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 13, inclusive, answered orally.

Tax Code.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

14 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of the extension, in regard to his public statement of 22 December 2004 regarding proposed changes in the Finance Bill 2005 with respect to changes to the 31 December 2004 condition for certification of projects for entitlement to the tax incentive for investment in third level education buildings; the number of outstanding cases at 31 December 2004 in respect of which certificates had still to be issued; the location of the projects involved; if he has received representations from developers or from others in regard to the proposed change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2496/05]

The tax incentive for investment in third level education buildings was introduced in the Finance Act 1997. It was provided in the 2004 Finance Act that only expenditure incurred up to 31 July 2006 would qualify for the relief provided that a ministerial certificate approving the project was issued by 31 December 2004. Three outstanding applications were under examination by my Department in December 2004 and it was not possible to complete the detailed examination and assessment by the cut-off date of 31 December 2004. Such assessments can take up to several months as it is usually necessary to have detailed discussions involving my Department, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Education and Science as well as the third level institution concerned to ensure that the application is structured in accordance with the precise terms of the legislation to enable the certification to be given.

My announcement of 22 December stated that the applications had to be received by 31 December 2004 but that the ministerial certificate of approval would not have to be issued by that date. There will be a provision included in the 2005 Finance Bill to legislate for this change.

The correspondence relating to the three applications came from the three third level institutions concerned and not from any developers. It is not possible at this stage to estimate the Exchequer cost involved as the examination of the applications has not been completed. There is no extra cost involved as these applications had already been received prior to the cut-off date. I do not consider it appropriate to indicate the location of the three projects or the names of the third level institutions concerned since the applications are still being examined.

Economic Competitiveness.

Dan Boyle

Question:

15 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the recently recorded highest ever US trade deficit will have economic consequences here. [2587/05]

Dan Boyle

Question:

141 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the recently recorded highest ever US trade deficit is likely to have economic consequences here. [2790/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 141 together.

On budget day I highlighted the evolution of the US current account deficit as one of the main risks facing the Irish economy. The main channel through which the US trade-current account position affects the Irish economy is through potential movements in the euro-dollar exchange rate. At present, this bilateral rate is at €1 equals $1.30, 4% higher than the average for 2004. An appreciation of the exchange rate reduces the competitiveness of the economy.

However, we have no control over exchange rate developments. In this context we must seek to ensure that wages and prices evolve in a manner which protects competitiveness. This is the best way to protect jobs. The need to maintain and improve competitiveness was one of the main reasons I chose not to increase indirect taxes in the budget.

Tax Code.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

16 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance if he plans changes in the capital gains tax code. [2550/05]

As the Deputy may be aware, it is not the practice to comment in the lead up to the annual Finance Bill on the intention or otherwise to make particular changes in the taxation code.

Stability and Growth Pact.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

17 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance when the terms of the stability pact are likely to be revised; and if he will make a statement on the pact. [2575/05]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

21 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance the status of review talks on the growth and stability pact. [2596/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 21 together.

The European Commission presented a formal communication on 3 September 2004, outlining a range of proposals for strengthening economic governance in the European Union and clarifying the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact. Since then, the issues involved have been the subject of detailed and wide-ranging discussions.

At the recent ECOFIN Council of 18 January 2005, Ministers had a useful exchange of views on this matter and made progress in identifying areas of common ground. In its conclusions, the Council requested the Economic and Financial Committee, EFC, to continue work on the following issues in light of the debate: first, consolidating the preventive part of the pact; second, improving implementation of the excessive deficit procedure, which is the corrective part of the pact; and, third, improving governance. Consideration of the issues involved is therefore ongoing. The Luxembourg Presidency of the EU has indicated its objective of achieving agreement on the matter by the European Council meeting in March 2005.

As regards Ireland's position, we are engaging fully with the ongoing discussions with a view to encouraging reforms which are in line with our economic priorities. For example, Ireland has long argued that countries with very low debt levels, and with clear investment needs, should not be unduly constrained from making the necessary resources available.

Tax Evasion.

Liz McManus

Question:

18 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance the progress made by the Revenue Commissioners regarding allegations that tax improprieties may surround trust operations at a bank (details supplied); if the Revenue Commissioners have reached a determination regarding whether these trusts facilitated tax evasion as distinct from tax avoidance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2477/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that substantial progress has been made in relation to this inquiry. Arising from a voluntary disclosure programme 254 individuals came forward and made voluntary disclosures. To date, this programme has recovered in excess of €105 million for the Exchequer.

The Revenue Commissioners indicated previously that those individuals who fail to make disclosures under the voluntary phase of projects will be pursued with all means available. They advise me that through their investigations and inquiries they have now identified individuals who did not come forward during the voluntary phase of this particular project and are now actively pursuing them in relation to breaches of the tax code.

It is clear from some of the disclosures and the amount collected to date that in some instances taxpayers used trusts to facilitate tax evasion.

Company Receivership.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

19 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding reports made into the activities of a company (details supplied). [2589/05]

The company in question is currently in receivership and an administrator has been appointed to administer the client assets of the company. I am informed by the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, which sought the appointment of the receiver, that the receivership is ongoing. The Deputy will appreciate that I have no function in regard to the receivership or the administration of the company.

In April 2004, my predecessor decided to set up two working groups to examine the lessons arising from the collapse of the said company. One group is examining the key issues identified in regard to the funding of the investor compensation scheme, while the second group is considering any implications for the financial regulatory and legislative framework. The working groups operate under the chairmanship of my Department and the membership of the groups is drawn from a wide range of governmental, industry, regulatory and consumer protection interests. I understand that the working groups intend to submit their report to me shortly.

General Government Balance.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

20 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the amount in euro of the general Government balance, as estimated by his Department for 2004; the reason this figure is not available with the January 2005 Exchequer returns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2495/05]

The estimated outturn for the 2004 general Government balance, GGB, is a surplus of €1,375 million or 0.9% of GDP. The Exchequer statement relates to the Exchequer account only and is cash based. The GGB is a wider definition of the Government finances and includes some aspects of accrual accounting. The official GGB data for each member state are published in March and September every year by EUROSTAT in line with EU requirements.

Question No. 21 answered with QuestionNo. 17.

Tax Evasion.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

22 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that sufficient steps are being taken to combat tax evasion in view of the continuing high level of settlements reported by the Revenue Commissioners each quarter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2471/05]

The Revenue Commissioners are pursuing a programme which is dealing in a very determined way with tax evasion. The commissioners are taking an approach which, depending on the nature of the case, involves either a monetary settlement and possible publication or criminal investigation and prosecution. This combined policy has yielded significant results.

In recent years, for example, Revenue special investigations have yielded a total of €1.6 billion. Revenue's normal audit programme each year also continues to recover significant tax, together with interest and penalties. For 2004, in excess of €400 million was collected in this audit programme in approximately 16,000 cases.

The high level of success in securing settlements is a reflection of the targeted approach used by Revenue which is to focus its compliance resources on the areas where they are needed most. An associated strategy is to minimise the number of contacts with compliant tax and duty payers. Accordingly, Revenue's audit selection is now targeted at areas of highest risk and the level of settlements must be seen in that context.

I am informed by Revenue that it is prosecuting an increasing number of cases of serious tax evasion each year despite the evidential difficulties involved and the resource intensive nature of this work. This work is dealt with in its investigations and prosecutions division which has a clear mandate to focus on this objective. Recent figures indicate that this new approach is now proving successful. Currently, 46 cases are under investigation for prosecution, seven cases are with the DPP, directions to prosecute have been received from the DPP in another five cases and these are proceeding to court. Bench warrants have been issued in three cases and four cases are before the courts. It should be noted that Revenue also takes prosecutions in the District Courts each year in respect of in excess of 1,000 cases related to non-filing of tax returns.

National Development Plan.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

23 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether a review of the performance of the NDP would now be timely. [2543/05]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

82 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the serious concern recently expressed by the institute of engineers regarding delays in meeting the targets set in the national development plan and its view that unless significant additional funding is provided, it will not be completed until 2013; if he will provide any such additional funding; the role his Department plays in co-ordinating the work of other Departments in regard to the implementation of the plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2487/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 82 together.

The national development plan, NDP, was subjected to a wide-ranging, in-depth and independent mid-term evaluation by the ESRI in 2003. The evaluation found that the NDP has made significant progress towards its objectives of promoting continuing sustainable national economic and employment growth and of consolidating and improving Ireland's economic competitiveness. It stated that the NDP "will have a sustainable positive effect on competitiveness and the productive capacity of the economy in the long-term". In terms of national prosperity, the ESRI has estimated that NDP expenditure over the period under review raised the level of GNP by over 7% above what it would have been had the NDP not been undertaken and, in the long run, the level of GNP will be around 3% higher. The ESRI estimated that this represents a real rate of return on NDP investment of around 14% and must be seen as an exceptional economic performance by any standards. More generally the mid-term evaluation endorsed the strategy underpinning the NDP and its continuing relevance. It is not therefore necessary to conduct a further review of the NDP at this juncture.

The Institution of Engineers of Ireland publication focuses on progress under the economic and social infrastructure programme, ESIOP, of the NDP. It was acknowledged some time ago that the NDP output targets under some headings would not be achieved and that the cost of the infrastructure programme would be ahead of initial targets. This is due to a variety of factors, including initial cost underestimation, re-specification of projects and inflation. Nonetheless, it is estimated that by the end of 2004, €19 billion of total planned ESIOP investment of €26 billion was spent. Of this, the Exchequer has provided €16 billion as compared with initial projections of €13 billion. There has been an ongoing roll-out of infrastructure projects of unprecedented scale and size and significant progress is being made.

The Government is committed to substantial continuing investment in infrastructure over the medium term beyond the completion date of the current NDP. The multi-annual capital envelopes for 2005-09 provide for overall capital investment of €36.3 billion; as a percentage of GNP this is a level around twice the European average. This level of investment will ensure that by the end 2006 investment under the ESIOP will be greater than the initial target and will fund a major enhancement of Ireland's economic and social infrastructure up to and beyond the current NDP.

As regards infrastructure implementation, individual Departments and agencies are responsible, in the first instance, for the effective implementation of plan programmes for which they have responsibility. My Department chairs the NDP-CSF monitoring committee which meets at least twice yearly. This committee, which monitors overall progress on the plan, is comprised of a wide partnership of interests, including implementing Departments, the social partners, sectoral interests, and members of local authorities representing the regional assemblies.

Each of the seven operational programmes under the plan has a similar widely based monitoring committee which meets twice yearly to monitor the ongoing implementation of the programme. The managing authorities and the Department-agencies responsible for implementing specific aspects of the operational programmes have additional procedures in place to monitor and manage the ongoing implementation of the operational programmes.

The Department of Finance is assisted by a number of dedicated units established to meet the requirements of the Structural Funds regulations. These units focus on financial control of the Structural Funds, ongoing evaluations of key elements of the NDP and providing information on projects and programmes.

In addition to this monitoring framework, key Departments report through their Ministers to the Cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure, housing and PPPs on implementation and delivery of infrastructure programmes under the NDP.

Tax Yield.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

24 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the way in which €200 million in VAT returns have been lost to the Exchequer through food sales in canteens. [2595/05]

The figure of €200 million VAT referred to in the Deputy's question appeared in the newspapers on 21 January 2005 describing the outcome of a European Court of Justice, ECJ, case involving a Swedish company which was about to provide subsidised meals to its employees. The ECJ advised the Swedish authorities that in their circumstances, VAT would be chargeable only on the price paid by employees for the subsidised meals. Ireland's position is not the same as that of Sweden. The charging rules in Ireland are based on a different provision of the sixth VAT directive than that at issue in the Swedish case. Ireland's rule is that the taxable amount in respect of subsidised canteens is the cost of providing the meals or the price paid by the employees, whichever is the greater. I am not aware of any basis for the figure of €200 million quoted in the newspapers which assumes the Swedish case is a precedent for Ireland.

Tax Code.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

25 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the measures he proposes by way of other environmental tax measures, that will help this country meet its global environmental obligations, in view of the fact that he has confirmed his predecessor’s intention not to introduce carbon tax. [2594/05]

As the Deputy is aware, the Government decided in September 2004 that a carbon tax was not an appropriate policy option and that instead it would intensify action on the non-tax measures under the national climate change strategy. However, as I stated in a reply to a previous parliamentary question, I am open-minded towards initiatives in the tax area which can impact positively on the environment but, in reviewing any such initiatives, I am required to be mindful of competitiveness issues and the impact of any particular measure, especially on the less well off members of the community.

In this regard, I announced in the summary of budget 2005 measures the intention to introduce an excise differential for sulphur free fuel as an environmental measure. As stated last December, further details will be announced in the Finance Bill. I also extended until 31 December 2006 the scheme which provides a 50% refund on vehicle registration tax on the purchase of hybrid vehicles.

These are additional to other tax measures already in place, including capital allowances for corporate investment in renewable energy projects; and a provision in Finance Act 2004 which provides for the introduction of a scheme for excise tax relief for biofuels. Non-tax measures under the national climate change strategy are a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Tom Hayes

Question:

26 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the apparent anomaly in the tax relief scheme for hospitals whereby it excludes certain psychiatric hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2565/05]

When the scheme of capital allowances for the construction of private hospitals was introduced in 2001, the question of including psychiatric hospitals and geriatric-psychiatric hospitals within the ambit of this scheme did not arise. In recent months I have received proposals with regard to the provision of capital allowances for psychiatric hospitals. These proposals are being examined in my Department.

Decentralisation Programme.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

27 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the latest information available from the central applications facility in respect of applications from civil servants and other public servants located in Dublin who wish to transfer to new locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the way in which this compares with the Government target of 10,300; his views on the potential loss of skills and expertise for specialist State agencies should they be decentralised, in view of the fact that so few persons are willing to transfer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2488/05]

The latest figures from the central applications facility show there is very substantial interest in the programme. During the period for priority applications — 7 September 2004 — 8,958 applications made up of 8,152 civil servants and 806 public servants were received by the Public Appointments Service, formerly the Civil Service Commission. Of these, 4,813 were from people — 4,236 civil servants and 577 public servants — located in Dublin. New applications for decentralisation continue to be received. Since the period for priority applications finished in September 2004, over 500 new applications have been received.

There are particular issues that arise in dealing with the State agencies. The correct approach is to tease out the issues and develop good long-term solutions in consultation with all the parties involved. This is the approach being adopted by the Flynn group. I am confident that the programme will proceed and will be successfully completed in due course. The results are encouraging and provide a very good base from which to move forward.

Tax Yield.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

28 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the end of year Exchequer returns for 2004. [2486/05]

As the Deputy is aware, I have already issued a press statement regarding the end-2004 Exchequer returns, which is available on my Department's website.

As stated in this press statement, an Exchequer surplus of €33 million was recorded in 2004, confirming the improvement in the public finances revealed earlier in the year. Tax receipts were well ahead of expectations due in part to higher than anticipated economic growth and once-off tax receipts from Revenue special investigations while spending was slightly below the target.

The performance of the public finances in 2004 places us in a good position for the future. However, continued prudent management of our finances is essential. This will secure the basis for sustained public spending and improved public services for all.

Tax Code.

Dan Boyle

Question:

29 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance if and the way in which arrangements will be changed for taxpayers who overpay tax. [2586/05]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

47 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself with the provisions for dealing with overpayment of taxation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2531/05]

Joan Burton

Question:

79 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the steps being taken by the Revenue Commissioners to determine the exact amount of any overpayment by PAYE workers; the procedures being put in place to ensure repayment of any such amounts; the steps which are planned to alert taxpayers that they may have overpaid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2463/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29, 47 and 79 together.

I am taking it that the questions relate to overpayments by PAYE taxpayers. The Irish PAYE system, which has worked well for almost 45 years now, is a cumulative deduction system which is designed to ensure, as far as possible, that an end of year return or adjustment is unnecessary in the vast majority of PAYE cases provided that all due credits and allowances are reflected in the employee's tax credit certificate and that any non-PAYE income has been coded in to the certificate. Where all due credits or allowances have not been given during the tax year, it is reasonable to expect the employee will look for a balancing statement after the end of the tax year. In the case of some reliefs, medical expenses would be a case in point, it may be appropriate to wait until after the end of the year to claim a tax rebate.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have no reason to doubt that the vast majority of PAYE workers receive their full entitlements each year. These entitlements are, in the first instance, reflected in the tax credit certificates issued at the beginning of each year. Revenue is in the process of issuing over 2 million certificates to PAYE taxpayers for the 2005 tax year. These certificates reflect the most up to date information Revenue has on an individual and they are accompanied by a leaflet giving details of the credits-reliefs to which taxpayers may be entitled. Where circumstances change in the middle of the tax year, for example, a marriage or a change of job, the employee will normally contact Revenue and arrange for a new tax credit certificate to issue.

Some PAYE taxpayers wait until after the end of the tax year to claim due allowances or credits, or to return non-PAYE income, or simply to make sure that there has been no underpayment or overpayment of PAYE tax. For the 2003 tax year, the latest year for which such figures are available, 287,258 PAYE taxpayers, representing 17% of the total PAYE taxpayer base of 1.6 million for that year, have so far made claims or requested reviews of their tax position. Of these reviews, 8% indicated underpayments, 17% resulted in no change and 75% resulted in repayments being made. In money terms, €185 million has been repaid in respect of claims already received and processed for 2003 and, on the basis of experience of late claims in previous years, this figure could be expected to eventually rise to an estimated €306 million when all future returns-claims for the 2003 tax year have been submitted. These figures should be seen in the context of the total PAYE revenue of €7.2 billion in 2003.

It is not possible or reasonable to extrapolate from the above figures to derive estimates of overpayments or underpayment for the full PAYE population because claims or requests for review are, by definition, much more likely to come from those who know they have entitlements to reliefs, for example, for medical expenses, for which they have not already claimed in the first place.

The tax code at present provides that no repayment can be made in the absence of a valid claim or return by the taxpayer. Without such a claim or return Revenue may not have the full picture to determine entitlement to a rebate. For example, taxable payments from the Department of Social and Family Affairs or dividend income may not have been coded in to the tax credit certificate, or the taxpayer may have been self-employed for part of the year.

Revenue is engaged in a comprehensive modernisation of its PAYE computer system, which will include the ability to make amendments and claims over the Internet and much closer computer links with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. When the roll-out of the new system commences later this year, it will provide a greatly improved level of service for PAYE taxpayers, including, subject to defined parameters, a facility for automated reviews of liability where Revenue is satisfied that the figures are correct. The Finance Bill, which will be published on Thursday, will include provisions to underpin this new service.

Joe Costello

Question:

30 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who paid income tax at the higher rate during 2004; the number that will pay at this rate during 2005, following the changes announced in budget 2005; the proportion of those paying tax which this figure represents for each year; his views on whether it is satisfactory that such a high proportion of persons are paying at the higher rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2466/05]

The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the higher rate column in the table below.

Exempt

Standard rate

Higher Rate

Total

Row A Estimate for 2004 at Budget time 2004

668,700

592,900

632,200

1,893,800

35.31%

31.31%

33.38%

Row B Revised 2004 estimate

622,800

647,300

614,500

1,884,600

33.05%

34.35%

32.61%

Row C Forecast 2005 estimate before any tax changes

590,500

634,000

685,800

1,910,300

30.91%

33.19%

35.90%

Row D Post-Budget 2005 estimate

656,500

620,000

633,700

1,910,200

34.37%

32.46%

33.17%

Footnotes:

1.A married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

2.The numbers of income earners above have been rounded to the nearest 100 as appropriate.

3.The figures shown in the Standard Rate column includes those paying at the marginal relief rate of taxation.

Explanations for the four rows in the table are as follows: row A — distribution of income earners for 2004 as estimated at the time of budget 2004 taking account of the 2004 budget income tax changes; row B — distribution of income earners for 2004 as revised to take account of the latest base year information relating to the short tax "year" 2001 which became available during 2004; row C — distribution of income earners for 2005 before any income tax changes were applied; and row D— distribution of income earners for 2005 taking account of the estimated impact of budget 2005 income tax changes.

It will be noted from the table that the effect of budget 2005 has been to reduce the percentage of income earners estimated to be paying tax at the higher rate in 2005 from almost 36%, in the absence of the budget 2005 income tax measures, to about 33% when those measures are taken into account. It will also be noted from the table that budget 2005 has removed 66,000 cases from the tax net who would otherwise pay tax in 2005.

The major portion of available resources in budget 2005 was devoted to achieving the Government's key aim of taking the minimum wage out of the tax net. The remaining resources were used to widen the standard rate bands, thus ensuring that an additional 52,000 taxpayers will not pay tax at the higher rate in 2005.

Apart from band widening, all income earners benefited from the increases in the personal and employee PAYE credits and that while the proportion on the top rate increased, there was a reduction in their average tax rate, that is, tax as a percentage of income.

Decentralisation Programme.

Liam Twomey

Question:

31 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Finance if he envisages making any special provision for promotion and for new recruitment in the context of the decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2579/05]

It has been clear from the announcement of the programme that future promotion policies must take account of the reality of the decentralisation programme. In its report of 31 March 2004 the Flynn group said there was a clear case in terms of implementing the decentralisation programme for making promotions conditional on the appointees moving to the decentralised locations. It also said that this should not be seen as undermining the voluntary nature of the programme.

In ongoing discussions with the Civil Service unions the management side has explained that to support implementation of the programme the promotion vacancies arising should be filled, for the present, by those willing to relocate. The union side has since indicated that it is not prepared to accept the management proposals and I understand that discussions are continuing. I look forward to these discussions producing an agreement which supports the efficient implementation of the decentralisation programme.

The issue of changes which will be required to the current recruitment system to support implementation of the programme will also form part of the discussions with the Civil Service unions.

Tax Compliance.

John Perry

Question:

32 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that penalties for non-compliance in the banking sector are adequate in view of the recent investigations of non-compliance at banks (details supplied). [2563/05]

The Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004, which came into effect on 1 August 2004, gave IFSRA a range of new powers to enable it to promote compliance with regulatory requirements in the banking sector. Under this legislation, IFSRA can require banks to furnish compliance statements, and it can impose sanctions on financial services providers found to be in breach of regulatory requirements prescribed under the Act. Fines up to €5 million can be imposed in the case of regulated institutions and up to €500,000 for breaches by individuals. The Act also allows for the disqualification of a person from the management of a financial services firm. IFSRA has recently entered into a public consultation about the implementation of these provisions. These penalties and sanctions, which are additional to the existing penalties and enforcement provisions in legislation governing individual financial services, will help to ensure that the kind of non-compliance seen in recently reported cases should not happen in the future. They cannot be applied retrospectively as the Act commenced in August 2004. I am satisfied that these penalties are adequate for the future protection of consumers of financial services. However, if further examination by IFSRA or my Department indicates that additional powers are required, I will address that as a matter of priority.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

33 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent suggestion made that high income earners who are paid more than €200,000 per year should pay a minimum 20% tax; if he intends to take steps to ensure a minimum tax contribution from high earners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2462/05]

I have no problem with considering the suggestion referred to.

As the Deputy will be aware, in budget 2005, I announced that my Department, in conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners, would undertake this year a detailed review of certain tax incentive schemes and tax exemptions.

There are a number of elements to the review which is already under way. It will evaluate the impact and operation of certain incentive schemes and exemptions, including their economic and social benefits, for the different locations and sectors involved and for the wider community. It will include external consultancy work on the evaluation of property-based tax incentive schemes and examine the degree to which these schemes allow high income individuals to reduce their tax liabilities.

As well as examining relevant international approaches, the review will also include a consultation process seeking submissions on measures that could be introduced to balance the benefit of such reliefs and the extent to which such incentives and exemptions are used by high earners to reduce their tax bill. One such measure to be examined will be the concept of a minimum income tax.

Decentralisation Programme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

34 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on progress to date on the decentralisation of Departments, including the location of sites acquired and the amount spent thus far on acquisition of properties outside Dublin for this purpose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2598/05]

The Office of Public Works has been given primary responsibility for delivering the property aspects of the decentralisation programme and I can confirm that considerable progress has been made in this regard. The tasks facing OPW include the following: the sourcing of property solutions at the various locations concerned which mainly involves the acquisition of development sites; the procurement of accommodation solutions to the office and facility requirements of the Departments and agencies involved; the rationalisation and consolidation of the use of Dublin office space, both owned and leased, following decentralisation; and the management of the disposal of surplus Dublin office accommodation.

In late December 2003, the OPW placed advertisements in the national press seeking expressions of interest from those willing to provide either suitable good quality modern offices, either existing or under construction, and suitable sites with planning permission or appropriate planning zoning which would facilitate the construction of new office buildings.

Following the requests for property proposals, the Office of Public Works received in excess of 700 proposed property solutions in regard to the decentralisation programme scheduled for the various locations around the country. Detailed evaluation of these proposals has been undertaken and, as already stated, the Office of Public Works has made significant progress in sourcing possible sites at the locations concerned.

The evaluation process involves the following three-strand approach: one, an architectural assessment by OPW architects; two, a valuation process undertaken by both OPW and private sector valuers; and, three, an assessment by reference to the business needs and staff requirements of each decentralising Department-agency.

A broad range of factors will influence the cost of acquiring sites and these include proximity of the site to commercial, leisure and educational facilities; proximity to public transport; access to and from a good quality road network; zoning for development; and the prevailing property market conditions in each geographical area will also have a significant bearing on land acquisition costs.

To date, 11 property solutions have been agreed in principle and a further 20 plus locations are at an advanced stage in the acquisition process. I can also confirm that the balance of the sites for the remaining locations in the programme are being proactively pursued by the OPW.

The locations where solutions have been identified are as follows: Carlow, Longford, Newcastle West, Athlone, the Curragh, Sligo, Dundalk, Furbo, Killarney, Donegal and Trim. In regard to Carlow, Longford and Newcastle West, the Chief State Solicitor is processing contract documents in respect of sites and it is expected that the associated acquisition phase will be completed as quickly as possible. State-owned land will accommodate the decentralised buildings scheduled for Athlone, the Curragh, and Sligo, while the proposed location of the Dundalk building will be on land at the Dundalk Institute of Technology. It is proposed to locate the staff relating to Furbo in an extension to an existing building. To date, approximately €100,000 has been expended on contract of sale deposits in relation to Newcastle West and Longford. The total acquisition expenditure in relation to these sites and all other sites, which are at an advanced stage in the acquisition process, will fall to be paid over the coming months.

The prevailing property market conditions in each geographical area will have a significant bearing on the cost of acquiring sites. In the circumstances and taking into account that the acquisition contracts are not yet finalised, it is not possible at this stage to provide a precise estimate of the cost of the site acquisition programme.

Tax Avoidance.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

35 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the progress made to date by the Revenue Commissioners in its investigation into the reported use of single premium insurance policies as a tax avoidance mechanism; if the precise nature of the investigation has been decided; the information available to his Department or the Revenue Commissioners on the extent of this practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2464/05]

I am advised that the Revenue Commissioners propose to initiate an investigation into the use by some taxpayers of insurance-based products to hide income or gains not declared for tax purposes. As the formal investigation has not yet commenced, I am not in a position to comment further at this stage.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

36 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the progress to date in respect of targets announced in budget 2004 in respect of decentralisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2502/05]

The two reports of the decentralisation implementation group, DIG, dated 31 March 2004 and 30 July 2004, provide detailed accounts of the progress made in implementing the decentralisation programme announced last December. An analysis of the applications registered with the central applications facility by 7 September 2004 has also been published. I also refer the Deputy to the presentations made to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service on 6 October 2004 by the chair of the implementation group, the CEO of the public appointments service, PAS, and the Department of Finance. I am very pleased with the progress which has already been made in driving forward the implementation of the programme.

In addition, the DIG report published on 24 November 2004 contains proposals on those organisations-locations which, in the group's view, should be included in the first phase of moves and the DIG will report to me again in spring 2005 on progress in regard to implementation of the programme. The group will also deal in that report with the locations and organisations not covered in the November 2004 report.

Revenue Investigations.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

37 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance the progress made by his Department and the Revenue Commissioners in their consideration of the recommendations of the Revenue powers group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2478/05]

As the Deputy will know, my predecessor established the Revenue powers group under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Frank Murphy to examine Revenue's main statutory powers and report on changes needed. The group's report was published on 4 February 2004 and the Minister indicated at that time that he wished to allow a period for debate and public reflection on the many and varied issues dealt with in the report and its recommendations.

The recommendations contained in the report have been considered by my Department in consultation with the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and in the light of views expressed by some interested parties.

I have considered the various recommendations and propose to provide for the implementation of a number of these by way of legislation in the Finance Bill. Other recommendations will be implemented administratively by the Revenue Commissioners. There are also recommendations from the group's report that will be considered for future Finance Bills. I will be setting out my approach when I publish the Finance Bill later this week.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

38 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance if the Government has plans to encourage the productive use of money that will be released into the economy when the SSIAs mature; if there are plans for a further scheme to encourage saving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2493/05]

The SSIA scheme opened on 1 May 2001 and entry to it closed on 30 April 2002. The accounts are due to mature between May 2006 and April 2007 at the end of the five-year period. A total of 1.17 million accounts were opened during the period outlined.

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

House Prices.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

39 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance his views on the exposure of the economy to reversals in the housing market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2582/05]

In the past number of years there has been a sharp increase in housing output and it has become a highly significant sector of the economy. In 2003, housing construction accounted for just over 10% of GNP. A gradual easing back of housing output is envisaged in the coming years, although this is expected to be offset by other components of building and construction, assisted by a continuation of a strong public capital programme, as well as a continuation in the pick up in other investment. Most commentators believe that the Irish housing market is underpinned by strong economic fundamentals and favourable demographics which must also be taken into account.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

40 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Finance if he plans to undertake a study of the impact of the maturity of SSIAs on the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2549/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

142 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he plans to undertake a study of the impact of the maturity of SSIAs on the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2793/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 142 together.

The SSIA scheme opened on 1 May 2001 and entry to it closed on 30 April 2002. The accounts are due to mature between May 2006 and April 2007 at the end of the five-year period. A total of 1.17 million accounts were opened during the period outlined.

The impact of such maturing funds on consumer demand in 2006 and 2007 is difficult to estimate and will depend on how the accumulated SSIA savings are spent or saved, how that portion of an individual's income that was previously saved in SSIAs is used, and the extent to which savings are rolled over into other investment products. The economic effect depends on the State of the economy otherwise in 2007, when the bulk of SSIA funds — around 55% — mature. To date, a number of reports have been done regarding the impact of the SSIAs including research done by Goodbody stockbrokers, Lansdowne Market Research, Bank of Ireland and the Irish Mortgage Corporation. However, there is no consensus in these reports as to how these funds may be allocated between consumption and saving. The ESRI, in its autumn 2004 bulletin, did not hypothesise about the likely impact on the economy of the release of SSIA funds because it believes there are too many uncertainties around the likely behaviour of fund recipients.

I have not commissioned any specific study on the impact of the release of the funds. My Department is keeping the issue under review in the context of the normal assessment of the economic and budgetary position going forward. In the stability programme December 2004 update, I outlined that the release of SSIA funds will support personal expenditure growth in 2006 and 2007, but that the exact impact was difficult to predict.

Tax Code.

Mary Upton

Question:

41 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance the average amount of income tax paid by a PAYE worker, a self-employed person and a farmer in respect of each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2467/05]

Figures of the average amount of income tax paid in the categories mentioned by the Deputy in each of the years 1999 to 2003, inclusive, the latter year being the latest year for which the necessary detailed information is available, are set out in the following table.

Year

(a) PAYE

(b) Farmers

(c) Other Self-employed

1999

4,548

1,182

7,159

2000

4,558

1,423

8,158

2001

4,602

1,175

(i)

10,729

(i)

1,048

(ii)

9,559

(ii)

2002*

4,167

1,388

(i)

11,760

(i)

1,298

(ii)

11,058

(ii)

2003*

4,370

1,198

(i)

9,882

(i)

1,107

(ii)

8,426

(ii)

* Figures for these years are provisional and subject to revision.

Figures at (i) include yield from the bogus non-resident and offshore assets special investigations and figures at (ii) exclude these amounts.

The amounts paid by each sector must be seen in the context of the relative numbers of taxpayers in the PAYE and self-employed, including farming, sectors.

Notes on table

(a) PAYE figures

(i)Income tax collected through the PAYE mechanism covers more than income tax on ordinary wages and salaries. It includes tax paid by directors of close companies who are akin to the self-employed as well as tax on "other income" of employees such as rent and other investment income. It also includes the tax paid under PAYE on the income from employment of farmers and other self-employed individuals.

(ii)The average tax payment for each year in column (a) is obtained by dividing the net receipt of PAYE tax in each calendar year by the total number of income earners on the PAYE tax record including those who are exempt from tax.

(b) Farming figures

(i)In calculating the figures in this column the estimated net receipt of income tax paid by full-time farmers has been divided by the number of full-time farming tax units assessed to tax for the year of assessment in which the calendar year ends, for example, the 1999 receipt is divided by the number assessed for the year 1999-2000. These numbers exclude cases who are not required to file annual tax returns and whose position is reviewed periodically because their incomes are clearly too low to attract a tax liability on an individual basis.

(ii)The figures for averages do not take into account the tax attributable to the farming profits of farmers who, or whose spouses, carry on another trade or profession. Farm tax represents a fraction of their overall tax liability and the emerging average farm tax payments could not be regarded as representative of the normal average tax yield from the farming sector.

(iii)Income tax on farming profits is collected with schedule D tax generally and because of this it cannot be precisely distinguished. Accordingly, the figures shown for tax payments by farmers are estimated.

(c) Other Self-employed figures

(i)The figures contained in this column are obtained by dividing the estimated net receipt of income tax in each calendar year from tax units whose main source of income is from self-employment, other than full-time farming, by the estimated number of those units assessed to tax in the year of assessment in which the calendar year ends as explained in note (i) for column (b).

These numbers exclude cases who are not required to file annual tax returns and whose position is reviewed periodically because their incomes are clearly too low to attract a tax liability on an individual basis.

General Notes

(i)A married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected to have the income of both spouses assessed on the husband is counted as one tax unit.

(ii)Some figures in the columns differ from those given previously. This is due to more accurate information becoming available in the meantime.

(iii)Receipts of deposit interest retention tax and dividend withholding tax are not included in the calculations. Basic data are not available which would enable the amounts of these taxes referable to interest paid or credited to particular classes of taxpayers to be ascertained.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

42 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if he has examined the take up of tax relief for pension contributions across different income categories; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2583/05]

It is not possible at present to examine the take up of tax relief for all pension contributions across different income categories. The relevant information is not available to the Revenue Commissioners because the tax relief for pension contributions for employees is normally given at source i.e., the taxable income is the income net of pension contributions by employees.

Disabled Drivers.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

43 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if he will extend the disabled persons’ VAT exemption scheme on new cars to include the visually impaired; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2406/05]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme. This scheme is open to people with disabilities who meet the specified criteria and have obtained a primary medical certificate to that effect. The senior area medical officer attached to the relevant local health board is responsible for both the medical assessment and the issue of the medical certificate.

The medical criteria for the purposes of the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) regulations 1994. Six different types of disablement are listed under the regulations and a qualifying person must satisfy one or more of them. The six types of disablement are persons who are wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs; persons who are wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs; persons without both hands or without both arms; persons without one or both legs; persons wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg; persons having the medical condition of dwarfism and who have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

An individual who qualifies under the medical criteria is issued with a primary medical certificate. Possession of a primary medical certificate qualifies the holder for remission or repayment of vehicle registration tax, VRT, a repayment of value added tax, VAT, on the purchase of the vehicle and a repayment of VAT on the cost of adaptation of the vehicle. Repayment of the excise duty on fuel used in the motor vehicle and exemption from annual road tax to local authorities are also allowed.

An interdepartmental review group was established to review the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme. The group examined all aspects of the scheme, including the qualifying medical criteria. The report was published on my Department's website in July 2004 and copies have been placed in the Oireachtas Library. As agreed by Government in June 2004, I will consider the report on an ongoing basis in the overall budgetary context having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme.

Tax Code.

Phil Hogan

Question:

44 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself that the price of homes bought by first-time buyers in Dublin will benefit from the recent stamp duty concession; and if he will consider automatic indexation in this. [2533/05]

As the Deputy will be aware, the 2005 budget introduced a stamp duty relieving measure for first-time house purchasers who are owner-occupiers of second-hand houses by increasing the stamp duty exemption threshold for such purchasers from €190,500 to €317,500 and by having reduced rates for house values up to €635,000. This relieving measure will further assist affordability for first-time buyers and will help some first-time buyers to afford a starter home who might not otherwise be able to do so. It will also help to open the second hand market more to first-time buyers who had been increasingly deterred by the impact of stamp duty.

The current high levels of housing output, coupled with the fact that the reductions have been confined to the first-time buyer segment of the market, should lessen the risk of the measure causing an increase in house prices. The reductions in stamp duty for second-hand houses should remove distortion between the new and second-hand markets for first-time buyers by reducing the degree of concentration of first-time buyer demand on the new house market.

I have no plans to introduce stamp duty indexation for first-time or other purchasers.

Disclosures to Revenue Commissioners.

Liz McManus

Question:

45 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the response received to date by the Revenue Commissioners to the letters sent by ten top banks to approximately 120,000 customers warning them to regularise their tax affairs by the end of March, 2004; the number of responses received; the amount collected to date; the number of such cases that have been finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2476/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that precise figures are not available as to the number of letters which issued from the financial institutions. It is understood to be in excess of 100,000. It is not known how many accounts or individuals this represents because some individuals had accounts in different banks or in different branches of the same bank. In other instances there was more than one name on the account.

The Revenue Commissioners have advised that, following the issue of the letters by the financial institutions, written responses were received from approximately 25,000 persons. Of these, approximately 15,000 responses indicated that a statement of disclosure would be made and to date payment has been received from in excess of 11,500 cases. The difference is accounted for by duplicate notices received by Revenue at the time of the initial deadline of the 29 March 2004; cases where the taxpayer subsequently indicated that no liability to tax arose; a small number of cases where assets are being disposed of to meet the liability owing or where there is an inability to pay and cases where no further communication has been received from the taxpayer. Where appropriate, inquiries are continuing in such cases.

