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 10, inclusive, answered orally.
Question No. 11 answered with QuestionNo. 7.

Tourism Industry.

Joan Burton

Question:

12 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to recent comments from the head of Dublin Tourism (details supplied) that Dublin’s status as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe is attributable in a large part to the efforts of Dublin Tourism; his views on whether any move to amalgamate Dublin Tourism with Fáilte Ireland would harm Dublin’s tourism potential; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20278/05]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

19 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has completed his review of the report (details supplied) on the RTAs; if he intends to implement the recommendation contained in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20190/05]

Joe Costello

Question:

30 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the future of the 68 Dublin Tourism outlets and offices are secure in view of the report (details supplied) advocating the abolition of the agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20279/05]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

44 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has received a copy of the report (details supplied) that advocates the abolition of Dublin Tourism; if so, his views on the report; his further views on whether Dublin Tourism should be amalgamated with Fáilte Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20277/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12, 19, 30 and 44 together.

As I advised the House on 10 May 2005, there has been a major reform of Irish tourism structures in recent years with the setting up of Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland. Reform of the function, role and operational structure of regional tourism is the third and final leg of that reform process.

The House will be aware that I have no direct responsibility in relation to the most appropriate regional structures for the discharge of Fáilte Ireland's functions and the relationships and arrangements that should apply at regional level — this is effectively a day-to-day matter for Fáilte Ireland itself.

The House will also be aware that, in response to a recommendation in the tourism action plan set out in the Report of the Tourism Policy Review Group, Fáilte Ireland commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers, PWC, to conduct a major consultancy study of regional tourism structures as it sought to determine how best to carry out its new development mandate countrywide. I received a copy of that report on 13 April last, together with a letter from the chair of the Fáilte Ireland Authority indicating that the authority endorsed the recommendations in the report at its meeting on Thursday, 7 April. This report has been published and widely circulated by Fáilte Ireland and is available on its website.

I have been informed by Fáilte Ireland that the PWC report highlights the need for a much wider brief for regional tourism, playing a strategic rather than administrative role and inputting more directly into national policy. It recommends a greatly increased emphasis on targeted marketing, product development and enterprise support. It suggests establishing an integrated linkage between regional tourism strategy and national policy and exploiting avenues to leverage increased resources.

As far as the Dublin region is concerned, the authority arranged for a short engagement with the relevant parties in order to satisfy interests in the Dublin region that the mechanisms of consultation were complete. A small independent group, chaired by Mr. John Travers, facilitated this process and I understand that the issue was discussed yesterday at a meeting of the Fáilte Ireland Authority. I also understand that Mr. Travers will be submitting his group's report shortly to Fáilte Ireland, following which the authority will make known its views to me.

My consideration of the policy implications of these views, together with the views of the industry, will continue over the coming weeks. I will be discussing the issue with the regional tourism authorities prior to the implementation by Fáilte Ireland of any changes to the existing regional arrangements.

As I have said previously, there will be changes on foot of the PWC report. My key concern is to ensure that whatever changes are made result in more efficient and effective regional structures to service the needs of the visitor and the needs of the industry. The background work towards achieving this objective has been substantially completed and I expect to be in a position to take further steps towards implementation in the near future.

Abbey Theatre.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

13 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has received any request from the Abbey Theatre for increased funding following the exceptional losses which the theatre incurred in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20287/05]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

40 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has had any contact with the Abbey Theatre with regard to recent disclosures regarding the financial position of the theatre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20200/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 40 together.

As Minister, I have no statutory responsibility for the Abbey, which is operated by the National Theatre Society Limited, a private company limited by guarantee. My Department and I maintain liaison with the Abbey at various levels, and I have been briefed on recent developments regarding the theatre's finances and financial accounts.

State subvention to the Abbey is provided by the Arts Council, which is a statutory agency under the aegis of my Department, and one that is independent in the disbursement of its funds under the provisions of the Arts Act 2003.

The Abbey is a key part of Ireland's cultural fabric, and it is imperative that it be placed on a sustainable basis for the future. This was the background to the decision of the Arts Council late last year to allocate an additional €2 million to the theatre. The release of this funding was conditional on the implementation by the Abbey of a wide-ranging change management programme as agreed with the council. I understand that good progress is being made on many fronts with the delivery of this programme.

I was very disappointed to hear last month of the shortcomings in the Abbey's financial management system to which the Deputy refers and on which my Department was given a courtesy briefing both by the chair of the board of the Abbey and the Arts Council. That said, I welcome the decision of the board of the theatre to engage independent financial expertise to carry out a root and branch evaluation of the Abbey's finances. I understand that this report should be available by the end of this month and that it will then be discussed with the Arts Council following which appropriate corrective action will be taken.

Question No. 14 answered with QuestionNo. 6.

National Concert Hall.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

15 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has concluded discussions with the Department of Education and Science, the Office of Public Works and University College Dublin in regard to the relocation of the UCD site to Earlsfort Terrace to allow for the redevelopment of the National Concert Hall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20285/05]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

22 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has considered the proposals for the expansion of the National Concert Hall; if discussions have taken place with University College Dublin regarding the acquisition of buildings at Earlsfort Terrace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20206/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 22 together.

As I have advised the House previously, officials from my Department and the Office of Public Works over several years engaged in extensive consultations and investigations with a view to identifying a suitable location for a state-of-the-art National Concert Hall in Dublin. When last year it emerged that the university authorities were intent on completing the relocation of University College Dublin from Earlsfort Terrace to Belfield and had taken practical steps in that direction, the Office of Public Works advised me that reconfiguration of the site at Earlsfort Terrace, part of which is currently occupied by the Concert Hall, would provide opportunity for implementation of an imaginative design concept involving the provision of three separate performance spaces and access to the Iveagh Gardens. This innovative and exciting design concept has caught the public imagination as is evident from the positive public reaction to the proposal.

Officials of my Department met some time ago with the university authorities to register strong interest in having the site at Earlsfort Terrace transferred to the State as soon as it was vacated by UCD. The financial parameters within which such a transaction might take place have now been clarified with the Department of Education and Science and, accordingly, I intend in the near future to seek Government approval to proceed with the redevelopment of the National Concert Hall at Earlsfort Terrace.

Arts Funding.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

16 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress which has taken place in terms of a coherent national approach to funding arts here since the launch of the first set of national guidelines for the per cent for art scheme by him in December 2004. [20253/05]

The objective of the "per cent for art" scheme is to ensure that an art work is commissioned as part of every capital project undertaken by public agencies, including Departments, with the cost provided for from the outset of project planning. Although implementation has been somewhat uneven, the fruits of the scheme can be seen all around the country, from the "Perpetual Motion" exhibit outside Naas, to Kiltimagh in County Mayo, to Waterford Regional Hospital.

The national guidelines for the per cent for art scheme seek to standardise practice and approaches to facilitate the application of the scheme in a coherent and consistent way across Departments and agencies. The guidelines were launched in December 2004 and have been circulated by my Department to other Departments, local authorities and public bodies to ensure their implementation on as wide a basis as possible. A review of the implementation of the scheme will be undertaken when the guidelines have been in operation for a full year.

It should be borne in mind that the purpose of the guidelines is to assist project managers. They are not mandatory and so there is no role for the Department in enforcing them. Reaction to the scheme has been generally positive and the guidelines are seen as practical and workable.

National Aquatic Centre.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

17 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the investigations which have been carried out to date in relation to the granting of a contract for the National Aquatic Centre to a company (details supplied); the state of play regarding proceedings by Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Ltd to seek possession of the centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20244/05]

Willie Penrose

Question:

29 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if, as the principal shareholder in the company that leased out the National Aquatic Centre in 2003, he is satisfied that the leasing deal with a company (details supplied) was appropriate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20295/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 29 together.

I refer the Deputy to my response to priority Question No. 1 on today's Order Paper.

Stadium Development.

Enda Kenny

Question:

18 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when the redeveloped Lansdowne Road stadium will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20224/05]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

26 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position with regard to the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road; the timeframe for the planning and construction stages; when the redevelopment will commence; the current estimated overall cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20281/05]

Michael Ring

Question:

35 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the projected timescale for the redevelopment of the Lansdowne Road stadium; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20222/05]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

46 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has had any further discussions with the IRFU and the FAI in regard to securing an appropriate venue for Ireland’s home rugby and soccer internationals during the period in which Lansdowne Road is being redeveloped; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20283/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18, 26, 35 and 46 together.

The project to redevelop Lansdowne Road Stadium has already commenced. The end of 2005 has been set as a target date by which to have lodged an application for planning permission. It is not possible at this stage to guage exactly how long it may take to secure full planning permission. However, in anticipation of an early and favourable outcome to the planning application, I would expect that construction work on the stadium would begin during 2007. The period of construction is projected to be 29 months.

The total cost of the project has been estimated at €292 million, of which €191 million has been committed by the Exchequer.

As regards a venue for international and home soccer and rugby matches when the redevelopment project gets under way, I am aware that the IRFU and the FAI have considered a number of contingency options for rugby and soccer matches during the period when the existing pitch at Lansdowne Road stadium will be unavailable. It is a matter for these autonomous sporting bodies to make the necessary arrangements to ensure their match commitments are met. In this regard, I wish to place on record my appreciation of the readiness of the Gaelic Football Association to facilitate the IRFU and the FAI by making Croke Park available for major fixtures during the construction phase at Lansdowne Road.

Question No. 19 answered with QuestionNo. 12.

Swimming Pool Projects.

John Perry

Question:

20 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of new swimming pools, constructed since 2002, aided by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20229/05]

My Department administers the local authority swimming pool programme, which provides grant aid towards the capital costs of a new pool, a replacement pool or the refurbishment of an existing pool. The programme provides for a maximum grant level of 80% of eligible costs — 90% in the case of disadvantaged areas — subject to a maximum of €3.8 million.

Since 2002, grant-aid has been approved for 16 swimming pool projects. Of these, six projects have been completed and are open. They are located in Finglas in Dublin — replacement; Ballinasloe — replacement; the Aquadome in Tralee — refurbishment; the Regional Sports and Leisure Centre in Tralee — refurbishment; Grove Island in Limerick — new; and Clonmel — refurbishment. Two projects are due to open to the public shortly: Churchfield in Cork city — refurbishment; and Ballymun in Dublin — replacement. The remaining eight pools, in Tuam — replacement; Ballyfermot in Dublin — replacement; Cobh — replacement; Youghal — new; Drogheda — replacement; Jobstown in south County Dublin — new; Letterkenny — replacement; and Monaghan town — replacement, are under construction.

Sports Capital Programme.

Tom Hayes

Question:

21 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of new gymnasia, constructed since 2002, aided by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20232/05]

John Deasy

Question:

27 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of new floodlit playing pitches, constructed since 2002, aided by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20233/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 27 together.

Under the national lottery-funded sports capital programme administered by my Department, funding is allocated to projects that provide sports and recreational facilities at local, regional and national level. Since June 2002, a total of €117.46 million has been allocated to 1,367 projects throughout the country under the 2003 and 2004 sports capital programmes.

Projects funded under the programme form the backbone of sporting infrastructure in the country and provide the means for greater public participation in sporting activities. These projects include facilities such as development of natural playing surfaces, synthetic and all-weather surfaces, floodlighting, indoor sports halls, gymnasia, changing facilities and a vast range of sporting equipment. The nature of the data created in relation to the sports capital programme does not lend itself to easy identification of particular facilities such as floodlighting. I will, however, see if it is possible to extract this information from the Department's files and, if so, will communicate it to the Deputy in due course.

Question No. 22 answered with QuestionNo. 15.

Dan Neville

Question:

23 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department liaises with the Department of Education and Science to advise on the provision and expansion of sporting facilities in national and secondary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20210/05]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding for sporting and recreational facilities and equipment. While responsibility for the provision of facilities in national and secondary schools rests with the Department of Education and Science, applications from schools and colleges may be considered under the programme in certain circumstances. Such applications must be made jointly with local sports clubs or community groups and must: provide for significant levels of usage by the local community during periods when the facilities are not being used by the school itself — at least 30 hours per week throughout the year; and demonstrate that the facilities concerned will meet an identified deficiency in that locality, as formally agreed with other local groups and-or the local authority.

In this regard, it has been the practice of my officials to engage in discussions with the Department of Education and Science when considering applications involving schools received under the sports capital programme. Under the 2004 sports capital programme, grants totalling €1.327 million were allocated to ten such projects where the proposed facilities were to be clearly shared between schools and other community groups, including local basketball, GAA and soccer clubs.

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, including 30 related to facilities in primary and secondary schools, 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 at an early date.

The programme for Government includes a commitment to putting in place a long-term strategic plan to ensure the development of local sports facilities throughout the country. I wish to advise the Deputy that an inter-agency steering group has been established to oversee the development of such a strategy and is commencing its work. The group is comprised of representatives from my Department along with officials from the Departments of Education and Science, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Finance, in addition to representatives of the Irish Sports Council, Campus Stadium Ireland Development Limited and the County and City Managers' Association.

One of the issues likely to be considered by this group will be potential for greater co-operation between the Departments to ensure that the resources from all sources available to facility provision are maximised, including optimum usage of existing sports facilities by local communities and, in particular, those located in schools.

National Stadium.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

24 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in regard to the Campus Stadium Ireland project; the plans for the future of the site; the cost associated with the project to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20329/05]

Mary Upton

Question:

33 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has presented to Cabinet his proposals on the development of a sports campus at Abbotstown, County Dublin; if so, the timeframe for the development of the campus; if the delays with Abbotstown are having serious repercussions for sports infrastructure and development here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20286/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

104 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the expenditure to date on the Campus Stadium Ireland project; his ultimate plans in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20541/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24, 33 and 104 together.

In January 2004 the Government decided to proceed with the development of a sports campus on the State-owned lands at Abbotstown. Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited, CSID, having consulted widely with the major governing bodies of sport, stakeholders and interest groups, put forward proposals for the development of a sports campus.

This development control plan represents phase one of a wider programme for the provision of sports facilities. It proposes the development of pitches and ancillary accommodation catering mainly for the three major field sports — rugby, soccer and Gaelic games — as well as an indoor sports centre to cater for a range of indoor sports with spectator accommodation and also includes publicly accessible all weather floodlit synthetic pitches.

I have considered the development control plan for a sports campus at Abbotstown in detail and it has my full support. I have consulted Cabinet colleagues on the proposals and will be seeking formal Government approval for them in the very near future.

Between 2001 and 2003, a sum of €3 million was spent on site development works and site surveys; these surveys will be used when the project commences. Other than this sum there has been no capital expenditure on the Abbotstown Campus project at this stage.

I am committed to ensuring that sports facilities of the highest quality should be in place at this time for the support of Irish sports men and women but I recognise that thorough planning and preparation are a prerequisite for a major investment of this nature.

Abbey Theatre.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

25 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a decision will be made on the development of a new national theatre building in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20204/05]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

31 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in regard to a new site for the Abbey Theatre; if the OPW has finished exploring options for a potential site at George’s Dock; if he will provide a final date for a decision on a new site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20289/05]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

36 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will announce a new location for the Abbey Theatre in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20201/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25, 31 and 36 together.

I would refer the Deputies to my reply to Priority Question No. 4 on today's Order Paper.

Question No. 26 answered with QuestionNo. 18.
Question No. 27 answered with QuestionNo. 21.

Sports Facilities Audit.

Dan Boyle

Question:

28 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the reason for the delay in appointing a steering group to oversee the commencement of a national audit of sports facilities. [20254/05]

Damien English

Question:

41 Mr. English asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a national audit of sports facilities has been completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20227/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 41 together.

The agreed programme for Government contains a commitment to complete a national audit of local sports facilities and to put in place a long-term strategic plan to ensure the development of such necessary facilities throughout the country.

I wish to advise the Deputies that an inter-agency steering group has been established to oversee the development of such a strategy and is commencing its work. The group is comprised of representatives from my Department along with officials from the Departments of Education and Science, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Finance, in addition to representatives of the Irish Sports Council, Campus Stadium Ireland Development Limited and the County and City Managers Association. One of the first challenges facing the group is to oversee the commencement of a national audit of sports facilities.

Before commencing work on the strategic plan an assessment of what has been achieved under the Department's sports capital programme was undertaken. This was done in the context of an Expenditure review of the programme which seeks to assess the benefits that the investment has yielded to date and to identify any difficulties or inefficiencies associated with the operation of the programme. This review has taken longer than expected to complete due to the scale of the programme and the time required to analyse the volume of information and data that was collected during the review.

Question No. 29 answered with QuestionNo. 17.
Question No. 30 answered with QuestionNo. 12.
Question No. 31 answered with QuestionNo. 25.

National Lottery Funding.

Denis Naughten

Question:

32 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount allocated by his Department in national lottery funding for 2005; if he will transfer responsibility for the allocation of this funding to an independent authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20213/05]

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 2004. The closing date for receipt of applications was 4 February 2005. The 1,362 applications received 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 2005 programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

I have no plans to transfer responsibility for the allocation of sports capital funding to an independent authority. The current arrangements for administering the sports capital programme, which have been applied by successive governments over many years, have been extremely successful in ensuring that the programme is responsive to local needs.

