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 25, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 26 to 47, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 48 to 53, inclusive, answered orally.

Social Welfare Code.

Liam Twomey

Question:

54 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if and when he intends to introduce new regulations for the diet supplement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17186/05]

Diet supplements are provided through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Any person receiving a social welfare or health service executive payment, who has been prescribed a special diet as a result of a specified medical condition and who is unable to provide for his or her food needs from within his or her own resources, may qualify for a diet supplement under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.

Diet supplements are subject to a means test. Under the existing scheme, the amount of supplement payable in individual cases depends on which of two categories of diet, low cost or high cost, has been prescribed by the applicant's medical adviser and the income of the individual and his or her dependants. The basis for calculating the amount of diet supplement remained unchanged between 1996 and 2004. Increases in social welfare rates and in the cost of special diets since 1996 had not been taken into account in assessing entitlement in individual cases.

With effect from 1 January 2004, the diet supplement scheme was restructured to take account of increases in both social welfare payment rates and the rate of food inflation since 1996. In the case of new applicants for diet supplement, the amount of supplement payable is based on up-to-date diet costs, that is, €44 for lower cost diets or €57 for higher cost diets, less one third of the applicant's income or one sixth of the joint income in the case of a couple.

As increases in the social welfare payment rates were higher than food price inflation since 1996, the shortfall needing to be met by diet supplement is less than what it was in the past. People who were in receipt of a diet supplement prior to the introduction of the revised regulations on 1 January 2004 continue to receive their existing rate of supplement until such time as there is a change in their circumstances that would warrant a review of their cases. Pending any changes I will make to the scheme, similar arrangements continue to apply this year for existing and new cases, taking account of 2005 rates of social welfare payments.

To inform my consideration of the scheme, my Department commissioned a study by an expert from the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute. The study examined the special diets prescribed in legislation for which assistance is available through the existing diet supplement scheme. The study also considered the appropriate level of assistance required to cater for any additional costs involved in providing for necessary special diets, relative to the cost of a normal healthy eating diet. The findings of this research study are being assessed by my Department to determine how the diet supplement scheme should be developed. Development of the scheme is complex, as the report points out that certain diet conditions covered under the scheme could be adjusted to reflect the latest medical and dietary thinking and the fact that many standard food products are more healthy now in any event.

I will introduce regulations to update the scheme as appropriate as soon as the revised diet supplement range and payment rates have been determined, taking account of the study findings. As part of this process, I have asked my Department to analyse recent patterns of diet supplement payment levels under the existing scheme structure as I wish to make sure that any new supplement coverage and payment rates put in place continue to enable people to meet the cost of additional special dietary items if they need them. In the meantime, diet supplements continue to be provided for existing recipients and new applicants as heretofore.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

55 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons receiving the rent supplement for 18 months or more who have been passed on to a local authority for a housing assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17171/05]

Simon Coveney

Question:

72 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons who have been availing of the rent supplement for 18 months or more; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17169/05]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

85 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons in receipt of the rent supplement for 18 months or more who were passed on to the local authority for a housing assessment and who have had their housing needs met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17172/05]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

107 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the arrangements which have been put in place between his Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to satisfy the recently announced criteria that a person in receipt of rent assistance for a period of 18 months will be offered a local authority property. [16951/05]

Simon Coveney

Question:

122 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress made on the long-term initiative for rent supplement tenants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17168/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55, 72, 85, 107 and 122 together.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. It provides for the payment of a weekly or monthly rent or mortgage interest supplement to assist eligible people who are unable to provide for their accommodation costs from their own resources and who do not have accommodation available from any other source.

As of 13 May last, there were 58,308 households in receipt of assistance under the rent supplement scheme. Just over half of these, almost 30,000 tenants, have been on the scheme for 18 months or more. Expenditure on rent supplements was almost €332 million in 2003 and just under €354 million in 2004. I have provided €369 million in this year's Estimates for this scheme.

As a significant number of people have come to rely on rent supplements on a long-term basis over recent years, the Government announced an initiative in July 2004 aimed at meeting these long-term housing needs. The new system gives local authorities responsibility for meeting long-term housing assistance needs, including the needs of those people on rent supplements for 18 months or longer.

These needs will be met through a range of approaches, including the traditional range of social housing options, the voluntary housing sector and, in particular, a new public private partnership type rental accommodation scheme. A sum of €19 million has been transferred from my Department's Vote to that of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government this year to help finance this initiative. The new arrangements are currently being implemented in seven local authorities, including Dublin, Galway and Limerick City Councils and South Dublin County Council. These seven lead authorities include some of the most extensive urban areas in the State.

My Department and the Health Service Executive actively assist the local authorities and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in this process, for example, that Department has been supplied with full information on the 30,000 people who have been on rent supplement for 18 months or more. My Department has also provided details to each of the seven lead local authorities of people in this category who reside in the relevant local authority functional area.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has appointed programme managers to assist these lead authorities with the implementation of the new arrangements. Thereafter these managers will be available to support other authorities over the implementation period. Implementation groups in the seven lead authority areas have been established to ensure effective ongoing liaison and co-operation locally between housing authorities, Health Service Executive areas and other agencies. The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government has indicated that the lead local authorities are on target to transfer the first eligible rent supplement recipients to the rental accommodation scheme within the next few weeks. The new arrangements will be initiated in all local authority areas by the end of 2005.

The aim of the new system is to minimise ongoing dependence on rent supplement by progressing to a situation where suitable long-term accommodation is available for all who need it and where the rent supplement scheme is not necessary other than for short-term support. This will be achieved within a period of three years from commencement of the new arrangements in each local authority and in any event no later than September 2008.

These new arrangements will provide an additional source of good quality accommodation to meet long-term housing needs. The scheme will involve structured arrangements to secure long-term availability of privately rented accommodation, particularly accommodation currently occupied by tenants in receipt of rent supplement under the SWA scheme and to encourage the supply of additional accommodation. Overall, the new rental assistance arrangements represent a major step forward in supporting people with long-term housing needs. All the relevant agencies are co-operating actively to make the system work successfully.

The supplementary welfare allowance rent supplement scheme will continue to provide short-term income support for eligible people who are unable to meet their immediate accommodation needs through their own resources.

Budgeting Advice.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

56 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the proactive educational measures his Department has taken to advise persons of the dangers of excessive indebtedness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17142/05]

My Department has overall responsibility for the money advice and budgeting service, MABS, which provides assistance to people who are over indebted. The service is targeted at those who are on low income or in receipt of social welfare payments and also those with poor literacy and numeracy skills. There are 52 MABS companies located in 65 offices throughout the country. More than 16,000 new clients approach the MABS annually and the service deals with 30,000 clients on an ongoing basis. This year, funding of over €13.6 million is being provided for the MABS.

The money advice and budgeting service has a close and ongoing involvement with my Department at local level. Representatives of the Department are on the boards of management of MABS. The management committees members are also drawn from statutory and voluntary bodies such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, credit unions, citizens information centres and community welfare officers. These representatives in turn raise awareness of issues around over indebtedness in their parent bodies.

The money advice and budgeting service is advertised in many post offices and credit unions as well as in local health centres. New posters with local contact details are about to be circulated to all the MABS offices. These posters will be displayed in all social welfare offices and health centres as well as other appropriate locations. One of the objectives of the MABS is to facilitate low income families to develop the knowledge and skills they need to avoid getting into debt and to deal effectively with debt problems that arise.

A new company, MABS National Development Limited or MABS ndl, was established in 2004 to support, promote and develop the service. MABS ndl has recruited a national development team comprising a social policy-communications officer, a community education officer and three casework technical support officers. The community education officer is currently working on the development of a national strategy in community education which will be implemented by the 52 local services. This strategy will seek to empower individuals and communities in developing the skills necessary to deal with debt situations as they arise. Work on this strategy will proceed on a partnership basis, in co-operation at national and local levels with education providers. Contact has commenced with the Department of Education and Science to explore areas of co-operation and the MABS will work at local level with the existing network of adult literacy services and community education facilitators funded by that Department.

The community education officer has recently undertaken a survey of the MABS, entitled "What are we doing in Community Education". The responses showed a high level of activity and the excellent work that has been put into developing materials and programmes which, for the most part, are very good quality.

I recently had the pleasure of officiating at the launch of "Let's Talk Money", a resource pack for money advisers and facilitators. This pack will be a resource to staff in the money advice and budgeting service and also to those who are involved in the education of community groups. It will support the work of MABS as a preventative measure and enable those who are most vulnerable to develop the knowledge and skills required to avoid getting into debt and to deal effectively with debt situations as they arise.

Social Welfare Code.

Damien English

Question:

57 Mr. English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he is considering changing the dual eligibility rule for persons in receipt of the carer’s allowance, for example, a person who has been in receipt of the carer’s allowance and who qualifies for the old age pension but only receives one social welfare payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17184/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

104 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of carers currently in receipt of a payment; the number of applications received in the past two years; the number approved, rejected and pending; if he will consider extending the scheme to a wider group in view of the number of persons now caring for others and not in receipt of a payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17129/05]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

113 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reforms he has recently introduced to the annual grant for full-time carers of older or disabled persons; if he proposes to introduce further reforms or benefits for payments to carers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17123/05]

Joe Costello

Question:

126 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has received a copy of the recently launched national carers strategy by the National Carers Association; if he has plans to review the payment system for carers in order that they receive the same salary as health workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17119/05]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

246 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will review the respite care grant in order that parents who provide full-time care for a special needs child by sharing the caring and who both work part-time for more than ten hours per week outside the home will qualify for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17025/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

258 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his proposals to improve the qualifying conditions for the carer’s allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17430/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

259 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the potential costs of extending the carer’s allowance to an extra 5,000 carers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17431/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

260 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will consider an extension of the carer’s allowance to all persons providing full-time care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17432/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57, 104, 113, 126, 246 and 258 to 260, inclusive, together.

The carer's allowance is a social assistance payment which provides income support to people who are providing certain elderly or incapacitated persons with full-time care and attention and whose incomes fall below a certain limit. The primary objective of the social welfare system is to provide income support and, as a general rule, only one weekly social welfare payment is payable to an individual. This ensures resources are not used to make two income support payments to any one person. Persons qualifying for two social welfare payments always receive the higher payment to which they are entitled. Any changes would involve additional expenditure which could only be considered in a budgetary context. However, I continue to carefully examine the issue as part of an ongoing review of supports for carers.

The overall number of persons receiving a carer's allowance at week ending 13 May 2005 was 23,307. A total of 15,050 claims were received during 2003 and 2004; 9,740 of these claims were awarded and 4,040 were refused. Approximately 1,000 claims were on hand at the end of 2004. The balance of claims was withdrawn. In addition, there are 711 carer's benefit claims in payment and a further 1,839 claims that were previously in payment have been closed for a number of reasons, such as the carer is no longer providing care.

It is estimated that the annual gross cost of extending the carer's allowance to an additional 5,000 carers and giving them the full package of free schemes would be in the region of €48 million annually. However, there would be some savings where these additional carers may currently be in receipt of another payment from my Department and may already be in receipt of the free schemes.

I introduced a number of improvements for carers in the last budget which will benefit existing recipients of carer's payments and will also serve to extend support to carers who are not eligible for carer's payments. The most significant of these relates to the respite care grant. I have made provision for increasing the respite care grant to €1,000 and the extension of it to all persons providing full-time care and attention, regardless of their means. This means the respite care grant will now be paid to persons providing full-time care but who are on another social welfare payment, excluding unemployment assistance and benefit. It will also be paid to carers who do not currently receive a weekly social welfare payment from my Department. The grant will continue to be paid automatically to those who are in receipt of carer's payments.

This arrangement is being introduced to recognise the valuable role of carers and to acknowledge the needs of carers, especially for respite care. It is estimated that, overall, almost 33,000 carers will receive a respite care grant in June. As this is the first year of this new extended grant, I will keep it under review, particularly with regard to the qualification conditions.

With regard to the Carers Association's national strategy, I presume the Deputy is referring to the document, Towards a Family Carers Strategy. I am honoured that the Carers Association has invited me to officially launch this document next Monday. I am particularly interested in the views expressed in the strategy about encouraging carers to participate in the labour force. My officials are currently examining proposals regarding care sharing. The details are still being teased out but I hope to be in a position to make progress this year. I am always prepared to consider changes to existing arrangements and, in this context, I will continue to review the issues raised by the Carers Association and other bodies representing carers.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

58 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the aspects of the National Women’s Council of Ireland’s campaign on social welfare which he supports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17136/05]

I recently met representatives of the National Women's Council of Ireland to discuss their proposals for reform of the social welfare system so as to better reflect the position of women. The comprehensive set of proposals are based on research commissioned by the council and entitled "A Woman's Model of Social Welfare Reform". It was not possible to deal directly with all aspects of the report but I indicated to the council that I shared the view that the social welfare system should reflect to the greatest extent possible the principle of inclusiveness, and that within the resources available I would seek to address the priority issues raised within the report.

The council identified three priority areas for reform. These are: the provision of recognition of unpaid care work which tends to be undertaken largely by women; the recognition that women's participation in the labour market can often be on the basis of atypical employment which has implications for coverage for social welfare benefits; the issue of access for older women to pension payments on an individual basis.

Under the first heading, the council addressed issues relating to maternity benefit and carer's allowance. The maternity benefit scheme has been significantly improved over the past four years, in terms of both the duration of payment and the level at which it is paid. The means test for the carer's allowance has been eased significantly in the past few years, notably with the introduction of a substantial disregard of spouses' earnings.

With regard to atypical employment, the council put forward arguments for a new part-time unemployment payment and reforms to the legislation dealing with relatives assisting in family businesses. My Department is examining the issues relating to a part-time unemployment payment and how the information on treatment of family employments under the social insurance system could be improved.

As regards older women and pension rights, I indicated that both the programme for Government and Sustaining Progress include a commitment to increase the payment for qualified adults aged 66 years or over to the same level as the personal rate of the old age non-contributory pension. More generally a significant number of the proposals put forward by the council are already being closely examined and actively considered by my Department.

I indicated to the National Women's Council of Ireland that I would consider seriously practical proposals that would lead to more equitable treatment of women within the social welfare system.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Pat Breen

Question:

59 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, as promised in the NAPS, child poverty will be substantially reduced or eliminated by 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17152/05]

Tackling child poverty has been and continues to be among my key priorities. Strategies to address child poverty and the measures to give effect to them are set out in the national action plan against poverty and social exclusion and in the national children's strategy. The importance of tackling child poverty is reflected in the fact that "Ending Child Poverty" is one of ten Sustaining Progress special initiatives.

The overall target is to reduce the number of children who are defined as consistently poor to below 2% by 2007 and, if possible, to eliminate consistent poverty amongst children by then. The Living in Ireland survey, LIIS, which is the only current relevant survey allowing multiple years analysis, showed that from 1997 to 2001, the number of children who are consistently poor fell from 15.3% to 6.5%. The LIIS was discontinued and has been replaced by the EU survey of income and living conditions, EU SILC.

The EU SILC, based on a different methodology, indicated a consistent child poverty rate of 14.6%. In consideration of the previous continuous falls in the consistent child poverty rates and the ongoing substantial increases by this Government in child and family supports, the EU SILC rate does not suggest that child poverty has increased. It is a fact that different surveys give different results.

However, despite the extremely positive and targeted action taken by the Government and the record levels of spending on social welfare, there are vulnerable groups, including children, who struggle on the margins of society. It is, therefore, necessary to intensify the efforts made to eradicate poverty and social exclusion, particularly among persons in these vulnerable groups. One of the key factors underpinning the reduction in child poverty is the reduction in the numbers of parents who are unemployed. Our aim is to continue to maintain high levels of employment and to remove obstacles to taking up employment, especially for lone parents and parents with large families.

The most significant measure to date to tackle child poverty by my Department has been the substantial increases in child benefit payment rates. Between 1997 and 2005, the rate of child benefit rose from €38.09 per month for the first two children and €49.52 for each child thereafter to €141.60 per month for each of the first two children and to €177.30 per month for the third and each subsequent child. Child benefit is paid to more than 540,000 families in respect of approximately 1 million children, at an estimated cost of €1.916 billion in 2005. It delivers a standard rate of payment in respect of all children in a family regardless of income levels or employment status.

Through the family income supplement scheme, my Department provides cash support by way of weekly payments to families, including lone parent families, at work on low pay. Recent improvements to the scheme, including the assessment of entitlements on the basis of net rather than gross income and progressive increases in the income limits, have made it easier for lower income households to qualify under the scheme.

I await completion of a study being carried out by the NESC on amalgamating social welfare child dependant allowances with family income supplement payments, as a second tier of support to channel extra resources to low income families without creating disincentives to employment. In addition, a sub-group of the senior officials group on social inclusion has commenced examining obstacles to employment for lone parent families. My Department is also participating in an interdepartmental working group on early child care and education, chaired by the National Children's Office. The work of this committee is at an advanced stage and the outcome will make an important contribution to finding the right mix of services and income support to facilitate employment take up and care for children.

The causes of poverty among children and its effects are multi-faceted and require a multi-policy response. A wide range of data are required in effectively monitoring, evaluating and further developing such policies. It is for that reason that my Department and the Department of Health and Children, through the National Children's Office, are jointly funding a national longitudinal study on children. The study will be the most significant of its kind to be undertaken here, particularly in terms of the cost, scope and length of study period. It is anticipated that 10,000 children from birth and 8,000 children aged nine years will be selected to participate in the study, which is expected to commence later in 2005.

Assisting and supporting vulnerable families and their children and older people is one of our main challenges as a society. Through the initiatives it is taking under its strategy to combat poverty and social exclusion, the Government is giving priority to working to ensure that vulnerable families and their children have a fair share of life chances and quality of life.

Pension Provisions.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

60 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the legislative provision by which he can ensure that workers in the construction industry receive their pension entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17210/05]

Gerard Murphy

Question:

68 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the outcome of his meeting with workers in the construction industry about their pension entitlements; the steps he has taken or intends to take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17209/05]

Joan Burton

Question:

117 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will report on his recent meeting with SIPTU representatives concerning the large scale abuses of the construction industry pension scheme; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that up to 50% of building workers are not covered by the scheme due to the failure of certain employers to make compulsory contributions; the plans he has to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17112/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60, 68 and 117 together.

The construction federation operatives pension scheme is constituted as a registered employment agreement under the Industrial Relations Act 1946. The agreement was put in place in 1969 and it requires employers in the industry to provide specific pension benefits for their direct employees. Responsibility for various aspects of the scheme is divided between a number of agencies, including the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Labour Court, the construction industry monitoring agency and the Pensions Board.

The issues associated with this scheme are many and complex. The SIPTU representatives, at my recent meeting with them, reported a high level of non-compliance and, in this regard, anyone familiar with the particular scheme will accept that there are serious problems to be addressed. Employers are not registering for the scheme; where they are registered, in many cases, they are not paying contributions for all their employees and, in some cases, deductions are being made and are not being remitted to the scheme trustees. With regard to the latter, failure to remit deducted contributions is an offence under the Pensions Act and the Pensions Board investigates any cases brought to its attention.

My Department and the Pensions Board are aware of the problems with the scheme and, while many of the problems are not within its remit, the Pensions Board has facilitated an examination of the situation by Mercer Human Resource Consultants. The brief for this exercise covers, among other things, identifying the areas of non-compliance and making recommendations on methods of addressing the problems which are likely to be successful in achieving the scheme's objective. I understand that the Mercer report will be completed in July and it will be examined in detail thereafter by all concerned with a view to implementation, as appropriate. SIPTU has put forward proposals on the compulsory deduction of contributions and these will be considered in the context of the review.

I am firmly of the view that only contractors that are fully compliant on their pensions and benefits obligations should be awarded public sector contracts. Ideally, I would like an arrangement, such as the tax clearance requirement, to be put in place to cover pensions and benefits. I intend to bring this issue to the attention of my Cabinet colleagues shortly.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Seán Crowe

Question:

61 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, in view of the anomaly whereby persons claiming disability benefit are not entitled to a Christmas bonus, he will review and consider the financial implications of including this sector prior to next year’s payment. [12164/05]

A special Christmas bonus payment was first introduced in December 1980 for social welfare pensioners and people who depend solely on their social welfare payments for income support. There have been a number of developments in this scheme since its inception, including changes in the level of the bonus payments, the introduction of a minimum payment and the extension of the categories of eligible claimants.

The focus of the bonus has always been on persons who rely on the social welfare system for financial support over the longer term. These include recipients of retirement, old age contributory and non-contributory pensions, widow's, widower's and invalidity pensions, one-parent family payment, carer's allowance, disability allowance, long-term unemployment assistance, farm assist and people on employment support payments. The bonus is also payable to participants in the rural social scheme, which was introduced in 2004 and operates under the aegis of my colleague, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

There are no plans at present to amend or extend entitlement to the bonus payment to recipients of short-term schemes such as disability benefit. However, I will continue to keep the matter under review. It is open to persons who have been in receipt of disability benefit for at least a year to apply for invalidity pension and, if they qualify for that pension, they would also qualify for the Christmas bonus payment.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

John Gormley

Question:

62 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans for the next six months to move towards fulfilling objectives two and three in the Combat Poverty Agency’s strategic plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17138/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

92 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the efforts he is making to reduce poverty and social exclusion in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17155/05]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

116 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way in which he intends to ensure that local anti-poverty plans complement national initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17140/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62, 92 and 116 together.

The current national action plan against poverty and social exclusion, which covers the period 2003 to 2005, sets out in detail the actions being taken by Government to give effect to its strategy to combat poverty and social exclusion. The plan sets out commitments and targets for all relevant Departments to work towards meeting the Lisbon pledge "to make a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty" by 2010. It also reflects the social inclusion commitments agreed in Sustaining Progress. As Minister for Social and Family Affairs, I have lead responsibility for this process, working closely with my ministerial colleagues and through the Cabinet committee on social inclusion. The office for social inclusion, based in my Department, co-ordinates the process.

The national action plan recognises that the causes of poverty and its effects are multi-faceted and require an integrated response for application at national, regional and local levels. The plan contains explicit actions which target each of these levels. Examples of these actions include the following: local authorities are now required to ensure that social inclusion is addressed in their corporate plans and supporting annual operational plans; in 2002, pilot social inclusion units were established for a three year period in seven local authorities and it was decided this year to extend the programme for one more year to enable its future operation to be assessed; county and city development boards, CDBs, were established in 2000 to bring about a more co-ordinated delivery of public and local development services at local level; the local government anti-poverty learning network, representative of elected members and officials, was established in 2000 to provide a forum for sharing information and exchanging different local experiences and best practice on anti-poverty measures; the most disadvantaged rural areas are being targeted through the CLÁR programme, which addresses the issue of access to services in the areas most affected by population decline.

A number of local authorities have published local anti-poverty strategies, including Cork and Dublin City Councils. Ensuring that there are links between these local and national strategies is an essential part of the overall national action plan. The Combat Poverty Agency plays a key role in this process, working closely with the office for social inclusion. The agency's strategic plan sets out goals across three main areas: distribution of income and employment; access to health and education services of high quality; the further development of and local and regional level responses to poverty.

Full account will be taken by the office of social inclusion of the agency's strategy, its views and advice on policy, and of its experience and expertise, in monitoring and evaluating progress in achieving the objectives of the national action plan and in the development of the next plan during 2006.

Pension Provisions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

63 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his estimate of the likely increase in the Exchequer’s exposure with regard to social welfare pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13276/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

265 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if adequate provision is being made to meet pension payments in 2010, 2030 and 2040; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17437/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 265 together.

In common with other European countries, the population of Ireland is aging as a result of a combination of increasing life expectancy and a declining birth rate. The decline in the birth rate is relatively recent and this, coupled with the effects of high emigration for much of the period up to the 1990s, has resulted in Ireland having the lowest proportion of older people in the EU, with 11.2% aged 65 years and over compared to the current EU average of 16.1%. The proportion of older people in Ireland will remain at broadly the same level for the next ten years, after which it is projected to increase rapidly to 15% in 2021, 19% in 2031 and 28% in 2056. A similar situation exists with the number of pensioners relative to the number at work.

The increase in the number of older people in the population will, of course, impact on pension costs in the years to come. An actuarial review of the social insurance fund published in 2002 suggested that the cost of the main pension schemes will rise, by 2056, from a current level of about 1.5% of GNP to 2.1% of GNP, if payments increase in line with prices, or 6.5% GNP, if they are indexed in line with earnings.

However, the implications of the extra costs for the Exchequer will depend on a number of factors, including the level of PRSI contributions being paid in the future, the way in which pension rates grow and the contribution of the National Pensions Reserve Fund towards the extra costs. The latter will not be used until 2025 and the manner in which it is to be disbursed will not be decided until nearer that time. The position will be kept under examination, with the next actuarial review being due for completion in 2007.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

64 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to his comments (details supplied), the reason families with incomes of between €30,000 and €40,000 per annum are now classified as the new working poor; the further reason 16,000 families approach the MABS on an annual basis to seek advice for debt problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17206/05]

The 2003 EU survey of income and living conditions, EU-SILC, indicates that 3.5% of people at work fell into the consistent poverty category, compared to 9.4% of the population generally. The survey further shows that 9.2% of people in Ireland who were at work were at risk of poverty, compared to 22.7% of the population generally. It is clear from these figures that being at work significantly reduces the risks of poverty and deprivation. However, despite the economic advances of recent years, some families who find themselves dependent on low wage employment are sometimes classified as the working poor.

The continued reduction of poverty is a core objective of this Government. In this regard, accepting and keeping a job is seen as the most important route to escape poverty and to ensure social inclusion. However, it is important to ensure that work "pays" and a number of policy instruments crossing a range of Government Departments are used as a way of preventing poverty among the working poor. These include changes to the taxation system, the introduction of a national minimum hourly wage, provision of training and access to lifelong learning opportunities, assistance with job search and placement, the introduction of flexible working arrangements and increased access to affordable child care and changes to the social welfare system to support the transition to employment and improve the retention of non-cash benefits during that transition.

One of the main policy responses in my Department, designed to address the problem of low income working families, is the family income supplement, FIS, scheme. The scheme provides cash support amounting to a minimum of €20 per week for employees who work a minimum of 19 hours per week or 38 hours per fortnight. This preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if he or she were claiming other social welfare payments. Budget 2005 increased the FIS earnings thresholds by €39 in respect of each family size. This increase was unprecedented since the introduction of the scheme in 1984 and added €23.40 to the weekly payments of most existing FIS recipients from January 2005. The current average FIS payment is almost €94. The cost of this measure is estimated at €15.53 million in 2005.

Arising from the increased thresholds, it is estimated that 2,600 additional families became eligible for a FIS payment. The ongoing development of the FIS scheme has resulted in current levels of both applications and claims in payment being at an all time high. In 2004, some 21,000 applications for the scheme were received. Over 15,000 claims were in payment in 2004. Effective and adequate support for making work pay will continue to be a major priority for this Government and for me as Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

The money advice and budgeting service, MABS, is another resource for assisting people in poverty. My Department has overall responsibility for this service which provides assistance to people experiencing difficulty in meeting repayments on borrowings. There are 52 independent companies nationwide operating the service. More than 16,000 new clients approach the MABS annually and the service deals with 30,000 clients on an ongoing basis.

The MABS programme provides an independent, free and confidential money advice and budgeting service mainly to low income individuals and families who are in debt or at risk of getting into debt. Of the people who come to the MABS, the majority are people on social welfare and on low incomes who find difficulty in making ends meet and are excluded from mainstream credit. The MABS programme emphasises practical measures to remove people from dependence on moneylenders and open up alternative sources of credit for them. The programme has been very successful in that regard, and in budget 2005, I provided a total of €13.6 million for MABS.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Dan Boyle

Question:

65 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for the anomaly whereby a lone parent engaged in a community employment scheme is at a disadvantage of more than €45 a week when compared to a lone parent in part-time work and accessing family income supplement. [17131/05]

Community employment is a part-time, publicly funded transitional programme designed to progress the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged groups towards re-entering the labour market. CE participants receive payments which are in excess of their entitlements under the social welfare system and retain entitlement to secondary benefits, where applicable. Participants are free to supplement their payment through earnings from work outside of the programme hours. In addition, a lone parent may continue to receive a reduced one-parent family payment while participating on a CE programme, for example, the one-parent family payment is reduced by approximately €22 per week in respect of a lone parent with one child receiving €190 per week on a CE scheme.

The purpose of the family income supplement scheme is to create an incentive for full-time workers with dependent children to take up or remain in employment in circumstances where it might not otherwise be more attractive financially than the appropriate social welfare payment. Consequently, the provision of additional family income support via the family income supplement to participants in a programme which is already 100% publicly funded would not be consistent with FIS policy objectives as currently structured and is not considered appropriate in the circumstances.

However, I am involved in examining a range of comprehensive reforms in the area of lone parents, including income supports and removing obstacles to returning to work and education. A steering group, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, is also addressing obstacles to employment faced by lone parents.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

66 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when he intends to introduce the advocacy service for persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17187/05]

The introduction of a personal advocacy service, aimed specifically at people with disabilities, is provided for in the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill 2004 published last September in conjunction with the Disability Bill 2004. The Comhairle (Amendment) Bill 2004 is intended to confer additional and enhanced functions on the national information agency, Comhairle, which will enable that agency to introduce a personal advocacy service specifically for people with disabilities.

The new service will provide for the assignment of a personal advocate to assist, support and represent the person with a disability in applying for and obtaining a social service and also in pursuing any right of review or appeal in connection with that service. As announced in this year's budget package, additional funding of €1 million has been provided to Comhairle this year to enable the groundwork to commence on the introduction of the new service. It is envisaged that the new personal advocacy service will be introduced in early 2008.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

67 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a report (details supplied) which shows that the number of persons from accession countries using its food and night shelters has increased; if his Department has conducted any research into welfare services for EU immigrants coming here; if Ireland needs to develop more social supports for these persons when they first come here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17113/05]

I am aware that the director of Crosscare referred to persons from the new member states seeking assistance at its food and night shelters when he spoke at a press conference to launch the Crosscare 2004 annual report. The director also stated that Crosscare would commission a study to establish how such people were faring when they came to this country. I understand this report should be available later in the year.

From 1 May 2004 the requirement to be habitually resident in Ireland was introduced as a qualifying condition for certain social assistance schemes and child benefit. The basis for the restriction contained in the new rules is the applicant's habitual residence. The restriction is not based on citizenship, nationality, immigration status or any other factor. The effect of the restriction is that a person whose habitual residence is elsewhere is not paid certain social welfare payments on arrival in Ireland. The question of what is a person's "habitual residence" is decided in accordance with European Court of Justice case law, which sets out the grounds for assessing individual claims.

Each case received for a determination on the habitual residence condition is dealt with in its own right and a decision is based on application of the guidelines to the particular individual circumstances of each case. Any applicant who disagrees with the decision of a deciding officer has the right to appeal to the social welfare appeals office.

It appears from information held in my Department that the majority of persons who came here from the new member states took up employment and did not make social welfare claims. Arrangements are, however, being made to review the operation of this condition. The review will take into account the issues that have come to light since the condition came into effect in May 2004 and views received from the EU Commission and from various groups and organisations who have an interest in this area. I expect the review to be completed later this year.

Question No. 68 answered with QuestionNo. 60.

Damien English

Question:

69 Mr. English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, when a person reaches the age of eligibility for the old age pension, his Department informs that person by letter that they are eligible and that they should contact the Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17185/05]

A person approaching pension age who is in receipt of a social welfare payment is advised to apply for the pension three months in advance of reaching pension age. The onus remains on the person to complete the application form and submit this to the Department. About 30% of all those who apply for an old age pension are notified under this process.

Last year, to enhance early application for pensions, I initiated a series of radio advertisements to bring people's attention to the availability of pension entitlements and to remind them to apply in good time for their benefits. The campaign was followed up with interviews on local radio shows and articles in national and regional newspapers.

Staff in my Department's network of local offices and branch offices promote the availability of pensions as part of their normal work. Claim forms and pension information leaflets are available through my Department's offices throughout the country, at citizen's information centres, Comhairle and post offices. Information is also available from my Department's information office in Dublin and from the pensions services office, Sligo. Claim forms and information leaflets are also available by telephoning LoCall 1890 20 23 25 or from my Department's website at www.welfare.ie.

My Department is developing new generation IT systems which will facilitate more customer centred services. As part of this, my Department is developing methods to invite customers in advance to claim their pension entitlements. Pending the introduction of these new arrangements, my Department is actively considering a number of approaches to improving this service. These include better use of existing arrangements, such as increased advertising and targeting of groups of customers likely to qualify for a pension.

Phil Hogan

Question:

70 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the efforts his Department makes to encourage and assist persons with disabilities and long-term illnesses to identify and take up available employment, training, educational and other self-development opportunities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17190/05]

My Department tries to assist and encourage long-term unemployed, people with disabilities and other long-term welfare recipients to return to work, training or further education through a range of measures administered by my Department's social and family support service.

The back to work allowance scheme incentivises and encourages long-term unemployed people, lone parents and certain persons with disabilities to return to work by allowing them to retain part of their social welfare payment for a period when they take up employment or self employment. My Department also administers the back to education allowance programme which is available to people who need to obtain educational qualifications before re-entering the labour market. It also operates a special projects fund, administered by facilitators based in social welfare local offices, which enables facilitators to provide enhanced supports to people who need additional help to progress to further training and employment. The groups who may need special help of this nature include the long-term ill and people with disabilities. In 2004, 23 special projects catered for people with disabilities at a cost of more than €500,000.

The Department also operates a small scale family services project in certain areas, which is designed to focus supports towards specific target groups with complex needs, including people with disabilities. The provision of this additional support, involving individual attention, customised information and enhanced access to services, can increase the capacity of those in the most difficult circumstances, including people with disabilities, to improve their self esteem and personal situations through access to basic education, training and developmental opportunities.

It is hoped that by encouraging customers with disabilities to participate in self development programmes and, in some instances, "taster" educational programmes facilitated through FSP funding, co-funding or part funding, that they will move on to more formalised training and educational programmes. In 2004, six projects catered for people with disabilities and their families at a cost of €66,240. The special projects and family services initiatives are based on the application of a partnership approach between my Department, the voluntary and community sector, the private sector and other local players in identifying and addressing local needs in terms of training and development for people dependent on social welfare payments, including people with disabilities.

Customers in receipt of certain illness related payments, such as disability allowance, disability benefit and invalidity pension, are not debarred from working while in receipt of these payments subject to meeting certain criteria. Disability allowance is means tested and any income received would be assessed as means subject to the current means disregards of €120 per week. Disability benefit and invalidity pension customers may, in certain circumstances, be allowed to undertake work for therapeutic or rehabilitative reasons with a view to improving their prospects of returning to full-time work at a future date.

Pension Provisions.

Tom Hayes

Question:

71 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to encourage more women to take up pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17189/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

73 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he plans to introduce a new pensions scheme to encourage persons who have opened SSIA accounts to continue saving their money as pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17125/05]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

87 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, with regard to the current review of the pension system here, his Department has come to any decision; if not, when he expects decisions to be made on the incentives or measures which will be put in place to encourage the 400,000 women in the labour force who do not have any pension payments system in place to open pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17201/05]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

98 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a new study by the Economic and Social Research Institute showing that Irish pensioners have the worst deal in Europe and that the entire pensions system is in need of serious reform; if he has plans to conduct serious reform of the pensions system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17120/05]

Willie Penrose

Question:

112 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to recent comments from the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions that thousands of workers are sleepwalking into old age poverty due to not having a pension; if he has plans to address this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17111/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71, 73, 87, 98 and 112 together.

It is Government policy to encourage people to participate in occupational and private pension arrangements so that they can, when they retire, maintain their pre-retirement standard of living. To this end a range of measures have been introduced in recent years, including personal retirement savings accounts, PRSAs, mandatory employer PRSA access where occupational schemes are not available and an ongoing national pensions awareness campaign.

In terms of overall occupational and private pensions coverage, CSO figures for the first quarter of 2004 show that 52.4% of persons in employment have a supplementary pension. Out of a national workforce of some 2 million people, an estimated 900,000 do not have a private or occupational pension to boost their incomes in retirement. The coverage rate for women is 46.8% against 56.3% for men. We must improve on this situation and, in that regard, I share the concerns of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions about people who have not made adequate provision for their retirement.

The key target group for Government action in the supplementary pensions area is those who are 30 years of age and over. The national pensions policy initiative suggested that up to 70% of this group will need to supplement their social welfare pension to maintain living standards in retirement. The most recent CSO figures suggest that 59.1% of people in this group have the necessary pensions cover and this is a small increase on the 2002 figure of 57.4%.

