chairman

28 May 2003

Prof. Geoffrey J. Hand

*Reappointed
National Library

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

Jim O’Shea

17 December 2003

Brian Murphy

Chester Beatty Library

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

Madeline O’Sullivan

7 May 2003

Freda Hayes

Louise O’Mahony

20 April 2004

Noreen Slattery

Marsh's Library

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

No appointments

N/A

N/A

Irish Sports Council

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

Sheila Dickson

1 July 2003

Sinéad Behan

Niall Quinn

29 September 2003

Jerry O’Dwyer

Marian McGennis

29 September 2003

Helen O’Rourke

Bord Na gCon

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

Helen Nugent

24 January 2003 *

Luke Mulligan

John Hegarty

24 January 2003

Noel O’Driscoll

Cathal Curley

24 January 2003 **

Tony McKenna

29 January 2004

Bob Roberts

Pádraic Feeney

29 January 2004

Tom Griffin

Paschal Taggart (Chairman)

25 February 2004 **

* Reappointed on 29th January 2004 **Reappointed on 25th February 2004
Horse Racing Ireland

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

Jessica Harrington

18th December 2003 *

Cahir O’Sullivan

18th December 2003

Michael Osbourne

Frank Clarke

18th December 2003

Ray Rooney

* Reappointed
Campus & Stadium Ireland Development Ltd. (CSID)

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

No appointments

N/A

N/A

Fáilte Ireland (established on 28th May 2003)

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

Mary McKeon

28 May 2003

Patrick O’Donoghue

28 May 2003

Gillian Bowler (Chair)

28 May 2003

Dominic Dillane

28 May 2003

John McDonnell

28 May 2003

Catherine Reilly

28 May 2003

Noel McGinley

28 May 2003

Pádraig Ó Céidigh

28 May 2003

Maureen Cairnduff

28 May 2003

Eithne Scott-Lennon

28 May 2003

Noel O’Callaghan

28 May 2003

Páidi Ó Sé

28 May 2003

Brian Dowling

28 May 2003

Bord Fáilte (Ceased to Exist in May 2003)

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

Noel McGinley (Chairman)

1st April 2003 *

Patrick O’ Donoghue

1st April 2003 *

Páidí Ó Sé

1st April 2003 *

Séan Dunne

1st April 2003 *

*Reappointed until 28th May 2003
CERT (Ceased to Exist in May 2003)

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

No appointments

N/A

N/A

Tourism Ireland *

Name of Appointee

Date of Appointment

Person replaced

Gillian Bowler

28th May 2003

Shaun Quinn

28th May 2003

*There are currently 12 members on the board of Tourism Ireland. By virtue of being a North-South body, appointments to the Board of Tourism Ireland are made on a joint North-South basis by the North-South Ministerial Council. The period of appointment of the first Board has been extended by the North-South Ministerial Council for a further year to December 2004.

Health Board Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

346 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an occupational therapy report in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will be arranged; if the home supports and appliances required for the person will be provided without delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17154/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Carlow area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him as a matter of urgency.

Medicinal Products.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

347 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to concerns regarding the use of a new class of anti-depressants known as SSRIs; his views on whether warnings should be issued regarding their dangers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17170/04]

The Irish Medicines Board is the statutory body responsible for the regulation of medicinal products in Ireland.

The board, in consultation with its European colleagues, has continuously monitored the safety of the class of medicines known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, since they were first licensed for the Irish market. The board has taken regulatory action on those products when deemed necessary.

Most recently, the board took part in a Europe-wide review of medicinal products containing paroxetine, which is one of the group of SSRIs which is used to treat mild to moderate depression. That review was undertaken on the basis of safety concerns relating to those products. The board actively participated in that review, which involved a complete benefit-risk re-assessment, and concluded that the benefit-risk profile of products containing paroxetine remains positive. Several recommendations were made for inclusion on the product's licence documents, the purpose of which was to harmonise the information on those products across member states. I am informed that the majority of those recommendations are already reflected on the licence documentation currently approved in Ireland. That documentation includes special warnings and precautions for use, particularly regarding the need for close monitoring of patients using medicinal products containing paroxetine.

