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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 29 Jun 2005

Vol. 605 No. 4

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 4, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 5 and 6 resubmitted.

Cabinet Meetings.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

7 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he has plans for future meetings of the Cabinet outside of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22235/05]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

8 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if further Cabinet meetings are planned outside Dublin during the remainder of 2005; the projected costs of these meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22339/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 8 together.

The costs arising to my Department for the Government meeting in City Hall, Cork, are estimated to be in the order of €6,000. This is accounted for mainly by support staff accommodation, overtime and expenses.

The holding of Government meetings outside Dublin is very much welcomed by communities in the areas visited and we have achieved a reasonable geographic spread with meetings held in counties Laois, Roscommon, Waterford, Louth, Kerry and Donegal so far. I see such meetings as a good usage of Government time as they present an opportunity to meet with organisations and groups from these areas and can serve to give a profile to a particular location. Accordingly, the Government intends, as the occasion arises, to continue holding such meetings from time to time. However, there are currently no plans for any such meetings.

Questions Nos. 9 and 10 resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 11 to 18, inclusive, answered orally.

Departmental Schemes.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

19 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of persons who have taken up the rural social scheme; and the number in each county. [22754/05]

There is currently a total of 1,702 participants on the rural social scheme with the breakdown per county, based on participants addresses, as shown in the table.

County

Number of Participants

Carlow

7

Cavan

65

Clare

85

Cork

88

Donegal

129

Galway

232

Kerry

165

Kildare

4

Kilkenny

5

Laois

9

Leitrim

78

Limerick

35

Longford

36

Mayo

402

Meath

4

Monaghan

15

Offaly

27

Offshore Islands

13

Roscommon

124

Sligo

88

Tipperary

32

Waterford

10

Westmeath

20

Wexford

23

Wicklow

6

TOTAL:

1702

Community Development.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

20 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position with the issuing of long-term contracts of employment to employees of community development projects funded by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22599/05]

Responsibility for the issuing of contracts of employment to community development project, CDP, staff is a matter for the management committee of each project. My Department has no legal responsibility for the employment of CDP staff. It should also be noted that two thirds of the funding provided to CDPs comes from sources other than my Department.

CDPs have traditionally been funded on the basis of a three-year renewable contract. In line with the expiration of the National Development Plan 2000-2006, the majority of projects are on contract up to the end of December 2006. The remaining projects are involved in a contract renewal process, which will result in the offer of contracts to the end of 2006, subject to evidence of satisfactory progress over the course of the previous contract.

Beyond 2006, I anticipate that community development projects will continue to receive support within the framework of three-year renewable contracts. Such arrangements are supportive to the provision of contracts to CDP staff.

Rural Development.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

21 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the work of Comhairle na Tuaithe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22598/05]

In February 2004, I established Comhairle na Tuaithe to address issues relating to waymarked ways and access. This decision followed consideration by the rural-agri-tourism advisory group of a report presented by the consultation group on access to waymarked ways. The establishment of a countryside council was the key recommendation of the report.

Comhairle na Tuaithe has the following aims: to ensure that all appropriate means are used to resolve conflicts that arise regarding access issues and responsible enjoyment of the countryside; to ensure that all those with an interest and concern in the sustainable development and proper management of the recreational amenities of the countryside are fully consulted on their future management; to develop and update, as necessary, a national countryside recreation strategy; to raise awareness of the benefits to and responsibilities of recreational use of the countryside and to carry out research and training on related issues; to ensure that adequate funding is made available to allow the organisation to achieve these aims and to examine the benefits and management of increased leisure use.

The Comhairle comprises representatives of the farming organisations, recreational users of the countryside and State bodies with an interest in the countryside. It has approached its work in the spirit of co-operation and through working groups, which progress components of these aims. To achieve its work programme, Comhairle na Tuaithe has established working groups to address specific required outputs. These groups are addressing: issues surrounding access to the countryside; the development of a national countryside recreation strategy; the development of a countryside code.

Comhairle na Tuaithe met on numerous occasions since its establishment and, in addition, each of the working groups met separately to progress key aspects of Comhairle's work. Their progress has been fed back to Comhairle na Tuaithe round table meetings on 4 October and 5 November 2004 and on 7 February, 7 March and 19 May 2005.

Late last year my Department, in association with Comhairle na Tuaithe, ran a national conference to promote and develop Comhairle's work. The main purpose of the event was to provide an opportunity for all stakeholders attending to share ideas on sustainable development and proper management of recreational amenities in the countryside. The feedback received that day is a valuable contribution towards the development of a national countryside recreation strategy.

Comhairle na Tuaithe has identified and reviewed a set of access parameters in the countryside. These could serve as a basis for conflict prevention and integrate a variety of needs and responsibilities. The Comhairle has also considered the key features necessary for countryside code development, with a focus on the potential application of the internationally recognised Leave No Trace initiative. I understand that Comhairle na Tuaithe is completing its initial consideration of these matters and will meet again in early July. I look forward to receiving its report subsequently.

Denis Naughten

Question:

22 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will review the CLÁR areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22571/05]

Denis Naughten

Question:

51 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will extend the CLÁR areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22572/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 51 together.

I introduced the CLÁR programme in October 2001 to address depopulation, as well as the decline in and lack of services in rural areas. Areas in 18 counties, with a population of 362,000, have been selected under the programme, including areas I announced in January 2003 in light of the 2002 population census data. This honoured the commitment to review in An Agreed Programme for Government. Areas included are those that suffered the greatest population decline from 1926 to 2002 with an average population loss of 50% and with an aggregate population now of over 4,000. The exception is the Cooley Peninsula, which was included on the basis of the serious difficulties caused there by foot and mouth disease.

There are no plans at this time for any further review of the boundary of CLÁR areas. I can also confirm that no other significant areas fulfil the population criteria for inclusion in CLÁR and I have examined this issue thoroughly.

Departmental Expenditure.

Richard Bruton

Question:

23 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of the budgetary allocation granted to his Department in 2004 which was returned by his Department to the central Exchequer; the reason for this underspend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22749/05]

The amount of the budgetary allocation of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs that was returned to the Exchequer at the end of 2004 was €0.852 million, that is, 0.28% of the gross allocation of €309.629 million. Taking extra appropriations-in-aid receipts into account, the total amount returned to the Exchequer was €3.842 million.

This total is made up of the following: extra appropriations-in-aid receipts of €2.99 million — target figure €19.998 million; amount received €22.988 million —€9.787 million of this was received in December, €4.731 million on 14 December and €5.056 million on 21 December; a saving of €0.736 million on the administrative budget of the Department, with €0.15 million of this amount being made available to my Department in 2005 under the efficiency dividend provisions of the Department's administrative budget agreement — savings on administration are not available for spending on programme budgets; a saving of €0.116 million on the programme spend of the Department, representing 0.04% of the gross programme budget of €292.052 million.

The Deputy will agree that this level of expenditure of the available resources reflects the effectiveness of the Department in progressing its objectives.

Proposed Legislation.

John Gormley

Question:

24 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will outline in more detail the reasons behind the recent announcement that the legislation to regulate charities which was initially promised by the Government for 2003 and then promised for 2005, will not be published until 2006. [22739/05]

Jack Wall

Question:

37 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if draft charities legislation will be published before the end of 2005; the reason for the delay in publishing this legislation; the difficulties the absence of such legislation causes for charities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22593/05]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

47 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the concern in the charities and non-governmental organisation sector at the continual delay in bringing forward the legislation to regulate charities, one year after the consultation process was completed; and if he will publish the legislation in early 2006. [22741/05]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

58 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on whether legislation is urgently needed to regulate the charities sector; if he will prioritise the publication of this legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22744/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24, 37, 47 and 58 together.

I do not accept the implications in the Deputies' questions about either a delay on my part in bringing forward draft legislation to regulate the charities sector or resultant difficulties for the sector. Far from there having been a delay, it is only following the establishment of my Department in June 2002, and the setting up of a dedicated charities regulation unit in February 2003, that moves began to be taken towards regulation of the charities sector. The legislation under preparation in my Department will ensure that charities are regulated for the first time since the foundation of the State.

As regards the public consultation, it is not in accordance with the facts to say that the process was completed a year ago. As I have said previously in the House, the public consultation has been undertaken in two stages. The first took place in 2004, on the basis of a consultation paper, approved by the Government at end-2003, which set out the core legislative proposals. The second took place in 2005, on the basis of a consultation paper prepared by the Law Reform Commission, which set out proposals for the specific aspect of trustee law reform. That second public consultation concluded in April last and the outcome will be the subject of a report from the Law Reform Commission, containing recommendations for consideration by my Department.

Preparation of the draft legislation remains a priority and work is proceeding accordingly.

Irish Language.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

25 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will provide an estimated cost for the 642 State bodies to comply with the regulations of the Official Languages Act 2003; if his attention has been drawn to the huge costs involved; his views on whether this gives value for money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22584/05]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

28 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department has produced an estimate for the cost of the full implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003; if not, the reason no estimate has been forthcoming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22580/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

29 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason he has not undertaken a costing of the full implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003; if he intends to do so in advance of introducing further aspects of the legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22747/05]

Damien English

Question:

46 Mr. English asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he intends to expand the remit of the Official Languages Act 2003 beyond the existing prescribed public and State bodies; if so, when this expansion will come into effect; the estimated cost of such an expansion on the part of the bodies concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22748/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25, 28, 29 and 46 together.

As I have indicated in response to previous similar questions in this House, no formal costings have been done in regard to the full implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003 on the basis that such an exercise would not be practicable in advance of consideration on a case by case basis by each public body of what, if any, specific additional costs might arise for it. It is clear that there will be some cost issues involved, particularly at start-up, but in the normal course these should in the main be met from within existing administrative allocations.

The Act is being implemented on a planned and pragmatic basis. Clearly, some costs will arise in connection with such matters as training and translation services. However, the position for individual public bodies, or indeed on an overall basis, cannot be established until individual schemes have been agreed in accordance with the legislation.

Circumstances will vary greatly from public body to public body in regard to demand for delivery of services through Irish. Indeed, some public bodies will be better placed than others in regard to having the resources to meet this demand, given that they already operate, to varying degrees, a policy of bilingualism. It is, however, a matter for each public body in the first instance to ensure that resources are assigned to comply with the provisions of this legislation in the same way as resources are assigned to ensure compliance with obligations imposed by other legislation and by the requirements to provide quality customer service.

The question of providing funding for specific administrative costs for individual public bodies — regardless of whether these relate to the Official Languages Act or any other service delivery or policy obligation arising — falls to be assessed against formal business cases or proposals submitted as part of the normal annual estimate and budget cycle. Given the position of Irish as the first constitutional language, the objective is to ensure that delivery of public services by public bodies — including provision of information about services and activities through the Irish language — is seen as a normal requirement to meet minimum standards of customer service and corporate governance, rather than an optional extra or add-on.

It is my intention to keep the First Schedule to the Official Languages Act 2003 up to date by making regulations from time to time to delete references to public bodies that have ceased to exist and to include new public bodies, as appropriate. While my Department is currently working on a draft of such regulations, I am not in a position to say when they might be ready to be presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas for approval in accordance with section 4(3) of the Act. No other expansion of the remit of the Act is under consideration at this time.

Proposed Legislation.

John Gormley

Question:

26 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the consultation period and mechanisms he will put in place once the legislation to regulate charities is published to ensure that all stakeholders, in particular the charity and non-governmental sector, are fully included in the process. [22740/05]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

45 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has consulted and informed the implementation and advisory group established to oversee the White Paper on voluntary activity; the reason for the delay in publishing the legislation; and if he will take steps to ensure its full participation in the consultation and legislative process once the draft Bill is published. [22742/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 26 and 45 together.

The proposed content of the future Charities Regulation Bill has already been the subject of an inclusive, public consultative process, undertaken in two stages over the period 2004-05. At end-2003, the Government approved the core legislative proposals for regulating the charities sector. Those proposals were set out in a consultation paper, entitled Establishing a Modern Statutory Framework for Charities, which was the reference document for the first stage of the consultative process in 2004. Furthermore, the specialist aspect of the draft legislation concerning trustee law reform was the subject of proposals from the Law Reform Commission. These proposals were set out in a further consultation paper, which was the reference document for the second stage of the consultative process in 2005.

The broad, overall public endorsement of the legislative proposals has served to confirm the direction to be taken with preparation of the draft Charities Regulation Bill. I remain committed to the inclusive, public consultation process that I have adopted to date. However, the Deputies will appreciate that following publication of a Bill, control of the legislative process, including any formal consultative processes, rests with the Oireachtas rather than with any individual Minister.

Accuracy of Placenames.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

27 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén ról atá aige nó ag a Roinn i gcaighdeánú litriú agus chur i láthair logainmneacha agus ainmneacha sráide agus an gcuirfidh sé smacht air seo chun an ruaig a chur ar dhrochlitriú. [22731/05]

Cuireann brainse logainmneacha mo Roinnse comhairle ar fáil d'údaráis áitiúla agus do chomhlachtaí poiblí eile maidir le leaganacha údarásacha de logainmneacha na tíre. Bíonn an brainse sásta i gcónaí— ar mhaithe le mí-litriú a sheachaint — comhairle a thabhairt do na páirtithe sin nuair a bhíonn comharthaíocht nua á cur ar fáil acu. Ar ndóigh, tá ról comhairleach an bhrainse luaite go sonrach i dtreoir ón Roinn Iompair maidir le comharthaíocht bóithre.

Mar is eol don Teachta, tugann Cuid 5 d'Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 cumhacht don Aire an leagan Gaeilge de logainm a dhearbhú le hordú logainmneacha, tar éis comhairle a fháil ón gCoimisiún Logainmneacha agus an chomhairle sin a bhreithniú. Tá naoi n-ordú logainmneacha déanta faoi fhorálacha an Achta go dtí seo a dhearbhaíonn leaganacha Gaeilge ainmneacha na gcontaetha agus na gcontaetha riaracháin, na logainmneacha riaracháin i sé chontae ar leith agus sna ceantair Ghaeltachta, agus ainmneacha na lár-ionad daonra.

Anuas ar sin, tá an brainse logainmneacha i mbun togra i gcomhar le Suirbhéireacht Ordanáis Éireann agus leis na húdaráis áitiúla chun leaganacha údarásacha Gaeilge d'ainmneacha sráideanna i gceantair riaracháin na n-údarás áitiúla éagsúla a chur ar fáil. Tá an chéad toradh den chomh-thogra seo le fáil sa leabhrán Sráidainmneacha Bhaile Átha Cliath, a d'fhoilsigh Comhairle Cathrach Bhaile Átha Cliath anuraidh. Táthar ag súil leis go mbeidh an taighde déanta sa chuid eile den tír agus na torthaí ar fáil taobh istigh de thréimhse dhá bhliain.

Táim dóchasach go gcabhróidh an obair seo go léir le húdaráis áitiúla agus comhlachtaí poiblí eile chun a chinntiú go mbeidh litriú ceart agus leaganacha cearta de logainmneacha agus sráidainmneacha á n-úsáid ar chomharthaíocht dá gcuid.

Questions Nos. 28 and 29 answered with Question No. 25.

Irish Language.

Joe Costello

Question:

30 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Costello den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil sé sásta go bhfuil an t-easaontas a bhí ann idir Foras na Gaeilge agus na heagrais dheonacha leigheasta anois; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [22574/05]

Tuigtear dom ó Fhoras na Gaeilge go bhfuil dea-chaidreamh acu leis na heagrais deonacha agus go bhfuiltear ag comhoibriú leo ar bhonn páirtnéireachta. Cuireann an foras bunmhaoiniú ar fáil do 17 eagras, idir eagrais Ghaeilge agus eagrais oideachasúla, bunaithe ar chlár oibre bliantúil a bhíonn aontaithe ag an bhforas le gach eagras ar leith.

Tá Foras na Gaeilge ag cur próiseas nua i bhfeidhm leis na heagrais seo maidir le hiarratais ar bhunmhaoiniú agus éilimh ar íocaíochtaí. Tuigtear dom go raibh cruinniú le ceannairí na n-eagras atáá maoiniú ag an bhforas ar 1 Meitheamh chun an próiseas nua seo a phlé agus go bhfuil cruinniú eile socruithe le haghaidh mí Mheán Fómhair d'fhonn an córas measúnaithe a aontú idir na grúpaí ar fad.

Rural Development.

Willie Penrose

Question:

31 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the recent EU deal that will see a continuation of payments from the EU for rural development programmes from 2007; the services this money will be spent on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22600/05]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

43 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the level of funding to be allocated to Ireland under the EU Rural Development Measure 2007-2013; his views on whether the existing level of EU funding under this measure can be sustained; the measures under way between his Department and the Department of Agriculture and Food to develop a coherent programme to allocate such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22750/05]

Dan Boyle

Question:

44 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the way in which the recent deal on the European Union agreement on rural funding will affect rural communities here. [22734/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31, 43 and 44 together.

The agreement negotiated at the recent meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers in Luxembourg marked the culmination of important negotiations. Throughout these negotiations my Department has worked in close partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Food. This collegiate approach will continue as we now proceed to prepare a national rural development plan.

The recent EU agreement covers a wide range of measures including on-farm investment, agri-environment measures, support for young farmers, food processing and Leader. The format allows flexibility for the continuation of current successful rural development programming, by grouping measures under the three main objectives of competitiveness, the environment and the wider rural economy.

While the actual amount of funding must await agreement on the EU budget, I welcome the stipulation that at least 10% of the money Ireland receives under the European agriculture fund for rural development will now be spent on the provision of services and-or support in the rural economy beyond the farm gate. A minimum funding level of 5% will be dedicated to mainstreaming the Leader methodology, which is almost double the present level of funding. Overall, this will mean a considerable increase in support for rural development programmes implemented by my Department. The agreement also provides for basic services for the economy and rural population and a new provision which will cover cultural and leisure activities.

Overall, this new approach to rural development is likely to enable development of a fuller range of programmes and projects to be supported, leading to the creation of new enterprises and employment opportunities and helping to achieve the Government's objective of balanced regional development and sustainable and vibrant rural communities. Work will now commence on a national rural development plan which will include preparation of a joint national rural development strategy and a detailed national rural development programme. The process will include working closely with stakeholders.

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

32 D'fhiafraigh Ms Burton den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an raibh cainteanna aige leis an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta, chun a chinntiú go mbeidh go leor aistritheoirí ar fáil chun Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla a chur i bhfeidhm ina iomláine agus don éileamh a bheidh ann ón Aontas Eorpach mar gheall ar stádas oifigiúil oibre na Gaeilge; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [22576/05]

I dtosach báire ba mhaith liom a rá go mbíonn teagmháil rialta agam leis an Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta, mar a bhíonn le mo chomhghleacaithe eile sa Rialtas. Sin ráite, ní miste dom a chur i gcuimhne don Teachta go bhfuil, mar atá mínithe agam sa Teach seo roimhe seo, Foras na Gaeilge i mbun próisis faoi láthair chun córas creidiúnaithe d'aistritheoirí a fhorbairt don earnáil phríobháideach aistriúcháin. Tá i gceist go mbeidh an córas seo i bhfeidhm roimh dheireadh na bliana seo. Nuair a bheidh an córas i bhfeidhm, is cinnte gur cúnamh praiticiúil fíor-thábhachtach a bheidh ann do chomhlachtaí poiblí a bheidh ag iarraidh úsáid a bhaint as seirbhísíó aistritheoirí príobháideacha. Ar ndóigh, is gnó do chomhlachtaí poiblí iad féin a shásamh maidir leis na seirbhísí aistriúcháin atá ar fáil, chomh maith le caighdeán agus luach-ar-airgid na seirbhísí sin.

