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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 25 Oct 2005

Vol. 608 No. 3

Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments. [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 9 to 92, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 93 to 99, inclusive, answered orally.

Planning Issues.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

100 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of section 140 motions under the Local Government Act 2001 which have been tabled and passed by local authorities in each county since the passing of the Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30418/05]

The application of section 140 of the Local Government Act 2001 is wholly a matter for local authorities, and my Department does not compile comprehensive data in relation to resolutions by authorities under this section of the Act. However, information is obtained from planning authorities regarding the use of section 140 procedures in relation to planning applications and this information is included in the annual planning statistics published by my Department.

In 2002, 27 resolutions were tabled under this procedure and the related section 4 provisions of the City and County Management (Amendment) Act 1955, of which 23 were passed. In 2003, 130 section 140 resolutions were tabled of which 101 were passed.

Water Quality.

Paul McGrath

Question:

101 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he will take to improve further surface water quality and reduce eutrophication of rivers, lakes, and tidal waters in view of the fact that gains in water quality made in the late 1990s have not been sustained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30440/05]

The main conclusion of the recently published EPA report, Water Quality in Ireland 2001-2003, is that the overall condition of Irish waters remains satisfactory and compares favourably with the position in other European countries.

One important factor has been the dramatic improvement in the area of waste water discharges into fresh or estuarine waters since the mid-1990s. In 1997 when the previous Government took office, fewer than 20% of discharges met EU requirements. This has by 2005 risen to 90%, reflecting massive investment by my Department in waste water treatment plants —€1.7 billion in the four-year period to 2004 alone. The benefits of this waste water investment programme are now visible. This year Dublin became one of a very small handful of European capitals to have a blue flag beach in their metropolitan area. Again this summer, the River Lee was sufficiently clean for the Lee swim to be held again in the heart of Cork city for the first time in more than 50 years.

While I welcome the positive improvements noted in the report, we cannot be complacent. The report highlights areas where further work is needed, such as combating the risk posed to our rivers and lakes by nutrient enrichment. To meet the challenges raised in the report, we must tackle pollution from all sources, agricultural, municipal or industrial.

A wide range of measures are being progressed to secure further improvements in water quality. A revised nitrates action programme was finalised in July for the purpose of strengthening the application of good farming practice for protection of waters. I have subsequently issued for public consultation the text of draft regulations to give legal effect to the nitrates action programme and I intend to make the regulations by the end of November following consideration of comments received. The nitrates action programme will come into effect on a phased basis from 1 January 2006.

Ireland has, to date, met all implementation deadlines under the water framework directive which aims to prevent any deterioration of waters and to achieve at least good status for all waters. A programme of measures is being developed for each river basin district for this purpose. I am confident that all these measures will bring about sustained improvements in our water quality over the coming years.

Nuclear Safety.

Michael Noonan

Question:

102 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will publish his correspondence with Mr. Finn Uglevelt in relation to the level three incident at Sellafield in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30426/05]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

141 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will publish his correspondence with UK Minister, Mr. Alan Johnson MP, in relation to the level three incident at Sellafield earlier in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30425/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 141 together.

I have had no direct correspondence with Mr. Finn Uglevelt in relation to the level three incident at Sellafield. However, officials of my Department were in correspondence on this issue with Mr. Uglevelt, who is attached to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority. The incident at Sellafield was the subject of correspondence between myself and Alan Johnson MP, UK Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, which culminated in my recent meeting with him on the 19 October last.

That meeting focused on the THORP incident and on issues regarding the continued operation of the Sellafield plant. While our meeting was cordial, there was an extremely frank exchange of views. I made very clear to the Secretary of State, the Government's serious concern about the fact that the THORP incident of last April had occurred at all. I strongly underlined our concern about the findings of BNFL's own report in regard to the culture of complacency at Sellafield. The THORP leak represented another chapter in the ongoing Sellafield cycle of failure. This pattern is untenable and the Secretary of State was left in no doubt about our view that it is time for the UK to face up to and make the hard decisions necessary to end reprocessing. The Secretary of State confirmed to me that the UK Government is undertaking a review of the THORP plant with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which assumed responsibility for the Sellafield site and operations in April 2005. While I welcomed this development, I conveyed in the strongest possible terms the view of the Irish Government that reprocessing should be brought to an end.

I also made it known to the Secretary of State that I had again raised the issue of the THORP leak with the European Commissioner for Energy, Mr. Andris Piebalgs. EU safeguards and controls at Sellafield are conducted under the terms of the EURATOM Treaty. In my most recent letter I have pressed the Commissioner to reflect on the implications of the THORP leak for the conduct and effectiveness of the safeguards regime and to respond appropriately. I look forward to hearing from the Commissioner on this important matter at an early date.

Normal practice is to maintain the confidentiality of correspondence which is generated in the context of the international relations of the State. I do not propose to depart from that practice in these cases.

National Building Agency.

Phil Hogan

Question:

103 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the new role for the National Building Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30015/05]

The primary objectives of the National Building Agency are to provide advisory services to local authorities in the provision of social housing and to undertake urban renewal projects on a commercial basis in joint venture arrangements with local authorities and-or builders and developers. The agency makes a valuable contribution in delivering on the Government's objectives on social housing through the voluntary, local authority and affordable housing programmes and major local authority housing refurbishment projects.

Within the agency's overall mandate, there is scope for its expertise to be deployed in providing certain support services to the recently established affordable homes partnership. The partnership, which was established with effect from 1 August 2005, is charged with co-ordinating and adding impetus to the delivery of affordable housing in the greater Dublin area which includes the four Dublin local authority areas and counties Meath, Kildare and Wicklow, with a particular focus on the Dublin area. My Department has had discussions with both the agency and the partnership about this issue and both organisations are now working to progress potential areas for co-operation.

Homelessness Policy.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

104 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will guide local authorities and State agencies towards a broader and more realistic definition of homelessness, as recommended by the Simon and Combat Poverty Agency report published earlier in 2005, to inform policy and planning in a more effective way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30384/05]

The definition of homelessness in the Housing Act 1988 provides for a wide range of circumstances on the basis of which a person may be deemed homeless by a local authority. I am, however, aware of calls for the revisiting of this definition and for its application on a more consistent basis by local authorities nationally. The independent review of the implementation of the integrated and preventative homeless strategies and their associated action plans, which is nearing completion, is addressing issues relevant to this matter. I expect that the outcome of this review will assist future decisions in this area.

Nuclear Plants.

Jack Wall

Question:

105 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on plans to privatise a number of nuclear installations in the United Kingdom; his further views on whether, as bad as safety at nuclear installations in the United Kingdom is under a state company, they will only worsen if privatised; his views on the privatisation plans of his United Kingdom counterpart; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30293/05]

I assume that the question refers to recent reports of plans by the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to introduce competition into the decommissioning process by using contractors and encouraging competition to carry out decommissioning contracts. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is a public body established by the UK Government. The objective of the authority is to deliver safe, cost effective and environmentally responsible decommissioning of the UK's civil nuclear legacy.

While in principle the use of contractors should not cause safety standards to be compromised, I understand that contractors were previously used at the Dounreay research reactor site. This experience was unsatisfactory since proper scrutiny and safety co-ordination was not in place and safety standards suffered. I understand that such concerns are being addressed in discussions between the UK regulators and the authority.

Regardless of whether contractors are used for a particular operation, the ultimate responsibility for safety still lies with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and it is imperative that safety standards should be maintained and not compromised to achieve false economies. My Department and I will remain fully engaged as stakeholders in regard to the operations of the authority and we will continue to articulate our concerns that only the highest safety, security and environmental standards are employed by the authority in its operations or by contractors acting on its behalf.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

106 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has estimated the potential impact on the Exchequer of the purchase of carbon credits under Kyoto commitments. [26665/05]

Martin Ferris

Question:

114 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement to Dáil Éireann regarding the predictions by consultants engaged to review the State’s greenhouse gas emissions that they will face a bill of more than €100 million for failure to reduce emissions output in line with Kyoto commitments and the fact that the Government’s failure to take the action necessary to curb greenhouse emissions has brought about this situation. [30322/05]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

126 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the level of fines Ireland will be forced to pay for failure to meet obligations under the Kyoto Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30341/05]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

152 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the recent report on the Kyoto Protocol conducted by companies (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30339/05]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

160 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount he projects will need to be spent on emissions trading to meet obligations under the Kyoto Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30340/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106, 114, 126, 152 and 160 together.

On 11 October 2005, my Department made available a report by consultants that sets out preliminary updated projections of national greenhouse gas emissions during the Kyoto Protocol commitment period 2008-2012. These projections are part of Government preparations for the second phase of the EU emissions trading scheme, which covers the same period, and have been published to facilitate public consultation with stakeholders. As such, they should not yet be regarded as definitive projections of emissions for the period in question. The public consultation will inform ongoing work by the consultants and I expect to publish their final report early in 2006.

The preliminary projections suggest that Ireland must achieve emissions reductions of 8.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the period 2008 to 2012 to meet its target for the purpose of the Kyoto Protocol. This figure is more than a million tonnes less than earlier projections of 9.2 million tonnes.

A proportion of this 8.1 million tonnes gap will be allocated to Irish participants in the EU emissions trading scheme and the remainder will be addressed through a combination of emission reductions in line with the national climate change strategy and the purchase by the State of carbon credits through the mechanisms provided for under the Kyoto Protocol.

The purchase of carbon credits is one of the options under the Kyoto Protocol to achieve emission reductions on a least-cost basis. The Government has already signalled its intent to use the Kyoto Protocol flexible mechanisms to purchase up to 3.7 million allowances for each year of the Kyoto Protocol commitment period. On the basis of an assessed average price of €15 per carbon allowance during the period 2008 to 2012, the total annual cost to the Exchequer would be €55.5 million.

In the commitment period 2008 to 2012, Ireland's target is to limit emissions of greenhouse gases at not more than 13% above 1990 levels. Data compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency show overall emissions in 2003 at approximately 25% above 1990 levels, down from approximately 29% in 2002 and 31% in 2001. These show significant progress towards our 13% target. Ireland has no reason to contemplate fines or penalties under the Kyoto Protocol and the focus of Government policy and action is to achieve our emission limitation target.

Departmental Schemes.

Willie Penrose

Question:

107 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the World Health Organisation international radon project co-ordinators’ attention has been drawn to the fact that in 1997 the Government scrapped a radon remediation grant scheme for householders; if this issue has been raised in view of the 200 deaths per year which are linked to radon exposure here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30297/05]

Willie Penrose

Question:

203 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the financial constraints within his Department which prevent the introduction of a radon remediation grant scheme for householders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30298/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 203 together.

Ireland, through the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, is actively participating in the World Health Organisation's international radon project and will continue to support this work. Exchanges of information on national experiences are an ongoing part of the international radon project and RPII would have contributed briefing on the Irish experience.

As I have previously stated, Government efforts and resources, together with the RPII, are continuing to focus on highlighting public awareness of radon and on improving information to householders to enable and encourage them to address monitoring or remedial requirements effectively and economically.

The Government has over the years, largely through the RPII, committed significant resources to assessing the extent of the radon problem throughout the country and to highlighting public awareness of radon and the health risks associated with prolonged exposure to high radon concentrations. For many years now, the RPII has been encouraging householders, particularly those in high radon areas, to have their homes tested for radon and to undertake radon remediation works where necessary. This approach is considered to be more effective than the introduction of a demand-led scheme of domestic radon remediation grants.

It should be noted that a recent European study shows that, for those exposed to similar concentrations of radon, the risk of contracting lung cancer is 25 times greater for those who smoke and that the vast majority of the radon-induced lung cancer cases occur among smokers and ex-smokers.

Nuclear Plants.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

108 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report to Dáil Éireann on the meeting which he held with the British Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 19 October 2005; the discussion he had in relation to Sellafield and if any agreements were reached that will further the campaign to bring about the closure of Sellafield. [30318/05]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

124 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on his recent meeting with the British Government regarding Sellafield. [30399/05]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

177 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on his meeting with the British Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Mr. Alan Johnson; if he made him aware of the views of the Irish people at the undetected leak for nine months of 83,000 litres of radioactive material containing 20 tonnes of uranium and plutonium; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30294/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108, 124 and 177 together.

I met the British Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Mr. Alan Johnson, in London on 19 October. The meeting focused on the THORP incident and on issues regarding the continued operation of the Sellafield plant. While our meeting was cordial, there was an extremely frank exchange of views.

I made very clear to the Secretary of State, the Government's serious concern about the fact that the THORP incident of last April had occurred at all. I strongly underlined our concern about the findings of BNFL's own report in regard to the culture of complacency at Sellafield. The THORP leak represented another chapter in the ongoing Sellafield cycle of failure. This pattern is untenable and the Secretary of State was left in no doubt about our view that it is time for the UK to face up to and make the hard decisions necessary to end reprocessing.

The Secretary of State confirmed to me that the UK Government is undertaking a review of the THORP plant with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which assumed responsibility for the Sellafield site and operations in April 2005, following this year's serious incident. While I welcomed this development, I conveyed in the strongest possible terms the view of the Irish Government that reprocessing should be brought to an end. Reprocessing is unwelcome, environmentally untenable and compromises safety and security on both sides of the Irish Sea. Any review of THORP should encompass not only economic, but also safety, security and environmental considerations. The Secretary of State also informed me that there were no new contracts in place for the THORP facility and that it was expected that all reprocessing at the plant would cease in 2010. If this position holds, as I hope it will, it will represent a very positive outcome, although the operation of the THORP facility is only one of our concerns about the Sellafield operation.

I also made it known to the Secretary of State that I had again raised the issue of the THORP leak with the European Commissioner for Energy, Mr. Andris Piebalgs. EU safeguards and controls at Sellafield are conducted under the terms of the EURATOM Treaty. In my most recent letter I have pressed the Commissioner to reflect on the implications of the THORP leak for the conduct and effectiveness of the safeguards regime and to respond appropriately. I look forward to hearing from the Commissioner on this important matter at an early date. It is clear that the recent incident at the THORP plant has prompted a serious review of the operation of the plant and it remains to be seen if it will reopen.

I also raised the issue of security at Sellafield and both the Secretary of State and myself noted the improved co-operation and information sharing which the two Governments put in place over the past year arising out of the international legal actions which Ireland has pursued.

I have little doubt that the current legal and diplomatic initiative by the Government in relation to Sellafield has resulted in increasing recognition by the UK Government and its agencies of the priority accorded to the issue of Sellafield by the Irish Government. I am confident that my meeting with Secretary of State Johnson served to again highlight the Government's concerns and reiterate our ongoing commitment to securing the safe closure of the Sellafield plant.

Building Regulations.

Phil Hogan

Question:

109 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason for the delay in implementation of the new improved energy efficiency standard for housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30017/05]

Thermal performance and insulation standards for new dwellings under part L of the building regulations have been progressively increased since their introduction in 1992 and are due for further upward adjustment by 2008. The national climate change strategy, NCCS, proposed that 1997 part L standards, operative since 1 July 1998, be significantly increased in two phases in mid-2002 and 2005. The NCCS stated that the planned increases were contingent on the outcome of an independent study commissioned by the Building Regulations Advisory Body on the impact of the proposed further increase in thermal performance standards on, inter alia, building systems. The relevant report by the energy research group UCD concluded that the most commonly used house building systems could all be insulated to comply with the proposed part L regime subject to minor adjustments in the proposed standards.

Consequently, it was decided to bring forward the planned second phase — 2005 — amendment of the part L regulations and to implement the radical increase in thermal performance standards in a single step. Following a public consultation process, amending part L regulations were made in 2002 for new dwellings commencing on or after 1 January 2003. The greatly enhanced standards will reduce energy required for domestic space heating by an estimated 23% to 33%, depending on the type and size of dwelling.

The 2002 regulations contained a transitional provision whereby the enhanced part L standards do not apply to new dwellings for which planning permission was sought on or before 31 December 2002, provided the substantial work has been completed on the new dwellings involved by 31 December 2005. This type of transitional provision is a common feature of building regulation amendments and is designed to ensure that major changes in building code requirements do not disrupt the construction of new dwellings at an advanced stage of planning or design.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

110 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to repeal the provisions introduced by way of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2002 which enabled developers to give money, land or units on a different development to fulfil their commitments under Part V and which undermine the potential of the legislation to deliver integrated social and affordable housing. [30320/05]

The changes to Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, introduced by way of amendment, are specifically designed to secure delivery of housing more quickly and more efficiently. Section 3 of the 2002 Act, which replaced section 96 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, sets out certain additional ways in which an applicant for permission for development may comply with the requirements of Part V in relation to the provision of social and affordable housing.

Instead of reserving land or providing sites to the local authority within the proposed development, applicants can now reach an agreement to reserve land or to provide houses or sites at another location or to make a payment to the local authority which will be used for the provision of social and affordable housing or to agree to a combination of any of these factors. It is important to note that when considering whether to enter into an alternative agreement, the authority will have to consider its contribution towards achieving the objectives of the housing strategy, its resources and the financial implications of such an agreement towards its budget, the need to counteract undue social segregation in the area, the provisions of the development plan and how quickly housing is likely to be provided as a consequence of the agreement.

While all of these options give considerable flexibility to planning authorities, the preferred option is the delivery of housing units, particularly on site to achieve integrated mixed tenure developments. All moneys received under a Part V agreement by a planning authority must be lodged to a separate account and may only be used as capital for its functions under Part V or in relation to the provision of housing under the Housing Acts 1966 to 2002.

Far from hindering housing output, the introduction of these additional options for compliance with Part V requirements has enabled practical agreements to be made in a timely manner, thus allowing us to secure high levels of housing supply for all sectors of the community. Up to the June quarter of 2005, a total of 1,294 housing units have been acquired under Part V with in excess of 2,200 units in progress. In the circumstances, I have no plans to repeal the provisions of the Act.

EU Directives.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

111 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason he has failed to respond to the European Commission’s final warning announced on 13 January 2005 regarding the failure to clean up waste at the Boyne estuary in view of the fact that a response was due within three months of the warning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30370/05]

On 22 December 2004, an additional reasoned opinion was addressed to Ireland by the European Commission, under Article 226 of the treaty establishing the European Community, concerning alleged failure by Ireland to comply with obligations under Directive 75/442/EEC on waste, as amended by Directive 91/156/EEC, and Directive 92/43/EEE on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna. A response by Ireland had in fact issued on 6 December 2004.

This issue was among a number of matters discussed by my officials with the Commission at a meeting in Dublin on 20 October 2005. A further letter issued to the European Commission on 21 October 2005 with the aim of progressing the matter towards a satisfactory conclusion.

Social and Affordable Housing.

David Stanton

Question:

112 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the NESC estimation that 73,000 more social housing units will be needed by 2012; if he and the local authorities will be able to supply this many units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30360/05]

Tom Hayes

Question:

113 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he will take to reverse the trend in construction of voluntary and co-operative housing, which showed a 57.5% fall in the number of completions in the second quarter of 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30347/05]

Activity under the voluntary and co-operative housing schemes has been increasing steadily over the last five years. Some 1,600 units of accommodation were provided last year compared with 950 units in 2000, which represents an increase of more than 59%. The number of units completed and in progress at the end of June 2005 stood at 2,564 and it is anticipated that the number of units which will be completed this year will exceed 1,600.

The Government is fully committed to developing and expanding the sector and to supplying the necessary resources and support to enable it to become an important and significant force and provider in the housing area. Provision for funding for the schemes has been increased significantly from €44 million in 1999 to €237 million in 2005. In conjunction with this funding for the voluntary housing programmes, my Department has also initiated the development by local authorities of five-year action plans, commencing in 2004, for the delivery of social and affordable housing, including the voluntary programme, to ensure a systematic and integrated approach to the effective use of these resources.

Question No. 114 answered with QuestionNo. 106.

Waste Management.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

115 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he will take at national level to tackle the illegal dumping of construction waste, which was cited by the Office of Environmental Enforcement’s report, The Nature and Extent of Unauthorised Waste Activity in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30369/05]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

125 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if a national waiver system for refuse collection will be established in view of claims by the office of environmental enforcement that a significant proportion of the population are illegally dumping or burning waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30368/05]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

140 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will provide funding to local authorities to deal with the investigation and clean-up of the 25 illegal dumping sites identified in the EPA report, The Nature and Extent of Unauthorised Waste Activity in Ireland; the steps he will take in relation to the clean-up and investigation of the historical illegal dumping sites not included on the EPA list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30385/05]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

149 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he will take following the publication by the office of environmental enforcement of its report, The Nature and Extent of Unauthorised Waste Activity in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30355/05]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

187 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the actions he will take to provide stricter enforcement against backyard burning of household waste; the further action he will take in relation to the use of illegal waste collectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30390/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115, 125, 140, 149 and 187 together.

I welcome the publication of this report which also sets out an action plan to deal further with unauthorised waste activity in Ireland. The Office of Environmental Enforcement, through its national enforcement network, will co-ordinate the implementation of this plan. The network has, for example, on 18 and 19 October 2005 organised a national conference on waste enforcement for local authority personnel and other stakeholders, including officials from my Department and representatives of the regulatory authorities in Northern Ireland, to consider further the prioritisation of the required actions. Additional enforcement initiatives are being planned, including targeted efforts to deal with the construction and demolition waste aspects highlighted in the report. Certain of the initiatives fall to be considered by my Department and these will be dealt with as soon as possible and in conjunction with OEE priorities.

The office is continuing to seek information about unauthorised waste activity, both past and present, and a confidential waste information line is being established to facilitate any individuals or organisations that wish to provide information to the OEE about illegal dumping of waste.

The issue of investigation and remediation associated with illegal waste deposition has been dealt with in the recent policy direction which I issued under section 60 of the Waste Management Act 1996. The direction requires that regulatory authorities pursue illegal holders of waste looking to the maximum potential sanctions available in law. In addition, the direction requires that local authorities, where practicable, pursue civil remedies against illegal operators, as provided for the Waste Management Act, including for purposes of recovering the costs of remediation measures taken.

In regard to landfills which are now closed but which when in operation complied with the then existing legal requirements, a statutory direction issued by me has reminded local authorities of their statutory obligation to identify and risk assess all such facilities having regard to modern environmental standards. The EPA is preparing a methodology to assist in the risk assessment phase of this process. The environmental and financial implications of this landfill legacy will be further considered when this investigation has been advanced.

I am satisfied that there is an effective regulatory and enforcement regime in place to deal with both backyard burning and illegal waste collectors. The Air Pollution Act 1987 prohibits the occupier of any premises from causing or permitting an emission of a pollutant into the atmosphere in such a quantity or manner as to be a nuisance. The Act empowers local authorities to prevent or limit air pollution and provides for penalties including fines and-or imprisonment upon conviction. In addition, section 20 (5) of the Fire Services Act 1981 provides that a fire authority may serve a fire safety notice on the owner or occupier of land on which a flammable, explosive or potentially explosive substance is used, stored or deposited adjacent to buildings in such a manner as to represent a serious danger to life. The fire safety notice may require that specified measures be taken to reduce the level of danger.

The Waste Management Act 1996 also places a general duty on the holder of waste not to hold, transport, recover or dispose of waste in a manner that causes or is likely to cause environmental pollution. Persons who are found to be responsible for or involved in the unauthorised disposal of waste are liable to the following penalties: on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €3,000 and-or imprisonment for up to 12 months; and on conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €15 million and-or imprisonment for up to ten years.

Local authorities are also empowered under Part VII of the Local Government Act 1994 to make by-laws in the interests of the common good of the local community that any activity should be regulated or controlled. It is a matter for the local authority concerned to determine the nature and extent of any waiver scheme in respect of waste management charges.

Energy Efficiency.

Shane McEntee

Question:

116 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of households equipped with solar panels to provide energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30408/05]

My Department does not have information on the number of households equipped with solar panels for energy. However, information on a range of other energy efficiency measures in Irish households is available in the Irish National Survey of Housing Quality 2001-2002, which was commissioned by my Department. A copy of this report is available in the Oireachtas Library.

EU Directives.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

117 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will reply to the European Commission regarding the concerns that the Commission has in relation to the conformity of Irish legislation with Article 19(2) of the EC Treaty and Council Directive 93/109/EC, which concern the voting rights of new Community voters, in view of the fact that the Commission has concluded that the difference between the treatment of Irish voters and Community voters under Irish legislation means that the Irish legislation could infringe on Community law; if he has satisfied himself that the information on the official Government website in relation to this matter is accurate; the steps he will take to address the Commission’s concerns on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30371/05]

The European Commission has communicated with my Department in relation to potential costs associated with completion of a statutory declaration in respect of the first time registration of Community voters who wish to vote in European Parliament elections in Ireland. Detailed consideration of the matter is now at an advanced stage in my Department and a substantive reply will issue shortly to the Commission.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

118 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of units of social and affordable housing provided under Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2002 from 1 January 2005 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30319/05]

Information up to the June quarter of 2005 on the number of social and affordable housing units acquired under Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2004 is published in my Department's housing statistics bulletins, which are available in the Oireachtas Library and on the Department's website at www.environ.ie.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

119 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the assessment of housing need will be published; if he will report to Dáil Éireann on the numbers of social and affordable houses required nationally as reported in the assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30387/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

180 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that owing to lack of current or forwarding addresses, thousands of local authority housing applicants were deleted from the local authority housing list in the course of the housing assessment programme initiated by his Department; if each applicant will be restored to the housing list with full and retrospective entitlement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30393/05]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

198 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of applicants on local authority housing lists nationally in 1997 and 2002 in the four Dublin counties. [30413/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119, 180 and 198 together.

The most recent three yearly assessment of need for social housing was carried out by local authorities in March 2005. Returns were received in my Department over the summer period. The data are now being finalised and will be published very shortly.

The Government has been making substantial progress in addressing the concerns raised in the NESC report, with record housing output levels and increased investment in social and affordable housing measures. New measures have already been announced to accelerate the delivery of affordable housing and to maximise the availability of land for social and affordable housing programmes. The Government indicated at that stage that the more medium-term issues highlighted by NESC, particularly in the social and affordable housing area, would be addressed later in the year.

The NESC report advocated a significant increase in the social housing stock and by way of illustration argued for a social housing stock possibly to as many as 200,000 units by 2012. The NESC acknowledged, however, that the appropriateness of the overall scale of ambition and the urgency of actions would be clearer after the completion of the 2005 assessment of housing need. The Government's consideration of this matter will therefore be informed by the outcome of the statutory housing needs assessment being finalised at present and the work by the housing forum in reviewing the effectiveness of the existing social and affordable housing schemes in the context of the Sustaining Progress agreement. I anticipate the announcement of a new statement of housing policy at the end of this year.

For the purposes of undertaking the 2005 housing needs assessment, my Department issued guidelines to local authorities requesting them to contact applicants included in a previous assessment or subsequently accepted for inclusion in the next assessment to see whether they are still seeking to be housed. Local authorities were requested to carry out an extensive search for any of their existing applicants who did not respond to their requests to update information in relation to their applications. It is understood that in many instances this involved local authorities writing to the applicant up to three times and attempts were also made in some instances to contact applicants by phone.

