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 15, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 16 to 69, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 70 to 76, inclusive, answered orally.

Lisbon Agenda.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

77 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the policies he intends pursuing to ensure the achievement of the employment participation targets set out in Lisbon Agenda as signed by the Lisbon European Council. [28467/04]

The Lisbon Agenda set the EU an overall employment rate target of 70% by 2010, with specific targets of 60% and 50%, respectively, for female and older workers. The targets set at Lisbon in 2000 were challenging at a time when the EU was enjoying GDP growth and falling unemployment. Notwithstanding the global economic downturn, Ireland has made steady progress towards achieving these targets.

The overall employment, female employment and older workers employment rates for Ireland in 1999 — pre-Lisbon — were 63.3%, 52% and 43.7%, respectively. In 2003, these rates had improved to 65.4%, 55.8% and 49%, respectively, and exceeded the average rates across the 25 member states of the EU. The employment in Europe 2004 report was recently published by the European Commission and predicts that Ireland is likely to reach all three targets by 2010.

The most recent employment figures for Ireland indicate that there are 1,836,200 persons in employment, which is an increase of 42,800 or 2.4% in the year. Some 84,200 persons are unemployed, giving a current unemployment rate of 4.4% and a long-term unemployment rate of 1.4%. Ireland's unemployment rate is relatively low, particularly when compared with the EU average of around 9%.

The progress made in attaining the Lisbon targets are due to policies already adopted by the Government and these policies continue to be pursued. In particular, current policies are focused on responding to country specific recommendations that were endorsed by the European Council in June, having taken account of the recommendations of the employment task force report.

The pursuance of the goals of increased competitiveness, a knowledge-based economy and more and better jobs is reliant on a number of factors and mobilising of all sources of labour supply is crucial to this. Continuing employment growth is dependant on active labour market programmes to increase activtion of the unemployed and reduce the unemployment rate, FÁS engagement with all people on the live register for more than six months, investment in training to facilitate both the unemployed and employees to participate in lifelong learning, reviewing social security-taxation and improving flexible working arrangements to encourage participation of females and older workers in the workforce.

Departmental Investigations.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

78 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in regard to each of the inquiries being carried out by or on behalf of him; if he will give a projected date for the conclusion of each such investigation; the inquiries in respect of which reports have been referred to the DPP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28396/04]

Jack Wall

Question:

126 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the costs incurred by the State at the latest date for which figures are available, arising from the various inquiries instigated by or on behalf of him; the element of these costs that have been recovered from any of the other parties involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28397/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 126 together.

Some 16 investigations into company law matters were initiated by my predecessor since this Government first came into office. In three cases, the High Court appointed, on an application by the Minister, inspectors under section 8 of the Companies Act 1990. The inspectors appointed to Ansbacher (Cayman) Limited presented their report to the High Court on 10 June 2002. The report was subsequently published. The report has been passed to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The inspectors appointed to National Irish Bank Limited and National Irish Bank Financial Services Limited presented their report to the High Court on 12 July 2004. The report was subsequently published. The court ordered that a copy of the report be sent to several relevant authorities, including the Director of Public Prosecutions. One investigation under section 14 of the Companies Act 1990 was completed in 1998. The report on this has been passed to the Director of Public Prosecutions, DDP.

Eleven investigations were initiated by the Minister under section 19 of the Companies Act 1990. Six of these have been concluded. Of the six investigations completed, two of the reports were passed to the DPP. A number of summary prosecutions have since been successfully concluded in one case. One report provided an input into the successful application to the High Court for the appointment of inspectors under section 8 while the fourth report was passed to the relevant High Court inspectors. One report was completed in September 2002 and a further report was completed in March 2003. Both reports have been referred to the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

Three investigations under section 19 remain to be concluded. The authorised officer has been directed by my predecessor to cease investigative work and to commence writing up his reports with a view to facilitating appropriate follow up action as soon as possible by the relevant authorities. My Department is currently in discussion with the authorised officer regarding an updated timetable for the completion of these investigations.

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

The costs incurred since 1997 on company investigations initiated by or on behalf of my Department currently amount to approximately €10.7 million. This amount does not include the salary costs of Civil Service staff working on a number of these investigations or the legal costs which are primarily being borne by the Vote of the Chief State Solicitor. Most of this €10.7 million derives from the costs of the High Court inspectors appointed under section 8 — €5.7 million in the case of National Irish Bank Limited-National Irish Bank Financial Services Limited and €3.5 million in the case of Ansbacher (Cayman) Limited.

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

Economic Competitiveness.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

79 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has plans to ensure that new legislation is business proofed in order to maintain Ireland’s international competitiveness and their growth and employment are protected in an increasingly competitive market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28349/04]

In January this year the Government launched a White Paper entitled Regulating Better which will contribute to improving national competitiveness and better Government by ensuring that new regulations — Acts and statutory instruments — are more rigorously assessed in terms of their impacts on jobs and growth as well as being more accessible and transparent. To achieve this the Government will make better use of research and analysis in both policy-making and policy implementation through regulatory impact assessment.

Regulatory impact assessment is an evidence-based approach that allows for the systematic consideration of the benefits and costs of a regulatory proposal to the economy and society. The Government will pilot a system of regulatory impact assessments, RIAs, in a number of Departments and following the pilot phase, RIAs will be integrated with existing procedures. Assistance is being provided to Departments during the piloting process by a designated official in the Department of the Taoiseach and by an economic consultant. A RIA steering group comprising officials from piloting Departments and Richard Boyle of the committee for public management research, CPMR, and chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach is overseeing the piloting process. RIAs will give special consideration to business impacts, especially in respect of small and medium enterprises.

The European Commission developed a model of impact assessment in 2002 integrating and replacing previous single sector assessments. Impact assessment was applied in 2003 to a selection of major proposals adopted by the Commission, that is, those listed in its annual policy strategy or its work programme.

At EU level, the Government is playing an active part at improving the regulatory environment for business through the better regulation agenda. At present the Council of the European Union is drawing up a priority list of EU regulations and directives for simplification which it is expected will have a positive impact on businesses throughout the EU. Better regulation is regarded as one of the methods of achieving the targets set in the Lisbon Agenda which is to make the EU the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. The European Commission also intends to introduce impact analysis for all Commission policy proposals and a revue of EU impact analysis guidelines is already under way.

The Government will improve the coherence of legislation through revision, restatement and repeal by ensuring greater consistency in the drafting of statutory instruments and maximising the use of IT and e-Government initiatives to improve clarity and accessibility of regulations. Regulatory impact assessments will add rigour and analytical capacity to the Irish policy-making process and will help to ensure that Ireland's international competitiveness is maintained while also contributing to growth and employment.

Proposed Legislation.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

80 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when he intends to make the promised order under the Consumer Affairs Act to require doctors, dentists and allied health professionals to publicly display their prices, which was first promised almost a year ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28365/04]

I have received the preliminary views of the Office of the Attorney General on this matter. However, I await the final legal advice of that office before I decide how to proceed.

Employment Statistics.

Jack Wall

Question:

81 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will give the figures for the level of industrial employment at the latest date for which figures are available; the way in which this compares with the equivalent date in each of the previous five years; the steps that are being taken to counter the decline in industrial employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28371/04]

The number of persons engaged in industrial employment as recorded by the Central Statistics Office at June 2004 and for each of the previous five years is as follows:

Industrial Employment — 1999-2003.

Industrial Employment (June of each year) Source: CSO — Industrial Employment

2004*

243,700

2003

250,000

2002

256,500

2001

269,000

2000

268,800

1999

255,900

*Preliminary estimate for June 2004.

Industrial employment has not experienced the same, almost consistent expansion that we have seen in other sectors of the economy over the past five years. The reduction in industrial employment after 2001 had much to do with the well acknowledged global trading difficulties at that time. More recently more intensive international competition, which is a very real issue for many businesses, has affected manufacturers based here. Nevertheless, the most recent quarterly industrial employment figures for June shows an upturn in industrial employment on the previous quarter. Furthermore, the ESRI expects industrial employment to increase by 0.6% this year and by 1% in 2005. In light of the intense global competitive pressures on manufacturing these forecasts show that our economy maintains considerable strengths in this area.

The enterprise development agencies under my Department have a comprehensive range of supports to help firms become more competitive, expand in new markets and grow productivity. These are consistently assessed so that whatever new programmes or refinements to help enterprise achieve sustainable competitive advantage and expand employment are implemented.

Manufacturing is an intrinsic component of the economy and is likely to remain so, despite services output and employment becoming more important. Indeed, the strength and potential of this sector has been recognised by the enterprise strategy group. We have both the capacity and expertise to attract advanced manufacturing facilities to the economy and will continue to pursue opportunities in this sector.

While industrial employment has declined in the past few years we must view these losses against employment expansion in the broader economy. The latest quarterly national household survey — quarter 2, 2004 — shows that the total at work rose by 42,800 to more than 1.836 million in the year, while total employment has increased in each of the past five years. Some 247,100 more people or an extra 16.5% were at work in the March to May quarter this year, than in the corresponding period in 1999.

Economic Competitiveness.

Seán Ryan

Question:

82 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will make a statement on the annual report of the National Competitiveness Council which he launched on 14 October 2004. [28366/04]

I welcome last month's publication of the National Competitiveness Council, NCC, annual competitiveness report 2004 and its competitiveness challenge 2004. These reports offer us a valuable insight into the present condition of Irish competitiveness, with the annual competitiveness report benchmarking our performance against 15 other countries. The competitiveness challenge report offers detailed recommendations designed to addresses weaknesses in Ireland's competitiveness performance across a range of areas. The key findings of this year's reports show that the economic environment for 2004 has been encouraging to say the least. Significant improvements have been recorded in the growth of GNP, employment and a reduction in the unemployment rate during 2004. Foreign direct investment, business confidence and industrial output have also all recovered strongly in 2004.

However, the key message in the reports is that despite the improvement in Ireland's economic situation in the past 12 months, it is imperative that we do not become complacent in terms of the need to sustain competitiveness, raise productivity and continue long-term structural reform. This reform is necessary to ensure Ireland remains an attractive location for conducting business to safeguard not only our competitiveness but also our continued economic success. The NCC identified a range of issues in the following areas: the business and work environment, economic and technological infrastructure, education and skills, enterprise and enterprise development and finally innovation and creativity.

I am determined that the NCC's recommendations are given careful consideration and where feasible implemented in a timely manner. A monitoring process has been established to consider and oversee the implementation of the NCC recommendations. As part of this process an interdepartmental group chaired by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment will consider the recommendations and prepare a report for Government to enable them to evaluate Ireland's competitiveness status including a consideration and evaluation of the NCC recommendations. The interdepartmental group will meet on 30 November to begin this process.

The broad and complex nature of competitiveness, ensuring that Ireland remains competitive is not solely the responsibility of the Government. Sustaining Ireland's competitiveness is dependent on the continued commitment of all the social partners to sustaining our progress.

Work Permits.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

83 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work permits issued to date under the new arrangements to give access to employment to the spouses of non-EEA nationals working here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28344/04]

Some 566 work permit applications in respect of the spouses of non-EEA nationals working here were issued up to 8 November 2004.

Future Employment Needs.

Michael Noonan

Question:

84 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of non-Irish workers which will be needed to sustain the economy here over the next three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28391/04]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

121 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the information available to him on the expected level of labour force requirements over the coming years; the extent to which this can be met from within this country and the extent to which labour from abroad may be required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28345/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 121 together.

Arising from our membership of the European Union, Ireland is part of the integrated labour market of the European Economic Area, EEA, comprising the 25 member states of the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and, effectively, Switzerland. Nationals of these states have freedom of movement to come to work in Ireland, and Irish employers can employ such persons without the requirement to obtain a work permit.

Future economic migration to Ireland from outside the EEA will, therefore, be the residual component of total immigration. In effect, it will reflect the degree to which Irish employers cannot recruit the requisite skills from within the EEA labour market, which is in excess of 220 million with an estimated 20 million workers unemployed.

This position corresponds with the recent conclusions of the migrant workers options review group, a working group set up under Sustaining Progress, comprising representatives of employer bodies and unions. It is also borne out by the development of economic migration to Ireland over recent years, as the following statistics show.

Irish economic migration peaked in 2001 when over 29,000 new first-time work permits were granted. By 2003 the number granted had fallen to under 22,000. Experience in 2004 suggests that the enlarged EU can indeed supply the greater portion of our continuing overseas labour needs. Recent figures from the Department of Social and Family Affairs show that more than 40,000 nationals of the ten new member states of the EU have been allocated personal public service numbers in the period from 1 May, the date of EU enlargement, to mid-October 2004. Most of these nationals would come to Ireland for the purposes of employment.

Furthermore, while almost 29,000 work permits have been granted to date in 2004, fewer than 6,000 of these were in respect of new permits granted to non-EEA nationals. This very significant reduction, together with the arrival of a large pool of personnel from the new member states suggests that we can, indeed, meet the great bulk of our future needs from within the EEA.

I do not anticipate that in future years the numbers in question from outside the EEA will differ to any significant extent from our experience this year. In point of fact, the majority of non-EEA nationals coming to work in Ireland in future years will be in the high-skilled, high-paid category, which are critical to our economic development needs. To this end, my Department, in conjunction with FÁS and the expert group on future skill needs, intends to make a detailed assessment of likely future skill shortages in the post EU enlargement situation, in which we now find ourselves.

Proposed Legislation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

85 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is considering introducing employment rights legislation in respect of sick pay and sick leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28314/04]

There is no statutory requirement on employers to pay employees who are absent due to illness except, however, under the sick pay provisions in various employment regulation orders of the Labour Court for certain sectors of employment as follows: aerated waters and wholesale bottling; agricultural workers; catering; contract cleaning; hairdressing — Dublin; law clerks; provender milling; and retail grocery and allied trades.

Disability benefit is paid by the Department of Social and Family Affairs to socially insured persons who are unable to work due to illness and who meet the contribution conditions. Disability benefit is not normally paid for the first three days of illness, known as waiting days, but is payable for up to 52 weeks if the insured person has between 52 and 259 paid contributions; and up until the age of 66 if a person has a total of 260 weeks or more paid contributions since entering employment. There are no proposals at present to change the current situation or to bring forward legislative proposals to require employers to have occupational sick pay or sick leave schemes.

Job Creation.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

86 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of IDA supported jobs that were created in County Kerry in 2001, 2002, 2003 and to date in 2004, respectively; the locations at which they were created; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28260/04]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment, FDI, to Ireland, including its regions and areas. The table below outlines the number of IDA supported jobs created in County Kerry for the years 2001, 2002 and 2003. This data is compiled from the annual Forfás employment survey. County data for 2004 will not be available until mid-2005.

At the end of 2003, there were 2,205 people in permanent employment in 23 IDA assisted companies in Kerry compared to 2,961 in the same number of companies at the end of 2001. This represents a decline of some 25.5% compared to a national decline of only 6.5% over the same period. Despite this fall however, employment in IDA supported companies in the county is performing relatively well when considered in the context of the recent global downturn which has resulted in fewer companies actively seeking to invest overseas and less companies visiting Ireland.

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

IDA Ireland.

County Employment Data

2001

2002

2003

Kerry North — Castleisland, Listowel, Tralee

No. of Companies

11

11

11

Permanent Employment

1,190

1,083

1,004

Gross Gains (New Jobs)

189

22

33

Job Losses

-26

-129

-112

Net Change in Employment

163

-107

-79

Kerry South — Caherciveen, Kenmare, Killarney, Killorglin

No. of Companies

12

11

12

Permanent Employment

1,771

1,361

1,201

Gross Gains (New Jobs)

185

131

49

Job Losses

-33

-541

-209

Net Change in Employment

152

-410

-160

County Kerry

No. of Companies

23

22

23

Permanent Employment

2,961

2,444

2,205

Gross Gains (New Jobs)

374

153

82

Job Losses

-59

-670

-321

Net Change in Employment

315

-517

-239

Source: Forfas Employment Survey.

Flexible Work Practices.

John Gormley

Question:

87 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of direct financial assistance provided in 2003 by the national framework committee on work-life balance policies to assist organisations in implementing work life balance initiatives; and the nature of those initiatives. [28479/04]

One of the tasks assigned to the national framework committee for work-life balance policies, when it was established under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness in 2000, was to support and facilitate the development of a package of practical measures that can be applied at the level of the enterprise. One such measure was the provision of direct financial assistance to organisations wishing to introduce or enhance work life balance policies.

The first request for applications for assistance issued in February 2002 following which eight organisations were chosen for funding. Total funding allocated was almost €158,000. The projects covered a wide range of issues from stress management to e-working pilot schemes. The organisations were from the private, public and voluntary sectors with a broad regional spread.

Six projects completed their activities in 2002 while two continued activity into 2003. These two projects received the final instalments of their allocated funding in 2003 amounting to €10,070. The first of these two projects involved the further investigation of the benefits-costs of flexible working arrangements and the possible increase in their utilisation by the business. This project also involved the provision of training to managers on how to use flexible work arrangements, and to employees on how to successfully work as an e-worker. The second project was a one-year pilot to enable a number of employees combine flexible office working hours and home-based teleworking.

A second request for applications for assistance was advertised by the committee in November 2003 following which seven organisations were chosen and funding of approx. €130,000 was allocated. Those projects are due for completion by the end of 2004.

Employment Statistics.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

88 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the statistics for the length of the average working week for persons in full-time employment in the economy here; the similar statistics for the same category of workers ten and 20 years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28469/04]

Figures supplied by the Central Statistics Office show that the annual average number of hours worked per week by workers in the manufacturing sector, part-time and full-time, in 2003 was 39.8. The corresponding figures for 1993 and 1983, respectively, were 40.3 and 40.6. Figures are only available for the manufacturing sector and separate data for full-time and part-time workers is not available. Data is not yet available for 2004.

Community Employment Schemes.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

89 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons on community employment places at 1 January 2003 and 1 January 2004; the anticipated numbers at 1 January 2005; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties faced by many community and voluntary groups due to the shortage of community employment places; if changes are planned with regard to eligibility to participate in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28363/04]

Enda Kenny

Question:

100 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will relax community employment scheme restrictions which bar persons from serving on them for more than three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28387/04]

Willie Penrose

Question:

116 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment whether he has agreed to changes in the community employment scheme; the nature of the changes proposed; if consultations were held with any interests in regard to the proposed changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28347/04]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

123 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when it is intended to publish the review of the community employment scheme conducted by FÁS, which was submitted to him some time ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28348/04]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

148 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the response he has had to the consultation paper on the community employment scheme published by his Department in July 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28364/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89, 100, 116, 123 and 148 together.

Community employment, CE, together with JI and SEP comprise FÁS employment schemes. CE provides work experience and training opportunities for the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged groups with the aim of progressing to a job in the open labour market. Persons with disabilities who satisfy the eligibility criteria may be considered for participation in the scheme. The current participation rate for this group of participants is about 20%. The total funding allocation for FÁS employment schemes in 2004 is €351 million, which is similar to the level of funding provided in 2003. This allocation is supporting a total of 25,000 places across the three schemes, which means there has been no reduction in the level of participation as compared with 2003.

Following my recent appointment, I have reviewed current policy on the operation of the FÁS employment schemes, which had been the subject by FÁS of an assessment earlier this year. In undertaking this review, I have taken fully into account the views and concerns expressed to me by various interest groups and other key stakeholders, including the social partners, with whom there had been extensive consultations in recent months.

On foot of this review, I decided that the following changes would take affect as and from 10 November 2004. There will be no compulsory lay-offs on the job initiative, JI, scheme, and participants who remain on JI will have their contracts renewed. People who leave JI voluntarily will be replaced by community employment, CE, participants to support the service being provided. There will be no compulsory cessation of social economy programmes, SEP, which play a very valuable role in communities throughout the country. In situations where an enterprise decides itself to cease activity, the employees affected will be assisted by FÁS in finding alternative employment, and the three year cap will be removed for CE participants aged over 55. This category of participants will be eligible to participate on CE for a maximum of six years. In the case of people advancing beyond 55 years during their normal period of service on CE, participation can be extended for up to a maximum of six years. The current ring fencing and prioritisation for the essential services of child care, health related services and drugs task force clients will be maintained. CE will remain as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression to employment.

Despite the buoyant labour market, the continuing high level of inward migration and low unemployment, I am conscious that there is still a need for these schemes for people who find it difficult to secure employment. Thus, in 2005 there will be 25,000 places overall on community employment schemes, job initiative schemes and social economy programmes.

These employment schemes have made a major contribution towards the provision of a network of valuable community services throughout the country. Equally, they offer participants the opportunity of work experience in a wide range of disciplines, which equips them in time to progress to full-time employment in the open labour market. I have no plans to make any changes to existing FÁS training schemes.

Grocery Industry.

Simon Coveney

Question:

90 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of his review of the groceries order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28354/04]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

106 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if it is now not intended to implement any changes to the 1987 groceries order which forbids below cost selling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28368/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 106 together.