It is entirely appropriate that the Minister for sport should be in a position to use this important instrument of sporting policy to achieve objectives such as supporting projects of particular local or regional significance or encouraging the development of as many sports as possible. From 1998 to 2004 a total of €331.55 million has been allocated to 4,273 sports capital projects. This massive investment in the creation of a sporting infrastructure is now yielding benefits both in terms of local community developments and increased participation in sport. The scheme is administered in accordance with pre-determined eligibility criteria, all of which must be satisfied before projects may access funding allocated to them.

I would remind the Deputy that as Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, I am directly accountable to Dáil Éireann for the operation of the sports capital programme. This accountability is ongoing and finds expression, for example, through parliamentary questions, Adjournment debates, Estimates debates and engagement with Dáil committees. This is a feature which would be notably absent were the administration of the sports capital programme to be made the responsibility of an independent board. Apart from the obvious issue of how one determines 'independence', experience elsewhere has shown that decisions by independent boards do not always receive universal acceptance. Where a grant scheme attracts a level of applications well in excess of available funding, as is the case with the sports capital programme, unsuccessful applicants will always experience an understandable sense of disappointment whatever the decision-making process.

Question No. 33 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

National Aquatic Centre.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

34 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in regard to the quality of the structure at the National Aquatic Centre; if all storm damage repairs have been carried out and paid for; if any rents or other moneys are due or outstanding; if the project is on a sound financial footing without liabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20328/05]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

38 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the State will have to pay the €1 million plus bill for storm repairs to the National Aquatic Centre; if he will publish the independent report he commissioned into the storm damage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20294/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

103 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if all matters relating to the roofing repairs and rent or lease issues at the National Aquatic Centre have been resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20540/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 34, 38 and 103 together.

The National Aquatic Centre has been fully reinstated following completion of the repairs arising from the storm damage on 1 January. The centre was reopened to the public by the operators on 20 May.

The findings of the independent report prepared by Kavanagh Mansfield and Partners have been taken into consideration by the contractors in the context of the repair works. There are legal, contractual and financial issues being considered in light of the report and therefore it must remain confidential at this time.

As I have stated in the House previously, payment for the repairs is a matter for the contractor and the insurer to resolve.

As a number of matters relating to the lease of the National Aquatic Centre are currently the subject of proceedings that have been taken by CSID against the operators of the centre and are before the Commercial Court, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on such issues.

Question No. 35 answered with QuestionNo. 18.
Question No. 36 answered with QuestionNo. 25.

National Conference Centre.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

37 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a decision has been made on the successful tender for the national conference centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20191/05]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

43 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the latest date for the delivery of a national conference centre; if the 20 May 2005 deadline for the receipt of tenders was met; the timeframe for a decision on these tenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20293/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 43 together.

Tenders from two consortia for the provision of a national conference centre were received by the Office of Public Works on 20 May 2005, the deadline for the receipt of tenders. These are currently undergoing detailed assessment and evaluation and the selection of a provisional preferred tenderer is now scheduled for later in the summer, with the award of the contract, subject to Government approval, expected before the end of the year. When construction will start and finish will be a matter for the successful tenderer.

As I have said on many occasions in the past, my personal priority and that of the Government is to have this project brought to a conclusion at the earliest possible date while ensuring that the relevant procedures and guidelines relating to the process are closely observed and that nothing is done that might jeopardise its successful conclusion.

Question No. 38 answered with QuestionNo. 34.

Arts Council.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

39 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on the level of funding allocated to the Arts Council for 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20199/05]

My Department's allocation to the Arts Council in 2005 totalled €61milion, an increase of 11.9% on the 2004 figure. This builds on the increase of over 23.5% provided in 2004 over 2003, and demonstrates in the most tangible way possible the seriousness of the Government's commitment to the arts.

Question No. 40 answered with QuestionNo. 13.
Question No. 41 answered with QuestionNo. 28.

Abbey Theatre.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

42 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will consider bypassing the Arts Council as a means of funding the Abbey Theatre and implement a system whereby the theatre is funded directly from Government; his views on whether the funding of the Abbey Theatre requires urgent review in view of the losses recorded for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20288/05]

The governance arrangements for the Abbey Theatre require revision and updating in order to equip the theatre for the very demanding environment in which it must operate. Although I have not yet finalised my consideration of issues arising in connection with future governance structures at the Abbey Theatre, including the need for enhanced accountability for the use of public funds, I am not persuaded, as matters stand, that responsibility for funding the Abbey should be removed from the Arts Council.

Question No. 43 answered with QuestionNo. 37.
Question No. 44 answered with QuestionNo. 12.

Stadium Development.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

45 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has satisfied himself that the procedures for the award of the project management contract for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road were transparent and fair; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that companies linked to the president of the IRFU and to the person appointed to oversee the entire project have been awarded crucial elements of the contract; his views on whether there is a conflict of interest between those who decided on the awarding of the contract and those who were selected for it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20276/05]

As the Deputy is aware, the Government has agreed to provide €191 million towards the cost of redeveloping the stadium at Lansdowne Road, a project that has been estimated to cost €292 million in total. A special purpose vehicle, the Lansdowne Road Stadium Development Company, LRSDC, has been established by the IRFU and the FAI to carry out the development project. The project is overseen by a steering group, chaired by my Department and comprising officials of my own Department, the Department of Finance and the Office of Public Works as well as representatives of the IRFU and the FAI. Work on the project is already under way and to this purpose, earlier this year, LRSDC appointed a number of consortia to discharge various elements of the work. Of these, the design contract and the project management contracts are the two largest and key contracts at this stage of the stadium development.

The issues raised by the Deputy were raised at the time of the award of the project management contract. Following the presentation of a comprehensive report by the Lansdowne Road Stadium Development Company on the procedures carried out regarding the award of this contract the steering group satisfied itself that the award of the contract was carried out in a fully transparent manner supported by appropriate legal advice and in accordance with good practice prescribed for the award of contracts for which Exchequer finance has been provided. On that basis I am satisfied that the contracts have been awarded following an appropriate process in which full cognisance was taken of the circumstances outlined by the Deputy.

Question No. 46 answered with QuestionNo. 18.

Sports Capital Programme.

Paul McGrath

Question:

47 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a new communities facilities fund, to support the development of community facilities, has been put in place by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20234/05]

My Department administers two capital grants schemes towards the provision of community sports facilities. Under the sports capital programme, funding is allocated to organisations and clubs to assist them in the provision of sports facilities, while under the local authority swimming pool programme, grants are available to local authorities towards the cost of building and refurbishing swimming pools.

The proposed community facilities fund to support the development of facilities not covered by existing schemes, as set out in the agreed programme for Government, was to be created under the local government fund, which is the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

An inter-agency steering group has been established to oversee the development of a long-term strategic plan to ensure the development of local sports facilities throughout the country. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is one of a number of Departments to be represented on this group. This forum will provide an opportunity to consider how the proposed community facilities fund to support the development of facilities not covered by existing schemes could be developed.

Arts Council.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

48 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to recent comments from the arts programme director of the Arts Council, John O’Kane, that financial crises and problems with corporate governance are contributing to serious difficulties in the Irish arts world; if he has received a copy of the Arts Council’s draft strategy regarding its future direction; his views on its conclusions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20280/05]

The Arts Council operates independently of my Department on a day to day basis and is free to comment as it sees fit on any issues arising in the course of its dealings with arts organisations or venues. The question of an input from the Minister of the day does not arise in this kind of context.

The Arts Council's consultation draft strategy has been made available to my officials for information. However, it is a matter for the council itself to define its strategy going forward, and I would not wish to be seen to interfere with the independence of the council in this context by commenting on what is as yet merely a consultative document. I will, however, have an opportunity to make my views known on the conclusion of the consultative process.

Medical Cards.

Finian McGrath

Question:

49 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 will be issued with a medical card and given the maximum support and assistance. [20458/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Dan Neville

Question:

50 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when work will be completed to a house for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick under the special housing for the elderly scheme. [20411/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly, on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

51 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when orthodontic treatment will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [20412/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Alcohol-Related Diseases.

Dan Neville

Question:

52 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of expenditure from her Department which applies to alcohol-related illnesses. [20413/05]

According to the second report of the Strategic Task Force on Alcohol, the estimated cost of alcohol-related problems to Irish society was €2.65 billion in 2003, of which an estimated €433 million was in respect of health-care costs.

Health Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

53 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an advance copy of a report (details supplied) will be given to Patient Focus and the 140 women in the group (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20414/05]

My Department is advised that the work of the inquiry is at an advanced stage and will be completed shortly. I have received a request from Patient Focus for an advance copy of the report prior to publication and I would hope to be in a position to meet this request.

Nursing Homes Regulation.

Finian McGrath

Question:

54 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will make it an obligation on all HSE staff and other public servants to report any mistreatment of patients in nursing homes. [20415/05]

The issue raised by the Deputy will be taken into consideration in the drafting of legislation to put the social services inspectorate on a statutory basis. The inspectorate will be charged with the regulation and inspection of nursing homes, both public and private. Legislation to effect this change will be brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas in the near future with a view to ensuring the highest standards of care are provided in such facilities.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

55 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 715 of 27 January 2004 and 88 of 3 February 2005, the details of the report of the Mental Health Commission in the case of a person (details supplied) in the Midlands Psychiatric Hospital; and if she will make this report available to Dáil Éireann. [20416/05]

My Department sought and obtained legal advice in relation to publishing the report referred to by the Deputy. That advice is currently under consideration and a decision will be made shortly.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

56 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of unspent money returned by her Department to the Department of Finance each year since 1997; the total departmental budget for each year since 1997; the projects for which this money was originally earmarked; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20432/05]

The net total amounts voted for my Department for each year from 1997 to 2004 and the surplus amount surrendered in each of those years are set out in the table below.

Year

Net Total Amount Voted

Total Surplus Surrendered

€m

€m

1997

3,201.335

1.567

1998

3,609.033

2.562

1999

4,150.954

10.489

2000

4,619.449

5.700

2001

5,992.685

1.263

2002

7,201.861

30.656

2003

7,981.024

26.264

2004

8,664.272

70.948

The total surplus surrendered may be analysed as follows: excess appropriations in aid; administrative budget savings which may be carried forward into the following year under the terms of the administrative budget agreement; and residual savings.

An analysis of the amount surrendered each year from 1997 to 2004 is set out in the following table.

Year

Surplus due to Appropriations-in-Aid in excess of voted sum

Administrative Budget savings

Residual surplus

€m

€m

€m

1997

0.930

0.570

0.067

1998

2.058

0.453

0.051

1999

9.694

0.665

0.130

2000

4.382

0.437

0.881

2001

(1.058)

1.058

1.263

2002

26.274

0.402

3.980

2003

18.203

0.397

7.664

2004

60.761

1.840

8.347

It should be noted that appropriations in aid received in excess of the voted sum must be surrendered to the Exchequer under public financial procedures. Appropriations in aid in respect of health contributions are calculated based on an estimate and the actual receipts can fluctuate due to the trends in pay and taxation returns. Under the terms of the administrative budget agreement savings in one year are carried forward to the following year. The remaining surplus is a combination of a number of items covering minor headings and is due to timing issues in respect of items such as legal costs, the cost of the Hepatitis C and HIV compensation tribunal and payments to the State claims agency for the clinical indemnity scheme.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

57 Mr. McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will mobilise her Department to ensure that BreastCheck facilities are available at University College Hospital, Galway, without further delay; if she will make a statement outlining her commitment for the provision of BreastCheck services to University College Hospital, Galway, immediately; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20445/05]

Liz McManus

Question:

59 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the expected dates for the expansion of the BreastCheck mobile units in Counties Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Clare, Mayo, Galway, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal in view of her pledge to have the breast screening centres in Cork and Galway in place by the end of 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20453/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 59 together.

New facilities for the national expansion of BreastCheck are included in the Health Capital Investment Framework 2005-2009. My Department 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 the clinical units at University College Hospital, Galway and South Infirmary-Victoria Hospital, Cork. The selection process for the design team is well advanced. Discussions on manpower requirements are currently taking place involving BreastCheck, the Health Service Executive and my Department. I am confident that the target date of 2007 for the commencement of the national roll-out will be met.

Liz McManus

Question:

58 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of tenders and requests to participate in design teams for the new breast screening centres in Cork and Galway received as at 12 June 2005; the expected duration for the shortlisting of applicants for interview, when the tenders will be awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20452/05]

BreastCheck has indicated that it received 50 requests to participate in the procurement process which will be carried out in accordance with EU procurement procedures using the restricted procedure. BreastCheck anticipates that the shortlisting, interviews and fee negotiations will be complete by the end of July 2005.

Question No. 59 answered with QuestionNo. 57.

Hospital Services.

Paul McGrath

Question:

60 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application for funding to staff a special care baby unit at the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar, has been received in her Department; if so, the date of receipt of this application; the number of staff involved; the estimated annual cost; when a decision on this application will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20454/05]

My Department provided additional revenue funding to the former Midland Health Board in 2002 and 2003 for the development of acute hospital services. The board indicated that part of this funding would be used to support the development of special care baby units in the region. A new special care baby unit has been commissioned at the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise, while a second unit has been built and equipped at the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar. The commissioning of this unit is a matter for the Health Service Executive, and my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in this regard.

Paul McGrath

Question:

61 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the 12 bedded unit at the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar, is now fully operational; the date on which this unit became operative; the number of beds which currently in operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20455/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

62 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be granted a medical card. [20464/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Paul McGrath

Question:

63 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the criteria used by her Department in accessing applications for works to be carried out under the housing aid for the elderly scheme; if medical circumstances play a part in this assessment; if this scheme is means tested; if so, the criteria for such means testing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20466/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly, on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued direct to the Deputy.

General Medical Services Scheme.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

64 Mr. Nolan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if arrangements will be made in order that persons who need medical certificates for the renewal of their driving licence and who are medical card holders can have the cost of the medical certificate covered under the terms of the GMS; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20472/05]

The general medical services contract which general practitioners participating in the GMS scheme hold with the local area of the Health Service Executive provides for the issue of first and final certificates to explain work absence, free of charge, for medical card holders, regardless of age. GPs are not obliged to provide examinations and certificates in respect of requirements of life assurance for insurance companies or licensing authorities free of charge. I have no plans to change the current situation.

Family Refuges.

John Gormley

Question:

65 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide the funding promised to support a family refuge centre for women and children in Tallaght; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that 20% of reported domestic violence here originates in the Dublin south and Dublin west Garda districts and that the most used refuge centre for families in these areas is Navan, County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20478/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

66 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons on the waiting list who are seeking repairs under the community works scheme; the number of homes renovated annually in the Kildare area of the health service executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20513/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly, on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued direct to the Deputy.

Local Authority Housing.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

67 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons on the waiting list for the central heating grant in County Kildare; the number of grants which issue annually; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20514/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

68 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in the case of one separated spouse continuing to pay maintenance to support the other spouse, both spouses will continue to be treated as a unit only paying €85 per month towards drug costs for drugs refund scheme purposes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20524/05]

The statutory basis for the drug payment scheme, DPS, is section 59 (2) of the Health Act 1970. It states that the health board shall make arrangements to meet the balance of the cost, or a portion thereof for expenditure incurred on drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances for the treatment of a person or his dependants.

There is no definition of "dependant" in the 1970 Health Act. Under social welfare legislation, the Disabled Persons Maintenance Allowance Regulations 1995, an adult dependant includes a spouse. "Spouse" is defined as each person of a married couple who are living together or a man and woman who are not married to each other but are cohabiting as husband and wife. It is the policy of the Department of Health and Children to follow these regulations in determining eligibility for the purposes of the DPS.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

69 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if and when DCA will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare, in view of the fact that this matter has been ongoing for some time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20549/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

70 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will consider changes in the criteria for the drugs payment scheme for old age pensioners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20556/05]

Under the drugs payment scheme, DPS, no individual or family pays more than €85 per month for approved, prescribed medicines with the balance paid by the State. Family expenditure covers the nominated adult, his-her spouse, including a person with whom he-she is living with as husband or wife, and children under 18 years. Dependants over 18 years and under the age of 23 years who are in full-time education may also be included. A dependant with a physical disability or a mental handicap or illness who cannot maintain himself-herself fully, who is ordinarily resident in the family home and who does not hold a current medical card, may be included in the family expenditure under this scheme, regardless of age. All persons aged 70 years and over, are automatically entitled to a medical card. I have no plans to amend the age criteria of the DPS.

Schools Refurbishment.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

71 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 328 of 12 April 2005, if there has been further progress in scheduling the work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20488/05]

Planning is continuing for a scheme to replace the asbestos based roofs at the school in question. Works will commence as soon as possible following completion of this process and the necessary tendering and contractual procedures and subject to agreement on programming with the school authorities.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

72 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the assessment carried out to date of the proposed decentralisation in respect of Ordnance Survey Ireland; the cost savings which are projected to be made; the percentage of existing staff in specialist and in non-specialist grades who have indicated a desire to move; and the risk factors identified in the assessment. [20456/05]

As I have previously stated, all organisations that are decentralising, including Ordnance Survey Ireland, OSI, have prepared and submitted an implementation plan as requested by the decentralisation implementation group, DIG. The plan was circulated to all staff and has been placed on the OSI intranet.