Sa bhreis ar sin, tá mo Roinnse ag obair, ní amháin leis an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta, ach le Foras na Gaeilge, Gaeleagras na Seirbhíse Poiblí, An Foras Riaracháin agus institiúidí tríú leibhéil chun a chinntiú go gcuirfear leis an soláthar sainchúrsaí dírithe ar riachtanais na hearnála poiblí i ndáil le cur i bhfeidhm an Achta. Is cinnte go mbeidh ról lárnach agus fíor-thábhachtach ag na hinstitiúidí tríú-leibhéil san obair dhúshlánach atá romhainn le cinntiú go mbeidh líon leor-dhóthanach do dhaoine atá inniúil sa Ghaeilge ar fáil chun freastal sásúil a dhéanamh, ní amháin ar réimse an aistriúcháin ach ar an iliomad réimsí eile. Níl amhras ar bith orm ach go nglacfaidh na hinstitiúidí sin go fonnmhar leis an dúshlán sin.

Rural Development.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

33 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to update the 1999 White Paper on rural development here; his views on whether the Government’s rural development policy requires updating; the precise initiatives he plans to take in this respect over the next year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22594/05]

The strategic goal of my Department for rural development is to promote and maintain living and working populations in rural areas by helping to foster sustainable and culturally vibrant communities. The White Paper on rural development defines Government policy in this regard and provides a framework for realising these goals.

My Department's rural development initiatives in the next year will include: implementation of the CLÁR and Leader programmes and the rural social scheme; administration of the farm electrification grant scheme; advancing the work of Comhairle Na Tuaithe; support of projects under the rural development fund; promoting debate and progressing rural development issues through the national rural development forum; cross-Border co-operation in rural development; leading the rural development co-ordinating committee under the NDP; participation as appropriate in interdepartmental committees on issues appropriate to rural development, such as the national spatial strategy; support of the Western Development Commission in the discharge of its functions. Evaluation of the rural development fund and follow up with relevant Departments on the review of enterprise supports will also fall for consideration.

Following the recent adoption of the EU regulation on rural development for the period2007-13, my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Food, will prepare a joint national rural development strategy and a detailed national rural development programme. This will include a stakeholder consultation process later this year. Any review of priorities to be addressed under the White Paper on rural development will be considered in that context.

Question No. 34 answered with QuestionNo. 18.

Departmental Schemes.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

35 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when his Department will complete the review of the rural social scheme; his views on changing the eligibility criteria for this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22745/05]

I expect to receive the report of the review of the rural social scheme in the near future. The review will give consideration, inter alia, to whether eligibility criteria should be broadened, narrowed or adjusted, specifying the relevant groups and the basis for any such proposals being made. Upon receipt of the report I will consider carefully any recommendations arising.

White Paper on Voluntary Activity.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

36 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress which has been made in progressing the White Paper on voluntary activity. [22738/05]

With regard to progress made to date on implementation of the White Paper, I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 30 of 19 May 2005. As I stated in that reply, the White Paper remains Government policy. However, the White Paper is now five years old and the context in which White Paper policy is to be implemented has clearly changed with time. Against this background of change my Department has now commissioned a consultancy to advise the Department on practical measures to further advance the key principles set out in the White Paper.

Question No. 37 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Irish Language.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

38 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if any progress has been made on the development of a 20 year strategic plan for the Irish language; his plans to promote the use of the Irish language over the next year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22587/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 19, 21 and 31 of 19 May 2005. The preparation of a 20 year strategic plan for the Irish language is being addressed through Fóram na Gaeilge. Three meetings of Fóram na Gaeilge have taken place to date and a fourth is scheduled to take place later this year.

As regards my plans for the promotion of the Irish language over the next year, the Deputy will be aware that this is part of the ongoing remit of my Department. This remit is carried out through a broad range of policies, including implementation of the Official Languages Act and the funding of agencies — including Foras na Gaeilge, Údarás na Gaeltachta and Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge — which are directly involved in promoting the Irish language.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

39 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the recent reported comments from a spokesperson for Aer Lingus that the significant cost involved for the airline in complying with the Official Languages Act 2003 puts the national airline at a significant disadvantage in comparison with its competitors; if he will consider revising the regulation demanding that Aer Lingus produces all its advertisements in Irish and English; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22581/05]

I do not propose to comment on remarks attributed to a purported spokesperson who may or may not represent views of the organisation named in the media report concerned.

My Department has written on several occasions to each of the public bodies covered by the Official Languages Act with information about the operation of the Act and to offer a more detailed presentation and question-and-answer session if that were considered useful. A number of public sector organisations have had questions and concerns about how the legislation impacts on them and these presentations have proved a useful way of explaining the facts and allaying undue fears. The offer from my Department to meet with public bodies stands.

Regulations under section 9(1) of the Act — which will cover matters such as advertising — are currently being prepared and I cannot give a precise date at this time for their coming into effect. However, they are being drafted on the basis of minimising any additional costs for public bodies in their implementation. The approach being taken is a pragmatic and phased one but one which is also consistent with the unanimous will of the Oireachtas that the Irish language should be used by public bodies for official purposes such as advertising.

Offshore Islands.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

40 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will consider introducing a scheme where island residents who are mentally or physically impaired are offered a relocation and rehousing option in the mainland to enable them to avail of necessary services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22672/05]

I refer the Deputy to today's Priority Question No. 13.

Irish Language.

Liz McManus

Question:

41 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to use powers available to him under the Official Languages Act 2003 to require that all official maps carry Irish only versions of place names in the Gaeltacht; his views on whether English versions of many Gaeltacht place names will decline over the next few years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22582/05]

I have made regulations to prescribe the large scale, definitive maps of the State prepared and published by Ordnance Survey Ireland, OSI, for the purposes of section 33 of the Official Languages Act. The effect of these regulations is that only the placename as declared in the Placenames (Ceantair Ghaeltachta) Order 2004 may be used on these maps. I am assured by OSI that tourist maps published by it show both the Irish language placename and the English language version. In addition, two of the main private companies in the map publishing business have indicated to my Department that they will ensure that new tourists maps and other literature to be published by them will also show both language versions henceforth.

I have no current plans to make further regulations of this type. However, I expect that an effect of the Gaeltacht placenames order is that public bodies will move over time to use of the Irish language placename for official purposes. One of the key pressures on the Irish language in Gaeltacht areas arises from the lack of practical recognition of the language in services to customers from many public bodies. The Irish language requires positive efforts to protect its future, particularly in terms of recognition by the public sector of the rights of its customers to use Irish in official dealings with it. This is one small such step, designed to reinforce the status of Irish as the spoken community language in Gaeltacht areas.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

42 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his reaction to the granting of official EU status to the Irish language; if he will back up this achievement with a renewed effort to get people to speak Irish, as opposed to concentrating on its legislative status at home and in Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22586/05]

I regard the achievement of enhanced status for the Irish language in Europe as a significant one for the Irish language. As I have already said publicly, this decision now presents a challenge to the Irish speaking community to use the new status that has been achieved for Irish. It also presents a challenge to the Irish language organisations and educational institutions to ensure that there are enough highly qualified people to meet the requirements of the new status.

The provision of real opportunities for citizens to use Irish in official dealings with public bodies here at home is important to the future development of the language. It cannot and should not be dismissed as merely concentrating on legislative status. The future of Irish depends on its speakers being able to live their lives to the full through the language. Being able to use Irish in official dealings with the State is of critical importance in that regard. The perceived status of the language is not just a question of the legislative position but also relates to the practical recognition afforded in delivery of services and in their communications across public bodies to the language and to its speakers.

If we wish, as the Deputy's question suggests he does, to encourage people to use Irish and to give people opportunities to speak Irish, that cannot be done in a way that is marginal or tokenistic, or separated from the mainstream of public life and public service delivery.

Questions Nos. 43 and 44 answered with Question No. 31.
Question No. 45 answered with QuestionNo. 26.
Question No. 46 answered with QuestionNo. 25.
Question No. 47 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Decentralisation Programme.

Mary Upton

Question:

48 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position in regard to the decentralisation of his Department to Knock; the number of applications that have been received to date for the decentralisation of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22592/05]

My Department is scheduled to complete its move to Knock Airport by the end of 2007. A site has been chosen for a headquarters building and the Office of Public Works is in the process of finalising the purchase of that site. It is expected that a competition will be advertised subsequently for the design and building of the headquarters and that work on site will begin in the final quarter of this year. All necessary work on the building is scheduled to be completed in time for staff to move to Knock Airport by the end of 2007. Approximately 160 posts are relocating to Knock Airport and to date 157 applications have been received through the central applications facility.

Irish Language.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

49 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason the budget for the Language Commissioner for 2005 is almost double that for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22596/05]

Oifig Choimisinéir na dTeangacha Oifigiúla was established in 2004 under the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003. An initial sum of €500,000 was provided in the Vote of my Department for 2004 for this purpose. Mr. Seán Ó Cuirreáin was appointed to the position of An Coimisinéir Teanga in February 2004 and the remaining staff of his office were appointed during the course of last year. Clearly, therefore, 2005 is the first full operational year of the office and the budget for this year, including the full year staffing costs, reflects that fact.

Rural Development.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

50 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department has examined the report on quality of life in the rural communities of west Cork, Waterford, Cavan and Monaghan launched on 9 June 2005. [22736/05]

My Department has received the recent report on the quality of life in rural areas. My Department was represented at the subsequent quality of life conference, launched by my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, which discussed the findings and conclusions of the report. The Deputy will be aware that both the report and conference were funded under the Leader programmes, for which my Department has responsibility.

The report's findings will be given consideration by my Department during the preparation of the new EU rural development framework for 2007-13.

Question No. 51 answered with QuestionNo. 22.

National Drugs Strategy.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

52 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the finalised mid-term review of the national drugs strategy; the amendments and additions that have been made to the existing strategy; his further views on the creation of a new fifth pillar of the strategy to include rehabilitation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22589/05]

The report of the steering group on the mid-term review of the national drugs strategy was published in early June. The report was the culmination of the mid-term review, a comprehensive review process which was launched last year and included an extensive public consultation.

The review was overseen by a steering group, chaired by my Department, and made up of the relevant Departments and agencies as well as the community and voluntary sectors. The steering group was also assisted by external consultants. The review sought to assess the impact and direction of the strategy at this mid-point stage and, in this regard, the group concentrated on identifying adjustments to the existing strategy and highlighting priorities for the remaining period up to 2008.

The steering group found that the current aims and objectives of the strategy are fundamentally sound. The review found that there are encouraging signs of progress since 2001 when the strategy was first launched, which suggests that the current approach to tackling the drugs problem is proving to be effective. At the same time, however, the report highlights the need to re-focus priorities and accelerate the roll out of some of the strategy's actions and, in this context, a number of new actions and amendments have been identified. These changes will, I believe, strengthen the strategy and enable it to better deliver its aims in the next two to three years. In overall terms, ten of the strategy's existing actions are being replaced, a further seven of the existing actions are being amended and there are eight new actions which aim to address issues such as family support and rehabilitation.

With regard to rehabilitation, this issue was identified by the steering group, and through the consultation process, as an area which needed to be developed. The steering group recommended that rehabilitation become the fifth pillar of the strategy and I strongly support this recommendation. To further this action, a working group is being set up to develop a policy for the provision of integrated rehabilitation services. This group will be chaired by my Department and will consist of representatives from all relevant Departments and agencies and the community and voluntary sectors. The group is scheduled to report by the end of the year on the appropriate policy and actions to be implemented and I look forward to the outcome of its deliberations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

53 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the adoption of the EU Action Plan on Drugs 2005-2008; the way in which this will impact on the national drugs strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22590/05]

The European Council endorsed the EU Drug Strategy 2005-2012 in December of last year. This strategy sets out the framework, objectives and priorities for two consecutive action plans, the first of which is the EU Action Plan on Drugs 2005 to 2008. This action plan has not yet been adopted and is scheduled to be discussed at the next meeting of EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers.

The ultimate aim of the first action plan will be to significantly reduce drug use amongst Europe's population. It will also seek to reduce the harm to society and the damage to health caused by the use of and trade in illicit drugs. In addition, it will provide a framework for a balanced approach to reducing both the supply of and demand for illicit drugs. While the action plan will be directed primarily at European institutions and bodies, it will also provide a framework for action at member state level.

The issue of concurrence between the EU strategy and the national drugs strategy was examined as part of the mid-term review of the national drugs strategy, which was published in early June. The steering group which oversaw the review found that the multi-disciplinary, balanced approach of the national drugs strategy and its aims and objectives are consistent with the EU strategy. In addition, the proposed actions of the new EU drugs action plan are broadly consistent with those in the current strategy and in the recommendations contained in the mid-term review. Accordingly, I am confident that the complementarities between national and EU approaches will be maintained into the future.

Irish Language.

Willie Penrose

Question:

54 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in regard to his statement of informed opinion in the Dáil on 22 February 2005, he plans to introduce mechanisms to encourage persons from other countries who come to live here to learn Irish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22585/05]

There is already a wide range of options available to people who wish to learn Irish at all levels. These options are available to all, irrespective of whether a person is originally from this country or not. Accordingly, I do not consider that there is a need at present for any additional measures in this regard.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

55 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount which has been allocated from the dormant accounts fund on a county basis since its inception; and if all of the funds committed have been spent. [22753/05]

Decisions on the disbursement of funds from dormant accounts moneys are currently a matter for the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board, an independent body established under the dormant accounts Acts. The board engaged Area Development Management Ltd., ADM, to administer the initial round of funding on its behalf, which involves the allocation of €60 million from the dormant accounts fund. To date, the board has approved 482 projects for funding which will involve the allocation of approximately €56.2 million from the fund. A breakdown of these approved allocations by county is provided in the table. Over the coming weeks further allocations will be made by the board up to a total figure of €60 million.

The Government decided in December 2003 to bring forward legislative changes in arrangements for dormant accounts funding. Arising from this decision, the Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill was published on 24 June 2004 and became law on 25 May 2005. The Act provides for key changes in decision making on disbursements from the fund and for a reconstituted board.

Dormant Accounts Board Approvals (by County).

County

No of Approved Projects

Value of Approved Projects

Carlow

6

313,149

Cavan

3

606,523

Clare

9

793,872

Cork

59

8,064,161

Donegal

11

983,930

Dublin

184

19,181,811

Galway

27

4,091,015

Kerry

24

2,974,470

Kildare

11

2,695,868

Kilkenny

6

748,130

Laois

4

199,722

Leitrim

7

560,749

Limerick

16

1,943,616

Longford

7

451,336

Louth

9

700,464

Mayo

14

2,281,543

Meath

1

112,000

Monaghan

1

253,233

Offaly

1

60,000

Roscommon

12

1,115,269

Sligo

13

1,204,859

Tipperary

17

1,302,150

Waterford

15

2,383,602

Westmeath

8

564,263

Wexford

9

1,319,282

Wicklow

8

1,286,788

Totals

482

56,191,804

Community Development.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

56 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to address social or economic deprivation in an urban or rural context; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22756/05]

I refer the Deputy to my answers to Questions Nos. 274 of 9 November 2004, 212 of 1 February 2005, 40 of 22 February 2005, 273 of February 2005, 15 of 14 April 2005, 118 and 119 of 14 April 2005.

Irish Language.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

57 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Department of Social and Family Affairs estimates that the cost of complying with Irish language regulations under the Official Languages Act 2003 will cost the Department in excess of €1 million per year; if his further attention has further been drawn to the annual costs for other Departments to meet these requirements; his views on whether this is placing an unnecessary burden on the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22583/05]

My Department understands from the Department of Social and Family Affairs that a sum of €500,000 has been set aside in that Department's administrative budget in 2005 to meet costs directly associated with the delivery of services to the public through the Irish language in accordance with the Official Languages Act.

I am not in a position to comment in detail on the estimate until I have seen a draft scheme, which I await from the Department concerned. However, the administrative budget voted by this House to the Department concerned is €306.195 million in 2005, which includes a €29 million increase over 2004. The estimate provided to my Department amounts to about one sixth of 1% of the administrative budget figure, which seems good value for money for the cost of providing its services to the portion of the population who wish to do their business with the Department in Irish.

In light of the foregoing, I regard the Department of Social and Family Affairs allocation of €500,000 to meets costs directly associated with the Official Languages Act as appropriate and reasonable.

Question No. 58 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Interdepartmental Meetings.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

59 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Gilmore den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an raibh cainteanna aige leis an Roinn Oideachas agus Eolaíochta, mar gheall ar an meánscolaíocht sa Ghaeltacht; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [22575/05]

Mar is eol don Teachta, is í an tAire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta atá freagrach as cúrsaí oideachais, ar a n-áirítear cúrsaí meánscolaíochta sa Ghaeltacht. I gcomhthéacs na freagrachta atá ormsa agus ar mo Roinnse i ndáil leis an nGaeilge agus leis an nGaeltacht, bíonn cruinnithe rialta againn leis an Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta agus le hoifigigh a Roinne chun saincheisteanna ábhartha a phlé, ina measc meanscolaíocht sa Ghaeltacht. Leanfar leis na cruinnithe sin de réir mar is gá.

National Statistics.

Dan Neville

Question:

60 Mr. Neville asked the Taoiseach the number of marriages per 100,000 of population in 2004. [23096/05]

The number of marriages registered in 2004 is not yet available. The number of marriages registered in 2003 was 20,302. This equates to 510 marriages per 100,000 population. This figure is subject to revision.

Dan Neville

Question:

61 Mr. Neville asked the Taoiseach the number of separated and divorced persons in 2004. [23097/05]

The most comprehensive details in respect of the numbers of separated and divorced persons comes from the census of population. The results of the 2002 census indicate that there were 99,000 separated persons and a further 35,000 divorced persons in the State on 28 April 2002.

EU Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

62 Mr. Naughten asked the Taoiseach the steps he has taken to ensure that his Department complies with the decisions of the High Court of 6 March 2002 and of the Supreme Court of 16 July 2003 that any ministerial order having the effect of creating an indictable offence is ultra vires; if this decision has been upheld by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23126/05]

The question refers to the decision of the High Court of 6 March 2002 and the Supreme Court decision of 16 July 2003, and while the name of the case was not included in the parliamentary question, it would appear that it is referring to the decision of Vincent Browne v the Attorney General. The Supreme Court in this case decided that an EC regulation can only be transposed by regulations under a provision of an Act of the Oireachtas which specifically allows for the transposition of an EC regulation.

The parameters of the decision in the Browne case were considered by the Supreme Court in the subsequent case of Thomas Kennedy v the Attorney General, the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources. The Supreme Court in its decision in that case of 31 May 2005 clarified the limits of its earlier decision in the Browne case and decided that EU policy can only be implemented by regulations made under an Act of the Oireachtas where the Act specifically allows for the implementation of EU policy by regulations.

The Attorney General will shortly advise the Government on action to be taken to address the issues raised in these cases.

National Statistics.

Richard Bruton

Question:

63 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the number of households in the country in each of the last two censuses; and his estimate of any increase since the last census. [23407/05]

The number of private households distinguished in the 1996 census was 1,123,200. The corresponding figure in 2002 was 1,288,000 — an increase of 14.7% over the six years. On the basis of quarterly national household survey figures, it is estimated that the number of private households increased by 7.3% between the second quarter of 2002 and the first quarter of 2005.

Richard Bruton

Question:

64 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the details of the value and volume of the fish catch and fish production in each year since 1998. [23401/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

65 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the total value and tonnage of the fish catch since 2003 to date; the value and volume of the output; and the numbers employed in fishing and fish processing since 2003 to date. [23410/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 64 and 65 together.