Over the past three years the Pensions Board has run a national pensions awareness campaign which is designed to increase awareness of pensions issues among the public and to encourage pensions take up. A total of €1 million was spent on the campaign through 2003 and 2004 and further resources have been allocated to facilitate the campaign in the current year. As well as raising general awareness, the campaign has also focused on areas of the country and sections of the population with lower levels of pensions take up. The 2004 campaign featured a number of special promotions aimed specifically at women.

There is no doubt that progress on pensions coverage is being made as, in recent years there has been a steady increase in the number of people taking out PRSAs and in those participating in occupational schemes. However, at this stage, it has to be accepted that at the present rate of progress we will not achieve our targets within any kind of reasonable timescale. Review of pensions coverage and related issues is required to be completed by September 2006. As coverage is unlikely to improve dramatically over the next year, in February, I asked the Pensions Board to commence work on a comprehensive review of our overall pensions strategy.

A one size fits all retirement regime may not best reflect the needs and wishes of Irish people in the 21st century. The review will be wide ranging and will include an examination of the appropriateness of the original coverage targets suggested in the national pensions policy initiative, scheme management, aspects of funding, incentives available to encourage pensions take up and possible alternatives to our present arrangements. With regard to the latter, I have not ruled out some type of mandatory regime and the Pensions Board is examining the options available with particular regard to the position in other countries. The role the State might have in future pension provision is also being examined.

With regard to incentives generally, I am aware of the potential of maturing SSIAs as a way of increasing pensions coverage and I have asked the Pensions Board to look at how we might take advantage of that. Work on the review is ongoing and I am anxious to ensure that it is completed in the shortest possible timescale so that I can review the situation and decide what further action is required in this area. At this stage I expect to receive the report of the Pensions Board in September. This report will take account of the various submissions made to the board and the recent ESRI report.

Internationally, Governments are trying to deal with the challenge of funding pensions for an older population that is generally living longer and healthier lives. It is essential that we take action sooner rather than later so that we can deliver on our commitment to ensure an adequate retirement income for all.

Question No. 72 answered with QuestionNo. 55.
Question No. 73 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

74 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a recent survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showing that Irish pensions, on average, are among the lowest in the developed world at less than one third of final income; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this survey states that Ireland has the lowest pension rate at average earnings at 30.6%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17121/05]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

111 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the State pension here is among the worst in the western world and that the average State pension amounts to only 31% of average earnings before retirement; if he has plans to reform the pensions system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17126/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 111 together.

The Irish pensions system is unique, combining as it does a flat rate State payment and a voluntary supplementary pensions sector designed to provide the earnings related element of retirement income. The comparisons in the OECD survey are valid in so far as they focus on income from State cash payments. However, they do not provide a full picture of pensioners' incomes because they exclude very important elements of the overall pensions system. In particular, income from occupational and private pensions, which is extremely important in the Irish context, as well as the non-cash supports provided through the household benefits scheme are not counted. A recent ESRI report on pensioners' incomes and replacement rates in 2000 estimated that the income of older couples was 51% of pre-retirement income with single pensioners achieving a rate of 43%.

Since first taking office, the needs of older people have been a priority for this Government. The Government has sought through significant increases in pensions and changes to other schemes to improve the position of older people. Since 1997, we have increased pensions by up to €80.26 per week or 81%. Over the same period the increase in the consumer price index was 30.7%, while average earnings increased by51%. At the same time we have eased qualifying conditions so that more people can now receive contributory pensions. The free schemes have also been made available to all those over 70 years of age regardless of their income or household composition.

The programme for Government contains a commitment to increase the basic State pension to €200 by 2007 and further progress will be made in the 2006-07 period. The maximum rate of contributory old age pension now stands at €179.30. Under the national pensions policy initiative, published by the Pensions Board in 1998, the board proposed a rate of 34% of gross average industrial earnings for contributory pensions based on average earnings for the previous year. On that basis the current rate of pension is equivalent to almost 32%.

A statutory review of pensions coverage and related issues is required to be completed by September 2006. In February I asked the Pensions Board to commence work on a comprehensive review of our overall pensions strategy. Work on the review is ongoing and will include an examination of the appropriateness of the original targets suggested in the national pensions policy initiative for social welfare pensions and the total income of pensioners. I am anxious to ensure that the report is completed in the shortest possible timescale so that I can review the situation and decide what further action is required in this area. At this stage I expect to receive the report of the Pensions Board in September.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

75 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the measures he has taken to tackle food poverty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17156/05]

Weekly payments through the various social assistance schemes are intended to provide income to meet the basic living needs of recipients, including food, clothing, heat and light. Supplements are also payable in certain circumstances for specific needs, for example, fuel allowances, rent supplements, living alone allowance for older people or the household benefits package for pensioners, eligible disabled people and carers. Where people on low incomes have particular medical conditions or dietary requirements, diet supplements are available through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive.

My Department also provides funding for school meals under two strands, namely, the urban school meals scheme and the local projects scheme. The urban school meals scheme operates in conjunction with certain local authorities and is co-funded by my Department. The local projects scheme provides funding to secondary, national, pre-schools and community groups in both urban and rural areas who provide school meals. For families with schoolgoing children, school meals can make a real and important contribution to ensuring that children receive better nutrition. Such services can also contribute to improved school attendance and quality of learning.

While considerable progress has been made in recent years in tackling consistent poverty, some studies have focused on specific aspects such as fuel and food poverty in particular. The report entitled "Food Poverty and Policy", published recently by Crosscare, the Combat Poverty Agency and the Society of the St. Vincent de Paul, defined food poverty as "the inability to access a nutritionally adequate diet and the related impact on health, culture and social participation". This is a broad ranging issue and is affected by dietary and nutritional awareness, cultural attitudes and access to good quality grocery shopping, as well as to the adequacy of social welfare income supports.

In recent years, budgetary increases in social welfare payment rates have consistently exceeded increases in the cost of living. This key policy is the primary focus of budget allocations to my Department each year and it has helped ensure that those depending on social welfare experience real improvement in their ability to meet their basic needs, including provision of adequate food, heating and so forth. I consider this to be the most effective way overall of improving the standard of living of those who depend on social welfare income, along with measures to support and encourage people of working age to take up employment or educational opportunities to help improve their financial position.

At a broader level, I endorse recent calls for the food industry to take an active and responsible attitude in improving the nutritional quality of food and to inform and educate people generally about better nutrition and healthy eating options at affordable prices. I will continue to keep this issue under review, particularly in the context of the recent task force report on tackling obesity.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

76 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if refunds made to pensioners under the nursing home repayments scheme will impact on current pension entitlements; if pensioners who have already had illegal charges levied on them will not be further penalised by having pensions reduced in this manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17117/05]

The Government recently agreed the key elements of a scheme for the repayment of long-term stay charges. I confirm that, in the case of those who were charged, such repayments will not impact on current pension entitlements and I will make the necessary legislative changes to bring this provision into effect when full details of the repayment scheme have been finalised. The normal means assessment arrangements will continue to apply to those who benefit from repayments to estates.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Bernard Allen

Question:

77 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the efforts he is making to tackle the new phenomenon of the working poor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17150/05]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

90 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the supports, programmes and measures his Department intends to take to address the problem of the working poor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17205/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 and 90 together.

The two main methods of measuring poverty in Ireland are the national "consistent poverty" measure, based on a relative income threshold of 60% of median income and enforced deprivation of certain items, and the EU "at risk of poverty" measure, which is simply based on 60% of median income. The 2003 EU survey of income and living conditions, EU-SILC, indicates that 3.5% of people at work fell into the consistent poverty category compared to 9.4% of the population generally. The survey further shows that 9.2% of people in Ireland who were at work were at risk of poverty, compared to 22.7% of the population generally. It is clear from these figures that being at work significantly reduces the risks of poverty and deprivation.

However, despite the economic advances of recent years some families find themselves dependent on low wage employment, leading to the phenomenon mentioned by the Deputy — the working poor. The reduction of poverty is a core objective of this Government. In that regard, accepting and keeping a job is seen as the most important route to escape poverty and to ensure social inclusion.

However, it is important to ensure that work "pays" and a number of policy instruments crossing a range of Departments are used as a way of preventing poverty among the working poor. These include changes to the taxation system, the introduction of a national minimum hourly wage, provision of training and access to lifelong learning opportunities, assistance with job search and placement, the introduction of flexible working arrangements and increased access to affordable child care and changes to the social welfare system to support the transition to employment and improve the retention of non-cash benefits during that transition.

One of the main policy responses in my Department, designed to address the problem of low income working families, is the family income supplement, FIS, scheme. The scheme provides cash support amounting to a minimum of €20 per week for employees who work a minimum of 19 hours per week or 38 hours per fortnight. This preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if he or she were claiming other social welfare payments.

Budget 2005 increased the FIS earnings thresholds by €39 in respect of each family size. This increase was unprecedented since the introduction of the scheme in 1984 and added €23.40 to the weekly payments of most existing FIS recipients from January 2005. The cost of this measure is estimated at €15.53 million in 2005. Following the increased thresholds, it is estimated that 2,600 additional families became eligible for a FIS payment. The ongoing development of the FIS scheme has resulted in current levels of both applications and claims in payment being at an all time high. In 2004, there were 21,000 applications and 15,000 claims in payment. The current average FIS payment is almost €94.00.

Effective and adequate support for making work pay will continue to be a major priority for this Government and for me as Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

78 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the amount which was awarded in rent assistance by his Department, and the number of families or persons awarded rent assistance, on a county basis for the years 2003 and 2004. [16950/05]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. It provides for the payment of a weekly or monthly rent or mortgage interest supplement to assist eligible people who are unable to provide for their accommodation costs from their own resources and who do not have accommodation available from any other source.

As of 13 May last, there were 58,308 households in receipt of assistance under the rent supplement scheme. Just over half of these, almost 30,000 tenants, have been on the scheme for 18 months or more. Expenditure on rent supplements was almost €332 million in 2003 and just under €354 million in 2004. I have provided €369 million in this year's Estimates for this scheme.

I propose to include a tabular statement in the Official Report today setting out the number of household recipients of rent supplement for the years 2003 and 2004 on a county by county basis, as the Deputy requested. In that table, I have also summarised expenditure on the scheme for the years 2003 and 2004 for each of the former health board areas. Expenditure information is not maintained by my Department on a county by county basis.

(a) Number of recipients of rent supplement by county December 2003 and December 2004

County

2003

2004

Carlow

849

849

Cavan

435

399

Clare

1,228

1,207

Cork

7,257

6,818

Donegal

1,976

1,915

Dublin

21,769

21,920

Galway

4,236

3,718

Kerry

1,728

1,721

Kildare

2,263

2,237

Kilkenny

771

732

Laois

491

379

Leitrim

203

186

Limerick

2,359

2,241

Longford

427

376

Louth

1,872

1,479

Mayo

1,713

1,705

Meath

690

651

Monaghan

377

347

Offaly

425

484

Roscommon

550

519

Sligo

559

434

Tipperary

1,907

1,792

Waterford

1,563

1,578

Westmeath

976

851

Wexford

1,861

1,782

Wicklow

1,491

1,554

Total

59,976

57,874

(b) Expenditure on rent supplements by (former) Health Board, 2003 and 2004.

Health Board

2003

2004

€m

€m

ERHA

176.497

197.948

Midland

11.158

10.638

Mid Western

18.767

19.711

North Eastern

15.962

14.442

North Western

9.364

9.869

South Eastern

28.553

29.552

Southern

41.531

42.249

Western

29.638

29.353

Total €m

333.471

353.762

Social Welfare Fraud.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

79 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the efforts he has made to date to combat welfare fraud; the areas which are most vulnerable to fraudulent claims; the amount of money lost to fraudulent claims in the past year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17122/05]

The prevention of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system is an integral part of the day to day work of my Department. In this regard all staff engaged in claims processing are concerned with preventing and detecting fraud and abuse.

More than 600 staff at local, regional and national level are engaged on a full or part-time basis on work related to the control of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system. Controls are exercised at both the initial claim stage and at subsequent stages during the claim life cycle. Claims are reviewed on a regular and targeted basis.

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

A key objective of my Department's control strategy is to ensure that we pay the right person the right amount of money at the right time. A four pronged approach has been adopted by the Department to meet this objective, namely, prevention of fraud and error at the initial claim stage, early detection through effective review of claims in payment, measures to deter fraud and the pursuit and recovery of overpayments. Systematic risk analysis is a key element of the control strategy. Scheme managers are responsible for identifying areas of high risk of fraud and abuse and for putting in place appropriate measures to address these risks in a systematic way. This approach ensures that review activity is targeted in the most effective manner.

During 2004, my Department undertook a number of specific control initiatives across its regions. The outcomes of these initiatives are currently being evaluated with a view to identifying best practice and to implementing successful initiatives in other areas of the country. These initiatives will feed into the process of refocusing control activity to those areas and types of cases which present the highest risk of fraud and error. My Department, as an integral part of its control strategy, is committed to undertaking at least two surveys annually to establish the levels of fraud and error arising. This enables us to identify the types of claims which should be prioritised for review purposes.

In addition to the specific control initiatives outlined above, staff in my Department during 2004 carried out some 306,000 reviews of entitlements. They also inspected the records of some 6,600 employers to ensure compliance with the Department's regulations and, in particular, to prevent and detect abuses of the system.

The total amount of overpayments set up as a result of detected fraud or suspected fraud during 2004 was €18.63 million, 50% of which was as a result of customers concurrently working and claiming. Fraud overpayments also arose in situations such as an undisclosed change in marital status, failing to disclose full means or increases in means, customers absenting themselves or their dependents from the State and failing to disclose the employment or residential status of their spouse, partner or dependents.

The prosecution of offenders is a key element in my Department's overall control approach. My Department's policy is to consider all cases of fraud for prosecution. During 2004, 503 cases were referred to the State Solicitor's office to initiate prosecution proceedings. A total of 282 cases were finalised in court, of which ten were served with prison sentences, 26 received suspended sentences, 158 were fined and 43 received the benefit of the Probation Act.

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

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

80 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the consideration which he is giving to the social welfare treatment of former members of religious congregations. [17133/05]

I understand the Deputy's inquiry relates to instances concerning former members of religious congregations who are absent from work on the grounds of illness and who, owing to their previous employment history, have insufficient PRSI contributions to qualify for social insurance benefits.

People in such circumstances who have an injury, disease or illness which has continued, or is expected to continue, for at least one year could be eligible for support through the means tested disability allowance scheme operated by my Department. If this scheme is not appropriate in their situation, they could apply for financial assistance under the terms of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive.

The objective of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme is to provide financial assistance to an eligible person whose means are insufficient to meet his or her basic needs and those of his or her dependants. Any person habitually resident in the State who satisfies a means test and who has applied for any other benefit, assistance or allowance to which he or she may be entitled may be eligible to receive assistance under the terms of the scheme. In addition to a basic weekly allowance, assistance may be provided in the form of supplements which may be paid in respect of such needs as rent, mortgage interest and special dietary or heating needs.

The legislation governing the supplementary welfare allowance scheme also provides for a single payment, known as an exceptional needs payment, to help meet essential, once-off, exceptional expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of his or her household income or other sources. There is no automatic entitlement to this; payments are issued at the discretion of the Health Service Executive and every decision is based on consideration of all the circumstances of each individual case taking account of the nature and extent of the need.

An application for assistance under the terms of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme may be made by contacting the community welfare office at the local health centre. The community welfare officer will carry out an assessment of the applicant's circumstances in order to determine the level of assistance, if any, payable in any particular case.

Dan Neville

Question:

81 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will give recognition to the importance of the post office to rural communities by desisting from his campaign to force social welfare recipients to transfer to receiving their payments through the commercial banks. [16883/05]

My Department's policy is to ensure that a range of payment options is available to customers and that service is continually improved by providing access to the wide range of payment options and new services and facilities now available. In this regard I recently announced a strategic review of my Department's future payment requirements with a view to the customer receiving the most modern payment delivery service which suits their needs.

Current payment methods include payment at post offices by means of a pension order book, electronic or manual post draft issued to the customer's designated post office each week, payment by cheque and direct payment to customers' bank or building society accounts by electronic fund transfer. Where possible, my Department provides a payment option which best suits the needs of customers. Customers opting for a particular payment method do so on a voluntary basis having regard to their own circumstances and particular needs. There is no compulsion involved and there is no campaign to force customers to move to a payment method that does not suit them.

Some 58% of customers currently receive payment through their local post office, 10% are paid by cheque through the postal system and 32% receive an electronic fund transfer, EFT, payment to their bank or building society account. The growth in the number of customers opting for the direct payment option can be attributed to a number of reasons such as the growing use of electronic payments in business and society generally, the increase in the use of electronic banking and debit-credit cards at the personal level and the changing profile of our customer base across all schemes.

The Government recognises the importance of the post office network and is committed to maintaining a viable network throughout the country. My colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, who is the Minister responsible for An Post, and I have already met on this matter and I will continue to liaise with him as appropriate.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

82 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the poverty levels, relative, consistent and otherwise, among persons with disabilities; the action his Department is taking to alleviate poverty among persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17141/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

108 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on whether the risk of being in poverty has increased substantially for the ill and disabled over the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17154/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 and 108 together.

The extent of measured poverty among persons who are in receipt of illness and disability payments was considered by my Department as part of a broader review of illness and disability income support programmes. The review was carried out as part of my Department's ongoing programme of expenditure reviews and subsequently published.

In its analysis of the effectiveness of the income support system in tackling poverty, the review found that using data up until 2001 for persons in receipt of illness and disability payments, there had been a significant decline in consistent poverty from almost 23% in 1994 to just over 16% in 2001. Significantly, this fall reflected an almost halving in the proportion of those experiencing basic deprivation. The decline in those experiencing consistent poverty amongst those in receipt of illness or disability payments was reflected in the decline in consistent poverty in the population generally, from 14.5% in 1994 to just under 5% in 2001.

Subsequent to the publication of the review, the recent EU survey on income and living conditions, EU-SILC, reported the percentage of persons in "consistent poverty" classified as ill or disabled was 20.9% in 2003. The CSO indicated that because of a major discontinuity between the surveys in the measurement of deprivation and consistent poverty, no conclusions could be drawn regarding the direction or scale of any real changes between 2001 and 2003.

The expenditure review drew attention to the fact that despite falling over time, probably reflecting the substantial real increase in social welfare rates, the rate of consistent poverty for those in receipt of an illness or disability payment was more than three times higher in 2001 than the population generally and significantly higher than most other categories of social welfare recipients such as old age pensioners and unemployed persons.

The report identifies a number of factors which could be considered as affecting these trends including: the lack of employment opportunities for people with disabilities; issues related to additional costs of disability; the impact of extended durations on the social welfare system compared with persons on shorter durations; differences in household composition among the group.

With regard to social welfare rates, Government policy is to increase the real level of social welfare over the period to 2007 and this commitment will be delivered. This will benefit all social welfare recipients, including those in receipt of illness and disability payments.

The report also identified a number of areas where employment support could be strengthened within the social welfare system and across Departments generally. The report will provide guidelines for my Department's future strategy in this area. With regard to the additional costs associated with disability, a working group established under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness and chaired by the Department of Health and Children, is examining the issues associated with the introduction of a costs of disability payment.

The report also highlights the need for better data and more research to strengthen our understanding of the links between poverty and disability. I will pursue this as part of my Department's research agenda.

John Gormley

Question:

83 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the recommendations made in CORI’s “Pathways to Inclusion” that are relevant to his Department; the recommendations he plans to implement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17137/05]

The recently published review by CORI "Pathways To Inclusion" outlines policies needed to ensure economic development, social equity and sustainability in Ireland. I welcome the publication of this comprehensive report. The Deputy will be aware that it was only published earlier this month and my Department will review the report in detail over the coming weeks and months.

The Government's acknowledgement of the serious and unacceptable nature of poverty in Ireland is reflected in the national action plan against poverty and social exclusion which provides a clear and strategic basis for tackling the multi-dimensional problem of poverty and social exclusion. This plan contains ambitious targets across a number of areas, the implementation of which will ensure that we are brought further along the road to our overall goal of building a fairer and more equal society.

Between 2001 and 2005 spending on social welfare has increased from €7.8 billion to €12.2 billion. During the same period there have been substantial real increases in social welfare rates, with the lowest social welfare rates increasing by 40% while the consumer price index has increased by just over 13%. As a result of budget 2005, welfare payments have increased by three times the expected rate of inflation.

I have made a number of strong statements in recent months about my commitment to ending child poverty. This is also one of the special initiatives under the partnership agreement Sustaining Progress. The most significant measure by my Department to tackle child poverty in recent years has been the substantial increases in child benefit payments, in line with the general thrust of the CORI report. Child benefit is paid to more than 540,000 families in respect of approximately 1 million children, at an estimated cost of €1.916 billion in 2005. As it is tax free and employment neutral, it does not distort parental choice in respect of labour force participation and contributes towards alleviating child poverty. Over the period since 1997, the monthly rates of child benefit have increased by €103.51 at the lower rate and €127.78 at the higher rate, increases of 272% and 258% respectively. This level of increase is unprecedented and delivers on the Government's objective of providing support for children generally while offering real choice to all parents.

To address the situation of those children who are most at risk of poverty I will give consideration to the introduction of a second tier of supports, combining child dependant allowance and family income supplement when the report of the NESC is complete. While details have yet to be worked out this is likely to be in addition to the child benefit and other support entitlements, targeted specifically at families in greatest need.

Supporting carers in our society has also been a priority of the Government since 1997. Over that period weekly payment rates to carers have been greatly increased, qualifying conditions for carer's allowance have been significantly eased, coverage of the scheme has been extended and new schemes such as carer's benefit have been introduced. I announced a number of improvements for carers in the last budget which will benefit existing recipients of carer's payments and will also serve to extend support to carers who are not eligible for carer's payments. I have made provision for the extension of the respite care grant of €1,000 to all persons providing full-time care and attention, regardless of their means. I am keeping the operation of the grant under review and any further improvements will be considered in a budgetary context.

With regard to measuring deprivation and poverty, my Department is currently re-evaluating this issue in the context of the data strategy of the office for social inclusion. There are many other initiatives ongoing in my Department and other Departments to address issues raised in this report. I look forward to bringing these to the attention of the Deputies in due course.

Bernard Allen

Question:

84 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on whether the NAPS has not lived up to its potential as an instrument to identify and remove, in a systematic way, barriers to persons trying to break out of social exclusion into full participation in society; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17151/05]

Seán Crowe

Question:

96 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress which has been made to date following his commitment in January 2005 to tackle poverty in a co-ordinated and joined up way and his promise to review the way in which the Government measures and reports poverty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17212/05]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

123 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs , further to his reported comments (details supplied), his views on the success of his measures and supports in providing the resources to help those in society who need it most in view of the rise in the percentage of the population who are at risk of poverty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17208/05]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

127 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs , further to his comments (details supplied), the reason the number of children and others living in consistent poverty has increased in recent years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17207/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84, 96, 123 and 127 together.

The Government's acknowledgement of the serious nature of poverty in Ireland is reflected in the national action plan against poverty and social exclusion, NAP/Inclusion, which provides a clear and strategic basis for tackling the multi-dimensional problem of poverty and social exclusion. This plan contains ambitious targets across a number of areas, the implementation of which will ensure that we are brought further along the road to our overall goal of building a fairer and more equal society. Progress on the implementation of the plan was reported in the first annual report of the office for social inclusion, OSI, which I launched last December. Since then, my officials have held a series of bilateral meetings with the relevant Departments to examine progress on the implementation of targets contained in the plan. A report to the European Commission evaluating the implementation of the plan is currently being prepared by OSI for submission in June 2005.

The most recent statistics on poverty levels in Ireland are derived from the 2003 EU survey on income and living conditions, EU-SILC, which were released earlier this year by the Central Statistics Office. The results from this survey are comparable to the previous Living in Ireland survey, LIIS, in the "risk of poverty" measure but are not for the "consistent poverty" measure due to methodological differences between EU-SILC and LIIS. Both the CSO and the Economic and Social Research Institute, which conducted the earlier surveys, have assured me that the results of the consistent poverty measure are not comparable. It is, therefore, not possible to conclude from them how consistent poverty changed and there is no reason to believe that there has been a worsening in poverty levels in recent years.

However, both surveys identify the groups at risk of poverty, including families with children, especially lone parents and large families on low incomes, those with disabilities, the long-term unemployed and the elderly, especially those living alone, and the extent of consistent poverty among these groups. It should be noted that no one measure will give a perfect picture regarding deprivation, poverty and social inclusion. While the "risk of poverty" rate does allow for comparisons to be made across countries, it is the case that when countries experience rapid economic growth — as in the case of Ireland in the 1990s — relative poverty measures on their own can sometimes be misleading.

Using the risk of poverty measure, for example, relative income poverty in Ireland rose 11.4% between 1994 and 2000 but if we use the same measure and timeframe and increase the poverty line only by consumer prices — the "anchored poverty line approach"— Irish poverty falls by 55.9%. This clearly indicates that, when economic conditions change rapidly, relative poverty trends are not always giving a complete picture of the way that economic change affects people's lives. Similarly, this measure does not take account of the high level of home ownership, especially among the elderly, and consequently the value to households of owning their own home. It also does not reflect access to household allowances in kind such as electricity, fuel, telephone rental and TV licence.

In fact, all incomes have grown significantly, although low incomes have grown at a slower rate than higher incomes. In particular, social transfers rose substantially in real terms, so pensioners, for example, saw their living standards improve markedly but still lagged behind rapidly rising incomes from employment and profits. This is reflected in increases in social welfare spending which grew from €7.8 billion to €12.2 billion between 2001 and 2005. During the same period the lowest social welfare rates have increased by 40% while the consumer price index has increased by just over 13%.

As a result of budget 2005, welfare payments have increased by three times the expected rate of inflation. This demonstrates that considerable progress has been and is being made in alleviating poverty. While the EU SILC results highlighted the problems associated with the measurement of poverty, prior to the release of these results the Cabinet committee on social inclusion had approved the re-evaluation of poverty indicators and this work is now being developed as part of the OSI data strategy.

Question No. 85 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

Phil Hogan

Question:

86 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the outcome of his discussions with the Irish Bankers Federation regarding access to bank accounts for persons on low incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17191/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

103 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, in view of his proposed meeting with the Irish Bankers Federation following the publication of the “Do the Poor Pay More?” report, he will also meet the Departments of Finance and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to plan a strategic initiative to tackle the issues of debt and poverty in households here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17211/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

120 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the measures he intends to take to improve access to bank accounts for persons on low incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17192/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86, 103 and 120 together.

The report "Do the Poor Pay More?", a study of lone parents and debt, shows that many lone parents do not have access to mainstream banking and are, therefore, more likely to be indebted to high interest lenders such as moneylenders and hire purchase companies. On publication of the research I met with the Irish Bankers Federation, IBF, and the Irish Payment Services Organisation, IPSO, to explore ways in which those in the low income bracket could access financial services.

The meeting identified a number of areas where it was felt that significant progress could be made in facilitating wider access to financial services, for example, the issues associated with identification documentation required to open a bank account and the potential for universal bank accounts were discussed. With regard to customer identification, the IBF has agreed to raise with its member retail banks the issue of customer identification requirements and to ensure that their office staff are aware of the range of documentation which is acceptable as forms of identification when opening an account. It has further committed to liaising with the financial regulator, IFSRA, about how the banking sector can assist in this regard.

The guidance notes on money laundering set out, as good industry practice, the measures to establish identity that might reasonably be expected of credit institutions. However, they state that any measures adopted should not deny a person access to financial services solely on the grounds that they do not possess certain specified identification documentation.

On the issue of universal bank accounts, the banking industry has proposed the development of an universal bank account as an integral part of a national payment strategy. The issue of a universal bank account will be considered by my Department as part of its review of current payment strategies. The IBF has assured me of its commitment in helping to deliver real progress on these and related issues. Since the introduction of the money advice and budgeting service in 1992 a good working relationship has been developed between that service and the Irish Bankers Federation.

The "Do The Poor Pay More?" report found that 59% of lone parents involved in the study were in arrears to the ESB. It also found that utility companies were not seen as being totally transparent in their dealings with low income families using pre-payment meters. People who receive their social welfare payments through the electronic payment option operated by An Post can opt to avail of its household budget scheme. Under this scheme, An Post make regular deductions of up to 25% of a persons social welfare payment towards their household costs, such as rent-mortgage payments to local authorities, ESB, Bord Gáis and Eircom. This ensures that people are not faced with a single large bill for these services.

I have invited the ESB to meet with me to discuss research carried out by OPEN. I also intend to meet with the Irish League of Credit Unions shortly on these issues.

My Department has overall responsibility for the money advice and budgeting service, MABS, which provides assistance to people experiencing difficulty in meeting repayments on borrowings. The MABS programme provides money advice to individuals and families who have problems with debt and who are on low income or in receipt of social welfare payments. The service places an emphasis on practical budget based measures that help people to move permanently from dependence on moneylenders and to access alternative sources of low cost credit.

The MABS has been allocated €12.62 million to ensure the continued development of the service in 2005. This represents an increase of €1.22 million or more than 10% on the 2004 allocation and will help ensure that the service continues to be promoted in an effective way.

I intend to hold a series of meetings regarding the OPEN report with financial institutions, creditors and other interested parties. As part of my examination I will engage with my Cabinet colleagues to explore the potential for developing a broad based strategic response to the issues which have been raised.

Question No. 87 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

88 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to his comments on the back to work allowance (details supplied), if his Department has made any decision on the way in which it intends to expand this allowance; the further length of time he intends to allow persons to claim the allowance once they have returned to work; the criteria his Department will use to determine the persons who will be eligible for an extension of the time limit on the allowance; and the way in which this will be regulated. [17200/05]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

100 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps he plans to take to double the number of persons on the back to work allowance scheme to 22,000 by the end of 2005; if his Department has costed this proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17127/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 and 100 together.

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

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

In January 2003, therefore, the qualifying period for persons on unemployment benefit-assistance was increased to five years. In recognition of the particular difficulties faced by lone parents and persons on sickness related payments, recipients of other social welfare qualifying payments were not affected by the change.

The scheme is continually monitored to ensure its relevance to current labour market and economic conditions. It was recognised that there was some difficulty being experienced by persons wishing to enter self employment after five years attachment to the live register. Therefore, in budget 2004 the qualifying period for access to the self-employed strand of the scheme was reduced to three years. Effectively, from March 2004 persons in receipt of unemployment benefit or assistance accessing the self employed strand of the scheme only require three years on their unemployment payment to qualify for participation in the scheme.

Earlier this month I launched a new national edition of "Toil and Trouble", a comprehensive user friendly guide for those thinking of setting up a business. I am aware that in certain parts of the country employment is difficult to come by and an alternative to this is for persons to participate in self employment and create opportunity and self reliance.

The back to work scheme, administered by my Department's social and family support service, SFSS, and through the network of locally based facilitators, has demonstrated that the right mix of financial and other supports delivers a smooth integration into the regular labour force. There are 10,388 participants on the scheme at present, over 6,000 of whom are engaged in self employment. I am committed to ensuring that these supports continue to be effective and relevant to labour market needs and I aim to maximise take up of the back to work allowance.

I will continue to monitor the scheme to ensure that it continues to assist those furthest from the labour market to gain a foothold into sustainable employment or self employment. However, I have no plans to change the qualifying criteria at this point.

School Meals.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

89 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of schools receiving assistance from his Department in the provision of school meals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12951/05]

Dan Boyle

Question:

93 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the changes which will be proposed to the school meals programme operated by his Department after the recommendations of the Government task force on obesity. [17132/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 93 together.

The school meals programme operated by my Department gives funding towards provision of food services for disadvantaged school children through two schemes. The first is the statutory urban school meals scheme currently operated by 36 local authorities. The Department jointly funds the food costs with these local authorities, which also manage and fund the administration of the scheme. The second is the school meals local projects scheme. This provides funding to participating schools and voluntary community groups in both urban and rural areas for specific school meals projects. This has recently been expanded to include pre-schools that are community based and which operate on a not-for-profit basis.

In the case of these local projects, my Department funds the food costs based on a rate per meal per child. The amount of funding allocated to a project depends on the type and number of meals provided. The current rates of funding for the various meal types are as follows: breakfast, 60 cent; light meal, €1.40; and dinner, €1.90. Expenditure on the school meals programme was €4.65 million in 2004. A total of 41,300 children benefited in 451 schools under the local projects scheme at a cost of €3.56 million. During the current school year from September 2004 to June 2005, some 47,400 children in 572 schools and 53 pre-schools are benefiting.

In 2004, the local authorities' urban school meals scheme provided support for 386 primary schools, covering 50,817 pupils, at a cost to my Department of €1.09 million. Local authorities themselves contributed a matching amount and also met the administrative costs involved in that scheme. I expect a similar number of children to benefit through this scheme in 2005.

The school meals programme aims to provide regular nutritious food to children to help improve their daily diet. Apart from the nutritional gain, it is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement by the children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The type and range of meals provided, as well as the method and logistics of supplying the meals, are decided by the individual local groups and schools that operate the projects. In this regard, I encourage participating schools and community groups to use healthy food items to the greatest extent possible in the preparation of school meals.

My Department will study the task force report on obesity to see if there is further scope for the scheme to assist in tackling this problem amongst children. More widespread take-up of the school meals scheme would obviously help significantly in this regard. Funding is available from my Department to expand participation in the scheme and I would encourage any school or community group working in disadvantaged areas to avail of this funding to start providing this service for their children.

Question No. 90 answered with QuestionNo. 77.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

91 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if payments of social welfare contributions by the self employed are not recorded on the computer system; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this causes complications and delays in the payment of benefits to the self employed; and if he will take steps to remedy the situation. [16887/05]

Pay related social insurance, PRSI, contributions for the self employed are collected by the Revenue Commissioners under the self assessment system. PRSI details are transferred to my Department by electronic tape exchange. Records for fully paid up self employed contributors are recorded on my Department's central records computer system. Records in cases where the self employed contributor has partly paid PRSI are recorded on a separate computerised data base.

Self employed contributors pay class S contributions which provide cover for widow's and widower's contributory pension, orphan's contributory allowance, old age contributory pension, maternity benefit, adoptive benefit and bereavement grant. Old age contributory pension applications in respect of self employed contributors cannot be awarded until all self employed PRSI contribution liabilities have been met.

Where a self employed contributor applies for pension and their PRSI record is in order there is no delay in determining pension entitlement. However, if PRSI records are not up to date it is necessary for all outstanding PRSI payments to be made by the self employed contributor before entitlement to pension can be determined. It may be necessary to contact the Revenue Commissioners to establish the exact position in individual cases. Self employed contributors are advised that it is very important to ensure that all PRSI liabilities have been fully met and that their annual returns are submitted to the Revenue Commissioners on time. They are also advised of the importance of applying for pension in good time.

Officials of my Department and the Revenue Commissioners meet regularly to ensure continued operational efficiency in the transfer of PRSI contributions data. The Revenue Commissioners are aware of the importance of the timely submission and processing of annual PRSI returns by self employed contributors. As part of a major programme of modernisation under way in my Department's pensions services, a new unit has been set up to examine the insurance records of people approaching pension age so that any problems will be identified and addressed before an application for pension is due to be lodged with my Department.

Timely submission of annual PRSI returns to the Revenue Commissioners by self employed people will help to ensure that entitlements can be determined promptly by my Department and payment of benefit or pension can be made without delay.

Question No. 92 answered with QuestionNo. 62.
Question No. 93 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

94 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the efforts his Department intends to make to publicise the change to the means test criteria for non-contributory social welfare benefits (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17199/05]

The changes in the arrangements for the assessment of capital for social assistance schemes, as announced in budget 2005, will be advertised in the national and provincial newspapers in the coming weeks. In addition, use will be made of television screen advertising in credit unions throughout the country. My Department's information officers in our social welfare local offices will be available to assist people who wish to make any inquiries regarding the assessment of their capital as it affects their payments.

My Department is fully committed to ensuring that the general public and, in this instance, pensioners who are currently in receipt of a reduced pension because of capital assessment are made aware of the new capital assessment formula. In that regard the pension services office has commenced a review of the entitlements of some 6,000 people who applied for old age non-contributory pension and 1,300 people who applied for widow's or widower's non-contributory pension. Where the review indicates that an increase in payment is warranted, the increase will be put into effect immediately and backdated to the start of June 2005.