It is a matter for individual local authorities to decide, having regard to efforts made to contact applicants, to decide on the status of applicants for waiting list purposes. My Department has no function in these individual decisions. Equally, it is a matter for individual local authorities to decide whether a housing applicant who has failed to notify the local authority of where he or she is residing should be reinstated on the waiting list with retrospective recognition of a previous application.

Previous housing needs assessments were carried out in 2002, 1999 and 1996. Information on the number of households in need of housing in the four Dublin authorities was published in my Department's September quarterly edition of the housing statistics bulletin for those years, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

Consultancy Contracts.

John Deasy

Question:

120 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the guidelines on Department procurement practices and the processes which have been put in place for the approval and reporting on consultancies and for process auditing of all major procurement contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30439/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

601 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the guidelines in place for the commissioning of outside expertise in the consultancy and public relations fields; and if ministerial approval is required for approval of expenditure on such commissions. [30166/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

602 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the percentage of reports, consultancies and cases from external commissions where the issue of poor value for money was highlighted, in his Department from 1998 to date in 2005. [30181/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120, 601 and 602 together.

My Department has regard to the appropriate Department of Finance guidelines on engaging consultants. In addition, following the Quigley report, procurement guidelines and practices in the Department were reviewed in March 2005 and a set of consolidated guidelines has been circulated to all staff. Briefings on these have been provided to personnel in all divisions of my Department. The Department's internal guidelines require all general contracts over €25,000 and all consultancy contracts to be reported to a central unit which undertakes a process audit of the procurement prior to award of contract.

Proposals for use of consultancy services by my Department are set out in divisional work programmes which are reviewed and approved by my Department's management team at the beginning of each year. I and the Ministers of State at my Department meet regularly with the management team and in that context or otherwise would be consulted on significant new consultancy proposals on a continuing basis.

Following on from the Taoiseach's announcement of 11 October, a further review is now under way in my Department of the processes in place for the approval and management of consultancies. This review will be completed shortly and revised processes will be put in place if required.

As regards value for money, the payment process in my Department requires that all deliverables from external commissioners are certified by the appropriate officer as meeting the Department's requirement before payment is approved.

Election Management System.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

121 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the electronic voting scheme; the cost to date; when electronic voting will next be used here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30404/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

154 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to recoup the expenditure on e-voting to date; his proposals to ensure that no further costs are incurred under this heading; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30392/05]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

170 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the electronic voting is unlikely to be used for the next general election; when the system is likely to be used; the cost of the system when the estimated cost of testing and storing the electronic machines until such time as they are likely to be used is taken into account; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30386/05]

Fiona O'Malley

Question:

592 Ms F. O’Malley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount that is being spent by the State per month to store the electronic voting machines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30077/05]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

657 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the electronic voting project and the current testing being undertaken on the project along with the associated costs; if the current phase of testing takes into account the need for a voter verifiable audit trail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30584/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

676 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the costs incurred by the State to date in respect of e-voting; the annual projected cost; his plans to identify a more suitable use for the technology in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30630/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

680 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the cost of public relations and consultancies in respect of e-voting; if further costs are likely to accrue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30635/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121, 154, 170, 592, 657, 676 and 680 together.

Following an open procurement process, my Department appointed consultants in July 2005 as part of a programme of further assessment, testing and validation of the electronic voting and counting system. The brief is to undertake a security and risk assessment of all aspects of the system and to devise a programme of additional testing. This work, which will take into account all relevant considerations, is intended to address issues raised by the Commission on Electronic Voting and demonstrate that the system operates reliably, securely and accurately.

The consultancy work, costing €92,300, excluding VAT, is under way and will be completed as soon as possible. The timing of the further use of the system is dependent on the progress made with the above work and the ongoing work of the Commission on Electronic Voting and on the dates on which future polls may be held.

The total cost incurred to date in the development and roll-out of the electronic voting and counting system is €51.065 million, including €3.097 million in respect of awareness and education initiatives and €581,000 for work by consultants on assessment-testing of the system. In addition, information provided by returning officers to my Department indicates that the total annual storage cost for the electronic voting machines and ancillary equipment is some €696,000 which equates to a monthly cost of some €58,000. It is not possible at this stage to quantify total additional costs that may arise in relation to the electronic voting and counting system. In any event, such costs are likely to be small relative to the capital investment already made.

Water Supply Contamination.

John Deasy

Question:

122 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will introduce legislation to give new powers to the Environment Protection Agency to prosecute local authorities who supply a chronically contaminated public water supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30438/05]

The Water Services Bill 2003, which is before the Dáil, provides for a comprehensive legislative code to underpin the delivery of water services. Enforcement provisions in the Bill are being reviewed at present and I will be prepared to facilitate on Committee Stage any reasonable provisions to strengthen current arrangements which may be considered necessary.

Planning Issues.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

123 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will review the planning Acts to provide more choice to persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30405/05]

The Planning and Development Act 2000 was the culmination of a comprehensive review of planning legislation and apart from the strategic infrastructure Bill which is now being drafted, I do not have any current plans to review the general statutory provisions relating to the planning process.

Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 108.
Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 115.
Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 106.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Enda Kenny

Question:

127 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the files which have been requested from his Department by the Mahon tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24245/05]

The Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments is empowered by relevant Oireachtas resolutions to carry out such preliminary investigations in private, as it thinks fit. My Department has co-operated with all requests by the tribunal to make files available. However, it would not be appropriate to disclose details of material provided in this way to the tribunal, on a strictly private and confidential basis, in the course of its investigations.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Seán Crowe

Question:

128 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the actions he has taken since January 2005 to achieve his Department’s objective of enabling every household to have available an affordable dwelling of good quality, suited to its needs, in a good environment and as far as possible at the tenure of its choice. [30317/05]

My Department continually monitors and reviews policies and measures aimed at fulfilling key objectives of national housing policy. This year we have already introduced a number of further initiatives aimed at increasing supply in a sustainable way as well as making substantial progress in addressing concerns raised in the NESC report on housing.

Overall housing output for the first six months of 2005 was running at similar levels to 2004 — the tenth successive year for record house completions with 76,950 units completed. House completions in Ireland are at the highest level in Europe in relation to population — around 19 units per 1,000 population. This is well over five times the rate of our nearest neighbours, the UK.

In July 2005, the Government launched the affordable homes partnership, which is designed to drive the delivery of affordable housing in the greater Dublin area. As part of the broader national delivery of housing, all local authorities will review their land management strategies to maximise the availability of land for their own housing programmes, voluntary and co-operative housing and housing partnerships with the private sector, as well as to secure more active use of brownfield land and derelict sites.

A detailed assessment of housing need was carried out by local authorities earlier this year and the results are due to be published shortly. These will provide my Department and housing authorities with improved and updated data on all households in need of social or affordable housing and will assist in the monitoring and review of housing policy more generally.

Record levels of funding have been provided for the broad range of social and affordable housing. The total Exchequer capital and current funding available for social and affordable housing in 2005 will amount to €1.3 billion, which represents an increase of 20% on 2004. Total capital spending on social and affordable housing output in 2005, inclusive of non-Exchequer financing, will amount to €2 billion.

To ensure a systematic and integrated approach to the use of these resources, local authorities in consultation with my Department have developed new five-year action plans for social and affordable housing covering the period to 2008. The preparation of these plans has improved the identification of priority needs and will help to ensure a more coherent and co-ordinated response across all housing services.

Overall in 2005, it is anticipated that the needs of in excess of 13,000 households will be met through the existing social and affordable housing measures. In addition, it is anticipated that a number of households in private rented accommodation will transfer to the new rental accommodation scheme now being introduced. Under the scheme, local authorities will, over a four-year period, progressively assume responsibility for accommodating supplementary welfare allowance rent supplement recipients of 18 months or more continuous duration with a long-term housing need. It is estimated that of the 58,000 people in receipt of rent supplement, 30,000 may fall into the target group for this new scheme.

Planning Issues.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

129 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the current planning process is hindering the construction of the necessary infrastructure to allow Ireland increase the production of energy from renewable sources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30343/05]

I am satisfied that current planning processes facilitate to the development of renewable energy infrastructure. Wind is a primary source of renewable energy in Ireland. To assist local authorities and An Bord Pleanála in planning for wind energy and in processing applications for facilities for wind farms, I intend to publish final revised guidelines to planning authorities on wind energy development shortly, following an extensive consultation on draft revised guidelines published in August 2004. I will also consider the possibility of further planning guidance in this area should this appear appropriate.

National Spatial Strategy.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

130 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made in implementation of the national spatial strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30406/05]

The national spatial strategy, NSS, is a 20-year strategic planning framework published in 2002 aimed at achieving more balanced regional development. Substantial progress has by now been made at national level with the strategy, which is having an increasing influence on policies and programmes across a number of Departments and agencies such as the Department of Finance, Department of Transport, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the development agencies. At regional level, a key policy bridge between national development priorities and local planning has been put in place with the adoption in mid-2004 of regional planning guidelines, RPG's.

At county and city level, strategic land use and planning strategies for the Cork, Waterford and Sligo gateways are in place, while the Limerick and Galway strategies have been prepared and are awaiting adoption. Other strategies for gateways are in preparation and should be in place by the end of this year and over the course of 2006.

Some practical examples of implementation progress to date include the incorporation of a requirement by the Department of Finance in capital envelope agreements with spending Departments that there is demonstration of how investments are being prioritised to implement the NSS; the Government's decision in July 2005 that the regional dimension of next national development plan, on which work is now starting, will be broadly based on the NSS; the recognition of the priorities of the NSS and regional planning guidelines in the ten-year investment plan for transport, to be published shortly; the €90 million investment in the Mallow-Cork-Midleton commuter rail system now being implemented following on the Cork area strategic plan which will open up a new 20,000 home development corridor for Cork over the next 15 years; the new objective of Dublin City development plan to ramp up housing output in the city to cut down on urban sprawl and long distance commuting; and in Sligo, a series of private sector hotel, leisure, retail and commercial developments, totalling around €200 million in value, have all commenced since its designation as a gateway.

Key ongoing and future work in implementing the NSS include ensuring that the strategy continues to shape the macro-investment agenda which will continue to require a concerted effort, co-ordinated across Departments and their agencies, with a particular focus on driving the accelerated development of the gateways with the support of the necessary investment, particularly in the new NDP period supporting the development of the NSS gateways whereby a major study has been undertaken of their potential for accelerated development in housing, commercial and employment terms and the key infrastructure priorities that will be necessary to facilitate such development — similar work is also being undertaken in relation to the hubs identified in the NSS and work on a feasibility study to further develop the concept of an Atlantic gateways corridor, with enhanced linkages and networking between Cork, Galway, Limerick-Shannon and Waterford is also nearing completion; considerable attention is also being given to the cross-Border aspects of the implementation of the NSS in conjunction with the department of regional development in Northern Ireland, with particular emphasis on the linked gateway of Derry-Letterkenny and cross-Border elements of the regional planning guidelines for the Border region; and proposals are also being developed to put in place a monitoring framework to report on progress in implementing the NSS, with a special emphasis on up-to-date regional population and housing projections that take account of the latest CSO national population estimates which suggest a national population of up to 5 million by 2020.

Building Regulations.

Dan Boyle

Question:

131 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to modernise the building regulations to provide for the mandatory use of condensing boilers in new dwellings as is the case in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30412/05]

The basic regulations governing the energy efficiency of boilers in Ireland are the European Communities (Efficiency Requirements for New Hot Water Boilers Fired with Liquid or Gaseous Fuels) Regulations 1994 which require that domestic boilers installed on or after 1 August 1994 meet minimum efficiency requirements laid down by EU Council Directive 92/42/EC of 21 May 1992.

Encouraging the voluntary installation of condensing boilers is one of the issues being actively considered in the current review of part L, conservation of fuel and energy, of the building regulations and the related technical guidance document, TGD, L. This review is necessary as part of the implementation of EU Directive 2002/91/EC of 16 December 2002 on the energy performance of buildings. I plan to publish the amended part L TGD regime early in 2006. I intend that the question of mandating the installation of condensing boilers in new buildings will be considered in the next comprehensive review of part L TGD L due by 2008.

Architectural Heritage.

Denis Naughten

Question:

132 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the recent report from the Centre for Public Inquiry on Trim Castle; if consent under section 14 of the National Monuments Act was sought from and subsequently given by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30430/05]

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 525 and 531 of 11 October 2005. No application for consent under section 14 of the National Monuments Act 2004 was received or sought in my Department in relation to the development in question.

Nuclear Plants.

Jack Wall

Question:

133 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the volumes of highly active liquid waste being held in Sellafield awaiting vitrification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30295/05]

In January 2001, the UK Health and Safety Executive's nuclear installations inspectorate issued British Nuclear Fuels with a specification to formalise a programme to reduce the level of highly active liquid waste stored at Sellafield to a buffer stock limit of 200 m3 by 2015. This specification, which is a legal requirement, required that the maximum permitted holding of this liquid waste would reduce from the then permitted holding level of 1,575 m3 by about 35 m3 per annum until 2012, when it would be decreased rapidly to the buffer stock limit of 200 m3

The information available to my Department is that the British Nuclear Group Sellafield Limited, which is the new name for the company that operates the Sellafield site, continues to comply with the specification. I sought and received confirmation that this remains the case when I met the Secretary of State at the Department of Trade and Industry earlier this week.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and the Government have long been concerned about the continuing storage of this highly active waste in liquid form in tanks at Sellafield and have been pressing, and will continue to press, the UK authorities to accelerate the rate of vitrification. This liquid waste arises from the reprocessing operations at Sellafield. These operations are strongly opposed by Ireland on the grounds that they are an unacceptable threat to human health, the environment and the economy. The Irish Government will, therefore, continue to pursue every available avenue, both diplomatic and legal, to bring about a safe and orderly end to reprocessing operations at Sellafield towards removing that threat permanently.

Waste Management.

Damien English

Question:

134 Mr. English asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will appoint a High Court inspector to investigate issues surrounding illegal dumping in County Wicklow, including the Roadstone land at Blessington, as requested by the elected members of Wicklow County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30436/05]

Liz McManus

Question:

184 Ms McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will appoint a High Court inspector to investigate the issue of illegal dumping in Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30378/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 184 together.

Extensive investigations have already been undertaken by Wicklow County Council and other enforcement agencies in relation to the instances of illegal dumping that have come to light in County Wicklow in recent years. As a result both civil and criminal actions have been pursued, are under way or are pending.

In relation to the Coolnamadra site, Wicklow County Council obtained High Court orders in July 2002 against the company involved and its directors. The waste has now been removed. The council's investigative costs of €200,000 have been met and legal costs awarded to it. In addition, an investigation by the Garda national bureau of criminal investigation, NBCI, has led to a decision to prosecute individuals.

In regard to a site at Whitestown, the council is taking High Court action to have the location remediated and to recover its expenses and costs. Again, following NBCI investigations, criminal prosecutions are under way.

I understand that High Court action will be taken in respect of a site at Castleruddery if those concerned do not voluntarily comply with council requirements. This matter is also the subject of NBCI investigation.

The position in regard to the site in Blessington is well known. Roadstone, as a consequence of a direction by the council, has been required to apply to the EPA for a waste licence. As a final decision is pending on this matter, I am precluded from further comment. However, the company has already met council costs of more than €500,000, and an NBCI investigation has also resulted in two persons being charged.

A site at Killegar has been the subject of a statutory direction by the council. I understand that a failure to comply with this direction will result in legal proceedings by the council. In addition, an investigation has been undertaken by the NBCI. A site at Russborough has also been the subject of a statutory direction by the council and this matter is now being progressed.

As regards Wicklow County Council's recent request for a further investigation of issues pertaining to illegal dumping in Wicklow, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has no legal powers to appoint a High Court inspector as suggested in the council resolution and questions.

In considering whether a further inquiry under local government legislation could be deployed in this matter, I must act responsibly in relation to the integrity of the important enforcement processes already in train and ensure that they are not compromised in any way. It would not be in the public interest to take any action that could result in the failure of criminal proceedings against those responsible for serious environmental crimes. I do not however rule out the possibility of an inquiry in this matter and I am at present seeking legal advice on the issues.

I have already used my powers under the Waste Management Act 1996 to issue a policy direction to ensure proper remediation of all illegally deposited waste and pursuit of offenders using all civil and criminal remedies available.

Homeless Persons.

Mary Upton

Question:

135 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he will take to provide long-term accommodation solutions for those who are homeless as opposed to the current emphasis which is on emergency accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30383/05]

The Government's general response to homelessness is outlined in the integrated strategy on homelessness 2000 and the homeless preventative strategy 2002. Under the terms of the integrated strategy, homeless fora, representative of the statutory and voluntary homeless sectors, were established at local authority level and homeless action plans, adopted under their aegis and designed to address the accommodation and other care and support needs of homeless persons, are being implemented. These developments have resulted in the provision of a wide range of additional accommodation and services for homeless persons. While the emphasis was initially on the provision of emergency accommodation options, there is general agreement that there is sufficient emergency accommodation available for those who wish to avail of it and the emphasis must now move to more longer-term solutions.

The range of social and private rented long-term accommodation available for homeless people is being increased. In the context of the local authority housing action plans 2004 to 2008 renewed emphasis is being placed on the provision of long-term accommodation together with the supports necessary to enable homeless persons to move into independent living. The outcome of the triennial assessment of housing need will provide authorities with the information on homeless persons to facilitate the planning of their accommodation requirements. This accommodation may be provided by way of local authority housing or voluntary sector, the capital funding for which is available from my Department. My Department continues to advise local authorities of the need to provide a reasonable mix of dwellings suited to the different kinds of households already on waiting lists, including homeless persons, and to plan their future programmes taking account of the estimated size and type of households likely to be seeking housing in the future.

The tenancy sustainment scheme soon to be piloted by the homeless agency with funding from my Department will facilitate previously homeless tenants to maintain their tenancies whether in public or private sector accommodation. In addition, the introduction of the rental accommodation scheme will enhance the availability of housing options for those homeless persons capable of independent living. I am confident that we will see a significant increase in assistance to homeless persons through a combination of these schemes in 2006 and subsequent years.

An independent review of the implementation of the integrated and preventative homeless strategies and their associated action plans is nearing completion and the outcome of the review will help to inform future developments in this area.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

136 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the costs and fines imposed on Ireland arising from losing actions at the European Court of Justice in each of the past ten years; the costs to date in 2005; the relevant cases and directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30410/05]

In areas for which my Department has responsibility Ireland has not had to deal to date with any costs arising from cases as referred to in the question. Fines have not been ordered by the European Court of Justice in relation to any case taken against Ireland.

In the period 1995 to 2005, there have been nine judgments against Ireland in areas for which my Department has responsibility. The Community legislation involved in these nine cases has been the habitats directive, two; the nitrates directive; directives on waste, drinking water quality, environmental impact assessment, dangerous substances and end-of-life-vehicles; and a regulation on ozone depleting substances.

Climate Change Strategy.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

137 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will travel to Montreal for the United Nations climate change conference from 28 November 2005 to 9 December 2005; and if he will publish a national climate change strategy review before the conference. [30411/05]

The 11th conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the first meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol will take place in Montreal from 28 November to 9 December. I plan to attend the conference and to lead the Irish delegation during the high level segment.

My Department, together with other Departments with sectoral responsibility for implementing the national climate change strategy, is reviewing the strategy with a view to updating it in light of developments since its publication in 2000. As part of that process I intend shortly to publish a review document which will take stock of developments since 2000 and propose additional measures for Ireland cost effectively to meet its target for the purpose of the Kyoto Protocol. This document will be designed to inform the revision process and stimulate debate on further potential solutions for reducing national greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

138 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he will take to tackle greenhouse gas emissions following the statement of Dr. Mary Kelly, director general, Environmental Protection Agency, that Ireland has one of the highest per capita rates of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU and is one of the furthest from meeting its Kyoto targets. [30424/05]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

157 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the current national climate change strategy review will be complete; when the results and conclusion of the review will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30372/05]

Liz McManus

Question:

171 Ms McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason the measures outlined in the national climate change strategy were ignored and delayed to such an extent that the State is likely to be faced with a bill of up to €603 million over five years for missing the Kyoto targets; the steps he will take towards meeting the State’s targets under the Kyoto Protocol at this stage; the estimated fines that the State will owe with these steps in place; if Kyoto commitments will be achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30374/05]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

197 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he will take in relation to tackling climate change in the medium to longer term following the acknowledgement by the EU Environment Council Meeting on the 17 October 2005 that more has to be done to meet the EU ambitions on tackling climate change in this timeframe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30375/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

622 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which Ireland will be in a position to meet Kyoto targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28054/05]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

655 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will give details of plans or the timeframe for the review of the national climate change abatement strategy. [30582/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

682 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department is capable of achieving the targets set at Kyoto; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30637/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138, 157, 171, 197, 622, 655 and 682 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 409 of 12 October 2005. The Government's national climate change strategy, published in November 2000, provides a comprehensive framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the most efficient and equitable manner and for ensuring that Ireland meets its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The strategy has provided the basis for Government policy and action in relation to climate change since 2000.

Latest available greenhouse gas emissions figures from Ireland's national inventory report, compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency, show overall emissions in 2003 to be 66.57 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent. This figure is equivalent to approximately 25% above 1990 levels, significantly down on the corresponding 31% in 2001 and 29% in 2002. These figures show that progress is being made towards the 13% target. Through a combination of actions, including emission reductions, participation by Irish industry in the EU emissions trading scheme and the purchase of carbon emission credits through the mechanisms provided for in the Kyoto Protocol, I am satisfied that Ireland is on a pathway to deliver on its emission limitation commitment for the purpose of the protocol.

In February 2004, on the basis of greenhouse gas emission projections available at that time, the Government announced an intent to purchase up to 3.7 million carbon credits per year in the first Kyoto commitment period 2008 to 2012. The projections are being updated and the actual purchasing requirement will be finalised over the coming months in the context of national policy to underpin participation by Irish installations in the EU emissions trading scheme in the Kyoto period 2008 to 2012.

On basis of an average price of €15 per carbon allowance during the period 2008 to 2012, the total annual cost to the Exchequer of purchasing 3.7 million carbon credits would be €55.5 million. The ultimate cost of purchasing carbon credits by the State will depend on the final purchasing requirement, which will not be finally estimated until early next year, and price of carbon when the credits are actually purchased.

The purchase of carbon credits is a valid option under the Kyoto Protocol to achieve emission reductions on a least-cost basis and should not be confused with failure by any party to meet its target or with any form of financial penalty. Ireland has no reason to contemplate fines or penalties under the Kyoto Protocol, and the focus of Government policy and action is to achieve our emission limitation target.

My Department, together with other Departments with sectoral responsibility for implementing the national climate change strategy, is reviewing the strategy with a view to updating it in light of developments since its publication in 2000. As part of that process, I intend shortly to publish a review document, which will take stock of developments since the publication of the strategy in 2000 and propose additional measures for Ireland cost effectively to meet its target for the purpose of the Kyoto Protocol. This document will inform the revision process and stimulate debate on further potential policies to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions and to prepare Ireland for more ambitious targets in the post-2012 period. The review will be completed and a new strategy published next year.

Waste Management.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

139 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount paid into farm plastics recycling scheme by farmers in 2004; the cost of recycling the farm plastics collected under the scheme in 2004; the percentage of waste silage plastic collected in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30361/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

202 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures he will take to prevent further smuggling of farm plastic from Northern Ireland into the State following the Irish Farm Film Producers Group identifying this as a factor in the deterioration of the farm plastics recycling scheme; if the problem has been investigated; if he will prosecute persons in relation to this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30376/05]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

204 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Irish Farm Film Producers Group is having funding problems; the steps he will take to ensure that waste farm plastic is not being left to build-up on farms; if funding will be made available to facilitate the collection of this plastic; if he will review the waste farm plastic system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30362/05]

Pat Breen

Question:

598 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will allocate a special fund in consultation with the Irish Farm Film Producers Group to deal with the backlog of farm plastic not covered by the current levy system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30143/05]

Pat Breen

Question:

599 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the remedial measures he will take to deal with the ecological problem and nuisance issue posed by the non-collection of farm plastic not covered by the current levy system in association with the Irish Farm Film Producers Group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30144/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139, 202, 204, 598 and 599 together.

Under the Waste Management (Farm Plastics) Regulations 2001, producers, that is, manufacturers and importers, of farm plastics, silage bale wrap and sheeting, are required to take steps to recover farm plastics waste which they have placed on the market or alternatively to contribute to and participate in compliance schemes to recover the waste in question. The Irish Farm Film Producers Group, IFFPG, is currently the sole approved body in Ireland for the purposes of implementing a compliance scheme for the recovery of farm plastics waste.

Under the IFFPG scheme, producers apply a levy on the sale of farm plastics that in turn is transferred to the IFFPG for use in funding the collection and recovery of farm plastics waste. The IFFPG is a not-for-profit organisation and it is a matter for the company, under the terms of this producer responsibility initiative and in accordance with the polluter pays principle, to set a rate of levy which will cover its operational costs.

The scheme has operated successfully to date. It is estimated that around 8,500 tonnes — 55% — of farm plastics placed on the market in 2004 were collected for recycling. An estimated 55,000 farmers availed of the collection service in 2004. The IFFPG estimates that more than 12,500 tonnes of farm plastics have been collected in 2005.

While responsibility for the collection and recovery of farm plastics rests with the compliance scheme, my Department monitors the scheme on an ongoing basis. I am aware of the specific issues raised and I am anxious to preserve and continue the success of the farm plastic scheme. Discussions are taking place involving my Department and IFFPG to explore options for improvement to the scheme and resolution of outstanding issues.

Question No. 140 answered with QuestionNo. 115.
Question No. 141 answered with QuestionNo. 102.

Register of Electors.

Dan Neville

Question:

142 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will review the way the register of electors is complied; if he will ask An Post or other agencies, public or private, to become involved with local authorities in its preparation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30428/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

621 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the possible updating of the voters register through An Post; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28075/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 621 together.

The compilation and publication of the register of electors is a matter for each local registration authority in accordance with electoral law and includes the carrying out of house to house inquiries, the delivery of registration forms and running local awareness campaigns. It is the duty of registration authorities to ensure as far as possible the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the register. In carrying out this work, registration authorities depend to a significant degree on the co-operation and engagement of the public.

The focus of my Department's work in relation to the register is to support and assist registration authorities through, inter alia, ensuring that an appropriate legislative framework is in place, developing best practice guidelines for registration authorities and overseeing related national awareness campaigns. While I will continue to keep these issues under review, including the scope for further initiatives in the area, there are no proposals along the lines referred to in the questions.

Nuclear Safety.

Seán Ryan

Question:

143 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has raised with his United Kingdom counterpart the concerns expressed by the All Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities Forum that rising sea levels will speed up the destruction of the Drigg radioactive waste disposal site thus causing problems for future generations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30300/05]

The Drigg facility, which is located quite near the Sellafield plant, is a low level waste disposal facility and is run by British Nuclear Fuels Limited, BNFL. The overall responsibility for the Drigg site, as well as a number of other sites including Sellafield, has been assumed by the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority as of last April.