As I advised the House on 7 October 2004, the advice of the Attorney General's office was sought during the most recent review of the groceries order. The advice stated that, should an amendment of the order be deemed appropriate, the safest method would be pursuant to primary legislation. The Competition Act 2002 was the culmination of a major review of competition law that commenced in 1996 with the setting up of the competition and mergers review group, CMRG. This recent statute introduced a wide range of enhancements to competition law, many of which were recommended by the CMRG and have yet to be fully tested.

Accordingly, I have no plans for new competition legislation at present. Furthermore, the consumer strategy group, which was established last March, is currently deliberating on a wide range of consumer matters. The group may pronounce on the groceries order in its findings later this year. In all of these circumstances, a further review of the order may be considered appropriate when the 2002 Act is being reviewed in the future.

Economic Competitiveness.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

91 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has received the report he sought from the National Competitiveness Council on the implications for exporters of the decision by Aer Lingus to end most of its cargo services; the main findings of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28334/04]

As indicated in a previous reply, I understand that there is no immediate shortfall in air freight capacity out of Ireland. Other carriers have sufficient capacity to deal with the demand created as a result of Aer Lingus's decision. However, as the maintenance of adequate air cargo services is of considerable importance to our long-term economic development, I have requested the National Competitiveness Council to incorporate this issue into its work programme for 2005. It will identify any emerging capacity shortfalls, or other aspects with economic implications for exporters, that may required to be addressed in the future.

The decision of Aer Lingus in regard to its cargo services was a commercial and operational one. It was taken in the context of implementing its business development plan, and so was not amenable to political consideration or approval.

Export Licensing.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

92 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when he expects to establish a web-based approach for military exports licences applications and an annual report listing the aggregate value of such exports; if primary legislation is required for introducing such measures; and if they can be introduced via regulations or ministerial order. [28478/04]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

95 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date with regard to his consideration of the report of the independent review of Ireland’s export licensing system, in regard to military and dual use goods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28341/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 95 together.

The independent review of our export control system was published in July 2004. The review proposes a number of areas, both legislative and non-legislative in which the Irish export licensing system can be modernised and strengthened.

Consideration and implementation of the report's recommendations is being addressed within the framework of an inter-agency group, chaired by Forfás, involving the Departments of Enterprise Trade and Employment, Foreign Affairs, the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Defence, Justice, Equality and Law Reform, together with the Revenue Commissioners. The group has met on two occasions to date. Work on implementation on the range of recommendations has commenced and will be progressed over the coming months. I understand that the group plan to consult parties with an interest in the area of export controls to hear their views on the implementation of the report's recommendations.

My Department is examining the issues involved in the introduction of a web-based export licence application facility as recommended by the report. I would not expect that such a facility would require a legislative basis. The question of whether it is necessary to make provision for an annual report, to include aggregate values of military licences, in legislation will be considered in the context of the proposed up-dating of export control legislation for military goods and services.

Proposed Legislation.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

93 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress in regard to his consideration of proposals to introduce legislation to provide for a new offence of corporate killing as recommended by the Law Reform Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28340/04]

The Law Reform Commission in its consultation paper on corporate killing of October 2003 recommended that a new offence of corporate killing be established which would be prosecuted on indictment, without exclusion of any entity whether incorporated or not. The offence would apply to acts or omissions of a high managerial agent, which would be treated as those of the undertaking.

To reflect the seriousness of the offence, the commission also recommended that the legislation should provide for an unlimited fine or that in certain circumstances an individual high managerial agent should also be subject to imprisonment of up to five years. The commission is currently considering submissions on its consultation paper.

My Department has been advised by the Office of the Attorney General that the issue of corporate killing has broad implications. Government will, therefore, consider it when the final report of the Law Reform Commission is published which is expected in 2005.

However, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004 includes a provision on the liability of directors and officers of undertakings, to make more explicit an existing provision in the 1989 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act under which directors and managers in companies have in the past been prosecuted for failures in safety and health which resulted in deaths or serious injuries to workers.

Job Creation.

Joan Burton

Question:

94 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the proposals he has to attract alternative employment to Westport, County Mayo, in regard to his statement of 1 November 2004 regarding the announcement of 325 job losses at a company (details supplied) in County Mayo in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28328/04]

Enda Kenny

Question:

145 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he intends to take to secure alternative employment in the jobs in Westport, County Mayo following the closure of a plant (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28360/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 145 together.

The announcement by Allergan of the proposed job losses in Westport is a major blow to the workers affected and their families. My thoughts are with the workers and the families of the workers who will lose their jobs. I am conscious too of the adverse affects of such a closure, socially and economically, on the surrounding area. I note that the company has stated that despite these job losses, it is confident that it will be able to ensure the future success of the Westport facility with the introduction of further products for manufacture in the plant. I welcome this commitment.

I assure the Deputies that every effort will be made by FÁS and the State development agencies to find alternative employment for those people who will be made redundant. FÁS has contacted the company and is available to offer its full range of support services to those who will lose their jobs. These include top level agreement with the company on responsibilities and actions; intensive interviews, individually and-or in groups, with affected workers, which would outline the range of supports and services available; and preparation of a skills analysis report by FÁS, based on identified workers' needs and local opportunities.

In addition, FÁS will refer workers to training courses or other options. The agency will establish special or customised training courses where necessary and will provide ongoing support and action to keep redundant workers in touch with the labour market. Enterprise Ireland has already indicated the availability of its staff to visit the company for discussions in relation to supporting entrepreneurship and potential start ups for workers being made redundant.

IDA Ireland continues to actively promote the Westport region to potential investors from a variety of sectors, including manufacturing and international services, through its network of overseas offices and project divisions, with every effort being made to secure new investments for the area. In addition to targeting potential new projects, IDA Ireland continues to work with the existing base of companies in the region with a view to supporting such companies with potential expansions and diversification of activities. Enterprise Ireland also continues to work with its client companies in Westport and in County Mayo to assist them grow their sales and exports and improve innovation to enable them to compete on world markets and encourages companies to adopt new technologies to add value to their products and services.

To continue to improve its attractiveness as a location for inward investment, IDA Ireland has acquired 37 acres from Mayo County Council in Westport and plans to develop the site into a business and technology park. Phase one of the site development will involve an IDA investment of approximately €3 million and a contractor has been appointed to go on site early this month. The agency has completed development of a new business and technology park on a 16 acre site in Castlebar, and has secured advance planning permission for the construction of three, 19,500 sq.ft. privately financed technology buildings on the park. At Ballina, IDA is in negotiation with Mayo County Council for the purchase of 27 acres on the Sligo Road for the development of a business and technology park, which will be a key addition to the infrastructure of north Mayo.

The State development agencies are fully committed to ensuring an equal distribution of job creation opportunities and to encouraging the establishment of industry in the regions, in particular, the Border, midlands and west, BMW, region, which includes Westport. The State development agencies, under the auspices of my Department, will continue to work closely together and with local interests in promoting Westport and County Mayo for additional investment and job creation.

Question No. 95 answered with QuestionNo. 92.
Question No. 96 answered with QuestionNo. 76.

Currency Fluctuations.

Richard Bruton

Question:

97 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the impact which the continued strength of the euro against the US dollar and the pound sterling has had on Irish exports; if he has adopted a strategy to assist the export sector as a result of this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28389/04]

Dan Boyle

Question:

111 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to counteract difficulties that may arise for Irish businesses from the continuing rise of the euro against the US dollar. [28473/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 111 together.

The euro has appreciated by almost 4% against the pound sterling since August up to date this year. Over the longer term however, it has been relatively stable. The euro-sterling rate has averaged £0.68 so far this year, compared to an average of £0.69 for 2003 as a whole. The euro has also appreciated by almost 5.5% against the dollar since August and the euro-dollar exchange rate has averaged $1.23 this year compared with an average $1.13 for 2003 as a whole.

It is difficult to contemporaneously identify the impact of exchange rate movements on export trends as distinct from other factors that influence developments in export markets. Available statistics show that the total value of exports in the period January to August this year rose by 4% over the same period in 2003. Exports to the US in the January to September period fell marginally, by 1%, over the same period in 2003. Exports to the UK in the January to August period fell by 3%.

Total export volumes have risen by a slightly higher rate that export values — by 4.4% in June, the latest month for which figures are available. This indicates that the average price for exports has fallen. The strength of the euro is one factor in determining the overall competitiveness of Irish exports outside the eurozone. A strong euro also helps to lower the cost of imports from outside the eurozone. Approximately two thirds of imports comprise inputs to Irish industry that are subsequently re-exported.

The Government assists Irish companies to cope with these competitiveness challenges. Enterprise Ireland provides a range of supports domestically and also through the services provided by its network of overseas offices. In particular, the Government has been encouraging and assisting Irish exporters to diversify exports towards the euro area, where the operation of the single currency has removed foreign exchange risks. In 2000, Enterprise Ireland launched EUR:OPP 2003, a strategy to increase sales in Europe and to provide clients with the skills and opportunities to win substantial business in the eurozone. Last year, client companies of Enterprise Ireland recorded exports to continental Europe valued at €2.8 billion, a growth rate of 4.7% over 2002.

Companies exporting into volatile and uncertain markets are also encouraged to adopt hedging strategies in anticipation of foreign exchange rate risks. Enterprise Ireland, in association with the Irish Exporters Association and National Irish Bank, organised a series of foreign exchange risk strategy workshops throughout the country. These were entitled Managing Your Foreign Exchange Risk — A Strategy for the Future. The workshops, which were held between June and October this year, were designed to inform exporters about foreign exchange rate risks and the strategies that they can adopt to manage and reduce them. A number of additional workshops were organised in response to excess demand from companies seeking advice and information on currency related issues.

While the Government is committed to doing all it can to ensure that the most competitive environment exists for exporters, exchange rate movements reflect international economic trends and are outside the control of individual Governments. Other eurozone countries have also been affected by the rise in the value of the euro. It is a matter of concern for all eurozone economies.

The Government and its agencies are keeping developments under review. All are listening to the views of exporters and will do what is possible to compensate for negative currency movements so that our competitiveness is not adversely affected pending improvement in the global situation.

Insurance Industry.

Willie Penrose

Question:

98 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position with regard to the operation of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board; the number of staff recruited to date; the number of claims received to date by the board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28346/04]

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board was established by ministerial order on 13 April 2004. From 1 June 2004 all personal injury claims arising from workplace accidents, where an employee is seeking compensation from his-her employer, must be referred to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board before legal proceedings are issued. From 22 July 2004, all motor liability and public liability claims must also be referred to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board before legal proceedings are issued.

The structure and staffing levels of the PIAB have been agreed. The PIAB, when fully operational, will have a staffing complement of up to 85 in addition to the CEO. The PIAB is also utilising an outsourced service centre to assist injured parties in completion of their claim submissions and ensure a comprehensive, fair and independent service is provided.

The recruitment of staff is an operational matter for which the CEO of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board has responsibility. However, I understand that following a significant recruitment campaign, the PIAB has recruited sufficient staff to serve the current needs of its business. While matters relating to the claims received by PIAB is also an operational matter for which the CEO has responsibility, I understand that to date 7,475 telephone calls have been received, 467,359 website hits have been recorded, and a total of 1,347 applications for assessment have been made, broken down as follows: 538 employer liability applications; 374 public liability applications; and 435 motor accident applications.

The establishment of the PIAB will lead to reduced insurance premia to the benefit of both consumers and businesses alike. By eliminating the need for litigation costs where legal issues are not in dispute, the PIAB will significantly reduce the cost of delivering compensation. The PIAB will also offer speedier assessments to the benefit of claimants.

Job Losses.

Seán Crowe

Question:

99 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will make financial provision for the shortfall in severance packages particularly with respect to reduced pension entitlements of former workers at a subsidiary of the Irish Fertiliser Industries (details supplied) in Belfast when compared to their counterparts at the IFI plants in Carlow and Cork which closed at the same time. [28318/04]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

118 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will establish a fund to address the plight of former workers at a subsidiary of Irish Fertiliser Industries (details supplied) in Belfast who received inferior severance packages, particularly with respect to reduced pension entitlements, following the closure of that plant, compared to their counterparts at the IFI plants in Carlow and Cork which closed at the same time. [28317/04]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

139 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has satisfied himself that all possible steps have been taken to protect the interests of former employees of Irish Fertiliser Industries, who lost their jobs as a result of the liquidation of the company; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some of these employees may now receive as little as 25% of their pension entitlements; if, in view of the fact that the Minister was the majority shareholder in the company when it was decided to appoint a liquidator, he will look again at the question of providing assistance for former employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28338/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 99, 118 and 139 together.

The State has already made a significant financial contribution to assist the former employees of Irish Fertiliser Industries. Following the decision by the board of IFI to put the company into liquidation, ICI and the State, the shareholders in IFI, while there was no legal obligation to do so, established a special fund with almost €24.5 million to provide ex-gratia severance payments to the former employees of IFI. All applications from employees to the ex-gratia fund of €24.5 million, have now been processed. Payments from the fund were made were in accordance with the basis for distribution determined by the trustee of the fund, which has been endorsed by a ballot open to all employees. The basis for distribution was the same for all employees regardless of location. In addition, employees would have had certain statutory redundancy and other entitlements. While these would have varied somewhat reflecting the different arrangements in the two jurisdictions, I do not believe that this resulted in any significant variances in overall severance packages received.

As regards pensions, I am aware that employees based in Belfast, who are deferred pensioners of the Richardson's pension fund, are likely to receive much reduced pension entitlements. The specific financial position of the Richardson's fund appears to have arisen primarily from a combination of the statutory rules which currently apply on the winding up of a pension fund in the UK and a shortfall in the assets of the Belfast fund compared with its liabilities as a result of the fund trustees' investment strategy coupled with a significant fall in the equities market.

I understand that the UK Government has announced proposals to deal with the issue of pension shortfalls arising from insolvencies but I am not aware of the impact, if any, this may have on the shortfall in the Richardson's scheme. In addition, I understand that the trustees of the Richardson's scheme have submitted a claim to the liquidator of IFI and that he is currently considering, in consultation with his legal and actuarial advisers, whether, and to what extent, this claim is admissible.

Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

101 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on developments at a company (details supplied) in County Wexford; the likelihood of the outsourcing of the service and the lack of alternative employment for existing workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28361/04]

I understand from the company in question that it intends to cease its Rosslare-France service no later than 30 November 2004. The company informed its staff on the MV Normandy on 20 October 2004. I understand that in making the announcement, the company proposed an enhanced voluntary redundancy-early retirement package or the opportunity to redeploy to ships on its three Ireland-UK routes. I further understand that these options were proposed in order to avoid compulsory redundancies. However, these options were subject to co-operation with the company’s full proposals which also include restarting the French route with a lower crew cost and new crew from March 2005.

The company has advised me that in the event of consultations with the unions being unsuccessful, it will operate a collective redundancy of 125 permanent staff, 25 long-term temporary staff, and upwards of 48 seasonal short term staff, at the end of the month.

The Government has an interest in maintaining in operation Irish Continental Group's Ireland to France service, manned if possible by Irish seafarers. Its endeavours will be directed at encouraging the maintenance of the service. Primary responsibility for this area rests with the Minister and the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, both of whom are keeping in touch with events.

Budget Submissions.

Pat Breen

Question:

102 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the representations he has made to the Department of Finance prior to the budget for 2005 to alleviate the burden on small business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28393/04]

Senior officials from my Department are members of the tax strategy group, TSG, which is an interdepartmental committee chaired by the Department of Finance. The terms of reference of the TSG include the examination and development of proposals for measures in the areas of taxation, PRSI and levies, for the budget and Finance Bill. As the Deputy will be aware, much of the discussion prior to the budget is confidential and I am not at liberty at this juncture to disclose issues which may be included in the budget for 2005.

The Deputy can be assured that I am very much aware of the importance of small business to the economy. Only recently I welcomed the decision by the European Commission to approve the business expansion scheme and seed capital scheme with effect from 5 February 2004 for a further three years to 31 December 2006. These schemes are a vital source of seed capital, which is the life blood of start-up companies. They foster the development and growth of many small and medium enterprises leading to the creation of quality employment opportunities.

Assistance to small businesses is also delivered by a large number of agencies under my Department, including city and county enterprise boards, Enterprise Ireland, FÁS, Shannon Development and Údarás na Gaeltachta. My Department is committed to a strategy that supports and promotes entrepreneurial endeavour in the small business sector with a view to creating and developing enterprises which deliver economic growth and prosperity. A further example can be seen in the actions being taken to address competitiveness issues such as the new insurance regime which will obviously benefit small business to a significant extent.

To ensure that the voice of small business is heard, my Department also provides a forum, through the Round Table for Small Business, where issues of concern to small firms can be raised. The Round Table comprises representatives of small business, the development agencies and the Department. In general, the Government is mindful of the continuing need to constantly improve all aspects of the business environment for small business.

Accounting Standards.

Joe Costello

Question:

103 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the proposed treatment by the European Commission of a new accounting standard issued by the International Accounting Standard Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28330/04]

The accounting standard in question is international accounting standard 39, IAS 39, which relates to the measurement and recognition of financial instruments. IAS 39 is one of a suite of accounting standards issued by the International Accounting Standards Board, IASB, an independent accounting standards making body, proposed for adoption under Regulation EC No. 1606/2002 of 19 July 2002. This regulation relates to the application of international accounting standards and will require publicly traded EU companies, including banks and insurance companies, to prepare, from 2005 onwards, their consolidated accounts in accordance with International Accounting Standards, IAS, adopted by the EU.

In line with the provisions of Regulation EC No. 1606/2002, it is the European Commission which adopts these standards, assisted by a committee — the accounting regulatory committee, ARC — which includes member state representatives. IAS 39 was the subject of protracted negotiation between interested parties, and in the context of the adoption procedures for the standard, the European Commission placed a number of proposals to the accounting regulatory committee, stating a preference for a course of action which would remove elements of the standard as drafted by the IASB.

The Irish authorities had serious concerns with this approach on a number of grounds, legal and technical on one level, and on another in terms of precedent and the potential for "Europeanised" rather than truly international standards, thus presenting the risk of undermining the status and quality of financial reporting in the EU. In addition, this approach had the potential to jeopardise the international accounting project, aimed, ultimately, at global convergence of financial reporting standards. Another ground for concern was the danger of imposing increased costs on EU companies seeking access to international capital markets. Accounting and banking interests in Ireland supported the stance taken by the Government.

In the event, the European Commission received sufficient support at the accounting regulatory committee meeting on 1 October to enable it to proceed with the adoption of its proposal to endorse the truncated IAS 39 standard. Ireland, along with a number of other member states did not support the Commission's proposal at that meeting.

Legislative Provisions.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

104 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will remove the provisions in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004 related to random drug and alcohol testing of employees in view of the deep concerns regarding the implications of these provisions. [28316/04]

Section 13 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004 places a duty on employees, while at work to, ensure that he or she is not under the influence of an intoxicant to the extent that he or she is in such a state as to endanger his or her own safety, health or welfare at work or that of any other person, or if reasonably required by his or her employer, submit to any appropriate, reasonable and appropriate tests by a competent person as may be prescribed. Also, employees working in a safety critical situation, may, subject to regulations, be required to undergo a periodic medical assessment of fitness to work.

I envisage that the Health and Safety Authority, in consultation with my Department and after consultation with interested parties, will determine the particular safety critical circumstances and sectors where regulations will set down requirements whereby an employee may be required to submit to independent tests by a competent person which are appropriate, reasonable and proportionate. I do not envisage the removal of these provisions from the Bill.

Consumer Issues.

Seán Ryan

Question:

105 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the work to date of the consumer consultative panel; if he has received the final report of the panel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28367/04]

The work of the consumer strategy group is ongoing and has involved a number of initiatives. The website www.irishconsumer.ie has been established. A public consultation on consumer issues was held and individual consumers, representative organisations, businesses and any other interested parties were invited to contact the group with views and submissions by 9 July. The group produced a consultation paper entitled Components of Consumer Policy intended to assist those wishing to make a submission and to provide a framework for its work. In this paper the group focused on the key principles guiding the consumer agenda — access, safeguards, advice and support, redress, and consumer power — and also examined questions related to the business sector and consumers.

The group is conducting detailed research in a number of fields relevant to its work, including consumer attitudes, issues related to the retail sector, transport, the planning process, and a number of other issues. The experience of other countries in implementing consumer policy is also being taken into account. The group has met various parties, including officials of my own Department, the Director of Consumer Affairs, the Competition Authority and IFSRA. Numerous other meetings have been held with other relevant bodies in connection with the detailed work of the group. The group is due to produce a final report to me by the end of 2004.

Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 90.

Enterprise Policy.

Bernard Allen

Question:

107 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to help in the implementation of the enterprise strategy group’s recommendation to establish a five-year programme to place on a cost-sharing basis 1,000 graduates and internationally experienced professionals in Irish firms to augment the stock of national sales and marketing talent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28357/04]

Bernard Allen

Question:

113 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to help in the implementation of the enterprise strategy group’s recommendation to establish with Enterprise Ireland a dedicated structure, Technology Ireland, with its own budget and strong leadership, to develop a cohesive, strategic and focused approach to market-led applied research and technological development and to leverage increased enterprise investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28358/04]

Liz McManus

Question:

114 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has yet received the report of the high level group considering the implications of the report of the enterprise strategy group and the best manner of implementing its recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28337/04]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

129 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the setting up of the enterprise strategy group was a worthwhile endeavour in view of the shortcomings in its report as perceived by many; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28362/04]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

142 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to help in the implementation of the enterprise strategy group recommendation to establish within Enterprise Ireland a dedicated structure, Export Ireland, with its own budget and strong, experienced leadership to develop a more focused approach to export market intelligence and promotional activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28356/04]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

147 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will allocate a budget of €20 million per annum for five years from existing enterprise development agency resources to support the creation of enterprise-led networks to foster collaboration in defined areas of activity, as recommended by the enterprise strategy group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28359/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107, 113, 114, 129, 142 and 147 together.

