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 8, inclusive, answered orally.

Work Permits.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

9 Mr. M. Higgins 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 will be introduced; 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. [33737/04]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

25 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in order to prevent exploitation of migrant workers, he will introduce legislative changes in relation to work permits to allow permits to be held by workers instead of employers. [33555/04]

Dan Boyle

Question:

46 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has plans to move towards a system whereby work permits are issued to prospective non-EU employees applying to work here rather than to their employers. [33848/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 25 and 46 together.

The preparatory stages of the Employment Permits Bill have taken longer than expected, because of the change in labour market. In particular, with effect from 1 May 2004, nationals of the ten new member states of the European Union are entitled to work here without restriction. This initiative has opened up further the Irish labour market with Irish employers now having access to a labour pool of some 220 millions from the European Economic Area, EEA. The EEA comprises the member states of the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and effectively Switzerland. It is also necessary to bring greater clarity and simplicity to the original draft Bill. As this is now being achieved, I intend to publish the Bill in the next Dáil session.

At present the work permit system grants a permit to an employer to recruit a specific employee to fill a specific vacancy, where the employer has been unable to find a suitable employee within the European Economic Area. This arrangement applies only to highly skilled and highly paid positions. The work permit is granted to the employer in the interest of traceability, the enforcement of the employees' rights and administrative efficiency.

The labour inspectorate of my Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including immigrant workers. Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the inspectorate seeks redress for the individual or individuals concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated.

In addition, where employers seek work permits in order to employ non-EEA nationals, my Department requires the statement of the main functions of the job, salary-wages, deductions, other than statutory, other benefits and hours to be worked per week. Both the proposed employer and the proposed employee must sign this statement. Work permits are not granted unless there is compliance with minimum wages legislation. Applications for renewals require confirmation that the stated wages have been paid — P60 and other sources are used.

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

Persons employed in Ireland under the work permit scheme in recent years have been facilitated readily in changing jobs and in such circumstances a new work permit is issued to the person's new employer. This flexibility has been possible by the high number of vacancies arising in recent years.

Insurance Industry.

Willie Penrose

Question:

10 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. [33740/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

32 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of applications for assessment made to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board in the half year since its formal establishment on 1 June 2004; and the number of staff working with the PIAB. [33549/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 32 together.

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 actual 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, the latest available figures to me show that up until 10 December, 9,392 calls had been received, 555,532 website hits had been recorded, and a total of 2,125 applications for assessment had been made, broken down as follows: 710 employer liability applications, 587 public liability applications, and 828 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.

Question No. 11 answered with QuestionNo. 6.

Liz McManus

Question:

12 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the conclusion contained in the final report of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board that there was scope for insurance premiums to fall further; if he intends to take steps to ensure that this happens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33751/04]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

66 Mr. Broughan 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 figure showing that insurance companies here are now making substantial profits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33750/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 62 together.

My Department no longer regulates insurance undertakings. This responsibility has passed to the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA, under the aegis of my colleague, the Minister for Finance, who holds overall responsibility for policy and legislation in relation to the provision of financial services in Ireland. My colleague, the Minister for Transport, has taken over the lead role in relation to policy and legislation on the availability and cost of motor insurance and any related inter-departmental co-ordination. The primary ongoing insurance focus of my Department will be from the horizontal competitiveness perspective and competition in conjunction with the Competition Authority. My Department also retains responsibility for the Personnel Injuries Assessment Board.

I am aware of the conclusion in the final report of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board, MIAB, that there is scope for motor insurance premia to fall further, and while there have been significant reductions in the cost of motor insurance, as the following points illustrate, I am satisfied that there is indeed scope for further reductions.

Central Statistics Office, CSO, consumer price index statistics show that there was a reduction of 20% in motorcar insurance between April 2002, when the first MIAB report was published, and October 2004. Examples provided by MIAB for three specific companies between March 2003 and March 2004 indicates 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.

The pricing and underwriting of insurance is a matter for individual insurance companies and 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 in the insurance industry as reported by IFSRA in its first insurance statistical review of October 2003, previously published by my Department.

The new operating conditions enhance the attractiveness of the market to prospective new entrants and while the premium reductions we have seen to date are welcome, I would 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. The report of the study undertaken jointly by my Department and the Competition Authority will be published early in 2005. This will provide further insights and make recommendations to further improve the competitive aspect of the insurance market.

Job Losses.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

13 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin 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, in particular, 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 he was the majority shareholder in the company when it was decided to appoint a liquidator, he will reconsider the question of providing assistance for former employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33754/04]

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 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.

In addition, the liquidator has, based on legal advice received, admitted, as unsecured creditors in the liquidation, claims from the employees of the company to have entitlements in respect of the voluntary severance terms traditionally paid by the company. However, the dividend payable to the workers concerned, if any, can only be determined when all the assets of the company have been realised and all liabilities established. In addition, the arrangements for the ex-gratia fund of €24.5 million provided by the shareholders provide that any such dividends would be reduced by the amounts received from the fund. It must be emphasised, of course, that the amount to be paid in due course in respect of such claims, if anything is a matter solely for determination by the liquidator.

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.

While I have the utmost sympathy for the plight of the members affected by the shortfall that has arisen in the scheme, I am satisfied that the Government does not have any obligations in respect of the shortfall which the pension scheme faces.

Job Creation.

Martin Ferris

Question:

14 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress which has been made since 2002 in relation to job creation in the north west region. [33559/04]

The Government and the State development agencies are committed to ensuring balanced regional development, particularly through the implementation of the national spatial strategy and the decentralisation programme. The agencies are committed to playing their part in the development of the north west by maintaining the maximum number of existing jobs and by attracting new investment into the region.

Employment in the region has been dependent on traditional low-end manufacturing sectors such as clothing and textiles. The transition to a high skill, high technology regional economy will take time to achieve and unfortunately at present the rate of jobs creation has been unable to keep pace with these job losses. In County Donegal, employment in overseas firms has fallen to 2,287 due mainly to the loss of jobs in the clothing and textile sector in companies such as Fruit of the Loom and Unifi.

The development agencies under my remit, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the county development boards, are committed to the economic development of the region. As far as IDA Ireland is concerned, the north west region continues to be a priority location. A fundamental part of the agency's policy is the delivery of new greenfield jobs into the Objective one region, including the north west. In recent years, IDA has been able to attract new investment in emerging sectors such as international services, life sciences, including medical technologies, software and high-end engineering. Companies like Abbot Laboratories, MBNA, Eaton Corporation and PacifiCare have made huge investments in the region. There were 459 new jobs created in IDA supported companies in the north west region in 2002 and 818 in 2003. Figures for 2004 are not yet available. In addition, IDA Ireland is working with Invest Northern Ireland on a cross-Border basis on a virtual cross-Border park, which will involve joint marketing efforts and planned improved telecoms infrastructure. The agency continues to develop its property portfolio in the region to international standards.

Enterprise Ireland activity, in terms of job creation, is focused on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs in setting up high potential start-up companies, the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies and enhancing the innovation capability of Ireland at a national and regional level through support of research in companies and third level institutions.

Direct funding amounting to €6 million was approved for companies in the north west region in 2002 and 2003 and around €2.5 million has been approved to date in 2004. This support enables companies to fund their plans for innovation and new product development. Furthermore, under Enterprise Ireland's competitiveness fund, set up to help small and medium sized enterprises overcome distinctive difficulties, over €1.6 million has been approved for ten companies in the region. As part of its role in regional development Enterprise Ireland seeks to improve the business climate for its clients and to support the provision of enterprise space. Enterprise Ireland-funded infrastructural projects in the north west region include 24 community enterprise centres, and incubation facilities at Sligo IT and Letterkenny IT.

The county enterprise boards in Sligo, Donegal and Leitrim continue to work actively with local people to set up, grow and develop micro-enterprises. The boards, whose work results in dispersed economic development throughout the region, provide a comprehensive system of capital and employment grants, support, mentoring, and training and development initiatives for new and existing micro-enterprises.

From 2002 to date the Sligo, Donegal and Leitrim boards have approved a total of over €3.6 million to 252 projects in the north west region which, in turn, has assisted in the creation of 338 jobs in the area. I am confident that the strategies being pursued by these agencies will result in continued growth and development in the north west.

Job Initiative.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

15 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason for the recent budgetary announcement regarding the transfer of the funding of some element of the jobs initiative and community employment schemes to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. [33845/04]

The Minister for Finance announced in budget 2005, on 1 December 2004, that he was providing €5 million for the Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to support the development of community services in disadvantaged areas and to complement the contribution of workers employed for service delivery under the social economy and job initiative programmes operated by FÁS. These moneys are over and above the amount provided in the 2005 Estimates for FÁS employment schemes, which is €367.8 million. FÁS employment programmes, which comprise community employment, social economy and job initiative, are being maintained at their existing level in 2005 at 25,000 places.

Job Creation.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

16 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the groups he met during his recent visit to County Donegal; if he was informed of the high unemployment figures for the county; his plans for alleviating these difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33551/04]

On 2 December I visited Donegal and met a number of groups and companies. These included Buncrana Town Council, Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce, SIPTU, Donegal County Council, Letterkenny IT, WESTBIC, Powerbar, Clubman Omega and Ashley Martin. I undertook this visit in recognition of the relatively difficult employment situation in Donegal, although it also has to be recognised that the number of persons on the live register has been decreasing in Donegal over the last number of years.

Enterprise Ireland continues to work with its client companies in the county to assist them grow their sales and exports and improve innovation so that they can compete globally. Direct support amounting to €15 million has been approved for client companies in the north west region since January 2000, of which approximately €10 million is for companies in County Donegal. To date in 2004, Enterprise Ireland has approved funding for over €1.5 million and also paid over €1.5 million to companies in County Donegal.

The IDA is actively marketing all areas of Donegal for new investment and jobs and has invested significant moneys in developing a business park to international standards in Letterkenny. Companies locating in this park will be recruiting from the wider Donegal area. This is in line with the national spatial strategy and the designation of Letterkenny as a gateway location.

The Donegal County Enterprise Board continues to be active in helping new and existing micro-enterprises in the county. To date the board has approved a total of €645,470 in funding to 26 projects that will assist in the creation of 66 net new jobs for the region.

The role of FÁS is also particularly important in providing training and upskilling for workers who have lost their jobs at Unifi and for those currently employed at Fruit of the Loom. FÁS offers two fully equipped training centres in Donegal, the only county outside of Dublin that is so serviced. Both of these centres are operating to the highest international standards.

I assure the Deputy, as I did the groups I met in Donegal, that tackling the difficulties in Donegal is a priority for the Government and myself and I have also reiterated this to the state development agencies operating in Donegal.

Question No. 17 answered with QuestionNo. 8.
Question No. 18 answered with QuestionNo. 6.

Unemployment Levels.

Martin Ferris

Question:

19 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his strategy to tackle high rates of unemployment among disabled workers. [33560/04]

Training and employment services for people with a disability were restructured in June 2000 as part of the Government's policy of mainstreaming services to people with disabilities. The objective of the Government's mainstreaming policy is to provide services to people with disabilities in a more integrated way, offering more choice and options than was previously available. This approach is in accordance with the recommendations contained in the report of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities, which was published in 1996.

Under the Government's mainstreaming policy responsibility for providing vocational training and employment services for people with disabilities transferred from the Department of Health and Children to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Responsibility for rehabilitative training, that is, personal development and basic life skills, and sheltered workshops remains with the Department of Health and Children.

My Department's policies in this area are being developed through a three dimensional approach: developing the skills of people with disabilities for employment; stimulating awareness among employers of the contribution which people with disabilities can make to their businesses; and providing a range of employment supports for people with disabilities and employers.

People with disabilities now benefit from the full range of FÁS training programmes and services and FÁS also provides an extensive range of schemes and grants to promote employment of people with disabilities in the private sector.

I was recently pleased to announce that €5 million is being provided to FÁS in 2005 to launch a new employment support scheme for people with disabilities. This funding will allow the introduction of a new full-time support scheme on a three year pilot basis, aimed at increasing the numbers of people with disabilities in full time employment in the open labour market.

My Department's objective in the period ahead is to consolidate the significant value added in advancing the employment and training agenda since assuming policy responsibility for vocational training and employment for people with disabilities.

Insurance Industry.

Liz McManus

Question:

20 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he intends to implement the recommendations contained in the final report of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33752/04]

Following the establishment of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA, which now regulates and supervises insurance undertakings and the completion by my Department of all tasks relevant to it in the insurance reform programme, the Minister for Transport has taken over the lead role in relation to policy and legislation on the availability and cost of motor insurance and any related inter-departmental co-ordination. Posts have recently transferred from my Department to give effect to this change.

It will, therefore, be a matter for my colleague the Minister for Transport to take forward the co-ordination of the Government's response to the issues raised in the Motor Insurance Advisory Board report 2004 and previous MIAB reports and to consider what further action may now be necessary on foot of this report.

The primary ongoing insurance focus of my Department will be from the horizontal competitiveness perspective and competition in conjunction with the Competition Authority.

Questions Nos. 21 and 22 answered with Question No. 6.

Company Law Investigations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

23 Ms Shortall 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 his Department; 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. [33763/04]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

38 Ms Shortall 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 his Department; the projected date for the conclusion of each such investigation; the inquiries in respect of which reports have been referred to the DPP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33762/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 38 together.

Sixteen investigations into company law matters were initiated by my predecessor in the period since 1997. 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 and referred to the DPP. 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 referred to several relevant authorities, including the DPP.

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

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. 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 referred 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.

Two of the 11 section 19 investigations were held up in legal appeals. These inquiries are now the responsibility of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

In relation to the three remaining section 19 investigations, the authorised officer was 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 consultation with the authorised officer regarding the timetable for completion of his work on these investigations.

The costs incurred since 1997 on company investigations initiated by or on behalf of my Department currently amount to approximately €10.9 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. Of the €10.9 million expended, €1.6 million relates to section 19 investigations by authorised officers and the remaining €9.3 million was incurred by High Court inspectors appointed under section 8; €5.8 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. The costs of the investigation have been borne by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and I understand that Department has requested the Chief State Solicitors Office to commence the process of recovering the full costs of the investigations from the Bank.

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.

EU Directives.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

24 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of EU directives for which his Department 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 in which legal actions have been notified or commenced by the EU Commission arising from a failure to implement a directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33761/04]

The current position in relation to the transposition of EU directives for which my Department is responsible indicates a total of 31 directives to be implemented, including nine 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 currently awaiting transposition in respect of which infringement proceedings have been commenced. A reasoned opinion, under Article 226 of the treaty, has been issued by the Commission in respect of one directive for which the transposition deadline has passed. It is anticipated that regulations will shortly be made transposing the remaining provisions of this directive.

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. 25 answered with QuestionNo. 9.
Question No. 26 answered with QuestionNo. 6.

Employment Regulations.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

27 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has commissioned or carried out studies on the effects of the rising age profiles on regulations governing employment and, in particular, on regulations governing retirement; and if he will report on the conclusions of these studies. [33850/04]

I have not commissioned or carried out any studies on the effects of the rising age profiles of persons in employment. Policy in the pensions area is determined by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

Flexibility and security in the labour market, as well as work organisation and work-life balance requirements can be facilitated through atypical work patterns such as part-time and fixed-term contract work. Such work patterns and systems have, in recent years, encouraged many older workers in particular, to either join or re-enter the Irish labour market and I welcome this positive development.

Employment rights legislation protects employees against arbitrary or capricious behaviour by employers and helps to foster labour market harmony by promoting personnel policies that minimise conflict and maximise fairness. Recent developments in the area of employment rights of particular interest to older workers include: legislation protecting part-time employees from discrimination in relation to conditions of employment, including pay and pensions, under the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001; legislation protecting employees on fixed-term contracts from discrimination in relation to conditions of employment, including pay and pensions, under the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003; amendment of the Unfair Dismissals Acts to provide that a person who is over the age of 66 years is no longer excluded from those Acts unless he or she had already reached the normal retirement age for employees of the same employer in similar employment; the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 which was signed into law on 25 March 2004. The Act — which is administered by the Department of Finance — covers new entrants who become public servants on or after 1 April 2004. The Act does not affect the current terms of existing public service employees. The Act removes the compulsory retirement age for new entrants to the public service, with the exception of certain posts in the Permanent Defence Force, the Garda Síochána, the Prison Service and the Fire Service.

Except as outlined above, there is nothing to prevent an employee requesting his or her employer to be retained in employment beyond the age of 65 years. Such workers could continue to work on a full-time or part-time basis and can get an old age contributory pension from the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

Question No. 28 answered with QuestionNo. 6.

Employment Support Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

29 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the Government has satisfied itself with the present organisation and structures of FÁS; if he has plans for the restructuring or reorganisation of FÁS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33748/04]

As stated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 119 on 16 November 2004, I have no plans to restructure or reorganise FÁS.

Economic Competitiveness.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

30 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the recent call made by RGDATA that supermarket multiples should be required to publish their turnover and profit figures; if he has plans to introduce legislation to give effect to this suggestion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33749/04]

Companies in Ireland are free to establish and organise themselves in the most suitable form to promote and run their businesses, provided that they comply fully with relevant national and EU legislation. Multi-national companies including companies that have Irish subsidiaries are required to file annual returns with audited accounts with the Registrar of Companies. Many multi-national companies file their accounts in compliance with the European Communities (Companies: Group Accounts) Regulations 1992, which cover the financial affairs of the parent undertaking and the subsidiary undertaking as a whole. It is not clear to me that there is a real problem in this area and I therefore, have no proposals to introduce legislation on the lines suggested.

The Competition Act 2002 provides extensive fact-finding powers for the Competition Authority in pursuance of their responsibilities for competition enforcement.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

31 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs that have been lost in each of the past five years; the number of replacement jobs provided in the same period; the cause or causes of the job losses, if identifiable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33773/04]

Employment in firms assisted by the enterprise support agencies is collated by means of an annual employment survey undertaken by Forfás. Information in respect of 2004 is not yet available as the survey is underway. For the years 1999 to 2003 the data shows that 160,086 full time jobs were created in agency supported companies while 140,086 jobs were lost in the same period.

Employment changes in agency-supported companies.

Job Gains (Full-time)

Job Losses (Full-time)

2003

22,743

29,743

2002

27,393

35,017

2001

29,847

33,420

2000

44,737

20,851

1999

35,876

21,055

In the past few years, conditions in the global economy have been difficult, and Irish firms have had to win business against a backdrop of difficult external demand conditions, pricing pressures, and an increasingly competitive international environment. These have affected employment trends in companies assisted by the enterprise development agencies. However, employment in these companies is still one third higher than it was a decade ago. This is a strong performance in the context of global economic circumstances.

There are now 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 ESRI has indicated that industrial employment will increase by 0.6% this year and by 1% in 2005, supported by significant growth in GNP. In light of the intense global competitive pressures on manufacturing, these forecasts show that our economy maintains considerable strengths.

More generally, the labour market is robust and unemployment is continuing to fall. The latest quarterly national household survey figures released by the Central Statistics Office show that the total at work increased by 57,200 year on year in the third quarter of 2004. This represents an increase of 3.1% in employment, which is the highest level of annual growth recorded since the first quarter of 2001. The data further shows that employment growth was spread across all regions.

As the following table indicates, the number in employment across the economy ihas ncreased by almost 165,000 over the five-year period from 2000 to 2004.

Total Employment March-May of Each Year (,000).

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

1671.4

1721.9

1763.9

1793.4

1836.2

(Source: CSO Quarterly National Household Survey.)

These figures show a strong, positive trend and with an unemployment rate of 4.4% we continue to outperform almost all of our EU counterparts. Nevertheless we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent. I have given the enterprise development agencies a firm mandate to develop and implement policies to sustain and promote employment growth and to expand their activities in sectors where competitive employment opportunities will arise in the future.
Question No. 32 answered with QuestionNo. 10.

Competition Authority Report.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

33 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the studies being undertaken by the Competition Authority to deal with issues of regulation; when each study is due to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33552/04]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

76 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the professions study being carried out by the Competition Authority; when this study will be completed; if he has satisfied himself with the progress being made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33554/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 33 and 76 together.

The studies by the Competition Authority into the banking, insurance and professional services markets are progressing. The authority published its final report on competition in the engineering profession on 1 December 2004 and concluded that the current regulatory regime in that profession essentially facilitates competition. I expect to receive the final report in relation to architects by March 2005.

The studies of other professions across the medical, legal and construction sectors are ongoing and the reports will be released during 2005. In relation to veterinary surgeons, I understand that a consultation paper and initial recommendations will be published in the first quarter of 2005 and the final report in the second half of the year.

The authority's initial recommendations and consultation paper in respect of the two legal professions — solicitors and barristers — will be published in January and the final report and recommendations will be published later in 2005. Initial recommendations and consultation papers in respect of each of the three remaining medical professions will be published in the second half of 2005.

The authority published a report on the banking sector, prepared in conjunction with economic consultants LECG, on Tuesday last, 14 December 2004. It contains a comprehensive analysis of two key markets — personal current accounts and loans to small and medium sized enterprises. The report makes 40 recommendations aimed at enhancing competition between banks for the benefit of both personal banking customers and small and medium enterprises. The authority has now invited interested parties to submit comments on the remedies to the competition issues outlined in the report by 14 February 2005 after which it will publish a final report and recommendations.

The authority, in conjunction with my Department, has also conducted a study of competition issues in the non-life insurance market. Research on barriers to entry and rivalry in motor, employers' liability and public liability insurance has been carried out and an initial report containing preliminary results of the research was published in February 2004. The authority has completed a consultation exercise with interested parties and is concluding its final report which will be published in January 2005.

The authority has advised me that the studies have taken longer to complete than anticipated due to a number of factors, not least the extensive consultation process involved. Progress on the professions study in particular has also been hampered by the need to divert resources to deal the high level of merger activity. However, I am currently arranging to provide the authority with additional resources for processing merger notifications.

Employment Regulations.

Seán Crowe

Question:

34 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will introduce statutory requirements on employers to pay employees who are absent due to illness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33556/04]

There are no proposals at present to introduce statutory requirements on employers to pay employees who are absent due to illness. There are, however, 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.

Industrial Disputes.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

35 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the information available to his Department on the impact on Irish trade, particularly Irish exports of the industrial dispute involving employees of a company (details supplied) that has led to a suspension of all its services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33741/04]

The information available to my Department is that Irish Ferries account for an estimated 25% of the total roll-on roll-off capacity available on cross channel routes. This does not include other modes of transport such as air transport. At present, Irish indigenous companies appear to be switching to alternative ferry services on the remaining 75% capacity available, and availing of ferry services from ports in Northern Ireland to meet their exporting needs. Air freight services are also being used as an alternative, where appropriate.

The situation with regard to foreign multinational companies based in Ireland is that these companies usually produce goods with high value-to-weight ratios, which are typically exported by air. In addition, an increasing proportion of trade by multinational companies is in services, which are "exported" in digital format or by using global telecommunications links; and also these companies often use international couriers or specialist freight forwarding companies to transport their output.

At this stage of the dispute, therefore, there appears to be no major disruption to exports on the part of Irish companies in the internationally traded sector. However, I am acutely aware that the longer the dispute remains unresolved, the greater the potential adverse impact on Irish exporters. I can assure the Deputy that I will, therefore, be keeping the situation under close observation during the coming weeks. In the meantime, any companies experiencing difficulties can contact Enterprise Ireland for advice.

Shannon Development.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

36 Ms O’Sullivan 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 met the board of Shannon Development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33755/04]

As the House will be aware from previous similar parliamentary questions, there have been a number of developments that will impact on the mid-west region and the roles of the respective State agencies operating there, the most significant of which are: the proposed relocation of the headquarters of Enterprise Ireland, involving 300 of the agency's Dublin based staff to Shannon, as part of the Government decentralisation programme; the decision to establish an independent Shannon Airport Authority, and the enterprise strategy group which reported in July has recommended that Shannon Development should disengage from industrial development functions which should be left to the national agencies, that is, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA.