The estimates of sea fish landings for 1998 to 2003, which are largely based on data supplied by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, are set out in table 1. Tables 2a and 2b show, in addition, the value and volume of aquaculture and inland fisheries, together with the total production.

Table 1. Sea fish landings.

Year

Sea fish landings (value: million euro)

Sea fish landings (weight: tonnes)

1998

192.3

320,163

1999

189.5

279,230

2000

189.0

272,875

2001

253.6

298,521

2002

209.9

245,165

2003

216.9

298,615

Table 2a. Fish Production (value: million euro).

Year

Sea fish landings

Aquaculture

Inland

Total Production

1998

192.3

77.2

6.2

275.7

1999

189.5

86.0

5.1

280.6

2000

189.0

95.4

6.1

290.5

2001

253.6

107.1

6.0

366.7

2002

209.9

117.4

5.5

332.8

Table 2b. Fish Production (weight: tonnes).

Year

Sea fish landings

Aquaculture

Inland

Total Production

1998

320,163

39,980

895

361,038

1999

279,230

43,856

775

323,861

2000

272,875

51,247

881

325,003

2001

298,521

60,935

900

360,356

2002

245,165

62,686

789

308,640

Figures for the value of output from the fish processing sector, covering the years 1998-2002, are provided in table 3. These data are from the CSO census of industrial production. Corresponding volume figures are not available.

Table 3. Output and Employment in Processing and preserving of fish and fish products (NACE code 1520).

Year

Gross Output €000

Net Output €000

Employment

1998

303,890

101,478

2,754

1999

315,192

87,639

2,645

2000

342,895

104,042

2,568

2001

365,690

93,493

2,798

2002

429,555

126,931

3,009

With regard to employment in the fishing industry, quarterly national household survey, QNHS, estimates of persons employed are contained in Table 4.

Table 4. Persons in employment in fishing (NACE code 05).

Year

Employed in Fishing

1998

3,600

1999

3,100

2000

3,100

2001

3,200

2002

4,000

2003

2,600

2004

2,800

Note:

(1) Sea fish landings by foreign boats into Irish ports are not included in tables 1, 2a and 2b.

(2) The QNHS estimates are subject to sampling and other survey errors, which are greater in respect of smaller values and estimates of change.

Health Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

66 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 142 of 21 June 2005, if she will list each facility and its value that has opened following the allocation of funding announced in September 2004; if she will list each new health facility and its value that remains closed in the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22935/05]

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 considering existing or new capital proposals in the health capital programme. 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.

Liz McManus

Question:

67 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the breakdown by county of the waiting lists for orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22936/05]

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.

Health Service Staff.

Liz McManus

Question:

68 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that 12 psychologists in clinical training affiliated with a doctorate course run by NUI Galway and sponsored by the north west area have not been paid salaries due to them under the Labour Court ruling of 31 January 2005 (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22937/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management of human resource issues within the Health Service Executive. As the management and delivery of health and personal social services, including related human resource issues, are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004, 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.

Hospital Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

69 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action which should be taken by a person (details supplied) with a medical card who needs to see a neurologist urgently; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22938/05]

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 is requesting the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Martin Ferris

Question:

70 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if at least two extra respite beds will be provided in Kerry General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22939/05]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

71 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the Portunicula Hospital, Ballinasloe, was ignored by the HSE in its capital allocation; the proposals considered by the HSE for the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22940/05]

Denis Naughten

Question:

72 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason no funding was provided for additional capacity at the county hospital, Roscommon, by the HSE in its capital allocation; the proposals considered by the HSE for the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22941/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 72 together.

The Deputy's questions relate 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 considering existing or new capital proposals in the health capital programme. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have replies issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

73 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the help and services available for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [22942/05]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

74 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will work closely with Dublin City Council and the Department of Social and Family Affairs in order that a disabled person (details supplied) be transferred from a nursing home to live independently with community supports; and if they will be given the maximum assistance. [22943/05]

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.

Health Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

75 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her position with regard to proposals (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22944/05]

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.

Suicide Incidence.

Dan Neville

Question:

76 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the league table of suicides for persons under 25 years of age in the OECD countries. [22945/05]

The most recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, report Society at a Glance, published in February 2003, presented information on a number of indices intended to illustrate levels of social cohesion in member countries. Among these indices was the youth suicide rate and the report showed that Ireland had the second highest rate of suicide for persons under the age of 25 years. It also reported that the rate of increase in the youth suicide rate over the past 20 years had been highest in Ireland. However, the statistics presented in the report must be interpreted with some degree of perspective. This report is based on data for 1998, the year in which there were 514 deaths by suicide in Ireland. The average annual number of suicide deaths for the five years since then is 471.

Work is now well under way on the preparation of a national strategy for action on suicide prevention. This strategy, involving the project management unit, Health Service Executive, in partnership with the national suicide review group and supported by the Department of Health and Children will be action based from the outset and will build on existing policy. All measures aimed at reducing the number of deaths by suicide will be considered in the context of the preparation of this strategy, which is due to be published in September this year.

Dan Neville

Question:

77 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of deliberate self harm persons presenting at accident and emergency departments in 2003 by gender. [22946/05]

The national parasuicide registry collects data on persons presenting to hospital as a consequence of deliberate self harm. Based on near complete coverage of acute hospitals, the registry estimates that in 2003 there were approximately 11,200 presentations nationally due to deliberate self harm involving approximately 8,800 individuals. The gender breakdown of recorded episodes shows that 42.6% were male and 57.4% were female.

National Statistics.

Dan Neville

Question:

78 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children born to single mothers in 2004. [22947/05]

Data on births outside marriage are compiled by the Central Statistics Office and published in the annual and quarterly reports on vital statistics. The data for the fourth quarter of 2004 are not yet available. The number of births to single mothers registered during January to September 2004 was 15,155.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

79 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to the recent announcement of the capital programme for hospitals, the stage of development sanctioned; the cost involved; the timescale involved in each of a number of projects (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22950/05]

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 considering existing or new capital proposals in the health capital programme. 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.

Paul McGrath

Question:

80 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding which has been allocated for phase 2b of Mullingar General Hospital in view of her recent authorisation of capital project funding; and the timescale for completion of works to allow this wing to become operational. [22951/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

81 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding which has been allocated to the Athlone health infrastructure project in view of her recent authorisation of capital project funding for 2005. [22952/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

82 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding which has been allocated to community nursing units at Mullingar and Castlepollard in view of her recent authorisation of capital project funding for 2005. [22953/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

83 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding which has been allocated to Tullamore General Hospital under the capital project funding allocation for 2005; the works which are planned with this funding; and the timescale for the project. [22954/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

84 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding which has been allocated to Portlaoise General Hospital under the capital project funding allocation for 2005; the works which are planned with this funding; and the timescale for the project. [22955/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 to 84, inclusive, together.

The Deputy's questions relate 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 considering existing or new capital proposals in the health capital programme. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have replies issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Paul McGrath

Question:

85 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the doctor-only medical card is likely to come into effect; if she will backdate the scheme and compensate persons who meet her criteria for qualification for the doctor-only medical card and who have had excessive medical costs since January 2005. [22956/05]

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, HSE, under the Health Act 2004. The HSE has placed advertisements providing details of the application process in the national press and intends to place further advertisements in the regional press over the coming week. Those people whom the HSE deems eligible for GP cards will be able to visit their general practitioner thereafter without charge and receive general practitioner services under the general medical services scheme from the date of approval of the card.

Eligibility to GP visit cards will be determined by the HSE, following an assessment of the income of the applicant and spouse, if any, after tax and PRSI have been deducted. Provision for the allowance of reasonable expenses in respect of child care, rent/mortgage and commuting to work has also been included.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Paul McGrath

Question:

86 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the nature of the contract which exists with general practitioners; the payment they receive per medical card holder and per doctor-only medical card holder; the financial assistance they receive for secretarial services and nursing services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22957/05]

Doctors holding contracts under the general medical services, GMS, scheme with the Health Service Executive are remunerated on the basis of the composition of their patient panel. The annual capitation rates payable reflect the age, gender and location of the patient and the agreed outcome of industrial relations negotiations since the inception of the scheme, between the Department of Health and Children and the Irish Medical Organisation, the representative body of the doctors concerned. A detailed list of the current rates payable is set out in the table.

Age

Up to 3 Miles

3-5 Miles

5-7 Miles

7-10 Miles

Over 10 Miles

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

up to 4 years

61.65

60.13

64.91

63.43

69.74

68.27

74.53

73.08

80.48

79.98

5-15

35.77

36.17

37.14

37.55

39.11

39.58

41.06

41.50

43.50

43.88

16-44

45.65

74.67

47.42

76.43

50.01

79.02

52.60

81.16

55.71

84.72

45-64

91.20

100.22

95.42

104.44

101.67

110.67

107.82

116.85

115.48

124.45

65-69

96.09

107.20

107.83

118.96

125.28

136.39

142.41

153.52

163.71

174.85

70 and over

105.72

117.16

117.81

129.30

135.85

147.29

153.54

165.02

175.52

187.03

A capitation rate of €495.07 per annum is paid to GPs for the provision of service under the GMS contract for each person who qualifies for a medical card for the first time on the basis of being aged 70 years and over in the community. In respect of medical card holders aged 70 years and over who are resident in a private nursing home, approved by the Health Service Executive, for any continuous period of five weeks, the GP is paid a capitation rate of €717.48 per annum per card holder.

Under the terms of the GMS, GP contract allowances are also payable to GMS doctors in respect of leave — sick, maternity, paternity, annual, study, locum, palliative care, special items of service, out of hours payments, medical indemnity, rural practice, rostering and training practices. Payments are also made in respect of superannuation. GMS GPs also receive once off registration payments in respect of their non-EU national patients. Under the terms of the recent Labour Relations Commission recommendation, GPs holding GMS contracts providing services to GP visit card holders would receive a once off payment of €35 for each of the first 200,000 patients admitted under this scheme.

GMS GPs may also apply for allowances in respect of the employment of practice nurses, secretaries and managers. These allowances are based on their patient panel composition and the experience and conditions of employment of the staff involved. The maximum grant in respect of a practice nurse is currently €31,262.43 and for a practice secretary up to a maximum of €19,894.27.

Doctors who participate in the indicative drugs target savings scheme have also been able to access savings made under the scheme to fund HSE approved practice development projects. Between January 1993, the introduction of the scheme, and 31 August 2004, in excess of €90 million has been paid nationally under this scheme to participating doctors.

Health Service Allowances.

Paul McGrath

Question:

87 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of applications received in the midland HSE area for the domiciliary care allowance in each of the past five years; the average time period for processing these applications; the reason for the inordinate delays in processing these applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22958/05]

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.

Paul McGrath

Question:

88 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the inordinate delay in processing the domiciliary care allowance application by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if this case will be expedited. [22960/05]

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.

Paul McGrath

Question:

89 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the inordinate delay in processing the domiciliary care allowance application by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if this case will be expedited. [22961/05]

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.

Hospital Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

90 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in admitting a person (details supplied) in County Wexford to the eating disorder unit at Loughlinstown Hospital; when they will be admitted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22962/05]

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.

Ambulance Service.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

91 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of nights between June 2005 and December 2005 during which New Ross, County Wexford, will be left without its own 24 hour ambulance cover; the efforts she is making to provide this cover; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22965/05]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

92 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of nights between June 2005 and December 2005 during which Gorey, County Wexford, will be left without its own 24 hour ambulance cover; the efforts she is making to provide this cover. [22966/05]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

93 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of nights between June 2005 and December 2005 during which Enniscorthy, County Wexford, will be left without its own 24 hour ambulance cover; the efforts she is making to provide this cover. [22967/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 to 93, inclusive, together.

The Deputy's questions relate 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 is requesting the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Youth Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

94 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will consider providing financial assistance to communities to meet the costs of insurance, supervision, heating, lighting and so on, of parochial halls and schools during out of school hours in parishes to provide young persons with a viable social alternative to the public house. [22968/05]

My Department does not intend to provide the funding outlined in the Deputy's question. However, the National Children's Office, under the auspices of my Department, is currently developing a recreation policy for young people aged 12 to 18 years. The policy will deal with recreation opportunities funded by the State. As part of the process, consideration will be given as to how best to utilise existing facilities such as school premises, sports halls and so forth.

A public consultation was launched by my colleague, Deputy Brian Lenihan, the Minister of State with responsibility for children, on May 2005. The results are expected in the autumn. In addition, a steering group has been established to oversee and guide the development of policy. The group, chaired by the National Children's Office, has representatives from key Departments, local authorities and the Irish Sports Council.

Nursing Homes.

Tom Hayes

Question:

95 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the measures being put in place to make inspections of nursing homes more frequent and random. [22970/05]

The HSE has initiated a review of the current approach to nursing home inspections which will examine issues such as preparation work undertaken, assessment tools used, methodologies employed during inspections, guidelines dealing with announced and unannounced visits and procedures to assess the quality of care. The reviewer has been asked to provide a report to the HSE outlining his findings, including any actions which should be taken to improve the quality of the inspection process and to identify any other issues that need to be addressed for the future.

As already announced, the social services inspectorate is to be established on a statutory basis. The legislation will be published later this year. The inspectorate will be charged with the inspection of both public and private nursing homes and will be responsible for reporting on standards of care in such homes. In addition, the Department of Health and Children is urgently reviewing the operation of the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and regulations made under the Act to see which powers available to the Health Service Executive need to be strengthened. This wide ranging review will have the rights of patients at its centre. It is intended to have this Bill published later this year.

The Tánaiste wrote to the HSE on 14 June 2005 to ensure that the target of two inspections per year under Article 24 of the Nursing Homes (Care and Welfare) Regulations 1993 be achieved countrywide as a matter of urgency. The Tánaiste also requested that the inspection process be prioritised within the HSE to achieve compliance with Article 24 of the regulations.

National Drugs Strategy.

Damien English

Question:

96 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the measures in place and those that remain to be implemented to ensure that all drug users have immediate access to professional assessment, counselling and treatment by regional health services, as promised under the national drugs strategy; if she will provide information on the existing waiting times for access to such services in each regional health office area; when she envisages that these waiting times for assessment, counselling and treatment services will be eliminated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22971/05]

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.

Health Services.

John Ellis

Question:

97 Mr. Ellis asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim will receive surgery under the patient treatment scheme. [22972/05]

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 is requesting the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

98 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that as a consequence of the Irish Wheelchair Association being affiliated to the Health Services Employers Agency, the hourly rate of payment for Saturday overnights and nights preceding bank holidays for personal assistants working for persons with disabilities has been cut; if no other health service funded posts receive similar premium rate of pay for working anti-social hours; and her views on whether, unless this regulation is changed, it will be even more difficult for persons with disabilities to live a normal independent life. [22973/05]

The Irish Wheelchair Association is a non-governmental organisation which provides services on behalf of the Health Service Executive or HSE. Under the Health Act 2004 the Health Service Executive has responsibility to manage and deliver health and personal social services or to arrange for the delivery of these services on its behalf.

The Act also provided for the dissolution of the Health Service Employers Agency, HSEA, and the transfer of its functions to the executive. The HSEA was a representative body for health service employers which promoted the development of improved human resource practices and represented employers in the management of industrial relations. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

99 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the details of the works to be carried out at Naas General Hospital under the recent announcement of a capital programme for health services; the amount allocated for these works in Naas General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22974/05]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

100 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the details of the works to be carried out at Mayo General Hospital; the amount provided for this purpose under the capital programme announced by the HSE on 21 June 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22975/05]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

101 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the details of the works to be carried out to the senior citizens hospital in Maynooth; the amount to be provided for same under the capital programme of works announced by the HSE on 21 June 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22976/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 99 to 101, inclusive, together.

The Deputy's questions relate 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 considering existing or new capital proposals regarding the health capital programme. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have replies issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

102 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress she has made on the institution of BreastCheck services following the insertion of tenders in the EU Journal for the design stage of BreastCheck; the progress made in view of the continuing mortality due to the lack of this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22977/05]

Following publication of tender notices in the EU Journal, 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 short-listing, interviews and fee negotiations will be complete by the end of July 2005. Discussions on staffing 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.

Health Services.

Michael Noonan

Question:

103 Mr. Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the development of a national strategy for carers in consultation with the Carers Association; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22978/05]

Carers provide an invaluable role in supporting family members in the community and it is important to recognise their contribution to society. The role of carers in society has to some extent not been fully recognised in the past but this situation is changing with a number of initiatives being introduced to address their needs.

The Department of Health and Children provided in excess of €1 million in funding in 2005 to a number of groups supporting carers such as Care Alliance, Caring for Carers and the Carers Association. The Department of Social and Family Affairs has also implemented a range of measures since 1999 to assist carers, including increases in the carer's allowance, the introduction of an annual payment of €1,000 towards the cost of respite care and the extension of schemes such as the free electricity allowance, free telephone rental and free TV licence to those on carer's allowance.

The Carer's Leave Act 2001 allows employees in Ireland to leave their employment temporarily for a minimum period of 13 weeks up to a maximum period of 65 weeks to provide full-time care and attention. Carers' leave from employment is unpaid but the Carer's Leave Act ensures that those who propose to avail of carer's leave will have their jobs kept open for them for the duration of the leave.

The above mentioned initiatives demonstrate this Government's commitment to addressing the shortcomings identified by the Carers Association and other groups regarding support for carers.

Bernard Allen

Question:

104 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork must wait from five to six weeks for an eye test. [22979/05]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

105 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will establish a first responders scheme in County Kerry similar to that operated by the ambulance service in the former Eastern Regional Health Authority area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22980/05]

John Perry

Question:

139 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will set up the first responder scheme in Counties Sligo and Leitrim similar to the scheme operated by the former regional health authority; when it will commence; if it is her view that the provision of defibrillators with training from the local health authority in major population centres has a proven track record for saving life; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23298/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 105 and 139 together.

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 is requesting the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Infectious Diseases.

Richard Bruton

Question:

106 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if guidelines apply in respect of the wearing of uniforms and footwear to and from work by persons working on the wards of hospitals as an element of the programme to reduce the transmission of infection; the terms of reference for the proposed audit of hygiene in hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22981/05]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Pat Breen

Question:

107 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans for the upgrading of St Joseph’s Hospital, Ennis; the funding available for this upgrading; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22982/05]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

EU Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

108 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to ensure that her Department complies with the decisions of the High Court of 6 March 2002 and of the Supreme Court of 16 July 2003 that any ministerial order having the effect of creating an indictable offence is ultra vires; if this decision has been upheld by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23127/05]

In the time available, it has not been possible to collate the information requested. However, my Department will establish the position and respond to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

109 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when work will begin on the 21 bed unit in Wexford General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23165/05]

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 considering existing or new capital proposals with regard to the health capital programme. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Michael Lowry

Question:

110 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she plans to include elderly day care patients as class 2 persons under regulations; if she will clarify, using examples, the type of patients included under the regulations under each class provided for; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23166/05]

I, and my colleague, the Minister for Finance, signed the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005 on 14 June last, and these regulations reinstate charges for inpatient services. Section 53 of the Health Act 1970, as amended by the Health (Amendment) Act 2005, provides, inter alia, for the levying of a charge where inpatient services have been provided for a period of not less than 30 days or for periods aggregating not less than 30 days within the previous 12 months. In this regard, charging for patients in long-term care cannot commence until the expiration of 30 days after the regulations were signed, which means that the earliest date on which charges can be levied is 14 July 2005.