As I previously advised the House, the Government considered the report of the enterprise strategy group in advance of its publication on 7 July last. In view of its extensive recommendations and their impact on a range of Departments other than my own, the Government decided to establish a high level committee to consider the implications of the report and the best manner in which to address its suggestions. As the report contains 51 recommendations, Deputies will appreciate that the high level committee must stringently examine all these recommendations. The group is finalising its report and on this basis, I expect to report to Government on its work shortly. The group's report will deal with the recommendations referred to specifically in the questions raised by Deputies O'Dowd, Allen and Connaughton. Until such time as I have received the group's report and conveyed my views to my Cabinet colleagues, it would be inappropriate for me to comment in detail or to pre-empt continuing discussions.

On Deputy Kehoe's question, I state categorically that I consider the enterprise strategy group's report to provide an important roadmap for future economic and enterprise-centred strategy. The group undertook its enterprise policy review following the period which saw the most rapid and sustained economic growth in the history of the State. While it acknowledges this success, the report identifies both the challenges and opportunities facing the enterprise sector in Ireland over the coming decade. Central to the group's analysis is that we must adopt and develop our strengths if we are to succeed in tomorrow's knowledge economy. As a small economy, open to the powerful changes taking place in international trade and business, we must consistently ensure the environment for doing business in and from Ireland provides companies with the right balance of entrepreneurial incentives. Policy architecture to help enterprises grow and expand must be distinctively aligned with the enduring needs of international business. The report makes a valuable contribution to embedding strategies appropriate to the new realities and challenges facing the Irish economy today.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

108 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the review that has been carried out by or on his behalf in regard to the operation of the EU small business operational programme that ran from 1995 to 2001; the findings of any such review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28333/04]

The small business operational programme, or SBOP, which ran from 1995 to 1999 was Ireland's response to the EU's SME initiative. The initiative was aimed to stimulate small and medium-sized industrial or service enterprises, especially in less developed regions such as Ireland, to adapt to the Single Market and to ensure they could become internationally competitive. The SME initiative was adopted by the Commission on 15 June 1994 and supported by the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund.

The aims of the SBOP mirrored the aims of the SME initiative and were achieved through five principal measures. These were improving small business access to finance and credit; facilitating small business access to public markets; facilitating the adaptation of service firms to the internal market; the activation of a programme of practical research to assist the dissemination of best practice among small business; and the fostering of pilot projects concerned with the improvement of the business environment. Standard provision was made under measure 6 for technical assistance in support of the programme. The Commission granted assistance from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund. By the end of the programme, a total of 1,570 projects had received EU funding while total programme expenditure amounted to €66.73 million which included EU funding of €26.9 million, Exchequer funding of €13.16 million and private funding of €26.67 million. My Department had ultimate responsibility for all aspects of the SBOP and managed expenditure under the programme. The Department put in place appropriate financial and other controls including those required under the relevant EU regulations.

In accordance with EU requirements, a mid-term review of the programme was carried out in 1997 by the economic consultants Fitzpatricks and Associates. On foot of the review, the consultants made a number of recommendations designed to improve the effectiveness of the programme. The recommendations were taken into account in the subsequent management of the programme. The EU regulations required the production of a final report following the completion of the programme. In this context, my Department prepared a final report which outlined the background to the establishment of the programme, described programme administration and management and provided a detailed report on the implementation of each measure. The report was submitted to the EU Commission in March 2003. The final report reflected the outcome of activities of the Department which were designed to ensure the programme was being properly managed and controlled. These activities included monitoring checks conducted directly by the Department on many of the projects supported, two reviews of systems conducted by the Department's internal audit unit and verification audits conducted on behalf of the Department by Chapman Flood Mazars, a firm of registered auditors. While some deficiencies resulting in the disallowance of some expenditure were identified by these activities, the reviews did not identify any systemic problems with the programme.

Tax Code.

Michael Noonan

Question:

109 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the representations he has received regarding the rate of corporation tax; if he envisages the rate being amended in the near future; the effect that the lowering of the rate to 12.5% in 1997 has had in terms of foreign direct investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28390/04]

As Deputies are aware, the Minister for Finance is responsible for tax policy and has made clear that the Government is fully committed to maintaining the 12.5% corporation tax rate which became effective for all trading income from 1 January 2003. As the Deputy is aware, Ireland's long-standing policy of low corporation tax has been a fundamentally important element in the attraction and development of top quality investment here. The decision to introduce the 12.5% per cent corporation tax rate was announced in 1997 and phased in by average reductions in the standard rate of 4% per annum over six years. The measure was given effect in the Finance Act 1999, which provided that the 12.5% rate would apply to trading income for the financial year 2003 and each subsequent financial year. The legislation sets out the future tax regime for business in clear and unambiguous terms.

I stress to the Deputy that the 12.5% rate was only effective from 1 January 2003 despite being announced in 1997 as posed in the question. The 10% tax rate will apply to some pre-existing trades until 2010. It is too early to say what the ultimate effect on foreign direct investment has been to date. However, it should be noted that the OECD in its 2004 report, Trends and Recent Developments in Foreign Direct Investment, shows a predicted increase in foreign direct investment inflows to Ireland in 2003. The report states that while total foreign direct investment in the OECD countries declined by an estimated 28% in 2003 from US$535 billion in 2002 to US$384 billion in 2003, in Ireland foreign direct investment is estimated to have increased by some 4.5% from US$24.4 billion to US$25.5 billion over the same period. These statistics demonstrate that Ireland has maintained a strong position in terms of attracting and retaining foreign direct investment in a difficult global economy.

While this strong performance cannot be attributed solely to the 12.5% tax rate, I am in no doubt that it has played a very significant part. On a recent trip to the US, senior executives of several multinational companies reiterated to me the importance of our 12.5% corporation tax rate in preserving our attractiveness for further investment.

Insurance Industry.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

110 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the specific areas in regard to the policy and legislation on the availability and cost of motor insurance that it is proposed to transfer to the Department of Transport; when it is expected that this transfer will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28336/04]

As the Minister responsible for the requirement for motor insurance and in the light of his broader responsibility for road safety, my colleague, the Minister for Transport, will take over from my Department the lead role in policy and legislation on the availability and cost of motor insurance and related interdepartmental co-ordination. This will involve developing and implementing any further measures necessary to improve the availability and reduce the cost of motor insurance to consumers and businesses. Immediate tasks will include following up on the remaining recommendations of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board reports. This work will be carried out in addition to his current responsibilities in the area of motor insurance. The Minister's current responsibilities include legislation on motor insurance; negotiation and transposition of EU motor insurance directives; operation of the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland; related parliamentary questions and representations.

The transfer of responsibilities to the Minister for Transport has been effected by the transfer of an agreed number of posts from my Department to the Department of Transport.

Question No. 111 answered with QuestionNo. 97.

National Minimum Wage.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

112 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has yet received the result of the review of the national minimum wage that the Labour Court was asked to undertake by the social partners under the terms of the Sustaining Progress agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28342/04]

I understand that in accordance with the commitment in the mid-term review of part 2 of Sustaining Progress, the Labour Court has been asked to review the national minimum wage. The review is underway. As yet I have not received a recommendation on the minimum wage on foot of this review. As provided for in the legislation, the Labour Court will consult with such persons it considers appropriate in undertaking its examination of the minimum wage. If the Labour Court is satisfied that general agreement is reached between the parties on an appropriate minimum wage, it will recommend the rate agreed. If, on the other hand, agreement is not reached between the parties, the Labour Court may still make a recommendation. In doing so the court shall have regard to certain matters such as the likely impact on employment and inflation.

Questions Nos. 113 and 114 answered with Question No. 107.

Semi-State Bodies.

Liz McManus

Question:

115 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date with regard to his consideration of the deliberations of the working group established to examine the specific issue regarding Shannon Development; if he has yet met the board of Shannon Development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28339/04]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

131 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the proposal to transfer lands and property owned by the Shannon free zone to the new Shannon Airport Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26952/04]

Pat Breen

Question:

134 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the role he sees for Shannon Development in view of the decision to decentralise Enterprise Ireland to the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28394/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115, 131 and 134 together.

As the House will be aware from similar questions asked previously, there have been a number of developments which will impact on the mid-west region and the roles of the respective State agencies operating there. The most significant of these developments are the proposed relocation as part of the Government's decentralisation programme of the headquarters of Enterprise Ireland, involving 300 of the agency's Dublin-based staff to Shannon; the decision to establish an independent Shannon Airport Authority; and the July report of the enterprise strategy group which recommended that Shannon Development should disengage from industrial development functions which should be left to the national agencies Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. Other developments such as the removal of the need for operating licences for companies setting up in the Shannon free zone, the transfer of responsibility for Shannon town from Shannon Development to Clare County Council and the proposed uniting with County Kerry for tourism development purposes will also impact on the future role of Shannon Development.

It is worth repeating that Shannon Development fully supports the decision to establish an independent airport authority which it sees as vital to the economic development of the region. The body further agrees that it should re-focus its activities on the airport with a view to generating business for the airport while its assets should be used to support the airport authority especially in its early, vulnerable years. A working group was established by my predecessor to examine the specific issue of how Shannon Development could best contribute to the development of the new independent airport. It has carried out some detailed work on the various options available but this has not been completed. I am still reviewing the deliberations of the group and, following consultations with relevant Cabinet colleagues, expect to be in a position to ask it to resume its work with a renewed focus shortly. My schedule has not permitted a meeting with the Shannon Development board to date but I expect that such a meeting will take place shortly.

Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

Employment Support Services.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

117 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a report produced for his Department found that State bodies charged with protecting employment rights were so ineffectual that the entire system is entirely dysfunctional; the steps he intends to take to address the serious shortcoming identified in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28325/04]

On foot on an undertaking in the programme for Government to review the functions of the Employment rights bodies, a review group was established in September 2003 to examine the coherence and user-friendliness of procedures operating in the area of employment rights compliance. Membership of the review group consisted of representatives of the bodies covered by the review and representatives of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Written submissions were received from various parties, including the social partners and the bodies covered by the review.

The report of the review group does not use the language nor does it reach the conclusions indicated in the Deputy's question. The review group found, however, that while the current employment rights adjudication and enforcement system has served employers, workers and their representatives well over the years, it has become overly complex and is considered to function in less than optimal fashion. The review group has formulated recommendations which it believes will enhance the coherence and user-friendliness of the system. Before any definitive proposals are formulated for consideration by Government, an independent party not involved in the review has been asked to undertake a consultative exercise on the report and its recommendations. The exercise will involve the employment rights bodies concerned and the social partners but will not seek to replicate the work of the review group, rather to build on it. Ministers will consider issues arising.

Question No. 118 answered with QuestionNo. 99.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

119 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has plans for the restructuring or reorganisation of FÁS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28332/04]

Currently, I have no plans to restructure or reorganise FÁS. The structure, organisation and direction of FÁS was set out in its statement of strategy 2002-05. In broad terms, the statement provides for a shift in strategic focus away from dealing with the consequences of unemployment towards mobilising labour supply and providing training for both employed and unemployed alike. I recently met the members of the board of FÁS who are currently engaged in a review process which will lead to a new statement of strategy to cover the period 2006-09. I informed them of my priorities for the organisation, namely, the need to invest consistently and effectively in upskilling the labour force so that it can adapt to ever changing needs and demands of the modern economy; the need to focus increased attention and investment on in-company training so that firms can adapt to competitive challenges and provide rewarding and high quality jobs for employees; the importance of certification as a means of guaranteeing the quality of training; the necessity to ensure active, labour-market programmes can react responsively to the changing needs of the labour market; the need to maximise value for money by consistently focusing on outcomes; the importance of continuing to work in co-operation with other State agencies to contribute to economic and social development; and the necessity of avoiding overlap and duplication.

EU Directives.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

120 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of EU directives for which he has responsibility which have yet to be implemented; the number in respect of which the deadline for implementation has passed; if he has satisfied himself with the rate of compliance by his department; the number of cases where legal actions have been notified or commenced by the European Commission arising from a failure to implement a directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28395/04]

A total of 31 directives remain to be implemented, including ten for which the deadline for implementation in full or in part has passed. Details of the directives including, in so far as it has been decided, the proposed transposition instruments are available on my Department's website at www.entemp.ie/trade/eudirectives/index.htm. The website also contains information on directives in respect of which infringement proceedings have been commenced. A number of the directives have been transposed but are still the subject of legal proceedings by the European Commission. Reasoned opinions under Article 226 of the treaty have been issued by the European Commission on two of the directives which have not yet been transposed and for which the deadline has passed. I am satisfied that my Department is giving all due priority to the task of implementing EU directives in light of the available resources.

Question No. 121 answered with QuestionNo. 84.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

122 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs that have been relocated out of Ireland in the past three years; the reason for the relocation; the action taken to address the issue; the net number of new jobs created here in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28454/04]

The Forfás employment survey tracks employment levels in agency assisted companies on an annual basis. The life cycle of companies influences the ebb and flow of employment and relocation is just one factor in the many enterprise related issues that determines employment levels. It is not possible to determine the employment change arising from just one aspect affecting the enterprise economy. The competitive characteristics of our enterprise base has made a reliance on low-technology, basic manufacturing less sustainable than it was in the past. There has been a fundamental shift in the strengths and competitive advantages of our economy which is now typified by higher output and productivity together with high returns to labour in the form of wages, salaries and improved living standards.

A more attractive cost environment abroad will inevitably attract some firms which are unable to produce in the high wage environment of a modern industrial economy and the continuing structural transformation of our economy is inevitable. While there are bound to be some plant transfers and other adjustments, where relocation has occurred to date, it has largely been limited to relatively low-technology, labour-intensive activities least suited to the economy we have now. Over the past few years, the enterprise support agencies for which my Department has responsibility have been mandated to adjust their support strategies to meet the needs of society in terms of high quality employment opportunities and the needs of the businesses which generate and sustain those jobs. To counterbalance the competitive threat from lower cost competitor economies, our policy is to encourage a move to higher levels of competitiveness and value added products and services. Sustainable employment will be driven by companies with higher profitability which are more technologically advanced and prove a better fit with the competitive characteristics of our economy. Such companies are, therefore, less likely to move on the basis of simple cost influences.

New investment will be sourced by a combination of developing existing clients and new investors in existing or new activities or sectors. Given the critical mass of foreign direct investment in Ireland and its linkages with indigenous companies, one of the greatest potential contributions will come from developing companies already operating here. Enterprise development agencies are working to encourage companies into more sophisticated activities where competitive advantage is less likely to be whittled away by cost based competition. The latest quarterly national household survey of the Central Statistics Office shows that over the past three years employment has grown by 114,300 or by 6.6%.

Question No. 123 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

Employment Action Plan.

Joe Costello

Question:

124 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will make a statement on the implementation to date of the Irish national employment pact. [28331/04]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the national employment action plan which is produced annually by my Department. The plan is Ireland's response to the European employment strategy, or EES. The strategy is the process used to implement the employment objectives of the Lisbon Agenda. The employment guidelines which flow from the EES have set three overarching objectives. These are full employment, quality and productivity at work and strengthened social cohesion and inclusion.

My Department prepares the plan in consultation with other Departments and the social partners. It outlines the interdepartmental commitments and initiatives which will allow Ireland to meet the Lisbon employment objectives. The plan includes commitments made in a range of policy documents, Sustaining Progress, the national action plan for social inclusion, the national child care strategy and the task force report on lifelong learning. The plan was produced in 2003 and covers the commitments to be achieved over the period 2003-05. The recently produced 2004 plan outlines progress made to date. I will arrange to have a copy of the plan forwarded to the Deputy's office as it details progress on a wide range of issues.

The key indicator of our success in achieving our employment objectives is our low unemployment rate. The Lisbon Agenda set the EU an overall employment rate target of 70% by 2010, with specific targets of 60% and 50% for female and older workers respectively. The targets set at Lisbon in 2000 were challenging at a time when the EU was enjoying GDP growth and falling unemployment. Notwithstanding the global economic downturn, Ireland has made steady progress towards achieving the targets. The table below sets out Ireland's position in 1999, which was prior to the Lisbon Agenda, the comparable employment rates for Ireland and the 25 EU member states for 2003 and the Lisbon targets for 2010:

Employment Rates

Ireland 1999

Ireland 2003

EU25 2003

Lisbon Target 2010

%

%

%

%

Overall Rate

63.3

65.4

62.9

70.0

Female Rate

52.0

55.8

55.0

60.0

Older Workers Rate

43.7

49.0

40.2

50.0

Source: Employment in Europe 2004.

The report, Employment in Europe 2004, which was published recently by the European Commission, predicts that Ireland is likely to reach all three targets. The progress made in attaining the Lisbon targets is due to Government policies which continue to be pursued. Current policies are focused on responding to country-specific recommendations which were endorsed by the European Council in June, having taken account of the recommendations of the report of the employment taskforce.

Insurance Industry.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

125 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has satisfied himself at the reported reduction in the level of insurance premiums in view of figures showing that Irish insurance companies are now making substantial profits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28335/04]

My Department no longer regulates insurance companies as this responsibility has passed to the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA, under the aegis of my colleague, the Minister for Finance, who has overall responsibility for policy and legislation on the provision of financial services in Ireland. The Minister for Transport has taken over the lead role in policy and legislation on the availability and cost of motor insurance and any related interdepartmental co-ordination. The Central Statistics Office's consumer price index statistics show that there was a reduction of 20.8 index points, or 19.3%, in motor car insurance between the months of April 2003 — when the cost of private motor premia peaked, index 108.0 — and September 2004, which is the month for which the latest figures are available, index 87.2.

While the CSO index is based on averages, individual policy holders have done much better as can be seen from data provided by the Motor Insurance Advisory Board. Examples provided by the board for three specific companies between March 2003 and March 2004 indicate the following reductions: 10% to 16% in comprehensive insurance for a 30 year old male; 10% to 41% in comprehensive insurance for a 50 year old female; and 10% to 45% for third party, fire and theft insurance for a 21 year old male.

IFSRA has conducted a number of cost surveys on motor insurance and proposes to undertake cost surveys for public liability and employer liability. The pricing and underwriting of insurance is a matter for individual insurance companies. EU law prevents Governments from intervening directly in relation to premium levels. However, Governments are free to take measures to improve the operation of the insurance market. Recent measures taken under the Government's insurance reform programme have led to a better functioning insurance market. This is reflected in the significant underwriting profits reported by IFSRA in its first insurance statistical review in October 2003. The review was previously published by my Department. The new operating conditions enhance the attractiveness of the market to prospective entrants.

While the premium reductions we have seen to date are welcome, I expect further premium reductions from the new market conditions now in place. Competition from new entrants attracted by better market conditions will be an important element in ensuring continuing downward pressure on premia. The recent authorisation of five new entrants to operate in the Irish market will make a further important contribution in this regard.

Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 78.

Redundancy Payments.

Martin Ferris

Question:

127 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will introduce legislation to increase redundancy payments to three weeks of pay per year of service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28321/04]

Legislation to increase statutory redundancy payments was enacted only last year by means of the Redundancy Payments Act 2003. This increased the level of redundancy payments from a half a week's pay per year of service under the age of 41 and one week's pay per year of service over the age of 41, plus one bonus week, to two week's pay per year of service, plus a bonus week. The increase resulted from the Sustaining Progress agreement between the social partners. In addition, under a statutory instrument signed by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Minister for Finance on 4 November 2004, the ceiling on reckonable earnings used to calculate statutory redundancy payments will be increased from €507.90 per week to €600 per week as and from 1 January 2005. This represents an increase of approximately one fifth in the ceiling and follows the recommendations contained in the report of the redundancy review group published in 2002 and from the recent review of Sustaining Progress.

There are no plans to increase further the level of statutory redundancy payments in the foreseeable future.

Industrial Development.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

128 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has satisfied himself that the geographical spread of IDA Ireland investment is acceptable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28350/04]

Joan Burton

Question:

140 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the proposals he has to ensure a more balanced regional approach to the promotion of employment and industrial development throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28329/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 140 together.

Support for job creation and investment on a regional or local basis is a day-to-day operational matter for the industrial development agencies. The agencies promote actively all areas for new investment and jobs on an ongoing basis. IDA Ireland markets individual areas as locations for additional foreign direct investment through its network of local and overseas offices. Enterprise Ireland concentrates on the development of indigenous industries while the 35 city and county enterprise boards have primary responsibility for the regional promotion of indigenous industry in the micro-enterprise sector. Shannon Development promotes the development of the indigenous industry sector in the Shannon region on behalf of Enterprise Ireland and secures foreign direct investment in the Shannon free zone. All agencies also work with existing clients with a view to helping them expand their activities.