On the balance of the 10,000 written submissions received, these individuals were notified that on the basis of the submission received, a statement of disclosure was not required. I am also advised that a further 5,000 persons, approximately, phoned the Revenue Commissioners and, on the basis on the information provided, most were advised that a written response was not required.

To date the total amount collected by the Revenue Commissioners from their offshore investigation is in excess of €717 million. Details of amounts collected in respect of this, and other special investigations, are regularly updated on Revenue's website www.revenue.ie.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Enda Kenny

Question:

46 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance his views on the report on competition in banking recently published by the Competition Authority. [2561/05]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

61 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the action he intends to take arising from the recent Competition Authority study on the banking sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2481/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 61 together.

I welcome the publication for consultation of the Competition Authority consultants' study on the banking sector. The Competition Authority has invited responses to this document by 14 February 2005. This is not the end of the Competition Authority's consideration. The report it has published is a consultation document and I will continue to watch closely the development of this process.

This report contains some 40 recommendations and it deserves careful consideration by all those concerned. The report's overall conclusion, that there are competitive issues to be addressed in the banking sector leading to high costs for customers, must be taken seriously.

It is also timely, coming at a moment when my Department is considering submissions on future financial services legislation. In that regard, my Department is paying particular attention to the recommendations relating to the legislative framework governing financial regulation and the thrust of the report in general in the context of our ongoing legislative programme.

I have already indicated in my recent budget speech that the Finance Bill will contain measures to eliminate a double stamp duty charge on switching of financial cards. This addresses one of the issues now raised in this report. My aim is to have a competitive financial sector that contributes to the economy and benefits the consumer.

Question No. 47 answered with QuestionNo. 29.

Disposal of State Properties.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

48 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the planned sale of State property announced by his Minister of State; if he will list the property sold to date and the amount raised; the way in which the money used has been raised; the properties it is planned to sell during 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2470/05]

The following table shows details of the properties disposed of by the Office of Public Works in 2004.

Building

Title

Price

Closing Date

2, Church Street, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford.

Fee Simple

337,000.00

12 May 2004

Lad Lane, Dublin 2.

Leasehold — 92 year.

22,500,000.00

5 May 2004.

Blacklion Customs Frontier Post Site, Co. Cavan.

21,586.23

16 March 2004.

72-76 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

Fee Simple

52,300,000.00

15 Sept. 2004.

Kilmacthomas G.S., Co. Waterford.

Fee Simple

100,000.00

13 August 2004.

14/16 Lord Edward Street, Dublin 8.

Fee Simple

8,780,140.48

30 August 2004.

Thomastown G.S., Co. Kilkenny.

Fee Simple

450,000.00

7 December 2004.

Total 2004

84,488,726.71

The bulk of the proceeds of these sales will go to finance the decentralisation programme while €10 million of the proceeds has been applied to priority projects, mainly in the Garda area.

Identification of properties surplus to requirements is continuously evolving and it is not possible to confirm what properties will be disposed of in 2005. Premature release of disposal information and timescales would also affect the potential income from such disposals.

Decentralisation Programme.

Seán Ryan

Question:

49 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the reason the Government intends to restrict promotional opportunities to staff willing to move to decentralised locations, especially in view of the assurances offered when the original programme was announced that staff unwilling to move would not be disadvantaged in any way; if, in view of the strong opposition from public service unions, he will withdraw this proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2491/05]

From the outset the Government has made it clear that participation in the relocation programme would be on a voluntary basis. Staff in the participating organisations have been assured that if they wish to remain in Dublin they will be offered an alternative public service post in the capital. This remains the position.

It has been clear from the beginning that future promotion policies must take account of the reality of the decentralisation programme. In its report of 31 March 2004, the Flynn group said there was a clear case in terms of implementing the decentralisation programme for making promotions conditional on the appointees moving to the decentralised locations. It also said that this should not be seen as undermining the voluntary nature of the programme.

In discussions with the Civil Service unions, the management side has explained that to support implementation of the programme the promotion vacancies arising should be filled, for the present, by those willing to relocate. The union side has since indicated that it is not prepared to accept the management proposals and I understand discussions are continuing. I look forward to these discussions producing an agreement which supports the efficient implementation of the decentralisation programme.

Public Private Partnerships.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

50 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the changes he plans to make in the PPP process to achieve the new targets for expenditure. [2536/05]

PPPs are part of the overall strategy to deliver on investment priorities. The Government is committed to developing the PPP process as a viable procurement option for appropriate projects. There has been good progress on PPPs overall since the first group of pilot projects were announced in 1999. Reasonable deal flow has been established in the roads and environment areas but progress in projects remunerated by unitary payments from the Exchequer has been slower. We are still learning and continue to keep our processes and procedures under review.

The multi-annual capital envelopes introduced in budget 2004 set ambitious targets for PPP/National Development Finance Agency, NDFA, funded investment. After the first year of operation, it was clear that not all of the first set of targets for PPPs to be remunerated by unitary payments would be met in the short-term. There are a number of reasons for this, including the complexity of the process and a lead time of 18 months to two years involved in bringing PPP projects to construction.

Adjustments to the targets were made in budget 2005 to take account of the shortfall in 2005 and to accommodate the situation in the short to medium-term. The total 2005-09 PPP/NDFA allocation, remunerated by unitary payments from Departments' Votes is €3.675 billion; in addition, a target of €1.195 billion for PPPs remunerated by user charges has been set.

PPPs should not replace traditional methods where these are considered more suited to the individual project or projects under consideration. The PPP procurement option, however, has an important role to play when applied to appropriate projects where there is the right scale, risk and operational profile to harness the benefits of this new approach. PPPs are acknowledged to be complex, involving, as they do, a long-term financial commitment for both the private and public sector partners for a period of anything up to 30 years. The challenge going forward is to ensure that the appropriate skills and capacity are in place, together with balanced and proportionate procedures for appraisal, assessment and evaluation of proposals, which would facilitate the selection of PPP projects offering quality public services, value for money and timely delivery. In that context, my Department is currently actively considering what changes, if any, are appropriate.

Tax Code.

Dan Neville

Question:

51 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Finance when additional data will be available from the Revenue Commissioners giving information on the cost and take-up of tax reliefs for which there are now no accurate estimates. [2555/05]

My Department and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners have been working closely to investigate information and data capture issues with a view to improving data quality and transparency without overburdening compliant taxpayers. Arising from this work, Revenue are introducing a number of changes to the tax return forms which will yield additional information regarding the cost of various tax reliefs. Provisions were included in Finance Act 2004 to underpin these changes.

Changes were made in this area previously: the Finance Act 2003 stipulated that returns of income must henceforth be made for stallion stud fees and commercially managed woodlands. This will provide better data in this area and enable estimates of the tax foregone to be made.

In addition, the use of electronic filing of tax returns by means of the Revenue on-linesystem, ROS, has been increasing and will continue to be encouraged. Returns filed using ROS can more readily accommodate information data capture.

It would not be practical or desirable for each and every relief to be captured as some of them are on such a small scale that the cost involved in doing so would not be commensurate with the value of the information sought. Equally the manner of capturing information on tax reliefs is not limited to examining return forms. For example, there is no need to seek information on tax returns on the tax exemption for child benefit as the cost involved can be estimated from other sources. For the self-assessed taxpayer this information will be captured on the 2004 return of income form which should be filed by the end of October 2005. Preliminary information should become available some time after that date, probably in early 2006.

In respect of PAYE taxpayers, the relevant return of income form and the associated system for taking in, recording and processing information from PAYE taxpayers is being redesigned at present. Changes similar to those being made to the forms used by self-assessment taxpayers will be made in the PAYE form. The objective is for this to apply in respect of the 2004 tax year subject to the system redesign being completed. It will certainly be available in respect of the 2005 tax year. Given the normal time lag for PAYE taxpayers in making returns, it could be a year or so after the tax year before information is available.

On the corporate tax return, form CT1, information will be captured in respect of accounting periods ending after 31 December 2004 and will begin to become available nine months after that date, i.e., in September 2005.

The data on the cost of tax relief on superannuation contributions will be captured in the P35 form to be filed by employers in February 2006 and preliminary information should become available in mid-2006, bearing in mind the Revenue Commissioners have to carry out a programme to check the quality, consistency and accuracy of the returns.

Decentralisation Programme.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

52 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Finance if an evaluation of the proposed decentralisation of Ordnance Survey Ireland has been prepared or presented to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2568/05]

As with all other organisations that are decentralising, Ordnance Survey Ireland, OSI, has prepared and submitted an implementation plan as requested by the decentralisation implementation group, DIG. This plan includes detailed material on all issues to be addressed in terms of people, property and business planning and will be further developed as additional information emerges. The plan also incorporates specific risk assessment and mitigation strategies. The plan was circulated to all staff and has been placed on the OSI intranet.

Flood Relief.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

53 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the level of disruption likely to occur in areas of Dublin where flooding occurred; the proposed drainage schemes that are implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32761/04]

The last major flood event in Dublin happened in November 2002, when there was major flooding from the Glasnevin and Drumcondra areas of Dublin city to the Clonee area on the County Meath border as a result of the River Tolka breaking its banks. Analysis has shown that this flood exceeded the scale of any previous flood on record in the catchment.

There was widespread flooding of residential properties from Glasnevin to Ballybough. The river also broke its banks along the N3 road at Blanchardstown, which led to the road being closed for a period of time. Residences and roads were also flooded in the Blanchardstown, Mulhuddart and Clonee areas causing widespread damage.

Since this flooding in 2002 the OPW, in co-operation with Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council and Meath County Council, has been implementing flood alleviation measures which were recommended in the River Tolka flooding study which was underway at the time of the 2002 flood. Most of these works have been constructed by OPW direct labour as part of a scheme which, when completed, will provide protection against a flood event with a design return period of 100 years. With some exceptions, the works from Dunboyne in County Meath to the Luke Kelly bridge in Ballybough have mostly been completed. OPW and the local authorities have pursued a policy of completing works in areas where the higher risk of flooding existed.

Flooding also occurred in Dublin city in February 2002 from the River Dodder as a result of a tidal surge. Major flooding of residences took place in Ringsend and the north inner city as a result. The OPW had no responsibility for the River Dodder but following a request from Dublin City Council, funding of €1.7 million was made available for the construction of a wall in the Ringsend area from London Bridge to Ringsend Bridge to alleviate the risk of flooding there.

Tax Code.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

54 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the amount in tax relief claimed under the business expansion scheme for the past year for which figures are available; the nature of the cost benefit analysis which is planned of the BES; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2468/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated cost of the business expansion scheme for 2004 is in the region of €22 million. As the Deputy will be aware, in budget 2005, I announced that my Department, in conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners, would undertake a detailed review of certain tax incentive schemes and tax exemptions this year. There are a number of elements to the review which is already under way. It will evaluate the impact and operation of certain incentive schemes and exemptions, including their economic and social benefits for the different locations and sectors involved and to the wider community, including external consultancy work on the evaluation of property based tax incentive schemes. It will examine the degree to which these schemes allow high income individuals to reduce their tax liabilities. As well as examining relevant international approaches, the review will also include a consultation process seeking submissions on measures that could be introduced to balance the benefit of such reliefs and the extent to which such incentives and exemptions are used by high earners to reduce their tax bill.

The review will also incorporate an examination by the Department and the Revenue Commissioners of data that are due to come to hand in late 2005 in relation to certain exempt income, that is, woodlands, stallions and greyhounds as well as data already available on other exemptions, for example, for artists and on other tax incentive schemes, including the BES and SCS.

Obviously, in examining the data on the BES and SCS, consideration will be given to the fact that these schemes have already been examined in detail prior to budget 2004 and have been extended to 31 December 2006. The issues covered as part of the examination of the schemes prior to budget 2004 are set out in TSG paper 03/16 which can be found on my Department's website www.finance.irlgov.ie.

Garda Training College.

Joe Costello

Question:

55 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance if tenders have been sought for the construction of a new four storey building at the Garda training college in Templemore; the number of tenders submitted; if a contract has been awarded; the value of the contract awarded; when work is due to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32491/04]

Following a pre-qualification selection procedure, seven contractors were invited to tender for the construction of the shell and core of a new four storey facilities building at the Garda training college in Templemore, County Tipperary. Following evaluation of the seven tenders received, the contract was awarded to Duggan Bros. in the amount of €5.740 million.

The Deputy will be pleased to note that work on this project commenced on 4 January 2005 which was just over 11 weeks since the Government decision to proceed with this project was made.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

56 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance the amount transferred in surplus dormant funds from financial institutions throughout the country to the dormant accounts fund for disbursement by the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2407/05]

I am advised that a figure of €252 million has been transferred to the dormant accounts fund from financial institutions in 2003 and 2004, of which €45 million was subsequently reclaimed by the beneficial owners. Disbursements from the fund to date amount to €14 million. The current balance in the fund, inclusive of accrued interest is €198.5 million. A portion of the dormant accounts fund, currently 15%, is set aside as a reserve to service future reclaims from account holders.

The Dormant Accounts Disbursements Fund Board operates under the aegis of the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. However, I understand the board has approved applications to the value of €42 million and will continue to make approvals within its current limits. It is expected that these moneys will be drawn down throughout this year and into 2006. As the Deputies will be aware, the disbursement mechanism for these funds is currently the subject of a Bill which is before the House this week.

Tax Code.

John Gormley

Question:

57 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance when he will implement promised measures in relation to favourable tax treatment for the production of biodiesel. [2592/05]

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 European Commission has confirmed that the scheme would represent a State aid and consequently its approval is required. My Department, together with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, has submitted a formal application for Commission approval for a scheme which includes pure plant oil, biodiesel and bioethanol. The EU energy tax directive 2003 envisages such tax relief and the Commission has approved schemes for excise relief of biofuel in other EU member states. Assuming approval is granted, the necessary commencement order will then be signed.

Official Engagements.

Willie Penrose

Question:

58 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on his address to senior banking executives at the National College of Ireland on 15 December 2004. [2482/05]

I was delighted to have been invited by the National College of Ireland to deliver the inaugural talk in its lecture series entitled Leaders in International Financial Services. My talk focused on three main topics: the importance of the financial services industry and the IFSC to the Irish economy; what the Government is doing to support the industry; and the importance the Government attaches to high standards of competence and conduct, and so to education and training.

With regard to each of these main topics, I highlighted the number of people directly employed in the financial services sector, noting that the sector now accounts for about 4.5% of our GDP. I noted the establishment of our new regulatory regime. I also noted that the consultation process between industry and the Government is important in identifying and addressing issues. I highlighted the dangers of firms failing to ensure that high standards of professional conduct in dealing with clients are complied with at all levels and that this type of reputational risk could adversely affect not just individual institutions, but also the Irish financial services industry at large. I referred to the importance of the Irish financial services institute at the National College of Ireland in providing those working, or who wish to work, in the financial services sector with the necessary skills. I also highlighted the Government's commitment to playing its part by investing in the education system to assure success over the longer-term.

The text of my contribution was published on the Department of Finance website, and I have arranged that a copy be provided to the Deputy.

Budgetary Policy.

Bernard Allen

Question:

59 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance his policy for the development of the treatment of children in budgetary policy over the coming two budgets. [2534/05]

I understand the Deputy's question is concerned with the provision of financial support for children in a budgetary context.

The Department of Social and Family Affairs has the primary role in the provision of financial support in respect of dependent children. Child benefit is the main fiscal instrument through which such support is provided. Child benefit provides support to all parents or guardians in their parenting role irrespective of their economic or income status and, therefore, does not contribute to employment disincentives or poverty traps.

In line with this overall policy approach, the Government commenced a major initiative to substantially increase the rates of child benefit. With effect from April next, child benefit rates will have, since 2000, increased by almost €88 per month in respect of the first and second qualifying children and by €106 per month for each subsequent child. This means that 92% of the target rates increases announced in budget 2001 have now been delivered and, as stated in my recent budget speech, I will complete the transition to a higher rate of child benefit in next year's budget.

The social welfare system also provides additional income support in respect of children by way of child dependant allowance increases to an underlying social welfare payment. Furthermore, family income supplement, FIS, provides income support to families at work on low pay and who have children. One of the special initiatives under the Sustaining Progress social partnership agreement is concerned with ending child poverty and, in that context, the effectiveness of merging child dependant allowance with family income supplement to provide a seamless source of child income support to low income families is being examined. NESC is undertaking this examination and the outcome of this work will be taken into account by relevant Departments in the formulation of future policy in this area.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

60 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the economic policies which have been pursued are conducive to competitiveness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2503/05]

Securing national competitiveness is a key priority for this Government. The recent strengthening of the euro and its negative impact on our competitiveness further emphasises the need to keep domestic costs down.

I warmly welcome the downward trend in the rate of CPI inflation last year. The 2.2% increase last year was the lowest rate of increase since 1999. My decision not to increase excise rates in the budget will help inflation in 2005. We cannot control the rate of inflation; external factors have a lot to do with that outcome. We can, however, seek to ensure that our domestic cost base does not add to it. That is why we need sensible income policies and a greater role for competition in the economy. This is the way we can best protect jobs and living standards.

The consensus approach to wage determination has a crucial role in improving competitiveness, by delivering moderate wage increases. In this context, wage increases must be limited to those negotiated under Sustaining Progress. My Department participates fully in the negotiations of these agreements. Officials from my Department are also participating in the anti-inflation initiative set up as part of Sustaining Progress with a view to examining ways of reducing inflation.

It is also important to maintain spending growth in line with revenue growth, thus keeping the burden of taxation low in order to maximise our economic growth potential. We are maintaining capital expenditure at the current high levels relative to GNP in order to reduce the existing infrastructural deficit.

Question No. 61 answered with QuestionNo. 46.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

62 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the number of special savings investment scheme accounts opened at the latest date for which figures are available; the average amount of savings per investor per month; the likely cost to the Exchequer of the specials savings investment scheme on the basis of such figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2492/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the 2004 SSIA annual returns are being furnished at present by all qualifying savings managers. The closing date for submission of these returns is 28 February 2005. Consequently, the latest date for which figures are available is for the year 2003.

Based on these 2003 annual returns furnished by all qualifying savings managers, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the total number of active accounts at 31 December 2003 was 1,113,880 and the average monthly subscription at that date was €165.

As indicated in replies to previous questions, it is not possible to give a definitive answer as to the eventual cost of the scheme as it is subject to a number of variables such as participants dying, withdrawing from the scheme or varying their monthly contributions. The cost of the scheme in 2004 was €548 million. The estimated cost in 2005 is €560 million. This, however, is not a conclusive figure, and the final figure may be different if account holders change their monthly contributions. The total gross cost over the period of the scheme will be reduced by the exit tax to be received at the end.

Decentralisation Programme.

Seán Ryan

Question:

63 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the supports, financial or otherwise, which will be made available to civil and public servants transferring to new locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s proposed decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2490/05]

The decentralisation implementation group in its second report published in July 2004 recognised that a professional and comprehensive service should be provided to assist decentralising staff with the myriad of issues likely to arise. The group recommended that the Department of Finance approach the market seeking expressions of interest for the supply of services covering auctioneering, legal, relocation and other appropriate services to support and assist staff relocating to any of the centres under the public service decentralisation programme. The Department of Finance advertised for such expressions of interest in the national press on Monday, 8 December 2004 and is currently reviewing the applications received. The request for tenders made it clear that no subsidy from public funds would be provided for any of the services offered or provided to staff.

Tax Evasion.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

64 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance the additional measures he is proposing to deal with the issue of tax evasion in view of recent court convictions. [2590/05]

Significant powers were given to the Revenue Commissioners in Finance Act 1999 and these have been used to great effect to recoup for the Exchequer significant amounts of tax that had been evaded over many years.

In this context, I draw the Deputy's attention to two recent reports relating to the general area of revenue powers. Last year the Revenue powers group report was published. The group found that the existing powers in Ireland were generally in line with international standards but recommended some changes to improve the balance between the need to secure the revenue of the State and the need to protect the taxpayer as a citizen.

Only yesterday the Law Reform Commission published a report entitled A Fiscal Prosecutor and a Revenue Court that also addressed the area of tax appeals and prosecutions. All of the recommendations made will be examined by my Department and by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners for administrative implementation or for enactment in the annual Finance Bill, as appropriate. Where additional measures are needed, I will not be found lacking. Legislative proposals in this regard are a matter for the Finance Bill, which will be published on 3 February.

Termination of Employment.

Pat Breen

Question:

65 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the payments made to terminate the employment of the chief executive of Aer Rianta; and the papers which were presented to him in this respect before he issued his approval. [2576/05]

I refer the Deputy to my previous replies of 14 October and 23 November 2004.

The previous Minister, as shareholder, indicated his consent to arrangements outlined to him by the chairman of Aer Rianta on 24 September last concerning the package the board proposed to make to the deputy chief executive who was leaving the company. I understand that the proposed package included a lump sum of 2.5 times salary, a contribution to pension fund, payment of a bonus and retention of company car.

Quarterly Economic Survey.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

66 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent ESRI quarterly economic survey. [2591/05]

The ESRI published its most recent quarterly economic commentary on 21 December 2004. The ESRI is forecasting economic growth this year of 5.0% in GDP terms, and 4.6% in GNP terms. It is forecasting employment growth of 2.0% and an unemployment rate of 4.3%. These forecasts are in line with my own Department's forecasts for 2005, which were published at budget time.

On budget day, my Department forecast CPI inflation of 2.5% in 2005. I note that the ESRI forecast is somewhat lower at 2.1%. I am pleased to see, and obviously agree with the ESRI assessment, that the budget was progressive in terms of the direction of tax and social welfare measures in favour of those on lower incomes — it was a key objective of the budget.

Benchmarking Awards.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

67 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if he has decided on the membership of the public service benchmarking body for its next phase of work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2570/05]

In the first public service pay agreement under Sustaining Progress, the parties agreed that the benchmarking process was the appropriate way to determine public service pay rates. They committed themselves to engage in consultation in relation to the terms of reference, modus operandi, establishment and timescale of a further benchmarking exercise.

In the pay agreement reached in June 2004 under the mid-term review of Sustaining Progress, the parties agreed that the benchmarking body will commence the next benchmarking review in the second half of 2005 to report in the second half of 2007.

Under the agreement, the parties will review the operation of the first benchmarking exercise and consider ways in which, based on experience gained in the last exercise, the process can be improved and streamlined.

The membership of the benchmarking body and its terms of reference will be agreed between the two parties not later than July 2005. Membership of the benchmarking body has not yet been decided and will be the subject of consideration over the coming months.

Tax Code.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

68 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he has received a copy of the recent Irish Congress of Trade Unions report on inequality in the taxation system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2599/05]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the ICTU autumn 2004 publication entitled Tax Cuts Did Not Create The Celtic Tiger. I am aware of the document. I do not go along with its basic premise that a low tax regime is not in the interest of the country. I gave my detailed views on the issues involved in my address to the Seanad on 10 November 2004. I cited in detail the considerable achievements of the Government in improving the equity of the tax system for all income earners, in particular the lower paid since 1997 and the role of our low tax regime in achieving the unprecedented economic growth and increases in employment in recent years.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

69 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if a site has been acquired for the decentralisation of 50 Revenue posts to Listowel, County Kerry; when work will commence on the provision of a new building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2405/05]

In response to OPW's nationwide advertisement in December 2003, 20 proposals offering potential property solutions in Listowel were received. All submissions were subjected to an architectural assessment, following which a number of property solutions were short-listed for further investigation. The current position is that the evaluation of property proposals to fulfil the accommodation brief of the staff decentralising to Listowel is at an advanced stage. The short-listed proposals under consideration comprise both sites and building projects.

Formal negotiations have commenced with the respective owners of the properties. It is expected that the position in relation to the acquisition of a property solution to facilitate the decentralisation programme to Listowel will be finalised in the near future.

Revenue Commissioners’ Investigations.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

70 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons, companies and trusts being investigated by the Revenue Commissioners arising from the Ansbacher accounts at the latest date for which figures are available; the number of cases in which settlements have been agreed and the total amount paid to date; the number of cases still outstanding; if additional action has been taken by the Revenue Commissioners arising from the report of the Ansbacher inspectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2484/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their Ansbacher review team has inquired into 289 cases to date and 108 of these cases have been finalised with Revenue. The 289 cases, taking account of spouses and connected companies, consist of 300 names. The 289 cases are made up of 179 cases listed on the High Court inspectors' report and 110 similar cases discovered by Revenue or listed on the authorised officer's report. A total of 211 cases have been under active investigation. The remaining cases consist of 62 non-resident persons, including 17 former Irish residents, 12 individuals who claimed the 1993 amnesty provisions and four cases with insufficient identity information.

The investigation includes examining the tax position of disclosed entities and accumulating and assembling information on other connected entities. The number of connected entities in relation to cases under investigation is now nearly 700. Revenue is making extensive use of its legislative powers to seek books, records, documents and information in the cases being investigated. Where appropriate, prosecutions will be considered but these will depend on the level of evidence available. Revenue has made six successful applications to the High Court for the production by financial institutions and third parties of books, records and other documentation, which are relevant to liabilities of Ansbacher account holders. Some 150,000 documents have been received under the terms of the High Court orders. Advanced investigative computer software is used in controlling and managing the documentation.

To date a total of €45.53 million has been received, consisting of settlements and payments on account, in respect of 95 cases. This is made up of:

Cases

€ million

Cases involving Ansbacher or Ansbacher type arrangements

77

36.22

Other cases involving offshore funds or deposits

18

9.31

Total

95

45.53

Overall, 108 cases have been finalised to date with Revenue. These consist of 65 cases which were settled on payments of €35.56 million, 26 non-resident cases which are covered by the provisions of double taxation agreements and 17 cases which had no additional liability of which two were covered by the 1993 amnesty provisions.

Revenue made an application under section 11 of the Companies Act 1990 for a copy of the High Court inspectors' report which was made available to Revenue on 6 July 2002. The information in this report has been carefully considered as regards the tax liabilities of the persons concerned. In addition, Revenue made a further application to the High Court for access to the supporting papers to the High Court inspectors' report. Judgment was delivered by the President of the High Court in May 2004 to allow access to documents relating to clients of Ansbacher named in the High Court inspectors' report and those persons and companies, including members of the board, found by the High Court inspectors to have failed to co-operate with their inquiry. The judgment also allows for Revenue to make application and grounding affidavit for the obtaining of information and documents relating to any other individual or company. Access to documents is subject to the direction of the High Court. The High Court orders in the matter were granted in June 2004 and perfected in January 2005. Revenue has applied, on foot of the orders, for access to documentation in respect of certain cases named in the High Court inspectors' report.

Revenue has informed me that the investigations are time consuming and complex and are likely to continue for some time to come. Information regarding yields from the Ansbacher and other special investigations by Revenue is posted, and regularly updated, on its website www.revenue.ie.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

71 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons, companies and trusts being investigated by the Revenue Commissioners arising from the clerical medical insurance-NIB inquiry at the latest date for which figures are available; the number of cases in which settlements have been agreed and the total amount paid to date; the number of cases still outstanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2479/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that arising from the clerical medical insurance-NIB inquiry, 452 cases have been targeted for investigation. To date, 296 cases have been settled on payment of tax, interest and penalties amounting to a total of €48.70 million. A further 116 cases have been finalised with no additional liability arising. The remaining 40 cases are the subject of ongoing investigation, and in respect of which €4.76 million has been paid on account.

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

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

Tax Code.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

72 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to initiate any review, similar to the one planned in regard to reliefs and exemptions for higher earners, of the legislative provisions regarding residency abroad for tax purposes, particularly in regard to the so-called Cinderella clause, whereby the day a person leaves the country by midnight does not count as a day of residence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2475/05]

The residency rules are not covered by the review referred to. Such rules were last updated in the 1994 Finance Act by the then Fianna Fáil and Labour Government following a comprehensive review of the matter by the Revenue Commissioners and my Department. The resulting new rules set out in the 1994 Finance Act both simplified and clarified the whole area and were generally welcomed. These rules provide inter alia that an individual is deemed to be present in the State for a day if the individual is present in the State at the end of the day. This is in line with the Revenue administrative practice prior to the 1994 Finance Act which was based on the number of nights spent in the State.

Price Inflation.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

73 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance the anticipated inflationary effect of price increases approved by the Government since the start of 2005. [2597/05]

The CPI is forecast to increase by 2.5% in 2005. The price increases which were put to Government for approval will add less than 0.25% to the CPI this year. There were no changes to indirect taxes in the budget so the CPI effect of these is nil.

Decentralisation Programme.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

74 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the anticipated costs, in terms of acquiring and equipping premises and other related costs at the latest date for which figures are available of the original decentralisation programme announced in budget 2004 and the slimmed down version announced in December 2004. [2489/05]

The Government's decentralisation programme involves some 10,500 civil and public service jobs in more than 56 locations. As I have said on a number of occasions, the Government is committed to the full implementation of the programme. My office has been tasked with procurement of development sites in the designated locations and the procurement of accommodation solutions to the office and facility requirements of the Departments and agencies involved.

The Office of Public Works, having evaluated in excess of 700 proposed property solutions in relation to the decentralisation programme scheduled for the various locations around the country, has made significant progress in sourcing possible sites at the locations concerned.

The prevailing property market conditions in each geographical area will have a significant bearing on the cost of acquiring sites. As the acquisition process is still in progress, it is not possible at this stage to provide a precise estimate of the cost of the site acquisition programme. However, for working purposes only, an indicative figure of €75 million to €100 million is being used by the OPW.

As the Deputy will know, the decentralisation implementation group, DIG, announced the names of the Departments and organisations selected to move in the first phase of the programme on 24 November 2004. A further report from the group on the procurement and financial issues relating to property was also published on 24 November 2004.

The next stage in the decentralisation process will focus on the construction of office accommodation on the sites being procured by OPW. In line with the DIG report on procurement, the OPW advertised for expressions of interest in the first 15 design-build projects in December 2004. A significant response was received and the submissions are currently being evaluated.

In relation to the public private partnership approach recommended by the DIG, my office has been developing a comprehensive risk adjusted costing of project elements to measure the value for money of future PPP bids. It is anticipated that, in the majority of cases, the accommodation facilities will be provided by the construction of new office buildings and cost estimation can be approached on that basis. However, in advance of actual market testing of any procurement methodology, it is possible, at this time, only to assign the most general measurements of cost to such a large scale, diverse and complex programme.

It is estimated that approximately 210,000sq. m., 2.26 m. sq. ft., of office space will be required to accommodate the total numbers included in the programme. Current industry cost norms in respect of commercial offices would indicate an average build-cost to fit-out standard, in the range of €1,450 per sq. m. to €2,000 persq. m. Such figures exclude VAT, professional fees and inflation.

In addition the cost of equipping the accommodation to standard office equipment levels could be estimated at approximately €4,000 per person. This would exclude the cost of information and communication technology and specialised equipment requirements.

Such general measurements of cost do not include specialised facility and equipment requirements and other variables which would arise from the spread of possible procurement methodologies. In addition, general cost indicators of this type show a snapshot in time.

It is self-evident that a firmer scale of costs for the decentralisation programme will only emerge on foot of actual cost proposals being received from the market. Nevertheless, we can clearly anticipate that, generally speaking, the cost of providing accommodation infrastructure in provincial locations compared to central Dublin locations should yield considerable cost savings to the State over time in terms of site costs, capital build costs and, maintenance costs.

Tax Collection.

Damien English

Question:

75 Mr. English asked the Minister for Finance the amount of income the State has lost out on through the illegal smuggling of cigarettes and alcohol into the State for the years 1997 to 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32570/04]

It is not possible to provide an accurate figure for the amounts lost to the Exchequer in any year in respect of smuggling as the level of undetected smuggling can never be known. However, it is the view of the Revenue Commissioners that the level of penetration of the Irish market by contraband cigarettes and alcohol is low and consequently losses to the Exchequer are low.

Smuggling of excisable products is always a matter of concern and the Revenue Commissioners have been actively engaged in combating it with many important seizures in recent years. In the period 1997 to 2004, Revenue's customs service made 18,730 seizures of cigarettes and tobacco, involving 576 million cigarettes and 40,000 kilos of tobacco. It is clear from the brands involved that many were destined for Northern Ireland or the UK. In the same period, there were 1,076 seizures, involving 575,000 litres of alcohol and several illicit distilleries were also detected.

Expenditure Review Initiative.

Michael Ring

Question:

76 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself with the progress under the expenditure review initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2559/05]

The first formal report from the expenditure review central steering committee on progress under the expenditure review initiative, ERI, for the period June 2002 to June 2004 was submitted to me on 3 November 2004 and forwarded to the Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service on 25 November 2004. This report found that progress had been made by Departments and offices in undertaking systematic evaluation both within and outside the ERI, and in building an evaluation culture. However, it also highlighted some deficiencies in the process and made a number of recommendations designed to improve it.

I am committed to ensuring that we get better value for money from public expenditure. I would like to see greater progress being made in improving the arrangements for carrying out expenditure reviews and in completing reviews. I have, therefore, accepted the steering committee's recommendations.

I attach particular importance to the recommendation of the steering committee that expenditure reviews should encompass significant spending programmes, that they should be completed on time, and that their recommendations should be followed up on. The responsibility in regard to implementation of these and the other recommendations rests in the first instance with Departments. I, therefore, wrote to all Ministers last November on receipt of the steering committee's report urging them to ensure that their Departments and offices take appropriate steps to implement the recommendations. My Department will shortly invite Departments and offices to propose topics for the next round of expenditure reviews for the period 2005-07 for submission to Government. I will take that opportunity to review progress in the interim and to ensure that the steering committee's recommendations for improvement are reflected in the next round of reviews.

Non-Resident Accounts.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

77 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the number of High Court orders sought to date by the Revenue Commissioners under the Finance Act 1999 to require financial institutions to supply names, addresses and other relevant information regarding holders of bogus accounts at the latest date for which figures are available; the number of cases in which orders have been granted; the progress made to date in identifying the holders of such accounts who did not avail of the recent voluntary disclosure scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2483/05]

Authorised Revenue officers are empowered to make an application to a judge of the High Court seeking an order requiring financial institutions to supply names, addresses and other relevant information concerning account holders who may have held bogus non-resident deposit accounts. Such applications are made under section 908 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, as amended by the Finance Act 1999. Information supplied by the financial institutions under section 908 orders is the principal basis for identifying bogus non-resident account holders who did not avail of the voluntary disclosure scheme in 2001. This inquiry work commenced on 16 November 2001.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that 18 applications for orders under section 908 have been made and granted. When one includes institutions, which have been taken over or amalgamated with other institutions, these orders seek information in respect of accounts in 26 financial institutions. No further applications for such orders are pending in regard to the bogus non-resident account inquiries.

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

The Revenue Commissioners have informed me that they are satisfied that significant progress has been made in this the final phase of the investigations. Since 15 November 2001 payments of €338 million have made to Revenue by taxpayers who held bogus non-resident accounts.

Decentralisation Programme.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

78 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with numbers of persons from within the State agencies who have indicated a willingness to decentralise with their agencies; and his views on the assessments from some of the agencies of the risk of damage to delivery of services. [2580/05]

I accept that the number of applications to the central applications facility, CAF, from the Civil Service are much better than those from the State agencies. Unlike the State agencies, the Civil Service has considerable previous experience of decentralisation and has a long tradition of interdepartmental transfers.

The decentralisation implementation group, DIG, asked that all organisations participating in the programme should prepare detailed implementation plans, including risk mitigation plans. These plans were prepared and submitted to the group. Most included risk mitigation strategies. In its July 2004 report, the group noted that the overall quality of the plans was good. It has recommended — paragraph 9.3 — that in preparing the next version of its implementation plan each organisation should ensure that a risk mitigation strategy is included. I am satisfied that this approach represents a realistic approach to risk identification and mitigation.

Question No. 79 answered with QuestionNo. 29.

Bloodstock Industry.

Jack Wall

Question:

80 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance his views on reports that an EU investigation is being sought by British MEPs and the British bloodstock industry into whether tax exemptions on stud fees constitute illegal state aid; his response to this suggestion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31431/04]

The Commission has been in correspondence with my Department regarding this exemption in response to a complaint made to it in July 2003. I do not know the source of the complaint. I am also aware that the matter has also been raised with the EU Agriculture Commissioner in the European Parliament.

The position is that in April 2004, the Commission asked for information which would allow it to establish whether the exemption may be considered compatible with state aid rules. The requested information, which included details on the number of stallions, price of nominations, the relevant tax brackets, the estimated number of beneficiaries as well as a precise description of the exemption, was supplied to the Commission in July 2004. No further communication has been received from the Commission to date. Ultimately, the issue as to whether or not aid granted by member states in any particular case is compatible with the state aid articles of the EC treaty is a matter for the Commission.

Tax Code.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

81 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his proposals for the review of tax reliefs and exemptions for high earners; if consultants have been appointed to assist in this process; the role he envisages for the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service; when the process will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2465/05]

I announced in my Budget Statement that my Department and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners will undertake a detailed review of certain tax incentive schemes and tax exemptions in 2005. This review will evaluate their impact and operation, including their economic and social benefits for the different locations and sectors involved and to the wider community. In addition, the review will examine the degree to which these schemes allow high income individuals to reduce their tax liabilities.

I subsequently announced in a press release on 6 January 2005 that my Department has advertised for external consultants to review certain tax incentive schemes. The consultants will evaluate the following incentive schemes: urban renewal; rural renewal; town renewal; living over the shop; multi-storey carparks; park and ride; student accommodation; third level buildings; hotels and holiday cottages; nursing homes; private hospitals; sports injuries clinics; child care facilities; and countrywide refurbishment scheme.