These regulations provide for the levying of a charge in respect of the maintenance of persons in receipt of inpatient services. Section 51 of the Health Act 1970 defines inpatient services as meaning "institutional services provided for persons while maintained in a hospital, convalescent home or home for persons suffering from physical or mental disability or in accommodation ancillary thereto".

The regulations, in keeping with section 53 of the Health Act 1970, as amended, have provided for two different classes of persons on whom charges can be levied. Class 1 refers to people in receipt of inpatient services on premises where nursing care is provided on a 24 hour basis on those premises. In this case, a weekly charge can be levied of €120 or the weekly income of that person less €35, whichever is the lesser. Class 2 refers to people in receipt of inpatient services on premises where nursing care is not provided on a 24 hour basis on those premises. In this situation, a weekly charge can be levied of €90 or the weekly income of that person less €55 or 60% of the weekly income of that person, whichever is the lesser.

These regulations provide for the maximum charge to be levied on either class of person. However, the Health Service Executive has power to reduce or waive a charge on the grounds of "undue hardship". Under the regulations, only the HSE has the power to levy a charge. It is a matter for the HSE, based on its own legal advice and taking into account the individual circumstances as well as the service being provided, to make a decision on charges.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Michael Lowry

Question:

111 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will extend the nursing home subvention scheme to cover the full cost of care and to ensure that pensioners availing of the scheme will continue to retain at least 50% of their pensions; the cost to the State of such measures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23167/05]

The Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 allows for the payment of a subvention towards the cost of nursing home care based on medical and means assessments. The process used in determining a person's eligibility for subvention is set out in the Nursing Homes (Subvention) Regulations 1993.

As the Deputy will be aware, the placing of a person in a private nursing home is a private matter between the person or his or her representatives and the nursing home proprietor, as are the fees charged by a nursing home. The subvention scheme was introduced to assist with the cost of private nursing home care and it was never intended that a subvention payment would meet the full costs of private nursing home care.

The Government is very conscious of the changing demographic profile of our population, with more people living longer and more fulfilling lives and the consequential increasing demand for services, both community based and residential. The Mercer report on the future financing of long-term care in Ireland, which was commissioned by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, examined issues surrounding the financing of long-term care. Following the publication of this report, a working group chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and comprising senior officials from the Departments of Finance, Health and Children and Social and Family Affairs has been established.

The group is examining service issues in regard to home care and residential care and funding mechanisms to support initiatives that may be proposed in regard to those services. The group will report in the near future to both the Tánaiste and Minister for Social and Family Affairs and it is likely that the Government will seek the views of stakeholders later this year on any proposals put forward by the group.

It will be appreciated that since the value of persons' pensions is unknown, it is not possible to cost the proposal. Under the Nursing Homes (Subvention) Regulations 1993 the Health Service Executive in assessing the means of an applicant for subvention shall disregard income equivalent to one fifth of the weekly rate of the old age non-contributory pension.

Grant Schemes.

Michael Lowry

Question:

112 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will expand the home care grant scheme to the mid-western region; the likely annual cost of the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23168/05]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

113 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason there is no obligation on the HSE to provide transport for patients attending outpatient appointments who have no access to either private or public transport and who cannot afford a taxi; if she will review this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23169/05]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

114 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will seek equality of service from the HSE for front line therapy services such as speech, occupational and physiotherapy; the way in which this might be achieved in view of the fact that the public service embargo is in place and sanctioned positions are in some cases not being advertised because of the embargo. [23170/05]

There is currently no embargo on recruitment of staff in the health services. However, the management of the employment ceiling for the health sector is a matter for the Health Service Executive, which may, as part of this management, prioritise certain areas in line with the service priorities set out in its service plan for 2005.

General Register Office.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

115 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the scheme to computerise the registers of births, marriages and deaths will be fully operational; and the stage the project is at. [23171/05]

An tArd-Chláraitheoir, the Registrar-General, is the person with statutory responsibility for the administration of the civil registration system in Ireland. I have made inquiries of the Registrar-General and the position is as follows.

The civil registration computer system has been fully operational across all areas of the Health Service Executive since the end of 2004. The functionality deployed includes search, issue of certificates and registration of life events. Currently, historic data are available in respect of births back to 1864, deaths to 1924 and marriages to 1920.

Health Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

116 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if places in public nursing homes have been assigned for short stay care to relieve pressure on acute hospital beds; if so, their number and location. [23172/05]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

117 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason enhanced subvention for nursing home care is available in some parts of the country and not in others; and the way in which it is intended to remedy this. [23173/05]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

118 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 142 of 10 May 2005, if a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be called for surgery to Our Lady’s Hospital, Crumlin, before returning to school in September 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23226/05]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Pat Breen

Question:

119 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 85 and 101 of 22 March 2005 and 179 and 185 of 26 April 2005, when funding will be made available to students covered by Labour Court recommendation 18030; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23227/05]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

120 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be assessed for hip surgery in Croom Orthopaedic Hospital, Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23229/05]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

121 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 207 of 8 March 2005, if the chief officer for the HSE’s mid-western area has investigated the matter for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23230/05]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

122 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department will provide funding to facilitate the opening and the adequate use of the day care centre at Shannon Airport; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23231/05]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

123 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a bed in the Alzheimer’s unit in St. Joseph’s Hospital, County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23232/05]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

124 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 247 of 19 October 2004, the status of an application for repairs to a chimney and installation of heating under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23249/05]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

125 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 124 of 1 of June 2005, if the community welfare officer has compiled a report under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23250/05]

As the issue raised by the Deputy in Parliamentary Question No. 124 of 1 June 2005 related to the management and delivery of health services in the Clare area, the Department wrote requesting that the chief officer of the Health Service Executive, mid-western area, to reply direct to him. The HSE mid-western area has informed the Department that a reply was issued directly to the Deputy on 21 June 2005.

Pat Breen

Question:

126 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of an application for the installation of a shower under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23251/05]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

127 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the HSE has received quotations from a person (details supplied) in County Clare under the housing aid for the elderly scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23252/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

128 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the community welfare officer’s report and a technical report have been supplied under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for persons (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23253/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

129 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of an application under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for persons (details supplied) in County Clare. [23254/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

130 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the technical foreman has assessed the status of an applicant (details supplied) in County Clare under the housing aid for the elderly scheme in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23255/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

131 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of an application under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for persons (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23256/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

132 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of an application under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23257/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

133 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of an application under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23258/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Insurance.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

134 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the attached correspondence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23293/05]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

135 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on the risk equalisation issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23294/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 135 together.

The Government is strongly committed to maintaining community rating in the Irish health insurance market. Provision for the operation of risk equalisation is essential to the policy of maintaining a community rated health insurance market. The Health Insurance Act 2001 provides that risk equalisation should be introduced where to do so is in the best overall interests of the health insurance consumers.

The Deputy will be aware that I decided on balance recently not to trigger risk equalisation payments in the health insurance market at this point in time. The matter now rests until the Health Insurance Authority's next report for the period January to June 2005, due to be received by me towards the end of October. This is subject to developments in court proceedings currently in train against recourse to risk equalisation in the health insurance market.

The correspondence to which the Deputy refers is a letter from the managing director of BUPA Ireland, which I understand was part of a mailshot to its customers, inviting them to protest to my office against the introduction of risk equalisation transfers. The correspondence had no bearing on my decision.

Nursing Homes.

Billy Timmins

Question:

136 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the requests which were made for medical supplies for public patients at Leas Cross Nursing Home, County Dublin, to the Health Services Executive from 8 May 2005 to 1 June 2005; the basis for the requests; the response given; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23295/05]

Billy Timmins

Question:

137 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if any of the public patients at Leas Cross Nursing Home, County Dublin, received any specialist medical attention or examination between 8 May 2005 and 15 May 2005; if so, the recommendations that were made and the response given to them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23296/05]

Billy Timmins

Question:

138 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the policy with respect to medical supply requirements for public patients at private nursing homes; if the policy is the same for public patients (details supplied). [23297/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 to 138, inclusive, together.

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 105.

Health Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

140 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children who are awaiting orthodontic treatment and assessment in each of the Health Service Executive areas and the waiting time for assessment and treatment in respect of each area. [23299/05]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Carey

Question:

141 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an allocation for the fitting out of Ballymun health centre has been made in the recent capital allocations from her Department; if so, the amount of that allocation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23300/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, HSE, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the funding of the Ballymun health centre, including the fit-out and equipping of the facility.

Earlier this year I confirmed approval for the completion and fit out of this facility and I asked the HSE to proceed with it as quickly as logistically possible. As I previously indicated, the HSE is responsible for the funding, timeframe and actual delivery of this project. The HSE has informed me that it has put the necessary funding in place to carry out this work, the work has commenced on site and will take nine months to complete.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

142 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status in respect of the long promised phase two development of Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown; the funding committed to the project for 2005; the amount planned to be committed for 2006; and if she will outline the additional services to be made available as a consequence. [23324/05]

Joan Burton

Question:

143 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the huge child population in the Dublin 15 and Connolly Hospital catchment area and her proposals to extend paediatric services to the hospital, particularly outpatient specialist services and some minor injury services in a dedicated paediatric environment. [23325/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 143 together.

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

144 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to provide a health centre to Mulhuddart in Dublin 15 as previously promised; the estimated cost of the Mulhuddart centre and the capital funding provided for this project; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Mulhuddart health centre proposes to serve rapidly growing areas of Dublin 15, including a number of disadvantaged areas such as Ladyswell and Parlickstown, which currently have no GP services. [23329/05]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

145 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will consider introducing a screening programme for the diagnosis of deafness in newborn children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23353/05]

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.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Richard Bruton

Question:

146 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she plans to offer public orthodontic work to private contractors in an effort to reduce the waiting lists or to extend the national treatment purchase fund to cover this treatment. [23384/05]

The Deputy's question regarding public orthodontic work 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.

In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund towards the treatment of persons on the orthodontic waiting lists. My Department instructed the health boards that the funding was to be allocated on the basis of the following principles: treatment of clients longest on the waiting list in accordance with the severity of their treatment need; allocation to provide additional treatments over and above what was provided in the normal way; efficiency and value for money; and equitable delivery across health board populations.

Children in treatment in the health board orthodontic service receive between 18 to 24 appointments over the course of their treatment period of approximately two years. The focus of the national treatment purchase fund is on the reduction in waiting times for those patients who have been waiting longest for admission for acute hospital treatment. It is not intended to extend the remit of the fund to deal with orthodontic waiting lists at this time.

Nursing Home Charges.

Richard Bruton

Question:

147 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she intends to issue a detailed statement of the terms of refund to persons who were unlawfully charged in public nursing homes. [23389/05]

The Government has agreed the key elements of a scheme for the repayment of long stay charges. All those who were illegally charged for publicly funded long-term residential care and are alive and the estates of all those who were charged and died in the six years prior to 9 December 2004 will have the charges repaid in full. The scheme will not provide for repayments to the estates of those who died more than six years ago. The repayments will include both the actual charge paid and an amount to take account of inflation, using the CPI, since the time the person involved was charged.

Legislation will be brought before the Oireachtas in the autumn to underpin the scheme. One of the objectives of the legislation will be to put in place procedures which will protect vulnerable people from exploitation given that significant repayments in some cases will be paid to them.

In the case of those who were charged and are still alive, the repayments will be exempt from tax and will not be taken into account in assessing means for health and social welfare benefits. The normal tax and means assessment arrangements will apply to those who benefit from repayments to estates.

An outside company with experience in handling mass claims will be engaged to design and manage the scheme within the parameters of the key principles approved by Government. The Health Services Executive is finalising an advertisement in the EU Journal to obtain expressions of interest from companies that would design and manage the repayments scheme. The company selected will work closely with the HSE to ensure that the co-operation is forthcoming on records held by the health agencies. It is anticipated that a company will be selected over the summer and will begin work in early autumn on the design of the scheme.

An oversight committee has been appointed to monitor the implementation of the repayment scheme. The committee will be chaired by Dr. Bernard Walsh, a geriatrician in St. James's Hospital and its task will be to ensure that proper governance is applied by the HSE and the company to the scheme. The scheme will be designed and managed with the aim of ensuring that those who are eligible for repayments receive them as soon as possible and with the minimum possible imposition in terms of bureaucracy. Priority will be given to those who are still alive. Many of those eligible for repayments have already been identified under the ex gratia payments process. The scheme will include a transparent and thorough appeals process.

The legislation will include appropriate safeguards to prevent exploitation of those who receive repayments and are not in a position to manage their own financial affairs. The scheme will include a provision to allow those eligible for a repayment to waive their right to a repayment and have the money assigned to fund one-off service improvements in elderly, mental health and disability services.

It is estimated that about 20,000 people who are still alive and a further 40,000 to 50,000 estates will benefit. It is estimated that the scheme will cost approximately €1 billion. The decision to limit payments to the estates of those who died in the past six years reflects the reference in the Supreme Court judgment to the statute of limitations.

The national helpline set up by the Health Services Executive to allow people to register if they believe they are due a repayment will continue to operate but there is no need for anyone who has already registered using this facility to make contact with the HSE again to register for the scheme. Any person who considers that they or a family member may be eligible for repayment may register their interest in advance with the Health Service Executive, by writing to the National Refund Scheme, HSE Midland Area, Arden Road, Tullamore, Co Offaly; or email to refundscheme@mailq.hse.ie; or by calling the helpline 1800 777737 during office hours.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Richard Bruton

Question:

148 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she will publish details of hospital waiting lists; the reason for the delay in publishing waiting lists; the baseline which the waiting list will work off; the exact data being collected; and if data on the number of patients waiting for a first meeting with a consultant are also being collected. [23411/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

149 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her estimate of waiting lists numbers for 2003 to date; and if she will provide the last published data on waiting lists. [23412/05]

Responsibility for the collection and reporting of waiting lists and waiting times now falls within the remit of the national treatment purchase fund, NTPF. Therefore, my Department has asked the chief executive of the fund to respond to the Deputy on the latest information available to the fund in respect of the number of patients waiting for treatment.

A new on-line national patient treatment register is being developed by the fund. The new patient treatment register will allow for more accurate identification of waiting lists and, more importantly, waiting times. It is intended that the register will be implemented on a phased basis during 2005.

Up to the end of May 2005, some 30,000 patients have had treatment arranged for them. It is now the case that, in most instances, anyone waiting more than three months will be facilitated by the fund.

Medical Cards.

Pat Breen

Question:

150 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of a medical card appeal application by a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23426/05]

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.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

151 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of occupational therapists working for the HSE in the Mid-Western Health Board region; the plans she has to increase that number; the plans she has to decrease priority 2 assessment waiting lists times for clients aged over 65 years from 18 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23438/05]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

152 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the criteria for assessing occupational therapy clients as priority one in the Mid-Western Health Board region, the assessment waiting list times for such clients; the plans she has to decrease such waiting list times; if there is a further distinction made based on age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23439/05]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Pat Breen

Question:

153 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the announced capital funding of over €20 million for Ennis General Hospital will be applied to phase 1A of the hospital development plan; if this will include upgrading of the accident and emergency facility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23440/05]

Pat Breen

Question:

154 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the plans she has for the allocation of the funding of more than €20 million for Ennis General Hospital; the timeframe she proposes in such plans; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23441/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 and 154 together.

The Deputy's questions relate 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.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

155 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the plans she has regarding the maintenance of the 24 hour accident and emergency facility at Ennis General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23442/05]

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.

Vaccination Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

156 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 235 of 12 April 2005, the current status of the review; when a compensation scheme will be put in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23454/05]

My officials are examining the feasibility of introducing a vaccine damage compensation scheme. I will be in a position to consider the available options on completion of this work. This task is included in my Department's business plan. The target date for completion is October 2005.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

157 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 116 of 25 May 2005, if a design team has been appointed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23458/05]

Following publication of tender notices in the EU Journal, 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 short-listing, interviews and fee negotiations will be complete by the end of July 2005.

Nursing Home Charges.

Denis Naughten

Question:

158 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of applications submitted to the HSE under the nursing home refund scheme on a county basis; when she intends to introduce legislation to implement the refund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23459/05]

The Government has agreed the key elements of a scheme for the repayment of long stay charges for publicly funded long-term residential care. All those who were charged and are alive and the estates of all those who were charged and died in the six years prior to 9 December 2004 will have the charges repaid in full. The scheme will not allow for repayments to the estates of those who died more than six years ago. The repayments will include both the actual charge paid and an amount to take account of inflation, using the CPI, since the time the person involved was charged.

Legislation to underpin the scheme will be ready in the autumn. One of the objectives of the legislation will be to put in place procedures which will protect vulnerable people from exploitation given that significant repayments in some cases will be paid to them.

The Health Service Executive is finalising an advertisement in the EU Journal to obtain expressions of interest from companies that would design and manage the repayments scheme. The company selected will work closely with the HSE to ensure that the co-operation is forthcoming on records held by the health agencies. It is anticipated that a company will be selected over the summer and will begin work in early autumn on the design of the scheme.

An oversight committee has been appointed to monitor the implementation of the repayment scheme. The committee will be chaired by Dr. Bernard Walsh, a geriatrician in St. James's Hospital and its task will be to ensure that proper governance is applied by the HSE and the company to the scheme. As regards the number of applications submitted to the Health Service Executive under the national repayment scheme on a county basis, 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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Denis Naughten

Question:

159 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 128 of 31 May 2005, when a person (details supplied) will be called to Beaumont Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23460/05]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

160 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has established a working group to examine better co-ordination between the drug and alcohol abuse services; the progress made to date by such a working group; when this group will report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23466/05]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the mid-term review of the national drugs strategy, which asks that a working group be established, involving key stakeholders in both the alcohol and drugs areas, to explore the potential for better co-ordination between the two areas and how synergies could be improved. The group is requested to also examine and make recommendations on whether a combined strategy is the appropriate way forward and report by end 2006. The group is to be established in the near future.

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

161 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 117 of 25 May 2005, the reason for the delay in reply to same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23468/05]

In response to the Deputy's question of 25 May 2005, I advised that the Health Service Executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services, including responsibility for the provision of hospital services for people who have suffered strokes, and that my Department had requested the director of the executive's national hospitals' office to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy. My Department has been in touch with the national hospitals' office and is advised that a detailed response issued to the Deputy yesterday.

Ambulance Service.

Denis Naughten

Question:

162 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 158 of 1 March 2005, if the study has been completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23474/05]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

165 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress she has made in the establishment of an all-Ireland helicopter emergency medical service as recommended by the HEMS feasibility study consultants report (details supplied); if she has completed discussions with other Departments on the matter; if there has been any recent meeting held about establishing this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23484/05]

The report referred to by the Deputy is that of a consultancy study jointly commissioned by my Department and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Belfast, the DHSSPS, on the costs and benefits associated with the introduction of a dedicated helicopter emergency medical service, HEMS, for the island of Ireland. It was published last year and is available on my Department's website. The study concluded that the introduction of a dedicated inter-hospital air ambulance service would be appropriate in an all-island context.

My Department is currently finalising a service level agreement with the Department of Defence to formalise arrangements for the future provision of an air ambulance service by the Air Corps. Officials from my Department met recently with the Department of Defence to progress the agreement. The draft agreement has also been circulated to the Health Service Executive for comment. It is expected that the agreement will be completed shortly.

A significant helicopter fleet replacement programme has been approved and is being put in place for the Air Corps. Each of the new helicopters will have a specific air ambulance capability and the new fleet will have a far greater flying capacity which will augment the current service.

Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

163 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if thousands of Mayo patients will obtain long overdue rheumatology services; when a Mayo rheumatology unit will be established; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23482/05]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

164 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the situation whereby persons are waiting in excess of five years for a urology appointment; her further views on whether the establishment of a consultant urology unit at Mayo General Hospital is the only acceptable solution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23483/05]

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.