The board will continue actively to monitor the safety of all medicinal products licensed for use in Ireland, evaluate all new scientific data that emerge and take any regulatory action deemed appropriate.

Hospital Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

348 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will investigate the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [17171/04]

The provision of hospital services for people living in County Cork is a matter for the Southern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board to investigate the position on the case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Liz McManus

Question:

349 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans he has in place to close operating theatres at the National Maternity Hospital during the summer of 2004; the dates and times when those closures are to take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17172/04]

Services at the National Maternity Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, requested the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matters raised by the Deputy and to reply to her directly.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Question:

350 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for hip surgery. [17173/04]

I understand from the Western Health Board that a reply was issued to the Deputy regarding the case on 3 June 2004.

Health Board Services.

Dermot Fitzpatrick

Question:

351 Dr. Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children within the Northern Area Health Board area that are on the waiting list for orthodontic treatment; the number that have been on the waiting list for more than 12 months; the length of time it will take to clear the waiting list with current resources; and if he intends to make orthodontic treatment available through the treatment purchase scheme. [17174/04]

As the Deputy is aware, the provision of orthodontic services is a matter for the health boards or authority in the first instance.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have taken a number of measures to improve orthodontic services in the Northern Area Health Board, or NAHB, area of the Eastern Regional Health Authority, or ERHA, and on a national basis.

The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. Those 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001. Thus, there is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics, including five from the ERHA. Those measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.

Furthermore, the commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided to both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for the Cork Dental School. That appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board has reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 December 2003. In recognition of the importance of that post at Cork Dental School, my Department has given approval in principle to a proposal from the school further to substantially improve the training facilities there for orthodontics. That project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities; it will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

Orthodontic initiative funding of €2.044 million was provided to the ERHA in 2001, and that has enabled the authority to recruit additional staff and build additional orthodontic facilities. The authority has developed additional orthodontic facilities at Loughlinstown, Ashtown and at the regional orthodontic unit located at St. James's Hospital.

In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund towards the treatment of persons on the orthodontic waiting lists; the ERHA received €1.815 million from that fund. My Department instructed the health boards and authority that the funding was to be allocated on the basis of the following principles: treatment of clients longest on the waiting list in accordance with the severity of their treatment need; allocation to provide additional treatment over and above what was provided in the normal way; efficiency and value for money; and equitable delivery across health board populations. The regional chief executive of the ERHA has informed my Department of the following information on the NAHB treatment waiting list at the end of March 2004:

Orthodontic Treatment Waiting List

Area Health Board

Category A

Average waiting time

Category B

Average waiting time

NAHB

62

< 12

2,334

< 24 months

The management of orthodontic waiting lists is the statutory responsibility of the authority. Therefore, my Department has asked the regional chief executive of the authority to provide the Deputy with the information requested regarding its waiting lists.

Finally, the regional chief executive of the authority has informed my Department that, at the end of the March quarter 2004, there were 3,782 children receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service in the ERHA.

Health Board Allowances.

John McGuinness

Question:

352 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if the payment of enhanced subvention will be restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if he will investigate the circumstances of the case; and if a response will be expedited. [17175/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Kilkenny area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Nursing Home Subventions.

John McGuinness

Question:

353 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if the full cost of a private nursing home will be covered for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow or a long-stay bed provided at St. Luke’s, Kilkenny, in view of the financial circumstances of their family and the serious medical circumstances; and if a decision will be expedited in the case. [17176/04]

The provision of health services for people living in County Carlow is a matter for the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the South Eastern Health Board to investigate the position on the case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Board Services.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

354 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if a home help service will be provided for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6W in view of the extraordinary health situation involved. [17177/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Dublin 6 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 directly to him as a matter of urgency.

Alcohol Abuse.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

355 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will consider the concern expressed by a person (details supplied) regarding alcohol abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17178/04]

National policy on the treatment of alcohol abuse, as set out in Planning for the Future, stipulates that the emphasis in the management of alcohol-related problems should be on community-based intervention. Health boards already provide and continue to develop a range of comprehensive community-based support services appropriate to the needs of persons affected and afflicted by alcohol abuse. Those services include family support and community, medical and social services in the management of the problem.