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 of County Kerry for tourism development purposes will also impact on the future role of Shannon Development, in particular. It is worth repeating that Shannon Development fully supports the decision to establish an independent airport authority which they see as vital to the economic development of the region. They further agree that the company should refocus its activities on the airport with a view to generating business for the airport and the company's assets should be used to support the airport authority particularly in its early, vulnerable years. A working group was set up 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 in relation to the various options available but its work is not yet completed. I have reviewed the deliberations of the group and am now actively pursuing the matter through consultations with relevant Cabinet colleagues.

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.

Price Comparisons.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

37 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to reports of significant differences between prices for many goods on this side of the Border, when compared to Northern Ireland, and that as a result many consumers are travelling to Northern Ireland to take advantage of these lower prices, with a consequent loss of trade; if he will ask the consumer consultative panel to examine this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33743/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

125 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason for the disparity in prices between Dublin and Newry, County Down; if he can identify the reason there is up to almost 40% of a price differential; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33988/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

126 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a lack of competitiveness here is causing persons to shop outside the jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33989/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37, 125 and 126 together.

I am aware of media reports of consumers shopping north of the Border as a result of price differences between here and Northern Ireland. Retail prices are determined by a variety of factors including supplier and other input costs incurred by the retailer. Prices can also be determined by market forces and will often be a reflection of what the market will bear.

Price comparisons with Northern Ireland will also be dependant on currency fluctuations and a strong euro will have the effect of prices in that jurisdiction appearing significantly cheaper than at times when the exchange rate is less favourable.

The National Competitiveness Council's statement on prices and costs, 2004 which confirmed that many goods and services have become more expensive in Ireland than in many other EU member states. It may be that the publication of this sort of information during the year has made consumers more aware of price differentials. If so, I welcome the fact that Irish consumers are becoming more price sensitive, I welcome the fact that competitive forces are at work in the economy and I welcome cross-border competition. It is good that consumers have this sort of information available to them in order to make these choices.

However, my concern is to ensure that our economy remains competitive not least in terms of value for money for our consumers. That is why the Government earlier this year established the consumer strategy group to advise and make recommendations for the development of a national consumer policy. In the performance of this role the consumer strategy group has carried out a range of activities, including studies that investigate issues of special concern. Price trends with other parts of Europe have been examined and some prices have been the subject of additional investigation, including those of fruit and vegetables, alcoholic beverages, and pharmaceuticals. The group will report to me early in the new year and I plan to give the report prompt attention and consideration as soon as I receive it.

Question No. 38 answered with QuestionNo. 23.
Questions Nos. 39 to 41, inclusive, answered with Question No. 6.

Work Permits.

John Gormley

Question:

42 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the average length of time it has taken to process work permit applications which were made from January to June 2004; and the number of these applications which have not yet been processed. [33853/04]

From January to June 2004 the average processing time for work permit applications was between eight to ten weeks. All applications received between those dates, and which were in order, have been issued.

Live Register.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

43 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. [33760/04]

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 22,080 to the end of November 2004. The corresponding figure to the end of November 2003 was 24,840 which means a decrease of over 11% 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 were to be maintained for the remainder of the year, the total number of redundancies in 2004 would be approximately 24,600, which would be over 3,000 down on last year.

The most recent quarterly national household survey released by the Central Statistics Office on 7 December 2004 shows that employment growth continued in the third quarter of 2004 with an increase of 57,200 or 3.1 % in the year. This is the highest level of annual growth recorded since the 3.8% recorded in the first quarter of 2001. The total number of persons in employment is 1.89 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.

Questions Nos. 44 and 45 answered with Question No. 6.
Question No. 46 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

Grant Aid.

Denis Naughten

Question:

47 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the grant aid returned to his Department by a company (details supplied) following the closure of its plant in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33586/04]

The position in relation to return of grant aid is unchanged from the information provided to the Deputy on 30 November 2004. To date, no grant aid has been returned to Enterprise Ireland.

Discussions are continuing between Enterprise Ireland and the company in question following the company's decision not to continue its slaughtering and boning activities, while retaining and further developing its cannery operations through the development of new added value products. These products have the potential to significantly increase sales from the site in County Roscommon. The discussions, which are complex, are expected to be concluded shortly.

Job Losses.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

48 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the total number of job losses announced by companies located in County Donegal to date in 2004; and the current unemployment rate in County Donegal. [33550/04]

Figures for the total number of job losses announced by companies located in County Donegal are not available. However, according to the latest quarterly national household survey published by the Central Statistics Office on 7 December 2004, the number of unemployed persons in the Border area for the quarter to August 2004 was 12,200. This figure represents an unemployment rate of 5.9% an improvement on the August, 2003 rate of 6.3%.

The Donegal live register rate decreased by 8.41% between November 2003 and November 2004, down from 9,923 to 9,088. Although the live register is not a true record of the level of unemployment, as it includes people who are not available for work, it is a useful indicator of current employment trends. These statistics indicate that the actions being taken by the industrial development agencies are impacting positively on Donegal and the Border region in general.

Questions Nos. 49 to 51, inclusive, answered with Question No. 6.

Trade Missions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

52 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will make a statement on the outcome of his recent trade mission to Korea and Japan. [33764/04]

I led a trade mission to Korea and Japan from 14 to 20 November last. Some 26 companies participated in the mission to Korea, and 40 in the mission to Japan. This was the first ministerial trade mission to Korea organised by Enterprise Ireland, and the first to Japan since 2001. The missions included representatives of a variety of sectors, although the education, primarily third level, and high-tech sectors were strongly represented.

As always, the main purpose of the mission was to support Irish companies exporting or investigating the opportunities in Korea and Japan, and to raise the profile of Ireland as a supplier of high-quality goods and services; the latter is particularly important in a region where Ireland is still relatively little-known. I also had the pleasure of viewing the newly-opened Enterprise Ireland offices in Seoul during the mission.

In Korea, as well as meeting the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education, I addressed the higher education seminar organised in conjunction with the mission. I also met representatives of leading Korean corporations in the ICT and aviation fields, as well as leading academics.

I witnessed the exchange of a memorandum of understanding between Enterprise Ireland and the Korean Games Development Institute, which offers significant potential to develop co-operation between Irish and Korean companies in this sector. I also met the chairman of the Korean Software Association to discuss further co-operation in the software sector.

As a result of the mission, 15 articles appeared in the Korean media. This gave an important boost to Ireland's profile in Korea, where it is still relatively low. A further 11 articles appeared in Irish media, helping to encourage Irish companies to think about the possibilities offered by this market.

Japan is a more developed market for Ireland, which explains the larger number of companies which participated in this leg of the mission. However, we still need to raise Ireland's profile in Japan, and the nine news articles which appeared in Japan as a result of this mission will have helped in this regard. A further 13 articles which appeared in the Irish media will also have helped to encourage Irish companies to think about the Japanese market.

In Japan, I met senior Vice Minister Okonagi in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and opened a similar education seminar to that held in Korea. I was also pleased to have witnessed announcements by four Irish companies of major business developments in Japan and the establishment of new partnerships with Japanese companies. In addition, I presented special awards to three Japanese companies which have made significant contributions to Irish-Japanese trade. It is still too soon to give information about any specific results of the mission, but I am very confident that it was of strong assistance in raising Ireland's profile in both Korea and Japan, as well as offering encouragement to Irish companies to examine the potential in both markets. I plan to ask Enterprise Ireland, the organisers of the mission, to provide more information in relation to the mission outcomes after a suitable period has elapsed.

Question No. 53 answered with QuestionNo. 6.

Consumer Issues.

Seán Ryan

Question:

54 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. [33759/04]

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 with 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 in the new year.

Question No. 55 answered with QuestionNo. 6.

Insurance Industry.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

56 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the introduction of the book of quantum by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board in June 2004 has led in general to increased compensation awards; if this was intended policy; and his views on whether the downward trend in insurance premia prior to the establishment of the PIAB may be reversed as a consequence. [33548/04]

In producing the book of quantum it was not intended policy to either reduce or increase personal injury compensation levels but merely to reflect, in a guide, what the current level of damages is for particular types of injuries. The book of quantum was compiled by an external independent expert company using data sourced from courts, the Irish Insurance Federation and the State Claims Agency. The book is a guide to a range of compensation levels for particular types of injuries and reflects existing levels of awards in this country. The book contains clear guidelines as to the interpretation of its contents. Operational matters relating to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, are a matter for the CEO of PIAB. However, to date I believe PIAB has not made any awards, I have no statistical evidence of any changes in compensation awards in this country since the introduction of PIAB and therefore cannot comment on any potential impact on insurance premia.

The book of quantum is one element of a whole raft of measures contained in the Government's insurance reform programme, which have contributed to downward pressure on premia. All the measures are expected to lead towards further reductions as their effects continue to impact. These other measures include reform of the law on personal injury, improvement in road safety measures, public information, promotion of competition, transparency and consumer protection.

Health and Safety Authority.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

57 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will introduce legislation to allow the Health and Safety Authority to investigate non-workplace accidents such as the recent tragedy near Askeaton, County Limerick (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33742/04]

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 regulates occupational safety and health law and the Health and Safety Authority is the national statutory body with responsibility for enforcement of occupational safety and health law.

The 1989 Act will be replaced by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004 which has just completed Committee Stage in the Dáil. The new Bill will also deal only with workplace safety and I will not be formulating proposals to introduce legislation to allow the Health and Safety Authority to investigate non-workplace accidents.

The matter of public safety was considered in a report by a review group on public safety in Ireland, which was published in 2000. The review group's recommendation that an office of public safety regulation should be considered was inconclusive and a clear-cut case was not made for the establishment of such an agency.

Community Employment Schemes.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

58 Mr. Rabbitte 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. [33756/04]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

71 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he plans to take measures to ensure that community employment schemes are extended to a broader range of persons, particularly to those with a disability. [33849/04]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

72 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a date has been set for the publication of the review of community employment schemes, which was conducted by FÁS and which has already been submitted to him; and his views on the matter. [33851/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

131 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which he expects the new budgetary allocation to meet the requirements of FÁS in terms of the restoration of schemes or projects abandoned due to lack of finances in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33996/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 58, 71, 72 and 131 together.

FÁS employment programmes, which comprise community employment, social economy and job initiative, are being maintained at their existing level in 2005 at 25,000 places. Community employment provides work experience and training opportunities for the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged groups with the aim of assisting participants to progress to a job in the open labour market. The programme specifically caters for persons with a wide range of disabilities who satisfy the eligibility criteria.

I am informed by FÁS that the number of participants on community employment in January, 2003 was 24,991 of which 4,098 or 17.7% were persons with disabilities; in January 2004 there were 19,848 persons on the programme of which 3,401 or 18.6% were persons with disabilities; it is anticipated that there will be 21,650 participants on community employment at the start of 2005 and approximately 20% will be persons with disabilities.

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. On foot of this review I decided that with effect from 10 November 2004 the three year cap would be removed for community employment participants aged 55 or over. This category of participants is now eligible to participate on community employment for 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 are being maintained. The continuance of ringfencing and the extended participation on community employment by older workers will help to secure the continuity of community services generally and will ensure that the existing community service support framework will be maintained. I have no plans to make any further changes to community employment criteria in the immediate future. The community employment programme will, of course, continue to be monitored closely by this Department.

Work Permits.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

59 Mr. M. Higgins 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. [33738/04]

Some 713 work permit applications in respect of the spouses of non-EEA nationals working here were issued up to 13 December 2004.

Health and Safety Authority.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

60 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when new construction regulations approved by the HSA and its construction advisory committee, which included representatives of trade unions and professional bodies, will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33553/04]

Draft construction regulations are currently with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for formal drafting and it is expected that they will be signed in to law in early 2005.

The purpose of the draft regulations is to prescribe the main requirements for the protection of the safety, health and welfare of persons working on construction sites and to give further effect to the Council Directive 92/57/EEC by replacing the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2001, S.I. No. 481 of 2001, on the minimum safety and health requirements at temporary or mobile construction sites with new regulations.

The new regulations are designed to clarify and strengthen the general duties of all parties as regards securing occupational safety, health and welfare in construction work, including those of clients, project supervisors design process, formerly titled project supervisors design stage, project supervisors construction stage, designers, contractors and employees.

The regulations will apply to all construction projects as well as to the maintenance of buildings. They place obligations on clients and designers to ensure health and safety is taken into account before any construction work begins. Contractors must ensure that the work on site is properly co-ordinated and carried out in a safe manner.

The regulations have also been subject to widespread consultation and have been recommended by the tripartite board of the Health and Safety Authority.

Question No. 61 answered with QuestionNo. 6.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

62 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason Ireland’s competitiveness has fallen behind almost all other EU partners; the way in which he sees this issue being addressed in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33774/04]

It is important to put into context Ireland's economic performance compared with the performances of our EU partners. Our projected economic growth of 5.1% of GDP in 2005 will be more than twice the EU average, while our unemployment rate at 4.4% is half the EU average. Ireland also has one of the lowest debt burdens in the EU and yet our rate of public investment at nearly 5% of GNP is almost twice the EU average. In a European context, Ireland's economic performance is exceptional and has demonstrated resilience. We realise, however, that our prosperity is not a stable asset and underpinning economic competitiveness remains critical to our future well-being.

To ensure our continued economic success the Government is committed to enhancing Ireland's competitiveness. The National Competitiveness Council, NCC, in its annual competitiveness report provides valuable analysis of Ireland's competitiveness status including identifying challenges to our economic performance. The NCC also recommends policy responses to meet these challenges. These recommendations are considered by Government and the relevant Departments each year. The most recent NCC annual reports were published on 14 October 2004. An interdepartmental group chaired by my Department, is considering the recommendations and will report to Government on progress early next year.

In the recent budget the Government has demonstrated its commitment to ensuring Ireland remains competitive. Examples of this commitment include the guarantee to maintain high levels of investment in infrastructure over the next five years. The Government also reiterated its commitment to an equitable tax system that rewards work and reduces the burden on the lower paid in our society. By not increasing the main VAT and excise rates in the budget, the Government has demonstrated its commitment to ensuring that the progress made on reducing consumer price inflation during 2004 continues into next year.

The research agenda is one of the most important elements in terms of our drive to increase both competitiveness and quality employment now and in the future. A group involving representatives from industry, venture capitalists, the universities and institutes of technology, Departments and agencies has developed Ireland's research and development action plan under the aegis of my Department. The plan was published in August 2004. It sets a target of spend on research and development of 2.5% of GNP by 2010 and makes a range of high level recommendations in pursuit of this. These recommendations are ambitious, but represent the kind of actions Ireland needs to take, if it is to continue to be competitive in a fast-changing globalised economy.

The enterprise strategy group's, ESG, report, Ahead of the Curve, is pivotal in road mapping the future direction of Ireland's enterprise policy and ensuring our competitiveness in the future. The purpose of the ESG is to ensure that Ireland's enterprise sector is able to build on its strengths and is able to exploit new opportunities that will arise in the future. The Government is committed to implementing the recommendations contained in this report. The implementation process is currently being finalised.

County Enterprise Boards.

Denis Naughten

Question:

63 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the plans he has to review the eligibility criteria for funding from county enterprise boards; if he will provide additional funding to efficient county enterprise boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33587/04]

Within the past 12 months my Department, through Forfás, commissioned a review of the role and functions of the CEBs in the development of micro-enterprises. Fitzpatricks Associates conducted this review and it involved consultations with all relevant interested parties. The review represents the most comprehensive examination of the role and functions of the CEBs since their inception over ten years ago. The review was considered appropriate against the background of the major economic changes that have taken place in Ireland over that period.

The review largely endorsed the activities and operations of the CEBs. It concluded that there is justification for continued State support to micro-enterprises and that the CEB network can continue to play a useful role in the overall national enterprise development policy. The review recommended that in providing assistance to micro-enterprises CEBs should focus more on economic, rather than social or local development, objectives; that there should be a renewed focus on the core enterprise mission; that the issues of potential dead-weight, displacement and duplication should be more systematically and rigorously addressed and that there should be a move away from grants to repayable finance as well as to soft supports.

As funding for the CEBs is provided by the Exchequer, through the National Development Plan 2000-2006, support for the development of micro-enterprise as offered by the CEBs must operate within the parameters laid down in the relevant operational programmes of the national development plan, NDP.

The current NDP specifically states that there will be a progressive shift, over the lifetime of this NDP, from providing direct financial assistance to other non-financial supports such as advice, mentoring, and management development. As a result, where finance is provided, this is increasingly in the form of equity and refundable grants. In addition, the CEBs will continue to give priority to manufacturing and internationally traded services companies, which over time may develop into strong export entities.

In determining the allocations for individual city and county enterprise boards, CEBs, this year, my Department adopted a systematic approach to ensure the maximum degree of objectivity and equity of treatment. This approach involved the provision of a basic allocation to each board as well as an additional allocation that was determined mainly by population but which also took account of issues such as unemployment, capacity to spend, existing commitments and regional spread. My Department recently reviewed the level of funding available to the CEBs for the current year with a view to identifying funds which individual boards were not in a position to spend this year and to reallocating such funds to other boards who were in a position to utilise additional funding.

With regard to the issue of efficiency my Department, in partnership with the CEBs, continually monitors and evaluates the level of service provided by the boards to their client base. There is both a formal procedures manual and operating agreement in place between the Department and the boards to ensure that the efficient delivery of services by all CEBs is standardised across the country.

Trade Union Recognition.

Joan Burton

Question:

64 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in view of reports that a company (details supplied) is continuing to refuse to recognise the right of its employees to be represented by a trade union, he intends to legislate for collective bargaining arrangements in accordance with the principles of the ILO and enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and the proposed new EU Constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33745/04]

I understand that a claim was lodged by a trade union representing employees of the company referred to by the Deputy with the Labour Relations Commission under the Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Enhanced Code of Practice on Voluntary Dispute Resolution) (Declaration) Order 2004, S.I. No. 76 of 2004, but that no progress was made in resolving the union's claim. I understand further that the trade union then lodged a claim with the Labour Court under the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2001, as amended by the Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004, and the Labour Court has begun a preliminary hearing, which is scheduled to continue next week.

This legislation and the code of practice stem from the recommendations of a high level group comprising representatives from IBEC, ICTU, and various Government Departments and agencies and chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, which was established under Partnership 2000 to consider proposals submitted by ICTU on the recognition of unions and the right to bargain.

In line with the voluntarist nature of the system of industrial relations in Ireland, this group recommended that two distinct procedures be put in place for the resolution of disputes where negotiation arrangements are not in place and collective bargaining does not exist — a voluntary procedure and a legislative fall-back procedure. These recommendations were implemented through the Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Code of Practice on Voluntary Dispute Resolution) (Declaration) Order 2000, S.I. No. 145 of 2000, and the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2001. During the negotiations between the Government and the social partners on the partnership programme Sustaining Progress, the need to enhance the effectiveness of these procedures was agreed.

A number of measures which have resulted in significant improvements to the procedures were put in place earlier this year by means of the Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Enhanced Code of Practice on Voluntary Dispute Resolution) (Declaration) Order 2004, S.I. No. 76 of 2004, the Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Code of Practice on Victimisation) (Declaration) Order 2004, S.I. No. 139 of 2004, and the Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004. These measures include the introduction of timescales to the process of dispute resolution in situations where it is not the practice of the employer to engage in collective bargaining negotiations in respect of a particular grade or group of employees. I have no plans to bring forward further legislation in this matter.

Question No. 65 answered with QuestionNo. 6.
Question No. 66 answered with QuestionNo. 12.

Industrial Relations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

67 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the recent call made by the president of SIPTU for the establishment of a separate Department of Labour; the Government’s views on the proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33744/04]

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is structured in a way which recognises that enterprise and employment are complementary rather than competing factors. Calls for alternative configurations, such as that advocated by the president of SIPTU, appear to stem from a flawed concept that places jobs and welfare at work in competition with enterprise. The Government has a different and more positive view — one that seeks to grow the quality and number of jobs by growing trade and enterprise.

Only by growing our competitiveness, increasing our trade performance and expanding enterprise performance can we produce sustainable high quality jobs. Similarly, only by ensuring that we have a well-trained and confident workforce, which enjoys the protection of our health and safety and employment rights legislation, can enterprise flourish.

Since 1993, when the Department was established in its current formation, we have seen jobs and real wages growing at unprecedented levels. We have introduced the national minimum wage and seen a significant improvement in the legislative framework protecting workers. The welfare of workers, especially those most exposed to low incomes, has been transformed during this period. This has also helped sustain, and be sustained by, a parallel and unprecedented improvement in trade and enterprise performance. This is incontrovertible evidence that our pro-enterprise and pro-jobs policies have made a real difference.

While the factors supporting this transformation are manifold and social partnership clearly played its part, it is clear that the current configuration of my Department is right for Ireland and this was affirmed by Government following the last election. I am therefore, strongly opposed to any attempts to change this successful structure.

Export Licensing System.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

68 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date with regard to his Department’s 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. [33735/04]

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, Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Defence, Justice, Equality and Law Reform, together with the Revenue Commissioners. The group has met on three occasions to-date. Work on implementation of the range of recommendations has commenced and will be progressed over the coming months. I understand that the group plans to consult with parties with an interest in the area of export controls to hear their views on the implementation of the report's recommendations.

Copyright Legislation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

69 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the Government has formally responded to the reasoned opinion received from the European Commission in July 2004 (details supplied) regarding Ireland’s apparent failure to comply with Directive 92/100/EEC on rental rights, lending rights and on certain rights related to copyright which was transposed into Irish law by the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000, specifically by exempting all lending institutions from the obligation to pay rightholders for works lent by them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33765/04]

While the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 created a public lending right in Irish law, Article 5.3 of the 1992 directive allowed member states to exempt certain kinds of establishments from the obligation to collect the rental right levy in favour of authors. In opting to exempt all Irish libraries, account was taken of the small Irish lending pool, and of the likely small-scale benefit of a public lending right for authors compared with the costs of collection which would arise. The modest benefits of such a measure to authors was also considered in the context of national cultural policy and of our long-standing efforts to make information available to the public. It was for these reasons that Ireland, in its transposition of the directive, effectively exempted all public libraries from liability.

Subsequently, we became aware that the Commission disagreed with our approach in this matter. A letter was therefore issued by the Minister of State with responsibility for trade and commerce to the then Internal Market Commissioner, Mr. Frits Bolkestein on 2 June 2004, in anticipation of a reasoned opinion on the subject. That correspondence indicated that the Department would now consult other Departments that would necessarily be involved in the development of such right but that no final decision had been taken in regard to the introduction of a scheme.

In the event, the Commission issued its reasoned opinion on 7 July on the grounds of insufficient assurances of Irish willingness to respond to its concerns in the matter. In light of the correspondence referred to and other related correspondence, the Commission was fully aware of Ireland's position in respect of the issues set out in its reasoned opinion.

In the meantime, my Department has been consulting the main Departments involved and, following a further wider round of consultations, aims to frame proposals for a workable scheme of public lending rights in the near future. Proposals for legislative changes to give effect to such a scheme would also be required. The development of those proposals will take full account of the Commission's position regarding Ireland's compliance with the terms of the directive. In the meantime, my Department is in continuing informal contact with the European Commission about the matter.

Question No. 70 answered with QuestionNo. 6.
Questions Nos. 71 and 72 answered with Question No. 58.

Professional Fees.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

73 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; if he has now received final legal advice from the Attorney General on the proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33757/04]

I have carefully reviewed all the issues surrounding the making of an order under the Prices Acts requiring doctors and dentists to display the charges for their services. For reasons both legal and practical I have now decided not to proceed with the making of such an order.

In considering this matter I have had to examine whether a price display order for doctors and dentists could be effectively enforced. My considered view is that it would not be possible to enforce the present proposal and that consequently it would not be appropriate for me to make such an order.

Questions Nos. 74 and 75 answered with Question No. 6.
Question No. 76 answered with QuestionNo. 33.
Question No. 77 answered with QuestionNo. 6.