In tandem with the Government's national spatial strategy and its associated gateways and hubs, all development agencies work with State agencies and others to enhance the attractiveness of individual regions. The strategy provides an important framework to achieve this objective through the prioritisation of infrastructural development in the gateway and hub locations and the development of magnets of attraction for investment. County enterprise boards co-operate actively with the south and east and Border, midlands and west regional assemblies to develop indigenous micro-enterprises throughout the regions. A particular advantage of the county enterprise board system is that it delivers dispersed economic development throughout the country. Over 30,000 jobs have been created in indigenous companies supported by the boards since their establishment in 1993.

IDA Ireland, which has statutory responsibility for providing property solutions for its own and Enterprise Ireland's clients, is making significant investment in the provision of focused regional property solutions. The objective of this approach is to ensure that key locations have the appropriate property solutions tailored to specific sectoral targets to attract new investments. In addition, IDA Ireland is involved in long-term planning with local authorities to ensure that relevant areas are perceived by investors as having a range of locational solutions in terms of property, infrastructure, business and lifestyle services for key strategic investments.

In the context of geographical spread of foreign direct investment, IDA Ireland seeks to create 50% of all new greenfield jobs in the BMW region over the 2000-06 period. Substantial progress is being made in this regard. Since 2000, a total of 46% of all new greenfield jobs have been created in the BMW region. In 1999, prior to the start of the Government's current national development programme, some 25% of all new greenfield jobs were locating in the region. It is encouraging to note from the 2003 annual report of IDA Ireland that 60% of all investment projects negotiated by the agency in 2003 were in regional locations outside Dublin and Cork. I am confident the strategies and policies being pursued by the development agencies together with the ongoing commitment of Government to regional development will bear fruit in terms of additional sustainable investment and jobs for the people of all regions.

Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 107.

Construction Sector.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

130 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the likely impact on employment of a slowdown in the housing market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28355/04]

Employment in the construction sector, which includes the house-building sector, increased by 7.6%, or 14,600, in the 12-month period to end May 2004. In the period 1997-2003, employment in the sector increased by approximately 65%. A number of reports have been produced commenting on the future of the construction sector. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, which has primary responsibility for the formulation and implementation of policy on housing, commissioned an independent review of the construction industry for 2003 and outlook report for 2004-06. This was published in September 2004 and states that the upturn in construction employment reflects the continued strength in house building. It also states that the return to confidence in other sectors will at least help to maintain construction employment at current levels for the remainder of the year.

In 2003, the expert group on future skills needs produced a skills monitoring report on the construction industry for the period 2003-2010. The report predicted that both output and employment is likely to decline over the period 2004-2010. It stated also that the construction industry is operating at peak activity as evidenced by the unprecedented growth in housing supply in 2003 at a level 19% ahead of 2002 levels. The forecast assumes further increases in 2004 and 2005 when annual house completions will be approximately 60,000. Thereafter, it is assumed that while private house building will gradually decline, the average for the period 2003-10 will nevertheless remain at above 53,000 annually. The expert group believes the impact of its predicted modest decline in employment in the house building sector will be softened by a growth in repair and maintenance for the latter half of the decade.

The employment trend in the overall economy continues to be upward, with a national employment growth rate of 2.4% in the year, reflecting an improvement in economic conditions. Experience shows that while job losses are being encountered in some sectors they are being more than offset by employment opportunities in other sectors. The forecast for employment growth is estimated to be around 1% for this year. The current unemployment rate is 4.4%, which is relatively low, particularly when compared to the EU-25 average of around 9%. The ESRI predicts that it will remain at this level in the short to medium term.

Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 115.

Work Permits.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

132 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the promised legislation to put the employment permit regime on a comprehensive and sound statutory footing; the reason for the delay in bringing forward the legislation, which was originally promised for 2003; if it is intended to replace the current work permit system with a green card system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28343/04]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

146 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to alter the work permit scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28392/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 146 together.

The preparatory stages of the employment permits Bill have taken longer than expected due to the change in labour market circumstances and the need to achieve greater clarity and simplicity than the original draft provided for. I expect to publish the Bill during the current Dáil term. The Minister of State with responsibility for labour affairs announced recently that a firm of consultants had been engaged to design a new work permits system. A significant feature of the new system will be a prior registration process whereby employers will be required to register with my Department before a work permit can be issued. This is intended as one of a number of measures aimed at enhancing controls to eliminate any potential abuses.

Question No. 133 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Question No. 134 answered with QuestionNo. 115.

Workplace Absenteeism.

Richard Bruton

Question:

135 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he concurs with IBEC’s assessment that absenteeism in the workplace costs business here €1.5 billion per year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28388/04]

While I share concern about the cost to business of absenteeism, I have no direct function in the matter.

County Enterprise Boards.

Denis Naughten

Question:

136 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will provide additional funding to efficient county enterprise boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23462/04]

In determining the allocations for individual city and county enterprise boards in 2004, my Department adopted a systematic approach to ensure the maximum degree of objectivity and equity of treatment. This approach involved the provision of funding calculated on the basis of a standard allocation to each board as well as an additional allocation determined mainly by population but which also took account of issues such as unemployment, capacity to spend, existing commitments and regional spread. My Department is reviewing the level of funding available for the current year with a view to identifying any funds which individual boards may not be in a position to spend this year and reallocating them to boards which indicate a capacity to utilise additional funding this year in accordance with normal practice.

In conjunction with the county enterprise boards, my Department monitors on an ongoing basis the level of service provided by the boards to their client base. A formal procedures manual and an operating agreement are in place between the Department and the boards aimed to provide a standardised delivery of services by county enterprise boards across the country.

Job Creation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

137 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new jobs announced during 2003 from new investments or expansion of IDA Ireland backed plants; the expected final level of announcements during 2004; the steps that are being taken to promote job creation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28370/04]

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

As the ultimate decision regarding where to locate a project, including what areas to visit as potential locations are taken by overseas investors it is difficult to predict the exact number of IDA Ireland supported project announcements that might be made in 2004. However I am optimistic about the likely results for 2004, particularly given the track record IDA Ireland has in attracting sustainable overseas investment to the country.

According to UNCTAD Ireland is now sixth in the world as a location for foreign direct investment and we won more foreign investment than Britain or Germany last year. Despite the fact that foreign direct investment flows around the world fell by 18% last year, the inflow of $25.5 billion to Ireland was up slightly on 2002. This accounted for 9% of total flows into the EU, even though Ireland had only 1% of the population of the pre-enlargement EU.

This is a remarkable achievement for a small country like ours, which has to compete not alone with third countries which are much more competitive nowadays for the more basic manufacturing type investment but also with more advanced economies such as Britain and Germany which are very attractive locations for higher value knowledge based overseas operations.

At this point, it is expected there will be a broadly similar employment outcome in 2004vis-à-vis 2003 in respect of IDA Ireland client companies.

Job Losses.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

138 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of redundancies notified to his Department during 2000, 2001, 2002 2003 and to date in 2004; the projected numbers for this year; the steps that are being taken to deal with the sharp increase in redundancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28369/04]

The number of redundancies notified to my Department in the years specified were 13,316 in 2000, 19,977 in 2001, 25,358 in 2002, 27,702 in 2003 and 20,127 to the end of October, 2004. The corresponding figure to the end of October 2003, was 22,509 which means an 10.6% decrease in the number of redundancies notified to my Department so far this year. It is not possible to project what the total number of redundancies will be for the year. However, if a similar decrease was to be maintained for the remainder of the year, the total number of redundancies in 2004 would be approximately 25,000 which would be over 2,700 down on last year.

The most recent quarterly national household survey prepared by the Central Statistics Office in September shows that employment growth continued in the second quarter of 2004 with an increase of 42,800 or 2.4 % in the year on year position. The total number of persons currently in employment is 1.84 million. In addition, the Central Bank is forecasting growth of 4.5% in gross national product for 2004 which also indicates a positive outlook for the economy in general.

The development of a competitive economy is a central tenet of generating sustainable employment and growth and is the focus of this Government's policies. Initiatives by the Government and the State development agencies, including reducing the burden of unnecessary regulation, are aimed at helping the country progress towards a knowledge and innovation-driven economy. Ongoing six monthly assessments of our competitive position will ensure that appropriate and timely actions are taken to address identified weaknesses.

The recent report of the enterprise strategy group recognises that we are at a turning point in terms of the competitive impact of global competition for markets and investments. The enterprise strategy group made a number of key recommendations that are being considered by a high level group set up by my predecessor to look at the most appropriate route to implementing the enterprise strategy group's recommendations. I expect to receive the group's final report shortly, following which I will be taking up the matter with my colleagues in Government.

Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 99.
Question No. 140 answered with QuestionNo. 128.

Job Creation.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

141 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the initiatives he proposes to put in place to attract industry to Tralee, County Kerry, due, to the increase in the unemployment situation in the town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28261/04]

Support for job creation and retention in individual counties is a day-to-day operational matter for the industrial development agencies. IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland, including its regions and areas. The agency is actively promoting Tralee for new investment and jobs on an ongoing basis.

IDA Ireland is focusing on the linked hubs of Tralee and Killarney as part of its strategy for marketing the county as a location for attracting additional foreign direct investment. Central to this strategy is the development of the international services and ICT sectors. The further development of broadband telecoms infrastructure is therefore vital for the development of these towns. The agency is also working with existing clients in the county with a view to helping them expand their activities.

Job creation and job losses are a feature of economic development in all countries as various sectors expand and contract in response to market demand for goods and services, competitive forces, restructuring and technological change. The latest Forfás annual employment survey shows that at the end of 2003 there were 2,205 people in permanent employment in 23 IDA Ireland assisted companies in Kerry. This compares with a figure of 2,444 in 22 companies at the end of 2002. Overall employment in companies in the county that are supported by IDA Ireland is performing relatively well when considered in the context of Ireland now being less competitive as a location for low wage manufacturing projects and the recent global downturn, which has resulted in fewer companies actively seeking to invest overseas and less companies visiting Ireland.

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

Question No. 142 answered with QuestionNo. 107.

Proposed Legislation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

143 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will consider introducing amendments to the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2001 to reduce the period which a person must be in continuous service with the same employer in order to qualify under the Acts from one year to six months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28315/04]

The Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2001 as they stand do not apply to a person who has been in the continuous service of the same employer for less than one year, and there are no proposals in place at present to amend this provision. However the requirement of one year's continuous service does not apply where the dismissal results from: an employee's pregnancy, giving birth or breastfeeding or any matters connected therewith; the exercise or proposed exercise by an employee of a right under the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004; the exercise or contemplated exercise by an employee of the right to adoptive leave, or additional adoptive leave under the Adoptive Leave Act 1995; the exercise or proposed exercise by the employee of the right to parental leave or force majeure leave under and in accordance with the Parental Leave Act 1998; an employee’s entitlements, future entitlements, exercise or proposed exercise of rights under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000; an employee’s trade union membership or activities; the exercise or proposed exercise by the employee of the right to carer’s leave under and in accordance with the Carer’s Leave Act 2001.

When determining if an employee has the necessary service to qualify under the Acts, a Rights Commissioner, the Employment Appeals Tribunal or the Circuit Court, as the case may be, may consider whether the employment of a person on a series of two or more contracts of employment, between which there were no more than 26 weeks of a break, was wholly or partly for or connected with the avoidance of liability by the employer under the Acts. Where it is so found, the length of the various contracts may be added together to assess the length of service of an employee for eligibility under the Acts.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which he has addressed or proposes to address industrial costs; the main factors in this regard; the action or action he proposes to take to improve the situation with a view to sharpening Ireland’s competitiveness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28455/04]

The National Competitiveness Council in both its annual competitiveness reports published last month and in its statement on prices and costs published in September have identified the need to recover Ireland's cost competitiveness as being a high priority to ensure sustained economic success in the future. The National Competitiveness Council in its competitiveness challenge 2004 make several specific recommendations to improve our cost base by removing barriers to competition in various key sectors of the Irish economy such as the retail, pharmaceutical, transport and energy sectors.

The Government is committed to pursuing actions to address cost issues, and has already taken several measures in this regard. In the area of insurance, determined Government action in introducing regulatory reform to the sector, including the establishment of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, is resulting in decreased costs. According to the Central Statistics Office, motor insurance costs have decreased by 15% in the past 12 months.

The Government has almost doubled the resources of the Competition Authority to enable it to continue in its role to tackle anti-competitive behaviour in sectors of the Irish economy. Competition is working well in many sectors of the economy but we recognise that Ireland cannot afford to have sectors of our economy sheltered from competition. Furthermore the Competition Authority is undertaking reviews of certain building, legal, medical and construction professions, which will address competition issues in the sheltered sectors of the economy.

Competition is the most efficient and best solution to ensuring prices are kept low and at optimal levels for both consumers and businesses alike.

Question No. 145 answered with QuestionNo. 94.
Question No. 146 answered with QuestionNo. 132.
Question No. 147 answered with QuestionNo. 107.
Question No. 148 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

149 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if an assessment of the impact of child care costs and house prices on competitiveness in this State will be carried out. [28322/04]

Child care and housing are the primary responsibility of my colleagues, the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I am not aware of any proposals to assess the impact of costs in these areas on competitiveness.

The National Competitiveness Council monitors and reports on Ireland's competitiveness position. Each year the National Competitiveness Council publishes the annual competitiveness report and the competitiveness challenge on the key competitiveness issues facing the Irish economy in the forthcoming year. These reports offer us an important insight into the present condition of Irish competitiveness and also offer a list of policy recommendations designed to protect and enhance Ireland's competitive position. The National Competitiveness Council published its reports for 2004 last month. However, neither of the reports contained recommendations specifically addressing either child care costs or house prices.

Questions Nos. 150 and 151 withdrawn.

Employment Action Plan.

David Stanton

Question:

152 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of interventions by his Department that resulted in pre-employment training and development for each of the years 2002, 2003 and 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28138/04]

Since 1998, under the Irish national employment action plan, FÁS has been systematically engaging with unemployed young people and adults, early in their unemployment spell, to prevent a drift into long-term unemployment. Implementation commenced initially with persons under 25 years of age who had reached six months on the live register and who were referred by the Department of Social and Family Affairs for interview.

As the national employment action plan progressed, the programme was extended to include other groups crossing nominated thresholds of unemployment. This has been extended to cover all persons aged up to 54 years as they cross the six-month threshold and other persons not previously referred.

All national employment action plan clients are accorded top priority within FÁS in the allocation of places on its training and employment programmes.

A total of 3,074 national employment action plan clients were placed on training programmes in 2002, in 2003 that number increased to 3,968 while in 2004 there were 4,774 placements. On employment programmes a total of 5,260 national employment action plan clients were placed in 2002, 5,527 were placed in 2003 while 6,367 were placed in 2004. I should mention that clients may have had more than one placement.

Adult Education.

David Stanton

Question:

153 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the agencies he has worked with to implement the recommendations of the task force on lifelong learning; the progress to date on the implementation of the recommendations; his further plans for the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28152/04]

The initiatives and recommendations set out in the LLL report focus on promoting and enhancing access to learning-training, the development of new skills, the acquisition of recognised qualifications and progression to higher level qualifications. The task force stressed the need for co-ordination between the Departments of Education and Science and Enterprise, Trade and Employment and called for the establishment of an overarching structure to co-ordinate, review and report on the implementation of the framework set out in the report and the recommendations underpinning it.

At the time the report of the task force was published in 2002 the Government decided that the National Adult Literacy Council, NALC, be designated as the body to co-ordinate, review and report on the implementation of the framework set out in the report. The Government also decided that a steering committee, to be chaired by a senior official of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, should be established to oversee and direct the work of the National Adult Literacy Council in so far as it relates to the implementation of the report of the task force on lifelong learning. The steering committee continues to meet periodically to review progress on implementation.

The National Adult Literacy Council, which will be representative of providers and other stakeholders in the learning sector, has not been formally established and has consequently been unable to discharge the role given to it in relation to the task force report. The Department of Education and Science is reviewing the functions of the NALC and, pending the establishment of the NALC on a statutory basis and the assignment of staff, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, together with FÁS and other relevant agencies, is implementing a range of the actions set out in the report including the following. The accreditation of prior and experiential learning, already begun by FÁS in construction, retail, child care and teleservices courses, will be extended to apprentice plasterers and bricklayers in September 2005. In this regard FÁS has agreed a pilot model for the accreditation of prior and experiential learning with stakeholders including FETAC. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, in co-operation with the Department of Education and Science, has set up an ICT fund, which is being administered by the Higher Education Authority, and which is funding schemes for upskilling workers in the IT sector. The national FÁS-Enterprise Ireland register of trainers is now in place and is available to the public on the websites of both organisations. FÁS is implementing its basic skills needs initiative to address issues identified in the task force report. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment approved a project proposal from national adult literacy association to design and deliver a workplace basic education programme for SMEs. The FÁS national contact centre has been expanded to provide guidance-information and job seeking services, as well as a vacancy-taking service, to employers. FÁS has extended the range of courses available outside of standard working hours and targeted primarily at those in employment, including "24/7" access to e-learning courseware via FÁS e-college. Agreement has been reached on the extension of the training networks programme, from the completion of its current phase next year, up to 2010. FÁS is continuing to enhance and expand its excellence through people award and is working in co-operation with Enterprise Ireland to ensure the programme reaches relevant companies. The funding from the national training fund for the Institute of Engineers of Ireland's continuing professional development programme has now been extended up to the middle of 2007. A FÁS commissioned advertising campaign is in place to raise awareness and promote services available for all client groups.

Looking towards the future, while Government would wish to see the vision of the task force fully realised it can only help create the framework conditions for lifelong learning. It requires a response from individuals and enterprises to make learning, and the potential benefits it can deliver, a reality. The task force report indicated that lifelong learning requires a significant cultural and attitudinal change on the part of providers, learners, employers, the public service and Government. A core element of that cultural shift will involve viewing learning not as a cost but as an essential investment, which has tangible economic, personal and societal returns.

What we are seeking to bring about at a national level also reflects commitments we have taken on at a European level in terms of contributing to the achievement of the Lisbon Agenda. In this context the report just published from the high level group on the Lisbon strategy for growth and employment, which was chaired by Wim Kok, suggests that member states must devise ambitious policies to raise education levels and to make lifelong learning schemes available to all, and all must be encouraged to take part in them.

Non-EU Nationals.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

154 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the number of children born in the State, both of whose parents are non-EU nationals, and who are in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28504/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

155 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the number of families with children born in the State whose parents are both non-EU nationals, and are in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28505/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

156 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the number of children born in the State before the date of a Supreme Court decision (details supplied) whose parents and both non-EU nationals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28508/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

157 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the number of children born in the State after the date of a Supreme Court decision (details supplied) and before the referendum of 11 June 2004, whose parents are both non-EU nationals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28509/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 154 to 157, inclusive, together.

The total number of families consisting of a husband and wife, or couple, with at least one child aged 0-18 years was 412,321 at the time of the 2002 census. Of these, 4,905,1.2%, consisted of families where both parents were non-EU nationals and at least one child was born in the State. The number of Irish born children, aged 0-18 years, in these families was 6,229. The definition of the EU was that in force at the time of the census, that is, 15 EU member countries.

The census is currently the only comprehensive source of information of the type requested by the Deputy. Information on the nationality of parents was not systematically collected as part of the vital statistics system prior to September 2003. Since then, as part of the modernisation of the civil registration system, an electronic form is being introduced. This form provides inter alia for the recording of the nationality of both parents. However, the level of response to the nationality question for both parents is not yet at the required level to facilitate publication of analyses using that variable.

Trading Partners.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Mr. Durkan asked the Taoiseach Ireland’s top ten trading partners both in terms of imports and exports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28608/04]

The table below identifies Ireland's top ten trading partners by value for each flow in 2003. This is the latest year for which complete annual data are available. For comparative purposes, values for 2002 and 2001 are also included.

Top ten countries involved in merchandise trade with Ireland (based on country of consignment).

Exports

2003

2002

2001

€(000)

€(000)

€(000)

United States

16,939,245

16,509,438

15,694,396

Great Britain

13,443,332

20,886,658

20,797,670

Belgium

10,314,879

13,549,307

4,446,178

Germany

6,824,755

6,740,417

11,682,508

France

5,021,232

4,693,372

5,541,568

Netherlands

4,261,938

3,511,632

4,263,614

Italy

3,749,899

3,601,523

3,311,898

Switzerland

2,603,265

3,103,770

2,705,698

Spain

2,353,493

2,242,630

2,297,985

Japan

2,109,434

2,630,798

3,261,074

Total

67,621,472

77,469,545

74,002,589

Imports

2003

2002

2001

€(000)

€(000)

€(000)

Great Britain

15,891,116

22,112,223

21,493,714

United States

6,755,916

8,052,982

8,084,943

Germany

3,879,737

3,769,468

3,612,000

Netherlands

1,976,282

2,090,106

2,156,168

France

1,788,855

2,128,100

2,684,811

Japan

1,550,262

1,446,133

1,617,496

Northern Ireland

1,281,411

1,215,376

1,489,035

Norway

1,229,408

860,149

951,972

Singapore

1,027,013

962,080

1,324,296

Italy

923,217

908,536

1,199,345

Total

36,303,217

43,545,153

44,613,780

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings.