The Environment Agency regulates all disposal activities in the UK in accordance with Government policy. Disposal activities are subject to authorisation by the agency, and these authorisations are periodically reviewed. The agency has recently reviewed BNFL's post closure safety case and 2002 operational environmental safety case for Drigg. The agency's report on these safety cases is critical of a number of aspects.

BNFL has failed to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Environment Agency that radiation exposure to future generations from the site would not, potentially, increase. BNFL estimates that the facility could be destroyed by erosion from the sea within 500 years but this could happen sooner because of global warming and the consequent rise in sea level.

On this basis, the Environment Agency has recommended that BNFL undertake further work to improve the safety cases by considering a wider range of management options. These include constructing a thicker, more robust cap over the site; limiting future disposals to material with a half life of less than five years; removal of existing long-lived wastes from the trenches; extending the active management beyond 150 years; and combinations of the above.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Agency has a draft strategy open for consultation which includes the Drigg site. This draft strategy is under consideration by my Department and the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and a number of meetings with representatives of the authority are scheduled. Following detailed consideration of the draft strategy a submission will be made to the consultation and issues related to the Drigg site will be included in this submission.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

144 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the RPII’s attention has not been drawn to the re-evaluation by the UK authorities of the threat of a terrorist attack on the BNFL site at Sellafield on the grounds of security; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30296/05]

A review of security in relation to sensitive nuclear sites, including Sellafield, was undertaken by the United Kingdom authorities in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks. This review was welcomed by the Irish Government and considered necessary given the threat posed by a malicious attack at Sellafield. As a result of this review, current UK policy is based on restricting access to security sensitive information to those who have an operational need for such information.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland visited the Sellafield facility in September 2004. The institute's ensuing report of this visit contends that the lack of an established framework for assessing the adequacy of threat assessments and security arrangements remains a significant concern. In this regard, the additional access provided by the UK authorities to the Garda Síochána has been useful. A visit took place in June 2003, and while the report is confidential, the overall view formed was reassuring. Further visits and contacts at senior police level are continuing. Additionally, assurances to the effect that the terrorist threat to Sellafield nuclear plant is continually reviewed and assessed have been received from the UK authorities.

Notwithstanding these advances, the safety of Sellafield and the protective measures in place to secure this are a particular ongoing concern in Ireland and are the subject of regular discussions at both ministerial and official level between the UK and Ireland. Further assurances were sought and received by me most recently in my meeting with the UK Secretary of State, Alan Johnson MP, on Wednesday last. They have also been addressed in the context of Ireland's case concerning the Sellafield MOX plant under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS.

Security at UK nuclear installations is regulated by the Office of Civil Nuclear Security, OCNS, which reports to the Minister for State for Energy at the UK Department of Trade and Industry. In his most recent report, the director of the OCNS advised the Minister that he was satisfied with the standards, procedures and commitment among those involved with civil nuclear security in the UK and that the measures in place are proportionate to the threat.

Seán Ryan

Question:

145 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the international legal action taken by the Government with a view to securing the closure of the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30299/05]

The Government initiated international legal proceedings against the UK under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS, in relation to the Sellafield MOX plant. The current position in relation to the litigation by Ireland under UNCLOS is that the arbitration remains suspended pending resolution of jurisdictional issues in the dispute, which were raised by the European Commission. These issues are now the subject of legal proceedings between Ireland and the Commission before the European Court of Justice and a court hearing of the case is scheduled for 8 November next.

The tribunal in the UNCLOS case issued an order on 24 June 2003 after hearing an application by Ireland for provisional measures. The provisional measures award and orders recommended that Ireland and the UK enter into dialogue to improve co-operation and consultation between the two Governments and report to the tribunal on specified dates. The most recent report to the tribunal was submitted on schedule by both parties on 31 May 2005 and the next report is due to be submitted by 30 November. In line with the obligation on both parties to improve co-operation and co-ordination arrangements, complex discussions, confidential to the tribunal and the parties pending outcomes, are continuing.

It was my stated intention to report on progress arising from this process at the appropriate instance and the signing of an agreement on notification and exchange of information. Arrangements between Ireland and the UK on 10 December 2004 afforded the two parties an opportunity to do so. The agreed package of measures announced is designed to address a wide range of issues related to nuclear safety and includes, inter alia, the facilitating of visits to Sellafield by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and the Garda Síochána, provision of access for the institute to the UK’s radiation monitoring system and a series of initiatives to develop and improve existing co-operation arrangements between both Governments.

In accordance with the commitment in the programme for Government to use every legal and diplomatic opportunity to secure the orderly closure of Sellafield, both I and my Department utilise all bilateral and multilateral opportunities to articulate Ireland's concerns in relation to Sellafield. Considerable opportunities arise at international fora such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, the European Union and OSPAR Commission to advance our views on issues such as marine transport of nuclear waste, nuclear safety, and radioactive discharges to the marine environment. All these issues have direct relevance to Ireland's concerns regarding Sellafield and I intend to continue Ireland's proactive engagement at these and other fora with a view to maximising support for our policies among like-minded states.

Fire Service.

Joan Burton

Question:

146 Ms Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the role he envisages the Irish fire service playing in the proposed European international crisis management force as announced by Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner earlier in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30364/05]

As yet, there is no formal proposal for the establishment of a European international crisis management force. However I am aware of newspaper reports in January 2005 that Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner had suggested the possibility of establishing a crisis management corps to deal with disasters such as the Asian tsunami. I also understand that there are proposals for the establishment of civilian response teams, CRTs, under the existing crisis management system at EU level, these are being dealt by my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in so far as Ireland is concerned.

With regard to civil protection, Ireland participates in the EU civil protection mechanism which provides for interventions inside and outside the European Union following a request for assistance — personnel, equipment and-or supplies — from a country where the domestic emergency services are unable to cope with a particular event. However, participation when a request for assistance is received is voluntary. It is a matter for the national authorities in the first instance and the organisation-body or individual involved to offer assistance at that time. The European Commission is considering means of strengthening the civil protection mechanism with a view to reinforcing the capacity of the EU to respond to incidents such as major natural disasters.

Tax Code.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

147 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in discussions with the Department of Finance regarding the impact on the housing market of tax incentives such as section 23 and section 50 tax relief, he has adopted a position regarding the possible abolition of these reliefs. [30315/05]

My Department is participating actively in the review of various tax relief schemes led by the Department of Finance. As the review involves an ongoing deliberative process which will support decisions to be taken by my colleague, the Minister for Finance, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on this work.

Architectural Heritage.

Bernard Allen

Question:

148 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the proposed Irish heritage trust; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30396/05]

The Government has recently approved the establishment of an independent Irish heritage trust as an important extension to the existing State measures in support of the nation's built heritage. The trust will have a mandate to acquire important heritage buildings on a case-by-case basis where there is imminent risk to their heritage value and to provide for public access.

The Irish heritage trust is being established on the basis of recommendations in Indecon international consultants' report on the issue of trust-type organisations to manage heritage properties, a copy of which is in the Oireachtas Library. The trust will operate on the basis of charities legislation and the Minister for Finance is considering, in the context of the budget for 2006, the necessary tax incentives, both in relation to donations of heritage properties to the trust and donations to endowment funds set up to maintain properties.

Indecon recommended that properties should be accompanied by an endowment fund sufficient to maintain the property in perpetuity. While the trust must raise a large part of these endowment funds through tax-incentivised private and corporate donations, the Government recognises that the trust will require greater support in its early days and it is accordingly intended to contribute 75%, at a cost of up to €5.5 million, for the first property, diminishing as more properties are acquired by the trust and as the trust raises its own funds from the private sector.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will have to certify that the all properties acquired are of appropriate heritage value. The Minister will also have to be satisfied, on the basis of independent financial advice, that the endowment and other supports for each property are sufficient to conserve, maintain and present them for public access.

The Government has approved the provision of funding in 2006 of €500,000 from my Department's Vote to meet the establishment and initial running costs of the trust. However, the trust will also have a strong remit to maximise non-Exchequer resources in support of its activities, and to encourage membership and volunteers. My Department is working on detailed proposals for the structure, governance, chairman and members of the trust.

Question No. 149 answered with QuestionNo. 115.

Local Authority Grants.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

150 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will review the operation of the disabled persons grant in view of the significant increase in construction costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30345/05]

A review of the disabled persons grant scheme is being finalised in my Department. On its completion, it will be possible to determine the changes, if any, required to the regulations governing the scheme to ensure that the funding available is directed at those persons in greatest need of such assistance.

Disabled Drivers.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

151 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that wheelchair bound disabled drivers are unable to reach the pay machines in local authority car parks thus meaning they have to wait for assistance from the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30443/05]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

643 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that wheelchair bound disabled drivers are unable to reach the pay machines in local authority car parks thus meaning they have to wait for assistance from the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30554/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 643 together.

Under section 101 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 local authorities may provide such car parks as they consider desirable in order to prevent or relieve traffic congestion. The provision of facilities in such car parks is entirely a matter for individual local authorities. The Minister for Transport is responsible for the Road Traffic Acts 1961 to 2004.

Question No. 152 answered with QuestionNo. 106.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

153 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he will take to remedy the situation whereby the capital funding limits for housing associations are based on out-of-date building prices, making it difficult for the housing associations to prepare costing; if he will adjust or increase the limits in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30373/05]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

165 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will increase capital funding limits for housing associations from their current limits, which were set in 2002, to more realistic limits as housing associations are unable to prepare costings or obtain builders at 2002 building prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30363/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 and 165 together.

The voluntary and co-operative housing sector has an important contribution to make in the provision of social housing. The Government is fully committed to developing and expanding the sector and to supplying the necessary resources and support to enable it to become an important and significant force and provider in the housing area. There has been a steady increase in output by the sector from a level of 579 units of accommodation in 1999 to reach a record output of more than 1,600 units in 2004. The level of assistance available to approved housing bodies under the capital assistance and capital loan and subsidy schemes remains under consideration.

Question No. 154 answered with QuestionNo. 121.

Waste Management.

Joan Burton

Question:

155 Ms Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will reassess his plans in relation to waste incineration in view of the Government commissioned report from the HRB which clearly identifies links between incineration and chronic health problems; his views on the advice given to the Government from the HRB, which was endorsed by the EPA director general, that health information systems here cannot support routine monitoring of the health of persons living near incineration and landfill sites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30365/05]

Ireland's waste management policy is grounded on the internationally accepted waste management hierarchy of prevention, re-use, recycling, and energy recovery, with environmentally secure disposal of any residual waste. This hierarchy has informed the waste policy of countries such as the Netherlands and Germany which are widely considered to be among the most environmentally advanced in Europe and which practice an integrated waste management approach. This approach combines high levels of recycling with the extensive use of modern, highly regulated thermal treatment facilities. The HRB report acknowledges that an integrated systems approach is required for effective waste management in Ireland.

The HRB report focused on old waste facilities which would have higher emissions than would be acceptable today whereas new facilities would have to comply with much more stringent environmental and operational standards. Any evidence of health effects was either inconclusive or heavily qualified. In addition, the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently published a report on the review of environmental and health effects of waste management. This study looked at cancer, respiratory diseases and birth defects and found no evidence for a link between the incidence of the diseases and the current generation of incinerators.

The HRB report refers to the desirability of having health information systems support routine and long-term monitoring of the health of people living near waste facilities so that any public health impact from such facilities or other types of environmentally significant development can be identified and evaluated over time.

All thermal treatment facilities are subject to the most stringent controls under the relevant EU directive on incineration. These have been given legal effect in Ireland through the rigorous licensing system operated by the EPA, which will include ongoing licence enforcement and facility monitoring. The EPA has written to me to reconfirm that it takes into account environmental and human health issues when processing licence applications and that it is satisfied that facilities operating to licence conditions will not endanger human health nor harm the environment.

Recycling Policy.

Mary Upton

Question:

156 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will amend the regulations introduced under the WEEE directive in view of the fact that the operation of the current regulations has placed the greater proportion of the recycling cost of electric and electronic equipment on to the consumer and not on the producer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30382/05]

The EU directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment, WEEE, required each member state to introduce regulations providing for a producer funded take-back scheme for consumers of end-of-life equipment from 13 August 2005. While the funding of such take-back schemes is a producer responsibility, the directive allows producers, for a transitional period of eight years — ten years for large household appliances — to show purchasers, at the time of sale of new products, the costs of recovery and recycling of historic waste which was put on the market before 13 August 2005. These costs are referred to as environmental management costs, EMCs, and were the subject of detailed discussions between stakeholders, which my Department helped to facilitate.

While there were varying opinions on how the provisions in relation to the historic waste should operate, the majority view among the industry and the independent retail sector, for reasons of fuller transparency and greater accountability, favoured a system of visible EMCs in the manner which has been provided for under the regulations. The design of the new system assures the public that the moneys collected for recycling are assigned for recycling activity and are not diverted elsewhere. It also ensures traceability and financial accountability and, by informing the public in an open way, ensures that profiteering is prevented.

Visible EMCs are designed solely to cover the cost of recycling of WEEE. None of the revenue involved is handled by the Government. The WEEE Register Society Limited, the industry-based national WEEE registration body, will monitor the implementation of the scheme and adjust the visible environmental management costs periodically to ensure that the not-for-profit principle is observed. Producers pay the appropriate EMCs into the producer recycling funds operated by the two approved collective compliance schemes operating in Ireland — WEEE Ireland and the European recycling platform. Visible EMCs are input costs and how they are dealt with in the pricing of products is part of the normal negotiations between producer and retailer.

While the WEEE register will carry out a comprehensive review of all EMC levels after six months to ensure that they are not higher than is necessary to fund the scheme, it has agreed to my request that it look immediately at levels which apply to low cost goods and I expect more realistic levels for them will be set by the end of this month.

Many and important benefits are already flowing from the new WEEE regime. The scheme represents good value for money. The public can either dispose of this waste on one-for-one basis or bring it to their local civic amenity site, free of charge. It provides a cradle-to-grave system for the management of WEEE. The core components of the scheme are working well. Between retail outlets and local authority civic amenity sites WEEE is being collected from more than 100 collection points throughout the country. While further amendment of the WEEE regulations is not envisaged at this stage, my Department is keeping the operation of the new system under continuing review.

Question No. 157 answered with QuestionNo. 138.

John Gormley

Question:

158 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of Ireland’s poor recycling record, competition between packaging recycling scheme approved bodies will be beneficial. [30414/05]

Ireland has a strong track record in meeting targets for the recovery of packaging waste. Under Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste, Ireland was required to achieve a 25% recovery rate of packaging waste by 1 July 2001, increasing to a 50% recovery rate by 31 December 2005, with a minimum of 25% to be achieved by recycling, including a minimum 15% recycling rate for each type of packaging material. The 2001 target was achieved and current indications are that the 2005 target will also be met.

Under current regulations, major producers of packaging waste, that is, manufacturers, importers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers, representing all participants in the packaging chain, who place more than 25 tonnes of packaging on the market each year and who have an annual turnover exceeding €1 million excluding VAT, are required to take steps individually to recover their packaging waste — that is, self-compliance — or alternatively to contribute to and participate in compliance schemes set up to recover packaging waste.

Given that Ireland is achieving the required recovery and recycling targets for packaging waste and that major producers may avail of more than one option to comply with their obligations under the regulations, I am of the view that the existing regulatory arrangements make sufficient provision for competition in this area.

Homeless Persons.

Joe Costello

Question:

159 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he will take to tackle homelessness; the further steps he will take to aid those who find themselves sleeping rough on the streets here (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30366/05]

Since the introduction of the Government's homeless strategies, there have been significant developments in the provision of a wide range of additional accommodation and services for homeless persons. Since the introduction of the integrated strategy in 2000, 1,000 extra emergency beds have been provided in the Dublin area alone. Rough sleepers have been enabled to access emergency accommodation and homeless persons have been facilitated to move out of emergency accommodation into accommodation more suitable to their needs. Increased levels of day care facilities, together with specific provisions to meet the needs of people with alcohol or drug addiction problems or who are sleeping rough, as well as homeless ex-offenders, have been put in place.

Rough sleeping is the extreme manifestation of homelessness and statutory and voluntary agencies work in close co-operation to minimise it. In Dublin, where the largest incidence of rough sleeping occurs, Dublin City Council operates a night bus service where clients are given access to accommodation and appropriate outreach services. This service, originally operated as a cold weather response, now operates on a year-round basis. An on-line system to facilitate the prompt identification of vacant emergency accommodation on a nightly basis has recently been introduced by the Homeless Agency, with funding from my Department, this will ensure optimum use of the accommodation to meet the needs of rough sleepers. Rough sleeping initiatives also operate in the other main urban areas with specific measures put in place during colder weather if considered necessary.

The Government is committed to continuing to support local statutory and voluntary bodies in tackling the issue of homelessness. My Department's expenditure for the recoupment to local authorities of 90% of the cost of providing accommodation and related services for homeless persons in 2004 was €45.73 million. The allocation for 2005 is €51 million. This brings to €240 million the total funding available for this purpose since 2000. The Department of Health and Children has provided an additional €30.2 million in the same period to meet the care needs of homeless persons.

A review of the implementation of the homeless strategies and their associated local homeless action plans is being finalised and the outcome of the review will inform future policy developments in this area.

Question No. 160 answered with QuestionNo. 106.

Public-Private Partnerships.

Dan Boyle

Question:

161 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if all the public-private partnership projects approved in 2004 for the environment sector are fully operational; the title and location of these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26549/05]

In accordance with Department of Finance public-private partnership, PPP, guidelines, there are two approval points for PPP projects — approval to proceed to procurement and appoint clients advisers following completion of a PPP assessment and approval to go to construction following the procurement process and tender evaluation.

There is of necessity a lead-in period from these approval points until a PPP project becomes operational with the intervening stages being the procurement process, tender evaluation, contract negotiation and close, construction and commissioning. These stages also apply to traditional contracts.

It is for this reason that none of the PPP projects approved in 2004 are operational to date. The PPP projects approved in 2004 which are advancing through the above stages are: west Cavan rural water; Baltimore sewerage; Baile Mhic Íre-Baile Bhuirne sewerage; Balbriggan-Skerries wastewater; Headford sewerage; Laois grouped villages; Leitrim towns and villages; Carrick-on-Shannon sewerage; Clareville water treatment; Castlebar environs sewerage; Rhode sewerage; Burncourt regional water; Fethard regional water; Sligo NW and Sligo SW rural water; Mayo group water bundle 2; Glinsk-Creggs group water; Galway group water bundle 2; Leitrim group water; Waterford group sewerage; and Rathdrum-Blessington sewerage.

Waste Management.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

162 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he will take to strengthen the enforcement efforts against illegal movement of waste here in view of the EU Commission’s concern regarding the issue and in view of the judgment delivered by the European Court of Justice in April 2005 in relation to Ireland’s breaches of requirements of the waste framework directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30379/05]

A formal response by Ireland to the judgment of the European Court of Justice issued to the European Commission on 21 October 2005 detailing the measures now being taken in terms of the structures, legislation and policy approach to ensure the implementation of the provisions of Council Directive 75/442/EEC of 15 July 1975 on waste, as amended by Council Directive 91/156/EEC of 18 March 1991, and thereby fulfil the obligations imposed by the directive.

The response includes information on the establishment of the Office of Environmental Enforcement and its national enforcement network, which has greatly raised awareness and brought about better practice and a more co-ordinated consistent approach to environmental enforcement. Special training has been rolled out, procedures for site visits are being developed, a new national complaints procedure was launched on 22 September 2005 and a national waste complaints information line is being developed. This has been backed up with State funding of over €7.5 million, which has led to over 110 additional enforcement officers being appointed across the local authorities permitting a greatly enhanced response on the ground with targeted exercises, road blocks, waste audits and port inspections.

These initiatives will add to the capacity to respond to situations more effectively. In general I am satisfied that these institutional and operational developments better equip the national and local enforcement authorities to meet the challenge posed by environmental crime, especially in the area of waste.

Water Quality.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

163 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the level of water estimated to be lost through leaks in water mains; the cost of these leaks; the action he proposes to take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30358/05]

While local authorities are responsible for the operation and maintenance of their public water supply systems, my Department has undertaken a number of initiatives over the years to assist authorities to optimise the management, quality and efficiency of such systems.

In 1996, following publication of the greater Dublin water supply strategic study, a new of capital funding line was introduced to help reduce unaccounted for water levels in local authority distribution networks, to improve the quality of supply to consumers, to lower operating costs and to maximise the value of investment in capital works. A series of pilot schemes to identify potential improvements, as well as some physical work on network rehabilitation, was undertaken as a first measure. Project locations included Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford, Limerick, Athlone and Clonmel. All of these schemes have now been completed with the aid of capital funding of €63 million from my Department. The results show that unaccounted for water rates have reduced considerably. For example, in Dublin they have fallen from 42.5% to 28.7%, in Donegal from 59% to 39%, in Meath from 47% to 34% and in Kilkenny from 45% to 29%.

The results of my Department's later national water study, which involved an audit of all public water supplies outside the greater Dublin area serving more than 5,000 consumers, were published in March 2000. The national water study examined 91 water supply schemes operated by 38 local authorities and reported on all aspects of water supply, including availability of raw water, treatment capacity, water distribution systems and associated management issues. The study found, inter alia, that unaccounted for water levels varied significantly between regions but were generally in the range of between 40% to 50%.

In May 2003 my Department allocated a further €276 million to local authorities to identify and substantially reduce unaccounted for water in public supply networks. The bulk of the allocation, €194 million, was provided for network rehabilitation or replacement works by authorities that had carried out water management system studies under the earlier pilot phase. The balance of €82 million will enable the remaining authorities to proceed with water management system studies as a necessary precursor to structural rehabilitation works. Details of allocations to individual authorities are set out in my Department's water services investment programme 2004-06 which is available in the Oireachtas Library.

Detailed information on the cost of unaccounted for water in the public water supply system generally is not available in my Department. There are variations in the production costs of water between local authorities and, in addition, not all unaccounted for water is lost through leakage. A significant proportion relates to unauthorised or unrecorded connections. The universal metering of all non-domestic consumers which is scheduled for completion by end 2006, coupled with the local authorities' ongoing water management system studies, will significantly improve the range of data available in this area and further help to reduce the levels of unaccounted for water.

Local Authority Funding.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

164 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the undercharging by Waterford County Council of Part V development contributions; if he has investigated the reason for the undercharging; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30381/05]

A recent report from the local government auditor noted two errors of undercharging by Waterford County Council in the calculation of financial contributions where payment was made in lieu of housing units as an agreement under Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2004. These errors, which the report also notes are not recoverable, had been identified earlier within the council's internal checking system and immediate and corrective action was taken to ensure that there could be no repetition.

The auditor in his report has acknowledged the strengthening of the council's procedures for dealing with Part V agreements and has deemed that no further action is necessary. Having had the matter investigated I am satisfied with the outcome of the audit and that proper procedures have been put in place by the council.

Question No. 165 answered with QuestionNo. 153.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

166 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the cost to industry of companies having to pay for their excess carbon; and the measures he has taken to reduce the intensity of carbon emission going forward. [25494/05]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

181 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the analysis his Department has made of higher than expected carbon trading costs; and the measures he proposes to take to offset their impact on industry here and on his Department. [25504/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 181 together.

At this relatively early stage in the development of the international carbon market, the average price at which carbon credits will settle in the longer term is not clear. In the report made available by my Department on 11 October, a possible average price of €15 per allowance purchased in the EU emissions trading scheme is possible for the period 2008-12.

I understand that prices for allowances in the EU emissions trading scheme are currently trading in excess of €20 per allowance. However, the report distinguishes between the current price for allowances and that likely to prevail during the period 2008-12 and identifies a number of reasons for current trading prices which are particular to the present pilot phase of the emissions trading scheme.

With regard to sectors covered by the EU emissions trading scheme, it is for individual installations themselves to ensure compliance with the scheme and they may do so in the most cost-effective manner available to them. If emission reductions cannot be achieved through their own action, installations may meet their individual targets through emissions trading which permits access to least-cost emissions reduction opportunities across the EU and, ultimately, more widely. The cost of the actions taken is a matter for the installations concerned.

With regard to the possible impact on the Exchequer, I refer to the reply to Question No. 106 of 25 October 2005.

Decentralisation Programme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

167 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will investigate the case where a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6 who has signed a contract of indefinite duration with his Department in the national monuments section in Dublin must agree to decentralise to Waterford. [30422/05]

The contract signed by the officer concerned does not require the individual to decentralise to Waterford.

Waste Management.

Paul McGrath

Question:

168 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the response he has received from local authorities to his policy directive under section 60 of the Waste Management Act 1996, as amended, regarding action against illegal waste activity and the movement of waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30441/05]

In May 2005, I issued a policy direction to local authorities and the EPA under section 60(2) of the Waste Management Act 1996 in regard to the further action to be taken against illegal waste activity and to clarify, in the context of waste infrastructure provision, the appropriate interpretation of the proximity principle in regard to the inter-regional movement of waste. In performing their waste management functions, waste regulatory authorities are now required to have regard to this direction.

I am satisfied that the EPA's office of environmental enforcement and the relevant local authorities are proceeding to deal with illegal waste activity in the manner required by the direction. In particular, this is evidenced in the concerted and integrated approach to dealing with this form of environmental crime which is being developed and implemented by the OEE's national enforcement network. In addition to the local authorities concerned, this network also includes representation from my Department, the Garda Síochána and the authorities in Northern Ireland.

As required by the direction, local authorities are placing particular emphasis, in the current review of their waste management plans, on identifying sites at which waste disposal or recovery operations have been carried on and on the need for any associated risk assessment and remediation. In further support of the direction, the EPA is developing a methodology to assist such risk assessments. I am also aware of individual authorities stepping up actions to deal with cases of illegal deposition of waste in accordance with the direction, for example, the Coolnamadra case in County Wicklow.

Freedom of Information.

Enda Kenny

Question:

169 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of applications under the Freedom of Information Act 1997 received by him for each year since the Act’s inception; the number of internal reviews requested and granted or refused in each year to date in 2005; the charges levied in each year by him; the subsequent reduction in charges; the number of subsequent appeals in each year to the Information Commissioner; the outcome of the final appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30432/05]

My Department has received over 1,800 requests under the Freedom of Information Act 1997 since its introduction in April 1998. There have been 126 requests for internal review since 1998. The original decision was upheld in 83 of these cases. A further 40 were amended or overturned. The balance were withdrawn or are awaiting decision.

Over the last eight years, 59 cases have been appealed to the Information Commissioner. Decisions were upheld in 16 cases and modified or overruled in seven cases. A further 13 requests were withdrawn by the requester, and there are currently 22 cases awaiting decision. Full details are outlined in the following three tables.

Table 1: Breakdown of FOI requests since 1998.