The report by Deloitte, A Financial Assessment of Decentralisation Costs and Savings, published in October 2004 included the broad areas of costs and savings likely to arise with the decentralisation programme. While the OSI plan did not attempt to identify or assess any specific cost savings that might be made, it should be noted that the current OSI headquarters office complex attracts a higher than normal level of expenditure on maintenance and repairs due to the ageing nature of the buildings. At some point the acquisition of a new building or a major refurbishment project for the existing buildings would have become unavoidable. This would be a factor in any assessment of costs.

The data from the central applications facility, CAF, published in September 2004 showed that a total of 15 staff, three general service and 12 non-general service, within OSI have indicted a desire to move to Dungarvan with the OSI while 66, six general service and 60 non-general service, have indicated a desire to decentralise elsewhere in the country to other State bodies or Departments. Recruitment procedures for routine vacancies, which currently arise, ensure that the incoming employees are willing to decentralise to Dungarvan with the OSI. The OSI's implementation plan includes material on all issues to be addressed and incorporates specific risk assessment and mitigation strategies. Possible risk areas referred to in the plan range from transfer of knowledge and migration of IT systems to a new location.

Tax Code.

Paul McGrath

Question:

73 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax credits available annually to categories of persons (details supplied) who are paying rent to a private landlord. [20457/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that section 473 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 provides for an allowance at the standard rate of tax for an individual who proves for a year of assessment that he or she has paid rent for private rented accommodation used as his or her main residence. The maximum relief available is as set out in the following table:

Under 55 years of age

Over 55 years of age

Maximum relief @ standard rate

Equivalent maximum tax credit

Maximum relief @ standard rate

Equivalent maximum tax credit

Category 1

Married person on joint assessment

3,000

600

6,000

1,200

Category 2

Widowed person

3,000

600

6,000

1,200

Category 3

Any other person

1,500

300

3,000

600

Category 3 may include a single person, a separated spouse, a divorced person or a married person electing to be assessed as a single person. Generally, where a marriage has been annulled, the parties to the marriage are assessed to tax as single persons. The quantum of the relief is not affected by the fact that a claimant may have dependent children regardless of whether they reside with the claimant.

Flood Relief.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

74 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if further technical and engagement reports in relation to flood alleviation in Ardclough, County Kildare, have been received from Kildare County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20480/05]

Kildare County Council has provided no further reports to the Office of Public Works regarding flood alleviation in Ardclough, County Kildare.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

75 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if Kildare County Council has submitted the full study on proposed flood relief works in Leixlip, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20481/05]

Kildare County Council has submitted the full study, which it commissioned, entitled, Leixlip Localised Flood Relief Study, on proposed flood relief works in Leixlip, County Kildare. The report is one of several which have been received by the Commissioners of Public Works on flooding issues throughout the country. Until the report has been examined it will not be possible, to say whether further information will be required to enable decisions on appropriate flood alleviation measures to be taken. Staff resources available to the commissioners are limited and they will complete their examination of this report as early as possible.

Garda Stations.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

76 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if the OPW has received confirmation from Kildare County Council that it has agreed to the disposal of a plot of land adjacent to the new Leixlip Garda station site to the OPW; if it has not, if the OPW will immediately contact Kildare County Council; if it has, when the revised sketch scheme will be submitted to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; if construction will commence on the new Garda station in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20482/05]

OPW has received formal confirmation of Kildare County Council's willingness to transfer to OPW, a plot of land adjacent to the site of the proposed new Garda station in Leixlip. However, the council has indicated the area of land to be transferred is smaller than the area originally considered. The council has not detailed any terms and conditions attached to the disposal of the site. Further discussions will need to take place with Kildare County Council in this regard. In the circumstances it is intended to seek the approval of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to proceed to planning in respect of a development on the existing State-owned site.

Land Acquisition.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

77 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the position on the issue raised in Parliamentary Question No. 320 of 29 September 2004 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20485/05]

I understand that the lands in question have already been sold.

Tax Code.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

78 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider exempting senior citizens from the annual Government levy of €10 per ATM card, €20 per laser card, by way of encouragement not to keep cash in the home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20493/05]

Stamp duty exists on various financial cards 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

Combined ATM and laser card

20

The stamp duty arises irrespective of the age of the person who holds the account. I do not regard these charges to be excessive, and there is no evidence they significantly discourage people from using these forms of transaction.

Stamp duties on ATM, laser and combined cards are significant contributors to the Exchequer and are in accordance with the overall taxation policy of widening the tax base to keep direct tax rates low. In 2004, the stamp duty on ATM, laser and combined cards contributed €35.3 million to the Exchequer. I have no plans to introduce exemptions from stamp duty on such cards for any category of individual.

As the Deputy knows, the Government has done much to help those aged 65 and over. The income tax age exemption limits have been increased by approximately 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% above 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.

Garda Stations.

Pat Carey

Question:

79 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance if the OPW is making arrangements for the temporary transfer of Ballymun Garda Station and the Ballymun office of the Department of Social and Family Affairs to Stormanstown House; if so, when this temporary location will be ready for occupation; the length of time this location will be in use; if these offices will have exclusive use of the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20495/05]

Discussions between the Commissioners of Public Works and Ballymun Regeneration Limited regarding the temporary relocation of the Garda station and the social and family affairs office in Ballymun are at a preliminary stage. A report regarding the technical assessment of the premises at Stormanstown House and related costs has been commissioned by the Office of Public Works. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda authorities and the Department of Social and Family Affairs are considering the suitability of the premises and their responses are awaited.

State Property.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

80 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the acquisition by the OPW of a building to house the Killarney driving test centre in Killarney, County Kerry; when a new premises will be opened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20555/05]

A suitable site has been identified for a new driving test centre in Killarney and the Commissioners of Public Works have entered into negotiations to acquire this accommodation on behalf of the Department of Transport driving testers. It is proposed that the driving testers will operate from a temporary location pending acquisition of the new driving test centre.

Flood Relief.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

81 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 133 of 2 June 2005, if an inspection by an engineer from the Office of Public Works has been carried out to establish the extent the brook is contributing to the flooding of the house; the results of same; the works to be carried out to alleviate this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20558/05]

The inspection is scheduled to be carried out at the beginning of July, subject to availability of staff. The report is expected to be available by the end of the month.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

82 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he will list all of the tax reliefs which he has indicated to date are under review; his best estimate of the present annual cost of the relief in each case; the number of beneficiaries; the proportion of the total relief going to the top 10% of beneficiaries; the date if any, when tax relief is due to terminate; the date when the last extension of time was granted on the relief; and the activity level in the latest year for which data is available. [20559/05]

I announced in my Budget Statement that my Department and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners would be undertaking a detailed review of certain tax incentive schemes and tax exemptions in 2005. I subsequently announced that my Department had appointed two external consultants to review separately four area based tax incentive schemes: urban, rural and town renewal as well as the living-over-the-shop schemes and the sectoral property based schemes; multi-storey car parks; park and ride; student accommodation, third level buildings, hotels and holiday cottages. All of these are scheduled to terminate on 31 July 2006 as set out in the Finance Act 2004. The consultants are also examining the reliefs for nursing homes, private hospitals, sports injuries clinics, child care facilities and the countrywide refurbishment scheme; these five reliefs are not time limited.

I also made it clear at the time of my last budget that the tax exemptions for stallion and greyhound stud fees as well as commercially managed woodlands and the artists exemption would also be reviewed. Others which I have decided should be looked at for the 2006 budget are the reliefs for interest on loans taken out by individuals to invest in companies or partnerships, significant buildings and gardens, donations and patent income and the tonnage tax scheme and certain pension tax reliefs. None of these tax reliefs are time limited.

As the Deputy is aware, a breakdown of the costs of most of these individual schemes and reliefs is not currently available, consequently, neither is the other related information which he seeks in respect of the aforementioned reliefs.

Following are the reliefs under review for which some statistical information is available to the Revenue Commissioners:

Relief

Estimated Annual Cost, €m; (Year)

Number of Beneficiaries

Proportion going to top 10% of beneficiaries (%)*

Date due to terminate

Date of last Time Extension (if any)

Artists exemption Note 1

23.5 (2001)

1,300

80

None

None

Interest on loans to invest in companies or partnerships

11(2001)

7,400

38

None

None

Significant buildings and gardens

0.4(2001)

28

Not available

None

None

Donations Note 2

21(2003)

29,600

Not available

None

None

Tonnage tax

Not available

4 (2003)

Not relevant

None

None

*Relates to the amounts of income or deductions from income, as appropriate, on which tax relief is based.

Sufficient background information is not available to enable a meaningful response to be provided to the question on the activity level.

Figures shown for 2001 are in respect of the "short" income tax year 2001, the latest year for which the information is currently available, as published in Table IT6 on page 63 of the Revenue statistical report for 2003. It should be noted that as PAYE taxpayers were charged to tax on their earnings in the period from 6 April to 31 December 2001 and self-employed taxpayers were assessed to tax for the short year on 74% of the profits earned in a 12-month accounting period, data provided for the "short" tax year 2001 may not be directly comparable with those of earlier and later years.

Notes

1. A breakdown of the cost figure by artistic category is not available but the Deputy may wish to know that the Revenue Commissioners publish details on their website of individuals who have been granted the artists exemption. The names of those qualifying for the relief with effect from the 21 April 1998 are available and the list is set out in alphabetical order in each of the five categories of work covered by the exemption: (a) a book or other writing; (b) a play; (c) a musical composition; (d) a painting or like picture; and (e) a sculpture. The list is updated on a quarterly basis. This information can be found on the Revenue website at www.revenue.ie.

2. Relates to PAYE donors only as data in relation to donations by the self-assessed or by companies are not available; the number of beneficiaries refers to the donors rather than the "beneficiaries", which are unknown.

Richard Bruton

Question:

83 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the number of claimants of tax relief in 2004 in respect of medical expenses, bin charges, trade union subscription, payment of private rent, third level tuition fees and home carer’s relief. [20560/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant information available as requested by the Deputy on the numbers of claimants of various forms of tax relief are set out in the following table:

Tax credit/relief

Year

Numbers

Third level education fees

2001

11,800

Rent paid in private tenancies

2001

89,800

Health expenses

2001

105,600

Home carer tax credit

2004

*108,500

Service charges

2002

125,000

Trade Union subscriptions

2002

229,600

The figures shown are the latest available which have been compiled on the basis of income tax returns. Figures shown for 2001 are in respect of the "short" income tax year 2001 as published in table IT6 on pages 63 and 64 of the Revenue statistical report for 2003.

Richard Bruton

Question:

84 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he will place in the Oireachtas Library the 2002 working group study on paying FIS through the tax system and other refundable tax credits. [20561/05]

The report was drawn up by a working group under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness. My Department is in contact with the group regarding placing it in the public domain. I will communicate further with the Deputy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

85 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he will estimate the cost of entirely eliminating stamp duty from purchases of a house for occupation by themselves by first-time buyers. [20562/05]

All owner-occupiers are generally exempt from stamp duty on new houses where the property is 125 square metres or less. The 2005 budget introduced a stamp duty relieving measure for first-time house purchasers who are owner-occupiers of second-hand houses by increasing the stamp duty exemption threshold for such purchasers from €190,500 to €317,500 and by having reduced rates for house values up to €635,000.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated cost of totally eliminating stamp duty for first-time buyers who are owner-occupiers of residential property up to €635,000 is approximately €37 million in a full year based on the yield for the first four months of 2005. It is not possible to estimate the cost for first-time buyers purchasing residential property in excess of €635,000 as the stamp duty rate for such residential property transactions is the same for all purchasers and it is not possible to distinguish first time buyer transactions from other transactions in excess of that value.

Richard Bruton

Question:

86 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the cost of doubling the value of the tax credit for the home caring spouse, dependent relative, age allowance, rent a room tax exemption, bin charge and trade union subscription. [20564/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the full year costs to the Exchequer of the increases mentioned by the Deputy are currently estimated as follows:

Tax credit to be doubled

Full Year Cost

€m

Home carer tax credit

68

Dependent relative tax credit

1

Age tax credit

13

Relief for Trade Union subscriptions

9

Relief for service charges

5

Total

96

Based on data derived from income tax returns for the year 2002, the full year cost to the Exchequer of the rent-a-room tax exemption is estimated at about €1.8 million. On this basis a doubling of the exemption limit could cost a maximum of an additional €1.8 million but could be less, depending on the extent to which the additional exemption could be absorbed by claimants and assuming no significant increase in the level of take-up by taxpayers.

Tax Collection.

Richard Bruton

Question:

87 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the outstanding recommendations of the Revenue powers group and their present status (details supplied). [20565/05]

The revenue powers group was established in March 2003 to review Revenue's main powers and recommend changes. The group reported in late 2003 and its report was published in February 2004. At the time of publication of the report, the then Minister for Finance indicated his intention to allow a period for public debate and reflection on many of the wide-ranging issues raised by the recommendations.

The group's main recommendations were as follows: some new powers for Revenue; automatic reporting of interest and payments by Departments; improvements in Revenue's off-shore information powers; enhanced powers of criminal investigation, such as access to telephone records, and the right of Revenue officials to question persons in Garda custody; reform of the statutory interest and penalties regime; reduction in interest rate from 11.75% to 10% and revision of publication limit from €12,700 to €50,000; improving the safeguards and preconditions for the use of certain existing powers, as well as extended appeal provisions; establishing current practice with regard to voluntary disclosure in legislation; and controlled information disclosure from Revenue to other official agencies such as ODCE and no disclosure where voluntary disclosure is made.

In this year's Finance Act, I initiated the first measures in a process of reforms in the area of Revenue powers including a number of the recommendations of the revenue powers group. In brief, these included the publication limit for settlements with tax defaulters being increased from €12,700 to €30,000, the interest rate on underpaid tax being reduced to a daily simple interest rate equivalent to 10% per annum for non-fiduciary taxes and the repeal of the 2% per month interest charge for fraud and neglect, and the 200% tax-geared penalty for fraud from a current date. I also addressed a number of other issues within the general area of Revenue powers which did not arise from the recommendations of the Revenue powers group, such as the introduction of a statutory offence for aiding and abetting tax evasion.

Other recommendations of the group will also be administratively implemented or have already been implemented by the Revenue Commissioners. These include the following. The Revenue powers group had concerns regarding the modalities of exchange of information between Revenue and other agencies, in particular the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Revenue and the ODCE have recently concluded negotiations and signed a memorandum of understanding which will govern this information exchange and this largely meets the group's concerns. The targeting of audits will be continually improved through greater focus on risk.

Regional powers officers have been appointed within Revenue to manage the use of powers in the new regions. Compliance costs will be reduced wherever possible and the cost of compliance will continue to be weighed up when considering the introduction of new powers. Revenue will aim to examine records at the taxpayer's premises where the removal of records would prevent the business carrying on in an orderly manner. Revenue will give more prominence to the external reviewers and in future will have them appointed using the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission.

I intend to return to some of the remaining recommendations, which require further consultation and careful consideration, for future implementation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

88 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the main types of transaction attracting capital gains tax and the revenue generated in each case. [20566/05]

CGT is charged on the lifetime disposals of most assets whether the disposal is by sale, gift or exchange. The total CGT yield in 2004 was around €1.5 billion. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the precise information requested by the Deputy is not available. The information available is a proportional breakdown by reference to asset types of the aggregate consideration underlying capital gains tax computations for tax year 2003, that is, the total selling price prior to allowing any offsets or deductions. The figures, which are based on CGT returns filed through the ROS system in late 2004, are as follows.

CGT 2003 proportional breakdown of consideration by asset.

Asset Type

%

Shares

41

Residential Premises

18

Commercial Premises

12

Agricultural Land

12

Development Land

11

Other Assets

6

Total

100

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

89 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the latest estimate of the number of beneficiaries and the cost of tax relief on private pension contribution; the numbers and value of relief by type of pensions (details supplied); the persons paying tax at the standard rate of tax and persons paying at the top rate, to persons making contributions to PRSA, to persons making contributions to additional voluntary contribution schemes and to persons claiming relief on contributions of more than 15% gross earnings. [20568/05]

The latest figures available are for what is termed the "short" income tax year from April to December 2001. They are contained in the 2003 Revenue Commissioner's report. The total cost of tax relief on pensions contributions is tentatively estimated by the Revenue Commissioners at approximately €2 billion. This total figure is broken out as follows both in terms of numbers where available and in terms of costs:

Type of Pension Contributions

Numbers

Costs 2001

€million

Employees’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

670,500

388.7

Employers’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

N/A

497.7

Exemption of Net Income of approved Superannuation Funds (Contributions plus Investment Income less Outgoings)

N/A

938.4

Retirement Annuity Premiums

109,600

170.0

Total

780,100

1,994.8

This cost covers tax relief on contributions by employers, employees and self-employed and the exemption from income and gains in the pension fund. It should be noted that these costs are very tentative and that efforts are being made to improve information on the cost of tax relief for pensions.

It is not possible to provide disaggregated figures on the take-up of the tax relief for all pension contributions as it is not captured in such a way as to make this possible. Disaggregated data is only available in respect of the tax relief for contributions to retirement annuity contracts, RACs. RACs are used by the self-employed and by employees who are not in pensionable employment. The data is as follows:

Estimated Costs 2001

‘Retirement Annuity Contracts’ available to the self-employed and to employees not in occupational pension schemes.