Economic Competitiveness.

Seán Ryan

Question:

78 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made in his consideration of the recommendations contained in the annual report of the National Competitiveness Council which he launched on 14 October 2004. [33758/04]

In its most recent report the National Competitiveness Council, NCC, included recommendations on maintaining a competitive taxation system while financing public investment. The NCC highlighted the importance of ongoing improvements to physical infrastructure as a critical factor in our competitiveness.

The Government recognises that economic competitiveness remains critical to our future well-being and this was pivotal in forming the recent budget. In budget 2005, the Government has committed itself to maintaining its high level of investment in infrastructure through the multi-annual capital envelopes, committing €36.3 billion over the next five years. This is almost twice the European average. The need for value for money for capital expenditure was also highlighted in the budget. The Department of Finance is due shortly to publish revised guidelines concerning the appraisal and management of capital projects. The budget also reiterated the Government's commitment to a taxation system that is designed to expand our economy, reward work and alleviate the tax burden for the lower paid. The Government also increased tax relief on certain third level fees, thereby increasing the affordability of higher education and promoting upskilling and lifelong learning among our workforce. All these areas were identified by the NCC in their 2004 report.

The NCC made a number of other recommendations in the areas of entrepreneurship, enterprise development, innovation and creativity. These and other recommendations are being considered by an interdepartmental group which is chaired by my Department. This interdepartmental group will prepare a report to Government on the recommendation early next year.

Question No. 79 answered with Question No. 6.

Industrial Relations.

Joe Costello

Question:

80 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he intends to publish the report of the review group on the employment rights bodies; if he will report on the main recommendations in the report; if he intends to implement these recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33747/04]

On foot of an undertaking in An Agreed 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 personnel from 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 review group found that while the current employment rights adjudication and enforcement system has served employers, workers and their representatives well over the years, it is a system that has now become overly complex and is considered to be working in a less than optimal fashion. The review group has proposed some changes in both the configuration and remit of the bodies concerned, together with a suggested programme of administrative and procedural reform.

Before formulating definitive proposals in this area I have recently requested that some further consultation be undertaken in relation to the report and its recommendations with the employment rights bodies concerned and the social partners. This exercise, which I expect to be completed before the end of the year, does not seek to replicate the work of the review group but will build on it. I expect to be in a position to indicate the way forward early in the new year and I would then expect to make the report available on my Department's website.

Questions Nos. 81 and 82 answered with Question No. 6.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

83 Ms O’Sullivan 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. [33734/04]

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 is already in receipt of advice from the Office of the Attorney General to the effect that the issue of corporate killing has broad implications.

As I indicated on Committee Stage of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004, which took place on 23 and 24 November last, Government policy is to await the review by the Law Reform Commission and to then decide what is to be done with regard to the issue of corporate manslaughter. The provisions in section 80 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004 entitled "Liability of directors and officers of undertakings" are more explicit in relation to the assignment of responsibility than an existing provision in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989. However it is worth noting that directors and managers of companies have in the past been prosecuted for failures under occupational safety law which resulted in death or serious injury to workers.

Dan Boyle

Question:

84 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he plans to introduce penalties and interest for employers who delay compensation payments awarded to employees. [33847/04]

There are no proposals to introduce penalties and fines for employers who delay payment of awards. There is a right of redress for employees under existing legislation. Employment rights legislation provides for action that may be taken where an employer fails to pay the award, or appeals the determination or decision to the Circuit Court or as appropriate to the District Court. It provides that where an employer fails to carry out the terms of a determination or a decision of the Labour Court within six weeks of the date on which the determination or decision is communicated to the parties concerned, the Circuit Court or, where appropriate, the District Court, shall on application to it in that behalf by the employee concerned, or with the consent of the employee, any trade union of which the employee is a member, or the Minister, if the Minister considers it appropriate to make the application having regard to all the circumstances make an order directing the employer to carry out the determination or decision in accordance with its terms.

The Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 1993, the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 and the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 provide that the Circuit Court may, in an order, having regard to all the circumstances, where the order relates to the payment of compensation, direct the employer to pay the employee concerned interest on the compensation at the rate referred to in the Courts Act 1981. There is a similar provision in the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994, which allows the District Court to direct the employer to pay the employee concerned interest on the compensation.

Joan Burton

Question:

85 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made with regard to the Government’s proposals to provide legal protection on a sectoral basis for whistleblowers who may wish to expose illegalities or wrong doing on the part of their employers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33746/04]

In reply to a question on the provision of legal protection for whistleblowers I informed the House, in my reply of 16 November 2004, that the provision of statutory protection on a sectoral basis would provide a better and more focused approach to dealing with the issue. A provision has been included in that regard in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004, currently before this House, which provides for protection against dismissal and penalisation of employees who, in good faith, take steps to protect themselves or others in a workplace situation.

Health Board Staff.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

86 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if sanction is being sought for extra clinical psychologists for the North Western Health Board (details attached); if so, the status of this application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33930/04]

Responsibility for human resource planning, including in respect of clinical psychology posts, rests in this instance with the chief executive officer, CEO, of the North-Western Health Board. The CEO, in managing the workforce in his region, is responsible for determining the appropriate staffing mix and the precise grades of staff to be employed in line with service plan priorities, subject to overall employment levels remaining within the approved regional employment ceiling. My Department has, therefore, requested the CEO to investigate the matters raised by the Deputy and to reply to her directly.

Pharmaceutical Goods and Services.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

87 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will consider points made by a company (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33931/04]

All aspects of the drug delivery system from the manufacturer to the patient are currently under review. The health service procurement improvement project has analysed the State's procurement of pharmaceutical goods and services. A national drugs prescribing group is evaluating proposals in relation to the control of drugs costs contained in various reports, for example, Brennan and Deloitte & Touche, to determine their feasibility and early delivery as part of the health reform agenda.

An agreement is in place between the Department of Health and Children, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, IPHA, and the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Ireland, APMI, which sets out the supply terms and prices of medicines supplied to the health services. The agreement covers all reimbursable prescription medicines in the general medical services and community drug schemes and all medicines supplied to hospitals and health boards. The current agreement expires in mid-2005 and the Department will shortly be entering into negotiation with IPHA-APMI.

It should be noted that clinical decisions in relation to prescribing are taken by a general practitioner or consultant based on the symptoms of the presenting patient. A pharmacist may only vary a prescription in exceptional circumstances. There are no incentives to dispense or prescribe expensive medicines but there is a system in place to encourage rational prescribing.

Health Board Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

88 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason transport was not provided to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo by the Western Health Board to attend a hospital appointment; and the way in which this person is expected to attend hospital appointments with no public transport available. [33936/04]

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 in relation to this case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Denis Naughten

Question:

89 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon will be called for a urology outpatients appointment at the County Hospital, Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33941/04]

The provision of hospital services for people living in County Roscommon is a matter for the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

90 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 179 of 9 November 2004, if the child care report has been finalised; if training issues for pre-school inspection staff will arise as a result of the requirements of the revised regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33944/04]

The report on the review of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 1996 and the 1997 amending regulations has been completed pending clarification on a small number of legal and technical issues. Training issues for pre-school inspection staff which may arise as a result of the requirements of the revised regulations will be a matter for the Health Service Executive as part of the implementation of the revised regulations.

Long-term Illness Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

91 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will define haemochromatosis as a long-term illness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33956/04]

Denis Naughten

Question:

92 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason persons with haemochromatosis cannot donate blood; the plans there are to review this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33957/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 and 92 together.

Under the Health Act 1970, a health board may arrange for the supply, without charge, of drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances to people with a specified condition, for the treatment of that condition through the long-term illness scheme, LTI. The conditions are: mental handicap; mental illness, for people under 16 only; phenylketonuria; cystic fibrosis; spina bifida; hydrocephalus; diabetes mellitus; diabetes insipidus; haemophilia; cerebral palsy; epilepsy; multiple sclerosis; muscular dystrophies; parkinsonism; conditions arising from thalidomide and acute leukaemia. Parkinsonism, acute leukaemia, muscular dystrophies and multiple sclerosis were added to the scheme in 1975. The LTI does not cover GP fees or hospital co-payments.

Prior to 1971, there was inadequate provision for assistance to people with large ongoing medical expenses. The purpose of the LTI scheme was to protect patients with a specified condition from excessive drug costs, by providing free drugs and medicines to treat that condition only. Following the establishment of the GMS scheme in 1971, to provide free treatment for those who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange to provide it for themselves and their dependants, various co-payment schemes have been introduced to provide assistance towards the cost of approved drugs and medicines for non-medical card holders with significant ongoing medical expenses, without restriction to the treatment of a particular condition. Since 1999, non-medical card holders and people with conditions not covered under the LTI have been able to use the drugs payment scheme, DPS. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €78 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The monthly threshold is due to increase to €85 from 1 January 2005. In light of the protection from excessive drug costs provided by the GMS and DPS schemes, there are no plans to amend the list of eligible conditions under the LTI.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

93 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be reinstated to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is a lone parent and has four dependent children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34000/04]

Responsibility for the provision of a medical card is, by legislation, a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Hospital Services.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

94 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 282 of 11 May 2004 and the subsequent response from the Western Health Board (details supplied), if the business plan in respect of both acute and chronic pain service has been received from the Western Health Board; her views on such a plan; if resources will be made to implement same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34029/04]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

95 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 282 of 11 May 2004 and the subsequent response from the Western Health Board (details supplied), if she will make resources available as a matter of urgency to enable the service to he provided at University College Hospital, Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34030/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 95 together.

The provision of hospital services for people living in County Galway is a matter for the Western Health Board. I understand that the board was unable to provide the service referred to by the Deputy in 2004. However, the board has informed my Department that it will consider the matter in the context of its 2005 service plan.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

96 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to assist a person (details supplied) in efforts to have a pupil receive speech and language therapy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34031/04]

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

Health Board Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

97 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the new health centre and health board offices in Ballymun, Dublin 9 which have been lying idle for 20 months; if funding has been provided in the Estimates for the commissioning of this much needed facility; when that funding will be released; if there are outstanding issues to be resolved; if so, the details of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34035/04]

The former Eastern Health Board and its successors the Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA, and the Northern Area Health Board, NAHB, in conjunction with Ballymun Regeneration Limited — a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dublin City Council — proceeded with the development of Ballymun primary care centre in the absence of my Department's involvement or approval; consequently, my Department must conduct an evaluation of this project. The Deputy will appreciate that a detailed examination of this development is a fundamental requirement for those who are accountable for approving it.

My Department commenced an evaluation of this project when the ERHA and the NAHB sought funding last year for the provision and fit-out of these facilities — as construction work approached completion on site. This evaluation has to date concentrated on consideration of the issues relating to the capital component of the development; these are now at an advanced stage and relate to compliance with procurement requirements and associated matters. Once the evaluation is completed, my Department will be in a position to make a recommendation in respect of the provision of funding for this project.

Hospital Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

98 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the recent letter from Patients Together in relation to the outcome and follow-up following her meeting with the group on 5 November 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34039/04]

As I announced recently I have secured additional funding of €70 million to implement a number of initiatives to improve the delivery of emergency services. I am confident that these measures will have a significant impact on the delivery of accident and emergency services. Details regarding the implementation of these measures will be a matter for the incoming Health Service Executive to negotiate with the individual hospitals concerned. I will be replying directly to the recent letter from the Patients Together group very shortly.

Hospital Accommodation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

99 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the design phase in relation to a hospital (details supplied) in County Cork has been completed; and when it is expected that the building phase will commence. [34045/04]

The Southern Health Board has proposed that capital development works be undertaken at Bandon Community Hospital, to increase its existing bed complement from 23 to 40 beds.

A project team has prepared a draft brief which is at present being considered by the board and my Department. Issues such as the scope of the development, and the possible configuration of the proposed extra beds, have yet to be agreed. There are also significant non-capital costs associated with the proposal that remain to be addressed. A considerable amount of work remains to be done to clarify all outstanding issues. In the circumstances, it is not possible at this stage to indicate when building works may commence. I fully appreciate the need for new infrastructure works at the hospital. The project will be considered in the context of the Health Capital Investment Framework 2005-09, in line with overall funding resources available to progress new capital commitments under this initiative.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

100 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a bed will be made available in Beaumont Hospital for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34075/04]

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 in relation to this case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

101 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be granted immediately to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny on medical grounds. [34076/04]

Responsibility for the provision of a medical card is, by legislation, a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board or authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the South Eastern Health Board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Garda Stations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

102 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the position regarding the promised new Garda stations in Ballymun and Finglas, Dublin. [34034/04]

With regard to Ballymun, the Commissioners of Public Works are in ongoing negotiations with Ballymun Regeneration Limited regarding a suitable site for the new Garda station. With regard to Finglas, the Commissioners of Public Works have recently identified a suitable site in Finglas and negotiations with Dublin City Council are ongoing.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

103 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when he expects applications for biofuel pilot projects to be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34061/04]

The Deputy may be aware that section 98(a) of the Finance Act 1999, as inserted by section 50 of the Finance Act 2004, provides for the introduction of a scheme for excise tax relief for biofuels. The purpose of the scheme is to allow qualified and conditional relief from excise of biofuel used in approved pilot projects for either the production of biofuel or the testing of the technical viability of biofuel for use as a motor fuel.

The details of the scheme, which includes pure plant oil, biodiesel and bioethanol, are being finalised in conjunction with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. The European Commission has confirmed that the scheme would represent a State aid and, consequently, its approval is required. The EU energy tax directive of 2003 envisages such tax relief and the Commission has approved schemes for excise relief of biofuel in other EU member states. My Department and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources have had a number of meetings with European Commission officials in respect of this and it is expected that a formal application for Commission approval will be made shortly. Assuming approval is granted, the necessary commencement order will then be signed. Following this, the project selection and approval process will be set in train.

Pension Provisions.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

104 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the pension entitlement of the spouse of an established civil servant after the death of the pensioner in circumstances in which the couple are living apart, legally separated, and divorced, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33914/04]

There are a number of spouses and children's schemes for civil servants. While the rules of the schemes are broadly similar, entitlements and restrictions can vary from scheme to scheme. Under the rules of these schemes the term "spouse" means the surviving spouse of a marriage which is accepted as valid under the law of the State. Accordingly, the rules of the spouses and children's schemes recognise the entitlement of a surviving spouse, as defined above, who is either living apart from or legally separated from the deceased member of the scheme. Entitlement ceases, as a general rule, in cases of divorce.

It should be noted, however, that the terms of a valid pensions adjustment order issued by the courts will take precedence over the rules of the schemes. In the case of the spouses and children's pension schemes an order in relation to benefits may be made in favour of the dependent spouse and-or a person for the benefit of a dependent child, subject to certain conditions. Such an order is served on the trustees of the pension scheme and requires that a specified part of the benefit or benefits must be paid by them to the person or persons named in the order.

Flood Relief.

Tony Gregory

Question:

105 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance if the OPW has responsibility for the River Tolka boundary wall along East Wall Road, Dublin 3; if arrangements can be made to repair, repoint and raise this wall in view of its critical role in flood prevention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33915/04]

Tony Gregory

Question:

106 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance if the OPW will replace the damaged rails on the embankment wall at the rear of a road (details supplied) in Dublin 3 which is hazardous in view of the heavy flow of the River Tolka at that point. [33916/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 105 and 106 together.

The Office of Public Works is not responsible for the wall in question. The Office of Public Works has undertaken works on the River Tolka in the city area on behalf of Dublin City Council. The works have been undertaken following two separate public exhibitions by the city council in 2003 and 2004, as required under Part 8 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001.

The final report of the River Tolka flooding study did not contain any recommendations on the areas outlined by the Deputy. Officials from the OPW and the city council will shortly enter discussions on what works can be carried out in 2005 and I will arrange to have the areas referred to here considered to determine if works are required and, if so, what priority they should be accorded in the overall work programme.

Pay Related Social Insurance.

Michael Ring

Question:

107 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if the practical arrangements for claiming refunds of PRSI to persons on personal pension payments has been published by the Revenue Commissioners; and if so, the details of same. [33919/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Department of Social and Family Affairs has finalised arrangements with them in this matter and that the Collector General's division of Revenue is now dealing with refunds of PRSI in the circumstances outlined. The Department of Social and Family Affairs will advertise to advise the public of the position early in the new year.

Claims will be processed by: Customer Service Section, Collector General, Sarsfield House, Limerick, LoCall 1890 203070, Fax 061 488673. Prior to any claim for PRSI refund, an application for refund of tax on the pension contribution must have been made to the applicant's tax district. At the end of the tax year a claim for refund of PRSI should then be made in writing to the customer service section, including a copy of the P60 for the tax year to which the claim relates. I am also advised that claims already forwarded to the Department of Social and Family Affairs have been transferred to Revenue for processing.

Tax Code.

Joe Higgins

Question:

108 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if spouses in receipt of maintenance payments should be entitled to money gained from tax relief in respect of maintenance payments. [33946/04]

The treatment of maintenance payments in the case of separated spouses is governed by section 1025 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. The section deals with payments made under a maintenance arrangement. A maintenance arrangement is defined as an order of court, rule of court, deed of separation, trust, covenant, agreement or arrangement or any other act giving rise to a legally enforceable arrangement and made or done in consequence of the separation or the annulment or dissolution of a marriage.

Where a legally binding maintenance arrangement is in place, then tax law provides that a tax deduction for maintenance payments for the benefit of his or her spouse is granted to the paying spouse and the payments are taxed in the hands of the receiving spouse; or the separated couple may jointly elect to be treated for tax purposes as if the separation had not taken place and, where such an election is made, the payer does not receive a tax deduction for the maintenance payments and the receiving spouse is not taxable on them.

Where a payment made under a maintenance arrangement is for the benefit of a child, the parent making the payment is not entitled to tax deduction in respect of such payment and the payment is not regarded for income tax purposes as the income of the other parent or as income of the child.

Where a separated couple has not jointly elected to be treated for tax purposes as if the separation had not taken place and where either spouse has dependent children resident with him or her at any time during the tax year, the one parent family tax credit is due in addition to the basic personal tax credit. Where custody of a child is shared between spouses and the child is resident with both spouses at intervals during the tax year, the one-parent family tax credit is due to both spouses in respect of the same child. Cohabiting couples living together as man and wife may not claim the credit.

As regards the specific issue raised by the Deputy, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that under existing tax law, a spouse in receipt of legally binding maintenance payments is not entitled to the maintenance tax relief due to the spouse paying the maintenance or any money gained from tax relief, for example, a refund arising in the case of a retrospective claim in relief. There are no plans to change the current arrangements regarding the taxation of maintenance payments.

Flood Relief.

Denis Naughten

Question:

109 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 289 of 29 September 2004 the progress to date of the consultations with the interested parties; the plans there are to implement its recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33970/04]

The pre-feasibility report on Shannon flooding was distributed in October 2004 to the 22 stakeholders who contributed to its completion. As the report is very detailed and the distribution widespread, observations are not anticipated from all the parties concerned prior to the end of February 2005.

Tax Code.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

110 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if all the tenants of a business park (details supplied) in County Cork are in compliance with the criteria for tax designation under the Finance Act 1997; and if, in view of a number of complaints received in relation to possible non-compliance, he will investigate this matter. [34054/04]

Section 26 of the Finance Act 1997 provides that the Minister for Finance may by order direct that areas immediately adjacent to certain regional airports are to be treated as enterprise areas and qualify for reliefs broadly in line with the reliefs available under the urban renewal scheme. There is no provision under this section, nor in any of the relevant legislative provisions providing tax relief in respect of the enterprise areas, to the effect that all of the buildings in the enterprise area must be qualifying buildings occupied by qualifying companies carrying out qualifying operations for the purposes of the enterprise areas tax incentive scheme.

Port Development.

Enda Kenny

Question:

111 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the expansion in capacity at Dublin Port; when he expects that planning permission will be granted for such an expansion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34009/04]

Dublin Port is under the control and management of Dublin Port Company, which is in State ownership. The company is one of ten port companies established under the Harbours Acts 1996 and 2000 and operating under the aegis of the Department. The Harbours Acts provide that the principal objects of each of these companies include the provision of such facilities, services, accommodation and lands in its harbour for ships, goods and passengers as it considers necessary. Ireland's commercial ports are vital transport arteries, carrying 99% by volume of our external trade. However, the internal resources of our commercial ports are not sufficient in general to fund large-scale infrastructure projects.

The Department has drafted a comprehensive ports policy statement which I intend to publish in the near future. One of the major policy areas addressed by the policy statement will be how to meet the predicted deficit in seaport capacity. The Department has commissioned independent consultants, Baxter Eadie Limited, to prepare a series of reports on seaport capacity and future projected capacity needs. Earlier this year, Baxter Eadie Limited prepared a desk study update in order to identify the effect Ireland's changing economic circumstances have had on projected capacity needs at the seaports. The study takes into account current economic growth projections and looks at capacity up to 2014.

Looking to 2014, the study has found that traffic is expected to grow by 16.2 million tonnes, some 35% above tonnage handled in 2003, while growth in capacity over the same period is projected at a very low level, about 1% over the period. These projections are based on known changes which have full approval for implementation and do not include any other plans for infrastructure improvements. A capacity shortfall of 12.2 million tonnes is projected by 2014. The consultants state that the situation warrants decisions and further action in order to avoid increasing delays and congestion in some ports, particularly for unit load cargoes.

The Department recognises that the study by Baxter Eadie Limited is necessarily an inexact exercise, the implications of which will need to be checked against actual experience in each of the ports. In the context of the ports policy statement, it is necessary that a policy framework be put in place to ensure that capacity needs are identified, planned and progressed in a co-ordinated manner. The proposal by Dublin Port Company for the provision of a new port facility on the northern side of the port would fall to be considered within this proposed policy framework along with all other proposals from the public and private sectors to address the potential capacity deficit.

Dublin Port Company claims ownership of certain areas of foreshore in Dublin Bay, including the area in which the company proposes to reclaim some 21 hectares. Evidence of ownership of the area in question provided by Dublin Port Company has been examined for the Department by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor and it is expected that consideration of this matter will be finalised in the near future.

If it is established that the foreshore in question is in the ownership of the company, the proposed reclamation would fall to be considered under section 10, as amended, of the Foreshore Act 1933. Reclamation of State-owned foreshore, on the other hand, requires authorisation by way of a foreshore lease granted under section 2 of that Act. In either event, consideration of Dublin Port Company's application will involve a process of public consultation in which interested persons and organisations will have an opportunity to make submissions on relevant issues.

The EIS prepared by the company in respect of the proposed reclamation would be made available as part of any public consultation on the proposal. Certain matters relating to that document are under consideration. Dublin Port Company will also have to apply for planning permission for the proposed reclamation. As the Deputy will be aware, I have no function with regard to the granting of planning permission.

Harbours and Piers.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

112 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if work will commence on the new pier at Bantry in west Cork. [34027/04]

I refer the Deputy to the replies to Question No. 137 on 13 October 2004, Question No. 95 on 21 October 2004 and Question No. 243 on 17 November 2004 giving the up-to-date position as regards the pier development proposed by Bantry Bay Harbour Commissioners, which I will outline again.

On 6 September 2004 a meeting took place between the commissioners and the former Minister of State at the Department, Deputy Browne. Following the meeting, the Minister of State wrote to the commissioners setting out his understanding of the outcome of the meeting and of how to ensure that the dialogue between the Department and the commissioners can be progressed in the future on a positive basis. The letter reiterated that the interruption in the dialogue between the Department and the commissioners and the referral of the matter to the Attorney General was a direct consequence of the unilateral decision by the commissioners to sign a contract in March 2002 for the construction of the pier. This occurred while discussions with the Department on the viability of the project were ongoing.

The Department has received advice from the Attorney General on the proposed pier development. However, no decisions have been taken by the Department on foot of this advice on the contract entered into by the commissioners.