The main therapeutic tools in the treatment of alcohol dependence are psychotherapy, counselling, and family and marital therapy, either individually or in group settings. Therapy may take place in a residential or a day setting. As alcohol-related problems occur, in many instances, in local and family settings, the community-based response can be direct and early, thereby reducing the associated levels of physical, psychological and social problems.

The health promotion unit of my Department is involved in a range of initiatives aimed at preventing and reducing alcohol-related harm. One such initiative was the establishment of a strategic task force on alcohol in January 2002 to recommend evidence-based measures to Government, aimed at reducing and preventing alcohol-related harm. Following a comprehensive review of the most effective alcohol policy measures by international experts, an interim report was published in May 2002. A second report, containing further recommendations, will be published in the near future. An interdepartmental group has been established to co-ordinate responses to the recommendations.

The health promotion unit of my Department has provided funding to the Irish College of General Practitioners, or ICGP, to implement an alcohol-aware practice project. The main aim of the project is to assist the GP to be more effective in helping patients with alcohol problems.

Legislation is currently being drafted in my Department to reduce the over-exposure of young people to alcohol advertising and marketing practices.

Health Board Services.

David Stanton

Question:

356 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the extra entitlements and assistance that are made available to persons suffering from various forms of cancer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17205/04]

Entitlement to health services in Ireland is primarily based on residency and means. Any person, regardless of nationality, who is accepted by the health boards as being ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to either full eligibility, category 1 — i.e. medical card holders — or limited eligibility, category 2, for health services. Health boards normally regard a person as ordinarily resident in Ireland if he or she satisfies the health board that it is his or her intention to remain in Ireland for a minimum period of one year.

Persons in category 1 are medical card holders, and they are entitled to a full range of services, including general practitioner services, prescribed drugs and medicines, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards, including consultants services, all out-patient public hospital services, including consultants services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances and a maternity and infant care service.

Persons in category 2, that of non-medical card holders, are entitled, subject to certain charges, to all in-patient public hospital services in public wards, including consultants' services and out-patient public hospital services, including consultants' services. The current public hospital statutory in-patient charge is €45 per night, up to a maximum of €450 in any 12 consecutive months. Attendance at accident and emergency departments is subject to a charge of €45 where the patient does not have a referral note from his or her doctor. That charge applies only to the first visit in any episode of care.

Under the Health Act 1970, the determination of eligibility for health services is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board, and neither I nor my Department have a function in the matter. Alternatively, one can opt to be the private patient of both the consultant and the hospital. Any patient, whether a medical card holder or not, who opts for treatment in a private hospital or as a private patient in a public hospital is liable for the costs relating to such treatment. I would like to add that health boards have discretion, in cases of exceptional need, to provide assistance to individuals where undue hardship would otherwise be caused.

Persons suffering from specified conditions, including acute leukaemia, who are not already medical card holders, may obtain without charge drugs and medicines for the treatment of that condition under the long-term illness scheme. There are no plans at this time to amend the long-term illness scheme to include persons with other forms of cancer.

Since the implementation of the national cancer strategy commenced in 1997, there has been a total cumulative investment of €550 million in the development of appropriate treatment and care services for people with cancer. The benefit of that investment is reflected in the significant increase in staffing and activity which has occurred. For example, the investment has enabled the funding of an additional 91 consultant posts in key areas of cancer care such as medical oncology, radiology, palliative care and general surgeons with a special interest in breast surgery. In addition approximately €90 million has been invested in oncology infrastructure, including specialist equipment in radiation oncology, mammography, radiology and pathology. The recruitment and training of specialist staff and the utilisation of equipment is a matter for individual health boards and the Eastern Regional Health Authority, or ERHA.

Health Board Staff.