Question No. 165 answered with QuestionNo. 162.

Ambulance Service.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

166 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a 24 hour ambulance will be located in the three areas of Tuam, west Roscommon, Achill-Mulranny and Ballycroy; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that lives are being lost and put in jeopardy due to the considerable time lapse which is involved in an ambulance arriving to take an ill person to hospital; when an ambulance base will be provided in these areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23485/05]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

167 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a 24 hour ambulance will be located in the west Roscommon area; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that lives are being lost and put in jeopardy due to the considerable time lapse which is involved in an ambulance arriving to take an ill person to hospital; when an ambulance base will be provided in this area. [23486/05]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

168 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a 24 hour ambulance will be located in the Achill-Mulranny and Ballycroy area; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that lives are being lost and put in jeopardy due to the considerable time lapse which is involved in an ambulance arriving to take an ill person to hospital; when an ambulance base will be provided in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23487/05]

I intend to take Questions Nos. 166 to 168, inclusive, together.

The Deputy's questions relate 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 is requesting the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

169 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the national cervical cancer screening service will be instituted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23488/05]

A pilot cervical screening programme commenced in October 2000 and is available to eligible women resident in Limerick, Clare and Tipperary North. Under the programme, cervical screening is being offered, free of charge, to approximately 74,000 women in these three counties in the 25 to 60 age group, at five year intervals. I am committed to the national roll out of a cervical screening programme in line with international best practice. Careful planning and consultation with relevant professional and advocacy stakeholders is required in advance of a national roll out.

Hospital Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

170 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the Hanly report is unacceptable when it means that Mayo General Hospital will be deprived of essential consultant inpatient services and, as a result, large waiting lists exist for these specialists with persons having to wait years for essential specialist services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23489/05]

The report of the national task force on medical staffing, the Hanly report, makes important proposals for reducing the working hours of non-consultant hospital doctors, NCHDs, in line with the European working time directive and highlights the need to implement changes in medical staffing to ensure safety and quality of patient care. The Hanly report makes no reference to Mayo General Hospital. Instead, it made specific recommendations for reorganising hospitals in two regions — the east coast and the mid-west — and set out a series of principles for the future organisation of hospital services nationally.

It should be noted that the report recommended investment in hospitals at regional level to provide more services for patients and emphasised that a full range of acute hospital services should be available within each region, so that patients should not have to travel outside the region other than for specialised supra-regional or national level services. The report also recommended a significant increase in the total number of consultants in each region, working in a consultant provided, team based system, so that patients can receive faster access to senior clinical decision making. This will help to reduce waiting lists.

I consider that the national hospitals' office is best placed to build on the recommendations of the report in this area. Its priority will be to ensure that patients, wherever they live, have equitable and rapid access to high quality hospital care.

Health Services.

Liam Aylward

Question:

171 Mr. Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 89 of 10 March 2005, if she has received a response to date from the chief officer of the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23500/05]

As the issue raised by the Deputy in Parliamentary Question No. 89 of 10 March 2005 related to the management and delivery of health services in the Kilkenny area, the Department wrote requesting that the chief officer of the Health Service Executive south eastern area investigate the matter raised and reply direct to the Deputy. The HSE south eastern area has informed the Department that a reply was issued directly to the Deputy on 22 March 2005.

Disabled Drivers.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

172 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance if he will review the medical criteria for disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concession scheme 1994; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the people who do not have the use of either one or both legs but who have not physically lost a leg or a limb are ineligible under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23292/05]

The medical criteria for this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. There are six different types of disablement listed under the regulations and a qualifying person must satisfy one or more of them. The six types of disablement are as follows: persons who are wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs; persons who are wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg, such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs; persons without both hands or without both arms; persons without one or both legs; persons wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly, or almost wholly without the use of one leg; persons having the medical condition of dwarfism and who have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

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

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

Tax Code.

Pat Breen

Question:

173 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance the number of first time home buyers in County Clare who have had one or more parents putting their names to mortgage documents and as a result have found themselves liable for stamp duty for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22989/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are unable to provide the statistical information requested. The Revenue Commissioners issued a re-assurance last Friday concerning first time buyers of secondhand houses in which they confirmed that a child, who is a first time buyer, will not be precluded from claiming first time buyer relief where a parent acts as a co-mortgagor in the following circumstances: the transfer of the house is taken in the name of the child; it is the intention of both the child and the parent that the parent is not to take a beneficial interest in the house; the parent has been joined into the mortgage solely at the request of the lending institution for the purpose of providing additional security for the moneys being advanced for the purchase; it is not intended that the parent will be contributing to the repayment of the mortgage in the normal course.

I am also advised by the Revenue Commissioners that if stamp duty has been paid in circumstances where the above conditions are satisfied, a repayment of stamp duty will be made on application to the Revenue Commissioners.

Fuel Prices.

Enda Kenny

Question:

174 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the estimated impact on the economy here of a barrel of oil priced at $60, $65, and $70; the extent of reliance of Ireland’s energy needs on oil; the current reserves available to the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23107/05]

Economic model simulations suggest that, holding other factors constant, each sustained $10 per barrel rise in the price of oil reduces growth in the Irish economy by about 0.5 percentage points in a full year, relative to baseline. It should be noted, however, that because oil has not in the past risen to a level as high as $70 per barrel, it is difficult to accurately simulate such a scenario.

The dependency of the economy on oil has declined over the last number of years, for example, imports of oil amounted to 1.5% of GDP last year; in the late 1970s, the equivalent figure was around 6.5% of GDP. This lower oil dependency has been due to a number of factors such as the greater relative importance of services in the economy, which are less energy intensive, the growth in natural gas and other energy sources and more efficient use of energy.

As a member of the International Energy Agency, IEA, Ireland is required to maintain oil stocks equivalent to at least 90 days of net imports in the previous year. At 1 May 2005, Ireland held 2,304,000 tonnes of oil, which is equivalent to 102 days of net imports using the IEA methodology and this is 12 days above the obligation of 90 days.

Tax Collection.

Billy Timmins

Question:

175 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the number and name of companies that had tax liabilities of £200,000 or more written off by the Revenue Commissioners from 1979 to 1982 inclusive; the amounts written off; the reason for this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23108/05]

Billy Timmins

Question:

176 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the number and name of companies that had tax liabilities of £200,000 or more written off by the Revenue Commissioners from 1988 to 1992 inclusive; the amounts written off; the reason for this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23109/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 175 and 176 together.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that for the years to which the Deputy's questions relate, it is not possible to provide a breakdown of tax write off between the different categories of taxpayer whether individual, company or partnership. Due to confidentiality considerations, Revenue is not in a position to provide the names of taxpayers who had tax liabilities written off by them.

The annual tax write off for the periods 1979 to 1982 and 1988 to 1992 is as follows:

Year

1979

1980

1981

1982

Amount Written off

€772,937

€673,578

€625,427

€1,368,624

Year

1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

Amount Written off

€16,629,760

€38,261,018

€63,654,509

€109,046,376

€124,236,253

The reason for the write off is set out in the following tables. The classification of grounds for write off changed over the years in question and these are reflected in the tables.

1979

1980

1981

1982

Composition Settlements

136,592

22,471

5,160

4,243

Compassionate Grounds

61,625

48,098

55,229

60,476

Miscellaneous: Liability not enforceable, etc.

574,720

603,009

565,038

1,303,905

Total

772,937

673,578

625,427

1,368,624

1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

Compassionate grounds

168,875

2,825,167

1,719,225

2,456,943

2,425,200

Ceased trading — no assets

7,078,790

8,905,934

21,440,797

51,391,379

63,571,976

Liquidation — receivership — bankruptcy

4,337,425

10,171,872

16,785,937

18,795,933

31,743,452

Cannot be traced — outside the jurisdiction

5,044,670

16,358,036

23,708,550

36,402,121

26,495,625

Total

16,629,760

38,261,018

63,654,509

109,046,376

124,236,253

The main reason for the increase in the value of write off over the period 1988 to 1992 was due to a review of tax arrears on record which commenced after the 1988 amnesty. This review which was ongoing over the years 1988 to 1992 led not only to more effective collection of taxes but also, inevitably, to the increase in the amount of taxes deemed irrecoverable.

It should be noted that the amount written off may overstate the actual liability as many of the cases included estimated amounts. Following an examination of tax write off arrangements in place prior to 1997, Revenue received general approval from the Comptroller and Auditor General for the criteria to be used in new arrangements for the write off of tax debt. These procedures are subject to audit on an annual basis and the results are published in the annual report of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Billy Timmins

Question:

177 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance if a company (details supplied) or any related company had tax liabilities written off by the Revenue Commissioners of more than £200,000 between 1979 and 1983, inclusive; if so, the amounts written off; the reason for this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23110/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are unable to provide any information regarding the tax affairs of a company other than when the Deputy asking the question is asking it on behalf of the company concerned. As it would appear that the Deputy is not asking the question with the consent of the company mentioned, the Revenue Commissioners are unable to provide the information sought as the tax affairs of the company are confidential between them and the Revenue Commissioners.

Tax Yield.

Joan Burton

Question:

178 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the total amount of taxes, penalties and interest recovered arising from the different revenue investigations and tribunals of inquiry from 1997 to date; the amount in respect of each such investigation, such as the inquiry into DIRT and Ansbacher accounts; if he allocated the proceeds of such investigations and tribunal inquiries to specific expenditure headings; and if so, if he will identify those headings. [23111/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that figures of the total yield from various special investigations and initiatives by the Revenue Commissioners, which are available for the years 1998 to 2004 and updated to 31 May 2005 are set out in the following table.

Yield from Special Investigations up to end May 2005.

Heading

Total yields

€m

DIRT audits

225.0

Bogus non-resident accounts

583.2

Offshore assets

734.2

Single premium policies

2.6

Ansbacher

47.8

NIB/Clerical Medical

54.1

Tribunals

34.8

Total

1,681.6

Any apparent discrepancies in totals are due to rounding of constituent figures. Further information on the yields from the various special investigations and initiatives can be found on the Revenue website at www.revenue.ie.

As regards allocating the proceeds of such investigations and tribunal inquiries to specific expenditure headings, it is a constitutional requirement that, in the absence of specific legislation to the contrary, all State revenues be paid into the central fund. All of the moneys received to date from Revenue special investigations have been paid into the central fund and, as such, became part of the general revenues underpinning the Government's expenditure targets in those years.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul McGrath

Question:

179 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the progress which has been made to secure office accommodation to facilitate the move of Government Departments as part of the decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23112/05]

The Commissioners of Public Works have primary responsibility for sourcing property solutions for the Departments and agencies which have been earmarked for decentralisation. Following a detailed evaluation of options available and intensive negotiations, suitable sites or premises have been identified in a number of decentralising locations.

Prices have been agreed for 13 locations and the contractual arrangements for these are progressing. State owned sites have been identified in a number of other locations, including Athlone, Sligo, Furbo and the Curragh, and these are being made available for decentralisation purposes. In a small number of locations, the possibility of renting existing or new buildings under construction or with planning permission is being considered.

While prices have yet to be agreed, the process of acquiring sites in several other locations is at an advanced stage and the expectation is that several more acquisitions will be agreed in the coming months. Overall, the site acquisition programme is progressing satisfactorily and is well placed to facilitate the roll out of the construction phase of the programme.

Tax Code.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

180 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the total number of taxpayers in receipt of mortgage interest relief; the total amount of interest forfeited by Revenue in respect of the mortgage interest relief scheme. [23113/05]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

181 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the total number of applicants each year in the past five years for mortgage interest relief. [23114/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 and 181 together.

It is assumed that what the Deputy requires is the number of claimants for mortgage interest relief and the total amount of tax relief granted by the Revenue Commissioners under the tax relief at source system. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the numbers of claimants for mortgage interest relief in each of the five years up to 2004 are as in the table.

Year

Number

2000/01

448,400

2001 (short tax year)

474,800

2002

587,700

2003

622,500

2004

645,500

Figures have been rounded to the nearest hundred as appropriate. The figures for 2002 onwards are provisional estimates and are likely to be revised. It should be noted that a married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit. The estimated cost of the relief to the Exchequer in 2004 was €230 million.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

182 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the number of section 23 and section 27 reliefs sought and awarded for each year for the past five years; the total number of taxpayers who benefited from all forms of section 23 reliefs and from any other form of urban renewal reliefs over the past five years. [23115/05]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

183 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the estimated total amount of tax per year foregone due to section 23 reliefs; the estimated total amount of tax per year foregone due to other urban renewal reliefs. [23116/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 182 and 183 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, until recently, claims for section 23/section 27 reliefs and other similar reliefs, were aggregated in tax returns with other claims, such as with industrial buildings allowances generally or with other capital allowances, and did not distinguish between the reliefs claimed in respect of the different schemes and so were not separately identifiable. Details of tax relief claimed for investment in these schemes were not captured by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners in such a way as to provide a specific basis for compiling estimates of the total annual cost to the Exchequer or the numbers of taxpayers who benefited from these reliefs.

My Department and the Revenue Commissioners examined how information capture in this area could be improved and the Revenue Commissioners have introduced changes to the income tax returns forms which are intended to yield additional information on the take up of a range of reliefs claimed by individuals. These changes include information on claims in respect of section 23/section 27 reliefs and other similar reliefs. This information will begin to become available from late 2005. Corresponding changes have been made to the corporation tax return form which will produce similar information for accounting periods ending in 2005 and subsequent years.

EU Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

184 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the steps he has taken to ensure that his Department complies with the decisions of the High Court of 6 March 2002 and of the Supreme Court of 16 July 2003 that any ministerial order having the effect of creating an indictable offence is ultra vires; if this decision has been upheld by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23128/05]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the decisions of the High Court and the Supreme Court, of the dates mentioned, in the case of Vincent Browne v the Attorney General. I understand that the parameters of the decision in the Browne case were considered by the Supreme Court in the subsequent case of Thomas Kennedy v the Attorney General, the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources. The Supreme Court in its decision in that case of 31 May 2005 clarified the limits of its earlier decision in the Browne case.

The Attorney General will shortly advise the Government on action to be taken to address the issues raised in these cases. On receipt of this advice my Department will take any necessary action.

Economic Growth.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

185 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance the amount by which the economy grew in 2003 and 2004; the increase in employment resulting from such growth; the likely impact on employment had the economy grown at half the rate achieved in those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23153/05]

Figures from the Central Statistics Office show that in 2003 the economy grew by 3.7% in GDP terms and 2.8% in GNP terms. Employment in 2003 expanded by 1.9%. In 2004, the economy is estimated to have grown by 4.9% in GDP terms and 5.5% in GNP terms and employment grew by 3%.

The impact on employment of lower than forecast growth would vary according to the source of the lower growth. For example, if growth was lower due to a fall in net exports the employment effect could be expected to be less than if growth was lower due to slower growth in domestic demand.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

186 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance the amount by which the economy is anticipated to grow in 2005; the increase in employment he expects from such growth; the likely impact on employment should the economy grow at half the rate anticipated in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23154/05]

At budget time my Department forecast growth in 2005 to be 5.1% in GDP terms and 4.7% in GNP terms. Employment growth was forecast at 1.9%. As is customary, these forecasts will be updated in August with the publication of the Economic Review and Outlook.

The impact on employment of lower than forecast growth would vary according to the source of the lower growth. For example, if growth was lower due to a fall in net exports the employment effect could be expected to be less than if growth was lower due to slower growth in domestic demand. It should be noted, however, that available data point to strong employment growth in the first quarter of this year. According to the quarterly national household survey, total employment grew by 3.9% year on year in the first three months of 2005.

Tax Yield.

Michael Lowry

Question:

187 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance the number of cars registered each year from 1997 to 2005; the cost of VRT for each class of car; the amount of finance raised under each car class each year from 1997 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23155/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the available information on the number of cars registered and the receipts of VRT for each car class, A1, A2 and A3 for the years 1997 to 2005 is shown in Appendix 1. Included at Appendix 2 are the estimated VAT receipts from cars for the period 1997 to 2005. The amount of VAT collected cannot be identified by car class from within the overall VAT yield as the information furnished on VAT returns does not require this to be identified. Appendix 3 outlines the rates of duty for VRT for cars for the period 1997 to 2005.

While the Exchequer benefits generally from revenues generated by the motor sector, the motorist has also benefited from the substantial investment in the roads network over the last number of years through the national development plan. In 2004, spending on national and non-national roads totalled over €1.65 billion. This is set to increase to approximately €1.8 billion this year. Indeed, since 1997 this Government has spent over €8.8 billion on roads.

The Government has prioritised tax reductions on income earned by employees, in preference to other areas, and this policy has helped create record employment levels.

Appendix 1: Motor Vehicle Registration Tax — Gross Registrations and Net Receipts.

Category A1

Category A2

Category A3

Total A1, A2 and A3

Cars up to 1400 cc

Cars 1401-2000 cc(1)

Cars over 2000 cc(1)

Total

Total

Total

Total

Year

Reg.

Reg.

Reg.

Reg.

1997

New

135,812

412,848,994

1,078

15,927,786

136,890

428,776,780

Used

43,991

58,156,836

837

3,677,206

44,828

61,834,041

Total

179,803

471,005,829

1,915

19,604,992

181,718

490,610,821

1998

New

144,706

512,708,640

1,437

22,933,063

146,143

535,641,703

Used

43,605

59,053,103

1,309

6,102,114

44,914

65,155,217

Total

188,311

571,761,743

2,746

29,035,177

191,057

600,796,919

1999

New

111,834

304,581,863

58,319

318,735,927

4,689

68,950,941

174,842

692,268,731

Used

15,403

15,657,068

18,432

31,956,464

3,657

14,573,392

37,492

62,186,924

Total

127,237

320,238,930

76,751

350,692,392

8,346

83,524,333

212,334

754,455,656

2000

New

150,795

425,673,696

74,387

419,347,706

6,357

100,120,378

231,539

945,141,780

Used

9,716

9,461,993

12,195

18,167,826

2,982

11,391,308

24,893

39,021,127

Total

160,511

435,135,689

86,582

437,515,533

9,339

111,511,685

256,432

984,162,907

2001

New

87,359

252,219,795

70,859

391,563,661

6,956

106,869,490

165,174

750,652,946

Used

5,494

3,574,593

8,305

9,572,046

2,341

8,179,692

16,140

21,326,332

Total

92,853

255,794,389

79,164

401,135,707

9,297

115,049,182

181,314

771,979,278

2002

New

78,138

236,090,266

70,890

405,488,685

7,285

114,757,314

156,313

756,336,265

Used

3,906

2,019,110

7,280

9,575,377

2,652

9,195,392

13,838

20,789,879

Total

82,044

238,109,376

78,170

415,064,062

9,937

123,952,706

170,151

777,126,144

2003

New

72,217

234,971,315

50,678

288,889,026

22,511

254,668,283

145,406

778,528,624

Used

3,877

2,389,244

4,978

7,519,007

5,773

18,275,929

14,628

28,184,180

Total

76,094

237,360,559

55,656

296,408,033

28,284

272,944,212

160,034

806,712,804

2004(2)

New

70,707

238,628,177

58,828

343,788,136

24,962

296,091,017

154,497

878,507,330

Used

6,046

4,511,483

8,715

18,130,459

8,812

30,725,134

23,573

53,367,076

Total

76,753

243,139,660

67,543

361,918,595

33,774

326,816,151

178,070

931,874,406

2005(2)

New

54,426

199,892,631

47,772

293,173,061

20,572

260,869,962

122,770

753,935,654

Jan-May

Used

4,145

3,621,149

6,974

16,240,595

5,591

22,049,560

16,710

41,911,304

Total

58,571

203,513,780

54,746

309,413,656

26,163

282,919,522

139,480

795,846,958

Note: The registrations shown are gross i.e. they include those vehicle registrations which are exempt from VRT.