All disability allowance claims affected by the new arrangements are currently being reviewed and the customers concerned will be notified of any change in their weekly rate of payment arising from the review. In the case of recipients of carer's allowance, the improvements in capital assessment came into effect in April 2005 in line with other improvements introduced in that scheme. All relevant claims are currently being re-assessed and customers will be notified of the outcome of those re-assessments. All relevant one-parent family payment claims that were refused on grounds of capital assessment have been identified and we are in the process of notifying the customers concerned of any change in their entitlements. In the case of unemployment assistance and pre-retirement allowance recipients, instructions have been issued to all local offices of my Department to review all relevant claims and to re-assess the means in accordance with the new formula.

My Department produces a comprehensive range of information booklets covering each social welfare payment. Our main information publication, entitled "Guide to Social Welfare Services", is currently being updated to include the new arrangements for capital assessment as well as all other changes to our schemes. In addition, our range of information leaflets about the various schemes affected is being updated. Our information booklets are available from our network of social welfare local offices, the network of citizens information centres, CICs, throughout the country and from our LoCall leaflet line: 1890 20 23 25.

Social Welfare Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

95 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he intends to reduce the qualifying period for the back to education allowance to nine months; if so, when he will introduce this change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17183/05]

The back to education allowance is a second chance education opportunities programme designed to encourage and facilitate people on certain social welfare payments to improve their skills and qualifications and, therefore, their prospects of returning to the active workforce.

The conditions for entitlement to the third level option of the back to education allowance were revised with effect from 1 September 2004. From that date, the qualifying period was increased from six months to 15 months for new applicants intending to commence third level courses of study. The BTEA scheme was always intended to benefit people who had difficulty finding employment because of a lack of education qualifications. In many cases, people who have not completed second level education are held back in their efforts to obtain employment because of this. The qualification period for people who wish to pursue second level education has remained at six months and the numbers taking second level education with the support of BTEA are increasing.

I reduced the qualifying period for access to the third level option of the scheme to 12 months in the recent budget. I also increased the annual cost of education allowance, paid to people on BTEA, from €254 to €400. These changes will take effect from 1 September 2005. I am satisfied that, overall, the current arrangements ensure that the scheme supports those people who are most distant from the labour market and whose need is greatest. As I have undertaken to the Dáil and the social affairs committee, I will continue to keep the qualifying period for this scheme under regular review.

Question No. 96 answered with QuestionNo. 84.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

97 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress to date on his review of the second tier payment for children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17181/05]

My Department provides child income support in a number of ways. The principal support is child benefit, which is neutral vis-à-vis the employment status of the child’s parents and does not contribute to poverty traps. Over the period since 1997, the monthly rates of child benefit have increased by €103.51 at the lower rate and €127.78 at the higher rate, increases of 272% and 258% respectively. Child benefit rates now stand at €141.60 per month for each of the first two children and €177.30 per month for the third and each subsequent child.

Child dependant allowances are paid in addition to weekly social welfare payments. Since 1994, successive Governments have held the rate of child dependant allowances constant while concentrating resources for child income support on the child benefit scheme. It is important to recognise that over that period, the combined child benefit-child dependant allowance payment has increased by more than double the rate of inflation.

In addition, my Department provides cash support by way of weekly payments to families, including lone parent families, at work on low pay, through the family income supplement scheme. A number of improvements have been made to the scheme over the years, including the assessment of entitlement on the basis of net rather than gross income and progressive increases in the income thresholds, making it easier for lower income households to qualify for payment. The National Economic and Social Council is examining the merging of child dependant allowances with the family income supplement scheme, as a way of addressing the issue of child poverty by channelling resources to low income families without creating disincentives to employment. I look forward to receiving the NESC report in the near future.

Question No. 98 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

99 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the review of the habitual residence condition will be finished; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17180/05]

The requirement to be habitually resident in Ireland was introduced as a qualifying condition for certain social assistance schemes and child benefit with effect from 1 May 2004. The basis for the restriction contained in the new rules is the applicant's habitual residence. The effect is that a person whose habitual residence is elsewhere is not paid certain social welfare payments on arrival in Ireland.

The question of what is a person's "habitual residence" is decided in accordance with European Court of Justice case law, which sets out the grounds for assessing individual claims. Each case received for a determination on the habitual residence condition is dealt with in its own right and a decision is based on application of the guidelines to the particular individual circumstances of each case. Any applicant who disagrees with the decision of a deciding officer has the right to appeal to the social welfare appeals office.

The habitual residence condition is being operated in a careful manner to ensure that Ireland's social welfare system is protected, while at the same time ensuring that people whose cases are appropriate to the system have access to it when they need it. The bulk of claims are in respect of unemployment assistance and child benefit. In the period May 2004 to May 2005, 72% of such cases were found to satisfy HRC.

Arrangements are being made to review the operation of the condition. This review will take account of the operation of HRC to date, together with views received from various groups and organisations who have an interest in this area. I expect the review to be completed later this year.

Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 88.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

101 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will consider extending the fuel allowance to mid-May; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17166/05]

The aim of the national fuel scheme is to assist householders who are in receipt of long-term social welfare or Health Service Executive payments towards meeting their additional heating needs during the winter season. The season was extended from 26 weeks to 29 weeks in 2001 and now covers the period from end September to mid-April each year.

Under the scheme, a fuel allowance of €9 per week is paid to eligible households during this 29 week winter heating period, with an additional €3.90 per week being paid in the designated smokeless fuel zones, bringing the total amount in those areas to €12.90 per week. I expect some 274,000 households to benefit under the fuel allowance scheme in 2005 at a cost of some €85.4 million. In addition, more than 300,000 pensioner and other households qualify for electricity or gas allowances through the household benefits package, payable towards their heating, light and cooking costs throughout the year. There is also a facility available through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme to assist people in certain circumstances who have special heating needs. An application for a heating supplement may be made by contacting a community welfare officer at any local health centre.

Pensioners and other groups have received significant increases in their primary social welfare payment rates this year and in recent years. This has improved their income situation considerably in real terms relative to fuel cost increases and to price inflation generally. It is also more beneficial to the individual as these higher rates of primary payments are payable for a full 52 weeks of the year. I have no plans at present to extend the duration of the fuel allowance period into May each year, as this would have significant cost implications and could only be considered in a budgetary context and in the context of other priorities.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Willie Penrose

Question:

102 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has received a copy of the Combat Poverty Agency’s recent report, Irish Social Expenditure in a Comparative International Context: Epilogue; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that despite strong economic growth, Ireland continues to be among the nations with the lowest social spending which contributes to high poverty rates; his views on whether it is possible to combine high economic growth with high social spending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17110/05]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

124 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the recent report (details supplied), Irish Social Expenditure in a Comparative International Context: Epilogue; and if he intends to implement any of its policy recommendations. [17135/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 124 together.

The report to which the Deputy refers, "Irish Social Expenditure in a Comparative International Context: Epilogue", compares social expenditure in Ireland with that of other European and developed countries. While the level of expenditure on social protection in Ireland appears low by EU standards, the discrepancy can partly be explained by demographic differences and by the way the Irish social protection system has evolved and is currently constituted.

There are a number of specific factors which account for the relatively low level of social expenditure recorded for Ireland. Gross measures of expenditure can distort the real picture, as they do not take account of social charges or taxes which are levied on benefits in some countries nor do they include transfers made by means of tax concessions, as opposed to direct cash payments. In addition, social expenditure is usually given as a proportion of GDP which in the case of Ireland includes a high proportion of repatriated profits. A better measure of the actual income available is GNP which in Ireland is significantly lower than the figure for GDP, by up to 15%.

The level of expenditure is also significantly influenced by the age profile of the population. Currently Ireland, with one of the youngest populations in the EU, needs to spend less on pensions and health care and care of the elderly than most other member states. Ireland's elderly population, over age 65, is a third lower than the EU average, requiring much lower expenditure on pensions and health care, for example, Ireland's old age expenditure in 2001 amounted to only 28% of the average old age expenditure in the EU.

The extent to which the State directly provides supplementary pensions is also an important factor to consider. Social insurance was only extended to the full working population in recent decades, as a result of which a high proportion of current pensioners still only qualify for pensions under social assistance. Expenditure on private pension schemes provided by private insurance, including personal retirement savings accounts, is not included in the Irish social expenditure figure.

Ireland's current level of unemployment, at about 4.4%, is among the lowest in the EU, requiring less expenditure on unemployment related supports. This low level of unemployment is due in part to strong active labour market programmes, including education and training, to facilitate integration into the labour force of those formerly excluded.

Working to eradicate poverty requires action across a range of different policy areas. A central aim of this Government is to build an inclusive society. The principle strategy for achieving this is the national action plan against poverty and social exclusion. The plan incorporates the strategic approach to tackling poverty which was set out in the earlier national anti-poverty strategy and also reflects the social inclusion commitments agreed in Sustaining Progress.

The report in question makes recommendations on employment policy, lower income earners and the family income supplement, FIS, scheme. A number of policy instruments crossing a range of Departments are used as a way of preventing poverty amongst those in employment who are at risk of poverty. These include changes to the taxation system, the introduction of a national minimum hourly wage, provision of training and access to lifelong learning opportunities, assistance with job search and placement, the introduction of flexible working arrangements and increased access to affordable child care and changes to the social welfare system to support the transition to employment and improve the retention of non-cash benefits during that transition.

The FIS scheme preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if he or she were claiming other social welfare payments. Budget 2005 increased the FIS earnings thresholds by €39 in respect of each family size. This increase was unprecedented since the introduction of the scheme in 1984. The specific recommendations relating to the tax system are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Finance.

The report recommends increases in spending on social services and mechanisms for linking benefit incomes to earned incomes. Expenditure on social services involves a number of Departments. In my Department, between 2001 and 2005, spending on social welfare has increased from €7.8 billion to more than €12.2 billion. During the same period, the lowest social welfare rates have increased by 40% while the consumer price index has increased by just over 13%. As a result of budget 2005, welfare payments have increased by three times the expected rate of inflation. With economic growth, as measured by GNP, averaging 5.8% over the six years from 1998 to 2003 and the outturn for 2004 expected to be 5.3%, Ireland continues to successfully combine high economic growth with increased social spending.

Question No. 103 answered with QuestionNo. 86.
Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 57.

Social Welfare Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

105 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the recent protest by the Irish Farmers Association who claim that most farming women have no social welfare or pension entitlement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17182/05]

I am aware that this has been an issue of concern for the farming sector and have discussed the issue with the farming organisation when I met its representatives before budget 2005. Access to the main weekly social welfare payment can be solved through either building up a social insurance record or through a means test.

I understand that the Irish Farmers Association is referring to access to social insurance coverage. Under social welfare legislation, the social insurance status of spouses and relatives assisting in a family business, including farming, can vary. If spouses and relatives are engaged in a business partnership, they are treated as individual self-employed contributors and are liable to social insurance contributions. These contributions enable them to build up an insurance record in their own right and receive accruing benefits. Where a family business is incorporated as a limited company, spouses and assisting relatives involved in the business can establish a PRSI record either as employees or as self-employed contributors depending on whether a contract of service exists.

However, a person employed directly by his-her spouse cannot establish a PRSI record, as they are "excepted" contributors under social welfare legislation. The exceptions apply to both men and women in family employments and recognise the practical difficulties in establishing the existence of a genuine employment relationship in such circumstances. Where formal employment relationships are intended between spouses or assisting relatives, the legislation provides the scope necessary, as outlined, to allow parties enter into formal arrangements for a contract of employment or self employment whereby PRSI contributions will be payable.

The issue of the insurability of farm spouses for social insurance purposes has been considered on a number of occasions. An interdepartmental group chaired by the Department of Agriculture and Food, which reported in 2002, considered a number of alternative solutions to resolving this issue. It concluded that "the formation of business partnerships offers an immediate route of access to social insurance cover as it is based on existing legislation".

A social partnership group, which included representatives of the farming organisations, considered how the social insurance system should develop to be more inclusive and re-examined the issue. The report of the group, which will be published shortly, acknowledged the significance of the partnership option and recommended that more information on the tax and social welfare implications of families working in a partnership or as a limited company should be available. The provision of more information on these issues will bring further clarification on the issue. I urge families working together to consider the options available to maximise the level of social protection available to them.

There are no specific data available on the level of coverage for social welfare benefits and pensions among different sectors of workers, including the agricultural sector. However, we know that those engaged in farming are increasingly taking off-farm employment. This enables workers who might otherwise not be insured to build a social insurance record on the basis on their off-farm earnings. A person who has previously been employed would also be able to maintain his or her social insurance coverage in the long-term by contributing to the voluntary PRSI contribution scheme.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has issued any policy directive with the objective of restricting the availability of the rent allowance; if his attention has been drawn to the consequent hardship caused or likely to be caused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17130/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

262 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the extent to which rent allowance has been discontinued arising from departmental cutbacks in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17434/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

263 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of evictions which have occurred following the reduction or termination of rent allowances arising from cutbacks in his Department in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17435/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106, 262 and 263 together.

Rent supplements are provided through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. The changes to the rent supplement scheme in January 2004 were made in the context of budget policy at that time and in response to a marked growth in rent supplement numbers in the preceding years. These changes were made on the basis that people on low incomes with longer term housing needs required a housing solution rather than ongoing cash supports and that the scheme should be refocused on its original objective of providing short-term income support to individual tenants in immediate need.

Specific details of applications refused on grounds of failure to meet the conditions for receipt of rent supplement are not maintained in my Department. However, a working group was established under the Sustaining Progress agreement, in co-operation with the social partners, to monitor the impact of the changes made to the scheme. The group concluded that the design of the measures introduced, including the operation of the appropriate levels of discretion by the community welfare officers, was not having any significant adverse impacts.

Surveys carried out on the impact of the changes show that the number of refusals arising from changes in the qualification criteria were negligible in the context of the level of rent supplement awards in 2004, which was some 41,800. On each occasion the majority of refusal decisions were made for reasons such as means, habitual residency or for reasons relating to the accommodation involved. None of the cases identified involved people who were evicted from their rented accommodation.

After extensive consultation, I made changes to the regulations specifying the conditions for receipt of rent supplement, with effect from 31 January 2005, to address specific concerns. These changes removed the six month rule, extended the scheme to provide coverage for bona fide existing tenants who become unable to meet their rent or mortgage interest payments through illness, unemployment and so forth, and extended from two to three the number of refusals of local authority offers of accommodation a person may make before becoming ineligible for rent supplement.

On each occasion where changes have been made to the rent supplement scheme a formal circular has been issued from my Department to the community welfare officers, who administer the scheme on my behalf, setting out the amended qualification criteria. There is no question of any direction to officers to restrict the availability of, or entitlement to, rent supplement arising from the changes to the scheme. Supplements remain available to all eligible people who are unable to meet their immediate accommodation needs from their own resources and who do not have accommodation available from an alternative source. In addition, the discretionary scope of the scheme remains available to community welfare officers to award rent supplement where there is an individual exceptional or special need, beyond the normal eligibility conditions of the scheme.

Overall, the indications from Health Service Executive staff are that the new arrangements are working well and are sufficiently flexible to meet the genuine accommodation needs of tenant applicants adequately.

Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 55.
Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 82.

Social Welfare Code.

Enda Kenny

Question:

109 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when he intends to publish the results of his Department’s review of lone parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17193/05]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

125 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the fact that, despite the introduction of the one-parent family payment in 1997, the number of lone parents in consistent poverty has increased significantly since the implementation of the scheme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17198/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 125 together.

The number of lone parent families in the "consistent poverty" category as a percentage of all lone parent families fell from 42.8% to 24.4% between 1994 and 2001. During this period households in the "consistent poverty" category overall declined from 14.5% to 4.9%. However, it remains a fact that lone parents can be particularly vulnerable when it comes to poverty, as they have to combine the roles of both care giver and main income provider.

For people in working age households, the main route out of poverty is employment. Despite the huge increases in employment participation in Ireland in recent years and in employment opportunities generally, the proportion of lone parents in employment is low compared to other developed countries. This was borne out by an OECD report on reconciling work and family life, published in 2003, which found that employment participation among lone parents at 45% in this country is among the lowest in the OECD. This is despite the huge employment growth and increasing female participation in the workforce in recent years.

The earnings disregard introduced in 1997 under the one-parent family payment, OFP, has helped to increase employment participation but many lone parents who avail of this disregard engage in part-time employment and retain entitlement to the one-parent family payment. This is understandable as for many the benefit represents stable income security for themselves and their children, although at a relatively low level compared to the incomes a majority of other families derive from employment. Many lone parents, especially those who became parents at an early age, are also disadvantaged by low levels of educational attainment.

A first objective is to replace what may, in practice, be disincentives to full employment in the current schemes with more positive incentives to take up employment and avail of opportunities for education and training that can greatly increase the chances of obtaining more secure and well paid jobs. One of the key tasks in the "Ending Child Poverty" initiative is to address obstacles to employment for many lone parents. The senior officials group on social inclusion has been mandated to examine this issue and report back to the Cabinet committee on social inclusion with specific proposals.

A steering group has been established to progress the work, comprised of the Department of the Taoiseach, Department of Finance and the office for social inclusion in my Department. Other relevant Departments and agencies are briefing the group on the areas for which they have responsibility. The group will present its report to the senior officials group on social inclusion by mid-year and a report will be presented to the Cabinet committee on social inclusion before end July.

Specific policy areas are being examined to assess how they impact on employment opportunities and family circumstances. These include: income supports, employment, education, child care and support programmes and information. A separate working group has been set up in my Department to review specifically the income support arrangements for lone parents. This review will feed into the work of the steering group and I anticipate the work of this group should be completed by the end of June.

Social Welfare Benefits.

John Deasy

Question:

110 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons refused the carer’s allowance on the grounds of the means test in 2004; the number of persons refused the carer’s allowance on the grounds of the medical assessment in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17177/05]

John Deasy

Question:

114 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the approximately one in three persons who applied for the carer’s allowance in 2004 who were refused the payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17174/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110 and 114 together.

The principal eligibility conditions for receipt of the carer's allowance are that full-time care and attention is required and is being provided and that the means test that applies is satisfied. The number of applicants refused payment as a proportion of claims received has declined in recent years arising from various improvements introduced to the scheme. There are currently 23,307 persons receiving carer's allowance. In 2004, my Department received 7,817 applications for carer's allowance and of these 1,713 were refused the allowance.

A total of 987 applications were refused on medical eligibility grounds and 187 refused due to their means exceeding the prescribed income limit. The balance, 539 cases, were refused for a number of other reasons mainly because full-time care was not being provided. All persons who apply for carer's allowance are informed of the decision on their entitlement and the reasons for it. Additionally, where a person is refused the allowance, they also are advised of their right of appeal to the social welfare appeals office.

Payments to carers have been greatly improved since its introduction. Qualifying conditions for carer's allowance have been significantly eased, coverage of the scheme has been extended and new schemes such as carer's benefit and the respite care payment have been introduced. Provision has been made in successive budgets for substantial increases in the income disregards which apply in the means test. From April 2005, the weekly income disregards have increased to €270 for a single carer and to €540 for a couple. This increase has ensured that a couple with two children, earning a joint income of up to €30,700, can qualify for the maximum rate of carer's allowance while the same couple, if they had an income of €49,200, could still qualify for the minimum carer's allowance and the associated free schemes and respite care grant.

I have made provision for the introduction of a universal respite care grant payment of €1,000 payable to carers providing full-time care. This grant may be made in respect of each care recipient and is not subject to a means test. In introducing this measure I am continuing to enhance the provision of supports for carers. My Department has already undertaken an extensive publicity campaign, including the provision of a dedicated freephone line, to ensure that all those eligible for the payment will avail of it. The development of support for carers continues to be a priority for me and for the Government.

Question No. 111 answered with QuestionNo. 74.
Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 71.
Question No. 113 answered with QuestionNo. 57.
Question No. 114 answered with QuestionNo. 110.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

115 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when he proposes to introduce changes to allow lone parents to receive maintenance from absent fathers without it affecting their welfare payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17204/05]

The one-parent family payment of my Department acts as a safety net for people who receive inadequate maintenance, where maintenance payments are irregular or where efforts to secure maintenance in the first place fail. Applicants for one-parent family payment are required to make ongoing efforts to seek adequate maintenance from their former spouses or, in the case of unmarried applicants, the other parent of their child. They must satisfy my Department that they have made reasonable attempts to obtain such maintenance. The one-parent family payment thus guarantees a lone parent a regular weekly income, while placing reasonable onus on both parties concerned to resolve appropriate maintenance support.

Separated OPFP claimants must demonstrate that they have made reasonable efforts to obtain support before their lone parent payment is awarded. Unmarried OPFP claimants must demonstrate similar efforts after their claim is awarded. Normally, this maintenance is obtained by way of negotiation or by court order, though separated couples are increasingly using my Department's family mediation service which is being progressively extended countrywide.

From the introduction of the one-parent family payment in January 1997, all maintenance received by a claimant was regarded as means. Housing costs incurred by a claimant, that is rent or mortgage payments up to a maximum of €95.23 per week were disregarded. From 2001, however, one-parent family payment claimants were allowed to retain 50% of any maintenance received without reduction in their social welfare payment. The housing disregard of up to a maximum of €95.23 also remains in place.

My Department's records indicate that approximately 9,600 one-parent family payment recipients are in receipt of maintenance from their spouse or the other parent of their child/ren. However, many other recipients could be in receipt of maintenance and still qualify for the maximum rate of one-parent family payment as a result of the provision allowing one-parent family payment claimants to retain 50% of any maintenance received.

On the issue of absent parents, legislation provides that where social welfare support is being provided to a one-parent family, the other parent is legally obliged to contribute to the cost of this payment. In every case where a one-parent family payment is awarded, the maintenance recovery unit of my Department seeks to trace the other parent, referred to as the liable relative, to ascertain whether he or she is in a financial position to contribute towards the cost of the one-parent family payment. This follow-up activity takes place within two to three weeks of award of the payment.

All liable relatives assessed with maintenance liability are notified by my Department and they are issued with a determination order setting out the amount of contribution assessed. The amount assessed can be reviewed where new information comes to light about the financial or household circumstances of a liable relative. Decisions on the amounts assessed can be appealed by liable relatives to the social welfare appeals office.

There are currently 1,980 liable relatives contributing directly to my Department. As a result of maintenance recovery unit activity, savings of €8.5 million were achieved in 2002 and €14.2 million in 2003. Savings of €16.6 million were achieved in 2004. These savings are composed of direct cash payments by the liable relative to the Department and of scheme savings. Savings on scheme expenditure arise where maintenance recovery activity leads to the liable relative beginning to pay maintenance in respect of a spouse and/or children leading to a consequent reduction of a one-parent family payment. In 2004, a total of 722 one-parent family payments were cancelled while a further 512 payments were reduced as a result of maintenance recovery activity.

In implementing maintenance recovery provisions to date my Department has concentrated on cases where the liable relatives concerned, being in employment or self employment, would be in a financial position to make a contribution towards the relevant benefit or allowance being paid to their families. My Department also seeks recovery from liable relatives through the courts in appropriate cases. A total of 182 cases has been submitted for court action from 2001 to date. The majority of these cases have resulted either in orders being written against the liable relative in court or alternatively in the liable relative agreeing to pay a contribution to the Department or to the lone parent.

Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 62.
Question No. 117 answered with QuestionNo. 60.

Social Mobility.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

118 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his Department has information on levels of social mobility here, compared to other countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17139/05]

Analysis of the levels of social mobility in Ireland has been undertaken in recent years most notably by the Economic and Social Research Institute. In a 2004 paper, entitled "Economic Change, Social Mobility and Meritocracy: Reflections on the Irish Experience", the ESRI outlines the scale of change in the Irish class structure for men aged between 20 and 65 years. Over the period from 1973 to 2000, this has seen the professional and managerial class rise from 12.9% of population to 23.3% of population; the routine non-manual class rise from 8.3% to 14.1%; the self-employed class rise from 8.2% to 9.9%; the skilled manual class rise from 19.4% to 25.3%; the farming class fall from 20% to 8.2%; the semi-skilled and unskilled class fall from 24.1% to 16.6%; and the agricultural labourer class fall from 7.2% to 2.6%.

The upward shift in the class structure which these figures portray has been responsible for the majority of social mobility in Ireland over recent decades. The number of available higher level positions has had a major effect across the social structure in terms of absolute mobility, understood as the proportion of individuals who have been mobile from their class of origin. However, this has been accompanied by only small changes in the meritocracy of Irish society in terms of access to desirable positions.

This other element, encompassing the idea of meritocracy, to the examination of social mobility is relative mobility or equality of opportunity, which is concerned with the chances people from different backgrounds have of attaining different social positions. Many sociologists have argued that globalisation, as typified in recent Irish economic development, fuels economic inequality and would thereby lead to reduced equality of opportunity. However, the Economic and Social Research Institute and others conclude that, while changes in relative mobility have been slow to manifest themselves, they have been in the direction of increased openness and equality. In other words, the research shows that the Celtic tiger era has increased equality of opportunity in Irish society.

In comparative terms this progress has, according to Breen in his 2004 book "Social Mobility in Europe", brought Ireland from a very low base to rank alongside countries such as Germany, Italy and France but behind Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands, in terms of equality of opportunity. Given that changes in relative mobility happen very slowly our progress in comparative terms is heartening.

It is my hope that, over the medium to long term, targeted initiatives such as the national anti-poverty strategy will bring about further progress in this regard.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Denis Naughten

Question:

119 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to review the means test for farmers applying for the old age non-contributory pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16885/05]

I understand that the Deputy is concerned in particular about the current arrangements applying in the case of old age pension where a landholder leases land or is otherwise in possession of land which is lying fallow or idle.

Where land is let on short-term lettings such as the 11 month system, the income from such lettings is calculated as cash income for the purpose of the means assessment for old age pension. Necessary expenses incurred by the owner, such as auctioneer fees, fencing or fertilising between lettings, are deducted from the gross letting income.

Where land is lying fallow or idle, there are two options for the assessment of means. If the Department is satisfied that the pension claimant is depriving himself or herself of an income in order to qualify for a pension or a pension at a higher rate than would otherwise be the case, the relevant assessment is the income which would be received if the land was let. Where the Department is satisfied that this is not the case, the value of the land is obtained from the Valuation Office and is assessed as capital for means purposes.

There are no plans to change the present arrangements in this regard. Any change in these assessment arrangements could only be considered in a budgetary context.

Question No. 120 answered with QuestionNo. 86.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Pat Breen

Question:

121 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on whether the risk of being in poverty has increased substantially for elderly persons over the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17153/05]

In the period 1994 to 2003, industrial earnings grew by 56% with prices increasing by 32%. At the same time, improvements in the old age contributory pension saw the payment grow by 74%, well ahead of both earnings and prices. However, average household income grew by 122%, driven by income tax reductions and increased workforce participation, and this has resulted in a relatively worse income position for older people and other groups.

Since first taking office, the needs of older people have been a priority for this Government. The Government has sought through significant increases in pensions and changes to other schemes to improve the position of older people. Since 1997, we have increased pensions by up to €80.26 per week or 81%. At present, the maximum rate of the old age contributory pension stands at €179.30. We are committed to increasing the rate to €200 per week by 2007 and significant progress towards this target has already been made.

Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 55.
Question No. 123 answered with QuestionNo. 84.
Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 102.
Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 109.
Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 57.
Question No. 127 answered with QuestionNo. 84.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings.

Finian McGrath

Question:

128 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Taoiseach if he will seek advice on the Government taking a case against the UK Government to the European Court of Human rights in the event of its refusal to establish an inquiry and to report further on developments in respect of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. [17027/05]

The Government has established a commission of investigation to look at certain aspects of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974 and we continue to press the British Government for action in providing further information that would shed light on the atrocities. These actions are in keeping with the recommendations of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Womens' Rights and I hope they will yield further insights. The committee identified a number of possible further actions that could be taken and, if necessary, I will seek legal advice at the appropriate time.

Commemorative Events.

Bernard Allen

Question:

129 Mr. Allen asked the Taoiseach if he proposes to mark the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki city which will occur at 11.02 on 9 August 2005 in view of the fact that it is the occasion of the last major humanitarian disaster of the Second World War; if he will consider it appropriate that there should be one minute of peace to honour the dead of all wars and to reflect on if enough is being done to build a culture of peace to make wars a rare occurrence. [17232/05]

Consideration of special commemorative events has regard to the unique status of the National Day of Commemoration each July being the sole, annual event organised by the State. It is dedicated to the memory of "all those Irishmen and Irishwomen who died in past wars or on service with the United Nations." It was introduced with a specific purpose to be inclusive and all embracing. The National Day of Commemoration is established alongside many other commemorations, organised by groups and societies, which often receive official recognition with office holders in attendance.

Special events are organised from time to time in respect of the anniversaries of signal events of historic importance. As each year contains so many anniversaries, an official commemoration would usually only be considered for a 25th, 50th, 75th or 100th anniversary, with even longer intervals thereafter.

At the invitation of President Putin, I attended a commemoration on the 60th anniversary of the defeat of fascism on 9 May in Moscow. Having regard to the 60th anniversary this year of the liberation of the death camps, I also attended Ireland's third annual Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration ceremonies in January. I recognise the special significance of such remembrance events to those survivors still with us.

I do not envisage an official event being organised in Ireland for the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, 6 August, or of Nagasaki, 9 August. I am aware that there has been a commemorative event held annually at Merrion Square, Dublin, usually on Hiroshima Day, which I would commend to all people concerned.

The United Nations General Assembly resolution 55/282 of 7 September 2001 established 21 September as the International Day of Peace to be observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, an invitation to all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities. We also have large official and public attendance in Dublin each January to join in prayers for peace, in association with the annual message from the Pope for the celebration of the World Day of Peace. I believe that these events provide an opportunity for all to reflect on what can be achieved.

Adoption Services.

Seán Haughey

Question:

130 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will consider making a grant available to persons who adopt children from abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17077/05]

I have no plans to make a grant available to persons who adopt children from abroad.

Food Safety.

David Stanton

Question:

131 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the use of aspartame in food and drink products; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17411/05]

Sweeteners such as aspartame are strictly controlled by European Union legislation which requires that only authorised additives may be used in the manufacture or preparation of foodstuffs. A new additive which requires authorisation in the EU must go through an exhaustive safety assessment by the EU scientific committee on food, SCF. Following evaluation of a particular additive, it is placed on the EU "positive list" of approved additives. If there were any doubts about the safety of an additive, that substance would not be approved.

Aspartame has, therefore, only been authorised for use and included on the EU "positive list" of approved additives after a careful evaluation by the SCF, initially in 1984, then in 1988 and again in 2002. It has also undergone rigorous safety assessments by other regulatory bodies, such as the joint Food and Agriculture Organisation-World Health Organisation expert committee on food additives, the UK Food Standards Agency and the United States Food and Drug Administration, FDA.

In Ireland, the use of sweeteners in foodstuffs is controlled by the European Communities additives, colours and sweeteners in foodstuffs regulations, S.I. No. 437 of 2000. These regulations implement European Council Directive 94/35/EC and an amending directive 96/83/EC, which harmonise controls on the use of sweeteners throughout the European Community. The safety of aspartame has been extensively studied over the years and experts worldwide agree that aspartame is safe for use. In terms of types of studies and the amounts given to human subjects in controlled studies, aspartame is one of the most thoroughly tested food additives.

The approval of aspartame will continue to be kept under review by bodies such as the European Commission and its SCF, the FDA and so forth as new scientific information becomes available. If this information shows that the conclusion that aspartame is safe for use is no longer valid, action will be taken immediately to review its authorisation. I am satisfied that all appropriate measures have been taken to ensure that there are no issues of concern with regard to aspartame. I am also satisfied that the issue is being kept under review.

Health Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

132 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the dilapidated state of Killybegs health centre; if there are plans to have refurbishment works carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16888/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the establishment of the Health Service Executive 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 centres. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's north-western area to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Charges.

Finian McGrath

Question:

133 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if urgent assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 on the nursing home charges issue, and the maximum support and advice. [16891/05]

The Government has agreed the key elements of a scheme for the repayment of long-stay charges. All those who were illegally charged for publicly-funded long term residential care and are alive and the estates of all those who were charged and died in the six years prior to 9 December 2004 will have the charges repaid in full. The scheme will not provide for repayments to the estates of those who died more than six years ago. The repayments will include the charge paid and an amount to take account of inflation — using the consumer price index — since the time the person involved was charged. Legislation will be brought before the Oireachtas as soon as possible to provide a clear legal framework for the scheme.

In the cases of those who were charged and are still alive, repayments will be exempt from tax and will not be taken into account in assessing means for health and social welfare benefits. The normal tax and means assessment arrangements will apply to those who benefit from repayments to estates. An outside company with experience in handling mass claims will be engaged to design and manage the scheme within the parameters of the key principles approved by Government. A national steering committee will be appointed to provide an independent input into the design of the scheme and to monitor its operation to ensure it is implemented quickly and in the most equitable and effective way possible. The scheme will be designed and managed with the aim of ensuring that those who are eligible for repayments receive them as soon as possible and with the minimum possible imposition in terms of bureaucracy.

Priority will be given to those who are still alive. Many of those eligible for repayments have already been identified under the ex gratia payments process. The scheme will include a transparent and thorough appeals process. The legislation will include appropriate safeguards to prevent exploitation of those who receive repayments and are not in a position to manage their own financial affairs. The scheme will include a provision to allow those eligible for a repayment to waive their right to a repayment and have the money assigned to fund one-off service improvements in elderly, mental health and disability services. It is estimated that about 20,000 people who are still alive and a further 40,000 to 50,000 estates will benefit.

It is estimated that the scheme will cost approximately €1billion. The decision to limit payments to the estates of those who died in the past six years reflects the reference in the Supreme Court judgement to the Statute of Limitations. While the national helpline set up by the Health Service Executive to allow people to register if they believe they are due a repayment will continue to operate, there is no need for anyone who has already registered using this facility to make contact with the HSE again to register for the scheme. Any person who considers he, she or a family member may be eligible for repayment may register an interest in advance with the Health Service Executive by writing to the National Refund Scheme, HSE Midland Area, Arden Road, Tullamore, County Offaly, sending an e-mail to refundscheme@mailq.hse.ie, or by calling the helpline 1800 777737 during office hours.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

134 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the frequency with which patients (details supplied) or their representatives receive statements of their accounts which are in the control of the HSE; when the last statement was issued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16892/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the establishment of the Health Service Executive 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 administration of patients' property accounts. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the Health Service Executive's south-eastern area to investigate the matters raised and reply direct to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

135 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an appeal against the decision not to issue a medical card to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be expedited; and if the card will be issued. [16893/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the establishment of the Health Service Executive 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 applications for medical cards. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the Health Service Executive's south-eastern area to investigate the matters raised and reply direct to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Charges.

Willie Penrose

Question:

136 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the recent decision taken by the Government to repay persons who were patients of nursing homes and had been illegally charged applies to those who have been in receipt of contributory pensions, even of a reduced nature, in the same way as it applies to persons who were in receipt of non-contributory pensions; the way in which it is proposed to ensure that all those persons who had money illegally charged to them, will be treated in respect of refunds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16922/05]

The Government has agreed the key elements of a scheme for the repayment of long-stay charges. All those who were illegally charged for publicly-funded long term residential care and are alive and the estates of all those who were charged and died in the six years prior to 9 December 2004 will have the charges repaid in full. The scheme will not provide for repayments to the estates of those who died more than six years ago. The repayments will include the charge paid and an amount to take account of inflation — using the consumer price index — since the time the person involved was charged. Legislation will be brought before the Oireachtas as soon as possible to provide a clear legal framework for the scheme.

In the cases of those who were charged and are still alive, repayments will be exempt from tax and will not be taken into account in assessing means for health and social welfare benefits. The normal tax and means assessment arrangements will apply to those who benefit from repayments to estates. An outside company with experience in handling mass claims will be engaged to design and manage the scheme within the parameters of the key principles approved by Government. A national steering committee will be appointed to provide an independent input into the design of the scheme and to monitor its operation to ensure it is implemented quickly and in the most equitable and effective way possible. The scheme will be designed and managed with the aim of ensuring that those who are eligible for repayments receive them as soon as possible and with the minimum possible imposition in terms of bureaucracy.

Priority will be given to those who are still alive. Many of those eligible for repayments have already been identified under the ex gratia payments process. The scheme will include a transparent and thorough appeals process. The legislation will include appropriate safeguards to prevent exploitation of those who receive repayments and are not in a position to manage their own financial affairs. The scheme will include a provision to allow those eligible for a repayment to waive their right to a repayment and have the money assigned to fund one-off service improvements in elderly, mental health and disability services. It is estimated that about 20,000 people who are still alive and a further 40,000 to 50,000 estates will benefit.