€170m

Numbers

109,600

For the short income tax year of 2001, distribution by income ranges of the claim amounts, amounts of tax relief and average deductions for tax relief for retirement annuity contracts are contained in the table below.

Income Tax 2001 (short "year").

Retirement Annuity — by range of Gross Income.

Range of Gross Income

Totals

From

To

Number of Cases

Amount of deduction

Reduction in tax

Average Deduction

6,000

1,258

1,301,889

76,588

1,035

6,000

8,000

1,217

1,131,858

159,747

930

8,000

10,000

1,976

2,066,245

318,130

1,046

10,000

12,000

2,779

3,131,978

538,747

1,127

12,000

15,000

5,489

6,725,589

1,228,558

1,225

15,000

17,000

4,446

5,613,493

1,067,199

1,263

17,000

20,000

7,513

10,476,115

2,039,761

1,394

20,000

25,000

12,222

19,723,266

4,505,791

1,614

25,000

27,000

4,567

8,276,351

2,214,991

1,812

27,000

30,000

6,350

12,331,704

3,457,396

1,942

30,000

35,000

9,441

20,838,925

6,506,746

2,207

35,000

40,000

7,942

20,490,572

7,354,258

2,580

40,000

50,000

11,427

37,038,299

14,847,501

3,241

50,000

60,000

6,807

29,985,541

12,417,840

4,405

60,000

75,000

5,741

35,653,618

14,883,125

6,210

75,000

100,000

4,543

41,479,867

17,310,850

9,131

100,000

150,000

3,951

56,115,725

23,514,956

14,203

150,000

200,000

1,753

38,561,305

16,149,432

21,997

Over

200,000

2,635

98,693,919

41,399,977

37,455

Totals

102,057*

449,636,259

169,991,594

4,406

Richard Bruton

Question:

90 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his estimate of the cost of increasing pension relief to a standard credit equivalent to relief at 42% plus 2% health levy plus social insurance levy 3%/4% to the appropriate ceiling. [20569/05]

Tax relief on individual pension contributions is allowed at a taxpayer's marginal tax rate, which is the standard or higher rate as appropriate in each case. It is assumed that the change mentioned by the Deputy is to provide tax relief at the top rate of tax for all pension contributions by individuals, including those currently relieved at the standard rate. It is not possible to provide an estimate in respect of employee and employer contributions to occupational pensions because the relevant data in relation to contributions is not captured in such a way as to provide a dedicated basis for compiling this information. Tax relief for pension contributions by employees is normally given by way of a deduction from total income in arriving at income for tax purposes. This means the income for tax purposes of employees is net of their pension contributions, which is the net pay arrangement. An employer's contributions are an allowable deduction from profits and are not specifically recorded in Revenue statistics.

Provisions were included in Finance Act 2004 requiring employers to provide data on superannuation contributions in the P35 form to be filled by employers in February 2006. Preliminary information should become available in mid-2006, bearing in mind the Revenue Commissioners have to carry out a programme to check the quality, consistency and accuracy of the returns. These changes will yield additional information on the overall cost of tax relief for pension contributions. As the returns will be aggregated at employer level, however, they will not provide a precise basis for measuring the potential impact on the Exchequer of proposals for changes at individual level.

For self-employed and certain other employees in pensionable employment, there is data available on relief on contributions for retirement annuity contracts, RACs, for the short tax year 2001. RACs are subject to a current contribution cap of €254,000. On that basis, the full year cost to the Exchequer, adjusted for a 12-month year, of the change mentioned in relation to the income tax change is tentatively estimated at about €23 million. It could, however, be considerably higher if the change resulted in new pension contributors claiming the relief. Generally, relief from the health levy and PRSI is available to employees only. It is not possible to estimate the cost of extending the relief to employers and the self employed as figures for their current liabilities in respect of these are not currently available.

The operation of and adjustments to the PRSI system fall within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs. As such, questions relating to the matter should be directed to him.

Richard Bruton

Question:

91 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the cost of making tax credits (details supplied) refundable. [20575/05]

Tax relief for mortgage interest and health insurance already operate as, in effect, refundable tax credits as relief is given at source to all, irrespective of tax liability. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the cost of making refundable the unused portion of the tax credits for home carers, one-parent families, widowed persons and rent paid in private tenancies is broadly in the region of €100 million annually. Tax relief for health expenses is allowable as a deduction against income at a taxpayer's marginal rate for annual expenses incurred in excess of €125 per person. There is no specified limit to the amount that a person may claim. Accordingly, the extent to which individual claims might exceed the tax liability arising in each case cannot be sufficiently measured centrally within Revenue to provide the necessary statistical basis on which to estimate the potential cost to the Exchequer of refunding the tax equivalent of the unused portion of claims.

The relevant information is not readily available and could not be obtained without conducting a protracted investigation of the Revenue's records. In this regard, the Deputy will note that in 2001, the latest year for which actual data are available, 105,600 medical expenses claims were allowed.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

92 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount of unspent money returned by his Department to the Department of Finance each year since 1997; the total Departmental budget for each year since 1997; the projects for which this money was originally earmarked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20433/05]

Table 1 shows the budgets and outturns for expenditure and receipts together with the amounts surrendered to the Exchequer in the period 1997 to 2004. As the surrender to the Exchequer in any one year is a function of both expenditure and receipts in that year, it is not possible to identify the projects in respect of which the surrenders in the years 1997 to 2004, inclusive, were earmarked. Table 2 sets out details of planned expenditure which did not take place in each of those years and which contributed to overall gross savings.

In general, savings under the annual Vote provisions arise within capital expenditure programmes. Prior to the introduction of multi-annual capital investment framework in 2004, Departments were allocated, within the annual Estimates process, a capital budget for the current year. No provision was made for the carryover of any capital savings to future years. The process did not facilitate best practice multi-annual project planning or guarantee future allocations for capital projects. The multi-annual capital investment framework announced by the Minister for Finance in the December 2003 budget, provides for five-year multi-annual capital envelopes and year-to-year carryovers and addresses these difficulties by enabling Departments and their agencies to plan and manage more efficiently and effectively their capital investment programmes. Savings arising on one year can now be carried forward to fund future requirements as part of a multi-annual capital investment plan. The framework will also ensure that both a proper balance is maintained between different areas of investment and that value for money is obtained from capital investment.

Table 1: Outturns and Surrenders 1997-2004.

(€000s) Year1

19975

1998

1999

2000

2001

20022

2003

2004

Gross Estimate3

152,044

184,296

251,514

259,551

289,509

458,139

543,155

465,928

Gross Outturn

112,572

160,609

209,575

250,998

265,312

432,761

535,584

441,080

Estimated Receipts

42,515

73,407

79,413

67,452

65,247

131,910

241,390

208,346

Actual Receipts

20,240

55,848

64,091

66,764

52,025

145,223

235,117

194,977

Net Estimate

109,529

110,889

161,942

192,099

224,262

326,229

301,765

257,582

Net Outturn

92,332

104,761

145,484

184,234

213,287

287,538

300,467

246,103

Capital Deferred Surrender4

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

10,000

Actual Surrender

17,197

6,128

16,458

7,865

10,975

38,691

1,298

1,479

1The amounts for the years 1997 to 2001, inclusive, relate to the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources. The amounts for the years 2002 to 2004, inclusive, relate to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources which was established with effect from 18 June 2002;

2The amounts for 2002 reflect the following transfers with effect from 18 June 2002, of (a) the communications and energy functions of the former Department of Public Enterprise and (b) the broadcasting functions of the former Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, respectively, to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. Expenditure prior to 18 June 2002 relating to the transferred functions is included in the following Votes for that year: the Department of Transport for the functions at (a) above and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs for the functions at (b) above;

3Including Supplementary Estimate provisions, where relevant;

4The Government's decision of 22 November 2003 and the Minister for Finance's subsequent announcement in the December 2003 budget provided for a five-year multi-annual capital investment framework. Under the framework, Departments may, subject to certain conditions and commencing in 2004, defer the surrender of capital savings in a current year and carry these forward to the following year;

5The amounts for 1997 reflect (a) the transfer, with effect from 11 July 1997 of the forestry functions of the former Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources. Expenditure prior to 11 July 1997 relating to the forestry functions is included in the Department of Agriculture and Food Vote for that year, (b) the transfer, with effect from 15 July 1997 of the exploration and mining functions of the former Department of Public Enterprise to the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources. Expenditure prior to 15 July 1997 relating to the those functions is included in the Department of Public Enterprise Vote for that year and (c) the transfer with effect from 1 October 1997 of the petroleum and offshore exploration functions of the former Department of Public Enterprise to the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources. Expenditure prior to 1 October 1997 relating to those functions is included in the Department of Public Enterprise Vote for that year.

Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

Table 2: Savings, Surrenders and Main Variations in period 1997-2004.

Year

Savings on Gross Estimate

Surrender to Exchequer

Explanations for Main Variations

(€000s)

(€000s)

1997

39,472

17,198

Savings of some €28 million arose from a lower than anticipated level of afforestation and the fact that a number of new Forestry Development Schemes did not progress as quickly as expected. €2.9 million in savings arose from operational costs for Dún Laoghaire Harbour being transferred to the new Harbour Company while a further €1.6 million saving arose from there being no requirement in that year for assistance to BIM in the write-off of advances.

1998

23,687

6,128

Savings of some €24 million arose from a lower than anticipated level of afforestation and the fact that a number of new Forestry Development Schemes were not availed of to the extent anticipated.

1999

41,939

16,458

Savings of some €10 million arose from a lower than anticipated level of afforestation. Savings of €4.4 million and €1.8 million arose from difficulties in progressing certain fishery harbour infrastructure works and coast protection works respectively. €2.1 million in respect of the Port of Waterford’s loan repayment commitment was not drawndown pending legal advice while almost €3 million committed to certain forestry developments projects was not drawndown before end year. Other savings arose on Premises Expenses (€1.6 m) and Marine Research Projects (€1.95 m).

2000

8,553

7,864

Savings of some €9.5 million arose due to the fact that certain commitments in relation to seaport infrastructure (€5.6 m) and a marina development at Dún Laoghaire Harbour (€3.9m) were met from the Central Fund rather than the Vote.

2001

24,197

10,976

Savings of €7.1 million arose from planning and start-up difficulties in progressing certain fishery harbour infrastructure works. Savings of some €4.7 million arose due to the fact that responsibility for grants to Coillte for superannuation purposes was transferred to the Department of Finance with effect from 1 April, 2001. €4.7 million in savings arose from less than anticipated take-up and/or progress on a number of BIM seafood development schemes while a further €3.7 million saving arose because two marina projects did not commence as anticipated. Other savings arose on Coast Guard Station House Construction (€2.9 m), State Aid approval delays for Angling Tourism Scheme (€2.1 m) and delays in he roll-out of the NDP Aquaculture Measure (€1.7 m).

2002

25,378

38,691

Savings of some €20 million arose because work on the construction of Metropolitan Area Networks for Broadband did not commence as early as anticipated. A reduced requirement in respect of search and rescue flying hours gave rise to savings of €3.8 million. Savings also arose on the Fishery Harbour Infrastructure Programme (€3.1 m), Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (€2.3 m), Fishing Vessel Decommissioning Scheme (€1.6 m), Seaport Infrastructure (€4.1 m) and Marina Projects (€3.6 m). An increased level of grant claims led to planned expenditure of some €7.3 million over budget on Afforestation.

2003

7,571

1,298

The main savings arose from (1) delays in commissioning the new 24-hour search and rescue helicopter service at Waterford, a reduced requirement in respect of search and rescue flying hours and delays in progressing the construction of new Coast Guard stations (€3.4 million), (2) delays in the further roll-out of the NDP Seaport Infrastructure Measure (€2.7 m), (3) slow progress on certain marine access infrastructure projects (€2.5 m), (4) the non-enactment of legislation to expand the remit of the Loughs Agency (€1.5 m), (5) the fact that certain planned consultancies did not proceed before year end (€1.2 m) and (6) lack of progress on claims for compensation from the owners of private mineral rights (€1.03 m). Expenditure over budget arose on, among other areas, broadband due to accelerated progress in the final quarter on certain projects (€2.8 m), the fit-out of new premises at Adelaide Road (€2.6 m), priority coast protection works (€1.04 m) and on the Moriarty Tribunal (€0.95 m).

2004

14,84811

1,479

The main savings, excluding the deferred capital surrender of €10 million, arose from (1) the level of progress and timing of expenditure in relation to certain fishery harbour infrastructure projects (€5.7 m), (2) a reduced requirement in respect of search and rescue flying hours (€1.9 m), (3) a reduced drawdown requirement in respect of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (€1.4 m) and (4) lack of progress on claims for compensation from the owners of private mineral rights and reduced miscellaneous expenditure (€1.2 m). Expenditure over budget arose on, among other areas, the support of critical IT projects (€3.1 m), priority coast protection works (€1.34 m) and EU Presidency costs (€0.95 m).

1Net of deferred capital surrender.

Harbours and Piers.

Joe Walsh

Question:

93 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will approve the commencement of work on a pier (details supplied) in County Cork. [20553/05]

Garnish Pier is owned by Cork County Council and responsibility for its maintenance and development is a matter for the local authority in the first instance. Cork County Council submitted a proposal to the Department in 2003 for works to Garnish Pier at an estimated cost of €750,000. A programme for the funding of small harbours within the overall 2005 fishery harbours development programme is under consideration. Funding for Garnish Pier will be considered under the programme taking into account the amount of Exchequer funding available and overall national priorities.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

94 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of unspent money returned by his Department to the Department of Finance each year since 1997; the total Departmental budget for each year since 1997; the projects for which this money was originally earmarked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20434/05]

The Department of Foreign Affairs has responsibility for Vote 28, foreign affairs, and Vote 29, international co-operation. The budget allocation, outturn and surplus surrendered to the Exchequer for Vote 28, formerly Vote 38 prior to 2004, for the years 1997 to 2004 is as follows:

Year

Vote allocation (000s)

Outturn (000s)

Surplus surrendered (000s)

1997

£59,835(€75,975)

£55,342(€70,270)

£4,493(€5,705)

1998

£64,526(€81,931)

£59,379(€75,396)

£5,147(€6,536)

1999

£71,456(€90,730)

£70,547(€89,576)

£909(€1,154)

2000

£92,760(€117,771)

£90,972(€115,511)

£1,788(€2,271)

2001

£110,366(€140,136)

£108,470(€137,728)

£1,896(€2,408)

2002

€172,199

€159,993

€12,206

2003

€178,825

€172,649

€6,176

2004

€163,240

€160,900

€2,340

The budget allocation, outturn and the surplus surrendered to the Exchequer for Vote 29, formerly Vote 39 prior to 2004, for the years 1997 to 2004 is as follows:

Year

Vote allocation (000s)

Outturn (000s)

Surplus Surrendered (000s)

1997

£100,138(€127,149)

£96,497(€122,526)

£3,641(€4,624)

1998

£111,629(€141,740)

£110,423(€140,208)

£1,206(€1,531)

1999

£119,083(€151,204)

£117,878(€149,674)

£1,205(€1,530)

2000

£137,807(€174,979)

£137,523(€174,618)

£284(€360)

2001

£188,552(€239,412)

£187,801(€238,458)

£750(€953)

2002

€371,906

€339,386

€32,520

2003

€374,009

€372,659

€1,350

2004

€400,030

€397,541

€2,488

An explanation of the causes of variation between the outturn and the Estimate provision is contained in the annual reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General and appropriation accounts 1997 to 2003. The Comptroller and Auditor General's 2004 report is due to be published in the autumn.

International Agreements.

Bernard Allen

Question:

95 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the changes that have taken place within the past three years in arrangements with Colombia regarding the travel of Irish citizens to Colombia with particular reference to visa arrangements. [20451/05]

On 1 November 2001, the Colombian Ministry for Foreign Affairs notified the Department of Foreign Affairs that Irish nationals travelling to Colombia, including those travelling as tourists, would henceforth require a visitor's visa. Colombian nationals travelling to Ireland also require a visa to enter this country. I am not aware of any changes in visa requirements since 2001.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Michael Lowry

Question:

96 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a project will proceed [details supplied]; the stage the project is at; the remaining stages in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20421/05]

Under the local authority swimming pool programme administered by my Department, there are four principal stages in the grants process. These are feasibility study, preliminary report, contract documents and tender approval followed by construction. Specific ministerial approval is required before a project can move from one stage to the next. The original proposal submitted to the Department by North Tipperary County Council and Roscrea Community and Tourism Leisure Centre was to build a swimming pool on a site in the grounds of the former Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roscrea. However, in February of this year and on the basis of advice from their consultants, the council submitted a new feasibility study and preliminary report proposing that the project should instead proceed on lands owned by the council on the old Dublin Road. The proposal is under consideration in my Department.

Michael Lowry

Question:

97 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if additional resources will be allocated for a project [details supplied] to take account of inflation over the four years during which the project has been under consideration with his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20422/05]

The local authority swimming pool programme administered by my Department is designed to make grant aid available to local authorities for the building or refurbishment of public swimming pools. In either case, the programme provides for a maximum grant level of 80% of eligible costs or 90% in the case of disadvantaged areas subject to a maximum of €3.8 million. There are no plans at present to increase this grant amount.