The former Minister of State's letter further indicated that from the discussions which had taken place, it appeared the commissioners believed the business environment for the project had shifted from that originally envisaged. The projected costs had escalated since the consideration of Exchequer support of €1.9 million by the former Minister of State, Deputy Fahey. Furthermore, no progress appeared to have been made on the conditions contained in the former Minister of State's letter of 15 May 2002, which expressly instructed the commissioners not to enter into any contractual commitments pending a report on progress on two stipulated conditions. These conditions relate to negotiations with the terminal operator.

The former Minister of State proposed in his letter to the commissioners that the project be reviewed in terms of its viability, the financial implications for the commissioners of increased borrowings for the project due to its escalated cost and the risks to the project posed by the dominant position of the terminal operator. To this end, the Department has invited the commissioners to submit for consideration a fully detailed updated proposal for the project, including a business plan with financial tables.

The proposed course set out is a sound basis for progressing the matter and I look forward to the Department receiving for consideration the updated proposal from the commissioners in due course. I would like to clarify that consideration of any updated proposal from the commissioners by the Department in due course will be subject to the availability of funding.

Foreshore Licences.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

113 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the report on the proposed coastal barrage for Clonakilty has been finalised; and if the foreshore licence will be issued to enable the project to proceed. [34028/04]

I expect to have a detailed report furnished within a week. I will consider it as a matter of urgency and make an early decision on the matter.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

114 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he has examined the issue of state aid in respect of the need to encourage alternative energy; his views on the need to encourage renewable sources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34063/04]

The promotion of renewable energy technologies is a key priority of this Government. The Green Paper on Sustainable Energy published in 1999 established a target to add 500 MW of new renewable energy based electricity generating plant to the electricity network by 2005. In addition, at the launch of AER VI, my predecessor announced support for an additional 50 MW of new generating capacity in an offshore wind category and an additional 28 MW specific to biomass powered CHP plants. Subsequently at the announcement of the initial round of offers in AER VI it was proposed to add a further 140 MW to the original 500 MW target subject to State aids clearance.

The necessary State aids clearance was received recently and I announced the allocations, by category and by applicants, of the remaining unallocated AER VI support last Monday, 13 December. Full details of the successful applicants and the allocations are available on my Department's website at www.dcmnr.ie.

AER VI brings to a close an initial programme to add renewable energy technologies to the network at a level which does not raise serious technical issues. However, planning for future programmes at increased penetration levels does cause significant technical issues which must be addressed to maintain system security for electricity customers. This plan may in turn require a revision of the current support programme to embrace changes required to allow higher levels of wind energy penetration in particular.

At the end of last year a consultation document was published entitled, Options for Future Renewable Energy Policy, Targets and Programmes. The consultation document and supporting annexes, which examine in detail support mechanisms and renewable energy policies in Ireland and in other European countries, were published on my Department's website. They examined key future challenges, including policy, future green energy markets, how to overcome barriers to the deployment of renewable energy and future options for market support mechanisms.

In May this year a renewable energy development group was established chaired by my Department. The group comprises relevant experts from the administrative and scientific sectors which interact appropriately with key market players. This group will advise on future options on policies, targets, programmes and support measures to develop the increased use of renewable energy to 2010 and beyond. The group is aware that the European Commission determined that the AER programme involved the payment of State aid to the generators supported by the programmes. It will take the issue into account in any recommendations it may make in its report. This report, which is due shortly, will form the basis of my future policy decisions.

In tandem with this work programme administered by my Department, 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 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 research and development.

Passport Applications.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

115 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of passports for Irish children under the age of 18 which have been issued by his officials to the parents of Irish children; the number of Irish children recorded on the passports of their parents in the knowledge that a parent or parents were to be deported imminently in the past three years. [32576/04]

The existing database in the Passport Office does not classify passport holders by age and it is not possible, therefore, to give a precise figure for the number of passports issued to children under 18 years of age. However, the Passport Office estimates that approximately 4 million passports have been issued in the past ten years and that, of these, about 20% or 800,000 were issued to minors.

The new automated passport issuing system being introduced has a much greater capacity to produce management information reports and, when fully implemented, will be able to give a breakdown of passports issued by age as well as other criteria.

The Passport Office does not record the immigration status of foreign nationals who apply for passports on behalf of their Irish born children. It is not possible, therefore, to indicate how many passports have been issued in the past three years to children whose parents were about to be deported.

Overseas Development Aid.

Joe Higgins

Question:

116 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the new target date by which Ireland will reach the UN target of 0.7% of GDP and a multi-annual plan to reach this target in view of the fact that budget 2005 made no mention of a new date for meeting the UN target for overseas aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33926/04]

The allocation for 2005 provides for an increase of €60 million in Government spending on official development assistance next year. This will bring total Government aid to the developing world to approximately €535 million in 2005. In addition, the Government has agreed to make further increases of €65 million in each of the years 2006 and 2007. These substantial increases mean that €1.8 billion will be spent by Ireland on development assistance over the coming three years. I welcome these increases.

The three year, multi-annual commitment, incorporating substantial annual increases, gives my Department a sound basis to carry forward the long-term planning which is so important for development work. The Government remains committed to reaching the 0.7% target as soon as possible. We will examine the question of a revised timetable in the new year to see how we can best take this forward.

Sports Capital Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

117 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he intends to seek applications for the 2005 sports capital programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33967/04]

Applications for funding under the 2005 sports capital programme were invited through advertisements in the press on 5 and 6 December last. Application forms and guidelines as well as terms and conditions for the programme are available either directly from the sports capital unit of my Department or online from my Department's website, www.dast.gov.ie. The deadline for receipt in my Department of application forms and all necessary supporting documentation is 5 p.m. on Friday, 4 February 2005.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Mary Wallace

Question:

118 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the 55 locations at which swimming pools are to be provided under his Department’s swimming pool programme for which the closing date was four years ago; if, under the expenditure review programme being undertaken, consideration will be given to opening the programme to counties such as Meath which are not at present included in the list of 55 which applied in July 2000 and in which the population has exploded, particularly in the south east at locations such as Ratoath and Bettystown; his views on whether such locations should be permitted to make applications at this time, especially in view of the fact that the review of this four year programme is now taking place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34049/04]

Of the 55 swimming pool projects within the current programme, 14 have been completed, nine are under construction or about to start construction, four are at tender stage, 13 are at contract document stage and 15 are at preliminary report stage. These projects are located in Arklow, Courtown-Gorey, Dundalk, Ennis, Enniscorthy, Monaghan, where there will be two — refurbishment initially, but now a new pool, Navan, Wicklow, Roscommon, Tralee — also two — Ballinasloe, Tuam, Loughrea, Finglas, Ballymun and Ballyfermot in Dublin, Limerick City, Clonmel, Cork City, Cobh, Youghal, Dunmanway, Drogheda, Jobstown and Clondalkin in south County Dublin, Letterkenny, Killarney, Ballybunion, Naas, Athy, Portarlington, Portlaoise, Askeaton, Thurles, Longford, Glenalbyn and Dundrum in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Skerries, Claremorris, Castlebar, Birr, Clara, Edenderry, Tullamore, Bray, Greystones, Kilkenny, Roscrea, Ballybofey, Buncrana, Ferrybank in Wexford, New Ross and Ballaghadereen.

The expenditure review of the local authority swimming pool programme, which is under way in my Department and due to be completed next year, will examine how the programme has worked to date, the benefits which have accrued to areas in which pools have been built and what changes, if any, are required to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of the programme. In addition, the review is expected to assist in formulating future policy on the construction of swimming pools by local authorities. In this context, the question of re-opening the pool programme will be considered when the review is completed.

Work Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

119 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will review the work permit application in the name of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34001/04]

The work permit section of my Department took a decision to refuse this permit due to the fact that the above named employee has worked since May 2003 without a work permit and has resided in the State since January 2003 without an up-to-date residency stamp. Having considered an appeal the work permit section recently took a decision to uphold the original decision in this case.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

120 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the further progress which has been made in the implementation of the recommendations contained in the enterprise strategy group report, in particular, with regard to the future role and structure of Enterprise Ireland. [34047/04]

The enterprise strategy group was established by the Tánaiste to prepare a report that would serve as a blueprint for an enterprise strategy for growth and employment in Ireland. Under its terms of reference, the group was asked to develop a medium-term enterprise strategy and propose and prioritise national policy responses which would: strengthen the competitiveness of Ireland's enterprise environment; promote the emergence of an innovative and knowledge driven economy; ensure balanced regional development; sustain, where feasible, those industries already providing significant employment; underpin the industries of the future where Ireland is or can become a substantial player with particular reference to segments of the ICT, life sciences, food, financial services and internationally traded services sectors; encourage business start-ups and companies with potential for growth; and examine the scope for increasing the value of sectors to the economy as a whole.

In this context the group was asked to take into account a number of important domestic and external factors which will determine our future growth potential. These included long-term international trends in globalisation, EU enlargement, technology and regulation, as well as in the developing structure of industries and markets and Ireland's increased prosperity and changing cost and competitiveness base.

The Government considered the report of the enterprise group in advance of its publication on 7 July last. Due to the large number of recommendations made and the fact that they impacted on a number of Departments and agencies, the Government decided to set up a high level committee to consider the implications of the report and the best manner to address its recommendations.

The report contains 51 recommendations, approximately half of which are appropriate to Departments other than mine. Accordingly, ten Departments were represented on the committee. Given the widespread nature of these recommendations, their importance and, in certain cases, their complexity, detailed analyses and extensive consultations were required. My understanding is that the committee expects to finalise its report in the near future and I propose to present it to Cabinet colleagues immediately thereafter.

It is my intention that a specific plan will be drafted on each recommendation to be implemented. These would be closely monitored to ensure their implementation within a specified timeframe.

While it would not be appropriate for me to comment on specific recommendations in advance of receiving the report of the high level committee and communicating my views to Government colleagues, I am aware that some of the recommendations in the report reflect initiatives already under way or envisaged in Departments and agencies. For example, prior to the publication of the enterprise strategy group's report in July of this year, the Government on 22 June 2004 approved a new co-ordination and governance system for STI, which included the establishment of the position of chief science adviser to the Government, a post which was filled with effect from 1 September.

I do not need to outline the challenges we face in an increasingly competitive environment. The decisions we make now must ensure Ireland remains a dynamic economy. I look forward, therefore, to receiving the report of the high level committee.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

121 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason for the recent budgetary announcement regarding the transfer of the funding of some element of the jobs initiative and community employment schemes to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. [34048/04]

The Minister for Finance announced in budget 2005 on 1 December 2004 that he was providing €5 million for the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to support the development of community services in disadvantaged areas and to complement the contribution of workers employed for service delivery under the social economy and job initiative programmes operated by FÁS. These moneys are over and above the amount provided in the 2005 Estimates for FÁS employment schemes, which is €367.8 million. FÁS employment programmes, which comprise community employment, social economy and job initiative, are being maintained at their existing level in 2005 at 25,000 places.

Departmental Statistics.

David Stanton

Question:

122 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of patents registered in the Patents Office each year from 1997 to date; the measures in place to encourage inventiveness and the registration of patents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33937/04]

The Patents Office has provided me with the following table on the numbers of patents registered each year from 1997 to date.

National Patents

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004 to 30.11.04

20 year term

1,176

344

172

298

249

156

360

288

Short term (ten years)

229

250

148

158

302

461

221

162

Total

1,405

594

320

456

551

617

581

450

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004 to 30/09/04

Granted European Patents designating Ireland*

5,485

6,518

6,968

5,916

7,922

13,573

21,843

19,047

*These patents, granted by the European Patents Office, Munich, have been entered in the national register of patents and have the same legal status in Ireland as if they had been granted by the Patents Office.

Information on the numbers of patents granted is published each year in the annual report of the Controller of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks. The Irish Council for Science and Technology, ICSTI, in its statement on commercialisation of publicly funded research in February 2001 made specific recommendations on increasing resources for industry-research liaison, encouraging commercialisation and increasing early stage funding for research with commercial potential. ICSTI has since published a code of practice directed at encouraging research performing bodies to introduce systems and procedures to ensure research results are protected and exploited effectively.

A number of actions have been undertaken by Enterprise Ireland to develop and enhance the commercialisation of valuable research which has been undertaken for the ultimate benefit of the economy. It has taken a lead with other funding agencies to ensure best practice commercialisation provisions are included in research funding contracts. Enterprise Ireland offers financial and expert advisory resources to support industrial liaison or commercialisation offices within third level institutions. It also provides advisory and financial support to third level institutions and companies on the protection, development and commercialisation of inventions, including funding for patent applications. Enterprise Ireland was also recently one of the sponsors of an intellectual property advisory booklet produced by the Irish Exporters Association and participated in workshops run by the association.

While the principal statutory role of the Patents Office is the grant of rights in the fields of patents, trade marks and designs, the office also seeks to raise awareness of the importance of intellectual property rights through the dissemination of information on these areas, principally via its website, www.patentsoffice.ie. The office also seeks to encourage use of the patents system through the production of guides and booklets on paper and on CD-ROM dealing with the acquisition of patent rights in Ireland, Europe and throughout the world.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Phil Hogan

Question:

123 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of workers being retrained under the CSCS scheme nationally; the reason this retraining is required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33938/04]

To date, more than 30,000 people have been trained under the construction skills certification scheme, CSCS. FÁS recently carried out a quality assurance exercise on the training provided to 270 trainees and workers. On completion of this quality assurance exercise, FÁS was not satisfied that all the relevant courses were conducted fully in accordance with the requirements laid down by FÁS. As a result of this, arrangements have now been put in place to retrain or re-assess 239 of these workers.

Legal Metrology Service.

Denis Naughten

Question:

124 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the role his Department has in monitoring the weighing equipment in meat slaughtering facilities; the number of discrepancies in such plants and the plants involved in each of the past two years; the measures taken by his Department; the action taken to refund farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33953/04]

Weighing equipment used for trade is subject to control by the Legal Metrology Service in accordance with the Metrology Acts 1980 to 1998. The regime of control includes approval of new designs of weighing equipment, verification of instruments of an approved design upon installation and following repair or recalibration and inspection over the life of the instruments.

I understand from the Legal Metrology Service that, based on requirements laid down by the Department of Agriculture and Food some years ago, arrangements were put in place to carry out additional checks on weighing instruments in meat plants involved in the various European Union and Government schemes. These checks, which were over and above those required under metrology law, were carried out at two to three monthly intervals.

Following identification of a number of serious health and safety risks the testing of weighing equipment used for trade in meat processing plants was reviewed during the period 2002 to 2004. During the review process limited inspections were carried out and these did not reveal any discrepancies.

Discussions took place between the Legal Metrology Service, the Irish Meat Association, IBEC and the Department of Agriculture and Food regarding appropriate procedures to be followed during testing so as to minimise or eliminate health and safety risks. An agreement has recently been reached on a revised set of requirements which must be met by processing plants to facilitate testing by the Legal Metrology Service. It is intended to resume inspection as required under the metrology law or by the Department of Agriculture and Food early in 2005. Issues relating to refunds to farmers do not fall within the remit of my Department or the Legal Metrology Service.

Questions Nos. 125 and 126 answered with Question No. 37.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

127 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he has taken to address the issue of price hikes leading to uncompetitiveness in the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33990/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

128 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which he has examined the implications of price increases as a contributory factor in the issue of job relocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33991/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

130 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which insurance costs including motorist and public liability cover in this country compares with other European and non-European countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33995/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127, 128 and 130 together.

Ireland's economy is undergoing fundamental change, which is affecting all sectors of our economy. Ireland can no longer be regarded as a low cost location for investment as our strengths and competitive advantages have inexorably changed. High output and productivity together with high returns to labour in the form of wages, salaries and better living standards now typify the economy. As a result, Ireland is no longer regarded as a location for what could be called basic low-tech production and is being overtaken by low wage economies in terms of cost competitiveness. However, no measure is available to quantify jobs that may have relocated to other countries.

The National Competitiveness Council, NCC, in its most recent annual competitiveness reports has identified as a high priority the need to recover Ireland's cost competitiveness to ensure sustained economic success in the future.

With regard to insurance costs, comparison of insurance figures in European countries is available in the European Insurance in Figures, June 2004 report published by the Comité Européen Des Assurances, CEA, which shows details of average non-life premiums per inhabitant. These figures include motor and public liability insurance. The figures for 2002, which are the latest given, show that of 31 European countries listed, Ireland ranked fifth highest with a value of €1,006, Luxembourg was highest with a value of €2,143, Switzerland was second highest with a value of €1,730, while the Netherlands was third highest with a value of €1,240. The United Kingdom, with a value of €1,183, was fourth highest. Lithuania was second lowest with a value of €53 and Turkey was lowest with a value of €25. The average premium in Europe in 2001 was €619.

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 those insured. In addition, these figures do not always include only or all premia paid by the inhabitants of the country concerned. These 2002 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 20% in motor car insurance between the months of April 2002, when the first Motor Insurance Advisory Board report was published, and October 2004 which is the latest figure available. There are also reported reductions in the cost of premia for public and employer liability insurance.

The Government is committed to pursuing actions to address cost issues in other areas and has already taken several measures in this regard. In the area of competition, the Government has strengthened the powers and the resources of the Competition Authority to enable it to continue in its role to tackle anti-competitive behaviour in sectors of the economy. Competition is working well in many sectors of the economy but Ireland cannot afford to have sectors of the 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. It must be remembered that competition is the most efficient method of ensuring prices are kept low and at optimal levels for consumers and businesses alike.

The Government earlier this year established the consumer strategy group to advise and make recommendations for the development of a national consumer policy. In the performance of this role the consumer strategy group has carried out a range of activities, including studies that investigate issues of special concern. Price trends with other parts of Europe have been examined and some prices have been the subject of additional investigation, including those of fruit and vegetables, alcoholic beverages and pharmaceuticals. The group will report to me early in the new year and I plan to give the report prompt attention and consideration as soon as I receive it.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

129 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the country or countries with which Ireland has achieved new import and-or export business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33992/04]

Ireland exports around 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 in new markets where export opportunities exist. Through Enterprise Ireland, the Government supports the growth of 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. To date this year, 15 overseas trade missions to countries in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East and Asia have been lead respectively by the Taoiseach, Ministers and Ministers of State. European and North American markets continue to dominate our export and import 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 exports. However, when taken together, the member countries of the European Union are of primary importance to our exporters. They account for approximately 62% of exports to date this year.

The UK continues to be our largest source of imports, accounting for 30% of the total, while the EU as a whole accounts for 57%. In recent years, China has become a much more important source of imports than heretofore, and so far this year accounted for approximately 5.5% of imports. The USA accounts for approximately 14.6% of the total.

Question No. 130 answered with QuestionNo. 127.
Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 58.

Work Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work permit applications received in the past 12 months; the number granted and refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33997/04]

The number of valid work permit applications received from 1 January 2004 to date was 34,961. Of this figure, 33,432 permits were granted and 1,529 permits refused.

Job Protection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he has taken to address the issue of job relocation to low wage economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33998/04]

We have become a more sophisticated and developed economy in which the application of technology and intellectual endeavour is becoming more important than simple cost competitiveness as the foundation for growth and prosperity. We now have one of the most open economies in the world in which trends in world trade, global business investment and consumer decisions directly influence the pattern of economic growth, company development and job prospects more so than in other developed economies.

A balanced combination of pro-enterprise policies has helped propel economic growth and employment expansion and these have encouraged deeper and stronger links to both the enlarging European Union markets and internationally. Consequently, enterprise and society have benefited significantly from the ability of entrepreneurs to operate more profitably both in and from Ireland.

Naturally a more attractive cost environment abroad will inevitably entice some firms which are unable to generate their required return from the modern enterprise economy into which we have transformed. A continuing structural evolution of our economy is both unavoidable and necessary to maintain present levels of growth and low unemployment. 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.

To counterbalance the competitive threat from lower wage competitor economies, our policy is to encourage a move to higher levels of productivity 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 the economy and are, therefore, less likely to move on the basis of simple cost influences. This new investment will be sourced by a combination of developing existing clients and new investors in existing or new activities or sectors. The enterprise development agencies have a clear mandate to align their operations with this policy objective.

The latest data from the Central Statistics Office's quarterly national household survey shows that employment increased by 57,200 on the corresponding period in 2003, bringing the total number in employment to a record 1,893,600. This is a remarkable achievement at a time when there is considerable debate and comment about the impact of competition from lower wage economies on employment levels in developed economies.

Skill Shortages.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the requirements of industry are being met or are likely to be met in terms of skills requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33999/04]

The primary responsibility for ensuring that the skills requirements of industry are met rests with industry. There are already in place a number of initiatives and measures through which the Government seeks to work with industry and workers to identify and address the skills needs of the economy. They include FÁS training services to business and the national craft certificate as well as the national training fund which supports employee training actions, including FÁS training, IDA and Enterprise Ireland and Shannon Development training grants, Skillnets network training and upskilling and training projects in individual sectors. The expert group on future skills needs, also supported by the NTF, provides assessments of and advice for appropriate action on future skill needs. My Department and the Department of Education and Science are pursuing the implementation of the recommendations of the report of the task force on life learning.

My Department's budget for the coming year includes provision for supporting greater use of the European Social Fund in the area of in-company training and provision for a workplace based education programme. The recommendation by the enterprise strategy group of a one step up for all is now a guiding element in my Department's approach to employee training. The objective of these initiatives and measures is to provide support to ensure that the skill needs of the economy continue to be met.

Job Creation.

David Stanton

Question:

135 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the actions that are being taken to create employment in Youghal and Cobh, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34052/04]

The provision of support to companies for the creation of employment is a day-to-day operational matter for the industrial development agencies under my remit, namely, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, and the county enterprise boards. I am assured by these agencies that they are actively promoting County Cork, including Youghal and Cobh, for new investment and jobs on an ongoing basis, with Enterprise Ireland and the County Enterprise Board focusing on the development of indigenous industries, and IDA Ireland concentrating on marketing the county as a location for foreign direct investment.

As part of its role in regional development, the Enterprise Ireland regional Cork office works with other regional organisations and third level institutions to improve the business climate at regional level for agency clients. At a county level, just under €28 million has been approved since 2002 for Enterprise Ireland client companies in the city and county of Cork.

In terms of employment creation, Enterprise Ireland activity is focused on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs set up new high potential start-up companies, the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies and in enhancing innovation capability at a national and regional level through support of research in companies and third level institutions.

There are 140 Enterprise Ireland supported companies in the east Cork area, which includes Youghal and Cobh, with a total employment of 3,681. Since 1998 employment in Enterprise Ireland companies in the county has been positive in every year, with the exception of 2001 when there was a net loss of 296 jobs. The Forfás annual employment survey is the indicator used to record jobs gained and lost in Enterprise Ireland and other agencies in any one year. The 2004 survey is being completed and data will be available by the end of January 2005.

The wide range of supports offered by Enterprise Ireland to its client companies to facilitate their growth includes strategy development, production and operations, marketing, human resources development, finance and research and development. Companies also have access to market and technical information via the agency's 32 offices worldwide.

Regarding IDA Ireland, the towns of Cobh and Youghal are marketed by IDA south west region as part of the broader east Cork area. IDA Ireland is promoting east Cork to potential investors on an ongoing basis and every effort is being made to secure further advanced knowledge based industry for the area.

From an inward investment perspective Cobh and Youghal, due to their proximity to the greater Cork area, also benefit from continued development where over the past ten years direct employment in IDA supported companies in Cork city and county has grown from 10,345 in 1993 to 18,162 in 2003. The sectors contributing to this growth are ICT, pharmaceuticals-medical technologies and international services.

This growth is expected to continue into the future with IDA in 2003 announcing 11 new projects for Cork with the potential to create up to 800 new jobs and in 2004. Five new projects, Centocor, Altera, Ecora, AK pharmaceuticals and McAfee, have been announced with a job creation potential in excess of 800 new jobs. In the 2002-04 period more than 50% of all jobs announced in Cork came from companies locating in the broader east Cork area, making this area the primary jobs beneficiary from inward investment in the south west region.