It is estimated that the scheme will cost approximately €1billion. The decision to limit payments to the estates of those who died in the past six years reflects the reference in the Supreme Court judgement to the Statute of Limitations. While the national helpline set up by the Health Service Executive to allow people to register if they believe they are due a repayment will continue to operate, there is no need for anyone who has already registered using this facility to make contact with the HSE again to register for the scheme. Any person who considers he, she or a family member may be eligible for repayment may register an interest in advance with the Health Service Executive by writing to the National Refund Scheme, HSE Midland Area, Arden Road, Tullamore, County Offaly, sending an e-mail to refundscheme@mailq.hse.ie, or by calling the helpline 1800 777737 during office hours.

Nursing Education.

John Perry

Question:

137 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if he will identify the committee of An Bord Altranais which recommended dropping the requirement of having a general nursing qualification prior to a person’s qualifying as a public health nurse; and the nature of the involvement with stakeholders such as nursing union representatives prior to the taking of this decision. [16939/05]

The issue raised by the Deputy is a matter for An Bord Altranais, the statutory body charged with the regulation of the nursing and midwifery professions, including the setting of requirements and standards in relation to the education programmes for registration. Membership of the board is representative of all divisions of the register of nurses. I understand, however, that the board decided at a recent meeting to establish a consultation process in respect of the matter raised.

Hospital Staff.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

138 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the application for the appointment of a consultant haematologist at the Mercy University Hospital Cork has to date not been approved; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the current consultant to the children’s leukaemia unit at the Mercy Hospital is due to retire in 2005 and that any undue delay in the advertising and filling of this post will have major consequences for children suffering from cancer in the Munster area and for the long term future of the unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16946/05]

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

144 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in a response issuing in relation to the appointment of a consultant haematologist with an interest in child haematology to the Mercy University Hospital in Cork in view of the retirement of the present consultant in May 2005; if she will further investigate this matter with the chief officer of the Health Service Executive’s southern area; if her attention has been drawn to the huge concerns being expressed at this post not being filled on time. [17018/05]

Liz McManus

Question:

167 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the HSE will appoint a new consultant haematologist in the leukaemia unit at Mercy University Hospital Cork to replace the person retiring (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17249/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138, 144 and 167 together.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the establishment of the Health Service Executive 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 cancer services and the recruitment of consultant staff. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the Health Service Executive's southern area to investigate the matters raised and reply direct to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Pat Breen

Question:

139 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 115 of 1 February 2005, when an assessment of the needs for equipment of a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16947/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the establishment of the Health Service Executive 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 of the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and reply direct to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

140 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive will fund the stay of a person (details supplied) at a nursing home. [16959/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the establishment of the Health Service Executive 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 Kildare. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's eastern area to investigate the matter raised and reply direct to the Deputy.

Consultancy Contracts.

Liam Twomey

Question:

141 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the terms of remuneration and conditions pertaining to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16975/05]

I am advised by the organisation concerned that the individual is retained on a consultancy basis. Total fees paid in the year to February 2005 amounted to €378,000 compared to €353,000 in the year to February 2004.

Hospital Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

142 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the Mid-Western Regional Hospital has failed to introduce the children for children telemedicine link between the hospital and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, to enhance the treatment of cancer in children. [16980/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the establishment of the Health Service Executive 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 issue raised by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and reply direct to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

143 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in the provision of a national cervical screening programme; the proposed timescale for the programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16990/05]

I am committed to the national roll-out of a cervical screening programme in line with international best practice. International evidence demonstrates the proven efficacy of programmes that are effectively managed and meet quality assurance standards. Careful planning and consultation with relevant professional and advocacy stakeholders is required in advance of a national roll out. The former Health Board Executive commissioned an international expert in cervical screening to examine the feasibility and implications of a national roll out of a cervical screening programme. The examination included an evaluation of the current pilot programme in the mid-western area, quality assurance, laboratory capacity and organisation and the establishment of national governance arrangements. The expert's report was published on 14 December 2004.

My Department is now consulting with the Irish College of General Practitioners, An Bord Altranais, the Academy of Medical Laboratory Science, the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, the faculty of pathology of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, the Women's Health Council, the Irish Cancer Society and the Dublin Well Woman Centre. Consultation with these key stakeholders is well advanced and will be completed shortly.

Question No. 144 answered with QuestionNo. 138.

Health Services.

Seamus Kirk

Question:

145 Mr. Kirk asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the new health centre proposed for Ardee, County Louth, will be built; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17023/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the establishment of the Health Service Executive 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 centres. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's north-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Dan Neville

Question:

146 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [17037/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the establishment of the Health Service Executive 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 applications for medical cards. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the Health Service Executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

Liz McManus

Question:

147 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the current number of staff vacancies at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin; the current staff turnover figures at the hospital; the current waiting list times; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17044/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the establishment of the Health Service Executive 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. Services at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, are provided under an arrangement with the executive. My Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern regional area to examine the issues raised and reply to the Deputy directly.

Hospital Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

148 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of recommendations of the report reviewing the events surrounding the death of Róisín Ruddle which have been implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17046/05]

The report of the review panel examining the circumstances surrounding the death of Róisín Ruddle made 13 recommendations. The implementation of most of the recommendations is a matter for Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, in conjunction with the Health Service Executive. I am advised that four of the recommendations have already been implemented in full by the hospital. Plans have been developed for the implementation of a further five of the recommendations and proposals to address two other recommendations are being explored by the hospital with the Health Service Executive. I will bring proposals to Government shortly on two recommendations on paediatric nurse recruitment and training. Róisín's family is being kept informed of the position.

Water Fluoridation.

Enda Kenny

Question:

149 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the fluoridation of public water systems; the levels that apply; if her attention has been drawn to a substantial body of professional work which is of the view that fluoridation is no longer necessary due to advances in oral and dental hygiene; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17060/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the establishment of the Health Services Executive 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 fluoridation. Fluoridation of public water supplies as a public health measure is accepted as being one of the most effective methods to combat tooth decay. The World Health Organisation recommends fluoridation of public water supplies and has stated that "fluoridation of water supplies, where possible, is the most effective public health measure for the prevention of dental decay". The WHO has also stated that "people of all ages, including the elderly, benefit from community water fluoridation".

The recently completed survey of oral health, which covered the whole island of Ireland, shows that fluoridation of public water supplies continues to be a highly effective public health measure. It has contributed significantly to a major reduction in the incidence of dental decay in the Republic of Ireland. This compares favourably with the incidence of dental decay in Northern Ireland, which has significantly higher rates of dental decay and which does not have fluoridated water supplies. The oral health survey also shows that fluoridation of public water supplies has a significant impact on dental decay in disadvantaged areas. The gap, in terms of levels of decay, between non-disadvantaged and disadvantaged areas in the Republic of Ireland is significantly less than the gap between such areas in Northern Ireland.

As the Deputy is aware, a forum on fluoridation was established to review the fluoridation of public piped water supplies in Ireland. The main conclusion of the forum's report was that the fluoridation of public piped water supplies should continue as a public health measure. In all, the report of the forum on fluoridation made 33 recommendations covering a broad range of areas such as research, public awareness, policy and technical aspects of fluoridation. It also proposed the establishment of an expert body to oversee the implementation of the recommendations. The Irish expert body on fluorides and health held its inaugural meeting in April 2004.

The terms of reference of the expert body are to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the forum on fluoridation; advise the Minister and evaluate ongoing research, including new emerging issues, on all aspects of fluoride and its delivery methods as an established health technology and as required; and to report to the Minister on matters of concern at his or her request or on its own initiative. The expert body has broad representation which includes personnel from the areas of public health medicine, engineering, management, environmental protection, environmental health, dentistry, and health promotion. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the body has a strong consumer input in terms of members of the public and representatives of consumer interests, in addition to the necessary scientific, managerial and public health inputs.

The expert body will oversee the implementation of the wide-ranging recommendations of the forum and advise me on all aspects of fluoride going forward. In addition, the expert body on fluorides and health is examining the regulations governing fluoridation of public piped water supplies with the aim of making proposals to the Minister for the purpose of implementing the recommendation of the forum to reduce the level of fluorine in public piped water supplies from between 0.8 parts per million and 1 part per million to between 0.6 parts per million to 0.8 parts per million. As part of this exercise the expert body is carrying out a census of public piped water supplies. When this work is complete, the body will make recommendations to the Minister on the updating of the current regulations.

Services for People with Disabilities.

John Perry

Question:

150 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if vouchers for travel will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Sligo to use a taxi service; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this person is in receipt of welfare, has a learning difficulty and has secured a placement on a rehabilitative programme. [17080/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the establishment of the Health Service Executive 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 transport to a rehabilitative training programme. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's north-western area to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

Task Force on Obesity.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

151 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to address the serious problem of obesity; the extent to which she proposes to implement the recommendations of the national task force on obesity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17081/05]

The national task force on obesity presented its report, Obesity: the Policy Challenges, to the Taoiseach on 16 May 2005. The report contains 93 recommendations for actions across six broad sectors including high-level Government, education, social and community, health, food commodities, production and supply, and the physical environment. The report highlights the need for joined-up policy, cross collaboration between all key stakeholders and real practical engagement by both the public and the private sectors. As Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with responsibility for health promotion, I will be presenting the report to Cabinet.

Suicide Incidence.

Michael Lowry

Question:

152 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of deaths by suicide in each county between 1997 and 2004; the number of attempted suicides in each county between 1997 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17097/05]

Data on mortality are compiled by the Central Statistics Office and published in the annual and quarterly reports on vital statistics. The latest period for which data is available is January to September 2004 and this data is set out in the following table in addition to the data for 1997 to 2003 as requested by the Deputy.

Number of deaths from suicide by county, 1997 to 2004.

County

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

Jan to Sept 2004

Carlow

10

5

2

2

8

3

6

2

Cavan

11

4

4

7

9

10

8

2

Clare

10

15

12

8

13

16

13

12

Cork

82

74

53

67

100

62

64

47

Donegal

17

14

14

13

15

20

14

9

Dublin

105

118

120

115

120

103

111

53

Galway

33

28

23

20

23

26

21

10

Kerry

17

26

19

20

20

13

9

12

Kildare

19

12

8

20

12

21

18

10

Kilkenny

6

13

14

17

15

11

11

9

Laois

5

9

5

6

7

6

4

2

Leitrim

6

5

4

4

6

7

3

0

Limerick

18

28

26

32

16

30

24

13

Longford

2

3

6

3

6

4

2

2

Louth

12

16

11

13

7

14

16

7

Mayo

16

16

13

17

17

18

10

9

Meath

13

11

16

11

19

19

11

13

Monaghan

7

8

5

11

2

4

8

4

Offaly

6

10

9

18

12

11

7

8

Roscommon

7

7

6

6

5

4

3

1

Sligo

3

12

6

3

10

4

7

2

Tipperary

16

20

22

20

23

22

26

10

Waterford

18

11

11

12

17

12

8

8

Westmeath

4

13

13

9

9

6

6

5

Wexford

21

18

16

23

19

17

23

4

Wicklow

14

18

17

9

9

15

11

7

Total

478

514

455

486

519

478

444

261

Note: Figures for 2003 and 2004 are provisional.

Source: Central Statistics Office.

Data on the number of persons presenting to hospitals following deliberate self harm has been collated by the National Parasuicide Registry since its establishment in 2000 and published in its annual report. The third annual report published in December 2004 indicates that there were approximately 11,200 presentations due to deliberate self harm in 2003. As information is not available from all hospitals, it is not possible to provide data on a county-by-county basis as requested by the Deputy. The National Parasuicide Registry has however secured approval to collect data from all acute hospitals in the country from 2004.

As the Deputy is aware, work is now well under way on the preparation of a national strategy for action on suicide prevention. The strategy, which involves the project management unit of the Health Service Executive in partnership with the national suicide review group supported by the Department of Health and Children will be action-based from the outset and will outline the priority initiatives for suicide prevention and mental health promotion across the country for the coming years. All measures aimed at reducing the number of deaths by suicide will be considered in the preparation of the strategy which will be published in September of this year.

Michael Lowry

Question:

153 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of deaths by suicide of persons under 25 between 1997 and 2004 in County Tipperary and nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17098/05]

Michael Lowry

Question:

154 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to a recent trend in County Tipperary (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17099/05]

Michael Lowry

Question:

155 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she is taking to tackle the unusually high rate of suicide in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17100/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 to 155, inclusive, together.

The number of deaths by suicide of persons under 25 in County Tipperary and nationally 1997-2004 as requested by the Deputy are as follows.

Year

Tipperary

Ireland

1997

6

130

1998

9

130

1999

6

109

2000

3

110

2001

7

108

2002

5

108

2003

5

112

January to September 2004

3

51

Note: Figures for 2003 and 2004 are provisional.

Source: Central Statistics Office.

Suicide is a serious social problem here and every suicide and attempted suicide is a tragic event. As the Deputy is aware, work is now well under way on the preparation of a national strategy for action on suicide prevention. This strategy, which involves the project management unit of the Health Service Executive in partnership with the National Suicide Review Group supported by the Department of Health and Children will be action-based from the outset and will outline the priority initiatives for suicide prevention and mental health promotion across the country for the coming years. All measures aimed at reducing the number of deaths by suicide will be considered in the preparation of this strategy which will be published in September of this year.

National Lottery Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

156 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a scheme exists within her Department for a group (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17101/05]

The Department of Health and Children provides funding to voluntary organisations under a national lottery funded grant scheme. This funding is discretionary. There is a set protocol in place in the Department for dealing with applications and requests for grants from discretionary national lottery funds. An application form is made available to any individual, group or agency which requests a grant. When the completed application form is received in the Department it is registered in the finance unit and forwarded to the relevant services division for its assessment, evaluation and recommendation. All applications are then considered in the context of the recommendation and the overall level of funds available to the Tánaiste and each organisation is then informed of the decision reached in relation to its application.

Mental Health Services.

Michael Lowry

Question:

157 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the support services available in County Tipperary for young persons suffering from mental illness; the support groups in the county which assist persons with mental illness; the plans which agencies under her Department have to improve the facilities and increase funding in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17102/05]

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 support services for young persons suffering mental illness in County Tipperary. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer, Health Service Executive south-eastern area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Michael Lowry

Question:

158 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 134 of 17 May 2005, when a full service, excluding mobile services, will be available in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17103/05]

The national breast screening programme, BreastCheck, provides a scheme of early diagnosis and primary treatment of breast cancer in women in the 50 to 64 age group. The programme is currently available to women in the target group in the eastern, north-eastern, midland and part of the south-eastern regions. Two static clinical units operate in these regions, one at St. Vincent's Hospital, Dublin and the other at the Mater Hospital, Dublin. Mobile units provide screening for the target population in the counties throughout these regions.

BreastCheck is preparing for national extension of the programme which will require a further two centres. The centre in the south will be located at the South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital, Cork, with three associated mobile units. The area of coverage will be counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Waterford and Tipperary South Riding. The centre in the west will be located at University College Hospital, Galway with two associated mobile units. The area of coverage will be counties Galway, Sligo, Roscommon, Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim, Clare and Tipperary North Riding. I am confident that the target date of 2007 for the commencement of the roll out of the BreastCheck programme to the regions will be met.

As regards the symptomatic breast disease services, the report on the development of cancer services for symptomatic breast disease recommended the development of a limited number of specialist units. The report recommended the development of four specialist units to cover the southern, south-eastern and mid-western regions. These units are located at the South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital, Cork, Cork University Hospital, Waterford Regional Hospital and Limerick Regional Hospital. Considerable investment has been made in implementing the recommendations with most of the units now operational or at advanced stages of development.

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

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

159 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application for a medical card under appeal in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be expedited. [17147/05]

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 applications for medical cards. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the Health Service Executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

160 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is right for invasive and personal questions to be asked of persons applying for non-medical positions in the Health Service Executive; if this type of form is necessary for the type of position for which they are applying; the number of persons required to draft this pre-employment health questionnaire form; the number of person who have to process this form before an applicant is given a job; and if it is necessary for the HSE to be able to access a person’s private health file at any time. [17149/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, HSE, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for human resource management and I would expect the HSE to adhere to good practice in appropriate pre-employment health screening in the interest of staff and patients.

As this is a matter for the HSE, my Department has requested the national director of human resources in the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy in regard to the issues raised.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

161 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she proposes to give approval for the proposed developments of a hospital (details supplied) in County Cork. [17165/05]

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

This project is in the capital investment framework, CIF, 2005 for the Health Service Executive. A design team was appointed in February 2004 for phase 2A of the redevelopment of Fermoy Community Hospital. The HSE is currently progressing the project through the various detailed planning stages, with the view to bringing the project to tender stage in due course.

Children’s Projects.

James Breen

Question:

162 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the HSE in the mid-west refused to sign up to the international children for children project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17224/05]

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 child welfare issues. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the Health Service Executive, mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

James Breen

Question:

163 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of Ennis General Hospital when the national forum on health is implemented; if it will remain an acute surgical hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17225/05]

The Health Act 2004 provides for the convening of a national health consultative forum to advise on matters relating to the provision of health services. A gathering of this nature has been an annual event since the publication of the national health strategy and it is my intention to convene a forum, in accordance with the Act, later on this year.

The Health Act 2004 also provided for the Health Service Executive to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility, through the National Hospitals Office, for the arranging of acute hospital services at a national, regional and local level.

Services to be provided, in the future, at Ennis General Hospital will be developed based on the principle of regional self-sufficiency and the organisation of services through regional hospital networks.

Health Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

164 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in relation to the development of health policy and services for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, she will indicate the scope of the services available and the number of beneficiaries of such services on a national and a county basis. [17233/05]

The national disability strategy provides a framework of positive action measures to support participation by people with disabilities in Irish society. The strategy consists of four elements; the Disability Bill 2004; the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill 2004; six outline sectoral plans, and a commitment to a multi-annual investment.

The strategic review of services being undertaken by my Department is examining the significant level of service provision which is already in place, focusing on specific issues which are of concern to people with disabilities and their families and carers, together with statutory and voluntary bodies in this area, with an opportunity to input into the planning and delivery of services over the coming years.

The Government announced on budget day a special disability multi-annual funding package with a total value of close to €900 million over the years 2006 to 2009 which includes an allocation of €300 million out of the revised capital envelope to these high-priority disability services.

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 development and provision of such services for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Health Service Executive's national director for primary, community and continuing care to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Denis Naughten

Question:

165 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon will be called for a cataract operation; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17236/05]

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 the person in question resides in County Roscommon, 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.

Health Services.

James Breen

Question:

166 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 201 of 19 April 2005, when the HSE will answer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17248/05]

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 speech and language services. Accordingly, my Department has again requested the chief officer of Health Service Executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Question No. 167 answered with QuestionNo. 138.

Hospital Staff.

Liz McManus

Question:

168 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the fact that the four midland counties of Longford, Westmeath, Offaly and Laois do not have access to a consultant endocrinologist or a quality diabetes service, when a endocrinologist and diabetologist will be appointed in the local Mullingar, Tullamore and Portlaoise hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17250/05]

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 hospital services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's midland area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Liz McManus

Question:

169 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a national health screening service for older people of both sexes for diabetes, breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17251/05]

A new national cancer strategy is currently being finalised by the National Cancer Forum, a multidisciplinary group of experts in oncology. As part of this work, the forum has reviewed all issues relating to screening, including examining specific diseases such as prostate and colorectal cancer.

In relation to screening for prostate cancer, I understand the forum has concluded that there is currently insufficient evidence to recommend the introduction of a population based prostate screening programme here and that this issue should be reassessed when the results are available from randomised trials currently being conducted.

This position is consistent with the recommendations adopted by the European Union which advocate the introduction of cancer screening programmes which have demonstrated their efficacy having regard to professional expertise and priority setting for healthcare resources. The proposals do not provide for specific recommendations in respect of screening for prostate cancer.

The national roll out of the breast screening programme is a major priority in the development of cancer services. This will ensure that all women in the relevant age group of 50 to 64 years in every county will have access to breast screening and follow up treatment where appropriate. I recently gave approval to BreastCheck to advertise for the appointment of a design team to work up detailed plans for the design and construction of clinical units at Cork and Galway. Tender notices have already been advertised in the EU Journal to expedite this major project.

The current priority of BreastCheck and my Department is to progress the roll out of breast screening to women in target group in the rest of the country. Following the national roll out and when the programme is sufficiently developed and quality assured, consideration will be given to extending the upper age limit.

A pilot project for diabetic retinopathy screening is ongoing in the Health Service Executive north-western area. The results of this pilot will be evaluated and will inform subsequent consideration of an extension of this programme.

Hospital Staff.

Liz McManus

Question:

170 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a radiotherapist will be appointed to Letterkenny Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17252/05]

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 recruitment of radiotherapy staff. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's northern area to investigate the matter and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Registration of Births.

Michael Ring

Question:

171 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the name of a person (details supplied) on his birth certificate will be changed. [17272/05]

The administration of the system for the registration of births is a matter for An tArd-Chláraitheoir, the Registrar General of births, deaths and marriages, and for local registrars who operate under his general direction.

I have been informed that an application to re-register the surname details of the person (details supplied) has been processed and approved by an tArd Chláraitheoir and the re-registration was effected by the office of the superintendent registrar of the western area of the Health Service Executive, which covers the County of Mayo, on May 20, 2005.

Medical Cards.

Dan Neville

Question:

172 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [17273/05]

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 applications for medical cards. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the Health Service Executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Sean Fleming

Question:

173 Mr. Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Laois will be called for urgent treatment. [17275/05]

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 the person in question resides in County Laois, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's midland area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

174 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment date for a hearing aid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17276/05]

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 audiology services. 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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Question:

175 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be seen by an eye specialist in Galway. [17279/05]

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 the person in question resides in County Mayo, 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.

Pre-School Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

176 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Question No. 334 of 26 January 2005 if the child care report has been finalised; if training issues for pre-school inspection staff will arise as a result of the requirements of the revised regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17340/05]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

177 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on a nursing home subvention appeal in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17370/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive is required 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 nursing home subvention scheme in County Galway. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply direct to the Deputy.

Benchmarking Awards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

178 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the HSE will withdraw its threat of non-payment of increases due to nurses and midwives under Sustaining Progress and benchmarking; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17413/05]

The current phase of performance verification for the health sector is the fourth phase of the process set out in the Sustaining Progress agreement. The public service pay agreement provides that the final two phases of the benchmarking increases and the general round increases are dependent on verification of satisfactory achievement of the provisions on co-operation with flexibility and ongoing change; satisfactory implementation of the agenda for modernisation set out in sections 20 to 26 of Sustaining Progress; and the maintenance of stable industrial relations and the absence of industrial action in respect of matters covered by the agreement. The fourth phase sectoral report received by the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children from the Health Services National Partnership Forum cited the Irish Nurses Organisation in respect of its non-co-operation regarding the development and implementation of the health care assistants training programme.

In accordance with the procedures laid down in Sustaining Progress, the Secretary General referred the matter to the health service National Joint Council for its views on the matter. The referral emphasised the need for the INO to commit to full co-operation with the introduction of the health care assistants training programme, which represents a key skill mix initiative in the health sector, and is a key component of the Sustaining Progress agreement.

The matter remained unresolved following a special meeting of the National Joint Council on 11 May 2005 and the Secretary General informed the chair of the performance verification group that he had deferred making a decision until 31 May 2005. I understand that the national implementation body, which is provided for in Sustaining Progress, invited both parties to discuss the outstanding issues on Friday, 20 May and that a set of proposals is currently being drafted following that intervention. I hope the issues in dispute can be resolved, thus allowing nurses to receive their pay increases with effect from 1 June next.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Tom Hayes

Question:

179 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to reduce the unacceptably long waiting list for audiology services in south Tipperary (details supplied). [17414/05]

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 audiology services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's south eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

180 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress made since a recent meeting (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17427/05]

I met a delegation from Dundalk Town Council and local Oireachtas Members on 18 May last, at which a number of service issues relating to Louth County Hospital were raised and discussed.

Subsequent to the meeting, the Department apprised the Health Service Executive, north eastern area, with regard to the issues discussed.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Health Service Executive is required 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 at Louth County Hospital. I indicated to the delegation that I would be visiting the hospital at an early date.

Hospital Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

181 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the part now being played by the Peamount Hospital, Newcastle, County Dublin, in the alleviation of bed shortages throughout the greater Dublin area; if the discontinued tuberculosis and respiratory facilities have been relocated; if so, the location to which they have been relocated; if tuberculosis and respiratory patients are being referred to other hospitals in which isolation facilities are available; the number of such referrals to date; the current and future use of the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17429/05]

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.

Services at Peamount Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the executive. My Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern regional area to examine the issues raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Tax Code.

Enda Kenny

Question:

182 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether it is appropriate that child care providers should be liable for commercial rates in cases in which such provision is community based and provided as a consequence of local co-operation and local interest together with public funding under community crèche programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17163/05]

The Valuation Act 2001 provides that commercially operated child care facilities such as play schools, pre-schools, crèches and Montessori schools are liable for rates unless specific criteria for exemption are met.

Schedule 4 of the Valuation Act 2001 outlines the categories of property and the various uses that are deemed to be non rateable under the Act. Paragraph 10, pertaining to education, and paragraph 16, pertaining to charitable purposes, are two areas in that Schedule which may be relevant to the rateability of child care facilities.

In the area of education, under paragraph 10 of Schedule 4, exemption is limited to educational institutions not established and whose affairs are not conducted for making profit or funded wholly or mainly from funds provided by the Exchequer, and which in either case are open to the general public.

Paragraph 16 of Schedule 4 provides exemption for charitable organisations which occupy and use their facilities exclusively for charitable purposes and otherwise than for profit. Consequently, child care facilities established on a profit-generating basis, irrespective of whether they are in receipt of public funding, are liable for rates.

The basis of rateable valuation of commercial property, including crèches, is net annual value, NAV, that is, the rental value of the property. Any ratepayer dissatisfied with the rateability of a property, the valuation assessed on a particular property or the method of calculation can appeal to the Commissioner of Valuation in the first instance and subsequently to the independent valuation tribunal. There is a further right of appeal to the High Court and ultimately to the Supreme Court on a point of law.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

183 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Finance if there has been any change in the eligibility criteria for the primary medical certificate. [17223/05]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme which is open to people with disabilities who meet the specified criteria and have obtained a primary medical certificate to that effect from the local Health Service Executive.

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 as follows: 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; and 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, as set out above, 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.

Flood Relief.

John McGuinness

Question:

184 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if, as part of the reconstruction of the fish pass at Lacken Weir, Kilkenny, he will carry out a survey of the base of the complete weir which is now being subject to churning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16910/05]

The extension to Lacken weir, which was constructed as part of the Kilkenny flood relief scheme, is built on rock. The base of the original weir was protected with rock armour as part of the scheme. While churning is a normal feature of weirs, a precautionary inspection to establish the stability of the weir will be carried out.

Pension Declaration Forms.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

185 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if a pension declaration form (details supplied) will be reviewed with a view to making it more informative and clearer to understand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16911/05]

It is accepted that the recently issued pension declaration form confused some pensioners. In light of this, the form will be reviewed, and consideration will also be given to the attachment of an explanatory covering letter with any further issues of this form.

Public Projects.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

186 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the public projects which have been funded using the National Pensions Reserve Fund to date; the name, location, cost and amount invested by the National Treasury Management Agency in each project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16920/05]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission is independent of Government in the exercise of its functions. 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 subject to prudent risk management.

I understand that in 2003 the commission made an initial allocation of €200 million for investment in public private partnerships in Ireland and will increase this allocation should suitable opportunities arise. While steps have been taken to advance the decision to invest in public private partnerships in Ireland, to date no moneys have been invested in any such project.

Tax Collection.

Willie Penrose

Question:

187 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if a C2 certificate has issued to a company (details supplied) in County Westmeath; if not, the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16921/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that no company or entity as outlined in the details supplied is known to them. Accordingly, no certificate of authorisation under section 531 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 — otherwise referred to as a C2 — has issued to any such company or entity.

However, the tax reference number furnished refers to a private individual from whom an application for a C2, dated 27 March last, was received by the Revenue Commissioners on 18 April 2005. Significant further information was sought by Revenue in a letter to the applicant's tax agent dated 20 April 2005 in relation to this application. However, no reply has been received to this request and until the information requested is provided the application cannot be processed further.

Architectural Heritage.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

188 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance when it is proposed to lay down flooring boards on the upper floor of Portumna Castle in County Galway; the total expenditure on the castle from 1968 to 2004; the contribution from the EU to the restoration of the castle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16931/05]

As only work of a routine maintenance nature was undertaken during the period 1968 to 1989, the information sought by the Deputy for these years is unavailable.

The EU programme of works at Portumna Castle was undertaken during the years 1990 to 2000 and eligible expenditure under the EU programme during this period amounted to some €3,643,880, of which €2,318,200 was contributed by the EU.

Under the National Development Plan 2000-2006, some €236,000 was expended on Portumna Castle during the period 2000 to 2003. There has been no capital expenditure on the castle since 2003 but routine maintenance works continue to be undertaken.

It is not proposed to undertake further works, including additional flooring, at Portumna Castle. The significant investment made to date at Portumna Castle has resulted in a distinctive tourist amenity for the region. The major objectives for Portumna Castle, which were to provide extended public access and an enhanced exhibition for visitors, have been achieved.

Tax Code.

Finian McGrath

Question:

189 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider reducing VAT on heating oil in order to assist families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17008/05]

The position is that heating oil is already subject to the reduced VAT rate of 13.5% and I do not have plans to change that. The VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. The VAT treatment of heating oil is based on the fact that, on 1 January 1991, it was taxed at the reduced rate. Under EU law member states can continue to apply reduced rates in such cases only where they were applied prior to that date. The rate may not in any event be set below 12%.

Proposed Legislation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

190 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that level term assurance policies are not allowable for tax purposes against rental income, whereas standard mortgage protection policies are so allowable; if he has plans to change the legal framework or the conventions used in order that these policies be tax allowable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17042/05]

Allowable deductions under the tax law relating to rental income are provided for in section 97(2) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Section 97(2)(d) authorises a deduction in respect of “the costof . . . management of the premises borne by the person chargeable and relating to and constituting an expense of the transaction or transactions under which the rents or receipts were received, not being an expense of a capital nature”.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that in strictness mortgage protection policy premiums are arguably not part of the cost of management of the premises but relate more to the management of the landlord's financial affairs than to the management of the premises. Such expenditure could also be argued to be capital in nature. However, the Revenue Commissioners recognise that financial institutions insist that such policies are put in place when sanctioning borrowings. Accordingly, the Revenue Commissioners, having reviewed the position, decided some time ago to treat mortgage protection policy premiums paid as an allowable deduction in computing rental income for income and corporation tax purposes.

The new treatment was applied in respect of mortgage protection policy premiums paid on or after 1 January 2002. It is confined to mortgage protection policy premiums only. A mortgage protection policy is aimed at covering the full amount left outstanding on a person's mortgage should they die. Such policies are often referred to as decreasing term insurance as the amount that needs to be covered reduces every time a payment is made. Because of the reducing cover required, mortgage protection policy premiums are lower than those of other products offered by life assurance companies. The new Revenue treatment does not extend to premiums payable under these other types of product. It does not, therefore, apply to premiums payable under a level term assurance policy where the amount of cover is fixed from the outset and does not reduce over the term of the mortgage.

Prize Bonds.

Paul McGrath

Question:

191 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of prize bonds currently in circulation; if the results of the draws are published annually; the administration costs incurred in the running of the draws annually; the body which administers the draws; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17047/05]

There are currently almost 83.5 million prize bonds outstanding, worth approximately €526 million. Prize bonds are operated by the Prize Bond Company Limited, a joint venture between An Post and Fexco, under a ten-year contract with the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, from 1 November 1999. The Prize Bond Company Limited holds the prize bond draw at 12.30 p.m. every Friday in the GPO, O'Connell Street, Dublin. The draws are open to the public. The results are presented live on the website of the Prize Bond Company, www.prizebonds.ie, and are available weekly on 3Text, TV3’s text service, on page 699. All winners are written to by the Prize Bond Company at the last address notified to the company.

A list of each week's top prize-winning numbers is available in all main Post Offices, and the draw results for the previous seven months are available on the Prize Bond Company's website. The number and value of prizes awarded each year are included in the annual report of the Prize Bond Company.

Prizes in respect of more than 7,000 prize bonds amounting to more than €1 million in value remain unclaimed. A list of these prize bonds is available on the Prize Bond Company's website. A booklet listing unclaimed prize bonds is published from time to time and is available in post offices nationwide.

The total fee paid by the NTMA to the Prize Bond Company for the administration of the prize bond scheme in 2004 was €6.9 million, of which approximately €350,000 relates specifically to the running of the draw.

The prize bond draw is fully computerised, and the draw software has been verified by independent statistical consultants. The consultants also analyse the results of every draw to check for randomness and their reports are submitted to, and evaluated by, the NTMA on a regular basis. In addition, a representative of the NTMA attends every draw so as to ensure strict adherence to the operational procedures set down for the conduct of the draw.

Tax Code.

John Perry

Question:

192 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance the criteria for VAT registration of a B&B with regard to financial turnover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17068/05]

The position is that traders making supplies in the State are obliged to register for VAT where certain turnover thresholds are exceeded or are likely to be exceeded in any continuous period of 12 months. The current threshold for a person supplying services is €25,500.

Therefore, B&Bs must register for VAT when the turnover of the business exceeds or is likely to exceed €25,500. However, businesses with turnover below these thresholds can of course register for VAT and those in the service sector in particular frequently choose to do so for business reasons.

Seán Haughey

Question:

193 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance if a civil servant who works only every second week due to illness and is paid every second week by his or her Department but who is claiming disability benefit for every week, must give the said Department the disability benefit claimed for the week worked, even though he or she is paying a full stamp; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17069/05]

The Department of Finance has issued a circular, number 6/95, to Departments regarding the treatment of social welfare benefits received by civil servants who are also in receipt of sick pay while out of work on certified sick leave.

The general principle set out in the circular is that a person is entitled to a single payment only in respect of any one week whether this is sick pay or disability benefit. Where more than one payment arises, arrangements for recoupment apply.

In the special circumstances outlined by the Deputy, where a civil servant works one week in every two and receives a salary for that week and is entitled to claim disability benefit for both weeks, it is likely that similar recoupment arrangements would be appropriate.

Tax Collection.

John Perry

Question:

194 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Sligo should have paid taxes on building society shares; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17070/05]

A charge to capital gains tax arises in respect of chargeable gains accruing on the disposal of assets. Such gains are computed in accordance with the provisions of the Capital Gains Tax, CGT, Acts. The charge extends to individuals, companies and unincorporated bodies of persons. CGT has no connection with income, which is the basis for income tax.

The Revenue Commissioners inform me that, according to their records, the person referred to by the Deputy is an old age pensioner. I assume this is the basis for the Deputy's question. There is no provision in the Capital Gains Tax Acts to exempt individuals from capital gains tax on the basis that they are old age pensioners. Gains arising on the shareholdings of old age pensioners are liable to CGT in the same manner as gains arising to other individuals. Shares in the company concerned, First Active, were chargeable assets and the gain realised, on their sale for cash, is a chargeable gain in the hands of the shareholder.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, as many shareholders would not ordinarily be expected to be familiar with CGT provisions, they decided to write to each of them informing them of a potential tax liability arising from the disposal of the shares and how to make such payment. They have further advised me that the taxpayer concerned received such a letter, which set out an estimate of the amount of CGT due. The taxpayer has made the relevant payment to Revenue, which equates to a total of €304 from a total of €2,790 received from the sale of the shares. His CGT liability was calculated as follows:

Cash Received

€2,790

Allowable Costs

Nil (as the shares were acquired at no cost they have a nil base)

Chargeable Gain

€2,790

Less Personal Exemption

(€1,270)

Net Chargeable Gain

€1,520@20%=€304

The chargeable gain above can be reduced by any allowable losses arising in 2004 together with any unused allowable losses from disposals of assets chargeable to capital gains tax in any previous year.

The documentation that has been issued to the person referred to by the Deputy includes a special Revenue helpline number should any further assistance be required.

Departmental Properties.

John Perry

Question:

195 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance the plans in place for the use or sale of a premises (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17071/05]

The Commissioners of Public Works have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that all their premises in Sligo, including the Customs and Excise building, The Quays, are being fully utilised and therefore this property is not for sale at this time.

Tax Code.

Seán Haughey

Question:

196 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance if he will grant tax relief with regard to expenses incurred by persons who adopt children from abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17078/05]

I have no plans at present to put in place a special tax relief for expenses incurred in the adoption of children from abroad. The Deputy will appreciate that I receive a significant number of requests for the introduction of new tax relief schemes. However, tax reliefs, no matter how worthwhile in themselves, narrow the tax base and make reform of the tax system more difficult.