Year

Total received in each year

Requests for internal review

Total appeals to the Information commissioner

Fees collected

Fees refunded upon review

2005

101

6

2

2,397.80

0.00

2004

111

12

5

5,656.70

16.76

2003

303

26

11

985.00

19.44

2002

350

20

15

2,472.32

0.00

IR£

IR£

2001

303

15

7

558.97

0.00

2000

341

21

8

1,389.96

0.00

1999

221

19

4

1,134.00

0.00

1998

85

7

7

121.43

0.00

Total

1,815

126

59

Table 2: Breakdown of Internal review requests.

Year

Total received in each year

Decisions upheld

Decisions amended

Decisions reversed

Decisions pending

Request withdrawn

2005

6

2

0

2

2

0

2004

12

7

5

0

0

0

2003

26

16

10

0

0

0

2002

20

14

5

1

0

0

2001

15

11

3

1

0

0

2000

21

16

2

0

0

3

1999

19

13

4

2

0

0

1998

7

4

2

1

0

0

Total

126

83

31

7

2

3

Table 3: Appeals to Information Commissioner.

Year

Total appeals to the Information commissioner

Decisions upheld

Decision amended or overruled

Requests withdrawn

Cases not yet decided

2005

2

0

0

0

2

2004

5

1

0

1

3

2003

11

3

1

0

7

2002

15

6

4

2

3

2001

7

0

1

2

4

2000

8

3

0

3

2

1999

4

1

0

2

1

1998

7

2

1

3

0

Total

59

16

7

13

22

Question No. 170 answered with QuestionNo. 121.
Question No. 171 answered with QuestionNo. 138.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

172 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to reduce CO2 emissions from private cars which have increased by 130% since 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30342/05]

The latest available inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, compiled annually by the Environmental Protection Agency, shows that emissions for the entire transport sector for 2003 were 11.85 million tonnes CO2 equivalent, an increase of 130% since 1990. The inventory shows that emissions of CO2 from road transport increased by 135% between 1990 and 2003. Emissions of CO2 from private cars are not available as emissions are calculated on the basis of fuel sold, rather than vehicle type.

The national climate change strategy identifies a range of policies and measures to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions across various sectors. Measures addressed to the transport sector include vehicle efficiency improvements, taxation measures and measures to promote modal shift. While my Department has overall responsibility for the strategy, it is a matter for Departments with direct responsibility for each sector identified in the strategy to implement the optimum mix of policies and measures in order to control and reduce Ireland's overall level of greenhouse gas emissions. Work is currently in progress in my Department on reviewing the strategy, taking account of developments since its publication in 2000. My Department is working closely with all relevant Departments in the context of this review, including the Department of Transport as regards its work on reducing emissions in the transport sector.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Billy Timmins

Question:

173 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to change the legislation with respect to the claw back on affordable housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30308/05]

The claw-back provisions provide that if a house purchased under the affordable housing schemes at a discount from market value is resold before the expiration of 20 years from the date of the purchase, the person selling the property shall pay to the local authority a percentage of the proceeds of the sale. This percentage is equal to the percentage discount allowed by the local authority on the original sale of the house where the house is resold within the first ten years. The amount payable is reduced by 10% in respect of each complete year after the tenth year during which the person who purchased the property has been in occupation of the house as his or her normal place of residence.

The provision for a claw-back is necessary to ensure that there is no short-term profiteering on the resale of a house provided by a local authority at a discount from market value. I am satisfied that the provision operates fairly in protecting the State's interest in these affordable houses and I have no plans to amend the relevant legislation.

Litter Pollution.

Pat Breen

Question:

174 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has satisfied himself that the current level of fines, detection and punishment for litter offences are a sufficient deterrent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30352/05]

I am satisfied that the enforcement powers and penalties available to local authorities under the Litter Pollution Acts 1997 to 2003 are adequate to tackle the problem of litter pollution. The 2003 Act strengthened litter legislation generally and substantially increased the financial penalties for litter offences. Since the introduction of the 1997 Act, local authority performance on enforcement of the litter laws has improved significantly, with more litter wardens employed and substantial increases in the number of prosecutions taken and on-the-spot fines issued.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

175 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of affordable houses provided under the 1999 scheme, Part V and Sustaining Progress to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30444/05]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

587 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of affordable houses provided under the 1999 scheme, Part V and Sustaining Progress to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30547/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 175 and 587 together.

Information to June 2005 on the number of affordable housing units acquired under the 1999 affordable housing scheme and Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-04, is published in my Department's housing statistics bulletins, which are available in the Oireachtas Library and on the Department's website, www.environ.ie.

Almost 800 units have been completed under the affordable housing initiative, including from Part V, which is an important contributor to the initiative.

Local Authority Housing.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

176 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will carry out an investigation or survey of local authorities in order to ascertain the reason many have failed to meet housing targets; if a strategic plan will be drawn up to tackle the issues that are causing this failure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30380/05]

The Government have provided significant additional resources for housing in recent years. Investment in social and affordable housing is at its highest ever level. The total Exchequer capital and current funding available for social and affordable housing in 2005 amounts to €1.3 billion, which represents an increase of 20% on 2004. Total capital spending on social and affordable housing output in 2005, inclusive of non-Exchequer financing, will amount to some €2 billion.

Ensuring that we achieve maximum output for these resources and best value for money is a prime concern. Independent evaluation of the housing programmes at the mid-stage of the national development plan highlighted the fact that spending was 9% ahead of target and this was having positive impacts in addressing social inclusion. Output has been behind that forecast. Some of this is attributable to rising costs of sites and construction inflation and mobilisation of construction programmes by local authorities has proceeded at different speeds.

The important task is to ensure that best practice is highlighted and replicated. We need to focus the local government system on achieving the best performance possible on housing issues. This relates not only to providing the required quantum of housing, but achieving this on a timely basis with appropriate quality.

One of the key lessons from past performance is the need for certainty around funding and the value of a multi-annual approach. In line with NDP targets, a multi-annual programme was introduced for the main local authority programme in 2003. A number of benefits were seen from this approach in terms of providing certainty for local authorities in planning projects and achieving an appropriate response to social needs. However, the fact that Exchequer capital spending was decided on a year to year basis at that time, meant that the full benefits of a multi-annual approach were not fully realised in terms of certainty of funding availability.

The commitment to multi-annual capital programmes in this Government's 2004 budget and the introduction of five-year action plans covering all social and affordable housing programmes by local authorities up to 2008, provides a strong basis for a strategic and measured approach to housing investment. The plans also address maintenance and estate management issues. The preparation of these plans sharpened the identification of priority needs and will help to ensure a more coherent and co-ordinated response across all housing services.

I consider that, with funding and plans in place, real benefits will be seen in terms of both the output and the quality of social housing provision over the coming years.

Question No. 177 answered with QuestionNo. 108.

Tom Hayes

Question:

178 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the latest housing statistical bulletin which shows a 8.5% drop in the number of social housing units completed in the second quarter of 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30346/05]

The total number of local authority houses constructed-acquired in the first six months of 2005 was 1,756 units which compares favourably with the figures for the similar period in 2004 of 1,752 units. In addition, work was in progress on a further 8,000 units at the end of June last — an increase of 26% on the same date last year. It is anticipated that local authorities will complete-acquire in the region of 5,500 units for the full year 2005 including completions under various regeneration programmes.

Activity under the voluntary and co-operative housing schemes has been increasing steadily over the last five years. Some 1,600 units of accommodation were provided last year, compared to 950 units in 2000, which represented an increase of over 42%.

Some 548 units were completed under the programme in the first six months of this year and work was in progress on a further 2,000 units at the end of that period. It is anticipated that the number of units which will be completed this year will exceed 1,600.

The housing needs of an increasing number of households are being met each year through the provision of housing by local authorities and voluntary and co-operative housing bodies. In the current year the Government has allocated record levels of funding to local authorities for their social and affordable housing programmes. Total capital spending on social and affordable housing output in 2005, including non-Exchequer finance, will amount to some €2 billion and will assist in meeting the housing needs of over 13,000 households through the full range of social and affordable housing measures. This compares with 8,400 households in 1998.

Radon Gas Levels.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

179 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he will take arising from the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland report that suggests that 10% of new dwellings constructed with radon protection barriers have high levels of radon. [30416/05]

Part C, Site Preparation and Moisture Resistance, of the building regulations and the related technical guidance document, TGD C, require that new houses in high radon areas commencing on or after 1 July 1998 incorporate the following radon prevention measures in the foundations: radon proof membrane; and a standby radon sump which can be activated if the radon membrane is not fully effective in keeping the indoor radon level below the national reference level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre, 200 Bq/m3.

RPII surveys of new houses commenced since 1 July 1998 in the high radon areas of Ennis, Kilkenny and Tralee have shown that the radon-proof membrane has significantly reduced the percentage of new dwellings with radon above the national reference level, compared with what would be expected on the basis of RPII survey results for radon in existing dwellings.

However, to further reduce the incidence of high radon levels in new buildings, including new dwellings, I published a revised edition of TGD C in October 2004, which applies to new dwellings commencing on or after 1 April 2005. The revised edition of TGD C specifies that membranes be independently certified as fit for radon proofing; that membranes be carefully installed; and that membranes be protected from damage after installation. The guidance also recommends that a radon survey be carried out after the new dwelling is completed and occupied and again after remediation action, should that prove necessary.

Question No. 180 answered with QuestionNo. 119.
Question No. 181 answered with QuestionNo. 166.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

182 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the assertion by the Irish Council of Social Housing in September 2005 that Ireland is building social housing at a slower rate than other European countries, in view of the fact that Ireland has one of the highest completion rates for private housing; the actions he will take to remedy the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30391/05]

David Stanton

Question:

694 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the fact that, despite the very high levels of home ownership here and the building boom in recent years, we have the lowest level of social housing output in the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30767/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 182 and 694 together.

The nature of and demand for social housing varies among European countries depending on need and policy approaches also reflect this diversity of conditions. Overall national housing output provides a more straightforward point of comparison, and in this context the Government's approach to increasing overall supply has had major success and has enhanced access to housing generally. This has occurred alongside a very active response by the Government to higher levels of Irish housing need. In the current year the Government has allocated record levels of funding to local authorities for their social and affordable housing programmes. Total capital spending on social and affordable housing output in 2005, including non-Exchequer finance, will amount to some €2 billion and will assist in meeting the housing needs of over 13,000 households. This compares with 8,400 households in 1998.

In addition, it is anticipated that a number of households currently in private rented accommodation will transfer to the new rental accommodation scheme being introduced. These households will continue to be mainly accommodated within the private rented sector. There are up to 30,000 households in receipt of rent supplements for a period in excess of 18 months who, on the basis that they are assessed to have long term housing needs, will be transferred to the new rental accommodation scheme over a four-year period.

Five-year action plans for the period 2004-08 for social and affordable housing have been developed by local authorities, which will ensure that the resources available are used to best effect and will help ensure a more coherent and co-ordinated response across all housing services. This will allow for the planning of activity for local authority own build, Part V arrangements and output by the voluntary and co-operative housing sector. Provision has been made for a mid-term review of the plans in 2006 which will allow for adjustments to be made in light of actual performance and any new housing policy initiatives arising in the interim.

Environmental Policy.

Simon Coveney

Question:

183 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the Environmental Protection Agency will not rule on appeals to its own decisions; his further views on whether a different agency should do so; if so the agency that should be; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30402/05]

The process under which integrated pollution prevention and control licences should be determined has been twice considered in detail by the Oireachtas in the context of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 and the Protection of the Environment Act 2003.

Both enactments confirmed the role of an expert, management body, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, in operating integrated pollution prevention and control licensing of complex installations. Both also provided a system of review of draft licence determinations by EPA itself, following due consideration of submissions and observations by all parties rather than the establishment of an external official mechanism.

I consider that these arrangements agreed by the Oireachtas are consistent with the principles of administrative justice. It would be impractical to operate an external appeal arrangement in this area given the scarcity of relevant expertise which exists in a small country like Ireland and the difficulties in terms of cost and organisation arising from this. For these reasons, I have no proposal to amend existing legislation on this matter.

Question No. 184 answered with QuestionNo. 134.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

185 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the introduction of legislation to give local authorities powers to compulsory purchase order land at existing use value for the construction of social housing. [30321/05]

The ninth progress report of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, concerning private property, NESC report No. 112, Housing in Ireland: Performance and Policy and the Goodbody Economic Consultants' report, Rationale for and Impact of a Use it or Lose it Scheme, contain analysis and-or recommendations on issues pertinent to the question and my Department is giving careful consideration to these recommendations.

In response the Government has approved the establishment of the affordable homes partnership to drive and co-ordinate the delivery of affordable housing in the greater Dublin area; the preparation of legislative proposals for additional powers should the partnership need these to deliver fully on its mandate; and the review by all local authorities of their land management strategies to maximise the availability of land for their own housing programmes, voluntary housing, and housing partnerships with the private sector.

In this context, work is proceeding on legislation which could entail compulsory acquisition of land at below market value in specified circumstances.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

186 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the consideration he has given to the NESC report, Housing in Ireland: Performance and Policy; the legislative measures he will take arising from the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30388/05]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

194 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will implement the recommendations made by the report of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution on the process of building land; the planned timeframe for implementing these recommendations; if he will report to Dáil Éireann on his strategy for such an implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30389/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 and 194 together.

The Government has been making substantial progress in addressing the concerns raised in the NESC report and the report of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution with record housing output levels and increased investment in social and affordable housing measures. The recently launched affordable homes partnership provides further demonstration in this regard. In addition consideration is to be given to approaches dealing with land options and a "use it or lose it" scheme. As part of the broader delivery of housing nationally, all local authorities will review their land management strategies to maximise the availability of land for their own housing programmes, voluntary and co-operative housing, housing partnerships with the private sector and to secure more active use of brownfield land and derelict sites.

These measures are designed to provide a practical response, focused on delivery to the policy challenges identified by NESC and APOCC. NESC also highlighted a number of issues, particular in the social housing area, for further consideration. The Government intends to address these more medium-term issues for the provision of social and affordable housing shortly. This process will be informed by the outcome of the statutory housing needs assessment being finalised at present and the work under way by the housing forum in reviewing the effectiveness of the existing social and affordable housing schemes in the context of the Sustaining Progress agreement.

Question No. 187 answered with QuestionNo. 115.

Freedom of Information.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

188 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will extend the extend the Freedom of Information Act 1997 to other bodies under the aegis of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30409/05]

The Freedom of Information, FOI, Acts currently apply to the following nine bodies under the aegis of my Department:

—An Bord Pleanála

—An Chomhairle Leabharlanna

—Environmental Protection Agency

—Fire Services Council

—Heritage Council

—Housing Finance Agency

—Irish Water Safety Association

—Local Government Computer Services Board

—Rent Tribunal.

The Freedom of Information Acts will shortly be extended by regulations to be made by the Minister for Finance to the following further agencies under my Department's aegis:

—Buildings Regulations Advisory Board

—Dublin Docklands Development Authority

—Local Government Management Services Board

—National Building Agency

—Radiological Protection Institute Of Ireland

—Affordable Homes Partnership.

The Freedom of Information Acts will also be extended to the Private Residential Tenancies Board, in respect of functions other than dispute resolution services.

Nuclear Plants.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

189 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has made representations in relation to the danger posed by building B30 at Sellafield; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30419/05]

The B30 building at Sellafield is a fuel storage pond for spent magnox fuel and has been in use since the 1950s. Although the European Commission have been inspecting this plant regularly since the 1980s, both the physical condition of the plant and the high radioactivity in the area have made it impossible for the Commission to accurately verify the quantities of material held in the facility.

Under the safeguards provisions of EURATOM, the Commission has the right to inspect facilities where nuclear fuel cycle material is stored, as well as the records for such facilities, to verify that the material has not been diverted to non-peaceful uses.

In March 2003, the Commission adopted a directive under Article 82 of the EURATOM Treaty concerning the storage of spent fuel at Sellafield that compelled the United Kingdom to take steps to allow Commission inspectors to verify accurately the amount of plutonium stored in the pond. The UK subsequently responded in detail to the Commission and I understand the issue between the UK and the Commission on B30 is ongoing. I have written to the European Commissioner for Energy, Mr. Andris Piebalgs, and inter alia reiterated that the B30 storage pond represents a very substantial ongoing environmental and public health risk.

The UK Ambassador to Ireland has advised my Department that his Government will ensure that remediation works at B30 will be guided first and foremost by safety and environment-related considerations. While this is reassuring, my Department will continue to monitor developments in relation to developments at B30 and other facilities at Sellafield to ensure the concerns and interests of Ireland are protected. Indeed, during my meeting with Mr. Alan Johnson MP, UK Secretary of State at the Department of Trade and Industry in London last week, I again outlined the Government's concerns in this regard.

Waste Management.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

190 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he has taken to eliminate cross-Border dumping following his speech on the matter to the Environment Ireland 2005 Conference; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30397/05]

The Office of Environmental Enforcement's report, The Nature and Extent of Unauthorised Waste Activity in Ireland, which was published last month, noted that due to increased regulatory vigilance on both sides of the Border, the practice of illegal waste trafficking to Northern Ireland has become more sporadic. I intend that the excellent co-operation between our enforcement authorities and those in Northern Ireland will continue, including through the enforcement network established by the office of environmental enforcement, to pursue those responsible for such activity. In addition, regulatory authorities have been enjoined by the policy direction, which I recently issued under section 60 of the Waste Management Act 1996, to pursue illegal holders of waste looking to the maximum potential sanctions available in law.

Building Regulations.

John Perry

Question:

191 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps open to him to encourage greater use of energy efficient and renewable energy technology in newly-built homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30354/05]

The question of encouraging the voluntary installation of energy efficient and renewable energy technology in newly-built dwellings is being actively considered in a current review of Part L, Conservation of Fuel and Energy, of the building regulations and the related technical guidance document, TGDL.

This would be achieved by structuring the method of showing compliance with Part L in such a way that the use of energy efficient and renewable energy technology would simplify compliance; and would give greater flexibility to designers in relation to other aspects of design.

Local Authority Land Development.

John Gormley

Question:

192 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the circumstances under which local authorities may dispose of land and criteria that apply; and his plans to put in place a requirement to ensure that competitive tenders are sought. [30415/05]

Local authorities are empowered to dispose of land in accordance with section 211 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and Article 206 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. In general, any land previously acquired by a local authority may be sold, leased or exchanged subject to such conditions as the local authority considers necessary in order to secure the best use of that land.

Where the local authority is of the opinion that price or rent obtained for the land in question is not the best reasonably obtainable, the manager must prepare a report setting out the economic and social reasons which apply in relation to the disposal of land and include this in the notice given to the members of the authority. The notice and report must also be made available for public inspection at the local authority offices for a period of one year. Otherwise the Minister's consent is required. My Department has no proposals to amend the relevant legislation.

Planning Regulations.

Damien English

Question:

193 Mr. English asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will legislate for development levies to be used for community amenities including schools and health centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30437/05]

Planning legislation allows for the imposition of planning conditions requiring the payment of a contribution in respect of public infrastructure and facilities, provided by or on behalf of a local authority, which benefit development in the area of the planning authority, including the provision of open spaces, recreational and community facilities and amenities and landscaping works.

I am interested in ensuring that the planning process supports the provision of necessary community facilities in parallel with housing developments. My Department has been in discussion with other relevant Departments to facilitate this and is continuing to explore all options in that regard.

Question No. 194 answered with QuestionNo. 186.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

195 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether it is unfair to ask non-residential residents of Achill Island to pay €3 million towards the long awaited sewage scheme in Achill in view of the fact that persons will have to pay this between them; his further views on whether Achill should not be asked to pay 50% of the costs, as it cannot be compared to a large urban area or town, under the polluter pays principle; if he will intervene in this situation and ensure that the scheme goes ahead without putting the future of the local businesses at risk; the resolution his Department has to enable this to proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30442/05]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

670 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether it is unfair to ask the non-residential residents of Achill Island to pay €3 million towards the long awaited sewage scheme in Achill; his further views on whether Achill should not be asked to pay 50% of the cost; if steps will be taken to ensure that the scheme goes ahead without putting the future of local businesses at risk; the resolution his Department has to enable this to proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30611/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 195 and 670 together.

In common with all projects funded under my Department's water services investment programme, the Achill Sound scheme is subject to water services pricing, polluter pays policy. Local authorities must ensure that the design and scale of individual schemes takes account of the implications of the pricing policy framework. In broad terms, this involves my Department funding the capital costs associated with the provision of services to meet the requirements of the existing domestic population. The additional marginal capital cost of servicing non-domestic consumers, and providing for future development, is recovered by the local authority from all non-domestic consumers in its functional area, i.e. on a county-wide basis, through a combination of water charges on commercial consumers and planning levies on future development. Only significant large scale consumers who reserve a specific proportion of the overall capacity of a scheme are required to make a direct contribution to the capital cost of the scheme up-front. It is unlikely that there are any such consumers in this case.

My Department is awaiting submission by Mayo County Council of a revised water services pricing policy report that will determine the appropriate apportionment of the capital costs in this case in accordance with the policy framework. Until this report is submitted and approved, any estimate of the likely contribution required from the non-domestic sector is purely speculative.

With regard to commencement of works, the position is that the scheme has been approved for construction under my Department's water services investment programme 2004-06. I have already cleared Mayo County Council's tender recommendations for the scheme and its further advancement is now a matter for the council.

Planning Regulations.

Billy Timmins

Question:

196 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the discussions he has had with county managers or their representatives with respect to the rural planning guidelines on one-off housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30307/05]

The guidelines for planning authorities on sustainable rural housing came into effect on 13 April 2005. They provide that reasonable proposals on suitable sites in rural areas for persons who are part of, contribute to, or have links with the rural community must be accommodated. The guidelines thus affirm a presumption in favour of quality one-off housing for rural communities, provided proposals meet normal standards in relation to matters such as the proper waste water disposal and road safety.

My Department held two seminars in June for local authority planning officials on the implementation of the guidelines. The seminars dealt with the overall objectives of the guidelines and provided practical advice on the implementation of their core provisions, including preparation of development plan policies, providing better support and advice to applicants and more efficient and comprehensive consideration of planning applications.

In September 2005, my Department also held discussions on the guidelines with the planning committee of the County and City Managers' Association. These discussions were around the need to embed regard for the guidelines, as required by section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, in their performance by local authorities of their relevant functions i.e. in making or reviewing their development plans, in providing planning services to applicants or potential applicants and in deciding on planning applications. County managers have also been asked for a report on the measures taken to date to implement the guidelines and on their impact. I intend to continue this close monitoring of the new guidelines on rural housing.

Question No. 197 answered with QuestionNo. 138.
Question No. 198 answered with QuestionNo. 119.

Homeless Persons.

Seán Crowe

Question:

199 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the actions he has taken in the past 12 months to address the ongoing homelessness crisis. [30316/05]

Local authorities and the Health Service Executive are responsible for meeting the accommodation and health care needs of homeless persons. The Government's integrated and preventative strategies on homelessness provide the framework within which the agencies fulfil these responsibilities.

Under the terms of the integrated strategy, homeless fora, representative of the statutory and voluntary homeless sectors, were established at local authority level and homeless action plans, adopted under their aegis, are being implemented. These developments have resulted in the provision of a wide range of additional accommodation and services for homeless persons. Rough sleepers have been enabled to access emergency accommodation and homeless persons have been facilitated to move out of emergency accommodation into accommodation more suitable to their needs. Increased levels of day care facilities, together with specific provisions to meet the needs of people with addiction problems or who are sleeping rough, as well as homeless ex-offenders, have been put in place. While the emphasis was, initially, on the provision of emergency accommodation options, there is now general agreement that sufficient emergency accommodation is available for those who wish to avail of it and the emphasis must now move to more long-term solutions.

While a range of social and private rented long-term accommodation is available the amount of such accommodation needs to be increased. Steps have already been taken to encourage local authorities to focus their future activity in this area and a number of recent developments will facilitate their efforts to make progress. The development of the local authority housing action plans 2004 to 2008, the introduction of the rental accommodation scheme and the information gained from the assessment of housing need carried out in March 2005 will enable local authorities to include the specific housing needs of homeless persons in their overall housing programmes and enhance the availability of housing options for those homeless persons capable of independent living. A tenancy sustainment scheme soon to be piloted by the homeless agency with funding from my Department will facilitate previously homeless tenants to maintain their tenancies whether in public or private sector accommodation.

The continued provision of adequate funding is of major importance. While the provision of accommodation and related services for homeless persons is the responsibility of local authorities, my Department recoups to them 90% of their expenditure in this area. In 2004, a total of €45.7 million was recouped to local authorities while the allocation for 2005 is €51 million. This brings to €240 million the total funding made available for this purpose since 2000. The Department of Health and Children has provided an additional €30.2 million in the same period to meet the care needs of homeless persons.

An independent review of the implementation of the integrated and preventative homeless strategies and their associated action plans is nearing completion and the outcome of the review will help to inform future developments in this area.

EU Legislation.

Shane McEntee

Question:

200 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of EU Directives for which he has responsibility for that remain to be transposed into Irish law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30394/05]

I am fully aware of the importance of timely transposition of EU environmental legislation, some 200 items of which, including more than 140 directives, have by now been transposed in this country. There are currently seven directives in my Department's area of responsibility which are outstanding for transposition. These are: — 2000/53/EC — End-of-life vehicles: this directive was due for transposition by 21 April 2002 with obligations imposed under the directive effective in respect of new vehicles sold after 1 July 2002 from that date and from 1 January 2007 for all other vehicles. It is anticipated that this directive will be fully transposed by the end of the year. — 2002/49/EC — Assessment and management of environmental noise: drafting of regulations to transpose this directive, which was due for transposition by 18 July 2004, is well advanced and transposition is intended by the end of the year. — 2002/88/EC — Measures against the emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from internal combustion engines to be installed in non-road mobile machinery and 2004/26/EC —amending Directive 97/68/EC on the approximation of the laws of member states relating to emissions from internal combustion engines in non-mobile road machinery: draft regulations transposing both directives are nearing completion with a view to transposition by the end of the year. The first directive was due for transposition by 11 August 2004 and the second by 20 May 2005. — 2003/4/EC —public access to environmental information, repealing Directive 90/313/EEC: legislative proposals for the transposition of this directive are in drafting. The directive was due for transposition by 14 February 2005 and it is intended that this directive will be transposed at the earliest possible date. — 2003/35/EC — Directive on public participation in respect of the drawing up of certain plans and programmes relating to the environment and amending with regard to public participation and access to justice Directives 85/337/EEC and 96/61/EC: this directive was due for transposition by 25 June 2005. Options for transposition of the directive are being examined with a view to completing transposition at the earliest possible date. — 2004/12/EC — Directive amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste: my Department is engaged with a stakeholder group on a final phase of consultation prior to finalising regulations to give effect to this directive. The directive was due for transposition on 18 August 2005 and it is intended that it will be transposed in the first quarter of 2006.

Michael Ring

Question:

201 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the circumstances surrounding the scheduling and subsequent cancellation of an oral hearing on 11 October 2005 in the European Court of Justice regarding Ireland’s implementation of EU legislation on environmental impact assessments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30435/05]

This matter arises from an application by the European Commission to the European Court of Justice in July 2003 seeking the imposition of a daily fine of €21,600 against Ireland to enforce a previous judgment by the Court made on 21 September 1999 against Ireland. That judgment centred on the environmental impact assessment, EIA, directive, as amended, in relation to the exemption thresholds set for peat extraction.