Tenders have been invited from suitably qualified consultants to undertake two separate studies in economic, fiscal and social terms, as necessary, of the impact, operation, effectiveness and cost of all the above tax incentive schemes. The request for tenders was placed in the Official Journal of the European Union on 24 December 2004. Decisions on the award of the contracts are scheduled for end March-early April 2005. It is envisaged that the consultancy review of these various reliefs will be completed by mid summer.

The review of tax reliefs includes a special public consultation process seeking submissions on measures that could be introduced that balance the benefit of such reliefs with the extent to which these are used by high earners to reduce their tax bill. The public consultation process was advertised on 8 January 2005 and submissions should be made before 31 March 2005.

The review will also involve the examination by my Department and the Revenue Commissioners of certain other tax exemptions, for example, for stallions, woodlands, artists and patent income. I would welcome the views of public representatives, either individually or via the forum of the relevant Oireachtas committees, and of the social partners in due course in relation to all these matters. The aim is to have all these examinations completed by the autumn so that the various issues can be examined in the context of the 2006 budget next December.

Question No. 82 answered with QuestionNo. 23.

Capital Projects.

Damien English

Question:

83 Mr. English asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself with the effectiveness of the process whereby different funding options are being assessed for capital projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2581/05]

Capital projects are procured primarily by the traditional means of Exchequer capital or by public private partnership, PPP. In both cases, projects are subject to appraisal for value for money in accordance with the relevant guidelines laid down by my Department. It is a matter for the sponsoring Department or agency with the approval of the relevant sanctioning Department to determine which project option represents best value for money.

Under the general conditions of sanction for the multi-annual capital envelopes introduced in budget 2004, Departments are required to comply in all cases with my Department's guidelines for the appraisal and management of capital projects. Consultations with Departments on revising these guidelines are now complete and I will be submitting the revised guidelines to Government for approval to publish shortly.

To assist State authorities in determining the optimal means of financing public investment projects, the Government established the National Development Finance Agency, NDFA, on 1 January 2003. The NDFA's role includes advising on the financing and risk evaluation of Ireland's public-private partnership procurement projects and raising or arranging finance for appropriate capital projects. In this respect it provides a centralised expert service to Departments and certain other State authorities.

The PPP procurement option should be available to Departments and State authorities for application to appropriate projects where there is the right scale, risk and operational profile to harness the benefits of this new approach.

As the Deputy will be aware, there are also reforms planned in the area of public sector contracts for construction and construction related services. The reforms will involve the amendment and introduction of new standard forms of construction contracts which will transfer appropriate risks to contractors where they are best placed to manage them. These initiatives seek to reduce the potential for project cost overruns and provide better value for money for the State. Consultation with the construction industry on the contract-related material will commence shortly.

Disabled Drivers.

John Deasy

Question:

84 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance his plans for reform of the tax concessions for disabled drivers. [2566/05]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the disabled drivers and disabled passengers — tax concessions — scheme. The scheme is open to people with disabilities who meet the specified criteria and have obtained a primary medical certificate to that effect. The senior area medical officer attached to the relevant local health board is responsible for both the medical assessment and the issue of the medical certificate. The medical criteria for the purposes of the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994.

An individual who qualifies under the medical criteria is issued with a primary medical certificate. Possession of a primary medical certificate qualifies the holder for remission or repayment of vehicle registration tax, VRT, a repayment of value added tax, VAT, on the purchase of the vehicle and a repayment of VAT on the cost of adaptation of the vehicle. Repayment of the excise duty on fuel used in the motor vehicle and exemption from annual road tax to local authorities are also allowed.

An interdepartmental review group was established to review the scheme. The group examined all aspects of the scheme, including the qualifying medical criteria, the benefits and the appeals process. The report of the group was published on my Department's website in July 2004 and copies have been placed in the Oireachtas Library.

Following on from the report's recommendations concerning the appeals process, amendments to the regulations governing the scheme were made to improve the operation of the appeals process. These were signed by the Minister for Finance on 23 July 2004. The amendments provided for changes as follows: expanding the panel of medical practitioners serving on the medical board of appeal from three to five; and amending the appeals process by introducing a six month waiting period between an appeal and subsequent application and introducing the requirement for a second or subsequent application to be certified by a registered medical practitioner to the effect that there has been material disimprovement in the medical condition since the previous application.

Given the scale and scope of the scheme, changes can only be made after very careful consideration. For this reason, the Government has decided that the Minister for Finance will consider the recommendations contained in the report of the interdepartmental review group in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme.

Pension Provisions.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

85 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the amount in the funds of the national pensions reserve fund at the latest date for which figures are available; the amount invested outside of Ireland; the amount held in cash balances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2494/05]

The 2003 annual report of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission shows that at 31 December 2003 the market value of the fund was €9,561 million. This included cash deposits of €1,283 million, net current assets of €36 million, unrealised gains on foreign derivative contracts of €70 million and equities and bonds worth €8,172 million. Of this latter figure, €8,099 million was invested in non-Irish equities and bonds.

The most recently published figures pertaining to the holdings of the National Pensions Reserve Fund were included in the end year press release of the National Treasury Management Agency which was issued on 31 December 2004. It shows that the estimated market value of the fund was €11,686 million at 31 December 2004. Of this amount, €1,309 million was held in cash and other net current assets, including derivatives, a total of €10,365 million was held in equities and bonds, and €12 million was held in property. The statement does not distinguish between Irish and non-Irish investments.

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

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission, which manages the fund, is independent of Government. It controls and manages the fund with discretionary authority to determine and implement the fund's investment strategy. This investment strategy is based on a commercial investment mandate with the objective of securing the optimal return over the long-term, having regard to the purpose of the fund as set out in section 18(1) of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000 and the payment requirements of the fund as provided for under section 20 of the Act, provided the level of risk to the moneys held or invested is acceptable to the commission.

Tax Evasion.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

86 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance the number of breaches detected of the Waiver of Certain Tax, Interest and Penalties Act 1993 in respect of each year since 1994; the number of prosecutions initiated and convictions secured arising from such detection; if he has satisfied himself that the law is being applied in the manner intended; if his attention has been drawn to comments made by a person (details supplied) regarding the difficulties faced in initiating prosecution for breaches of the Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2473/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there are two ways in which a taxpayer may have been in breach of the amnesty — first, in making a false declaration or, second, in not making a declaration. I am informed that the Revenue Commissioners do not have figures for the number of detected breaches of the amnesty. Given the confidentiality conditions built into the 1993 amnesty legislation, such breaches are difficult to identify and prove.

Individuals and companies have been successfully prosecuted in recent years as a result of Revenue investigations, and although these investigations have in some instances involved consideration of possible amnesty breaches, it has not generally been possible to obtain the evidence necessary to meet the required standards of beyond reasonable doubt from an amnesty perspective. However one individual has been successfully prosecuted to date for failure to comply with the obligatory provisions of the Waiver of Certain Tax, Interest and Penalties Act, 1993, following a Revenue investigation and is awaiting sentence. There was also a recent jail sentence imposed in connection with an incorrect amnesty declaration.

Revenue's criminal investigation programmes have been refocused recently with the establishment of an investigations and prosecutions division, one of whose functions is to increase the number of prosecutions for serious tax evasion. Many of the cases currently under investigation relate to tax offences committed in recent years and do not therefore involve consideration of amnesty issues. However, a number of cases have been identified which could involve offences in relation to the amnesty and they will be investigated with a view to taking a criminal prosecution.

I am aware of the comments made by the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners at the Committee of Public Accounts in December 2004, when responding to questions on the 2003 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the issue of the tax amnesty. The chairman referred to the serious difficulties the Revenue Commissioners had in obtaining admissible evidence, due to the confidentiality safeguards enshrined in the amnesty legislation. He went on to say that there were two cases coming before the courts in the near future and that a great deal would depend on the outcome of these, as to whether the other cases being investigated would go for prosecution. One of these is the successful Revenue conviction mentioned earlier.

In view of this, I am satisfied the Revenue Commissioners are making every effort to ensure the law is applied in the manner intended by the legislation as passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

87 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance the number of court prosecutions initiated as a result of tax evasion in respect of each year since 1997; the number of cases in which convictions were secured; the number of cases in which prison sentences were imposed and the details of the sentence in each case; if he has satisfied himself with the level of court cases taken, in view of the high level of evasion; if he will report on the work of the investigations and prosecutions division of the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2472/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the following table provides information on court prosecutions initiated for tax evasion.

Year

No of Convictions

Fines imposed

Custodial sentence (suspended in brackets)

Details of Custodial sentence

1997

1

€635

Nil

1998

6

€42,854

2 (2)

(a) 6 months (suspended)(b) 2 years (suspended)

1999

1

€19,046

Nil

2000

3

€952

2 (1)

(a) 2 years (18 months on appeal)(b) 12 months (suspended)

2001

4

€14,284

4 (2)

(a) 12 months(b) 6 months (suspended)(c) 6 months (suspended)(d) 3 months

2002

3

€5,540

1 (1)

6 months (suspended)

2003

6

€29,365

1 (1)

2 years (suspended)

2004

1

€5,000 and 180 hours community service.

2005

2

€10,800 and adjourned to await report on suitability to serve 120 hours community service in lieu of 3 months prison sentence. Pleaded guilty to 8 charges, sentencing adjourned.

Revenue has a very clear policy of prosecuting cases of serious tax evasion. The investigations and prosecutions division is responsible for this. Following Revenue re-structuring in 2003, all investigation activity was consolidated in this division with a remit to co-ordinate all Revenue prosecution work and in particular to increase the number of criminal investigations for serious tax offences and ultimately to increase the number of prosecutions. The number of investigators was also increased for this purpose.

Recent figures indicate that this approach is proving successful. There are currently 46 cases under investigation for potential prosecution, the DPP is considering seven cases and has given directions to prosecute in another five. Bench warrants have been issued in three cases for failure to attend court and four cases are in the court process. This is the highest combined figure to date and vindicates the decision to concentrate Revenue's prosecution resources in one area.

Stability and Growth Pact.

Willie Penrose

Question:

88 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance his views on the need for reform of the Stability and Growth Pact; the progress made by finance ministers on this issue at their January 2005 meeting; when the process will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2485/05]

The European Commission presented a formal communication on 3 September 2004 outlining a range of proposals for strengthening economic governance in the European Union and clarifying the implementation of the Stability and Growth pact. Since then, the issues involved have been the subject of detailed and wide-ranging discussions.

At the recent ECOFIN Council of 18 January 2005, ministers had a useful exchange of views on this matter, and made progress in identifying areas of common ground. In its conclusions, the council requested the economic and financial committee, EFC, to continue work on the following issues in light of the debate: consolidating the preventive part of the pact; improving implementation of the excessive deficit procedure, which is the corrective part of the pact; and improving governance.

The consideration of the issues involved is therefore ongoing. The Luxembourg Presidency of the EU has indicated its objective of achieving agreement on the matter by the European Council meeting in March 2005.

As regards Ireland's position, we are engaging fully with the ongoing discussions with a view to encouraging reforms which are in line with our economic priorities. For example, Ireland has long argued that countries with very low debt levels, and with clear investment needs, should not be unduly constrained from making the necessary resources available.

Tax Code.

Billy Timmins

Question:

89 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the entry level to the top rate of income tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2572/05]

As a result of the budget, the standard rate bands for this and subsequent years are €29,400 for a single person, €38,400 for a married one earner couple and €58,800 for a married two earner couple, of which €38,400 is transferable. Lone and widowed persons have a standard rate band of €33,400. Income above these levels is subject to the higher rate of tax of 42%.

The major portion of available resources for the personal tax package in budget 2005 was devoted to achieving the aim of taking the minimum wage out of the tax net. This fulfilled a key taxation commitment contained in An Agreed Programme for Government. It will benefit those on low incomes and will help remove 66,000 from the tax net for 2005. Overall, after budget 2005, there are more than 34% of income earners, 656,500, outside the tax net. This compares, for example with about 35% of income earners, 380,400, in 1997.

To the extent that further resources were available for tax reductions in the budget 2005 income tax package, they were used essentially to widen the standard rate bands so as to increase the entry level to the higher rate of tax. The increases in the standard rate band will ensure that an extra 52,000 taxpayers will not pay tax at the higher rate in 2005. The band widening in budget 2005 ensures that about 33% of income earners will pay tax at the higher rate in 2005 as compared with a projected 36% of income earners if no such measure had been included in the budget.

It should be noted that all income earners benefited from the tax changes in the recent budget and that while the proportion on the top rate increased, there was a reduction in their average tax rate, that is, tax as a percentage of income. It should also be noted that in 2005 a single PAYE worker on the average industrial wage will pay more than €200 less in tax in 2005 than in 1997 on a wage which is more than €11,000 greater in value.

Financial Services Sector.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

90 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the progress in regard to any action taken by his Department and the Revenue Commissioners arising from the report of the High Court inspectors on National Irish Bank which was published on 30 July 2004; if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed at the meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service, regarding the fact that a number of those named in the report are still working in the financial services sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2480/05]

While I have no statutory function in the matter, I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that early in 1998, when information became available that indicated possible tax evasion on the part of NIB customers who had availed of an offshore investment product, an investigation was initiated. This investigation is nearing completion and has resulted in recoveries of €53.46 million in tax interest and penalties. In addition, three taxpayers were convicted in connection with the submission of incorrect returns.

The report of the High Court inspectors was made available to the Revenue Commissioners after it was issued last year. It raises issues about the conduct of named former officials of the bank in relation to their role in marketing certain offshore, insurance based, investment products. Revenue has been considering the matter in the context of the available legislation relating to the offence of aiding abetting and assisting taxpayers to make and deliver incorrect tax returns but the matter is not yet finalised.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA, assesses the fitness and probity of persons in key leadership positions as part of its supervisory functions. I understand that IFSRA has confirmed to the joint committee that it is actively examining the High Court inspectors report and taking appropriate action where such fitness and probity issues are raised. This is an operational matter for IFSRA and I do not propose to comment further on the position of any individual.

Credit Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

91 Mr. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the number of credit cards issued for departmental use to Ministers, Ministers of State or others; the person or persons authorised to use such cards; the circumstances in which use is permissible; the number of occasions on which they have been used in the life of the present Government; the purpose of such use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2404/05]

In addition to my departmental credit card, there are currently 21 credit cards issued for this Department. Details of authorised users are as follows:

Name

Position

Tom Kitt

Minister of State

Dermot McCarthy

Secretary General

Michael Collins

Second Secretary

David Feeney

Private Secretary to the Taoiseach

Una Claffey

Special Adviser

Gerry Howlin

Special Adviser

Joe Lennon

Special Adviser

Katherine Bulbulia

Special Adviser

Iarla Mongey

Head of Gov. Information Services

Peter Ryan

Assistant Secretary

Philip Kelly

Assistant Secretary

Mary Doyle

Assistant Secretary

Eoin O’Leary

Assistant Secretary

Martin Fraser

Principal Officer, Economic & Social Policy Division

George Shaw

Principal Officer, Economic & Social Policy Division

Aileen Healy

Finance Officer

Miriam Dollard

Personnel Officer

Mary Murphy

Personnel Officer

Geraldine Byrne-Nason

Director, National Forum on Europe

Brendan Ward

NESDO

Agnes Aylward

Ireland Newfoundland Partnership

It is the policy of the Department that departmental credit cards may only be used for official purposes. This can include charges for items such as travel, accommodation and entertainment expenses incurred while travelling on behalf of the Department and for the purpose of booking conferences or training courses.

It is the experience of the Department that most departmental credit cards are generally used on average three to four times per month — per card — although this will vary. For instance, a card may be used more in a particular month when the user travels on official business and not at all in other months.

Departmental Appointments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

92 Mr. Kehoe asked the Taoiseach the number of public appointments made in his Department since August 2004; the name of each appointee involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2733/05]

My Department has not made any public appointments since August 2004. In relation to the bodies under the aegis of my Department, Professor Finbarr McAuley and Patricia T. Rickard-Clarke were re-appointed to the Law Reform Commission in September 2004 and Marian Shanley in November 2004. Dr. Sean Barrett, economist, Trinity College, was appointed to the National Economic and Social Council, NESC, in January 2005. As a result of internal organisational changes within ICTU, Mr. Des Geraghty and Ms Angela Kirk replaced Mr. John Tierney and Ms Marie Levis on the Council of the National Centre for Partnership and Performance in September 2004.

Packaging Industry.

Dan Boyle

Question:

93 Mr. Boyle asked the Taoiseach if statistics are maintained on the value of the packaging industry here in terms of GDP, both as a percentage and in money terms; and if such information will be supplied. [2880/05]

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available. However, statistics are available from the annual census of industrial production in respect of the sector — manufacture of pulp, paper and paper products. The relevant details for 2002 are set out in the following table:

Sector (NACE categories)

Number of local units

Gross Output

Net Output (i.e. gross output minus industrial inputs)

No.

€m

€m

All industries

5,535

99,966

60,373

of which:

21 — Manufacture of pulp, paper and paper products

120

753

402

of which:

2,112 — Manufacture of paper and paperboard

13

42

20

2,121 — Manufacture of corrugated paper and paperboard and of containers of paper and paperboard

54

339

163

Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

94 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the needs of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be addressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2442/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal services. This includes responsibility for speech therapy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Violence Against Women.

Michael Ring

Question:

95 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide funding to an organisation (details supplied). [2866/05]

My Department does not directly fund or co-ordinate health and personal social services to victims of abuse. Moneys are made available each year, formerly through the health boards, and now through the Health Service Executive, for the provision of services to women victims of violence. In recent years, there has been a substantial increase in funding so that more than €12 million is provided annually for the provision of such services. It is a matter for the Health Service Executive to resource the provision of these services.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Liam Twomey

Question:

96 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the target dates for the rollout of BreastCheck nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2332/05]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

129 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the rollout of BreastCheck services throughout the regions will be completed; if she will address the concerns expressed recently that a further delay is anticipated in regard to its extension to the south and west; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2694/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 129 together.

The rollout of the national screening programme to the remaining counties is a major priority in the development of cancer services. This will ensure that all women in the 50 to 64 age group in every county have access to breast screening and follow-up treatment where appropriate. A capital investment of approximately €20 million has been approved to construct and equip two static clinical units, one in Cork and the other in Galway. This investment will also ensure that mobile units are available to screen women in the relevant age group throughout the country.

My Department is considering proposals for the development of the two static clinical units at Cork and Galway. It is intended that both facilities will be progressed simultaneously, under the capital investment framework for 2005 to 2009, and design briefs in respect of both have been completed. The capital funding involved in both facilities has already been indented under the framework. It is anticipated that the advertisement for the appointment of a design team will be placed in the EU Journal in the coming weeks. As is normal, tenders for the construction element of these projects will not be sought until the design phase is completed.

Any woman irrespective of her age or residence who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her region.

Health Statistics.

Liam Twomey

Question:

97 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she will publish a report of comprehensive health statistics for 2003 and 2004 as done in 2002; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2333/05]

Since 1999, the Report on Health Statistics has been published in hard copy format every three years. Data for the interim years have been made available in updated tables on my Department's website and through direct requests to the Department. The latest edition was published in 2002 and the 2005 report is at an advanced stage of preparation. A number of the tables that will appear in the 2005 report are already available on the website. The Department's recently redesigned website, www.dohc.ie, facilitates improved display of and access to statistical data.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Liam Twomey

Question:

98 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if and when the HeBE report on cervical screening will be published; her target date for the rollout of the cervical screening programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2334/05]

The Health Board Executive, HeBE, commissioned an international expert in cervical screening to examine the feasibility and implications of a national rollout of a cervical screening programme. The examination included an evaluation of the pilot programme, quality assurance, laboratory capacity and organisation, and the establishment of national governance arrangements. The experts' report was published by HeBE on 14 December 2004.

My Department is consulting with relevant professional representative and advocacy groups on the report as an essential input into its preparation of a detailed response to the recommendations. These groups are the Irish College of General Practitioners, An Bord Altranais, the Academy of Medical Laboratory Science, the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of the RCPI, the faculty of pathology of the RCPI, the Women's Health Council and the Irish Cancer Society.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

99 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive speech therapy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2335/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal services. This includes responsibility for speech therapy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

100 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the failure of the chief executive of the north eastern area of the Health Service Executive to lift the suspension of a person (details supplied) as directed by her; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2336/05]

I reviewed the suspension of the person concerned on 23 December 2004 and decided, based on legal advice and pursuant to the powers conferred on me as Minister for Health and Children by section 22 (3) of the Health Act 1970, to terminate the suspension with effect from that date. This decision was formally advised to the parties concerned. Following the enactment of the Health Act 2004, the person concerned is now an employee of the HSE and it is a matter for the executive to determine the appropriate course of action in response to my decision to lift the suspension.

Hospital Cleaning Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

101 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if cleaning services in hospitals have been reduced within the past 20 years; her views on the direct link between hospital cleaning, declining hygiene standards and the potentially fatal MRSA infection; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2337/05]

Infection control measures, including environmental cleaning and hand hygiene, are central to the control of health care associated infections, including drug-resistant organisms such as MRSA.

The Department's policy in this area is set out in the strategy for antimicrobial resistance in Ireland, SARI. A SARI infection control sub-committee is revising national guidelines for the control and prevention of MRSA in hospitals and in the community. These guidelines cover a number of areas including physical cleanliness of the environment, hand hygiene, antibiotic stewardship programmes and availability of isolation facilities, as well as screening and detection protocols. When the guidelines are finalised, they will be considered by my Department and the Health Service Executive.

I have identified measures to improve cleaning services as one of the ten actions being undertaken to improve accident and emergency services.

Hospital Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

102 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the target date of completion and the moneys budgeted for 2005 for the development and expansion of minor injury units, chest pain clinics and respiratory clinics in hospitals to relieve pressure on accident and emergency departments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2338/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

103 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the target date of completion and the moneys budgeted for 2005 for the provision of a second MRI scanner at Beaumont Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2339/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

104 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the target date of completion and the moneys budgeted for 2005 for the provision of acute medical units for non-surgical patients at Tallaght, St. Vincent’s and Beaumont Hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2340/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

105 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the target date of completion and the moneys budgeted for 2005 for the transfer of 100 high-dependency patients to suitable private nursing home care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2341/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

106 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the target date of completion and the moneys budgeted for 2005 for the negotiation with the private sector to meet the needs of 500 persons annually for intermediate care for up to six weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2342/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

107 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the target date of completion and the moneys budgeted for 2005 to expand home care packages to support 500 additional older persons at home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2343/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

108 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the target date of completion and the moneys budgeted for 2005 for the provision of more out-of-hours general practitioner services in order to keep people’s need to attend accident and emergency units to a minimum; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2344/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

109 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the target date of completion and the moneys budgeted for 2005 for the provision of dedicated cleaning services and security measures for accident and emergency departments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2345/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

110 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the target date of completion and the moneys budgeted for 2005 for the further expansion of palliative care facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2346/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

111 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the target date of completion and the moneys budgeted for 2005 for the provision of measures to enhance direct access for general practitioners to diagnostic services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2347/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 to 111, inclusive, together.

The areas referred to by the Deputy are part of a ten-point action plan for accident and emergency services which I announced on the publication of the Estimates for 2005. A sum of €70 million is available to the Health Service Executive this year for these initiatives. I have met senior management of the HSE and my Department is working closely with the HSE to ensure the early implementation of these measures.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Dan Neville

Question:

112 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the waiting list for a cardiologist consultation before being put on the waiting list for treatment at the Mid-West Regional Hospital, Dooradoyle. [2348/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the Mid-West Regional Hospital, Dooradoyle. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-west area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

113 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for prosthetic-orthotic treatment. [2349/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for persons resident in County Mayo. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Nurses’ Pay.

Michael Noonan

Question:

114 Mr. Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if nurses working in the area of learning disability are earning considerably less than child care workers working in the same area; her views on whether this is anomalous; if her attention has been drawn to the difficulty in recruiting qualified nurses to work in this area due to this anomaly; the steps she intends to take to rectify the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2350/05]

The final report of the Joint Committee on Social Care Professions made recommendations on pay and grading structures for child care workers. The pay recommendation provided for increases of 17% to 27% for houseparents or child care leaders and assistant houseparents or child care workers in the residential sector. The benchmarking body, PSBB, referred to this report and recommended that these increases be extended to similar grades in the intellectual disabilities sector, IDS.

In March 2004, the Labour Court considered a claim from the Alliance of Nursing Unions for a 10.55% pay increase for nurses working in the intellectual disability sector, to restore a "differential" that existed between nurses and social care professionals prior to the determination of the PSBB. While the Labour Court accepted that Registered Nurses Intellectual Disability, RNID, had traditionally been paid more than social care professionals, it stated that no formal pay "differential" existed between the two grades. The court noted that an understanding had been reached at the Labour Relations Commission on 3 September 2003 between the employers and the Alliance of Nursing Unions, and that both parties had accepted that the report of the PSBB severed all pay links and established new absolute levels of pay for benchmarked grades.

There was also an acceptance that any future benchmarking exercise, or whatever subsequent arrangements are put in place for determining public service pay, is the appropriate forum to examine the position of RNIDs vis-à-vis other social care professionals. The court also noted that this understanding was rejected by members of the Alliance of Nursing Unions leading to the referral to the matter to the court.

The court issued its recommendation on 1 April 2004. Having considered the written and oral submissions, it was of the view that the claim could not be dealt with outside of the established agreements. Accordingly, the court recommended that the matter be dealt with in accordance with the understanding reached between the parties at the conciliation conference on 3 September 2003 and that it be give priority in this exercise. In the discussions on the second phase of the Sustaining Progress agreement, management agreed that the position of the RNID would be considered in the next benchmarking review which will commence in the second half of 2005.

The supply of adequate numbers of nurses has been a priority for the Government for several years. Since 2002, there have been 240 training places available each year on the four-year degree programme for intellectual disability nursing. Figures from An Bord Altranais show that in 2004 there were 146 newly registered nurses in intellectual disability nursing, of whom 138 had trained in Ireland.

The Health Service Executive, employer representative division, carries out a regular survey of nursing resources. The most recent report showed that the intellectual disability sector had increased its staffing by 89 in the 12-month period to 30 September 2004. The survey also found there were 84.56 nursing vacancies in the intellectual disabilities sector at the end of the third quarter in 2004. This was the lowest number of vacancies for that quarter in the sector since the commencement of the survey in 2000.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Pat Breen

Question:

115 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive a bed lever from the Mid-Western Health Board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2434/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of health services in County Clare. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

116 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children and adolescents whom the health service has sent out of the country for institutional treatment; and the cost to the State in 2003 and 2004 of this treatment. [2446/05]

I understand the Deputy is referring to non-offending children with behavioural problems who are in need of special care or protection.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services for the relatively small number of non-offending children with behavioural problems. Accordingly, my Department has requested the primary, community and continuing care directorate of the Health Service Executive to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Liz McManus

Question:

117 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the ambulance centre at the Hospital of the Assumption, Castlemeadows, Thurles, County Tipperary will continue when the new hospital is complete; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2447/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for ambulance services in County Tipperary. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Suicide Incidence.

Dan Neville

Question:

118 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of suicides by gender for each year since 1994. [2448/05]

The number of deaths by suicide as published annually by the Central Statistics Office and a breakdown of these figures by gender are set out in the following table.

Year

Male

Female

Total

1994

305

90

395

1995

321

83

404

1996

345

64

409

1997

386

92

478

1998

433

81

514

1999

358

97

455

2000

395

91

486

2001

429

90

519

2002

371

80

451

2003

358

86

444

Violence Against Women.

Martin Ferris

Question:

119 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will address the lack of a coherent national strategy and of commitment by the Government to services in the violence against women sector. [2498/05]

The National Task Force on Violence against Women's report of 1997 set out a blueprint for a national strategy on violence against women and led to the establishment of the National Steering Committee on Violence against Women which is chaired by the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The purpose of the steering committee is to provide a multidisciplinary, multi-agency and cohesive response to the problem of violence against women and in so doing to progress the recommendations of the task force. My Department is represented on the committee as is the Health Service Executive.

Martin Ferris

Question:

120 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will support the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women by ensuring full, consistent representation by her Department on the committee, and support the proper level of staff resources with the necessary available time, commitment and seniority to drive this project forward. [2499/05]

My Department is represented on and committed to the work of the National Steering Committee on Violence against Women, as is the Health Service Executive.

Services for Victims of Sexual Assault.

Martin Ferris

Question:

121 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide the leadership and resources to ensure that the working group on forensic medical examinations is able to meet and complete its report on needs and costings for national service provision as soon as possible, in view of the unlikelihood that the report will be available in time for the 2005 Estimates, and that it is able to look seriously at the sexual assault nurse examiner programmes already being used successfully in the US, Canada and the UK. [2500/05]

Following a recommendation from the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women that the need for additional sexual assault units around the country should be examined by my Department, I have established a committee under the chairmanship of a senior departmental official to consider the matter. The committee will be representative of the relevant statutory, voluntary and professional interests and will report to me and to the committee as soon as possible.

Martin Ferris

Question:

122 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to ensure that her Department’s working groups or committees dealing with sexual assault services will include provisions for the assessment of the differing needs of the various regions, rural and urban, as well as the needs of victims of both genders and of different cultural backgrounds. [2501/05]

I presume the Deputy is referring to a sub-committee of the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women which is being established under the aegis of my Department. I assure the Deputy that the group will be representative of the appropriate statutory, voluntary and professional interests and will be geographically representative.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

123 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 249 of 19 October 2004, if the sum allocated under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be reviewed due to the high estimates submitted by the builder; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2518/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare, on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

124 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason Ennis General Hospital in County Clare was not included in her fact-finding mission to the mid-west and west regions when she visited Galway and Limerick hospitals, in view that the hospital is overcrowded and has inadequate facilities; if this is an indication that she is less committed to Ennis General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2519/05]

As the Deputy is aware from the reply to his question of 26 January 2005, I intend to meet with the Ennis Hospital development committee in the near future.

Inquiries into Medical Malpractice.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

125 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the report of Judge Maureen Harding Clarke into the obstetrics and gynaecology unit at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda will be published; if copies of the report will be furnished to the victims concerned in advance of wider publication; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2524/05]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

126 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will establish a redress board for women victims of gross malpractice, including the carrying out of unnecessary caesarian hysterectomy procedures, at the obstetrics and gynaecology unit of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda between 1974 and 1998; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2525/05]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

127 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the investigations being carried out, including in her Department and by the Garda Síochána, into the disappearance of case files concerning the victims of gross malpractice at the obstetrics and gynaecology unit of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda; the results of any such inquiries; when said investigations will conclude; if the reports will be made public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2526/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 to 127, inclusive, together.

The inquiry referred to by the Deputy is ongoing and, subject to legal advice, it is my intention to publish its report when it comes to hand.

I have received proposals from Patient Focus, the group which represents former patients of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, requesting the establishment of a redress board. I intend to meet with the group shortly to discuss their request. Following that meeting, I will consider the matter in consultation with Government colleagues.

The Garda authorities have informed my Department that the Garda Síochána has received a complaint and is conducting an investigation into the disappearances of a number of case files from Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. The investigation is ongoing and, when concluded, a complete file will be forwarded to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for directions. As the Deputy will appreciate, it would be inappropriate to comment further on this matter.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

128 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress made concerning the new community hospital for Tuam, County Galway; the outcome of discussions held recently with officials of the Western Health Board on this subject; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2693/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services.

As part of the executive's responsibility to prepare and submit an annual service plan for my approval, it is obliged under section 31 of the Act to indicate any capital plans proposed. In this process, the executive is expected to have regard to the full range of potential capital developments, its own criteria in determining priorities, available resources and any other relevant factors.

My Department is awaiting the 2005 service plan from the Heath Service Executive. In the interim, my Department has asked the chief executive of the Health Service Executive, western area, to investigate the position regarding this project and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 96.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Seán Haughey

Question:

130 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason BreastCheck is not available to women over a certain age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2695/05]

The national breast screening programme now covers the eastern, north-eastern, south-eastern and midland regions of the country. Screening is offered, free of charge, to all women in those areas in the target age group of 50 to 64 years of age. The current priority of BreastCheck and my Department is to progress the rollout of breast screening to women in the same age group in the rest of the country. Following the national rollout and when the programme is sufficiently developed and quality assured, consideration will be given to extending the upper age limit.

Any woman irrespective of age or residence who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her region.

Home Help Service.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

131 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of hours allocated for home help services in County Kerry in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005; and the number of persons employed to provide home help in County Kerry in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. [2696/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of home help services in County Kerry. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's southern area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

132 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if money received by persons on the maturing of their investment under the SSIA scheme will be assessed as means in regard to entitlement to a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2719/05]

Entitlement to health services in Ireland is primarily based on residency and means. Under the Health Act 1970, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive other than for persons aged 70 years and over, who are automatically fully eligible. Medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the Health Service Executive, are unable to provide general practitioner, medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship.

It should also be noted that the Health Service Executive has discretion in regard to the issuing of medical cards and a range of income sources are excluded when assessing medical card eligibility. Despite someone having an income that exceeds the guidelines, a medical card may still be awarded if the Health Service Executive considers that person's medical needs or other circumstances justify this. It is open to all persons to apply to the Health Service Executive for health services if they are unable to provide these services for themselves or their dependants without hardship.

With regard to investment income generally, the Health Service Executive takes interest from savings into consideration in the assessment of means for a medical card. The question of the treatment of SSIA proceeds in the assessment of means for a medical card is under consideration.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

133 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for orthodontic treatment; and the place they hold on the waiting list. [2720/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for orthodontic services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

134 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will address the anomaly whereby full-time students over 23 and living at home with their families are considered as dependants for medical card qualification, whereas they cannot be included as part of the family for the drugs payment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2721/05]

People aged 16 to 25, including students, who are financially dependent on their parents are entitled to a medical card if their parents are medical card holders. Dependants of non-medical card holders are not normally entitled to a medical card except where they have an entitlement under EU regulations or where they are in receipt of a disability allowance.

Students who are financially independent of their parents are entitled to apply for a medical card in their own right and are assessed on the same criteria as all other applicants. The decision on whether a person is regarded as a dependant or as financially independent is made by the chief officer of the relevant Health Service Executive area, based on the circumstances of the individual case.

Anyone who does not have a medical card is eligible for the drugs payment scheme. Under the scheme no individual or family pays more than €85 per month for approved prescribed medicines, while the State pays the balance. Dependants for the purposes of the monthly threshold include the spouse and any children under 18 years. A dependant with a physical disability or a mental handicap or illness who cannot maintain himself or herself fully, who is ordinarily resident in the family home and who does not hold a current medical card, may be included in the family expenditure, regardless of age. Dependants over 18 and under 23 who are in full-time education are also included. The upper age limit is in keeping with family law legislation. People over the age of 18 who are not in full-time education, or who are over the age of 23 years and are in full-time education, and who are not eligible for a medical card can avail of the drugs payment scheme in their own right. I have no plans to amend the conditions of the drugs payment scheme for dependants and inclusion in the monthly threshold.

Health Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

135 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason persons (details supplied) in Dublin 10 have been on a waiting list for orthodontic treatment for more than three years; the further reason the cost of each person’s treatment is more than double that in Northern Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2722/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the Executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for orthodontic services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Jack Wall

Question:

136 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the application by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare for the domiciliary care allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2723/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the assessment of entitlement and payment of the domiciliary care allowance. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Ministerial Appointments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

137 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of public appointments made in her Department since August 2004; the name of each appointee involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2734/05]

I take it the Deputy is referring to persons appointed by the Minister for Health and Children to State boards under the aegis of the Department, from 1 August 2004 to date. There were 76 such appointments as set out in the following table.

Appointments to State Boards 1 August 2004 to 31 January 2005.

Board/Agency

Appointee

Date of Commencement of Appointment

1

Bord na Radharcmhastóirí (the Opticians Board)

Geraldine Comer

30/11/04

2

Martin Coyne

30/11/04

3

Garry Treacy

30/11/04

4

Denise McAuliffe

30/11/04

5

Crisis Pregnancy Agency

Peter Finnegan

13/12/04

6

Dublin Dental Hospital Board

Bernard McCartan

20/12/04

7

Edward Cotter

20/12/04

8

Eamon Croke

20/12/04

9

William Watts

20/12/04

10

Jane Davis

20/12/04

11

Pat Harvey

20/12/04

12

Deirdre Sadlier

20/12/04

13

Angela Kerins

20/12/04

14

Ann Murphy

20/12/04

15

Colette Morrissey

20/12/04

16

Michael Horgan

20/12/04

17

Colm A. O’Moráin

20/12/04

18

Diarmuid B. Shanley

20/12/04

19

John Clarkson

20/12/04

20

Food Safety Authority

Mary Falvey

22/11/04

21

Health Service Executive

Liam Downey

01/01/05

22

Anne Scott

01/01/05

23

Maureen Gaffney

01/01/05

24

Michael McLoone

01/01/05

25

Michael Murphy

01/01/05

26

Niamh Brennan

01/01/05

27

John A. Murray

01/01/05

28

Eugene McCague

01/01/05

29

P.J. Fitzpatrick

01/01/05

30

Donal de Buitléir

01/01/05

31

Irish Blood Transfusion Service

Helen Enright

04/11/04

32

Jane O’Brien

04/11/04

33

Mary Cahill

04/11/04

34

Leopardstown Park Hospital Board

Kevin Dalton

03/09/03

35

Sandra Ronayne

03/09/03

36

Medical Council

Áilis Ní Rián

31/08/04

37

Kieran Murphy

30/11/04

38

National Breast Screening Board

Sheelagh Ryan

01/01/05

39

Olivia O’Leary

01/01/05

40

Sean Hurley

01/01/05

41

Pat McLoughlin

01/01/05

42

Niall O’Higgins

01/01/05

43

National Council on Ageing and Older People

Oliver R. Clery

23/12/04

44

Paul O’Donoghue

23/12/04

45

Eileen O’Dolan

23/12/04

46

Annette Kelly

23/12/04

47

Elaine Soffe

23/12/04

48

Ruth Loane

23/12/04

49

Kit Carolan

23/12/04

50

John Grant

23/12/04

51

Davida de la Harpe

23/12/04

52

Paddy O’Brien

23/12/04

53

Martina Queally

23/12/04

54

Bernard Thompson

23/12/04

55

Sylvia Meehan

23/12/04

56

Noel Byrne

23/12/04

57

John Brady

23/12/04

58

National Social Work Qualifications Board

Mary Allen

21/09/04

59

National Treatment Purchase Fund Board

Frank Chambers

02/09/04

60

Victor Boyhan

02/09/04

61

Ray Doherty

02/09/04

62

John O’Dwyer

02/09/04

63

Mary Brazil

13/09/04

64

Lenore Mrwicka

23/09/04

65

Christy Nolan

23/09/04

66

John Stephens

23/09/04

67

Tallaght Hospital Board

Richard Conroy

10/12/04

68

Gerry Hurley

10/12/04

69

Chris Flood

10/12/04

70

Robert Kelly

10/12/04

71

Michael Gannon

10/12/04

72

Salters Sterling

10/12/04

73

Catherine Quinn

10/12/04

74

Tony Morris

10/12/04

75

Voluntary Health Insurance Board

Jim Kelly

01/02/05

76

Julia Neuberger

01/02/05

Care of the Elderly.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

138 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to set out in legislation or otherwise, minimum standards of care for the elderly in the State, towards a single common standard for private nursing homes, Government-run nursing homes and for those cared for in their own home that will prevent abuse or neglect of older persons; if she plans to establish an ombudsman for older persons; if she will develop an action plan on elder abuse; and if there will be a full investigation into the extent of elder abuse in the State. [2846/05]

The Nursing Home (Care and Welfare) Regulations 1993 set out the standards to which the private nursing home sector must adhere for the purpose of registration under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990. The regulations apply only to the private nursing home sector and do not cover public long-stay facilities for older people. However, there is a commitment in the health strategy to extend the remit of the social services inspectorate to long-stay facilities for older people, both public and private. In addition, my Department is carrying out a review of the nursing home subvention scheme and one of the common themes emerging from this process is the need for common standards between the public and private sectors.