In 2000, Thurles Town Council proposed to refurbish the existing swimming pool in the town. The preliminary report for the proposal was approved in October 2000. However, in August 2003 Thurles Town Council submitted a revised preliminary report proposing the construction of a replacement pool on the existing site on the basis that refurbishment of the existing pool would not then have been economically viable. The revised preliminary report was approved in July 2004, which allowed Thurles Town Council to prepare contract documents for the project. I approved the contract documents in May 2005. Approval allowed the town council to invite tenders for the work proposed. It is the responsibility of Thurles Town Council to meet any balance of costs between the grant and the tender price for the project. Thurles Town Council has not advised my Department of any difficulty in meeting this responsibility.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

98 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of unspent money returned by his Department to the Department of Finance each year since 1997; the total departmental budget for each year since 1997; the projects for which this money was originally earmarked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20435/05]

The funding voted for my Department under Vote 35, together with the surplus surrendered to the Department of Finance for each of the years from 1997 to 2004, are outlined in the following table:

Year

Estimate (Vote 35)

Surplus surrendered

1997

IR£89,324,000

IR£11,904,332

1998

IR£103,897,000

IR£5,726,309

1999

IR£144,939,000

IR£27,608,520

2000

IR£195,078,000

IR£50,749,282

2001

IR£215,080,000

IR£9,601,288

2002

€369,449,000

€4,926,134

2003

€346,974,000

€4,869,917

2004

€444,390,000

€4,939,632

Two points must be borne in mind when considering these figures. First, the Department was reconfigured in 2002 as the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, having formerly been the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation. Second, the surplus figures shown represent the net end-of-year position, taking into account the reallocation of savings achieved within the Vote and the offsetting of any shortfall in appropriations-in-aid, where necessary. Net surpluses arose from savings on a variety of schemes and projects, due to factors outside the control of the Department. Full explanations for significant variations between Estimate provision and outcome for each of the subheads within my Department's Vote are contained in the annual appropriation accounts and report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, volume 2.

My ministerial Vote group also includes the Vote for the National Gallery of Ireland, Vote 33. The funding voted for the National Gallery together with the surplus surrendered for each of the years in question are as follows:

Year

Estimate

Surplus surrendered

1997

IR£2,121,000

IR£23,953

1998

IR£2,274,000

IR£44,637

1999

IR£2,560,000

IR£24,598

2000

IR£6,484,000

IR£3,168,802

2001

IR£12,094,000

IR£564,426

2002

€10,116,000

€60,684

2003

€8,436,000

€129,865

2004

€8,602,000

€173,067

As indicated previously, full explanations for variations between Estimate provision and outcome are provided in annual appropriation accounts and report of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

99 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will sanction the seeking of tenders for the replacement of the swimming pool at Naas, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20479/05]

The position with regard to the proposed swimming pool in Naas is that in March 2005, I approved the contract documents, submitted by Kildare County Council, for the project. This approval allows the council to invite tenders for the work proposed. The project will be considered further when this tender documentation is received.

Arts Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

100 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the increased demand for facilities such as theatres, community halls and other such premises to facilitate the increased demand arising from the high level of activity amongst musical, drama and arts groups throughout County Kildare with particular reference to their need for permanent premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20537/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

102 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will give consideration to proposals for facilities such a theatres, community centres or other facilities to facilitate those involved in the promotion of the arts in its various forms having particular regard to the number of drama, arts and musical societies involved in productions throughout County Kildare; if he has received communication in this regard from the various groups involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20539/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 102 together.

My Department's ACCESS scheme has, since 2001, provided funding of €45.7 million for the development of facilities around the country, including museums, theatres, and multi-purpose arts centres. My Department is currently examining a successor to ACCESS, and I hope to make a decision in that regard in due course. Applications for any such successor scheme would be invited by public advertisement.

Film Industry Development.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

101 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his ongoing plans for the development of the film industry having regard to competition from other jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20538/05]

My Department supports the film industry in Ireland at a number of levels. The Irish Film Board, an independent statutory agency under my Department's aegis, provides a broad range of supports for all stages of the industry, from up-and-coming producers to more well-established players operating at the international level. The board is also responsible for overseas marketing of Ireland as a filming location. My Department's support for the Irish Film Board increased from €11.85 million in 2004 to €14.45 million in 2005, an increase of 22%.

My Department also has responsibility for section 481 of the Taxes (Consolidation) Act 1997 incentive for investment in film production. This incentive is a critical part of what we can offer international film producers, and it has now been extended to at least 2008, with the amount that can be raised increased to €15 million per film from 1 January 2005.

I am aware that residual difficulties remain because of the euro-dollar exchange rate, and increasing competition from lower-cost jurisdictions. My Department and the film board will be carefully monitoring this situation as it develops with a view to ensuring that Ireland remains an attractive location in which to make films.

Question No. 102 answered with QuestionNo. 100.
Question No. 103 answered with QuestionNo. 34.
Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Sports Capital Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

105 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his proposals to support community based arts and sport related proposals throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20542/05]

The national lottery funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sport clubs and to sporting and voluntary and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. Between 1998 and 2004, €331.55 million was allocated under the programme to 4,273 projects throughout Ireland. 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. A total of 1,362 applications were received before that deadline. All of the applications received 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 2005 grant allocations under the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

The local authority swimming pool programme, which is also administered by my Department, provides grant assistance to local authorities for the construction of public swimming pools. This grant scheme has assisted or is assisting 55 local authority led pool projects throughout the country at the present time, of which 25 have either been completed or are currently under construction.

My Department's ACCESS scheme has, since 2001, provided funding for the development of arts and cultural facilities all around the country. One of the strands under the ACCESS scheme included community-based projects which could qualify for higher rates of grant aid. The total funding of €45.7 million available under the scheme has already been allocated.

Tourism Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he is satisfied that tourist facilities here are sufficiently cost effective to compete with other tourist locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20543/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

108 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he is satisfied that the tourism industry is sufficiently competitive in terms of pricing as compared to other European destinations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20546/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 108 together.

I refer the Deputy to my oral reply to Parliamentary Question No. 6 on today's Order Paper.

Cultural Events.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

107 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of festivals supported directly or indirectly by funding originating in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20544/05]

My Department supported the "ReJoyce — Dublin 2004" festival, which took place between April 2004 and August 2004. I established the Bloomsday centenary co-ordinating committee early in 2003, on which my Department was represented, with a view to co-ordinating and augmenting the many events planned to celebrate the centenary of the day on which the events in Ulysses took place. The festival was very successful in terms of enhancing a wide range of Joyce-related activities of both specialist and mass appeal, and as a quality cultural tourism initiative. Funding for the festival amounted to just under €200,000 in 2003 and just under €1 million in 2004.

My Department also funded the China Festival, which was organised under the memorandum of understanding on cultural co-operation with China, signed in September 2001. Funding for the China Festival amounted to €20,000 in 2002, €707,000 in 2003 and €2,040,000 in 2004.

The Deputy might also wish to note that Fáilte Ireland administers the festivals and cultural events initiative; a scheme was set up some years ago to expand regional tourism through festivals and cultural events by assisting with the marketing activities of existing festivals as well as promoting new events. The dissemination of information about the number of festivals supported by Fáilte Ireland under the scheme, which includes the national St. Patrick's festival in Dublin, is a day-to-day operational matter for that body. Full particulars about the initiative are available on Fáilte Ireland's website, www.failteireland.ie. The Arts Council also provides support for certain festivals, details of which are available on its website, www.artscouncil.ie.

Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 106.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

109 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of unspent money returned by his Department to the Department of Finance each year since 1997; the total departmental budget for each year since 1997; the projects for which this money was originally earmarked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20436/05]

The figures for Estimates allocations and expenditure for my Department for the years in question are as follows:

Year

Estimate

Expenditure

Amount surrendered

1997

914,925,000

904,595,000

10,330,000

1998

1,025,287,000

973,579,000

51,708,000

1999

1,101,744,000

1,035,147,000

66,597,000

2000

1,060,380,000

1,007,318,000

53,062,000

2001

1,092,880,000

1,045,811,000

47,069,000

2002

1,141,357,000

1,107,155,000

34,202,000

2003

1,086,654,000

1,028,225,000

58,429,000

2004

1,124,471,000

1,035,205,000

89,266,000*

*Of which €34.2 million carried over to 2005.

The amounts surrendered over the years in question comprised balances across a wide range of subheads in the Department's Vote. The more significant amounts have frequently arisen from demand-led provisions where my Department has limited control over final demand. Receipts arising from high demand for work permits and Companies Registration Office receipts have also contributed to end of year surrenders to the Exchequer.

Explanations of the causes of any variations in excess of 5% between outturn and Estimate provision are set out in the Department's appropriation account, published annually with the annual report of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The report is laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, and should be available from the Oireachtas Library. Volumes of the report and appropriation accounts for the years 2000 to 2003, inclusive, can also be accessed on the website of the Office of the Comptroller andAuditor General at http://audgen.gov.ie/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=-1&CatID=3.

In 2004, the Government implemented a new five-year multi-annual framework for capital expenditure which will provide a more secure framework within which capital programmes can be planned and implemented. Under the terms of that programme, Departments may carry over unspent Exchequer capital allocations from one year to the next, subject to a limit of 10% of the annual allocation. Accordingly, €34.237 million has been carried over from 2004 for disbursement in 2005.

Community Employment Schemes.

Willie Penrose

Question:

110 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if persons, who are over 55 years of age on community employment schemes, are permitted to participate for a five-year period; if employees who leave a social economy project cannot be replaced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20492/05]

FÁS employment programmes, which comprise community employment, CE, social economy and job initiative schemes, will provide 25,000 places in 2005. 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.

On foot of a review of FÁS employment schemes, which included detailed consultations with the social partners, I decided that with effect from 10 November 2004 the three-year cap would be removed for CE participants aged 55 or over. This category of participants is now eligible to participate on CE for a maximum of six years. The extension of the participation period from three to six years for over-55s should ensure that there will be sufficient clients to fill the available places and will help to secure the continuity of community services generally. Employees who leave the social economy programme are being replaced.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

111 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the amount of unspent money returned by his Department to the Department of Finance each year since 1997; the total departmental budget for each year since 1997; the projects for which this money was originally earmarked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20437/05]

The amount of unspent money surrendered to the Exchequer from my Department's Vote in each of the years 1997 to 2004 and the corresponding total voted budget in each case are as follows:

Surplus Surrendered

Budget Estimate

€ million

€ million

1997

199

3,455

1998

190

3,547

1999

169

3,593

2000

126

3,653

2001

61

4,166

2002

28

5,099

2003

29

5,613

2004

40

5,999

These savings arose principally on demand-led schemes, such as pensions, child benefit and unemployment assistance, which account for about 95% of total voted expenditure. While my Department makes every effort to budget accurately for the schemes in question, it is not possible to do so with total precision.

A comparatively small element of my Department's voted expenditure is incurred on projects. These are largely IT-related and the funding is provided by way of the administrative budget agreement with the Department of Finance. Under the terms of that agreement unspent funding at the end of any year may be carried forward to the following year subject to certain conditions.

Departmental Offices.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

112 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the status of the Finglas social welfare office; the staff numbers located there at present; the plans to locate additional staff there; the proportion of the building which is currently unoccupied; and if there are any proposals for the use of this space in the future. [20509/05]

There are no plans at present to change the status of the Finglas social welfare office.

This office serves the customers of the Finglas area and currently handles a claim-load of 2,224 unemployed people. In addition, since October 2003 it also handles the claims for one-parent family payment for local customers.

The building also houses the regional headquarters for the Dublin north region inspectors and facilitators for the Finglas-Ballymun area and the maintenance recovery unit of the pension services office. The total number of staff working in the Finglas social welfare building is 65. The building is fully utilised.

Road Network.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

113 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the percentage of the national roads programme under the NDP which will be completed by the programme’s end in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20425/05]

The National Development Plan 2000-2006, NDP, set out an ambitious programme for the development of Ireland's road infrastructure. It prioritised the development of the five key inter-urban routes: Dublin to Belfast, Dublin to Cork, Dublin to Galway, Dublin to Limerick, and Dublin to Waterford. In addition, it provided for the delivery of key schemes in the Dublin area including the Dublin Port tunnel and the remaining sections of the M50 motorway. Very significant progress has been made on the delivery of the objectives of the NDP during the period since its inception.

In assessing performance of the five major inter-urban routes in terms of key indicators against the NDP, it can be reported that all sections of these inter-urban routes will have completed their statutory approvals prior to the end of 2006; 45% of the construction schemes on these routes will be completed and opened to traffic by the end of 2006; in particular, 90% of the Dublin to Belfast corridor will be completed to motorway standard by the end of the current year; the Dublin region projects — Dublin Port tunnel and the M50 — set out in the NDP will have been completed by the end of 2006.

In respect of the remainder of the national primary road network, the NDP estimated that the planned investment would achieve a level of service of 80 km/h on inter-urban journeys on 90% of the routes involved. By the end of 2006, it is anticipated that 76% of these portions of the national primary network will have achieved this standard.

This overall investment in Ireland's road infrastructure is already paying dividends in terms of improved accessibility, removal of congestion problems, enhanced commercial competitiveness and safety. It is intended to build on this success in further improving the national road infrastructure over the coming years.

National Car Test.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

114 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Transport the position on the national car testing service review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20426/05]

The public consultation phase of the mid-term review of the National Car Testing Service, NCTS, concluded on 18 May 2005. The submissions and suggestions for the improvement of the car testing service which were received from interested organisations and individuals during this process are now being assessed by PricewaterhouseCoopers which has been engaged by my Department to manage the mid-term term review of the NCTS.

I understand a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers on the outcome of its review of the NCTS will be submitted to my Department shortly. Arising from the report, it will be my intention to announce any necessary adjustments to the current NCT arrangements in the course of the next few months.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

115 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Transport the amount of unspent money returned by his Department to the Department of Finance each year since 1997; the total departmental budget for each year since 1997; the projects for which this money was originally earmarked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20438/05]

Details of the surplus surrendered and budget each year since 1997 are provided in the following table. Figures before 2002 relate to the Department of Public Enterprise. The Department of Transport was established in 2002. Figures for 2004 are being audited and are therefore provisional. Explanations of material variances between budgets and outturns are available in the annual reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General for the years 1997 to 2003.

Departmental Budget versus Surrendered Surpluses €000s 1997-2004.

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004 Provisional

Departmental Budget

154,692

188,856

457,664

528,016

743,694

1,526,998

2,029,347

1,981,961

Surplus Surrendered

3,296

24,136

10,243

35,785

4,943

6,688

8,167

1,991

% of Budget Surrendered

2.1

12.8

2.2

6.8

0.7

0.4

0.4

0.1

School Transport.

Finian McGrath

Question:

116 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the nature of the test for road worthiness for school buses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20450/05]

Buses, including school buses, are liable to roadworthiness testing when they are one year old and every year thereafter. The items to be tested, the method of testing and reasons for failure of the test are currently set out in the vehicle testers' manual for heavy commercial vehicles, which was published by my Department in 2004. The manual is available on the Department's website at www.transport.ie.

Rail Services.

Michael Noonan

Question:

117 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Iarnród Éireann intends to discontinue the transfer of maritime containers from Colbert Station, Limerick; if this decision will have a serious impact on traffic through the ports of Limerick and Foynes; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that a serious additional burden of traffic will be placed on the roads of the region as a result of this decision; if he will consult with Iarnród Éireann with a view to its reversing this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20467/05]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the responsibility for the development of rail freight operations at particular locations rests with Iarnród Éireann itself.

It is my policy that Iarnród Éireann should remain in the rail freight business and the company has made significant progress in growing the rail freight business in areas where it holds a competitive advantage over road haulage, such as in the carriage of sugar beet, cement and pulpwood. The company continues to pursue a policy of growing its rail freight business where opportunities present. However, as in all businesses, it must adjust the freight business from time to time to reflect market realities.

Iarnród Éireann has developed a business plan based on a strategy with regard to freight which is to: break even by 2006; increase the profitability of the existing profitable business; withdraw from those businesses that are heavily loss-making; and target trainload container traffic. In formulating its plan, the company has held wide-ranging consultations with business interests around the country to identify those freight activities which are best suited to rail transport.

The strategic rail review, commissioned by my Department, and published in 2003, contained a comprehensive examination of the rail freight business and its realistic potential to support economic development and contribute to a sustainable environment. This review has assisted the company in formulating its business plan.

Rail Network.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

118 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if he has received the revised business case in respect of the Kildare route project; if he is in a position to sanction the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20489/05]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

119 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if he will sanction the proposed improvements to the Maynooth suburban rail line as outlined in the proposed integrated rail network including the building of a new train station at Spencer Dock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20490/05]

I propose to take Questions No. 118 and 119 together.

Iarnród Éireann has submitted a business case to my Department for the development of a greater Dublin integrated rail network, aimed at meeting the projected demand for rail services into the future. Included in the business case are proposals to: construct a new rail station in the city centre docklands area; provide an interconnector tunnel linking Heuston to the docklands; provide a spur off the Maynooth line to the N3 beyond Dunboyne; expand the capacity of the DART; and provide additional capacity on the Kildare route.