Finian McGrath

Question:

159 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the position regarding further developments on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings case of 1974; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28526/04]

Following receipt of the transcript of the proceedings of the inquest into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974, and on the recommendation of the inquest jury, I forwarded a copy of the transcript to the Secretary of State, Paul Murphy.

Following its consideration of the final report of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights on the report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the bombings last July, the Government decided to establish a commission of investigation with appropriate terms of reference in line with the sub-committee's recommendations, to examine the Garda investigation of the bombings and missing documents and to pursue with the British Government the establishment of a Weston Park style inquiry into the bombings.

Following the passing of the relevant legislation last July, my Department has begun the process for the establishment of the commission of investigation which will require the approval of the House. While detailed terms of reference have yet to be approved by the Government, the commission will, as recommended by the joint Oireachtas committee, consider why the Garda investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings was wound down in 1974, why the Garda did not follow up on certain specific leads and the exact documentation, departmental, Garda intelligence and any other documentation of relevance, that is unaccounted for.

The commission will take account of investigative work undertaken into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974, including the report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry, the final report of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, inquest statements and the internal Garda investigation.

I raised the establishment of a Weston Park style inquiry into the bombings at my meeting with Prime Minister Blair at Sedgefield.

Health Board Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

160 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has been deemed ineligible for orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28499/04]

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

Seán Crowe

Question:

161 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a dental service (details supplied) in Dublin 7 will be reopened. [28501/04]

The provision of dental services is the statutory responsibility of the health boards-authority in the first instance. The Northern Area Health Board has advised my Department that as part of the overall refurbishment at Quarry Road health centre the number of dental suites was increased from one to three. This increase in dental facilities was required in order to meet the increase in demand for dental services in the area. The provision of these extra facilities necessitated adjustments to the existing buildings.

In addition to the provision of two extra dental chairs the work involves the installation of specialist dental equipment which is aimed at increasing and improving the services available to patients. The new equipment is currently being installed and will be tested and commissioned by the board in conjunction with the suppliers. It is expected that the dental facilities will be in operation by the end of this month. In the meantime, dental services to those living in the Quarry Road catchment area are being provided in other facilities in surrounding areas.

Finally, the board has also informed my Department that it regrets any inconvenience caused but is confident that the new facilities, when in operation, will provide a wider range of improved dental services to a greater number of patients.

Job Protection.

Fiona O'Malley

Question:

162 Ms F. O’Malley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the situation with regard to a company (details supplied). [28527/04]

A working group will shortly be established to consider options for Blindcraft and its employees and to make a recommendation on its future to the Tánaiste and the board of Blindcraft. The working group will include representation from my Department, the board of Blindcraft, the unions, the workforce, Enterprise Ireland and FÁS.

Means Tests.

Dan Neville

Question:

163 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the calculation for the capital means test for benefits under the remit of her Department is different from that of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. [28536/04]

The function of the means test in the case of nursing home subvention is to assess a person's eligibility for funding of their long-term care. The system used to assess this was devised in the context of the nursing home subvention regulations 1993 and the criteria used would, of necessity, differ from that used by the Department of Social and Family Affairs when assessing a person's entitlement to income support.

The Deputy might also wish to know that a working group has been set up to review the nursing home subvention regulations. Part of its work will involve looking at the financial assessment process and making recommendations considered necessary.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

164 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons aged 70 or over who have been overcharged illegally since 2001 in respect of public nursing homes; when this matter will be dealt with; the cost of reimbursing these persons the money they were charged incorrectly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28537/04]

Michael Ring

Question:

165 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in relation to elderly persons over the age of 70 who are entitled to and hold a medical card and who are in full-time nursing care in either private or public nursing homes, they have to pay for that nursing care, in view of the fact that they are medical card holders and are entitled to all free medical care. [28538/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 164 and 165 together.

Eligibility for health services in Ireland is primarily based on residency and means. Under the Health Act 1970, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board other than for persons aged 70 years and over, who are automatically eligible for a medical card.

Medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the chief executive officer, are unable to provide general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship. It is open to all persons to apply to the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board for health services if they are unable to provide these services for themselves or their dependants without hardship.

However, central to our system of publicly-funded long-term care is the principle that it is fair and reasonable that those who can afford to contribute to the cost of their long-stay care should do so. The health strategy reinforces this point and states:

It is recognised that quality care is expensive and that the bulk of the cost of providing a high standard of quality care should be borne by the Exchequer. Nonetheless, it is fair that all those in receipt of publicly provided residential long-term care should make some payment towards accommodation and daily living costs, if they can afford to do so, just as they would if they were living in the community. This principle supports the aim to provide as high quality a service as possible and to make the most equitable use of resources and thus to help maximise the availability of these services.

The current position reflects this approach.

Under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 health boards may pay a subvention to assist a person in meeting the cost of private nursing home care. The Department of Health and Children has established a working group to review the operation and administration of the nursing home subvention scheme.

The health strategy, Quality and Fairness — A Health System for You, acknowledges the need to clarify and simplify eligibility arrangements and sets down a commitment to introduce new legislation to provide for the introduction of clear statutory provisions on entitlement and eligibility. A review of all existing legislation in this area has been carried out in my Department which will inform the approach to the drafting of new legislation in this area. As part of this exercise, my Department will attempt to resolve the current differences in approach in the consideration of individuals' ability to pay under the various regulations in this area.

Arising from concerns in relation to the current practice of charging for longstay care in health board institutions, this matter is currently being examined having regard to advice from the Office of the Attorney General with a view to clarification of the situation at an early date.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

166 Mr. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the local Southern Health Board doctor will open a clinic in Coachford, County Cork. [28539/04]

Arrangements for the provision of services for medical card holders, including the selection and recruitment process for general practitioners in the GMS scheme, are matters for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board-authority. Accordingly, this question has been referred to the chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board for investigation and direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Board Staff.

John Perry

Question:

167 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that, in view of the current restructuring of the North Western Health Board facility in Manorhamilton, County Leitrim, there are up to 10,000 staff from counties Sligo and Leitrim who are uncertain of their responsibilities, duties and the locations at which they will be placed; the position regarding this situation; if she will address the concerns regarding the effect this will have on the delivery of services to the public in the north west; the reason she has not made progress in the negotiations in relation to management; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28568/04]

Under the Interim Health Service Executive (Establishment) Order 2004, the interim health service executive, iHSE, has the responsibility to devise a plan for the establishment of a national unified structure for the delivery of health services, and the integration of the management, administrative and service delivery structures of health boards.

The matter referred to is primarily for the board of the iHSE in its task of preparing a plan to manage the health service from January 2005, when it is proposed that the health service executive, HSE, will be formally established.

In developing this plan, it is important that staff are clear on their roles and responsibilities, and the locations in which people work. The board of the iHSE has confirmed that the plan for the smooth transition is well developed and that briefing sessions with large numbers of health board staff commenced on Tuesday, 9 November. The first briefing session was with the health board chief executive officers, and this was followed by a briefing with the Health Service National Partnership Forum, which is a joint management union forum designed to develop workplace partnership. The briefings will continue in the new regional centres next week. On Wednesday, 17 November, a briefing session for staff will take place in Galway for those health board staff who will be part of the new western region. This includes the staff of the current North Western Health Board.

The board of the iHSE has consistently said that January will not involve a big bang implementation but rather the start of the transition to the new structure. In this regard, the vast majority of staff will see no major change in their current responsibilities and duties, or in their work locations. For those staff who are affected, consultation will take place on the impact of the changes.

The board of the iHSE has assured me that the plan has been devised to ensure that existing levels of service are maintained. The current health board chief executive officers have been invited to stay on for a period of approximately six months in 2005 after they cease their current roles to assist in handling the transfer of accountability and to ensure a safe transition to the new structure. They will report directly to the chairman of the board of the HSE.

The iHSE and my Department are currently in negotiation with the staff representative organisations about the implications of the design for health service staff. These negotiations remain ongoing.

Hospital Services.

Seán Ryan

Question:

168 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the state of the diabetic service in Beaumont Hospital; her views on whether the service is collapsing; if the necessary funding is available for diabetic shared care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28573/04]

Services at Beaumont Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the Eastern Regional Health Authority, and my Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive of the authority to examine the issue raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Vaccination Programme.

Seán Ryan

Question:

169 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if children in all of the schools on the north side of Dublin are receiving school booster vaccinations; and if she has satisfied herself that babies are being called for the nine month development check. [28574/04]

Responsibility for the provision of the school booster vaccinations and the nine month development check for babies, and any matters relating to such provision, within its functional area, rests with the relevant health board or the Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA. In the case of the north side of Dublin, this responsibility lies with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. In the circumstances, my Department has requested the regional chief executive officer of the Eastern Regional Health Authority to reply direct to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

170 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she proposes to take to alleviate the working conditions at Kerry General Hospital; if her attention has been drawn to the enormous strain on the maternity services at the hospital; the number of staff it employs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28580/04]

The provision of hospital services at Kerry General Hospital, Tralee, is, in the first instance, a matter for the Southern Health Board. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board to reply directly to the Deputy regarding the number of staff employed at the hospital.

A capital projects development team for Kerry General Hospital, Tralee, was established in September 2000 to prepare a strategy plan for the current and future needs of the hospital. The development plan included the construction of a purpose-built maternity unit.

Earlier this year, the Southern Health Board sent a statement of need to the Department of Health and Children for a women's health unit at Kerry General Hospital, Tralee. This statement of need sets out the current position on the delivery of maternity services at the hospital.

The establishment of a project team to progress proposals for a new maternity unit at Kerry General Hospital falls to be considered in the context of overall funding resources available under the Capital Investment Framework 2004-2008.

Finian McGrath

Question:

171 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason there are a lack of space, lack of staff and a shortage of beds at the Mater Hospital accident and emergency department in Dublin. [28582/04]

Services at the Mater Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the Eastern Regional Health Authority and my Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to examine the issue raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Many of the difficulties and delays experienced in emergency medicine departments reflect system-wide issues. It is therefore necessary to take a whole-system approach, involving primary care, acute care and sub-acute and community care, in tackling the problems in emergency medicine departments.

I am currently identifying the particular pressure points within the health system that affect the efficient delivery of emergency services. I intend to ensure that the most pressing problems are addressed as a matter of urgency. In the context of the upcoming Estimates, I intend to introduce a wide-ranging package of measures that will address these problems.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of beds likely to come into use at Peamount Hospital arising from the recently announced initiative to alleviate overcrowding at accident and emergency departments in Dublin hospitals; the position regarding the retention of the tuberculosis and respiratory facilities with the relevant consultancy backup; if a further consultant is required to facilitate the recent initiative; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28583/04]

Services at Peamount Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the issues raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

The authority has advised that Peamount Hospital no longer admits acute tuberculosis patients. I understand that 30 beds at the hospital will shortly become available for patients who have completed the acute phase of their treatment and require pulmonary rehabilitation. This will relieve pressures on the acute hospital system.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a conclusive diagnosis can be made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if treatment or improved speech or other learning assistance or therapy can be provided at an early date with a view to creating the best possible chance for this person’s future development; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28601/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services, including diagnostic and therapy services, for persons with an intellectual disability and those with autism in the Kildare area is a matter, in the first instance, for the Eastern Regional Health Authority.

My Department has asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an increase in nursing home subvention will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28602/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Kildare area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Western Area Health Board, acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly as a matter of urgency.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Question:

175 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a bed will be provided in St. James’s Hospital for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [28621/04]

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 this case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Willie Penrose

Question:

176 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be immediately admitted to hospital for knee surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28622/04]

Responsibility for the provision of hospital services to residents of County Westmeath rests with the Midland Health Board. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position on this case and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Departmental Properties.

Richard Bruton

Question:

177 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the total space occupied in Dublin by the Civil Service which is leased; the total which is owned; and the breakdown in respect of the units proposed for relocation from Dublin under the decentralisation programme. [28516/04]

Currently, the State rents some 200,000 square meters of office space in Dublin. In addition, it uses some 230,000 square meters of State-owned office accommodation in Dublin. These office area figures relate to buildings occupied by civil servants. The space occupied by the State bodies earmarked for decentralisation is additional to these figures.

Under the decentralisation programme, approximately 230,000 square meters of office accommodation will be required in the regions for staff moving out of Dublin. A broadly equivalent amount of space will no longer be required in the Dublin area as a consequence. The precise breakdown of office space in Dublin — both leased and owned — occupied by the units scheduled in the decentralisation programme is currently being formulated.

Tax Code.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

178 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the amount of taxes and duties levied by the Government and the taxes and duties levied by the Italian Government on a model of car (details supplied); if he has satisfied himself that this explains the difference for the price of the same model of car in Rome and the same model of car in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28557/04]

The rate of vehicle registration tax, VRT, chargeable in the State on a vehicle with an engine size of less than 1,400 cc is 22.5% of the open market selling price, OMSP. The rate of value added tax, VAT, on a new vehicle in the State is 21%, chargeable on the invoice price. OMSP means the price inclusive of all taxes and duties that a vehicle may reasonably be expected to fetch on a first arm's-length sale in the open market in the State, by retail.

Vehicle tax comparisons across the EU are particularly difficult due to different regimes in place in member states. Under EU law, the standard rate of VAT applies to cars, and currently this rate may not be less than 15%. EU states do apply other taxes to vehicles such as VRT in Ireland, the rates for which are set in the member states.

According to the 2003 tax report of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, VRT in Italy, known as IPT, is chargeable at the rate of 2%, while the rate of VAT is 20%. Any differentials in the tax exclusive price of vehicles in different member states do not come within the remit of my Department.

Revenue Commissioners Staff.

Seán Ryan

Question:

179 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a huge demand on an office (details supplied) of the Revenue Commissioners during the lunch time period which has resulted in persons queuing in all weathers on the pavement; and if this issue will be examined with a view to arranging for additional staff during this period. [28571/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the office in question, the Revenue Central Information at Cathedral Street, Dublin, which is open from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday is currently experiencing significant growth in the number of callers. While staff are rostered to reflect the pattern and numbers of callers, Revenue recognises that there were times recently when increased demands for services resulted in lengthy queues. The size and physical layout of the building have meant that, occasionally, the queues have extended outside the building.

A review of the operation of this office is just being finalised by Revenue. Arising from this, additional staff are being assigned to the office and the physical layout of the building will be altered with the aim of significantly reducing the waiting time for callers and eliminating the need for anybody to queue outside the building.

Fishing Fleet Modernisation.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

180 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position on a fishing vessel for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28518/04]

I understand from the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats, established last year under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003, that the vessel concerned, which was lost at sea in 1981, was the subject of an application to the Department in July 2001 under a limited scheme known as the lost at sea scheme. This scheme allowed successful applicants to use the capacity of fishing vessels lost at sea in the 1980s for the purposes of introducing replacement vessels into the Irish fleet. While the application concerned appeared prima facie to meet all of the scheme’s eligibility criteria, it subsequently came to the Department’s attention that the application had not been completed or signed by the owner of the vessel, the individual to whom your question refers. As the individual concerned was the only person eligible to apply under the scheme, and did not do so by the scheme’s closing date of 31 December 2001, the capacity of the vessel may not be used to introduce a replacement vessel. I understand that the position has been fully explained to him in writing.

Wage Agreements.

Richard Bruton

Question:

181 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if workers in An Post have to date obtained a pay increase under the terms of the national wage agreement; the reasons this has not happened; if, in respect of his discussions with An Post, there is a likely timeframe involved in terms of paying all the outstanding moneys concerned to such workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28533/04]

This is an operational matter for the board and management of An Post. I have no function in regard to this issue.

Fisheries Protection.

Mary Upton

Question:

182 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources re his responsibilities to ensure the free movement of fish up rivers to reach their spawning beds, especially salmon and sea trout which are threatened by over-fishing; if he was consulted regarding the recent works carried out on the River Slaney at Ballycarney Bridge in Ballycarney, County Wexford; his views on the works in question; if they were communicated to the persons concerned; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the works were carried out in such a manner as will now make the passage of salmon and trout hazardous and difficult; the steps he will take to rectify the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28575/04]

I understand that Wexford County Council has this year been carrying out extensive strengthening works at Ballycarney Bridge on the River Slaney. These works were scheduled to be completed by the end of September 2004, but at that time the county council advised the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources that additional emergency works were required to prevent further deterioration in the bridge superstructure that, if not rectified, could lead to subsidence or collapse of the bridge, with potential flooding, not to mention traffic difficulties, resulting. As this meant the works were heading into the fisheries close season, Wexford County Council applied to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, as required under section 6(1) of the Local Authorities (Works) Act 1949, seeking approval for an extension of time to carry out these further remedial works.

On 19 October 2004, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources gave its approval for the essential works by the county council to proceed subject to the following conditions: that Wexford County Council comply with any requirements and directions that the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board may make in connection with these works, and that Wexford County Council adopt suitable practices to minimise any risk of spillage of any fuels, paint, cement or any other pollutant matter into the watercourses. In particular, it was specified that the works should conform to the Department's publication entitled "Fishery Guidelines for Local Authority Works", dated 1998, unless as otherwise varied or directed by the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board.

Under the Fisheries Acts, primary responsibility for the conservation, protection and management of inland fisheries stocks rests with the local fisheries board, in this case the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board.

I am advised by the board that during the course of the works carried out by Wexford County Council at Ballycarney Bridge, the passage of fish was not obstructed. The board further advises me that since the remedial work was completed by the county council, the river has been in flood but that it is the board's belief that the works involved have not altered conditions in a negative way regarding the free passage of fish upriver at Ballycarney Bridge. The Eastern Regional Fisheries Board assures me, however, that it will continue to monitor the river conditions at the bridge and will liaise with the Department and Wexford County Council in this matter should the need arise.

Postal Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

183 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has satisfied himself regarding the future of An Post with particular reference to the need to ensure the non-interruption of services in the approach to Christmas 2004; if all steps are being taken to address the relevant issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28586/04]

The management of An Post has been involved in a process of detailed negotiation with its unions to reach agreement on achieving a clear path towards financial stability. All parties concerned have committed themselves to this process under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. The mechanisms offered by the industrial relations machinery of the State should continue to be used by all parties to agree and implement a framework for the necessary restructuring of An Post.

Telecommunications Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the most modern options now available in respect of provision of broadband or other high-tech communication facilities; the degree to which provision of such facilities is being pursued here; the extent to which Ireland is capable of keeping pace with and catching up on competitors in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28587/04]

The delivery of broadband and other high-tech communication facilities is a matter for the fully liberalised telecommunications sector, regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

The Government set aside an indicative €200 million under the National Development Plan 2000-2006 for investment in broadband infrastructure, including the regional metropolitan area network programme. These networks consist of high-capacity fibre trunks, built to the highest international standards, and with sufficient capacity to cater for many years into the future.

The infrastructure being built under the programme will remain in State ownership, and is being managed for the State on an open-access basis by E-Net, which has been awarded the services concession contract following a public tender process. Private sector companies are now able to offer world-class broadband services based on the provision of infrastructure by the State. Under the National Development Plan 2000-2006, the Government has also co-invested with Eircom and Esat BT in the roll-out of DSL broadband and in the ESB's national fibre-wrap project.

The latest figures from ComReg show that there are now 104,700 broadband customers in Ireland, and this figure is rising by 30% per quarter. The infrastructure roll-out has enhanced the sector's offerings of broadband in all areas, using a variety of delivery platforms.

Full details of the regional broadband programme can be found on my Department's website, www.dcmnr.gov.ie. Details of broadband product offerings in various parts of the country can be found at www.broadband.gov.ie.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason for the delay in the provision of broadband facilities in view of the commitment to achieve 320,000 connections by 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28588/04]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by ComReg, the Commission for Communications Regulation. Recent figures from ComReg indicate that there are now 104,700 broadband customers, and this figure is rising by 30% per quarter.

Exploration for Natural Resources.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of oil, gas and other mineral mining explorations, ongoing, proposed or concluded; the viability of deposits identified; the cost in terms of tax foregone in the course of the explorations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28591/04]

Current authorisations for petroleum exploration include: seven exploration licences — six frontier licences and one deep-water licence — the most recent of which is a frontier licence issued last April; 19 licensing options, including two onshore, of which three are the subject of discussions on extensions; and ten petroleum prospecting licenses, PPLs. Exploration is ongoing under all of these authorisations. A further application for a frontier exploration licence is under consideration. An exploration well was drilled in the Celtic Sea this summer, but was plugged and abandoned last August.

A licensing round for the north-east Rockall basin was announced on 27 July last, with a closing date of 31 March 2005. I intend to make an announcement in the coming months regarding a further licensing round. This round will be over the Slyne/Erris or Donegal basin regions, or both, with a closing date in 2005 or 2006. The Corrib field was declared commercial in January 2001 and the Seven Heads field in April 2002. There have been no recent commercial finds since then. Therefore, the question of tax does not arise.

The position on non-petroleum minerals has not changed since my reply to a similar question, Question No. 126 of 21 October 2004. Tax is not relevant to prospecting.