The county enterprise board with responsibility for Youghal and Cork is the South Cork County Enterprise Board, SCCEB, which since its inception has approved a total of €175,734 to ten projects in the Youghal and Cobh region and paid out a total of €169,384 in capital assistance. In the past two years the board has specifically focused on developing training initiatives in the area and is conducting a wide range of training programmes in order to assist participants in the micro-enterprise sector.

SCCEB, in conjunction with the other support agencies, continues to maintain an active presence in the region informing the public of the supports available. The board will continue to work to support new and existing businesses to operate effectively and efficiently to ensure survival and growth.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Jack Wall

Question:

136 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who had to transfer from the back to work payment to unemployment assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33948/04]

The back to work allowance scheme incentivises and encourages long-term unemployed people, lone parents and certain persons with disabilities to return to work by allowing them to retain their social welfare payment on a tapered rate over a three or four year period when they take up employment or self-employment. Participants in the scheme may also retain secondary benefits for the three or four year period.

An evaluation of the scheme carried out by independent consultants has shown that 78% of those who participated in the scheme had not returned to the live register. In the event that a participant does not claim back to work allowance for the full period of entitlement, that is, three years in the case of the employee strand or four years in the case of the self-employment strand, then, subject to satisfying all the usual conditions, he or she may apply for unemployment benefit or assistance.

The period spent participating in the back to work allowance scheme is not treated as a period of unemployment as the recipient is in insurable employment while receiving a payment under the scheme and there is no link back to the previous period of employment for the purposes of calculating the cumulative total days of the unemployment claim. A person who claims unemployment assistance after a period on the back to work allowance scheme would be entitled to a payment of a Christmas bonus after 15 months on such assistance payment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

137 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be awarded one parent family allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34002/04]

There is a statutory obligation on all claimants of one parent family payment to satisfy and continue to satisfy the conditions for entitlement to the payment. In the case of the person in question, she was requested during the investigation of her claim to provide documentation regarding her means. She failed to provide information on her means and her application was duly refused.

The person in question subsequently informed the Department that she had changed address and provided some documentation on her means. The application has been referred to a local officer who has interviewed the person in question at her new address. However, as all the information required to finalise inquiries was not made available investigations are still ongoing regarding her means. A meeting is scheduled for today between the local inspector and the person's employer. On completion of the necessary inquiries a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified of the outcome.

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

Michael Ring

Question:

138 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be awarded the carer’s allowance. [34020/04]

The person in question applied for carer's allowance on 8 November 2004. The principal conditions for receipt of the allowance are that full-time care and attention is required and being provided and that the means test that applies is satisfied. A decision issued to the person in question refusing his application on the basis that full-time care and attention was not required in this case. He was afforded the opportunity to submit further medical evidence for review, which he has provided. This information has been forwarded to my Department's chief medical adviser for consideration. His application was also referred to an investigative officer of my Department on 17 November 2004 to determine that all conditions necessary for receipt of this allowance are satisfied. On completion of the necessary investigations, a formal decision will be made and the person in question will be notified directly.

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

Departmental Funding.

Mary Wallace

Question:

139 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Transport if he will give consideration to providing a grant to private minibus operators to assist with the cost of converting their minibus to an accessible bus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33917/04]

There is no provision in my Department's Vote for funding for the conversion of minibuses to accessible vehicles. How the private bus industry adapts to improving the standard of vehicles for the mobility and sensory impaired is a matter which will be discussed with organisations representing licensed bus operators as part of the consultation process being undertaken as part of my Departments sectoral plan under the Disability Bill 2004.

Departmental Correspondence.

Pat Breen

Question:

140 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if he has received correspondence from the Irish Drivers Association regarding a request for a meeting; if he intends to meet this group in the near future to discuss its concerns on a number of issues affecting drivers here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33918/04]

I received correspondence from the Irish Drivers Association requesting a meeting relating to a number of issues of concern to motorists. My officials will be arranging for an initial meeting with this organisation as soon as possible.

Driving Tests.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

141 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 will receive a date for a driving test in order that their licence can include another class in order to take up employment with the emergency services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33920/04]

A driving test will be arranged as soon as possible for the person concerned.

Rural Transport Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

142 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport the amount which has been allocated to the rural transport initiative for each of the past three years; and the Government’s proposals to increase the funding and to expand the scheme. [33921/04]

While a total of €4.4 million was provided for the rural transport initiative, RTI, in the national development plan, my Department has expanded significantly on this and has provided €3 million for the initiative in 2002, 2003 and again in 2004.

The RTI allocation for 2005 is €3.45 million which represents an increase of 15% over the 2004 total, or more than 12% when account is taken of inflation effects. This increase will result in an overall funding commitment of more than €12 million for the RTI to end 2005.

While I am happy to allocate substantially increased funding to the rural transport initiative, I am keen to ensure that we get value for money for these financial resources. Accordingly my officials will work with Area Development Management Limited, ADM, who administer the scheme, on ways in which the impact of this funding might be maximised in the light of the recent independent evaluation of the programme.

Vehicle Test Centres.

Denis Naughten

Question:

143 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the procedures involved in establishing a vehicle test centre for commercial and heavy goods vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33942/04]

The appointment of authorised testers for the purposes of compulsory testing of commercial and heavy goods vehicles is a matter for local authorities in accordance with the European Communities (Vehicle Testing) Regulations 2004.

The application will be considered by the local authority by reference to standards for premises, equipment and staff that are separately specified by the Minister.

Heavy Goods Vehicles.

Jack Wall

Question:

144 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the driving regulations for heavy goods vehicles (details supplied); the fines attached to such regulations; the date on which such regulations were implemented; the EU regulations on this issue; if Ireland complies with the EU regulations; if not, when it will; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33947/04]

My Department is responsible for enforcement of European Union rules governing drivers' hours and the use of tachograph recording equipment in heavy goods vehicles.

These rules came into force on 29 September 1986 and are set out in Council Regulations Nos. 3820/85/EEC and 3821/85/EEC. S.I. Nos. 392 and 393 of 1986 were introduced in order to comply fully with these EU regulations. The rules apply to vehicles used for the carriage of goods where the maximum permissible weight of the vehicle, including any trailer or semi-trailer, exceeds 3.5 tonnes.

A person guilty of an offence is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €1,269 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both fine and imprisonment.

A summary of the rules governing drivers of heavy goods vehicles is set out in the following appendix. The rules do not differentiate between normal working hours and overtime working.

Drivers' Hours — Heavy Goood Vehicles (Regulation 3820/85)

Daily Driving Period

9 Hours. May be extended to 10 hours twice a week.

Total Driving Time without a Break

4 Hours 30 Minutes

Breaks from Driving

45 Minutes (May be broken into breaks of at least 15 minutes each distributed over the driving period or immediately after it).

Weekly Driving (Maximum)

56 Hours (six daily driving periods)

Fortnightly Driving (Maximum)

90 Hours

Daily Rest (24 hour Period) 1 Driver

11 Hours (a) may be reduced to 9 hours three times a week provided compensation of an equivalent period of rest is taken before the end of the following week or (b) on days when rest is not reduced the daily rest period may be taken in two or three separate periods provided one is of at least 8 consecutive hours. In such cases the daily rest requirement is increased to 12 hours.

2 Drivers

8 hours (consecutive) in each 30 hour period.

Weekly Rest

45 Hours (a) may be reduced to 36 hours if taken at base or (b) 24 hours if taken elsewhere provided compensation of an equivalent rest is taken en bloc before the end of the third week following the week in question.

Driver Testing and Standards Authority.

Joe Higgins

Question:

145 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if the status of the driving instructors registered with the Driving Register of Ireland will be recognised by the new driver testing and standards authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33982/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 154 on Thursday, 14 October 2004.

Proposals being developed by my Department for the regulation and quality assurance of driving instruction will involve a test of the competence of individual instructors. A working group comprising representatives of my Department and of instruction interests has formulated the design of the standards that a driving instructor must meet. I am considering what arrangements will be put in place to oversee implementation of the standard in the context of the establishment of the driver testing and standards authority. The Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004, which provides for the establishment of the authority was published on 6 July 2004 and the Second Stage debate commenced on 14 October 2004.

Regulations will be required to give effect to the proposals for introducing regulation of driving instruction and the position of existing driving instructors will be considered in the context of drafting of the regulations.

Air Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

146 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the information he has available to him concerning the recent arrangement entered into between the interim board of the Shannon Airport Authority and Ryanair in relation to new routes; if this involves a payment per passenger by the SAA to the airline; if he has satisfied himself that this is acceptable under EU competition rules; the likely annual cost to the Dublin Airport Authority which this will entail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33986/04]

Both the Shannon Airport Authority and Ryanair issued press statements on 30 November 2004 announcing the agreement by the airline to expand services at Shannon Airport. The airport authority has also published its new route and growth incentive scheme for 2005 on its website.

The manner in which airport charges are levied at the State airports, including Shannon Airport, is a matter for the airport authorities subject to compliance with the airport charges determination of the independent Commission for Aviation Regulation and to any relevant EU requirements. I have no function with regard to these matters.

Airport Development Projects.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

147 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the most recent estimate which his Department has for the cost of providing a new terminal at Cork Airport; the way in which this compares with the original estimate; the body which will pay for this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33987/04]

Work is currently proceeding on the major new terminal development and associated infrastructure which will position Cork Airport to cater for continued growth in air services and passengers. I am informed by the airport authorities that the contract price for this major development amounts to approximately €153 million with provision for variations.

I understand that the Dublin Airport Authority together with its advisers and the contractor have a framework in place for monitoring the project and that the authority is currently reviewing the estimated costs to completion.

The board of the Dublin Airport Authority, which replaced the former Aer Rianta board on 1 October last, is for the present ultimately responsible for all capital expenditure projects at the State airports, including Cork Airport. That position will change in due course, when the assets of Cork Airport are vested in the Cork Airport Authority in accordance with the provisions of the State Airports Act 2004. It is also envisaged that at that time a portion of the airport's assets will remain with the Dublin Airport Authority and be subject to a finance lease between it and the Cork Airport Authority.

Driving Tests.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

148 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the action which he proposes to take to deal with the 380,000 provisional drivers on roads here; if he intends to prohibit provisional drivers from driving unaccompanied as promised by his predecessor; the action which he will take to reduce the waiting time for driving tests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34038/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 94 of 7 December 2004.

The Government's strategy for road safety 2004 to 2006 identified speed, seat-belt wearing, driving while intoxicated, engineering measures, and vulnerable road users, as being the key priority areas to be addressed over the coming years in terms of yielding road safety benefits. As regards legal changes to enhance road safety, the strategy states that driver licensing regulations will be amended to discourage long-term reliance on provisional licences. I will consider what amendments should be made in this regard.

As regards the waiting time for driving tests, my Department is in communication with the Department of Finance regarding measures to reduce the backlog of driving test applicants including the recruitment of additional driver testers.

Traffic Management.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 255 of 9 November 2004, if trials have taken place which indicate that allowing motor cycles onto bus lanes would reduce the safety for pedal cyclists or other users of bus lanes; if so, the way in which they would reduce safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34044/04]

As I indicated in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 255 of 9 November 2004, the primary purpose of bus lanes is to facilitate and promote bus-based public transport. Except in the case of contra-flow bus lanes, a range of other road users are permitted, by regulation, to use bus lanes. These include cyclists, taxi vehicles while available for immediate on-street hire, fire brigades, ambulances and vehicles driven by members of the Garda Síochána in the course of duty.

A review of the access issue was carried out in 2001. As part of that review, the views of a number of bodies representing various road user groups, including motorcyclists, were considered. In addition, views of the director of traffic in Dublin City Council, the Dublin Transportation Office and the Garda Síochána were sought. All the latter bodies indicated that there should be no change to the current position. I have no immediate proposals to review the question of extending access to bus lanes to other road users. In the context of the current situation, no trials have been undertaken here based on motor cyclists using a bus lane.

National Car Test.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

150 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Transport further to a meeting in Donegal in 2003, the position in regard to a national car test centre in Inishowen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34077/04]

I refer to the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 264 of 8 July 2004. The position is unchanged. In December 2003, my predecessor, officials from my Department and the national car testing service, NCTS, met local representatives in Donegal to discuss the possibility of setting up a car test centre in Inishowen. It was agreed at the meeting that efforts would be made by local representatives to identify possible suitable premises. To date, there has been no further contact from the local representatives about this matter.

The mid-term review of the car testing service, which will get under way early in the new year, will, inter alia, consider the location and number of test centres.

Rail Network.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

151 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Transport his plans to discuss a Dublin to Derry train service with his counterparts in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34078/04]

I refer the Deputy to an answer given to a similar question in July of this year. The position is that rail services between Dublin and Derry involve an interchange at Central Station, Belfast. While Iarnród Éireann jointly operates and markets Dublin to Belfast services, Belfast to Derry services are the responsibility of Translink and Northern Ireland Railways.

The scheduling and timetabling of trains is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann and Translink to decide. I understand, however, that Translink is introducing a new fleet of railcars on its network and their introduction into service may leave the way clear for faster connections at Belfast for trains operating between Derry and Belfast.

Iarnród Éireann has no immediate plans to operate through services between Dublin and Derry, which is already served several times per day by Bus Éireann, and twice per day by a Department sponsored air service.

Community Development.

Joe Higgins

Question:

152 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he is committed to maintaining the community development programme as an independent programme outside of the control of the partnerships or local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33979/04]

Joe Higgins

Question:

153 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in view of research carried out by a company (details supplied) and the results of the community development programme’s own evaluation system, known as SPEAK, the CDP has been effective as a locally owned and managed programme in developing practical and principled programmes to combat poverty and injustice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33980/04]

Joe Higgins

Question:

154 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on whether the CDP represents good value for money and is a programme that supports active and equal citizenship with a social justice and equality ethos; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33981/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 152 to 154, inclusive, together.

The community development programme, CDP, supports locally-based groups involved in anti-poverty and social inclusion initiatives in their communities so that they can contribute to a process of change in their areas and improve the quality of life of their communities.

One of the unique and valuable characteristics of the community development programme is the management of projects by local communities. In this regard, projects are expected to ensure that the management committee is composed of representation of people from their target groups. This approach ensures that those who experience poverty and social exclusion have a real say in the responses developed to meet their needs and that such responses genuinely target those who are most at risk of poverty. Moreover, target group involvement in the development process is key to ensuring local ownership of projects and the promotion of active citizenship in local communities.

At present some 175 projects are participating in the programme in urban and rural areas. I recently announced an additional ten projects currently at pre-development stage for inclusion in the community development programme, with a total budget commitment of €60,000 each for their first year of operation.

The total funding allocated in 2004 to the community development programme was €20.6 million. The CDPs have also secured in excess of €20 million for their communities from other sources. The projects provide a wide range of activities targeting the most disadvantaged. These include: community-based child care for people on low incomes; training, education and adult literacy; homework and after-schools clubs for children in disadvantaged communities; health projects; advice and guidance for all sectors of the community and; meeting facilities and administration services for community activities.

Following the submission of approximately 100 projects within the community development programme of their 2003 annual report using the SPEAK, strategic planning evaluation and knowledge networking, software the following statistics have been produced. In 2003, projects supported over 700 other local issue groups. Over 1,000 people are involved in CDP management committees. Management committees are largely made up of representatives of the projects target communities. Target communities for the projects include the following: Travellers, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, lone parents, disadvantaged elderly, disadvantaged women, disadvantaged young people, and other groups experiencing poverty.

Some 15,000 people participated in training and education courses organised by the projects. Over 30,000 individuals in disadvantaged communities used the CDPs services. Some 12,000 meetings of other local community groups took place using the projects facilities. The Government highly values the work being done by individual projects funded under the programme and the impact the work is having on countering social exclusion, as evidenced by this data.

Like all organisations receiving Government funding, community development projects are accountable to the State and to their communities for the management of such funding. In that context, the community development programme cannot be described as a wholly autonomous programme operating independently of its funders and other social exclusion initiatives. I am committed to protecting the distinctive local community structure and input of each of the CDP projects, while enabling improved linkages, dialogue and access to resources, across local and community development bodies. My Department is therefore keen to promote enhanced levels of co-operation between all the various stakeholders involved in combating social exclusion. To this end, I recently announced details of a funding package of over €3.2 million which will encourage realignment and worksharing between different agencies and the extension of social inclusion projects to give complete coverage across administrative areas.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

155 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon will receive headage and other premia; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33939/04]

The person named included a land parcel on his 2004 area aid application, which was also claimed by another herdowner. Both herdowners were written to by my Department and the person named accepted that he was not entitled to claim area aid on the parcel concerned. The herdowner claimed 2.21 hectares on the aforementioned parcel. This over-claim amounted to 34% of his total forage area claimed and, consequently, he would not be entitled to payment under the 2004 area-based compensatory allowance scheme. The named person will not be entitled to benefit from livestock premia if the stocking density, based on the determined area of 6.50 hectares, is greater than 1.8 livestock units per hectare in accordance with the provisions for over-declaration of land under the relevant EU regulations.

The person named applied for premium on two animals under the 2004 suckler cow premium scheme. The application has been processed and the two animals are eligible for payment. However, payment cannot issue yet as it will be necessary to await the end of the special beef premium application period on 31 December 2004 to establish if the area found is sufficient to support a stocking density of 1.8 livestock units per hectare in respect of the animals claimed.

To date, no applications have been received under the 2004 special beef premium scheme from the person named. The application period remains open however until the end of December 2004.

Under the 2004 EU slaughter premium scheme, to date, one animal has been deemed eligible for payment to the person named. The 60% advance payment in the amount of €48.00 issued on 20 October 2004 in respect of this animal.

Since the person named did not apply for either suckler cow premium or special beef premium in 2003, he is not eligible for payment of the 2003 extensification premium. He has submitted an application under the 2004 extensification premium scheme. Payments under the 2004 scheme are due to commence in June 2005. The application will be considered in due course.

Live Exports.

Denis Naughten

Question:

156 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the plans she has to review the policy of collection centres for the export of livestock; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33940/04]

The European Communities (Assembly Centres) Regulations, 2000, S.I. No. 257 of 2000, set down the conditions for approval of assembly centres operating for the purposes of intra-Community trade. My Department's function in this regard is to carry out inspections on premises and, where possible, to provide an official veterinarian for supervision of approved export lairages. At present there are eight assembly centres operating throughout Ireland in the following counties: Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Louth, Meath, Waterford, Westmeath, and Wicklow.

The proposed Council regulation on the protection of animals during transport, which is scheduled for formal adoption at the next week's Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting, proposes a number of requirements for assembly centres in regard to animal welfare. In particular, they will be required to ensure that Community legislation on the protection of animals during transport is known to and respected by their employees and visitors. Furthermore, all persons handling animals must receive training in accordance with the technical rules set down in the legislation. Information on these proposals and notification of training courses will be sent to the relevant parties in due course.

Grant Payments.

Dan Neville

Question:

157 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Limerick has been refused single farm payment; if the decision will be reconsidered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33950/04]

The person named submitted applications for consideration in respect of both the new entrant farmers commencing during the reference period and inheritance measures of the single payment scheme. However, as the person named commenced farming on 27 June 2003, after the 2000 to 2002 reference period, his application was rejected on the grounds that he did not commence farming during the reference period.

The person named was not eligible under the inheritance measure as the land in question was leased by him and not acquired by way of gift or inheritance. The option to appeal these decisions to the independent single payment appeals committee has not been availed of to date.

The person named has been advised that he may avail of the private contract clause, whereby the lessor may transfer to him as the lessee any entitlements generated by the person in question during the reference years. It is also open to the person named to apply for entitlements from the national reserve if he considers that he satisfies the criteria of category D, new entrant. I have arranged to forward an application form to him.

Dan Neville

Question:

158 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason force majeure has not been applied to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if a review of the decision to refuse will be carried out. [33951/04]

The person involved submitted an application for consideration of his circumstances under the force majeure measure of the single payment scheme. Following processing of this application, it was considered that the new entrant — inheritance measures would be more beneficial and he was advised to apply under these measures in the notification of the decision that issued to him.

Subsequently, the person involved submitted applications for consideration in respect of both the new entrant and inheritance measures of the single farm payment scheme. Following an examination of these applications, he was informed that both the new entrant and inheritance applications were successful. However, the inheritance measure, which is the inherited entitlements combined with those earned by the person involved, in his own right, was more favourable than either the force majeure or the new entrant measures and generated the highest single farm payment.

Denis Naughten

Question:

159 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for the delay in approving a headage payment for a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33958/04]

The person named was paid his full entitlement of €1,933.14 under the 2004 area based compensatory allowance scheme on 20 September 2004. The person named applied for premium on ten animals under the 2004 suckler cow premium scheme. The application has been processed and his 60% advance instalment amounting to €1,344.90 issued on 2 December 2004. The balancing payment will be made in March-April 2005. The person involved was notified on 24 November 2004 that this measure would be the one reflected in his statement of provisional entitlements scheduled to issue shortly.

Sugar Beet Sector.

Denis Naughten

Question:

160 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food further to parliamentary questions, the legal advice which she has received regarding the ownership of the sugar beet quota; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33961/04]

Denis Naughten

Question:

161 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food further to recent parliamentary questions, the details of the ownership of the Irish sugar beet quota; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33962/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 160 and 161 together.

Under the current EU sugar regime, which runs until 30 June 2006, there is no provision for the buying and selling of sugar quotas and therefore the question of quota ownership does not arise. The current EU regulations stipulate that the national sugar quota must be allocated to the sugar manufacturing enterprises in the member state. Accordingly, the entire Irish sugar quota has been allocated to Irish Sugar Ltd., which is the only sugar manufacturer in this country. The company in turn places contracts with farmers to grow sugar beet sufficient to manufacture the sugar quota. There is no specific quota for sugar beet.

The issue of quota ownership has been raised in the context of the Commission's proposals for reform of the EU sugar regime. The proposals envisage the possibility of cross-border mobility of sugar quotas in the future. Several member states, including Ireland, are opposed to this idea. The Commission is not expected to bring forward formal legislative proposals until May or June of next year. If the proposal for quota mobility is maintained, then the Commission will also propose appropriate rules to deal with that situation. I have already been in contact with the Office of the Attorney General in anticipation of that eventuality. However, one of my main priorities in the upcoming negotiations is to ensure that mobility of quota is not allowed.

Animal Medicines.

Denis Naughten

Question:

162 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to restrict prescription writing of POM medicines to vets; her views on allowing pharmacists and other suitably qualified personnel to write such prescriptions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33963/04]

Under existing legislation, namely, regulation 13 of the Animal Remedies Regulations 1996, the writing of prescriptions of prescription only medicines, POMs, is restricted to veterinary surgeons.

My Department is currently finalising a package of amendments to the existing legislation governing the national regime and the animal remedies consultative committee will be consulted on these in the near future. One of the key objectives of these amendments is to make the prescribing regime more effective and workable. This would be achieved by removing some inflexibility from the current regime and, with appropriate safeguards, according greater weight to the professional judgment of a veterinary surgeon as to when a clinical examination of animals under his or her care would be necessary.

However, it is not my intention in the current environment to extend the range of persons who would be enabled to prescribe veterinary medicines which have been designated prescription only. It is intended to extend, where appropriate, the range of outlets which could supply on foot of a prescription to include the licensed merchant category. I believe that these proposed changes will represent significant steps in making the regime more workable and effective in the current environment, while safeguarding public health.

Legislative Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

163 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when she intends to publish the animal health Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33973/04]

Work on drafting the animal health Bill is proceeding in my Department. There is still a significant body of preparatory work to be completed and it is not possible at this stage to indicate a date for publication.

Garda Stations.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

164 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the need for the redevelopment of the Garda station in Tallaght; his plans in respect of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33932/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that they are currently considering their accommodation requirements at Tallaght. I can assure the Deputy that when this review is completed there will be no avoidable delay in addressing what is an important issue for the future policing of Tallaght.