The report of the working group on elder abuse, Protecting Our Future, was launched on 11 November 2002. This report, in starting with a definition of elder abuse and recommending the establishment of structures to deal with suspected cases will, I hope, give older people who feel they are the subject of abuse in any shape or form, the confidence to report their anxieties, as appropriate, to a social worker, a public health nurse, a member of the Garda Síochana or any professional or care worker.

The report recommended the establishment of a national implementation group which was set up in December 2003 and has commenced work. Furthermore, funding of €2.45 million has been provided to the former health boards to commence the elder abuse programme since the publication of the report. In the circumstances I do not consider it appropriate to establish an office of ombudsman for older people.

Tax Code.

John Perry

Question:

139 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance if he will take action with regard to the refunding of VAT on safety equipment which is now legally required for small open fishing vessels such as currachs and punts. [2513/05]

Fishermen who are registered for VAT are entitled to claim a refund for all VAT charged to them in respect of equipment used for their business. Fishermen who are not registered for VAT are entitled to claim back VAT charged to them as follows, under section 29, remission or repayment of tax on fishing vessels and equipment of the 1979 VAT regulations: VAT charged on the purchase, intra-community acquisition, importation, hire, maintenance and repair of seafishing vessels of a gross tonnage of not more than 15 tonnes, provided the vessel concerned has been the subject of a grant or loan from An Bord Iascaigh Mhara; VAT charged on the purchase of certain equipment related to the operation of a vessel which in the case of safety equipment would include: anchors, autopilots, bilge and deck pumps, buoys, floats, compasses, life boats and life rafts, marine lights, radar apparatus, radio navigational aid apparatus, radio telephones, provided the vessel concerned has been the subject of a grant or loan from An Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

There is no provision for relief on safety equipment, other than in the circumstances already set out. I have no plans to amend the VAT regulations that apply to unregistered fishermen.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

140 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if the Government intends to provide tax incentives to users of rail freight to encourage this method of transport over road transport. [2700/05]

The Government has no intention at present of introducing a tax incentive scheme to encourage the use of rail freight over road transport. It should be noted that if a tax incentive were given to freight operators to use rail transport instead of road transport, it would appear to constitute State aid to a particular business sector to the detriment of another competing business sector. As such it would have to be notified to the EU Commission and it is unclear what the outcome would be.

Question No. 141 answered with QuestionNo. 15.
Question No. 142 answered with QuestionNo. 40.

Tax Yield.

Michael Ring

Question:

143 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance how much tax was collected from persons in receipt of short-term social welfare payments in 2004. [2413/05]

The Revenue Commissioners say the available statistics on tax receipts do not enable the amount of tax collected from persons in receipt of short-term social welfare payments to be identified within the overall tax yield.

However, income distribution information relating to the short "tax year" 2001, the most recent year available, indicate that some 39,451 persons with total earned income of €790 million in that year, including unemployment benefit and or disability benefit amounting to €93 million, had a total income tax liability of €85 million.

The extent to which taxation arises on social welfare income depends on the amount of other income the social welfare recipient, or the recipient's spouse, has in the particular tax year. If there is no other income in addition to the social welfare payment, the existing personal tax credits can be expected to ensure that there is no income tax to be paid on the social welfare income itself.

It should be noted that as PAYE taxpayers were charged to tax on their earnings in the period from 6 April to 31 December 2001 and self-employed taxpayers were assessed to tax for the short "year" on 74% of the profits earned in a 12 month accounting period, the income figures are not directly comparable with those of earlier or later years.

Tax Code.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

144 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance why his Department has two different tax nets for married couples (details supplied); the further reason the home carer tax credit has not increased in the past two years; if this is meant to be a compensation for single income families; if his Department has plans to change this system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2414/05]

The standard rate band for a married one-earner couple is €38,400. For a married two-earner couple it is €58,800 of which €38,400 is transferable between spouses. The difference in treatment between married one-income and married two-income couples with regard to the standard rate band arises as part of the policy of band widening which was commenced in Budget 2000.

The aim was to achieve a position whereby eventually each individual would have his or her own non-transferable standard rate band, with a view to achieving several objectives: it was seen to be the most cost-effective way of moving towards a position where 20% of income-earners are on the top rate of tax. This is one of the key Government taxation priorities set out in the Government programme and endorsed in the current national agreement Sustaining Progress; it helped to deal with the situation where single people on moderate wages had a relatively high tax burden; and it also helped address the problem whereby married persons returning to the workforce faced high marginal rates of tax almost from the first euro of earnings because the full band was already being used by their spouses.

Married couples can still benefit from double personal tax credits. The employee, PAYE, credit is available only to employees and not to others so it is not doubled up for a married one-earner. However, this has always been the position for the PAYE credit which was introduced as an allowance in 1979. There are costs associated with earning an income which are likely to be greater if two persons rather than one person must work outside the home to earn the same total income.

The home carer tax credit, formerly an allowance, was introduced in Finance Act 2000 and is designed to recognise the contribution made by a spouse who remains working in the home in order to care for children or the aged or incapacitated, other than the spouse of the claimant. It amounts to €770 per annum. The provision is intended to cover situations where a spouse has forfeited a second income to care for dependants in the home. It is available only to married couples who are jointly assessed for tax.

The home carer tax credit was not increased for 2004 because of the limited resources available for a tax package in Budget 2004. Such resources as were available were used to assist the low paid and the elderly through increases in the value of the employee credit and the age exemption limits. While it was decided not to increase the home carer tax credit in Budget 2005, couples who benefit from the credit will gain significantly in 2005 from the income tax changes I announced in the budget. For example, a married one-earner on PAYE with two children on a salary of €58,800 per annum will gain €765.48 from the budget. This is made up of €658 from increases in tax credits and band widening as well as €180 from increases in child benefit, less €72.52 in additional social insurance contributions.

Nobody has lost out as a result of the introduction of the band widening policy relative to his or her former position. As a result of positive developments in the tax system over recent years, including band widening, all categories of income earner, including married one-earner couples, have seen their average tax rates fall considerably.

In an international context, the most recent data available from the OECD for 2003 indicates that for the average production worker, who is married with two children with a carer in the home, Ireland now has the lowest tax wedge — income tax, levies, and employers and employees PRSI, as a percentage of gross income plus employer's PRSI — in the EU and in the OECD. Furthermore, recently released OECD data show that the tax wedge for such workers has fallen more sharply in Ireland than in any other OECD country reflecting the progress the Government has made in this area.

Motor Vehicle Registration.

Pat Breen

Question:

145 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider an amendment to the vehicle registration tax regulations as they apply to buses with removable seats; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2415/05]

The definition of a bus for vehicle registration tax purposes is contained in section 130 of the Finance Act 1992. It is defined as: "a vehicle which is designed, constructed or adapted for the conveyance of persons and so as to provide seating accommodation in permanent fixtures for more than 11 passengers". The term "permanent fixtures" requires that all seating in the vehicle be secured by a bolted mechanism or a similar method of permanently configuring the seating and must not be capable of being clipped out or released easily.

A bus, as defined, is classified as category C and attracts a vehicle registration tax liability of €50. Changing the regulations may give rise to unintended consequences such as vehicles being adapted for the sole purpose of obtaining a reduced vehicle registration tax charge. Health and safety issues may also arise. For these reasons, I am not prepared to amend the regulations at this time.

Richard Bruton

Question:

146 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the complaint by an organisation (details supplied) of discrimination in the operation of the VAT system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2416/05]

The Revenue Commissioners inform me that for reasons of confidentiality they are not in a position to disclose information regarding the tax affairs of a third party. However, the matter in question is receiving attention, and the Revenue Commissioners will act to rectify any problems that may exist at the first opportunity. The organisation in question should contact its local tax district with any further queries regarding its own taxable activities.

Banking Sector Regulation.

John Perry

Question:

147 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance if he has carried out an assessment of the interest-only endowment funded mortgage; if he has issued any report on same; if his attention has been drawn to an additional interest charge on this type of loan (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2515/05]

I am aware of recent reports about endowment mortgages. However, the investigation of these reports is a matter in the first instance for the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, which is statutorily independent in the carrying out of its regulatory functions. In 2004 the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority wrote to all lenders and insurers seeking information on their endowment businesses. The information requested included details of inter alia, the number of endowment policies in force, the number of policyholders likely to be impacted by shortfalls and requested details of the steps institutions are taking to inform and advise their customers of options available where a shortfall is projected.

Responses have been received from the institutions surveyed. The process of compiling and analysing the information submitted is under way, with a view to ascertaining a clearer picture of the nature and extent of the shortfall problem. When the information has been analysed, the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority will consider what appropriate action should be taken.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the exact number of civil servants relocated under the Government’s decentralisation plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2685/05]

The number of posts to be decentralised from my Department and bodies under the aegis of my Department was published on the central applications facility, which was launched on 12 May 2004, and are as follows:

Organisation

Location

Number of posts

Dept of Finance

Tullamore

131

Kildare

34

Revenue Commissioners

Athy

250

Kilrush

50

Listowel

50

Newcastle West

50

Kildare

379

Ordnance Survey Ireland

Dungarvan

210

OPW

Trim

349

Claremorris

150

Kanturk

100

Valuation Office

Youghal

100

Public Appointments Service

Youghal

100

The report of the decentralisation implementation group of 19 November 2004 set out 15 organisations to be included in an "early movers" group and a further group of six possible "early movers" with a range of indicative dates for decentralisation of third quarter 2006 to third quarter 2008. In line with this there have been no staff moves to decentralisation locations to date.

Drainage Schemes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has plans for drainage of major rivers or waterways throughout the country either directly or though the local authorities. [2686/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the number of locations in respect of which he expects his Department to support local initiatives to alleviate flooding in urban and rural areas in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2860/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 and 160 together.

There are no plans for drainage for major rivers or waterways either directly or through local authorities other than maintenance of arterial drainage schemes previously completed.

The commissioners of public works work closely with local authorities in the areas where proposals to alleviate localised flooding are being contemplated or progressed. The commissioners expect to work with local authorities on initiatives for Kilkenny, Clonmel, Waterford, Carlow, the River Tolka in Counties Dublin, Meath and Fingal, Ennis, Mallow, Fermoy, Enniscorthy, Templemore, Arklow, Tullow and Mornington. These initiatives are at various stages of progress from feasibility study to execution of works.

The commissioners are also examining several other requests for assistance with flooding problems from local authorities and individuals but no decisions on funding have been made.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

150 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants who have volunteered for decentralisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2687/05]

The results published following the closure of the priority period for applications for decentralisation, 7 September 2004, showed that 8,958 applications were received during the priority period, of which 4,813 were from people located in Dublin. Of these, 8,152 were from civil servants, 4,236 of whom are based in Dublin.

Since then, more than 500 new applications have been received most from civil servants. The table shows a break down of civil service applications.

Civil Service Applicants

New Decentralised Locations

Existing Provincial Offices

Total

Dublin Civil Servants

3,711

525

4,236

Provincial Civil Servants

3,350

566

3,916

Total

7,061

1,091

8,152

The results are encouraging and provide a very good base from which to move forward.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has addressed all or any of the factors now deemed to affect the competitiveness of the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2688/05]

Various factors affect the competitiveness of the economy. As Minister for Finance, my remit covers the macro-economic factors relating to competitiveness, principally prices and wages. The recent strengthening of the euro and its negative impact on our competitiveness further emphasises the need to keep domestic costs down.

I welcome the downward trend in the rate of consumer price index inflation last year. The 2.2% increase last year was the lowest rate of increase since 1999. My decision not to increase excise rates in the budget will help inflation in 2005. We cannot control the rate of inflation; external factors have much to do with that outcome. We can, however, seek to ensure that our domestic cost base does not add to it. That is why we need sensible income policies and a greater role for competition in the economy. This is how we can best protect jobs and living standards. The consensus approach to wage determination has a crucial role in improving competitiveness, by delivering moderate wage increases. In this context, wage increases must be limited to those negotiated under Sustaining Progress. My Department participates fully in the negotiations of these agreements. Officials from my Department are also participating in the anti-inflation initiative set up as part of Sustaining Progress with a view to examining ways of reducing inflation.

It is also important to maintain spending growth in line with revenue growth, thus keeping the burden of taxation low in order to maximise our economic growth potential. We are maintaining capital expenditure at the current high levels relative to GNP in order to reduce the existing infrastructural deficit.

Price Inflation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

152 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to reduce inflation other than that reflected through the consumer price index; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2689/05]

The Director General of the Central Statistics Office has sole responsibility for, and is independent in, deciding the statistical methodology and professional standards to be used in compiling the consumer price index. The index is designed to measure the change in the average level of the prices paid by consumers for goods and services. It measures in index form the monthly changes in the cost of purchasing a representative basket of consumer goods and services.

I welcome the downward trend in the rate of consumer price index inflation last year. The 2.2% increase last year was the lowest rate of increase since 1999. Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance in restoring competitiveness. I made no changes to indirect taxes in the budget and this will help to keep inflation low in 2005.

Job Protection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to counter job relocation to low wage economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2690/05]

In the future Ireland will face constant and unavoidable competition from other economies, some of them low wage economies, for jobs and investment. To ensure that we are best placed to retain existing jobs and to attract new investment we must remain focused on restoring and enhancing national competitiveness.

Developments in prices and wages are an important component of competitiveness. Recent trends in the euro-dollar exchange rate and the resulting negative impact on competitiveness emphasise the need to keep domestic costs down. Government policies are focused on this. The downward trend in the rate of consumer price index inflation in 2004 is welcome from a competitiveness perspective and my decision not to increase indirect taxes in the budget will further help curb inflation in 2005. Sensible incomes policies and a greater role for competition are also critical to keeping domestic costs competitive.

The consensus approach to wage determination, therefore, has a crucial role to play in ensuring that wage developments evolve in a manner that is supportive of our competitive position. In this context wage increases must be limited to those negotiated under Sustaining Progress. It is also important to maintain spending growth in line with revenue growth, thus keeping the burden of taxation low in order to maximise our economic growth potential.

Ireland, however, like other high income economies, cannot seek to compete with lower wage economies on the basis of wages alone, and we must be cognisant of other factors which enhance our attractiveness as a business location. These include skills, the quality of our infrastructure, regulatory structures and the stability of the business environment. In the future, Ireland must seek to continue moving up the value chain attracting investment increasingly from high value added sectors such as information technology, business services and pharmaceuticals, for example, where the skills of the available workforce and the quality of the business environment and the available infrastructure are critical.

That is why the Government remains so committed to maintaining capital expenditure at the current high levels relative to GNP in order to reduce the existing infrastructural deficit. As outlined in the budget, over the 2005-09 period we will maintain our high level of investment in infrastructure at nearly twice the European average. Investment in education is also important to ensure that the Irish workforce possesses the skills to compete successfully in the future.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

154 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the total expected receipts for the entire motor industry by way of VRT excise duty, VAT or other taxation including road tolls; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2691/05]

I am not in a position to give the total expected receipts for 2005 in respect of the entire motor industry. However, according to the Revenue Commissioners, the estimated yield in 2004, from the motor industry in terms of VAT, excise and vehicle registration tax is shown in the tables.

VAT Yield

2004

€ million

Petrol

327.94

Auto Diesel

38.17

Motor Oil & LPG

2.38

Cars

480.00

Motor Cycles

5.00

Car Repairs

33.77

Car Accessories

27.94

Car Hire

12.82

Driving Instruction

3.20

Haulage

30.85

Total

962.07

Mineral Oil Tax

2004

Petrol

971.30

Auto Diesel

873.90

Auto LPG

0.10

Total

1,845.30

VRT

2004

Cars

930.70

Motor Cycles

3.20

Car Derived Vans

10.20

Commercial Vehicles

2.60

Total

946.70

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government reports that receipts for annual road tax for 2004 were approximately €750 million. The Department of Transport informs me that income from road tolls to the Exchequer was €8 million for 2004, with VAT receipts of approximately €10 million. Expected receipts for 2005 in respect of annual road tax and road tolls will be published in the Revised Estimates Volume.

State Property.

Seán Haughey

Question:

155 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance if he will waive his interest in a piece of land in Dublin 11, in view of the provisions of the State Property Act 1954; if he has received a request to do this by a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2692/05]

My Department has received an application from solicitors regarding this matter and is considering it.

Ministerial Appointments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

156 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the number of public appointments made in his Department since August 2004; the name of each appointee involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2735/05]

Since 1 August 2004, there have been three public appointments in my Department. In accordance with the provisions of section 11(1) of the Public Service Management Act 1997, the Government has appointed at my request one special adviser, Mr. Gerry Steadman.

I have also appointed a personal secretary and personal assistant. These posts are held on a contract basis by Ms Elaine Hogan and Ms Sinéad Dooley respectively.

Flood Relief.

John McGuinness

Question:

157 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the work which is to be undertaken at the water barrack, Kilkenny to relieve the flooding of the amenity area at this location as a consequence of work carried out in the area as part of the flood relief scheme; if the design of a grid in the river at the same location will be examined; the person who is responsible for cleaning this grid; if signs will be erected at the footbridge clearly indicating the danger particularly for children; if the area and the playing field will be reinstated when the temporary road is removed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2855/05]

The area in question is the playing field next to the new trash rack on the River Breagagh, upstream of Blackcat Bridge. The drainage scheme works are not designed to provide flood protection to the playing fields area. This area has always been susceptible to flooding and will continue to flood during high river flows, when it acts as a flood plain. Such flooding is not a consequence of the drainage scheme works.

The "grid" to which the Deputy referred is a trash rack the function of which is to trap flood debris upstream of the residential and commercial areas provided with flood protection by the drainage scheme. As the trash rack and the area immediately surrounding it are within the contractor's site, it cleans the rack when instructed to do so by the resident engineering staff. When the contractor hands back this area, responsibility for regular cleaning of the rack will lie with the Office of Public Works as part of its maintenance responsibilities.

During the extreme weather conditions experienced in October 2004, many areas suffered severe urban flooding. At this time, the playing field area flooded which was not unexpected, given that the area acts as a flood plain. This flooding was not connected with the presence of the trash rack. The Office of Public Works is not aware of any instances of flooding of the playing fields, or other areas upstream, attributable to the presence of the trash rack. There are no plans to examine the design of the rack.

Fencing will be installed adjacent to the trash rack to minimise access to it. A "Danger — Keep Out" warning sign will be erected on the access gate to the trash rack. The grassed area surrounding the trash rack, including a corner of the playing field, will be reinstated by the contractor. This work cannot be carried out until the ground in the area has dried out sufficiently.

Tax Yield.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he expects increased receipts for the motor industry in 2005 in view of initial car sales; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2856/05]

New car registrations of 30,554, as advised by the Revenue Commissioners, for the first 15 working days of 2005 are approximately 24% higher than for the same period in 2004. While these figures are encouraging from a tax revenue point of view, it is too early in the year to say what receipts will turn out to be for the year as a whole, based on just the first three weeks car registration data.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if his budgetary proposals for 2005 are predicated in any way on expected income from tolls; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2857/05]

The Department of Transport receives the State's share of income from the Westlink Toll Bridge as an appropriation-in-aid. The estimated amount for 2005 will be published in the Revised Estimates Volume for 2005 which will be published shortly. In 2004 the Department of Transport received €8.044 million under this heading and total gross spending by that Department in 2004 was €1.96 billion.

Question No. 160 answered with QuestionNo. 149.

Urban Renewal Schemes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which his Department intends to fund, directly or indirectly, various projects in County Kildare in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2861/05]

My Department is not responsible for spending by other Departments on a geographical or other basis. Plans for the funding of projects, including in Kildare, are a matter for each Department having regard to its particular area of responsibility and the allocation made to it by the Dáil.

The amount allocated to my Department's Vote, Vote 6, in the 2005 Abridged Estimates Volume is €102.544 million. This is made up of administration expenditure of €46.821 million, of which €35.055 million is pay; programme expenditure of €55.859 million, of which €44.751 million is current expenditure and €11.108 million is capital; and appropriations-in-aid of €0.136 million.

My Department's capital allocation of €11.108 million is divided as follows: amount of capital allocated: grants-in-aid, to the Economic and Social Research Institute and Ordnance Survey Ireland, €4.126 million; Information Society Fund, for distribution to other Departments, €3.5 million; child care initiative, provision of facilities across the Civil Service, €1.75 million; Northern Ireland peace programme and related items €1.517 million; procurement management reform €0.215 million.

Given the level of these capital allocations plus the fact that they are for the most part paid to other Departments and bodies, my Department will not have expenditure on capital projects in Kildare in 2005. Although the Office of Public Works is not funded directly or indirectly by my Department, my Department has asked that office to communicate to the Deputy any relevant information on planned funding by that office of capital projects in Kildare in 2005.

Economic and Monetary Union.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the outcome of any discussions he has had with his EU colleagues in regard to taxation or economic policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2862/05]

The Economic and Finance Ministers meet monthly at the ECOFIN Council meeting where taxation and economic policy matters are discussed. In advance of those meetings, the Euro area Ministers meet informally at Eurogroup to discuss matters of particular relevance to their economies in the context of Economic and Monetary Union.

Useful discussions have been held on direct and indirect taxation issues. On the direct tax side, the Council agreed on the proposal to amend the Mergers Directive. On the indirect tax side, views have been exchanged on VAT dossiers, such as the place of supply of services and reduced rates and on excise dossiers, such as the Commission report on alcohol excises.

I and my colleagues at Eurogroup and ECOFIN Council regularly discuss matters of common interest in regard to the European and broader international economy. The European Commission presented a formal communication on 3 September 2004, outlining a range of proposals for strengthening economic governance in the European Union and clarifying the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact. Since then, the issues involved have been the subject of detailed and wide-ranging discussions, which continue. At the recent ECOFIN Council of 18 January 2005, Ministers had a useful exchange of views on this matter and identified some areas where further discussions at technical level should be pursued.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he expects Ireland to compete with low wage economies successfully; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2863/05]

Ireland will face significant competition from other economies, some of them low wage economies, for jobs and investment. To ensure that we are best placed to retain existing jobs and to attract new investment Government policies remain focused on restoring and enhancing national competitiveness.

The Government is committed to ensuring that prices and wages evolve in a manner that maintains our competitiveness. My decision not to increase indirect taxes in the budget will further help inflation in 2005. In addition, sensible incomes policies and a greater role for competition are also critical to keeping domestic costs competitive.

However, Ireland, like other high income economies, cannot seek to compete with low wage economies on the basis of wages alone, and we must be cognisant of other factors which enhance our attractiveness as a business location. These include skills, the quality of our infrastructure, regulatory structures and the stability of the business environment.

Ireland must seek to continue moving up the value chain attracting investment increasingly from high value added sectors such as information technology, business services and pharmaceuticals, for example, where the skills of the available workforce and the quality of the business environment and the available infrastructure are critical. This is why the Government remains so committed to maintaining capital expenditure at the current high levels relative to GNP in order to reduce the existing infrastructural deficit.

As outlined in the budget, over the 2005-09 period we will maintain our high level of investment in infrastructure at nearly twice the European average. Investment in education is also important to ensure that the Irish workforce possesses the skills to compete successfully in the future. By taking the correct actions today on the factors which affect our competitiveness we will be able to continue competing successfully in the global economy.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance his predictions in respect of the expected payout on the Special Savings Incentive Accounts Scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2864/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the full extent of the expected payout under the Special Savings Incentive Accounts Scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2865/05]

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

The Special Savings Incentive Accounts scheme opened on 1 May 2001 and entry to it closed on 30 April 2002. The accounts are due to mature between May 2006 and April 2007 at the end of the five year period. A total of 1.17 million accounts were opened during the period outlined.

I presume the Deputy's reference to "payout" is to the total amount that will accrue to investors at the end of the five year period, comprising the capital saved by investors, the investment return on that capital and the Exchequer contribution. I do not wish to speculate on the amounts estimated to be paid out on maturation of the scheme in 2006 and 2007 as the scheme will not begin to mature for more than another year and there are several variables involved.

These include: participants withdrawing from the scheme or varying their monthly contributions between now and the end of the scheme; the eventual accrued investment return, which will vary depending on the interest rate of the financial institution where a particular account is held or on Stock Exchange fluctuations during the entire investment period; and the eventual amount of exit tax to be received at the end.

As indicated in replies to previous questions, it is not possible to give a definitive answer as to the eventual cost of the scheme as it is subject to the variables outlined. The cost of the scheme in 2004 was €548 million. The estimated cost in 2005 is €560 million. This, however, is not a conclusive figure, and the final figure may be different if account holders change their monthly contributions. The total gross cost over the period of the scheme will be reduced by the exit tax to be received at the end.

Foreshore Licences.

Martin Ferris

Question:

166 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will make a statement on the granting of a foreshore licence to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and the implications the proposed development will have for the local area and shore amenities. [2427/05]

The Department is processing an application from the person in question for a foreshore lease to occupy an area of foreshore at Ballyboe, Rathmullan for the purpose of constructing a car park, a wastewater treatment system, and a seawall with rock armour.

Full consideration will be given to all relevant issues and concerns, including the possible amenity implications of the proposal, before a decision is made on the application.

Coastal Erosion.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

167 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the steps proposed to deal with coastal erosion at Carrickfin and Kincasslagh, County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2428/05]

Responsibility for coast protection rests with the property owner, whether it be a local authority or a private individual. In July 2002 the Department requested all coastal local authorities to submit proposals, in order of priority, for consideration in the context of the 2003-06 national coast protection programmes. Donegal County Council did not submit a proposal for Carrickfin or Kincasslagh.

If Donegal County Council submits proposals to me in respect of Carrickfin and Kincasslagh I would have them evaluated by the Department, and they would be considered in the context of the amount of Exchequer funding available for coast protection works and overall national priorities.

Tourism Industry.

Enda Kenny

Question:

168 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the details of a proposal to open an aquatic marine life centre in the north-west; if State funding will be granted to this project; if a decision on the location of this centre has been taken; if not, the towns which are being considered for this centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2429/05]

No proposal on the lines to which the Deputy referred has been brought to my attention. There are no funds available within the Department to assist such a project and I am not aware of any application being made to the Department for funding for this proposal. If the project has a tourism dimension, it might be eligible to apply for funding under the tourism measure of the national development plan, which is administered by Fáilte Ireland.

Health and Safety Regulations.

John Perry

Question:

169 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will review the new safety regulations which stipulate that vessels under six metres have to carry an enormous amount of safety equipment. [2514/05]

The Department has an ongoing safety programme involving an appropriate combination of statutory regulation, enforcement and safety awareness promotion with the aim of achieving the highest level of safety at sea, including on fishing vessels.

The Sea Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003 provides that the licensing authority shall not grant a sea-fishing boat licence unless an independent survey of the boat conducted by a competent person, approved by the licensing authority has confirmed to the satisfaction of the authority that the boat is in a safe and seaworthy condition.

In the case of fishing vessels less than 15 metres in length the Department introduced a new code of practice for such vessels last year. This code sets minimum standards of safety for the vessel to protect all persons on board. It covers vessel design, construction, machinery, safety equipment and stability issues.

The code provides for a declaration of compliance that the fishing vessel complies with the code, to be completed by the authorised person who conducts the survey. The licensing authority grants a sea-fishing boat licence on the basis of this declaration.

In developing the code the maritime safety directorate of the Department recognised that different safety standards are appropriate to different sizes of vessel, and for that reason the code contains less onerous equipment requirements for open and decked fishing vessels under six metres. The safety equipment requirements contained in the code for such small vessels are those which were already mandatory under existing safety legislation.

I consider that this level of safety equipment is the minimum necessary for such vessels. My main concern is to enhance safety at sea and compliance with the code is the best way to ensure the safety of fishing vessels and their crews.

Broadcasting Funding Scheme.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

170 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if funding is available from the State to community radio stations here. [2709/05]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

171 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, in recognising the huge benefits of community radio for large population centres such as Lucan, and the high costs of accommodation in urban areas, if he will examine mechanisms to provide special start-up funding for a radio station (details supplied) in addition to that available under the community radio support scheme in order that a suitable premises can be identified as early as possible, in recognition also of this station’s fund-raising efforts. [2729/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 170 and 171 together.

My Department does not have any funds at its disposal to assist private radio stations with their capital or operational costs and I have no proposals to introduce public funding of this nature. Under the broadcasting funding scheme, all radio stations licensed by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland will be able to seek access to public funding later this year to assist with the cost of certain radio programming.

Ministerial Appointments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

172 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of public appointments made in his Department since August 2004; the name of each appointee involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2736/05]

The information requested by the Deputy about appointments made to the boards of State-sponsored bodies since August 2004 is set out in the following table.

The following staff appointed by me during my tenure as Minister for Education and Science have been re-appointed by me in the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources: press adviser; personal assistant and personal secretary. In addition, the special adviser appointed by me during my tenure as Minister for Education and Science has been reassigned to me at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources with effect from 30 September 2004.

The following staff appointed by the Minister of State at my Department, Deputy Gallagher, during his tenure as Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, have been re-appointed by him in the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources: personal assistant; personal secretary; two civilian drivers.

Appointments to the Boards of State-sponsored Bodies under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources made since August, 2004

An Post

Board Member (Elected Employees)

Appointment Date

Expiry Date

Mr. Jerry Condon

01.11.2004

31.10.2008

Mr. Patrick Compton

01.11.2004

31.10.2008

Mr. Patrick Davoren

01.11.2004

31.10.2008

Mr. Thomas Devlin

01.11.2004

31.10.2008

Mr. Terry Keller

01.11.2004

31.10.2008

Aquaculture Licence Appeals Board.

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Sean Murphy*

01.01.05

31.12.07

Mr. Lorcan Ó Cinnéide*

01.01.05

31.12.07

Mr. Mario J. Minehane*

01.01.05

31.12.07

Ms Mary McMahon

01.01.05

31.12.06

Ms Karin Dubsky

01.01.05

31.12.06

Mr. Damian McDonald

01.01.05

31.12.06

* re-appointed

Bord na Móna

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Fergus McArdle (Chairman)

28.09.04

27.09.09

Ms Anne Heraty

28.09.04

27.09.09

Bord Iascaigh Mhara

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Ms Rose McHugh

29.09.04

23.04.07

Commission for Energy Regulation (CER)

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Tom Reeves (Chairman)

14.10.2004

Mr. Michael Tutty

14.10.2004

Ms Regina Finn

Commencing on Feb 1st 2005

Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg)

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Mike Byrne

01.12.2004

30.11.08

The Digital Hub

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Joe Murphy

29.09.04

29.09.07

Drogheda Port Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Cormac Bohan

29.09.04

28.09.09

Mr. Paddy Traynor (Chairman)

20.12.04

19.12.09

Cllr. Paul Bell

04.08.04

03.08.09

Eirgrid

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Ms Martina Moloney

15.09.04

15.09.09

Mr. Maurice Holly (staff representative)

21.09.04 (re-appointed)

21.09.09

ESB

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Brendan Byrne

01.09.04

31.08.09

Galway Harbour Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Cllr. Joe Tierney

13.08.04

12.08.09

New Ross Port Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Cllr. Larry O’Brien

26.11.04

25.11.09

Marine Institute

Board Member

Appt Date

Expiry Date

Ms Terry Fleming

29.09.04

28.09.09

Port of Cork Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Cllr. Michael Hegarty

04.08.04

03.08.09

Port of Waterford Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Ms Lola O’Sullivan

29.08.04

28.08.09

Southern Regional Fisheries Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Pat Bowe

14.12.04

31.12.05

Overseas Development Aid.

Paul McGrath

Question:

173 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the Government’s spending estimates revealing that it no longer plans to keep its promise to raise overseas aid to 0.7% of GNP by 2007, and in view of the fact that before Budget 2005, several of this Deputy’s constituents, with others from around the country, sent cheques to the Taoiseach (details supplied) to make up their share of the difference between the Government’s planned spending in 2005 and the amount it would take to allow Ireland to reach 0.7% by 2007, he will acknowledge that he received these cheques; the number of such cheques he received; the Government’s plans for the cheques; and if he will make up the rest of the shortfall following the example set by these persons. [2497/05]

During the month of December, the Taoiseach's office received 30 such cheques. Where addresses were supplied, the cheques are being returned. In any event, the cheques are not being cashed. If members of the public wish to make a personal contribution to overseas development, they could donate to one of our international aid agencies who perform such outstanding work. As it would be given to an "eligible charity" under section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, the donation, providing it is more than €250, will qualify for tax relief, therefore benefiting the designated charity further.

The allocation for 2005 provides for an increase of €70 million in Government spending on official development assistance this year. This will bring total Government aid to the developing world to approximately €545 million in 2005. In addition, the Government has agreed to make further increases of €65 million in each of the years 2006 and 2007. As a result of these substantial increases Ireland will spend €1.8 billion on development assistance over the coming three years.

I welcome these increases. The three year multi-annual commitment, incorporating very 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 strongly committed to achieving the UN target for expenditure on Overseas Development Aid. The issue of how best to meet the target, and in what timeframe, is under ongoing review. In the coming months also, Development Co-operation Ireland will launch a consultative process that will lead to a White Paper on development assistance. All interested stakeholders will be asked for their views.

Ministerial Appointments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

174 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of public appointments made in his Department since August 2004; the name of each appointee involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2737/05]

I have made three appointments to the board of the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange — the Fulbright Commission — since August 2004. My predecessor made five reappointments and three appointments to the DION committee. I will give details of the three people I appointed to the board of the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange for a two-year term. Dr. Donal Thornhill is a former Chairman of the Higher Education Authority. Professor Joyce O'Connor is the president of the National College of Ireland and Ms Una Halligan is the government and public affairs director of Hewlett Packard Ireland.

The Irish Fulbright Commission finances study, research, teaching and other educational activities between Ireland and the United States. It consists of eight members, four appointed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and four by the United States Ambassador to Ireland. I expect to appoint a fourth member shortly. The DION committee is an advisory committee to the Government that was established in 1984 in response to concern about the circumstances of Irish emigrants in Britain. My predecessor, the Minister, Deputy Cowen, reappointed the following members to the committee with effect from 1 September 2004: Mr. Michael Forde, who is the chairman of the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester; Dr. Breda Gray, who is a lecturer in social policy at the University of Limerick; Dr. Theresa Joyce, who works for the south London and Maudsley NHS trust; Mr. Jim O'Hara, who works for the Irish Youth Foundation UK; and Ms Catherine Quinn, who is a former member of the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the County Dublin VEC. The following members were newly appointed to the committee by the Minister, Deputy Cowen, with effect from 1 September 2004: Mr. Séamus McGarry, who is the former chairman of the Federation of Irish Societies and a member of the Ireland Fund; Mr. Michael Lonergan, who is a first secretary of the Irish embassy in London; and Ms Amanda Bane, who is a third secretary of the Irish embassy in London.

Human Rights Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

175 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied); if he has made representations to the German authorities in respect of this case and its negative repercussions for the achievement of a peaceful resolution in the case of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2840/05]

I understand that Mr. Remzi Kartal was detained in Germany on 22 January on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by Turkey. Mr. Kartal is detained in Nuremberg and his case is under consideration by the German judicial authorities. I do not intend to make representations to the German authorities about this case.

Election Observers.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

176 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Ireland sent observers to the elections in Iraq. [2841/05]

Ireland did not send observers to the elections in Iraq.

Foreign Conflicts.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

177 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has expressed concern over recent sabre-rattling by the US President and Vice President towards Iran. [2842/05]

The views of the United States on Iran are well known. Its concerns about Iran's nuclear programme are shared by the European Union. The EU has been in negotiation with Iran to address the concerns. As a result, Iran has suspended certain aspects of its nuclear programme. Negotiations are proceeding and I hope further progress can be made.