Mobile Telephony.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the progress to date in the registration of all mobile telephones with particular reference to the need to counter child pornography; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28592/04]

Officials in my Department have been exploring for some time with both the industry and ComReg the matter of a register for users of all new 2G and 3G prepaid mobile phone services or some other industry scheme that would provide sufficient protection to the public. The principal aim of any such register would be to enable effective tracing of perpetrators of criminal activities using these services. The registration of prepaid mobile phone services is a complex issue and the exact nature of such a register must be given careful thought.

The consideration of the legal, technical and practical issues surrounding this proposal is continuing in consultation with all the interested parties, including the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Data Protection Commissioner. Legislation is already in place to prosecute the issue of nuisance and criminal calls, and the sending of pornographic images by mobile phones. My colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is responsible for policy on the protection of children from the transmission of pornographic images by phones and other media.

Broadcasting Legislation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in regard to his proposals in respect of broadcasting in the future; when he expects to be in a position to indicate his intentions in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28593/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 137 on Thursday, 21 October 2004.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to encourage the production of alternative electricity for contribution to the national grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28594/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his short, medium and long term proposals to encourage alternative and environmentally friendly energy production; the extent to which he expects such sources to contribute to the national requirements in this regard in the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28595/04]

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

The current target, in the electricity market, is to add 500 MW of new renewable energy based electricity generating plant to the electricity network by 2005. This is supplemented by a more recent target set in AER VI to support the construction of an additional 218 MW of new generating plant by 2006 at the latest.

AER VI brings to a close an initial programme to add renewable energy technologies to the electricity network by competitive tendering, with wind energy dominant. At the end of last year, a consultation document entitled Options for Future Renewable Energy Policy, Targets and Programmes was published and public comment was invited on future targets and support mechanisms.

In May of this year, a renewable energy development group, chaired by my Department, was established. The group comprises relevant experts from the administrative, industrial and scientific sectors. This group has engaged in assessments of the various responses to the public consultation and will advise on future options on policies, targets, programmes and support measures to develop the increased use of renewable energy in the electricity market to 2010 and beyond. This group's report, which is a comprehensive review of all pertinent issues, is due before the end of this year and will form the basis of future policy decisions on the increased penetration of renewable energy technologies in the electricity market.

In addition, an amendment to the Finance Act 1999 provides for the introduction of a scheme for excise tax relief for bio-fuels which are also renewable fuels used as alternatives for fossil fuels in vehicles. The purpose of the scheme is to allow qualified relief from excise of bio-fuel used in approved pilot projects for either the production of bio-fuel or the testing of the technical viability of bio-fuel for use as a motor fuel.

In tandem with these programmes, Sustainable Energy Ireland, SEI, the independent non-commercial State body focused exclusively on sustainable use of energy including deployment of renewable energy sources, has commenced a challenging work programme to increase energy efficiency and to promote renewable energy technologies. In the renewable energy field specifically, SEI has opened a research, development and demonstration programme for renewable energy technologies. The programme is open to a wide range of proposals including policy studies, field research, feasibility studies and technology R&D.

Diplomatic Relations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

191 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will urge the US Government to investigate the activities of US based terror groups attacking the people of Cuba; and the position regarding the EU relationship with Cuba. [28517/04]

In the absence of more detailed information on the identity and the nature and activities of any such groups, I am afraid that I am not in a position to make a comment.

With regard to the EU-Cuba relationship, I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question 179 of 10 November 2004.

Work Permits.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

192 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of the appeal for a work permit from a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28503/04]

An appeal was received from the employer concerned on 1 November 2004 and is still under consideration. A decision will be made in this case shortly and the employer will be notified.

International Trade.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

193 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Ireland’s newest and most lucrative trading partners in respect of both imports and exports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28607/04]

Ireland exports across the globe. The Government's strategy is to create further market opportunities by assisting companies to deepen market penetration where they are established and to establish new markets where export opportunities exist. Through Enterprise Ireland, the Government supports the growth of Irish exports by working with individual companies in identifying new product and market opportunities and devising and implementing appropriate strategies to capitalise on them.

New market opportunities are explored by the Enterprise Ireland overseas office network. It provides market intelligence for potential buyers and for the different economic sectors. That information is made available to Enterprise Ireland clients and incorporated, as appropriate, in their company development plans. In addition, the Enterprise Ireland annual business review comprehensively addresses the sales and export markets of clients, and specifically focuses on designated priority markets in the period under review.

Enterprise Ireland develops new market opportunities for clients by arranging meetings with significant international buyers, either through inward buyer missions or outward trade missions. In 2003, Enterprise Ireland arranged more than 9,000 sales meetings on behalf of Irish companies. New markets across the globe were accessed by 168 client companies of Enterprise Ireland. These included 110 first-time exporters. In addition, 159 Enterprise Ireland client companies established an overseas presence in 2003 to enhance their trading performances and prospects internationally.

To date, 15 overseas trade missions to countries in Europe, North America and South America, the Middle East and Asia have been lead by the Taoiseach, Ministers and Ministers of State, respectively. European and North American markets continue to dominate our export trade. The United States is now our largest export market, accounting for approximately 20% of total exports. The UK now accounts for approximately 17% of our exports. However, when taken together, the member countries of the European Union are primarily important to our exporters. They account for approximately 62% of exports to date this year.

Insurance Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

194 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if insurance costs here remain a deterrent to investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28609/04]

According to the National Competitiveness Council's statement on prices and costs, Ireland's expenditure on life insurance ranked fifth highest out of 16 countries, behind Switzerland, the US, the Netherlands and the UK.

There has been an improvement in the functioning of the Irish insurance market. The Irish Insurance Federation recently revealed that the 20 non-life insurance companies operating in the Irish market made a combined operating profit of €747 million in 2003. While insurance profitability has led to reductions in premia, it also enhances the attractiveness of the market to prospective new entrants.

The Government's determined action in introducing reform in the insurance sector is evident through the establishment of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board, MIAB, and in June of this year the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB. The PIAB provides independent assessment of personal injury compensation without the need for most of the current litigation costs, thereby reducing the costs significantly. These insurance reforms have already led to cost savings this year for some businesses. According to the Central Statistics Office, motor insurance has decreased by 15% in the past 12 months. These cost reductions have improved Ireland's cost competitiveness, thereby enhancing our attractiveness as a location for investment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which public liability or other insurance costs here compare with other European countries, trading partners or competitors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28610/04]

A comparison of insurance figures in European countries is available in European Insurance in Figures — June 2003, published by the Comité Européen Des Assurances, CEA. This report contains details on "Average non-life premium per inhabitant" and the figures include motor and public liability insurance.

Figures for 2001 show that, of 29 European countries listed, Ireland ranked fourth highest with a value of €1,123. Luxembourg was highest, with a value of €2,084, Switzerland was second highest, with a value of €1,642, and the Netherlands was third, with a value of €1,125. The United Kingdom, with a value of €1,072, was fifth highest. Estonia was second lowest, with a value of €67, and Turkey was lowest, with a value of €23. The average premium in Europe in 2001 was €581.

The ratios need to be analysed carefully. The figures comparing premium amounts to the number of inhabitants do not correspond to sums actually paid by insured persons and, in addition, they do not always include only or all premiums paid by the inhabitants of the country concerned.

These 2001 comparisons do not reflect recent experience in Ireland as a result of the Government's insurance reform programme. Indications to date are that the cost of insurance in Ireland is falling. The CSO publishes monthly indices of costs for a number of classes of insurance. These statistics show that there was a reduction of 19.3% in motorcar insurance between the months of April 2003 and September 2004. This is the latest figure available. There are also reported reductions in the cost of premia for public and employer liability insurance.

My Department no longer regulates insurance companies. This responsibility has passed to the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA, under the aegis of my colleague the Minister for Finance. IFSRA has conducted a number of cost surveys on motor insurance and, I understand, proposes to undertake cost surveys for public liability and employer liability.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which he has given consideration to the number of persons on employment or training schemes through FÁS or other agencies; the degree to which he has examined the prospect of the allocation of extra funding to FÁS in the Estimates for 2005 with a view to enhancing the programmes available to FÁS and other agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28611/04]

Details of funding in support of employment and training schemes delivered through agencies under the remit of my Department will be contained in the Abridged Estimates Volume which is to be published later this week.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

197 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the degree to which he expects to provide adequate funds to enable FÁS continue its current programme and restore programmes dropped due to lack of funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28613/04]

Details of funding in support of employment and training schemes delivered through agencies under the remit of my Department will be contained in the Abridged Estimates Volume which is to be published later this week.

Work Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

198 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work permits granted to first time applicants in the past 12 months; the way in which this figure corresponds with previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28614/04]

The number of new work permit applications granted from 1 January 2004 to date and the number granted in previous years is as follows:

Year

Number

2004

8,882

2003

21,932

2002

23,306

2001

29,542

2000

15,328

1999

4,323

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

199 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work permits granted in each of the past five years; the number refused in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28615/04]

The number of work permit applications granted and refused in the past five years is as follows:—

Year

Granted

Refused

2004

29,447

1,264

2003

47,492

1,629

2002

40,284

1,072

2001

36,375

736

2000

17,872

352

1999

6,244

277

Job Creation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

200 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reasons given by overseas investors who have failed to follow through on job creation proposals here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28616/04]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland, including its regions and areas, apart from the Shannon free zone which is the responsibility of Shannon Development. Overseas companies that are clients of these two development agencies submit investment proposals to the agencies for consideration for state support. Typically, these proposals include fixed assets — capital — labour and technology-research and development components.

The proposals set out indicative targets for achievement of the investment using criteria such as sales, profitability, exports and employment. Each investment proposal is subjected to an economic appraisal by the agencies prior to agreement of support. Once approved by the agencies, achievement of the targets set out in the proposal is subject to overall economic conditions, activity in the sector in which a company operates and sales orders etc. In many cases, depending on the circumstances outlined, investors often meet or exceed their targets. However, in some cases some targets are not met or only met over a longer time frame.

With respect to overseas companies, their overall performance against target has been remarkably strong. That said, in some cases, projected employment growth has not always materialised. There are a number of reasons for this. These include a downturn in global economic conditions; reduced customer demand; sector specific conditions; restructuring of industry or parent company; over estimation of jobs to flow from investment; inability to find suitably qualified staff and difficulties in attracting staff due to full employment conditions etc.

The development agencies and their client companies continually monitor the performance of an investment against agreed targets. In certain circumstances, the agencies can, under the terms of the legal agreement signed between the agencies and the investing company, seek repayment of financial support when targets are not met. The economic environment in 2004 has changed significantly since many clients submitted investment proposals in the latter half of the 90s. At that time the world economy, particularly in the high tech sectors was experiencing very strong growth. Consequently, the proposals approved by the agencies reflected high projected growth in sales, profitability and jobs. In 2000-01, there was a sharp downturn in the world economy resulting in substantially reduced orders, high levels of inventories and in many cases losses. To compensate for the fall in sales companies were forced to dramatically reduce their production capacity resulting in high lay-offs throughout the world.

Although the world economies have continued to recover since then, employment has not reached pre 2000 levels. In many cases companies want to avoid having to repeat the experience of having to make substantial lay-offs, and therefore, their employment levels have not expanded as quickly as originally anticipated. In addition, many companies are outsourcing manufacturing and services to lower cost locations notably India and China. Companies sometimes make decisions not to locate in a particular country even after it has visited that country.

The typical profile of projects setting up in Ireland has changed from manufacturing to mainly service and support functions. Under pressure from a changing economic environment, companies which had planned to set up manufacturing operations in Ireland with relatively high job numbers are now implementing different projects with higher value added functions but with lower job numbers. This is the type of investment that IDA Ireland is now primarily targeting and which is most suited to our modern economy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

201 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of foreign investors who have indicated an intention to invest here within the past two years; the number of such actual investments that have taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28617/04]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland, including its regions and areas. The following table provides details of the number of overseas announcements regard intentions to invest together with total associated job content and start-ups for the years 2002 and 2003 and to end October 2004.

In 2003, 32 greenfield and expansion job creation projects were announced by IDA Ireland with a projected total job content of nearly 5,600 jobs compared to 29 projects with a projected total job content of almost 4,800 in 2002. This result was achieved against the backdrop of two consecutive years of falling global inflows of foreign direct investment. In 2002, for example, global foreign direct investment inflows declined by one-fifth to $651 billion, the lowest level since 1998.

Looking to 2004, IDA believes there have been improvements in terms of new investments into Ireland and of growth in the value and scale of activities in overseas companies operating here. This view is based on contacts with client companies and strong indications of a substantial recovery in growth in the global economy and consequent increased flows of FDI. IDA is now competing for some very significant, high value investments.

I should remind the Deputy that there is a time-lag, often involving a few years duration, between a projected investment being approved and work actually commencing on the project and jobs being created. I am confident the strategies and policies being pursued by IDA Ireland will continue to bear fruit in terms of delivering the maximum possible level of additional overseas investment and jobs for Ireland.

Year

No. of Announcements

Total Jobs to be Created from announcements

Associated Project Start Ups

2002

29

4,785+

11*

2003

32

5,571+

12

To 31/10/04

32

3,911+

N/A

* Includes start-ups in 2002 (8) and 2003 (3).

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

202 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the main factors presenting as deterrents to foreign investors here; if insurance or other costs, construction costs, administrative costs or other factors feature mainly; the way in which he proposes to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28618/04]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland, including its regions and areas. According to IDA Ireland, Ireland has many attributes that continue to make it one of the most attractive and successful countries in the world in terms of attracting mobile investment. These include a low corporation tax rate; educated skilled and English speaking workforce and business friendly and agile Government and EU membership.

Despite the fact that the level of foreign direct investment in Ireland, relative to the size of the economy is one of the highest in the world, there are circumstances and factors that often work against us as the location of choice for specific investment projects. These include, in no particular order, a small domestic market of only four million, which is a significant drawback for some investors; a peripheral geographic location compared with more centrally located European countries, which increases transport-logistics costs, and reduces the speed of service that can be provided to customers; a higher wage and higher general cost level in relative terms than in the past compared with alternative locations in Eastern Europe and around the world — one of the key developments in recent years has been the large rise in low cost investment locations that are particularly competitive for low skill, low wage, projects and increasingly also for projects that are in the higher skill, higher technology, categories, which has happened concurrently with a general rise in costs across a range of areas in Ireland like insurance and housing, largely due to the successes of our economy in recent years; a lack of infrastructure in some cases, e.g. proximity to an international airport with good external flight connections and the quality of electricity supply. These factors particularly affect the Border, midland and west region; a lack of large urban populations with an attendant large labour pool and good range of services and amenities. Key elements of industrial policy that are in place to address these issues are as follows: IDA Ireland focusing on investment opportunities in sectors with low transport costs, e.g. high cost-low weight products, telecommunications intensive international-financial services projects, and targeting investments where companies require a location for producing products and services for sale globally, i.e. where the lack of a large domestic market is not important; the Government's national spatial strategy including its associated gateway and hub locations which is designed to concentrate resources, infrastructure, and amenities to create environments outside the existing main cities of Dublin, Cork etc. that will be attractive to foreign investment; IDA Ireland's regional policy which is giving priority to the marketing of gateway and hub locations; the national development plan and the associated progress being achieved in delivering vital infrastructural improvements in areas such as motorways, public transport, gas and electricity, broadband rollout etc. and a range of other initiatives aimed at improving the level of real competition in the economy, reducing costs, improve service levels etc.

A key focus of current policy with regard to the attraction foreign investment is to equip Ireland with the skills, infrastructure, facilities and overall operating environment that will allow us to compete effectively for projects at the upper end of the high skill/high wage spectrum, which is where our competitive advantage now lies. A particular focus in this respect is in the area of attracting research and development activities to Ireland. The establishment of Science Foundation Ireland, the introduction of a research and development tax credit and IDA Ireland research and development capability and RTI schemes are already yielding considerable success as evidenced by the recent Bell Labs Project.

I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by IDA, together with the ongoing commitment of Government to regional development will bear fruit in terms of additional overseas investment and jobs for Ireland.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

203 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his proposals to address the issue of job relocation to lower wage or more competitive economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28619/04]

Clearly, a more attractive cost environment abroad will inevitably attract some firms that are unable to produce in the high-wage environment of modern industrial economies. The continuing structural transformation of our economy is inevitable. With this, some plant transfers and other adjustments are bound to come, but where relocation has occurred to date, it has largely been limited to relatively low-technology, labour-intensive activities — those least suited to the economy we have become.

In recent years, the enterprise support agencies under my Department have been mandated to adjust their support strategies to meet both the needs of society in terms of high quality employment opportunities and the needs of businesses that generate and sustain those jobs. We must recognise that both outsourcing and relocation are inevitable in a free market and our economic performance has benefited considerably from winning investment from other economies. Future policies must ensure we are more open to the opportunities that expanding and less restricted global markets provide.

There are indications that economic prospects are improving and our propensity to capitalise on trends in global growth is likely to again stimulate business expansion and real employment growth. The Government and the economic development agencies are undertaking a number of co-ordinated strategies to sustain and promote employment growth. Our objective is to capitalise on the potential for research and development, new process and product innovation and more complex services activity to expand higher quality and more sustainable employment. Our aim is to make Ireland one of the most attractive locations in the world from which to do business. Whether that business is undertaken here or elsewhere but managed from here, is a matter for individual enterprises. What is important, however, is that our economic and enterprise policies promote deeper, stronger and more profitable connections with global markets.

In this regard, the recent report of the enterprise strategy group recognises that we are at a turning point in terms of the competitive impact of global competition for markets and investments. That group made a number of key recommendations that are being considered by a high level committee to look at the most appropriate route to implementing the ESG recommendations. I will shortly be making a report to Government on their work and recommendations.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

204 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of family carers receiving carers allowance; the amount of expenditure associated with same; the number of family carers not receiving carers allowance, but who are caring full time or part-time for cared for persons; if there are plans to pursue a national strategy for family carers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28530/04]

The Central Statistics Office 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; 8,000 people provide 29-42 hours unpaid personal help per week, or between four and six hours per day; 15,400 people provide 15-28 hours unpaid personal help per week, or between two and four 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 more than 23,500 carers in receipt of carer's allowance or carer's benefit.

This means that almost 50% of the 48,500 carers, as estimated by the CSO to be caring for more than 4 hours per day, are in receipt of a specific carer's payment from my Department. People providing lower levels of care would not necessarily meet all the qualifying conditions for receipt of a carer's allowance. The 2004 estimate provides for expenditure of more than €203.8 million on the carer's allowance scheme and €8.5 million on the carer's benefit scheme. This represents a combined increase of more than 11.6% on last year's expenditure on carer's payments.

I am aware of the carers association's call for a national strategy for family carers. The Government will continue to develop services to recognise the value of caring and to provide real support and practical assistance to the people involved.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

205 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a mother claiming benefit cannot claim for her children based on her own insurance if her husband is earning more than €300 a week. [28534/04]

Child dependant allowance is an additional weekly payment made to social welfare recipients in respect of each qualified child dependant. A full CDA rate of €16.80 is payable to recipients of unemployment or disability benefit together with a qualified adult allowance where the spouse's gross weekly earnings do not exceed €210. Where earnings exceed €210 the full rate is no longer payable. In relation to CDA the rule was that where earnings exceed €210 half rate CDA was payable and this rate continued to be payable regardless of the earnings of the spouse. The change introduced earlier this year was that CDA would no longer be payable where earnings exceed €300 a week.

This measure was one of a number announced at the time of the publication of the 2004 Estimates to better target resources within the social welfare code. The measures in question are currently under review.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

206 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the maximum rent allowance payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; the usual rent payable to such tenants in cases in which the sole income derives from social welfare; if the previous and current rent supplement takes account of the fact that the tenant cares for her grandchild; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28597/04]

The South Western Area Health Board has advised that the person concerned is currently in receipt of a monthly rent supplement of €366.50. This is the maximum amount payable in her circumstances. This rate, and that paid to her previously, takes account of the fact that she cares for her grandson.

There is no standard rate of rent supplement payable to a person whose sole source of income is a social welfare payment. The amount of the social welfare payment has a bearing on the amount of rent supplement payable, as do other factors. The amount of rent supplement payable in any given case depends on the level of rent being paid, the household composition and the level of household income. As one or all of these factors can vary from case to case, different amounts of rent supplement are payable depending on the individual circumstances involved.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

207 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason rent allowance has been refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this applicant has previously been refused one parent family income allowance which in turn has forced them to live in unsatisfactory circumstances and conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28598/04]

The South Western Area Health Board has advised that the person concerned made inquiries regarding rent supplement at her local health centre. She has not, however, made a formal application for rent supplement.

She was referred to her local housing authority to be assessed in respect of her accommodation needs as she was neither on the housing list nor an existing private sector tenant for six months or more. The board understands that the local authority has deemed her not to be in need of accommodation. One-parent family payment to the person concerned was terminated in 2003 on the grounds that she had failed to fully disclose her means. She has re-applied to my Department recently for one-parent family payment. On completion of the necessary inquiries a decision will be made on this claim and she will be notified of the outcome.