Garda Deployment.

Jim Glennon

Question:

165 Mr. Glennon asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether a Garda district of the size of Balbriggan, County Dublin (details supplied) should have the same number of gardaí in 2004 as it had in the 1980s; his further views on whether it is appropriate that the escort services for the detention centres at Oberstown and Trinity Houses be serviced from local Garda resources, thereby causing an inordinate drain on those resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33896/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of Balbriggan Garda station as at 16 December is 34, all ranks. The personnel strength of Balbriggan Garda station as at 1 December 1989 was 28, all ranks. This represents an increase of 6, or 21%, in the number of gardaí allocated to Balbriggan since that date. Balbriggan forms part of the Louth-Meath division. The personnel strength of the division as at 16 December is 536, all ranks. The personnel strength of the Louth-Meath division as at 31 December 1989 was 473, all ranks. This represents an increase of 63, 13.3%, in the number of gardaí allocated to the Louth-Meath division since that date. It is the responsibility of the divisional officer to allocate personnel within his or her division to ensure that optimum use is made of the existing resources within it.

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 the key commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government. Its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. The needs of the Louth-Meath division will be fully considered within the context of the needs of Garda divisions throughout the State. 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 as part of the new Garda traffic corps. The additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties but put directly into front-line, operational, high-visibility policing, having a real impact.

Jim Glennon

Question:

166 Mr. Glennon asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the breakdown by age of the 130 members of all ranks of the Garda Síochána who will retire during 2005 on compulsory age grounds; and the breakdown by age of the additional 321 members who will either choose to retire having attained 30 years’ service and reached the age of 50 or retire or resign otherwise, on the basis of averages from previous years; if consideration has been given to raising the relevant retirement ages for the different ranks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33897/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that 106 members of Garda sergeant and inspector rank will retire on compulsory age grounds during 2005 at the age of 57. In addition, 24 members of superintendent, chief superintendent and assistant commissioner rank will retire on compulsory age grounds during 2005 at the age of 60.

All members who may chose to retire voluntarily during 2005, having attained 30 years service and reached 50 years of age or more, will be between 50 and 57 years of age at the rank of Garda sergeant and inspector, or be between 50 and 60 years of age at the rank of superintendent, chief superintendent or assistant commissioner. The Garda authorities project, on the basis of averages from previous years, that 321 members will either choose to retire having attained 30 years' service and reached the age of 50, or retire or resign otherwise.

I have no plans to increase the retirement age for members of the Garda Síochána who were recruited to the force prior to 1 April 2004. The changes in the retirement age for members of the Garda Síochána, outlined in the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004, will apply only to new entrants, recruited to the Garda Síochána after 1 April 2004.

Visa Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

167 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on the appeal by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33898/04]

The visa application in question was to enable a wife of a non-EEA national employed under the work permit scheme to reside with him in the State. A worker employed under the work permit scheme may be joined by their spouse and minor children after the worker has been in the State for one year and has been offered a contract for a further year. The worker must also be able to fully support family members without the need to have recourse to public funds. The application in question was refused as the supporting documentation did not show that the worker in question was in a position to fully support his wife. There is no record of an appeal against this decision having been received in my Department to date.

Prisoner Transfers.

Mary Upton

Question:

168 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of transfers under the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and relevant Irish Acts which have been effected of Irish prisoners convicted and sentenced in the United Kingdom for each year since 2000; the length of time each effected application took to process; and the position regarding the number of pending applications. [33899/04]

Statistics on the number of international prison transfers involving Ireland are published in my annual report to the Houses of the Oireachtas on the Operation of the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Acts 1995 and 1997. The 2002 and 2003 annual reports are available on my Department's website, http://www.justice.ie.

The number of transfers effected from the United Kingdom to Ireland under the above Acts since 2000 is set out in the following table.

Year

Number of Transfers

2000

10

2001

4

2002

8

2003

8

2004 (to date)

4

The Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons imposes obligations on each state in a transfer to exchange extensive documentation prior to a decision being made on the application. Collation and consideration of this documentation can take some time. Under Irish legislation, it is a further requirement that a High Court warrant be obtained to authorise transfer and continued detention in this jurisdiction. In addition, Irish prison officers are required to provide the escort for prisoners transferring into this country under the legislation. Due to necessary cutbacks in overtime levels in the Irish Prison Service, as well as for operational reasons, it has been necessary for the Irish Prison Service to restrict such prison transfers into Ireland to one per month.

The length of time taken to process an application for transfer to Ireland varies from case to case. The average process time for transfers effected from the United Kingdom to Ireland between 2000 and 2004, to date, is 21 months. This is from the time the application is received from the United Kingdom authorities until a transfer is effected. A number of applications, at different stages of the process, are on hand in my Department.

Visa Applications.

Damien English

Question:

169 Mr. English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the spouse and child of a person (details supplied) have been refused visas; if he will review the case again and consider issuing visas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33900/04]

The visa applications were made in Moscow on 23 August 2004 to enable a wife and child to join a non-EEA national employed in the State under a work permit scheme. In general, persons employed in the State under a work permit scheme may be joined by their spouse and their minor children after the worker has been employed in the State for one year and has been offered a contract of employment for a further year. The worker must also be able to fully support the family members in question without the need to recourse to public funds.

When assessing applications for family reunification the visa officer will consider, among other things, whether the level of salary of the worker would come within the ambit of qualifying for payments from public funds. As the level of the worker's income in the case in question, as evidenced by his payslips and P60, would quality for payments from public funds the applications were refused. The refusals were appealed but the visa appeals officer upheld the decision to refuse the visas.

Juvenile Offenders.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

170 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of facilities in the State at which juvenile offenders are detained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33901/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

171 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of places available in facilities in the State at which juvenile offenders are detained; the number of these places which are filled as at 10 December 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33902/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

172 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the ownership of facilities in the State at which juvenile offenders are detained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33903/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

173 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps which are taken when the detention of a juvenile is ordered in circumstances in which no suitable place is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33904/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

174 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the emphasis which is placed on rehabilitation in facilities in the State at which juvenile offenders are detained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33905/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

175 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to expand existing facilities in the State at which juvenile offenders are detained or to construct or commission further such facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33906/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 170 to 175, inclusive, together.

Responsibility for the provision of spaces for young offenders under the age of 16 years lies with my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science. I have responsibility for the provision of spaces for persons over 16 years of age. For the purpose of these questions, a juvenile is assumed to be a person under 18 years of age.

No places are reserved solely for juveniles in the prison system. In practice, the majority of juveniles committed to custody are detained in St. Patrick's Institution, which is a closed institution reserved in law exclusively for offenders aged 16 to 21 years. St. Patrick's Institution has a capacity for 220 prisoners. In addition, each of the prisons in the State can accommodate persons aged 17 years and over. With these provisions in mind, the location of juveniles in custody on 10 December 2004 is set out in the following table.

Prison

Sentenced

On Remand

For Trial

Trial & Remand

Total

Cloverhill

2

1

0

1

4

Cork

2

1

0

0

3

Limerick — Male

3

1

0

0

4

Limerick — Female

0

1

0

0

1

Midlands

1

0

0

0

1

Mountjoy — Female

3

0

0

0

3

St. Patrick’s Institution

49

12

3

1

65

Wheatfield

1

0

0

0

1

Total

61

16

3

2

82

Every effort is made to separate juvenile offenders from the general prison population in each institution. The majority of male juvenile offenders are held in St. Patrick's Institution. For example, on 10 December 2004, there were 78 male persons under the age of 18 in custody, 65 of whom were detained in St. Patrick's Institution. The few held in the more traditional adult prisons are accommodated with other young offenders or with other carefully selected prisoners.

Offenders under the age of 15 years cannot be committed to a prison under any circumstances. Fifteen year old male offenders and 15 and 16 year old female offenders can be committed to prison only in exceptional circumstances. This can occur only in cases where the court certifies under the provisions of sections 97 and 102 of the Children Act 1908, that the young person is so unruly or depraved of character that he or she cannot be detained in a place of detention provided under Part V of the Act.

All institutions in the prison service are the property of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The prison service will accommodate any juvenile that is lawfully committed from the courts. There are no circumstances where the prison service will refuse to accommodate a juvenile that is lawfully committed to its custody.

With regard to rehabilitation of juvenile offenders, within the prison system, facilities and programmes for young offenders are centred mainly at St. Patrick's Institution. The diverse range of services provided include individual and group programmes on offending issues; education, vocational training and life skills programmes; drug treatment and drug awareness programmes. A designated drug-free wing has been in operation in St. Patrick's Institution since November 2000. This wing allows prisoners who do not have a background of drug abuse and those who have demonstrated the desire to stop taking drugs to be detained in a drug-free and secure environment. One-to-one interventions exist and support including general medical, dental, psychiatric, psychological, spiritual and welfare supports, and involvement of community-based voluntary organisations in providing positive programmes and supports for young people in custody.

St. Patrick's Institution has, over the past four years, introduced important new programmes for the rehabilitation of offenders including a positive sentence management programme. Resources permitting, it is planned in 2005 to bring a mixture of new and renovated accommodation into use at the institution, through the utilisation of the newly revamped B wing, which will allow for a total of 44 16 and 17 year olds to be accommodated separately from older prisoners.

The Children Act 2001 introduces a wide range of innovative measures that will provide a statutory framework for the future development of the juvenile justice system in accordance with modern thinking and best international practice. It is the underlying concept of the Children Act to expand the options a court will have at its disposal when deciding on how to deal with a young offender. These options are an essential feature of the Act as they will allow effect to be given to the principle that detention for young offenders will be a last resort. The Act envisages committals to custody of young offenders being availed of only in situations when other alternative diversions and community-based options have been resorted to and have failed. The Act is being implemented on a phased basis.

Under the provisions of the Children's Act 2001, which is being implemented on a phased basis, over a number of years, separate secure detention centres will be required for the accommodation of 16 and 17 year old offenders. The Irish Prison Service is actively pursuing the provision of new facilities to be used as children detention centres. These centres will operate under their own unique regime which will cater specifically for the needs of juvenile offenders. In the Dublin area, it is hoped to provide a new children detention centre as part of the planned new prison complex to replace the institutions on the Mountjoy site, including St. Patrick's Institution. Once a suitable site is acquired, planning and construction will proceed with the intention of having the new facilities available in the shortest possible time. As regards facilities outside Dublin, the new prison complex to replace Cork Prison will also include a stand-alone children detention centre to accommodate 16 to 17 year olds, male and female. A statutory order for the commencement of the relevant provisions of the Children Act will be made when both of these new facilities become available.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

176 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application pending on a folio (details supplied) in County Mayo will be complete. [33907/04]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that there is no record of an application pending on this folio at present. If the Deputy can provide me with the date of lodgement of the application and a Land Registry reference number I will make further inquiries on his behalf.

John Perry

Question:

177 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application on a folio (details supplied) will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33908/04]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application under section 49, that is, acquisition of title by virtue of long possession, of the Registration of Title Act 1964 which was lodged on 16 September 2004. Dealing number D2004SM007873A refers.

I understand that due to their complicated nature, applications under section 49, which require detailed examination of claims for registration as owners, can take some time to process. Accordingly, it is not possible to estimate a completion date at this stage. However, I can assure the Deputy that the application is receiving attention in the Land Registry and will be completed as soon as possible.

Prisoner Transfers.

Dan Neville

Question:

178 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if mentally ill prisoners who have been certified as insane are, on the day of their court appearance, suddenly certified as sane, only to be re-certified when the court appearance is over; the number of prisoners to whom this applied in the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33929/04]

The legal position in relation to transferring prisoners to the Central Mental Hospital is highly unsatisfactory. I intend to introduce new and realistic provisions as part of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Bill, which is awaiting Report Stage in the Seanad and will, I hope, be passed into law before Easter 2005 to deal with the transfer of prisoners to the Central Mental Hospital. In the meantime, such transfers must take place within existing outdated legislation.

A prisoner on remand certified to be of unsound mind by two doctors may, pursuant to section 13 of the Lunatic (Ireland ) Act 1875 as adapted and extended by the Criminal Justice Act 1960, be removed to the Central Mental Hospital on foot of a ministerial warrant and be held there in confinement until two doctors certify that person to be of sound mind where upon that person, on foot of a ministerial warrant, may be remitted to prison and be brought to court for examination. Therefore, if a remand prisoner, receiving treatment in the Central Mental Hospital is required to appear before the court and if there is not a pressing medical reason preventing such an appearance, the legal route that must be followed is that the prisoner must first be remitted to prison by ministerial warrant and then brought before the court. If the court decides upon a further remand in custody and the medical view is that the prisoner still needs treatment in the Central Mental Hospital, then he or she will be re-certified and be removed there on foot of a ministerial warrant. I am advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that the statistical information on the number of such transfers is not readily available. However, the director general will arrange for the figures to be forwarded directly to the Deputy once they have been compiled.

The position regarding a person who has been committed to prison for trial is dealt with under section 3 of the Criminal Lunatics (Ireland) Act 1838, as adapted and extended by the Criminal Justice 1960. Such persons if deemed to be insane by two doctors may be removed to the Central Mental Hospital on foot of a ministerial warrant. Their position is more complicated as the question of their fitness to stand trial has to be determined. There is also provision in section 12 of the Central Criminal Lunatic Asylum (Ireland) Act 1845, as adapted and extended by the Criminal Justice Act 1960 for sentenced prisoners to be removed to the Central Mental Hospital on foot of a ministerial warrant but these prisoners fall outside the scope of the question.

In addition to the above, prisoners, who in the opinion of the prison medical officer are suffering from a psychiatric condition for which he or she cannot be afforded appropriate treatment within the institution, may be transferred to an appropriate hospital, including the Central Mental Hospital, on a voluntary basis under section 17 of the Criminal Justice Act 1914, as adapted. Prisoners, who are in the Central Mental Hospital on a voluntary basis and who have court appearances, would be collected by prison staff and taken to court. After the court appearance, they would be returned to the prison, from where they can be transferred again to the Central Mental Hospital, if required.

Residency Permits.

Denis Naughten

Question:

179 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 193 of 9 December 2004, his views on whether it is acceptable that it takes 16 months to process an application; the reason the processing time has doubled in a 12 month period; the action he is taking to address this backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33943/04]

There is an ongoing increase in the number of applications received for permission to remain in the State on the basis of marriage to an Irish national. There were 156 in 2001, 191 in 2002, 271 in 2003 and 309 in the year to date. The resources allocated to process such applications are necessarily dependent on the prioritised work requirements of the immigration division of my Department at any one time. Some additional resources have recently been allocated to this area and the number of applications on hand have decreased. As a result it is expected that the waiting time for processing such applications will be reduced.

Asylum Support Services.

Mary Wallace

Question:

180 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide a reply to Parliamentary Question No. 421 of 30 November 2004; if he will report on the plans being discussed within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33949/04]

As I indicated in my reply of 30 November 2004, the Reception and Integration Agency reviews services in all centres on an ongoing basis with a view to improving them where possible. It is proposed to consider the development of the pre-school services in Mosney accommodation centre in this context.

Citizenship Applications.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

181 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for naturalisation for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33984/04]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 12 August 2003. The average processing time for such applications is currently 24 months. On the basis of the current average processing time, therefore, it is likely that the application of the individual concerned will be finalised circa August 2005. I will inform both the applicant and the Deputy as soon as I have reached a decision on the application.

Asylum Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

182 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received an appeal from a person and their family (details supplied) who have made an application to stay in the State, on the basis of humanitarian grounds; if he will have same considered in the context of the evidence and references attached thereto; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34010/04]

The person concerned, a Nigerian national, and her four children arrived in the State on 2 July 2001 and she applied for asylum. Her claim was refused by the Refugee Applications Commissioner and she was informed of this decision on 17 July 2002. The applicant then appealed this decision and her appeal was refused on 31 May 2004. The original recommendation is being upheld in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 and the family in question was informed on 19 November 2004 that it was proposed to make deportation orders in their case. They were, in accordance with the Act, given the options of making representations within 15 working days setting out reasons why they should not be deported, that is, being allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before the orders are made; or consenting to the making of deportation orders. Representations setting out the reasons why they should not be deported were received.

I expect the case file in this matter to be submitted to me shortly for decision, after consideration of a number of factors which are specified in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended. These factors include considerations relating to the common good, the person's individual family and domestic circumstances and humanitarian consideration. Consideration will also be given to the prohibition on refoulement which is contained in section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 as amended. The person concerned will be notified of my decision as soon as possible.

Citizenship Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

183 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will take steps to finalise an application for naturalisation by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34011/04]

I considered the application for naturalisation of the person referred to by the Deputy in July 2004 and I decided at that time that I would defer making a final decision on the case until July 2005. As the Deputy is aware, the individual concerned was notified of my position and the reasons for it. Notwithstanding the development outlined by the Deputy in his question, I intend to wait until July 2005 to make a final decision on the matter. My officials will be in touch with the person concerned in advance of submitting the file to me for a final decision.

Asylum Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

184 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for residency by a person (details supplied) and their family will be processed as same has been applied for since 2002; the reasons for same including medical reasons have been clearly set out therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34012/04]

The person concerned arrived in the State in November 2000 and made an application for asylum. His wife arrived in December 2000 and also claimed asylum. In February 2002 his wife gave birth. They withdrew their asylum applications and applied for permission to remain in the State on the basis of their parentage of an Irish-born child.

Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the cases of L & O, the separate procedure which then existed to enable persons to apply to reside in the State on the sole basis of parentage of an Irish-born child ended on 19 February 2003. The Government decided that the separate procedure would not apply to cases which were outstanding on that date. There is a large number of such cases outstanding at present, including the case to which the Deputy refers.

Since the persons in question do not have an alternative legal basis for remaining in this jurisdiction the issue of permission to remain will be considered — but only in the context of a Ministerial proposal to deport them. If, in the light of representations received and the range of factors set out in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, the Minister decides not to make a deportation order they will be given leave to remain on a humanitarian basis. However, the Deputy should be aware that I have recently announced that the Government has approved my proposals to introduce revised arrangements for the processing of claims for permission to remain in the State from non-national parents of Irish-born children with effect from early 2005. The persons in question may apply for residency in the State under the revised arrangements as they are parents of an Irish-born child.

Court Procedures.

Finian McGrath

Question:

185 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there is a statutory obligation to inform a victim’s family of the date of a court case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34017/04]

There is no statutory obligation to inform a victim's family of the date of a court case. However, the procedures put in place by the Garda authorities in relation to the victims of crime — which are set out in the Garda charter for victims of crime — provide that the gardaí will inform victims, where a suspect is charged, of the time, date and location of the court hearing of the charges against the accused.

Crime Levels.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

186 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the content of a newspaper article (details supplied) concerning the inability of the gardaí to effectively deal with the high levels of crime in Finglas, Dublin due to inadequate staff numbers; if Garda numbers in the Finglas area have been reduced by 17 since December 1999; the justification for same in view of ongoing widespread criminal activity; the action which he will take to address this problem since it was brought to his attention by Deputies for Dublin North West as a meeting in his office on 12 November 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34032/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of Finglas Garda station as at the 15 December 2004 was 74 — all ranks. This figure includes two probationer gardaí who were allocated to Finglas Garda station on 26 November 2004. The personnel strength of Finglas Garda station as at 31 December 1999 was 90 — all ranks.

Finglas Garda station forms part of the Dublin metropolitan region — west — division. The personnel strength of this division as at 15 December 2004 was 659, all ranks. This figure includes 22 probationer gardaí who were allocated to the Dublin metropolitan region — west — division on 26 November 2004, two of whom were allocated to Finglas Garda station. The personnel strength for the same division as at 1 January 1999 was 542, all ranks. This represents an increase of 117, or 21.59%, in the number of personnel allocated to the Dublin metropolitan region — west — division since that date.

It is the responsibility of the divisional officer to allocate personnel within his or her division to ensure the optimum use is made of the existing resources within the division. The Deputy will be aware that I provided the Garda Síochána with an extra €4 million, providing 140,000 additional hours overtime for high visibility policing, for the eight weeks leading up to the 31 December 2004.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Operation Crossover II was launched in the Finglas sub-district on 12 November 2004 to target criminal activity. In addition, I am informed that there are a number of initiatives in place to counteract public order offending and anti-social activities in the Finglas area. The area receives regular patrolling by uniformed car and van units with a view to ensuring a concentrated and visible Garda presence in the area. A community police unit is assigned to the area. Patrols are backed up by foot patrols and mountain bike patrols in addition to the divisional crime task force, divisional traffic unit and detective units. I am also informed that the gardaí, in association with neighbourhood watch groups, resident associations and Dublin City Council, co-ordinate and design initiatives to target high incident areas.

I understand there is currently one juvenile liaison officer working full time with children who offend in the Finglas area. In addition to this there is an active local drugs task force which co-ordinates the efforts of the gardaí the various other agencies and the community in the ongoing fight against drugs. There is also one Garda youth diversion project in the area, the FAN, Finglas Action Now, project. This project is a community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiative which seeks to divert young persons from becoming involved — or further involved — in anti-social and-or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects. By doing so, the project also contributes to improving the quality of life within communities and enhancing Garda-community relations.

With regard to Garda resources generally, I am pleased to note 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 additional resources. In this context, the needs of the Finglas sub-district will be fully considered within the context of policing needs throughout the country. 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 very significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda Traffic Corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into front-line, operational, high-visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if and when he will reconsider an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34042/04]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in June 2002. The application was submitted to me for a decision in March 2004 and I decided not to grant a certificate of naturalisation in that instance.

Section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that an applicant for naturalisation must have one year's period of residence in the State before the date of the application and a total of four year's residence in the State in the eight preceding that period. Section 16(g) of that Act provides that I may, in my absolute discretion, waive the statutory conditions in certain circumstances, including where the applicant is a person who is a refugee within the meaning of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. In considering applications under this provision, I am generally disposed to waive two years of the normal residency requirement, thereby requiring such applicants to be resident in the State for three years at the time of application. This three year period commences from the date the applicant arrived in the State to seek refugee status.

The reason for my refusal was disclosed to the applicant in the letter informing him of my decision. The applicant arrived in the State on the 5 February 2001 and made his application for a certificate of naturalisation on 5 June 2002. As there were no circumstances apparent in the application which would have lead me to depart from the general policy outlined above, I decided to refuse the application based on the fact that the applicant was not in the State three years at the time of application. Assuming that the person concerned has been resident in the State continually since his arrival here in February 2001, he would now appear to have the appropriate residency. It is open to him to submit a new application at any time. Any such application will be considered against the statutory and administrative provisions in operation at the time the application is submitted.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 169 of 4 November 2004, if he will give consideration as a special concession in the case to approve a family reunification as requested; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34043/04]

Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the cases of L & O, the separate procedure which then existed to enable persons to apply to reside in the State on the sole basis of parentage of an Irish-born child ended on 19 February 2003. The Government also decided that the general policy of allowing such parents to be joined in the State by other family members would no longer apply. I am not aware of any special circumstances over and above those of others in a similar situation which would warrant a special concession in the case.

Crime Levels.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

189 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of headline offences in 1998; the number of headline offences in 2003; and the projected or estimated total number of headline offences committed during 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34055/04]

I can inform the Deputy that the 1998 Garda Síochána annual report recorded 85,627 indictable offences. There were 103,360 headline offences recorded in the 2003 Garda Síochána annual report. I am not prepared to comment on projected total figures for 2004 until the final provisional statistics have been received by me from the Garda Commissioner. However, as the Deputy will be aware, there was a reduction of 3% in headline offences, and 14% in non-headline offences, in 2003 compared to 2002. This downward trend has continued in 2004, which has seen a reduction of 7% in headline offences for the first nine months of this year compared to the same period for 2003.

The Deputy will be aware that the crime statistics since the year 2000 are not directly comparable with those of previous years. This is due to the altered format of the annual report of the Garda Síochána following the introduction of the PULSE system in 2000.