European Council Meetings.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

178 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the issues which Irish representatives will raise with the US President on his EU tour in February 2005. [2843/05]

President Bush will meet the European Council during his visit to Brussels on 22 February 2005. Discussions are ongoing about the agenda for the meeting. I welcome the visit as reflecting a desire on the part of the United States and the EU to continue to strengthen the transatlantic relationship. Ireland and its EU partners favour a focused and practical discussion on a number of key issues at the meeting. The Middle East peace process is likely to be included on the agenda. Enhanced US engagement on that issue is critically important. We would like to engage with the US on the crucial debate this year about strengthening the United Nations system. The need for effective multilateralism is particularly relevant in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster, as well as in respect of global problems such as the spread of HIV-AIDS. The US will want to address the situation in Iraq, for example in the context of this week's elections. There will be other opportunities in the months ahead to continue our discussions with the US on a range of issues, bilaterally and in the EU context, particularly at the next regular EU-US summit meeting.

Human Rights Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

179 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has raised concerns with the Chinese authorities over the arrest of a person (details supplied); and if such actions on the part of the Chinese authorities fall into the category of understandable human rights violations in the name of national cohesion. [2844/05]

I am aware of a media report that Mr. Zhao Xin was arrested on 21 January 2005. According to the report, Mr. Zhao's application to hold a parade "to protest against the authority's forcefully depriving the citizens of their rights to commemorate Zhao Ziyang, the former General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party" was rejected. While no further information is yet available on the case, I assure the Deputy that it will be followed up through the appropriate channels. As I said in response to a question from the Deputy last week, the universal nature of international human rights standards means that national particularities, such as history and cultural tradition, are not an excuse for non-compliance with international human rights obligations.

Overseas Development Aid.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

180 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the actions taken or representations made to ensure that tsunami humanitarian and reconstruction aid is not denied or misused by any recipient State for counterinsurgency purposes. [2845/05]

Ireland delivers humanitarian relief through Irish and international NGOs and respected multilateral organisations such as UN agencies and the International Red Cross. This practice will be followed in the disbursal of funds to the victims of the tsunami crisis. The Government has appointed the former Minister of State, Mr. Chris Flood, who is currently the chairperson of the advisory board for Development Co-operation Ireland, as this country's special envoy in the area. His functions will include, inter alia, tracking the use of the Government’s funding to ensure that funds are used effectively for the purposes intended and that best international practice is followed.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Simon Coveney

Question:

181 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism further to a request which he received in November 2004, when he will be able to meet the delegation of Cork City councillors in relation to funding for the redevelopment of the Gus Healy swimming pool, Douglas, Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2699/05]

In a letter dated 16 December 2004, Cork City Council requested a meeting with me to discuss grant aid for the refurbishment of Douglas swimming pool. Due to a heavy schedule of commitments, I am not in a position to meet a delegation at this time. The request will be kept on file and I will be in touch with the council if an opportunity arises for such a meeting in the future.

The local authority swimming pool programme, which is administered by the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, provides grant aid towards the capital costs of new pools or the refurbishment of existing pools. The closing date for the receipt of applications under the current programme was 31 July 2000. No application was made in respect of a swimming pool in Douglas before that date. The priority in respect of the programme is to support the proposals on hand. New proposals for swimming pools are not being considered at this time. The Department is conducting an expenditure review of the swimming pool programme. The review is examining, inter alia, how the programme has worked so far, the benefits which have accrued to areas where pools have been built through the existing programme and the amendments, if any, which are required to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of the programme. This review is expected to be completed by the middle of this year. The question of reopening the programme can be considered after the review has been completed.

Visa Applications.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

182 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when an application by a person (details supplied) in County Limerick for a work visa will be decided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2419/05]

The work permit section of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment received a work permit application from the relevant employer to employ the employee in question on 19 August 2003. The section subsequently informed the employer that the application had been refused and informed him of his right of appeal. No such appeal was received. A further application was received on 30 November 2004 under the spousal scheme. The work permit section has recently taken a decision to refuse the application on the basis that the employee's spouse job specifications to date are not in line with those of an IT professional on a work authorisation or work visa. The employer has been informed of the decision and of his right to appeal. No such appeal has been received to date.

National Minimum Wage.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

183 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the demand from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for a €1.75 increase in the national minimum wage from 1 May 2005. [2420/05]

The parties to the mid-term review of part two of Sustaining Progress — Pay and the Workplace — agreed to ask the Labour Court to review the national minimum wage and to make a recommendation to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, in accordance with the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, to apply with effect from 1 May 2005. The Labour Court has undertaken a review of the national minimum wage in line with that commitment. As I have just received the Labour Court recommendation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the matter at this stage.

Employment Support Services.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

184 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to an apparent deficiency in the administrative processes of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (details supplied); if, in view of the fact that the Office of the Ombudsman has no powers to investigate or make recommendations in relation to this apparent deficiency, he will take steps to rectify it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2421/05]

The Employment Appeals Tribunal is empowered under section 39 of the Redundancy Payments Act 1967, as amended, to give notice to a person to attend before it and to produce documents under his or her control which relate to the matter under investigation by the tribunal. In this particular case, it appears that the party concerned was served with such a notice, in which case there is no apparent deficiency in the administrative process of the tribunal. I emphasise that the Employment Appeals Tribunal is an independent body in the discharge of its functions. I have no function in its day-to-day operations. The Ombudsman is precluded under the Ombudsman Act 1980 from examining complaints relating to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Joe Higgins

Question:

185 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the part-time work related training which is offered by FÁS to lone parents under the age of 25; and if there are plans to develop a training intervention to meet the needs of this disadvantaged group. [2422/05]

Lone parents can participate on all FÁS training and employment programmes, some of which are delivered on a part-time basis. According to FÁS, 9,685 lone parents completed training and employment programmes in 2004. Some 91% of them completed employment programmes such as community employment or job initiative. Some 254, or 3%, of the lone parents on employment programmes were under 25 years of age, 46% were between 25 and 34, 35% were between 35 and 44 and the remaining 16% were 45 years or over. In 2005, FÁS plan to conduct a customer survey of lone parents' experience of FÁS services. Arising from this survey, specific interventions for lone parents will be considered.

Job Losses.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

186 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the discussions he has had with IDA Ireland or other statutory agencies regarding the closure of a plant (details supplied) in County Kerry, particularly on the future use of the vacated premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2682/05]

It was with regret that I learnt of the announcement by Sara Lee on 13 January 2005 that it intends to close its plant in Killarney, County Kerry, by March 2005 with the loss of 92 jobs. I understand that the premises is owned by the company. I assure the Deputy that the development agencies under the auspices of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment would be happy to work with the company to market the facility through their national and international network of offices. FÁS has contacted the company and will make available its full range of services to the workers who are to be made redundant. In this regard, FÁS has arranged to attend the plant this week to register workers.

The industrial development agencies are continuing to promote the region actively to potential investors from the manufacturing and international services sectors. IDA Ireland has completed site development works on its 4.66 hectares business and technology park at Tiernaboul in Killarney, to continue to improve the attractiveness of Killarney as a location for inward investment. The work, which cost approximately €1 million, has resulted in the upgrading of the overall appeal of the location. A local group of business people has completed a new 14,716 sq. ft. building on the park under the business expansion scheme. IDA Ireland is actively marketing this facility to potential investors.

Enterprise Ireland has offered support in helping to identify and provide support for potential start-ups which may exist from within the workforce. The agency has met the mayor of Killarney to discuss assistance for potential start-ups. It has had an initial meeting with officials of Killarney Chamber of Commerce to explore a strategy to develop a replacement industry for the town.

Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

Phil Hogan

Question:

187 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff employed by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board; the number of these employees who were formerly employed by the claims departments of insurance companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2683/05]

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

The board's structure and staffing levels have been agreed. When the board is fully operational, it will have a staffing complement of up to 85, in addition to the chief executive officer. The board uses an outsourced service centre to assist injured parties in completing their claim submissions and to ensure that a comprehensive, fair and independent service is provided. Following a significant recruitment campaign, I understand that the board has recruited sufficient staff to serve its current needs. The recruitment of staff and information about employees' previous employment history is an operational matter for which the chief executive officer of the board has responsibility.

Job Creation.

Phil Hogan

Question:

188 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the levels of investment and employment through Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland sanctioned and operable for each of the years 2000 to 2004 inclusive for Waterford city and county and Kilkenny city and county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2684/05]

Support for job creation and investment in individual counties is a day-to-day operational matter for the development agencies as part of their responsibility under the Industrial Development Acts. While I may give general policy directives to the agencies, I am precluded under the Acts from giving directives about individual undertakings or giving preference to one area over others. The agencies have informed me that data on job creation is compiled from the annual Forfás employment survey and that county data for 2004 will not be available until mid-2005.

The following tables give details about payments to client companies by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland:

Payments to client companies in Waterford by Enterprise Ireland

2000

2001

2002

2003

€2,113,826

€3,476,484

€2,492,053

€4,295,995

Payments to client companies in Waterford by IDA Ireland

2000

2001

2002

2003

€2,641,000

€1,371,000

€2,766,000

€4,853,000

Payments to client companies in Kilkenny by Enterprise Ireland

2000

2001

2002

2003

€2,847,506

€531,073

€632,068

€855,592

Payments to client companies in Kilkenny by IDA Ireland

2000

2001

2002

2003

€0

€111,000

€16,000

€205,000

The following tables give details about employment figures in client companies supported by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland:

Employment figures in client companies in Waterford (excluding part-time or contract jobs)

Enterprise Ireland

2000

2001

2002

2003

Full-time gainsFull-time losses

+300-427

+423-292

+433-527

+424-269

Employment figures in client companies in Waterford (excluding part-time or contract jobs)

IDA Ireland

2000

2001

2002

2003

Full-time gainsFull-time losses

+318-533

+479-233

+575-224

+549-174

Employment figures in client companies in Kilkenny (excluding part-time or contract jobs)

Enterprise Ireland

2000

2001

2002

2003

Full-time gainsFull-time losses

+290-100

+233-178

+531-279

+285-580

Employment figures in client companies in Kilkenny (excluding part-time or contract jobs)

IDA Ireland

2000

2001

2002

2003

Full-time gainsFull-time losses

+40-128

+103-50

+105-33

+7-98

Social Welfare Schemes.

Enda Kenny

Question:

189 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the discrepancy in pay rates between those on the social employment scheme and those on the community employment scheme is justified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2714/05]

The social economy programme and the community employment scheme are two separate initiatives with individual aims and objectives. The social economy programme provides funding for social enterprises with a view to establishing the enterprises on a viable basis and thereby providing permanent employment opportunities within the enterprises. The funding provided by FÁS to the enterprises includes wage support to the level of the minimum hourly wage. The wage rates are set by individual enterprises, which are free to top up the FÁS support from within their own resources.

The community employment scheme provides eligible unemployed people with the opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities. It aims to help individuals to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to work route and to assist them to enhance and develop their technical and personal skills. The emphasis on the programme is on progression into employment or further training. Involvement in the scheme is finite and participants must leave when their duration has expired.

Ministerial Appointments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

190 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of public appointments made in his Department since August 2004; the name of each appointee involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2739/05]

I have made six appointments in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment since the Cabinet reshuffle in September 2004. I have appointed a special adviser, Mr. Christopher Mannion; a policy adviser, Ms Deirdre Gillane; a press adviser, Ms Caitríona Meehan; two personal assistants, Ms Melanie Hewitt and Ms Ann Donnelly; and a personal secretary, Ms Elizabeth O'Donoghue. In addition to this, Deputy Killeen, the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, has made four appointments since the Cabinet reshuffle last year. He has appointed a personal assistant, Mr. Pat Daly; a personal secretary, Ms Suzanne Roche; and two civilian drivers, Mr. Thomas Kierce and Mr. Tom Keating.

Community Employment Schemes.

David Stanton

Question:

191 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to his press release of 10 November 2004 and the extension of the three year cap for the over 55s, if he will allow those who had to leave community employment immediately prior to the cap being extended to rejoin the schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2751/05]

I have been informed by FÁS that the placement policy in respect of community employment programmes for 2005 has been formulated on the basis of the changes I announced on 10 November 2004. In the circumstances, it is not feasible to accommodate the persons referred to by the Deputy.

Industrial Development.

Dan Neville

Question:

192 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans for business and industry to locate at the business park in Askeaton, County Limerick. [2879/05]

The attraction of business and industry to the business park at Askeaton is a day-to-day operational matter for the relevant development agencies. IDA Ireland is the national agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions, while Shannon Development is responsible for indigenous industry in the mid-west area. The business park is a land bank of approximately 227 acres that is owned by Shannon Development. IDA Ireland and Shannon Development are actively marketing the park for new investment and jobs. In particular, they are promoting the park as an attractive location for new projects from the pharmaceutical and chemical sector. Decisions on where to locate a project, including what areas to visit as potential locations, are taken by investors.

The Askeaton area has a good mix of Irish industry and foreign direct investment, with major multinational corporations such as Wyeth and Aughinish Alumina Limited located there. I understand that the business park has been identified as an important site from a business and employment perspective for the county and the region in the planning and land use transportation study, the mid-west regional planning guidelines and in the draft county development plan. I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by the development agencies, together with the Government's ongoing commitment to regional development, will bear fruit in terms of delivering the maximum possible level of additional jobs.

Work Permits.

Dan Boyle

Question:

193 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has satisfied himself that artists, as cultural workers, are facilitated in working here and that no necessary restraints exist in bringing such workers to Cork, during the European Year of Culture. [2881/05]

Artists who are citizens of the European economic area and Switzerland are free to enter and work in the State. Artists who are from territories outside these areas are required, under section 2 of the Employment Permits Act 2003, to obtain an employment permit to work in the State. However, applications for entertainment work permits are fast-tracked and are processed within a shorter period than general work permit applications.

Social Welfare Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

194 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to alleviate the problem which has arisen for persons no longer able to sign on at Garda stations. [2371/05]

Until recently, recipients of unemployment payments residing more than six miles, or 9.7 km, from their nearest social welfare local or branch office signed a declaration at their local Garda station for the purpose of proving unemployment. This service was instituted as a service to customers at a time when transport was less frequent and travel was more difficult than today. Since the end of November 2004, all customers who previously signed on at Garda stations are self-certifying and returning their signing dockets directly to the social welfare local or branch offices.

Revised signing arrangements will apply in the early part of 2005. Customers residing up to 16 km from their social welfare local or branch office will attend that office once every four weeks for certification purposes. Customers residing over 16 km from their local or branch office will self-certify every four weeks and attend the office every 12 weeks. These customers will be offered the flexibility to attend at the office on any day in a designated week. A flexible approach to certification will be adopted for customers on offshore islands and other remote areas of the country. The changes represent a significant improvement in customer service by enabling all unemployed customers to have direct contact with their social welfare local or branch office, where they can be directed to the many educational and work supports available to the unemployed.

To qualify for unemployment payment, a person must show that he or she is available for and genuinely seeking work. The Department of Social and Family Affairs normally expects unemployed customers to take up offers of employment within a reasonable distance of their residence and to travel there on a daily basis. A distance of 11 miles would not be considered excessive. In such circumstances it is not unreasonable to require a customer who is actively seeking work to travel to his social welfare local office for certification purposes once every 12 weeks. If customers have particular difficulties with the revised arrangements, officials in the local offices will be glad to consider them and to make whatever adjustments are considered appropriate.

Community Development.

David Stanton

Question:

195 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of changes that he announced to the cutbacks of 2004 on 1 December 2004 which require circulars to community welfare officers; if he will identify each change that requires a circular to community welfare officers; if and when he has issued these circulars; when each change comes into effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2376/05]

David Stanton

Question:

196 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the date on which each of the changes that he announced to the cutbacks of 2004 on 1 December 2004 come into effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2377/05]

David Stanton

Question:

197 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons affected by each of the changes that he announced to the cutbacks of 2004 on 1 December 2004; the cost to the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2378/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 195 to 197, inclusive, together.

At the time of the recent budget, I announced my intention to make changes relating to the rent supplement and crèche and diet supplements, which are provided for under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare staff of the health service executive.

I have made two changes in the conditions for receipt of rent supplement. To ensure that bona fide tenants may access rent supplement in appropriate circumstances, I have abolished the six months prior renting requirement. Rent supplement may be paid where the applicant has established himself or herself in rented accommodation within his or her own resources, with an expectation that this would continue into the future and then suffers a substantial change in circumstances whereby he or she can no longer afford the rent. Rent supplement continues to be payable in other specific hardship circumstances, or where there is an assessed housing need. I have also eased the rules relating to the refusal of local authority accommodation. Until now, rent supplement was not payable if a person refused a second offer of local authority accommodation within a 12 month period. Rent supplement may now be paid unless a person has refused, within an 18 month period, three offers of accommodation from a local authority.

I have also eased the means test for rent or mortgage interest supplement. The additional income from part-time employment, participation in approved training courses and a portion of maintenance payments to be disregarded has been increased from €50 to €60 per week. Regulations have been made to give effect to these changes from 31 January 2005.

In relation to crèche supplements I have allocated additional funding of €2.3 million, an amount equivalent to the savings achieved by the discontinuation of crèche supplements in 2004, to enable existing crèche supplements to remain in place, where appropriate, in individual cases and to ensure that vulnerable families can continue to have access to crèche supports, for example in cases where a social worker or public health nurse deems this a necessary as part of their work with the family. I will consult my colleagues, the Ministers for Health and Children and Justice, Equality and Law Reform about the most appropriate way to channel this funding. The revised rent and crèche supplement measures have been advised to community welfare staff by way of a circular that my Department issued to them on 31 January 2005.

I have allocated additional funding to make improvements in the diet supplement scheme. The Department of Social and Family Affairs is examining a report which was commissioned from the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute relating to what constitutes a healthy eating diet, special diets arising from medical conditions and the costs associated with providing for the diets. As soon as the examination of the report has been concluded, I will announce changes in the operation of the diet supplement scheme.

I will outline the position in respect of the other revised measures I announced following the 2005 budget. The transitional payment for recipients of one parent family payment has been restored and is available for a period of six months where a recipient's income exceeds €293 per week. The qualifying period for the back to education allowance has been reduced from 15 months to 12 months. The cost of education allowance has been increased by €254 to €400. The income limit for entitlement to half-rate child dependant increases for unemployment, disability and related schemes has been increased by €50 per week to €350. The saving of €700,000 from last year's MABS supplement measure is being redirected to the MABS service to enable it to further improve its services. Some €19 million in funding from the rent supplement scheme has been transferred to local authorities as an initial measure to enable them to put long-term housing solutions in place through the new rental accommodation scheme. Given the demand led nature of the schemes involved, it is not possible to be definitive on cost, but the full year estimate for the measures I have detailed is estimated at approximately €36 million.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

198 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons who were in receipt of short-term social welfare payments in 2004. [2430/05]

I understand the Deputy is interested in the number of recipients of social welfare schemes under which the Christmas bonus is not payable. The requested information is contained in the following table, which details the number of persons in receipt of weekly short-term social welfare payments at the end of 2004 and to whom the Christmas bonus was not paid.

Scheme

Number in receipt of payment under the scheme on 31 December 2004

Disability Benefit

58,726

Injury Benefit

915

Interim Disability Benefit

316

Carer’s Benefit

679

Unemployment Benefit

57,699

Short-term Unemployment Assistance

20,605

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

29,748

Part-time Job Incentive

326

Family Income Supplement

14,727

Maternity Benefit

10,356

Health and Safety Benefit

21

Adoptive Benefit

26

Michael Ring

Question:

199 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason his Department is taking so long to award the carer’s allowance to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [2431/05]

The person concerned has been awarded carer's allowance with effect from 11 November 2004, at the maximum weekly personal rate of €139.60, increasing to €153.60 from 6 January 2005, together with a dependent child allowance of €8.40 per week. She has been notified of this decision. Carer's allowance personal payable order books are renewed on a six monthly basis. This process is under way. The carer's allowance book for the person concerned will issue with the bulk renewal of books on 17 February 2005. Any arrears of allowance due to her will issue shortly after.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

200 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied); if his attention has been further drawn to the number of other immigrants who are in the same predicament; if he plans changes to the legislation to protect these workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2432/05]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare staff of the Health Service Executive, is one of a number of social assistance schemes which is subject to a habitual residence condition with effect from 1 May 2004. The effect of the condition is that a person whose habitual residence or "centre of interest" is deemed to be other than in this State or the common travel area has no entitlement to certain social welfare payments, including supplementary welfare allowance. A person's habitual residence for social welfare purposes is decided in accordance with European Court of Justice case law. The condition is not determined on the basis of citizenship, nationality, immigration status or any other extraneous factor.

The Dublin and north-east region of the Health Service Executive, which was contacted about this case, has advised that the person concerned was refused basic supplementary welfare allowance because he did not satisfy the habitual residency condition. He was advised of his right to appeal against the decision. Given his particular situation, a once-off exceptional needs cash payment was paid by the community welfare officer to the person concerned in respect of his basic needs and he was provided with emergency accommodation for a week. He has been advised that he has the option of being accommodated by the reception and integration agency of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform pending his return home. The question of a change in the terms under which work permits are issued to immigrant workers is a matter for consideration by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

David Stanton

Question:

201 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the criteria that will apply to carers who will receive the annual respite care grant and who are providing full-time care to a person who needs such care; the employment related conditions that will apply; when he will issue directions or guidelines in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2444/05]

The conditions for receipt of the extended respite care grant will be set out in the forthcoming Social Welfare Bill and regulations. As I set out in my speech at budget time, the carer must be providing full-time care to a person who is in need of such care. As with recipients of carer's allowance, a full-time carer must not be engaged in employment for more than ten hours per week. Those who are on unemployment payments will be excluded as they are required to be available for and actively seeking full-time work. Full details of the conditions for the receipt of the extended respite care grant will be widely publicised in advance of the payment date.

Decentralisation Programme.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

202 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding the progress towards the decentralisation of 85 personnel from his Department to Carrickmacross in County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2702/05]

The decentralisation implementation group's report to the Minister for Finance on 19 November 2004 recommended the locations and organisations to be included in the first phase of moves and those to be regarded as potential early movers. While Carrickmacross was not included in the first phase of moves or as a potential early mover, the decentralisation implementation group is scheduled to report again in the spring about the phasing of locations not covered in the November report. The Department of Social and Family Affairs is revising its implementation plan for the first phase of moves and will examine subsequent phases in the light of this revision and the next report of the decentralisation implementation group. The Department remains committed to the relocation of 85 posts to Carrickmacross under the decentralisation programme.

Social Welfare Code.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

203 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if money received by persons on the maturing of their investment under the SSIA scheme, will be assessed as means in regard to entitlement to social welfare payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2726/05]

In assessing means for social assistance purposes, moneys held in special savings investment accounts are treated in the same manner as other capital. Account is taken of any cash income the person may have, along with the value of capital and property, except the home. Capital may include stocks and shares of every description, which are assessed according to their current market value, savings certificates, bonds and national instalment savings, which are assessed according to their current market value and money invested in a bank, building society etc.

Last October, I asked the Department of Social and Family Affairs to conduct a comprehensive examination of the current arrangements for the assessment of capital, particularly as they apply to SSIAs, with a view to bringing forward proposals in budget 2005. On budget day, I was pleased to announce that the amount of capital disregarded for means test purposes for all schemes, other than supplementary welfare allowance, will be increased from €12,694.38 to €20,000, an increase of over €7,300. The enhanced disregard applies to all capital, regardless of whether it is held in an SSIA or with a credit union, An Post or any other bank or other financial institution. The new arrangements will mean that a single non-contributory pensioner with no other means can have capital of up to €28,000 and still qualify for a pension at the maximum rate. This figure is doubled in the case of a pensioner couple. It is estimated that the measure, which takes effect in June 2005, will benefit approximately 12,000 claimants at a cost of €5.1 million in a full year.

SSIAs were introduced in 2001 as part of an overall Government strategy to encourage a regular savings culture among the population in general. The new arrangements announced by me on budget day are consistent with this strategy and are designed to ensure that social welfare means testing arrangements do not act as a disincentive to claimants to become savers or to harshly penalise those who have been regular savers in the past.

Pension Provisions.

Willie Penrose

Question:

204 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will give consideration to awarding all home-makers of pensionable age an individual non-contributory pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2727/05]

A number of arrangements in the social welfare code take account of the work of people in the home for pension purposes. The Government is committed to extending pension cover to as many people as possible. A number of measures which have been introduced in recent years make it easier for people to qualify for pensions. I refer, for example, to extended social insurance coverage and an easing of the qualifying conditions for old age contributory and retirement pensions. The latter measures are of particular benefit to women who may have less than complete social insurance records due to working in the home. In 1997, the yearly average number of contributions required for pension purposes was reduced from 20 to ten. In 2000, a special half rate pension was introduced based on pre-1953 insurance contributions. Pro rata pensions are also available to allow people with mixed rate insurance records to receive a payment.

The Government is committed to increasing the payment for qualified adults aged 66 or over to the same level as the personal rate of the old age non-contributory pension. In this regard, a number of special increases have been given over several budgets in pursuit of this target. Since October 2002, new pension claimants can opt to have the part of the payment in respect of their spouse or partner paid direct to that person.

The homemaker's scheme was introduced in 1994 to protect the pension entitlements of those who take time out of the paid workforce for caring duties. The scheme allows up to 20 years to be disregarded when a person's insurance record is being averaged to assess entitlement for contributory pension purposes. The scheme will not of itself qualify a person for a pension as the standard qualifying conditions relating to the type and number of contributions paid or credited must also be satisfied.

The scheme is being reviewed as part of the second phase review of the qualifying conditions for the old age contributory and retirement pensions. The review is due for completion in the next few months and developments in respect of the homemaker's scheme will be considered in the light of the conclusions of the review.

The old age non-contributory pension is a social assistance scheme designed to provide financial support for older people who do not qualify for one of the contributory pension schemes. Like other social assistance schemes, it features a means test which is intended to ensure that available resources are targeted at those who are most in need. In this regard, budget 2005 provides for the disregard of the first €20,000 of savings or other assessable assets, such as shares or bonds, when means are being assessed. The operation of the means test is kept under review and changes are made as required.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

205 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to review the guidelines pertaining to an adult dependant of persons on certain social welfare payments, to increase the amount of money a dependant is permitted to earn before payments are affected and to allow for the permitted 15 hours weekly working to be carried out over two to three days as opposed to the present system whereby the hours must be carried out over a five day period. [2730/05]

The maximum rate of qualified adult increase is payable where a claimant's spouse or partner has a gross weekly income not exceeding €88.88. Regulations provide for the gradual or tapered withdrawal of the qualified adult allowance for claimants of certain welfare payments where the spouse or partner of the claimant is earning between €88.88 and €220 per week. The allowance is fully withdrawn if the spouse or partner's weekly income exceeds €220.

In addition to the above, where the spouse or partner is engaged in insurable employment, certain means-based social assistance schemes, such as unemployment assistance, pre-retirement allowance and disability allowance, disregard €38.09 plus expenses where he or she is employed for up to three days, or €88.88 where he or she is employed four days or more. Some 50% of the balance is then assessed. There is no restriction on the number of hours which a spouse or partner may work. Any change to the existing arrangements would have to be considered in a budgetary context and in light of competing priorities.

Departmental Appointments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

206 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of public appointments made in his Department since August 2004; the name of each appointee involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2740/05]

The five statutory agencies operating under the aegis of the Department of Social and Family Affairs are the Pensions Board, the Combat Poverty Agency, Comhairle, the Social Welfare Tribunal and the Family Support Agency. The Pensions Ombudsman also comes under the remit of the Department. One appointment was made to the board of the Combat Poverty Agency and two appointments were made to the board of Comhairle since 1 August 2004. Mr. Séamus McAleavey was appointed to the board of the Combat Poverty Agency on 2 September 2004. Ms Mary Lyne and Mr. Brian Flynn were appointed to the board of Comhairle on 1 September 2004. No appointments have been made to the Pensions Board, the Social Welfare Tribunal, the board of the Family Support Agency or to the position of Pensions Ombudsman in the period concerned.

Road Fatalities.

Dan Neville

Question:

207 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport the number of deaths from road accidents for each year since 1994. [2453/05]

Statistics relating to road accidents, based on information provided by the Garda Síochána, are published by the National Roads Authority in its annual road accident facts reports. The most recent report is in respect of 2002 and that report, with reports relating to previous years, are available in the Oireachtas Library. The table below sets out the number of fatalities in Ireland from 1994 to 2004:

Year

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003*

2004*

Number of deaths

404

437

453

472

458

413

415

411

376

335

380

*Provisional figures (source Garda Síochána).

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

208 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent which he expects public expenditure to be affected by the increased dependency on tolls in respect of delivering on the NDP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2858/05]

The national development plan and the capital investment framework provide for the substantial Exchequer investment in the upgrade of the national roads network to be supplemented by private finance. The capital investment framework provides for investment of private finance of €1.36 billion in toll-based PPPs between 2005 and 2009. Subject to the outcome of the tendering process, it is expected that the current national roads PPP programme will secure this level of private funding. The national roads PPP programme comprises ten projects. One project, the west-link bridge, has been completed; three projects, the Kilcock-Kinnegad, Dundalk western and Fermoy bypasses, are under construction; and six projects are at earlier stages of planning.

Traffic Management.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

209 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport his proposals to address the concerns of the Coach Tourism and Transport Council regarding the new maximum speed limits (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2435/05]

I made regulations on 12 January 2005 to prescribe a maximum speed limit for certain classes of vehicles from 20 January 2005. I prescribed an 80 km/h limit for vehicles that have accommodation for more than eight passengers. In setting the metric speed limit for this class of large vehicle, I made no change to the speed limit policy that had applied since 1992 other than converting the previous maximum limit of 50 miles per hour to the nearest equivalent metric value, 80 km/h. I have made it clear that I will revisit the matter of maximum speed limits for these and other specified classes of vehicles. The Coach Tourism and Transport Council will be consulted in this review process.

Rules for traffic driving on motorways were introduced in October 1997 under the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 (S.I. No. 182 of 1997). One of the regulations prohibits the driving of a vehicle for which an ordinary speed limit of not more than 50 mph is prescribed in the traffic lane nearest the right hand edge of a carriageway having more than one traffic lane except where it is necessary to proceed in that lane due to an obstruction or because another lane or lanes are for the time being closed to traffic. I made no change to the policy that has applied since 1997 for the relevant classes of vehicles other than converting the previous maximum limit of 50 miles per hour to the nearest equivalent metric value, 80 km/h. A general review of the current road traffic regulations will be undertaken later this year and the present motorway driving rules will be considered in that context. The issue will form part of the consultation process I will pursue with the Coach Tourism and Transport Council on speed limits.

Ministerial Appointments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

210 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport the number of public appointments made in his Department since August 2004; the name of each appointee involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2741/05]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Question No. 598 of Wednesday, 26 January 2005.

Driving Tests.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

211 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport the position in relation to driving tests in cases in which a temporary insurance certificate is displayed on the vehicle of the person being tested as in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [2873/05]

All driving test candidates are informed, in literature issued with their driving test appointment letter, that a current valid insurance disc must be displayed on the vehicle being used for the driving test. The Road Traffic (Insurance Disc) Regulations 1984 set out the information which must be displayed on an insurance disc. The driving test is conducted if the disc displayed on the vehicle at the time of the test is in the scheduled form and has not expired. In the case of the person concerned, the driver tester conducting the test reported that the insurance disc on display on the vehicle presented for the driving test expired on 4 January 2005. Accordingly, the driving test could not be conducted. This information was communicated in writing to the person concerned on the day.

Community Schemes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which his Department expects to fund or support community schemes throughout the country in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2859/05]

Some €45.7 million is provided in my Department's Vote for the local development social inclusion programme to support local development social inclusion measures. Funding is allocated to partnerships and community groups to deliver the local development social inclusion programme under three measures — services for the unemployed, community based youth initiatives and community development. Capital funding of €6 million is being made available in 2005 to support small scale localised actions in RAPID areas, through co-funding with the relevant Department or agency. Funding of €1.333 million is available to support ADM and local areas in the implementation of the programme. Details of the areas covered by the local development social inclusion programme and RAPID are available on the Department's website, www.pobail.ie.

There is provision of €22.4 million in the Department's Vote for the community development programme to support 185 community development projects in disadvantaged areas. Community development projects are funded to provide community based resource centres to build the capacity of local communities and to act as a focal point for activities such as child care, services for the elderly and youth activities. On foot of budget 2004, an additional funding of €5 million will be allocated to support the development of community services.

The Department provides a range of once-off grants to a wide variety of locally based community and voluntary groups. Funding of approximately €2.9 million has been allocated in 2005 to provide for grants in certain categories. Equipment and refurbishment grants are targeted at voluntary and community organisations in disadvantaged areas. Education, training and research grants provide once-off payments to fund training, education or research initiatives aimed at supporting and enhancing the effectiveness of local community and voluntary groups in disadvantaged areas.

The scheme of community support for older people encourages and assists local support for older people through a community based grant scheme to improve the security of such people. Funding is provided by way of grant aid to voluntary groups and organisations, which have undertaken to identify the elderly people in need of assistance under the scheme. Funding of approximately €2.8 million has been allocated to the scheme in 2005.

The Department is also responsible for the work of the 14 local drugs task forces in Dublin, Cork and Bray and the ten regional drugs task forces in the rest of the country. It also funds the premises initiative which is designed to meet the accommodation needs of community based drugs projects and the young people's facilities and services fund development groups, which are based in the 14 local drugs task forces areas, as well as Carlow, Waterford, Limerick and Galway. The amount available to fund these initiatives in 2005, as well as the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, is €30.5 million.

Some €22.147 million is being provided in the 2005 Abridged Estimates for schemes to benefit communities in Gaeltacht areas, for example by means of road improvements, marine works, group water schemes, leisure facilities and cultural initiatives. The Department has a capital allocation of €12.8 million available for island development purposes in 2005. While the greater part of this funding will be spent on essential public infrastructure on the islands, a proportion will also be allocated towards community led projects such as recreational facilities and community centres. The Department will also provide funding of €34.3 million to Údarás na Gaeltachta to assist in developing industries, services and employment opportunities, in addition to fostering and strengthening the Irish language in Gaeltacht areas.

Under the CLÁR programme, community groups can avail of assistance under the measures detailed at the end of this reply. The areas targeted under the programme, which will continue to benefit from assistance in 2005, are parts of counties Cavan, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath and all of County Leitrim. The 2005 provision for the programme is €13.2million. The rural development fund also assists community groups. Applications may be submitted for consideration at any time throughout the year. The 2005 provision will be indicated in the Revised Estimates volume to be published shortly.

The Department provides support to rural communities under the LEADER+ initiative, the area-based rural development initiative and the rural development initiatives of the cross-Border programmes INTERREG IIIA and PEACE II. The essential aim of the LEADER+ initiative, which has a public contribution of some €73.7 million, is to encourage new approaches to integrated and sustainable development in rural communities. The initiative is in place in 22 areas throughout the country. The area-based rural development initiative has a public contribution of €75.6 million. The initiative complements the LEADER+ programme and ensures the availability of funding in the 13 areas that were not appointed to deliver the LEADER+ programme. Funding for rural and agri-tourism is provided from the programme on a nationwide basis. In addition, the three collective bodies, Muintir na Tíre, Irish Farmhouse Holidays and Irish Country Holidays, that are not eligible under LEADER+ receive assistance under this programme.

Under the INTERREG III Ireland and Wales programme, 2000-06, there is a rural development and diversification measure to promote the economic and social well-being of the rural communities in INTERREG target areas. The total funding package for the measure is €10 million between 2000 and 2006. To date, over 60% of this funding has been committed. The rural initiative measure of the INTERREG IIIA Ireland and Northern Ireland programme, 2000-06, aims to develop and strengthen the rural economy in disadvantaged cross-Border areas. The funding package amounts to €14 million over the period of the programme between 2000 and 2006. To date, in excess of €6 million, or almost 50%, has been committed.

Funding is provided in two measures under the PEACE II programme, 2000-04, promoting rural community networking in marginalised rural communities and rural development co-operation and diversification. The funding package for both measures amounts to €5.7 million, of which over 60% has been committed.

I will conclude by giving further information about the CLÁR Programme. CLÁR provides funding to householders in the group water schemes by way of limited top up grants. Applicants contact their local authority, which administers the schemes. As the schemes are demand-led, there is no specific allocation. CLÁR funds local improvement scheme roads to provide support for better road access to homes in remoter areas. Applicants contact their local authority, which administers the scheme. The allocation is determined by the level of investment by the local authority from its county local improvement scheme allocation. The 2005 allocations to local authorities have not yet been made by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

CLÁR supports the joint village enhancement scheme operated by the LEADER companies and the local authorities covering small-scale infrastructural projects. Applicant villages, which also contribute to the scheme, should contact their local LEADER group. The total CLÁR funding for the scheme in 2004-05 is €800,000. CLÁR and the local authorities co-fund a local authority housing estate enhancement scheme with a local contribution for each project, which is selected by the local authority. A scheme for 2005-06 is being discussed at present with the local authorities. CLÁR and Foras na Gaeilge jointly fund a bilingual signage scheme for community projects in villages selected by LEADER under the village enhancement scheme. A bilingual townland signage scheme also operates with funding from the local community. As this scheme is demand led, there is no specific allocation.

CLÁR provides limited top-up funding to projects that are selected under the sports capital grants scheme run by the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism and recommended for CLÁR support by that Department. The allocation for 2005 will not be finalised until the projects under the 2005 scheme are selected by the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. Community based projects attracting less than 50% public funding under LEADER may qualify for CLÁR top-up funding subject to certain conditions. As the scheme is demand led, there is no specific allocation. Applicant villages should contact their local LEADER group.

The school outdoors play facilities enhancement scheme aims to improve outdoor play facilities in small rural primary schools in CLÁR areas. It is co-funded by CLÁR and the Department of Education and Science, up to 75% of the cost, supplemented by a 25% contribution from local sources. For 2004-05, €1 million has been provided under CLÁR, matched by €1 million from the Department of Education and Science.