Tax Yield.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

197 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance the excise duty now charged on a litre of diesel and a litre of petrol; the total revenue gained to the State from this source; if he will consider reducing this tax in view of the serious increase in fuel generally in order that business and tourism here can compete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17091/05]

The rate of mineral oil tax on a litre of petrol and diesel is 44.3 cent and 36.8 cent respectively. The total revenue to the Exchequer from petrol and diesel in 2004 was as follows.

Mineral Oil Tax

VAT

Total

€ million

€ million

€ million

Petrol

971

339

1,310

Auto Diesel

872

40

912

Total

1,843

379

2,222

As regards VAT, all figures are estimates, as the information to be furnished on VAT returns does not require the yield from particular sectors of trade to be identified

As the Deputy will be aware, changes in taxation are made in the context of the annual budget and, accordingly, any requests made regarding changes in tax rates are considered in the period leading up to the budget. The Deputy will appreciate that it is neither practical nor prudent to adjust tax rates between budgets. However, it should be noted that Ireland's mineral oil tax on petrol and diesel is below that of our main EU trading partners.

Tax Code.

Michael Lowry

Question:

198 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance if he will exclude persons over the age of 66 from the €40 credit card and the €10 ATM Government levy; the cost of such a measure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17106/05]

Stamp duty exists on various financial cards in order to provide Exchequer revenue. The stamp duty on cheques, bills of exchange and promissory notes has existed for many years and when electronic means of money transfers were subsequently introduced, stamp duty was gradually extended to these products to ensure that the stamp duty from cheques etc. was not eroded.

The current annual rates of stamp duty are as follows: credit card account and charge card —€40; ATM card without a laser function —€10; laser card without an ATM function —€10; and combined ATM and laser card —€20. The stamp duty arises irrespective of the age of the person who holds the account. I do not believe that these charges are excessive and there is no evidence that they significantly discourage people from using these forms of transaction.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, as the stamp duty charge on credit and ATM cards is not affected by the age of account holders, such information is not provided by financial institutions in their annual returns to Revenue. There is, therefore, no statistical basis on which the estimate requested by the Deputy can be provided. Stamp duties on credit cards and ATM cards are significant contributors to the Exchequer, help to fund public services, such as health and education, and are in accordance with the overall taxation policy of widening the tax base in order to keep direct tax rates low. In 2004, the stamp duty on all financial cards contributed €94.3 million to the Exchequer. There are no plans to introduce exemptions from stamp duty on such cards for any category of individual.

As the Deputy knows, this Government has done much to help those aged 65 and over. The income tax age exemption limits have been increased by about 150% since 1997 removing 75,500 elderly people from the tax net. In addition, the current rate of payment for old age pensions has increased by more than 80% over the rate payable in 1997. This is well ahead of the rate of inflation and represents a very significant improvement in provision for our older citizens.

Natural Heritage Areas.

John McGuinness

Question:

199 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the extent and cost of the works being undertaken at Dunmore Cave, Kilkenny; the timeframe for completion of the works; when the facility will be open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17259/05]

The current works at Dunmore Cave comprise essential electrical and lighting upgrading works to the cave to provide safe access and improved presentation compatible with the conservation of the cave; and a native-stone paving project to illustrate Ireland's geological history, putting the cave formation in context. The paving also complements the exhibition at the visitor centre. To date the paving project and electrical installation have cost €167,724.54. Works on the electrical cabling have now been completed and the only outstanding work is the installation of the light fittings designed to improve visibility and presentation within the cave. Dunmore Cave will open to the public at the end of May in a limited way and will be fully reopened in mid-June.

Tax Collection.

Willie Penrose

Question:

200 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if the persons who have invested in a single life insurance premium policy whereby the source of such investments are clearly identifiable such as arising from an injury compensation or from PAYE earnings saved over a number of years or the sale of a legitimate product such as land, property or other items do not have to be concerned with the deadline of 23 May 2005; if assurances will be given to elderly persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17260/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the investigation into the source of moneys invested in life assurance products is concerned with tax evaders and not with compliant taxpayers. Revenue has made it clear that the investigation applies only to those who invested in insurance products using money that should have been but was not disclosed to Revenue, money colloquially known as "hot money".

I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that individuals who are satisfied that they invested in these products with money, which was not taxable, or with money which came from savings out of previously taxed income or gains should not have to make any disclosure. In general, this would include individuals who invested the proceeds of redundancy payments, accident compensation, lump sums received from a pension fund on retirement. However, compensation for loss of earnings and profits from the sale of lands, property and other items may, depending on the circumstances, be taxable. Where investors have paid tax on profits or gains from these sources and have subsequently invested the taxed proceeds in life assurance investment products, no further tax issues should arise.

Additionally, while the moneys were with the insurance companies the funds in which they were invested were taxed and therefore the individual investors should have no further liability to pay on those profits. Anyone who received a letter from a life assurance company and who has no tax issues should have no need to contact the Revenue Commissioners.

Tax Code.

Willie Penrose

Question:

201 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if a person is entitled to the one-parent family tax credit if they are separated and have a child in full-time education; the age this continues to apply to in respect of the tax credit for the parent; if, during the currency of the education, the person becomes disabled and qualifies for the disability allowance, if the parent can still retain the one parent family tax credit (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17261/05]

The one-parent family tax credit is provided for in section 462 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, as amended. In the circumstances described by the Deputy, a separated parent is entitled to the one-parent family tax credit in respect of such a child who is over 18 years of age at the commencement of the tax year provided that: (a) the parent is not cohabiting with a person as man and wife, and the parent is not entitled to the married person’s tax credit, which can, in certain circumstances, be due to separated spouses who maintain their spouse; and (b) the child is resident with the parent for the whole or part of the tax year and is either (i) receiving full-time education; or (ii) permanently incapacitated by reason of mental or physical infirmity from maintaining himself or herself and became so incapacitated either before he/she reached the age of 21 years; or if he or she had attained the age of 21 years, had become permanently incapacitated while he or she had been in receipt of full-time instruction.

As regards the continuation of the one-parent family tax credit as the child gets older, once the tax credit is due by reason of the criteria at (b)(ii) above, the tax credit will continue to be granted irrespective of the age of the child, and regardless of whether the child is in receipt of the disability allowance.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that if the Deputy has a particular case in mind, they will examine it to determine whether or not the individual is entitled to the one-parent family tax credit. If the Deputy wishes to provide details of the case to my office, I will be glad to forward them on to the Revenue Commissioners.

Mobile Telephony.

Finian McGrath

Question:

202 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if there are any major health concerns regarding mobile phone masts, ESA pylons or ESB sub-stations backing on to residential areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17216/05]

My responsibility as regards health issues of mobile phone masts, electricity pylons and sub-stations relates solely to the electromagnetic fields emanating from these facilities. My Department maintains a watching scientific brief in this regard and there is no scientific or medical evidence that electromagnetic fields from such installations, below the level of internationally recognised guidelines, are injurious to health.

Ireland has adopted the guidelines established by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection and participates in the work of the International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety which sets standards in this area. These bodies continually review the relevant research, and periodically meet to decide whether or not the guidelines continue to be appropriate in light of the most up-to-date reports.

Aquaculture Licences.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

203 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the review of aquaculture operations at Ardgroom Harbour in Beara, west Cork, has been completed; and if the outstanding application for a licence in that area will be processed. [16956/05]

The review of aquaculture operations in Ardgroom Harbour is continuing and the Department proposes, as part of this process, to meet operators from the harbour in the next few weeks. The objective of this meeting will be to finalise arrangements aimed at ensuring that aquaculture in this area is conducted in accordance with relevant regulatory requirements and best practice. The person who made the licence application to which the Deputy refers has been advised that consideration of the application cannot be advanced until the general issues relating to aquaculture in the area have been finalised.

Coastal Protection.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

204 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in relation to the grant aid of €2.54 million, approved in relation to the provision of a breakwater at Baltimore Harbour on 26 April 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16958/05]

Unfortunately, owing to budgetary constraints, no funding is available within the Department under the seaports measure of the National Development Plan 2000-2006 to progress the development of the harbour. The very limited resources at my disposal are to be concentrated on urgent safety works to protect the public and the fabric of the regional harbours. An official from the engineering division of the Department inspected Baltimore and Skibbereen harbours in June 2004 to carry out an assessment of its condition and no works requiring immediate attention were identified during that inspection.

Telecommunications Services.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

205 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing administrative and accounting problems at the Irish Domain Registry; and when he will bring forward legislation to provide for oversight and scrutiny of the management at same. [16960/05]

The Irish Domain Registry, more commonly known as the IEDR, is a private sector not-for-profit company which manages the top-level domain name, ".ie". I have no function in relation to the day to day management of the IEDR and I am not aware of any ongoing administrative and accounting problems at the company. As regards the oversight of the domain registry, I intend to bring proposals forward to the Oireachtas in the forthcoming Electronic Communications (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

Harbours and Piers.

Enda Kenny

Question:

206 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the funding which has been allocated for the development, upgrade or improvement of piers by his Department each year from 2002 to date in each of counties Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Donegal, Clare and Kerry; if he will provide details of each of these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16979/05]

Details of total expenditure and the funding provided by the Department for the development, upgrade or improvement of piers in counties Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Donegal, Clare and Kerry are as follows:

Fishery Harbour Expenditure 2002.

Location

Project

Total Expenditure 2002

DCMNR 2002

Donegal

Killybegs FHC

Harbour Development

14,796,488.73

14,796,488.73

Killybegs FHC

Maintenance

363,199.58

363,199.58

Killybegs FHC

New Slipway

95,167.22

95,167.22

Killybegs FHC

Site Investigations

18,809.47

18,809.47

Killybegs FHC

Construction wages

10,150.12

10,150.12

Killybegs FHC

Purchase of Launch

50,445.11

50,445.11

Killybegs FHC

Refurbishment of Residence

2,047.50

2,047.50

Killybegs FHC

Fenders Blackrock Pier

38,092.14

38,092.14

Greencastle

Harbour Development

767,401.11

575,550.83

Burtonport

Channel Dredging

1,081,115.00

810,836.35

Burtonport

Dredging

3,276.75

2,457.56

Buncrana

Pier Improvements

732,649.68

549,487.26

Buncrana

Berthing Facility/Dredging

23,227.12

17,420.34

Mountcharles

Slipway

35,136.18

26,352.14

Mountcharles

Repointing/Lighting

16,110.72

12,083.04

Moville

Pier Reinstatement

3,166.35

2,374.76

Moville

Slipway & Pier Improvements

6,488.75

4,866.56

Portsalon

Repairs to pier head

15,175.61

11,381.71

Portnablagh

Quay Wall

9,204.82

6,903.62

Portaleen

Repairs to Pier Head

96,157.85

72,118.39

Portaleen

Purchase of Crane

98,919.75

74,189.81

Portaleen

Slipway

26,308.71

19,731.53

Casson Sound

Quay Wall

57,091.11

42,818.33

Port Inver

Study

34,357.05

25,767.78

Portmore

Pier Extension

478,087.53

358,565.65

Portmore

Slipway

37,682.99

28,262.24

Binwee Pier

Extra Width at Pier Head

35,786.71

26,840.03

Binwee Pier

Pier Improvements

33,822.60

25,366.95

Moville & Carrickaroary

Studies

36,441.20

27,330.90

Bonagee

Rock Removal & Storm Wall Works

45,610.55

34,207.91

Inch Fort

Investigations

15,938.76

11,954.07

Portnoo Harbour

Studies

86,844.35

65,133.26

Portnoo Harbour

Slipway

386.02

289.52

Ballyshannon Estuary

Study

14,595.69

10,946.77

Ballyshannon Estuary

Quay Decking

4,691.10

4,691.10

Ballywhoriskey

Harbour Development

63,486.90

63,486.90

Kerrykeel

Slipway

4,973.65

3,730.24

Carrickaroary

Structural Works

59,531.93

44,648.95

Bundoran

Pier Improvements

37,590.55

28,192.91

Bundoran

Study Wave Modelling

36,823.93

27,617.95

Bundoran

Pier Improvements

1,000.49

750.37

Port Arthur

Strengthening of Pier

125,111.00

125,111.00

Galway

Rossaveel FHC

Minor Works & Renewals

418,449.14

418,499.14

Rossaveel FHC

Complete Rockfill Contract

1,234,586.10

1,234,586.10

Rossaveel FHC

Gear Store

208,960.46

208,960.46

Rossaveel FHC

Purchase of launch

21,051.29

21,051.29

Trá Bhán

Pier & Slipway

768,941.31

576,705.98

Tarrea Pier

Repair work & concrete slab

94,608.63

70,956.47

Maree

Slipways

519,026.92

389,270.19

Claddagh

Quay Improvements

48,105.26

36,078.95

Spiddal

Sean Ceibh Improvements

23,395.14

17,546.36

Killary

Site Investigation

7,901.33

7,901.33

Roundstone Pier

Repairs & Improvements

18,093.81

13,570.36

Ceibh na gCasla

Widen Pier Access & Extend Pier

187,866.25

140,899.69

Ard Thoir, Carna

Pier & Slipway

2,937.32

2,202.99

Ervallagh Pier

Repairs & Improvements

15,232.99

11,424.74

Ceibh Ailwee

Pier Improvements

91,720.33

68,790.25

Dohulla Pier

Improvements

21,537.51

16,153.13

Ceibh na Phurtaigh

Improvements

11,063.47

8,297.61

Inishboffin

Pier Works

3,054.29

2,290.72

Dunloughan, Ardmore, Bunowen

Studies

4,205.37

4,205.37

Eanach Mheain

Study

900.00

900.00

Crompan an Chonoch & Crompan Mor

Dredging & Access

69,998.29

69,998.29

Barna

Improvement Works

69,713.25

69,713.25

Aughrasmore

Pier Improvements

87,727.58

87,727.58

Ceibh na hAirde

Quay Repairs

145,800.66

145,800.66

Cashla Pier

Repair Works

67,608.66

67,608.66

Clifden Harbour

Harbour Works

3,659.57

3,659.57

Kilbricken, Rosmuc

Improvements

190,208.49

190,208.49

Cleggan

Provision of Crane

85,520.00

85,520.00

Derryinver

Pier Repairs

15,792.00

11,844.00

Ceibh Cashla, Derrynea

Pier Improvements

101,206.00

101,206.00

Mayo

Purteen

Harbour Improvement Design

94,434.00

70,825.50

Roigh Pier

Work Area

25,000

18,750.00

Killala

Slipway

500,000.00

375,000.00

Blacksod Pier

Contribution to Development

375,021.82

375,021.82

Belmullet & Frenchport

Lights & Barriers

51,000.00

38,250.00

County Mayo

Assessment of Piers

100,000.00

33,000.00

Darby’s Point

Re-Decking of Pier

19,411.88

14,558.91

Sligo

Mullaghmore

Harbour Breakwater Works

313,000.00

234,750.00

Kerry

Dingle

Slipway

26,896.38

26,896.38

Dingle

Safety & Maintenance

217,752.64

217,752.64

Dingle

Breakwater Works

128,416.60

128,416.60

Dromatoor, Ballyheigue

Pier Improvements

277,968.99

208,476.74

Blackwater

Removal of Rock Outcrop & SI

7,111.08

5,333.31

Bunanear

Slipway

27,988.50

20,991.38

Bunanear 2001

Slipway

53,282.69

39,962.02

Oysterbed, Sneem

Renew Pier Fenders

13,029.47

9,772.11

Kilmackillogue

Improvement Works

28,567.89

21,425.92

Meenogahane

New Slipway/Raise Stormwall

2,080.71

1,560.53

Portmagee

New Berthing Face

101,160.11

75,870.08

Cromane

Studies

58,914.95

44,186.21

Clare

Kilkee

Slipway Upgrading

70,000.00

52,500.00

Fishery Harbour Expenditure 2003.

Location

Project

Total Expenditure 2003

DCMNR 2003

Donegal

Killybegs FHC

Harbour development project

24,272,450.53

24,272,450.53

Killybegs FHC

Safety and maintenance

293,508.43

293,508.43

Killybegs FHC

Construction wages

601.69

601.69

Greencastle

Design work

185,908.31

139,431.23

Burtonport

Dredging

337,281.03

252,960.77

Buncrana

Pier improvements

28,966.60

21,724.95

Portaleen

Repairs to pier head

22,941.26

17,205.95

Portaleen

Purchase of crane

10,500.00

7,875.00

Portmore

Pier extension

60,000.00

45,000.00

Port Arthur

Strengthening of Pier

13,363.00

13,363.00

Galway

Rossaveel FHC

Safety and maintenance

265,426.63

265,426.63

Rossaveel FHC

Development

20,390.13

20,390.13

Tír an Fhia

Pier repair works

267,815.32

200,861.49

Ceibh na gCasla

Widen pier access/extend pier

166,540.69

124,905.52

Inishboffin

Repair of pier fenders

2,518.88

1,889.16

Trá Bhán

Pier and slipway

8,882.89

6,662.17

Killary

2,171.64

1,628.73

Ceibh na hAirde

Quay repairs

34,000.00

34,000.00

Barna

Improvement works

15,000.00

15,000.00

Aughrismore, Claddaghduff

Pier improvements

162,000.00

162,000.00

Clifden Harbour

Improvement works

40,000.00

40,000.00

Cleggan

Install crane on pier

58,605.00

58,605.00

Cleggan, Derryinver

4,355.00

3,266.00

Interim repairs

16,000.00

11,000.00

Sligo

Mullaghmore

Harbour breakwater works

899,436.00

674,577.00

Mayo

Killala

Slipway

152,524.00

114,393.00

Kerry

Dingle

Fender repairs

4,390.89

4,390.89

Dingle

Navigation light, add. Pontoon

12,000.00

12,000.00

Dingle

Breakwater

8,738.45

8,738.45

Cromane

Pier development

2,420.00

1,815.00

Bunanear

Slipway

22,016.79

16,512.59

Dromatoor, Ballyheigue

Pier improvement works

179,525.18

134,643.89

Clare

Kilkee

Slipway upgrading

27,447.39

20,585.54

Liscannor Pier

Safety works

6,407.00

4,805.00

Fishery Harbour Expenditure 2004.

Location

Project

Total Expenditure 2004

DCMNR 2004

Donegal

Killybegs

Harbour Development Project

8,593,896.94

8,593,896.94

Killybegs

Safety & Maintenance

270,833.33

270,833.33

Greencastle

Harb. Dev. Project — Design/Planning

113,638.11

85,228.58

Ballyederland

Raising deck level of pier

84,951.44

63,713.58

Buncrana Pier

Dredging at pier

170,000

127,500.00

Mulroy Bay

Navigational Aids

25,000

18,750.00

Ballyshannon

Navigational Aids

50,000.00

37,500.00

Portsalon

Remedial Works

70,000.00

52,500.00

Burtonport

Provision of fenders

12,000.00

9,000.00

Portmore

885.78

885.78

Carrickaroary

604.58

604.58

Galway

Rossaveel

Development

40,868.82

40,868.82

Rossaveel

Safety and Maintenance

292,938.66

292,938.66

Rossaveel

New storage Unit at RV-Advance Works

16,093.00

16,093.00

Rinville Pier, Oranmore

New slipway, breakwater, pier deck

102,311.79

76,733.84

Kilbricken

Repairs

13,625.25

13,625.25

Ard Thoir

734.34

734.34

Ceibh na hAirde

54,557.61

54,557.61

Tír an Fhia

114,778.34

114,778.34

Derryinver

16,533.33

16,533.33

Mayo

Blacksod

D/CRGA project

500,000.00

500,000.00

Newport

70.64

70.64

Clare

Ballyvaughan

New slipway, Berthage clearance, pier repairs

16,298.81

12,224.11

Seafield, Quilty

Raise storm wall, place rock armour

191,721.19

143,790.89

Liscannor

Car Parking, surfacing & ladders

33,165.33

24,873.00

Doolin

1,875.50

1,875.50

Kerry

Dingle

Dredging Site Investigations

201,026.77

201,026.77

Dingle

Weighbridge

84,932.42

84,932.42

Cromane

Pier Development Design Review Rd Access

83,923.82

62,942.86

Scraggane

Survey

7,730.53

5,797.90

Oysterbed, Sneem

Working/storage area

81,385.08

61,038.80

Tahilla, Sneem

Pier works

108,758.77

81,569.08

Knightstown

D/CRGA project

63,567.99

63,567.99

Tarbert

Pier repairs

81,915.08

61,436.31

Reenard

Slipway underpinning

41,035.25

30,776.44

Dromatoor, Ballyheigue

Channel marking

20,486.65

15,364.99

Portmagee/Caherciveen

Pier-Repairs to fenders/ladders

15,177.29

11,382.97

Sligo

Nil

Broadcasting Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

207 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals for the introduction of digital television services and phasing out of existing analogue services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16983/05]

Digital television services are available in Ireland through a number of cable and satellite networks. The terrestrial broadcasting system is an analogue platform and it will be necessary to upgrade this platform to a digital terrestrial platform over time. I am examining options in this regard, and I have asked my Department to develop a digital terrestrial television pilot to explore further opportunities around the platform. Specific analogue switch-off dates will be considered in light of overall progress in upgrading to a national digital terrestrial platform.

Post Office Network.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

208 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he plans to computerise the full post office network to provide for electronic transfers and transactions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16984/05]

I share with An Post the view that, for our post offices to continue to remain attractive to customers, the company must upgrade its IT systems. Such an upgrade would offer an enhanced suite of financial and other services and high grade electronic funds transfers, EFT, functionality to social welfare customers via post offices. Accordingly, An Post development strategies for the post office network will take full account of the need to deliver quality customer services through enhanced IT capability.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

209 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the way in which he proposes to maintain the postal network of post offices and sub-post offices, while continuing the social commitment to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16985/05]

I refer the Deputy to Question No. 234 answered on 18 May 2005.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

210 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the place of wind energy in future energy production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16986/05]

The promotion of renewable energy technologies in electricity production is a key priority of this Government. This priority is shared by European Community institutions that have addressed Directive 2001/77/EC — the renewables directive — to all member states to increase the consumption of green electricity by 2010. The obligation addressed to Ireland is to deliver a programme capable of increasing the amount of electricity from renewable energy sources to 13.2% of total consumption by 2010.

Existing hydro facilities, together with the current AER support programme operated by my Department and activity in the liberalised green market, are capable of delivering significantly on the target in the directive. Additional capacity will be supported under a new support mechanism that I announced recently. I will return to this point later in my reply. In 2003, the latest year for which figures are available, 1.7% of the total electricity consumed came from wind-powered electricity generating plant. At that time there were 189 MW of wind power connected to the electricity network. This figure is growing and, of the 624 MW of renewable energy sourced electricity-generating plant currently installed, 362 MW is wind-powered This is an increase of 173 MW, or over 91%, since the latest statistics were calculated.

The target of 13.2% approximates to 1400 MW to be connected to the electricity network by 2010. It is acknowledged at EU level as a challenging target. It will require us to more than double existing capacity within five years. This is the minimum target I am demanding. My overall target is to optimise the amount of renewable energy technologies, which can be connected to the network while maintaining safe and reliable supply and reasonable retail charges for consumers.

The amount of wind-powered stations, which can be usefully connected to the network in the future, is dependent on future technological developments within the technology, future electricity demand, the size and future mix of technologies on the electricity network and the development of interconnectors. It is only by monitoring these variables over time that realistic further targets can be set. In addition to the environmental benefits, it is important that the State reduces its dependency on fossil fuels, whose prices are subject to the vagaries of the global markets and geopolitical developments that can adversely affect both the price and availability of supplies. From a national economic perspective and not just an energy policy perspective, increasing the amount of renewable energy in the system will be helpful in substituting costly fuel imports and in dealing with levels of uncertainty in the future evolution of energy prices.

Wind-powered plant is the most competitively priced of all renewable energy technologies. It is therefore the dominant renewable technology at this time. However, because wind is an intermittent fuel source, it presents particular challenges for the networks' operators as penetration levels grow. Future challenging targets to increase wind-powered stations will require the co-operation and co-ordination of my Department, Sustainable Energy Ireland, SEI, the market regulator, CER, the electricity networks' operators and developers.

All these key players, and more, have participated in a consultation process launched in December 2003 and in the work of the subsequently established renewable energy development group. The group's report will form the basis of my future policy decisions on the increased penetration of renewable energy technologies in the electricity market and will seek to ensure that developers can make a reasonable rate of return on renewable energy projects while ensuring that the interests of national competitiveness and the ultimate burden of cost to the final consumer are all fully taken into consideration.

Although the report of the renewable energy development group is not yet completed, I have received updates on the work in progress. On 7 April 2005, I was able to announce the outline of a future support mechanism, AER VII. This revised system will move away from competitive tendering to a fixed price proposal. In addition the support, which was previously tied to contracts with the ESB, will now be available for supply contracts with any licensed supplier. I also indicated, in my announcement, that wind-powered technology will remain the dominant technology in delivering this target.

AER VII will contain a quantitative limit and a competitive element therefore remains. The actual capacity limit in AER VII will be a specific term of major interest to all potential applicants. It is appropriate that it is made accessible to all potential applicants simultaneously. I am not in a position, therefore, to announce a specific quantitative target until AER VII is formally launched. My Department is in consultation with suppliers about the practical implementation of the new arrangements announced on 7 April. I expect these consultations to conclude shortly. Publication of the detailed terms and conditions of the future support mechanism, AER VII, will be published shortly after those contacts with suppliers finish.

Electronic Communications Infrastructure.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

211 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to an EU EUROSTAT survey which placed Ireland third last of 19 countries in terms of broadband connectivity; his views on the survey findings; the way in which broadband speed compares with countries such as Sweden; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16987/05]

I have read the latest figures from EUROSTAT, which indicate that the level of Irish households with Internet access is 40%. The same EUROSTAT report shows that 32% of all enterprises have a broadband connection, 92% of enterprises have Internet access — the figure for large enterprises is 100% — and 27% of individuals regularly use the Internet.

The provision of broadband is a matter in the first instance for the fully liberalised private sector, but the level of investment by the sector has failed to keep pace with the demand for broadband. Although 3% of Irish households have a broadband connection today, that figure is rising rapidly as broadband connectivity becomes more widely available, mainly as a result of my Department's regional broadband programme which is rolling out high-speed infrastructure to all parts of the country. During the past year the number of broadband customers has risen from 32,000 to more than 140,000. I have set the industry a target of 500,000 customers by 2007 and I am confident that this can be achieved.

Fisheries Protection.

Enda Kenny

Question:

212 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals for the future of the drift netting industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17056/05]

Since 1996, the Department has introduced and maintained a range of conservation measures which have seen considerable advancements made in salmon policy and in particular the management of the commercial salmon fishery. As part of these measures, the drift net season is confined to a two-month period in June and July on a four-day week basis. Fishing is only allowed during daylight hours and is confined to the area within the six-mile limit. The regional fisheries boards operate the wild salmon and sea trout tagging scheme which, inter alia, limits the total allowable commercial catch of salmon by drift nets on a district basis.

Since 2002 the Government has promoted the application of quotas on commercial fishing and bag limits on angling to achieve catch reductions as the best instrument available to achieve the restoration of salmon stocks. The overriding objective of the Government is to preserve the salmon resource in its own right and for the coastal and rural communities that it helps to support. The economic goals for a sustainable commercial salmon fishery, based on quality and value rather than volume, and the development of salmon angling as an important tourism product, are both fully compatible with the Government's primary objective.

A quality and value strategy consists of improving how fish are handled post-catching to ensure that the maximum price per fish is obtained. This approach maintains or increases the overall income derived from the fishery even when the total catch is reduced. I am advised that Bord Iascaigh Mhara is working, with some success, to yield an improvement in the price of salmon through the Irish wild salmon quality and marketing programme. In the circumstances I have no plans to provide compensation for salmon fishermen arising from necessary reductions in total allowable catch required to sustain and rebuild salmon stocks. Nor have I plans to introduce proposals to purchase commercial drift net salmon fishing licences. The Government has consistently ruled out buy-out as an effective means of achieving the restoration of salmon stocks. Moreover, no convincing case has been advanced as to the public good that would be acquired by the State in the context of a publicly funded buy-out.

As I have previously indicated to the House, I am prepared to keep the matter under review. I would be open to any relevant proposals presented to me whereby stakeholders benefiting from any reduction in commercial catch would identify themselves and indicate a willingness to fund any compensation that might arise.

Enda Kenny

Question:

213 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals to protect and develop wild Atlantic salmon stock; the estimated return to spawn for each of the past ten years of the species; the catch returned for each fishery board area for the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17057/05]

The overriding objective of the Government is to preserve the salmon resource in its own right and for the coastal and rural communities that it helps to support. The economic goals for a sustainable commercial salmon fishery, based on quality and value rather than volume and the development of salmon angling as an important tourism product, are both fully compatible with the Government's primary objective.

Since 2002, the Government has implemented a strategy to ensure, through progressive reductions in the commercial salmon catch, that the conservation limits recommended by the National Salmon Commission are being reached. This policy of promoting the application of quotas on commercial fishing and bag limits on angling has delivered significant overall catch reductions aimed at achieving the Government's prime objective of restoration of salmon stocks.

The Government believes that the current strategy of developing a sustainable commercial and recreational salmon fishery through aligning catches on the scientific advice holds out the strong prospect of a recovery of stocks and of a long term sustainable fishery for both sectors.

The estimated return of wild salmon to spawn for each of the past ten years is set out in table I.

Table I

Year

Returns

Spawners

1995

504,900

171,322

1996

515,475

224,108

1997

456,065

209,784

1998

493,988

207,925

1999

444,055

215,093

2000

549,022

264,338

2001

561,218

301,317

2002

503,337

267,815

2003

486,784

293,473

2004

359,002

191,579

The declared catch of wild salmon and sea trout for each fishery board area for the past ten years is set out in table II. Figures for catch by rod are excluded for 2004 as they are not yet available.

Table II

Declared catch of salmon and sea trout.

Region and Fishery District

Year

No. of fish

Eastern Region

Dundalk

1995

1,881

Dundalk

1996

1,463

Dundalk

1997

1,325

Dundalk

1998

2,800

Dundalk

1999

1,601

Dundalk

2000

2,480

Dundalk

2001

1,350

Dundalk

2002

876

Dundalk

2003

701

Dundalk

2004

731

Drogheda

1995

5,171

Drogheda

1996

6,675

Drogheda

1997

2,190

Drogheda

1998

8,256

Drogheda

1999

4,959

Drogheda

2000

3,406

Drogheda

2001

2,632

Drogheda

2002

1,750

Drogheda

2003

1,875

Drogheda

2004

1,850

Dublin

1995

279

Dublin

1996

310

Dublin

1997

865

Dublin

1998

802

Dublin

1999

805

Dublin

2000

657

Dublin

2001

71

Dublin

2002

64

Dublin

2003

321

Dublin

2004

322

Wexford

1995

3,332

Wexford

1996

3,098

Wexford

1997

2,365

Wexford

1998

4,155

Wexford

1999

4,651

Wexford

2000

1,836

Wexford

2001

1,302

Wexford

2002

1,151

Wexford

2003

1,601

Wexford

2004

1,349

Southern Region

Waterford

1995

10,954

Waterford

1996

9,390

Waterford

1997

13,030

Waterford

1998

10,162

Waterford

1999

13,789

Waterford

2000

14,160

Waterford

2001

18,361

Waterford

2002

17,150

Waterford

2003

15,709

Waterford

2004

11,944

Lismore

1995

17,436

Lismore

1996

20,332

Lismore

1997

14,422

Lismore

1998

16,486

Lismore

1999

16,298

Lismore

2000

20,446

Lismore

2001

16,914

Lismore

2002

15,126

Lismore

2003

10,989

Lismore

2004

9,369

South Western Region

Cork

1995

26,230

Cork

1996

19,879

Cork

1997

18,184

Cork

1998

25,121

Cork

1999

17,474

Cork

2000

38,036

Cork

2001

41,983

Cork

2002

30,028

Cork

2003

26,232

Cork

2004

22,177

Kerry

1995

37,303

Kerry

1996

31,733

Kerry

1997

31,024

Kerry

1998

43,213

Kerry

1999

36,800

Kerry

2000

43,038

Kerry

2001

31,084

Kerry

2002

32,818

Kerry

2003

31,307

Kerry

2004

24,347

Shannon Region

Limerick

1995

21,614

Limerick

1996

19,112

Limerick

1997

9,535

Limerick

1998

12,714

Limerick

1999

14,658

Limerick

2000

15,749

Limerick

2001

28,052

Limerick

2002

19,338

Limerick

2003

14,977

Limerick

2004

11,192

Western Region

Galway

1995

5,660

Galway

1996

4,131

Galway

1997

4,628

Galway

1998

6,602

Galway

1999

9,151

Galway

2000

4,648

Galway

2001

6,987

Galway

2002

6,490

Galway

2003

5,307

Galway

2004

3,799

Connemara

1995

3,198

Connemara

1996

3,143

Connemara

1997

3,992

Connemara

1998

3,168

Connemara

1999

2,629

Connemara

2000

4,703

Connemara

2001

3,425

Connemara

2002

4,359

Connemara

2003

3,098

Connemara

2004

2,626

Ballynakill

1995

12,907

Ballynakill

1996

4,926

Ballynakill

1997

8,314

Ballynakill

1998

8,938

Ballynakill

1999

7,881

Ballynakill

2000

11,366

Ballynakill

2001

9,684

Ballynakill

2002

10,556

Ballynakill

2003

7,683

Ballynakill

2004

4,381

North Western Region

Bangor

1995

23,560

Bangor

1996

19,609

Bangor

1997

9,909

Bangor

1998

11,923

Bangor

1999

6,212

Bangor

2000

6,684

Bangor

2001

10,944

Bangor

2002

9,402

Bangor

2003

6,686

Bangor

2004

5,519

Ballina

1995

39,282

Ballina

1996

42,440

Ballina

1997

34,249

Ballina

1998

41,034

Ballina

1999

24,895

Ballina

2000

26,003

Ballina

2001

34,541

Ballina

2002

36,749

Ballina

2003

27,306

Ballina

2004

21,050

Sligo

1995

5,809

Sligo

1996

6,343

Sligo

1997

8,936

Sligo

1998

7,465

Sligo

1999

5,721

Sligo

2000

7,887

Sligo

2001

9,138

Sligo

2002

9,451

Sligo

2003

6,026

Sligo

2004

2,701

Northern Region

Ballyshannon

1995

13,309

Ballyshannon

1996

8,889

Ballyshannon

1997

14,331

Ballyshannon

1998

10,428

Ballyshannon

1999

10,801

Ballyshannon

2000

17,330

Ballyshannon

2001

17,087

Ballyshannon

2002

15,829

Ballyshannon

2003

10,486

Ballyshannon

2004

7,249

Letterkenny

1995

42,344

Letterkenny

1996

28,056

Letterkenny

1997

28,255

Letterkenny

1998

26,747

Letterkenny

1999

10,819

Letterkenny

2000

18,019

Letterkenny

2001

25,959

Letterkenny

2002

21,847

Letterkenny

2003

16,086

Letterkenny

2004

14,647

Inland Fisheries.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

214 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the review of the operation of the fishery boards and related matters has been completed and received by him; when the report will be published; and the procedures he proposes for consultation on the report and its implementation. [17063/05]

As previously confirmed to the House, I have recently received the report of the first stage of the high level review of the inland fisheries sector in Ireland from the consultants and I am considering its findings. It is my intention to bring this report to Government in the near future and to have it published as soon as possible thereafter. Until such time as the report is presented to Government, I am not in a position to comment on its recommendations or implementation.

Water Quality.

Enda Kenny

Question:

215 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the increase in chironomid buzzer fly life on western lakes; the increased weed growth and increased algae blooms and growth; his views on the water quality as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17157/05]

While water quality is primarily a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, my interest is centred on the impact that this might have on inland fisheries stocks. The Central Fisheries Board and the regional fisheries boards are responsible for the conservation, protection, management and development of inland fisheries. The fisheries boards have not drawn my attention to an increase in chironomid buzzer fly life on the western lakes. I understand that chironomid are a natural part of the invertebrate fauna on our lakes.

I am advised anecdotally that in summer 2004, extensive growths of filamentous algae, blanket weed, developed over much of the Owenriff river and extended out into Oughterard Bay in Lough Corrib and that serious nuisance growths of filamentous algae on Lough Mask are growing profusely along the Inisard shoreline of the lake and along the Cong canal. The fisheries boards have not, however, attributed the increase in these phenomena to any particular or definite cause.