Under social welfare legislation, decisions on claims are made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in making such decisions.

Driving Tests.

Michael Ring

Question:

208 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport if the Government allows persons to undergo a driving test without taxing his vehicle; and if a directive in this regard has been sent out by his Department. [28496/04]

Difficulties in determining appropriate motor taxation rates for certain vehicles had resulted in driving test candidates being turned away and not having tests conducted. Following consultations with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government who are responsible for motor tax policy we were advised that the enforcement of motor tax law is a matter for the Garda Síochána. Accordingly, my Department recently issued a circular letter to driver testers instructing them not to check motor tax discs on vehicles presented for test with effect from 6 December 2004. Non-compliance with motor tax law will not in the future be considered to be a valid reason for refusing to take a driving test candidate out on test. Under the Road Traffic Acts, the role of a driver tester is to assess the driving competency of candidates presenting for a driving test. To avoid doubt the advice of the Attorney General is being sought on this matter.

Taxi Hardship Panel.

Seán Crowe

Question:

209 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if the taxi hardship scheme is closed for applications. [28497/04]

The taxi hardship payments scheme is closed for applications. A closing date of 30 April 2004 was agreed with the taxi representative groups and advertised nationally on 27 February 2004. Some flexibility around this original closing date was allowed to take into account possible difficulties arising from postal disruptions that arose in April 2004. Subsequently, following discussions with taxi representative groups and in the light of the practical need to set a definitive closing date, it was decided that no further late applications under the scheme would be accepted by Area Development Management Limited after 5 p.m. on 24 September 2004. Written notice of this date was given to the taxi representative groups on 17 September 2004.

Seán Crowe

Question:

210 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the amount paid out for the taxi hardship scheme; and the costs to administer same. [28498/04]

Hardship payments totalling €13,957,000 have been made to 1,190 qualifying applicants under the Taxi Hardship Payments Scheme to 9 November 2004.

The cost of administering the taxi hardship payments scheme by Area Development Management Limited to 31 October 2004 was €580,564, including set-up costs. Further projected administration expenditure in the region of €30,000 is anticipated for the November to December 2004 period. ADM operates as a not for profit organisation and has to directly recoup all the costs it incurs in administering schemes or projects on behalf of the State.

Rail Network.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

211 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the amount spent by the Railway Procurement Agency to date in developing a metro for Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28528/04]

To date, the Railway Procurement Agency has spent €7.5 million on the metro project.

In late 2001 and early 2002, the RPA engaged financial, legal, technical and transport consultants to assist in developing the metro project. A number of tasks have been completed including a full alignment study; detailed alignment design; detailed transport modelling; a cost benefit analysis; detailed capital cost estimates and benchmarking; full assessment of potential development contributions; detailed risk analysis of the project; development of a procurement strategy; financial modelling; appraisal of project cashflows; business case development; design feasibility studies for underground stations; archaeological studies; market consultation with potential bidders; pre-qualification of bidders; preliminary drafting of tender documents; EIS scoping; detailed risk assessment of twin versus mono bore tunnel and operational design. No expenditure has been incurred since February 2004.

Public Transport.

Finian McGrath

Question:

212 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the way in which Dublin Bus deal with regular commuter complaints regarding its bus service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28531/04]

The matter raised is an operational issue for Dublin Bus. However, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that each of the three CIE operating companies has a customer charter in operation for a number of years. Copies of the charters are available from the respective company offices and can also be accessed on the company websites. Audits of the charters are carried out on an annual basis by independent market researchers. These audits identify areas where customer expectations have been met and where customers are seeking improvements.

Road Safety.

Tony Gregory

Question:

213 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Transport if a survey or study of road accidents involving heavy vehicles, trucks and so on will be commissioned by him, in view of the very high incidence of fatalities in road accidents involving lorries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28558/04]

Statistics relating to road accidents, based on information provided by the Garda Síochána, are published by the National Roads Authority in their annual road accident facts reports. The most recent report is in respect of 2002 and that report, along with reports relating to previous years, are available in the Oireachtas library.

The road accident facts reports contain details of the number of accidents where goods vehicles were involved. Provisional figures for 2003 indicate that 336 road deaths occurred during that year. A breakdown of the number of traffic accident fatalities in 2003, involving goods vehicles, is not yet fully analysed and authenticated. Details will be set out in the Road Accident Facts, 2003, which will be published by the National Roads Authority in the near future. In 2002, there were 346 fatal accidents and 376 fatalities. Goods vehicles were involved in 50 fatal accidents. In 2002, goods vehicles comprised 12.5% of the vehicle fleet and were involved in 14% of fatal accidents. An NRA study relating to the number of vehicle kilometres of travel in Ireland in 2001 indicate that the average number of kilometres travelled by goods vehicles is significantly higher than other vehicle types. There is no evidence therefore that heavy goods vehicles are disproportionately involved in road collisions. It is unfortunately the case, however, that the consequences resulting from a collision with a heavy goods vehicle are generally more severe than with a smaller type of vehicle.

The primary immediate investigative role in relation to road accidents is vested in the Garda Síochána. Priority in such investigations must be given to determining the causes of road accidents and in particular whether a breach of the road traffic laws contributed to the occurrence. Given the pivotal role played by the Garda in accident investigation, they are tasked with the preparation of detailed reports in relation to each accident they attend. These reports are forwarded to the National Roads Authority and subsequently to each local authority to establish accident trends and causes generally and to facilitate remedial works to road infrastructure where such action is deemed to be necessary.

In view of the arrangements outlined, I do not consider that separate surveys or studies of accidents involving heavy goods vehicles, as suggested by the Deputy, are necessary.

Mayo Landslide.

Michael Ring

Question:

214 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has received a request for €1.685 million by a working group (details supplied) in County Mayo; the position regarding same; if consideration will be given to this package; and when the necessary funding will be supplied. [28553/04]

As the Deputy is aware lead responsibility in this instance lies with my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

My Department has, however, played an active role within the framework of its own remit, in the process of dealing with the effects of the landslides of September 2003 and was represented on the Pollathomas implementation working group set up in March 2004. Pollathomas is a designated Gaeltacht area and, as Minister with responsibility for Gaeltacht affairs, I have visited the area on numerous occasions and discussed progress with those involved and with Mayo County Council. My Department has made a total of €148,115 in funding available to date for repair works to the graveyard, walls and roads in the area. I have noted the contents of the final report of the working group, which outlines the work that remains to be undertaken.

While my Department will continue to assist in every way possible with the completion of the remaining works necessary as result of the landslides, I must point out that limited funding is available to it for capital projects under the Gaeltacht improvement schemes. This funding is allocated to diverse projects in all Gaeltacht areas, including strategic roads, access roads, bog roads, village renewal, strategic Gaeltacht piers and community and leisure facilities.

Grant Payments.

Dan Neville

Question:

215 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when details of the single payment will be forwarded to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [28551/04]

The issue of the statement of provisional entitlements has been delayed in this case because a special beef premium payment due to the person named had not issued and therefore had not carried across to his entitlements. This payment has now been manually added to his single payment entitlement details and a statement will issue to him shortly.

Afforestation Programme.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

216 Mr. Ó Fearghail asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the desirability of achieving an affordable rate of 20,000 hectares per annum; the strategies she will employ to achieve this target; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28552/04]

The planting target of 20,000 hectares per annum was established under the 1996 Strategic Plan for the Development of the Forestry Sector in Ireland — Growing for the Future. This target was re-affirmed recently in Peter Bacon and Associates Review and Appraisal of Ireland's Forestry Development Strategy, September 2004, although it was also noted that a lesser annual planting figure could be justified if the planting was undertaken in a manner that maximised the non-timber benefits.

In terms of the strategies employed to achieve this target, my Department offers a 100% afforestation grant covering the costs associated with the establishment of the plantation, coupled with a 20 year premium for farmers and a 15 year premium for non-farmers to cover loss of income. In addition, earnings from commercial forestry are exempt from income taxes and from capital gains tax on the timber asset.

The advent of the single payment scheme in 2005 and the concessions offered to farm foresters in regard to the consolidation of entitlements, means that prospective farm foresters are currently in the position of being able to afforest up to 50% of their average claimed eligible land while receiving full single payment entitlements and also their twenty year forestry premium. As a result, there has never been a better time for farmers to participate in the afforestation programme. I would therefore urge all landowners considering forestry as a land use option, to make best use of the generous supports currently available.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

217 Mr. Ó Fearghail asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on the way in which the afforestation programme may contribute to enabling Ireland to achieve its Kyoto commitments. [28555/04]

The main contribution from forestry towards meeting Ireland's commitments under Article 3.3 of the Kyoto Protocol will be through the planting of new forests since 1990. These forests will remove considerable amounts of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere by the beginning of the first commitment period of the protocol, in 2008.

Current estimates suggest that over the five years of the first commitment period under Kyoto, from 2008 to 2012, these forests will be storing in excess of 1.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum. Ireland's annual reduction target at that time, given current measures and trends, will be some 10.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum. Forestry will therefore comprise 16% of the emission reductions required. Ireland has the highest growth rates for a range of tree species in Europe. As a result afforestation has the ability to deliver real climate benefits within a relatively short time-frame, certainly within six to ten years.

In addition, the development of a wood fuel industry would ensure a carbon-neutral energy source and reduce overall emissions of carbon dioxide.

Grant Payments.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

218 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when slaughter premium will issue to an estate of a person (details supplied) in respect of 20 animals slaughtered in 2003. [28560/04]

Outstanding payments due to the estate of a deceased herd owner cannot usually be made in the absence of grant of probate. However, in this case, as it is understood that solicitors acting on behalf of the estate of the late person named are experiencing difficulties which are delaying the grant of probate, my Department has advised that an appropriate letter of indemnity will suffice.

Accordingly, on provision of the letter of indemnity to my Department arrangements will be made for the issuing of the payments in question.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

219 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when payment of the dairy premium will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [28562/04]

The herd of the person named was the subject of an on the spot field inspection on 13 October 2004. Payment in the amount of €4,885.38 issued to the person named on 15 November 2004.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Pat Breen

Question:

220 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the REP scheme will be in place until 2013 in view of the fact that the reforms in Agenda 2000 were changed after three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28576/04]

The rural environment protection scheme is Ireland's agri-environment programme under Council Regulation (EC) No 1257/1999. This regulation remains in force until 31 December 2006 and was not affected by the mid-term review of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Formulation of a new council regulation on rural development for the next programming period, 2007-13, is at an advanced stage. The new regulation not only makes specific provision for agri-environment programmes up to 2013 but, like the current regulation, makes them mandatory for all member states. In discussions on the new regulation, my officials have pointed to the success of REPS. I am confident the new regulation, when finalised, will provide a framework for the further evolution of REPS as a scheme delivering substantial benefits both to farmers and to the environment.

Grant Payments.

Pat Breen

Question:

221 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason persons in REP scheme 2 who had opted to transfer to REP scheme 3 have not yet been processed for payment in any of her Department offices five months after the scheme was made available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28577/04]

As was indicated when REPS 3 was introduced in June of this year, REPS 2 participants transforming to REPS 3 have had their REPS 2 payments processed in the normal way and will receive top-up payments by the end of the year. These top-up payments will start to issue next week. This arrangement was a temporary one pending modification of my Department's systems. From this week on, REPS 2 farmers transforming to REPS 3 will receive the full REPS 3 payment.

Pat Breen

Question:

222 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of applications under the force majeure scheme for single farm payment which have been received to date from persons in County Clare; the number which have been successful, refused, appealed successfully or otherwise respectively; the number still awaiting a decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28578/04]

The following is the up to date position regarding the processing of force majeure applications received from herd owners in County Clare under the single payment scheme:

Number

No. of cases received

637

No. of successful applicants

88

No. of unsuccessful applicants

513

No. of cases requiring additional information

36

No. of applicants who submitted an appeal to the Independent Single Payment Appeals Committee

163

No. of successful appeals

7

No. of unsuccessful appeals

110

No. of applicants awaiting a decision

46

Pat Breen

Question:

223 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will carry out an investigation into the REP scheme appeal of a person (details enclosed) in County Clare to the director of the appeals office; her views on whether the delay in this case is totally unacceptable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28579/04]

Additional resources have now been allocated to the Agriculture Appeals Office to assist the director in dealing with arrears of work. It is expected that this case will be concluded within the next three weeks.

Deportation Orders.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

224 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of families with children born in the State comprised of both parents who are non-EU nationals, who have been deported from the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28506/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

225 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria which he applies in determining whether to deport the non-national parents of an Irish born child from the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28510/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

226 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if guidelines, procedures or rules exist for use in assessing the right of non-national parents of an Irish born child to remain in the State or for use in considering whether they should be deported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28511/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

227 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of guidelines, procedures or rules which exist for use in assessing the right of non-national parents of an Irish born child to remain in the State or for use in considering whether they should be deported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28512/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

239 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of children born in the State whose parents are both non-EU nationals, who have left the State accompanied by parents who were being deported from the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28507/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 224 to 227, inclusive, and 239 together.

The figures in the following table show the number of non-national parents of Irish born children deported since the Supreme Court decision in the L&O case in January 2003. The figures do not distinguish whether one or both parents were non-EU nationals, as such separate statistics are not maintained.

Month

Year

Number of parents of Irish born children deported

February

2003

2

April

2003

1

May

2003

4

July

2003

4

August

2003

4

September

2003

1

October

2003

1

February

2004

2

March

2004

4

April

2004

4

August

2004

5

September

2004

2

October

2004

3

Total

37

Statistics are only maintained by my Department in respect of deportation orders made and effected in respect of non-nationals. As Irish born children are not themselves subject to deportation orders, statistics are not available in respect of the numbers of such children who accompanied their non-national parents when they were being deported, or the number of such children left behind in the State following the deportation of their parents. As I have stated previously, it is a matter for parents of a child who is not liable to be deported to make a decision in relation to the welfare of that child if they themselves are deported. Ordinarily, parents have a duty as well as a right to provide properly for their children's upbringing and this duty is recognised by the Constitution. If parents acting in good faith leave their children in the care and custody of another appropriate person, the State will not interfere with those arrangements so long as the decision does not amount to a failure in the duty towards their child which would justify State intervention.

In respect of every person, including a parent of Irish born children, who has no legal entitlement to remain in the State, a notice issues pursuant to section 3(3) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, informing him or her of the Minister's intention to deport. The person is allowed fifteen working days in which to choose one of the following options: to make representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he or she should not be deported; to leave the State before an order is made; or to consent to the making of a deportation order.

If a person chooses to return voluntarily, assistance will be provided if necessary. If a person chooses to make representations as to why he or she should not be deported a range of eleven factors must be taken into account in deciding the matter. The specific legislative provisions are set out under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996, prohibition of refoulement. Further, consideration is given to the specific findings in the Supreme Court L&O judgment of January 2003 and to subsequent judgments. Included in this consideration are the family and domestic circumstances of the person concerned which would encompass the age and length of residence in the state of the Irish born child.

The judgment in the L&O case is complex but an important finding was that while an Irish born child has a right to have the care and company of its parents, there is no absolute right for this to take place in Ireland; further, that the Government may determine to deport a family, notwithstanding the effective removal of the Irish born child, without violating the child's rights. The absence of such automatic rights of residence are a feature of most immigration regimes even those with jus soli rule of citizenship such as the USA.

Irish Prison Service.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

228 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of staff who attend for work at the Curragh and Fort Mitchel prisons; the circumstances which prevail at both locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28513/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

229 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the basis on which overtime payments are made to staff at the Curragh and Fort Mitchel prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28514/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 and 229 together.

Because of security reasons and the need to carry out essential maintenance, a small cohort of prison staff continue to be assigned to duties at both the Curragh and Fort Mitchel places of detention. There are currently 11 and 12 staff serving at the Curragh and Fort Mitchel respectively. Any overtime payments to the staff who continue to be assigned to these places of detention are made on the same basis as overtime payments at all other locations in the Irish Prison Service. Had they not been kept on site, the Prison Service would have had to retain private security firms which would have incurred additional costs. However, since the mothballing of these institutions, the Prison Service has been able to secure a saving of over €6 million in respect of pay costs of both facilities for the first nine months of 2004, when compared to the same nine-month period in 2003.

The mothballing of the Curragh and Fort Mitchel places of detention continues to achieve the Government's objective of significantly reducing overtime levels in the Prison Service. The staff from these institutions have been redeployed to effect overtime savings in other Prison Service institutions.

The staffing arrangements of both places of detention are being kept under continuing review and any decision in relation to the future of both places of detention will have regard to the ongoing discussions between the Irish Prison Service and the Prison Officers Association in relation to eliminating overtime and reducing other costs. These discussions are close to being concluded and I am hopeful that an agreement will be finalised in the next month or so and that staff will ballot for acceptance.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

230 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the purposes of closing the Curragh and Fort Mitchel prisons have been achieved in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28515/04]

The Deputy will be aware that the mothballing of the Curragh Place of Detention and Fort Mitchel Place of Detention was the subject of a Government decision on 11 November 2003. That decision approved a series of measures to be taken on a rolling basis with effect from 1 January, 2004 in the event of failure to reach agreement with the Prison Officers Association on a change agenda aimed at eliminating overtime payments and reducing other costs in the Irish Prison Service.

The reasons for the Government decision have been well aired in the House and in the Seanad. I refer the Deputy to the Adjournment debates in this House on 12, 18 and 27 November 2003 and to an Adjournment debate in the Seanad on 19 November 2003. In the course of those debates, I made it clear that the Irish Prison Service could not continue to spend public money to feed a chronic overtime culture while sustaining outdated and inefficient work practices. I also made it clear that I had no desire to close or mothball prisons and that my preference was for a mutually advantageous agreement with the Prison Officers Association which would ensure an efficient and cost effective prison service into the future. My position has not changed in that regard.

Regarding progress towards eliminating overtime and reducing other costs, extensive discussions between the Irish Prison Service and the Prison Officers Association are close to being concluded and I am hopeful that an agreement will be finalised in the next month or so and that staff will ballot for acceptance. A decision on the future of both the Curragh and Fort Mitchel will have regard to this process. The mothballing of the Curragh and Fort Mitchel places of detention continues to achieve the Government's objective of significantly reducing overtime levels in the Prison Service. The staff from these institutions have been redeployed to effect overtime savings in other Prison Service institutions. On the conclusion of the current industrial relations process and the signing of a formal agreement with staff to eliminate the overtime culture in the Prison Service for the future, the temporary closure of the Curragh and Fort Mitchel will be reviewed.

Disability Support Service.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

231 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the breakdown, on a subhead basis, of the €2.5 billion spent in 2004 on disability specific services; if a detailed breakdown is not possible, the way in which the total figure is arrived at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28535/04]

This figure of approximately €2.5 billion in 2004 was allocated to services and supports for persons with disabilities across a number of key Departments. The main elements of the expenditure are in the health sector, approximately €1.9 billion; special needs education funded through the Department of Education and Science, approximately €400 million; and the remainder is administered through a number of other Departments and agencies on disability specific services.

The figure does not include income support services provided through the Department of Social and Family Affairs or the Department of Health and Children. It also excludes expenditure on mainstream public services and programmes which are accessed by people with disabilities including for example transport services, general health services etc.

Investment in disability specific services has increased three-fold since 2003 and now represents almost 7% of gross current public expenditure. The Deputy will be aware that at the recent launch of the national disability strategy, the Government outlined its commitment to a multi-annual investment programme for disability support services to be agreed within the Estimates and budget process.

Garda Deployment.

Michael Ring

Question:

232 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when personnel at a Garda station (details supplied) in County Mayo will be replaced. [28543/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that a garda is due to be allocated to the Garda station, referred to by the Deputy, on 3 December 2004.

Regarding Garda resources generally, I am, pleased to say that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with an Agreed Programme for Government commitment in this regard. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government, and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force. The Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these resources. Clearly, however, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies in particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties. One thing I have already promised is that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Asylum Support Services.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

233 Mr. Ó Fearghail asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for the asylum seeker reception centre at Magee Barracks, Kildare, in view of the fact that the lands are to be developed for affordable housing. [28544/04]

The Reception and Integration Agency which operates under the aegis of my Department is responsible for the provision of accommodation and ancillary services for asylum seekers. The agency currently operates 74 centres in 25 of the Twenty-six Counties. The accommodation centre located in Magee Barracks, Kildare Town currently houses 138 residents.

Since January 2003 the numbers accommodated by the agency have grown from 4,100 to 6,500 — an increase of 58% — against a backdrop of a serious shortage of accommodation of all tenures in the State. In keeping with long standing policy, the agency has sought to meet the challenges posed by the additional numbers requiring accommodation in a sensitive, balanced and proportionate way thus ensuring that no undue burden is placed on any particular area of the country.

Given the increased demand for accommodation and the proportionate dispersal of asylum seekers throughout the State, I am informed by the agency that it has no plans at this point in time to vacate the accommodation centre in Magee Barracks.

Communications Masts.

Tony Gregory

Question:

234 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Question No. 168 of 4 November 2004, if the Garda authorities will respond to the report of the planning enforcement officer (details supplied) which details the request made to the Garda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28545/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 168 of 4 November 2004 based on the response from the Garda authorities on the matter.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that it remains the case that no request for information has been received from the planning enforcement section of Dublin City Council, notwithstanding that the council report supplied by the Deputy envisaged such a request being made. The Garda authorities will respond to any approach from the planning enforcement section.