Harbours and Piers.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

213 D’fhiafraigh Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil sé in ann deontas a chur ar fáil le céúr a thógáil ag An Rannaigh, Oileán Árainn Mhóir, i dTír Chonaill; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [2408/05]

I 2001, ar iarratas ó mo Roinnse, chuir Comhairle Chontae Dhún na nGall réamh-thuarascáil ar fáil maidir le forbairt na saoráidí calaíochta ag Rannach, Oileán Árainn Mhór. Moladh dhá rogha sa tuarascáil sin — síneadh 30 méadar a chur leis an gcé atá ann faoi láthair ar chostas €1.5 milliúin nó síneadh 65 meadar a chur léi ar chostas €3 milliúin. Dheimhnigh an tuarascáil chomh maith gur chun sochair thionscal na hiascaireachta áitiúil a rachadh aon áis nua ag an láthair seo. Tá meastachán faighte ag mo Roinn ón gcomhairle chontae maidir le costais deartha agus ullmhú doiciméad cónartha don togra seo. Tá an t-iarratas sin á mheas ag oifigigh mo Roinne faoi láthair i gcomhthéacs an tsoláthair atá ar fáil le caitheamh ar fhorbairt chéanna ar na hoileáin agus sa Ghaeltacht sna blianta amach romhainn agus na héilimh éagsúla ar an soláthar sin.

Scéim na mBóithre Áise.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

214 D’fhiafraigh Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil deontas ceadaithe maidir le hobair dheisiúcháin a dhéanamh ar bhóthar contae Bhaile Ard, Oileán Árainn Mhóir, i dTír Chonaill; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [2409/05]

Tá iarratas faighte ag mo Roinn ar chúnamh le haghaidh caoi a chur ar bhóthar chontae an Bhaile Ard ar Oileán Árann Mhóir. Déanfar an t-iarratas seo a mheas i gcomhthéacs an tsoláthair atá ar fáil dom le caitheamh faoi chlár oibre na n-oileán 2005 agus na n-éileamh éagsúil ar an soláthar sin.

Summer Jobs Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

215 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if there are plans to reintroduce the student summer job scheme. [2423/05]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Question No. 751 of 7 May 2003, Question No. 419 of 24 June 2003 and Question No. 148 of 25 June 2003. There are no plans at present to reintroduce the student summer jobs scheme.

Departmental Funding.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

216 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals to restore the core funding from his Department to a group (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2425/05]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

217 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on whether the withdrawal of funding by his Department from a group (details supplied) is a sinister move to silence an effective critical voice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2436/05]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

218 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on whether a group (details supplied) has during 25 years earned respect at local, national and international levels for its anti-poverty and equality work and that consequently the withdrawal of its funding is unwarranted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2437/05]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

219 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the refusal of a group (details supplied) to endorse the last national agreement, Sustaining Progress, influenced the decision to withdraw funding from this group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2438/05]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

220 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the withdrawal of funding from a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2439/05]

Tony Gregory

Question:

221 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason for the withdrawal of funding from a group (details supplied); if he will reconsider this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2512/05]

Finian McGrath

Question:

222 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if support will be given to a group (details supplied) in such programmes as the social economy programme and the local development programmes; and if he will reverse his decision on this matter and support the development of a more inclusive and informed society. [2529/05]

Phil Hogan

Question:

223 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason funding was withdrawn from a group (details supplied); if he will review this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2665/05]

Joe Higgins

Question:

224 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in view of the crucial role that a group (details supplied) has played in supporting local and national groups combating poverty and inequality to collectively analyse and express their experience of Government policies, he will immediately reverse his decision to withdraw funding from this group. [2666/05]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

226 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reasons for his decision to axe funding to a group (details supplied); if he will report on the evidence upon which this decision was based; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2710/05]

Fiona O'Malley

Question:

227 Ms F. O’Malley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason funding for a group (details supplied) has been withdrawn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2711/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 216 to 224, inclusive, and 226 and 227 together.

The Deputies may be aware that I have confirmed continued funding of nine national anti-poverty networks in the amount of €1.351 million annually, representing effectively a 5% increase in funding for the networks concerned, whose focus is on Travellers, unemployment, refugees, rural poverty, lone parents, older people and disabled people. This decision is in line with my Department's commitment, in the context of funding of the NAPNs, to focus on concentrating available resources on support for communities experiencing disadvantage, exclusion and isolation. I do not believe the community workers' co-operative meets this criterion. There is already a well-developed structure providing support to the sector and, accordingly, CWC funding as an anti-poverty network will be discontinued from 30 March 2005.

This decision is taken in the context of existing substantial funding by the Department of six regional support agencies, amounting to €2.3 million; 38 partnership companies, amounting to €45.7 million; 185 community development projects, amounting to €20.1 million; and, under the White Paper, 69 networks and federations, including the NAPNs, amounting to €4.2 million. Funding of community workers co-operative projects in the amount of €358,413 under the PEACE programme is not affected by this decision.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

225 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the next round of applications for funding from the dormant accounts fund will open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2667/05]

The Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill 2004 was published on 24 June 2004 fulfilling a commitment by Government in December last following its review of arrangements in regard to dormant accounts funding. The Bill is currently before the Oireachtas and provides, inter alia, for significant changes to the disbursement process. Subject to the timing of its enactment, a round of applications for funding may be anticipated during 2005.

Questions Nos. 226 and 227 answered with Question No. 216.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

228 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount which has been distributed to date under the dormant accounts funds; the amount which has been given to agencies or organisations (details supplied); the date they were given in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2731/05]

Decisions on the disbursement of funds from dormant accounts moneys are currently a matter for the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board, an independent body established under the Dormant Accounts Acts. In June 2004, the Government announced an increase, from €30 million to €60 million, in the overall amount that the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board may spend under the initial round of funding.

The board has engaged Area Development Management Limited to administer this initial round of funding on its behalf and the process of assessing and approving applications received is ongoing. Up to the end of December 2004, the board had approved 420 projects for funding, totalling approximately €42 million. Between October and December alone, the board approved 290 projects, totalling approximately €30 million.

The details of all the approvals to date, including the names of the individual organisations and the specific grant amounts are appended for the Deputy's information. I will arrange for a list of these approvals, sorted and summarised in county order, to be forwarded to the Deputy this week.

The draw-down of funding is subject to the satisfactory completion of legal contracts between the individual groups and the board. As part of this process, groups are required to submit necessary documentation, such as agreed budgets, tax clearance certificates and evidence of insurance, to ADM before payments are actually made. I understand that, to date, approximately €1.5 million has been paid by ADM to organisations approved for funding.

Group/Organisation

Grant (€)

Donegal Youth Information Centre

37,450.00

Clonmel Borough Council/SEHB

7,449.38

Clonmel Borough Council

74,431.03

Cloyne Diocesan Youth Service

131,000.00

Eiri Corca Baiscinn

47,000.00

North & West Connemara Rural Project Ltd.

120,200.00

St. Laurence O’Toole GAA Club

170,000.00

St. Olivers Community Management Committee

6,068.00

Mayfield Community Adult Learning Project

7,874.00

Avondhu Dev. Group Ltd.

147,299.00

Clonmel Borough Council

3,375.90

EIRI Corca Baiscinn, Kilkee, Co. Clare

58,000.00

Ballyfermot Youth Services, Dublin 10

34,000.00

Labre Park After Schools Programme, Ballyfermot, Dublin 8

158,920.00

FACT Ballincollig Family Resource Centre Ltd., Co. Cork

60,000.00

Nagle Centre, Slievekeale Rd., Waterford

89,578.00

Knockanrawley Resource Centre Ltd., Tipperary Town

110,000.00

St. Saviours National School, Ballybeg, Waterford

35,636.00

Ferns Diocesan Youth Service, Francis St., Wexford

53,601.00

Youth New Ross, Co. Wexford

121,565.00

Waterford Pathways, Manor St., Waterford

30,500.00

Kerry Diocesan Youth Service (KDYS, Tralee)

32,500.00

Drogheda Youth Development, Co. Louth

167,920.00

Barnardos Carlow Family Support Project

19,000.00

Athy Youth Project, Co. Kildare

58,775.00

Athy Travellers’ Club, Co. Kildare

50,420.00

Wexford Education Network

149,616.00

Clare Youth Service, Ennis, Co. Clare

78,828.00

Blanchardstown Travellers Support Group, Dublin 15

106,300.00

Little Bray Family Resource Centre, Co. Wicklow

75,288.00

Tallaght Intercultural Action, Dublin 24

130,000.00

Dillon’s Cross/Post Release Project, Cork

34,133.00

Ballymun Job Centre, Dublin 11

79,127.00

Community Women’s Education Initiative Ltd, Lr John Street, Cork

24,726.00

Barnardos Childrens Services Dublin North, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15

80,000.00

Blakestown and Mountview Youth Initiative, Clonsilla, Dublin 15

78,742.00

Dolphin House Community Development Association, Rialto, Dublin 8

118,000.00

Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service, Dublin 17

84,000.00

Dublin Aids Alliance (DAA) Ltd, Parnell Sq., Dublin 1

41,000.00

Larkin/ Shelbourne Project, Dublin 1

100,000.00

Fettercairn Youth Horse Programme, Tallaght, Dublin 24

184,314.00

St. Andrew’s Resource Centre, Pearse St., Dublin 2

125,200.00

Mellow Springs Childcare Dev, Finglas, Dublin 11

85,790.00

O’Devaney Gardens Forum, Dublin 7

66,943.00

Youth Horizons, Dublin 24

45,000.00

Loreto Centre, Dublin 12

48,148.00

Dime Project Advisory Committee, Dublin 1

135,318.00

Fingal ICTU Centre for the Unemployed, Finglas, Dublin 11

100,878.00

Adventure Sport Project, Dublin 1

113,680.00

St. Vincent de Paul, Cork

20,000.00

Gateway Project, Dublin 7

6,900.00

Irish Traveller Movement, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

129,510.00

Board of Management of Ballyspillane Community and Family Resource Centre, Killarney, Co Kerry

20,000.00

Tramore YDP — Foroige, Co. Waterford

161,625.00

Kildare Youth Services (Curragh Youth Project)

81,226.00

Rosemount Community Dev Group, Dublin 14

50,974.00

Taghmon Action Group, Co. Wexford

70,000.00

Family-School-Community Educational Disadvantage Partnership, Limerick

331,396.00

Families and Schools Together, Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin 24

77,245.00

National College of Ireland, Mayor St., Dublin 1

33,950.00

St. Peter Apostle JNS, Clondalkin, Dublin 22

41,000.00

TOFE Program (School Completion Prog), Dublin 15

37,600.00

Learning Through Arts Scholarship Programme, Dublin 1

91,000.00

Our Lady Immaculate Junior National School, Darndale, Dublin 17

10,000.00

Castlecomer Community School, Co. Kilkenny

147,640.00

Tralee Learning Together Network

137,500.00

Drogheda Northside Partnership (DNCP), Co. Louth

41,000.00

The Glen CDP, Cork

6,000.00

The Larkin Centre, 57-58 North Strand Road, Dublin 3

147,700.00

Ronanstown CDP/Womens Ed Forum, Clondalkin, Dublin 22

79,670.00

North Clondalkin CDP/Campus

47,712.00

Co-Operation Fingal, Co. Dublin

66,000.00

Borrisokane Area Network Development Co., Co. Tipperary

3,000.00

Borrisokane AND Company Ltd, Co. Tipperary

17,687.00

Wicklow Working Together Ltd.

22,500.00

City of Galway VEC

20,214.00

Literacy Service, Co. Westmeath VEC

116,000.00

Junior Certificate School Programme Demonstration Library Project, Dublin 12

113,500.00

Scoil na Croise Naofa, Mahon, Co. Cork

10,000.00

TASS (Target After School Service), Drogheda

122,750.00

Tallaght Volunteer Bureau, Dublin 24

46,762.00

Frenchpark & Districts Childcare, Roscommon

190,000.00

Inishowen Women’s Information Network, Lifford, Co Donegal

100,000.00

Bedford Row Family Centre, Limerick City

70,941.00

Tralee Town Council

175,000.00

The Glen CDP, Cork

67,637.00

South Westmeath Literacy Scheme, Athlone

17,500.00

Mountmellick Development Association

60,332.60

St. Paul’s Scout Unit, Lisduggan, Waterford

95,000.00

Foroige/Cootehill/Ballybay Adolescent Friendly Health Project

178,313.00

West Dublin YMCA

127,850.00

National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA)

123,225.00

North Tipperary VEC

182,000.00

ASSET

100,000.00

St. Bernadette’s Pre-School for Travelling Children

9,900.00

IRD Duhallow Youth & Education Group

100,000.00

Step by Step Child and Family Project

3,000.00

The BLOCK Project

90,125.00

Blackwater Community School/Lismore GAA

123,684.00

Second Chance Education Project for Women

68,436.00

South Kerry Development Partnership

18,000.00

Kilrush Family Resource Centre Ltd

75,000.00

Family Supports — Breakfast Club BAP

11,431.00

De La Salle College

51,000.00

Holy Family BNS Board of Management

12,450.00

City of Galway VEC

63,620.00

Westside Community Development Resource Centre Ltd

14,000.00

Cuan Mhuire

297,206.00

Galway City and County Childcare Committee

90,000.00

St. Mary’s Community Adult Education Committee

86,145.00

Board of Management (Swinford National School)

32,422.00

South Kerry Development Partnership

44,940.00

Tuam Travellers Education

238,480.00

Tipperary Community Hostel Project Ltd

300,000.00

Northside Partnership

235,000.00

Accessible Community Transport Southside Ltd

25,000.00

Walkinstown Association for Handicapped People Ltd

20,000.00

National Training and Development Institute

82,246.00

Laois Sports Partnership Ltd

35,000.00

National Council for the Blind of Ireland

636,000.00

Dun Laoghaire VEC

94,400.00

Duneske Leisure Limited

104,491.00

Cahir Development Association Ltd

70,000.00

Bodywhys

91,659.00

St. Loman’s Mental Health Association

31,195.00

Western Care Association

140,000.00

Western Care Association

69,000.00

Autism Service

59,200.00

Camphill Communities of Ireland

360,000.00

CoAction West Cork Ltd.

93,735.00

Irish Progressive Association for Autism

5,600.00

Greater Blanchardstown Development Project

46,257.00

Ballywaltrim Community Centre Ltd.

786,538.00

Dundalk Town Council

40,500.00

Dundalk Town Council

41,000.00

Hope House

400,000.00

Avondhu Development Group Ltd.

28,014.00

Leitrim Gaels Community Development Ltd.

367,000.00

St. Brendan’s Park FC

114,760.00

Ballyforan Community Hall

20,000.00

Cúnamh Energy Action Ltd.

18,612.00

Longmeadows Pitch and Putt Company

174,000.00

Clondalkin Local Employment Service (CLES)

24,675.00

Achill Scouting 22nd Unit — Mayo

38,373.00

Voice of Older People — County Donegal

54,000.00

Cork Simon Community

274,382.00

Ennis Town Council

17,479.00

Aisling Group/Bradan Day Programme

112,000.00

St. Paul’s Youth Club

50,000.00

St. Monica’s Youth Centre

35,000.00

Glen Resource and Sports Centre Ltd.

75,890.00

Dromcollogher & District Respite Care Centre

120,000.00

Our Ladies of Victories Youth Centre

20,000.00

St. Teresa’s Boys/Girls Football Club

42,000.00

37th Cork Togher Scout Group

14,000.00

Valentia Community Health and Welfare Association Ltd.

100,000.00

Kilbarrack CDP

10,000.00

Community Care of the Elderly

17,000.00

Ballyfarnon Community Enterprise Group Ltd.

28,851.00

The Carer’s Association

10,000.00

Inch Community Council

20,000.00

Waterford Regional Youth Service

400,000.00

Portumna Social Services Committee

32,000.00

Inishowen Partnership Company

62,124.00

Adapt Kerry Ltd., T/A Kerry Refuge Support Services

874,692.00

Kilteevan Community Development Group

310,550.00

Dublin City Council

72,000.00

Limerick City Council

55,495.00

An Síol Community Development Project

40,895.00

Men’s Development Network

120,000.00

Farranaree Family Resource Centre

31,500.00

Ballyfermot Travellers Action Project

60,100.00

South End Community Action Team (SECAT)

149,500.00

St. Mary’s Senior Citizens Club, Knocknaheeny

180,000.00

Midlands Regional Youth Service

46,230.00

Cork Campus Radio 97.4 FM

3,500.00

Kiltyclogher Community Council

29,050.00

The Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice

100,000.00

Athy Town Council

70,838.00

Donore Harriers

132,059.00

Easkey Community Council Ltd.

120,000.00

Scouting Ireland

22,297.00

National Suicide Research Foundation

84,140.00

Galway City Health Forum

83,000.00

Glengariff Playground Development Ltd

58,553.00

Glenfinn Area Council

450,000.00

Order of Malta Ambulance Corps

300,000.00

Tolka River Project Ltd

10,645.00

Tallaght Centre for the Unemployed Ltd

125,000.00

Sisters of Our Lady of Charity Residential Hostel

100,000.00

Avoca Aftercare Project Ltd

400,000.00

Crosscare Aftercare Support Unit, Dublin 7

103,000.00

Youghal Youth Committee (Foroige), Co. Cork

130,000.00

Mayfield Employment Action Project Ltd., Old Youghal Road, Co. Cork

5,231.00

Tallaght West Education Support Forum, Dublin 24

52,300.00

National Adult Literacy Agency, Dublin 1

69,555.00

Co. Wexford Community Workshop, Enniscorthy

250,000.00

Irish Rural Link, Moate, Co. Westmeath

45,109.61

Wexford Borough Council

160,000.00

Mallow Daycare Centre, Cork

6,029.75

Tralee Community Development Project Ltd., Kerry

199,912.05

Monsignor McCarthy Steering Committee, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

110,300.00

Merchants Quay Project, Dublin 8

157,709.00

Leitrim County Council

40,000.00

Sligo County Council

117,800.00

North Cork Adult Basic Education Service, Mallow

49,331.00

Collinstown Park School Completion Programme

71,500.00

Galway Rural Development

430,000.00

The Autistic Outreach Unit

20,000.00

The Linkup Project

24,000.00

The Alzheimers Society of Ireland

25,000.00

Bantry Integrated Development Group

327,000.00

Mountwood Fitzgerald Park Community Development Project

127,500.00

Longford Women’s Link, Ardnacassa Ave, Longford.

84,272.00

Kerry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre

95,800.00

Clonliffe and Croke Park Community Hall

15,000.00

Beacon of Light Counselling Centre

80,000.00

Sligo Borough Council

203,280.00

Co. Roscommon Higher Education Centre

104,000.00

KDYS Youth Centre, Kerry

154,357.00

Futurama Out of School Transition Initiative, Dublin

190,000.00

Emotional Behavioural Difficulties Project, Dublin 22

141,358.00

City of Limerick VEC Adult Education Service

249,540.00

Vocational School Abbeyfeale, Limerick

9,600.00

Ballyowens Meadow School, Stillorgin, Dublin

50,000.00

The Swan Group, Sligo

3,053.00

AWARE, Dublin 2

141,000.00

Our Lady of Lourdes Community Services Group, Limerick

122,772.00

Clonmel Celtic Football Club, Tipperary

49,000.00

Waterford City Council

200,000.00

Cavan County Council

278,210.00

Ennis Town Council, Clare

278,764.79

County Leitrim Partnership Ltd.

73,991.00

Clondalkin Community Health Initiative, Dublin 22

133,230.00

Northside Partnership

331,000.00

Tír na nÓg Pre-School for Travelling Children, Ballyfermot, Dublin 10

111,700.00

St. Fergals Resource Centre, Bray, Co. Wicklow

75,288.00

The Shanty Educational Project Ltd, Tallaght, Dublin 24

62,346.00

St. Teresa’s Gardens Environment and Employment Project, Dublin 8

7,741.00

Dublin CABAS School Parent Group, Kilbarrack, Dublin 5

49,884.00

Pathways Through Education Community Links Programme, Dublin 1

212,571.00

Mary Queen of Angels, Ballyfermot, Dublin 10

102,173.00

The Web Project, Taylors Lane, Dublin 16

17,000.00

Togher Family Centre After Schools Activity Programme, Togher, Cork City

29,620.00

Coláiste Eoin Secondary School/Co Cork VEC, Youghal, Co Cork

50,852.00

Bray Adult Learning Centre, Co Wicklow VEC Adult Education Service, Co Wicklow

78,740.00

Inishowen Partnership Company, Buncrana, Co. Donegal

6,000.00

Educational Disadvantage Centre, Drumcondra, Dublin 9

158,158.00

Cherry Orchard Equine, Education and Training Centre, Ballyfermot, Dublin 10

297,400.00

Parkside Community Development Project Ltd, Ballina, Co. Mayo

10,500.00

Kilbarrack CDP, Children’s Centre, Dublin 5

3,000.00

Board of Management St. John’s and St. Paul’s NS, Co. Louth

104,700.00

Board of Management, Scoil Phadraig Naofa, Athy, Co. Kildare

41,000.00

The Blue Box Creative Learning Centre, Limerick City

71,500.00

Comhlamh, The Irish Association of Development Workers, Dublin 2

20,000.00

St. Peter Apostle SNS, Clondalkin, Dublin 22

20,000.00

ABAILE, Co. Louth

54,894.00

WESLIN — Waterford Early School Leaving Integrated Network, Waterford City

90,579.00

NWHB, Barrack St., Sligo Town

63,251.00

Kerry Education Service, Tralee, Co. Kerry

144,000.00

Ballinasloe Community Resources Ltd, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway

53,000.00

Beara Youth Development Project (YDP) — Foroige, Castletownbere, Co. Cork

108,000.00

Global Action Plan, Dublin 9

40,000.00

Huntingtons Disease Association of Ireland, Dublin 7

3,536.00

KARE, Co. Kildare

194,000.00

Delta Centre Ltd., Carlow Town

200,000.00

Co-operation Fingal, Balbriggan, Co. Dublin

171,616.00

ROSEQUAL Ltd., Roscommon Town

21,374.00

Walkinstown Association for Handicapped People Ltd., Dublin 12

8,800.00

Walkinstown Association for Handicapped People Ltd., Dublin 12

50,000.00

Disability Federation of Ireland, Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8

79,850.00

Avondhu Development Group Ltd., Mallow, Co. Cork

20,777.00

Employ Ability Ltd., Old Naas Road, Dublin 12

144,830.00

Mental Health Ireland, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin

97,576.00

Spinal Injuries Action Association, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin

66,312.00

Kilcannon Industries Limited, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford

250,000.00

Ballincollig Child and Family Clinic, Ballincollig, Co. Cork

10,234.00

Waterford Befriending Project, Tramore, Co. Waterford

60,000.00

St. Mary’s Hall Committee, Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim

20,000.00

Aspire, the Asperger Syndrome Association of Ireland, Dublin 7

22,200.00

Service Users Forum-South East Region, Kilkenny City

34,000.00

Schizophrenia Ireland, Dublin 7

30,500.00

Myasthenia Gravis Association, Ennis, Co. Clare

6,000.00

Kilrush Family Resource Centre Ltd., Kilrush, Co. Clare

21,000.00

Walkinstown Association for Handicapped People Ltd., Dublin 12

10,000.00

Board of Management, Our Lady of Good Counsel Special School, Ballincollig, Co. Cork

17,902.00

Cneasta, Buncrana, Co. Donegal

52,500.00

Brothers of Charity Services, Limerick Region, Limerick

60,599.00

North Western Health Board Assistive Technology Unit, Sligo Town

112,000.00

Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, Celbridge, Co. Kildare

167,336.00

The Royal Hospital Donnybrook, Dublin 4

78,555.00

Hazel Day Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15

22,700.00

AHEAD Association for Higher Education Access and Disability, Dublin 2

123,500.00

Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, Co. Kildare

300,000.00

Ballyduff National School, Kilmeaden, Co. Waterford

21,000.00

Aiséirí Treatment Centre, Cahir, Co. Tipperary

47,000.00

Brothers of Charity Services, Roscommon Town

7,500.00

RehabCare, Sandymount, Dublin 4

45,277.00

Easi Access Transport Ltd., Bray, Co. Wicklow

129,894.00

Lucan Disability Action Group Ltd., Lucan, Co. Dublin

22,900.00

Togher Family Centre, Togher, Co. Cork

3,447.00

Ability Enterprises Ltd, Ballindine, Co. Mayo

41,441.00

North West Parents and Friends, Sligo Town

110,000.00

Brothers of Charity Services, Roscommon, Roscommon Town

161,862.00

Marian Centre Special School, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

60,000.00

Avondhu Development Group, Mallow, Co. Cork

36,663.00

Cluain Training and Enterprise Centre Ltd., Clonmel, Co. Tipperary

88,237.00

Blue Teapot Theatre Company, Renmore, Co. Galway

45,722.00

The Royal Hospital Donnybrook Voluntary Housing Association Ltd., Ranelagh, Dublin 6

11,117.00

Irish Wheelchair Association and National Council for the Blind of Ireland, Clane, Co. Kildare

211,800.00

County Wexford Community Workshop (Enniscorthy) Limited, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford

115,000.00

Western Care Association, Castlebar, Co. Mayo

70,000.00

Childhood Days for Children with Learning Disability Ltd., Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim

24,826.00

Longford Dyslexia Association, Ballinalee, Co. Longford

10,000.00

The Royal Hospital Donnybrook Voluntary Housing Association Ltd., Ranelagh, Dublin 6

34,340.00

Alzheimer Society of Ireland, Blackrock Branch, 34 Northumberland Ave., Dun Laoghaire

2,277,171.00

Peamount Hospital, Newcastle, Co. Dublin

783,000.00

Senior Citizens Social Housing Unit Beaufort, Dun Laoghaire

3,500.00

Kerry Adolescent Counselling Service, Tralee, Co. Kerry

35,000.00

The Midland Health Board Steering Group on Suicide, Portlaoise, Co. Laois

14,264.00

SAOL, Dublin 1

105,500.00

Loughlinstown Community Rooms, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin

20,247.00

Ogra Chorcai Ltd., Cork City

200,775.00

Smashing Times Theatre Company Ltd., Dublin 7

79,990.00

Common Ground Ltd.,10 Grattan Crescent, Dublin 8

32,333.00

Comhar Chathair Chorcaí, Mallow Rd., Cork City

10,750.00

Dominican Day Centre for Senior Citizens, Dublin 1

10,696.00

Galway Rape Crisis Centre, Galway City

81,879.00

Mulhuddart Resource Centre, Dublin 15

2,500.00

Mulhuddart Corduff Community Drug Team, Dublin 15

13,080.00

Vista Community Development Project, Dublin 8

8,000.00

CANDO Ltd., Dublin Rd., Carlow Town

6,000.00

Mountview Senior Citizens Support Group, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15

15,000.00

Streetline Ltd., Dublin 1

25,000.00

West Cork Carers Support Group Ltd., Bantry, Co. Cork

81,580.00

TRAIL, Dublin 1

80,000.00

Samaritans, 112 Marlborough St., Dublin 1

97,998.00

Dublin Simon Community, Dublin1

160,885.00

The National Network of Women’s Refuges and Support Services, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

45,000.00

Longford Community Resources Ltd., Longford Town

150,376.00

Youth Projects Network, Dublin North-East Inner City, Dublin 3

39,900.00

Killinarden Drug Primary Prevention Group, Tallaght, Dublin 24

40,000.00

Finglas Cabra Partnership/Finglas RAPID Programme, Finglas, Dublin 11

107,865.00

Ballinasloe Social Services Ltd., Ballinasloe, Co. Galway

25,846.00

Kerry Respite Care Ltd., Co. Kerry

118,987.00

Finglas Sports Development Group, Finglas West, Dublin 11

26,160.00

Southern Health Board, Tralee, Co. Kerry

7,500.00

Leenane Development Association, Leenane, Co. Galway

7,040.00

Drogheda Borough Council, Drogheda, Co. Louth

18,000.00

Catherine McAuley Centre, Dublin 2

68,208.00

ADAPT (Limerick), Limerick City

285,000.00

An Síol Senior Citizens Project, Dublin 7

38,000.00

The Traveller Visibilty Group, The Glen, Cork City

5,580.00

Franciscan Social Justice Initiatives, Dublin 8

93,541.00

Longford Community Resources Ltd., Longford Town

110,354.00

Carrick-on-Suir Neighbourhood Youth Project, Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary

89,561.00

St. Brendan’s The Glen Snr. Citizens, Cork City

30,000.00

Carrick-on-Shannon Active Age Group, Co. Leitrim

5,882.00

Watergate Muintir Community Council, Limerick City

71,600.00

Awareness Education Office, Dublin 7

105,500.00

Whitefriar Street Community Education & Development Project, Dublin 2

4,350.00

Cairde, Dublin 1

76,072.00

Galway Refugee Support Group, Headford Road, Galway City

82,710.00

Mulhuddart Lifestart, Dublin 15

70,090.00

Dublin North East Community Communications Co-Operative, Bunratty Road, Dublin 17

126,000.00

Dóchas Family Centre, Clondalkin, Dublin 22

200,000.00

After Care Recovery Group Ltd., Dublin 1

28,653.00

Adrigole Family Resource Centre, Beara, Co. Cork

7,200.00

2nd Galway Tuam Scouts SI, Co. Galway

110,000.00

Togher Wednesday Social Group, Co. Cork

4,000.00

Little Bray Family Resource Centre, Bray, Co. Wicklow

62,940.00

Kerry Suicide Support Group, Castleisland, Co. Kerry

42,000.00

Foroige, Rockwood Parade ,Sligo Town

101,280.00

Carlow Regional Youth Services Ltd., Carlow Town

64,699.00

Corduff Community Resource Centre, Corduff, Dublin 15

30,000.00

Cork Threshold Housing Advice Service

174,303.00

Millennium Holiday Home Project

17,500.00

Catholic Youth Care/Bray Outdoor Pursuits Project, Bray, Co. Wicklow

78,150.00

MAAN Group, Dublin 22

162,500.00

Neighbourhood Youth Project, Castlerea, Co. Roscommon

10,000.00

Tallaght Homeless Advice Unit, Tallaght, Dublin 24

155,000.00

Tallaght Homeless Advice Unit, Tallaght, Dublin 24

90,658.00

Parasuicide Intervention Study Group, Wilton, Cork City

96,900.00

Kerry Diocesan Youth Service (KDYS, Killarney), Killarney, Co. Kerry

120,000.00

Doras Luimní, South Circular Rd., Limerick City

41,754.00

Socially Inclusive Health Centre — SWAHB, Dublin 12

130,500.00

Ana Liffey Drug Project, Dublin 1

35,000.00

Dublin 15 Playground Action Group, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15

26,800.00

Blakestown Community Resource Centre, Blakestown, Dublin 15

134,000.00

Farranree Alcohol and Drugs Awareness Project, Farranree, Cork City

21,180.00

Ballybane/Mervue Community Development Project, Galway City

107,423.00

Cumas and Cairdeas, Clondalkin, Dublin 22

13,400.00

Bray Community Enterprise, Bray, Co Wicklow

55,600.00

Crumlin Sports Employment Project, Dublin 6W

60,000.00

Inishowen Partnership Company, Buncrana, Co. Donegal

4,500.00

St. Catherines Community Services Centre, Carlow Town

11,000.00

North Wall Womens Centre, Dublin 1

119,700.00

Ballymoe Development Centre Ltd., Galway City

60,000.00

Deora Project, Seville Place, Dublin1

45,000.00

Duhallow Carers Network, Mallow, Co. Cork

950.00

Loughlinstown Playgroup Development Group, Loughlinstown, Co. Dublin

51,250.00

Harmony Community Development Programme, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

110,151.00

Mahon Resource Centre Ltd., Cork City

141,205.00

Basement Project Trading as Mountwood Fitzgerald Park CDP, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin

300,000.00

Homeless Network, Cope Street, Dublin 2

132,492.00

Community After Schools Project (CASPr), Dublin 1

40,000.00

Mayfield Community Arts Centre Newbury House, Mayfield, Cork City

45,000.00

Mulranny Day Centre Housing Company Limited, Mulranny, Co. Mayo

152,310.00

Limerick Travellers Development Group, Limerick City

41,000.00

Vita House Family Centre, Roscommon Town

65,000.00

Bunratty Road Tenants Association, Coolock, Dublin 17

38,860.00

Hillside Club, Ballinalee, Co. Longford

1,000.00

Churchfield Community Trust, Cork City

172,520.00

Cope — Meals on Wheels, Tuam Road, Galway City

90,750.00

Sligo Northside Community Partnership Ltd., Sligo Town

129,010.00

Rahoon Family Centre, Galway

15,383.00

Roma Support Group, Dublin 1

65,000.00

Dublin Community Games, Dublin 7

70,000.00

Waterford Local Economic Development Co. Ltd., Kilbarry, Waterford

816,000.00

Gurranabraher Churchfield Development Group, Gurranabraher, Cork

485,000.00

Departmental Programmes.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

229 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of funding that has been distributed to each RAPID programme in towns (details supplied); what amount was budgeted for in each RAPID project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2732/05]

My Department, supported by ADM Limited, co-ordinates the implementation of the RAPID programme. It is, therefore, a matter for each of the other Departments to report details of funding for the proposals that fall within its remit.

My Department allocated funding to New Ross and Wexford under a number of co-funded schemes. Total funding of €40,000 was allocated to each town under the local authority housing estate enhancement scheme, which is co-funded with the local authorities. My Department also co-funded a playground scheme with the Department of Health and Children and total funding of €60,000 was allocated to each town for the development of new playgrounds. My Department also provided additional top-up funding to successful projects in RAPID areas under the sports capital programme 2004. Details of funding allocated are as follows:

New Ross AFC

5,800

Sarsfields GAA Club

10,823

Faythe Harriers GAA Club

7,500

The Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board allocated funding for the following projects in RAPID areas:

Youth Information Centre, New Ross

121,565

Ferns Diocesan Youth Service, Wexford

53,601

Wexford Education Network

149,616

Wexford Borough Council

160,000

Funding of €182,200 was provided by my Department to the Access 2000 CDP in Wexford town in December 2004. The grant was provided to purchase a premises.

Ministerial Appointments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

230 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of public appointments made in his Department since August 2004; the name of each appointee involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2742/05]

No non-Civil Service appointments have been made by me, in my Department, since August 2004.

Foras na Gaeilge.

Enda Kenny

Question:

231 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Kenny den Aire GnóthaíPobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an gcuirfidh sé tuilleadh airgid ar fáil do Fhoras na Gaeilge i leith na sároibre atá déanta ag Coiste Dúiche Mhaigh Eo ó thaobh fhorbairt na Gaeilge de, ó thaobh na gcúrsaí a cuireadh ar bun le tamall anuas; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [2794/05]

Tuigfidh an Teachta gur ceist d'Fhoras na Gaeilge féin cinntí a dhéanamh maidir le soláthar deontas, i gcomhréir leis an réimse reachtúil ina bhfeidhmíonn sé agus na pleananna gnó agus corparáide atá aige.

Mar eolas don Teachta, tuigtear dom go bhfuil Foras na Gaeilge tar éis scéim nua a aontú le Coiste Dúiche Mhaigh Eo don tréimhse 2005 go 2007 agus go bhfuil maoiniú de €144,554 ceadaithe don tréimhse sin.

Grant Payments.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

232 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Cork is entitled to the maximum forestry premium. [2876/05]

There was no change in forestry premium rates over the period referred to. However, the person in question is in receipt of the non-farmer rate of forestry premium, which is lower than that paid to applicants who qualify for the farmer rate of premium.

Freedom of Information.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

233 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the basis on which the seeking of the informal third party observations are conducted under the Freedom of Information Acts, such as that sought by phone on 7 October 2004 in a case (details supplied). [2351/05]

When considering the public interest, the FOI unit of my Department, in accordance with the guidance of the FOI central policy unit of the Department of Finance, advises all decision-makers to consult any third parties informally when deliberating over the release of records involving these parties.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

234 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will provide a copy of the record of the telephone conversation and any observations and reports sought by phone on 7 October 2004 in a case (details supplied) by the officer involved or any other officer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2352/05]

As the record referred to by the Deputy involves a private citizen, consideration of its release would require prior consultation with the person involved. As the Deputy will be aware, the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003 set out a procedure for the release of Departmental records, including records of the kind referred to by the Deputy.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

235 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of times in 2002, 2003 and 2004, respectively, on which her Department sought informal third-party observations by phone in respect of FOI requests or FOI internal reviews. [2353/05]

My Department does not keep records of the number of times in which informal third party observations are sought by phone in respect of FOI requests or FOI internal reviews.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

236 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reference number, date and a summary of each of the five outstanding forestry-related appeals with the Office of the Information Commissioner; and the date on which the commissioner first sought information from her Department or the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. [2354/05]

Details of the five outstanding forestry-related appeals with the Office of the Information Commissioner are as follows:

Dept. Ref. No.: FOI/135/2002

Summary of Request

Office of the Information Commissioner Ref. No.: 020523

Requester sought: copies of the annual report and accounts of 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001 in respect of each Christmas tree farm partnership between Coillte Teoranta and/or its subsidiaries and financial institutions and of their respective subsidiaries; copies of records showing the Department’s/Minister’s observations thereon, including correspondence to or from Coillte Teoranta and other parties.

Date of request: 7 August 2002

Date on which Information Commissioner first sought information from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources: 29 October 2002

Dept. Ref. No.: FOI/95/2002

Summary of Request

Office of the Information Commissioner Ref. No.: 020413

Requester sought: access to non-personal records showing when the Minister or Department first became aware of the problems which led to a write-off of approximately €2 million of Christmas tree farm assets by Coillte Teoranta; copies of records showing the Department’s/Minister’s observations on the problem, including correspondence to or from Coillte Teoranta and other parties.

Date of request: 4 June 2002

Date on which Information Commissioner first sought information from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources: 14 August 2002

Dept. Ref. No.: FOI/141/2001

Summary of Request

Office of the Information Commissioner Ref. No.: 010354

Requester sought copies of records concerning the manner in which Coillte Teoranta has accounted for transactions with the Irish Forestry Unit Trust, IFUT.