My Department has since been working, in consultation with European Commission officials, on a series of measures to address the findings of the court and the final measures have now been put in place. Earlier this year, I signed the Planning and Development Regulations 2005. These regulations generally exempt peat extraction below a threshold of 10 hectares from the requirement for planning permission. However, there are exceptions where the peat extraction would have significant effects on the environment or, where the peat extraction takes place within peatland areas that have been afforded protection either as special areas of conservation, SACs or natural heritage areas, NHAs, both of which are subject to a separate control system. The European Commission was concerned that all designations of SACs and NHAs should be fully completed so as to ensure that any cases involving sub-threshold peat extraction in sensitive locations, while not subject to planning permission, would be subject to nature conservation controls under wildlife legislation.

I am pleased to inform the House that I signed the final set of protection orders for NHAs on 20 September thus satisfying all of the Commission's outstanding concerns. As Ireland is now fully in compliance with the 1999 judgment, the Commission proceeded to request the court to cancel its application for a daily fine against Ireland.

Question No. 202 answered with QuestionNo. 139.
Question No. 203 answered with QuestionNo. 107.
Question No. 204 answered with QuestionNo. 139.

Local Authority Funding.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

205 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether comments by the chief executive of the Heritage Council that under-resourcing of local authorities means they cannot afford to properly maintain green spaces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30398/05]

I am not aware of comments by the chief executive of the Heritage Council to this effect.

Local authorities fund expenditure on services, including maintenance of green spaces, from a variety of sources including specific State grants, commercial rates, fees and charges for goods and services and general purpose grants from the local government fund. Increased funds are also becoming available to local authorities for capital improvement of infrastructures and amenities from their schemes of development contributions which were finalised in 2004. The general purpose grants allocated to local authorities for 2005 amount to some €817 million, representing an increase of 8.6%, or more than double the rate of inflation, on the corresponding figure for 2004 and an increase of some 130% on the 1997 provision. I am satisfied that this level of funding, together with the current funding available to local authorities from other sources, enables them to provide a satisfactory level of services. It is, of course, a matter for each local authority to prioritise its expenditure within the resources available to it and to operate its services as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

206 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the report service indicators in local authorities suggest a lack of funding from the Central Exchequer may be responsible for some of the failings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30357/05]

The first report on service indicators in local authorities, published in July 2005, details the performance of local authorities in 2004 with regard to 42 indicators of service. This is a significant innovation for the local government sector and will be a valuable baseline against which future performance can be assessed. I have asked each authority to review its performance across the range of indicators and in light of performance by other authorities and put in place a strategy for continued improvement.

Local authorities fund expenditure on services from a variety of sources including specific State grants, commercial rates, fees and charges for goods and services and general purpose grants from the local government fund. The general purpose grants allocated to local authorities for 2005 amount to some €817 million, representing an increase of 8.6% or more than double the rate of inflation, on the corresponding figure for 2004 and an increase of some 130% on the 1997 provision. I am satisfied that this level of funding, together with the current funding available to local authorities from other sources, enables them to provide a satisfactory level of services. It is a matter for each local authority to prioritise its expenditure within the resources available to it and operate its services as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Local Authority Staff.

John Perry

Question:

207 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will amend the two codes of conduct, one for local authority employees and the other for councillors to take account of suggestions by the Standards in Public Office Commission suggesting the possibility of provision being made in the code whereby protection against reprisal will be guaranteed in any circumstances where a bona fide report or complaint was made by an employee or a councillor who believed that he or she was being required to act in a manner which was illegal, improper, or unethical, was in breach of constitutional convention or a professional code, may involve possible maladministration or was otherwise inconsistent with the relevant code; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30433/05]

The codes of conduct for councillors and employees of local authorities were published in June 2004 under Part 15 of the Local Government Act 2001, and form an integral part of the ethics framework for the local government service. The implementation of the codes is being kept under review in light of experience since their introduction and as part of an assessment of the effectiveness of the regime. the suggestions in the Standards in Public Office Commission's 2004 annual report are being fully considered in that context.

Architectural Heritage.

Denis Naughten

Question:

208 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will review the current funding for architectural protection grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30014/05]

The scheme of architectural protection grants available to owners of protected structures is administered by local authorities and resourced by my Department. Funding for the scheme was increased from €3.9 million in 2004 to €6.85 million in 2005. This scheme is one of a number of supports for the built heritage. The conservation grants programme under the urban and village renewal scheme provides funding in 2005 of €1.033 million to support projects on buildings of architectural or heritage significance which are in the ownership of public bodies, civic trusts, etc. and are open to the public. In 2005, €700,000 has been allocated in thatching grants by my Department, with 152 grants having being provisionally approved for 152 roofs.

I am also in the process of establishing the Irish Heritage Trust, as set out further in reply to Question No. 148 on today's Order Paper. Funding for architectural heritage protection is also provided directly by the Heritage Council and the council administers certain one-off grants directly on my behalf. In addition, tax relief is available under 482 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 for expenditure incurred on the repair, maintenance or restoration of an approved building or garden. Further protection is afforded through the ongoing maintenance of the State's portfolio of historic properties. I am satisfied that, taken together, these provisions afford appropriate support for the safeguarding of our architectural heritage.

House Prices.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

209 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether competition from buyers of second homes is a contributory factor to house price increases. [30314/05]

The unprecedented demand for housing consequent of rapid economic growth and demographic changes has been the major driver of house price increases in recent years. While precise information is not available, it is clear there has been significant activity over this period by investors and owners of second properties. This is to be expected in a growing economy. Although at different times and locations this may have an impact on prices, there can be gains in terms of the supply of private rented accommodation, tourist accommodation and revitalisation of areas.

Against this background, the Government's strategy is to increase housing supply to meet the diverse demand. A particular focus of attention is on measures to improve affordability and access to housing for new emerging households. Focusing on sustaining supply at levels to meet demand is the key objective of policy and in this way we seek to bring moderation to house price increases. The success of these measures is demonstrated by the substantial increase in output, which has doubled in the past seven years with house prices having moderated from their high levels in the late 1990s.

Planning Regulations.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

210 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make changes to section 29(1)(a) of the Planning and Development Act 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30421/05]

I assume the question relates to Article 29(1)(a) of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. This article provides that any person or body, on payment of the prescribed fee, may make a submission or observation in writing to a planning authority in relation to a planning application within the period of five weeks beginning on the date of receipt by the authority of the application. While I have been reviewing the 2001 planning regulations to refine and streamline aspects of the planning application process, it is not planned to amend the provision in question.

Live Register.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

211 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Taoiseach if the live register figure for County Donegal is at its lowest point in over ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30205/05]

The live register series gives a monthly breakdown of the number of people claiming unemployment assistance, unemployment benefit and other claimants registered with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Figures are published for each county and local office. The most recent information available is for September 2005. It should be noted that the live register is not a definitive measure of unemployment as it includes part-time workers, seasonal and casual workers entitled to unemployment assistance or benefit. Statistics on unemployment are measured at regional level by the quarterly national household survey. In addition, the exact area covered by each local office is not limited to the immediate locality of the particular office. For instance, in the Tallaght local office there may be registered persons from the Blessington area.

The live register figures for County Donegal for the period 1995 to 2005 as requested by the Deputy are set out in the following table. The September 2005 figure is the lowest figure in the period since January 1995:

Live Register for County Donegal 1995 to 2005.

Live Register County Donegal total.

Year

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

1995

12,282

11,850

11,936

12,072

11,865

12,205

12,552

1996

12,913

12,957

12,563

12,761

12,584

12,921

13,393

1997

12,670

12,737

12,548

12,344

12,273

12,719

12,943

1998

12,719

12,512

12,109

12,282

12,086

12,549

12,634

1999

12,144

11,966

11,623

11,501

11,469

11,907

12,293

2000

11,642

11,413

10,980

10,830

10,365

10,652

10,705

2001

10,160

10,008

9,969

9,861

9,856

10,263

10,441

2002

10,182

10,133

10,108

9,729

9,899

10,364

10,605

2003

10,048

10,013

9,964

10,111

9,882

10,680

10,907

2004

10,331

10,246

10,037

9,662

9,576

10,146

10,473

2005

9,590

9,304

9,073

8,846

8,790

9,103

9,516

Year

August

September

October

November

December

Average

1995

12,359

12,308

12,394

12,438

13,127

12,282

1996

13,051

12,784

12,469

12,473

12,981

12,821

1997

13,001

12,742

12,313

12,365

12,927

12,632

1998

12,565

12,094

11,772

11,469

13,485

12,356

1999

12,224

11,971

11,532

11,431

11,699

11,813

2000

10,622

10,003

9,862

9,837

10,088

10,583

2001

10,297

9,620

9,558

9,549

9,896

9,957

2002

10,499

9,663

9,355

9,418

9,897

9,988

2003

10,931

10,187

9,975

9,923

10,149

10,231

2004

10,374

9,432

9,079

9,088

9,440

9,824

2005

9,508

8,586

Source: Live Register Analysis, Central Statistics Office.

Irish Language.

Enda Kenny

Question:

212 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the number of households in each Gaeltacht area where it is estimated that Irish is spoken on a full-time basis as an every day language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30648/05]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table which is based on the results of the 2002 census of population. The question used in the census was as follows:

11. Can you speak Irish?

Answer if aged 3 years or over.

1 Yes

2 No

If ‘Yes’, do you speak Irish?

1 Daily

2 Weekly

3 Less often

4 Never.

It is important to bear in mind that the census question seeks information on ability to speak the Irish language and frequency of speaking it. It is not possible to infer the number of households where Irish is being spoken on a full-time basis from the census data.

Private households in each Gaeltacht area classified by the number of persons who speak Irish daily, census 2002.

Number of daily Irish speakers in the household

Total Gaeltacht area

Cork

Donegal

Galway City

Galway County

Kerry County

Mayo County

Meath County

Waterford

Total households

29,777

1,137

8,347

3,825

9,012

2,859

3,677

466

454

None

15,175

616

3,789

2,987

3,447

1,389

2,454

270

223

1 or more

14,602

521

4,558

838

5,565

1,470

1,223

196

231

of which:

1

5,884

189

1,915

438

1,987

617

571

81

86

2

3,933

129

1,254

234

1,494

364

355

42

61

3

2,086

88

579

109

861

233

150

26

40

4

1,366

61

415

42

592

143

69

24

20

5

822

35

239

10

381

73

53

15

16

6 or more

511

19

156

5

250

40

25

8

8

Consultancy Contracts.

Richard Bruton

Question:

213 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the guidelines in place for the commissioning of outside expertise in the consultancy and public relations fields; and if ministerial approval is required for approval of expenditure on such commissions. [30152/05]

The procurement of consultancy services in my Department is subject to public procurement guidelines from the Department of Finance as set out in the document, Guidelines for engagement of Consultants in the Civil Service — 1999. Procurement of outside expertise in the public relations field is also subject to public procurement guidelines as set out in the 2004 Department of Finance publication, Public Procurement Guidelines — Competitive Process, which replaced the previous Department of Finance guidance entitled, Public Procurement — 1994 Edition (Green Book).

In addition, the procurement of these services is also subject to applicable EU procurement rules and guidelines. Furthermore, since early this year additional guidelines agreed by Government, specifically for public relations and communication type consultancies, are now incorporated into the Cabinet Handbook. I am satisfied that these guidelines are followed in my Department and are fully reflected in the Department's internal procedures, including the training provided to relevant staff.

More recently a number of new measures were announced which will contribute to improving the management and value for money aspects of consultancies projects. Approval of expenditure on consultancy projects is handled at the appropriate level within my Department, depending on the scale and nature of each and I am kept informed as appropriate. With my colleagues, I consider the provision made for consultancy services in my Department's Vote is necessary and appropriate for the effective discharge of its functions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

214 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the percentage of reports, consultancies and cases from external commissions where the issue of poor value for money was highlighted, in his Department from 1998 to date in 2005. [30167/05]

There have been no cases of reports, consultancies or cases from external commissions in this period where the issue of poor value for money has been highlighted in my Department.

Population Statistics.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

215 Mr. Cuffe asked the Taoiseach the population of the State at the end of each of the past ten years; and the estimate for the population of the State on 31 December 2005. [30461/05]

Population estimates are compiled on an annual basis in respect of mid-April. For census years the relevant census figure is taken. The following table provides population estimates for the past ten years. The figures for 2003 to 2005, inclusive, are preliminary and subject to revision after the publication of the 2006 census totals.

Mid-April Population

Year

Estimate (Thousands)

1996

3,626.1

1997

3,664.3

1998

3,703.1

1999

3,741.6

2000

3,789.5

2001

3,847.2

2002

3,917.2

2003

3,978.9

2004

4,043.8

2005

4,130.7

Departmental Expenditure.

John Deasy

Question:

216 Mr. Deasy asked the Taoiseach the amount which has been spent by his Department in bringing into effect the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003. [30523/05]

As part of its commitment to the principles of quality customer service, my Department has always sought to ensure that customers who wish to conduct their business through Irish can do so. Expenditure on providing such services, therefore, cannot be considered as arising exclusively from the provisions of the Official Languages Act, as they also arise from our existing commitments to our customers as outlined in our customer charter, which states: "We will ensure that customers who wish to conduct their business through Irish can do so."

My Department was among the first of the public bodies to draft schemes under the Official Languages Act in relation to the delivery of our services to the public in Irish. My Department's scheme for the years 2005 to 2008 was published on 26 July 2005 and will commence on 1 September 2005. It is not expected that implementation of the scheme will give rise to substantial costs additional to those which were being incurred prior to its commencement. However, it has been possible to identify certain costs arising specifically from implementation of the Act to date. These are the translation of the scheme into Irish —€972 and the design and printing of the scheme —€5,250. This gives a total amount of €6,222 to date. We also anticipate that approximately €7,000 to €10,000 will be spent up to the end of 2005 on in-house Irish language and other related training for staff and on certain translation costs.

Infectious Diseases.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

217 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the plans in place to address a generic pandemic of influenza or any other transmittable disease here; the specific quarantine and isolation procedures which would be put into effect when required for both individuals and groups and geographical areas; the triggers required before quarantine of an individual, group or area is enforced; the stocks of vaccines and treatments in place to treat not only a specific threat such as avian influenza but also non-specific threats such as a different strain of influenza; the funding available during the first response to the outbreak of a pandemic to the groups involved; the triggers required to release such funding to both events and executive actions; the command structure available to be put in place at extremely short notice to co-ordinate national operations in the event of a pandemic; the person who is the head of such a command structure; the person who is the head of such a command structure in the event of absence or incapacity of the head of that command structure at the time of an outbreak the person or persons who are authorised to act as the head of the command structure; the organisations which would be involved in any such operations; the co-ordinated training and exercise which has taken place with the organisations involved; the results of these exercises; the cost of these exercises to the Exchequer both direct and indirect through redirection of resources from other duties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30022/05]

Seamus Kirk

Question:

239 Mr. Kirk asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken regarding the threat of avian influenza reaching Ireland; if sufficient vaccine is in stock; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30127/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 217 and 239 together.

Avian influenza —"bird flu"— is an infectious disease of birds caused by the type A strains of the influenza virus. The Department of Agriculture and Food is responsible for controlling avian influenza in birds and mammals other than humans. That Department has a contingency plan for avian influenza and all questions relating to this should be referred to my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Coughlan.

According to the World Health Organisation, the spread of the A/H5N1 virus to poultry in new areas is of concern as it increases opportunities for further human cases to occur. However, all evidence to date indicates that the H5N1 virus does not spread easily from birds to infect humans. The WHO level of pandemic alert remains unchanged at phase 3 — a virus new to humans is causing infections but does not spread easily from one person to another.

My Department and the Health Service Executive are closely monitoring avian influenza developments with particular reference to the public health implications. The overall aims of influenza pandemic planning are to reduce mortality and morbidity and minimise the resulting disruption to society. However, the consequences of a global pandemic are still likely to be serious. Pandemic planning can only mitigate the effects and my Department and the Health Service Executive are working closely together on pandemic planning.

A generic public health emergency plan for the health system was prepared in 2004. This included disease specific operational response plans in relation to SARS, pandemic influenza and smallpox. These plans identify key actions which must be undertaken before and during a major public health threat. The responses are structured within the following functional areas: surveillance, health services, public health measures, vaccines-antivirals, etc., communications, laboratories and materials management. The pandemic influenza plan is being updated to reflect the most up-to-date advice of the influenza pandemic expert group and the World Health Organisation. Social distancing measures will be considered in the context of public health measures generally.

The public health emergency plan provides for a command and control structure with strategic and operational components. My Department has responsibility for the strategic issues while the Health Service Executive continues to have responsibility for operational issues. The Secretary General of my Department chairs the team which will co-ordinate the response at national level and the chief medical officer of my Department will act as head of the team in the absence of the Secretary General for whatever reason. The national team had its first official meeting in July 2005.

The public health emergency plan may be activated following consideration of advice from the chief medical officer or relevant personnel in the Health Service Executive or from an outside agency such as the European Union or World Health Organisation. The Health Service Executive held regional influenza pandemic exercises earlier this year to test its regional plans. The results of these exercises will be taken into account in updating the national plan. The European Commission is organising a command post pandemic influenza exercise to test communications, exchanges of information and interaction between the competent authorities at EU level and the co-ordination and interoperability of national plans. Ireland is participating in this exercise, which is being funded by the Commission. The dates are not being publicly announced to make the exercise as realistic as possible.

Influenza pandemics are caused when a new flu virus emerges to which people have no immunity. As it is new, a vaccine can only be manufactured once the new strain emerges. It should be noted that it will take at least four to six months from the time a pandemic flu strain emerges to develop and manufacture a vaccine. A vaccine is in development which could offer some protection against an H5N1 influenza strain. International experts consider that a stockpile of H5N1 vaccine could be used as a first line of defence for frontline health and emergency staff while a vaccine against the exact pandemic influenza strain is manufactured.

It was decided in August on foot of expert advice that a limited amount of H5N1 vaccine should be purchased. It is intended to purchase 400,000 doses, which is sufficient for 200,000 people. My Department is actively pursuing this matter. H5N1 vaccines will not be available anywhere before March-April 2006.

Antivirals can shorten the duration of the disease and alleviate symptoms. We have an emergency supply of more than 45,000 treatment packs of antivirals — Tamiflu®— and 10,000 units of paediatric suspension. We are stockpiling a further 1 million treatment packs of Tamiflu®. This quantity is sufficient to treat 25% of the population. Of these, 600,000 packs will be delivered by the end of this year while the remaining 400,000 packs will be delivered next year. Plans for the storage and distribution of antivirals are being developed as part of the planning process. The size of the stockpile is in line with international trends.

Pension Provisions.

Enda Kenny

Question:

218 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) who was made redundant following the abolition of the National Rehabilitation Board in 2000 and who was subsequently deemed to be owed an abolition of office pension by the High Court has to date not received any payment from the Health Service Executive, the successor to the ERHA which assumed responsibility for National Rehabilitation Board pensions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30027/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

225 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) has not received payment from the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30037/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 218 and 225 together.

I should explain that this case has been under consideration in my Department and that, following this consideration, my Department has recently been in contact with the Health Service Executive in the matter. As this matter is now with the Health Service Executive, my Department has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to reply directly to the Deputy in regard to the payment in question.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Finian McGrath

Question:

219 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) for digital hearing aids; and if she will give the maximum support and assistance. [30097/05]

Finian McGrath

Question:

232 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) for digital hearing aids; and if she will give the maximum support and assistance. [30096/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 219 and 232 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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

220 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the person with responsibility for a regulatory and inspection function in a home (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30301/05]

The Department of Health and Children has examined records related to the home in question. Evidence of a regulatory or inspection role has not been found on these papers and, as a result, it is not possible to indicate who had responsibility for this function. The home in question was a private home and admissions were primarily made by the families of the home's clients.

Proposed Legislation.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

221 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to transpose the rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Irish law. [30607/05]

Ireland ratified the UNCRC without reservation on 21 September 1992. The convention entered into force for Ireland on 21 October 1992. Similar to other common law countries, Ireland has a "dualist" system under which international agreements to which Ireland becomes a party are not automatically incorporated into domestic law.

Article 29.3 of the Constitution of Ireland states: "Ireland accepts the generally recognised principles of international law as its rule of conduct in its relations with other States." Article 29.6 of the Constitution of Ireland provides: "No international agreement shall be part of the domestic law of the State save as may be determined by the Oireachtas." These constitutional provisions have been interpreted as precluding the Irish courts from giving effect to an international agreement if it is contrary to domestic law or grants rights or imposes obligations additional to those of domestic law. Consequently, whereas Ireland has ratified the UNCRC, the convention did not thereby automatically become part of Irish law. There are no plans at present to transpose the convention into Irish law.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

222 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she proposes to take in view of the need identified by the eastern regional autism service for the extension of multidisciplinary special needs service provision (details supplied) from primary school level to secondary school level to ensure that this extension of services transpires; if she has sought funding or has allocated funding to facilitate such an extension of services; the reason such services are currently unavailable to children at secondary level when they are available to children at pre-school and primary levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30652/05]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

223 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to accommodate the 75 children currently on the waiting list for multidisciplinary services provided by the eastern regional autism service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30655/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 and 223 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 these matters investigated and have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Regulations.

Richard Bruton

Question:

224 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the rules governing the operation of patient accounts in public nursing homes; the action taken in respect of outstanding balances in such accounts in the event of the death of a patient to refund this balance to the family concerned. [30036/05]

The Health Service Executive administers a patient private property account system to manage the private money of patients in long-stay care. Previously, different health boards employed various methodologies for the administration of accounts depending on legal advice received by different boards as to how they should operate.

Following the establishment of the HSE, clarification was sought from senior counsel as to the precise relationship that should exist between the HSE and patients in its care and to put in place one standardised system for the operation of these accounts. This legal advice was received by the HSE in September of this year and led to the establishment of a multidisciplinary working group on patient private property accounts. The working group was established to ensure the administration of these accounts: meets all legal and regulatory requirements; operates in the best interests of patients in as responsive way as practical; takes appropriate account of, in so far as is practical, the input of patients relatives and friends; is consistent with best practice in terms of financial controls, transparent accountability and corporate governance arrangements; and is efficient and represents value for money in the use of staff and HSE resources.

Following the death of a patient there is a legal obligation on the HSE to ensure any funds held on behalf of the patient are preserved for the beneficiaries of the patient's estate. In circumstances in which a patient has made a will and the executor obtains a grant of probate, the HSE releases any funds remaining in the patient's property account to the executor. In circumstances in which the patient has died intestate and a grant of administration is obtained by his or her personal legal representatives, the HSE releases any funds remaining to the administrators who would normally be a surviving spouse or next of kin. Where a patient dies intestate and there are no next of kin, as defined in the succession Acts, the State is the ultimate successor and any funds in the patient's private property account are transferred to the Chief State Solicitor's Office.

Question No. 225 answered with QuestionNo. 218.

Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

226 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the case of an application for additional home help hours by a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [30038/05]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Tom Hayes

Question:

227 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the case of an application for additional home help hours for persons (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [30039/05]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

228 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called to the Mater Hospital for open heart surgery. [30040/05]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

John Perry

Question:

229 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to increase funding for personal assistant service for persons with disabilities in counties Sligo and Leitrim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30042/05]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Executive.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

230 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the contents of a letter sent to Professor Brendan Drumm and copied to her (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30094/05]

The letter referred to by the Deputy 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. I understand this letter is being dealt with by the Health Service Executive.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

231 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny under the national repayment scheme; if a decision in the case will be expedited. [30095/05]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 232 answered with QuestionNo. 219.

Departmental Statistics.

John Deasy

Question:

233 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the numbers of acute hospital beds per 1,000 population in each of the former health board areas in the years 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002 and in September 2005. [30098/05]

The information requested is being provided directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

234 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a care plan will be put in place for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if she will give the maximum assistance in the home help service. [30099/05]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

235 Mr. Nolan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason there is a substantial waiting list for aids and appliances within the Carlow-Kilkenny community care area for disabled children and adults; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30100/05]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

236 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children awaiting assessment by the Health Service Executive southern area at a clinic (details supplied) in County Kerry; the average waiting time for an appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30101/05]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

237 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received a report on the shortage of step-down accommodation in the community for persons recovering from mental illness who need a half-way house; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a waiting list for such accommodation (details supplied); and if she will make funds available to extend this service. [30102/05]

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

Eating Disorders.

Finian McGrath

Question:

238 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the strategy in place to assist young persons with eating disorders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30126/05]

Responsibility for the management and treatment of a person with an eating disorder rests with the individual patient's clinician. However, persons presenting with eating disorders are generally treated through the local psychiatric services. Outpatient psychiatric services are provided from a network of hospitals, health centres, day hospitals and day centres.

An expert group on mental health policy is currently preparing a new national framework for the further modernisation of the mental health services, updating the 1984 policy document, Planning for the Future. The expert group has a number of sub-groups looking at specialist issues in mental health services, including the development of services and facilities for the treatment of eating disorders. The expert group is expected to complete its work later this year.

Question No. 239 answered with QuestionNo. 217.

Hospital Services.

John Perry

Question:

240 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funds she will make available to provide a taxi service from County Sligo for patients who have to travel to Dublin for radiotherapy and chemotherapy services (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30128/05]

As I have previously stated to the House, I consider that appropriate transport arrangements for oncology patients should be made available, where necessary, by the Health Service Executive. My Department has asked the HSE to advise the Deputy directly regarding current and proposed transport arrangements for oncology patients in the Sligo area.

Ambulance Service.

Pat Breen

Question:

241 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will meet a deputation (details supplied) regarding the extension of cover to 24 hours for a town’s ambulance station service; if she will provide the funding through the Health Service Executive so that extra emergency medical technician personnel can be employed for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30130/05]

I am keen to see effective ambulance services in all counties and regions of the country working to deliver emergency care in our regional hospitals network.

The Deputy's question does, however, relate to the provision of ambulance services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to examine the service issue raised and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy. In my view, any request for a meeting regarding the matter would appropriately be addressed to the executive.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

242 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children to ensure that personal assistants for people with a physical disability are adequately funded in 2006 and to expand the service for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and to work with other Departments on the matter. [30131/05]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

243 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position of an application for special housing aid for the elderly for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; if the medical information submitted assisted in bringing forward the person’s application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30133/05]

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. That 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 the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Special Residential Services Board.

Richard Bruton

Question:

244 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the purpose and function of the Special Residential Services Board; the number of members on the Special Residential Services Board; the remuneration of the board; the number of children the board is responsible for; the number of residential beds the board is responsible for; and the number of care staff the board is responsible for. [30138/05]

The Special Residential Services Board is provided for under Part 11 of the Children Act 2001. The board was established on a statutory basis on 7 November 2003.

The purpose of the board is to advise the Ministers for Health and Children and Education and Science on policy relating to the remand and detention of children and ensure the efficient, effective and co-ordinated delivery of services to children in respect of whom children detention orders or special care orders are made.