Sentencing Policy.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

190 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps that have been taken to implement the Law Reform Commission’s 1996 report on sentencing; if he will give a detailed response to that report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34056/04]

The traditional approach to sentencing is for the Oireachtas to lay down by law the maximum penalty appropriate to a particular offence and for the courts, having considered all the circumstances of a case, to impose an appropriate penalty up to that maximum. This approach reflects the doctrine of the separation of powers. The courts are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions. The Legislature lays down the possible punishment range but it is for the courts to exercise discretion in deciding the punishment while taking account of all the circumstances of the case and of the offender.

The District Court has a reasonably wide range of sentencing options at its disposal including fines, probation orders, community service orders, compensation orders and imprisonment. In light of the geographical organisation of the District Court, it is not unusual that some variation will occur in relation to the penalties imposed for similar offences. The Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 enables me, as Minister, to provide funds for judicial training courses arranged by the Judiciary and, in this regard, funds are made available to the judicial studies institute which was established by the Chief Justice for the purposes of judicial training. I understand that the issue of sentencing has been examined by the institute in the context of its training programme.

As regards consistency in sentencing, section 36 of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act, 1961 makes provision for meetings of District Court judges to discuss, inter alia, the avoidance of undue divergence in the exercise of the jurisdiction of the court and the general level of fines and penalties. The complex question of sentencing policy was addressed at length by the Law Reform Commission in its report on sentencing which specifically recommended against the introduction of statutory sentencing guidelines. The report pointed out a number of differences of opinion among members of the commission as regards some of the recommendations which tend to underline the obvious complexities that arise in relation to sentencing policy.

I note the recommendation made by the commission against the introduction of statutory sentencing guidelines. Statutory guidelines would involve an undue interference in the independence of the Judiciary, it is argued. The decision on what type of sentence to impose is a judicial determination and, save only in exceptional circumstances, such as murder, major drug trafficking and certain firearm and explosives offences, the Oireachtas should generally be cautious in prescribing minimum sentences.

Action has been taken on a number of recommendations contained in the commission's report. For example, the Criminal Law Act 1997 abolished the penalties of penal servitude and imprisonment with hard labour. The issue of sentencing, in general, was addressed in the recent report of the working group on the jurisdiction of the courts. The group, while it did not make final recommendations, drew attention to possible options to promote consistency of sentencing which are being considered in my Department in consultation with the Courts Service. I would also advise the Deputy that in the context of the Criminal Justice Bill I am considering further reform in relation to structured sentencing.

Finally, I believe the courts are in the best position to see just what is the proper sentence as they alone can take all the circumstances in a particular case into account.

Prison Escapes.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

191 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide a report on the matters surrounding the escape from custody of a dangerous prisoner from Mountjoy while visiting a hospice on 12 December 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34057/04]

Escorts take place outside prison walls for a variety of reasons including visits to hospitals, to court, transfer to other prisons or on humanitarian grounds. Many thousands of escorts take place each year with a significant number of these being for compassionate reasons, such as visiting ill or dying relatives or visits to funeral homes or gravesides. Such releases are extremely important for prisoners and are very rarely abused.

It is the nature of prison escorts that there will always be an element of risk associated with transporting prisoners outside the secure confines of a closed prison. However, it is a very rare occurrence for prisoners to attempt to escape during such escorts. A balance must be struck between security and the need to operate a humanitarian prison system. It is a question of managing the risk involved. This is reflected in the number of prison staff accompanying the prisoner. Obviously, there are other cases where the level of risk dictates refusal of the request. However, requests are accommodated where possible.

Decisions on requests for escorted outings are made, on my behalf, by senior officials in the Irish prison service. In some cases, they may be submitted to me. The incident to which the Deputy refers occurred on Sunday, 12 December 2004. The prisoner had made a request to visit his mother, who was terminally ill, in Our Lady's Hospice, Harold's Cross. An escorted outing was approved on compassionate grounds by a senior official of the Irish prison service. The prisoner visited his mother on Saturday, 11 December 2004 and again the following day as her condition deteriorated. He had also had a previous visit without incident. All visits were accompanied by three prison officers and approval was on the basis that the prisoner was to be handcuffed at all times. During the visit on Sunday at which a prison chaplain was also in attendance, the prisoner escaped from the hospice.

The prisoner was serving sentences totalling ten years for robbery, assault and other offences and was due for release in June 2009. An investigation is being carried out by the governor of Mountjoy prison into the incident. The Deputy will appreciate that I am unable to comment in detail at this stage as the investigation is ongoing and I do not wish to prejudice the outcome or any proceedings that may arise out of the incident. However, initial reports suggest that the prisoner slipped the handcuffs, escaped via a patio door and made his getaway into the grounds before scaling a boundary wall. An officer was injured while in pursuit. Staff contacted the prison, which notified the Garda.

The full report of the investigation into the incident will be forwarded to the director general of the prison service and myself. I fully understand that such incidents cause public concern and, in order to safeguard both the prison staff and the general public, every precaution must be taken to prevent their recurrence.

Sentencing Policy.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

192 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the issue of, and level of, inconsistency in sentencing in the District Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34058/04]

The traditional approach to sentencing is for the Oireachtas to lay down by law the maximum penalty appropriate to a particular offence and for the courts, having considered all the circumstances of a case, to impose an appropriate penalty up to that maximum. This approach reflects the doctrine of the separation of powers. The courts are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions. The Legislature lays down the possible punishment range but it is for the courts to exercise discretion in deciding the punishment while taking account of all the circumstances of the case and of the offender. The District Court has a reasonably wide range of sentencing options at its disposal including fines, probation orders, community service orders, compensation orders and imprisonment. In light of the geographical organisation of the District Court, it is not unusual that some variation will occur in relation to the penalties imposed for similar offences.

The Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 enables me, as Minister, to provide funds for judicial training courses arranged by the Judiciary and, in this regard, funds are made available to the judicial studies institute which was established by the Chief Justice for the purposes of judicial training. I understand that the issue of sentencing has been examined by the institute in the context of its training programme. As regards consistency in sentencing, section 36 of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961 makes provision for meetings of District Court judges to discuss, inter alia, the avoidance of undue divergence in the exercise of the jurisdiction of the court and the general level of fines and penalties. The complex question of sentencing policy was addressed at length by the Law Reform Commission in its report on sentencing which specifically recommended against the introduction of statutory sentencing guidelines. The report pointed out a number of differences of opinion among members of the commission in relation to some of the recommendations which tends to underline the obvious complexities which arise in relation to sentencing policy.

I note the recommendation made by the commission against the introduction of statutory sentencing guidelines. Statutory guidelines would involve, the argument goes, an undue interference in the independence of the Judiciary. The decision on what kind of sentence to impose is a judicial determination and, save only in exceptional circumstances, such as murder, major drug trafficking and certain firearm and explosives offences, the Oireachtas should generally be cautious in prescribing minimum sentences.

Action has been taken on a number of recommendations contained in the commission's report. For example, the Criminal Law Act 1997 abolished the penalties of penal servitude and imprisonment with hard labour. The issue of sentencing, in general, was addressed in the recent report of the working group on the jurisdiction of the courts. The group, while it did not make final recommendations, drew attention to possible options to promote consistency of sentencing which are being considered in my Department in consultation with the Courts Service. I would also advise the Deputy that in the context of the Criminal Justice Bill I am considering further reform in relation to structured sentencing.

Finally, I believe that the courts are in the best position to see just what is the proper sentence as they alone can take all the circumstances in a particular case into account.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

193 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the proposals he has to address the issue of, and level of, inconsistency in sentencing in the District Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34059/04]

The traditional approach to sentencing is for the Oireachtas to lay down by law the maximum penalty appropriate to a particular offence and for the courts, having considered all the circumstances of a case, to impose an appropriate penalty up to that maximum. This approach reflects the doctrine of the separation of powers. The courts are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions. The Legislature lays down the possible punishment range but it is for the courts to exercise discretion in deciding the punishment while taking account of all the circumstances of the case and of the offender. The District Court has a reasonably wide range of sentencing options at its disposal including fines, probation orders, community service orders, compensation orders and imprisonment. In light of the geographical organisation of the District Court, it is not unusual that some variation will occur in relation to the penalties imposed for similar offences.

The Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 enables me, as Minister, to provide funds for judicial training courses arranged by the Judiciary and, in this regard, funds are made available to the judicial studies institute which was established by the Chief Justice for the purposes of judicial training. I understand that the issue of sentencing has been examined by the institute in the context of its training programme. As regards consistency in sentencing, section 36 of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act, 1961 makes provision for meetings of District Court judges to discuss, inter alia, the avoidance of undue divergence in the exercise of the jurisdiction of the court and the general level of fines and penalties. The complex question of sentencing policy was addressed at length by the Law Reform Commission in its report on sentencing which specifically recommended against the introduction of statutory sentencing guidelines. The report pointed out a number of differences of opinion among members of the commission in relation to some of the recommendations which tends to underline the obvious complexities which arise in relation to sentencing policy.

I note the recommendation made by the commission against the introduction of statutory sentencing guidelines. Statutory guidelines would involve, the argument goes, an undue interference in the independence of the Judiciary. The decision on what kind of sentence to impose is a judicial determination and, save only in exceptional circumstances, such as murder, major drug trafficking and certain firearm and explosives offences, the Oireachtas should generally be cautious in prescribing minimum sentences.

Action has been taken on a number of recommendations contained in the commission's report. For example, the Criminal Law Act 1997 abolished the penalties of penal servitude and imprisonment with hard labour. The issue of sentencing, in general, was addressed in the recent report of the working group on the jurisdiction of the courts. The group, while it did not make final recommendations, drew attention to possible options to promote consistency of sentencing which are being considered in my Department in consultation with the Courts Service. I would also advise the Deputy that in the context of the Criminal Justice Bill I am considering further reform in relation to structured sentencing.

Finally, I believe that the courts are in the best position to see just what is the proper sentence as they alone can take all the circumstances in a particular case into account.

Extradition Matters.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

194 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the two persons wanted in connection with the killing of a person (details supplied); their possible whereabouts in so far as it is known; the steps that have been taken by way of extradition arrangements, police co-operation or otherwise to bring them to justice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34060/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that inquiries are ongoing in relation to the killing of the person in question, that two persons are being sought for questioning in relation to the matter; and that the current whereabouts of these two persons is not known. I am further informed that there has been extensive co-operation with police services in other jurisdictions in the matter. The question of extradition does not arise at this time.

Court Sittings.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

195 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to proceed with the introduction of night and weekend courts as promised in the programme for Government. [34065/04]

Experience of the operation of court sittings on Saturdays and special sittings during the week in Dublin continues to be reviewed. Moreover, changes in the law to make it more effective continue to be considered and I have in this context provided in the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 for the use of a fixed penalties procedure in relation to certain public order offences.

Prison Committals.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

196 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the annual cost of keeping prisoners in each prison; and his views on whether this expenditure is effective from the point of view of the prisoners and cost effective from the point of view of the State. [34067/04]

The average cost of keeping an offender for the year 2003 is as follows:

Institution

Cost per prisoner €

Arbour Hill Prison

73,600

Castlerea Prison

75,250

Cork Prison

72,350

Cloverhill Prison

83,300

Curragh Place of Detention

70,100

Fort Mitchel Place of Detention

96,050

Limerick Prison

90,200

Loughan House Place of Detention

67,700

Midlands Prison

77,300

Mountjoy Prison (incl. Dóchas Centre)

97,900

Portlaoise Prison

232,100

Shelton Abbey Place of Detention

80,100

St. Patrick’s Institution

82,300

Training Unit Place of Detention

71,800

Wheatfield Prison

75,800

The cost per prisoner is based on the average daily number of offenders in those institutions during 2003. The operational cost of each institution is based on actual running costs, that is, pay, overtime, food, light and heat, maintenance, etc. These costs include certain items which are fixed no matter what the number of offenders in custody is, e.g. staffing numbers, utilities, etc. All headquarters and central service costs are allocated over the prison establishments for the purpose of this calculation. Capital expenditure is excluded from the calculation.

The Irish Prison Service operates a humane prisoner regime with a high level of out of cell time and access to health, education, work training, psychology and other rehabilitative services. It is constantly striving to ensure it delivers value for money to the State. In 2004, for the first time in years, I reversed the upward trend in prison officer overtime and achieved significant savings. In this context discussions between the prison service and the Prison Officers' Association in relation to eliminating overtime are close to being concluded. I am hopeful that an agreement will be finalised shortly and that staff will ballot for acceptance.

Community Policing Fora.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

197 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of funding being made available to support the community policing fora from the point of view of raising awareness, publishing newsletters and so on. [34068/04]

Funding is currently made available to a number of community policing fora which have arisen in the context of the Government's national drugs strategy. There are two such fora operating on a pilot basis under the aegis of the local drugs task forces in the north inner-city and in Finglas and Cabra. The north inner-city community policing fora was established in 1999 and currently operates in Dublin's north-east inner-city area. This project receives annual funding of €72,950 through the local drugs task force initiative. In addition, the north inner-city task force initiated an additional pilot project in 2004 which involves extending the work of the original policing fora within the wider task force area. This project extension currently receives annual funding of €64,198.

A community policing forum under the aegis of the local drugs task force in Finglas and Cabra was established as a pilot initiative in 2003. This project also receives annual funding of €50,790 through the local drugs task force initiative. In all of these cases, funding is provided in respect of staff and programme costs which would include raising the awareness of the fora within their local communities. The growth of community policing fora in general needs to be delivered in the context of the development of an appropriate policy framework for what are relatively new partnership structures involving the gardaí, local authorities and local communities. Such a framework will ensure that such fora can be appropriately developed in a consistent and properly planned manner rather than the ad hoc way in which they have tended to emerge in a number of different contexts to date. Work is well under way on the development of such a policy framework which will facilitate progress in this area.

The Garda Síochána Bill 2004 represents the most significant legislative reform of Garda structures since the foundation of the State. Included in its draft provisions are mechanisms for enhanced co-operation between the gardaí and local authorities through the establishment, on a statutory basis, of policing committees. It is intended that such committees will act as fora where matters relating to all aspects of policing can be discussed and where strategies and recommendations for dealing with issues arising locally can be decided. It is intended that these policing committees will facilitate the establishment of local policing fora to address specific issues in local areas.

Probation and Welfare Service.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

198 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the funding given to organisations which provide rehabilitative services for offenders or ex-offenders. [34069/04]

Funding is made available by my Department through the Probation and Welfare Service for a range of facilities and programmes that support the work of the service in the management of persons who are on court-ordered supervision in the community, have been released from custody and where there is capacity for or risk of re-offending. The Probation and Welfare Service supports 73 projects nationally which offer programmes to offenders and those at risk of offending. In 2003 the capital and current funding provided to these projects amounted to €13.9 million. In the current year up to 30 November 2004, the expenditure in this area amounts to €12.79 million.

Asylum Applications.

John McGuinness

Question:

199 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a decision will be expedited in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny: and the timeframe for a decision to be made. [34079/04]

This person arrived in the State on 24 April 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

In accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, he was informed by letter dated 17 November 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before an order is made or consenting to the making of a deportation order.

This person's case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, which deals with prohibition of refoulement. I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Garda Deployment.

Mary Wallace

Question:

200 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the 700 gardaí for the new traffic corps will commence duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34080/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of gardaí assigned to the traffic corps will increase on a phased basis from its current approved level of 531 to 1,200 by 2008. This phased increase will coincide with the phased increase in the overall strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 during the period. The traffic corps will provide a highly visible presence on the roads through marked patrol cars and marks the start of a sustained investment in Garda road traffic capacity. It will have a dedicated and identifiable budget, and formal arrangements for this within the Garda budget are now being put in place.

Garda Stations.

Tony Gregory

Question:

201 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the three Garda stations which cover the Cabra area of Dublin 7; the number and rank of gardaí in each case; the number of community gardaí and the areas they cover; the number of gardaí available for foot patrol; and the plans to increase the number of gardaí in each station during 2005 in view of the needs of the area covered. [34081/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that Cabra Garda station is the primary Garda station for the Cabra area. The Bridewell and Mountjoy Garda stations provide personnel for adjoining areas. The personnel strength of Cabra Garda station on 15 December 2004 was 64, across all ranks. The personnel strength of the Bridewell and Mountjoy Garda stations at the same date was 167 and 91, respectively.

There are two community gardaí with specific responsibility for the areas of Cabra west, Dunard estate and the various housing estates off the Navan Road. The personnel strength of the community policing units attached to the Bridewell and Mountjoy Garda stations on 15 December 2004 was 14, across all ranks in both stations. Two community gardaí attached to the Bridewell Garda station have responsibility for and are assigned to the Cabra area of the district, which includes Annamoe, Old Cabra Road and McKee Park. Two community gardaí attached to the Mountjoy Garda station have responsibility for and are assigned to the Cabra area of the district, which includes St. Attracta Road and Christ the King Church.

I am very pleased to note 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 the agreed programme for Government. 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 additional resources. In this context, the needs of the Cabra area will be fully considered within the context of policing needs throughout the country. The additional resources will clearly be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies 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 as part of the new Garda traffic corps. The additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline operational, high-visibility policing and they will have a real impact.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael Lowry

Question:

202 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Science the outcome of her visit to a primary school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if she witnessed at first hand the cramped environment at the school; when she will sanction an extension to the school to cater for the obvious growing needs of the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33885/04]

As part of the expansion of the devolved scheme for primary school building works, a grant of €100,000 was sanctioned to enable the management authorities of the school in question to provide additional classroom accommodation.

The initiative allows boards of management to address their accommodation and building priorities with a guaranteed amount of funding and gives boards of management control of the building project. My Department does not intend increasing the amount of the grant offered to the school. This is because a central tenet of the devolved scheme is that the school, granted discretion and funding, must equally accept responsibility for prioritisation, control of costs and ensuring value for money.

Special Educational Needs.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

203 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 326 of 5 October 2004, if she will issue approval for the computer to the person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33886/04]

An application on the provision of assistive technology for the pupil referred to by the Deputy has recently been received from the school authorities. My Department has approved the purchase of a Kurweil book scanner and laptop computer for this pupil under the grant scheme for the purchase of equipment for second level pupils with a disability. A letter has been issued to the school authorities to this effect. The funds will be paid when the necessary invoices are submitted to the Department.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

204 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) in County Wexford is in need of a special needs assistant who is attending a school in County Wexford; the action which will be taken to ensure that the special assistant will be granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33887/04]

My Department has no record of receiving an application for special needs assistant support for the pupil in question. Any application received will be considered in the context of the pupil's special care needs, the criteria contained in circular 07/02 and the special needs assistant support available to the school.

Schools Building Projects.

Mary Wallace

Question:

205 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Science the position with regard to the opening of a college (details supplied) in County Meath in September 2005 in temporary accommodation pending the construction of the new building which is to commence in 2005; the outcome of the meeting of 29 November 2004 in her Department with regard to same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33888/04]

Proposals to commence the new school referred to by the Deputy in temporary accommodation from next September have been received in my Department. These proposals, which provide a number of options, are being considered and a decision will issue to the school authority as soon as possible.

Computerisation Programme.

Mary Wallace

Question:

206 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress which has been made with regard to the provision of broadband connection services to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33889/04]

The provision of broadband to schools is a central element of my Department's strategy for advancing ICT as a teaching and learning resource in first and second level education.

Earlier this year the Government reached agreement with the telecommunications sector on a major investment project which will see broadband connectivity delivered to all schools by the end of 2005. A three year fund of €18 million is being established for this purpose, with industry providing €5 million per annum and the Government providing €1 million per annum. Tenders for the provision of broadband to schools are currently being evaluated by a team of experts appointed by my Department and it is the intention to award contracts shortly with a view to commencing roll out of service to schools in the new year.

Additional Exchequer funding is being provided for the development of a secure national broadband network for schools managed centrally by HEAnet and a services help desk, managed by the national centre for technology in education, providing advice and support to schools on technical issues with broadband connectivity. Both the national network and the help desk are currently being developed and will be operational in the new year to support the roll out of broadband service to schools.

I also recently announced a new €18 million funding package for schools which will enable them to upgrade and augment their computer network facilities in advance of broadband roll out next year. This €18 million funding for computer networks, which is being paid to schools this month, is additional to the €18 million being provided for broadband connectivity through the industry and Government fund.

Schools Building Projects.

Jack Wall

Question:

207 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of an extension for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33890/04]

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning. It has a band 2 rating.

In the near future I will announce details of up to 75 major primary and 30 major post-primary school projects on a priority basis that are already at an advanced stage of design and I will authorise the schools concerned to complete the design process to the point where tenders can be issued. When these schools and their design teams report back that they have completed the work I will, on a rolling basis during the year, authorise projects to move to tender and construction.

Overall, I aim to have at least 50 primary schools and 17 post-primary school projects tendered and going on site by year end 2005. I will make further announcements in the coming weeks and months.

Special Educational Needs.

Jack Wall

Question:

208 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the problems being created at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33891/04]

The school in question currently has the services of two full-time resource teachers, one part-time resource teacher and two full-time learning support teachers. One of the learning support teaching posts was originally sanctioned on the basis of a sharing arrangement with another school. Following a reorganisation of the shared learning support cluster in October 2004, it was decided to allocate the second learning support teaching post to the school on a full-time basis.

The appropriate level of resource teaching support in the school will be addressed in the context of the proposed new system of allocation of resource teaching support in primary schools. The proposed system involves a general allocation to all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, that is, pupils with borderline mild and mild general learning disability and specific learning disability. The allocation is also intended to support those with learning support needs, that is, those functioning at or below the tenth percentile on a standardised test of reading and/or mathematics. An additional 350 teacher posts are being provided to facilitate the introduction of the new system.

I am conscious of difficulties that could arise with this model, particularly for children in small and rural schools, if it were implemented as currently proposed. Accordingly, I am having the proposed model reviewed to ensure that it provides an automatic response for pupils with common mild learning disabilities, without the need for cumbersome individual applications, while at the same time ensuring that pupils currently in receipt of service continue to receive the level of service appropriate to their needs. The review will involve consultation with representative interests and the National Council for Special Education before it is implemented next year.

Individual applications may continue to be made for specific resource teacher allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs.

Site Acquisitions.

Jack Wall

Question:

209 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of a site for a new school building for a new school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33892/04]

The property management section of the Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of my Department on site acquisitions generally, is currently exploring the possibility of acquiring a site for the school in question. Due to the commercial sensitivities of site acquisitions, it is not proposed at this stage to identify specific sites to be acquired. However, this information will be placed on my Department's website when the relevant acquisitions have been completed.

The question of the provision of the new accommodation for the school will be considered further when a site has been acquired.

Schools Building Projects.

Jack Wall

Question:

210 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding a new school building for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33893/04]

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning. It has a band 3 rating.

The introduction of a multi-annual funding process for school building projects requires a revised approach to how projects are scheduled through the design process and on to tender and construction. To maintain a smooth flow of projects and to ensure that the optimum number of projects is ready to go to tender and construction at any given time, I will progress on a priority basis those projects that are in the early design stages. I will provide further details of those projects and notify the schools concerned early in 2005. In this way I wish to create a sustained momentum in the schools building programme to match the Government's multi-annual funding commitment.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

211 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 261 of 30 March 2004, the progress which has been made with regard to the building projects proposed by the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33894/04]

The application for additional permanent accommodation 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 schools building programme. Under this review, all projects are 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 its progress considered in the context of the school building programme from 2005 onwards.

The school authority has also made an application for capital funding under both the summer works scheme and the temporary accommodation scheme. All applications under these schemes are being assessed in the school planning section of my Department. I intend to publish a list of successful applicants early in the new year.

Educational Infrastructure.