Note (1). With effect from 1 Jan 2003 motor cars with an engine capacity greater than 1901cc and less than 2000cc were registered in Category A3.

Note (2). VRT Receipts for 2004 and 2005 are Provisional.

With regard to the figure for VRT receipts for Jan to May 2005, due to a deferment arrangement some of the VRT will not accrue to the Exchequer account until later in the year. The actual amount receipted to the end of May in respect of motor cars is €666 million.

Appendix 2: Estimated VAT Yield 1997 — 2005 on Cars —€ million.

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Estimated VAT Yield(1)

290

375

427

562

422

430

431

480

493

Note (1). VAT Yield for 1997-2004 (inclusive) is estimated. 2005 VAT Yield is for the full year and is Provisional.

Appendix 3: Rates of Duty for V.R.T. for Cars.

Category

Year 1997

A1

Not Exceeding 2500cc

23.2% of chargeable value or £250, whichever is the greater

A2

Exceeding 2500cc

29.25% of chargeable value or £250, whichever is the greater

Year 1998

A1

Not Exceeding 2500cc

22.5% of chargeable value or £250, whichever is the greater

A2

Exceeding 2500cc

28.0% of chargeable value or £250, whichever is the greater

Year 1999-2001 inclusive

A1

Not Exceeding 1400cc

22.5% of chargeable value or £250, whichever is the greater

A2

Not Exceeding 2000cc

25.0% of chargeable value or £250, whichever is the greater

A3

Exceeding 2000cc

30.0% of chargeable value or £250, whichever is the greater

Year 2002

A1

Not Exceeding 1400cc

22.5% of chargeable value or €315, whichever is the greater

A2

Not Exceeding 2000cc

25.0% of chargeable value or €315, whichever is the greater

A3

Exceeding 2000cc

30.0% of chargeable value or €315, whichever is the greater

Year 2003 to date

A1

Not Exceeding 1400cc

22.5% of chargeable value or €315, whichever is the greater

A2

Not Exceeding 1900cc

25.0% of chargeable value or €315, whichever is the greater

A3

Exceeding 1900cc

30.0% of chargeable value or €315, whichever is the greater

Tax Code.

Michael Lowry

Question:

188 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on any negotiations with the EU or EU officials regarding the abolition of VRT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23156/05]

There are no EU level negotiations on the abolition of VRT, although I understand that the Commission is considering a proposal on passenger car taxation. However, it should be noted that VRT is a national tax that falls within the national competence. VRT provides significant revenue to the Irish economy —€946 million in 2004 — which is used to fund vital public services.

Flood Relief.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

189 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the proposals submitted for consideration and funding by the OPW related to flooding incidents in Kildare. [23157/05]

The Office of Public Works received a study from Kildare County Council, 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 for consideration by the Commissioners of Public Works on flooding issues throughout the country. It will not be possible, until the report has been examined, to make a decision on OPW's position with regard to flood alleviation works in Leixlip.

Kildare County Council also submitted reports related to flooding in Straffan and Ardclough, County Kildare in January 2003. In Straffan, the problem is surface water drainage and the proposed works would therefore be a matter for the county council. In the case of Ardclough, my officials advised Kildare County Council that the report required more technical detail as well as a cost benefit analysis and an environmental assessment to permit a full assessment of the problem.

The Office of Public Works has carried out a flood relief scheme on the Shinkeen stream in Hazelhatch, County Kildare, which was completed in 2002. In addition, in 2003/04, works were funded and carried out by the OPW on behalf of Kildare County Council on the Lyreen and Meadowbrook rivers in Maynooth together with the Morrell river in the Kill/Johnstown area.

Tax Code.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

190 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the average waiting time for issuing by the Revenue Commissioners of tax free allowance and tax rebates. [23159/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the amendment of a customer's tax credit certificate, TCC, for 2005, if contact is by telephone, will in the vast majority of cases be completed while the customer is on the phone. A revised TCC issues to the employer and the employee in two to three working days. Where a customer writes in seeking an amendment for 2005, the average time for a revised TCC to issue is currently two to three weeks.

Refunds arise in the context of a review of a customer's liability for a previous tax year or years. Some reviews can be complex, particularly when multiple year reviews are involved. Generally, however, the average time for issuing refunds is three to four weeks.

Garda Stations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

191 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the position on the renovation of Oylegate Garda station, Enniscorthy, in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23160/05]

On foot of the condition report that was issued to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform by the Commissioners of Public Works, approval has now been granted by the Garda authorities to proceed with improvement works to married quarters at Oylegate Garda station. Tender documents for this project are currently being prepared. At present, works to sanitary services are in progress.

Tax Code.

Willie Penrose

Question:

192 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm having received correspondence from Irish LP Gas Association, seeking to have LPG zero rated in line with that pertaining to natural gas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23161/05]

I can confirm that a letter was received on this issue from the Irish LP Gas Association and that a reply issued from my office on 31 March 2005. As the Deputy may be aware, there was a small excise increase in Finance Act 2005 on non-auto LPG in order to comply with the EU energy tax directive. While under the directive certain LPG usage could have been exempted, this was not seen as feasible. It would have given rise to potential difficulties, including an increase in the potential for abuse, particularly as there is no system for fiscal marking of LPG comparable to that used for marked gas oil and marked kerosene. However, I have agreed to keep this matter under review.

Tax Yield.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

193 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the estimated total value of alcohol consumed in each of the past three years; and the estimated total revenue taken by the State in terms of excise and VAT. [23162/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the only relevant information available is in respect of excise duty and estimated VAT on alcoholic beverages. In this report, the total revenue for each of the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 is €1,855 million, €1,903 million and €1,975 million respectively. The breakdown is as shown in the table.

2002

2003

2004

€m

€m

€m

Excise receipts

Beer

477

456

458

Spirits

267

305

315

Wine

152

168

185

Cider

62

60

64

Total

958

989

1022

Estimated VAT Yield

Beer

478

487

489

Spirits

219

207

217

Wine and Cider

200

220

247

Total

897

914

953

Disabled Drivers.

Pat Breen

Question:

194 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 182 of 9 March 2005, the position regarding an appeal for the disabled drivers allowance for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; if the new secretary of the medical board of appeal for the scheme made contact with the individual concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23220/05]

As indicated in previous replies, I have no direct responsibility for the day to day operation of the medical board of appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme. However, it is my understanding that the board of appeal has contacted the individual concerned.

National Lottery.

Joan Burton

Question:

195 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the proposals by the national lottery to introduce new games via mobile phones and Internet. [23327/05]

I am aware that the National Lottery Company is considering the introduction of new games via mobile phones and the Internet. Under the National Lottery Act 1986, the company requires my approval for the rules of each lottery game. I have not received any proposal on this matter from the national lottery.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

196 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works has plans for the recruitment of tradespeople; the skills required for any competitions planned; and the likely duration of panels established. [23385/05]

The Office of Public Works currently has immediate plans to recruit three craftpersons, namely, two stonemasons and one stonecutter for Dromahair national monuments depot, County Leitrim. Craftpersons are recruited as operational requirements dictate and the Office of Public Works may recruit other craftworkers for its various locations nationwide in the short to medium term.

The minimum requirement for a craftworker's position is a national craft certificate from FÁS or the equivalent. Panels are normally established for 12 months. The Office of Public Works recently ran a nationwide competition to recruit up to 20 apprentices in the craft areas of stone and carpentry.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

197 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many first time buyers who depend on parents to contribute to the cost of purchase are being ruled liable to stamp duty; and if arrangements will be made whereby a certificate confirming that the parents will take no beneficial interest from the home will suffice to obtain the intended stamp duty exemption. [23392/05]

A stamp duty exemption for first time buyers of second hand houses under €317,500 was brought in by budget 2005. Previously it had applied only to houses up to €190,500, so the significant increase in the threshold made this exemption relevant to a much broader range of purchasers. Reduced rates of duty were also made available for purchases up to €635,000. The relief from stamp duty is intended to benefit only genuine first time buyers. It is, of course, essential that the stamp duty advantage intended for first time buyers should not be diluted by allowing persons who are not first time buyers circumvent the rules, by borrowing in tandem with another person who is a first time buyer. Revenue has always accepted that a person would not have been precluded from obtaining first time buyer relief where a parent provides funds by means of an unconditional gift towards the purchase of a house or where a parent acts as financial guarantor for purchase moneys which are borrowed by his or her son or daughter in connection with the purchase.

In a statement issued on Friday, 24 June, the Revenue Commissioners have offered reassurance to first time buyers in situations involving parents of first time buyers acting as co-mortgagors. The Revenue Commissioners are now prepared to accept that a child, who is a first time buyer, will not be precluded from claiming first time buyer relief where a parent acts as a co-mortgagor in the following circumstances: the transfer of the house is taken in the name of the child; it is the intention of both the child and the parent that the parent is not to take a beneficial interest in the house; the parent has been joined into the mortgage solely at the request of the lending institution for the purpose of providing additional security for the moneys being advanced for the purchase; it is not intended that the parent will be contributing to the repayment of the mortgage in the normal course.

Where the four conditions set out above are satisfied, Revenue will treat the parent as effectively acting in the role of guarantor for the loan. In these circumstances, the certificate envisaged by the Deputy would not be required for a first time buyer to obtain the stamp duty exemption. I am also advised that the Revenue Commissioners do not propose to seek a clawback of stamp duty where transfers have taken place before last Friday, 24 June, which comply with the conditions outlined above.

Departmental Properties.

John Perry

Question:

198 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance the progress made with regard to the tenders for land (details supplied) in County Sligo; if the tender has been awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23397/05]

Tenders for the matter referred to are under consideration at present. A decision regarding the award of a contract will be made within the next week.

Tax Yield.

Richard Bruton

Question:

199 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the revenue received in stamp duties since 1997 to date, distinguishing between housing duties and others. [23398/05]

The following are the stamp duty receipts received by the Exchequer for each of the years 1997 to 2004 and for the first five months of 2005:

€m

1997

545

1998

686

1999

913

2000

1,107

2001

1,227

2002

1,167

2003

1,688

2004

2,088

2005 (to end-May)

933

The Revenue Commissioners estimate that the stamp duty yield attributable to residential property transactions, on a revenue net receipts basis, for each of the years 1997 to 2004 and for the first five months of 2005 was:

€m

1997

194

1998

213

1999

263

2000

282

2001

265

2002

349

2003

528

2004

752

2005 (to end-May)

313

The end-May 2005 figure is provisional and subject to revision.

Richard Bruton

Question:

200 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the revenue received in valued added tax since 2003 to date; and his forecast for 2005. [23409/05]

The following are the VAT receipts received by the Exchequer for each of the years 2003 and 2004 and for the first five months of 2005:

Year

€m

2003

9,721

2004

10,693

2005 (to end-May)

5,534

The budgeted forecast for VAT receipts in 2005 is €11.625 billion.

Richard Bruton

Question:

201 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the revenue received in capital gains tax since 2003 to date; and his forecast for 2005. [23404/05]

The following are the capital gains tax receipts received by the Exchequer for each of the years 2003 and 2004 and for the first five months of 2005:

€m

2003

1,443

2004

1,516

2005 (to end-May)

538

The budgeted forecast for capital gains tax receipts in 2005 is €1.5 billion.

Richard Bruton

Question:

202 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the revenue received in income tax since 2003 to date; and his forecast for 2005. [23403/05]

The following are the income tax receipts received by the Exchequer for each of the years 2003 and 2004 and for the first five months of 2005:

€m

2003

9,162

2004

10,651

2005 (to end-May)

4,035

The budgeted forecast for income tax receipts in 2005 is €11.105 billion.

Richard Bruton

Question:

203 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the revenue received in capital acquisitions tax since 2003 to date; and his forecast for 2005. [23406/05]

The following are the capital acquisitions tax receipts received by the Exchequer for each of the years 2003 and 2004 and for the first five months of 2005:

€m

2003

214

2004

190

2005 (to end-May)

98

The budgeted forecast for capital acquisitions tax receipts in 2005 is €180 million.

Richard Bruton

Question:

204 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the revenue received in excise duties and customs duties since 2003 to date; and his forecast for 2005. [23405/05]

The following are the excise duty and customs receipts received by the Exchequer for each of the years 2003 and 2004 and for the first five months of 2005:

Excise Duty

€m

2003

4,572

2004

4,928

2005 (to end-May)

2,098

Customs

€m

2003

136

2004

174

2005 (to end-May)

89

The budgeted forecast for excise duty receipts in 2005 is €5,075 million. The budgeted forecast for customs receipts in 2005 is €170 million.

Richard Bruton

Question:

205 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the revenue received in motor vehicle duties since 2003 to date; and his forecast for 2005. [23400/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the revenue received in respect of vehicle registration tax for all motor vehicles is as follows:

€m

2003

819

2004

946

2005 (to end-May)

677

The VRT receipts for the year 2005 are estimated at €1.039 billion.

Richard Bruton

Question:

206 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the number of companies paying corporation tax in each year since 1997; and the amount received, distinguishing between the 10% rate and the standard rate. [23408/05]

The number of companies which indicated on their tax return forms that they were liable to pay corporation tax for each of the years from 1997 to 2003, is set out below. Data can be derived from corporation tax returns on the amount of corporation tax liability attributable to companies taxed wholly or partly at the reduced rate of 10%. The latest information available, which is for accounting periods ending between 1 April 1997 and 31 December 2003, is as set out in the following table.

Year Ended

All liable Companies

Number of liable Companies with 10% relief (note)

Tax Liability of Companies with 10% relief

Other liable Companies

Tax Liability of other liable Companies

€m

€m

31 March 1998

28,980

5,680

1,431

23,300

1,079

31 March 1999

31,900

5,800

1,818

26,100

1,428

31 March 2000

33,720

5,790

2,185

27,930

1,648

31 March 2001

38,730

5,620

2,716

33,110

1,737

31 December 2001

41,620

5,220

2,521

36,400

1,611

31 December 2002

43,550

5,230

2,580

38,320

1,720

31 December 2003*

41,910

4,130

2,600

37,780

1,845

*Breakdown figures are subject to revision.

The figures shown as the corporation tax liability of companies qualifying for the 10% relief reflect the total tax liability of these companies on all of their profits, including those profits taxed at other rates. It is not possible to isolate the tax attributable solely to the effective 10% rate in such cases because certain reliefs relating to income liable for tax at both the standard and reduced rates are set off against the overall tax liability after the relief at 10% has been computed.

Harbour Authorities.

Pat Breen

Question:

207 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to develop marine related activities on the Shannon Estuary (details supplied). [22983/05]

Pat Breen

Question:

208 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the details of any negotiations he has had with the ESB on usage of the deep water port at Moneypoint, County Clare, for other marine based activities including the long standing proposal to develop a transhipment business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22984/05]

Pat Breen

Question:

209 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to have negotiations with the ESB on usage of the deep water jetty at Moneypoint, County Clare, for other marine based activities including the long standing proposal to development a transhipment business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22985/05]

Pat Breen

Question:

210 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the details of the shipping traffic at the Moneypoint jetty in County Clare, including dates, for each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22986/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 to 210, inclusive, together.

Shannon Foynes Port Company is established and operates under the Harbours Act 1996. The Act provides that the principal objectives of the company include the management, control, operation and development of its harbour. Moneypoint jetty is owned and operated by ESB and handles mainly coal shipments for the electricity generating station at Moneypoint. The Department does not keep records of movements within individual ports. I have asked Shannon Foynes Port Company, within whose jurisdiction the facility lies, to forward the relevant information to the Deputy.

In January this year, I launched the Government's ports policy statement. The policy statement aims to better equip the port sector and its stakeholders to meet national and regional capacity and service needs. One of the key challenges that lies ahead is the provision of adequate in-time port capacity, particularly for unitised trade. The policy statement sets out a framework to ensure that capacity needs are identified, planned and progressed in a co-ordinated manner.

As an initial step, the Department has sought information from the commercial ports which handle unit load cargo on key projects identified by them as essential to deal with anticipated capacity deficiencies to 2014 and beyond and whether the ports see these as being funded from their own resources or in partnership with the private sector. In its response to this request, Shannon Foynes Port Company has provided information to the Department concerning its proposal for the development of a new container transhipment terminal on the lower reaches of the Shannon Estuary. The timeframe for the proposed development and the preparation of a detailed business plan are matters for Shannon Foynes Port Company in the first instance.

As indicated in the ports policy statement, it is intended to prioritise a range of projects catering for unitised traffic at our commercial ports from an overall economic national and regional perspective, as opposed to the perceived requirements of individual ports. To that end, the Department will procure expert and independent assistance from consultants to refine the criteria to be used for project evaluation, to draw up a uniform template for submission of detailed project proposals and to subsequently evaluate and rank the projects submitted as a basis for the Department's recommendation to Government. An invitation to tender for this consultancy is expected to be issued shortly.

The Department has no funds in its budget for the development of additional marine leisure facilities in the estuary.

Telecommunications Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

211 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the proportion of local exchanges in County Clare which will be enabled for broadband access by the end of 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22987/05]

Pat Breen

Question:

212 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of businesses and the number of households in County Clare which had broadband access on 1 April 2005; the projections for the number of businesses and the number of households which will have this access on 1 January 2005 and 1 January 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22988/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 211 and 212 together.

The provision of telecommunications, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. The latest data on total broadband subscribers in Ireland is provided by the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, and is available from the following link, http://www.comreg.ie/publications/default.asp?ctype=5&nid=101985.

Questions relating to the enabling of telephone exchanges for broadband are operational matters for Eircom. I have no function in these matters. However, I understand that the company has announced that it had more than 140,000 working DSL lines by 27 May 2005 and aims to have 90% of lines broadband enabled by March 2006.

I understand from ComReg that there were more than 138,000 broadband subscribers in January 2005. The figure had risen to more than 152,000 by 30 March 2005. ComReg may have data available to show the broadband figures by county.

Water Sports Vehicles.

Willie Penrose

Question:

213 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if it is the position that pursuant to section 6 of the Maritime Safety Bill as passed by Dáil Éireann on 21 June 2005, it is possible for a local authority in respect of waters under its jurisdiction to completely prohibit the use or operation of mechanically propelled personal watercraft and other recreational craft on such rivers or lakes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23059/05]

Section 6 of the Maritime Safety Bill 2004 as passed by Dáil Éireann on 21 June 2005, provides that by-laws may be made regulating or controlling the operation of craft or specified craft by local authorities in waters in their functional areas, harbour authorities and Waterways Ireland in waters under their control or management, in respect of, amongst other matters, the prohibition in specified waters or at specified times of such craft. Craft is defined in the Bill as personal watercraft, often referred to as jet skis, and recreational craft when operated by a mechanical means of propulsion.

Section 6 also sets out the basis for any such prohibition and these are: in the interests of the safety of persons using the waters generally or at certain times; to prevent nuisance to or injury to persons or damage to watercraft or other property on the waters; and to protect a natural heritage area or a monument or wreck protected under the National Monuments Acts.

It is essential that the by-law making authorities under the Bill have the power under section 6 to prohibit in circumstances that warrant such action. However, in many cases the use of such craft can, with appropriate restrictions, be accommodated and I would encourage the authorities to use the power under section 6, which I introduced as a Dáil Committee Stage amendment, to restrict the operation of this type of craft in such circumstances rather than prohibit. In this way competing water users can be accommodated to the benefit of those users and the marine tourism industry.