The functions of the board are defined in Part 11 — section 227 (1)(a)-(i), but in brief are: to advise the Ministers on policy issues relating to the remand and detention of children, and on the provision of accommodation and services to detained children; to co-ordinate the delivery of services to detained children and to ensure appropriate and efficient utilisation of the schools and units where children are detained; to liaise with and advise the courts, on request, on appropriate placements for offending and non-offending children; to give the board’s views to the courts on special care applications; to arrange and take part in seminars and conferences to promote agency co-ordination and the use of best practice; to collect, maintain, research and evaluate statistics and other data relating to children, to inform policy; and to ensure that a co-ordinated approach is adopted in the development and provision of the necessary programmes, physical infrastructure and training of staff in the units.

The membership of the board is set out in section 230 of the Children Act 2001 and consists of the chair and 12 other members. In accordance with the Act, the membership of the board is comprised of: three representatives of the children detention schools, nominated by the Minister for Education and Science; three representatives of the Health Service Executive; three experts in child care; three experts in the educational needs of detained children, nominated by the Minister for Education and Science, of whom one shall be a member of the school attendance service; and a probation and welfare officer nominated by the principal probation and welfare officer.

The term of office of the chairperson and other members of the board shall not be for more than four years, and each member shall be eligible for re-appointment. The board members of the Special Residential Services Board are not remunerated. In accordance with section 234 of the Act, the chairperson receives an annual stipend of €10,157.90, payment of which was approved by my Department. That stipend is paid in accordance with the provisions of the code of practice for the governance of State bodies.

The children detained in children detention schools are the responsibility of the Department of Education and Science, and the children detained in special care units are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. The Special Residential Services Board is not directly responsible for the provision of beds in special residential care, but the board monitors the level of provision and use of 114 beds in children detention schools and 30 beds in special care units to advise the Ministers on policy, with a view to co-ordination, and to inform best practice.

The care staff employed in special residential care are not the direct responsibility of the Special Residential Services Board, but the board has a role in ensuring a co-ordinated approach to the training of the staff of children detention schools and special care units.

Community Pharmacy Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

245 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if stocks of the vitamin B12 injection have been replenished and distributed to areas in need of same; the reason for the delay; and if she will ensure that such shortages do not occur again. [30139/05]

The manufacturers of the product referred to by the Deputy have advised my Department that, owing to problems in the manufacturing process, it is temporarily unavailable in either Ireland or the UK.

I have had inquiries made into the matter, and I understand that there is an alternative product available in community pharmacies for people prescribed the original product.

Children in Care.

Richard Bruton

Question:

246 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children catered for residentially in a centre (details supplied) in County Dublin since its establishment; the number of children residing there at present; the number of staff employed and personnel costs each year to date since its establishment; the ratio of staff to children; the running costs of the building each year since its establishment; and the capital investment involved in its building. [30145/05]

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

Richard Bruton

Question:

247 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children that have been catered for residentially in the Wexford high-support unit since its establishment; the number of children currently in residence; the number of staff employed there at present; the staff costs each year since establishment; the running costs each year since establishment; and the capital investment involved in its building. [30146/05]

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

Richard Bruton

Question:

248 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children catered for by the State in each high-support unit around the country since 1998 to date; the number of children able to be catered for residentially in each unit since 1998; the ratio of carers to children since 1998; the average cost of running each unit each year since 1998; and the capital investment involved in each unit. [30148/05]

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

Richard Bruton

Question:

249 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when Coovagh House will be reopened; the reason for its closure; the number of children it has catered for residentially; the running costs of the building each year since its establishment; and the capital investment involved in its building. [30149/05]

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

Consultancy Contracts.

Richard Bruton

Question:

250 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the guidelines in place for the commissioning of outside expertise in the consultancy and public relations fields; and if ministerial approval is required for expenditure on such commissions. [30153/05]

My Department applies stringent controls regarding the employment of external consultancy assistance. Under existing procedures, a business case must be prepared to support the need for the consultancy and approved at either principal officer or MAC level, as appropriate. Funding to support the procurement, which can be project-specific or from the Department's administrative budget, must be identified and approved before any commitment is made. The procurement of all consultancies must comply with public procurement law and meet requirements under both national guidelines and European rules. Once awarded, each procurement contract must be managed in accordance with the Department's best practice.

In addition to measures recently announced by the Government to ensure the appropriate use of consultancy assistance across the Civil Service, I have also now introduced additional procedures in my Department to ensure that the business cases for all such contracts receive my approval.

Richard Bruton

Question:

251 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the percentage of reports, consultancies and cases from external commissions where the issue of poor value for money was highlighted in her Department from 1998 to date in 2005. [30168/05]

The information requested is being collated by my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

252 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a medical report is available in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the Health Service Executive will provide the home aids required in this case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30201/05]

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

Grant Payments.

John McGuinness

Question:

253 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a medical officer’s report will be expedited in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who have made an application under the disabled person’s grant scheme. [30202/05]

The preparation of medical reports at the request of local authorities in respect of applicants for the disabled person's grant is a service provided by the Health Service Executive from within existing resources. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Tom Hayes

Question:

254 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary who has had a request for additional home help hours rejected. [30224/05]

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

Homeless Persons.

Seán Haughey

Question:

255 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide funding for the provision of emergency hostel accommodation for psychiatric patients; her policy regarding this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30226/05]

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

Health Service Executive.

Mary Upton

Question:

256 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that it has taken the regional chief executive of the Eastern Health Board until 30 September 2005 to answer Parliamentary Question No. 203 of 20 October 2004 (details supplied), which she told Dáil Éireann on 20 October 2004 she was referring to the regional chief executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30231/05]

The Department is working closely with the Health Service Executive to develop a parliamentary affairs division under the chief executive to distribute parliamentary questions and to track them within the HSE to the point of reply. The HSE's parliamentary affairs division commenced operations at the beginning of last April. It is intended that these new arrangements will enhance performance in providing timely replies to Oireachtas Members in future.

The executive has informed me that it wishes to convey its apologies for the delay in responding in the case referred to by the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

257 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the estimated cost of the extension of the full medical card to all persons here under 18. [30240/05]

On the basis of the figures contained in the 2004 annual report of the former General Medical Services (Payments) Board, which is now the Health Service Executive, shared services, primary care reimbursement service, it is estimated that the additional cost involved if medical cards were provided to all those aged under 18 would be approximately €223 million. That estimate is calculated with reference to the average annual capitation fees paid to general practitioners and the average costs of drugs and medicines and fees paid to pharmacists for patients in that age cohort at the end of 2004. It also includes an estimate of other costs such as practice support, superannuation and other allowances payable to GPs.

The estimate does not take into account any fee increases which would apply under the terms of the Labour Relations Commission's recommendations of 20 June 2005 or any additional costs that might result from future industrial relations negotiations.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

258 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the estimated cost of the extension of the general practitioner-only medical card to all persons here under 18. [30241/05]

On the basis of the figures contained in the 2004 annual report of the former General Medical Services (Payments) Board, which is now the Health Services Executive, shared services, primary care reimbursement service, it is estimated that the additional cost involved if GP visit cards were provided to all those under 18 years would be approximately €150 million. That estimate is calculated with reference to the average annual capitation fees paid to general practitioners and includes an estimate of other costs such as practice support, superannuation and other allowances payable to GPs.

The estimate does not take into account any fee increases which would apply under the terms of the Labour Relations Commission's recommendations of 20 June 2005 or any additional costs that might result from future industrial relations negotiations.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

259 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in County Dublin regarding medical expenses and other issues relating to that person’s disability. [30246/05]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

260 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the different waiting times for persons waiting for psychotherapy, counselling or associated services throughout the country will be published; and if she will differentiate between those awaiting adolescent and child services. [30250/05]

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

Consultancy Contracts.

Richard Bruton

Question:

261 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Government is considering any legal action against the consultants on the PPARS project to recover lost money; if she has seen the contracts for engaging the consultants; and if she has sought legal advice on the potential for enforcing penalty or performance clauses within that contract. [30256/05]

The management of PPARS contractual relationships is a matter for the Health Service Executive, HSE.

As the Deputy is aware, the HSE, at its board meeting on 6 October 2005, decided to put on hold the further roll-out of PPARS in the HSE west, south, south east, east and north east pending a review. That review is currently under way, and my Department and the Department of Finance are represented on the review group.

Following that decision, the HSE sought and received legal advice on the management of its contractual relationships. That advice recommended that the contract be suspended, as provided for in the contract, and arrangements have been made to give effect to that decision by the HSE, pending the review.

My Department and the Department of Finance will be considering the outcome of that review as soon as it becomes available. The Deputy will be aware that the Government has decided on a new system for the management and control of major IT projects and on new measures to improve the management of consultants.

Health Service Executive.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

262 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if payments over and above salaries have been made to members of senior management of the former health boards who took up positions in the Health Service Executive; the individual payments and the cost; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30262/05]

In addition to their salaries, staff may be eligible to receive payments such as travel and subsistence payments, performance-related awards and the like. I am not aware of any payments to senior management staff in the former health boards who took up positions in the Health Service Executive that are not in accordance with their agreed terms and conditions. If the Deputy has incidents in mind, he might let me have the details, and I will contact the chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive on the matter.

Inquiry Terms of Reference.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

263 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the terms of reference of the inquiry into the death of Mr. Patrick Walsh in Monaghan General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30263/05]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

289 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the terms of reference provided by a person (details supplied) for the carrying out of their inquiry into the circumstances of, and that led to, the tragic death of Mr. Patrick Walsh in Monaghan General Hospital on 14 October 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30613/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 263 and 289 together.

Following the tragic death of Mr. Patrick Walsh in Monaghan General Hospital on 14 October 2005, the Health Service Executive commissioned Mr. Patrick Declan Carey, a consultant surgeon at Belfast City Hospital, and an honorary senior lecturer at Queen's University, to carry out an independent and external review. The review is to be completed, and a report issued, within eight weeks. My Department is advised by the executive that the terms of reference are being finalised.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

264 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason no reply has issued from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 81 of 29 September 2005; and if a full and detailed reply will be issued. [30269/05]

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive has now written to the Deputy concerning the issue raised.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Liz McManus

Question:

265 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received a copy of the report by the Construction Workers’ Health Trust, Patterns of Ill-Health in Irish Construction Workers; her views on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30272/05]

I have reviewed the report referred to by the Deputy.

A settings approach to health promotion is internationally recognised, and the Health Promotion Strategy 2000-2005 identifies the workplace as an important setting for the development of health promotion programmes.

In recognition of the importance of the workplace setting, the health promotion unit of my Department has supported the appointment of regional workplace co-ordinators in the former health boards. Those co-ordinators are building alliances with all stakeholders to ensure that workplace health promotion programmes are developed and sustained.

The health promotion unit has also provided direct grant aid to the Construction Employees' Health Trust in support of many of the activities of that organisation.

Health Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

266 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the length of time that children in primary schools have to wait before obtaining the dental check from the Health Service Executive; the number of checks carried out in each year over the past five years; if the waiting time is the same throughout all parts of the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30279/05]

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

Accident and Emergency Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

267 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 257 of 8 July 2004, she will provide the corresponding figures from April 2005 to date; and if she will provide the specific dates from January 2003 to date in 2005 on which the Mater and Beaumont Hospitals went off-call for part of or for a whole day. [30282/05]

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.

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

268 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when orthodontic treatment will be rendered to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [30306/05]

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 Drugs Strategy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

269 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will implement the recommendations in the report of the Joint Committee on Arts, Sports, Tourism and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in the treatment of cocaine addiction, with particular reference to the Irish experience. [29918/05]

This report makes a number of recommendations including the funding and expansion of treatment services for cocaine users. The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the HSE has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Health Service Executive to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

In addition, the report makes recommendations in relation to the development of media information campaigns to underpin the wide variety of drug education and prevention work being undertaken. The health promotion unit of the Department, in fulfilling its obligations under the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, has developed and managed the national drugs awareness campaign over the past three years. The campaign aims to increase awareness among the general population and particular target groups about current problem drug use and its consequences across society. To date the campaign has developed four distinct phases, consisting of both advertising and public relations, which have targeted the general population, parents, 18-35 year olds and teenagers. The report also highlights the importance of drugs education from an early age, in conjunction with awareness raising campaigns.

In Ireland drugs education is delivered in schools through the social, personal and health education, SPHE, curriculum. Both my Department and the Department of Education and Science support the introduction and implementation of this curriculum area in schools. Since September 2003, SPHE has been mainstreamed in all primary and post-primary schools, for junior cycle students. A management committee is currently working on the development of an SPHE curriculum for senior cycle students.

Action 43 of the National Drugs Strategy also called for all schools to develop, through a process of consultation and partnership, a school substance use policy. To facilitate this process my Department, the Department of Education and Science and the HSE health areas have produced guidelines for schools to assist in developing policies. These have been circulated to all schools and highlight the importance of SPHE as the core preventative strategy for schools.

Immune Deficiency Disorders.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

270 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her policy on the care of cystic fibrosis patients; the steps she will take to ensure they are adequately segregated in hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30328/05]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

271 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her policy proposals to address the fact that the average age of death of cystic fibrosis patients here is 21 compared to 30 in Northern Ireland and 45 in the United States; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30329/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 270 and 271 together.

Following the publication of the Pollock Report, commissioned by the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland, the Health Service Executive established a multidisciplinary working group to review the current configuration and delivery of services to persons with cystic fibrosis in Ireland. The working group is also to make recommendations for the reconfiguration, improvement and development of those services. I understand that the work is at an advanced stage.

The provision of additional resources for the development of services for persons with cystic fibrosis will be considered in the light of the group's recommendations. I have arranged to meet with representatives of the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland later this week to discuss the future needs of persons with cystic fibrosis.

Nursing Homes.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

272 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the nursing homes that the Health Service Executive had contracts of care with for each of the years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and to date; if those nursing homes received adverse reports from the nursing home inspectorate; if such adverse reports were issued; the action taken by the Health Service Executive; if patients were removed from these homes which had adverse reports; if not the reason therefore; the number of contract beds in each nursing home; the number of beds in total in each home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30485/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

273 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the medical condition of patients moved from public health institutions including psychiatric institutions to Leas Cross Nursing Home for each year since 2000; if they were satisfied that Leas Cross Nursing Home had at all times suitably qualified professional staff in the medical, nursing and psychiatric areas to deal with these medical conditions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30486/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

274 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if contracts of care were signed and available in relation to all Health Service Executive contract beds in private nursing homes for each year since 2000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30487/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

275 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the qualifications of each of the nurses employed in Leas Cross Nursing Home for each of the years 2003, 2004 and 2005, if the nurses had specialist nursing qualifications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30488/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

276 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the qualifications of each of the nurses employed in Bedford Nursing Home for each of the years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and to date in 2005; if the nurses had specialist nursing and psychiatric qualifications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30489/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

277 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the examination of deaths in Leas Cross Nursing Home; the number of deaths which are being examined; if a report has been completed; if she has received the report; if she will publish the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30490/05]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

278 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if seven patients died in Leas Cross Nursing Home within one month of their arrival from St. Ita’s, Portrane; if this case is being investigated; if a report has been completed; if she has received the report; if she will publish the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30491/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 277 and 278 together.

The Health Service Executive has advised that it has appointed a professor of geriatric medicine to independently review the deaths of residents of Leas Cross Nursing Home. The review commenced on 1 September 2005 and involves 95 deaths. It is not possible at this stage to mention the previous accommodation of the persons whose deaths are being examined. The HSE has advised that it is expected that the review will be finished by the end of December 2005.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

279 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has carried out investigations into deaths in nursing homes for each year since 2000 to date; the number of investigations being carried out and the health regions within which they are taking place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30492/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

280 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will publish the Hynes report; when it will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30493/05]

The Tánaiste wishes the report to be published. I understand from the Health Service Executive that it hopes to be in a position to make the report available in early November, 2005.

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

281 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when physiotherapy will be administered to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [30494/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Perry

Question:

282 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) will be admitted to Beaumont Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30497/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure.

John Deasy

Question:

283 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount which has been spent by her Department in bringing into effect the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003. [30524/05]

This Department does not separately account for expenditure related to the Official Languages Act and so the information sought is not directly available. However, information on translation and advertising costs, excluding VAT, currently to hand is as follows: costs to 30 June 2005 —€54,680; estimated costs for July to December 2005 —€128,000.

The provision in my Department's administrative budget is expected to be sufficient to meet any needs arising in the current year.

Health Services.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

284 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of music therapists working under the Health Service Executive. [30542/05]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

285 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of vacancies within the Health Service Executive for music therapists. [30543/05]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

286 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the use of music therapy is important to the treatment of both paediatric and geriatric patients in view of international research on this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30544/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 284 to 286, inclusive, together.

Both the Department and the Health Service Executive support the use of music therapy in the treatment of paediatric and geriatric patients and recognise the positive benefits for patients when music therapy is used in their treatment.

As regards the number of music therapists working in the HSE, this is a matter for the executive and my Department has requested its parliamentary affairs division to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Research.

Denis Naughten

Question:

287 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding allocated by her for research on breast cancer for each year from 2000 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30556/05]

Denis Naughten

Question:

288 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding allocated by her for research on prostate cancer for each year from 2000 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30557/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 287 and 288 together.

Since 1997, there has been an additional cumulative investment of €720 million in the development of cancer services nationally, including the sum of €23.5 million which was made available in 2005. The Health Research Board, HRB, is the statutory body that promotes, conducts, funds and commissions medical, epidemiological and health services research in Ireland. The HRB has advised my Department that since 2000, funding of approximately €1.76 million has been made available for research into breast cancer and €0.35 million for research into prostate cancer.

Under the Ireland-Northern Ireland-National Cancer Institute consortium, an all-island infrastructure to co-ordinate the clinical trial activity of hospitals on both sides of the Border is being developed. Since 2001, awards to the value of €3.6 million have been made available through the HRB to support this initiative in nine hospitals throughout the country.

The predominant disease area of the cancer clinical trial community in this country is breast and prostate. The HRB estimates that approximately 90% of this funding has been spent on the development of clinical trials in breast and prostate cancer. In addition, a grant of €0.32 million was made available to the Irish Cancer Society in 2002 to support the study of prostate cancer, including diagnosis.

The National Cancer Forum is currently finalising a new national cancer strategy. The strategy will make recommendations on the development of a specific plan for cancer research and will be completed by the end of the year.

Question No. 289 answered with QuestionNo. 263.

Hospital Procedures.

Tony Gregory

Question:

290 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 387 of 5 October 2004, his views on the reason the reply received from the Rotunda Hospital to the referenced question contained inaccurate and misleading information; the further reason the persons concerned were obliged to have the reply amended by means of an application made under the Freedom of Information Act 1997; in view of that and the information sought by the persons in relation to the parliamentary question, the reason the persons were refused treatment on 27 February 2002 and again on 20 April 2003; and if arrangements will be made to facilitate the correction of inaccuracies in the person’s medical record without requiring them to go through the freedom of information process. [30615/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the provision of services at a private clinic attached to the Rotunda Hospital. My Department requested the former Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA, to investigate issues relating to the case which had been raised by the Deputy. As the functions of the ERHA have since transferred to the Health Service Executive my Department has now requested its parliamentary affairs division to arrange to have the matter further examined, and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

291 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who have been treated for injuries as a result of fireworks during the nine years since 1996; the breakdown of the figures in terms of age profile; the county origins of the persons injured and the types of injuries sustained. [30617/05]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tables. Data are derived from the hospital inpatient enquiry, HIPE, system which records information on each episode of hospitalisation in publicly funded acute hospitals. The primary aim of HIPE is to provide measures of hospital activity for specific diagnostic and procedure categories. There is provision in HIPE for coding of underlying external causes of types of injuries, such as fireworks, but this information may not always be available to the coder and significant under-reporting is therefore possible. National statistics are not available on injuries from fireworks which do not result in hospitalisation.

Table 1 provides figures for each year from 1996 to 2004 and separately for Dublin residents and the rest of the country. Numbers of cases are too small to provide a breakdown by individual county of residence. Table 2 shows an age and gender breakdown for all years combined. Nearly 70% of injuries are to males under the age of 20. Table 3, again for all years combined, indicates the principal types of injuries sustained. More than 40% of all principal diagnoses are burn injuries.

Table 1 Hospitalisations due to Accidents involving Fireworks.

Year

Area of Residence

Dublin

Rest of Ireland

Total

1996

16

11

27

1997

1

5

6

1998

4

6

10

1999

1

2

3

2000

4

7

11

2001

13

9

22

2002

6

3

9

2003

14

12

26

2004

12

11

23

Total Cases 1996-2004

71

66

137

Table 2

All Hospitalisations due to Accidents involving Fireworks 1996-2004 by Age Group & Gender.

Age Group

Males

Females

Total

0-9 Years

21

3

24

10-19 Years

74

10

84

20-29 Years

11

3

14

30+ Years

13

2

15

All Ages

119

18

137

Table 3

Types of Injuries from Fireworks, 1996 to 2004

Injury

Number

Burns of Face / Neck / Head

23

Burns of Wrist / Hand

21

Burns of Eye & Adnexa

8

All Other Burns

8

Open Wound of Upper Limb

24

Open Wound of Head, Neck & Trunk

11

Fractures

8

Contusion with Intact Skin Surface

13

Other Injuries

21

Total

137

Source: Hospital inpatient enquiry, HIPE, 1996-2004

Notes: Data refer to patients with a diagnosis of ICD-9-CM E923.0 — accidents caused by fireworks). Types of injuries refer to the principal diagnosis only.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

292 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be offered category one orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30622/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Enda Kenny

Question:

293 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when BreastCheck will be available in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30656/05]

BreastCheck, the national breast screening programme, commenced in 2000 and currently covers the eastern, north eastern, midland and part of the south eastern regions of the country. There are approximately 160,000 in the target age group in these regions.

The roll out of the national breast screening programme to the remaining regions in the country is a major priority in the development of cancer services. A design team has been appointed to work up detailed plans for two new clinical units, one at the South Infirmary, Victoria Hospital, Cork and one at University College Hospital, Galway. It is anticipated that, subject to obtaining satisfactory planning approval, the design process including the preparation of the tender documentation will be completed by mid 2006. Approximately €21 million capital funding has been made available and my Department is in discussions with BreastCheck as regards the revenue requirements for the programme.

There are approximately 130,000 women in the target population for screening in the southern and western regions including approximately 9,000 in County Mayo. It is expected that screening will commence in these regions in 2007. This will ensure that all women in the 50 to 64 age group in every county have access to breast screening and follow up treatment where appropriate. Any woman, irrespective of her age or residence, who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.

Consultancy Contracts.

Enda Kenny

Question:

294 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the name and location of each recruitment agency employed in recruiting personnel for the PPARS programme; the number recruited by each such agency to this project; the amount drawn down by each such agency for persons employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30657/05]

I understand from the Health Service Executive that specialised skills were required for this project. Efforts were made to recruit Irish staff on the payroll in the first instance. This did not prove successful. The project team then sought to secure these skills from Irish-based recruitment firms, and while there was limited success it became necessary to source resources further afield; the UK market enabled the deficit to be filled.

The following is the information I received from the Health Service Executive.

Name of recruitment firm

Location

Number recruited

Total amount drawn including VAT

Access Consulting

England

1

7,394.96

Ark International Recruitment

England

1

478,139.98

Blackmore Group Assets Ltd.

England

7

1,968,982.10

Computer Futures Solutions

Ireland

3

62,920.00

Diagonal Consulting Ltd.

England

1

277,245.99

Divine Solutions (UK) Ltd.

England

1

191,358.00

EDS Ireland Ltd.

Ireland

1

115,809.65

File Travel Overseas Ltd.

England

1

15,730.00

Fusion Business Solutions

Ireland

5

1,183,245.15

Global Resourcing

England

1

638,257.93

MSB International PLC

England

2

1,379,668.23

Portland Resourcing Ltd.

England

1

426,644.11

Williams McKinley

England

1

63,222.44

Square One Resources Ltd.

England

2

86,774.00

6,895,392.54

Note: Recruited Resources worked for varying durations between January 1999 and September 30th 2005.

Enda Kenny

Question:

295 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of international personnel recruited for work on the PPARS project since its inception; if any international personnel were required to travel to Ireland on a regular basis to deal with their work; if so, the details of destination, frequency of travel, cost and so on in each case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30658/05]

The following is the information I have received from the Health Service Executive.

Name of recruitment firm

Number of international personnel

Resource nationality (see Note 1)

Travel paid

Comment

Access Consulting

1

UK

Yes

Short term assignment. Flight from UK.

Ark International Recruitment

1

New Zealand

No

Blackmore Group Assets Ltd.

7

UK, South Africa, Australia

No

Computer Futures Solutions

1

UK

No

Diagonal Consulting Ltd.

1

UK

No

Divine Solutions (UK) Ltd.

1

UK

No

File Travel Overseas Ltd.

1

South Africa

No

Global Resourcing

1

South Africa

No

MSB International PLC

2

UK, South Africa

No

Portland Resourcing Ltd.

1

UK

No

Williams McKinley

1

UK

Yes

Weekly return flight to UK.

Square One Resources Ltd.

2

UK

Yes for one individual

Weekly return flight to UK.

Note 1: Resources were sourced through Irish or UK Recruitment offices with project base agreed as Sligo. The nationality of individuals was not relevant to the contract and is not formally known. Bids from recruitment agencies were to perform work in Sligo.

Ambulance Service.

James Breen

Question:

296 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if funding will be provided to ensure that east Clare will have 24 hour ambulance cover; if the embargo on recruitment will be lifted to enable the Health Service Executive employ the personnel for this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30659/05]

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. The 2005 employment ceiling for the health service is 97,550 in whole time equivalent terms. Within this national ceiling, there is no specific cap on the number of ambulance personnel which may be employed. It is a matter for the Health Service Executive, as part of its management of its employment ceiling, to determine the appropriate staffing mix required to deliver their service plan priorities. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Proposed Legislation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

297 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the agreed heads of Bill for the Adoption (Hague Convention, Adoption Authority and Miscellaneous) Bill scheduled for publication in mid-2006. [30660/05]

The heads of Bill on the Adoption (Hague Convention, Adoption Authority and Miscellaneous) Bill are currently being drafted into a Bill in the Parliamentary Counsel's Office. I hope that the Bill will be published in the earlier part of 2006 and will be circulated then.

Injury Benefit.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

298 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a statutory increase on injury benefit has not been awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30731/05]

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 HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

National Children’s Strategy.

David Stanton

Question:

299 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the national children’s research dissemination unit has been established; if so, the work of the unit to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30734/05]

The national children's strategy, Our Children — Their Lives, was published in the year 2000. The second goal of the national children's strategy is concerned with strengthening research, evaluation and information on children's lives. The national children's office, or NCO, oversees important elements of the research programme to be developed under this goal. One of the commitments contained in the strategy is the establishment of the national children's research dissemination unit. The dissemination unit has not yet been established. However, there have been several important developments in the area of children's research in which the NCO has been taking a lead role.