A non-native or introduced plant species called lagarosiphon major, curly leaved waterweed, was reported from various bays in Lough Corrib and advised to the Department in recent weeks. The Central Fisheries Board is considering measures to avoid the spreading of the plant and the need for further research.

While I share the concerns expressed by the fisheries boards and other stakeholders about the impact of water quality on inland fisheries stocks, I take confidence from the assurances given by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the agencies operating under the aegis of his Department to work in partnership with local interests to find practical and effective solutions to address the matter.

Inland Fisheries.

Enda Kenny

Question:

216 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the concern regarding the growing zebra mussel threat in the freshwater system; if he will report on the areas and locations now infested with zebra mussel; the measures being taken to deal with this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17158/05]

I am advised that the lead role in co-ordinating and introducing measures to deal with the threat posed by this particular species is being taken by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. As part of this approach, I understand that at the request of this Department, the Marine Institute has been carrying out a monitoring survey on the distribution of zebra mussels in Ireland in recent years. I am advised that the results of this survey have been made widely available and I have asked the Marine Institute to forward a copy of these results directly to the Deputy.

This survey has been carried out on an annual basis each year since 1998, focusing on the Shannon-Boyle navigation system. The results show that the zebra mussel has spread throughout Shannon-Boyle-Suck navigation as well as to a number of midland lakes such as Lough Erne, Arrow, Gara and Sheelin and to the Grand Canal system. The zebra mussel continues to expand its known range in Ireland. Zebra mussels attach to a wide range of aquatic plants, native freshwater mussels and hard surfaces. Their densities at stations on flowing rivers are consistently low, whereas in lakes they are highly variable but may attain high concentrations.

Once an area has been colonised by zebra mussels, international experience has shown that it is virtually impossible to eradicate the species. The most effective measures are preventive.

I am advised by the chief executive officer of the Western Regional Fisheries Board that, to date, the zebra mussel has not become established in the western fisheries region. Last year the board launched a zebra mussel control initiative in conjunction with Galway County Council. This initiative involves a major education drive to educate anglers of the risk posed by the possible introduction of this pest to western lakes and rivers from the waters already infested.

The central and regional fisheries boards, working with the local authorities and angling groups, are carrying our information campaigns to advise boat owners of the risks in moving boats to non-affected areas.

I can assure the Deputy that the State agencies under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, will continue to work with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the relevant local authorities in dealing with the threat posed by this species.

Enda Kenny

Question:

217 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the extent of conifer forestation in many of the river catchment systems in the west of Ireland; if he has received reports of pollution prevention of hatching alevin from escaping spawning beds as a consequence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17160/05]

I am aware, through the Western Regional Fisheries Board, that coniferous forests are widespread in the western fisheries region, some of which straddle the upland section of salmonid fisheries. I am also aware of the concerns held by local stakeholders about the impact of forestation on fisheries.

The Western Regional Fisheries Board seeks to minimise the impact of forestry on inland fisheries by liaising with the Forest Service, Coillte Teoranta staff and subcontractors, and inputting to the draft protocols being developed in the context of the forestry pressure technical working group of the western river basin district.

I am advised that there are now guidelines in place to cover the various aspects of afforestation and while these will help minimise damage to fisheries, they will not prevent such damage, which can and does occur.

I am advised that while run-off of silt from a forestry site could impact on spawning beds, thus preventing successful hatching of ova, it would be difficult to say for sure that this was happening without specific studies being carried out at a location.

I understand that with regard to the impact on hatching alevins, particular concerns arise in the more afforested catchments such as the Owenboliska, the upper reaches of which are heavily afforested. This phenomenon was scientifically described and assessed by the duQuesne Limited and Eolas funded reports in 1990s. In response to concerns, I am advised that Coillte Teoranta has prepared a master plan for the forest within the catchment.

While I share the concerns expressed for the stocks of salmonids, I take confidence from the assurances given by the Minister for Agriculture and Food and the agencies operating under the aegis of her Department to work in partnership with local interests to find practical and effective solutions to address the matter.

Postal Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

218 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has received and replied to communications from interested parties on the closure of postal services at Castleknock, Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17161/05]

Issues pertaining to operational matters are the responsibility of An Post. I have no statutory function in this area.

Inland Fisheries.

Enda Kenny

Question:

219 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the proposals being implemented to ensure that Lough Carra, County Mayo, retains its position as a marl lake of pristine quality; his views on reports of some euthrophlication due to phosphorus overload in this lake; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17202/05]

I am advised by the Western Regional Fisheries Board of its ongoing concerns about Lough Carra. This lake is a proposed special area of conservation because of the natural plant communities it contains. Lough Carra is currently the subject of a detailed EU funded scientific study. I am informed that in recent years the poor mayfly hatch coupled with the occurrence of shoreline filamentous algal blooms in the Moorhall zone have contributed to the perception that the lake is beginning to decline. Reports for this season suggest, however, that the mayfly hatch has improved.

The chief executive of the Western Regional Fisheries Board has advised me that the board is implementing the following measures: continuation of the mid-lake monitoring programme; a survey of two thirds of the farms in the catchment in 2004 in conjunction with the Farm Development Service and Mayo County Council; the conduct of brown trout redd counts on Lough Carra streams; maintenance of in-stream rehabilitation works; and co-operation with the western river basin initiative in the context of the water framework directive.

While I share the concerns expressed by the fisheries board and other stakeholders about the impact of water quality on inland fisheries stocks, I take confidence from the assurances given by the Minister for Agriculture and Food and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the agencies operating under the aegis of their Departments to work in partnership with local interests to find practical and effective solutions to address the matter.

Harbours and Piers.

Martin Ferris

Question:

220 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the terrible state of disrepair of Portsalon Pier (details supplied); and when money will be made available for this work to take place. [17242/05]

Portsalon Pier is owned by Donegal County Council and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance. In July 2004 Donegal County Council submitted a proposal to the Department for the complete reconstruction of the dogleg section of the pier at an estimated cost of €550,000, which includes construction, consultancy and administrative costs. In December 2004, the Department provided funding of €52,500 to Donegal County Council towards remedial works to protect the structure. The question of providing funding for the reconstruction of the pier will depend on the amount of Exchequer funding available for works at fishery harbours generally and overall national priorities.

Port Development.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

221 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, further to Question No. 180 of 17 May 2005, if heads of agreement have been signed or agreed between the Dublin Port and Docks Board and the private consortium; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17268/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

222 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when his attention was drawn to information causing him to request the Dublin Port Company to provide information in relation to the company facilitating one private consortium in a tendering process for the national conference centre; and his views on whether the company in so doing is complying with the code of practice for the governance of State bodies. [17269/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 221 and 222 together.

On 22 March 2005, the Department received a press query by electronic mail regarding the use of land in the ownership of Dublin Port Company in connection with a proposal for the national conference centre. On 23 March, the Department requested Dublin Port Company to provide it with relevant information in regard to the proposal. On 1 April, Dublin Port Company replied to the Department stating that it is facilitating a consortium in a tendering process for the national conference centre. On 1 April, the Department requested the company to provide a note setting out the involvement of the company in, and implications for the company of, the consortium's proposal and a clear statement of what was meant by the company facilitating the consortium.

On 7 April, the company replied stating that it has been facilitating one of the consortia bidding for the national conference centre in so far as it has consented to the inclusion of a site in the ownership of the company in the submission of the consortium to the Office of Public Works as being potentially a suitable site for the national conference centre. The company stated that it had entered into non-binding heads of agreement with the consortium, that it had not concluded a formal contract with the consortium and that it had not concluded any agreement for the disposal of company assets or to provide access to those assets in favour of any third party.

The principal issue at stake from the point of view of the Department is compliance by the company with the applicable legislation and the code of practice for the governance of State bodies. The primary responsibility for compliance rests with the company. In this regard, the company has confirmed to the Department that it is adhering to the code of practice. In my reply to Question No. 180 on 17 May, I stated that based on the information provided to the Department, I had no reason, at that time, to request further information from the company in relation to this matter.

On 18 May, the Department received a letter from Dublin Port Company requesting ministerial approval for its proposal to enter into an arrangement with a consortium as detailed in draft heads of terms attached to the letter. The company states that, in essence, the proposal provides that, in the event that the consortium is successful in its bid for the development of the national conference centre and appropriate planning and other consents issue in respect of the national conference centre, Dublin Port Company will make available a site in order to facilitate the development of the national conference centre together with further and complementary commercial development. The company's letter is being considered by the Department at present.

Illegal Dumping.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

223 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will make a statement on the fact that his Department announced a £3 million grant to a company (details supplied) in County Louth in May 1999 and also granted a foreshore licence to the same company at a time when complaints of illegal dumping by this company were being considered by his Department, Louth County Council, and the Ombudsman; and the correspondence his Department had with the company in relation to the illegal dumping mentioned by the European Court of Justice’s ruling against Ireland. [17286/05]

A foreshore lease was granted to the company in question in February 2002 in connection with proposed quay wall renovation works and associated berth dredging works. The area covered by this foreshore lease included an area in which the company had deposited material without prior foreshore authorisation and in respect of which complaints had been made to the Department.

The foreshore lease was granted in accordance with normal procedures and after full consideration of all relevant issues and concerns. There has been no correspondence between the Department and the company on the question of illegal dumping in the meantime.

The company made an application in February 1999 for grant aid under the operational programme for tourism 1994-99 in respect of refurbishment of the company's port facilities. In May 1999, the company was informed that its application had been successful and that a total project cost of €3.858 million was approved for up to 48% grant aid on eligible expenditure. This approval was subject to compliance by the company with specified conditions, including relevant environmental and other regulatory requirements. A total of €1.852 million in grant aid was paid to the company under the programme.

Irish Language.

Enda Kenny

Question:

224 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made since a recent meeting with the Spanish Prime Minister in regard to making the Irish language an official working language of the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17061/05]

On 13 December last, I outlined to my counterparts at the General Affairs and External Relations Council the reasons for Ireland's proposal that official and working status in the EU be accorded to the Irish language. This followed the formal tabling of our proposal in Brussels on 24 November. Regulation 1 of 1958 governs the Union's language regime. The unanimous approval of member states is required to amend this regulation.

Contacts have been ongoing at political and official level with partners in Brussels and in capitals with a view to advancing our proposal. These contacts have included the meeting between the Taoiseach and Prime Minister Zapatero in Madrid on 28 April at which the European Union's language regime was among the issues discussed. The Government is satisfied that we are continuing to make good progress. We hope to put the issue on the agenda of the Committee of Permanent Representatives shortly with a view to further progressing the matter.

Overseas Development Aid.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

225 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the percentage and amount of the promised aid for the countries affected by the tsunami of 26 December 2004 which has been handed over to the relevant organisations or Governments; the split between the amount given bilaterally and the amount given to aid agencies; the aid agencies to which moneys were given; the amounts given; the Governments to which moneys were given; the amounts given; the preconditions required of Governments before moneys were transferred; if he will report on the work of the special envoy for the tsunami disaster, Mr Flood, to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16972/05]

Ireland was one of the first countries to respond to the tsunami disaster. Within a few hours of the onset of the tsunami, Ireland pledged €1 million in emergency assistance and this amount was quickly doubled as the death toll rose. When the full scale of the disaster became evident, the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, and I jointly announced that our funding would rise to €10 million. In addition, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, visited the affected region in early January with the heads of Concern, GOAL, the Irish Red Cross and Trócaire. On that occasion, he pledged a further contribution, doubling Ireland's pledge to €20 million, to address longer-term recovery and reconstruction, as well as immediate needs. The Irish public has also responded generously to the plight of the tsunami victims, through direct contributions to Irish and other aid agencies.

To date, approximately €11.3 million, or 57%, of the pledge has been committed towards meeting the needs of those most affected in the aftermath of the disaster. Assistance is being made available to non-governmental organisations, NGOs, UN agencies and other international organisations such as the Red Cross family. The Defence Forces provided a number of skilled personnel in the area of logistics to help with the recovery efforts. To date no funding has been delivered directly to Governments. A list of organisations and programmes which are being supported, and the breakdown of this support is set out below for the Deputy's information.

The special envoy to the tsunami-affected region appointed by the Government, former Minister of State and current chairman of the Advisory Board for Development Co-operation Ireland, Mr. Chris Flood, has made two visits to the region. During his visits, the envoy met with a wide range of organisations and individuals, including senior Government representatives. The envoy's mandate is to oversee the disbursement of Ireland's assistance and to ensure it is carried out in line with best international practice.

Ireland remains closely engaged with ongoing developments in relation to the aid effort in the tsunami affected countries. The reconstruction planning and implementation tasks ahead are enormous. We are in constant liaison with all stakeholders, including our partners in the NGOs and UN and international agencies, and this engagement will be actively maintained.

Tsunami Commitments as at 17 May 2005.

Country

Agency

Description

Burma

International Committee of the Red Cross

Emergency Assistance

500,000.00

Total Burma

500,000

India

Christian Aid

Emergency Humanitarian/Basic Needs Assistance

250,000

India

Concern Worldwide

Emergency Relief for Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry

435,993.00

India

GOAL

Emergency Relief for Tsunami affected populations of Tamil Nadu

485,000.00

India

Oxfam Ireland

Non-Food Items for Tsunami Victims

250,000.00

India

Gorta

Emergency Relief Programme

100,000.00

India

Hope Foundation

Tsunami Disaster Relief

200,000.00

Total India

1,720,993

Indonesia

Christian Childrens Fund

Care & Protection of Children in IDP Camps

165,500.00

Indonesia

Oxfam Ireland

Non food items for Earthquake affected populations in Aceh

250,000.00

Indonesia

Trocaire

Tsunami Emergency Relief

300,000

Indonesia

Mercy Corps

Midwives Livelihoods Recovery Programme

278,784.00

Total Indonesia

994,284.00

South Asia Region

International Organisation for Migration

Health Care Assistance

100,000.00

South Asia Region

OCHA*

Immediate Relief Assistance

1,000,000.00

South Asia Region

UN High Commission for Refugees

Programmes in Indonesia & Sri Lanka as per 2005 UN Flash Appeal

500,000.00

South Asia Region

UNICEF

Basic Needs & Caring/Protecting Children Separated from their families

1,000,000.00

South Asia Region

World Food Programme (WFP)

Food Assistance

2,000,000.00

South Asia Region

World Health Programme (WHO)

Health Care Assistance

500,000.00

Total South Asia Region

5,100,000.00

Sri Lanka

GOAL

Emergency Humanitarian Assistance for IDPs

400,000.00

Sri Lanka

International Federation of the Red Cross

Bay of Bengal: Earthquake & Tsunami Appeal

750,000.00

Sri Lanka

Plan Ireland

Rehabilitation of Basic Infrastructure in Hambantota District

200,000

Sri Lanka

Trocaire

Short to Mid Term Response to the South Asia Crisis

200,000

Sri Lanka

World Vision Ireland

Food, Non-Food and Dry Rations

200,000

Sri Lanka

Habitat for Humanity

Housing Programme

249,500

Sri Lanka

Concern Worldwide

Emergency Rehabilitation and Livelihood Dev. Project

500,000

Total Sri Lanka

2,499,500.00

Thailand

Home Life Foundation

Aids care programme

100,000.00

Thailand

Funding to be disbursed to the Disaster Victim Identification Centre,

400,000.00

UNDP livelihoods programmes and local small scale projects

Total Thailand

500,000.00

Total Disbursed/Committee

11,314,777.00

*UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Emigrant Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

226 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will increase financial support for Irish centres in Britain to enable organisations and agencies operating there to meet increased demands for Irish emigrant services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17246/05]

Frontline organisations in Britain that provide critical services to our community there, including Irish centres, are financially supported by the Government through the DÍON fund. Since it was established in 1984, more than €22 million has been distributed from this fund.

In 2004, DÍON grants totalled €4.3 million. This represented a 68% increase on the 2003 figure. This year, €8.273 has been made available for emigrant services, of which I expect some €7 million will go to organisations in Britain. Applications for grants are currently receiving consideration, and I will be announcing the outcome very shortly.

The very significant increase in funding in this area in recent years reflects, in the clearest possible way, the strength of the Government's firm and sustained commitment to our community in Britain.

Sports Capital Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

227 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if funding will be approved for an application for a club (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16899/05]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

Applications for funding under the 2005 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on 5 and 6 December last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 4 February 2005. All applications received before that deadline, including one from the club in question, are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Dan Neville

Question:

228 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when grants under the sports capital programme 2005 will be announced to the successful applicants. [17030/05]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

Applications for funding under the 2005 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on 5 and 6 December last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 4 February 2005. All of the 1,362 applications received before that deadline are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Horseracing Industry.

Jack Wall

Question:

229 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the discussions he has had with or representations he has received from the proposers or HRI in regard to a proposal (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17085/05]

Under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act of 2001, Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, was established as the statutory body with responsibility for the horseracing industry. The general functions of HRI include the development and promotion of the Irish horse racing industry, including the development of authorised racecourses and the making of grants, loans and other disbursements to authorised racecourses.

In November 2004, the board of HRI considered the question of an all-weather track. The board concluded that Dundalk was the only location with the potential for the development of such a track within a realistic timeframe and being in a position to meet other requirements of HRI, including ownership of a suitable site and having the necessary local funding available. The board also considered the proposal referred to by the Deputy and I recently had a discussion with the proposers concerned on the matter. I consider that it would not be appropriate to include the proposal for an all-weather racecourse in phase one of the campus project, which is under consideration and will shortly be presented to the Government. Proposals for further phases of the development of sports facilities at Abbotstown would not leave an appropriate space on which to develop an all-weather racecourse.

I hope to present to Government shortly proposals based on the development control plan for the sports campus at Abbotstown.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Seán Ryan

Question:

230 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his proposals to introduce a new scheme for grant aid to local authorities and bodies supported by local authorities towards the cost of providing new swimming pools or refurbishing existing pools. [17128/05]

The question of re-opening the programme will be considered following an expenditure review of the programme which is being carried out by my Department and which is expected to be completed later this year. The review is examining issues such as how the programme has worked to date, the benefits which have accrued to the areas where pools have been built and what amendments, if any, are required to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of the programme.

Departmental Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

231 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if, in relation to the moneys voted by his Department, he has given any policy directive in respect to the spending of funds he has allocated to the various arts, sports and tourism groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17194/05]

All programmes and schemes administered by my Department under which funding is provided to arts and sports groups are aimed at achieving overall policy objectives which underpin my Department's mission and high level goals as set out in its statement of strategy. These are reflected in the specific terms and conditions laid down in each case. Draw-down of funding in all cases is subject to my Department being satisfied that such terms and conditions are met by the successful applicants. My Department does not provide funding direct to tourism groups.

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, is the primary means of providing funding for capital sporting facilities to clubs and voluntary and community organisations throughout the country. The main objectives of the programme are to facilitate increased participation in sport through the provision of facilities throughout the country with a particular focus on disadvantaged areas. Successful applicants are informed by letter from my Department of the terms, conditions and requirements to be met before they can draw down the funding allocated to them. No payment is made until such time as all of the required documentation is submitted to, and approved by, my Department.

Under the local authority swimming pool programme grant-aid is allocated towards the capital costs of new pools or the refurbishment of existing pools owned, controlled or supported by local authorities. It is a matter for the local authorities to ensure that public pools have a high level of public access and at reasonable hours and prices. Swimming pools which are not owned or controlled directly by the local authority, for example, pools operated by community groups, can be grant aided under the programme but in such cases the proposals must be submitted through and supported by the relevant local authority. In these cases, specific requirements are set out in the terms and conditions of grant approval to the effect that, in addition to the normal public access expected under the programme, access at reasonable times and at reasonable cost must be made available for disadvantaged groups, any membership arrangements must not result in the exclusion of "pay and play" users and access arrangements to address social inclusion objectives are confirmed by the relevant city-county development board as being consistent with its strategy for economic, social and cultural development. My Department operates a scheme of capital grants for the development of arts and culture infrastructure projects aimed at increasing participation in the arts on a broad geographical basis. These grants can be used only for the purposes specified in the grant approvals, and accepted by the applicants from the outset. Various other specific allocations are made from time to time on the same basis.

The funding for the National Aquatic Centre and the Lansdowne Road Stadium redevelopment projects is expended on the basis of Government decisions and I have directed that such moneys be expended on the basis of the terms and conditions directed by Government in those decisions.

Computer Software.

Simon Coveney

Question:

232 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the investigations which have been carried out on the possible adverse effects on SMEs and on small or start-up software houses here of legislation being proposed by the European Council for the adoption of a common position on the issue of software patenting; his views on whether the introduction of software patenting will have any possible implications due to the fact that the world’s leading open source software company currently maintains its European, Middle East and African financial and global logistical headquarters here. [17235/05]

My Department consulted a wide range of stakeholders on the proposed European Commission directive on computer implemented inventions when it was published in 2002. Broad support was expressed in the replies. ICT Ireland, which represents the information and communications technology sector, welcomed the measure when the European Council formally adopted its common position on the proposal in March 2005. It views the measure as providing valuable clarification of existing patent law and rights with regard to computer implemented inventions across the European Union.

The issue for the Commission in its proposal arises from the differing interpretations of the statutory provisions governing patenting of computer implemented inventions involving software. At the moment, it is possible to patent a particular computer implemented invention in one member state and not in another. Many thousands of such patents have already been granted within the EU. The proposed directive is aimed at ensuring a proper functioning internal market through providing greater consistency and certainty in this field.

It is important to note that the proposed directive would not extend the criteria for patentability and, in particular, that computer programmes as such would continue to be excluded from patentability. It would also provide that work, including decompiling and interoperability, allowed under the 1991 directive on the legal protection of computer programmes by copyright, will not be affected. Again its text makes it clear that treaty Articles 81 and 82 on competition rules, including abuse of a dominant position, will apply in this field.

Community Employment Schemes.

Phil Hogan

Question:

233 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that the community employment schemes are being operated in line with the regulations laid down by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16912/05]

Community employment, CE, provides work experience and training opportunities for the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged groups with the aim of assisting participants to progress to jobs in the open labour market. FÁS has responsibility for the day-to-day administration of the programme. I am satisfied that the programme is being administered by FÁS in accordance with the guidelines laid down by my Department.

Work Permits.

Willie Penrose

Question:

234 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason an application for a work permit for a firm to employ a person (details supplied) was refused; if this decision will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16919/05]

The work permits section of my Department refused an application for a work permit in respect of the above named individual on 11 May 2005. The employer was notified in writing of the decision and the right to appeal.

From information the work permits section received, it appears that the employer did not make adequate efforts to recruit an Irish-EEA national to fill the position, that is, advertisements with FÁS for a minimum of four weeks. Further, it appears that the above-named individual was working for the employer without a valid work permit having been granted.

To date no appeal in respect of this work permit application has been received.

Semi-State Bodies.

Billy Timmins

Question:

235 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number and location of factories owned by IDA Ireland or Enterprise Ireland in County Wicklow; the number which are vacant; the rental cost of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17234/05]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions. As part of its responsibilities the agency is also charged with providing property solutions for clients of Enterprise Ireland.

The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio, including decisions relating to property rental, are day to day operational matters for the agency and not matters in which I have a function.

IDA has a total of seven units in County Wicklow. These are located in the Arklow area, in Ballynattin, Croghan and Kilbride. Only one of these units is owned by IDA and the remaining six are leased from private investors. Of the seven units, six are occupied under long-term leases. The remaining property is not occupied under a long-term lease but is currently occupied on a temporary basis while the lease is being finalised.

There are effectively no rental costs associated with these units as rental payments to private investors are exactly offset by rental income from tenants.

Work Permits.

Sean Fleming

Question:

236 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when an application for a work permit for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 will be dealt with. [17243/05]

The work permit section of my Department issued a work permit in respect of the above named individual on 23 October 2001. There is no record of any further application having been received after this date.

Willie Penrose

Question:

237 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if an application for a work permit for a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be reviewed; if his Department only issues work permits to non-EU nationals who are highly qualified and on high salaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17262/05]

The work permit section of my Department refused an application in respect of the above non-EEA national on 11 March 2005 on the grounds that the position was not highly skilled and highly paid. Having reviewed this decision and taken into account additional information provided to my Department, I can confirm that it is now proposed to grant this application.

Enterprise Centres.

Liz McManus

Question:

238 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when he will establish an enterprise centre for Bray; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17271/05]

The allocation of grants under the community enterprise centre, CEC, scheme is the responsibility of Enterprise Ireland, the agency charged with administering the scheme, and not a matter in which I have a direct role. I am informed by Enterprise Ireland that in 2000, the agency approved grant support totalling €940,442 for Bray Community Enterprise Limited towards the building of a community enterprise centre in Bray and towards the management costs for the first two years.

The project proposal was based on the construction of the enterprise centre in a business park that was to be developed by Cosgrave Property Group at Fassaroe. A condition of the grant agreement was that construction should commence not later than 1 September 2000 and be completed not later than 30 September 2001. However, in 2000, the business park was refused planning permission by An Bord Pleanála and the entire development, including the community enterprise centre proposal, did not go ahead.

In the intervening years, the proposers have made a number of attempts to develop an alternative project proposal. However, despite receiving advice and support from Enterprise Ireland, Wicklow County Council, Wicklow Enterprise Board and Bray Chamber of Commerce, the proposers have been unable to put together a viable total funding proposal and Enterprise Ireland is not aware of any change in that situation. The group has, therefore, been notified that Enterprise Ireland grant approval will be withdrawn.

It should be noted that nearly five years have elapsed since Enterprise Ireland approved funding for the Bray project. Since then, a further CEC programme was undertaken in 2002 on a competitive basis and no applications were received from a community group in Bray. I understand that Enterprise Ireland is currently not planning a new community enterprise centre programme.

Warehouse Agreements.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

239 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason it was decided to facilitate warehouse agreements (details supplied) by exempting them from the scrutiny of the Competition Authority; if an exemption (details supplied) is the first to which his attention has been drawn in which this device has been used; the rationale for a legislative exemption for these deals; if he has received representations on the question; if so, the persons from whom such representations were received; the views of the Competition Authority on the question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17426/05]

This provision was included in the Competition Act 2002 in line with standard international practice for regulating transactions of a purely financial investment nature. The rationale for the provision is essentially to lighten the regulatory burden for mergers and acquisitions which raise no competition concerns. For example, the EU merger regulation contains a similar exemption. The matter has not been raised with me previously. I am aware, however, that legal practitioners in general supported the introduction of this provision during the drafting of the 2002 Act so as to ensure a level playing field between national and EU merger control regimes.

With the exception of mergers and acquisitions involving media businesses, the Competition Act 2002 transferred responsibility for regulating mergers and acquisitions from the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to the Competition Authority with effect from 1 January 2003. The authority now examines and decides upon notified transactions on the basis of competition criteria alone. The previous statute, the Mergers Act 1978, contained no such exemption. However, that Act included non-competition or common good criteria as well as a competition test.

The Competition Authority is an independent statutory body. I understand, however, that the authority generally supports a policy of following best international practice in such matters.

Poverty Reduction.

David Stanton

Question:

240 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the efforts he is making to tackle the new phenomenon of the working poor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17347/05]

The two main methods of measuring poverty in Ireland are the national consistent poverty measure based on a relative income threshold of 60% of median income and enforced deprivation of certain items and the EU at risk of poverty measure which is simply based on 60% of median income.

The 2003 EU survey of income and living conditions, EU-SILC, indicates that 3.5% of people at work fell into the consistent poverty category compared with 9.4% of the population generally. The survey further shows that 9.2% of people in Ireland who were at work were at risk of poverty compared with 22.7% of the population generally. It is clear from these figures that being at work significantly reduces the risks of poverty and deprivation. However, despite the economic advances of recent years some families find themselves dependent on low wage employment, leading to the phenomenon mentioned by the Deputy, the working poor.

The reduction of poverty is a core objective of this Government. In this regard, accepting and keeping a job is seen as the most important route to escape poverty and to ensure social inclusion. However, it is important to ensure that work pays and a number of policy instruments crossing a range of Departments are used as a way of preventing poverty among the working poor. These include changes to the taxation system, the introduction of a national minimum hourly wage, provision of training and access to lifelong learning opportunities, assistance with job search and placement, the introduction of flexible working arrangements and increased access to affordable child care and changes to the social welfare system to support the transition to employment and improve the retention of non-cash benefits during that transition.

One of the main policy responses in my Department, designed to address the problem of low income working families, is the family income supplement, FIS, scheme. The scheme provides cash support amounting to a minimum of €20 per week for employees who work a minimum of 19 hours per week or 38 hours per fortnight. This preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if he or she were claiming other social welfare payments.

Budget 2005 increased the FIS earnings thresholds by €39 in respect of each family size. This increase was unprecedented since the introduction of the scheme in 1984 and added €23.40 to the weekly payments of most existing FIS recipients from January 2005. The cost of this measure is estimated at €15.53 million in 2005. Following the increased thresholds, it is estimated that 2,600 additional families became eligible for a FIS payment. The ongoing development of the FIS scheme has resulted in current levels of both applications and claims in payment being at an all time high. In 2004, there were 21,000 applications and over 15,000 claims in payment. The current average FIS payment is almost €94. Effective and adequate support for making work pay will continue to be a major priority for this Government and for me as Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

241 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to increase the age of eligibility for child benefit for children in full-time education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16934/05]

Child benefit is payable in respect of all children up to the age of 16 years and continues to be paid in respect of children up to age 19 who are in full-time education or who have a physical or mental disability.

According to figures collected under the quarterly national household survey by the Central Statistics Office for the final quarter of 2004, there were an estimated 84,400 students aged 19 to 22 years. Extending child benefit to this category would, therefore, cost in the region of €144 million per annum so any change in this position would have to be considered in a budgetary context in the light of competing demands for available resources.

Entitlement to child dependant allowance was extended to age 22 from October 2003 where the parent of a full-time student has been in receipt of a short-term social welfare payment for six months or more. Short-term schemes include such payments as unemployment benefit and assistance, disability benefit and supplementary welfare allowance. The provision already applied to recipients of long-term payments.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

242 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason the fuel allowance scheme ceased in the second week of April 2005; if he will extend the allowance to the end of May 2005 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16973/05]

The aim of the national fuel scheme is to assist householders who are in receipt of long-term social welfare or health board payments towards their extra heating needs during the winter season. A fuel allowance of €9 per week —€12.90 in designated urban smokeless fuel zones — is payable to eligible households for a 29 week period each year.

The 2004-05 winter heating season for fuel allowance purposes started in the week commencing 27 September 2004 and ended on 15 April last after the normal 29-week duration. Similarly, the 2002-03 fuel allowance season covered the 29 week period from 30 September 2002 to 18 April 2003, inclusive.

Significant increases in recent years in primary social welfare payment rates, such as the old age pension, have improved the income position for people dependent on the social welfare system. These rates are payable throughout the year and are intended to cover basic living costs, including cooking and heating, supplemented where applicable by the fuel allowance during the winter heating season. Many households also qualify for electricity or gas allowances throughout the year under the social welfare household benefits scheme. In addition, a heating supplement may be payable at any time through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme in cases of individual special need.

It is not feasible to extend the current fuel allowance season into May this year. Any extension of the period over which the scheme applies in future winter heating seasons would have significant cost implications and would have to be considered in a budget context in the light of other priorities.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

243 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the status of the planned decentralisation of sections of his Department to Carrickmacross, County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16992/05]

The decentralisation implementation group, DIG, report to the Minister for Finance on 19 November 2004 recommended the locations and organisations to be included in the first phase of moves under the decentralisation programme 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 DIG is due to report again regarding the phasing of those locations not covered in the November report.

My Department is currently revising its implementation plan for the first phase of moves and will examine subsequent phases in the light of this and of the next DIG report. My Department's commitment is to the relocation of 85 posts to Carrickmacross under the programme.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

244 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the scale which is used to decide the benefit that will be placed against investment of over €20,000 in the case of the widow’s non-contributory pension; if it will be at a realistic level; if it will be a notional figure (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17004/05]

On budget day, I was pleased to announce that the amount of capital disregarded for means test purposes for a wide range of schemes, including widow-widower's non-contributory pension, will be increased to €20,000 from June next, an increase of over €7,300. The enhanced disregard applies to all capital regardless of where it is held, whether in an special savings investment account, a credit union, with An Post or any other account with a bank or other financial institution. The new arrangements will mean, for example, that a non-contributory widow-widower pensioner, with no other means, can have capital of up to €28,000 and still qualify for a pension at the maximum rate.

A pensioner aged 66 or over can have capital of up to €76,000 —€70,000 in the case of a widow or widower aged under 66 — and still qualify for a minimum pension. For the purposes of assessing the value of capital and property, a notional assessment method will continue to be used. The use of the notional method avoids the necessity of frequent reviews of the entitlements of a very significant number of recipients whenever interest rates fluctuate or whenever the capital is moved from one investment option into another. As part of my review of the current capital arrangements, I also took the opportunity to improve and simplify the notional assessment formula.

Under the new method the first €20,000 of capital will be disregarded; capital between €20,000 and €30,000 will be assessed on the basis of €1 weekly means for each €1,000 of capital; capital between €30,000 and €40,000 will be assessed on the basis of €2 weekly means for each €1,000 of capital; and capital above €40,000 will be assessed on the basis of €4 weekly means for each €1,000 of capital.

The new system reduces the effective rate of assessment at all levels of capital while continuing with the policy of ensuring that those with lower amounts of capital receive the greater share of available support. These improvements are designed to ensure that social welfare means testing arrangements do not act as a disincentive to claimants to become savers or penalise those who have been regular savers in the past.

Social Insurance Fund.

Joan Burton

Question:

245 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when he intends to carry out an actuarial review of the social insurance fund; if he will carry out and publicise a review of the fund at 31 December 2004. [17021/05]

Section 17 of the Social Welfare Act 1998 provided that an actuarial review into the condition of the social insurance fund be undertaken and published by the end of 2002 and repeated every five years thereafter.

The first actuarial review of the social insurance fund was completed and published in 2002. It covered the period from 2001 to 2056. The purpose of the review is to allow an assessment of the extent to which the fund may be expected, in the longer term, to meet the demands in respect of payment of benefits and other payments, while also having regard to the adequacy or otherwise of the contributions to support social welfare benefits. This analysis serves to inform short, medium and long-term policy development in relation to the social insurance system generally, as well as the emerging surpluses of recent years.

In the first report, using a number of varying assumptions in relation to demographics, inflation and economic growth and considering the impact of increasing benefit rates and earnings contribution limits on the financial position of the social insurance fund, the review presented a number of different scenarios with the conclusions ranging from the social insurance fund being exhausted in 2005 to 2056.

Ireland, in common with other European countries, has a population which is ageing. A combination of increasing life expectancy and a declining birth rate will result in a projected increase in the number of older people in society. The ageing population presents the same challenge to Ireland in meeting growing pension costs as to other countries, except that we have a longer period to prepare for its full impact. While the social insurance fund is currently in a healthy financial situation, this surplus may not continue indefinitely. Accordingly, the Government is making preparations, through the national pensions reserve fund, to part-fund state pensions costs from 2025 onwards.

The actuarial review of the social insurance fund is required to be repeated every five years and preparatory work for the next review will begin later this year. As required under statute, the report will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas within six months of the completion of the review.

Question No. 246 answered with QuestionNo. 57.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Seán Haughey

Question:

247 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will review the position of elderly, stay at home housewives with no pre-1953 insurance contributions and in some cases with no post-1953 contributions, with a view to awarding them a State pension in their own right; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17074/05]

Payments under the social welfare system are made on the basis of social insurance contributions or where the person satisfies a means test. Within that structure every effort is made to ensure that the greatest possible number of people can receive a payment.

A number of measures have been introduced in recent years which make it easier for people to qualify for pensions. These include extended social insurance coverage and an easing of the qualifying conditions for old age contributory and retirement pensions. These 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 and in 2000 a special half rate pension was introduced based on pre-53 insurance contributions. Pro rata pensions are also available to allow people with mixed rate insurance records to receive a payment.

The old age non-contributory pension is a social assistance scheme designed to provide financial support for all older people, whatever their circumstances, who do not qualify for one of the contributory pension schemes. In common with 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 allowance is doubled in the case of a married couple. The operation of the means test is kept under review and changes are made as required.

The Government is also committed to increasing the payment for qualified adults, age 66 or over, to the same level as the personal rate of the old age non-contributory pension and a number of special increases have been given over several budgets in pursuit of this target. This matter will continue to receive attention.