Telecommunications Services.

Michael Lowry

Question:

214 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, further to Parliamentary Question No. 354 of 21 June 2005, his plans for any future upgrade of the Irish telecommunications infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23060/05]

The provision of telecommunications, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

My Department's regional broadband programme is addressing the infrastructure deficit, in co-operation with the local and regional authorities, by building high speed open access metropolitan area networks, MANs, in 120 towns and cities nationwide, using European Regional Development Fund, ERDF, and Government funding under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. The MANs programme is being rolled out on a phased basis and the 19 networks completed to date have been completed on time and within budget. Work is under way on seven MANs and construction of a further 82 will commence during the next 12 months. Full details of the regional broadband programme can be found on my Department's website www.dcmnr.gov.ie.

For smaller towns and rural communities my Department offers grant aid of up to 55% of set-up costs to enable local groups to become self sufficient in broadband, using the most suitable technology for their area. Under the broadband for schools project, all the 4,200 primary and post-primary schools in the country will be provided with broadband by the end of this year.

Fisheries Protection.

Enda Kenny

Question:

215 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the measures in place to control the incidence of sea lice in fish farms; the conditions in place that govern such incidence; the extent of monitoring of sea lice in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23117/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

222 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent of inspections carried out by his Department to monitor the extent and proliferation of sea lice affecting wild salmon stocks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23124/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

223 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has had reports of an increased incidence of sea lice adversely affecting stocks of wild Atlantic salmon smolts; if his attention has been drawn to the extent of damage to these stocks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23125/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215, 222 and 223 together.

A national monitoring and control programme for sea lice at marine finfish farms is operated on behalf of the Department by the Marine Institute, in accordance with the Protocol for Sea Lice Monitoring and Control published by the Department of Marine and Natural Resources in 2000.

The programme involves the carrying out of 14 inspections a year at each site containing fish. One inspection is carried out in the period from December to January, two inspections per month are undertaken in the period from March to May and one inspection per month is carried out during the rest of the year. The key purpose of these inspections is to establish whether the lice levels at a site are in excess of the strict trigger levels that are applied in this country. If the appropriate trigger level is exceeded, the operator of the site is required to apply an appropriate treatment with a view to effecting a reduction in the lice levels.

A study of sea lice levels on wild salmon intercepted at sea, several miles from the coast, on their return migration, was carried out in 2003 by the Marine Institute in conjunction with the department of sciences at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. It showed that these fish had an average infestation in the region of ten lice per fish. No evidence has been found of increased mortality due to sea lice in outward migrating salmon smolts. While no studies are available on this subject, the Marine Institute is conducting a multi-year study, the results of which will be published in due course.

Harbours and Piers.

Enda Kenny

Question:

216 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to improve facilities at Lecanvey pier, Louisburgh, County Mayo; the moneys allocated to this project for 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23118/05]

Lecanvey pier is owned by Mayo County Council and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance. The Department co-funded with Mayo County Council and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the report, An Assessment of Piers, Harbours and Landing Places in County Mayo. Lecanvey Pier is identified in that report as a marine leisure facility and is rated as category 2, which is a medium term priority, where development and repairs should be considered as resources become available.

The funding available to the Department under the port infrastructure improvement programme of the National Development Plan 2000-2006 is directed at projects that improve infrastructure and facilities at key strategic fishery harbours and the construction and improvement of berthage and related facilities at smaller harbours and landing places, with a key role in maintaining jobs in fishing, aquaculture and ancillary activities. The proposed works at Lecanvey pier do not come within the scope of that programme. The Department has no other funding available for marine leisure projects.

Fisheries Protection.

Enda Kenny

Question:

217 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to offer any proposal for a buy out system to currently registered holders of drift net salmon licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23119/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

221 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals to protect the wild Atlantic salmon species; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23123/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 217 and 221 together.

Wild salmon stocks are under threat from a variety of adverse environmental and other pressures which impact on marine survival as well as in our rivers and estuaries. As Minister of State with responsibility for the marine, I am fully aware that these pressures, along with excessive exploitation of salmon stocks, pose a significant threat to the long-term sustainability of this valuable natural resource.

With this in mind, the Government has accepted the scientific advice that continues to maintain that reductions in the overall fishing effort are required to sustain and rebuild salmon stocks nationwide. For this reason, current Government policy has been designed to bring spawning escapement up to the level of the scientifically advised conservation limits and to fully align the wild salmon catch on the scientific advice so that we can have increased confidence that a sustainable management regime is in place.

Since 2002, the Government has implemented a strategy to ensure, through progressive reductions in the commercial catch, that the conservation limits specified by the standing scientific committee of the National Salmon Commission are being reached. This policy of promoting the application of quotas on commercial fishing and bag limits on angling has delivered significant overall catch reductions aimed at achieving the objective of restoration of salmon stocks. A quality and value strategy is also in place within the commercial salmon fishery aimed at improving how fish are handled, post catching, to ensure that the maximum price per fish is obtained. This approach maintains or increases the overall income derived from the fishery even when the total catch is reduced.

In these circumstances, I have no plans to introduce proposals to purchase commercial drift net salmon fishing licences. The Government has consistently ruled out buyout as an effective means of achieving the restoration of salmon stocks. Moreover, no convincing case has been advanced as to the public good that would be acquired by the State in the context of a publicly funded buyout of commercial salmon drift net licences or why stakeholders benefiting from increased numbers of salmon entering the rivers should not contribute in whole or in part towards achieving that increase.

As I have previously and consistently indicated to the House, I am prepared to keep the matter under review. In this regard, I would be open to any relevant proposals presented to me whereby stakeholders benefiting from any reduction in commercial catch would engage in the first instance with licence holders and indicate a willingness to address any compensation issues that might arise. In the meantime, the Government believes that the current strategy of developing a sustainable commercial and recreational salmon fishery through aligning catches on the scientific advice holds out the strong prospect of a recovery of stocks and of a long-term sustainable fishery for both sectors.

Enda Kenny

Question:

218 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of salmon drift net licences that are issued in each fisheries board area for each of the past five years; the number of these that were actively used in that period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23120/05]

The following table indicates the total number of salmon drift net licences which were issued by the regional fisheries boards and actively used by fishermen during the period 2000 to 2004. I am advised by the Central Fisheries Board that it has not been possible, within the time available, to provide this information in respect of the individual fisheries board regions. I have, however, asked the chief executive officer of the Central Fisheries Board to ensure that this specific information is collated and forwarded directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Year

Drift Net Licences issued

2004

848

2003

877

2002

883

2001

871

2000

871

Enda Kenny

Question:

219 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the estimated average income of a holder of a salmon drift net licence from that source as assessed by his Department for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23121/05]

Primary responsibility for the allocation of commercial salmon fishing licences is a matter for the relevant regional fisheries board, in accordance with the prescribed criteria laid down under the Control of Fishing for Salmon Order 2005, SI 72 of 2005. While this licence entitles fishermen to fish for salmon in a specified fishery district, these licence holders are not required to report their income from this source to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

Prior to 2005, applicants for commercial salmon fishing licences were required, in accordance with the Control of Fishing for Salmon Order 1980 and subsequent amendments, to provide details to the regional fisheries board of their income from fishing to verify that proportion of their livelihood derived from fishing for salmon. I understand, however, that while fishermen were required to provide these details on their application forms, this information was not collated by the fisheries boards. As a result, the Central Fisheries Board advises me that it is not in a position to provide the estimate as sought by the Deputy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

220 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the strength of the Atlantic salmon stock; the number of Atlantic salmon caught and notified officially for each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23122/05]

According to the wild salmon and sea trout tagging scheme fisheries statistics reports, which are published annually by the Central Fisheries Board, the number of Atlantic salmon caught and notified to the fisheries boards for each of the past ten years is set out in the table.

Year

Numbers

1995

270,269

1996

229,529

1997

205,553

1998

240,014

1999

189,143

2000

236,448

2001

259,475

2002

236,307

2003

187,762

2004

169,808

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

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

Question No. 221 answered with QuestionNo. 217.
Questions Nos. 222 and 223 answered with Question No. 215.

EU Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

224 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the steps he has taken to ensure that his Department complies with the decisions of the High Court of 6 March 2002 and of the Supreme Court of 16 July 2003 that any ministerial order having the effect of creating an indictable offence is ultra vires; if this decision has been upheld by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23129/05]

The question refers to the High Court decision of 6 March 2002 and Supreme Court decision of 16 July 2003, and while the name of the case was not included in the question it would appear that the Deputy is referring to the decision in the case of Vincent Browne v. the Attorney General. The Supreme Court in this case decided that an EC regulation could only be transposed by regulations under a provision of an Act of the Oireachtas, which specifically allows for the transposition of an EC regulation.

The parameters of the decision in the Browne case were considered by the Supreme Court in the subsequent case of Thomas Kennedy v. the Attorney General, the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources. The Supreme Court in its decision in that case of 31 May 2005 clarified the limits of its earlier decision in the Browne case and decided that EU policy can only be implemented by regulations made under an Act of the Oireachtas where the Act specifically allows for the implementation of EU policy by regulations. The Attorney General will shortly advise the Government on action to be taken to address the issues raised in these cases.

Offshore Exploration.

Michael Ring

Question:

225 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the sections of the Gas Act that allows a company (details supplied) to construct compounds on the upstream pipeline route without having to apply for planning permission; and if a derelict house in Rossport, approximately 10 m from the proposed pipeline route, is exempt from planning permission under the Gas Act. [23193/05]

Consent to construct and commission a pipeline was given on 15 April 2002 by my predecessor under section 40 of the Gas Act 1976, as amended, to Enterprise Energy Ireland Limited, EEIL, subject to a number of conditions, including the condition to obtain consent to install and commission the pipeline in accordance with the requirements of the Department's rules and procedures manual for offshore petroleum production operations.

The works to be carried out to install and commission the Corrib gas field pipeline system comprise seven phases. As part of the developer's application for consent for phase 3 onshore pipeline works, which involved both preparatory works and the actual pipeline installation, the approval process for this phase has not yet concluded. While the developers were given consent for preparatory works, which allows for the construction of temporary compounds along the proposed pipeline route on 9 July 2002, the application by the developers for the installation of the pipeline is still under consideration.

Post Office Network.

Denis Naughten

Question:

226 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to make grant aid available for rural post offices to ensure their computerisation, including the provision of Internet availability to the public; his views on whether this would help address the information divide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23194/05]

The primary responsibility for the development of the post office network rests with An Post. The automation of the network was completed in 1997 and it has only been in exceptional circumstances — such as an existing automated office closing and its equipment being transferred to a suitable neighbouring location which transacts significant volumes of welfare business — that further offices have been automated since then.

The automated network accounts for more than 95% of An Post's counter business. This means that the 1,000 automated offices transact 95% of counter business while 475 non-automated offices undertake 5% of business. Nevertheless, An Post is now moving to undertake a pilot project, which would see ten manual post offices automated, to gauge the effect on business. Furthermore, An Post is undertaking a fundamental reappraisal of the post office network. The objective of this exercise is to build on existing strengths in terms of nationwide network, strong brand recognition and high footfall, and to devise a suite of products and services to meet current and future needs of post office customers. This strategy will provide the road map for future service delivery throughout the network. In a separate initiative, the company is working with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs on a project to automate nine island post offices.

At this point, An Post has no plans to provide Internet access to the public through the rural post office network. However, with the rollout of e-government services, the automated element of the post office network is ideally placed to capitalise on opportunities arising in this space, especially in the area of e-payments. A core objective for An Post continues to be the retention of access to post office services in as many locations as possible, in the manner which best meets customer needs, whether services are provided via post offices, postal agencies or the PostPoint network.

Postal Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

227 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the action he is taking to develop the postal service and the market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23195/05]

The market for traditional postal and post office services is changing and meeting customer needs has become more important than ever. Competition can be expected to increase into the future, from the privately owned express sector, from the large European public operators now looking for international business and from electronic communications technologies such as e-mail and text messaging. The trend of dropping mail volumes internationally is also impacting on the Irish postal sector. This does not bode well for the future of a volume based business.

Already the parcels business in Ireland is liberalised, with major international players operating in the Irish market. Furthermore, the European Commission's stated intention is to complete the internal market for postal services in 2009 which, if achieved, would open up the letter post area to full competition. The Commission is undertaking a number of studies on the impact of competition on the universal service requirement, which is enshrined in EU and Irish law. The results of these studies will contribute to determining the direction of the postal market into the future.

With this in mind, An Post will continue to have a key national role, both in delivery of mail and as a quality service provider through its nationwide network of post office outlets. To remain competitive, An Post needs to make the best possible use of its long established and trusted brand name and deploy its resources in a manner which continues to serve existing customers' needs and attracts additional customers for a range of new services.

Agreement has been reached that change is required if the postal services of An Post are to adapt to the modern business environment and to continue to offer a top class nationwide delivery service to the customer into the future. In addition, I established a working group in January 2005 to examine the introduction of a postcode system in Ireland. This working group reported earlier this year and found that the introduction of a publicly available postcode could deliver many potential benefits, including the delivery of improvements in efficiencies and quality in the postal sector. It could also stimulate mail volume growth, assist utilities and emergency services, address the problem of non-unique addressing and facilitate competition by making it easier for new postal operators to enter the market. These improvements collectively will boost the country's competitiveness.

Following from the recommendations of the working group report, consideration of the feasibility, design and implementation of a practicable postcode project proposal will be advanced, including establishing the cost of implementing such a postcode and how that cost should be met. In accordance with the recommendation of the working group, that project managers be appointed to lead the postcode project, I have asked the Commission for Communications Regulation to appoint the project managers. I will appoint a national postcode project board, comprising representatives of Departments together with public and private sector organisations, to assist the project managers with their work and to present a proposal describing in sufficient detail a model that is the most efficient, effective and most publicly usable postcode system by 31 December 2005. I expect the new postcode system to be implemented by 1 January 2008.

Ministerial Appointments.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

228 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the names of all ministerial appointees to the harbour boards; and their county of residence and date of appointment. [23196/05]

In the time available, it has not been possible to assemble all the information sought by the Deputy. The Department is compiling the relevant material and I will write to the Deputy in this regard as soon as possible.

Postal Services.

Damien English

Question:

229 Mr. English asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason the existing GeoDirectory system, that contains each of the 1.5 million building records in the State, cannot be utilised by An Post rather than the proposed postal code system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23197/05]

I have asked the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, to appoint project managers to support the postcode project. As a next step I will appoint a national postcode project board, comprising representatives of Departments together with public and private sector organisations, to assist the project managers with their work. It is hoped to present a proposal describing in sufficient detail the most efficient, effective and most publicly usable postcode system by 31 December 2005. In its deliberations, the project board will examine all of the options for a postcode system. This may include an examination of An Post's GeoDirectory.

Whilst the GeoDirectory has already been developed and adopted by some organisations and goes some way towards solving the problem of identifying individual addresses in townlands, it has certain characteristics that impact upon its suitability for use as a public postcode system and it is not consistent with the generally accepted definition of a postcode as a "unique, universal identifier that unambiguously identifies the addressee's locality and assists in the transmission and sorting of mail items."

An Post has also advised that the GeoDirectory product is not a publicly available postcode system. It is a commercial, proprietary, address database that is linked to geographical co-ordinates to provide a unique identifier for buildings and has been developed by An Post and Ordnance Survey Ireland. The cost of the GeoDirectory product supplied by An Post is expensive for most businesses and comprises a once-off fee of €57,000 plus an annual licensing fee of 14% of the initial cost. These high costs reflect that keeping the GeoDirectory database updated is a continual and labour intensive exercise and that geo codes are not automatically assigned and require manual intervention.

While a postcode can be used with automated mail process systems, it must also be capable of being used with manual systems. The GeoDirectory product is a building identifier and the purpose of a postcode system is to make it easier to process and deliver mail. The GeoDirectory's design means that it is only when combined with An Post sorting technology that it can be employed as a technical postcode. However, because approximately 40% of Irish addresses are not "unique", the An Post sorting technology, when deployed, cannot always match the address written on the envelope with the list of delivery points. If a postcode system were in place a much greater proportion of letters could be automatically sorted, and when human intervention is necessary the time needed would be shorter.

Other potential drawbacks to the use of the GeoDirectory as a postcode system, as identified by ComReg, include that there may also be data protection and privacy issues as the database requires an occupier's name to be recorded on the database in rural areas. It is also a sequential technical code that is not intuitive or easy to recall and this could impact upon the public adoption rates of any new postcode system based on the GeoDirectory.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

230 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department has involved the National Standards Authority of Ireland in the working group examining the possible introduction of new postcodes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23198/05]

To examine the introduction of a postcode system in Ireland, I established a working group comprising people with experience of the postal sector, together with a representative from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, which is the lead Department for the Irish spatial data infrastructure initiative to examine the issue of the introduction of a postcode system in Ireland. This group produced its report earlier this month.

Following from the report's recommendations, I have asked the Commission for Communications Regulation to appoint project managers through a competitive process to support the postcode project. As part of their work the project managers will consult with various interest and expert groups with a view to designing a range of postcode proposals best suited for Ireland. As a next step I will appoint a national postcode project board, comprising representatives of Departments together with public and private sector organisations, to assist the project managers with their work. It is hoped to present a proposal describing in sufficient detail the most efficient, effective and most publicly usable postcode system by 31 December 2005.

EU Directives.

Pat Breen

Question:

231 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, further to Parliamentary Question No. 157 of 1 June 2005, the way in which the differential calculation system is applied to achieve the objectives of the regulation without reducing fees; the new respective fees for the oil tankers; if the differential calculation system only arises when comparison can be made between an SBT tanker and a non-SBT tanker such that, if no non-SBT enters port, the normal pilotage fees applies to an SBT tanker regardless of the quantity of her segregated ballast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23199/05]

Council Regulation (EC) No. 2978/94 of 21 November 1994 deals with the implementation of International Maritime Organisation Resolution A.747(18) on the application of tonnage measurement of ballast spaces in segregated ballast oil tankers. The objective of the regulation is to encourage the use of segregated ballast tanks in oil tankers. For this purpose, it introduces a differential calculation system for fees for oil tankers to be applied by port and harbour authorities and by pilotage authorities.

EU Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

232 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he has taken to ensure that his Department complies with the decisions of the High Court of 6 March 2002 and of the Supreme Court of 16 July 2003 that any ministerial order having the effect of creating an indictable offence is ultra vires; if this decision has been upheld by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23130/05]

I have not been responsible for the making of any ministerial order having the effect of creating an indictable offence in the period since the judgments referred to in the Deputy's question.

Departmental Expenditure.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

233 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contracts given for the Euro Presidency; the contracts which were given during the EU Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23163/05]

The Department of Foreign Affairs entered into contractual arrangements with the following companies and service providers in the lead up to and-or during the 2004 Presidency of the Council of Ministers of the European Union: Audi, Alexander Hotel, Berkeley Court Hotel, Brooks Hotel, Caroline Erskine / Noelleanne O'Sullivan, Celtic Roots Studio, Conrad Hotel, Cooley Distillers, Corporate Solutions, Craft Print, Croke Park, Datasat, Davenport Hotel, Dobbins Outdoor Catering, Dromoland Castle, Egan Hospitality, Esat BT, E-Training, Eircom, European Centre for Conflict Prevention — ECCP, European Centre Development Policy Management — ECDPM, Fiach MacConghail & Associates, Fitzers Catering, Flair Hospitality, Four Seasons Hotel, Frontline, Hibernia Atlantic, House of Ireland, James Boylan Safety, JJ Kavanagh, John McKenna, Jurys Hotels, Kellyprint, Kerrygold, Kilkenny Design, Kinnity Castle, Kristina Eustace-Werkner, Lan Communications, Lamination Services, Local Government Computer Services Board, Long Grass Productions — Caroline Erskine, Masterchef Catering, Maxwells, Merrion Hotel, Mespil Hotel, Murrays Chauffeur Drive, OBSERVE, Prontaprint, Q Design, Red Dog Design, Rosebud Florists, SAS Radisson Hotel, Servecast, Stauntons on the Green, The Kildare Club, Tipperary Water, Tony Graham & Associates, Tullamore Court Hotel, Val Byrne, artist, Westbury Hotel, Westin Hotel, Whichcraft, With Taste Catering.