These proposals are being considered in the context of the multi-annual capital investment framework for transport, which is being prepared in my Department at present. I hope to submit the investment framework to the Government in the near future.

As regards the Kildare route project, I understand that Iarnród Éireann is close to finalising a revised business case regarding the four-tracking of a section of the line. The company will submit a railway order application for the project when the business case has been approved by the Department.

Public Transport.

Seán Ryan

Question:

120 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the demand from the general public for an improved bus service in Fingal; the reason for the delay in responding to the application from Dublin Bus for the introduction of new bus schedules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20529/05]

Since 10 January 2001, Dublin Bus is required by ministerial direction to notify my Department of proposed new services or proposed changes to existing services at least four weeks prior to their introduction. The Department has on hand five notifications from Dublin Bus concerning services in the Fingal area, all received within the last four weeks. Of these notifications, four are for minor changes to existing Dublin Bus services and one notification is for a new service. This notification was received last week.

In accordance with standard procedures for processing notifications of service changes by Dublin Bus, details of the notification remain confidential. However, these notifications are currently under consideration and Dublin Bus will be contacted directly concerning the outcome as soon as possible.

State Property.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

121 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the acquisition of a new premises for the Killarney driving test centre, Killarney, County Kerry; when a new premises will be opened; the steps being taken to resume testing at the centre; the numbers currently awaiting a test at the centre; the average waiting time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20554/05]

A potentially suitable site for a new Killarney driving test centre has been identified for which negotiations are ongoing between the OPW and the owner. In the meantime, driver testing will resume on Monday, 11 July 2005 and will be conducted from the Quality Inn, Killarney.

There are currently 2,144 people awaiting a test in Killarney and the average waiting time is 35 weeks.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

122 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of unspent money returned by his Department to the Department of Finance each year since 1997; the total departmental budget for each year since 1997; the projects for which this money was originally earmarked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20439/05]

The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs was established in June 2002 bringing together a range of functions previously under the remit of six different Departments.

The annual Estimates provision since the formation of the Department and the amounts surrendered to the central fund are set out in the table below.

Year

Vote No.

REV Provision

Amount Surrendered

2002

Vote 42

317,592,000*

18,604,774

2003

Vote 42

266,942,000

906, 515

2004

Vote 27

289,631,000**

3,842,460

2005

Vote 27

341,618,000

*Refers to the Department of Arts, Heritage Gaeltacht and the Islands for the first half of the year and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs for the second half.

**Includes Supplementary Estimate of €11,297,000.

Expenditure in the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs occurs across four main programme areas: administration; anGhaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht; community affairs; and rural affairs. Details of the Department's expenditure allocations and outturns across these areas are available in the Revised Estimates volumes and the Appropriation Accounts respectively.

Michael Lowry

Question:

123 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount of unspent money returned by her Department to the Department of Finance each year since 1997; the total departmental budget for each year since 1997; the projects for which this money was originally earmarked; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20440/05]

The following is the information requested.

Financial Year

Estimates Provision

Savings

€m.

€m.

1997

973

4.7

1998

967

5.6

1999

1,032.3

26.8

2000

1,145.9

95.9

2001

1,512.5

83.3

2002

1,348.7

0.5

2003

1,245.7

19.6

2004

1,405.2

146.2

A detailed breakdown of the savings under each Vote subhead together with an explanation of any savings or excesses is provided in the Appropriation Account each year. In general, expenditure under my Department's Vote is on programmes and grant schemes rather than specific projects.

Most of the Department's expenditure relates to demand-led schemes, animal disease control measures and technical and financial costs relating to intervention. Expenditure in these areas is difficult to predict because it is demand or market-led, or dependent on the incidence of animal disease. Savings in 2004 related primarily to demand-led schemes including REPS, farm waste management, and forestry, and to the animal health area, where there was a significant reduction in the incidence of BSE, TB and brucellosis.

In the other years referred to by the Deputy in which there were significant savings, the main areas were are as follows: 2003 — the main savings arose in the market intervention area due to lower purchases than anticipated, in the animal health area due to lower levels of BSE and scrapie than anticipated, and in the early retirement scheme due to fewer applications than anticipated, 2001 — the main savings related to the purchase for destruction scheme because of lower than anticipated take-up, REPS, which is demand-led, and grant scheme payments under the national development plan, due largely to the foot and mouth crisis; 2000 — the main savings related to agricultural and rural development schemes under the national development plan because of the late approval of the plan, REPS, due to lower take-up than anticipated; and market intervention; and 1999 — savings related primarily to REPS and farm diversification measures, both of which are demand-led, and to expenses under the tribunal of inquiry into the beef processing industry, expenditure under which was contingent on decisions of the taxing master and the number of claims received.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Mary Upton

Question:

124 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will implement overdue reforms to the early retirement scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20447/05]

The Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food has produced a report on a broad range of issues relating to the early retirement scheme, not all of which are within my remit. I expect to be in a position shortly to respond to the report. In responding, it will be necessary to take account of the EU regulations governing the early retirement scheme. I intend to have regard also to an expenditure review of the scheme which was carried out by my Department.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Joe Higgins

Question:

125 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food, further to Parliamentary Question No. 633 of 12 April 2005, if she has taken a decision to implement the recommendations of the report of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food in relation to retired farmers; and if so, when the recommendations will be implemented. [20471/05]

The Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food produced a report on a broad range of issues relating to the early retirement scheme, not all of which are within my remit. I expect to be in a position shortly to respond to the report. In responding, it will be necessary to take account of the EU regulations governing the early retirement scheme and I intend to have regard also to an expenditure review of the scheme carried out by my Department.

Grant Payments.

Willie Penrose

Question:

126 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the application by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath to the national reserve, has been processed; if that person has been considered for additional entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20473/05]

The person named submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the single payment scheme national reserve under categories A and B. Category A caters for farmers who inherited, leased or otherwise received free of charge or for a nominal consideration, from a farmer who retired or died, as the case may be, before the closing date for receipt of single payment scheme applications in 2005, a holding that was leased to a third party during the reference period. The person named does not qualify for an allocation of entitlements under this category because the holding he inherited was not leased out to a third party during the reference period.

Category B caters for farmers who, between 1 January 2000 and 19 October 2003, made investments in production capacity. The person named applied for an allocation of entitlements under this category on the basis that he purchased a suckler cow quota for 14 premium rights in 2002. His application under this category is being processed and he will be notified of his eligibility or otherwise as soon as all applications received are processed.

In excess of 17,200 applications received under the national reserve at the Department's office in Castlebar are been processed. In view of the number of applications received and the documentation submitted, it will be some time before a decision is reached in this case.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

127 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of unspent money returned by his Department to the Department of Finance each year since 1997; the total Departmental budget for each year since 1997; the projects for which this money was originally earmarked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20441/05]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tabular statement and refers to the aggregate position for the justice group of Votes.

Year

Surplus to be Surrendered 000

Net Estimate Provision 000

Surplus to be Surrendered as a % of the Net Estimate Provision

1997

£9,301

£721,932

1.29

1998

£15,249

£882,629

1.73

1999

£31,968

£922,108

3.47

2000

£77,891

£1,079,624

7.21

2001

£90,627

£1,238,574

7.32

2002

€12,772

€1,610,649

0.79

2003

€7,790

€1,731,301

0.45

2004

€21,384*

€1,863,867

1.15

*The surplus to be surrendered for 2004 is a provisional figure pending the publication of the Appropriation Account for 2004.

The Estimate provision for each year is utilised to fund the activities and services provided from the Votes in the justice group which are the office of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda Síochána, the Prison Service, Courts Service and Land Registry and Registry of Deeds.

Citizenship Applications.

Billy Timmins

Question:

128 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who has applied for naturalisation; if this will be dealt with as speedily as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20468/05]

An application for naturalisation by the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 12 June 2003. The case in question is under active consideration and I will inform both the applicant and the Deputy as soon as I have reached a decision in the matter.

Visa Applications.

Billy Timmins

Question:

129 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who has applied for a visa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20469/05]

The Deputy refers to two non-EEA nationals in his parliamentary question and states that the first person in question has applied for naturalisation and seeks to be joined in the State by his wife. My Department's records show that this person received a multi-journey, D-type residence visa in June 2004.

Unfortunately, the Deputy omitted to supply a visa application reference number in respect of the second person referred to. Consequently, it has not been possible to identify any application for the wife of the person in question. A search based on the name of the applicant as supplied by the Deputy did not yield any probable matches. If the Deputy would care to contact my Department with the correct visa application number, the status of the application will be determined.

Garda Stations.

Billy Timmins

Question:

130 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to a Garda station (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20470/05]

I am informed by the Office of Public Works that the current temporary letting of the premises in Ashford used by the Garda will expire on 30 June 2005. Accordingly, at the request of the Garda authorities, my Department has asked the Office of Public Works to arrange for the renewal of the lease. Renovation or refurbishment of the old Garda station, which was badly damaged by fire, is one of the options that will require to be fully considered in the context of providing Ashford with a new, permanent Garda station for the future.

Visa Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

131 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will take steps to ensure that the fresh application for a visa by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath is immediately processed; if he will not permit same, in view of the contents of the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 193 of 21 April 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20496/05]

In view of the circumstances and as an exceptional measure, it was decided to process this application immediately upon receipt. On foot of an assessment of the application, the visa officer approved the granting of the visa applied for.

Garda Stations.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

132 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will reconsider the creation of a new Garda district headquarters in the north east Kildare area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20497/05]

The position remains as I have previously informed the Deputy. There are currently no plans to establish a district headquarters for the area of Maynooth, Leixlip and Celbridge.

Crime Levels.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

133 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the headline crime figures for the years 1997 to 2004 for Maynooth, Leixlip and Celbridge. [20498/05]

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 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 11 quarters for which figures are available. This trend is reflected throughout most Garda districts. In interpreting these figures, account must also be taken of the introduction by the Garda Síochána in 1999 of the new PULSE computer system, which led to more complete and comprehensive recording of crimes reported than was previously the case. In addition, 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.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the attached tables show the headline offences, for the years 2000 to 2004 inclusive, for the Lucan Garda district which covers the Leixlip area and Naas Garda district which includes Maynooth and Celbridge areas. Figures prior to 2000 are not comparable with the figures from 2000 onwards.

Headline Offences Recorded and Detected for Lucan 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

3

2

1

0

2

1

1

1

Assault

103

48

130

79

135

87

96

58

34

23

Sexual Offences

57

28

26

6

31

20

27

16

15

12

Arson

32

4

30

1

34

4

29

4

20

4

Drugs

92

92

86

86

71

71

72

72

37

37

Thefts

1,194

348

1,323

385

1,358

482

1,152

430

862

352

Burglary

445

20

562

64

552

95

407

89

431

149

Robbery

85

13

74

24

74

16

96

40

82

37

Fraud

50

30

39

19

47

28

32

21

12

7

Other

32

12

48

23

31

14

16

11

10

10

Total

2,092

597

2,321

689

2,334

817

1,929

742

1,504

632

*Statistics for 2004 are provisional-operational and liable to change.
Headline Offences Recorded and Detected for Naas 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

1

1

2

2

Assault

79

60

84

60

107

81

42

32

28

27

Sexual Offences

18

10

44

31

26

11

18

14

12

8

Arson

19

2

17

2

23

5

23

3

15

6

Drugs

45

44

28

28

34

34

39

39

44

44

Thefts

880

195

946

338

871

225

805

195

538

204

Burglary

565

92

560

100

561

71

546

76

482

64

Robbery

26

9

26

5

33

8

41

19

23

13

Fraud

71

51

114

92

85

56

33

24

45

38

Other

19

12

19

15

25

22

9

9

1

1

Total

1722

475

1838

671

1765

513

1557

412

1190

407

*Statistics for 2004 are provisional-operational and liable to change.

Public Order Offences.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

134 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of on the spot fines issued by the Garda Síochána for breaches of the control of consumption and possession of alcohol bye-laws in Maynooth, Celbridge and Leixlip, County Kildare, in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. [20500/05]

It has not been possible in the time available to obtain the necessary information. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Registration of Title.

Willie Penrose

Question:

135 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he or the Registrar of Titles obtained or caused to be obtained any legal opinion regarding the entitlement of the Registrar of Titles to change the Land Registry rules or regarding the interpretation of section 105 of the Registration of Titles Act 1964; if so, if he will furnish any legal opinion so obtained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20506/05]

Willie Penrose

Question:

136 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it has been asserted or claimed by him or the Registrar of Titles that the general rules of the Land Registry or the Registration of Title Act 1964, or any section thereof or any previous or subsequent Acts of the Oireachtas, have been changed, altered or amended to facilitate the practice of withholding land certificates as practised by the Land Registry office from September 2004; if so, if he has satisfied himself with this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20510/05]

Willie Penrose

Question:

137 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he or the Registrar of Titles accepts that a land certificate when issued is in the ownership of the registered owner or the person entitled to be registered as owner; if so, the rule of the Land Registry office or by the statute or ministerial order by which it is claimed that the Registrar of Titles has the legal right or the constitutional right to cancel a land certificate without the permission or consent of the registered owner or the person entitled to be registered as owner in the absence of a court order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20511/05]

Willie Penrose

Question:

138 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 228, 229 and 230 of 27 April 2005, if his attention has been drawn, by the Registrar of the Land Registry office to the proposed change by the Registrar of Titles that from September 2004, land certificates will be retained by the Registrar of Titles and cancelled when there has been a change of ownership; if so, the date on and the manner and means by which his attention was drawn to this change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20512/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 to 138, inclusive, together.

In my previous response to the Deputy on this issue on 27 April 2005, I set out in some detail the background to the change in land registry practice referred to. My response of that date set out the legal basis for the change in practice as well as consultative process which preceded it and the steps taken to disseminate information regarding the matter to all interested parties. I am further informed that the change of practice has the full support of the law society's conveyancing committee. The Deputy should note that no changes have been made to either the land registration rules or the Registration of Title Act 1964 as part of this process.

Under the Registration of Title Act, the Registrar of Titles is responsible for the management and control of the Land Registry and the changes in question fall within the scope of her ongoing management remit.

Garda Strength.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

139 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the personnel strength in the Carlow-Kildare division as of 1 June 2005; and the strength nationally. [20519/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources including personnel, that the personnel strength, all ranks, of Carlow-Kildare division as at 1 June 2005 was 326. I am further informed that the personnel strength, all ranks, of the Garda Síochána as at 1 June 2005 was 12,245.

Garda Stations.

Seán Ryan

Question:

140 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to close Rush Garda station and dispose of the property; the timescale for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20526/05]

I am not aware of any proposal to close Rush Garda station or to dispose of the property.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a visa extensification will be offered to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 to facilitate an ongoing legal issue with An Bord Altranais; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20534/05]

There is no general policy operated by me to grant repeated extensions of permission to remain in the State to a non-EEA national on the sole basis that the person in question is the applicant in civil proceedings against a third party. It is not the case that such a person is precluded from pursuing such proceedings because he or she is no longer resident in the State.

No information has been supplied to me regarding the present stage of the ongoing proceedings or a likely conclusion date. Neither has information been supplied to me concerning the person's ongoing ability to maintain herself without recourse to public funds during that period. In the absence of such information I am not in a position to consider granting the extension of permission to remain to which the Deputy refers.

As I indicated in my previous reply to Parliamentary Question No. 358 on 26 April 2005, it is open to the person in question to apply for the appropriate visa to enter the State should she be required to give evidence in the context of any future High Court proceedings.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the citizenship application in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20535/05]

My Department has no record of an application for naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the application to remain in the State on the basis of parenthood of an Irish-born child in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20536/05]

The persons concerned made separate applications for permission to remain in the State on the basis of their parentage of an Irish-born child under the revised arrangements announced by me on 15 January 2005. Their applications were acknowledged on 1 April 2005. Applications are being dealt with in order of receipt in so far as is possible and as expeditiously as possible. Given the number of applications being processed, it will take several weeks before the processing of the applications from the persons concerned will be completed.

Garda Deployment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

144 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide a report regarding all of the postings during the careers of each of the gardaí that have been dismissed, have retired or have been transferred on account of the findings of the Morris tribunal; and the rank or grade of each of these gardaí during each posting. [20571/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

145 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide a report regarding the postings during the career of a garda (details supplied) and the garda's rank or grade during each posting. [20572/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 144 and 145 together.

It is not practical to put on the record of the House details of the entire careers of members of the Garda Síochána, apart altogether from the security implications which might arise. However, several members of the Garda Síochána most directly implicated by the findings of the second report of the Morris tribunal of either grave misconduct or grossly negligent management have been dismissed or have retired since publication of the first report last year.

Some serving members of the force are severely criticised in the second report. The disciplinary implications of this are under urgent consideration by the Garda Commissioner. Furthermore, two senior members criticised in the report will retire with effect from 31 July. An additional five members, all of whom are of Garda rank, are to be transferred by the Garda Commissioner from Donegal to posts in Dublin with effect from 24 June.

No inference should be drawn from these transfers that the members in question are not liable to disciplinary procedure under the Garda Síochána code and the relevant regulations, or to criminal prosecution should the Director of Public Prosecutions decide to initiate any such prosecutions.

School Transport.