Enda Kenny

Question:

357 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason that the Western Health Board has not made to retired radiographers back payments granted to them under the expert review agreement; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the payment was made by the Eastern Regional Health Authority six months ago; when he expects those payments to be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17242/04]

Responsibility for the payment of increases to radiographers arising from the expert group on radiography grades rests with the chief executive officer of each board. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer of the Western Health Board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Health Board Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

358 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; when they can expect to be called; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17249/04]

Responsibility for the provision of health services to persons living in counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow rests with 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 her directly.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

359 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will investigate the way in which a person (details supplied) contracted MRSA; the steps taken to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17259/04]

Responsibility for the provision of hospital services to residents of Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, requested the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Michael Ring

Question:

360 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has been advised for the second time that they will not be admitted to Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. [17260/04]

The provision of hospital services for people living in County Mayo is a matter for the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position on the case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Benchmarking Awards.

Mary Upton

Question:

361 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if a home help (details supplied) in Dublin 12 is entitled to benchmarking increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17261/04]

The details supplied by the Deputy are not sufficient to allow a full reply to issue. My Department has been in contact with the Deputy with a view to seeking further information.

Smoking Ban.

Michael Ring

Question:

362 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in regard to the smoking ban, residents in group homes are permitted to smoke; and if the staff who care for them are permitted to smoke. [17270/04]

The smoke-free workplaces measures apply, with limited exceptions, to all enclosed places of work. The exemptions are specified in the Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Act 2004, and where a residential group home, as referred to by the Deputy, meets the requirements so specified an exemption will apply. A decision to allow the smoking of tobacco products in exempted premises is a matter for the management of the premises concerned. However, the fact that a premises is exempted does not confer a right to smoke in that location, and neither does it affect the duty of care that an employer has in respect of his or her employees.

Medical Cards.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

363 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children his proposals to provide for drivers over 70 years having medical examinations on their medical cards regarding their eligibility to drive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17287/04]

Medical card holders are eligible for a range of treatments and services without charge under the GMS scheme. However, the issue of certificates to any medical card holder, regardless of age, for medical examinations required for a driving licence, may incur charges. I do not have any plans to change the current system.

Adoption Services.

John Gormley

Question:

364 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason that some persons have waited as long as four years for a decision from the Adoption Board before being refused on the grounds of age; the details of the age criteria which apply; and if he will undertake a full examination of the methods of the Adoption Board with a view to making significant changes to procedures to avoid unnecessary delays which may cause hurt for future prospective parents. [17290/04]

Assessments for inter-country and domestic adoptions are carried out by health boards or by registered adoption societies. At the outset of the process, applicants are placed on a health board or adoption society waiting list for assessment. The waiting list for assessment varies throughout the country. The assessment process itself involves a number of stages and would generally include an initial assessment, a considerable level of education or preparation work, including an exploration with prospective adoptive parents of the challenges and issues likely to arise when undertaking adoption, and a home study assessment. The purpose of the assessment process is to determine whether applicants are suitable to adopt a child, and the length of the process can vary between applicants, depending on the particular circumstances of each case, bearing in mind at all times the best interests of the child.

An applicant's file is sent to the Adoption Board when the process is nearing finalisation. While an applicant would not wait for four years for a decision from the Adoption Board, in some cases the whole process from initial application to the Adoption Board making its decision may take that long.

While there are no legal provisions regarding upper age limits for either domestic or inter-country adoption, an applicant's age may be taken into consideration in the context of the assessment as one of a number of factors determining the applicant's capacity to look after the child throughout his or her childhood and to maintain an ongoing and meaningful relationship with the child.

Water Fluoridation.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

365 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of members who have been assigned to the expert group on fluoridation; and the names of those members. [17296/04]

The expert body recommended by the forum has been established. The chairperson of the expert body is Dr. Seamus O'Hickey, former chief dental officer with my Department. Dr. O'Hickey's mix of scientific knowledge, awareness of fluoridation issues and experience of administrative issues leave him well placed to chair the body. The expert body, to be known as the Irish expert body on fluorides and health, held its inaugural meeting in April last.

The terms of reference of the expert body are: to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the forum on fluoridation; to advise the Minister and evaluate ongoing research — including new emerging issues — on all aspects of fluoride and its delivery methods as an established health technology; and as required to report to the Minister on matters of concern at his or her request or on its own initiative.

The expert body has broad representation, including from the areas o