Date of request: 12 July 2001

Date on which Information Commissioner first sought information from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources: 31 January 2002

Dept. Ref. No.: FOI/23/2001

Summary of Request

Office of the Information Commissioner Ref. No.: 010140

Requester sought records about a commercial wood in Whitefield, Beaufort, County Kerry.

Date of request: 30 December 2000

Date on which Information Commissioner first sought information from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources: 25 October 2001

Dept. Ref. No.: FOI/14/2001

Summary of Request

Office of the Information Commissioner Ref. No.: 010181

Requester sought copies of Department of Communication, Marine and Natural Resources records on its past, present and proposed future involvement in the millennium forest project.

Date of request: 17 January 2001

Date on which Information Commissioner first sought information from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources: 18 February 2002

Trevor Sargent

Question:

237 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reference number of the forestry-related FOI appeals in respect of which her Department is awaiting receipt from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources of two sets of records. [2355/05]

The information requested by this Deputy is as follows:

Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Ref. Nos.

Information Commissioner’s Ref. Nos.

Appeal 1

FOI/14/2001

010181

Appeal 2

FOI/23/2001

010140

I understand that the Office of the Information Commissioner has been directly provided by that Department with copies of all the records relevant to these appeals.

Bovine Disease Controls.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

238 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if P1230873 is a valid herd number; if it was allocated to a person (details supplied) or any other person; and the reason the number P1230873 and the phrase containing this person’s name appears on a record. [2356/05]

According to my Department's records, P1230873 is a valid herd number. It is registered in the name of the spouse of the person named. This record, which was disclosed under an FOI request, was part of a forestry grant and premium application by a person who purchased land from the person named. It would appear that the herd number and the phrase were inserted on the application by the person completing the application form. I am not aware of the reason for this.

Grant Payments.

John McGuinness

Question:

239 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an appeal in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny relative to payments under the REP scheme will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2357/05]

The person named reduced the size of his holding and a penalty was imposed on him in November last. He appealed the penalty directly to the Agriculture Appeals Office. At the request of the appeals office, my Department is reviewing the penalty. My Department will shortly convey its decision to the appeals office, which will make a final determination. The Agriculture Appeals Office is statutorily independent of my Department.

Bovine Diseases.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

240 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a bounty is available to farmers for killing badgers; if there is a licence available to farmers to cull badgers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2358/05]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

241 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if pilot schemes of badger culling have been introduced here to combat the spread of tuberculosis in cattle; the number of badgers killed to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2359/05]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

242 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of badgers culled in the interests of eradicating bovine tuberculosis; the methods of killing used; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2360/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 to 242, inclusive, together.

Various scientific investigations into the role of badgers in the spread of bovine TB have concluded that there is a link between infected badgers and the transmission and spread of the disease. The first study of the effect of the removal of badgers on the incidence of bovine TB took place in east Offaly in the 1980s and early 1990s and demonstrated that the removal of badgers resulted in a substantial reduction of TB in the bovine herd. A more recent study was undertaken by the Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis, CVERA, on behalf of my Department and confirmed the findings of the east Offaly study. This study compared the incidence of TB in cattle in four areas — removal areas — where badgers were removed and in four other areas — comprising the reference area — where badger disturbance was minimal. The study also made comparisons with the incidence in the areas in the pre-study period. The study revealed that the removal of badgers resulted in a very significant decline in the incidence of TB in the cattle herd in the removal areas between the pre-study period and the study period, particularly in the final two years of the latter period, and by comparison with the reference areas. For example, the total number of confirmed cases in the removal areas was almost 60% lower in the study period than in the pre-study period. For the reference areas, there was little difference compared with the national trend in the incidence of the disease in the two periods.

Currently, my Department undertakes badger removals under arrangements agreed with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Under these arrangements, where an epidemiological investigation rules out other immediate causes as the source of TB and where evidence of badger activity on the holding has been found, a Department veterinary inspector may make an application for a badger capture licence to the National Parks and Wildlife Service. A condition of the licence is that constraints be checked at least once every 24 hours. In my Department's wildlife programme, the protocols for removing badgers include this condition. The badgers are killed by trained farm relief service employees using a 0.22 in. rifle. All badgers removed undergo post mortem examination for evidence of TB and some are submitted for pathological tests. There is no bounty available to farmers for killing badgers. Issuing of the licences to cull badgers is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Over the past four years, some 16,400 badgers have been culled under the Department’s research programme.

My Department is satisfied that its current badger removal policy is justified and has contributed to the decline in the number of TB reactors and the costs associated with bovine TB.

Grant Payments.

Michael Noonan

Question:

243 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a REP scheme payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [2361/05]

The application from the person named was received in my Department on 3 December last and is being processed in accordance with the targets set out in the protocol on direct payments to farmers.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

244 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will receive details of their single payment entitlement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2362/05]

A certificate of provisional entitlements under the single payment scheme was issued to the person named on 8 October 2004. The statement included a detailed breakdown of how the provisional entitlements were calculated.

Farmers who are not satisfied with their provisional entitlement statement may seek a review on a form which is available from all local offices of my Department and from my Department's website. To date, a review form has not been received from the person named. If the statement issued on 8 October 2004 was not received by the person named, a copy can be provided. Officials of my Department will contact the person named in this regard.

Proposed Legislation.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

245 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she plans to introduce legislation to allow the Garda to police activities such as motorbike scrambling on Coillte lands; and if so, when. [2394/05]

Coillte Teoranta was established as a private commercial company under the Forestry Act 1988, and day-to-day operational matters are the responsibility of the company. Coillte is aware of the problem referred to by the Deputy. It has not yet approached my Department directly on the issue but I understand that it is examining the matter.

Grant Payments.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

246 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a brucellosis grant of £300 will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Cavan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2452/05]

The local district veterinary office is not in a position to process this payment until required documentation, which was forwarded to the person concerned, has been completed and returned to the local office. The office will contact the person concerned directly and advise him again of these requirements.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

James Breen

Question:

247 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the opinion that there are serious flaws in the farm retirement scheme; her further views on whether farmers who retire due to ill health and lease their holdings, if their circumstances changed, should be entitled to all their entitlements when they resume farming; her further views on whether a farm leased to a family member is penalised; the reason her Department did not honour their contracts; the number of acres of land which are without quota. [2506/05]

Both schemes of early retirement from farming are governed by EU regulations and my Department must implement the schemes in accordance with the provisions of those regulations.

It is a requirement of the schemes of early retirement that participants, whether they join the scheme because of ill health or for other reasons, must never return to farming. If a retired farmer wanted to return to farming, he or she would have to repay the full value of the pension payments received under the scheme of early retirement.

As regards entitlements under the single payment scheme, farmers who joined the 1994 early retirement scheme, which closed to new applications in December 1999, did not farm during the reference period and cannot establish entitlements under the scheme. Where they transferred their holdings by lease, it was the transferees who were actively farming during the reference years and it is they who will have entitlements established for them. Entitlements are attached to the farmer who was actively farming during the reference period, not to the land. If the land was leased to a family member during the reference period, that family member will activate the entitlements in the same way as someone who is not a family member.

During the course of negotiations with the European Commission on the single payment scheme, Ireland secured agreement to an arrangement that will benefit family members or others who now take over holdings that were farmed by third parties who had leased them during the reference period. Farmers who take over such holdings, by transfer free of charge or by a lease of five or more years at a nominal amount, may apply to the national reserve for payment entitlements under the single payment scheme.

Participants in the current early retirement scheme launched in November 2000 who farmed during part or all of the reference period, will have entitlements in their own right and can, before 15 May 2005, use — subject to the agreement of both parties — the private contract clause to lease these entitlements to the young farmer who holds the lease of their land under the early retirement scheme. In such circumstances, the retired farmer must establish the entitlements in 2005 on a special form provided by the Department. The qualifying young farmer may or may not have entitlements and land in his or her own right.

The Department implements the schemes in accordance with the governing EU regulations and payment of pensions will be made to participants provided they continue to meet the conditions of the schemes. If individual retired farmers have difficulty, for example, in renewing leases or finding a replacement eligible farmer to take their land, and can provide proof of this, my Department will consider sympathetically any request for an extension of the four months that are allowed to them to complete these transactions.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

248 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding a REP scheme application by a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2507/05]

Payment issued to the person named on 24 January.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

249 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the maximum rate possible under the second early retirement scheme, governed by Council Regulation No. 1257/1999; if the Government is paying this maximum rate; if not, the reason therefor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2521/05]

Council Regulation No. 1257/1999, which governs the early retirement scheme introduced in November 2000, provides for a maximum yearly pension of €15,000 subject to an overall maximum payment of €150,000. My Department's proposals for the scheme, which is one of the measures in the CAP rural development plan for the period 2000 to 2006, included provision for annual increases in pension over the period of the plan. The European Commission rejected this proposal and insisted that a fixed rate be set instead. My Department then proposed a rate that was the average of the scale initially proposed. This was acceptable to the Commission and a maximum rate of €13,515 is provided for in the scheme. Any change in the rate of payment would require a formal amendment to the CAP rural development plan and, if approved, could not be made retrospectively. Any increase granted would not benefit existing participants in the early retirement scheme which commenced in 2000, ERS2. It would be limited to new entrants.

Veterinary Medicines.

Denis Naughten

Question:

250 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food, further to Question No. 162 of 16 December 2004, the reasons for her stated intention not to extend prescribing rights for veterinary medicines to pharmacists and other suitably qualified personnel; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2527/05]

The existing distribution regime for veterinary medicines provided for under Regulation No. 13 of the Animal Remedies Regulations 1996 provides for a hierarchy of designated routes of supply ranging from those which may only be supplied and administered by a veterinary practitioner to those which may be supplied, without prescription, by the "licensed merchant" category.

Under the package of changes I propose to make to the legislation, this hierarchy will remain broadly in place with the result that medicines categorised by the Irish Medicines Board as not requiring a veterinary prescription can continue to be sold, as appropriate, by pharmacists and licensed merchants without the need to involve a veterinary practitioner. However, medicines which are designated "prescription-only" by the Irish Medicines Board on the basis that veterinary intervention is necessary before a decision is reached on use will continue to require a prescription from a veterinary practitioner. In this regard, I believe that, having regard to the overall balance of the "package", it would be inconsistent with the current concept of "prescription-only" to permit non-veterinarians to prescribe medicines. The Deputy will be aware from my reply of 16 December 2004 that I propose to make the prescription regime itself more effective and workable by removing some of the inflexibility in terms of having to clinically examine an animal at the time of each prescription and by extending the range of outlets that may supply on foot of a veterinary prescription.

Questions Nos. 251 and 252 withdrawn.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

John McGuinness

Question:

253 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans regarding the growing number of farmers who entered the early retirement scheme who will lose their farm entitlements due to the decoupling arrangements; if she plans to restore their entitlements before or at the end of the retirement scheme either for them or a family member to restore value to the farm and compensate for the fact that the current changes and details were not known to those who entered the retirement scheme at that time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2698/05]

My Department has been aware, from an early stage in the negotiations on the Agenda 2000 single payment scheme, introduced by way of Council Regulation EC 1782/2003, that it had potential implications for farmers who had joined one or other of the early retirement schemes. Those issues were repeatedly raised by Ireland in the course of the negotiations, and we secured agreement on certain measures to address them.

In general, the new single payment scheme, introduced in Ireland on 1 January 2005, is applicable to farmers who actively farmed during the reference years 2000, 2001 and 2002, who were paid livestock premia and-or arable aid in one or more of those years and who will continue to farm in 2005.

Farmers who joined the 1994 early retirement scheme, which closed to new applications in December 1999, did not farm during the reference period and cannot establish entitlements under the single payment scheme. Where they transferred their holdings by lease, it was the transferees who were actively farming during the reference years and it is they who will have entitlements established for them. Entitlements are attached to the farmer who was actively farming during the reference period, not to the land.

During the course of negotiations with the European Commission on the single payment scheme, Ireland secured agreement to an arrangement that will benefit family members or others who now take over holdings that were farmed by third parties who had leased them during the reference period. Farmers who take over such holdings, by transfer free of charge or by a lease of five or more years at a nominal amount, may apply to the national reserve for payment entitlements under the single payment scheme.

Participants in the current early retirement scheme launched in November 2000 who farmed during part or all of the reference period will have entitlements in their own right and can, before 15 May 2005, use — subject to the agreement of both parties — the private contract clause to lease these entitlements to the young farmer who holds the lease of their land under the early retirement scheme. In such circumstances, the retired farmer must establish the entitlements in 2005 on a special form provided by the Department. The qualifying young farmer may or may not have entitlements and land in his or her own right.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

254 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the single payment entitlements of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2706/05]

A statement of provisional entitlements will issue shortly to the person named following the processing of his single payment force majeure application.

Following examination of the exceptional circumstances outlined, my Department has decided that the reference years 2000, 2001 and 2002 will be excluded from the calculation of the single payment entitlements for the person named and the entitlements will be based on the reference years 1997, 1998 and 1999.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

255 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the penalty which will be imposed on a person (details supplied) in County Galway; the level of penalty which will apply across all their payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2707/05]

The person named applied for premium on 25 animals under the 2004 suckler cow premium scheme on 3 June 2004. Payment of his 60% advance entitlement amounting to €3,362.25 issued on 16 October 2004.

At inspection on 16 November 2004 it was found that one animal applied on as a heifer and bearing tag No. 181903970141 was in fact a male animal. The herdowner was informed that this animal was to be rejected from his claim and that a penalty would be applied in accordance with paragraphs 39 and 40(a) of the terms and conditions of the scheme. The person named sought a review of this decision and has since been informed that following a re-examination of his case the penalty still remains.

As all administrative and on-farm checks are carried out on an integrated, holding based approach and as processing of final applications under the special beef premium scheme is still in progress, it is not possible at this stage to calculate the exact level of penalty that will apply to the payments due to the person named. However, based on his applications up to December it is anticipated that the penalty will not exceed 2% to 3%. The person named has been informed that he may appeal the penalty by contacting the agriculture appeals office.

Mayo Landslide.

Enda Kenny

Question:

256 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be paid for loss of livestock by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2708/05]

The person named was an applicant under the Pullathomas landslide relief scheme and received €1,500 from my Department under that scheme in September 2004. Each affected farm was surveyed by officials of my Department and the cost of the work required to offset the damage caused by the landslide was assessed. As the officials found no evidence of sheep losses in his particular case, no compensation was paid to him in respect of any such losses.

Ministerial Appointments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

257 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of public appointments made in her Department since August 2004; the name of each appointee involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2743/05]

Since August 2004, a total of six public appointments were made to State boards which come under the aegis of my Department. Relevant details are outlined in the schedule set out below.

Name

An Bord Bia

Mr. Kieran Dunne

Ms. Katherine O’Leary

Mr. Philip Lynch

Irish National Stud

Mr. Dermot Weld

Ms. Patricia O’Kelly

Mr. Denis F. Sheehy

Agricultural Appeals.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

258 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding an oral hearing held in respect of the 2004 special beef premium of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [2877/05]

This appeal was received in the Agriculture Appeals Office on 3 December 2004. The oral hearing was held on 12 January 2005. The case is now being considered by the appeals officer. It is not expected that there will be any undue delay in dealing with this case.

Road Traffic Offences.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

259 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the legislation which governs the use of scrambling motorbikes within Coillte forest roads and paths; if it is a specific offence for vehicles in such locations not to display appropriate registration plates; and if the gardaí are restricted in any manner in enforcing such regulations. [2395/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Coillte forest roads and paths do not come within the meaning of a public place under the Road Traffic Acts 1961 to 2004. Legislation governing lands owned by Coillte are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, and I have been informed by her Department that there is no legislation governing the use of scrambling motorbikes within Coillte forest roads and paths. Accordingly, the non-display of registration plates is not an offence.

Citizenship Applications.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

260 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Offaly is entitled to remain in the State on the basis of their parentage of a child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2396/05]

It is open to the person concerned to make an application for residency in the State on the basis of her parentage of an Irish born child born prior to 1 January 2005.

The details of the revised arrangements for the consideration of applications for permission to remain in the State made by the non-national parents of Irish born children born before 1 January 2005 were publicly announced on 15 January 2005.

Applications should be made on form IBC/05 which is available on the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform website at www.justice.ie. Hard copies of the form are available at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, Garda District Headquarters, stations outside Dublin and at all Reception and Integration Agency accommodation centres countrywide. Forms are also available from various non-governmental organisations working with immigrants and asylum seekers.

Garda Deployment.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

261 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of occasions on which the mounted gardaí were used in a town (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2397/05]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

262 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the locations throughout the country in which the mounted gardaí have been used; the frequency with which they have been deployed in these locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2398/05]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

263 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reasons the mounted gardaí have been used in areas outside of Dublin; the details of the feedback that has been made by the mounted units in respect of their experiences in each of these locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2399/05]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

264 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he plans to extend the use of the mounted gardaí to all regions in the country; and if so, the timescale of the introduction of same. [2400/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 261 to 264, inclusive, together.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the Garda mounted unit has been deployed to all Garda regions in support of Garda operational requirements since its formation in 1998. The unit is deployed to Garda regions in mainly a crime prevention and public order role.

Since September 2004, in addition to normal operational requirements, the Garda mounted unit has also been deployed in support of Operation Assist on a trial basis. In that role, the unit, in conjunction with the Garda air support, dog and water units, has been deployed to the cities and towns of Limerick, Cork, Galway, Carlow, Clonmel and Dundalk. In addition, the unit carried out public order patrols in Letterkenny on 2 and 3 December 2004 as part of Operation Assist in support of local policing requirements.

The use of the units to which I refer to complement local resources has received very positive feedback from both the public and media. With the emphasis on public order policing during the hours of darkness, it is intended to continue and extend this initiative during 2005 as part of the Garda Síochána's policing plans.

Visa Applications.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

265 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of visa applications for persons (details supplied); the further length of time it will take before a decision is made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2401/05]

The applications in question were approved on 31 January. The persons concerned will be informed of this decision through the Irish mission in their country of origin.

Deportation Orders.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

266 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8. [2410/05]

The position is that the person concerned arrived in the State on 5 November 2002 and claimed asylum. His application was refused and he was notified of this recommendation by letter of 10 July 2003. His subsequent appeal was refused and he was notified of this recommendation by letter of 31 October 2003. He was notified of my decision to refuse him refugee status by letter of 25 February 2004 in which he was informed of the three options open to him at that point, namely, to leave the State before the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform made a deportation order in respect of him, to consent to the making of a deportation order in respect of him or to make written representations, within 15 working days, to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform setting out reasons he should not be deported, that is, why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

The case was examined under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 — prohibition of refoulement— including consideration of all representations received on his behalf. On 26 August 2004 a deportation order was made in respect of this person. The order was served on him by registered post and he presented himself as requested to the Garda national immigration bureau on Thursday, 13 January 2005. He is due to present himself again on Thursday, 3 February 2005 when it is envisaged that arrangements can be made to remove him from the State.

My Department uses extensive country of origin information drawn from different independent sources, including the UNHCR, in evaluating the safety of making returns to third countries. I am satisfied that in the current case the requirements of section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 have been complied with and that no refoulement matters arise. The enforcement of the deportation order is a matter for the Garda national immigration bureau.

Asylum Applications.

Finian McGrath

Question:

267 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if assistance and support will be given to persons (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [2411/05]

My Department has recently been in correspondence with the refugee regarding documentation submitted in support of the application. On receipt of a response from the person in question, the application will be further considered.

Sexual Offences.

Joe Costello

Question:

268 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the services available to women who have been victims of a sexual assault; the plans he has to improve them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2412/05]

As the Deputy will be aware, a key service required by women who have been victims of a sexual assault is medical treatment and counselling and these are the responsibility of the relevant health board. The services for which my Department has responsibility relate mainly to the civil and criminal justice systems. I can assure the Deputy that any sexual assault reported to the Garda Síochána is fully investigated and, subsequently, a file is forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a direction as to whether a prosecution should proceed.

As regards any need the victim might have for legal advice, the Legal Aid Board offers legal advice and, in certain circumstances, representation to complainants in cases of serious sexual assault. In addition, the Department has provided funding to the Rape Crisis Network for work of this nature. Following recent discussions with the Rape Crisis Network and other victims' organisations, other initiatives are also under consideration.

Registration of Title.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

269 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding a Land Registry office application by a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2508/05]

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, under the Registration of Title Act 1964, which was lodged on 10 April 2002 — dealing No. D2002GY003490D 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. I am further informed that queries issued to the lodging solicitors on 10 January 2005 and that the application cannot proceed until these queries have been satisfactorily resolved. However, I can assure the Deputy that on receipt of a satisfactory reply to the queries raised the matter will receive further attention in the Land Registry and will be completed as soon as possible.

Asylum Support Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

270 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the history of the State’s ownership of Broc House; if he has lobbied or advised in any way to have the purpose of its purchase as a centre of asylum seekers put aside; if it will now be used for the purpose for which it was purchased; the insurance and security costs of the house to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2509/05]

The Commissioners of Public Works, acting on behalf of the Reception and Integration Agency, RIA, which operates under the aegis of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, purchased Broc House in June 2000, for the provision of accommodation to asylum seekers. Following the purchase, judicial review proceedings were initiated against the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Minister for Finance and the Attorney General by local residents who contended, inter alia, that the proposed use was in contravention of the planning permission attaching to the premises. Pending the outcome of the proceedings, the RIA was unable to place asylum seekers in Broc House and alternative arrangements had to be made. Judgment in favour of the respondents was delivered on 30 April 2004.

As the local residents had initiated legal proceedings to determine the validity of the planning permission in force in respect of the premises, with the result that the matter fell to be adjudicated upon by the High Court, the question of my advising or lobbying on its use did not arise. The RIA conducts regular reviews of its accommodation portfolio to determine future requirements. In a review which was finalised in September 2004, the RIA determined that Broc House with other properties acquired for the accommodation of asylum seekers was no longer required having regard to the significant downward trend in the number of asylum applications, the development of regional accommodation and self catering centres, and the likely expenditure which the OPW indicated would have to be incurred in bringing the building up to current regulatory standards. At that time, the then East Coast Area Health Board, now part of the Health Service Executive, expressed an interest in acquiring Broc House for use as a community based health facility in conjunction with the development of the St. Vincent's Hospital complex and the matter is currently the subject of negotiations between the Health Service Executive and the Commissioners of Public Works.

I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works that the total security and related costs incurred to date in the protection of this State asset stands at €585,000 and that no costs were incurred in relation to insurance. Finally and for the sake of completion, I should add that since 2000 to date asylum seekers have been placed in a total of seven centres in the Dublin 2, 4 and 6 areas, that is, Camden Street, Morehampton Road and Ranelagh.

Visa Applications.

Pat Breen

Question:

271 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 320 of 14 December 2004, the reason persons (details supplied) in County Clare were refused visas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2510/05]

In my reply to Question No. 320 of 14 December 2004 to the Deputy I outlined the reasons for the refusal of the visa application in question and the subsequent refusal on appeal.

The onus is on the applicant to provide sufficient documentation to enable both the initial application and, where applicable, an appeal to be examined fully and in this case it was deemed that the evidence provided by the applicant at appeal stage did not warrant a reversal of the initial decision to refuse the application.

The applicant may of course lodge a new application, which will allow the furnishing of any additional documentation the applicant may wish, at which time the application will be examined fully by my Department.

Road Traffic Offences.

Denis Naughten

Question:

272 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of penalty points tickets issued to motorists in the seven days before the introduction of metrification; the corresponding figure for the seven days following the introduction of the new speed limits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2528/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the information requested is not readily available and could only be obtained by the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of Garda time and resources which could not be justified in the circumstances.

Joyriding Offences.

Seán Haughey

Question:

273 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures he is taking to deal with the scourge of joyriding in an area (details supplied) of north Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2697/05]

As I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, so called ‘joyriding' is a complex problem which, while requiring significant inputs from the criminal justice system, can only be tackled to lasting effect through a multi-faceted and multi-agency response involving both the community and relevant statutory bodies.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the current policing strategies for the area are predicated on the policy of reducing and preventing incidents of public order, joyriding, the prevention of crimes of violence against persons and property and the maintenance of an environment where the quality of life of the residents can be assured and consolidated. I am assured that these strategies are, and will continue to be, the core value in policing plans for the area of the future.

Specific strategies have been put in place by the Garda Síochána to reduce the incidents of joyriding and a very large number of stolen vehicles were recovered in the division of DMR, north, in 2004. Very substantial resources have been allocated to this critical area of policing including specialist policing units from the divisional traffic section, divisional task force and the detective units. Operational strategy is supported by an effective partnership approach involving community representatives, the Garda Síochána and the public authority.

Residency Permits.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

274 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for residency based on marriage to an Irish person will be decided in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2724/05]

An application for permission to remain in the State based on marriage to an Irish national was received from the person concerned in June 2004. Applications of this type are dealt with in chronological order and currently take approximately 16 months to process. I understand the person is question is the parent of an Irish-born child and therefore may also be entitled to claim residency under the recently announced revised arrangements for such persons.

Departmental Appointments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

275 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of public appointments made in his Department since August 2004; the name of each appointee involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2744/05]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out as follows:

Appointed to

Name

Date of Appointment

National Disability Authority

Mr. James Martin

21 October, 2004

Equality Authority

Ms. Sally Ann Kinahan

7 October, 2004

Refugee Appeals Tribunal

Mr. Declan McHugh BL

10 October, 2004*

Ms Judy Blake BL

20 October, 2004

Mr. Sean Deegan BL

20 December, 2004

Mr. Noel Whelan BL

20 December, 2004

Mr. Joseph Barnes BL

17 January, 2005 *

Mr. David Goldberg SC

20 January, 2005

Mr David Andrews SC

3 August, 2004*

Mr Ben Garvey BL

26 September, 2004*

Mr. Paul A. McGarry BL

21 January, 2005 *

Castlerea Prison Visiting Committee

Ms Mary Hoade

9 November, 2004

Ms Eileen Morris

17 December, 2004

Ms Marie Cleary

17 December, 2004

Mr. Michael Geraghty

17 December, 2004

Cork Prison Visiting Committee

Mr. Oliver Cleary

6 December, 2004

Limerick Prison Visiting Committee

Mr. Pat Driscoll

15 November, 2004

Mr. Michael O’Shea

15 November, 2004

Loughan House Place of Detention Visiting Committee

Mr. Eugene Delaney

20 December, 2004

Ms. Rita Delahunty

20 December, 2004

Midlands Prison Visiting Committee

Ms. Jody Gunning

15 November, 2004

Mr. John Sheehy

6 January, 2005

Mr. Jim Casey

6 January, 2005

Mountjoy Prison Visiting Committee

Mr. Liam Hogan

6 January, 2005

Mr. Stephen Langton

6 January, 2005

Portlaoise Prison Visiting Committee

Mr. Walter Lacey

20 December, 2004

Ms. Eithne Reddy

6 January, 2005

St. Patrick’s Institution Visiting Committee

Mr. Anthony Gavin

17 December, 2004

Wheatfield Prison Visiting Committee

Mr. John O’Neill

8 November, 2004

Mr. Stephen O’Neill

8 November, 2004

Mr. Gerry Hannon

17 December, 2004

Ms. Elva MacKay

17 December, 2004

Ms. Teresa Clarke

17 December, 2004

Films Appeal Board

Ms. Nicola Byrne

22 November, 2004

Part-Time Assistant Censors

Mr. Mark Brennan

October 2004

Ms. Patricia Murphy

October 2004

Ms. Dani McCafferty

October 2004

Mr. P. J. Sheridan

October 2004

Ms. Alison Foley

November 2004

Private Security Authority**

Ms Michelle Doyle (Chairperson)

28 October, 2004

Mr. Kevin McMahon

28 October, 2004

Mr. Liam O’Dubin

28 October, 2004

Ms Catherine Byrne

28 October, 2004

Mr. Ray Guinan

28 October, 2004

Mr. Bill Brown

28 October, 2004

Ms Margaret Lovett

28 October, 2004

Ms Mary C. Barrett

28 October, 2004

Ms Esther Lynch

6 January, 2005

Asst. Garda Commissioner, Pat Crummey

28 October, 2004

Deputy State Pathologist

Dr Michael Curtis***

18 November, 2004

*Reappointments

**Following an open competition held by the Public Appointments Service, Ms Geraldine Larkin is to be appointed to the post of chief executive of the private security authority.

***Details concerning the appointment of Dr. Michael Curtis were inadvertently omitted from my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 802 of Wednesday 26, January 2005.

I have also asked Professor Finbarr McAuley, Chairperson, Jean Monnet Professor of European Criminal Justice, UCD and Law Reform Commissioner to chair the proposed criminal law advisory committee on codification. This committee has not yet been formed.

In addition to the above, 60 peace commissioners have been appointed by my Department during the period specified by the Deputy. Peace commissioners are appointed under section 88 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924. The office of peace commissioner is an honorary appointment and peace commissioners receive no remuneration or compensation by way of fees or expenses for their services.

Garda Stations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

276 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for each Garda station in County Wexford; the breakdown of these Garda stations which have full-time, part-time and no duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2748/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of Garda resources, including personnel, that there are 34 Garda stations within the Wexford-Wicklow division. The six Garda stations in the above division are open to the public on a 24 hour basis are Wexford, New Ross, Enniscorthy, Gorey, Arklow and Wicklow. The remaining 28 Garda stations open on a part-time basis are Baldwinstown, Castlebridge, Glynn, Kilmore Quay, Rosslare Pier, Rosslare Strand, Taghmon, Blackwater, Clonroche, Ferns, Kiltealy, Oulart, Oylegate, Bunclody, Carnew, Courtown Harbour, Ballycullane, Ballywilliam, Campile, Carrickbyrne, Carrick-on-Bannow, Duncannon, Ashford, Aughrim, Avoca, Newtownmountkennedy, Rathdrum and Roundwood. There are currently no plans to alter the existing arrangements in relation to Garda stations in the Wexford-Wicklow division.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

277 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the nature of the relationship with the prison or with prisoners of each of the 45 persons recently arrested for smuggling drugs into Mountjoy prison; the number of prison officers, the number of other personnel with official access to the prison, and the number of prisoner family members and other visitors; and if the person has been charged in each case. [2816/05]

The 45 persons referred to by the Deputy were arrested following an operation by local Garda management to target individuals who were suspected of throwing packages over the perimeter walls of Mountjoy prison and the conveyance of drugs by visitors into the prison. The persons concerned were arrested outside the prison. Three persons have been charged under section 15 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which deals with sale or supply, one person was charged under section 21 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which deals with obstruction, and seven bench warrants were executed. Prosecutions in respect of the outstanding seizures await the result of analysis. Garda management is not aware of the nature of the relationship with the prison or with prisoners of each of the 45 persons concerned.

Mountjoy Prison operates to a level of security consistent with its population which includes persons serving long sentences for very serious offences, including murder. Even for prison staff, movement between landings requires the opening of various gates and doors to facilitate this movement. In this context, there are 509 prison officers, including governors, attached to Mountjoy Prison although these staff would not all be rostered for duty at the same time. There is a further complement of support staff including 12 teachers, two psychologists, five psychiatrists, six chaplains, four doctors and eight probation and welfare officers employed in prisoner related services. Under the rules for the Government of Prisons Act 1947, a sentenced prisoner is entitled to one visit per week of 30 minutes duration and a remand prisoner is entitled to a visit on any week day of 15 minutes duration. Each prisoner, of which there are currently about 480 in custody in Mountjoy Prison, has a list of six such persons who may visit them. Persons visiting the jail in this form have very restricted access limited solely to the waiting and visiting areas. In addition, they are supervised to and from the designated visiting areas by prison officers.

In addition, there is a myriad of other persons who could require access to the prison for a wide variety of reasons. These would include the solicitors who are granted visits with their clients; gardaí who are executing warrants; staff assigned to the Prison Service headquarters meeting with prison management; contractors carrying out maintenance or building work; catering staff and delivery men; the inspector of prisons and places of detention, visiting delegates from the Council of Europe body known as the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and the eight members of the visiting committee; visiting addiction counsellors and other persons from reputable organisations such as the St. Vincent de Paul and the Samaritans.

All of these persons would have been cleared for varying levels of access to Mountjoy Prison depending on that needed to perform their duties. In many cases, these persons will have limited or no contact with prisoners and are escorted by staff at all times. The governor, as the person responsible for the management of the prison, makes the call as to what level of supervision an individual requires while on the premises.

Criminal Assets Bureau.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

278 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Criminal Assets Bureau investigations related to proceeds of drug trafficking since its establishment; the number of CAB investigations into tax evasion since its establishment; the number of CAB investigations into corruption since its establishment; the number of seizures in each category; the value of the assets seized in each category; and the value of assets sought but not yet seized in each category. [2817/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that most Criminal Asset Bureau actions relate to assets suspected to derive from drug trafficking, money laundering, prostitution, fraud, corruption, receiving stolen property and tax fraud. Data on such actions cannot be neatly categorised in terms of area of criminal activity because usually there are overlaps. Statistics on moneys seized or collected by the Criminal Assets Bureau in respect of the period 1996 to 2003 are as follows:

Proceeds of Crime Action

Section 2 Interim Orders

€19,870,580.02

Stg£18,357,498.09

US$ 5,783,303.00

Section 3 Interlocutory Orders

€13,284,599.61

Stg£ 2,829,799.70

US$ 5,247,821.00

Revenue Action

Taxes Assessed

€78,841,922.14

Tax Demanded

€76,320,965.00

Tax Collected

€56,191,004.00

Social Welfare

Overpayments Assessed

€2,237,765.45

Savings to the Exchequer

€1,514,459.42

The number of applications, with the number of defendants shown in brackets, made to the High Court under proceeds of crime legislation over the eight year period 1996 to 2003 was:

Section 2

58

(95)

Section 3

53

(70)

Section 7

48

(47)

The number of tax assessments issued over the same eight year period is set out in the following table:

1996-1998

162

1999

183

2000

120

2001

144

2002

142

2003

182

The Criminal Assets Bureau cannot give details of ongoing investigations. Further information on the activities of the Criminal Assets Bureau since its establishment in 1996 are contained in the annual reports of the bureau. Copies of these are available in the Oireachtas Library.

Asylum Applications.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

279 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria used to apply whitelist status to Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and South Africa; if he will quantify the category of reasons for the negative decisions in 94% of cases from these countries by country, by reason and by percentage; the nature of the designated accommodation in which asylum seekers from these countries will be held while their claims are being processed under this new system; the additional restrictions that will apply to this category of persons alone; if they will be arrested for failure to report daily; the person to whom they must report; the offence with which they will be charged and the penalty attached; if they will have access to legal advice and legal aid in this fast-track system; the mechanics of the fast-track process; the qualifications of those members of the Office of Refugee Applications who will hear these claims; if they will be country specialists; the views of the Human Rights Commission received by him on these proposals; and the meaning non-cooperation with investigations into these applications. [2818/05]

I presume the Deputy's question refers to the arrangements which I announced on 24 January 2005 and which came into operation on 25 January 2005, for the speedier processing of asylum applications in respect of nationals of five states which are the subject of prioritisation orders made by me under section 12 of the Refugee Act 1996, as inserted by the Immigration Act 2003. The new arrangements also provide for the speedier processing of deportation orders for those applicants who are found not to be in need of refugee protection and have no other protection or humanitarian needs.

The countries in question are Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and South Africa. All of these countries, except Nigeria, have previously been designated by me by order under section 12(4)(a) of the 1996 Act as safe countries of origin. The designation criteria set out in section 12(4)(b) of the 1996 Act require the Minister to have regard to a number of factors including whether a country is a party to specified international conventions such as the UN Convention against Torture, has a democratic political system and is governed by the rule of law.

The new arrangements for processing prioritised asylum applications include faster processing at first instance in the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, with processing time-scales reduced from the current period of six weeks to around three weeks; faster appeal determinations with processing times reduced in the Refugee Appeals Tribunal from an average of five weeks to three weeks; full access to legal services will continue to be provided within the accelerated process by the refugee legal service; dedicated accommodation centres for applicants while their asylum claims are being processed. These centres are part of the normal direct provision system operated by the Reception and Integration Agency; applicants will be subject to residency and daily reporting requirements which will be imposed at the time of application, as provided for in section 9(5)(a) of the 1996 Act. Section 9(7) of the 1996 Act provides statutory penalties for a person who contravenes these obligations; non-cooperation with the investigation of an asylum application will continue to have the potential to result in a refusal of the application for refugee status. Under section 11C of the 1996 Act, all applicants are under a duty to co-operate in pursuing their asylum applications. Failure to so co-operate or to meet reporting or residence requirements can, inter alia, under sections 11(11) and 17(1)(a) of the 1996 Act, result in an application being deemed to be withdrawn and the issue of a negative decision; persons in the deportation process to whom the new arrangements apply will also have statutory obligations imposed on them to reside at particular locations and to report to immigration officers. Failure to comply with these obligations is an arrestable offence.

On average, 94% of asylum applications from the five countries covered by the new streamlined arrangements which were determined during 2004 were found not to meet the refugee definition contained in section 2 of the 1996 Act. As part of the refugee investigation process each case is considered on its merits and all applicants are afforded the opportunity at interview to explain fully why they fear returning to their country of origin. Following each interview, an assessment is made of the core elements relating to the case, taking into account, inter alia, relevant country of origin information and the criteria for recognition as a refugee as set out in the 1996 Act. The assessment carried out includes determining whether an applicant has a well founded fear of persecution, whether the persecution relates to a convention reason, whether the applicant is unable or unwilling to return to his or her own country, what internal protection alternative, if any, might be available within his or her own country, as well as credibility issues. Statistics relating to the reasons for refusing applications from the specific countries referred to in the Deputy’s question are not available.