Developments to date include the establishment of the national children's strategy research scholarship scheme in 2001 to develop research capacity regarding children and supporting research directly related to the national children's strategy. To date 17 scholarships have been awarded. In 2004, the national children's strategy research scholarship scheme was extended to include research placement awards. This gives students the opportunity to work with the research division at the national children's office. To date five research placements have been awarded. Other developments include the launch of the national children's office research programme in 2004. Under this programme, a total of ten research projects have been funded. These research studies are due for completion over the course of 2005 and their findings will be widely disseminated. Researchers in the NCO have developed a national set of child well-being indicators in consultation with a number of key stakeholders, including policy-makers, researchers, service providers, parents and children themselves.

The process of developing this indicator set included four major components, which are a background review of indicator sets in use elsewhere and the compilation of an inventory of key indicators, domains and indicator selection criteria; a feasibility study of the availability of national statistics to construct the indicators identified in the previous step; a study on children's understandings of well-being; and a research-based consensus process known as the Delphi technique, through which the final set of indicators were identified and agreed with a panel of experts. Agreement has been reached in respect of 42 key indicators that will be used initially. This report and related documents were published in June 2005. Work has commenced on the preparation of the state of the nation's children report based on these indicators. It is anticipated that the first report will be published early in 2006. A national longitudinal study of children in Ireland has been commissioned. This study has been put out to tender using a negotiated procedure. Following a period of clarification and negotiation, the evaluation took place on 2 June 2005 and a preferred bidder has been identified. It is hoped to award the contract for this study by the end of 2005.

Hospital Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

300 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the length of time the x-ray machine at Baltinglass Hospital, County Wicklow has been unworkable; when it will be in operation again; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30743/05]

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.

National Children’s Strategy.

David Stanton

Question:

301 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the nation’s children reports that have been produced as promised under the National Children’s Strategy launched in 1990; the publication date of the next such report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30747/05]

The national children's strategy, Our Children — Their Lives, was published in 2000. The strategy, rooted in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, is a cross-Government response to improving children's lives and was developed with the assistance of NGOs and academics. Ireland is one of the few countries in the world with such a strategy. The national children's office, NCO, was set up to drive implementation of the strategy and to ensure better co-ordination of services for children. The NCO has become a centre of excellence in children and young people's participation and children's research, the two areas for which it has lead responsibility. It has also been innovative in developing policies that meet the needs of children and in finding solutions where better co-ordination is required.

One of the commitments in the strategy is the production of a state of the nation's children report biannually under the aegis of the Minister of State with responsibility for children. The research team within the NCO have been actively advancing the development of the report. To date, work has focused on the development of an agreed set of national child well-being indicators, which were published in June 2005. A multi-stage incremental approach was taken to the development indicator set and there were four main components. These included a background review of indicators sets in use elsewhere and the compilation of an inventory of key indicators, domains and indicator selection criteria; a feasibility study of the availability of national statistics to construct the indicators identified in the previous step; a study on children's understandings of well-being; and a consensus process referred to as a Delphi technique, where participants on a panel of expertise agreed indicators for use in the Irish context. A full set of the published documents will be made available to the Deputy. Work has commenced on the first state of the nation's report based on these indicators. It is anticipated that the report will be published early in 2006.

Annual progress reports on the national children's strategy are compiled by the National Children's Office on the basis of detailed returns submitted by Departments against each of the actions in the strategy. These reports show the progress that has been made against each action. A copy of the 2002, 2003 and 2004 reports are available on the NCO website at www.nco.ie.

Hospital Services.

John Perry

Question:

302 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) will be called for treatment to St. Vincent’s Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30761/05]

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.

John Perry

Question:

303 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will be called for their hip operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30762/05]

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.

John Perry

Question:

304 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 204 of 20 October 2004 if a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will be called for their operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30763/05]

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.

Tax Code.

Sean Fleming

Question:

305 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Finance if there are exemptions to the vehicle registration tax imposed on persons who bring in second hand cars from the United Kingdom to here especially where such a car was a present from a family member to an elderly parent; and if an exemption can be made to vehicle registration tax for persons in these situations. [30031/05]

Exemptions from the payment of vehicle registration tax are provided for in sections 134, permanent relief, and 135, temporary exemption, of the Finance Act 1992. Typical examples of permanent relief, subject to certain criteria, from the payment of VRT are where the vehicle forms part of the assets of a transfer of residence to the State; where the vehicle is acquired by way of inheritance; or where the vehicle is supplied under diplomatic or consular arrangements. Temporary exemption, subject to certain criteria, is available to individuals with domestic ties outside the State who bring the vehicle into the State for private or business use. The Revenue Commissioners confirm that where a vehicle, from the UK or elsewhere outside the State, is transferred from a family member to a parent by way of a gift, normal rates of VRT apply on the registration of such vehicle in the State.

Ordnance Survey Office.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

306 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance if the Ordnance Survey Office has plans to provide contour maps for existing and proposed new urban areas at a scale of 1:5,000 in order that persons be better informed regarding the potential for flooding in these areas. [30457/05]

I am informed by Ordnance Survey Ireland that the mapping series in the scale of 1:1,000 and 1:5,000 does not include contouring. However, Ordnance Survey Ireland is in the initial phases of obtaining ground height details in respect of certain urban areas on a test basis. The information contained in this height model could, with additional relevant data assembled by public authorities and others, such as the collection and interpretation of water flow and related information, be of some assistance to those concerned.

Ferry Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

307 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the nature of discussions and reports received regarding the provision of a ferry service from Dingle and Dunquin to the Blasket Island; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30471/05]

The two documents which inform the basis for the future management of the island, including the provision of ferry services, are the forum report dated January 2002 and the Great Blasket Island management plan, completed in September 2004, which was drawn up on foot of the recommendations of the forum report following consultation with the property owners on the island.

Tax Code.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

308 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance his plans to review the definitions of commercial vans for tax purposes in view of the dangers caused to drivers and occupants of such vehicles by the blind spots created by the insertion of blank infill panels into the rear side windows of ordinary cars or vans to achieve their tax designation as commercial. [30610/05]

For the purposes of vehicle registration tax, vehicles are classified broadly into three categories. Category A is for motor vehicles designed for the transport of a driver and passengers. Category B is for car derived vans, small crew cabs and small motor caravans. Category C is for commercial vehicles, large crew cabs and pick-ups. In addition, VRT law states that any vehicle which is under three tonnes unladen weight and which has to the rear of the driver's seat, inter alia, a roofed area which is fitted with one or more side windows is considered to be a category A vehicle. The purpose of this aspect of the law is to prevent the substitution of such vehicles for private motors, category A, for the purpose of avoiding VRT.

The rates in categories B and C are, as a matter of policy, reduced because the main purpose of such vehicles generally involves carrying goods rather than passengers. The Revenue Commissioners advise that their experience in categorising vehicles suggests that in practice the vast majority of vehicles in the B and C categories are in fact manufactured without side windows to maximise the cargo carrying capacity and, also, for security reasons, so as to prevent the contents of the cargo areas being visible in the first instance and perhaps accessible to thieves.

I appreciate the concerns raised by the Deputy with respect to road safety but I am not aware of examples or instances where tax categorisation has caused particular problems with respect to road safety. Should I be made aware of such examples or instances, I will ensure this issue is investigated.

Decentralisation Programme.

Seamus Healy

Question:

309 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding decentralisation of part of his Department to Tipperary town; if he has received the contract for the purchase of a site for this purpose; if so, when he received same; if he has signed the contract; and if not, when he proposes to do so. [30667/05]

As part of the Government decentralisation programme it is planned to decentralise 186 staff in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to Tipperary town. The Commissioners of Public Works have informed me that terms have been agreed on a suitable site. The contract for sale was received in July 2005 and is currently being processed by the Chief State Solicitor. The commissioners hope to be in a position to sign the contract in the near future.

Tax Code.

Pat Carey

Question:

310 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 should pay tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30021/05]

The person concerned is in receipt of a pension from his former employer and an invalidity pension from the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Both pensions are taxable. His income for 2005 will be in the region of €34,000. As neither the person nor his wife are 65 years of age or over, at which point the exemption limit of €33,000 and the marginal relief system could apply, he is taxable in the normal way.

Financial Services Regulation.

Martin Ferris

Question:

311 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the overcharging of persons from non-eurozone states when they use their visa credit cards here and request that payment be taken in their own currency. [30045/05]

Responsibility for investigating complaints regarding credit card charges rests with the financial regulator.

My Department has been informed by the financial regulator that a small percentage of credit card sale terminals in the State offer a service which provides consumers from non-eurozone countries with the option of having their bill charged in their home currency at the time of purchase. This service is offered in accordance with the rules of the international card payment schemes. The rate of exchange applied to these transactions, if the customer avails of the option, is set each morning by reference to the then prevailing international rate of exchange. This exchange rate may not be as beneficial to the customer as that which would have been applied by the card company when charging the transaction to the card holder's account if the payment were made in euros. My Department was informed in 2004 of one case of the type of transaction referred to in the Deputy's question.

My Department understands that the financial regulator has received a small number of complaints from consumers from countries not in the eurozone relating to the use of their credit cards in the State. In this context, if the Deputy is aware of particular complaints from consumers, the financial regulator would welcome any specific details and will investigate the matter further.

State Property.

John Gormley

Question:

312 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance the reason no public consultation took place on the future of the veterinary college site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30047/05]

All property in the Commissioners of Public Works portfolio is constantly under review. To date the process has produced a number of properties surplus to requirement which have been disposed of in the open market. The veterinary college site at Shelbourne Road was vacated on 1 March 2005. The property was assessed in the light of the State requirements in Dublin. As the site was surplus to State requirements it was placed on the open market for sale.

Public Service Contracts.

John Gormley

Question:

313 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance the reason, despite giving an undertaking to this Deputy that work would be carried out on reinstating the car park on Leinster Lawn during the summer recess, no such work has taken place; when this work will commence. [30048/05]

Technical difficulties which delayed the preparation of tender documentation have now been resolved. A contract for the reinstatement works will be placed following the completion of a tender process which has begun.

Motor Fuels.

Richard Bruton

Question:

314 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the excise duty which applies to motor fuel based on bioethanol; the way in which this compares with the excise on petrol; and the further way in which the Irish differential in total tax paid on these competing fuels compares with other EU countries. [30080/05]

The rate of mineral oil tax on substitute fuel, such as bioethanol, for auto-use is 36.8 cents per litre, the same rate as for auto-diesel. The rate for unleaded petrol is 44.3 cents per litre. However, an exception applies where bioethanol is produced in the projects approved under an excise exemption scheme for biofuels, which was introduced in the Finance Act 2004, as a limited, pilot scheme. The purpose of the provision was to allow qualified and conditional relief from excise for biofuel used in approved pilot projects for either the production of biofuel or the testing of the technical viability of biofuel for use as a motor fuel. After obtaining the necessary State aid approval from the EU Commission, the scheme was subsequently advertised by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. Excise relief was granted to successful applicants to the scheme from August 2005 for a total of 16 million litres of fuel at a cost of €3 million per annum. The issue of putting a wider scheme of excise relief in place is under active consideration with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, which has primary responsibility for the promotion of biofuels in Ireland.

With respect to tax differentials between bioethanol and petrol in other EU countries, the situation varies greatly and different national tax regimes make country comparisons difficult. It appears that apart from Ireland, 12 member states have implemented, or are in the process of implementing, partial or full tax reliefs for biofuel, which would include bioethanol.

Richard Bruton

Question:

315 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the vehicle registration tax concessions which apply to cars adapted to use bioethanol or other fuels which offer lower CO2 emissions or renewable sources; his views on further restructuring of vehicle registration tax to promote the expansion of such vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30081/05]

There are currently no vehicle registration tax concessions available for cars in respect of any adaptation for the use of bioethanol or other fuels that offer lower CO2 emissions or renewable sources. There is a scheme which provides for a remission or repayment of 50% of VRT for certain hybrid electric vehicles, which was introduced in January 2001. This hybrid electric technology results in significantly lower pollutant emissions than conventional vehicles powered exclusively by internal combustion engines. The scheme was extended by the Finance Act 2005 for a further two years to 31 December 2006.

However, the purpose of that scheme was to encourage the new technology required to develop hybrid vehicles by encouraging the purchase of vehicles that use a combination of an internal combustion engine and an electric motor to derive motive power. The introduction of a hybrid-like VRT incentive for vehicles adaptable to biofuels may be problematic insofar as such cars may also run on petrol and diesel and some abuse of such a scheme is possible. Arguably, the promotion of biofuels, insofar as tax is concerned, might be best done within the excise relief scheme. Currently, there are a number of biofuels pilot projects where full excise relief is being applied. The issue of putting a wider scheme of excise relief in place is under active consideration with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

316 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if there are exemptions for full time farmers over 35 years of age paying stamp duty when a farm is transferred from their father, when the cost of this duty cannot be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30118/05]

There is no exemption from stamp duty on the transfer of a farm from a father to one of his children who is a full time farmer and who is over 35 years of age at the date of the transfer. The stamp duty code contains full stamp duty relief for transfers of land to young trained farmers under 35 years where land is transferred to them by way of gift or sale, provided they have attained relevant educational qualifications. This relief, which is considered generous, is intended to encourage the transfer of land to young farmers who have successfully undergone training.

Where a parent wishes to transfer agricultural land to a child where the child does not qualify for this young trained farmer relief, he or she can qualify for a 50% relief on the stamp duty otherwise chargeable, as the child of the person transferring the land. I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that there is no provision in the stamp duty code to take account of a taxpayer's personal circumstances or ability to pay where a liability to stamp duty is incurred.

Public Sector Recruitment.

Pat Breen

Question:

317 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he will lift the ban on public sector recruitment for health and ambulance personnel in the forthcoming budget in the interests of public safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30129/05]

There is no ban on public sector recruitment for health and ambulance personnel and recruitment continues within the limits set out by Government for the control of public service numbers generally. In implementing this policy, I want to avoid or minimise the effect on front line staff providing a service to the public and to ensure that essential services to the public are not affected. It is a matter for each Department and sector of the public service and relevant Minister to set priorities to give effect to this policy.

Consultancy Contracts.

Richard Bruton

Question:

318 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the guidelines in place for the commissioning of outside expertise in the consultancy and public relations fields; and if ministerial approval is required for approval of expenditure on such commissions. [30154/05]

In common with all public procurements, the commissioning of consultancy and public relations expertise is subject to national and EU procurement requirements. The guidelines in place specifically for the commissioning of consultancy and public relations expertise include the guidelines for the engagement of consultants published by my Department in March 1999 which cover all types of consultancy and since early this year the additional guidelines agreed by Government specifically for PR and communications consultancies which are now incorporated into the Cabinet handbook.

More recently, a number of new measures were announced which will contribute to improving the management and value for money aspects of consultancy projects. Approval of expenditure on consultancy projects is handled at the appropriate level within my Department depending on the scale and nature of the individual projects and I am kept informed as appropriate.

Richard Bruton

Question:

319 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the percentage of reports, consultancies and cases from external commissions where the issue of poor value for money was highlighted in his Department from 1998 to date in 2005. [30169/05]

I take it the intended scope of the question is the same as the Deputy's question of 28 June of this year which related to reports, consultancies or other advisory or public relations commissions awarded by my Department. The reply to that question, together with the reply to a similar question on 17 February 2004, lists all such commissions awarded by my Department from 1 January 1998 to 28 June 2005. There have been no further awards since 28 June.

My Department issues comprehensive guidelines concerning the engagement of consultants. The most recent were issued in 1999 and are entitled, Engaging Consultants: Guidelines for the Civil Service. The guidelines cover a range of topics relevant to the decision to commission external support or assistance. They stress that value-for-money considerations must be paramount when deciding whether to engage consultants, that projects should be strictly necessary and that consultants should only be engaged where specialised knowledge is not available internally, or in the wider Civil Service, or where independent advice is deemed essential, and that as far as possible skills are transferred to the civil servants involved. My Department complies with these guidelines and I am assured that my Department achieved value for money in its commissions from 1998 to date, the period covered by the Deputy's question.

Post Office Savings Bank.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

320 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the rate of interest on short-term and long-term deposits in the Post Office savings bank for each year since 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30196/05]

Three short-term deposit accounts are available through the Post Office savings bank, or POSB, which are the book-based demand deposit account, the 30 day notice account, known as ‘Deposit Account Plus', and the Special Savings Incentive Account. Details of the interest rates applying to these accounts since 1990 are set out in the following tables. Since the Deputy's question refers to long-term as well as short-term deposits, I am also including information about savings certificates, savings bonds and instalment savings which are longer-term small savings products but not actually POSB products. The changes in interest rates over the period 1990 to 2005 reflect changes in interest rates generally in the retail market.

POSB Demand Deposit Rates

A. 1990-1993

With effect from:

Rate (p.a.)

%

21/10/89

7.00

21/01/90

7.75

15/06/90

7.25

06/07/90

6.75

01/11/90

6.25

28/01/91

6.75

24/04/91

6.25

02/09/91

5.75

01/02/92

6.00

09/06/92

5.50

12/10/92

7.00

05/04/93

4.50

18/05/93

3.50

21/06/93

3.00

Note: Until 1 November 1993, there was one interest rate for POSB demand accounts irrespective of the amount on deposit.
Savings Certificates

With effect from:

Total return

Term

Rate (p.a.)

%

%

07/03/86

40

5 years

6.96

27/01/94

40

5 years & 9 months

6.00

14/02/96

34.5

5 years & 6 months

5.54

18/03/97

30

5 years & 6 months

4.89

05/05/98

25

5 years & 6 months

4.14

23/12/98

16

5 years & 6 months

2.74

Savings Bonds

With effect from:

Total return

Term

Rate (p.a.)

%

%

01/07/86

20.4

3 years

6.38

14/02/96

17

3 years

5.37

18/3/97

14

3 years

4.46

5/5/98

12

3 years

3.85

23/12/98

8

3 years

2.60

Instalment Savings

With effect from:

Total return

Term*

Rate (p.a.)

%

%

1/7/86

50

5 years

7.65

4/4/96

35

5 years

5.61

7/4/97

30

5 years

4.89

23/12/98

15

5 years

2.57

* Not including contribution period.
B. 1993-2005

With effect from:

Tiers

Rate (p.a.)

%

01/11/93

under £3,000

2.00

£3,000 and over

2.75

19/01/94

under £1,000

0.75

£1,000-£2,999

1.00

£3,000-£4,999

1.50

£5,000 and over

2.25

01/06/94

under £1,000

0.50

£1,000-£2,999

0.75

£3,000-£4,999

1.25

£5,000 and over

2.00

01/03/96

under £3,000

0.50

£3,000-£4,999

0.75

£5,000 and over

1.50

01/06/96

under £5,000

0.50

£5,000 and over

1.00

10/04/99

under £5,000

0.25

£5,000 and over

0.50

Euro Changeover

01/01/02

under €6,000

0.25

€6,000 and over

0.50

21/07/03

under €6,000

0.10

€6,000 and over

0.25

30 Day Notice POSB Accounts

With effect from:

Tiers

Rate (p.a.)

%

01/01/93

all accounts

7.00

05/04/93

under £1,000

4.50

£1,000-£2,999

5.50

£3,000-£4,999

7.00

£5,000 and over

9.00

18/05/93

under £5,000

7.00

£5,000 and over

9.00

01/07/93

under £5,000

7.00

£5,000 and over

8.00

02/01/93

under £5,000

6.00

£5,000 and over

7.00

09/02/94

under £5,000

5.00

£5,000 and over

6.00

01/03/96

under £5,000

4.00

£5,000-£24,999

5.00

£25,000-£39,999

5.50

£40,000 and over

5.75

01/06/94

under £5,000

3.50

£5,000-£24,999

4.50

£25,000-£39,999

4.75

£40,000 and over

5.00

10/04/99

under £40,000

2.00

£40,000 and over

2.50

Euro Changeover

01/01/02

under €50,000

2.00

€50,000 and over

2.50

21/07/03

under €30,000

1.00

€30,000 and over

1.50

Note: Introduced 1 January 1993
Special Savings Incentive Accounts (POSB)

With effect from:

Type

Rate (p.a.)

%

01/05/01

Fixed rate

4.00

Variable rate

4.00

01/03/03

Fixed rate

4.00

Variable rate

2.75

21/07/03

Fixed rate

4.00

Variable rate

2.00

Note: Introduced 1 May 2001

Tax Code.

Seán Crowe

Question:

321 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Finance the outcome of the car tax concessions review referred to in Parliamentary Question No. 106 of 2 June 2004; and his views on whether a person with autism who presents a danger to themselves and another person while being carried in a car due to an inability to remain still, and having outgrown a conventional baby seat, warrants the granting of car tax exemption in order to pay for the necessary adaptations. [30232/05]

A special interdepartmental review group reviewed the operation of the disabled drivers scheme. The terms of reference of the group were to examine the operation of the existing scheme, including the difficulties experienced by the various groups and individuals involved with it, both on an administrative and user level, and to consider the feasibility of alternative schemes, with a view to assisting the Minister for Finance in determining the future direction of the scheme.

The group's report, published on my Department's website in July 2004, sets out in detail the genesis and development of the scheme. It examines the current benefits, the qualifying medical criteria, the Exchequer costs, relationship with other schemes and similar schemes in other countries. The report also makes a number of recommendations, both immediate and long-term, encompassing the operation of the appeals process and options for the future development of the scheme.

Following on from the report's immediate recommendations concerning the appeals process, amendments to the regulations governing the scheme have been made by my predecessor, and subsequently by me, in April and again in September, to improve the operation of the appeals process. These amendments included providing for an expansion of the panel of medical practitioners serving on the medical board of appeal from three to 15 — this will substantially reduce the waiting time for appellants.

In respect of the long-term recommendations, given the scale and scope of the scheme, further changes can only be made after careful consideration. For this reason, the Government decided in June 2004 that the Minister for Finance will consider the recommendations in the report of the interdepartmental review group in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme. The Government is committed to supporting and reinforcing equal participation in society by people with disabilities. Disability was one of the priority areas in which I substantially increased investment in last year's budget.

National Lottery.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

322 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to a lottery spam purporting to emanate from lottery authorities in Dublin (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30305/05]

I am informed that An Post National Lottery Company has warned the public that it has come to its attention that some people have received correspondence by e-mail or letter purporting to come from the Irish National Lottery advising them that they have won a substantial amount of money. An Post National Lottery Company has pointed out that it never notifies prize winners in this manner and that to win and claim a prize in the Irish National Lottery, a person must be in possession of a prize-winning ticket. The National Lottery Company advises the public not to respond to such correspondence and has posted this warning on its website.

Tax Code.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

323 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance the reason the expenses related to the educational course, An Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cáilíochta an Ghaeilge do not attract tax relief; if he will examine this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30337/05]

Section 473A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, provides tax relief, at the standard rate of tax, for tuition fees paid in respect of approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including certain approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU member states and postgraduate courses in non-EU countries. Tax relief is not available on tuition fees paid in respect of the educational course, An Scrúdú le hAghaidh an Ghaeilge, as it does not qualify as an approved course and it is not undertaken in an approved college. The approval of colleges and courses is, in the first instance, a matter for the Minister for Education and Science.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

324 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance if he has examined the figures for the construction of one-off houses and compared such figures with the capital gains tax receipts on land that may have been transferred to facilitate such construction; and if so, if he has satisfied himself that there is no inconsistency between the figures. [30452/05]

Information on capital gains tax receipts arising on land transferred to facilitate construction of one-off houses is not available. The construction of one-off houses falls within the area of general housing policy and as such is primarily the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

325 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance if private waste contractors are obliged to charge value added tax on the provision of waste collection services; his views on whether contractors are complying with this requirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30453/05]

Private waste contractors are obliged to register and account for VAT on their supply of waste collection services where their turnover in any period of 12 consecutive months exceeds or is likely to exceed €25,500. The rate of VAT appropriate to the collection and disposal of waste is 13.5%. Private contractors engaged by local authorities to provide waste collection services in their areas are obliged to obtain tax clearance certificates annually from Revenue. This helps to ensure that such contractors are compliant with their VAT obligations.

There is no evidence to suggest that there is a general VAT compliance problem regarding the provision of waste collection services. However, waste contractors as with all other sectors are subject to Revenue's compliance and audit programmes, on a risk basis, and if the Deputy has evidence of non compliance, the Revenue Commissioners would be glad to have details about the matter.

National Development Plan.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

326 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance if the current or proposed new national development plans have been, or will be assessed under the guidelines for strategic environmental assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30454/05]

I assume the Deputy is referring to a strategic environmental assessment under the EU strategic environmental assessment directive (2001/42/EC).

In the case of the National Development Plan 2000-2006, the issue does not arise as the strategic environmental assessment directive only applies to a plan or programmes where the preparation was commenced on or after 21 July 2004. The next NDP, for 2007-2013, will be a financial plan. It is accordingly considered that it does not fall within the framework of the directive and it will not therefore be subject to a formal SEA.

The Government has, however, indicated that environmental sustainability will be a key horizontal objective of the investment strategy of the next NDP and consultation on this aspect with environmental interests will take place in the context of drafting the plan.

Departmental Expenditure.

John Deasy

Question:

327 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the amount which has been spent by his Department in bringing into effect the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003. [30525/05]

The main area of expenditure on the Irish language in my Department is through Gaeleagras na Seirbhíse Poiblí. Gaeleagras was established in the Department in 1971 with the general aim of promoting the Irish language throughout the Civil Service. Gaeleagras continues to make a significant contribution to the promotion and development of the use of Irish in the Civil Service including supporting the implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003. In anticipation of an increased level of activity in 2005, the allocation for Gaeleagras this year is €369,000, an increase of €119,000 over the 2004 allocation.

Gaeleagras expenditure since 2003.

2003

234,000

2004

238,000

2005

369,000(Estimated Outturn)

Outside Gaelagreas, work relating to implementing the Official Languages Act is spread across the Department and is undertaken in conjunction with officials' existing duties. It is therefore not possible to provide an overall cost for the implementation of the Act in the Department. However the additional costs incurred by the Department associated with using external translation and printing services etc. arising from the Act was in the order of €33,300 in 2004 and €8,670 to date in 2005.

Garda Stations.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

328 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if the sanctioning of the revised sketch scheme for the new Leixlip Garda station has been notified to him; and when the planning procedure will commence. [30733/05]

The Commissioners of Public Works are awaiting approval from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the revised sketch scheme for Leixlip Garda station. On receipt of approval, planning permission will be sought under the part 9 planning process.

Kyoto Protocol.

John Gormley

Question:

329 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in view of the necessity of Ireland complying with the targets set by the Kyoto Protocol, he will consider the introduction of grants to persons to convert to woodburning stoves, heat pumps, solar panels and other sustainable technologies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30046/05]

My Department continually reviews possibilities for incentivising the increased utilisation of cost effective energy efficient technologies. Sustainable Energy Ireland, which was established as a statutory agency in May 2002, implements a wide variety of programmes on energy efficiency and renewable energy on behalf of my Department. Any increase in funding required for these programmes would have budgetary implications and could only be considered in the light of the overall budgetary requirements of SEI and the level of funding available to my Department.