Seán Haughey

Question:

248 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will introduce a new system for eligibility for the contributory old age pension based on the cash value of pay-related contributions only to ensure consistency and equality between all claimants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17075/05]

To qualify for an old age contributory pension, a person must have entered social insurance at least ten years before reaching pension age, have a minimum number of paid contributions on his-her record and have a yearly average of at least ten contributions paid or credited from 1953 when the unified system of social insurance came into effect or the date of entry into social insurance, if later. All contributions made, whether made through employment or as a voluntary contributor, are counted in assessing eligibility for pension.

The qualifying conditions for old age pension purposes were designed to ensure that those qualifying for payment have an adequate and sustained history of contributions to the social insurance fund over their working lives. However, it is accepted that this can give rise to varying results, with people with the same level of contributions receiving different rates of payment depending on when they commenced paying insurance.

It has been suggested that a system based on the total number of contributions paid would be more transparent, straightforward and consistent and this is something which is being examined. However, introducing a total contribution approach could give rise to practical considerations, not least of which would be deciding on the appropriate level of contributions that would be required for pension purposes. In this regard, a balance would need to be struck between the insurance records of those now qualifying for pension, which in many cases are quite poor, and the potential people now have to accumulate contributions as a result of the very comprehensive system of social insurance coverage which is in place since the mid-1990s.

I do not consider that basing payments on the cash value of contributions made would be an appropriate way of developing our system. The flat rate payments and the pay-related system of contributions means that the system redistributes resources to the lower paid and this is something which should be maintained.

Michael Lowry

Question:

249 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide resources for a scheme (details supplied); the cost involved in such a scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17105/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

261 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans or proposals to improve, enhance or extend the free schemes with particular reference to qualification on age grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17433/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 249 and 261 together.

The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years or over, to all carers in receipt of carer's allowance and to carers of people in receipt of constant attendance or prescribed relative's allowance. It is also available to certain people with disabilities and people who are in receipt of certain welfare type payments.

The scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators. The majority of private contractors providing services under the scheme operate in rural areas. The underlying feature of the scheme is the use of spare capacity on these transport services.

I am always willing to consider applications from licensed private transport operators who may wish to participate in the free travel scheme. However, while my Department pays transport providers to operate the free travel scheme, it is not in a position to provide transport services where none exists. The issue of access to public transport in rural areas is being addressed at present through the rural transport initiative, which is being managed by Area Development Management, ADM Limited, on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Transport. My Department contributed €500,000 to the initiative in 2004 and I secured €575,000 for the initiative for 2005. This will ensure that free travel pass holders continue to have full access to community based transport services.

With regard to the household benefits package of free schemes, which comprises the electricity-gas allowance, telephone allowance and television licence schemes, this package is generally available to people living permanently in the State, aged 66 years or over, who are in receipt of a social welfare type payment or who fulfil a means test. The package is also available to carers and people with disabilities under the age of 66 who are in receipt of certain welfare type payments. People aged over 70 years of age can qualify regardless of their income or household composition. Widows and widowers aged from 60 to 65 whose late spouses had been in receipt of the household benefit package retain that entitlement to ensure that households do not suffer a loss of entitlements following the death of a spouse.

I will continue to review the operation of the free schemes, including the free travel scheme, with a view to identifying the scope for further improvements where appropriate.

Paul McGrath

Question:

250 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will consider a major review of the national fuel scheme and an extension of the scheme to a year round payment (details supplied). [17144/05]

The aim of the national fuel scheme is to assist householders who are in receipt of long-term payments from my Department or from the Health Service Executive towards their extra heating needs during the winter season. A fuel allowance of €9 per week —€12.90 in designated urban smokeless fuel zones — is paid to eligible households for a 29 week period from end of September to mid-April each year.

The fuel allowance scheme was reviewed comprehensively in 1998 as part of my Department's ongoing programme of expenditure reviews. That review broadly affirmed the validity of the existing scheme format and duration. A further formal review of this scheme is not on the current schedule of expenditure reviews by my Department.

Significant increases in recent years in primary social welfare payment rates have improved the income position generally for people dependent on the social welfare system. These rates are payable throughout the year and are intended to cover basic living costs, including cooking and heating, supplemented where applicable by the fuel allowance during the winter heating season. In addition, many households also qualify for electricity or gas allowances throughout the year under the social welfare household benefits scheme.

There have been further improvements in the fuel allowance scheme since it was reviewed in 1998, including the extension of the scheme duration from 26 to 29 weeks and increases in the income limits for eligibility. While I will continue to keep the scheme in mind in the context of the budget, I have no plans at present to extend fuel allowances to a year-round payment. This change would have very significant ongoing cost implications — of the order of €68 million per annum — and could only be considered in the light of other policy priorities within the budget resources available.

Social Welfare Fraud.

Dan Boyle

Question:

251 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the initiatives he intends to take in the coming months to combat social welfare fraud; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17146/05]

It would be inappropriate to provide details of specific control initiatives which my Department intends to undertake in the coming months, however the prevention of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system is an integral part of the day to day work of my Department.

Systematic risk analysis is a key element of the Department's control strategy. This entails the identification by scheme managers of areas of high risk of fraud and abuse in the schemes for which they are responsible and putting in place appropriate measures to address them in a systematic way. The purpose of this approach is to ensure that review activity is targeted in the most effective manner.

During 2004, my Department undertook a number of specific control initiatives in its regions throughout the country, the outcomes of which are currently being evaluated with a view to expanding successful initiatives to other areas. These initiatives will feed into the process of refocusing control activity to those areas and types of cases which present the highest risk of fraud and error.

My Department also includes surveys of the levels of fraud and error as part of its control strategy to identify the types of claims which should be prioritised for review purposes. More than 600 staff at local, regional and national level are engaged on a full or part-time basis on work related to the control of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system.

Controls are exercised at both the initial claim stage and at subsequent stages during the claim lifecycle. Claims are reviewed on a regular and targeted basis. During 2004, some 306,000 reviews of entitlements were carried out by staff in my Department. The records of some 6,600 employers were inspected to ensure compliance with the Department's regulations and in particular to prevent and detect abuses of the system. In 2005, to the end of April, over 100,000 reviews have been undertaken with 1,600 employers inspected.

The prosecution of offenders is a key element in my Department's overall control approach. My Department's policy is to consider all cases of fraud for prosecution. During 2004, 503 cases were referred to the Chief State Solicitor's office to initiate prosecution proceedings. Some 282 cases were finalised in court, of which ten were served with prison sentences, 26 received suspended sentences, 158 were fined, 43 received the benefit of the Probation Act. The remaining penalties included cases which received community service, were bound to the peace or adjourned with liberty to re-enter. Up to the end of April 2005, 127 cases have been submitted for initiation of court proceedings.

I am committed to ensuring that social welfare payments are available to those who are entitled to them. I am also determined to ensure that abuse of the system is prevented and is dealt with effectively when detected. In this regard, the control programme of my Department is carefully monitored and the various measures are continuously refined to ensure that they remain effective.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

252 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost to his Department each year towards the provision of the MABS in the years 2000 to 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17226/05]

The money advice and budgeting service is provided by 52 MABS companies operating out of 65 centres throughout the country. At present, there are 150 money advisers and 78 administrative staff working in the MABS. The cost to the Department of Social and Family Affairs towards the provision of the MABS in the years 2000 to 2004 is detailed as follows:

Year

Funding

2000

5.767,150

2001

8.465,344

2002

9.702,069

2003

9.867,000

2004

11,401,000

A total of €13.62 million has been allocated to the service in 2005.

During the 12 month period up to December 2004, the money advice and budgeting service dealt with approximately 16,000 new clients while also dealing with approximately 13,600 other clients on an ongoing basis. An average of 1,700 persons per month visit the MABS website at www.mabs.ie.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

253 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people availing of the MABS for each year from 2000 to 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17227/05]

The money advice and budgeting service is provided by 52 MABS companies operating out of 65 centres throughout the country. At present, there are 150 money advisers and 78 administrative staff working in the MABS. The number of people availing of the MABS service for each year from 2000 to 2004 is detailed as follows:

Year

Total Number of Clients

New Clients

2000

17,813

7,243

2001

21,172

9,000

2002

24,465

12,000

2003

27,725

16,000

2004

29,696

16,000

A total of €13.62 million has been allocated to the service in 2005, which is an increase of €2.2 million over the 2004 allocations.

During the 12 month period up to December 2004, the money advice and budgeting service dealt with approximately 16,000 new clients while also dealing with approximately 13,600 other clients on an ongoing basis. An average of 1,700 persons per month visit the MABS website at www.mabs.ie.

A high number of those presenting to the MABS are multiple debt cases. These are cases where an individual or a family runs into arrears with a number of household bills that may include rent or mortgage, ESB, hire purchase, motor tax and insurance, children's educational expenses, personal loans from banks, credit unions, money lenders and credit cards. The MABS provides support and advice to these people by helping them to make arrangements with the relevant institutions to restructure their debt in a way which allows them to manage their finances better.

Live Register.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

254 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people signing on the live register in County Kildare in the years 1997 to 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17228/05]

As the operational areas of my Department's local offices are not coterminous with county boundaries, it is not possible to give a precise reply in this instance. However, there are three local offices in County Kildare which are located in Newbridge, Athy and Maynooth. The number of people on the live register in these offices at the end of each of the years from 1997 to 2004 is detailed as follows:

Year end

Unemployment Benefit

Unemployment Assistance

Signing for Credits

Total

1997

3,916

2,473

633

7,022

1998

2,867

2,408

564

5,839

1999

2,015

1,977

355

4,347

2000

1,354

1,596

318

3,268

2001

1,371

1,998

328

3,697

2002

1,573

2,476

313

4,362

2003

1,667

2,703

382

4,752

2004

1,726

2,311

313

4,350

The figures indicate that the total number of persons on the live register in Kildare has declined from 7,022 to 4,350 in the period concerned, a reduction of some 38%. This compares with an overall reduction of 36% nationally.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Lowry

Question:

255 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 205 of 17 May 2005 if he will investigate the circumstances surrounding the refusal of an allowance to a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and the action which will be taken by the agency administering the scheme on his behalf. [17341/05]

Michael Lowry

Question:

256 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 205 of 17 May 2005 if he will expedite the appeal for a person (details supplied). [17342/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 255 and 256 together.

As I stated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 205 of 17 May 2005, the person concerned was refused rent supplement by the Health Service Executive based on its conclusions about the particular circumstances of her case. She has appealed against this decision. The executive has advised that a file is being prepared for consideration by an appeals officer who will make an determination on her eligibility as soon as possible. If the person concerned is dissatisfied with the outcome of this appeal, she can ask that her case be referred to the social welfare appeals office for further adjudication.

Neither I nor my Department has a statutory or executive function in decisions or appeals in individual cases. However, my Department monitors the overall implementation of the scheme in relation to general consistency of case decisions and conformity to scheme policy. In this regard, I have asked my Department to note the outcome of the appeal on this case and to assess whether the issue involved indicates any need for further policy consideration relating to rent supplement eligibility.

Departmental Reviews.

David Stanton

Question:

257 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to Parliamentary Question No. 207 of 17 May 2005, when he will publish the review carried out and completed by his Department on the supplementary welfare allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17423/05]

The first phase of the review of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme has been completed and the report of the working group is being printed for publication shortly. The second phase of the review commenced in January 2005. The work of the review group on this final phase is expected to be completed by December 2005 and its report will be published as soon as possible thereafter.

Questions Nos. 258 to 260, inclusive, answered with Question No. 57.
Question No. 261 answered with QuestionNo. 249.
Questions Nos. 262 and 263 answered with Question No. 106.

Pension Provisions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

264 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he proposes to review entitlement to contributory pension with a view to including, on a pro rata basis, persons who have insufficient contributions to qualify; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17436/05]

The qualifying conditions for contributory old age pensions require a person to have paid at least 260 contributions at the appropriate rate, enter insurance ten years before pension age and achieve a yearly average of at least ten contributions paid or credited on their social insurance record from 1953 — when the unified system of social insurance came into effect — or the date of entry into insurance, if later. An average of 48 contributions is required to qualify for a pension at the maximum rate.

Several measures have been introduced making it easier for people to qualify for pensions. These include easing of the basic qualifying conditions, the introduction of pro rata pensions to recognise situations where people have contributions at different rates and special pensions such as the pre-1953 payment and the special self-employed pension.

In considering changes to the system it is necessary to ensure that the contributory principle which underpins entitlement is upheld. This requires that people meet a minimum contribution threshold and also that payments do, as far as possible, reflect the level of contribution which individuals make. In this regard, the range of pro rata and special pensions already available give adequate recognition to the level of contributions which individuals have made to the social insurance fund. The situation will, however, be kept under review and changes considered where appropriate.

Question No. 265 answered with QuestionNo. 63.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

266 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his proposals to increase child benefit in view of increased child care costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17438/05]

My Department administers several child income support measures, including child benefit, which delivers a standard rate of payment in respect of all children in a family, regardless of income levels or employment status. Child benefit supports all children but delivers proportionately more assistance to those on low incomes and with larger families. It is not intended primarily to meet child care costs. However, the substantial increases in benefit in recent years can make a significant contribution to meeting those costs.

Since last month, when the 2005 budget rate increases took effect, monthly rates are €141.60 in respect of each of the first two children and €177.30 in respect of the third and subsequent children. Therefore, over the period since 1997, the monthly rates of child benefit has increased by €103.51 at the lower rate and €127.78 at the higher rate, increases of 272% and 258% respectively. This level of increase is unprecedented and is in line with the Government's objective of improving income for children generally. The question of specific support for child care is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform whose Department administers the equal opportunities child care programme under the national development plan.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

267 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his proposals to enhance or improve dental or optical benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17439/05]

The treatment benefit scheme operated by my Department provides to insured persons, and their dependent spouses, a range of services in the area of dental, optical and aural benefit. The availability of these benefits is subject to certain PRSI contribution conditions. The PRSI contribution classes which qualify for treatment benefit are A, E, H and P.

Operational improvements are made from time to time in the course of the ongoing management of the schemes. Any changes in the range of benefits provided under the scheme would, however, be a matter for consideration in a budgetary context and within the constraints of available resources.

Traffic Calming Measures.

Billy Timmins

Question:

268 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport if he plans to issue guidelines to local authorities on the preparation of speed control plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17291/05]

On 18 April 2005, I issued guidelines on the application of special speed limits to the county and city managers. Copies of the document have been placed in the Oireachtas Library and the guidelines are also available on my Department's website www.transport.ie under Roads — Publications. In addition, Traffic Management Guidelines, jointly published in May 2003 by my Department, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Dublin Transportation Office, set out guidance and advice to local authorities on speed management and traffic calming generally. The deployment of speed and traffic calming measures is a matter for the determination of local authorities. A copy of this publication is also available in the Oireachtas Library.

Driving Tests.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

269 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport the assistance which will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford to bring forward a driving test date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16932/05]

An appointment for a driving test issued to the person concerned on 17 May 2005.

Public Transport.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

270 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the number of applications with his Department from persons wishing to provide a private bus service between Dundalk, Drogheda, Ardee and Dublin; when he will make a decision on these applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16944/05]

The Road Transport Act 1932 provides the legislative basis for entry to the public transport market by private bus operators. In accordance with this legislation, private bus operators apply to my Department for passenger licences to provide bus services on specific routes within the State. In accordance with long-standing practice, details of applications received in my Department remain confidential until a decision is made. However, as of 23 May 2005, there are two applications outstanding for occasional passenger licences on one of the routes listed, which will be dealt with this week.

In addition to these two outstanding applications, my Department has under consideration a request to amend an existing licence for services on one of the routes listed. This request to amend an existing licence is at an advanced stage and will conclude soon.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

271 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if a bus lane will be provided on the section of the Naas Road from Naas to the Dublin boundary; if this will be one of the routes selected on a pilot basis for a bus lane on the outer approaches to the capital; and if design changes have been factored into the current project. [16952/05]

Given that work is under way on this section to upgrade it to a three-lane carriageway with a hard shoulder, I have been advised by the Dublin Transportation Office that there are no plans to have a quality bus corridor on the section of the Naas Road from Naas to the Dublin boundary. The works on the N7 between Maudlins, County Kildare, and Rathcoole, County Dublin, involve the upgrading of the existing road to provide three lanes in each direction. It also includes the construction of four interchanges, which will result in an interchange approximately at every 4 km. This frequency, combined with significant lengths of side roads, will allow easy access to and from the mainline for buses. This strategy has been adopted for reasons of safety and has been agreed with Bus Éireann. Given the traffic flow on the upgraded route, a bus lane should not be necessary.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

272 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to provide funds to Dublin Bus for the purchase of new buses to augment its current fleet; if so, if the subvention to the company will be increased to allow it to operate a larger fleet. [16953/05]

Dublin Bus intends to purchase 70 new replacement buses, including 20 high capacity triaxle buses, in 2005. Exchequer funding of €1.2 million is being provided towards the cost of these buses. The new triaxle buses will provide 20% more passenger carrying capacity than double deck buses.

Significant investment has been made to date under the national development plan in acquiring new buses for Dublin Bus. As a consequence, the capacity of the fleet has been increased by nearly 25% and the company is now carrying approximately 150 million passengers per annum. Dublin Bus has bought approximately 400 buses since 1999, with the assistance of Exchequer and EU funds. In 1999, Dublin Bus received €16.8 million in Exchequer subvention and for 2005 the company will receive €64.9 million in subvention, an increase of 5% on 2004.

Parking Regulations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

273 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport his plans to consult disability groups prior to the roll-out of a fixed charge system for traffic and parking offences in view of the particular circumstances that apply to the offence of illegally parking in a disabled person’s parking bay. [17016/05]

The general position on the roll-out of the fixed charge system to traffic and parking offences was outlined to the Deputy in my reply to Question No. 45 of 12 May 2004. As I indicated in that reply, I intend to pitch the fixed charge for illegally parking in a disabled person's parking bay at a level that will be significantly higher than that for other parking offences. My approach to this issue is informed by the views of the Irish Wheelchair Association and the Disabled Drivers Association which along with local authorities, are empowered to issue disabled persons' parking permits. Discussions between my Department and those groups on the operation of the permit system and other related issues is continuous and that process affords them the opportunity to contribute regularly to the determination of the level of the fixed charge for illegal parking in disabled persons' parking bays.

Taxi Hardship Panel.

Finian McGrath

Question:

274 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the details of developments to assist taxi drivers and former taxi drivers from the hardship fund set up following deregulation; and the reason 300 taxi drivers were excluded from these payments. [17028/05]

The taxi hardship payments scheme was established in 2003 to implement the recommendations of the independent taxi hardship panel report, as approved by the Government. It was made clear at the outset that payments under the scheme did not represent compensation but rather compassionate payments in respect of extreme personal financial hardship.

The taxi hardship payments scheme is administered by Area Development Management Limited on behalf of my Department. Application forms were issued to all persons who made submissions to the taxi hardship panel. In addition, newspaper advertisements were placed in the national newspapers on 6 November 2003 and 27 February 2004 inviting applications under the scheme. Applications were sought from individual taxi licence holders at 21 November 2000 who could demonstrate that they had suffered extreme personal financial hardship following loss of income arising from the liberalisation of the taxi licensing regime, who fall into one of the six categories in which payment was recommended by the taxi hardship panel report and who are tax compliant. The final date for receipt of applications under the scheme was 24 September 2004.

The content of the application form and the qualifying criteria for applicants under the scheme were the subject of several serious discussions between the Department and taxi representative groups. In accordance with the recommendations of the taxi hardship panel report, the general requirements to be met were identified for all applicants under the scheme. In addition, specific eligibility criteria and requirements in respect of each category of hardship were also identified. These were detailed on the application form.

The scheme allowed individuals who found, due to their particular circumstances, that they fell outside the requirements for a particular category of hardship, to submit their application for consideration by ADM and to include information regarding the extenuating circumstances involved in their hardship. The scheme also included an appeals procedure for unsuccessful applicants.

ADM advised all unsuccessful applicants of the reasons their application was not deemed to be eligible to receive a hardship payment under the scheme. They were also advised of their right to appeal the decision and to have their application reassessed by a review panel. The membership of the review panel was different from that of the appraisal committee who assessed the original application.

ADM received 1,937 applications. Payments totalling €17,268,000 have been made in respect of 1,498 qualifying persons up to 12 May 2005. With the exception of one, all applications under the scheme have been processed at this stage. Four applications have been approved in principle for payment subject to the submission of further information or documentation, for example, a clearance certificate; 340 applicants have not qualified for a payment as they did not meet the criteria for eligibility. A further 94 application files have been closed where the applicant did not submit the requisite information or documentation to facilitate the consideration of their application. A total of 209 appeals under the scheme have been received and considered up to 12 May 2005; 18 original application decisions have been revised and paid on appeal. Decisions on a further six appeals are pending.

The processing and consideration of applications under the taxi hardship payments scheme is undertaken independently of my Department which has no details of applications made to ADM under the scheme. I am, therefore, not in a position to comment on specific details of any individual case. However, all applicants who did not qualify for a payment under the scheme were advised of the reasons for this decision and afforded the opportunity of an appeal in accordance with the arrangements outlined above.

State Airports.

Michael Lowry

Question:

275 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Transport if correspondence (details supplied) has been brought to his attention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17093/05]

The correspondence to which the Deputy refers was sent to the Taoiseach, but was also copied to me as well as many other Deputies. The letter is a follow-up to a previous letter sent in April and concerns the approaching liberalisation of the EU-US aviation market, and how this will impact on Shannon. The letter refers to proposals by the Shannon Airport Authority, Shannon Development and the Mid-West Regional Authority regarding a package of initiatives for the continued growth of Shannon Airport and the west including the roll-out of key infrastructural projects in the Shannon Airport catchment area. There is a willingness in the region to embrace change and the proposed initiatives are generally consistent with Government policy for Shannon and the mid-west region.

The restructuring of the State Airports, including Shannon, is intended to enhance their regional focus and I am encouraged by the close co-operation between the new Shannon Airport Authority and the other regional development bodies in the area. Work under way in my Department on a ten-year transport investment framework will address the future infrastructural requirements of the mid-west region. The restructuring of the State Airports, including Shannon, will proceed in the light of the assessment in due course, by me and the Minister for Finance, of the business plans which are under preparation by the three airport authorities.

The chairman of Shannon Airport Authority is one of the co-authors of the letter to which the Deputy refers. I am confident therefore that the business plan being prepared by Shannon Airport will have taken all the points raised in the letter into consideration. As I have stated in previous replies, the development of an EU — US open-skies regime provides many opportunities for Shannon Airport to contribute to the development of the mid-west. The liberalisation of the aviation market between the EU and US will mean more, not fewer, opportunities for Shannon to develop new routes into North America, and would, for example, allow Shannon to take steps to develop itself into a passenger or freight hub between the US and Eastern Europe in particular.

Public Transport.

Michael Ring

Question:

276 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be issued with 22 licences (details supplied). [17170/05]

My Department has had continuous contact with the private bus operator concerned regarding the renewal of his annual passenger licences. The outstanding applications for renewal to which the Deputy refers are in the final stages and my Department shall be in a position to issue them soon.

Road Traffic Offences.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

277 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if his Department will take measures to address the issues concerning drivers from Northern Ireland (details supplied); the arrangements which will be made with the Northern authorities with a view to prosecuting those drivers in the South; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17238/05]

The commission of any offence established under the Road Traffic Acts may lead to the pursuit of a criminal conviction. The only general exception to that principle occurs where a person, having been accused of the commission of an offence that attracts a fixed charge, chooses to pay such a charge, which in turn means that a prosecution will not be pursued. A person convicted of an offence is required to submit to a penalty, namely, the payment of a fine or imprisonment. In addition, the person may be subject to the imposition of either a driving disqualification or penalty points. The general question of the degree to which penalties, disqualifications and penalty points can be applied to persons from other jurisdictions who have been convicted of offences must be considered across the range of penalties and other deterrents established in the Road Traffic Acts in consultation with authorities, either under the auspices of the EU or on a bilateral basis. The question of the development of arrangements for the pursuit of fines imposed on persons from other jurisdictions is the subject of discussions at EU level and comes within the remit of my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Section 9 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 provides the basis for judicial recognition of the EU Convention on Driving Disqualifications. That convention provides that where a disqualification is imposed by a member state — on a person from another member state — in respect of any one of a number of particular behaviours for example, drink driving and dangerous driving, the State where the convicted person resides may apply the disqualification. I understand that the authorities in the UK are considering adopting similar legislation. When that process is finalised, arrangements to facilitate the operation of the provisions of the convention on a bilateral basis between the two countries can be pursued.

The authorities in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain are considering the introduction of a scheme to provide for the mutual recognition of penalty points between the United Kingdom and Ireland, under the auspices of the British Irish Council. The Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland, and the Department for Regional Development, Northern Ireland, are the lead agencies for transport and road safety-related matters under BIC and they have given consideration to this matter. This Department has referred the matter to the Attorney General for his advice on the complex legal issues surrounding this area.

The difficulty for the Garda Síochána in accessing foreign vehicle registration information, following a detection by camera, is similar to the position encountered by enforcement agencies across Europe. Discussions are taking place at EU level in this respect but are still at an early stage.

Air Services.

James Breen

Question:

278 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if Aer Lingus is in breach of the bilateral agreement having no direct flights from Shannon to New York; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17270/05]

The choice of routes operated, in accordance with the bilateral agreement, is entirely a matter for the airline concerned. Aer Lingus is operating direct flights from Shannon to New York during this summer season. However, delays in the completion of the Aer Lingus winter overhaul programme have resulted in the lack of availability of one of its Airbus A330 aircraft for the period 16 May to 29 May 2005. During this period it was necessary to consolidate some services and cancel others. As a result, approximately six round-trip Shannon-JFK services have been removed during this period. These cancellations were made some months ago and all passengers were accommodated on alternative Aer Lingus Shannon services.

Driving Tests.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

279 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport the reason a full licence holder must sit a theory test to gain a licence to use a car and trailer when there is no reference to trailers on the theory test; if he will consider changing this requirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17338/05]

It is an EU directive requirement that persons seeking to obtain a driving licence for the first time or to add a category to an existing licence must firstly have passed both a theoretical driving test and a practical driving test in respect of the relevant licence categories.

National regulations provide that, with effect from 11 June 2001, applicants for a first provisional licence must submit a theory test certificate in the licence category or categories being applied for. The only exception to this is where the applicant has already submitted a relevant theory test certificate to the licensing authority with another licence application. A theory test certificate in categories ABM and W entitles the holder to apply for a first provisional licence in categories A, A1, B, EB, M and W. It is not possible to exempt any individual from the regulatory requirement to pass the driver theory test as a prerequisite to obtaining a first provisional licence. The question bank for the theory test includes questions related to driving with trailers.

Harbours and Piers.

Enda Kenny

Question:

280 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the funding which has been allocated for the development, upgrade or improvement of piers by his Department each year from 2002 to date in each of counties Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Donegal, Clare and Kerry; if he will provide details of each of these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16978/05]

The information requested is being collated and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Community Development.

Joan Burton

Question:

281 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make a statement on the award of funds by his Department for a proposed play area (details supplied) in Dublin 15; the amount which was awarded; when it was awarded; if the amount was conditioned to be spent by a certain date; the programme heading under which the money was disbursed; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a contractor arrived on site for a brief period, left the site in a mess and that the local people are completely dissatisfied with the work; and the role of Fingal County Council in this case. [17022/05]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Question No. 220 of 11 May 2005.

Post Office Network.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

282 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has proposals to support the development of sub-post offices on the islands and Gaeltacht areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17348/05]

I have no statutory responsibility in relation to postal services. However, earlier this month, officials of my Department met officials of An Post to discuss the feasibility of providing automated post office services on a number of islands. As a result of these discussions, An Post is to submit proposals and cost estimates for this initiative. Any such proposals will be evaluated in the context of the funding available to me for island development purposes and the various demands on that funding. No specific proposals are under consideration at this time in relation to the Gaeltacht.

Grant Payments.

Dan Neville

Question:

283 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding entitlements under the inheritance measure of the single payments scheme in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [16889/05]

The person named submitted an application for consideration in respect of the inheritance measure of the single payment scheme as a result of his parents' deaths and his subsequent inheritances. Following examination and processing of both applications, I am pleased to advise that his applications have been successful and all single payment entitlements established by his parents will be transferred to him. The notification of this decision will issue to him today and a statement of provisional entitlements will be forwarded to the named person shortly.

Denis Naughten

Question:

284 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of applications received by her Department under the national reserve; when entitlements will be allocated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16898/05]

In excess of 17,200 applications have been received under the national reserve in my Departments' Castlebar office. It should be noted that the number of actual files which have to be examined is in excess of 22,500 due to the fact that many farmers applied under more than one of the four categories in the reserve.

The rules governing the single payment scheme stipulate that an applicant who is found to be eligible under more than one category in the reserve may only receive an allocation of entitlements under whichever category is most beneficial to him-her. Therefore an applicant who applied to the reserve under more than one category must be assessed under each category initially to determine eligibility under that category and then a decision must be taken as to which category is most beneficial to him-her.

The applications received are being processed but in view of the number of applications received and the documentation submitted, it will be some time before any allocations are made from the reserve. All applicants will be notified of their eligibility or otherwise as soon as all applications are processed. It is envisaged that all allocations from the national reserve will be made in time for payment of the single payment in December 2005.

EU Directives.

Dan Neville

Question:

285 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the effects of proposed nitrates and proposals to overcome the difficulties presented for the poultry industry. [16915/05]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The nitrates action programme may have implications for the intensive farming sector, particularly in terms of the utilisation of the manure produced by intensive pig and poultry units. Accordingly I have asked my officials to examine various aspects of intensive production in the context of the action programme, including feeding regimes and the storage, treatment and utilisation of manure. I have also asked them to look at the REPS specifications to see how far manure could be accommodated, in place of artificial fertiliser, within the REPS nutrient management regime.

It remains my objective, and it is also the objective of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to reach agreement on an action programme that meets the objectives of the nitrates directive in terms of safeguarding water quality, while also minimising the burden of compliance that the agreement will place on farmers and safeguarding the future of the commercial farming sector.

Grant Payments.

Bernard Allen

Question:

286 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been refused the single payment scheme for consideration of force majeure-exceptional circumstances. [16916/05]

The person named, having been notified that the circumstances outlined by him did not satisfy the criteria for force majeure-exceptional circumstances under Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003, submitted an appeal to the independent single payment appeals committee.

Following a full examination of the circumstances outlined in the appeal, the independent single payment appeals committee made a recommendation and a letter issued to the person named on 13 April 2005. The findings of the appeals committee were that the original decision taken by my Department should be upheld.

The force majeure application on behalf of the person named relates to parcels of cereal land submitted as forage area for the past 15 years on his area aid applications. Both the single payment unit and the single payment appeals committee are satisfied that the circumstances put forward do not fulfil the force majeure criteria under the single payments regulations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

287 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of an application for the fourth round of the horticultural grant scheme by a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; when a decision will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16933/05]

There were 156 applications received by my Department this year under the 2000-2006 NDP scheme of investment aid for the development of the commercial horticulture sector. The application for grant aid in this case is being finalised alongside all the other applications, the outcome of which will be conveyed to him very shortly.

Afforestation Programme.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

288 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the action the Government proposes to take in order to counteract changes proposed in EU grant aid for the forestry sector. [16955/05]

The issues raised by the Deputy relate to the forestry elements contained in the draft rural development regulation 2007-2013, first published by the European Commission in July 2004 and which is the subject of ongoing negotiations in the Council of Ministers.

From the outset, the Irish position on the draft regulation in general, including the specific aspects related to forestry, has been clear. On these forestry aspects, I have pointed to the negative impacts that the proposals would have on the sector, particularly those relating to reduced establishment grants, premiums and associated premium payments periods. Negotiations on the Commission proposals are continuing within the Agriculture Council and, as they progress, I will be pressing for the best possible outcome for Ireland on the package as a whole, including a satisfactory outcome on forestry issues.

Accident Statistics.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

289 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of persons killed or seriously injured by bulls over each of the past three years; the safety regulations in place in relation to bulls in the field, or otherwise; and the position in relation to having a proper bull halter on all bulls. [16957/05]

Statistics supplied by the Health and Safety Authority, HSA, indicate that the numbers of persons killed and seriously injured by bulls since 2003 were as follows:

Killed

Seriously Injured

2003

1

Nil

2004

3

Nil

2005 (to date)

1

Nil

Extensive advice in the handling of bulls and livestock is made available to farmers by the HSA and Teagasc in their publications and on their websites.

Grant Payments.

Tom Hayes

Question:

290 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a decision will be made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [16968/05]

My Department is processing the application of the above-named person. If it is established that the finished works meet all the requirements of the relevant Department's specifications and that all other conditions of the scheme have been met, the application will then be progressed for payment. An officer from my Department's local agricultural, environment and structures office will be in contact with the applicant shortly to arrange the required inspections.

Tom Hayes

Question:

291 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary has not been accepted under the single payment scheme. [16969/05]

The person named, having been notified that the circumstances outlined by him did not satisfy the criteria for force majeure-exceptional circumstances under Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003, submitted an appeal to the independent single payment appeals committee.

Following a full examination of the circumstances outlined in the appeal, the committee made a recommendation and a letter issued to the person named on 30 March 2005. The findings of the appeals committee were that the original decision taken by my Department should be upheld. Neither the extent of the hand injury suffered by the person named nor the effect of the foot and mouth disease outbreak were considered as satisfying the single payment scheme force majeure criteria.

Tom Hayes

Question:

292 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a decision has been made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [16970/05]

The person named, having been notified that the circumstances outlined by him did not satisfy the criteria for force majeure-exceptional circumstances under Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003, submitted an appeal to the independent single payment appeals committee.

Following a full examination of the circumstances outlined in the appeal, the committee made a recommendation and a letter issued to the person named on 31 December 2004. The findings of the appeals committee were that the original decision taken by my Department should be upheld. The person named also submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the single payment scheme national reserve under category C which caters for farmers who, between 1 January 2000 and 19 October 2003, sold their milk quota into the milk quota restructuring scheme and converted their enterprise to a farming sector for which a direct payment under livestock premia and-or arable aid schemes would have been payable during the reference period 2000 to 2002.

The closing date for receipt of completed applications under the national reserve was 16 May 2005 and in excess of 17,200 applications were received and are being processed at present. In view of the number of applications received and the documentation submitted, it will be some time before a decision is reached on whether the person named is entitled to an allocation from the reserve. He will be notified of his eligibility or otherwise as soon as all applications are processed.

Tom Hayes

Question:

293 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a decision has been made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [16971/05]

The person named has submitted an application for consideration in respect of the new entrant measure of the single payment scheme. Following processing of his application, it was noted that two herd numbers were assigned to the person named and as no direct premiums were established in respect of either herd number until 2002, he was notified that his application was successful and that the years 2000 and 2001 would be excluded from the calculation of his single payment entitlements. Both herd numbers have also been associated on the system. A statement of provisional entitlements issued to the person named on 7 February 2005.

Michael Ring

Question:

294 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if, in relation to the suckler cow and slaughter premia, there was an overpayment in regard to a person in County Mayo; and the amount of same. [17014/05]

In October 2004, the person named was notified of penalties amounting to €4,063.81 and an interest charge in regard to detected non-compliance with the REP scheme. Under the 2004 slaughter premium scheme, one eligible animal was slaughtered under the herd number of the person named. The 60% advance payment in respect of this animal, €48, issued on 21 October 2004. The balancing payment of €30.40, which was scheduled to issue on 4 April 2005, did not issue as this amount was offset against the above-mentioned REPS penalty.

The person named applied for premium on 11 animals under the 2004 suckler cow premium scheme. The application has been processed and his 60% advance payment amounting to €1,479.39 issued to him on 18 October 2004. The 40% balancing payment of €986.26 has been offset against the REPS overpayment.

Dan Neville

Question:

295 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when premium will be awarded in respect of 34 bulls to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [17029/05]

The person named submitted two applications under the 2004 special beef premium scheme, in respect of a total of 43 animals, 27 of which were declared as bulls. The first application, in respect of seven animals, six animals for first age premium and one animal for second age premium, was received on 4 November 2004. The second application, in respect of 36 animals, nine animals for first age and 27 bull animals, was received on 30 December 2004.

The 60% advance payment on both applications, together with the interim balancing payments on both applications, issued to the person named on 23 May 2005. The value of these payments was €5,897.10.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

296 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if compensation is available to farmers (details supplied); the assistance which is available to same; the process in these circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17041/05]

No compensation is payable by my Department in the circumstances outlined. The Noxious Weeds Act 1936 makes provision for preventing the growth and spread of certain weeds, including ragworth, and that the owner, occupier, user and manager of lands on which those weeds are growing is liable for prosecution and to be fined if convicted.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

297 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cavan received grant aid of only €2,523; if this is a realistic 40% grant for this person’s investment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17090/05]

The person concerned was an applicant under the dairy hygiene scheme and was given approval to proceed with the investment works concerned on 17 January 2002. Following the completion of the works, the eligible investment costs, based on the Department's standard costings, were calculated to be €6,307.60 and a 40% grant of €2,523.04 paid to the applicant accordingly.