Finian McGrath

Question:

146 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if all school buses are inspected regularly for health and safety issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20450/05]

All vehicles operating under the school transport scheme are required to meet the statutory regulations as laid down by the Department of Transport. Where vehicles have over eight adult seats and are more than one year old, they are required to pass that Department's annual roadworthiness test. In addition, Bus Éireann vehicles are subject to a routine scheduled maintenance programme to ensure that the highest safety standards are achieved. Contractors employed by Bus Éireann are contractually obliged to keep their nominated vehicle in a safe and roadworthy condition at all times. I am satisfied, from information available to me from Bus Éireann, which administers the scheme, that these regulations are being adhered to and that, in consequence, the school bus fleet is roadworthy and safe.

Schools Building Projects.

Dan Neville

Question:

147 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science when a general purpose room, library resource teaching room, principal’s office, storage facilities and a multipurpose room will be sanctioned and when construction of same will commence for a school (details supplied) in County Limerick. [20417/05]

The building project at the school has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria, which was revised last year following consultation with the education partners. The project will be considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme 2005-09.

Special Educational Needs.

Dan Neville

Question:

148 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 175 of 12 October 2004 and 557 of 19 October 2004, the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Limerick in connection with the provision of a special needs assistant. [20418/05]

Special needs assistants are assigned to schools to meet the care needs of individual children who have been assessed by a psychologist as needing this type of support. There has been no change to the criteria or guidelines for allocating special needs assistant support to schools and there are no plans to review the criteria or guidelines under which special needs assistant support is allocated.

Applications for special needs assistant support are now dealt with by the National Council for Special Education, which processes all applications for support from schools and communicate the decisions directly to the schools. At this stage, the council has dealt with all new applications from schools for special needs assistants that will be required from the beginning of September 2005.

In order to ensure that resources are used in the most effective manner, a review has been conducted in recent months to establish whether primary schools have the level of special needs assistant support that they need for children in their care, whether they have resources which they no longer need or whether they need extra resources. The review has found that some schools no longer have the care needs for which the special needs assistant was originally sanctioned, that is, in some cases the child may have left the school while in other cases the care needs of the child have diminished as the child has progressed through the school. In this regard, the schools where surplus special needs assistant support was identified have been advised that they may retain this surplus until the end of the current school year.

A review of special needs assistant support has recently been completed in the school in question. The outcome of the review determined that the pupil concerned should have shared access to a full-time special needs assistant. The level of support recommended was 20 hours per week. The school authorities were notified accordingly on 18 March 2005.

The Government has put in place an unprecedented level of support for children with special needs. Since 1998, the number of special needs assistants has increased from under 300 to over 6,300 nationally. In addition to this, more effective systems, such as the establishment of the National Council for Special Education, have been put in place to ensure that children get support as early as possible.

Disadvantaged Status.

Michael Lowry

Question:

149 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Science if correspondence has been received by her Department (details supplied); her views on the matter; the steps she will take to ensure that the school receives the classification desired and most needed; when a decision will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20419/05]

The school is included in the rural dimension of my Department's Giving Children an Even Break programme aimed at combating educational disadvantage. The school receives additional financial resources to provide educational supports to be targeted at disadvantaged pupils.

The new action plan for educational inclusion, Delivering Equality Of Opportunity In Schools, which I launched recently, provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and a new integrated school support programme which will bring together and build upon several existing interventions for schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage. The new action plan will be introduced on a phased basis starting in the next school year. It will involve an additional annual investment of €40 million on full implementation. It will also involve the provision of some 300 additional posts across the education system.

A key element of this new action plan is the better identification of levels of disadvantage in our schools, which will result in improved targeting of resources at those most in need. The first stage of the identification process, conducted on behalf of my Department by the Educational Research Centre, is under way. Questionnaires issued to all mainstream primary schools and were due to be returned to the centre by 31 May 2005. The identification process is being supported by an advisory group which includes representation from the INTO and the Irish Primary Principals' Network.

Approximately 600 primary schools comprising 300 urban-town and 300 rural and 150 post-primary schools will be included in the school support programme. Existing schemes and programmes will be integrated into the school support programme on a phased basis over the implementation period.

Schools Refurbishment.

Michael Lowry

Question:

150 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Science when application forms and additional details of the summer works scheme 2006 will be made available to schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20420/05]

Officials in the school planning section of my Department are working on the detail of the summer works scheme for 2006. I hope to be in a position to announce it shortly.

School Staffing.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

151 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the qualifying conditions for a primary school to have a walking, that is, non-teaching principal; if, in view of the increased workload, she intends to change these conditions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20429/05]

In recent years many improvements have been made to enable principal teachers in primary schools to perform their administrative duties. Up until the 1999-2000 school year, principals were released from teaching duties to become an administrative principal where the school had a staffing of eight or more mainstream class teachers. From the commencement of the 2000-01 school year, administrative principals were appointed to ordinary schools with seven mainstream class teachers and in schools with a principal plus eleven or more teachers including ex quota posts.

Since the 2002-03 school year, administrative principals may be appointed to schools where there is a principal plus nine or more teachers, including ex quota posts. The introduction of the release time scheme for principals of smaller primary schools for the 2000-01 school year marked a significant improvement in the conditions of service for the principals in those schools. This scheme enables teaching principals of primary schools to be released from their teaching duties for a specified number of days annually to undertake administrative leadership and management functions. The number of days release time granted is determined by the number of mainstream class teachers in the school as outlined in primary circular 25/02. Paid substitution is approved by my Department for the days that principals are on release time.

Arising from the implementation of the PCW agreement, significant improvements were introduced to the management structure of primary schools through the allocation of additional posts of responsibility. It is a matter for the boards of management of schools to delegate functions to post of responsibility holders.

My Department is engaged in the development of a computerised on-line system for the submission of claims for the payment of certain categories of teachers. This system, when implemented, is expected to further assist principal teachers in the performance of their administrative duties.

Schools Building Projects.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

152 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science if adequate funds are available to purchase a site and build a permanent school for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20430/05]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

153 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the alternative which exists for the 182 pupils and ten teachers at a school (details supplied) in County Mayo in the event that a site is not purchased and a permanent school is not built; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20431/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 152 and 153 together.

The school referred to by the Deputy opened in September 1996 with provisional recognition. Having met the criteria for recognition and proven its viability, the school was granted permanent recognition in 2000. Standard practice is that the school authorities are responsible for the securing of interim accommodation which is grant aided by the Department, pending the securing of permanent recognition. On being granted permanent recognition, a school becomes eligible for capital funding. The rate of progress towards a permanent accommodation solution depends on a number of factors including availability of sites and the Department's budgetary capacity to meet the level of demand.

The school is currently accommodated in prefabricated classrooms on a site of 0.75 acres in the town. The rental costs of the site and classroom accommodation is grant aided by my Department at the rate of 95%. My Department is advised that the lease on the site is due to expire in June 2006.

I want to assure the Deputy that we are acutely aware of the urgent need for an accommodation solution for this school particularly given the limitations on the existing arrangement and my Department is doing its utmost to achieve a satisfactory outcome at the earliest possible date.

To that end, the property management section of the Office of Public Works has been actively engaged in seeking a suitable site for a new school building. Soil sampling is being undertaken to verify the suitability of a particular site. The result of the tests and final assessment of site suitability is expected to be concluded and with my Department in a week or two.

As the board and patron are already aware, the provision of interim accommodation remains the responsibility of the board until such time as my Department is in a position to provide a permanent solution. However, I am sure that all partners will work together to secure alternative interim accommodation should that be required pending the provision of permanent accommodation.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

154 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of unspent money returned by her Department to the Department of Finance each year since 1997; the total departmental budget for each year since 1997; the projects for which this money was originally earmarked; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20442/05]

Details of the total annual budget for my Department and the percentage of the budget that was underspent in each year are given in the table below. The Deputy should note that the annual Estimates and budgetary process is not generally constructed on the basis of individual projects but that total expenditure is broken into a number of subheads. Underspends and overspends can occur in any of the Department's expenditure subheads for a number of reasons such as an over-run or an under-run in demand-led expenditure such as pensions or the student support schemes. The published annual Appropriation Accounts indicate for each subhead where the full allocation has not been utilised. Should the Deputy require more information on a particular aspect of my Department's budget, I would be happy to provide it.

Year

Annual Budget

Underspend

Underspend as % of Budget

%

1997

2,890,000,000

26,500,000

0.90

1998

3,187,000,000

31,030,000

1

1999

3,530,000,000

38,400,000

1

2000

4,140,000,000

100,900,000

2.40

2001

4,730,000,000

76,900,000

1.60

2002

5,280,000,000

84,600,000

1.60

2003

5,730,000,000

51,800,000

0.90

2004

6,450,000,000

95,200,000*

1.48

Total

35,937,000,000

505,330,000

1.50

The * figure is to draw attention to the fact that under the arrangements for the multi-annual capital programme, €50 million of the voted capital expenditure for 2004 was carried over by my Department to be spent in 2005.

School Staffing.

Finian McGrath

Question:

155 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if the 12th classroom teaching post at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 9 will not be discontinued and if the sixth classes will not have 35 pupils each due to this cut and the school given the maximum support. [20459/05]

The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on the 30 September of the previous school year and by reference to a staffing schedule. This staffing schedule is outlined in primary circular 15/05 which issued to all primary schools recently. This is in line with guidelines agreed between my Department and the education partners. In the current school year the staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy comprises of a principal and 12 mainstream class teaching posts. This is based on an enrolment of 328 pupils on 30 September 2003. The school also has a learning support post and the services of a shared resource post based in the school.

The mainstream staffing of the school for the 2005 to 2006 school year will consist of a principal and 11 mainstream class teaching posts. This is based on an enrolment of 311 pupils at 30 September 2004.

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils. Where some classes in a school have class sizes of greater than 29, it is generally because a decision has been taken at local level to use their teaching resources to have smaller numbers in other classes. School authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and the smallest classes is kept to a minimum.

To ensure openness and transparency in the system an independent appeals board is now in place to decide on any appeals. The criteria under which an appeal can be made are set out in Department primary circular 19/02. The board of management of the school has submitted an appeal to the staffing appeals board under developing school criteria. As outlined in the relevant application form, this appeal will be considered by the appeals board at its meeting in October 2005. The board of management will be notified of the outcome of the appeal as soon as possible thereafter.

The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in the operation of the independent appeals board.

Overseas Students.

Denis Naughten

Question:

156 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 187 of 3 February 2005, the progress to date by the working group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20465/05]

The report on the internationalisation of Irish education services was completed by the working group in September 2004 and published in November 2004. My Department is continuing to engage in a consultation process with the main stakeholders in the sector with a view to informing the implementation process and the preparation of the necessary legislation to establish Education Ireland. As part of this process my Department arranged for a conference entitled, Internationalisation of Irish Education, which was held in mid-May 2005 and was attended by all the relevant stakeholders and interests from the sector.

My Department has recently commenced the compilation of a register of approved courses to facilitate the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the issuing of work permits to eligible students. This register of courses is being updated on a monthly basis.

Schools Building Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

157 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science when architectural planning for the 17-classroom extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare will be completed; if funding is available in 2005 to enable construction to commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20483/05]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I have included phase two of the building project for the school in question in my recently announced list of school projects to be progressed through architectural planning in 2005. Phase one of the building project is currently under construction and is due for completion in the near future. Phase two of the building project is at an early stage of architectural planning. My Department's officials recently wrote to the school authorities giving approval to proceed with a revised stage 2 submission, that is, developed plans and costs, and a response to the letter issued is awaited.

A decision on which school building projects will advance to tender and construction as part of the 2006 schools building and modernisation programme will be taken later in the year.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

158 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 969 of 12 April 2005, if further progress has been made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20484/05]

A member of my Department's technical staff recently met representatives of the board of management of the school in question to discuss how best to progress the proposed project. I understand that applications for planning permission and a fire safety certificate will be lodged with the relevant local authority as soon as possible.

Schools Refurbishment.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

159 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if any secondary school is unable at this stage to use funding allocated under the summer works scheme, SWS; and if she will consider reallocating the unused funding to a school (details supplied) in County Kildarefor the provision of a covered walkway. [20486/05]

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application under the summer works scheme for 2005 for grant aid for roof repairs, conversion works and a covered walkway. The school identified roof repairs and conversion works as its highest priority project and was successful in obtaining funding for these works. It will not be possible to allocate further funding to the school this year because, for insurance purposes, only one contractor can be on site at any given time.

It is, however, open to the school authority to apply for funding for the covered walkway under the summer works scheme for 2006, details of which I will be publishing later this year.

Psychological Service.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

160 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of additional educational psychologists allocated in 2005 to national schools in County Kildare; and the number of national schools in County Kildare which still have no direct service. [20487/05]

No additional educational psychologists have been assigned to national schools in County Kildare so far in 2005. At present, a total of 72 national schools in County Kildare do not have a National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, psychologist assigned to them. However, it is important to note that all schools in the county have access to psychological assessments, either directly through NEPS or, for those that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them, through the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, SCPA.

Under this scheme, schools can commission assessments from a member of the panel of private practitioners approved by NEPS and NEPS will pay the fees directly to the psychologists concerned. Details of this scheme, including the conditions that apply to it, are available on my Department's website.

NEPS also provides assistance to all schools that suffer from critical incidents, regardless of whether or not they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. Also, in respect of all schools, NEPS responds to queries regarding individual children from other sections and agencies of my Department.

On behalf of my Department, the Public Appointments Service has recently initiated a new recruitment competition for NEPS. Any increase in the number of psychologists in NEPS must take account of Government policy on public sector numbers.

Special Educational Needs.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

161 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science when an application for a special needs assistant for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 will be processed; when a decision will be communicated to this person’s school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20491/05]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the pupil in question has been sanctioned the services of a full-time special needs assistant, SNA, following a review of SNA supports in the school in May 2005. The school authorities have been notified accordingly.

Site Acquisitions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

162 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the process in relation to the acquisition of a site for a new national school for Ardclough, County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20499/05]

The property management section of the Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of my Department in relation to site acquisitions generally, has identified a number of possible site options for Ardclough national school. Discussions between the relevant landowners and OPW are continuing. Due to the commercial sensitivities of site acquisitions, it is not proposed at this stage to identify specific sites to be acquired. However, this information will be placed on my Department's website when the relevant acquisitions have been completed.

Schools Building Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

163 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the expected completion date of the new national school for Rathmore, County Kildare. [20515/05]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that construction work is well under way on the new eight classroom school for Rathmore, County Kildare. The new school is scheduled for completion for September of this year.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

164 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress to date in the pre-selection of contractors for the required extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [20516/05]

The project referred to by the Deputy is among the largescale projects on the current school building programme announced in January for proceeding to tender and construction over a 12 to 15 month period. My Department has given devolved authority to the school authority in question to proceed to tender and construction with this project. I understand that the pre-selection of contractors is well under way following which they envisage that tenders will be invited.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

165 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will authorise the early seeking of tenders for a new school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [20517/05]

The project referred to by the Deputy is among the largescale projects on the current school building programme to move to tender and construction over the next 12 to 15 months. My Department has authorised the design team to commence pre-qualification process and it is envisaged that the project will go to tender in the autumn.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

166 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science when architectural planning will be completed in respect of the extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if funding is available in 2005 for construction to commence. [20518/05]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I have included the building project for the school in question in my recently announced list of school projects to be progressed through architectural planning in 2005. The project is at an early stage of architectural planning. The stage 3 submission — detailed plans-costs — is currently with my Department and will be assessed by my Department's staff in due course. When this analysis is complete the school building section will be in contact with the school authorities. A decision on which school building projects will advance to tender and construction as part of the 2006 schools building and modernisation programme will be taken later in the year.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

167 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the provision of permanent accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20520/05]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

168 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is in a position to sanction the required extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20521/05]

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

Applications for capital funding from the schools in question were considered as part of a review of all projects which did not proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme. Under this review, all projects have been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria, which were revised last year following consultation with the education partners. Each project has been assigned a band rating and the progress of all projects, including those referred to by the Deputy, is being considered in the context of the school building programme from 2005 onwards.

Site Acquisitions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

169 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the archaeological impact assessment report on Kill village and environs has effectively ruled out the possibility of using zones institutional lands under the Kill development plan 2002 for the building of a new national school; if the OPW will immediately identity a suitable site for a new national school for Kill and commence a compulsory purchase order procedure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20522/05]

The property management section of the Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of my Department in relation to site acquisitions generally, is continuing, in consultation with the local authority, to explore all possibilities in relation to the acquisition of a site for a new national school in Kill. Every effort is being made to ensure that a site is acquired as soon as possible.

Schools Building Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

170 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science when extensions to schools (details supplied) in County Kildare are due for completion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20523/05]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that construction is well under way on the projects in question. These extensions are scheduled for completion for September of this year.

Special Educational Needs.

Seán Ryan

Question:

171 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that three children have been refused access to a special language class at a school (details supplied) in County Dublin, that the Health Service Executive has identified five children requiring this specific service and that only two have been offered places in the school for September 2005; if the necessary resources will be made available as a matter of urgency in order that the three children in question may secure a language class placement in September 2005. [20527/05]

Special classes for children with specific speech and language disorders are established where a need has been identified and supported by up-to-date psychological and speech therapy reports in respect of the children in question. Each class caters for a maximum of seven children and each class requires the services of a speech therapist. The speech therapy service is provided by the relevant health executive service.