Under SEI's house of tomorrow research, development and demonstration programme, financial support is directed at encouraging developers of housing, both new-build and refurbishment, to incorporate design and technology features, which deliver significantly superior energy and CO2 performance. By targeting developers of schemes of houses, from the private or social housing sectors, the aim has been to establish over a number of years a nationwide network of accessible examples of more sustainable energy design and technology practices. With the accompaniment of other promotional measures by SEI, this is intended to encourage a sufficient degree of market replication, without subsidy, to elevate energy performance standards across the wider housing stock. This targeted approach is also designed to be an administratively efficient method for deployment of public moneys.

To date the programme has committed more than €7.5 million funding to 39 projects comprising a total 1,818 housing units, all featuring an integrated approach to energy supply and use that achieves performance of at least 20% better than current building regulations and in fact, in the majority of projects, 40% better. The range of sustainable energy technologies employed within these demonstration projects includes the following: condensing boilers in 236 homes, solar water heating in 344 homes, heat recovery ventilation in 176 homes, geothermal heating systems in 143 homes, and wood pellet boilers in 93 homes.

Some of the technologies mentioned by the Deputy can have a relatively quick pay back period in terms of efficiency gains and therefore direct subvention to the consumer for using such technologies may not be warranted.

Mobile Telephony.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

330 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the need for ready to go phones to be sold only on the presentation of a utility bill and proof of identity to ensure issues of traceability of these phones is attained and therefore security in their use in all circumstances will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30206/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 211 of 11 October 2005.

EU Directives.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

331 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the Government will support amendment No. 8 to recital 31, adopted by the European Parliament at its second reading on 15 September 2005, regarding closed mines and the responsibility the member states have to rehabilitate such sites (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30325/05]

The amendment to which the Deputy refers is one of 38 amendments adopted by the European Parliament. Not all were acceptable to the Commission or the Council and the conciliation process is, therefore, now in progress. Under these circumstances, it would not be appropriate to comment on either the Council's or the Irish position on individual amendments.

The Government recognises the need to address the rehabilitation of closed sites and has therefore decided to allocate €10.6 million for the remediation of the Silvermines site in County Tipperary, and €500,000 to produce integrated conceptual management and remediation plans for the former copper mines at Avoca, County Wicklow. In addition, the Environment Protection Agency, EPA, is carrying out a project, with my Department's assistance, to produce an inventory of all problem sites.

The need to prevent problems arising in the future from closed mines has been recognised and the three operating metal mines have all provided significant sureties which mean funding will be provided by the operators for their planned closure and aftercare.

Fisheries Protection.

Sean Fleming

Question:

332 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the nominee of the Trout Anglers Federation of Ireland, which has a membership of more than 20,000 trout and salmon anglers, will be appointed to a place on the National Salmon Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30024/05]

In exercise of the powers conferred on me by section 55A — inserted by section 22(1) of the Fisheries Act 1999 — of the Fisheries Act 1980, I included 34 organisations in the National Salmon Commission (Prescribed Bodies and Organisation) Order 2005, SI 626 of 2005, which I signed on 28 September 2005. The Trout Anglers Federation of Ireland is one of these organisations.

The Fisheries Acts, however, provide that not more than 16 members of the commission shall be appointed from among those nominated by the representative bodies and organisations prescribed by the Minister. As such, inclusion on the prescribed list does not convey an automatic right for any particular body or organisation to have its nominee appointed to the commission.

The number of bodies and organisations seeking to have representation on the National Salmon Commission this year was far in excess of the number of places available, and, as a result, it was not possible to appoint all nominees. However, the membership I have chosen will ensure that all relevant stakeholders, including salmon and trout anglers, are equally and fairly represented at the commission. The commission has the function of assisting and advising me in regard to the conservation, management, protection and development of the national salmon resource in accordance with the detailed terms of reference set out in the National Salmon Commission (Terms Of Reference) Order 2005, SI 627 of 2005.

Although the Trout Anglers Federation of Ireland had a nominee appointed to the previous National Salmon Commission, due to the restriction on the number of membership places available, I was unable to appoint its nominee as a member of the new commission. However, the terms of reference for the new National Salmon Commission provide that it will consult and engage as appropriate in a proactive dialogue with the Trout Anglers Federation of Ireland and all the other prescribed bodies and organisations listed in the 2005 order.

I am satisfied that through these terms of reference, all the prescribed bodies and organisations will have the opportunity to have their interest recognised and that any proposals they may have having regard to the conservation, management, protection and development of the national salmon resource will be fully considered and evaluated by the National Salmon Commission during its current term of office.

Postal Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

333 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has had discussions with any of the parties in An Post regarding the present industrial dispute; if reports are accurate that he is considering lifting the exclusive right of An Post to handle smaller postage items; if this company has in place a code of practice governing disputes in essential services under the Industrial Relations Act 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30025/05]

Michael Lowry

Question:

351 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if it is his intention to privatise the collection and delivery element of An Post prior to full deregulation of the postal market in 2009 in view of his statement that he would give serious consideration to lifting An Post’s monopoly in 2006 if the unions went ahead with industrial action over non-payment of Sustaining Progress payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30746/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 333 and 351 together.

With globalisation, liberalisation and developments in technology that are changing the way people communicate, all national postal operators, including An Post, have to change very rapidly to stay competitive and commercial in the European postal market. This reflects the change in the market from one dominated by letters to one dominated by parcels and direct mail. Both of these areas are much more open and attractive to competition, especially international competition, than the traditional letters business. Competition in the sector is growing and at present there are 26 firms operating in Ireland with a postal service authorisation from ComReg.

The economy and society at large also need a strong and vibrant postal service in light of the many internationally traded sectors operating in the country but it also needs An Post to be competitive and there is universal agreement 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. Liberalisation and the expected increase in competition will ultimately be good for both An Post and consumers.

To date, Ireland has fully implemented European Directives 97/67/EC and 2002/39/EC, which set out the requirements for member states on the provision of high-quality postal services and liberalisation within their postal networks. Under the directives, each member state is obliged to provide a universal service whereby a minimum level of service must be provided. Both the directives have been transposed into Irish law in SI 616 of 2002, European Communities (Postal Services) Regulations.

Since the transposition of the directives, the weight limit applying to postal items falling within the reserved area and therefore not open to competition has been reduced to 100g from 2003 with a price limit of three times the basic tariff for domestic and inbound international. The reserved area will be further reduced to mail weighing 50g or less and two and a half times the basic tariff from 2006 for domestic and inbound international. Outbound international mail was fully liberalised on 1 January 2004. The second directive also stipulates that the postal sector is to liberalise across the EU in full on 1 January 2009, subject to political agreement.

In light of the announcement by the Communication Workers Union, CWU, that it had rejected the Labour Court recommendation on collection and delivery and that union members have voted for industrial action which may lead to a serious disruption to postal services, I am considering all options open to me, up to and including early liberalisation of the sector, to limit the disruption caused to the sector and the economy at large as a result of any prolonged period of industrial action. However, the Government has no plans to privatise the postal service and wants to see An Post continuing to play a significant role in the postal sector following full liberalisation of that market.

To progress the change agenda necessary to the long-term sustainability of An Post, I have met representatives of An Post management and unions on various occasions over the past 12 months. I have continually emphasised to all parties the importance of an early start to the company's modernisation and that both sides must adhere to the parameters of the Labour Court recommendation in respect of the proposed new collection and delivery arrangements and Sustaining Progress. This is essential to resolve long-standing and deep-seated problems besetting the company.

I understand that in 1992, under section 42 of the Industrial Relations Act 1990, the Labour Relations Commission, following consultation with ICTU and IBEC, prepared a code of practice on dispute procedures including in essential services. The procedures in the code provide a framework for the peaceful resolution of disputes, including disputes in essential services and does not refer to specific companies. The code recognises there is a joint responsibility on employers and trade unions to resolve disputes in essential services and employments without resorting to strikes or other forms of industrial action.

Garda Investigations.

John Perry

Question:

334 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the situation regarding the investigation surrounding the harbour in Killybegs; when a final report on the issued will be released; when the matter will be formally finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30026/05]

I assume the Deputy refers to allegations made about illegal fishing. When this matter was brought to my attention, I arranged to have the matter formally referred to the Garda Síochána with a request for an investigation. I understand the Garda is conducting an investigation into the matter. That investigation is solely a matter for the force and I have no role in it. As the timeframe and conduct of the investigation are matters solely for the Garda, it would be inappropriate to comment further or make a statement on the matter.

Emergency Response Plan.

Joe Higgins

Question:

335 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he received an outline of Dublin Port Company’s emergency response plan since the Shell FOB fire incident which occurred on 27 June 2004. [30107/05]

Joe Higgins

Question:

336 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if Dublin Port Company is obliged to have 24-hour fire protection cover as required by legislation. [30108/05]

Joe Higgins

Question:

337 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if Dublin Port Company is negligent in its responsibilities to its workforce, port tenants and surrounding communities by not providing 24-hour cover by the ports fire protection unit. [30109/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 335 to 337, inclusive, together.

Dublin Port Company is subject to the fire safety and protection regulations and legislation which are enforced by Dublin Corporation fire authority. These regulations do not fall under my area of responsibility and the issue of fire safety is not dealt with under the Harbour Acts. The company's emergency response plan is an operational matter for the company and I have not received an outline of it.

Harbour Police Powers.

Joe Higgins

Question:

338 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he is aware that the harbour police have no powers under the road traffic Acts or Dublin Port by-laws to enforce road traffic management within the environs of Dublin Port and therefore to prevent speeding, dangerous driving and road traffic accidents. [30110/05]

Joe Higgins

Question:

339 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he is aware that Dublin Port Company is attempting to change the status of the harbour police as a statute police force. [30111/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 338 and 339 together.

I refer the Deputy to my answers to Questions Nos. 101 and 102 by Deputy Bruton on 13 October 2005 which refer to the same matters.

Joe Higgins

Question:

340 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the request of SIPTU docks, marine and transport branch for a full hearing by the Labour Court into conditions of employment and the status of harbour police. [30112/05]

I assume the Deputy refers to the harbour police of Dublin Port. Industrial relations issues relating to this group are a matter for Dublin Port Company in the first instance and I have no role in this regard. Nor do I have a function in regard to the Labour Court or its operations.

Joe Higgins

Question:

341 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will meet with representatives of the SIPTU docks, marine and transport branch to discuss the policing of the Dublin Port Company and the implementation of the ISPS code. [30113/05]

I have not received any request from SIPTU to meet me on the matter referred to in the Deputy's question. Industrial relations in Dublin Port Company are a matter for the company and its employees' unions, and it would not be appropriate for me to intervene.

Consultancy Contracts.

Richard Bruton

Question:

342 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the guidelines in place for the commissioning of outside expertise in the consultancy and public relations fields; and if ministerial approval is required for approval of expenditure on such commissions. [30155/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

343 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the percentage of reports, consultancies and cases from external commissions where the issue of poor value for money was highlighted in his Department from 1998 to date. [30170/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 342 and 343 together.

In the time available, it has not been possible to complete an exhaustive examination of all reports and consultancies commissioned since 1988 that came within the remit of my Department or its predecessors. My Department's policy is to engage consultants or commission reports only in circumstances where: specialised knowledge or expertise, not available in the Department or in the wider Civil Service or public service, is required for a temporary period; a need for objectivity and-or independence is deemed essential; a consultancy study is required by an external body such as the EU; a specialist study or project must be completed within a short timescale; the specialised knowledge or expertise may be available within the Department, but an in-house solution would involve a prohibitive opportunity cost and-or would be impractical, for example, where staff must be diverted from other essential duties.

My Department is particularly mindful of the value for money imperative and the need to develop and deploy in-house skills and, as far as possible, to minimise the requirement for consultancies. The Department also seeks to avail of skills and experiences of other Departments or other parts of the public sector where appropriate. I will be in touch with the Deputy as soon as possible regarding the instances, if any, where value for money issues may have been be identified as a result of assessment by outside bodies.

Regional Fisheries Boards.

Paul McGrath

Question:

344 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if and when the regional fisheries boards are to be dissolved; when a central agency will be set up; and if some of the responsibilities of the fisheries boards are to be outsourced to other agencies. [30221/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

345 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources how he will ensure adequate fish stocks, fish habitats and water quality following the proposed centralisation of the fisheries boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30222/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 344 and 345 together.

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

Paul McGrath

Question:

346 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of staff employed by the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board at Tudenham, Mullingar; the grades and their annual remuneration; and if there are plans to re-deploy these personnel to the central agency. [30223/05]

The Shannon Regional Fisheries Board has 11 staff operating at its facility atTudenham in Mullingar, including an inspector, assistant inspector, two fishery officers, two foremen, four general operatives and a part-time administrative assistant. Remuneration in respect of the grades outlined is set out in the following table.

Grade

Salary Scale

Inspector

€27,853-€48,681 + (unsocial hours allowance)

Assistant inspector

€25,823-€40,030 + (unsocial hours allowance)

Fishery officer

€22,762-€33,406 + (unsocial hours allowance)

Foreman

€27,822

General operative

€25,783-€27,095

Administrative assistant

€21,257-€34,447

The deployment of staff is a matter for the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board. As I have previously stated to the House, it is my intention to bring the report of the first stage of the high-level review of the inland fisheries sector to Government in the near future and to have it published as soon as possible thereafter. Until such time as the report is presented to Government, I am not in a position to comment on its recommendations or implementation.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Fiona O'Malley

Question:

347 Ms F. O’Malley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the Government’s long-term strategy for the development of offshore wind resources, considering that no offshore project benefited from support in the recently announced support mechanisms for renewable energy projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30484/05]

The current target to promote renewable-powered technologies in the electricity market is to increase the amount of electricity from all renewable energy sources to 13.2% by 2010. This will require us to more than double the current generating capacity of 675 MW of renewable powered plant connected to our system to 1,450 MW by 2010.

This target is demanding and requires change. I recently announced a new support programme for renewable energy-powered electricity generating plants to ensure the target is delivered. The detailed draft terms and conditions of the new feed-in support programme were recently put out to public consultation on my Department's website, www.dcmnr.gov.ie. Interested parties had until 12 October last to raise any queries or furnish any observations on the proposals and some 30 responses were received.

Following consideration of the matters raised in these responses, the new programme, to be known as the renewable energy feed-in tariff, REFIT, will be finalised and published shortly. My overall target is to optimise the amount of renewable energy technologies, which can be connected to the network while maintaining safe and reliable supply and reasonable retail charges for consumers.

Within the wind category of this new support programme, separate prices are proposed for small-scale wind projects and large-scale wind projects, and there is no differentiation between onshore and offshore projects. It will be a matter for project developers to determine whether a business case can be constructed to allow offshore projects, operating from a higher cost base than the onshore projects, to proceed under the new support programme.

The question of what higher target beyond 1450 MW can be set for all renewable energy technologies, including offshore wind, and in what timeframe, is one that requires further analysis and technical input. In July, my Northern counterpart, Ms Angela Smith MP, and I published a preliminary consultation paper on an all-island vision for renewable energy to the year 2020 and beyond. The consultation period recently ended and the response has been encouraging.

Departmental Expenditure.

John Deasy

Question:

348 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount spent by his Department in bringing into effect the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003. [30526/05]

The amount spent to date by my Department in bringing into effect the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003 is €84,342.36.

EU Funding.

Enda Kenny

Question:

349 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the payments made from Structural Funds under the economic infrastructure programme for the provision of broadband telecommunications infrastructure for the period 1999 to date; the companies paid under the programme and the extent of payments; if he has satisfied himself with the standard of work carried out and that all such works envisaged were carried out in full accordance with the conditions of the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30541/05]

Under the broadband measure of the Economic Infrastructure Operational Programme 1994-1999, EIOP, an invitation to tender was issued on 20 July 1999. Following the evaluation process, 12 projects were selected for funding. Details of the individual companies and contracts are set out as follows.

Contractor

Project Description

EIOP Payments

NTL

Deployment of fibre optic cable from Terenure to Belgard Road.

1,000,000

Chorus

Design and construction of hybrid fibre coaxial infrastructure in Castlebar.

615,627

Provide 114 km of optical fibre network linking the towns of Ennis, Shannon, Limerick, Kilmallock, Charleville, Mallow and Cork

1,082,437

Hybrid fibre coaxial cable upgrades and digital MMDS upgrades in Clonmel and Kilkenny

1,999,972

Upgrade and extend existing cable network in Thurles.

1,025,753

eircom

Development of high-capacity fibre optic infrastructure in 75 towns along the west coast from Sligo to west Cork.

4,646,763

Provision of optical fibre cable along a 32 km link connecting Galway and Castlebar, and a 40 km link between Birr and Tullamore

661,395

Esat

Rollout of fibre optic cable in urban areas including Cork, Galway, Dundalk, Thurles, Carlow, Tralee, Athlone, Sligo, Maynooth, Letterkenny and Limerick.

1,010,728

Extension of Esat’s national fibre optic network to Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo, covering the towns of Athlone, Ballina, Claremorris, Roscommon, Castlerea, Ballyhaunis, Sligo and Collooney.

1,844,150

Extension of Esat’s national fibre optic network from Cork to Little Island to Carrigtwohill, 21 km.

375,095

Construction of a high-capacity fibre optic digital corridor linking Dublin, Athlone, Galway and Shannon and 30 locations en route.

6,000,000

HEAnet

HEAnet delivers managed broadband services to more than 30 educational and research institutions throughout the State.

898,377

Total EIOP payments

21,160,297

Financial audits were carried out by Ernst & Young, which was appointed following a tender process. The technical evaluation of each project was completed by North West Labs Limited, which furnished a completion report for each phase and a final report for each project.

Industrial Relations.

Michael Lowry

Question:

350 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason An Post pensioners are not being awarded the full terms of the Sustaining Progress agreement; if he has met senior management in An Post regarding this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30745/05]

I am aware of the situation that has arisen in regard to industrial relations issues at An Post, in particular, the non-payment of Sustaining Progress increases to the company's pensioners and employees. I have no function in directing An Post in the matter of operational and commercial issues such as the application of national pay awards.

An Post has a remit to be financially viable and, following significant losses which amounted to €43 million in 2003 alone, An Post management invoked the "inability to pay" clause provided for in Sustaining Progress. Therefore, the key challenge for the company is to return to long-term financial stability. An agreement on a viable recovery plan is the only way forward for An Post to deliver quality services to our citizens, while at the same time providing sustainable well-paid employment for its staff.

To progress the change agenda, an exhaustive process of negotiation was entered into between An Post management and An Post trade unions, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, LRC, and then the Labour Court, which has lasted almost two years. The question of Sustaining Progress payments to employees was addressed in a process brokered by the Labour Relations Commission. Assessors appointed by the LRC recommended that An Post was in a position to pay a 5% increase to its employees. This increase, backdated to 1 January 2005, was paid to An Post employees and pensioners at the end of June 2005.

To meet union concerns, a three-person expert group was formed under the auspices of the Labour Court to devise a workable agreement on collection and delivery. The process at the Labour Court recently concluded with the court's recommendation that the company accept the proposals as set out by the three-person, court-appointed technical group's report on An Post's collection and delivery arrangements and that upon ratification by both parties of the draft agreement annexed to that recommendation, the company should arrange for payment of all 2005 and future increases due under Sustaining Progress to its employees and pensioners. The court further recommended that all retrospective payments, relating to the recent 5% increase paid by An Post, be made to its employees and pensioners as soon as the company is returned to reasonable and sustainable profit and when commercial circumstances permit.

On 5 September 2005, however, the Labour Court's recommendations on the issues of Sustaining Progress and collection and delivery were rejected by the main union in An Post, the Communications Workers Union, with the result that the company is not in a position to make any further increases to its employees or pensioners. I have frequently engaged with and met the management and unions of An Post to emphasise the importance of an early start to the company's modernisation and that both sides must engage directly in order to resolve long-standing and deep-seated problems besetting the company. It is only then that the concerns facing the company, its employees and pensioners will be addressed.

Question No. 351 answered with QuestionNo. 333.

Consultancy Contracts.

Richard Bruton

Question:

352 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the guidelines in place for the commissioning of outside expertise in the consultancy and public relations fields; and if ministerial approval is required for approval of expenditure on such commissions. [30156/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

353 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the percentage of reports, consultancies and cases from external commissions where the issue of poor value for money in his Department was highlighted, from 1998 to date in 2005. [30171/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 352 and 353 together.

In commissioning outside expertise, my Department is guided by a number of publications and circulars issued by the Department of Finance. These include Guidelines for Engagement of Consultants in the Civil Service, March 1999; Public Procurement Guidelines — Competitive Process, 2004; Ethics in Public Procurement, June 2005; and Guidance arising from Quigley Report Recommendations, September 2005.

We are also guided by the protocols set out in the February 2005 guidelines issued by the Department of the Taoiseach entitled "Additional Procedures to apply to certain consultancies and procurements". Within the context of Vote 29, International Co-operation, a number of detailed guideline documents outline the specific procedures to be used by the development co-operation division of my Department. These include Financial Policy Guidelines and Procedures Manual, April 2005; Guidelines on Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group, PAEG, Processes and the Preparation of PAEG Documents, April 2005; and Guidelines for Procuring Goods and Services, May 2004.

These guidelines are applied in the operation of all projects and programmes under the aegis of Development Co-operation Ireland, including consultancies and public relations. The pattern of consultancies carried out by the development co-operation division is, in the main, for small-scale commissions, typically less than €30,000 in value.

The Department's evaluation and audit unit examines consultancy contracts commissioned by the development co-operation division. This consultancy work was also reviewed by the independent audit committee of the Department of Foreign Affairs. In its annual report for 2004, the audit committee did not indicate any value for money concerns around specific consultancies. It endorsed the recommendations made by the evaluation and audit unit for continued improvement in the management of consultancies.

Ministerial approval is not required for the engagement of outside expertise and I have had no personal involvement in the process. Approval of expenditure in this regard is a matter for the departmental accounting officer. Inevitably, there are variations in the quality of the advice or expertise received from external commissions but the Department insists upon the highest standards in achieving value for money in the commissioning of any outside expertise.

Human Rights Issues.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

354 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the recent reports that two gay teenagers were hanged after being found guilty of homosexuality in Iran; and if such reports are true, if the Government will express its concern through diplomatic and other appropriate means. [30445/05]

As I stated in reply to a written question on 28 September 2005, I was deeply concerned by reports of the public execution of two youths in Mashad in Iran on 19 July, following their conviction for the abduction and rape of a minor. The Government is strongly opposed to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances, and the worldwide abolition of the death penalty is a political priority for us and our partners in the EU. In addition, we have also strongly urged states which retain the death penalty not to apply it to any person below adult age. I understand at least one of the youths in this case was aged under 18 at the time of the offence.

The EU issued a statement on 26 July expressing strong concerns in regard to the Mashad case and, more broadly, on the use of the death penalty and the execution of minors in Iran. These concerns were also raised directly with the foreign ministry in Iran. The Government will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Iran closely, through our embassy in Tehran and in co-operation with our partners in the EU.

Diplomatic Representation.

John Deasy

Question:

355 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will raise with the Irish Embassy in Paris the lack of assistance given to persons (details supplied) in County Waterford following the robbery of their money and credit cards while on holiday; if the embassy will provide full assistance in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30501/05]

The persons referred to by the Deputy contacted the Irish Embassy in Paris on the morning of Tuesday 11 October following a robbery. I understand the consular staff confirmed that neither had suffered any physical harm, that they were still in possession of their flight tickets and passports and that they had accommodation for the rest of their stay.

The consular staff also advised the persons in question to report the incident to the local police. When it became clear that they needed financial assistance, they were contacted and advised on how to organise a transfer of funds from Ireland. They were also assured that if they encountered any difficulties transferring the funds, they should alert the embassy. They were subsequently contacted to establish that sufficient funds had been received. When this was confirmed, I understand the persons concerned expressed appreciation for the embassy's assistance.

I assure the Deputy that the consular staff in the Department and in the Paris embassy strive to offer the maximum understanding and support in all difficult circumstances, such as those outlined by the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure.

John Deasy

Question:

356 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount spent by his Department in bringing into effect the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003. [30527/05]

It was already my Department's policy, prior to the coming into effect of the Official Languages Act 2003, to publish most classes of documentation intended for public dissemination in both Irish and English. A training programme was also in place to assist staff in developing their Irish language skills. This was and is part of a wider policy aimed at developing the Department's capability to accommodate those customers who prefer to conduct their business with the Department through Irish. As a consequence, there has been no expenditure to date that can be attributed solely to implementing the provisions of the Act.

Expenditure will arise in due course in regard to the publication by the Department of a notice under section 13 of the Act. This requirement will arise when the Department is formally requested by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to prepare a draft scheme specifying the services the Department will provide through Irish or English only, and those which will be provided through both languages. The notice will invite submissions from the public and a draft scheme will then be prepared and submitted for approval to the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The cost of publishing the notice is estimated at €12,000 to €15,000.

Foreign Conflicts.

Finian McGrath

Question:

357 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in Iraq; and if the Iraqi people are aware he is an Irish citizen. [30773/05]

We were all delighted by the release of Mr. Rory Carroll. I share the enormous sense of relief felt by all people in Ireland at his release and I pay tribute to the dignity and composure of theCarroll family throughout the whole ordeal and under such pressure.

I take this opportunity to record the Government's and my own appreciation to all who helped achieve this happy outcome. In particular, we have maintained the closest contact with a number of our EU partners, Britain, France and Italy, whose co-operation, both in their capitals and on the ground in Baghdad, has been quite outstanding. I have written to the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Jack Straw, and to Foreign Ministers Philippe Douste-Blazy and Gianfranco Fini of France and Italy respectively, to express our deep appreciation for their efforts. In addition, I thank the opposition parties for their co-operation throughout. Likewise, the interim Iraqi Government and the Iranians were helpful. I also thank the Muslim community in Dublin for its concern and support.

Throughout the 36 hours that Rory Carroll was abducted, the Government used every opportunity to emphasise his Irishness. To cover all eventualities, the Taoiseach and I decided, based on professional advice from Baghdad, to put an Irish team, led by a senior ambassador and including Garda and Defence Forces personnel, on the ground in Iraq. We believed it was vital to have our people on the spot to ensure our input into discussions and decision making in Baghdad. The team would have remained in constant contact with the Government.

Consultancy Contracts.

Richard Bruton

Question:

358 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the guidelines in place for the commissioning of outside expertise in the consultancy and public relations fields; and if ministerial approval is required for expenditure on such commissions. [30157/05]

In commissioning outside expertise in the consultancy and public relations fields my Department adheres to the Department of Finance publications, Guidelines for Engagement of Consultants in the Civil Service, 1999; Public Procurement Guidelines — Competitive Process, 2004; and all of the supplement to the Department of Finance circular 40/02. Responsibility for the commissioning of consultancies by my Department is delegated to senior management.

New guidelines arising from the recommendations of the Quigley report have been circulated recently within my Department and will be adhered to in future.

Richard Bruton

Question:

359 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the percentage of reports, con