The Office of Public Works also entered into contractual arrangements, on behalf of the Department, with a number of companies and service providers. In addition, many of our missions abroad contracted services locally for Presidency purposes.

Diplomatic Representation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

234 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had discussions with the Australian Government on Irish illegal immigrants; the position regarding the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23164/05]

The main visa programme under which Irish people enter Australia is the working holiday visa programme. At any one time upwards of 10,000 young Irish people are in Australia under this programme. The popularity of the scheme is such that last year Ireland was second only to Britain as the main source country for successful applications.

A very small proportion of Irish people in Australia overstay their visa. While exact figures are not available, the relevant Australian authorities consider the rate of overstay by Irish people to be less than 1%. The Deputy can be assured that officials of the embassy in Canberra and consulate general in Sydney actively monitor the situation. They have developed a close and positive working relationship with the Australian immigration authorities and our ambassador in Canberra maintains contact with the Minister who has responsibility for this area.

The Government also provides grants to three Irish immigrant support groups that offer assistance to our community in Australia. Last year grants totalling €48,000 were extended to them, an increase of 25% on 2003.

Human Rights Issues.

Pat Carey

Question:

235 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress being made through consular and other officials on a possible appeal, retrial or repatriation of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23303/05]

My Department has been monitoring developments in this case and has been providing consular assistance to the person in question since we became aware of the case in February 2003.

The Irish ambassador and a diplomatic officer from the embassy in Buenos Aires have made prison visits to the person to whom the Deputy refers. In addition, an Irish person in Quito, on behalf of the embassy and who is well known to it, has made a recent prison visit and intends making monthly visits from now on with phone contact on a weekly basis. On her recent visit, this embassy representative found the person concerned to be in good form and delivered food, money and other essential items to her. The person concerned indicated to the embassy representative that she has engaged a lawyer and the embassy representative is happy to make contact with the lawyer on receipt of contact details.

As regards legal advice, the most appropriate person to offer such advice to the person concerned is her legal representative. However, a difficulty regarding further proceedings — a possibility which has been raised by the Deputy in his question — is that I understand, following the recent political disturbances, that most legal proceedings in Ecuador are at a standstill.

Joan Burton

Question:

236 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his proposals in respect of the destruction of many thousands of homes and small businesses currently being carried out by the Government of Zimbabwe; the representations he has made to African countries which are bilateral development partners of Ireland and the actions Ireland has taken at the European Union on this issue. [23304/05]

The Government views with great concern the recent actions by the Zimbabwean Government, which have resulted in an estimated 275,000 people being left homeless, as a result of Operation Restore Order, aimed at clearing away the businesses of informal street traders and unregistered homes built by the urban poor. Ireland and its EU partners have joined many others in the international community in condemning the totally unjustified actions of the Zimbabwean Government which have only succeeded in worsening the humanitarian situation in a country already facing serious food shortages this year and currently experiencing unemployment levels of between 70% and 80%.

The serious humanitarian consequences arising from Operation Restore Order has once again highlighted the failed policies of President Mugabe's Government. It is important that international pressure continues to be exerted on the Zimbabwean authorities to cease this campaign as soon as possible, to assist those who have been left homeless or in want as a result and to begin implementing democratic reforms to move away from the climate of repression and intimidation, which has characterised Zimbabwe in recent years. In this regard, I very much welcome the decision by the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to appoint Ms Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, the executive director of UN Habitat, as his special envoy to assess the humanitarian consequences of the forcible eviction policies currently being pursued. Ms Kajumulo Tibaijuka is currently in Zimbabwe and will submit a full report on the situation to the Secretary General following her visit.

The Irish ambassador to South Africa, who is also accredited to Zimbabwe, visited Harare earlier this month in order to assess the humanitarian consequences of Operation Restore Order and has already submitted a full report to me on his visit. The ambassador will visit Zimbabwe again in the coming weeks and will make clear to the Zimbabwean authorities both our condemnation of Operation Restore Order and grave concerns at its humanitarian consequences. The ambassador and embassy are also in regular contact with Irish missionaries and NGOs operating in Zimbabwe who have been providing assistance to some of those worst affected by the consequences of Operation Restore Order.

The Government decided last week to provide an additional €1 million to the World Food Programme to support emergency feeding programmes for those most directly at threat from the current humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. This additional funding will also be used to support emergency feeding programmes in Malawi. The Government has made available almost €7 million in emergency and recovery assistance to assist the people of Zimbabwe over the period 2002-2004, including €2.46 million last year.

The European Union issued a declaration on 7 June condemning the actions undertaken by the Zimbabwean Government within the framework of Operation Restore Order and calling for its immediate end. A joint statement was also issued following the EU-US summit in Washington DC on 20 June expressing grave concern at the current situation and calling on the Zimbabwean Government to reverse its anti-democratic policies. It is clear that pressure also needs to be exerted on Zimbabwe's neighbours in the Southern Africa Development Community, SADC, to use their influence with President Mugabe's Government to stop Operation Restore Order and address the humanitarian consequences. EU ambassadors are being directed to make such representations in SADC capitals. The EU's concerns were also raised at a senior officials meeting with SADC, which took place in Johannesburg on 20 June. I hope that AU leaders will address the human rights and humanitarian crisis resulting from Operation Restore Order at their forthcoming summit meeting in Sirte, Libya on 4 and 5 July.

Sports Capital Programme.

Sean Fleming

Question:

237 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the sports capital programme grant allocation of €635,000 to Laois County Council in May 2001 for outdoor and dry recreation and play facilities at Moneyballytyrrell, Portlaoise; the amount of this grant which has been drawn down; the works which have been carried out; the contracts there have been between his Department and the county council on this issue; if the full amount can still be drawn down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23049/05]

A provisional grant of €635,000 was allocated to Laois County Council under the 2001 sports capital programme towards the provision of supplementary facilities to the planned swimming pool at Portlaoise. Laois County Council has indicated that works to be funded through the sports capital grant would be carried out in tandem with the swimming pool development. Last week I approved the contract documents submitted by the council under the local authority swimming pool programme, which is also administered by my Department, allowing the local authority to invite tenders for the pool. The council has indicated that works funded under the sports capital programme will commence this year and it will be able to draw down the grant subject to the terms and conditions of the programme as work progresses.

Michael Lowry

Question:

238 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a club (details supplied) will be notified regarding the outcomes of a scheme; the current ranking of the club within the programme; when the scheme will be announced; if he will consider including the club; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23050/05]

Michael Lowry

Question:

239 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a club (details supplied) will be notified regarding the outcomes of a scheme; the current ranking of the club within the programme; when the scheme will be announced; if he will consider including the club; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23051/05]

Michael Lowry

Question:

240 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a club (details supplied) will be notified regarding the outcomes of a scheme; the current ranking of the club within the programme; when the scheme will be announced; if he will consider including the club; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23052/05]

Michael Lowry

Question:

241 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a club (details supplied) will be notified regarding the outcomes of a scheme; the current ranking of the club within the programme; when the scheme will be announced; if he will consider including the club; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23053/05]

Michael Lowry

Question:

242 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a club (details supplied) will be notified regarding the outcomes of a scheme; the current ranking of the club within the programme; when the scheme will be announced; if he will consider including the club; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23054/05]

Michael Lowry

Question:

243 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a club (details supplied) will be notified regarding the outcomes of a scheme; the current ranking of the club within the programme; when the scheme will be announced; if he will consider including the club; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23055/05]

Michael Lowry

Question:

244 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a club (details supplied) will be notified regarding the outcomes of a scheme; the current ranking of the club within the programme; when the scheme will be announced; if he will consider including the club; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23056/05]

Michael Lowry

Question:

245 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a club (details supplied) will be notified regarding the outcomes of a scheme; the current ranking of the club within the programme; when the scheme will be announced; if he will consider including the club; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23057/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 238 to 245, inclusive, together.

The national lottery funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis. Applications for funding under the 2005 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on 5 and 6 December last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 4 February.

A total of 1,362 applications were received before the deadline. Of these, 56 applications were for projects located in County Tipperary, including one from each of the organisations in question. All applications received before the closing date are being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

My Department will then write to all applicants informing them of the outcome of the assessment of their application; in the case of successful applicants informing them of the conditions to be met to draw down their grant and, in the case of unsuccessful applicants, enclosing a copy of the assessment conducted on their application, including the score and explanatory comments.

EU Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

246 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the steps he has taken to ensure that his Department complies with the decisions of the High Court of 6 March 2002 and of the Supreme Court of 16 July 2003 that any ministerial order having the effect of creating an indictable offence is ultra vires; if this decision has been upheld by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23131/05]

The question refers to the High Court decision of 6 March 2002 and Supreme Court decision of 16 July 2003, and while the name of the case was not included in the question it would appear that the Deputy is referring to the decision in the case of Vincent Browne v the Attorney General. The Supreme Court in this case decided that an EC regulation could only be transposed by regulations under a provision of an Act of the Oireachtas, which specifically allows for the transposition of an EC regulation.

The parameters of the decision in the Browne case were considered by the Supreme Court in the subsequent case of Thomas Kennedy v the Attorney General, the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources. The Supreme Court in its decision in that case of 31 May 2005 clarified the limits of its earlier decision in the Browne case and decided that EU policy can only be implemented by regulations made under an Act of the Oireachtas where the Act specifically allows for the implementation of EU policy by regulations. The Attorney General will shortly advise the Government on action to be taken to address the issues raised in these cases.

Sports Capital Programme.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

247 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a decision will be made on the applications from County Laois under the 2005 sports capital programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23308/05]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

248 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a decision will be made on the applications from County Offaly under the 2005 sports capital programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23309/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 and 248 together.

The national lottery funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis. Applications for funding under the 2005 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on 5 and 6 December last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 4 February.

All of the 1,362 applications received before that deadline are 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 provisional grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Tom Hayes

Question:

249 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when the sports partnership initiative operated by the Irish Sports Council will be rolled out to south Tipperary. [23310/05]

The Irish Sports Council is the statutory body with responsibility for the development of sport, including initiatives to promote sport in local areas. The provision in funding for the Irish Sports Council in the 2005 Estimates is over €34 million, in comparison with just over €13 million in 2000.

Sports Capital Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

250 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when the application for the sports capital grant will be made available to organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23311/05]

The national lottery funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis. Applications for funding under the 2005 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on 5 and 6 December last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 4 February.

All of the 1,362 applications received before that deadline, including one from the organisation in question, are being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed and to announce details of and invite applications to the 2006 sports capital programme before the end of this year.

National Aquatic Centre.

Joan Burton

Question:

251 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the money owed in rent by a management company (details supplied) in respect of the National Aquatic Centre; and if this company will continue to hold the lease for the centre. [23332/05]

As a number of matters relating to the lease of the National Aquatic Centre, including the issue of rent payment, 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 the matter at present.

Adult Education.

Joan Burton

Question:

252 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the damage which will be caused to second chance education, particularly in disadvantaged areas by the proposed changes, and cutbacks without consultation, in respect of return to education courses; the proposes changes to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23280/05]

The FÁS-VEC return to education programme was put in place to address the literacy needs of participants on the community employment programme. It has been running for a number of years and is delivered on a regional basis by the VECs. There have been no cutbacks in the FÁS budget for literacy training over 2004. There has been an increase in expenditure on literacy to date this year when compared to last year.

While the course has been successful in achieving the overall objectives of providing literacy support, the organisational arrangements and delivery has varied from region to region. In order to bring some consistency to the programme, the representative body of the VECs, the IVEA, and FÁS had a series of meetings to review the programme. FÁS has undertaken extensive consultation with regional staff on the matter and, together with the IVEA, brought forward proposals for a restructured programme. These proposals have now been agreed and have been circulated by FÁS to regional staff for implementation. Likewise, the IVEA agreed the programme on behalf of the VECs in consultation with them. The revised structure will ensure a more effective delivery system, improved quality assurance, and will cover the following headings: referral, partnership in delivery, consistency in provision and regional coverage, progression for the learner.

The new agreement stresses the importance of providing adequate supports to the individual learner and makes provision for additional tuition to be provided based on the learner's needs which will be supported by VECs and FÁS. In addition, both the VECs and FÁS are seeking ways in which the VECs can provide other supports to FÁS and to work more closely with FÁS staff and CE sponsors in developing their awareness and skills in promoting and supporting literacy with CE participants.

EU Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

253 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to ensure that his Department complies with the decisions of the High Court of 6 March 2002 and of the Supreme Court of 16 July 2003 that any ministerial order having the effect of creating an indictable offence is ultra vires; if this decision has been upheld by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23132/05]

The parliamentary question refers to the decision of the High Court of 6 March 2002 and the Supreme Court decision of 16 July 2003, and while the name of the case was not included in the question it would appear that the question is referring to the decision of Vincent Browne v. the Attorney General. The Supreme Court in this case decided that an EU regulation can only be transposed by regulations under a provision of an Act of the Oireachtas which specifically allows for the transposition of an EU regulation.

The parameters of the decision in the Browne case were considered by the Supreme Court in the subsequent case of Thomas Kennedy v. the Attorney General and the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. The Supreme Court, in its decision in that case of 31 May 2005, clarified the limits of its earlier decision in the Browne case and decided that EU policy can only be implemented by regulations made under an Act of the Oireachtas where the Act specifically allows for the implementation of EU policy by regulations.

The Attorney General will shortly be advising the Government on action to be taken to address the issues raised in these cases.

Decentralisation Programme.

Sean Fleming

Question:

254 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if IDA Ireland has sanctioned the sale of its lands at Mountrath Road, Portlaoise, to enable these lands be used for the Government’s decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23141/05]

IDA Ireland is at an advanced stage of negotiations with the OPW regarding the sale of approximately nine acres of land at Mountrath Road, Portlaoise, to facilitate the Government's proposed decentralisation programme, in respect of decentralising the headquarters of the Department of Agriculture and Food to the town. This proposal will be submitted for approval by IDA Ireland property committee of the board in July 2005.

Industrial Development.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

255 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of site visits by any of the agencies to a factory (details supplied) in County Wexford since the Department was made aware of the factory; the date each visit occurred; the outcome of each visit; if his attention has been drawn to the unemployment crisis in Enniscorthy town and area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23142/05]

There have been two IDA Ireland site visits to the advance technology building in Enniscorthy, in February and May 2003. Unfortunately, neither of these site visits resulted in a tenant being found for the building.

IDA Ireland's strategy for County Wexford, for the medium to long term, is to concentrate resources on the NSS hub and county town of Wexford as the location with the greatest potential to develop as a first class location for inward investment from overseas. Other towns in the county, including Enniscorthy, are expected to benefit from the greater dynamism that the NSS gateway and hub locations of Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny can bring to the wider south-east region. In the short term, however, IDA Ireland will concentrate its efforts on other towns, including Enniscorthy, where there are available advance technology buildings to market to overseas clients.

In recent years, IDA Ireland has been seeking to attract overseas companies in newer sectors to Wexford and the profile of clients has been changing, with Lake Region and Waters Corporation — medical technologies — as well as PFPC and Equifax — international services — now firmly established in the county. IDA Ireland is committed to continue marketing Wexford as a location for knowledge-intensive industries. Major recent job announcements for County Wexford were made in May 2005 including a 200 job expansion project for PFPC and a 130 job expansion project for Waters Corporation.

Pat Breen

Question:

256 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will specifically target Kilrush and west Clare as an area of job creation in view of the recent job losses in the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23262/05]

Pat Breen

Question:

261 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the plans he has to attract industrial development to County Clare in view of the number of factories and industrial units available for rental; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23436/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 256 and 261 together.

IDA Ireland is the national agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment, FDI, to Ireland and its regions, while Shannon Development has responsibility for Irish industry in the Shannon region and the promotion of the Shannon free zone.

IDA Ireland and Shannon Development are both committed to the achievement of balanced regional development. Both organisations recognise the need to provide high value employment opportunities in Clare that provide sustainable long-term jobs. The attractiveness of Clare for inward investment has to be considered in a regional context, and particularly by reference to its location on the Limerick-Shannon-Galway corridor. The national spatial strategy provides a framework for the achievement of this goal through the prioritisation of development and investment in the linked gateway of Limerick-Shannon and hub locations of Ennis and Tralee-Killarney. The primary needs for new investment projects can be summarised as follows: a high quality urban environment with a critical mass in population; world class access infrastructure, for example, road access to key cities and ports and international airports; telecommunications infrastructure with multiple carriers and competitive pricing with business support services; third level educational infrastructure including universities and technical institutes that are located on or close to high quality business and technology parks; and a range of affordable state of the art property solutions.

Responsibility for the provision of industrial property solutions within the mid-west region, including County Clare, lies with Shannon Development, and IDA Ireland works closely with it in the promotion and marketing of these tailored property solutions. Shannon Development has also appointed a full-time marketing and promotion executive to promote the availability of vacant premises. Vacant space and sites are advertised locally and in appropriate periodicals.

The Industry Ennis group, which includes Shannon Development, IDA Ireland, Ennis Town Council, FÁS, the Clare County Enterprise Board, Ennis Chamber of Commerce and Clare Chamber of Industries, has been working to attract new industry projects to the area. As part of a planned programme, the group has established the Clare consul programme to promote the county as a location for industry, services and tourism.

Miltown Malbay has also been selected as a pilot location for the e-towns programme, launched by Shannon Development in 2004. The aim of this initiative is to help disperse economic activity and job creation to smaller population centres.

Shannon Development is also working with the west Clare industry and employment working group, which includes Kilrush Town Council, ESB Moneypoint, FÁS, Kilrush Chamber of Commerce and Clare County Enterprise Board, to promote west Clare as a location for industry and tourism.

Departmental Agencies.

Phil Hogan

Question:

257 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason for the exclusion of the Consumer Association of Ireland for membership of the interim board of the National Consumer Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23379/05]

The core recommendation in the report of the Consumer Strategy Group, which was published on 18 May 2005, is that a new national consumer agency be established. This recommendation has been accepted in principle by the Government. The establishment of the new agency will require primary legislation and my Department has already commenced preparatory work on this matter. In order to maintain the momentum of the CSG's report, earlier this month I appointed a board to the new agency to act in an interim capacity until the agency is established on a statutory footing. I am satisfied that the membership of the interim board is sufficiently representative, balanced and experienced to carry out its important work preparing for the advent of the fully fledged national consumer agency so as to ensure that the agency can hit the ground running once it is formally established by statute. Notwithstanding that the Consumers' Association of Ireland may not be formally represented on the interim board, my Department fully acknowledges and supports the valuable work carried out by the association. For the past number of years, my Department has allocated funding to the association to assist it in carrying out its work. In addition, I fully agree with the Consumer Strategy Group that the interim board and indeed the agency should work closely with State and non-State agencies such as the Consumers' Association of Ireland.

Job Creation.

Tom Hayes

Question:

258 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures being taken to introduce industry and employment to Tipperary town. [23380/05]