The school in question currently has a special class for speech and language disorder. There will be seven pupils enrolled in the class in September 2005 and therefore there is no available spare capacity in this particular class for any additional pupils.

The Deputy may be aware that the National Council for Special Education, which became operational on 1 January 2005, now processes applications for special educational needs supports, including requests for the establishment of special classes. The council has a key role in the development and delivery of services for persons with special educational needs, including children with speech and language disorders. The council has a local area presence through a network of 71 special educational needs organisers, SENOs.

The council has not received any application for the establishment of an additional class for speech and language disorder from the school referred to by the Deputy to date. However, I can confirm that correspondence has been received in my Department, from the parents in question, requesting that an additional speech and language class be established to cater for their three children. My officials have established that the parents in question have met with the principal of the school and were advised there is a classroom available. My Department will now liaise with the National Council for Special Education in this regard.

School Transport.

Seán Ryan

Question:

172 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in respect of school transport and the difficulties surrounding the immediate installation of seat belts in school buses, she will communicate with the Departments of Transport and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government with a view to implementing a maximum speed limit for school buses as an interim safety precaution. [20528/05]

The maximum speed limit for buses and coaches with accommodation for more than eight passengers is 80 km/h. However, drivers in charge of these vehicles, including school buses, must also observe the various speed limits on roads.

The safety of the school transport service is constantly under review in my Department. The Deputy will be aware that the question of introducing legislation to require motorists to stop on approaching a school bus showing flashing warning lights is being examined by the Department in consultation with the Department of Transport. Any other road safety measure deemed necessary will be examined in that context.

School Staffing.

Denis Naughten

Question:

173 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Roscommon will not lose its second teacher; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20532/05]

The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year and by reference to a staffing schedule. This staffing schedule is outlined in primary circular 15/05 which issued to all primary schools recently. This is in line with guidelines agreed between my Department and the education partners.

In the current school year the mainstream staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy comprises a principal and one mainstream class teaching post. This is based on an enrolment of 13 pupils at 30 September 2003.

The mainstream staffing of the school for the 2005-06 school year will consist of a principal teacher. This is based on an enrolment of ten pupils at 30 September 2004.

To ensure openness and transparency in the system an independent appeals board is now in place to decide on any appeals. The criteria under which an appeal can be made are set out in Department primary circular 19/02.

The board of management of the school has submitted an appeal to the staffing appeals board under developing school criteria. As outlined in the relevant application form, this appeal will be considered by the appeals board at its meeting in October 2005. The board of management will be notified of the outcome of the appeal as soon as possible thereafter.

I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in the operation of the independent appeals board.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to teacher staffing levels at a school (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20547/05]

The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year and by reference to a staffing schedule. This staffing schedule is outlined in primary circular 15/05 which issued to all primary schools recently. This is in line with guidelines agreed between my Department and the education partners.

In the current school year the staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy comprises a principal and two mainstream class teaching posts. This is based on an enrolment of 50 pupils at 30 September 2003.

The mainstream staffing of the school for the 2005-06 school year will consist of a principal and one mainstream class teaching post. This is based on an enrolment of 45 pupils at 30 September 2004.

To ensure transparency and openness in the system, an independent appeals board is now in place to decide on any appeals on mainstream staffing. The staffing of this school for the 2005-06 school year was considered by the appeals board on 14 June 2005. The board, having considered the appeal with regard to the criteria outlined in Department circular 19/02, was satisfied that a departure from the staffing schedule is not warranted in this case.

The board of management of the school was notified in writing of the decision of the appeals board on 15 June 2005. I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in the operations of the independent appeals board.

The school referred to by the Deputy has made a request to retain the temporary accommodation, which is currently in use by the third teacher. The school planning section of my Department is currently considering the school's proposal and officials will be in contact with the board of management on the matter in due course.

School Placement.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to a school placement appeal in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20548/05]

My Department is in receipt of an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act 1998 in relation to the person referred to by the Deputy. The appeal will be processed in the normal way.

Disadvantaged Status.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

176 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason there has been a change in the criteria for supporting a resource teacher to a school (details supplied) in County Offaly from one resource teacher per 80 pupils to one resource teacher per 135 pupils with the resulting loss of 60% of a teaching post; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this has happened in a school that is an all boys’ school and has designated disadvantaged status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20557/05]

The school referred to by the Deputy is included in the disadvantaged areas scheme, DAS, and the Giving Children an Even Break, GCEB, programme.

Under the disadvantaged areas scheme the school benefits from one additional ex quota teaching post, additional capitation grants of €38.09 per capita, a refund of the television licence fee and eligibility for 95% building grants for building projects. Designated disadvantaged schools are included in the home school community liaison scheme and the school has access to the services of a shared home school community liaison co-ordinator.

Under the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break, the school is benefiting from supplementary funding to provide additional educational supports for pupils who are considered to be at risk of educational disadvantage and early school leaving. The level of funding provided under this scheme is commensurate with the number of "at risk" pupils in the school. The school is not considered eligible for additional teaching staff under this scheme, based on the level of concentration of at risk pupils within its enrolment.

As the Deputy is aware, a new general allocation scheme has been announced under which schools will be provided with resourcing teaching hours, based on their enrolment figures, to cater for children with high incidence special needs such as dyslexia and those with learning support needs.

The introduction of this new system will involve the provision of an estimated additional 340 permanent posts in primary schools from September next. A further 320 posts are being provided on a temporary basis to facilitate the transition to the new system and to ensure continuity of service for children who have previously been given an individual allocation until those children leave the primary school system.

The general allocation for the school in question is one teaching post and ten part-time hours. In addition, the school may be entitled to retain part-time hours under transitional arrangements to cater for the needs of individual pupils with high incidence special needs until such time as these pupils leave the school.

I can confirm that the school's resource teaching allocation under the new scheme is based on its status as a boys' school, that is, the first post is allocated at 135:1. Schools whose allocations are based on 80:1 are those disadvantaged schools that are specifically eligible for additional staffing under the urban dimension of the Giving Children an Even Break scheme. This school is not eligible for such additional staffing and so does not qualify for the special 80:1 ratio for resource teacher allocation. I can confirm that this school was never eligible for the 80:1 ratio.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

177 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Defence the amount of unspent money returned by his Department to the Department of Finance each year since 1997; the total departmental budget for each year since 1997; the projects for which this money was originally earmarked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20443/05]

Details of the amount of the gross departmental budget, that is, the combined Defence and Army Pensions Estimates, and of the combined amount surrendered to the Exchequer in each of the years from 1997 to 2004 are given in the following table. This was a period of unprecedented investment in Defence Forces infrastructure and equipment. A broad indication of the composition of the amount surrendered each year is set out below.

Year

Gross budget

Surrender

€m

€m

1997

646.9

8.0 — note (a)

1998

728.0

65.8 — note (b)

1999

753.6

54.9 — note (c)

2000

789.1

36.7 — note (d)

2001

907.4

55.5 — note (e)

2002

902.9

45.9 — note (f)

2003

883.6

28.1 — note (g)

2004

900.0

13.1 — note (h).

(a)This amount is made up of savings across a range of pensions and non-pay subheads and surplus appropriations in aid offset by various excesses mainly on subhead H-Aircraft.

(b)This amount is made up of savings across a range of pensions and non-pay subheads (including €71 million on subhead T-Compensation) offset by various excesses mainly on subhead B-PDF Pay.

(c)This amount is made up of savings across a range of pay, pensions and non-pay subheads (including subheads B-PDF Pay, G-Defensive Equipment, J-Naval Service, T-Compensation (€32 million) and V-Barracks Reinvestment Programme) and surplus appropriations in aid offset by various excesses mainly on subheads C-PDF Allowances, I-Military Transport, and L-Buildings.

(d)This amount is made up of savings across a range of pay, pensions and non-pay subheads (including subheads B-PDF Pay, F-Civilian Employees' Pay, H-Air Corps, T-Compensation (€22 million) and V-Barracks Reinvestment Programme) and surplus appropriations in aid offset by various excesses mainly on subheads G-Defensive Equipment, J-Naval Service and N-Communications and IT.

(e)This amount is made up of savings across a range of pay, pensions and non-pay subheads (including subheads B-PDF Pay, C-PDF Allowances, F-Civilian Employees' Pay, G-Defensive Equipment, H-Air Corps, I-Military Transport, J-Naval Service and L-Buildings) and surplus appropriations in aid offset by various excesses mainly on subheads K-Barrack Expenses and Engineering Equipment, O-Military Training and V-Barracks Reinvestment Programme.

(f)This amount is made up of savings across a range of pay, pensions and non-pay subheads (including subheads B-PDF Pay, C-PDF Allowances, F-Civilian Employees' Pay, T-Compensation (€20 million) and V-Barracks Reinvestment Programme) and surplus appropriations in aid offset by various excesses mainly on subheads K-Barrack Expenses and Engineering Equipment, L-Buildings and O-Military Training.

(g)This amount is made up of savings across a range of pay, pensions and non-pay subheads (including subheads B-PDF Pay, C-PDF Allowances, F-Civilian Employees' Pay, and T-Compensation (€27 million)) offset by various excesses mainly on subheads G-Defensive Equipment, H-Air Corps, I-Military Transport, K-Barrack Expenses and Engineering Equipment, L-Buildings, M-Ordnance, Clothing and Catering, N-Communications and IT and O-Military Training.

(h)This amount is made up of savings across a range of pay, pensions and non-pay subheads (including subheads B-PDF Pay, C-PDF Allowances, and T-Compensation (€13 million)) offset by various excesses mainly on subheads G-Defensive Equipment, H-Air Corps, I-Military Transport, J-Naval Service and N-Communications and IT.

Pension Provisions.

Mary Upton

Question:

178 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Defence the numbers of civil servants and contract staff involved in consolidating or rationalising the Defence Forces Pensions Acts in the years 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20475/05]

Mary Upton

Question:

179 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Defence if he has plans to compile a restatement of the Defence Forces Pensions Acts; if not, the reason therefor; if he is compiling a restatement; when it will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20476/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 178 and 179 together.

The Defence Forces (Pensions) Acts 1932 to 2004 comprise a total of six short Acts, one of which was repealed in full by the 1975 Act, together with certain provisions of the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004, which enable the Minister for Defence, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to make and amend pension schemes relating to the grant of superannuation benefits to or in respect of members of the Permanent Defence Force. No work has been undertaken on the consolidation or rationalisation of those Acts nor are there any plans to compile a restatement of the Acts as it is not considered that such is called for.

I should say that a Restatement of the Defence Acts 1954 to 1998 and the Courts-Martial Appeals Act 1983 was certified by the Attorney General on 4 May 2004 under section 2(1) of the Statute Law (Restatement) Act 2002.

Defence Forces Legislation.

Mary Upton

Question:

180 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Defence if his Department is in compliance with all Acts and regulations in respect of Defence Forces and any other pension schemes for which he is responsible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20477/05]

In the conduct of all departmental business, officials of my Department always endeavour to comply with the requirements of all relevant Acts of the Oireachtas and statutory instruments made thereunder. This is also the case in the pensions field and specifically in respect of the Defence Forces pensions schemes made by the Minister for Defence pursuant to the Defence Forces (Pensions) Acts.

The aim is to be fully compliant with all requirements but the Deputy will appreciate that this cannot be absolutely guaranteed at all times. For example, I am advised that section 8(2) of the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 provides that "The Minister for Defence shall, with the consent of the Minister (for Finance), make a scheme or schemes for the purposes of granting superannuation benefits to or in respect of members of the Permanent Defence Force appointed on or after 1 April 2004 who are new entrants". No such scheme has yet been made as discussions with the military representative associations regarding the terms of the scheme are ongoing.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

181 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of unspent money returned by his Department to the Department of Finance each year since 1997; the total departmental budget for each year since 1997; the projects for which this money was originally earmarked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20444/05]

Details of net provisions and outturns from 1997 to date are set out in the following table. Also included are the resulting residual surpluses surrendered to the Exchequer, which are for the most part relatively small when compared to the full year provisions; the surplus in 2002 arose in the main from the transfer at that time of responsibility for national roads from my Department to the Department of Transport.

It should be noted that the amounts surrendered are the aggregate net amounts arising from savings and excesses across the full range of my Department's current and capital expenditure as well as fluctuations in appropriations-in-aid. Thus it is not practicable to relate these net surpluses to individual projects.

Year

Provision

Outturn

Surplus Surrendered

As a % of provision

€,000

€,000

€,000

1997

1,251,712

1,246,146

5,565

0.44

1998

1,289,103

1,283,423

5,680

0.44

1999

1,737,131

1,730,083

7,048

0.41

2000

2,236,933

2,235,209

1,724

0.08

2001

3,135,734

3,134,974

759

0.02

2002

2,819,081

2,771,512

47,569

1.69

2003

2,311,624

2,306,785

4,839

0.21

*2004

2,309,788

2,228,701

5,486

0.24

**2005

2,575,783

*Surplus surrendered is net of capital carryover of €75.601 million.

**Includes REV provision of €2,500.182 million plus capital carryover of €75.601 million.

Beginning with 2004, the capital envelope agreement between the Department and the Department of Finance sets out aggregate capital provisions for the Department for rolling five-year periods, with the most recent envelope covering the period 2005 to 2009 valued at some €9 billion. At €75.601 million the 2004 carryover represented only 4.65% of total gross 2004 capital provision, well below the 10% carryover allowed, €162 million in the case of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for 2004, as part of the multi-annual capital envelopes arrangements.

Architectural Heritage.

Liam Aylward

Question:

182 Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the projects in County Kilkenny which will benefit from the protected structures grant allocation recently announced. [20449/05]

While my Department provides financing for the protected structures grant scheme for the conservation of protected buildings, the scheme is administered by the local authorities. It is consequently a matter for individual local authorities to assess and prioritise applications and approve funding. Queries relating to this grant scheme may appropriately be made directly to the local authority concerned, in this case Kilkenny County Council.

Library Projects.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

183 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has received a submission from Cork County Council in relation to a special project (details supplied). [20461/05]

Cork County Council, along with all library authorities, submitted a prioritised list of library proposals for consideration by my Department for inclusion in the Library Capital Expenditure Programme 2005-2007. The council has listed Mitchelstown library fourth in its order of priority. However, my Department has not received any specific submission in regard to this project from Cork County Council.

Local Government.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

184 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will issue regulations under the Local Government Act 2001 to allow by order the establishment of new town councils in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20501/05]

Part 17 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides that qualified electors of a town having a population of at least 7,500 as ascertained at the last preceding census and not having a town council may make a proposal for the establishment of such a council. Under the relevant provisions of the Act, a proposal to establish a town council is a matter for the local community in the first instance. Thereafter a decision on such a proposal is a reserved function of the relevant county council, following a public consultation process.

Following these local steps, the proposal must then be submitted to the Local Government Commission for preparation of a report and recommendations to the Minister. I am considering the steps necessary to commence the relevant provisions of the 2001 Act, including the establishment of the Local Government Commission, and will be pursuing consultations with local government interests in this regard.

Grant Payments.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

185 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the funding allocated for disabled persons grants nationally in 2004; the amount not utilised by local authorities; and the reason therefor. [20502/05]

A combined capital allocation of €73 million was made available to local authorities in respect of the disabled persons and essential repairs grant schemes in 2004. The administration of both grant schemes, including the processing of individual applications, is a matter for the local authorities.

Information provided by local authorities indicate that combined expenditure by them on the schemes in 2004 was €55.4 million, that is, €45.8 million on disabled persons grants and €9.6 million on essential repairs grants. The majority of authorities have reviewed their schemes over the past two years with a view to streamlining their operation. The introduction of systems of medical prioritisation as well as standardisation of costs and improved arrangements for the use of occupational therapists has enabled authorities to manage the schemes more efficiently and has allowed them to tackle the backlog of applications which had been allowed to build in a number of areas.

A combined capital allocation of €70 million is available in 2005 for payment of disabled persons and essential repairs grants. Individual allocations were notified to local authorities on 7 June 2005.

Proposed Legislation.

Dan Boyle

Question:

186 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the agencies, persons and interest groups which have been consulted by his Department in relation to the proposed national infrastructure Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20503/05]

In accordance with normal practice, I consulted with other Ministers in relation to the proposals on the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Bill 2005. An Bord Pleanála was also consulted on the proposals.

A number of people and bodies also put forward proposals on how strategic infrastructure projects should be dealt with in the planning system, including Forfás, the Institute of Engineers of Ireland, IBEC and the National Competitiveness Council. In line with the principles of better regulation, a broader consultation process will be undertaken when the Bill is published.

Local Authority Housing.

Joan Burton

Question:

187 Ms Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to support the proposal by groups (details supplied) for a purpose built refuge on a site, as approved by Fingal County Council, at Main Street, Blanchardstown, beside the Garda station. [20531/05]

An application for funding under the voluntary housing capital loan and subsidy scheme has been received from Fingal County Council, which is responsible for the detailed administration of the scheme in its area. Additional documentation and information sought is awaited and when this is to hand the application will be further considered by my Department and the council advised of the outcome as soon as possible.