The conditions of the scheme expressly state that the grant will be calculated on the basis of the receipted costs or on the Department's standard costings, whichever is the lesser. I am satisfied, therefore, that the amount of the grant has been calculated correctly in this case.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Michael Lowry

Question:

298 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when she will complete her review of the report on early retirement scheme from farming of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food. [17107/05]

I received the report of the Oireachtas joint committee formally on 7 April. At my request, my officials are considering the recommendations contained in the report having due regard to the terms and conditions both of the early retirement scheme and the European Commission regulations under which both the current and previous schemes were introduced and will report to me as soon as possible.

Michael Lowry

Question:

299 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will implement the recommendations of the report on the early retirement scheme from farming of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food. [17108/05]

I received the report of the Oireachtas joint committee formally on 7 April. I have asked my officials to consider the recommendations contained in the report, having due regard to the terms and conditions both of the early retirement scheme and the European Commission regulations under which both the current and previous schemes were introduced.

Milk Quota.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

300 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the pilot scheme for the allocation of milk quota to certain qualified farm managers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17109/05]

The possible introduction of a pilot scheme for the allocation of milk quota to farm managers was discussed at the milk quota review group last week. The milk quota review group is a group comprised of representatives of the farm organisations, the processing sector, technical advisers and my Department which advises me on matters relating to the management of Ireland's milk quota.

I am considering the review group's recommendation in this matter and I will announce a decision shortly.

Common Agricultural Policy.

Denis Naughten

Question:

301 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food further to her comments (details supplied) if she has discussed the matter with the European Commissioner; the response to date from the Commission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17281/05]

I am seeking a solution to the problem of the special beef premium overshoot and will continue to do so with the European Commissioner. I have already raised the issue with the Commissioner on a number of occasions. My Department has also forwarded a detailed submission to the European Commission dealing with this matter. I am urging that appropriate measures be taken to alleviate the difficulties encountered by beef farmers in Ireland, directly as a result of the ending of the special beef premium scheme in 2004. I expect that a bilateral meeting with Commission officials will take place shortly, at which our concerns will be strongly reiterated. I will decide what further action to take in relation to this matter when I review the outcome of these discussions.

Grant Payments.

Tom Hayes

Question:

302 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding an application for premia subsidy for cattle by a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [17373/05]

Under the 2004 slaughter premium scheme, eight eligible animals were slaughtered under the herd number of the person named. The 60% advance payment in respect of seven animals issued to the person named on 20 October 2004. The sum payable, €336, was reduced by €18.28 being an overpayment under the 2003 slaughter premium scheme which fell due to be recouped. The 60% advance payment in respect of the remaining animal issued to the person named on 1 February 2005. The balancing payment of €242.40 for the eight animals, which issued to the person named on 4 April 2005, reflected the quota cut of 2.13%, which applied to the 2004 scheme.

Legal Aid Service.

Dan Boyle

Question:

303 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of his Department’s support for free legal aid facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17145/05]

My Department provides for wide access to civil legal advice and assistance via the Legal Aid Board and its nationwide network of law centres. The board's services are available to persons of modest means and at little cost. Funding for the board has been increased by 16% since last year to €21.362 million in 2005. An annual grant is also made to the free legal advice centres organisation, FLAC, and €96,000 has been allocated for this purpose in 2005.

Garda Strength.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

304 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the number of gardaí in the Mountmellick area has dropped from seven to four and one sergeant; if he will meet a deputation from Mountmellick Town Council to discuss the issue of Garda numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16907/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of Mountmellick Garda station as at 20 May 2005 was five, all ranks. I am aware of the situation referred to by the Deputy and indeed I had a brief meeting on Monday 16 May 2005, with a small delegation from Mountmellick Town Council to discuss their concerns regarding Garda numbers in the town. Garda management will continue to appraise the policing and administrative strategy employed in Mountmellick Garda station with a view to ensuring that an effective Garda service is maintained.

In relation to Garda resources generally, the Deputy will be aware that in October 2004 the Government approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government in this regard. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force.

The Garda Commissioner will now draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources and in this context the needs of Mountmellick Garda station will be considered in the context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country. Clearly, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies in particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to very significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Finian McGrath

Question:

305 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason he affords himself and the Garda Commissioner the luxury of legal aid on a monthly basis paid for by the taxpayer, while ignoring persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16908/05]

The position in respect of the tribunal in question is that there are a number of parties who have been given the right of legal representation. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Commissioner are two of these parties. It has been the practice, where legal teams are engaged on behalf of the State or its agencies, that they receive their fees as the work progresses. Private individuals who have been given the right of legal representation will presumably have entered into their own arrangements with their legal representatives in relation to the payment of legal costs incurred by them.

The position in relation to the awarding of costs is a matter for the tribunal under the provisions of the Tribunal of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts 1921 to 2002. The Acts provide that a tribunal which, having regard to its findings and all other relevant matters, is of opinion that there are sufficient grounds to do so, can order the whole or part of the costs of representation of a person appearing before it to be paid.

Garda Stations.

Dan Neville

Question:

306 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the construction of a Garda barracks at Kilfinane, County Limerick. [16909/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to his Question No. 312 of Wednesday, 2 February 2005 regarding this Garda station. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the position in relation to this Garda station remains unchanged.

Coroners Service.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

307 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will introduce legislation to compel, if necessary, the attendance of witnesses to give evidence at inquests as required by county coroners (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16945/05]

I refer the Deputy to my answers to Questions Nos. 10 and 28 of 17 May 2005. The position has not changed.

National Identity Card.

Joe Costello

Question:

308 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has considered the implications for this State and for the common travel area between Ireland and the United Kingdom of the introduction in that jurisdiction of mandatory identity papers, as proposed by the British Government; if he has discussed or proposes to discuss the issue with his British counterpart; if he has received or will invite views from the Northern Ireland parties on the question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16961/05]

At the outset, I should say that Irish immigration law, for which I have primary responsibility, does not confer the benefits of passport free travel within the common travel area on persons other than Irish or British citizens. I assume therefore that the implications to which the Deputy refers are implications for Irish and British citizens arising from the UK proposals in relation to ID cards. I am continuing to monitor closely developments in the United Kingdom with a particular focus on any effects of the identity card programme on the common travel area. I understand that other interested Departments and the Embassy in London have also been actively monitoring events and have also held meetings with Home Office officials. Also, the Department of Foreign Affairs has recently convened an interdepartmental group to consider the British plans.

Officials from my Department have held a number of meetings with officials from the Home Office on the identity card scheme. The British authorities have stated that they recognise the need to reflect the provisions of the British Nationality Act 1948, the Ireland Act 1949 and the Good Friday Agreement which guarantee the status of Irish citizens in the United Kingdom. A particular concern of mine relates to the position of cross-Border workers and Irish citizens generally who live in Northern Ireland. I raised these and other issues at a meeting with the Home Secretary, the Right Honourable Charles Clarke MP, in Brussels on 24 February 2005. The Home Secretary undertook to speak to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about these issues and to forward a report by June. On receipt of that report, I will consider if it is necessary to consult with the parties in Northern Ireland.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Phil Hogan

Question:

309 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if residents here who access gambling services over the Internet are liable to prosecution for the breach of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1979; if Internet service providers established here or otherwise hosting or facilitating such access will be liable to prosecution under the same Act; if prosecutions have been taken in respect of such breaches; if the legislation needs to be reformed to take account of the global economy introduced with the Internet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16974/05]

The Deputy will be aware that what is deemed to be illegal off-line is also illegal on-line, and this is the case in relation to the provisions of the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 -1986. An interdepartmental review group, tasked to examine the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956-1986 noted that

" liability issues in the internet gambling area are likely to be as complex as in other areas of Internet activity. For example, in an internet environment, special consideration would have to be given to both the liability and protection of the player. With Internet operations, the provider may not be within the jurisdiction and may be providing a service which may be legal where the service is being hosted, but illegal where the service is being accessed. This is not an unusual phenomenon in Internet services. The logistical (not to speak of legal) difficulties of dealing with this situation and of enforcing the law at player level are enormous. Attempts to fix liability at Internet Service Provider Level are also fraught with difficulties.‘

Under a code of practice and ethics agreed by the Irish Internet service provider industry in 2002, material or services that are illegal under Irish law will not be carried on Irish servers, and if such is found they will be removed immediately under agreed protocols.

The range of illegal uses of the Internet and the enforcement difficulties associated with such use were also examined in the first report of the working group on the illegal and harmful use of the Internet published in 1998. While that report did not examine the specific problems associated with gambling on the Internet, many of the conclusions reached in the report are valid for the gambling area. There is no record of prosecutions in respect of Internet gaming offences.

Residency Permits.

Jack Wall

Question:

310 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be issued with an up-to-date certificate of registration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16977/05]

An application was received in my Department on 8 March 2005 from the person concerned seeking permission to remain in the State on the basis of his parentage of an Irish-born child under the revised arrangements announced by me on 15 January 2005. A letter has recently issued to the person concerned informing him that he has been granted permission to remain in the State for two years until 27 April 2007. The person concerned should register at his local Garda district headquarters station on receipt of this letter, whereupon he will be presented with a certificate of registration which shows that he has been given permission to remain in the State.

Asylum Applications.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

311 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application by a person (details supplied) for asylum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16991/05]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 18 June 2003 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 section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, she was informed by letter dated 22 April 2005 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State, leaving the State before an order is made or consenting to the making of a deportation order.

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

Asylum Support Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

312 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will describe each property which has been acquired or leased by the State to accommodate asylum seekers; when agreements were signed in respect of each property; the cost of each transaction; the number of asylum seekers accommodated in each property; the position of each property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16993/05]

The procurement of suitable accommodation for asylum seekers continues to pose significant challenges for the Reception and Integration Agency, RIA. Since mid-December 2004 when the details were announced of the scheme for processing applications for leave to remain from non-national parents of Irish-born children, the numbers being accommodated have risen by more than 22%. The RIA is accommodating 8,034 asylum seekers in 84 centres located in 25 counties. Since the system of direct provision and dispersal was introduced in 2000, more than 38,000 asylum applicants have been accommodated by RIA. The properties currently in use are listed in the following table.

List of Current Centres 19.05.2005.

County

Direct Provision Accommodation Centres [Commercial]

Capacity

Initially Engaged

Occupancy Category

Type

1

Carlow

Milverton House, Montgomery St., Carlow

30

06.11.2000

SM

GT

2

Clare

The Clare Lodge, Summerhill, Ennis

65

01.04.2000

SM

HOS

3

Corofin Holiday Hostel, Corofin

18

25.04.2000

SM

HOS

4

Scariff Court Hotel, Main St. Scariff

74

12.04.2001

F

HOT

5

Cork

An Poc Fada, Cobh

43

13.06.2001

SM

HOS

6

Ashbourne Hse Hotel, Glounthane

108

20.06.2000

F

HOT

7

Clonakilty Lodge, Clonakilty

95

10.01.2000

F

HOS

8

Glen Vera, Wellington Road, Cork

104

19.12.2001

C/S

HOT

9

Millstreet Accommodation Centre

195

31.10.2000

F/SF

FC/NH

10

North Quay Place, Cork

274

17.07.2000

S/C

HOS

11

Slip House, Newtown, Bantry

36

30.08.2001

F/C

FC/NH

12

Donegal

Cliffview, Donegal Town

67

25.04.2000

SM

HOS

13

Dublin

Camden Hall Hotel, 1 Upper Camden St. Dublin 2

76

23.07.2001

F/S

HOT

14

24 Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2

19

07.05.2003

S

HOS

15

70 Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2

15

01.05.2004

S/F

HOS

16

10 Nth. Frederick Street, Dublin 1

33

12.04.2000

SM

HOS

17

14 Gardiner Place, Dublin 1

34

13.03.2000

SM

HOT

18

The Horse & Carriage, Aungier St., Dublin 2

26

10.04.2001

SM

GT

19

Balseskin Reception Centre, St Margaret’s Rd, Finglas, Dublin 11

381

21.12.2001

R

SYS

20

Kilmarnock House, Military Rd., Killiney

125

18.04.2003

F/S

GT

21

Kilmacud House, Upr Kilmacud Rd, Stillorgan, Co Dublin

90

14.02.2001

R

FC/NH

22

Georgian Court, 77-79 Lr Gardiner St., Dublin 1

110

25.01.2005

R

HOT

23

Hatch Hall, 28 Lr Hatch St., Dublin 2

170

21.02.2005

R

HOS

24

Morehampton House, 78 Morehampton Rd., Donnybrook, D.4

60

06.05.2004

S

GT

25

Newlight House, St. Margarets

36

11.09.2000

F

GT

26

Viking Lodge Hotel, 34-36 Francis St, Dublin 8

78

06.04.2000

S

HOT

27

Galway

Dun Gibbons Inn, Clifden

97

22.12.1999

F/SF

HOS

28

Eglinton Hotel, Salthill, Galway

235

17.01.2000

F/SF

HOT

29

Great Western House, Eyre Square, Galway

180

04.09.2000

C/S

HOS

30

Cloonabinnia Hotel, Moycullen

86

09.05.2005

F

HOT

31

Kerry

Atlantic Lodge, Kenmare

56

17.04.2000

F

HOS

32

Linden House, New Road, Killarney

60

12.05.2005

HOT

33

The Village House, Glenbeigh Village

14

09.10.2000

F

GT

34

Westward Court, Main St., Tralee

100

29.12.1999

SM

HOS

35

Kildare

Eyre Powell Hotel, Main St., Newbridge

100

30.04.2003

F

HOT

36

Hillview, Prosperous

34

14.04.2003

F/SF

GT

37

Kilkenny

Ormonde House Hotel, John’s Green, Kilkenny

82

19.12.2000

SM

HOS

38

Laois

Hibernian Hotel, Abbeyleix

55

02.07.2001

F/C

HOT

39

Leitrim

Sliabh an Iarainn, Ballinamore

50

26.11.2001

F/C

HOT

40

Limerick

Clyde House, St. Alphonsus St., Limerick

110

26.06.2000

S

HOS

41

Shannonside Holiday Hostel, Old Cratloe Rd. Limerick

94

09.07.2001

S/M

HOS

42

Westbourne Holiday Hostel, Dock Rd., Limerick

105

25.06.2001

S

HOS

43

Mount Trenchard, Foynes

100

04.05.2004

F/M/SF

FC

44

Longford

Richmond Court, Richmond St., Longford

66

28.11.2000

SM

HOT

45

Louth

Kincora House, Seatown Place, Dundalk

35

22.05.2000

SM

GT

46

Mayo

Former Sisters of Mercy Convent, Ballyhaunis

110

30.07.2001

F/C

FC/NH

47

Imperial Hotel, Main Street, Charlestown

20

06.05.2005

F

HOT

48

The Quiet Man Hostel, Abbey St., Cong

19

24.01.2000

F/SF

HOS

49

Railway Hotel, James’s St., Kiltimagh

90

11.12.2003

F

HOT

50

Meath

Mosney Holiday Centre, Mosney

800

07.12.2000

F/C/SF

HC

51

Monaghan

St Patrick’s Former Agricultural College, Monaghan

154

24.12.2001

F

FC/NH

52

Offaly

The Maltings, Birr

60

10.01.2000

F

HOT

53

Sligo

Globe House, Chapel Hill, Sligo

200

30.07.2004

F/C/SF

FC/NH

54

Tipperary (Nth)

Clodagh Bar, Main St., Borrisoleigh

30

09.05.2000

F/SF

GT

55

Tipperary (Sth)

Bridgewater House, Carrick-on-Suir

95

19.12.2001

F/C

FC/NH

56

Vee Valley Hotel, Clogheen

25

17.07.2000

S/F

HOT

57

Waterford

Atlantic House + Coltro, Tramore

78

15.01.2001

C/F

GT

58

Ocean View + Boathouse, Tramore

75

22.05.2000

C/F

GT

59

Ursuline complex, Ballytruckle Road, Waterford

170

15.05.2001

FC/NH

60

Viking House, Coffee House Lane, Waterford

100

24.05.2001

SM

GT

61

Wexford

Old Rectory, Rosbercon, New Ross

58

19.02.2001

S/C

HOT

62

Wicklow

Beechlawn B&B, Corballis, Rathdrum

20

23.12.1999

F/C

GT

63

The Warrens, Kilmantin Hill, Wicklow

22

20.04.2001

SM

GT

Total

6,147

County

Direct Provision Accommodation Centres [State Owned]

Capacity

Initially Engaged

Occupancy Category

Type

64

Clare

Knockalisheen

300

24.09.2001

F/S

SYS

65

Cork

Kinsale Road

300

01.09.2002

F/S

SYS

66

Kerry

Atlas House, Killarney

94

08.01.2002

F

HOT

67

Atlas House, Tralee

100

13.08.2001

F

HOT

68

Ballymullen Barracks, Tralee

120

00.08.2000

F

MOB

69

Johnston Marina, Tralee

106

25.04.2000

F

HOT

70

Park Lodge, Park Road, Killarney

55

24.04.2001

F/SF

HOT

71

Kildare

Magee Barracks, Kildare Town.

175

01.07.2000

F

MOB

72

Westmeath

Lissywoolen Accommodation Centre, Athlone

375

22.05.2000

F

MOB

Total

1,625

County

Self-Catering Accommodation [Apartments]

Capacity

Initially Engaged

Occupancy Category

73

Cork

73-75 Davis Street, Mallow

50

14.07.2004

S/F

74

Dublin

Ard Erdrad Apts, Blakestown Rd., Mulhuddart, D.15

100

10.03.2004

F

75

Glenview House, Glenview Lawns, Balrothery, Tallaght, D. 24

75

01.04.2003

S/F

76

James’ St. Apartments, 140-142 James’ St., Dublin 8

34

06.04.2003

S/F

77

Montpellier Hill Apartments, 57-63 Montpellier Hill, D.7

69

01.04.2003

S/F

78

Tathony House, Bow Lane West, Dublin 8

83

19.03.2003

S/F

79

Watergate House, 11-14 Ushers Quay, Dublin 8

76

01.04.2003

S/F

80

Harbour View, Grand Canal Place, Dublin 8

24

22.03.2005

S/F

81

7 Portobello Harbour, Dublin 8

14

08.03.2005

S/F/SF

82

Louth

Carroll Village, Dundalk

250

29.03.2005

F

83

Offaly

11-12 Church Street, Tullamore

84

07.09.2004

S/F

84

Roscommon

Apartments, Station Road, Ballaghaderreen

86

13.07.2004

F

Total

945

Occupancy Category: S Singles; C Couples; F Families; SM Single Males; SF Single Females, R Reception Centre.

Type: GT: Guest House, HOS: Hostel, SYS: System Built, HOT: Hotel, MOB: Mobile Home Site, HC: Holiday Centre, FC/NH: Former College / Nursing Home.

Between December 1999 and 10 April 2000, when direct provision was introduced, the rates paid to the providers of direct provision accommodation ranged from €200 per person per week, pppw, to €344 pppw. The rates have dropped steadily since then. Currently, the scale of payments for the provision of direct provision accommodation fall within the range €189 —€275.66 pppw.

Current payments for the provision of self-catering accommodation for asylum seekers fall within the range €133.70 —€147.00 pppw. The standard rate paid in respect of accommodation within State-owned centres falls within the range €83.72 —€135.31 pppw. This figure does not include the cost of maintenance at these sites.

Child Care Services.

David Stanton

Question:

313 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the membership of the city and county child care committees; the amount expended by each of these committees each year since they were established; if the work of the committees has been evaluated; his further plans for the future development of these committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17003/05]

The city and county child care committees, CCCs, have a broad membership drawn from statutory and non-statutory bodies and include parent and provider representatives and a wide representation of child care interests in the relevant county. The typical membership of a CCC would include representatives of the Health Service Executive, local uthority, social partners, VEC, FÁS or local employment service,area partnerships, national voluntary child care organisations, community groups active in the development of child care in an area, private child care providers, parents, and other individuals as appropriate. The chairperson of each committee is automatically a member of the county development board, ensuring that child care remains a central aspect of each county's development plan.

The strategic objective of each of the 33 city and county child care committees, established under the equal opportunities child care programme 2000-2006, EOCP, is to advance the provision of quality child care services within the local areas through development of a co-ordinated strategy for childcare provision in the area-based on analysis of needs and overseeing effective implementation against targets set by the committee; development of an information strategy concerning the provision of child care within the county which also updates and develops the baseline data provided in the national child care census; and development and support of local county wide networks and initiatives which target all categories of child care providers. In 2005 the total funding allocated to the CCCs under the EOCP amounts to €7.6 million with a further €965,000 allocated for training, information and networking actions as part of the national childminding initiative.

The following table outlines the total expenditure reported of each CCC in each of the years since they were established. The table also outlines the total spending reported by the CCCs in the first three months of 2005.

Equal Opportunities Child Care Programme

County Child Care Committee Expenditure Reported

Total Expenditure Reported for the following Periods

Year ended 31/12/2000

Year ended 31/12/2001

Year ended 31/12/2002

Year ended 31/12/2003

Year ended 31/12/2004

Quarter Ended 31/03/2005

Border, Midlands and West Region

Cavan CCC

38,277

136,619

206,260

190,388

45,121

Donegal CCC

39,064

203,117

317,964

288,566

74,033

Galway CCC

17,889

109,084

170,818

526,855

451,605

97,085

Laois CCC

1,163

85,328

155,505

169,849

23,588

Leitrim CCC

3,660

92,103

231,956

192,017

32,506

Longford CCC

7,906

117,918

178,136

186,577

41,431

Louth CCC

136,171

217,261

207,170

41,225

Mayo CCC

3,308

19,555

242,468

226,206

50,327

Monagghan CCC

26,880

140,392

243,956

203,538

50,479

Offaly CCC

4,260

73,466

221,311

190,617

33,501

Roscommon CCC

74,881

214,128

194,009

37,458

Sligo CCC

180,963

215,715

157,820

41,859

Westmeath CCC

167,390

231,555

215,905

43,360

Total BMW

17,889

233,602

1,598,721

3,203,070

2,874,267

611,973

South and East Region

Carlow CCC

8,656

91,434

183,038

174,814

48,504

Clare CCC

14,007

153,781

244,550

226,423

47,347

Cork City CC

92,596

260,445

233,133

38,994

Cork County CC

92,545

369,459

303,802

Dublin City CC

53,623

473,125

380,031

162,707

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown CCC

42,435

196,377

248,160

54,430

Fingal CCC

13,623

50,453

231,765

318,889

49,476

Kerry CCC

158,583

329,690

274,808

32,838

Kildare CCC

65,321

294,274

300,665

59,990

Kilkenny CCC

126,866

212,640

175,516

32,914

Limerick City CC

64,344

144,000

179,115

Limerick County CC

130,501

303,265

243,966

55,819

Meath CCC

97,516

291,058

293,103

61,350

South Dublin CC

34,707

165,931

193,601

40,603

Tipperary North CC

107,226

222,076

192,520

23,286

Tipperary South CC

13,455

119,001

211,238

189,078

37,371

Waterford City CC

9,416

53,098

200,422

183,064

45,443

Waterford County CC

19,631

50,625

203,061

195,493

95,694

Wexford CCC

23,256

140,807

320,504

253,649

58,795

Wicklow CCC

63,390

169,959

241,080

41,804

Total for the SAE

102,044

1,788,852

5,026,877

4,800,910

987,365

Total for EOCP

17,889

335,646

3,387,573

8,229,947

7,675,177

1,599,338

In 2001, each CCC was asked to prepare a five-year strategic plan for the development of child care services to address the specific child care needs of its own area. The strategy set out the framework for the development of child care based on a shared vision and analysis of the needs within the county. Each strategy was thoroughly appraised prior to its being approved by the national child care co-ordinating committee. The strategic plan outlines the committee's aims and objectives over the five-year period and is implemented through yearly action plans which receive funding under the programme. The annual action plans are subject to a thorough appraisal before the applications are approved for funding by myself through the programme appraisal committee structure.

In order that the EOCP be enabled to adequately track and report upon the wide range of work being undertaken by the CCCs with the assistance of EOCP funding, the CCCs are required to submit a range of reports to fulfil monitoring requirements including annual action plans, quarterly updates on progress, and annual reports. The CCCs are also required to submit quarterly financial reports to ADM which monitors the EOCP on behalf of and in conjunction with my Department. The EOCP is monitored using a number of indicators over the three strands of the programme. The CCCs are monitored on a quarterly basis using the following indicators:

Quality

Number of Providers supported in developing policies and procedures

Number of actions/initiatives aimed at increasing the range of childcare services in the county/city

Capacity Building (Providers)

Number of Providers supported at pre-development stage

Number of providers assisted at pre-application stage

Number of providers assisted by CCC who submitted an EOCP application

Number of providers supported to meet ADM reporting requirements

Information

Number of research initiatives/audits/needs analyses completed

Number of publications completed

Number of information sessions held

Networking

Number of provider networks supported by the CCC

Number of providers affiliated to CCC supported networks (excl. childminders)

Number of parent networks supported by the CCC

Number of parents affiliated to CCC supported networks

Number of inter agency collaborative actions/initiatives (excl. other CCCs)

Number of collaborative actions/initiatives with other CCC(s)

Social Inclusion

Number of initiatives focused specifically on disadvantaged groups

Number of providers from disadvantaged areas given advice/support

Number of providers from disadvantaged areas who were supported by the CCC and who submitted applications to the EOCP

Equality and Diversity

Number of initiatives specifically aimed at promoting greater participation in childcare by children with special needs

Number of initiatives specifically aimed at promoting greater participation in childcare by members of ethnic minorities/Travellers

Number of providers (new/existing) given advice/training on special needs

Number of providers (new/existing) given advice/training on equality/ diversity issues (other than special needs issues)

Training

Number of training courses

Number of training hours (total from all courses)

Number of people referred by the CCC to other agencies for training

Total number of participants on training courses (excl. childminders)

Number of participants on accredited training (excl. childminders)

Number of participants who completed accredited training (excl. childminders)

Capacity Building (CCC Board and Staff)

Number of full committee meetings held

Number of facilitated capacity building sessions for the committee

Number of training courses completed by CCC staff members

Childminding

Number of Childminder grant applications received

Number of Childminder grants approved

Number of Childminders operating in the county/city who are known to the CCC

Number of Childminder networks supported by the CCC

Number of Childminders affiliated to CCC supported networks

Number of Childminders in the county/city notified to the HSE

Number of information sessions for Childminders

Number of Childminder participants in CCC run/facilitated training

Number of Childminder participants on accredited training

Number of Childminders who completed accredited training

The CCCs play a pivotal role under the equal opportunities child care programme providing a local focus in the development of child care infrastructure in Ireland and bringing quality awareness to the child care sector throughout the country. This role will further evolve over time, and I look forward to seeing them play an even greater part in the development of Irish child care over the coming years.

Garda Deployment.

Tony Gregory

Question:

314 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost to the State in the provision of gardaí for cordon and other duties on major match days at Croke Park, Dublin 1; the contribution made by the GAA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17005/05]

Over the years numerous organisations have requested and have been given the assistance of gardaí on a non-public duty basis. Traditionally, gardaí have been made available for the performance of such duties and the State has charged for their services. This work is done by members of the force who would otherwise be off duty. At present, organisers of events pay for the cost of non-public duties performed by gardaí on duty inside the event location, for example at sporting events, major GAA or soccer matches, rock concerts, etc. The cost of policing duties performed by gardaí outside of the event location, such as traffic control, beat patrols and other policing duties which would be additional to those normally performed at the location are not paid for by the organisers of the event and fall to be paid from public funds. The Garda authorities point out that in many cases, it is difficult to define where public duty ends and where non-public duty liability of the organisations begins but that the safety of the public must be the ultimate consideration.

The level of policing for match days in Croke Park is determined by the anticipated attendance numbers. The following examples may be of assistance to the Deputy. The total policing costs of the all-Ireland hurling final in 2004 amounted to approximately €101,000. This figure includes the payroll costs and travel and subsistence for gardaí engaged on duty in Croke Park and in the provision of cordon and all other directly related duties. The GAA contributed a sum of €61,139 to the Garda Vote to partly reimburse this expenditure. The total cost of policing the 2004 Ulster final amounted to approximately €75,000 to which the GAA contributed €33,000.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

315 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost to date to the Garda Síochána and his Department of all the various aspects of the inquiry into the death of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17006/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

328 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost to the taxpayer of the Barron investigation from 14 October 1996 to date; the cost of investigations (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17214/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 315 and 328 together.

Investigations are undertaken as part of normal duties. Therefore the multitude of different costs incurred by the inquiry into the death of Mr. Barron and by the related investigations referred to by the Deputies were accounted for in the normal manner under the relevant general sub-heads of the Votes concerned. For this reason it would not be possible to cost the named investigations retrospectively without the reallocation of scarce resources on a scale that would be impractical. The cumulative cost of the Morris tribunal from April 2002 to the end of April 2005 is €16.9 million. The element of these costs that are attributable to legal representation for the Commissioner and the Garda Síochána is €2.7 million.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

316 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda Commissioner had any input into the selection and appointment of persons (details supplied) to the Morris tribunal; if so, the extent of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17007/05]

The selection of investigators was a matter for the tribunal. The practical arrangements necessary for their appointment were carried out by my Department. The Garda Commissioner had no involvement in the selection and appointment process.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

317 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a dealing has been registered in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and the position regarding same. [17013/05]

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, of the Registration of Titles Act 1964 which was lodged on 20 December 2000. Dealing Number D2000SM009626Y refers. I am further informed that this application was completed on 19 March 2004.

Visa Applications.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

318 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a visa was refused to a person (details supplied); the further information the person needs to provide to obtain the visa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17035/05]

The Deputy has referred to two visa applications in his parliamentary question.

Application number 1514067 was refused by my Department at initial stage on 15 April 2004 and as such is no longer under active consideration by my Department. The applicant was fully informed of the reasons for refusal by my Department on 26 April 2004. Application number 1485852 refers to a more current application. This application was refused by my Department on 11 April 2005.

The applicant has already been informed, by post from my Department on 3 May 2005 of the reasons for refusal. The visa officer examining this case was unable to satisfy himself, based on the evidence supplied, that the applicant would necessarily observe the conditions of the visa applied for, were it to issue. The visa officer was likewise unable to establish, from the information supplied, that the applicant had sufficient social, family, economic or other ties in their country of origin to guarantee their return. Based on the evidence supplied, the visa officer determined that the level of finances available to the applicant were insufficient to support her while in the State.

As mentioned, the applicant was previously notified through the standard and correct channels of the reasons for refusal. On foot of this notification, she submitted an appeal which was received by my Department on 17 May 2005. As an appeal is pending it would not be appropriate to comment further on the specifics of this case. However, the applicant can expect a decision on the appeal within three to four weeks of the date of its receipt.

Crime Levels.

Tony Gregory

Question:

319 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda has received reports of cocaine dealing in areas (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17087/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that local Garda management is not aware of any incidents of cocaine dealing at the location specified by the Deputy. In recent months one premises in the locality has been the subject of a planned search under the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977 to 1984. However, I am informed by the Garda authorities that no evidence of cocaine dealing in the area was established. I understand that there are daily foot and mobile patrols in the area and that gardaí attached to the divisional drugs unit and the Store Street community policing unit continue to liaise with the local traders association with a view to eradicating any drug use in the area.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

320 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for Bandon Garda district in west Cork for the years 2000 to 2004 respectively; and if he will give consideration to establishing a further Garda presence in the area. [17092/05]

In relation to crime figures the Deputy will be aware that on becoming Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I arranged for the publication of headline crime statistics on a quarterly basis in order to improve the quality of information available to the public. While caution should be exercised in interpreting levels of crime between quarters, I am pleased to note that during my term of office as Minister, the quarterly crime rate has decreased from 6.7 per 1,000 population to 6 per 1,000 over the longer period of eleven quarters for which figures are available. This trend is reflected throughout most Garda districts in the country. In interpreting these figures, account has also to be taken of the introduction of the new PULSE computer system by the Garda Síochána in 1999 which led to more complete and comprehensive recording of crimes reported than was previously the case. The Deputy will also wish to be aware that, taking into account the significant increase in our population since 1995, the headline crime rate has fallen from 29 per 1,000 population in 1995 to 25 per 1,000 population in 2004.

The following tables show the headline offences for the years 2000 to 2004 inclusive, for the Bandon Garda district. I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of the Cork west division as at 20 May 2005 was 253, all ranks. The personnel strength of Bandon Garda district as at 20 May 2005 was 88, all ranks. The personnel strength of Bandon Garda station as at 20 May 2005 was 65, all ranks. The number of Garda personnel assigned to each station, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, is continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public. Bandon Garda station is open to the public on a 24-hour basis. Accordingly, gardaí attached to Bandon Garda station provide a 24-hour service to the Bandon district.

In relation to Garda resources generally, I am very pleased that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government in this regard. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government, and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force.

Headline Offences Recorded and Detected for Bandon Garda District from 2000 to 2004*

Year

2004*

2003

2002

2001

2000

Rec

Dec

Rec

Dec

Rec

Dec

Rec

Dec

Rec

Dec

Homicide

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Assault

46

44

37

35

39

30

52

47

34

33

Sexual Offences

12

6

9

6

23

21

11

10

11

11

Arson

9

5

6

1

8

1

4

2

0

0

Drugs

8

8

20

20

19

19

22

22

8

8

Thefts

215

72

212

66

216

71

190

60

153

73

Burglary

103

40

89

31

101

19

160

61

90

24

Robbery

1

0

1

0

5

3

4

1

1

1

Fraud

16

12

12

7

33

30

32

27

14

9

Other

10

6

8

7

6

6

3

3

2

2

Total

420

193

394

173

450

200

478

233

313

161

*Statistics for 2004 are provisional/operational and liable to change.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

321 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of crimes, across all headings, recorded and detected for the years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004, for Listowel Garda district, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17173/05]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

322 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of crimes, across all headings, recorded and detected for the years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004, for Tralee Garda district, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17175/05]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

323 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of crimes, across all headings, recorded and detected for the years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004, for Castleisland Garda district, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17176/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 321 to 323, inclusive, together.

The Deputy will be aware that on becoming Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I arranged for the publication of headline crime statistics on a quarterly basis to improve the quality of information available to the public. While caution should be exercised in interpreting levels of crime between quarters, I am pleased to note that during my term of office as Minister, the quarterly crime rate has decreased from 6.7 per 1,000 population to six per 1,000 over the longer period of 11 quarters for which figures are available. This trend is reflected throughout most Garda districts in the country. In interpreting these figures, account has also to be taken of the introduction of the new PULSE computer system by the Garda Síochána in 1999, which led to more complete and comprehensive recording of crimes reported than was previously the case. The Deputy will also wish to be aware that, taking into account the significant increase in our population since 1995, the headline crime rate has fallen from 29 per 1,000 population in 1995 to 25 per 1,000 population in 2004.

The following tables show the headline offences, for the years 2000 to 2004 inclusive, for the Listowel Garda district, the Tralee Garda district and the Killarney Garda district, which covers the Castleisland area.

Table 1: Headline Offences Recorded and Detected for Listowel Garda District from 2000 to 2004*.

Year

2004*

2003

2002

2001

2000

Rec

Dec

Rec

Dec

Rec

Dec

Rec

Dec

Rec

Dec

Homicide

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

Assault

26

19

19

18

26

23

22

18

5

5

Sexual Offences

13

5

11

6

11

7

10

5

3

3

Arson

6

1

2

0

2

1

6

1

4

2

Drugs

10

10

5

5

16

16

11

11

6

6

Thefts

109

32

161

52

181

46

108

34

84

36

Burglary

82

27

67

28

81

32

97

32

70

29

Robbery

5

4

1

1

1

1

2

0

2

2

Fraud

21

20

4

2

9

8

10

8

12

9

Other

4

2

2

1

3

2

2

1

1

1

Total

276

120

272

113

331

137

268

110

187

93

*Statistics for 2004 are provisional/operational and liable to change.

Table 2: Headline Offences Recorded and Detected for Tralee Garda District from 2000 to 2004*.

Year

2004*

2003

2002

2001

2000

Rec

Dec

Rec

Dec

Rec

Dec

Rec

Dec

Rec

Dec

Homicide

2

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Assault

50

37

48

38

57

46

54

39

23

20

Sexual Offences

32

10

20

12

31

11

8

7

4

2