As part of the investigation process in ORAC, applicants for asylum will be interviewed by authorised officers. All such authorised officers or caseworkers have attended training programmes in respect of interviews, assessments, decision making, asylum procedures and appeals, in line with international best practice. These programmes have been devised in consultation with the UNHCR. I am not aware of any views expressed by the Human Rights Commission on the new processing arrangements. It is in the best interests of all asylum applicants, particularly those with genuine protection needs, that their claims should be determined speedily and fairly. The legislative changes which I introduced in the Immigration Act 2003 have contributed significantly to a more streamlined asylum process and to more efficient processing of asylum applications. This has made it possible to introduce the new arrangements which I announced on 24 January last.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

280 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the meetings or sidebar meetings he has had with his British counterpart regarding immigration, including the dates and topics discussed. [2819/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

281 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he plans to adopt annual limits on immigration, a quota for asylum seekers and a points system for work permits, as does his British counterpart. [2820/05]

I occasionally meet my British colleague at Justice and Home Affairs Council meetings, during which we have discussions at the margins of the meeting. There are also regular meetings between senior officials of my Department and Home Office officials in order to exchange information on issues of mutual interest and policy developments.

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, who is responsible for economic migration, intends to bring forward legislation which will place the existing employment permits system on a statutory footing, provide greater protection for migrant workers and enable him to respond both flexibly and speedily to emerging labour market trends. A Bill for this purpose is currently at its final stages of preparation. I have no plans for a quota system for asylum seekers which, in any event, would not be possible under the terms of the Refugee Act 1996. The 1996 Act provides, inter alia, that any person who arrives at the frontiers of the State seeking asylum shall be given leave to enter the State for the purpose of consideration of that asylum application. A comprehensive determination system is in place for the purpose of that consideration.

Crime levels.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

282 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the present rate of re-offending; and his plans to reduce it during the lifetime of the 29th Dáil. [2821/05]

While accurate figures relating to rates of recidivism in the prisoner population are not yet available, the computerisation of prisoner records from 2001 will in future provide a more detailed view of a prisoner's past committal history. The director general of the prison service recently commissioned a major three year research project on this topic which, it is expected, will present an accurate picture of recidivism which, in turn, will assist and shape the way we manage prison sentences in the future. The findings of this research are expected in early 2007.

The prison service provides a range of rehabilitative programmes which have the dual purpose of providing prisoners with purposeful activity while serving their sentences and encouraging and equipping them to lead non-offending lives on release. While the probation service does not maintain statistics on re-offending, in preparing pre-sanction reports for the courts, probation and welfare officers undertake an assessment of the risk posed to the public by an offender. This involves an assessment of the likelihood that the offender will re-offend.

As part of a policy of improving their service to the courts and in line with other probation and correctional services throughout the world, probation officers in Ireland will in future use an assessment tool known as the "level of service inventory — revised" or LSI-R to help them make more accurate assessments of the likelihood that an offender will re-offend. The LSI-R will also form an important part of assessments and reviews undertaken as part of any subsequent supervision of offenders. The LSI-R has been developed from an extensive body of international research and has been shown to predict the likelihood of adult recidivism in criminal jurisdictions throughout the world.

The LSI-R, in effect, structures the assessment undertaken by probation officers and ensures that all offenders are assessed in regard to key potential areas of risk. An important element in the process is the assessment of the offender's attitudes and values and those held by others with whom they may come into contact. The evidence shows that offenders who hold anti-social or criminal attitudes and who associate with like minded friends, family members or work colleagues are at particular risk of re-offending. The LSI-R, therefore, places heavy emphasis on the assessment of attitudes.

Finally, the Garda juvenile diversion programme was introduced in 1963 to provide an opportunity to divert juvenile offenders from criminal activity. The programme provides that if certain criteria are met an offender under 18 years may be cautioned as an alternative to prosecution. The most recent figures available for the programme are for 2003. In that year, the national juvenile office received 19,915 referrals relating to 17,043 individual children. Since some children were referred more than once, the number of referrals is greater than the number of individuals referred.

Proposed Legislation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

283 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for immigration law reform during the lifetime of the 29th Dáil. [2822/05]

I refer the Deputy to section C of the Government legislative programme which was published by my colleague, Deputy Kitt, the Government Chief Whip, on 25 January last. In line with that programme, I expect to publish later this year an immigration and residence Bill which will replace existing immigration law and provide a statutory framework for the development and implementation of immigration policy in the future. Work is ongoing in my Department on this Bill and I intend in the coming months to publish a discussion document on it.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

284 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for prison reform during the lifetime of the 29th Dáil. [2823/05]

A number of significant changes to the Irish prison system are in the process of being introduced. The Deputy will be aware of my position regarding the elimination of the unsustainable burden of chronic overtime in the prison service with a view to delivering a more efficient and cost effective service. My proposal involves the implementation of a programme of detailed staffing and work practice efficiencies together with the elimination of overtime working and the introduction of an additional hours system of attendance.

This system envisages staff earning a stable income and giving an undertaking to work certain levels of additional hours. This approach is designed to reinforce the attractiveness of more efficient working practices. The proposal also outlines scope for organisational restructuring covering rationalisation of certain functions and greater focus on core and developmental roles of various prison grades.

Following extensive negotiations between the Irish Prison Service and the Prison Officers Association, a limited number of financial issues were the subject of a referral to arbitration, the hearings of which took place on 22 October and 1 November 2004. The arbitrator released his findings on Monday, 24 January 2005, and officials of the Irish Prison Service are engaged in further discussions with the Prison Officers Association. Discussions have not yet concluded.

New rules for the government of prisons will be introduced in the new future. These rules, which will set out in considerable detail the full range of rights, duties and obligations for prisoners, prison staff and management, are expected to be finalised in the immediate future. European standards for prisons have been taken into account in the drafting of the new rules.

Preparation of a drugs policy for the Irish Prison Service is at an advanced stage and is expected to be published within the first half of this year. The intention is that the new policy will facilitate consistent regulation and operational structure in pursuing both supply and demand reduction. This is in line with the Government commitment to operate drug free prisons.

The Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003 and associated rules were commenced by me with effect from 12 November 2004. The Act provides a clearer legislative basis for the power to grant temporary release by setting down the principles which will apply to the exercise of this power. The Act amends section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1960 and provides a clear and transparent basis, as well as the necessary safeguards required, for the operation of the system of temporary release.

Within the prison custodial system, there is a wide range of services in place aimed at providing offenders with the means to avoid re-offending following their return to the community. The services provided include work skills, training and education and are matched, where possible, to individual aptitudes and abilities, sometimes unrecognised or untapped prior to imprisonment. In addition, a range of medical, psychological and other support services are available to assist those suffering from particular problems, such as drug addiction.

As part of its commitment to re-balancing the custodial and care-rehabilitation functions in prisons, the Irish Prison Service has established a regimes directorate, composed of a multidisciplinary team of staff. The formation of this directorate is facilitating the adoption of a multifaceted approach to helping prisoners to develop their sense of responsibility and encouraging those attitudes and skills which will assist them to return to society with the best chance of leading law abiding and self/supporting lives after release. These services are also important in sustaining prisoners' physical and mental health, counteracting the detrimental effects of imprisonment, encouraging positive personal development from within and preparing for their integration into wider society as law abiding citizens on release from custody.

Implementing positive sentence management is a key task for the Irish Prison Service. A scoping group to examine positive sentence management was established by the Irish Prison Service in 2003 and is expected to present its report to the interim board of the Irish Prison Service in the near future. Elaboration of positive sentence management will involve a new orientation in the delivery of services to prisoners and a new emphasis on prisoners taking greater personal responsibility for their own development through active engagement with both specialist and non-specialist services in the prisons. The end result should be a prisoner centred, multidisciplinary approach to working with prisoners with provision for initial assessment, goal setting and periodic review to measure progress.

I recently announced that the capital building allocation to my Department for 2005 will facilitate the implementation of the prisons building and refurbishment programme to improve facilities for prisoners, including the elimination of the practice of slopping out, the reduction of overcrowding and the introduction of special observation cells, and to facilitate a more cost effective operation of the prison service. The introduction of videoconferencing facilities in Cloverhill Prison for certain court proceedings as well as for other purposes, such as legal consultations for prisoners, is also being pursued by the prison service.

Specifically, this allocation will enable the Irish Prison Service to commence work on the following capital projects in 2005: the construction of a new 150 capacity prisoner accommodation block at Portlaoise Prison — this block will also include new education, work training and other ancillary facilities; the building of new facilities at Limerick Prison which will provide for education, medical and other ancillary services; and the Irish Prison Service is also examining the provision of additional prisoner accommodation at Wheatfield Prison.

I announced in the past week that the Government had approved the purchase of a site at Thorntown, County Dublin, to serve as the location for a new prison complex to replace Mountjoy Prison. The purchase of this site is a major step forward in modernising prison conditions and improving facilities and detailed planning will now proceed for a public private partnership to construct the new facilities. It is also my intention to proceed with the construction of a new southern prison to replace Cork Prison.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

285 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for drug law reform and to increase drug enforcement during the lifetime of the 29th Dáil. [2824/05]

The measures undertaken by the Garda Síochána to address drug trafficking and distribution centre around the issues of strategy, structures and resources. At a strategic level, the Garda Síochána is committed to rigorous enforcement of the laws on drug misuse. Each division is required to produce a divisional drug policing plan which contributes to the overall goals of the national plan, taking into account local circumstances. Responsibility for co-ordinating the drugs strategy within the policing plan is vested in the assistant commissioner, national support services, who overseas the implementation of the organisation's drug strategy.

In the context of resourcing the Garda Síochána's drug strategy, it is worth noting that it is the responsibility of each member of the Garda Síochána to enforce the laws relating to drug usage. In addition to the general resources available to address drug trafficking, the establishment of specialist Garda units, such as the Garda national drug unit, the national bureau of criminal investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Garda bureau of fraud investigation, operating under the assistant commissioner in charge of national support services has enabled the Garda Síochána to tackle serious crime effectively. These specialist units work very closely with gardaí operating at district and divisional level.

At local level, divisional and district drug units have been established with the specific remit of targeting individuals engaged in the sale and distribution of drugs to local communities. These units are supported by local resources as well as national units when required.

With regard to legislative proposals, I am considering bringing forward a number of relevant amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill, which is before the Houses. These include proposals to strengthen the provisions on the imposition of the ten-year mandatory minimum sentence for drug trafficking and the provision of new offences relating to the supply of drugs to prisoners.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

286 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for Garda reform in the lifetime of the 29th Dáil, apart from the additional gardaí he has promised and the Garda Síochána Bill 2004. [2826/05]

The Garda Síochána is undergoing the most far reaching programme of reform in its history. The Garda Síochána Bill will comprehensively modernise the law governing the force. It will set out the role and objectives of the force and clarify its relationship with the Minister and Government of the day.

There will be provision for the setting of policing priorities and the establishment of performance targets. The Garda Commissioner will be required to submit a three yearly strategy statement and an annual policing plan. The commissioner will also become the Accounting Officer for the Garda Vote and an audit committee will be established to advise the commissioner on financial matters.

The Bill also makes provision for the involvement of local representatives in policing matters through the establishment of joint policing committees at local level. Provision is made too for the appointment of volunteer members to the Garda Síochána in the future, if it is decided that such an approach would be beneficial. While no decision has been taken by the Government to establish a reserve of volunteer members, it is right to lay the statutory foundation for such a reserve so that it can be set up if future circumstances warrant it.

The Bill has two other key objectives. One is to establish an independent Garda Síochána inspectorate, to promote efficiency and effectiveness in the Garda Síochána and to provide advice and support to the Minister and the Department. The other is to establish the Garda Síochána ombudsman commission to replace the Garda Síochána Complaints Board and provide a new mechanism to deal with complaints against members of the force which commands the confidence of the public and force alike.

In addition to this comprehensive set of legislative reforms, other important developments relating to the Garda Síochána are under way aimed at maximising the effectiveness and efficiency of the force. The strength of the force, already at a record high, is being further increased to 14,000. A new digital radio system for the force is being procured. A new Garda traffic corps has been established and will be developed over the next few years. Administrative functions will be outsourced where possible to free up gardaí for operational policing duties. These and many other developments will be carried forward as part of a strategy aimed at strengthening the capacity of the Garda Síochána to continue to protect and serve the public.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

287 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to strengthen equality protections during the lifetime of the 29th Dáil. [2827/05]

Ireland has established and effective protections which provide for and promote equality in the workplace and in the provision of goods and services on nine discriminatory grounds. These grounds are gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community. The legislation underpinning this framework is the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000 together with the Equality Act 2004 which recently amended and extended the provisions of these Acts.

To ensure the implementation of these protections and provide easy access to redress in cases of discrimination or victimisation, the legislation also provided for the establishment of the Equality Authority and the Equality Tribunal. The Equality Act 2004 gave effect to more recent developments at European Union level in the area of equality protection, that is, the race directive — 2000/43/EC, the framework employment directive — 2000/78/EC — and the gender employment equality directive — 2002/73/EC.

While these directives are less comprehensive in approach than is the case under the Irish equality framework, the Equality Act amended the Employment Equality and Equal Status Acts in a way which ensures their broadest possible application across all nine grounds. In addition, the opportunity was taken in the Act of 2004 to introduce a number of technical improvements, including the significant development of transferring the jurisdiction in discriminatory dismissal cases from the Labour Court to the Equality Tribunal. This will provide additional cohesion in the hearing of claims for redress under the Employment Equality Act.

Council Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004, implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services, outlaws sex discrimination in the provision of goods and services, including the provision of insurance and related financial services. The directive provides also that member states may permit insurance companies to treat men and women differently when it comes to premiums and benefits if gender is a decisive factor in assessing risk, for example, in motor insurance. Member states must bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this directive by 21 December 2007 at the latest.

Transposition of the directive into national law may require some slight amendments to the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004. A review of the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004 is to take place and should amendments to the legislation be required these will be introduced in time to meet the 21 December 2007 deadline.

As part of the commitment to strengthening equality protection during the life of the 29th Dail, the working group on equality proofing continues to work towards developing a system for the proofing of policies and services in the public sector to avoid unanticipated negative impact on any of the groups protected under the equality legislation, to ensure policy coherence and best use of resources. The primary task of the working group is to develop tools so that an efficient and effective proofing process can be applied. The working group is building on the experience of gender proofing under the national development plan, poverty proofing and the experience of the Northern Ireland authorities of their analogous processes.

During 2005, the working group is to oversee the completion of a number of equality proofing exercises on key policy initiatives. Also, the working group is to further develop the integrated proofing template created in 2004. The working group will continue to monitor research on statute based proofing systems during 2005. It is examining recent reports on section 75 in Northern Ireland — the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland's report on the implementation of the section 75 statutory duties — and an independent report entitled The Section 75 Equality Duty — An Operational Review. A report on the activities of the working group will be submitted to the steering group on Sustaining Progress shortly.

The national action plan against racism was launched on 27 January 2005. The overall aim of the plan is to provide strategic direction to combat racism and to develop a more inclusive, intercultural society in Ireland. The plan will be implemented over a four year period, 2005-08. The emphasis is on "a whole of system approach" with particular emphasis on mainstreaming intercultural issues into formulation of public policy. The plan builds on the substantial equality infrastructure which is already in place.

During 2005, officials from my Department will continue to work in the social questions working group of the European Council on the proposed recast directive on the implementation of the principles of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation. The proposal will bring together the various gender equal pay and equal treatment directives, including the gender employment equality directive of 2002, as well as key principles from relevant European Court of Justice case law and, on its adoption, will further strengthen the equality infrastructure and protections.

The Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004, which was commenced on 18 October last, strengthens and improves legislative protection for employees who are pregnant or who have recently given birth. The Act provides for a number of important improvements, such as a new provision reducing the compulsory pre-confinement period of maternity leave from four weeks to two weeks; provision for attendance at ante-natal classes; provision for breastfeeding mothers who have given birth within the previous six months with an entitlement, without loss of pay, to either a reduction of working hours or breastfeeding breaks, where breastfeeding facilities are provided by the employer; provision for termination of additional maternity leave in the event of the employee's illness; provision for an employee to postpone the period of maternity leave and-or additional maternity leave in the event of the hospitalisation of the child; provision that an employee's absence from work on additional maternity leave will count for all employment rights associated with the employment, except remuneration and superannuation benefits, such as seniority and annual leave and strengthening the provisions protecting the employee's right to return to work.

The Government is also amending the Adoptive Leave Act 1995 to incorporate improvements made to the maternity protection legislation where relevant in the Adoptive Leave Bill 2004 currently before the Dail. As well as applying the relevant maternity legislative improvements to adoptive leave I have also brought forward two further enhancements which will allow adopting parents to better balance their employment and family responsibilities. These are the increase to 16 weeks in the adoptive leave entitlement attracting payment of salary or benefit from the Department of Social and Family Affairs, which was recently implemented by statutory instrument, and an important new entitlement to time off without loss of pay to attend the range of pre-adoption classes and meetings which prospective adopting parents are required to attend as part of the adoption process. The latter measure will be available to both the adopting mother and father in recognition that the adoption process requires the full participation of both parents throughout the lengthy and difficult preparation and assessment process.

The Government is also committed, as part of the Sustaining Progress partnership agreement, to strengthen parental leave rights in a new Bill which was published and initiated in Seanad Éireann on 16 December last. The Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2004 makes provision for the following: raising the maximum age of the eligible child from five to eight years; an increase in the maximum age of the eligible child to 16 years in the case of children with disabilities; extension of parental leave entitlements to persons acting in loco parentis in respect of an eligible child; a statutory entitlement to take the 14 weeks’ parental leave in separate blocks; strengthening the provisions protecting the right to return to work; protecting employees who exercise the right to parental leave from penalisation; the preparation of statutory codes of practice on the manner in which parental leave and force majeure leave might be taken.

The Disability Bill 2004, also before the Dáil at present, is a positive action measure designed to advance and underpin the participation of people with disabilities in Irish society. It establishes a statutory basis for assessment of individual needs, access to public buildings, services and information and the preparation of sectoral plans by key Departments to ensure access for people with disabilities is an integral part of service planning and provision. It also provides, among other protections, that public bodies be proactive in employing persons with disabilities and establishes a centre of excellence in universal design.

In addition to the legislative changes mentioned above, work has commenced on the development of a national women's strategy, which it is intended to publish before the end of 2005.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

288 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to strengthen human rights protections in the State during the lifetime of the 29th Dáil. [2828/05]

I regard the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, in particular the section dealing with rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity, wherein the parties affirm their commitment to the mutual respect, the civil rights and the religious liberties of everyone on the island of Ireland, as the main text with regard to this matter. I respectfully draw the attention of the Deputy to paragraphs 9 and 10 of the relevant section in the Agreement in this connection.

In so far as my areas of responsibility are concerned, and in line with the obligation in the Agreement to strengthen and underpin the constitutional protection of human rights in the State, enhanced employment and equality legislation has been enacted; a human rights commission with a wide mandate and remit has been established, along with the joint committee of the two human rights commissions, North and South, with the specific task of drawing up a human rights charter on an all-Ireland basis; and the European Convention on Human Rights has been incorporated into our law by means of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003. This Act contains important and far reaching provisions for all organs of the State as defined in the Act and I have no doubt that it will have a significant effect on the development of human rights protection — jurisprudentially and otherwise — in the future.

I have already made full use of the provisions of the Human Rights Commission Act 2000 to refer all legislative proposals emanating from my Department with human rights implications to the Human Rights Commission for its consideration. This is a key element in the preparation of draft legislation and it will continue to be so.

I will continue to keep under review, with a view to the preparation of legislative proposals where necessary, all aspects of the work of my Department which may give rise to human rights issues.

Crime Prevention.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

289 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to reduce domestic and sexual violence in the State during the lifetime of the 29th Dáil. [2829/05]

The Government places a high priority on putting into place measures aimed at tackling crimes of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and other crimes of violence against women. My Department, which is one of five Departments with responsibilities in this area, plays a major role. It has responsibility for legislative initiatives, preventative measures such as intervention programmes for perpetrators of domestic violence, awareness-raising measures aimed at changing society's attitude to domestic violence and the identifying and developing of necessary responses from the civil and criminal justice systems. Moreover, my Department co-ordinates the work of the national steering committee on violence against women, which is chaired by the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey. The steering committee comprises representatives of the Departments with responsibility for the issue, non-governmental organisations working in the area, the Garda Síochána, the Courts Service, the probation and welfare service, health boards and the medical and legal professions.

It is important to record that the number of incidents of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault reported to the Garda in 2003 — the last full year for which figures are available — show a significant reduction when compared to the recorded incidents of these crimes in 2002. For example, in 2002 there were 10,248 reported incidents of domestic violence while in 2003 this number fell to 8,452, representing a reduction of 17.5%. Between 2002 and 2003, there was a reduction of 25.5% in reported incidents of the heinous crime of rape. In the case of reported incidents of sexual assault, the number in 2002 was 1,626, a number which fell to 1,449 by 2003. While the reductions are a very welcome development, they are of little consolation to the victims of these crimes. The Garda will continue to attach a very high priority to the prevention and detection of all domestic violence and sexual offence related crime.

The Deputy will be aware that provisional crime figures for 2004 were released last week. The provisional figures indicate a further decrease of 28% in the number of sexual assaults reported in 2004 compared to reported incidents in 2003. However, rape is the one area which gives cause for concern as the provisional figures for 2004 indicate an increase of 21% in the number of cases reported to the Garda. My Department, on behalf of the national steering committee on violence against women, has conducted a number of awareness raising campaigns on the various aspects of violence against women in recent years. Recent awareness campaigns have included a poster campaign on domestic violence in 2003 and a campaign in 2002 aimed at highlighting the dangers of drug-assisted rape. The 2002 campaign involved the development of a series of posters which were displayed in pubs, clubs and third level colleges around the country. Follow-up campaigns were undertaken in third level colleges in 2003 and 2004. In addition, my Department has provided funding to a number of rape-crisis centres to deliver an awareness raising programme in schools in their locality.

My Department, in conjunction with the steering committee, is developing a national television and radio advertising campaign on domestic violence which will be conducted jointly with the Northern Ireland authorities later this month. My Department is funding a number of initiatives aimed at preventing, where possible, further incidents of domestic violence. Funding has been provided for the development of 15 intervention programmes for perpetrators of domestic violence run by MOVE Ireland — Men Overcoming Violent Emotions — and the south-east domestic violence intervention programme. In addition, my Department has provided funding for a domestic violence intervention project on a pilot basis in the Dún Laoghaire and Bray District Court areas. The project arose from research funded by my Department into the development of an intervention model and is based on similar projects operating successfully in other jurisdictions, particularly in Duluth in Minnesota. The agency aims to co-ordinate the work of relevant agencies such as the Garda and the courts with a programme for perpetrators of domestic violence and support services for victims.

My Department commissioned an independent evaluation of all intervention programmes for perpetrators of domestic violence for which it has provided funding. The evaluation report has recently been received in the Department and is expected to be published shortly. The Deputy may also be interested to know that my Department has recently provided joint funding for comprehensive research into attrition rates in rape cases. The research on the understanding of attrition, early withdrawal, the trial process and identifying possible changes to support complainants in rape cases is being carried out by the department of law at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and the Rape Crisis Network Ireland. The research should provide a greater understanding of why some victims choose not to report cases to the Garda, what can be done about underreporting and why of the cases that are reported only a relatively small percentage result in a court hearing.

The Garda Síochána has never been better resourced or equipped to tackle criminal behaviour in all its manifestations. This year, the force's budget has increased to over €1.1 billion. The Garda Síochána thoroughly investigates all complaints of rape and ensures that victims are dealt with in a professional manner. The Garda monitors all incidents of domestic violence on a daily basis. Designated inspectors are allocated to each Garda division to ensure that the Garda domestic violence policy is implemented. In addition, all gardaí receive training on the investigation of cases of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault. The training is provided by experienced Garda personnel assisted by other professionals such as psychologists, doctors, social workers and experts from various non-governmental organisations.

There is close co-operation by the Garda Síochána with other organisation involved in this area including non-governmental organisations. The Garda Síochána continues to make efforts to combat incidents of rape through education, increased awareness and enforcement of the relevant legislation. Recording systems for all domestic violence incidents are being integrated into the PULSE computer system to improve the overall monitoring of domestic violence cases.

Cross-Border Projects.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

290 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to create mechanisms for all-Ireland co-operation in his area of responsibility during the lifetime of the 29th Dáil. [2830/05]

In each of the last two years, my Department and the Northern Ireland Office have facilitated the organisation of a joint Garda-PSNI conference to enhance cross-Border co-operation in tackling organised crime. At last year's conference in September, the Garda and the PSNI launched the first joint threat assessment on cross-Border organised crime. Since then, the two police forces have begun the task of developing the strategic response to this threat. It is hoped that the conference will become an annual event and my Department and the Northern Ireland Office have already been in contact in recent weeks with a view to facilitating a third conference in 2005.

On 29 April 2002, the Irish and British Governments signed an agreement on police co-operation providing a framework for the implementation of certain Patten recommendations enhanced police co-operation. The implementation of Articles 1 — lateral entry — and 2 — secondments with police powers — of the agreement required legislative change. The Garda Síochána (Police Co-operation) Act 2003 was enacted to provide the legal basis for secondments and permanent appointments. The Act provides that members of the Garda and the PSNI will be eligible to apply for certain posts in the other police service and for the secondment of members of each police service to the other police service with full powers for periods not exceeding three years.

The Garda and the PSNI have drafted protocols in accordance with Article 3 of the intergovernmental agreement setting out the detail of the operation of both personnel exchanges and secondments. It is expected that the Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable will sign these protocols in the coming weeks. This will enable the immediate implementation of personnel exchanges and secondments between the two police forces. Work is ongoing to make the necessary preparations to allow members of each police service to apply for certain posts in the other police service.

Work is also ongoing to implement other provisions of the intergovernmental agreement. In August 2001, the directors general of the Irish Prison Service and the Northern Ireland Prison Service adopted a memorandum of understanding for accreditation of prisoner programmes through the establishment of a joint, all-island accreditation panel. Ongoing contact is being maintained between the two services on the purpose, terms of reference, responsibilities, composition, appointment procedures and working arrangements for establishment of the panel.

No formal mechanisms for all-Ireland co-operation are planned in the data protection area. However, the Garda Commissioner has regular meetings with the UK information commissioner and the assistant commissioner in Northern Ireland and they have constructive dialogue on matters of mutual interest including cross-Border data protection issues. In light of new management structures and personnel in the Northern Ireland forensic laboratory, meetings to discuss methods of co-operation are in place.

The Good Friday Agreement provided for a "wide-ranging review of criminal justice (other than policing and those aspects of the system relating to the emergency legislation) to be carried out by the British Government through a mechanism with an independent element, in consultation with the political parties and others". A review of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland was carried out on foot of this commitment and published in March 2000. The review contains a substantial number of recommendations on, inter alia, co-operation between the British and Irish Governments and among the relevant agencies North and South on criminal justice matters with a view to the enhancement of existing areas of co-operation and the development of new areas. Officials from the Northern Ireland Office and my Department are working towards a proposed intergovernmental agreement on co-operation in criminal justice matters which will be signed in due course.

Consultancy Contracts.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

291 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the private services at present contracted by his Department, including the name of the company, the length and value of the contract and the services to be provided; the Minister who concluded the contract in each case; and the services designated for outsourcing within the lifetime of the 29th Dáil. [2831/05]

In the time available for answering parliamentary questions, it has not been possible to compile the detailed information requested by the Deputy. The information sought is being compiled and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as it is available. Decisions on the outsourcing of designated services within the remaining lifetime of the 29th Dáil will be considered at future dates as the need arises.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

292 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the private services at present contracted by the prison service including the name of the company, the length and value of the contract and the services to be provided; the Minister who concluded the contract in each case; and the prison services designated for outsourcing within the lifetime of the 29th Dáil. [2832/05]

In the time available, it is not possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy. There are numerous areas throughout the prison service where private services are contracted such as psychiatric services, medical locum services and education and training services. There are also numerous small cleaning and maintenance contracts in place. There are two major private service contracts in place. These are set out as follows:

Company

Length of contract

Value of contract

Services provided

Minister who concluded contract

Rescon Consulting

3 years

€921,000 per annum

IT support

John O’Donoghue

Campbell Catering Ltd

3 years

€2m per annum

Staff catering facilities

John O’Donoghue

It is not possible, at this juncture, to identify further services which may be designated for outsourcing within the lifetime of the 29th Dáil.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

293 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the private services at present contracted by the probation and welfare service, including the name of the company, the length and value of the contract and the services to be provided; the Minister who concluded the contract in each case; and the probation and welfare services designated for outsourcing within the lifetime of the 29th Dáil. [2833/05]

In the time available for answering parliamentary questions, it has not been possible to compile the detailed information requested. The information sought is being compiled at present and I will forward it to the Deputy shortly.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

294 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the private services at present contracted by the Garda, including the name of the company, the length and value of the contract and the services to be provided; the Minister who concluded the contract in each case; and the Garda services designated for outsourcing within the lifetime of the 29th Dáil. [2835/05]

The full information sought by the Deputy could only be obtained by the expenditure of an inordinate amount of time and resources which is not justifiable at this time. However, details of payments in excess of €1,000, for the year ended 31 December 2004 for consultancy services provided to the Garda Síochána together with details of Garda cleaning contracts awarded for 2004 are being compiled in my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Under the road safety strategy 2004-2006, it is proposed that the Garda Síochána will enter into arrangements for the engagement of a private sector concern for the purpose of the provision and operation of a nationwide programme for the detection of speeding offences. In addition, the collection of payments in respect of the fixed-charge processing system is also designated for outsourcing. The potential for further outsourcing of administrative work is under examination with a view to releasing gardaí for operational duties.

Garda Disciplinary Proceedings.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

295 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the gardaí involved in the case of a person (details supplied) will be dismissed or disciplined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2836/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the two gardaí involved in the case referred to by the Deputy are the subject of criminal and disciplinary proceedings which have yet to be finalised. In the circumstances, he will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment which could affect these proceedings.

Deportation Orders.

John McGuinness

Question:

296 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will put a stay on a deportation order in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny to give an opportunity to their legal representatives to contest the order based on details which were not considered in the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2837/05]

I refer the Deputy to the reply to Question No. 412 on Tuesday, 30 November 2004.

Since that reply the Garda national immigration bureau served a letter dated 16 November 2004 on the person concerned requiring him to present himself again to the bureau on 30 November 2004. He again failed to present himself on that occasion. He subsequently attended at Kilkenny Garda station on 8 December 2004 with a letter from his legal representatives indicating an intention to seek counsel's opinion on the possibility of challenging the deportation order by way of judicial review. He was requested to present himself to the GNIB again on 13 January 2005. He failed to present on that date. Pursuant to section 5 of the Immigration Act 1999, he is subject to arrest and detention without warrant.

Pursuant to section 5(2) of the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000, the person concerned had 14 days to challenge the making of the deportation order by way of application to the High Court to institute proceedings for judicial review. This time period has long elapsed. The person concerned has had ample opportunity to challenge the deportation order since it was first served on him on 15 September 2004 and I see no reason for putting a stay on the execution of the order at this stage. The enforcement of the deportation order is a matter for the GNIB.

Asylum Applications.

John McGuinness

Question:

297 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the documents provided will be examined again; if a decision will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2838/05]

The refugee in question submitted four passports in respect of his wife and children in support of his application for family reunification under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. However, after initial examination by my Department, doubts arose as to the authenticity of the passports in question.

The documents were subsequently examined by a technical expert in the area of documents who concluded that one of the passports had been fraudulently altered and that there were doubts concerning the genuineness of the other passports. The passports have been forwarded to the Garda national immigration bureau for further investigation.

John McGuinness

Question:

298 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application to stay here in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if consideration will be given to the state of this person’s health; if an early decision will be made in this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2839/05]

The person in question arrived in the State on 18 January 2001 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, she was informed by letter, dated 31 December 2003, that it was proposed to make a deportation order in her case. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out reasons she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State, leaving the State before the deportation 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 (Prohibition of Refoulement). I expect the case file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Peace Commissioners.

Seamus Kirk

Question:

299 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of peace commissioners in the country; their range of responsibilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2878/05]

There are 6,808 serving peace commissioners, of which 6,587 are available to the public and a further 221 were appointed in an ex officio capacity, mostly to prisons and places of detention but also to the Central Bank, the Revenue Commissioners, the Garda training college and a number of Departments.

A peace commissioner is normally appointed to serve a county and the immediately adjoining counties. Appointments are made following an assessment of need in respect of an area for which a nomination has been received, in consultation with the Garda Síochána. The office of peace commissioner is an honorary appointment and peace commissioners receive no remuneration or compensation by way of fees or expenses for their services. An application for appointment may be submitted by a person who is interested in obtaining an appointment or a third party may submit a nomination in respect of a person considered suitable for appointment.

The duties and powers of a peace commissioner, as set out in section 88(3) of the Courts of Justice Act 1924, allows for signing summonses, except against a garda, signing warrants, administering oaths and taking declarations, affirmations, information, bonds and recognisances and signing certificates for the registration of clubs. Peace commissioners are also empowered to sign certificates for the destruction of food unfit for consumption under food hygiene regulations. The issuing of summonses and warrants was subject to a number of legal challenges in the late 1980s and early 1990s and decisions of the superior courts raised serious doubts about the constitutional competence of peace commissioners to exercise such powers. Notwithstanding the evolving case law over the past decade, peace commissioners are no longer requested to exercise the powers to issue summonses, warrants for arrest or to remand persons in custody or on bail. The powers and duties of peace commissioners consist primarily of taking statutory declarations, witnessing signatures on documents for various authorities and signing certificates and orders under various Acts.

Visa Applications.

Dan Boyle

Question:

300 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has given consideration to introducing a cultural visa for artists coming here for specified events. [2883/05]

My Department has no plans to introduce a specific cultural visa for artists intending to travel to the State. However, visas are issued for specific events such as public performances of the type referred to by the Deputy, subject to appropriate accompanying documentation. This includes a schedule of the dates of the performance or other events and a work permit or other written permission from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in place of a work permit.

Registration of Title.

Billy Timmins

Question:

301 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application to the Land Registry office for the registration of a folio for a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; if this will be dealt with as speedily as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2886/05]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application for a transfer order, which was lodged on 22 December 2004. Dealing Number D2004WS015439W refers. I am further informed that queries issued to the lodging party on 31 January 2005 and that the application cannot proceed until these queries have been satisfactorily resolved. However, on receipt of a satisfactory reply, the matter will receive further attention in the Land Registry.

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

302 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare qualifies for VTOS; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2851/05]

The VTOS programme is designed for people over 21 years of age and in receipt of social welfare payment for six months immediately before joining the scheme. Questions relating to the eligibility of applicants for admission to the VTOS programme are determined by the local vocational education committee in the light of established criteria and having regard to the availability of places on the programmes.

Student Support Schemes.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

303 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the current practice of student teachers having to supply materials and resources when on teaching practice; if her Department plans to reimburse them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2363/05]

The position is that teaching practice is an integral part of the curriculum for the training of both primary and post-primary teachers. It is not a paid activity because it is viewed as training rather than employment. On that basis, my Department does not provide special financial assistance for students towards costs associated with teaching practice.

The Deputy will be aware that teacher education programmes provided in approved third level institutions are, however, approved courses for the purposes of the higher education grants scheme. Under the terms of the scheme, grant holders who are required to participate in off-campus placement as part of their course of study may have their grant entitlement paid in the normal manner. Accordingly, student teachers who are eligible for grant assistance continue to receive their entitlements while undertaking teaching practice.

In addition, my Department allocates funding each year to third level institutions under the student assistance fund. This fund is available in order to assist students who may be experiencing difficulties in continuing their studies because of financial hardship. The disbursement of this funding is a matter for individual institutions in line with guidelines issued by my Department.

My Department has no plans at present to introduce a scheme of financial assistance, over and above the current provision, for trainee teachers to cover costs associated with teaching practice.

Pension Provisions.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

304 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will demand that graduate teachers work until they are 65 to receive their full pension; her views on whether this is in the best interest of the children; her further views on whether teachers should have an earlier choice of retirement age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2364/05]

The position is that the Public Service Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act was passed into law on 25 March 2004. It provides that the minimum age at which pension will be paid to the generality of new entrants to the public service, including teachers, will be 65. It also abolishes compulsory retirement on grounds of age in the case of new entrants.

The Act defines the term "new entrant". The definition is complex but, broadly speaking, a new entrant is a person who commences employment in the public service on or after 1 April 2004 or who, after a break of more than 26 weeks, returns to employment in the public service on or after 1 April 2004.

The Act provides that employees in certain sectors of the public service must continue to retire before age 65. These are sectors where, unlike the provision for the majority of public servants, including teachers, retirement before 65 has always been required for operational reasons. The sectors in question comprise the Defence Forces, the Garda, prison officers and fire-fighters.

The reforms which have been enacted arose from consideration by Government of the recommendations of the commission on public service pensions. The commission was established by Government in 1996 because of concerns regarding the rising cost of public service pensions. The age at which public servants, including teachers, should retire were among the matters which were considered by the commission.

Teachers already in service may continue to avail of the existing provisions for early retirement, including the early retirement scheme for teachers introduced under the PCW agreement. This latter scheme is also available to new entrants. The early retirement scheme for teachers was introduced some years ago on a pilot basis pending review in the light of the report of the commission on public service pensions. The commission, in its report of 2001, recommended that the pilot scheme be continued for a further five years and be further reviewed at that time.

Although a quota of 400 retirements per year was agreed under the early retirement scheme for teachers, the number of retirements in any year since the scheme was introduced in 1996-97 has never attained even half of the quota.

The commission also recommended the introduction of a scheme of cost-neutral early retirement. Following consideration of this issue by a joint management and union working group, the Government announced in September 2004 that such a scheme would be established. The scheme will provide for the retirement from age 55, with actuarially-reduced pensions, of new entrants to the public service. It will also provide similarly for the retirement from age 50 of public servants who are not new entrants. It is expected that a circular authorising the implementation of this scheme by public service bodies will be issued shortly.