Michael Ring

Question:

212 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if the area development plan for education infrastructure at a location (details supplied) is complete; when the draft area development plan will be published; if he will report on the submissions which have been received in this regard and provide this Deputy with a copy of each; the estimated date for the publication of the final area development plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33895/04]

Earlier this year a new planning model was introduced for educational infrastructure to ensure that school provision is decided after a transparent consultation process. Trustees, parents, sponsors of prospective schools and all interested parties from a locality have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process. The main feature of the new model, which is being introduced initially on a pilot basis in five specific areas, is the publication of an area development plan which sets out a blueprint for education infrastructure in a particular area into the future. The components of a draft area development plan are details of existing primary and post primary provision, an examination of local demographics, a commentary on relevant data and recommendations on future provision. On publication of each draft area development plan, the commission on school accommodation conducts a public engagement process to which all interested parties can make submissions. All of these submissions are published. The process in each case culminates in the publication of a final area development plan against which all capital funding decisions will be made over the next decade.

The final area development plan for Mountmellick and Mountrath has been published and the final area development plan for the area around the N4 from Leixlip through Kilcock, Enfield, Longwood, Kinnegad and Rochfortbridge to Kilbeggan is being completed. A further three draft area development plans will be published by the middle of next year. The location of the proposed new school to which the Deputy refers is being considered as part of the process outlined above.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Michael Ring

Question:

213 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when a person (details supplied) in County Longford will receive a salary and arrears; and if this payment will be issued before Christmas 2004. [33928/04]

A payment system has been established for the person referred to by the Deputy. Appropriate salary and arrears will issue on 16 December.

Schools Building Projects.

Denis Naughten

Question:

214 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will approve funding for a school (details supplied) in County Roscommon; when she hopes to be in a position to announce the 2005 allocation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33945/04]

The application for an extension at 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 schools building programme. 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 its progress considered in the context of the school building programme from 2005 onwards. I will make further announcements on the schools building programme in due course.

Departmental Report.

Dan Neville

Question:

215 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will publish the external evaluation of Exploring Masculinities carried out at the University of Limerick by a person (details supplied) and which the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment referred to in its final report, Exploring Masculinities in 2002. [33983/04]

The report, The Piloting of Exploring Masculinities (1997-1998): Context, Implementation and Issues Arising; Report of External Evaluation, to which the Deputy refers was published by my Department in April 2004. It was compiled by Mr. Jim Gleeson, Ms Patricia Conboy and Ms Aileen Walsh. Copies of the report can be obtained by contacting the gender equality unit, Block 1, the Department of Education and Science, Marlborough Street, Dublin 1.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

216 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when a recommendation (details supplied) will be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34003/04]

The projects resulting from the recommendations to which the Deputy refers are 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 the review, all projects are 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 its progress considered in the context of the school building programme from 2005 onwards.

School Staffing.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

217 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 247 and 250 of 16 November 2004, if the mainstream class post can remain this year in view of the effect its loss will have on the school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34004/04]

The patron of the school referred to by the Deputy has raised further issues on the staffing allocation to the school. The issues are under active consideration in my Department and the patron will be notified of the decision very shortly.

School Transport.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

218 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if school transport will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34005/04]

In order to be eligible for free school transport under the terms of the primary school transport scheme, children must live two miles or more from, and be attending, their nearest national school. A school transport service may be established, provided that at least seven eligible pupils reside in a distinct locality.

The pupil to whom the Deputy refers is fully eligible for transport to the school referred to in the details supplied. However, there is no service operating from the area in which the pupil resides to the school in question, as there are an insufficient number of eligible pupils offering for transport from the area.

In the absence of a school transport service, my Department offered the pupil's family grant-aid towards the cost of private transport arrangements from their home to the school.

School Services Staff.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

219 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if school caretakers will be included in benchmarking payments in their capacity as workers in the public service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34006/04]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that caretakers employed under the Department's 1979 scheme are eligible for payment of phase 1 and phase 2 of the benchmarking award, together with phase 1 of Sustaining Progress.

The increased pay rate, together with any arrears owed, will be included in the caretakers salary issue dated 30 December 2004. The amount of the advance arrears payment, which issued to the caretakers in May last, will be deducted from this salary issue and any outstanding balance will be paid.

The relevant circular is set out below for the Deputy's information.

Circular Pay 29/04

To the Management Authorities of Primary Schools

Revision of Salaries for Caretakers employed under the Department's 1979 Scheme

1. The Minister for Education and Science wishes to inform Management Authorities and Caretakers of the application of revised rates of salary with effect from:

(a) 1 December 2001 and

(b) 1 January 2004

2. The new rates of salary have been introduced as a result of the implementation of:

(a) Phase 1 and 2 of the pay award under the Benchmarking Agreement.

(b) Phase 1 of Sustaining Progress.

Section 19.19 of Sustaining Progress provided that one quarter of the increases recommended by the Public Service Benchmarking Body would be paid with effect from 1 December 2001 and one half would be paid with effect from 1 January 2004. In accordance with Section 19.18 of Sustaining Progress an increase of 3% is due with effect from 1 January 2004 also.

3. The payment of the first and second phase of the increases recommended by the Public Service Benchmarking Body and the 3% increase are dependent, in the case of each organisation and grade, on verification of co-operation with flexibility and ongoing change, satisfactory implementation of the agenda for modernisation, maintenance of stable industrial relations and absence of industrial action in respect of any matters covered by the Sustaining Progress agreement. The Secretary General in consultation with the Education Sector Performance Verification Group (ESPVG) has considered progress achieved and decided that the level of progress achieved during the period warrants the payment of the relevant pay increases.

4. For calculation purposes the second phase increase due under benchmarking has been added to the first phase increase of one quarter of the benchmarking award. This combined total of three quarters of the increase recommended by the Public Service Benchmarking Body has been added to the pre-benchmark pay rate as at 30th November 2001. The increase has been added to each point of incremental scales.

5. The basic pay rates resulting from the above calculation have been adjusted to take account of the 1st October 2002 increase of 4% due under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness.

6. Finally, the 3% increase due has been added to the basic pay rates resulting from the preceding paragraph with an effective date of 1st January 2004.

7. The final payment of Benchmarking increases and future payments under Sustaining Progress are dependent, in the case of each organisation and grade, on verification of co-operation with flexibility and ongoing change, maintenance of stable industrial relations and absence of industrial action in respect of any matters covered by Sustaining Progress. Payment is dependent on verification of satisfactory achievement of targets to be achieved in relation to ongoing change and flexibility.

8. The revised salary scales are set out in a schedule to this circular which can be accessed on this Department's website at www.education.ie under Education Personnel/Payroll Division.

9. Management authorities are requested to bring the contents of this Circular and the new salary scales to the attention of the Caretaker in their school. They are also requested to give a copy of the Circular and the salary scales to the members of the Board of Management.

10. The increased pay rate, together with any arrears owed, will be included in salary issue dated 30th December 2004. The amount of the advance arrears payment which issued to the caretaker in May last, will be deducted from this salary issue and any outstanding balance will be paid. Please refer to the notification on the advance payment which also issued in May last for any queries in this regard.

11. Queries regarding the Circular should be e-mailed to snacoct@education.gov.ie

P. Maloney

Principal Officer

December 2004

School Closures.

Michael Ring

Question:

220 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans for the future of a primary school (details supplied) in County Mayo; if a decision has been made for this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34021/04]

I can assure the Deputy that no final decision has been made on the future of the school to which the Deputy refers.

Officials of my Department have been in correspondence with the patron and management authority of the school regarding the possible amalgamation of this school with two other schools in the area. Discussions are ongoing locally between the patron, the board and the school community about the issue of amalgamation. The final decision rests with the patron, subject only to my approval.

School Insurance.

Richard Bruton

Question:

221 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the escalation in the cost of insurance for schools in Dublin in recent years; if she has developed an index of the costs of care and maintenance of second level schools; and her estimate of the increase in such costs in recent years and of the current cost per pupil. [34022/04]

I am not aware of the costs of insurance in individual secondary schools as it is a matter for the managerial authorities of the individual schools to arrange insurance cover on school property and against public liability. However, I am aware of the concerns expressed by school authorities, including those in Dublin, in relation to increased insurance costs.

Grant aid to voluntary secondary schools is provided by my Department by way of per capita grants and may be used towards insurance as well as care and maintenance costs.

The benefit of developing an index of the costs of care and maintenance and the associated cost per pupil is not clear. The amount expended by schools on such items is a matter for school managements and will vary depending on the priority accorded by each school in accordance with its own needs.

There have been significant improvements in the level of funding for voluntary secondary schools. I was particularly pleased to announce an aggregate increase of €26 per pupil from January next in the standard per capita grant and support services grant for voluntary secondary schools.

For a secondary school with 500 pupils, this amounts to additional funding since 1997 of up to €119,000 per annum and annual grants of €255,761, €275,000 in the case of disadvantaged schools, towards general expenses and support services. Schools are afforded considerable flexibility in the use of resources to cater for the needs of their pupils. This is, in general, a preferable approach to putting in place grants for specific cost items.

Schools have welcomed this announcement. These significant increases in the funding of secondary schools are a clear demonstration of my commitment to prioritise available resources to address the needs of schools.

Schools Building Projects.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

222 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if the long promised extension to a college (details supplied) in County Cork will be included in the building programme for 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34024/04]

The application for an extension at 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. All projects are being assessed against the published prioritisation criteria, revised earlier this year following consultation with the education partners. Each project is being assigned a band rating and progress is being considered in the context of the schools building programme from 2005 onwards.

As I outlined recently, I will be providing details, early in 2005, of projects which will commence design in order to maintain a smooth flow of projects through the system and sustain momentum in the schools building programme to match the Government's multi-annual funding commitment.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Mary Wallace

Question:

223 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will give consideration to the proposal from the County Meath VEC for the provision of a swimming pool adjacent to the new post-primary school in Ratoath which is due to commence construction in 2005 for occupation in 2006; her views on such a proposal in terms of partnership with the community on a similar basis to sports halls that are provided by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34025/04]

There are no plans at present for my Department to contribute towards the cost of developing swimming pools. The priority is to apply all capital funding allocated to my Department to school and college development.

The Deputy may wish to pursue this matter with the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation, which is responsible for the disbursement of national lottery funds for sporting and other purposes and-or the Department of the Environment and Local Government.

Special Educational Needs.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

224 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science the appeal procedure which persons have against a decision not to provide further support from a special needs assistant for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34026/04]

My Department is currently considering additional information submitted in support of the application for special needs assistant support for the person in question. A decision will be conveyed to the school as quickly as possible.

Schools Building Projects.

David Stanton

Question:

225 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made in the need for a refurbishment of a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34053/04]

The management authority of the school applied for an extension in May 2001. As part of the preliminary analysis by my officials, when processing an extension project such as that proposed for at the school referred to by the Deputy, the condition of existing school building is assessed. This analysis established the need for an extension and refurbishment at the school.

This application 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. All projects are being assessed against the published prioritisation criteria, revised earlier this year following consultation with the education partners. Each project is being assigned a band rating and progress is being considered in the context of the schools building programme from 2005 onwards.

As I outlined recently I will be providing details, early in 2005, of projects which will commence design, in order to maintain a smooth flow of projects through the system and sustain momentum in the schools building programme to match the Government's multi-annual funding commitment.

Defence Forces Training.

David Stanton

Question:

226 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Defence when the next commissioning from the ranks course will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34050/04]

Potential officers courses, POC, are held for non-commissioned personnel from time to time within the Defence Forces. Personnel who successfully complete such courses are commissioned as officers in the Permanent Defence Force. Participants on such courses are selected on a competitive basis. In addition, from time to time non-commissioned personnel who hold appropriate qualifications are commissioned to fill specialist appointments where vacancies arise. Eligible non-commissioned personnel may also apply for the annual cadetship competitions. The requirement for potential officer courses and commissioning from the ranks, CFR, competitions is reviewed from time to time and is being specifically addressed in the context of the integrated personnel management system, IPMS, which is one of the major policy initiatives provided for in the White Paper on Defence and in the programme for Government. The IPMS will make specific and ongoing provision for the introduction of regular schemes to commission enlisted personnel as officers in the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service.

Draft conditions governing the appointment of enlisted personnel of the Permanent Defence Force to be officers of the Naval Service are under discussion with the representative associations. As the discussions with the representative associations are ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment on any of the specifics of the proposed draft conditions. However, it is the intention that a potential officers course will be run as soon as these discussions are completed.

Retail Sector Developments.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

227 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on proposals to locate a store (details supplied) in Ballymun, in view of the severe traffic congestion which this is likely to cause on the M50; the examination which he has carried out into projected associated traffic flows and volumes on the M50; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34037/04]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 165 of 8 December 2004.

Proposed Legislation.

Mary Wallace

Question:

228 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress within his Department with regard to the building societies Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33922/04]

A substantial amount of work has been carried out in relation to the reform of building societies legislation, based on the recommendations of the review group on building societies legislation, which involved the building societies and relevant Departments. This work is continuing and following its completion, approval of legislation in this area will be a matter for the Government.

National Spatial Strategy.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

229 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the date on which a person (details supplied) began work on the spatial strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33923/04]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

231 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason the name of a company (details supplied) was not included in the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 172 of 10 October 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33925/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 229 and 231 together.

I refer to the reply to Priority Question No. 4 of 16 December 2004. As indicated in that reply, the person referred to in the question was appointed in July 2002 as a communications consultant under a contract to assist the Minister and the Department on strategic communications matters. During the run-up to the finalisation and launch of the national spatial strategy in November 2002, it was decided that the communications campaign supporting the strategy should be intensified considerably and the communications consultant was actively involved in this work. This consultant's involvement in the NSS project, which began at this time, was undertaken under the general terms of the relevant contract with the Department. The reply to Question No. 172 of 10 October 2002 properly listed consultancy contracts which were specifically procured in relation to the national spatial strategy.

Ministerial Travel.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

230 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the foreign locations visited by him and his predecessor on official business since 2002; the names of all advisers who accompanied him and his predecessor on each occasion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33924/04]

The information sought is set out in the following table. All listed business engagements prior to the EU Environment Council on 13-14 October 2004 were undertaken by my predecessor, Deputy Cullen. Engagements from this point forward have been undertaken by me.

Date

Destination

Official Party Accompanying Minister

Business Involved

2002

18-20 July 2002

Denmark (Sonderberg)

Conor Falvey, Geraldine Tallon

Danish Informal Environment Council

30 Aug-5 Sept. 2002

Johannesburg

Niall Callan, Maurice Coughlan Conor Falvey, John Kelleher, Monica Leech, Dan Pender, Geraldine Tallon

World Summit on Sustainable Development,

20-21 October 2002

The Hague

Conor Falvey, Monica Leech, Dan Pender, Geraldine Tallon

Ospar Arbitration Oral Hearing,

8-9 December 2002

Brussels

Conor Barry, Donal Enright, Conor Falvey, John Kelleher, Monica Leech, Dan Pender, Geraldine Tallon

Environment Council

2003

15-20 January 2003

London

Renee Dempsey, Conor Falvey, Alice McAndrew, Geraldine Tallon

3rd Meeting of the British Irish Council Environment Sector

13-16 February 2003

Edinburgh

Conor Falvey, Mary Moylan, Dan Pender

Meeting with Scottish Minister for Social Justice

3-4 March 2003

Brussels

Conor Falvey, John Kelleher, Dan Pender, Geraldine Tallon

Environment Council

7-19 March 2003

Brazil

Conor Falvey, Dan Pender

St. Patrick’s Day Visit

25 April-1 May 2003

New York

Conor Falvey, Bart Felle, Monica Leech, John Kelleher, Brian McKeon, Dan Pender, Geraldine Tallon

UN Commission on Sustainable Development

20-23 May 2003

Kiev, Ukraine

Conor Falvey, John Kelleher, Brian Leech, Monica Leech, Geraldine Tallon

5th Ministerial UNECE Conference Environment for Europe in Kiev

14-18 September 2003

Prague; Ljubljana, Slovenia (via Munich); Warsaw (via Vienna); Budapest

Noeleen Behan, Conor Falvey, John Martin, Mary Moylan, Owen Ryan, Geraldine Tallon

Pre-Presidency Visit to Accession Countries and attendance at the 13th Conference of Ministers for Regional Planning in Slovenia

4-6 October 2003

Rome, Italy

Donal Enright, Conor Falvey, Geraldine Tallon

Informal high-level meeting preparing for COP 9 (UN Climate Change Convention)

19-20 November 2003

Stockholm

Noeleen Behan, Conor Falvey, Monica Leech, Dan Pender, Owen Ryan, Geraldine Tallon

Pre Presidency Visit

27 November-1 December 2003

London, UK

Renee Dempsey, Conor Falvey, Dan Pender; Owen Ryan, Geraldine Tallon

Meetings with Office of the Mayor of London, Meeting with Secretary of State, Margaret Beckett

10-11 December 2003

Milan, Italy

Donal Enright, Conor Falvey, Minister of State Gallagher, Dan Pender, Brendan Quinn, Geraldine Tallon

Ninth Session of the Conference of the Parties to U N Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 9)

17 December 2003

Berlin

Noeleen Behan, Conor Falvey, Dan Pender, Owen Ryan, Geraldine Tallon

Pre Presidency Visit

2004 (Irish Presidency Period)

19-20 January 2004

Brussels

Conor Falvey, Feargal O’Coigligh, Dan Pender, Geraldine Tallon

Minister’s address to Environment Committee of the European Parliament

11-20 February 2004

Malaysia

Philip Buckley, Alan Craig, Marie Dromey, Conor Falvey, Noel Foley, Forest Service, Graeme Fox, Patrick Gernon, Patrick Gilheaney, John Gorman, Matthew Jebb, Naomi Kingston, Brian Leech Monica Leech, Deirdre Lynn, Deirdre Maloney, Tom McLoughlin, (Environment Protection Agency), Mary Moore, Christopher O’Grady, Ciaran O’Keeffe, Tom O’Mahony, Dan Pender, Owen Ryan, Tara Shine Dept. Foreign Affairs, Josephine Walsh, Patrick Warner, Ronan Whelan

High Level Segment of Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Malaysia

1-2 March 2004

Brussels

Maurice Coughlan, Sean Dunne, Donal Enright, Conor Falvey, Minister of State Gallagher, John Kelleher Brendan Quinn, Owen Ryan, Geraldine Tallon

EU Environment Council

18- 21 April 2004

Paris

Maurice Coughlan, Conor Falvey, Pat Gilheaney, Monica Leech, Dan Pender, Geraldine Tallon, Petra Woods

OECD — Environmental Policy Committee (EPOC) Ministerial Meeting in Paris

24-30 April 04

New York

R. Connolly, Fergus Doyle, Conor Falvey, Bart Felle, Jim Ganley, John Kelleher, A MacDiarmada, B McKeon, Dan Pender, A Quinn, Geraldine Tallon, Liam Whelan

Commission on Sustainable Development

27-28 June 2004

Luxembourg

Nuala Bannon, Maurice Coughlan, Conor Falvey, Minister Gallagher, Dan Pender, Brendan Quinn, Owen Ryan, Geraldine Tallon

EU Environment Council

13 October-14 October

Luxembourg

Cathy Bruton, Tom O’Mahony, Ríona Ní Fhlanghaile

EU Environment Council

13 December-18 December

Buenos Aires

Cathy Bruton, Feargal O Coigligh, Tom O’Mahony, Conor Ó Raghallaigh, Owen Ryan, Michael Young

10th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Question No. 231 answered with QuestionNo. 229.

Public Relations Contracts.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

232 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the names of all companies which made tenders for public relations contracts for programmes (details supplied); the name of the successful candidate in each case; the amount each was paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33933/04]

Tenders have not been sought for public relations contracts in connection with the review of local government funding. Tenders for the national inventory of architectural heritage were for advertising specific publications rather than public relations. The information referred to in the question in respect of the other programmes named is contained in the following table:

Programmes

Companies Tendering

Successful Tender

Amount paid

Race against waste

Carr Communications Drury Communications Financial Dynamics Helme Partnership Leo Burnett Associates Lightbulb McCann Erickson McConnells McGrath Environmental Consultants Menyma MRPA Consultants Ogilvey Group Bill O’Herlihy Communications Q4 PR QMP D’Arcy

McCann Erickson

€3.5 million

Awareness and Education campaign for Electronic Voting

H&A Visual Communications Ogilvy and Mather Group Ireland Ltd. Edelman/Accenture eDemocracy Services/Chemistry Anderson Spratt Group Irish International BBDO/Fleishman-Hillard Saunders Think and Son McConnells Advertising/Q4 Public Relations Financial Dynamics/Owens DDB AFA/O Meara Advertising/The Media Group PR McCann Erickson Dublin/Western Connect/Weber Shandwick FCC DDFH and B/Bill O'Herlihy Communications Group/Longview Consulting Bates Ireland MRPA Consultants Leo Burnett Associates QMP Publicis Murray Consultants/Brindley Advertising Drury Communications Carr Communications/McCann Erickson Belfast

McConnells Advertising/Q4 Public Relations

€2,565,790.87

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

233 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 1202 of 29 September 2004, if he will approve funding for a sewerage scheme (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33969/04]

The Roscommon towns and villages sewerage scheme, of which Ballyleague is an element, is included in my Department's water services investment programme 2004-06 as a scheme to commence construction in 2006. My Department is awaiting the submission by Roscommon County Council of a design review report for the scheme.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

234 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that with regard to the Private Residential Tenancies Board, the registration fee discriminates against student accommodation which requires at least two registrations in each calendar year; the plans he has to review the fee structure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33971/04]

Denis Naughten

Question:

235 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to review the information sought by the Private Residential Tenancies Board from landlords; the intended use of this information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33972/04]

The particulars to be provided in a tenancy registration application are prescribed in the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, based on the recommendations of the Commission on the Private Rented Residential Sector. I am satisfied that the requirements are reasonable and appropriate for the operation of this recently enacted legislation and it is not proposed to amend the relevant section of the Act.

The Private Residential Tenancies Board's registration database will be of key importance to the operation of its dispute resolution service, especially in relation to disputes over rents in excess of market levels, tenancy terminations and notice periods. It will also be an important source of information to the board in the performance of its statutory functions of providing information, research and policy advice on the private rented sector. Up to date information is essential for the development of informed policy on this segment of the housing market. The registration data collected by the board will, for example, enable the board to identify the size of the market, the type of dwellings and rent levels and trends for different dwellings and locations.

Proposed Legislation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

236 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the escalation of problems associated with the operation of private gated estates in respect of uncontrolled management charges and the unreliability of management companies generally; if he has plans to introduce legislation to address these problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34033/04]

Such management companies are constituted under the Companies Acts and are required to comply with the provisions of those Acts. The operation of such companies is primarily a matter for their members, which are the owners of the properties in the developments to which they relate. The agreed programme for Government undertook to consider the introduction of legislation to regulate the establishment and operation of apartment complex management companies and a Law Reform Commission working group is examining the law on condominiums and issues relating to management companies. As part of its work, the group is considering consumer protection issues, including management company service charges. The group intends to produce a consultation paper early next year. This should provide a basis for considering measures and how they should be pursued.

Waste Disposal.

David Stanton

Question:

237 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to the waste management pay by weight systems being introduced by local authorities nationwide, if he has issued or intends to issue guidelines or advice on the way in which disposable nappies are to be dealt with in view of the fact that the extra weight involved will lead to highly increased costs to, in the main, young parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34051/04]

The 2004 policy statement, Waste Management: Taking Stock and Moving Forward, indicated the intention to move in 2005 to a weight-volume-based system of waste charges on a national basis. It is a matter for the local authorities, whether as direct service providers or waste collection permitting authorities, to oversee this transition to weight-volume-based charging. Service providers will be allowed discretion as to the precise systems to be used, provided that the fundamental principle of use-based charging is respected. My Department does not, therefore, intend to issue detailed guidance on the precise arrangements to be applied locally in regard to this matter.

Grant Payments.

John McGuinness

Question:

238 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 1178 of 29 September 2004, the progress in the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34074/04]

My Department has sought and received a report from Trim Town Council on issues pertinent to grant assistance of €63,486.90, or £50,000, provided to the council in 2000 by the then Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. This report is under consideration.