Tony Gregory

Question:

235 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a survey has been carried out on the electromagnetic field strength of the mast on a Garda station (details supplied) in Dublin 7; if so, the details of the survey findings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28546/04]

I am advised by the Garda authorities that a survey of the electromagnetic field strength of the mast installation on the Garda station referred to by the Deputy has not been carried out. I am advised, however, that the antennae configuration on the mast concerned is typical of a number of Garda stations both in the Dublin metropolitan region and throughout the country. In my reply to the Deputy in Question No. 168 of 4 November 2004, I outlined the approach being adopted generally by the Garda Síochána to the measurement of the electromagnetic field strengths on masts located at Garda stations.

Garda Stations.

Denis O'Donovan

Question:

236 Mr. O’Donovan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in the refurbishment of a Garda station (details supplied) in County Cork; the further reason for the delay in allocating funding for same which was announced approximately four years ago; the details of the proposal to purchase an additional plot of ground for same; the reason for the delay in this matter; the time schedule for the completion of these works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28567/04]

There are plans to address the inadequate Garda accommodation in Dunmanway. The Office of Public Works, which was until recently working towards the refurbishment of the existing, vacant, Garda station, has now indicated that it no longer favours pursuing this course. It has, however, suggested an alternative proposal which would involve a move away from the station's current temporary location to another location in the town. This proposal is currently being considered by the Garda authorities.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

237 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if and when the citizenship application will be considered in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28604/04]

I have been informed by officials in the citizenship section of my Department that there is no record of an application for naturalisation or a declaration of post-nuptial citizenship having been received from the person referred to by the Deputy.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

238 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for refugee or asylum status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; if corroborative evidence has been sought independently other than from the Congolese authority in this and other cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28605/04]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. A final decision on this application for refugee status will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Question No. 239 answered with QuestionNo. 224.

Educational Disadvantage.

Seán Crowe

Question:

240 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the fraction of pre-primary school children of eligible age which the 1,700 children engaged in Early Start represents. [28489/04]

Seán Crowe

Question:

241 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the details of the involvement of parents in the Early Start programme, andof transition year, vocational training andYouthreach trainees. [28490/04]

Seán Crowe

Question:

243 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the Early Start programme has remained in its pilot phase, after ten years in existence. [28492/04]

Seán Crowe

Question:

244 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the provision which has been made in the Early Start programme to include the children of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. [28493/04]

Seán Crowe

Question:

253 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the locations of the 40 schools in which the Early Start programme operates; the basis on which these schools were selected for this pilot project; the criteria used to measures the designated disadvantage; and if these are full units or half units, catering for 60 or 30 children respectively. [28625/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240, 241, 243, 244 and 253 together.

The Early Start pre-school project was established in 40 primary schools in designated areas of urban disadvantage in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Drogheda and Dundalk during 1994 and 1995. The aims of Early Start are to expose young children to an educational programme which would enhance their overall development, prevent school failure and offset the effects of social disadvantage.

Early Start is a one-year, pre-school intervention aimed at children from selected designated areas of disadvantage. Children must be between the ages of three and four on the 1 September of the year they are enrolled. The Early Start project is designed to cater for the needs of children, including those with disabilities, who are most at risk of not reaching their potential in the education system and the school must give priority to the children who are most at risk. This would also include children at risk from migrant, refugee and asylum seeker families.

There are 56 teachers and 56 child care workers employed in 16 full units and 24 half units and there are a total of 1,680 places in Early Start centres. A full unit caters for a total of 60 children and a half unit caters for 30. The approach taken in Early Start is to establish groups of 15 pupils in existing primary schools in disadvantaged areas, with each class being run by a primary school teacher and a qualified child care worker. While the Early Start curriculum emphasises the development of cognitive and language skills, due regard is also had to personal and social development.

Parental involvement is a key element in the Early Start project. Parents are encouraged to become involved in the planning, organisation and implementation of the work in each centre. This is intended to build their own capacity to influence and become involved in their children's education.

Post-primary students from local schools may also spend part of their time working in the centres as part of their work experience during transition year and-or Youthreach and vocational preparation and training programmes. This will allow them to acquire practical skills in child care and will also establish role models in retention and achievement in education in the local community.

The Early Start service has not been expanded since 1995. Regarding the future development of early childhood education provision for disadvantaged children, my Department, as part of a detailed review of educational disadvantage programmes, is currently exploring how such provision should best be delivered in the future. I am particularly concerned to ensure that any future actions by my Department in this area are based on a collaborative approach with other Departments involved in the overall early childhood care and education sector. Meeting the overall objective of providing the best possible service to the communities and children involved requires that any educational provision by my Department takes account of child care measures under the remit of other Departments. A list of Early Start pre-school projects is being forwarded to the Deputy.

Early Childhood Education.

Seán Crowe

Question:

242 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the liaison within the Northern Ireland administration on pre-primary education programmes which has taken place; and the provision under way to standardise pre-primary education support on an all-Ireland basis. [28491/04]

Early childhood education and care in the State is a horizontal policy issue involving several Departments and agencies and I want to ensure that any future actions by my Department in the area of early childhood education are based on a collaborative approach with other Departments involved in the overall early childhood care and education sector. Meeting the overall objective of providing the best possible service to the communities and children involved requires that any educational provision by my Department take account of child care measures under the remit of other Departments.

To facilitate policy development in relation to early childhood education and care, my Department established the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education in October 2002 to develop within a three-year period a quality framework for early childhood education and to develop, through active research with existing programmes, targeted interventions for children who have special needs or who are disadvantaged. The centre is currently developing a conceptual framework of early childhood learning and development which will be completed in early 2005.

The centre has developed close relationships with the Northern Ireland Pre-school and Playgroup Association, which is an eminent NGO in the area of early childhood care and education in Northern Ireland. The centre has also co-operated with the Department of Education in Northern Ireland focusing on issues of pre-school expansion programmes, curriculum and quality assurance. The centre also contributes formally and in an advisory role to the work of the Derry based Lifestart programme, a home visiting and parent education project providing services across the island. On completion of the draft conceptual framework by the centre my Department will prepare a number of key policy options for progressing this issue.

Questions Nos. 243 and 244 answered with Question No. 240.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Michael Ring

Question:

245 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason Question No. 468 of 2 November 2004 was not answered in full in relation to the entitlements of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and the monetary and point of scale entitlement under the current agreement for this person. [28494/04]

The Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act came into operation on 20 December 2001 and provides that a qualified part-time employee has a pro rata entitlement to the conditions of employment of a qualified full-time employee. The position regarding special needs teachers is as outlined in reply to a previous parliamentary question, that in accordance with the agreement with the teachers’ unions, post-primary teachers who do not hold a specialist post graduate qualification in the area of special needs may, with effect from 1 September 2003, be appointed to special needs teaching posts. The salary of the person referred to by the Deputy was reviewed in line with this agreement.

The claim from the person referred to for incremental credit was received in early October 2004. The person's entitlement to incremental credit in respect of previous teaching service and non-teaching service is currently being examined. A decision in this matter will be issued to the person concerned shortly. The position regarding supervision-substitution is that all payments as agreed between my Department, teacher unions and managerial authorities have been issued to the people involved.

Higher Education Grants.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

246 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Donegal is entitled to a student grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28495/04]

My Department funds four maintenance grant schemes for third level and further education students. These are the higher education grants scheme, the vocational education committees scholarships scheme, the third level maintenance grants scheme for trainees and the maintenance grants scheme for students attending post-leaving certificate courses. The higher education grants scheme is administered by the local authorities under the aegis of my Department. The other three schemes are administered by the vocational education committees.

Generally speaking, students who are entering approved courses for the first time are eligible for grants where they satisfy the relevant conditions as to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment. An approved third level course for the purpose of the HEG and the VEC scholarship schemes means a full-time undergraduate course of not less than two years' duration and a full time postgraduate course of not less than one year's duration pursued in an approved institution. The schemes outline their respective courses which are approved for grant purposes. Under the terms of the current and previous years HEG schemes there are only two courses in Stranmillis College approved for grant purposes, namely, the BEd degree of the Queen's University, Belfast, and the postgraduate certificate in education. The course referred to by the Deputy is not listed as an approved course.

The decision on eligibility for third level grants is a matter for the relevant local authority or VEC. These bodies do not refer individual applications to my Department except in exceptional cases where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular clause in the relevant scheme is desired.

If an individual applicant considers that she or he has been unjustly refused a maintenance grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she or he may appeal to the relevant local authority or VEC. Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by the relevant local authority or VEC, and remains of the view that the body has not interpreted the schemes correctly in his or her case, a letter outlining the position may be sent to my Department. Alternatively, as already indicated, the local authority or VEC may, itself, in exceptional circumstances, seek clarification on issues from my Department. However, it is not open to me, or my Department, to depart from the terms of the maintenance grants schemes in individual cases.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

247 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if a new school (details supplied) in County Offaly only in operation since September 2004, will be able to retain its second teacher; the criteria being applied to this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28532/04]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

250 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if the second teacher allocated to a school (details supplied) in County Offaly can be retained in view of the fact that pupil numbers are high enough to warrant two teachers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28542/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 and 250 together.

The enrolment required on 30 September 2004 for the appointment of the first mainstream class teacher in new schools for the 2004-05 school year is 20 pupils. This is in accordance with guidelines agreed between my Department and the education partners. The enrolment of the school referred to by the Deputy on 30 September 2004 was 17 pupils, which entitled the school to a staffing of a principal teacher only.

To ensure transparency and openness in the system, an independent appeals board is now in place to decide on any appeals on mainstream staffing. The staffing of the school in question for the 2004-05 school year was considered by the appeals board on 21 October 2004. The board rejected the appeal and the board of management of the school was notified accordingly. The decision of the appeals board is final and must be implemented. However, to allow for an orderly implementation of that decision, I have decided that the mainstream class teacher post will not be withdrawn from the school until the end of the current school term.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael Ring

Question:

248 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when funding will be made available for a project at a school (details supplied) in County Mayo; when this school applied for this funding; and the stage its application is at. [28540/04]

In March 1996 my Department received an application for the provision of a PE hall at the school referred to by the Deputy. The building project is at advanced architectural planning and my Department's officials have received a combined stage 4-5, detail design-bill of quantities, submission from the school.

My officials are nearing completion of a review of all projects which did not proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual programme from 2005. All projects are being assessed against the published prioritisation criteria, agreed earlier this year with the education partners. Each project will be assigned a band rating and the progress of all projects will be considered in the context of the programme from 2005. Following conclusion of the current Estimates and budgetary process, I intend to publish the 2005 building programme which will operate in a multi-annual framework.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

249 Mr. Ó Fearghail asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of an application by County Kildare VEC to build a physical education hall at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the project will be prioritised in view of the fact that the school is classified as disadvantaged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28541/04]

The application from the school to which the Deputy refers is being considered as part of a review of all projects which did not proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme. Under this review, all projects are being assessed against the published prioritisation criteria which were revised earlier this year following consultation with the education partners. Each project will be assigned a band rating and the progress of all projects will be considered in the context of the school building programme from 2005 onwards. Following conclusion of the budgetary process I intend to publish the 2005 school building programme which will operate in the context of a multi-annual framework.

Question No. 250 answered with QuestionNo. 247.

Special Educational Needs.

Seán Ryan

Question:

251 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will respond to the application from the board of management of a school (details supplied) in County Dublin for additional teaching resources for children with high incidence special needs within the school. [28572/04]

I understand from my officials that the school gained one additional mainstream teaching post and one additional developing post due to increased enrolments for the 2004-05 school year. In addition, the school has 11.5 hours resource teaching support. The school's request for additional teaching resources for children with high incidence special educational needs will continue to be reviewed.

Educational Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

252 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if second level teaching through Irish up to leaving certificate will be provided in all second level schools in areas in which a second level all-Irish school is not available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28606/04]

It is my Department's policy to support the provision of all-Irish school facilities at primary and post-primary level in areas outside the Gaeltacht regions, where a demand for such provision is demonstrated and no alternative exists within a reasonable distance. Where a demand for such provision exists, it is open to school management authorities to make an application to my Department for the necessary supports. Each application submitted will be examined having regard to the level of anticipated demand and existing similar provision available in the area.

Question No. 253 answered with QuestionNo. 240

Defence Forces Property.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

254 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence the position in respect of the imminent disposal of a premises (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28519/04]

My Department has been approached by a developer who wishes to access his property through a portion of the premises concerned. Officials of my Department, both civil and military, have had discussions with the developer, arising from which plans have been submitted and these are currently under consideration in my Department.

Defence Forces Review.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

255 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Defence the steps that have been taken by senior management of the military at a location (details supplied) to address the issues raised in the Doyle report; the outside bodies which were consulted in relation to addressing these issues; the recommendations that were made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28520/04]

It is presumed that the Deputy is referring to the recent report of the independent monitoring group which was presented to my predecessor on 24 September 2004 entitled Response to the Challenge of a Workplace, rather than the original report entitled The Challenge of a Workplace, which was published in March 2002, commonly referred to as the Doyle report.

The following action has been taken by military management regarding the Defence Forces as a whole. A steering group has been established to oversee the implementation of the proposals that were contained in Response to the Challenge of a Workplace. The steering group is chaired by the assistant Chief of Staff with responsibility for support and the executive director of human resources and consists of the director of the administration section, the director of the human resources management section and the director of Defence Forces training. Working groups are being convened by each of the three directors to undertake various tasks in line with the main subject areas covered by the report.

A programme of briefings will commence on 16 November 2004 to ensure that each and every member of the Permanent Defence Force receives a comprehensive briefing on Response to the Challenge of a Workplace from awareness teams in each brigade and formation. Both representative associations, PDFORRA and RACO, will have members on the awareness teams. Members of the PDF in all barracks and posts will be briefed before the end of the year with briefings of the Reserve Defence Force to follow.

In the course of the implementation process, the following external agencies were consulted. An equality steering group under the chairmanship of a member of the Labour Court was established by the IMG in September 2003 to audit administrative practices and procedures of the Defence Forces to ensure that they comply with current legislation and best HRM practices. Response to the Challenge of a Workplace includes the ESG report.

An independent 24-hour confidential telephone help-line and counselling service provided by staff care services was introduced in March 2003. Information leaflets on this service were sent to each member of the Permanent Defence Force when the service was introduced. Despite the small numbers availing of the service — 55 up to the end of February 2004 — this service will continue to be available.

Exit questionnaires and interviews were conducted by the Dublin Institute of Technology research centre with all personnel who left the Permanent Defence Force since 1 October 2003 up to the completion of their research.

The system of dealing with complaints in the Defence Forces has been revised to address any improper and illegal interpersonal behaviour. One aspect of this is the proposal to use designated contact persons to act as a third party as part of an informal complaints procedure. DCPs will be available in every barracks and post throughout the organisation. A total of approximately 170 have been trained. These personnel will carry out their role as DCPs in addition to their normal duties. The role of the DCP is to provide a voluntary informal resource for personnel who may wish to discuss an incident of alleged bullying or harassment. The DCP may help either the complainant or a person who happens to be complained about. Ms Bernadette Kinsella, assistant general secretary of the joint managerial body of independent secondary schools provided training for designated contacted persons.

In May and June 2003, the Irish Business and Employers Confederation was contracted to conduct a series of seminars on conflict prevention and resolution for senior officers and NCOs in all units and training establishments throughout the Defence Forces.

Professor Mark Morgan, St. Patrick's Teacher Training College, Drumcondra, was contracted to assess training methodologies and to provide workshops for cadet school instructors.

Regarding the specific location referred to by the Deputy, the military authorities advise that a panel of officers and non-commissioned personnel attended a number of briefings by the independent monitoring group following the publication of the initial Doyle report of March 2002. These were followed by a comprehensive series of briefings held at that location for every unit of that particular formation. Since then, all documents and booklets that have been produced by the military authorities in relation to the revised instructions regarding interpersonal relationships in the Defence Forces and the procedures for reporting and investigating any complaints on the matter have been disseminated to the personnel of the formation in question.

Communications Masts.

Tony Gregory

Question:

256 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Defence if a survey has been carried out on the electromagnetic field strength of the telecommunications mast at a barracks (details supplied) in Dublin 7; if so, the details of the survey findings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28559/04]

No survey of the type described by the Deputy has been carried out at the location in question. The mast was erected in 1988 and, apart from normal maintenance and upgrades, the existing equipment has been in situ for several years.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

257 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, further to Question No. 2 of 4 November 2004, the breakdown by local authority area of the 209 affordable houses and the 106 social units acquired by local authorities under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28521/04]

Part V, Planning And Development Acts 2000-2002.

Units Acquired January 2002 To June 2004.

Affordable Housing

Social Housing

Total Output

County Councils*

Cork

7

2

9

Fingal

144

72

216

Kildare

9

0

9

Louth

1

0

1

Mayo

18

3

21

Meath

14

2

16

Roscommon

0

1

1

Sligo

0

6

6

South Dublin

3

0

3

South Tipperary

1

0

1

Waterford

0

15

15

Wicklow

3

2

5

City Councils

Dublin

9

2

11

Waterford

0

1

1

Totals

209

106

315

* Output from Borough and Town Councils, where applicable, is included in figures for the relevant county council.
As regards progress achieved and envisaged in relation to social and affordable housing, I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 1 and 2 of 4 November 2004.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

258 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, further to Question No. 498 of 2 November 2004, the seven local authorities that received payments in lieu; the amount in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28522/04]

The information requested is set out in the table below.

Part V Payment in Lieu of Land/Houses.

Carlow County Council

51,180

Galway County Council

160,000

Kildare County Council

26,100

Kilkenny County Council

163,885

Louth County Council (including Dundalk Town Council)

102,000

Dublin City Council

226,400

Tralee Town Council

100,000

Total

829,565

All moneys received under a Part V agreement by a planning authority must be lodged to a separate account and may only be used as capital for its functions under Part V or in relation to the provision of housing under the Housing Acts 1966 to 2002.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

259 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the breakdown by local authority area of the 80,000 houses in respect of which planning permission was released by the Government in 2002 as a result of the decision not to implement the 20% requirement for social and affordable housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28523/04]

Annual planning statistics are published by my Department which provide information on the number of planning applications granted each year etc. by local authority area. However, the statistics do not contain the detailed information sought in the question.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Mary Upton

Question:

260 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, further to Question No. 353 of 12 October 2004, if he will provide the details of the decision in February 1997 to devolve the group sewerage scheme to local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28550/04]

Details of the decision informing local authorities of the devolution of the rural water programme, including group sewerage scheme grants, are set out in circular L6/97 which is being sent to the Deputy and is being made available to the Oireachtas Library.

Mayo Landslide.

Michael Ring

Question:

261 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received a request for €1.685 million by a working group (details supplied) in County Mayo; the position regarding same; if consideration will be given to this package; and when the necessary funding will be supplied. [28554/04]

Mayo County Council has submitted the final report of the Pollathomas implementation working group, together with the relevant reports prepared by their consultants, to my Department. The report estimates the cost of outstanding work at €1.685 million.

In 2003 and 2004, my Department allocated two grants, totalling €2,030,500, to Mayo County Council for immediate remedial works and for the improvement, repair and protection of roads and bridges in the area affected by the landslide. In addition, Mayo County Council received a 17.5% increase in its general purpose grant from the local government fund in 2004, and was advised that this significantly increased grant could be used to contribute to the carrying out of works considered necessary by the council to prevent a recurrence of the landslide.

The report now submitted acknowledges that the work carried out to date in partnership between Mayo County Council, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the Office of Public Works and my Department has resulted in substantial progress in dealing with the aftermath of the landslides in September 2003. Mayo County Council has recommended that a continuing partnership approach between these four bodies is the appropriate way forward. The report and the county council's proposed future approach now fall to be considered by these bodies.

Departmental Funding.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

262 Mr. Ó Fearghail asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of approved voluntary housing associations which have received funding from his Department; and the number of housing units being managed by the bodies. [28556/04]

There are 17,500 units currently being managed by approved voluntary and co-operative housing associations. The information in relation to the funding received by approved bodies is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Grant Payments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

263 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when a disabled persons grant application with the SWAHB will be processed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who applied for same over 18 months ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28603/04]

My Department's involvement in the disabled grants scheme relates primarily to the recoupment of a proportion of local authority expenditure on the payment of individual grants. The administration of the scheme and decisions on individual applications are the responsibility of the appropriate local authority, in this instance Kildare County Council, with which queries on particular cases may be taken up.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

264 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position pertaining to a project in County Galway under the serviced land initiative (details supplied); the area it will service; and when it is envisaged construction of the works will commence. [28956/04]

The Killaloonty element of the Tuam main drainage, stage 2, has been approved for construction under the serviced land initiative in my Department's water services investment programme 2004-2006. I approved Galway County Council's contract drawings for the scheme last week and it is now a matter for the council to arrange for commencement of the works. Details of the area proposed to be served by the scheme may appropriately be sought from Galway County Council.